I saw fewer films in April (35) than I did in March (51), yet somehow time slipped away from me and I didn’t get to explore them in much detail, or in some cases at all. So here is an embarrassingly abbreviated version of what I saw during the last part of April. (You can also check out Part I and Part II.)
The Changeling (1980)
Directed by Peter Medak
Produced by Joel B. Michaels, Garth H. Drabinsky
Written by Russell Hunter, William Gray, Diana Maddox
Cinematography by John Coquillon
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:47)
Previously discussed here
Directed by Josef von Sternberg, Nicholas Ray
Produced by Howard Hughes, Samuel Bischoff, Alex Gottlieb
Screenplay by Stanley Rubin, Bernard C. Schoenfeld, Robert Mitchum
Cinematography by Harry J. Wild
Robert Mitchum arrives at the port of Macao with night club singer Jane Russell and traveling salesman William Bendix. Are any of them what they appear to be? Corrupt policeman Thomas Gomez alerts the local underworld boss Brad Dexter that Mitchum might be here as an undercover cop ready to take Dexter back on charges. Certainly not the best noir you’ll ever see, but fun and definitely worth a look.
Manchester by the Sea (2016)
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Produced by Matt Damon, Kimberly Steward, Chris Moore, Kevin J. Walsh, Lauren Beck
Cinematography by Jody Lee Lipes
DVD – library (2:17)
Previously discussed here
Cause for Alarm! (1951)
Directed by Tay Garnett
Produced by Tom Lewis
Screenplay by Mel Dinelli, Tom Lewis
Based on the radio play Cause for Alarm by Larry Marcus
Cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg
Amazon streaming (1:14)
Loretta Young marries Barry Sullivan, who becomes confined to bed due to heart problems. He begins to think that his wife may be plotting to kill him, so he sends a letter to the District Attorney saying so. Moments of the film are quite chilling, but most viewers will see the obvious weakness in the plot.
The High and the Mighty (1954)
Directed by William A. Wellman
Produced by Robert Fellows, John Wayne
Screenplay by Ernest K. Gann, based on his novel
Cinematography by Archie Stout
DVD – library (2:27)
Long but entertaining melodrama/airplane disaster movie that boasts WarnerColor CinemaScope, an Oscar-winning score by Dimitri Tiomkin, and an impressive cast including John Wayne, Robert Stack, Jan Sterling (who won an Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance), Claire Trevor, Laraine Day, David Brian, John Qualen and many more. Fans of the comedy Airplane! (1980) will want to see where much of its inspiration came from.
Repo Man (1984)
Written and directed by Alex Cox
Produced by Peter McCarthy, Michael Nesmith, Gerald T. Olson, Jonathan Wacks
Cinematography by Robby Müller
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:32)
I’ve been meaning to see this sf/comedy/cult film for years and finally did, liking it, but not as much as I’d hoped I would. I hope to revisit the film in a year or two. Maybe it just needs to grow on me.
La Cérémonie (1995)
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Produced by Marin Karmitz
Written by Claude Chabrol, Caroline Eliacheff
Cinematography by Bernard Zitzermann
Stunning story (based on a Ruth Rendell novel called Judgment in Stone) of a young woman named Sophie (Sandrine Bonnaire) who’s hired as a maid by a well-to-do woman named Catherine (Jacqueline Bisset). Sophie has a secret and when she meets up with the local village postmistress (Isabelle Huppert), their friendship leads to trouble. I could – and probably should – write much more on this one. Once you’ve seen it, you won’t forget it.
The Third Man (1949) (4x)
Directed by Carol Reed
Produced by Carol Reed, Alexander Korda, David O. Selznick
Screenplay by Graham Greene
Cinematography by Robert Krasker
Music by Anton Karas
StudioCanal Blu-ray (UK) (1:48)
The more I see this film, the more I am convinced it stands firmly as one of the ten or so greatest films of all time.
Lady in White (1988)
Written, produced and directed by Frank LaLoggia
Co-produced by Andrew G. La Marca
Cinematography by Russell Carpenter
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:57)
Frank LaLoggia’s labor of love has its heart in the right place, is heavy on style and atmosphere, but also quite heavy-handed in its social commentary. Lucas Haas is very good as a young boy who discovers a ghost in his school. The period detail is acceptable, but the small-town life and dialogue frequently borders on cornball. Maybe I’m being too hard on the film, but my expectations were pretty high. The film might, however, be a good transition movie for that kid who likes scary stories but who may not be ready for more “grown-up” horror.
King Kong (1933)
Produced and directed by Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack
Screenplay by James Creelman, Ruth Rose
Based on a story by Edgar Wallace, Merian C. Cooper
Cinematography by Eddie Linden, Vernon Walker, J.O. Taylor
DVD – library (1:44)
I saw this classic as a kid, but it’s been so long this might as well be my first viewing. Absolutely stunning in 1933 and in 2017, an amazing achievement and a must-see.
Green for Danger (1946)
Directed by Sidney Gillat
Produced by Frank Launder, Sidney Gillat
Written by Christianna Brand (based on her novel), Sidney Gillat, Claud Gurney
Cinematography by Wilkie Cooper
DVD – library (1:31)
Highly entertaining and suspenseful, the story of murder at a London hospital during the August 1944 bombings is clever, often humorous, and very smart. Alastiar Sim gives an incredible performance as the investigating inspector. I’d love to see a Criterion Blu-ray upgrade of this one and I’m sure I’m not alone.
Directed by Bernard Rose
Produced by Clive Barker, Steve Golin
Screenplay by Bernard Rose
Based on the story “The Forbidden” by Clive Barker
Cinematography by Anthony B. Richmond
Music by Philip Glass
DVD – library (1:39)
Graduate student Virginia Madsen begins working on a thesis on urban legends by investigating the story of the “Candyman” in Chicago’s North Side. The film works not only as a horror movie, but also fairly well as a social commentary. A fair amount of gore, but what did you expect? Nice score by Philip Glass, most effectively used in the first half of the film.
Forty Guns (1957)
Written and directed by Samuel Fuller
Produced by Jules Schermer
Cinematography by Joseph F. Biroc
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:19)
Unconventional western with Barbara Stanwyck as landowner Jessica Drummond who with her forty hired guns rules a vast amount of territory in Tombstone, Arizona. (No, it’s not the Tombstone story you’re thinking of…) Reformed gunfighter Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) now works for the Attorney General’s office and has come to arrest a man named Swain (Chuck Roberson) for mail robbery. Of course, Swain works for Drummond and she rules her territory like a dictator. Stanwyck is always a force to be reckoned with and this certainly is true with Forty Guns. The main weakness in such a compelling film is the casting of Sullivan, who really can’t hold his own next to Stanwyck (Who could?). I definitely want to revisit this one as I explore more of Samuel Fuller’s work.
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Directed by Joel Coen
Produced by Ethan Coen
Written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Sam Raimi
Cinematography by Roger Deakins
DVD – Interlibrary loan (1:51)
I absolutely love The Hudsucker Proxy and fail to understand why it may be the most unseen Coen Brothers movie ever. Tim Robbins plays Norville Barnes, a young business school graduate seeking to find work at the massive Hudsucker Industries, a company in trouble after the suicide of its founder and president Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning). Sidney J. Mussburger (Paul Newman), a manipulating member of the board of directors, moves Barnes into the position of the company president, making him a puppet while Mussburger controls the strings. Soon journalist Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) exposes Barnes as a total incompetent, but maybe she’s wrong about him…
To tell you more about the plot would be criminal. The Hudsucker Proxy works as satire, physical comedy, screwball comedy, and more with some of the fastest dialogue (especially delivered by Leigh) this side of His Girl Friday. Although only in a few scenes, Newman is excellent. Look for Bruce Campbell in a bit (but great) part. It won’t be for everyone, but you should at least give it a try.
Bad Taste (1987)
Produced and Directed by Peter Jackson
Written by Ken Hammon, Tony Hiles, Peter Jackson
Cinematography by Peter Jackson
Amazon streaming (1:32)
This ultra-low budget sf/horror/comedy/splatter film is Peter Jackson’s first feature made with several of his friends in New Zealand. The plot revolves around a group of aliens who want to capture humans and use their bodies as part of the recipe for their fast food franchise. The gore is ridiculous, intentionally funny, and as such, fun to watch. On the gross-out scale, Bad Taste is a few packets of exploding catsup compared to Jackson’s 1994 film Dead Alive (a.k.a. Braindead). I especially liked the ending (and not just because it was over). If you’re a Jackson fan, you must see it.
That wraps up April. Let me know what you watched or even plan to watch.
Photos: Toronto Film Society, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Lasso the Movies, Criterion, Ferdy on Films, DVD Beaver, Beneath the Underground, JoBlo,