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post #1771 of 1798 Old 12-28-2016, 02:18 PM - Thread Starter
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On Dangerous Ground (1952), directed by Nicholas Ray.

Years ago I was on a film discussion forum when talk turned to everyone's 1950s favorite, Robert Ryan. I asked "What was that one where he is a police detective, interrogating a prisoner and losing it badly, yelling at him: "Why do you make me do it? You know you're going to talk. I make all you punks talk..."

"On Dangerous Ground" was the answer. "A masterpiece".

I like it, too. Unexpected plot developments and unconventionally structured into city and country halves. This is partly due to meddling by studio owner Howard Hughes who took a couple of years in off-and-on-again post production.

"City cop in the country" is often a subject of fun, but not this time. And moving out of city grimness to the clean countryside had been done before, say in The Asphalt Jungle and Out of the Past (1947). Here it is not so simple: our violent, frustrated cop has come from a dark place but drops into a worse one where he has to be the voice of reason to an enraged father looking to shotgun the boy who killed his daughter. In the other films our central character finds his end in the country, but here our hero finds redemption.

How bad had he gotten? His colleagues have family and don't take the job home. He has no one and never stops working. He's good at it but fed up, violent and getting written up for it too often. The sado-masochistic relation between tough cops and underworld characters is underlined here. He questions bad-eyed bombshell Cleo Moore, who says "You can make me talk, can't you? With those big strong arms..." He agrees he can do that and we fade out. A few minutes later he is beating the terrified but strangely eager cop-killer, and it's the same thing.

Ida Lupino gets top billing as a blind woman in the country with a "troubled" little brother who has gone too far this time. It's a credit to the writers that we actually do feel sympathy for the boy, even though a psycho-killer.

Many familiar faces in the cast, with Ward Bond really showing his darker side as the angry and armed father.

Superb Bernard Herrmann score, sounding like his science fiction in spots. Some scenes shot handheld and with a camera moving in the cars.

Lupino is an uncredited director; I don't know how much she did. She thought it was a good production but a weak script.

Warner Archive Blu-ray with a commentary track brought forward from the DVD.



-Bill
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post #1772 of 1798 Old 01-03-2017, 05:58 PM - Thread Starter
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Slightly Scarlet (1956), directed by Allan Dwan.

I had never heard of this until I saw it recommended in one of those Citadel Press picture-books: Douglas Brode's Lost Films of the Fifties. By "lost" he means not well known, but not cult either.

It's a minor film that I don't think anyone would claim is important, but it has features worthy of consideration. If we could get a decent restoration it might become better known:

  • Two beautiful women, redheads playing sisters and actually looking like it for once...
  • Rhonda Fleming was never an A-list star, but she was talented and I always enjoy seeing her. Last seen in Out of the Past (1947), Inferno (1953) and Fritz Lang's While the City Sleeps (1956).
  • Arlene Dahl is even less well known to me; I remember her only from Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959). Here she has the challenging, risky part of the klepto-nympho bad sister.
  • Allan Dwan has an amazing 406 directing credits in the IMDB, the earliest in 1911. Why don't I know him? His motto: "If you get your head up above the mob, they try to knock it off. If you stay down, you last forever."
  • John Alton is famous for his black-and-white film noir photography but he did color too, and here he combines the two crafts, bringing Technicolor to the menacing, shadowy crime settings.
  • Ted de Corsia fanclub! Always one of the best tough guys. I can't remember the last time I saw him in color.
  • Adapted from a James M. Cain novel: Love's Lovely Counterfeit (said by fans to be one of his lesser works).

In the book Brode claims that the Code required the sisters to have separate beds (is that true?) and that we are to imagine a more lesbian relationship, with further complications introduced by leading man John Payne.

The VCI DVD is very poor quality and it crops the Superscope 2.0 image to 1.77. A quality restoration would be very welcome.

It does have a good commentary track by a knowledgeable fan.



-Bill

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post #1773 of 1798 Old 01-06-2017, 06:51 AM - Thread Starter
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The Searchers (1956), directed by John Ford.

This is the most famous example of a small Western film genre: "white women kidnapped by the Indians". Other examples are:


The presumption is that the women have been raped, degraded and enslaved such that they are now untouchable and would be better off dead. All of these films violate that judgment, each in its own way.

I don't know if it is still understood today, but once upon a time everyone in books and films knew that being captured by the Indians meant rape, torture, mutilation and death. Hence "save the last bullet". This is why Ethan is haunted by the sight of the corpses and won't let young Martin (or the audience) see them. Imagination does the work here, making the audience complicit in the horror.

John Wayne goes deeper into something he started with Howard Hawks in Red River (1948). His Ethan goes beyond hard to obsessed, sometimes deranged. For the audience his obvious competence and bravery is at war with his unpleasant race hatred. He spends years tracking down kidnapped Debbie and we never know if he is going to to rescue her or kill her. Does he know himself?

For balance, savagery is not confined to the Indians:

  • Ethan desecrates a grave by shooting out the eyes of the corpse...
  • ...and wantonly slaughters buffalo just to hurt the Indians.
  • The villain chief Scar is avenging the deaths of his own sons.
  • We come across a village just after the cavalry has massacred the inhabitants...
  • ...one of whom is Look, previously an awkward figure of fun.
  • When Ethan comes across Scar, already dead, he scalps him and displays the trophy.

"Let's go home, Debbie" is a great scene. What causes his turnaround between his first meeting with his niece and the second? He's been to the wedding with its comical brawling. Anything else?

Notes:

  • It's not an entirely serious film, despite the grim main plot. The young people carry a lot of the humor, young love always worth a laugh.
  • Watch Ward Bond's thousand-yard stare straight ahead when Ethan is with his sister-in-law. Everyone except the husband knows there was something between them.
  • A famous visual motif of this film are the open doorways, shot from the dark interior toward the brilliant outdoors, Ford's familiar contrast between domestic and frontier life.
  • Hank Worden does his trademark deranged old coot. His last credit was in the second season of the Twin Peaks TV series 34 years later. Oddly enough, we also have an insane Log Lady character in this film.
  • The sarcastic "that'll be the day" tag line was the source of Buddy Holly's first hit.
  • The comical wedding fight is like the big brawl in The Quiet Man (1952)

I've had the Blu-ray for years but this must be the first time I've seen it. The image and composition are vastly better than I remember. Some scenes are on soundstages, which is unfortunate. It takes us out of what are otherwise vivid and realistic settings.

Winton C. Hoch cinematography. Score by Max Steiner with some traditional tunes, although the opening and closing credits have that "chuckwagon boys" sound, song by Stan Jones and performed by Sons of the Pioneers.

Available on Blu-ray with a low-key commentary track by Peter Bogdanovich.



-Bill
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post #1774 of 1798 Old 01-12-2017, 10:48 AM - Thread Starter
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The Asphalt Jungle (1950), directed by John Huston.

As I said for Double Indemnity (1944), bit by bit the essential classics become available on Blu-ray.

This is not the first heist film, but it is an expert entry in the genre, fleshing out the myth and influencing later movies. What is the clever plan, and how will it go wrong? What flaws does each character bring to trip them up?

The gentlemanly, intellectual and German-accented Doc is just out of prison and has a big jewelry robbery all planned. He needs financing, which is a problem: Doc is reliable, but we can't say the same about everyone he deals with. His other problem: when seconds count his weakness for young women -- not even touching them, but just watching -- will sink him.

Dix is the muscle, unsqueamish and not a deep thinker, but loyal in his way. He hates the city and his dream is to get back to the Kentucky horse farm of his youth. When the job has fallen apart and the bodies accumulate...


Spoiler!


Notes:

  • I read part of Sterling Hayden's memoir, Wanderer. He had considerable self-loathing and considered himself a phony as an actor.
  • Breakout role for Marilyn Monroe, it would also more or less freeze her screen image: breathy, funny, somewhat dim sex kitten and material girl.
  • The young woman dancing for Doc in the diner has been seen by a few billion people who have never heard of her. Helene Stanley was a Disney rotoscope model and her figure became the images for several animated princesses.
  • ...and looking up her biography: yikes, she was married briefly to Johnny Stompanato, the gangster later stabbed to death by Lana Turner's 14-year-old daughter. Justifiable homicide. The year before:

    Quote:

    Stompanato became so jealous about Turner's relationship with future James Bond actor Sean Connery, he flew to England. He stormed onto the set of Another Time, Another Place threatening Connery with a gun. Unperturbed, the 6 ft 2 in Scotsman, who was a former body builder, bent Stompanato's hand back forcing him to drop the weapon. He was reported to the police and quietly deported from the United Kingdom.
  • Miklós Rózsa provides one of his excellent slashing scores, but it is used only for the opening credits and final scene. Most of the film is without music.

Criterion Blu-ray with an excellent image in some scenes, good throughout. A film critic gives a breathless appreciation.

He makes a good point, that Huston had an unusually wide range in terms of his film genres. Just looking at the ones I have reviewed:

Adventure:


Quirky characters and romance:


Literary adaptations:


Crime:


Westerns:




-Bill
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post #1775 of 1798 Old 01-17-2017, 05:43 AM - Thread Starter
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Strategic Air Command (1955), directed by Anthony Mann.

A ballplayer is called back to service to fly planes for Uncle Sam.

The bad news: it's a dull story, an overly-earnest ad for Cold War bomber command. It was probably dull in 1955.

Slightly better: a chance to get the band back together. Director Mann, James Stewart, June Allyson, cinematographer William H. Daniels and others returning from The Glenn Miller Story (1954) (also dull).

Most importantly: this a gorgeous Blu-ray from Olive Films, a real catalog title demo disc. Beautiful aviation photography of big planes and a lovely presentation. Just stunning color and detail.



-Bill
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post #1776 of 1798 Old 01-17-2017, 09:16 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
...Beautiful aviation photography of big planes and a lovely presentation. Just stunning color and detail.
Mostly of the crazy-fascinating B36 bomber. Why use props or jets when you can use both on the same plane?!!

Guess I'll have to pick this one up just for the high quality bomber footage.
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post #1777 of 1798 Old 01-17-2017, 10:13 AM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Strategic Air Command (1955), directed by Anthony Mann.

Most importantly: this a gorgeous Blu-ray from Olive Films, a real catalog title demo disc. Beautiful aviation photography of big planes and a lovely presentation. Just stunning color and detail.

-Bill
Cheap-ish too. I bit.
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post #1778 of 1798 Old 01-17-2017, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Strategic Air Command (1955), directed by Anthony Mann.

A ballplayer is called back to service to fly planes for Uncle Sam.

The bad news: it's a dull story, an overly-earnest ad for Cold War bomber command. It was probably dull in 1955.

Slightly better: a chance to get the band back together. Director Mann, James Stewart, June Allyson, cinematographer William H. Daniels and others returning from The Glenn Miller Story (1954) (also dull).

Most importantly: this a gorgeous Blu-ray from Olive Films, a real catalog title demo disc. Beautiful aviation photography of big planes and a lovely presentation. Just stunning color and detail.
Bill -- As always thanks for your review. An interesting factoid about this film is that James Stewart, who played an Air Force bomber pilot in it, really was an Air Force bomber pilot. He was commissioned in the Army Air Corps shortly before WW-II began and served throughout the war. He retired as a Brigadier General in the Air Force Reserve. Stewart was an accomplished guy, to say the least.
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post #1779 of 1798 Old 01-20-2017, 11:54 AM - Thread Starter
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The Thing from Another World (1951), directed by Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks.

Who actually directed this is a subject of some confusion, even to the people who were there. In later years Nyby gave great deference to Hawks as his mentor.

It has many of the good features of a Hawks production: a great ensemble, although without big stars this time. Even minor characters seem to have background stories that we don't know.

Great overlapping wisecracks and even romantic flirting during the action scenes.

Notes:

  • Note the thin single doors in the general's office at the beginning. You'd think he'd want more insulation in sub-zero weather.
  • Mostly shot on soundstages, but we do have outdoor snow scenes and real cargo planes with skis.
  • They're not supposed to have regular day/night cycles at the North Pole.
  • We have brains vs military and we're on the side of the flyboys. They're not stupid, just practical, and really very efficient men of action. The service comedy is a bit forced in spots.
  • Note the fur hat on Dr Carrington; like a Russian. Another scientist has a school sweater, as if he is a permanent adolescent.
  • Still, the scientists are of different minds on how to handle the Thing. Many think Carrington is being irresponsible.
  • Some Things can't be reasoned with. That makes other things simpler.
  • Great sequences: the crowd reaction to something out of view, which is the severed arm starting to move. Nikki's expression when told the alien seedlings sound like crying babies. The burning man stunt.
  • Odd courtship: the Captain acts like he wants to hit Nikki and she ties him up while they are drinking. It's all for laughs.
  • In this sort of film: trust the dogs. In the remake -- The Thing (1982) -- don't.
  • The term "flying saucer" had become popular just four years earlier.

Dimitri Tiomkin score, with theremin. Photographed by Russell Harlan.

Available on DVD.



-Bill
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post #1780 of 1798 Old 01-21-2017, 02:26 PM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

You're right about back stories. The opening is full of them. Hendry's crash landing somewhere, the prior incident with the "pinup girl," the general complaining about his revolving door. Other banter: "I'll keep my mic keyed so you can home in on me, or would you like me to sing to you?" "Um -- just leave your mic open." "Ken, I bet you forgot my hairpins." I've always thought the film is scarier because of the rapid fire dialog and humor that precedes the scares.

But you are right. There is a description of two dead scientists in the Nursery that you never see, but can paint in your imagination.

I believe the outdoor "flying saucer crash sight" was filmed in a studio parking lot. If you watch, the cyclorama (backdrop) is reused despite the camera perspective changing (look at the painted clouds).

The final method of killing the alien was literally cooked up roughly the way it was in the script. Or so the story goes....

In the liner notes for the Charles Gerhardt rerecording in the 1970s (the CDs are encoded in Dolby Surround!), the story is none of the studio orchestration sheets survived. But the composer came in and played each orchestra section's part on a piano from memory. Wow. His main title overture is epic.

https://play.google.com/music/m/Tmwm...onic_Orchestra


Margaret Sheridan and Kenneth Tobey's banter and flirting is classic Hawks, right up there with Only Angels Have Wings and To Have and Have Not. "Well, there was one point where you sort of made like an octopus, I've never seen so many hands...."

The film displays a lot of "real man honor" like you see in other Hawks' films. E.g. Ned Scott covering for Dr. Carrington's mania in his news report at the end. The radio guy staying alone in the radio room despite the danger. Scotty's repeated failure to get that great photo....

"... And don't tell me I'm right." (Ongoing dialog gag between Hendry and his flight mechanic.)


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post #1781 of 1798 Old 01-26-2017, 09:26 AM - Thread Starter
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Pandora's Box (1929), directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst.

I was only vaguely aware of Louise Brooks, a silent film beauty with a brief career who people often confuse with the roles she played, and maybe with good reason. She sometimes has a striking resemblance to later actress Isabella Rossellini:



We drop into the story and try to catch up: she is a "mistress", a kept woman whose distinguished client is about to marry someone more acceptable. Maybe that won't be allowed to happen and we will have a different wedding. Then death, trial, jail break, flight, suffering in wintry London and a final tragic scene with a character credited as "Jack the Ripper".

Plenty of business to watch and the actors are all fine, but Brooks is the shining light, a woman of sexual freedom with a slim dancer's body and inviting smile that makes all the men around her feel special. She even stops the prosecutor at her trial for a moment, even as he understands what she's doing.

We have a lesbian character, sympathetically treated, who also loves Lulu. The actress didn't want to do it so she is a repressed lesbian, which heightens the drama.

The film was not well-received at the time, partly because it was a big silent effort just as talkies were coming in. Audiences probably didn't warm to the story: we try to figure out these people, watching them without ever really knowing them. Lulu lives in the moment and seems to have no calculation, so we see only her surface.

It was rediscovered decades later and Brooks became a film icon, the beautiful sexy Kansas girl in a German film that winds up in London. Google for her nude poses.

Criterion DVD. They provide four scores: an interpretation of what audiences at the time might have heard, something they call "cabaret-style", a more modern interpretation, and a piano improvisation.

This is a fascinating experiment: each score gives you an entirely different movie. I cycled between them all every few minutes. Each seemed "best" at different moments.

We also have an academic track by two film scholars. This film, Louise Brooks, and Weimar cinema have been intensively studied for decades and the weight of theory becomes oppressive. This is too deep into the LitCrit weeds for me.



-Bill

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post #1782 of 1798 Old 01-26-2017, 09:36 AM
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Pandora's Box (1929), directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst.

I was only vaguely aware of Louise Brooks, a silent film beauty with a brief career who people often confuse with the roles she played, and maybe with good reason. She sometimes has a striking resemblance to later actress Isabella Rossellini:
-Bill
Don't forget Isabella's mother, Ingrid Bergman.
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post #1783 of 1798 Old 01-26-2017, 12:00 PM
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In the B2 picture (second row, right), she looks more like Nastassja Kinski than herself. Completely threw me off in the "Name this film" thread.
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post #1784 of 1798 Old 01-27-2017, 08:48 AM
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The Asphalt Jungle (1950), directed by John Huston.
-Bill
You got me thinking about this too, so I grabbed the Criterion BD to watch. I'm continually impressed with Sterling Hayden's ability to play the psycho heavy. You'd swear he was ever just a few seconds away from unraveling. Of course we all assume he will suddenly start rambling about precious bodily fluids. But he also had a pretty decent range of roles, not all of them heavies. And what a life:

Quote:
Ran away to sea at 17, first as ship's boy, then as doryman on the Grand Banks, as a seaman and fireman on numerous vessels before getting his first command at 19. He sailed around the world a number of times, becoming a well-known and highly respected ship's captain. At urging of friends, met with producer Edward H. Griffith who signs him to a Paramount contract. Fell for his first leading lady, Madeleine Carroll, and married her. Prior to Pearl Harbor, abandoned Hollywood to become a commando with the COI (later the OSS). Joined Marines under pseudonym "John Hamilton" (a name he never acts under), eventually running guns and supplies to Yugoslav partisans through the German blockade of the Adriatic, as well as parachuting into Croatia for guerrilla activities. Won Silver Star and citation from Tito of Yugoslavia. Briefly flirted with Communist Party membership due to friendship with Yugoslav Communists. Returned to film work, which he despised, in order to pay for a succession of sailing vessels. As Red Scare deepens in U.S., he cooperated with the House Un-American Activities Committee, confessing his brief Communist ties. Ever after regretted this action, holding himself in enormous contempt for what he considered "ratting". Offered role of Tarzan as replacement for Lex Barker, but refused. Made headlines defying court order not to sail to Tahiti with his children following divorce decree. Published autobiography "Wanderer" in 1963, and novel "Voyage" in 1976, both to great acclaim. Cast as Quint in Jaws (1975) but unable to play due to tax problems

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Jim Beaver.
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post #1785 of 1798 Old 01-31-2017, 04:31 AM - Thread Starter
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Blood and Sand (1941), directed by Rouben Mamoulian.

A straightforward drama without surprises or much liveliness. As always back then, "foreign" characters must speak stilted but formally proper English.

Of interest for the Technicolor production and stars:

  • Tyrone Power at age 27, an ambitious bullfighter dressing like a peacock, as required by the job.
  • Linda Darnell, age 18, his childhood sweetheart and later long-suffering, neglected wife. They starred in The Mark of Zorro (1940) with the same director the year before.
  • Rita Hayworth, age 23, as the bad-girl sophisticate who seduces and collects virtuous young men.
  • Anthony Quinn, age 26, a competing bullfighter, young enough to still have his Latin lover moves.

A problem with the plot is the romance of bullfighting: who cares anymore?

The tepid production comes to life in a scene toward the end when Hayworth and Quinn dance passionately, two people who really mean it. Sizzling stuff, I say.

This has been filmed four times; in 1922 with Rudolph Valentino.

Alfred Newman score.

Available on Blu-ray. The commentary track is devoted entirely to the cinematography.



-Bill
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post #1786 of 1798 Old 02-07-2017, 11:35 AM - Thread Starter
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Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936), produced and directed by Frank Capra.

Inheriting a vast fortune, small town poet and tuba player Longfellow Deeds must see the bright lights and big city and be tempted by its wicked ways.

The great battle of city slickers vs country rubes doesn't go quite as we expect. At first the city folk are nasty and we expect not to like them. The denizens of Mandrake Falls, Vermont seem charming in their mild, if eccentric, innocence.

But Deeds is not as innocent as he appears, being a shrewd judge of character and business, and is prepared to knock heads as needed. Most of the New Yorkers turn out to be all right. There is no helping embezzling lawyers or Society moochers.

When his love life goes sour, Deeds becomes too depressed to defend himself or even talk, a serious segment and vivid portrayal by Gary Cooper, age 35 and playing 28.

Having won big with It Happened One Night (1934), Capra could do whatever he wanted, which was to keep making romantic comedies with extra heart and a bit of Message. He sometimes becomes talky when earnest, but Depression era common people never had a better friend. He told them they were right in wanting dignity, a chance to work and a little helping hand.

Capra would repeat the innocent-finds-love-and-trouble-in-the-city formula in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), with Jean Arthur in a similar role. The second film was originally planned as a sequel to the first.

Break-out role for Arthur, taking over from Carole Lombard who backed out at the last minute to do My Man Godfrey (1936). The story her character tells about her small town youth and fishing with her father: I still don't know if that was truth or just a tale to hook Deeds.

Introduced two words to wider circulation: "pixelated" and "doodle".

Photographed by Joseph Walker.

Available on Blu-ray with a commentary track by the director's son. He says his father broke many filmmaking rules, but had one he tried to follow: do not bore the audience.



-Bill
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Break-out role for Arthur, taking over from Carole Lombard who backed out at the last minute to do My Man Godfrey.
Now there's a win/win.
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post #1788 of 1798 Old 02-09-2017, 10:34 PM
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Oddly, or perhaps not so odd, Capra's great films follow the hero's journey as described by Joseph Campbell. Hero is taken out of his element, may be counseled by a wise or savvy guide, confronts adversity, loses everything including his confidence and dignity, regains it through love or trials, and prevails in some way. I love how Capra really strips his heroes bare, shames them, and shows them in the darkness of real and deep depression -- feelings that Depression era filmgoers could surely empathize with. People talk about James Stewart as a great Capra lead, but Cooper -- in this, and Meet John Doe -- really personified the goodhearted Capra pilgrim who is driven to the depths of despair by societal forces.

Reviewers talk about "Capra corn" but I think his saucy mix of comedy, romance, sweetness, meanness, depression, and desperation make his films emblematic, not the rah-rah American idealism. Some of his early films in a TCM set, are just as good. American Madness with Walter Huston is an underrated classic.
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8½ (1963), directed by Federico Fellini.

One director's "my world and welcome to it".

This is impossible to review briefly. Generations of film writers have gone on and on about it's embarrassment of riches, the clever staging and continuous symbolic gags. It is a deeply autobiographical work about the director and his work, his loss of confidence and his troubles with all the women in his life. You can't separate the film and the director in this case.

It is self-referential, not just about his films, but about the making of this specific film. A visual feast. It's often funny and the symbols aren't particularly subtle or obscure.

Before listening to the commentary track I had not realized that Claudia Cardinale was Tunisian, of Sicilian parents. At home she spoke French, Arabic, and Sicilian, and did not learn Italian until she got into film. They say she spoke it with a French accent.

I was startled to see British actress Barbara Steele (she whom every Goth Girl wants to be) who had a career in Italian horror films. I last saw her in Mario Bava's Black Sunday (1960) and Roger Corman's Pit and the Pendulum (1961).

Score by Nino Rota.

Criterion Blu-ray with a great image. Fairly dry gang commentary track, assembled from different sources.



-Bill
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Every time I think about 8½, I am reminded of the 1982 Broadway musical, Nine. My wife and I saw it shortly after it opened but didn't like it much, the critical praise it got notwithstanding. Raul Julia was its star but his charisma and good looks couldn't overcome his inability to sing well. It was a painful evening for us. Suffice it to say that Fellini's version was a lot more interesting, to us at least.

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9 was made into a well-received movie with Daniel Day-Lewis IIRC.
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post #1792 of 1798 Old 02-21-2017, 09:34 AM
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9 was made into a well-received movie with Daniel Day-Lewis IIRC.
Well, it was made into a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis. That part is correct. Well-received, though...? Not so much.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/nine_2009
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Well, it was made into a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis. That part is correct. Well-received, though...? Not so much.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/nine_2009
Yeah, I disliked it almost as much as most of the critics did. I thought it didn’t work on Broadway and certainly didn’t work on film.

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North by Northwest (1959), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

This is probably Hitchcock's most popular film with general audiences; I recall it was the first of his available on Blu-ray. We have all the favorite bits: Cary Grant in a romantic comedy thriller, the old double chase of an innocent man evading the police while pursuing the real spies, planes-trains-and-automobiles cross country, ending with a scramble across a national monument.

At this level it is loads of fun and features vivid cinematography by Robert Burks and an exciting score from Bernard Herrmann, both long time Hitchcock collaborators.

What it lacks the sort of edge we find in many of his other films: our tendency to root for the villain or find some shadow of guilt in our hero. Grant is somewhat conflicted over deep cover agent Eva Marie Saint, but this is nothing compared to his self-loathing when he requires Ingrid Bergman to actually marry a top nazi in Notorious (1946).

Last time I saw this I found the passion scenes to be only tepid, but they seem much hotter in the first half now, still not so much when we hit the final act at Mount Rushmore.

  • James Mason: what to say? Deliciously, imperially wicked, but always well mannered.
  • Martin Landau is just what we need in a creepy commie agent.
  • Grant is an unusual hero to be so close to his mother. He also supports "two ex-wives and several bartenders".
  • Jessie Royce Landis is Mother, only seven years older than Grant.
  • Famously, in the background during the shooting at the Mount Rushmore lodge, you can see a little boy sticking his fingers in his ears before the gunshot. They must have had several takes and he'd gotten tired of the noise.
  • In the final scene the lovers, now properly wed, return to the sleeper car of former passion and... cut to the train entering a tunnel. I remember George Carlin saying "You don't have to be Fellini to figure that one out".

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill
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The Thing from Another World (1951), directed by Christian Nyby and Howard Hawks.
Coincidentally, I just saw Kenneth Tobey at an arctic outpost again, in another SF story. This was an episode of Science Fiction Theatre (1955) called Y.O.R.D.

A distressing outbreak of telepathy at the north pole station. It's aliens again. With DeForest Kelley for another SF connection.

The series was a "borderlands of science" anthology.



-Bill
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post #1796 of 1798 Old Yesterday, 09:13 AM
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North by Northwest (1959), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
... cut to the train entering a tunnel. I remember George Carlin saying "You don't have to be Fellini to figure that one out".

Available on Blu-ray.



-Bill

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post #1797 of 1798 Old Yesterday, 05:19 PM
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North by Northwest (1959), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
Sooo many anecdotes about this film...
  • Screen writer Ernest Lehman didn't think Hitch would get away with the final shot, but he did.
  • Lehman wrote Ms. Kendall's line "I never make love on an empty stomach," but the risqué line was changed in post. You can still see Eva Marie Saint's lips say it though.
  • "What's the 'O' stand for?" "Nothing." drop mic
  • Thornill's martini of choice, a Gibson, seems to be making a comeback.
  • Herrmann's score almost seems to suggest the James Bond theme when Kendall and Thornhill are leaving the dining car. Grant was a first choice to play Eon OO7 in the films, but Grant wouldn't sign a multi-picture contract.
  • The BD release (at least the digibook release I have) has an isolated music track, well worth listening to. Herrmann's music during the dining car scene, suggesting the sound and and movement of the train, is classic.
  • Often, Hitchcock liked to have the camera pirouet around the actors during love scenes. No way was the fridge-sized VistaVision camera doing that in the train compartment set. So he had Grant and Saint turning around, suggesting to me that they're rolling over as if in bed, but still standing up.
  • At this point in his career, Grant contracted that he could choose/arrange his own clothing; Hitchcock trusted him. BAMF Style has an article on his grey Glen check suit. Matt Spaiser has one, too on his Suits of James Bond blog. You know who else was fond of Glen check? A bloke named Sean in Goldfinger.
  • Watch for Ken Lynch missing his cue to lean over in the squad car (shot in a back projection setup) as Thornhill's taken to the airport. Grant looks a tad annoyed as he elbows him. (Ken Lynch look familiar? Look to Star Trek TOS' classic "Devil in the Dark" episode.)
  • "Pay the two dollars!" is a sort of punchline to an old vaudeville routine. I think it's in a wartime Zeigfeld Follies type of movie, 1943ish?
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A snippet of final moment dialogue to ponder from two back-to-back Hitchcock masterpieces.

VERTIGO, Hitchcock in perhaps his most profound, serious mood:
Stewart says, "You shouldn't have been...you shouldn't have been...so sentimental."

NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Hitchcock in a much lighter mood:
Saint says, "Ah. this is silly."
Grant says, "I know. But I'm sentimental."

Does it have a deeper meaning than Hitch (and his screenwriter) merely resorting to a handy final concept from the earlier film to but a button on it? It being Hitchcock, I think so. He often carried over, more deeply examined or re-considered character traits and themes from previous films. But I always love hearing his two greatest leading men, each roughly from the same generation as Hitchcock and all a bit beyond middle age, commenting on the light vs dark, double edge sword of "sentimentality" in each of the last two occasions when they would work together.
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