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Mantrap (1926)

Along with 1927's It, Mantrap is considered to be one of the key films in the career of Clara Bow that best represents an actress seen as representative of the '20s Jazz Age at her impulsive, flirtatious best. It's a fast paced (Victor Fleming, one of Bow's lovers, directed) likeable affair that features Ernest Torrence as a lumbering hick living in Mantrap, somewhere in the northern "wilds" of Canada (the exact location is never specified) who goes to the big city (Minneapolis) where he encounters flirtatious manicurist Bow.

This odd ball couple have a whirlwind romance and the next thing you know they're back living in Mantrap, where whirling dervish Clara is getting a little restless. Along comes Percy Marmont, a big city lawyer who knows nothing about camping. He's tired of divorcees (his main clients) and women, in general. Then he meets Clara. BOING!!!

The charm of the film is Bow, of course, and her vivacious personality is really something to behold. Bow can do more in a closeup, primping her hair and shining those large expressive eyes, than most actresses could ever dream of doing. There's very much a sense of fun spontaneity to her playing, as well. Poor films were a problem in Bow's career, but, thanks to the fast pace and the outdoors location shooting (northern California or Oregon, I imagine, substituting for Canada) Mantrap is a sprightly affair.

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Percy Marmont may a bit of a stiff as the lawyer who becomes the object of Clara's flirtatious attention, but Ernest Torrence, often a screen villain, is cast against type as her awkward country hick hubby, and he works well in the role, bringing a touch of sensitivity to some of his scenes, as well.

In the final analysis, Mantrap may be slight but it's also upbeat, beautifully capturing the essence of Clara Bow's screen appeal. For those who have yet to see the actress in any of her films, this would be a good one with which to start. Interestingly, the outrageousness of Bow's behaviour with men is such that she pays no penalty for it in the end. She is a wonderful, vibrant free spirit in this film (albeit also irresponsible and absorbed with self to a large degree; Bow makes her likeable anyway). If she had attempted the same kind of activity with men eight years later after the production code had been enforced, there would have been far different repercussions for her screen character.

There are prints of varying quality in circulation of this silent. Mantrap is a film clearly in need of restoration.

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2.5 out of 4

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Superman (1941-1943) - 17 animated shorts from Paramount Pictures, Fleischer Studios and Famous Players. This is a series of cartoons, running between 8 and 11 minutes each, depicting the adventures of the comic book superhero Superman, his alter ego Clark Kent, and intrepid fellow Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. In the first 9, produced by Max Fleischer's animation studio and directed by his brother Dave, Superman battles everything from a giant circus ape, to bandits called the Bulleteers, a thawed-out T-Rex whose rampage resembles that of Godzilla only 12 years earlier, a Native American trying to reclaim Manhattan island by electrifying the Hudson river, and, in the Oscar-nominated first installment, a mad scientist and his death ray. 

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The remaining 8 shorts were made by Famous Players, the first in-house animation studio at Paramount, created when that studio bought the previous company and fired the Fleischer brothers. These shorts, although covering a range of incidents, were frequently tied into WW2, with Superman battling Japanese and German saboteurs on multiple occasions, as well as acting as a saboteur himself in Japan. 

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The first set of shorts are fantastic, real works of animation art, with a unique look and effective, bare-bones storytelling. There is little dialogue, and the emphasis is squarely on the visual. The second set are noticeably inferior in quality, and the wartime propaganda feel lessens the entertainment, although they remain invaluable relics of their era. I won't rate them each individually, but the first nine shorts earn a 8/10 on average, while the later eight are 6/10 or 7/10.

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Source: Warner DVD, on 2 discs.

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1 hour ago, LawrenceA said:

Superman (1941-1943) - 17 animated shorts from Paramount Pictures, Fleischer Studios and Famous Players. This is a series of cartoons, running between 8 and 11 minutes each, depicting the adventures of the comic book superhero Superman, his alter ego Clark Kent, and intrepid fellow Daily Planet reporter Lois Lane. In the first 9, produced by Max Fleischer's animation studio and directed by his brother Dave, Superman battles everything from a giant circus ape, to bandits called the Bulleteers, a thawed-out T-Rex whose rampage resembles that of Godzilla only 12 years earlier, a Native American trying to reclaim Manhattan island by electrifying the Hudson river, and, in the Oscar-nominated first installment, a mad scientist and his death ray.

And, of course, battling mad scientists' flying Mechanical Monsters, probably the best-known short, that was a confessed influence on Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, director of "Castle in the Sky", and a few episodes of the "Lupin III" TV series:

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Quote

The first set of shorts are fantastic, real works of animation art, with a unique look and effective, bare-bones storytelling. There is little dialogue, and the emphasis is squarely on the visual. The second set are noticeably inferior in quality, and the wartime propaganda feel lessens the entertainment,

Famous was definitely a slip down in quality, not only when they fired the Fleischers, but moved the studio out of gritty NYC to sunny whitebread Florida.

A change noted when Popeye went from B/W to color after WWII, and Casper would only come later. :(

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Death Curse of Tartu (1967)

This review is probably a bit off the wall (like this film was).  For those who indulge me and stick with it, I tip my cap and offer a fist bump.

A friend texted me while I was watching it.  The review of the film mirrors our conversation.

Q:  What are you up to?

A:  I'm watching Death Curse of Tartu on TCM.  It's a good time-waster.

Q:  OK.  What's it about?

A:  These chowderheads are traipsing through the Everglades, but little do they realize the ground they walk on has been cursed by Tartu, a Seminole witch doctor from 450 years ago.  Boy, are they gonna get it!  Well actually, they were already warned about where NOT to go by the modern day Seminole guide, but of course, they blew off his concerns as silly native superstition (the dopes)!

Q:  Is this real, or just a movie?

A:  It's a movie.  The spirit of Tartu has already changed into an anaconda and killed one man.  Now he's changed into a shark and eaten two kids!  40 minutes and countless deaths to come?  (pause for a minute or so) Oh wow...the air boat they were going to make their escape with has been scuttled by alligators!  They be doomed!  (another pause)  The anaconda is back and about to claim victim number 4!  Actually, I think this snake is a water moccasin.

Q:  LOL...I can just hear you going Whoa!  ROFLMAO!

A:  The answer is obvious to the survivors now.  They MUST seek out Tartu's grave and destroy it so the Everglades can be turned into a National Park!  Vacation deaths are such a bummer, ya know! (another pause)  Well, they found Tartu's cobwebby cave grave, along with victim number 1.  One of the survivors runs outside in a panic only to run into a big gator with big choppers.  Whoever built Tartu's cave grave was a master craftsman.  A boulder rolled across the opening to prevent victim number 5 from getting back in!  The two survivors are now back at the cave after they got out but failed to stop Tartu from chomping on victim number 5.  They are trying to open the sarcophagus, but no luck.  Suddenly, the tomb opens up and the skeletal remains of Tartu sits upright!  (brief pause)  After a couple of useless gunshots at his torso, Tartu transforms into his former human self!  The woman escapes while her hubby fights with Tartu.  The husband is knocked unconscious, and Tartu goes after the woman, whom he hopes will be victim number 6.  He throws a knife at her and gets her in the arm, but she gets away.  He catches up to her and pushes her into some quicksand!  By now, the husband has recovered and caught up to the demon spirit.  They engage in a no-disqualification wrestling match in which Tartu is knocked into the quicksand himself!  The man saves his hot wife.  Tartu sinks and the movie ends.

During the dialog of this film, it occurred to me that they never referred to Tartu's transformations as 'turning into animals'.  Everyone referred to them as 'creatures'.  Probably not a big deal, but I just thought it a bit odd.

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I watched THE BLACK ROOM, one of those twin dual roles flicks, with Boris Karloff playing two pair of twins, of course one is good and the other is a scheming SOB.

The movie felt kind of empty for me. No fault of Karloff, though. He is great as always. I don't know, maybe I am just too spoiled by other dual twin/roles in other films. This movie had the potential to be a classic but falls way short. Now I don't think the movie was meant to be any thing more than a time killer (it's a little over an hour long) but I still feel that the story could have been more compelling.

For Karloff, I'll give it 6/10, which might be a little generous. But he is up to the task even if the movie itself doesn't exactly lent support to his talent.

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Lady for a Night (1942) - Costume comedy-drama from Republic Pictures and director Leigh Jason. In late 19th century Memphis, gambling hall proprietress Jenny Blake (Joan Blondell) has great wealth but no respect among the snobs in high society. Politician Jackson Morgan (John Wayne) doesn't care about Jenny's reputation, loving her regardless, but his feelings aren't reciprocated, and Jenny marries alcoholic Alan Alderson (Ray Middleton) in order to gain social acceptance, while the Alderson clan want access to Jenny's fortune, having lost theirs in the Civil War. The disapproving Julia (Blanche Yurka) does everything in her power to undermine Jenny's efforts. Also featuring Philip Merivale, Edith Barrett, Leonid Kinskey, Hattie Noel, Carmel Myers, Dorothy Burgess, Pierre Watkin, and Montagu Love.

Republic tries for another prestige project with this costume period piece that's more than a little derivative. The first scenes of the film seem like many other 19th century set pictures where a brash guy tries to romance an equally brassy gal. Things change a bit when Blondell marries and heads to the country estate, where the many similarities to Rebecca begin, with a dark and dour female presence (Blanche Yurka), a deadly secret from the past, and even rumors of ghosts. The movie is hard to take with the drastic shifts in tone from farcical humor to dramatic tension, then on to (a lot) of bad racial jokes and references (Wayne threatens to send a maid "back to Africa"; there are comments about "darkies" and "pick-a-ninnies"). It seems like the producers just tried throwing everything into a blender and hoped something potable came out. It sort of did, but you wouldn't want to drink it a lot. The movie is saved from failure by the talents of the two leads, Blondell still a sharp cookie even if the waistline was starting to grow, and Wayne was showing much improvement in his screen acting.  (6/10)

Source: YouTube.

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2 hours ago, EricJ said:

Famous was definitely a slip down in quality, not only when they fired the Fleischers, but moved the studio out of gritty NYC to sunny whitebread Florida.

 

EricJ, a bit of fact checking here:

It was the Fleischers who moved their studio from New York City to Florida. After Paramount (the distributor of the Fleischer cartoons) took control of the studio they re-organized it as Famous Studios. Famous moved operations back to New York City.

Technically the Fleischer brothers were not fired although they were forced to resign. First Dave and then Max Fleischer submitted letters of resignation at the request of Paramount. 

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Ingrid Goes West (2017):  This film is labeled as a comedy/drama..but don't look for laughs as the comedy is very black and exists only in the viewers ability to see the absurdity of the environment.  Like an updated Single White Female, it's about stalking and obsession, but with the addition of a pervasive need to be 'liked' by total strangers.  Aubrey Plaza is wonderful as Ingrid - a troubled young woman whose mother has recently died.  Addicted to social media (she brushes her teeth with one hand, holds her phone with the other) she is institutionalized after attacking a woman for not inviting her to her wedding..the bride is a stranger who said something kind to her online, and Plaza interpreted it as some sort of bond between them.  Upon leaving treatment, she quickly reverts to her need for instant connections, and finds the account of Instagram model/"influencer" Elizabeth Olsen.  Olsen films her 'perfect LA life'..everywhere she eats, where she shops, what she wears, and is paid for the plugs.  When Plaza gets 'likes' from Olsen, she reads it as an invitation to be friends, and moves to LA where it's easy to track Olsen since she takes selfies every where she goes.  Plaza arranges a dog-napping and rescue to endear herself to Olsen and her husband, Billy Magnussen, and insert herself into their lives.  Olsen is annoyingly phoney..everything is the 'best', 'fantastic' as she spouts bits of philosophy from novels she's never read to her followers, but to be in her presence makes Plaza feel special and she will not give up that validation.  When you don't think anyone could be any more shallow, Olsen's brother (Wyatt Russell) shows up.  He's a human leech, dependent on wealthy pseudo celebs and trust funders for income and drugs, and his close relationship with his sister threatens Plaza. He introduces sis to an even bigger 'superstar influencer'with a world wide following.  Olsen is really a lot like Plaza, without the mental problems..she's anxious to hang with anyone with more cyber fame than she.  Russell gets a hold of Plaza's phone, and threatens to reveal proof of the obsession if she doesn't pay him.  The sole semi-sane character in the mix is Plaza's landlord, O'Shea Jackson, Jr.  He's a wannabe screenwriter with a Batman obsession who's the only one who has--in real life--shown kindness to Plaza (but cocaine and a gun in his truck remind us he's no angel either..).  Plaza uses his friendship to provoke him to attack Russell, with a near deadly outcome; then she can't understand why Olsen has blocked her calls after the incident.  The end of the film is bizarre..there's no inner conversation about what went wrong..just a ramping up of the need for a social media fix..but actually, any other scenario would've been counter to the characters.  The performances, especially Plaza and Olsen are terrific, and Jackson shows real range as well.  It's sad satire.. compelling and irritating..and it will make you glad you were 20something when # just meant pound. #recommend... source: terrarium                                         Related image

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The Remarkable Andrew (1942) - Ludicrous comedy/fantasy from Paramount Pictures, writer Dalton Trumbo, and director Stuart Heisler. William Holden stars as Andrew Long, a straight-arrow accountant living happily in a small town. He's looking forward to finally marrying longtime girlfriend Peggy (Ellen Drew), but when he discovers evidence of embezzlement by members of the city government, he finds himself the target of charges. It's at this point that Andrew is visited by the spirit of Andrew Jackson (Brian Donlevy), who tries to advise the young man on the proper course of action. Also featuring Montagu Love, Rod Cameron, Gilbert Emery, Brandon Hurst, George Watts, Jimmy Conlin, Richard Webb, Spencer Charters, Minor Watson, Clyde Fillmore, Thomas W. Ross, Milton Parsons, Martha O'Driscoll, Hobart Cavanaugh, Noel Neill, and Porter Hall.

The bizarre premise is exacerbated by Donlevy's less-than-subtle performance as "Old Hickory", hamming it up to no end. Much of the film's humor is based on whether Holden's character is drunk or crazy or both, since no one else can see or hear Andrew Jackson. I won't get into third-act spoilers, but things get even sillier later on. Holden is reasonably successful at playing an innocent do-gooder, a far cry from his cynical 50's screen persona.   (6/10)

Source: YouTube.

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In anticipation of TCM's broadcast of The Sea Wolf (Thursday, April 19 at 4:30 am (EST)), I'm re-posting a review of the film I did last year. TCM provides a running time of 100 minutes for the print they are showing which, if true, means that it will be a first time broadcast of the restored version of the film released by Warner Archives last year. However, the TCM schedule announces that the next film will start 90 minutes later so, who knows.

In any event, here's my review of the restoration, hoping that it will be the version coming on the channel in the wee hours tomorrow morning.

 

The Sea Wolf (1941) 

Many posters, I'm sure, will be familiar with this vivid Warner Brothers adaption of the Jack London novel since it has been shown so many times over the years on TCM. If you haven't caught this production, however, you're overdue to do so. 

Only now there is a difference. The Warners Archive Collection has just released the full original version of the film on DVD, available for viewing in its complete version for the first time since 1941. 

This film was re-released in 1947 (in combination with Warners' The Sea Hawk) but both films were edited so more tickets could be sold for extra daily viewings for a shorter double bill. The Sea Hawk's edited scenes were restored to that film a number of years ago but, until this week with the DVD release, The Sea Wolf's television broadcasts were always the 1947 re-edited version. For the record the running time of the print shown on TCM has been 87:12, while the print on the Archive release runs 99:46. 

The Sea Wolf is representative of Warners at the peak of its studio expertise. With Michael Curtiz in full dynamic directorial form, accompanied by his favourite cinematographer, Sol Polito, and sets by Anton Grot, a terrific ensemble cast all rise to the top with vivid characterizations. All of this plus a dark, at times ominous, musical score by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, makes for a stirring tale of brutality and oppression set aboard a sealing vessel, The Ghost. 

As the brutal, sadistic captain of the ship, Wolf Larsen, Edward G. Robinson gives one of the great performances of his career. In fact this has long been my favourite Robinson film and performance, and that's saying a lot considering the often brilliant work this actor accomplished throughout his career. It's a complex characterization, however, he's not just a mere brute.

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But the supporting cast is a standout, as well. John Garfield brings sensitivity to his role as a rebellious crew member, and Ida Lupino is terrific as an escaped convict (we never know her crime) who finds herself aboard The Ghost because of circumstances, and is tormented by Robinson as much as any of the male crew members. 

But there is also Gene Lockhart as the pathetic alcoholic ship's doctor who wants to be treated with dignity (something the sadistic Larsen will never allow) and Barry Fitzgerald as Cookie, the ship's knife wielding cook and chief informant to the captain, a conniving, evil little man who cackles with glee as others around him are tormented but remains fearful of the captain himself.

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In viewing the twelve and a half minutes restored to the film it is apparent there was no one big scene missing all these years. Scenes in the film were trimmed, so you might catch selections of a 30 second bit here or there that you've never seen before. There's a small bit at the film's beginning, for example, in which Garfield is hiding from police on a Frisco street that's new, later you see the character of the bookish Van Weyden (played, and played well, by Alexander Knox) when he first wakes up on The Ghost after being fished out of the drink. 

My favourite restored scene runs about 75 seconds, and it was gratifying to see it for the first time. It's when Lupino's character is first revealed as a jailbird on the ship before the laughing crew and she begs Robinson to set her ashore somewhere other than return her to Frisco (where police are looking for her). 

Lupino is stunning in this scene, pleading in vain with Robinson, even to the extent of offering to make it "worthwhile" for him if he does so, to which he barks at her she's not on the Barbary Coast. Lupino pleads, cries and collapses. It's a great moment for her, showing her full dramatic force as an actress, and there is also a telling closeup of Garfield, his eyes filled with pain, as he sees her grovel before a brute like Wolf Larsen. "Don't beg him," he tells her as he leaps beside her, ready to spit in Robinson's eye even if it means another beating. "Beg?" a distraught Lupino responds, "I'd crawl on my knees over every inch of this deck. I'd do anything, ANYTHING, to not have to go back!" 

It's a very strong scene, and it's great to see it restored to the film. 

One more thing. I know the Archive Collection doesn't spend any more money on these prints than is necessary but this 35 mil. print of The Sea Wolf is beautiful, with all of the new scenes seamlessly restored to the production. Warners really did do this film justice with this release. I'm assuming that TCM will eventually broadcast this version of the film, for those who don't care to spend the money on the DVD. 

The Sea Wolf is one of those dramatically stirring productions that fully deserves to be hailed as a film classic, in my opinion. It has always mystified me that this film is not better known. 

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3.5 out of 4

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I LOVE the MAX FLEISCHER SUPERMAN CARTOONS. They are- literally- the only incarnation of the story in its many forms that I find interest in.

I was introduced to them in Spanish class in High School ca. 1995. (yes, we watched Spanish-dubbed versions of the mad scientist with a death ray short (my favorite) and a couple others)...

i even have to admit that the anti-Japanese one is well-animated- although i arrived on that one via youtube and not En Espanol.

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SORRY FOR BRINGING THIS UP AGAIN, BUT HERE:

I'm still dealing with some anger over my first-time viewing of DON'T LOOK NOW (1973) this past weekend. I have to admit that as much as I did not like the movie, i was curious about the DAPHNE DU MAURIER story on which it is based; so I ended up listening to the following hour long BBC RADIO ADAPTATION of the story with two marvelous actors whose names I did not recognize-

it helped me deal with a lot of my issues with the film; and honestly, if you've seen the movie or not and if you've ready the story or not, I'd recommend it.

the movie seems to have been pretty faithful to the DU MAURIER story; although i'm guessing this version is closer. One thing that helps IMMENSELY is that the male and female protagonist in this story are:

a.  Both British, which helps to explain a lot.

b.  IMMENSELY MORE LIKEABLE IN THEIR PARTS THAN DONALD SUTHERLAND AND JULIE CHRISTIE.

it's some really, really good acting- the end is a bit much, but y'know...it is what it is, Santa..

 

ps- I like Donald Sutherland, but his Americanness is distracting and he is a cold, eerie presence. I officially just don't know about Julie Christie. I admit I have not seen PETULIA or DARLING or MCCABE AND MRS MILLER, but I have seen FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD and ZHIVAGO and now DON'T LOOK NOW and I think she's been a beautiful blank slate in all three.

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They All Kissed the Bride (1942) - Romantic comedy from Columbia Pictures and director Alexander Hall. M.J. Drew (Joan Crawford) is the cold-blooded CEO of a giant transportation corporation. She's renowned for her ruthless efficiency and strict adherence to the rules. She dismisses her mother (Billie Burke) and younger sister (Helen Parrish) and their talk of love and happiness, but when M.J. meets Michael Holmes (Melvyn Douglas) she literally gets weak in the knees, and her heart can't deny him, even when she learns that he's been a vocal critic of her corporate practices. Also featuring Roland Young, Allen Jenkins, Andrew Tombes, Emory Parnell, Larry Parks, Charles Lane, Ann Doran, Kitty Kelly, and Mary Treen.

This lighthearted rom-com, although a bit old fashioned even for 1942, is decent, if in no way exceptional. The movie had a bit of a pall over it, as Carole Lombard was originally cast to star in it, and Crawford was a last-minute replacement after Lombard's tragic death. Crawford would later donate her salary to the Red Cross out of respect to Lombard's memory.   (6/10)

Source: TCM by way of YouTube.

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This Above All (1942) - Wartime romance from 20th Century Fox and director Anatole Litvak. With the entry of England into WW2, upper class Prudence Cathaway (Joan Fontaine) joins the women's auxiliary force, much to the annoyance of her snobbish relatives. Prudence later meets working-class Clive Briggs (Tyrone Power) on a blind date, and the two fall in love, although Clive reveals little about his past, and Prudence can sense something heavy on his mind. Eventually she learns that not only was Clive recognized for bravery during the Dunkirk evacuation, but that he has subsequently gone AWOL. Will Clive change his mind and return to service, or is he destined to be a fugitive? Also featuring Thomas Mitchell, Gladys Cooper, Nigel Bruce, Arthur Shields, Henry Stephenson, Philip Merivale, Sara Allgood, Jill Esmond, Holmes Herbert, Miles Mander, Rhys Williams, and Alexander Knox.

I don't often warm to Fontaine, but she's good here, sweetly human and beautiful. Power gets to stretch a bit with a darker character, and he's up to the challenge. The supporting players don't have a lot to do, but they're all memorable professionals, and help keep the movie interesting. Two scenes that struck me as especially noteworthy: the initial date between Fontaine and Power is held during a blackout, with very little light, and only the occasional match strike providing fleeting illumination of faces. The other scene is later in the film, as a frantic Power runs through the wrecked streets of a London neighborhood during an air raid. Bombs are falling, fires are burning, a plane even crashes into a nearby apartment house, all with panicked citizens and valiant firemen running to and fro. A very well executed sequence. The movie received Oscar nominations for Best B&W Cinematography, Best Sound, and Best Editing, and it won for Best B&W Art Direction.   (7/10)

Source: YouTube.

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17 hours ago, shutoo said:

Plaza arranges a dog-napping and rescue to endear herself to Olsen and her husband, Billy Magnussen, and insert herself into their lives. 

Sounds more like Endless Love.

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6 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

I like Donald Sutherland, but his Americanness is distracting and he is a cold, eerie presence.

Our Canadian posters are going to have fun with this one.  :)

 

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The Post (2017) - True-story newspaper drama from 20th Century Fox, Dreamworks, and Reliance Entertainment, and director Steven Spielberg. The film details the lead-up to the 1971 publishing by the New York Times and the Washington Post of the so-called "Pentagon Papers", a top secret report on America's involvement in the Vietnam conflict. Post publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep), who has only recently taken control after the suicide of her husband, is struggling to keep the paper afloat in tough financial times, as well as trying to learn the business from the ground up. Hard-nosed editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is determined to print the sensitive documents regardless of threats from the White House, and it all leads to an inevitable showdown with far-reaching ramifications. Also featuring Bruce Greenwood, Bob Oedenkirk, David Cross, Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Carrie C-oon, Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie, Jesse Plemons, Pat Healy, John Rue, Philip Casnoff, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Costabile, and Matthew Rhys as Daniel Ellsberg.

I applaud Spielberg and the rest of the filmmakers for their effort to bring an intelligent, adult drama to the screen, no easy feat in 2017. The story would have seemed a bit old-fashioned and out-of-sync with today's issues, but then Trump was elected and we entered a new era of political-journalism relations that make this tale more timely than ever. How much control should the government have over what the press publishes? Where is the line drawn between genuine concern for national security and personal desire to cover one's own reputation? The central performances by Streep and Hanks are good, and while they both adopt minor affected speech patterns, their characterizations are not too broad. It seems at times that they occupy different films, as they each are dealing with their own concerns that only occasionally seem to intersect. The large supporting cast is largely made up of talented TV performers, many of whom I never expected to see in a serious Oscar-nominated picture.   (7/10)

Source: Fox Blu-ray.

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Above Suspicion (1943) - Spy thriller from MGM and director Richard Thorpe. Newlyweds Richard (Fred MacMurray) and Frances Myles (Joan Crawford) are recruited by British Intelligence to carry out some simple tasks while they are on their honeymoon in Germany. However, events become more complicated and dangerous than they expected, and their trip turns into a cat-and-mouse game with the Gestapo. Also featuring Conrad Veidt, Basil Rathbone, Richard Ainley, Reginald Owen, Cecil Cunningham, Ann Shoemaker, Felix Bressart, Anthony Caruso, Peter Lawford, Arthur Shields, and Ludwig Stossel.

Crawford and MacMurray seem miscast, for some reason. I think it would have worked better with younger leads. A more capable director, like Hitchcock, could have improved things as well. I didn't think this was terrible (what movie with both Conrad Veidt and Basil Rathbone could be?), but there was a lot of room for improvement. Sadly, this was Veidt's final role. He died a couple of weeks after filming wrapped, aged 50.   (6/10)

Source: TCM.

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Grand Central Murder (1942) Screwball Noir

A humorous/ensemble film noir directed by S. Sylvan Simon (Lust for Gold (1949)). The film was based on Sue MacVeigh's 1939 novel of the same name. The screenplay was credited to Peter Ruric. The cinematography was by George J. Folsey and the music was by David Snell.

It is one of the ensemble/quasi-comedy Noirs, a small sub genre of Noir. Others are Deadline at Dawn (1946), His Kind of Woman (1951), Shack Out On 101 (1955), and even Lady In The Lake (1946), has some of this quality, there are probably a few others lurking in the Classic Noirs. Neo Noir contenders are Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), The Late Show (1977) After Hours (1985), Delicatessen (1991) and The Big Lebowski (1998).

The film has quite the cast with a lot of Noir credentials, starring Van Heflin (The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers (1946), Possessed (1947), Act Of Violence (1949), The Prowler (1951)) as a private investigator  "Rocky" Custer who becomes one of the suspects in a murder on a private train car in Grand Central Terminal. Patricia Dane (Johnny Eager (1941), The Harder They Fall (1956)) as Mida King, Cecilia Parker as Constance Furness, Virginia Grey (Highway 301 (1950)) as Sue Custer, Rocky's wife, Samuel S. Hinds (Lady on a Train (1945), Call Northside 777 (1948)) as Roger Furness, Connie Gilchrist (Johnny Eager (1941), Act of Violence (1949), The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)) as Pearl Delroy, Tom Conway (Two O'Clock Courage(1945)), Whistle Stop (1946), Repeat Performance (1947), Confidence Girl (1952) as Frankie Ciro, Sam Levene (The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), Crossfire (1947), Dial 1119 (1950), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Slaughter on 10th Avenue (1957)) as Inspector Gunther, Mark Daniels (Bury Me Dead (1947)) as David V. Henderson, Stephen McNally (Criss Cross (1949), The Raging Tide (1951), Split Second (1953)) as "Turk", Betty Wells as "Baby" Delroy, George Lynn as Paul Rinehart. Roman Bohnen as Ramon, and Millard Mitchell (Deadline at Dawn (1946), The Naked City (1948), Criss Cross (1949), D.O.A. (1949) Gun Crazy (1950), Side Street (1950)) as Detective Arthur Doolin.

Mida a golddigging ex bubble dancer turned legit show girl gets herself murdered in a private train car in Grand Central Terminal, with a dozen suspects with possible motives.

The film has running jokes about Mida's cheapness, i.e., the various ways she manages to stiff others into paying her bills, and Mida's alley cat morality, a lovesick detective, Doolin, who keeps frantically trying to contact his girl by phone, and another about Levene's "chain drinking" addiction to cherry soda. The pacing and smart dialogs are in classic screwball mode, but the flashbacks and action sequences in the tunnels of Grand Central Terminal are all quite noirish. 

Though it's supposed to take place in Grand Central Terminal it was most likely all filmed on a studio backlot, (there may be some second unit stock footage of actual GTC moving tain footage) though some of the moving train sequences may also have been filmed in the old subway tunnel under Bunker Hill. It all looks reasonably quite like Grand Central Terminal to a native New Yorker. Review with more screencaps here in Film Noir Gangster pages. Café au lait Noir 7/10
 

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Night Must Fall (1937) -- on Watch TCM through today

I had definitely heard of this one over the years, but never had a chance to see it, and I found this to be brilliant and ahead of its time. It's like an early noir prototype, and the central three performances are absolutely stunning.

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Action in the North Atlantic (1943) - Maritime war action from Warner Brothers and director Lloyd Bacon. The film follows the crew of a Merchant Marine vessel, the SS Seawitch, including Captain Steve Jarvis (Raymond Massey) and first mate Lt. Joe Rossi (Humphrey Bogart). Along with their wisecracking crew of veteran seamen, they try to get valuable goods and materials across the Atlantic for the war effort, trying to avoid German u-boats, destroyers and bomber planes. Also featuring Alan Hale, Dane Clark, Julie Bishop, Ruth Gordon, Sam Levene, Peter Whitney, Dick Hogan, Glenn Strange, Kane Richmond, Kirk Alyn, and William Hopper.

The title says it all, as few films outside of serials spent as much time on action scenes as this one does, featuring lots of torpedoes, explosions, depth charges, more torpedoes, gunfire, and even more torpedoes. Massey and Bogart are both fine in bare-bones roles, basically just bringing their usual screen personas. This is very much a morale-boosting propaganda piece, but it's an entertaining one.   (7/10)

Source: TCM.

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3 hours ago, LawrenceA said:

Action in the North Atlantic (1943) - Maritime war action from Warner Brothers and director Lloyd Bacon. The film follows the crew of a Merchant Marine vessel, the SS Seawitch, including Captain Steve Jarvis (Raymond Massey) and first mate Lt. Joe Rossi (Humphrey Bogart). Along with their wisecracking crew of veteran seamen, they try to get valuable goods and materials across the Atlantic for the war effort, trying to avoid German u-boats, destroyers and bomber planes. Also featuring Alan Hale, Dane Clark, Julie Bishop, Ruth Gordon, Sam Levene, Peter Whitney, Dick Hogan, Glenn Strange, Kane Richmond, Kirk Alyn, and William Hopper.

The title says it all, as few films outside of serials spent as much time on action scenes as this one does, featuring lots of torpedoes, explosions, depth charges, more torpedoes, gunfire, and even more torpedoes. Massey and Bogart are both fine in bare-bones roles, basically just bringing their usual screen personas. This is very much a morale-boosting propaganda piece, but it's an entertaining one.   (7/10)

Source: TCM.

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I always liked this one as well. 

Propaganda film that it may have been (and hardly one that was screaming "Give it an Oscar") it certainly has much action to keep your interest going.

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Adventure for Two aka The Demi-Paradise (1943) - "Good Relations" rom-com from the Rank Organization and director Anthony Asquith. Laurence Olivier stars as Ivan Kouznetsoff, a Russian engineer who has designed a revolutionary new ship's propeller. He travels to England where a prototype ship using his design is being built, and when he arrives he has quite a case of culture shock. His unease is lessened when he meets Ann (Penelope Ward), a lovely young socialite who takes a liking to the serious Russian. Their romance builds as the world heads ever further into war. Also featuring Felix Aylmer, Margaret Rutherford, Marjorie Fielding, George Thorpe, Leslie Henson, Guy Middleton, Edie Martin, Miles Malleson, and Wilfrid Hyde-White.

This was made in an effort to foster goodwill between the British and their newest wartime allies, Soviet Russia. Olivier is often amusing as the fish-out-of-water Ivan, even if his accent reminded me quite a bit of Borat. Ward is charming, and she has genuine chemistry with Olivier. The supporting cast is decent, with Margaret Rutherford and Edie Martin the stand-outs. However, the movie goes on a good 30 minutes too long, and the propaganda aspects grow a bit wearisome.   (6/10)

Source: TCM.

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