Reviews written by registered user
|1031 reviews in total|
No, It's not about strange people, well, at least not entirely. 'Strange' is the surname of the young man who has just joined London's Metropolitan Police and become a 'bobby'. That was back in the days when there were really police on the streets. Nowadays one never sees them, because they are too busy filling in forms and having, one presumes, endless cups of tea. In fact, one wonders what they really are doing in the privacy of their own police stations (the few stations that are left). Constable Strange is played by a young Michael York (25 when he shot the film), who is always smiling and jolly. Meanwhile, the 'Met' as the Metropolitan Police is called today under its Commissioner Hunt has had to get rid of large numbers of corrupt officers who were employed by gangsters. Too sleazy for words. But back then they were all straight, or so we are to believe. Michael gets in trouble because he meets an irresistibly charming girl who is a 'free spirit' (sixties-style) who just happens to be, uh oh, two weeks short of being 16 and hence 'jailbait'. She is played by Susan George, aged 17 when she shot this, who had been acting in films since the age of 11. During the sixties and seventies, Susan George was considered very hot and very cute. After that she continued acting and became a grown up. She certainly has irrepressible energy in this film, and simply will not take no for an answer from Michael York. So he succumbs to her charms and, unknown to both of them, her crazy rich aunt and uncle with whom she lives in a large house in Hampstead have secretly filmed their lovemaking, because they are kinky and enjoy making and selling porno films. This quickly comes to the hands of a police sergeant in the Met, and York becomes a blackmail victim. The sergeant is played implacably by Jeremy Kemp, with enormous intensity, He is obsessed with catching and jailing a notorious criminal named not Hunt but Quince, who used to be a policeman and went crooked, and who has two identical twin sons who are psychopathic killers. So it is all very desperate. The story is based on a novel by Bernard Toms, who only had this one work filmed. The director was David Greene, whom I knew at that time. I visited the set of his previous film in this same year, which is now called SEBASTIAN (1968) but was originally called MISTER SEBASTIAN, starring Dirk Bogarde and Susannah York. David had only just made his way into features from television, and was considered a hot new director then, though he was already 46 years old. I still have a call sheet from that visit. David's direction early in this film is pretty rough, with too many extreme closeups, and edited in that jumpy style which was then fashionable. After the story really gets going and moves past the 'establishing the situation' stage (which goes on for too long), the film settles down and becomes more watchable, so it is worth sticking with it. Only in the sixties, I suppose, could such a film be considered 'normal'. Yes, things were pretty crazy back then. It was 'crazy London', which did more than just frantically swing.
The first thing to say about this film is that the screenplay is so terrible. It was written by Harold Pinter, but despite his talent for writing plays, he certainly had no cinematic sense whatever. This is one of the worst thriller screenplays in cinema history. There are long stretches of what may have seemed to Pinter like very lively and amusing dialogue (the torture scenes between October and George Segal), but they drag on interminably, and make one want to go to sleep. The casting of George Segal in the lead was a catastrophe, as he is so brash and annoying that one wants to scream. (What with wanting to go to sleep and wanting to scream at the same time, this film does pose certain conflict problems.) On the other hand, the female lead is played by the charming Senta Berger, then aged 25, who does very well, and manages to be enigmatic, and gets just the right tone for the story. But how could she put up with the love scenes with the atrocious Segal? Michael Anderson directs with his usual leaden touch. Max von Sydow as a senior post-War Nazi conspirator over-acts and is way out of control, Anderson being so hopeless and just a bystander who can have done no directing at all. George Sanders and others back in London play the stock roles of arch SIS mandarins who love putting people down, wearing black tie and being the snobs that they are. They say 'what a pity' with droll indifference as they eat their roast pheasant and take note of which operatives have been killed this week. The scene shot in the gallery of London's Reform Club is particularly odious. Alec Guinness is excellent as a spy chief, and he gives a faint whiff of verisimilitude to this hopeless film. The story is ludicrous. The film is ludicrous. Don't bother watching it, except to see the many scenes shot on location in West Berlin at that time, with its deserted streets and subdued mood. From that point of view, the film should be seen by social, architectural, and urban landscape historians.
This is an uneasy blend of mystery, suspense, and comedy. I am always dubious about mixed genre films, and I believe this could and should have been better as a straight film noir. However, it is still a good film and for all like myself who admire Lizabeth Scott and enjoy watching her films, it is a must. She was most famous for playing Dusty four years earlier, opposite Humphrey Bogart, in the stunning film noir DEAD RECKONING (1947). She was one of the best femme fatale actresses in film noir, though she could also show a warm, kindly, humorous and smiling layer underneath, as we see here. That entitled her to be 'redeemed' from her wicked ways from time to time in films. It is always nice when a femme fatale can be redeemed, but it does not happen very often, in life or on film. Scott is entrancing here as usual, and is the main reason we keep watching. The male lead is Edmond O'Brien. I wonder how Scott really felt when she repeatedly flung herself (with excessive force, I felt) into O'Brien's arms and began giving him passionate kisses. She does it often here. Doth the ladye embrace too muche? O'Brien was a very fine actor, and it was Ida Lupino who seems to have realized this most enthusiastically, for she daringly cast him in the lead for her provocative film THE BIGAMIST (1953, see my review), which was a triumphant casting coup. O'Brien also won an Oscar and an Oscar nomination in other films. But he was no handsome hunk, was podgy and a bit sweaty. It all goes to show how talent can overcome lack of looks. Terry Moore plays a dotty young niece in this film, with wide-eyed insistence and a very broad interpretation. She is meant to be the comedic character, and despite the ridiculous nature of her role and the absurdity it adds to the plot, she manages it nicely. In fact, one wants to give her an indulgent hug. So it all sort of works. Henry Levin directs this mixed pudding of a film and delivers a watchable product. Oh yes, I almost forgot the story. An elderly couple lost their child at the age of three on a street in Chicago and have never found him. Their unscrupulous lawyer and his girl friend Lizabeth Scott want to 'find' a man who will play along, pretend to be the long lost son (that's O'Brien), and inherit ten million dollars which they will then all split between them. But of course things turn out not to be that simple. After O'Brien is accepted as the son, things begin to unravel. As to what then happens, I ain't sayin'.
I enjoyed watching this movie, but there is no use pretending that it has any particular merit. It is interesting to watch early John Wayne movies where he is not playing a cowboy and not fiddling with his revolver. The female lead, Frances Dee, was very interesting to watch, lively and attractive. She reminds me of Geena Davis when young as in EARTH GIRLS ARE EASY (1988, see my review). She stopped acting in 1954, aged 55, and had made 56 films by then. The story of this film is so unconvincing and implausible that it is not even worthwhile attempting to describe it. It is nonsense from beginning to end. The Hungarian émigré director John H. Auer directed the film. It is both easy to watch and easy to forget.
This is the superb original film of the Kern and Hammerstein musical SHOW BOAT, which was first performed on Broadway with its premiere on December 27, 1927. What a great Christmas present for the inhabitants of New York just before the Great Crash! Having just seen the London stage production, I thought it time to see the original film again, for the third or fourth time, and see how it compared with the stage version which I had never seen before. I was surprised at how closely most of the lines of dialogue in the film repeated the stage text, word for word. The film does contain material which was never presented on the stage, and the ordering of some material was changed around. SHOW BOAT contains some of the most famous songs of the time, which have become perennial favourites, the most revered being 'Ole Man River', sung in the most velvety base tones by the incomparable Paul Robeson, who plays Joe. His wife Queenie is played by Hattie McDaniel (who was to become most famous for her role in GONE WITH THE WIND, 1939). Hattie was not exactly a beauty, so that it is something of a stretch to imagine her as married to a handsome hunk like Robeson, but never mind, otherwise they were perfectly cast and even have chemistry between them in the film. The ingénue Magnolia Hawks is charmingly played and sung by Irene Dunne, one of the most beloved stars of the period. She was already 38 at the time, and was playing someone much younger. But one tries to overlook her true age in the early stages of the story as a love-struck youngster, and when it comes to the later story, she works perfectly And after all, it is her personality and singing which count in a musical. Allan Jones is excellent as Gaylord Ravenal, and his tenor voice rings out wonderfully, as does his charm. One of the finest performances is by Helen Morgan as Julie. One can never forget her soulful singing of 'He's Just My Bill'. In a way, the star of the show is Charles Winniger, as the father, Captain Andy Hawks whose show boat on the Mississippi River is the source of the title. Winniger had been in vaudeville all his life, and the scene where he plays different characters at once on stage, leaps up and down, rolls around and pretends to fight himself, is a truly astonishing display of histrionic stage talent such as has rarely been seen in the cinema since then. His effervescent humour and outstanding personality help to boost this film to the top levels of entertainment. The first time I ever saw this film was one hot summer night long, long ago when it was projected from a 35 mm print onto an outstretched bed sheet in an open air theatre to an audience of about twenty of us one midnight, sweltering in the heat and seated beneath the stars. That was long before videos were invented. The man who showed it kept talking to us affectionately about 'Charlie Winniger', and I think he may even have known him. It was my first glimpse of Winniger, Irene Dunne and Paul Robeson. (Hattie McDaniel I already knew from other films, and Allan Jones from his two Marx Brothers movies.) It was one of those rare magical occasions that sometimes happen on summer nights, and SHOW BOAT made an indelible impression on me which has never faded, but has only grown with time. Each time I see the original film, I appreciate it more. The infectious joy of 'Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly, I've gotta love that man till I die, can't help lovin' that man o' mine' gets us into the mood quickly, and the wonderful song 'Make Believe' has rarely been surpassed for poignant emotion in a Broadway musical. This film is the ultimate treat. Anyone who has never seen it 'ain't lived'. I should add that there is a political element to both the stage show and the film. It was extremely daring for 1927 to make such a promotional boost for black people (then, and in the film, called 'negroes', and now called 'African Americans', as the terminology shifts to try to assuage sensitivities). The underlying message of the entire musical is that black people have been horribly oppressed and exploited. There is even a shocking scene where the 19th century Mississippi law (this occurs when the story begins, in the year 1887 at Natchez, Mississippi) forbidding the marriage of blacks with whites is shown it all its horror, as Julie is 'accused' of being half black. The strong political message is swallowed down by the audience covered in sugar and spice and everything nice, but it is there nevertheless and must have been digested. I suspect the musical made a major contribution to waking 'white folks' up to the black social dilemma and in its own subtle way laid much of the mental attitude groundwork for the later civil rights movement, which was still decades away. The director, James Whale, probably never made a better film than this one.
This is a very moving and effective film starring the young Mai Zetterling, then aged 23 but looking 18 and acting even younger than that. She has amnesia because of terrible events which she has experienced during the War, including time spent in Auschwitz because she was a Jew. She is the lost daughter of a German Jewish professor who is living as a refugee in London, and who has not seen any members of his family for nine years and does not even know if they are alive. In the camp, she is disguised as the daughter of a man who calls himself Fritz Handelmann, played by Herbert Lom at his most sinister and threatening. Zetterling does not know she is not his daughter and believes him when he tells her she is. But meanwhile, Lom is really 'the fourth in command of the SS' with a secret bunker near the camp, who is attempting to revive the Nazi cause while remaining in disguise as a refugee. Guy Rolfe plays an English officer posted to the British Army of Occupation in Germany. He is home on 21 day leave in London and meets the old professor, who tells him of his missing daughter. This is because a war artist has painted a haunting portrait of her which is on show at the Royal Academy, Rolfe visits it and hears the professor exclaim upon seeing it: 'But that's my daughter!' Rolfe is taken by the girl in the portrait and decides to help investigate. And so a considerable saga ensues, leading to dramatic events and the finding of the utterly charming young Zetterling, who at that age was enough to set any number of hearts aflutter. It's quite a story and superbly directed by Terence Fisher, who had only directed his very first film the year before. Later, in 1962, he would direct the version of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA which has Herbert Lom play the Phantom and Heather Sears as Christine.
This is a very good mystery thriller in the film noir mode, directed by the émigré German director Robert Siodmak. It is based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich. The plot may not be entirely original, but it is very effective. Alan Curtis is the leading man. He is little remembered today, partly because he died early at the age of only 43 in 1953, nine years after this film was released. Curtis is unhappily married and goes to a bar (in Manhattan) to have a drink to comfort himself. There he meets a mysterious woman in an outlandish hat, who takes a seat beside him but seems deeply preoccupied with her own troubles. Curtis has two tickets for a hit show to which he had intended to take his wife, but as she refused to go, he offers them to the woman, saying it is a shame for them to go to waste. He ends up taking the woman to the show, but she refuses to give him her name and she remains an enigma. He returns home later to find three policemen waiting for him, and his wife lying in the bedroom, having been strangled to death by one of his own ties while he was out. So we are faced with that favourite plot element of many such films, the need to find the mysterious woman who is the only person who can prove his alibi and prevent him being wrongly executed for the murder of his wife. Meanwhile, some witnesses have been bribed to lie about having seen him with the woman, and this raises sinister doubts as to what is really going on. Curtis's secretary, who secretly loves him, played by Ella Raines, sticks by him and does some detective work after he is arrested. She is determined to prove his innocence. Franchot Tone gives a chilling and convincing performance as a psychopathic killer, and the lines of dialogue given to him when he attempts to justify himself are even more chilling than his performance itself. Woolrich must have known a few crazies personally to get it so accurate. Elisha Cook Jr. has a significant role in the film, and he always lends an air of horrifying authenticity to any film noir, especially when he opens his eyes wide with terror in that special way he had. In this film, he shows that he is a good drummer in a jazz band. This is well worth watching.
This French film, L'AFFAIRE MAURIZIUS, is listed on IMDb as ON TRIAL, despite the fact that I believe that only the new French Blu-Ray with the French title has ever been distributed in the English-speaking world. Amazon lists it as ON TRIAL, but it is the same French disc bearing the French title, which in its newly restored state has had English subtitles added. Julien Duvivier wrote the screenplay and directed this film. He is one of the finest French directors, and this is one of his finest films. It has been restored as part of a series of French classics being revived on Blu-Ray, about half of which have had English subtitles added. The film is based upon a novel by the Austrian Jewish author Jacob Wassermann (1873-1934) entitled DER FALL MAURIZIUS (1928), published in English in 1930 as THE MAURIZIUS CASE, and also published in France in 1930, in two volumes, as L'AFFAIRE MAURIZIUS. It is the first novel of a trilogy, the second novel being ETZEL ANDERGAST (1931), published in England as ETZEL ANDERGAST (1932) and in America as DR. KERKHOVEN (also 1932). The third volume was Joseph KERKHOVENS DRITTE EXISTENZ (1934), published in English as KERKHOVEN'S THIRD EXISTENCE (1934). By that time, Wassermann was dead, having died of heart failure on January 1. The trilogy was his last literary work. He is best known internationally for having written CASPAR HAUSER (1908), which was apparently the basis for the film THE ENIGMA OF KASPAR HAUSER by Werner Herzog in 1974 (with script by Herzog), though without Wassermann being credited. DER FALL MAURIZIUS was also made into mini-series twice. The first was made in 1961 in Italy. (Few details are available concerning this. Virna Lisi appeared in it.) The second was in five episodes on German television in 1981. Wassermann's books were all banned and burnt by the Nazis. I must be one of the few people who has read all three novels. I was therefore very eager to see what Duvivier could do with THE MAURIZIUS CASE, when his film was recently released in restored condition. The result is perfectly spectacular. The original novel was extremely lengthy, and rather tedious, over-loaded with case evidence and heavily over-written, so that it was something of a task to read it. But Duvivier saw the cinematic possibilities and with a particular genius managed to extract the essence and make a film far more powerful than the book itself. Duvivier was in top form, and every line of dialogue, every framed shot, every bit of atmosphere, every bit of editing, contributed to a work so refined that it could constitute a marvellous specimen for a master-class in film-making. The film is set in Bern, Switzerland, and shot there on location, to great effect. The original novel was set in Vienna. The film's hero is Etzel Andergast, the 16 year-old son of Procureur Andergast (in the novel, Freiherr, i.e., Baron, Andergast, Attorney General). Eighteen years earlier, the father had been responsible for sending a man named Leonard Maurizius to prison for murdering his wife. Young Etzel meets a strange old man who presents a petition to this father, and when his father is out, he reads it. It is a petition on behalf of his son, the imprisoned Maurizius. Etzel can see that there are serious defects in the case. A witness claimed to see Maurizius shoot his wife as he approached the door of his house and she came out towards him, but in fact she had been shot in the back. All such inconvenient evidence had been swept aside by Etzel's father in his desire to win a sensational case and make his way in his career. Etzel cannot tolerate this, and begins to investigate personally. This leads to immense complications and conflicts, and the true story slowly emerges. All the lies are exposed, the passions revealed, the secret history of a murder made clear. It is an extremely powerful story. The acting is magnificent, and the script and direction are utterly astounding. This is a real classic.
This is an unusual and moving melodrama. (The title is the address of the house where the Chapin family live.) Gary Cooper plays Joe Chapin, and the film opens with his funeral but soon becomes a flashback. Cooper is a man who has just turned fifty, who falls in love with his daughter's best friend Kate, who is in her twenties. She returns his love and they wish to get married. Kate is played by the excellent actress Suzy Parker, who was 25 at the time the film was made and already had a career behind her as the most successful and highest paid model in America. She was one cool dudette. She was also Coco Chanel's favourite model. She plays the role of Kate with great sensitivity and distinction. The film is based on a novel by John O'Hara (1905-1970). Two years later, an excellent film based on another of his novels was made, FROM THE TERRACE (1960, see my review). Probably the most famous screen adaptation of one of his novels was BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960), starring Elizabeth Taylor. ('Butterfield 8' was the first part of a Manhattan telephone number before the days of wholly numerical dialling, Butterfield being the name of a former New York telephone exchange.) This film is set in the fictitious town of Gibbsville, in the state of Pennsylvania, which was the setting of most of O'Hara's sagas. Between 1976 and 1977, a 13 episode series appeared on American television called GIBBSVILLE, based on short stories which O'Hara also set there, but which are separate from this tale. (That series is not and apparently never has been on DVD.) O'Hara was a best-selling author at this period, of immense popularity in America. His fiction spoke of the many concealed conflicts of American life and society in the 1950s, with sons struggling against fathers, unmarred pregnancies, tyrannical mothers and wives, forbidden love, and, above all, the rigid social stratifications caused by money. The film was scripted and directed by Philip Dunne. It is a pity that he was but a middling talent, because this film had all the ingredients of a classic, but his direction was stolid rather than inspired. Despite the best efforts of the cast, therefore, this film fails to reach the top echelon. The story is torrid, and Gary Cooper plays a wealthy man who is continually cheated of his prospects for political advancement because he will not continue to go along with corruption. (The film starts with him giving $20,000 in cash to a political operator in hopes of getting the nomination for Lieutenant Governor of his state, but he tires of this sort of thing and turns against it.) Cooper is married to a ruthless social-climber and harridan, brilliantly played by Geraldine Fitzgerald with all the poison of a viper. Their daughter Ann is played sensitively by Diane Varsi, whose only previous appearance on screen had been the year before in PEYTON PLACE (1957). She was very talented but did not make many films, and died young at 54. The main focus of the story is not at all evident in the beginning, and it is only after the daughter leaves home to live in New York that Gary Cooper goes up to see her as a surprise, she is out, and he meets her roommate for the first time. That's when the romance gets going. Cooper has never been in love before, and the torment of a love that can never be revealed is agony for both him and Suzy Parker. It is all very moving and done with great delicacy and sincerity. The film is very worthwhile and for those who like good sound melodramas, it will not be disappointing.
This is a gloomy British film noir made just after the War, starring Eric Portman as a wronged husband intent upon revenge. He has been away in America for 8 months on business, but during that time he came to realize that his wife was being unfaithful and going around with another man back in London. He returns without notifying her and sets about his meticulously planned campaign of murdering her lover by means of what he calls 'the perfect murder'. The film is based upon a play of the same title by St. John Legh Clowes. It was filmed twice for television, firstly for the BBC in 1949, and secondly in 1957 for the Armchair Theatre series on the ITV network. The playwright turned it into a novel, and that was filmed in 1972 as a German TV movie entitled GELIEBTER MOERDER. It is rather a sinister tale, and I marvel at its popularity. In this first filming of the story, Portman's wife is played by Greta Gynt. She is excellent as a totally narcissistic and faithless femme fatale, of the most disgusting kind. When she is told that a man has committed suicide over her, the camera closes on her face as we see her thrilled and gloating at the news, and she says to herself excitedly: 'He killed himself for me!' Dennis Price, in his best arch and snobbish manner, plays the lover who is murdered by Portman. But Portman discovers that the murder was pointless, because his wife has already dropped Price and taken up with another man played by Maxwell Reed. There are many twists and turns, much duplicity, lying, and deception, and several false stories. Through all of this the study police inspector played by Jack Warner does not believe anybody and knows something is fishy with all their stories. It would all be very fascinating if the people were not all so horrible and the events so very repulsive. Arthur Crabtree did a very good job of directing, and he uses a great deal of darkness in his shots to underline the awful gloom.
|Page 1 of 104:||          |