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Night Must Fall

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22 reviews in total 
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21 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
A true classic AND a brave indictment. Excellent!!!, 1 August 2002

Without a doubt, this is one of the finest films I have seen. Paul Muni's performance is so good, it's practically indescribable. I thought he was extremely believable as the unduly accused and convicted James Allen. This story will rip your heart out, and rightly so. The film is very well done in every way, down to the smallest detail (best example of this: the disgusting looking prison food – if you can call it that). The use of newspaper headlines is extremely effective, as well as the very realistic scenes in the prison and work yard, and the whole environment in which Allen must live. The viewer can almost feel Allen's pain as the other inmate hammers away at his leg chains to give him a glimpse of hope toward freedom. However, even the scenes of Allen's life on the outside still evoke a sense of foreboding. This is a very powerful film.

I saw it as part of the Essentials series on Turner Classic Movies, and Robert Osborne said that the real-life protagonist on whom this film is based acted as a consultant. Since he was still on the run, however, he was not credited. The whole situation is so sad, and this sadness and feeling of oppression hang over the film with such realism, that sometimes it is as though you are watching Allen's life caught on videotape, instead of a motion picture. It is extremely gripping and downbeat, with a killer ending. The fact that it's a true story just adds to the pervasive feeling of doom. Way ahead of its time, and a brave picture to make in its indictment of the justice system. WOW.

TWO FAVORITE MOMENTS: 1) Allen looking directly at the policeman in the barbershop with a determined, steely glare, as if suddenly realizing that he will not be recognized, and simply defying the cop to recognize him. The barber doesn't recognize him either, even though the cop and barber have just been describing Allen. This scene, I am sure, meant to emphasize the incompetence of the police and justice system, without using any words to do so. Fantastically done. I am in awe.

2) Chain gang inmate Barney Sykes (played by supreme character actor Allen Jenkins), finally released from jail, is offered a ride from the prison staff, who are carting the coffin of a dead inmate off the grounds. Very matter-of-factly, as though he has done this before (and thus demonstrating the de-humanizing effects of prison life) Sykes hops up onto the back of the truck and sits right on the coffin. Upon seeing this out the window, the other inmates ruminate on the fact that there are only two ways to leave the chain gang – `get let out, or die out.'

I will not give the ending away, but if it doesn't move you to tears, I don't know what will. Haunting.

My ONLY (minor) problem with the film is that all of the ladies in Allen's life look so similar, I could barely tell them apart!


5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Very uneven, slow-moving, but great performances, 31 July 2002

What a disappointment. After a terrific opening 15 minutes or so, this film went downhill fast. However, it is one of the better examples of documentary commentary and footage used in a film to help set the stage/background and tell the story. The documentary portions were very good, purposeful and effective (if slightly hysterical in their well-meaningness). For this, the film cannot be faulted, and this is definitely its strong point.

If only the rest of the movie lived up to this aspect, The Roaring Twenties would be a great film. Instead, it is riddled with problems.

As a whole, the film was slow and drawn out, and could have used lots of cutting, especially the musical sequences and shootouts.

There was too much heavy-handed obviousness in portraying Panama Smith's (Gladys George) love for Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney), even to the point of repeating closeup shots of their hand-holding (then cut to a sad George, with a wistful look on her face) three times within a matter of 20 minutes! We get it, already!!!!

I wished that Jeffrey Lynn and Humphrey Bogart had had more screen time. Bogie was in the first 10 minutes, then disappeared until much later in the film. He should have returned somewhat earlier, even for just a moment or two, as I'm sure I was not the only viewer distracted by wondering when Bogie would return to the story. Subsequently, I could not enjoy this part of the film, as I sat there waiting for him to show up again.

Frank McHugh's character was much more annoying than amusing this time around, and was mostly superfluous to the action.

Both the speakeasy customers and the guys who ran the bootleg liquor operations were too low-key. While the great documentary footage illustrated the industry rather excitingly, the on-screen portrayals of the set-up looked downright boring. I've seen better nightclub brawls in Doris Day films, never mind any others with Cagney or Bogart!

Many reviewers seemed to idolize the film's ending. What was so spectacular there? Sure, it was ironic, but it wasn't particularly great by any means. In fact, the ending was copied in 1942's Johnny Eager, with Robert Taylor in the Cagney role and Van Heflin (!) in the Gladys George role. This same ending was much more effective in that film than it is here. And poor Jimmy Cagney didn't even get any `famous last words' to speak in this one. What a rip-off!

Bogart's George Hally character was more interesting than Cagney's Eddie Bartlett, yet Cagney's character monopolizes much of the story.

Now that I've gotten all that off my chest, I will say that the acting was very good all around, and there are some enjoyable moments to be found (too bad they are few and far between).

CAST/PERFORMANCES: Humphrey Bogart did well with is relatively small bad-guy role. I loved his early scenes taking place during the war – George Hally was obviously a guy with a bone to pick, and a real live wire, and who better to play him than Bogie?

James Cagney was good as always, yet I found his Eddie Bartlett character to be a bit annoying. Still his scenes with the ladies were good, especially his drunk scene (with Gladys George) late in the film. He was excellent at playing drunk, especially by the way he held and or moved his head, as though trying extra hard to focus, just like when one is really intoxicated. Excellent! I read in a Cagney biography that he improvised the `Well, is it OK if I honk my horn as I drive by?' line when asking Jean out for a date after many rejections. What a guy!

Priscilla Lane was great as Cagney's love interest, Jean Sherman. The juxtaposition between the sultry, adult photo she sent to Cagney in the mail versus her true fresh-faced schoolgirl image was very amusing. (She confesses, `that photo was from a school play.') While only 22 at the time of making this film, Lane gave a strong, versatile performance. See her also in the 4 Daughters series of films with her sisters Lola and Rosemary Lane, plus Claude Rains and Gale Page. You will not be disappointed.

Gladys George (Panama Smith) – A well-written and performed role, George was extremely convincing as the underground hard-nosed yet quite vulnerable Ms. Smith. She played all of her scenes with much heart and realism, and I now would like to track down some more of her work.

Possessed (1947)
10 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Muddled, yet entertaining (if slightly unbelievable) drama, 26 July 2002

Another coup for Joan Crawford, 1947's Possessed (Joan co-starred with Clark Gable in a 1938 film of the same name), sees the star in a great vehicle in which to show off her many dramatic talents.

The hospital scenes are a bit over the top, and Stanley Ridges plays the psychiatric doctor a bit too eagerly. I half expected him to start wringing his hands with an Igor-type `yes, master – I think it's working, master' look on his face every time one of the drugs he gave Joan Crawford began taking effect. Ridges' performance is earnest, but his approach made me giggle more than once.

What's good about the film is its insight into issues regarding mental illness and its compassionate, non-exploitative exploration of the subject matter. This is accomplished in spite of Ridges' misguided portrayal of Dr. Willard, and due in large part to Crawford's brave, unglamorous portrayal of patient Louise Graham.

On the whole, Possessed is a very entertaining film that left me wanting to know what would happen next.

I think the death of Dean Graham's first wife is rushed and a bit muddled. Her character should have been actually introduced (even in one brief scene) rather than merely heard or talked about in flashback. Instead, there is just a big jump right into the marriage of Dean and Louise. This lack of transition really annoys me, although I can't exactly pinpoint why – I guess the whole thing just feels rushed.

Conveniently appearing and re-appearing on the scene is architect David Sutton, always around to throw Louise into a tizzy, as she cannot seem to get over the fact that he has broken off their relationship. It's difficult to understand David's appeal, as his character is extremely smarmy and smug, and he has no socially redeeming values whatsoever. To illustrate this, he shows up un-invited to Dean and Louise's wedding reception for the free food and drink. Ultimately, Dean's daughter Carol falls for him. Why, ladies??

If one can get past this implausible plot thread and take the story at face value, this is when the film really takes off, and Crawford's neurosis/psychosis picks up speed. The film improves greatly from here, and the plot advances nicely.

CAST/PERFORMANCES: Joan Crawford (Louise Howell Graham) – Crawford's transformation from personally neurotic, yet mild, unobtrusive caregiver to scheming, paranoid, jealous, unstable woman scorned is fairly believable, given the plot. I adore her voice, and the circumstances of the script, her role, and therefore her dialog really allow Crawford to express herself well, and she is a treat to hear as well as watch, as usual.

Raymond Massey (Dean Graham) – Massey is such a natural actor that I always adore his performances, and here is just wonderful. I love the scene where he dances with Crawford – watch as he forgets himself and sticks his tongue partway out with the effort of the dance. That, his quoting Bugs Bunny and his very tender, heartfelt scenes with Joan (his Dean Graham character is so sweet and patient) are a standout. I think it was a good casting choice to go with Massey, as his self-effacing nature is perfect for this role.

Van Heflin (David Sutton) – Despite the character's flaws (a very difficult role to play), in the actor's capable hands, it is done well. In his inimitable style and voice inflection, Heflin has the best line in the film, which he delivers offhandedly while pacing the floor: `I'm sorry, Louise – I seldom hit a woman, but if you don't leave me alone, I'll wind up kicking babies.'

Geraldine Brooks (Carol Graham) – a lovely actress, who I am sure I've seen in other films, as her name sounds familiar. She‘s very good as Carol, and gives a lively and strong performance as Massey's daughter. Her reaction to her mom's death and to Crawford's motives for marrying her father are very believable.

A good cast, interesting plot, and decent execution make for a fine film noir.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Very good. A MUST for Cagney & O'Brien fans, and with a great running gag., 24 July 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(spoilers) Leatherpuss. Stupid. Hot-head. These are but a few of the many insults traded by Jim Cagney (as Seaman 2nd Class Chester `Chesty' O'Connor) and Pat O'Brien (as Chief Petty Officer Biff Martin) both on and off the U.S.S. Arizona.

The film follows their tumultuous association as civilians (before ironworker Cagney joins the navy) and then as military colleagues thrust upon each other on a peacetime vessel.

James Cagney looks great in a tux, and gets to dance a little before the real fun starts. The ironworkers have thrown themselves a dance, and first prize is a big silver cup. Chesty's pristine, crisp rented tuxedo doesn't last very long, as Gladys Hawkins, his girlfriend, literally waltzes off with Biff Martin. Chesty doesn't take kindly to this, and the two men, who have previously locked horns (Cagney and the ironmen antagonize the passing sailors by shouting conflicting commands at them), come to blows. O'Brien wins the fight, and the dance crowd simply walks over the prostrate form of poor Chesty, who can only lie there in a heap. To add insult to injury, O'Brien and Gladys win the 1st prize for the waltz contest! The following day, things get even worse, as Chesty is laid off from his job and Gladys dumps him, preferring Biff's company.

Vowing revenge, Chesty decides to join the navy to get even with Biff. First stop is the San Diego naval training station, where Frank McHugh (always top-notch, and extremely funny in this movie) as Wilbur `Droopy' Mullins enters the picture. He and Chesty become fast friends who cover for each other and who borrow money back and forth so fast all throughout the film, forget trying to keep up. Droopy's reason d'etre seems to be to try to send his poor mom enough money for her to buy a decent pair of false teeth, ones that will enable her to keep up with her job as choir singer AND allow her to eat meat. This is a VERY funny running gag, with an excellent pay-off at the end of the film.

After training, Chesty and Droopy are assigned to Biff's ship, the U.S.S. Arizona, as hoped. The moment Chesty claps eyes on Biff, he attempts to punch him. Needless to say, this is not encouraged, and his efforts are immediately curtailed. Biff then decides to make naval life very difficult for his nemesis.

While Chesty has supposedly given up on `dames' because of his experience with Gladys, enter Dot, Biff's sister (played well by Gloria Stuart). Of course, Chesty is unaware that she's also a Martin, and chases her until he wrangles a dinner invitation out of her. On liberty for the evening of the dinner, Biff pays a visit to Dot, and in seconds, the boys are at it again.

After a series of misadventures, Chesty actually escapes duty by bribery and sneaking off the ship in disguise (to see Dot), and is admonished by Biff, who reports him as AWOL. Chesty is a prisoner and cannot leave the ship. He degrades the other sailors, who avoid him at all costs. He and Dot also split, in a dramatic, well-played scene, in which they are both terribly disillusioned. Later Chesty proves his courage during a mock battle, but he denounces the officers, the medal he receives, and the navy as a whole. He is then granted a transfer to a naval aircraft (a zeppelin). The crew of the Arizona must then act as ground crew for a mock maneuver Chesty's aircraft is involved in, Biff gets in trouble, and Chesty ends up saving the day and getting the girl. Droopy's infamous mom is finally seen at the end of the film, and we even get a glimpse of her new false teeth!

Very entertaining and lots of fun, with all the stars in top form. Cagney and O'Brien argue and fight all through the film in some great comic scenes – yet they were best friends in real life!


5 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Embarrassing outing for Cagney & Bogie… or a camp classic??, 24 July 2002

There are so many goofy things about this movie that I can't possibly name but a few:

BOGART's character: 1. His name – Whip McCord (too easy, so I'll leave it at that. Boy, it makes `Humphrey' sound good.) 2. His long, curly hair and silly sideburns. 3. His Black Bart get-up, complete with spurs! 4. Not sure what shade of lipgloss they've got him wearing, but it ain't none too flattering.

CAGNEY's character (Jim Kincaid ): 1. His lipstick doesn't do him any favors, either. 2. The man is being swallowed by his hat during the entire film! Could they not find a hat to fit him? Even a LITTLE?!!?! 3. His pants are too tight in the rear. 4. He blows the smoke off his gun one too many times, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

If you are a casual Bogart or Cagney fan, and figure it might be a change of pace to see them in a western, do yourself a favor and forget that thought. EVEN THE HORSES LOOK EMBARRASSED! (That is, when they don't look bored.)

In all fairness, I admit that westerns are my least favorite film genre, but I've still seen much, MUCH better than this.

On a comedy level, or as high camp, The Oklahoma Kid works. Otherwise, it's viewer beware. Therefore, see this only if a) you must see every western out there b) you are a TRUE Cagney or Bogie completist c) any of the above comments appeal to you. Woah…..

8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Choppy melodrama w/good cast + ideas, but abrupt, ridiculous ending, 22 July 2002

A promising, although hardly unique premise – wicked city woman (Joan Crawford) marries good ol' boy (this time a gentleman farmer, played by Melvyn Douglas) not for love, but because she's sick of her current lifestyle. Of course, plans go awry and this `intruder' into their pat little lives and old family ways unduly disrupts the farmer's whole family.

Unfortunately, The Shining Hour's structure is so episodic and choppy that none of the characters has time to be fully developed. This is a shame, as each of them appears quite interesting in the limited screen time allotted them. A longer running time and more character exploration would have benefitted the film greatly. As it is, every time a new tidbit of information is revealed that may be of interest to the viewer, some obvious plot point takes over and speeds things along toward the ludicrous ending. I was left shaking my head, groaning and shouting `NO!, NO!' at the screen more than once. Horrors.

CAST/PERFORMANCES: Joan Crawford gives a good performance here, and her beauty is almost overwhelming. Melodrama (which this film most definitely is) was her forte, and she excels as wrong-side-of-the-tracks dancer Olivia Reilly, looking to better her stature and improve her social standing through her association with new husband Harry Linden (Melvyn Douglas) and his well-established, none-too-poor family. Crawford comes off very believably in this role, and she's great in it.

Melvyn Douglas does an excellent job as Crawford's husband. I thought he was very adept at both the tender, quieter scenes as well as the angrier ones. As Harry Linden, he is a very sympathetic character who tries to keep everyone happy, and almost loses everything despite his efforts.

Robert Young's character is an enigma, and he plays the complex role of David Linden, Harry's brother, very well. David is a moody individual, and the viewer is never sure how he will act or react next. Young gives a thoughtful, yet strong performance. Having had quite a few roles like this in his younger days, it's unfortunate that he lapsed into mawkish television roles later in his career.

I can't relate at all to the character of Judy Linden, played by Margaret Sullavan. I like her performance, and think she does well with the words she is given to say. She cries well, too, which I always admire in an actor or actress, yet for me the role is too self-sacrificing, and her unbelievable character is the downfall of the entire scenario. Why, why, why???

Fay Bainter is usually better than she is here. I just didn't feel the menace that her character (Hannah Linden) was supposed to evoke, except for the party and fire scenes – those were done very well. Hannah's character seems to be the forerunner of Luz Benedict (played by Mercedes McCambridge) in Giant. There are several similarities between the two. It's too bad that both performances are also somewhat lackluster.

GOOD POINTS, BAD POINTS: If you can ignore the implausibility of the outcome and the fact that some of the action is simply mind-numbingly hard to take, you might consider watching this film. My advice is to give The Shining Hour a chance, because aside from the goofy, terribly abrupt ending, it does have some elements to admire, including some thoughtful dialog and especially the humanity of the characters, which is surely the film's strongest point. However, this ruined potential makes it extra frustrating to watch, so keep all heavy objects out of your reach as you tune in.

No Telling (1991)
2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Mostly reprehensible; even the credits are offensive, 15 July 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This film is already so spoiled, spoilers can't spoil it!

Animal lovers, DO NOT WATCH THIS MESS. There are very few redeeming values to this film. Good are about three scenes amongst the countless, choppy, ain't-we-clever-with-the-camera-three-minutes-or-less-shots.

The Dr. Frankensteinish husband isn't a good actor. The wife and would-be lover are better. Animals are literally thrown away, caught in traps, mutilated, cut in half and sewn back together, but not with their original counterparts. Two or three lines made me chuckle (one of these non-intentionally), and the wife has nice hair.

The credits were distasteful in that: a) the film-makers put an offensive disclaimer at the end of the standard `no animals were harmed in the making of this film' disclaimer and b) they sought to philanthropize their sloppy effort by name-dropping and appealing to the viewer to donate, conserve, preserve, blah blah blah. These pretentious jerks seemed to think of their film as a harsh indictment of what it depicts - that is to say, the evils of science. WHATEVER. Skip it - you'll be glad that you did. Godawful.

10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Uneven comedy/drama with excellent performances; dated subject matter, 15 July 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(Spoilers) The First Hundred Years is part comedy, part drama. It is uneven, to say the least. There seem to be 2 movies happening at once here, leading to a serious lack of cohesion. Taken as it is, however, it's still not too bad, as both the comedic and dramatic aspects have their merits.

The comedy is found only on the periphery of the central characters. Alan Dinehart gives a great comedic performance as family friend/lawyer Sam Walker, well-meaning but semi-inept. Dinehart is ever dependable, and is well cast here. Warren William, dashing as usual, plays Virginia Bruce's co-worker/partner-in-crime, Harry Borden. He's very good as the slimy though somewhat nervous theatrical agent, and also lends some levity to the film. There's a very funny drunk scene with William and Dinehart, celebrating the central couple's impending parenthood, whereupon they emerge from an elevator carrying baby toys, dolls, and a small umbrella. Stumbling to the doorbell, William rings it (with umbrella tip) with overly-cautious drunken precision. They look very pleased with themselves as they accost angry and depressed Bob Montgomery, to chat about his wife's pregnancy, whereupon Dinehart proclaims, `He's drunk,' as Bob (who was unaware of the baby) bolts past them for the door. There's also a lively turn from Lee Bowman as George, an aspiring writer who takes fondly to his American Indian roots insofar as to invite friends over to play his native drums whilst wearing a full Indian headdress. Binnie Barnes excels as an earnest pantschaser extraordinaire, and Harry Davenport, as drifty Uncle Dawson, complete the lighthearted aspect of the film.

If only writer Norman Krasna had made the central couple, Lynn and David Conway (Virginia Bruce and Bob Montgomery), a little more vulnerable throughout instead of leaving it to the ending, the dramatics would have fit in better with the rest of the film. As it is, it's played as though the audience is a voyeur into the couple's lives, complete with a very well done but surprising camera angle that while physically distancing the viewer from the couple, actually pulls back to reveal that so much is going on with them, it's hard not to care, even though you wish you didn't. This occurs in a cerebral scene in which the Conway living room (during a thunderstorm, symbolic of their stormy relationship), is inhabited by estranged relations playing nice-nice for the benefit of others, with maps of foreign countries and itineraries – again symbolizing distance and estrangement --lying strewn all over the floor. The camera pans away and the very next scene (the best in the film) is especially touching, with Montgomery, holding tightly onto Bruce, ending up in tears, remorseful for the way things have turned out. This peace between them doesn't last long, however, and the couple almost immediately reverts back to their troubled ways. It seems that the crux of their relationship is their need to be petty, stubborn, jealous and judgmental. Their frequent scenes of bickering and outings at the organ playing old favorites reminiscent of happier times are depressing, too. Now wouldn't all of this have made a compact little drama all on its own?

(Spoiler) DATED!!!!: Not to give away any more of the plot, but the film, with its forward-thinking woman-wears-the-pants-in- the-family theme, is completely thrown out the window (resulting in Bruce's character losing all credibility), as she gets pregnant and gives up her money, career, happiness, social standing, etc. to live in New Bedford, NY (middle of nowhere) to be with hubby for his new job – so he gets his way after all. The film was released in 1938, an obvious product of its times.

So we are left with this smarmy, antagonistic couple, still playing mind games with each other (each not telling they know of the pregnancy), driving off to New Bedford to most likely live miserably ever after.

An odd film, indeed – but see it for the performances, all of which are uniformly excellent.

11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Difficult yet rewarding; Not to be missed, 12 July 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


PLOT/SUBJECT MATTER: Firstly, I'd like to comment on an issue in the film that some reviewers found objectionable – that of the suppression of the Welsh language and culture for British ideals and the English language. I think the film needs to be looked at as is – a commentary, a reaction to this. Knowing but a little about the Welsh way of life in those times, I cannot say for certain, but I think most people, especially the lower classes depicted in the film, had very little opportunity or means to fight the acquisition of the British culture, language and influence. This does NOT make the argument correct. It is merely a sad fact. The film's inhabitants represent a microcosm of this sector, and the audience is meant to see how they were forced into assimilating into a new way of life, regardless of whether or not they wanted to. This is what the film depicts, and it should be judged accordingly.

PERFORMANCES: John Dall – Let me say that after watching this movie how surprised I am that John Dall (Morgan Evans) didn't become a major star. He is wonderful, and does a good job with the accent. Dall is another actor who conveys so much with just his eyes or a turn of the head. Watch his reactions to Bette Davis in their big confrontation scene – damn, he's good. Amazingly, The Corn is Green was his first film. I keep missing Gun Crazy whenever it's on, but can't wait to catch it someday. Dall was excellent in Rope as well. Too bad he only made a few films. Here he is formidable as coal miner turned Oxford-bound student, playing the unglamorous role with both subtlety and ease.

Bette Davis – gives an outstanding performance here. Once you get past the makeup (she's supposed to be older than she was at the time), the feisty Davis can be seen. She plays the determined teacher with pure conviction. Another strong-willed role for her to sink her teeth into – Davis' forte.

Joan Lorring – This was Lorring's first movie, and her reprehensible character, Bessie Watty (what a name!) is one you love to hate. The venom in her eyes! She makes the false, `Oh! I've hurt my knee!' and `I'm in a coma!' lines unforgettable. However, I did feel a little sorry for Bessie because of her mother's comments about never liking her. It's easy to see why she was so cold-hearted. Lorring is great in Three Strangers with Peter Lorre, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Sidney Greenstreet, too. Check that one out.

CHARACTER ANALYSIS: Lilly Moffat (Bette Davis) is a flawed character indeed. She is a take-no-prisoners powerhouse. When need arises, she plays both the bull* artist (innocent, helpless woman-folk, to gain the squire's benefaction) and cautious, dangerous protector (threatening Bessie's life to shield Morgan from what she perceives as harm). She stands behind her convictions, rightly or wrongly, 100%. Miss Moffat's motives are often questionable. In the film, she explains them all away, yet this viewer was left with quite some mixed feelings about her character. This is a good thing, mind you, as the film as a whole certainly left a big impression on me due to several unresolved issues. That's one sign of a good movie.

Morgan Evans (John Dall) is also a flawed character. Has he sold out, given in, given up, or done the best thing? The film seems to say his choice was correct (he did not waste his potential), yet it is up to the viewer to decide. Dall plays the whole spectrum of the character's conflicts so believably that it is easy to sympathize with Morgan, who is torn between two worlds and two completely different sets of ideals.

Davis and Dall have great chemistry together, and all of their scenes ignite a spark. As Lilly and Morgan, it is great to watch two stubborn rams lock horns, then reach a difficult arrangement that perfectly suits no one. An appropriately bittersweet ending to a visceral film.

Irving Rapper's direction is superb. The sweeping shots of the countryside and the miners going to and from work, the claustrophobic atmosphere of the tiny school, and the hostile environment of the local public house (great fight scene!) all lend the film a sense of realism.

Nigel Bruce is very witty as the Squire (`the impertinence!'), and Mildred Dunnock and Rhys Williams as the hapless Miss Ronberry and Mr. Jones are also very good.

One final note: I love the song the coal miners (and Bessie) sing, even though I do not understand the words. A very nice song – I would love to get my hands on a copy. Diolch and goodnight.

Sleuth (1972)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Top-notch Who-done-it/Who'll-do-it-next!, 11 July 2002

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

(spoilers herein)

Sirs Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier make great foils in this most entertaining movie. Olivier is in his self-effacing, natural-acting mode in this one, thank heaven, and Caine gets to use his superior skills in moments of both daffy comedy and high drama.

Sleuth is intricately plotted, yes, but not confusingly, so, and is therefore a joy to follow. It is a constant case of cat-and-mouse, who-done-what and why/how and one-upmanship that never gets boring, even after many viewings. Each time I see the film, there is something `new' to enjoy about it – something I didn't notice or fully appreciate before.

CORKING DIALOG! The Brits prove that they do it best. Here are just a few choice adjectives to describe the dialog and script (which is, in turn): clever, mature, offensive, hilarious, scintillating, pejorative, lyrical, depressing, surprising and original. It is not – even once – common. All this, and it includes lines from the great Cole Porter song `Anything Goes!'

ACTORS BEST SCENES: Laurence Olivier (mystery writer Andrew Wyke) – has a very funny speech about killing Caine (Wyke's wife's lover) with the `traditional blunt instrument – the mashie niblick,' which must be heard and seen to be believed. At the end of his fantastic, fiendish fantasy, he tosses the golf club aside, claiming that the whole thing is `too bloody elaborate,' and that he must think of another way to do it. Also, the line about hiding the knife behind the bell pull like they do in all the old movies is great. This is his best scene in the film, in my estimation. A true laugh-out-loud moment!

Michael Caine (Milo Tindle) – his best scene is very different in tone -- one of drama and terror, as his life is threatened by Olivier, whom he calls a maniac and a `bloody madman.' He is forced to beg and plead for his life to be spared, and the audience can strongly identify with his predicament. Here Caine never lets his vanity overcome his craft for a second. I know of few actors that would have agreed to play the scene in this startlingly realistic way, and there are few who could have pulled off this difficult scenario with the same aplomb. Simply magnificent.

A minor plot quibble: Why Wyke is taken in so easily by Inspector Doppler I will never know. This aspect of the film rings false, and compromises the character's believability as a supposed mystery writer.

Other than that, the plot is great and makes excellent use of the house, its surroundings and furnishings. Very clever is the use of the various gadgets (puzzle jar, turnstiles to the bedrooms, wheel of fortune) and the many toys and games scattered throughout the house.

The ending with Olivier finding the clues is quite suspenseful. I always end up sitting on the edge of my seat – and new viewers will most likely be surprised by the denouement.

Performing the play version must have been exhausting for the actors, as the pace and action are both so quick.

Interestingly enough, the wacky cast credits do NOT include the house itself, which I think is an oversight, seeing as how it played such an integral part in the film. Go figure.


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