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Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944)
Groundbreaking, thoughtful WW II movie
Intense, thoughtful movie, from start to finish. Although the righteousness of what the pilots are training for is never in doubt (and this is reinforced in the scenes with the Chinese villagers), this is by no means a "rah-rah," jingoistic flag-waver.
The hard work, skill, sacrifice, and dedication of the pilots, both before and after the raid, is shown in great detail.
On the big screen, the shots of the big B-25s whizzing by on the runway, and the flying scenes portrayed from the cockpits must have been dazzling.
More important, however, are the groundbreaking themes explored in this film, which was both written and filmed during WW II --- Surely, no WW II movie had previously dared to broach such subjects as soldiers (pilots) having ambiguous or contrasting feelings about killing the enemy in wartime; acknowledging the presence of civilians working in enemy munitions plants; or, most daring, the issues faced by amputees as they returned home (fear of rejection by loved ones, fear of not being a whole man, fear of no longer measuring up or being useful).
In addition, what I had initially considered to be a weakness in the film --- the googly-eyed romance between Van Johnson and his wife --- turned out to be a powerful plot device later in the film, as Van Johnson returns to these scenes in order to draw sustenance during intense, painful, dangerous times.
Over all, quite a thoughtful, perceptive, forward-thinking movie !
5 Against the House (1955)
Beauty.........& the Beast !
The b&w cinematography is crisp, clean, and vibrant, and all of the actors do an able job of reeling off what might have been considered snappy dialogue to the average movie-goer of the 1950s, but the real stars of this movie are Kim Novak and the mechanized car-porter in the Reno casino garage !
Ms. Novak's character, a small-town, Midwestern college girl and part-time model, apparently has learned how to become a smoldering torch singer "over the summer." Her dialogue in her love scenes is patently silly, but WHO CARES !! Va-voom ! Who says you need to go to New York, Chicago, or L.A. to become hip, jazzy, smoldering, and sassy ? Apparently, it can happen anywhere, and in just a few months' time --- at least in this movie.
As for the Beast.....the other star of the movie is the hulking, inhuman, mechanized car-porter. Probably based on dockside machinery for the construction or loading of ships, it must have been fantastic when it first appeared on the screen in the 50s, and still packs a punch today. I was getting seasick watching it in wide-screen, deep-focus action on the small screen --- one can only imagine the vertiginous terror of seeing it in action on a big screen !
Added bonus --- seeing Alvy Moore --- the future oddball "Mr. Kimball" of "Green Acres," while still a young man. Happily, his comedic timing had improved by the time he appeared on "Green Acres," although having better dialogue to reel off in GA must have helped !
Nightfall the blueprint for Hitchcock's North by Northwest ? Spoilers ahead !
Someday, this taut little noir will be acknowledged as the blueprint --- unconscious or not --- for Alfred Hitchcock's and Ernie Lehman's "North by Northwest." NxNW, released 2 years after Nightfall, features a number of strange similarities to Nightfall, too many to be considered coincidental.
For starters ---
1.) Both films have protagonists who are "kidnapped" by hoods, and it appears that there are cases of mistaken identity or misunderstood information in both situations.
2.) Both protagonists fight off the hoods and escape in a car.
3.) Both protagonists appear to have been set up at some point by a beautiful femme fatale.
4.) Both protagonists return to the femme fatale to demand an explanation.
All right, perhaps one could argue that these 4 similarities are merely coincidental, or "standard thriller fodder." But wait -- there's more ! Both films also feature:
5.) An older, paternal "watchdog" or "shadow" who is aware of the problems of the hero, watches from afar, and yet eventually becomes involved in the chase process.
6.) A shaving scene in a public washroom --- played for tension and then comic effect in NxNW, but as an opportunity for the older "shadow" to chat with the hero in Nightfall.
7.) A scene in which the hero buys a ticket (bus in Nightfall, train in NxNW) in order to get to the bottom of the mystery.
In both scenes, the whereabouts or destination of the hero is revealed to the pertinent authorities who are present at the stations. Also in both scenes --- we see the hero mostly head-on, to the left of the scene, while we see the ticket clerk mostly from the back, to the right part of the scene.
8.) Romance and smooching between the hero and the femme fatale during a cross-country trip --- by train in NxNW, and by bus in Nightfall.
9.) Chicago plays a major role in both movies.
....and perhaps most revealing of all......
10.) A very public scene in which both the hero and the purported femme fatale are placed in danger with the bad guys. Tension and comedy both are played out in each scene. There is even a "voice-over" in each scene --- the voice of the auctioneer in NxNW, and the voice of the fashion show emcee in Nightfall.
IMDb poster hisgrandmogulhighness has uncovered these other similarities, some present in the original book Nightfall, by David Goodis, and some present in the movie Nightfall as well ---
11.) Hero in Nightfall is named Vanning; villain in NxNW is named VanDamm.
12.) Both men, Vanning and Thornhill, through widely different circumstances, are wanted for murder . . . both, indirectly, cause the death of the victims . . . both, for whatever reason, leave the murder weapon at the scene of the crime, and, most conveniently for law enforcement, leave their fingerprints all over the murder weapon . . .
13.) (In the book Nightfall and in the movie NxNW): Both men, Vanning & Thornhill, have a liquid forced down their respective throats in the houses the thugs have taken them.
14.) (In the book Nightfall and in the movie NxNW): Both Vanning and Thornhill are in hotel rooms they're not registered for . . .While leaving the hotels, both are followed out by thugs, or a thug . . .Both are in taxicabs looking at the back of the head of the taxi driver . .
15.) In the book "Nightfall," James Vanning is already using an alias, "Rayburn." In NxNW Thornhill takes on the trappings of the non-existent "Kaplan."
16.) . . . trout shows up in both works . . .
Once you've watched both movies, these numerous plot similarities will become evident. The sheer number of plot similarities indicates that it is likely that Sir Alfred and / or Ernie Lehman used Nightfall as a skeleton, onto which they fashioned their masterpiece, NxNW.
The fact that Nightfall has been out of the public eye for 40 years or so may explain why no one has yet caught up with one of the main sources of NxNW.