18 films is a fairly low turnout for an entire month, but I did complete an entire season of The Twilight Zone and started several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation in August. We’ve got a long Labor Day weekend coming up, so I’m sure I’ll stock up on at least a few movies. The first half of August you can find here.
On to the second half…
The Iceman (2012) Ariel Vromen
Millennium DVD – library (1:45)
Based on the true story of professional hitman Richard Kuklinski, The Iceman is a brutally violent film with an amazing performance by Michael Shannon (above left). Early on we see how Kuklinski progressed from supplying porn films to a mob-controlled syndicate (led by Ray Liotta, above right) to becoming a contract killer. His wife (Winona Ryder, who unfortunately doesn’t get to do much here) and family know nothing of Kuklinski’s activities and his efforts to keep it that way are portrayed perfectly by Shannon, who has become one of my favorite actors of the last several years. The violence in The Iceman escalates as we near the finale, perhaps too much so, but the reason to watch is clearly Michael Shannon as well as several good supporting performances from Liotta, Chris Evans, and others. Thanks to Kristina at Speakeasy for recommending this one.
Bullitt (1968) Peter Yates
Warner DVD (1:53)
I’ve probably seen the famous car chase scene from Bullitt at least a dozen times and for awhile, I caught the end of the film on WTBS (Turner) at least as many times in the 70s and 80s, but until now, I’d never seen the entire film. Much of it works and I mean nothing negative in this next comment, but I think that’s largely due to the fact that Steve McQueen says very little. Again, not being negative, but I think this plays into the detective/police procedural well. This guy wouldn’t say a lot; he’d just get the job done. Unfortunately – as in many movies like this – Jacqueline Bisset, as the girlfriend, has almost nothing to do. Robert Vaughn plays a slime ball politician and Simon Oakland, one of my favorite character actors, is… well, typical Simon Oakland. If you haven’t seen it, you must, if only to be culturally literate.
Identity (2003) James Mangold
Sony DVD (1:30)
A truly awful film that wants to be equal parts Twilight Zone episode and slasher movie, but ends up frustrating and infuriating some (including me). A group of ten people find themselves stranded at a Nevada motel during a serious rainstorm. What really makes me mad is the fine acting talent (John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, Clea DuVall, John Hawkes, just to name a few) that’s wasted. Avoid this one. I wish I had.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (doc. 2014) Annika Iltis, Timothy James Kane
Netflix streaming (1:29)
Previously discussed here
The Damned Don’t Cry (1950) Vincent Sherman
Warner DVD (1:43)
Previously discussed here
The Twilight Zone: Season Two (TV, 1960-1961)
Image Blu-ray, (4 discs; 12 hours, 5 min.)
Previously discussed here
The Spiral Staircase (1946) Robert Siodmak
Fremantle Home Entertainment DVD – UK (1:23)
Nifty film noir/psychological thriller about a mute young woman named Helenv(Dorothy McGuire) working as a live-in companion for a wealthy invalid (Ethel Barrymore) in early 20th century New England. A serial killer is on the loose, but Helen refuses to leave, despite warnings from everyone she knows. Mood and atmosphere are wonderful, as only Siodmak could pull off. U.S. editions on DVD are hard to find; I had to get a more affordable copy from the UK. This is a film that desperately needs a domestic Blu-ray release (and an Eddie Muller commentary wouldn’t hurt, either).
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010) Ryan Fleck, Anna Boden
DVD, library (1:41)
I’ll be discussing this one soon as the concluding film in The Beckie Project. Stay tuned.
Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman
Hulu streaming (1:24)
Previously discussed here as part of my Blindspot 2016 series
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) Lewis Milestone
Mill Creek Crime Wave DVD box set (1:55)
Nearly two decades after the death of her rich aunt, Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck) has married Walter (Kirk Douglas), a district attorney whom Martha doesn’t love, but the marriage is one of convenience. Martha’s former friend Sam (Van Heflin) drifts into town, meets a sultry woman named Toni (Lizabeth Scott), who’s on parole, and tries to convince Martha to use her influence to keep Toni out of the joint. Nice film noir that tiptoes along that thin line separating noir from melodrama, but the cast is out of sight. Although uncredited, Byron Haskin directed at least part of the film since Lewis Milestone was away from the film for a considerable time adding his support to a set decorators’ strike. Although available on Blu-ray from Film Chest, the reviews are not good. This is another excellent noir that deserves a better restoration.
Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades (1972) Kenji Misumi
DVD, library (1:28)
The third film in the series, but the only one I could get my hands on. I wanted to see at least one of these films to determine whether I’d want to pick up the Criterion box set which will be available later this year. While I enjoyed the film, I found the action scenes pretty ridiculous and unrealistic. It was entertaining, but I won’t be picking up the box set.
Photos: DIY Magazine, Drive, Challenges, Arsenevich, Focus Features, Criterion, Second Sight Cinema, The Death Rattle