Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Farewell,Charlton Heston,fare thee well

Over this past weekend,it was announced that Charlton Heston had passed away,at the age of 84. While there were many mixed reactions to this news online,(including quite a few that were very disrespectful,due to some folks unwilling to give up their differences of opinions over Mr. Heston's politics during the later years of his life)mine is simply one of a longtime film fan who is sorry to see another screen legend pass on by.

The first movie that I can recall seeing Heston in is the original Planet of the Apes(a film that holds up much better than that lame remake with Marky Mark). Heston only appeared in one other Apes sequel(Beneath the Planet of the Apes)but he made an indelible mark on the whole series which lead to it's cult film fame and status.

To be a little fair to the Tim Burton remake,it did have a brief cameo by Heston which was very cool and gave him a chance to wear some of the elaborate make-up that his co-stars in the earlier Apes films did. Too bad they couldn't have him re-say one of the best lines from the first one:

Also,I've caught several viewings of The Ten Commandments over the years,due to it's annual springtime presentation on TV(remember when networks used to do that for certain films,like The Wizard of Oz and West Side Story? I really miss that tradition).

While the Cecil B. Demile star studded epic drama of truly Biblical proportions may seem hokey at times,part of the charm of the film is the utter sincerity of the actors(particularly Heston) in their actions and line delivery which many actors today would simply resort to camping up. They really don't make'em like they used to.

You can also appreciate the special effects,which were just as eye popping as CGI or IMAX is these days. No matter how sophisticated a film person you are,you have to admit that the parting of the Red Sea bit is rather awesome in it's own way:

Heston didn't just star in big studio flicks,he also did smaller films like the now classic Touch of Evil,where he played a Mexican cop whose becomes caught in a tangle of border town corruption that doesn't even spare his young bride(Janet Leigh).

Heston was very supportive of Orson Welles(who both acted and directed)during the film and even insisted on doing the movie only if Welles was involved. When Touch of Evil was first released,the studio had severely edited the film against Welles' wishes which made the film a flop and obscure for many years afterwards. In 1998,Touch of Evil was fully restored and edited according to Welles' original vision and if you haven't seen it yet,it's an dire cinematic imperative:

Hearing about Heston's death made me think of all of his films that I didn't see,like El Cid,The Agony & The Ecstasy,The Omega Man and worst of all,Ben-Hur. How I could I have not seen Ben-Hur by now? The chariot race scene alone is the stuff of legends! I feel utterly remiss in my duty to film love and lore.

Fortunately,I can make up for lost time by adding these films to my Netflix queue and celebrate the splendor of a bye-gone age in more ways than one:

Say what you will about Heston's acting style or choice of film roles,it is hard to deny the template that he created for many of the action stars with Everyman appeal who have followed in his footsteps that have become nearly as iconic as Heston was in his prime,like Harrison Ford or Bruce Willis.

As a final tribute to Charlton Heston's life and career in film,this pivotal segment from Soylent Green,in which his character shares the last moments of his aged friend Sol's life as he willingly departs from the damaged world he no longer wishes to be a part of,is the best farewell that I can think of:

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