If you missed Part I of my June movies, look no further. Continuing now with some film noir, horror, war, action, you name it:
An Inspector Calls (1954) Guy Hamilton
Studio Canal Vintage Classics Blu-ray (UK) (1:20)
Based on a play by J.B. Priestley, a posh dinner party in 1912 Yorkshire is interrupted as a police inspector (Alastair Sim) announces that a young working class woman has just died, apparently a suicide. So what? the members of the dinner party reply, until the inspector proves that each one of them had a connection to the dead woman. Sim is, as always, marvelous and the film will have you guessing right up until the end.
I Bury the Living (1958) Albert Band
Scream Factory Blu-ray (1:16)
Richard Boone plays Robert Kraft (no relation to the owner of the New England Patriots, I assume…), a man who has just been placed with the responsibility of overseeing a local cemetery. Along with the job, Kraft has inherited a large map designating all of the plots in the cemetery. Black pins on the map mark graves that are already filled; white pins designate plots that have been purchased but not occupied. One day Kraft mistakenly places a black pin on the plot of a still-living person, only to discover that the man who had purchased the plot died overnight. Kraft does it again and another person dies. And another…
Although the ending disappoints, I Bury the Living is a neat little thriller, almost an extended Twilight Zone episode. It’s a film definitely worth checking out.
The Steel Helmet (1951) Samuel Fuller
This early Samuel Fuller project has the distinction of being one of the few effective Korean War films and the first film to give Gene Evans top billing. Evans (second from the left) plays Sgt. Zack, an infantryman who survives a North Korean POW camp, is freed by a South Korean boy (William Chun), and discovers an American patrol unit led by a weak, indecisive Lieutenant Driscoll (Steve Brodie). The film is filled with stereotyped characters, but the story (written by Fuller) is so good and the actors so strong, you’ll quickly overlook the stereotypes. Fans of the Indiana Jones movies will immediately pick up on the fact that Zack calls the South Korean boy “Short Round.”
Charade (1963) Stanley Donen
Often called the best Hitchcock film Hitchcock never made, Charade is an effective mystery/thriller/romance/comedy starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. The less I tell you about the plot, the better, but I will say that the film also stars Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, James Coburn, Ned Glass and features music by Henry Mancini. You’ll be glad you watched it. Cary Grant’s next-to-penultimate film. (There should be a better term for that, and probably is; I just don’t know it.)
The Screaming Skull (1958) Alex Nicol
Scream Factory Blu-ray (1:08)
This low-budget American International Pictures release follows newlyweds Eric (John Hudson) and Jenni Whitlock (Peggy Webber, above) as they move into Eric’s abandoned country house, the same house where Eric’s first wife Marion accidentally died. Soon Jenni becomes convinced that Marion is haunting her. Although clearly a Rebecca knock-off, the film contains several effective moments, especially considering the mostly natural lighting by Floyd Crosby. Certainly not great, but just as certainly worth a look. (The Scream Factory Blu-ray looks excellent.)
Targets (1968) Peter Bogdanovich
Don’t worry, Boris! I plan to write more on this one in the next few days. Stay tuned.
Singapore (1947) John Brahm
Fred MacMurray plays Matt Gordon, a pearl smuggler in Singapore who falls for a woman named Linda (Ava Gardner). They fall in love and plan to marry, but when the Japanese attack, Gordon assumes Linda was killed while waiting for him at the church. Jump ahead five years after the war when Gordon returns to Singapore to find that Linda has not only married someone else, but she also doesn’t remember Gordon at all. Stolen pearls and some real nasty people are involved in a plot that resembles Casablanca in many ways. Singapore isn’t a bad little film at all, although Bosley Crowther dismissed it in his review. (I think he never really “got” film noir.) Definitely worth a look.
Sole Survivor (1983) Thom Eberhardt
Denise Watson (Anita Skinner) walks away from a jet airliner crash as the sole survivor, but should she have died? Are there forces that are attempting to correct this cosmic mistake? The film is often called a precursor to the Final Destination series, but I like it better than those films. Sole Survivor delivers a nice creepy vibe throughout, but I think the problems in the film may be due to the version I saw on YouTube which may have been an edited cut of the film. The film was (and may be again) available from the company Code Red DVD. If this was edited, I’d really like to see the full version.
Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) John Carpenter
Shout! Factory Blu-ray (1:31)
I’m not sure how I missed this terrific film from John Carpenter (his second to direct), but I’m glad I’ve corrected this oversight. In South Central Los Angeles, a police precinct is about to be closed, its staff moved to a new location. A small skeleton crew remains during the building’s last few operational hours and a newly promoted lieutenant named Bishop (Austin Stoker) is assigned to keep watch. Should be an easy gig, right? Maybe, if not for a man (Martin West) who witnessed a gang killing and is running for his life, finally seeking asylum at the decommissioned police station, a fact the gang members don’t fail to miss. Oh wait, there’s more: a prison bus with three inmates stops at the station when one of its prisoners suddenly becomes ill. Assault on Precinct 13 gives you everything you could want from an action picture and delivers far more than most: good acting, great action sequences, superb tension, great pacing and nail-biting suspense. This is good stuff.
A Matter of Life and Death (1946) Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
DVD – library (1:44)
I am constantly amazed at the work of Powell and Pressburger. Think about how many romance/fantasy films you’ve seen since 1946 and what’s been done (and done to death), then watch A Matter of Life and Death (released in America as Stairway to Heaven). The Powell and Pressburger film is so much more vivid, alive and impressive than any of its modern-day equivalents. David Niven plays Peter Carter, a Royal Air Force pilot flying a damaged bomber back to his British base in May, 1945. He has no parachute and realizes he’s not going to make it, so he radios in. Taking the call is June (Kim Hunter), an American radio operator working in England. In just a few frantic moments, Peter and June establish a connection far beyond radio waves, although they both know Peter is doomed to crash and die.
I won’t tell you anymore about the plot of the film. To do so would be inhuman, but I will say that the opening – which immediately jumps into my Top 10 movie openings of all time – is just a taste of the Powell & Pressburger magic that is to follow. Few films can successfully combine black-and-white and color photography, drama and comedy, tragedy and fantasy so successfully. Of course it doesn’t hurt that you have the amazing Jack Cardiff as your cinematographer. See it.
The Trap (aka Klopka) (2007) Srdan Golubović
Amazon streaming (1:46)
If you’re a fan of film noir – and especially neo-noir – you’ve seen this plot before, or maybe one like it. A man named Mladen (Nebojsa Glogovac) and his wife Maridja (Natasa Ninkovic) and their young son Nemanja (Marko Djurovic) have a pretty good life until they find out that Nemanja needs an operation for his terminal heart condition. The operation will cost 26,000 Euros, which Mladen and his wife could never afford. In desperation they place an ad in the newspaper and soon Mladen is approached by a man who will give him the money, but only if Mladen assassinates another man.
The story may seem familiar but it gets a fresh treatment, mainly from being set in a post-Milošević Serbia where the country began to see an ever-increasing gap between the haves and the have-nots. Golubović also makes some very interesting transitions between scenes, transitions subtle enough not to bring attention to themselves, but still impressive. Critics have stated that some of the film’s coincidences are too much to stomach, but I didn’t see it that way at all. I found The Trap to be a solid, gripping neo noir with excellent performances, especially from Glogovac. It’s streaming on Amazon right now, so don’t miss it.
That’s it for this time. Next I’ll finish up the rest of June.
Photos: Front Row Reviews, DVD Beaver, Jonathan Rosenbaum, RareFilm, Blumhouse, Fan with a Movie Yammer, Projected Perspectives