With apologies to my friend Movies Silently, I must confess that silent movies are still quite a blindspot for me. I’m almost never disappointed when I watch silent films, but I think it’s getting myself in the right frame of mind to watch them that keeps me from watching more often. Just know that it’s something I’m still working on… So here are the silent films I most enjoyed in 2017:
Probably like most of you reading this blog, I rewatch movies all the time, some on a more-or-less yearly basis. This list doesn’t cover any of those films, but rather movies I hadn’t seen for at least 10 years. (Okay, I bent this rule a couple of times…)
Some of these films I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. Rewatching a film you haven’t seen in a long time can be nostalgic, reaffirming, or possibly devastating. Should you run the risk of destroying what was a good memory of a film by discovering that it is, in reality, a turkey? Such are the gambles one takes…
So here are the 20 best or most interesting films I rewatched this year in the order I saw them:
2017 has been an incredible year for movies on a personal level. So many people I know have watched far more movies this year than I have, but right now I’m on target to go well beyond 400 films in 2017 and that doesn’t include TV shows. That’s more movies than I watched last year (a mere 280) and probably more than I’ve ever seen in an entire calendar year. It does, however, come at a cost. I’ve read fewer books than usual this year, have taken time from other projects, and have made my wife shake her head more than a few times. My friends and co-workers laugh when I say this (and I understand how it sounds), but it’s a real dilemma trying to see all the films I’d like to see just from any one decade. I could easily spend the rest of my life confining myself to one decade, category or genre and still not even come close so seeing everything in it. Plus there’s new stuff coming out all the time. I know some of you understand.
Noirvember 2017 is almost over… For the third consecutive year I watched and commented (sometimes briefly) on one film noir each day during the month. (You can read about my 2015 and 2016 Noirvember adventures if you so desire.) For 2017 I decided to watch only films that were new to me (plus two bonus episodes that were rewatches) and stayed mostly within the bounds of the classic noir era 1940-1959, straying just a couple of times.
Now for some nerdy statistics for those who enjoy such things…
Hangover Square (1945) John Brahm
“I’ve worked all my life for this one night.”
This line spoken by composer George Harvey Bone (Laird Cregar) is chilling in the context of the film and even more so as you consider its off-screen significance, which I’ll cover momentarily. Bone is a late 19th/early 20th century London composer who suffers from amnesia, a condition triggered by loud, discordant sounds. We see a spectacular display of this in the film’s opening scene, a great beginning for a gaslight noir that’s impressive on its own merits of decor and costume, but add in a crazed murder and we’re hooked. Director John Brahm knows the period well and proves himself expert in making the era come alive as he also did one year earlier in The Lodger (also starring both Laird Cregar and George Sanders).
The Killer That Stalked New York (1950) Earl McEvoy
Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes, right) has big plans. She’s just returned to New York from Cuba, where she’s stolen $50,000 worth of diamonds for her husband Matt Krane (Charles Korvin). Their plan is to lay low separately until the feds give up on them, but Matt has a different plan he’s not telling Sheila about: he’s secretly been running around with Sheila’s sister Francie (Lola Albright, left) and plans to ditch them both once he has the money from selling the diamonds.
Oh, but wait…
The Dark Past (1948) Rudolph Maté
The Dark Past caught me off guard in a number of ways. I’m sure it happened in other films, but I can’t remember ever seeing William Holden playing a criminal or Lee J. Cobb so calm and in complete control, his voice never rising above a mezzo forte. So The Dark Past held a few (mostly) pleasant surprises.