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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier - Page 24

post #691 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Giant (1956), produced and directed by George Stevens.

A multi-generational family epic. In the 1920s a Texas rancher with a half million acres goes East to buy a horse and returns with a bride. It takes her a while to fit in but she has grit and over the years becomes her own peculiar kind of Texan. After the babies are born we jump ahead 20 years to see how the elders cope with the travails of the younger generation.

Liz, in bed, to her husband, standing: "Come on, partner. Why don't you take off your spurs?"

At 3 1/4 hours I wouldn't call it slow, but it is deliberately placed. There is no big dramatic arc, just the usual "life happens" developments common in every family. The major themes:
  • The green and refined East vs dry, barren and coarse Texas.
  • An independent and willful woman contrasted with more dutiful ranch wives.
  • Old money vs new, cattle vs oil.
  • Anglos vs Mexicans, or more exactly: how are the Anglos going to treat the Mexicans?

None of the three leads were the first choice, but it worked out well, particularly with Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean (his third and final film). Both were 23. Rock Hudson is ok, but his job is to be stolid and always flustered by change, which is limiting.

For the younger generation we have Dennis Hopper, Carroll Baker, Sal Mineo and Earl Holliman. Baker was older than Taylor who played her mother.

Dimitri Tiomkin score.

The DVD commentary track reveals how they got the babies to cry on cue: they gave them toys then took them away and broke them.

The DVD is 4:3 letterboxed but that is less of a problem with 1.66:1 aspect ratio titles. It looks like all of the PAL editions are similarly non-anamorphic. No Blu-ray.

post #692 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Lady Vanishes (1938), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Fun, intricate romance/comedy/suspense film, a must-see for Hitchcock fans or anyone who enjoys the genre. Truffaut used to see it twice a week in Paris.

The first 30 minutes has plenty of comic material in the overcrowded hotel, but honestly seems a bit slack. It picks up and moves along nicely after we board the train, culminating in a big shoot-out. The illusion of being on a moving train is really very good for the period. The plot: plausibility is the least of the director's concerns.

Michael Redgrave was not much interested in his own performance at first, but after Paul Lukas convinced him the movie was worth taking seriously he reapplied himself. The chemistry between the leads is just starting to cook by the time the film is done.

Mentally fuzzy but ultimately stalwart cricket fans Charters and Caldicott, in their first appearance, are the best thing in the movie. They return in the somewhat similar Night Train to Munich (1940), also with Margaret Lockwood. This disc includes their own feature film, Crook's Tour (1941), which I remember as being just so-so.

Criterion Blu-ray, available for rent from ClassicFlix. Netflix has it on DVD; I'm not sure from what label.

The commentary track points out that Hitchcock had a hard time getting male leads in the 1930s. Robert Donat was who he wanted, but he was available only for The Thirty Nine Steps. The commentator also notes that the women are stronger and more aware than the men here.

post #693 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Dracula (1931), directed by Tod Browning.

Count Dracula relocates to England where he plans to bite every lovely young woman in the neighborhood. That's a plan? Aren't people going to talk?

Adapted from a successful stage play also starring Bela Lugosi and other cast members. The movie opens it up a bit, but it is still stagey, typical of an early talky. All biting and staking is off-scene.

Despite that it is nicely atmospheric and has unsettling moments: our loved ones transformed, subjected to fates worse than death.

Lugosi's performance made a big splash at the time but is harder to take now. He has definite menacing presence but his lines are all dreadfully overblown. Imitation began immediately: one of the young women mocks his flowery Hungarian speech. His perpetual evening dress and opera cape clash with the otherwise fine grubby settings. How did he get his laundry done in that isolated Transylvanian castle?

Renfield is creepier: bitten and now in an asylum, craving flies and spiders, tittering a loathsome yearning giggle. This is Dwight Frye, Fritz the assistant in Frankenstein. Demented horror film minion was a small domain, but he was king of it.

One good scene has Harker trying to chase away a large troublesome bat. He's talking to Mina but we don't realize for a while that she's answering to the bat:


John: There's that bat again.

Mina: Yes?

John: Look out, he'll get in your hair!

Mina: Yes?

John: My, that was a big bat.

Mina: I will.

John: You will what?

Mina: Oh, I didn't say anything.

Said to be a disorganized production. Cinematographer Karl Freund (who soon directed The Mummy) did quite a bit of the directing, Browning being MIA.

The DVD includes an alternate score by Philip Glass, performed by the Kronos Quartet. It's flavor is both antique and dynamic, similar to his music for The Illusionist (2006).

The commentary track has points I hadn't considered: the story as dread of foreign corruption of women (why are our women acting so strangely?), blood contamination as a metaphor for syphilis, Dracula's wives as stylized prostitutes, and the Count's easy aristocratic domination of the working classes.

Also on the disc is the Spanish language version made at the same time.

post #694 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Thunderball (1965), directed by Terence Young.

SPECTRE hijacks two NATO A-bombs and will sell them back or it's bye-bye Miami.

Bond #4 has always seemed to me the quintessential film in the Connery series, although I only dimly remember the ones he did after this. He's tactically very quick, as violent as required and good at hand-to-hand fighting. Indefatigable lover, as always.

Gorgeous Bahamian locations and beautiful women, with Miss France as Domino. Exciting bomber hijacking and ambitious underwater segments, including a battle between two small armies. This is the first Bond film in Cinemascope aspect ratio.

On the down side, the series silliness cannot be denied. Instead of just shooting Bond they continue to try and kill him with motorized traction machines and by dunking him in a shark tank. He delivers painfully leaden quips. Too many gadgets. The sparring with villain Largo and carnivale bits go on too long.

We see the SPECTRE offices this time, very rich and business-like, although the performance reviews can be murder. The British Secret Service meeting rooms are equally lavish.

John Barry score with lush aquatic themes.

Available on Blu-ray.

post #695 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Drácula (1931), directed by George Melford.

This is a Spanish version made on the same sets as the English one, with the same costumes and (translated) shooting script, but with different cast, crew and director. They would watch the English rushes from the day, then try their own interpretation when shooting at night.

The English version is a bit better, although this one has its virtues: it is quite a bit longer -- they retained scenes cut from the other one, but made cuts of their own. We get to see the vampire attack on the ship's crew during the storm. The women are dressed a bit sexier.

The lead lacks Lugosi's sinister charisma. He seems affable and smiles too much, although now and then he gives a good twist to a line, for example: "A worse fate than death awaits man." With Lugosi it is a veiled threat, here it is a somber self-reflection.

This is on the same DVD as the English version. Spanish language with selectable English subtitles. Some of the surviving film stock is better, some worse. Sparse score.

post #696 of 1259
From Russia with Love and Thunderball are the only 2 JB BR I owned from the Connery era; love the actions, women, stories and John Barry's soundtracks.

The other I owned is Casino Royale by Craig.
post #697 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Ten Commandments (1956), directed by Cecil B. DeMille

Every now and then I say to my wife "About time to watch The Ten Commandments again, eh?" She always responds by doing a breathy, spot-on Anne Baxter imitation: "Oh, Moses, Moses!" Then we watch something else.

No more stalling: the Blu-ray is gorgeous, one of the finest I have seen. Beautiful color.

Watching DeMille requires some mental adjustment: it's like a children's church pageant blown out to a tremendous, cast-of-thousands scale. (According to the commentary track, he was going for a retro-epic look, evoking the pageants of his youth). Although I can be moved by Bible films (see David and Bathsheba and Ben Hur) this one is just too stiff and pompous to be more than spectacle. But as such there is nothing like it. I don't know how many of the subplots are mined from the midrash or other ancient texts.

Much as I like Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner gives a blazing performance, one of the few actors who looks like he belongs there. It makes me like his character more: Rameses is born to be pharaoh and is obviously built for the job. The pesky Hebrews are messing up his life, as is troublemaker Moses (both as prince and prophet), and his wife turns out to be a real piece of work. You can't help but feel his grief for the death of his son. He's also the ancient rationalist, explaining away the plagues, and the skeptic saying "You priests made the gods." Brynner never worked out or dieted, final proof that life is unfair.

I never noticed how much lascivious sexuality is used here as a mark of wickedness. Even though obviously meant to be family-friendly, they slip in some adult innuendo:


Nefretiri: I could never love you.

Rameses: Does that matter? You will be my wife. You will come to me whenever I call you, and I will enjoy that very much. Whether you enjoy it or not is your own affair. But I think you will...

Every Bible movie has dancing girls. It takes a while to accept Edward G. Robinson and Vincent Price in ancient costumes. I notice the blue screen scenes more now than I used to. The Angel of Death during the first Passover is quite eerie, and the voice of God on the mountain awfully dull.

Elmer Bernstein score.

ClassicFlix has the Blu-ray and sent both discs together as one rental. Netflix doesn't have it.

The commentary track by a film historian gives extensive detail on who and what is on the screen. Lots of stories. Audrey Hepburn was considered for the princess, but they thought those diaphanous robes would not hang well on such a thin frame. Anne Baxter is more of a full-figured gal.

"Moses, Moses": everyone says it, even the Voice from the burning bush.

post #698 of 1259
Am I the only one who leaned a in a little closer to thier moniter for that pic of A. Baxter in the second row? LOL.
post #699 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Monte Walsh (1970), directed by William A. Fraker.


Nobody gets to be a cowboy forever.

An elegy to the cowboy. The jobs are vanishing and after a hard winter kills the cattle and closes the ranches, we have just the rag-tag few remaining, just for a short while.

They're poor and hard-working, but more or less happy. The setup is often funny with lots of practical jokes and recreational brawling. But without work some will turn to rustling and bank robbery, some to killing. It becomes melancholy and tragic.

Monte is very fond of a decent French prostitute. He calls her "Countess". Do they have a chance? It's hard. He's not suited to other work and too obstinately proud to even try.

I've never seen Lee Marvin give a bad performance. As his partner Jack Palance has a more easy-going role than is usual for him, although only a fool would push him too far.

Much of a town is demolished in a wild bronco-riding scene.

John Barry score, more intense than usual for westerns at the climax. Mama Cass sings the theme song. Remade for TV with Tom Selleck.

This has been in print on DVD for a long time, but Netflix only recently added it, a sign they are making some attempts to improve the disc catalog after long neglect.

post #700 of 1259
Thanks for reviewing this, I've added this film to my Netflix DVD queue although at this time it says 'Very long wait'. Of the 100+ movies Lee Marvin made the first three movies that come to mind are Cat Ballou, The Dirty Dozen and Paint Your Wagon.
post #701 of 1259
Originally Posted by Mr.G View Post

Thanks for reviewing this, I've added this film to my Netflix DVD queue although at this time it says 'Very long wait'.

Here is shows as "available now".
post #702 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Wizards (1977), written, produced and directed by Ralph Bakshi.


Avatar: All right, creep. Now, before I untie you, I wanna tell you a couple of things. And I want you to listen and listen carefully. This has been the biggest bummer of a trip I've ever been on. If you let me down or you hurt my friends, especially the broad, I got stuff planned for you that'll take 20 years to kill you.

Necron/Peace: No pain.

Avatar: And you'll be screaming for mercy in the first five seconds.

Necron/Peace: Peace wants love, wants free, will help.

Avatar: Look, just get us there, you got it?

Ten million years after the nuclear holocaust the world has gone back to nature: magic, elves and fairies have returned. Twin brother sorcerers battle for the world: Blackwolf has brought back ancient war-making technology and hypnotic propaganda (nazis, it's always nazis) and sends forth armies of mutants and demons. Avatar and friends pursue a quest into the heart of Scortch to destroy the center of the evil power.

It's combined comedy and brutality with a mixture of styles: Disney, Tolkien, Looney Toons, Keebler elves and Vaughn Bode. Good, rascally sorcerer Avatar is modeled on Peter Falk, although to me he seems more like WC Fields + Gandalf + Cheech Wizard. Assassin Necron-99 reminds me of Cobalt-60. Bakshi and Bode were pals.

It's simultaneously amazing and annoying, the infantile winged fairies being the most irritating aspect. Bakshi does not have a subtle imagination; he trowels on the sex, violence and message pretty thickly. I'm astonished he considers this a "family" picture. When asked at the time I said it was way too violent for children, but maybe things are different now. It's always been rated PG.

Nicely varied score.

Available on Blu-ray. My thumbnails are from the all-region import, but everyone says the US version is very similar. Isolated score. In the commentary track the director gives details on low-budget pre-CGI animation.

I wondered why he put in comical rabbis. He says that's how religion seemed to him as a kid: incomprehensible ritual accumulated over the centuries that goes on for hours during worship. It's the same in the far future.

For Bakshi, the magic vs propaganda/technology theme is a metaphor for animators vs studios.

post #703 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Pocket Money (1972), directed by Stuart Rosenberg.

A quirky, nearly plotless western comedy about buying cattle in Mexico. Paul Newman is lighter-headed than usual and partner Lee Marvin is a sharp operator who barely knows what he is doing. Strother Martin is their shady employer and Wayne Rogers his blowhard minion.

I'd never heard of this until I stumbled across it at Netflix. Try it only if you are collecting the off-beat or like the stars. Filmed in real places and it has absurd early-70s charm. It's a character study of some strange characters.

Terrence Malick screenplay. Carole King wrote and sings the theme. The rest of the score is an eclectic mix: dixieland and other stuff.

post #704 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Bite the Bullet (1975), written, produced and directed by Richard Brooks.

An endurance cross country horse race of 1906, said to be inspired by a true event, but I don't know to what extent. Exceptionally real-looking with some amazing horsemanship.

It's a classic setup, with the introduction and assembly of a diverse set of contestants. We have the tough guys who know each other from previous adventures, the army buddies, and the old guys holding their own against the young snots. It has echoes of Brooks's earlier The Professionals, with the kind-to-horses Gene Hackman an evolution of Robert Ryan's character from the earlier film.

A new addition is an ex-hooker as one of the tough guys; she's on a mysterious mission of her own. This is the exceedingly lovely Candice Bergen. Is it the perfectly symmetrical face? Her jeans seem tighter than would be historically accurate, although it could have happened.

For a surprise twist in the last section they hold the realism and go off on a wild and somewhat humorous adventure. Then back to the grueling race to see who will stagger across the finish line.

Kindness and cruelty to horses is a strong theme throughout. In a movie where humaneness is the story, I hope the animals were treated well during filming. There is a stunt long fall off a cliff and into water that I've never seen before or since.

I'm always happy to see James Coburn, Ben Johnson and Ian Bannen. All the characters have a few moments that tend toward speechifying.

I'm not following certain plot points:
  • What's the story of the glue wagon at the beginning? Where's the driver, why is one horse dead, another tied, and why is there a colt?
  • What did Gene Hackman drink and what did it do to him? Was someone trying to poison him or not?
  • What was that bit about fixing the race by painting a mark on the hooves? Who ordered that and how was it supposed to work?
  • Is the madam co-sponsoring the race? She and her girls seem partners with the newspaper.

I tend to think of the 70s as a bleak time for westerns. You had Clint Eastwood and who else? But this is an outstanding exception; it would be a fine selection for any decade. I'm a bit surprised by the PG rating, but there was no PG-13 then.

Available in a limited-edition Blu-ray from Twilight Time, mastered by Sony. As with their Mysterious Island, this seems taken from a good quality source and I see no sharpening or degraining; it looks very much like film (which I saw in the theater at the time but it's been too long for me to make a detailed comparison). The average quality is better than the earlier film, with the sunlit scenes showing very fine detail.

post #705 of 1259
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Bite the Bullet (1975), written, produced and directed by Richard Brooks.


Good western at a time that, as you said, was a bleak period for westerns. I always thought "Bite the Bullet" was a terrible title for it and wondered if that might have had something to do with its tepid box office appeal despite a top notch cast and director. To me, that title sounded more appropriate for one of those quirky, more comedic westerns that reached their zenith a few years earlier with movies like Waterhole No. 3, Support Your Local Sheriff, The Scalphunters, or even, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. So there might have been a sense of been there, done that by the time this movie came out with that kind of title.
post #706 of 1259
Bite the Bullet is a good one and it looks like a lovely release from Twilight Time, but I have to say that at this stage of her career, Candice Bergen simply couldn't act. She's awful, although she was even worse in The Sand Pebbles. Lucky Ben Johnson was around the provide an awesome counterpoint.
post #707 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Lord of the Rings (1978), directed by Ralph Bakshi.

This covers the story up to the battle at Helm's Deep, which is about the same as Peter Jackson's first two films. The final part was never made by Bakshi.

It has a mix of animation styles but is more sedate than his earlier work. He later said that rotoscoping live action (mostly used here and in Fire and Ice) was an interesting experiment but he wouldn't do it again. Pure animation rules!

I saw this in the theater but remembered almost nothing about it. I was skeptical when people said that Peter Jackson copied some scenes for his films, but now that seems obviously true. I would say Bakshi was his first reference with the text second.

Bakshi is more loyal to the text than Jackson, even given unavoidable condensing and simplification. We hear more of the dialogue in its proper place; Jackson tends to randomize quotes and scatter them about, sometimes in different mouths and with altered meaning. Bakshi doesn't require a moping Aragorn.

On the down side it is a curiously slack narrative without much dramatic force to move it forward. The "flight to the ford" is more of an amble. The score is generically dull (and the director hated it). Other issues:
  • Boromir has cow horns on his helmet.
  • Legolas displaces Glorfindel, just as Arwen does in the later film. Arwen is missing here, which makes sense given her character is so under-written in the books.
  • Frodo's escape at the Ford is strangely staged and much more protracted than it needs to be.
  • Treebeard (one scene only) looks like he was drawn by Dr Seuss.
  • Sauruman is sometimes called "Aruman", obviously a script editing error that no one caught. Makes you wonder if anyone was paying attention.

Available on Blu-ray. Wizards has better blacks; they're more of a noisy gray here. I don't know what happened: in the Wizards commentary Bakshi said that deep black is essential in adult animation; it wasn't even available when he started drawing for the movies.

post #708 of 1259
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

Bite the Bullet (1975), written, produced and directed by Richard Brooks.


Watched this BD today. Fans of the film will want this, too bad it's a rarity and a bit pricey. I did an A-B comparison with the widescreen DVD. The BD does not offer a huge increase in detail, although it's clearly better. What it does offer is a complete absence of compression artifacts which are egregious on the DVD, better color timing and black levels. Also noted that the DTS-MA audio track is 24/96 and WAY better sounding than the DVD!!

No question this is a flawed movie, complete with a 2-stroke motorcycle in 1906, abundant tire tracks in the desert and freshly graded roads in the mountains. But it's still a great western with a flawless cast. An excellent companion film for The Professionals. Hackman sells the story like nobody else could.
post #709 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Pollyanna (1960), directed by David Swift.

Still catching up on family films I missed when young, although I don't suppose many boys saw this one (voluntarily) at the time.

An orphan girl moves in with her rich aunt who is a big wheel in her small town. Most everyone is strict and sour but, employing a positive outlook, a bit of matchmaking, and a talent for tactical disobedience, Pollyanna melts hard hearts and reforms the whole place. We have time for a weepie episode before the happy comeback.

It's sweet but not as syrupy as I would have thought. Pollyanna is earnest and not at all smug or preachy, which would just kill the story. Great sets and a strong cast. Mostly I marvel at the natural talent of Hayley Mills in her second movie. She's 13 but looks younger. She did Tiger Bay the year before and in just eight more would be in Twisted Nerve. Time flies. She did a slew of Disney films in between.

It's over-long at 2 1/4 hours. The director was eager to cut 20 minutes and more but Disney, although he did not interfere with filming, had a hard time cutting; he fell in love with every scene and had to keep everything.

The DVD has a commentary track with Mills and the director recorded 41 years later. Lavish praise for everyone involved:
  • Karl Malden showed up two weeks early so he could rehearse his speeches off-contract. The director never had another actor do that.
  • Malden said his scenes with Hayley starred "two noses".
  • Walt Disney would cry during dailies. He took Hayley and her family to the park and rode all the rides with them.
  • They had a hard time finding a Pollyanna until Mrs Disney and another studio wife saw Tiger Bay in London.
  • The plot has a Lincoln quote engraved on a locket: "When you look for the bad in mankind, expecting to find it, you surely will". Months after the premier the director saw a Disneyland shop with thousands of the lockets for sale. He made them stop: the quote is fake, he'd just made it up.
  • Mills, a growing girl at the time, still remembers the heaps of food available on the set. Quality eating time.

post #710 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Nothing Sacred (1937), directed by William A. Wellman.

Small town girl Carole Lombard would like to get to New York City. She hits the news when diagnosed with a fatal case of radiation poisoning. Desperate reporter Fredric March arranges the trip to cash in on the publicity. Turns out she's not dying after all, but takes the trip anyway.

It's a pretty cynical entry from somewhere near screwball central. Yes, she's a fraud, but the big city hoopla over her is fake sentimentality as well. Cynical as it is, the scripts delivered by Ben Hecht were unrelievedly nasty until they fired him and brought in other writers.

In his book Screwball: Hollywood's Madcap Romantic Comedies, Ed Sikov raves about Lombard, doesn't think March can match her, and finds the plot awkward:

In the final analysis, it's the invigorating meanness of spirit in Nothing Sacred, not its artistic quality, that one remembers most fondly. Rarely does a Hollywood comedy attack American values in such a point-blank manner. It's racist and misogynistic. The color is off-putting and the cutting often splicy. Fredric March isn't the best screwball hero, and the ending doesn't entirely work. But it's vision is so consistently bitter, so relentlessly discontented, that its artistic sins can be forgiven.

The little kid who runs out and bites March on the leg is actually Billy Barty, age 13.

Available on Blu-ray. The image is grainy and the Technicolor rather pastel, but I'm guessing that's how the surviving film looks. I didn't even remember this being in color. Bare bones disc, no subtitles.

post #711 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Mother, Jugs & Speed (1976), directed by Peter Yates.

A dark comedy about ambulance drivers. It's roughly bolted together and ranges from slapstick to tragedy, which is ok: you can laugh it out and cry it out in the same movie.

Bill Cosby is Mother, more or less the designated adult of a seedy ambulance company, even though he drinks Anchor Steam while driving, carries a .357 in the cab, scatters nuns in the crosswalk (they love it), visits the massage parlor and punctures tires of the competition.

Raquel Welch is Jugs, a dispatcher who wants to drive. I have a hard time critiquing her acting; I like looking at her so much I really can't think about anything else.

Harvey Keitel is Speed, a police detective under suspension for suspicion of selling drugs. He clobbers horn-dog driver Larry Hagman who tries to molest a comatose coed in the back of the van.

Is a fat woman on a runaway downhill gurney funny? I laughed. How about dead junkies and pathetic senior citizens? It turns tragic when people are dying. We have a body count even in the driving crew.

Some great dialogue:


Speed: [referring to his driving] They don't call me Speed for nuthin'.

Jugs: Well, let's hope they don't call you Speed for everything.

(Women can be so judgmental sometimes).

Two black men arguing over an injured "client" at a country club golf course:


Albert: Damn, Mother! You ain't gonna shaft this nigga twice in one week!

Mother: Please, Albert. Not in mixed company.

Rival companies appear before the licensing commission:


Warren: I should like to point out that the counsel notes with admiration the efforts Mr Taylor has made to hire minorities.

Fishbine: Oh, yeah? Yeah? What about a woman? Does he have a woman? I do. She's out there somewhere right behind me.

Mother: This, uh -- this is, uh, the woman... and, uh, I feel that she's worth 4 blacks, the future draft rights to 3 Chicanos, and a Chinaman to be named later, sir.


Fishbine: You bet she is.

Taylor: We will get a woman. I mean, as soon as we get separate bunk room facilities.

[Crowd booing]

When being funny, I can't help hearing Cosby's stand-up comedy voice from the 60s. He's better when serious, as when counseling Jugs when she becomes discouraged by the tragedy she sees when driving an ambulance:


It doesn't fit your idea of life. Because people don't suffer the way you want them to. So what you gonna do? Bail out because you can't live your fantasies?

Good contemporary soundtrack.

post #712 of 1259
Thread Starter 
To Catch a Thief (1955), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

After a string of spectacular jewel thefts on the Riviera, everyone suspects former cat burglar and Resistance hero Cary Grant. It's the old double chase: he hunts the real thief while the police hunt him. In fact, everyone is a detective chasing someone in this film.

Grace Kelly, poised like a statuary goddess, seems proper and reserved at first, until we learn she is a wild rich girl eroticaly excited to know an actual jewel thief. Grant does his best to fend her off:


You know, I have about the same interest in jewelry that I have in politics, horse racing, modern poetry or women who need weird excitement. None.

It's worth quoting some extracts from the famous fireworks scene, where all the foreplay achieves some completion:


Kelly: I have a feeling that tonight you're going to see one of the Riviera's most fascinating sights... I was talking about the fireworks!

Grant: I never doubted it.

Kelly: The way you looked at my necklace, I didn't know...


Kelly: Even in this light, I can tell where your eyes are looking... Look, John. Hold them. Diamonds... The only thing in the world you can't resist. Then tell me you don't know what I'm talking about... Ever had a better offer in your whole life? One with everything?...

Grant: I've never had a crazier one.

Kelly: Just as long as you're satisfied...

Grant: You know as well as I do: this necklace is imitation.

Kelly: Well, I'm not.

She's mad the next morning but her comically vulgar but honest mother isn't having it. Mother: "Just what did he steal from you?" Daughter: "Oh, Mother!" (Meaning, we both know he didn't make off with your virginity).

This is certainly Hitchcock's most glamorous film and has to be among his most visually spectacular. Famously, he hated location shooting, but the Côte d'Azur was his favorite vacation spot. It's an overwhelming travelog of beach and water, fine houses and beautiful aerial shots.

The climatic scene of rooftop chasing and struggling takes us into a particularly Hitchcockian dimension. It recalls the surreal Dali sets from Spellbound, hanging from the roof edge in Vertigo (still in the future) and intense moments from other films.

Everyone says that Grace Kelly was, for Hitchcock, "The Woman", the one he tried to recreate in other actresses. "Ice that melts", he said. Those twisty roads she drives in this film: she died there 27 years later. She had a stroke and crashed her car. She had been Princess of Monaco for 26 years.

Today, blue light is always used for night scenes; he uses green.

I never noticed before: the speedboat in the first part is named the Maquis Mouse. Maquis = French Resistance.

Edith Head costumes; her favorite picture.

Available on Blu-ray with a gorgeous image. This may be the first time a Blu-ray has made me like a film more. The excited commentary track by a film scholar is sometimes a bit academic, but has good info and many insights.

post #713 of 1259
Thanks for this review. BTw the BluRay of North by Northwest is spectacular.
post #714 of 1259
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post

To Catch a Thief (1955), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.


Thanks for the review, Bill. As usual, your insights and screen captures make me want to dig up my DVD or buy the Blue-ray and re-watch something I hadn't thought of for a while. In this case, however, as you might guess I had already run out to buy the gorgeous Blu-ray of To Catch a Theif on day one!

On the subject of Hitchcock famously hating to shoot on location, we believe this, in part, because Hitchcock said as much when asked in interviews. And I believe him when he says he prefers the control that can be achieved on a studio lot or in a sound stage.

Isn't it ironic then that the locations in Hitchcock's movies are memorable in ways they aren't in the hands of so many other film directors? IMO, they become as much of an integral element of the film in terms of character, mood, theme and emotion as John Ford's Monument Valley or those in David Lean's location shoot spectaculars.

Whether it's London, the English countryside, the American Mid West, Rio de Janeiro, the French Riviera, Morocco, San Francisco/Bodego Bay/Santa Rosa, Madison Avenue and the United Nations, or any number of other side trips through small town America or little-used highways between Phoenix and Fairvale, very few film directors have imbued the locations in their films with as much personality and spirit intrinsic to and inseparable from the core of the movie as Hitchcock, who quite often made them so haunting and memorable one cannot think of his movies without visualizing the locations on several fronts or without wanting to travel to see them in "person", even when much of our impression of them was indeed created in the control of a studio lot or sound stage.

Not bad for a film director famous for not liking to shoot on location...
post #715 of 1259
Speaking of Hitchcock locations, I was in SFO years ago and happened on the spot where Kim Novak dove into the water in Vertigo. Just out of Hitchcock's camera range was a pet cemetery!
post #716 of 1259
Thread Starter 
The Ladykillers (1955), directed by Alexander Mackendrick.

Five crooks planning a clever heist pick the wrong house as their base. The little old lady renting their room utterly confounds and destroys them, mostly inadvertently and unconsciously, just by the nature of her steadfast Victorian personality. This is actress Katie Johnson, age 77. Even scarier, she can summon a perfect storm of little old lady associates to further fluster evildoers (and anyone else who might be passing by).

This is pretty delicious: that the forces of modernity cannot overcome one old lady in a bombed out house next to the train-yards. Much as we want her to triumph, we hate to see the gang go, one by one until there are none.

Alec Guinness is the Professor, a cracked criminal mastermind. The role was intended for Alistair Sims and Guiness does some impressions of him. First prominent role for Peter Sellers.

The Ealing Studio comedies combine British coziness, eccentric characters and plot absurdities. They're endearing, but maybe an acquired taste. I can't take too many at once.

Available on Blu-ray, with a good commentary track about the film, the people involved, and the studio. He offers, only semi-seriously, some theories about the plot, for example that it is a satire on British post-war political factions. The gang is a Labor coalition with each member representing a core constituency. After they tear themselves apart, the Conservatives, natural ruling class of the country as represented by the old lady, swoop in and recover their goods and power. Order is restored.

post #717 of 1259
Thread Starter 
I finally managed some thumbnails of the Blu-ray. The original review is here.

There's no color like Technicolor.

post #718 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Fort Apache (1948), directed by John Ford.

The first entry in the "Cavalry Trilogy" and the only one on Blu-ray so far.

A new Colonel, traveling with his daughter, arrives to take command of a remote outpost. He's arrogant and officious, concerned with proper uniform dress and often quoting military theory. He doesn't bother to remember anyone's name. He is unhappy with his command, craves glory and will try to achieve it by forcing Cochise and his people back onto the reservation.

It's a disaster, a massacre in the making. He's Custer under a different name. He's contemptuous of the Indians and anyone who disagrees with him is a coward. Everyone recognizes the unfolding tragedy, even the Colonel himself, even Cochise with a "what a pointless waste" expression, but no one can stop it.

As cold and unlikeable as the Colonel is, we recognize something in him, maybe a familiar experience from childhood: being an outsider, unable to fit in and be at ease with others.

The Fort itself is a warm and tightly knit community. The first half of the film spends much time exploring this society, particularly the Army wives who form a "regiment within the regiment". We contrast the way the women work (cooperation and understanding) with the conduct of the men: orders, drilling, yelling and comical drunkeness. Some of the formal "society" material seems a bit stiff and posed to me, but the speaker on the commentary track defends Ford's design and intent here.

It ends with a curious "print the legend" coda, and the proposition that the honored dead achieve immortality in the regiment. It's a way of being loyal to the men.

When asked "What was your father like?", Peter Fonda said "Did you see Fort Apache? He was like that." Ouch.

John Wayne, still trim, is the moral center of the story: act justly, tell the truth and keep your promises.

Shirley Temple (age 20) and John Agar were newlyweds.

The fort has a large Irish contingent, ably represented by Ward Bond and Victor McLaglen.

Available on Blu-ray with good detail, although the black levels vary from scene to scene. Thoughtful commentary track. He says the outdoor scenes were shot on infra-red film, darkening the sky and increasing contrast. He points out the parallels between the characters still recovering from the Civil War, and the film cast and crew just out of WW2.

post #719 of 1259
I think the commentator meant infrared FILTER, which B&W photographers often use to bring out clouds.
post #720 of 1259
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by pbarach View Post

I think the commentator meant infrared FILTER, which B&W photographers often use to bring out clouds.

I did wonder about that, presuming outdoor effects were done with polarizing or other filters, but the wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infrared_photography) did list some infrared camera film used for motion pictures, so I quoted him without comment.

But, you're probably right. We'd need to check a history of Ford or the movie itself.

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