The Dark Mirror (1946) Robert Siodmak
Olive Blu-ray (1:25)
Watching The Dark Mirror in 1946 was undoubtedly a fascinating experience. First of all you had Olivia de Havilland performing wonderfully as twin sisters, a Nunnally Johnson screenplay, cinematographer Milton R. Krasner, music by Dimitri Tiomkin and, of course, Robert Siodmak directing. Over 70 years later, the film’s impact is far less than it was in 1946, but this has less to do with the people who made the film than our understanding of psychology.
T-Men (1947) Anthony Mann
U.S. Treasury Agents Dennis O’Brien (Dennis O’Keefe) and Tony Genaro (Alfred Ryder) go after counterfeiters in this crackerjack police procedural that begins in a pseudo-documentary style before settling down to nail-biting crime story, a nice blend of procedural and film noir. The tension is both excellent and hard-edged, and anytime you’ve got Charles McGraw in the cast, you know there’s gonna be some serious hurt put on someone… and there is! The film features cinematography by the always wonderful John Alton. (More on him and director Anthony Mann in a moment.)
The Machinist (2004)
Directed by Brad Anderson
Produced by Carlos Fernández
Written by Scott Kosar
Cinematography by Xavi Giménez
Music by Roque Baños
DVD – interlibrary loan (1:42)
The Machinist disturbs us from the very first frame and never lets up until the final credits roll, yet when you think about it, we’re really not off the hook even then. Much of what disturbs us is watching an emaciated Christian Bale, who lost 62 pounds for the role of Trevor Reznik, a machinist with a prolonged case of insomnia. The disturbing sight of Bale is a strong foundation for more things that will disturb us in the film, grounding the audience in elements that have one foot in horror and the other in noir. Part of what makes The Machinist so powerful is in how it maintains that balance.
Peeping Tom (1960)
Produced and directed by Michael Powell
Written by Leo Marks
Cinematography by Otto Heller
Edited by Noreen Ackland
Music by Brian Easdale
Studio Canal Vintage Classics/Optimum Home Entertainment 50th Anniversary Blu-ray (1:41)
(For more on the Blind Spot Series, please visit The Matinee.)
For many years, perhaps even as a child, I had heard of Peeping Tom discussed in hushed whispers among a handful of adults, although I’m not sure if any of them had actually seen the film, certainly not in central Mississippi where I grew up. It was never a film I had rigorously sought out, but the title (apart from the cultural phrase itself) drifted through the air from time to time, landing on my adolescent ears. Otherwise I knew little about the film, who starred in it, when it was released, and especially (to my disappointment) at what level of salaciousness it operated.
That’s Entertainment! (1974)
Written, produced and directed by Jack Haley, Jr.
Cinematography by Russell Metty
Warner Blu-ray (2:14)
For many years, I have hated musicals. My friends and co-workers have known this for years and were understandably shocked and confused when I chose Singin’ in the Rain for inclusion in our library’s Great Movies series last year. I also tell them that the main reason I hate musicals is that I played trumpet in far too many little theater pit orchestras (both out of obligation and necessity) when I was younger. The long hours of never-ending rehearsals can really wear you down, especially when you’re in your early to mid-20s and have the energy to do something besides waiting for one of the actors to find the right key or listen to the director arguing with the conductor over whether or not a certain verse can be cut from a song.
But that’s beginning to change. I still do not enjoy professional-level Broadway musicals performed onstage, but I’m discovering that movie musicals contain a sort of magic you just can’t find anywhere else. That’s why That’s Entertainment! (and no doubt its sequels) should be shown to people like me who think they hate musicals.
The Swimmer (1968)
Directed by Frank Perry, Sydney Pollack (uncredited)
Produced by Roger Lewis, Frank Perry
Cinematography by David L. Quaid
Edited by Sidney Katz, Carl Lerner, Pat Somerset
Music by Marvin Hamlisch
Written by Eleanor Perry, based on a short story by John Cheever
Grindhouse Releasing Blu-ray (1:35)
The Swimmer is in many ways a product of the 60s, yet with the exception of a few techniques (and a few swimsuits) that link it to its era, the film transcends its time, making it as relevant in 2017 as it was nearly 50 years ago. (Speaking of 50, let’s just get this out of the way right now. Burt Lancaster was 53 when the film was made. Remember that when you see him diving into swimming pools wearing swimming trunks and moving around like he’s in his 30s. He looks amazing.)
That’s right, the Criterion Flash Sale starts today at 12pm EST. I was beginning to think they’d totally pass February by, sending Criterion fans into a state of apoplexy or depression or both. But it’s here!
Monkey Business (1931) Norman Z. McLeod
Universal – The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Blu-ray (1:19)
Monkey Business is the third Marx Brothers film, but the first to be shot from an original screenplay. (The first two, The Cocoanuts (1929) and Animal Crackers (1930), were by and large adaptations of their Broadway shows.) Is it a better film than Animal Crackers? Is it their best film before Duck Soup (1933)?
While there aren’t a lot of film noir Blu-ray releases in February, you’ll no doubt find at least a couple of things to get excited about. As always, these titles are North American Region A releases on Blu-ray unless otherwise noted.
My Blu-ray player gave up the ghost/bit the dust/crapped out – choose your favorite phrase – last night. (Not my player pictured above – It’s not that bad!) I’ve ordered a new one, but until it arrives, my options are streaming from Amazon, Netflix or Hulu.
Suggestions? If you’re reading this blog, you know that I primarily like film noir, neonoir, suspense and maybe the occasional horror film. Criterions are good, too.
So let’s do this: give me some titles, I’ll pick one at random and review it here on the blog in the next couple of days while I’m waiting for my new player to arrive. And to make it a little more fun, give me your one sentence pitch on why I should watch your selection. (If I’ve seen it before, I’ll let you know.)
Let the suggestions begin! Thanks in advance!