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Boris Karloff 1961

Boris Karloff 1961

The Premature Burial, broadcast October 1961

Robot Monster 1953

Robot Monster 1953

Robot Monster - released June 23, 1953. Directed by Phil Tucker

Legendary low-budget film (shot for a reported $16,000) which then grossed to over a million dollars in box office. Usually listed as one of the "awful" but funny sci-fi films of the 1950s, the story itself actually has a logical (and clever) structure, and Elmer Bernstein's music is not the average sci-fi soundtrack.

Kay Francis and Delmar Daves

Delmar Davesand Kay Francis

Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the BeastJosette Day - Beauty and the Beast 1946Josette Day

Beauty and the Beast - Released September 1946. Directed by Jean Cocteau

The faery tale is made into a French fantasy family drama with love earned, spurned, and wasted (in the case of the horrid sisters which seek to undermine Belle at every move, or the wastrel brother which lacks their cruelty, but on the other hand drags the whole family into poverty by a combination of sloth and foolish interactions with moneylenders).

Above all this (sometimes funny) filigree about family, though, is the main story, which is the transformative relationship between the hostage (Belle) and her keeper (Beast) in a castle full of darkness and strange servants (walls populated with arms, mantels with faces that have eyes which move, and much more).

It is not long after Belle arrives (she is the substitute prisoner for her father who mistakenly pilfered a single rose from the Beast's garden. This is a death penalty offense) that soon the Beast is being commanded by Belle in small ways, and step-by-step he is changed. But there is still risk and sacrifice involved, which complicates the simple redemption of the Beast from a wrathful and angry slayer of animals who, ironically, by his later admission, is an animal that was once a man.

Creative imagery and dream-like sections, along with the multi-layered dialogue which makes for both a children's tale and an adult one, make this film unique and much more than any of the cartoon versions that have been made over the decades.

Time Bandits

Time BanditsTime Bandits

Time Bandits Released July 10, 1981 (UK) - Director Terry Gilliam

A band of time-traveling dwarves (they've stolen a map from the Almighty and can navigate secret portals to-and-from various eras) are looting their way across the centuries when they accidentally add young suburban English lad Kevin to their group. In between being thrust into various famous events and meeting famous people (Napoleon, Agamemnon, Robin Hood) the dwarves keep an eye over their shoulder because God wants His map back and is hot on their trail, and Satan wants the map too and is manipulating events to bring it within his reach.

Walter Huston

Walter Huston

Flamingo Road

Flamingo Road More Flamingo Road

Gloria DeHaven

Gloria DeHaven


Carnival of Souls

Carnival of Souls

Criterion has released a restored, widescreen Bluray High-Def of Carnival of Souls, famed 1962 fantasy/horror film shot on a shoestring.

Carnival of Souls (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Amazon

Claire Trevor - Stagecoach - 1939

Claire Trevor - Stagecoach - 1939

Stagecoach - Released March 2, 1939. Directed by John Ford

Claire Trevor as Dallas in John Ford's genre-changing Stagecoach plays a part that's part the stereotype saloon girl of a thousand Cowboy movies (big heart, good looks, available), except Ford's story (by Ernest Haycox and Dudley Nichols) allows the audience to get a lot closer to the facts that were usually vague in classic oaters: she's a prostitute. Or, at least, was a prostitute. Ford never shows any bonafides for the character's career, a strategy which certainly helps along his alternative track of getting the movie audience to like Dallas, which Claire Trevor makes it easy to do.

Ford's script seems to have helped itself to material from Maupassant's short story Boule de suif and that informs the tale with Maupassant's tensions, hypocrisy and ironies of a long-distance stagecoach ride with a selection of society all bottled up together (Val Lewton used Boule de suif whole hog in his 1944 film, Mademoiselle Fifi). This group doesn't really get along with each other until the threat of massacre provides focus that their petty prejudices might not be all the important.

You can see that Ford's sympathies lie the strongest on Caire Trevor. He has sympathy for all the characters right across the board, though, as Ford pities the drunk Doctor, the unreconstructed Confederate, a young pregnant girl, John Wayne's Ringo Kid, etc. The only character left in the wind is the thieving banker (played by Berton Churchill) who Ford puts on the screen in one scene with just his backside to the camera for a prolonged sequence, the wind blowing his coat-tails up, as if Ford is saying "look at this man, isn't he an ass?" The native Americans get Ford's nod, too, briefly, though not anywhere as on the scale of his later films.

Ford's strongest plea for empathy is for the suffering Dallas who is helpful and kind to every person on the trip, and has to endure endless slights because, well, she's a protitute mixing with decent society. She is looking for someway out of her profession, and Ford (and John Wayne's Ringo Kid) supply the door. First, though, Ringo Kid has to survive to the end of the movie, and Ford tries hard to make it seem as though that is not an assured proposition.

Claire Trevor 1939

Gina Lollobrigida

Gina Lollobrigida

Buster Keaton

Buster Keaton

More Buster Keaton

Debra Paget

Debra Paget

Mrs Wilberforce

Katie Johnson - Mrs Wilberforce - The LadykillersLady Killers Mrs Wilberforce

The Ladykillers - Released Dec 8, 1955. Directed by Alexander Mackendrick

Katie Johnson (as the widow Mrs. Wilberforce) has the hand of God (and the director, Alexander Mackendrick) protecting her in this tale in which a band of bank robbers lodge in her homey little Victorian townhouse in the middle of 1955 London and plot their heist. They're crooks and killers, and when it appears that Mrs Wilberforce might have realized what their real intentions are (they've been posing as musicians who just need a place to practice) they set out on the simple task of eliminating her. This proves more difficult and complicated than their heist, and the impossibility of harming one hair on this little old ladie's head grows exponentially as their efforts increase.

Mackendrick also directed Kind Hearts and Coronets, that other black comedy masterpiece from Britain's Ealing Studios. In a way, the two films together chronicle how no matter how carefully planned your evil deed, the minor detail will expose you (and get you killed in some ironic way).

Louise Brooks - 1929

Louise Brooks - Pandoras Box 1929- TrialLouise Brooks - Pandoras Box 1929 - TrialLouise Brooks - Pandoras Box 1929- Trial

Pandora's Box - Released Dec 1, 1929. Directed by Georg Willhelm Pabst

Louise Brooks 1929 Pandoras BoxPandoras Box 1929 - Louise Brooks

Notorius - 1946

Claude Rains and Ingrid Bergman - Notorius

Notorius - Released Sept 6, 1946. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Hitchcock's film has two lead stars, but it's really a heroine adventure story, featuring Ingrid Bergman as Alicia Huberman, and secondarily Cary Grant as intelligence officer Devlin, the man who recruits her to infiltrate a Nazi den in Brazil.

The film tells us she's bad ("tramp" is used a couple of times) but she hardly seems evil or unlikeable, just moderately alcoholic and deeply depressed (and cynical) because her father turned out to be a Nazi agent working against the allies, something that would probably knock just about any American for a loop in 1946.

Then she meets Cary Grant and things are looking up, except in Ben Hecht's script, she has to prove that she's worthy of his attention, which then means she has to marry Nazi-sympathizer Claude Rains (as Alexander Sebastian) and live with him and his diabolical mother (Madame Leopoldine Konstantin) in their enormous mansion in Rio De Janeiro.

Being rich and adored might not seem like much of a penance, but considering she wants to be with Cary Grant, being assigned to Claude Rains is a quite an ordeal. In between the day-to-day tasks of a married woman, she has to meet with Grant in secret to receive orders to look for the hard evidence the US Government needs about the Nazi groups activities. Much of this coaching from agent Devlin (and his name is no accident) is delivered in tones dripping with sarcasm, condescension and disgust since Grant's character cannot face up to the fact that he's fallen in love with this amoral super-spy he has imagined (she's not a super-spy, only an amateur following orders, but in the end she's more effective than the whole staff of spy professionals working with Cary).

Eventually everybody has to face the music: Mr. Sebastian has to tell his mother that the new Mrs. Sebastian isn't exactly who he thought she was (something mother Sebastian suspected all along and is ready to solve with poison); Agent Devlin makes a weak attempt to get assigned to another location but instead winds up at the doorstep of the enormous mansion with a case of worry and an advanced case of love-sickness; and Hitchcock has to create his usual level of tension in the middle of a spy-love melodrama, which he is able to do with his usual efficiency.

Ingrid Bergman - Notorius 1946 - Hitchcock

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