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drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 02:50 PM 03-28-2010
Also I recently watched "Somewhere in the Night," a 1946 murder/psychological mystery of the film noir genre.



The film tells the tale of a man called George Taylor (John Hodiak), who returns home to the US from fighting in World War II. He is suffering from amnesia, and tries to track down his old identity, following a trail left behind by the mysterious Mr Larry Cravat. He ends up stumbling into a murder mystery involving Nazi loot.

It has an interesting and competent cast featuring John Hodiak, Lloyd Nolan, Richard Conte, a very young Harry Morgan in a bit part and Nancy Guild among others. Hodiak went on to bigger pictures but sadly died at age 41 of a heart attack in 1955. Nolan and Conte had busy and productive film careers playing characters not unlike those in this picture. (Police detective and bad guy.) Morgan later became famous for his role as Colonel Sherman T. Potter in M*A*S*H in the mid-70s. The film is studded with lesser known character actors.

Guild was offered a Hollywood contract while a college freshman. She acted in a few movies in the late 40s-early 50s (holding her own effectively in this film I thought against a more experienced Hodiak) while in her '20s, got married to a Broadway producer and virtually dropped from sight afterwards.

It probably deserves more attention as the third film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz who went on to become famous as a writer and director.

There is a commentary track offered by a knowledgeable film historian that I listened to briefly. Fans of film noir would find his comments especially interesting as this film is a classic in that regard. He also identifies some inside jokes in the picture, indicating that Mankiewicz had his tongue in cheek during production. Mankiewicz shared the screen writing credits. Here's a pun I noticed. The mysterious Larry Cravat's last name was also well-known as a slang term for necktie in those days. As a teenager who wore one, I remember the term well. As in "Hey, man, that's a cool cravat you're wearing."

There is a lot about this film - the cars in particular - that induce reminiscences. There were very few new cars available in 1946 as the Big Three auto makers converted from making tanks and army trucks to civilian wheels. The two door convertable that Nancy Guild's character casually loans to Hodiak may have generated more lust in the audience than the actress herself.

It's a Netflix rental. SD DVD released in 2005. OAR 4x3. B&W. Mono sound. It played well.


wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 04:58 AM 03-29-2010
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), directed by Otto Preminger.

Preminger, Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney together again a few years after Laura. This one is darker, more gritty and urban noir toned, but still with a romantic element.

Tough police detective is a bit too tough, killing a suspect during questioning. It's an accident! Over the next busy day he has to conceal the crime, protect the woman he is falling for, prevent an innocent man from taking the rap, and take down the hood he most hates.

Do we want him to get away with all of this? We can see two possible endings: the tragic one and the Hollywood cute variation. They split the difference; we don't know what will happen but she'll be waiting for him.

Dana Andrews is good at the tough guy roles where he tries to be impassive, but we still see the wheels turning.

drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 07:14 AM 03-29-2010
A couple of reviews back, I mentioned how unusual it was to see a new convertible in the 1946 movie "Somewhere in the Night." So, I took a look at the movie again to see what more I could learn about that convertable. The film is on Hulu here and we get a beautiful shot of the steering wheel about 44 minutes into the film.

According to the story someone leaves a note tucked under the horn ring of the steering wheel. Now if you were leaving a note for someone on a car then or now, wouldn't you put it under the windshield wiper? Question: Why put it on the steering wheel?

Answer: That way we the audience get to see that this is a Ford Mercury convertible because the brand is rather garishly embossed on the steering wheel. Incidentally, that steering wheel is far from new - we can see that the chrome is pitted and dull so maybe this car isn't brand new after all. Nancy Guild's character says that John Hodiak needs to be careful with it because "It has four new tires on it." (Hard as hen's teeth to get in 1946.) It probably would have been too much of a stretch to have a "working girl" own a brand new convertible in 1946 so it's possibly a 1941. There wouldn't have been any difference in appearance.

Another possibility is that this particular steering wheel is a prop yanked off a junk yard and never belonged on the convertible.

Finally, what we have here is a great example of product placement in movies that actually got its start in silent pictures!

I just thought inquiring minds would like to know.

wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 09:50 AM 03-29-2010
Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959), directed by Robert Stevenson.

I was unaware of this Disney film until recently. I laughed until I cried, although it probably helps to be a celt. My wife looked at me as if I were nuts, but her ancestors came from humorless teutonic regions.

Entirely suitable for children (if they don't mind an amount of drunken carousing and a scary bit with a banshee) it is also entertaining for adults. Or maybe only certain types of adults.

Young Sean Connery sings, lovely Janet Munro glows, and Albert Sharpe is wonderful as her rascally father Darby, whose tall tales in the pub are mostly true.

I like it that leprechauns and humans form a community, separated but still familiar with each other's ways and happenings. The special effects are simple but fun to watch.

drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 11:11 AM 03-30-2010
Last night i watched again Angels One Five ...


... a 1952 film directed by George More O'Ferrall, and starring Jack Hawkins, Michael Denison, Dulcie Gray, John Gregson, Cyril Raymond, and also featuring Bill Everett. The plot centres on a young fighter pilot immediately before and during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. Some scenes in the film were shot at RAF Uxbridge, home to a wartime operations room.

"Angels One Five" refers to RAF radio procedure words, from the Second World War, meaning an altitude of 15,000 feet.

It's a Battle of Britain film taking place in the summer of 1940. In some ways it's like other B of B films I've seen. Nothing remarkable about the plot or characters. And yet I agree with the famous New York Times film critic Bosley Crowther who wrote on the occasion of the film's debut in NYC in 1954:


But there's something about any picture that recollects the R. A. F. and the triumphant Battle of Britain that this reviewer finds hard to resist. Maybe it's all those brave young pilots; maybe it's the climate of the operations rooms; maybe it's those Hurricanes and Spitfires barreling down the runways and clawing into the sky. The symbols of that kind of warfare and that phase of World War II are so heroically connected that they invariably stir a thrill.

And one must say that this picture has a cast to do it proud. John Gregson is nice as the new pilot who has a rough time making friends. Jack Hawkins is "the Tiger"and a tough, terrible one he is, indeed, until he inevitably unlimbers and reveals a soft heart for his men. Michael Denison, Andrew Osborn and several others do well in lesser roles under the direction of George More O'Ferrall. So we can't help but like the film.

There's only Hurricanes in this squadron. (Britain made over 14,000 of them but the ones in this film were on loan from Portugal!) While Spitfires got all the attention as Britain's proverbial thoroughbred race horse of the air in WW II, it was the work horse Hurri first built in 1936 with its wooden frame and fabric covering that actually downed more enemy aircraft.

H is for Hurricane, British children's alphabet book from the Second World War

Director O'Ferrall served in the B of B so we assume what we see isn't too hoked up. Group Captain Douglas Bader, later Sir Douglas Robert Steuart Bader CBE, DSO & Bar, DFC & Bar, FRAeS, and DL (21 February 1910 - 5 September 1982), a famous WW II British fighter pilot, said in a quote printed on the VHS tape box depicted below, "I could not fault it."

One of my all-time favorite UK actors Jack Hawkins got type cast in these tough but sympathetic commanding officer roles in films like Angels One Five (1952), Malta Story (1953) and the one that really made him a star - The Cruel Sea (1953). We see him again playing such roles in The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) and Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Ironically he is perhaps better known for Ben-Hur (1959). Hawkins was a three pack a day smoker and paid for it, first by contracting throat cancer resulting initially in losing his larynx and later, his life in 1973 at age 62. RIP.

It is available on Netflix.

I watched it on a PAL, Region 2 SD DVD. OAR 4x3. B&W. Mono. There is extensive use of models and back screen projection but it's all well done. The print I watched is very sharp. One has to hope that a film depicting an event in Britain for which Winston Churchill stirringly said "Never was so much owed by so many to so few" would never be allowed to be shown at less than its best. So be it.


glangford's Avatar glangford 06:32 AM 03-31-2010
Wow, just sifted through the entire thread. Not a Audrey Hepburn film in the lot?!

How to Steal a Million is one of my favorite Audrey Hepburn films. It won't get great critic marks, but the comic adventure of Hepburn and Peter O'Toole is top notch.
glangford's Avatar glangford 06:35 AM 03-31-2010
Of course my favorite all time oldie is Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole in Becket. Both men should have recieved an Academy Award for their performances in this film (neither did). Simply stunning.

Later O'Toole would reprise his role as Henry II in The Lion in the Winter with Katherine Hepburn. Also a classic.
drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 11:35 AM 03-31-2010
Originally Posted by glangford View Post

Wow, just sifted through the entire thread. Not a Audrey Hepburn film in the lot?! ...

Not quite. You missed my comments on the 1952 UK film "Secret People," in which she has a small part. Gaining good experience perhaps although she was hardly a novice to show biz, having starred on Broadway in Gigi in 1951.

According to her filmography, she made one more film in the UK also in 1952 before her unforgettable Oscar-winning role as Princess Ann in her film debut in a leading part opposite Gregory Peck in the 1953 "Roman Holiday."

I think the whole world fell in love with Audrey at that point. I have the movie and watch it occasionally, but it's a poignant reminder that she's no longer with us.

glangford's Avatar glangford 12:20 PM 03-31-2010
Originally Posted by drbonbi View Post

Not quite. You missed my comments on the 1952 UK film "Secret People," in which she has a small part. Gaining good experience perhaps although she was hardly a novice to show biz, having starred on Broadway in Gigi in 1951.

According to her filmography, she made one more film in the UK also in 1952 before her unforgettable Oscar-winning role as Princess Ann in her film debut in a leading part opposite Gregory Peck in the 1953 "Roman Holiday."

I think the whole world fell in love with Audrey at that point. I have the movie and watch it occasionally, but it's a poignant reminder that she's no longer with us.


Yes, I'm a big fan of hers. My wall calendar is Audrey Hepburn. Every year I watch Roman Holiday, How to Steal A Million, and Breakfast at Tiffany's. I always liked her in the role as Natasha Rostov in War and Peace, although I don't watch it often.
drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 07:59 PM 03-31-2010
I watched two films with Veronica Lake, she of the "peek-a-boo" hair do.

One was the 1941 comedy "Sullivan's Travels" in which Veronica - not quite five feet tall - is paired with Joel McCrea who looks to be well over six feet tall. Lake displays a flair for comedy and plays well against McCrea in one of her early leading roles. (She made four films with Alan Ladd who was a better match in height at 5'5". She was reputedly the only actress he could look down upon in closeups without having to stand on a box.)

Her so-called breakthrough came two pictures later - "I Wanted Wings" also made in 1941.


In 1990, Sullivan's Travels was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The plot is described here.


Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson

In Preston Sturges' classic comedy of Depression-era America, filmmaker John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea), fed up with directing profitable comedies like "Ants in Your Plants of 1939," is consumed with the desire to make a serious social statement in his upcoming film, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?" Unable to function in the rarefied atmosphere of Hollywood, Sullivan decides to hit the road, disguised as a tramp, and touch base with the "real" people of America. But Sullivan's studio transforms his odyssey into a publicity stunt, providing the would-be nomad with a luxury van, complete with butler (Robert Greig) and valet (Eric Blore). Advised by his servants that the poor resent having the rich intrude upon them, Sullivan escapes his retinue and continues his travels incognito. En route, he meets a down-and-out failed actress (Veronica Lake). Experiencing firsthand the scroungy existence of real-life hoboes, Sullivan returns to Hollywood full of bleeding-heart fervor. After first arranging for the girl's screen test, he heads for the railyards, intending to improve the lot of the local rail-riders and bindlestiffs by handing out ten thousand dollars in five-dollar bills. Instead, Sullivan is coldcocked by a tramp, who steals Sullivan's clothes and identification. When the tramp is run over by a speeding train, the world at large is convinced that the great John L. Sullivan is dead. Meanwhile, the dazed Sullivan, dressed like a bum with no identification on his person, is arrested and put to work on a brutal Southern chain gang. With its almost Shakespearean combination of uproarious comedy and grim tragedy, Sullivan's Travels is Sturges' masterpiece and one of the finest movies about movies ever made.

The second feature is the 1943 flag-waver "So Proudly We Hail" in which Lake really has a small part and may have been included for box office hype.


So Proudly We Hail! is a 1943 film made by Paramount Pictures, directed by Mark Sandrich, and starring Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard (who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance) and Veronica Lake.

The film follows a group of military nurses sent to the Philippines during the early days of World War II. The movie was based on a book written by nurse Juanita Hipps a WWII nurse—one of the "Angels of Bataan"--who served in Bataan and Corregidor during the time when McArthur withdrew to Australia which ultimately led to the surrender of US and Philippine troops to Japan. Those prisoners of war were subjected to the infamous Bataan Death March. The movie was based on LTC Hipps' true story "I Served On Bataan."

Lake wore her hair up off her shoulders for most of this movie and acquitted herself well in the company of other female stars of that era. But, she had a reputation for being bitchy on the set. McCrea, one of the easy-going "nice guy" leading men in Hollywood, wouldn't work with her again after Sullivan's Travels. Alan Ladd apparently got along better with her.

Lake's personal life was a disaster. "Following a string of broken marriages and long struggles with mental illness and alcoholism, she died of hepatitis ... " at age 51 in 1973, her fleeting fame of the '40s long gone.

Both films are B&W. Mono audio. On SD DVD. OAR 4x3. They are in good shape and played well. They are available on Netflix.

wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 04:15 PM 04-01-2010
The Seventh Victim (1943), produced by Val Lewton, directed by Mark Robson.

Schoolgirl Kim Hunter, in her first film role, searches for her missing big sister and runs afoul of devil worshipers in New York City. Tom Conway reprises his role as Dr. Judd, the dapper, cynical and intermittently sinister psychiatrist who was killed in Cat People.

Structured as a detective story, this is the most despairing of the Lewton pictures. It anticipates themes from Psycho and Rosemary's Baby. Somehow they snuck suicide past the Code censors.

The DVD also features the documentary Shadows in the Dark: The Val Lewton Legacy, a 50 minute appreciation by directors, writers, family and film historians.

This completes my Lewton RKO marathon. Nine pictures in five years, and he did two more non-thrillers that are not on DVD.

He is my hero, the patron saint of all those who labor for bosses who don't give a damn, who produce more than was ever expected or required of them.

Whenever the phone rang he would say "I'm fired." He was loyal to his friends and the actors gave him their best. Given the choice between a "B" picture he could do his own way, or a project with more money and prestige and studio interference, he stayed with with the low budget quickies with stupid titles. He produced these within budget and on schedule and they made money. Cat People earned 40x its cost the first year.

He used darkness and shadows to be suggestive rather than explicit. He used John Donne (1572-1631) for epigrams and William Hogarth (1697-1764) for art design. He realized that the movie lives in the imagination of the viewer.

Here they are, all reviewed separately above:

wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 12:35 PM 04-02-2010

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943), written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

Every time I see this I am further boggled by the scope and depth of the project: a poignant epic about the passing of an Age of the world, dressed up as a satirical comedy. All of the Powell & Pressburger titles of the 1940s are magical; here they go all in.

It begins at the ending: "now" is 1943, the middle of the war in Britain. We have a wild road race with brief glimpses of Deborah Kerr as she tries to get to Gen. Clive "Sugar" Candy and warn him that the regular army is about to cheat at the war games against his Home Guard. Candy is in his Colonel Blimp phase: fat, bald, pompous, easily enraged and stuck with an outmoded code of honor.

We then jump back to previous decades and discover how he came to be. Roger Livesey is always a joy to watch. The makeup job is amazing:

Deborah Kerr appears as a different woman in every episode, but always as the loved one:

(Note the last photo. If you've seen the Foyle's War series, Honeysuckle Weeks plays a character with the same driving job, same uniform, same hair style and color).

First: 1902, young Boer War veteran Candy goes to Germany and provokes a duel over a political feud. Everything is imperial uniforms, elaborate codes of honor and honest anger over injustices. Unexpectedly, he makes a life-long friend.

Next: WW1, all mud and desolation. War is no longer romantic. The Americans have arrived, bringing a more utilitarian outlook, casual discipline, and no regard for military traditions.

After the war, time to fall in love, get married, and try to salvage friendships. It's not easy; did the War really end in 1919?

Then the build-up and start of WW2. A whole new world of total war where none of the old decencies apply. Candy is now old Colonel Blimp; does he belong anywhere? And we are back at the beginning and complete the original comic war game competition.

With this viewing it seemed to me that the events of history are different for every life, but in another sense everyone experiences the same passing of a World Age. We're young and vigorous and have it all figured out; forty years later we are fat and bald, railing about the failures of youth today and ridiculed by them in our turn.

This is a great, really great, movie about all that.

See some of the original criticism of the film, often hostile or bewildered.

Criterion DVD.





drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 01:55 PM 04-02-2010
I agree. A great film. Deborah Kerr (pronounced "car" as I recall) was only 22 at the time and proved herself very versatile in the film and later, in her career. So much so that the same word headlined her obit in the NY Times at age 86 in 2007. RIP.

drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 08:00 PM 04-02-2010
Tonight I watched the British 1955 film "The Night my Number Came up" which ...

... is a film directed by Les Norman at Ealing Studios. The screenplay was written by R. C. Sherriff based on a real incident in the life of British Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard.

Plot summary

A senior Royal Air Force officer (Michael Redgrave) is at a party at which one of those present, (Michael Hordern), talks about a dream he had in which the Air Force Officer and a group of companions are flying in a Dakota which crashes on a rocky shore. The Air Marshal is due to fly the following day, but is not disturbed because the many of the details differ from his planned voyage.

However by the time the flight takes place, circumstances have changed so that all the details correspond to the dream. ...

Air Marshal Sir Robert Victor Goddard KCB, CBE usually Victor Goddard, (6 February 1897 – 21 January 1987) was a senior commander in the Royal Air Force during World War II.

The film The Night My Number Came Up (1955) was based on a strange incident in Goddard's life. In January 1946, he arrived at a party in Shanghai to overhear an officer talking of a dream in which Air Marshal Goddard was killed in a plane crash. The aircraft in the officer's dream iced over and crashed on a pebbled beach near mountains with two men and a woman on board. Goddard himself was due to fly to Tokyo that night on a Dakota and by the end of the evening he was persuaded to take two men and a woman with him. The plane iced over and was forced to make a crash landing on the Japanese island of Sado; the crash scene, a pebbled beach near mountains, resembled that described in the precognitory dream. Unlike the dream, however, because of Goddard's precautions no one was injured. ...

The "Dakota" twin engine passenger plane was known in this country in civilian use as the DC-3 and in the military in WW II as the C-47. It's really the star of the movie and well deserves the spotlight as a reliable work horse. Some are in use to this day.

I have flown in the DC-3. The film fails to realistically represent the quite steep incline in the interior when the plane is on the ground as it has two rather large landing wheels under the wings and a small tail wheel. Interior movie shots of the plane while on the ground suggest the cabin is horizontal which it most certainly is not. It's quite a hike walking up the aisle in fact. But, that reality wouldn't make for a good movie.

Also, in the film the pilot has much less radio contact with the tower than was common in the 1950s which I also know from personal experience (although the plot conveniently calls for the radio to conk out at a critical point in time, thus adding to the suspense).

What the film really does convey is the extent to which prop planes were much more affected by weather than the jets of today with their pressurized cabins, and which often can fly over or around storms and rough air. Flying was more exciting in the "good old days."

A good cast of solid (stolid?) UK actors including Michael Redgrave, Sheila Sim, Denholm Elliot and Michael Hordern. The film stays close to the real life experience of British Air Marshal Goddard which makes it all the more interesting.

It's on a PAL Region 2 SD DVD just released in the UK. "Digitally Restored" according to the keep case. Mono 2.0 audio. OAR 4x3. B&W. The transfer is a good one and playback was problem free.

drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 07:49 AM 04-04-2010
Last night I watched again "Sink the Bismarck," ...


... a 1960 black-and-white British war film based on the book The Last Nine Days of the Bismarck by C. S. Forester. It tells the true story of the Royal Navy's attempts to find and sink the German battleship during the Second World War. It stars Kenneth More and Dana Wynter. It was directed by Lewis Gilbert...

It's not a completely accurate recounting of what the German's called Operation Rheinübung ("Rhine Exercise") which ...


... was the sortie into the Atlantic by the new German battleship Bismarck and heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen on 18-27 May 1941, during World War II. This operation culminated in the sinking of Bismarck.

Too bad the film-makers - is it ego? - embellish the facts when they actually are stronger plot elements than their inventions. Nonetheless, in broad brush the major events are in place. The film utilizes actual Royal Navy footage of real planes of the type that sunk the Bismarck taking off from a real carrier and other stock footage which probably accounts for the unusual (to me) use of CinemaScope in black and white!

As regards the planes, they were Fairy Swordfish also known affectionately as "Stringbags." Outdated torpedo biplanes as the following photo illustrates.

Nonetheless, they were spectacularly successful, having sunk one Italian Navy battleship and damaged two others plus a cruiser in the Battle_of_Taranto in November 1940 before engaging the Bismarck. The Toranto success emboldened the Japanese to try the same sort of thing - using aerial delivery of torpedoes in a shallow anchorage - at Pearl Harbor little more than year later.

As an illustration of how facts are better than fiction, the film shows one or more Stringbags being shot down in flames by the Bismarck - which didn't happen! All British torpedo planes from the two air strikes were recovered (in very bad weather for flying and aircraft carrier operations). Later it was discovered that the new Bismarck had some sort of anti-aircraft fire director system - an early computer - that couldn't cope with the slow airspeed of the Stringbags. The computer had been programmed to anticipate faster enemy aircraft. Anther case of bad assumptions really screwing things up.

This is another film not unlike Angels One Five reviewed above where a good deal of the action is of necessity confined to charts, written messages and dialog in an operations room, not on the high seas. Since the film was produced in 1960, audiences of that time knew very well what had actually happened so they could fill in the details with their imagination. Today with a much greater wealth of knowledge about the Bismarck and the success of the British in sinking her, our appreciation for the brave men who fought so gallantly is not diminished by watching this film.

It's on a NTSC SD DVD available from Netflix although I own the disc I watched. OAR 2.35:1 anamorphic. B&W. Stereo audio. Excellent model shots plus integration of stock film footage. A couple of interesting extra features including a news reel of the actual event. Edward R. Morrow recreates some of his wartime broadcasts from London in the film and does a voice over segue into said operations room.

Kenneth More acquits himself well as a Royal Navy Captain serving as Director of Operations. Undoubtedly his role was familiar to him as he served as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, seeing active service aboard the cruiser HMS Aurora and the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious during WW II.

A personal favorite, actress Dana Wynter (born Dagmar Winter; 8 June, 1931) - she pronounced her acquired first name more like "Danna" - conveys her part with substance befitting a 2nd Officer. A good solid cast although Karel Stepanek as Admiral Günther Lütjens overplays his part somewhat. On the other hand, from a book I read, apparently he was not well-liked by the Bismarck crew.

It was worthwhile to watch.


Tony S's Avatar Tony S 12:50 PM 04-04-2010
Thanks drbonbi.
Watched Sink the Bismark many times on TV back in the day. Never realized that it was 2.35 anamorphic. Will have to put it on my list. Also a good read if you can find it.
So I'll have to add one: Scaramouche, 1952, Color
Stewart Granger, Eleanor Parker, Janet Leigh, Mel Ferrer
Probably one of the greatest choreographed fight scenes outside of-
The Three Musketeers/The Four Musketeers, 1973,
Oops, thats two. This is the one being distributed by Anchor Bay. Stars:
Oliver Reed, Raquel Welch, Richard Chamberlain, Christopher Lee,
Fay Dunaway, Charlton Heston, Frank Finlay, Geraldine Chaplin, Jean-Pierre Cassel
Interesting production history on this one.
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 03:49 PM 04-05-2010
The Naked City (1948), directed by Jules Dassin.

Documentary style police procedural with an irritating and unnecessary narration. It probably seemed gritty and realistic at the time, but is much less so now, actually quite stagey in parts. That would be an interesting study: how what is considered "realistic" looks different at different times.

A model is murdered and the police follow the leads during a hot summer week. Exciting chase and shootout at the end. Ted de Corsia was always one of my favorite thugs.

More than anything else it reminds me of the squad room stories Ed McBain started writing a few years later.

Criterion DVD.

drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 07:08 PM 04-05-2010
Tonight I watched the 1952 American film "5 Fingers," a ...

... 20th Century Fox spy film directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and produced by Otto Lang. The screenplay by Michael Wilson and Mankiewicz was based on Operation Cicero (Original German: Der Fall Cicero) (1950) by L.C. Moyzisch.

The film tells the true story of Albanian-born Elyesa Bazna, one of the most famous spies of World War II. He worked for the Nazis in 1943–44 while he was employed as valet to the British ambassador to Turkey, Sir Hughe Montgomery Knatchbull-Hugessen. He used the code name Cicero. He would photograph top-secret documents and turn the films over to Franz von Papen, the former German chancellor, at that time German ambassador in Ankara, via the intermediary Moyzisch, a commercial attaché at the embassy.

In the film, James Mason plays Ulysses Diello (Cicero), the character based on Bazna. The rest of the cast includes Danielle Darrieux, Michael Rennie, Herbert Berghof and Walter Hampden.

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Director for Mankiewicz and Best Screenplay for Wilson. Mankiewicz was also nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures by the Directors Guild of America and Wilson was nominated for Best Written American Drama by the Writers Guild of America. He won the Golden Globe for Best Screenplay and the Edgar Award for Best Mystery Screenplay.

It's a fine film, one of Mason's best and it includes the great French actress Danielle Darrieux who I would like to see more of. Born in 1917, she's still alive and still working! Lovely looking in this film for sure. And she can act!

The introduction of the film states that the exterior scenes were filmed in their actual locations (in Turkey).

It's strange that this film is hard to obtain in the USA. Not available on Netflix. I had to buy a 2004 PAL Region 2 SD DVD from Amazon UK. The first reel shows evidence of worn sprocket holes on the film - the framed 4 x 3 B&W image moves slightly up and down - but it soon straightens out. Mono sound. The disc plays well.

OldCodger73's Avatar OldCodger73 05:31 PM 04-06-2010
"All the earnest paleontologist (Cary Grant) wants is an intercostals clavicle to complete his brontosaurus skeleton. What he gets is an out-of-control toboggan ride with with a scatterbrained heiress (Katherine Hepburn) nuts about hom (or maybe just nuts). Riding along are a dog named George, a leopard named Baby, a snooty society matron with a spare million, a caretaker on the sauce and more. In this giddy 1938 romp directed by Howard Hawks, Grant ends up in a negligee, Hepburn in a bottomless evening gown, every one ends up in jail and Bringing Up Baby ends up as a most glorious laughter-inducing movie ever!" (Taken from the DVD case.)

This is a great screwball comedy and apparently served as an inspiration for Peter Bogdanovich's hilarious What's Up, Doc?, which incidentally is due out in BD on August 10.

While the picture quality of Bringing Up Baby is about what one would expect from a movie that old that hasn't been restored, it's still very watchable. Besides, after a while you're so busy laughing you won't notice it as much.
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 06:50 AM 04-07-2010
Crisis (1950), directed by Richard Brooks.

A surgeon (Cary Grant) and his wife get caught between a dictator and revolutionaries while vacationing in a Latin American country. The president (José Ferrer) needs a brain tumor removed and the rebels want him dead. Neither side has any scruples.

Well made thriller, but slowly paced. This may add to the tension. Rather cynical resolution to the story.

Miklós Rózsa score.

Warner Archive title, available for rent from

drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 07:39 PM 04-08-2010
Tonight I watched "The Deadly Affair," ...


... a 1966 British espionage-thriller film, based John le Carré's first novel Call for the Dead. The film stars James Mason, Harry Andrews, Simone Signoret and Maximilian Schell and was directed by Sidney Lumet from a script by Paul Dehn. In it George Smiley, the central character of the novel and many other of le Carré's books, is renamed Charles Dobbs. The soundtrack was composed by Quincy Jones, and the bossa nova theme song, "Who Needs Forever," is performed by Astrud Gilberto.


Charles Dobbs (James Mason) is a British secret agent investigating the apparent suicide of Foreign Office official Samuel Fennan. Dobbs suspects that Fennan's wife, Elsa (Simone Signoret), a survivor of an extermination camp, might have some clues, but other officials want Dobbs to drop the case. Dobbs hires a retired police inspector, Mendel (Harry Andrews), to quietly make inquiries. As they uncover some horrible implications, Dobbs also discovers that his wife Ann (Harriet Andersson) has been having an affair with a colleague, Dieter Frey (Maximilian Schell).

There's a lengthy review on Turner Classic Movies here written by James Steffen that I won't try to summarize. But it includes a great tribute to James Mason.


... James Mason is particularly impressive as the morally compromised spy Charles Dobbs caught within the impersonal, bureaucratic world of espionage. Lumet, who also directed Mason in The Sea Gull (1968), Child's Play (1972) and The Verdict (1982), says of him: "I always thought he was one of the best actors who ever lived. Whatever you gave him to do he would take it, assimilate it and then make it his own. The technique was rock solid, and I fell in love with him as an actor, so every time I came across a script I wanted to direct I would start to read it thinking is there anything here for James? He had no sense of stardom at all. He wanted good billing and the best money he could get, but then all he ever thought about was how to play the part. In that sense he reminded me more of an actor in a theatre repertory ensemble than a movie star, and it was what made him so good."

It's a well done film. The cinematography involved pre-exposing the color film to create a washed out appearance. A first that director Lumet called "colorless color." Appropriate for scenes on location in London that featured non-stop rain.

The only jarring note was Quincy Jones' music - one critic called it lounge music - that all too often intrudes and seems out of place - and certainly out of date. And bossa nova? Is this the result of the producers imitating the popular 007 movies of the period?

Finally, here's a curiosity I reported earlier about another James Mason film 5 Fingers. It's not available in the USA on a NTSC Region 1 SD DVD for sale on Amazon or rental on Netflix. I had to buy a PAL Region 2 version from Amazon UK to see it. Yet, Lumet was a top American director and Columbia Pictures owns the rights to it. It was released on a UK SD DVD by Sony in 2006.

Mono sound. Technicolor. OAR anamorphic 1.85:1. I used the English subtitles to keep the UK accents intelligible to me. A solid cast. The Deadly Affair received five BAFTA Awards nominations. No special features. It played well.

wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 06:48 AM 04-09-2010
Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), directed by Leo McCarey.

In 1908, very proper, very English gentleman's valet Marmaduke Ruggles (Charles Laughton) is wagered in a poker game by his employer and lost to some boisterous Americans who take him back to Red Gap WA as a touch of class.

The setup is as you would expect: Laughton giving comically startled and long-suffering Jeeves-like expressions of shock and disapproval in his new situation. He's very good at it. But the story takes an unexpected turn: Ruggles finds new depths and opportunities, discovers he likes being an American and invents a new life for himself. And we like the rustic westerners more at the end than we did in the beginning.

The movie follows the book, as much as I can remember of it, rather closely. I think Wodehouse invented Jeeves earlier but the character was not yet famous.

Laughton gives a moving and understated recitation of the Gettysburg Address in a tavern.

Universal Vault Series title, their manufactured on demand line. Ultra minimal design, not even a menu. Since there are no options, none is needed. Available for rent from

drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 07:40 PM 04-09-2010
Tonight I watched the 1958 British film "Chase a Crooked Shadow," ...


... a suspense film in which a woman has trouble convincing anybody that a complete stranger has taken her dead brother's identity. It stars Richard Todd, Anne Baxter, and Herbert Lom as a policeman.

We get a better plot description here.


Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson

Why has total stranger Richard Todd shown up at the villa of wealthy Anne Baxter? Why does he claim to be her long-lost brother? Is Todd planning to finagle Baxter out of her inheritance? Is someone going to end up seriously dead? The answers to these questions can be found in Chase a Crooked Shadow, a confounding chiller with more than a few adroit plot twists. Before the film has run its course, we learn that the true villain is not necessarily whom it appears to be--nor is the heroine all that she seems. Chase a Crooked Shadow was based on an 1943 Whistler radio play; the plot was later reworked into no fewer than three American made-for-TV movies.

It's a well-photographed film with enough plot twists to keep you guessing. It's supposed to have been made in the Associated British Elstree Studios, Shenley Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, England, UK according to the info here. The outdoor shots surely look like Spain as the movie would have us believe. There's a hair-raising auto ride in a fast sports car around hairpin turns on a mountain road with a sharp drop on the outside curbside where the rider is able to look down to the ocean below. Very reminiscent of a similar ride in the 1955 film "To Catch a Thief" to include nearly running down some passengers about to get on a bus.

Herbert Lom and Alexander Knox also are among the cast and play against type.

Anne Baxter acquits herself well although with a bit more histrionics than seems called for at times. Richard Todd also plays against type as a heavy. He seems a bit stiff in the role; maybe uncomfortable as a nasty man? He's a personal favorite. Todd was a genuine hero in WW II.


... On 6 June 1944, as a captain, he participated in the British Airborne Operation Tonga during the D-Day landings. Todd was among the first British officers to land in Normandy as part of Operation Overlord. His battalion were reinforcements that parachuted in after glider forces had landed and completed the main assault against Pegasus Bridge near Caen. He later met up with Major John Howard on Pegasus Bridge and helped repel several German counter attacks.

As an actor, Todd would later play Howard in the 1962 film The Longest Day.

He died last December at age 90. RIP.

Altogether a very competent little film. B&W. AR 4x3 here but some suggest it was originally shot in wide screen. Mono audio. On a SD DVD PAL Region 2 released in 2007. No special features.

wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 07:13 AM 04-11-2010
The Gunfighter (1950), directed by Henry King.

Notorious gunman Gregory Peck is tired of his fame and even more tired of the "young squirts" who want to fast-draw on him in every town. Tired of staying ahead of their vengeful surviving brothers. Now he just wants a quiet day to visit his estranged wife and see the boy who has no idea who his father is.

What are the chances Jimmy Ringo will get what he wants?

Peck is, as always, excellent. His adult persona is well-suited to the role of a bad man who has calmed down with age. We also have Karl Malden, Millard Mitchell, and Skip Homeier looking ridiculous as a "young squirt" gunman. And Alan Hale Jr, uncredited as one of the vengeful brothers.

A fine looking western: the town has mud streets. More character driven than action oriented, although there are some shootouts. I don't believe we ever see Ringo draw. (He's too fast). A nicely comical interlude when he has to cope with a delegation of furious respectable ladies.

Alfred Newman score.

rdgrimes's Avatar rdgrimes 08:27 AM 04-11-2010
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

The Gunfighter (1950), directed by Henry King.

One of my all-time favorite westerns. Was released recently as part of a "Fox Western Classics" 3-movie set. Also included "Garden Of Evil" and "Rawhide". This 3-some is a must-have for western fans.
wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 07:58 AM 04-12-2010
Young and Innocent (1937), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Murder suspect escapes custody and pursues the real killer while on the run from the police. The chief inspector's daughter gives him a lift in her trusty Morris (what model?), later tragically lost in a mine disaster. Well, she's young but he's innocent.

Overshadowed by The Thirty-nine Steps and The Lady Vanishes, both films more elaborate and expensive-looking, I would put this comedic romance/thriller next in line for Hitchcock's films from the 1930s. The double chase is his favorite plot.

The movie would be helped by a bit more star power from the young leads, but they are personable enough.

Adapted from a Josephine Tey novel but I recall little resemblance between the book and movie. That is typical of Hitchcock: he would be intrigued by a scene or situation and from that take off in new directions.

A famous scene has a long pan and zoom across a ballroom into an extreme closeup of musician's face. The entire band is in blackface. I know that in the UK jazz bands from that period appeared in blackface, but I'm not sure why. It's not a minstrel show and the musicians are not doing any sort of racial acting. Perhaps it was just a tradition: jazz = American black music = let's dress up.

My DVD is an ancient Laserlight edition and is pretty soft. Keeping track of early Hitchcock on DVD is a huge task; the Hitchcock Wiki is the place to start. Tons of photos and other useful information.

rdgrimes's Avatar rdgrimes 04:24 PM 04-12-2010
The President's Analyst 1967

This film re-defines "satire". A bizarre cross between "3 Days Of the Condor", "Bullitt" and "The Pink Panther", there's no way to describe the story. Very dated, but still funny. Everybody hates the phone company.
drbonbi's Avatar drbonbi 08:22 PM 04-12-2010
Tonight I watched a genuine nail-biter, the UK film titled "Man in the Sky," ...

... (released in the U.S. as Decision Against Time) is a 1957 film produced by Ealing Studios and starring Jack Hawkins.

The plot is a lot less impressive in print than it was to watch. I'm going to let a couple of commentators tell you about it as noted here.

A very simple story that is told wonderfully thanks to Ealing Studios.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida

Those 'in the know' about classic films instantly perk up when they see that a film is made by Ealing Studios. That's because this small British film company had a wonderful string of small films that were absolute gems in the 1940s and 50s. Most of these were wonderful little comedies, though pretty much all the Ealing films I have seen have been excellent or even better. Their track record was absolutely astonishing. When I saw this was an Ealing production, I made sure to tune in when it came on Turner Classic Movies.

Unlike most of the famous Ealing films (such as PASSPORT TO PIMLICO and THE LADY KILLERS), this one is not a comedy but a rather tense drama. However, when I read the TCM plot summary of the film it was very inaccurate. It read "a test pilot thinks back on his past as he fights to survive a burning plane". However, this film is NOT a series of flashbacks (thankfully) and exactly what the pilot (Jack Hawkins) is thinking isn't really investigated until the last few minutes or so of the film! So what is the film all about, then? Well, Hawkins is a test pilot and the plane does catch fire, but once the fire is extinguished it's difficult to control the plane and he circles for about a half hour to burn up fuel. And during all this time the film is told in real-time and shows how many members of the crew (who had parachuted to safety), the airplane company's owner and others react to impending doom for Hawkins--as it appears that successfully landing the craft is a fool's errand! Despite this very simple plot, the film earns a lot of respect and a high score on IMDb because of exquisite acting and especially writing. For the subject matter, the absolute most is squeezed out of the plot and the tension is amazing. It's a great film fill of wonderful character studies and is a whole heck of a lot better than many of the more recent and special effects intensive films we've gotten from Hollywood. Acting and writing--that's what it's all about, isn't it?

The plane is unique.

The aircraft featured was a TYPE 170 Mark 11A G-AIFV designed and produced by the Bristol Aeroplane Company. Although the actual scenes were filmed at Wolverhampton, practice was carried out at Lydd Ferryfield in Kent (now London Ashford Airport). Filming was not without problems and on 15 May 1956 the aircraft overshot the runway, causing quite extensive damage to the nose and wing sections. Following repairs the aircraft returned to operations with Silver City Airways before being scrapped in May 1962.

I thoroughly enjoyed it. Drama in real time. The minutes tick by on the screen no faster than on my watch. Compelling!

It's on a PAL Region 2 SD DVD just released. "Digitally restored." Mono audio. B&W. OAR 4x3. Excellent PQ. It played well.

wmcclain's Avatar wmcclain 03:45 PM 04-14-2010
The Farmer's Wife (1928), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Widower farmer (he has a big rustic house with servants) decides to court the local ladies, assisted by his young and able housekeeper. A sample of his romantic style:


Farmer Sweetland: You know her back view's not a day over thirty!

Housekeeper Minta: But you have to live with her front view. How about Thirza Tapper?

Farmer Sweetland: I don't mind they pillowy women ... so long as they be pillowy in the right places.

Housekeeper Minta: A woman that's a pillow at thirty be often a feather bed at forty!

It's a disaster. He's turned down four times, including once by the local barmaid. But his true love may be waiting for him at home, as hinted by the first lines, spoken by the dying wife to the housekeeper:


...and don't forget to air your Master's pants, Minta.


I don't see many silent films and at 129 minutes this is longer than usual. But as long as there is something to look at the time passes easily. The houses and landscapes are interesting and he has many vivid scenes:
  • At the daughter's wedding, when the groom shakes hands with the housekeeper, he surreptitiously wipes it later.
  • At the same wedding, a guest trying to evade the tedious father of the bride.
  • A great tracking shot of the housemaid running up the stairs.
  • A pair of spaniels that are cuter than the dickens.
  • A timid spinster holding a shaking plate of jello during the marriage proposal.
  • A densely packed fox hunt assembling at the pub.

Gordon Harker is hilarious as Churdles Ash, a sour handyman with nothing like the proper feudal spirit:


Beer drinking don't do 'alf the 'arm of love-making. If I were the Government, I'd give the drunkards a rest and look after the lovers.

To see an old man in love be worse than seeing him with the whooping cough!

Holy Matrimony be a proper stream roller for flattening the hope out of a man and the joy out of a woman.

I don't suppose the music for silent movies is uniform across all releases. It can make quite a difference.

My copy is from the Mill Creek Alfred Hitchcock: The Legend Begins collection, $5 at WalMart a while back. Eighteen early films and two TV shows. The quality is not very good, but I was expecting worse. It is a good way to sample the titles.

tim3320070's Avatar tim3320070 04:28 PM 04-14-2010
Little Big Man 1970. One of my favorites and a wonderful story (if not overly true to the book).
"You have to learn to shoot before you touch the gun"
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