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Reader cites 'Enemy' for its accuracy

| Sunday, July 22, 2001

Reader Rich Lopiccolo of Monroeville, a former member of Monroeville Council and a current member of Gateway School Board, has an interesting take on 'Enemy at the Gates,' which performed above expectations with $51 million in North America and $34 million abroad so far.

'There's one aspect of 'Enemy at the Gates' that your review did not include. This issue is very important to me as a parent who is raising a sixth grader in an academic environment (public education) which sometimes short-changes its students in history.

'Prior to taking my son to see the movie I warned him that given the way history is presented and especially the perceived Leftist orientation of Hollywood, no doubt the movie with lionize Stalin and demonize Hitler.

'While the latter is needed, the former is a lie and a distortion of history. I explained to him that Stalin killed more of his own people before Hitler came to power in 1933 than the Fuhrer himself would kill in the camps from then to 1945. And I explained that Stalin would continue genocide until his death in 1953.

'So I took my son to 'EATG' armed with this and other information of the period (the Nazi-Soviet Pact; the conquest of Poland by both Germany and the USSR; why England did not declare war on the Soviets; Operation Barbarossa).

'I was very surprised but nevertheless pleased that while Hitler was not given a bye, Stalin was also given no credit though he was a wartime 'ally.' In fact, it seemed to me that the script took pains to show Stalin and his regime in one of the worst lights I have ever seen.

'The political commissars were shown shooting the Soviet soldiers in the transports as the Luftwaffe strafed them.

'The same commissars were shown machine-gunning those Soviet soldiers who retreated from the German position.

'Ron Perlman's character, using the 'dental abusers' he suffered for his Fascist 'contamination' upon return from the German sniper school during Nazi-Soviet detente, typified the reaction of Stalin to anyone who was so influenced. And the mistreatment continued after the war ended because Russians who were in German POW camps were held as suspect by Stalin.

'In the scene where Khruschev is asking for ways to motivate the troops other than shooting them, two things came forth: (a) The admission that shooting of their own was what they commonly did, (b) The change in policy had nothing to do with Marxist altruism.

'So while I understand your criticisms of the movie, this historical accuracy about the twin evils of fascism and communism was very refreshing, as well as a reinforcement of the instruction I had given my son had the movie's portrayal been otherwise.

Reply: I couldn't concur more. The portrayal of communism in 'Enemy at the Gates' is like nothing we've seen in a Hollywood studio release in about 30 years. The sympathetic portrayal of the subject for quite some time has been bound to, and washed in on, the tide of anti-McCarthyism.

And I wonder how many parents make the effort you do to put movies in a context. I see so many children with parents at wholly inappropriate movies I have to think you're the exception.

OUT OF THE MOUTHS ...

Speaking of how rarely we see parents parent anymore:

At an invitational preview for a movie recently, two boys - I'd say both were around 8 - were behaving like monkeys shortly before the movie began.

So help me, the mother finally spoke up and said in what seemed for her to be a serious tone of voice, 'If you're going to act like that, go over there.'

And I kid you not: The boys crossed the aisle, from the center to the side section, and began raising hell, kicking and bouncing up and down on seats over there.

'FOLLIES' FOLLIES

The producers of the Broadway revival of 'Follies' have to be wondering: Where were these people until now•

In its final month of a disappointing four-month run, business jumped into the 90 percents every week, and the final week, concluding July 14, played to 97 percent of capacity.

DOUBLE THE MASTRUCCIS

Now that Giancarlo (Carlo) Mastrucci has joined his father Fiore as co-host of the local cable TV show 'Outtakes' (sometimes known as 'Outtakes With Fiore'), Fiore wonders if they're the only broadcast father and son critic team in the country.

Carlo is a 16-year-old sophomore at Bethel Park High School.

'NORTHWEST' TO NORTH OAKLAND

The current Sunday night Alfred Hitchcock series at Regent Square ('Strangers on a Train' tonight; 'Vertigo' July 29) is doing so well that Pittsburgh Filmmakers programmer Gary Kaboly is planning a five-day run for Hitchcock's comedy thriller 'North by Northwest' Aug. 17 through 21 at Melwood Screening Room in North Oakland.

BLURBS FOR SALE

The trade paper Variety reports that 10 class-action lawsuits were filed against the major studios and some semi-majors over the use of ads with favorable blurbs written by folks 'wined and fined on lavish press junkets paid for by the studios.'

Four individuals and a group called Citizens for Truth in Movie Advertising alleges that the ads don't disclose how the blurbmeisters may have been influenced.

Although no quote whores, as they're known, are defendants in the suit, six are named in the complaint: Ron Brewington (American Urban Radio Network), Maria Salas (Telemundo/Gems Television), Mark S. Allen (KMAX-TV, Sacramento), Earl Dittman (Wireless magazine), Jim Ferguson (Dish Network) and the ubiquitous Jeff Craig (Sixty Second Preview).

Blurbmeisters begin finding the funniest movie of the year the first week of January and who begin early in April declaring pictures 'the biggest roller coaster ride of the summer.'

BUT WILL THEY SHOW UP•

When 'Mary Poppins' (1964), 'My Fair Lady' (1964) and especially 'The Sound of Music' (1965) earned fortunes for Disney, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox, respectively, the films were blamed for creating the impression that there was still a huge market for traditional movie musicals.

Although 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' (1967), 'Oliver' (1968) and 'Funny Girl' (1968) did well, almost every other lavish musical produced during the late '60s lost a bundle including 'Half a Sixpence' (1967), 'Dr. Dolittle' (1967), 'Finian's Rainbow' (1968), 'Star' (1968) and 'Darling Lili' (1970).

The moral of the story: A success can be very misleading and ultimately costly.

The point: Has any line in film history wreaked greater havoc on the American economy than the one from one of my favorite movies, 'Field of Dreams' (1989):

'If you build it they will come.'

Will most stadia and arenas ever really pay for themselves•

Even with the unholy infusion of tax dollars•

Have most of the pricey new megaplexes got a prayer of ever breaking even•

Tom Bryant, a former Pittsburgh theater executive living in Kansas, says a two-year-old 30-screen AMC megaplex has closed off six of its screens already and is trying to sell that part of the property as retail space.

People are so distracted by so many options today that the old rules don't apply.

Building it isn't enough.

ANNIVERSARY OPENING

The husband and wife writing-acting team of Joseph Bologna and Renee Taylor began previewing their latest comedy, 'If You Ever Leave Me I'm Going With You' on Broadway Tuesday, but they scheduled its premiere for Aug. 6. That's their 36th wedding anniversary.

For me they were never funnier than in their 1971 film comedy jewel, 'Made for Each Other.'

ROLLING INTO '02

Opening dates for late summer movies change more often than the weather, but John McTiernan's remake of 'Rollerball' is something else again. MGM withdrew it from its Aug. 17 and rescheduled it for sometime in the first quarter of 2002.

'THAT THING' THEY'RE DOING

The colossal success of Mel Brooks' 'The Producers' on Broadway can only encourage more re-examination of movies for potential stage productions.

Requests from school groups for a stage version of the Tom Hanks-directed musical, 'That Thing You Do' (1996), has moved the property's prospects to the fast track.

Ed Blank is the Tribune-Review's film and Broadway critic. He can be reached at (412) 854-5555 or eblank@tribweb.com .

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