Showing posts with label 1940's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1940's. Show all posts

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Totter Noir Re-Watch: Tension (1949)




Watched:  04/07/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  John Berry

It's relatively near my birthday, and so Jamie said "watch whatever you want", and-  me being me - I'd been wanting to watch Tension (1949) again as it had been a while.  

If you've not seen Tension, which Jenifer introduced me to years ago, thereby doing me the lifelong solid of introducing me to Audrey Totter's work, you should!  It's noir, but kinda goofy, has a career high performance for Totter as the femme fatale, Richard Basehart playing Richard Basehart, and Barry Sullivan and William Conrad as two cops I would have followed in any number of movies as they strode into rooms like they owned the place everywhere they went.

Weirdly, the film stars Cyd Charisse in a non-dancing role, something MGM must have been trying on for her to see how far she could push her acting chops.  And she's pretty good!  But mostly her job is to look lovely and be concerned about Richard Basehart, so she wasn't about to give Bette Davis a run for her money at this point.  

I won't describe the movie as "camp", but it's certainly a goofier entry in the annals of noir.  From the hook of the plot to the strategy of the cops trying to sort it all out, and topped by Totter's Claire Quimby - a whirlwind of badgirl behavior - it's a dang entertaining film.  You won't compare it to, say, The Third Man, but it does reward rewatching once you're familiar with the characters.  

Claire Quimby married Warren as a way out of whatever her life was in San Diego and because he was cute in a uniform.  He seemed like he was going places - but now she's living in a dingy apartment as Warren works 12 hours night shifts 5 days a week as a pharmacist, scrimping and saving to get her to the middle class life he thinks they both want.

Watch Cyd Charisse just want to smack the living hell out of Totter (but she's too nice)



At night, she's actually cruising the lunch counter in the pharmacy, looking to get picked up by guys who can show her a good time or provide her with her next step up (and with the looks to make it happen).  She runs off with a guy with a flashy car and a beach house, and Warren's attempts to get her back flop - he's beaten up and humiliated.  

SPOILERS

Thus, Warren dares to wear 1940's hard contact lenses to change his appearance, and creates a secondary life for himself as "Paul Southern", creating a persona unrelated to Warren so that the cops will look for this Southern person instead fo Warren when the time comes to kill Barney and reclaim his wife.

But - he meets Cyd Charisse, who apparently doesn't meet many men, because despite being Cyd Charisse, she's available and latches on to the mysterious cosmetics salesman who moved in next door.  Warren kinda realizes this murder scheme is dumb, his wife isn't worth it, and... hey... new girlfriend.  

Planning to let Cyd Charisse in on his charade and double life, he returns home, and so does Claire - letting him know Barney is dead.  

Enter our cops, trying to figure out what is going on with this weird couple - and so Barry Sullivan applies... TENSION.

IE: he sweats Warren and seduces Totter.  

Going for the Clark Kent Approved method of a "no glasses, different guy" disguise, was a pretty bold move in an era where Superman was already a pretty well-known figure.  But watching Sullivan deciding to go for Claire/ Totter, you really get the feeling he's okay with however this pans out and would take equal pleasure in jailing Warren and going to Acapulco with Claire or putting Claire away.  No big whoop.

END SPOILERS

It's a well shot, tight little film that does a lot with what it is.  And, really, it's a showcase for many of the things Totter does best when she gets to play a bad girl.  But add in a windy, multi-part plot and all the parties playing against each other, and while not exactly a mystery as to who did the murdering, it is a potboiler seeing how this thing will play out.

Anyway - can't recommend enough, if for no other eason than to see Totter's character's constant irritation with Basehart's character.  She is done, y'all.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Noir Watch: The Third Man (1949)




Watched:  04/03/2021
Format:  TCM Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Carol Reed

One day I'll podcast on this film, and then we'll have a conversation.  

This is as close to a perfect movie as I can think of, so there you go.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Any Number Can Play (1949)


Watched:  03/08/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Mervyn LeRoy

Trying to be an Audrey Totter completionist, I had planned to watch this movie at some point, but just never got to it.  Had I known how many people are in the film, I probably would have watched it years ago.

Beyond Totter, the headline stars are Clark Gable and Alexis Smith, but there's also:  Barry Sullivan, Frank Morgan, Mary Astor, Wendell Corey, Leon Ames, William Conrad, and a whole bunch more you're going to recognize.  

I thought it was *fine*, but I just checked and - holy cats - do people seem to hate this movie.  There's complaints about "this movie takes place within a casino and doesn't moralize about gambling" which is... a take, I guess. It kind of misses or dismisses the actual morals of the film (don't forget your family on your way to #1, the path to friendship and respect is via truth, honesty and fairplay no matter what you do for a living), but don't let that get in the way of a good complaint.  

It's certainly not the first movie to show a man in crisis/ at the end of his rope and how it resolves in a single night as all the threads come together.  But it's the earliest one I've seen that I can think of.  Until I think of one I've seen from earlier.

I admit, the movie moved a bit slowly, and despite plastering Audrey Totter all over the poster, she honestly wasn't in it much.  Still, she's having fun playing the bad girl and fed-up wife (something she was doing a lot in this era) of Wendell Corey.  It's nothing I'd go out of my way to recommend, but once I clocked to what they were doing, I did enjoy it a bit more.

Anyway - it's a gamble to watch it.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Noir Watch: Johnny Eager (1941)




Watched:  02/18/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Mervyn LeRoy

Summing up the plot to Johnny Eager (1941) would be extraordinarily difficult - but the short version is: ex-con pretends to go straight, meets Lana Turner, uses her and her step-father to get his new dog track open.  Poetic boozy pal plays Eager's conscience.  

Honestly, it's a hell of a movie, and it's likely the goofy title that's kept it from being checked out by enough people.  

I'm not a huge fan of star Robert Taylor - who is pretty rock solid here as a handsome, devil-may-care gangster with no refinement.  That's not a dig, but I think I'd only seen two or so Robert Taylor films previously.  But he's totally buyable as Johnny Eager.

The real hook is that Johnny can spot an angle, spot a dope, and has a mind perfectly set for operating in the criminal world - but he can't understand the straight world.  People with pure motivations are a mystery that gnaws at him.  More than that, his understanding of women is only as pliable tools, either as sexual playthings or as employees.  

What makes the movie curious - and maybe different from other gangster films with bent leads - is the presence of Van Heflin as Jeff Jartnett, a drunk and seemingly a man of education, who hangs around Johnny as pal, enabler, and because he sees the greatness within Johnny and wants to bear witness to either the rise or fall of a great mind.

Out of prison, Johnny has put everything he's got into a dummy organization trying to open a dog track with no permits, but meanwhile it seems his control on the city is slipping.  Others may be moving against him. 

Annnnd in the middle of all this, he meets Lan Turner, who more or less throws herself at him.  But winds up in way deeper than she barganined for, and it takes a toll on her psyche.

This is very early to be considered true noir, but not so as a gangster picture, which this most certainly is.  And Turner is a femme fatale only in that she leads Johnny toward his downfall because he actually does come close to understanding sacrifice via whatever passes for love in his heart.  It absolutely is a man making bad decisions (that, I mean, get him dead) over a woman, but they also redeem him, which isn't very noirish.  But that he goes down throwing a hail of bullets and popped off by the cop who married his first girl?  That's some symmetry there.

And that's the interesting thing about the movie, really.  It's a down-in-the-streets gangster picture about a guy trying to build an empire, and sees the poetry and literary mythology in it all - right down to pointing out "he's just some guy" who dies badly in the middle of the road.

Anyhoo... I enjoyed the heck out of this movie, and not just because Turner had amazing hair through the whole thing, even when we were told she looked "awful".*



*she did not



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Noir Watch: Born to Kill (1947)




Watched:  02/14/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown.  At least 3rd.
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Wise

Some time ago, when I was first exploring noir, Born to Kill (1947) was included in one of the box sets I picked up to try and learn more about the genre.  Honestly, if I wanted to blow the doors off the expectations I think a *lot* of people have about Hayes Code-era film, this is the movie I'd show them.

Our leads are a psychopath and sociopath, divorce(!), a brutal murder, one of our most virtuous characters is a lush, and a PI who is mostly there as an equal-opportunity grifter.  Heck, there's an Elisha Cook Jr. lurking around for good measure.  It's a dark, nasty little film with no POV hero - just characters who cross paths and feel a mutual appreciation and attraction, even as they're connection is going to burn them both out.

This was the movie that showed me what films of the era were really capable of when it came to stepping into the shadows.  You might get sexy obsession in penty of other films, but there was always an obvious line that the characters crossed that was going to be their downfall, the thing that made you want to do the equivalent of "don't go in the basement!" as our protagonist decides to risk it for a nice set of legs or a smokey voice.  Born to Kill doesn't bother with all that  - these characters were going to hell, anyway.  They're just speeding each other along.

Starring Claire Trevor - someone I flat out did NOT appreciate enough for several years but whom I've come back around to and adore - and the notorious Lawrence Tierney as our leads, we've got a pair with some amazing presence.  Tierney's low-key menace and chiseled jaw works phenomenally well as the handsome psychopath who attracts women, but becaomes infuriated at the slightest hint of slight.  Trevor manages to find a delicate balance - we know she's play-acting to certain parties, and we know better to buy it, but it's absolutely seemingly sincere.  

Other players include Walter Slezak as the PI of iffy moral character, Elisha Cook Jr. as a longtime friend of Tierney's who's been maybe the only force on Earth keeping him in check.  Audrey Long is Trevor's wealthy but naive foster-sister with a fortune.  And, notably, Esther Howard plays a rooming house owner with more heart than you'd figure.

There is a character who is murdered with the name "Laury Palmer", and much of the mystery for the other characters is who killed Laury Palmer - and I can't help but think Lynch was winking at this character with Twin Peaks, til it was, you know, magic dream goblins or what have you.

Anyway - "wow, this things DARK" is not really much of a selling point, I suppose, but the execution of the movie, the performances and the winding story are all masterfully handled by director Robert Wise (yes, the man who brought you films as diverse as The Set-Up, The HauntingThe Sound of Music and Star Trek: The Motion Picture).    

But if you want to see what Hollywood could pull off (and Claire Trevor plotting in some excellent outfits), highly recommended.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Accidental Watch: Keep Your Powder Dry (1945)

the tagline is not remotely what this movie is about



Watched:  02/08/2021
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Edward Buzzell

Knowing it was Lana Turner's 100th birthday and TCM was running a marathon, I flipped over to TCM on the cable dial, and was just putting on this World War II movie about women in the WACs starring Turner, Laraine Day and Susan Peters... and then the movie ended and I realized I watched the whole thing.  

Anyway.  I guess that happened.  It was not bad!

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Noir Watch: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)




Watched:  02/06/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Tay Garnett

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) is among the top ten films I'd recommend in a "what you need to know about noir" seminar.  It's got an earned place among the noir canon, and even though I've read the book and seen it half-dozen times, I find myself thoroughly enjoying every time I return to it.  It simply works.  

It shares a certain headspace with Double Indemnity, which makes sense as both started as novels by James M. Cain.  There's not just a gritty realism in how characters are and behave, it's matched by the worlds Cain created that seem not far off from our own.  Roadside diners, insurance offices.  Heck, throw in Mildred Pierce and you're in the suburbs and building up comfortable eateries.  

All it really takes is infatuation to become an obsession, and everything can go off the rails.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Noir Re-Watch: The Unsuspected (1947)




Watched:  02/03/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  4th?
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Michael Curtiz

Michael Curtiz directed innumerable good to great movies, and we find ourselves watching his output a few times per year one way or another, but since finding The Unsuspected (1947) as part of my "let's watch all the Audrey Totter stuff we can find" quest, I'm a little surprised it just isn't more widely discussed.  The cinematography alone is noteworthy, courtesy industry veteran Elwood Bridell.  Add in a Franz Waxman score, and multiple hooks for a story, and it already has plenty to recommend it before you point out Claude Rains stars.



Saturday, January 16, 2021

Noir Watch: The Glass Key (1942)




Watched:  01/16/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  Not sure
Decade:  1940's
Director:   Stuart Heisler

Measured by the fact I think this is the fourth time I've seen this movie, you can take it at face value - I think pretty highly of The Glass Key (1942).  But, it is based on a novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett, co-stars Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, and has a large supporting role for William Bendix - w, yes.  I'm pre-disposed to like the film.  

We're going to cover Miller's Crossing on the podcast at some point, an early 90's Coen Bros. film, and one of my personal canon.  I think I was in early college when I read my first Hammett on JAL's recommendation and got a few pages into Red Harvest before saying "wait a minute, maybe the Coen Bros. weren't so darn clever after all...".   Because, honestly, Miller's Crossing is the love child of The Glass Key and Red Harvest, both Hammett books.*

I did read The Glass Key before seeing this film (and just learned via Eddie Muller there's an earlier version starring George Raft - which may lead to me skipping it) - and, sure, the book is better, yadda yadda.  But, the film is terrific all on its own - a twisting, double-double-crossing political/gangland yarn that adds up perfectly, but the first time through can be hard to keep track of all the parts of the equation.  

Ladd plays the lieutenant to a political boss who, upon meeting the daughter (Lake) of a reform candidate  decides to back the reform candidate.  This gets his boss crosswise with another, shadier, political boss, and all of a sudden Lake's brother winds up dead on the street.  

The movie has a similar tone to a Hammett novel when it comes to casual brutality and unsavory characters.  That includes our lead, who never really throws a punch, but he's not exactly a knight in shining armor as he works angles, falls out with his boss, and tries not to fall for Lake.

The movie is difficult to discuss, but the characters in it are terrifically drawn, each instantly knowable in broad strokes, even if in the framework of the story, they're all capable of anything - which is part of what keeps the mystery of the story rolling.  

Frankly, this is a "could be a TL;DR post" kind of movie, and I'm not going to do that.  Maybe I'll podcast this movie one day instead.  But in the meantime, I highly recommend the film.  Just go with that. 


*and a bit of visual flavoring from The Conformist

Noir Watch: The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945)



Watched:  01/15/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR (Noir Alley)
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Siodmak

I'd been wanting to see this one for a while, so I'm glad it came on Noir Alley.  Directed by Robert Siodmak (one of those names that means this should be, minimum, pretty good), starring George Sanders, Ella Raines and Geraldine Fitzgerald and - a more recent interest - produced by Joan Harrison - it had a lot of elements that made it worth at least a look.

The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry (1945) centers on a man aging into permanent bachelorhood as he pays the way for and cares for his two sisters - one a widow and the other an invalid.  The family fortune disappeared in the Depression, leaving the siblings scraping by in the rambling house that is a reminder of better times.  "Uncle Harry" (Sanders) meets a co-worker in from New York (Ella Raines) and the two spark an interest.  

However, one of the sisters isn't quite ready to let Harry go.  And things get weird.

The movie was made at the tail end of WWII (released pretty much the weekend after VJ Day), so it's got some similarities to other WWII-era films in that the cast is female-centric and the dashing male lead is George Sanders.  It takes place in limited spaces (based on a play, so there's that) and overall feels initimate and somewhat scaled down.

It's as easy to call this a melodrama as a noir, but I can see why Joan Harrison would have been interested in the script.  The characters are interesting and imperfect - no one (not even Raines) is a saint, and there's some genuine weirdness going on that goes beyond just sisterly affection.*  But, at the same time, Raines' character feels shockingly direct regarding her interest in Harry - she's no coy young lady, even when asked specifically to play that role.

As I thought - direction and performances were terrific, Sanders is in great form, and Geraldine Fitzgerald is note perfect.  But despite the actual warning not to spoil the ending they literally tag onto the end of the movie, I'll say:  the studio enforced ending that led to Harrison's parting with Universal and Siodmak shooting the bird at the studio is... awful.  The movie builds and builds to something absolutely mind-scrambling, and then... we get this cheesy ending.  But, you know, when they were wrapping this thing up, we were still fighting in Japan.  I get that maybe they wanted something that wasn't so depressing.

So, it makes it hard to actually recommend the movie.  It's a solid film right until, literally, the last minute, and then everything falls apart.  Did not like.

During the intro and outro, Eddie was joined by scholar Christina Lane - who has too many credentials for me to get into here - but she's an accomplished film academic.  I just picked up Lane's book on Joan Harrison and plan to crack it this weekend.  So - while I've seen a lot of Harrison's movies over the years, I'm looking forward to reading about the actual woman who made them happen (I also recently picked up Phantom Lady on BluRay and keep intending to show it to Jamie, and then I forget).


*that lady in the negligee is not the romantic subject of the film

Friday, January 1, 2021

Christmas Noir Watch: Cover-Up (1949)




Watched:  12/23/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Alfred E. Green

An insurance detective comes to a small town to look into the apparent suicide of a wealthy man with a considerable settlement coming to the benficiaries.  Arriving in town, he finds everyone hated the guy, it sure looks like murder, and everyone - including the foxy young lady he met on the bus on the way in, are in on a cover-up.  Thus, the name of the movie.

Stars William Bendix and Dennis O'Keefe.

The ending is weird and super chipper.  

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Watch Party Watch: Guest in the House (1944)




Watched:  12/29/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  this one is confusing, but it's listed as follows on IMDB -  John BrahmJohn Cromwell...(uncredited) AndrĂ© De Toth...(uncredited) Lewis Milestone...(uncredited)

A dopey young doctor has fallen for his patient - a mental patient with a phobia of birds and a love of stirring shit (Anne Baxter).  Reasonably, he takes her to meet his idiotic family (minus one key player).  Unreasonably, he just f'ing leaves her with his idiotic family who just met her.  She gaslights the living shit out of everyone, including an 8 year old girl.

This movie features:
  • 3 great 1940's hairstyles on lovely women
  • 1 coocoo bananas psycho
  • Multiple dum-dums who clearly never met a Mean Girl
  • 1 Margaret Hamilton reminding you why it was hard for her to find work after Wizard of Oz seared her into your mind as a broom-riding funster
  • 1 wife who is wildly tolerant of 1 husband who is clearly banging his model no matter what the script tries to tell us
  • 1 man who has all the appeal of a soaked Ralph Bellamy that is, because filmed during wartime, the only man around sold to us as a real dream boat
  • 1 bird pining for the fjords
It is not a BAD movie, but it is also not hard to imagine how this movie could be better.  Also - how this sort of movie became a Lifetime movie, which would be called "Psycho Sister-In-Law".

However, this movie ALSO was released under the name "Satan in Skirts", which...  *chef's kiss*.



Sunday, December 20, 2020

Holiday Watch: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)


Watched:  12/16/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming (but it's also on Disney+ now)
Viewing:  ha ha ha...
Decade:  1940's
Director:  George Seaton

If Miracle on 34th Street isn't part of your personal Christmas canon, I don't even know, man.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Noir Christmas Party Watch: Lady in the Lake (1947)

 

Watched:  12/18/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Montgomery

I've written this up plenty.  And podcasted it.  No need to do so again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Holiday Watch: Christmas in Connecticut (1945)



Watched: 12/13/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Peter Godfrey

The other night I was drinking and, as one does, decided what I really wanted to see was Sydney Greenstreet in a movie.  And, of course, it is the holiday season - and what better choice than Christmas in Connecticut (1945) when it comes to your Syndey Greenstreet/ Christmas movie viewing needs.

Basically a classic farce (but only with a hint of the bedroom about it), Christmas in Connecticut gets a lot of play, but seems like it never quite makes it into the zeitgeist like a lot of other films - even if it deserves to more than a lot of modern holiday favorites.  Genuinely funny with a terrific set-up and everyone on the same page giving sharp, punchy performances - it's got classic comedy chops to spare.

Stanwyck plays a cooking and homelife columnist for a popular "Good Housekeeping" style magazine.  She's essentially posing as America's perfect housewife - complete with husband, child and a picturesque farm house, when she's really living the life of a single-gal in the big city.  Fortunately, her uncle if a terrific chef and just tells her how he makes his best dishes, and she adds the purple prose.

But her pushy publisher (Greenstreet) is sent an idea for a promotion - the famous guru should take in a hero sailor (the movie is WWII contemporaneous) and show him true American hospitality.  But, of course, she can't do it - so she fakes it.

People are in and out of doors, people hidden from one another, and Una O'Connor plays the domestic not in on the shenanigans.  And - while faking a marriage she's actually dodging to a bore of a man (who owns the farm), Stanwyck meets the sailor in question and the smittening is mutual.

It's a terrific film - perfect for a comedy about the holiday that doesn't take it too seriously.  And, of course, Sydeny Greenstreet is brilliant. As always.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Noir (on Ice!) Watch: Suspense (1946)




Watched:  12/7/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Frank Tuttle

Jamie is not averse to noir, but I watch most of these by myself.  However, when I pitched her "it's a noir with figure skating as a key component", she was in.  She loves her some figure skating.

This is the third Belita-starring film shown on TCM's Noir Alley - and I'd guess the last.  She just didn't make many movies, let alone moody crime films.  I totally get why Eddie seems to have a soft spot for her - she's not exactly a powerhouse actress, but she does have a certain charm stemming from her own surprise at being in movies.

I'm mostly familiar with the King Brothers - producers on this one - from their movie Gun Crazy, part of my personal canon.   This was a follow up, and Monogram (who I mostly think of as having sets that look like high school play sets) upped the budget and talent.  Barry Sullivan stars as a hoodlum who lucks his way into a low level job at an ice-capades-type-show, and then parlays that into swiftly moving up the ranks as an ideas man - so they keep the ice show fresh and bring people back.

I mean - his big idea is a sort of oval full of swords that any film masters' student would have a field day figuring the Freudian messaging of, and doesn't seem like something any insurance company would okay - but whatevs.  Because Belita actually DOES the jump between the swords.  

Anyway, she's the wife of the older, mustachioed boss, and of course she feels an attraction to Barry Sullivan (because the script says to - he's not exactly Mitchum).  

Death, gunplay, avalanches, a cute dog and more figure skting figure in.  Plus, a scheming ex girlfriend and Eugene Pallette, the best Grumpy Gus in movies.  

It wasn't anything earth shattering, but I was pretty okay with it.  It can be hard to find a noir that Jamie wants to sit through, and I did it!  She was A-OK with this one.  But I don't think it will be easy finding more with ice skating.


Sunday, November 29, 2020

Noir Watch: Fear (1946)




Watched:  11/28/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Alfred Zeisler

An adaptation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, which I have never read (and I suspect few of you have, either) - and boiled down to a tight 65 minute crime thriller, Fear (1946) is a low-budget predecessor to a movie plot you've seen a dozen times over.  

Basically - upstanding guy commits crime, no one suspects him, and then a cop starts trailing him.  Meanwhile he meets a comely young lass.  

It's not actually that baaaaad.  It's just totally hamstrung by the cardboard sets and that they obviously had about 3 set-ups per scene per set.  If that.  Honestly, the acting is fine.  And the movie is short enough that you're in and out before you even get a chance to start pondering the movie's issues too much.

Anyway - not exactly something I'd recommend.  It feels more like a jot of an idea than an actual film.  But I've seen way worse, and the set-up kept me curious how they'd shake it out.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Spooky Noir Watch: The Seventh Victim (1943)




Watched:  11/18/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:   Mark Robson


A Val Lewton horror film - that means a lot of atmosphere, mystery, wild plotting and not a lot of blood or outright frights - The Seventh Victim (1943) is a study in building a sense of dread and doom.  It's a strange, strange film, following one lead character for much of the film before putting her in a corner and finding other characters more interesting to watch.  

The film marks the movie debut of Kim Hunter*, who plays a private school girl who learns her bills aren't being paid by her sister - and her sister seems to have disappeared.  She hits the big city and learns her sister has sold the cosmetics company she owned, her shrink hasn't seen her in a bit, and she was romantically hooked up with Ward Cleaver (see a young Hugh Beaumont as a sort of romantic character!).  

Seems her sister fell in with a bunch of devil worshippers, and that's no gone great.  In fact, when paired with a private eye who decides to do the work pro bono, he gets bumped off.  At some point, we find the sister, and she's on a path that none of the men around her quite understand as they try to save her.  

But, I'm selling the film short.  Being a Lewton produced film, it's all about ideas and what you can't see in the shadows.  There's a Lynchian dream-like quality to portions, and the horror of what you realize must be happening (from people getting away with murder right in front of you) to rooms full of people trying to talk you into suicide that's far weirder than any makeup or jump scares.  Really, the closest thing I can think of in a "we're gonna watch someone end badly" closest to this film was Fire Walk With Me.  

Included as a Noir Alley entry - it works.  The film's aesthetics rely on expressionism, deep shadow, etc...  There's certainly a doomed quality and an underworld scratching at the edges of polite society.  In this case, an underworld that's what polite society does after 8:00 PM.  



*Kim Hunter is much beloved at The Signal Watch as the actor who (a) appeared as Zira in some Planet of the Apes films, and (b) as Stella Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.  




Monday, October 12, 2020

PODCAST: "The Wolfman" (1941) and "Curse of the Werewolf" (1961) - Universal/ Hammer Halloween 2020 w/ SimonUK and Ryan



 
Watched:  Wolf Man 09/26/2020  Curse of 09/27/2020
Format:  BluRay/ Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  Unknown/ Second
Decade:  1940's/ 1960's
Director:  George Waggner / Terence Fisher




Things get hairy as SimonUK and Ryan take a look at two movies where a fellow is really not feeling himself. We look at the classic Universal take on werewolves and the lesser known entry from Hammer (Spanish werewolves!), which are wildly different in some ways, but really agree on the "sorry, you're doomed" angle when it comes to curses that turn one into a ravening beast who still politely wears trousers. 

Music:
Wolf Man Main Theme - Charles Previn
Curse of the Werewolf Theme - Benjamin Frankel
 



Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Disney Attempt-at-Spooky Watch: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)


 

Watched:  10/04/2020
Format: Disney+
Viewing:  I'm calling it a first for the whole movie
Decade:  1940's
Director:  James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kenney

So, we were hunting around for something spooky to watch on Disney+, and I saw they had The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949).  I'd never seen the movie in its entirety.  If I ever saw the Wind in the Willows bit that makes up the first half, I don't recall it at all.   

However, the Ichabod Crane part based on Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow is for good reasons, a Halloween staple.  And, I've seen it a dozen times or so before.  

Taken as a whole, this movie is very weird and unnecessary.  It's clearly two stories that have nothing to do with each other slapped together with a wildly awkward framing device of a library of real books and voice over by, first, Basil Rathbone and then Bing Crosby, which tells me something about how much the left hand and right were talking to each other as this came together.  

As a kid, my first real exposure to Mr. Toad was via the Disney World attraction, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which was - I ain't gonna lie - super f'ing fun. My memory was that the ride was chaotic and goofy as hell.  And I understood it was based on a fancy toad who got his hands on a car.  

Well, the movie version is... kind of annoying.  I don't really have another word for it.  Unlike most Disney, there's no character development, and Toad just seems like a problem for everyone around him.  Like, that one friend who is now on drugs and you're all supposed to make sure he doesn't harm themself or anyone else.  The animation is pretty good, and it gave us the weasels that pop up in Roger Rabbit, but...  yeah.  This is the rare Disney animation that I just have no affection for - but weirdly like the ride.

And Ichabod itself is also strangely... boring.  And there's no one to actually like.  But, when you do get to the actual Sleepy Hollow scene, it's amazing work.  But 5 minutes or so is not enough to carry a whole movie.

What I guess is that Walt, post-WWII, was just not all that into the animation studio stuff anymore, and you can feel his hand off the wheel in the storytelling department - something that would plague them til Little Mermaid.  It's not horrible stuff, but it feels like someone let the animators just animate whatever they felt like rather than working toward a cohesive story, for two whole stories.  

But, again, that Headless Horseman.