TopBilled

TopBilled’s Essentials

508 posts in this topic

On 4/14/2018 at 8:35 PM, Jlewis said:

I watched this one on American Movie Classics back when it aired old movies, pre-1990s. For a while it was hard to get on DVD, although multiple radio adaptations (like the Screen Directors' Playhouse version) were always accessible online. It doesn't get nearly enough promotion like other classics of its era, which is a shame.

It is one of the cinema's great horror films.

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On 4/14/2018 at 5:35 PM, Jlewis said:

I watched this one on American Movie Classics back when it aired old movies, pre-1990s. For a while it was hard to get on DVD, although multiple radio adaptations (like the Screen Directors' Playhouse version) were always accessible online. It doesn't get nearly enough promotion like other classics of its era, which is a shame.

In 2013 Robert Osborne and Rose McGowan presented this film on TCM, calling it an Essential. I am surprised THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE does not air more often on the channel. What's not to love about it.

One professional critic claims THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE is a precursor of the modern slasher movie, which I think is a bit of an exaggeration. This is because there are mostly women living in the house and a few of them are targeted by the killer. But George Brent's character is not a slasher, he's a strangler.

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Here's the introduction Osborne and McGowan did for THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE. I found it on YouTube:

 

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If you like ink blot tests then you won't want to miss my upcoming review for

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Essential: THE DARK MIRROR (1946)

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In this film Robert Siodmak directs Olivia de Havilland as a pair of twins who foul up a murder investigation. The murder takes place in the opening shots, and it's shocking. Siodmak's use of unlit stage areas deliberately keeps us at a disadvantage and increases the mystery. We know the assailant is in the room, having just stabbed Dr. Peralta with a sharp object, but we cannot see her face.

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A veteran homicide detective (Thomas Mitchell) is determined to solve the case as quickly as possible. But just when it looks like he is about to nail Terry Collins, his investigation hits a snag. Eyewitness accounts that place her at the scene of the crime are contradicted by several other people who can vouch for Terry's whereabouts when the murder was committed. Of course, none of the witnesses know Terry has a twin; and neither does the detective until he stops by Terry's apartment.

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The women are coy with him. They admit nobody at the high rise building where they work know they are twins. This includes the elevator boy Rusty (Richard Long) who has a crush on Terry; as well as Dr. Scott Elliott (Lew Ayres), a psychiatrist with an office in the building who also has romantic feelings for Terry. Both Scott and Rusty become confused when they learn the truth and realize they actually might have had feelings for Ruth, the sister.

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Soon the ladies are arrested on suspicion of murder. But the witnesses still can't positively identify one sister over the other. There is a lineup, and more interrogation. But they cover for each other. Their game prevents the police and prosecutors from successfully charging either one of them with murder. Though it is obvious they are obstructing justice, they are allowed to leave the station. But as luck would have it, there might be a way to pin the killing on the correct culprit after all.

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It seems Scott Elliott has written a book about twins. He convinces the women to be part of his ongoing research. Scott is in love with Terry, and he is anxious to prove she is innocent and that Ruth belongs in the electric chair. The script, written by Nunnally Johnson, gets a bit technical in spots with its share of psychological mumbo jumbo. But mostly Johnson and Siodmak keep it simple enough for viewers to understand. And Siodmak's staging and camera work assist the story at every turn.

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There are some neat twists in the second half of the story. It veers into melodrama when it is revealed that Ruth loves Scott, and she's jealous of Terry. This reflects the motive for her killing the other doctor, since Peralta had also loved Terry, and not Ruth. In a jealous rage she stabbed Peralta, and now she is going to set Terry up to take the fall so she can swoop in and win Scott, by posing as the more innocent Terry.

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The acting is uniformly good, and Olivia De Havilland gives a standout performance (two standout performances). She has a field day with the 'which one is she' set-up, and the scenes where the twins undergo ink blot tests and lie detector tests are expertly played. Given what we know about her real-life conflicts with sister Joan Fontaine, I couldn't help but think Olivia was deftly spoofing Joan.

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Ayres is also effective, showing the quiet desperation of a man eager to help the woman he loves. This was Ayres' first picture since the war. A few years earlier he had been unceremoniously dropped by MGM after claiming he was a conscientious objector. It would have been objectionable if Ayres' career had not been allowed to continue. Just as it is objectionable for one sister to steal the happiness of another sister who still has so much to give.

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THE DARK MIRROR may currently be viewed on YouTube.

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On 4/7/2018 at 11:05 AM, TopBilled said:

 

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THE SUSPECT may currently be seen on YouTube.

Excellent write up on this film.  One of the things i love about the film, and you pointed out, is the setting. I love British settings in movies.  This film captured it perfectly.  As you pointed out, the wardrobe, characters, everything, really captured London.  I saw this on Youtube.  There are copies at a couple of mom and pop retailers online.  Amazon has a region 2 for almost $68 which shows you the rarity of this film.  SOMEBODY has got to get the rights and give it a proper treatment.  Again, excellent review you did.😃

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On 7/30/2016 at 3:11 PM, TopBilled said:

Essential: THE DIVORCE OF LADY X (1938)

 

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THE DIVORCE OF LADY X was released in North America by United Artists and was made by Alexander Korda’s London Films company. It boasts impressive Technicolor as well as elegant costuming and sets. It’s safe to say many films in 1938 were not this technically advanced. It had an American director, so its humor seems to translate well. Plus the cast was already becoming known in Hollywood productions– a group which includes Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon and Binnie Barnes.

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Olivier and Oberon would soon pair up again for a completely different type of film– Samuel Goldwyn’s adaptation of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. But in this picture, they are playing characters and a scenario that is about as far from Bronte as you can possibly imagine.

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It’s a shame Oberon wasn’t photographed more often in color during the 1930s and 1940s, when she was at her peak. Her complexion is absolutely flawless. 

Wow!  I kid you not.  I decided to go to the beginning of this thread and see the gems you have posted that i haven't seen.   BEFORE i even got to this movie, i started thinking about the movie The Lady and the Cowboy starring Gary Cooper and Merle Oberon and how its another unknown film that I love. Next thing you know, i'm scrolling down and seeing this post. I was smitten by Oberon in The Lady and the Cowboy.  I'm gonna check this recommendation out and post a review. Thanx...

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