Al's story is about his issues with his bank (and, by extension, class differences between him and other soldiers), not about alcohol. I do agree that on watching it I wondered whether March could really be considered the film's lead actor, though (even if he was, I don't think he should won Best Actor over Jimmy Stewart's tour de force in It's A Wonderful Life).
This is true. The film does a good job dealing with class issues in the aftermath of World War II (with Al and Fred changing places, going from being a lowly Sgt. and a Captain to a lowly soda-jerk and a banker). Still, all three characters deal with post-war trauma, but at least Fred and Homer have it dealt with seriously.
120. Sunset Blvd. (A)
121. Beneath the Planet of the Apes (B-)
: Watching this, I had to wonder how a movie with so many inside references to Hollywood of the silent era (Cecil B. Demille, Buster Keaton, and many other giants of the silent period play themselves) could have been made, but somehow it was. Whatever the decision-making that led to its production, Sunset Blvd.
is a terrific film noir and a fascinating look at Hollywood in the early 50s. Everyone in the cast is great (faded silent star Gloria Swanson as faded silent star Norma Desmond is the obvious stand-out, but William Holden, Erich Von Stroheim, and the rest are equally good) and the script and direction are terrific. I can't think of anything negative to say about it, except that it hasn't been released on Blu-Ray yet.
Beneath the Planet of the Apes
: The first sequel to Planet of the Apes
isn't a bad movie, but it falls short in a number of areas. For one thing, it begins with a giant ret-con. In the original movie, Heston and co. traveled to the far future by approaching the speed of light and spending time in stasis. In the revised version here, the astronauts (there's a new one, Brett, since Heston only agreed to play a supporting role) get to the far future by travelling through some sort of temporal anomaly. Since the astronauts can now return to their own time, Brett appears on a rescue mission after Taylor. Played by James Franciscus, Brett is a perfectly adequate replacement for Taylor, but he plays so many of the same beats Heston did in the last movie you have to wonder why he was necessary.
There are other ret-cons, too. In the last one, Cornelius and Zira were going to be charged with heresy. Here, they're just in hot water with Dr. Zaius. These aren't the film's biggest problem, though. That would be the general lack of production value (the budget was slashed in half just before shooting). Outside of the principles, most of the apes in this one just wear awful one-piece masks. Whereas the original shot on location, the sequel makes only nominal use of exteriors, opting for matte paintings, sets, and not-very-good rear projection.
Still, a lot of things in the sequel work. For one thing, we get a closer look at Ape culture, which comes with a heavy-handed allusion to anti-war protests of the time, but the Apes films are best when they argue a social message, so I'll take it. General Ursus is a character that makes sense in the Ape world, and he's well played by James Gregory. When he does appear, Heston is great, and Linda Harrison manages to do more with Nova in the sequel than in the original. And the revelation that advanced humans have survived, albeit mutated and underground, is played well. Finally, there's the ending, which is tremendously downbeat for a Hollywood production. Brett and Nova are brutally murdered, and Taylor is mortally wounded. He reaches out to Dr. Zaius, but is refused, and out of spite decides to set off a doomsday bomb wiping out the entirety of the Earth. Over black, an emotionally distant voice-over explains that an insignificant planet is now dead. Roll credits.
Yes, there's three more sequels (two of them, according to my memory, are decent) and a television series (I haven't seen it). How they managed to work that out is either impressive or ridiculous, but I'll get to that when I rate the third movie (and beyond).