Robert Wise The Motion Pictures by J R Jordan & A Few Of My Favourite Things

Rodgers and Hammerstein composed it, we all know Julie Andrews sang it, cool John Coltrane jazzed it with his saxophone and Al Jarreau scats and jives, in quite possibly my dearest rendition. Of course, I’m talking about the song My Favorite Things. Which brings me to an obscure way round to introduce this review. A book!

But first. The song.

Raindrops and noir lit femme fatal kittens
Bright coloured bruises by red punching mittens
Brown paper packages from bank heists and stings
These are a few of my favourite things

OK! I know it doesn’t rhyme like Rodgers and Hammerstein. Just maybe, you noticed the three lines slightly changed? To fit three certain noirs from the director’s filmography. At first I tried to fit his sci-fi films. To add things filled with virus’s….. but hey we’re living that crazy right now! I wondered whether to explore strange new worlds through star filled galaxies. Even remembering back to a visit from a unique looking Yorkshire-man! A man who’d been where no man has gone before. However, noir fitted but my love of his science fiction tales could have easily been a few of my favourite things.

What’s the Wolf Loony talking about this time you ask? Well I’m sure you’ve worked it out, hey the title gave it away. These are some of my favourite things, genres and exciting movies I do so adore and they are all made by one man….. The legendary director Robert Wise.

Robert Wise smashed out brilliant movies with a power strike fist just like Stoker. POW! So many hits in the wonderful differing genres of movies I so love. Film noir, crime thrillers, a war story, science fiction and maybe, I won’t admit it in public, hey keep it on the down low, on the Q.T. Shhhhh but maybe a musical or two! Don’t wanna ruin me street cred you see….. OK now’s it’s your time Miss Andrews….. Sing it Julie.

My first Robert Wise film was Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). I didn’t know Star Trek had history. I was 8 and mesmerised. Taken on a visually stunning epic odyssey sat in the dark. I was in my very own spaceship as I flew through the big screen before me. I was joined by Kirk, Spock and Bones along with a strange beguiling baldy lady. We were all seeking out new life and new civilisations together. Oh course I didn’t know who Robert Wise was then, or the next time. Sat watching The Sound Of Music (1966) and West Side Story (1961) with my Mum eating cake and tapping her feet. I didn’t even know who he was when racing through the ocean’s with my Dad watching Run Silent Run Deep (1958). Not even when the words “Klaatu barada nikto” saved the world from annihilation in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). You know what? It wasn’t until my late teens brought The Andromeda Strain (1971) into my life that I clocked his name. Up to then I was completely oblivious to Robert Wise. However every time I watched these films, again and again, his magic would etch it’s way onto me.

Flash forward to starting this film based hobby of mine. A hobby that would effectively became a joyful way to discover and learn. So it was destiny for mine and Robert Wise’s paths to cross. As I learnt about film noir from the countless must watch noir lists I stumbled across, The Set Up (1949) would be punched near the top. I watched it, reviewed it, fell instantly in love with it. Research brought with it that name, Robert Wise. Clicking on his filmography a whole world opened up to me like a flash back to my memories. The Enterprise experience at the cinema, to that gigantic iconic Gort, to being locked down levels deep in the ground and to the sound of the song bird, Miss Julie Andrews. Wow! Robert Wise was always there in my life.

As the months past by Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) would blow my mind. So deep, so moving, so raw. Then Born To Kill (1947) would shock me. So dark, so disturbing, so savage. Lucky for me, Robert Wise was super productive. He has an immense catalogue of work. As I carry on my journey of discovery I get the perfect companion. A book. And a wonderful book at that.

Robert Wise The Motion Pictures by J.R. Jordan.

Along came a lovely message. “Would I like to do an unbiased review of this book?” I jumped at the chance.

A week or so later I’m sitting at home working my way through all the films that I’d already seen. You see the book is compiled in an easy to read chronological order format. Focusing on his first film, the Val Lewton produced, The Curse of the Cat People (1944) right through to his final project in 2000, a TV movie drama with Peter Falk called A Storm in Summer. The book covers every film from start to finish. So it’s perfect to pick up and jump into.

Another great aspect of the book is it being broken up in to five distinct sections, film phases of his career. First the RKO Radio Picture days. Then his most productive era, The Fifties. The sixties brings, Primetime! Then there’s the best title out the five sections. The Science And Surrealism Of The Seventies which leads on to the final chapter. Just two films, in Twilight.

Hey it’s also got pictures! Lots of pictures dotted throughout. Breaks up the text nicely and gives you a visual accompaniment along the way. Another nice touch are the quotes that start each film title. All from unrelated sources but fit in perfectly with the film. Like this one for Star Trek The Motion Picture.

The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” – Carl Sagan

At first I thought he had somehow got the immortal swordsman from Highlander to do the forward but I was wrong. It is, in fact, American film and television character actor Gavin MacLeod. He recalls memories of working with Steve McQueen under the watchful direction of Robert Wise in The Sand Pebbles (1966).

Better still is the introduction from Robert’s nephew, Douglas E. Wise. A beautiful personal reminisce about his beloved Uncle Bob. It was also nice to learn a little about Douglas. He had obtained his debut film credit when becoming a second assistant director on his Uncle’s film, Star Trek The Motion Picture. It was a joy to read he became the first assistant director for four more Star Trek films in the saga. And keeping in the science fiction world, Douglas would work on the epic space opera Babylon 5. I so loved that series.

Robert had made a staggering 40 films! With a dash of added shock and shame I counted the one’s I’d seen. 12! Only 12! To be fair from the ones I had seen, most are very dear to me. Part of my film life’s journey.

It dawns on me with great excitement that I now have 28 more of the great man’s films to see. The ones I’ve pushed to the top of the essential list are The Sand Pebbles (1966), Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Executive Suite (1954) I Want To Live (1958) (that one sounds right up my street). Plus for some great sounding noir fix The Captive City (1952) and The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) I imagine these two will give my noir junkie fix a boost.

Each time I watch another, like seeing Richard Burton on Friday playing a Scot and leading a band of brave Aussies against Field Marshal Rommel in The Desert Rats (1953), it’s a joy. I even managed to fulfill a promise to Mikes Take On The Movies that I would see The Body Snatcher (1945). I did last night. Oh my, how fantastically sinister was Boris Karloff’s Cabman John Gray! So off I go once again to pick up Joe Jordan’s wonderful book for another fix of great insightful information about the production. Luckily I have lots more films to watch so I’ll be reaching for the book shelf over and over.

You can find Joe’s book Robert Wise The Motion Pictures by J.R. Jordan on Amazon or other good book retailers.

Many thanks for reading my Robert Wise film discovery journey and thank you, Joe, for the superb book. I wish you great success with it.

Keep enjoying those square shaped screens, finding new movie gems and learning along the way. All the best ….. Mikey Wolf.

24 thoughts on “Robert Wise The Motion Pictures by J R Jordan & A Few Of My Favourite Things

  1. I can tell how much you love both the book and Robert Wise. He was a very eclectic director.Odds Against Tomorrow, The Andromeda Strain, The Sound Of Music, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Set-Up, The Curse Of The Cat People, West Side Story are all favourites of mine.

    Have added the book to my to read list. Hope you and the family are doing well, Mikey.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We are all doing fine thank you Maddy. I’ve been back to work the last few weeks so it’s been weird getting back into some sort of normal!
      Thanks for having a read and the nice comment. The only one I haven’t seen out of your list is The Curse Of The Cat People. Gonna push that up the watch list right now.
      Hope you and yours are all well? All the best
      Mikey

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I forgot which film it was where I first recognized that Robert Wise’s name was attached to it, but I began to search his films out, and realized I really liked what I was finding, and he quickly became one of my favorite directors. All the movies you’ve mentioned in your post that you’ve seen, I’ve seen as well, and a check of IMDb shows that I have 21 more of his films still left to watch!

    The Sand Pebbles is definitely worth a look, but I would also recommend The Haunting, which has some truly creepy scenes in it, and I Want to Live is worth checking out as well. I’ve got a few unseen Wise films waiting for me in digital form…maybe I’ll give one a look tonight.

    Oh yes, and that book sounds great…I’ll track it down on Amazon and see if I can afford adding it to my cart!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Todd. It’s amazing when you suddenly get hit with the realisation that you had loved a certain directors work for many years but you didn’t at first realise they were all made by the same person. I think Robert Wise might be the one director that really walloped me around the chops with a wet and slimy rainbow trout! The moment I looked down the list thinking oh man oh this guy has been there right through my movie life and I didn’t even realise! DOH! I’m always stumbling across directors like that but none with such a body of work behind them.

      The Haunting was one I was tempted to tick off the list but deep down I knew I couldn’t really recall anything from it. I’m sure I did see it but not properly. Though maybe I just managed to wipe it from my traumatized mind? As soon as the opening credit roll I start screaming for a constant hour and a hour followed by constant rocking in my chair for the next year or two! LOL I will be watching that for sure soon. Gonna make my way through as many as I can over the next few months. Cheers buddy.

      Like

  3. Mikey! You’re getting the slow clap! The slow clap is reserved for a very select few of my favorite things!
    Okay. I’m going to stop with the exclamation points because I’m making myself sick and it’s your fault! Woops! Damn!
    First of all, I love, LOVE your parody. With your permission I’m going to use it–with your name attached, of course.
    Secondly, I love Robert Wise, even though I didn’t know I loved him. I love his films. His television work. What a genius! (Oh no. There I go again.)
    Really great work, Mikey.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Haha I feel my face blush with pride and happiness. Thank you so very much for the kinds words. So nice you like the parody of the song too. The second line was my favourite (The Set-Up) the first was fun I thought but didn’t really know if it really fitted the film! (Born To Kill). The last line was a bugger. Hehe I wanted to get dollars in there or ex-cops go bad. And nothing went with “strings”. Then “stings” was near enough and fitted the heist. (Odds Against Tomorrow ) Lol it don’t rhyme but fun nonetheless.

      Please use it for sure Pam. You have a beautiful way with words and will come up with some killer thriller rhymes I’m positive. Go for it

      Don’t worry about the exclamation points as I am surely the king of them!! I write exactly as I talk, so I don’t know how I must sound finishing off most of my sentences with vocalised “!!!!!!” Is that humanly possible?

      Thank you
      Mikey

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wait, did you just snag a free book to review? Grrr.. .where’s mine?!! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I knew how eclectic Wise’s output was, but I’d forgotten he directed Run Silent Run Deep and The Desert Rats. I suppose I was first aware of him because of The Haunting and then the early Val Lewton horrors. The Body Snatcher is one of the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was a nice treat from the publishers as a review copy. I know we do this purely for a hobby but it was great to receive something that fitted in with me learning about films. Especially how much I had been discovering Robert Wise from the beginning of this film blog and all the connections with his films though my life.
      I just watched both Desert Rats (loved seeing Chips Rafferty in that) and The Body Snatcher this weekend. Boris was maybe the best I’ve ever seen him as John Gray. What a character! Of course everybody already knows that but I get there in the end.
      Cheers Jay.
      Mikey

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Looks like a book I need to add to the shelf here. Thanks for the heads up and at the same time giving Mr. Wise some props. I’d say that my earliest Wise film I saw growing up has to be The Sand Pebbles. I was caught up in the McQueen thing at a young age and Pebbles played frequently on TV and though I haven’t seen it in a long long time so many of the film’s image’s and lines come to me instantly. And I’m glad you sat in on The Body Snatcher. For me Boris was never better and it’s a study in terror when it needs to be. Not sure who wrote it or it’s title but there’s a book available about the Academy’s and films and roles that should have one as we look back and it supposedly names Karloff as the man who should have won Best Actor that year. But it’s a horror picture and that just doesn’t happen and to this day is still a rarity.
    If you haven’t seen Blood on the Moon it’s a great example of taking a Noir and mixing it with a western and of course it’s got the Noir poster boy Mitchum along for the ride AND Charles McGraw.
    Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Blood on the Moon for sure added to the watch list. Cheers for that. Been a few months since my last Mitchum. Need to get back to ticking them off. Liking the sound of Charles McGraw’s name, Milo Sweet. I can only imagine he’s a gunslinger met along the way!
      It’s a long one that Sand Pebbles! So wanna see that. I should of got that in during lock down. Doh! Might be one for a xmas watch list now.
      Boris was amazing in The Body Snatcher. The bit he has Bela in his home and he starts constantly filling his glass with booze. Each sly, sinister look that he smiles out at him. You knew something wasn’t gonna end well. So good and dark. Thanks again for the nudge on that. Great film.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved the song parody too. It’s very late at night right now, so no coffee to spit out this time, hahaha. Just vodka.
    My husband always talks about Robert Wise, but I’m terrible with names! Putting his name together with all those films, though–everything klunked into place. Oh. Oh! Oh yeah!
    Although my husband, who’s a huge Star Trek fan, does call the 1979 movie “The Motion Sickness,” lol. I think he thought Mr. Wise was feeling his age at that point. Hasn’t stopped him from watching many times, though, of course. (My favorite of the Trek movies is Undiscovered Country).
    Oh, and I love that Carl Sagan quote: โ€œThe cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.โ€
    What a lyrical way of saying we’re all one.
    I’ve been running into some great quotes lately. One from Chekov was: “Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on the broken glass.”
    And Rumi (I just discovered who THAT was recently) said: “A wound is where the light enters.”
    None of which has anything to do with your review except to jump on the quote bandwagon. So informative and entertaining, as usual, Wolfman. I may already have hubby’s gift idea for Christmas…..!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha Vodka, you can blame that on the lockdown. Well I was blaming the extra boozing on it but in reality it was just another night at the Wolf Tavern.
      It’s weird how the names all come together and fit into place. Especially when the directors body of work is so diverse. When they fit into place it’s like the planets have aligned or something. An all seeing Oracle’s eye.

      I love most of the Star Trek series from the 6. All for different reasons. Undiscovered Country is a brilliant written film. Murder mystery whodunit in space. And how much fun do they look like they are having esp as they play on getting old and friendship etc. The same goes for The Voyage Home which max’s out it fun levels and just hoovers on the right side of the track. A little further to one side and it could of arrived in cheeseville. Sweethearted and very fun…. Then Wrath of Khan is classic for all the right reasons. The Search For Spock is a good romp but had a mountain to climb after Khan…. WTF happened to The Final Frontier? Lucky they made number 6 to make up for that. Oh my! To think it could of ended there?? Which leaves the first one. My favorite. Yep it’s controversial I know. Maybe it’s because of the wonder I had as a kid. Maybe Carl Sagan quote floated in through my 8 year wolf mind of WOWness. It’s funny so many people say it’s slow and boring but to me it’s just beautiful. A journey of discovery and one of the reasons I love science fiction so much. One day I wanna do a post on that very Star Trek film.

      Thanks for the ace comment Stacey and for those superb quotes and smiles.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I totally get your love for number 1, since you were a kid. I’D be in love with it if I’d been a little bit younger. I think I was around 17 or 18 when it came out. I went with a guy I’d known since I was 11, we sort of grew up together, but now he was taking me on a date, and I remember very vividly, for some reason, that I was wearing white pants. White pants! So ’70s! It was very awkward, the whole night, ’cause I wasn’t really into this guy. So maybe all of that colored my general feelings for the movie too, ha ha ha. Who knows? Ah, youth. To be able to wear white pants again, lol !! And Wrath of Khan, of course. Hubby’s ALWAYS quoting Montalban. And Kirk, of course. “Khaaaaaaan!!!!” We’ve watched them all many times, of course. I think I loved Undiscovered Country so much, too, because we saw it in the Chinese Mann and it was one of the last times we had a lively, fun-filled audience who laughed loudly, clapped, cheered and had a great time that night.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Chinese Mann? I’d never heard of it. Wow how grand does that look and what history it has. Added to the internal “if I’m ever that way you got go see that Mikey” brain notes.
      It can be a fun experience when the crowd gets behind a film. Obviously me being British it’s all rather reserved over here. Last time I recall was some crazy stunt Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond pulled off. Tomorrow Never Dies I think. Blooming heck that 23 years ago! Jeeps. Everyone stood up and clapped. It was very strange. HEHE
      HAAA I bet the white pants were made worse when Kirk struts up wearing the same outfit. Sure he wears a white suit at some point during their Odyssey. Yeah can’t imagine being there with a dude you not really into and you both sitting there watching a random film feeling awkward. Plus worried you gonna get popcorn butter and coke stains on your fancy white pants.
      Thanks for the funny/traumatising Star Trek story ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. One of my favorite filmmakers! So versatile! He did every imaginable genre — westerns, noirs, musicals, horror, etc. — and he did everything with intelligence and class. I think editors tend to be great filmmakers (e.g. David Lean, Hal Ashby). BTW, I think ST: The Motion Picture is an underrated classic! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person

    • BTW, I think ST: The Motion Picture is an underrated classic!
      Now that’s worthy of a fist bump across the pond. Yes sir I been singing that for years. No one ever listens LOL.

      PS great call on the editors being great filmmakers. I hadn’t thought about that before but great examples.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Happy to find another fan of STMP! We are endangered species! LOL! Have you seen the director’s cut? Before he died, Wise re-edited the movie and fixed some of the FXs. It’s even better than the theatrical version.

        Liked by 1 person

        • “We are endangered species!” HAHA
          Yes that was the version I had seen kind some years but didn’t realise at the time it was a directors cut. It was that viewing that cemented my love for it. I’ve always been fascinated by the Voyager Probes, well everything space tbh. So to marry that love into the story blew my mind. Kudos to the writers coming up with that only a year or so after they had left the planet.

          Liked by 1 person

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