Movies Watched in October 2017 Part I

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…

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The Crime of Doctor Crespi (1935) John H. Auer
YouTube (0:59)

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.

3/5

body_snatcher

The Body Snatcher (1945) Robert Wise (3x)
DVD (1:18)

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.

5/5

among_the_living

Among the Living (1941) Stuart Heisler
YouTube (1:07)

“Are you out of your mind?”

“Not entirely.”

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.

3.5/5

highway_dragnet

Highway Dragnet (1954) Nathan Juran
YouTube (1:11)

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.

3.5/5

undyingmonster2

The Undying Monster (1942) John Brahm
YouTube (1:00)

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.

3/5

Les-Grandes-manoeuvres-AKA-The-Grand-Maneuver-1955-2

Les Grandes Manoeuvres (1955) René Clair
Filmstruck (1:47)

“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.

4.5/5

hello...

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Tobe Hooper (2x)
DVD (1:24)

Previously discussed here

BRIEF ENCOUNTER

Brief Encounter (1945) David Lean
DVD (1:26)
The Great Movies series, Severna Park Library

Previously discussed here

blade1

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

I Married a Witch (1942) René Clair
Filmstruck (1:17)

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.

3.5/5

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

3 thoughts on “Movies Watched in October 2017 Part I

  1. Pingback: Movies Watched in October 2017 Part III | Journeys in Darkness and Light

  2. Pingback: Movies Watched in October 2017 Part II | Journeys in Darkness and Light

  3. Some good and interesting films this time!

    I found Among the Living fascinating for several reasons. Albert Dekker rarely had the opportunity of a leading role but he makes the most of this dual role of very different twin brothers. His body language and vocal inflections makes the two characters recognizably different men and their struggles relatable. This was his screen debut and he moved quickly into support but this shows he could handle the lead if the role was a proper fit.

    It’s also a study of two stars in flight. Susan Hayward whose full-fledged stardom was still a few years away was definitely on her way up, Frances Farmer one the other hand was most definitely on the descent. It’s sad to see Farmer so very subdued when Susie is bursting with saucy energy and star quality. Not even five years previously she was considered an actress with the brightest of futures but this was her second to last picture before descending into a decades long hell of mental illness and involuntary confinement.

    The picture itself is an appealing mix of noir and horror elements and it certainly moves at a sprightly clip. From what I’ve read for a low budget B it garnered a lot of positive reviews and made a pot of money because of its minimal production costs. Plus paired with her other standout role as the grasping Hester in Adam Had Four Sons it marked Hayward as an actress who was going places.

    And one of those places she went was one of your other watches-I Married a Witch. I have a tremendous fondness for that flick. the fact that I’m a fan of every single performer in the film is a big help especially since they’re all on their A game.

    I think this is Veronica’s best performance, and one of her best films, it’s too bad she didn’t have a chance to do more comedy since she proves quite adept at it. She radiates a gossamer glow throughout the film and pairs well with all her scene partners, she and Cecil Kellaway are a great father/daughter team, but none better than Fredric March. They seem utterly smitten with each other which is a testament to their skill since they detested each other with a passion behind the scenes. March, a fantastic actor was also a notorious hot pants putting the make on anything that moved. When Veronica rebuffed him he spent the remainder of the film treating her like dirt under his talented feet. She struck back by various methods including placing weights under her dress during a scene where he had to carry her repeatedly telling him when he commented on how heavy she was for such a small girl that she had “big bones”. He was livid when he found out and it was even more of an acrimonious battlefield from that point on but nothing shows on the screen.

    They would make the film worth seeing on their own but they really are surrounded by a marvelous cast. Robert Benchley, Kellaway, Elizabeth Patterson and Hayward in one of her early signature bitch goddess roles each add something special to the film. Obviously my rating would be higher than yours but I’m glad you liked it.

    I don’t share your appreciation for Richard Conte but I LOVE Joan Bennett and think she’s one of the greatest of the unsung classic film actresses, along with Ida Lupino, Linda Darnell and Jean Simmons. It’s been a while since I saw Highway Dragnet but I did like it. My main memory of it now is that it reminded me, in a good way, of the old Broderick Crawford TV series Highway Patrol with a good pace, lean cinematography and a solid performance from Joan. I am surprised to see that it’s getting a Blu-Ray release though considering it was obviously a low budget affair.

    I actually own The Undying Monster which came in a three pack with two of Brahm’s other films-The Lodger & Hangover Street. It’s the lesser of the three (I’d rate them Hangover Street, Lodger than Monster) but it was an efficient little picture with good mood photography that got the job done.

    Not much can be added about Brief Encounter. It’s a beautiful delicate film.

    I’ve never seen nor heard of The Crime of Doctor Crespi before but now I’m intrigued so I’ll be tracking that one down.

    Liked by 1 person

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