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

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Noir/ Heist Watch: The Asphalt Jungle (1950)



Watched:  06/03/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  7th?  Unknown
Decade:  1950s

I know I throw a lot of soft recommendations around, saying "oh, you might like this" or "it's worth catching", but The Asphalt Jungle (1950) was one of those hit-me-like-lightning movies the first time I watched it, and, in a lot of ways, I've been chasing that same high ever since.  That viewing was way back in college from a rented tape on a 20" TV, and I've seen and owned various copies of the film ever since.  Frankly, when I just looked up the movie on this blog, I assumed I'd written it up 3 or 4 times, but, instead, I'm just finding mentions of it tucked into other posts.  So, it's been a while.

In some ways, in 2019 there's little new in The Asphalt Jungle - the film is one of those that reset the path for heist movies and created the template from which heist movies would flow from then til now.  But for a movie popping up just a few years after World War II, and because of the influence, it feels shockingly modern (especially for modern TV more than movies, which are largely toothless in comparison these days).  It's 3/5ths getting to and getting through the heist, and 2/5ths things going wrong and the fallout as our ensemble tries to sort out the mess they're in.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Noir City Austin - Day 3 "Nightfall" (1957) & "Murder By Contract" (1958)






First, I forgot to mention that on Day 2, the TCM Backlot Austin Chapter met up at Noir City and grabbed a picture, and you'll see me awkwardly standing in the back.  Thanks to Jane, et al, for organizing.

Next: Upfront, I'll tell you, I only saw two of the four films on Day 3 of Noir City Austin.  This is not due to film programming, venue or any of that. I just had stuff I needed to go do as the coming week of work/life is set to be  busy one.  So, I was able to see the first two films shown on Sunday.

Noir City Austin continued exploring the 1950's, and by the late 1950's, the differences in style of dress, attitude and film-making choices between the first film shown on Friday night from '49 and by the time we hit boom-time/ post-Korea America in '57, a lot has shifted.  Hell, men aren't even wearing hats as a required feature.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Noir City Austin - Day 2: "City That Never Sleeps" (1953) & "Private Hell 36" (1954)






Watched:  05/18/2019
Format:  Noir City Austin at Alamo Ritz
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

Long ago I had purchased tickets to see a baseball game in the evening, so I was only scheduled to see two films for Noir City Austin, Day 2.

The theme for 2019 was a follow up on 2018, which was Noir in the 1940's, year-by-year.  This 10 film cycle was tracing noir as we left the 1940's and how and why the films changed as we hit the 1950's as cultural issues crept into the films and television competed with the big screen and informed the lives of characters on screen.  And, by the mid-to-late 1950's, began influencing how movies were shot so they'd work on the television sets of the era as Hollywood looked to cash in on the secondary income stream.

Noir City Austin - Day 1 - "Trapped" (1949) and "The Turning Point" (1952)




Viewed:  05/17/2019
Format:  Noir City Austin at Alamo Ritz
Viewing:  First for both
Decade:  1940's/ 1950's

Eddie Muller is back in Bat City for Noir City Austin, our annual showing of films I'd never find on my own, and always can't believe the gold Muller is able to surface.   Muller isn't just host of TCM's Noir Alley weekly dose of crime, implied sex and moral gray areas - he's also head of the Film Noir Foundation.  Proceeds from the festival and merch sales go back to the FNF, who, in turn use the money to rescue films from obscurity and eventual loss.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Noir Watch: 99 River Street (1953)



Watched:  04/18/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Third
Decade:  1950's

I've written up 99 River Street (1953) once before, and watched it something like 1.5 times before, but I genuinely really like this movie.  Starring John Payne as a former champion boxer, now a cab driver - he's trying to adjust to a world of broken dreams and settle in with the dishy blonde he married at the height of his fighting days when he finds her cheating on him.

In a twist of just insanely bad timing,* a pal - Evelyn Keyes - lures him to a theater to show the body of a man she accidentally killed when he tried to #MeToo her during an audition.  Just to make matters worse, the guy Payne's wife is running around with is a jewel thief who just heisted $50K in diamonds.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Noir Watch: His Kind of Woman (1951)


Watched:  03/23/2019
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's

If you're looking for a fun, kinda-noirish movie with a great sense of humor and a bit of sexiness, action and character, you can do a lot worse than His Kind of Woman (1951).

Starring Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell and a terrifically camp-tastic Vincent Price - the movie also features a few other notables.  Charles McGraw, Raymond Burr, Jim Backus and Marjorie Reynolds also show up as various antagonists.

Mitchum plays a small-time hood who is given a wad of cash and sent to a really nice Mexican resort where he's supposed to just wait for further instruction, no matter how long it takes.  En route he meets Jane Russell, a society gal-turned-chanteuse, who - as would happen - draws Mitchum's eye.  Russell is there to meet up with her actor boyfriend, Price.  For a bit there's a tad of Casablanca as Mitchum wanders around trying to figure out who is who and what's going on and a few colorful characters drift in and out of the scenes. 

I don't want to spoil the plot, but it is.... goofy.  But it's fun.  And Russell is... well, there's a reason we're still pondering Russell seventy years after the fact.

Weirdly, I didn't really remember the ending of the movie which is insane.  Muller's story about the making of the film explained a ton (Howard Hughes, y'all), but it does make for a crazy series of events that doesn't really match the first half, tonally, but does match up narratively.

Give it a shot!  It's a hoot and Vincent Price is hysterical.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Monster Watch: Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)


Watched:  03/07/2019
Format:  Alamo S. Lamar
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1950's

This evening the Alamo S. Lamar and Birth.Movies.Death's Scott Wampler hosted a screening of Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) along with a Q&A and book-signing with Mallory O'Meara, a film maker who just released a non-fiction book about Milicent Patrick, the original designer of The Creature entitled The Lady From the Black Lagoon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Noir Watch: The Hitch-Hiker (1953)


Watched:  02/25/2019
Format:  BluRay from Kino Lorber
Viewing:  first
Decade:  1950's

I told myself that this year I was going to watch all of the films I could obtain which were directed by Ms. Ida Lupino.

I primarily know Ida Lupino as an actor who sort of radiates a certain razor sharp intellect in roles as hero or villain, whether she's vicious or kind.  She's up there in my list of actors whose films I'll give a go even if the movie isn't to my taste.*

But as she is not *in* the movies she directs (understandably), I've not gotten around to seeing what she did standing behind the lens (less understandably).  Of the films, the most famous is likely the 1953 noir thriller, The Hitch-Hiker, which I recently picked up as a BluRay edition released by Kino Lorber, made from a restoration print struck at the Library of Congress.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Noir Watch: The Burglar (1957)


watched:  02/08/2019
format:  Amazon Prime Streaming
viewing:  first
decade:  1950's

I recently read the David Goodis novel, which Goodis himself adapted as a screenplay for The Burglar (1957).  Surprise: the book is better.  An existential noir thriller that *really* piles on Goodis' weirdness with women, the book is singularly bleak piece of fiction that, honestly, would probably not work terribly well as a film (the ending would be, also, logistically unfilmable in 1957*).

The movie hits a lot of the same beats and maintains the motivations of the book, but it's just not as well fleshed out, and they clearly were worried about the audience getting lost along the way so they're more concrete in trying to state the vague mess of issues plaguing Duryea's titular burglar. 

Jayne Mansfield is about as far from the Gladden on the novel as one could get in personality and build, but it does shake up the mix a bit and puts a point on the creeping sexual stress as the story shows up on the screen - it's simply different from the frail, skinny girl of the novel.

There's some terrific imagery and cinematography in the film, and pitch perfect noir-esque build of sweaty claustrophobia once the game is revealed, all of which is mind-boggling, as this was the director's first time out (Paul Wendkos, who went on to make Gidget movies!), and a DP who, really, doesn't show much on his filmography to show how he got to this point. 

Honestly, I think they cut too much from the book to give the other burglars any real personality or show why Duryea's character is so wound up, but it's still basically intact, and as a B picture, it's got some good stuff going for it. 


*it involves a lot of stuff of people swimming in the choppy Atlantic.  Sort of.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Musical Watch: High Society (1956)


Watched:  02/05/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing: First
Decade:  1950's

So, this is a musical version of The Philadelphia Story - the classic flick starring Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and Cary Grant.  Apparently that play became the movie of The Philadelphia Story, which became the stage musical High Society, which became this movie.

This movie isn't... great.  It's not bad, and I laughed out loud at a number of things, but on the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia.  And I say that as someone who is a fan of Bing Crosby movies and likes Cole Porter.

What this movie does do is let Louis Armstrong play himself, and give him time to appear quite a bit in the movie.  And he's not bad!

This is also the movie that dares to remind you that Grace Kelly was very, very good looking* - which, as she is not Kate Hepburn, seems to be the primary driver for why men are after her (ladies, believe it or not, personality and wit go really, really far.  Be a Kate Hepburn.).

I dunno.  I wish the music had more zip and it didn't feel like an echo of something else, but Bing looks like he's having a ball with Frank, and a gentleman in tophat and tails, suffering from a hangover, yells at a bird, and that was one of the funniest things I've seen in, like, a week.


*again, very attractive, that Grace Kelly

Monday, January 28, 2019

Outbreak Watch: Panic in the Streets (1950)



Watched:  01/27/2019
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

I'd certainly heard the title of Panic in the Streets (1950), but had never paid the movie much mind.  It played a while back on TCM, so I loaded it up on the DVR for a later playback and am thrilled I did.  The movie is often listed as noir, but... aside from some aesthetic choices, it doesn't match my definition of noir, so I'm not labeling it as such.

Directed by Elia Kazan, the movie reflects his ability to shoot on location and make it mean something.  Here he exits LA and lands in New Orleans, filming along the industrial docks and twisting roads of the city, jumping from suburbs to the edges of the French Quarter.  Unfortunately, as the movie was 1950, it makes the location shooting feel like that much more of a lie as you only see Black people here and there, which in no way reflects the make-up of the city.

Still, you do get an immediacy to the film with the organic locations and settings, including sounds captured along the river or on the streets.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Happy Birthday, George Reeves


Today marks the 105th birthday of George Reeves, the second man to play Superman on the screen, and star of the six-season series The Adventures of Superman.  Frankly, I think George is pretty great in the show - a kid's show in need of a an amiable Superman, pal to children and child-like folks like everyone's pal, Jimmy Olsen.

Go back and watch him sometime.  He makes being Superman look like some Grade-A fun.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Musical Watch: Call Me Madam (1953)



Watched:  12/30/2018
Format:  disc
viewing:  first
decade:  1950's

When we were kids Ethel Merman was still part of the popular consciousness, but I'm not sure what folks my parents' age thought of her (I can pretty much guarantee my dad found her annoying).  Merman was a Broadway performer with a brassy voice and who had a sort of streetwise persona paired with a self-deprecating wit.  I think. 

Call Me Madam (1953) was originally a Broadway show with music by Irving Berlin and starring Merman, apparently a Tony Award-winning show.  I only listened to about five minutes of the commentary, but the narrator was quick to leap on the notion "look, this was based on stuff everyone in 1953 would have just known from the news, but hasn't really remained in the zeitgeist".  Despite the fairytale-like story, apparently Call Me Madam is loosely based on a real person and events. 

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Holiday Watch: White Christmas (1954)


Watched:  Some time in December
Viewing:  Unknown
Format:  Netflix
Decade:  1950s

I watched White Christmas (1954) a couple of weeks ago and forgot to write it up.  It's a Michael Curtiz flick, which means it's automatically a decent sort of film.  I understand Bing Crosby thought the film's final product was a disappointment, and I have to say - there's something odd about the movie I can never quite put my finger on that doesn't work.

Likely my main issue is that the third act misunderstanding between Rosemary Clooney and Crosby makes no sense at all (and seems like a single question posed by Clooney's character would have cleared things up).  And I learned this viewing that the part played by Danny Kaye was originally supposed to be Donald O'Connor, which...  we'll just have to let our imaginations fill in the blanks, but some of what's in the script makes more sense if that's who you wrote the part for.

While mostly a bit of holiday fluff, it is an interesting peek into the Post WWII American mindset and does give us a bit of the returning soldier's melancholy as some try to find their useful place in society when they aren't commanding a regiment.

Also, Rosemary Clooney wears a black dress that Jamie and I are going to have to agree to disagree about.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Noir Watch: The Killing (1956)


Watched:  12/02/2018
Viewing:  Unknown.  6th?
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Decade:  1950's

First of all, "The Killing" that occurs in this movie is not an assassination.  It could refer to about five or ten different things, and I suppose that's intentional.  I'd start with "they're gonna make a killing on this heist", but, of course, this is a 1950's-era heist movie, so you know it's not ending in sunshine and flowers.

The Killing (1956) sits on a curious edge when it comes to crime dramas/ noir.  Marking maverick, young filmmaker Stanley Kubrick's first foray into studio-backed cinema, the movie feels part and parcel of the noir movement with a structure and an ending not atypical for a dime-store crime novel, retaining those rough edges that some noir eschewed.  As much as I like The Asphalt Jungle and Rafifi - likely The Killing had more impact and reflects more of where the heist genre would go - especially in American cinema (at least marginally).

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Signal Watch Reads: All the Answers (Kupperman, 2018)



I started reading All the Answers (2018) a couple of weeks ago, got ten pages in and realized that I wouldn't have time to read it cover to cover in one sitting, the way one generally wants to watch a film, and so I put away the book and picked it up again when I had uninterrupted time.

Written, researched, drawn and lived by Michael Kupperman, a cartoonist and artist I've followed for well over ten years at this point, the book is more than a minor pivot from a particular brand of humor comic that I would fail to capture here if I tried (and what is explaining a joke, anyway?) - this is also a biographical and autobiographical graphic novel.  I believe Snake n' Bacon strips were my entree into Kupperman's work, followed by Tales Designed to Thrizzle - something that should be a staple in any comics-studies course.  And, of course, Mark Twain's Autobiography, 1910-2010.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Noir Watch: Pickup on South Street (1953) w/ special guest to Austin, Karina Longworth


Watched:  11/13/2018
Format:  Alamo Ritz hosted screening
Viewing:  second
Decade:  1950's

This evening Karina Longworth, host of the much-discussed You Must Remember This podcast, came to Austin for a book signing and screening.  Longworth has a new book available, Seduction: Sex, Lies and Stardom in Howard Hughes's Hollywood, which she's promoting.   If she's coming to your town, stop on by and see her and pick up the book.

For the film selection, Longworth and the Alamo programmed Pickup on South Street (1953), which starred Jean Peters, one of the main figures in Longworth's book.  The film also stars noir star  Richard Widmark and high-quality character actor (and multiple award nominee but never the recipent) Thelma Ritter.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Noir Watch: He Ran All the Way (1951)



Watched:  11/10/2018
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1951


I admit - I started watching this movie a while back shortly after it aired on TCM and then got busy and forgot to finish watching it, until now.  And I'm very glad I did.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Noir Watch: The Sniper (1952)



Watched:  11/06/2018
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1950's

My recollection of the first time I watched The Sniper (1952) was that it was a much, much better picture than I was assuming I was about to watch, and that helped me overcome the fact that while I'd watched the movie to see Marie Windsor, her screentime isn't as much as any of us would like in your average Marie Windsor picture.

Kudos to TCM host Eddie Muller for (a) not shying away from showing the movie, and (b) a nuanced discussion about film violence and how we think about it in regards to real-world violence that will, no doubt, go right past a lot of the hot-take approach to film discussion that crawls past all of us on social media as "film twitter" rushes to fill in their rubrics for "good/ bad". 

Friday, October 26, 2018

Halloween Hammer Watch: The Mummy (1959)


Watched:  10/25/2018
Format:  TCM/ DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1950's

I thought I'd seen this movie before, but I had not.  But, boy howdy, did I like it - weird British Imperialistic dismissal of other cultures and all.  The movie is The Mummy (1959), part of Hammer's slate of Universal Horror remakes from their 50's and 60's boom era.