Category Archives: Movie Review

Breaking Bad and The Bribe (1949)

RobertTaylor_thebribeA husband with a fatal medical condition, trying to provide for his family by performing illegal services for a conglomerate. A wife doing what she can to get through it and make ends meet with a simple job. A cop who is too close to the situation and questions whose side he is on.

Sound familiar? Nope, I’m not actually describing the plot of Breaking Bad. The above are the main highlights of The Bribe, a lesser-known Noir from 1949 starring Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, John Hodiak, Vincent Price and amazingly enough, Charles Laughton.

[Warning – there will be some frank talking about plot points of Breaking Bad here. If you wish to avoid spoilers and have not seen the final season, avert your eyes now!]

To anyone who has seen the film, it’s not a really solid parallel, no. John Hodiak’s character is pathetic, pitiable and rather annoying, but he is by no means Walter White. He merely develops a medical condition that grounds him as a flier and then uses his knowledge of planes to help a deliciously evil Vincent Price test planes for nefarious ends. Ava Gardner as his wife does not experience the incredible transformation of character Skyler White goes through, but she does show glimmers of the calculating femme fatale Skyler became. Especially when her family (in this case, husband John Hodiak) is on the line. Robert Taylor shines as the special agent sent to ferret out the illegal dealings. He’s straight as a pin when he begins the crusade and by the end of the film, his feelings for Ava have so changed him, he questions everything he ever believed in. It’s somewhat like Walter White’s DEA brother-in-law Hank Schrader, who suffers such a betrayal with Walt’s choice of career, it causes him to become obsessed with taking Walt down.

The movie is an enjoyable Noir with some gorgeous 40s fashions, a fun little song and a host of remarkable stars. But by far, my favorite aspect of all is Charles Laughton’s Pie Shape. The fact that the great Charles Laughton would ever deign to play such a preposterous character is notable in itself. And then to have played him with such sincerity and perfection, it’s just unforgettable. Pie Shape is hard to peg at first. He’s just in the background, being remarked upon with bewilderment by Robert Taylor’s character. In between his whiny complaints about the condition of his feet and his completely serious showcase of the foot x-rays explaining his pain, he somehow becomes endearing. And that is the genius of Laughton: the ability to make even the most unlikable of characters human.

So, perhaps my parallel is a stretch, but it’s similar enough to deserve commentary, even if it’s purely coincidental. And being the rabid classic film fan I am, I would love to believe The Bribe was a source of inspiration to Vince Gilligan. Plus, there is one little line that connected a few dots for me in the similarities. When Ava Gardner is having a particularly hard time of it with her husband, Charles Laughton walks in, sets down his rain soaked poncho and asks “Things breaking bad?”

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Filed under Movie Review, Noir, Uncategorized

Irony and The Seven Year Itch

**Fair warning: this review/essay contains spoilers and assumes a basic knowledge of the film’s events**

For more years than I care to admit, I deliberately avoided seeing The Seven Year Itch. The overwhelming popular culture perception of the film (this and this) just put me off and I couldn’t stand the thought of watching it. But when I had my Marilyn revelation (explained here) I decided to give the film a chance. After all, I could fast forward the yucky Tom Ewell scenes I just knew had to exist. And that’s when I discovered one of the greatest (yet not discussed) misconceptions of classic film.

You see, on the surface, The Seven Year Itch looks like a film glorifying extra-marital affairs. You think it’s about Tom Ewell blatantly moving Marilyn into his apartment while Evelyn Keyes* is away. Well, at least that’s what I thought.

While it’s true that the majority of the film is seen from the perspective of Tom Ewell’s character (the creepily annoying Richard Sherman**), the film remains a wry, truthful window into the life of a beautiful woman (Marilyn Monroe, simply named The Girl). TE blunders around in this selfish little fantasy world imagining how much better his life would be if Marilyn was his girl. And every so often, the viewer gets these little glimpses into The Girl’s thoughts, usually occurring at the same moment TE is off imagining.

As is so often the case with relationships, Richard Sherman sees his friendship with The Girl as his one chance to be “the big man.” In all their encounters, he spends most of the time plotting how he will maneuver her into a situation of his design. And what is she doing? She’s absorbed by the fear that she’ll be enduring another sleepless night in an air condition-less apartment. Simple as that. She’s not in the fantasy land Richard Sherman created for her. She doesn’t even realize he’s thinking those things. All she wants is a good night’s sleep.

And miraculously, in spite of his overt lecherousness, The Girl actually enjoys his company and ends up making one of the all time best speeches in movie history concerning what women (at least nice women) actually want:

How do you know what a pretty girl wants? You and your imagination! You think every girl’s a dope! A pretty girl goes to a party and there’s some guy – a great big lug in a fancy striped vest, strutting around like a tiger, giving you that “I’m so handsome you can’t resist me” look. And from this, she’s supposed to fall flat on her face. Well she doesn’t fall on her face.

But there’s another guy in the room. Way over in the corner. Maybe he’s kind of nervous and shy – perspiring a little. First you look past him, but then you sort of sense he’s gentle and kind and worried. And he’ll be tender with you. Nice and sweet. That’s what’s really exciting!

After I heard this the first time, I stood up in my living room and clapped. It was singularly refreshing to finally hear a beautiful woman strike a blow for being treated with care: “tender, nice and sweet.” Yes, please.

So, in the end, I discovered that The Seven Year Itch is actually a hilarious look at how men relate to women. Even the all the awkwardness, mistakes, miscommunications and misunderstandings that can arise just from two people meeting make that interaction a worthwhile experience. It’s surprisingly family-oriented and the polar opposite of the unbridled raunch-fest pop-culture would have you believe. Do give it a go, if you’ve yet to see it. It now lives high atop the list of my favorite Marilyn films.

*Evelyn Keyes’ hair in this movie qualifies for most unfair hairdo in a film. It’s a hideous nest of poodle curls that she never did anything to deserve.

**I would also like to address the fact that Richard Sherman is quite the paranoid screwball. He’s a middle-aged, happily married man who incessantly talks to himself and leaps to insane conclusions based on his wild imaginings. Honestly, he’s incredibly lucky his wife hasn’t shipped him off to the looney bin already.


Filed under Movie Review, Rants

Bradford Dillman, Villain Extraordinaire

As you have no doubt realized by now, I am a staunch supporter of the creative endeavors of my pals*. Not just because they are my special chums and I love them, but because these gals are enormously talented, each in their own way.

Today I’d like to share The Bradford Dillman honorary blogathon – the annual project of my dear friend The Millie. This year’s collection of posts rallies under the moniker: Bradford Dillman: A Jazzier Kind of Noir. Don’t know who Bradford Dillman is or why he deserves a blogathon? Well, as the official hostess and organizer of these Bradford festivities, Millie created a short video promotion that is sure to clear up any questions. Have a look:

After laughing till I cried at that hilarious promo, I became determined to participate this year. As I set about searching the filmography of Mr. Dillman, I found a film just tailor-made for a blogathon hosted by The Millie: The Great Gold Conspiracy aka Gold (1974). This is not a film I would typically watch (my main rule is to steer clear of films made after 1968, especially ones from 1969-1979), but I braved Gold for the sake of Bradford Dillman.

Gold takes a harsh look at the complex workings of an African goldmine. Riddled with ulterior motives, back-stabbing, racism and intrigue, the management team of the mine works through a disastrous accident in the first minutes of the film. At the root of all the trouble is none other than our friend Bradford. He has cooked up a plot to sabotage the mine for profit and is determined to see it through. We have fistfights, extra-marital affairs, dirty dealing and two (not just 1, but 2!) mine collapses.

Let’s just do a quick rundown on the vital statistics here:

1. Bradford Dillman in a prominent villain’s role. Just look at that troubled expression.

2. Interesting, if almost kooky theme and end music. A textbook example of 70’s imagery and sounds, right down to the tune at the end credits with lyrics sung by Jimmy Helms.

3. An almost unbelievable all-star cast.

Roger Moore in full James Bond mode – almost always found in carelessly unbuttoned shirts.

Ray Milland as an American tycoon, complete with cigar and corporate snarl.

John Gielgud, Bradford’s partner in corruption.

Susannah York- too old for pigtails, but sporting them nonetheless. This poor lady really got the shaft from wardrobe on this film. Not a single redeemable outfit in the bunch. In fact, when she dines with Roger Moore, she’s clad in what appears to be a large sheer curtain, gathered strategically.


And the best for last, #4 – Bradford Dillman’s epic final scene…

…death by Rolls Royce. Honestly, this scene (which clocks in at a mere 3 minutes) trumps every other memorable event in the film (including two mine collapses and Susannah York landing a small plane on a tiny dirt road near the mine entrance). The scene only gains epic status because the object of wrath is Bradford Dillman. After he has spent the entire film scheming, double-dealing and lying to all and sundry, he finally meets his end flying through the air in a cloud of dust.

The only drawbacks for me are the needless gore (Oh, you didn’t want to see Roger Moore’s limbs get crushed? So sorry) and the level of risque elements. On my risque scale of 1-10, I’d give this film a 8.5 for situations and language. But prejudice against the 70s and cinematic gripes aside, I must admit Gold is a highly enjoyable film. It won’t be joining the ranks of my DVD shelf any time soon, but I wouldn’t have missed the performance of Bradford Dillman for the world. He really is a deliciously evil villain!


Gold is available for viewing on Amazon’s Instant Video or free on YouTube. (To see Bradford’s incredible final scene, watch from 1:51:00. Susannah’s curtain dress is at 43:00.)

*In case you don’t know, my pals are Kate, Millie, Nicole & Sarah


Filed under Movie Review

Movie Review: Love Letters (1945)

Redesigned movie poster created by Casey Koester - all rights reserved. Copyright 2009.(redesigned movie poster by yours truly – ©2009)

At first glance, 1945’s Love Letters appears to be a glossy, run-of-the-mill wartime love story. Starring Joseph Cotten and Jennifer Jones in their first romantic pairing (a full 3 years before Portrait of Jennie), the film is a mesmerizing, perplexing, layered work that defies genre categorization. The love story is definitely there, but the film also has elements of Noir, straight up mystery and courtroom drama.

The tale begins innocently enough – when a handsome, arrogant, unlettered solider named Roger Morland (Robert Sully) meets a girl he wishes to impress (Jennifer Jones) he enlists his comrade in arms, Alan Quinton (Joseph Cotten) to write love letters to the girl in his name. Alan agrees, against his better judgement, and finds a kindred spirit in Victoria. The two share a friendship that is unlike anything he has known before. When the war ends, Alan and Roger part company and lose track of each other, but Alan never forgets the sweet, understanding girl who corresponded with him as he masqueraded as Roger. When Alan’s aunt passes away and wills her lonely country cottage to him, he takes the opportunity to spend time by himself to sort out the happenings of the war, especially his feelings for Victoria. But it just so happens this cottage is located near the small English village where Alan sent the letters to Victoria, so he embarks on a mission to find out what happened to her and Roger. And he isn’t prepared for what he uncovers.

The supporting cast list reads like a Who’s Who of character actors: Cecil Kellaway, Gladys Cooper, Reginald Denny, Anita Louise and (my personal favorite) Ann Richards. Ann Richards plays Victoria’s calm, wise and mysteriously prophetic friend Dilly – a character with some of the best lines in the whole film. Anita Louise is Alan’s social climbing girlfriend whose attitude about his wartime hardships is surprisingly cold, detached and uncaring. It’s an impressive performance that deserves more appreciation and recognition. It astounded me the first time I saw it because I’m used to seeing Anita Louise as a loveable, sweet-tempered girl.

The original novel entitled Pity My Simplicity was written by Christopher Massie in 1944. When Paramount decided to make the book into a film, Ayn Rand took on the task of writing the screenplay. Yes, you read that right – Ayn Rand of Objectivism, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged fame. She spent a few years in Hollywood working as a screenwriter for Hal Wallis’ production company while she wrote the screenplay for The Fountainhead (source). Because I’m a big fan of the film, I decided to hunt down Chris Massie’s book and find out how much of the plot was his writing. After all, if the story I liked was his, it was a good bet his other works would be worth reading.

Well, Ayn Rand said it best: “The novel on which the picture was based was a holy mess.” There isn’t a bit of understatement in that sentiment. Chris Massie’s novel is full of superfluous supporting characters who muddy the plot and make it impossible to follow. The Joseph Cotten character lacks any sort of appeal. He is selfish, self-pitying, childish and even worse, his name in the book is Maurice. The novel is needlessly tear-jerky, to the point of being laughable. A long scene involving a mirrored-wall room filled with pillows and balloons (mercifully omitted in the screenplay) qualifies as gibberish. And the ending infuriated me to such an extent, I fumed and raved about the injustice of it for a full hour. If I had read the book before seeing the film, I would have avoided the film at all costs. I realized that the parts of the film I enjoyed the most – the brilliant, insightful dialogue about life, love and human relations – were all Ayn Rand’s additions. She eliminated the characters who confused the story, created the role for Cecil Kellaway (his character is a woman in the book) and bolstered the Dilly character into the strong, confident woman I admire.

When the film premiered, critics took an instant dislike to the effort. Bosley Crowther (what a name!) writing for the New York Times dismissed the film as “sentimental twaddle,” pronounced William Dieterle’s direction as “mushy and pretentious” and described Jennifer Jones’ performance as “a tipsy high school school girl who has smelled the cork once too often and is all giggly and loose at the joints.” Hmm. Sour grapes, Mr. Crowther?

Despite Mr. Crowther’s scathing opinion, Love Letters remains in an honored place at the top of my favorite films list ever since I first saw it on TCM years ago. The combination of the stellar cast, engaging plot and memorable lines keeps me coming back to it over and over again.

Little Extras

The song Love Letters (sung by Dick Haymes above) does not appear with lyrics in the final print of the film, but this version was released the month after the film and rose to #11 on the Billboard chart.

Be on the lookout for the first scene where Joseph Cotten writes a letter. The handwriting pictured is rumored to belong to David O. Selznick himself. (Screencap above belongs to Jacqueline T. Lynch of Another Old Movie Blog. Check out her fascinating in-depth post on Love Letters here.)

TCM is playing Love Letters again for the first time since I recorded it – tonight (Saturday, January 21, 10pm EST). Set your recorders folks – don’t miss this under appreciated gem!


Filed under Movie Review

Movie Review: Appointment with Danger (1951)

At first flicker, Appointment with Danger looks like a boilerplate low-budget Noir thriller from the 50s. Enjoyable and mildly exciting, but nothing to write a blog post about. However, after you survive the credits adorned with the postal seal and a short propaganda piece touting the Postal Inspectors as saviors of the world, you realize this is no ordinary B-picture. You’re dropped in a cheap hotel room where a fiendish crime is taking place, illuminated only with the intervals of a flashing sign. Cue the fadeout and our two crooks from the hotel room are making a getaway aided by a fast roadster and torrents of rain. But who are these crooks? You may well ask:

That’s right – Henry Morgan and Jack Webb, aka Gannon and Friday of Dragnet fame. As it turns out, the dynamic duo of 50s crime fighting boast a secret past they never divulged in their fervent search for “the facts” later in life. As it happens, the two of them see quite a bit of action on the wrong side of the law in Gary, Indiana.

En route to dispose of their dastardly hotel deed, George (Harry Morgan) stops to aid a nun-in-distress with her obstreperous umbrella while Joe (Jack Webb) attempts to hide from the nun’s percipient gaze. But alas, Morgan and Webb just weren’t cut out for the thug-life. Their victim in the hotel room turns out to be a postal inspector (which means ALAN LADD is coming to get them) and worse still, the Umbrella Nun remembers them both (despite Webb’s valiant efforts to melt into the shadows). As Morgan and Webb discover later, the habited lady in distress is no ordinary nun.

The hero of Film Noir himself, Mr. Alan Ladd (do be sure to note his fabulous hair – this is the kind of hair that falls down over his eye at strategic moments to melt a girl’s heart) is hard-boiled postal inspector Al Goddard. He’s as cynical as they come, and even doubts the integrity of the Umbrella Nun (Phyllis Calvert). In the course of the investigation, he encounters Jan Sterling as a gangster’s moll. She’s not to be missed.How to Wear a Fedora 101. Take notes, fellas.

Okay, no more spoilers on the plot, I promise. Aside from the startling cast choices and Alan Ladd appeal, Appointment with Danger holds another element of interest for me. Some of the action takes place in a Midwestern town I once inhabited:The idea of Alan Ladd calmly leaping off freight trains in a town I once called home is pretty darn thrilling, I must admit. The shot of him above with the Junction sign is not in the Midwest. The mountains in the distance are undoubtedly somewhere closer to the Californian coast. But the shot on the platform, with the distinctive station on the left? That one IS a Midwestern town; the one where I maintained an address for a time.

This is the view of the station from the street. Alan Ladd is pictured from the train side of the station, of which photos seem to be impossible to find. But if you look at the roof line of the train side of the building, you see it has the plain peak, as in the screenshot. And the distinctive arched window with decorative contrasting detail at the top is the same, too. The taller structure in the screenshot does not exist today so far as I can tell, but it may have been a building next to the station that has since been torn down. The station is now a reception hall for weddings and events.

How’s that for some Hollywood in my hometown?

Be sure and check out Steve-O’s fabulous review of this film with a more complete plot analysis.

Watch Appointment with Danger for yourself: Netflix, Amazon.


Filed under Movie Review, Noir

You’re a better man than I am…

Hello my dears! I’m thrilled to be continuing the film review chain started by Wendymoon of Movie Viewing Girl today (and Cary, Victor & Doug are just as thrilled as I am!).

Look at our chain so far:

Link #1: The Women (1939) by Wendymoon.
Link #2: Private Lives (1931) by Kate Gabrielle.
Link #3: Letty Lynton (1944) by KC.
Link #4: Madame Curie (1944) by Amanda Cooper.
Link #5: Monkey Business (1952) by Sally

and Link #6: Gunga Din (1939) by Casey – me!

The rules of the chain state that each film must be linked to the previous one by actor, actress, director, theme, or some other factor. My link to Monkey Business is Cary Grant and he brings us to Gunga Din.

The story opens with our trio battling and flattening a rival regiment in a bar fight. Soldiers are thrown from windows, rolled down stairs and have bottles cracked over their noggins. It’s a whirlwind scene that sets the lightening pace for the film which never stops straight to the end. The overall themes are friendship, duty and love with duty and love clashing as DFJ tries to mix the two. The plot seems predictable enough as the film begins, but I think you’ll be surprised by the twists and turns and where the boys finally end up. Remember Cary Grant’s slightly unscrupulous sidekick in His Girl Friday? He makes an appearance in this film, but not at all how you would expect!

One of the reasons I chose Gunga Din is of course because it stars my eternal crush Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. I was *shocked, shocked* (in my best Claude Rains voice) to find that my dear honorary niece Millie has not seen it yet! Even though she has promised faithfully to watch it soon, I thought I’d give her some encouragement. So in true Millie-esque fashion, my alternate title for this post is:

Why Millie Should Watch Gunga Din, NOW!

Reason #1: the cast.

Starring DFJ, Cary Grant and Victor McLaglen, Gunga Din is the ultimate adventure spectacle with enough action and exotic scenery to satisfy even a hardcore Black Swan fan like Miss Millie. And besides, this is my beloved Douglas Fairbanks, Jr at the height of his handsomeness. Honestly. Judge for yourself. I think there are few men who could don a form-fitting white uniform and lend it as much grandeur as DFJ does:

Cary Grant speaks throughout the film with a cockney accent, a stark contrast to the suave, sophisticated accent we know him for now. Other stellar attractions in the cast are Sam Jaffe, Joan Fontaine (more on her in a moment…) and Cecil Kellaway in a bit role.

I think Sam Jaffe ought to have the nickname of “The Chameleon”. He was one of the most versatile actors in classic Hollywood, bringing life to the insane Grand Duke Peter in The Scarlet Empress, the humble Indian water boy in our film and the hardened master criminal in The Asphalt Jungle. It took me several years and many viewings of Gunga Din and The Asphalt Jungle to finally realize Sam Jaffe was the same man in both. Oh and interesting fun fact: Sam Jaffe was 47 years old when he played the role of Din.

Reason #2: Cary Grant’s jail scene (pictured above)

No matter how many times I’ve treated myself to a viewing of Gunga Din, I never tire of watching Cary Grant connive his way out of Military Prison with the help of Gunga Din. I’m not giving away anything else, but I guarantee you won’t be able to keep a straight face when you watch it.

Reason #3: The Ball (pictured above)

While unsuspecting ladies waltz gracefully with our boys, Cary & Victor are plotting mayhem and hilarity ensues! Poor DFJ is the object of the mission, but he gets a few digs back at them before all is said and done.

Reason #4: Opinion of Emmy (as played by Joan Fontaine)

All right, allow me to begin this reason with a disclaimer: I adore Joan Fontaine. I think she is extremely lovely, her accent is to die for and she always comes off as terribly sweet in her roles. But, I simply can’t bear her in Gunga Din.

You see, a significant part of the plot revolves around her romance with DFJ. She’s a clingy, annoying fiancee who is standing between DFJ and the career he has always wanted. She wants him to marry her, settle down and become a coffee farmer. A coffee farmer! No, it’s just not DFJ.

Well, being that I am a zealous DFJ fan, I wonder if these feelings are merely me being “peanut butter and jealous” (one of Sarah’s phrases as quoted to me by Millie) or if others feel this way too. I’d be most grateful to anyone who’d like to chime in with their thoughts on Emmy.


April 17, 2010 UPDATE: Millie succumbed to Gunga Din fever last night and is now a DFJ convert! :D


And now, we need another link! If you want to add the next link in the chain, here are the rules, as laid out by Wendymoon:

1. Call dibs on doing the next review in the comments. First one to speak up gets it, others will have to wait to join up to the next link in the chain! (Chains usually only link one at a time, after all. It’s not a movie review tree.)

2. Write your own review of another movie (it should be one not yet used in the chain) and post it on your blog. Make sure the link to the previous review is made clear and that you link back to the original post where the chain began (so we can keep track of how the chain grows). The link can be an actor or actress, director, or something more creative (like a theme).

3. Include the rules of how to continue the chain, and let someone else continue it!


Filed under Film Bloggers, Movie Review, Tags & Awards

Musings from a Moonspinner

My dear non-fleshie friends Kate and Millie (newly returned from exciting adventures in Sierra Leone!) have been nagging me for a long time to watch the Hayley Mills dream fest The Moonspinners (1964). Well I finally got my chance to see it (thank you so much, Kate!) and boy oh boy were they right about it’s scathing brilliance! I’ll share some of my reactions with you in a lovely picspam.

^the theme: I watched this over again three times before I actually started the film. Such a marvelous song. I was thrilled to find it on YouTube!

^Joan Greenwood and Michael Davis as Aunt Frances and Alexis. I think Michael Davis is a lot like Kate’s brother. Agree or disagree?

^Eli Wallach as the evil Uncle Stratos. A dramatic switch from the last film I saw him in, Babydoll.

^Once of the first good glimpses of Peter McEnery…isn’t he a dish?

^Hayley was SO lucky!

^The famous pink outfit! Kate, Millie & I find it hugely inspiring. I’m already working on a reproduction version of the top in my head.

^Better view of the shirt. See the amazingness? A button front and crazy tie belt. OH, and see who the other lady is? Irene Papas! I only knew her from Zorba the Greek, so I was glad she actually had lines in this film.

^And an amazing swingy back. I bet you are wondering where the belt is! And notice the red canvas shoes…red and pink…hmm. Normally I wouldn’t attempt such a combination, but Hayley really pulls it off.

^Pete is shot in the shoulder of the arm she’s pulling. He’s in huge pain and she pulls his bad arm?! Hayley! What were you thinking?!

^Eli is either really afraid or he’s been running around in the hot Greek sun too much…

^Lovely crazy cats! There are tons of them!

^Well, you’d run too if cats were hissing at you!

^Wow, Hayley Mills with a rifle! She must really love the guy…

^Wolf in sheep’s clothing, maybe?

^This has got to be one of the craziest scenes of all time: Joan Greenwood riding in a hearse with Hayley and Peter in the back, trying to get through a street celebration and being attacked by bizarre revelers!

^EhHEM! Just when did Hayley learn to drive a speedboat?

^Cats are everywhere in this film! Look at this unbelievable cat bed! Lap of luxury for kitty!

^I was so sad when it ended. Did anyone else think it ended rather abruptly?

I highly recommend The Moonspinners, if you get a chance to watch it. It is on DVD (thankfully, and only because it was a Disney movie): Amazon, Half, Ebay.

Happy Thanksgiving darlings! :D


Filed under Movie Review, Pick-me-ups

Mini Movie Review: Baby Doll (1956)


Isn't that purse one of the greatest you've ever seen? Her suit is stunning, too!

**WARNING** – Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t seen this film yet, don’t read on!

Well, I had no idea Eli Wallach was so interesting! I’ve only known him from The Magnificent Seven and How to Steal A Million and never thought much of him. But, I finally watched Baby Doll (1956) for the first time this weekend and was blown away by his performance. I found the beginning of his relationship with Carroll Baker slightly odd, but as the film progressed, I was drawn in by his charms. In the end, I found him remarkably appealing! The turning point for me was when his character defends Carroll Baker’s aunt when Karl Malden is needlessly picking on her. I just love a guy who sticks up for the underdog.

And while we’re on the subject of Karl Malden, what a conflicted character he played! Even though the film paints him in a dreadful light, I found it hard to hate him. Instead, he was quite sympathetic.  I thought his only flaw was being weak and allowing his weakness to overtake him. His greatest mistake was resorting to arson. That was plain dumb. Oh and of course, he allowed himself to become addicted to the bottle. Never helpful to getting your life back on track.

All in all I enjoyed the film a lot. My favorite scene is where Eli Wallach jumps up into the tree to hide from Karl Malden and then helps Carroll Baker up too. It’s almost like the two of them share something so special, nothing Karl Malden can do will effect them in any way. They just sit up in their tree, safe – high above him and his depravity. Quite fascinating.

(Many thanks to Raquelle for making it impossible for me to avoid this film any longer. I’m so glad you prodded me!)

**11/9/09 edit**On DVD links (thanks to judith for reminding me!): Amazon US, Amazon UK, — These all seem to be Region 1 encoded. It looks like this is the only format Baby Doll has been released in. :(


Filed under Film Bloggers, Movie Review

Movie Review: Public Enemies (2009)

public enemiesMyrna Loy, Clark Gable and William Powell appearing on the big screen in my local theatre… gosh, this is the stuff of dreams.  Something I never, ever imagined would actually happen to me. So, when I was seated in said theatre next to my brother and surrounded by a typical modern matinee audience, I nearly jumped out of my seat with the thrill of seeing Myrna, Clark and Bill flashing onscreen before me. The sight of the trio was well worth the six and half dollar admission price alone.

Now, our three old friends don’t appear until Public Enemies (2009) is nearly over, so I had better discuss the rest of the film, too. My expectations were probably outrageously high for Public Enemies. Aside from the presence of Christian Bale (an eternal favorite of mine!), Public Enemies is set in the early 1930’s, with the promise of all the accompanying fabulous music, clothes and cars. This is a time period I am well acquainted with and can usually spot holes when modern filmmakers try to recreate it. Overall, I was quite impressed with the treatment of one of my beloved historical haunts.

Such lovely clothes! Lots of sweaters and long skirts for the ladies, all of which I’d happily wear myself. I saw some terrific hats, too. The men’s suits are spot on – form fitting and impeccably cut. Christian Bale’s were especially good. Johnny Depp‘s clothes were more casual, but still wonderful. He wore some amazing Harold Lloyd style sunglasses that were very becoming.

Speaking of Mr. Depp, I’ve got a slight admission about him: I’ve never been able to stand him. The Pirates of the Caribbean films, while truly entertaining, did nothing to increase his appeal in my estimation. Actually, he rather creeped me out. I just found it impossible to appreciate his efforts as an actor. In light of these feelings, I was genuinely surprised how much I liked his character in Public Enemies. It’s a crazy admission because Johnny Depp plays John Dillinger, the notorious Public Enemy #1.

Public Enemies begins with John Dillinger breaking out of prison and follows him through his short-lived career, ending when he is gunned down by FBI agents outside the theatre where he had just seen Manhattan Melodrama (1934). Christian Bale plays Melvin Purvis, the capable special agent assigned to catch Dillinger by J. Edgar Hoover. Christian plays the character with a Texan accent (I think, don’t quote me) which is charming and remarkably good, especially considering he hails from Wales. My one objection about him: he wasn’t onscreen nearly enough! The role of Melvin Purvis is actually a supporting part. It should have been beefed up for him, in my humble opinion.

Marion Cotillard plays Billie Frenchette, the honest hat check girl who falls in love with Dillinger. The love affair between Dillinger and Billie is based in mutual affection and consequently makes for a highly believable on-screen teaming. It reminds me of the tender love stories portrayed in the classic films we all adore. This romance makes the impending doom of John Dillinger even harder to take as the film goes on. It becomes quite sad because as a viewer, you actually identify with John Dillinger and want to see him living happily-ever-after when the end credits roll.

I’ve got two beefs with the film overall. First, the directing style. The camera moves in short jerky spasms throughout the entire film. I think it is supposed to give the audience the sense of participating in each of the scenes, instead of only watching, but it fails miserably. It’s hard to visually focus on the actors because the camera moves so fast. The identification shots of some of the supporting characters are ridiculously short and make it hard to follow the sub plots.

My other beef with Public Enemies was the gore level. Yeah, I know this is a modern film, and it’s competing with all the dreadful blood fests that pass for movies nowadays. I understand that. I still think the gore level was too high. Every time someone was shot (which was often) the camera caught the impact and logical aftermath. Of course, it’s true that when people are shot they bleed. But must we be forced to see it every single time? Call me sheltered, but the gun battles of the Warner Brother’s gangster films from the 30’s are quite enough for me. I found the lingering shots of battle wounds ironic and puzzling, considering the director did not provide similarly timed shots of the actors themselves for the sake of story development.

Final thoughts? All in all, I enjoyed Public Enemies. I watch films for the costumes and scenery as much as the story, so I found plenty to be interested in here. The story is a good one, too – engaging and interesting in spite of the fact we all know how it turns out in the end. As for the gore, I close my eyes tight for all such scenes. It’s a wonderful method I’ve used for years to get me through the skin-crawly parts of popular films. I highly recommend it. :)

If you’re a fan of the 30’s, I think you’ll like Public Enemies. The scenery and cars are beautiful. The 1930’s are brought to vivid life right before your eyes. And, hey – how can anyone pass up the chance to see Christian Bale in a fedora? ;)


Filed under Movie Review

Movie Review: 2,000 Women

Before I go on and on about what an amazingly brilliant film 2,000 Women (1944) is (and I am going to do that, I promise), let me start by celebrating its availability on DVD.  You really can buy it both in the US and UK!  I’ll provide the links for you at the bottom of this post.  I feel like such a creep when I recommend a film and get everyone all excited about seeing it, only to break the bad news that it’s not on DVD.  Although, I don’t want to stop reviewing films that are not on DVD, since the interest we create in them with our blogs could very possibly push them down the DVD road.  Anyway, on to the review!

2000 women2,000 Women is a British made film starring Phyllis Calvert, Flora Robson and Patricia Roc, to name a few.  It tells the story of 2,000 British women who were interned in a French hotel by the Nazis during World War II.  The film focuses on a small tight knit group of women who are friends because they each have a highly determined personality.  Patricia Roc (sitting on the desk above, with the wireless transmitter to her ear) is the main character: a quiet, soft spoken girl named Rosemary Brown.  Phyllis Calvert (far left, sitting on the bed with a white shirt) is Freda Thompson, a strong, smart sophisticated woman.  Flora Robson (on the floor, listening to the wireless with her back to the camera) is Muriel Manningford, an old style English society woman who takes no guff off the Nazis.  There are many, many more women in the film but it would take ages to list them all and do them justice.

Rosemary and Freda become fast friends in the beginning of the film and end up sharing a room.  The film follows them as they get settled in, learn the ways of the hotel and meet the other inmates.  Amazingly, all the women in the film have incredible hair throughout it, which is a little hard to comprehend, since they had no access to a beauty salon.  The clothes are superb, too.  Lots of slim slacks and collared shirts.  And, in the final scene, all the gals have amazing evening dresses (particularly Phyllis Calvert).

The drama of this film is brought in by a group of RAF fliers who bail out of their plane in the vicinity of the hotel.  The men find their way to the hotel, barging in on several of the women in the middle of the night.  Our lady patriots band together to protect the fliers and try to help them escape.  It’s not an easy task, being that no one knows who to trust and the Nazis lurk around every corner.  There are several surprising plot twists when the ladies find out who their friends really are.  The pilot of the doomed plane, Jimmy Moore, splendidly played by James McKechnie, is the love interest of Patricia Roc’s character Rosemary.  I’m an awful sucker for love stories, and this one is touching, believable and a joy to watch.

You  may be wondering how I managed to see this lovely film.  It played on TCM on September 15, last year in the middle of the night…  Yeah, I just resurrected it.  It sat in my homemade VHS collection for that long.  It’s shameful, I know.

Okay, if you’d like to see this British gem for yourself, you’ve got two options:

Movies Unlimited

Movies Unlimited

The Movies Unlimited version is now on sale for 9 bucks! (House of 1000 Women is the US title) (Region 2)

The version can be bought new or used. I did check Netflix, and can’t find it listed there.  Although, you Netflix gurus may be able to find it.  I hope so!

I came across some terrific links while looking for photos for this post, so I’ll share them with you:

– A wonderful Patricia Roc fan site, complete with loads of lovely photos.

– The Britmovie page for 2,000 Women.

(There’s an Alastair Sim poll on the main page, for all his fans out there.  Kate – this means you. :) )

I highly recommend this film.  It’s fun, interesting, romantic, suspenseful and just plain enjoyable.  As my old pal Bobby Osborne said, it’s patriotic propaganda.  The patriotic propaganda films of the 40’s are some of the best films of that era.  2,000 Women is no exception.

**1/9/13 Edit – 2000 Women is now available on Netflix streaming! Thanks so much Ivan for pointing it out.**


Filed under Film Bloggers, Movie Review