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Review: "Pimpernel Smith" (1941) Starring Leslie Howard; Olive Films Blu-ray Release

  • CinemaRetro
By Lee Pfeiffer

Olive Films has released the now obscure 1941 British film noir "Pimpernel Smith" starring Leslie Howard, who also directed. The movie (known as "Mister V" in  the United States) was released in 1941 at a time when England was hanging on by a thin thread as Hitler dominated most of Europe. As with all of the countries involved in WWII, the British film industry relied heavily on top stars appearing in inspiring movies that would boost public morale. This was especially true in England which saw its major ally, France, capitulate to Hitler in a matter of weeks, leaving the island nation standing alone against the Nazi menace. . At the time "Pimpernel Smith" was released in July 1941 (American would not enter the war until the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December of that year),  the Brits were enjoying a spate of good news. After the disastrous experience of the British expedition force in Dunkirk,
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‘Pimpernel’ Smith

How could England have won the war without him? Horatio Smith sneaks about in Nazi Germany, liberating concentration camp inmates right under the noses of the Gestapo. Leslie Howard directed and stars in this wartime escapist spy thriller, as a witty professor too passive to be suspected as the mystery spy.

‘Pimpernel’ Smith


Olive Films

1941 / B&W / 1:37 flat Academy / 121 min. / Street Date November 15, 2016 / available through the Olive Films website / 29.98

Starring Leslie Howard, Francis L. Sullivan, Mary Morris, Allan Jeayes, Peter Gawthorne, Hugh McDermott, David Tomlinson, Raymond Huntley, Sebastian Cabot, Irene Handl, Ronald Howard, Michael Rennie.

Cinematography Mutz Greenbaum

Camera Operators Guy Green, Jack Hildyard

Film Editor Douglas Myers

Original Music John Greenwood

Written by Anatole de Grunwald, Roland Pertwee, A.G. Macdonell, Wolfgang Wilhelm based on a character by Baroness Emmuska Orczy

Produced by Leslie Howard, Harold Huth

Directed by Leslie Howard

Reviewed by Glenn Erickson

I like movies
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Leigh Day on TCM: From Southern Belle in 'Controversial' Epic to Rape Victim in Code-Buster

Vivien Leigh ca. late 1940s. Vivien Leigh movies: now controversial 'Gone with the Wind,' little-seen '21 Days Together' on TCM Vivien Leigh is Turner Classic Movies' star today, Aug. 18, '15, as TCM's “Summer Under the Stars” series continues. Mostly a stage actress, Leigh was seen in only 19 films – in about 15 of which as a leading lady or star – in a movie career spanning three decades. Good for the relatively few who saw her on stage; bad for all those who have access to only a few performances of one of the most remarkable acting talents of the 20th century. This evening, TCM is showing three Vivien Leigh movies: Gone with the Wind (1939), 21 Days Together (1940), and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Leigh won Best Actress Academy Awards for the first and the third title. The little-remembered film in-between is a TCM premiere. 'Gone with the Wind' Seemingly all
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New on Video: ‘Night and the City’

Night and the City

Written by Jo Eisinger

Directed by Jules Dassin

UK, 1950

Harry Fabian is probably the best at what he does, even if he is never very successful. Richard Widmark’s character in Night and the City, out now on a gorgeous new Criterion Collection Blu-ray, is a low-level con who works wherever he can, however he can, doing whatever he can to make a buck. He enters Jules Dassin’s 1950 film noir classic on the run; he will always be on the run: always hustling, always running. Sincere though his half-baked plans may be, he is perpetually—pathetically—down on his luck. He has the ambition, there’s no doubt about that, and as he shrewdly stumbles past one obstacle after another, it becomes almost humorous in the way he manages to charm his way through life, always just by the skin of his teeth. He cooks
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‘Night and the City’ sees a pre-Rififi Jules Dassin already at the top of his game

Night and the City

Written by Joe Eisinger

Directed by Jules Dassin

United Kingdom, 1950

In the heart of the London night Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) runs wild in the streets and alleyways of this most famous of English cities. Harry, a con artist, owes someone a hefty sum and his only recourse is to plead his lover Mary Bristol (Gene Tierney) to lend him some pounds to call off the hounds. Such is the life the protagonist has led for some years now, much to Mary’s consternation and chagrin. What once was a happy companionship has turned more more strenuous. A get rich scheme here, another there but always the same result: Harry gets nowhere fast. His latest attempt to make it big arrives in form of an aging wrestler, Gregorius the Great (Stanislaus Zbyszko) whom he encounters by happenstance at a wrestling event a few nights later. The
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Church donates funds to sexual abuse drama

The Broken Bay Diocese of the Catholic Church has donated $20,000 towards the cost of producing a 30-minute drama which tackles sexual abuse in the Church.

A Priest in the Family stars Lynette Curran, Susie Porter, Gillian Jones and Lisa Hensley and is based on a short story by Irish writer Colm Tóibín about an elderly woman whose son, a parish priest, is accused of molesting his former students.

Co-directed by producer Anni Finsterer and Peter Humble, who wrote the screenplay, the film has finished shooting. Finsterer tells If that Humble is assembling footage so the producers can apply for funds to complete post production.

Curran plays Molly, a vigorous Irish woman in her late 70s who attempts to keep up with the changing times of her grandchildren by mastering the Internet. When Molly learns that her son Frank, a local parish priest, is about to go on trial for the sexual abuse of former students,
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Long Before Obi-Wan There Were the Eight D'Ascoynes: Guinness Day

Alec Guinness: Before Obi-Wan Kenobi, there were the eight D’Ascoyne family members (photo: Alec Guiness, Dennis Price in ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’) (See previous post: “Alec Guinness Movies: Pre-Star Wars Career.”) TCM won’t be showing The Bridge on the River Kwai on Alec Guinness day, though obviously not because the cable network programmers believe that one four-hour David Lean epic per day should be enough. After all, prior to Lawrence of Arabia TCM will be presenting the three-and-a-half-hour-long Doctor Zhivago (1965), a great-looking but never-ending romantic drama in which Guinness — quite poorly — plays a Kgb official. He’s slightly less miscast as a mere Englishman — one much too young for the then 32-year-old actor — in Lean’s Great Expectations (1946), a movie that fully belongs to boy-loving (in a chaste, fatherly manner) fugitive Finlay Currie. And finally, make sure to watch Robert Hamer’s dark comedy Kind Hearts and Coronets
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

DVD Review - The Four Just Men (1939)

The Four Just Men (a.k.a. The Secret Four), 1939.

Directed by Walter Forde.

Starring Hugh Sinclair, Griffith Jones, Frank Lawton, Francis L.Sullivan, Anna Lee and Alan Napier.


The Four Just Men are a secret group of British operatives dedicated to keeping the country's overseas interests secure. When he is rescued from a cell, James Terry is able to reveal to his fellow members what he has learnt about a plot to sabotage the Suez Canal and, ultimately, destroy the British Empire.

Patriotism and propaganda; not usually the best elements for creating original and effective cinema and so it proves here.

A slightly confused - though certainly energetic - remake of a 1921 silent film (which was in turn based on writer Edgar Wallace's 1905 novel and subsequent follow ups), much of the enjoyment found in The Four Just Men comes from the details. The buildings, costumes and indeed the
See full article at Flickeringmyth »

The Forgotten: Black Shirts, Red Faces

  • MUBI
Genuinely fascist films made in democratic countries are agreeably scarce, although Gregory La Cava's Gabriel Over the White House (1933)—or President Jesus Hitler as a friend dubbed it—could certainly qualify, even if it does veer around a lot, almost as if a Hollywood film were trying to avoid committing itself politically. Nominations for other fascist films will be gratefully considered.

Bulldog Drummond was featured in ten novels by a pseudonymous character called "Sapper," (to sap: to slug over the head, British slang). Drummond, an ex-soldier bored by civilian life, advertises for adventure and finds it, as detailed in 1929 Bulldog Drummond with Ronald Colman. This movie largely avoids the racism and jingoistic fervor of the source novels, and seems to play the more brutal moments for laughs, as when Colman exchanges sweet nothings with Joan Bennett while cheerfully throttling Lionel Atwill.

The books' biggest influence in an indirect one:
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A Journey Through The Eclipse Series: Gabriel Pascal’s Caesar And Cleopatra

I shall have many young kings with round, strong arms.

And when I am tired of them, I shall whip them to death.

Last week, controversy developed over reports that Angelina Jolie has been cast to take the lead role in a biopic about Cleopatra, the historical Queen of Egypt whose reputation over the centuries has developed to nearly legendary proportions. While I think Ms. Jolie has the perfect blend of beauty, attitude and screen presence to pull off a job that’s served as a platform for silver screen goddesses of decades past, critics take issue with the fact that a Caucasian woman is once again being awarded the opportunity to play one of history’s most noteworthy African female characters. Despite the legitimate argument that Cleopatra’s lineage included European ancestors, I understand the sensitivity of their concern. Similar objections have been voiced about the upcoming The Last Airbender,
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Ways of Love, or the Best Films that Didn't Appear on Other "Ten Best" Lists...

  • MUBI
In “Ways of Love” three vignettes directed by three top film makers add up to the year’s best foreign release. Marcel Pagnol’s “Jofroi” is about a senile farmer (Vincent Scotto) who shams suicide thirty times to protect some lovingly nurtured trees. This director feels that there is nothing more delightful than pondering the virtuosity of character actors—earthy types who immobilize the screen with chattered wisdom and time-wasting mannerisms. In Jean Renoir’s “A Day in the Country,” a pretty Parisian (Sylvia Bataille) is seduced while the camera fastens on the countryside in tender mimicry of Papa Renoir’s paintings. As usual Renoir maneuvers his motorless plot into splendid landscape to press home the idea that man is a handsome spot in nature. Rossellini’s controversial “The Miracle” is a powerful, messy slab of life, starring Anna Magnani as a talkative idiot made pregnant by a silent stranger she believes to be St.
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