I always approach rewatching movies with a certain level of fear and trembling… What if a movie doesn’t live up to that one magical viewing you gave it many years ago? Should I have left that wonderful memory alone? If I revisit a movie, do I run the risk of ruining it forever if it no longer delivers?
I expressed some of these concerns in last year’s rewatch post and those concerns still apply. For this year’s list, I limited myself to films I had previously seen only once, eliminating the favorite multiple-rewatch films, movies I revisit frequently such as Vertigo or fun movies like Back to the Future. It’s been several years between viewings of the films listed below. In some cases you can click on the title link for more info; in other cases I typed out a few thoughts. I hope you’ll find some films here to visit or revisit.
Ace in the Hole (1951) Billy Wilder
A devastatingly good movie that refuses to become dated. Previously discussed in March as part of The Beckie Project 2016
Act of Violence (1948) Fred Zinnemann
Van Heflin and Robert Ryan are in top form. Rewatched as part of Noirvember 2016
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) John Sturges
I long for this film to get a Blu-ray upgrade someday, but I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I wish the entire Controversial Classics boxed set would get a Blu-ray upgrade, but that’s even less likely to happen. If you’ve never seen it, Bad Day at Black Rock is one of those great films that hardly anyone talks about or has even seen, although it’s readily available on DVD. What keeps people from it? It’s certainly not the cast. Just look at who’s in it: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine (above right), Dean Jagger… Plus it’s directed by John Sturges, who made some pretty good films in his time.
As the movie starts, we see John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy, above left), a one-armed man, getting off a train in the tiny Western town of Black Rock in 1945. This surprises everyone, since the train hasn’t stopped in Black Rock in four years. Macreedy hardly gets a warm welcome. The townspeople don’t like him, don’t trust him and do everything they can do discourage him from sticking around. But he’s on a mission.
Bad Day at Black Rock is filled with tension, suspense, and excitement. It also carries a strong message without being a message picture. I highly recommend it.
The Big Heat (1953) Fritz Lang
One of the most sadistic scenes in film noir actually happens twice in the same movie. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about. I wish I could’ve been in the audience when this film first came out. I’ll bet it shocked the pants off people and was probably responsible for a decrease in coffee purchases for quite some time.
Crime Wave (1954) André de Toth
More from Noirvember 2016, one of Sterling Hayden’s finest.
Decoy (1946) Jack Bernhard
Still more from Noirvember, this strange film noir has a lot going for it. Click on the title for more.
A Double Life (1947) George Cukor
There’s a lot more to this film besides Ronald Colman’s Oscar-winning performance (although that’s impressive too).
His Girl Friday (1940) Howard Hawks
Nobody makes films like this anymore. For one thing, the talent is just off the charts, starting with Howard Hawks directing Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, neither of whom ever let up for 92 minutes of pure verbal firepower that you’d better be prepared to process, because it comes at you quickly. It’s been said that normal conversations roll along at about 90 words per minute. The dialogue in His Girl Friday tornadoes through at 240 words per minute and not one of them misses a beat.
Rosalind Russell (above right) plays Hildy, a newspaper journalist who’s about to leave her editor and ex-husband Walter Burns (Cary Grant, above middle) to marry a sap named Bruce Baldwin (Ralph Bellamy, above left). Burns tells Hildy he’s happy for her, but he really wants/needs her to help cover the execution of an anarchist (John Qualen).
The entire film is priceless, but there’s one scene that’s an absolute wonder. Grant is talking on the phone while Russell is typing up a story, while Bellamy is barking at Grant and simultaneously trying to convince Russell that he needs her. This 3-minute section has a few cuts, but I’m convinced it was shot all in one take, which is simply stunning. No one drops a line, a word, or even a beat; it’s as perfect as a scene can get. So is the entire film. Not to be missed. (This was one of the entries in our Great Movies series at the Severna Park Library, introduced by my co-worker Julia.)
Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) Henry Levin
My thoughts here are more focused on my first Twilight Time purchase then on the film itself, but I had a great time revisiting a film I hadn’t seen since I was a boy. Sure, there’s plenty of goofiness and silliness on hand (and Pat Boone’s singing gets really old really fast), but it still holds up as a great adventure.
Key Largo (1948) John Huston
My mom used to complain that every time she turned on Turner Classic Movies they were showing Key Largo. She didn’t like the fact that almost the entire film takes place inside a hotel, but that didn’t bother me. I think the film is close to John Huston perfection. Humphrey Bogart plays former Major Frank McCloud, who visits the hotel in order to meet the family of George Temple, a man who met his death in WWII by serving under McCloud. George’s widow Nora (Lauren Bacall) and his father James (Lionel Barrymore), the hotel owner, are glad to see McCloud. They’re also getting tired of the lowlifes renting the hotel now that the winter season is over. But James and Nora can’t exactly get rid of them; they’re a group of thugs led by Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson), waiting for an approaching hurricane to pass so they can flee the country.
The more I watch the films of John Huston, the more I realize what a master he was. Everything about the film works: the pacing, the setting, the camera angle choices, everything. Bogart is excellent in a role that’s quite different for him: for a long time we aren’t sure if he’s a hero or a coward, but his scenes with Robinson sparkle. Claire Trevor won a Best Supporting Actress award for playing Rocco’s alcoholic girlfriend. The scene where he makes her sing for a drink is hauntingly unforgettable. If you’re a fan of film noir and haven’t seen Key Largo, buy the Warner Archive Blu-ray immediately.
The Killers (1946) Robert Siodmak
This might just be the most electrifying film noir experience I had in a theater this year. I know it’s been years since the first time I saw the film and I wonder if I was sleeping through it then. Not this time, man… This is the real deal.
The Stranger (1946) Orson Welles
I think if anyone else had made this film besides Orson Welles, it would be considered great. Well, I think it is great. See what you think.
There you have it, the most enjoyable rewatches I experienced during 2016. Please share your favorite rewatches in the comments section below.