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Daniel Day-Lewis' final film
15 October 2019
Warning: Spoilers
If I were Daniel Day-Lewis, and I'm not, this would not be my farewell film. It is evident that he was intrigued by the character of Reynolds Woodcock, a dedicated fashion designer, seemingly devoid of any emotion except missing his dead mother. Woodcock lives a rigid, quiet life with his sister/major domo Cyril (Leslie Manville) who couldn't crack a smile if her life depended on it. He takes on young women as lovers and models, and out they go when he's through

Along comes Alma (Vicky Krieps), his next model and eventual lover. She doesn't intend to be thrown out - ever. She's a more subtle '50s version of the Glenn Close character in Fatal Attraction.

Alma figures out that underneath that hard, disciplined shell is a man who is needy for love, more of a maternal love, perhaps. So what could be better than Munchausen's by proxy?

This story comes in a very glamorous, beautiful, atmospheric package, filled with gorgeous gowns, sumptuous gatherings, beautiful photography and sublime music. Take that all away and you have a Lifetime movie.

Someone I know saw this and hated it, saying it was boring. I had to see it because of Daniel Day-Lewis - and he can elevate any script. The acting is wonderful from Vicky Krieps, Leslie Manville, and a neat performance by Harriet Samson Harris, another favorite.

I admit the film was slow, but I wasn't bored. In that way, it was very European. I also admit I don't expect a lot of people on IMDb will be nuts about it, perhaps wanting something that moves a little faster.

The major problem with the film for me was the fact that I couldn't warm up to any of the characters. I frankly thought Reynolds was a jerk, and I couldn't understand why Alma wanted to be with him until I realized she was a whack job. And Cyril - Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca comes off like Mother Theresa compared to her.

Odd story, beautifully done.
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a Breaking Bad movie
14 October 2019
I know some people were disappointed in this sequel to Breaking Bad, but I wasn't one of them.

One thing that El Camino did that a lot of shows do not do after they've been off the air for a year or longer - is show a recap. Nothing worse than sitting down to a show you've been waiting to see come back, only to realize that you can't remember anything that happened like six years ago or whenever the last episode ran.

The movie begins where the finale left off -- the traumatized, tortured Jesse racing away from his old meth-making life. Suffering from PTSD, he runs for help from two friends from the old show, Skinny Pete and Badger (Charles Baker and Matt Jones who turn out to be not just friends but amazing friends, feeding him letting him sleep, bathe, trading cars with him, and giving him money.

However, Jesse is far away from real freedom from the police and, more importantly, himself. For this, he will need serious help.

Some of the scenes from the past, when Jesse was held captive, are very hard to take. What I liked was the tension that was present throughout the film - you just never knew what was going to happen.

It was wonderful to see Jonathan Banks, but for me, seeing Robert Forster as Ed, from whom Jesse needs big help. He was from my home town, and I interviewed him at around the time he did Jackie Brown. This is his second-last credit before his death three days ago.

It turned out I knew his old girlfriend (and I got them back in touch) and one of his wives. Later I had some business dealings with his lovely daughter Kate. He was the real deal - a good man, a hard worker, and a fantastic actor. RIP.
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atmospheric London mystery
11 October 2019
Known in the U.S. as Lady in Distress, A Window in London from 1940 stars Michael Redgrave, Sally Gray, Paul Lukas, Patricia Roc, and Hartley Power.

Redgrave plays Peter, a crane operator who one day, on his way to work via train, thinks he sees a murder. He gets off the train, grabs a bobby, and takes him to the building and apartment where it took place - after barging in on a couple of the neighbors.

The residents are magician Zoltini (Lukas) and his wife Vivienne (Gray). She's still alive, and Zoltini explains what Peter must have seen - Vivienne is on the bed - we assume they had a physical fight. Zoltini is a washed-up magician, an angry, jealous man who ruins their bookings with his bad temper.

The story of Peter and his wife Pat (Roc) and Zoltini and Vivienne intertwine. Pat works nights at a hotel switchboard, and she and Peter don't see much of each other. Peter goes to see Zoltini's show; when it's time for Vivienne to disappear, she really does - into a cab with Peter. He takes her to where he works, and it's obvious he's smitten with her.

Zoltini tracks down Peter and a showdown ensues.

Thanks to a good cast, A Window in London comes off pretty well and moves at a decent pace. Redgrave is young and charming, Gray is beautiful, unhappy, and vulnerable. Roc is sympathetic as a hardworking woman who feels she is losing her husband.

The last few minutes of this movie are unexpected, to put it mildly.

Very good.
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disappointing WW II noir
9 October 2019
For a noir fan, "London Blackout Murders" from 1943 sounds exciting. It isn't.

A young woman (Mary McLeod) is bombed out of her house and moved into a place that apparently has an unsavory reputation. The man downstairs, Oliver Madison (Leslie Matthews) is helpful, but when news of the London Blackout Murders, which seem to take place in bomb shelters hits, Mary believes he may be the blackout murderer. The murders were committed with a hypodermic, and Mary saw that he had one.

A Scotland Yard Inspector (Lloyd Corrigan) believes Madison might be guilty too and uncovers a secret he's keeping. However, if he is indeed killing these people, why?

This film is not much on action, tension, or suspense. What it does have is that foggy British atmosphere and certainly puts forth the idea that London during WW II was a scary place. Not very impressive.
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an entry into the Michael Shayne series
7 October 2019
A woman (Janis Carter) is on trial for murder. A witness is killed by a knife flung at him in court; detective Michael Shayne (Lloyd Nolan) is on the jury and jumps into the fray. Crawling on the floor, he grabs the knife from under a table and drives it under the top.

Shayne knows the defendant is innocent and is determined to prove it. After drugging his fellow juror roommate, he takes off down the fire escape and goes back to court to retrieve the knife. A reporter (Marjorie Weaver) beats him to it and wants in on the story.

The Michael Shayne films from 20th Century Fox were a series of Bs starring Lloyd Nolan. They're short, light, quick-moving, and fun, with a good performances by Nolan and Weaver in the usual relationship between detective and competitive female reporter we see so often.

This is a very 40s film, with talk of ration cards and killing the Japanese.
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As fast-moving as the train where the movie takes place
23 September 2019
Brian Donlevy, Gloria Stuart, Stepin Fetchit, Isabel Jewell, and Douglas Fowley star in "36 Hours to Kill" from 1936.

Douglas Fowley plays Public Enemy #1, Duke Benson, who finds out he's holding the winning sweepstakes ticket for $150,000. But how to get it and stay anonymous? He and his cronies board a train so he can collect the money in Kansas City.

On the train, no one is as they seem. There's a beautiful blonde Anne Marvis (Gloria Stuart) leaving Los Angeles to escape a subpoena. There's a reporter (Brian Donlevy) trying to get an interview with a famous scientist, and of course, Benson, keeping a low profile but very attracted to Anne at the same time.

To say more would give the game away, but this is a fun film that moves as fast as the train the characters are traveling on. Brian Donlevy is young and handsome here and is delightful in the lead role. Gloria Stuart is wonderful and flirtatious as Anne. The only truly dramatic role in the movie is that of Isabel Jewell, who plays Duke's girlfriend and is desperate to hold onto him. She is excellent.

What a different world we live in today. There is a little girl wandering around train all by herself asking strange men to read her a story. And then there's Stepin Fetchit doing his act as a shuffling, bumbling, mumbling attendant on the train.

Some people would view his performance as cringeworthy, but he was the first black actor to have a successful film career and make a million dollars - and he knew exactly what he was doing. As a character, he is very funny.

Today, scholars note that the character of Stepin Fetchit was not as he seemed. He was instead a trickster who fooled his white employers so they would do his work. The con, known to blacks at that time, was called "putting on old massa."

The actor, Lincoln Perry, was actually very literate, wrote for a newspaper, and enjoyed friendships with people like Will Rogers and Mohammed Ali. He is definitely worth reading about.

All in all, a very entertaining film.
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The Magician John Calvert stars as "The Falcon"
22 September 2019
The remarkable John Calvert stars as The Falcon in "Appointment with Murder" from 1948. This was one of three Falcon films made in 1948 by Calvert.

In this film, The Falcon (now called Michael Waring) is working for an insurance company and is sent to Europe to trace some paintings. He becomes involved with art forgers and the murder of an art forger in Italy.

A note about the name - supposedly The Falcon's name here is Michael Waring but it sounded in the film like Watling every time someone said it.

Calvert was debonair and sophisticated, but the movies aren't as much fun as the films with George Sanders. This film was very dry without the usual humor seen with The Falcon.

Calvert's actual career was that of a magician. He was the inspiration of Siegfried and Roy, and Mrs. Houdini said he was second to Harry as far as talent. Throughout his life, he traveled extensively doing magic shows, teaching, and occasionally doing a bit of acting.

Calvert was invited to perform his magic act both on Broadway in New York City and at the London Palladium Theatre on his 100th birthday. He died at the age of 102.
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George Nader as a washed up reporter with one helluva story
22 September 2019
An alcoholic, out of work newspaper reporter is given another chance in "Appointment with a Shadow," from 1957, starring George Nader, Joanna Moore, Brian Keith, and Virginia Field.

Nader plays Paul Baxter, whose girlfriend Penny (Moore) is a reporter as well. After he is dropped off at her place by her brother, Lt. Spencer (Keith) and sobered up, she tells him she has the inside scoop on a story. It's his if he can stay sober for the entire day.

Penny's brother is a police detective and has agreed to allow Paul in on the arrest of a wanted criminal (Frank DeKova). He will then scoop all the crime reporters and get a newspaper job. Her brother thinks she's crazy and doesn't think she should bother with Paul, but she insists that she loves him and can't give up on him.

Paul manages to stay sober for the day. Penny calls him with the information about the stakeout and arrest. Unfortunately, once Paul gets to the scene, something goes terribly wrong. He's the only one who knows how wrong it went, and no one will believe him.

While the film deals realistically with an alcoholic's struggle to refrain from taking a drink, it doesn't really deal realistically with the illness. Still, it's an involving story, if a little too pat, directed by actor Richard Carlson.

George Nader was an attractive man who had a decent career in television and later did films in Europe. He never reached stardom in the U..S. because Universal outed him to Confidential magazine so the publication wouldn't out Rock Hudson. He was a good type for noir and detective stories - he played Ellery Queen on television as well as two other TV series.
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Quite Hitchcockian
21 September 2019
Sgt. Johnny Meadows (William Terry) and Dr. Leslie Ross (Virginia Grey) are "Strangers in the Night" when they meet on a train. During his time fighting his war injuries, Johnny fell in love via mail with a Rosemary Blake, whom he tells Leslie he's en route to meet.

Leslie doesn't tell him that he's met the very strange old Mrs. Blake (Helene Thimig) who seemed very put off that Leslie was a doctor, and a pretty one at that. In those days apparently a woman doctor was very unusual and off-putting.

Johnny visits Rosemary, but she's away. Instead he meets her mother and, while looking at Rosemary's portrait, he faints, still weak from not only his injuries, but an accident that occurred during the train ride. When the doctor is called, Leslie arrives. When Mrs. Blake realizes that Johnny and Rosemary know one another, she is visibly upset.

Mrs. Blake is odd, but the woman working for her, Edith (Edith Barrett) is a total wreck. She actually comes to see Dr. Ross, wanting to tell her something, but can't seem to get it out.

However when Johnny realizes that he's fallen for Leslie in Rosemary's absence, Mrs. Blake takes action.

This is quite a story, with Grey an absolutely beautiful, radiant young woman. I only have seen her as she was twenty years later, still beautiful but not as young. She is charming as the doctor.

Directed by Anthony Mann, Strangers in the Night is an atmospheric, absorbing film, short but entertaining.

Grey's story is a sad one - she had an on and off relationship with Clark Gable, and when Gable married someone else post-war, Grey was devastated and never married herself.

William Terry is affable as Johnny. Helene Thimig makes a terrifying Mrs. Blake.
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The Spy (2019)
Absorbing limited series produced by Sacha Baron Cohen
17 September 2019
Very well-done story of Israeli spy Eli Cohen (Sacha Baron Cohen) who infiltrated the high society and ultimately the government of Damascus to get information to give to Israel. Much of his information was useful in helping the Israelis win the Six-day war in 1967.

Sacha Baron Cohen does a wonderful job as Cohen, a man who must completely sublimate his own identity and become someone else and leave his beloved wife Nadia and family for long periods of time.

The limited miniseries also stars Noah Emmerich, Hadar Ratzom Rotem, and Yael Eltan.

"The Spy" is extremely suspenseful with wonderful cinematography. Well worth seeing, and Sacha Baron Cohen is a revelation.
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Burt Lancaster on the run in postwar London
13 September 2019
In post-war London, an ex-soldier hides out in a strange woman's apartment in Kiss the Blood off My Hands, a 1948 film starring Burt Lancaster Joan Fontaine, Robert Newton, and Jay Novello.

A man with violent tendencies (or perhaps PTSD), Bill Saunders (Lancaster) gets into a bar brawl and is chased by the police. He opens the window of a lonely woman, Jane (Fontaine) and stays there until the next morning. If she's scared, she manages to keep her cool.

Bill seeks her out later and convinces her to go to the races with him. While on the train going home, he gets into another brawl - and then attacks a police officer. This time, he gets a prison sentence of six months.

Upon his release, the kind-hearted Jane gets him a job as a medical supplies driver at the clinic where she works. Unfortunately for Bill, a man named Harry Carter (Robert Newton) saw the bar fight and blackmails Bill.

Harry and his gang want to steal valuable penicillin that Bill is carrying which is supposed to be administered to sick children. Bill agrees, but changes his mind, and more violence ensues.

Jane and Bill are in love, but he needs to leave town in a hurry and believes he has no place in her life. She doesn't want him to go. Soon she's up to her neck due to his difficulties.

Handsome, hunky Burt Lancaster gives an excellent performance as a man who's had no breaks and whose hair-trigger temper lands him into trouble. Joan Fontaine is lovely, with a gentle, sweet but strong nature.

Decent, atmospheric noir with performances that make it involving. It doesn't live up to its wild title. It's basically dressed up as romance.
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William Powell is in a heap of trouble
12 September 2019
Professor Andrew Gentling (William Powell) comes to Los Angeles to work on the formation of a new college. In the bar of his hotel, he runs into his old girlfriend Catherine (Shelley Winters) who throws herself at him. They apparently had a wartime fling.

However, both are married now. Catherine is miserable. Andrew is very happy and, in fact, has invited his wife to LA to join him there.

Catherine calls Andrew and tells her that their friend Martha (Marsha Hunt) is having a party and would love to see him. When he gets there, he finds a drunk Catherine and a very sober Martha.

Catherine finagles a drive with him, during which he stops short and she hits her head. Andrew gives her his scarf. He takes her home, but she refuses to leave the car. He leaves instead. When he returns, he sees Catherine on her way home.

The next day while at a meeting, Andrew sees the lurid headline that Catherine is missing. The police have her bloody scarf. He meets Martha, who tells him that Catherine had a diary, and that, along with the scarf, means they are going to have to act quickly to keep him out of trouble. He wants to go to the police, but she won't hear of it.

One problem - when Martha sends Andrew to Catherine's house to look for her diary, she somehow neglects to mention a really vicious dog. You'd think she would have told him. It turns out to be a huge problem. The dog was rabid and bit him.

The scene with Dr. Markham where he goes into the symptoms of rabies with Andrew, who thinks he has it, is hilarious.

Powell brings his usual elegance to the role. At 58. he was perhaps a little old for all the physical activity - being chased by a dog, car crashes, and fights. Winters is slim and lovely, this being her starlet days, but she has a spark that hints she will be up for better, more character-type roles.

As of this writing, one actor in this 70-year-old film is still alive - Marsha Hunt. She's very good, as she always is.

Other than everyone acting as if Los Angeles and San Francisco were a couple of miles apart, the film was okay. Hardly the horror people described, but not great.
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I, the Jury (1953)
A miscast spoils this Mickey Spillane film noir
11 September 2019
This is such a tough-guy noir that it almost comes off as a take-off.

I, the Jury concerns Mike Hammer's search for the killer of his friend, Jack. Eventually other people who attended the same party as Jack are killed as well.

From what I gather, this was shown in 3-D some time in 2003, with the star, Biff Elliott (then 80) present. The audience loved it - mainly because all the dialogue is now considered "camp."

One thing Elliot could do was beat up people, since he had previously been a boxer. Just no dimension to the character. I would have loved to have seen someone like Ralph Meeker in this film.

Of note was the very neat opening scene, which I imagine played very well in 3-D. The last scene of the film was very effective as well.

The women in the movie were lovely - Mary Anderson does a good job as Eileen Vickers. Margaret Sheridan was a lovely Velda, and Peggie Castle was a stunning Charlotte, one of the many women in love with Mike. The other performances were okay.

As the first film Mike Hammer, one would assume it brought Elliot attention and, in other hands, could have been a star-making role. Though he continued working for years, it wasn't as a star. Sadly I think better casting would have helped "I, The Jury" immensely.
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I Walk Alone (1947)
Douglas, Lancaster, and Scott - Noir written all over it
10 September 2019
Well, Hal Wallis sure could pick 'em. These are three of his finest stars.

Frankie Madison (Burt Lancaster) has just been released from prison after 14 years as "I Walk Alone" from 1947 begins. The film also stars Lizabeth Scott, Kirk Douglas, Wendell Corey, Mike Mazurki, and Kristine Miller.

Frankie is under the somewhat mistaken impression that he owns half the club that his old partner Noll (Douglas) now runs. When Frankie first shows up, Noll attempts to feel him out. He's friendly and sets Frankie up for a dinner with his girlfriend Kay (Lizabeth Scott).

Noll realizes that Frankie is prepared to use force to take what he thinks is his, so the situation becomes violent.

This is a tough noir with Noll playing dirty all the way. Douglas is great as a real slimeball. Kay tries to encourage Frankie to move forward, but Frankie soon finds himself with a murder rap over his head. He decides to fight Null with everything he's got.

Lancaster and Douglas are major hunks in this and both do a good job. Scott is beautiful and, after all, noir was her genre. She was perfect for it.

This movie was filmed on a studio city set and looks great. Really adds to the noir feel.

The end of the film is exciting.
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Tarantino retells Hollywood, film, and TV revives history like no one can.
9 September 2019
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was an amazing trip for baby-boomers - taking us back to when television was loaded with westerns and western TV stars, cigarette commercials, big cars, white go-go boots, and names bandied around some of us haven't heard in years. And the shows: Hootnanny, Mannix, the FBI.

And it's great to see some Hollywood celebrities -Mama Cass (Rachel Redleaf), Michelle Phillips (Rebecca Rittenhouse), Steve McQueen (Damien Lewis), James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant), Wayne Maunder (Luke Perry), Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), Connie Stevens (Dreama Walker).

It was not so great given their fates, but there were some other familiar names too: Jay Sebring, (Emile Hirsch), Abigail Folger (Samantha Robinson), Voytek Frykowski (Costa Ronin), and Squeaky Fromme (Dakota Fanning).

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star as series actor Rick Dalton and his stunt double, Cliff Booth. Booth isn't living the LA high life - far from it - and does part-time stunt work these days and basically acts as Rick's gofer.

Rick lives, as it turns out, on Cielo Drive, right next Sharon Tate (Margo Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha).

Tarantino has the Manson story down pat - Manson coming to look for Terry Melcher, Doris Day's son, because a proposed record deal never materialized. Sharon's pregnancy, weekend guests, the visit to El Coyote, even sitting at the right table (I've been there hundreds of times), and it did look like they actually filmed inside.

It was also fun to see Musso & Frank's Grill.

Rick Dalton, whose career is losing ground due to his alcoholism, makes an appearance on "Lancer," directed by Sam Waterston (Nicholas Hammond). Wanamaker, the original George in Virginia Woolf, did indeed do a lot of television directing.

Rick's time on Lancer is juxtaposed with Sharon going to see herself in a film, The Wrecking Crew. We see her young, beautiful, and happy.

I admit here that I felt the "Lancer" section was way too long, but part of that could be because I wasn't feeling that well during that time. It did show Rick determined to do a good job. The entire scene represents a wonderful tour de force for DiCaprio.

After a nostalgic and sometimes amusing wind-up, Tarantino goes into full Tarantino mode in the last forty minutes or so. Also stay through the credits; the movie doesn't end where you think it does.

So Tarantino in a way heals this beloved era and a time in Hollywood where everything was beginning to be in flux - western stars making films in Italy and Spain, the detective show taking the place of westerns, and events in the air that would change Hollywood forever.

Pitt and DiCaprio are dynamite together, DiCaprio, drunk, sad, but a man who can still act. Pitt is cool and takes life as it comes.

Another standout for me was Damien Lewis as Steve McQueen. The man's amazing.

However, the film is loaded with vignettes and memories in the corners of our minds as the song says, that if you're a boomer, you can't not love. It was the summer of love, it was a prelude to a much more somber time. For the non-boomers, there are DiCaprio and Pitt doing what they do best - being movie stars.
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talky noir
8 September 2019
From 1950, "Guilty Bystander" stars Zachary Scott, Faye Emerson, Kay Medford, Sam Levene, J. Edward Bromberg, and Mary Boland.

Scott is Max Thursday, an ex-cop, now turned drunken house detective in a cheap hotel. One night, his ex-wife (Emerson) tells him their little son is missing, and she needs his help.

This film is on a list I have of the top 250 noirs. I have no understanding of how it made the list. It was made for about fifty cents, the film quality is awful, and the characters talk endlessly. The plot is confusing. Other than that, it's not very good.

It is a nice chance to see the lovely Faye Emerson, a prominent stage actress and wife of Elliott Roosevelt. The film also has a wonderful performance by Mary Boland, a silent film actress who appeared in many films including The Women in 1939. She plays the woman who runs the fleabag where Max works, or should I say, sleeps it off.

This film meanders around all over the place, with no structure. The film quality is so bad that the last 30 minutes or so all I saw was a black screen and had to guess what was happening. The strong cast of pros is way too good for this.
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The Chase (1946)
Robert Cummings finds himself in a heap of trouble
7 September 2019
Robert Cummings runs into major problems in "The Chase," a 1946 noir written by Cornell Woolrich, who wrote Rear Window and some other wonderful films. The film also stars Michele Morgan, Steve Cochran, and Peter Lorre.

Cummings plays Chuck Scott, an ex-serviceman down on his luck in Miami. He has some sort of medical problem - we see him taking a pill. He is hired as a chauffeur in Miami by a thug, Eddie Roman (Cochran), after he returns Roman's wallet. Roman is established immediately as a cruel, sadistic monster. It's obvious that his wife Lorna (Morgan) hates him and is afraid of him.

Lorna likes to take a drive to the beach each night, and one night, she tells Chuck that she has to get away and wants to pay him to get her to Havana. They make it, but Chuck soon finds himself framed for murder and arrested.

Good atmospheric noir with a big twist, albeit a rather popular one in the day. The only problem with the film is that Chuck's medical issue is never really explained, though it's probably shell shock or PTSD.

There is a nice performance by Robert Cummings. I have always really liked him, but I prefer him in television and doing comedy. Steve Cochran was terrifying as Eddie, and Lorre gives a cold, ruthless performance as Eddie's assistant.

Michele Morgan was a great French beauty, and I understand that at one time she was considered for Ilse in Casablanca. There was only one Ingrid Bergman, and she and the entire cast were perfect, but one can easily see that Morgan would have been good in the role.

Very good, well worth seeing.
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The Burglar (1957)
heavy psychological noir starring Dan Duryea
7 September 2019
From 1957, "The Burglar" is a psychological noir starring Dan Duryea, Jayne Mansfield, Martha Vickers, Mickey Shaughnessy, Phoebe McKay, Peter Capell.

The beginning of the film is action-oriented, with Gladden (Mansfield) appearing at the door of a famous medium, Sister Sara and being invited in for lunch. She's there to case the joint aor her guardian Nat (Duryea) and find where Sister stores her gorgeous sapphire necklace.

The crew, led by Nat (Duryea) has fifteen minutes, during which time Sister watches a news show, to rob her bedroom safe. Nat does it, but not before the police see him and his car.

Tensions mount immediately. Nat thinks the best thing to do is wait for things to "cool down." Baylock (Capell) is hyper to get out as fast as possible, and Dohmer (Shaughnessy) keeps leering at Gladden until finally, Nat has to send her to Atlantic City.

However, it's not just the police after the necklace, and soon real problems develop.

Paul Wendkos directed this - it was his first feature, and his editing and camera technique attracted immediate attention and won him a contract at Columbia.

Dark and depressing, "The Burglar" focuses on Nat's psychological issues stemming from his love and loyalty to a man who took him in - Gladden's father - and his promise to take care of her. It's heavy going.

The film is very well done, even if it's not the most exciting thing you'll ever see. Dan Duryea gives a wonderful performance as a man with a conscience. Mansfield is deglamorized as the young Gladden. Though she's obviously beautiful and has a great figure, she appears to wear very little makeup and does not push her sex appeal.

Very Hitchcockian ending.
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good cop/bad cop
6 September 2019
Steve Cochran, Howard Duff, Ida Lupino, and Dean Jagger star in "Private Hell 26," a noir directed by Don Siegel.

In Los Angeles, Cal Bruner (Cochran), a police officer, sees a robbery going on at a pharmacy. He finds a marked $50 bill. It's from a New York robbery of $300,000.

Bruner and his partner Jack Farnham (Duff) trace the bill to first to a druggist, and then back to the bartender who gave it to him. There, they meet the sultry Lilli Marlowe, coat check girl and part time singer in the bar.

Bruner falls for her, and the partners take her to various places where marked bills have been found to see if she can spot the person who gave her the fifty. She does, and Bruner and Farnham give chase.

The driver crashes down an embankment and is killed. There is money everywhere. After picking it all up, Bruner takes $80,000, infuriating Farnham. However, Farnham isn't about to snitch on his own partner. They turn in about $200,000.

Bruner has a duplicate key made for a slip, #36 where he has the money hidden. Meanwhile, Farnham doesn't like his boss' (Jagger) questions and doesn't want any part of the money. Bruner can only see giving Lilli the kind of life she wants, which he can't do on a cop's salary.

Good noir written by Ida Lupino and her ex-husband, Collier Young, with whom she had formed a production company. Interestingly the film stars her current husband, Duff, and features their baby daughter Bridget. I guess they were all good friends.

Duff is young and handsome and gives an earnest performance as an honest man who can't quite believe his partner is so crooked. The sexy Cochran has the stronger role, and portrays someone with no conscience at all.

Lupino is great as always as the no-nonsense Lilli. Dorothy Malone plays Farnham's wife; she has little to do.

All in all, quite good.
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post-war British drama of the "kitchen sink" type
4 September 2019
"It Always Rains on Sunday" from 1947 is an example of the proto "kitchen sink" or slice of realism dramas that would be done a great deal in the '50s and early '60s. Post-war, the emphasis turned to the working class rather than the upper classes.

The film follows several subplots going on in Bethnal Green in East London, which is a working-class district. The first subplot concerns an escaped criminal, Tommy Swann (John McCallum) who hides out at the home of his ex-girlfriend Rose Sandigate (Googie Withers). Withers and McCallum were married in real life, and often worked together.

Rose is now married, but she agrees to help Tommy because she's still in love with him. Her husband George (Edward Chapman), a good man, is older than she is, and together they have a son George also has two older daughters who dislike Rose.

One of the daughters, Vi (Susan Shaw) is extremely pretty and has a married boyfriend, Morrie Hyams. Morrie is married to a shiksa who knows all about his philandering.

Doris (Patricia Plunkett) has a boyfriend but has caught the eye of Morrie's brother, a shady character. Then there are the cops searching for Swann, and three crooks trying to sell a gross of roller skates.

The main focus is on the family and the fact that Rose is hiding Tommy upstairs.

The end is very exciting except for the fact that for one of the scenes, miniatures were used, and it's so obvious, it's funny.

The film is loaded with atmosphere - the action occurs on a rainy Sunday with people in the pubs, the street market, a dance hall, and even an open-air boxing match, rigged by Lou Hyams, Morrie's brother). George Sandigate likes to play darts at the pub, have his pint, a little nap, and play harmonica with his son.

This film was a big hit at the time and is considered by many to be a classic today. It was directed by a very talented man, Robert Hamer, who clearly shows the lives and emotions of these characters. He went on to direct his biggest hit, "Kind Hearts and Coronets," but ultimately succumbed to alcoholism in his early fifties.

Very good drama, showing London life and family life of the working class.
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Hour of Glory (1949)
Powell and Pressburger - nothing more needs to be said
3 September 2019
The Small Back Room, also known as Hour of Glory, is a Powell-Pressburger production about a scientist, Sammy Rice (David Farrar) who during World War II works in a back room as a bomb disposal expert.

The Germans are dropping bombs - probably land mines - that appear to be booby-trapped and look like large flashlights. So far the bombs have killed three children. It's and it's up to Rice and his team to figure out how to defuse them.

Rice, however, is a troubled man. He is in terrible pain from an artificial foot, and the painkillers are no longer effective. By turning to drink he has become an alcoholic.

He is dependent on his girlfriend, Susan (Kathleen Byron) who lives across the hall. She spends time with him and tries to keep him off of the alcohol. However, his bitterness, anger over the way his department is being managed, and his lack of self-worth is discouraging her.

There are some stunning scenes in this film. To name a couple: Sammy's hallucination/dream sequence where he is surrounded by ticking clocks and a giant liquor bottle; the scene questioning a dying man who was near the bomb; and the end - a complete nail biter - are just a few.

David Farrar gives a tremendous performance as a man suffering from pain, addiction, and frustration, and Kathleen Byron is lovely as his girlfriend, who attempts to encourage him and let him know she wants more than just a man who can dance.

Beautifully photographed in black and white and very uplifting.
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Nightmare (1956)
good remake of "Fear in the Night"
2 September 2019
I had a feeling of deja vu as I watched this, and I soon realized it was a remake of Fear in the Night, a 1947 film starring DeForrest Kelley.

This film stars Edward G. Robinson, Kevin McCarthy, Virginia Christine, Connie Russell.

A young New Orleans jazz musician Stan (McCarthy) dreams that he's involved in a murder. He wakes up holding a button, a key, and he has blood on him. He's convinced he committed murder without realizing it. He approaches his brother-in-law Rene (Robinson), a police detective, who brushes it off as a nightmare.

One day, while on a picnic, Stan, Rene, Rene's wife (Christine) and Stan's girlfriend Gina (Russell) are caught in a rainstorm. Without realizing how he knows, Stan directs them to a house. There's a mirrored room as in his dream, and the key fits a closet.

Rene realizes that somehow Stan was involved and accuses him of lying and demanding to know the whole story. Stan swears it was all a dream, and he doesn't know what happened. When the sheriff comes along and tells them there was a murder in the house, Rene wants more information, believing Stan is a killer.

Neat story by Cornell Woolrich, who wrote "Rear Window." Edward G. Robinson is great as always as a man determined to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Kevin McCarthy, who worked until he died at 96, is adorable in this.

Some fantastic singing by Connie Russell -- it's worth watching the film just to hear her -- in what would be her last film. After a long career on stage, films, and clubs on two continents, she retired when she became a mom.

Very entertaining. The end is wonderful, and really puts it a cut above "Fear in the Night."
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Hit and Run (1957)
another Cleo and Hugh B movie
30 August 2019
And it was their last film together. After "Hit and Run," Cleo married a multimillionaire, went into the real estate business, and never looked back. This potboiler also stars Vince Edwards.

Haas, a garage owner named Gus, meets Julie in the club where she works and gives her his card, telling her to call him about a car. You don't have to ask her twice. She shows up soon after. Before you know it, wedding bells.

From the beginning, there's a sexual tension between her and Hugo's helper Frank (Edwards). One night, Frank grabs her and declares his love. Julie is attracted to him, but tells him to leave town. Gus, meanwhile, catches on that there are some sparks.

This story has a little twist to it.

Cleo is stunning, and as usual, the focus is on her. Besides her looks, she had a strong presence. Edwards' looks normally don't appeal to me, but he is quite hunky here. Haas turns in a good performance. He was actually quite well known in his native country of Czechoslovakia.

Some trivia, the woman from the circus, whom Frank meets later in the film was Robert Mitchum's older sister. She retired after getting married.
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Red Joan (2018)
based - very loosely - on a true story
30 August 2019
Red Joan purports to tell the story of Melita Norwood, a Communist who handed British secrets over to the Russians.

Dame Judi Dench is the star, but she doesn't have a great deal to do since the story is told in flashback. The workhorse role is Sophie Cookson as the young Joan.

Joan is depicted as a smart woman working at an atomic research facility. She falls in love with a young man (Tom Galich). Though she continues to refuse his requests, she gradually gives in and hands the atom bomb plans over to the Russians.

As an elderly woman, she is arrested. It is then she tels her story to authorities and has a confrontation with her son.

In real life, the character was not seduced into Communism by love; she was a card-carrying Communist from the beginning and never had the boyfriend depicted. Nor was she smart enough to really know the ins and outs of the bomb. Here she is depicted as a talented scientist.

The Dench character insists that she was trying to help England, thinking that if both sides had the bomb, neither one would use it.

Melita Norwood stated: "I did what I did, not to make money, but to help prevent the defeat of a new system which had, at great cost, given ordinary people food and fares which they could afford, a good education and a health service."

While she said she did not generally "agree with spying against one's country", she had hoped her actions would help "Russia to keep abreast of Britain, America and Germany".

Dench is always wonderful. All of the acting is on a very high level. The real story of Melita Norwood is interesting. Hopefully, the good thing about this type of film is it encourages people to read the real story.
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26 August 2019
I happen to find these Hugo Haas-Cleo Moore films entertaining.

Haas was a famous actor in his native Czechoslovakia until he had to flee the Nazis. Once in America, he became a director and a writer of B movies usually starring a gorgeous blond.

The gorgeous blond in this case is Cleo Moore. Paul is an up and coming concert pianist with a sponsor (Mona Barrie). One night he drops into a bar while a dance routine is in progress, and makes too much noise as far as the female dancer Margo (Moore) is concerned. So, similar to the last film I saw them in, she sets out to ruin his life.

She attends one of his concerts and instead becomes enamored of his music. Slowly but surely she wields her way into his life, and the two marry.

Margo goes along with Paul on his concert tour. It's highly successful until it abruptly stops due to a flooding situation. Unfortunately, in part thanks to Margo, Paul is flat broke. And he can't depend on his female sponsor to help him.

This is where the film for me goes off the rails. The guy hits the skids in like five minutes. If this were Van Cliburn, would the cancellation of one concert cause total destruction? Suddenly he's a big nobody. When Margo tries to work, he becomes jealous and possessive and refuses to let her, mainly because she's a flirt.

It goes on from there. Haas is a very warm actor, and he gives us a sympathetic if unreasonable character.

Moore does a good job and looks very glamorous. It's hard to decide if she loves Paul or was just using him all along. I think she does care about him, but they're both suffering.

Very nice ending.
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