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post #1891 of 2229 Old 06-15-2017, 10:59 AM
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post #1892 of 2229 Old 06-18-2017, 04:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Tales of Manhattan (1942), directed by Julien Duvivier.

A quirky anthology film about the odyssey of a cursed dinner jacket. It was cursed by the tailor who made it: he didn't like the lapels.

Intelligent script and lovely photography throughout.

The title is a pun: the tales of a tail-coat. Get it?

The original owner is suave actor Charles Boyer, off to the country to steal Rita Hayworth (hot damn) from drunken, jolly but possibly homicidal husband Thomas Mitchell.

Each of the three characters is just magnetic, but Mitchell deserves more appreciation than he gets. Often comic but with much darker depths at his command.



The coat (now with a little hole in it) passes on to harried butlers Roland Young and Eugene Pallette. It serves as a prop in a bedroom farce between lothario Cesar Romero, his fiance Ginger Rogers and best man Henry Fonda. Ginger becomes eagerly fascinated with Fonda -- playing the same sort of shy, diffident character as from The Lady Eve (1941) -- when she mistakes him for a great lover.



The coat passes on to a second-hand shop where Elsa Lanchester grabs it for (real life) husband Charles Laughton, a poor musician who has a chance to conduct the orchestra. Funny and sad: the coat doesn't fit him very well.



Now with rips and given to charity, the coat finds its way to the poor part of town. Mission workers fix it up for skid-row bum Edward G. Robinson, a former lawyer disgraced by scandal. He needs it to attend a class reunion.

Robinson is -- as always -- superb, and George Sanders provides his patented condescending nastiness as the poor man's nemesis.

James Gleason is great in the unusual role of the warm-hearted Mission chief. Usually he gets the comical fight-manager or bartender parts, but he could do other things.



Finally, the coat is stolen by stick-up men to serve as a disguise for a big heist. Escaping by plane they catch fire and the coat (with money!) is dropped on a shanty town of black sharecroppers. Singers Paul Robeson and Ethel Waters take the loot to their preacher who -- quite sensibly -- figures this is the answer to prayers and distributes it equitably to the whole town.

Eddie Anderson is best known for his gravelly voice and as sidekick "Rochester" to Jack Benny on the radio. I first noticed in Topper Returns (1941) that he had great comic sensibility and was witty in his performances. I love watching him.

Robeson objected to this segment after the film's release, and gave up on Hollywood entirely afterward. The wikipedia quotes him as saying the segment was:

Quote:

... very offensive to my people. It makes the Negro childlike and innocent and is in the old plantation hallelujah shouter tradition... the same old story, the negro singing his way to glory.
You can see his point in the stereotypes used. It is possible to be kindly meant, sentimental and offensively patronizing at the same time. Still, I enjoy the tale: it's funny and heartfelt.



A sixth tale with W.C. Fields, Phil Silvers and Margaret Dumont was not included on my DVD. It was cut from the original release but still exists and is part of broadcast versions.

Sol Kaplan score, lovely inventive cinematography by Joseph Walker.

Available on a barely adequate Fox DVD-R. This is a good restoration candidate.

-Bill
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post #1893 of 2229 Old 06-24-2017, 11:02 AM - Thread Starter
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The Valley of Gwangi (1969), directed by Jim O'Connolly.

Cowboys and dinosaurs: why not?

Pursuing a supposedly extinct tiny horse specimen, rodeo showmen in Mexico discover a sealed-away valley to the prehistoric. When are folks going to listen to the blind Gypsy woman and learn to leave well enough alone? They won't like Gwangi when he's angry, and he's always angry.

It's for the kids, if they don't mind some bloody creature violence. It is not as much fun as other Ray Harryhausen projects; his dinosaur effects look much like those in One Million Years B.C. (1966). For some reason his stop-motion effects work to give us good fantasy dinosaurs, probably because we don't know what they actually looked like. We're more familiar with humans and other mammals and the effects work less well for those.

This was originally a Willis O'Brien project and the plot is much like King Kong (1933): impresario fetches giant creature for money-making exhibition. It breaks loose causing much mayhem and has to be killed, this time in a burning cathedral, actually pretty horrific.

Just as we don't like seeing Kong in chains, so roping and tying Gwangi just seems wrong.

Richard Carlson's second-to-last picture.

Available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive. Later generations of effects artists give their appreciation of Harryhausen in a short extra. They all thought the seamless integration of real cowboys throwing lassos around the stop-motion Gwangi was particularly impressive.



-Bill

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post #1894 of 2229 Old 06-24-2017, 11:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
The Valley of Gwangi (1969), directed by Jim O'Connolly.



Cowboys and dinosaurs: why not?







-Bill
“Yeeeeee-HA!! Ride 'em, dino!!”

The young lady seems like neckwear even more than Mr. Franciscus. (And Gwangi doesn't like his t'all.)

Growing up in the 70s, I used to have a book on Harryhausen's film work. Every film he had some kind of interesting problem to solve, like time required in animating a 7-headed Hydra, matching skeleton sword play with Kerwin Matthews' live performance, etc. In this, the famous roping scene was a challenge.

I missed meeting him, there was a retrospective of his work at the Rafael theater before I moved east in 2000, 2001, and he was on the sidewalk being chatted up by ... well, several known people from ILM and Lucasfilm. I didn't dare stroll up and stand among so many esteemed wizards.
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post #1895 of 2229 Old 06-24-2017, 11:47 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChromeJob View Post

I missed meeting him, there was a retrospective of his work at the Rafael theater before I moved east in 2000, 2001, and he was on the sidewalk being chatted up by ... well, several known people from ILM and Lucasfilm. I didn't dare stroll up and stand among so many esteemed wizards.
In the extras I've seen, modern effects artists are honest about their envy of Harryhausen: he got to run his own shop and do everything himself. You can't do that anymore.

-Bill

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post #1896 of 2229 Old 06-26-2017, 11:03 AM - Thread Starter
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Holiday (1938), directed by George Cukor.

Somehow, free spirit Cary Grant falls in love with wealthy Doris Nolan. We soon see he is not going to fit in to her aristocratic class. He does strike sparks with the unconventional troublemaking sister, Katharine Hepburn.

An odd little comedy-drama with the first hints of countercultural resistance to having a job and making lots of money. Although: our hero makes some unspecified business killing so he can do his own thing after. The best of both worlds?

The cast:

  • Cary Grant demonstrates several back flips.
  • I've never seen Katharine Hepburn looking so tall and thin as here, and that's saying something.
  • Lew Ayres is both funny and sad as the always drunken, unhappy brother.
  • Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon are a hoot as the eccentric professors. I last saw her as Molly the wisecracking maid in My Man Godfrey (1936). This was her last feature film role; she lived another 43 years.

Adapted from a stage play and filmed previously in 1930. Horton played the same role in both film versions.

Available on DVD.



-Bill

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post #1897 of 2229 Old 06-26-2017, 11:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Keeper of the Flame (1942), directed by George Cukor.

A nation mourns the death of a hero but when a reporter wants to write about him he encounters resistance and mystery. All is not what it appears to be. Finally in the last few minutes the truth is revealed and we get a lecture on the danger of American fascism.

It's a good-looking film and benefits from the star combination of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. It has an ominous, brooding tone, enlivened by a few sparks of wit between Tracy and a reporter gal-pal. The long middle portion drifts a bit.

A theory: this was intended as a slam against Charles Lindbergh, a hero of titanic stature accused of pro-nazi sympathies.

Darryl Hickman, age 11, was last seen in Leave Her to Heaven (1945) when Gene Tierney watches him drown.



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post #1898 of 2229 Old 06-26-2017, 11:04 AM - Thread Starter
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Born Yesterday (1950), directed by George Cukor.

A crude, blustering Boss Man arrives in Washington for heavy lobbying. Judging his girlfriend lacks sufficient couth for such refined surroundings, he hires an intellectual to improve her manners and knowledge. That's a mistake.

I was constantly distracted while watching this, wondering "Why does this look so different than movies made just a few years earlier?" I never figured it out. Was it the quiet pacing, contrasted with the earlier frenetic screwball formula? A more modern look -- in what way? -- perhaps less stagey than the 1940s. Maybe the character of Broderick Crawford, which could just as easily have fit in a crime or corruption drama?

Low intensity comedy, with good use of DC locations and a dose of patriotic idealism.

Twilight Time Blu-ray.



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post #1899 of 2229 Old 06-26-2017, 11:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wmcclain View Post
Born Yesterday (1950), directed by George Cukor.

A crude, blustering Boss Man arrives in Washington for heavy lobbying. Judging his girlfriend lacks sufficient couth for such refined surroundings, he hires an intellectual to improve her manners and knowledge. That's a mistake.

I was constantly distracted while watching this, wondering "Why does this look so different than movies made just a few years earlier?" I never figured it out. Was it the quiet pacing, contrasted with the earlier frenetic screwball formula? A more modern look -- in what way? -- perhaps less stagey than the 1940s. Maybe the character of Broderick Crawford, which could just as easily have fit in a crime or corruption drama?

Low intensity comedy, with good use of DC locations and a dose of patriotic idealism.

-Bill
What, no love for Judy Holiday? Best actress Oscar and Golden Globe for this role. This was a stunningly good performance that put her on the map. Famously quoted as saying that one has to be pretty smart to play dumb. I see nothing in her performances to contradict that. Later married to Jerry Mulligan and did some singing.
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post #1900 of 2229 Old 06-26-2017, 01:08 PM
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Holiday (1938), directed by George Cukor.
Heh, saw this for the first time only a couple of weeks back, as wifey's on a Cary binge and I had run out of ammo. We found it pleasant enough, but no great shakes.

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Born Yesterday (1950), directed by George Cukor.
Now this, on the other hand, is one of my very favorite comedies. A fine cast, a fun plot, and Holliday's performance is absolutely terrific. It's no surprise she won the award. The film was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Costume Design.
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post #1901 of 2229 Old 06-26-2017, 02:06 PM
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Bill -- Your review of Holiday (1938) reminded me of Katharine Hepburn's years in the career wilderness when she had the reputation of being "Box office poison." After Holiday Hepburn turned her career around by buying out her contract with RKO and then buying the rights to The Philadelphia Story, which she then sold on condition that she could star in the film. The film, of course, was a hit. After that came her long and magical partnership, both on and off screen, with Spencer Tracy.
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post #1902 of 2229 Old 06-26-2017, 03:28 PM
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Since its a George Cukor festival, and we know he favored Hepburn:
Hepburn fans should already have this, but if you don't, you want it.
Love Among the Ruins
A project conceived for the purpose of putting Olivier and Hepburn together. Pretty sure it was a Hallmark TV movie, very hard to get.
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post #1903 of 2229 Old 06-27-2017, 07:45 AM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

I've been biding my time before buying the TT BD of Born Yesterday (missed out last year or was it 2015?). I should get off my duff and buy it before the limited ed. series runs out. It looks great from your shots.

Never seen Keeper of the Flame, and it's not on my Tracy/Hepburn boxed set. Clearly an overlooked film from the war (like, whatsitcalled, Top Secret with Tracy, Hepburn, and Lucille Ball).

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post #1904 of 2229 Old 06-27-2017, 10:54 AM
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I could sit and watch Judy Holiday shuffle her cards for hours.
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post #1905 of 2229 Old 06-27-2017, 01:10 PM
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I could sit and watch Judy Holiday shuffle her cards for hours.
Yep, the Gin Rummy scene is hilarious, and Holliday's manic, nuanced performance is one for the ages.

Crawford, himself, had won the Best Actor award just one year prior, for All the Kings Men.
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I loved Judy Holiday. She was an accomplished actress and comedienne, and adorable too. It's a shame she died so young (43).

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post #1907 of 2229 Old 07-01-2017, 11:36 AM - Thread Starter
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Deep End (1970), directed by Jerzy Skolimowski.

Mike, an innocent 15 year old, gets his first job in a decrepit bath house. Susan, a little older and much more experienced, shows him the ropes. It's the sort of place where men and women can both swim and get light sexual services, paying in tips.

Mike falls in love with Susan with jealous, idealistic, hormonally supercharged and all-consuming adolescent passion. She doesn't mind toying with his virginal naivete, but has serious business of her own to mind and bigger fish to fry.

In a long segment both funny and surreally disturbing, he stalks her when she's out with her boyfriend, steals a cardboard cutout of her posing as a stripper, finally tossing it in the pool and diving in with it, a foreshadowing of later tragic developments.

This was a great find. I had never heard of it until looking through the filmography of Jane Asher, last seen in The Masque of the Red Death (1964) and Alfie (1966). That face, hair, slim figure and intelligent demeanor: I could look at her all day. I had just read Philip Norman's massive Paul McCartney biography and she was a big part of his early life.

(Aside: McCartney was from a working class background and suddenly became a superstar. Asher was more posh: her father was an eminent physician and her mother a professor of music. She'd been acting since age 6. When she took up with McCartney at age 17 her parents allowed them to live together at their home. He had to sneak in and out by secret ways to avoid his fans. Several of his songs were written for Asher -- "And I Love Her", "Here, There and Everywhere" -- and they announced they were going to marry. It didn't happen, his fault for screwing around. He said: "The public never forgave me for splitting up with Jane Asher". I think their romance deserves a good film treatment).

The score uses Cat Stevens ("But I Might Die Tonight", composed for the film), instantly suggesting Harold and Maude (1971), and it does have the look and tone of Ashby's film. Another similar looking film would be Robert Altman's 3 Women (1977), also with a spa theme.

According to the film's wikipedia article, in 1982 David Lynch said:

Quote:
I don't like color movies and I can hardly think about color. It really cheapens things for me and there's never been a color movie I've freaked out over except one, this thing called Deep End, which had really great art direction.
(He started doing rather vivid color himself thereafter).

Kudos to the young leads for doing their own nudity and passion scenes. He was 17, she 23.

Note that Mike's first "special services" customer is Diana Dors, a blonde bombshell of the 1950s. Last seen in The Long Haul (1957) and briefly in Theatre of Blood (1973). Everyone says she had a great sense of humor.

Available on Blu-ray, an all-region import from BFI. The package includes a PAL DVD version, booklet and a good set of extras. I don't believe there has ever been a North American edition, but this version is excellent.

The image shows distinct film grain and is often nicely detailed, depending on the scene and lighting conditions. Beautiful color.

The British Film Institute produces good home video products.



-Bill
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post #1908 of 2229 Old 07-05-2017, 11:27 AM - Thread Starter
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Lifeboat (1944), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Miscellaneous notes in honor of the new Kino Blu-ray:

  • Possibly the best performances all the actors ever did.
  • Mrs. Higley, the mother with a dead child, is played by Heather Angel, last seen in The Undying Monster (1942).
  • Something about young Alice reminds me of Patricia Hitchcock. Mary Anderson is prettier but they sound alike.
  • I noticed this time how the floating wreckage anticipates the characters: playing cards, money, a lost doll.
  • The best scene: the amputation during a brisk squall. They've gotten Gus drunk, that being the only anesthetic they have. We see only a row of backs in the pitching boat, then someone turns and tosses down the empty shoe.
  • Gus's nemesis back home is Al Magaroulian, making time and dancing with his girl Rosie. Could we have an "Al & Rosie" home-front story, not at all what Gus suspects?
  • Connie's affectionate nickname for black steward Joe is "Charcoal". I'll bet he loved that.
  • Industrialist Ritt never does get Joe's name right. In the end he is surprised to find that Joe has a wife and family. He never thought to ask.
  • Much overlapping dialogue, a rare technique then.
  • Filmed in sequence so they could use the men's real beards.
  • Although shot in a studio tank it was a dangerous project and there was illness and broken bones.
  • The original idea was Hitchcock's. John Steinbeck gets screenwriting credit but several other people did major work on it after his first treatment.
  • Cinematographer Arthur Miller became ill and was replaced by Glen MacWilliams.
  • Hugo Friedhofer gets music credit but the feature itself is scoreless.
  • Some critics were savage at the time, saying the German officer was shown as too competent and the others as disorganized and helpless, until they become a pack of wild dogs.
  • Hitchcock said his point was that the allies were facing a disciplined enemy and had to get it together if they were going to win the war.
  • Historical note: the Battle of the Atlantic was all about sinking supply ships for England. The Allied deaths are estimated at about 72,000 sailors and merchant seamen and I don't know how many civilians. The Germans lost 30,000 among the U-boat crews.

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. Two commentary tracks.



-Bill
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post #1909 of 2229 Old 07-05-2017, 11:28 AM - Thread Starter
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The Paradine Case (1947), directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

A barrister becomes infatuated with a woman accused of killing her husband, which fascination will damage both his judgment and his own marriage. At trial he hopes to save her and hang her lover, presumably leaving the way open for himself. He is ensnared by his own trap.

It is not a complicated plot and is slowly paced with over-long courtroom scenes. Producer David O. Selznick interfered with the production and editing. He and Hitchcock were called "the irresistible force and the immovable object".

Notes:

  • Hitchcock did not get the cast he wanted. Instead of Gregory Peck he would have prefered Laurence Olivier or Ronald Colman. Rather than the immaculate Louis Jordan as valet he would have had Robert Newton as a grubbier character from the stables.
  • Alida Valli has the cool, imperial, mysterious beauty she will show in The Third Man (1949). Selznick had plans for her and insisted on the full glamour treatment in the way she is lit. I think she is fascinating but will always wonder what Ingrid Bergman would have done in the role. Hitchcock wanted Greta Garbo.
  • Peck's light English accent comes and goes. A good scene: he visits her bedroom and inspects her intimate surroundings while watched by her portrait, just as in Laura (1944).
  • Charles Laughton's lecherous hanging judge is memorable. He is probably a good judge but also dangerous and probably mental.
  • Ethel Barrymore, his wife, is terrified of him. In a cut scene, she says he becomes romantic after sentencing a woman to death. He says he'll have her committed.
  • They can't come out and say it: Jordan was devoted to the murdered man, is described as "very queer, hates all women", and loathes himself for what he did with the defendant. He also gets glamour lighting.
  • Something I hadn't seen before: in the Old Bailey the cells are just below the prisoner's dock. This is the first time I've seen the defendant make the whole trip from one floor to the next.
  • Franz Waxman's tempestuous score seems overly dramatic for what we are seeing.
  • This cost more to make than Selznick's Gone With the Wind (1939).

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The grain varies between reels but is often large and prominent.

On the commentary track two film scholars recognize the problems with the film, but still think it is underappreciated. It would have been better if Selznick had not interfered, or even if the missing 16 minutes cut from test screenings were restored.



-Bill
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post #1910 of 2229 Old 07-10-2017, 09:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Ride the High Country (1962), directed by Sam Peckinpah.

Two old lawmen meet by accident after many years. Threadbare Joel McCrea is down on his luck but still a straight-arrow: paid to transport gold from the mountain camps to the bank, he'll do the job conscientiously. Good humored Randolph Scott is more flexible about the gold. He doesn't want to rob his old friend, but will if he must.

They pick up young Mariette Hartley, fleeing her tyrannical Proverbs-quoting father for a fiance in the mining camps. They deliver her, but courageous as she is, she is also naive about her prospects. The groom's brothers are pretty loathsome and after a wedding in the bordello they expect a gang wedding night. They've done it before.

Old guys to the rescue! That's a theme: old men kick young tough guy butt. And yet: seniors may rule, but one thing they don't have is a future. That belongs to the young, literally in this case: it was Hartley's first film, Scott's last and McCrea's last good film.

This is just irresistible to fans: two old Western stars playing heroes at the end of their lives, at the end of the West itself, and perhaps at the end of the traditional Western. Their earlier adventures are their previous films, both as actors and as characters.

It has one of the best endings I can recall for this type of film:

Spoiler!


A good set of supporting actors, including some who would become part of Peckinpah's crew: R.G. Armstrong, L.Q. Jones, Warren Oates. Tough, cowardly, degenerate: they could do it all.

In the commentary it is suggested that he had his usual trouble with the studio ("I never knew anyone to respond so poorly to authority as Sam Peckinpah") and that the picture was taken away from him. I don't know the details; they also say he learned to edit on this film and his work is visible in the final cut.

According to the wikipedia:

Quote:
The movie was released on the bottom half of a double bill. William Goldman says he spoke to an MGM executive at the time who says the film had tested strongly but they felt the film "didn't cost enough to be that good".
Photographed by Lucien Ballard. It sometimes looks like a formula western of the 1950s, but also has good realism. A few of the outdoor scenes are stage sets but they don't harm the story.

The score is overly-dramatic Western action-adventure music.

Available on Blu-ray from Warner Archive, a very nice upgrade over the old DVD. The commentary track is carried forward from the DVD: Nick Redman hosts three Peckinpah scholars.



-Bill
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post #1911 of 2229 Old 07-15-2017, 07:50 AM - Thread Starter
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Sunrise (1927), directed by F. W. Murnau

Movies are good at showing some things, like color and action and simple intense emotions. Other things they don't do at all, like scent or sensations like breeze on the hairs of your skin.

Difficult but possible are the nuanced emotions, the quiet inner dialogues, the waiting times when nothing seems to be moving (my favorite: James Stewart dozing in his wheelchair, listening to his neighborhood at night in Rear Window (1954)).

What is really strange is that sometimes these subtle elements are best told via old silent film techniques of exaggerated acting, and the German Expressionism that uses tilted floors and distorted furniture, giving a dreamlike ambiance, or one of fable.

This fable is set in no specific time or place. An American film that looks quite European, with country peasants visiting a city just slightly in the future, with glimpses of Metropolis or Gotham.

We begin in the middle of a sad tale: the country Man is bewitched by the vacationing Woman From the City. Everyone knows it, including the Wife, played by patiently suffering Janet Gaynor, a major talent of the 1920s and 30s.

The City Woman wants to take the Man back to the city. What of his wife? "You could drown her, make it look like an accident". Such is the depth of his degrading infatuation that he will try to do it.

Believe it or not, we get past that terrible segment and into fun times for the married couple after they row across the lake and take a train into the city. Many funny and heart-warming episodes here: my favorite bit is when an orchestra tries to snub them by playing a "Peasant Dance". Unashamed of who she is (and wiser than her husband), the Wife goes with it and everyone joins in to have a good time.

The day-long dream must end, then it is back across the lake to their different reality, into a storm and dramatic developments.

A remarkable adventure, going to all sort of unexpected and incongruous places. Famous for its innovative camera work.

Available on Blu-ray, which includes:

  • the American version with both the original Movietone music and sound effects track and a more modern score. Both sound lovely.

    Cinematographer John Bailey provides an intelligent, informative commentary track.
  • the shorter European silent version, with some alternative angles.
  • ten minutes of outtakes showing alternative versions of some scenes.



-Bill
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post #1912 of 2229 Old 07-17-2017, 05:34 AM - Thread Starter
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Scarlet Street (1945), produced and directed by Fritz Lang.

A meek, unhappily married clerk (Edward G. Robinson) wants to be a painter. He gets wrapped up with a couple of grifters; the Code won't let them spell it out but Joan Bennett is obviously a hooker being pimped by Dan Duryea. After mutual deception and gender confusion our clerk's paintings become well regarded and he gets away with murder. Or he would have gotten away if it weren't for the voices haunting him...

This is a remake of Jean Renoir's La Chienne (1931) ("The Bitch"). Lang made a similar film with all three leads the previous year: The Woman in the Window (1944).

Available on Blu-ray from Kino. The commentary track by a Lang scholar gives good insight into the plot and much interesting background on the director and cast.



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post #1913 of 2229 Old 07-20-2017, 09:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Gargoyles (1972), directed by Bill Norton.

It's nothing special but I have fond memories of this micro-budget TV-movie creature feature. It has good elements: the customary "the ancient legends are true" if only we take the old artwork and folklore seriously. The desert old-timer who runs a reptile roadside attraction and collects skeletal curios: he knows what's going on. The idea of a society of night creatures unknown to us.

And, as with King Kong (1933) and Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), we have the monster's fascination with human females. Beauty must be universal, even when biology says "no".

A good cast and crew:

  • Cornel Wilde: a swashbuckler from decades past, never given much respect as an actor. He directed some worthy films: The Naked Prey (1966) and No Blade of Grass (1970) for example.
  • Jennifer Salt: playing his daughter, screams a lot. Halter tops were big that year and she has quite the collection. Good deal. I don't much remember the actress except as Woody Allen's blind date in Play It Again, Sam (1972) (same year, same shag haircut). Asked the name of the film she had just been in (from memory): "Gang Bang. Silly title, it wasn't the least bit sexy".
  • Grayson Hall: A lonely motel owner always holding a glass of booze, even in the police car. It was the actress's idea. Well known from Dark Shadows and last seen in The Night of the Iguana (1964).
  • Bernie Casey: heavily made-up as the gargoyle king, a handsome Devil. His voice is someone else's, electronically distorted. A winged gargoyle riding a horse: that's a striking image.
  • Scott Glenn: an outlaw dirt-biker who turns out to be all right.
  • Stan Winston: his first film credit, for "gargoyle makeup".

Available on DVD. The director's commentary track is from decades later. He still finds it entertaining given the time and budget constraints. Obviously he'd do some things differently.

It was a brutal 18 day production schedule. Terrible heat and many night scenes, meaning they slept on Sunday but that was about it.

The creatures are ok from the chest up but when you see the full body they are obviously men in rubber suits. Pity the stuntmen: in that heat they were dying in those wetsuits.

To conceal the cheeziness some of the gargoyle scenes are step-printed, giving an eerie, jerky slow-motion effect. As a distraction it is not a bad idea.

He says Carlsbad has an abundance of rattlesnakes.



-Bill

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post #1914 of 2229 Old 07-20-2017, 04:36 PM
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M'God, I was too busy to check the other thread. I rmember when this was on TV, and the scene inside the desert curio vendor's building scared the living bejeezus out of this kid. I always chalked it up to use of sound ... the flapping of wings ... bangs on the building, the presumption that SOMETHING was out there.... NIght of the living dead grade stuff, I thought.

Scene in the motel room, a typical siege scene(?), also scared me but when reviewing the movie as an adult, meh. You're right, showing the monsters later dissolved any fright factor. Should've gone full Cat People on this script and it could've been a classic. Imagine if Bernie Casey was in shadows like Marlon in Apocalypse Now.

When they came out with an animated series, I hoped that this would get a retread. NO such luck, I'm afraid.


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post #1915 of 2229 Old 07-22-2017, 07:27 AM - Thread Starter
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The Big Clock (1948), directed by John Farrow.

A different form of the old double-chase: publishing tycoon Charles Laughton uses his empire to hunt down a witness who saw him commit a murder, while the witness -- crime editor Ray Milland -- evades pursuit while still on the job -- assigned to find himself -- and tries to get the goods on his boss.

In Hitchcockian style, our hero Ray Milland is slightly guilty. He spent a drunken -- if largely innocent -- night carousing with the murdered woman and listened to her plans for blackmailing the boss. As the hunt closes in on him he is willing to frame someone else for the murder.

It helps that is Milland is naturally sort of shifty, a trait that made him so effective in Dial M For Murder (1954).

This is lighter than your typical crime thriller and almost a screwball comedy. Elsa Lanchester is a hoot as a ditsy artist who can still count the payoff money.

Victor Young score. Edith Head costumes.

Remade as No Way Out (1987) with Kevin Costner. I'm not remembering that well enough to comment on the differences.

Available on DVD. There is something wrong with the fine detail, presumably the side effect of some restoration or sharpening effort.



-Bill
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post #1916 of 2229 Old 07-22-2017, 07:28 AM - Thread Starter
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The Seventh Sin (1957), directed by Ronald Neame.

When a doctor's wife is caught having an affair she explains that she doesn't love or respect her husband and that she objects to the way he has accepted all of her excuses for not having sex. Apparently a more manly man would have insisted on getting what he wanted.

As revenge, the doctor takes her hundreds of miles inland where he will be fighting a cholera outbreak. Will this fix anything, or just solve it by ending everything?

It's not a great film and the acting drifts between histrionic soap opera emoting and more subdued emotions. Its points of interest:

  • Eleanor Parker! I can't help it, she's fascinating.
  • It has literary origins in a W. Somerset Maugham novel, made previously under its own name with Greta Garbo and Herbert Marshall in The Painted Veil (1934) and again with Naomi Watts and Edward Norton in The Painted Veil (2006).
  • George Sanders gets a rare nice-guy role, although he doesn't let on at first.

It closely tracks the book, omitting the final acts when she returns to Hong Kong and then to England. A sobering point from the text: the children at the orphanage were all girls because the Sisters had bought them from parents who would have killed them otherwise.

The movie really doesn't need to be in scope ratio. Although labeled as CinemaScope, it was a cheaper process using standard spherical 35mm film zoomed and distributed as anamorphic prints.

Miklós Rózsa provides his usual tempestuous, lyrical score.

Ronald Neame gets directing credit but at some point he was fired and the film was completed by Vincente Minnelli.

Warner Archive DVD with a soft image.



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post #1917 of 2229 Old 07-22-2017, 07:29 AM - Thread Starter
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All Night Long (1962), directed by Basil Dearden.

An Othello plot done all in one night at a British jazz club.

Rex and Delia are jazz royalty, loved and respected by all. Weaselly drummer Johnnie (Patrick McGoohan, talking American and smoking dope) needs singer Delia to come out of retirement and join his new band. He'll break up the couple by spreading rumors about her and another musician. It doesn't take much to stir the green-eye monster.

It's not a bad little drama in its own right and has considerable historical interest. The vision of racial amity at the jazz club is just taken for granted and includes mixed race couples, rare in movies then. We have a huge set of real musicians playing themselves, including Charles Mingus and Dave Brubeck. It works pretty well, which is unusual when you have so many non-professional actors.

Available on DVD from Criterion.



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post #1918 of 2229 Old 07-23-2017, 06:37 AM
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Review older films here: 1979 and earlier

It's included in a Basil Dearden retrospective on Filmstruck. Also one of Sir Roger Moore's favorites, "The Man Who Haunted Himself." Haven't seen since reruns on TV, looking forward to it.



Also looking forward to a little Bill Travers, Virginia McKenna film called The Smallest Show On Earth about a couple trying to revive a movie theater. Some of those small sounding post-war British films end up having the biggest charms.

McGoohan was a front runner to introduce James Bond to film audiences, wonder what the history of that franchise would be like with him in the role.
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post #1919 of 2229 Old 07-26-2017, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
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The Spiral Staircase (1946), directed by Robert Siodmak.

A serial killer is preying upon disabled women. During a long dark and stormy night in the big old house we become concerned for mute Dorothy McGuire, still suffering from childhood trauma. Strangely enough, everyone worries about her: don't trust anyone, they say. And get out of that house.

The setup reminds me of a memorable episode of the The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "An Unlocked Window" with Dana Wynter. In fact, Ethel Lina White, the writer of this film is also credited for the TV episode, for the same story or another, I do not know.

The first and last acts are good. The middle section goes slack; we're probably supposed to examine each character and suspect everyone in turn of being the psycho-killer. Nicholas Musuraca has his dramatic lighting and shadows and makes inventive use of a moving camera, putting us into the scene.

With Rhonda Fleming, age 23, Elsa Lanchester, and Ethel Barrymore, last seen in The Paradine Case (1947). Kent Smith made a living dealing with psychological trauma: see Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944).

Nicholas Musuraca photography and Roy Webb score: that formidable RKO combination. A theremin means insanity.

Available on DVD.



-Bill
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post #1920 of 2229 Old 07-27-2017, 06:16 AM - Thread Starter
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The Crawling Eye (1958), directed by Quentin Lawrence.

Aka The Trollenberg Terror.

This is a typical low-budget British creature feature of the period and enjoyable on that level. The great flaming alien eyeballs at the climax are admittedly rudimentary special effects.

Adapted from a TV show and written by Jimmy Sangster, who was a creative force at Hammer, but this was produced and distributed by "Tempean Films" and "Eros Films Ltd".

As is customary for British SF back then they have an American lead (Forrest Tucker) in hopes of finding a US audience. It has a strong "Quatermass" tone with UN scientists confronting the alien menace. It's actually kind of a little Lovecraft plot, although I suspect most people who say that haven't read him.

Endearing Janet Munro, in her second year in films, is in telepathic contact with the alien invaders.

I have read that this was the first movie lampooned by Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Available on DVD.



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