You can find Part I here. So let’s continue…
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
Sony Pictures DVD – library (1:44)
Previously discussed here
The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010) Luc Besson
Shout! Factory DVD (1:45)
Luc Besson’s films are visually stunning, action-filled spectacles that are often breathtaking. This film is no exception. Adèle Blanc-Sec (Louise Bourgoin, above) is a journalist/traveler/explorer who’s trying to revive an Egyptian pharaoh who can in turn revive Adèle’s comatose sister Agathe. Meanwhile, the man Adèle is counting on to help her, Professor Espérandieu (Jacky Nercessian) is having trouble using his telepathic powers to control a recently-hatched pterosaur which is now terrorizing Paris. If all of this sounds wacky, it is, incredibly so. Everything about the film is beautifully done, but the proceedings often turn silly and frivolous. Based on the comic series of the same name by Jacques Tardi.
(Note: The DVD I purchased defaults to an English dubbed edition. If you want to read subtitles, you’ll have to go into the menu and change it.)
The Maltese Falcon (1941) John Huston (9x)
Annapolis Harbour 9 (1:41)
A masterpiece… My thoughts on seeing it on the big screen previously discussed here
Bitter Rice (1949) Giuseppe De Santis
Hulu Plus (1:48)
Is there such a thing as rice-planting noir? A woman named Francesca (American actress Doris Dowling, above center) seeks to hide out among the multitude of women planting rice in a valley in Northern Italy. She and her thief friend Walter (Vittorio Gassman) try to evade the law and in the process meet the voluptuous Silvana (Silvana Mangano), unsure whether she’s going to aid them or blow the whistle. Definite elements of Italian realism combine with several film noir elements to produce a very effective film. Very nice score by Goffredo Petrassi. Also a recent Criterion release. In Italian with English subtitles.
Clash by Night (1952) Fritz Lang
Warner Archive DVD – library (1:45)
After a failed life in New York, cynical Barbara Stanwyck (above center) arrives in her hometown, a fishing village where her brother Keith Andes still lives. She’s courted by the likable but not very smart Paul Douglas (left), eventually marrying him, but becomes more interested in local roustabout Robert Ryan (right).
Based on Clifford Odets’s play, Clash by Night gets into some pretty deep melodrama (much of it quite good), but it’s also a bit noirish as well. Excellent performances keep this one interesting as does the inclusion of Marilyn Monroe.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) Miloš Forman (4x)
Warner DVD (2:13)
My friend K. had never seen this one, so we gave it a spin. Of course Nicholson is great, but I was very impressed with the amazing supporting cast, particularly Brad Dourif in his first role.
Crossfire (1947) Edward Dmytryk
Warner Archive DVD – library (1:25)
A police investigator (Robert Young, far right) discovers the murderer of young man might be one of a group of soldiers seen at a local bar earlier in the evening. Sergeant Keeley (Robert Mitchum, third from left) fears the murder might get pinned on his friend Mitch (George Cooper). Or maybe it’s another GI named Montgomery (Robert Ryan) or one named Floyd (Steve Brodie).
Crossfire boasts an excellent cast (also featuring Gloria Grahame), superb direction by Dmytryk, and one of the most effective uses of flashback in film noir. Although it’s a B movie, it doesn’t look like one (at least for the most part). It was also the first B movie to earn a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. If you’re into film noir, this one should definitely be on your list.
Gilda (1946) Charles Vidor
Criterion Blu-ray (1:50)
As one of my Blindspot 2016 films, I’ll have a full review posted in a few days.
Good Night, and Good Luck. (2005) George Clooney
Warner Home Video DVD (1:33)
One of the best films from 2005 is probably one of the least remembered, having to go up against movies like Brokeback Mountain, Crash, Walk the Line, Capote, Munich, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Cinderella Man. Although it was nominated for six Oscars, not many people remember – or at least talk about – Good Night, and Good Luck. But they should.
I think the reason why the film isn’t discussed more is that Americans don’t like to be told what they’re doing wrong or that they’re becoming lazy and stupid. Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn, above) opens the film by telling the assembled guests at a tribute dinner in his honor in 1958 that both journalism and television have for the most part lost their ability to do good and have instead settled for escapist entertainment. (Hmm… What do you think Murrow would think about the current presidential campaign coverage?)
Then we back up to 1953 as Murrow and the CBS newsroom seek to expose the truth about Senator Joseph McCarthy and his tactics to root out Communism within the government, all the while fearful that pressure from corporate sponsors and the network itself might stifle the show’s efforts.
The performances are superb, but some audience members thought the actor playing Senator McCarthy was too over-the-top. They didn’t realize that they were seeing actual footage of McCarthy. Another “Hmmm….”
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) Joseph Green (2x)
Shout! Factory Blu-ray (1:21)
Hey, we don’t discriminate here at Journeys in Darkness and Light; all kinds of movies are fair game! However, truth be told, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is not very good, and in places it’s laughably awful, but how can you not like a movie with a talking severed head? Dr. Bill Cortner (Jason Evers, above right) is a surgeon with unorthodox methods, to say the least. He saves a patient who was pronounced dead, but Cortner’s father (Bruce Brighton) disagrees with his son’s methods. He’ll disagree even more when he learns that Cortner has kept the head of his fiancée (Virginia Leith, center) alive in his basement laboratory.
Cortner skulks through the sleazier parts of town, looking for a body for his fiancée’s head, which takes the movie in a whole other direction, and not without some laughs (many unintentional). Meanwhile, Cortner’s crippled lab assistant Kurt (Leslie Daniels, above left) looks after the woman’s head and the thing trapped in a lab closet, the result of an experiment that didn’t go quite as well as intended…
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is bad, but fun, entertaining enough for me to justify my rating. For fans of the film, this new Shout! Factory Blu-ray is outstanding. The disc also includes the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode of the film (not in high definition) that I hope to watch soon.
That’s it for February. Please let me know what you watched and liked. Or didn’t like…