17,350 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
5/10
A holiday that doesn't shine enough
26 June 2020
'Summer Holiday' was yet another film that had a lot of potential and a fair share of reasons for me to want to see it. While the play it's based on ('Ah Wilderness') is not one of the great Eugene O'Neill's best, it is a good place to start getting to know his work as it is a charmer and one of his more accessible works. With a cast with this many great performers too, one could say this couldn't go wrong. Have also liked some of director Rouben Mamoulian's other films.

Unfortunately 'Summer Holiday' is one of my least favourites of his, in a filmography that includes brilliant films such as 'Queen Christina', 'The Mark of Zorro', 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' and 'Applause' (which revolutionised the development of early talkies). On the most part, the cast are good and the film looks great. A more suitable leading man and a more memorable song score would have helped making 'Summer Holiday' a better film though.

There are quite a number of things working in 'Summer Holiday's' favour. As said, it is a great looking film on the whole. The vibrant Technicolor especially is absolutely glorious and the scenery is also full of colour and beautifully designed. There are a few moments that do stick in the memory for a while afterwards, the highlight is the bar room sequence that has been mentioned in other reviews. Close behind is the catchy "The Stanley Steamer", the musical number that has the most spirit and it's the song in the film that stuck in my head the most.

Furthermore there are some amusing lines. The cast are fine on the whole, with truly lovely and spirited Marilyn Maxwell stealing the film. Gloria DeHaven also has the mouth-watering value. Walter Huston could always be counted upon to give a good performance and he charms the socks off. Frank Morgan is amusing.

Mickey Rooney didn't work for me though, and no it was nothing to do with his age. My problems with him were his tendency to try far too hard and he comes over as annoying and that it was difficult to root for his character. A big problem as he is the lead. Have always liked Agnes Moorhead very much, but by her standards while very professional this was pretty subdued and doesn't have her usual sparkle. There are moments of energy and entertainment value, but too much of the film dramatically is rather plodding and Mamoulian's unusually uninspired direction doesn't help.

Have seen very mixed reviews on the song score, both vehement defense but indifference. The songs to me were pleasant enough but only "The Stanley Steamer" is memorable and has much spark. They could have been better choreographed, the staging is never amateurish but nothing dazzles or has quite the right amount of energy. The editing also could have been a lot better, it's very sloppy in places and too many transitions came over as abrupt and unfinished.

In conclusion, definitely worth a one-time look but a bit lacking for me. 5/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Shadow of menace
26 June 2020
'Shadow on the Wall' is the kind of film that has always interested me and is the sort that one would see me visiting quite a lot. The title is a catchy and attention-grabbing one and the story on paper sounded really interesting. Also interesting was to see Ann Sothern and Zachary Scott in roles as atypical as one can get, it is always fascinating when actors and actresses play against type. This is a heavier than usual role for Sothern and Scott is not the villain or mysterious character this time around.

Finally seeing 'Shadow on the Wall', after being behind on my film watching and reviewing, due to slowing down to help sort myself out a bit, it turned out to be an effective and well done film if falling a little short of being great. It is an example of actors actually excelling at playing against type and even if it is an uneven film a lot works in 'Shadow on the Wall's' favour. If one asks me if 'Shadow on the Wall' is recommended by me, my answer would be yes if not entirely enthusiastically.

A lot of good things here. Sothern shows that she can do more than the more light-hearted roles, here she is cold-blooded and almost femme fatale like and she does this pretty chillingly. Scott also sheds his usual villainous and mysterious character image and plays a more sympathetic character, he displays that side very well too in having intensity but not in a sinister sense this time. Gigi Perreau is neither too cute or too much of a brat, she plays a haunted young character pretty unsettlingly and it does haunt the mind. All the cast, including Nancy Reagan, are good.

The production values are stylish and atmospheric, not once looking cheap while never trying to do too much. The music is suitably ominous when necessary. The script doesn't descend into awkwardmess or cheese, instead it flows well and intrigues. The story is mostly fine, more the first half than the second, while not rushing the build up it unsettles still.

Not that the second half isn't strong, actually thought that there was intrigue and tension. The suspense got lost though in the final third or so and the momentum dipped, so it wasn't as involving or as atmospheric as what came before.

Moreover, the pace is not always there, it's solid in the first half but is erratic in the second with some padding going on.

In conclusion, well done if not great. Anybody that likes it when actors play against type should see this, two actors do it and they excel at it. 7/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Gambling lady
26 June 2020
The premise may not have been an original one, but Kay Francis was always a very watchable and more actress and was often one of the better things about all her films (which varied quality-wise generally). She was my main reason for seeing 'The House on 56th Street', one of my quests in seeing all of the films of people that impressed me enough to see more of their work. Have also liked Ricardo Cortez, usually cast in the more villain-type roles, in other things, but Gene Raymond has always been a hit and miss for me.

Is 'The House on 56th Street' one of her best? In terms of films, it's nowhere near close, it's no 'Confession'. In terms of performances though, it is towards the top and it boasts one of her more complex characters too. Cortez is also served well. Raymond left me indifferent here though. Overall 'The House on 56th Street' to me was not a great film and for some it will be easy to criticise. There are a lot of things worthy of a lot of praise though.

A good starting point being Francis, who is extremely good here and is the main reason to see the film. She is very elegant, but also burns with intensity and poignancy. Cortez is suitably smarmy and does fare joint best of the supporting cast, the other standout being charming Magaret Lindsay. 'The House on 56th Street' is a good looking film as well, stylish without being overblown and looking like it was shot with a lot of care and time. The locations are also beautiful. The music fits nicely, not quite enhancing things but at least it fits.

Script has some nice wit and is intelligently done in places. The story starts off very well and has some nice turns in the plot. The film is nicely directed and the main character, a complex one, is fascinating.

Despite those good things, it was hard for me to ignore 'The House on 56th Street's' drawbacks. It does tend to be very sudsy and over-heated in the writing. The story does have its moments, but does get too over-dramatic and loses momentum in the latter stages. Suspension of disbelief is hardly unheard of in film, it is actually a relatively regular occurance to put it politely. That doesn't stop the latter stages especially from being rather ridiculous. The ending is particularly hard to swallow.

While Francis as well as Cortez and Lindsay fare very well, Raymond is practically a just there cipher and John Halliday likewise. Not even Frank McHugh makes much of an impression!

Concluding, worth a look but only a little above average. 6/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Guilty Hands (1931)
7/10
Shadow of a doubt
26 June 2020
WS Van Dyke did a number of films well worth watching. Some even great, namely 'The Thin Man', 'The Prisoner of Zenda', 'I Love You Again' and much of 'San Francisco' (his Nelson Eddy/Jeanette MacDonald collaborations are also charming watches). 'Guilty Hands' sounded great in terms of the story (being a fan of the genre) and it is hard to resist a film with a cast this good, that leaves one psyched for seeing a twist for the ages as advertised and that has been reviewed this favourably.

'Guilty Hands' is another Van Dyke film well worth seeing and mostly lives up to high expectations, even if it is not one of my favourites of the genre and there are films with relatively similar concepts that are more successful in this regard. 'Guilty Hands' has Van Dyke's style all over it, the cast is reason to see it alone and there are so many things that were done right. Anybody that likes mysteries and noir-ish thrillers should find much to enjoy.

It is a great looking film, with some suitably unsettlingly inventive photography in the opening sequence. An opening sequence that gave me the chills and is brilliantly shot and edited, Van Dyke's accomplished style and technical efficiency shines the most in this scene. All without being cheap or rushed-looking. The lighting has a lot of atmosphere too and the production design is elegant yet suitably ominous. The music is moody and Van Dyke's direction is tight and accomplished.

As is much of the script. It is a little too talk-heavy, but the black humour which comes in heavy doses genuinely amuses and much of the script provokes thought. The story is compelling, with an intriguing mystery that keeps one guessing and has a good deal of suspense, it doesn't get too predictable and it doesn't get over-complicated either. Lionel Barrymore dominates 'Guilty Hands' without being over-dominant, he was never the most subtle of actors but he was always fun to watch and he is very much so here. Kay Francis is sensual and engages with the drama without being too theatrical. Alan Mowbray excels too against type, being effective at playing a sleaze to sinister effect.

By all means 'Guilty Hands' isn't perfect. As said, it is talk-heavy in places. Babs' change of character later on came over as too rushed and introduced in too out of the blue a way to ring true.

Despite the final twist actually being quite clever and definitely unexpected, the very end is rather too abrupt and towards the end it is a little too on the silly side.

Overall though, well done. 7/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Confession (1937)
9/10
I confess
26 June 2020
The title for the film immediately makes one want to see it, and anybody that reads the plot summary are likely to find themselves intrigued. There were a couple of other reasons for wanting to see 'Confession'. One was the cast, have liked Kay Francis in a good deal of other things (though some are cases where she is better than the other) and am a fan of Basil Rathbone. Joe May was an important figure in his day but has been over-shadowed over-time by Fritz Lang by FW Murnau.

Which is a shame because May proved with the likes of 1929's 'Asphalt' that he could do great work. 'Confession' is another example of May greatness, one of his best. It has often been compared to 'Mazurka' with Pola Negri, namely because it has pretty much the same plot with similarities with that film's score, costumes and camera angles. This doesn't matter though, because 'Confession' is a great film in its own way and doesn't feel too derivative even with the similarities.

'Confession' is a little bit of a slow starter and the structure takes a little getting used to.

Once it gets going though, 'Confession' is excellent pretty much all round. It looks fantastic, not quite as visually innovative as 'Asphalt' but the visual style seen in that film is here too. The photography in particular is dazzling, with some truly inspired and atmospheric use of camera angles. The elaborate and very meticulously detailed settings and eeriness of the lighting can also be seen. The music score is haunting, the use of pre-existing music cleverly used.

May's direction is very accomplished, the best of it actually is so superb (especially on a technical level) that it really is a shame that he is not better known now. The script is intelligently written yet doesn't ramble or be too over-literate. The story is a slow starter, but from the twenty minute mark to the end it kept me on the edge of my seat. The final moments are very moving.

Francis is truly fabulous here, not just elegant but also at her most intense and the tragic aspects of her character are movingly conveyed. It is a strong contender for her best performance. Rathbone is great as usual, in a role with characteristics that he was always very good at doing to a high standard in everything he did. Jane Bryan, Laura Hope Crews and the ever reliable Donald Crisp are strong support.

Summing up, excellent. 9/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Nursery magic
26 June 2020
Margery Williams' 'The Velveteen Rabbit' is a truly beautiful book. It was a favourite in my childhood-early teenage years, being captivated by its charm and emotional impact as well as relating so much to the lead character. As a young adult, my feelings on 'The Velveteen Rabbit' are exactly the same and actually love it even more, it is more touching now and one realises how deep the themes and story are in a way not noticed as much when younger.

1984's 'The Velveteen Rabbit' is the first of Rabbit Ears Productions' numerous animated adaptations of popular children/family literature. There were a number of gems in the company's output in all three series of theirs produced. 'The Velveteen Rabbit' is one of those gems and to me it's one of the best of their output. It does this amazing story perfect justice, is very faithful without being overly so and captures the book's spirit beautifully. It also manages to be wonderful on its own terms.

'The Velveteen Rabbit' is beautifully animated, very elegantly drawn with a lot of atmosphere in the colours. The animation is an interesting one, with the use of still images moving throughout scenes. Some may consider that limited, not to me and thought it elegant in its simplicity while finding too that it didn't come over as too much of a gimmick over-used and abused. The music is also very soothing and fits the dream-like understated atmosphere of the story perfectly and even enhances it.

It is a beautifully written adaptation too. Very sincere without being over-sentimental and it doesn't get over-serious. There is nothing here that comes over as cheesy and it was clearly written with respect for its audience of a wide range. The story has the charm and childhood innocence, but more importantly the magic is there and 'The Velveteen Rabbit' doesn't trivialise the deep content of the book. Did find it genuinely moving in parts and appreciated that it never tried too much and told the story gently.

As said, the main character is worth rooting for, as is the whole theme of learning the true meaning of being real. Meryl Streep's tender tones as narrator here is just perfect for the story, exactly what has always been in mind by me whenever reading 'The Velveteen Rabbit'.

Overall, really wonderful and anybody that looks the book will love it. 10/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The exterminating goose
26 June 2020
Did mostly like Gandy Goose and Sourpuss together, and it certainly did the world of good for Gandy in making him more compelling as a character. Their series, and it was more down to whether the material worked or not (sometimes did, sometimes did not) rather than them, never fitted in neither extreme of awful or classic, though a couple did come close in regard to the latter and their weakest still managed to be marginally watchable. Most were average or just a little bit more.

1945, one of the duo's busiest years, was a good example of the series' unevenness. 'Post War Inventions', which is a strong contender for their best, was surprisingly very good and remarkably inventive for the Gandy/Sourpuss series in a way that they hadn't reached before and didn't quite since. However, 'Who's Who in the Jungle' was very, very lacklustre, one of the series' worst and not only felt on the same level as the weakest Gandy solo cartoons (not a compliment) but Gandy's characterisation was a big step backwards. Their next cartoon 'The Exterminator', this, is a big improvement and one of the duo's best.

Would have liked to have seen more of Sourpuss (who always struck me as the funnier and more interesting character) though, whose role is not a particularly large one and it robs us of the odd but interesting dynamic between the two.

The ending is on the predictable side and a bit too pat.

However, after his characterisation took a big step backwards in 'Who's Who in the Jungle' and was closest to the bland, unappealing Gandy when he was first introduced and in his late-30s solo outings part of me was a little worried as to what 'The Exterminator' would do with him seeing as he has the larger role. He fares much better here thankfully, that the material is amusing and more and is more inventive than what is generally typical of the series helps.

Conflict has a lot of fun and tension, those rodents actually have personality and yes one is amazed at what is gotten away with here, there are more gags than usual for the series and to me none of them misfired and pace-wise this is the liveliest since 'Post War Inventions'. As always, the music cannot be faulted, love its lushness, character and how it merges so well with the action. The animation became more ambitious, more elaborately detailed and smoother over-time and that is obvious here.

In conclusion, surprisingly very good seeing the series back on form after a big dip. 8/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
DuckTales: The Golden Goose: Part 2 (1990)
Season 4, Episode 7
9/10
Golden finale
26 June 2020
The first part of the 'Ducktales' finale "The Golden Goose" was great and did a generally wonderfully job with one of the show's best concepts. Not perfect or one of the show's very best, but one of the best late episodes and one of the best in a while. It was a delight to see 'Ducktales' return to its roots and be an episode that had more complex character writing than most late 'Ducktales' episodes and be one of the show's most emotionally investable.

Found the second part to be every bit as good and perhaps even better. It is as thrilling (even when more intimate in scale), complex in character writing and as emotionally investable and dynamic as the first part. It has all of the first part's numerous good things with the best of them brilliantly executed and even better so, and has numerous great things of its own. A delightful season and show finale and a gem for any show in its own right as well, so much so that any logic lapses were forgivable.

Bad things are actually very few and again fairly nit-picky. The frozen characters shot during the transformative powers exposition distracted from what was being said and wasn't really necessary, considering that it also didn't have an awful lot of relevance with what is being said.

Also felt that the wrap up felt a little tacked on.

Once again the animation is vibrant and beautifully detailed and the music is dynamic with the placement never jarring. The dialogue is both entertaining and intelligent, nothing is simplistic or convoluted and even when with moments of intimacy and stripping back the story thrills and intrigues throughout. The voice acting, especially Alan Young, is universally on point. Like with Part 1, absolutely loved the characterisation, with admirable emphasis on the characters' moral dilemmas there is more complexity to usual. Especially in the case of Scrooge, whose genuine grief and concern comes over as genuinely moving, really felt for him here. It shows how much he cares for the nephews and not just about money.

As well as the not too heavy exposition/explanations, the suspense and the amusement, one of the standouts of the writing was Scrooge's reverse psychology. It was great to see Webby show more maturity than with some of the other late season episodes, and also to see her have a memorable personality and treated with respect by Scrooge and the writers. There is a great emotional core here in "The Golden Goose: Part 2", genuinely cared for what happened to the nephews despite not caring for their characterisation in some of the late season episodes. The slapstick is wonderfully wacky and didn't feel at odds with what was going on in the rest of the story, while the spine-tingling climax is a contender for the show's most powerful individual scene. Glomgold is even more villainous this time around, one is able to take the Beagles seriously here too and Scrooge's character writing is nailed in a way that wasn't the case for a while. The transformations are imaginative and also surprisingly shocking, namely the climactic ones.

Summing up, great end. 9/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Not one to leave lost
26 June 2020
Do agree completely that Famous Studios' output is very uneven and the Noveltoons series epitomises this. Their output does tend to be formulaic, which was taken to extremes in the mid-late-50s where formulaic became repetitive. This was also when the overall quality of the studio and the series noticeably declined quite drastically. This predictability in the 1940s-early-50s cartoons though were more than compensated by the high quality of the animation, voice acting and especially music.

There are a number of good (and more) cartoons in the Noveltoons series and in Famous Studios' general output. Do agree again that 'Land of the Lost' is one of the better cartoons on both counts. Is it an animation masterpiece? No, not many Famous Studios cartoons are. Is 'Land of the Lost' worth watching? Absolutely, being one of the cartoons that was produced in by far the studio's best decade and generally the late-40s was one of their better periods.

'Land of the Lost's' story again is very familiar territory, especially once Dirty Dirk appears, and is also pretty thin on the ground. One kind of melodrama good versus evil that had been used many times well before and had already gotten somewhat old.

However, this premise is more imaginatively executed than most cartoons that have it. Really liked the first half, which was very charming and the Land of the Lost looks beautiful in the animation, some very imaginative drawing, very vibrant and atmospheric in colour and with very meticulously detailed backgrounds. The whole conflict with Dirty Dirk is generally well done even if predictable, with the ending being easily guessable well before it happens, done with amusement and tension.

It does help that Dirty Dirk is a memorable villain that steals the show when he appears. Villains often were the most interesting characters in the Noveltoons series and had more personality than the protagonists, which is the case with 'Land of the Lost'. That is not knocking the protagonists because, despite Princess Butterknife's role being underwritten, their personalities are likeable and did find them rootable.

As with all the cartoons in the 40s Noveltoons output, the animation is beautifully done for reasons already said. The cartoon is never dull and didn't feel bland, despite the story being nothing special. The voice acting, all from Famous Studios regulars, is very good, especially from Jackson Beck with the meatiest material. My favourite aspect though was the music, that was a consistently outstanding component even when the studio's quality declined and it is both lush and action-enhanced character.

On the whole, very nicely done. 8/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
In this palace
26 June 2020
Have always been a huge fan of opera, and always will be. 'Turandot' has always been close to my heart since performing it thirteen years ago in the chorus, when still in school and at a stage where music was one of the few things that gave me pleasure. Which at the time was a huge achievement for me. To this day, this reviewer still considers it one of Puccini's best operas along with 'Tosca', 'La Boheme' and 'Madama Butterfly'.

2019's production of 'Turandot', another revival of the classic Franco Zeffirelli production, is a solid enough start for the 2019/2020 season of the uneven but interesting 'Metropolitan Opera HD Live' series. Not everything works and it doesn't ever top the original production, also not being close to being one of the best 'Turandots' seen. It is though better than the last time the opera was performed as part of this series, back in 2016 with a lot of good things as well but also a disastrously bad Calaf.

Am going to start with what could have been done better, and a couple of the problems are similar to the ones in the 2016 production. As spectacular as the spectacle was, it did swamp the drama on occasions with some of Act 1 to begin with bordering on too busy and overblown, distracting one from what was going on in the story and what was happening between Calaf, Timur and Liu. Act 3 pre-Liu's death could have done with more mystery and tension.

Was rather conflicted on Yusif Eyvazov as Calaf (actually found him much better than expected), a problematic role to cast it seems. While he will never be classed up there as one of the great Calafs (naming them would be very unfair on him though), he is certainly infinitely better than Marco Berti. Much better actor, as he nails Calaf's ardour, heroism and intensity with some telling little details in Calaf's conflicting thoughts, not usually seen in a lot of Calafs. Far more musical, allowing for some genuinely sensitive moments. And actually more pleasant to listen to. Against all this, it did sound like the role was a little too heavy for Eyvazov. Some of his singing in Act 2 was underpowered and strained and while he sings the iconic "Nessun Dorma" very well it doesn't thrill. His chemistry with Christine Goerke doesn't properly shine until their big final scene.

Goerke is a lot more consistent though and doesn't sound at all taxed in this notoriously fiendishly difficult role. Her intonation is not always perfect, but she has a big, rich voice that doesn't resort to too much unsteadiness or shrieking for a role that sits quite a lot around high middle and high up. The acting is spot on, she is imperiously merciless in Act 2 while eventually but not too lately becoming more vulnerable. While their chemistry could have been more in Act 2 they are scintillating in Act 3. James Morris is a noble and moving Timur, he has been well past prime for years now but the weariness suits the character very well. Carlo Bosi is a firm Emperor and the Mandarin is unsettlingly played. Eduardo Valdes and Tony Stevenson make welcome returns as Pong and Pang and while Alexey Lavrov is not quite on Dwayne Croft's level he is worthy. They make for a very funny and also very fearsome trio while also believable in the tender part of Act 2 where the three sing about their homes. The vocal and dramatic standout to me though was Eleonora Buratto's heart wrenching Liu. "Tu che di gel sei cinta" had me bawling.

Some think that production looks "dated", to me it still looks phenomenal though the spectacle does admittedly get a bit much in places. The sets are typical Zeffirelli, big, sumptuous and elaborate, and the costumes are gorgeously rich in colour and design. The sensitive and remarkably intimate video directing doesn't cheapen the production values at all, and captures the drama very well mostly. The staging is mostly compelling, with it being especially successful in the more intimate moments. The stage direction especially shines in Act 1 when things calmed down and with Liu.

A vast majority of the time, almost all the time in fact, the production was outstanding musically. The orchestra play with all the hair-raising power, tender lyricism, rousing grandeur and poetic nuance that Puccini's music needs, and throughout they sound positively majestic. The chorus, whose role in 'Turandot' is huge, as always sound splendid, while their acting is a fine mix of chilling, joyous and remorseful. The conducting allows the music to breathe in the more intimate parts ("Signore Ascolta" and "Non Piangere Liu"), but is fiery and authoritative enough to keep the drama alive in particularly the chorus work (i.e. the big Grind and Sharpen chorus in Act 1).

Overall, good if not great. 7/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
High rise with soul
25 June 2020
'Skyscraper Souls' had a good deal going for it. Really liked the idea of the story on paper and while its ideas may not be original they are always interesting. There are a lot of fine to excellent pre-code films out there, and it is always amazing at how much a lot of pre-code films got away with and still don't come over as too tame today. The cast is a good one with all having given good performances in other films, the biggest name being Warren William.

On the most part, 'Skyscraper Souls' lives up to its potential. It doesn't quite fully succeed or exceed the quite high expectations had before watching, with not everything in the story working, but those expectations as one can guess were far from wasted at the same time. It is a powerful and ahead of the time film with almost all the cast doing a great job and it is a shame in a way that Edgar Selwyn did so few films, 'Skyscraper Souls' did show he had directing talent in him.

Am going to start with the many positives. It is stylishly photographed and fluidly edited. The building itself is like a character of its own. It's nicely scored without going overboard on the melodrama or treacle. The script is sharp and thought-provoking, with some surprisingly risque lines. The story had a lot of interesting and daring subjects to cover and doesn't trivialise any of them, they are far from tame now (though would have caused even more of a stir back then) and have relevance still now. The climax is admittedly very melodramatic but is also very emotionally powerful. Selwyn directs with an assured touch.

Best of all is the cast, dominated by a truly terrific William at his most despicable (character-wise that is) and in one of my favourite performances of his. Maureen O'Sullivan does innocence with charm and pathos, without being too sugary sweet or simpering. Veree Teasdale has perhaps the most sympathetic character and is affecting in it, while Anita Page and Gregory Ratoff are amusingly colourful support.

There is an exception though cast-wise, Norman Foster. For my tastes, he really irritated me and overplays his brash character and doesn't have much personality either. Did not care for his subplot, which was very silly and felt like padding that was dull and not needed.

While the story is generally fine, it did at times feel over-stuffed and like it tried to do too much.

In summary, very impressive even if it didn't quite wow me over. 7/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Forty Guns (1957)
8/10
Sizzling guns
25 June 2020
Sam Fuller won't be on my list of favourite directors any time soon, but he does have an interesting visual style. One that isn't subtle, quite exaggerated, but it is certainly eye catching with some unique camera angles for the genres he specialises in. Also highly Westerns, though have always preferred other genres. A primary reason for seeing 'Forty Guns' was the great Barbara Stanwyck and to see as many of the films of hers not yet seen, which was a relatively small handful actually.

'Forty Guns' turned out to be a very solid film and a worthy effort in the genre. It is not one of my favourite Westerns and there are better representations of Stanwyck in roles that suit her more, but Fuller's style is all over it and Barry Sullivan's casting is on the money. Really liked 'Forty Guns' visual style on the whole and appreciated that the story is uncompromising, needed for a subject that is a long way from soft-focused and shouldn't be treated in that way.

It looks great for starters, when talking about the numerous good things. Beautiful and far from stage bound scenery that never look cheap and have a majestic look. Enhanced by the lush lighting and the very stylish and clever photography, which to me didn't get too over the top that it took away from the action. The script has entertainment value, with some lines that raise a smile, and is tightly structured and intelligent.

Moreover, 'Forty Guns' is directed in a lively yet gritty fashion by Fuller and the story absorbs and doesn't hold back tonally, the action pulling no punches and being dynamically choreographed. Despite the film having Stanwyck, one of the greatest actresses of her generations, tough as nails Sullivan gives the best performance. She is also very good, and has her usual toughness and sincerity, though doesn't fit within the setting quite as much. Gene Barry does quite well, in fact generally the supporting cast are very competent.

Dean Jagger however doesn't quite gel within the setting and inexperience playing the type of role he plays here shows somewhat, looking a bit wooden.

Also found the score on the uninspired and lacking in variety side, stylistically it would have been better suited to another film.

Concluding on the whole, very nicely done. 8/10
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Fun mating
25 June 2020
Mitchell Leisen will never go down in my estimations as a personal favourite director of mine. He was though competent and did do a fair share of interesting and even great films, 'Midnight' is one of my favourites of his. Am not the biggest of fans of John Lund, but Gene Tierney was seldom less than watchable and one of the finest character actresses at the time Thelma Ritter made everything she was in better. Did like the idea of the story too.

'The Mating Season' was mostly good fun as a film, even if it is not mind-blowing. It is not one of Leisen's best, but it is a decent representation of him and shows somebody that was assured in what they were doing, which is always good to see. 'The Mating Season' didn't really do anything to change my opinion of Lund, but fans of Tierney will be more than satisfied and it is a must for anybody that loves Ritter (who garnered an Oscar nomination for her performance).

A very deserved Oscar nomination too as she is an absolute joy in a role that suits her to the ground and is basically classic Ritter. On top of very funny she is incredibly charming too, those that say that she walks away with the film (which is the general consensus it seems) are right. One shouldn't overlook Tierney either, she looks wonderful which is not a surprise as she was one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood and she is no slouch when it comes to light comedy, which she's actually quite adept in. Larry Keating is a lot of fun too.

Leisen's direction is not mind-blowing stuff but it is skillful enough and he seems to be at ease with the material at least. 'The Mating Season' is a nice looking film, especially the photography which in particular makes Tierney very photogenic. The music has a nice energy, while the script has a fair share of witty and amusing lines. The story is lively and didn't seem routine at all and it is all very charming without being too over frothy.

Do agree with those though that didn't care for Lund, who fails to breathe life into an unappealing character and the icy over-seriousness is at odds with the tone of the film and the light-hearted acting style from everyone else.

On occasion, the pace is a bit hectic and the film does try to pack in too much so on occasion it's a little muddled.

In summary, good fun. 7/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Tortured souls
25 June 2020
Although melodrama has always had major traps that have been fallen into a lot, that didn't stop me from wanting to see 'There's Always Tomorrow'. Especially considering that there are many fine melodramas also out there, such as the best of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. A good deal of Douglas Sirk's other films are great, a prime example being 'Imitation of Life', Barbara Stanwyck was a wonderful actress and the four films she did with Fred MacMurray showed a great chemistry between them (especially one of the best films of its kind 'Double Indemnity').

'There's Always Tomorrow' to me was one of those not easy to rate and review films, leaning towards decent but problematic. There is definitely a lot to like here, and the two lead performances and their chemistry are a few of the main reasons for why 'There's Always Tomorrow' is decent viewing. Also felt though that there were a fair share of problems and that some of the potential problems that melodramas have are present in the writing, as far as Sirk's films go to me this was a lesser effort.

Not through any fault of Stanwyck and MacMurray. Both of them actually are terrific. MacMurray's role is the trickier one, and one of his more mature ones, and he brings a lot of intensity and poignancy to it. Often quite powerful and towards being one of his best performances. Regardless of what the state of the material was, and some of her films were barely average, Stanwyck always delivered and gave her all in everything she did. Her usual steel and pathos are here to thrilling and touching effect. Joan Bennett, in a role different to the femme fatale ones she often played, is in another type of role she excelled at, the wife and mother figure with a warm heart (she also did innocence very well early on in her career), part of me did feel for her.

One can see a good deal of what made Sirk as interesting he was as a director. Other films of his did so more assuredly and with more refinement but his themes and treatment of characters are all here. 'There's Always Tomorrow' looks truly lovely, with lush photography without too much gloss and elegantly complex but not overblown art direction. The music is not overbearing or too syrupy, and personally do like "Blue Moon" as a song and it is hard to say much bad about any song from one of the most legendary song-writing partnerships. Some of the dialogue has an irony and bitterness, while there are moving and far from shying away moments in the story. The adult characters are handled very compassionately in a social situation that isn't too out of date today.

Against all of this, while Stanwyck and MacMurray's chemistry is on fire that fire does not translate enough in the script. Which generally is rather too sudsy and needed much more of a tightening up. The story tends to be rather too over-heated (even by melodrama standards, where one expects emotions to get over-the-top but not always to this extent), and although it was hard to do everything as intended in films at the time with the production code restricting content the ending just doesn't ring true and felt tacked on and too neat.

While the adult actors are terrific, that cannot be said for the younger cast. The younger characters are very annoying when they could have been the most relatable, but the actors are all made to overact and it comes over as amateurish. William Reynolds coming off worst. Sirk's direction has enough of his trademark touches and how he approached his subjects, but he directs with too much of a heavy hand here for my tastes.

Summarising, decent but not great. 6/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Thelma and Cleve
25 June 2020
There have frequently been two main reasons for seeing any film etc. One is the cast, so many films have a cast full of very talented actors that promises already so much. The other is if the story/premise itself sounds very interesting on paper. 'The File on Thelma Jordan' is another one of many examples to have both those things. Am also a great admirer of Barbara Stanwyck, and saw it also to see as many of her films not yet seen as possible.

On the most part, 'The File on Thelma Jordan' is pretty impressive with a lot of great things going for it. If it had a better male lead and had a tighter pace to begin with, there was a lot of potential for it to be great. It just falls short of that but the good things are many and those good things are actually excellent. It really helps that we have such a great actress excelling in a role that plays to her considerable strengths and that we have a director that was experienced in this type of film.

Am going to start with those good things. First and foremost, Stanwyck. She is absolutely marvellous here, she has a real allure and at times vulnerability but is also very steely and evokes chills. The supporting cast play their parts very well, even if none are quite on the same level as Stanwyck. Stanley Ridges especially comes over well. As does Robert Siodmak (who has done quite a lot of good films, especially 1946's 'The Killers'), showing a lot of flair and eye for detail and atmosphere.

Visually, 'The File on Thelma Jordan' looks great. The photography is both gorgeous and atmosphere-filled. The lighting is suitably moody and the production design is suitably elaborate. Victor Young's score looms ominously in all the right places. The script is sharp and thought probing and the story has suspense and surprising grit. It is also not hard to follow without being simplistic.

Wendell Corey was less good though in my view. Found him a bit too meek and anaemic in a role that too often goes overboard on the passiveness. He has a little more chemistry with Stanwyck than what was seen in 'The Furies', but it doesn't quite fire enough on all cylinders. It's competent but under-explored.

Pace wise, it could have been tighter in the early stages and takes too long to get going. While the ending is a surprise, it could have been handled with more subtlety.

Overall though, it is worth watching. 7/10
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Days of redemption past
25 June 2020
"Redemption" had a fair few things going for it. The premise is not a novel one but is always interesting in seeing how it affects people, what is done to figure out the truth, how the truth is figured out and how it turns out. The title was attention grabbing. The theme of redemption is a sensitive and relevant one that's important to disguss, 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' in its prime was always very good at this and in a way that was never softened or trivialised.

There were some prime-'Special Victims Unit' episodes that to me could have been better while still being watchable certainly. Didn't care for "Redemption" on first viewing, while still appreciating what it tried to do. On a couple of re-watches, it still doesn't wow me. "Redemption" does have a good deal that is good, but to me it could have handled its subject and one key character a lot better. Season 3 was a solid season, but this was one of the weaker episodes.

Will start with what "Redemption" does well, which is a lot. The script does intrigue and has some nice edge in the exchanges between Stabler and Hawk. The second half does fare quite a lot better than the first, it's tighter paced and has some interesting questions raised. Also thought that any surprises were a lot less obvious later.

Christopher Meloni gives his usual hard-boiled performance, a type of acting that he did very well on 'Special Victims Unit'. Kevin Chamberlain does a good job in an atypical role. "Redemption" has a nice atmospheric slick look in how it's shot and the music doesn't over-emphasise or feel used too much, synchronising well with the mood too. The direction is more uneven, with it doing well in how the characters interact in the latter stages. The performances from the rest of the cast are good. Stabler and Hawk work quite well together, at least it's cohesive team-work, and one can see what it means to Stabler to solve the case.

However, the first third or so of "Redemption" is a bit dull and it is for my tastes too obvious too early that the prior conviction was wrong and very unlikely. Especially considering it is a pretty done to death plot device that was familiar ground elsewhere before and used even more since.

Also felt that there could have been a lot more development to Hawk, who comes over as too unlikeably stubborn and difficult to root for throughout, so any change of heart doesn't ring true enough. Although he and Stabler work quite well together, there could have been a lot more spark between them and it could have developed more. Too many of the other characters are too underused and what is essentially the Stabler and Hawk Show.

Summing up, decent but falls somewhat short. There are far better Season 3 episodes. 6/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Tangled (2001)
Season 3, Episode 5
8/10
A tangled web
25 June 2020
All the previous episodes of Season 3 ranged between good and brilliant, a standard that continued throughout the whole season too with a couple of exceptions that disappointed a little. So pretty much the same as the previous two seasons. "Wrath" and "Stolen" being the best of the previous four episodes, both excellent, while the other two were very good with enough things to make them very close to great (with a couple of short-comings, that some may feel come over as nit-picky).

"Tangled" is the season's fifth episode and is as good as the previous four. Also a worthy episode of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit', while being nowhere near one of the best. If the ending was better executed, "Tangled" had real potential to be great with so many things working in its favour. The story sounded very intriguing and 'Special Victims Unit' in its prime years (which for me were the earlier seasons) always excelled in tackling heavy themes in a pulling no punches way.

Where "Tangled" could have fared better was with its ending. It felt rather rushed and almost last minute, especially the revelation of the motive. Which was a surprising one but a bit of a stretch.

Pacing early on could have been a little tighter.

Have nothing though to criticise the production values for, it looks slick and the editing is increasingly becoming smoother and tighter. Not that there was anything wrong with it in the first place, it was always fine before but it just got even better. The music is not obvious or overdone, even in the more dramatic moments. The direction lets the drama breathe while giving some urgency, shining in the character interaction, without being heavy-handed. The acting is typically fine, with the regulars all giving their usual solid performances.

Liza Weil is also no exception in a role very different to her Paris from 'Gilmore Girls'. The episode is scripted thoughtfully, making events easy to understand enough while giving enough complexity too. The story absorbs and has enough to keep one guessing without being confusing. It is a shame that the ending was a little lacking.

Otherwise, this is very good. 8/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Rooftop (2001)
Season 3, Episode 4
8/10
Crime on the roof
25 June 2020
Really like 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit' in its prime years, and can see why it is one of the most popular and most regularly aired 'Law and Order' shows. Will admit to preferring the early years, where there was less focus on the team's personal lives getting in the way of the case and when team members were more professional. The early seasons and the show's mid period also had cases that gripped and moved me more and the early seasons do deserve to be aired more when on television.

Season 3's "Rooftop" is a good example, if not one of the finest examples, of why the earlier seasons should be just as well known as the episodes from about Season 6 onwards. It is not a 'Special Victims Unit' high point and it is not even one of the best episodes of Season 3, but while a team member's unprofessionalism admittedly bothered me "Rooftop" is a harrowing and emotional episode with a lot to it to make it a very good one.

This is going to come over as a nit-pick for some and it does depend on the person as to whether they don't consider it a problem at all or that it's a turn off for them too. But to me the extent of the unprofessionalism of Stabler here stuck out like a sore thumb.

What he does is not acceptable anywhere, let alone a police-force, so to see him behaving pretty much illegally and with so little evidence other than one piece deemed inadmissable seemed unrealistic to me and does not send a particularly good message.

However, "Rooftop" has great acting all round. Especially from intense Christopher Meloni and Ice-T, the latter having settled very well since being first introduced in Season 2. As well as a hard-hitting one from Dorian Missick, Leon is an interesting character. The production values as usual are fine and so is the not overused or over-bearing music.

On top of that, "Rooftop" has an intelligent and thoughtfully written script that doesn't take itself too seriously. The story is compelling with some unexpected surprises and a wide range of emotions. Seeing how it affects Fin brings a lump to the throat, affecting him more than Stabler yet he handles the case more professionally. As said, Leon is interesting.

In summary, very good if not a classic. 8/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: Stolen (2001)
Season 3, Episode 3
9/10
Coming at a price
25 June 2020
There is so much to admire about the previous two seasons of 'Law and Order: Special Victims Unit', where even the weakest episodes were still decent and the best brilliant and classics of the whole 'Law and Order' franchise. The same can be said with Season 3 as well, which quality-wise is hardly inferior and for me actually it's the most consistent quality-wise between it and the Seasons 3 of the original 'Law and Order' and 'Criminal Intent'. "Repression" is very good" and "Wrath" is excellent.

So is "Stolen". It is one of the more emotional episodes of Season 3, with a very hard-hitting and sensitive subject tackled. It was great too to see Cragen get more prominence, which he didn't get enough of in the early seasons, and have less emphasis on Stabler and Olivia every now and again. Don't get me wrong, they are great characters but it is nice when there are episodes that focus on a different team member(s) and previous and succeeding episodes have been brilliant at this. Notably Season 2's "Manhunt", centered around Munch and Fin, and the episodes where we see a softer side to Munch ("Remorse" and especially "Legacy").

In "Stolen", the slick grit and the sharper and tighter visual look is still maintained, and equally had no problems with the generally understated and not too melodramatic music. Nor with the sympathetic but crisp direction or the strong performance all round. The standout here being Dann Florek in an authoritative and moving performance, that is up there among his best of the show.

Furthermore, "Stolen" is a wonderfully written episode. With tense exchanges between Cragen and Cabot (Stephanie March suitably icy) about how the case is conducted, how thoughtfully and poignantly done the courtroom scenes are and even some welcome dry humour from Munch. As well as a poignant reference to the original 'Law and Order's' Season 2 opener "Confession".

Plus the story is a powerful one and also very emotional. While the kidnapping case had tension and had a beautiful moment with Stabler and the baby, the whole Tyler custody battle plot is even more powerful and ends in a way that makes one feel sad and also angry.

Did feel though that the biological father is treated rather unfairly when he is not even the "villain", who should have been treated more harshly, of the story.

Bottom line, another excellent episode and anybody who likes Cragen will think no different. 9/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Returning to the Crystal Empire
25 June 2020
The first part of the two part Season 3 opener was for me good but not great. So many great things, like the music and mostly great characterisation and writing, but with a more consistent pace, less of an over-plotted feel and a much stronger villain it would have been the great episode it could easily have been considering the potential. 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' mostly does a very good job with its two parters, with some though better than others.

Here is the second part of "The Crystal Empire" and it maintains the solid but a little disappointing quality that the first part had. For all the same reasons, in terms of strengths and flaws. There are far better episodes of Season 3, but certainly a lot worse as well. Both parts of "The Crystal Empire" are somewhere in between around high middle, but there are better two parters of the show. With these two parters, the second parts can either be even better than, slightly inferior to or about the same as the firsts. "The Crystal Empire" for me fits in the third category.

Once again, and for the same reasons as before, "The Crystal Empire: Part 2" has an awful lot of good, even great things. The animation continues to be beautifully coloured, richly detailed in the backgrounds and clearly drawn with a lot of care and love, even looking more polished and atmospheric than the previous two seasons (and the animation was great in them too). Especially the gorgeously designed Crystal Empire itself. The music is always dynamic with the action and beautifully varied in mood. Loved the songs just as much and they are quite infectious and don't screach the episode to a halt, the success song is a sheer delight and one of the season's best songs. "The Crystal Empire: Part 2" does again a wonderful job with the world building, where one is fully immersed.

Also loved the moral of the whole two parter and it resonates more in Part 2. It is such a relevant and easy to relate to moral, this is something that the show was very good at on the most part, and it is handled with force yet also sincerity. The dialogue is amusing and poignant often and the story compels enough with a good deal of emotional impact. Lifted by the character writing and interaction, which is even stronger here than in Part 1. Really related to Twilight, who is a character of many shades (found this to be the case for much of Season 3 and the show in general) and is one of the main source of the episode's past. Pinkie Pie is often hilarious and Rarity is funny yet benevolent. Spike serves a purpose and is helpful and quite likeable. Cannot fault the voice acting, very rarely did.

For all those great things, the drawbacks that brought Part 1 are still there in "The Crystal Empire: Part 2", found them even more flawed here actually. Like Part 1", Sombra is a missed opportunity for a villain, underdeveloped and very forgettable with no threat posed and his character design takes getting used to. Jim Miller voices him beautifully though, will admit that.

Did still feel generally that there was too much going on, more so than in the first part actually, and the story felt even more over-plotted and rushed. Found the ending too rushed and Sombra defeated far too easily, still a little over-agression from Rainbow Dash and not all of the jokes land.

On the whole, could have been better in terms of story but sets the tone of Season 3 well and has a lot to recommend. 7/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Furies (1950)
8/10
Furious hatred
24 June 2020
Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Huston are reasons enough to see any film they're in and both were nearly always good and more. Have also liked a lot of Judith Anderson's work since her unforgettable Mrs Danvers in 'Rebecca', and Beulah Bondi and Albert Dekker were always dependable. Have also loved a good deal of Anthony Mann's other work, including some of the best Westerns around, and Franz Waxman was one of the best film composers at the time in my view.

'The Furies' does fall slightly short of being the brilliant film that it could easily have been, but goodness wasn't it close to being. That is of course my feelings from my own viewing of it not too long ago, but will never hold anything against anybody that didn't care for it a great deal. My reason for saying that it was this close to being a great film is that 'The Furies' has so many strengths and those strengths were more than well done, they were brilliantly done.

It is hard knowing where to start with the praise, but lets start with the performances which were, with only one major exception, great. Stanwyck is a tremendously powerful presence, bringing her usual steel and vulnerability while Huston in sadly his last film is mesmerising. His best moments are intensely moving at times and have even more so a lot of menacing fire, the lack of any Oscar nomination or any award attention for his performance here is in my view criminal. Anderson proves herself to be a scene stealer and the tension between her and Stanwyck is one of the best executed and most interesting character/acting relationships in 'The Furies', not to mention her great last line. Bondi and Dekker are good, even though their roles are somewhat small and Gilbert Roland is appealing.

Most of the character/acting relationships are handled very well. Liked the tension between Stanwyck and Anderson and Stanwyck is far more convincing with Roland than she is with Wendell Corey, much more of a sense of them being in love. The most interesting is the father-daughter relationship, which had furious intensity and at times creepiness. Excepting Vance, the characters are interesting. TC being the meatiest and quite larger than life while not unbalancing the film.

Furthermore, Mann directs brilliantly, and the atmosphere and evocative setting is enhanced by Victor Millner's magnificently atmospheric, beautifully crafted cinematography that was deservingly Oscar-nominated. And by Waxman's rousing and at times haunting score. The script is intelligently written and taut while allowing breathing space and the story is always absorbing and tense, there is melodrama here but it is not overwrought.

Despite all those great things, a couple of things could have been done better. Corey is very stiff and a complete blank as the main romantic lead. He and Stanwyck have no real chemistry either, which is something of a moderately big problem as he has more screen time than Roland (who has far more charm and easier chemistry with Stanwyck).

Also thought that Blanche Yurka was a bit too theatrical and out of place here, though her screen time was not near as big as Corey's so wasn't as distracting.

Shortcomings aside, all in all this was a very good film because the acting, direction and photography are so good. 8/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Sinful passions
24 June 2020
'Crime of Passion' had all the ingredients to be a good film. It even had all the ingredients to be a great film. The title is attention grabbing enough, but it is also hard to resist any film that has the wonderful Barbara Stanwyck heading the cast. Loved the idea for the story and it is a type of film that you'd see me particularly enjoy. It was interesting seeing Sterling Hayden playing against type and Raymond Burr in a role different to his iconic Perry Mason.

While it is a worth a look (it takes a lot for me to deem anything these days a must avoid), though namely for the cast, there was a much better film somewhere in 'Crime of Passion' that didn't fully make it out. So considering what it had going for it, part of me was disappointed by 'Crime of Passion' while far from disliking it. Would have liked it a lot more if the story was a lot stronger and more focused, because it was that component that brought things down by a too significant degree.

There are a number of good things in 'Crime of Passion'. The best thing about it is the cast. Stanwyck's role is not an easy one to pull off, but she pulls it off very well. There is her usual steel, yet never in a cold way, and how effortlessly she commands the screen, while also giving a little vulnerability. It has been said that she was too old for the role, maybe but actually it didn't distract me that much. Hayden's character on paper sounds dull, but that's not how his own performance came over as and he does great at coming over as level-handed and sympathetic. Burr is distinguished yet menacing as a charmer with a (very) dark side sort of character. Fay Wray does nicely in a role different to her role in 'King Kong' and it was fun seeing Royal Dano as a work rival.

It's not just the cast. It's assuredly directed by Gerd Oswald and the film looks great. Although the story could have done with more atmosphere, the production values are hardly bereft of them. The photography is especially first class. The ominous but not too obviously so score helps too. There are moments where the script thought provokes and has snap, the social commentary is very interesting and insightful. There is intrigue and the film does start off very well.

Sadly, the latter parts of 'Crime of Passion' aren't as strong in particular. While a good deal of the pace is assured and not too filler-like, some of it does lag and if the script was tauter and not as routine or soggy as it at times was that would have made things better. The story loses focus and could have done with a lot more suspense.

Also felt that the story did get far-fetched and not always easy to follow. Capped off by an ending that was too convenient and almost implausible, the writing for the lead character not making much sense.

Definitely worth a viewing, but really wanted to love it and ended up being fairly neutral. 6/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
A strange hold
24 June 2020
The title for the film may sound simplistic, but there was just something very intriguing about the story. There may be a little bias though, being a fan of crime dramas/mystery thrillers (my favourite genres when it comes to film and television, books too). The cast also sounded very interesting and the actors forming it are a talented bunch, am especially fond of Barbara Stanwyck. She have her fair share of not particularly good films but she was always a strength and the main reason to see them.

Although she did do much better films than 'The Man with a Cloak', she did do worse as well. She comes off very well here, as to be expected, as do the rest of the cast. Without her, 'The Man with a Cloak' would have been one of those watchable but average fare sort of films. With her though the film is not great or quite one of those repeat viewings-worthy films, but it is worth seeing for fans of the cast and of the genre(s). Anybody that loves 40s crime dramas and mystery thrillers set in a different period will find 'The Man with a Cloak' too.

Stanwyck is the best thing about 'The Man with a Cloak'. Her performance has a lot of formidable steel to it that helps make her character more unsettling, while not making the character one-dimensional. Joseph Cotten is suitably enigmatic and has a dashing yet mysterious charisma. Louis Calhern's character is a colourful one (in personality) and he seemed to be enjoying himself. Leslie Caron is endearingly innocent and Joe DeSantis and Jim Backus are solid in their roles, Backus in a departure role.

It's not just the cast that are good. There is a lot of atmosphere to the production values, especially the use of lighting and the eerie settings. The score is suitably haunting. The script does have a good deal of snappy and intelligent parts and the direction is generally slick and comfortable within the genre. The story is generally fun and gripping with the turns in the plot preventing it from being obvious without being too much that it goes too far the other way. The big twist is not the most earth shattering of ones but it was clever at least.

Not a perfect film by all means though. 'The Man with a Cloak' would have benefitted from a tighter pace and what would have solved that would have been having a tauter script. Some of it is on the long-winded side and some of it comes over as quite stiff.

Furthermore, 'The Man with a Cloak' could have done with more suspense as the mystery was all present and correct but needed more spark.

Overall, worth seeing but not a must see. 7/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Mr. Lucky (1943)
8/10
Lover's knot
24 June 2020
My main reason for seeing 'Mr Lucky' was for Cary Grant, who gave so many great performances even when the film wasn't as good. Especially because he apparently considered it one of his favourites of his films/roles because of his character being closer than most of his roles at the time to the real him, which did surprise me considering to me and most other fans his role here is a departure type of role. There are some other talented names in the cast and although his output was not huge HC Potter was no slouch in the directing department.

Is 'Mr Lucky' one of Grant's best? No in terms of overall films and he has given better performances as well. It was still very charming and enjoyable, deserving of more attention, and it does boast one of Grant's better attempts at going against type. It is among Potter's better faring films too (and of the films seen most of them are good, 'Second Chorus' being an exception), and mainly because the cast are so good. How could they not be considering their calibre?

Visually, 'Mr Lucky' looks attractive. Some lovely stylish shots that capture Larraine Day and her eyes in full photogenic glory and the use of light and shadow has a good deal of atmosphere. Roy Webb's score is both sumptuous and moody, without being overwrought or intrusive. Potter directs with skill, and doesn't allow the comedy to get overdone or the romance to get sickly sweet.

There is a nice balance of subtly witty comedic moments, thought-probing intelligence, some never too dark tension and heartfelt drama in the script, without an overload of either of them. The story is mostly very charming and warms the heart without going too heavy on the froth, the romance doesn't distract and mostly it's not too sappy. The characters are nicely written and worth caring for, that's including the not initially likeable title character.

Although his role here was atypical for the time, Grant's charm and sophistication really shines. Day looks wonderful and has a sparkling personality without over-doing it. Charles Bickford and Gladys Cooper, both always solid, are sterling support.

Only the rather too melodramatic final 15 minutes or so disappoints a little, as well as the momentum bogging down a little in the middle.

Concluding though, very nicely done and well worth watching if you love Grant. 8/10
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Gunga Din (1939)
8/10
Rousing heroism
24 June 2020
Despite being very positively received critically at the time and still highly regarded by many now, 'Gunga Din' has also become more divisive with people being more critical of it over-time. It is not hard to see why, with attitudes towards political correctness having changed quite a lot since 1939 (in a somewhat over-sensitive degree way) and certainly since Rudyard Kipling wrote the justifiably famous poem that 'Gunga Din' is loosely based upon (the premise of the story also being based upon that of the Broadway play 'The Front Page').

In regard to 'Gunga Din', my opinion leans towards the liked it consensus. Didn't quite love 'Gunga Din', but did love a lot about it while not quite loving everything. It is very easy to see why it was and still is received positively. It is also easy to see why it was a big influence on some (such as 'The Princess Bride' author William Goldman, and Steven Spielberg for the second 'Indiana Jones' film) and why Douglas Fairbanks Jr considered it the film of his he was most proud of. It may not be the very best work of director George Stevens, but it does contain some of the best work of almost all the cast.

'Gunga Din' did to me fall short of being a classic. The storytelling is too slight in the early portions which made the momentum rather soggy.

Although an admirer of Joan Fontaine, ever since 'Rebecca', to me she has too little to do in an underwritten and quite sketchy role. Also found her somewhat forgettable in comparison to everyone and everything else.

The rest of the cast are great. Cary Grant is amusing and likeable, while Fairbanks gives perhaps his best non-silent film performance, an affecting and non-histrionic one, and Victor McLaglen's is also one of his best and played to his strengths. Sam Jaffe is very good in the title role, his sincerity shining, and Eduardo Cianelli is a suitably sinister villain. The characters are interesting and absolutely loved the chemistry between the three leads, very amusing and heroic. Stevens directs expertly, even if it is not some of his most refined directing.

Moreover, 'Gunga Din' is a good looking film. The cinematography was Oscar-nominated and it is really quite beautiful to look at, the nomination is hardly inexplicable. The locations are sweeping and handsome, not India but there is nothing cheap-looking here. Alfred Newman penned plenty of fine scores, and his one for 'Gunga Din' while not one of his best is no exception. Its rousing, sweeping quality really adds to the atmosphere. The script is both amusing and intelligent, and while the early portions are rather slight the story is on the most part absorbing. The final third or so is quite masterly, with an exciting and tense climactic battle and an ending that brought tears to my eyes.

Summarising, very good if not quite masterpiece level. 8/10
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

Recently Viewed