October is off to a good start with some classic horror titles, a rewatch of a 70s horror classic, a bit of film noir, and the movie everyone’s talking about. Read on…
The Crime of Doctor Crespi (1935) John H. Auer
Based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Premature Burial,” Erich Von Stroheim stars as Dr. Crespi, a famous surgeon who injects a serum into Dr. Stephen Ross (John Bonn), the man who married the woman (Harriet Russell) Crespi loves, making Ross only appear to be dead so that Crespi can bury him alive. The film also stars the classic horror standout Dwight Frye. A pretty slow-moving affair (even though it’s under an hour), but some good creepy moments.
The Body Snatcher (1945) Robert Wise (3x)
In 19th century England, a young medical intern (Russell Wade) implores his mentor Dr. MacFarlane (Henry Daniell) to operate on a young wheelchair-bound girl, but to perform the risky operation, he’ll have to practice on a cadaver. MacFarlane is already employing the ultra-creepy cab driver John Gray (Boris Karloff) as a graverobber, so what’s one more body, right? But there’s more to this relationship, much more… Also including a brief appearance by Bela Lugosi, The Body Snatcher is one of producer Val Lewton’s finest ventures and a great choice for your classic horror viewing this Halloween.
Among the Living (1941) Stuart Heisler
“Are you out of your mind?”
This early noir thriller features twin brothers (played by Albert Dekker): one sane, the other insane. When the sane one is suspected of murder, the insane one – appearing to be simply naive – earns the trust of those who should be running as far from him as possible. A great noirish atmosphere makes up for some pretty simplistic storytelling, but the film also features a young Susan Hayward, Harry Carey, and Frances Farmer.
Highway Dragnet (1954) Nathan Juran
There’s no doubt I am genetically inclined to appreciate any movie starring either Richard Conte or Joan Bennett, but put them together? I’m first in line. Conte plays James Henry, an ex-Marine accused of murdering a woman he met at a bar. Evading the cops, Henry catches a ride with a magazine photographer (Bennett) and her model (Wanda Hendrix). The story is a familiar, but enjoyable one. The story was written by U.S. Anderson and future King of the B Movies Roger Corman in his first credited film. Kino Lorber will be releasing the film on Blu-ray in early 2018.
The Undying Monster (1942) John Brahm
This early John Brahm film contains all of the wonderful atmosphere he brought to many projects throughout his career. Here, the Hammond family is cursed, having several family members meeting death by suicide or through unexplained, mysterious circumstances. A Scotland Yard detective/forensics expert (James Ellison) and his assistant (Heather Thatcher) investigate before the curse can strike again. More mystery than horror, The Undying Monster (who is not the four-legged guy pictured here) itself is relegated to the shadows for most of the film, whose denouement is rather disappointing, yet the Lucien Ballard cinematography is wonderful.
Les Grandes Manoeuvres (1955) René Clair
“Love, we are your slaves.”
I probably would not have discovered this film on my own, but I was listening to a Film Comment podcast focusing on Robert Mitchum in which one of my favorite writers, Imogen Sara Smith, mentioned the film and how much she enjoyed it.
Les Grandes Manoeuvres is an early 20th century costume drama/romance (with definite elements of comedy) starring Gérard Philipe as Armand de la Verne, a lieutenant in the French cavalry stationed in a provincial town before the outbreak of World War I. Armand is quite the womanizer, so confident in his abilities that he bets he can successfully seduce a woman determined by lot. The woman whose number comes up, a Parisian divorcée named Marie-Louise Rivière (Michèle Morgan), already has a suitor, the very respectable Victor Duverger (Jean Desailly) and has no interest whatsoever in Armand. Or does she? The film is delightful on many levels and (Hello, Criterion!) would make a spectacular Blu-ray. The film also features Brigitte Bardot in one of her early film appearances.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Tobe Hooper (2x)
Previously discussed here
Brief Encounter (1945) David Lean
The Great Movies series, Severna Park Library
Previously discussed here
Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Denis Villeneuve
Regal Waugh Chapel Stadium 12 (2:43)
There’s so much I would like to say about Blade Runner 2049, but since the film’s only been out for a few days, I’m going to refrain from a full-on review. I also need to see it again, focusing more on the story elements, which I’m almost convinced will appear weaker upon a second viewing. I do like the film and think it’s good but not great. Ryan Gosling – an actor I dismissed for years – is a fine choice here for reasons I hope to further explore after a second viewing. One thing is clear: if cinematographer Roger Deakins does not win the Oscar for this film, no one should ever watch the Oscars again. (I haven’t for years…)
4/5 for now…
I Married a Witch (1942) René Clair
Since I saw Les Grandes Manoeuvres a few days earlier, I decided to try another film by René Clair, this fun, short romp with Veronica Lake as Jennifer, a centuries-old witch who plans to ruin the life of Wallace Wooley (Fredric March), a descendant of the Puritan who buried her (and her father’s) ashes under a tree to entrap her evil spirit. Jennifer and her father Daniel (Cecil Kellaway) encounter Wooley the day before his wedding to a spoiled brat (Susan Hayward) whose father (Robert Warwick) is the leading backer of Wooley’s campaign for governor. A clear inspiration for the TV show Bewitched (1964-1972), I Married a Witch is good light fun with nice performances.
That’s it for the first week of October. Hope you’ll find something of interest here. There’s lots going on the next few days and weeks: Noir City DC starts up soon, I just started the Ken Burns series The Vietnam War, plus I’ll try to sneak in a few classic horror titles. Stay tuned and let me know what you’re watching.
Photos: That’s Not Current, BBC, The Last Drive-In, Speakeasy, RareFilm, Vox