August is off to a great start. In this month’s first week or so, I discovered two films by Jacques Tati, watched two new-to-me Robert Mitchum films, revisited a couple of old favorites, and just possibly found a new title for my All-Time Favorite 80s Movies category. Read on…
Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953) Jacques Tati
PlayTime (1967) Jacques Tati
Both films previously discussed here
Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles (4x)
The Great Movies – Severna Park Library
Julia did a great job of introducing and leading the discussion of Welles’s masterpiece at our recent Great Movies event. More about it here.
Miracle Mile (1988) Steve De Jarnatt
Kino Lorber Blu-ray (1:27)
I had never seen this movie and have no recollection of it coming out in the late 80s, so I was intrigued enough by the guys on Pure Cinema Podcast to venture into a blind buy. I’m so glad I did. This movie won’t be for everyone, but it sure works for me. I plan to devote a separate review to it, so keep an eye out right here. Does it jump into my All-Time Favorite 80s Movies? I think it might…
Saboteur (1942) Alfred Hitchcock
Universal Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (UK) Blu-ray (1:49)
Saboteur finds Hitchcock playing around with several themes and tropes that he would come back to again and again in his career: the wrong man, espionage, the blonde woman in distress, ornate mansions, and much more. This time we find Barry Kane (Robert Cummings, above left), a man accused of starting a fire at the aircraft factory where he works. Kane believes the man really responsible is a stranger named Fry (Norman Lloyd), but while trying to find him, Kane gets mixed up with a bunch of fifth column members. We’ll see many of these elements show up again in films like The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), North by Northwest (1959), and others, and although it’s far from Hitchcock’s strongest work, it’s still great fun.
Cold in July (2014) Jim Mickle
DVD – library (1:49)
In his home late one night, Richard Dane (Michael C. Hall, above left) surprises an intruder and kills him. Although he doesn’t feel like one, the Texas locals are calling him a hero. Everyone, that is, except the dead intruder’s father, Ben Russell (the recently deceased Sam Shepard, right), who has just been released from prison. Russell terrorizes Dane and his family until Dane makes an interesting discovery that changes everything.
I really wanted to like Cold in July and think I’d probably enjoy the Joe Lansdale novel on which it’s based more so than the film. (I’ve never read anything by Joe Lansdale that I didn’t like.) My problems aren’t so much with the story but with some of the stylistic choices director Jim Mickle makes with some of his shots, editing, music, and shifts in tone. Many people, however, love this one, so check it out for yourself and see what you think.
The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) Charles Walters
As I’ve stated before, I am attempting to make an honest effort to combat my aversion to movie musicals, especially those based on Broadway musicals. I appreciate my friend J. loaning me this rags-to-riches fictionalized story of the real Margaret Brown (who survived the sinking of the Titanic), taken largely from the 1960 musical. Debbie Reynolds’s performance was the only thing that held my attention but even that couldn’t sustain me for two+ hours. I didn’t really care for the characters and the songs just aren’t very memorable. Still, some nice moments and some of the dance scenes are good. Sorry, this one’s just not for me.
Home from the Hill (1959/60) Vincente Minelli
DVD – library (2:30)
In the opening of Home from the Hill, Captain Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum), a wealthy East Texas landowner, gets shot by man while out with a hunting party. The man claims Hunnicutt, despite being married to his gorgeous wife Hannah (Eleanor Parker), has been seeing the man’s wife. Hunnicutt is a womanizer and everyone in town knows it, including his illegitimate son Rafe Copley (George Peppard). Yet Hannah has tried to shield Theron (George Hamilton), Hunnicutt’s real son with her, from full knowledge of his father’s shenanigans. The rest of the film is one of those epic family sagas that I typically don’t like, but the actors are superb, the script is good, the Milton Krasner cinematography is beautiful, and Vincente Minelli’s direction combine to make this two-and-a-half hour family drama nothing short of riveting.
Re-Animator (1985) Stuart Gordon (2x)
Arrow U.S. Limited Edition Blu-ray (1:26)
When I first saw Re-Animator in 1985 I thought it was absolutely wheels-off wacko (in a good way). I was concerned that after 30+ years it might not hold up, but it does, especially with the recent Arrow (U.S.) Limited Edition Blu-ray, which includes two cuts of the film: an unrated 86-minute version (the one I watched) and a 105-minute version I hope to watch in the next few days. Re-Animator is probably one of the first splatter horror-comedies I ever saw, plus it’s based on the H.P. Lovecraft story “Herbert West – Reanimator,” so you really can’t miss. I won’t tell you any more about the film except that you should see it and if you like it, you really should pick up the Arrow edition. You can find out more about it here.
Farewell, My Lovely (1975) Dick Richards
It’s too bad Robert Mitchum didn’t play Philip Marlowe earlier in his career. He might have been the definitive Marlowe, but at least he got the role here when he was 58 (although he looks much older). Still, many think this was perfect timing for Mitchum to play Raymond Chandler’s famous detective and you can find plenty of people who believe Mitchum was – and remains – the definitive Marlowe. I hope to write more on this one – plus an additional viewing might just bump it up another half-star or so.
There’s lots more on the way, so stay tuned.
Photos: Silver Screening Room, DVD Beaver, TCM, MUBI
5 thoughts on “Movies Watched in August 2017 Part I”
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Thanks for stopping by! I am eager to revisit SABOTEUR again soon – I also enjoy the story even if, as you mentioned, it’s not the most masterful Hitchcock. I agree that Cummings is a good everyman in the role and gets knocked by Hitch fans probably more than he should.
Glad I discovered HOME FROM THE HILL – sorry that it took me so long to discover it! I think you’re right on target about Hamilton.
Some really great films! I love Saboteur, it’s my favorite Hitchcock even though I’ll freely admit it’s not his most masterful. Just something about it all seems to come together for me. Firstly I LOVE Priscilla Lane! Though she is more or less unknown today despite being a huge star of the 30’s and early 40’s she will always be a Hitchcock blonde which is immorality of a sort and she makes sense in this, she had the kind of fresh scrubbed attractiveness that would have put her on billboards as shown in the film. Also love Vaughan Glaser as her uncle-in his one short scene he makes his character so memorable. I’m not the biggest Robert Cummings fan, he’s usually bland and forgettable but that very everyman quality is just right for Barry. Then there’s the circus folk who are fantastic and the whole final sequence is one of Hitch’s great set pieces.
I am likewise a huge fan of Home from the Hill and agree that it’s the performers who sell it. It stands as a nice reminder that there was a time when George Hamilton wasn’t just some overtanned mannequin but a serious actor. He’s not bad at all but the weakest link of the four lead performers. Mitchum of course rocks it but both Eleanor Parker and George Peppard create memorable characters. It has has a very distinctive look unsurprising from Minnelli who was always a very visual artist.
Unsinkable Molly Brown despite Debbie Reynolds heroic efforts to make it special is on the laborious side. She pushed hard to be cast and sited it as her favorite film, I’d imagine because of the indomitability of the character, but it’s not mine by a mile. Not dreadful but overblown and forgettable.
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