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The Stolen Jools (1931)
Disregard the ratings!
Perhaps the best way to describe this short film is to label it "a star-studded 20 minutes." As a movie, it is reminiscent of the early 10-minute silent reels with goofy plots, only way less developed. Each scene is quickly abandoned in an effort to show as many well-known actors as possible. The story merely serves as an excuse to show off Hollywood's biggest stars, ranging from Joan Crawford to Laurel & Hardy. So have fun with it, and just be sure to pay attention or you'll miss a star!
THE CAST (in order of appearance): Wallace Beery, Buster Keaton, Jack Hill, J. Farrell MacDonald, Edward G. Robinson, George E. Stone, Eddie Kane, Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Allen 'Farina' Hoskins, Matthew 'Stymie' Beard, Norman 'Chubby' Chaney, Mary Ann Jackson, Shirley Jean Rickert, Dorothy 'Echo' DeBorba, Bobby 'Wheezer' Hutchins, Pete the Pup, Polly Moran, Norma Shearer, Hedda Hopper, Joan Crawford, William Haines, Dorothy Lee, Edmund Lowe, Victor McLaglen, El Brendel, Charles Murray, George Sidney, Winnie Lightner, Fifi D'Orsay, Warner Baxter, Irene Dunne, Bert Wheeler, Robert Woolsey, Richard Dix, Lowell Sherman, Claudia Dell, Eugene Palette, Stuart Erwin, 'Skeets' Gallagher, Gary Cooper, Wynne Gibson, 'Buddy' Rogers, Maurice Chevalier, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Loretta Young, Richard Barthelmess, Charles Butterworth, Bebe Daniels, Ben Lyon, Frank Fay, Barbara Stanwyck, Jack Oakie, Fay Wray, Joe E. Brown, George 'Gabby' Hayes, Little Billy Rhodes, Mitzi Green.
Made for Each Other (1939)
Awkward as a whole, shining in parts
As a whole, this movie doesn't work at all. Different parts of the story jump around here and there and fail to form a cohesive piece -- the result of a poorly written script. For instance, halfway into the movie and you still get no idea of where it is all going. You get a vague sense that Johnny's (Jimmy Stewart) inability to support his family and the consequent strain on his relationship with his wife is part of the main plot, only to be completely thrown off by a new development in the story, which doesn't fit into the first portion of the film at all. It's almost like watching two different stories at the same time.
Despite this serious flaw, the film is "saved," so to speak, by its superb cast. Both Charles Coburn and Lucille Watson give their typical character portrayals. Jimmy Stewart gives his usual touching performance that is so well-known to film-goers. Meanwhile, Carole Lombard tries a hand at a dramatic role -- and succeeds. As a wife, she is charmingly believable, and as a mother, simply shines. Thus the unfortunate film is held together -- albeit weakly -- by the performance of the cast. Otherwise there isn't much that would convince one to keep watching. However, it may be worth your time if your main object is to enjoy the performance of either Jimmy Stewart or Carole Lombard, or both.
Under Capricorn (1949)
Sentimental Corn or Emotional Drama?
"Under Capricorn" is a largely underrated Hitchcock film with fine taste and superb acting. It may seem like sentimental corn to some, but the quality of the professional cast makes that impossible. Whether or not the script consists of the best lines or not, Ingrid Bergman does an exquisite job of displaying both a troubled drunkard and a beautiful lady of class at the same time while presenting the audience with Lady Henrietta Flusky, an Irish girl who falls in love with her stable boy. Margaret Leighton, who plays Milly the housekeeper, excels in her role as a woman with wicked intentions to harm Henrietta out of love for her Master Flusky (Cotten). The excellent chemistry and intensity between Cotten and Bergman draws you in, while the plot grabs your attention with the usual love angle. Yet Hitchcock, a master of thrillers and suspense, exercises his godly technique even here in this romantic drama. While the film is neither an adventure piece nor particularly in the category of suspense or thriller, the drama is powerful and captivates the audience as a thriller would. The scenes are beautifully choreographed with period costumes of great eye candy quality, and the film is done in the classic Technicolor that is sometimes even more appealing than our color today, if used correctly - which is the case with this film. This is a film very worth taking the time out to see, if only to take in the skillful cinematography and brilliant acting. For those who appreciate the contributions of Hitchcock, this will undoubtedly be a sublime experience wherein you will get a taste of the master's magnificent manipulations.
The Hunger (1983)
One of a kind
Some advice for those who are planning to watch this film: First of all, this is definitely not your regular cup of tea. I don't love this film and I haven't seen many who do. My advice is, don't go and set aside the time for this piece. It's rather interesting to watch once, but if you have better things to do, do them!
The movie uses a lot of visual effects and sounds to create a spooky, vampiry atmosphere. While the blue theme and the whole dark setting works quite well and the outcome is quite impressive, some people would say that the method is too slow or frustrating. Just keep in mind that this is a visual film. Don't expect too much dialogue, but remember to listen carefully to the things that are said, especially to Miriam (Deneuve). Otherwise you might miss some points and end up in a confused state.
As for the acting, David Bowie is remarkable in his little part, Catherine Deneuve is all class and beauty, and Susan Sarandon has some good scenes. If you're seeking to watch this movie solely because you want to see one of these actors (like I did), you probably won't regret it. But what will get your attention is all the fantasy about how the vampire life works in this story. There are some illogical and not too well thought out theories playing at hand, but when you're watching any fantasy movie, you have to let your imagination take over.
Personally, I think this movie is more fantasy and drama than horror or romance. The whole vampire idea will get your attention because of its relatively novel qualities, but the story is also about a vampiress and her tragic love affairs. I suppose the movie doesn't explore too much into this area. It would've been better if they had. For those who're interested, I recommend the book by Whitley Strieber, which does a better job of explaining things.
Cause for Alarm! (1951)
Engaging performance, mediocre story
A bed-ridden husband convinces himself into thinking that his wife is going to kill him. He writes a letter to the district attorney telling him of his conviction, and his wife unknowingly delivers it to the postman; there isn't really anything new or quite interesting in this, except for the psychological factors involved.
Loretta Young gives another nervous, hysterical performance reminiscent of her earlier work with Orson Welles in "The Stranger," but this time her tension is the absolute focus of the story and the only thing that holds the audience. All throughout the film, she is worried to death about her letter and is trying to escape from the "framing" of her paranoid husband. The movie shows sequences of her trying desperately to get the letter back while under a great emotional and psychological strain from her unhappy relationship with her husband as well as the fear of becoming a suspect of the D.A.
The film is worth taking a look if just for the sake of watching Young's acting, which wholly transcends the mediocre plot. I would also add that this movie is not so much a film noir as a short psychological drama. The film definitely falls into the latter category, despite the frequent citing of sources as the former.
The Lady Gambles (1949)
Earth to Stanwyck
What is the most remarkable thing about this film? Well, the answer is simple. It is Miss Stanwyck's film, hands down. In one of her best performances of her later years, Barbara Stanwyck plays an emotionally distraught woman who is tortured by her deep-ridden "guilt" of having killed her mother during childbirth. It is part of an insecurity she has carried with her all her life, which finally reveals itself through gambling, a highly risky and dangerous venture into which she falls one day in Las Vegas.
At first it starts out innocent. She is a curious woman who observes people and games in the casino. But when she decides to risk her own money to have some fun, she instantly throws herself into a bottomless pit from which she cannot escape. Gambling is indeed a deadly addiction, and Joan Boothe slowly destroys herself as well as those around her - husband, sister and business partners - by her unstoppable vice.
As the film progresses, so does Stanwyck, who convincingly portrays a woman who tries to fight her disease only to fall deeper into it. One scene in particular is especially notable - it is a scene in which she confronts the call of gambling after a time of ease and relaxation with her husband in the Mexican coast. She comes across an old acquaintance she knew back in Las Vegas, and she rides out the storm at first by running home after realizing that she has thrown her friend's dice for him - and enjoyed it. Upon returning home she nervously starts to iron and organize clothes, when her eyes glance at the money box in the drawer. She doesn't touch it, but an ongoing internal battle is implicit. How Stanwyck does it is not fully explainable, but it is in moments like this that you realize just how much of an actress she really is. She is exquisite, versatile, pleasantly professional - definitely among the very best at her craft.
The Lady Eve (1941)
An absolute wonder!
One of the most delightful and remarkable traits of this movie is the perfect chemistry between Stanwyck and Fonda. As characters with completely opposing characteristics, the two act side by side with fantastic expressions - Fonda's bewildered acting is most hilarious - and great timing.
Though many consider DOUBLE INDEMNITY to be Barbara Stanwyck's best film, I personally prefer THE LADY EVE because this role has a wider range. Stanwyck is the daughter of a professional gambler and is a pro when it comes to bewitching men for the purpose of cheating their money out of poker games. But she is also pure at heart and wants to come clean when she finally falls for a man probably unlike any she had ever encountered before. Then things go wrong, but the best part of the film starts right here, when Stanwyck becomes an actress playing an actress. It is simply amazing how perfect her acting is, to such a degree that Fonda's character doubts himself as to whether the lady in front of him is the woman he once knew or a different woman altogether.
The film is very adept at making the audience feel slightly bewildered, like Fonda's character Charles Pike. It makes the viewers dazzled, leaving them feeling like Charles, while marveling at Jean Harrington's (Stanwyck) tactics. Full of witticisms and brilliant performances, THE LADY EVE is undoubtedly one of the best comedies of the flourishing year of 1941.
The Awful Truth (1937)
THE AWFUL TRUTH- not awful at all!
In this movie you can see two of the most brilliant actors, Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, who are both the Queen and King of Comedy. Apparently they enjoyed each other's company - which isn't surprising at all, considering that actors tend to favor actors who can keep up with themselves - as Dunne says "But working with Cary Grant was different from working with other actors - he was much more fun! I think we were a successful team because we enjoyed working together tremendously, and that pleasure must have shown through onto the screen," and Grant compliments her with "(Irene) had perfect timing in comedy and was the sweetest-smelling actress I ever worked with."
Dunne indeed has the perfect timing and one of my favorite parts in this movie was the scene where she puts on a double act, pretending to be Grant's sister. She has the ability to go back and forth between distinct characters and does it well, with her own little refreshing touches here and there. I have to say that I consider Irene one of the best comediennes of the 30s, alongside Carole Lombard and Myrna Loy.
Turning to Grant, he is of course one of my favorites, and an excellent actor. He was the steady companion beside Irene and was part of the reason this movie fared so well. He is one of the most natural actors I have ever seen. He can act all he wants and it doesn't seem like he's "acting." I admire performers who can do that, and Grant certainly deserves the reputation he had, and still has.
Overall this movie was fun and entertaining, although I personally think that the movie's success was rather exaggerated, because the story itself isn't all that great. However if you think about the wonderful Grant-Dunne chemistry and their outstanding performances, I guess it's really not that surprising after all.