January 2017 turned out to be a great month for movie watching with 36 films (quite a lot for me). You can read Part I and Part II of my January movies as well as the films I saw at Noir City 15 (Opening Night, Four-Movie Saturday, and The Community of Film Noir). Here then, is everything else:
Singin’ in the Rain (1952) Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen (3x)
Regal Waugh Chapel Stadium 12 & IMAX (1:43)
My wife always asks what I want to do for my birthday and this year that decision was easy: to watch Singin’ in the Rain in the theater for its 65th anniversary showing presented by TCM and Fathom Events. A glorious feeling indeed.
Victoria (2015) Sebastian Schipper
Adopt Films DVD – interlibrary loan (2:18)
Previously discussed here.
Red Light (1949) Roy Del Ruth
Two San Quentin convicts Nick (Raymond Burr) and Rocky (Henry Morgan) get the news that Army chaplain Jess Torno (Arthur Franz) is coming home after serving in the South Pacific for five years. Nick was sent to prison by Torno’s brother John (George Raft), and now wants revenge. Rocky agrees to help.
You can tell that John really loves his brother and you can tell where the plot is headed. Rocky murders Jess before he can take his new church assignment. Soon John is hot on the trail of the killer and the man who put him up to it. Red Light has some good things going for it, such as Burr and Morgan as the villains, and although I frequently dismiss Raft’s acting, what he does here he does well. Yet the material is pretty pedestrian with Raft uttering lines such as “I’ll get him if it’s the last thing I do!” (seriously) and “The meek shall inherit the earth… Yeah, six feet of it, like Jess.” Religion rarely seems to figure into most film noir movies, but Red Light is saturated with it, but unfortunately to the point of being syrup-laden, complete with an angelic choir on the soundtrack. Overall, however, a mostly enjoyable noir.
El Aura (The Aura) (2005) Fabián Bielinsky
IFC DVD – interlibrary loan (2:18)
Estaban Espinosa (Ricardo Darín, above) is a taxidermist who fantasizes about how he would commit the perfect crime. He also has a photographic memory, exceptional organizational skills and epilepsy. Strange combination? Maybe.
During a hunting trip with a man he barely knows, Espinosa accidentally kills a man who is in fact a real criminal. Rather than run away in fear for his life, Esponosa decides to act as the dead man’s confidant, helping to heist an armored car filled with profits from a local casino.
I really don’t want to tell you anything further about the film, but I hope you will seek it out. El Aura is one of those films that refuses to allow you to predict what’s going to happen next. I was mesmerized by the film and Darín’s performance. Sadly, El Aura was Argentine director Fabián Bielinsky’s second and final film; shortly after completing the film, he died of a heart attack at age 47. I have not seen his first feature Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens), but I am going to seek it out.
El Aura screened at Noir City 15 after I had to fly home, but I saw it on DVD from the library. If you live near a Noir City festival, please try to catch it. If not, I urge you to check out the DVD.
The Cocoanuts (1929) Robert Florey, Joseph Santley (2x)
Universal – The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Blu-ray (1:33)
When you’re home sick, the Marx Brothers are just what the doctor didn’t order, but should’ve. This first feature-length effort from the brothers concerns Mr. Hammer (Groucho Marx) and his woes in trying to turn the Hotel de Cocoanut into a profitable Florida hotel while Chico and Harpo do their best to rob as many guests as possible.
The Marx Brothers films often contained several songs and this one contains a few too many for my tastes, but they’re mostly good fun. While not their best, this is the brothers’ first full-length effort and includes many good scenes and gags (“why-a-duck”). Even if Groucho isn’t your thing, Harpo will never let you down.
Slightly Scarlet (1956) Allan Dwan
VCI DVD (1:39)
Based on the James M. Cain novel Love’s Lovely Counterfeit, RKO’s Slightly Scarlet features John Payne, Ted de Corsia, Rhonda Fleming, Arlene Dahl, John Alton cinematography and Technicolor Superscope. What could go wrong?
Solly Caspar (de Corsia) controls Bay City’s criminal element and wants to launch a smear campaign against anti-crime mayoral candidate Frank Jansen (Kent Taylor). Caspar sends his henchman Ben Grace (Payne, left) to get the ball rolling, but Grace has second thoughts when he discovers Jansen’s secretary (Fleming, right) and her kleptomaniac sister (Dahl). I won’t tell you what happens from this point; maybe you can guess and maybe you can’t. Slightly Scarlet is a pretty good color film noir, although I prefer Alton’s black-and-white cinematography. The image quality on VCI’s DVD, unfortunately, leaves a lot to be desired.
See anything good to start off 2017? Let me know in the comments section below.
Photos: Gman Reviews, ScreenPrism, Mike’s Take on the Movies, Cine Callejón, Travalanche, The BlowUp Moment