Overall I felt like August was a slow month, but I did manage to see quite a few films, most of them for the first time. If you missed the earlier parts of the month, please check out Part I and Part II. Here’s Part III:
Hickey & Boggs (1972) Robert Culp
Kino Lorber Blu-ray (1:51)
I never saw any episodes from the TV show I Spy, which paired Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, but I doubt that pairing was anything like what we see in Hickey & Boggs, a neo-noir film that’s gained cult status through the years and decades. In the film, Hickey (Cosby) and Boggs (Clup) play two private eyes who are cynical, down on their luck, and just plain tired. They’re hired to find a missing woman, but end up finding lots of dead bodies (most of them resulting from their investigation) instead. Writer Walter Hill wasn’t very pleased with the film, especially since he had Jason Robards and Strother Martin in mind when he wrote it. Trying to look at the film through 1972 eyes, the story was probably too bleak for audiences, especially those expecting a return to the types of stories they saw from the I Spy show. I’m definitely going to revisit this one soon and give it another chance.
The Hunted (1948) Jack Bernhard
A police detective discovers that the jewel thief he’s been hunting is in fact his girlfriend. She says she’s being framed, but she’s convicted anyway. After she gets out of prison on parole, she gets linked to a murder. Could she have committed this crime too? Or was she innocent of both? The film stars Preston Foster, the ice skater Belita, and Charles McGraw in a bit part as a detective. Not a bad little noir – worth a look.
Sherlock Jr. (1924) Buster Keaton, William Goodrich (Roscoe Arbuckle, uncredited)
Kino Lorber, The Buster Keaton Collection Blu-ray (0:45)
This undisputed classic finds Keaton as a movie projectionist who falls asleep on the job while showing a detective movie, projecting himself into the film as a master detective. A wonderful film. Watch more Keaton.
Bullets or Ballots (1936) William Keighley
Warner DVD (1:22)
The only ballots you’ll find in Bullets or Ballots are those talked about, which is good news. You’ll find plenty of bullets, however… What else would you expect from a film starring Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and Barton MacLane? Robinson plays Johnny Blake, a New York City cop, once notorious for nabbing racketeers, who’s been given the boot thanks to a new budget-slashing police commissioner. Crime boss Al Kruger (MacLane) brings Blake in to use his expertise in avoiding the cops, paying him far more than he ever made with the police department. But Kruger’s right hand man Bugs Fenner (Bogart) doesn’t trust Blake. Another great Warner Bros. gangster flick with an outstanding cast including Joan Blondell as a woman running a numbers racket.
Obsession (aka The Hidden Room) (1949) Edward Dmytryk
I didn’t plan on featuring several British noir films this month, but it just seemed to happen, thanks to some excellent choices lately on Filmstruck. One such film is Edward Dmytryk’s Obsession (also called The Hidden Room, my preferred title), about a London psychiatrist named Clive Riordan (Robert Newton) who discovers his wife Storm (Sally Gray) having an affair with American Bill Kronin (Phil Brown). Riordan forces Kronin at gunpoint into a hidden room in a remote part of the city, where he taunts the American. At home, he’s also taunting his wife. Who’s the real villain here? Keep an eye on Storm’s dog Monty…
If you’d like to read more about the film – including Dmytryk’s struggles with the Hollywood blacklist, the career of Robert Newton, and a Star Wars connection, please read Susan Doll’s excellent post at Streamline: The Filmstruck Blog.
Time Without Pity (1957) Joseph Losey
David Graham (Michael Redgrave) travels from Canada to England to try to prevent the execution of his son Alec (Alec McCowen), convicted of the murder of his girlfriend. Everyone scornfully approaches Graham, asking why he’s just now coming to his son’s defense with only 24 hours to go before the execution. It’s because Graham’s a recovering alcoholic who’s just emerged from rehab and no one’s sure if he’s fully recovered enough to attempt to save his son. Time Without Pity is a wonderful British noir co-starring Ann Todd, Leo McKern, Peter Cushing, and a very young Lois Maxwell.
Night Moves (1975) Arthur Penn
Warner DVD – interlibrary loan (1:39)
Previously discussed here
The Country Girl (1954) George Seaton (2x)
DVD – library (1:44)
Previously discussed here
Paradise Now (2005) Hany Abu-Assad
The Great Movies series at the Severna Park Library
There was talk in the library system several months back about presenting an international film festival involving several of our system’s 15 branches, but those plans fell through. Julia and I, however, decided that we’d like to go ahead and screen the film we chose for that event, Paradise Now, a look at the final hours before two Palestinian men go on a mission as suicide bombers. More about this film here.
The Undercover Man (1949) Joseph H. Lewis
Think of it as a precursor to Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987). Treasury Department investigator Frank Warren (Glenn Ford) is tracking down any clues he can find that might help him bring down the mob boss known as The Big Fellow (clearly referencing Al Capone). When a key informant is silenced and a slimy mob lawyer (Barry Kelley) easily covers his client’s every move, Warren grows concerned for the safety of his wife (Nina Foch) and himself. The Undercover Man treads on familiar territory for sure, but does so better than most. Even a “Let’s go get ‘em!” scene with Warren facing a grieving Italian family surpasses its melodramatic script, a scene that most films from this era would’ve lingered on unmercifully. The film marks the screen debut of James Whitmore.
Broken Embraces (2009) Pedro Almodóvar
Broken Embraces is undoubtedly not the most ideal place to start with Pedro Almodóvar’s filmography, but it’s where I’ve started. It’s the story of a blind writer named Harry Caine (Lluis Homar) who hears of the death of a wealthy man named Ernesto Martel (José Luis Gómez), which triggers a whole series of memories from many years previously when Caine worked under another name as a film director. Both men are connected by a woman named Lena (Penélope Cruz), but I won’t disclose how she connects them.
Again, I am unfamiliar with Almodóvar’s style and have no reference point for his previous films. All I know is that Cruz starred in three of them. I do know that I found the film visually compelling, the acting marvelous, and the various shifts in time more interesting than confusing. The last 20 minutes of the film, however, left me with the feeling that I’d either missed something or that my lack of knowledge of Almodóvar’s previous films was a disadvantage in watching this one. Perhaps I’ll watch some of the director’s earlier works and return to this one.
49th Parallel (1941) Michael Powell
In Canada’s Hudson Bay in the early days of World War II, a German U-boat is sighted, bombed and sunk, but not before six German soldiers find their way ashore seeking asylum in the (then) neutral United States. Disguised as Canadians, the German soldiers find themselves up against both a democratic and Canadian lifestyle they simply can’t understand. The film may be propaganda, but it’s an excellent thriller boasting a stellar cast including Eric Portman, Laurence Olivier, Raymond Massey, Glynis Johns, Anton Walbrook and more. The film was edited by David Lean and also contains an amazingly good score by Ralph Vaughan Williams. If for no other reason, you must watch the film for Anton Walbrook’s stirring speech against Nazi leader Lieutenant Hirth (Eric Portman). It’s unforgettable.
Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) Sam Wanamaker
Indicator Series Blu-ray (1:53)
The longest and weakest of the three Sinbad movies featuring Ray Harryhausen’s Dynamation (stop motion) special effects, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger is still a pleasant enough adventure. In this installment, Sinbad (Patrick Wayne – yes, that Patrick Wayne, son of John Wayne) seeks to help restore Charak’s Prince Kassim (Damien Thomas) from his current existence as a baboon – a curse placed upon him by his evil stepmother Zenobia (Margaret Whiting) – to a human in order to be crowned caliph. The film also stars a young Jane Seymour and Taryn Power (Tyrone Power’s daughter), but it was released at the same time as Star Wars, so it really never had a chance. Even Harryhausen was disappointed, feeling the film was rushed into production. Pleasant enough, but not great.
Kagemusha (1980) Akira Kurosawa
Criterion Blu-ray (3:00)
The word kagemusha can be translated “shadow warrior” or “political decoy,” both of which are appropriate here. Set in 16th century Japan, the leader of a powerful clan discovers a low-life criminal who looks exactly like him. The possibilities are just too good to ignore. This criminal can impersonate the clan’s lord, especially when it’s discovered that the lord is dying. That’s a very simplistic set-up of an epic film that’s a visual feast for the eyes. If you watch the Criterion Blu-ray, be sure to check out the extras and learn about how the film probably never would’ve been made without the help of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola.
Hopscotch (1980) Ronald Neame
When CIA field agent Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau) decides not to bring in KGB agent Yaskov (Herbert Lom) at the close of a mission, Kendig’s boss (Ned Beatty) demotes him to the records room. Kendig decides he’s had enough, destroying his own file and disappearing to various parts of the world in order to spend time with his lover (Glenda Jackson) and work on an exposé of the CIA.
Hopscotch is a real head-scratcher… It’s a spy movie, a comedy, and a love story, yet it’s also none of these things. You watch so many scenes thinking, “That’s completely improbable,” yet minutes later find yourself thinking, “That just might work…” The performances are good and the film (especially the cat-and-mouse game between Kendig and the CIA) has an undeniable charm, but I’m still scratching my head over it.
That’s my wrap-up for August. Let me know what you watched in the comments below.
Photos: Radiator Heaven, Internet Movie Cars Database, Alt Screen, Between the Seats, Streamline: The Official Filmstruck Blog, Cineplex, Roger Ebert, IMDb, Thinking Faith, A March Though Film History, Blueprint Review, DVD Beaver, Criterion