Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Picture Snatcher 1933
This amazing Warner Bros James Cagney vehicle takes place at a newspaper. Cagney plays Danny Kean, an ex-convict that is determined to go straight by taking a job on a newspaper. Starring as his managing editor is Ralph Bellamy, who is one of my favorite supporting actors of the 30's. Any film from the 1930's with Ralph Bellamy in it is good entertaining fair. He is one of the most underrated actors of his time.
There is a side love story between Danny and the daughter of the police Capt. that put Danny away. Danny is determined to prove that he is all about being a newspaper reporter and even admits that he wanted to be one his whole life. This movie has an interesting plot and definitely stands out in the gangster genre of the 30's. Cagney was really good at playing good guys in some of the gangster pictures of the 30's. This movie reminds me of G-Men. I like Cagney as the good guy. He is very funny, brash and cocky. Pure James Cagney. This picture is very entertaining.
Luckily this movie is being released in March as part of the Gangsters Collection vol. 3. This set also includes Brother Orchid and The Black Legion. Two other great gangster pictures from Warner Bros during the 1930's. Both of them feature Humphrey Bogart. He has the starring role in The Black Legion and Edward G. Robinson heads the cast in Brother Orchid. I highly recommend every film in this set, especially Picture Snatcher.
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Saturday, February 23, 2008
Man in the Middle (1963)
Robert Mitchum, one of my favorite actors, stars in this amazing military court room drama that takes place in India during World War II. Barry Sullivan stars as an American Lieutenant that shoots a British Sargent in front of 11 other soldiers. The story takes place at a base held by both the Americans and the British. Tensions tend to run high between the two countries and the Americans are hard pressed to hang the Lieutenant at all costs.
In steps Robert Mitchum as counselor for the defense. Lt. Col. Adams (Mitchum) knows there is more going on than meets the eye. The defendant is the brother in law of a congressman and neither the army or the family want the defense to be an insanity plea. But insane is just what the murderer is and Robert Mitchum is out to prove it so that he may spare his client a hanging. "If no man is above the law, then no man is below the law" says Adams.
This film echoes two important civil rights issues that were a mirror for the years in which this movie was made. One is that the mentally ill are not responsible for the crimes they commit and two is racism. I can imagine this film raising quite a few eyebrows when it was released. Some of language that is used by Barry Sullivan's character are quite offensive even by today's standards.
This films is filled with wonderful performances, especially by Mitchum. He is very good in this. Robert Mitchum fans should own this DVD. Every move he makes and every word he speaks demands your attention. The highlight of the film is the guest performance by Trevor Howard who plays a key witness for the defense. The ending of this film is one of the best endings of a court room drama that I have ever seen. I highly recommend this film. Luckily it is available on DVD as part of the Fox War Classics series.
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As always head to Turner Classic Movies for all your classic film needs.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
The Devil is a Woman (1935)
The Devil is a Woman stars Marlene Dietrich, Lionel Atwill and Cesar Romero. The story takes place in Spain during the turn of the century. The majority of the story is told in flashbacks by Lionel Atwill's character Capt. Don Pasqual 'Pasqualito' Costelar. The subject of his stories is that of a devil of a woman named Concha Perez played by none other than Marlene Dietrich.
Marlene Dietrich is absolutely stunning in this film. Concha is fun to look at, fun to watch and very devilish. She wraps Capt. Costelar around her finger and plays him like a piano. The story begins during a street carnival. The costumes and scenery are amazing. Even though this film won an Oscar for best cinematography, I believe it should of won for best costume design.
Also yearning for Concha's affection is Antonio Galvan played by a young and handsome Cesar Romero. Antonio, who is on the run from authorities for being a revolutionary and the Capt are old friends. The story begins with the elder Capt telling his story about Concha to warn the young man that the devil is indeed a woman. Of course Concha's beauty, charm and magnetism is very hard to resist which leads the two men into a duel.
Marlene Dietrich is absolutely amazing in this picture. She will sing, dance and charm her way into your home. Numerous sources have Marlene quoted as saying that this was her favorite picture. It was also directed by Joseph Von Sternberg, who was her mentor and good friend. Joel McCrea was originally cast for the role of Antonio but walked off the picture due to disagreements with Von Sternberg. It is hard to imagine anyone else but Romero in that role. Atwill is also very good as the used and abused Capt.
The pace of this film is fast and holds the viewers attention. When it is over, you actually wish there was more time to voyeur into the lives of these fascinating characters. It is also a very good period piece. The viewer gets to see what it would be like to live in turn of the century Spain. There is also a very good musical number. Marlene's voice is like non-other. This film should be shown in all film schools as a great example of use of costume, make up, props and scenery. It is hard to believe this film was made in 1935 because the print is exquisite.
Luckily The Devil is a Woman is available on DVD and VHS.
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Friday, February 15, 2008
The Gatling Gun (1973)
This is a not so great western about the first real killing machine that would change the face of all wars to come, The Gatling Gun.
The movie starts as a squad of United States Calvary after the Civil War, retrieve a stolen Gatling Gun from a brash young private played by Robert Fuller. This is mostly a B-movie but has some great stars in it including John Carradine, as a preacher; Woody Strode, as a calvary scout; Patrick Wayne as a former confederate soldier and Pat Buttram of Gene Autry fame playing his usual side kick role.
As with most westerns that deal with the time after the Civil War, the boys in blue run into the former boys in gray and the two must unite for the greater good. While this movie was made in the early 70's, it does hearken back to a time in the 1950's when Hollywood was pumping out many of these B-Technicolor westerns.
The Gatling Gun will never be remembered as a great movie of its time and is probably in public domain. But if you enjoy westerns and have an hour or so to kill, then The Gatling Gun is time well spent. The cast alone makes it entertaining. This movie could have been made with more money and might even make a good remake. I would rather Hollywood remake a movie like this, then butcher the big time classics like the Glenn Ford movie, 3:10 to Yuma.
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Friday, February 8, 2008
You Belong to Me (1941)
You Belong to Me is a light comedy starring Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck. This is the last of the 3 movies that the pair made together. Barbara stars as Dr. Helen Hunt, a general practice doctor that meets Henry Fonda while on a ski vacation. While out on the sloops, the two collide when Fonda's character Peter Kirk over does it while trying to impress Helen and knocks himself unconscious. Helen being a Dr., struggles down the sloops to get her medical bag and help. From here the two enter a whirlwind courtship and end up married by the end of the weekend.
Most of the comedic tension comes from the fact that Peter is a millionaire and Helen is a self-supporting Doctor with a lot of male patients. Peter's jealousy gets him in a lot of trouble and a few funny situations. Helen decides that Peter would be much happier if instead of sitting around all day he should work for a living (even though he does not have to).
Henry is pretty good in this role, even though it is not his best. Barbara has been quoted as saying that this was not one of her personal favorites by a long shot. Maybe it is a little unbelievable, but I really enjoy both of them in this movie. It shows a different side of both of them. Their acting seems to be a little stripped down, revealing personal sides of both Fonda and Stanwyck. Maybe it was because both of them did not find the script believable, but in this movie, you get a feeling of what it would of been like to live with either of them.
All in all, You Belong to Me, is an entertaining little gem. It will not make any top ten lists, but it will put you on cloud 9 for an hour and a half if you are a big fan of either Stanwyck or Fonda.
This movie is not available on DVD or VHS, but Turner Classic Movies plays it from time to time. For more info goto:
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
One of Our Aircraft is Missing (1942)
This films is based on a true story of a crew of Englishmen that have to bail out over Holland when the Nazi's shoot down their bomber named B for Bertie. The story starts as the men are getting ready for the mission. One item of note is, Emrys Jones, who plays footballer Bob Ashley (radio operator in B for Bertie), was actually a pro footballer in England before he became an actor.
After their plane is shot down, the crew led by Eric Portman and Hugh Burden, must rely on the Dutch underground to try and make it back to England without being caught by the Germans. A young Peter Ustinov plays a priest that helps the boys on their way. It was one of his first roles.
This movie plays homage to the brave men and women of the Dutch underground that saved the crew of B for Bertie and many other Allied flyers that were shot down over Holland. The whole episode is a true story and very enjoyable. The crew has one adventure after another from capturing a quizzling, to dressing up as Dutch women, to finding their lost crew member Bob Ashley playing a football game with the Dutch resistance, the movie goes at a non-stop pace of great dialog and wonderful performances.
There is some historic significance to this picture, especially at the end when the crew is able to row out onto the sea and takes over a German downed flyer rescue buoy where they wait it out until an allied ship comes by. You rarely get to see these rescue buoys and it appears as if they are using the real deal.
All in all I love this picture. It was made during the war in England. That in itself has huge historical significance. This film is available for a very low price as part of many WWII movie sets. If you are a WWII history buff, or just really love movies from the 40's, this movie should find its way into your home. I highly recommend it.
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Sunday, February 3, 2008
The Big Shot (1942)
The Big Shot is a rarely seen gangster picture starring Humphrey Bogart and Irene Manning. It is not available on DVD or VHS, but luckily I burned it to DVD from Turner Classic Movies, where you can see the movie from time to time.
Bogart stars as three time loser Duke Berne. Recently out of jail for the 3rd time, Duke wants to go straight because he knows his next conviction means life in prison. But as things go when your down and out and in the neighborhood of thugs, Duke gets drawn into one last robbery. Even though he does not make it to the "job", Duke gets thrown in prison thanks to the police forcing his mug shot onto one scared old lady witness.
Even though his lawyer saddles him with a fake alibi for the night of the Robbery, the scam goes wrong when his alibi's girlfriend shows up in the court room and unknowingly exposes the lie.
Back in prison, Duke must now plan a crash out. He does not mind doing life if he committed a crime, but since he did not even attend the robbery, there is no way he is going to do life for it. In prison he is befriended by an amazing eclectic group of characters including "The Dancer", who help him with his plan. One prison variety show later, Duke finds himself on the outside again. But things do not always go as planned. The Big Shot has one of the best endings of a Gangster picture I have ever seen. I hope that this title gets released on DVD soon so more people can find out why the ending is one of the best endings of all the Bogart gangster pictures.
The Big Shot on IMDB.com
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Be sure to check out www.TCM.com to find out when the next time The Big Shot is scheduled.
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Friday, February 1, 2008
This historical early western stars Richard Dix, Irene Dunne and a brilliant cast of supporting characters. Based on the novel by "Giant" author Edna Ferber this early talking western is an historically important movie. Depicting the great Oklahoma land rush of 1889, this film chronicles the life of an adventurer named Yancey Cravat, his wife and his family during the early part of the 20th century.
I had never even heard of the Oklahoma land rush of 1889 before I seen this movie. Perhaps I had seen it in a book I was suppose to read or heard about it in class but not until I viewed the movie Cimarron did I learn exactly what it was. This movie is a great time capsule of that time and place. The viewer gets to see exactly how people lived in that part of America starting with the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889.
Now maybe learning about this event could not change the world as we know it, but it is an interesting depiction on what society was like back then. How will we ever know where we are if we do not learn about where we have been.
Cimarron was remade with Glenn Ford in 1960. This version is just as good as the original and harder to find since it is not on DVD yet. While the story is basically the same, it has a bit more spit and polish and the ending is a bit different.
The Richard Dix version should be viewed first for posterities sake. Also because 1931 is not very far away from the time period the story is depicting, this version is more realistic. The Glenn Ford version however is also amazing, but for different reasons. There is a DVD version available for the original version but not for the remake. Lets hope things do not always come in threes. I would hate to see a 21st century remake on this. But what I do need to see is a DVD release for the 1960 Glenn Ford version. As a Glenn Ford fan, this film is an essential. If your a Richard Dix fan, the 1931 version is a must have. But the youth of today need to see both versions. The kids of today need to experience something outside of the 21st century. These are confusing times. In the past are the answers for the questions we seek to ask.
Links for both films
Thanks for reading. Now go rent/buy these titles, you will not be disappointed.
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