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4/10
Not a noir--and not very good either.
6 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The title pretty much says it all. Eric Portman is wanted for murder in this tedious, unsuspenseful melodrama--most of which is set in very un-noirish sunshine.

What makes this especially hard to endure are the endless scenes of the police inspectors trying to anticipate (and then catch up) with Portman, as they waddle around the station, answering the phone and drinking tea. These scenes which are risible, (and no favor to Scotland Yard) are so padded, that one feels the director felt he needed them to increase the running time. Did he also feel that making the police the perfect model of incompetence would aid the story?

The climax set on a lake with the police in hot pursuit is "Saturday Night Live" material.

And the story ain't much--Portland is the middle aged Mamma's boy, who keeps a clipping file of his previous slayings, (a plot device borrowed from the far superior, "They Drive By Night" (1938) starring Ernest Thesiger).

As for the acting, well who can top Barbara Everest as Portman's mother, who evidently believes she has been cast in a Victorian melodrama of the "East Lynne" school--so many hand claspings and heaven-ward glances does she employ.

Don't be mis-led into buying this sight unseen thinking it's one of those great, esoteric, unknown British noirs. It isn't! Moreover, apart from a carnival sequence the whole thing is staged very unimaginatively.
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5/10
Unsavory
6 March 2011
This is one of those so called ground breaking 60's dramas which uses the familiar device of a hopeless, frustrated spinster, (such as Jane Wyman would have played 10 or 15 years earlier, think "Miracle in the Rain") in an attempt to propagandize the audience into thinking the solution to her dilemma is sexual liberation.

Thus we have plain jane school-teacher Woodward finding carnal knowledge with a former classmate who's on a brief return visit to her home town.

Woodward sees sky rockets, marriage and children, and of course suffers the inevitable disillusionment of desertion.

Exceedingly well acted by all concerned, with many precise observations of small town life, (including a brilliant evocation of an old ladies bridge club) , the film uses these strengths to cloak, (make respectable?) distasteful scenes of Woodward's ruination in the hay, along with a highly improbable Lesbianic interlude with Estelle Parsons.

How interesting it would have been to have seen this theme treated the way Francois Mauriac would have realized it--and yet nowhere is the moral, much less, supernatural dimension even fleetingly evoked much less alluded to.

Indeed the films' only reference to religion is a depiction of a revival meeting featuring a wild eyed snake handler.

And so, in the end, (like so many other late sixties pretensions), all that we are left with here is mere, dreary, sociological naturalism, a melo but with the same basic ends as a Norman Lear comedy (all you squares need to unshackle all of your old wives tale repressions)--and not the lyrical star dust of Tennesse Williams who explored the same themes in "Summer and Smoke".

Not the sort of role Loretta Young would have played!
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9/10
Absorbing serial with high wattage movie star cast.
26 August 2010
What other daytime serial in history corralled three Oscar winning/and or nominated ladies to head its cast? Only this--based on Rona Jaffe's novel of the same name and with big screen veterans Gale Sondergaard, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Patty McCormack.

This show seemed to have everything going for it--gifted and attractive performers, beautiful sets, evocative symphonic under-scoring, and a melodic theme song, (recorded on album and performed on the show by Connie Eaton). For those of us captured by its absorbing story in the long ago summer of 1970, its cancellation was as sudden as it was inexplicable.

Gale Sondergaard was the sinister proprietress and editress in chief of Key Publishing, the publishing house wherein the central action was located, the story centering on the interconnected lives of three stenographers. These were April (Julie Mannix), Kim (Katherine Glass) and dishy Patty McCormack as Linda. All three were effective in their roles as well as being very easy on the eyes.

And the plots! The girls may have been searching for the best of everything, but were sure stymied in attaining it--particularly Miss Glass who got involved with a hippie-biker pusher, ("Squirrel" played by Gregory Rosakis) and ended up being stabbed multiple times and left amongst the debris of a deserted alley,(near dead but not quite!).

Then there was the little boy who innocently ate from a box of sweets laced with LSD, and fell into convulsions whilst he rolled on floor screaming in agony.

Lurid, perhaps, but memorable...
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1/10
Astonishingly bad!
9 August 2010
There are many films that would qualify for the list of all time worst, (1972's "Asylum of Satan" would be a superb candidate!) This film, however, beggars disbelief.

The career of Chester Morris is (like Rudy Vallee's singing), is one of the great mysteries of the entertainment industry. Utterly devoid of discernible acting talent, utterly devoid of charm, he managed, nevertheless, to put to service a jutting jaw, a permanent scowl and an inflexion-less voice in a long motion picture career.

That career, was largely over by the time "She Creature" was made, as were the careers of co-stars, Tom Conway, and Freida Inescourt.

The resulting film, is a mish-mash of re-incarnation, hypnotism and "Creature From the Black Lagoon" tropes against production values of ludicrous poverty, (the "wealthy" Tom Conway inhabits a beach side home where the paste board interior walls boast sparkle chips, making his office etc. look like the inside of a 1958 Los Angeles Savings and Loan).

Not to mention, that the script makes absolutely no sense, the dialog is embarrassing, the acting, (by all concerned, though Lance Fuller comes off best) abysmal, and the whole thing is ponderously dull.

No one on the production team seems to have had any idea of what they were doing, (many scenes are under-lit and actors routinely block out the key light of the player with whom they are playing the scene).

The final sequence depicts Lance Fuller and Marla English in a nighttime, moon lit garden, where, (absolutely no kidding here) they both cast their shadows on the cyclorama behind them ! You get the general idea. And unlike a bad film redeemed by campiness, (such as one featuring Acquanetta) this has no redeeming qualities.

One can only imagine what people like Inescourt thought making this. Given the hypnosis theme here, perhaps she and Conway were hypnotized into believing that it was still the 30's and that they were still at Warner Brothers.

You have been warned!
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5/10
Blame the bloody Edwardians!
9 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"Kitchen Sink" drama was in its ascendancy when this film adaptation of John Osborne's play was transferred to the screen in 1959.

Philosophically, it's very much in keeping with the conventional, (and by now extremely predictable) views of the counterculture, then viewed through the prism of "the beats" but ten years after through the prism of the hippies.

Thus, we have Richard Burton, playing a young man, (a role for which he is already far too old as he looks very middle aged here) who has chosen to eke out an existence as a street vendor of penny candy by day.

By night, he is an amateur musician and misanthrope, drowning in an ocean of self pity which he assuages with alcohol and wife beating.

His apartment is regulation 1959 degradation model A-1, with girlie pin ups for art, the ironing board in the middle of the room, last weeks newspapers piled everywhere, and walls as pock marked as his un-pancaked oily complexion.

Oh, and he has a wife, a platinum blonde, whom he slaps around, and who, discovers she is expecting in one of the film's climactic revelations.

But pending fatherhood is no reason to remain faithful, and, thus, when his wife, unable to tolerate more abuse, returns to her parental home, he takes up with a visiting actress.

That the actress is played by the exquisitely cultivated and beauteous Claire Bloom strains credibility to the breaking point, (why would she put up with such as this?).

And it is to Miss Bloom that he directs some of Osborne's more pungent counter cultural observations--blaming those bloody Edwardians with their Rupert Brooke notions of honor, duty, propriety and respectability who mucked up everything--got it all wrong--it's more honest to live in a flea bitten flop-house and play amateur trumpet by night.

Then there's his free love advocacy:, "you can't be both a saint and live--you have to choose one or the other." Did you hear that St. Thomas More? This achingly relevant study of a man in extended childhood, though technically well executed, is as tedious and false as its underlying and very bankrupt philosophy.
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5/10
Shelley lifts cheap jack potboiler.
9 August 2010
From the get go, it is apparent that Hammer had no intention of making a film about Rasputin within the full scope of his historical context. In other words, they were not about to shell out the coin to depict crowd scenes, royal processions, military parades or peasant insurrections, though it is possible to imagine the modest Bray studio stretching to the occasion had the will been there.

The word "Bolshevik" is never uttered and we never once catch a fleeting glimpse of Tsar Nicholas much less his daughters.

This, then, in keeping with Hammer's decision to use standing sets, (slightly revamped) from "Dracula, Prince of Darkness" is a backstairs, tabloid account of Rasputin the dissolute diablos.

After all, you don't need crowd scenes to depict Rasputin raping a girl in a barn.

Notwithstanding, art director Bernard Robinson, does what he can. But make no mistake, this is not top flight Bernard Robinson, nor top flight Hammer. We aren't even given an establishing shot, (of the picture postcard variety) of St. Petersburg, and it is only in a bedroom scene with Rasputin curing the Tsarvarich Alexei, (all cream and gold with some magnificent candelabrum) that the visuals recall the peak Hammer of the late 50's-early 60's.

Worse, Hammer cribs a scene from another film, "Anastasia" to use as an establishing shot for the palace ball sequence. This shameless pilfer, would only appear to have been legal, inasmuch as "Anastasia"s producer, Twentieth Century Fox, was also the distributer of Hammer's "Rasputin," thus showing the extent to which the distributer contributed fiscally to the Hammer product, even during a film's production.

Christoper Lee is excellent as the mad monk, particularly in a tavern scene where he hypnotizes Barbara Shelley. It is Miss Shelley, however, who walks off with the film, yet again, showing that she was capable of so much more than she was ever offered.

The rest of the cast is serviceable, though cute as a pearl button, Suzan Farmer is given very little to do except look fetching, an assignment at which she excelled naturally.

For Hammer enthusiasts rather than students of Russian history.
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Kitty Foyle (1940)
4/10
A parade of clichés.
15 January 2010
One puzzles over the celebrity attached to this film. What has it, after all, to offer? Whatever the novel's merits, the screen play is a tired collection of pulpy womens' magazine clichés, already quite played out by 1940.

For Ginger Rogers, her lead as "Kitty" is anything but new turf, (and hardly Oscar worthy) and is in fact, both in dialog and situations a retread of many of her thirties roles. In listening to Kitty, one hears echos of Rogers in the 30s in all those working class melodramas--as hat check girl, manicurist, chorine, carnival vendor etc, --the girl whose hard boiled bon mots conceal an inner decency.

Then there are the other hackneyed ingredients. We have, for example, Gladys Cooper in the mink collar on the camel back sofa (again), Kitty's father, a Faith and Begora tippling Irishman, (a la Charles Winninger the other flustered shamrock pater in all those Judy Garland vehicles), wisecracking plain Jane roommates who eat sandwiches as they let down Murphy Beds, and a really embarrassingly bad scene in which Kitty "tells off" her high born in laws, that seems drawn of equal parts Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford, and Joan Blondell.

After hearing her "corn beef and cabbage are better than Beef Wellington!" style denunciation, you'll be on the side of the aristocrats.

It doesn't help that a puffy faced Rogers (then only 30) photographs much older, perhaps owing to an unflattering selection of brunette coiffures. Indeed, she looks MUCH better 10 years later, as witness the "Manhatten Downbeat" section of "Barkleys of Broadway" or "Storm Warning" (1951).

At least this film's sets were able to be re-purposed to much greater advantage, particularly by Val Lewton in his "Seventh Victim," (the speakeasy in "Kitty Foyle" receives better exposure as Natalie Cortez' Greenwich Village living room). Just for fun try to see how many other sets and props from "KF" end up in the "Seventh Victim."

But for all that, even some of "Kitty's" own sets are leftovers, notably one first seen in the Lucile Ball vehicle, "Beauty for the Asking."

Strictly for fans of left-over stew or films with unjustifiably high reputations.
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8/10
Mr. Ulmer in the Douglas Sirk mode.
29 June 2009
It is nothing if not puzzling, that despite all the attention Mr. Ulmer's other work receives, "Her Sister's Secret," remains consigned to some no man's land--ignored, ignored, ignored...

Very bewildering indeed, since, Mr. Ulmer is clearly working above his usual constraints, as is evidenced by the fact that it doesn't look like a PRC film at all! By some feat or other, a bit more coin was dropped here and it shows.

Working this time without his usual collaborators, (or should we say culprits?) producer Leon Fromkess and art director Paul Palmentola) Ulmer achieves something completely unlike the pulp antics of "Monsoon" or "Delinguent Daughters,"--a posh women's picture in the Douglas Sirk mode--all velvet and satin and ball masques.

Indeed, the film looks for all the world like one of Ross Hunter's early black and white dramas for Universal--(before he ascended into Eastmancolor heaven)-such are the film's physical and aural accoutrements, (among the latter note the use of a celestial choir in the fadeout just as in 1959's "Imitation of Life").

To avoid "spoilers" suffice it to say that the story hinges on a well born young miss who finds herself in trouble after an indiscretion with a furloughed soldier during Mardi Gras. Though Miss Coleman's character mentions her extreme "shame," the picture avoids the moral implications of her dilemma in favor of the unavoidable emotional attachment she feels toward her child.

To the picture's credit it strongly emphasizes the permanent natural and ethical link that maternity imposes, (this would be an excellent film for pro-abortionists to see.)

That the principal players are Phillip Reed, soulfully beautiful Nancy Coleman, and tres chic Margaret Lindsay assures the audience of three very good looking leads. In addition it offers veteran player Henry Stephenson a good part preparatory to his trek to Albion in order to film David Lean's "Oliver Twist," (didn't Ulmer rub shoulders with interesting people?)

Though bereft of Eugene Shufftan's fabled expertise on this project, Mr. Ulmer was lucky to secure the services of Franz Planer, a superb cinematographer in his own right, who manages deftly smooth boom maneuvers amidst the moody settings (the work of art director Edward Jewell). This is most evident in the film's superb opening, in which Mr. Planer rides his camera through the flying confetti and contorted, gyrating and swaying movement of the masqued revelries of the Mardi Gras, (this film anticipates, on a smaller scale, the carnival sequence in "Saraband for Dead Lovers").

The settings include the terraced New Orleans restaurant where the film opens, Mr. Stephenson's private library, an Arizona Sanitorium, Central Park and Miss Lindsay's swank Manhatten duplex apartment, which seems to take some of its stylistic cues from Premingers "Laura," (all white on white satin with the requisite terrace.)

And being a women's picture a nod must go to "Donn" who provided the Misses Coleman and Lindsay with a mouth watering wardrobe, which serves as a reminder at what a dear sartorial cost the cultural meltdown of recent decades has wrought--one won't find on screen elegance like this today. Why the milliner alone must have made a killing on this picture! And take a gander at that satin lined split sleeve number Miss Lindsay wears in her final scene.

All told, this is a smoothly turned and consistently interesting treatment of a perennial problem--and deserves a far higher place on the list of Mr. Ulmer's credentials than "Jive Junction".
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8/10
"What do they know of these occult matters?"--Plenty!
6 February 2009
"Son of Dracula" succeeds on many counts, (no pun intended) by virtue of its absolutely serious approach towards its material. Unlike other Universal horrors of this period, with their unfunny comedy relief antics, (bumbling, pop eyed police inspectors, burgomasters etc.) director Siodmak wisely eschews such sch-tick, and foreshadows the tragic ending of the story, with an increasingly oppressive sense of doom. In other words, unity of mood.

Indeed every aspect of the production is put at the service of conveying this doom, from George Robinson's highly expressionistic, shadowy photography to Vera West's (Hollywood's most under-appreciated designer) costume design.

The casting is excellent. It has been rightly observed that Lon Chaney Jr. is not an entirely comfortable choice for the Count, and it is certainly true that his Midwestern dialect and general deportment is not even remotely aristocratic. Still, his virility breathes menace, and in a scene where he traps a character in a basement, he evokes genuine dread. All told, he passes muster, and even more so, when you think of what a hokey disaster someone like John Carradine would have been in the part.

Robert Paige is superb--his increasingly manic desperation in the role of the suitor "Frank" goes a long way in lending the yarn credibility. In many ways it's his film. Evelyn Ankers is as always, very easy on the eyes, and though she is given little to do here, she does it fetchingly.

Which brings us the the protagonist, Kay Caldwell, (Louise Allbritton) the melancholic daughter of an aristocratic line, and the proprietress of its creepy plantation mansion--"Dark Oaks." This is a juicy assignment, and Miss Allbritton runs with it to the full.

From the moment she arrives on the veranda, a striking brunette clad in a billowing, peignoir like gown, she delineates her literally spell-bound character by offering the audience a spell bindingly detached characterization.

Who can resist her otherworldly gaze, as, staring outside of the frame, she smoothly articulates her certainty in telepathy, eerily chiding Miss Ankers for scoffing at ESP, and later her asperity at local gossip: "What can they know of these occult matters?-blind fools!" Visually, she is unforgettable, aided by Vera West's outré costumes, (even Miss Allbritton's day wear is mysterious--as witness her scalloped black waistband peplum ensemble with black under-dress, in the will reading sequence) and a black wig, which connects her with another black wigged anti-heroine from that same year--Jean Brooks in Lewton's "The Seventh Victim."

To abet these characterizations, and to conceal what seems to be a somewhat paltry budgetary outlay by Universal, director Sidiomak fills the screen with interesting visuals--Miss Allbritton's unforgettable trek through the nocturnal bayou to visit the gypsy, the gypsy's ensuing death in a bat attack, Chaney gliding across the misty swamp, and unsettling, shadowy close-ups of an unhinged Mr. Paige speaking through the bars of a prison.

Photographer Robinson is with him all the way, and composes and lights his shots to consistently interesting effect, (note the superb introduction to "Dark Oaks," with the camera panning through a creaking gate at night, whilst the whole frame is overlaid with the violent twist of brambles and vines) by foregrounding his shots with interesting objects on right or left--thereby lending depth and texture to his visual tableaux.

The ending with Mr. Paige finding his former love, Miss Allbritton, literally buried within the childhood detritus of her own attic, to which, after placing his ring on her finger, he sets afire, provides a fitting finale. A finale of marked and deeply felt tragedy, as a darkly romantic musical score swells, the camera treks in on Mr. Paige's blank, despairing gaze, his empty eyes lit by the shadows of the flames.

"Son of Dracula" is a deeply romantic dark dream of a film. Recommended.
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5/10
A misfire but not without its moments
18 January 2009
For inexplicable reasons, the scenarists of this film decided to remove those very phantasmogorical qualities that permeate Capote's novel, and lift it from a mundane portrait of a depression child sent to live with distant relatives in a crumbling plantation house.

Moreover, there are casting problems. Lothaire Bluteau is excellent as Cousin Randolph as is Anna Levine as Amy. Both seem to have drunk deeply of the absinthe of Southern Gothic, and move with assured melancholy within the dusty shadows of Skully's Landing.

There is just one serious problem with the duo: they are way too young. Thus, what possible meaning can Amy's dialog: ("Cousin Randolph--when are the good times going to come back? Can you make them come back?") mean when they are exchanged between two very good looking people under forty?! The whole premise of some 25 or 30 years having passed since they were abandoned by their former glories is undercut, and we are left to scratch our heads as to what these two relative youngsters are doing sequestered away in this moldering mansion.

April Turner as the negress servant "Zoo" is politically correctified beyond either recognition or any connection with Capote's conception of her, and her characterization consists in little more than being an updated and very sit-comish "Aunt Jemima" type.

The central character of Joel on which the whole story pivots, is so important that one is just dumbfounded at the mis-casting of David Speck in the role. Master Speck is an attractive youngster, and he would have been just the candidate if Disney were doing a remake of "Old Yeller".

But he is badly out of place here, failing to convey Joel's poetical, quasi-mystical psychic drift with his matter of fact, mono-tonal line readings, which convince one that the director Rocksavage gave him no understanding of the character.

These demerits, when compounded by the complete absence of Joel's illness/delirium (which forms such a key piece of the novel's climax)in which the sinister carnival midget, Miss Wisteria seeks Joel out at the mansion, thoroughly cripple the piece. (What marvelous visuals this sequence might have made for--but alas, we'll never know.) More's the pity too, for the physical production in on the mark, with outstanding art direction evidenced in the decadent Sully mansion. Mr. Capote's more tolerant fans may still find enough of interest, here, however, to warrant a viewing.
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8/10
Demonstrates the art of reticence.
18 January 2009
How this one slipped off the radar screen is beyond understanding. Against a very muted palette of tone on tone, in which the character Lorenzo's beige over-coat becomes a metaphor of his indefinite link with the beige walled world, director Zurlini weaves a fascinating story of two brothers separated at birth, who effect a tragic reunion in war torn Italy.

Marcello Mastiroianni here offers a performance of greater depth than "La Dolce Vita" (which is just as it should be)but it is youngster Jacques Perrin's "Lorenzo" which surprises.

His performance, (indeed the whole film) is a study in the power of the reticence, understatement and the unsaid. Mr. Perrin's eyes, particularly in the hospital sequences, speak those volumes and light those vistas that would be trivialized in dialog form.

An excellent film with a core of deep sadness, that avoids the fatal commercial trap of sentimentalism.
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My Bill (1938)
8/10
Unabashedly sentimental, yet it works!
5 December 2008
With nary an evening gown, fur stole, cocktail shaker, or cigarette, Kay Francis manages to negotiate the domestic ups and downs of a financially embarrassed widow with four children with admirable credibility.

That she does so, owes largely to her own convincing portrayal as the hapless shirt-waisted mother, in addition to sterling work by young charmer Dickie Moore and elderly character actress Helena Phillips Evans, as well as Elisabeth Risdon, (as a "Miss Gulch" type villainous-- who gets to toss off some hilariously caustic bon mots).

On the face of it, let's face it--the script is unpromising, given its pronounced tendency to trade on clichés and salvific coincidences in both situation and characterization. Indeed, in the film's opening chapters these faults are exceedingly evident, what with the three eldest children's scenes of petulant denunciation written, acted and performed with a broadness that is almost vaudeville, and bordering perilously close to parody.

But Dickie Moore's (as the titular "Bill") scenes are marked by such authentic warmth and pluck, that he succeeds almost singlehandedly in pulling the disparate plot threads into an emotionally involving and even compelling yarn.

This is particularly true in Master Moore's scenes with Helena Phillips Evans as Miss Crosby, an elderly spinster benefactress, whose burgeoning friendship with the child provides the film with some of its most tender scenes. Miss Evans is of that school of character actress that we have no longer, and she weaves all the layers of loneliness, wisdom, and disappointment that come with the years with the gentlest inflections. Her "I'm afraid," to Master Moore after a coronary attack is in itself heart stopping, as testament to the deep humanity she invests in what is essentially a small role.

Nor is Miss Francis undone by a lack of sequins and ermine. She seems in fact, to relish the homespun nature of the role. One scene, played while seated on a staircase, in which she explains death in metaphorical terms to Dickie Moore is played with such sensitivity, intelligence and emotional depth that one wishes the screen had afforded her more opportunities to interact with children.

By the finale, in which all the principals' toast a deceased friend, it will be the rare audience member that isn't reaching for his handkerchief.

"My Bill" is an unsung winner and a feather in Kay Francis' cap. This one should please the whole family.
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9/10
Epic adventure with great visual panache--one of Bava's very best.
23 September 2008
Mario Bava really outdoes himself with this story of two brothers separated in infancy, who grow to be rival leaders in a battle between Scandanavia and Britian.

This yarn, replete with monumental battle sequences on both land and sea, magnificent coastal and interior castle settings, and bravura use of color simply amazes in its ambitious achievements.

The film opens with a battle sequence on the seashore, by turns both thrilling and horrifying as the soldiers meet with death by spear while the nearby coastal village is burned, with women and children scattering to their doom.

With this breathless sequence, Mr. Bava introduces the audience to a breakneck pace that never lets up.

The story such as it is, is played engagingly on the level of an Errol Flynn film, intelligent enough for adults, but close enough to a comic book for whatever youngsters may be in the audience.

It is, however, the visuals that linger in the mind: a grotto with an enormous twisted tree upon which are bound two captured adulterers, bathed in that phosphorescent green light that Mr. Bava was so adept at casting; a stunning vista of the seashore at twilight with two women in billowing robes silhouetted against a sky banked with tempestuous cloud formations, Georges Ardisson and his mother flanked by flaming braziers, amidst tall stalagmites, in a setting that might be from Dante's Inferno, (and recalls a similar setting in Orson Welle's "Macbeth" and countless others.

Mr. Bava painted his masterpieces not on canvas but on celluloid.

The cast is both attractive and serviceable, with Mr. Ardisson and the luscious Kessler Twins deserving of special commendation. Indeed the Misses Kessler, (as Vestal Virgins) perform a sword dance with such delicacy and intricate footwork that it is easy to see why their cabaret act was once the toast of Europe.

Highly enjoyable for fans of the genre.
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10/10
A gem! Don't miss it!
23 September 2008
Those of us fortunate enough to have seen this in its original network broadcast, (as a "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation I believe) were I'm sure deeply touched by its deft balance between genuine sentiment and the non demonstrative (and hence never cloying) depth of its emotional honesty.

There is a quiet dignity here--missing from many Christmas programs, a dignity bolstered by the superb mise en scene of a mid west Christmas in 1946, a time in America of self sufficiency, a time when the body politic did not blame the government for natural disasters or acts of God, and a time when people still presumably were able to save "six thousand dollars" on a limited income.

The domestic focus here, on a 10 year old bespectacled girl named Addie who lives with her widowed father and paternal grandmother amply demonstrates not only these characteristics but the small pleasures (which can dwarf expensive pleasures) of that day and time: of an extra quarter for the movies, sewing one's own costume for the Christmas pageant, baking cookies, buying a gift for the schoolteacher at the local pharmacy, and most importantly, erecting a Christmas tree to celebrate the birth of the Christ child.

What's refreshing here is the refusal of the script to sugar coat, and it is the undeniable sadness of a man bereft of his deceased wife, which casts a pall over the entire household that constitutes both the stories subtext and its principal conflict.

The cast is superb! The youngster playing Addie avoids the fatal cuteness that afflicts many child actors, and delineates a character of both gumption and vulnerability. Who can not smile over the way she conceals a crush on a school mate by claiming all she admires about him are his new cowboy boots? Jason Robards Jr. is just as good here as he was in a "Thousand Clowns," and his taciturnity does not prevent our more than once glimpsing into his broken heart.

And Mildred Natwick! What a treasure she was. It is her performance you may savor most of all, a woman of love and compassion, but one firmly grounded by the limitations of this life, who has that seasoning, that sense of recollection that the years bring to the best of us, and which is known as wisdom.

And a special accolade to the young actress playing the schoolteacher, who also contributes a memorable job (and who also does the voice over in the prologue, it sounds like).

The production design team does excellent work here, and is to be commended on snowy mid-Western exterior locations which beautifully match the school and domestic interiors, (with hook rugs, Eastlake settees, and cabinet radios) which will bring back warm memories of all those who shared in that place and time.

This is family entertainment in the best sense--genuinely moving without an ounce of schmaltz.
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The Pirate (1948)
9/10
Luscious Garland in brilliant farce--one of her very best.
23 September 2008
Though Gene Kelly is superb as the athletic strolling player Serafin, and is given some of the best dancing opportunities of his career, this is Miss Garland's film all the way. And what a film! How strange that it isn't better known.

In one of their rare moments of scenic largesse, Metro released Garland from the small town confinements of Hardy--ville, and/or the sweet girl who makes it to Broadway with the corn stalks still in her suitcase, and gave her something of genuine wit and sophistication.

For here, she is Manuela Alvarez, of the colonial Virgin Islands, a well born, cloistered 19th century maiden, (presumably convent educated, i.e., Gladys Cooper to Judy, "...we'll take refuge in the church!") whose only psychic escape from her self enclosure consists in fantasizing about the notorious pirate, "Mack the Black Macoco." That she is tricked into believing a dashing actor, Serafin (Kelly) is the real Macoco, while in fact he is none other than her lumpy affianced, Mayor Dom Pedro (Walter Slezak) is the spindle upon which this cinematic yarn spins its glories.

And what phantasmagoric glories they are! This ranks with "Yolanda and the Thief," (sorry "American in Paris" fans) as Mr. Minnelli's most accomplished Technicolor visual achievement. For working with Jack Martin Smith, he concocts a Caribbean sea port a swirl with color and characters--one can almost smell the salt air a waft with spice and languor, and including as well: a quay brimming with turbanned negroe vendors, a village of Salmon and off white stucco walls, and black filagreed wrought iron against a cerulean sky, and bevys of extras dressed in a fortune worth of rainbow colored moire, velvet and brocade flounces, furbellows, snoods, and gauntlets. The shaded interiors are replete with empire furniture, carved ebony, and bamboo blinds and palmettos.

The effect is dreamlike in an operetta sort of way and deliberately so. A storybook come to life but one which successfully combines the conventions of 19th century aristocratic propriety, (in which young women of quality do not walk out without their duennas) against 20th century show biz colloquialisms to great effect, (one thinks here of Mr. Kelly's delightful reference to a review in the "Trinidad Clarion comparing him to David Garrick","No Noose is Good Noose," and "You should try underplaying sometime."

The players are at the top of their form: Mr. Kelly is in full command of his powers here: his partnering with the Nicholas Brothers in "Be a Clown," as well as the "Pirate Ballet" (in which he pivots with a javelin against a cinnabar sky lit with explosions) almost literally take ones breath away.

But it is in "Ninia" that he achieves the most felicitous display of solo Terpsichore, with Robert Alton's choreography, Harry Stradling's fluid boom camera following his cat like moves over up and through the town, and the delightful Cole Porter lyric and melody, culminating in flamenco steps with torrid and tempting MGM contract dancers in and through the striped poles of a circular gazebo.

Of Miss Garland enough cannot be said. No more Betsy Booth! Manuela offers her a chance to broaden her range in a direction in which (sadly) she would never venture again.

Here her exasperated intonations wring humor out of every line and situation, "Oh Casilda I do wish you were a little more spiritual!" or "Do you call it fun to live in a tent? to go hungry ?, to be looked down on by all decent people?!" give full vent to the drollery the script affords. Indeed, she channels her trademarked nervous energy into her character in such a way, that she, (as "Parent's Magazine" noted in its review) gently spoofs some of her earlier film characterizations. Thus we get the Dorothy like: ("I know it, something dreadful is going to happen, something dreadful...") It's a performance that one cannot simply imagine any other actress playing. Thus, she claims the role and makes it her own.

And who can forget the scene where she pretends to believe Serafin is Macoco once she has discovered the deception, "I can see us now, you with your cutlass in one hand and your compass in the other, shouting orders to your pirate crew, and I, I spurring you on to greater and greater achievements, won't that be magnificent?!" to which she pounds her fist against the table with sugar dipped venom.

Musically she is also a delight from start to finish.

Moreover, she has never been seen to such pictorial advantage in the post war period as she is here, gowned by Tom Keogh and Madame Karinska in one of the most arresting (and beaded!) wardrobes she ever wore on screen, and just as importantly, effectively coiffed throughout, (most particularly in the "Love of My Life" sequence where she is adorned with a coral diadem and matching earrings.)

Similarly, her close-ups are meltingly lovely, such as the nightgown clad scene wherein she begs Gladys Cooper to take her to Port Sebastian, "I'll make him a good wife Aunt Inez--really." (what a vision in feminine charm she is here!) or slightly later when, clad in a broad brimmed straw hat she gazes upon the Caribbean, or perhaps best of all, with a conch shell at her ear, and under hypnosis, she whispers of Macoco to dazzled interlocutors.

Supporting players are top of the mark, and it is interesting to see Garland interact with Gladys Cooper and horror veteran George Zucco.

After it was completed, MGM relegated Garland back to formula vaudeville hokum, but thankfully "The Pirate" was already in the can. Musical film scholar Douglas McVay has declared it to be the best musical film of 1948. He's right. See it to find out why.
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Petulia (1968)
5/10
Pretentious claptrap
10 September 2008
Julie Christie parades her proletariat pout through 2 hours of psychedelic pretensions, all of which are seemingly supposed to suggest great profundity and hidden meaning--but don't be fooled--this is an empty parcel wrapped in glittering paper, with a core as resoundingly vacuous as the society it attempts to depict.

The story, (such as it is) concerns a chic young woman (Miss Christie as "Petulia") who picks up children and middle aged men with casual indifference to convention, because she's "kooky" (recall that our anti-heroine here inherits this voguish characteristic from her cinematic sisters in "Georgy Girl," "Darling" and anything with Sandy Duncan). The reason for this, to which the story eventually arrives, but which it anticipates with frequent visual flashbacks, lies in an unhappy marriage with wealthy pretty boy Richard Chamberlin.

In this instance, Petulia's latest adult male conquest is a recently divorced physician, (George C. Scott) with whom she commits adultery, between kooky capers (installing a greenhouse in a residential urban apartment, shopping out the store in an all night grocery etc.) and pronouncements such as "I think I've just found the cure for cancer".

Amid the kookiness, and in order to assure us that this is all to be taken in deadly earnest, the story includes an incident in which Petulia is hospitalized after sustaining multiple lacerations in Mr. Scott's apartment. This sequence replete with ambulance runs, and much blood is designed to arouse sympathy for any in the audience who haven't yet warmed to our anti-heroine, who also turns out to be expecting a baby.

Mr. Scott wears an expression throughout the film suggesting the worst case of indigestion in history, (and by the way it's the only expression he wears) and one wonders if his dissatisfaction is with the script or the character.

In any case, he's unsympathetic, not the least of which is because his ex-wife is portrayed by the exquisitely lovely Shirley Knight of the golden blonde hair and guileless cornflower blue eyes. Her performance, so dead on target, saves the film, in at least those sequences in which she appears.

Along the way, every visual cliché in the book is thrown in at some point including protesting hippies, daisy covered vans, strobe lit discotheques, and rock bands. The faddish choppy editing through which these scenes appear fleetingly is about as subtle as a sledge hammer.

If the point of this cinematic charade is that modern society is filled with poseurs, then "Darling" from three years earlier made the same point much better. In this case, "Petulia" is the poseur par excellence.
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The Ghoul (1933)
8/10
German expressionism at its most arresting.
22 August 2008
In this gorgeous DVD print of the 1933 film, (until recently thought all but lost) the film lover is treated to the combined work of ace cinematographer Gunther Krampf and art director Alfred Junge, both of whom serve up one of the most visually arresting examples of the German expressionistic style from the early talkie period.

The film's pictorial style, replete with remarkable shadows and fog, both indoors and out, serves to illustrate the approach taken by the graduates of Germany's UFA studios, which served in turn to strongly influence Universal studio's approach to horror, and provide a stark contrast to the plushy color about face adopted by Hammer some twenty years later.

For those not understanding the underlying aesthetic differences in the German Expressionism versus Hammer style, "The Ghoul" is an excellent reference point. Of course, one may end up enjoying both approaches, but the expressionistic mode is more visually disorienting, with its reliance on leaping monochromatic shadows of varying depth, gradation and size and settings which employ psychologically significant visual distortions, (note the excellent settings in this film, i.e., with bookshelves in various tilting and collapsing modes.) All told, the effect is deliberately anti-realistic, even though in this film, outdoor night scenes were shot not on a sound-stage, but on actual locations, (note the smoking breath of the actors).

Moreover, this film is actually better photographed than "The Old Dark House," and more suspenseful. The sequence of Karloff breaking out of the crypt is heart stoppingly creepy, Ernest Thesiger is at his baleful best, (this time with a club foot) and Kathleen Harrison gets in a couple of her trademark comedy relief screams.

Enjoy.
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7/10
Excellent color lensing, effective settings make for lively Brit horror.
7 August 2008
Much better than often reported, this beautifully photographed British horror is a well upholstered turn down the familiar vampire path, enlivened by some delicious tongue in cheek. Directed by cult director Lance Comfort, (see Brian MacFarlane's monograph on his career) the film opens with a dazzling dance sequence set amidst a mid forest gypsy encampment, interrupted by the first burst of horror--accompanied by a swooping bat and a gust of wind.

These forest sequences are visually arresting, and include an eerie torch light parade photographed in reflection from a lake's surface.

As for the story, it concerns a modern day male vampire, (equipped with Louis Jourdan accent and beautifully cut suits) who turns out to be reincarnated from the ancient past.

Despite some dull detective sequences, (of the type that slow down Bava's "Blood and Black Lace") the picture manages an effective array of diverse settings including forest sequences, a country manor house, a catacomb lair, a jammed to the rafters antique shoppe, an artists' atelier, the reading room of the British Museum and a groovy bachelorette pad that is host to one of the screen's all time campiest cocktail parties.

Indeed, this sequence, replete with the Watusi, and Frug, and featuring an array of cigarette puffing (with holders!) extras that seem to have been recruited between takes from the sets of "Darling" and "A Taste of Honey", (one keeps looking for Julie Christie to appear) is guaranteed to elicit howls. And if that doesn't catch you, please note that Diana Decker's wardrobe had the female audience cooing at a recent screening.

Moreover, the climax, featuring a cave in which destroys the vampire clan, is well staged and shot.

Picture seems influenced by Don Sharp's superb "Kiss of the Vampire," and while it doesn't hold a candle to that stellar feather in Hammer's cap, it does emerge as an interesting and zesty contemporary take on the same theme.
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The Witches (1966)
8/10
Superior Hammer thriller
22 July 2008
Kudos to the multiple other posters who recognize this as a winner! It's hard, indeed, to understand why other Hammer fans ignore this entry, particularly since its script is far more literate than many of their other pictures from the same time frame. In any case, the Hammer production team does a wonderful job here of conveying the small village ambiance and the screenplay follows Norah Loft's novel very closely. What makes this film so distinctive is its understatement--the horror when it emerges is all the more disquieting since everything seems so idyllic.

Miss Fontaine is superb. Note her scene near the beginning when she is questioned about her nervous breakdown during a job interview. She brings to the sequence and its halting tragic dialogue, the same reticent, diffident charm she displayed nearly 30 years earlier when she explained the death of her father to Olivier in "Rebecca." Eerily, these two scenes seem oddly connected despite the passage of time. What a pro she was! All in all, "The Witches" is a star in both Hammer and Miss Fontaine's crown. Recommended.
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David Copperfield (1974– )
8/10
Splendid performances make this a winner.
11 July 2008
Well written, well designed, well acted, and well directed, this solidly produced BBC mini-series merits praise all around.

Mr. Dickens' novel is not easily truncated for television, even in six installments, but the scenarists here have done such an admirable job of distilling the essential story points and characterizations, that viewers are afforded a well rounded treatment.

At first, David Yelland seems an odd choice for the title role, given that his physiognomy does not especially match with the youngster who plays the child David in the early chapters. Mr. Yelland is further hampered by a peculiar (and anachronistic) fringed bang hairdo, that looks like nothing so much as a Beatle wig. Despite these handicaps, however, he more than justifies his selection by his excellent performance.

Not only does he manage the emotional depth required in the stories later chapters, upon the betrayal of Steerforth etc,. but manages a comedy scene (a disastrous dinner party with wife Dora) with expert understated finesse.

Indeed, space precludes individual acting citations, since the players are down to the smallest bit, all outstanding in characterization, appearance and deportment. This is truly outstanding ensemble acting.

Particular mention must be accorded Patricia Routledge, in her hilarious turn as Mrs. Micawber, Arthur Lowe as Mr. Micawber, Patience Collier as Betsy Trotwood, Anthony Andrews, (both chilling and attractive)as Steerforth, and perhaps most memorably, Jacqueline Pearce, (of Hammer horror fame) as Rosa Dartle and Sheila Keith as Mrs. Steerforth.

Indeed, the scenes between Misses Pearce and Keith, rife with bitter and hidden anguish, are shot with a tension and blood freezing quality, you'll not soon forget! (all the better to offset the sentimentality elsewhere).

Production design in both settings and costumes is apt, and the production team are to be commended on the way they cleverly fused outdoor footage with studio sets in seamless fashion.

Recommended.
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9/10
Sophisticated writing and striking visuals in effective supernatural series.
9 July 2008
This under-appreciated British anthology series, is, as many other posters have noted, a highly effective, beautifully produced and flashily photographed supernatural program of the first water.

Produced by Hammer in association with Twentieth Century Fox, it features a bevy of well known American names in addition to solid British supporting characters.

Though the series is not confined to London in setting, the overall look and feel of the program is very much Carnaby Street mod. Thus, we see a profusion of strobe lit discotheques, and mini-skirted Judy Geeson type girls, (though Miss Geeson herself doesn't appear).

The real distinguishing characteristic of the show, however, is in the extremely daring, provocative story lines, with dialog and situations that amaze, given that these were shot prior to 1970, (some programs do exceed the boundaries of propriety--were the censors off duty?).

Notwithstanding, these shows not only chill they often disturb--such as the Robert Reed program, the finale of which is genuinely unsettling, not to mention the terrifying, "Matakitas is Coming," in which Vera Miles is trapped in the public library with the ghost of a homicidal maniac.

These are definitely not for the children! Performances are also of the first rank, and we would single out Mr. David Hedison who delivers a very layered and complex performance in the episode concerning a disastrous, (literally) sense of premonition. Episodes featuring Carol Lynley as a department store mannequin, Chad Everett as a house party guest, and Patty Duke as a nervous breakdown patient also merit honorable mention.

The opening sequence in a deserted amusement park beautifully conveys the dislocated mood the series seeks to convey. Seek this one out!
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9/10
It's Vivien Leigh's film.
21 June 2008
There is really not much one can add by way of commenting on the magnificence of Miss Leigh's performance here. Perhaps Mr. Williams said it best when he told her that she brought aspects of Blanche's character to the surface, that he, himself never imagined.

That is not in any way to minimize the interpretations of Jessica Tandy, (who originated the role on Broadway) or, of Judith Evelyn, (and Miss Evelyn must have been superb as, in a sense, she too, was born to play Blanche.) And despite the superb musical score, art direction, and performances of the rest of the cast, this is Miss Leigh's picture.

Blanche's complexity defies easy analysis. Does she represent the collapse of the Old South? (yes to a degree) but, more particularly, she represents a type of lady, (which Mr. Williams knew well and whom the feminists would prefer no longer existed--but in fact does--and not just south of the Mason Dixon line) who requires the protection and security of the plantation culture from which she sprang.

One can easily imagine her on the shaded portico of Belle Rive, in gauzy chiffons, and protected by a gallant (though tolerant) husband, while she spends her days enrapt in the dream world which so enthralls her.

Indeed, one may see her as the "flip-side" of Scarlett O'Hara--this time the Southern Belle who didn't triumph--how fascinating that the same actress played both roles.

Perhaps Blanche was not destined to triumph but she is far from being a fool. Notice how Williams cannily has her refer to Hawthorne and Poe, not to mention her having been to college. Then, too, a seemingly minor, but very telling detail is her wearing of reading glasses.

Yes, she represents the world of the intellect and the world of culture. Who else, for pity's sake, in that crumbling tenement would have any idea what she means in her reference to "Della Robbia blue..."? Certainly not Stella, about whom Thornton Wilder rightly carped, does not seem in any way to be from the same lineage as Blanche, her temperament not at all in keeping with the daughter of an aristocratic house, (not even a renegade daughter who realizes she is slumming, and knows why she crossed over the bridge).

Indeed, excellent actress though she is, Kim Hunter is far too proletariat to believe as ever having been a part of Belle Rive, and seems quite at home with Stanley.

However, we shan't make too much of this, since she was in the original, and Mr. Williams in using Miss Hunter, seems to be saying something profound about the differences between her and Blanche, (note the facial expressions Blanche makes whenever Stella speaks admiringly of Stanley--particularly at the bowling alley--it's clear that Stella's temperament baffles her.) Then there is their respective choice of mates (which speaks volumes), for Blanche, a sensitive poet, for Stella, the cretinous Stanley. It's too bad that we don't even get to see a photograph of Blanche's deceased husband, Allan, which might have served as an interesting visual contrast.

All of which suggests, these two sisters really don't seem to understand each other very well, and their mutual attempts to come to terms with what they do share, constitutes some of the film's most touching passages.

And Blanche for all of her imagined, and/or real superiority is a woman with a stained past--for she has fallen too, though as Miss Leigh herself averred, these lapses with soldiers and 17 year olds had little to do with the corporeal, and everything to do with the search for security and protection. For Blanche, and when seen through the unreal pink light of a Chinese lantern, even a callow teenage boy can become her knight in shining armor.

For his part, Mr. Brando is very effective, though his character is painted with a very broad brush, and it is a testament to his talent, that his Stanley avoids caricature, (though at times he comes uncomfortably close, seeming to anticipate Archie Bunker). Nonetheless, some of his lines are both priceless and hilarious, "...I met a dame once who said 'I am the glamorous type' I said, 'So what!'..." A splendid though shattering film. Kudos to all involved.
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2/10
A real Ulmer bomb!
10 May 2008
This monstrosity should settle for once and for all that Edgar Ulmer is not the continental wunderkind that Peter Bogdanavich held him to be, (a view, incidentally, that Ulmer did all he could to promote.) True, in "Strange Illusion,"and "Detour," Ulmer delivered films with suspense and pacing, whilst in "Bluebeard," he delivered a fairly convincing 19th century atmosphere, (heavily influenced by German expressionism but under-cut by the film's supporting actresses who sound like Bronx stenographers rather than Parisian coquettes.)

The "Black Cat" deserves separate treatment inasmuch as it manages disturbing aesthetical accomplishments of an altogether singular, (if morally dubious) order.

But such accomplishments do not extend to the whole of his work, and most of the time, (until at least his allegedly two best films--"Club Havana," and "Her Sisters Secret," again become extant) we must confront the fact that Ulmer may as well be Jean Yarborough, or Lew Landers, or Sam Newfield or Tommy Carr, which is to say he turned out PRC dreck utterly without distinction.

"Girls in Chains" is an excellent case in point. Unless one counts the shadowy rooftop chase finale, (which pre-figures "Bluebeard") this picture is risible in its ineptitude.

Where to begin? The plot? (and since Ulmer is one of the writers he shares the blame): the matron, (Arline Judge) of a woman's correctional institution is thwarted in her attempts at prison reform by a corrupt warden and his mafia cronies.

There are shades of Irene Dunne's earlier "Ann Vickers" in this, but this treatment is so pulpy that it's a pity the "Carol Burnett Show" never got ahold of it. Ulmer's alleged literary fixations here betoken a fondness for "The Police Gazette" rather than Faust.

While we're at it--be sure and note the musical score too. This is stock music utterly unsuited to the characters or situations it underpins--frequently to hilarious results. Thus, gangster, con man extrordinaire, "Johnny Moon"'s scenes are underscored by a syrupy rendition of "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" !!! Are we, the audience, supposed to feel patriotic and sentimental at knowing this murderer has been freed from prison by a corrupt jury, that he has "come marching home again" to yet kill again?

Then too, since Mr. Ulmer is noted for his oversight of art direction--well exactly what happened here?! The inside of Miss Judge's office looks like several forgotten flats pushed to the edge of the sound stage, waiting to be dressed. Couldn't someone have hung a picture on the picture hook that hangs so visibly above the lamp behind her? True, the flat of gangster Johnny Moon, and a nightspot known as the "Rendevous" do show traces of down-market PRC swank, but elsewhere the picture is visually starved.

The characterization is similarly absurd--strictly by the books gangster clichés--the only thing missing is the name "Mugsy".

Case in point: an elderly alcoholic who stumbles in and out of the story, (for comedy relief purposes--of which he affords neither) who is eventually tossed into a dam! (that looks like stock footage of the Tennessee Valley Authority).

As the lead, Miss Judge appears to be operating on about 100 mg. of Valium during most of her scenes, (and who can blame her--since she has read the script and is probably thinking, "...If only I were still under contract to Fox...".

Earlier posters, however, reveal their ignorance of World War II coiffures in their gibes at her hairdo. Miss Judge's up-sweep was all the rage at the time, and, in fact, many other actresses wore modified versions of the same style.

"Girls in Chains" is for connoisseurs of perfectly dreadful films. Rest assured that Mr. Ulmer did us no favors with this one.
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Five (1951)
7/10
"And the living shall envy the dead..."
10 May 2008
Seeing this as a six year old on a local television channel in 1963 proved a traumatizing experience! One that generated nightmares for years.

Why you ask?--the sight of a forlorn, bedraggled, and very wretched young woman (Susan Douglas) wondering in absolute exhaustion, back bent, arms dangling forward through a skeleton infested ghost town. Only the wind and a few birds accompany her solitary odyssey.

Even in her exhaustion, she screams out "Somebody help me!" to no avail, her shouts in counterpoint to a tolling church bell the wind has activated, a bell and church no longer destined to call forth any living congregants.

Susan Douglas's predicament: a world in which she is seemingly the sole survivor--her emotional response: benumbed stupor--proved far more unsettling to this six year old than the exploits of Frankenstein.

Seen in 2008, those haunting images still retain their unsettling power. Miss Douglas, by the way, later became a regular cast member of the daytime serial, "The Guiding Light."
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Ann Vickers (1933)
3/10
A rare mis-step for Miss Dunne
28 December 2007
What can have been on Irene Dunne's mind when she accepted the role in this distasteful account of a woman of negotiable morals? Certainly, the Irene Dunne of the 1940's, whose reputation as a faithful Roman Catholic who publicly abhorred smut, and shunned any film scripts or Hollywood society, that might be even be remotely construed as corrupting public morals--would never have become associated with such a dubious project as this.

Perhaps, New York's Cardinal Spellman, in his private audience with her, gave her a good dressing down over this role? That we will likely never know, inasmuch as she never spoke of it in later years, though she did denounce her morally suspect, (though quite successful) 1932 film, "Back Street" as "trash".

Certainly by the time she received the distinguished St. Robert Bellarmine Award in 1965 for exemplary public Catholicism, "Ann Vickers" was no longer recalled by the general public.

Suffice it to say that "Ann Vickers" works neither as entertainment or social commentary.

Miss Dunne's role as an adulterous social worker, who sleeps around, (between reforming prisons and writing a best seller on correctional rehabilitation) doesn't dovetail with her temperament or on screen demeanor, and one keeps suspecting that the whole thing is a kind of tongue in cheek gag, (what else can we think when we witness a montage of Miss Dunne's sympathetic beatific gaze superimposed over a shot of a female prisoner being scourged?) By films end, she has renounced careerism in favor of marriage, (to crusty convict Walter Huston no less--and what kind of lunacy would ever conceive of pairing these two romantically?)

Irene Dunne completists will no doubt wish to see this curiosity, if only for the chance to hear her promise to rehabilitate a cocaine addict under her charge: "I'm going to get you off the snow cold turkey" !!!

Well, if nothing else such sordid goings on, do present her light years from her usual milieu of operatic trills, furbellowed chiffon and strawberry phosphates--cocaine addiction not being the first subject one associates with the irreproachable Miss Dunne.
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