Sunday, April 12, 2015

Top 100 Movie Quotes: Numbers 70-67

Continuing the countdown of the American Film Institute’s top 100 movie lines (2005).

The next 4 in the countdown:

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70. "Is it safe?"

Spoken by Laurence Olivier as Dr Christian Szell in Marathon Man, (1976)

What Alfred Hitchcock did for showers with Psycho, Laurence Olivier did for dentists in Marathon Man. As the Nazi war criminal Christian Szell – Der weisse Engel, The White Angel - a dentist who tortured Jews at Auschwitz for the gold in their teeth and later promised safety in return for diamonds, he is one of the most frightening characters in cinema. Using a dental probe on Babe’s (Dustin Hoffman’s) tooth to find out whether it is safe to retrieve his diamonds, he keeps asking “Is it safe?” Babe has no knowledge of what he is talking about. Preparing to torture Babe again after a pause, he tells Babe “That nerve's already dying. A live, freshly-cut nerve is infinitely more sensitive. So I'll just drill into a healthy tooth until I reach the pulp. Unless, of course, you can tell me that it's safe.” Eventually he accepts that Babe knows nothing. Whenever I’ve gone to the dentist since I have expected the words “Is it safe?” to be spoken.


1. Laurence Olivier was suffering from cancer at the time and was uninsurable. Producer Robert Evans had the House of Lords pressure the insurer, Lloyds of London, to cover Olivier. Lloyds did so, Olivier received an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor, his cancer went into remission and he lived for another 13 years.

2. The torture scene was shortened after preview audiences were taken sick.

3. Laurence Olivier plays the character Dr. Christian Szell, based on Dr. Josef Mengele. Two years later, Laurence Olivier acted in The Boys from Brazil (1978), a story about Dr. Mengele (played by Gregory Peck). In that film he plays Ezra Lieberman, a Jewish Nazi hunter (based on the real life Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal), who fights Mengele in a nasty physical confrontation.

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69. “They’re here!”

Spoken by Heather O’Rourke as Carol-Anne Freeling in Poltergeist, 1982

I’m not a fan of horror, even less of haunted house flicks, and have never watched this film so I know very little about it.


1. Steven Spielberg’s premise for Poltergeist was based on the history of Cheeseman Park in Denver, Colorado. The park was originally a cemetery, which was converted into a park during city beautification efforts in the early 20th century. The man hired to move the bodies scammed the city of Denver into overpaying him, and the city quickly ran out of funds to pay for moving the dead. With no money left in the coffers, the city decided to simply leave the remaining 'residents' buried in unmarked graves underneath the sod. The park was completed as scheduled, but supernatural occurrences have been reported ever since.

2. Poltergeist (1982) was filmed on the same street as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) because Steven Spielberg made the two films concurrently.

3. Heather O'Rourke, who played the little girl Carol-Anne, and Dominique Dunne, who played the teenage daughter, are buried in the same cemetery: Westwood Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Dunne was strangled into brain-death by her boyfriend in 1982, the year of the film's release. Six years later, O'Rourke died of intestinal stenosis.

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68. “Here’s Johnny!”

Spoken by Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining, 1980

As I said for the previous item, I am not a fan of horror but I am a fan of Jack Nicholson. The film is okay, the character of the possessed Jack Torrance – “Here’s Johnny!” – is wonderfully evil and totally memorable.


1. Stanley Kubrick considered both Robert De Niro and Robin Williams for the role of Jack Torrance but decided against both of them. Kubrick did not think De Niro would suit the role after watching his performance in Taxi Driver (1976), as he deemed De Niro not psychotic enough for the role. He did not think Williams would suit the role after watching his performance on Mork & Mindy (1978), as he deemed him too psychotic for the role.

2. According to Stephen King, the author of the book The Shining which is the basis of the film, the title is inspired by the refrain in the Plastic Ono Band's song, "Instant Karma" (by John Lennon), which features the chorus: "We all shine on".

3. When Jack uses an axe to break through the bathroom door, he shouts "Here's Johnny". This is probably a reference to the catchphrase of chat-show host Johnny Carson. However an alternative explanation is that it is a reference to an incident that occurred in the 1960s when Johnny Cash used a fire axe to break a connecting "doorway" between two motel rooms that he and his band members were using while on tour, and then broke through one of the doors from the corridor to make it look as if a thief had broken in and trashed the rooms.

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67. "Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine." 

Spoken by Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine in Casablanca, 1942 

A classic that gets better with age and one I never tire of seeing, even though I vuirtually know the script by heart. 


1. In the famous scene where the "Marseillaise" is sung over the German song "Watch on the Rhine", many of the extras had real tears in their eyes; a large number of them were actual refugees from Nazi persecution in Germany and elsewhere in Europe and were overcome by the emotions the scene brought out. 

2. Director Michael Curtiz’s Hungarian accent often caused confusion on the set. He asked a prop man for a "poodle" to appear in one scene. The prop man searched high and low for a poodle while the entire crew waited. He found one and presented it to Curtiz, who screamed "A poodle! A poodle of water!" 

3. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt returned from a wartime conference in Casablanca with Winston Churchill, he asked for a screening of the film at the White House. In Spanish, "casa blanca" means "White House."

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