September was a bear. Not only was it your typical frantic/insane atmosphere around here, we also suffered an unexpected death in the family, so the number of films watched is far below normal. I also completed one TV series in September and made significant progress on two more. Although some of my entries are very abbreviated, here’s what I watched in September:
Panic in Year Zero (1962) Ray Milland
Kino Lorber DVD – library (1:32)
Previously discussed here
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen (2x)
Warner Blu-ray (1:43)
Shown as part of The Great Movies series at the Severna Park Library
I saw this for the first time back in May and immediately knew I’d have to include it in our Great Movies series at the library. It was a huge hit, providing our largest audience yet, 51 people.
The Petrified Forest (1936) Archie Mayo
TCM Greatest Classic: Gangsters – Humphrey Bogart DVD (1:22)
Previously discussed here
The Long Goodbye (1973) Robert Altman
Kino Lorber DVD – library (1:55)
Although I saw a few of them several years ago, I’m slowly beginning to explore the films of Robert Altman. Being a fan of film noir, I’m not sure why I shied away from Altman’s The Long Goodbye for so many years, but I finally decided to watch it this month. Raymond Chandler’s private detective Philip Marlowe has been realized by many actors over the years including Humphrey Bogart, Dick Powell, Robert Montgomery, Robert Mitchum, Powers Booth, and others. Elliott Gould doesn’t quite fit my idea of Marlowe, but this is Altman we’re talking about, it’s the 70s, and with that combination, pretty much anything goes.
Since this is Altman, I was surprised the film is as conventional as it is. The basic story is somewhat retained from the novel: Marlowe agrees to drive his friend Terry Lennox (Jim Bouton) to Tijuana, then comes back to LA to find the cops waiting for him; it seems Lennox killed his wife before asking Marlowe for a ride and Marlowe is now an accessory. Marlowe’s thrown in the cooler, then released when the cops tell him that Lennox committed suicide in Mexico. But Marlowe doesn’t buy it.
Hardcore fans of Chandler’s novels may find Altman’s vision of Marlowe too different from their expectations. In particular, they may not like screenwriter Leigh Brackett’s departure from the novel’s original ending. (Brackett is a woefully underappreciated writer of fiction – particularly science fiction – and screenplays including The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo and a little film you might’ve heard of called The Empire Strikes Back.)
Is Altman’s version a mockery of the detective genre? A satire? An homage? All three? These questions are interesting to consider, but in order to ask them, you’ll need to watch the movie. So please do.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) Richard Fleischer (2x)
Disney DVD (2:07)
I had a great time with this film, having seen it only once as a kid. Although I could do without most of the Disney lighter touches (“A Whale of a Tale” ad nauseam), the action and adventure aspects still hold up well.
Blonde Ice (1948) Jack Bernard
Amazon streaming (1:13)
How many men can Leslie Brooks knock off and take their money in 73 minutes? Quite a few. Enjoyable to a point.
High Sierra (1941) Raoul Walsh
TCM Greatest Classic Gangsters – Humphrey Bogart DVD (1:40)
Previously discussed here
Stranger Things, Season 1 (TV 2016) Matt Duffer, Ross Duffer, creators
Netflix original (8 episodes, roughly one hour each)
Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably heard about Stranger Things, the Netflix original series. I typically don’t believe a lot of the hype I hear/read about movies and TV shows, but I must say Stranger Things did not disappoint. Without giving much away, I’ll just say that if you love horror and the 80s, you’re going to love this show.
The Iron Giant (1999) Brad Bird (2x)
Warner Blu-ray (1:27)
A wonderful animated film that’s finally received a long overdue restoration and upgrade to Blu-ray. If you’ve never seen it, The Iron Giant is about a young boy in Maine in 1958 who befriends a giant robot from outer space, a robot the government sees as a threat and wants to blast out of existence. You won’t see any cuddly animals, song-and-dance numbers, less-than-intelligent sidekicks or any of the other things you might associate with animated movies. This is the good stuff.
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (doc. 2016)
Hulu streaming (1:45)
Previously discussed here
The Assassin (2015) Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Netflix streaming (1:45)
When my Blu-ray player was out of commission, I asked readers of the blog and Twitter followers for streaming recommendations. One of the first recommendations I received was The Assassin. More than any other film on this month’s list, I want to revisit The Assassin. It is spectacularly photographed, absolutely beautiful in scope, and at the same time, extremely slow-moving, but I believe the slow pace has been carefully considered and planned.
The story is actually something of a martial arts film set in 8th century China. Maybe if I knew more about that time and place, I would’ve had more of a connection to the film. Its slow pace, combined with my ignorance of the period, made for a somewhat frustrating experience. Yet I believe that director Hou Hsiao-Hsien is challenging us with this film regarding how stories are told and watched. I am challenged to see it again.
The next two film were part of our Forgotten Film Noir Double Feature at the Severna Park Library:
The Big Clock (1948) John Farrow (2x)
TGG DVD (1:35)
The Narrow Margin (1952) Richard Fleischer (2x)
Warner Archive DVD (1:11)
If you’re a film noir lover and want to convert others, The Narrow Margin may just be the best movie to show them. It contains several noir components, but is also a fine thriller in its own right. LAPD Detective Walter Brown (Charles McGraw) and his partner are assigned to travel to Chicago to escort a mob boss’s widow (Marie Windsor) to appear before a Los Angeles grand jury. Only some people in the criminal underworld aren’t very excited about that prospect. Early in the film (so this isn’t really a spoiler), Brown’s partner is killed, leaving Brown as the widow’s only means of protection. But once he gets her safely on the train, the trouble’s just beginning…
The Narrow Margin is not only a fine noir thriller, but one of the best train films of all time. Marie Windsor, a frequent noir actress, is always worth watching and is wickedly good in this one. Highly recommended.
High Noon (1952) Fred Zinnemann (5x)
Olive Signature Blu-ray (1:25)
If you haven’t seen High Noon, shame on you. And other than seeing it on the big screen, the new Olive Signature edition Blu-ray is probably the best way to see it. If this is what the other Olive Signature films will look like (including some impressive extras), sign me up.
Green Room (2015) Jeremy Saulnier
Lionsgate DVD – library (1:35)
After watching Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin a couple of years ago, I knew he was a director worth watching. I think Blue Ruin is probably the better film, but Green Room is certainly no slouch.
The late Anton Yelchin plays Pat, the bass player in a punk band who’s having trouble finding gigs. They find a gig in a remote club near Portland, Oregon, a venue that turns out to be a neo-Nazi skinhead club. But that’s just the beginning of their troubles. When Pat accidentally discovers that a murder has taken place at the club, he and his bandmates are held hostage by the club’s owner, Darcy Banker, a character that provides Patrick Stewart one of his strangest, most disturbing roles ever.
I’ll have more to say about the film after a rewatch, but if you haven’t seen Green Room, I’d recommend it, although there are two scenes I’ll make sure not to watch next time.
Now, tell me what you watched…
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