These days, when an announcement that there is going to be a film made, one of the first judgments that is made on whether the film is going to be good or not is based on who has been chosen to direct said film. For instance, when Justin Lin was announced to be the director of the latest in the Star Trek films there was both outrage and cautious optimism on social media. There was, however, a time when those that worked behind the camera were not so much in the public eye.
There was a time when movies were considered an art form; just as singing is heightened speech, movies were an attempt to take a story and realize it visually. That’s not meant to say that there aren't good artistic films being made today, there are.
Several weeks ago, I received an email from Joe Jordan telling me that he looked at this blog and liked what he saw. He also asked if I might be interested in reading and reviewing his new work about the films of Robert Wise. Knowing that at least two of my favorite films were directed by Mr. Wise (The Day The Earth Stood Still and Star Trek: The Motion Picture), I told him that I would be very interested in learning more about the man behind those films. I have since read the book and I’m here to say that Robert Wise: The Motion Pictures is a great work that takes an in depth look at the 40 films directed by one of the most brilliant artists in filmmaking.
Following a foreword by actor Gavin MacLeod and an introduction by Robert Wise’s nephew, Douglas E. Wise, Joe Jordan takes each film in turn and provides a brief synopsis of each followed by a detailed analysis of the aspects of the film. Many of the later films discussed also include interviews by people that worked with wise in some capacity, but mostly actors. As I read this book, it was plain to see that author Joe Jordan did some extensive homework to bring the reader a complete idea of what makes a genius film director. At the same time, the language used to provide these explanations is accessible to even the most casual film buff but are not dull as one might suspect in a work of historical significance. As I read through the book, I found that I was mesmerized and fascinated by what I read, not just for the three Science Fiction movies directed by Wise, but for all of the films covered in the book.
What I have learned is that Robert Wise was a person who knew how to handle and work with people. He had a gift for choosing talent and locations that could bring stories alive.
In the genre of Science Fiction, Wise directed three films; along with the two mentioned earlier, there was also the film adaptation of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. Other genres explored by Wise included horror, suspense, mystery, historical drama, and crime drama. As mentioned earlier, many of the film analyses include interviews from personalities connected with the movies. Of particular interest to fans of Star Trek is the interview of Alan Dean Foster. Fans of Sci-Fi novelizations need no introduction to Foster’s work, but the interview that is connected to Star Trek: The Motion Picture is very enlightening and surprising. If you want more on that, you’ll just have to read the book.
I was surprised at how many of the films by this director I have enjoyed over the years without even realizing who the director was. Some of those include, The Desert Rats (1953), Helen of Troy (1956), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), West Side Story (1961), The Haunting (1963), The Sound of Music (1965), The Sand Pebbles (1966), The Andromeda Strain (1971), and The Hindenburg (1975). All Great films.
Robert Wise: The Motion Pictures by Joe Jordan is available in print version and more recently is available for the Kindle!
I give my highest recommendations for Robert Wise: The Motion Pictures for being an excellent work of film history, focusing on a great man who added to the wealth of humanity through his work behind the camera.
Well, there it is…
Edited by Benjamin Arrowood