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13 West Street (1962)
Alan Ladd near the end
Alan Ladd plays an aerospace engineer on his way home from a late night at the office when his car runs out of gas on a dark street and he encounters a group of high school teenagers. The encounter leads to his being beaten up pretty badly and sets in motion his quest for either justice or revenge. Rod Steiger as a police detective represents the justice part, but the wheels move too slowly for Ladd, who engages in his own investigation to avenge his humiliating experience. This sets up a conflict with the law, the school system, which leads to several consequences. The major problem with the film is Ladd was too close to the end of his career and his life. He looks it, or even embodies it, which seems to permeate the film for the good and the bad. Nonetheless, worth watching for the storyline which has pace taking you up to a tough ending at a poolside in Beverly Hills.
To Each His Own (1946)
motherhood and business meet in Olivia de Havilland
A successful cosmetics tycoon (Olivia de Havilland) goes on a flashback of her life story as she mans her assigned post during a bombing raid in 1944 London. This trip takes us to her youthful days as the beautiful daughter working in her father's pharmacy in small-town New York state where she's the prize for a couple of suitors, but falls for a barnstorming WWI pilot (John Lund) and ends up having a son out of wedlock. The prevailing morals make keeping the child out of the question, but her love for her son is at the center of the film, as is her emerging success as a businesswoman which allows her financial independence which opens more doors for her character. This role won de Havilland the Oscar for best actress and it is a great part which shows a woman taking on her times and succeeding in doing so.
classic late 1960's Italian film
Franco Nero plays a Milan painter whose work is currently quite popular with collectors and commands high prices. His agent, played by Vanessa Redgrave, is also his lover. Thus you have a mix of artistic talent and its value as a monetary commodity that runs like a current through the movie. His obsession with soft-porn magazines reveals other aspects that result in the character of an artist driven by the kinds of internal forces that exert the edgy influences over his art that collectors find irresistible. The idea to find a quiet place in the country in which to produce more art appeals to him, as well as Redgrave, but for apparently entirely different reasons. The place they eventually decide upon is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a beautiful woman who was killed during an air raid in WW2. In a shocking weird seance scene we see or even feel, thanks to the talent of the director and all the other talent involved, her vaguely dangerous ghostly presence. Nero's insanity becomes increasingly clear as he moves psychologically further into the Italian villa with its ghost. On one level the movie is a disturbing look into his soul, but it also an analysis of the interaction of the commercial forces in the market for contemporary art and the troubled artist.
sterling courtroom drama
As dusk settles on a small Connecticut city someone approaches a well-liked priest who is out for a walk and shoots him in the head.The act of violence occurs as the city is under the leadership of a reform city government which comes under fire from the local press for ineptitude for not arresting someone right away. When they do, of course it's the wrong guy, a World War 2 veteran of the Pacific campaign, sort of a drifter looking for a new start. Dana Andrews plays the prosecutor who resists a strong current of opinion that this guy must be convicted in order to project the right image whether or not he's actually guilty. His wife is played by Jane Wyatt in a pretty good role, but the actual stars of this well-done courtroom drama are the ones who play the eye-witnesses and Andrews himself, who is stellar, as usual. The actors and script by Richard Murphy mesh well together, each side brings out the best in the other, thanks most likely to Elia Kazan the director. For a ninety minute film it contains quite a bit of well-drawn out angles.
These Thousand Hills (1959)
from cowboy to politician
An above-average western about a cowboy who rises up the social ladder to become a respected rancher and later a Montana politician, who seems to become more of a hypocrite with each upward step. Don Murray, who plays the lead role, dumps Lee Remick as a saloon girl for Patricia Owens who plays the wholesome daughter of one of the town's prominent leaders. Dumping Remick for Owens seems to signify Murray's embrace of and acceptance into the town's Christian and social establishment, and his abandonment of his cowboy pal played by Stuart Whitman. Richard Egan occupies the film's bad guy role as Remick's abusive ex-boyfriend, and unscrupulous rancher. Directed by Richard Fleischer, this is a classic example of a 1950s western with modern themes set amongst the beauty of the West.
1970 Cold War expose
I got dragged into this movie like the protagonist got dragged into the brutal, endless interrogation. Given the overall vapidity of most of today's films, this is a real diversion into the power that really lies beneath the surface of movies, the acting, the writing, directing, and most important the mood. The mood of this film drags you like it does the character played by Yves Montand, as he endures a two year interrogation by the people's republic. It's real historic as well, full of details about Titoists, Trotskyites, and anarchists and paranoia over the struggle to control the communist revolution. But Montand looks great as he endures an impressive variety of interrogation techniques.
Devil's Doorway (1950)
sleeper Anthony Mann western
A decorated veteran of the American Civil War who is also a Shoshone Indian returns to Wyoming where he finds significantly more white settlers who are keenly interested in his prime valley land. Robert Taylor may not have been your first choice as the Shoshone. Whatever, because Taylor did a remarkable portrayal of a complex character with allegiances to his Shoshone people as well as the United States, for which he bravely fought to preserve the Union in the Civil War. This film relates his fight for the Shoshone cause as he finds his identity as citizen of the United States stripped from him and thus his legal rights to what was his own land. Directed by Anthony Mann and filmed by Mann's legendary cinematographer John Alton in black and white, this turns out to be a western superior perhaps even to Mann's classic Winchester 73.
Best of the Badmen (1951)
Robert Ryan and the Quantrill Raiders
Jeff Clanton (Robert Ryan) a major in the Union army, captures the remnants of the Quantrill Raiders which include the James brothers as well as the Youngers. Clanton is disposed to let them all go if they take an oath of allegiance, but Mathew Fowler (Robert Preston), the head of the Fowler Detective Agency, a private law enforcement outfit that protects the moneyed interests, has his eyes set on the impressive rewards each of the "badmen" has accrued, setting up what looks to be a pretty good story when Ryan is arrested and faces hanging. He sides with the "badmen" against Fowler, who seems to represent the emerging new order. Claire Trevor, who is supposed to be a saloon girl, is actually married to Fowler, but falls for Clanton. Her character makes zero sense. The movie makes less and less sense as it goes along and even the great Robert Preston can't save it, though he's always worth watching. The RKO Technicolor department seems to have altered the values a little, coming up with some interesting scenes as the evenings fade into darkness. Should have been better given the story.
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
this film is heretical
Exorcist II the Heretic presents a vividly colorful travelrama to Africa in order to ascertain what exactly happened to Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) of the original Exorcist. This version features a sort of anthropological element to arrive at the source of the evil demon that still lurks inside Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair). It's way out of the range of her well-intentioned psychiatric professional (Louise Fletcher), who employs a device known as a synchronizer that locks the two minds together in order to return to the room on the night Merrin dies. The Catholic cardinal Paul Henreid dispatches father Philip Lamont (Richard Burton) to finally close the case on this incident of demonic possession after a stunning opening to the movie in swirling visual detail that introduces the viewer to the style that somehow lifts this film to an unexepected level of borderline greatness for its overall bizarreness.
The Decks Ran Red (1958)
When the first officer of an ocean liner (James Mason) finally gets a chance to captain his own ship it turns out to be the one on which crew members Broderick Crawford and Stuart Whitman are plotting to kill the ship's entire crew and somehow collect a million dollars in insurance. Entirely claustrophobic setting of the ship goes well with the plan to kill everyone. The overall sense of cold-blooded cruelty is a natural fit for Crawford, but Stuart Whitman's character turns out to possess a surprising degree of sliminess. How the great James Mason deals with this is but one of the great aspects of this under-appreciated masterpiece. Dorothy Dandridge, the cook's attractive wife, should have never been on the ship in the first place, but her presence is just another bit of the film's overall audacity and quality.