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Before I Wake (1955)
Hitchcock's "Suspicion" but the other way around
The problem with this film is that Mona Freeman overdoes it from beginning to end, while Jean Kent stays calm and cool long enough to be more or less absolutely convincing. You tend to react against Mona's overreactions from the beginning, and it is unavoidable to come to think that she plays her cards as bad as possible, while in such a situation prudence would have been vital, especially since she has no proof at all, and the only proof that is ever produced appears after her supposed death. She is just a young immature girl who hasn't even come of age, while Jean Kent is a qualified nurse with a lifetime of experience. When all the cards at last are being shown in the end, you also have to wonder why no one in the entire village, including two qualified doctors, never even suspected the truth or could consider anything else than the palpable outward appearances. The script could have been made more subtle, and then the thriller could really have been something for Hitchcock, but as it is, Mona Feeman hopelessly falls in the category of amateurs, while Jean Kent remains unassailable as a very professional expert on intrigue. She was always good at ambiguous roles of clandestine deceit, and here she is also the expert at such role-play, while poor Mona Freeman definitely needs to grow up.
The Late Edwina Black (1951)
Knots of entanglements in relationships running amuck by jealousy, suspicion and hysteria with mainly a dead winner
The woman is dead but more alive than anyone else in the film, while they are all kept busy by her paranormal terror, using her life-long housemaid for an instrument. Jean Cadell is the housemaid and splendid as a formidable dinosaur. David Farrar is the husband and widower of the deceased and a victim of her terror for being just a poor school-teacher, while she was rich enough to own him. Geraldine Fitzgerald is the other victim as the secretary at the mercy of her whims of cruelty against her for being in love with her husband. So all have motives for disposing of the bed-ridden hag except Jean Cadell, who keeps her haunting and alive in the house after her death. Roland Culver is a very prudent police inspector who has to investigate a possible crime and who enjoys a cup of tea any time all around the clock. It's a great chamber play of tremendous passions with many outbursts of exploding tempers. Besides the tight and intensive dialog and the acute drama, it's a very beautiful film in a perfectly romantic environment in a great villa with a park and garden and a greenhouse and ideal music by Allan Gray. Everything combines to form a perfect domestic thriller of critical relationships driven to the brink of self-destruction, and nothing is missing to make it perfect. The only objection would be that it is too short - "the shortest full-length film I ever watched" as one reviewer aptly summed up his experience.
Kvinnor i fångenskap (1943)
Women lost in seduction and crime, with a way back for some
The script is by one of the most skilful and prolific Swedish writers at the time, Sven Stolpe, and the story reveals a profound understanding, knowledge and compassion with women who get lost in life. The women prison scenes, which don't turn up until in the later part of the film, are almost documentary in uncompromising realism, and for being a Swedish film of 1943 it is way ahead of its time almost displaying something like Italian neo-realism. The actors are outstanding, and the priest's part, Gunnar Sjögren, is an impressing study in civil courage. Among the female actors Gun Wållgren is dominating and as splendid in a wicked part as ever, while Elsie Albiin as the victim is a delicate and sensitive impersonation of a girl who cannot be held responsible for what she is exposed to and whose only refuge is into tears. The music is by Lars-Erik Larsson, perhaps the most eminent Swedish composer at the time, the direction by Olof Molander is serious and restrained, like all his films with psychological insight and feeling for his subject, and there are also great cinematographic moments, especially in the Bergman-like play with shadows.
Morning Call (1957)
A regular kidnapping drama going all wrong as usual
Greta Gynt was always a striking appearance in the films in which she acted, and she is the ornament of this film, as beautiful as ever, while her role is limited to the very worrying rich wife of the doctor who gets kidnapped for no obvious reason. Although a great actress, she never reached prominence as a star, although she always acted well. The sordid business here, the bleak reality of a mean kidnapping drama staged by an ordinary man ruined in his mind by the bitterness after the loss of his wife, a black and white drama of how Greta's efforts to save and regain her husband get drowned by too many people engaging in the business, and one even getting murdered for it, was enough for her, and she didn't make any more films, while at the same time she had made a career in films prominent enough by her beauty. The director here was Arthur Crabtree who directed many of the great British films of the 40s and also was an excellent cinematographer - this was also his last film. So this criminal drama is a kind of a curiosity, an almost documentary investigation of how a kidnapping drama must not be handled, as the more cooks who boil the soup, with worse the soup will get. It's not a bad film but only slightly above average, almost touching on B level.
The Guns of Navarone (1961)
Gregory Peck, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and a bunch of others on a hopeless suicide mission impossible
You have to admit that this is one of the greatest adventure films ever made if not even the greatest one. Every contributor is major, they are actually all more or less anti-heros, none of these intrepid men on a hopeless mission impossible were willing to venture on this suicidal enterprise, and both Gregory Peck and David Niven admit when it is all over that they never thought they would succeed. Still Anthony Quinn is maybe the one who makes the deepest impression, a Cretan of a very different kind than the Zorba he made a few years later, making a hard tough character of great restraint, but the only one who carries home some victory, in the marvellous shape of Irene Papas. It's a grim story with many casualties, hard ordeals and terrible sufferings, and still it is a most unusually constructive and positive film for being a war film. Anthony Quinn also made the greatest impression on me the first time I saw it more than 50 years ago, last time I saw it was 32 years ago and then dubbed in Italian, but it's a film worth keeping in mind and refreshing now and then, as you will find new details of interest every time. The greatest kick for me this time was the rat, which David Niven leaves behind in the guns when he has finished his preparations. The Germans discover the rat of course and treat it with uitmost caution as it it could be a very serious bomb, but it just fizzles, squeaks a little and then proves a stink bomb. Only the Germans don't see the fun of it.
The Broken Horseshoe (1953)
Nasty horse racing business mixed up with a Polish refugee organization
It all looks very well and makes sense, and the lady in question is as beautiful as you could ever wish, but nothing is what it appears like. It's the ordinary skilful Durbridge touch of a clever thriller with a mystery dominating the plot, as two doctors get involved in a fearful business of murder, planted evidence, mysterious messages written on a mirror and deleted, invisible ink and so on, and all you know is that at least Robert Beatty must be innocent, which he always is but nevertheless always gets into trouble. The lady in question is the beautiful Elizabeth Sellars, whom it is also impossible to suspect of anything wicked with her irresistible Jacqueline Kennedy looks, while the gorgeous music of Wilfred Burns makes the whole set-up impeccably seductive, and like doctor Robert Beatty you are ready to believe anything. Fortunately he has a brother-in-law in the police who keeps his head sober and isn't easily fooled, not even by the beauty of women, so eventually the whole thing gets sorted out. But you never learn whether the other woman was murdered or not, but you could always hope that she survived, like doctor Robert Beatty did himself from the villain's knock-out drops.
Never Say Goodbye (1946)
Errol Flynn getting a mess, out of his marriage
A rare comedy with Errol Flynn provides a very pleasant change form his usual swashbuckling, especially as his counterpart here is the always so beautiful and stylish Eleanor Parker, who here even is still very young. The comedy is flippant and very well written in a permanently sustained dialog of wit and humour, and the girl. the mother-in-law and the macho marine (Forest Tucker) add to it, to say nothing of the old lovable Luigi (S.Z.Sakall), always an ornament in every comedy he performed in. The direction by James V. Kern is a virtuoso performance in itself, and it's a pity he made so few films, as he quickly disappeared into television for good. He was a prolific script writer, and all his few films are marked by splendid dialog delivered with brilliance. Errol Flynn must have enjoyed making this film himself, at last he had something different than the permanent aloofness of Olivia de Havilland, while also Eleanor Parker regrettably were not given the opportunity to show her stylish superiority in many films. In brief, this is a comedy you shouldn't miss, especially not if you would like to see the most positive sides of Errol Flynn.
The Second Woman (1950)
The complex situation of a bridegroom who lost his bride just before the wedding, and another girl trying to do something about it.
A brilliant young architect (Robert Young) constructs the ideal house on a cliff by the sea for himself and his becoming wife, the daughter off his employer. Everything is set for an ideal happy marriage in splendour for ever after, but on the evening before the wedding she has a car accident in a crash with another car and dies. For some reason that car accident is never thoroughly investigated. Robert Young has to live alone in that splendid house with his deceased bride's picture on the wall, when he meets Betsy Drake on a train, they become friends, she falls in love with him, but he gets increasing problems as it becomes more and more evident that someone is deliberately ruining his life by killing his roses, his dog, making his bride's picture fade and finally setting fire to his house, which burns down to cinders. His own doctor believes he is just suffering from paranoia. Betsy Drake wants to help him, but he insists on getting out of this mess on his own. This does not prove a very easy thing to do.
It's an underrated thriller of the Hitchcock standards with lots of intriguing details to add to the wild romanticism of the spectacle, for instance the only music used for the film is music by Tchaikovsky in various arrangements like even dance music, and the scenic settings with the roaring sea ever present and crooked spooky trees hanging on the cliffs and many very nocturnal scenes, all contribute to make a very intriguing dark and romantic thriller indeed. All you lack is Hitchcock. All the rest is almost perfect.
"A man has to be what he is."
Everything is excellent about this film. Alan Ladd and Van Heflin both make one of their best performances ever, and Victor Young made one of his top scores for the film, proving he was inspired. To this comes the glorious cinematography and settings in the heart of the most beautiful part of Wyoming, and although the story is incomplete, it is perfect as it is - we don't need to know anything more, because all that is expressed or not expressed by the mere self-evidence of feelings and sentiments is quite enough and becomes overwhelmingly over-obvious. Add to this the marvellous focussing on animals and children, the boy above all of course, but the finest and most striking scene of all is with the cattle in the final settlement between Shane and Van Heflin, driving the cattle to break out. What gives this film its tremendous power and strength is the consistent restraint, everyone's self-control is almost absolute all the way up till the eruptions just have to fire out, beginning with one of the greatest bar saloon fights ever. The colours are outstanding also, so everything contributes in making this film a major masterpiece for all times and maybe the very best of westerns.
Midnight Intruder (1938)
Getting into a mess and making mess to get out of it
The thriller is elegant and witty and has many interesting turns, which constantly seem to surprise those responsible for the charade. Louis Hayward and his elderly friend 'the doctor' get caught in a storm after having been ruined at the races, they get a ride with a truck, which has to throw them out when he is going off the road, and the two clowns are caught out in the wilderness in the rain. There they find an empty house, into which they break and make themselves comfortable, until a butler and an entire household staff turns up to serve them, and Louis is treated like the son of the family, which he doesn't mind at all - he willingly takes on that role play, and plays it successfully, until the complications start getting a little thick, as the real son of the family is arrested for murder, whereupon Louis takes it upon him to prove his innocence and get him released, and so the whirling merry-go-round of complications goes on constantly speeding it up.
It's an efficient criminal comedy with some romance in it and lots of fun, but it is merely entertainment. Louis Hayward makes as good as always, and the others do their best to keep it up with him. It's great entertainment for one time's sake but hardly ever again.
L'éternel retour (1943)
The Jean Cocteau version of the legend of Tristan and Iseult
This is perhaps the greatest love story ever brought to us from the darkness of the depths of the Middle Ages, and as the poet he is, Jean Cocteau has made his own poem about it and transferred it to the cinema. The amazing thing about this rendering of the timeless legend as that it is as modern and timeless as his one film "Orphée" seven years later, it could have been made and shot today, its settings can not be identified geographically, its special relationships could occur in any wealthy family, but there is one great difference: the introduction of the absolute evil by the dwarf Achille, who deliberately messes everything up from the beginning, and who delivers the love potion to the not yet awakened lovers on purpose in the belief that it is deadly poison. This is the stroke of genius in this version. Jean Delannoy the director has added to the character of this masterpiece by his own very romantic touch and extremely refined style in fascinating almost thriller-like cinematography all the way. Jean Marais makes one of his finest performances ever, although they are all outstanding, and Madeleine Sologne is over-fascinating in the mystery of her cool detachment changing into a voluntary martyrdom of passionate self-sacrifice. There are few more revolting villains in the history of cinema than this monster of a dwarf, who is entirely the product of a self-indulgent mother who just has spoiled him the more for being a monster. I have seen this film twice before, the first time almost 60 years ago, but its impact of timelessness remains the same and more convincing every time. There has been made a number of remakes of the legend in different settings and newly constructed stories, but this will probably remain the best of all, at least on the screen.
Madame Sans Gêne (1961)
Sophia Loren as a washerwoman making a parallel career with Napoleon
This is glorious French theatre all the way at its best, and of course Sophia Loren is predominantly the shining star that outshines even Napoleon, who nevertheless is very well played by Julien Bertheau, who is especially convincing as the young twerp fooling around with exploding artillery in Paris in August 1792. Christian-Jacques made many historical films and was if anyone an expert of them, and they are all sumptuous and glorious in rendering history alive. The washer-woman Sophia Loren, "Madame Sans-Gêne", meaning the lady who is not ashamed of herself, makes one of her best performances in this thoroughly French film and, as Napoleon admits himself, is the only one who masters him successfully. Since they knew each other well in the gunsmoke of the Paris revolutionary gutters, when it comes to a crisis and Napoleon threatens to dishonour her, forcing her to an involuntary divorce, she recalls the young prig Napoleon of the gutters and finds him rather changed as an emperor, while she hasn't changed at all and still knows how to rebuke him and put him in his place. It's above all glorious theatre, and the historical scenery gives the comedy full justice and a perfect frame. Any admirer of Sophia Loren should never miss this one.
Romanzo di un giovane povero (1995)
The most round-about possible way of getting rid of your wife
One of Ettore Scola's more bizarre films but an excellent study in human nature from many aspects, as this complicated possible murder case involves a number of characters, all very humdrum and ordinary, while Alberto Sordi sticks out as a very pathetic character of extreme tragi-comedy, desperately trying to find a way of getting rid of his constant nightmare of a wife but not willing to do it himself. He thinks he finds a suitable candidate for the murder in his young scholar of a neighbour, a quiet unemployed failure of a teacher and student, who only wants to be left in peace especially of his over-protective mother. Eventually the nightmare wife finds a sudden and fearful end, and her widower denounces his neighbour for the murder. The most interesting character here is actually the prosecutor, who says very little and never smiles, bur who gradually arrives at the truth of the pathetic tragedy but can't do much about it - the whole mess ends up in a hopeless question mark, as everyone resigns to his own tragedy. It is not a major film of Scola's but psychologically very interesting in its meticulous dissection of very ordinary characters.
Nothing But the Best (1964)
The talented Mr. Ripley, British style
Alan Bates is the scoundrel here who thinks he is about to get away with anything. Everything is wrong with him except his ambitions. In order to climb the social ladder to riches and success he not just uses any dirty tricks to get along on the way, but his knack is simply to follow the mainstream of general hypocrisy, consistent deceit by means of sticking to lies, outrageous audacity and the general euphemistic way of life ignoring all that is out of any private interest to you. Everything here is permanent dishonesty, and for its blatant shamelessness the film is actually shocking in its horrible satire of upper class business life, while you must admit that it is extremely well done, in perfect cleverness, wit and elegance. All the actors are perfect, and you don't even feel sorry for Denholm Elliott who actually did nothing to help himself except in digging his own grave, while Alan Bates' acting is a marvel of sticking to a masked role. Millicent Martin actually suits him, it is even suggested that she sees him through and appreciates his charade, and you are used to Denholm Elliott as the perfect loser. In brief, in spite of its revolting immorality, the film is thoroughly enjoyable for its virtuosity in cleverness and elegance.
Comedian Harmonists (1997)
Music as the victim of politics
Since it happens in Germany, and starts around 1927, you are certain to have some misgivings about the course of events. Yes, you are justified in those misgivings, because Joseph Vilsmayer brings it all out into the open, from the first racial harassments of the partly Jewish group, (three of them were Jews, wholly or partly, and the pianist had a Jewish wife,) to the direct political persecutions, forcing the most loved and successful singing group of Europe at that time to split and break up, as they were forbidden to perform in Germany.
They were six, but one of them was only a pianist, and three of them were tenors, the other two being a baritone and bass. Yet they all six played more or less the lead in every song they presented, the pianist being vital for accompaniment, rhythm and direction, the first tenor crowning every performance with his very characteristic brilliance, the bass always entering with very efficient solos, and so on - they were six musicians in an entity constituting a perfect musical unity, all indispensable and extremely musical - they're practically all vocal virtuosos.
The story is gripping, and the more so for being true, and there are some scenes you will never forget, some party scenes, especially the Jewish wedding, the hilarious American tour, perhaps the peak of their success - and after the split-up three of them returned to America to try a fresh career over there, but once they had split they never found each other again, and their special musical magic was lost forever. Fortunately most of their recordings are still available, and Joseph Vilsmayer, who also shot the German "Stalingrad", has made a miraculous job of quality in restoring the epoch, the magic, the irresistible good humour and the musical transcendence of this immortal and nowadays legendary group.
Russian aristocrats on the bum in Paris
Charles Boyer and Claudette Colbert are always good if not excellent, and this film is worth watching for their sake. Basil Rathbone also makes one of his good appearances. The story is more arguable. Boyer and Colbert are refugees from the Russian revolution, and as Russian aristocrats of the highest order they end up in Paris, where they have to turn to extreme measures in order to survive, including even stealing. Finally they get work as servants in a rich Frenchman's house, where at a party one of their deadliest enemies from Russia, the bolshevik commissar Basil Rathbone turns up as a guest, and there are some arguments. That is all. The main theme of the story is the obligation of the aristocrats (Boyer and Colbert) to stick to their code of honour, and in that process they commit the most incredible acts contrary to common sense. If this comedy is supposed to be flippant and witty, it doesn't raise many laughs. The funniest person is the fat dinner lady of a guest who speaks a language that is impossible for anyone to understand, performing a feat of unintelligibility. The start of the film is rather amusing, but then all of the rest seems mainly rather awkward. Still Anatole Litvak is the director and Max Steiner made the music. They have both done better.
The predicament of a previous flame not letting you go when you are supposed to get married
The worst thing is that it doesn't help that she dies, but she will only put her claws further into you. The scenery is perfect and romantic enough, an island with a lighthouse by the sea, but like in all ghost stories there are some flaws in the script. The girl Vi is never convincing, and he is stupid enough to take her seriously anyway, while the only sensible thing would have been just to ignore her and the blackmailer as well. Instead he goes from bad to worse in getting more and more concerned about the awkward situation. The best character is the blind woman Ellis, and the film would have gained much if she had been given a greater part - as it is she is just permitted to fade out. The girl of course steals the drama, the only one who knows everything, and one can imagine some considerable aftermath to this inexplainable mess of ghost sabotages that only Richard Carlson actually has experienced. He plays well enough and is understandably nervous all the way, and as he is totally convinced himself, he also convinces the audience of his conviction. The end is foreseeable of course, it couldn't have ended otherwise, but the aftermath would have been interesting.
24 timer af en kvindes liv (1952)
A young beautiful widow saves a gambler from suicide - or so it seems
The story is by Stefan Zweig, and that warrants some very interesting watching experience. The story is very romantic and splendid in its Mediterranean settings around Monte Carlo with a focus on the gambling house. The most interesting detail of the film and story is perhaps the study of the hands at the gaming table. Leo Genn makes as comforting appearance as ever, and he is the one who watches the hands of the gamblers and analyses them, and there is one pair of hands that his friend Merle Oberon can't detach herself from. It takes a very long time before you are admitted the sight of the man's face whose hands have revealed to her the most bottomless desperation in the world.
It's a psychological drama, and the main psychology is about the demon of gambling. Richard Todd wants to quit gambling and swears that he will do it and still returns to the the gambling table. The demon is there to stay, and his irresistibility is as relentless as devastating. Merle Oberon makes as usual a blinding performance for her beauty, Leo Genn is perfect as usual as the superior mind of solace, Richard Todd is perfect as usual in his obsession, and Stephen Murray is quite convincing as a French musical priest. It's a beautiful film with a very concentrated and multi-faced story with many surprising turnings, so it's worth while indeed to see this one again - but preferably in colour.
Musik i mörker (1948)
Interesting study in the realm of darkness concerning music
It is always worth paying special attention to the music of Ingmar Bergman's films, because it always carries great significance. This is one of his almost numerous films dealing directly with music, as it tells the story of a brilliant young pianist who in an accident loses his sight but goes on playing, although he can't get any stable position, and as an alternative he educates himself to a piano tuner. The scenes from the school for the blind are the most poignant and interesting in the film, especially the class of blind children reading together, while the scene then changes into the concert the blind pianist is giving for the blind. His films with music for a major theme are perhaps his most personal and interesting and might be the best ones, and here for the first time he pierces the mental darkness of the black side of music and creation. Mai Zetterling is the enduring light in this darkness, and when you lose her in the beginning you long for her to reappear, which of course you are certain she will, and she does indeed. Birger Malmsten as the blind pianist makes a very delicate performance of both great pain and superior integrity, and all the other actors are outstanding as well, especially Douglas Håge as the rowdy restaurant boss. As a film of his youth, it is still of the experimental stage of Bergman's long career, but as such it is perhaps the most interesting of his early experimenting films.
The divine intervention by the human factor
Based on a real occurrence, it all happened in 1924, and even Ku Klux Klan is included in the argument. The two murderers are only 18 and 19 years old, and still the public wants to have them hanged, and as Orson Welles as the lawyer observes with regret, just because they are rich. As the sons of millionaires with superior talents and minds of intelligence, they fall for the Nietzschean idea that they could allow themselves anything and don't have to bother about any scruples or conscience or human feelings, and they commit a murder just for the experiment and the excitement of it, like Raskolnikov, to see if the experiment will be successful. Well, as always, there is something called the human factor that changes everything.
Dean Stockwell's and Orson Welles' performances make this film worth watching carefully again and again, at least once in a decade, for it is extremely rewarding for human instruction about psychology and understanding human nature. What ultimately saves Dean Stockwell, or at least his soul, is the fact that he can't go through with just anything. The other guy can't forgive him for his weakness, but he is the one who has no soul and can't be saved by anything, and you will even be glad to forget all about him. But Orson Welles as the old tattered lawyer with too much experience who has outlived his 45 years of law in constantly increasing weariness, and the young acute sensitivity of Dean Stockwell are two characters you never will forget, but keep returning too.
Beyond This Place (1959)
A web of troublesome destinies of murder, suicide, corruption, drunks and victims.
A.J.Cronin has made a great novel out of some very difficult traumas, as an American comes home to Liverpool, where he was born, and finds his father in prison for life. Van Johnson as the son came home just to finally get to know something of what really happened to his father, and he immediately gets immersed in a mess of complications and worries. After recovery from the shock of finding his father having escaped hanging by a hair's breath, he gradually is more certainly convinced that his father was innocent, framed and sacrificed for other people's crimes, but his boat is sailing back to America in four days, and he has to be on it, which the local police superintendent is especially keen to make sure that he is. Naturally he stays to investigate the matter further.
Jack Cardiff who directed this complicated film did not direct many films, but he was one of the most important cinematographers off British cinema and was the director of photography for all the major Powell-Pressburger films and also of "The Magic Box" among many others. This is not a film to appeal to the great multitude and make a big box office success, but it falls into a more singular kind of category of "human noirs" like all the early films of John and Roy Boulting. The acting though is superb, and when you see and enjoy Vera Miles as Lena in this very poignant drama you understand why Hitchcock wanted her for "Vertigo". She makes the deepest impression, Van Johnson is himself as usual as the perfect candidate for a tragic character, and as the old tragic lawyer who saved the victim's life from hanging, you find the old veteran Emlyn Williams in a very sensitive role. Bernard Lee as the father who almost gets hanged for nothing also provides perhaps the only shocking role of the film, as you first get to know him playing in the park jovially with his son and then after twenty years in prison, which life has made his character almost completely unrecognisable, - and yet the son finds him again, and this is the golden moment of truth of the book and the film.
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
The perfect bank robbery that couldn't go but perfectly wrong.
Of course, you know from the beginning, that it all has to go wrong. Naturally though, you want to see how it will go wrong. Everything speaks against the project from the beginning, the odds are the worst possible from the start, but Robert and Harry are simply compelled to join the venture, and the fact is that old big Ed Begley has thought it out perfectly. There are many confusing details on the way, constantly teasing you into temptations to some false trails and red herrings, and they are actually innumerable, like kids playing around, a train stopping the traffic, the incident at the gas station, the gangsters adding to the general brutality, and so on, but still it will all turn out for you in a most unexpected way. Like so often in Robert Wise's films, every performance is major and prominent, especially Harry Belafonte as the bar musician driven to the end of his tether, but also Robert Ryan as the scarred war veteran with too much experience, and Ed Begley as a former policeman trying in almost an idealistic way to find a way out for all three of them from their blind alley of ruin and delusion in a bottomless disappointment with life. Harry though has something to live for and therefore is brought to make a desperate wage, while the others have nothing to lose. Like in so many of Robert Wise's films, the screening is terrific, and the finale is cinematographically impressing to say the least. Shelley Winters and Gloria Grahame by all means, but they fade into the background. What will stick is the utter tragedy of Johnny Ingram, who if anyone gets reasons to get really sore.
Everything goes wrong in this bank robbery and still they get away with it
The laughs get stuck in your throat as you at the same time get the appalling picture of modern America, where no human feelings except very selfish ones are of any matter - these people have no scruples, a human life is worth nothing, as you get the impression that a professional murderer could be hired to kill anyone and even be certain to get away with it, and that nothing is sacred or worth any respect. The comic highlights are many, though, especially as when the hired murderer becomes best friends with his intended victim and crying for it. It is remarkable, though, that this is a true story, and that they actually got away with two million dollars that no one has found any trace of.
La Bohème (1988)
Mimì in 'La Bohème' stealing everyone's hearts as usual and taking them away with her
This is one of those operas that never can fail. There are not many of them, and two of the others are Bizet's "Carmen" and Verdi's "La Traviata", but Puccini's most popular opera is something different, all verist and revolutionary in some ways, especially considering the second act, the mass scene at the Café Momus in Paris. Puccini made his operas more than their underlying literary works, giving his ladies a finer lustre than their authors ever gave them. That's the general tendency in all of Puccini's operas, like *Manon Lescaut' (totally different from all previous 'Manon Lescauts'), Tosca (making a scenic actress a superstar), 'Madame Butterfly' turning a poor young unsuspecting geisha into a divine heroine, and in 'Turandot', ruining and bringing down the great all powerful Chinese princess by presenting the poor slave girl Liú as a much nobler and more sincere character. Mimi in 'La Bohème' crushed everyone's hearts from the beginning, and she has never ceased to do so. It is one of the universally most loved operas ever, and here it is performed in San Francisco with an almost entirely Italian cast, doing it thoroughly justice, with also a very young and brilliant Italian conductor, Tiziano Severini. Of course, Mirella Freni brings home the prize, and she is always overwhelming in sincerity. It's difficult to think that this opera could be given a better performance.
An outrageous professor picking up a girl from the gutter to experiment on her
It's inevitable to compare this first, original, true and more than realistic rendering of Shaw's debatable play with the later sumptuous, splendid and overwhelmingly beautiful musical version of the same story but somewhat adjusted. Here both the main actors are better and more convincing, and Wendy Hiller in her first cinematic performance immediately establishes herself as royalty in the cinema even totally without good looks - the one thing Audrey Hepburn was better at was good looks. While Rex Harrison as Higgins was absolutely perfect in his way, still he was not abominable enough, which Leslie Howard is. It's a beastly play of two incorrigible bachelors playing with a young girl's life as if they could use her as a laboratory experiment or a guinea pig, but the point of the play is that Eliza Doiitlle gets the better of them. Both Audrey Hepburn and Wendy Hiller do this part very well, but Wendy Hiller with more startling results - she actually emerges as a queen at the ambassador's ball, and anyone must be deeply impressed by her astounding presence. Audrey Hepburn replaces that majesty with beauty, which is just as well, but Wendy Hiller's fantastic transformation is striking more deeply.
Another thing about this film is that poor Freddy is actually in it from the beginning, while played by Jeremy Brett (later world famous as Sherlock Holmes) he makes a much more secondary appearance as only a rich handsome young man, while here he makes a truer impression as the fool he is. Nothing can excel Frederick Loewe's brilliant music of the musical, but here actually Arthur Honegger has composed a special score for the film, which is perfectly appropriate.
In brief, both these versions of Shaw's revolting play have their definite advantages to the other, so they complement each other perfectly.