Most of the early part of September was spent in finishing up Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection, which is still available at an incredibly good price. Film noir was a little light in September with only two entries, both of them starring John Garfield. Hopefully you’ll find something to check out here:
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Collection
Previously discussed here, including
The Pearl of Death (1944)
The House of Fear (1945)
The Woman in Green (1945)
Pursuit to Algiers (1945)
Terror by Night (1946)
Dressed to Kill (1946)
That should do it for Sherlock Holmes, at least for now…
Baby It’s You (1983) John Sayles
Olive Films DVD (library)
Previously discussed here.
Fall of the House of Usher (1960) Roger Corman
Arrow Blu-ray (UK)
At the time, Fall of the House of Usher (or sometimes known simply as House of Usher) was American International’s riskiest outing, boasting Cinemascope, color, and a larger than usual budget. It was also the first Roger Corman/Vincent Price/Edgar Allan Poe combination, one that would inspire seven other such ventures.
Richard Matheson’s adaptation makes a few changes in the famous Poe story, but the basics remain mostly intact. Philip Winthrop (Mark Damon) seeks to deliver his fiancée Madeline (Myrna Fahey) from the strange mansion where she lives with her oddball brother Roderick (Vincent Price). Roderick tells Winthrop that his sister can never leave, that she would die if she even attempted to depart.
Even if you know the story, Fall of the House of Usher is great fun, a highly stylized film with one of horror’s creepiest houses, containing some wonderfully weird paintings by Burt Schoenberg. There’s also an interesting exchange between Roderick and Winthrop on the nature of evil. And, of course, Price is – as he always is – a treasure.
For more, check out John M. Miller’s article from TCM.
He Ran All the Way (1951) John Berry
Kino Lorber DVD (library)
John Garfield’s last film before his death at age 39 is one of the first “family held hostage” films, one that’s been imitated many times, yet hard to beat. Garfield plays Nick Robey, a low-life thief who screws up a robbery by killing a cop and abandoning his partner (the wonderful Norman Lloyd). Robey does manage to hang onto $10,000, but doesn’t know how long he can outrun the cops. He desperately needs a hideout. Robey finds a girl named Peg (Shelley Winters) that seems interested in him and decides she’ll be his ticket to safety, whether she wants to or not.
He Ran All the Way features some superb work, most notably Garfield’s portrayal of a paranoid thug and James Wong Howe’s amazing cinematography, but many have wrongly overlooked Winters’s exceptional acting, mainly due to the attention focused on Garfield’s final performance. Although we’re now used to “family held hostage” movies, I challenge you to find a performance as good as Winters’s, one that reflects the fear, love, excitement, and bravery of her character. The film’s final scene is also one of the most powerful in noir.
A Walk in the Woods (2015) Ken Kwapis
Previously discussed here.
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966) Alan Rafkin
Universal DVD (library)
One of my first memories of going to the movies involves seeing The Ghost and Mr. Chicken when I was probably four or five years old. It remains something of a guilty pleasure, capturing a moment from childhood that helped shape my love for movies. Even now, the film still works in the same way many of The Andy Griffith Show episodes still work. (The film also shares many of the same actors and crew.) Both the film and the TV show feature small-town life, home-spun humor, and a strong sense of rooting for the underdog.
Don Knotts plays Luther Heggs, the typesetter for a newspaper in the small town of Rachel, Kansas. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the town’s most famous murder, Luther agrees to spend the night in the creepy Simmons Mansion where the murder occurred and write an article for the paper, which he hopes will land him a job as a full-fledged reporter. It’s all good, goofy fun with just enough spooky elements to keep it interesting (especially for a little kid).
In my research, I learned a few things about the film’s actors that I previously did not know, such as:
Joan Staley (who played Don Knotts’s love interest Alma) was a blonde who wore a brunette wig for the part because the film’s producers thought she would come across as “too sexy.”
Skip Homeier (who appeared in two Star Trek episodes) is still alive, although apparently no longer acting.
The Simmons Mansion also appeared as the home of Elwood P. Dowd (Jimmy Stewart) in Harvey (1950).
Force of Evil (1948) Abraham Polonsky
Olive Films Blu-ray
As stated in the review at Blu-ray.com, any film this highly regarded by Martin Scorsese has got to be worth watching.
And it is. Mob lawyer Joe Morse (John Garfield) may not technically be a criminal, but he sure knows the ins and outs in protecting all the people running the numbers racket. When Joe’s brother Leo (Thomas Gomez) refuses to take Joe’s advice – advice that will ruin Leo if he doesn’t take it – the consequences for everyone spiral down into a nightmarish hell the likes of which we rarely see, even in film noir. You can certainly see the Scorsese influence throughout the film, especially in one scene in which a character urges one man to kill another. Force of Evil is a noir fantasy that feels like reality, largely due to superb performances by Garfield and Gomez, an actor whose career was filled with superb performances. Although Olive Films rarely offers extras, the three-minute introduction by Scorsese is a treasure on its own.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) George Miller
Warner Brothers DVD (library)
Wow. Just wow. Look for a full review soon. It make take me awhile to recover…
Random Harvest (1942) Mervyn LeRoy
Warner Brothers DVD (library)
Adam over at Attaboy Clarence calls Random Harvest “the finest romantic drama ever,” and although I’m not sure I agree with him 100%, the film is very good. Just look at the two leads: Greer Garson and Ronald Coleman, for cryin’ out loud!
A World War I veteran (Coleman) suffering amnesia escapes from a treatment facility and is befriended by a music hall singer (Garson). As their relationship strengthens, the veteran suffers an accident which restores his previous memories, but wipes out every vestige of memory from his post-war life. LeRoy and screenwriters Claudine West, George Froeschel, and Arthur Wimperis keep the James Hilton source material from becoming too sentimental, but the real stars here are the two leads. Follow Adam’s advice and don’t miss it.
So… Let me know what you saw last month, good and bad.