Wednesday 24 February 2021

Mo Movies 38

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
A finely made film by Milos Foreman with a wonderful ensemble cast. Here we go: Dissenting opinion. It doesn't really matter what I think though, the boomers and the other (My Dad's) generation before them have already decided this is a masterpiece and a classic. I'm not always on board with the popular actors of the 60s & 70s, for instance the smug fucks Eastwood Connery. Then again I love me some Lee Marvin, Bruce Dern, Charles Bronson, Peter Fonda, Walter Matthau, Burt Reynolds etc. Jack Nicholson lies somewhere liminal. Sometimes he's terrific (Five Easy Pieces 1970 & The Passenger 1975) but sometimes he's so unsubtle (King Of Marvin Gardens 1972 & The Last Detail 1973) it drives me mental! His performance here is a perfect example of the latter. The rest of the cast are all wonderful and playing at a particular level and tone. Nicholson just bum rushes the show by overacting. He's switched up to 11. This film's set in a mental institution for Christ's sake! One person cannot be way more over the top because he's got another twenty contenders for the crown (unless this is a point Foreman was trying to make. In which case more fool me). Nicholson's ego fucked up this consummate ensemble's brilliant collective performance to the point where he's just embarrassing. Anyway that didn't stop everyone from loving it. 

A smart-arse criminal McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) fakes his way out of prison and hard labor into Oregon State Mental Hospital where he is to be assessed. Shenanigans ensue as McMurphy's rebellious streak goes up against Head Nurse Ratched's (Louise Fletcher) tightly controlled authority. While there's nothing particularly wrong with this film apart from the aforementioned, this story just doesn't excite me. Perhaps this film can't live up to its reputation and I have given it several chances. This is a film for other people.

Double Indemnity (1944)
Is this the best crime movie ever? Or for that matter, the best film of all time? Alfred Hitchcock thought so back in 1944. With a script written by Raymond Chandler & Billy Wilder how could you go wrong? They didn't and this is movie perfection! Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray are brilliant as the diabolical duo Phyllis Dietrichson & Walter Neff trying to pull off a murderous insurance scam. However Neff's boss Barton Keyes (Edward G Robinson) is one smart cookie so they're doomed from the start. This is no spoiler of a 76 year old film as Walter reveals his doom at the beginning then the story is told flashback style. That's the amazing trick they pull off, making a film so suspenseful, even though you know the ultimate fate of the main protagonist. It doesn't get better than this.

It's funny that French film critics made gritty American crime dramas pretentious by calling them the cringe-y moniker film noir. Then the French critics made great visionary American directors pretentious too by calling them auteurs. My dad is 81 and he loves his 40s crime/mystery dramas but he has not once uttered the word film noir in his life. He loves Hitchcock & Scorsese too but they're just fabulous directors to him not bloody auteurs

Where The Sidewalk Ends (1950)
Otto Preminger has such a good strike rate he deserves to be in the top echelon of finest film directors of the Movie history! Preminger once again teams up with Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney who he had worked with on the 1944 classic Laura. Andrews plays an unhinged cop from the wrong side of the tracks who accidentally get entangled in murder and romance. Compelling stuff! 

Nightmare Alley (1947)
Tyronne Power plays a sideshow charlatan with big dreams of making it out of the carnival scene to become a pop culture superstar. He has skeletons in his closet though and he has to dodge and weave three femme fatales, cops and other sundry nuisances to get to the top. Where will it all lead? I think you all know the answer to that. One of the finest psychological thrillers these eyeballs have seen. 

Sunset Boulevard (1950) 
This was a first time watch for me. Don't be so surprised! I've never seen Dr Starngelove (1964) or All About Eve (1950) either. I tried to watch this straight after one of director Billy Wilder's other crime masterpieces Double Indemnity (1944) but the tone was so different I had to come back to it a few days later. I was not disappointed. What's not to love here? A young Hollywood scriptwriter Joe (William Holden) becomes entangled in the life of a once famous, ageing and eccentric silent movie actress Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Strange, eerie and downright sinister shenanigans ensue in the eternally seedy scene of the Hollywood motion picture industry. Fifty years before Curb Your Enthusiasm we had A-list celebrities playing themselves ie. Cecil B DeMille, Buster Keaton, Hedda Hopper, Anna Q Nilsson and Sidney Skolsky. Rewind forever!

Fallen Angel (1945)
Dana Andrews once again stars in an Otto Preminger directed crime drama. While Fallen Angel isn't as renowned as Laura (1944) or Where The Sidewalk Ends (1950) its still a mighty fine entry in the 40s cime-murder-mystery film cannon. A drifter named Eric (Dana Andrews) finds himself in a seaside bar somewhere between LA and San Fransisco. Eric meets the gorgeous Stella (Linda Darnell) who works in the bar. It seems every man falls head over heals for Stella with her dark seductive power. Murder, marriage, money and twisted intrigue are the order of the day here. Top notch pitch black crime drama!

Whirlpool (1949)
Another great post-WWII American crime thriller! Kleptomania, hypnotism, recordings of therapy, psychiatry, amnesia, extortion, grumpy detectives, a delectable leading lady and serial murder are all present and accounted for in this Otto Preminger directed classic. 

Leave Her To Heaven (1945)    
This was a startling change following on from the previous six crime thrillers of the same era as it was in stunning technicolor. Wowee! The blu-ray transfer is spectacular. This diabolical crime thriller is different too as it is set in a host of bucolic settings throughout the USA. Don't let that serene countryside fool you though this is just as pitch black as any any crime story set in the gritty urban American cities of the day. Gene Tierney is at the top of her game as the chilling Ellen. Cornel Wilde is tops too. Horrific.

Gilda (1946)
As stated on Instagram this was a first time watch for me and wow was I astounded! Rita Hayworth's sparkling charisma jumped out of the screen and swallowed me whole. A crime-melodrama-adventure-romance with a few tremendous musical numbers thrown in. Gilda has the works. The term film noir has never been more obsolete. Along with Hayworth's fashion, hair, glamour etc. there are some blokes who put in outstanding performances too ie. Glenn Ford, George Macready and Joseph Calleia. Best movie of 1946? It's got some stiff competition in The Big Sleep, The Killers & The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Then I lost the will to write as the 40s & 50s crime movies had me in a whirl. I didn't want to write. I just wanted to enjoy the seedy, cynical and calamitous world of these pictures. I'd seen half of them but they were only half remembered as I was a teenager the first time I saw that half. It might seem strange these days that a teenager in the 80s had seen so many hardboiled 40s crime flicks but there was a reason for that. That reason being Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982). The clever collage film where Steve Martin and Rachael Ward were inserted into a hilarious narrative featuring clips from many classic movies of this era. This was all put together by Carl Reiner and editor Bud Molin. Me and my best mate Scott were totally obsessed with this film a couple of years after it was released. So finding these movies or anything similar on video or taping them off the telly was of utmost importance.

Jean Brooks in The 7th Victim

Anyway I watched The Dark Mirror (1946), Phantom Lady (1944), PickUp On South Street (1953), The Hitch-Hiker (1953), Murder My Sweet (1944), Escape In The Fog (1945), Laura (1944), 5 Against The House (1955), Out Of The Past (1947), They Live By Night (1948), Roadhouse (1948), While The City Sleeps (1956), The Seventh Victim (1943), Shockproof (1949), The Lady From Shanghai (1947), The Naked City (1948), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Thieves' Highway (1949), Sorry Wrong Number (1948), The Reckless Moment (1949) and there's probably one or two I've forgotten. 

Patricia Knight in Shockproof

All the good names in the directing, producing, cinematography & writing game are represented: Samuel Fuller, Jules Dassin, Jaques Tourneur, Robert Siodmak, Fritz Lang, Ida Lupino, Nicholas Ray, Orson Welles, Budd Boetticher, Otto Preminger, John Huston, Anatole Litvak, Max Ophuls, Phil Karlson, Edward Dmytryk, Mark Robson, Douglas Sirk, Val Lewton, Nicholas Musuraca etc.

Jean Peters in Pick Up On South Street

Then we had all the beautiful and beaut actresses of the era: Ida Lupino, Mary Astor, Gene Tierney, Patricia Knight, Kim Hunter, Celeste Holm, Rita Hayworth, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Bennett, Valentina Cortese, Olivia de Havilland, Ella Raines, Kim Novak, Cathy O'Donnell, Jane Greer, Anne Shirley, Nina Foch, Jean Peters, Jean Brooks, Thelma Ritter, Claire Trevor, Rhonda Fleming, Sally Forrest, Geraldine Brooks, Isabel Jewell, Mary Newton, Dorothy Hart, Ann Richards and many more. 

Richard Widmark & Murvyn Vye
in Pick Up On South Street

Plus there was first class actoring from the dudes of the era: Humphrey Bogart, Richard Widmark, Cornel Wilde, Burt Lancaster, Lee j Cobb, Robert Mitchum, Richard Conte, Elisha Cook Jnr., George Sanders, Franchot Tone, Alan Curtis, Brian Keith, Dana Andrews, Vincent Price, Clifton Webb, Farley Granger, Howard Da Silva, Dick Powell, Guy Madison, Edmond O'Brian, Frank Lovejoy, William Talman, Otto Kruger, Kirk Douglas, Thomas Mitchell, John Drew Barrymore, James Mason, Orson Welles, Glenn Anders, Everett Sloane, Murvyn Vye, John Baragrey, Tom Conway, Howard Duff, Barry Fitzgerald, Ted De Corsia, Wendell Corey, Ed Begley, Peter Lorre and way too many to mention.

Ida in Roadhouse

My new found faves (ie. the films I hadn't seen previously) of the non-reviewed 20 are Sorry Wrong Number, The Lady From Shanghai, Roadhouse, Phantom Lady and Shockproof. The good news is I think I've got more than enough of these crime-mystery-thriller-melodramas from the golden era to get me through to the end of the year! Thanks to awesome blu-ray labels such as Arrow, Indicator, Imprint, BFI & Eureka.

Burt in Sorry Wrong Number

Barbara in Sorry Wrong Number

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