Niagara (1953) Henry Hathaway

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Niagara (1953) Henry Hathaway
20th Century Fox
(1:32)
Fox Studio Classics Blu-ray

People have all sorts of ideas and theories as to exactly which film we should point to as Marilyn Monroe’s “breakout” film. Some would go as far back as John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle in 1950; others cling to Howard Hawks’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, released in August 1953. Yet six months before that release, moviegoers were able to see what some consider a strong contender for Monroe’s breakout film, Niagara.

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2014 Best Graphic Novels for Kids

As I librarian, I run across a lot of graphic novels for kids, many of which I recommend to parents and grandparents for those kids in their lives who may be reluctant readers. Not all kids that come into the library are reluctant readers, however, and many of them are absolutely crazy about graphic novels. Even if it wasn’t part of my job to read kids’ graphic novels, I’d do it anyway out of sheer enjoyment. Here are some of the best new graphic novels for kids that were published in 2014:

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2014 Reissues

One of the great pleasures of following comics is seeing a title you once loved – either in single issues or out-of-print collected editions – being reissued. It’s also fun discovering a title you didn’t previously know existed, collected in a nice new format. Here are some of the reissues I most enjoyed in 2014. (I would be delighted if you would be so kind as to share your own.)

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Eraserhead (1977) David Lynch

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Eraserhead (1977) David Lynch
Libra Films International
(1:29)
Criterion Blu-ray

The David Lynch Project Part I

David Lynch’s first feature took five years to finish, but many of those who view it may give up after about five minutes. Even those who love the film often find themselves in disagreement over its meaning and some would question whether it even has one. Lynch himself – as with all his films – isn’t willing to divulge any answers. If you’re looking for interpretations, you can find a multitude of them on the Internet. While I’m certainly interested in the film’s interpretations, I’m also interested in it’s worldview and how the film affects us personally.

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Dark Passage (1947) Delmer Daves

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Dark Passage (1947) Delmer Daves

Warner Brothers
B/W 1:46
Warner Archive Instant

Dark Passage has a lot going for it, so much so that you might think it would be included in discussions of great noir films. It’s not, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad picture, not by a long shot.

The film stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, in their third and penultimate film, coming after To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946) and before Key Largo (1948). With Bogart and Bacall, you’ve certainly got two big positives. Add to the mix a story based on a novel by David Goodis, and Delmer Daves, already a veteran director and screenwriter. Plus it doesn’t hurt having great supporting performances by Agnes Moorehead and Clifton Young.

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But while Dark Passage is good, it never really emerges as great. The first and perhaps biggest problem is in the film’s initial set-up. We see everything from the point of view of Vincent Parry (Bogart), a man falsely convicted of killing his wife. As the film opens, Parry escapes from prison with the hopes of clearing his name and finding his wife’s real killer. He evades capture until he’s picked up by a young woman named Irene (Bacall), who sneaks him to her San Francisco apartment. The Parry point-of-view is awkward, but we’re not supposed to see his face, at least not until after he’s had identity-changing plastic surgery. Bacall carries the first half of the film and while she’s effective in the role, I never really embraced the credibility of Irene’s story or motivation.

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Other elements of the film are equally hard to swallow, such as how Parry finds a plastic surgeon and the death of one of the characters near the end of the film. And while Bogart seems a bit tentative throughout much of the film, Clifford Young is excellent as the driver who initially picks up Parry, not knowing he’s given a ride to an escaped convict. You can see in Young’s eyes that he’s processing everything, thinking just short of one step ahead at all times.

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As good as Young is, Agnes Moorehead, as Irene’s friend Madge, is even better. We quickly learn that Madge is a person used to getting her own way and could create some real trouble for both Irene and Parry. Moorehead is remembered mostly for her role as Endora from the TV show Bewitched, although she was one of Orson Welles’s principal actors in his Mercury Players. She made her film debut in Citizen Kane (not a bad place to start, but where do you go from there?) and frequently gave impressive performances. Moorehead’s portrayal of Madge is full of fire, venom and just plain evil. She flat-out tells you what she thinks and doesn’t give a rip what you think of it.

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Although it has problems, Dark Passage is still an enjoyable film noir, mostly due to its performances and a good use of the San Francisco setting by Daves (who was born there). It’s definitely worth a look. 

3.5/5

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