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Best Movie Beginnings!

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Kylee Peña
Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 25, 2013 at 5:07:43 pm

Alright, yep, I'm starting this thread because it's Monday and it's very snowy and sad here. Just like the other thread about the best endings, but instead, what films had the best beginnings...or openings. Openings might be a better way to say it, but I didn't want to confuse it with box office openings. You know what I mean. What films were most effective at setting the tone or just generally rocked your face off in the first 5-10 minutes?

I'm starting with three of my favorites.

First, Up. Somehow an entire life together is introduced and summarized while still making you feel emotions you aren't comfortable feeling. It struck me how adult it was, yet how unbelievably simple to communicate what happens to them especially with the nursery and the doctor. I know what's going on, a little kid knows what's going on. We may understand it on different levels, but we still get it. It could have been cheesy and to me, it was basically perfect. I give this one more points (maybe I should give it fewer) because I don't even really like the rest of the movie much at all. But every time I see this film starting, I watch the first ten minutes and it freakin' slays me every time.



Second, Amelie (and the clip is NSFW, I guess. Nakedness and stuff.) Amelie is my favorite movie ever, and the opening scene shows you why. It introduces the whimsy of the film and the style it'll be told -- with genuine emotion -- in just a couple of minutes. If you aren't into it by the time the stunning opening titles with cute little young Amelie start, you probably won't be into it in an hour. I wouldn't say it's ground-breaking, but it does something different and jumps right into itself without warning, and I love it a lot.



And third, Children of Men. Whenever someone asks me for my favorite opening scene, this tends to be my first choice. I love being thrown right into a bleak world without any heavy exposition. I hate exposition, and this doesn't feel expositiony. All you need to know about the world in this year, you understand after about two minutes of looking at the city, the people, and listening to the news report along with everyone. You GET the idea of the whole thing super super fast without any of the characters, except for a news reporter, talking about it. And bonus for lovely Cuaron long take -- which doesn't even come CLOSE to the insane tracking shots later in the film. I love the way the scene ends and launches you right into the titles: BLAM, MOVIE. It's like yeah, this is just the start, run away if you want, otherwise we're doin' this now.



Those are usually the first ones that pop into my head when the topic comes up. Yours?

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Paul Forte
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 25, 2013 at 9:12:01 pm

Back to the Future opening scene is one of the best.

Almost every single element serves a narrative function. It's very tightly written:


Many, many ticking clocks; an obvious representation of "time" and setting the theme.
And with it, where and when we are.
Newspaper headline recording a destructive act! A recurring element established.
Shows us that Doc is away via dog food "where you been all week?"
Establishes the missing plutonium via TV news AND "oops" there it is.
ECU of technology being operated. A recurring theme established.
Shows us the personality of Doc (even though we don't see him!!) as a busy, hair-brained inventor.
Established Marty as a relatable cool kid: he skates, wears Nike, sunglasses and plays guitar.
The VERY first time we see Marty; he's covered in crap. This is perfect way to set up your hero: he's in trouble (via his own doing).
He's also clumsy, like the Doc. Cementing their relationship.
Shows us innovating technology (oversized speaker)
Sets up Marty's first of two "guitar fails" which he will overcome by the the climax of the film.
Sets up "meet me at Twin Pines Mall at 1:15am" - there's our inciting incident. It's repeated in case you missed it.
And as soon as he says it, BOOM - all the alarm clocks chime! A foreshadowing of what's to come.

So anyway, all of this establishes everything we need to know about the movie, except for the family stuff. It's all crammed in there. and genius in my opinion.


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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:26:37 pm

That's a really good one! I had this conversation with my husband not long ago but your analysis went much deeper than mine. I think BTTF is generally a really amazingly executed film. There's not a single bit of action or dialogue that doesn't serve to further the plot or theme, or set up a gag that pays off that enhances the theme. It's pretty freaking impressive, and becomes even more interesting when you're trying to craft a film yourself. It's hard!

Yes, I'd definitely agree on this.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:56:24 pm

I remember Raiders Of The Lost Ark being on the cover of Rolling Stone the week before it came out, and telling my roommates, guys, we have to get this movie. It sounds incredible.

And still having no idea just how insane it was going to be. Even though this was 1981, thus pre-ET (which would in fact be Spielberg's next movie. I know, right?), the idea of the Jaws/Close Encounters guy and the Star Wars guy working together was almost too much to stand anticipating, and the first couple of minutes more than paid off.

The fact is that if Raiders ended with Indy meeting Reggie the pet snake, it would still be remembered as one of the best movies that either Steve or George ever made, and "Come on! Show a little backbone, will ya!" would be on the list of all-time greatest last lines.

I completely agree that Back To The Future and Children of Men have to go on the list, and I'm going to think about some more, but Raiders is always going to stand way way out in front for me.

BTW, the feature film debut of Alfred "Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip" Molina!



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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 1:52:24 am

One of my favorite film lines. Also, I NEVER REALIZED that was Alfred Molina!!

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Tom Sefton
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 25, 2013 at 10:58:24 pm

Ok, before I put some real thought into this, I'm going with;

2001:a space odyssey
Trainspotting - choose life....
Goodfellas - my personal favourite.
Star Wars
Jaws
Raiders of the lost ark - just...awesome
Saving private Ryan - jaw dropping and heartbreaking

I know I can think of more...


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Tom Sefton
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 1:02:30 am

Watching the start to children of men again made me realise just how good it is. Great choice.


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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 1:54:36 am

Jaws is a really good one. Horror directors should take note -- less monsters, more scary. Especially at the beginning.

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Stephen Smith
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 2:37:14 pm

Star Trek - What an amazing start to re-booting the whole franchise. It was so intense and brilliantly wiped out the future so they could do anything they wanted with the franchise. Kirks father saving the day while baby kirk is being born. Really awesome.


I love Sneakers and it has a great open...well, two part open. If you haven't seen it don't read any more of this post and just go watch it and especially don't watch the trailer.

The opening flash back sets up the bad guy which you don't know at the time. It tells you what type of person the main character is. Plus, they are in the Hill Valley clock tower.

Then you are into the opening where you think they are robbing a bank to steal money. You find out that a member of the team is crazy into funny conspiracy theories and you have to love the set up where you learn Whistler is blind. Then the following day when the main charter deposits the money you learn what they really do for a living which sets up almost everything you need to know for the rest of the film.

I really enjoyed Skyfall as well. A dark silhouette walks into a small amount of light to reveal part of his face. Slowly you learn what in the world is he doing then you learn where he is. Great action then follows. It sets up the rest of the movie well and is one heck of a fun ride. Then Bond gets shot which is a great set up for the last scene when you learn who Naomie Harris is.

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Scott Roberts
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 3:20:25 pm

Some really good examples so far! Let's see what I can think of...

How about Reservoir Dogs and/or Pulp fiction. Tarantino's first two films proved you could start a film with people casually talking in a diner and still have it be completely entertaining. Probably more so with Pumpkin and Honey Bunny in Pulp Fiction.

(NSFW Audio)








The Good, the Bad and the Ugly ain't too shabby either. It takes the notion of a showdown and turns it on its head, and gives Tuco a clever backstory without even saying a word:








And I've always liked the beginning to Idiocracy, as it nails the inevitable issue of dumb people procreating, while the intelligent overthink it a little too much.







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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:30:08 pm

Pulp Fiction is another of my favorites.

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Jeff Breuer
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 3:47:09 pm

All great suggestions!

Stephen - I agree with Skyfall and would at that two or three more Bond films could be added to this list. But I will leave that for you you all to argue.

Children of Men is the best of the one shot openings, not just for the information it gives but as you have mentioned, the tension and mood that it creates. I think honorable mentions would go to Boogie Nights and maybe Snake Eyes.

As you picked Kylee I loved, loved Up's opening as well. I could just watch that as a short film. In that vein I also Wes Anderson openings, especially Royal Tennanbaums and Moonrise Kingdom.

If I can dote over Buster Keaton again, I love the intro to Cops. Look it up on YouTube and watch the first minute. Keaton wasn't just funny, he was very clever.


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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 4:32:28 pm

I'm not really familiar with the entire Bond franchise, but I thought the opening sequence for Casino Royale was the strongest. Felt like a great introduction to Craig's version of Bond. Also it was awesome and stuff.



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Stephen Smith
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 4:40:07 pm

[Kylee]

I'm not really familiar with the entire Bond franchise, but I thought the opening sequence for Casino Royale was the strongest. Felt like a great introduction to Craig's version of Bond. Also it was awesome and stuff.


Plus I think the fight / chase scene with the bad guy who can really jump was one of the best action sequences ever.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 4:52:22 pm

[Stephen Smith] "Plus I think the fight / chase scene with the bad guy who can really jump was one of the best action sequences ever."

Wasn't that Quantum of Solace? That's where I think of it anyway, but yes, whichever movie, my favorite Bond opening.

I was going to add Dark Knight. I love the Joker's almost certainly false story of his origins, but everything about it is choice.

Agreed with the agreement on Star Trek. :-) I asked my wife for her suggestions, and she immediately named this one. She was thinking up to the birth of Kirk and the death of his father, but there are actually 3 beginnings, and they're all hot.

1) Kirk's dad is Thor! That explains a lot.

2) Taking Uncle Frank's car for a joyride to Beastie Boys Sabotage -- forkin' A, man. That song WILL be played in 400 years, every bit as much as the Hallelujah Chorus is here 274 years later and ain't goin' nowhere. Sabotage will probably be played for exactly the same reasons, too - Christmas pageants and such.

Embedding disabled by request, but pretty please:





(Uncle Frank, voiced by the great Greg Grunberg, a childhood friend of JJ's, and featured with major parts in his shows Felicity and Alias.)

3) The bar fight. Talk about asking for it! That was as attractive to Capt. Pike as much as anything else, right? It also ties back to the "first" beginning of the movie: bravado with a goal of saving lives rather than rearranging faces. Or, say, rearranging faces with a goal.

You could argue that the "movie" has started at that point, but to me, it starts when he shows up the next morning.


It's really just an opening shot, rather than a scene, but the opening shot of Clockwork Orange is as chilling as anything else in the movie, and it's pretty much just a dolly/zoom out on Malcolm McDowell drinking a glass of milk. You can definitely see its use of music and narration as an influence on the opening of Trainspotting (Or for that matter, Manhattan.) Obviously different music, but formally, it's there.



Speaking of which, great call on the Trainspotters open. I can't believe I left it off the list of great endings. It's a much longer scene than this, but here's the last minute.




Great line from David Lynch re: the opening of Blue Velvet: "It has to be an ear, because there's an opening." Mmm-kay.




Children of Men's tracking shots are amazing, but when you're talking opening tracking shots, you're talking Touch Of Evil. Still some of the most daring crane work of all time.




And of course, the 8-minute tracking shot that opens The Player...which includes Fred Ward talking about Hitchcock's tracking shots. By the time this shot ends, you know everything you need to know, pretty much about the entire rest of the movie.



There are other opening tracking shots worthy of mention, notably Goodfellas, but Touch of Evil and The Player are the ones I think of as pinnacles.


Gotta offer a closing (for now) tip of the hat to Citizen Kane. Among that movie's many firsts is the faux documentary. Honestly, watching now, it takes for-freaking-ever to get to the point, but I remember being captivated by it. The opening shots of the skeleton of Xanadu, the scene in the screening room as the first cut of the newsreel ends -- amazing. The "other" opening scene of his mother signing away young Charles is chilling and heartbreaking, and definitely sets up a tremendous part of the story.


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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 5:12:40 pm

These are awesome, especially Touch of Evil. That was one I saw only within the last couple of years and I couldn't believe it. Out of all the times in school when we'd talk about tracking shots and reference The Player and Goodfellas, Touch of Evil is in another orbit.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:11:47 pm

[Kylee Wall] "The Player and Goodfellas, Touch of Evil is in another orbit."

I obviously really like The Player (especially) and Goodfellas, but when you see the three of them right in a row...as I did just a bit ago LOL...those two are only in two dimensions compared to Touch of Evil. A much shorter shot, barely a third the length of the other two, but if there was a way to describe more than three dimensions without resorting to wormholes, this would be that.

Player and GF deserve style points for keeping so many elements in motion in a rigid environment - the door is either there or its not, and how cool is Player's use of windows? - but Touch of Evil feels more organic. I got the feeling that the set was actually designed for THAT EXACT SHOT. Was it even used again in the movie after that shot?

I used the word bravado already this morning, but I should have saved it for this. It was a boldness like Picasso, defying you to believe that anybody could accomplish anything like this.


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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 11:28:15 pm

Touch of Evil's opening scene also originally had credits over it. Welles had it reinstated. I can't remember if there was more to that story, but credits on that woulda sucked a lot.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 27, 2013 at 12:17:42 am

[Kylee Wall] " I can't remember if there was more to that story..."

Ah, but I do. :-)

The short version is yes, he planned it to run without credits over it, and he only wanted Mancini's score playing on the car radio.

The other short version is that he'd been out of Hollywood for 10 years by that point, and was only tenuously offered an acting part. Heston agreed to act in it on the assumption that Welles was directing, which he now insisted happen.

Fast forward - the studio loved the rushes, but the editing appalled them. He was editing stories happening at the same time in parallel, cutting between them in more or less real time. This wouldn't be shocking now, but at the time, the studio locked him out of the editing suite and completely re-cut. Including laying credits over the opening scene, as well as a number of new shots.

It's a long, long story, told very well at TCM's website.

Among the events in the saga was a heartbroken Welles writing a 58-page "memo" suggesting thing the studio could do to make their cut better. That letter, along with a fine introduction by Lawrence French, is over at the highly recommended Wellesnet.

The letter is a fascinating insight into his filmmaking process, including why he rejected the things he did, and how he made choices for how and where the cuts should be. Not just the specific content of the shots, but the rhythm he was trying to build, and how it related to the script.

The re-edit that you refer to, and that this clip comes from, is from 1998, 13 years after Welles had passed on.

As usual, more of an answer than any normal person could want...but this is a remarkable story that will amply reward a few minutes of your further investigation.


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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 27, 2013 at 1:01:38 am

Excellent! Film forum homework. Thanks for the clarification.

If normal people don't want answers like this, then there should be no normals in this forum.

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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 4:34:25 pm

Okay, I had another one in mind that I left out because I took three, but I'm throwing it in anyway.

The Dark Knight. Awesome bank robbery sequence that unknowingly introduces us to the lunacy and genius of The Joker.



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Paul Forte
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:25:48 pm

The opening of Magnolia is one of the best and most unique. It's simply three little voiceovered stories that have nothing to do with the characters or plot of the main film, but serve as an "aperitif" or teaser of what's to come. They explore the idea of coincidences and set the audience up with the idea that unusual things can and do happen. Its function is to put you in the right frame of mind, and it works!

I'd also like a nod to Inglorious Basterds; that opening scene is 20 minutes long!! And could have been told in three minutes but instead Tarantino lingers and indulges in the tension and atmosphere. Genius.


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Tom Sefton
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 9:22:21 pm

Inglorious basterds opening scene is brilliant. Great shout.


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Tom Sefton
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 6:42:47 pm

Dark knight- yes!








NSFW - trainspotting.


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Tim Wilson
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 7:12:01 pm

[Tom Sefton] "NSFW - trainspotting."

I should have given a heads up for my ending clip from Trainspotting too. Safe for MY work mind you LOL but certainly not everyone's...


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Tom Sefton
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 26, 2013 at 9:20:11 pm

Putting a SFW clip from trainspotting on here would be a challenge....

How about the start from the departed?


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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 28, 2013 at 4:54:14 am

I have another aspect of this thread to ponder, if anyone happens to be following along. I'm taking an online film class elsewhere on the internets, and we've been talking at length about the beginnings of films today. The first ten minutes of a film being a guide that teaches an audience how to watch the rest of the film.

I wonder, in that context, if any other opening sequences stick out as particularly successful. I think we basically hinted at this idea with all the films posted, but do any other films pop into your mind now?

I'll say I think that this concept is part of why Up isn't that successful to me. It's a beautiful sequence, but it doesn't teach me much about how to watch the movie. You could easily argue the other way and I'd say well, it has campy talking dogs so your argument is irrelevant and have a nice day.

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Tom Sefton
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 28, 2013 at 1:35:26 pm







The opening scene from Memento. Another tip of the hat to the Nolan brothers - in the opening 90 seconds you are left with questions that last for the entire rest of the film.


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Jeff Breuer
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 28, 2013 at 3:42:16 pm

Great suggestion on the first 10 minutes being a setup Kylee, and Tom, I agree, Memento is a good choice. Here are a few of mine--

Saving Private Ryan-- If you ignore the present day stuff, what I like to think of the first scene is the beaches of Normandy fight. It really doesn't do anything for the story structure, because we mostly meet up with our guys and get the assignment after the fight. But it really sets the stage for the movie, and twists up your gut. You feel the tense nature and are sucked into a lot of what is going on and going to happen.


Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid-- They really pull you into the old west and even keep all of the intro in sepia tone. The transition to color is so gentle and natural, I usually don't even think about it and still feel in that old world. The set up for these characters in this very character driven story is perfect too.

Downfall-- The German movie about the last days of the third Reich humanizes Hitler in the first scene, while establishing a relationship we will watch throughout the film. Truly a great and chilling film, well set up.

We already mentioned Amelie and Moonrise Kingdom, Junet and Anderson are unique storytellers who know how to quickly pull you into their world. Moonrise is about straight forward as it gets for roadmaps. Jaws, Grindhouse, Scream and M are all great on the horror end.


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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 29, 2013 at 2:09:59 am

I love this particularly because what the scene MEANS changes at every point in the film.

It's also really made clear to the viewer that this is gonna be kind of weird, so hang on.

Good one!

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Tim Wilson
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 30, 2013 at 8:56:27 pm

I say all the time that I love TV more than movies, and I absolutely do. There are also a handful of pilots in particular that stand with the best movies being made.

I'd put the pilot for Lost at the top of that list. Jack's eye pops open, clearly hurt, looks at an airplane-sized bottle of vodka in his pocket, he staggers, then runs after a dog mysteriously trots by, to find a beach in chaos, wreckage, and then a barefoot man in a suit duck into the woods. All before the title card.

And since I mentioned the great character actor and Abrams staple Greg Grunberg in Star Trek, I'll note that he was the actual pilot of Oceanic flight 815, appearing only in the pilot episode (appropriately enough), and his voice in the first episode of the ill-fated, ill-advised season 6.

But the opening of the Lost pilot, as good as allllmost anything on this list. It didn't just set up the next two hours, but the next 1200 hundred or so.


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Kylee Peña
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 30, 2013 at 9:16:48 pm

Great point.

The pilot episode also sets up the entire idea of the series in basically one single shot.



I think it's valid to say that just like a movie doesn't work if the first ten minutes doesn't represent to the viewer how to watch the whole thing, a television show starts to suck when it strays too far from the pilot. But that also seems like a really obvious thing to say.

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Tom Sefton
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Mar 30, 2013 at 10:48:32 pm

Great point Tim. If I could only watch TV or movies again, the choice would be a very tough one.

My favourite series of all time is Sopranos. The whole show was a masterpiece, and I loved the ending. The opening of the pilot gives you just enough intrigue about Tony to draw you in.







"just when I thought I was out....."

The opening scene to Mad Men is pretty good too!







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Richard Cardonna
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Apr 1, 2013 at 1:21:02 am

For me the most memorable opening was a tv movie made by turner about the confederate submarine that was lost in its fist mission. Forgot its name and never seen it again but still makes me loose sleep.


Richard


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Tim Wilson
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Apr 1, 2013 at 3:21:08 pm

[Richard Cardonna] "a tv movie made by turner about the confederate submarine that was lost in its fist mission."

The Hunley, on TNT in 1999, starring Armand Assante and Donald Sutherland. On sale now at the Warner Archive website for $14.96 with free shipping.

Check the opening "credit" on this clip. Not much on presentation, our friends at Warner Archive Video, but hey, it's a nice 3-minute clip.




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Richard Cardonna
Re: Best Movie Beginnings!
on Apr 1, 2013 at 5:55:33 pm

this is not the original ig looks like they change it. the original had them desperatley trying to save themselves im the hunley while drowning.


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