Wife vs Secretary - 1936
Wife vs Secretary - Released Feb 28, 2016. Directed by Clarence Brown
Blade Runner - 1982
Blade Runner - Released June 25, 1982. Directed by Ridley Scott
Famed dystopian sci-fi epic about four "replicants" who return to earth (where they were manufactured) but are forbidden to trespass. They attempt to blend in with the urban populace which is tightly, but colorfully, packed into a futuristic Los Angeles that is multilingual and dangerous. The replicants (who for the most part appear human, though with more speed and power) have a limited life-span of only four years, and the group is on a mission to locate their designer and find a way to have their soon extinguishing time limits expanded.
Harrison Ford (as Rick Deckard) is a 'blade runner,' a kind of special police officer (though he is in fact an ex-cop) that is empowered by the state to hunt down replicants and "retire" them, is provided with powerful weapons, and uses his own investigation skills to locate the wanted non-humans. Deckard is weary of this role and has to be coerced to take the case, and is continually faced with moral dilemmas he would just as soon avoid, if he could, but can't, because the script by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples, from a novel by Philip K. Dick, doesn't really rely very much on Deckard's deductive strengths, but instead on his ability to be constantly in the right place at the right time.
The story also creates a contradictory paradox about the humanity of the replicants, and the lack of that quality among the humans, which produces an obvious question of whether Deckard is a "replicant" and whether the replicant he has fallen in love with (Sean Young as Rachael) is uniquely more human than are the "humans" Deckard is receiving orders from.
Though Blade Runner has plenty of action sequences, it takes itself seriously enough to construct adult philosophical moral questions, though they are answered in simple ways (the hero does heroic things; the replicant in distress played by Sean Young gets rescued; and as poetic the lead replicant played by Rutger Hauer is portrayed in some finely filmed moments, at other times Hauer is simply a dangerous monster).
The art direction and overall look of Blade Runner is highly influential, and many movies that have since been made after Blade Runner have borrowed from it. The retro-1940s styling reinforces the noir-trappings of the movie's tone, and it also helps to distinguish it from being a derivative of Star Wars (which was partially derived from 1930s Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, among many other things, but not 40's noir. Perhaps the most obvious child from Blade Runner isn't a sci-fi film at all, but the mega-blockbuster of 1989, Batman by Tim Burton).
The urban world of Blade Runner is claustrophobic (which is certainly deliberate) and is decorated with punk-rock visual stylings that must have projected an edgy 1982 tenseness at the time of release that it no longer possesses (punk-rock having since been absorbed into the repertoire of general modern styles), and in this way a large section of the movie is simply antique.
Well-done special effects in Blade Runner of the classic photographic trick school, using models and camera angles, gives the movie a solidness the typical CGI sci-fi film cannot come near. Director Scott integrates all this with his live-action scenes with masses of humans moving through the bleak streets of the future to create a nightmare world where being human only provides legal, superficial advantages over a place being overrun by technology and the arrogance of wielding god-like powers in the absence of god-like wisdom.
Confession - 1937
Confession - Released Aug 28, 1937. Directed by Joe May
This isn't a typical Kay Francis movie, though the melodramatic situation seems familiar: a mother is compromised and loses her daughter when the husband pursues divorce and then simply changes his name and disappears with the child. But there's a lot more on the ball than that, with Francis not even appearing on screen for the first 25 minutes, and when she finally does she gets to stretch her character (Vera, a professional singer) in ways that usually wasn't possible in so many other films that featured Warner's top-paid star during the 1930s.
Basil Rathbone is on hand, along with frequent Francis co-star Ian Hunter, but neither fellow is there to provide romantic resolutions before the end title, which in itself is out of the ordinary (the emotional resolution at the end is unique in American film because it is provided in an almost completely visual way that is unexpected. Cinemagraphe recommends seeing this instead of reading about it).
The star of Confession isn't just Kay Francis, it is also the direction by Joe May, who adapted Confession from the 1935 German film Mazurka scene-for-scene. The script is by Hans Rameau (German original), Julius J. Epstein and Margaret P. Levino. Confession starts off as a Warner Bros movie, but it progressively mines it's German origins so deeply that the film wouldn't be too out of place on the same shelf with Fritz Lang, among others, and all of that is to the good.
Kay Francis, whether on screen in her usual mass of black hair or with blonde coloring does a serious job (and gets out her letter "r" clearly) that it makes you wonder why she wasn't handled as well in other Warner productions. She gets to downplay her character as the story gets darker (and crazier, considering the plot), and the result has a bit more wallop than might have seemed possible from an actress just standing still, looking forlorn, and letting the camera inspect her. But she does it.
Confession has time-shifting court room flashback construction that is sophisticated for 1937, using a technique that shows up in later films like A Woman's Face and hundreds of episodes of Perry Mason. In Confession, this allows the story to be told, retold, and retold again until we're finally clear on why Vera, a washed-up and burnt out singer, decides to pick up a pistol, and why the court room full of men, so eager and logically ready to condemn her, eventually ends up peering at her surreptitiously like she is Joan of Arc.
Dr Strangelove - 1964
Dr Strangelove - Released January 29, 1964. Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Kubrick pokes bitter fun at the 'cold war,' that tense political situation between the United States and the Soviet Union, and it brings to mind the old adage about holding a wolf by the ears: you don't like it but you don't want to let go, either. In the story (by Kubrick, Peter George and Terry Southern), a crazed American air force general (Sterling Hayden as Gen. Jack D. Ripper) sends a force of B-52 bombers into Russian air space to start World War III, in an effort to, as the general says ,"to protect the purity of our precious bodily fluids."
Yes, he's completely "gone off the rails," as the movie tells us, but he's not the only one. The War Room (a very large concrete looking structure that appears to be half-bomb-shelter) at the U.S. Pentagon is soon packed with military brass and experts, along with the United States president (played by Peter Sellers, who has three different roles in this movie, including the title character, Dr. Strangelove). The movie character's names are padded to be inside-jokes, and there'smore in the rest of the movie, which is partially a restrained Mad Magazine examination of the trouble with nuclear weapons.
In the tense War-Room scenes, the professionals logically go through each of the scenarios on how to solve the situation without provoking the Russians into launching an all-out nuclear counter-strike, and soon they have Soviet Premier Kissoff on the phone, and American-Soviet detente is working perfectly to solve the problem, despite the fact Kissoff is drunk and the main American general (George C Scott) is frantic with paranoia about Soviet tricks. The Americans explain the situation and offer to help the Soviets shoot down any American B-52s that won't respond to being called back - - it all works out and the entire bomber wing sent into Russia by General Ripper is nullified. The Americans and the Soviets celebrate their achievement and cooperation. But then...
Slim Pickens (as pilot Major Kong) riding a nuclear war head, whipping his cowboy hat back and forth, rodeo style, is the visual calling card of this movie, which is full of goofy characterizations (Peter Sellers plays the American President completely straight, except when talking to the drunken Soviet leader, in which case he sounds more like the host of the long-running children's program Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, but is in fact using a character style he had utilized on a British comedy program called The Goon Show). In all, Sellers plays three roles: Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, a British RAF officer; President Merkin Muffley; and Dr. Strangelove, a wheelchair-bound nuclear war expert and a former Nazi recruited by the Americans after WWII. George C. Scott as General Buck Turgidson seems like an early dry-run for the characterization he later brought to his work on the 1970 film Patton.
The quality of Kubrick's satire lies partially in how he attacked his theme of nuclear-insanity residing in the upper-echelons of governments. No one is portrayed as incompetent, though everyone is a bit strident, and consequently funny, and except in the case of Sterling Hayden's General Ripper, no one is particular "insane," it's just that they are all too human. With doomsday imminent, they start pitching ideas on how to keep the human race going during a century of nuclear fall-out of "Cobalt-Thorium G," and their solutions are just as ridiculous and self-absorbed as the process that originally produced the problem.
Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck [Illustrated with 310 Photographs] - amazon.com
- The Vagabond Lover - 1929 - Rudy Vallee and Marie Dressler
- Guilty Hands - 1931 - Lionel Barrymore and Kay Francis
- Stolen Holiday - 1937
- White Zombie - 1932
- House on Telegraph Hill - 1951
- The Lady Vanishes - 1938
- Demon with a Glass Hand - 1964
- I Love You Again - 1940
- The Omega Man - Charlton Heston 1971
- The Mummy's Tomb - 1942