Saturday, April 6, 2019

Recent Watches From the 40s

Across the Pacific - John Huston - Bit of a snooze. Maybe more than a bit. And man, that anti-Japanese racism gets hard to take as you watch more and more stuff from the period.

Act of Violence - Fred Zinnemann - Hey, Christa Faust pointed out I gave the wrong review for this one.. which I've now deleted. I did enjoy this one, but I was really floored by Robert Ryan in On Dangerous Ground... dammit.

All Through the Night - Vincent Sherman - Lower tier Bogart takes a hostage movie.

The Bribe - Robert Z. Leonard - Not great, but enjoyable as a huge fan of Carl Reiner's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid appreciating the way all the footage was re-contextualized (and improved in my opinion). If you too share a love of the Steve Martin noir parody you'll be screaming "Senor, your pa-ya-mas!" and slurring "Ethel Merman" in the back half like I did.

Dancing With Crime - John Paddy Carstairs - Mid-level success. Cabbies make wonderful noir protagonists but this is no 99 River Street and Richard Attenborough is pretty good, but this is no Brighton Rock.

The Devil Thumbs a Ride - Felix E. Feist - Lawrence Tierney is a fucking convincing fucking psychopath. Fuck. Between this one and Born to Kill, he's an all-timer.

Eyes in the Night - Fred Zinnemann - I think the blind detective sub-genre is probably never going to please me.

Fallen Angel - Otto Preminger - Probably my favorite Preminger. Linda Darnell - whoo boy. This time around I paired it with Nightmare Alley for a terrific seance-scam double bill. Recommend.

Framed - Richard Wallace - Ford is good. Why is that so hard for me to remember?

Gilda - Charles Vidor - Supposedly sex existed before Rita Hayworth, but I'm not entirely convinced. Also, fuckin Glenn Ford is really good. I must have a natural resistance to his name, because I always forget until I see him do his thing again and I think, 'the fuck don't I immediately think of this guy when I name my favorite actors?' Glennnnn. Glllllllllenn. Gggglenn. I dunno, I get hung up on weird things.

High Sierra - Raoul Walsh - Probably the pinnacle of the Humphrey Bogart takes hostages genre.

Impact - Arthur Lubin - Generally a fan of of lovers trying to kill each other fare, but this one gets bogged down by mystery and court of law type shit.

It Always Rains on Sunday - Robert Hamer - Man, was this some terrific moody London noir. A lot of the British stuff I watched from the period was super cheap Hammer-stuff (crime factory before horror apparently) made on sets, looking like TV. But this one is soggy and beautiful and I loved it. From the novel by Arthur La Bern.

Kid Glove Killer - Fred Zinneman - Apparently forensic mysteries were always boring. Not sure how this became such a popular genre for film.

The Killers - Robert Siodmak - Baby Burt Lancaster man. He was one of the best from the drop. Pretty much watch this one once a year at this point and I go back an forth between thinking this one and Don Siegel's version is superior. This one though it's got the Ernest Hemmingway story shot nicely as the opening of the film if you're looking for that.

Lady Gangster - Florian Roberts - Should have been better considering the source material by Dorothy Mackaye. I'd be up for another remake (this one's remade from Ladies They Talk About), but I'd be even more up for a straight-up Mackaye bio-noir. Yeaaaaaaah.

Lady in the Lake - Robert Montgomery - This Raymond Chandler adaptation does that weird second-person point of view trick that Dark Passage also does, only this time we're distracted catching Montgomery's mug in the mirror every five minutes. More of a curiosity than a successful suspense picture and rightfully best remembered for Audrey Totter's extreme facial expressions.

Nazi Agent - Jules Dassin - For Dassin completists. Not one of his best.

No Orchids For Miss Blandish - St. John L. Clowes - First of several (at least three) screen adaptations of James Hadley Chase's novel (I had to turn off The Grissom Gang which I started watching about a week later having no idea it was from the same source material - will try again soon - but it was too distracting watching it so close to this one). It's another one of the better London noirs I've seen.

Road HouseJean Negulesco - Crime element is a slow burn, but the you'll have to towel the steam off your screen for weeks. Ida Lupino once again proves that sex-appeal is much less dependent on physical dimensions than we tend to think. I could watch her bowl for hours. And Cornel Wilde is more interesting here than I've ever seen him. Richard Widmark is of course Richard Widmark. Great shit.

Strange Cargo - Frank Borzage - I don't think this one's got a very good reputation, but I was pretty taken with its mixture of elements - prison escape, jungle survival adventure, romance and, what no-doubt will feel pretty heavy-handed spiritual allegory to a lot of folks. But the spiritual stuff, for as blatantly as it just sits there on screen, is kind of hard to nail down. A lot of, wait, wha? that I found more compelling than you might.

The Stranger - Orson Welles - Man, nazis were everywhere in the 40s. It's interesting to watch a lot of stuff from a by-gone era and from a distance pick apart the national (and sometimes intensely personal) anxieties being worked out on screen. This tale of nazi agents hiding out and continuing work in post-war, small-town America is not Welles' best, but hot damn does he give himself a great send-off in it. Great death sequence. Our time could probably use a few more 'hey, nazis are still a threat' movies.

They Made Me a Fugitive (aka I Became a Criminal) - Alberto Cavalcanti - Hot damn, this one is great. Trevor Howard, man, that guy was always super and it was really driven home watching this one, The Third Man and Brief Encounter in close succession. Such a versatile performer and so nice to see this kind or rough turn in a leading role for him. Shit, get on it and don't let the cheap, cheesy looking artwork on the DVD keep you away (I like this poster better, but I'm pretty sure the DVD features the better title and worse artwork).

The Third Man - Carol Reed - I always stiffen and resist the score and Welles' voice over at the beginning of the film, and then it knocks me on my ass again. So stylish and thematically rich. There's a reason its endured.

This Gun For Hire - Frank Tuttle - This time made a double feature of this one and L.A. Confidential because Kim Basinger's Lynn Bracken is supposed to be channeling Veronica Lake, and that was a hell of a good idea, but it works awfully well as the front-half of a double-bill with Le Samourai too because Alain Delon is so clearly channeling Alan Ladd. Hell, it makes a good double feature with The Third Man because the Graham Greene themes make sweet harmony. It's just one of my favorite films noir and I watch it frequently.

Wanted For Murder - Lawrence Huntington - A psycho who can't stop strangling women has to choose between his hobby and true love. Not really good enough to be funny, shocking or just over the top awful and entertaining. Pretty forgettable.