or Connect
AVS › AVS Forum › Other Areas of Interest › Movies, Concerts, and Music Discussion › Review older films here: 1979 and earlier
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Review older films here: 1979 and earlier - Page 9

post #241 of 1255
That is a terrific clip. Very moving. Thanks for posting it.

Jimmy Stewart always came across on the screen as authentic. He was a genuine WW II hero, enlisting in the Air Force as a private after failing his first physical - five pounds underweight - when he was drafted before Pearl Harbor. He was an accomplished private pilot and earned his wings and commission as a second louie early in 1942.

Then he volunteered - actually agitated - to go overseas to fly combat missions at age 36. Officially he flew 20 missions over Germany but in fact, flew many more as lead pilot which he ordered not be counted. He rose ultimately to the rank of full colonel during WW II and won several medals including two DFCs. Altogether, he served 27 years on active and reserve duty.

Compare Jimmy's war record with John Wayne, a "celluloid hero" who never served in the military because of his age at the time of Pearl Harbor - 34 - and family status. He could have volunteered but never did so. When classified as draft eligible later in the war, Republic Studios successfully got him reclassified. Wayne technically dodged the draft legally.

His wife Pilar wrote that he became a super patriot and flag waiver later in life because of guilt over his WW II cowardice.

(Much of the above detail comes from Wikipedia although the basics I recall from the past. I make it a point not to watch John Wayne movies. A real phony.)

post #242 of 1255
Thread Starter 
M (1931), directed by Fritz Lang.

It starts as a monster hunt, suggesting German folktales and villagers with torches in a Frankenstein movie. But this is the big city and the monster is real: a child killer who leaves no clues and taunts the police with letters. We're not told what happens to the children; they all seem to be girls and are found in a certain "condition", phrasing that reminded me of Jack the Ripper.

Fear washes over the city. We see it from many perspectives. Mobs are accusing and seizing random people. The police are making a maximum effort, concentrating on the underworld. This hampers crime so much that the syndicate mounts their own campaign to find the killer, who they hate as much as anyone. We have a race between the police and crooks, who are just as hard working and efficient, to find the madman and deal with him. This is really fine movie making.

The criminals get to him first. The story lags a bit as the police try to figure this out and catch up. But then we move to a vivid and moving trial before the assembled underground.

The crooks are remarkably hard-nosed about crime and punishment. Let him off because of insanity? Absurd. Put him in prison at taxpayer's expense, maybe let him out so he can kill again? No way. The defense counsel argues forcefully that a man operating under uncontrollable compulsion has no free will. The State must render him harmless but it would be immoral to punish him. The underground will have none of it.

In the end -- we don't know the end.

Peter Lorre, bulging eyes and goblin face, is entirely believable as the monster. We want him caught, but when he becomes the hunted this conflicts with our impulse to root for the underdog, the fox rather than the hounds.

Watch his hysterical plea at his "trial": the crooks understand, but do not pity.

Lang's first sound picture. Like Hitchcock, he regretted the passing of the silent era and you can see this in many quiet compositions.

The old film stock obviously has a lot of history and has seen rough treatment. Criterion did quite a bit of cleanup and the Blu-ray has been praised for it's high definition image. I think a DVD would have been about as good, but I have not seen one to compare, and I don't have the large display needed to make credible judgments anyway.

post #243 of 1255
I was thoroughly unhappy with Criterion's treatment of Stagecoach, a film of similar age and poor condition. Didn't appear to have gotten any restoration at all. Might have to check "M" out, but it'll be a rent not a buy.
post #244 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by drbonbi View Post

Compare Jimmy's war record with John Wayne

I said at the start of this thread that I would just post reviews without discussion, but sometimes I can't resist.

The issue of celebrity fame during WW2 is interesting and I don't know if anyone has done a general study. Why were some figures liked and others not?

I've heard the criticism of John Wayne before, and William Manchester said of Frank Sinatra: "I think he was the most hated man of World War II, much more than Hitler, because Sinatra was back home making all of that money and being shown in photographs surrounded by beautiful women." (He was 4F because of a perforated eardrum).

Now Errol Flynn was also 4F (heart, lungs, some other embarrassing stuff) but did USO tours of the Aleutian islands and the troops were nuts for him. In this case they seemed to admire his ladies' man reputation. Maybe it was because just a few years earlier they were kids watching his adventure films, but why wouldn't Wayne get the same consideration?

As an aside, Flynn was much reviled in Britain for Objective, Burma! (1945) because it showed the Americans winning the war there. George MacDonald Fraser (who was there) later defended him, pointing out that the Americans did have a sector of Burma and why shouldn't they make a movie about it? And anyway, actors don't write the stories.

As a further aside, I want to write up an appreciation of Fraser someday. Soldier, novelist, screenwriter.

One final off topic: a WW2 vet of my acquaintance most admires Marlene Dietrich as a war time celebrity. Probably because he saw her perform and she took her show to the front line (real bullets incoming) when many others wouldn't (or perhaps couldn't). Further notes here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marlene...h#World_War_II

post #245 of 1255
Bottom line: If you cant separate an actor's politics from his/her performances, you'll prolly miss out on some great movies.
post #246 of 1255
Originally Posted by rdgrimes View Post

Bottom line: If you cant separate an actor's politics from his/her performances, you'll prolly miss out on some great movies.

Exactly right.

Of course sometimes it is more difficult than others to separate those things, depending on the actor and their off screen actions.
post #247 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by rdgrimes View Post

Bottom line: If you cant separate an actor's politics from his/her performances, you'll prolly miss out on some great movies.

Indeed. Often when looking at an actor's bio I see things I almost wish I didn't know: alcohol, abusive behavior, unlovely political attachments. I try not to worry about those things when watching movies.

But sometimes you find startling things that make you look at an actor in new and appreciative ways. Remember William Smith who played Joe Riley in the 1960s LAREDO tv show?

I always thought of him as just a hunky good looking guy, a cowboy for the ladies. Read his bio here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Smith_(actor).

Apart from his bodybuilding and athletic accomplishments he flew spy planes over Russia during the Korean War, spoke a bunch of languages and taught Russian at UCLA.

I will remember those things next time I see one of his films.

post #248 of 1255
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

M (1931), directed by Fritz Lang.


Bill, thanks for another excellent review. I just watched this Blu-ray last week, and many of your comments match my experience.

It was amazing to see so many dramatic shots (such as panning across the "spectators" at the underground trial) that were later copied by other filmmakers.

Lorre really did a great job here. I honestly felt a moment of sympathy for him when he pled for mercy.

I haven't compared to the DVD, but I'm confident the Blu-ray is much better. I could see a lot of fine detail (especially fabric) that I've never seen in DVDs.

post #249 of 1255
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

M (1931), directed by Fritz Lang.

A good pick. I saw the restored Metropolis this Friday (with a live orchestra), and followed that up on Saturday with M on Blu-ray. A fantastic double bill.


The old film stock obviously has a lot of history and has seen rough treatment. Criterion did quite a bit of cleanup and the Blu-ray has been praised for it's high definition image. I think a DVD would have been about as good, but I have not seen one to compare, and I don't have the large display needed to make credible judgments anyway.

This Blu-ray has vastly more detail than you'll ever see on a DVD.
post #250 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Bigger Than Life (1956), directed by Nicholas Ray.

A distinguished schoolteacher has some secrets. He is ill and hiding it from everyone. He has a part time job and conceals it from his wife. Some other oddities: the walls of their house are covered with maps and travel posters but they do not seem to go anywhere; he says "we are dull people." He has a modest job but considerable pride of intellect.

When he collapses the doctors say he will die without a new experimental drug (cortisone!) He makes a quick recovery and becomes manic, either way up or way down. He speaks his mind a bit too freely to parents at school and makes grandiose plans. He is abusing the prescription and becomes mentally unbalanced. During this phase we wonder if his illness and medication aren't just an excuse, a way to drop his inhibitions and let his real self run riot.

We hope that's not true when he turns murderously psychotic and the story becomes more of a thriller or horror picture. But: there is a happy ending, in fact it's a bit syrupy.

James Mason (who produced the film and contributed to the script) is absolutely chilling. A psycho-dad or psycho-husband is always a scary prospect, but add his intellect and penetrating demeanor and we have entered nightmare country. His breakdown proceeds slowly and goes on for a long time but the tension never flags.

I didn't have time to listen to the commentary track. It seemed to be sociological: shallow suburbia, hypocritical nuclear family, cold war, conformism, etc. Well, maybe. I've been listening to that lecture all my life and wonder if it isn't time to give it a rest.

I'm always pleased to see Barbara Rush and will have to watch It Came From Outer Space again soon. Also with young Walter Matthau.

Gorgeous 1950s cinematography. The last time I saw even bits of this movie it was on a small boxy black and white TV; I didn't even know it was in color and Cinemascope. Moments like this make me feel like I have been transported into the future.

I spotted an effect which I presume is already known to fans. Several scenes have a medicine cabinet; when the mirror swings you get a glimpse of other people in the background. Whether this is the crew or director or a spectral observer I don't know; I'm sure it is intentional. Very creepy. You need frame-by-frame to see the figures clearly.

Criterion Blu-ray.

post #251 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Blackmail (1929), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

A young woman, dating a police detective, is unwisely seeing an artist on the side. Late one night she goes to his studio and is persuaded to change into costume so he can draw her. When he assaults her she stabs and kills him. Best to go home and not mention it, but her boyfriend is on the case. He figures it out but covers for her. Both are distraught even before the sleezy blackmailer appears...

This is a fun one, much more like the pacing and tone of later Hitchcock films, at least compared to the other early ones. It culminates in a famous chase through the British Museum.

Called the first British "all-talking" picture, it is a retrofitted silent film. Hitchcock made a separate silent version with a different actor as the Chief Inspector; I don't know if that version has been preserved.

post #252 of 1255
Gobs of "lost" silent films discovered in New Zealand.


A late silent feature directed by John Ford, a short comedy directed by Mabel Normand, a period drama starring Clara Bow and a group of early one-reel westerns are among a trove of long-lost American films recently found in the New Zealand Film Archive.
“The Girl Stage Driver” (1914), with Edna Payne, and other films in the New Zealand trove underline the contribution made by women to early cinema.
Some 75 of these movies, chosen for their historical and cultural importance, are in the process of being returned to the United States under the auspices of the National Film Preservation Foundation, the nonprofit, charitable affiliate of the Library of Congress’s National Film Preservation Board.
post #253 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Rooster Cogburn (1975), directed by Stuart Millar.

Cross True Grit with The African Queen and what do you get? Mainly a showcase for John Wayne and Katherine Hepburn (both age 68) with lots of comic back and forth between a missionary and a reprobate. The plot, despite the high body count, seems half-hearted. Some gossipy production notes in the IMDB.

Not well reviewed or successful at the box office. Since then, with the aging of the baby boomers, geezer adventures and romances have become more common. In this case the star power of the leads actually harms the movie; it seems too staged.

Someday someone will edit all three films into alternate reality time-shifting story.

Miss Hepburn was dressed by Miss Head.

"Keep the faith, M'am. See you at the hangin'".

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed. Beautiful Oregon locations.

post #254 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Stagecoach (1939), directed by John Ford.

Enormously satisfying western about a disparate set of passengers on a stagecoach trip through hostile Indian territory. In Monument Valley, of course! The characters are well-known, but that doesn't harm the story. We have:
  • the boyishly charming outlaw (John Wayne)
  • the floozy with a heart of gold (Claire Trevor)
  • the courtly Southern gambler (John Carradine)
  • the drunken doctor (Thomas Mitchell)
  • the pregnant soldier's wife (Louise Platt)
  • the timid salesman (Donald Meek)
  • the embezzling banker (Berton Churchill)
  • the colorful coach driver (Andy Devine)
  • the stalwart sheriff (George Bancroft)

The little subplots and interactions are just great. All done with John Ford's customary realism and fine composition.

Seeing Claire Trevor makes me want to watch Key Largo again. This is a break-out role for John Wayne, but he had made over seventy pictures before. John Carrdine's is the only tragic character: the Southern gentleman who has fallen on hard times, still retaining a sense of honor and code of conduct. Perhaps a last chance at redemption.

Notice how the timid whiskey salesman starts giving orders after the baby is born. He's the only family man in the group.

A continuing theme in Ford's films is that the people who tame the West have no place there once it is settled. This story has perhaps the happiest resolution to the problem.

Criterion Blu-ray. The source is in rough shape and I don't know how much restoration has been done or is possible. Not much improvement over my Warner DVD. The Blu-ray does have some nice extras.

post #255 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Hard Times (1975), directed by Walter Hill.

Aka Street Fighter.

Brutal bare-knuckles boxing story set in depression-era New Orleans. It's more like brawling: no rules other than empty hands and don't hit a man when down. The men strip to the waist and fight in their street clothes.

Walter Hill's first picture; an auspicious beginning. No frills, bare bones, just an authentically sad and grimy 1930s look to everything.

Chaney (Charles Bronson) drifts into town, just looking for a way to make some money. Speed (James Coburn), a gambler and fight promoter, becomes his partner. He's not quite as smart as he thinks he is, or maybe it is just an attitude and gambling problem. He never does figure Chaney out. Chaney has to ponder whether money really is everything before it is over.

Strother Martin is Poe, a fight "doctor". Two years of medical school and a weakness for opium. He has some great lines:

Introducing the fighter: "That's Chaney. He don't say much."

Sadly, when some losing gamblers won't pay up: "Somebody always shows up with a gun."

Cautioning his partner in a tense situation: "Steady on, Speed. These boys are not refined."

Jill Ireland, Bronson's real-life wife, is a tentative romantic interest.

It's hard to believe that Bronson is 54 years old in this picture. He still looks like he's made of iron. Some of his fans think this is his best film. He still has that laconic manner and immobile face, but somehow projects a deeply conflicted nature: proud and self-sufficient but lonely and without purpose.

Looking at his biography: Bronson started in the coal mines. In WW2 he was a B-29 tail gunner, flew 25 missions and had a Purple Heart.

The original US DVD release was a flipper with 4:3 pan & scan on one side and widescreen (anamorphic, I'm told) on the other. The reissue was 4:3 pan & scan only. Isn't that infuriating? The original aspect ratio is 2.35:1 so cropping it to 1.33:1 is a crime. Rather than take the risk that the seller of a used disc might not be aware of the differences, I imported an anamorphic PAL region 2 version. Prices are good now.

post #256 of 1255
Just watched The Music Man made in 1962 based on the Broadway play by Merideth Wilson that won 5 Tonies, including best musical. Very enjoyable.

Made in 1962, it compares, imho, to the best movies made from a
Broadway musical, such as Sound of Music, and I believe it exceeds such classics as South Pacific and Oklahoma.

Heck even my two teenage boys watched it and liked it. The movie has such classic songs as (Boy We Got) Trouble, Gary, Indiana, Good Night My Someone, Till There Was You, 76 Trombones, and my sons' favorite which was covered by Family Guy, Shipoopee.

One interesting thing I read was that Merideth Wilson and his heirs made
far more money in royalties from the Beatles cover of Till There Was You than they did from record sales for the play/movie soundtracks.

Currently playing this month on HDnet.
post #257 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Coffy (1973), written and directed by Jack Hill.

Pam Grier has a vendetta against drug kingpins and has to cope with pimps and corrupt cops and politicians on the side. She looks good with a shotgun and does what is necessary: no virginal wilting flower, she. Bloody, funny, with loads of sex and gratuitous nudity. That's entertainment.

Like lots of blaxploitation it combines the low-budget, the hip and the clumsy. The makers understand the plot is ridiculous and the acting rough. Add layers of humor and irony and somehow it comes out kind of exciting.

In a nice touch, once she starts down this road Coffy says she feels like she is in a dream, detached from reality and already having regrets.

My DVD was 4:3 letterboxed.

post #258 of 1255
A comedic story about a kind hearted mute Parisian janitor (Gigot). He befriends the daughter of a Paris prositute. Gigot is loved by children and pets, belittled and teased by adults. His hobby is attending funerals. Although a comedy it is also a touching story with good morals about respect and treating others. Gleason wrote the movie and the music for the movie. In fact if you watch the credits, he about did it all. Directed by Gene Kelley. Filmed entirely in Paris.

The movie was a box office flop, but still recieves good reviews, even today. Kelly and Gleason were very unhappy about Fox's handling of the movie, Fox doing some additional editing even after their submittal.

I saw this movie one saturday afternoon as a teenager and loved it. It has never made either a DVD or even VHS tape release. I used to see it occasionally being played on AMC. In fact I even still have a grainy VHS rendition of the movie recorded from when AMC was commercial free. The only problem was I missed the first 3-4 minutes of the movie!! Later I found it on line in DVD at Joe's Classic Movies, a now defunct internet business for hard to find movies. It was basically a commerical free tape transfer from a Fox Movie Channel. The network logo is in the corner of the picture. But I still love the movie. Every year I go to TCM's website and recommend its showing. Every year they seem to ignore it. I'd hope to catch a DVD recording off of TCMHD.

The movie (1962) should pass into public domain in 2012, unless Fox applies for renewal. Given their never having released this film for home consumption, I'd hope they would just let it pass into public domain and at least let someone put out a less grainy DVD of the flick.

The recent movie, the Wool Cap, is basically a remake of this flick. The remake is nothing like (in my opinion) the genious of Jackie Gleason. This flick was Gleason, the great one, at his best.
post #259 of 1255
Originally Posted by estoniankid View Post

Just watched The Music Man made in 1962 based on the Broadway play by Merideth Wilson that won 5 Tonies, including best musical. Very enjoyable.

Rewatching The Music Man on HDNet Movies recently I was struck by how clever the story is. I don't know of anyone who has seen the movie for the first time (or the live stage show) and predicted how the story would resolve itself.

Yet the resolution is based on a premise that is so basic to human nature we all should have seen it coming a mile away, but didn't:
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
Warning: Spoiler! (Click to show)
That, no matter how bad those kids were on their musical instruments, their parents would think they sound wonderful.
post #260 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Torchy Blane was an ace reporter said to be the inspiration for Lois Lane. She's aggressive, wise-cracking, and constantly frustrating her boyfriend, police detective Steve McBride.

The films are about an hour long, quickly made on a limited budget. It's more like a TV series where they jam in as much plot as possible by talking a mile a minute. Not exactly inspired film-making, but they are often funny and a few moments of proto-noir tone creep in from time to time.

This is the period where the cops, crooks, club owners and reporters all know each other from way back and form a more or less amicable society. But murder tends to upset things.

The first two entries star Glenda Farrell and Barton MacLane. He's a curious choice for the leading man. Unsmiling and sour, he is often a cop or a cowboy or a general (as in the I Dream of Jeannie series). I remember him as the nasty detective who smacks Bogart in The Maltese Falcon.

Smart Blonde (1937), directed by Frank McDonald.

All right, who killed the millionaire "promoter" in the middle of Torchy Blane's interview? The club owner, his bodyguard, his fiance, her brother, the singer, or some other gangster? Plenty of clues if you look for them and get to the scene early (how does she do that?) and Torchy sets a trap to catch the killer.

Fly Away Baby (1937), directed by Frank McDonald.

Murder, jewel theft, and an around the world air race, the last leg of which is via zeppelin from Germany to the US. Oh, the humanity. Since the racers are all passengers on the same craft it really isn't much of a race. Some interesting aerial footage.

The map showing the animated line of their journey has place names that became rather familiar just a few years later: Midway, Wake Island, Hanoi. And some countries that no longer exist on the map: Baluchistan, Siam.

Warner Archive titles, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/. Both titles are on one disc.

post #261 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Kelly's Heroes (1970), directed by Brian G. Hutton.

Comic WW2 caper film on an ambitious scale. Clint Eastwood is the star but it is an ensemble picture. Telly Savalas tends to dominate the scenes he's in. He's the only ethical character, doing it for the other men rather than the money. Extra comedy from Don Rickles ("Crapgame", a hustler) and Donald Sutherland ("Oddball", a hippy tank commander who must have a time machine somewhere).

It's mostly fun. They mow down armies of Germans in largely bloodless mayhem. The shouting and comic mugging was funnier then than now; time is hard on comedy. The whole tone is vastly cynical, but this was the Vietnam era and Hollywood respect for the military had been declining for a long time. There was a long period on TV and in the movies where officers were nothing but buffoons and no plot was too ridiculous.

Best to skip over technical problems, like the difference between mortars and artillery field pieces. Also: movie makers seem to have no idea how much gold weighs. The actors sling it around as if it were brass plated props.

There is one segment that stands out: the approach to and entry of the town with the Nazi gold before the big battle is nicely tense, well staged and photographed.

The "Burning Bridges" theme song, a bit of bubble-gum sung by the Mike Curb Congregation, is a woefully unfortunate choice. I remember it had some radio play. Other than that the Lalo Schifrin score is fine, particularly in the above mentioned pre-battle sequence.

Available on Blu-ray.

post #262 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Best of the Badmen (1951), directed by William D. Russell.

Interesting setup for a western: after the end of the Civil War, cavalry major Robert Ryan arranges the surrender of a gang of die hard bushwhackers (with Bruce Cabot and Walter Brennan), including (of course) the James and Younger brothers. His sensible idea is to give them the Oath and let them go, but this crosses some carpetbaggers (Robert Preston and Barton MacLane) who would rather have the bounty money. Ryan is sentenced to hang on a trumped up murder charge. Claire Trevor springs him from jail (why? it's complicated) but then he is an outlaw also.

After that it is more of a standard action/romance western but they pack a lot into 83 minutes. Definitely "classic" rather than "modern" tone. Hard charging score by Paul Sawtell

Warner Archive title, available for rent from http://www.classicflix.com/. The Technicolor has not entirely faded out yet, but the image is very soft in spots.

post #263 of 1255
I love Walter Brennan in dramatic roles. He was a great badass.
post #264 of 1255
During WW II Alfred Hitchcock returned to England in 1943-44 and made two short story films for the British government. One was Bon Voyage and the other was Aventure Malgache.

Both were made entirely in spoken French utilizing Free French actors and production staff who had fled to England before the Germans overran France in 1939.

Amazon has the best report about them.


While Alfred Hitchcock made several well-known wartime films with intrigue and ambiguous love themes at their core (Saboteur, Notorious), he also made a pair of far less familiar works: two French-language propaganda shorts, Bon Voyage and Aventure Malgache. The two rarely screened works were actually official productions of the British Ministry of Information, designed as tributes to the Resistance movement against the occupying Nazi forces in France. Hitchcock was paid a token fee, but they were really a labor of love for him. Despite that, Bon Voyage received limited play in France and Aventure Malgache was shelved completely by the Brits. Neither movie played in America. It's easy to see why: Bon Voyage, the better of the two, concerns a Royal Air Force gunner whose escape from a German prison is aided by a fellow fugitive he has only just met, and by a succession of Resistance workers who help him get out of the country. Interrogated back in London, the officer discovers he was actually an unwitting dupe whose flight helped the Germans locate and destroy key links in the underground organization.

Equally bleak, Aventure Malgache is a complex, swiftly paced remembrance by a French actor about the duplicity of Vichy collaborators in French-controlled Madagascar. The narrator, making himself up to play his own life in a staged version of past events he describes, was imprisoned by the Vichy government for his Resistance tactics. In essence, the film is about dissension among the French people when it comes to dealing with the Germans. It's a little hard to imagine why Hitchcock would have thought these two morally shaded stories would bolster freedom-fighting spirits. But they each have elements that resonate deliciously with his career-long pet obsessions and themes. Bon Voyage, particularly, is of interest as the tale of an innocent man who unwittingly crosses the line into culpability for evil, a moral murkiness that is key to many Hitchcock films from The Lodger through Frenzy. As a piece of the legacy of one of the most important filmmakers in history, this rare double bill is well worth the visit. --Tom Keogh.

Netflix has the DVD © 1993 by the British Film Institute released in 1998 in this country by Image Entertainment with mandated subtitles.

They are unique in some ways. Hitchcock never appears in them, a trade mark of his other pictures - suggesting that they were contract propaganda films and/or training films not under his complete control. Some reviews suggest they were never screened in France or anywhere else. The comments on Netflix suggest that they were "inflammatory" and put in the vaults for 50 years. I think that's unlikely.

More likely is that by mid-1944 they were OBE = Overcome By Events. The Allies invaded France on June 6, 1944 and Paris was liberated in August 1944. The need for films to train or inform Free French nationals about the tricks the Nazi's might employ to combat the work of the French underground fell off sharply.

Also likely is that Hitchcock made these two films as a contribution to the war effort that might have justified his return to England. There was no "tourism" in 1943-44 and Hitchcock was already well established in Hollywood. Directing these two films may have been the price of his "ticket" home for a visit.

Finally, these are not great Hitchcock films. More like curiosities from the distant past. Thanks to Netflix, we can rent them and judge for ourselves.

B&W. OAR 4x3. Mono audio.

PS. I found more information on the two films here. It confirms what I suspected, that "... Hitchcock managed to shoot the two films during a four-week period from mid-January to mid-February of 1944." Also it suggests that the British government wanted to keep a lid on Free French initiatives by assigning an English director to make these two French films. Coming up with a "famous" English director may have been an effort to placate French interests. Then with the June 6, 1944 "D-Day," the need for the pictures suddenly fell to the floor and they were quietly shelved.

post #265 of 1255
Tonight I watched the 1974 film The Odessa File, based on a 1972 book of the same name written by Frederick Forsyth.


Plot summary

The plot opens on November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Peter Miller, a young German reporter, happens to see an ambulance on a highway. He chases the ambulance and discovers it is en route to pick up the body of an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor who had committed suicide, leaving behind no family. The reporter obtains the diary of the man, which contains information on his life in the World War II camps, and the names of members of the SS who ran the camp. Miller is startled to read in it that an SS officer, Eduard Roschmann, had in anger fatally shot a Wehrmacht officer whose description and rare military decorations matched those of Miller's father, who was killed in the war. Now determined to hunt Roschmann down and get revenge, Miller dares to go undercover to join and infiltrate the ODESSA and find Roschmann.

The film starred Jon Voight, Maximilian Schell and his sister Maria Schell in a small role. Shell himself is on screen only for a short period at the beginning and end of the film.

Forsyth had the benefit of being informed by Simon Wiesenthal about the ratlines in general - systems of escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe at the end of World War II - and ODESSA and the Gehlen Org in particular. They really existed.


The Italian and Argentinian ratlines have only been confirmed relatively recently, mainly due to research in recently declassified archives. Until the work of Aarons and Loftus, and of Uki Goñi (2002), a common view was that ex-Nazis themselves, organised in secret networks, ran the escape routes alone. The most famous such network is ODESSA (Organisation of former SS members), founded in 1946 according to Simon Wiesenthal, which included SS-Obersturmbannführer Otto Skorzeny and Sturmbannführer Alfred Naujocks and in Argentina, Rodolfo Freude. Alois Brunner, former commandant of Drancy internment camp near Paris, escaped to Rome, then Syria, by ODESSA. (Brunner is thought to be the highest-ranking Nazi war criminal still alive as of 2007). Persons claiming to represent ODESSA claimed responsibility in a note for the 9 July 1979 car bombing in France aimed at Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld. [citation needed] According to Paul Manning (1980), "eventually, over 10,000 former German military made it to South America along escape routes ODESSA and Deutsche Hilfsverein ..."[27]

Simon Wiesenthal, who advised Frederick Forsyth on the novel/filmscript The Odessa File which brought the name to public attention, also names other Nazi escape organisations such as Spinne ("Spider") and Sechsgestirn ("Constellation of Six"). Wiesenthal describes these immediately after the war as Nazi cells based in areas of Austria where many Nazis had retreated and gone to ground. Wiesenthal claimed that the ODESSA network shepherded escapees to the Catholic ratlines in Rome (although he mentions only Hudal, not Draganović); or through a second route through France and into Francoist Spain.

ODESSA was supported by the Gehlen Org, which employed many former Nazi party members, and was headed by Reinhard Gehlen, a former Nazi intelligence officer employed post-war by the CIA. The Gehlen Org became the nucleus of the BND German intelligence agency, directed by Reinhard Gehlen from its 1956 creation until 1968.

The character of SS Captain Eduard Roschmann, the Butcher of Riga, was real.


Although the movie was based rather loosely on the book, it brought about the exposure of the real-life "Butcher of Riga", Eduard Roschmann. After the movie was released to the public, he was arrested by the Argentinian police, skipped bail, and fled to Asunción, Paraguay where he died on 10 August 1977.

Knowing that the story was based on facts, I enjoyed the film all the more. It didn't hurt that I was stationed in the US Army in West Germany for 18 months in 1956 and 1957. Although the film is of a later date, it was shot on location in Germany and the scenes looked very reminiscent and authentic to me.

Jon Voight in the lead role is on screen almost the entire film and carries it well. (I had no idea he was the father of actress Angelina Jolie in real life.)

A bit of trivia. Andrew Lloyd Webber composed the background music.

This film was directed by UK director Ronald Neame who died earlier this month (June 16, 2010) at age 99. Neame had a very long and successful career in motion pictures, starting out as an assistant cinematographer for a very young Alfred Hitchcock in 1929 on the first British talkie. His last film may have been made in 1990. Not too long ago I watched his delightful 1980 film Hopscotch with Walter Matthau. He directed Matthau in the 1981 film First Monday in October, too. May he RIP.

OAR 2.35:1. Mono audio. Color. (Some scenes were shot in B&W for dramatic effect.)

post #266 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Bend of the River (1952), directed by Anthony Mann.

Two men with dark secret pasts as Missouri border raiders: one (Arthur Kennedy) knows that nothing ever changes, that he will never be forgiven and will always be at war with society. The other (James Stewart) works for his redemption and hopes that eventually he can cross back over and be accepted by decent people. Who wins when they are on opposite sides?

This is the first time Anthony Mann has seemed more optimistic to me than John Ford. In Ford's westerns the hard men have to fade away once the west is settled. Here Stewart leads settlers to Oregon, thinks about staying with them, marrying and trying farming (or ranching!)

After an encounter with hostile Indians (who instantly drop dead when you throw a knife at them) things are pleasant and they reach a too-friendly town and are taken up river on a great stern-wheel steamboat. When winter supplies fail to arrive they have to go back and find out why the town is no longer so friendly. It's gold fever and the miners are hungry too. But a hard man will find a way.

The great cast includes Julie Adams (romantic interest), Rock Hudson (a gambler who is sometimes useful, sometimes not), Stepin Fetchit (ethnic/racial humor, he's getting gray), Harry Morgan, Jack Lambert, Royal Dano (villains), and Frances Bavier (Aunt Bea!).

The good guys really massacre the bad at one point.

I don't usually trouble about logical and historical flaws in movies, but:
  • If I were sitting on a horse with a rope around my neck, I don't think I would want to be rescued by a man riding up and firing a rifle. (But what do you have to lose?)
  • The signage in the town looks Art Nouveau to me. Bit early for that.
  • The town boss writes with a quill pen. Steel pens had been common for a long time.
  • How did they get that monster steamboat from the Mississippi to Oregon? I don't think it could go around the Horn or be carried across Central America.

[Harry Morgan]: The Law won't let you get away with this.

[James Stewart]: (pause, sideways glint) What Law?

post #267 of 1255
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

[*]How did they get that monster steamboat from the Mississippi to Oregon? I don't think it could go around the Horn or be carried across Central America.[/list]

Typically they were hauled in pieces. But you can build a flat-bottom steamer anywhere, all you need are the boiler and machinery to drive it. There's a terrific story and documentary about a steamer being hauled over a mountain in the amazon, the title escapes me.
post #268 of 1255
Originally Posted by rdgrimes View Post

Typically they were hauled in pieces. But you can build a flat-bottom steamer anywhere, all you need are the boiler and machinery to drive it. There's a terrific story and documentary about a steamer being hauled over a mountain in the amazon, the title escapes me.

The film you have in mind is the 1982 film Fitzcarraldo starring Klaus Kinski and Claudia Cardinale.


It portrays would-be rubber baron Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, an Irishman known as Fitzcarraldo in Peru, who has to pull a steamship over a steep hill in order to access a rich rubber territory. The film is derived from the real-life story of Peruvian rubber baron Carlos Fitzcarrald.

post #269 of 1255
Originally Posted by drbonbi View Post

The film you have in mind is the 1982 film Fitzcarraldo starring Klaus Kinski and Claudia Cardinale.


Yes, I just figured that out. It's not a documentary it's one of those wild Werner Herzog films.
post #270 of 1255
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by rdgrimes View Post

Typically they were hauled in pieces.

You would have to see this thing.


But you can build a flat-bottom steamer anywhere

Part of the story was that it came from the Mississippi River.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
AVS › AVS Forum › Other Areas of Interest › Movies, Concerts, and Music Discussion › Review older films here: 1979 and earlier