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Don't forget Elsa Lanchester
All the comments I have read about this movie have focussed on Charles Laughton and though he gives a performance that makes this film worth seeing on that basis alone, I was more struck by Elsa Lanchester and daresay that she even managed to usurp him in their scenes together. Her performance as Anne of Cleves is one that is memorably eccentric, as she plays her with a kind of flakey caginess that is funny, fascinating and original. She is also quite striking to watch and I am thankful that Bride of Frankenstein has given her a degree of cinematic immortality that might otherwise have been denied her. Returning to this film though, it is highly entertaining, though its abrupt mood shifts leave the viewer with an inconsistent impression about Henry VIII and his volatile personality, but, then again, perhaps that was the point: to show just how inconsistent a man he was in his thoughts and desires.
The House on 92nd Street (1945)
This movie is mindbogglingly hilarious, but for all the wrong reasons. It has dated terribly but even taking the era in which it was made into consideration this seems little more than the hysterical spawn of Jingoism and Paranoia 101. I can't see it having been good even back in 1945, though as a propaganda poster for the efficiency of the FBI it comes through with flying colours (and shows us, with great stone-faced eagerness, how they are able to isolate and locate the woman in New York they are looking for simply on the basis of the lipstick left on her cigarette butt! Yikes. This is the kind of fantastical ode to American governmental hierarchy that the makers of the subsequent but similarly stupid Big Jim McClain would be proud of). And then there is the narration, sombre and slavish, and about as credible as something from an episode of Police Squad. The only redeeming thing about this film was the location shooting and its occasional forays into the noirish aspects that I was hoping for when I rented this dud in the first place.
a definite time capsule
This movie is undeservedly obscure and it's title alone should warrant a re-discovery.It's undeniably dated and the directing is self-consciously arty at times but it is a fascinating reflection of a certain time and place (univesity life in the late 1960's). This is a youth movie that offers more insight into a cultural movement (or lack thereof) than any of the generic Freddie Prince Jr., type crap that Hollywood is cranking out at a weekly rate these days. All the performers in this film are great, though Don Johnson's the only one I've heard of. This is the kind of counterculture film that fits in perfectly with the likes of Hi Mom!, Greetings, Getting Straight, The Strawberry Statement, R.P.M., End of the Road, Rabbit Run and Joanna: the kind of films that, while not always great, at least documented their times in an interesting and unique way.
Home from the Hill (1960)
I think this is Vincente Minnelli's great unsung film and may in fact stand as his best. It features one of Robert Mitchum's most perfect performances. The movie is provocative in terms of its ideas of manhood(some of its themes, particularly those concerning hunting, are very Hemingway-ish)This movie also presents a way of living that is today becoming increasingly anachronistic and unpopular. It is for this reason also that it is so fascinating - it presents a window to an ever diminishing way of life. Of course it is first and foremost a melodrama, but this aspect I found to be often overshadowed by the secondary themes and the little details, like Robert Mitchum's den (was there ever a room that defined machismo the way this one does?).