My Man Godfrey (1936), directed by Gregory La Cava.
One of the very best screwball comedies. William Powell and Carole Lombard, although divorced at this time, are still great friends and have superb chemistry and comic timing. Wonderful cast.
It has a Depression-era social consciousness background, but the changes are head-spinning. Godfrey is a Forgotten Man living at the city dump, picked up by some idle rich kids to display at one of their society games. This gives us a chance, along with Godfrey, to sneer at them. On the other hand, they seem to be having a lot of fun. When he moves to the vast marble mansion we see the rich family are funny but also crazy, making them less contemptible and actually pitiable. Then Godfrey recovers his self-respect by being a good butler and the daughters of the house turn out to be simultaneously appealing and scary, which is always a problem. We discover he was once one of the suspect rich, now one of the noble poor. He then turns the tables by making a fortune of his own, which would make him suspect again, but he is generous in his success. He moves back to the dump, turning it into a nightclub (that 1930s paradise) and employing the other bums, which again would make him suspect, but they all like him and the project is not making any money anyway. In the final scene he loses the war of the sexes and it ends as all good screwball comedies and Jane Austen novels should.
All in 90 minutes.
Six Academy Award nominations, although not for Best Picture, and no wins. It was a tough decade.
Carole Lombard died at age 33 in a plane crash during WW2, selling war bonds.
Men in War (1957), directed by Anthony Mann.
Low budget, very gritty lost patrol story set in Korea, 1950. As you would expect it is a "and then there were none" story as the men are picked off one by one. A lot of cliches but still very powerful. The shell-shocked Colonel, the mine field, the Sgt Rock with an attitude, the sneaky invisible enemy. The semi-psychic powers required for survival.
The always outstanding Robert Ryan is the old army Lt, competent but very, very tired, starting to forget the names of his men, who's living and who's dead. Also with Aldo Ray, Nehemiah Persoff, James Edwards, and the very young Vic Morrow and LQ Jones.
The territory seems like a deserted wilderness; no buildings, just lurking death and strange, inexplicable phenomena like the incoming pattern of artillery shells blocking the road.
As a kid, it was always the mine field scene that scared me. My father had mine stories from WW2 and I know they scared him, too.
The IMDB does not list the original aspect ratio of this title, but comments say the narrow 1.33 (1.37?) ratio is correct. In any case, 4:3 DVD is all we have.
[Later: thumbnails from the Olive Films Blu-ray]
Experiment in Terror (1962), directed by Blake Edwards.
Very fine thriller and police procedural with Lee Remick, Glenn Ford, and the young Stefanie Powers. Many long tense sections. Good San Francisco locations and panoramas.
Black and white, traditional noir look. Apart from being wide screen many of the shots could have been composed 15 years earlier. The content has changed from the early years, though. Sometime in the 50s and 60s movies and and TV started featuring more terr-o-rama: psychos, home invasion, sadism and crimes against women. You see a new level of fear that hadn't been presented before.
The IMDB notes say that people think David Lynch must like this film. That's easy to believe from the opening credits, the way it is shot and the combination of ominous industrial drone and cool, bassy jazz.
In fact, Henry Mancini's score is tremendous throughout; it seems to have a keen following. You can picture Angelo Badalamenti given it a close listen.
The DVD is out of print. Netflix doesn't have it, but I was able to rent it from http://www.classicflix.com/.
[Later: thumbnails from the Blu-ray]
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), directed by Jack Arnold.
I grew up on Universal science fiction fiction films of the 1950s. Many directed by Jack Arnold! The Creature is one of the better rubber suit monsters and the Florida and California locations serve pretty well for the Amazon. The science class intro was a standard feature of the genre.
We always feel sorry for the Creature; didn't Marilyn Monroe say that in The Seven Year Itch? It's another Beauty and the Beast story; he just wants a mate and to be otherwise left alone. Guys sympathize with that, too.
The male leads tend to make speeches, but Julie Adams is very good. I award her Best Intelligent Clean Scrubbed Actress in a Custom Swimsuit for 1954. Not even a living fossil gill-man can resist her. Big wardrobe for the Amazon but it is all pretty sensible. The scene where the Creature secretly swims with her and watches her aquatic ballet is very creepy.
I appreciated the "we are exploring the oceans just as we are beginning to explore outer space" sentiment. At the time it was quite true.
The original aspect ratio is 2.0:1 but all the DVDs appear to be 4:3. Originally in 3D.
[Later: thumbnails from the Blu-ray]