Missed Part I? Here it is. Now let’s explore some more films:
Waterloo Bridge (1931) James Whale
Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 1 (1:21)
Touching pre-Code story of American soldier Roy Cronin (Douglass Montgomery) in WWI London who meets another American, Myra Deauville (Mae Clarke) during an air raid. Roy falls for Myra, not realizing that she’s a prostitute picking up men on the Waterloo Bridge. Their relationship scenes are quite good, more than making up for some pretty thin ancillary moments. Look for Bette Davis in a couple of scenes.
Two Weeks in Another Town (1962) Vincente Minnelli
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:47)
Kirk Douglas plays a washed up actor attempting a comeback on a film shot in Rome directed by a tyrant (Edward G. Robinson) he’s worked with before. The film is mostly standard melodrama examining the underbelly of Hollywood, but the look of the film is spectacular, made even more so by the gorgeous use of Cinemascope. The film references (and is similar to) another Kirk Douglas film, The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), a much better film.
One Two Three (1961) Billy Wilder
MGM/UA DVD (1:44)
Previously discussed here
Beyond the Gates (2016) Jackson Stewart
Netflix streaming (1:24)
Beyond the Gates begins with an interesting (although not exactly original) idea of an 80s VHS game that allows you to enter another dimension. While clearing out their deceased father’s video store, two brothers (Chase Williamson, Graham Skipper) discover a game called Beyond the Gates that may allow them to find their father and save his soul before it’s too late. The film has a nice nostalgic feel, but takes far too long to materialize. When the payoff finally arrives, it’s disappointingly underwhelming.
Crashout (1955) Lewis R. Foster
Olive Blu-ray (1:29)
Super fun B-picture with a stellar cast including William Bendix, Arthur Kennedy, William Talman, Luther Adler, Gene Evans, and Marshall Thompson as six convicts who break out of prison, trying to evade the cops. The film is, as you might image, filled with testosterone, but the best scenes involve how the men handle the presence of two women (Beverly Michaels and Gloria Talbott). Don’t miss this one.
Secret Beyond the Door (1947) Fritz Lang
Olive Blu-ray (1:39)
Secret Beyond the Door is certainly not Fritz Lang’s finest hour (or hour and thirty-nine minutes, to be exact), but it does have a lot going for it. New bride Celia Lamphere (Joan Bennett) discovers that her husband Mark (Michael Redgrave) has many secrets, one of which is behind a locked door in his house. Celia suspects that he may have plans of some finality, we might say, for her. The film’s strong points are gorgeous cinematography by Stanley Cortez and a wonderful score by the always fascinating Miklós Rózsa.
Fitzcarraldo (1982) Werner Herzog
DVD – library (2:37)
Fitzcarraldo is one of the boldest, foolhardiest, and most fascinating films in the history of cinema. The story (and stories) behind it are the stuff of legend. I’ll have more to say about this film in a later post, but for now, I’ll say that this was one of the films from last year’s Blind Spot series that I didn’t get around to watching until now. I wish I had seen it upon its first release 35 years ago, but I probably wouldn’t have fully appreciated it.
The insanity of the plot is as follows: Klaus Kinski plays Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald (whom the Peruvian locals call Fitzcarraldo), a would-be rubber baron who has an all-consuming desire to build a world-class opera house in the Perivian Amazon. (He also wants to have the world’s most famous tenor, Enrico Caruso, to perform at its opening.) To finance this, Fitzcarraldo must exploit the the only unclaimed area of rubber trees, an area unreachable by any ship, especially the old steamship Fitzcarraldo has purchased. To avoid dangerous rapids, the 320-ton steamship must be carried over a 40° hillside to the other side of the river. This was done without special effects.
Read those last two sentences again. Yes, they actually did this.
The stories from the film are legion and the Les Blank documentary Burden of Dreams (1982), which I have not yet seen, chronicles the entire venture. Again, I will write more about this amazing film at a later date. Don’t wait 35 years to see it like I did.
Peeper (1975) Peter Hyams
I had never even heard of Peeper until I ran across it at a used bookstore. (I’ll bet you haven’t heard of it either.) Set in 1947, the film is a film noir spoof starring an obviously British Michael Caine as Leslie Tucker, an L.A. private detective who’s hired by a man named Anglich (Michael Constantine) to find his long-lost daughter. Tucker finds himself investigating a shady man named Prendergast (Thayer David) and sisters Mianne (Kitty Winn) and Ellen Prendergast (Natalie Wood). Hit men Sid (Timothy Carey) and Rosie (Don Calfa) and another private eye (Liam Dunn) round out the excellent cast.
It’s a shame that with such a great cast, there’s not much that works in Peeper, but I like it probably more than I should. Some of the comedy works due to Caine being totally out of his element (hopefully on purpose), but trying really hard. That in itself is worth a few laughs. I think Hyams took “noir” a bit too literally: so many of the movie’s scenes are entirely too dark. Sometimes you can’t even tell what’s going on. The film never finds its rhythm and often seems like an extended rehearsal rather than a finished movie. Noir fans will get many of the jokes that may leave general movie-going audiences baffled, which is probably one of the reasons the film died critically and commercially. Even though most of the film doesn’t work, it’s still it’s worth seeing for noir fans.
In the Mood for Love (2000) Wong Kar-wai
Wong Kar-wai’s extraordinary In the Mood for Love, like his previous film Chungking Express (1994), is a love story, but the two films are very different from one another, despite the fact that they both star Tony Leung. In the Mood for Love takes place in Hong Kong in 1962 as journalist Chow Mo-wan (Leung) rents an apartment on the same day that a shipping company secretary named Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung) rents the apartment next door. They each have spouses who are absent for long stretches of time and although they speak very infrequently, Chow and Su Li-zhen encounter each other often. Something’s bound to happen between them. Or is it?
In the Mood for Love is one of the most beautiful, exquisite, atmospheric and carefully controlled films I’ve ever seen. It has appeared on many Best Films lists, including the number two spot (behind David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive) on BBC’s list of the greatest films of the 21st century.
Matewan (1987) John Sayles
AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center (2:12)
Previously discussed here
I hope you found something here worth checking out. There will be more…
Photos: TCM, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Dread Central, Tommy’s House of Horrors, DVD Beaver, The Timothy Carey Experience, FilmGrab