Wednesday, September 30, 2020
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Sunday, September 27, 2020
Saturday, September 26, 2020
Friday, September 25, 2020
Thursday, September 24, 2020
Wednesday, September 23, 2020
Tuesday, September 22, 2020
Monday, September 21, 2020
Sunday, September 20, 2020
Saturday, September 19, 2020
An impetuous young girl (Glynis Johns) has a weakness for underdogs. She's engaged to a successful businessman (Donald Sinden) but when she meets his old school chum (Peter Finch), a struggling writer who's penniless, she jilts her fiancé and marries the writer. Directed by Roy Boulting (THE FAMILY WAY), this is a tepid comedy with some talented players who do what they can to prop up the often dreary activities. I mean what can you say about a comedy which results in a happy ending when someone commits suicide by shooting himself? Johns is an expert comedienne and does flighty very well and Finch and Sinden do okay huffing and puffing about. But it's Jack Buchanan (THE BAND WAGON) as Glynis Johns' confirmed bachelor Uncle whose wry underplaying adds a bit of class to the proceedings. With Lisa Gastoni, Ronald Squire, William Hartnell and Victor Maddern.
A young English girl (Emilia Fox) works as a companion to a wealthy American widow (Faye Dunaway). While they are vacationing in Monte Carlo, she meets the enigmatic widower Max de Winter (Charles Dance) and falls in love with him. They marry but she is ill prepared to become the mistress of the fabled Manderley estate or replace the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca. Based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier and directed by Jim O'Brien. Du Maurier's novel has been adapted for film (notably Hitchcock's Oscar winning 1940 film), television, the stage and even an opera. At three hours, this adaptation takes a leisurely pace but not necessarily any more faithful to Du Maurier's source material than the Hitchcock adaptation. The production makes the mistake of having a flashback scene where we actually get to see and hear Rebecca (Lucy Cohu) whereas in the novel and other adaptations, Rebecca is always talked about but never seen. As Max de Winter, Charles Dance is rather surly and unpleasant without the charismatic charm that would compensate for his bad tempered behavior. Fortunately, there's Diana Rigg who gives a terrific performance as Mrs. Danvers. She makes Danvers her own, owing nothing to Judith Anderson's iconic performance in the 1940 film. With Geraldine James, Dennis Lill, Tom Chadbon, Timothy West and Jonathan Cake who overacts terribly!
Friday, September 18, 2020
Thursday, September 17, 2020
Set during WWII, an Air Force pilot (Robert Young) is maimed and has his face disfigured when his plane crashes. He seeks isolation away from friends and family at a secluded seaside cottage where he meets a homely girl (Dorothy McGuire) who helps him want to live again. Based on the play by Arthur Wing Pinero (which was previously filmed in 1924) and directed by John Cromwell. In other hands, this could have been a sickly sentimental piece but as he did with SINCE YOU WENT AWAY, Cromwell guides the film with a firm directorial hand that avoids the soppy traps that might have derailed the movie into a morass of mawkishness. In this effort, he's helped enormously by Dorothy McGuire, a no nonsense actress who gives us pathos without excessive sentimentality and Robert Young who hits just the right notes of self pity and sensitivity. The public ate it up and the film has continued to win fans over the years. One of the cinema's great romantic treasures. With Mildred Natwick (whose character was a witch in the original play), Herbert Marshall, Spring Byington and Hillary Brooke.
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Two adolescent girls (Amanda Plummer, Diane Lane) have romanticized western outlaws due to the dime novels they've read. They seek out and join the remnants of the Doolin-Dalton gang led by Bill Doolin (Burt Lancaster). Based on the novel by Robert Ward and directed by Lamont Johnson (LIPSTICK). This affable western with a bit of charm is based on real characters (Cattle Annie and Little Britches did exist) but the film is fictionalized. The movie turns a reflective eye on the fading West but without the unsettling violence of something like THE WILD BUNCH. It's more nostalgic and with a slight sense of regret. Plummer (in her film debut) and Lane are wonderful but as good as they are, they can't steal the movie away from Lancaster whose iconic presence is too strong but his performance is a beauty. As Lancaster's nemesis, Rod Steiger is surprisingly restrained and once again proves what a marvelous actor he can be. Hats off to Larry Pizer's evocative cinematography. With John Savage, Scott Glenn and Buck Taylor.
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
The son (James MacArthur) of a wealthy film producer (James Daly) lives in a beautiful home in Beverly Hills but his father is a cold man. Not only to his son but to his wife (Kim Hunter). When the boy gets into a fight with the manager (Whit Bissell) of a movie theatre and is arrested by the police, it only makes the gulf between father and son wider. Written by Robert Dozier (who adapted his 1955 teleplay for the screen) and directed by John Frankenheimer (MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE). Frankenheimer had been acquiring a reputation directing live television in the 1950s including DEAL A BLOW in 1955 so when it was adapted for a film two years later under the title THE YOUNG STRANGER, Frankenheimer made his feature film debut. MacArthur and Bissell recreate their roles in the film with James Daly and Kim Hunter stepping in for Macdonald Carey and Phyllis Thaxter. The benchmark for these juvenile delinquent movies is REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. STRANGER even has a score by Leonard Rosenman who scored REBEL. But whereas REBEL had an ambiguous ending in that we didn't know what would happen next, this film ties it up in a neat little ribbon of reconciliation as son, father and mother walk off into the sunset arm in arm. It also bears some resemblance to ORDINARY PEOPLE which would come years later, only this time it's the father who's the icy one. MacArthur's "misunderstood" kid is pretty obnoxious but the film makers seem to want us to overlook that because he's not getting any love at home. It's okay but no surprises (kids behaving badly because adults don't care). With James Gregory, Marian Seldes and Jeffrey Silver (perhaps the most likable character in the cast).
Monday, September 14, 2020
A saddle tramp (Howard Duff) attempts to distance himself from his outlaw family by changing his name. The headstrong daughter (Ann Blyth) of a horse breeder (George Brent) defies her father when she attempts to tame a wild stallion. The two stories merge when the drifter and the girl meet. Based on the novel WILDFIRE by Zane Grey and directed by George Sherman (COUNT THREE AND PRAY). This is a slightly above average oater, beautifully photographed in three stip Technicolor by Irving Glassberg (TARNISHED ANGELS). For awhile, it seems slightly schizophrenic as the Duff storyline and the Blyth storyline play out separately until they merge. There's not much one can say about a standard western like this other than it does what it set out to do and did it well. Even if you're not a westerns buff, you should find it entertaining. With Lloyd Bridges, John McIntire, Chill Wills, Jane Darwell and Denver Pyle.
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Saturday, September 12, 2020
An aspiring fashion designer (Jennifer Lopez) falls in love with a handsome young doctor (Michael Vartan). Everything seems to be on track to wedded bliss until she meets his neurotic mother (Jane Fonda), who'll stop at nothing to prevent the marriage from taking place. Directed by Robert Luketic, this was Fonda's return to movies after a 15 year absence. Obviously, she didn't choose this vehicle for its artistic merit. She thought it would be a moneymaker and it was. The film itself is a ghastly by the numbers romcom with all the cliches of the genre including the gay best friend (Adam Scott). Without Fonda, the film would be intolerable. Fonda doesn't make the movie better (she's an actress, not a magician) but she does make it more enjoyable. She jumps into her role with glee and one can't help but feel sorry for poor Lopez. She doesn't stand a chance in her scenes with Fonda. Fonda devours her. With Wanda Sykes (who provides a few laughs), Elaine Stritch and Will Arnett.
After shedding a husband (Gary Raymond), a spoiled heiress (Sophia Loren) turns her attention to an impoverished Indian doctor (Peter Sellers) in a poverty stricken area of London. But he has no interest in her or her money but she is determined that he is to be her next husband and what she wants, she gets. Based on the play by George Bernard Shaw and directed by Anthony Asquith. Asquith would seem the ideal director for a film version of THE MILLIONAIRESS as he directed one of the best adaptations of a Shaw play into film, PYGMALION (1938). But the movie is a travesty of the Shaw play. Sophia Loren looks fantastic in her haute couture Pierre Balmain wardrobe but she's miscast here. She's too passionate for Shaw's haughty ice queen. Peter Sellers is supposed to be Egyptian but he plays it as an Indian so he can do his patented Indian schtick (he'd return to it eight years later with more success in THE PARTY). All the wit from Shaw's play is gone and replaced with dull comedic bits and characterizations. Not even's Loren's considerable star presence can hold our interest after awhile. With Vittorio De Sica, Alistair Sim, Dennis Price, Alfie Bass, Miriam Karlin, Eleanor Summerfield and Noel Purcell.
Friday, September 11, 2020
A strict and unyielding judge (Fredric March) sees the law in terms of black and white with no leeway. When his wife (Florence Eldridge) becomes terminally ill and suffers unbearable pain, his thoughts lead to the unthinkable. Based on the novel by Ernst Lothar and directed by Michael Gordon (PILLOW TALK). This is a provocative well done drama. It's often referred to as a film noir but I don't see it that way. It's a fairly gripping tale of a man painted into a corner where the very core of his moral values are challenged. I had some ethical problems with the movie and yes, I realize it's unwise to judge a 72 year old movie by 2020 sensibilities. But I bristled when a seriously ill patient is not told of her illness, surely it's her right to know and it's quite possible the shock of finding out the diagnosis on her own contributed to the eventual tragedy. Then there's a scene where a dog is struck by a car. Do they rush it to the vet? No, a cop decides to shoot it to put it out of its misery! If you can get past that, you'll find an engrossing legal drama even if you don't agree with where it comes down. With Edmond O'Brien, Geraldine Brooks, John McIntire, Stanley Ridges and Virginia Brissac.
Returning from an extended honeymoon, the wife (Diana Rigg) of an academic (Dennis Lill) feels bored and trapped in a stifling marriage with a man she doesn't love. When an ex-lover (Philip Bond) shows up after writing a best selling book, she seizes on an opportunity to not only manipulate the outcome of his relationship with a married woman (Elizabeth Bell) but his very fate. Based on the classic play by Henrik Ibsen and directed by David Cunliffe. Hedda Gabler is one of the greatest parts ever written for an actress in the theater (perhaps only equaled by Blanche in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE) so it has attracted many great actresses. Among them Ingrid Bergman, Glenda Jackson, Maggie Smith, Eleonora Duse, Claire Bloom, Isabelle Huppert. Here, the great Diana Rigg takes on the challenge and acts the hell out of it. Rigg has a splendid voice and she uses it to perfection here. Just the slightest intonation or lowering of pitch can reveal so much about this complex, neurotic woman. A woman so unhappy that she can't stand the thought of others being happy so she must destroy it. A woman who would rather die than not be free. One can see why she married her husband, she can control him but the idea of being under someone's thumb is anathema to her. It's not the best production I've seen of HEDDA GABLER but Rigg's performance should be seen. With Kathleen Byron and Alan Dobie.
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
A shrewish wife (Ava Gardner) and her henpecked husband (Anthony Quinn) anxiously await the arrival of their son (Ray Sharkey) who has been away from home for a long time. When he shows up, he is not alone. He has brought his fiancee (Anna Karina) who his parents didn't know about. This causes the domineering mother to have a meltdown and family secrets are exposed. Based on the play LA MIENNE S'APPELAIT REGINE by Pierre Rey (who adapted his play for the screen) and directed by Jean Yves Prate (his only film as a director). This is essentially a filmed play. It all takes place on one set (a living room and dining room) and there are only four characters in the whole movie. It's the barely disguised spawn of Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? but the dialogue is trite. It's an Italian film written and adapted by a French playwright and performed in English so it might be a case of artistic culture shock. I can see why an aging beauty like Gardner might have been attracted to the project, a chance to show she could really act so it's a pity the script and direction let her down at every opportunity. The film vaguely hints at a past incestuous relationship between the mother and son (who may be autistic) and Anna Karina spends most of the film mute until the movie's last 20 minutes. All four actors are talented but they drown in the ineptitude of the film makers.
At a dinner party in Hong Kong, a naval commander (Michael Hordern) relates a dream he had. An airplane with 8 passengers (7 men and a woman) and 3 crew members that gets lost and crashes. By coincidence, two of the men (Michael Redgrave, Alexander Knox) at the party are flying to Japan the next day. They find out they are two of eight passengers, one of who is a woman (Sheila Sim). Slowly but surely the details of the dream turn into reality. Based on the story by Sir Victor Goddard and directed by Leslie Norman. This is a first rate suspense thriller with an excellent cast of British actors and a carefully constructed screenplay by R.C. Sheriff that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Some may dismiss it as an extended TWILIGHT ZONE episode but with apologies to Rod Serling, no TZ episode was this well written and it has to sustain the suspense for over 90 minutes, not just a half hour. Malcolm Arnold (BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI) did the fine undersccore. With Denholm Elliott, Alexander Knox, Ursula Jeans, Victor Maddern, Alfie Bass and George Rose.
Monday, September 7, 2020
A teenage girl (13 year old Tuesday Weld in her film debut) wants a strapless blue gown for the prom but the exorbitant price of $30 is out of her price range and she's maxed out her allowance. What's a girl to do? Directed by Will Price, the movie plays out like an episode from a sitcom like FATHER KNOWS BEST. What makes the film of archival interest are the rock 'n roll musical acts crammed into the film. Rock 'n roll was the craze among teenagers around the nation and sensing this, its film makers figured why not make a movie with a simplistic storyline and fill it up with rock acts and watch the kids pack the seats. It worked, the movie was a sleeper hit. Among the popular rock 'n roll acts of the day performing in the film: Chuck Berry, Frankie Lymon, Johnny Burnette, Teddy Randazzo, The Flamingos, LaVern Baker and the rock disc jockey, Alan Freed. Tuesday Weld's singing is dubbed by Connie Francis (who would become a major star 2 years later) and gets a screen credit all her own. If you're a fan of 50s rock 'n roll, you may find it tolerable. With Jack Collins, Fran Manfred and Jacqueline Kerr.
A young Prussian princess (Marlene Dietrich) is summoned to Russia by the Empress Elizabeth (Louise Dresser) to marry her half witted nephew (Sam Jaffe), the Grand Duke Peter and the heir to the Russian throne. Directed by Josef von Sternberg, this isn't so much about Russian history (accuracy is sacrificed for grandeur) as an exercise in style. The film is as cuckoo as the dimwitted Peter! Of course, it's not a serious overview of the woman who would become known to the world as Catherine The Great. It's an opportunity for von Sternberg and his cinematographer Bert Clennon (HOUSE OF WAX) to play with light and shadow and fawn over Dietrich as a camera subject. Dietrich isn't very good in the early portions of the film as the wide eyed, gaping mouth virgin. She comes into to her own later in the film as the ambitious and sexual Tsarina. Louise Dresser as the coarse hard as nails dowager Empress gives the best performance in the film even if she comes across as more Hoosier than Russian. It may not be "Art" but it's one of a kind and grandly entertaining. The film got out right before the Hays Code crackdown so it's still pretty racy. With John Davis Lodge, C. Aubrey Smith, Gavin Gordon and Ruthelma Stevens.
Sunday, September 6, 2020
Saturday, September 5, 2020
A naive small town girl (Ellen Drew) goes to the big city where she finds herself forced into prostitution. When her brother (Philip Terry) goes to the city to find her, he is framed by the gangster (Paul Lukas) who forced the girl into prostitution for murder. Directed by Stuart Heisler (THE GLASS KEY), this odd combination of crime and horror is neither fish nor fowl. The title is a misnomer, there is no monster. Just a homicidal gorilla bent on revenge. It's complicated far fetched plot burdens whatever (unlikely) promise it may have had. We're to accept that a giant ape is able to freely roam the streets of a major urban city without detection? This isn't a pre code film but I'm surprised at what was allowed to sneak through. It's very discreet but the implication of white slavery prostitution is very much there as well as the suggestion that Drew's character had a very satisfying night of sex when she wakes up in the bed she shared with Robert Paige. I'm making it sound more titillating than it is. Actually, I kind of enjoyed it even though I could tell it was a bit of a mess. With George Zucco (again playing another unethical doctor conducting dubious experiments), Joseph Calleia, Rod Cameron, Gerald Mohr and Marc Lawrence.
A socially prominent Southern belle (Miriam Hopkins) is a flirt and the granddaughter of a Judge (Guy Standing). On a stormy night while out joy riding with a drunken boy (William Collier Jr.), the car crashes and they are "rescued" by a group of bootleggers. It is there that her nightmare begins after she is raped by a gangster (Jack La Rue) and becomes his mistress after he places her in a brothel (it's supposed to be a boarding house but we know better). Based on the novel SANCTUARY by William Faulkner and directed by Stephen Roberts. One of the most controversial of the pre-code films and one of the reasons the Hays Code came into play. While nowhere near salacious as its source material, the film makers had to edit several scenes in the movie but this is still pretty raw stuff for the era. So much so that the film wasn't seen for years after its release except for bootleg copies. The film is anchored by a sensational performance by the too often undervalued Miriam Hopkins in a complex role and far different from the two Lubitsch films (SMILING LIEUTENANT, TROUBLE IN PARADISE) she'd done. The film is confidently directed by Roberts and it's a pity he died only three years later (he was just 40) because he might have fulfilled the promise he showed here. Ironically, Jack La Rue would play a similar role in NO ORCHIDS FOR MISS BLANDISH (1948) which usurps the basic premise of the Faulkner novel. With William Gargan, Irving Pichel, Florence Eldridge, Jobyna Howland and Louise Beavers.
Friday, September 4, 2020
A young college student (Timothee Chalamet) in upstate New York accompanies his girlfriend (Elle Fanning) to Manhattan (where he grew up) when she's assigned to interview a famous film director (Liev Schreiber) for the school newspaper. Written and directed by Woody Allen, the film never saw a U.S. release but was released theatrically in Europe, Asia and South America. I was a big fan of Allen's previous film WONDER WHEEL which was pretty much ignored which is a pity as it was very good. Alas, Allen seems to have lost touch with this one. It's yet another ode to his beloved New York but it's no ANNIE HALL or HANNAH AND HER SISTERS. His two protagonists are 21 year old college students but they don't act or speak like real college kids, they talk and act like 40ish characters in a Woody Allen movie. I mean how many college students stay at the Pierre Hotel and then go to the Carlyle to listen to Irving Berlin ballads? The film has the usual Allen attitude regarding non New Yorkers: Selena Gomez says to Chalamet, "You're dating someone from Arizona? What do you talk about ... cactus?". If you're familiar with Allen's filmography then you've seen this all before and better. Bathed in gold and amber hues, the film looks gorgeous and why wouldn't it when Vittorio Storaro did the cinematography. Of course, there's the requisite jazz records underscore. For the Allen completists only. With Jude Law, Diego Luna, Kelly Rohrbach, Rebecca Hall and Cherry Jones as Chalamet's mother who has one terrific scene.
A young woman (Gale Storm) arrives in Los Angeles looking for her missing sister. When she discovers her sister is dead and supposedly committed suicide, she refuses to believe she took her own life. Teaming with a newspaper reporter (Dennis O'Keefe), their journey leads them to the unsavory world of black market baby brokers. Directed by Joseph M. Newman (THIS ISLAND EARTH), this is a skillful B programmer that follows the traditional film noir path with ace results. It benefits from a semi documentary approach (it even has a narrator) and authentic L.A. locations. I didn't detect any studio scenes. That underrated cinematographer William H. Daniels (SOME CAME RUNNING) is responsible for the evocative B&W atmosphere, almost the entire film takes place at night with only a couple of daytime scenes. The acting is fine (though O'Keefe's character is annoying at times) but two performances stand out. Raymond Burr as a slimy private dick and Marjorie Rambeau as the cold blooded baby broker. The underscore is comprised of stock music but the main title is recognizable as the work of Miklos Rozsa. With Jeff Chandler (who also does the voice over narration), Jeanette Nolan, Will Kuluva, Mike Mazurki and Meg Randall.
Thursday, September 3, 2020
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
A diabetic woman (Yvonne De Bray) lives her life around her immature son (Jean Marais) and holds him to her with a tight grip. When he announces he's fallen in love, she becomes hysterical. The news is also a shock to his father (Marcel Andre) because the girl (Josette Day) is his ex-mistress. The parents are determined to break up the relationship. Based a play by and directed by Jean Cocteau. The film shows its theatrical roots as it's played out in three distinct acts and the entire film takes place on two sets. But this allows the ensemble of actors (Gabrielle Dorziat as an Aunt is the fifth character) to take center stage and we're rewarded with five superb performances. I would imagine 1948 audiences might have been shocked by the overt incestuous interplay between the mother and son (they're constantly kissing, he climbs into bed with her and offers to do her hair and make-up) but Marais' child like innocence manages to temper our squeamishness. The film is quite funny most of the time but there's always an underlying sense that this won't end well. It's also nice to see Marais and Day reunited in very different roles from their turn in Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST. Highly recommended.
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
A stagecoach guard (Randolph Scott) is bushwhacked by a gang of outlaws that he's been trailing for a few years. When the outlaws shoot up and rob a stagecoach, the townspeople are under the impression that the guard was part of the gang. In reality, the stagecoach robbery was a ruse to detract the law into forming a posse and hunting them down while they backtrack and and rob the town which is left without protection. Based on the short story RIDING SOLO by Kenneth Taylor Perkins and directed by Andre De Toth (HOUSE OF WAX). The film has none of the complexity or subtext of the superior Boetticher westerns that Scott would begin making in a couple of years but it's much better than a lot of the westerns Scott was making around this time. My only problem with the movie is how stupid everybody is including our hero. Scott deliberately falls into a trap in order to catch the outlaw (James Millican) he's been chasing and thus is responsible for the mess he later finds himself in. His stupidity and arrogance got him there. The outlaws are bunglers and the townspeople are idiots too, blindly accusing a man as guilty based on hearsay so one has no sympathy for them either. That aside, this is a more than decent western and De Toth manages to keep the tension quotient tight. There's a good underscore by David Buttolph. With Charles Bronson, Wayne Morris, Joan Weldon and Paul Picerni.