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The Killers (1964)
Granddaddy of All Bad TV Movies!
First off, I don't recognize this film as having anything to do with the forties' mini-classic. This was originally intended as a 'tv movie', and damn if it doesn't look like one. I'm expecting 'A Quinn Martin Production' credit somewhere.
The film was deemed too violent for television, and although tame by today's standards (aren't most old movies?), it was a bit brutal, courtesy the always interesting Lee Marvin and the less interesting Clu Gulager.
I didn't observe any chemistry between Cassavetes and Dickinson's characters. Hard to relate to any of the cast because they are all basically up to no good. Angie Dickinson in particular looked rather plain for a woman who could put on the glam when she wanted to.
Ronald Reagan is phoning this performance in, almost as if he's aware of the trash he is making here. When given a good script, most of these actors do fine jobs, but personally, I get a bigger kick from old gory black and white 'Untouchables' programs.
The only interesting note is that Virginia Christine, the Folgers' coffee lady, appears in both this 1964 version and the original from 1946, in different roles. Somehow turning an interesting old film noir into a sixties' television movie was a definite step backwards. I won't sit through this again.
Fallen Angel (1945)
Flawed film with a great twist ending
Someone commented that this film is better than 'Laura'. I'd have to say that I agree, but that is no ringing endorsement for 'Fallen Angel', because there are at least two too many unbelievable characters.
We get quite early on that Dana Andrews is your quintessential ne'er do well con artist. His cheeky move of marrying a virtuous girl with money (Alice Faye) to eventually use his new-found wealth to romance the very sexy Linda Darnell, is a tad outrageous.
The only believable character is the teasing Darnell. She looks very fresh and lovely here.
Alice Faye looks out of place in this film noir, as she had that oh so sweet blonde innocent look. I was literally scratching my head trying to figure out why such a nice girl would be so taken with the obvious bum Andrews.
So, no, I didn't 'buy' the movie, as i didn't 'buy' 'Laura'. But the ending I must admit was very clever and a wonderful bit of off-type casting.
The ending is almost as good as Preminger's ambiguous finish to his masterpiece 'Anatomy of a Murder'.
The Intruder (1962)
This Movie Has No Place in the World of Political Correctness
It is very little wonder that the Roger Corman production of 'The Intruder' is a very rarely seen 1962 film about integration in the South. The usually affable William Shatner plays a prototype David Duke character, he's even seen cavorting with KKK members in their motorcades.
The dialog is full of words certainly too 'offensive' by today's PC standards. The dreaded 'n' word is repeated countless times. Along with 'jigs' and 'coons', the dialogue, though 'offensive' to today's ultra-hip millennials, is gritty and real for its time.
I would suggest that 'The Intruder' is a very honest, hard-hitting film, where 'To Kill A Mockingbird' is sentimental and romantic. (I am quite aware that 'Mockingbird' is on so many people's 'favorite' lists. Excuse me.)
Personally, I think this no holds barred story about the days of school integration is totally believable and I'm impressed with the fine screenplay of Charles Beaumont, who is more famously noted for his brilliant short stories and 'Twilight Zone' scripts. He has a small role towards the end of the film.
As far as our beloved 'PC' world, the internet is a valuable tool for finding films of this ilk. For all I know, the movie may be available on DVD. But I personally had never heard of the title, and I'm familiar with much of Beaumont's and Shatner's work.
It doesn't have a happy ending. Why would it?
Inner Sanctum (1948)
Another film noir gem with an innocuous title
'Inner Sanctum' has nothing to do with the radio show, and the title hardly prepares one for a rather ugly story. To me, this is quintessential film noir...low budget, a dark film that plays like a nightmare.
Charles Russell is hardly the face of evil, as say, Robert Mitchum could play. But this man does not look right. An early scene sees the man killing a woman, and then quite willing to murder a boy. He menacingly tells the Mary Beth Hughes' character twice: 'you're real pretty, when your lips aren't moving...'
There is a mysterious psychic doctor character who relates the gruesome tale to a woman on a train. This was a very clever ploy to give the whole piece a 'recurring nightmare' effect, another outstanding feature of film noir at its best.
Is it a great movie? I was a bit disappointed in the ending. I found the usually pleasing Lee Patrick more than a bit abrasive as the doting mother. But I was fascinated in the piece enough to watch it twice. Like the movie 'Strange Illusion', the movie stays in your head...much like a recurring nightmare!
Diary of a Mad Housewife (1970)
Entertaining Early Entry Into Man-Hating Cinema
I feel I am being generous giving 'Diary' a seven. The first half of the movie reminded me of the trash of 'Looking For Mr. Goodbar'. Basically, you have a thoroughly annoying, egotistical husband (played by the usually affable Richard Benjamin) married to poor Carrie Snodgress. Although not a crowd pleaser, Ms. Snodgress registers some sort of strange appeal with me in the role.
You can hardly blame Carrie for her adulterous affair with the very young and handsome Frank Langella, but his character is what makes this the man-hating flick that it is, for Langella is his own selfish bastard. At one point, Carrie's character accuses the Langella character of being 'gay'.
My big kick in seeing this film was the appearance of 'The Alice Cooper Band' and their music sounds great, but visually, very little was shot of Alice and his rock band, which was a bit of a disappointment to me.
The ending is an incongruous 'happy' or 'philisophiical' view of life, as it seems to me that it would take a miracle to save this couple's marriage. When I think of 'philosophical' happy endings, I can only refer people to the film 'Alfie', which is in many ways a fine movie, but the dishonest ending of Alfie even glimpsing 'what it's all about' is optimism at its most phony and rings hollow as does this film's finish.
In another curious note, both this film and Diane Keaton's 'Looking For Mr. Goodbar' are rather hard to find, if nonexistent, on DVD. 'Diary' was vaguely entertaining. 'Goodbar' is simply revolting.
Vastly Overrated Film Noir
I've watched this movie three times and the magnificence of this film eludes me. Sure, the title music is haunting. Gene Tierney is lovely as ever. Dana Andrews is spot on as the detective investigating the 'murder' of Laura.
What throws the whole film off for me is the casting of the very fey Clifton Webb as the villain. Nastiness aside, Waldo Lydecker is way too light in his loafers to be a murderer. I have seen Webb in movies in which he was suited, so this is not a disparagement of his acting talent. To me, he is badly miscast in this piece.
And for my money, Tierney's appearance is too little and too late. The only characters that stick in my mind are the Andrews' cop, idly playing with his little toy baseball game. And Vincent Price is amusing as the kept man of Judith Anderson.
I would go so far as to say that 'Laura' is disengaging film noir, where Preminger's 'Anatomy of a Murder' is brilliant. I have watched 'Anatomy' three times, and I would watch it again. The ambiguity of the characters is amazing. The movie's end makes it clear to me that Gazzara and Remick are a kinky, twisted pair who took Jimmy Stewart and the whole justice system for a ride, but there is nothing explicit about their guilt. The movie smacks of reality to me and 'Laura' leaves a curious falseness by the film's end.
That 'Laura' sits on most people's favorite film noir lists is a puzzle to me, but movies are so subjective that I won't quibble with someone else's 'treasures'.
Women's Prison (1955)
Women's Prison Movies Are Always Hilarious!
I reluctantly gave this film a six star rating, although it deserves a four. It sticks in my mind as one of the funniest women's prison films I've ever seen, and that's saying something!
This is like the 'grandmammy' of all women's prison pictures, being released way back in 1955. The cast contains so much promise and talent. I usually love Ms. Lupino in just about everything she did. There's a real 'b' girl ensemble cast with the very talented Jan Sterling (so good in Wilder's 'Ace in the Hole'), the beautiful Cleo Moore (who is given very little to do in a minor role), and the always interesting Audrey Totter.
But I found it hard to sit through this flick without my tongue in my cheek. Let's face it: Ida Lupino's prison ward is Cruella De Ville, Lady MacBeth and Nurse Ratchet rolled into one psycho package. I do enjoy her banter between her and husband Howard Duff (one of the few sympathetic characters in the piece). But Duff simply 'duffs' along. A good looking guy, I've found him pretty blank-faced as an actor.
Another sup-plot involves inmate Phyllis Thaxter. (Another fine actress, I know she did work in films, but she did a lot of nice television work, too.) She is losing her mind being around all of these conniving females, and she's 'almost' innocent. She killed a young girl with her automobile, but she was not 'drunk' and it is described as an 'accident'.
It's interesting to note here that perhaps today's society would be much tougher on a woman based on this crime, accident or no.
The 'coed' prison is right out of the filthy perverse mind of Albert Zugsmith. I supposed institutions similar to this may have existed, and this gave the movie another silly sub-plot to have male inmate Warren Stevens sneak over and get his wife Audrey Totter pregnant.
I know this is supposed to be grim stuff, but I was chuckling by this time. Lupino goes crazy after her murder of the inmate Totter. I thought Ms. Lupino was rather good in a role that Bette Davis would have probably relished. It reminding me of Ida's performance years earlier, going crazy in the courtroom scene at the end of 'They Drive By Night'.
Having said all that, I must confess that I found this movie pretty ridiculous. Is it a bit strange? Sure. But Lupino, who was fine playing tough, sultry, beautiful babes in so many films strikes out with a real loser here. Unintentionally hilarious.
Take My Life (1947)
If You Like Hitchcock, You'll Enjoy This
I found this a very quick-paced thriller. Neame's camera work found fresh ways to do clichéd scenes. So many movies are described as 'Hitchcockian', but rarely deliver the Master's unique touch. I don't find Neame's work here a ripoff of Hitch's genre, but rather an homage to the great director.
Like Sir Alfred, Neame has the wrong man accused of murder. In fact, male lead Hugh Williams is quite ineffectual at any sort of defense, since the movie opens with him on trial for murder and quickly found guilty. That the fine British character actor Francis L. Sullivan is given such a short role as prosecuting attorney is fine with me. He is cleverly used to state his case against the defendant, leading into flashbacks of the drama as it really happened.
This leaves the lovely Greta Gynt to portray opera star and first class detective. Yet another Hitchcock theme is revealed as the cops and the justice system yet again fail an innocent man. It's up to Ms. Gynt to sort out the clues that lead to the real killer.
The train sequences definitely reminded me of Hitchcock's 'The Lady Vanishes', and there is a plot twist near the end which is quite delicious.
I suggest that previous reviewers who found nothing interesting in this movie must have been half asleep during their viewing. I was riveted by Neame's work with the camera, and it's definitely a movie worth a second look.
Williams as the male lead is fairly useless, a handsome man who could easily be taken as a ne'er do well living off his wife's successful operatic career. So it is up to the strong performance of Gynt's character to drive the story to its compelling end.
This movie has been described as 'film noir', but I see it as more of a 'thriller'. And like the best of Hitchcock's suspense films, this one delivers.
House of Mystery (1961)
Innocuous Title Quite Misleading
The previous reviewer is correct. This is an intelligent, short movie that unfortunately sports the 'generic' title 'House of Mystery', which tells you absolutely nothing. This is the type of clever story that Rod Serling wished he could have aired on his 'Twilight Zone' hour format. I mention this because the running time is about an hour, and it struck me that this film had all of the hallmarks of a really good 'Twilight Zone', and frankly, the hour long stories in that series were 'padded'...the action was stalled often to fill up a fifty minute run time.
What you get is a screenplay that anticipates the hauntings in 'Poltergeist'. A strange woman introduced at the beginning of the film becomes an incidental 'narrator' and we are led up the garden path with a strange story of an electric engineer and his faithless wife.
I don't think this film rises to the magnificence of 'The Innocents', another very 'wise' ghost story. But frankly, the film is helped by its short length. Modern audiences won't appreciate the black and white film nor the movies 'talkiness' in parts. And the piece sports no dramatic 'special effects'. Tough. They'll just miss yet another fine film.
It was an added bonus to gaze on the young beauty of Nanette Newman at the beginning of her career. Fans of Serling's 'Twilight Zone' would much appreciate the story told here.
The Dentist (1932)
Only Fields Could Pull This Off
W.C. Fields was almost Charlie Chaplin's 'anti-christ'. It was EASY to fall in love with the charming little tramp. Fields was entering dangerous territory...talk about 'sick jokes'. Lenny Bruce is often attributed as creator of the 'sick joke', but Fields was into this twisted humor decades before. It's part of American culture. Now Fields is loved, but not ADORED like Chaplin. I consider them both geniuses, but Fields was doing a dangerous thing. Making cynicism, cruelness somehow funny. He was almost the comedic male equivalent of Bette Davis, who relished portraying loathsome characters. I'm a recovering alcoholic, and I still find the drunk jokes hilarious....hell, I can relate to nearly every one! This short features nastiness on a golf course, and to me, the humor of Fields drilling on the teeth of his female patient as she raises her skirt, writhing in pain, and exhibiting a wonderful pair of legs, is precious. How Fields got away with this in the first place is a mystery...there are shots in this sequence that look like a porn movie! The Motion Picture Code censored these scenes (I've seen the shortened version), but I just downloaded a beautiful restored copy on the internet.