TopBilled

TopBilled’s Essentials

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As of now it's exclusively Criterion titles, with no word of expansion. However, there are a few titles that have received the "Criterion treatment", such as remastering, that have not yet been put on disc.

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As of now it's exclusively Criterion titles, with no word of expansion. However, there are a few titles that have received the "Criterion treatment", such as remastering, that have not yet been put on disc.

 

Thanks Larry. My friend just replied back to me. He seems to think the Paramount, Republic and MGM titles will stay on Amazon, but they will just not be "free" any longer for Amazon Prime members. This means there will be rental fees. I guess we will see what happens on September 1st.

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I just looked through the films on my Amazon Prime watch list (I had 16 pages and it took awhile to go through it). All the Paramount films will be leaving Prime; and all the MGM/UA titles are leaving; but a few of the Republic titles will remain. The Kino, Criterion and Fox titles also remain.  

 

There is only one Universal classic on Amazon Prime and it's staying too. I plan to feature it as one of my essentials in October-- the 1943 version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

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I just looked through the films on my Amazon Prime watch list (I had 16 pages and it took awhile to go through it). All the Paramount films will be leaving Prime; and all the MGM/UA titles are leaving; but a few of the Republic titles will remain. The Kino, Criterion and Fox titles also remain.  

 

There is only one Universal classic on Amazon Prime and it's staying too. I plan to feature it as one of my essentials in October-- the 1943 version of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA.

The Criterion copy of "The Wicked Lady" is leaving Prime.

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The Criterion copy of "The Wicked Lady" is leaving Prime.

 

Yes..there are a few exceptions. As I said there are some Republic films not leaving Prime.

 

On September 1st, I will check whether the titles leaving Amazon Prime are going to remain on Amazon with rental fees. 

 

Once I can see exactly what they are doing, I will make a list of everything and create a separate thread about it. I will post the link here for you and others to find it. 

 

In the meantime, this thread will be used to post my essentials. Obviously not all the essentials I review will be available on Amazon Prime. As I stated earlier, some of them will be on TCM's schedule with others available through different home video sources.

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Essential: SCARLET STREET (1945)

 

 

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In SCARLET STREET, Edward G. Robinson is cast as a would-be artist who meets and “saves” a streetwalker played by Joan Bennett. The two stars previously worked together a year earlier in THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW; and this time, they’re remaking a 1931 French film called LA CHIENNE by Jean Renoir.

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The action gets underway as they meet on a rain-soaked city street one night. It doesn’t take long before Robinson is in over his head. He quickly falls into a depraved whirlpool of lust and deception, with Bennett the object of his affections. She’s young, attractive and the complete opposite of his henpecking wife. But she and her boyfriend (Dan Duryea) see an easy target, and they work to mislead Robinson and finagle money out of him at every turn.

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By day Robinson is a cashier; and by night, he’s a Greenwich Village painter. When Bennett finds out he paints, she volunteers to pose for him. They agree to a cozy set-up in an apartment that doubles as his studio and her living quarters. Of course, Robinson’s wife has no idea any of this is going on; and he becomes increasingly attracted to his new subject despite being twice her age. As he takes leave of his senses, Bennett continues to manipulate and take advantage of him. It’s worth pointing out the French title means “The B*tch,” and Bennett plays her to the hilt.

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Unfortunately, he doesn’t figure out what’s happening until it’s too late; and by the time the story reaches its inevitable conclusion, their clandestine relationship has led to his complete self-destruction. A desperate man who had it all suddenly ends up with nothing because of a muse with a bewitching power. But she has strangely inspired his greatest and most lasting work of art.

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SCARLET STREET was directed by Fritz Lang and can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

 
 
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Have that one on DVD. Haven't seen all of The Woman In The Window although that one is considered a somewhat better film. I like this one though and it is a popular one in older movie books if less famous today.

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Have that one on DVD. Haven't seen all of The Woman In The Window although that one is considered a somewhat better film. I like this one though and it is a popular one in older movie books if less famous today.

 

Currently SCARLET STREET has a higher score on the IMDb than THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW.

 

Fritz Lang directed Joan Bennett in a few other films. The first one was MAN HUNT (1941), followed by CONFIRM OR DENY (1941); and the last one was SECRET BEYOND THE DOOR (1947).

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The Criterion copy of "The Wicked Lady" is leaving Prime.

 

Yes, it will not be staying, though several other Criterion films are still available.  

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Theme for September 2016: 50s Westerns

 

Saturday September 3, 2016

CALIFORNIA PASSAGE (1950), starring Forrest Tucker & Adele Mara. Studio/production company: Republic. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday September 10, 2016

BROKEN LANCE (1954), starring Spencer Tracy & Robert Wagner. Studio/production company: Fox. Source: Starz & Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday September 17, 2016

RUN FOR COVER (1955), starring James Cagney & John Derek. Studio/production company: Paramount. Source: Paramount Vault page on YouTube.

 

Saturday September 24, 2016

THE PROUD REBEL (1958), starring Alan Ladd & Olivia de Havilland. Studio/production company: Buena Vista/MGM. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

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Essential: CALIFORNIA PASSAGE (1950)

 

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The story begins with a heart-pounding sequence. Adele Mara plays a European immigrant traveling to California with her youngest brother (Peter Miles), when they are separated from the rest of their wagon train and ambushed by natives. Fortunately, they are aided by a man (Forrest Tucker) riding the range. He prevents the boy from being sliced open by a hatchet-wielding savage, for which the woman is entirely grateful. But before she and her brother have a chance to get more acquainted with the man, he heads back to the nearest town. She and the boy travel on alone in their covered wagon.

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In the next sequence, it is revealed that Tucker is a co-owner with Jim Davis in a saloon called The Golden Bear. Davis wants the business all to himself, so he prods a gunslinger with a temper to fire on Tucker. Tucker successfully defends himself, and the other man ends up dead. Interestingly, the slain gunman is the older brother of the immigrant woman and boy seen at the beginning of the story. He had owned a share in a local gold mine.

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The plot goes in a few expected and unexpected directions. The woman and the younger brother come to town to claim their inheritance. A romantic triangle develops as Davis competes with Tucker for the pretty lady’s affections and the approval of her kid brother. During these scenes, there is some commentary on how outsiders have trouble adjusting to life in this bustling community. Plus, the sheriff is depicted as a man with questionable morals whose badge can be compromised if he is given enough money to look the other way.

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Meanwhile, a singer (Estelita Rodriguez) wants revenge for the recent killing at the saloon, because she was in love with the victim. It all may seem familiar to western fans, but there’s considerable action and suspense, and it leads to a final sequence pitting Davis and Tucker against each other on a steep ledge. The friendship of the two actors gives their scenes an extra dimension despite the tenseness of the standoff.

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At a nearby distance, the woman and the boy wait to see who will live and who will die. Eventually, one of the bodies falls off the ledge and the other one is hanging on to a rope. Quickly the sheriff and his deputies raise the survivor back up to safety. The point of the story seems to be that newcomers to the frontier will never consider going back, because after they’ve passed through to California, there is nothing like a life of western excitement.

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CALIFORNIA PASSAGE was directed by Joe Kane and can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

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I will be posting my ninth essential tomorrow. 

 

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This is a great film. 

 

 

I agree. I've seen it a few times on Silver Screen Classics, a Canadian competitor of TCM. I believe that this is one of only a few Spencer Tracy films which has not aired on TCM. I know it's a Fox film, but I still find it surprising that TCM has never acquired this title, especially since it co-stars longtime friend-of the-network Robert Wagner.

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I agree. I've seen it a few times on Silver Screen Classics, a Canadian competitor of TCM. I believe that this is one of only a few Spencer Tracy films which has not aired on TCM. I know it's a Fox film, but I still find it surprising that TCM has never acquired this title, especially since it co-stars longtime friend-of the-network Robert Wagner.

 

Given the number of times Tracy has had tributes on TCM, this film should have made an appearance by now.

 

When I re-watched it yesterday to write my review, I found a lot more "meat" than I remembered-- visually, it's a very striking film; it has an intelligent script; and after CROSSFIRE and THE SNIPER, this has to be one of Edward Dmytryk's finest directing jobs.

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Essential: BROKEN LANCE (1954)

 

As the opening credits play, cattle moves from one end of the screen to the other. This means two things– we are seeing the vast property of a land baron; and we are seeing it in CinemaScope.

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After the credits end, we cut to a prison where young Robert Wagner is being released. He had been incarcerated for three years, and on his way home, he stops off at a government building in town. Inside the lobby, there’s a huge portrait hanging, and he pauses to look at it. It’s the image of Matthew Deveraux (Spencer Tracy), his deceased father. Next, the young man is confronted by a trio of older half-brothers (Richard Widmark, Hugh O’Brian and Earl Holliman), and it’s not exactly a warm reunion. They have a deal in mind to send him away.

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We learn about his relationship with a young girl (Jean Peters), as well as his mother (Katy Jurado), a squaw who went back to live with her people. Interestingly, the character Wagner portrays is named Joe. Five years later on Bonanza, Michael Landon played the half-breed son of a huge ranch owner, and he was also named Joe. Probably the weekly television series was inspired by this panoramic big screen western. And panoramic is the word for it. Filmed on location, BROKEN LANCE is an expansive, scenic and realistic looking outdoor drama.

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As we flashback to life at the Deveraux ranch three years earlier, we see Tracy as the imposing patriarch. He’s the center of everything, and his three older sons resent his control over their lives. There’a scene where he metes out a punishment for his two middle sons, after they had been caught rustling his livestock. They’re greedy and twisted in their rebellion. Immediately, we can tell the Deveraux ranch is a giant place with a giant set of problems.

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Wagner is not at all like his older siblings; he’s the tender heart of the family. He has some romantic moments with the girl he loves, but because he’s the son of a native woman, obstacles stand in their way. The next morning, there are other issues when old man Deveraux discovers a nearby copper mine is poisoning the water supply. A showdown ensues and in a violent turn of events, gunfire erupts and the mine goes up in flames.

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This leads to a lawsuit with the owner of the mine, and in court things only go from bad to worse. Joe has been assigned blame for the standoff that destroyed property and injured many men. As Deveraux watches his youngest boy go off to jail, the three other sons take over the ranch, which they quickly begin to sell off to outsiders. Deveraux is not one to sit idly by and lose everything, so he goes after his worthless offspring to stop them; but he dies while riding the range. What might seem to be a typical 50s western on the surface is something that plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy. The long flashback ends, and by this point, we have realized Spencer Tracy’s character is a frontier version of King Lear. There isn’t much left when Robert Wagner comes home– except a score to settle with his brothers for what they did to him and their pa.

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BROKEN LANCE was directed by Edward Dmytryk and is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

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Essential: BROKEN LANCE (1954)

 

As the opening credits play, cattle moves from one end of the screen to the other. This means two things– we are seeing the vast property of a land baron; and we are seeing it in CinemaScope.

 

... and the second is even more important than the first. 20th Century Fox wants to remind you that you won't see nearly as many cattle on that tiny black and white screen at home.

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... and the second is even more important than the first. 20th Century Fox wants to remind you that you won't see nearly as many cattle on that tiny black and white screen at home.

 

Yes...interesting the way one of the cattle moved all the way to the left side of the screen, then reaching the edge of the screen, it suddenly turns and moves across the land all the way to the right side of the screen. They either had it trained perfectly, or just got lucky with that particular shot. It's a memorable way to start the movie...because our eye follows the animal on screen, and we glimpse the vastness of the family's cattle empire as only CinemaScope can show us.

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Essential: RUN FOR COVER (1955)

 

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Like last week’s essential BROKEN LANCE, I’ve chosen a classic that pairs a Hollywood vet with a rising star. This time instead of Spencer Tracy & Robert Wagner, we have James Cagney & John Derek in RUN FOR COVER. It was Cagney’s first western since 1939’s THE OKLAHOMA KID. The story is different from what we typically see in 50s frontier sagas, with its heightened melodrama and slightly ambiguous morality.

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The moral center is compromised by a young wanderer played by John Derek. Cagney meets him in the opening sequence, and they bond quickly when they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time and get blamed for a train robbery. After they’ve been arrested, Cagney clears up the confusion at the sheriff’s office and stops a mob from lynching them.

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We learn two things right up front. The sheriff is woefully inadequate and about to be fired by the leading townsfolk. Plus Derek would have preferred to rob the locomotive and run off with the loot. He has no definition of right and wrong, or any qualms about getting what he can for himself. The only thing that humbles him, partially, is a leg that gets crippled in a shooting.

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This is where Cagney decides to intervene. As a good Samaritan, he will mentor and guide the young man; to turn him into a respectable law abiding citizen. But there is foreshadowing which suggests Derek’s good side may not win out. So it becomes a tale of how much Cagney tries to do while dealing with the reality that Derek is probably a bad seed who cannot be reformed.

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What makes it compelling is how determined Cagney plays it. He becomes the new sheriff and falls in love with the daughter (Viveca Lindfors) of a Scandinavian farmer. And while settling down and establishing roots in the community, Cagney continues to be drawn to Derek and remains focused on straightening out the boy.

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The last fifteen minutes of the film are very powerful. Out on a manhunt to bring some killers to justice, Cagney realizes his protege is also a killer at heart. He has to face the situation head on in a violent confrontation. In the last scene, Cagney comes back to town with the dead body of his young pal. He tells his girl and the others how the boy died a hero. Is he delusional? Or does he believe that in death a man’s soul and his reputation are one in the same and should be held in the highest regard no matter what?

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RUN FOR COVER was directed by Nicholas Ray. It is available at the Paramount Vault page on YouTube.

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Essential: THE PROUD REBEL (1958)

 

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THE PROUD REBEL was made in the late 1950s by Samuel Goldwyn Jr. It came along at a time when TV westerns were quite popular, but it offered something that could only be found on the big screen– a sweeping story about post-war life told in Technicolor. At this stage in their careers, the two stars were no longer playing young romantic leads, and what develops is essentially a mature romance with an interesting historical backdrop.

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Alan Ladd is cast as an ex-Confederate soldier heading north to Minnesota after the Civil War. Except for his pride, he has lost much of what he once had. Traveling with him is a young son (Ladd’s own real life son David) who is now mute. Due to traumatic shock, the boy hasn’t uttered a word since the end of the war. It is the elder Ladd’s hope that they might find a doctor in the Midwest with a cure. But when they speak to a physician (Cecil Kellaway), they’re told the boy’s inability to speak might be psychological, not physical.

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Outside the doctor’s office, they get into a fight with some men trying to steal the boy's dog. This leads to an arrest and quick trial. A judgment is rendered against them, and a $30 fine is imposed, but they have no money to pay it. A solution presents itself when a farm woman (Olivia De Havilland) steps forward. She will provide lodging for both of them, if they do jobs on her land to pay off the fine. Soon tender feelings are shared between the two adults while she forges a special bond with the boy.

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The film presents several unique character studies, and the situations are simple but realistic. We watch southerners exposed to prejudices in Midwestern territory, and we also see a conflict escalating between De Havilland and a neighbor sheep baron (Dean Jagger). In addition to this, there is hope the boy’s voice might be restored if he undergoes an operation. As the story unfolds, it is clear the two Ladds have found more than just a temporary refuge with De Havilland. They’ve found a place where they belong, a place they can call home.

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THE PROUD REBEL was directed by Michael Curtiz and can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

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Theme for October 2016: Psychological thrillers

 

Saturday October 1, 2016

GASLIGHT (1940), starring Anton Walbrook & Diana Wynyard. Studio/production company: British National Films. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday October 8, 2016

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943), starring Nelson Eddy & Claude Rains. Studio/production company: Universal. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday October 15, 2016 

WOMAN WHO CAME BACK (1945), starring John Loder & Nancy Kelly. Studio/production company: Republic. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday October 22, 2016

THE AMAZING MR. X a.k.a. THE SPIRITUALIST (1948), starring Turhan Bey & Lynn Bari. Studio/production company: Eagle-Lion. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday October 29, 2016

MAN IN THE ATTIC (1953), starring Jack Palance & Constance Smith. Studio/production company: Fox. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

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