Showing posts with label 1950's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1950's. Show all posts

Sunday, July 19, 2020

French Noir Watch: Elevator to the Gallows (1958)



Watched:  07/18/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Louis Malle


Look - I'd never seen this movie, thoroughly enjoyed it, and would quickly recommend. But I can also imagine it hits the buttons of every pretentious film dork out there.

A shining example of (a) made in the 1950's, (b) being French (b) more or less New Wave (c) noir, (d) with a fatalistic, downbeat ending and (e) the soundtrack is by Miles Davis.  Ferchrissake - I can just see my film school instructors getting the vapors talking about this one.

And, you know, deservedly so.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Monroe Watch: "The Seven Year Itch" (1955)


Watched:  07/12/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Billy Wilder

I found this movie some hard going, but given it starred Monroe and was directed by Billy Wilder, I'm going to give it some grace.  It's not just a product of its time, it's a distilled crystallization of its time.  Add in that it's been so copied from, borrowed from, and it's novelties have been so co-opted and, in fact, are a mainstream method of visual comedy for the past 20 years, it's a bit odd to see it in its nascent form.

Based on a stage play, The Seven Year Itch (1955) is a movie about a married man who sends his wife and young son out of New York City and into the country during the hot summer months so he can get some work done, kick cigarettes and lay low.  Until he returns home the first night and finds Marilyn Monroe living upstairs, sub-letting his neighbor's apartment.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Invasion! Watch: War of the Worlds (1953)


Watched:  07/11/2020
Format:  Criterion BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade: 1950's
Director:  Byron Haskin

War of the Worlds (1953) the movie and the Mercury Theatre radio play from 1938 are so baked into my formative years, they're alongside Superman, King Kong, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and other popular fictions that make up the mythology and common language for a lot of born in the shadow of the mid-20th Century.

I saw the movie after buying and listening to the Orson Welles radio program when my dad found out I was interested in the radio show and the events surrounding it that I'd read about in a magazine.  My dad, always one to say "if you liked that, you need to check out this", got me to the video store within a few days and we sat down and watched it together.

What's remarkable is how genuinely *thrilled* I was by the movie, in both senses of the word.  The movie only has one or two quasi-jump scares, but - as was the novel (which I finally read about 15 years ago) and the radio show - the movie is so relentless in putting all of Earth on its heels, from the moment the three pals approach the ship waving a white flag onto get atomized, it's some weird viewing.  There's no brilliant but dangerous plan to be enacted that defeats the aliens - humanity loses this one.

As I've pitched the movie - in the middle of a pandemic, it's a lovely reminder of the time germs were our friends.

Lovingly restored by Paramount and just released by Criterion, War of the Worlds is a movie geek's dream.  There's so many technical aspects to the movie worth discussing, from the original three-strip technicolor to the construction of the Martian crafts, to the myriad visual effects, matte paintings and absolutely perfect sound effects - an army of character actors, and two leads who've somewhat otherwise fallen through the cracks of film nostalgia - it's an amazing technical achievement, done so well it holds up as a visual masterpiece.  And, in fact, with this restoration, is just an astonishingly crafted, visually beautiful film.

If the last time you've seen the movie was from the 2005 re-release, run (don't walk!) to watch this version, which recovers the original color palette employed in almost punchy candy colors, restores the visual effects to maximum effectiveness, and has cleaned up audio and re-created sound effects by no less than Ben Burtt.

The movie features the typically generous collection of extra features that get me to pay the entry fee for Criterion discs.  There are a few documentaries, the 1938 radio drama, an interview from San Antonio's KTSA with Orson Welles and HG Wells, and more.

The movie itself is just as gripping as ever.  From small town America to the final scenes in the fall of Los Angeles, it's anchored by focal characters Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) and Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) - a scientist and professor of Library Science, who happened to be there when one of the initial craft came down and are there throughout.  And, of course, there's a romance a-bloomin' between the two.  Through Barry and Robinson, we get the realization of the horror of the situation, but the still very human need for connection in the darkest hour.  A parable for any time, really.

If you've never seen the movie - now is the time!  This restoration is utterly remarkable.  If you have seen it but it's been a while - do it for the same reason and to remind yourself of one of the md-20th Century's finest technical filmic achievements, and to get all the bonus materials from Criterion.


Thursday, July 9, 2020

Stop Motion Watch: 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)



Watched: 07/07/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  third
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Nathan Juran w/ special fx by Ray Harryhausen

These days The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) is most famous for being part of the line of films with stop motion special FX by Ray Harryhausen, the great miniatures expert who is the direct line between King Kong and everything through Jurassic Park.

I dunno.  It's a lot of fun!  But - you know - in the unlikely event someone shrinks your beloved down to a 4" action figure size, I do not recommending putting her in a tiny box and then shoving it down your pants.  That's just weird, Sinbad.


Friday, June 19, 2020

Noir Watch: Backtrack (1990) and Murder by Contract (1958) w/ JAL & Ryan


Watched:  06/11/2020 (Backtrack) & 06/16/2020 (Contract)
Format:  Amazon Streaming and TCM Noir Alley
Viewing:  First / Second
Decade:  1990's/ 1950's
Director:  Dennis Hopper/ Irving Lerner

More ways to listen - choose an app


We're back with more noir - neo and otherwise! It's two movies about weirdo hitmen filmed 30 years apart. One is from the go-go 90's and has a lot of surprises, and the other is a cult classic of noir, about a man who just wants enough money to get that house he's had his eye on. Both have casts worth discussing and off-kilter approaches to their form. Join JAL and Ryan as we make our way through two features that don't get that many mentions.





Music:
The Executioner Theme - Perry Botkin, Murder By Contract score


Noir Playlist:

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Tweetalong Watch: Frankenstein's Daughter (1958)



Watched:  06/12/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Richard E. Cunha

Oh.  Oh my.

Well.  So.  I dunno, you guys.

I mean, "Oliver" Frankenstein just doesn't sound right. And I don't know why he was turning the pretty young lady he was living with into a monster in the evening with a potion he kept passing off as fruit punch.  I was never clear what was going on with the girl's uncle and what he was science-ing upon.  But we do run over a kind of catty young lady and she gets turned into a shambling monster.

Anyway.  There's a backyard cookout with a band and a very long musical interlude.



Monday, May 25, 2020

Noir Watch: The Crimson Kimono (1959)



Watched:  05/24/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Samuel Fuller

One of the deep dives I'm likely to do in the next couple of years is dive into the filmography of director Samuel Fuller.  I've never seen a Fuller film I didn't like *a lot*.  Pickup on South Street, Shock Corridor, The Naked Kiss...  all solid films.  A while back The Crimson Kimono (1959) played the Austin Noir City film festival, but I wasn't able to stay for the movie, and now I'm very mad at myself for not sticking around for the movie (I think Paul saw it). 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Noir Watch: Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)



Watched:  05/01/2020
Format:  Noir Ally on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director:  Fritz Lang

This one hadn't really been on my radar, but with Fritz Lang directing - his final American film, no less - and starring Dana Andrews, and both coming off the heels of a movie I thoroughly enjoy, While the City Sleeps, I saw no reason not to give it a spin.  In some ways, and from an elevator pitch angle, the plotting is very similar to 1963's Samuel Fuller directed Shock Corridor, but Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) is a different type of movie, even if the two films definitely share significant DNA.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Noir Watch: Night and the City (1950)



Watched:  04/30/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  2nd or 3rd
Decade:  1950
Director:  Jules Dassin

I've seen this movie before, and, if someone asked me what I think makes for a pure distillation of one of my definitions of "film noir", ie:  a character who is deeply in over their head because of a character flaw - you have Double Indemnity and you have Night and the City (1950).  And it's possible Night and the City is the even purer dose of the idea - because unlike Double Indemnity, there's no sex tangled up in the question - this is just a broken guy who, as Gene Tierney's character Mary says "You could have been anything. Anything. You had brains... ambition. You worked harder than any 10 men. But the wrong things. Always the wrong things..."

The only mistress in this movie, which absolutely does have the "good girl" in the form of Tierney waiting on our protagonist, is his own sense of destiny and overconfidence in his ability to play the grift. 

But, man, fate is a bitch.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

PODCAST: "The Killing" (1956) and "Asphalt Jungle" (1950) - Noir Watch! w/ JAL and Ryan



Watched:  04/03/2020 (Killing)/ 04/06/2020 (Asphalt)
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Directors:  Stanley Kubrick/ John Huston

More ways to listen

JAL and Ryan watch two noir classics. Both heists. Both starring Sterling Hayden. One directed by a young Stanley Kubrick, the other by John Huston. We dive into what makes them work, some terrific performances and which director was in his prime and which was sorting things out. It's a journey into movies that set the stage for every heist movie to come after.





Music:
Noir Watch Theme - The Unsuspected Main Theme - Franz Waxman
The Killing, Main and End Theme - Gerald Fried
The Asphalt Jungle Theme - Miklos Rosza


Noir Watch Playlist:


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Russell Watch: The French Line (1954)


Watched:  04/23/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director: Lloyd Bacon

Hoo-boy.  Apparently Howard Hughes realized, after loaning out Jane Russell to Fox for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1952) and watching them make a mint, *he* had a Jane Russell under contract at RKO that he didn't need to loan out at all.  So, he decided to make another splashy musical about Jane Russell on a boat headed for Paris all on his own.  And if people liked a bit of sexiness, he was going to shove Jane Russell into even sexier outfits!  And he'sdrelease the movie in 3D!  Jane Russell would be dancing and standing around as if she were in the room!  You guys get it?  wink wink nod nod need I say more?

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Russell/ Monroe Watch: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)


Watched:  04/21/2020
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's
Director: Howard Hawks

I'm not proud.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Russell/ Noir Watch: The Las Vegas Story (1952)



Watched:  04/18/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director: Robert Stevenson

Pivoting from the exotic locale of Macao to the oasis in the desert that is Las Vegas, Nevada, Jane Russell drops Mitchum and picks up Victor Mature, Vincent Price and "the guy who will be a bad guy", Brad Dexter.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Noir/ Russell Watch: Macao (1952)


Watched:  04/15/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's
Director: Josef von Sternberg/ Nicholas Ray


I've been trying to track this movie down for years.  Fortunately, this month on TCM, Jane Russell is Star of the Month on TCM.  And, in any circumstance, Jane Russell is just an excellent idea.

This one has not just Russell as a lounge singer, she co-stars with Robert Mitchum, with whom she was apparently pretty good pals.  It also has Thomas Gomez and Gloria Grahame in an oddly small role for her chops (this is five years after Crossfire and the same year she got an Oscar nom for The Bad and the Beautiful).   Throw in William Bendix (as one always should) and Brad Dexter, and you've got an interesting cast.  Not to mention the large cast of Asian and Asian-American extras and supporting roles.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Pirate Watch: Against All Flags (1952)




Watched:  03/29/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  fourth
Decade:  1950's

Ah, Maureen O'Hara in technicolor as a pirate captain.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Musical Watch: It's Always Fair Weather (1955)


Watched:  03/23/2020
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

This movie had a lot of things converge to recommend it.  It's from the same writing team that did On the Town from a few years prior, it was directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, it *starred* Gene Kelly, and, if I'm being honest, Cyd Charisse.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Lockdown St. Patrick's Day Watch: The Quiet Man (1952)


Watched:  03/17/2020
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's

Not to be weird about it, and no surprise to longtime readers, but Maureen O'Hara was a screen-crush for me since catching Miracle on 34th Street back in high school.  Watching The Quiet Man (1952) did nothing to slow that train down.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Western Watch: Shane (1953)


Watched:  03/02/2020
Format:  Alamo Mueller
Viewing:  Unknown - more than 5
Decade:  1950's

It was a delight to see Shane (1953) on the big screen at Alamo Mueller this evening with SimonUK.  Si had never seen it, so that was kind of cool. 

Back in 7th grade my Reading teacher, Ms. McDowell, had us read the original novel, and then we watched the movie.  I've been a fan ever since and am not objective in any way about Shane.  I will say, seeing it on the big screen was stunning - the Grand Tetons loom large in the background and Wyoming's magnificent landscapes provide epic sweep to the story. 

And while it's no mystery that Shane is largely about violence, the impact of the sound in the theater versus confined to my TV speakers provided an intensity to the film I wasn't expecting. 

If it's been a while or you've never seen it, give Shane a shot.  It's been endlessly ripped off and borrowed from, but the original holds up amazingly well.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Noir Watch: The Captive City (1952)



Watched:  01/26/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

The Hayes Era produced some interesting bedfellows between Hollywood and public officials.  Esepcially as we headed into the HUAC years and Hollywood watched as colleagues were dragged out in front of cameras or placed in rooms to testify, naming names.  An odd side-effect was the over-compensation and big hug some movies gave law enforcement in some movies as they attempted to illustrate the complicated scenarios the officials were on about.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Noir Watch: The Big Night (1951)



Watched:  01/20/2020
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

A movie full of interesting ideas and what I'd give a solid B- for execution, The Big Night (1951) follows a sweet kid as he spends a long night trying to get back at the man who humiliated and beat his father in front of a crowd of people.

On his 16th birthday and believing himself to be entering the world of manhood, Georgie LaMain returns home to his father's Bar & Grill where he's met with a small, sad party made up by the tavern dwellers.  Moments after the candles are blown out on his cake - with little explanation - local sports writer Al Judge enters the place and orders Georgie's father from behind the bar and to remover his shirt.  He then beats him mercilessly with a cane and takes his leave.