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Classic Film Criticism

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From Agee on February 14, 1948:


Hitchcock uses a lot of skill over a lot of nothing. Some very experienced work by Laughton and Leo G. Carroll; better work by Ann Todd and Joan Tetzel, who is at moments very beautiful. Valli is something to look at, too. The picture never for an instant comes to life.




Quarreling with Agee would seem to be futile, since he's mostly right, but I have to disagree on one point: Ethel Barrymore's plaintive performance (and that in itself is no mean feat, Miss B. being plaintive) went straight to my heart. That horrible man she was married to ... her "Tommy" ... ought to have been shot dead. The picture finally did come to life for me with Laughton and Miss B.


Her acting the part of this beaten-down woman struck me as even more amazing when I realized what a very strong person she was herself. My favorite story about her is when she was being photographed with her brothers during the making of the only movie they appeared in together, "Rasputin and the Empress," I think it was. As he was composing the picture, the photographer said to John B., "Tell your sister something," and Jack said, "TELL her something? I'll ASK her something, if you want."

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Re: Classic Film Criticism

Posted: Oct 2, 2012 12:06 PM





From Agee on March 11, 1944:


Through an adroit counterpointing, syncopating and cumulation of the natural and the supernatural, the filmmakers turn a mediocre story and a lot of shabby clichés into an unusually good scare picture. It seems to me harder to get a fright than a laugh, and I experienced thirty-five first-class jolts, not to mention a well-calculated texture of minor frissons.




Agee is right on the money in this review. I was propelled out of my seat over and over when I first saw this movie, back in the days when we sat in the dark and watched them on the big screen. I remember the audience going crazy with fear at the doors flying open in one scene. The days when that could happen in a movie are, I think, long gone. We REALLY enjoyed them. I still watch it now and then on the ancient tape I bought years ago. It still holds up and scares me almost as much. The music is so gorgeous it's hard to remember it's a ghost story except in the nursery scene. It's hard to remember too that there was a time when there was no "Stella By Starlight" in the standard repertoire.

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I agree. THE UNINVITED is one of my favorites from its era. If only half today's horror-supernatural films were made as well.



The big thing about it was that this was the first actual ghost story we'd seen, at least that I knew of. It didn't turn out to be a dream, or a trick played by somebody on somebody else. It was a genuine malevolent GHOST.


I got a kick out of seeing Cornelia Otis Skinner playing the loony head of the "institution." She wrote such funny books that it was hard to see her being grim. We loved her humorous stuff in those days.

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> {quote:title=dpompper wrote:}{quote}I tried "Children of Paradise" once -- about 8 years ago. I know it's very highly esteemed by many. Generally, I enjoy French films. This one, though, I just don't get it. *What is it that has eluded me??*


Assuming that you are a straight female, probably Arletty's irresistible charms.

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