Reviews

28 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Sirocco (1951)
7/10
"How can anyone so ugly be so handsome?"
29 September 2006
(Marta Toren to Bogie)....what a great line! I'm surprised it hasn't gone down in the lexicon of great movie quips...and it captures perfectly the paradoxical mystery of Bogie's eternal charm, as well as the mystery of how an essentially mediocre film can be redeemed by its own dry, sardonic charm (due largely to help from fine supporting players as much as from Bogie), some great B/W photography, and a persistently downbeat refusal to push any sort of patriotic agenda.(adding greatly to that charm quotient.) The postwar noir influence is in fine fettle here. So Bogie doesn't exactly have a great motivation for his final decision? He just changed his mind, that's all. Take it or leave it. "I've taken long chances before. Okay." What could be better than that? It's the way people act every day. Every good critical eye without a mote in it knows that this film is safely and securely within the universe of the best product Hollywood ever put out, a great, mordant, counterweight universe to the unwatchable sap they themselves were producing right alongside it. "Sirocco" is not even really that minor a star in that universe. Good, good, good.
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Premiere: Lassiter (1968)
Season 1, Episode 2
10/10
one of the best TV Pilots ever
10 August 2006
I saw this on network TV in 1980, must have been some kind of freak filler and it blew me away, I was amazed by the tight direction of Wanamaker, wow, gee whiz, and this was the prime of my buddy Burt, makes me wonder how many great pilots are locked away in vaults only awaiting the day of judgment when they are all unlocked and facing their maker, not their TV maker but the big maker, and judged, this one's going on the right hand of god, by God, I wrote Burt a fan letter about this episode, like the best TV film noir I ever saw...probably as good as the live TV of the 1950s except honed to a knife edge of perfection, like I said, you'll never see this but I did and I'm glad.
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9/10
A film to convince skeptics of Gable's talent
8 July 2006
One of the great opening scenes of any Hollywood movie projects a kind of cinematic/theatrical authority in a league with O'Neill or Odets, first we see the black man, filled with jolly self denial, buffing the crap tables, his tragedy is implicit from the first moment, believing in his heart that he is on a social par with the other white employees... and with quick, methodical grace the other supporting characters are sharply introduced - they're waiting for lefty, or godot,or the Iceman, or their savior,who happens to be Gable in one of his greatest roles...this is the refined essence of that great personality on screen...the man could simply manufacture chemistry not only with his leading ladies but with other men as well...too bad the crisp, exciting climax at the crap table does not quite live up to this glorious existential opening but it's still an eminently enjoyable Hollywood wrap up..one of the most underrated MGM movies.
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9/10
Why was it made at all? (re: previous comment)
30 May 2006
For heaven's sake - sparkling and witty actors interpreting brilliant Shavian dialogue with exquisite timing, exploring with the greatest imaginable finesse a huge ethical issue which is as timely now as it was then ....I have not seen or read the unedited play so I cannot indulge in comparisons, but it would seem to me that this was a very professional and refined adaptation of a very funny and wise work, which should stimulate the viewer to explore not only Shaw's original, but also all his other brilliant and fearless sashays...and for that matter why not Oscar Wilde, George Gissing, the whole exquisite corpus of the British fin de siecle....why not accept such a film as a great gift, an invitation to broaden one's literary horizons and become aware of a wonderful, lost world of refinement that will never come again? Down with the philistines!!
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Monumental performance by Reid
27 April 2006
this is a showcase for some magnificent acting....it doesn't seem at all homophobic , but rather immensely poignant and sad...and in what other film do you get to see a great lesbian band in matching sweaters and guitars (good solo!) Difficult at the beginning, just seems shallow and bitchy, but stick with it and watch Beryl Reid's character disintegrate....the final scene reminded me of "The Blue Angel" or "The Entertainer" in its shattering degradation...congrats to Aldrich for having the guts to make this movie, I think it stands the test of time rather well. Coral Browne is also magnificent, and York holds her own. The lesbian bar scene is worth waiting for.
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The Boss (1956)
9/10
One tough cookie exiled by time
26 April 2006
In trying to jumpstart itself, this movie is somewhat heavy handed at the beginning, taking one notably big and questionable dramatic risk, but gains power slowly and turns into something of a monumental mini-epic with John Payne's changes of hair coloring registering his slow and merciless journey toward a godless end...what a performance, but it's not as good as Gloria McGehee's as the unwanted wife Lorry - which is about as good as you'll ever see from an actress on screen, period. Also great is Robin Morse as Johnny the Organization Man, a wonderful low key performance...where has this movie been all our lives? It's powerful, at times difficult to watch, brutal, and worth the ride.
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Something to say to us today
15 April 2006
I loved the emphasis on community values in this film. The ideas that the main character pulls for are not a whit outdated and can certainly be applied to today's society. It seems that in life, as in this film, there is always an element who tries to pull apart the community spirit for their own ends. These ideas are presented here in a completely engaging manner and are there for all to see as simple common sense. Kudos to Thomas Mitchell for another grand performance. Too bad this is another forgotten film which should be resurrected for its ideas which are strangely hip and contemporary. And Janet Leigh does a wonderful job, as does the actress who plays her mother.
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Party Girl (1958)
Ray, Master of Colour AND Black and white; some memories
1 April 2006
I viewed this film in an archival print at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, CA years ago and my chief memory of it is the blazing colour. I cannot think of another director who used both colour and black and white in his various films to such great advantage. In my view the use of color in film has regressed sharply since the days in which this film was made. The recent film with Dennis Quaid and Julianne Moore, a Sirkian domestic drama, used Kodak film to similar effect, so it can still be done. Remembering The film's star, Robert Taylor, also brings to mind Judy Garland and Billie Holiday, all three at about this time bringing us their valedictory performances, bringing us to tears with their aging and beautiful souls, veterans of a time that will never come again.
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9/10
Stillness as mis en scene
16 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Nicholas Ray's 1952 film "On Dangerous Ground" (whose status in the true universe of film noir remains debatable) might be profitably viewed alongside his earlier work with Humphrey Bogart, "In A Lonely Place" (a film, in my opinion, decisively noir) as contrasting the fates of two similar men - with Robert Ryan's Jim Wilson ultimately finding reprieve for that loneliness ( a major theme of Ray's - nb Rebel Without A Cause) as set against Bogart's Dixon Steele, who receives only an extended sentence.

Both of these actors were supremely capable of rendering torment. Ryan, a champion collegiate boxer, was perhaps the more adept of the two at sheer physicality - in fact he was one of the great physical actors in cinema. But here, like Bogart earlier on, Ryan's weathered face bears the chief responsibility of registering tension, carefully tended and lit by Ray until lovingly unleashed by him in violent physical outbursts - notably, here, Ryan is actually on the offensive only in the first half of the film; there is a redemptive aspect to his physicality later on... Violence in this film is not used, as in "In A Lonely Place," as climactic signification of final damnation. Uncontrolled anger and a crushing nihilism are, initially, the reigning demons of both men - but Ryan's Wilson is redeemed by circumstance (and of course his own innate spiritual ability to BE redeemed.) A chance encounter with the sublime vulnerability of goodness - and the possibility of rendering humane service to it - allows Wilson an opening view onto his own vulnerability.

The penultimate framing shot of Ryan's hand clasping Lupino's, reminiscent of that famous tableau in "The Last Judgment", arguably places this film outside the universe of noir. Wilson has been blessed -not usually an attribute of noir - with the witness of a double example of vulnerability - polarized by Lupino's serene grace and the brutal grief of Ward Bond as the slain girl's father. How to act, and how not to react - there, in tableaux before him- two essentially decent characters but with this difference: Lupino in a state of grace and Bond afflicted by the lack of it, the latter's graceless decency only becoming evident near the end of the film when he kindly offers Ryan a ride.

Dostoievsky said that we are given the freedom by God to encounter that evil which is an inescapable part of our nature - only then can we make the fatal decision to transcend it. According to him, and as noted by his great critical disciple Berdyaev, without evil there is not God, because without it there would be no need for God. ON DANGEROUS GROUND seems tailor built to this spiritual dynamic in its divided mis en scene of fall and redemption, with the darkness of city streets giving way to the harsh purity of snow covered countryside-were we there with Wilson, we might even be vulnerable to snowblindness - as Lupino was blinded, by chance.

But over both sequences, of dark and light, Ray places his abiding backdrop of stillness - in the beginning the silent terrible momentum of the three policemen preparing for work, the married women its hapless victims never to be seen again...and then the moving of the patrol car through the dark silent streets, Bernard Herrmann's great score in temporary abeyance as they move in a kind of gelid ether, a frightful inertia, through that Dostoevskian universe of free choice which Dixon Steele also faces and which, by the chance structure of true noir cinema and by his own choice, damns him in the end. How ironic that, of the two, Ray chose to damn that character whose world was that "free" libertine Hollywood where Ray himself lived and worked, in the libertinism which Dostoevsky decisively rejected, rather than the world of ON DANGEROUS GROUND, that unnamed Stygian world which would seem, at first, to offer infinitely less choice, but which happens to provide the stark tableaux necessary for a definitive glimpse into one's own soul.
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Lost in Space (1965–1968)
An excellent example of a neglected genre, namely...
15 February 2006
SPACE FANTASY... STAR TREK certainly utilized elements of whimsy but not to this degree ...I think especially of an example such as the space circus episode,or the wonderful episode in which Dr. Smith turns slowly into a stalk of celery (an acting tour de force, by the way...)...Stunning use of archetypes such as the innocent young lad, the brave companion and the cowardly uncle...many have complained of the cardboard quality of the so called "main characters" of this series, but what an interesting use of them. The so called adult "stars" being only paper backdrops, intentionally made so, so as to throw into relief the richness of these archetypes and the genuinely mythic adventures in which they find themselves.The "special guest star" status of Jonathan Harris is one of the great ironic tricks of network television. A very underrated series.
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Fredric March appreciation
11 February 2006
It seems that there have been a few actors psychologically and kinesthetically "born" to interpret the works of a certain great playwright (or director) as Toshiro Mifune/Akira Kurosawa for the cinema. It would seem that March and Jason Robards had this relationship with Eugene O'Neill. I've been told that March's performance in "Long Day's Journey into Night" in NYC in the 1950's was for the ages; this "ICEMAN" is another example. I had always thought that in his high gloss Hollywood films March appeared a bit flat and dull (excepting of course "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"). In this film we can see a great actor regalvanized in one of the greatest supporting performances ever committed to film. Beneath the sheer coating of mordant humor which March provides with such finesse, we witness the total, volcanic deterioration and spiritual anguish of a human being. Probably the two greatest career finishes in cinema history were March and Robert Ryan in this movie.
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a treasured memory from my childhood
12 January 2006
unfortunately, the only treasured memory I have of this film is the fully nude hairy biker descending the stairs...I saw the SNEAK PREVIEW Of this movie in 1970, when I was ten, accompanied by my parents and my mother's 84 year old childhood governess. I can say that it was electrifying to me at that age to see a middle-class home thrown into chaos by naked tripping hippies. The governess did not have any comment, but what she must have been thinking...I always wondered if the male nude scene was later cut for general release, and if so was I privileged enough to see the DIRECTOR'S CUT with my parents and the governess...this would still be a fairly shocking film if seen today. needs a DVD release.
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First we eat - then we bury them
21 December 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This is a scarce classic, well worth the search for the VHS ( was released on Timeless Video). Incredibly great sardonic dialogue which does not speak down for the benefit of those who are not in the "military know"; Sam Fuller does not care whether or not you understand every reference, and while the script is occasionally hard to follow the film turns out, as is usual in such cases, to benefit from this,as the characters are allowed that extra measure of dignity ...wonderful human interest subplots back up a textbook example of how to make a realistic action picture for almost no money. Fearless exploration of controversial racial issues which haunt us to this day; as Fuller says, "There is no end to this story." Gene Evans gives as fine a film performance as you are ever likely to see - anywhere. All the actors are fine, and the beautifully directed film has a truly startling sense of realism. It is a crime that this film is not better known.
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Candy (1968)
7/10
check your prurience at the door
2 November 2005
this is a great hippie movie whose reputation is tarnished by the fact that everyone who hasn't seen it, and most dummies who have, think it's a dirty movie about prurient sex....great misconception. It's more simple belly laughs and uninhibited joie de vivre. Granted, there are some very weak sections, e.g. the Matthau, but I laughed even as this absurd chapter came to a close...it's a product of an era when not only sex, but laughter and freedom, were celebrated and must be seen in that mindset...this is a movie that people who write certain modern movie guidebooks will never, ever, ever understand...for the simple reason that, in this era, as prurience increases, thus does narrowmindedness, so that we come to forget completely the now remote atmosphere in which such a film could be made.
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I Confess (1953)
9/10
the greatest spiritual denouement in film history
19 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I have read the other comments on this film and nobody seems to have grasped the single essential point that makes it timelessly relevant, and that lifts it, in that respect, above all other movies: its portrayal of an individual of total spiritual integrity. All candidates for the priesthood should view this film and then decide whether they can live up to the standard set by this priest - if not they might as well give it up and become auto mechanics or carpet cleaners. Montgomery Clift's priest believes utterly in the essential worth of all human beings, regardless of their spiritual condition - and believe me Otto Keller is not in good condition. Clift is willing to take his integrity to the electric chair - who does this remind you of? Only by sheer accident is he vindicated - if had he not been, and been executed, it would not have made the slightest bit of difference to his destiny. Here is a man who has his house in order. Forget about the romantic subplot, and look at this movie as spiritual education -- just set your lights by this man and your problems are over.
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8/10
Ben Johnson tribute
18 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
His death scene in this movie is perhaps the greatest and most poignant ever filmed, and I include all "world masterpieces" in this statement. It is what I shall always remember about this film, which otherwise is a good old rousing Western chase movie with a great cast, one of Richard Brooks' bullseyes. (Others were "In Cold Blood" and "Deadline USA" with Bogart, which for some inexplicable reason has never appeared on home media.) True, Johnson had received a BSA Oscar four years previously...and maybe that's why he didn't receive one for this movie: but one simply has to see this scene to believe it. Johnson is living the part; there is no other way to describe his performance here. Somehow a former champion bull roper achieved something of which the very greatest actors would be envious.There are several movies that make me weep for joy, but few that produce vicarious compassion for the tragedy of mankind. Thanks, Ben.
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Gervaise (1956)
10/10
Guaranteed to scare straight
20 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The climactic scene of this movie is comparable to the straitjacket scene in Blake Edwards' "Days of Wine and Roses" in that after viewing these films back to back one might be tempted to cut down one's beer consumption for that day....the difference being Jack Lemmon suffers alone, whereas Francois Perier brings his wife's fragile world crashing down with him....it would be hard to judge which scenario is more devastating. Both men give towering performances..."Gervaise" tops "Wine" in its mise en scene, an unequalled view of late 19th century French provincial squalor. The production design here is beyond praise...I was surprised to find myself somewhat shocked at the domestic arrangements that Maria Schell's character endured, even at this permissive date...Zola's portrayal of domestic scandal does not date....some "arrangements" are just a bad idea, no matter what century you live in.
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Coyote Ugly (2000)
1/10
spectacular mise en scene
10 September 2005
I really think Bruckheimer directed this movie....who else would have conceived such Wellesian use of deep focus,such a lean, tight, wet script that surprises at every turn, with a backstory of such monumental humanity and pathos? The cries for mercy in the barroom scene reminded me of the Odessa Steps sequence in Potemkin,especially as the innocent man was catapulted into the jukebox glass, thus symbolizing for all cinematic history the tides and fluxes of human history upon which we all ride helplessly, like that bull in Gilley's from another film, which cast all aside in its merciless sweep? A film to savour smackingly again and again.
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8/10
Sidney Lumet is a great director of actors...DVD please
10 September 2005
...and this film contains some of his best work in that regard....I'm speaking not so much of Treat Williams, who though in the main superb, occasionally chews the scenery, but of the myriad ensemble of lesser known actors who knit together in this piece like a well oiled machine...I love it when you leave a film saying, "I don't know where he found these people, but..." To me a superb ensemble of virtually unknown faces provides a verisimilitude unattainable in any other way, and this movie is one of the best examples of that you'll ever see. The "junkies" are especially realistic; there's a great performance by old vet Lee Richardson as a particularly oily, maleficent prosecutor. And somehow all the actors portraying the Federal attorneys and D.A.'s pull off their nuts and bolts dialogue with superb aplomb,(the hardest kind of acting to pull off)

I would say that along with "The Fugitive Kind", this is Lumet's most harrowing, compelling work...

I found the original, badly worn VHS release of this in a video store whose owner is too stubborn to sell off his vintage collection; God bless him. Is it really possible that this is the only way to obtain this film??
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The Fugitive (1947)
10/10
Please, an American release in any format!
9 September 2005
I saw this film theatrically in an archival print in California....what a treat! The image of Dolores Del Rio framed in the church door has never left me...this film was shot by Gabriel Figueroa, Bunuel's cinematographer on many films and one of the great masters...it is, along with Peter Fonda's The Hired Hand and Terence Malick's Days of Heaven, the most exquisitely shot movie I have ever seen in what I would call the "intimate" style, for lack of a better term...as opposed to such a film as "Lawrence of Arabia", which otherwise would have to be considered in that list. An great example of stylistic departure as a supremely successful one shot gesture; Hitchcock achieved something of the same success several times,with "The Wrong Man" and "The Trouble With Harry", although in the latter case Hitch had done comedy before...."The Wrong Man" and "The Fugitive" stand out for me as the greatest stylistic anomalies achieved by major auteurs.
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Edward II (1970 TV Movie)
9/10
everybody knows what happens to poor ed...due for DVD
8 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
this is a wonderful, fiery production with the most gruesome murder scene I've ever seen on public TV....I don't know how they handle it on stage but they pulled out all the stops here....a great early performance from McKellen that should be seen again (all the actors are great) I saw this when I was about 10 and that climactic scene has never left me...I wouldn't bet on anything this graphic being made for PBS nowadays...there was something about that time when anything went...to me this production was virtually as good as the Olivier Lear from Granada Television....certainly deserves to be rereleased along with so many of the old public television productions
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highight episode-Arthur Kennedy appreciation
1 September 2005
I saw "Change of Address" several years ago and it stuck with me because of Arthur Kennedy's fabulous performance - up there with the best acting I've ever seen on television - don't miss it-he is superb, in a rare role in which he portrayed an unambiguously heinous individual (episode 321 - Oct. 64) Also, do not miss this great actor in the film "Too Late for Tears" - (1949) - with Lizabeth Scott as possibly the most repellent femme fatale in the history of the genre - this actor was superb at portraying the halfway decent man whose moral frailties could be uncovered with the scratch of a pin - he deserves to be more well remembered
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The Other Great "Fort Point" Movie -desperately needs restoring
1 September 2005
This is one of the better second tier film noir .... within its limits, it seems to me rock solid: performances,(save one), script, photography, and is surely commensurate with excellent Fleischer B's of the same period such as "Armored Car Robbery"...however perhaps not quite in the same league as the latter's "Narrow Margin"...there are these kinds of films in which, under obvious budgetary circumstances, it is hard to imagine what could be done better, with the exception of Jane Wyatt, who does indeed give a horrible performance...but hey, that's why it's a B...and one often wonders, given more money in the budget, whether the whole thing would have been somehow ruined...this last seems to be to be the best way of defining the undefinable "B" that I have come across. John Dall lends that undefinable air of perversity, of which he was the acknowledged master, and, to the viewer's delight, seems wonderfully and profoundly miscast as a policeman. Dall makes this worth seeing.
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6/10
This tiger was pure poison
1 September 2005
One of the definitive marks of a film noir for me has always been the presence of a morally vacuous, poisonously stupid, pathologically lying, cold blooded murderess who sucks (or attempts to suck) all associated with her(esp. men) into a whirling abyss of nothingness. This one fits the bill, as noir as they come. Fools you, too: at first I was turned off by the film because Scott and the Plott just seemed stupid and uninteresting...boy does she get interesting...film ramps up in quality quite remarkably after the first twenty minutes or so...from then on a nice toxic mix which kept me suspended until the end. Then again maybe I'm not bright.

I wish the film quality were better on this, hovers around the barely tolerable.
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The Bank Dick (1940)
10/10
This movie reminds me of Johann Sebastian Bach
29 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A music critic once said that the secret of Bach's magic could be summed up in several words: "Everything he wrote was flawless." This film is approximately one hour long, and does not contain a single wasted motion; to me, especially but not only because of its economy of length, is the most flawless motion picture ever made. The performing and writing of Fields in this picture always reminds me of the fruits of long and tireless Zen practice. Watch him maneuver glasses at the Black Pussy Cafe. The trajectory of every scene is perfectly comprehensible and economical in the light of what has come before. Its subject, Fields, plays off fugal countersubjects (hapless foils Grady Sutton, Franklin Pangborn,and wise non-fools like Shemp Howard) which are absurd yet flawless in their own right. Its climactic car chase is a gemlike climax.
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