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"Dear Murderer" is a short, very intriguing British mystery that caught my interest by its title. After a long work-related trip, Eric Portman comes home to find his wife not home. But, in fact we find out real quick that he knows a lot more than that and he's intent on killing the other fellow, played by Dennis Price. Greta Gynt is the unfaithful wife. But then there's a twist; Eric soon finds out there's more than one. He can't kill them all, Dennis says. But Eric finds a way to pin the murder on the other other fellow. All these convoluted schemes made for a very complicated but absorbing mess. I liked this very much with its layered plots developing more and more as it went along, but, by the end, the viewer really has very few people to feel any compassion for and therefore it feels a bit mean-spirited and/or downbeat. But the irony of the unexpected, Eric Portman's acting, and his character's egotistical disposition make up for any flaws this film may have. Sit back for a very perverse experience of the British kind.
We open on a dusk-filled marsh-like field of France. A man is crouched down in position for duck/bird hunting, when from behind him a man approaches and shoots him. Such begins Francois Truffaut's "Confidentially Yours." Fanny Ardant is a secretary who has for some time been in love with her employer. When he is under suspicion by the police for the killing, she sets out to help him. Through a series of Hitchcockian developments and scenarios, they are thrust together. More murders occur, even as he is trying to keep an arm's length away from the police. I thought I had more to say, but this was a very enjoyable film that got more complicated as it went along. At times, it felt very tongue-in-cheek and in others the imminent danger was intense. But make sure you see this (on TV or DVD) with subtitles you can read. The top of the second line was at the bottom of the screen, barely making it readable. Otherwise, a very well-made film with good lead actors and a haunting mysteriousness about it make this a very rewarding experience.
Sam Jaffe gets out of stir after having served his time and promptly has plans for another heist. But he needs the usual men of experience: the safe-cracker, the driver, etc. Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, James Whitmore, Jean Hagen, and Marilyn Monroe costar in this film noir, that has been hailed as one of the best of its kind. I saw it almost 20 years ago and for some reason I remember not liking it much. Normally any story of criminals on the run come to no good (end) and there's nothing to like about them and nothing (thank goodness) to relate to. Maybe that's why I didn't like it, and I was young But seeing it today, I recognize all the elements that come together in this story of people gone bad. After all, it's the story of people that make any movie interesting and worth watching. Instead of just taking them at face value and shooting at each other, we are allowed into their private worlds. One man speaks of his wife and little girl. One man longs for his youth and his horse, wanting to go home again. Jean Hagen is a standout as she takes in Sterling Hayden and falls in love with him. She was Oscar-nominated for "Singin' in the Rain" but I think she's just as good if not better here. Marilyn Monroe is memorable in three short scenes and holds her own against real pros. And, Sam Jaffe and Sterling Hayden are good too, but perhaps the biggest impression on the viewers is Louis Calhern, who embodies and conveys his character's eccentricities so well. He's so subdued yet so intense and desperate. He always seems to be picture perfect well dressed, in control, calm, when really it's bottled up. The whole production has the John Huston touch and it really packs a wallop. All the key parts are here to make this a must-see film noir. But in fact it's the story of people and choices and wrong turns that makes this transcend all other heist movies.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A married man's obsession with a nightclub singer plots to leave his old life behind, such is the gist of this Ann Sheridan film. Kent Smith meets Ann Sheridan quite by accident, as he is a doctor, coming to her aid. As his life seems to have become rather monotonous and she represents a change, he is mesmerized by her. When a dying patient who can't be helped suddenly drops dead, Kent of course seizes the opportunity to take full advantage of this odd situation. What begins as an enjoyable film with some good moments between Ann and Kent suddenly goes beyond the point of no return. A lightweight and well-made film, also featuring Robert Alda and Bruce Bennett, suddenly feels very heavy-handed and ultimately no one wins. That about sums it up.
"The Big Clock" is an example of an otherwise simple film made exceptional by masters at work, such as Ray Milland and Charles Laughton, but especially director John Farrow and his crew of technicians. Black and white photography, scenes gliding into each other, and taut direction of the action highlight this story of writer Milland working for publishing tycoon Laughton and getting caught up in a murder scandal. By way of flashback, we see how it all began, why Milland is on the run, and how clocks play a part in this sinister and fun film. With a solid supporting cast of George Macready, Henry(Harry) Morgan (who's spooky in a non-speaking role,) Maureen O'Sullivan (Farrow's wife in real life,) Rita Johnson (who I always liked in movies with her own little sparkle), and Elsa Lanchester (Laughton's wife in real life) in a scene-stealing role. In fact, Laughton seems to be the type of actor who doesn't emote much, but steals the scene from others in little ways. The plot unfolds and develops intricately but simply and it's delicious the whole way. This film really gets you in the mood for another film and another film, immersing yourself in the age of the old-fashioned movies they just don't make anymore. Period.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One night coming home, Ann Sheridan is accosted at her front door by an intruder who pushes her in and begins to beat her. Fade out. Fade in. There's a body on her living room floor. We would be more intrigued by this scenario, had it not been for the title, and also for the fact that we can tell by her mannerisms and the way she looked at him that she knew the guy. Husband Zachary Scott has been serving his country, but happens to be coming home the morning the body is lying in their living room. She is questioned by the police and friend-of-the-family/lawyer Lew Ayres and she sticks to her story that she defended herself against a stranger. But, after Lew has done a little sleuthing for himself and cornered her, she tells more but still not all. Costarring Eve Arden and Jerome Cowan, this is a very unflinching and real take on infidelity. Ann Sheridan didn't get many chances to show off her acting chops, as she was usually given musicals or comedies; but here she is able to convey depth in a rare dramatic role. The fact is though we usually liked Ann Sheridan in her comedies, but here she is placed in a rather unpleasant, unsympathetic position. The film, as it progresses, is well made and well mounted, but the deeper she gets, the more we feel it's the bed she made for herself. (Sleep in it.) Eve Arden is on hand as usual with her quick one-liners, but we don't like her either as she comes across as catty and mean to Ann. I liked its less-is-more ending with a somber but hopeful look towards the future rather than a pat happy ending with cheery smiles. The main criticism I have of the film is that, while Lew Ayres was rather good and suitably cast as the lawyer with high ideals (as he was a conscientious objector to WWII), his words of wisdom (near the end of the picture) for the couple with a rough road ahead seemed a bit preachy and/or sanctimonious to me. But otherwise, "The Unfaithful" was a very entertaining film, directed by Vincent Sherman, who once again delivered the goods in fashionable style.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Crainquebille" is a street vendor who sells vegetables in the heart of Paris, but, when a misunderstanding leads him to be arrested, his security and health decline. The complications leading up to it are somewhat petty and irritating, but interestingly enough, the film has a haunting hold on the viewer with its wistful little score and in watching the lead actor go about his way throughout the boroughs and ways of Paris. You believe in what you see with a good feel for time and place and with good supporting characters throughout the film, most notably a young boy with his dog, who befriends the old man at the end of the film. The film is a bit aloof or distant from the old man's predicament, that is until one desperate act finds him needing and getting help. The last moments make up for any slowness or meticulousness in setting up the film's beginning. By the end of the movie and long after it, you will feel you have witnessed the craftsmanship of a great director and be in awe of the range of the lead actor and how it all came together. "Crainquebille" is a must-see silent film for any serious silent film lover.
Fredric March, Berry Field, Agnes Moorehead and young Skip Homeier stars in this film about a young boy who's been brainwashed by Germans. When both of his parents have died, he is taken to his uncle, played by Fredric March, who was his mother's brother. (Fredric's sister had married a German.) Young Skip comes to America with fixed hard convictions, trusting no one and hating everyone but Germans. The subject matter will obviously affect the viewer intensely and can provoke much discussion, but I am mainly addressing the cinematic aspects of the film and how well it entertains the viewer. The film is fascinating and the cast is exceptional, especially Fredric who always gave thoughtful and deeply felt performances. Young Skip is good and is at times eerily effective, but I felt that his character's complexities were probably too much for him to really convey. An added plus is the presence of Agnes Moorehead as a member of the family, who had a bad feeling about him coming from the beginning. It's quite an interesting film and one that had been on my to-watch list for some time, when I finally got around to it. I'm glad I did and I would watch it again. Kudos to a well-written and thought-out film with another great performance by Fredric March.
Warren William and Bette Davis star in this film about electing a dark horse in office. The term, "a dark horse" in political jargon refers to someone running for office who's not unlikely to win or not likely to get the peoples' or favorite vote, not one to bet on, in terms of horse racing. When the party is not happy with their candidate because he's lost the confidence of the people, they come up with the name of an average Joe, who may be able to do what their man can't - keep their party in office, the main goal at election time. Guy Kibbee is "The Dark Horse," who appears with his usual ease and affability, here even more simple-minded than usual. When it's decided they need a publicity man to sell him, Bette Davis says she knows just the man, but he's in jail. They get Warren William out of jail and put him to work. William is ideally suited for the role, with his forceful voice and imposing demeanor. Warren is center stage with his complications of his love life with Bette and his ex and him trying to sell Guy Kibbee to the people. People may see this, because it's a Bette Davis film, but it belongs to Warren William. Warren William has, for the most part, been forgotten, except by those who frequently watch TCM. He was the first actor to play Perry Mason in film, and was known for his deep voice and the firm conviction he gave to his characters - usually lawyers and people of influence, but not always on the side of the law or good. For an introduction to Warren William and for good entertainment, watch "The Dark Horse." Its antics may come across as silly and simple, but its heart is there, and Bette and Warren make for an exciting couple to sit back and enjoy.
Not doing what they're told? Not behaving? Not going by the usual by-the-book rules? They don't care. David Selby and Ron Leibman are "The Super Cops." They get their man, by going undercover, by getting their hands dirty, by putting themselves in harm's way, by not caring what the boss says. They are really traffic cops who go where the action is and are busting drug traffickers and pushers and getting themselves in trouble in the process. After one time, they are transferred to a less-than-desirable district where they are welcomed reluctantly. But when they start doing what they know best, their new supervisor is secretly pleased with their results and wants them to keep it up, making them even more hated by their fellow cops. This is a very entertaining film with both Selby and Leibman's affable personalities complimenting each other. The film doesn't so much end with a finality to anything, as much as it shows a new change and challenge to their daily working day. For an entertaining and exciting look at a 1970s day in the life of two unusual cops, based on real people, sit back and enjoy David and Ron mixing it up and getting drugs off the streets.
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