List List Bang Bang

April 2, 2010

2010 (April to June)- Screening Log

Filed under: 2010,Screening Log — misterjiggy @ 3:39 pm

June 2010

 Last Updated July 5, 2010 

 

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  • Piccadilly (1929 – E.A. Dupont) pro (DVD)
  • The Man With a Movie Camera (1929 – Dziga Vertov) pro (DVD)
  • Our Hospitality (1923 – John Blystone, Buster Keaton) PRO (DVD)
  • Days and Nights in the Forest (1970 – Satyajit Ray) PRO (DVD-R)
  • Visages d’enfants (1925 – Jaques Feyder) pro (cable)
  • A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929 – Anthony Asquith) PRO (DVD)
  • The Italian Straw Hat (1928 – Rene Clair) PRO(-) (DVD)
  • The Offence (1973 – Sidney Lumet) pro(-) (DVD-R)
  • The Love Trap (1929 – William Wyler) pro(-) (DVD)
  • The Lodger (1927 – Alfred Hitchcock) pro (DVD)
  • In the Electric Mist (2009 – Bertrand Tavernier) mixed(+) (cable)
  • Violence at Noon (1966 – Nagisa Oshima) PRO (DVD)
  • Drag Me to Hell (2009 – Sam Raimi) mixed (cable)
  • Pandora’s Box (1929 – G.W. Pabst) PRO (DVD)
  • The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968 – Robert Aldrich) con (cable)

Aldrich is no stranger to letting seasoned Hollywood actresses let it all hang out in the slew of “women’s pictures” he made over his career, with such high octane emoting coming from the likes of Bette Davis (Baby Jane), Joan Crawford (Autumn Leaves), Olivia De Havilland (Sweet Charlotte) Ida Lupino (The Big Knife) and Beryl Reid (Sister George).  Here in this personal project (bankrolled by the money and good will generated by the success of The Dirty Dozen) Aldrich requires his star Kim Novak, in a challenging pseudo dual-role (with more than a hint of Vertigo), to give a fearless performance. The problem is that Novak doesn’t do fearless – her best performances thrive on an insecurity and unease (see Picnic, Middle of the Night, Vertigo and, particularly, Strangers When We Meet).  Novak – perfectly cast for the timid wannabe actress Elsa character – can’t pull off Lylah Clare the deceased sex bomb starlet who seemingly possesses Elsa from beyond the grave.  Watching a brasserie clad Novak stroll across the lawn of a Hollywood estate reciting inane dialogue all while employing a husky Bavarian accent suited for a drag queen is the height of absurdity. The result is a Razzie worthy career killer.  Though it’s worth noting that with the script, structure, pace and horrible flashback effects not even the best portrayal of Elsa/Lylah could save this turkey. A typecast Peter Finch and Ernest Borgnine (who previously starred in Aldrich’s Flight of the Phoenix) offer little able support to the overmatched Novak.  In the end it is watchable and occasionally even fun – fodder for the camp cultists.  I’m a fan of a number of Aldrich films and have typically equated him with being a Sam Fuller type of director, but it seems that the more I see, the more I’m noticing Fulleresque flaws without the balance of the sizeable Fulleresque merits.

  • Northwest Passage (1940 – King Vidor) pro (cable)
  • The Deadly Affair (1966 – Sidney Lumet) mixed (cable)
  • Manufactured Landscapes (2006 – Jennifer Baichwal) pro (airplane)
  • Invictus (2009 – Clint Eastwood) pro (airplane)
  • Date Night (2010 – Shawn Levy) mixed(+) (cable)
  • Pleasures of the Flesh (1965 – Nagisa Oshima) pro (DVD)
  • The Whisperers (1967 – Bryan Forbes) pro (cable)
  • Frisco Jenny (1932 – William Wellman) pro (DVD)
  • Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962 – Ralph Nelson) pro (cable)
  • Mr. Lucky (1943 – H.C. Potter) pro(+) (cable)
  • Roughly Speaking (1945 – Michael Curtiz) pro (cable)
  • There’s Always Tomorrow (1956 – Douglas Sirk) PRO (DVD)

I rank this slightly ahead of Sirk’s more emotionally amplified and colorful (literally/figuratively) film Written on the Wind. If it’s a “woman’s picture” it’s a man’s woman’s picture. The subject matter is on the surface so banal or routine that it’s a real marvel how “true” (if not profound) it all seems; especially when pragmatism and romanticism collide in a sort of personal suburban tragedy, all in 84 minutes and in black and white. It’s like Sirk took the kids taking a parent for granted angle that plays a memorable but small part in All that Heaven Allows and magnified it. Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck are so exceptional (particularly MacMurray) you completely forget their earlier more iconic paring (Double Indemnity). Though I think it’s a slightly lesser film, Stanwyck plays a similar sort of role in Sirk’s All I Desire – though she’s ultimately more prominent. Those who take Sirk’s 50s work at Universal as campy (I’m not one though I can see the inclination) will have trouble finding much camp in either All I Desire or There’s Always Tomorrow. The unhappy/happy ending was to me reminiscent of the one in The Reckless Moment (plus there’s a Joan Bennett connection) – another great film with a surface simplicity of plot hiding complex character emotions.

  • Yesterday Girl (1966 – Alexander Kluge) pro(+) (DVD)

Both a stylistically and tonally adventurous film that reminded me more of the Jean-Luc Godard, Dusan Makavejev and the Czech New Wave films of the period than it did to the other German New Wave films that would follow.  I could see little kinship in style (though maybe not attitude) in the early works of Fassbinder, Herzog, Schlöndorf and Wenders or the contemporary work of East German filmmaker Frank Beyer.  In Yesterday Girl, the director’s sister Alexandra convincingly plays the titular lost soul, an adrift and guileless refugee in her own post war politically divided land.  An ambiguous politically blank but strangely reliant person mislead or let down by every person, idea and institution she comes across.  An episodic film that is as much a lament as it is a satire, and the bits of picaresque and black humor do little to dull the political bite and scathing social commentary.  Ed Howard, Acquarello and Sean Axmaker’s reviews of the DVD release available on line get to the heart of it.  Dense, ambitious and surprisingly accessible, seems like essential stuff to me.

  • All I Desire (1953 – Douglas Sirk) pro (DVD)
  • Kameradschaft (1931 – G.W. Pabst) pro (VHS)
  • Crazy Heart (2009 – Scott Cooper) mixed (DVD)
  • Land Without Bread (1933 – Luis Bunuel) pro(+) (on-line)
  • A Day in the Country (1936 – Jean Renoir) PRO (on-Line)
  • Gold Diggers of 1937  (1936 – Lloyd Bacon) mixed(+) (cable)
  • The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959 – Ranald MacDougall) mixed(+) (DVD-R)

An interesting well made (if unevenly acted) film produced by star Harry Belefonte, the same year his production company made the solid heist film Odds Against Tomorrow.  A once daring but compromised film that time has reduced to little more than a mere curiosity.  Notionally a science fiction film that leverages cold war paranoia relating to the extermination of the human race; but it’s ultimately a racial intolerance morality play.  A three hander (Belefonte, Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrer are the only actors who appear) acted out on the barren streets of New York, a city made desolate as the result of an apparent worldwide atomic catastrophe obliterating virtually all human life.  Danger to the three survivors comes not from drifting nuclear clouds (On the Beach, also from 1959), vampiric mutants (The Last Man on Earth / The Omega Man / I Am Legend) or desperate cannibals (The Road); but from a base sexual rivalry. Life and death struggles reduced to love triangle melodrama, thankfully there are no pesky rotting corpses to interrupt Belefonte’s once forbidden (he’s black, she’s white) courtship of Stevens’ character, only Mel Ferrer making like an entitled sexual predator.  It’s all more Knife in the Water tension than The Day After despair, with any sci-fi possibilities of the story completely diffused. Somewhat absurd, often unconvincing and too blatant to be seen as truly allegorical (particularly in hindsight); but in the context of its time it has a certain undeniable impact.  After all, this was pre-civil rights movement 1959 an environment where the film was boycotted in parts of the American South and in typical act of producer self-censorship Belefonte and Stevens, despite some talk, do little more than hold hands in desexualized friendship (shades of Belefonte and Joan Fontaine in the equally compromised Island in the Sun) (It’s also noteworthy that in real life Inger Stevens felt compelled to hide her 1961 marriage to a black man (Ike Davis) so as to protect her career).  Unfortunately, in the film there’s no context for the characters’ personal racial issues; only the then prevailing societal norms it seems; and in the end it resembles a Rod Serling teleplay more than a nuanced living breathing human story.  The director is probably best known for his screenwriting work for Warner Brothers in the 40s (e.g. Mildred Pierce). 

 

May 2010

 

 

 

 

 

  • Maid of Salem (1937 – Frank Lloyd) pro(-) (DVD)
  • The Home and the World (1984 – Satyajit Ray ) pro (DVD-R)
  • The Front Page (1931 – Lewis Milestone) pro (cable)
  • The Girl on the Train (2009 – André Téchiné) pro (DVD)
  • No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1948 – St. John Legh Clowes) con(+) (DVD)

Can’t remember the last time I rented a film with an IMDB user rating as low as this one (currently 4.6); but how can a curious one resist this once scandalous “Brit Noir” that New York’s Film Forum, dubbed “the most bizarre British film ever“.  Also of interest because James Hadley Chase’s 1939 condemned smash hit source novel (the lurid details of which are itemized by George Orwell in a memorable 1944 essay) was also adapted into Robert Aldrich’s sleazy The Grissom Gang.  All in all it’s not as bad as advertised.  While the plotting is absurd, the performances range from flat to strange, and the direction and editing, despite the occasional hint of inspiration/ambition, is largely sloppy and indifferent; the movie always remains watchable.  The film is set in the American gangster underworld, but the cast is entirely British and I’d say some of the New Yawk accents need some work there guvnor.

  • I Was Born, But … (1932 – Yasujiro Ozu) PRO (DVD)
  • Tetro (2009 – Francis Ford Copppola) mixed(+) (Blu-Ray)
  • Steamboat Round the Bend (1935 – John Ford) pro (DVD)
  • Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935 – Busby Berkeley) pro (cable)
  • One Deadly Summer (1983 – Jean Becker) pro (DVD)

A mystery thriller set in a lovely sun baked provincial town in Southern France; but there’s little Pagnolian warmth in the tone, more like the bitterness and edge of a Clouzot or a Chabrol.  I knew little about this once lauded movie directed by Jacques Becker’s son Jean and for the first 30 odd minutes I’ll admit to being puzzled as to why a 28 year old Isabelle Adjani, who by 1983 had garnered an Oscar nomination (The Story of Adele H.) and both Cannes and César wins (Possession and Quartet), would star as a sort of typical femme fatale in a nice looking but seemingly run of the mill psycho-sexual genre thriller.  But then, out of the blue, the narrative perspective changes from the notional protagonist (singer Alain Souchon) to Adjani’s character, a nineteen year old known as Elle, a child-woman that is equal parts wide eyed naïf, sexualized manipulator and crazed avenging black widow. The perspective (and accompanying voice over narration) continues to shift to different characters in the story (though not with a regimented structure of a Rashomon); but make no mistake its Adjani’s show the entire way, and no one can play kooky sexy like Adjani.  Flashbacks are layered in to add to the intrigue, complexity and occasional bizarre plot turn; but Becker and company have difficulty maintaining the momentum built up until resolution of the central mystery; though the downbeat denouement is certainly interesting.

  • Japanese Girls at the Harbor (1933 – Hiroshi Shimizu) pro(+) (DVD)
  • Mammoth (2009 – Lukas Moodysson) mixed(+) (DVD)
  • Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933 – Mervyn Leroy) PRO(-) (cable)
  • Fanny (1932 – Marc Allégret) pro (cable)
  • Lovely & Amazing (2001 – Nicole Holofcener) mixed(+) (DVD)
  • Grown Up Movie Star (2009 – Adriana Maggs) mixed (DVD)
  • Run of the Arrow (1957 – Sam Fuller) pro(+) (cable)
  • Mata Hari (1931 – George Fitzmaurice) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Profumo di donna (1974 – Dino Risi) pro (DVD)

Even watching this Italian film some 18 years after the release of the Al Pacino star vehicle remake it’s difficult not to run the comparisons of the two films through your head.  Although I think I ultimately prefer Risi’s original, which is far funnier, crass, downbeat and uncompromising; I have some sympathy for the Hollywood bean counters charged with turning Profumo di donna into a viable Americanized commercial vehicle.  Whereas Pacino’s blind Lieutenant Colonel seems merely gruff & averse to social niceties, Vittorio Gassman’s blind Captain shades a lot closer to an irredeemable libidinous rogue – a misanthropic letch.  As far as the travelling companions go, while Chris O’Donnell’s student is all US eastern seaboard prep school decorum, Alessandro Momo’s cadet is decidedly more earthy and sexualized.  In the end Pacino gets a heroic save the day redeeming moment (in the remake’s major deviation from the original) getting to grandstand in front of a disciplinary tribunal; whereas an introspective Gassman merely collapses after a botched double suicide, exhausted by rage, self-loathing and cowardice.  Risi’s film is a sometimes funny, sometimes moving, character study, but it’s hardly sentimental and not much of a crowd pleaser.

  • Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (2009 – Werner Herzog) pro (DVD)
  • Fury At Showdown (1957 – Gerd Oswald) pro(-) (DVD)

Director Oswald is subject to occasional rumblings in auteurist land and watching this brief (75 minutes) low budget quick shot formulaic B Oater one can see why.  Oswald, with the able help of veteran ace DP Joseph LaShelle (best known for his work with Preminger and Wilder), makes every camera set up and movement count, where each shot is meticulously composed with bodies and architecture creating frames within frames and a depth of field of action that serves the economical story.  As is typically the case for these projects with little prep time the story is routine and the acting is no great shakes.  Similar to the Robert Wagner situation in Oswald’s film from the prior year (A Kiss Before Dying), Oswald gets stuck with a pretty boy lead of serviceable acting talent at best (in this case John Derek); but its not fatal.  Think I prefer this to another auteurist B-Movie Western favorite of the period – Joseph H. LewisTerror in a Texas Town.  Also I’d say Fury at Showdown is at least on par with Oswald’s interesting melo-noir from the same year Crime of Passion.

  • Tokyo Chorus (1931 – Yasujiro Ozu) pro (DVD)
  • Walking and Talking (1996 – Nicole Holfcener) pro(-) (DVD)
  • No Highway (1951 – Henry Koster) pro(-) (on-line)
  • Rembrandt (1936 – Alexander Korda) pro (DVD)
  • Onimasa (1982 – Hideo Gosha) pro (DVD)
  • The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (1938 – Anatole Litvak) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Iron Man 2 (2010 – Jon Favreau) con(-) (Theater)
  • Three-Cornered Moon (1933 – Elliott Nugent) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Footlight Parade (1933 – Lloyd Bacon) PRO (DVD)
  • The Blue Angel (1930 – Josef von Sternberg) PRO (cable)
  • Black Legion(1937 – Archie Mayo) pro (DVD)

This hard hitting film contains one of Humphrey Bogart’s best pre-High Sierra performances, here reuniting with Archie Mayo who in the previous year directed him in his key early pre-stardom film The Petrified Forest.  Here Bogie is a factory worker and family man that when passed over for a promotion he assumed he had in the bag becomes despondent and gives in to his baser anti-intellectual anti-foreigner instincts joining a secret society, the racist white-America first “Black Legion”. Intended by Warner Bros. as a torn from the headlines muckraking short and sweet (83m) B unit film, but the dailies soon revealed to the studio brass an A-/B+ result, leading to the addition of at least one Michael Curtiz directed scene.  This film shares some similarities to the later Warner Bros. KKK expose Storm Warning (1951); but what is particularly unique and interesting here is the somewhat sympathetic focus on Bogart’s Frank Taylor character (his Storm Warning equivalent played by Steve Cochran fared much worse).  Black Legion plays more like a character study and cautionary tale than a crime film, never ruling out that their remains a goodness in Frank Taylor despite the atrocities he commits while cloaked in the Klan like robes of the Black Legion (it’s important to note that the Black Legion was in fact not a KKK stand-in (the Klan actually gets a specific reference in the film) but a real organization of the era, a sort of terrorist better business bureau with significant political connections).  The Taylor character comes across as one of many pawns of a larger right wing political machine, a dupe to well heeled gun runners.  Taylor’s descent into unemployment, separation from his wife and son and self-loathing drunken philandering with the town tramp play more like the tragedy of a regular guy than the come-uppance of a budding fascist.  As with most films like this, the end is largely mired in courtroom speechifying; but the final moment featuring the silent parting of Taylor from his wife (a good Erin O’Brien-Moore) is both incredibly downbeat and surprisingly moving.  Bogart shouldn’t have had to wait another 4 years for true stardom.

  • Under the Roofs of Paris (1931 – Réne Clair) pro (DVD)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (1935 – Jack Conway) pro(+) (DVD)
  • Humpday (2009 – Lynn Shelton) pro(-)  (cable)
  • La Marseillaise (1938 – Jean Renoir) mixed(+) (DVD)

 

 

 

 

April 2010

 

  

 

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  • Bushido (1963 – Tadashi Imai) pro (DVD)
  • Internes Can’t Take Money (1937 – Alfred Santell) PRO(-) (DVD)
  • The Call of the Wild (1935 – William Wellman) mixed (DVD)
  • It’s a Wonderful World (1939 – W.S. Van Dyke) mixed(+) (cable)

A screwball trifle and a Ben Hecht throw-away (Nothing Sacred or Twentieth Century this ain’t) redeemed only by the undeniable charm of the principal stars, one in her prime (Claudette Colbert in the year of one of the best screwballs ever Midnight) and the other ascending like a rocket (James Stewart).  Has one of the more unbalanced “meet cute” scenarios you’ll find in a romantic comedy, with Colbert’s runaway poetess witnessing what appears to her to be Stewart’s bare handed cold blooded murder of a water logged police detective.  As with the earlier After the Thin Man, director Van Dyke was clearly not afraid of imbuing the boyish Stewart with a little edge.  Stewart’s ruff and tumble borderline misogynist private detective in this one is closer to Clark Gable machismo than to Boy Ranger leading Mr. (Jefferson) Smith or milk quaffing Cowboy Tom Destry Jr.  Worthwhile if the thought of Stewart and Colbert on the run in funny glasses sounds like an amusing enough time waster.

  • Bordertown (1935 – Archie Mayo) mixed(+) (DVD-R)
  • À nous la liberté (1931 – Réne Clair) pro(+) (cable)
  • Gambit (1966 – Ronald Neame) pro (DVD)

A slick, stylish and romantic caper film staring Shirley MacLaine and Michael Caine (in the year of Alfie) making his Hollywood studio release debut.  A sort of mid-60s James Bond-ish film for the date night set. It’s all lightly likeable and crisply paced but it’s the inspired narrative twist at the end of the first third (some 29 minutes in when the previously mute MacLaine actually speaks) that makes this film at all memorable (the movie poster tag line went: “Go ahead – tell the ending – it’s too hilarious to keep secret – but please don’t tell the beginning!”).  In fact the rest of the film is relatively routine in comparison and it never truly catches up to the bang up start.  While there’s more wit and charm than belly laughs, more intrigue than thrills or suspense and the romantic motivations of the stars are more assumed than properly flushed out, I still preferred this to other frothy heist films of the era like Topkapi and How to Steal a Million.  Not at the level of a Charade though.  MacLaine, as deceptively intuitive Eurasian dancehall girl Nicole Chang, gets lots of costume changes and looks terrific in a variety of Jean Louis gowns.  Recent reports are that the Coen Brothers remake efforts have been derailed.

  • Prisoner 13 (1933 – Fernando de Fuentes) mixed(+) (DVD)

Not a great film by any stretch but certainly of interest as an example of a certain type of 30s commercial Mexican cinema not afraid of socio-political comment.  Largely set bound and shot so it resembles a less than insirping early Hollywood sound film but then there are occasional impressive flashes of Eisensteinian montage and other visual dynamism, paticularly towards the end. The convoluted plot (corrupt government official condemns a man to death unaware it is his own son) seems a little worn; but it’s effective as a suspense builder and emotionally compelling.  This film has to have one of the worst (and most perfunctory) “it’s only a dream” endings ever – way worse than those frustrating codas in The Woman in the Window (1944)or The Housemaid (1960).

  • The Four Feathers (1939 – Zoltan Korda) pro (cable)
  • Le Million (1931 – Réne Clair) pro(+) (cable)
  • The Beaches of Agnes (2008 – Agnes Varda) pro(+)(DVD)
  • Precious: Based on … (2009 – Lee Daniels) pro(-) (Blu-Ray)
  • The Blood of a Poet (1930 – Jean Cocteau) pro (DVD)
  • Beeswax (2009 – Andrew Bujalski) mixed(+) (DVD)
  • Tabu (1931 – F.W. Murnau & Robert Flaherty) pro (DVD)
  • The Headless Woman (2008 – Lucrecia Martel) pro (DVD)
  • People on Sunday (1930 – Siodmak x 2, Ulmer & Zinnemann) PRO (-) (DVD-R)

I’ll quote Fernando F. Croce’s capsule review on this sometimes beautiful, almost, remarkable film sprung from the minds of one of the deepest pools of young talent one could imagine (in addition to the 4 “credited directors” above add Billy Wilder and Eugene Schüfftan) : “Images are easy to record, yet emotions are capricious, a cracked record and another pair of girls ending the day and spiking the lyricism with transience. Authorship remains diffuse with so many auteurs, so the movie belongs less to a single person than to an epoch, when Berlin could rank alongside Paris as a dream burg, or perhaps when budding artists could grab a camera and simply take to the streets. So back to work on Monday for these characters, and off to Hollywood for the makers.”   

  • The Informant! (2009 – Steven Soderbergh) pro(-) (DVD)

This strange but true exposé of corporate malfeasance in 1990s middle America is a fascinating exercise in narrative tone.  A light twisty black comedy accented by a playfully old school Marvin Hamlisch score seems to mirror the film’s hero/anti-hero’s (Mark Whitacre as portrayed by Matt Damon) cheerfully deluded mental state.  Corporate collusion (price fixing), embezzlement and fraud are made to seem like mere larks which makes the whole thing, sneakily, rather dark and ominous.  I became more and more uncomfortable with material getting me to laugh at what is so clearly a state of mental illness leading a man to destroy his career and family life.  An unease in the viewer that director Soderbergh seems keenly aware of but unsure what to do with.  The result makes the “experiment” in narrative subjectivity (talk about your unreliable narrators) seem like a bit of a throw away which ultimately offers little satisfaction in a skewering corporate America, government bureaucracy or law enforcement incompetence.  At the heart of it is a story of a seriously ill man packaged as a goofy breezy film – a sort of campy version of The Insider.  Kudos to Matt Damon for not making the cutesy elements of Whitacre’s eccentricities seem too on the nose.  To the extent he can, he plays it pretty straight and the resulting complexity is certainly interesting.  To what end? I’m still not sure; but clearly there is a fine line between inspired experiment in character perspective and a half baked sardonic stunt.

  • Zéro de conduite (1933 – Jean Vigo) pro(+) (DVD-R)
  • Rose Hobart (1936 – Joseph Cornell) mixed (On-Line)
  • Jean Taris, Swimming Champion (1931 – Jean Vigo) mixed(+) (DVD-R)
  • À propos de Nice (1930 – Jean Vigo) pro(+) (DVD-R)
  • The Unsuspected (1947 – Michael Curtiz) pro(-) (DVD-R)
  • The Criminal Code (1931 – Howard Hawks) pro (cable)
  • The Citadel (1938 – King Vidor) pro(-) (cable)
  • It Might Get Loud (2008 – Davis Guggenheim) pro(-) (cable)
  • Of Human Bondage  (1934 – John Cromwell) pro(-) (cable)
  • The Beast of the City (1932 – Charles Brabin) pro(+) (cable)

MGM gives Warner Bros. gangster genre grit a run for its money with this pro-Cop crime flick which leverages the freedom of the “pre” (that is, pre-production code / pre-Miranda rights). The film succeeds more on attitude, provocation and performance than visual style.  Some have equated Walter Huston’s not exactly by the book police commissioner in this film as a Dirty Harry precursor; but he’s not exactly a go-it-alone vigilante with a badge; here he’s got the backing of a larger police force, a sort of army of Harry Callahans. The final shoot out is beyond a “Mexican stand off” – it’s US Civil War combat style – that is, one side marches forward emptying their weapons attempting to exterminate more of the enemy before they inevitable fall to return fire (a sort of The Wild Bunch blaze of glory suicide strategy).  Jean Harlow’s played some memorable sluts in her day (see The Public Enemy & Red Headed Woman) but in this one her saucy moll who has her way with Wallace Ford is truly unforgettable. The story came from W.R. Burnett who penned the novel Little Caesar and many later gangster themed screenplays for classic Hollywood films.

  • The Purchase Price (1932 – William A. Wellman) pro(-) (DVD)
  • Spawn of the North (1938 – Henry Hathaway) pro (DVD-R)

While never quite “realistic” the Alaskan set Spawn of the North is remarkably evocative for a back lot shot film thanks largely to the expert integration of rear projection which fairly convincingly suggests that collapsing icebergs may just crush the fisherman played by George Raft and Henry Fonda (Fonda here suggesting a wide eyed innocence not dissimilar to that he revealed in Hathaway’s The Trail of the Lonesome Pine).  The film rightfully won a Special Oscar for “outstanding achievements in creating special photographic and sound effects”.  A vibrant and fun movie brimming with Russian salmon poachers, drunken newspaper men, frontier justice, Inuit custom, pet seals, dances, folk songs and circumstances whereby childhood loves are renewed and long time allegiances are tested.  At times, particularly early on, the film with its focus on a rugged but eclectic ensemble of personalities and a loose collegial environment seems downright Hawksian; but that’s largely likely because Jules Furthman, who worked on a number of key Howard Hawks helmed films, was one of the screenwriters.  In the frosty fishing village one can see shades of Furthman’s Come and Get It logging camp, his Only Angels Have Wings South American air field or his To Have and Have Not Martinique port.  Each locale a microcosm of a society at a remove from civilization and rules offering both a heightened permissiveness and an intriguing exoticness (a trend that runs through the vast majority of Furthman’s screenwriting efforts).  Hathaway may be sub-Hawks to auteurists; but he’s no slouch.

  • Revanche (2008 – Götz Spielmann) pro (DVD)
  • Moon (2009 – Duncan Jones) pro (DVD)
  • Dr. Ehrlich’s Magic Bullet (1940 – William Dieterle) pro (DVD)
  • The Egg and I (1947 – Chester Erskine) pro(-) (DVD)
  • The Shanghai Gesture (1941 – Josef von Sternberg) mixed (-) (DVD)

  

 

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