Page 1

Film reviews Contents:

Film reviews Contents: Karl XII (John W. Brunius, Gösta Ekman 1925) Fänrik Ståls sägner (John W. Brunius, Edvin Adolphson 1926) The Last Command (Josef von Sternberg, Emil Jannings 1928) The River (Frank Borzage 1928) Applause (Rouben Mamoulian 1929) Les croix de bois (Raymond Bernard 1932) Rain (Lewis Milestone, Joan Crawford 1932) Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg, Marlene Dietrich 1932) Die verkaufte Braut (Max Ophüls 1932) Number Seventeen (Alfred Hitchcock 1932) Turn Back the Clock (Edgar Selwyn, Ben Hecht 1933) The Private Life of Don Juan (Alexander Korda, Douglas Fairbanks 1934) The Thin Man (W.S.Van Dyke, Dick Powell, Myrna Loy 1934) The Painted Veil (Richard Boleslawski, Greta Garbo, Herbert Marshall 1934) A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Max Reinhardt, James Cagney, Mickey Rooney 1935) Les Misérables (Richard Boleslawski 1935) Roberta (William A. Seiter, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers 1935) Divine (Max Ophüls 1935) The Informer (John Ford, Victor McLaglen 1935) Becky Sharp (Rouben Mamoulian 1935) The Break of Hearts (Philip Moeller, Charles Boyer, Katharine Hepburn 1935) Un grand amour de Beethoven (Abel Gance 1936) The Black Legion (Archie Mayo, Michael Curtiz, Humphrey Bogart 1936) The Good Earth (Sidney Franklin, Victor Fleming, Paul Muni 1937) Fire Over England (William K. Howard, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, 1937) Elephant Boy (Robert J. Flaherty, Zoltan Korda 1937) Under Two Flags (Frank Lloyd, Claudette Colbert, Ronald Colman 1937) History is Made at Night (Frank Borzage, Charles Boyer, Jean Arthur 1937) The Life of Emile Zola (William Dieterle, Paul Muni 1937)


Le roman de Werther (Max Ophüls 1938) We Are Not Alone (Edmund Goulding, Paul Muni, Jane Bryan, Flora Robson 1938) Stanley and Livingstone (Henry King, Spencer Tracy, Cecil Hardwicke 1939) Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks, Cary Grant, Rita Hayworth 1939) Dark Victory (Edmund Goulding, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart 1939) Eternally Yours (Tay Garnett, David Niven, Loretta Young 1939) The Rains Came (Clarence Brown, George Brent, Myrna Loy, Tyrone Power 1939( Mortal Storm (Frank Borzage 1940) Beyond Tomorrow (A. Edward Sutherland, Maria Ouspenskaya 1940) The Long Voyage Home (John Ford 1940) The House of the Seven Gables (Joe May, Vincent Price, George Sanders, Margaret Lindsay 1940) Johnny Apollo (Henry Hathaway, Tyrone Power, Edward Arnold, Dorothy Lamour 1940) Lydia (Julien Duvivier, Merle Oberon 1941) The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, Barbara Stanwyck, Henry Fonda 1941) Cottage To Let (Anthony Asquith, John Mills, Alastair Sim, Leslie Banks 1941) Dangerous Moonlight (Brian Desmond Hurst, Anton Walbrook, Sally Grey 1941) I Wake Up Screaming (H. Bruce Humberstone, Victor Mature, Betty Grable, Laird Cregar 1941) Thunder Rock (Roy Boulting, Michael Redgrave, James Masion, Lilli Palmer 1942) Went the Day Well? (Alberto Cavalcanti 1942) Pied Piper (Irving Pichel 1942) Secret Mission (Harold French, James Mason 1942) The Major and the Minor (Billy Wilder, Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland 1942) Son of Fury (John Cromwell, Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, George Sanders 1942) Grand Central Murder (S. Sylvan Simon, Van Heflin 1942) Street of Chance (Jack Hively, Burgess Meredith 1942) This Above All (Anatole Litvak, Tyrone Power, Joan Fontaine 1942) Keeper of the Flame (George Cukor, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy 1942) The Black Swan (Henry King, Tyrone Power, Maureen O’Hara, George Sanders 1942) To the Shores of Tripoli (H. Bruce Humberstone, Randolph Scott, John Payne, Maureen O’Hara 1942) Eyes in the Night (Fred Zinnemann, Edward Arnold, Ann Sheridan, Donna Reed 1942) The Constant Nymph (Edmund Goulding, Joan Fontaine, Charles Boyer, Alexis Smith 1943) Münchhausen (Josef von Báky 1943) The Silver Fleet (Vernon Sewell, Gordon Wellesley, Ralph Richardson 1943) Devotion (Curtis Bernhardt, Ida Lupino, Olivia de Havilland, Paul Henreid 1943) They Met in the Dark (Karel Lamac, James Mason 1943) Cabin in the Sky (Vincente Minnelli, Lena Horne 1943) The Edge of Darkness (Lewis Milestone, Errol Flynn 1943) The Dark Tower (John Harlow, Herbert Lom, Ann Sheridan, David Farrar 1943) The Purple Heart (Lewis Milestone, Dana Andrews, Farley Granger 1944) The Suspect (Robert Siodmak, Charles Laughton 1944) Summer Storm (Douglas Sirk, George Sanders, Linda Darnell, Edward Everett Horton 1944) Till We Meet Again (Frank Borzage, Barbara Britton, Ray Milland, Walter Slezak 1944) A Song to Remember (Charles Vidor, Cornel Wilde, Merle Oberon, Paul Muni 1945) They Were Sisters (Arthur Crabtree 1945) Waterloo Road (Sidney Gilliat 1945) A Place of One’s Own (Bernard Knowles, Osbert Sitwell, Margaret Lockwood, James Mason, Dennis Price 1945)


Cornered (Edward Dmytryk, Dick Powell, Walter Slezak, Luther Adler 1945) Strange Illusion (Edgar G. Ulmer 1945) And Then There Were None (René Clair, Walter Huston, Barry Fitzgerald, Judith Anderson, Roland Young 1945) The Valley of Decision (Tay Garnett, Greer Garson, Gregory Peck, Gladys Cooper 1945) The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, Dana Andrews 1946) Dragonwyck (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Vincent Price, Gene Tierney, Jessica Lange 1946) Bedelia (Lance Comfort, Margaret Lockwood 1946) Carnival (Stanley Haynes, Sally Grey, Michael Wilding 1946) Beware of Pity (Maurice Elvey, Lilli Palmer 1946) Tomorrow is Forever (Irving Pichel, Orson Welles, Claudette Colbert 1946) Deception (Irving Rapper, Bette Davis, Claude Rains, Paul Henreid 1946) Somewhere in the Night (Joseph L. Mankiewicz 1946) The Specter of the Rose (Ben Hecht 1946) Shock (Alfred L. Werker, Vincent Price 1946) 13 Rue Madeleine (Henry Hathaway, James Cagney 1946) Two Years Before the Mast (John Farrow, Alan Ladd, Brian Donleavy 1946) The Searching Wind (William Dieterle, Robert Young, Sylvia Sidney, Dudley Digges 1946) I’ve Always Loved You (Frank Borzage, Catherine McLeod, Philip Dorn 1946) Body and Soul (Robert Rossen 1947) Carnegie Hall (Edgar G. Ulmer 1947) The Long Night (Anatole Litvak, Henry Fonda 1947) Dear Murderer (Arthur Crabtree 1947) The Woman in the Hall (Jack Lee, Jean Simmions 1947) Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, Tyrone Power 1947) The Courtenays of Curzon Street (Herbert Wilcox, Michael Wilding 1947) The October Man (Roy Ward Baker, John Mills 1947) The Exile (Max Ophüls, Douglas Fairbanks Jr 1947) The Paradine Case (Alfred Hitchcock, Alida Valli, Gregory Peck 1947) An Ideal Husband (Alexander Korda, Michael Wilding, Diana Wynyard 1947) Whispering City (Fyodor Otsep 1947) Take My Life (Ronald Neame, Marius Goring, Greta Gynt 1947) The Upturned Glass (Lawrence Huntington, James Mason 1947) Hungry Hill (Brian Desmond Hurst, Daphne du Maurier, Margaret Lockwood, Dennis Price 1947) The Deep Valley (Jean Negulesco, Ida Lupino 1947) Mourning Becomes Electra (Rosalind Russell, Michael Redgrave, 1947) They Won’t Believe Me (Irving Pichel, Robert Young, Susan Hayward 1947) Dishonored Lady (Robert Stevenson, Hedy Lamarr, Dennis O'Keefe 1947) Railroaded! (Anthony Mann, John Ireland 1947) Call Northside 777 (Henry Hathaway, James Stewart, Richard Crenna 1948) Sorry, Wrong Number (Anatole Litvak, Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster 1948) Esther Waters (Ian Dalrymple, Dirk Bogarde 1948) Blanche Fury (Marc Allégret, Valerie Hobson, Stewart Granger 1948) The Night has a Thousand Eyes (John Farrow, Edward G. Robinson 1948) London Belongs to Me (Sidney Gilliat, Richard Attenborough 1948) The Miracle of the Bells (Irving Pichel, Alida Valli, Frank Sinatra 1948) Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill (Lawrence Huntington, Marius Goring 1948) Ruthless (Edgar G. Ulmer 1948) Casbah (John Berry, Märta Torén 1948)


Escape (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Rex Harrison, Peggy Cummins 1948) So Well Remembered (Edward Dmytryk, John Mills, Trevor Howard, Martha Scott 1948) Johnny Belinda (Jean Negulesco, Jane Wyman, Lew Ayres 1948) Women in the Night (William Rowland 1948) The Woman in White (Peter Godfrey, Alexis Smith, Eleanor Parker, Sydney Greenstreet, Gig Young 1948) All My Sons (Irving Reis, Edward G. Robinson, Burt Lancaster, Louisa Horton 1948) On the Town (Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly 1949) The Fan (Otto Preminger, George Sanders 1949) The Secret Garden (Fred M. Wilcox, Ralph Richardson 1949) Thieves’ Highway (Jules Dassin 1949) The Accused (William Dieterle 1949) Eroica (Walter Kolm-Vellée 1949) Black Magic (Orson Welles, Gregory Ratoff 1949) House of Strangers (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Edward G. Robinson 1949) Give Us This Day (Edward Dmytryk, Sam Wanamaker 1949) Madame Bovary (Vincente Minnelli, Jennifer Jones, James Mason 1949) The History of Mr. Polly (Anthony Pelissier, John Mills 1949) The Interrupted Journey (Daniel Birt 1949) Murder at the Windmill (Val Guest 1949) The Reckless Moment (Max Ophüls, James Mason 1949) Britannia Mews (Jean Negulesco, Dana Andrews, Maureen O’Hara 1949) Rope of Sand (William Dieterle, Burt Lancaster, Paul Henreid 1949) Too Late for Tears (Byron Haskin, Lizabeth Scott, Arthur Kennedy 1949) The Barklays of Broadway (Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Oscar Levant 1949) Song of Surrender (Mitchell Leisen, Claude Rains 1949) Jigsaw (Fletcher Markle 1949) In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray, Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame 1950) Francesco – giullare di dio (Roberto Rossellini 1950) Les enfants terribles (Jean Pierre Melville, Jean Cocteau 1950) So Long at the Fair (Anthony Darnborough, Terence Fisher, Jean Simmons 1950) The Astonished Heart (A. Darnborough,Terence Fisher, Noel Coward 1950) Where the Sidewalk Ends (Otto Preminger, Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney 1950) Last Holiday (Henry Cass, Alec Guinness 1950) The Clouded Yellow (Ralph Thomas, Jean Simmons, Trevor Howard 1950) Under My Skin (Jean Negulesco, John Garfield, Micheline Presle 1950) The Man Who Cheated Himself (Felix E. Feist, Lee J. Cobb, Jane Wyatt (1950) Woman on the Run (Norman Foster, Ann Sheridan, Dennis O'Keefe 1950) Tripoli (Will Price, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Howard de Silva 1950) One Way Street (Hugo Fregonese, James Mason, Marta Toren, Dan Duryea 1950) The Black Rose (Henry Hathaway, Orson Welles, Tyrone Power, Jack Hawkins 1950) On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan 1951) Cloudburst (Francis Searle 1951) Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Albert Lewin, James Mason 1951) The Tales of Hoffmann (Powell & Pressburger 1951) Sirocco (Curtis Bernhardt, Humphrey Bogart, Märta Torén 1951) The Third Visitor (Maurice Elvey, Sonia Dresdel 1951) Lorna Doone (Phil Karlson, Barbara Hale, Richard Greene 1951) Journey into Light (Stuart Heisler, Sterling Hayden, Viveca Lindfors, Thomas Mitchell 1951) Valentino (Lewis Allen, Eleanor Parker, Anthony Dexter 1951)


The Well (Leo Popkin, Russell Rouse, Henry Morgan, Richard Rober 1951) Le carrosse d’or (Jean Renoir, Anna Magnani 1952) The Pickwick Papers (Noel Langley 1952) Phone Call from a Stranger (Nunnally Johnson, Jean Negulescu 1952) Hunted (Charles Crichton, Dirk Bogarde 1952) Deadline (Richard Brooks, Humphrey Bogart, Kim Stanley, Ed Begley 1952) The Card (Ronald Neame, Alec Guinness, Glynis Johns, Petula Clark 1952) The Devil Makes Three (Andrew Marton, Gene Kelly, Pier Angeli, Claus Clausen 1952) The Blue Gardenia (Fritz Lang, Anne Baxter, Richard Crenna 1953) Angel Face (Otto Preminger, Jean Simmons 1953) King of the Khyber Rifles (Henry King, Tyrone Power 1953) Return to Paradise (Mark Robson, Gary Cooper 1953) Madame de… (Max Ophüls, Danielle Darrieux, Charles Boyer, Vittorio de Sica 1953) The Man Between (Carol Reed, James Mason 1953) The Net (Anthony Asquith 1953) Jennifer (Joel Newton, Ida Lupino 1953) The Desperate Moment (Dirk Bogarde, Mai Zetterling 1953) Beat the Devil (John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Morley, Jennifer Jones, Gina Lollobrigida, Peter Lorre 1953) Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, Richard Widmark, Jean Peters 1953) The Egyptian (Michael Curtiz, Michael Wilding, Gene Tierney 1954) Rhapsody (Charles Vidor, Elizabeth Taylor 1954) Salka Valka (Arne Mattsson 1954) Suddenly! (Lewis Allen, Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden 1954) Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk 1954) Private Hell 36 (Don Siegel, Ida Lupino 1954) Prince Valiant (Henry Hathaway 1954) An Inspector Calls (Guy Hamilton, Alastair Sim 1954) The Sleeping Tiger (Joseph Losey, Alexis Smith, Dirk Bogarde, Alexander Knox 1954) Carmen Jones (Otto Preminger, Dorothy Dandridge, Harry Belafonte 1954) Senso (Luchino Visconti, Alida Valli 1954) The Black Widow (Nunnally Johnson 1954) The Sea Shall Not Have Them (Michael Redgrave, Dirk Bogarde, Nigel Patrick 1954) Tiefland (Leni Riefenstahl 1954) Broken Lance (Edward Dmytryk, Spencer Tracy, Robert Wagner, Richard Widmark 1954) Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (Walt Disney 1955) Storm Over the Nile (Zoltan Korda, Terence Young, Laurence Harvey 1955) The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters 1955) The Prisoner (Peter Glenville, Alec Guinness 1955) A Kid for Two Farthings (Carol Reed, Celia Johnson 1955) The Man with the Golden Arm (Otto Preminger, Frank Sinatra 1955) Not as a Stranger (Stanley Kramer 1955) Portrait of Alison (Guy Green 1955) Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich 1955) Cast a Dark Shadow (Lewis Gilbert, Dirk Bogarde 1955) Simba (Brian Desmond Hurst, Dirk Bogarde 1955) French Can-Can (Jean Renoir, Jean Gabin 1955) The End of the Affair (Edward Dmytryk, Deborah Kerr, Van Johnson, Peter Cushing, John Mills, Graham Greene 1955) Soldier of Fortune (Edward Dmytryk, Clark Gable, Susan Hampshire 1955)


The Left Hand of God (Edward Dmytryk, Humphrey Bogart, Gene Tierney, Agnes Moorehead, E.G.Marshall, Lee J. Cobb 1955) Hell’s Island (Phil Karlson, John Payne, Mary Murphy, Francis L. Sullivan 1955) Helen of Troy (Robert Wise 1956) Around the World in Eighty Days (Michael Anderson, David Niven 1956) Carousel (Henry King 1956) The Killing (Stanley Kubrick 1956) Autumn Leaves (Robert Aldrich, Joan Crawford, Anthony Perkins 1956) Lost (Guy Green, David Farrar 1956) Gorilla (Sven Nykvist, Gio Petré 1956) The Spanish Gardener (Philip Leacock, A.J.Cronin, Dirk Bogarde 1956) The Black Tent (Brian Desmond Hurst, Donald Sinden 1956) Beyond Mombasa (George Marshall, Cornel Wilde, Donna Reed, Leo Genn 1956) The Scarlet Hour (Michael Curtiz, Carol Ohmart, Tom Tryon 1956) Wicked as They Come (Ken Hughes, Arlene Dahl, Michael Goodliffe, Philip Carey 1956) I’ve Lived Before (Richard Bartlett, Jack Mahoney, Leigh Snowden, Ann Harding 1956) Istanbul (Joseph Pevney, Errol Flynn 1957) A Farewell to Arms (Charles Vidor, John Huston 1957) Legend of the Lost (Henry Hathaway, Sofia Loren, John Wayne, Rossano Brazzi 1957) The Traitor (Michael McCarthy, Donald Wolfit 1957) Witness for the Prosecution (Billy Wilder, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton 1957) The Enemy Below (Dick Powell, Curt Jürgens, Robert Mitchum, Theodore Bikel 1957) The admirable Crichton (Lewis Gilbert, Kenneth More, Martita Hunt, Cecil Parker, Diane Cilento 1957) The Roots of Heaven (John Huston, Errol Flynn, Herbert Lom, Trevor Howard, Juliette Greco 1958) The Wind Cannot Read (Ralph Thomas, Dirk Bogarde 1958) Ice Cold in Alex (John Lee Thompson, John Mills, Anthony Quayle 1958) The Buccaneer (Anthony Quinn, Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston, Claire Bloom 1958) Anna Lucasta (Arnold Laven, Eartha Kitt, Sammy Davis Jr 1958) The Doctor’s Dilemma (Anthony Asquith, Dirk Bogarde, Leslie Caron 1958) Das Dreimäderlhaus (Ernst Marischka, Franz Schubert, Karlheinz Böhm 1958) Fröken April (Göran Gentele, Gunnar Björnstrand, Lena Söderblom, Jarl Kulle 1958) The Key (Carol Reed, Sophia Loren, William Holden, Trevor Howard 1958) Run Silent, Run Deep (Robert Wise, Clark Gable, Burt Lancaster 1958) Elevator to the Gallows (Louis Malle, Maurice Ronet, Jeanne Moreau 1958) Dunkirk (Leslie Norman, John Mills, Richard Attenborough, Bernard Lee 1958) Brink of Life (Nära livet, Ingmar Bergman, Ulla Isaksson, Ingrid Thulin, Eva Dahlbeck, Bibi Andersson, Margareta Krook, Max von Sydow 1958) Journey to the Center of the Earth (Henry Levin, James Mason, Pat Boone 1959) The Brothers Karamazov (Richard Brooks, Yul Brynner, Lee J. Cobb 1959) Exodus (Otto Preminger, Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint 1960) Song Without End (Charles Vidor, George Cukor, Dirk Bogarde 1960) The Savage Innocents (Nicholas Ray, Anthony Quinn 1960) Once More, with Feeling! (Stanley Donen, Yul Brynner, Kay Kendall 1960) Requiem for a Heavyweight (Ralph Nelson, Anthony Quinn 1960) The Angel Wore Red (Nunnally Johnson, Dirk Bogarde, Ava Gardner 1960) Francis of Assisi (Michael Curtiz 1961) Master of the World (William Witney, Vincent Price 1961) The Naked Edge (Michael Anderson, Gary Cooper, Deborah Kerr 1961)


Victim (Basil Dearden, Dirk Bogarde 1961) Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, Natalie Wood 1961) The Password is Courage (Andrew L. Stone, Dirk Bogarde 1962) The Hands of a Stranger (Newt Arnold, Paul Lukather 1962) Carnival of Souls (Herk Harvey, John Clifford, Candace Hilligoss 1962) The Dock Brief (James Hill, Peter Sellers, Richard Attenborough 1962) The War Lover (Philip Leacock, Steve McQueen, Robert Wagner 1962) Jigsaw (Val Guest, Jack Warner, Yolande Donlan 1962) Sunday in New York (Peter Tewksbury, Jane Fonda 1963) Seance on a Wet Afternoon (Bryan Forbes, Richard Attenborough, Kim Stanley 1964) Hot Enough for June (Ralph Thomas, Dirk Bogarde 1964) Night Must Fall (Karel Reisz, Albert Finney, Susan Hampshire 1964) Lilith (Robert Rossen 1964) The Night of the Iguana (John Huston, Deborah Kerr, Richard Burton, 1964) Of Human Bondage (Ken Hughes, Bryan Forbes, Lawrence Harvey, Kim Novak 1964) Becket (Peter Glenville, Peter O’Toole, Richard Burton 1964) The High Bright Sun (Ralph Thomas, Dirk Bogarde 1965) Onkel Toms Hütte (Géza von Radványi, Herbert Lom 1965) Chimes at Midnight (Orson Welles, John Gielgud, Jeanne Moreau 1965) The Ipcress File (Sidney J. Furie, Michael Caine 1965) Sands of the Kalahari (Cy Endfield, Stanley Baker, Susannah York, Stuart Whitman, Theodore Bikel, Harry Andrews 1965) Grand Prix (John Frankenheimer 1966) Triple Cross (Terence Young, Christopher Plummer 1966) Operazione San Gennaro (Dino Risi, Totò 1966) Paris brûle-t-il? (René Clément 1966) The Quiller Memorandum (Michael Anderson, Max von Sydow, George Segal, Senta Berger, Alec Guinness 1966) The Defector (Raoul Lévy, Montgomery Clift, Hardy Kruger 1966) The Comedians (Peter Glenville, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guinness 1967) The Long Duel (Ken Annakin, Yul Brynner, Trevor Howard 1967) The Witchfinder General (Michael Reeves, Vincent Price, Ian Ogilvy 1968) The Lion in Winter (Anthony Harvey, Katharine Hepburn, Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins 1968) A Twist of Sand (Don Chaffey, Richard Johnson, Jeremy Kemp, Peter Vaughan, Honor Blackman 1968) Ice Station Zebra (John Sturges, Rock Hudson, Patrick McGoohan, Ernest Borgnine, Alf Kjellin 1968) Istanbul Express (Richard Irving, Gene Barry, Senta Berger 1968) Che! (Richard Fleischer, Omar Sharif 1969) Age of Consent (Michael Powell, James Mason, Helen Mirren 1969) The Thousand Plane Raid (Boris Sagal, Christopher George 1969) On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (Vincente Minelli, Barbra Streisand, Yves Montand 1970) Prestuplenie i nakazanie (Lev Kulidzhanov 1970) Promise at Dawn (Jules Dassin, Simone Signoret 1970) Song of Norway (Andrew L. Stone 1970) Anonymous Venetian (Enrico Maria Salerno 1970) Wuthering Heights (Robert Fuest, Timothy Dalton 1970) The Old Man who Cried Wolf (Walter Grauman, Edward G. Robinson 1970)


King Lear (Peter Brook, Paul Scofield 1971) The Brotherhood of Satan (Bernard McEveely 1971) Man in the Wilderness (John Huston, Richard Harris 1971) Kill! (Romain Gary, James Mason, Jean Seberg 1971) The Blood on Satan’s Claw (Patrick Wymark 1971) Puppet on a Chain (Geoffrey Reeve, Alistair MacLean, Sven Bertil Taube 1971) When Eight Bells Toll (Étienne Perier, Anthony Hopkins, Alistair MacLean1971) Fratello sole, sorella luna (Franco Zeffirelli, Alec Guinness 1972) Slaughterhouse 5 (George Roy Hill 1972) Le serpent (Henri Verneuil, Yul Brynner, Dirk Bogarde 1973) Giordano Bruno (Giuliano Montaldo 1973) Moses the Lawgiver (Gianfranco de Bosio 1974) The Klansman (Terence Young, Richard Burton, Lee Marvin, O.J.Simpson 1974) Lisztomania (Ken Russell 1975) Voyage of the Damned (Stuart Rosenberg, Faye Dunaway, Oskar Werner 1976) The Great Houdini (Melville Shavelson 1976) Valentino (Ken Russell, Rudolf Nureyev 1977) Suspiria (Dario Argento, Alida Valli, Joan Bennett 1977) The Sentinel (Michael Winner 1977) Tomorrow I’ll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea (Jindrich Polak 1977) The Golden Rendez-Vous (Alistair MacLean, Ashley Lazarus, Richard Harris 1977) Bear Island (Don Sharp, Alistair MacLean, Vanessa Redgrave, Richard Widmark, Donald Sutherland 1979) Ashanti (Richard Fleischer, Michael Caine, Peter Ustinov 1979) Nijinsky (Herbert Ross, Alan Bates 1980) Ragtime (Milos Forman 1981) Pennies from Heaven (Herbert Ross 1981) Frances (Graeme Clifford, Jessica Lange 1982) The Woman in White (TV 1982) The Keep (Michael Mann 1983) The Pirates of Penzance (Wilford Leach 1983) Vagabond (Agnès Varda, Sandrine Bonnaire 1985) Silas Marner (Giles Foster, Ben Kingsley 1985) The Black Arrow (Walt Disney, Oliver Reed 1985) Spellbinder (Janet Greek 1988) Heartland (Anthony Hopkins 1989) Guilty by Suspicion (Irwin Winkler, Robert de Niro 1991) Impromptu (James Lapine, Hugh Grant, Judy Davis 1991) Memories of Midnight (Gary Nelson, Jane Seymour, Omar Sharif 1991) The Jungle Book (Walt Disney 1994) Moses (Roger Young 1995) The Woman in White (TV 1997) Schwarze Sonne (Rüdiger Sünner 1998) Stigmata (Rupert Wainwright, Gabriel Byrne 1999) Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, Ellen Burstyn 2000) Crime and Punishment (Menahem Golan, John Hurt 2002) The Bridge of San Luis Ray (Mary McGuckian, Robert de Niro 2004) Empire (Uli Edel 2005) Copying Beethoven (Agnieszka Holland, Ed Harris 2006) The Painted Veil (John Curran, Edward Norton 2006)


Tsar (Pavel Lungin 2009) The Last Legion (Doug Lefler, Colin Firth 2009) Bratya Karamazovy (Yuriy Moroz 2009) Anonymous (Roland Emmerich 2011) Atlas Shrugged (Paul Johansson 2011) Maleficarum (Jac Avila 2011) Cristiada (Dean Wright, Andy Garcia 2012) Horici ker (”Burning Bush”, Agnieszka Holland 2013) Night Train to Lisbon (Bille August, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, Jack Huston, Lena Olin 2013) The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum 2014) Leopardi (Mario Martone 2014) Mr. Turner (Mike Leigh 2014) American Sniper (Clint Eastwood 2014) Macbeth (Justin Kurzel 2015) The Danish Girl (Tom Hooper 2015) The Revenant (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu 2015) Wolf Hall (Mark Rylance 2015) Going Clear: the Prison of Belief (Alex Gibney 2015) Assassin’s Creed (Justin Kurzel 2016) Inferno (Ron Howard, Tom Hanks 2016) The Jungle Book (Walt Disney, Jon Favreau 2016) A Dark Song (Liam Gavin 2016) Elle (Peter Verhoeven, Isabelle Huppert 2016) The Love Witch (Anna Biller 2016) Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (Maria Schrader, Josef Hader 2016) Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Vincent van Gogh 2017) Darkest Hour (Joe Wright, Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas 2017) The Death of Stalin (Armando Iannucci, Simon Russell Beale, Michael Palin 2017) The Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, Daniel Day Lewis, Vicky Krieps 2017) More films with links on Facebook:


Film reviews Karl XII (1925) (7/10) Grandiose spectacle of the 20s badly in need of restoration. 27 January 2018

This was originally a spectacular project in two films of altogether 265 minutes, which in 1933 were cut down into only one film of 100 minutes with a sound track of music to it. The mutilated film gives an impression like of a news reel of the Great Nordic War in the early 1700s with no depth to it at all and little characterization except for the king who is mainly only posing. Even the script is poor although written by one of the leading Swedish authors at the time, while the main impact of the film is the grandiose battle scenes involving many statists in no end to their muddle. Brunius made two more epic silent films like this, and both are better than this one. However, it's a great story and tragedy, the fall of the super power of Sweden in that war in which Peter the Great and Russia took over the lead of power in north-eastern Europe, and you can't make a bad film on such a historical impeccable and impressive ground, while the film actually misses much of the story and ignores half of it. Denmark and Finland are not involved or mentioned at all, although they were major parts of the tragedy, the most important part of the first battle of Narva (the sudden snow storm) is totally ignored, and Peter the Great is made almost a caricature. Gösta Ekman as the king makes him an impressive character indeed and almost without speaking. The sub plot of the family is interesting, and it probably plays a significant part in the original. Like Abel Gance's great 5 hour film of Napoleon, also this original should be worth discovering and restoring. The music fitted in 1933 is interesting, though. It's a miscellanous blend of very much Handel, some Chopin and Borodin in the Polish and Russian scenes, even a stroke of Sibelius, while the dominating tune is the March of Charles XII of doubtful origin, possibly even Russian, which fits well into the context. Fänrik Ståls sägner (1926) (9/10) A moving rendering of the Finnish national epic on screen. John W. Brunius made three great Swedish epics in the late 20s of which this one was the second, all three based on Swedish historical reality from different centuries. This concerns the tragic war with Russia in 1808, in which Sweden lost Finland, which had been the eastern part of Sweden for 650 years. The less said about the war, the 10

better, it was an assault as foul as the one in the Winter War of 1939 by as hopelessly overwhelming superpower against a small people who only wanted to live in peace. The national poet of Finland Johan Ludvig Runeberg compiled a collection of poems about it, taking care of the few glimpses of hope and glory on the Swedish-Finnish side that did after all shine through. It's a number of epic episodes, and John W. Brunius has piously put all the best ones on screen. The result is a great delight to all literature lovers of Finland and Sweden of Runeberg and his eloquent Homeric poetry, since they will recognize every scene and character from the poems. Like in all these three epics of Brunius', the screening is admirable, many scenes are unforgettably pictorial, almost like true historical paintings, and you can see how the actors enjoyed making these films. Edvin Adolphson is outstanding as George Carl von Döbeln, the only Swedish general in the war who went down honorably in history, but all the characters are excellent. The one episode which is not from Runeberg is the love story in the second part, adding an unnecessary bathos to the film. It does not follow the same chronology and order as Runeberg's poems but has been put into a more epic composition, the first part ending with the treason and fall of Sveaborg, dealing a mortal blow to the defense from the beginning, while the second part ends with the glory of Döbeln and the heartrending tragedy of Sven Dufva, also two of the highlights in the poems. On the whole, it's a great film, the rustic sceneries are magnificent, the battle scenes quite impressing still, the human ingredients add both charm and humor to the epic collage, and you will always remember the film with a warm heart, especially íf you are a friend of Finland. It should be noted, that although it's a Swedish film, it was made in Finland, and all the amateur actors are Finnish. The Last Command (1928) (10/10) Emil Jannings as a general in the performance of his life. 4 January 2017

I had wanted to see this film for a number of decades before at last it became available on the web. At one time I had the opportunity to see it in a real cinema, but then something happened and the show was cancelled – so I had a special relationship with this film ever since the 70s, when I became a fan of the genius von Sternberg. His genius is particularly evident in this film, with its overwhelmingly human touch and story. Emil Jannings is cousin of the tzar and grand duke of Russia. As such he is acting as general in the war, when the revolution breaks out, and he is brutally humiliated and saves his life only by a weird coincidence, manages to get out of Russia and turns up in Hollywood as a pathetic and shaky old stand-in. A director (very convincingly played by William Powell, later 'The Thin Man') discovers him as the former general he is, the director himself having been a Russian revolutionary and humiliated by the general. He gives the former grand duke a chance to play the general once again in a film... It's the moment of reckoning.


Jannings' performance is as always stunningly impressive, and here he gets the opportunity to play the whole range of his ability from a glorious but overbearing imperial grand duke to a horribly humiliated old wreck of what once was a man. The tremendous story adds to the pathos and dramatic power of the film, which mercilessly accelerates in interest and suspense all the way until the devastating finale... I have seen most of Josef von Sternberg's films, but I was never so impressed as by this one, although I had waited for it 40 years. So much is contained in it, the whole fate and tragedy of Russia impersonated in a looming giant of a figure describing a monumental fall from total glory to total disgrace, and yet, like in "The Last Laugh", he succeeds in performing the miracle of triumphing by his mere tragedy. The music adds to the greatness of this film as well, there is much Tchaikovsky, both the Slave March and the Pathetic symphony, but the rest of the music, which is the greater part, is equally apt. Those masters of music who chose and made the music for the silents were experts in their field and taste – I have never seen a silent with its original music which wasn't impressive. At the same time it's an ingenious movie about the movie industry and gives chilling associations to later double films like "Sunset Boulevard". It's like no other film, which adds to its timelessness. The River (1928) (9/10) One of many lost silent masterpieces, but at lest you can see it was a masterpiece. 3 January 2017

This film was a revelation to me of Frank Borzage's true capacities of a very different and more original kind than the later professional films of his that made him world famous, especially the ones with Janet Gaynor. This is a wildly romantic epic of the wilderness in spectacular settings, which in part could have been Frank Borzage's own background and origin. The scenery is fantastic around the river in the mountains with its primitive community, and the story is perfect for that almost surrealistic environment. Charles Farrell is still young here, he hasn't met Janet Gaynor yet, and is the helpless prey of Mary Duncan as an experienced lady with a brutal past without enough sex. Charles fights her temptations, on one occasion he cuts down four trees in succession with just an axe to vent his boiled-up energy and frustration, while she amusedly looks on only the more certain of having him hooked. It's an amazing film in spite of being mutilated, the beginning and finale are missing, but from the added stills you still get the whole story, which ought to have been a wonder of cinematic art if not among Borzage's very best – who knows, but at least you can hope for that it will turn up somewhere – 80% percent of all American silents were lost, while only a fifth have come down to us – so far.


But what really lifts the film to impressing heights is the tremendous music, pushing on all the way in sustained tension and perfectly matched to the loaded drama, and it was the music that caught my interest in even this mutilated film of poor technical quality. The music is as fascinating as the drama and the film and its romantic settings, and these different elements add to each other to enhance the vitality and volcanic life of the film. Yes, there is some Rimsky-Korsakov in it, but there is nothing wrong with Rimsky-Korsakov, and the mood of his brief interplay is perfectly suited to that particular moment of intimate intriguing intensity, like all the highly dramatic music to all the rest of the film. This would have been a tenner if it had been complete. Applause (1929) (9/10) The revelations of show-business backstage in an impressively barefaced 'noir' from 1928. Almost shocking in its closeness to the real backstage life, this film is like an early 'noir' with a documentary touch in its obvious ambition to unmask show-business and reveal the naked truth about its cynical inhumanity. A mother and a daughter make a heart-rending performance, as the mother wants to rescue her daughter from her own fate as a showgirl being driven to her human ruin by sending her to a convent – the contrast between the convent and the musical stage is the first startling eye-opener and marvellously effective – but from the very start of the film the director's (Mamoulian's)camera eye opens up the bare realism of stage life for the exploitation of girls. It's a masterpiece of its kind, like almost all Mamoulian's films – he is a highly creative director who in each film concentrated on something new and introduced innovations which then matured into standards – he was also guilty of the first Technicolor film. Here he is evidently influenced by Erich von Stroheim in the kind of dissecting realism that dominates the film, but Mamoulian never becomes rude, only shockingly observant. Les croix de bois (1932) (9/10) The worst of the first world war from a more objective French point of view. 8 January 2015

What makes this film so impressive is its sinister direction, always kept at a calm distance but firm control by Raymond Bernard in visualizing a hell on earth worse than any hell imaginable, as it gives an all too convincing impression of never ending. The central battle scene in the middle of the film gives its definite stamp of a relentlessly realistic documentary in which category it outshines almost all the other first world war films including "All Quiet on the Western Front" (more personal), Rex


Ingram's "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" (more sentimental), Stanley Kubrick's "Paths of Glory" (more theatrical) Renoir's "The Grand Illusion" (more romantic) and "Oh What a Lovely War!" (musical). Not just the long great battle scene, but many scenes give the impression of going on forever, as they are so implacably sustained resulting in an overwhelming impact, like the dying corporal scene with Charles Vanel, who continued a long distinguished career in films with above Henri-Georges Clouzot in the 50s, and his death scene here is only a prelude to what follows – one can understand the veteran from that war who in 1962. when seeing the film on TV, committed suicide afterwards. It's all about ordinary men, good faithful soldiers, who keep on cheering and making the best of it as if the reality of the timeless horror was just something to accept as the ordinary, their natural cheerful moods and the irony of the absurd military self-deceit accentuating the superior quality of this film as the most realistic of first world war films. Rain (1932) (9/10) Somerset Maugham's first famous short story, here filmed for the second time out of four. 29 May 2017

This early Joan Crawford and Walter Huston film aroused my interest as it was on the first major short story by Somerset Maugham and one of his most famous and notorious ones, and the film lived well enough up to the story. It is marvellously filmed on location in the south seas giving wonderful insights into the native life of only enjoying paradise, when it isn't raining... A ship on its way to Apia stays in Pago Pago and is detained because of some cholera risk, and among the passengers are Walter Huston, a preacher with his devoted wife, and Joan Crawford as Sadie Thompson, an adventuress of doubtful reputation enjoying life and drinking directly out of the bottle. There are some merry aussies around her, she gets popular, while the preacher isn't happy about her high and noisy life and tries to 'save' her. Apparently he succeeds by sheer consistency but loses something on the way... It's a typical Somerset Maugham story with profound knowledge of human nature and of the ways of women, the dialogue is swell sustained all the way, the acting is perfectly natural, and there is nothing lacking in this film, which intensifies all the way almost amounting to a thriller. The conclusion is terrifically shocking, his stories always strikes home with a final effect, you can always rely on him, and I never saw a film on any of his stories that did not fully live up to his accomplished art of storytelling. Http://

Shanghai Express (1932) (9/10)


Long time no see between Peking and Shanghai, between Marlene Dietrich and her ex-lover, with complications... 27 December 2016

There are a few scenes in this film that will remain forever in your mind, and if you forget all about the film and its melodrama and exciting intrigue, you will still remember one or even two of those scenes. The first is the fantastic photography of old Peiping, as the train leaves the station and crawls its way out of town with the slums almost touching on the railroad with all the bazaar people hustling around, and then there is a cow on the track, and there is some argument about it... Then there are all the scenes with Marlene, who is the nova of the film that never fades. One of them is Sternberg's focusing on her hands, as she is praying. The clergyman passing by, who has previously condemned her, observes her hands and is transfixed by their expressiveness, and so is the audience – a stroke of genius by Sternberg. The third one is of her agony, as she is certain about having lost Clive. She says nothing, and you don't see her, and then suddenly she raises her face into the light and lets her agony out, but only through her eyes. You will never forget those eyes in that face in just a sparse ray of light. There are many other memorable ingredients as well. One of them is Eugene Palette as Sam Salt, a robust American and always an ace on the screen turning everything infallibly cheerfully comic. Warner Oland (Werner Ölund from Sweden) is a very convincing villain with never a smile on his face only thinking of the victory of his communists, he specialized in Chinese gangster roles and always brought them home, while Anna May Wong is perhaps the most interesting supporting character as the only one who really does something about the troublesome situation. She speaks least of all, which by Sternberg's camera magic makes her presence and acting only the more expressive in its deep impression. Clive Brook may be wooden and expressionless, but it's a joy to hear his perfect diction and wonderful voice, not really up to Ronald Colman, who came later, but a good prelude to all the great swashbucklers that would follow. It's perhaps both Marlene's and Sternberg's best film, he never succeeded better in bringing the best out of her than here, and on the whole it's a fascinating film and story, which could teach anyone a lot – for all ages. Die verkaufte Braut (1932) (10/10) One of the most successful operas ever turned into the first opera film by an accomplished master This was the first opera turned into a film, and it's a wild and hilarious experiment – in almost every scene it shines through how the director wallowed in innovations and breakneck experiments – some scenes are absolutely stupendous, like the fighting spree in the night running amok.


This vein of good humor is perfectly matched with Smetana's equally wildly hilarious opera, and I am sure Smetana himself would have laughed his sides off. At the same time, it pays careful homage to the genuine idylls of the 1850s, the costumes are totally folklore and rustic, the primitivity is consistent and convincing all the way, the horses are for real with actual wild courses with interesting stunts, but above all Max Ophuls' genius shines through the entire production. It does not contain the whole opera of course, you couldn't do that with the experimental first effort to film an opera, but all the major titbits are there, and you miss nothing of Smetana's best music, which after all sets the final and definite touch of absolute comedy and high-humoured spirituality to the whole work. No opera of Smetana's was more successful, he actually composed ten, and it is still successful yearly at the National Opera of Prague and has remained a stable success world wide on every international scene. Max Ophuls couldn't have failed in using this for the first opera film, and yet he adds to it, with brilliance. I must agree, though, with the previous reviewer, that it badly needs some restoration. Number Seventeen (1932) Scary empty house with a corpse, deaf and mute lady and a runaway train, intriguing early Hitchcock masterpiece 9/10 13 August 2017

The first time I saw this picture I found it overwhelming, the third time it was still overwhelming. Hitchcock really played his game in this picture using all available tricks concerning both photography, effects, intrigue and above all constantly towering suspense. All is experienced from poor Ben's point of view, who is scared out of his wits from the start by the dead man's hand and all that follows. The intrigue is ingenious in its complexity, and you never get it all the first time, maybe not even the second, maybe not even the third, but it's logical all the same. The whole story is just some gangsters trying to run away, but poor Ben understands nothing and only gradually gets into one detail after the other. Even the cliffhangers are used at large and are immediately followed by worse ones. It's dynamic dynamite all the way in the development of a thriller intrigue, and not until the very end at last something is explained, and naturally, poor Ben saves the situation. Or else it would not have been Hitchcock Turn Back the Clock (1933) (9/10) Virtuoso story construction resulting in a marvel of realistic imagination. 16

21 July 2017

This is worth seeing for its amazing story, which although fantastic is completely logical all the way. It's Ben Hecht, of course, and at his best, working together with Edgar Selwyn to produce a cinematic wonder of plot and imagination, playing with destiny and accomplishing a wonder of plausibility in spite of its character of total conjecture. The only problem of the film is Lee Tracy's acting, which is rather exhausting, since he is constantly overdoing it. Maybe that was the fashion of actors in the early 30s, but today it's just annoying. The other actors are doing alright, especially the two ladies and Otto Kruger, but it's the plot that is the main thing of this film. Who hasn't one time or another dreamt of reliving one's life and doing it over again but better? That's what happens to Joe Gimlet, he gets an alternative chance and really makes the best of it and everything he wanted to do different, and still it all goes wrong... The most ingenious thing about the story construction is how it is combined with the story he left behind, he meets the same people but under different circumstances and making different careers, and so in the end he finds his best friend, president of the National Bank, in his own original position as a petty shop owner. Ben Hecht was in his prime throughout the 30s, beginning with "Front Page", bringing forth a flood of script masterpieces, until he was allowed to make a film of his own, "The Specter of the Rose", an ambitious art film of ballet, very much ahead of its time, which flopped, so he was never allowed to make another movie. Still he continued writing excellent scripts, but his sharpest edge was lost. The Private Life of Don Juan (1934) (10/10) Don Juan as a comedy putting all previous tragedies and dramas to shame... 10 January 2016

For once a Don Juan comedy and with a vengeance – it's a delightful entertainment all the way sugared and spiced with witty ironies galore, where the great Douglas Fairbanks takes the prize in a final victory over the legend of both himself and Don Juan by surviving both with even the crown of a happy ending. The film is studded with a generosity of festivity scenes, each one transcending the other, while the irony celebrates triumphs all the way, especially at Don Juan's own great funeral enjoyed by himself and the final great theatre scene, when he explains to the audience that he really is Don Juan with only roars of laughter for a response. This is magnificent entertainment of the 30s at its best, a feast for the eyes as well as for the intelligence, the script is a wonder of ingenious innovations, the dialogue outwits itself all the time sustaining the comedy vein at a high level with constantly


new surprises, and the music isn't bad either. Don Juan is at last allowed to celebrate his ultimate victory! The Thin Man (1934) (10/10) A drinking detective with his wife on the wagon resolves some murders with their dog. 5 March 2015

A drinking detective with his wife on the wagon resolves some murders with their dog: Still more hilarious than ever after 80 years and better than most comedies made since, in its well mixed cocktail of screwball comedy and serious murder stuff – the murder doesn't occur until after 20 minutes and many drinks, which most of the film is decently decorated with, including Christmas parties and many other drinks and parties, keeping the intrigue and comedy going all through the film, while the drinking detective just keeps plodding on in resolving the perfectly impossible murder case, which no one else would have been able to get any head or tail out of. Maybe the dog Asta with her constant intrusions helps the case progressing and adding to the very entertaining tempo. The real thriller doesn't set in until after the first hour, with the dog really adding to it. The triumph of the film though is the sustained witty dialogue, which never tires off or stops shooting with hits every time. Wonderful to see it again after half a century – hope to see it again after another half century. The Painted Veil (1934) (9/10) Garbo with Somerset Maugham in China with cholera, 26 September 2017

It's a spectacular film, and its magic almost endures until the end, which unfortunately falls flat, abandoning Maugham. You can't do that to Maugham. As far as I know, every single story of his that was filmed, and they were many, were great films, and this is the only one raising a question mark. Was that miserable phony syrup happy end really necessary? Garbo carries the whole film on her shoulders, her magic is here more shining and almost blinding than ever, especially in the beginning, before she gets married, which of course has to end up in disaster – you can't marry a Garbo, not even Herbert Marshall, who actually tries and makes the best of it, but apparently he learned nothing from his previous failure with Marlene Dietrich in "Blonde Venus", where he made the same mistake and got furious of jealousy, but here at least he is not vindictive but rather sacrifices himself, and almost gets Greta Garbo lynched by the Chinese mob as well. Still, he is greatly


to be preferred to the even more wooden George Brent, who hasn't found his Bette Davis here yet. Still he seduces Greta, although he is married, and when Herbert Marshall wants to divorce Greta, George Brent doesn't want to divorce HIS wife, which complicates the situation... There were several fantastic Chinese films made in the 30s, and this was just another of them and in some ways the most outstanding of them all. They all do resemble each other, Sternberg's "Shanghai Express", Capra's "Lost Horizon", Pearl Buck's "The Good Earth", Sternberg's "The Shanghai Gesture", Mankiewicz' "The Keys of the Kingdom" and perhaps the greatest of them all, although it took place in Singapore, another great Somerset Maugham film, William Wyler's "The Letter" with a very proper Chinese vengeance on Bette Davis; but this one maybe comes closest to China in the 30s, the scenes from Hong Kong are a joy of genuineness, and the chaos scenes from the interior that finalizes the film complete the Chinese situation of the 30s. It's one Garbo's most unusual films, suddenly she is quite a normal woman, but what a woman! No wonder both men go mad about her, her natural beauty as a normal Austrian is even more striking here than in "Christina", and it's a great film in its intensity and passion and above all its successful and impressive capture of the 30s of China. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) (9/10) Love magic complications involving the royal court of Theseus in Athens, elves and goblins, an amateur theater company and many more. You could hardly stumble over anything more heart-warming. Too much ahead of its time, it flopped in 1935 and has only gradually reached some appropriate recognition in later years. Everything in this production is ingenious, especially the fantastic innovations of using Mendelssohn's music all the way, letting a child play Puck (Mickey Rooney, probably the best Puck ever,) the use of natural sequences with wild animals in between, the fantastic fantasies with the elves and their dances, the most convincing Titania ever (Anita Louise? Anyone heard of her anywhere else?) and maybe above all, James Cagney, of all people, as Bottom. He almost succeeds in stealing the whole show, but the greatest credit is due to the almost exaggeratedly (in a good sense) creative directors, Max Reinhardt and Wilhelm Dieterle, both in exile from Germany at the time. Also very refreshing to see Dick Powell and Olivia De Havilland, two of the most 'noir' stars of the 40s, so young, gay and beautiful. A theater performance on the screen at its best, next to 10 full points, places even the Michelle Pfeiffer version of 1999 in the shadow. Les MisÊrables (1935) (7/10)


Tolerable short cut version of one of the greatest novels 4 June 2016

I thought I had seen them all, but then as a surprise this one appeared with the blatant curiosity of Charles Laughton as Javert. Of course you couldn't miss such an opportunity, no matter what it purported. Of course, it was worth seeing especially for Charles Laughton, who is an unusually nasty police here, a police of the very worst sort, all formality and no humanity, but he makes it amazingly convincing – there actually are such policemen. Frederic March is not bad as Jean Valjean, and for once, perhaps the only time in the cinema, you are able to see Jean Valjean as a young and handsome man – even his sister is with him in the introduction scene. Cedric Hardwicke as the bishop, perhaps the most important character in the whole novel, doesn't have to make any effort into his part, it is all written and can't be made any worse by anyone, and he actually adds some humor to it, lacking in Victor Hugo. The question has been raised what Victor Hugo would have thought. This film was made only a year after the great French masterpiece of five hours by Raymond Bernard, the best and truest film on "Les Miserables", although even that fools around with Hugo a bit, but this American version is unfortunately the worst. The character of Jean Valjean is missing, as Frederic March thoroughly overdoes it, while the very strength in the character lies in his absolute self control, which is spoilt here, compensated somewhat by Laughton's all too true performance. Worst is the child Cosette, who preludes Shirley Temple. John Beal as Marius is a positive surprise, while the important part of Gavroche is missing altogether. Still it's an exciting film, it must be the most abbreviated version of "Les Miserables" ever made, and you pardon its gross coarseness and vulgarization of the novel since it's still after all the same novel, perhaps the greatest ever written. Victor Hugo would not have liked this film version much, especially not after the great French version the year before, but he would have tolerated it.

Roberta (1935) (9/10) Ginger and Fred out of the ordinary in exotic fashion circles in Paris 30 September 2015

This is in some ways the most interesting Astaire-Rodgers film, particularly because for once they don't dominate the whole film, which instead has some very different aspects to offer than just glittering show entertainment. It's really the story of a fashion centre in Paris, Roberta being the old legendary proprietress, who unexpectedly exits, leaving Fred and others to take over the business, which they can't handle. But the real story is something else: in the centre Irene Dunne represents an exiled Russian princess with an interesting circle of other Russian aristocrats, one of them being heir to the throne. The atmosphere of Russian exiles in 20

Paris is intimately conveyed with warming conviction, at the heart of which complications the song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" makes a lasting impact, involving the Princess' tragic love affair with a good-for-nothing American standing in the bar getting drunk and rude (Randolph Scott in a pathetic and almost vulgar performance – how Irene Dunne could love him and with continuity is a mystery.) The music pervades the whole film weaving it into a web of beauty, nostalgia and magic, enhanced by the overwhelming beauty of the mannequins parading now and then with dream haute-coutures out of this world. It's a very singular film, completely out of the ordinary for Ginger and Fred, but still of course gilded by their performances, here highlighted by some of their very finest momentums. Grossly neglected, underrated, almost forgotten and misunderstood, this is one of their films to never forget but always return to. Divine (1935) (10/10) The milkman always calls twice Another neglected and underrated masterpiece by Max Ophuls – it's amazing how even the oldest films by him surprise you with their brilliant camera work, the breakneck direction, the amazing scenography always crowded with picturesque details, the totally convincing environment and the perfect realization of the most impossible plots with amassed complications! – of which this film is the perfect example. The chaos at the theatre is so real, that every detail of the intricacies of every single person – and they are many – is brought to full light and glory in a wonder of minute visualization. Forget Colette and her silly and banal story, this is a feast for the eyes all the way offering even some thriller elements and worrying excitement – the criminal intrigues back stage are no small matter and astoundingly modern – this is the 70s back in the 30s. To this comes the delightful French charm of the idyllic set-ups both in the country and in the theatre, with those for Ophuls so typically hair-raising moving camera sequences catching up even what no ordinary eye would see in passing. The music is perfect as well, never dominating but always enhancing what is going on. The closeups, the intimate moments of secrecy and revelations caught almost furtively, the lurid characters, everything combines to a masterpiece of intoxicating brilliance, – but it is the cinematic imagery above all that makes the film, yet another masterpiece by Ophuls definitely worth rediscovering and upgrading. The Informer (1935) (10/10) John Ford's Irish masterpiece was much ahead of its time and is still looming as a cinematic milestone. 21

3 February 2017

John Ford had the knack like no one else of turning his films into poetry. It's visual, expressionistic and above all human poetry, since he had a very delicate understanding of human nature. This most clearly comes forth in his Irish films. His parents were from Ireland, and when he embarks on Irish or related subjects (like Wales) he does it with a very a intimate relationship and touch with his people and story. He makes human nature emerge almost titanically even when it's only about very ordinary people. In this film the so called hero is an extreme antihero. He has and does everything wrong. He is big and superior but only in muscles and size, while his brains are completely lacking – he doesn't know at all what he is doing but acts only on impulse and thus unawares brings his own tragedy. His long and great fall is tremendous. He is the buddy of a freedom fighter, and his one desire is for a certain common lady called Katie, with whom he wants to go to America away from the political disturbances and atrocities going on in Ireland in 1922. Without job and at odds with both the English and his own freedom organization, he desperately clinches at the possibility of getting money quick, by informing on his buddy. Naturally there are consequences. As he is completely irresponsible, he has no idea of what havoc he is causing in putting his own life at risk, which he cares least about of all. He gets his money, but instead of going to Katie and buying his freedom ticket, he wastes it all on a merrygo-round hullabaloo along the pubs of Dublin. Victor McLaglen makes an awesome figure in this tremendous and very Irish drama, that couldn't be more Irish. Carol Reed was much influenced by this film in making his masterpiece "Odd Man Out" twelve years later, and there are many interesting parallels between the films. To this comes the music. In the silents the composers learned the art of making the music enhance the drama of the films, and in this film that art is celebrating triumphs. It's almost as if Max Steiner's music underlines every action and every conversation in the drama. This is the perfect Irish film. That's the least you can say about it. Becky Sharp (1935) (9/10) The friends Becky Sharp and Amelia Sedley set out for marital affairs in the shadow of the Waterloo campaign – with consequences and complications. Rouben Mamoulian (birthday today 4.12) was always ahead of his time. This was the first full color feature (1935!) based on William Thackeray's "Vanity Fair", one of the greatest novels of the 19th century, full of literary splendor, transported on the screen


not without success. Mamoulian's last film was "Silk Stockings" (1957) with Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, but he also started on "Porgy and Bess" (completed by Otto Preminger) and "Cleopatra" (1962, completed by Joe Mankiewicz). – With its striking gallery of great actors, like Allan Mowbray, Nigel Bruce ("Dr Watson"), Cedric Hardwicke, Billie Burke and Miriam Hopkins among others, it is great theater all the way in Mamoulian's characteristic lushness and splendor of vivacity and imagery in very innovative direction – the feature is above all a feast to the eyes and an amazing film in spite of its almost 80 years – and impressing as the first full length color film. Break of Hearts (1935) (9/10) We only see the hints of a great fatal passion of music and love, as the film is cut short. 7 October 2017

What's wrong with this film, since so many seem to only come with objections? Yes, there is one big thing wrong with it. It's a novel cut short into a short story. It's a great story, but large parts of it are missing. This could have been made into a great film, but instead it became a great small film. It's not even 80 minutes, but you still catch glimpses of enormous passions and a monumental tragedy, a great musician giving up music, which just can't be done, as the old maestro says: a musician is never through with music. Charles Boyer thinks he is, and his impersonation of a fallen conductor to the dregs of the left-overs from a shabby bar after closing time is more than convincing – he has really lost himself, since he gave all his love to Katharine Hepburn, at her youngest och freshest and most charming splendour of youth, but she had her special woman's pride (like no other woman) and saw him through with his hollowness of a womanizing diva, but as the real woman she was she had the power to give it back again. The scene when he is conducting Bach and hardly can stand on his feet, reeling and conducting like Oliver Hardy is monumental in itself, and the whole (short) film is worth seeing only for this. Charles Boyer is always an unforgettable experience on the screen and maybe particularly so when he plays diva musicians. It's always a remake of Liliom in greater glory than ever. And how delightful to see Katharine Hepburn really young and sparkling, and her fantastic sense of dressing in style is already here amazing, as it was in every film she made. She always had a style of her own outshining everyone else, whoever she played against. Here Charles Boyer was a serious challenging match for her, and an interesting couple they make, which just has to go wrong, since they both are too brilliant for their own good, especially together... It's like two stars colliding. There has to be an explosion with fatal consequences, ruin and tears and bitter aftermaths of wounds that never could heal, - but Katharine Hepburn could never fall without rising again, and here she can even raise the shambles of Charles Boyer back to life. It's not just Hollywood. It's how music works.


Un grand amour de Beethoven (1936) (5/10) A pretentious effort to glorify Beethoven falling down to bathos all the way. 14 May 2015

A disaster of a film. Everything is wrong. Nothing works, except the costumes, the one thing in the film which deserves admiration. Beethoven himself is totally unconvincing as a big fat lurch, while in reality he was small and inconspicuous. The intentions of the film are honest and good enough but fail miserably. The invented story is illustrated by the master's music, but the constant repetition of the first bars of the fifth symphony to point out the call of Beethoven's destiny becomes annoying for its debility. The film consists of exaggerations which spoil any possibility of any dramaturgy or realism. The final death scene is unbearably painful, since he never seems to die. The women cry incessantly all through the film turning it into a sentimental mess. They deserve better credit though than Harry Baur as Beethoven for at least being pretty and nice to look at. This is one of the most awkward films I have seen, perhaps though biased by the deeply convincing impression made by the outstanding Beethoven film with Gary Oldman 1994, a completely different version of "The Immortal Beloved" and also a total fake, but so much better and even realistically convincing. This effort to enthrone Beethoven as some kind of divine icon ("I believe in God and in Beethoven." – Richard Wagner, the motto of the film) is a total bathos of a turkey, and the intended apotheosis is only growing constantly more pathetic all the way. There are some sparkling moments, though, where Abel Gance's genius in spite of all succeeds in shining through, in fact, all the actors except Beethoven are quite good, especially the young Jean-Louis Barrault as the dashing nephew, but even in that case the film fails in making something out of the Beethoven drama. In reality, his nephew Karl tried to commit suicide, which was Beethoven's final spiritual death blow. It is not even hinted at here, and yet the film pretends to tell the story of Beethoven. It IS the story of Beethoven, but Beethoven himself is missing, and there is nothing in it but Abel Gance's absurdly vain pretensions. Sorry, any Beethoven film is better than this one. The Black Legion (1937) (8/10) Humphrey Bogart young and innocent to begin with and going all the way to the worst 30.12.2017

This is a shocking and horrible story of a most ordinary and honest factory worker who gets bypassed in promotion and can't get over his humiliation. Opportunity brings him into contact with a Ku Klux Klan-like racist secret society, in which he gets caught in a dwindling vicious circle of constantly worse incrimination. The film is a glaring warning, it is over-obvious in its message, but it is well done, it is


shockingly realistic, it does convince you that this is how a secret society of that kind works, and you can't get into deeper trouble than getting stuck in such claws. The question here and the worry of the audience is nor however there could be an obligatory happy ending to this mess, the concern is rather obviously the degree of how bad it will end. Humphrey Bogart makes an unforgettable performance though, his anguish in the end is on par with a Shakespeare tragedy performance, and he was here only in the beginning of his career. He is a type of his own, he is always himself in all his films, and yet that character he develops every time into new idiosyncracies - although he is always the same he is always new. And here he is young and fresh and almost even handsome - to begin with. The Good Earth (1937) (9/10) A poor farmer takes a former slave girl for his wife, who repeatedly proves the salvation of his life. 12 January 2015

This film is a wonder to behold in view of its circumstances. It's an all-American film but tells a story of China which lacks nothing in its convincing realism. Most convincing of all are the actors with Paul Muni (Austrian) and Luise Rainer (German Jewess) in the leads. Even the music has successfully been given a convincing Chinese touch, although any musician will recognize some borrowings from Puccini's opera 'Turandot'. Without animation and computer possibilities, the realism still reaches staggering heights in visualizing the revolution scenes in the city and the horrors of the locust plague. There are scenes'here that will stay in your mind forever. So much praise has already been poured on this classical epic that it's difficult to find anything else to say, except to underline the marvelous acting by Paul Muni and Luise Rainer, a Chinese farmer and his wife, a former slave, humble peasant people but still totally convincing in their so thoroughly genuine characters. Fire over England (1937) (10/10) Laurence Olivier as young and fresh, James Mason his equal, Vivien Leigh and Flora Robson as the Queen of Queens – what more could you possibly want? I loved this film almost to the end, when unfortunately the propaganda program of the 30s took over and changed the drama into disturbing chauvinism. Well, that was the 30s, and you have to view it in that context, but until you get caught in the hullabaloo of the great armada, it's a perfect film in every way, especially dramatically. The dialogue never loses its pregnancy, all the characters are


outstanding, the many plots are interwoven into an expert fabric, and the actors are evidently enjoying their excellence themselves. It's the only film where James Mason and Laurence Olivier act together, they never meet in the film, but Laurence is given the pleasure of standing in for James and does it well – you are actually struck by how like each other they are. Robert Newton is also here in an early part as a Spaniard and for once not overdoing it, while Flora Robson runs the show – there never was a better or more convincing Queen Elizabeth. There is only one shocking scene in the whole film, and that's where Elizabeth unmasks herself. It seems that Flora Robson really has gotten into Elizabeth. Leslie Banks is a very credible Robin Dudley, and Vivien introduces the film as a flippant 18-year old or young lady in waiting, a granddaughter of Burleigh's. Nothing is missing of the glorious era of England's resistance as a small nation against an overwhelming superpower, and everything is fresh and vital, even the Spaniards, and Raymond Massey makes a very brief but entirely realistic portrait of Philip II. This is a film to thoroughly enjoy still today, Laurence Olivier is even better than Errol Flynn, this was his and Vivien's first film together, while the great theme is not the armada but the ideological conflict – the freedom of conscience against the autodafés of Spain, which is well pointed out already in the beginning of the film. Elephant Boy (1937) (8/10) The film follows Kipling's story closely about the sensitivity to nature, which a child is more successful in than restricted grownups. Zoltan Korda was the middle of the three great Korda brothers of the cinema, (Alexander the eldest and Vincent the youngest) specializing in outdoor films, like this one (on Kipling's "Toomai of the Elephants") and ten years later the still best film adaptation of "The Jungle Book", both with Sabu as the main character. Robert Flaherty (1884-1951) was an important film documentary pioneer with many classics to his credit, like "Nanook of the North", the first commercially successful film documentary (1922) which he directed and produced. With Zoltan Kodaly, he was co-director of this film, probably the best elephant film ever made, which still impresses by its unequaled elephant scenes, including a great score by John Greenwood. Under Two Flags (1937) (7/10) Desert adventures with the foreign legion and Ronald Colman in a great novel reduced to Hollywood 29 April 2017

Unfortunately, Ouida's great classical novel of dishonor, exile, love, war and sacrifice in Algeria with the French foreign legion has not been awarded with that great film


script it deserves. A deep tragedy of human greatness has been transformed into a rather superficial Hollywood romance entertainment, where even Ronald Colman makes a rather poor figure, far from the sadly noble hero of the original. Nevertheless, it's a Frank Lloyd film, who also made "Cavalcade" and "Mutiny on the Bounty", and there are great moments, especially of the desert scenery. Claudette Colbert as Cigarette is the real star of the film, though, but then she is also the most memorable character in the novel. Rosalind Russell is good enough and adds some heart-warming romance, while the worst failure of the film is the alteration of the grim reality of the French foreign legion with a sinister discipline worse than that of the 'Bounty' into some loose barrack ballads with plenty of brandy. The grim nature of the colonel in the novel is deleted, and Victor McLaglen is only Victor McLaglen, whom you can't take seriously. It's a good enough entertainment but not more than that, while the novel is so much more. History is Made at Night (1937) (10/10) Frank Borzage, Charles Boyer and Jean Arthur celebrating passionate triumphs 26 July 2017

This is one of Frank Borzage's greatest films, in its amazing mixture of comedy and drama, tragedy and passion and, like in all his films, the redemption by destiny. Charles Boyer is, as always, the perfect lover and both supreme and totally convincing as such, while Jean Arthur with her husky voice, trying to get away from the jealous clutches of her cruel husband, is the right girl to fall in his arms, and it happens in such a way (by destiny), that she can but laugh out her husband, who by his intrigues planned the opposite and accidentally opened her real love life. There are many aspects to this film, and the art of cooking plays an important part with Leo Carrillo more important as the chef than the multimillionaire Colin Clive, the mortally jealous husband, who will stop at nothing to get his wife back and thereby only causes derailments. At the same time it's a great catastrophe film, both Hindenburg and Titanic are reminded of, but you'll never guess what really happens. Charles Boyer was definitely one of the greatest lovers in film history, if not the greatest, more convincing as such than even Rudolf Valentino, and you can always rely on his acting. He made some of the greatest of all love films, like "Love Affair" with Irene Dunne (remade many times) and "All This and Heaven Too" with Bette Davis, and this one of Frank Borzage's should not be overlooked in the context, Jean Arthur once more being the right girl in the right place. Their scene at Victor's is one of the great moments of truth in the annals of romantic films.


The Life of Emile Zola (1937) (10/10) Paul Muni and William Dieterle working together to make the greatest of biopics.,. 22 September 2017

This is probably both William Dieterle's and Paul Muni's best film. It is monumental in its towering pathos of justice, which actually reduces Zola to a mere second character, while the central character is the awesome Dreyfus affair with its character assassination by intentional gross injustice. It was the greatest judicial scandal in the 19th century and perhaps in history, and it is very well presented in the film, especially by minor details, as the scenes from Devil's Island, when Dreyfus fettered to his bed (for security) tries to read Zola's book under his bed and finds it infested with insects, and when his release is illustrated by his incredulousness, walking out of his cell again and again, and returning in to walk out once again. The first quarter of the film is the weakest and least historically correct, "Nana" was far from Zola's first literary success and actually only a minor novel compared to "Gervaise" and "Germinal" for instance, which are not even mentioned. The last three quarters of the film are all about the Dreyfus affair, crowned with Zola's glowing articles and speeches in court, splendidly delivered by Paul Muni, well aware of what opportunity he had here to excel himself in acting and making more than the best of it. All other actors are excellent as well and startlingly convincing every one of them, from Esterhazy and the generals to the ladies and wives, while CĂŠzanne alone is a little shadowy. It's a tremendous film, I saw it as a child 55 years ago and have never forgotten it, and at last I found an opportunity to see it again, and it was exactly equally impressing and moving. William Dieterle made many excellent films, he was German and worked with Murnau, Max Reinhardt, Marlene Dietrich (co-director with Reinhardt in the glorious "Midsummer Night's Dream") and finalized his career in Hollywood with unsurpassed gems like "Love Letters" and "Portrait of Jennie" with Jennifer Jones. They are very different from his great biopics of the 30s, of which this Dreyfus film is the towering masterpiece. Le roman de Werther (1938) (10/10) A high-strung over-sentimental classic novel admirably transformed into cinematic realism with aesthetic expertise 29 January 2016

Already here in 1938 Max Ophuls proves himself the master of romantic aestheticism in a deeply moving and fascinating rendering of one of the most classic of all novels


and the most deplorable of love stories, but the fact that it couldn't have ended worse is treated with expert sense of good taste. Although everybody knows the story and how it must end in suicide, Ophuls still makes it come as a surprise, and it is marvelously illustrated without showing it. Also the actors make a splendid job of the performances and couldn't have been better, although none of them is known or remembered today. You can well imagine Danielle Darrieux and Gerard Philippe in the same roles not doing any better (or worse). Also the music is excellently suited and not allowed to dominate too much – the use of the church bells and their melody quite triggers the story. Max Ophuls has simply succeeded in translating a novel of letters into a qualified drama without making it theatrical – it is perfectly organic all the way and runs with smooth efficiency, constantly accelerating the tension and the drama from ideal idylls in the beginning to gradually growing into dead serious business. It was a delight to see Goethe so successfully adapted for the screen – I would believe him to have been the most difficult of authors to undergo that treatment with any success. Especially fascinating is the cinematic technique and innovative tricks that Ophuls uses to add life and interest to his film. It is throughout very atmospherical, the moods of the novel are faithfully transported to the screen, and above all the film is marked by Ophuils' famous obsession with details, which no one could use to enhance the quality of a film better than he. The greatest joy of seeing this film was actually to be able to recognize all the familiar tricks and styles of this one of the greatest of all cinema masters as early as 1938. It has been pointed out, that it's a French film made on a German novel in the year before the apocalypse of Germany and the second world war. He had made many films in Germany previously but henceforward moved to France – and the war and its circumstances caused him a time out for seven years – to then return i full bloom with all his major masterworks. We Are Not Alone (1938) (10/10) A doctor takes care of a patient proving a hard test for the conscience of humanity 2 March 2018

This was James Hilton's most upsetting novel, a parallel to Hans Fallada's "Was nun, kleiner Mann?" about the plight of small humble people at the mercy of a world of inhumanity. Paul Muni makes one of his finest performances ever as a good and decent but not very clever small town doctor, who is governed by a bit too orderly wife (Flora Robson), who doesn't like music, while Paul Muni actually plays the violin and does it well. As one of his patients he takes care of a young dancer who has broken a delicate bone, but she is foreign (Austrian) and has no one to turn to when she falls out of luck, deserted by her dancing company and attempting suicide in her abandoned despair. She proves to have a very good hand with children, and the doctor and his wife need a nanny for their young son (about 5 or 6), so even Flora welcomes her. But she becomes such good friends with both the son and the musical


doctor, that Flora feels bypassed and takes action, ordering her to leave. There the trouble begins. It coincides with the outbreak of the first world war, and as an Austrian the delicate Jane Bryan finds herself a declared enemy in a very hostile country, where the small town folk don't hesitate to lynch local Germans. And so it goes from bad to worse. Edmund Goulding has much of the credit for this extremely human and touching film, which could make anyone's heart melt. A sure thing is you will never forget it. It completely dwarfs "Good-Bye Mr Chips" of the same author and almost the same year for its deeper human poignancy. "We Are Not Alone" refers to the fact which the doctor quietly observes, that those who suffer as martyrs for meaningless hatred in local places indeed are not alone, since hundreds of thousands of innocents are martyred at the same time in the trenches of the war. There are many delicate details in this film making it worth seeing again now and then, since situations like this always will remain actual and important reminders. Stanley and Livingstone (1939) (9/10) Stanley finds Livingstone, with glory and with consequences 21 March 2017

The interesting part of this film is the friendship between Stanley and Livingstone as transmitted by Spencer Tracy and Cedric Hardwicke. It's the ideal kind of role for Spencer Tracy, and he would continue developing characters in that direction still for many years to come up to the judge in "Judgement at Nuremberg" 1961. Cedríc Hardwicke makes the most credible possible Dr. Livingstone as both a missionary and a doctor, a character and mission later carried on by Albert Schweitzer. The great encounter is framed by a very epic adventure of Africa exploration, and this could be Henry King's best film – he certainly wouldn't always be that good. Almost the whole film is of a journey, starting carefully in Zanzibar presenting already from the beginning the major complications of infection – one presumes it is malaria – and how it must affect any European for life, like as if Africa in itself was an unavoidable mortal illness for any daring visitor. Spencer Tracy really knocks it off when he has to defend his exploits to the Royal Geographical Society of London headed by Charles Coburn as Stanley's leading newspaper competitor, a London journal completely dominating the field and feeling the threat of New York Herald. It's a great adventure film above all but very much enhanced and lifted to higher levels by the acting of Spencer Tracy and Cedric Hardwicke. Only Angels Have Wings (1939) (10/10)


An aviation expert testing his wings at extreme length and making it. 26 December 2016

This is above all an aviation film made by an aviation enthusiast and expert and seen through his eyes. Everything is good about it, as it is the ideal product of aviation craftsmanship turned into a movie. It's a great drama at high levels, but what makes it thoroughly enjoyable as well is the sparkling dialogue – many of Howard Hawks' legendary quotes are from here. All the actors are also superb, Cary Grant as the coolest of bosses with extreme responsibility with the obligation to risk his employees' lives, Sig Ruman as the Dutch bartender compensating his coolness with the warmest of hearts, Jean Arthur accidentally falling in with the drama and adjusting to it with difficulty but finally getting it, Rita Hayworth not getting drunk enough so Cary Grant has to water her, and Richard Barthelmess as the critical pilot branded with an unforgivable failure in his past; while the one who steals the show and who etches into your memory is Thomas Mitchell as the grounded pilot with nonetheless more experience and human knowledge than any of the others, representing the tragedy with human depth. It's perhaps the greatest of aviation films, at least up to the 1940s, and it's difficult to find any later one on the same level – one that almost touches it is David Lean's "Breaking the Sound Barrier" 13 years later. This is one of those films you'll remember forever and always return to in a kind of self-torturous delight of life excitement at the extreme. Dark Victory (1939) (10/10) Bette Davis going blind with flying colors This was one of Bette Davis' most famous performances, although she made many and all were outstanding. Still, this one stands out from the others as exceptionally personal in a way that she never again quite found an opportunity to bring out. Helping her in this were all the ingredients, a fantastic script, a great score by Max Steiner, her cavaliers George Brent, Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagan (always drunk and silly, he is the only one in the film to get socked,) and Geraldine Fitzgerald as the most important supporting actress with her display of a high level of sensitivity. This is a film that never will age, anyone can learn much of it in whatever age, for its vital argument about death and life. while at the same time it's a major lesson in empathy. This is brought out in them all, George Brent as her doctor of great psychological insight, Humphrey Bogart as the faithful stable groom, (the most intense love scene is actually in the stables between him and Bette,) and perhaps most of all in Geraldine Fitzgerald as her closest friend. But Bette Davis is the marvel above all. Her acting is almost excruciatingly truthful in her more than convincing way of taking on her destiny. It's interesting to compare this film with the almost contemporary "The Light that Failed" with Ronald Colman as an artist going blind, that is more tragic, while Bette Davis actually makes a glorious victory of her fate.

31 Eternally yours (1939) (8/10) It takes some suicidal efforts to wreck a happy marriage and to save a shipwrecked one. 29 July 2017

Interesting set-up exposing a very fundamental human problem concerning highly developed individuals: Loretta marries a genius who is too good for his own good, as it brings him into suicidal situations, which also has to involve those closely connected with him, including his wife Loretta, who finally just can't bear it any more and leaves him, as she says, 'to give him his freedom', but why she marries the blockhead Broderick Crawford of all people instead is difficult to understand. The main intrigue is how David and Loretta will find each other again, which of course is inevitable, anything else is just impossible, the only question is how. It's a charming comedy, David Niven is at his best, and it's a joy to see him so young – that was before he did Edgar in "Wuthering Heights", a character which almost killed him. And seeing this picture you can well understand how Ian Fleming wanted him for James Bond. The Rains Came (1939) (10/10) Not Kipling's India but more realistic and even more romantic. 7 January 2018

This is one of the best films of India I have seen, for its realism, its fantastic story, its characters and their fates and the overwhelming disaster sequences. All major problems that could occur in India of some overwhelming nature happen in this film, the earthquake, the floods, the epidemics, but the characters that meet their destiny in these fatalities are all well fit and up to it, George Brent leading in one of his best roles as a local veteran with experience and some reputation as a rogue, Myrna Loy in an unusually sensitive and complicated role for her comedy career, and Tyrone Power as an Indian doctor. It's actually his film. He doesn't come across to the centre of the stage until towards the end, but then he proves himself also with an advanced and unusual sensitivity under the strain of great national crisis. Maria Ouspenskaya is also glorious as the begum and totally convincing as such, while at the same time she plays poker and smokes cigarettes with a mouthpiece - her character is actually the most picturesque, while she also has the right backbone to lead her country out of the crisis. It's a great film on a great story, and everyone involved has a maximum of credit for it.

The Mortal Storm (1940)


(9/10) How the Nazi revolution in Germany 1933 affected ordinary people's lives 17 July 2015

This is a surprisingly modern and almost shockingly valid film still today after 75 years, since all the arguments are as important today as in 1940 and perhaps even more so than ever. It's about the transience from a democracy to an autocracy, how it changes the very core of society and plunges people into an entirely different mentality turning many of them into aliens and forcing them into exile, if they want to escape the brainwash. It's an upsetting story extremely efficiently told with marvellous photography, especially in the final scenes way up in the Alps, and it's a joy to see James Stewart so young and fresh and completely himself in total honesty. Margaret Sullavan has done better in other films, especially "Three Comrades" two years earlier, another German story on a novel by Remarque, but no one is falling short of perfect. Frank Borzage's direction celebrates perhaps its greatest triumphs in this vitally important film so much ahead of its time, since it clearly sees through all what Germany actually was about long before America entered the war. This is actually a timelessly important film unmasking the very essence of autocracy as a very efficient warning against it for all times – it could be about any autocracy. Perhaps it's a little dramatized and exaggerated, it all happens in 1933 while it's still winter, while it really depicts the whole development in Germany up till 1939, but that's a minor detail, and the film would have been less efficient without the exaggerations – the message is the important thing, and it remains a vitally important one for all ages. Beyond Tomorrow (1940) (9/10) Some strange turnings of fate concerning life and death, love and fortune. 14 July 2017

This is much more than just sentimentality. Maria Ouspenskaya has the key role as the one who sees through the dimensions and feels what's going on outside reality. It's a great story about three old men working together since many years, who get the idea of throwing out their wallets in the street with some money in them for Christmas, just for kicks. Two young people, a boy and a girl, happen to be honest enough to want to restore the wallets to their givers. They are invited for a Christmas dinner, and there it all starts. There are many various turns of the tale, the three gentlemen even have some interesting experiences after death, and the young couple don't go too easy along either. It's a perfect Christmas story warming your heart and morals with a lot of feeling good about it afterwards, but the real meaning is rather serious and almost sinister. Maria Ouspenskaya would not have the wisdom and insight which is her endowment without some gruesome experience in the past of losing everything, and the motto is important:


"I believe that the soul of man is immortal and will be treated with justice in another life, respecting its conduct in this." - Benjamin Franklin. It's pure karma and worth remembering. The Long Voyage Home (1940) (9/10) The precarious voyage home of an English cargo ship from South America in wartime carrying a load of ammunition. 1 February 2015

You can only say positive things about this film. It is so lovely in its typically John Fordian human charm, augmented by the very atmospheric photography, which sometimes touches on expressionistic magic, while all the characters are successes, from the naive Swede (John Wayne), his sad buddy John Qualen (Axel), Thomas Mitchell in one of his best performances ever (and he was always good), Wilfrid Lawson as the harsh but able captain, Ian Hunter as the tragedy of Smitty, Barry Fitzgerald doing his expert fool's part as the steward, and so on. The charm is consistent all the way and never ceases to increase your interest, with a grandiose finale when the sailors come home and start partying around. The tragedy is always there, you know everything must go wrong, and it does and even more so than you had expected, but the positive mood still shines through and leave you happy with tears. This must be John Ford's most lyrical film, it is almost soft in its outbursts of sentimentality now and then, so alien to the rough lives of sailors and in wartime at that, but it is impossible to imagine this story and these characters in any harder realism. Even the music adds to the melancholy temperament of the film, including some borrowings from Swedish folk songs ('Näckens polska') now and then accompanying the upsets or the meltdown of the Swedes, which also adds to the lyricism. We must include Eugene O'Neill in this eulogy, on whose stories this almost Conradian fable of a film of dark sea destinies was made. The House of the Seven Gables (1940) (9/10) Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic novel completely remade without ghosts. 16 November 2017 Few great novels have been altered so completely for the screen as this one, but the result is, to say the least, interesting, and actually not worse than the book; lighter, of course, but adding very much to it of good quality, especially by the outstanding acting throughout, among which Vincent Price and Margaret Lindsay make very memorable performances. There are some scenes which go directly into your heart


that the book is lacking, and no one can remain unmoved by the very deep human emotions around Clifford Pyncheon's homecoming after 20 years in prison. George Sanders is the usual outrageously elegant crook with unshakable superiority of wealth and confidence - in the book he dies in the library without pains in his sleep but surrounded by the ghosts of all his ancestors deeply loaded with vice. There are no ghosts in this film, there is no need for them, as the alternative story to the book's is quite enough of human interest. Another factor raising the film to a considerable level is the music. There is no music even mentioned in Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel, but here it is made to play an important part, underscored by Frank Skinner's wonderful score, and Vincent Price even sings and sings well. In brief, it's not a very extraordinary film, but it certainly makes the best of all resources at hand of the figures, the actors, the music and the gloomy story, while perhaps the greatest scene of all in the film is that between the women, two very different women, one marked by disaster and outrage and the other as fresh as a new spring. Johnny Apollo (1940) (9/10) What is right and wrong in a society where it is right to do wrong? 11 January 2018

The most interesting part of this film is the complicated relationship between the father and the son and how it develops, the father being a widower of an only son without a mother, spoiled as the father is a millionaire and a business man without scruples, which leads him into trouble as he gets dishonoured and jailed for embezzlement, while the son, heretoforth completely honest, is ruined with his father, sees the injustice of his father's treatment and finds his only means to get him exonerated by turning to elements evading the law. Enter Dorothy Lamour who gets him involved, as she is already involved with those alternative elements. It's a great noir, the story is fascinating, the characters never cease to develop, the action is constantly moving forward, and no one can guess what will become of all this confusion of right and wrong, justice and injustice, seeing what is wrong and turning a blind eye to it as it seems right to do wrong, and so on. Edward Arnold is the great character who somewhat overshadows Tyrone Power, but the character that most will stick in your mind is the old pettifogger, Charley Grapewin as Judge Brennan, who quotes Shakespeare and cuts the only truly tragic character. The final scene somewhat spoils the drama, it would have been better without it, but up to that point it's one of the major and most intriguing noirs - and one of the first.


Lydia (1941) (10/10) A great and neglected love story that will live on for ever, in this great forgotten American film from the early 40s. 2 August 2015

It's always a pleasure to discover a long neglected film, usually found in old bad copies, with the gratifying opportunity to bring attention to a forgotten masterpiece. "Lydia" is such a film, written and directed by Julien Duvivier with some help by Ben Hecht, featuring Merle Oberon at her best with her wooers Joseph Cotten, Alan Marshal and a few others, accompanied by spellbinding music of Miklos Rosza's, and in addition to all this with the last performance of Edna May Oliver with an exit crowning her accomplishments. The question is what is best with this film, which has so many different aspects and sides to it. Is it the great story of an adorable beauty who decides to remain a virgin all her life dedicated solely to helping blind children? Is it the important part of the music, in long eloquent sequences presented by Hans Jaray as the blind pianist, another of her wooers? Is it her fascinating personality so virtuously exposed throughout by mainly the voice of Merle Oberon in her old age? Is it the deeply romantic love affair with its extraordinary passion? Is it the great flow of the film in high tempo and dazzling dialogue all the way with beautiful photography at that? It's all this and much more. This is a great love story of a totally different kind to what we are used to, something totally out of the ordinary, and as such it's a story and film for all times and ages and all generations. This is a film to study and to be learned from, especially for those interested in the enigmatic nature of any woman. The Lady Eve (1941) Blowing the whistle on la belle dame sans-merci (10/10) 12 August 2017

This isn't easy for Henry Fonda, being rather backward with a sole life interest in snakes and other reptiles and being the only son of a multi-millionaire of beer, who wants to get him married at any price with whomever, and so he meets with the worst possible death trap for a bachelor, Barbara Stanwyck at her smartest and loveliest, partnering her father in cheating at cards. Charles Coburn is that father and makes the best of it as another father who wants his daughter married at any price with whomever as long as he is rich. This film was entirely made for fun, and there are many irregularities, but it's the fun that counts. Mind all the whistles. They play an important part symbolically and make the finale. Eric Blore is another bloke cheating the heads off of all society and entering just at the right critical moment to save the situation by doubling the trouble, together with Eugene Palette in on of his many exhilarating performances, making the company of merry rogues complete. Everyone dominating the stage here 36

is a cheat with accomplished faked identities and playing for kicks, except poor Henry Fonda, who is totally honest and innocent and is well taken care of and fares the better off for not understanding a thing. His silliness is adorable throughout the film, and his play-acting as this very odd character is a marvel, matching Barbara's resplendent superiority perfectly. No wonder she has to fall for him, while he just follows her in the fall... The music also plays an important part, and even Wagner's Pilgrim Chorus adds solemnly to the comedy at another of the film's multitude of moments of enjoying hypocrisy. One of the most hilarious comedies of all time, and you can see it many times and still enjoy its freshness. Cottage to Let (1941) (10/10) Everyone spying on everyone in a kind of funnyhouse of local Scottish picturesque espionage intrigue 12 January 2018

Charming idylls at the heart of legendary romantic Scotland gradually evolves into a stage of complicated and advanced espionage business. Leslie Banks is a nutty professor, very distracted, who gradually emerges as a leading inventor of the nation, whom everyone is nosily interested in, especially Alastair Sim in one of his early roles, who even here already proves himself amazingly superior as an actor and threatens to dominate the film. However, there is enough competition to put even him at bay when the moment comes. Most brilliant of all is perhaps George Cole as a the boy sent away from bombed London and housed with this lot of eccentrics. He is a Sherlock Holmes expert and gradually gets very busy, helping the inventor with his hobby planes, to begin with. John Mills is fished out of the water as an RAF man, but there is something fishy about him as well. This steadily more complex duck soup of intrigues that you can only guess at culminates in the great bazaar of festivities with fish ponds and other local glories, where the action suddenly gets frenzied with fisticuffs and gunshots, manhunts and all you need to have a nice local rustic espionage thriller for a real titbit of a film. Dangerous Moonlight (1941) (9/10) Music and passion at war 13 January 2018

What is wrong about this film? The story couldn't be better, and it is underscored by one of the best film scores ever made. Still, the film is far from a successful film.


Whose fault is it? The director Brian Desmond Hurst made many films on the best of stories, but none of them really come alive, as if he was rather formally transferring a piece of literature to pictures without the capacity to make the actors transcend the story, as if their main task was not to act but only to sustain the story. Anton Walbrook makes the best of it, and he is reliable as in every film he ever made, but possibly sensitive to the director's limitations, he stays within himself throughout the film. Sally Grey just isn't enough. She is not well chosen for this role of a cool journalist of a millionaire's only daughter, rather spoiled and childish, and she is not psychologically convincing, just not living up to the profound and passionate romance that is presented in the first scenes in the ruins of Warsaw. After this film, she would make no other until five years later, but then she would be so much better in "Carnival". The main acting asset of the film is instead Derrick de Marney as Walbrook's colleague and best friend, who actually saves the film, although he is the only truly tragic figure. And how come that this outstanding music, by many deemed as the best film music ever made, doesn't succeed in saving the film? The guilty one here is actually Anton Walbrook - he is as far from convincing as a pianist as an actor could get. It's overobvious that every single sequence with him playing the piano, and they are many, is faked. He is never seen to touch the keys, he is completely dispassionate sitting by the piano although the music couldn't be more passionate, and this is the main want of the film - the music is there, but it would have been better if we never had to see the pianist at work. It is recommended to close your eyes every time you see Anton Walbrook by the piano and listen to the real pianist instead of watching a painful fake. The story also saves the film. It is much deeper and more complicated than what it first appears like, and you need to see the film a couple of times before you understand it. The first time must be a disappointment. The second time you will understand everything you didn't understand the first time, and then you know how to deal with this - in spite of all - super-unique gem of a romantic war crisis film of patriotic passion and responsibility at stake on the altar of love. I Wake Up Screaming (Hot Spot, 1941) (10/10) “Pretend you are going to your execution.� 21 February 2018

It's impossible to get at the mystery here. Like the three main suspects find themselves in a maze of trouble in having no idea of what is going on, so will the audience find themselves in hopeless bewilderment that just gets worse all the time 38

for the towering confusion. At the same time, this film is hilariously witty and surprising all the way - the odd twists and turns of this outrageously baffling mystery never stop coming up with new surprises, while the greatest one awaits you in the end. There is a lot of house-breaking in this film, and none of the actors seem surprised or even to mind that people keep breaking in at midnight to keep them company in their bedroom. Victor Mature is the lead as the most harassed suspect, but Laird Cregar as the inspector general gets the better of the whole show - if ever you were troubled by nasty policemen, they will all appear like angels in comparison with this awesome smiling sadist, who enjoys subjecting you to interminable psychic torture, and he is sure to get you in the end - his record is perfect, there is not a trace of a flaw in his long career, and everyone hates him, including his fellow policemen, especially his chief. This policeman could make you hate all policemen forever. It's a fascinating character performance that you will never forget. Victor Mature is hardened enough by his long association with difficult people in publicity business to be able to cope with him endurably, while he scares the shit out of both Betty Grable and Alan Mowbray. Elisha Cook is scary in the other direction, while the blonde sisters Betty Grable and Carole Landis are too pretty and easily carried away not to end up in trouble. Carole Landis is the beauty whom you only meet in flashbacks, while her sister is less convincing as a blonde bombshell - how could anyone fall in love with her? The main attraction and asset of the film is the brilliant script and story with a dialogue that will send you flying with delight over and over again. Everyone is witty, and the sparkling humour is a startling contrast to the sinister dark mystery of the murder, perfectly unsolvable, and yet the logic of the story couldn't be more impeccable and natural. Thunder Rock (1942) (10/10) Anatomy of a shipwreck – but did they really all get lost? 13 May 2017

A Boulting brothers film is always a stunning treat if you are interested in humanity. They always choose very special topics that touch the very core of humanity and bring out all kinds of fascinating insights focusing on the treasures of human experience. This film was made during the darkest hours of the war in 1942, when Singapore was lost and the darkness of dictatorship and its violence reached its farthest limits and leading intellectuals and writers of the world committed suicide, like Stefan Zweig, and somehow the writer of this story (Bernard Miles, a great actor himself,) gets to the very heart of darkness of humanity and history. It is therefore one of those very rare and extremely metaphysical films. Michael Redgrave has given up on the world and is looking forward to the end of humanity and civilization, he doesn't care any more about anything as he wasted his best years on a lonesome crusade against fascism in Europe with no response at all, since people allowed the war to come anyway, so he absconds into a remote 39

lighthouse beyond everything, where he doesn't even read books. But he finds the log book of of a ship of immigrants that went down by this lighthouse in 1849 with 60 lives lost. He buries himself in this manifestation of a cruel and unjust fate killing 60 innocent people, and in trying to understand this destiny he brings them back alive. Are they ghosts or are they real? They are real enough to him, and he is not alone in having made the experience that ghosts can be more alive than live people. The film exploits this strange field of occult metaphysics and succeeds in realizing all their different fates, that is six of them, including the captain (Finlay Currie), a Viennese doctor and his wife and daughter (Lilli Palmer), a suffragette 70 years ahead of her time and another family with a Dickensian background of hardship. As their stories develop and get more real the deeper you get into them, the web of humanity grows constantly more touching and convincing in its realism and gripping honesty, ultimately leading to the conclusion that there is always something left to do, you can't get rid of your human and universal responsibility whatever your disillusionment with the world might be, and, of course, the whole thing leads to a release of serenity. Someone said it was one of the most impressive movies in her experience, and I tend to agree. Even the music is perfect, somewhat reminiscent of a violin romance by Sibelius. This is a film for all times with a universal message that never can lose its actuality. Went the Day Well? (1942) (7/10) The psychology of a war situation from defeat to retaliation in the frame of a small local village 10 December 2015

The perfect state of emergency film, made during the war to prepare for the worst, with marvellous photography and eloquent staging – the suggestive scenes from inside the church lift the film to almost a Powell-Pressburger level. However, the story is absurd, this never happened and never could happen, and the so called Germans are pathetically unconvincing, even David Farrar and Leslie Banks. The story is Graham Greene's, and it almost touches Orwellian science fiction in its lack of credibility, no matter how realistically and well done it has been made. The women and children are the best actors, and the film is mainly worth seeing for their sake. Nevertheless, in spite of its absurdity, it's a remarkable film, and some scenes are unforgettable. The psychology of the drama of an emergency situation is very neatly realized, as first the overwhelming shock of the conquering attack, then the first resistance awakens to start with some poor tragically failed efforts, to eventually make a breakthrough and triumph. It's the whole story of the second world war in the nutshell of a small village in Britain.


Pied Piper (1942) (9/10) A World War II exodus story of an old man unwillingly collecting children on the way. 18 January 2015

I read the novel twice many years ago and found it perhaps Nevil Shute's best story, and he wrote many, all outstanding. Still I am tempted to hint at the possibility that the film excels the book, much because of Monty Woolley's rendering of the grumpy old Englishman sick of everything who finds himself stranded in France by the war after Dunkirk and has to accept helping two children to England although he hates children. His long difficult odyssey through war-harried France to somehow reach England with constantly more orphaned children on his hands turns him into another and slightly different man, and the realism depicting this is what makes the film so impressing still today after 70 years for its more than just convincing character. It was made before any of the turning points of the war in 1942 after Pearl Harbour and the fall of Singapore while the Germans were still pounding Moscow and besieging Leningrad, in brief, when the war was at its grimmest. Nevil Shute's story is about humanity in the depth of the despair of this world crisis, which the film admirably conveys, underlining the realism. Monty Woolley, however, is finally matched by Otto Preminger as the German officer, who represents the final conversion to humanity and couldn't make it better as a perfectly brutal and revolting officer who finally has to fall to his own humanity. It's one of the greatest stories told from the second world war, and the film honours it. Strange though that this very important and wonderful film should be so hard to find on internet. A remake was made for TV in 1989 with Peter O'Toole which also pays credit to the story, such a story can only be told well, but that film can't be found at all. Secret Mission (1942) (8/10) British spies, one with a French accent, on a mission to liberate France with their French ladies. 9 May 2017

They are all in it, James Mason, Michael Wilding, Hugh Williams, Stewart Granger and even Herbert Lom as the one German officer who is not a complete caricature, and the glorious ingenious music adds to the general flavour of good humour and fresh spirits, which was needed in the darkest year of the war, 1942. It's war propaganda, of course, but not as daft as it looks from the start. There are some excellent scenes, and you don't always hear James Mason with a French accent complaining about English food in preference of the French kitchen. There are a number of bottles in the film, and some are even opened, but the only wines served is the champagne for the Germans. James Mason is about to relish a well preserved bottle of Calvados hidden from the Germans when the party is interrupted by an 41

unnecessary argument. It all ends up with some real banging and bombing in the end, when the Germans really are blowing it, providing a grand finale, raising the film from a trifle to some interesting entertainment. The best scene is the exciting moment when Michelle is listening to the British broadcast and the Germans barge in just in the right moment when Hitler is speaking – but only as an example of German propaganda shown by BBC, but the Germans leave Mademoiselle with respect and full of admiration for her German loyalty. As an entertainment it's well worth seeing, and James Mason never fails to make any film he is in interesting enough to keep you awake all the way. The Major and the Minor (1942) (9/10) Ginger Rogers masquerading as anything but herself, and Ray discovering her with one eye. 9 July 2017

In Billy Wilder's first American comedy he secured the stage and his basis for the rest of his days in America. His films were always good, and the remarkable thing is that he never repeated himself - every film he made is thoroughly original, and already in his first hit he ventured on some very bold challenges to spice his audience with which proved more than successful. The script is ingenious, and although you know from the start that they will win each other in the end there are many troublesome question marks on the way, and the great issue is how on earth they will manage themselves out of this mess of masquerade and intrigue. Ginger Rogers was always a superb comedienne, and Ray Milland was never better than in the beginning - he later turned to more and more doubtful characters, from "The Lost Weekend" and on, but here he is still shining. The triumph though is the script, so eloquent, intelligent and ingenious, and every detail, although the intrigue many times turns into precarious and dangerous ground, is perfect. There is even some trying suspense, as Ginger at the telephone while the whole army is after her. Great entertainment on level with the best screwball comedies, and yet this one is rather overlooked and unknown. Son of Fury (1942) (10/10) Tyrone Power fights it out thoroughly with injustice and fate but is rewarded with Gene Tierney. 26 October 2017


A delightful film from the best years of Hollywood, when they really could make a good film out of a good story, and this one is glittering from beginning to end with eloquent innovations, telling the story of a hot-blooded aristocrat robbed of everything, dishonoured and kept down but returning with a vengeance. All the obligatory ingredients of a successful Hollywood film are here: a dashing central hero of good looks and great spirits, an outrageous crook of revolting villainy, more than one great romance, fantastic adventure, gorgeous sailing ships, and best of all: Polynesian belly dancers, actually bringing back the best days of "The Mutiny of the Bounty" and its extreme romanticism. Gene Tierney makes one of her first and best appearances of a sort she could never repeat, Tyrone Power is here still on top, and George Sanders makes a typically unsympathetic bully with bravura. Alfred Newman's music adds to the glitter, and although it's a rather superficial story, it's great adventure, and the romanticism must appeal to anyone. This is an irresistible treat for any lover of great romantic adventure on the screen. Grand Central Murder (1942) (10/10) Very entertaining murder mystery without any clue to how she was murdered alone in a car 14 February 2018

There are many suspects, everyone being involved with this cabaret star and several wanting to marry her, while at the same time she is chased for other reasons. Too many had a motive to murder her, but the biggest problem is that it's impossible to say how she died. Detective Van Heflin, superb and interesting as always, quarrrels with the inspector throughout the film about this and other things, and there are even some fisticuffs on the way and guns pulled but not fired. Another mysterious death at the station adds to the confusion of the plot, but ultimately everything makes sense in spite of all. The main asset of the film is the brilliant dialog and the ingenious direction. The dialog fires intermittently all the way, you get as little chance to relax for a moment as all the suspects, and they are all confined on the spot of the murder for the investigation with an occasional visit at the theatre with some theatrical controversies to add to the complex turnings of events. It's wonderfully entertaining all the way, the flow is terrific, there are constant dramatic surprises and several efforts at getaways, but ultimately it all sums up, and you have saved another evening and can walk away satisfied, while you only feel some need to see it over again. Street of Chance (1942) (9/10) The awkwardness of amnesia when you are two people and can't remember who the other one was.


16 February 2018

Burgess Meredith makes probably his greatest performance and is completely convincing as the man in the awkward position of having lost all memory of the latest year of his life and finds himself hounded by hoodlums and eventually wanted for murder. Claire Trevor is less convincing as the lady involved, who wants to get away with him and help him abscond whatever it is, while the character stirring the tale and bringing it up to excitement is lame old grandma (Adeline De Walt Reynolds), who can only communicate with her eyes but does so the more. As the thriller develops, it grows more exciting and gripping all the way, and as usual the truth is a shocker - everyone is innocent except the least suspected. Burgess Meredith's experience of this nightmare situation of a lifetime, like being locked up blind in a cage of wolves or worse, that is killers or the electric chair, couldn't be made more realistic by his acting, as this outrageous strain forces him to extreme rationalism, which is exactly the normal human reaction in such circumstances - you set in a higher gear, and thus he manages to make his way out of the death trap of innocent ignorance caught in hopeless darkness of hopelessness. It's a small great film with plenty of stuff for afterthought. This Above All (1942) (10/10) Engaging war drama of love and conscientious objection 16 February 2018

Tyrone Power is completely deprived of all his Hollywood attributes here, he is shabby and unshaved like a bum, his good looks are purposely disposed of and as much altered as possible to the contrary, his character is doubtful, while Joan Fontaine outshines him all the way and constantly more and more, which makes it impossible not to burst out into tears when she does. It's a chapter out of the most critical point of the war after Dunkirk at the beginning of the long nightmare blitz of London, and all the bombing scenes couldn't have been made more real and convincing. Tyrone is a veteran from Dunkirk, almost decorated, bitterly disillusioned about the war and its glory and finds no meaning in any aspect of the struggle, while Joan in bursts of impressing honesty gives him second thoughts. But there is much more to it than their epitomized romance. Perhaps the most important ingredient is the other characters. Thomas Mitchell actually saves the show, Alexander Knox is the only one who immediately and thoroughly understands Tyrone's predicament of conscience, Gladys Cooper is gloriously superior as always, Nigel Bruce adds some vital Dickensian comedy, Philip Merivale as the doctor is another vital contribution, and there are others, some not even mentioned. On the whole, it's a perfect masterpiece of film pinpointing the very eye of the storm of the second world war.

44 The Keeper of the Flame (1942) (9/10) Spencer Tracy seeks out Katharine Hepburn and ends up in trouble with the truth. 17 February 2018

This is a very controversial film since there are so many different aspects to it. It’s both a political drama, a mystery thriller, a journalist’s predicament of handling the truth, a great American tragedy and an interesting debunking of fascism. It is made in the most critical year of the war, it is definitely an ideological argument and taking a stand in the war although that is hardly mentioned and there are no political references, but it manages to delve into the darkness of manipulated politics to pinpoint the heart of the matter. What happened to Robert Forrest to make him change from an idealist and paragon for all democratic America into the opposite? What made Saruman change from a white magician into a black? That is the real issue here, and there is no answer. The only one providing an answer is the mother (Margaret Wycherly), who blames the fall of Robert Forrest on his wife, he should never have married, and she is the first one to mention the word ‘murder’, but Spencer Tracy has to discard her as insane. However, no other explanation is offered anywhere in the film. Spencer Tracy seeks out Katharine Hepburn, the widow of Robert Forrest, to write the story of his life and make it the eulogy of a hero. The widow readily accepts him and will cooperate fully, since she has no objection to the maintenance of her husband’s glory and legend. But the journalist is not satisfied and realizes something is deliberately concealed from him. That’s why he spites the widow to visit the mother on his own, and that’s where the drama of the film starts. The more you dig for the truth, the worse it stinks, they say, and although you ultimately find the truth here, the film does not tell the whole story. The journalist tells the story for sure, but the key to the issue is never revealed or explained: how did it happen that such a glorious hero turned from idealism to opportunistic power madness? What made him change his mind and bring about his own fall? Was it only pride, vanity and egoism? Someone tries to hint at that for an explanation, that he lost God for egoism, but he was a clever and intelligent man, and it is never explained how he could get caught in such a trap. A critic says the portrait and case of Robert Forrest was modelled on Charles Lindbergh, but that is very far-fetched, and there are only vague parallels – Lindbergh never had political ambitions, although he clearly sympathized with fascism and racism. Racism is not mentioned here, fascism only perfunctorily, while the problems here are entirely human. I saw this film some 12 years ago and was impressed, I greatly looked forward to seeing it again for a closer look and found it an entirely different film. That tells something of its complexities.

45 The Black Swan (1942) (10/10) Tyrone Power, Henry King, George Sanders and all the others in top gear. 19 February 2018

A feast for the eyes all the way in brilliant technicolor, Tyrone Power fences his way through arduous battles and drinking bouts in clinch with George Sanders and Maureen O'Hara, one more difficult than the other. Thomas Mitchell stands by him, though, and saves the general situation as usual. Laird Cregar makes an imposing Henry Morgan, and even Anthony Quinn is seen here as a quite young and savage pirate, perhaps learning the craft for his later "The Buccaneer" 16 years later. There is not much to say about this film, since everything is just excellent, Tyrone Power at his most dashing, Maureen O'Hara describing a fascinating conversion, George Sanders having the time of his life as the reckless Captain Leech and all the others in constantly recurring naval battles and fencing sprees. Alfred Newman's music adds to the overwhelming technicolor romanticism, and here is a curious detail: the main theme of his music is actually very close to one of the main melodies of Puccini's opera "The Girl of the Wild West", probably not snatched from there but probably subconsciously borrowed. In brief, a swashbuckle film just couldn't be much better. To the Shores of Tripoli (1942) (8/10) Fooling around with the marines up to Pearl Harbour 25 February 2018)

This is a better film than you might expect. Since it deals with the marines and Pearl Harbour, anyone would expect some thrilling war drama with battles and casualties with great smoke and fire, but it's actually a very shallow comedy all the way up to the final moment. John Payne fools his way around at the military school by order of his father to perhaps make a man some day but almost only dribbling away his entire time by flirting with the nagging Maureen O'Hara, who can but see through his bluffs all the way but takes him for a ride by his own lies, so there are some hilarious moments on this way of nonsense. The real actor here though is Randolph Scott as the major, and you might expect some severe long term personal duel developing between them, but their enmity gradually takes a totally different and interesting course, which turns out to be the backbone of the film and gives it a definite character of realism. Don't expect any battles or drama or even war incidents, but enjoy it as an interesting entertainment telling the story of how a soldier is made.

46 Eyes in the Night (1942) (9/10) A blind man and a dog against overwhelming odds of intriguing adversity 4 March 2018

Edward Arnold is always a warrant for a film worth seeing more than once and with increasing interest. Here for once he plays the lead as a blind detective, and the question is whether he is the lead or his dog Friday. They work together and are indispensable to each other, but still also make it well on their own, even when trapped or locked up in a basement. As an experienced blind detective Arnold has many bags full of tricks, and some of them he gets the opportunity to use to turn a grim drama into a hilarious comedy. Getting drunk and playing the organ in the middle of the night to disturb all criminality going on, he brilliantly turns into the highlight entertainment of this film. The clever intrigue involves a theatre company as a cover up for serious counter spionage activity to endanger the nation, which Donna Reed as a young easily seduced girl is innocently unaware of and duped by, while her mother Ann Sheridan immediately senses the alarm. The interplay between these two characters is another interesting angle to the tale, while the dog ultimately steals the show. I saw it some ten years ago but enjoyed even more to see it again. This was in the beginning of Fred Zinnemann's long run as an outstanding director, but already here his excellence is impressing. The Constant Nymph (1943) (10/10) Mysteries of music and love 22 July 2017

There are some major keys to the essence of this tragedy of music and love. One of them is the old composer Albert Sanger, played by Montagu Love, who is the knowledgeable one about music and who clearly sees the foibles of Lewis Dodd (Charles Boyer), the famous wannabe composer, all modernist, but with some hope in him. The old man sees this hope and encourages it, and he dies with something of a testament to Charles Boyer of an idea to "true" music. Another who sees the heart of the matter in music is his daughter Tessa, played by Joan Fontaine, who got an Oscar nomination for her heartrending performance. While she sees through everything she suffers from a sensitive heart and easily gets "palpitations". Her sensitivity is grossly overlooked, underestimated and ignored by


her surrounding people, especially by her cousin (Alexis Smith) who marries Charles Boyer who really loves him but never understands him, – even less understanding her "so much younger" cousin, who loves Charles Boyer so much deeper and more understandingly. The tragedy is unsuspected at first, it comes stealing in gradually to in the end affect everyone with overwhelming heartbreakingness, while no one really is guilty. No one could foresee it, not even Alexis Smith, who makes a performance second only to Joan Fontaine. Music and love triumphs in the end but at a terrible cost, while at the same time the truth of love and music stand victorious transcending the pettiness of human relationships, ambitions, careers and all that. Charles Boyer is always perfect in his own way, so natural and dynamic in whatever part he plays, Joan Fontaine and Alexis Smith are both at their best, Charles Coburn reliable as always, and even Peter Lorre has a somewhat pathetically important part in the tragedy, which is of women, love and music. This is an extremely female matter, but Edmund Goulding handles it with great understanding and care, his films are always deeply and thoroughly human, he also made "Dark Victory" with Bette Davis, "The Razor's Edge" and "Nightmare Alley" with Tyrone Power for some examples, and here he reached perhaps his closest touch to the essence of the human heart. Münchhausen (1943) (10/10) The Baron Von Munchhausen still the same in the 20th century, only slightly more serious. 11 May 2015

This is indeed a wonder of a film and next to something of a cinematic ideal, giving associations directly to George Méliès and his pioneering cinematic idealism, committing himself to any experiment just to fulfil his ideals. But this is not only next to an ideal film but also a literary masterpiece with an impressingly brilliant and ingenious dialogue all through, written by Erich Kästner. To this comes most appropriate music gilding all the best scenes, adding also oral beauty to the visionally perfect dreamworld, enhancing highlights like the ride on the cannon ball, on which the Baron in a typically delightful whim raises his hat to salute the audience, just one of innumerable instances of glorious genius. It's even hilariously funny, the cuckoo duel taking the prize for unforgettability. This is definitely a lasting and outstanding example of cinema at its best, satisfying all criteria for timelessness in beauty, story, imagery, humanity, humour, imagination and inspiration. This is one of those films you can always return to for watching again with new eyes discovering new gems and details of wonder, grace and cinematic glory. Just the opening scene is a marvel, showing a sumptuous 18th century ball gradually being infected by anachronisms, turning the whole thing over into lasting timelessness...


A friend of mine made an important comment: "It has to be mentioned that Erich Kästner couldn't use hos own name, but had to use the name Berthold Bürger. Kästner was one of the authors whose books were burned by the Nazis in 1933. He became pacifist during the first world war and wrote the famous "Kennst du das Land wo die Kanonen blühn?" The Silver Fleet (1943) (10/10) Double cross Dutch style in the second world war with tragic success 3 December 2015

This is a wonder of a film, completely unknown and gradually being discovered as an exceptional gem of priceless interest in the flood of war propaganda films of the second world war. Emeric Pressburger wrote the original story, and you can trace his hand everywhere, so that it actually could be suspected on reasonable grounds that this was an ordinary Powell- Pressburger film all through, but Vernon Sewell, who lived to be almost 98 and made many praiseworthy films, together with Gordon Wellesley softened the script somewhat and made it more stringent with marvellous results for the action, the developing plot of constant surprises, the very sensitive nuances of the characters and all supported by the perfectly adapted dramatic music by Allan Gray. Although Ralph Richardson makes as eloquent and clearcut a character as ever, always reliable for interesting and straight-backed integrity, the most interesting performance is by Esmond Knight as the leading nazi, making quite a nazi character out of the ordinary in hilarious serious caricature. Pressburger disagreed with turning the character thus, but it's a great success – you'll never forget his plater of spaghetti, perhaps the best scene in the film. In brief, this is a surprisingly sparkling film of suspense and intelligence to discover and enjoy and with great delight never to part with. Devotion (1943, released 1946) (8/10) Over-sugared effort to get a hang of the love life of the Brontë sisters 26 July 2017

Not a very satisfactory romanticization of the Brontë sisters and their obscure love life, since very much is wrong, but there are some good points as well. Ida Lupino as Emily makes the film together with Arthur Kennedy as Branwell, and they are convincing enough. Olivia de Havilland is all wrong as Charlotte, and everything she does is wrong – she has never been less convincing. Paul Henreid is all right, although his character is very constructed. It's true that he later married Charlotte, he even made her pregnant, and because of that she died at 38 in childbed only a few


years after her sisters and Branwell, so the widowed father had to bury them all, who is completely shadowed away in the film and is given no real character at all. What saves the film is Sidney Greenstreet as Thackeray, suddenly you are brought to a convincing character and reality of literary London in the early Victorian days, and another very successful detail is the music. Korngold succeeds in giving just the right atmosphere by his soft and subtle music, very much like Bernard Herrmann, and also the other music is well found: There is Beethoven and Schubert, some Lanner, some Chopin and nothing later than of that age, except Korngold himself, of course. Olivia de Havilland makes a mess of the sisters' engagement in Brussels, and that's the worst part of the film, a completely misapprehended Hollywood conjecture of the worst kind, and Branwell's death scene is also a vulgar exaggeration. Well, there is so much wrong with this film, that it's a miracle it's worth seeing at all, mainly because of the truly Brontëan conversation, eloquent and witty all the way, especially when Branwell is involved, Ida Lupino's strong and convincing performance (as always), the successful rendering of the environment and the atmosphere, the music, while the worst blunder of the film is the complete obfuscating of Anne Brontë. The film states that two of the Brontë sisters were geniuses. No, they were three, and all the sisters were agreed that Branwell was the number one genius among them. Compare it with "To Walk Invisible" of last year, the one perfect Brontë biopic, completely true and almost documentary all the way although enough dramatic as well, while this film will land and stay in the shadow. They Met in the Dark (1943) (7/10) A mess of intrigues with James Mason alternating between two girls or more 29 May 2017

A rather fishy intrigue going at any lengths to cause as much confusion as possible, as it basically only consists of loose ends all over, but it all starts at sea in the second world war, then proceeds to a court martial where James Mason appears to be convicted and dismissed from service, whereupon he shaves his beard and tries to get hold of a girl 'Mary' who has some awful things to tell him, which she never gets a chance to, as the old lorn house she has made an appointment with him in is empty except for a dead girl with a mysterious paper note clutched in her hand, which body is discovered by another girl, leading them to some circle of spies disguised as an entertainment company with mind readers, harmonica players and another singing girl, while James Mason is more interested in one girl than another, or is it the other way around? Anyway, there is nothing wrong with the acting or the intrigue– making, James Mason is always worth enjoying, but that's about all in this film – the death mystery in the desert house provides the only excitement, which never is satisfied, as the body disappears and never is recovered... Is it a comedy, a satire, just an entertainment made for kicks, is it seriously meant at all, or was it just made to fill 50

some gap? The film inspires as many questions as an almost total lack of answers, but it provides at least some momentary entertainment... Cabin in the Sky (1943) (9/10) A hilarious phantasmagoria to carry you away beyond mortality, 27 September 2017

Fireworks of imagination in an intoxicating phantasmagoria of splendid innovations, Lena Horne and Duke Ellington crowning the show both musically and dramatically – the grand scene at John Henry's bar transcends most musicals in sheer flippant enthusiasm. The story is a kind of mental experiment, playing with life and death, and the gamble is high as you don't really know which is which. Rex Ingram is marvellous as Lucifer Junior, laughing his sides off throughout the picture, and the musical numbers are the real treats, especially the church scene in the beginning apart from the grand finale at the bar. The dialogue is ingenious throughout, and just to follow the witty argument makes it worth returning to the film to study it more in detail – there are so many fantastic details to catch up on the way, as the film practically is overloaded with splendid whims, and while it's all too realistic in its drama of life and death, it's at the same time like a fairy tale or parable, from which you can learn a great deal. This was only one out of many films by Vincente Minnelli. Edge of Darkness (1943) (9/10) The Norwegian resistance against the German occupation in WW2 in towering pathos for two hours., 1 October 2017

Errol Flynn is the star here, but his part is actually minor in the context of this panoramic insight into a small Norwegian fishing village in the far north of Norway and its villagers, their life under duress of the Germans and how an extreme conflict is unavoidable. It was made in the most critical year of World War II, when the Germans at the height of their power started to lose. There are many memorable and eloquent scenes here, well up to the highest standard of Lewis Milestone's works, like the great scene in the church, when the villagers are having a conference under cover of a Sunday service, which actually introduces the drama. Many small characters also rise to greatness during the progress of the film, like the doctor who is forced by circumstances to abandon his absolute neutrality and pacifism, like the supposed traitor Hans who desperately tries to prove that he is not, like the pious mother who even she finally converts and abandons her firm belief in peace, like the priest who in the end fires the first shot, 51

and many more. Errol Flynn disappears almost entirely in this great drama of the necessity of at any cost resisting and fighting any foreign occupational force. It's a great film in spite of its tremendous bathos of exaggerations, and although in the beginning you encounter a village where everyone seems to have wiped out everyone, it's extremely interesting to see how this drama gradually evolves to its apocalyptic fatality. The music by Franz Waxman adds to it, making efficient use of the Norwegian national anthem, a Lutheran hymn and of course Siegfried's death by Wagner. The Dark Tower (1943) (8/10) Interesting trapeze thriller with scary hypnotism involved 4 March 2018

This was Herbert Lom's first great performance and his most revolting one. Who can avoid getting the creeps as he oils his way into constantly deeper and more dangerous influence of the circus as the primadonna is defenseless against his powers and everybody just have to cooperate for the sake of survival? Of course, the intrigue is not entirely convincing, however could such a brilliant and clever beauty like Ann Crawford fall a prey to such a charlatan? Orson Welles made a similar show void of all credibility six years later in his film of Joseph Balsamo, a great adventure film spoiled by the hypnosis racket. Herbert Lom is actually more convincing and above all more nasty in his very dark and eerie character. There are some brilliant circus scenes, though, and the insight into the life of a circus with its very different characters all struggling together with difficulties of survival of the circus will keep you busy and attached with sympathy to the whole plot. David Farrar is always worth seeing, he is usually an honest character at risk, and here more so than ever. It must have had some influence on Carol Reed when he twelve years later made his "Trapeze", which would be interesting to see again as a compliment to this one. The Purple Heart (1944) (9/10) A true story of conditions at their worst for war prisoners, a kind of prelude to 'The Manchurian Candidate' 10 July 2017

Although you wouldn't believe it, this is actually a true story from the beginning of the war (1942), and the fall of Singapore takes place during the course of the trial,


which the Japanese interrupt for celebration including judges and attorneys. Four of the eight war prisoners were really executed, while four survived prison camps in China with difficulty (see the review by 'ustye'). It's a great story of hardship in Japanese prison, as the Japanese take out the prisoners one by one to torture them leaving them maimed for life, one losing his mind, another his voice, and so on. Of course, they go dreaming in the necessary therapy of escapism, and those are the finest sequences of the film, contrasting sharply against the prison sterility. The Japanese are not satirized or exaggerated in their manners in spite of this being made during the war, and two of them actually end up as casualties as well. It's an odd film for Lewis Milestone but as well made as any of them, only somewhat more sinister. Dana Andrews, Farley Granger and Richard Crenna grace the cast, but the best speech is actually not Dana's final speech but the previous one by Lt. Peter Vincent (Donald Barry), which is almost Shakespearean in intelligent eloquence. It's a hard film of hard times under inhuman circumstances, and yet it is very edifying and gives much afterthought - however would you act under similar circumstances? Their final decision how to vote for their destiny is a triumph of humanity. The Suspect (1944) (10/10) Charles Laughton at his best trying to get out of an extremely unhappy marriage 4 April 2017

He is married and stuck for life with a monster when he meets the ideal candidate for a life's companion. It's a thriller of great suspense, and your sympathies are with Laughton all the way as he is pestered by a nosy inspector and the worst possible immediate neighbour, who manhandles his wife and blackmails him. The conclusion is devastating and leaves you with a permanent impression of the deepest sadness and pity. At the same time, it leaves you mercifully hanging in the air. Objections could be made to some turns of the tale. The inspector is a bit too sharp for credibility, and Laughton is a bit too fast in his sudden decisions, but that's the flaw of Mr. Marshall's character. Nevertheless, the actors are all perfect, especially the women, and it is beautifully filmed. A perfect film to get upset by for the shortcomings of human nature. Summer Storm (1944) (9/10) A peasant girl as a femme fatale causing the downfall of a society. 1 January 2018

There are many remarkable circumstances in this film. Anton Tchekhov died in 1904. The film starts in 1919 and then goes back to 1912, not any earlier. It's a Tchekhov


story all right, all the melancholy and deep knowledge of human nature is there, all characters are in style and very Tchekhovian, in fact, the film couldn't be more Tchekhovian, and yet it goes far beyond what Tchekhov ever could imagine, as if it was written by Tchekhov after the revolution. It's a very sad story framed by typical hilarious Tchekhovian human comedy. Both Edward Everett's priceless character of an old befuddled aristocrat and Linda Darnell's scandal beauty are thoroughly comedians, like also her hilarious father (Sig Ruman, in one of HIS best performances,) and all the local people around them. The only tragic character is George Sanders as judge Petrov, and, to some degree, his fiancĂŠe Anna Lee, who sees the tragedy but can't do anything about it, the only one to get out of it whole. George Sanders was an exiled Russian aristocrat himself, and this is one of the few films in which he gives his original character away. He later learned such perfect English that no one could suspect he had been anything but an English snob, but to his misfortune he got out of the Russian revolution alive. All his characters were generally bitter frustrated superior losers usually digging their own graves by pride and conceit, with a few exceptions, like in Hitchcock's "The Foreign Correspondent". Here he is the victim of his own uncontrollable destiny, as he finds himself unable to rule his own passion. This film is his tragedy, he actually gives a song in Russian at one point, while the other characters, above all Linda Darnell and Edward Everett Horton, take over the film. You must accept her irresistible beauty, and you must understand how both Horton and Sanders had to give in to it. She is simply shamelessly, outrageously and overbearingly beautiful, such a career just has to come to a dreadful end, while poor befuddled Horton just can't understand anything of what is happening. In spite of his own tragedy, which doesn't seem to become him much, as he is incorrigible in his own way, he remains the one surviving comedian of this ludicrous but very melancholy tragedy, like in fact a human epitaph on the fallen old Russia. Till We Meet Again (1944) (10/10) Gestapo killing nuns in occupied France by mistake 12 February 2018

This is probably the greatest nun's story ever filmed. Barbara Britton is perfect as the nun who strictly keeps what she promises and follows her conscience whatever the price. Ray Milland is also perfect as the pilot, with a family back home with two children and a loved wife and who doesn't take any advantage of his rescuer but only enriches her experience and shares his love the only possible way. Lucile Watson is perfect as the mother superior refusing to deal with the Germans in any other way than what two earlier wars taught her. Walter Slezak makes one of his typical roles as a helpless victim of destiny, doing what he can to help the situation and only failing utterly.


The greatest asset, though, is the story, which is a triumph of war thriller intrigue mixed up with existential and moral issues, an occupational force testing the conscience of the victims. The film has been criticised for its one-sided view of the Nazis as thorough villains and bullies and nothing else, but any occupational force is like that. There has never been any exception. Their banditry adds tension and drama to the film, but that is not their only function. That's how they were. Ask any Frenchman. A superb film and one of Frank Borzage's best. Surprised that it is not better known. A Song to Remember (1945) (10/10) Hollywood Chopin allegory of great ingenuity and inventiveness, but the pathos is true What does it matter if everything is wrong as long as the acting is superb, the music splendid and the message gets through? Best of the actors, who are all well found and at their best, is Paul Muni as his teacher, who makes the most memorable character. Cornel Wilde was rightly nominated for an Oscar for his convincing rendering of the Chopin pathos, Stephen Bekassy (a true Hungarian) makes Franz Liszt appear at his best (no Marie d'Agoult here dragging the show down,) and Merle Oberon as George Sand makes her a dream of charm of beauty to a degree Aurore Dudevant never even dreamed of, including her transformation into an almost vampiric cold-blooded monster of overbearing pride and egoism. Howard Freeman as the feared and hated critic Kalkbrenner is perhaps the one who comes closest to reality. George Macready as Alfred de Musset you would have desired to see more of – his character is brought to the fore in the complementary "Impromptu" 1991 – these two totally different films on the same basic story match each other perfectly, each one filling the gaps of the other, both being important and outstanding, this one more romanticized, "Impromptu" more strictly true but without the message. It is the message which is the basic thing in this film as it was in Chopin's life – his love and passionate compassion for Poland. His music is a struggle for life as long as he lived, since he had death breathing in his neck all his life, and at the same time the perfect illustration of Poland's struggle for survival under the Russian suppression. This message of freedom is clearly conveyed by this film, which it should most be remembered by. All the gorgeous details, the splendid Technicolor, the eloquently illustrated friendship with Liszt, Merle Oberon's majestic scenes and of course the overwhelming beauty of the music only serve to underline the message of freedom accentuated and illustrated by some of the best music ever written. To this comes the important subplot of the struggle for Chopin's soul showing his 'bipolarity' – George Sand taking a stand for his personal welfare and French ego, protecting him against his teacher, who knows Chopin's soul is Polish, and this eventually gets the better of him, he dying for it in the struggle and George Sand being left behind. This is a true aspect of the Chopin complex which is completely omitted in the later equally outstanding Chopin comedy "Impromptu". 55

They Were Sisters (1945) (9/10) Interesting anatomy of a family tragedy with a number of outstanding performances 9 November 2015

This is a women's film but extremely interesting for anyone to study in detail, as there are four different female characters developing in different directions, and each one is of paramount interest. The question is whose is the most interesting. Is it Phyllis Calvert as the strongest character who is doomed to a childless life with the best of husbands but makes the best of it by her honesty, or is it Anne Crawford as the more liberated Lucy, who is the one who from the beginning sees through the ugliness of James Mason's character, is it Dulcie Gray in her heartrending martyrdom gradually driven to the despair of alcoholism by the subtly increasing cruelty of her husband, or is it Pamela Kellino as James Mason's daughter torn between her loyalty to her after all loving father and her empathy with her mother? The drama is nonexistent at first, everything starts in a perfectly idyllic setting where nothing could even be suspected to go wrong, but gradually the tragedy sneaks in to grow surreptitiously into an overwhelming drama of human disintegration. It is marvellously composed, and Hubert Bath's idyllic music adds to it. James Mason of course dominates the whole stage from the first to the last in the extremely difficult performance of being convincingly inhumanly cruel after having started off as the perfect charmer, but every performance here is great, in a fascinating family chronicle of relationship complications that could happen in any family. Nine points at least. Waterloo Road (1945) (9/10) Wayward destinies at large in wartime London under the bombs... 15 May 2017

This is a highly compressed social drama in wartime involving the lives of many different characters from various social layers of London, excluding only every glimpse of any upper class. Doctor Alastair Sim introduces the events from a view after the war, whereupon you are miraculously transferred from a bombed out London street to what it was before the ruins. He has a fairly good view of the whole chart of ingredients of the human destinies involved. The main characters are Stewart Granger and John Mills, both as very young men och rivals of the same woman, who is John Mills' wife, but he is in the army. He gets an alarm letter of the situation from home and takes leave without leave to handle the situation in his own way, with his fists. Action is very fast from beginning to end, you have to keep very alert not to miss any detail, also the father with his doves tells a special story of his own, and all the 56

beautiful young ladies... One just giving a glimpse of herself is Jean Kent as a hairdresser with a beauty and intelligence of her own. She is the only one apart from Dr. Sim to see through the debatable character of Stewart Granger. He makes a villain but not without charming and sympathetic traits, you must admit he has to be successful, until the verdict comes... Above all, it's a brilliant story told with impressive efficiency, nothing is lost on the way to the towering finale with its advanced acrobatics for a settlement, and every story is told to the full. Even the doves are finally satisfied, and the Doctor finalizes this masterpiece of a kaleidoscopic human record with the same charm as he introduced it with. It's a film well worth seeing several times, since you have to miss something every time... A Place of One’s Own (1945) (9/10) A small ghost story that is made much of and couldn't have been made better. 28 July 2017

The interesting thing here is the life of the house, and how its new owners gradually get acquainted with it and its mysteries. It has been abandoned for 40 years since the daughter of the last owner passed away mysteriously and left it haunted. She was a recluse and used to just sit and play the piano – so there is a lot of Chopin here playing in the dark, as one of the major manifestations of the haunting. James Mason and also Dennis Price at first are quite convinced there are no ghosts, it's amazing how decade after decade all actors on the screen who are subject to parapsychological phenomena like haunting and ghosts and poltergeist and what not, always persist in the stupidity of refusing to take it seriously, vehemently denying it, until they are faced with undeniable facts of the supernatural. They never seem to learn anything. Barbara Mullen is the one sensible here, she feels the house is haunted from the start and always acts wisely – she is an experience. She realizes that everyone who has lived in a house leaves something behind that goes on living there, as part of its soul, and that is perhaps the lesson of this film. It is very educating, and James Mason is at his best as usual and for once older than his age, and Margaret Lockwood has some great scenes for herself of hysteria in the mirror and things like that – she was always one of the best at haunted ladies. She and Dennis Price became another couple, and for a whole lifetime, in the later film "Hungry Hill" (1947) from Ireland – with no haunting at all, though. (See my last review.)

Cornered (1945)


(9/10) Dick Powell on the hunt for the needle of his wife's killer in more than one haystack and getting constantly caught red-handed. Dick Powell made his name in silly musicals in the 30s before he under Edward Dmytryk's direction suddenly turned into a hard-boiled cleaner in murky business with plenty of fisticuffs, as in "Murder, My Sweet", the first real noir. He suffered for it even then, but here he gets into constantly double trouble investigating a mess of things that all the time gets more messy and intricate, as he searches for his wife's killer after the war first rowing across to France, making visits to Marseille and Berne and ending up with the final mess in Buenos Aires at the mercy of sophisticated posh people and two very beautiful ladies, while it's impossible even for the audience to guess who, if anyone, isn't a gangster. He gets tremendous use of both his knuckles and his gun, he is after all a military officer with a record of having got shot down a number of times, but he doesn't make things easier for himself by constantly blustering in, picking quarrels, insulting everyone and making himself impossible all over society by a clinical lack of any sense of humour - only once there is a faint shadow of a smile on his lips. Walter Slezak has every right to constantly call him a stupid fool, and every time he is called by that name he adds to deserving it. But it is a very intriguing story, as usual in Edward Dmytryk's films, which makes it worth watching with interest, as you are constantly more bewildered by the confusing intrigue getting all the time more knotted up, and not until the very end it all makes sense after all. The intrigue is thickening until it bursts open with a vengeance, and then at last you can even forgive Dick Powell his irrational clumsiness. He was only married for twenty days, his wife wasn't even beautiful, and it's difficult to understand why he would commit himself with immense pains to a wild goose chase across the world just to get a revenge, which only is explained by his incorrigibly hard and impossible character. It would be interesting to see the final bill for his France-Argentina berserk trip. Strange Illusion (1945) (8/10) A youth has nightmares which prove true, for which he is hospitalized. 1 March 2018

This is actually a psychological thriller and would have made great stuff for Hitchcock. Edgar Ulmer usually filmed terrific subjects and stories, but his direction was never enough for them. Thus many of his films appear incomplete and rather inept, while there is never anything wrong with their plots. Here a youth in his most susceptible age has bad dreams about his father, how his father's death is arranged and how his mother then is laid claims on by a stranger, who also seduces his sister. It's just a dream, but eventually everything in it proves to come true. He is hospitalized by a psychiatrist who has something to hide, and so the intrigue keeps developing in constantly more hazardous turnings. 58

It's not very well acted nor directed, but for the intrigue as such it is worth watching all the same. It's great themes like this that really deserve remakes with better actors and more accomplished and elaborate direction. And Then There Were None (1945) (9/10) A party of guests are murdered one by one until (almost) only the murderer is left. 1 March 2018

This is one of Agatha Christie's most clever intrigues, and it has been filmed any number of times in very different versions. RenĂŠ Clair's version, however, is certainly one of the most outstanding. A party of prominent guests are invited out to an island to pass the weekend in a lush and peaceful environment, but none of them has ever met their host, whose identity grows constantly more suspect and mysterious as the intrigue develops and one after the other gets killed including the kitchen personnel. Roland Young is one of the party and an astute detective, but gradually he appears as the dumbest of them all, as they all keep spying on each other and suspecting each other. There is some diabolical humour in all this, RenĂŠ Clair never denies his wit and innovative qualities, but it isn't exactly funny like "The Ghost Goes West". Nevertheleess, it keeps you fettered to the last surprising moment, and no matter how impossible and improbable the intrigue may seem, it's all logical and ultimately makes sense . Of course, someone had to survive to be able to tell the tale. The Valley of Decision (1945) (10/10) Greer Garson at the mercy of Gregory Peck and his awful accountable family 12 March 2018

Marcia Davenport's novel quickly became a classic, and it was almost impossible not to make a film classic as well out of such a story with such characters. It is one of Greer Garson's very best impersonations, and she made many wonderful characters, but her rendering of the Irish lass in America with her worrisome family (with Lionel Barrymore imposing as a crippled and hopelessly embittered father) is endearing to unforgettability. Gladys Cooper as the mother of the Scotts cuts another interesting and lasting character, and Gregory Peck has never been more gentlemanlike. The main drama and heart of the film and story is the controversies related to the industry. It's a heavy industry of steel and the times of the first unions, strikes and


demonstrations in the 1870s, and there is a conflict growing to tragic proportions, which is the height of the dramatic saga. It's mainly a women's novel though about women and their power struggle, while the men are just there for sustaining necessity. Greer Garson and Cladys Cooper carry the film and their families on their shoulders, weathering the crises with stubborn decisiveness, and nothing can stop their will from getting through, since they fight against the severest odds and have most to lose and to sacrifice. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) (9/10) How war veterans never get rid of their wars but have to live with them anyway. 19 March 2015

The main triumph of this film which makes it quite exceptional and unique of its kind is the performance of Harold Russell as Homer Parrish, who has lost both his hands in the war, which invalidity he shares with Harold Russell. It's a story and film about war veterans and without doubt the best of its kind for its humanity and extremely sustained restraint all the way in the exposure of very sensitive and personal affairs and feelings of the most delicate kind. All the actors are outstanding in their characterizations, Fredric March as the sergeant and former banker who can't quite control himself or his bottle, Harold Russell in the performance of his life, (the pajama scene must melt all hearts,) the only time ever an actor received two Oscars for the same part and well deserved, Dana Andrews as the noble war hero who is humiliated by his wife (Virginia Mayo perfectly abominable) but has the very good luck of finding the irresistible Teresa Wright instead and at her most charming, who is so much the better, and Myrna Loy finally as the sage and stable mother. The music is perfectly fit to illustrate the moods and the tensions, with Hoagy Carmichael crowning it, while the mastership of the direction of William Wyler in his slow and careful but very well thought out and intentional direction to bring out all the best and the truth of the story from his actors probably takes the prize. The film has a number of unforgettable scenes of singular eloquence, but I think my favorite would be Dana Andrews' revisit of his old pilot job in the junkyard, one of William Wyler's most impressive scenes, and there is an important forewarning of it in the beginning. This is a veteran film for all times which is inexhaustible in its humanity and which all people of all generations have something to learn from to improve themselves with. Finally I have never seen so many reviews for a film here, but a film like this just can't have a review too many. Dragonwyck (1946) (9/10) Gothic melodrama from the 1840s with thickening intrigue all the way


11 July 2017

Joe Mankiewicz's first film as a director is like all his subsequent ones a paragon of clarity and thoroughness, attaching much attention to every detail, while at the same time the actors are generously given free room to reign. Consequently in all his films, all actors appear outstanding, especially in his early ones. His next film was even darker than this one, maybe his deepest dive into the noir genre, "Somewhere in the Night" about the mystery of a lost identity and even more intriguing than this one here Vincent Price completely dominates the drama by you in suspense as you never can know or even guess what he is up to. He appears as the perfect gentleman, and yet you must suspect that he has terrible secrets to hide, which don't become evident until the very end, as he masks them so well. Gene Tierney is equally good, and they match each other perfectly - just previously they had been together in Otto Preminger's priceless "Laura". The other actors are good as well, especially Walter Huston as the terrible but honest father, while you must observe the young Jessica Tandy entering the scene after Gene Tierney has been married. You can't recognize her, but her performance as a cripple is quite remarkable. Alfred Newman's music is equally perfect, never too intrusive but properly enhancing the Gothic atmosphere whenever it is stressed. Only Glenn Langan as the doctor is a bit simplistic, while the tenants are impressive in every scene. A special tribute to the always admirable Anne Revere as Gene Tierney's wise and hardy mother. Bedelia (1946) (8/10) The problematic dissection of a mysterious lady with dark secrets of the past A brilliant story with a fast and pregnant dialogue all along, presents the fascinating case of a double-faced woman, the other face of which is well hidden behind a mask of superb charm and beauty – it's impossible to believe anything else but the best of her; but a nosy insurance investigator, not at all sympathetic but rather callous and rude in his constant meddling into the business of a happily and recently married couple, finds out more and more unpleasant things no one really wants to know, not even himself. Alas, it all leads to more unpleasantness. Margaret Lockwood is as usual quite reliable and convincing in not a too glamorous part, Ian Hunter makes the perfect husband and reacts as anyone would in such an awkward situation, intrepidly handling the crisis with an admirable effort at controlling himself, while Barry K. Barnes carries through the difficult task of making a graceless character acceptable for his uneasy plight. Anne Crawford is a delightful surprise as another beauty, who after all remains when all the lights are gone. This is not clearly expressed in the film, but it should not be forgotten.


To this comes the interesting detail of the black pearl, which somehow symbolizes the whole story. She wants to get rid of it but refuses to sell it for a fortune, when asked for it she denies she still has it, and then it returns to bring about her doom. It should be noted that the author also was guilty of "Laura". It's not a great or ambitious film but well above the average of so many other similar secondary melodramas. Carnival (1946) (10/10) Sally Gray getting caught by too many men and one too many Everything is perfect about this film, although it is a shocker. Naturally you get worried as you get involved in the fates and faulty characters of all these personages, where everyone has a crux of her own, while only Jennie Pearl seems to come clear of everything, and yet it is impossible to foresee how events will turn out, as unexpected things happen all the time, twisting their fates around and taking you unpleasantly for more than one surprise ride. The story is Compton Mackenzie's, who also gave us "Whisky Galore" among other priceless classics, a masterful story-teller and brilliant wit especially for dialogue, which permeates this whole film, while also the director worked on the script with even Peter Ustinov. Just for the dialogue, the film is worth watching at least twice. The actors are all brilliant, from the jovial and incorrigible Stanley Holloway as the father, Catherine Lacey as his self-torturing wife, Sally Gray herself as something between Glenda Jackson and Katharine Hepburn and a marvellous dancer as well, this film is mainly about ballet and art and the problems artists of these crafts are facing, and Michael Wilding is overwhelmingly charming as usual. To this comes the astonishing and towering character that Bernard Miles is creating, who almost takes over the entire film. The grand finale in Cornwall crowns the masterpiece. This was apparently Stanley Haynes' only film, while his main contributions was as a producer. It's very difficult to say what is best about this film, since everything is so perfect, especially the sparkling dialogue and brilliant interplay of the actors, there are many adorable scenes, and the music adds to it, actually composed (like the ballets) exclusively for this film, which therefore could be regarded as something of a foreplay to the emerging of the greatest of all ballet films, "The Red Shoes" two years later. Beware of Pity (1946) (9/10) 62

Out of pity an officer gets involuntarily involved with a suicidal cripple with consequences. This was Stefan Zweig's one and only novel, who was a great psychologist and in this novel approached the realms of Dostoievsky's keen insight into the complexities of the human mind and dealing with it with a very delicate touch. The film has succeeded in embracing the terrible predicament of the officer, who sees no way out when a suicidal cripple has given him her unconditional love which he can't answer. It's a universally worrying situation for everyone involved, including her entire family, her doctor and his wife and his own regimental fellow officers, and the real title of the novel is "The Heart's Unrest", driving the unreleased passion of the heart to the brinks of hysteria and desperation, like also in his short story "Verwirrung der Gefßhle" ("The Confusion of Feelings"). Lilli Palmer dominates the film giving one of her best performances of extreme charm and sensitivity, Cedric Hardwicke is perfect as the troubled doctor who is also stuck in the dilemma of not being able to deliver the truth, he is in a similar situation himself stuck for life as married to a blind wife (Gladys Cooper, always excellent), playing a vital part in the drama, while Albert Lieven is just as helpless in his role as he should be. It is beautifully filmed, Cecil Beaton having created the exquisite costumes, the environment is like the beauteous dream of a fairy tale but real, and reality is all too palpable as the first world war breaks out – Archduke Franz Ferdinand has a small part in the film. On the whole, it's a film well worth seeing for its challenging task of realizing a very worrying and troublesome story of a predicament that could happen to anyone. It's interesting to compare this Stefan Zweig film with the other one of almost the same year, Max Ophuls' "Letter from an Unknown Woman", on one of his short stories. In that film very much is altered, the writer in the story is a pianist in the film, and the events of the story are much less tragic and poignant than in the film. In "Beware of Pity" very little is altered, it sticks to the book with carefulness, and still Max Ophuls' film is so much more interesting and gripping. Curiously enough, just by making so great changes to the story, he makes Stefan Zweig more alive and convincing, than the almost pedantic "Beware of Pity" being more true to the letter. Tomorrow is Forever (1946) (10/10) Orson Welles completely convincing as a heart-broken war invalid 7 July 2017

This is one of the most sensitive films ever made, Orson Welles giving perhaps his life's most interesting performance as a war invalid surviving against his will. It involves both the world wars, the first one making him an invalid and the second one sending his son to the war. Claudette Colbert is the mother who also makes one of her greatest performances, but it's the story that carries the greatest weight. George Brent as the second husband is perfectly alright as such as well, but his character lands in the shadow of the drama – he really doesn't understand much of it but does what he has to do as an honest man.


Orson Welles is gutted in the first world war with a face that has to be remade, which is why he doesn't want to survive as he can't show himself to his newly wedded wife, who protested wildly against his going to war. His doctor persuades him to give life an chance nonetheless, and twenty years later Orson returns as an Austrian fugitive to his home town Baltimore and finds his widow well and prosperous with a new family, but her son (and his) wants to go to war. It's a terrific drama, the whole suspense resting on how Claudette Colbert will recognize her former husband or not, and whether he will acknowledge his former identity or not. The only flaw of the case is the ending. It is kind of patched up and is the only detail not convincing, like an ordinary constructed Hollywood 'happy ending' escape from complications. Actually the story begins as the Junior goes to war - whatever will be HIS war experience? Orson is whisked away and has no more say in the matter. Anyway, it's one of the most gripping films ever made, and Orson is more unforgettable than ever. Deception (1946) (10/10) Music, at what price? Any price? This is a film like made for much afterthought for musicians. About the music you may think what you want, but I imagine most people, and even musicians, would find Claude Rains' (Alexander Hollenius', Erich Korngold's) concerto a bit thick or difficult or heavy or pretentious or whatever, while all the other music (Beethoven, Schubert, Haydn) is more like music, that is like music should be, but never mind, music is the theme, and it doesn't matter much what concerto is performed, as long as it is massive enough as a concerto underscoring the climax of the melodrama. Paul Henreid is convincing enough as an honest musician, while Claude Rains already from the beginning gives some signals of alarm – something is wrong about this musician, he is breaking up, something has gone awry with him, which proves to be the case; but he is the star of the film outshining even Bette Davis, who as his protegÊe also gives some hints of having been damaged before the curtain opens, and she has, by him, and he does his best to continue doing so by preparing her for her ruin by constant volleys of mental cruelty, against which even Bette Davis is defenseless. This is a story about music, what it is all about, how it demands honesty more than just professional skill, and how dangerous it is to let personal relationships affect and interfere with the musical honesty. Claude Rains as the composer/conductor is the victim of this dilemma, Bette Davis accentuates it, while Paul Henreid, as the very honest musician he portrays, is the only one who gets through it with his wings still on. It's an excellent lesson in musical morality and how all important this is. All three are at their best, but Claude Rains definitely steals the show by his monumental tragedy, going down with flying colours.


Somewhere in the Night (1946) (9/10) The difficult way out of total darkness through a nightmare of adversities and rough trials 18 March 2017

A soldier, all bandaged up, wakes up in an army hospital in the war and remembers nothing. All he can do is to soliloquize. His wallet has been miraculously saved from the grenade devastation that all but killed him, which contains a weird letter from someone condemning him with all her hate. That's the only cue he has to his life and identity. It's a difficult beginning to start with, but the soldier is returned to life and to Los Angeles, where he starts digging for his past, groping his way in the total darkness of a mystery that only grows worse for each new clue that turns up. A singing lady takes care of him and bandages him up when he gets beaten up by hoodlums for no known reason, and there are more and more people like that, trying to get what he knows and the more eagerly so for the fact that he knows nothing. All amnesia films are usually extremely interesting and good, "Random Harvest" is the best example of all, but here the hero has no great past and has never been in any position but is just a common man who had the misfortune to get mixed up with accidents and intrigues beyond his control. At first you feel disappointed with the film, as nothing seems to resolve the mysteries but only to complicate them. Like the man himself you err in a labyrinth of grotesque absurdity, and every helper seems only to make it worse – until he meets an old man in a mental hospital, and then you have already passed way beyond half of the film. What follows though is completely rewarding. The miracle happens that everything in this inextricable mystery actually is resolved and explained, and an impossible abyss of illogical absurdity turns the other way around in a marvel of a sudden revelation, which definitely saves the film and turns it from disaster to glory. All Joe Mankiewicz's films display a high class stylishness of almost an aristocratic touch, which makes them all enjoyable, and this weird odyssey through a nightmare of disorientation is no exception. The actors are also convincing enough, while Richard Conte is the only real character player. This was Mankiewicz's second film on his way up to supreme stardom of directors, and he still had 20 more years to go of reliably outstanding films. Specter of the Rose (1946) (9/10) A dancer is hospitalized after the tragic death of his wife and recalled to the stage in a second chance by a second wife. 4 January 2015


This was one of the most unforgettable films I saw as a child, I never had the opportunity to see it again until 50 years later, and it remains a lasting impact. Its weaknesses are admitted, it's more like a play than a film, (although some cinematic tricks occur as positive surprises,) the acting is not very brilliant but rather stiff, the camera moves as little as possible; but against all these foibles you have the overwhelmingly beautiful and brilliant story and play, the virtuoso dialogue all the way, and above all, the music, the dances and the poetry. Ben Hecht clearly conceived the idea inspired by the fate of Nijinsky, who was disabled as a schizophrenic from the first world war till after the second, and the real theme of the film is the freedom of artistic madness at its most exuberant and creative. Michael Chekhov sometimes tediously dominates long scenes of the film as the sore tried impresario of infinite tribulations who nevertheless is wholeheartedly sympathetic but outflanked by the indomitable realist of long and hard experience, Judith Anderson, who is magnificent in every scene; while the focus of the drama is the dancer's genius and the difficulty of handling it, or rather, subjecting it to discipline, because it's so totally beyond control that it really can't be disciplined, only at best directed in a creative vein. Powell-Pressburger's classic "The Red Shoes" a few years later would have been unthinkable without this for a road mark, and it must remain for always one of the most important and innovative ballet films ever made, especially for its delicate treatment of the difficult subject of genius. The film gains by seeing it a number of times, at first sight its depth and ingenuity is not obvious, but as you sink into it you never reach the bottom. This is an ingenious film about the trickiness of genius. Shock (1946) (9/10) Unwilling witness to a murder gets shock treatment by the murderer who is her doctor 13 July 2017

Great thriller in the small size, but the acting lifts it out of the B level, especially Anabel Shaw as the poor innocent wife who instead of receiving her expected husband back from the war ends up a victim herself in a hospital. Vincent Price makes another of his very dubious vacillating monster characters who hesitates to take the step fully out into an irrevocable blatantly criminal evil. The end comes as a most welcome surprise - of all things, you would never have expected THAT for a conclusion, but there are some very tense nail-biting moments of unbearable suspense before the explosion of the balloon. The husband Frank Latimore also plays a decent part sharing the victim's trauma and ultimately saving her of course, and is persistent in reminding you of Frank Sinatra – without singing. The music, though, is perfect and adds to both the atmosphere and the suspense. It's a perfect thriller if you don't want it to go on for too long. 13 Rue Madeleine (1946)


(10/10) James Cagney trains spies, sends them out to war and is compelled to join them. Another great espionage film, like his previous "House on 92nd Street" basically documentary, but gradually it evolves into high drama of human relationships and cruel intrigues. James Cagney is perfect as leader of the school of agents and spies, and although only an instructor from the beginning, he eventually will get good use of his hard fists. The final scene is tremendous for its effect and implication, a last laugh indeed. Richard Crenna is also very credible as his counterpart, and Henry Hathaway succeeds in getting his face in a final expression as well. I don't know how true the story is, but it could very well be true all the way, just like "House on the 92nd Street" was, and even more, the subsequent one, "Call Northside 777" with James Stewart, which is the best of the three. Two Years Before the Mast (1946) (10/10) A totally different story from the classic novel, but better. 1 July 2017

The novel is all realism with no real plot and drama of an almost documentary character, while the film is more like the stuff of Jack London, Wolf-Larsen, Nordhoff & Hall and Kipling's "Captains Courageous". The most important feature of the book is also in the film, though: the humanity on board in spite of all the hard knuckles of inhumanity. Richard H. Dana is in the film on board the ship all the same, and his part is no less interesting than in the book but taken from another angle, which makes his part even more interesting. He is the only one to enlist on the "Pilgrim" voluntarily while many of the others are shanghaied, and he volunteers for a very specific purpose. Howard Da Silva plays expertly the part of the cruelly insensitive captain provoking a mutiny at any cost, it would seem, sacrificing sailors' lives for the sake of sailing records, William Bendix is always fascinating and raises every film some points, but here he is the brutal first mate with a double edge. Brian Donleavy is Dana and perfect together with Alan Ladd, who makes the main character and a very interesting one. To all this comes Victor Young's irresistible music, always golden, and the splendid thorough hands-on realism all the way, with fascinating insights into life on board. Barry Fitzgerald is the cook, directly out of "Wolf-Larsen" it would seem, and supplies a portion humour and lyricism. There are even some ladies, more prominent and attractive than in the book. The scurvy problem, which is not in the book, brings the drama.

67 The Searching Wind (1946) (10/10) A diplomat's dilemma, caught between conscience issues and reality necessities, and between two women This is an extremely fascinating discussion of vital issues of conscience and demands of reality. Robert Young as a trusted diplomat is faced with a reality he cannot handle as everything in it goes against him, but he cannot do anything about it. He marries the wrong wife while he continues to love the girl he never can get, who handles reality more straightly as a journalist seeing and writing the truth. Difficult issues of journalism also enter the discussion, as the diplomat's father-in-law (Dudley Digges, the best character in the context) runs the paper she is working for - and abandons it at the rise of fascism in Europe, refusing to take any further responsibility for reality. Also the form of the film is a fascinating composition, starting at present time (1946) as all the protagonists gather for the first time in many years to enter a serious discussion none of them really desires, which brings them back to another day when they all were together in Rome as Mussolini took over power... and then comes an hour of flashbacks through all the traumatic convulsions of Europe between the two world wars, from the rise of German Nazism to the Spanish civil war and the controversial peace treaty of Munich. I loved this film all through from the first moment to the last, the dialogue is replenished with intensive importance all the way, the characters couldn't have been acted better, there is no flaw anywhere, it flows organically on like taken directly out of reality, it's intelligent and important and well up to the same level as William Dieterle's other excellent films at the time. And through it all flows also Victor Young's gorgeous music, to make it even better... I’ve Always Loved You (1946) (9/10) Frank Borzage going wild in experimenting with musical psychology 8 Februay 2018

It's a very good story, like an interesting experiment in musical psychology, delving into and trying to reach the very essence and nature of the extreme sensitivity of the musical sense, but the acting is a bit stiff, and the story, although tremendously good and interesting, doesn't quite come alive. Catherine McLeod saves the picture, her acting is wholly satisfactory and convincing all the way, but the others are at times a bit too wooden. Philip Dorn is more abominable than not as the utterly rude and indecent conductor who thinks he can go at any length in insulting Catherine in the 68

name of music, and no wonder she abandons music on conditions like that. There are many details in this artificial set-up that just don't work, they are neither credible nor natural, but there is nothing wrong with the idea. Although Frank Borzage made several films of music, and they are all good, it's over-evident that he was no musician himself. On the whole, forget the flaws in the acting, the direction and the lack of musical realism but please follow and study the idea and the story, because the thoughts behind all this were humanly and psychologically very interesting indeed. The Captive Heart (1946) (10/10) Michael Redgrave among other traumatized and penalized prisoners of war after Dunkirk 16 February 2018

This is a deeply human and almost documentary account of the life of prisoners after Dunkirk who are not released until towards the end of the war, Michael Redgrave as the leading actor being far from alone among suffering fellow soldiers, as there is a number of tales told of dire destiny in this concentration camp of arduous fates. Redgrave is of course the most interesting case, a Czech escaped from the Germans and sought by Gestapo, hiding as an Englishman with a fake identity with suspiciously good knowledge of German, as his father was a diplomat in both London and Berlin. There is also Gordon Jackson with the loss of his sight and his despair about having to give up his betrothed, there is the family man whose wife is having a baby in his absence with that whole family story, there is the major (Basil Radford) struggling with the challenges of his responsibility, there are the sore trials used by the Germans make the camp existence more difficult than necessary for the prisoners, who nevertheless manage to break loose into comedy when an occasion arrives. It's heartrendingly human all the way, and the great love story developing in the ruins with inevitably critical consequences makes this film a definite and almost obligatory classic. Body and Soul (1947) (10/10) The troublesome career of a boxer through jungles of corruption and complications. The fantastic feat of this film is to turn an ordinary story delving into the gutter depths of the lousiest of sports, boxing, and its established system of corruption, into a drama of the highest class and universal interest. The credits are many, first of course to the team of the writer and the director, Abraham Polonsky and Robert Rossen, while the writer perhaps here is number one. He was only able to make a few outstanding films noir in Hollywood before he was blacklisted and chased out of 69

the country, hindered from making any more films for next to 20 years, turning him very bitter against America and Hollywood – what a waste! The actors are all at their best and more than outstanding, especially Lilli Palmer at her most beautiful with the loveliest eyes ever seen on the screen, John Garfield as the simple but more than straight-forward boxer, Anne Revere as the mother who sees everything through, Hazel Brooks as the irresistible temptation, a downright bombshell of beauty, the unforgettable Canada Lee as the fellow honest boxer who gets all the beatings, and all the others, most of them crooks, and most of them blacklisted like Polonsky – all except Robert Rossen, who was one of the few that, like Elia Kazan, got away by cooperating with the infamous inquisition. But the strongest weight of the movie lies with the architectural composition – it all towers up towards the final boxing match, which the audience throughout the movie learns to have ever greater expectations of, with ever more troublesome complications in the way for John Garfield and his friends and family, one of them even getting killed, the definite turning point of the drama for the worse. When the finale of the boxing match finally comes you are not disappointed – it's a thriller in itself. And strange enough, this totally noir film comes out safe on the other side, which you had every good reason to expect least of all. Carnegie Hall (1947) (9/10) The problems of musical professionalism interestingly revealed The meaning of the film gets drowned in the overwhelmingly good performances of the artists, and there are any number of them: they are all there, Artur Rubinstein, Jasha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, Leopold Stokowski, Bruno Walter, Artur Rodzinski, Fritz Reiner, Ezio Pinza, Lily Pons and even Tchaikovsky (vaguely discerned from some distance, impersonated, of course,) and although Marsha Hunt makes a good and touching performance as the mother who loses first her husband and then her son in the same way – getting lost making their own ways – the superficial acting of that story must drag the film down from the top levels of the performances. The key scene to the whole thing is however Jasha Heifetz' communication with Marsha, when he eloquently comforts her for all her grief better than anyone could have done. The personality of Jasha Heifetz is somehow the key to the whole problem, which is the alienation of the artist from an ordinary human life, which is what both the father and the son can't bear and rebel against. Jasha Heifetz was often considered inhuman in his seemingly callous attitude, and even in his acting here he gives a rather stiff and almost robot-like impression, but his words couldn't be warmer, and they could but come from the heart, which still beats down there under all the layers of superhuman professionalism and completely reconciles Marsha (Nora) with her fate. Edgar G. Ulmer made some very odd films in extremely different directions, there is one film about tuberculosis and another horror film with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, which could be their best – and here he films music, and as a music film of


music and about music it will certainly endure for all ages and continue to impress all lovers of real music. The Long Night (1947) (10/10) Barbara Bel Geddes and Henry Fonda perfectly matched and convincing as the victims of Vincent Price. 22 October 2015

I guess the ambition behind this film was to make it better than the original, that is the French "Le jour se lève" by Marcel Carné with Jules Berry outstanding as the crook with the tragic hero Jean Gabin and his heart-breaking love Arletty in the greatest of French melodramas. In all films with Jean Gabin he dies in the end. Henry Fonda does not and is a somewhat more prosaic and convincing tragic hero, more humanly credible, than Jean Gabin's great cliché. Barbara Bel Geddes as his love is even more down to earth, a very palpable orphan girl displaying total honesty all the way, while Vincent Price as the crook, here a magician and expert trickster and con man living by professional lies all the way, is more subtle than Jules Berry but less of a character, the least convincing of the three. Ann Dvorak, on the other hand, makes an impressing sub and plays a very important part in triggering Henry Fonda up to his total fury, which simply must be sympathized with, which also the crowd does, which is expertly filmed. On the whole, the direction in this film is as marvelous as in any Anatole Litvak film, he knows like Elia Kazan how to handle people and make them convincing in probably some very deep knowledge of human nature, which makes this film a great experience to live through. To all this comes the music, Beethoven's seventh in fantastic arrangements, different every time, which adds to the moody dark atmosphere growing and ominously building up towards the inevitable catastrophe – the music puts the last touch to the masterpiece. I have to admit it, I felt the Jean Gabin film rather overrated, slow, heavy and even partly boring, but this simpler but more efficient American version is not. I have to give it ten points, even though it's no more than a humbler remake of one of the most famous of all noirs. Dear Murderer (1947) (10/10) Too much speculation in the perfect murder simply must go wrong with a vengeance... What a glorious mess of jealousy, infidelity, murder and aborted intrigue! But with what stylishness all this advanced and intelligent cruelty is worked out! I have never seen Eric Portman in a sympathetic character, more often than not he has been an almost unilaterally determined murderer and nothing else, and this time he is married to the overly beautiful Greta Gynt. Of course he must love her with a


passion which makes it impossible for him to live without her, but how little he knows her! You must not trifle with lovely women,for their beauty will always give them the upper hand on you, and you will be helpless. For all his intelligence and perfect scheming, Portman commits the one mistake of actually believing that his wife loves him when she tells him so, and of course she does, but in her own way. In fact, Portman in all his brilliant superiority of intelligent calculation is the only one who commits mistakes, and he does it all the time and doesn't even notice it, deluded as he is by his own self-confidence and trust in his own perfection, which is hopelessly hollow. Dennis Price as usual makes a brilliant appearance, although unwillingly awkward, while Greta Gynt is the main attraction of this extremely intellectually stimulating play. It's impossible to guess the outcome, and when the desperate chess love game is finished and everyone beaten, only Greta Gynt remains and makes her exit with a hearty laugh. Well, for a lovely woman like her with all those lovers and cavaliers, victims and wrecks, she is superior enough to detach herself from her own tragedy with a laugh. Murder is no laughing matter, and Dennis Price for one understands that too well, while all the others... Anyway, Greta Gynt definitely has the last laugh. The Woman in the Hall (1947) (9/10) Beggar women getting mixed up with reality with some human fireworks of clashes of destiny for an interesting result 4 April 2017

Splendid concoction of the complications women sometimes end up with in their difficult dealings with reality as a tricky means of survival if once the men are out of their lives. It so happens that two men oblige these three drifting women with actually offering them their support and even marriage, which certainly no wise man would do in this case. The mother is a professional cheat, and her daughters are ruined in the trade, one of them (Jean Simmons) actually stealing from her employer and benefactor not realizing it is wrong, since she uses the money only for the good of others. Cecil Parker marrying the cheat is as awkward as ever, he never seemed to get any character right, but here at least he succeeds in turning a bleak story to almost a comedy. I love the scene in the restaurant, when suddenly the cheat of a mother together with her newly wedded husband (Cecil Parker) is confronted with the vengeful brother of the man who once deserted her and now intends to marry her daughter, who is also present, with her godmother, one of the benefactresses the mother has cheated. All these victims of her artfulness never seem to mind her tricks much but are pleased to recognize her swindle for what it is and make the best of it, to ultimately direct her out of her trade. The final court drama is a wonderful climax to this spicy confusion of intrigues and people involved in them, and the judge seems to enjoy it. Fascinating film, resembling no other, and it's an especially interesting study of women.


Ursula Jeans is marvellous in the straightness of her unhesitating continuous deceit. Note the very young Susan Hampshire as Jay in the beginning as a small girl. Nightmare Alley (1947) (10/10) The difference between a genius and a geek? None, since both are only human. 21 March 2016

There are many aspects to this film, which must give inevitable and almost compulsory afterthoughts, but it is actually basically a very moral tale simply about hubris, offering an anatomy of how it works. The story is the more convincing and shocking for being totally logical all the way – there is no flaw in the human logic anywhere, although it more than just touches on the supernatural. Stan does really possess powers of more than ordinary psychological or spiritual insight, but the problem is that instead of learning how to deal with them wisely he is carried away by the intoxication of their possibilities. Indeed, he might have succeeded and reached the utmost top, if he hadn't met with a mercilessly calculating professional psychologist, who doesn't hesitate to abuse her superior knowledge of the workings of the human mind for her own selfish ends. The film is the more shocking and upsetting for there being no open violence anywhere – there are threats, and one slight encounter, but the absence of any physical violence and the more brutal and evil mental violence strikes home much more fatally and is what turns this film and story into a nightmare. The stone cold inhumanity in the treachery of who actually helped him to success is what turns everything upside down and ruins him, and his position is of supreme vulnerability, as it only rests on good faith, – and that's what turns him to the opposite extreme. "How can you sink so low? Because he rose too high." It's a heart-rending story, and no one could have made it more convincing than Tyrone Power, an actor too goodlooking for his own good, which was evident from the very start of his career, and somehow he manages to put his own tragedy into this film, which he himself considered his best. At the same time it's a scary parable of Hollywood and how it works, how it's all built on dreams and make-believe, and how little it takes to make it all crumble. This film was made at the peak of the noir epoch and might well be the best noir film of them all, offering much more than what meets the eye and can be grasped by mortal understanding, leaving you more than almost any other film more to think of afterwards than you can fathom. The Courtenays of Curzon Street (1947) (8/10)


Anna Neagle sings and dances through three wars faithfully accompanied by Michael Wilding 5 June 2017

It's Noel Coward's "Cavalcade" with 15 years added to it but without Noel Coward, and it's almost one war too much: the second world war passes by with a sigh, and they almost don't notice it. What do you have instead of Noel Coward? Actually a lot of things. Formost is the brilliant musical score, dominated by Tchaikovsky's PathÊtique symphony, which you first hear and attend together with Queen Victoria (who sleeps through it, and you only see her from the rear,) and which forms a kind of morosely moody background to the whole story. The score is actually composed by Anthony Collins, one of Britain's foremost conductors at the time, most famous for his epoch-making readings of Sibelius, and I didn't know he was a composer himself as well. The music is brilliant och fluent throughout, with excellent renderings of Strauss and the tunes of the periods. Michael's sister Mary once starts playing "On the Blue Danube" on the piano, and the story makes it develop into full orchestra, which is marvellously done. Michael Wilding always makes an uplifting appearance, and Anna Neagle dances surprisingly well – her voice and mode of singing is perhaps a bit outdated today, but they both age admirably well. There are some very heart-rending scenes between them, especially during the first world war, but they dominate the film completely. The only other dame to importune is swiftly disposed of and is never heard of again. What you lack is the wit and overwhelming pathos from Noel Coward's timeless film. There is practically no pacifism here at all, which is the eloquently dominating element of "Cavalcade". So this is not a great film, but still very well worth watching and enjoying, especially for the wonderful rendering of the times before the first world war. There is no end to the generous lushness of the scenery here, which makes it very convincingly super romantic. During the 1929 crisis there is an episode when the family is forced to sell their home, and they get a good price for it. This is pointed out by critics as a weak point, as they in the last minute decide not to accept the offer, but it's actually the contrary: a very important point made by Kathy, as she prefers enduring the ruin and keeping the family and home against any odds, even if they are impossible, which by challenging the impossibility they manage to overcome. It's perhaps the most important point of the film, underlining the paramount importance of keeping the family together by its main uniting factor the home. The October Man (1947) (9/10) John Mills innocently persecuted all but to death.


7 September 2016

The problem with this film is that the murderer is obvious long before the murder is committed. Until that happens, the film is of little interest, while it then starts stirring with ever increasing tension, forcing your interest never to relax for one moment but actually compelling you to overwhelming empathy with the hardships of John Mills, who is exposed to horrible pressure, just because he is stamped as a mental invalid. His performance dominates the film, while Joan Greenwood is always a revelation. Kay Walsh makes a typical role of hers and sustains it well to the bitter end, while all the other actors also are absolutely convincing. The face of John Mills as Mr Peachy expresses his mind will stay in your mind forever – it's a marvel of a scene. Not all Eric Ambler's characters are completely credible, while the character here realized by John Mills is the more so. The fantastic photo all the way adds to the film's high reputation and quality. The Exile (1947) (10/10) Douglas Fairbanks Jr cultivating tulips together with a lovely peasant girl as a romantic king in exile in Holland 2 February 2016

Max Ophüls is one of the greatest directors of all times, he started as assistant director to Anatole Litvak and learned very much from him, which you can see and feel in his films: they had a unique great efficiency of direction in common, but Ophüls added to his supreme mastery also a knack for moving cameras. You see that almost hallucinatory camera-work in every one of his films. His Jewish origin (his real name was Maximilian Oppenheimer) gave him problems with the German Nazi regime although he was an established leading director, so he changed his name and went to France – Ophüls is an old German aristocratic name, which he felt suited his image. He made no films between 1940 and 1947, being practically exiled but working in France and Italy and even America but returned to the screen in 1947 to make this flashing virtuoso film of exuberant romantic intrigue – the exiled king of England in constant fear of his life by the wicked roundheads escapes to a farm in Holland where he cultivates tulips with a charming country girl, with whom he naturally falls in love. Another exiled Englishman, an errant actor out of work, exuberantly played by Robert Coote, poses to be the exiled king to be treated thereafter but is visited by a French countess who knew the real king, which complicates matters, which are further complicated as the farm is invaded by roundheads who come to root out the king dead or alive. The film is actually written and produced by Douglas Fairbanks Jr, so it's really very much his film, and he makes the best of it in superb classical Fairbanks style with dashing duels and much kissing in between – especially impressive is the great hullabaloo with all the roundheads falling over each other in the desperate chase for the king in the windmill. There are great windmill acrobatics here. In brief, the film is a feast to the eyes, the story is mounting in intensity and interest all the way, the music is perfectly suited to illustrate the moods, the idylls, the drama, the tension and the high romance, it's in most ways the perfect adventure film where nothing is missing, and 75

Max Ophüls' supreme direction and marvellous use of details crowds the film with opulent excellence from beginning to end. In brief, after seven years' absence Ophüls was back on the screen, and his next film would be the masterpiece "Letter from an Unknown Woman". The Paradine Case (1947) (10/10) A mysterious lady accused of murder unwillingly brings everyone down with her in her tragedy 30 June 2017

This is actually one of Hitchcock's psychologically most interesting films, since there is so much going on that we know nothing about and only can guess at, as it is merely hinted at and given glimpses of, like shreds of the top of an iceberg, while the real drama goes on within the characters invisibly and out of stage. The actual drama has occurred before the film starts, and we are tossed immediately into the arrest of the mysterious lady, who carries around more knowledge and experience than what is good for anyone, least of all for her lawyer Gregory Peck, who immediately falls under her spell. We are not even informed on what grounds she is arrested, and it seems she is locked up only on suspicion – no fingerprints, no evidence, no eyewitness, nothing at all'but circumstantial fishiness. It all circles around her, her fascinating character who leaves no one unaffected, even Gregory Peck's wife (Ann Todd) is fixed on her and wants her to get away whether guilty or not. She has a burden of experience as brought out from the slums of Naples and has had an uncounted number of lovers before she finds herself the task of becoming a blind old man's eyes. What she didn't bargain for was his valet. It was Louis Jourdan's first film, and his character is almost as fascinating as Alida Valli's. At first you never even see his face, as he stays in the shadow when answering the door. He adds some extra tons of intrigue to the story, and the scenes where Gregory Peck investigates the scene of the crime with him hovering about and absconding him is central to the post mortem drama. The main question which appears as the drama is brought to an end and all the facts have become known is, can we really blame her? She had no calculating motives in marrying the old blind colonel, she really wanted to serve as his eyes and get a good life of comfort and luxury into the bargain, but then he happened to have such a young and handsome valet. Of course such a woman must fall in love with him and start seeing the discrepancy between him and her old blind husband. Of course she would start dreaming about possibilities. Or else she would not have been a real woman. The only one in the end who sympathizes with her is Charles Laughton's besotted wife Ethel Barrymore, who makes a pathetic character, but she is actually the only good one. Gregory Peck has torn Louis Jourdan to shreds and destroyed his life, in the bargain he has ruined the case for Alida Valli, and Charles Laughton as the judge 76

sees it all and laughs at it with gleeful cynicism, as if he found it the merrier the lousier characters he got to expose themselves. Charles Coburn observes the alarming peril of Gregory Peck's course of an aggressive defense but doesn't reach him to warn him. In the end the real tragedy is that Alida Valli has killed for love and is punished for it, but she doesn't care and almost gladly accepts her punishment, since her real punishment was to lose her love as her lawyer in his love for her tore her love to pieces in defending her – and ruined himself into the bargain. An Ideal Husband (1947) (10/10) A feast to the eyes and the intellect from beginning to end thanks to Oscar Wilde 8 July 2017

An ideal rendering of Oscar Wilde at his best, this is a feast for the eyes all the way through, with excellent acting by Michael Wilding, Diana Wynyard, Hugh Williams, Paulette Goddard, Glynis Johns and C. Aubrey Smith among many others, a little drowned perhaps in too much music, but never mind – the music is good as well, especially in the beginning at the grand opening scene of the soirée with all the top society of belle époque London all at their gaudiest dresses. It's difficult to say what's best in this film, who is the best actor (while I am leaning towards Diana Wynyard), if the prize goes to the colourful scenery and sets, but I think the main triumph of the film is Oscar Wilde's own dialogue, which must make every screening of this play into a success - it has been done so often. It's a joy to behold all the way, you can't tire of it, and you just want it to go on forever, even with Paulette Goddard busy at new ugly schemes of blackmail and destructive cultivation of greed - yes, this is actually Oscar Wilde's most and maybe only moral play. Whispering City (1947) (9/10) Love and death accompanied by a romantic piano concerto in Quebec 26 April 2017

Intriguing thriller in Quebec involving all kinds of suspense tricks including old murders and new, fake murders and phantoms, haunting memories and romance, suicide and a poor brilliant pianist working on his debut under the terror of his intolerably intolerant wife. The intrigue is difficult to follow as it develops all the time with surprising turns into upside down turbulence, but it nevertheless sticks together and adds up in the end. If you regard the piano concerto ('the Quebec concerto') as the hub around which everything evolves, you'll find it a rather masterful composition of intrigue, cinematography and music – in brief, nothing is 77

actually missing in this intricately spiced stew of a very complicated but exotic repast. It's even worth watching again for enjoying the details. Take My Life (1947) (10/10) An opera diva gets mixed up with her husband in a murder mystery of extreme cruelty 16 March 2017

Brilliant thriller with a musical touch to it, the key to the solution being a tiny melody putting the primadonna Greta Gynt on the track. This to me unknown actress dominates the film with a vengeance, never giving up on her lonely and heroic quest to clear her husband, wrongly accused of murder because of unfortunate circumstances speaking against him. The other great female part is Rosalie Crutchley, here very young but already deeply fascinating with her demonic suavity. Francis Sullivan is domineering as usual as the prosecutor and as perfectly objective as the lawyer Jaggers in "Great Expectations" the previous year, but the most interesting part is Marius Goring. He always makes overly intelligent parts risking to run amuck, but here you get closer to his hidden menace than ever. It was Ronald Neame's debut as a director, and it matches more than well any sustained thriller by Hitchcock or Anthony Asquith. It's brilliantly written, flattering the audience by always letting them know more than the actors, and the finale is a cliffhanger with a surprise to it. It was a long time since you last saw such a clever thriller. The Upturned Glass (1947) (10/10) Doctor James Mason involved in a difficult jealousy drama with two women, one his mistress, the other her sister-in-law. 23 February 2015

This is a very unusual and intelligent thriller, like most thrillers involving doctors usually are. It is the first of James Mason's very few own productions and features his own wife, Pamela Mason, here Pamela Kellino, as the second of the two ladies he is involved with, both of them leading to disaster. The intrigue cleverly leads astray at times while at the same time it sharpens as the doctor (James Mason) finds his own case constantly more crucial. He stages a kind of mock trial with himself by giving a lecture at the medical theatre with all rows filled with young attentive students, and one student almost sees through his show and sharpens his case even further. Is he in control or is he not? Has he the right to judge what's right or wrong or has he not? The film poses many questions, and the questioning becomes increasingly more critical, until in the end he is faced with the final trial as a doctor, when an emergency calls on him to perform one more brain surgery. It's the doctor who assists him who puts him to the final test, and these scenes are the most interesting


and important in the film. James Mason as the doctor has no other choice than to be consistent with his own argument and conclude his own case after having received an understated sentence by his elderly colleague. It's a remarkable film, not for its direction, which could have been better, but for its very thought-provoking story with the presentation of a case which not even doctors could in any possible way be called upon to give a fair judgement of. The tragedy of this case is that James Mason, one of the best actors ever, a constantly brooding romantic hero, more Hamletian than Byronic, has no other choice, which probably no one could reasonably disagree with. In addition, you can't help recognizing some details here from other, later films, that boast its influence, especially Hitchcock's "Vertigo", displaying the identical problem of a man's involvement in two women related with each other, Hitchcock much developing the theme to an equally crucial crisis but in another direction, while the very vertigo scenes Hitchcock must have got the idea of from here. It should also be noted, that John Monaghan, the script writer, appears as an extra (the truck driver), He made some similar appearances in some films, but this is the only film he wrote, with Mrs Mason as co-script writer. The intrigue with its complications and arguments is so psychologically interesting, that you find more in it each time you see it. For that reason, in spite of its flaws, I will give it a full 10. Hungry Hill (1947) The Irish fighting it out for 50 years over a mine, women and whisky 27 July 2017

Margaret Lockwood is excellent, especially as she ages, from a rather wild young woman to a pathetic addict in London, exiled from Ireland by her own son, ruining herself at the roulette. Everything in this film is about the same vein: tragedy as the result of self abuse, recklessness, whisky, brawls and terrible conflicts lasting over 50 years, as these hard-headed Irish never can take it easy and always are carried away by their bad temper. The exception is Dennis Price, the one with a diplomatic talent and some human understanding crossing the limitations of self-centredness, while his father Cecil Parker is the most impossible of all starting all the trouble and beating his grandson into a rogue. It's all very Irish, you have seen it all before, they never change but stick to cultivating their hard heads making it worse by revelling in whisky, and there will always be hard relentless fights for nothing. After 50 years, according to this story, there is at last peace between the two families, but how long will it last? Probably not any longer than at most until the civil war with mad dogs and Irishmen, unionists and nationalists; but the film is worth seeing for Margaret Lockwood and Dennis Price.


The Deep Valley (1947) (10/10) Ida Lupino at her best facing hopeless challenges, 11 October 2017

I was always a fan of Ida Lupino as she never disappointed me but on the contrary always excelled herself, and here in this film more than ever. In the beginning she is a plain girl suffering from a stutter, which she gradually overcomes by the shock of some hard experience. As she gets involved with the ordeals of a convict, she starts developing her character and ends up a mature woman ready to meet life. The story is not very remarkable but actually rather banal, but the great tempest scene changes everything and especially the character of the film from rather a dull account of simple life out in the wilderness of pettiness and stagnant patterns into a thrilling drama. The music by Max Steiner and especially the photography makes this film a great experience. It develops into something of a Frank Borzage style saga of great human pathos, and in every scene with Ida Lupino you shiver and feel her torture and anguish as her situation continuously grows more complicated and inextricable in its hopelessness, but somehow she comes out of it alive after all, and you can give a sigh of relief that at last the tremendous suspense is over. Every actor besides makes a perfect job, they are all convincing in their very tiny world, the provincialism is extreme, but it is very well caught and realized in the film with great understanding. No one is entirely bad, and no one is entirely good, but they all have their problems. It's a very human film transcended into a masterpiece on a smaller scale by Ida Lupino and the director Negulesco.

Mourning Becomes Electra (1947) (7/10) Aeschylus reduced to humdrum quarrels of bleak provincialism., 20 October 2017

A stylish show with great performances of the best actors is not enough to varnish over the shortcomings of this mammoth mummy version of a great story. If you know the Aeschylus original, you just have to compare him with O'Neill and find O'Neill dwarfed to almost nothing. The Aeschylus play dramatizes a true story of flesh and blood and towering passion, Agamemnon is the lord of the world and returns home after ten years of absence in war with even a prisoner for a mistress, and his wife and queen Clytamnestra axes him to death in his bath out of long built up fury. She murders the mistress too. Her


children are Electra and Orestes, and there is a younger daughter as well. Orestes has a close childhood friend Pylades, who helps Orestes and Electra to avenge their father. Orestes kills both his mother and his mother's lover, and that's the story. There is no Pylades in the O'Neill version and no younger sister. There is no chorus, which is vital in the Greek play for reflecting universal sentiment, and no poetry. Pylades is replaced by Kirk Douglas, who loves Electra but ultimately abandons her to her mourning. The axing of Agamemnon is by O'Neill replaced by Mrs Mannon stealing poison into her husband's medicine, who suffers from heart failure. Raymond Massey is impressing as usual as the general, Rosalind Russell gives her life's performance as Electra finally sealing herself up in mourning when both her mother and brother have shot themselves, she is actually innocent to any crime in the family while she accepts all the blame all the same, Michael Redgrave makes another of his many virtuoso performances of eccentricity and madness, Kirk Douglas is himself, Leo Genn is the murdered lover but don't get much to do or say before he is murdered, while perhaps the most impressing is Katina Paxinou as the mother, the only convincing character in this film, for her beauty and very expressive acting, more evident in her vibrations than in her talk. It's an interesting film, of course, but it's like a stranded whale, hopelessly dead and morbid and void of the original Greek zest, which is preserved and delivered only by Katina Paxinou. In brief, Aeschylus is to be preferred to this banal americanization of a great story reduced to petty humdrum provincialism. Not even the music constantly repeating itself manages to bring this show to any inspiring level. It's worth seeing though for the splendid dresses of the 1860s. The director did not make another film. They Won’t Believe Me (1947) (9/10) Getting mixed up with too many dames with accidents on the way... 12 February 2018

A fascinating account of complications, when a man cultivates his weakness for mistresses to constant points of no return... The real star here is Susan Hayward, although Robert Young is convincing enough in his desperate situation of confusion caught in a web of unfortunate turns, for which he blames and sentences himself, as any loving man would do, while it's impossible to judge him, while all his innocent dames are equally totally innocent... No one could expect any of all this to happen, least of all the victims. The force of the intrigue is the dialogue and the intelligent turns of the story, a fascinating labyrinth impossible to guessd at what it will offer next, and the crown of the piece is the dialogue between Robert Young and Susan Hayward.


It's a great, concise and explicit noir, told with stringency and realism, and all you can say afterwards is, poor fellow... Dishonored Lady (1947) (10/10) "You didn't just save my life. You made my life worth living." 24 February 2018

Sometimes Hedy Lamarr appears like a double of Vivien Leigh, only more beautiful, more vulnerable and more untouchable. There is something about Hedy Lamarr you can never reach, while Vivien Leigh is too easily reached. This film manages to exploit the deeper resources of Hedy Lamarr maybe better than any film with her. Her beauty is always dangerous and here doubly so - to herself, for the character she is playing. She comes from Europe somewhere, her home country is never mentioned, she came alone with her father, an artist, who eventually committed suicide. You can imagine her problems started there. In New York she is highly appreciated as a successful artist, maybe too highly for her own good, and there is particularly a rich jeweller and millionaire, who never tires of trying to seduce her, mainly by insisting on giving her a ride in bad weather and instead of driving her home driving her to his place, where he insists on her having some drinks. The problem is that with all her dangerous beauty she is totally innocent and can't defend herself due to her complexes as a severely self-critical artist - like many sensitive and true artists, she can't believe in herself unless someone else does. Fortunately she gains a very true friend in a psychiatrist, who actually is the hero of the plot. Dennis O'Keefe is all right, but he is second in importance to the turn of events. There are many other fellows as well, one good and one bad, and the bad one is entirely without character, and it's an interesting moment of truth that she instinctively leaves the home of the seducing jeweller the moment she hears the other entering - without recognizing his voice. There are many such poignant moments of immense psychological interest in the film, which makes it an extremely fascinating study, and thriller, for that matter, although there is never any blood. After a film like this you will love Hedy Lamarr forever. Railroaded! (1947)


(8/10) John Ireland convincing enough as something of the absolute villain. 26 February 2018

There is something demoniacally fascinating about John Ireland in this film, as if you almost would wish he could get away, but then his case is hopeless. All the other actors vanish in his presence, and the honest detective has no real character. The dames are opposites, they both put their faith in John Ireland and get the worse for it, but this noir certainly winds its way into constantly deeper intrigue of trouble, while John Ireland certainly makes the best of it. There are some flaws but not disturbing enough to be remembered. The story is good enough while you wonder at the policemen not discovering innocence when they see it. Call Northside 777 (1948) (10/10) A journalist's quest for the truth against a world of odds against him Henry Hathaway was one of the best realists of Hollywood, and here he strikes home with full score. It's the closest he got to a documentary, and it's actually a true story he is telling with all its gripping details and the amazing turn-out. In 1932 the number of homicides in Chicago breaks all records, among the crowds of victims are 8 policemen, and the last of these police murders is the most brutal one, occurring in broad daylight at a public cafÊ, and the two murderers get away with it – you never get a clear view of their faces. Nevertheless, two men are convicted of the murder and sentenced to life on the evidence given by only one eye-witness, the Polish landlady of the cafÊ. 11 years later an odd advertisement in the newspaper offers a reward of $5000 to anyone who finds the real murderer, which catches the eye of an editor (Lee J. Cobb) who sends reporter James Stewart to investigate the announcer, who appears to be an old Polish cleaning-lady, who is mother of the convicted. James Stewart is only out for the story and can't believe anything of it, that the mother has slaved for 11 years to save all this money to offer as an award to have her son exonerated, or that the convicted was innocent. That's how it begins. He delves into the story and has the convict (Richard Conte) tested by a lie detector, which appears to confirm his innocence. There it begins. James Stewart (reporter James McNeal) starts working on an overwhelmingly hopeless case with all possible odds against him, but he never gives up.


It's a heroic tale from real life of a journalist's quest for the truth at any cost with the sole possible award tempting him on being his conviction that the truth finally will prevail. Only the realism of the film of all the dungiest parts of immigrant Chicago and other insights behind the hard walls of the city makes it a classic for all times. Alfred Newman's music adds to it, all the actors are perfectly natural and convincing, and Henry Hathaway leads the way with a very safe and calm professionalism, like a hand on a revolver that never can miss. Still there are some question marks. Whatever happened to the other convict? If Frank Wiecek was innocent, what about the other guy? And what about some damages for his 11 years in jail? He did after all have a wife and a son, who hadn't been born yet at the time of the strike of bad luck. You can't doubt his innocence, though, and although James Stewart gets more and more fanatic about it you have to side with him completely. The fact that Frank (a catholic) ordered his wife to find another husband and another father for their son at his imprisonment should have convinced anyone of his innocence from the beginning. Actually, his judge believed him innocent, and the fatality was that he could be sentenced on the testimony of only one (doubtful) eye-witness. Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) (10/10) Burt Lancaster getting into trouble with Barbara Stanwyck, or Barbara Stanwyck getting into trouble with Burt Lancaster? 17 July 2017

This is one of the most brilliant noirs ever made. It's like a mosaic, starting from nowhere, introducing an intriguing mystery, and then piece by piece building up into an intricate but perfect drama in overwhelming impressiveness for its vast web of logic forcing many lives into a tragedy. By accident, Barbara overhears a planned murder on the phone, she is bedridden and can't leave the room, she never leaves it all through the film although she tries to and her husband commands her to, but she is an invalid and helpless, especially as she happens to be alone in the house - her expected husband never comes home. They never communicate in the film except in the final stage, when he reaches her on the phone. Barbara Stanwyck's acting is among her very best, it's almost confined entirely to her increasingly desperate telephone calls and conversations, as she gradually gets more and more into the picture of what is going on, but the main intrigue is entirely her own fault. As a rich daughter she married Burt to keep him chained in her dependence, and naturally he can't be happy with that in the long run but must try alternatives and finds a controversial one, a dangerous business adventure, which goes off all right but naturally runs into trouble, and perhaps the most interesting detail of the film is the case of Waldo Evans, a chemist employed at her father's great enterprise who dreams of settling down in England with horses.


What heightens the tension and quality of suspense in the film is very much the camera work, as it constantly moves about, catching details of different homes, it frequently wanders about Barbara's room focusing on significant details, also Mr. Evans' apartment is investigated, and it is as if it went investigating on its own, wondering who is interested in the house, going out on the balcony without her, seeking out the darkness of closets and other hidden possibilities - it's perhaps Anatole Litvak's most masterful output, it has been called better than Hitchcock. Franz Waxman's excellent music does its bit too but stays in the shadow of the plot. The final phone call is devastating, we never see the voice, but the tragedy is complete with a number of victims, the sight and end of which we are mercifully spared, but the more we must think of them afterwards - no one gets out of this alive." Esther Waters (1948) (9/10) Dirk Bogarde brilliant as a dashing dandy bookie taking his ladies for a ride... Kathleen Ryan is the poor and innocent young maid who gets the normal treatment of a lady and ends up down to her neck in trouble, and she is illiterate at that, but you can't really dislike him since he plays it so well, and he honestly makes an effort. It all ends up in the great Derby, the festivity crowd scenes are the treat of the film, and they are several, including the great rural party in the beginning. It's a Dickensian story convincing enough in its realism of the 1870s to 80s including a long dying scene, of which Dirk Bogarde was such an expert and made so many of, usually coughing to death, while Kathleen Ryan in spite of her hardships actually gets along quite well, not actually needing the sympathetic support of Cyril Cusack as the would be catcher in the rye. It's a lovely film of a serving maiden's tale and particularly a film for horse lovers – the final race is a killer. Blanche Fury (1948) (9/10) Valerie Hobson and Stewart Granger victims of very old unsettled family business 17 July 2017

Stewart Granger was never satisfied with his parts, he felt like always having to play superficial stereotypical rogues or heroes with nothing in them but some dashing presence, but all his appearances are excellent and surprisingly reliable for being so 'superficial', and he is always better than he thought himself. Valerie Hobson, on the other hand, was never better and more beautiful than here. It's her film, and she fills it up to the brim with striking beauty and a character of constantly increasing interest as she develops, a brave woman of much hardship behind her and even more 85

expecting her. It's a dramatic story of passion and forbidden love, social injustice and family feuds with a curse since 700 years to top it all, and it takes a very surprising turning as the plot thickens and suddenly jumps into a precarious course of no return. Staffordshire is in the midlands between Birmingham and Liverpool, and the whole setting is in the rural part with soft hills and plains and deals a lot with horses – some of the tragedies here involve horses. It's an efficient drama of love and destiny and how little man or woman can control it, but it is Valerie Hobson you always will remember from this film. The Night has a Thousand Eyes (1948) (9/10) Edward G. Robinson in perhaps his most interesting and personal performance as a victim of his own second sight 13 December 2016 This is paranormal, paraphysical and parapsychological but extremely well written, and Edward G. Robinson makes one of his most memorable performances as a con man discovering to his dismay that he actually has real powers to foresee events and tries to escape his own destiny of getting involved in them. It's a very moral tale about the vanity and impossibility of even trying to avoid your destiny, but Robinson makes a heroic effort, actually trying to save the lives of others by using his second sight to fool destiny, but he gets fooled by it instead. It's very tragic, but the tragedy is hidden, you never see a drop of blood or any corpses although there are a number of casualties in the process, but still the end comes as a surprising shock to everyone including the ultimate victim. This is a film that has to be seen more than once in order to get clear about all the details, which must seem about too much and somewhat confusing the first time – you tend to be as incredulous as John Lund. Robinson is always interesting, all his films are worth seeing and again, but here he somewhat expresses something of the core of his own kismet – he had some troubles himself with his fate. London Belongs to Me (1948) (8/10) Heart-warming interior from old London 15 February 2015

It's all about a house and its tenants of very variable kinds, the last one moving in being a confused spiritualist somehow falling out of everything (Alastair Sim in an unforgettable character, later copied by Alec Guinness in "Ladykillers"), while the main character is Richard Attenborough as a young irresponsible luck-seeker without any luck, courting the daughter of the house while his former mistress won't


leave him alone, which leads to the tragedy. The house becomes a web of intrigue and complications, the different destinies interlacing each other, leading to confusions and further tragedies – Alastair Sim is really the unluckiest of them all. A fabulous gallery of colorful actors, Stephen Murray and a young Hugh Griffith making a surprise entrance towards the end is just two of them, the idyll develops into a spectacular drama finally involving all London. It's a wonderful story with great warmth and empathy with its characters, almost like a documentary. Unfortunately I haven't read the novel, which should be even better. This is a must see for grass-root people, environmentalists, humanitarians and all defenders of the small people of narrow circumstances and humble conditions, making out the great majority of the ordinary harmless core of humanity. The Miracle of the Bells (1948) (10/10) Alida Valli gets the opportunity to play Joan of Arc with unexpected consequences. 6 August 2015

This is an impressing story that gets constantly more interesting as it develops. It starts in mild sadness as Fred McMurray comes to a rather sordid and backward Coal Town with a coffin in order to bury it there, as that apparently was the last wish of the deceased. In flashbacks her story is gradually revealed, and as the tragedy unfolds of a film star who got the chance of her life to make Joan of Arc to only die for it, the additional plots start to gather, involving tremendous complications piling up at Coal Town, where Frank Sinatra as a poorer parish priest gradually starts to play a part – he even gets the opportunity to sing a song. Well, the plot thickens and gathers momentum and grows to affect the whole of the United States, as also Lee J. Cobb as Fred's producer reluctantly is involved. The amazing phenomenon of the film is how it gradually develops into something of a cathedral in structure involving many people and many plots and subplots, and there is no surprise anywhere, not even any real miracle, everything is logic and natural and can be explained, as even Frank Sinatra honestly enough stands up to the naked truth, and still there is something of a miracle about it all, as all these people without any intention of their own get included in the fabric of destiny as it weaves its web around them all, finally even bringing Lee J. Cobb to his knees. It's an amazing film and story in all its simplicity and very touching basic humanity – the scene in the Chinese restaurant is my favorite and a marvel of humanity in itself. This is no legend, and there is nothing supernatural about anything here, but it's simply a very human story presenting the magic of life as it could happen anywhere and fill everyone with wonder in the pure incredibility of reality. This is a film to discover, enjoy – and love. Mr. Perrin and Mr. Traill (1948)


(9/10) Rivalry between school teachers all the way to the bitter end 22 March 2017

Most school films are usually most interesting because of unavoidable intrigues and complications with the constant presence of a variety of beautiful wives at risk and mischievous but innocent children, that more often than not succeed in making things worse without intending it. This is certainly no exception. Mr Perrin has been 21 years with the school and is one day suddenly challenged by a new master who has everything he lacks: an easy way with children earning him immediate sympathy and popularity, success with women, good looks and admirable sportsmanship. Mr Perrin's nickname is 'Pompo', which unfortunately he deserves. Marius Goring makes an unforgettable character out of him, living alone with his mother, being awkward with women for his shyness and getting harassed by the awful headmaster, who drives the whole school crazy by nasty covert means. Conflicts are inevitable and start with petty quarrels about bath-tubs, umbrellas and things like that but are gradually exacerbated to a horrendous degree. Whatever will come out of this towering trivial storm? It's impossible to guess, but in the end you risk having your eyes staring and starting out of their sockets. David Farrar is the younger handsome teacher in a typical part of his, he is also drinking here like in most of his films, and although it's unnecessary of him to worsen the conflict you have to agree that he just can't help it. It's a tremendous film of a storm in a teacup, but it's amazing how such an idyll of a teacup can produce such a storm... Ruthless (1948) (9/10) A morality play about the vanity and emptiness and failure of success when it is not founded on human values 21 October 2016

Interesting study in the way of life of living only for worldly success and money. Zachary Scott makes the tycoon who from a humble start builds an empire but at the cost of everything human on the way. He simply refuses to take any no or objection to his ambitions seriously but grabs everything he fancies for his own and gets it – until there is Sydney Greenstreet, who turns the film into a very interesting drama, the finale towering into a frantic settlement with the inhumanity of ruthlessness. Among the others Lucille Bremer as Christa makes an intelligent impression, and Louis Hayward as the friend who sees Zachary through and tries to follow but fails to save him, makes a credible enough figure of a real best friend who fails for no fault of his, while Diana Lynn as Martha and Mallory becomes something of an enigma – it's actually she who brings Vendig's ruin but unintentionally, as her only power over him is that she resembles his first love, whom he deserted – it's not her fault. It's a very interesting story of opportunism, but like in so many of Ulmer's always 88

most interesting films, the characters never really come alive. The acting is too stiff, and they act more like dummies than like live people, like statues in a grown up puppet play. Nevertheless, the film is still very much worth seeing for its message and lesson, as a morality of considerable weight, as people of this kind dominate and rule the world still today and make a mess of it. Casbah (1948) (8/10) Successful remake of Duvivier's "Pepé le Moko" but not quite striking home It is not a bad remake of Julien Duvivier's classic and incomparable "Pepé le Moko" with Jean Gabin from 1937 with even some advantages to the French original, chiefly Marta Toren as the beautiful lady from abroad and home and Peter Lorre as the police inspector in one of his most suavely amiable and abominable performances; but the songs are quite good also and Tony Martin, although inferior to Jean Gabin, is convincing and charming enough. Another asset is Yvonne de Carlo as Inez, and like in "Pepé le Moko" you wonder why he doesn't prefer her to the alien lady as a much more rational and sensible option; but it's in his nature to choose challenge to comfort. There is very little to add, if you have seen "Pepé le Moko" you have seen it all, the drama is exactly the same here with its regrettable and overwhelmingly sad finale, but Julien Duvivier makes it both more realistic, more poetic and more overwhelming. What Tony Martin lacks is the tragic touch of Jean Gabin with his poignant stigma. Escape (1948) (10/10) Rex Harrison as war hero and martyr to injustice but not without some recompense 30 July 2017

A dark story of injustice, charting the hopelessness of a fugitive not from justice but from the law, which has failed in giving justice. Rex Harrison is a former war hero who defends a defenseless girl in a park and accidentally gets into more trouble than he bargained for, with fatal consequences, for a villain who deserved it, and for himself, who has to survive it. It's a great story by John Galsworthy with many instructive insights on the way. It's kind of an exploration of the problems of injustice. Anyway, risking his life and prolonged sentence by escaping, he does win something on the way, which he wouldn't if he hadn't risked everything for freedom. Joseph Mankiewicz' direction displays all the literary deserts of the story and communicates it well with clarity and detached poignancy. It's a small film but the


greater for its spartan concentration, containing much more than what any film can show. So Well Remembered (1948) (9/10) Ladies and babies, slums and factories, alcoholics and war invalids, from a gentlemanly view of James Hilton. 8 August 2017

This is an oddity among James Hilton's novels, the closest he got to a social and Dickensian novel with perhaps the only crook he ever produced, and she is more stealthily disguised as such than any villain in Shakespeare or Dickens. This is a psychological drama charting the psyche of a very dangerous woman – she is born rich and powerful and can never do without that as a kind of birthright, and when she is thwarted she is destroyed. Until she is thwarted she destroys all her men including her children. This is a thriller in disguise. James Hilton was the most gentlemanly author in England's 20'th century together with John Galsworthy, and also this Bleak House drama is told very suavely with a gentleman's kind politeness all the way. You have to love Olivia Channing as much as John Mills does, until he has to face the facts when almost everything is too late. To see this novel realized on screen I experienced as a miracle. I knew it existed and searched for it for years, and suddenly it was there - with even James Hilton himself as speaker, with his gentle and perfectly clear Cambridge diction. I always enjoyed James Hilton almost more than any other English author of that century for his always musical language, which even that is fully realized in the film. A few years later Edward Dmytryk, exiled from Hollywood, made his masterpiece "Give Us This Day" about Italian immigrant workers in New York 1929 completely filmed in London (with New York recreated in studios), another important milestone of social realism (see my review). This is less dramatic and pathetic and tells a less upsetting story but is instead more convincing. Trevor Howard had just made his "Brief Encounter" perfect gentleman of a doctor, while he here is hard on the bottle from the beginning to end, although John Mills after twenty years only has to carry him home from the pub twice a week. Martha Scott finally is perfect as Olivia, beautiful, charming and mysterious, giving from the beginning quite a good impression of herself as a beauty of mysteries that could be dangerous not only for your peace of mind.


Johnny Belinda (1948) (10/10) "It is hard to get born, and it is hard to die." 1 December 2017

This is to some great degree a Scottish film, since most of the characters have Scottish names and even speak with a Scottish accent, and the location is Nova Scotia in Canada. Also the general mentality is more Scottish than anything else, and the environment could have been the Hebrides in the closeness of the ever present threats of the sea and the vast almost desolate grounds of the wild flat islands. But that is just the frame of the drama. Many films have been made on the subject of the hardships of gravely handicapped or invalid people, preferably girls, like Arthur Penn's "The Miracle Worker" 1962, the film with Louis Jouvet on AndrĂŠ Gide's best novel "The Pastoral Symphony", Siodmak's "The Spiral Staircase", "Mandy", "David and Lisa" - the list is endless, and it is practically without exceptions in the fathomless interest and high quality treatment of human vulnerability and sensitivity. Jean Negulesco's screening of "Johnny Belinda" is one of the very best examples. There was a flood of Oscar nominations in 1948, but I don't think anyone would have disagreed with awarding that year's Oscar to Jane Wyman and the best film of the year. It is so startlingly real and convincing all the way, the realism is total, and the drama couldn't be more gripping. A deaf and mute girl gets raped by a bully and gets pregnant by the way as the worst possible complication for a case like hers in a small village of provincial prejudice and gossips. Fortunately there is a gentleman doctor at hand, who with delicate diplomacy gets the better of the situation. Lew Ayres didn't make many pictures, and he is almost only remembered for this one and "The Dark Mirror" two years previously with Olivia de Havilland as twin sisters, one of them psychotic, another tricky situation. Lew Ayres is such a winning and sympathetic character, that he could well have made another Ronald Colman, but these two great noir pictures he made was quite enough to establish his reputation for good. Charles Bickford as the farmer and Agnes Moorehead as his wife add to the poignancy of the drama, both play characters with limitations, which serve only to enhance the power of their performance. Also the other villagers are quite convincing and real, and there is much in this film reminding of the Norwegian war drama "The Edge of Darkness" with Errol Flynn as another fisherman, although that's a completely different story, but the environment and mentality are the same. In brief, this is a timeless drama of incapacity and weakness and the struggle to overcome the complications therein. Jean Negulesco directed many outstanding films, but this was maybe the very best one.


Women in the Night (1948) (7/10) German officers in Shanghai try to survive the fall of Germany and Japan, but their abducted women complicate matters. 2 January 2018

Everything is lousy about this production except the story. The direction is despicable, the actors can't act, the result of the editing is a mutilation, and the happy ending is a joke. However, most of the ladies are quite good and convincing enough, and it's their film. It's their story this film is here to tell, and it's a great story involving many stories. Not only are several of these girls brave freedom fighters who don't hesitate to wage their lives when there is no other choice, but there are a number of great tragedies hinted by their stories, the most important of which is the mother who finds her daughter. Forget about the Japanese and German officers, they are all caricatures, and you can see that the actors themselves don't believe in the almost ludicrous roles they are playing. This is a women's drama, and that's all that matters. Also the music is very well made and gives at least a gilded frame to something that could have been an engaging masterpiece, if the direction and the male actors had been better. The fact is, that there were rests of German officer cliques stranded in China (here Shanghai) and elsewhere after the surrender of Germany and before the Japanese final surrender who still believed in their absurd Reich, many escaped alive out of Germany and immediately started planning for the next Reich, - of course, they did not succeed, as they also fail in this film, but their plans and visions were enough alive to keep cliques like this active to the last. Pity that such a good story should be made such a bad film of, but then at least you can take care of and mind what's memorable in it, and it is never wrong to point out the women's cause.

The Woman in White (1948) (8/10)

Two ladies lost in darkness at the mercy of wicked intrigue by Sidney Greenstreet. 8 January 2018


Although none of the screenings of this famous thriller novel for television or for film have been too faithful to the novel, which is actually related in different versions by the characters themselves, which makes it very complicated and sophisticated, it's impossible to make a bad screening of it, no matter how much you shorten it. This is the most shortened version of all, while the 1982 version is the most faithful and best. However, none of the other Foscos are so true to the original character as Sidney Greenstreet here, who awesomely dominates the film. Eleanor Parker is excellent in her double role as both Laura and Anne Catherick, but she is a bit too beautiful for Laura, while her rendering of Anne Catherick is better - they actually become like one in the end. Alexis Smith plays with style as usual, and it's impossible for any actress to fail with a character like Marion Halcombe. The Sir Percy Glyde dandy figure is also good but is whisked away in this rather mutilated version. Gig Young as Walter is the only one who does not quite fit in. Other excellent merits of this film is the marvellous score of Max Steiner with harp for the dominating instrument - none of the other versions make a success of the music. The black and white photography also adds to the eerie and moody blues of this horror story of wicked intrigue, and although the finale of the novel is ignored here, Agnes Moorehead as the countess Fosco instead gets something to do - here she is made to combine both the countess and Mrs Catherick in the novel. So although much of the novel, and especially its highlights, are lost in this film, it definitely has deserts enough to vie with the other later versions in colour, which have other advantages over this one. All My Sons (1948) (10/10) Clearcut masterpiece of Arthur Miller's greatest play 4 March 2018

Edward G. Robinson on the top of his career and Burt Lancaster in the beginning of his as his son must turn into something absolutely special, and it does, with a vengeance. To this comes the very ingenious composition of the play. It's impossible to guess anything of what is going on in the beginning, as all you get glimpses of to begin with is some relationship problems. Gradually the war gets involved, and then the trauma starts building up. Larry has not returned from ther war, and his mother is still expecting him every day. His girlfriend Ann is coming for a visit, and Larry's brother Burt Lancaster wants to marry her, certain that Larry never will come back. Both his parents advise against it, but she is willing, and Burt is difficult to turn off. Other relatives turn up, especially young families, and then there is some problem about Ann's brother and their father, who is in jail. Gradually it dawns on the audience that Burt's father got him there and that there still is some unfinished business around somewhere.


This is just some contours of the very complicated mess of family intrigue, which constantly turns more complex and difficult to cope with, as also the other father in prison finally gets an important part in the play. This could be the greatest of American family dramas. Arthur Miller would never succeed in writing anything like it, and his following plays are shadows of it. The actors are all at their best and make the drama truly a Greek tragedy widely transcending anything Eugene O'Neill has written. Tennessee Williams would find a more stable standard though than Miller in keeping up a high level of drama in many plays. On the Town (1949) (10/10) Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Vera-Ellen, Ann Miller and some more of the same sort – what else could it be but the perfect entertainment? 11 October 2016

Party all the way through all New York and out again, with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra leading the show, accompanied by a bunch of irresistible girls, like Vera-Ellen and Ann Miller dancing both their shoes and their heads off, but there is an uncountable number of other dancing girls as well. We also have the irresistible Lucy Shmeeler melting into the party and doing all she can to spoil it, particularly by coughing and sneezing, There are other party crashers as well, like their fellow seamen from the same ship, like Simpkins and Gobarsky, and other swell fellas like Ozzy (Jules Munshin) managing to bring down a giant Dinosaur in the museum in a rubble like the Twin Towers, bringing out all New York in chase of him, I think I would choose Lucy Shmeeler and Jules Munshin for my favorites here, and of course Brunhilde Esterhazy (Betty Garrett) as a perfect wedding cake pudding as a taxi driver. Comedy is the mark of this glorious film of entertainment about the hazards of some sailors' permit for one day in all the night clubs and loose ends of New York with glorious music and high gear dancing all through – it should be tiresome with so much constant dancing and entertainment, but it isn't. It works the other way and is only thoroughly enlivening and brilliant cheer of sustained energetic inspiration increasing all the way. The result is one of those films you always will return to in order to laugh some more and get even higher spirits. The Fan (1949) (10/10) How can a fan be so exciting? 8 October 2016


Oscar Wilde shines through all the way with his remarkable wit and knowledge of human nature, here especially about women. Dorothy Parker adding to it makes it a double treat. Here you find Oscar Wilde amazingly updated to after the second world war with its rationing and bombed ruins of London, adding an extra spice of melancholy and sadness to the glittering wit and intrigue of fin de siècle refinement. All the actors are outstanding, Otto Preminger bringing out the best of them all, not only George Sanders and Madeleine Carroll in double performances as both young and old; but also Jeanne Crain and Richard Greene are exactly adapted to their involuntary parts of having to feign their demeanour and treading uncertainly on a precarious path of extreme human delicacy. You are led to believe the worst of Madeleine Carroll at first, and indeed she is a fallen lady, but she has learned something of it and conveys the wisdom of her experience in a wondrous way according to the best of Oscar Wilde's sharp human studies. This is a film for wits to relish, and Otto Preminger surprises once again with delivering something entirely new even to his own experience. The Secret Garden (1949) (9/10) Three children find each other in a world of darkness and bring light into it. 31 May 2015

This is a marvel of a film in many ways, for its extreme contrasts and almost paradox nature of joining utter horror tragedy with the idylls of paradise. It's a story of children written for children, but the film actually turns it almost into a horror feature, as the screaming child in the nights would give anyone compulsory nightmares, especially since no explanation is provided. Adding to the gloomy horror nature of a Dickens nightmare at its worst is Gladys Cooper as the totally cold-blooded aunt who is worse than a death skull in her insensitivity, and of course Herbert Marshall as the uncle, who for once has the opportunity for a different character than a gentleman. The tantrums are not those of his forcibly crippled son but of his own, which he projects on the world around him and especially on his only son, in a morbid effort to turn him into the same guilt complex martyr as himself. The scenes with the children are terrific, but the great trick is the use of the blackand-white somberness that dominates the film as a base for the effect achieved when the film bursts into color. This had already been used effectively, especially in "The Portrait of Jennie" with Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten, another masterpiece of cinematic artwork, but here it is more demonstrative, as if the contrasts between the dark gloom of hell and the paradise of the secret garden needed accentuating. It was remade in 1994 by Agnieszka Holland all in color, which definitely transcends this earlier version, abstaining from the horror ingredients and sticking more convincingly to the story with emphasis on making the psychology work. Nevertheless, both versions are well worth seeing and returning to, in some ways complementing each other, this one as the more dramatic and Holland's as the more beautiful. Of course, on such a great and enchantingly constructive story about lovable children bringing life into a world of decay around them, no film could fail.


Thieves’ Highway (1949) (9/10) Richard Conte goes to a profitable harvest of apples and almost never returns. 8 January 2015

A remarkable film for its splendid technique and impressive acting for a very downto-earth subject: the harvesting and selling of apples. Jules Dassin himself described it as a B feature which he loved making, and some scenes he even described as the best he had ever done. It's really a universal subject about justice and karma visualized on a very basic level. Almost all the actors are practically unknown, no dazzling film stars, while their acting transcends stardom. The real star is Valentina Cortese as the tramp paid by the villain to entrap the honest Richard Conte, she is a professional prostitute and nothing less, whose human nature nonetheless gets the better of her. She is a marvel in every scene. Lee J. Cobb was always the magnificent villain in every film he had that joy to perform in and here more than ever. The apple story, however, gets the better of all of them with quite a few casualties on the way. Like his masterpiece "Rififi" 6 years later this is a moral tale with many aspects to its strange diversions and at the same time an almost unendurably exiting thriller for being all about apples. You start worrying from the beginning, it's over-obvious that this will be a disastrous journey, which already the introduction gives the fatal imprint of, and still it gets worse all the way than you could ever imagine. As a critic said, after this you can never eat an apple again without watching your back and think of corruption, assaults, trickery, treachery, catastrophe and death. The Accused (1949) (9/10) Interesting investigation of the dilemma of having committed a crime unintentionally. 7 July 2015

This is actually a love story and, as is usually the case with noirs of the 40s, a very well written one, especially since it deals with some rather tricky psychological matters, of which guilt complex resulting in fear approaching the borders of possible schizophrenia is just one. What makes this film more than average of classy noirs of the 40s with a romantic and seriously psychological intrigue is the interesting peripatetic moment of the boxing match, when Loretta Young unintentionally gives herself away, and how very interestingly Robert Cummings as her lawyer and lover reacts to that. The acting is superb throughout, the story is credible and convincing, the dilemma of unintentionally having killed someone and the natural urge to avoid the consequences and take responsibility for what was not intended, anyone can understand and relate to. To all this comes Victor Young's endearing score fashioning the experience with a golden frame, the beauty of which increases all the time. In brief, this is a much underrated, unjustly forgotten and deeply human and


interesting film, that deserves some intention after having been more or less buried alive since 50 years. Eroica (1949) (9/10) A more than satisfying Beethoven portrait I agree completely with the previous reviewer – this is the definite Beethoven film, above all because of Ewald Balser's almost more than convincing impersonation, but everything is excellent in this film – the acting, let's not forget the irresistibly beautiful ladies, the choice and composition of the musical illustrations and accompaniments – most impressing of these is probably the cathedral scene, when the camera sweeps along all the audience like in a search of the chorus but finally ends up there all around Beethoven himself – and the acting of the young Oscar Werner as the hopeless nephew Karl adds a significant contrasting spice to the biopic, which maintains the balance between story, supporting actors, music and the central theme, which is the personal victory of Beethoven over his deafness – the end is like an apotheosis but a very practical one. This film repairs completely the damages caused by Abel Gance's terrible mammoth bathos ruined by a monstrosity of exaggerated sentimentality in his very ambitious but well-meaning effort of 1936, in which the actor ruined everything by being completely wrong; but the Gary Oldman film of 1994 isn't bad either, in spite of the fact that the story there is all wrong. Also here the story is rather a construction, but the two countesses did really exist and certainly loved him, and he couldn't treat them any better than he did; so although incorrect it's true in its meaning. Highest possible praise for this very moving and true Beethoven film that misses nothing of what was important about him. Ed Harris in all his virtuosity acting in the 2006 film, the latest, is but a shadow to Ewald Balser. Black Magic (1949) (8/10) Orson Welles as the greatest of charlatans 24 July 2017

The necklace scandal of Marie Antoinette's was always an impossible subject to do anything about in literature, drama or film, since it was a totally undramatic intrigue of a rather foolish kind depending entirely on stupid people's duplicity. Cagliostro had nothing to do with it, except that he observed it from above with some glee and might have had a hand in its manipulation. The real architects and victims of the plot are not even mentioned in the film: the Cardinal de Rohan and the adventuress Jeanne de la Motte, who got brandished and banished for her part and kept writing


hateful pamphlets against Marie Antoinette all her life although the Queen was entirely innocent – she never wanted to buy the necklace in the first place. But the scandal fascinated all the gossips and minds of Europe, and Alexander Dumas wrote three or four volumes of novels about a Cagliostro that was entirely dreamt up in his imagination. The real Cagliostro was perhaps the greatest and most typical of charlatans and nothing else, a Sicilian who tricked his way into society and up the ladder of politics in Paris and might really have been as megalomaniac as Orson Welles makes him, obsessed with power, but much more discreetly and furtively than Orson Welles' more swashbuckling character. He ended his life in destitution and prison. Alexander Dumas endows him with the power of hypnosis, which is pure fiction. Cagliostro was a great manipulator and cheat but was never serious about anything, rather something of a universal amateur, while Anton Mesmer was very serious about his more scientific research. In the film they meet in the beginning, and their coupling is perhaps the most interesting trait of the film, as they meet again in the end. Orson Welles has here the opportunity to play out his greatest powers as an actor, and he stops at nothing and enjoys every turn of it, especially in the grandiose finale. The court scene is a joke, though, falling flat on its own comedy – not even in prerevolutionary France could such a court have been possible, and it's the only objectionable part of the film, due to a weak script. Even 18th century France would have laughed at it. They have done their best to turn an impossible story into a good film, and although nothing remains of reality in this hullabaloo of a national scandal, it's a great film, and Orson Welles makes one of his very best performances, if not the best after "The Third Man" – there is not much time between them. He was a great magician in reality, you can also see him performing in "Casino Royale" as Le Chiffre in the 1967 version and in "The Sailor from Gibraltar". He actually won some prizes for his art, and he always enjoyed practicing it, which you can see here what a professional he was. In order to put some drama into the story, it's all muddled up, and it's almost as impossible to follow all the turnings and intrigues of it as it was in reality, but it is very entertaining, lavish in its sumptuous costumery, and there is no drama lacking in the climax. The director was Gregory Ratoff, but you can see Orson Welles' hand in it as well in quite a few scenes. House of Strangers (1949) (9/10) An American Italian family drama of an autocratic father of a banking family with four sons against him. This is one of Joe Mankiewicz' lesser known films (birthday today 11.2) and definitely among his best ones. Edward G. Robinson performs at his best as the 98

Italian father of a banking family with four brothers embroiled with each other, as usual in Mankiewicz's films a brilliant dialogue mesmerize you all through, Susan Hayward also making a splendid performance. Richard Conte plays the one son who acts honourably, while all the others turn against him and betray their father out of necessity to survive – and let Conte pay for it. When he is freed from prison (which is where the film begins, and we know nothing yet of what has passed), the immediate meeting with his brothers creates the suspense which lasts and constantly grows tighter through the entire film, until the conflict is resolved in the end after many unexpected turns. All actors are at their best, while the lasting impression is made by Conte as a paragon of straight Sicilian nobility, Susan Hayward as a surprising woman of superior character, and above all Edward G. Robinson as the father, who although powerful and successful can't quite follow the new turns of his age. Although autocratic he never becomes unsympathetic, but you rather understand him and have to pity him – he is the tragedy, in a marvellously well-written film script (as all of Joe Mankiewicz' films are) perfectly handled by a masterful director and a set of actors together creating a virtuoso family performance. Give Us This Day (1949) (10/10) Almost documentary about Italian workers in Brooklyn around the Great Depression. This film is extremely difficult to find anywhere, and still it's a major milestone in the history of film noir. Both Edward Dmytryk and Sam Wanamaker fled America for the McCarthy persecutions and made this unique film in London about Little Italy in New York. It's brutally expressionistic and realistic about the conditions of Italian building workers in New York and was forbidden in America – today you wonder why. Sam Wanamaker remained in Britain, made many films, was in 'Holocaust' and initiated the process of rebuilding the Globe theatre in London. Another of his major performances was in "The Voyage of the Damned" 1976, another great film of documentary character and a true story; but "Give Us This Day", also known as "Christ in Concrete" is his quest for immortality as a very ordinary Italian worker in Brooklyn with great foibles and weaknesses, and he is well supported by Kathleen Ryan (expert at such roles, like also in "Odd Man Out") and Lea Padovani as the sorely tried but heart-renderingly faithful wife. Perhaps the greatest credit of all in this film is due to the music of Benjamin Frankel, booming with beauty sand pathos all the way, while above all the story is without comparison in its very human and overwhelmingly true account of the conditions of Italian house-building workers in Brooklyn around the Great Depression. This film makes an unforgettable impression the first time, and you will always recall it with tears and return to it – a film indeed worth owning. Madame Bovary (1949) (10/10)


The long passionate fall of Madame Bovary perfectly and adorably carried out by Jennifer Jones and Vincente Minnelli 25 July 2017

I could never like Gustave Flaubert for his merciless realism completely void of any idealism, but as a realist he was one of the sharpest in France, wherefore a novel like "Madame Bovary" is perhaps best seen as a clinical and perfect documentary. As Gustave Flaubert said himself, there are thousands of Emma Bovarys all over France. At the same time, he confessed Emma Bovary to be himself. Here is a paradox and mystery worth investigating. Jennifer Jones as Emma, even better than Vivien Leigh as Anna Karenina, is the extreme opposite of Bernadette of Lourdes 6 years earlier, for which she was awarded an Oscar. Jennifer as Emma is the extreme idealist who lives only for her dreams and commits the mistake of trying to make reality her dreams. This is a very human and common mistake. Gustave Flaubert's own tragedy was perhaps that he could not indulge in committing that mistake himself. Instead, he indulged the more in giving Emma free reins to go to any length in that indulgence, in which he is very thorough in tearing her apart piece by piece. Is this cruelty or realism? It is perhaps cruelty excused by realism, but it's definitely realism and unassailable as such. Van Heflin is reliably honest in his part as usual and makes a thoroughly impeccable impersonation of a perfectly normal and honestly boring man. As in the novel, he is impossible not to put horns on. He is too honest for his own good. Her case starts when she gradually more and more find her ideals incompatible with the reality she is confined to and finds more and more like a prison. Her only cure is escapism into her dreams, trying obsessively to drown the unbearable pettiness of her naked reality in luxury - and the first lover, the handsome Leon, played by the handsome Swede Alf Kjellin, perfect for that part, like almost another Axel von Fersen. To all this comes Vincente Minnelli's amazing direction. He had almost only made show films before, and here suddenly he is as psychologically brilliant and poignant as another Hitchcock. The great ball scene, when she first meets Louis Jourdan, is Vincente Minnelli in full bloom combining splendid festivity with dark undercurrents of impending tragedy, impressively illustrated by the crushing of windows and glasses, as poor Van Heflin, drunk, searches for his wife, as if he unconsciously already knew he had lost her.... The music (Miklos Rosza) is also perfect as everything else in this film, Frank Allenby is terrible in his handsome ruthlessness as her creditor, and Gladys Cooper comes sailing in as the perfect mother spoiling everything, almost compelling Emma to adultery by her puritan insistence, and then comes Louis Jourdan opening the abyss with his insolent superiority... James Mason introduces and ends the film as Gustave Flaubert himself, defending himself and Emma at court, with as eloquent a brilliance as everything else in this film. You certainly should see it again sometime.


The History of Mr. Polly (1949) (9/10) Mr Polly and the idylls of the king 11 May 2017

This is probably H.G.Wells' best story or at least his most human and charming one. It's a petty triviality, but in the small things you can find some golden traces of hidden treasures worth discovering, which is what Mr. Polly does. John Mills is perfect for the job, especially since he fails in all his official ones, while all he is good for is reading old tales of chivalry and dreaming of some faint ideal far beyond his reach. Accidentally he gets married, and she turns out to make the worst for him, so he plans to get away by suicide and fails completely even with that. But a great momentum is waiting for him. Finlay Currie is equally perfect as the hooligan Uncle Jim, who is only good at making mincemeat of people and tries hard at it, (they were better partnered together just previously in "Great Expectations" as Pip and Magwitch,) but also he fails completely, leaving Mr. Polly out of breeches and in a strange situation with a lost body, which later turns up to most accidentally again save him from further trouble... The small man finally finds his kingdom and the proper idylls to it, where he can at last get thorough in reading his tales of chivalry and enjoy some meditation and fishing. It's an idyllic comedy with some hardship to it and a titbit as such, with excellent acting, enjoyable direction and tailor-made music to suit it all as well. I saw it the first time some 40 years ago but enjoyed the revenue even more. The Interrupted Journey (1949) (10/10) An interrupted train journey leads to no end to a troublesome train of events... 25 May 2017

This is an amazing nightmare thriller taking you on a journey of constantly new surprising turns, and the fact that the journey is interrupted only leads a train of journeys leading you ever more astray and ending up in a nightmare abyss. Valerie Hobson graces the film with her charming and amiable personality, whoever would have left a wife like that? – which the hero (Richard Todd) immediately realizes but to his dismay finds it is already too late. The intrigue is fantastic. It's kind of Kafkaesque in its labyrinth of constantly worse 101

complications, and not until the mother closes the door on Richard with her testimony of having identified her dead son herself you begin to suspect that everything is not quite all right – something begins to warn you about all logic and reality disappearing. It's marvellously filmed with its turning more and more almost hallucinogenic, as the drunkard at the hotel really starts derailing for serious. It's a wondrous concoction of a train of events leading you off the rails so often and so frequently that you begin seriously to doubt the honesty of the film, but you can stay calm – it all makes perfect sense in the end, as the detail of the clock finally concludes this strange odyssey of a psychological nightmare. Murder at the Windmill (1949) (9/10) Delightful murder at the theatre with some idyllic circumstances 7 July 2017

This is like no other murder case. More interesting than who done it in this case is how it was done. It could only have been done from stage, so the helpless inspectors have no choice but to endure the whole show over again from the beginning to investigate at which point the shot could have been fired and how. They reach the end of the show until before the finale in a hilarious Mexican number all the girls on stage fire their own pistol. This is a criminal comedy at its very best. It couldn't be more hilarious. At the same time, it's almost documentary, since this theatre actually never closed during the war but kept on giving shows day and night and was extremely popular in its charming location off the Piccadilly. The poor inspectors have to suffer through one silly number after another, plagued by a bassoon pedant, silly dances with dogs, satirical ballets making fun of Hollywood, and in between lots of gags in the canteen, police officers getting lost in the theatre falling over chairs, one trying to escape and so on, while the girls keep playing cards when they are not on stage. It's a wonderful rendering of how life at the Windmill actually went on almost non stop throughout the war with all its idyllic professional but endearing silliness. Applause, and applause again with cries for joy. It's simply adorable.

The Reckless Moment (1949) (10/10) 102

Mother in distress just in time for Christmas 7 May 2016

A perfect family in a perfect Californian community by the coast, the daughter (17) gets mixed up with a fatal charmer, mother intervenes, the charmer asks for money to stay out, makes one call too much, happens to an accident, the mother adds to her load of troubles by trying to dispose of the body, and then the complications start: the daughter has written many compromising letters to the charmer, which a ruthless blackmailer gets hold of, and there you are. Well, well. The complications have only started accumulating. Joan Bennett is always perfect and more than perfect, she never played any great personage, but her characters are always absolutely straight and clear, which makes her always impressing. James Mason is also more than perfect as the hired blackmailer who turns soft and into something of a chivalrous saviour, taking over more than a due part of the worries in an interesting change of character, and then you have the virtuoso direction of Max Ophuls on top of that in his last American film and perhaps in some ways the best. Just the scene of James Mason entering the bar in search of his boss is in itself a masterpiece. His rendering of this American home tragedy is almost documentary in character, the realism in all its details with the children and the housemaid is so natural, and the mother couldn't be more motherish. Ophuls delivers as usual more than you have bargained for, and one of the greatest cinematic pleasures you could encounter is to see an Ophuls film for the first time without knowing anything about it. You will always remember it for life. Britannia Mews (1949) (10/10) How the dire commitment into hazardous trial and error is ultimately and surprisingly rewarded What a wonderful film this is! It is difficult to catalogue all its vast variations of deserts, with sudden turn of events and charming details constantly renewing and refreshing the story, which is like a Dickens novel. Maureen O'Hara is always good but here better than ever, while Dana Andrews takes you by surprise with this virtuoso performance totally out of his ordinary style, vying in charm with Robert Donat; while the prize goes to Sybil Thorndike, who makes a really frightening witch with more than one bag of evil up her sleeve, which she uses with calculation and effective impact. It's really an environmental film depicting a slum area with exciting intrigue and characters and fascinating idylls of the gutter. It's related with another environmental London film of the same time, "London Belongs to Me" with equally convincing documentary rendering of local life in London town, but here the events take place long before the turn of the century – Bernard Shaw is mentioned as a rising star in the beginning of his career.


The miracle of the story is how a tragedy is turned to its opposite. A failed painter leaves behind the result of his secret hobby work, making puppets, and these turn out to be his real masterpiece. A really hopeless tragedy of bleak dreariness with no way out is miraculously turned into comedy by his puppets coming alive. The process of this U-turn of fate is completely natural, and a tragedy of human decay, failure, alcoholism and dishonour is suddenly reversed into a cheerful comedy – the real comedian is Maureen O'Hara's helpful brother, who understands things his own way. The end of it is how the dreadfully sultry slum turns into a wonderland of idylls and charm in spite of all, and there, ultimately, after all the heartbreaks, the heart nevertheless will remain. Rope of Sand (1949) (7/10) Burt Lancaster and Paul Henreid fighting it out over greed and vulgar hooker 2 January 2018

After a row of the most subtle and sensitive love films ever made in Hollywood, William Dieterle resorted to this brutal and primitive drama of greed in the deserts of Kalahari. The actors are all superb (except Corinne Calvet, who is a failure and never even convincing as such,) but the script is lacking in any human credibility. Such an eloquent actor as Paul Henreid is made to play a sadistic villain without any human nuances, and Burt Lancaster is mostly used to apply his knuckles. The only good performance is Claude Rains, whose relevant cynicism in this dreadful study in greed is all too convincing. Sam Jaffe and Peter Lorre add some sympathy by their decadent characters but not much and far from enough to make this film interesting in any other way than photographically. Only Franz Waxman's fantastic music makes it endurable at all. Sorry about that, Mr Dieterle. Your previous masterpieces made us expect more of you than this sordid B-melodrama. Too Late for Tears (1949) (9/10) Men getting into trouble both for felony and honesty just for her. 31 January 2018

Lizabeth Scott keeps you stuck on her throughout this film no matter what she is doing. What would you yourself do if a passing car suddenly passes a bag full of money into yours and vanishes? In this case Lizabeth Scott is together with her husband Arthur Kennedy, who is a completely decent fellow who immediately wants to give over the money to the police, while Lizabeth wants to keep it. There the 104

trouble starts. It is increased by some bad luck on the way. Things don't always go as you planned. In this case, two strangers turn up, one more unpleasant to her than the other. And what's more, she commits mistakes and cause accidents to happen. Pity for such a beautiful woman. She remains equally fascinating though in every film she made, and they are usually dark noirs with her husky voice filling the atmosphere with ominous threats against everyone's existence. Throughout this film her acting is the consistent focus point of your fascination while the others in comparison don't seem to act at all, except Arthur Kennedy, who is always good and has a special knack for honest straightforward roles. Her constant change, like a chameleon, from charming grace and smiles to solemn sinister brooding boding no good to anyone, from tears and despair to flippant gaiety, is a play in itself and indeed worth watching - in every film, like "The Racket", "Dark City" and "Dead Reckoning". She is almost like a Garbo of the dark. The Barklays of Broadway (1949) (8/10) Ginger and Fred in silly arguments about nothing in a nonsensical story saved by Oscar and dancing. 9 February 2018

There is nothing wrong with this film, and yet it doesn't really get going. The intrigue is too stupid (a couple quarrelling all the time without coming to a decision whether to split or not), the dialogue is insipid, the tempo is too slow, the film is too long about nothing, and you keep longing for the musical dancing scenes, which of course save the film, including Oscar Levant, who is the only one adding some ingenuity to this general awkwardness. Not until Fred and Ginger at last get going in proper classical style and elegance in "They Can't Take That Away From Me" you feel at home with their standard again. This is clearly not their best film, maybe the worst, but it's still worth watching for their and Oscar Levant's sake. Sorry, I can't give it more than 8. Song of Surrender (1949) (8/10)

Claude Rains yet again as a tyrant involved with music 24 February 2018

An odd film about the power of music: Claude Rains as an elderly curate bullies his much youngar wife, an uneducated girl he treats like serving maid, but she doesn't mind, until another, younger man enters her life. With him follows a grammophone


(1906) with records of Caruso, and that changes her life and that of Claude Rains as well. He becomes jealous of the grammophone, but the more resists and battles against the intrusion of music in his life, the more deeply he will eventually succumb to it. Claude Rains makes an awesome performance as usual, and the others are good enough but pale in his presence, while the greatest asset of the film is the music. It's not only Caruso, but the score is by Victor Young, and you will never forget that melody. It's a very unusual film for actually making music play the lead of both the story and the character of it, and you will eventually forget the story and the characters but not the music. Jigsaw (1949) (9/10) Not quite Hitchcock but as close as you can get on level B. 26 February 2018

This is above all a fascinating intrigue. None of the actors are anything special, they are all good enough but not more, while the intrigue is more like a labyrinth of webs than a jigsaw puzzle. The film opens with an unknown man getting murdered for unknown reasons by an unknown man, and the poor widow of foreign origin is terrified to death to state anything else than that he committed suicide. That's just the first of a number of murders and attempts, and more and more people are getting involved all the time. Most of the action takes place at night in darkness, there is of course an exotic night club ("The Blue Angel" - what else?) with a dangerous blonde sounding the alarm at long distance for obviously being one of the spiders in the web knowing too much and too many people in too high positions, but she is not the only dangerous lady. The political undercurrent is rather remindful of "Keeper of the Flame" six years earlier about American underworld fascism, but this is after the war, and although there are hints at racism and nazism, the secret society here has no colour and is the more menacing for being open with many leads in society. The story is complicated but makes sense all the way, the logic is infallible, and there are many instances where you almost feel a Hitchcock behind the camera. It's only 72 minutes, so it's rather condensed and therefore thick and certainly hard for some to follow, wherefore it would be worth while seeing it again, especially for the Hitchcock references. In a Lonely Place (1950) (10/10)


Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame locked up in an abyss of suspicion – and released at too high a price. This could be Humphrey Bogart's best performance, as a totally unpredictable genius capable of anything with a hidden war record of unknown atrocities, and the many hints at his earlier life as a soldier provides the key to this very interesting character, a man of infinite resources both physically and mentally but not able to control himself. Although you must take for granted from the beginning that he didn't do it, you can't evade getting more suspicious all the time, since everything about him testifies to his capacity of doing something absolutely beyond his control and any motivation, and the scene where he almost kills a guy on the road he has a traffic incident with must raise total alarm. Although you disagree with Captain Lochner, the criminal inspector, for his obstinate and almost obsessive inclination to link Humphrey with the pointless unmotivated murder, you gradually realize he can't do otherwise. Also I have never seen Gloria Grahame more to her advantage, although, just like Humphrey, she is always outstanding. Here, above all, she is more beautiful than ever and the perfect ideal dream for a creative romantic savage like Humphrey's character. What especially adds to the magic, tension and suspense of the film, though, is George Antheil's deeply mesmerizing music, which fills the film with dark and spellbinding moods. It's actually a tragedy, it is gradually built up by no one's intention but only by circumstances of chance, and although everybody goes wrong no one can help it – it's like an inevitable web of destiny, and although it's well set for a happy end at last, everything turns out to the opposite, ending in a big awful question mark, which at best it could lead to a new beginning. The war is over, victory is there, but everything has been devastated in the process. And the tragedy is entirely that of the complex war veteran character so perfectly made real by Humphrey Bogart in all its unfathomable abyss of no return from the loneliest place in the world, the hopelessness of your own fate. Francesco – giullare di dio (1950) (10/10) Basic neo-realistic cinematography at its best applied to express the essence of humanity This is the true St. Francis, in humblest simplicity and poetical basics. All other St. Francis films fall flat to this slightly comic, episodic, rhapsodic and haphazard collection of idyllic insights in the lives of the humblest of saints and his equally lovable followers. Already the first scene sets the tone, as the friars come walking home towards Assisi after having been blessed and accepted as an order by the pope, and they splosh around in the mud and the rain with their bare feet, which they keep unshod throughout the film. They are all amateurs (like in most outstanding Italian films of this period), there is hardly one professional actor, and if there is you have to look for him, but they are all perfectly convincing and couldn't have acted better in sincerity and truthfulness – it's all solid gold of human basic reality and purity. Rossellini made himself famous with "Rome – Open City" five years earlier, which made Ingrid Bergman abandon Hollywood to instead come filming with him, and seeing this film you understand the attraction. There is no Hollywood here, no 107

artifice, no make-believe, no stardom, no luxury and garish show-off, just simple humanity. It's a masterpiece indeed, and the question is if it's not even more outstanding as such in its very basic black and white medieval neo-realism than even the acknowledged masterpiece "Rome – Open City". Les enfants terribles (1950) (8/10) Chamber drama of horrors of relationships deteriorating into possessiveness 6 July 2017

Technically a cineastic masterpiece with some excellent acting, particularly on the part of Nicole Séphane, but this Greek drama of a family and some young people living together with relationship complications doesn’t give an altogether good taste in your mouth. Why are people usually so mean and cruel in French films? There is very little humanity here, love is not sincere, Elisabeth is callous and cruel and actually evil in her possessiveness, it’s like one of the worst novels ov Balzac (of whom Charlotte Brontë complained that he always gave her such a bad taste in her mouth), and this lack of humanity gives this masterpiece an ugly touch of almost inhumanity. Its brilliance fades into the shadows of the meaningsless of its cruelty and pettiness, they don’t do much else than quarrel and fight throughout the movie, and it all seems so pointless. Did Jean Cocteau have any meaning with writing this play except to produce a technically perfect analysis of how young people perish in the destructiveness of their relationships? The language, the photo, the acting, the music, everything is perfect but is consumed by its own pettiness in a dwindling spiral of human claustrophobia. So Long at the Fair (1950) (10/10) David Tomlinson gets lost in Paris during the world exhibition of 1889 with dire complications 24 March 2017

Brilliant thriller of suspense increasing all the way, until the absurd mystery ends up in a most surprising explanation. The best mysteries are the deepest and most inexplicable ones that all the same finally reveal a most logical solution. Jean Simmons' situation is really quite upsetting, she couldn't be more helpless in her predicament, but fortunately there is Dirk Bogarde at hand in a typical role of his as an English painter in Paris. The French people are also quite convincing, and fortunately they even speak French. It's easy for a foreigner to get lost in Paris with always strange things going on and bodies being fished up from the Seine almost every other day, and here there is even a world exhibition going on with the premiere of the Eiffel Tower and an awful balloon accident on top of that disposing 108

of a key witness to add to poor Jean Simmons troubles... It's an ingenious intrigue, and every detail is important. It's vital that you don't miss anything of what is said in any conversation, since every piece in this puzzle is indispensable to the whole picture. The Astonished Heart (1950) (9/10) Interesting study in the psychosis of a psychiatrist because of love 21 June 2017

Noel Coward as a psychiatrist deceives his wife Celia Johnson with Margaret Leighton, who doesn't really love him, which unsettles him completely when he realizes the most elementary of facts of love, namely that passion must pass. The acting is admirable throughout, Celia Johnson is always reliable as a stable character of a wife, Margaret Leighton is as doubtful as ever, she is expert at dubious roles, and Noel Coward, who also wrote both the script and the music for the film, makes a very thorough suitable case for treatment – his major scene is when he reveals to his patient who the real patient is. Like so many of Coward's plays, it's almost trivial in its exposure of very common human dilemmas, a love affair easily topples over into uncontrollable passion and most usually does, but one would have expected a psychiatrist to be able to remain in control. As he gives a lecture in the beginning of the film, he expounds on this very necessity, as he discovers Margaret Leighton in the audience and is faced by the abyss of his own weakness. The music doesn't stick, but it illustrates the whole drama perfectly, adding even more emotion to it. This is not Noel Coward's best film or performance, but it's not his worst either but well up to his reliable standard. Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) (10/10) Dana Andrews grappling with dark fate, abhorrent mobsters and finding Gene Tierney. 29 May 2015

Splendid virtuoso noir film of only superior qualities right through, while names like Ben Hecht as the script writer, Otto Preminger's direction, Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews guarantee something truly worth while. The story is typically bleak: a police officer will do anything to clear himself from the stain of his father's criminal record and constantly overdoes it, and it's his melancholic destiny this film is all about. Does he get through as an honest man, although he commits terrible mistakes? His comfort is Gene Tierney, who stands by him mainly because of his flaws. Above all, the script is brilliant in its subtlety, an intricate web of destiny's awesome mechanisms, which reach an impressing finale with Andrews' final confrontation with the typically abominable villain chief, who doesn't deserve 109

anything less than being butchered, which Andrews is indeed entitled to do, but, of which Andrews is the expert, he has to control himself although you can feel his inside fury. Top score, especially for its atmospheric settings and brilliant script. Last Holiday (1950) (10/10) Timeless story and wisdom about the plays of life and death. 4 April 2015

The first time I saw this film it made an impression for life, and it still does, its story belonging to timelessness in its simple but all-encompassing wisdom displaying almost a documentary about the facts of life and death, how to relate with them when it comes to a crisis and how unfathomably and relentlessly it will reveal yourself when everything is put on an edge. It's J.B.Priestley's most brilliant story that couldn't have been better realized than by Alec Guinness (in perhaps his finest and most sensitive acting ever on film) and Kay Walsh managing to make a heart of gold convincing under a hard surface of obviously too much hard experience. All the guests at the hotel add to the fantastic setting of an ideal community brought together by the mysterious crisis, that everyone feels but no one can understand, probably even less when destiny strikes home and reveals the full unalterable truth – when all the cards are on the table, everyone is even more at a loss than when they were wandering lost in a mystery. This is a beautiful film for all times and ages with a story that could have been written by an aged and saged Oscar Wilde in its profound brilliance of wit and invention. The key to the whole thing is set from the beginning by the strange detail of the blind fiddler – Alec Guinness' reaction when the surprise is repeated is unforgettable, and his long face couldn't be more convincing. The film is full of details like this, though, and each time you see it, you make more delightful discoveries. Perfect story, perfect psychology, perfect and unforgettable display of how the whims of destiny make fools of us all – with perhaps something learned on the way. The Clouded Yellow (1950) (8/10) Trevor Howard at the rescue of Jean Simmons, both running for it. 11 September 2016

I am not quite happy about this film – it's too much of a cliché patchwork, like a good but nevertheless obvious paraphrase on Hitchcock. There is nothing wrong with Jean Simmons and Trevor Howard, they are both always reliable in any film they played in, and I don't think they worked together in any other film. It all starts very well and interestingly with a failed secret agent stranded at the 110

mercy of his sinister employer who can't tolerate one single mistake, turning his failed agent to cataloging butterflies, just to keep him safely out of the way. Unfortunately for him, a murder occurs in his vicinity, and the one who is obviously totally innocent and incapable of it comes under suspicion because of her rumoured mental instability. Jean Simmons makes this character quite convincing and interesting, demonstrating openly her weakness without blushing, and Trevor appears as the knight in shining armour committing himself to rescuing her by taking her along on a great escape up and down all northern England. It's a spectacular escape indeed, but it obfuscates the more interesting psychology of the relationships turning the film more into a superficial entertainment, with great effects, of course, but when the murderer finally is exposed it all humanly falls flat. It's so obvious that the audience from the beginning has been led astray by being forced to suspect another. Well, well, nevertheless, it's great entertainment, and that at least is something. Under My Skin (1950) (10/10) "Are you even running out of places to leave?" 25 November 2017

This is a much underrated and almost unknown and forgotten crown jewel among the Hemingway screenings, and it's an odd one out for Hemingway, as it's an unusual character prying into the depths of a heel fighting it out with destiny for his honour, which he has been losing all his life. We never get to know anything about his background, why he can't talk of America, let alone go back, and Micheline Presle, who appears to know all about him throughout from the beginning, treats him like poison. It's the boy that saves everything, he is the only thing he has to live for, and it's for him he finally risks his life to save his honour. At least he saves one of them. Micheline Presle makes a very convincing appearance as one of Hemingway's most hard-boiled women, out-shadowing even Ava Gardner by her hard experience and relentless attitude, which only the boy can soften and only by his absolute honesty of innocence. Even when the father hits him and treats him with flamboyant treachery, the boy continues to believe in him and trust him, and the departure scene at the station, when he sends the boy away by train, with its following scenes, is heartrending and the apex of the film, culminating with Micheline's singing performance, almost as poignant as Edith Piaf. This is a great film in its dire human realism, the story of a greater conflict and more difficult battle than any war, of a man struggling with impossible odds for an impossible honour out of reach, and how he gets through with it after all. John Garfield is almost even better here than in "The Breaking Point" on Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not", the better and later version than Bogart's, here he plays an equally doubtful character posed against impossible odds, but here the addition of the boy and that relationship suddenly gives John Garfield's dubious character an ocean of interesting depth. 111

The Man who Cheated Himself (1950) (8/10) Cherchez la femme, especially her actual motives, here ending up into a big question mark. 11 January 2018

The question that must arise from the beginning,m and which turns this movie doubtful from the start, is how such an experienced and qualified detective as Lee J. Cobb could allow himself to be lead by such a woman to his own bad end? He must realize from the beginning that it must be impossible at length to get away with such a cover up. All the same, it's an interesting intrigue, the plot is formidable as Lee must perform a complicated double play which is bound to constantly get more difficult, but what saves the film is the tremendous finale. Hitchcock must have been inspired by this set-up at Fort Point under the great bridge with its fantastic opportunities for a thriller finale. There are many details adding to an excellent thriller, like her scarf blowing off in the end, the Italian family incident, the great introductory scene with its opening the door to any possible crime that only can be guessed at - and which leads to crime that no one wanted to commit. Lee J. Cobb's foolery is questionable, but the film is great in spite of its foibles and should be worth restoring to its original quality indeed. Woman on the Run (1950) (9/10) Sore trial of a wife with her husband on the run with a heart failure 24 February 2018

An interesting story with a convulsive finale: Frank Johnson, who walking his dog unvoluntarily becomes the witness of a murder, doesn't want anything to do with the police, so he is the real one on the run. As he absconds, the police set on his wife instead, who cannot help them, as she actually knows nothing about her husband: a curious marriage, one might say. He is even reluctant to admitting she is his wife, and when asked if he is married, he answers only vaguely, like "sort of". Thus Ann Sheridan becomes the lead and completely domintes the film, as she also is hounded by the police for being married to an escaped eyewitness, but she shakes them all off, except one reporter, who never lets her alone. His shadowing her ends up in a situation that must be described as the worst possiblke you could ever find yourself in alive and with no way out. The film is worth seeing only for this very dramatic finale, which you will never forget. It's actually a B-film, but the finale lifts it up many categories.


Tripoli (1950) (7/10) Maureen O'Hara and John Payne fighting each other again more than the war. 25 February 2018

This would not have been worth much seeing if it hadn't been for the expedition made from upper Egypt down to Libya with hardships and sandstorms and other frustrating complications along the way by Qattara (Remember "Ice Cold in Alex?" This was 140 years earlier.). This is the realistic part of the film, and it is the more interesting for taking place in 1805 - the war in question is that against Napoleon, which is never mentioned. Maureen O'Hara is a stranded countess courted by a local prince, John Payne runs into her by chance and gets trouble with her from the start, so it seems he just seeks her out to have someone to quarrel with. It's the usual story. Their quarrel and nagging goes on throughout the film until it's time for them to focus their interest on more important matters, like a navy which doesn't want to take orders from John Payne. The military battle in the end is just the usual tearing down the whole city stone by stone after first demolishing the interiors of every palace worth some sight-seeing. Howard de Silva saves the show as an intrepid Greek captain with a company of his own, and hardly anyone of the Americans would have survived without his contribution. It was the first time the American flag was planted outside the States and unfortunately not the last time. A silly story made as spectacular as possible and saved only by history and adventure, but the music throughout is excellent. One Way Street (1950) (10/10) James Mason as a disillusioned doctor finding life with the beauty of Marta Toren. 25 February 2018

James Mason has made many doctors on the screen, and they are all very thorough and interesting characters with some depth and usually some terrible problems, and this is no exception, but still this doctor is something different from the others. There is no suicidal tendencies here, no deadly jealousy and no call for some hero to engage and interfere, but rather an appointment with the inevitable. He is actually doomed from the beginning and aware of it, and he accepts the challenge and adapts himself to its consequences, while the lovely Marta Toren gilds it with her charming presence and personality, a fugitive from somewhere whom a gangster brought up (the always nasty and revolting brute Dan Duryea) for something of an ideal to himself, while she needs something better provided by James Mason.


The first scene is actually one of the most exciting in all the chonicles of the noirs, in unbearable suspension all the way up to the first inevitable car crash - there will be others. Also that first street of only one way will come back later. There are many other gripping ingredients as well, the role of the padre, the village life, the local hoodlums and their berserk folly, the beautiful environment in contrast to the smoky and rainy gangster stinking darkness, and Frank Skinner's excellent music, perfectly suited to both the romantic situations and the pastoral idylls of Mexico. In brief, it's a typical James Mason noir, and it could hardly be more typical. He played the same kind of character any number of times, but every time it's equally fascinating in its unfathomably attractive tragedy. The Black Rose (1950) (9/10) General Orson Welles conquering China with Tyrone Power and Jack Hawkins with a girl in the way 12 March 2018

The most interesting character here is Jack Hawkins as the bowman in his unpredictable shifts of moods and expressive diction - it's a pleasure just hearing him talk in every scene he is in. Orson Welles dominates, of course, as he always does, this time as a conquering khan with the ambition to subjugate all China and after that Rome and England, in which scheme he tries to interest and engage Tyrone Power, who almost falls for it. The story is great although somewhat muddled as Tyrone Power never knows what he really wants, which vacillation reaches a climax when he gets a girl on his hands in his sleeping tent. Another interesting character is Michael Rennie as the King, stately and sympathetic as ever, and also Finlay Curries as the grandfather, greatly enhancing the interest of every scene in which he is present. The most fascinating part of the film though is the visualization of the Silk Road, as the caravan travels from somewhere in the Orient, could be Cairo or Baghdad, all the way across the deserts and mountains to China, and the caravan scenes are spectacular to say the least. Also the scenes from China are interesting with their snapshots of court life and the Chinese character trembling at the mercy of the awful conqueror and resorting mainly to superstition for its only defense. It's a kind of English Marco Polo spectacle, with books, paper, compass and gunpowder and all that, and it is very well made. Henry Hathaway was qualified enough to turn out this masterpiece of a romantic oriental epic to be remembered. 114

On Dangerous Ground (1951) (10/10) Redemption from the darkest dreariness of existence into the realm of sensitive poetry. 10 December 2015

A unique film of most unexpected development, an ambiguous morality causing a confusion of afterthought, and naturally few know how to really assess this masterpiece of a mysterious noir at its best. Of course, it depends very much on what kind of character you are yourself, you will not understand it if you are not a romantic, and you will find the first part objectionable if you are. But for a psychologist, this film is a gold mine. Robert Ryan was never more convincing in this sleeping volcano of a role, a policeman embittered by the constant humdrum nightmare of his job, getting more and more difficult for his colleagues to work with and having a problem with controlling his own violent outbursts. You almost expect him to go mad any moment, and his difficulty in checking this is evident and masterfully displayed. This is the kind of policeman with hidden psychopath tendencies that you have to fear the worst of. Enter Ida Lupino in one of her most sensitive and gripping roles as a blind woman, which she enacts with heartrending subtlety and convincing passion. She lifts the film from the abyss of the constant city nightmare into a level of poetry. The story that follows increases all the time in human interest and suspense. I have no objection against the ending. The amazing qualities of the film are additionally stressed and heightened by an overwhelmingly eloquent score by Bernard Herrmann, which secures a full ten point vote – this is almost like a prelude to "Vertigo". In brief, I agree with most reviewers here, that this is a hidden masterpiece that deserves some positive attention and definitely should be recommended for all times. Cloudburst (1951) (8/10) A war veteran takes full responsibility for his own unacceptable tragedy A complicated story with many undercurrents to it, that are not plainly visible to the eye – a viewer might get confused by this intrigue, the main character being very difficult to understand. Only if you know something of the second world war and its experiences, the character that Robert Preston impersonates becomes credible. It's a very different espionage story to the usual ones. Preston is a code breaker


expert and has been through quite a lot in the war, and so has his wife – you never get really into her story, but it's clear she has gone through some very difficult ordeals. For that reason, and many others, he loves her more than can be expressed, and the first part of the film with their relationship is beautifully illustrated by excellent music reminiscent of a Rachmaninov symphony. The music by Frank Spencer is outstanding throughout. When the cloudburst occurs the upsetting shock is really unsettling, especially to Robert Preston, and the romantic film turns sinister and the more so for each new turn of events. The main asset of the film is the very skillful story, which is more than intelligent, and you can't help admiring Robert Preston's character for his astuteness in managing his own intrigue. He surprises you all the time by constantly knowing more than the audience and thus leads the way into his own abyss, which is unavoidable – he admits it himself, and the audience accepts it, that he is already hopelessly a dead man for his atrocious loss. It's as good a spy story as any of the great ones by Hitchcock and Carol Reed, only this is so much more sinister. Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951) (9/10) James Mason as the Flying Dutchman meets his final common fate with Ava Gardner. 7 March 2015

A fascinating variation on the old story of the Flying Dutchman and his eternal damnation, which only a true love can save him from, here Ava Gardner at her most intoxicating, while the Dutchman couldn't have been anyone better than James Mason, who later also played Captain Nemo, almost the same character. The film also offers some fabulous bullfighting scenes with its dances of death in some way symbolically illustrating the character of the film, which emanates into the final difficult and unresolvable issue of what death really is, if not just a gateway to another or even the eternal life? The archaeologist, who is the only one who realizes who James Mason is at an early stage, tries to solve the riddles but only succeeds in documenting them. It's a well written story by the director of other similar cases, like "The Moon and Sixpence" and "The Portrait of Dorian Gray", both with George Sanders, somewhat spiritually related with James Mason with the same kind of more bottoms than one, and this is perhaps Albert Lewin's best film, succeeding very well with his characters, especially James Mason and Ava Gardner – I don't think I ever saw her more to her advantage, and still she is not entirely sympathetic here. Her final black dress really puts the final crown on the performance. There are also some very commendable taverna scenes with flamencos and gipsies, which adds to making this half supernatural story more realistic than it is. Everything happens in a small coastal village of Spain, which you recognize from several other films for its picturesqueness, contributing essentially to the very enjoyable beauty of the scenery throughout the film. The brief appearance of Marius Goring in the beginning should not be ignored in any review – it sets the mood for the entire half melodrama, half


noir, half science fiction and half occult character of timelessness of the film, which clearly was the aim of the writer/director, which he succeeds in reaching. The Tales of Hoffmann (1951) (10/10) Hoffmann's fatal love stories with four ladies, all ruined by the same villain. 10 February 2015

This is one of those films you always return to, and should return to at least once a year, a phantasmagoria of artistic ambitions galore, a combined opera-ballet and film of highest technical standards of the time and well ahead of its time, receiving little acclaim and understanding in 1951 but the more so the more it has aged and proved its timelessness. The sumptuous settings, the dazzling fireworks of perpetual innovation and imagination, the splendid acting by above all Robert Helpmann, Leonide Massine, Ludmila Tcherina, Pamela Brown and Moira Shearer, the brilliant choreography all the way, all this and much else must make this film a peak of its kind in film history, since filmed and danced operas are not very common, and this one never loses in style or sustainment. Operas usually suffer from long transportation sequences, it's impossible to find an opera without boring ingredients, but this one, although slow at times in its subordination to the music, never loses its grip on the presentation. It would be recommended to the viewer, though, to take a break before the second act, because the imagery is so loaded with colourful feasts for the eye as well as for the ear, so it might feel a bit thick, like too sumptuous a banquet. The only possible objection I have found to venture against this film (after having seen it three times) is Robert Rounseville as Hoffmann. His voice is wonderful and couldn't be better, but the Hoffmann character was a bit less sturdy and complacent – the extremely intensive and high–strung E.T.A.Hoffmann with constantly too many professions on his hands at the same time, all creative, was a little more delicate and liable than the very sound and solid Rounseville – but this is just a detail. The film definitely deserve ten points. A curiosity: Lazzaro Spallanzani, an important part in the first act played by Leonide Massine, was like Hoffmann himself a very real character, a medical universal genius and Hoffmann's colleague, who happened to die today (11.2) in 1799. Sirocco (1951) (9/10) The horrible reality of civil war in Syria – in 1925, shockingly relevant today 1 March 2017

I didn't know this Bogart film existed. He called it himself "a stinker", and it's certainly one of his very darkest dramas, if not the very darkest. He plays an 117

unusually unsympathetic character, an American business man selling weapons to rebels against the French, especially grenades, which the rebels use to (not yet suicide) bombings of innocents, especially joyful tavern guests. He is totally immoral while equally totally unpolitical, he is only there to serve himself and no one else, but his acting was almost never better. His counterpart is Lee J. Cobb, who plays an unusually honest character, we are more used to seeing him as an overbearing villain, he is here a very straight French officer in the intelligence, who immediately sees Bogart for what he is and can but despise him, wishing to have as little to do with him as possible, which intention unfortunately is thwarted by the case of his wife, the beautiful Märta Torén, whom Hollywood planned to make a second Ingrid Bergman after Ingrid's fall from Hollywood, (unfortunately Märta Torén died very young at 30 from brain hemorrhage) who is bored by Cobb's uncompromising correctness and wants to run away with Bogart. The main theme of the film however is the war, the terrible civil war, which is such a cruel reality in Syria even today – this makes this film sensationally actual – we have the same problems in Syria today, bombs and grenades constantly exploding and killing innocents. There is hardly one scene in the film without the war noise of bombs exploding, and such is reality in Syria even today. The script is a marvel of complicated intelligent and interesting intrigue and quite logical all the way in all its surprising turnings. This is the main asset of the film, which is a bleak and dark nightmare journey into constantly more hopeless caverns of no escape except into deeper chaos and death. At the same time, it's a very moral film and story, honesty and good will ultimately coming through by its sheer foolish obstinacy. A film of 1951 about 1925 miraculously proves totally modern in its presentation of political problems in an Arab state, and it has been shamefully underrated and ignored. On top of that, in spite of his unattractive character, it's one of Bogart's best films and performances. The Third Visitor (1951) (8/10) A rather claustrophobic theatrical film of a vengeance masked in romance 28 July 2017

It's seldom that Bruckner's music has been used in films, the only other instance I know of is Visconti's "Senso" 1954 three years after this one, but it certainly gives a certain mood from the start of tension and doom. Although an atrocious murder is committed from the start, you even see it being done and by whom, there is no question about it, the development seems rather innocent and harmless, as there are mainly only discussions and arguments and roundabouts to divert the attention, and even the inspectors get impatient by the fooling around. But it's worth waiting for the end. You have to learn what that mishandled lady in the introduction was all about and whatever it had to do with the atrocious murder. Although nothing seems to make any sense and add up, and does so in the end after all and with a vengeance. 118

It's a clever thriller, Sonia Dresdel keeps the suspense up all the way by most of all her sparkling dialogue, and there is a mystery figure as well, the strangely pathetic Hewson (Michael Martin Harvey), whom everyone has some apprehension of, who maybe knows too much and isn't as mad as he seems. Finally the war also plays an important part, and that's where the trauma makes a final entrance concluding this strange play of destiny and vengeance. Lorna Doone (1951) (7/10) A great novel Hollywoodised into a superficial pasticcio bereft of all lustre and realism of the novel. 24 January 2018

The painful thing about this film is the grotesque distortion of the original novel. Unfortunately, this is what Hollywood used to do with great classics in the early 50s - there are numerous examples, like for instance Henry King's "King of the Khyber Rifles" with Tyrone Power, reducing him to a puppet and the story to shambles. Here at least the surroundings are true to the book - a recklessly romantic landscape with that stupendous waterfall as the centre of the stage, the music is also very well contrived, but all the rest is just common Hollywood artifice. They try to sugar it with some swashbuckling scenes, great sword fights, a royal intrigue (missing in the novel) and villains as wicked as possible. This was not worth seeing except for the colours, the settings, the romance (more for Barbara Hale than for Richard Greene) and the characters of Charles II and Ron Randell as Tom Faggus, the only fresh touch of humour in this depthless hollowness. Journey into Light (1951) (10/10) How deep can you fall? It doesn't matter. By grace you can fall forever. 8 February 2018

A shabby story from skid row about bums and fallen women and sanctimonious slum missions where Sterling Hayden repeatedly falls down into the gutter and stays there, turns out to be a universally interesting and overwhelmingly good story. There are moments in this film that you will remember forever. He is not a fallen priest. It's not his fault that his wife after two stillborns turns alcoholic and ruins his life and position to crown it all with a bloody suicide, which turns him naturally enough not only away from God but against God, so that he associates with the bottom layer of society, with Thomas Mitchell in a perfect role for him as an honest con man, as the desperate man has nothing else to do.


The most touching and human scene of all, among the many in this deeply human film, is when the preacher can't lead the service as Viveca Lindfors, his daughter who saves the show, is in coma at the hospital, so Sterling has no choice but to stand up as leading preacher himself for the first time since his wife committed suicide. He does it reluctantly and with great hesitation, he almost stumbles up at the pulpet, but then something happens in the congregation. Dirty old men, beggars, loafers and what not are all touched by the moment of crisis at the critical condition of the girl they all love, so they all, in various ways, fall down to prayer, one bum leading the heartrending reaction. But there are many moments like this. Some moods in this film remind you of Chaplin's "City Lights" and other such extremely poetical films, for this is cinematic poetry caught and set in realism. Vittorio de Sica couldn't have done it better. You will never forget this film. Valentino (1951) (10/10) Keeping the eternal flame of the tragedy of Rudolph Valentino well sustained. 2 March 2018

Compared with Ken Russell's version 25 years later, this one is less realistic but more beautiful and true. Ken Russell wallowed in realistic detail, while the ambition of this film was to capture the dream, which it succeeds in. Eleanor Parker is at her very best as the dream woman of his life and the object of his almost sado-masochistically bitter passion, and Anthony Dexter as Valentino is convincing enough. The greatness however lies in the story, which is completely made up but nevertheless makes an impression as more true than reality. Valentino's world was after all a dream world, that was the world he conquered and subjected the whole world to and died for, as perhaps the greatest of all film legends, which both films about him, this one and Ken Russell's with Rudolph Nureyev, seem to endorse. The magic of this film is the true magic of Valentino, and you will never forget it but rather wish to see it again sometime. Like so many films of live legends, like also the Nijinsky film, it flopped but instead will constantly increase in depth of appreciation with the years. The Well (1951) (10/10) Heroic realism around an all too human incident of a lost child 14 March 2018

This film is almost like a documentary in its clearcut realism all the way, starting off at once by presenting the incident of a child accidentally falling down into a bottomless pot hole. Rumour gets around that a white man had been seen talking with her, and around the fact that the man was white and the girl coloured in a small


town of 50/50 of each, a universal lynching mentality is building up, everyone wanting to beat up and destroy everyone of the other party, marvellously visualized on screen. It's worth watching the film again just to study all those faces. At the same time this should be a wonderful treat for engineers, as there is no small enterprise required to deal with the ultimate situation. At the same time the film is a glorious triumph proving that nothing is impossible, and that mere good will can overcome everything. Most wonderful is the way the situation turns from one extreme to the opposite. First everyone wants to kill each other in a universal mass hysteria of anger and hatred, and when the truth finally is discovered they all join in and want to help each other in rescuing the small 5-year old girl. It's a wonderful panorama of human nature, revealing both its worst and its best sides, while at the same time it is revealed how little is required to both turn ordinary people into a mass destructive mob and to convert them all into angels just by destiny striking at the core of human nature, all rendered totally convincing in as near to documentary realism as you can get. Le Carrosse d’or (1952) (8/10) An Italian Commedia dell'arte troupe ends up in Peru to entertain the court of Lima with intrigues and consequences.. 29 January 2015

This is Jean Renoir at his most gorgeous and playful, although he was already getting old when this was made as an enthusiastic tribute to "Commedia dell'arte" staging Anna Magnani as the ultimate primadonna and diva, who in spite of her overmaturity attracts even a king to court her simply by her stardom as an overwhelming actress. The story is silly, of course, and not at all credible and gets steadily more ridiculous all the time, some scenes are actually quite trying for their tedious imbecility, but all comedies are like that – they are never serious, and in comedy everything is allowed, especially silliness. The outstanding merit of the film is how it brings the Commedia dell'arte alive and seemingly more alive than ever – the first theatre scenes are like fireworks in their ebullient sprightliness and a joy both to the eye and the intellect for being so rich in their apparent improvisations with new whims all the time, but it's actually nothing but mastery of expert direction, and jean Renoir knew all about that. Treat it for what it is, a hilarious comedy out of this world, and forbear with the impossible intrigue and hopeless failures of turn-outs that try your patience – Anna Magnani compensates fully for them all with her delightful troupe, where the children are an additional wonder to a gloriously preposterous performance. The Pickwick Papers (1952)


(10/10) Almost more Dickensian than Dickens in a highly inspired phantasmagoria of caricatures in a stew of Dickensian splendor 25 March 2017

Splendid adaptation of Dickens at his most hilarious, a kaleidoscopic odyssey around old England with a potpourri of intrigue and adventure squeezed into 100 minutes of virtuoso entertainment of English theatrical art at its best. Every single character is absolutely perfectly Dickensian and convincing as such, and it's a miracle to observe how such an extensive novel of so many characters and complicated intricacies of unexpected turns of events at every corner has been so successfully concentrated in Dickensian essence, which will certainly keep you busy through every minute of it, with even some human pathos to it – the prison scene with Mr. Jingle's change of fortune is perhaps the most impressive part. It's even impossible to say who is the best of all these acting paragons of excellence, but dominating are certainly James Hayter as Mr. Pickwick, Nigel Patrick as Mr. Jingle, James Donald as the besotted Mr. Winkle and Harry Fowler as Sam Weller, the most pleasurable character of them all, but Donald Wolfit crowns them all as Sergeant Buzfuz. It's as superb as a Dickensian entertainment as it was 65 years ago, it hasn't grown one day older but instantly established itself in the timeless zone of cinematic literary classics. It was about 50 years since I last saw it, and although I remembered it well, it was all perfectly fresh again as if it was an entirely new movie. These films cannot age. Phone Call from a Stranger (1952) (10/10) An air flight going wrong leading some troublesome destinies right. 1 July 2017

This is one of the most constructive and elegantly contrived films ever made. It was directed by Jean Negulescu, but it is really Nunnally Johnson's film, who wrote it and produced it. Four people are united as a flight to L.A. gets into trouble by bad weather and is grounded twice, which wayward journey opens the curtain to four different fateful karmas. One is the doctor who once dodged his responsibility in a car accident with three deaths, turning his life into a lie and himself into an alcoholic. Then there is the failed singer (Shelley Winters) who after her final defeat wants to make up to the family she let down. Another one persecutes and pesters his fellow passengers with ridiculous practical jokes and thinks he is funny, while he is the real joker of the game. And you have the leading character, Gary Merrill, running away from his family after his wife deceived him. They are interwoven into a fantastic sieve of destiny which constantly moves you to higher human insights. Bette Davis also has a small part to play, you wait patiently for her until almost the end of the film, and yet she succeeds in crowning it.


It's definitely one of the finest film scripts ever made, and all the director had to do was to follow it. The story needs very little adding to its qualities, and yet the actors actually gild it by small or no means, just acting naturally, as they really would have in such situations. One of the triumphs is Evelyn Varden as Sally Carr, an old dinosaur of a night club artist and manager bullying her son and dependents but running the show. Well, this is a film to always return to now and then for its vital lesson in human forbearance. Hunted (1952) (9/10) Shattering escape from an intolerable reality to nowhere... The key word is "What do you think girls marry sailors for?", the scornful reply of his wife's lover which triggers the tragedy and opens the stage for the development of an abyss of humanity. It's a fugitive epic, like an old Icelandic saga, as there is no end to this Golgatha walk of constantly more worrying and heart-rending tribulations of a man getting lost in life by over-reacting to a shock, which under the circumstances is perfectly natural, like a crime passionel, and finds a very singular companion to his troubles in small boy escaping from home and the tortures by his step-father. Dirk Bogarde is good as always and finds himself perfectly at home in this harrowing walk through hell to nowhere ending up in a paradox of freedom where he finds no other choice than to resign just as he finally found a way out. It's not his misfortune or his suffering that guides him but the small boy who ever and again compels him to choose a path leading him on to unknown territory of his previous human experience and deciding his fate. That makes this a very educating ordeal and truly a film out of the ordinary if not extremely unique. It's very unpleasant for its arduous trials but has to make you a different person afterwards with a lot more sober perspective to yourself and reality. It gets you outside of yourself as it compels you to empathize with these two outlawed characters in search of an alternative to the reality which has treated them with irrepairable injustice to the point of extreme abuse without finding it or anything else than even deeper despair and trouble. This fate teaches you something, but you have to find the lesson by yourself after the film has ended. This is a film you can't escape from, but you have to see it again some time for its wholesome and purging trials. It's life at the edge of what you can endure, tested to extremity. Deadline (1952) Humphrey Bogart as an editor in a struggle of life and death to the bitter end against corruption to save his newspaper. 4 January 2018


This is possibly and probably the best film of journalism ever made, with Humphrey Bogart at the peak of his powers waging everything as an editor to save the life of his newspaper against impossible odds, seconded by his many times divorced wife Kim Hunter, Ethel Barrymore as a moral heavyweight, and editor-assistant Ed Begley among many others. This is actually a requiem for a newspaper based on a true story but written and directed by Richard Brooks in what is probably his best film. Everything in it is perfect and especially the dialogue, which keeps you breathless throughout the film - it never slows down but is always pertinent, witty and important - not a word is wasted in this torrent of argument. Although there are thriller elements, since the main theme is battling corruption with the quest for truth as the main instrument, it's at the same time hilariously entertaining, but especially enjoyable to those who relish an intelligent argument. The Card (1952) (10/10) How to not miss any opportunity. 31 January 2018

Alec Guinness made quite a pearl or diamond necklace of some of the most delightful comedies ever made, starting with "The Last Holiday" down to "Our Man in Havana" in the 50s. Some of the others between are "The Lavender Hill Mob", "All at Sea", "Lady Killers", "The Man in the White Suit", "Horse's Mouth", and they are all top rate. This one, originally "The Card", is slightly different as he here makes a totally different character from his usual typical characters, as Machin actually is a very subtle trickster who uses his knack for manipulation to good ends no matter how dishonest his tricks are. The equally tricky Glynis Johns therefore suits him perfectly, they would seem the ideal couple for getting anywhere in life by their tricks, but she lacks his subtlety and commits the mistake of thinking she could fool him as well as anyone. By a very fortuitous twist of fortune, Wilfrid Hyde-White appears at the right moment to save them both from each other. It's wonderful story with many odd twists to it, the mother is the one admirable and constant character in this wayward maze of small town intrigue, and I agree with another reviewer that the ball scene is the highlight. It's a small story of small people in a small society, but the story, the film, the music and the players make it timeless. The Devil Makes Three (1952) (7/10) No dancing for Gene Kelly taken for a ride by post war Nazi smugglers 17 February 2018

The introduction is very promising with almost a documentary touch on post war Germany in the ruins of Munich. Pier Angeli makes a very moving character as an orphaned girl at the mercy of what is worse than just pimps. Gene Kelly's lack of dancing and singing in this picture is not made up by his acting. The round in the


joints of Munich is priceless with insight in its cabarets and very local styles with genuine music and performers. The final one is the Silhouette, where the band is led by a singer/pianist who sings in both German and broken English (Claus Clausen) with darkly bittersweet irony reflecting the tragedy of Germany with a painted smile on it. If this mood would have been sustained the film would have been interesting indeed, like Carol Reed's "The Man Between". Instead it loses itself in a Nazi plot with gangsters and shootings, and the human factor is lost in action. The winter landscape adds to the dreariness and poverty of the concept, and the final settlement is far from convincing, although the ruins of Berchtesgaden are used in an effort to augment the drama. This must be Gene Kelly's worst film, and only Pier Angeli and the ruins of Germany save it. The Blue Gardenia (1953) (9/10) Accidental murder or just bad luck? Anne Baxter has a drink too much and has her seducer accidentally murdered. 8 May 2017

A great story of how one shock leads to another, triggering a chain reaction of unfortunate circumstances. Anne Baxter is absolutely faithful to her soldier in Korea when she on her birthday gets a letter from him stating he loves another nurse in Tokyo. She is shattered and accepts a dubious invitation from Raymond Burr, who is a notorious womanizer. He fills her with drinks, she relaxes a bit too much and loses control of the developing situation completely. Another man, Richard Conte, a scandal column journalist, gets her even more mixed up in a situation she never bargained for. Anne Baxter makes a wonderful show of her vulnerable character falling down into a pit of troubles. Fortunately she has some very good female friends sharing her apartment, and especially Ann Sothern is wonderful as a leading lady of the pack. Nat King Cole sings the melting hearts melody, and music plays an important part in this film. That's the record Raymond Burr puts on when he has got her into his flat and will seduce her with more drinks, but when the body is discovered the music is not Nat King Cole but Wagner's heart-crushing "Tristan and Isolde". Here is a mystery from the beginning, and it almost passes by unnoticed, until Richard Conte finally observes the incongruity. The riddle of the music finally releases and resolves the mystery. Fritz Lang's direction is as usual masterly, and you recognize his special knack for creating "moments of truth" in extreme suspension now and then. He added an extra dimension to his realism as a kind of magic touch raising the show to an almost spiritual level. It was especially evident in films like "The Ministry of Fear" (Graham Greene) and the Edward G. Robinson films with Joan Bennett, looking down into abysses of trouble and the caprices of destiny. His name always guarantees a film to remember.


Angel Face (1953) (10/10) Intriguing mystery thriller of the secrets of the mind with dangerous motives. This is an amazing exploration of the darkest recesses of the mind. Diane is the daughter of a successful author, who lost his wife (Dian'e s mother) in a blitz in London and has moved to the states and remarried. Diane and here stepmother has a problematic relationship, since Diane wants to keep her father for herself – they are very close. Accidents happen. Although Ben Hecht is uncredited, you can feel his irrevocable presence in the ominous script, the story of which couldn't be more typical Ben Hecht. The questionable part is Robert Mitchum. How on earth could he refuse Jean Simmons, who here even perhaps makes her best performance and is hauntingly alike to Audrey Hepburn in her supreme beauty? Of course, his character of Frank Jessup isn't stupid, he sees through her and is just an honest guy, perhaps a bit too ordinary for her, who is more brilliant than what's good for her. Herbert Marshall as the father makes a small but important part, but the key scenes are the dark scenes with Jean Simmons solo, playing moody music (Dimitri Tiomkin) on the piano, wandering about in her memories, an abyss of melancholy of which you can't guess any bottom, and all these solo scenes are the most exciting in the film, because you feel her dangerous thoughts without understanding them, and they fill you with terror for their dangerous mystery. This is a major study of a woman and the mind film and unique in its slow and creeping inevitability on the road to perdition. The slowness of the action is abruptly contrasted by the oncoming shocks, which are difficult to recover from. A first class psychological thriller. King of the Khyber Rifles (1953) (7/10) A great novel reduced to shambles 8 March 2017

Based on Talbot Mundy's best and most famous novel, which unfortunately I was an expert on, this film was a total disappointment, in spite of its great assets of mainly stupendous mountain scenery and Bernard Herrmann's music. But the mountain scenery was nothing at all about the famous Khyber pass but all shot in California, and above all, the splendid story of Talbot Mundy's secret agent thriller of jihadism and the cutting of heads even 160 years ago by taliban rebels and with a dancing queen of beauty at the centre of intrigue, also involving some archaeology and reminiscenses of Alexander the Great's famous visit to Afghanistan, was reduced to a cheap and petty pulp fiction of the commonest of Hollywood clichĂŠs. The acting is not very good either. The only one making a strong impression by his stage presence and acting is Guy Rolfe as the villain, the rebel king, while supporting parts, such as John Justin and Michael Rennie, also make a good job, while Terry Moore is a complete disaster. However could Tyrone Power fall in love with such a nuisance of


a bobby-soxer? It's as far from credible as anything could be. Tyrone Power is himself, and that's enough for him – with such a face he never even needed to act. A great pity for a great story to be so poorly handled and reduced to mere superficial entertainment. Talbot Mundy was a theosophist and mystic who wrote many books, and this one could have been made into as great a Kipling epic as "The Man who Wanted to be King". Return to Paradise (1953) (9/10) Gary Cooper escaping trouble and finding new trouble in the South Pacific 1 July 2017

This is a very unusual Gary Cooper film, quite out of the ordinary, Gary Cooper beach-combing in the South Seas, escaping from a troublesome past, probably the war, and finding new trouble and a second world war in Samoa. It's beautifully made efficiently directed by Mark Robson and has a great story to tell. It's James Michener's story like continuing from "South Pacific" to another island with another human wreck of the war. Gary Cooper is a hard Irishman used to having to fight to get out of trouble and with a very hard and stubborn head. He gets into total conflict with a local tyrant of a missionary, who bullies the whole island, but the people, all Polynesians, see Gary as their possible saviour, and the conflict is gradually resolved as Gary and Barry Jones learn to cooperate. Domestic trouble awaits, though, and after a personal tragedy he finds himself obliged to continue running away from his fate. After many years he returns to the island just in time for new trouble from the second world war. Curiously enough, this is not a very renowned or well known film, although it must be ranked among the best of its genre. It's filmed on location, and the insight into the life on the island among the natives is the chief asset and charm of the film. Gary Cooper makes a very convincing performance as a man of destiny having a hard time dealing with it, but ultimately he seems to come to terms with it. The happy end is perhaps the only objectionable detail of the film, which alone is not quite convincing. Like after "South Pacific", you expect the story to continue. Madame de‌ (1953) (10/10) A wife sells her husband's wedding present with an unexpected and unintentional labyrinth of consequences and complications 1 May 2016


The two top gallant gentlemen of the cinema as rivals of its most beautiful woman, both loving her beyond expression in the subtlest possible intrigue of fate as unpredictable as an improvised thriller in which the writer himself has no idea of where the mechanics of destiny will lead him or the puppets of his tale, a labyrinth of love leading everywhere but out of it, filmed with all the refined expertise of perhaps the greatest film director of all, using his constantly moving camera for an overwhelming constant flood of beauty and poetry. This is simply incredible. You can see every film of his again and again forever, since their richness of details and amounting complications of human feelings always expressed by hints and understatements are unfathomably without end. Danielle Darrieux. great already in the 30s and chosen by most cinema lovers as the one outstanding film queen of beauty, is 99 today (1st of May 2016), while her warm beauty dominates her every film forever. Charles Boyer is always reliably excellent and here nobler than ever as the husband, while Vittorio de Sica perhaps makes his most sincere performance as the passionate lover, just as honestly romantic as Charles Boyer's absolute nobility couldn't be more convincing. What about the story, then, actually seemingly superficially a trifle of unavoidable complications resulting from white lies, but the miracle is how this mere miniature of an episodic detail is aggrandized into a love drama of more than epic proportions involving all kinds of storms of a thrilling melodrama. Comedy or tragedy? No, just a human documentary charting an ocean of the complications of being just human. To this comes Oscar Straus' delightful music adorning the masterpiece with a golden frame of tenderness, as if the composer adored the poor victims of this train of complications resulting from the mere trifle of a white lie. Is anyone committing any mistake at all to deserve all this agony of unnecessary self-torture resulting from mere complexes of feelings? No, in all this towering guilt no one is to blame for anything. They are all as innocent as children getting mixed up in a game that goes beyond them. Maybe the tragedy could have been avoided, but then the French are as they are with a penchant for an irrevocably undeniable mentality of Crime Passionnel. There Max Ophuls finds a dead end of his story and film, which perhaps was necessary, or else a story like this could never have ended. In fact, there was a continuation, but Ophuls cut it out, forcing himself to avoid overdoing it. The masterpiece just couldn't be driven further. Still, it's not his best film. But it's a perfect example of the virtuosity of his art. The Man Between (1953) (9/10) Love among the ruins of post-war Berlin 27 July 2016


"The Man Between" has been unfavorably compared with Carol Reed's earlier masterpieces like "Odd Man Out" and "The Third Man" which is an injustice, because this is an entirely different story and much more romantic at that. Of course, in this gloomy film of Stalinist oppression and commie commissar thugs in Berlin under the snow in the dreariness of a harrowed world capital of which nothing remains but a mutilated ghost cleft in twain, you miss certain more picturesque atmospheres of Ireland and Vienna, and there is no comedy here, although James Mason has a few dry and bitter laughs. His personification of what once was a man before the war turned into an abyss of cynical resignation is up to his best standards as an actor, and he is excellently partnered by the lovely Claire Bloom, who later returned to a similar play-acting in Berlin in Martin Ritt's hauntingly sinister "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" twelve years later, which borrowed much of the moods in this film. What's especially haunting here is John Addison's spooky music dominated by a single saxophone constantly repeating the same wailing fragment of a tune, which adds a certain metaphysical interest to this film lacking in Carol Reed's earlier ones. The flight among the ruins and the skeleton of the macabre building construction adds to the nightmarish mood of alienation in an hostilely inhuman world going futuristic in an 1984 manner – the constantly repeated threatening giant posters of Stalin everywhere in East Berlin stresses this point and adds to the helplessness of disoriented man. I saw this film now for the third time since 1971, and each time I have found it more interesting. There are some flaws in the script, not everything is clear, and especially in the beginning the audience is thrown into total confusion until Hildegard Knef at last answers some questions. Her part is perhaps the most vital to the story, she has been married to a wonderful man lost in the war, who suddenly reappears as a ghost from the ruins after the world when she has found a new happy marriage, which unwelcome revisit from the past turns her life upside down. Of course, Claire Bloom is also confused by her upset condition. The intrigue is humanly very complicated but the more interesting for its infected labyrinths, which is one of the reasons why it will always be worth while seeing this film once again. The Net (1953) (9/10) High suspense on early ventures on the road to space 3 June 2017

Anthony Asquith always delivers, and here is a further development of the experimental paths of David Lean's "The Sound Barrier" some year before, getting almost metaphysical on flying as high and fast as possible. But like most of Asquith's films, it's really a psychological delving and charting this time into the weird issue of science as an obsession bordering on madness. Prof. Michael Heathley (James Donald) lives only for his airplane and neglects his charming beautiful wife Phyllis Calvert, always a joy on the screen. He is evidently at risk as he is constantly overworking and prone to take risks – his only fear is to get stuck in "the net of a fossilized scientist", and much of the film is symbolically behind barbed wire. In his team are Robert Beatty as a security major and Herbert Lom


admiring his wife and actually going a bit far flirting with her, but you excuse him since she is neglected and so irresistible. Another cheerful doctor (Noel Willman) is also with them, but you are alarmed from the start by his demeanour, and he will surprise you. The music adroitly illustrates the border line element in the workshop, and there is some spying business going on as well. There are some nerve–racking flying sequences, just like in "The Sound Barrier", but David Lean's film sticks more to the ground and reality, while here you are taken for a ride beyond consciousness bordering almost on science fiction. It's a thriller, and as the tension increases at constantly higher gear as the film climaxes, you will not able to relax until after the very last minute. Jennifer (1953) (9/10) A psychological thriller at its best with Ida Lupino at the mercy of increasing scariness of the unknown This is a miniature but a very efficient one. Ida Lupino is one of those actors I never found lacking but on the contrary raising every film she was in to a top level. She excelled in acting parts where she could make something great out of a small character, and this is a typical example. She gets a job as a caretaker at a large but desolate mansion of a great past but with a very dark secret developing into a looming mystery of constantly more threatening proportions, as Ida finds herself persecuted by the same kind of ghost that evidently scared away Jennifer, the previous lodger. No one knows what became of her, she just vanished without a trace, and that's the mystery, which immediately starts to haunt the vulnerable Ida, who gets more and more possessed by it. Two male characters also haunt the place and act as some kind of aids but seem both very suspicious, and she definitely cannot trust them and even less the more helpful they are. What's really happening is that everyone is keeping a secret from her, and as she can get no clue to the threat of this fact she naturally feels more and more exposed to unknown dangers, and she has a right to be. It all ends up to a shocking climax, making the structure of this film very similar to many Hitchcocks, especially "Suspicion" with Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine 10 years earlier. The interest and quality of the film lies entirely with suggestions and innuendos, shadows speak more than words, the moods take over and dominate reality, and you get involved in Ida's increasing terror of the unknown. It's a marvellous small film and the greater and more interesting for its fascinating minimalism. Desperate Moment (1953) Dirk Bogarde as a fugitive dealing with impossible odds to extricate himself from injustice in a very romantic war thriller in post war Germany. (9/10) 130

20 September 2017

A surprisingly neglected and unknown Dirk Bogarde thriller well up to the standard of Carol Reed's war dramas. Dirk is a Polish prisoner accused of having murdered a British soldier, but the case is much more complicated. He is actually Dutch and lives only for the beautiful Mai Zetterling, and when he hears she is dead he doesn't care for anything any more but willingly confesses to the murder to save his friends, four fellow prisoners. This is only the introduction to a very tight thriller, mainly taking place in bombed out Hamburg and Berlin. The settings and atmosphere is very much the same as in Carol Reed's "The Man Between" with James Mason of the same year. Dirk Bogarde is no James Mason, but the thriller here is even more interesting and above all more romantic than in Carol Reed's parallel Berlin film. Both succeed in catching the monumental desolation of Berlin after the war and its fathomless tragedy of ruins and consequently compliment each other perfectly. Beat the Devil (1953) (10/10) Humphrey Bogart associated with a bunch of hilarious scoundrels to their scandal end. 7 January 2018

What a wonderful comedy! In every scene it is evident how the director enjoyed filming it with such formidable actors cutting out such hilarious figures, all excelling each other in eccentric idiosyncracy. It's difficult to say who is best, they are all on top, Jennifer Jones as the flirty young wife, Gina Lollobrigida at her most beautiful and seductive, Robert Morley as the king of fools, Peter Lorre and all the others, and Humphrey Bogart giving probably his heartiest last laugh in all his films. It's a criminal comedy at its best bordering on parody all the way but with great irony and wit - the dialogue is thoroughly enjoyable and thick all the way, and the diction is perfect, even for those who speak with accents. I saw it 50 years ago and had forgotten everything except the car ride, the centerpiece of the comedy, and least of all did I remember that it was so hilariously funny. The only serious figure enters the last, and he has very little to say under the circumstances. This must be John Huston's funniest film. Pickup on South Street (1953) (9/10)

Richard Widmark challenging destiny with more difficult bargains than expected. 24 February 2018


Richard Widmark in his prime at his best as a pickpocket who does his job too well and picks a wallet with more than money in it, resulting in a chain reaction of awful events, turning a desperate man into a murderer with many casualties on the way both by bullets and fisticuffs. Thelma Ritter makes a deep impression as an old lady selling neckties. The thriller is very carefully filmed, the tempo is slow and a bit too detailed in close-ups and long shots, but you can endure it for the sake of the story. This is definitely Sam Fuller's best film and probably the only one that will be remembered. There are no flaws, nothing to criticise or find wrong with, and the logic is watertight, although the dialog is dreadful in its drawling vulgarity, and it's not a film for those who only want action if it is fast. The Egyptian (1954) (8/10) Egyptian brain surgery 13 centuries B.C. with mummies and all that. 19 September 2016

The cast is excellent, with Michael Wilding presenting the most convincing performance as the Pharaoh Ekhnaton in the difficult dilemma of being 13 centuries before his time, which actually was historically correct. All the rest is fantasy, although mummies were made indeed and most indefatigably in Egypt for three millennia, it was their prominent speciality, by the help of opening the brain in a kind of prehistoric brain surgery. The protagonist's father excels in this medical art and passes it on to his son, who makes his fortune at the court of Pharaoh, who occasionally suffers from headaches and epileptic fits, so he needs his brain physician. Victor Mature plays Sinuhe's best friend, the more pragmatic and less altruistic coming leader of the future in battles and slaughters, called Horemheb, while Gene Tierney also makes a credible and politically more realistic sister to a Pharaoh only good for sun- and star-gazing. Bella Darvi plays another important part as the ruin of the hero physician, who makes a total mess of his so promising career by reckless passion. Peter Ustinov saves him time and time again only to lose him in the end. Finally there is Jean Simmons, the real heroine of the tale and the only actual martyr among them all, who represents all that they should be living for, presenting that meaning of life that Sinuhe so eagerly quests for, which he ignores as the stupid fool he is. The music of Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Neuman is also apt and perfect all the way like the splendid photography and Michael Curtiz' direction, – so what then is so wrong about this film? It's the story itself that is not at all convincing. All the weakness is found in Mika Waltari's novel, an interesting story by all means, but he understood nothing about Egypt. Another author who wrote novels of ancient Egypt was Joan Grant, whose versions are as almost palpably credible as Waltari's is more like science fiction. Not even the dialogue is good, although the film has improved it by cutting as much of the nonsense as possible. Still, some of the best episodes of the book are missing from the film, above all Sinuhe's adventures in Crete. It's a good film, nothing bad could be said about it, and we must try to forgive Mika Waltari's weakness for fantasizing in the manner of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Flash


Gordon and Cecil B. DeMille rather than trying to actually recreate ancient Egypt. Ultimately, only Michael Wilding remains truly convincing. Rhapsody (1954) (8/10) Elizabeth Taylor as a failed pianist makes her choice between a violinist and a pianist. 6 January 2015

This is one of Elizabeth Taylor's more interesting features, made while she was still at the top of her beauty and talent, sensitively portraying the love of two musicians, one decisively preferring his musical career to her, the other succumbing to her and almost perishing in the process in "a marriage of inconvenience". Vittorio Gassman and John Ericson are the two musicians, a violinist and a pianist, but although you would prefer Gassman all the way, Ericson actually improves, while both hopelessly remain in the shadows of her. The best actors, however, are Louis Calhern as the very realistic father and Michael Chekhov as the music professor, who knows the delicacy of his trade. The music is first class all the way, so that in between, when there is no music, you long for the next musical moment to turn up. Best of all is the cafĂŠ scene in the beginning, when all the guests appear to be musical students spontaneously forming an orchestra to accompany Vittorio Gassman. The real violinist is, however, Michael Rabin, and the real pianist of all the solo performances is Claudio Arrau, at the time perhaps the best pianist in the world. The film begins and ends with Rachmaninov's second and crowns the delightful trio drama with a conclusion which feels right in spite of all. Suddenly! (1954) (9/10) A serious attempt to murder the President going wrong, even though Frank Sinatra is leading it. 21 July 2017

Frank Sinatra makes a startling performance as a qualified murderer, and he does it well. His counterpart is Sterling Hayden as the chief of police, and they match each other perfectly. The story is a thriller building up in constantly increasing tension with eloquent surprises on the way, in which both the mother and child play important parts. There are many parallels in the set-up to "High Noon", and a number of scenes and situations are strikingly reminiscent and clearly influenced from Zinnemann's film, but the story here is totally different and queasily parallel to the president Kennedy murder. There are a number of other curious coincidental matters, Lee Harvey Oswald saw this film a few days before the Kennedy assassination, and you can see the rest below under the Trivia. Montgomery Clift


turned the part down, while Frank Sinatra had the guts to make it, and it's one of his major if not best performances. Of course, it can only end one way, so you need not worry, but it's expertly made, and you will be sure to bite your nails. Salka Valka (1954) (10/10) The hard life of a single mother and her daughter in a small fishing community in Iceland with heart-rending love stories 23 April 2016

Halldór Killian Laxness' (birthday today, the only Nobel prize winner in literature of Iceland,) great novel of Iceland in the 20s was originally on purpose written in English to make it sell and to make it a film. The film wasn't made until after 25 years and in Sweden, but then became a unique lyrical-expressionistic masterpiece and Arne Mattsson's best film, tragically underrated, with above all a heart-breaking performance by Margareta Krook as the mother, but all the actors are outstanding: Birgitta Pettersson as the young Salka, Folke Sundquist as her one great love of a lifetime who constantly fails her, Erik Strandmark as the scoundrel abusing everyone and making money on it, a fantastic portrait of a reckless adventurer who means no harm and can't understand all the harm he is causing, although his progress is devastating to almost everyone, Sigge Fürst as the Salvation Army Captain, the one who understands something of the tragedy and becomes victim of it himself, Gunnel Broström as the hard-boiled, mature Salka who still has a bleeding heart, and many others. Special credit to the fantastic photo of Sven Nykvist with constant close-ups of striking intimacy and breath-taking landscape scenes of the wilderness of Iceland, and the overwhelmingly beautiful music by Sven Sköld, perfectly fitted to the overwhelmingly poetical imagery of the authentic landscapes of Iceland and the heart-breaking story, completing the very Nordic sentiment of the whole epic and driving its melancholy almost to unbearable sadness and nostalgia. This is Scandinavian neo-realism at its best, made in the same vein as Ingmar Bergman's "Sawdust and Tinsel" ("Gycklarnas afton"). Magnificent Obsession (1954) (8/10) A millionaire messes up the lives of others and spends his life trying to make up for it, partly making things even worse, but at least reaching somewhere. 26 April 2015

How does this 60 year old classic stand today? Is it still credible and worth seeing? Amazingly so. It's a story for all times and very carefully directed with outstanding actors each one contributing to a fascinating message of actually some important educational bearing – this is a very constructive film, and everyone can learn from it. 134

Standing apart among the actors, with no prominent role but the more important for his background significance, is Otto Kruger, the very tolerant doctor who patiently stands by and helps Rock Hudson along, a good-for-nothing millionaire, who gets into some conscience trouble when his carelessness results in the death of a local legend and hero of a doctor, whereupon Rock Hudson seizes the ambition to as best as he can replace him, especially since he falls in love with the widow, Jane Wyman, who because of him gets into some serious trouble. Consequently Rock Hudson gets a lifetime work of setting her right again, which seems hopeless. This is a sobbing story of some considerable dimensions, and you can't see the whole thing through without tissues, that's for sure. On top of that, to underscore the emotional self-indulgence in this monumental sob story, some of Chopin's most beautiful melodies are orchestrated with singing violins, even accompanied at times with a chorus of angels. Well, it couldn't be more sublimely sentimental. Apart from all the overwhelming charm of photographic beauty and scenery and all these ideal people, the message remains and gets through, and it's an important lesson which it's well worth to take care of and remember, which could be somewhat summed up by: your greatest credits are those you never intended and never wanted to have but worked for nonetheless, just for the good of it. Private Hell 36 (1954) (9/10) Ida Lupino singing a strange plot into business with disastrous consequences for everyone involved. 17 May 2017

Brilliant intrigue getting you on a wayward journey through webs and jams of complications, especially concerning relationships, the outcome of which is impossible to guess – you can't even guess what's round the corner. The film opens brilliantly with a regular burglary getting into trouble with hard knocks completely ruining a well furnished drugstore, and that's only the introduction. The curious thing is, that although nothing much happens for the next 30 minutes or so, as the two policemen set out an an impossible quest in search of a haystack to begin with in order to be able to start looking for a needle in it, which enterprise involves some boring routine, which not even horse races can brighten up, the film is tremendously exciting all the way, simply because you can't possibly know what to expect. Then Ida Lupino suddenly is helpful. She is the star of the film, she always makes interesting characters of more than one shade and deep shadows into it, and here she really (unintentionally) gets her policeman involved in a serious fall. Don Siegel was a genius comparable with Ben Hecht for poignant dialogue and smashing stories. When the plot finally gets going here, things really happen unexpectedly, and mystery is added to the complications, until everything is


resolved in the end with a wonderful sens morale, for a gratifying release out of the unbearable excitement. One mystery remains though after things get settled down. You'll never know what happened to Ida Lupino afterwards. She will probably just go on singing, maybe even "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", like she did when she got the plot started. Prince Valiant (1954) (8/10) Prince Valiant fighting his way with a vengeance for his lady and rights at the Round Table 13 February 2016

It can't be helped, but this is great fun. Robert Wagner as the angry brat constantly fighting everyone, the young Janet Leigh as a blonde bombshell with her hair to the bottom in Briton tight dress, James Mason as the total double-crossing villain with hidden agendas, thronging vikings with bulky horns on every helmet climbing over each other in crowded battle scenes with the whole castle on fire, and so on – this is great entertainment, a medieval star wars version with very little difference from the space conflicts, action all the way and ridiculous love complications, which Hollywood always specialized in, and one more impressing castle than the other – this was only two years after "Ivanhoe" and in the same vein but without Sir Walter Scott – this was instead based on newspaper cartoons, the best one certainly, but nonetheless – there is something missing in the dialogue and the human intrigue, a bit too superficial to be credible. The triumph however is Franz Waxman's marvelous music, which adds color and temperament to every scene and actually bestows much of the dramatic effects that the actual film is missing. The one who is out of joint is the director Henry Hathaway, who can't quite get his actors honestly alive. They act like dummies in a costume school play and even hesitate occasionally, as if they don't quite remember their repartee, but that's the only foible. The party could have done with a slight portion humor, but the final battle, when the whole school is torn down by the loud banging of clashing swords, is satisfactory enough for a climax of a good show. Splendid fireworks of the best of cartoons brought on to the screen! An Inspector Calls (1954) (10/10) Cinematic chamber theatre at its very best: an intriguing example of criminological metaphysics J.B.Priestley's most famous play is an ingenious composition of knots tied up into an overwhelming mess of guilt and human weakness with many hard lessons learned on the way, until it all dissolves into a trifle, but then the real serious business begins, which we may know nothing about but are left to guess wildly at the consequences...


The play-acting is fantastic all the way including the minutest details, like for instance the small girl in the fish and chips shop stating her order exactly before wiping her nose. Alastair Sim is always eerily fascinating with his microcosmic acting where the smallest hints import the greatest significance, and Bryan Forbes, quite young here still, excels in a very variegated display of different sides of a spoiled rake, a mother's boy in the worst sense of the word, but comes out of it alive and perhaps better than the others. This is a dream play for any director, who is bound to have a very good time with it including the actors, and the elegance, the comfortable environment with sofas and boudoirs, also including the smoky theatre bar, adds to the charm and entertainment. This is a theatre classic perfectly transformed into cinema with flashbacks and poignant camera and music effects that must charm anyone at any time. It is all set in 1910-12, but it definitely strikes the timeless zone at once and keeps it there, underscored by what we never shall know will happen next... The Sleeping Tiger (1954) Alexis Smith at the mercy of the dangerous criminal Dirk Bogarde brought home by her husband. 23 July 2017

There is always something unpleasant and morbid about Joseph Losey's films as if they were innately self-destructive, you always sit waiting for the worst, and it always comes, but you never know how, and that's the worst of it. This film is slightly different from his ordinary ones, with above all an impressing camera work slanting towards almost Bergmanesque expressionism, but the dominant trait is the impressing acting by the three main characters, Alexis Smith, always beautiful and stylish, Dirk Bogarde, always slyly intelligent and unpredictable, and Alexander Knox, always on the safe and right side of reason and humanity. He is here a psychologist venturing on the interesting but risky experiment of housing a criminal (Bogarde) instead of turning him over to the police, in an effort to straighten him out. He gets straightened out but at the cost of Alexis Smith, Dr. Knox' wife, who finds her own tiger inside herself. There is more than one tiger getting roused from sleep and every day routine in this psychological thriller of mainly reasoning and experimenting - there is a gun but no bloodshed. The raw music of saxophones constantly insisting on vulgarity adds to the decadent atmosphere of human decay and perdition, like in so many of Losey's films if not all of them, but this is certainly one of his best. The Soho scenes contrast sharply against the orderly clinic and home of Dr. Knox and add some extra suggestive noir perfume to the dark drama of passion that never should have been called forth. Alexis Smith is always excellent, but I have never seen her better than here. It's a film of many raised eyebrows and some worries, but it is brilliantly realized with impressing, convincing psychology and great intelligence all the way.


Carmen Jones (1954) (8/10) Ingenious translation of the Carmen drama into the deep south. A colourful and imaginative rendering of the eternal "Carmen" drama in the deep south with Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandrige good enough as the soldier and his fatality, but for me the star of the film is Pearl Bailey as "Frankie", whose first appearance at the Villas Pasta scene immediately lifts the film to a higher level, and her performance in the film continues to sparkle throughout. Many of the scenes shine with originality in their often ingenious translation from the Andalusian stage to that of the deep south, and one of the most impressing is soon in the beginning, when Carmen Jones breaks loose from Harry Belafonte under his transport of her as a prisoner in a jeep. Of course, much of the lustre of Bizet's opera is lost in translation, especially since this is not an opera but a musical, and the texts are all Broadway and nothing of Prosper MerimĂŠe. The style is convincing enough, though, and the only disappointment is the substitution of Escamillo with a boxing champion, who is not very dashing but rather the opposite. The glory and drama of the bullfighting is replaced by a crude boxing match. At least, there is nothing wrong with the music, it's all Bizet and all his best tunes of the opera with only a few missing, and with such a golden magic music all through you can even gild the deep south in its most torpid and the dreariest Chicago slum with great lyrical drama, lasting charm and beauty. Senso (1954) (10/10) Visconti's glorious realism celebrating triumphs in peace and war, passion and treason. 21 April 2017

Luchino Visconti was first of all an opera director, and this was his most opera-like film. Another opera director, Franco Zeffirelli, was one of the co-directors with Francesco Rosi. The film actually begins with an opera performance at the Phoenix Theatre in Venice 1866 with the dramatic climax of Verdi's "Il trovatore", which sets the film flourishing from the start – the opening scenes are cinematographically the best of the whole film, but the realism is absolute all the way in every detail and just worth seeing over and over again for that. At the same time, it's a typical Visconti film, unmasking every human illusion on the way down the abyss of human selfdeceit, self-degradation and decay. You can't really sympathize with any of the two leading characters, as they both lose control completely almost from the very beginning and don't hesitate to at every possible moment making it worse. The consequential outrageously brutal reality is horrendously shocking in its totally unemotional outcome. But the players are excellent, and it's no easy parts they are playing. To this comes the gorgeous use of Bruckner's music, particularly his seventh symphony, the second movement, and I don't think Bruckner's music has been used in any other film. Here it is the more perfect, sumptuously illustrating the opera-like melodrama by adding weight and pathos to the doomed romance. This would have


been Visconti's most accomplished masterpiece, if he hadn't ten years later made the even finer "The Leopard". Black Widow (1954) (8/10) Van Heflin finds a hanged girl in his bathroom and is blamed for murder – an awkward case. Pity about a promising and talented young girl who gets out of purpose by falling in love with the wrong person, since he is married to the wrong woman. Van Heflin makes the best out of a hopelessly incriminating mess, as a hanged girl is found in his apartment whom he has been shielding and helping. He is also married, and his wife is not happy about it. Ginger Rodgers stands aloof and freely abuses everyone, as she is entitled to it as the leading diva and primadonna, but she is actually the real victim of the plot, and she can't help it. The real tragedy is not the girl's, who proves a major disappointment as she actually seems to get what she deserves, an ambitious blue–stocking with some certain talent but no sense to cultivate it, the real tragedy is not Van Heflin's either, although he has every reason to feel paranoically persecuted, which he is, but by sheer accident of circumstances and by nobody's fault, while the real tragedy is Ginger Rodgers', who isn't even aware of it, but her downfall is so monumental that it can't even be shown. It happens after the film is finished, and Van Heflin actually starts suggesting her efficient defense. It's a lush thriller of wonderful salon architecture with all New York at your feet from the balcony, where the talented young authoress is wasting her talent on doting on the wrong guy, and Nunnally Johnson as both author, producer and director has made an interesting enough entertainment, but something is seriously lacking. It's too polished to be natural and therefore not very convincing. The music helps the production with some extra charm, especially Richard Strauss, who has been helpful with some musical loans, but the tragedy is not tragic, and the romance is not romantic. Van Heflin in his righteous fury as the unintended victim carries most part of the drama on his shoulders and does it well, while Gene Tierney doesn't help him much. You lack the solid sense of realism, it's all too artificial, but then the characters are all established and rich celebrities of the New York jet set, and perhaps such people act and live that way. Intriguing, to say the least, but you will soon forget the whole incident, until after some years you run across the film again and recognize that you've seen it before and has to admit you've forgotten the whole thing and will probably do it again... The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954) War thriller at sea for efficient nail-biting, with Dirk Bogarde getting desperate. (9/10) 20 September 2017


This is a surprisingly efficient rendering of one of many rather unknown but important operations in the second world war, the rescuing of stranded air pilots shot down by Germans and landed in the North Sea. Sea Otters and boats had to search for them in bad weather and stormy seas amid mine fields and over vast areas, and sometimes some could be rescued, even if snatched right out of the claws of the enemy almost getting at them first. This film in addition features some excellent actors in leading roles, like Nigel Patrick as the almost bullying leader of the rescue crew, bu he just had to be like that, Michael Redgrave as custodian of state secrets at peril stranded in a dinghy in the middle of nowhere in the North Sea, with Dirk Bogarde in a critical role as a major security risk among the shipwrecked. The film is partly unbearable, as it doesn't hesitate to give a very intimate insight into the conditions of the stranded on board the dinghy in hard weather night and day on the threshold of death, but it is well worth waiting for the finale. Let's see if you have any nails left after that. Tiefland (1954) (10/10) Leni Riefenstahl's last masterpiece and farewell, 25 September 2017

Her last film is an amazing testimony to her amazing mastership as not only a director but innovator of photography and filming. In every way it is a unique film for its picture composition, for its performances (with herself as the dancing gypsy) and above all for its virtuoso camera work. The highlights are of course the introducing fight with the wolf and its sequel, the other fight in the finale. The dramatic tension is extreme in all the scenes out of the village, while the village as a contrast appears as a den of evil and intrigue. The story is simple. A marquess has money problems and therefore wants to marry a rich heiress, the daughter of the mayor, and there is nothing wrong with that, they actually get married, but the marquess also falls in love with the dancing gypsy girl. In order to have both he makes a double marriage, the other one being a fake, as he marries the gypsy to a naïve but very honest shepherd. As a powerful patron he thinks he can use the shepherd's marriage as a cover for keeping his mistress, but of course it doesn't quite work out as he had thought. Leni Riefenstahl was 52 when she completed the film, which she had worked on for many years during the war difficulties, and her performance is perhaps the most amazing of the three main characters – she was also a dancer as a young woman, but when you see her dancing here it's impossible to guess that she is more than 35 at most. The music also adds to the extreme romanticism and drama of the film. Eugene d'Albert was the composer, and it's the Vienna Philharmonics. It couldn't be better.


Many have tried to interpret the film politically, turning it to her settlement with Nazism (the theme of the fight with the wolf), but that is doing the film an injustice. She was never actually interested in politics and knew nothing about it, she was merely interested in art, especially pictures and aestheticism, and the film is nothing but a dramatic-romantic work of art driven to extremes. Is is as unique and outstanding as the best works of Orson Welles and Hitchcock but of a totally different and even more unique kind. Broken Lance (1954) (10/10) Epic family drama about pride, racism, injustice and the problem of being right without getting it. 29 December 2017

There is much symbolism here. What on earth is the meaning of that lonely dog running across the desert in the very opening scene? Don't worry. It will come back for two more appearances, once when one of the duller boys tries to shoot it, averted by Joe, and to conclude the film with a proper exit. And it's not a dog. The other great symbolism is indicated by the title, the broken lance, which isn't explained until in the end but is actually the major theme of the film: the racism problem between whites, Indians and Mexicans. It takes some time before Spencer Tracy makes his entry, and when he does you are well prepared. He has already been introduced on a portrait at the governor's, an imposing self-glorious portrait that boasts his mightiness, which is torn away from him shred by shred during the course of the film by his own fallibility. But what a long and grand fall, and how great it makes this character! It could really be described as a Lear of the Western. But this is not a western. It's a family drama and more like a Greek tragedy than anything else, though masked as something of regular western, but the characters go much deeper than what they show. Richard Widmark as the oldest son who has been misused all his life by his father is actually the villain, but you must understand him and you can't really judge him, just as Joe can't either. Joe is more complex as the youngest brother, son of an Indian woman and not of the mother of the others, and he is constantly brooding and has reasons enough for it. Robert Wagner is almost as good as Richard Widmark and Spencer Tracy, while only Jean Peters falls a little behind. The central scene, though, and what triggers the drama in the middle of the film is the tremendous settlement between Tracy and the governor, E.G.Marshall, whom Tracy made a governor and reminds him of, but that doesn't help. You can feel Tracy's explosion within although he barely shows it, which only makes it the more tremendously awesome. His most majestic scene though is his last one. This is Spencer Tracy's film flanked by


all the others at their best, which add to make this film one of the best of all westerns, although it's much more than a western. Davy Crockett: King of the Wild Frontier (1955) (9/10) Life and death of Davy Crockett in his own words in all sincerity This was the classic Davy Crockett film by Walt Disney, an astonishing world success at the time, almost creating a cult lasting until the 60s, with an overwhelmingly realistic Alamo finale (end of siege today March 6th 1836 with all heroes fallen), inspired the mammoth "Alamo" film 5 years later with a bleak John Wayne in comparison with Fess Parker, while the great performance of that film was Richard Widmark as Colonel Jim Bowie. The Disney production was above all extremely well and carefully written originally for television, with such a success that is was turned into a major film, and Fess Parker's impersonation of the very simple and common but totally straight-forward frontier man is perfectly convincing, even and especially his appearances in congress. The film is wonderfully sincere in its simplicity, and you never forget the few but intimate family scenes. Buddy Ebsen as George Russell makes a perfect buddy all the way through, and Basil Ruysdael is a formidable Andy Jackson. There are also some great hard fighting fisticuff style, both with Indians and more blatant crooks, the Bigfoot scoundrel being perfect as a flamboyant villain. The music adds to the charm of the sincerity of the film, it's only one tune all along, with the exception of the more lyrical, intimate and unforgettable "Farewell to the Mountains" in the Alamo pause of fighting; but at one time the Davy Crockett song even masquerades in an arrangement for string quartet. In its simple adventure genre, it remains as a film a timeless classic, this is great film story telling, offering plenty of after-thought and all true, which it will always be a pleasure to return to in one decade after another... Storm Over the Nile (1955) The Laurence Harvey version of 'The Four Feathers' is neither the worst nor the best but still excellent. (9/10) 21 July 2017

It's impossible to make a bad film out of this story, and that is one of the reasons it has been filmed so many times. Since each version is good in its own way, it's also interesting to compare them with each other. The 1939 version is still the most spectacular and impressing but also the most superficial. The Beau Bridges version as Harry Fasversham is the weakest one, but for Robert Powell as Jack Durrance, who is always the most interesting character, and all depends on how he is acted. In this version Durrance is played by Laurence Harvey, who is always unmatchable. He is 142

therefore the main attraction here, and he certainly makes the whole film interesting, no matter what advantages to it you find in the other versions. Here you also find a deeper pathos than in the other versions, and the scenery from the Nile transcends all the others. The most interesting detail is the conscience issue. Harry Faversham turns a conscientious objector (20 years before the first world war) and gets labelled as a coward by his soldier friends. He feels they are right in their way and that he has to prove them wrong, whereupon he sets out on the most impossible thinkable enterprise, masking himself as a mute Arab slave to reach his friends in the Sudan to save their lives from certain death when necessary. But he can't save Durrance from his blindness. His only friend at home, Dr. Sutton (Geoffrey Keen) plays an important role here and makes a memorable character. All the finest and most sensitive scenes are with him and Laurence Harvey. This version also gives the finest music of the four, by Benjamin Frankel. Also Christopher Lee has a small part, and James Robertson Justice adds to the flamboyance. It's a remake of the 1939 version but better, but the best version is the so far latest one: the Shekhar Kapur version of 2002 with Heath Ledger, and Wes Bentley as Jack Durrance. The Night of the Hunter (1955) (10/10) Charles Laughton's only film a horror story about a pastor on a murder spree of mothers and children. 30 May 2017

Charles Laughton's only film is on the level with all his very memorable performances in various classics as anything from Henry VIII, Rembrandt and Nero to the hunchback of Notre Dame and a busker of London. 'The Night of the Hunter' is about a sanctimonious preacher (Robert Mitchum) who plays with knives and kills wives and other innocents. His character of extreme double standards is a devastating blow to religiousness. He gets the scent of $10,000 hidden by an executed cellmate (Peter Graves as a young man and the father of two small children with gorgeous Shelley Winters for their mother) and so beleaguers and weds the mother with disastrous consequences for her, whereupon the children run away to Lillian Gish. That's part of the story. The amazing thing about the film is the highly qualified synchronization of the direction (Laughton), the photography (Stanley Cortez at his best) and the music (Walter Schumann). They worked together exchanging ideas and sentiments, and the result is one of the most magic films ever made. The photography of Cortez, who also worked with Orson Welkles, Fritz Lang and many others, is amazing throughout, especially since most of it is nocturnal. In a color film the effects would not have been as expressive and spellbinding. 143

Another vital point is the masterful psychology. Laughton handles his actors with expert mastership and brings out the best of them, especially the children. Billy Chapin as John is especially noteworthy with his eyes expressing more than any dialogue. No director I know has managed to catch the soul language of the eyes better than Laughton, and he was a master actor with his eyes himself. The fantastic photography makes it vital though to watch it in as high quality as possibly, not to miss perhaps the most important element of the film. Blue Ray is recommended, if possible. The Prisoner (1955) (8/10) Play loosely based on the fake trial of Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary in 1948 after brainwash. 16 September 2014

Interesting play by Bridget Boland loosely based on the notorious fake trial of Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary after a month of brainwashing by the communists in 1948. Alec Guinness was himself a catholic and is really living out his catholicism in this great performance of the live dissection of a catholic priest, extremely actual in today's situation with the church immersed in scandals of pedophilia. Bridget Boland makes a very different story from the Mindszenty drama, making the interrogator (Jack Hawkins) an equal to the Cardinal as opponent and prosecutor and seems to be winning but actually loses in the end against the honesty of the Cardinal realizing his own futility, while the prosecutor-interrogator as a victor is the real loser and takes the consequences. Fascinating drama, which should be returned to again and again. In reality, Cardinal Mindszenty's brainwash process only lasted for less than a month and was chiefly conducted by the use of drugs and physical exhaustion. The only parallel torture that Alec Guinness is exposed to is forced insomnia. He is imprisoned for longer than three months with only private talks with the interrogator as a method and finally released, when the "state" thinks it has won by ruining his reputation and exposing him as a fraud, while Cardinal Mindszenty was sentenced for life. The film was made in 1955, the year after saw the Hungarian revolt, and Cardinal Mindszenty was then set free and lived a long life, even writing books and his memoirs. He is still one of the most important icons of Hungary and will remain so. His shrine is at the ancient basilica of Esztergom north of Budapest, a very beautiful place by the Danube. A Kid for Two Farthings (1955) (10/10)


A boy's imagination gets a fortuitous push by a whim of reality, turning tears into smiles all over... I saw this in Britain (Blackpool of all places) in black-and-white on a disturbed television in 1963, but I could never forget the film. 50 years later I can see it again on the computer, but !N COLOUR! which was sensational, and the magic of the very simple and ordinary story appeared in full splendor. This is a fascinating and successful effort to catch the magic of life at the bottom, it's a poor family that can't afford anything, not even a cracked wedding ring, and still a small boy's sense of magic, helped on by an old Jewish tailor of singular psychological insight, brings this family to a kind of realization of all their dreams – except one. It's simply a presentation of how magic can work on even the most basic levels. To this comes the overwhelming charm of the street life of East End with a picturesque gallery of originals without end, so you could easily see this film many times and each time find new treasures; and the great acting of all the protagonists, Diana Dors, 'Britain's only blonde bomb-shell' stealing every scene she appears in, and Celia Johnson good as always, while the two characters you will remember with the greatest pleasure undoubtedly will be David Kossoff as Mr Kandinsky the old tailor, and the boy Joe, played by Jonathan Ashmore – I've never seen him again. Primo Camera as the monstrous Python and Danny Green as Bully Bason add another kind of charm and spice to the stew and enrich the colorful gallery with burlesque and sometimes awesome brutality. Finally poetry is added to it by the endearing music of Benjamin Frankel, veiling it all in lovability. This was Carol Reed's first color film and will remain a priceless gem of poetry-in-the-gutter for all times. The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) (10/10) Frank Sinatra in his best performance in one of Otto Preminger's many masterpieces. 13 December 2015

I haven't seen this film since 1971, but then it made e such an impression, that it stuck for life, and I felt no need to see it again, as the memory of it was sharp enough. Just for curiosity, I decided to renew its acquaintance after 44 years just to see what would happen, – and the impact was repeated and as good as new. This is probably the best junkie film ever made, in its naturalistic and actually horrific realism, with Frank Sinatra (100 years just the other day) in his best performance in the lead as the junkie with a crippled wife in a wheel-chair (Eleanor Parker, splendid acting on her part too,) and Kim Novak as the saving angel – it stands clear from the beginning that only she can save him, and she does, in also one of her best performances, actually better than in "Vertigo". The triumph however is the direction combined with the music by Elmer Bernstein. It's asphalt jungle music all the way, hard and merciless in its ruthlessly importuning rough disharmonics and nightmare style (with a few exceptions for a change), and Sinatra is even convincing as a failed drummer. Otto Preminger stands for the direction, one of many original films of his, and they are many, but this black-and-white social documentary naturalistic gutter nightmare is perhaps the one most sticking out – you recognize much of this half slum humdrum environment as he returns to it in "Porgy and Bess" three years later. 145

In brief, it's a triumph of a film, completely naked in shocking social realism with as perfectly convincing and natural performances as in any Italian neo-realistic masterpiece. It was a perfectly enjoyable nightmare to see it again after 44 years to observe it had lost nothing of its timeless actuality – this could happen to you. Not as a Stranger (1955) (8/10) Robert Mitchum, Frank Sinatra and Olivia De Havilland in the medical profession. 20 April 2015

Like all Stanley Kramer's films, it is of lasting interest for any generation, in this case the story of a perfect doctor who by his sheer perfection finds himself totally imperfect. It's an interesting study in the limitations of human nature, no matter how accomplished and perfect it is, but the more brilliant the man, the more likely he is to fall, and the weaker he will prove. This tendency is marked already in the beginning of the film with the introductory episode of the alcoholic father, which sets the theme – Robert Mitchum can't cope with this case of extreme human sensitivity, he just isn't human enough, and this flaw will persecute him throughout his career to ultimately hound him down, when he at last has to realize that even he can make mistakes, and his mistake is the worst and most fatal of all, of not quite being human. The acting is splendid throughout, especially Frank Sinatra as his best friend, who from the beginning sees Robert Mitchum's foibles but only becomes the more loyal for that – he is less brilliant of the two, but by being more human, he is actually a better doctor. Olivia De Havilland plays a part almost typical of her, as the sore tried and patient wife, who bears it all with pain but only grows a warmer heart in the process, while Gloria Grahame as always is superb as the opposite. Broderick Crawford is impressing as the experienced mentor who has a clear view of both human nature and the medical profession and spots the flaws of both Sinatra and Mitchum from the beginning – to help them right. In brief, it's a wonderful and almost documentary melodrama of the pitfalls of the medical profession, which especially medical students will find profoundly interesting and even educating. Add to this the always interestingly haunting music by George Antheil, and you have magic all the way. Portrait of Alison (1955) (9/10) A fishy plot of terrible deaths and mysterious girls getting in the hands of the wrong man... 26 May 2017


Francis Durbridge shines through with his special knack for women mysteries and their magic presence for being absent, you are reminded both of the Paul Temple series and "Melissa" and other spellbinding thrillers with mystical ladies, and here you have two of them murdered while one of them shows up not being murdered at all. The intrigue is spun around a portrait, a weird old man commissions Robert Beatty, a poor painter and brother of the first casualty of the racket, to paint his lost daughter from a picture of her, which task gets him into thorough trouble, especially since one of his earlier models is found murdered in his flat. It's not a bad film although somewhat superficial, of such an intrigue Hitchcock would have brought out a masterpiece, the action is a bit thick as too many things are happening at the same time and too many threads are being woven together in some confusion, as there is another casualty of a man jumping out of a window and lots of fisticuffs which at least twice completely demolishes the painter's entire flat – there is not much space to fight, but they do it the more thoroughly. In brief, a very entertaining thriller with some magic in it, but you would have preferred the first girl (Josephine Griffin) to Terry Moore, but that's a matter of personal taste.. Kiss Me Deadly (1955) (10/10) "Stay away from the window. Someone might blow you a kiss." 9 March 2015

The ultimate noir that has got everything – and wasn't even intended to be anything special. There are no great stars in it, and yet the acting transcends most contemporary star movies. Yet the prize goes to Marion Carr as the girl Friday. She didn't make many pictures, but her performance here secured her a place in film history, a simple girl with the wrong connections who constantly gets more entangled in her own fate as a hopeless victim of circumstances and her own desperate efforts to get to the top of her troubles, which only maximizes them, in a complex character of some kind of mixture between Judy Holliday and Kim Novak in "Vertigo". A special tribute goes for the music with its many variations, from Nat King Cole to Schubert, Brahms and Chopin, and a splendid blues singer (Mady Comfort) on top of it. The script and dialogue is virtuoso all the way, the action serves you constant refreshing surprises, and every character is clearcut and convincing, especially the girls. The hard–boiled story is intermixed with poetry, Italian opera and tragedy, Nick Dennis stands for the tragic part in shockingly upsetting injustice, and it all mounts up to the great mystery of 'the great what's–it' in a grand finale, greater than any opera. In brief, this is a noir for all times and so surprisingly modern at the same time, that it has the strange ability of getting better with age and each time you see it, which reveals new fascinating details of it to remember. A full score of 10 was seldom more obvious.

147 Cast a Dark Shadow (1955) (10/10) Dirk Bogarde at the mercy of two women – he can't kill them all Splendid acting all the way in this dark play of intrigue treating you with some very spectacular surprises. This lurid and scheming sly character of a reckless and shameless opportunist fits Dirk Bogarde's prying kind of acting perfectly, and I have never seen him better, but the prize goes to Margaret Lockwood – it's impossible to start with to recognize her as Margaret Lockwood. She is his perfect match and proves quite capable of handling this intelligent and calculating psychopath of a human failure as no one else. Kay Walsh, on the other hand, takes him on differently with kindness and sympathy but only to prove the hardest and cleverest woman of them all – their final volcano eruption of a quarrel makes the film glow of glory like an overwhelming theatre performance. It's an amazing story and film of amazing characters, each one shining in her own virtuoso performance, and even Kathleen Harrison adds to it with her very own idiosyncrasy of adorable honesty and simplicity. It's a real treat of a film for the noir lovers, especially if they know how to enjoy tense chamber drama of passion, crime and deceit like a best one of Hitchcock's, and it will even be well worth seeing a film like this occasionally again. Simba (1955) (9/10) Fascinating drama of the Mau-Mau in Kenya in the early 50s 8 April 2017

It pinpoints all the problems of colonialism, how it has to turn the natives against the intruding masters, while they have their defense as well – they do bring help and order to the country with education and cultivation, and if the natives react with violence they earn being called stupid. The most fascinating scenes are always with the natives, though, especially every scene with doctor Karanja (Earl Cameron) who is the backbone of humanity in the film, placed in a very sensitive position as working with the whites to help his own but disowned by his own father. The dramatic finale caps the solemn drama, and as in all real stories, that's where the real story begins, the last shot being of the one innocent person and foremost victim of the whole conflict. The initial scene sets the theme and the tension, which lasts throughout and is never really resolved, the conflict going on still today, as white farmers of South Africa and Zimbabwe are being murdered still today. Both Dirk Bogarde and Donald Sinden make rather poor figures of stolidity, and you never really see them come to some deeper senses. Virginia McKenna as always brightens up the arduous drama with


her beauty and crowns the film with a sustained romance – at least that will continue after the film. I can't raise any objections against this film, which honestly gives such a full picture of the Mau-Mau situation as was possible and calls for important attention to the great social problems of Africa, which mainly consist of inherent and almost incurable superstition. French Can-Can (1955) (7/10) A disappointment of superficial flippancy all the way in spite of technical brilliance 3 August 2017

Brilliantly made, colourful and gay, all the technical full-fledged resources of the vast experience of Jean Renoir is used in flamboyance, but it doesn't help. The story is hopelessly thin and superficial, almost stupid in its simplicity, the characters are all just casual types with very few exceptions, there is no drama at all except in flash moments, and even Jean Gabin falls flat and for once does not die in the end. Nevertheless, the finale is breathtaking with its ten minutes of ballet, and the film is worth watching if only for this, while all the rest is just flippant nonsense. There is not even any real sense of humour. His previous "The Golden Coach" was overbrimming with that, and it's surprising that Jean Renoir left that vital ingredient totally out of this movie more made 'at home'. Even the music is insipid. I saw it in black and white 50 years ago on television and was disappointed by its inanity. I thought it could be worth being given a second chance and in colour. but alas - it was still only a very casual flippant totally superficial entertainment of no real sense and meaning, in spite of all its technical brilliance. Jacques Demy would soon come with the real stuff on stage with much better music. The End of the Affair (1955) (10/10) Getting into trouble by love, war, bombs and metaphysics. 29 December 2017

This is Deborah Kerr's film, and although she always made excellent performances with her suavity and sensitivity, here she has the opportunity to excel herself in playing out all that and more. Van Johnson partners her convincingly enough, although his accent should have been a little more English and a little less American. Peter Cushing's excellent diction compensates it. I never saw a failed screening of any of Graham Greene's novels, on the contrary,


they usually manage to enhance the argument of the book, which actually should be the purpose of screening, and when it succeeds, as in perhaps the most classical example of all, David Lean's adaptation of "Great Expectations", the film succeeds in adding to the cult of the story. This story is more difficult to glorify as it is a most complicated and painful love affair with no happy end. It transcends itself in its complexities involving God and all that, as Deborah gets confused about involving him in her case, which leads to the tragedy, which is awful indeed. They all bleed for it. On the other hand, that's what makes this trivial love story of lasting interest. It's not just a wartime noir with bombs and politics making a mess of things, but a human drama transcending reality in its metaphysical crisis and trial of human values, of loyalty, fidelity (not the same thing), and the problems of responsibility and obligations that are implemented by love once it gets started. When Maurice Bendrix loses Sarah and can't understand why, this triggers his investigation of her case, which her husband rightly questions, and Maurice admits himself, that you don't do that. What he finds is more or less by accident and totally unintentional, which could excuse him, but on the other hand, if he hadn't done this forbidden thing he wouldn't have learned the truth, and there would have been no story. However, it's Deborah Kerr as Sarah that impersonates the drama and the tragedy flanked by a number of male actors at their best, even John Mills as a detective, and Graham Greene must have felt flattered by this film. He could have had no more ideal director for it than Edward Dmytryk, one of the best directors and human instructors in film history, perhaps the very best one together with Elia Kazan. Soldier of Fortune (1955) (9/10) Interesting Hongkong ethnic documentary of the 50s with a swashbuckle intrigue. This film is better than its reputation. Susan Hayward and Clark Gable have been complained about as an unsatisfactory pair, their romance isn't convincing, and so forth, and there definitely is something stilted about their relationship, Clark goes too hard on her, and she is too much Susan Hayward to be convincing in her stiffness. The main asset of the film is the fantastic presentation of Hongkong in the 50s, with the zampans, the street life, the strange life of the Europeans and their difficulty to adapt to China, the Chinese general adds a touch of timeless tragedy to the ethnic panorama, and the Australian pub with its Russian cabaret lady adds some necessary comedy. As usual in Edward Dmytryk's films, it's a great story, and the actors are all perfect. Maybe it's a bit over-varnished, especially Clark Gable's galanterie, he is made a bit


unnecessarily to overdo it, while Susan Hayward's American stupidity and duplicity goes a bit too far with her - she is too intelligent an actress to play stupid. Hongkong is the main character of the film, that's what you will remember of it, while you are content with letting Clark Gable and Susan Hayward just have their way and leave them. The Left Hand of God (1955) (10/10) Humphrey Bogart on a most unvoluntary mission as a Catholic priest 30 December 2017

This is better than Edward Dmytryk's other Chinese film of the same year from Hongkong, "Soldier of Fortune". Here is another soldier of fortune but of an opposite kind. Humphrey Bogart as a Catholic priest lands in a village somewhere between Sinkiang and Tibet among the mountains, where there is a bandit gang threatening the villages under the chieftain Lee J. Cobb, the perfect crook in all his films. It seems that Cobb and Humphrey have met before, and the best scenes are between these two men, very opposite but matching each other perfectly. Gene Tierney is the nurse in the village who has the misfortune of falling in love with her priest, while E.G.Marshall makes one of his best performances as the village doctor, married to the equally stalwart Agnes Moorehead, the greatest realist in the film. The villagers also play an important part, the school children, the patients, the local whore-house, the elder of the village - like in "Soldier of Fortune" the ethnic panorama here is of major interest. The backbone of the film though is the fantastic story. Humphrey plays one of his most complex and intriguing characters and does it more than well in perhaps his last real film and one of his very few in colour. The village is not only threatened by bandits and the civil war of China, (this is 1947), but also by the impending possibility that the mission has to be abandoned. E.G.Marshall and Bogart have many arguments about this, and they are never agreed. The conclusion is inevitable, and although it's not a happy end it is in a way most satisfactory. It was after all the best of all possible endings. It's a beautiful film and one of Dmytryk's best. You recognize some of the arguments from "The End of the Affair" where God also played some part, but here he does not intrude, although he is used, but it is rather more common and rational sense that has the last word here than any theology, which actually is better done without. Hell’s Island (1955)


(8/10) What will not ladies do for jewels? 12 March 2018

This is a surprisingly good movie for being a B feature with no stars and no special names of attraction to it. Above all, it's a well composed and intriguing story. It's a tropical noir in flamboyant colour and with Francis L. Sullivan as the most interesting character, here in a wheel-chair, leading the hunt for a missing invaluable ruby lost in an air crash on this unidentifiable Caribbean island full of mysteries. The leading lady, a former mistress of John Payne's, is the spider in the web of the mysteries with a husband locked up for life and imprisoned on another island outside as responsible for the death of the one casualy of the air crash, who had the ruby. Well, let's not proceed any further here, since the story as such with all its intrigues and tunnels, twists and turns cannot be told better than by the film. The very adequate music adds to the magic of the tropical island and the dame of mysteries and intrigue, and there will be some more casualties before the skies eventually will clear and show what really happened, Francis L. Sullivan making the most striking exit in his wheel-chair. Helen of Troy (1956) (10/10) Homer updated to Cinemascope in the 1950s Surprisingly good, many factors adding to an excellent Cinemascope version of the Trojan war, above all the script, which is clear and consistently relevant and sticking to the subject; and although very far from Homer, this variation of the intrigue is impressively intelligent and definitely logical. The first half of the film deals with the Spartan argument, (Homer's epic doesn't start until 75 minutes into the film,) Achilles (Stanley Baker) making an impressing entry, with Brigitte Bardot as Helen's slave girl who is given for the night to Paris by Menelaos but instead helps him escape – she is only 22 but striking – you recognize her figure before you see her face. Niall McGinnis is very convincing as the jealous Menelaos whose jealousy Helen finds it necessary to escape, while most surprising of all is the convincing excellence of Paris especially but also Helen. Jacques Sernas (totally unknown to me) is the perfect Paris, a beautiful young man of great charm, sympathetic intelligence and audacious insolence, and Rossana Podestà (also unknown to me) is a very credible Helena, masking her real identity to get away with Paris from Menelaos. Among the Trojans, Cedric Hardwicke makes a very plausible Priam, he is given the most famous quote of the Trojan war, taking Helen round her chin: "So this is the face that launched a thousand ships," (Christopher Marlowe), and also Nora Swinburne as Hecuba, Ronald Lewis as Aeneas and Janette Scott as Cassandra, a Trojan parallel to Brigitte Bardot. Only Hector is not quite convincing, Harry Andrews being the wrong type, (Eric Bana is the better compensation in the 2004 152

Wolfgang Peterson version), and all the battle scenes are dramatically violent and bloody enough. The action is swift and never dull, the dialogue is comfortably fluent all the way, the story is well but not exaggeratedly sugared with romanticism, and to all this comes Max Steiner's glorious music, culminating in the orgy of the wooden horse. Of course, you have to make a comparison with the 2004 "Troy" version. None is better than the other. Both have their great credits and very few lacks. The 2004 is technically more excellent, while Robert Wise's contribution (in the shadow of Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" of the same year) is more realistic and human. The Trojan adventure is such a great story that it's impossible to make a mess of it. As far as I know, no one has ever been unsuccessful in dealing with it – the characters are too individually outstanding, all of them, not to naturally add to a great show. But of all the film versions, I think Robert Wise, with his concise and clever editing of the story, with its flamboyantly efficient story-telling (it's less than 2 hours,) and exciting virtuosity constituting an excellent epic for all time, has made the best of it. Around the World in Eighty Days (1956) (9/10) Cantinflas takes you for a ride around the world with gentleman David Niven, clumsy Robert Newton and the dream princess Shirley McLaine This was something of a cult film of my childhood, and it's a very fascinating experience to see it again after +50 years. As a child it was only a great adventure experience, and the spell of the exciting travel thriller story made you wallow in the book for years. 50 years later you can better assess its qualities and faults. Of course, there are any amount of deviations from the book, although the main structure is all there, but some of these deviations make the best parts of the film, especially the first adventures with the balloon into Spain with José Greco even treating you with an almost full evening ballet performance, let alone the bullfight the morning after. Cantinflas is the major acting asset of the film, creating a thoroughly sympathetic minor factotum of many arts almost like a Latin Chaplin, but David Niven is convincing enough as Phileas Fogg, Shirley McLaine make a beautiful princess, and Robert Newton as the cockney detective couldn't be better. Still, the major highlights are the great feast scenes, the Spanish adventures, the San Francisco brawl, the Indian funeral, the Japanese circus and the train rides, – only the sea voyages are cut a bit short. Of course, they should be experienced on the wide screen they were made for, but even in a computer frame the adventure still brings out all the magic enhanced by a very well composed score with the unforgettable "balloon waltz" as the jewel in the crown. In brief, this great adventure of the 50s carrying on the moods from Jules Verne and George Méliès is well worth watching still today for the major entertainment it is, on perhaps the best travel story ever written. 153

Carousel (1956) (9/10) Poor carousel barker Billy marries cute Julie and gets killed when she has become pregnant, with metaphysical consequences. I had no expectations at all and knew nothing about it when I was given a chance to see this in my country the least known of Rodgers-Hammerstein musicals. The first thing you are met with is some metaphysics, and then the show starts and goes on throughout in splendour and marvellous choreography throughout in a very rustic environment of fishermen and very ordinary people, who by the music are raised to a lyrical level of some prominence. It's a wonderland of beauty very originally mixed up with great human passion and drama including an upsetting tragedy with reverberating shock effects. The story is curiously exotic and strange for an American musical, but then the original story is actually Hungarian taking place in Budapest and is a bleak tragedy indeed, which even Giacomo Puccini asked permission of the author to make an opera of, which he would not risk it getting debased by. Rodgers & Hammerstein succeeded in transforming it for the stage and make it work with wonder, changing the end, of course. The actors, none of them very known today, are all outstanding, and no objections against the story and its morals or lack of morals are justified. This is a fairy tale brought down to reality with its metaphysics and fairy tale wonders made real in the cinema and enhanced by the overwhelming excellence of the music. You can see it as a morality, of course, but then it is a very edifying one, turning the bleak tragedy of failed human efforts at some worldly success and love into a triumph of the actual good will. This is not only a film to wonder at and enjoy but to do so more than once and again. The Killing (1956) (10/10) A day at the races… 26 July 2016

A number of the greatest directors made their first film their best one, and Stanley Kubrick is no exception. Puts Hitchcock in the shadow for excitement. Sterling Hayden carrying a guitar case like in "Johnny Guitar" the year before. Perfectly suited music all the way. Three, no, four very important ladies, very different, each with excellent characterization – one gets shot. Kola Kwariani almost succeeds in stealing the show in the first rustle. Elisha Cook Jr scared stiff all the way but almost a survivor. Marie Windsor frightfully cool. How could possibly anything go wrong? Well, it all did. As hardcore and hard-boiled as a noir can be. No exaggerations needed. Already in his next film Kubrick started exaggerating. "A day at the races"…


Autumn Leaves (1956) (7/10) Joan Crawford marries a much younger man with fatal consequences. Something is very wrong here. How is it possible for such an intelligent woman of high presence and awareness not to see from the beginning that something is wrong with this so much younger and immature man so persistently making love to her without even knowing her? The story is not credible, and it gets worse all the time. It is a cinematic masterpiece, one of both Robert Aldrich's and Joan Crawford's best, and the splendid direction and cinematography conceals the psychological flaws. Worst of all is the end, which gives you the impression of pasting up a psychological failure. Of course, if the story had been more realistic, it would not have made the same brilliant and fascinating film, which indeed at least keeps you on edge until the dreadful final scene, which ruins everything. I am sure Hitchcock would have called this false ending a disaster. Lorne Greene and Vera Miles add to the story and make it really interesting, but they are too soon disposed of. It's definitely worth seeing for the sake of Joan Crawford, her beauty and splendid acting, but everything else is just put there for the enhancement of her. Lost (1956) (8/10) A lost baby ends up a cliffhanger 31 July 2017

Well made but not much of a story. You suspect from the beginning that there is some innocence involved or some mistake or some misunderstanding, but the following of the police work is terrific, the systematical persecution of the smallest clues, some buttons leading to a story of its own, a shred of a torn page from a book, and of course many mistakes and red herrings on the way. My only difficulty was with Julia Arnall, the mother, who was only allowed to make one more film and then sent home. She overdoes it all the way, and no wonder her husband loses patience with her. Of course, any mother in a similar situation would react in the same way, wailing on the brink of constant hysteria, but she is overly lackadaisical and therefore not quite convincing, repeating herself more than actually acting, trying desperately to seem like Grace Kelly; but Grace Kelly was beautiful and could act, while Julia Arnall is just a faint copy. Well, that's how I found her acting. Fortunately there is David Farrar, reliable as always for the supreme suspense. All the others are perfect, and the finale is worth waiting for. Gorilla (1956) 155

(9/10) A professional hunter in the Congo caught between the perils of a manhunter gorilla and a blond scandal beauty of a tourist 18 October 2017

This was a spectacularly impressing film for its amazing animal shots, actually catching life in the deepest jungles of the Congo 60 years ago in the 1950s. The photo is by Ingmar Bergman's favourite photographer Sven Nykvist and brags all the way of splendid professionalism. The story is rather banal but nevertheless well told, an established Belgian hunter having trouble with a Swedish tourist imposing on him with her total ignorance of the jungle, and with a gorilla harassing a village and killing villagers. This is the first Swedish colour film, and it's amazingly well made under evidently extremely primitive circumstances. The main asset of the film is not the story or the players but the splendid photography of the animals, especially elephants but also crocodiles, giraffes, okapis and the gorilla himself, towering in terror like almost a mythical figure of mystery, the film building up to a nerveracking finale of the difficult gorilla hunt. Also the psychology of this lonesome gorilla and his predicament is very well unveiled. It''s a film on the level with the Swedish master of nature films at the time, Arne Sucksdorff, who almost simultaneously filmed in colour in India from the deep forests there, but with natives only. Here the beautiful Gio PetrĂŠ as the blonde tourist in shorts add an extra charm to the jungle adventure and hardships, but I agree with the previous reviewer, that the film is best regarded as almost a documentary. It actually ends by asserting the fact that its story is true. The Spanish Gardener (1956) (9/10) Passion drama between men of very different ages derailing into crisis, clinch and catharsis. 22 October 2017

Heartrending story of a friendship between two very honest people, a simple Spanish gardener and the young son (about 10) of the hopeless bureaucrat he is working for, who doesn't understand his own son's own good and keeps on blundering through the whole film, until it is too late to make amends, succeeding only in ruining his own life and almost his son's. But they made a great drama out of this seemingly idyllic trifle from the paradise of Costa Brava in Spain, and the acting is wonderful - all are perfect. Michael Hordern makes a very difficult part as the father, you hate his stupidity with all your heart and must understand and share the boy's very reasonable feelings in the end, Dirk Bogarde plays by understatements as usual and makes his part the more efficient for that, while the real character is Cyril Cussack as the servant in the kitchen – the man releasing the shocks. I have never seen a film made on a novel by A.J.Cronin that failed, I have said this before, they seem all to approach the level of masterpieces just by their psychology, and this is certainly no exception. The very efficient music and the wonderful


colouring add to a real treat worth wasting an evening on. Almost a tenner, at least 9,5. Beyond Mombasa (1956) (7/10) Anthropology getting mixed up with sedition and murder 10 January 2018

It could have been worse. As it is, at least some of the actors are excellent, especially Christopher Lee as the only elegant mermber of the party, a dashing French hunter in Africa leading the others into the depths of the jungle to solve the mystery of Cornel Wilde's brother's mysterious death. Cornel Wilde himself appears to be a somewhat rowdy Canadian, and it takes some time for Donna Reed to find any charm in that drunken buccaneer. Leo Genn appears to be a somewhat sanctimonious missionary, but he is too good and placid to be true, and he never made the seminary. There is one more interested party in the treasure hunt, but most interesting are the natives and their behaviour, especially their music - the trumpeteer Eddie Calvert has a guest performance in this colourful safari film, where you also see all kinds of other animals, the hippopotami and the crocodiles being the most impressive seconded by giraffes, and of course there is a tame chimpanzee. It's not a bad film, there is some excitement and charm to it, the jungle environments are terrific with their hidden dangers, and it's not too long. It's an entertainment with a fresh and nice dialogue, that at least should leave you happy and content afterwards when the curtain has fallen on the exotic drama of how an African sect could be manipulated out of the jungle. The Black Tent (1956) (9/10) Lawrence of Libya, or love among the ruins between Tobruk and El Alamein 3 November 2017

Brian Desmond Hurst made many great films but was not much of a director. He often took care of immensely great and interesting stories with great action and fascinating intrigue and had a knack for getting outstanding music to them as well, but his films are annoyingly impersonal, as if he didn't care about the actors but just focused on getting it all done and the story told. This is one of those films, typical of him, telling a great story, featuring characters of considerable interest, but coming out with only a very conventional and almost expressionless product. He just couldn't dramatize.


There are many other assets to this film, though, like the photography with the epic and extremely romantic environment, the most romantic scenes taking place in the ruins of an ancient amphitheatre, the most spectacular part of the film, and dwelling long on a very comprehensive Libyan wedding among the bedouins. We don't have many films from Libya, this is from long before the days of Khadaffi and Isis and all that jazz, and what you are shown is a paradise among the bedouins in the shadow of the dramatic turnings of the second world war by Tobruk and El Alamein. What especially lifts this film is the splendid music by William Alwyn adding another dimension of colours to the already resplendently colourful film, enhancing especially the romantic scenes with that extra touch which the actors and dialogue are not able to provide. The script is by Bryan Forbes together with the author of the novel, Robin Maugham, and there is nothing wrong with the script, the saga being so humanly interesting as it is, but such a tale could have been made so much more of. It's the stuff of Lawrence of Arabia, Rudolf Valentino's sheiks and even of Charlton Heston's Moses in the desert. Of course you come to think of Hurst's other films, like "Dangerous Moonlight" (with the Warsaw Concerto), "Simba" (of Mau-Mau in Kenya), the Malta Story with Alec Guinness, Hungry Hill and The Lion has Wings, and they all suffer from the same thing: great stories, but crippled by lack of flesh to the bones, as if the director thought the actors were of secondary importance to the epic. Nevertheless, it's definitely worth giving a chance, for its exotic settings, its great story (with a surprisingly apt end), its splendidly coloured desert environments, its romance among the ruins, and its very vivid music, the most alive part of the film. The Scarlet Hour (1956) (10/10) "When I am dead you may not even drive me to the morgue." 29 January 2018

This is unusually funny for being a noir. The plot keeps developing in most surprising and sometimes hilarious new directions, as the complications pile upon each other in this (for the police) inextricable murder mystery, while not even the perpetrators themselves, not any one of them, really can understand what happened. The lead played by Carol Ohmart would have been perfect for Barbara Stanwyck, and at moments Carol actually looks like Barbara, and most strikingly so in the last scene. Tom Tryon is like a substitute for Montgomery Clift, the same kind of helpless gullible victim of a superior woman who knows her arts, and there are even some Hitchcock moments in this film, like in the bathing sequence, when you all the time are aware of a third man watching them, although he doesn't come forward until afterwards. The major comic ingredient is Elaine Stritch as the constantly slightly tipsy friend, one of several friends earnestly doing what they can to help the puppets 158

of a grimly ironic destiny out. You expect more murders and gun shots in this drama of passion, but it's not necessary. The plot is quite enough entertaining in itself, no further exaggerations are needed, and even the end with its perfect cliffhanger question mark is satisfying as such. No further action is needed. Wicked as They Come (1956) (10/10) The strange case of a woman who got all men but wanted none. 6 February 2018

This is an amazing film for its very dense direction bringing the best out of a rather cheap story and some totally unknown B-actors, Herbert Marshall being the only film star among them and playing the shabbiest role. Arlene Dahl in the lead reminds very much of Kim Novak in films like "Vertigo" , the same kind of superior beauty with something wrong about her, while Michael Goodliffe, somewhat reminding of Trevor Howard, stands for the passion that turns on the drama. Philip Carey as the male lead succeeds in making a very complicated part and character quite convincing and likeable, the one who saves some human dignity in a pit of human pitfalls. It's as a psychological drama that the film is highly interesting, modern and timeless. Almost everyone sees that there is something wrong about Kathy in her cruel disdain of men while at the same time everyone must fall for her, but no one can understand what the trouble is, least of all herself, or if she does, she keeps a splendid poker face and never loses her control, although, as it proves, she is constantly walking on a razor's edge by an abyss. There are also parallels to Polanski's "Repulsion", it's a related case, but here you get the full story, although not until the end. You are left hanging in the end with everything lost but hope, which is no more than a faint light that no one can know if it will survive. Ken Hughes later made other excellent films, especially "The Trials of Oscar Wilde", and this is no less impressing in its extremely smooth psychological direction where nothing is out of the context, like a perfect jig-saw puzzle with no pieces missing and all fitting perfectly. I’ve Lived Before (1956) (7/10) Pilot getting mixed up in the time dimension tries to sort it out. 13 February 2018


It's not a good film, but it's an interesting subject. How they treat it could be discussed indeed, and it's not very well. The story is this. A passenger airplane pilot sees an elderly lady as a passenger he has never seen before but recognizes her and gets confused for not being able to place her. In the confusion in charge of the plane he suddenly becomes another person and almost crashes the plane. When he wakes up at the hospital he still believes he is a crashed war pilot of world war one. Of course, this creates a problem, especially since he doesn't even recognize the girl he is going to marry. The whole rest of the film is only discussions, so it gets monotonous, but Ann Harding as the elderly lady makes a fascinating performance - she commands every scene she appears in, and it's actually her case the whole story is about. It becomes something like a metaphysical detective story. The doctor's explanation of the phenomenon is that it's all about telepathy. All doubters are of course, like always, eventually proved stupid and wrong. Phenomena like these occur, there are always doubters and deniers trying to explain them away, the insistent maniac who is too aware of the truth to be able to compromise with it is always proved right, sometimes not without martyrdom, but here the most important issue is left unanswered. Will the pilot ever again be admitted to fly? Many questions are discussed at length and answered, but this only important one is carelessly and irrationally neglected. Istanbul (1957) (8/10) Errol Flynn on a romantic nostalgia adventure in Istanbul. This must seem like a very superficial second hand plagiarism of "Casablanca" to many, but there is actually much more to it than that, if you bother to look deeper into the story, another fascinating study in a case of amnesia with a lot of question marks, many of which you have to figure out for yourself. Errol Flynn comes back to Istanbul after five years and remembers the turbulence of his last visit, in which he was involved in some diamond smuggling. He had a great and promising love affair, when everything was brutally interrupted by unforeseen circumstances, and he couldn't come back for five years. On his return he meets again his great love, but she is another person, and he has some trouble in understanding the situation, especially since she is now happily married, or at least so it seems. There is very much in this intrigue of seeming appearances while much more isn't easily told. The superficial impression and unavoidable associations to "Casablanca" are especially exacerbated by Stephanie's almost irritating likeness with Ingrid Bergman, but there is no Humphrey Bogart here. Instead you have an unusually sober Errol Flynn with almost a stone face, covering up stormy feelings with some difficulty, which must trouble him all the way. But the finale is a wonder of almost metaphysical turnings of a totally unexpected nature, and that's where you have to 160

complete the picture by your own thinking; because Errol Flynn's sober face is never more stony than when he has given up all. A Farewell to Arms (1957) (8/10) Hemingway's first great war and pacifist epic grossly neglected and underrated. What is wrong with this film? The main problem is that there is nothing wrong with it. Everything is just perfect and couldn't have been made better, both the script and the screening far outshines the Gary Cooper/Helen Hayes bathos version of 1932, the script by Ben Hecht takes care of all the best of Hemingway's, the war scenes are realistically impressing enough, there is nothing wrong with the acting, Jennifer Jones always reliably doing her best, and here even Vittorio de Sica adds some virtuoso excellence in one of the most important characters of the film, in brief, no complaints. So why are so many complaining? Maybe in 1957 the First World War felt so far away and outdated by the Second, or maybe Hemingway had just been filmed too much? At least "For Whom the Bell Tolls" of almost 3 hours in 1943 was trying enough, where nothing happened until they at last got down to some fighting in the end. Well, well, I simply can't agree with all the thumbs down for this film. Even the music is a success, sweetly caressing the lovers all the way, and even Rock Hudson isn't too bad. I think it's time for this film for some exoneration. Legend of the Lost (1957) (9/10) John Wayne and Rossano Brazzi at the mercy of Sophia Loren and their passions out in the desert 4 August 2015

An amazing film, totally out of the ordinary, almost unknown today, deserves refreshing, very much reminding of the classic silent "Greed" by Erich von Stroheim – it's the same atmosphere, the same desperate passion, the same hopelessness, the same drama intensity in a totally outcast state as far from reality and civilization as possible, only, this is in colour, this is exotic, this is flesh and meat, and here is Sophia Loren. She actually makes the film. From her first scene you catch yourself watching only her, and her character is the most complex and fascinating. John Wayne is as he always has been, he could only play himself, while Rossano Brazzi more credibly matches Sophia. His tragedy touches on the absurd, but on closer scrutiny his development into psychosis is perfectly logical. The script (Ben Hecht screwing it up as always) is perfectly watertight in its complex turnings and sudden surprises in the winding labyrinths of the relationships, constantly taking the audience aback, and to 161

this comes the fascinating story of the quest for a lost city in the middle of the Sahara – this also brings "The English Patient" into mind. But above all it's a passion play, three is never good company if one of them is a woman and she is beautiful and irresistible at that for both the men, and the passion is played out efficiently in the ruins of the failed archaeological enterprise with the ecstasy and agony of Rossano Brazzi as the heart of the matter at the mercy of hopeless love and delusion. No matter how much he falls out you tend to like him better than John Wayne, who is so hopelessly crude in his simplicity. There are even some hints at "Mackenna's Gold" in this in part even rather mystical drama, as the omens of the skeletons add an extra touch of marvel. The Traitor (1957) (9/10) "All music is sad. Prelude to death." 11 May 2017

This is a sinister post-war drama with a terrible ring of sadness and tragedy about it, as the murderer is himself unaware of the fact that there is no ground for his motive. It's a tragedy of treason, and no one understands anything about it until it's too late. This is therefore very much a film of mysterious undercurrents, understatements and hidden meanings, a film "written between the lines". It's easy to dismiss it for its failure to convey it's true meaning, but you do it wrong if you don't give it a lot of afterthought. The surviving members of an underground resistance group against the Nazis meet annually in an old mansion outside London to commemorate their leader who was shot on that day by the Nazis. It appears that someone in the group had betrayed him. The new leader colonel Price, played by Donald Wolfit in a typical role of his, announces his decision to find out who the traitor was among them at their new meeting, and no one is allowed to leave the place until the issue is settled. An agent is on his way from Berlin to reveal the name. He never reaches them alive, and two American intelligence officers come importuning at their meeting to make matters worse and more complicated. Donald Wolfit is a sure name to make any film he participates in a most memorable event. Christopher Lee as the doctor attracts all suspicion from the audience by his covert attitude as of a man who knew too much. Anton Diffring as the pianist contributes with the mood by his music, which he wants to call "Prelude to Death" which is altered to "Prelude without a name" by those who want to live. It's very reminiscent and almost a paraphrase of the Warsaw Concerto, it certainly brings the same atmosphere but is less efficient as music, while the drama story here is much more interesting and goes deeper. It's the difference between before the war and after.


At the same time it's a very intriguing murder thriller on the level with Agatha Christie, but here everything is logic and natural, it's a matter of inevitable tragedy of fate and not at all an artificial intrigue, like commonly with Agatha Christie. Witness for the Prosecution (1957) (9/10) Charles Laughton coming to terms with Marlene Dietrich over the scoundrel Tyrone Power 30 June 2017

This is actually a comedy, and its artificial intrigue and superficiality is all too transparent for anyone to be able to take it seriously. Yes, it's a murder trial, and murder is dead serious, especially since the punishment in 1952 still was death by hanging, but there are too many flaws in this case to make it credible at all. For example, if Tyrone Power didn't kill her, who did? No other candidate is ever presented, except a fabricated hypothesis of a possible thief, who anyway didn't rob anything, while the broken window clearly wasn't smashed from the outside for a break-in. The prosecutor fails to make this apparent conjecture clear as the absurdity it is and is all the way dwarfed by Charles Laughton as the lawyer. Agatha Christie was a very skillful writer, all her intrigues are logical and watertight, but they are all superficial constructions. In comparison with Hitchcock's one great murder trial film. "The Paradine Case" (see my review) which is thoroughly organic all the way with very clearcut and convincing characters, each one humanly crippled by his own weakness, this one becomes no more than an entertainment. It is even regularly funny. Billy Wilder made some of the best films of Hollywood in his time, but at the same time all his films suffer from some non-convincing artificial superficiality. He is very seldom serious and can rarely be taken seriously, never in his later films, perhaps in his early ones, especially his maybe best film "Stalag 17" (see my review). Anyway, the film is exciting and enjoyable all the way, although they scream too much at court, also this is not very realistic, and the most enjoyable acting is between Marlene Dietrich and Charles Laughton. His wife Elsa Lanchester adds as usual a very personal touch to the comedy. It's well worth seeing again after some decades for its great entertainment value, but there are certainly more interesting murder cases on film, especially Hitchcock's very underestimated "Paradine Case". The Enemy Below (1957) (9/10) Duel at sea between Robert Mitchum and Curt Jurgens fighting with their ships


28 November 2017

An excellent war film, almost comparable with "Run Silent, Run Deep" also about submarine activity, but this one is in colour with outstanding photography, which makes the monotonous sea scenery a never boring thing; while Robert Wise's war drama in Japan is much more intense and dramatic. Here the two captains are poised against each other fighting out a sea duel with their ships at stake, Robert Mitchum waging his destroyer and Curt Jurgens staking his u-boat. Jurgens is the better actor and plays out his part with convincing power, while Robert Mitchum is just cool as always. It's a rather slow film, only gradually the real drama is building up but rewarding in the end with a finale that no one could have expected. There are some breath-taking sequences, as when the Americans go fishing without knowing the submarine is right under them, and when the destroyer passes exactly above the uboat, so it could have chafed its bottom. It's a classic indeed, and notable is also Theodore Bikel as Curt Jurgens' second, a great character player always appearing in great quality films. He was the original Captain Trapp on Broadway. The Admirable Crichton (Paradise Lagoon 1957) (9/10) Kenneth More with his women save a hopeless situation for a bunch of hopeless men. 25 January 2018

This is much more than just a delightful comedy and positive satire of English society in 1905 put to trial. J.M.Barrie, who wrote "Peter Pan", has succeeded even better here in creating something of an educating parable with great symbolic and philosophical undercurrents. Not only is the acting perfect in this film, Martita Hunt as Mrs Brocklehurst splendidly outshining all the others, Cecil Parker more ridiculous in his incompetence than ever, Diane Cilento shining through all the aristocratic artifice with endearing innocence, and Kenneth More proving himself once more a superior actor to all especially when tried by humiliation. This hopelessly spoiled family gets stranded on a desert island with their butler and are utterly helpless without him even on that desert island, which they learn to realize, leading to their acknowledgement of his actual competence as they realize their own incompetence and learn something from it. This is Jeeves and Wooster but on a larger scale - they were never stranded on a desert island, and here the women add to the complications, which they seldom do in Wodehouse, as he quite correctly always sees that all trouble in the world actually is caused by men. Here the women save the situation, every one of them, and without them the men would have been at a loss indeed, even with Kenneth More at hand for an indispensable butler. The end is a bit melancholy, but even that is saved by a woman.


The Roots of Heaven (1958) (9/10) The most important and relevant elephant film ever made 10 December 2015

A very odd film like no other, with a startlingly modern and timeless argument and therefore conveying an urgent message for all times. Romain Gary, married to Jean Seberg, was a superior genius, and all films made on his books are on a special level of quality and interest. The argument is what already Walt Disney dared to introduce in "Bambi" – the outrageous abuse of nature by man. The character Morel, aptly played by Trevor Howard, who must have found this sort of character a special treat, takes a stand against man for the elephants and actually starts a crusade against poachers. He is supported by Juliette Greco, who gives the film a very fitting female extra dimension. Orson Welles is perfect as usual in a particularly revealing character of a parody on Americanism, like also Eddie Albert as the final photographer, while Herbert Lom makes a perfect villain. The final touch is Errol Flynn in his last bow as a failed soldier who nevertheless in spite of his exaggerated and pathetic alcoholism succeeds in ending honourably. This is the only film he mentions in his autobiography as a film to be proud of. Objections have been raised against John Huston's direction. The rhythm of the film is very slow, as focus is more on the important dialogue than on any action, but nevertheless he succeeds in sustaining a constant suspense throughout the film although very little happens. In fact, the story in its wild but monotonous settings never ceases to came up with new surprises. It didn't cause much attention in its day, although its problems should have been of concern to all humanity even then almost 60 years ago, few really understood it, since it was so far ahead of its time, but the story with its argument is a compelling work of genius which today is more imminent in its message than ever, and John Huston definitely secured the message. The Wind Cannot Read (1958) (9/10) Soldier Dirk Bogarde in India in World War II marries Madame Butterfly from Japan who gets sick in Taj Mahal. 18 May 2017

A very beautiful melodrama of tragic love set in India in some of its most enchanting places (including Taj Mahal, of course,) under the shadow of the war with Japan. Dirk starts off escaping from them in Burma and ends up their prisoner once again. Between his ordeals he experiences an ideal romance with a Japanese girl who teaches Japanese to intelligence soldiers, one of whom is Dirk. The class sequences are almost the best of the film. Charming music embellishes the film and wraps it up 165

in bitter-sweet romance which never gets too sleazy, since there are constant complications. It's an odd film for Dirk Bogarde and a very singular war and love story, very much akin to William Holden's war and love experiences in Korea and Hongkong, but this is both more idyllic, more intimate and more personal, since Yoko Tani is a more Madame Butterfly kind of girl, more sensitive and vulnerable, and Dirk is delicate enough to treat her with care. so he doesn't make matters worse, as he did in "Simba". The film leaves you with a few question marks, though. Whatever happened to the miserable Fenwick? You can only suppose the worst. But the worst gaffe is the tremendous mistake of Brigadier Anthony Bushell not to immediately turn back when he sees an obvious booby-trap on the road, a dreadful tactical mistake, which no qualified Brigadier would have risked committing. But then without that goof, there would have been no great finale to the melodrama. The most beautiful detail of the film is the symbology, though, which doesn't become clear until afterwards. A sign says that you may not pluck cherry blossoms while they bloom, but the wind cannot read and plucks them anyway, one of those enigmatic but most appropriate Japanese philosophical adages as a motto for the whole film. Ice Cold in Alex (1958) (10/10) After all, the only really important thing is to keep an appointment with the proper beer What a great and amazing film this is, bringing in so many aspects on the matter of extreme hardship both at the hands of war, impossible desert conditions, gunfire, death – and beer. This all sums up with the beer, the final release, the final solution, the point of bringing it all together in a kind of universal conciliation. John Mills is always perfect but here better than ever, Harry Andrews is equally reliable, Sylvia Syms brings on the romance with a pretty face shining up the whole desert, while the most interesting character is made by Anthony Quayle (whose memorial day it is today), an always interesting and masterful character player, who adds to the interest of every great film he is in. The final crown of this film is that it is a true story. I saw it the first time forty years ago and had forgotten almost everything except the great final ordeal in the Quattara depression, a drama in itself, bringing on the ultimate solution to every impossible and overwhelmingly trying task – just do it all over again. As a human study in how even the most diametrically opposed people are brought together by the mere trials of fate and under extreme conditions, it's a universal lesson about surviving and carrying on with no good spirits lost but rather the contrary – considerably improved by a lesson for life. 166

That's Anthony Quayle's final words – it has been a great experience, as he is carried further on to unknown lands by his own unknown fate, while he will always keep his friends in good memory as they will never forget him – in a kind of mutual thankfulness between enemies, as they learned their only real enemy was the desert, the worst and severest enemy of all, which they conquered. The Buccaneer (1958) (9/10) A true story and great drama of the last privateer saving New Orleans for America at the cost of his own world 12 July 2017

Cecil B. DeMille's last film (directed by his son-in-law Anthony Quinn, his only film) is a lavish and colourful feast for the eye all the way with some excellent acting by Yul Brynner himself (with hair on for once), Charles Boyer as a pathetic relict of the Napoleon grandeur, Claire Bloom as a wild cat of a pirate's daughter gradually emerging as the only real woman, while Inger Stevens is more like a Barbie doll, E.G.Marshall treading carefully as the governor of New Orleans and many others, but the great story and drama gets somehow obfuscated in the sumptuous and generous mass scenes in splendid Technicolour, every scene making out an impressing image, a typical trait of Cecil B. DeMille, and with glorious fights and fisticuffs in between - the every day life of the pirates of Jean Lafitte is almost the most memorable part of the film. Charlton Heston is a bit exaggerated as old Hickory Andrew Jackson but makes a great impression also. The main thing is the drama, though, which gets a bit muddled up in all the great battle and crowd scenes. It's a tragedy, and does Jean Lafitte really have to take the responsibility for Captain Brown's plunder and sinking of the 'Corinthian'? Whether he had to stand for this crime or not, that's what makes the drama and the tragedy, which nevertheless is saved for a satisfactory end by Claire Bloom as Bonnie Brown, who gets the ultimate victory as a woman and definitely saves the show. Anna Lucasta (1958) (9/10) Sammy Davis Jr and Eartha Kitt in volcanic family eruptions. When Sammy Davis Jr and Eattha Kitt act together it's dynamite and a feast for the professional cinéaste. But they are not alone. Equally prominent is Rex Ingram as the father in a completely wayward character that can't control himself, disoriented in life, lost in booze, all mixed up because of his beloved daughter, that he felt he had to banish from his life forever, without succeeding – he is the one who begs her to come 167

back. This is a great play enacted with grim intensity and empathy concerning all the characters, including the mother, the suitor, the family and even the lower people at the joint. An important part is played by Elmer Bernstein's music, ingeniously illustrating the rapidly changing moods and trains of thoughts, also including a fabulous show scene with Sammy going solo – this is actually the apex of the film and story, a spectacular visualization of Anna's downfall and helplessness in the hands of the totally irresponsible Danny, who loves her none the less, but like everybody else, not even he can control his love or his feelings but drifts to the storms of his caprices. In fact, Anna, the fallen woman, adored and despised by them all, is the only one with a character, while the others are hopelessly and helplessly without. But what fabulous acting by these three main characters! This is truly a film to enjoy for a theater and drama gourmet. 9,5 would be my vote. The Doctor’s Dilemma (1958) (9/10) Bernard Shaw pulling the strings of life and death – with treatment 9 October 2016

Leslie Caron steals the show as the beautiful natural wife of Dirk Bogarde, who steals the death scene. Around this sinister drama of artful death we have four expert doctors, each eager to cure Dirk Bogarde but in different ways. They are all plunged into second thoughts when they learn what a scoundrel he is. This was one of the plays Bernard Shaw chose to call "plays unpleasant", but it's really outrageously pleasant from a both intellectual and human point of view, and Anthony Asquith as the director interprets every nuance of it perfectly. You can't really blame John Robinson (Dr. Ridgeon) for the way he chooses to resolve his dilemma, even if he ultimately becomes the loser and gets Leslie Caron for an enemy for life. He couldn't have acted differently, carefully weighing the different complications of his case in every aspect. Felix Aylmer as the one retired doctor is the one who sees everything clearly from the beginning, and you follow his diagnoses and comments with interest all the way. Alastair Sim is perfect as the butcher surgeon who wants to cut into his case immediately and deeply regrets it when he doesn't get the chance. Robert Morley as the doctor who actually undertakes the case you are liable to suspect of actually finishing it off. You can't blame Dr. Blenkinsop for surviving either. But the triumph is Leslie Caron's, who walks off brilliantly with all the flying colours that her poor would be husband desired and wished for her. It's a great play expertly handled causing much afterthought, since you have to follow it carefully not to miss any important detail. The settings are all splendid with wonderful colours and Joseph Kosma's music perfecting the perfection. It's a full treat for the relish of a choice audience. Das Dreimäderlhaus (1958)


(9/10) Schubert at ease with all of his friends and his best music This is a very enjoyable film for its charm and idyllic musicality with much of the best music of Schubert – the only other music in the film is by Beethoven, who appears in a few scenes with very impressing pathos, like a continuance of the great Beethoven film of 1949 with Ewald Balser, who here completes the picture of the Beethoven tragedy with poignant acuteness. Karlheinz Böhm plays Schubert with convincing sympathy and communicates a very truthful image of the young composer's amiable personality. The story is of a promising love affair that unfortunately reached an unintentional end and is a typical operetta intrigue – "The House of Three Girls" was a successful operetta based entirely on Schubert's music, but the film goes deeper into characterization and feeling – it's actually a very sensitive film with music playing the lead exquisitely illustrating the moods of the Schubert circle with their parties – you recognize much of it from the equally heartwarming Mozart film three years earlier with Oskar Werner as the ultimate Mozart. The film focuses on the bright sides of Schubert's life and omits the rest, which adds to the charm without going superficial – after all, the unequalled melodious music of Schubert is anything but superficial in its perfect musical purity. This is not only a film for lovers of music and Schubert but for anyone who just want to have a moment of delightful company and entertainment in a perfectly harmonious environment. Fröken April (1958) (10/10) Strict banker gets the occasion of starting a double life, as an opera career opens up to him. 18 September 2017

Delightful comedy from Sweden matching most professional Hollywood comedies, both in intrigue, music, outstanding acting, ingenious script and above all brilliant direction. Göran Gentele was very versatile as a director, made Hitchcock thrillers ('Brott i sol'), musicals ('Värmlänningarna') high gear comedies almost amounting to screwball and finally opera. At the age of 54 he became director at the Metropolitan in New York as the crown of his career but never reached there, as he suddenly died in a traffic accident. This film features Gunnar Björnstrand, the grand old gentleman of Swedish film, he was in many Bergman films and always perfect, like a Swedish Ronald Colman, but also the very young Lena Söderblom as a Swedish answer to Audrey Hepburn, – but she actually also reminds somewhat of Giulietta Masina at times. The story is worth observing as well. A perfectly solid banker with his life structured with absolute strictness one day by mistake gets a love letter, it happens to be from a ballet girl, he falls in love with her, suddenly becomes aware of that he has a qualified singing voice, gets into the opera chorus and starts a double life. 169

The main character of the film is a sprightly comedy with constant ingenious turnings often leading to precarious complications amounting to a tremendous finale at the opera reminding of the best days of the Marx brothers. Many other actors are excellent as well, like the diva Karl Julle and his awesome and deadly poisonous fiancée (Gaby Stenberg) while he lives for security with his old mother (Hjördis Pettersson). Douglas Håge is the sorely tried chorus master constantly getting into fits, and the music is Mozart, Rossini, Wagner, Verdi – in brief, an ace of comedies crowded with delights. The Key (1958) The hopelessness of war reflected from a little known back side of it. (10/10) 20 September 2017

This is a very sad story but as deep as the ocean, charting the fates of the unknown limbo victims of war trying to make the best of a bleak life in the shadows just waiting for the dark final curtain to come down. Everything is excellent in this film. The three main characters Trevor Howard, William Holden and Sophia Loren make this film monumental in its almost shockingly documentary human drama of a struggle for life against hopeless odds, while the carrot making them go on is the illusion of hope after all. William and Trevor are both captains of tugs in the war saving "lame ducks", ships hit by submarines but not sinking, so they have to be tugged back to harbour, usually under hard fire from the u-boats. There are mines also, guns that don't work in battle, bad weather and what not. They are old friends, have been to Panama together, and when William comes to help the tugging from America (before Pearl Harbour) he stays at Trevor's place, but there's also Sophia Loren as a widow from previous casualty captains. She was at her very best in unglamorous roles, and this is one of them. Her acting is delicately understatement-like all the way, she knows too much about the conditions of war and the horrible cruelty of its merciless laws of destiny, but still there is in her very cool playacting a deep warmth like burning coals that never fade. There is a touch of eternal continuity in this extremely fascinating character. If you know anything about war, this film will touch you profoundly to the core. The black-and-white photography enhances its very human drama. There can never be enough said about rare films like this. There's only one thing to say: it's too good for words. At the same time, it couldn't be more hopelessly devastatingly noir. Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) (10/10)


Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster two captains on the same ship with troublesome consequences, 10 October 2017

War movies about submarines are always tremendously exciting, and this one is perhaps the best of all. Everything is perfect in this film, the actors, the music by Franz Waxman which never dominates but accompanies perfectly the action the whole way, the story constantly inviting for another surprise, the very qualified direction keeping up a high tempo of suspense all the way, and above all the technical filming, actually realizing hair-rising naval battles with submarines in Japanese waters. The Bungo straits actually exist and offer a hazardous passage between two major Japanese isles and is an important transport route especially during the war for convoys. Clark Gable is a veteran submarine captain who gets his last command and a very vital and competent Burt Lancaster for his exec, who gets involved in the mutiny mood on board the submarine. The Bungo straits are notorious as a graveyard for uboats, no one wants to go there voluntarily, but that's where the action is, so Clark Gable has to go there and bring everyone along with him on board, which of course leads to reactions; but the crew is in for a hell of surprises on the way. The plot is ingenious and typical of Robert Wise, he enjoyed great plots and twisted them around in his own way just to get them more efficient, as he did in such extremely different films as "The Haunting", "West Side Story", "Helen of Troy", "The Sand Pebbles", "The Day the Earth Stood Still", "The Andromeda Strain" just to mention a few examples. He even made "The Sound of Music". So it's actually no use saying anything about this film. The names ensure a perfect up-lifting experience even if it is of the very cruelest and hardest sides of the worst of wars... Elevator to the Gallows (1958) (9/10) A horrible mess of complications to a murder leading to several, but made with fascinating brilliance. 30 October 2017

What a horrible story and extremely awkward predicament! He commits the absolutely most perfect murder imaginable, and then a telephone call makes him forget one detail, and when he tries to remedy his mistake he is caught in an elevator between two storeys and can't get out! And that's only the introductory plot to a web of plots or rather an inextricable mess of misfortunes... There are altogether four criminals and three murders committed, only one planned and three just slipping into it by circumstances. Jeanne Moreau is always perfect in 171

wicked roles, there is a certain trait around her mouth which makes her hopelessly and incurably look cruel, her laugh is never convincing, and she has no sense of humour. That'¨s what's generally lacking in French films, which is why they are best at making sinister films, like this one, "Les yeux sans visage", "Les diaboliques" and other hopelessly dark thrillers, of which this is another one and definitely one of the very best in its grey tristesse and filmed almost exclusively in sterile surroundings that's the dominant character of almost all French films of the Nouvelle Vague, which makes them slightly inhuman. This is more human, since it's a crime passionnel it's all about, and the youths are just humanly stupid and actually try to commit suicide for their offence. Maurice Ronet is always expressionless and here more than ever - a total poker face, having nothing else to do but to submit to his bleak destiny - not even the smartest murder in the world could save him here. Miles Davis' dark jazz underscores the dÊfaitism of the thriller by being mostly silent but for some poignant reminders to add some acuteness to the dreary mood. It's a brilliant film, the first of many by Louis Malle, most of them equally hopeless, like the dreadful suicide study "Le feu follet" (also with Maurice Ronet), but this is only his second best film. His best film remains his very odd and different collaboration with Jacques-Yves Costeau in "The Silent World", which is also his most human film.

Dunkirk (1958) (10/10) The Dunkirk drama of 1958 backed up by great character actors. 4 January 2018 It's interesting to compare this film with other versions of the trauma at Dunkirk, like "Mrs Miniver" (1942), "Atonement" (2007) and Christopher Nolan's version of 2017. They all four tell the same story but from very different aspects. In "Mrs Miniver" there is a family drawn into the war and contributing in the Dunkirk drama at the height of the film, "Atonement" is a very personal story with a long fantastic sequence at the centre of the film comprising the whole Dunkirk situation, while Christopher Nolan's film concentrates entirely on action and crisis realism. This one tells the story of some soldiers at a loss being driven across Belgium to the shores and some boat owners at home who eventually are stranded at Dunkirk, one unwillingly (Richard Attenborough), who describes a thorough character development and change during the course of the film. We don't reach Dunkirk until after 3/4 of the film, but then the great finale on the shores is the more epic and overwhelming. Christopher Nolan's film goes even further and succeeds in giving the drama an even closer look and deeper realism, while this film is perhaps a little more romantic, wĂ­th heroically cheerful music to accompany the fleet. "Dunkirk" of 2017 is definitely the best screened version of the drama, "Atonement" was an even better film than the "Dunkirk" of 1958, while "Mrs Miniver" takes the price as a female version. They are


all four praiseworthy to the maximum, there are no flaws in any of them, they all compliment each other, they are all equally memorable and worth watching again. Brink of Life (Nära livet 1958) (10/10) Ingmar Bergman’s ladies at the hospital 17 January 2018

I saw this film 50 years ago, and already then it impressed me as possibly Ingmar Bergman's best film. It's the closest he ever got to a documentary, and the whole film is shatteringly replenished with intimate close-ups of three mothers at the last stage of the most interesting condition for a woman, two of them giving births, the third being there after a failed abortion. There are other women as well, some nurses and two female visitors but very few men, three altogether, two of them being doctors and the third a failed husband. The finest acting is presented by Ingrid Thulin, who introduces the film with her passionate and shattering martyrdom and who stays the dominating element of the film although only resignedly from the background; but all these characters are given their own life and space and important part in this every day shattering drama of life, death and birth in totally organic realism. Seeing it again after 50 years and on the centennial of Ingmar Bergman's birth, it roused an enormous interest in Bergman's other early films from the 50s, which used to be his best, but this is still for me number one. Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) (10/10) Jules Verne is made to break all limits of imagination in settling on the screen. Although it's totally out of Jules Verne, it couldn't be more faithful to him, which perhaps is the most fascinating trait of this film. The only person who is true to the novel is Hans the Icelander, who even speaks delightful Icelandic together with the widow of professor GĂśteborg of Stockholm (Goetabaug). Otto and his nephew Axel are replaced by some Scotsmen, one of them being Pat Boone with even a lass of his for whom he sings delightfully with a warmer voice than ever Jules Verne could imagine, while there even is a consummate villain to the bargain, a descendant of the great scientist Arne Saknussem himself, claiming his rights to the whole underworld of wonders including Atlantis and not only flocks of cannibal dinosaurs and other monsters, but the question is if not the duck Gertrude takes the prize, showing the way when all humans fail. It's James Mason's second Jules Verne film, in the first he was Captain Nemo, but it's obvious that he enjoyed this even more. At 50 he is still youngish and has his whole intensity of virtuosity left and misses no opportunity to insult whatever woman is available. Even the dialogue is fluently sustained and 173

enjoyable all the way with plenty of humorous turns, and Bernard Herrmann's music, sometimes threatening, sometimes sublime, adds to the wonderful coloration. It's an inspired film on one of Jules Verne's best novels, actually his second, and although wildly deviant from Jules Verne in every possible way, Jules Verne couldn't possibly have been screened better. The Brothers Karamazov (1959) (9/10) Admirable effort to squeeze one of the greatest novels of all time into a film. 11 March 2015

The admirable effort to squeeze one of the greatest novels of all time into a film has resulted in a controversial masterpiece of intensity, and Dostoievsky would have liked it. Maria Schell (Grushenka) and Lee J. Cobb (the murdered father) stand out of a congregation of an ideal acting ensemble. Yul Brunner as Dimitri, Claire Bloom as Katia, Richard Baseheart as Ivan, William Shatner as Alyosha and Albert Salmi as a perfectly loathsome Smerdyakov are all perfect in their performances leaving nothing out, the music is perfectly fitted into the constantly changing and dramatic moods of ever increasing tension, but the greatest credit goes to the writer/director Richard Brooks, who has succeeded with the impossible, to give one of the most complex and polyphonic novels a digestible cinematic form. He adds to the show by including some extra scenes to make the drama easier to grasp, like a considerable foreplay to where the real start of the novel, the family congregation at the Starets Zossima's. I saw this film some 40 years ago and have never been able to forget the performances of Maria Schell and Lee J. Cobb, and the pleasure of reviewing them in what could have been their best performances was a welcome return of a great delight. It was a special satisfaction to observe how Richard Brooks has succeeded in underscoring the romantic element of Dostoievsky, he is in fact the greatest of romantics although well covered under a massive outfit of humanity, intelligence, psychology and the faculty of anatomizing human nature. The romance here is that between Dimitri and Grushenka, totally hopeless because of the circumstances but therefore the more heightened. It is very interesting to compare this film version with the Russian complete screen adaptation of 2008, which will be reviewed later. They definitely complement each other. Exodus (1960) (9/10) Paul Newman fights for Israel and makes the best of it – with success and adversities The time perspective is interesting here. The film was made only 12 years after the independence in 1948, but although the film is 56 years old it's still both very modern


and relevant – the situation hasn't changed much, rather has it worsened and intensified during all these years. All the actors perform excellently well like in all Otto Preminger's films, and this was his last great push, specially engaging Dalton Trumbo for the script, who had just triumphed with "Spartacus". For all its spectacular grandness, high ambitions and pretensions, it got only one Oscar, which was the more well deserved: the music for "Exodus" is unique and among the best film music ever written. Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint, John Derek, Sal Mineo, Ralph Richardson, Lee J. Cobb, the special performance by David Opatoshu, and even Marius Goring – they are all perfectly outstanding. The one flaw of this great and historically extremely interesting film is the hand of Leon Uris in the book on which the film is based. Leon Uris wrote a considerable number of novels on Jewish themes, "Mila !8" about the freedom fighters of the Warsaw ghetto being the best of them, in that book it was perfectly justified to be one-sidedly in favor of the fighters, but in the case of Israeli independence the scenario was more complicated implicating at least three sides of the conflict – Israel, Britain and the Arabs, while Leon Uris stuck to one-sided partiality to Israel in all his books on the issue more or less ignoring more complicated aspects, which remains the disturbing want of Leon Uris and leaves him with a stamp of shallowness. He wrote other novels as well, especially a series of Irish novels which many deem his best, while a few years before "Exodus" he also produced the outstanding film script for "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in the Tombstone incident. Well, well, the best and most interesting part of the film remains the beginning, which is all set in Cyprus with the S/S Exodus drama. Also Paul Newman is at his best here, and the scenes on board with the imminent chaos is worth studying again and again. Incidents like this have since occurred many times again and again in different circumstances, and it's well worth studying in detail, to learn the risks, carefully analyze the problems and ride out the crisis. In this case Paul Newman and Ralph Richardson solved the problem together, but then there were worse problems to come that aren't even solved today. Song Without End (1960) (8/10) The true story of Franz Liszt and his women, some of them 14 October 2015

This is a very beautiful film made with great meticulousness and with a serious intention to for once stick to the truth in a biopic, and the actors are all superb, especially Martita Hunt as the Grand Duchess, the most convincing one. Dirk Bogarde is excellent as Liszt but not at all as he was, more like an English gentleman than the emotionally wayward and unstable victim of his own vanity with much confusion that he was. Capucine is spellbindingly beautiful as Carolyne carrying herself with great style, and Geneviève Page makes a very convincing Marie d'Agoult. But what about the others? George Sand makes a very brief appearance,


Lola Montez is not allowed at all, and there were others. Instead of telling the truth the film devotes itself to the Liszt myths and embellishes them thoroughly, so that Franz Liszt would have liked it. Of course, this at least is preferred to the terrible character assassination "Lisztomania" by Ken Russell 1975 dragging it all down to vulgarity. At least, Liszt was never vulgar. On the contrary, he was very careful about excluding himself only to the highest circles of nobility, which the film conveys adequately. Still, it's not a great film, seconded by both the great Chopin films, like Liszt never came close to the genius of Chopin. The relationship with the Princess Carolyne is greatly romanticized, and Franz Liszt confessed himself that Marie d'Agoult was his only true love. Like Liszt himself, the film is gradually bogged down into his sanctimonious catholic penchant for superstition, he neglects his own life, music and love to follow the church and thus made a fool of himself instead of fulfilling his glorious career. Well, well. The film remains a most beautiful musical illustration to his life and enjoyable as such, while it leaves you deploring his bathos. The last third of his life (he became 75) was wasted getting mummified in the church with very few more compositions. The Savage Innocents (1960) (10/10) Anthony Quinn as an Eskimo grappling with fate and Peter O'Toole in a cultural clash of hopelessness: "You should bring your wives, not your laws." 16 January 2016

Fascinating and amazing study in cultural clashes at their most basic level, in the face of the hard survival in an impossible world of practically only adversities and death – the first scene of the bear hunt sets the mood. The bears play a significant part of the drama, although their performance is minimal. The dialogue is absolutely ingenious in all its extreme primitivism – the characters have found themselves very well in this totally alien mentality of thinking in terms of extreme basics. The death scene of the old woman is one of the highlights in its wise philosophy beyond this world and so practical at the same time – this reminds you of some of the burial practices in old Japan; but the whole film is most akin of all to Robert J. Flaherty's epoch-making "Nanook of the North" of 1922 – Nicholas Ray must have studied this historical documentary in its minutest details to be able to make a modern version of it – the character of the film is more documentary than of a feature film. Of course, you can't help worrying all the time about something terrible to happen to these very simple people, and of course it does, but the only terrible scene is actually their visit to the white man's trade station. Asiak's horrible misgivings about the place are perfectly understandable and sound, her instinct is throughout the film wiser than anything else, and her worst forebodings come true with a vengeance. The most pitiable person in the drama is the poor missionary who is most misguided of all, and the first trooper, who makes everything go wrong. It's quite sensational to see Peter O'Toole in this mess before he was known at all. He and Anthony Quinn would soon play against each other again in "Lawrence of Arabia". This is an amazingly wonderful and fascinating film in every aspect, unique in its kind, and the very appropriate Italian music adds to it, with intoxicating Greenland


sceneries and a fabulous exposure of primitive psychology at its most natural and basic state of fortunately incurable innocence. Once More, with Feeling! (1960) (9/10) Yul Brynner and Kay Kendall perfectly matched and with music 11 October 2015

Kay Kendall was one of the best comediennes ever making a splendid career brutally interrupted by leukaemia at only 32 – sadly, this was her last film. She was splendid enough with her husband Rex Harrison, but after that divorce she was equally splendid with Yul Brynner, who here for once gets the chance to play comedy – and does it with a vengeance. This is a witty comedy of outstanding prominence bringíng out the best in both of them, it brings back memories of Leslie Howard in clinch with Bette Davis, and the choice of music for background support couldn't be better. Yul Brynner plays an eccentric ego-tripped conductor whom his wife the harpist Kay Kendall has every reason to insist on divorcing. The comedy is about how this just can't work out, and the mystery is how this is possible. Perhaps it is the music fusing them together in a marriage of constant civil war unto the bitter end of mutual death without any of them succeeding in firing a single shot. Stanley Donen's direction makes it a perfect entertainment all the way, a composition unto consummate perfection in dialogue, character play and music, and I don't think he enjoyed making any film more. It's champagne all the way, and every new glass tastes different and even better... Requiem for a Heavyweight (1960) (10/10) Anthony Quinn in his most realistic performance, maybe his best, as a finished wreck of a boxer. 21 April 2015

Which is your favourite Anthony Quinn film? (100 today) My candidate would be this one, a thorough debunking of the whole boxing business, with noteworthy appearances of the young Cassius Clay, Mickey Rooney and Jackie Gleason as his managers, one human and the other one seemingly corrupt but in fact the only realist, and Julie Harris as his one female friend, while Anthony Quinn as the wreck of a finished and humiliated boxer is one of the strongest characterizations ever made on film in almost unbearably straightforward realism. Note in the beginning and opening scene, that you never see his face until he himself sees it in the mirror. Add to this a fantastic music score by Laurence Rosenthal. The Swedish boxing champion at the time Ingo Johansson wanted every Swede to see this film, but this is not only for boxers. It's a universal study in humiliation, and no one is spared, 177

humiliation is a fact of life, and there is nothing more difficult to handle. The film mercilessly displays all the ingredients, like shame, guilt, treason, failure, hypocrisy and defeat, and the chalice is emptied to the last drop. Still, in all his humiliation, ruin and disgrace, Anthony Quinn's failure of a boxing character in the end still stands on the floor as some kind of a victor by accepting his self-humiliation. It's a grotesque tragedy but an impressing abyssal dive and fall into fathomless humanity with infinite richness in spite of its extreme confinement in the small ugly corrupt world of the gladiator sport of boxing. The Angel Wore Red (1960) (10/10) Dirk Bogarde with Ava Gardner in the Spanish civil war and making more of it than Hemingway. 29 October 2017

This is a fascinating story with many aspects and undertones of fathomless depth and a very different view of the Spanish civil war than what is usually represented. The drama grips you at once, as the young priest leaves the church demonstratively in protest, which immediately throws you into an interesting development of character and events, as the civil war breaks out. Joseph Cotten is an American journalist who gives the drama a form, but Ava Gardner is the central figure, 'the angel in red', a prostitute in a night club which the unfrocked priest finds himself at home in. Another character is Aldo Fabrizi, who here repeats his martyrdom from "Rome, open city" as the carrier of the one holy thing still remaining as a hope for the people, a relic with a drop of a saint's blood with apparently tremendous national meaning to both believers and non-believers. On top of it all there is Vittorio de Sica as the general who better than anyone else sees through the utter absurdity and madness of this civil war. It is possibly the best film of the Spanish civil war that has been made, in spite of its foibles, as it presents a fairer and broader insight into the war than any other film I have seen on this bloody mess, which almost went on from 1936 until the year of the second world war, as an introduction. The love story is totally convincing and 'organic', as Polanski would have said, but the pathos of the film is tremendous, almost giving a documentary presentation of the war but from below, from the view of common people, a prostitute, a defrocked priest and innocent victims. It's like one of Graham Greene's best novels, but the music adds an extra dimension of beauty and infinite suffering and sorrow as well, like to the shocking war pictures of Goya. It's a great film, it can't be denied, and its lacks and wants are not enough to reduce anything of its deeply human and fascinating greatness. Francis of Assisi (1961)


(7/10) The Hollywood varnished version of St. Francis This film becomes interesting towards the end when Francis goes to Egypt to meet the sultan, and while he is away his order is completely adjusted to worldly demands. None of the other St. Francis films have dared to bring up this problem. Francis is depicted as the incorrigible idealist who is betrayed by the necessity of pragmatism and political realists. Stuart Whitman is perfect as always, he is always an interesting ornament to any film he acts in, while Bradford Dillman makes more of a type than a character. Old Finlay Currie is excellent as the pope, and so is Dolores Hart as Sister Clare, but none of these can match any of the Italian actors in the Italian films, since this film completely misses the Italian mentality and is all Hollywood. This was Michael Curtiz' last film but one, (his last became "Comancheros", better although more muddled,) and his professionalism gives standard polish to the whole film, but it hardly becomes more than a filmed legend, like glossy sugared saintly illustrations spiced with typical Hollywood sentimentality on top of it. Sorry, the true St. Francis is nowhere to be found in this film. The only convincing character of some Franciscan credibility is brother Juniper played by Mervyn Johns. He has understood something of the Franciscan mentality, while all the rest is Hollywood, not at its worst but definitely at its most conventional. Master of the World (1961) (9/10) Splendid adaptation of two of Jules Verne's lesser known novels for the screen. 3 November 2015

Vincent Price is magnificent and convincing as Robur, the American engineer who takes it upon himself to end all wars by making war on them by bombing fleets and adding to battle massacres. This is not really Jules Verne, but nevertheless the script is interesting, pressing Jules Verne's two Robur novels into one and advancing the interesting Robur character, who here is brought to press his argument with pacifistic reason. What makes the film really worth watching, however, is the splendid music by Les Baxter, a full treat for film music nerds. As a whole it is indeed enjoyable from all aspects, the imagination (flattering Jules Verne by adding to it), the visualization, the satisfying tempo and the interesting ideological duel between Vincent Price as Robur and Charles Bronson as Strock, matched against each other as opposites and still having a lot in common, especially a reasoning mind. I find nothing to complain about in the film, although some find it rather queer. Of the two Jules Verne novels the first one is the more interesting, "Robur the Conqueror", which presents all the best qualities of Jules Verne, while the second is less human going morbid in turning Robur to total madness, which wasn't necessary.


His beautiful airship "Albatross" is damaged but never ruined, while in the film the wonderful creation is blown to pieces. What a waste! Jules Verne's story is, after all, better. The Naked Edge (1961) (9/10) Deborah Kerr is torn asunder by her increasingly agonizing suspicion of her husband Gary Cooper as a murderer. 23 February 2015

In Gary Cooper's last performance you can see that he is almost washed up, acting like an old age Roark (from 'The Fountainhead') stiffer than ever with very little stamina left, while fortunately Deborah Kerr makes up for it completely in her superb rendering of a married lady who just can't make things add up, wavering between an increasing suspicion of her husband's possibly having committed an heinous murder while at the same time refusing to believe it could be true. Another asset is Peter Cushing's brilliant acting as the prosecutor. The film begins with the murder trial with Gary Cooper sweating from the beginning, he himself can't make things quite fit while he is perfectly convinced that he couldn't be wrong, while the triumph of the film is the very clever story. By the accumulating inconsistencies a suspense is mercilessly built up and increased all the way to the bitter end in a virtuoso thriller more like Hitchcock than any Hitchcock. The real turning point though is the marvellous scene with Diane Cilento as the victim's wife, whom Deborah Kerr visits with traumatic consequences, which really triggers her suspicion and conviction that nothing in this story fits. After the climax in the end with all battles fought to the bitter end, everything falls into place however with perfect logic. This is a marvel of a thriller, and not even Hitchcock could have made it more exasperating in its irrevocably constantly increasing unbearable suspense. This is Michael Anderson's best film, and you regret that he didn't make more films like this one. Victim (1961) (10/10) Sinister drama tackling the dilemma of the inhuman discrimination of homosexuality 12 April 2017

Highly sensitive and important thriller charting the dilemma of homosexuals being extorted for what they are and bringing the necessary attention to inhuman legislation in the field to have it reformed and changed. This was the first film of its kind in England and was soon to be followed by others. Dirk Bogarde makes a very truthful characterization of the lawyer who risks his career, well aware that he can't avoid public unpleasantness or even ruin, by taking up the fight with the 180

blackmailers. The tension of the thriller is that you can never guess who the real blackmailer is until the motives behind it surfaces toward the end. Sylvia Syms makes an equally convincing performance in playing the honest wife who realizes the importance of uncompromisingly facing the truth. The insight into the matter goes deep and is very revealing in its thoroughness and more or less exposes the whole width of the terrible dilemma, which should have been settled with already by the experience of Oscar Wilde. Here it takes two suicides for the matter to be brought to final trial, and it was definitely about time. Dennis Price is also in it, and Peter McEnery opens the drama by staging a mystery – its revelation brings on Dirk Bogarde to action. Philip Green's music adds to the drama, and Basil Dearden's direction is uncompromisingly relentless. Splendor in the Grass (1961) (9/10) Natalie Wood as a youngster in clinch with the reality of growing up. 12 October 2015

The amazing thing about each and every film directed by Elia Kazan is what he gets out of his actors to make them perform better than in almost any film by any other director. He must have been the most knowledgeable person instructor ever in films. Here it is worth while concentrating on watching the performance of Natalie Wood especially in the first crisis scenes. There is nothing like it in film history – the extreme sensitivity, the close-up following of her mind, how he lets the camera wander as she gropes her way through a reality that has become her enemy, her questioning looks, her invisible but extreme terror – he catches all this on film, and no wonder she was after this film given the role of Maria in "West Side Story". The film is all hers, he has given it to her almost like a personal offering, while Warren Beatty in his first major appearance is no more than what he is intended to be – almost a helpless dummy. When Natalie gets affected he is at a total loss and can't handle any emotionalism at all, while all he can do is to escape into the arms of another as an abject coward, which is what he does, leaving Natalie stranded in her emotional psychosis, like watching a drowning victim out there in the storm from the shore and doing nothing. His father, on the other hand, is another extremely remarkable performance, he overacts from the beginning and keeps overacting and even worsening it until the end, and he is the real tragedy of the story – like his son, he doesn't understand anything and least of all what is right. It's a simple story about the first love of youths and how it must burn you, it always does, but Elia Kazan's treatment of it turns it into a tremendous heart-breaker. And it's the same with every film by him – he turns his actors into more than just living, burning, and selfconsuming people but toweringly passionate, and more alive, convincing and sympathetic persons than if they were real. The Password Is Courage (1962)


(10/10) How to make life enjoyable as a prisoner of war 6 April 2017

It's seldom you meet with a film so full of natural cheer as this one and under the direst circumstances. It's almost like a yarn of Munchhausen all the way, but this is actually a true story, truer than "The Great Escape" some year later, concentrating on the titbits of the adventures of the constantly escaping prisoner sergeant-major Charles Coward (However did he get his name?) and his exploits and mates during the second world war, four years of imprisonment and finally making it just in time for the end of the war. Dirk Bogarde is perfect for the job, all his mates help in keeping up the show whenever necessary, the keyword is inventiveness which is practiced to extreme levels, and there is even a lovely woman with at least a moment's romance by the way. The Germans are not overly ridiculed, only just enough to keep you happy, they actually do their best to keep up war prison standards, although they can't really see the fun the prisoners are having. After 55 years this film is still as fresh and exhilarating as new as if the war just had finished, and it's ideal entertainment for anyone who needs some cheer-up. The Hands of a Stranger (1962) (8/10) Difficult psychological thriller running off the rails into unmanageable tragedy... 15 July 2017

This is not as bad as it looks, although it definitely is not a very uplifting film. As so often in American films, everything is lost by the lack of self control. The pianist loses his hands in a car accident, but an ingenious pioneer surgeon succeeds by a bold transplant operation in giving him a new pair of hands, which seem to work, but they work too well. They are too strong for him, and he can't manage them, and things go awry to the extreme. We never get to know whose hands they were, but they are too strong for his own good, and by his psychological liability in the deep personal crisis of having lost all his active life and everything he lived for, he can't control them as his impulses drive him over the edge. Dirk Bogarde or Farley Granger would have made a better performance of this complex character, like Hitchcock would have done much more of the thriller, much could have been made better of this very interesting psychological study into the emergence of psychopathology; as it is the realization of the drama is too superficial, as if some important scenes were missing, but it's a fascinating study in the nature of hands and what they mean to us. Whatever would you do if you lost your hands? That's the issue of this film, which indeed makes you think about it, especially if your life and work is totally dependent on the control and reliability on your hands... The fatal mistake of Dr. Gil Harding (Paul Lukather) is not to realize that the pianist could impossibly take up piano playing again with a pair of hands not his own, which in all probability never had touched a keyboard, but the surgeon seems to


imagine this to be possible in the over-optimism of his medical success. It's not a flaw of the extremely interesting case story, but important to observe this psychological mistake, and the doctor seems to realize it in the end. At least he tried all his best.

Carneval of Souls (1962) Remarkable study in the matter of life and death transcending the borders. 24 July 2017

Films out of the ordinary are always interesting, especially if they are unpretentious and still demonstrate a uniqueness in lacking any similarity with other films. This is such a unique orchid in the garden of roses and weeds, which in addition is made almost without a budget, like a soup cooked on a nail, but it's a miracle of sustained concentration on the essence of filming all the way. A young girl emerges as the sole survivor after a car accident, where the car went into the river off a bridge, and she is a professional organist, who gets a job in a church in Utah in some small town close to a lake, where there are some remnants of past glory holidays and bathing in the form of a derelict massive tabernacle of a pavilion. She is drawn to this spooky place, but she suffers from her previous trauma, which somehow occasionally disconnects her entirely from reality, and this gets of course worse. The music is very important to the film. It's generally spooky organ music, she plays the organ well, and even the priest is satisfied with her, until she falls into a trance in spooky improvisations, which deeply upsets the priest, which really no one can understand why - it's just organ music and original improvisations at that. The music sets the mood, which is increasingly haunting all through the film. You could call it abstract, but it is really perfectly realistic all the way, especially in visualizing her disconnected moods. It reminds you very much of Polanski's "Repulsion" and Catherine Deneuve, but this is entirely different. This is more parapsychological, transcending the borders of life and death and giving a fair view of ghost existence. Mary's problem is she doesn't understand her own situation and therefore has no control of it, and as she can't get what's wrong with her, no one else can help her either, no matter how they try and do their best, from the landlady to the doctor. You might think that she will get things sorted out at last, while certainly none of the others will. This is a film you will never forget, especially if you are a musician and know something about the other side. The Dock Brief (1962)


(10/10) Peter Sellers and Richard Attenborough stuck together in the most hopelessly lost of all cases 27 March 2017

I didn't know this Peter Sellers film existed. It's a very odd story of a very poor man with no bad intentions at all, rather the contrary, having almost unawares being driven to commit a most heinous felony for no good reason at all, rather the contrary, as the result of a probably accidental marriage to the queerest kind of wife anyone ever could dream of marrying. The poor criminal, whose actual only desire in life is to be together in peace with his canaries, is played by Richard Attenborough in his most peculiar character ever, and by chance he gets for a defense council Peter Sellers of all people. As a barrister he takes himself extremely seriously, quoting Latin and being absolutely serious about his learned accomplishment and professional wisdom, which only makes matters worse. Of course, the trial becomes a satire of a painful joke, and the case, which was utterly hopeless from the beginning, ends up a mess that no one can handle. In all this, Richard Attenborough and Peter Sellers are absolutely consistent in their seriously honest characters in perfect idyllic-pathetic pettiness, and that's what's makes this film a crown jewel – as a comedy it is supreme. Beryl Reid as the wife and David Lodge (that's actually his name) as the lodger add to the total authenticity of the bizarre absurdity of a situation which you as an audience and everyone else must admit that cannot but end in one way, however incredible. This is a gem of a comedy unlike all others and the more precious for its endearingly sympathetic originality. The War Lover (1962) (10/10) Steve McQueen as a war hero or psychopath? 7 November 2017

This is one of Steve McQueen's most interesting character creations, a soldier too good to be good at anything but war. He is not war mad, though, but he is a very interesting border case - even his superiors expect him to go over the top at any moment, but let him go on as long as no one gets hurt. The crisis occurs when his mate Robert Wagner gets involved with a beautiful woman, for which he himself also feels he is getting weak. She sees him through and executes his character, which he can't survive. There are many other interesting ingredients as well, especially the case of the other mate who sees him through - Marty Lynch, the soldier with the dog, who at one point dares to interfere when Steve goes too far in rudeness with women in a pub. Here is also a wonderful study in the cultural clash between the English and the American way.


There is much in this film to take care of for closer observation, it is full of important details, and it is extremely realistic. It is made on a humble basis without pretensions in black and white and is almost documentary in character in depicting life for the bombers of Germany. In the beginning you fall for Steve's character for his excellence, but as the character is rolled up you must find him absolutely abominable at least in some ways. He is not sympathetic at all when it comes to it, and his superiority gets lost in his lack of humanity, but still there is something there, which he even must admit in the end that he just couldn't but give in to. In brief, it's a complex and fascinating character of hidden depths which must remain a riddle. You get to know nothing of his private life or life before the war, this happens during the war at its most critical turn, while you get to know him only by his actions, which are very difficult to form an opinion of, but which makes this monstrous but in all his monstrosity so extremely vulnerable war character the more fascinating. Jigsaw (1962) (10/10) Brilliant acting in a police documentary of an impossible murder investigation of only missing pieces 15 February 2018

Val Guest was a prolific screenwriter and director, and he knew his business. Among his many triumphs are “Oh Mr Porter!” with Will Hay and “Murder at the Windmill” of a murder at the legendary Windmill theatre that kept open throughout the war, with other witty and often ingenious comedies and thrillers, but here he is dealing with a real murder that occurred in reality. The inspectors understand nothing of it. The murderer has left no trace, the murdered woman is unknown and cannot be identified, all clues lead astray, and although the murderer is present in flashbacks you never see his face. It’s meticulous arduous methodical police work all the way, very much like Jules Dassin’s “Naked City” from New York 15 years earlier, like a criminal documentary, but it’s expertly done. You can’t lose interest for a moment, the dialogue is constantly sustained and pregnant, the investigation leads on, and ultimately you come closer to the target, who of course never could be suspected at all. The camerawork is impressive with its constant shifts by association, a jigsaw puzzle introducing the cryptic way ahead, one face shifting into another in flashbacks, one car shifting into another, and so forth. It’s cinematic and dramaturgic eloquence all the way, and when the final piece of the puzzle suddenly is found there is nothing more to add although the story goes on – the picture is completed, and that’s enough.


Sunday in New York (1963) (10/10) A 22-year old virgin goes to her brother in New York to get some comfort and advice and meets her fate. 11 January 2015

This is one of the most delightful, enjoyable and successful comedies of the 60s, and in 50 years it has lost nothing of its charm and not aged at all. Everyone remains young at heart somewhere in his being, and this film is something of a miracle worker bringing out that feeling of eternal continuous youth. The question is where all the charm is coming from. All the actors are in top form, but Jane Fonda and Rod Taylor are leading the show, she in a dominating character of constantly impressing eloquence and honesty, while he supplies a more subtle charm of the discreet comfort of an accompanying orchestra. It must be pointed out how much the music means for this film. It is perfect all the way and supplies exactly the right mood for every scene, constantly changing between jazz, entertainment and classical romantic – sometimes it approaches Rachmaninov. Above all, this is Norman Krasna's best script, and he was one of the most experienced script writers of Hollywood with decades of professional work behind him. The dialog couldn't be better. Phrases like "If I were you I would kiss me" and the dialog "What's the matter with you women?" Answer: "Men!" will stick forever like the best repartees of the heyday of screwball comedies. The story is ingenious: two couples find each other through jungles of complications and more than one regular mess. In brief, for a comedy, everything is perfect in this film, nothing is missing or lacking, it offers everything and will remain a joy every time you see it. Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964) (8/10) the tragedy of a frustrated spiritualist couple 23 July 2014

A very interesting dive into the world of spiritualism with an almost devastating charting of the psychology of a disturbed medium. Kim Stanley's performance as Myra, using the spirit of her stillborn child as a link with the other side, is almost ghoulish, being totally blind to reality and having lost all touch with her own humanity. A drama of great suspense, especially as she insists on a sĂŠance when the mother of the child they have kidnapped appears, the child being sick in the next room, it's almost unbearably uncomfortable but extremely interesting and fascinating. Bryan Forbes, born today in 1926, died last year, made a number of very diverse and tricky films, sometimes experimental, but always intelligent. This was one of his best, certainly a suspense thriller dealing with the out of the ordinary... One of the last great noir films.


Hot Enough for June (1964) (9/10) Dirk Bogarde as an unwilling spy in Prague seriously threatened with defenestration. Delightful spy comedy with plenty of good humour in its cheeky mix of ironical satire, flippant comedy, serious paranoia, the full terror of a dictatorial police state and diplomatic charm. The introductory scene sets the mood: the remnants of a certain agent 007 are turned in and filed in a box labelled 'deceased' while the caretakers remark on the necessity of getting a replacement. Dirk Bogarde is fished out as a suitable candidate and is appropriately recruited without being informed what it is all about. He is sent on a mission to Czechoslovakia on what seems to be some quite innocent business where he is to be contacted by someone about something. That is all. The Prague authorities welcome him and give him a beautiful driver to show him around, which contact develops into a love affair, but she works for the police, and her father (the formidable Leo McKern) is chief of the secret police. The satirical comedy drastically turns into a political thriller half way into the film with ensuing complications and lots of manhunts and crowded confusions. The film is gilded by some very enjoyable performances by especially Robert Morley, Dirk Bogarde himself of course, the aforesaid Leo McKern and his daughter Sylva Koscina. It's really very close to the real Czech comedies by Milos Forman and others later on, it's the same kind of intelligent humour, and the film gets better all the time. Ultimately no one gets hurt, so in spite of the serious political business, as it was in Czechoslovakia before 1968, which it gives a fairly correct and realistic rendering of, it's a spiritual and entertaining comedy of some great excitement but all laughs and no tears. Night Must Fall (1964) (9/10) The ordeals of the psychotic Albert Finney's ladies 7 April 2017

A horrible film but very well made. After I had seen it at night I was told not to see it at night. Well, it certainly is a shocker, and the stronger for the old efficient trick that you never see the bloody murders or the rest of the victims; but their presence is the more unavoidable. Albert Finney makes a virtuoso performance, and the film could have for a subtitle 'Anatomy of a psychopath', since that is what the film envisions and with excellence. Susan Hampshire is very convincing as well in her wavering position as getting more and more uncertain about her relationship the more she gets to know him; but the prize goes to Karel Reisz for his direction. It's an extremely weird film that only gets more so in its course, and Reisz more often than not made a sport of challenging the difficult art of border line balancing – his greatest success was "Morgan – a suitable case for treatment", his next film. This film Albert Finney made just after his triumph in "Tom Jones" as something of an opposite. Danny here 187

is as charming as Tom Jones and even more agile about it but definitely goes too far. It's a film well worth seeing, but you never want to see it again. Lilith (1964) (9/10) Dark and disturbing masterpiece about love with complications at an asylum. 30 March 2015

Almost all classical stories delving into mental institutions for an investigation of the conditions led by a perfectly normal and sane man, who associates with the patients freely as a fellow man, conclude with the sane protagonist ending up as a patient, and this is yet another variation of the old story, but told and filmed with remarkable subtlety. Especially the acting is outstanding concerning every single character, with of course a special credit to Jean Seberg, always beautiful, always fascinating, and here more than ever. Robert Rossen's ambition has apparently been to make his last film his most personal one digging into the severest problems of humanity, solving none of them but at least presenting them and making them viewable. Warren Beatty lives with some war traumas, has had an unhappy love affair and seeks a job at the asylum, where he meets Lilith, whose brother has killed himself for not daring to love her, while she is a person whom no one can help loving. One of them is Peter Fonda, another intellectual patient, who has a tragedy of unrequited love of his own. The tragedy here is tremendous in its covered discretion where words tell nothing while the untold stories boom with their silence. The photography adds to the fascination of the drama, and especially the music illustrates perfectly the effort to mask the untold horrors with a seductive gloss of beauty. This is a film for much afterthought that isn't easily disposed of. You can't help asking the question: What happened to Vincent next? My guess would be that he ended up as yet another doctor. The Night of the Iguana (1964) (10/10) Tennessee Williams, John Huston, Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner and a few more, all at their best. 5 August 2016

John Huston sometimes broke completely loose in sophisticated but splendid comedy, and "The Night of the Iguana" is probably the best example. Here Tennessee Williams and Huston have found each other fitting each other perfectly in a black comedy of fall and crisis of human decency. Not only Richard Burton is defrocked, but everyone is. When his tormenting shrews at last leave him alone there is nothing left of them, and they are abandoned with delighted glee to their further unavoidable disasters. Ava Gardner is indestructible as the already completed waste of a life she 188

is, which she has learned to make the best of with her beach boys, and there is nothing pathetic about that enjoyable resignation. Nonno the poet is exuberantly played by Cyril Delevanti, who makes a formidable caricature of a passed out poet and manages to make him not only credible but talented – a 97-year old poet couldn't be more convincing. But most impressing is Deborah Kerr, who by just being herself in all human intact simplicity somehow manages to save the dignity of them all. The supreme award however goes to Tennessee Williams for his remarkable charting of human nature in these totally different characters in a dialogue that never ceases to engage in admirable eloquence. This is one of those films to always return to at least once every decade to find new details in it to cherish, laugh at, learn from and memorize. Even Nonno gets to finish his last poem as the iguana somehow manages to resolve the whole situation. This might be John Huston's best film, although he made many good ones. Of Human Bondage (1964) (10/10) Somerset Maugham's masterpiece turned into a cinematic masterpiece as well – again after 30 years. 16 December 2016

It's no small matter for Lawrence Harvey and Kim Novak to vie with Leslie Howard and Bette Davis in enacting this one of the greatest melodramas ever, but they come off it excellently well. It's impossible to say which version is the better or which actors do it better, since this is one of those novels that can't be made a failure of, like some other equally great novels by Dostoyevsky, Dickens or Victor Hugo, for instance. All Somerset Maugham's novels and stories are of lasting timeless interest because of his profound knowledge and understanding of human nature, which he never lost interest in delving into. This was his greatest novel and probably his most human. The prize goes to Kim Novak, every scene with her is magic for her beauty and overwhelmingly truthful acting to her part, I actually find her more convincing in the Mildred character than Bette Davis, Miss Davis could never be a convincing prostitute but Kim Novak is, and the startling thing is that she gets more beautiful for every scene and is never more compelling than when she is dying. Laurence Harvey on the other hand is equally convincing with an admirably sustained low profile all the way – this is perfect contained acting which for its restricted discipline only underlines the seriousness of the drama and the tragedy of the case. To this comes Ron Goodwin's endearing music adding a gilded romanticism like a beautiful frame for the masterpiece. I am glad it was in black and white – colour would have ruined the realism. The other actors also add to it, especially Roger Livesey, while you would have liked to see more of Siobhan McKenna – the relief of her beneficial performance is vital and heightens the interest. Bryan Forbes wrote the script and succeeded in bringing out the essence of Somerset Maugham's story, which remains his own. I am very much tempted to give it a full score – for all its contained sotto voce character, it's a flawless masterpiece. A curious detail: what opened my eyes to the film and aroused my interest was, that 189

there is a scene from it in Ettore Scola's "C'eravamo tanto amati" from 1974, a film dedicated to Vittorio de Sica. I recognized Kim Novak and Lawrence Harvey but not the film, so I looked it up. Becket (1964) Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole in clinch for power in a struggle between earthly and spiritual power. (9/10) 18 September 2017

Not everyone likes this film, especially not today, for its overburdened architecture of artificial stylishness, which conveys very little realism from the middle ages, i.e. the 12th century. Others find this to be the very most prominent asset of the film: the towering stylishness, like a Gothic cathedral, and very much of the action is indeed within the cathedral, the Gothic heaviness and solemnity actually recalling the splendour of Eisenstein's 'Ivan the Terrible'. The real flaw of the film is actually something completely different, and that's not the fault of the film. It is based on Jean Anouilh's play, and Jean Anouilh unfortunately succeeded in ruining many great stories and dramas by adjusting them to his own preferences. His 'Anna Karenina' for example in Julien Duvivier's version with Vivien Leigh is a disaster, turning Tolstoy's great novel into a Zola-kind of naturalistic sordidness concentrating on negative destruction only. Here Anouilh's dramatization departs from reality, almost disfiguring the drama by sensationalization. On the other hand, many writers have dramatized this murder in the cathedral, among others Tennyson and T.S.Eliot, and they have all failed to hit at the truth. In this version at least the true relationship between Henry and Becket and its tragedy is near enough to be convincing. What saves the film is the splendid acting, above all by Peter O'Toole, seconded by Richard Burton, but also by Donald Wolfit as the angry bishop and the ladies Pamela Brown and Martita Hunt, wife and mother. This is filmed theatre at its very best, and to this comes the splendid staging with glowing impressive colour all the way, leading up to the glorious finale of their last meeting on horseback on the shores of France. It's a splendid film in spite of its overburdened insistence on being overdone, I saw it now for the third time, and it is better than ever. The High Bright Sun (1965) Good enough for Cyprus, Dirk Bogarde and the sly terrorist George Chakiris.


(8/10) 1 July 2017

Nothing wrong with this film, giving an interesting insight into the Cypriotic war of independence against the British in 1957, with an innocent American tourist getting caught in the civil war and a very difficult time getting out of it. Dirk Bogarde is excellent and enjoyable as always, Denholm Elliott makes a great performance but is punished for it in the end, and yet he resolved all the most difficult situations; George Chakiris is convincing enough as a very cold-blooded terrorist, he worms his way like a snake in awesome intelligence, while you could discuss Susan Strasberg is she really the right actress for such a part? She tries to get away with it by appearing silly, but she isn't, and although she isn't she really can't cope with the awful situations she gets caught in by no fault of hers and consequently makes a rather awkward show of it. You could also discuss the realism of the terrorist plot – were the freedom fighters of Cyprus really that bad? They are not quite convincing, and although the fugitive general is, George Chakiris is not. He is too evil, as only films can make that sort of guys. Anyway, there is nothing wrong with the film which gets more exciting all the time, and it's a great story. You only wonder what would happen to the doctor afterwards. After all, his situation with double loyalties mixed up with all political opponents and contraries is the most difficult of all, and he is the one who really pays for it. Onkel Toms Hßtte (1965) (10/10) Another shamefully neglected and forgotten great film and classic of the 60s 16 February 2016

When this German-Italian film production came to town in 1968 I sadly missed it and didn't get a new opportunity until now, when it was 50 years old, but its age has not impeded its impact. It was a sensationally positive surprise to observe how interestingly the book has been tampered with to make it an even better film. The book was certainly one of the most important and influential novels of the 19th century, and, as Lincoln said, it was what started the war; Leo Tolstoy ranked it as one of his favourites especially for its consequences, only books like 'Oliver Twist' and 'Les Miserables' had similar social effects, in all its roughness the book remains an absolute classic, and the film lives more than well up to it. The credits are many. The first one must go to John Kitzmiller, who makes a perfectly convincing Uncle Tom in an intensely warm and sustained human performance, and what a wonderful idea that he starts singing and has such a wonderful voice at that! The Negro Spirituals of the film greatly enhance its emotional pathos and add a glowing colour of aesthetic charm and human dignity to the film. He is seconded by Olive Moorefield as Cassy, whom the film successfully makes more of than the book, while Herbert Lom as the supreme villain Simon Legree, who is allowed to dominate the film from the very beginning, has never had a better time for a full range of his acting since he was Napoleon in 'War and Peace', the best Napoleon ever, by the way. The others fall in line and support the drama satisfactorily well.


Max Ophuls would have loved this film for its wonderful details. The riverboat journey is a highlight, much effort has been given to reconstruct a perfect and intact 1850s environment in homes and towns, there is a marvellous sequence from old New Orleans with a circus and parade, there is a splendid tavern brawl, and where did they find that fascinating music box? I have never seen one so large. Another striking detail is the guest appearance of Juliette Greco, she didn't appear in many films and only exclusively, and while she appears you can't take your eyes from her fascinating character. The alterations from the book are on the whole well construed. That Legree is in from the beginning sets the drama off directly, the invented cause of little Eva's sudden death adds another interesting intrigue not at all implausible, Eliza's amazing escape never fails to impress both on screen and in the book, and it's a good idea not to let her come home until the very end, to at least give the end one good turn of relief. On the whole, this is a film that never reached its appropriate recognition, it is indeed worth discovering and loving, while at the same time it constitutes an enriching and well deserved compliment to the book. Chimes at Midnight (Falstaff) (1965) (10/10) Orson Welles finally at his very best. 7 July 2017

Orson Welles was always good at Shakespeare and second only to Laurence Olivier, and in each Shakespeare he made he made it even better. You can see a very interesting line of maturing development through Macbeth and Othello to Falstaff, the final masterpiece – not even Laurence Olivier could make Shakespeare this good. And yet it has its minor flaws. My greatest pleasure and enjoyment, as I saw it now for the third time since the 60s, is above all the marvelous film and picture composition. Every scene could be seen as pictorially a masterpiece of its own. Orson Welles has created his film with an enormous load of experience from experimental cinematography through 30 years, and he seems to have learned everything. Usually in Shakespeare films there are long moments of doldrums but not here – the tempo is exceedingly efficient all the way, even in the calmer scenes. The virtuoso peak is of course the battle scenes in the middle of the film, comparable with Sergei Bondarchuk's overwhelmingness but here made more realistic and convincing in black and white. The mud is really muddy. It's also the point of the film's musical climax - here the music plays an important part of its own. The actors are also perfect every one, but here we come to the one minor detail. The diction is extremely important in Shakespare, the language is all, and if you muddle it all is lost. The best actor here is John Gielgud, who really understands his Shakespeare and makes him right, while the most difficult to understand is actually


Orson Welles. His Falstaff is a little too bulky and fat, and his voice is many times lost in the flesh. Another wonderful thing, which gladdened me enormously, is the absolute faithfulness to realism. Welles has really tried to recreate medieval England, especially in the tavern scenes and above all the last one – you can really see how he enjoyed filming it. This faithfulness to style and realism makes the film outstanding in a way almost transcending all other Shakespeare films. Kenneth Branagh wallowed in transforming Shakespeare into any time, age and circumstance including the first world war, many others did even worse, while only Laurence Olivier was equally faithful to realism and style. In brief, it's a perfect film, and its minor flaws you easily forgive for its massive deserts. Only ten points is possible. The Ipcress File (1965) (10/10) An intricate espionage brainwash system intrigue in which poor Michael Caine finds himself an almost helpless guinea pig. 1 November 2017

What struck me from the start when I first saw this film 50 years ago was its dominating stylishness. It has a very particular style of its own all the way, evident in the environment, the fascinating camera angles, the very laconic dialogue, the austere almost militarily disciplined stringency and the total lack of any make up lustre to the characters - as far from Hollywood as possible, especially Michael Caine as Harry Palmer himself, the very opposite of any James Bond or hero agent with his stolid glasses. The stylishness also dominates the composition of the film, which is almost architectural: no action at all to begin with, very careful hints at what is going on, large desolate offices with stiff strictness, and only gradually the intrigue is introduced with the visit to the abandoned factory and Gordon Jackson's first discovery of the secret - and then the shocks start building up, to culminate in the great brainwash scene as an awesome finale. But that on the other hand is the weakness of the film. It's not credible. The stylishness is overdone in artifice and far-fetched methods bordering on absurdity, but it's the book that here goes off into incredibility. The enemy nation for which the spies are working is never mentioned, but Albania is, and Albania was at the time a satellite of Communist China, and it's more credible that China could have contrived an espionage intrigue like this and with those means than Russia. On the whole, it's almost a masterpiece, and it was a great joy to see it again after 50 years and get even more impressed than the first time above all by its artistic qualities.


Sands of the Kalahari (1965) (9/10) How to survive and not to survive 9 January 2018 For once Stuart Whitman is allowed to play the lead and not only second to guys like John Wayne and James Garner, and he does it here with a vengeance indeed. This is really an account of man's relationship with nature and how he deals with it under extreme circumstances. Stuart Whitman does it the hard way and has to face the consequences. Harry Andrews is the only one who understands what baboons are all about but is not allowed to get his aged wisdom through. Susannah York as the only woman among these wild guys has to suffer for that but manages by accepting it. Theodore Bikel is the philosopher who rather humbly takes on the hard lot that is assigned to him than tries to fight it, which is wise. Stanley Baker finally, the only one severely hurt from the beginning, makes the best of it and finds his way as an observer until it's time for him to act. While the baboons are the real commanders of this situation. It's a tremendous adventure film, and it's far better than both William Dieterle's "Rope of Sand" with Burt Lancaster 1949 and "Twist of Sand" 1968 with Richard Johnson, which also both deal with the hardships of the sands of Kalahari. They are all three arduous and interesting, but this is certainly the best one and catches well the sinister character of the famous novel by Richard Mulvihill, which I read 50 years ago and which is even more grim than this colour film with some lighter ingredients not to put the audience off completely. Grand Prix (1966) (9/10) A masquerade of vanity parading for death at highest speed Not John Frankenheimer's best film, but certainly the most technically ambitious and advanced, still impressing today after 50 years, and yet I was never a fan of motor sports. The most interesting aspect of the film is the discussions going on behind the screen, the drivers talking about the madness they are involved in, why they do it, trying to explain their fascination with associating with death as closely as possible, more than well aware they are risking their lives every second. Their different stories are also interesting, the most interesting one being Scott's, who loses everything including his girl in an all but deadly accident and still manages to retrieve it all merely by simply in crazy obstinacy continuing to risk his life even


under unendurable pains. Pete is an honest racer who really is in it for the sport and sacrifices anything for it, including his good standing and relationships, but still emerges as a winner. Sarti is the tragedy, not realizing himself that he is finished, although he admits that he is tired, and just keeps pushing on, even if his car is burning and refuses to start and he is warned by his manager. Nino is a young Pete, fresh and ambitious and absolutely carefree – he still has everything ahead of him. Then we have the girls, Pat and Louise above all, Pat trying to divorce his wrecked husband who still can't abandon his mad race, and Louise falling in love with Sarti against her will, while he is still married. Their love is genuine, but they don't know how to continue after the race, while his wife won't divorce him, anything could happen, and of course the most unexpected happens. In spite of all this, the psychology, the drama, the excitement, the pathos of the accidents, the many personal fates involved, there is something hollow about this film, as if it never really could rise from the triviality level. It's Frankenheimer's last great film, he had only made superb films throughout the 60s earlier, and this was made straight upon the masterpiece "Seconds", which in spite of its incredible SF plot stirred you to the core, but this doesn't, while the strongest moment of the film is Louise in despair demonstrating her bloody hands to the press, showing the real truth of the fake show, which is still glossed over by the superficial triumphs, the vain glory, shallowly ignoring the mad vanity and the hopelessness of any real human relationships. Triple Cross (1966) (8/10) A complicated but intelligent web of the art of survival at its most difficult by compulsory espionage 12 May 2016

Fascinating thriller of espionage and how to survive the most impossible circumstances by simply collaborating with any criminal and make him trust you, even if he doesn't. This is no James Bond entertainment but bloody war and a true one, and Eddie Chapman existed for real and managed to trick his way through the war by selling his soul to any devil that offered a price. He was doomed from the beginning and would have passed the entire war in jail for burglary on an advanced scale if he hadn't offered himself as a spy for the Germans. There it all began. The main character of the drama however is not Chapman/Christopher Plummer but Yul Brunner as his main employer in Germany, the Baron von Grunen, who has no illusions about the war and admits defeat when there is one. Gert Frobe is another, an honest policeman who survives by his honesty and sticking to it, even when it could be argued away. Romy Schneider is the one woman of some realism who also admits defeat and recognizes a fatal farewell and accepts it even when there is one too many. All actors are good but none outstanding, because a complicated story like this admits no stars, and the grim reality and circumstances of the intrigue play of a war like this lets no star shine through. Only in the end, after the war, when


Christopher Plummer finally is able to relax at a pub home in London there is finally room for an ego when it has got through it all alive and kicking after all, – but it took many difficult twists and turns to get there. Operazione San Gennaro (1966) (8/10) Hilarious Rififi Italian style going wrong all the way but still somehow ending up right. 15 May 2015

This appears like a superficial farce full of slapstick and comedy situations of increasingly ridiculous complications, but it is much more than that. Also, not only is it an extensive and warm exposure of the Napolitan style of life and its very original mentality with great variations, but above all a very human approach to this kind of life. Of course, it's a triumphant comedy but with dark undertones. The one who spoils the entertainment is Harry Guardian as Jack, who doesn't fit in at all, can't understand the Napolitan mentality and style of life and seems to deliberately make a bad actor, but the story turns logic, and he gets his just reward. Senta Berger is something similar, but she is closer and more familiar with the Italian style, she fits in even as the rather cheap slut she is under all her elegance, but also she gets her just reward. They all do, and that's the wonder and point of this sparkling film, which gets better all the time as the plot thickens in constantly wrong directions. In brief, it's classical hilarious entertainment with some very wise indications by the finger of both fortune and fate. You get disgusted by the torpid enterprise, but you learn something on the way and end up the wiser from this awesome experience of not only laughters on the way. Of course, if you are Italian or understand Italian and even the Napolitan dialect, the film will be doubly entertaining, because if you don't you will not understand everything, since much is untranslatable. Paris brĂťle-t-il? (1966) (8/10) The French equivalent to "The Longest Day" celebrating the liberation of Paris 18 February 2016

It's a fact that Hitler actually wanted to blow up Paris and gave orders of it, as the ultimate confirmation of himself as the worst of losers. The circumstances around this were carefully investigated by the journalists Dominique LaPierre and Larry Collins, which resulted in their first major book, with this title. It's a very panoramic documentary which unfortunately gets muddled in its vast conglomeration of facts and episodes, and the film suffers from the same dispersion. There is no real structure and unity, but episodes, characters, events and intrigues are just heaped 196

upon each other like on a junk tower of Babel. Nevertheless, it is well worth seeing and read, and like in "The Longest Day" four years earlier all the world's best actors are participating and showing off as well as they can, although here they are almost only French (apart from Orson Welles, Kirk Douglas, Anthony Perkins, Glenn Ford, Robert Stack and a few others) while you sadly miss the almost architectural overview and epic unity of the D-day epic. What spoils the show furthermore is the almost parodic martial music by Maurice Jarre. It's exaggeratedly noisy, and if it's made like this to ridicule the Germans and their militarism it misses its purpose, since the Germans don't get much of a say. Only towards the end the music becomes more natural, as with the fall of Paris it transforms into more French agreeability. The dominating march making so much noise through two thirds of the film is like a mixture of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony and Berlioz at his worst, as if all the war noise of guns, cannons and bazookas was not enough but had to be underlined. The director is RenĂŠ Clement, who a few years earlier had made the best Ripley film "Plein soleil" with Alain Delon, who is also prominent here with Jean-Paul Belmondo. Jean-Pierre Cassel and Gerd Froebe are here again counterparts like in "Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines" just before. But the main asset of the film is the authentic documentary material, which serves to underline the great liberation of Paris, which is reconstructed as a constantly accelerating party, which it probably was in reality, wonderfully accentuated by the introduction of typically French waltz music as the liberation reaches the center with the final humiliation of the Germans. Gerd Froebe makes a very interesting portrayal of the German general in charge who apparently was one of the few realists in the German army, recognizing defeat before everybody else and admitting to Hitler being insane in a moment of sad resignation, thinking of his family first as he surrenders to the allies. Orson Welles as the Swedish consul who does what he can to save prisoners and Paris is convincingly Swedish in his quiet persistence, while the strongest impression is made by Kirk Douglas as Patton. His moment is brief but monumentally eloquent in Spartan soldier's code. The film should actually be called "The Feast of Paris", because that's what it is all about: Paris is being celebrated as never before or after, which the final sequence in colour underscores in triumphant final liberation. The Defector (1966) (7/10) Unwilling spies being used for their own bad ends. 6 January 2018

This is a very poor film but a very interesting story. Montgomery Clift looks worn and torn in this intelligent thriller that was to be his last film at only 45. Hardy Kruger makes an equally interesting character but more convincing for his vitality. They both find themselves pawns in a political game, both are involuntarily 197

recruited, and they both have some difficulty winding their way out of it. Towards the end of the film it gets finally exciting like a real thriller, but you have to wait long for it. Fortunately a beautiful young lady also gets involved, and she is let alone by the bullies. The main asset of the film is actually the delightful music by Serge Gainsbourg, which every time it tunes in gives some relief to a rather bleak and sordid story. It is in character very much like "Funeral in Berlin" of almost the same year but more sophisticated and interesting, while the Harry Palmer case is much more attractive as a film. Much of the flaws of the film are due to very poor direction - the directior has difficulties in bringing his actors to life. You must not be that formal and stiff, callous and expressionless in a film that involves great nervous strain, a love affair, brainwash ordeals and an escape for your life. Although the story is good and of great interest, the director fails to bring it sufficiently alive on screen to make it engaging.

The Quiller Memorandum (1966) (7/10) Cold turkey in Berlin with many great actors wasted 4 January 2018 Everything is disappointing about this so called thriller, but most surprisingly disappointing of all is Harold Pinter's failure of a script. The story simply doesn't hold, it's far-fetched and improbable, and everything seems artificially contrived. Neither Alec Guinness, Max von Sydow, Robert Helpmann, George Sanders or even the stupidity of George Segal or the expressionless indifference of Senta Berger can save this long and dull film from being anything than a very poor and cold turkey. Not even John Barry's music is of any help. There is some typical stylishness in the potography, as in so many films of the 60s, but that is all. A waste of 100 minutes and a bunch of otherwise impeccable actors The Comedians (1967) (10/10) Smith, Brown and Jones (Alec Guinness, Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Peter Ustinov and Lillian Gish) caught up in the mess of the world's most rotten government 29 April 2016

Graham Greene generally had problems with films made on his books. In the beginning the situation was hopeless – the film companies would distort his plots


and make a film of his story that would be anything but what he had written, like for instance " A Gun for Sale" ("This Gun for Hire") with Alan Ladd, but alerted on this problem he started to work on it, and already "Brighton Rock" (1947) was fairly much of what he had intended. In "The Third Man" Carol Reed made the end of the film the direct opposite of what Greene had written, but the author had to admit that Carol Reed's ending was better. They also collaborated on "The Fallen Idoll" with gratifying success, but in "The Comedians" Greene finally was allowed to have all the say, and it's a triumph both for the author,the director and everyone involved in it. The book is the author's last great novel, he was past 60 at the time, and a novel couldn't be more truly Greene, with a hotel owner stuck on a hopeless spot in the world's most corrupt regime, with a phony American politician naïvely believing only the best of the dictatorship until people are murdered in front of him, and a pathetic remnant from the colonial days trying to sell arms to the dictator with deplorable results, finally even bungling his escape. Well, well, the film is absolutely perfect all the way, also Peter Ustinov married to Elizabeth Taylor and James Earl Jones as the doctor couldn't do better, but the main credit goes to the director, for actually paying homage to Graham Greene by for once being as true as possible to a literary work of art, which possibly has never happened before. The novel is great, maybe Greene's greatest in its subtle understatement of a universal protest against the very idea of any dictatorship, the film is great, and it is carefully done with absolute professionalism. Best is Alec Guinness, but he had filmed with Peter Grenville before in the very memorable "The Cardinal" more than ten years earlier, a bold effort to analyze the very essence of the brainwash procedure and mentality based on the breaking down of Cardinal Mindszenty of Hungary. Alec Guinness was a catholic himself and here actually portrayed a saint, while in this film he tops it by making the opposite‌ Just wonderful. One must wonder what happened to Richard Burton afterwards. He was still on the top here, afterwards there would be some divorces with Elizabeth Taylor, some constantly lesser films and a lot of booze‌ also a very appropriate character for any novel by Graham Greene. I love them all. The Long Duel (1967) (8/10) Yul Brynner as freedom fighter against impossible odds of the colonial military authorities of Trevor Howard and Harry Andrews. 24 July 2015

This has simply been unfairly misunderstood. It's a great romantic adventure story exposing conflicting mentalities in the last days of the Indian Raj, when some British already started to doubt their presence there. Harry Andrews is the hopeless imperialist who knows only one way to govern and that by force, while Trevor Howard tries the other way: dialogue and understanding. Yul Brynner is the freedom fighter with a just cause who knows he is right and struggles against opposition in his own camp to achieve it with tragic results, due to the hardcore


inflexibility of the British military authorities (Harry Andrews). Charlotte Rampling plays an unusual part as a female diplomatic intermediary, and her character is the only one who is not quite convincing, which unfavourable impression is worsened by her horrible hair style – utterly impossible in India. Additional merits of the film is the overwhelming sweeping landscape scenes catching the wilderness of the Himalayas, and the music, which underlines and augments the romantic character of the film. Yul Brynner is always interesting and makes memorable characters, and also Trevor Howard and Harry Andrews are well up to their ordinary excellent standard, while the story and its lesson of experience, wisdom and humanity is the main importance of this very underrated film. The Witchfinder General (1968) (9/10) Cruel times in civil war create cruel people and vicious circles of cruelty 21 July 2017

Vincent Price is unbearably cruel in this picture, but unfortunately that is how it was. It is more or less a true story, and the reality of it was probably crueller still – Matthew Hopkins murdered hundreds in his profitable witch-hunts and went on for three years. Both the acting, the direction, the photography and the music is outstanding in this film, contrasting sharply to its horrible story. Personally I find Ian Ogilvy the best acting performance here, Vincent Price is a little too professional and acting more or less on routine, he had been making characters like this for twenty years and more, while also Rupert Davies like always is perfectly reliable, while only Patrick Wymark as Cromwell is a little out of place, a little too small and fat and not quite convincing. But the greatest credit goes to the direction, to realize a film like this with all its abhorrent cruelties and inhumanities and keeping it convincing, realistic and in control. It's a revolting but admirable masterpiece of a historical film exposing the truth of man's darkest sides as he is gone to his worst, which unfortunately happens sometimes. The Lion in Winter (1968) (9/10) A family at war, and a royal family at that in the 12th century with Katharine Hepburn triumphing at large. 5 October 2017


Most people seem to exalt this film to supreme top standard, while no one finds anything wrong with it. Maybe it's time for some alternative view. It's good, of course, everything is excellent, the acting is perfect, Katharine Hepburn reigning supreme and defeating everyone by just being what she is, and her part of the dialogue strikes everyone down. Peter O'Toole is next to it, and the three intriguing sons, only one of them being a bastard while he denounces them all three as bastards, add to the total family conflict. This could actually be the inner conflict of any family, these controversies are quite normal, and you could find the same pattern even in almost any Danish dogma film. Their quarrel isn't unique, they just carry it to extremes by overdoing it with a vengeance, and all except Katharine Hepburn almost go under in the process. So the story isn't really very remarkable. They just happen to be royalties, a king and queen and princes, and that's all. It all happens within the castle, almost within four walls, and is really a chamber play, unlike the four years earlier 'Becket', which was much more of a monumental story and drama and historically more correct, although they also took considerable liberties with facts there. Here it's all conjecture, it's a mess of a speculation in intrigue, and they even mix homosexuality into the slander to make it as worse as possible. Hence it's actually a rather artificial concoction of a drama just for showing off, but it's splendid theatre all the way. The dialogue is a feast of sumptuous quarrelsome eloquence, and especially the Queen constantly surpasses herself in delivering poisonous knockouts under the belt. Peter O'Toole was even better in ' Becket', but here he repeats the same role as a 12 year older man and convincingly. He is aging, he is losing control, he has reasons enough to worry about the future, while his sons are more than catching up with him. Prince John is something of a caricature and almost a parody of himself, Anthony Hopkins as Richard is not quite ready yet and too much into his mother to be recognizable as Richard, while Geoffrey is the best of them as a cool calculating bastard. Rosamund, his mother is constantly mentioned while she does not occur in either of the films, although her part in fact was extremely important, especially in the circumstances of Becket's death, but here at least her presence is constantly felt, as something of a bad conscience and lingering wet blanket for the entire all too powerful family for their own good. Neither Richard nor John became very happy as kings, which all films and history show, let alone Walter Scott. John Barry's music, finally, adds to the genuineness and atmosphere of the 12th century. He used to make music to thrillers and James Bond, but he is just as eloquent here with choirs and nunneries and efficient medieval bells. It's a great film, of course, but I still prefer 'Becket'.

A Twist of Sand (1968) (8/10)


Struggle for life and death and vanity in the qualms of Kalahari 7 January 2018

This film is like a moral sermon of vanity, but at the same time it's a thrilling adventure constantly getting screwed up. Perhaps the most interesting performance is by Peter Vaughan as the mentally unstable Johann who doesn't speak at all but only mumbles some German occasionally, and his acting is well worth observing carefully, as he is the key to the developing tragedy. Richard Johnson is reliable as usual, he repeats his feat as leader of a miscellanous party risking their lives, like in "The Haunting" five years earlier, but here they are facing all the atrocities of nature in the burning waste of the Kalahari with sand storms and other unexpected terrors of the sands, which brings out the worst in them. The most interesting and thrilling sequence though is the perilous cruise through the shallows of the Skeleton Coast. Honor Blackman is as tough a girl as ever, Roy Dotrice is the most sympathetic of the party and comes to unfairly suffer the most, while Jeremy Kemp is enigmatical and unpredictable as usual. All these five male actors appear to still be living today although they were all above 40 at the time of the film. It's not a bad story, it gives you plenty of reason for afterthought, it's a curiosity of an adventure film with an impressing struggle with destiny, which as always wins in the end over the weakness of human vanity, least there are some survivors. Ice Station Zebra (1968) (8/10) A pretentious Alistair MacLean adventure leading nowhere except getting stuck in the ice. 17 January 2018

This is a monumental rendering of a rather ordinary adventure by Alistair MacLean involving the usual ingredients of spies, traitors, violence, sabotage, conflicts, political crisis, unbearable suspense, life and death and everything else, but is it not just a little overdone? In the first part of the film, until they finally reach that polar station after the middle of the film, there is very little acting and mainly only technical manoeuvres to get the submarine to its destination, which involves tremendous difficulties, especially with the lack of communications and of course a very thrilling sequence of almost getting stuck under the ice with the prospect of a submarine shipwreck, which isn't a very cheerful prospect for those suffering from claustrophobia on board - this is unavoidable in every submarine film - the claustrophobia is the main element of terror, although here it is not so much in focus. Patrick McGoohan is the ordinary hard line tough guy as an agent with a secret mission, he always is, Ernest Borgnine is the one of the leading actors that gets some opportunity to act, while Rock Hudson is very bland as a character, almost like a mere figure-head of the journey, while the actor who makes an impression is Alf Kjellin in his brief but efficient appearance in the end. The lack of any woman during all these 2,5 hours adds to the futility and superficiality of the film. Not even Michel Legrand's music can save it. It is impressively majestic and almost


bombastic like the whole film, but you see too much of the submarine and the waves and the ice and too little acting. The action in the end is hardly substitute enough for that either. The following Alistair MacLean films, like "Bear Island", "When Eight Bells Toll" and "Puppet on a Chain" are more efficient for being more tense and brief and intensive. Here there is too much circumstance and too little substance. Istanbul Express (1968) (8/10) Burke's law on the Orient Express to Istanbul 5 March 2018

Gene Barry became world famous by the television series in the 60s "Burke's Law", where he was the womanizing detective who always got his man but for some reason always happened to very odd crimes in weird circumstances, like a kind of James Bond without the violence and extreme crooks but with a slightly more morbid slant instead. This film is like one of those 45-minute TV-shows but made into a full feature and set on a thrilling journey through Europe to Istanbul with complications, of course, he even misses his train at one risky station, ending up a failure in Istanbul and almost getting killed for it. All Burke's girls are with him on this journey and he kisses them all, and of course there is a lot of champagne and whisky and lobsters and what not for the smoking luxury. It's great entertainment, though, and especially the music is terrific. The plot is clearly fashioned somewhat on Bond's "From Russia with Love" and also "Casino Royale", but there is no plagiarism, only variations. You don't object to anything, especially not against the only crook in the plot, who is the lovely Senta Berger; so it's a nice thriller to pass an evening with never to see again, - like just another of those Burke girls. Che! (1969) (8/10) Omar Sharif brilliant as Che Guevara, Jack Palance less brilliant as Castro but good enough. It is interesting to note that the film was made only the year after his death. I remember when it was issued – there was very much hush-hush about it, and Richard Fleischer would not publicly reveal the sources of many arguable details of the script. The account is convincing enough, and there has been no protests against any untruthfulness. Omar Sharif as Che makes a convincing character of great controversy and self-contradictoriness, while it is possible at the same time to understand him – why he abandoned the Castro regime as a hopeless case of either 203

becoming a puppet of Russia or of America, to try to make an inter-South-American revolution of his own. Of course, it was utterly unrealistic, which he failed to realize, having no detachment but rather an obsession with any revolution at any cost. Jack Palance has been criticized for his almost caricature of Castro, but he has made the best of it, Castro was actually like that, and Palance has studied him carefully. There is nothing wrong with the film as film either. The quality has its flaws, but the direction and cinematic realization is practically flawless. The greatest credit of the film, though, is the unmasking of Che as the tragic megalomaniac he was, a sick man gone wrong from the beginning and getting stuck in a vicious circle of violence going irrevocably from bad to worse, his pride outgrowing him into arrogance and inhumanity leading only one way into selfdestruction, a man obsessed with constantly worsening his own tragedy, made clear enough by Omar Sharif. In brief, an underrated film of great documentary objectivity charting the psychology of man at his most destructive. Age of Consent (1969) (10/10) Delightful trifle of old man playing Robinson on desert island with too many girls around of and out of age 25 July 2017

James Mason was 60 and Michael Powell 64 as they made this film together on a small island in the Great Barrier Reef outside Australia, a comedy about a painter seeking seclusion and finding the opposite, as three other ladies appear to be living on the island, one with a small dog, which James Mason's dog Godfrey gets the better of. Godfrey is the best character of this delightful comedy displaying on a small scale but still the full range of Michael Powell's genius. Just the introductory scene immediately presents a flash of genius, setting the tropical mood, ending up on a Rolex watch, which takes you brusquely out of the underwater tropics, - but stay on, there will be enough of them later still. With the three ladies of very different ages he finds the island crawling with people to his great frustration and dismay, but fortunately one of them is Helen Mirren, which saves his day. But to this crowd of women of very different kinds also his worst friend from the shore appears and disturbs the rhythm, but he is also part of the comedy. Just wait for the funeral. In all, it's delightful to see how Michael Powell after all managed to recover after his downfall with "Peeping Tom" bringing on his undeserved banishment from British cinema practically for the rest of his life, while Australia at least to some degree seems to have saved him.

204 The Thousand Plane Raid (1969) (8/10) Christopher George is not up to Steve McQueen but nevertheless an acceptable second. 17 November 2017

This is very much like "The War Lover" with Steve McQueen 10 years earlier in black-and-white, it is basically the same story, but that film was humanly so much more interesting. This is in colour, and although Christopher George is very much like Steve McQueen, almost like a twin character, he is grimmer, harder and more superficial - the McQueen character has an abyss of depth in its psychopathic possibilities, while Christopher George is only doing his job. Both died too young, by the way, Steve McQueen at 50 and Christopher George at 54. What saves the film are the other characters, first of all Gary Marshal, who adds a very needful sense of humour and detachment to the grim show, while colonel Brandon (George) has no humour at all and never smiles. The case of the grounded pilot Palmer (J.D.Cannon) also adds some interest to the epic, while on the whole, like as if it was made for television, this is clearly less realistic than the McQueen feature, which offers so much more human insight into the lives of the bomber pilots in this dreadful war. Here it more amounts to aerobatics and showing off. McQueen makes that showing off pathological, while here it is superficial. Nevertheless, it's an interesting film, better than its reputation, awfully exciting and with splendid scenery of war pilot flights in the air and in action. The only disturbing thing was Laraine Stephens' hair style, a cold blonde with too much make-up for that war and a coiffure belonging entirely to the 60s. On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) (9/10) impressing 24 April 2014

Vincente Minnelli's direction is as impressing as the performances of Barbra Streisand and Yves Montand – everything is perfect, and especially the script by Alan Jay Lerner, the man behind all the greatest American musicals through three decades, like "My Fair Lady", "Gigi", "Camelot", "Paint Your Wagon" and so on. Even the music is outstanding, by the uncredited Nelson Riddle, enhanced by Barbra Streisand's fantastic musicality, and Yves Montand sings as well. In brief, many ingredients of superior quality make this film far ahead of its time, importantly spiced by Streisand's very personal and irresistible humour – and even a bit of Jack Nicholson. There is almost any number of unforgettable highlights – the roulette


scene is just a small hint – in something that almost amounts to the reincarnation revolution as a hilarious social satire. Prestuplenie i nakazanie (1970) (9/10) The Raskolnikov story correctly rendered by Russians. 5 July 2015

It is very interesting to compare this Russian version of "Crime and Punishment" with the Julian Jarrold version of 2002, since both are so outstandingly excellent, but in different ways. Also here all the actors' performances deserve nothing but praise, although some more than others, especially Georgi Taratorkin as Raskolnikov: he couldn't be more perfect, exactly as he is described in the novel, acting convincingly feverish enough all the way without overacting, while Sonia, Katerina and Dunia also are very well found, better than in the BBC production. The settings are also more than perfect, especially the den of Raskolnikov, better than in any other film and communicating precisely the correct atmosphere of the book. Rasumichin, Porfiry, the mother and Luzhin are less apt, Luzhin too much of a cad, Rasumichin too much dressed up, the mother like any mother and Porfiry as formal as a dummy. Here we enter the lacks of this film: it never really comes to life, it lacks the necessary dramatic touch, it is too stiff and formal, the lack of any music except sound effects gives it a certain sterility, and the scenography is entirely without imagination, like a formal theatre setting in the suburbs, although it's the same St. Petersburg so overwhelmingly well rendered in the BBC film. Still, Georgi Taratorkin is the best Raskolnikov you'll ever see, and you can't make a less than excellent movie on such a major masterpiece of world literature. Like the English film, the piety towards the original proves rewarding enough to to make the film a feature of paramount excellence. Promise at Dawn (1970) (8/10) A single mother raises her son in impossible circumstances first in Leningrad, then Krakow and then France and is over-ambitious about him but never gives in. 22 December 2014

This is a delicate film on a delicate story, all true, the story of the author Romain Gary and his mother, a very determined but hopelessly impractical woman, who by her imagination tricks herself and her son through impossible difficulties in Leningrad, Poland and France from after the revolution to the second world war. It's one of the most famous mother portraits in the history of literature, and the film renders it justice on the whole. Jules Dassin was himself from a Russian Jewish family, he knew this background and environment by heart, and Melina Mercouri is 206

perfect as the total mother. Jules Dassin plays himself the silent screen star and director in Leningrad and succeeds in having fun in quite a few comedy scenes. Some scenes are simply overwhelming in their human candor and beauty and are very appropriate illustrations of the book. Romain Gary himself would have been pleased with this film – it would be interesting to know if he said anything about it. Song of Norway (1970) (8/10) The Edward Grieg story, his trials as a young man, his friendship with Rikard Nordraak and relationships with a Swedish heiress-sponsor and his wife and cousin. 5 December 2014

Technically there is much to complain about in this film, which unfortunately mobilized all prejudices against it, which is a pity, because it's a great story, the actors are all superb, especially the old ones (Edward G. Robinson, Robert Morley and Harry Secombe as a perfectly convincing Björnstjerne Björnson), while Frank Poretta is number one as Rikard Nordraak, and it's really his story and tragedy that is being told. The music is all Grieg, his piano concerto dominates the whole film in various arrangements in both songs and ballets, and the dance sequences are all gorgeous, often with children, always in local costumes. It is very Norwegian in style, almost flippant in outbursts of great energetic humor and towering enthusiasm, which at times is difficult to follow in its high spirits and acrobatics, but above all the settings make this film something to return to at times with renewed pleasure, in spite of the overwhelming tragedy it recounts, – which, it should be pointed out, is a true story. I have seen it now 3 times found it better every time. Anonimo veneziano (The Anonymous Venetian) (1970) (10/10) Intimate chamber music a due voci with an appeal to eternity One of those films which it almost hurts to see again, and still you can't see it many times enough. Already the second time you start crying from the beginning. It's a very simple story of only two people meeting, talking, quarreling, discussing, trying to come to terms with themselves and with a horrible destiny, that is the very epitome of injustice. I have never seen any of these actors before nor ever heard of the director. It's one of those unique masterpieces that appear suddenly in a flash of dazzling brightness – to never be repeated. As they talk and wander around Venice their story is gradually revealed by their 207

natural talk and flashbacks, which amounts to a terrific build-up of tragedy that can leave no one unmoved. The beauty of the film becomes the more overwhelming for the enchantment of the Venetian environment and, above all, the music. After hearing only the first bars you'll remember it forever and always keep returning to it. Tony Musante makes the best of the musician trying to keep up appearances with a spotless facade at any cost no matter the total adversity, but the quiet inexpressibility of Florinda Bolkan is the more impressing for her supreme self control, as if she was constantly furious hiding the inner fire as well as a sleeping volcano. Her stone face is so serious, that when finally she reveals a smile it outshines the whole tragedy – together with the constant flashbacks of the supreme beauty and freshness of their youth. Strangely enough, Visconti's masterpiece "Death in Venice" was made almost simultaneously, both appeared in 1970, but this small gem totally outshines the more pretentious Visconti classic. It's like a short story by Chekhov comprising a universe of feelings and drama in a moment's brief revelation of the worst problems and complexities of human existence. You'll just melt and can say no more. Wuthering Heights (1970) (10/10) The adopted gypsy boy taking over the family and their property as a revenge for a love that was denied... 30 July 2014

On the whole, I agree fully with Bob-45's excellent review above, and there is little to add, except that all are perfect in their parts, definitely excelling the classic 1939 version with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon. Particularly outstanding are Julian Glover as Hindley and the overwhelmingly beautiful music by Michel Legrand. I must agree with Bob on the full score of 10, although the end of the novel is missing. Instead, there is an another end to it which actually rather completes the picture than robs anything from it. Filmed on location in the right surroundings, giving the right time feeling and using film technique for haunting dramaturgy, as a film version, it couldn't be better, dwarfing all later versions. The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (1970) (9/10)


Lost in a world ruled by criminality 12 March 2018

This is a heart-rending story that would have been almost unbearable if it were not for the exceptionally poignant performance of Edward G. Robinson as an old man getting caught in a web of urban corruption. Sam Jaffe's brief but equally upsetting performance is on the same level, and it's like a nightmare of helplessness of old age. At the same time, a character like this wouldn't fit anyone but Robinson - he made many such characters before, but they all mount up to this one, lost in a world that because of his old age refuses to take him seriously or even believe him, since he alone knows the truth but can't understand it or make it credible, since it is too evil for human understanding. Even his son (Martin Balsam) ultimately fails him, while the end comes as a surprise, since it should have turned another way. It's a great story, all the characters are excellent, and the events and circumstances of this asphalt jungle of a hostile city environment are quite typical of 1970 - that's how the world was in those days, with psychiatry as the infallible authority of human life. Although it is very late, this is still a noir and one of the very darkest as such. When you try to settle after the film you feel very old and lost, like the too convincing old honest Robinson. King Lear (1971) (9/10) Naked apocalyptic King Lear 23 March 2015

Peter Brook has the knack of making his stagings completely his own while at the same time enhancing the character of the play. Thus in "Carmen" he turns it into something of a chamber play, and here in King Lear he stresses the primitivism of the play turning into almost something like a documentary of the dark ages. In especially the first part including the storm he is entirely successful, in spite of the rather experimental expressionism,and the realism of the primitive middle age settings in a landscape of only moors and snows, not a tree in the whole film, is effectively impressing. The actors are superb throughout, and Paul Scofield renders a very interesting interpretation of the old man losing himself with occasional magnificent outbursts of powerful rage. The play is shortened, of course, you can't put all of a Shakespeare play into a film, (I believe the only successful attempt at that was Kenneth Branagh's "Hamlet" and very commendable as such,) while here the text abbreviations unfortunately suffer, the cuts being so obvious. Another flaw is that the articulation is not very good – it was fashionable in the end of the 60s to allow actors to talk on stage like as if they talked naturally, but theatre can't do without rhetoric; and especially with a language like this, which is the very essence of the play, you can't trifle with it, every word has to be pronounced distinctly, or it isn't Shakespeare. Towards the end the direction gets more sloppy, the intensity loses its grip, while the apocalyptic battle scenes crown the direction. The austere scenery throughout I 209

believe will be what you most will remember of this film adaptation, which couldn't be more impressive, while I think I would prefer the Russian version from about the same time as more convincingly Shakespearian. Since many years I have been waiting for an opportunity to see the Laurence Olivier version from 1983. The Brotherhood of Satan (1971) (8/10) A family gets mixed up with a satanic coven that needs children. 26 April 2015

This is a very original production in all its surrealistic absurdity for its fantastic imagination and imagery – there is a tremendous dream sequence in the middle of the film, a nightmare, of course, but very efficient, credible and well done – exactly like that real nightmares tend to haunt you. The horror is not ridiculously exaggerated, like in most later horror films, but actually creeps into you with some efficiency and manages to present a spectacle that gets more fascinating all the time, until the grand finale, which offers some additional surprises. The actors are all unknown, its a budget film with no pretensions, but it certainly deserves some attention, together with other odd films of some uniqueness, for instance "Wild in the Streets" from 1968 about a stipulated flower power world revolution. This belongs in almost the same category for making the absurd credible enough to catch your interest, which is the element of cinematic magic: the art of making the impossible credible and surrealism as a visually acceptable reality. Of course, it's a B-feature and not on par with professional standards, but it certainly is better than most B–features and well worth seeing at least for once. The idea in itself is timeless: the problem of old age to renew itself, its longing for the lost youth, and the wishful thinking of the possibility of renewing it, a theme which also dominates a later and much more refined horror thriller, "The Skeleton Key" from 2005. Here the question is left open – did they succeed, or did they not? The door is left open for any possibility and impossibility. Man in the Wilderness (1971) (10/10) A true story of survival under impossible circumstances in the wilderness among wolves, bears, savages and traitors 29 December 2015

The remake of this year called "Revenant" has suddenly brought this original up to date, and a comparison is inevitable. Both have outstanding credits, "Revenant" above all for its amazing panoramic landscape cinematography, but this original 210

weighs heavier. The acting is so much better, it is more humanly convincing, and although it's the same story it's a totally different story with a much more satisfactory and actually surprising end. Already from the start you are informed of all the facts of this adventurous expedition and its circumstances, and how vital it was for the men to get down to Missouri in time before winter – that race with time is the real thriller of the tale, which is totally absent from "Revenant", where instead you are buried in the tribulations of the deserted man, who is being constantly overloaded with new trials and hardships, as if the first was not enough, which is totally unnecessary exaggerations constructed only for effect. Here the narrative is more down to earth with moving details stressing the increasing humanity of the sufferer, such as his witnessing an Indian childbirth and his helping a rabbit with a broken leg – this is all more convincing and credible as a Robinsonade from real life, while "Revenant" in comparison is just mostly exaggerations. Here there is no nasty crook with intentional foul play, and an interesting spice to the human problem complex of the story is how the men actually suffer from having left Zach behind, even hallucinating about him for an extra bad conscience, while Zach himself is brought to maturity and insight by his memories in flashbacks. No bloody cruelty here, only the natural force of circumstances, which makes this film credibly positive in contrast to the remake. "Revenant" also has almost no music, only some moody chords now and then, while here you can enjoy a full and masterful score (by Johnny Harris – never saw his name before) which is perfectly suited to this grand epic human drama of survival and redemption, making a full vote well justified. Kill! (1971) (10/10) Romain Gary's fantastic film script (5 May 2006)

An extremely remarkable feature, partly because of Romain Gary's script, the husband of Jean Seberg, which does not appear from the information. This multiaward winner writer (of for instance *The Roots of Heaven* (directed by John Huston with Errol Flynn) shot himself December 2nd 1980 one year after the suicide of his wife Jean Seberg, who was hounded to death by the FBI for no valid reason at all. This film was maybe their last major collaboration, and the script (the story of the film) is ingenious, James Mason in the final *ballet* scene seeing his worst nightmare come true. Romain Gary was a survivor of the Holocaust, which is touchingly described in his autobiography "Promise at Dawn", perhaps the most brilliant and moving epic of a mother ever written, in which every word is true. The Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) 18th century surrealism of a most convincing kind in a wild speculation in witchcraft.


(9/10) 17 September 2017 An absurd story about the return of witchcraft after its heyday in the 17th century, when everyone thought it was extirpated, involving weird rituals and disturbing turns of events, but very well made with a seducing beauty and charm over it all, greatly enhanced by Marc Wilkinson's music, which almost makes the film. Linda Hayden as the leading witch and Patrick Wymark as the so called authority of justice lead the atrocities, which get worse all the way. He is abominable in his usual ways, which almost makes the poor bewitched children appear innocent in comparison. It's a speculative almost experimental wandering into the occult very much in the vein of "The Wicker Man" from the same period, but this is all 18th century perfectly revived, a kind of post-puritan horror story of fascinating ingenuity, almost architectural in its composition, and part of its very suggestive strength lies in its character of almost an impressionistic improvisation, which adds to its totally absurd but still convincing reality. The chief backbone of the film making it well worth seeing to anyone remains though the perfect music. Puppet on a Chain (1971) (9/10) Alistair MacLean is always shown off well on screen but never quite enough. 30 September 2017

As usual, Alistair MacLean has written a great thriller which doesn't quite fit into the screen, (the only one that did was "The Guns of Navarone",) but here at least they are trying their best, and Sven-Bertil Taube always did a good job in films, especially as wounded soldiers. His complete lack of expression he actually manages to make quite expressive. This is a particularly grim story, as all heroin films and stories are, and the case of the girl with the dolls is quite hair-rising in its horror dressed up in heart-rending innocence. This must be the most appallingly cruel way described in films of managing heroin traffic. It is too shocking not to be true – you really get the insight of how the dealers will stop at nothing, and the more intricate the contrivance to get it through the better, to manage this dirtiest of business. The hanging business mercilessly adds to the mounting horror of the intrigue. As usual in MacLean features, many die, and usually you don't object, since it's normally the villains who get what they deserve, but here it is different. The only softening pillow to the constant hard fall of the grim tale is that you never see the last hanging body. The wild goose chase on water has been made very much about, while all they actually do is going round and around each other, the only point of which is that it can't last forever. But this priest villain is one of MacLean's most revolting ones.


On the whole, it's a thriller well worth seeing and remembering for its shocking story, – the risk is you will remain shocked for days, – with its vile and unfortunate characters, but most of all for the excellent sight-seeing of Amsterdam both from above and from below. When Eight Bells Toll (1971) (9/10) In deep waters across dangerous waters of Scotland with dangerous people around especially of the female kind. 30 September 2017

This is a very hard-boiled thriller taking place around Scotland's wildest isles of the west coast and the Hebrides, which setting adds to the particularly sinister character of this tale of greed. Anthony Hopkins is perfect as the hero avenging his best friend's death (Corin Redgrave) with a vengeance, gunning people down without hesitation whenever necessary or when he feels like it, and you don't object, since in MacLean's actually very realistic thrillers you generally feel the executions taking place as justified. Anthony Hopkins was best in his early films, and this was one of them – as a possible James Bond he would have landed somewhere between Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton, the two best. But MacLean for his realism, intelligent plots and great characterization is much better than Ian Fleming and his heroes much more interesting than Bond, since they always have to go a very hard way to get out alive in the end – James Bond is a snug playboy in comparison. Here, as so often in MacLean's stories, the hero Anthony Hopkins has to take everything on himself, as he gets very little help from his boss, the ridiculous peacock Robert Morley, who only thinks of his dissatisfaction with what he has to eat under the circumstances, but in all his exaggerated pedantry he always caps all his films by his splendid diction and eloquence – he is ridiculous, but very eloquently so. This MacLean thriller differs from his normal intrigues by adding a very spicy romance to it, as the lady comes swimming across cold waters a long distance just to get to Anthony Hopkins, but he does well in not feeling flattered or jumping at the opportunity but rather, as the experienced veteran he is, regard the invitation with some misgivings. It's a small but great adventure film and you get to see a great deal of the Scottish wildest archipelago. Fratello sole, sorella luna (1972) (9/10) Sensitive, expressionistic and poetical masterpiece by Zeffirelli on St. Francis' beginning 213

This was Zeffirelli's first film after his successful rendering of "Romeo and Juliet" on location in Verona in a very expressionistic and emotional interpretation, and the same poetry and beauty favorably dominates this very sensitive and personal view of the person of St. Francis and how he started, including all his conflicts, above all with his father. The story is not entirely truthful, though. The emperor at the time was no Otto but the controversial Frederick II, and the pope that established the Franciscan order was not the great Innocent III, Frederick II:s tutor and guardian, but Honorius III, his successor, who also established the Dominican order and the Inquisition. Just like Visconti, Zeffirelli is above all an accomplished director of operas if not the best, and in later years he has only devoted himself to operas. This however qualified him more than well enough to also make accomplished films, which all are outstanding in every aspect of quality, especially pictorially and musically. It was a wonderfully pleasant surprise to hear Donovan, of all people, to sing the songs of St. Francis with his mellow and very sympathetic voice (as opposite to the harsh croaking of Bob Dylan), and he has actually written the music here matching the Franciscan spirit perfectly. Graham Faulkner as Francis couldn't be better, while there have been many films made on this story which no film can fail with. The allItalian "Francesco – giullare di dio", ("Francis, God's clown") by Roberto Rossellini (1950) was perhaps more genuine and charming in its authentic innocence, trying to get through to the real Francis as closely as possible, but Zeffirelli's masterpiece remains thorough as such with impressing scenery all through, from Tuscany, San Gimignano and an impressing finale filmed in the wondrous cathedral of Monreale outside Palermo in Sicily. Alec Guinness was a catholic himself and is very convincing as the pope being almost converted by the barefoot saint. "Romeo and Juliet" was a triumph, but the question is if not his film of St. Francis, although less ambitious, is more sustained and delicate as a masterpiece. Slaughterhouse 5 (1972) (10/10) How is it possible to make a comedy out of the horrors of the Dresden holocaust? 20 December 2016

It might seem a puzzling enterprise to make a comedy out of the Dresden firestorm leaving 135,000 innocents dead, but George Roy Hill actually succeeds with this. It's a marvel of a film, its composition, Glenn Gould providing the music (mainly Bach, of course,) with splendid acting all the way, the hilarious comedy elements actually stressing the tragedies and horrors, and the science fiction element threatening to disturb the character at first but managing even to bring that home. Of course, a Dresden film can't have a happy ending, so George Roy Hill has to find out another method to reach a pleasing conclusion, so he makes up some astonishing artificial fireworks. This is ingenious innovation all the way with considerable hard stuff of realism to digest as well on the way, and at times it is hard to survive some of the ordeals. The truth is, though, that the Dresden chapter was a hundred times worse than what the film catches a glimpse of, and if you want to learn more of the truth


there is a number of unendurable documentaries. This film presents the problem and even in an acceptable documentary way while at the same time it's a most enjoyable and admirable film. Anyone must love it. Le serpent (1973) (7/10) Advanced international espionage with a lot of construction and intricacies with "suicides" all over. 20 May 2017

Evidently inspired by the Kim Philby case, and Dirk Bogarde would have made the perfect Kim Philby – his character and role here immediately makes you think of Philby. In the spy world no one is what he appears to be, everyone is lying as convincingly as possible, and if they are convincing enough they have a chance of getting away with it, but these chances grow inevitably slimmer the longer they stay on as fakers. That is about the sense morale of this film, where everyone acts suspiciously from beginning to end, even Henry Fonda, who thinks he knows everything but is duped nonetheless. Philippe Noiret makes the most honest part, he is under suspicion from the beginning and seems to have accepted from the beginning to be a chronic suspect. Yul Brynner is the most convincing of all and the greatest cheat of all. The ladies are suave enough, especially Virna Lisi representing Italy in this international party, while they have very little to say, except in France – the only tender scene is what makes Philippe Noiret the most sympathetic in the cast. This is not a thriller or any action film but almost callous in its scientific representation of an intricate kettle of spies. It tries to hit a documentary character and almost succeeds, but the story is not very credible. Kim Philby was a true story indeed, and a lot of damage he did, but here the same kind of case is exaggerated into almost absurdity. It gets too technical, and all the international actors can't save its lack of blood and humanity. It's interesting but not more than that, and afterwards you shrug your shoulders and are satisfied with not having to see it again. Giordano Bruno (1973) (10/10) The true story of the passion of Giordano Bruno, from his return to Venice in 1593 to his execution. This is nothing less than a formidable film of almost excruciating force and power in its overwhelmingly correct realism in depicting the tremendous passion of this the greatest of free-thinkers, his denouncement by his best friend and host and the


horrible inhumanity of the bureaucracy of the inquisition. When once in the hands of the inquisition, the system was simply so constructed, that it was impossible to get out again – no revocation could help, and all that Venice could do, being after all a republic out of papal control, was to wash their hands and hand the case over to others, leading to a constantly more desperately dwindling spiral of a process to perdition. Gian Maria Volonte is magnificent as Bruno, he couldn't have been made more convincing in his increasingly desperate argument and protests, showing also his very human sides, while the chief merit of the film is its marvellous visual language, often turning the film into pure expressionism, aided by the at times overwhelmingly apt music by Ennio Morricone. This is more than a film, it's an inspired passion of a film, showing Italian historical realism at its best. I didn't know this film existed before I stumbled upon it searching for something else, and starting to watch it there was nothing else to do but to see it through till the end. It should be made more widely known, and it is a good match and complement to the Neil Jordan's Borgia films last year. Moses the Lawgiver (1974) (7/10) Moses saves the Hebrews from Egypt and gives them the ten commandments. 3 January 2015

This was evidently made to go more into details about the Moses case than was possible in "The Ten Commandments" of 1956, which remains the best Moses film. For this version Anthony Burgess among other writers were consulted to make deeper research into the problems, which results in a much more interesting and controversial picture of Moses with his more debatable sides and complexities such as his cruelty and intolerance. We did not see much of Aaron in "The Ten Commandments" while he is here lifted forth to great advantage, convincingly played by Anthony Quayle, showing both his merits and weaknesses. After all, Burt Lancaster gives a sympathetic interpretation of Moses, which completes the efforts of Charlton Heston, who was only convincing and interesting as the prince and fugitive from Egypt. Best, however, is Laurent Terzieff as Pharaoh Mernephta, who is presented as a very conciliatory and human ruler placed in a very delicate and tough spot, – although he is historically entirely wrong. Mernephtah succeeded Ramses II at 66 years of age and did not rule very long, while he is here presented as a very delicate young man. It is more probable that Ramses was the pharaoh who had to deal with Moses, but that's the only flaw of the film, to which Ennio Morricone had great pains in making suitable music. The Red Sea sequence is as always the highlight of the drama, no film can fail in making that a great spectacle, and here is even included Miriam's celebrations afterward, which adds to the films many deserts.


The Klansman (1974) (9/10) The truth about Ku Klux Klan masked in fiction 10 February 2018

Terence Young is an efficient director and storyteller who never dramatizes his films, like as if he assumes they are dramatic enough by themselves for their mere stories. This film is full of rapes, sensational and spectacular murders and even a massacre, but it never follows all these extremely dramatic occurrences through but leaves them sort of unfinished. But the direction is skilful to say the least. Actors like Richard Burton, Lee Marvin, O.J.Simpson, Cameron Mitchell and others don't get the chance to play out their roles for the speed and efficiency of the story, although they all make great characters and act splendidly. It's an awesome story with many critical turns to it, and although the quality of the film approaches level B the film should be remembered and discussed for its story, like a testimony of the true nature of the klan. It's not a beautiful fairy tale but rather grim reality all the way, although it pretends to be fiction. It reminds you of other revolting films from the south, like Arthur Penn's "The Chase" with Marlon Brando and "In the Heat of the Night" with Rod Steiger/Sidney Poitier, but this is much more to the point. It shows and explains racism in a way that makes it impossible for any racist to remain so after having seen this minor but important film. Lisztomania (1975) (5/10) Grotesque effort at musical character assassination of Liszt and Wagner 20 March 2015

The film suffers from atrocious vulgarization in very bad style and taste throughout, which is a pity, because the idea is not bad at all. Liszt and Wagner are portrayed in gross caricature, which they were already while they were alive and kicking, and just like the 19th century caricatures even these modern ones do not miss their target and actually pinpoint some obvious truths about these the greatest divas among composers in monstrous vanity and atrocious hubris. Liszt was the more sympathetic and actually fell a prey and victim to the ruthlessness of Wagner ending up as a trophy in his graveyard, while the depicting of Wagner as a vampire and prelude to Hitler, his Frankenstein monster, is not altogether maladroit. In certain aspects it actually hits the nail. The unnecessary hooliganism of the film is the corruption of the music, which really is very little Liszt and Wagner but the more Rick Wakeman in horrible disfigurement in pop and rock versions. This is not a music film or any kind of biography or documentation of great composers but rather a twisted parasitic phantasmagoria tearing classical music apart and more or less destroying it. Ringo Starr as a pope with Liverpool accent doesn't make things any better. It isn't even funny but only stupid and disgusting. although a few laughs must out. Still, because of the idea, the imagination, the great camera work and the brilliant fireworks entertainment, I have to give it 5, which is the lowest I ever rated a film here, and I 217

am very doubtful whether I will see any other of Ken Russell's films on music, no matter how much I appreciated his "Valentino". Voyage of the Damned (1976) (9/10) A carefully made reconstruction of a particularly grim episode as a prologue to the holocaust. 31 May 2015

An ambitious effort to tell the true story of SS St.Louis in May-June 1939 on a cruise to Cuba with only Jewish German passengers as a Nazi propaganda display in all its polyphonic complexity, has above all succeeded in rendering and making the horrible sadness about it real. Sam Wanamaker takes the lead as the most desperate of them all, who, when it becomes clear that they were sent to Cuba only to be returned to certain death in Germany, tries to kill himself jumping over board, while Max von Sydow stands for some uprightness and honor in a hopeless situation, Oskar Werner and Faye Dunaway make a nice couple of some refinement and elegance but with their integrity sadly lost, Orson Welles dominates the corruption in Havana, Ben Gazzara is the indefatigable fighter for some human rights where there are none, and we have the tragedy of the steward (Malcolm McDowell) and his tragic love, and of course the Nazi villains, apart form other outstanding actors like James Mason, Julie Harris, Maria Schell, Wendy Hiller, Jonathan Pryce, Katharine Ross, Denholm Elliott as Admiral Canaris and many others. Still the film is not overloaded with stardom, but they are all almost discreet, dwarfed by the overwhelming tragedy of the drama situation. What adds very much to the quality of the film is how the music is composed – the very sensitive and adequate but still discreet music of Lalo Schifrin is contrasted with very typical and catchy dance music of the times, Cuban rumbas, Glenn Miller, Strauss waltzes and things like that, illustrating the grotesqueness of the cruel Nazi practical joke on ordinary and innocent Jewish Germans who are kept completely unknowing of what grim play they are being used in. The film is very conscientiously made in an evident effort to strike at the completeness of the indescribable sadness of the inhuman fake luxury cruise, which effort definitely has succeeded. The Great Houdini (1976) (9/10) Credible portrait of Houdini with his disagreements with his mother, wife and Conan Doyle 6 January 2016

Another outrageously ignored, underrated and neglected biopic excellently staged on film with great performances everywhere, especially by Paul Michael Glaser, Sally Struthers and Ruth Gordon as the three main characters in the complicated relationships between son, mother and wife, the two latter having problems with 218

each other, the wife coming between the mother and son and the mother always intruding in his marriage even after her death. The best scene is the first London scene, when Houdini accidentally meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter Cushing, not very like the real Doyle) and the director of Scotland Yard (the old incorrigible Wilfred Hyde-White) with consequences. The development of the relationship between Houdini and Doyle is true to history, they actually became almost enemies after having started as true friends understanding each other, while Houdini never could accept Doyle's weakness for elves. The spiritualistic part of the story though gives Doyle the right, who survived Houdini with five years, and this is actually the most interesting part of his story. All the tricks with his constantly risking his life twice a day ("and thrice on Saturdays") is all too well known, so not more than necessarily much celluloid is spent on all that, while the drama is his personal relationships. The domestic family scenes and the one in Budapest are priceless for very convincing insights, especially the Jewish wedding scene at home. The jewel in the crown however is the fantastic performance by Vivian Vance as the nurse and indispensable factotum who actually both introduces the drama and finishes it, in a very clearly surveyable interesting and skillful composition to explain the extraordinary life of one of the greatest magicians ever. Valentino (1977) (9/10) Rudolph Nureyev going immortal with Rudolph Valentino. 18 March 2015

This was to me a most impressing surprise, a fantastic film of multiple aspects and observations of the very bizarre world of Hollywood when it was still all experiments, with Rudolph Nureyev accomplishing an astonishing stardom in convincingly impersonating Rudolph Valentino, while all the dancing scenes naturally remain the chief asset of this phantasmagorical fireworks of a film, with both plenty of humor, mainly hilariously ironic, virtuoso caricature scenes, a great deal of romance and passion going to extremes, with Leslie Caron excelling and actually outshining the leading lady Michelle Phillips, with also some very revolting scenes, especially the nightmare at the prison and the grotesque abominability of Peter Vaughan, with splendid music all the way; but in spite of the wild caricaturizing throughout the film, it gives a rather convincing and even realistic picture of Hollywood in the 20s, and the portrait of Rudolph Valentino in all his complexities, building up towards an apotheosis of a finale, when he actually succeeds in crowning his life with happiness and success after all and dying the more triumphant for his shortcomings, could hardly have been made more colorful, dramatic and interesting. Perhaps the best scene of all, and the most baroque, is the grotesque recreation of the case of Fatty Arbuckle. Suspiria (1977)


(8/10) Life is not just a dance on roses at the ballet academy of witches. 23 July 2017

What makes this weird horror film of a ballet academy with murders going on non stop is the extremely artistic composition of the images using colour like an expressionist painter to make more a work of art than a regular film. The story is absurd: the ballet academy is run by two lady dinosaurs (Alida Valli and Joan Bennett) like two awesome commissars driving hard the dancing students evidently to their violent deaths, while the leading girl (Jessica Harper) gets increasingly worried as her friends disappear. Of course, the ballet academy seems to be run by witchcraft somehow, and some psychiatrists get involved. Then there is bad weather occasionally with lots of thunder and lightnings, there are problems with the telephone, she gets nightmares, and so on. There is no credibility at all to anything in this film, and yet it is fascinating and well made and worth the terrible experience if for nothing else at least for its sustained impressing colour expressionism. The Sentinel (1977) (8/10) A beautiful and successful photo model is chosen for a higher purpose because of her past suicide attempts. 21 July 2017

A doubtful story of small credibility, if any at all, is all the same expertly made and told and well worth seeing. Some of the effects go over the edge, but it is certainly better than most films in the genre with few parallels. The only even better one I can think of is "Spellbinder" from 1988 (see my review). Here the occult mystery show is saved by some excellent acting, especially Eli Wallach as the incredulous policeman, the only person in the film with some sober distance and even humour, while Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Arthur Kennedy and even JosÊ Ferrer add to the stew. Cristina Raines as Alison stand in the center, though, while Chris Sarandon appears strangely callous for a boyfriend of hers, and his character is the least convincing one and not very well constructed. He loves her and yet betrays her, he has some hidden agenda and still acts as her heroic protector - it doesn't quite add up. In smaller parts you see Christopher Walken as very young and even Tom Berenger for a short moment. John Milton and Dante play an important part in quotations, but the main attraction of the film is the mystery plot and legend – it's definitely an occult classic on the same level as "Rosemary's Baby".


ZĂ­tra vstanu a oparĂ­m se cajem (Tomorrow I'll Wake Up and Scald Myself with Tea) (1977) (9/10) How everything could but go completely wrong when you try to help Hitler win the war 19 April 2016

The problem is that he scalds himself with coffee. That triggers an avalanche of complications, centered around a plot to use the latest time travel technique to go back for a visit at Hitler's to present him with a recently stolen A-bomb to make him win the war, but as is commonly the case with political intrigue, things don't always turn out exactly as expected or planned. Just to mention a few of the complexities, the pilot has a twin brother, and as one of them chokes on a roll his brother takes his place without knowing what on earth he is going for on this trip, and accidentally a few time travel tourists are booked on the same trip without knowing they will be joining some modern nazi weirdos on their venture to make Hitler win the second world war. There are many such complications, for instance, accidentally, the time travel rocket lands three years before schedule just after Pearl Harbor when Hitler stands outside Moscow and is already certain that he can't lose the war, so there is some double confusion here. It's a brilliant tongue-in-cheek comedy all the way, and it's admirable how serious everyone remains in the middle of amounting hilarities that constantly increase in absurdity. The paralyzing pistol that turns its victims green is sensational. This is a unique science fiction comedy of refreshing self irony all the way, making fun of everything, society, bureaucracy, gangsters, Nazis and even the genre itself, while at the same time there is some serious business: the highlight is the tremendous scene with Hitler himself when he is compelled to watch documentaries from the future of the fall of his Reich with its consequences. Of course, he can't believe his eyes, and still, when he is alone, he can't resist the temptation to watch it all over again, not to gloat in it, but to try to understand what is to him absolutely impossible. This is ingenious science fiction with an intelligent psychological touch to it. The whole film is over-intelligent, and as the complications keep towering it becomes increasingly difficult to follow the constant turnings of the bizarre events which eventually turn to some heaps of killings, but it all makes sense at least mathematically and logically, although fortunately so far it is all completely impossible – unless you believe in Stephen Hawking's persistent assertions. Maybe he is next to be favoured by some cure from the future... Golden Rendez-Vous (1977) (9/10) Richard Harris handling a bunch of terrorist desperados at sea almost alone 4 November 2017


This is one of Alistair MacLean's most nervously exciting thrillers, and the film is equally sweaty. You won't have any nails left to bite when it is over. A Caribbean cruiser with the crème de la crème on board, all posh multi millionaires with one or another question mark, is leaving some port somewhere, there is a gang sitting around the roulette, there are cocktail parties, all are well dressed and may not appear unless they are proper enough, and of course there is a femme fatale among them, seemingly the mistress of David Janssen, one of the greatest question marks on board. There is also a suspicious cancer patient closely guarded by a forbidding German nurse, and soon important members of the crew start to get killed, especially around the communication centre. Fortunately Richard Harris is on board, and another one to help with the situation is Gordon Jackson as the doctor, whose help is going to be needed when the ship gets crowded with patients and bodies. There is a suspicious coffin on board as well, the contents of which is anything but a dead body. There the intrigue starts, and Richard Harris will get his hands full in due order, as he always does. It's a great film of suspense no matter how cheaply made it is, you don't have to put much effort to it when Alistair MacLean has written the story and already provided all the details needed to put together an awesome show of violence, war, gunfights, sinking ships, explosions, bloody murders and a terrifying plot. Great show! Ashanti (1979) (7/10) Why was this great African adventure on such an interesting story such a failure? At a first glance there is nothing wrong with anything in this picture, the story is excellent and of vital interest, the actors are on the whole prominent, no one does anything wrong, the music is also quite OK, and the scenery is magnificent, – but what then is missing? Michael Caine in the lead has called it the worst film he ever made, but there is nothing wrong with his acting, even though you can trace a slight lack of interest and passion, which is what he professes as the husband of the violated bride. Peter Ustinov makes the most of his character the villain, an abominable slave trader counting every human life as worthless unless he can sell it for money and even succeeds in making this monster of a human trafficker look ridiculous – it's actually a caricature. William Holden has the briefest but also the most interesting part, a role typical for him, in which he shines and develops a profound interest only to become the first and most regrettable casualty, like a typical Holden hero. Rex Harrison is as sly as always and also makes the best of his diplomatic business in doing what he can to temper and prepare Michael Caine for his quest, while the most fascinating figure is Kabir Bedi as Malik, a copy of Omar Sharif's Ali in "Lawrence of Arabia", who has another tragic and heroic story to tell –


and ends as regretfully as William Holden. Omar Sharif is credible enough as Prince Hassan, and his eloquence and gentlemanly demeanor almost makes you hope for some humanity in him, but he absconds as soon as he sees that his game is up. The actor left for us to dissect is Beverly Johnson as the leading lady, and here is the evident flaw. She is good in the beginning as the doctor and wife and even better as Peter Ustinov's bullied slave, but when it comes to the final critical point she loses everything, and suddenly you understand Michael Caine's lack of interest in her, although they married for love. which he insists on but which no one can believe, least of all William Holden. I am sorry, but she is not a good actress. If she had acted up to the part written for her, inspired Michael Caine to the passion needed to chase her all over Africa, and if she had been just anything more than only a clichĂŠ Ashanti beauty, the film would have been a success. One suspects that the director Franklin Schaffner, who has made a number of outstanding films, rather soon during the shooting noticed she was not enough for her part and lost interest himself, to finish the film just to fulfill the contract. Pity, because it's a great story. Bear Island (1979) (8/10) Not the best MacLean film, but still with plenty enough of excitement and a good story. 28 September 2017

As usual with Alistair McLean, it's a great story, but this time they fooled around with it a little too much, overdoing it into almost a parody, drowning the thriller in deafening music and exaggerated technical effects, waltzing around with snow scooters in wild goose chases, and so on. Everything is good until the stormy night, when everything collapses and relapses into chronic confusion, and on top of it all the actors can't speak clearly. Donald Sutherland is clear enough and sticks to his role all the way, Vanessa Redgrave is fair enough also in her acting as always, Richard Widmark also excels in honesty as usual, and who already in 1979 grapples with the problem of climate change and global warming, Christopher Lee is the greatest actor here though, playing an honest Russian for a change, Lloyd Bridges is queer enough, but in the resulting confusion of the sabotages coming in tautologies, it's not quite clear who fired on whom and who caused all those fires and ruined the generator, the radio mast, mixed up the books and so on. Many seem to have messed with many things, and what about poor Larsen? Was his body ever found? Who killed him and why? What did he try to communicate? Sorry, there is too much confusion in this hullabaloo of intrigues and counter-intrigues. Still it's worth seeing, if not for anything else then at least for the story and Donald's discovery of his father. Here is the real mystery and central plot of the story – the mysterious fate of the last German u-boat captain, and the scene revealing the u-boat is a thriller in itself you'll always remember.


Nijinsky (1980) (9/10) The Nijinsky story with all the players involved in this greatest of ballet dramas. 17 May 2015

The film was made shortly after the death of Romola Nijinskaya, the wife of the legendary dancer, as if the producers just had waited for her death to be able to make the film. It is very carefully done, sticking meticulously to the well documented case as it was lovingly presented by his wife herself in her two books about her famous husband. It's a sad story, of course, if not even like a Greek tragedy, and the film admirably tries to embrace and make the tragedy conceivable, by going into details about the passions of Diaghilev, Nijinsky, Fokine, the lovely Karsavina (the most sympathetic of them all) and Romola. But the chief asset of the film is the great acting by them all, including Ronald Pickup as Stravinsky ('a very dry man' according to Nijinsky, who didn't like him at all,) Alan Badel at his best as the Baron Ginzburg, Jeremy Irons as Fokine and above all Alan Bates as a superb Diaghilev, quite human in all his necessary monstrosity as an impresario with too many eccentric characters under his wings, and George de la Pena as an almost painfully true and convincing Nijinsky. To this comes the wonderful ballet performances, including "The Spectre of the Rose" (Nijinsky's tour de force) and "The Afternoon of a Faun", the crucial turning point in his career from only dancer to controversial choreographer. Deserving the highest merit of all is the most admirable reconstruction of the ballets russes at that time with the fabulous art works of Leon Bakst, Diaghilev's unique scenographer, turning all Fokine's and Nijinsky's ballets into sumptuous living fairy tales of fantastic dancing, perhaps most clearly illustrated by Rimsky-Korsakov's "Sheheradzade", which music finally crowns the film in the end, which is needed, since, as I said, it's a sad story, but it couldn't have been made better. The only objection that would be relevant is the failure of making Nijinsky's lapse into madness credible. It was actually a long process, he wasn't definitely past hope until 1917 (4 years after the end of the film), and the main reason was not the crises of his relationships but the impact on him by the First World War. This important piece in the puzzle is missing in the film. Instead you see him ending up in a strait-jacket without further explanation. It's a great film none the less, and as time goes by it will certainly win the acclaim it deserves as one of the great ballet film classics, second only to "The Red Shoes" 1948 and "The Specter of the Rose" 1946, which actually also is a masked portrait of Nijinsky (see my review of that film). Ragtime (1981) (9/10) A family and social tragedy with racial complications in New York around 1910 – Milos Forman's greatest film. 28 July 2015


This must be Milos Forman's best and greatest film. It's a complex story, I haven't read the recently deceased E.L.Doctorow's novel, but the film communicates the story well enough, nothing needs to be clarified (unlike for instance Kubrick's "2001" where the book was as clear as the film was utterly incomprehensible), while Forman's personal touch adds an important flavor of irony and distance to the tragedy, which quality you recognize with relish from his earlier films. The direction is completely satisfactory, Howard E. Rollins Jr and James Olson as the main leads match each other excellently and augment the impact and profundity of the tragedy, which really is one of integrity, while the real asset of the film is the panoramic setup with almost Schlesingerian scenes of the everyday life of New York social life before the first world war, focusing on dancing halls, entertainments, banquets and even early cinematography scenes, in which you feel how much the director himself is enjoying it. James Cagney makes a remarkable appearance as the Police Commissioner 50 years after his days of glory in the 30s, and Brad Dourif is convincing enough as the renegade. Music has its special place in this film and is neither too dominating nor reduced in importance. Usually "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and "Amadeus" are ranked as his best films, but the Kesey film has its flaws, there are better asylum films, like both Rossen's last film "Lilith" and Litvak's famous "The Snake Pit", and "Amadeus" is a terrible example of historical forgery – none of it is true, and everyone who knows anything about Mozart must object to this even exaggerated character assassination, turning one of the greatest composers into a caricature. "Ragtime" on the other hand gives a fair picture of American society and New York social life under Th. Roosevelt and is a success in realism. The film is so good that it's impossible to imagine that the novel underlying it could in any way have been reduced in quality and importance.

Pennies from Heaven (1981) (8/10) Sordid bleak depressive reality relieved by the simple sublimity of poetry. 17 May 2015

No matter how much you may hate the depressive story, you simply have to love it for the amazing charm of its ingenious innovative qualities of producing magic by the astounding imagination of the composition of the songs and their presentation. The dreariest of humdrum worlds in the exasperating void of the American depression in Chicago in the 1930s is suddenly whisked away by a song performed like in a dream of marvellous revelation and irresistible cheer. This is cinematographic magic at its best, mixing nightmare reality with the sublimation of poetry and music, and for me the most important character of all, hitting the nail and perfecting the moody setting of the drama, is the stammering Vernel Bagneris as The Accordion Man, a very secondary inferior by-character, but his appearance in all his pathetic misery completes and perfects the poetry. This is indeed a film to watch with very mixed feelings, but the dreamworks could never be more efficient than contrasted with the worst gutter visits of reality.


Frances (1982) (9/10) The true story of the immortal legend and beauty of the tragically ill-fated film star Frances Farmer. It's incredible that neither Jessica Lange nor Kim Stanley received the Oscar they were nominated for in this gripping film of a true story of a Hollywood actress who didn't make it because of her own over-brilliant personality, getting into conflict with everyone, having problems with adjusting to a society she couldn't agree with from the beginning; and although the film differs slightly from the true story, at large it sticks to the absolute truth at least psychologically. Jessica Lange is just formidable, and this must be her best performance. The interesting thing is that she actually very much looks like Frances Farmer, she was in reality just as beautiful as Jessica Lange if not even more, and her personality in Jessica Lange's impersonation couldn't be more convincing. Her mother Kim Stanley accomplishes a similar feat, and all the other actors tune well in to make this film as perfect a documentary biography as could be accomplished. To this comes the softening and almost seducing music of John Barry gilding the hard lines of the picture and making it more digestible, while my only objection is against the lobotomy ingredient, which is the one departure from reality. Although the terrible nightmare scenes from the asylum had to be included, since they were true, the exaggeration of the lobotomy was unnecessary. Perhaps it was just put there to end the traumatic hospital sequences. Frances Farmer became a legend, and by this film the legend was given an extra injection of continued eternity, and it's a uniquely fascinating portrait of an overtalented actress at odds with a reality, especially Hollywood at that time, that in no way was humanly acceptable. The Woman in White (1982) (9/10) Great performances and great dramatization to honour a great novel. 24 September 2017

It's interesting to compare this version with the later briefer one of 1997, since they are so different. The 1997 rendering is more concentrated and more efficient as a dramatization, focusing on the dramatic highlights of Marion confronting the expected patient at the asylum and finding someone else, and of the church fire scene, which is the dramatic finale of the book as well; but this so much longer version of 1982 is definitely better made. It sticks to the book, is more realistic, it preserves the wonderful Victorian literary style, making the language almost as enjoyable as Shakespeare, and above all, the actors are all so much more convincing, with Alan Badel unforgettable as the absolutely splendid villain Count Fosco is. Diana Quick makes an equally real and true Marian, and Daniel Gerroll is the perfect Walter Hartright.


There are many supreme moments in this dramatization, usually offered by the book, like Walter's surprising presence at the grave, how Anne Catherick is always accompanied by music which almost throughout for the rest is silent, except when Laura is softly playing, all the secondary characters like the church warden, Gilmore, the housemaid, while perhaps the most impressive presence of all, like in the book, is the stunning performance by Mrs Catherick in only the fifth and final episode (Pauline Jameson). John Shrapnel as the gross human failure of Sir Percival Glyde, a monster of a brute, is also perfect in his monstrosity, while Alan Badel as Count Fosco will remain the character you'll always remember with relish. Alan Badel was always phenomenally personal in his performances and always dominated the whole scene, and here more so than ever. This could be his very best performance. On the whole, I must agree with most other reviewers, that this is the definite film version of perhaps the greatest thriller classic ever written. The Keep (1983) (8/10) A demon is released by German carelessness in the Carpathians at the crucial turning point of the second world war. 29 May 2015

Pity about a great and interesting story, which could have been handled better. Jurgen Prochnow and Gabriel Byrne as the two German officers of different minds are outstanding and make this film worth watching carefully, but the drama is damaged by the overstressed technical details, which in the 80s could not be made convincing enough to be worth exaggerating. The story of Ian McKellen and his daughter is fascinating enough and almost credible, if the demon did not have to much say in it. Scott Glenn also makes an intriguing figure adding to the character of the film as something of a mystery play, and no drama could be more dramatic than when almost all the protagonists die in the process. The music plays a special part in augmenting and stressing the drama and tensions and is highly efficient in illustrating the supernatural and demonic element. The fact that this Carpathian drama occurs exactly at the crucial turning point of the war, and that the Germans release the demon just in time to make him turn against them, is an intriguing part of the plot. Yes, it is indeed a film worth seeing and thinking about, but you don't need to see it twice. The Pirates of Penzance (1983) (8/10) Hilarious and ingenious remake of a thoroughly ridiculous Gilbert & Sullivan operetta 29 May 2015


What makes this film worth seeing is the brilliant acting by Kevin Kline as the pirate captain, but all the actors are good. So is the dialogue, brilliant stuff all the way, both spiritual and witty, but the plot is like a 19th century version of Monty Python. It couldn't be more ridiculous. However, it is rendered with tongue in cheek and wonderful irony all the way, and although the constant invasions of tiresome group ballet performances with hysterical song gets tiresome for their desperate inaninity, the whole thing is crowned by a terrific finale, where the gymnastically virtuoso pirates and tiresome policemen's army, all fighting with each other, invade a theatre with a true Gilbert & Sullivan performance of "H.M.S.Pinafore", which raises this film considerably to a level of admirability – but you would let it rest a long time before you would want to see it again. Vagabond (1985) (7/10) Sandrine Bonnaire as the vagabond in detailed documentation of her destruction. 31 May 2015

This is a very naked film, almost like a documentary, with nothing to improve on the story it tells or to beautify its people and circumstances. It tells the story of a girl who is completely out of society and her way down to the inevitable bitter end. The film begins by the discovery of her body, and it ends by showing how the body got there. She merely stumbled, which she apparently did all her life. Sandrine Bonnaire's rendering of a character without character, lost in life with nothing to live for, almost without identity, is extremely prosaic, there is very little play-acting and no drama at all, just plain humdrum ordinariness, with a few occasional glimpses of hope when some male friends try to help her, which leaves her indifferent, like receiving money just to throw it away. It's a portrait of a female bum and nothing else, very interesting but not in the least inspiring. A film to only see once. Silas Marner: The Weaver of Raveloe (1985) (8/10) Silas Marner suffers from catalepsy, which his best friend takes advantage of to ruin him, with consequences... 21 February 2015

George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) was one of the most interesting Victorian authors with only significant credits, while "Silas Marner" is a small changeling among an impressing lot of masterpieces – but her finest story. Ben Kingsley makes one of his finest performances and brings full justice to the heart-rending character of a vulnerable man suffering from occasional catalepsy, which results in his fate. His best friend takes advantage of it to both ruin him and steal his girl by getting him


implicated in a theft and banished from town. Dishonored he becomes a miser and recluse as a weaver living alone in a cottage outside a small country town. This is where the story begins, which is a revelation of humanity and tenderness in the claws of a cruel destiny of injustice involving deaths, roguery and tragedy. The film follows the book closely and gives adorable scenery of local life in the mid 1800s, but there is one important scene in the book which you miss in the film. When Eppie is becoming a young lady, he visits his old town Lantern Yard with her and finds himself at a loss completely, Everything is changed, and the old story of the theft is never cleared. Here Silas Marner is at the heart of his tragedy, unfairly implicated and doomed for life to live under the burden of a guilt never cleared. The film is only for television and perfectly apt for that purpose and, which is most important, communicates the main contents of the tale with full bearing. It is George Eliot's most human tale with almost documentary pregnancy in its convincing honesty, which the film takes well care of. The Black Arrow (1985) (8/10) Robert Louis Stevenson's novel of the war of the roses from a down to earth perspective of corruption, greed and lawlessness. It was earlier made into a film in black-and-white in 1948 with George Macready as an impressing Sir Daniel in a stylish Hollywood version, which has served as a basis for the modern version with Oliver Reed as a much more brutal bully, but this version excels the earlier one in many ways. It is more convincingly 15th century, it is down to earth with wonderful primitive settings, the music is aptly composed to suit the material, and all the actors are perfect, especially Fernando Rey as a kind of godfather of the whole drama. The story is even more altered from Stevenson than the 1948 version, it is more concentrated and poignant with a grand finale in the cathedral. The problem of the novel is the character of Dick, which is not entirely successful, he is not sympathetic but rather controversial, but Benedict Taylor is perfect in the role. The character of Sir Oliver Oates is also improved by Donald Pleasance, and Stephan Chase makes a very likable and logical Black Arrow. Although the alterations from Stevenson do not improve the book, they make out a splendid complement to a book, which Stevenson himself was never quite happy with. Spellbinder (1988) (9/10) Young brilliant lawyer engages in an ideal love affair developing into a fatal nightmare. 6 May 2015


Every time I see this film I am amazed at its fantastic efficiency. First of all, it's a brilliant script, a very good story, which in spite of its supernatural elements sticks to logic all the way, unlike for instance "Rosemary's Baby", which lacks in realism and credibility, although more professionally made. For me this is the best of all occult films I have seen, especially for its dramatic structure, culminating in a climax which leaves you in a state of maximum impression and shock. Although basic storytelling, this is no uncomplicated story, and one of the most interesting ingredients is the Japanese police lieutenant, the only who vaguely guesses at what is going on but is realistic enough to be aware that he can do nothing about it – while he leaves you with the suspicion that he certainly will go on with his investigation. The main triumph of the film, though, is Tim Daly as the successful lawyer in the beginning of his career, he is the most promising young man with everything good to expect of life, and he finds this irresistibly beautiful woman in a distress which he simply can't dismiss, and the characterization of his case is absolutely convincing all the way, affected by the blindness of love, can't suspect anything evil about her, (she is actually nothing more than just pretty and has even healing powers,) and only gradually her complication steals into his life, catching him in a trap which he can't understand and therefore can't get out of, which is why he does everything wrong. Instead of reasonably trying to cope with the situation by analysis, he makes things worse, getting angry, losing control, and so on. It's a traumatic cul-de-sac of a nightmare situation of no return, he is just an ordinary brilliant man, and this could happen to anyone like him. Sometimes he even reminds of James Mason in this hopeless case of a romantic tragedy. To this comes the very intriguing circumstances and complications of this affair of extreme occultism. Could it actually happen? Satanists do exist, and no one really knows about their activities, since their society is covered in mystery as the most secret of all. That is why this is an important film in its effort to unveil something of this enigma. The Japanese police lieutenant is perfectly aware of how dangerous this kind of coven could be, his coldness is chilling and almost forbidding, but it's realistic. This is a film to wonder at while at the same it has the amazing faculty of each time you see it being like a new adventure. None of the names in it, like Janet Greek (director), Tracy TormÊ (writer), Timothy Daly (the star) or Kelly Preston (the marvelously beautiful Miranda as femme fatale to the extreme) I have seen in any other production. Perhaps this is a unique film for them all – and it's definitely unique of its kind. Heartland (1989) (9/10) You don't trifle with an honest farmer like Anthony Hopkins. 2 October 2017

A milk cow farmer in Wales is ruined by the regulations from Brussels. The father and his two sons react in different ways. The sons go into demonstrations, while the


father, when he is visited by two EU bureaucrats, tries his own way of convincing them of the facts of his position. Of course, they fail to understand each other. It's almost documentary in character, closely following the family on the risky road of progress, as the sons insist on modernization, while the father predicts it will be the ruin of them all. The mother is more sympathetic and tries to appease all hard feelings and possible elements of conflict. At the same time it is highly dramatic, as the film starts in the end and shows how Anthony Hopkins is taken by the police, and in the course of the film you follow step by step how his fury is building up and you just wait for the blast, which ultimately takes very unusual turns. The Welsh landscape is beautiful, and you can well understand how the Welsh farmer must love his land. The cows also play an important part, he is listening to his cows and teaches his granddaughter to learn about them too, and the scenes between the aging farmer and the child are perhaps the most interesting and adorable. Anthony Hopkins makes an unforgettable performance, almost as usual, the farmer is not very bright or intelligent, unlike his sons, but is the more personal and extremely idiosyncratic - you can never guess what he will do next, and Anthony Hopkins is expert at such totally unpredictable characters. All actors are perfectly convincing and natural, 'organic' as Polanski would have described it, and it's a very thought-provoking account at the same time as it is infinitely sad and melancholy. Hopkins' conversations with his dead father and his flashback memories add to the extreme humanity of this documentation. He never uses his gun, but his words cut the deeper and the sharper for their tremendous truth of an injustice to gross and deep to be able to be rectified. When he is offered money for the loss of his cows and his farm: "How about our pain? Our heartbreak and despair? How much is that worth? Then there is the past, the memories. How much are they worth? Our history, our mothers and fathers, all gone, all lost! Can you work it out? Have you got the scales? Can you get it into figures?" The bureaucrat: "I am sorry, Mr. Philips, I can't quite follow." Guilty by Suspicion (1991) (9/10) The political persecution of Hollywood and its devastating effects on human lives and American cinema. This is an important film that never should be allowed to fall out of conscience. It is the sordid and bitter tragedy of the political persecution against writers, directors and actors of Hollywood around 1950 with devastating effects on American cinema – it never became the same again, after reaching its highest levels of artistry and quality in the 1940s. The protagonist David Merrill here is fictitious, but his fate was shared by a vast number of his colleagues, like Jules Dassin, William Dieterle, Abraham Polonsky, Charles Chaplin, Joseph Losey and many others, some never


being able to come back, others making masterpieces in other countries, like France and England. The story here builds up towards the final interrogation by the committee in the end, which reaches nothing but a tumultuous quarrel of outrage and unacceptable bullying by those responsible, who are called heroes of America, one of them being Nixon, all of them being politicians. The whole spectrum of victims are exposed, like Larry Nolan, played by Chris Cooper who is forced to act against his conscience with the ruin of his family as a consequence, his wife Dorothy, a film star, being admirably played by Patricia Wettig, the perhaps most important role in the drama, illustrating the full inhumanity, Sam Wanamaker plays the lawyer who tries to find a way out without succeeding, Ben Piazza as Darryl F. Zanuck skillfully circumnavigating the dirty business of politics but without being able to evade shipwrecks, and Martin Scorsese as the director who voluntarily chooses exile to continue filming in England, possibly a portrait of Jules Dassin. The drama is deeply upsetting, this is no comedy but the most unnecessary of all tragedies in Hollywood and the one that definitely wrecked the good name of the whole film business, which up to 1950 had been flamboyantly glorious. How sad. And how important for films like this one to be made, to tell the truth after all. Impromptu (1991) (9/10) A charming version of how Chopin and George Sand could have got together One of the most delightful of later day music films, the music of Chopin being used throughout and only to advantage and to the flattery of the composer, which he undoubtedly deserves. Judy Davis is perfect as George Sand and couldn't be better, so you wonder if she really could have been that good in reality – her reputation and reports tell a slightly less flattering story. Julian Sands is another perfect impersonation of Franz Liszt, whose poor Marie d'Agoult is perhaps the most convincing of all in her very uncomfortable situation. Emma Thompson is yet another triumph of the play, perhaps the best actor of them all, while to Alfred de Musset and his excesses and exaggerated feelings there are no holds barred – he appears to have been even worse in reality. It's a wonderful play all through, and the most astonishing bit is perhaps how good Hugh Grant is as Chopin – you never expected such a character out of him, but he even makes it convincing. Cornel Wilde, however good, was not that convincing in "A Song to Remember" in 1945 with Merle Oberon as a less realistic George Sand, which film however is good to remember in this connection. This is a charming story, no matter how constructed, and gives pretty much a true impression of the romantic circles and their intrigues and sophisticated manoeuvres in Paris around 1835. A must for all music lovers, and especially Chopin lovers. Memories of Midnight (1991) 232

(8/10) Jane Seymour caught in a vendetta rivalry between great Greek ship holders. 10 July 2015

It's not as bad as it looks. On the contrary, it's a great story, there is nothing wrong with its screening and direction, and I can't see why so many fail to appreciate it for what it is. It's a regular Greek tragedy, and the wife of Omar Sharif is the centre of the drama – her exit is simply magnificent, and is followed by the intricate scheming of Theodore Bikel, who plays an important part as the final nemesis – when he first gets disposed of it provides an interesting question mark, since his death is never followed up, but then this story is a series of deaths that inevitably fail and turn up again as ghosts too much alive. Omar Sharif, who happened to die today at 83, makes an excellent performance all the way, he is actually the star, while Jane Seymour, beautiful as always, accompanies him excellently – no one brings the show down. It's a wholly Greek story of rivalry between dominant ship builders, great fortunes are at stake and are gambled and wasted, and love gets caught in between and is sacrificed, while it turns the other way by a surprising twist of fate. A much underrated film and story, also the music is very satisfactory and excellent accompaniment all the way, so it definitely deserves better appraisal. Better than most of the Bond movies of the time. The Jungle Book (1994) (9/10) The second Disney Jungle Book as far out as possible from Kipling but the more delightful for its compensations 21 April 2016

Walt Disney was obsessed with Kipling's Jungle Book, it was his greatest dream to make his version of it, but he failed from the beginning, dying before having had the possibility to supervise the cartoon version of 1966, which in its failure to realize his visions did not live up to them. His work on Kipling was thereby left unfinished. As if they felt some duty of his legacy, his followers kept following up on Mowgli, and there were two more Disney Jungle Books to come, the first a full feature film with live men and animals, and the second concentrating entirely on the animal world. Both are great successes, although the first almost becomes anti–Kipling in its turning British soldiers into typical shallow Disney villains, you couldn't imagine anything less gentlemanly or Kiplingesque, and of course they are doomed from the beginning, like all Disney's demonizations, and the second is a remake, although better, of the 1967 cartoon but with astounding impersonation of the animals. This second version tells an entirely different story, departing demonstrably from Kipling, concentrating on the ankus incident and its problems of greed and human short-sightedness, but it's a wonderful film, and all the major characters are there. The monkey episode is given a new slant of delightful good humor, underscoring the main character of the film as delightful in its splendor all the way.


None of the animals speak in this film but are the more expressive, especially Shere Klhan, who is only in for the killing but with a vengeance, turning him into the film's triumph. The Disney mark is here: any animal is better than any man. And that is as far as you can get from Kipling. None of the three Disney Jungle Books have lived up to an ounce of the Kipling poetry, which is the main blood of his Jungle Book, but nevertheless, the ingenious conclusion of this film, which couldn't be more Disney, is just as good a story as anything of Kipling's. The outstanding music score adds to its qualities, bringing it almost all the way to a full 10 points. Moses (1995) (9/10) The whole Moses story from his troublesome beginning to the end of his life. 3 January 2015

This is probably the most beautiful of all the Moses films, and the poor colors of the film is rather an asset to its substance and character than a failure, like a sepia haze veiling the whole film in desert colors. Ben Kingsley makes a very different Moses from Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston, much more human and sensitive, which could be nearer to the truth. His doubts and shortcomings are more convincing than Charlton Heston's icon and Burt Lancaster's authoritarian hardness. Like in "Moses the Lawgiver" with Burt Lancaster, Aaron is here given an important prominence and is impressively played by David Suchet, who almost transcends Ben Kingsley. Pharaoh is impressively played by Frank Langella and couldn't be more convincing, although, just like in "Moses the Lawgiver", he is entirely wrong. Ramses II was the Pharaoh at the time, Merenphtah ruled only for a short time after his death as an already old man, and Yul Brunner remains the best Pharaoh on film in "The Ten Commandments", which by general consent remains the best Moses film even after almost 60 years. Ennio Morricone succeeds even better in this film with the music than he did in the Burt Lancaster version, it guilds and caresses every scene in perfect moods and colors and adds to the very sensitive portrayal of the Moses complexities, which remain inexplicable to this day. This is perhaps the only Moses film to really love. The Woman in White (1997) (9/10) One of the greatest thrillers ever compressed into a TV film without failure., 23 September 2017


This is one of those great novels that cannot be corrupted by the screening of it, no matter how much you alter in the book to fit it into a picture, as the plot itself, the skeleton of the story, is unavoidable and carries it all no matter what you cut out of the flesh or add to it. Tara Fitzgerald and Andrew Lincoln as the main characters are convincing enough, although different from the book, while Simon Callow as Count Fosco, although his appearance is brief in comparison with the book, gets the place in the sun as the central hub of intrigue, one of the most classical and irresistible villains in literature. But the main asset of this TV film version is the quiet mood and the excellent composition of the pictures - many scenes are just like Victorian paintings, and a painting actually is made to play almost like a red thread through the film. The finale, although completely different from the book, makes the film dramatic enough though, and the only thing you really lack in this film version is the high intensity of the book building up a tension that makes the finale triumphant in its karmic justice. They say the 1982 version is better. It is to be noted that Ian Richardson plays in both versions. It will be interesting to find it somewhere. Schwarze Sonne (1998) (8/10) The cult and ideology of the Third Reich brilliantly and objectively exposed 19 February 2018

It's a critically sinister documentary and very comprehensive as such of all the figures that contributed to making the cult of nazism into what it was. Many questions are answered, and many other questions are posed. In the beginning the film is fairly instructive and arouses only positive interest in all those speculators in ancient occultism, beginning with Helena Blavatsky and her "discovery" of Atlantis as the home of the Hyperboreans or Aryans. Many others follow in her footsteps developing the myth and cult of nazism, gradually growing more definite as mythomaniacs. When it comes to Hitler the film turns more critical with a more and more definite detachment and objectivity to the gigantic shipwreck of Germany, leading a whole people astray to disaster by sheer delusion. Many are fooled by the first impression of this film to believe it's a kind of modern Nazi propaganda, while it's actually the opposite. After the film you feel a bitter aftertaste and are left wondering how an entire people could be fooled by such fancies. The greatest question and problem is that very phenomenon: how the German masses could be so enthused by such a craze. It will probably remain unexplainable forever.


The film is expertly done, however. It stays consistently restrained and detached in relation to its subject and is like an admirable and difficult surgical operation of an ideological cancer. The hope is that it will not return. Stigmata (1999) (9/10) Great speculation in the element of faith putting the church to the test. 28 March 2015

Although it may seem so, this is not only speculative effects and an effort to turn religion into a study of horrors. All the effects are unnecessary and actually disturbing the real argument, which is questioning the part of the church in messing up the true element of the Christian religion. Gabriel Byrne and Patricia Arquette, who both are used to these kind of roles, are both good in their parts and totally convincing, they don't have to overact at all since the artificial effects do it for them just to exaggerate the improbability and impossibility of the story, but things like these actually happen. There is no end to this story, these arguments can be debated interminably and will remain so as long as Christianity exists, and one of its greatest doubters and deepest thinkers in this issue was Teresa of Avila, who by coincidence is 500 years today. Many important facts are pointed out in the film, and of course there has to be an inquisitor on the case (Jonathan Pryce, perfect as usual). And the film does have a message of hope for the truth to ultimately prevail in spite of all. In conclusion, the film confesses to be based on the actual existence of the gospel of St. Thomas, discovered as late as in 1945, claimed by experts to be the closest to the truth, while the Vatican stigmatizes it as heresy. A very interesting film that will remain a foundation for the vital debate to remain sustained and go on interminably. Requiem for a Dream (2000) (9/10) A mother and her son both getting addicted to their dreams in different ways. 7 December 2016

Ellen Burstyn (84 today) was nominated for an Oscar in this shocking social drama of how dreams can take control of you by your own addictive delusions. Jared Leto plays her son and Jennifer Connelly his girlfriend with equal brilliance in this impressively well made film of stunning expressionism enhancing the impact of the brutal realism. The music adds to it, but it's the visualization of the drama, the dreams, the illusions and the hopelessness of the incompatibility of reality with your dreams that creates the lasting impression, finally suggesting that in spite of all the dreams will always get the better of you as after all a better reality than reality. A shockingly thought-provoking film with stunning performances. Ellen Burstyn is


always good, this is no more than a typical performance of hers, but none could have made it better or more convincingly true. Crime and Punishment (2002) (10/10) Dostoievsky's "Crime and Punishment" made perfectly real. At first, you are perplexed by the rather dogma-like TV technique of making this film, but the more you get used to it, the more you get into it, the more you like it. Actually, it's a marvellous Dostoievsky interpretation and adaptation amazingly true to Dostoievsky, even though it's all TV. The direction and filming is virtuoso all the way, and all the players are outstanding, especially John Simm as Raskolnikov, Ian McDiarmid absolutely super as the police inspector, Nigel Terry as Svidrigailov and David Haig as the perfectly abominable Luzhin, but they are all good, Rasumichin, Dunia and the mother as well – all deserve ample praise. There is really not much more to say. It's more organic than any other screening of this one of the best novels ever written that I have seen, but I still have a few to go through, and it will be very interesting to compare it with the modernization of the same year and especially the Russian in black-and-white from 1970. It relies a great deal on Josef von Sternberg's interesting version of 1935 with Peter Lorre and also in some respects on the German expressionistic of the 20s. There was a Swedish film in 1945 by Hampe Faustmann with the director himself playing Raskolnikov, which was too Swedish to be convincing (in a rather Bergman style), but this version succeeds in getting under the very skin of Dostoievsky even in spite of being very English – it actually comes close to Brontëism, and this is the marvel of the film. I prophesy it will grow into a classic. The Bridge of San Luis Rey (2004) (10/10) A fascinating labyrinth of beauty and metaphysical complications of love, destiny and death. 19 May 2015

This is a fascinating film which you'll have to watch very carefully, since every detail, especially in the conversations, is important and vital to the very complex sieve of intrigue and amazing diversions into constantly deeper waters of metaphysics, relationships and complications. Formally it is an ordinary inquisition piece with a scoundrel of an inquisitor trying to come to terms with an impossible reality without succeeding, of course, while Gabriel Byrne is the scapegoat for investigating the truth and ending up with amazing findings, intolerable for their humanity and revelations of love. But the film is much more than just this meaningless investigation into an endless labyrinth of unfathomable heart secrets of humanity. The famous novel of the 20s by Thornton Wilder (sadly unknown and forgotten today) has been filmed three times, but Mary McGuckian from Nothern Ireland has chosen to take a very 237

personal view and simply concentrated on making a masterpiece of beauty. Many can't follow the intricate turns and windings of this web of complications, but it isn't necessary to grasp it all. The point is the love and the beauty, overwhelmingly enhanced and embellished by Lalo Schifrin from Buenos Aires in his finest score of subtle sensitivity. This is a masterpiece of beauty of Mary McGuckian's and Lalo Schifrin's, and there can be no doubt about it, no matter how many get lost on the way in trying vainly to follow the details in this inextricable enigma of interwoven human destinies. This is definitely a film to see over and over again to discover new aspects and hidden clues to the mystery of love, life and death. It gives interesting associations, though, in its labyrinthine architecture to Powell/Pressburger's "A Canterbury Tale", another winding system of improvised labyrinths, and in character to Jane Campion's "The Piano" from New Zealand, another marvel of beauty and mystery made the more fascinating and effective by its amazing music. It was all filmed in southern Spain, but its South American character is genuine. The actors are all excellent, perhaps most of all Kathy Bates as the Marquesa, seconded especially by Pilar Lopez De Ayala and Gabriel Byrne as the honest doubter. Another clue to its understanding is its pictorial beauty throughout. In the beginning of the film there is a key scene, when the Marquesa visits a painting by Velazquez, from which she miraculously retrieves a beautiful golden necklace in the intention to offer it to her daughter. It's the one detail in the film which is surrealistic, but it opens the film to its marvel of pictorial beauty – the whole film is like paintings by Velazquez. In America the film was massacred since no one could understand it, especially not American critics, since this is a very European and most of all Spanish film in character. If you know anything about Spanish painting, you'll understand and relish the film. Another aspect is its metaphysical character, which you can't understand if you don't read the book. It's short of only 200 pages but extremely concentrated. You must wonder why brother Juniper is prosecuted by the inquisition for having just so carefully documented the fates of the five casualties, and the obvious reason is this: what united these people was only love, they were penitents for nothing but undeserved feelings of guilt, one of them being even a small child, and they were all looking forward to a bright future of a better and nobler life, especially the Marquesa, who had only loved and that too well; while the about 150 survivors, who had to follow the caravan crossing the river down in the gorge and therefore did not cross the footbridge, were in overwhelming magnitude less deserving of life. The inquisition found the insinuation that this could be a case of divine injustice unacceptably blasphemous , and therefore burned the book and its author. Well, the book and the author lives the more for that. Unhesitatingly 10 score. �Empire� (2005) (10/10)


The Julius Caesar drama from the point of view of a gladiator – with tremendous and successful impact History is grossly tampered with, but it doesn't matter, it was always tampered with in any account of the Caesars, but here the historical inaccuracies are made completely negligible by the splendid acting, making all the characters credible enough and even convincing, and by the equally splendid dramatization – this is not just film, but drama and literature. The most interesting feature though is the leading character, who is not Octavius or Anthony or any of the politicians but the gladiator Tyrannus, played by Jonathan Cake, who really sustains the entire performance of four hours until the very end – he alone makes this epic outstanding to a most remarkable degree. He is of course completely fictional, as is the love story between Octavius and the vestal virgin Camane, which could be pointed out as a sore point of sentimentality of the story, but it never falls out of style. The other fictional details, like the villainy of Antony, the trials of Octavius, the stylized assassination scene, Mark Antony's wife's complicity, Brutus' mother, the story of the ring, the gladiator and gory sequences, all actually serve to enhance the dramatic credibility of the characters, especially that of Antony – he was actually like that, completely ruthless, until Cleopatra changed his mind. But the star remains Jonathan Cape as Tyrannus, who witnesses and takes part in the drama from below, with constant very interesting vacillations, doubts, changing sides, always worrying with constant anxiety adding to the psychological thriller of the drama. Second to Jonathan Cake is Vincent Regan as Antony, whose performance is absolutely fascinatingly convincing in every scene. Santiago Carrera is also excellent as the young, immature but maturing Octavius, Michael Maloney as Cassius also couldn't be better, James Frain as Brutus is also perfect although he doesn't get much of a say, only Cicero is not quite convincing, perhaps too old for the part (Cicero was only 62 at the time,) and not up to his actual eloquence; while the role of Camane as the Vestal speaker and commentator to the drama is a stroke of ingenuity. There are many dramatic climaxes, but the greatest is of course the Caesar funeral scene with Antony's conversion of the masses, an actual fact, here much shortened but dramatically intensified. Even the music is very apt and never disturbing, although it risks running away with itself in the dramatic climaxes. In brief, one of the best adaptations of the greatest Roman drama in perhaps the last five decades. Copying Beethoven (2006) (8/10) 239

Agnieszka Holland's admirable effort at a female approach to Beethoven This is all fiction and an experiment, but not bad at all as such. The direction of Agnieszka Holland is admirable as always, her films are always more than interesting, and her challenge here is more out of the ordinary than ever. Ed Harris has been generally lauded extensively for his virtuoso acting throughout, and he deserves all praise, but so does Diane Kruger as the copyist. The concept of the film is bold indeed, inventing an impossible female copyist for the completely deaf Beethoven, and most of the film, just like in "Immortal Beloved", is a complete fake, but it makes a good film and a good enough complement to "Immortal Beloved". That film was completely convincing in all its fantastic speculations, while this is not: it's just not possible that Beethoven could have had a female copyist. So the whole film is based on an impossible concept, but it's a film, not a documentary or biopic or in any way a true story (except for the Karl bit), and on the screen anything is allowed. Joe Anderson as Karl is another asset, just like Jean-Louis Barrault in Abel Gance's monstrous failure of a Beethoven film, and Oscar Werner in the only perfectly good Beethoven film – a very interesting character as the one true victim of the tragedy of Beethoven and as such a success in every Beethoven film. Unfortunately, the weak point of the film is Ed Harris, who has got Beethoven wrong, no matter how much he tries to make the best of it, almost desperately overacting his effort to reach the truth, which he never does. It's great acting, but it's not Beethoven. As I said in my review of the Austrian Beethoven film "Eroica" of 1949 – Ed Harris in all his virtuoso acting is but a shadow to the definite Beethoven of Ewald Balser. Nevertheless, it's a great film and a very interesting thought experiment. The highlight is of course the actual first performance of the 9th, in which the film gets closest to the truth – that's about exactly how it was performed – but for the female assistant. The Painted Veil (2006) (9/10) Slow endurance in the heart of China of a failed marriage with cholera. 27 September 2017

To watch this film after having seen the Greta Garbo version of 1934 is a challenge indeed. They are both excellent but at the same time each other's contraries. This version is truer to Somerset Maugham, while the Garbo version is so much more efficient and dramatic. Naomi Watts and Edward Norton are bleak and almost insipid in their performances in comparison with the passions of Garbo, Herbert Marshall and George Brent. The 1934 film is also much more interesting in its rendering of the Chinese reality of those days. Compare for instance the couple's visit to the Chinese opera. In 1934 it's a phantasmagoria of festivities, while here it's just one actress miaowing.


On the other hand, this version is so much more beautiful. The Chinese landscape is intoxicating in its beauty, and Alexander Desplat's music, always enchanting, casts a soft spell of sweetness over the film in a sad mood of inevitability. Edward Norton's role is a difficult one, it is never sympathetic, and Naomi Watts does not cut a very sympathetic figure either, while Greta Garbo still shines the more after 80 years. The tempo is slow, you are bound to yawn at times and maybe even fall asleep to the soft dullness, while the 1934 film keeps you wide awake all through indeed. On the other hand, this film does not abandon Somerset Maugham but walks the line all the way. Tsar (2009) (9/10) An apocalyptic masterpiece in fulfillment of Eisenstein's greatest project 2 October 2016

I agree completely with the author of "Sergei Eisenstein honored" in calling this film the third part of Eisenstein's intended trĂ­logy of the most debatable of all Russian tzars. Eisenstein had planned a third film to his great "Ivan the Terrible" project but never came to fulfill it since already the second part was forbidden by Stalin, and Eisenstein died before Stalin. However, this film would have satisfied Eisenstein completely as a fulfillment of his last cinematic dreams. Of course, it has flaws. Pyotr Mamonov is not quite convincing as the tzar and does not stand up to a comparison with the incomparable Nikolai Cherkasov as the leading actor in Eisenstein's masterpieces. While Eisenstein's films are monumentally theatrical with every scene a masterpiece of composition and every face unforgettably impressive in pictorial portraiture, Mamonov as the tzar is too much of a caricature and is overdoing it in a grotesque way that falls out of the personage that the tzar really was. This twisted interpretation of the life on the throne is worsened by the revolting presence of the fool, who pushes the exaggerations far over the top of any credibility. All this grotesqueness, which really was part of Ivan's reign but only one side of it, is wonderfully balanced by Oleg Yankovsky as the metropolitan and childhood friend of Ivan, who the tzar desperately appeals to for friendship, which his ways make impossible. Here you have the full integrity of a real man who just can't compromise with his conscience and sense of right and wrong, while Ivan is way beyond any hope of insight in this matter. The metropolitan dominates the film, and the film is a masterpiece mainly because of him. Of course, there is very much you miss of Ivan's other aspects as a tzar. Neither Eisenstein nor Lungin included the episode of the slaughter of his son Ivan, and concentrating exclusively on the personal relationship between the tzar and the metropolitan, the film feels more episodic like a rhapsody than like an accomplished epic. There is certainly room in the future for a part IV of the complex, gigantic and humanly unfathomable story of the most debatable of Russian tzars.


The Last Legion (2009) (9/10) The last Roman emperor, a young boy, finds his way to Britain with some help of Merlin, an Indian princess and Excalibur. 2 October 2015

Most people behind this film are Italians, and you can tell that from the design: theatrical almost operatic story, colorful staging, great imagination, playful development of characters and story, florid fabulation and great joy of epic storytelling – most of the production names are De Laurentiis. All this makes up for not a bad movie at all. In fact, the story is not incredible, although utterly untruthful, and both Ben Kingsley and Colin Firth make credible characters and performances enough. Focus is though on the boy, who is the only thoroughly splendid character, both as an invention, the type and his development and acting. What actually happened is unknown, but both Odovakar and Romulus are historical figures. In the film the events of Romulus' abdication occur in 460 after having been emperor for no more than a year, while it actually happened in 476 but is historically correct. No one knows what happened to Romulus, however – his fate is lost in history, and his young character and mystery is like made for legends. Odovakar did not remain king of Rome very long, being soon overthrown by Theoderic the Great of the Ostrogoths. Vortigern, the awful villain of the film, did exist but remains a rather doubtful character – in the film he is grossly exaggerated to fit the role of a supreme villain, a tyrant of great paranoia and cruelty, while some sources name him the discoverer of Merlin. A great epic adventure film made on a great epic story, in brief, a worthwhile entertainment with the positive consequence that it must raise your interest in the darkest medieval history. ”Bratya Karamazovy” (2009) (10/10) The 9 hour long adaptation of Dostoievsky's greatest novel is a passion of crying all the way. This overwhelmingly beautiful and true to the original rendering of one of the greatest novels ever written, if not the greatest, leaves nothing else to wish for, and yet it is worth while comparing it to Richard Brooks' version of 1958. Maria Schell and Lee J. Cobb remain supreme in their interpretations of Grushenka and the monstrously self-indulgent father, while all the brothers are more convincing and true in this ultimate Russian version. It is nine hours long, and yet you willingly sacrifice all the time it takes and afterwards look forward to seeing it once again in a later future. The colouring is not as expressionistic as in the Richard Brooks version, the drama is not overstressed by intensity and outbursts but much more contained, 242

the colour imagery is on the contrary rather Spartan and not far from a black-andwhite impression, only contrasted by some beautiful sweeps into nature, especially the very last scene, which is more Tolstoyan than Dostoievskian. But the main triumph of the film, which underlines its character of infinite and bottomless and yet triumphant tragedy, is the music, very modest and simple but strikes the heart immediately, by Henri Lolashvili. Just the introductory scene, which presents each of the twelve episodes except the last, strikes such a true chord of the story that any heart could melt immediately. This is a regular triumph of classical Russian realism. Enough said. It's a self-evident full score without reservations. Anonymous (2011) (10/10) Roland Emmerich gets it all wrong but makes a masterpiece of it Everything is wrong but extremely well made. This is certainly Roland Emmerich's masterpiece, and although almost nothing is according to that part of reality which in spite of all is known to us of those days, it's a great story very well written. A few things are convincing, though. Above all, Rhys Ifans makes a very convincing Edward De Vere as the absolute nobleman he was, making a complete tragedy of his life. Edward Hogg as Robert Cecil is perhaps the most convincing character of all oiling the way of his intrigues in serpentine slyness. Vanessa Redgrave and Joely Richardson as the Queen, Sebastian Armesto as Ben Jonson, Southampton and Essex, Burleigh, well, all the actors make a perfect job, and Will Shakespeare is finally exposed as the fake he most probably was. The rest is fiction. The film makes Elizabeth the mother of various bastards including all the major earls in a plot of all round incests, while more disturbing is the blatant historical incorrectness of making Shakespeare murder Marlowe ten years after his official death and the performance of Richard III at the moment of rebellion – it was actually Richard II. Of course, everything is exaggerated, there were no overwhelming massacres at Essex' demonstration, but never mind – it's a great film widely transcending and surpassing the obvious construction of the absurdly tall story of "Shakespeare in Love" and made more convincing, above all by the superb acting by all the actors (includiong Derek Jacobi, who actually only states the facts, and Mark Rylance as Condell – you immediately recognize his voice.) Only Bacon is missing. This is self-evidently a full score film and for all times. To sum it up: Most viewers seem to agree that this is Roland Emmerich's masterpiece – a feast for the eyes and intensive action all the way, great dramaturgy, the theatre scenes are all flamboyant parties and the highlights of the film, a fantastic although hardly plausible story, and at last a debunking of the phoney Shakespeare cult. The exaggerations, although overdone as always in Emmerich's films, are dramaturgically no detriment to the film but only add to a perfect theatrical drama of both splendour, knavery, humanity and tragedy. 243

Atlas Shrugged (2011) (8/10) The lady executive of a railway company gets into complexities when the world around her seems to go to a shambles. After almost 50 years, this great 20th century novel has at last been turned into a film - in three parts of altogether 4½ hours. The film is naturally not as impressive and complex as the book, but it's still an eye-opener, and its messages get through. Having completed the enterprise of seeing all three films, and having read the book as well, I will try to give the whole thing as objective an evaluation as possible. First of all, it was a great joy to see this great novel filmed at last, especially after almost 50 years and since it's a very difficult and complex story to squeeze into a film at all. The effort on the whole is successful, and I think Ayn Rand (really Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum from Petersburg, Russia,) would have been pleased with it, even in spite of the bathos in the end – but for that I would have given it a 9. The actors are all splendid, the story is made comprehensible, the arguments get through, and the filming leaves nothing to complain of, with a special applause for the train and flight sequences – the accidents (together with the great trial and TV speeches) provide the highlights of the films, and there are quite a number of them in the novel, one more sensational than the other. Also the music is perfectly suited for the story, which is kept in style all the way, with a sigh of relief for at last a great film without any brutality – until the last degrading torture scenes, which fall out. The only irritating detail was for me that the actors are not the same all the way but are switched for every new part. It's not very pleasing to find different persons under the same names for every new part However, no one falls short, and all the three girls playing Dagny, the heroine and center of the story, do her well enough justice. The novel is worth reading and re-reading, while the films don't call for the same desired repetition, at least not for a year or two, but they give a very good introduction and overview of one of the greatest novels of the 20th century – all utopia and speculation, but philosophically very pertinent and relevant, and more so than ever today. It was written (published) in 1957 long before the great hippie movements of the 60s and thus, like everything Ayn Rand wrote, far ahead of its time. It's an additional asset that the films have succeeded in updating the story to the 21st century. Maleficarum (2011) (9/10) Inquisition standard in Lima, Peru, around 1700, probably a true story, made like a documentary. 11 May 2015

This is a very remarkable film for its total restraint in depicting a story of extreme outrage. It brings associations directly to the Danish director Carl Th. Dreyer and his


films, especially "The Day of Wrath" 1943, but maybe more specifically to "The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc", since this is also a close-up of the martyrdom of woman, in this instance even doubly so, since there are two. The story in itself is the ghastliest possible, the two young ladies prosecuted by the inquisition for forbidden love being tortured one by one while the other one is forced to look on in increasingly accelerating cruelty to extract a forced confession of witchery. When the confession finally is accomplished, they are subjected to no less severe punishment none the less in a total judicial murder, just because of the greed of the church to obtain the property of the one young ladý who from her parents has inherited the greatest fortune in Peru – this is somewhere around 1700. The film is accompanied all through by the most intimately pleasing chamber music, mainly guitar, which enhances the grotesqueness of the terror proceedings even more. The director Jac Avila from Bolivia is also the writer and the producer of the film, and it is definitely a masterpiece, with the vital contribution of Amy Hesketh as the main victim – her acting is quite comparable with Maria Falconetti's in "The Passion of Jeanne d'Arc". Still, the torture scenes, that never cease to get worse and seem more endless each time, must make this film unbearable to many, and it's impossible for anyone, I think, not to look away more often than not. A masterpiece of a genius making a deep and lasting impression – an unforgettable film, that however you would not like to see again. The impression is too strong not to leave you almost as branded as the victims. For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada (2012) (8/10) The unknown civil war 1926-29 of the state of Mexico against Christians – a true story Is this a tendentious film or is it objectively credible? That is the question. Nothing is told about the background of the absurd and inexplicable civil war of the president of Mexico against the Christians in a Catholic country, probably one of the weirdest civil wars ever, even lasting for three years, and no explication is given afterwards either. The war is one-sidedly visualized from the Christian point of view, which of course was the only possible right side, since they were the martyrs that only defended their rights. Still, it would have been valuable to have some insight into the other side of the coin. What especially makes this film an enchanting experience is the wonderful music by James Horner, which bandages the atrocious apocalyptic story of inhuman brutalities without end into a sieve of beauty, which even leaves a pleasant aftertaste behind. The film is well made, Peter O'Toole contributes admirably by being the first martyr and setting the drama stage, Andy Garcia is a credible enough type, while the imagery gets the fullest credit, offering irresistible reminiscences to both Elia Kaza's "Viva Zapata!" and Sam Peckinpah's "The Wild Bunch", like almost the third part of a trilogy. It is well worth seeing and discussing, since the topic of martyrdom and ridiculous political oppression always will remain a hot and immanent subject for all times, while this kind of classical film music you will gladly return to now and then just for the beauty of it.

245 "Horící ker" (Burning Bush)(2013) (9/10) Jan Palach burns himself to death in Prague with far-reaching consequences – a true story all the way. This is not just the story of Jan Palach and his self-immolation in protest against the political oppression of the communists in Czechoslovakia 1969 but also the story of many people involved in his case, especially his mother. There are some extremely sensitive scenes in this tremendous film of how political oppression works with its fatal immeasurable consequences for individuals, whose lives more often than not are ruined by bureaucrats who are unaware of it but victims themselves of the system. The mother here is an ordinary elderly lady, one of hundreds of thousands of mothers whose sufferings, fates and quiet martyrdom never become known, but the focus of this film is lifting forth this mother with an overwhelming impression on those who must empathize with her. It's the most difficult part, and the actress playing her is more than just convincing – it is, as Polanski would have termed it, totally organic. The psychological torture she is subjected to for suing the authorities for slandering her son after his suicide is more cruel than any physical torture and must break her to mind and soul. This film is almost documentary in its detailed psychological account of this sensitive case with all its victims and at the same time a masterpiece of suspense. I have never seen anything like it, while closest to it might be Margaretha Von Trotta's similar psychological insightful next-to documentaries of human suffering under autocracies of mental cruelty more severe and evil than any ordinary open cruelty for its carefully intentional inhumanity. Still, Agnieszka Holland makes you understand all these pawns of fate as no more than human caught up in the human destructiveness of totalitarianism, which gets worse the longer it lasts, the only comfort of which is that it is always doomed. The original film is almost 4 hours, there is a slightly abbreviated version of only 3, but it is well worth acquiring the longer version. Night Train to Lisbon (2013) (10/10) Another masterpiece by Bille August 5 November 2017


His knack is to tell fascinating and important stories by subtle understatements. He has done it again and again. Here a solitary and somewhat aging teacher in Bern, Switzerland, finds himself suddenly in an awkward situation, when a girl obviously intends to jump off the bridge he is passing. He saves her life with consequences. She disappears as a perfect enigma but leaves behind a book containing poetry written by some Portuguese. The last class the teacher Jeremy Irons held in Bern was about Marcus Aurelius and his philosophy, and the book left behind is very much in the mood of the philosophic emperor, so much that Jeremy Irons gets obsessed by it and goes to Lisbon just to continue delving into more matter for the story he obviously has stumbled upon by accident. The film is throughout held at a very low key and pace but at the same time remains inescapaby intense, as a very complicated love story in the shadow of the revolution in Portugal 1974 unravels. Bille August is expert at poignant story telling, and this might be his best film so far. All the actors are wonderful and compliment each other marvellously, only Jeremy Irons always remaining the same, and Jack Huston as the poet, while all the others also are played by parallel actors 40 years earlier. The drama is told with perfect constraint all the way, nothing is dramatised, which only enhances the effect of a very human and naturally tragic drama of intricate relationships. Charlotte Rampling makes a strong appearance as the poet-doctor's sister, and also Christopher Lee, Tom Courtenay and Bruno Ganz show up to finally bring it all to a proper and very satisfactory conclusion with the irresistible Lena Olin. All the young actors are also perfect. In brief, this is a typical Bille August masterpiece to remember and see again once in a while, because it's a story you shouldn't forget, and it is told with totally convincing pregnancy.

The Imitation Game (2014) (9/10) The triumph of solving the enigma problem turns into human tragedy. 28 January 2015

This is a deeply moving film of a true story for its fathomless tragedy. It was already filmed in 2001 with Dougray Scott and Kate Winslet and again in 2011, but this is more complete, telling the whole story, which actually are three stories, the filming starting 6 years after the war to introduce the critical aftermath, then proceeding to the actual Enigma story, the backbone of the film, and then diving into his childhood to start from the beginning on the story of Christopher, his best friend, later his computer. Charles Dance makes an excellent villain, he is always good at this, he has some tremendous scenes of sabotage and obstruction before he disappears without tears. Keira Knightley makes a deep impression as Miss Clarke, and every scene with her lifts the film, especially the last heart-rending scene. This is a story of the highest level of heroism, the quiet background closet worker, who does his job in silence without anyone except himself realizing the importance of his work, which he obstinately carries on against all odds and adversities – and gets no reward for it


whatsoever, only a total cover-up and a horrible punishment for nothing, due to the dumbness of the authorities. The three stories melt into one and makes a complete tragedy – after a complete triumph. Only after 50 years the truth was allowed to become known. This is a film to always return to. Leopardi (2014) (9/10) A life of poetry successfully transformed to cinematic beauty and realism. This is a breathtakingly beautiful film, doing justice both to the unfathomable tragedy of the poet and his whereabouts, character, relationships and experiences, with a fascinating conclusion in Naples of apocalyptic scenery aptly illustrating the almost Goya-like dark world of Leopardi's visionary imagination. Some of the best scenes show some of his outbursts, which pinpoint his case: at one point in a tavern he hits the nail by resoundingly demonstrating that his dark poetry has nothing to do with his terrible physical condition but is only pure poetry of the mind and nothing else. All the acting is superb, and the bold experiment of using modern music, or at least more music made today than in the 1800s, is intelligently successful. The temptation is great to give this a full 10 point score, but it's at least 9.5 for certain. At first you suspect there will be no real story, that it will be like a parallel film to the morose William Turner film earlier this year, but the story is there and gets clearer the longer the film goes on, following with overwhelming carefulness the development of Leopardi's declination with his horrible illness, almost developing into a freak, but he never falls into that trap but sustains his sovereign poetry all the way. He has been called the greatest Italian poet after Dante, and there is something to it, the beauty of his poetry contrasting sharply against its contents of mainly associating with suffering, agony and death. For all his decrepitude, his life was the more passionate, which the film carries forth with realistic style and eloquence all the way. This is a film to watch again from time to time, in spite of its increasingly excruciating pain, but once you have seen it the first time, you can the next time concentrate your attention on its poetry and beauty. The horrible invalidity is only a frame for enhancing the beauty of this life and accomplishment. Mr. Turner (2014) (7/10) The London painter William Turner's later private life intimately painted. 26 January 2015

The outstanding merit of this film is its realism. One may question what the point is of exposing and anatomizing the worst sides of icons, they would most certainly have strongly minded it themselves, especially Mr. Turner here, who isn't spared for a moment, allowed freely to grunt and growl his distasteful ways all through the


entire film, almost as if the point was to make him out as grotesque as possible; but the success and great interest of the film is its way of catching that age and times – it is perfectly convincing all the way. It is also true to Turner as a painter personality, showing his later life very appropriately as paintings like taken directly from his humdrum squalidness of a private life of a rather repulsive and pathetic nature, no matter how rich and successful he was. This character of a series of paintings of a painter's life makes a conventional story unnecessary – the realism and picturesqueness of this fascinating Dickensian world made so true and convincing compensates the lack of further deserts. The highlight is the great exhibition scene in the middle of the film with all the artists and critics together minutely studying each other's works with comments and gossip – admirably like taken directly out of that reality. The quality of Mr. Turner's actual paintings are quite enough to further make this art film completely satisfactory as a good enough accomplishment of its ambitions. American Sniper (2014) (8/10) Inside view of a sniper's life. This film has been fiercely criticized for glorifying war and violence, for giving a onesided view of the Iraqi war in favor of America and for ignoring the issue at large. Well, Clint Eastwood's ambition was not to make any moral or political assessment but simply to tell the story of this sniper's life. The topic is extremely controversial, since a sniper's business is generally judged to be the least honorable and most cowardly way of making war – you kill people by hiding from them. Nevertheless, Clint Eastwood succeeds in defending his sniper. For the first time you are convinced that he has to do what he is doing, he simply has no choice, it has to be done, and there are two crucial instances when he is faced with the very difficult issue of having to fire at children. The first one is in the beginning of the film, there is the child's mother also, and he kills them both – there is nothing else to do. In the second issue he actually prays that the boy will not pick up the rocket that has been left by the soldier he just shot down. The child picks up the rocket and starts moving as if to use it, the sniper hesitates, this is perhaps the most poignant moment in the whole film – and I will not reveal what happens. In the end he returns to ordinary civil life, and the story reaches a sudden and quite unexpected end, which must reconcile anyone to this whole sordid business. It's true, he killed 160 people in the most cowardly possible way, but you have to excuse him. Someone had to do it, and he only did what he had to do. End of story. Clint Eastwood refrains from any further comment, and so should we. Macbeth (2015) (6/10) Shakespeare done away with and replaced by brutal primitive pretensions 249

25 January 2016

Whatever happened to Shakespeare? He is almost completely lost in this pretentious whisking away of any meaning and poetry of the play by complete obfuscation of the language, the very flesh and blood of any Shakespeare drama, here mumbled in the beards or wheezed half way while most gets stuck in the throat, as if diction suddenly was anathema and banished. All previous Macbeth adaptations for the screen that I have seen have been better, and they were at least four. Things are made even worse by the fact of the alterations, the important part of the porter (peeing in the gate) has been obliterated, the murder of the family of McDuff is turned into a grotesque exaggeration like a blasphemy of the play, and McDuff's war trick in the end with the wandering forest, the very top of the play, is substituted by an intentional destructive forest fire. The battle scenes are grossly exaggerated and turned into artificial ballets made worse by slow motion, and there is little to save the film except the marvellous landscape scenery, magnificent all the way through, and the after all good acting, despite the fact that the actors are not allowed more than to mumble. Sorry, this was an indecent corruption and humiliation of the theatrical art of Shakespeare. What a marvellous film it would have been, if Shakespeare had been kept alive and allowed to shine in his language in these true landscape settings of wildest Scotland! The Danish Girl (2015) (9/10) Anatomy of transgenderism at its first venturesome and failed efforts – Was it worth it? 4 March 2016

First of all, it's a beautiful picture all the way with amazing wonder of pictorial qualified aestheticism which is sustained throughout, masking the very debatable and to some disgusting plot in merciful and seducing perfume. Especially the music by Alexandre Desplat works miracles about this – he always seems to do that and has elevated the quality of many films that way, especially art films. This is above all an art film and should not be ignored as such. After six years of marriage an artist finds himself in a typical artist's crisis and finds a peculiar way out of it – by transcending into a woman. Eddie Redmayne does not make a bad job of it but actually makes a more impressing performance than the Oscar-winner in what must be recognized as one of the most difficult and sensitive performances imaginable. It's actually difficult to think that anyone would willingly venture into such a minefield. And does the transgender operation solve his problem? Of course not, and that's the disappointing conclusion of the film. Anyone should have known that from the start, and especially the artist. I have met many transgender people in my days, and not one was convincing – the old sex shone garishly through in every case. I am not saying that it must fail, but violating nature is never a good idea. Nevertheless, it remains a very beautiful film, for the music and the scenery and couldn't have been made better. Enhjoy it for its beauty, and pardon the tragedy for


its foolishness, – but, as so often in films, without that there would have been no story to be told. The Revenant (2015) (7/10) 2½ hours of self torture – for what? 28 December 2015

There is nothing wrong with the film. The acting is perfectly natural all the way, so natural, that you can't understand what almost anyone is saying for their mumbling in their shaggy beards, especially the main crook (Tom Hardy), who isn't credible in his unmotivated evil, and of course everything goes constantly wrong. They do everything they shouldn't, go wandering alone in a dark forest when there are bears around and you can even hear their cubs – these bear hunters couldn't be unaware that there must be a worried bear mother near by when she smells a human hunter close to her cubs. Of course, the bear attack triggers the drama, without which there would be none; but the greatest folly is in the end, when the two good men go ahunting for a desperate murderer in the wilderness and they split up. How could they be so dumb? Sorry, it's a weak story with no psychology mainly made up for its effects, and of course, these are marvellous, the main prize going to the fantastic photography of the wilderness in the awesome landscape scenes, and here you could actually speak of poetry, but that's about all. They say it was all shot without any artificial light, which of course adds to the intriguing atmosphere of the nocturnal scenes, and the whole enterprise of shooting such a film under sinister conditions in the wilderness deserves much credit. At best some of the wilderness scenes succeed in creating some "Call of the Wild"-ecstasy, especially the most spectacular of them all with the buffaloes. But the story is such, that you feel rather inclined to take sides with the Indians and the bears than with these villains causing nothing but mischief in the wilderness and even failing with that, while the original Richard Harris-John Huston film from 1971, which I haven't seen yet, could be expected to be better. You could blame the flaws of the story, which appears to be founded on fact way up in the Dakota wilderness in the 1820s among Sioux and Pawnees, on the necessity of the truthfulness of naturalism, people could actually be this beastly, and if they are beastly they are usually dumb as well, so let's make allowances for that – realism in absurdum, which though only makes you take the stronger sides with the Indians and the bears. One final question mark – even an Indian would in the end feel motivated to do something for the trapper that after all saved the life of his daughter, which she couldn't be unaware of, when she exits with her father with no more than a look. Wolf Hall (2015) (9/10)


Intrigues of love and death at the precarious court of Henry VIII by candlelight 1 August 2015

Mark Rylance makes a fascinating character out of the misfortunate Thomas Cromwell, who as far as I have seen never has been done any justice or more careful impersonation on screen before. The story is well known and repeated often enough to almost the point of getting audiences fed up with it, but the characters of the drama remain inveterately of lasting and timeless interest with Henry, Wolsey and Anne Boleyn in the forefront, Henry for his dangerously psychotic capriciousness risking everyone's life in his vicinity, Wolsey for his fall and Anne Boleyn for her tragedy. To this comes the eternally important drama of Thomas More and his even more unfortunate successor Thomas Cromwell, who failed in achieving the same glory of martyrdom but instead was actually beheaded in dishonour. You could see "Wolf Hall" as a successful effort to exonerate him, as he is interestingly exposed as a victim of fate who actually had no choice but to do as he did – there was no way out of his dependence on the caprices of the King. Mark Rylance is so excellent in his portrayal, that he actually could have made a better Thomas More than Anton Lesser, who is not quite convincing as Thomas More, far too frail and almost abject, making his part almost as denigrative as the part of Cromwell is favoured. Nevertheless, the truth of this rendering of the fearsome story is probably more accurate than any earlier version. Henry is not very convincing either, though, as he is far too dashing and youngish when he should have been more sturdy and clumsy in his actual fatness – he was only this fit in his very younger days, a fault which hopelessly cripples the whole Canadian TV series with Jonathan Rhys Meyers a few years back, which is more exclusively a feast for the eyes than truthful in the least, while the best Henry VIII series remains the Granada production of 2003 with Ray Winstone and Helena Bonham Carter as Anne Boleyn – one of the best and most truthful. However, also here Anne Boleyn is made almost over-convincing with her intelligent brilliance and ambitious willfulness and for once quite awesome. Bernard Hill as her uncle Norfolk also deserves some major credit as perhaps the best actor here of them all. The greatest merit of the series however is its realism by candlelight – it is throughout photographed without artifice in light settings, which adds greatly to the general realism. In brief, yet another great and highly meritorious version of the trials of this turbulent court, adding new important aspects to understanding this troublesome and problematic chapter of history. Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief (2015) (8/10) Important documentary on the anatomy of paranoia There are a number of documentaries about this having accumulated since the 60s, but the phenomenon is that each new documentary reveals new more shocking facts


about the business and its mentality than the previous ones, apparently because the material is still accumulating. There is very much important data from earlier documentaries missing here, many key persons are left out of the picture, which nevertheless is completed by the new ones appearing, corroborating all previous testimonies. It's a vitally important documentary, most of all because in the world society we are living in today so many, if not the majority of people, are not aware that it is an age of brainwash, and they still haven't learned to protect themselves against it. What you marvel at in this documentary, which many of the participants honestly do, is that they keep swallowing the racket for years before they can bring themselves to accept that they have been swindled, in most cases of their lives, which they don't realize until their lives are lost or completely devastated. In an effort to concentrate on the good things in Scientology I wrote an article some years back where I posed the open question – what went wrong? Apparently everything went wrong from the beginning, the founder having no self-criticism and no objective distance to what he was doing, but simply himself first of all falling a victim to the delusions of his own science fiction fantasies. Of course, there must be something good in Scientology, there must be a corn of truth in it somewhere, but whatever once was good and even of some worthwhile philosophical common sense and rational wisdom was flooded by the bolting derailing vicious circle of greed fueled by unrestricted paranoia, the constant validation of which seems to be the very substance and force of the organization. Asssassin’s Creed (2016) (8/10) Another computer game turned into a film of spectacular philosophical-historical speculation It's difficult to squeeze it into some comprehensive definition. It is a kind of futuristic occult science fiction with some historical context added to it, which makes it interesting in spite of all the technical indulgences and endless massacre scenes, where people are so efficiently slaughtered so that you almost never can see who is being killed or why, maybe just for fighting, while half the contents of every fighting scene is devoted to acrobatic escapes impossible to perform even at a circus and overobviously inspired by the three latest James Bond-movies. The most interesting part is the one about 1492 with inquisition scenes, Columbus and all that, while what also saves the film is the performances of Jeremy Irons, Michael Fassbender who has to work harder than ever for it through a vast number of exasperating scenes of struggling, Brendan Gleeson as the father who for some incomprehensible reason found it necessary to kill his wife and Michael's mother, Charlotte Rampling in a typical debatable role of hers, and Marion Cotillard as Sofia who eventually is the only one who gets away without blood on her hands although she added to it, as the one who you understand least of what she is saying – the problem of absence of intelligible diction, like in some many modern films, is over-evident here. The scenery is also impressing with wonderful panoramic views of Sevilla and London, while the eagle is the one who lifts the film to a truly interesting level of allegorical philosophical speculation leading to cosmic afterthought. You can't remain unimpressed by this film, no matter how absurd and phantasmagorical it is, since there is some interesting historical truth of metaphysical kind hidden in it after all.


I would have given it 9, if it had not been over-loaded with violence, although that is the film's very argument, but all the fighting scenes tend to get repetitive. Inferno (2016) (8/10) Tom Hanks (unvoluntarily) saves the world again but has to work hard for it Why make such a hash out of a great story with important arguments? It is maybe Dan Brown's best novel with his most important problem presentation, and it all gets muddled up in a confusing editing and by the actors never speaking out – what happened to the necessary art of diction, which has been vanishing since the 70s? Before then you could usually clearly hear and understand every word every actor was saying, but nowadays they almost never get any message through, which is especially regrettable in a film like this, where the conversation throughout is of vital importance. Furthermore, the film is drowned in technical effects and in the constant stress of poor Tom Hanks terribly bruised getting hounded all through the film by killers insisting on killing him at any cost, which they usually pay for with their lives, while they of course never succeed in killing him. The only damage he gets is a constantly worried face. In spite of all this unnecessary artifice, there are great scenes in the film, especially the orchestral finale in underground Constantinople, and there is some memorable acting, especially by Ben Foster as a very convincing Zobrist, more convincing than any of the others, so he actually dominates the film as the bearer of the main argument and problem. I am sorry, but with all my admiration of Dan Brown's work (I own and have read all his novels) and of Ron Howard's outstanding films, which never have been a disappointment, I can't give more than 8 points to this film. The Jungle Book (2016) (9/10) Shere Khan makes this new Jungle Book fantasy an impressive adventure to remember 16 April 2016

Amazing cinematic dramatization of Kipling's "Jungle Book" that dwarfs all previous versions – at least dramatically. The high tempo with thrilling intensity is set from the beginning as Mowgli races Bagheera all over the jungle on the ground as well as way up in the trees, but Bagheera, as also nature in this film, always wins. As many have pointed out, the leading character of the drama though is the villain Shere Khan the Tiger, impressively impersonated by Idris Elba, while you can't suspect Ben


Kingsley as Bagheera and Bill Murray as Baloo. At the same time, this splendid Jungle Book fantasy makes up for the dreadful Disney animation of 1966, which never was supervised by Disney himself, as he passed away that year. That Mowgli was like any vexing pest of that age with almost nothing human about him and hardly even alive as more than a cartoon cliché, while this Mowgli is the more sympathetic as a real child and very much alive – he even speaks intelligibly. Also the animals are regular successes with a very impressing Bandarlog king – the spectacular sequences from the ghost town of ruins with an overwhelming mob of baboons is maybe the film's most impressive part, while the final settlement with Shere Khan mainly consists of cinematic effects, although exciting enough as a proper climax. Important above all is the message, which Walt Disney himself made clear already as early as in "Bambi" in 1941, that the real villain is man, and Shere Khan is the only one to carry through that message with a convincing vengeance – there is no doubt about it. What you miss in the film is the magic and poetry of Kipling. The wolf scenes do represent it to some degree, but in comparison with the 1942 movie shot on location in southwest India, which was poetry all the way, this is more in the category of effectively dramatic entertainment, the poetry and soul getting lost in the technical virtuosity. Still, it's a marvel of a film, and its high gear through the whole run leaves you already exhausted after half an hour, almost like an Indiana Jones thriller. What would Kipling have thought about it? He would most certainly have liked it, laughed at it and thoroughly enjoyed it, but still preferred the even more creative paraphrase on his book of the 1942 version. A Dark Song (2016) (9/10) Occult chamber drama of spiritualism and serious rituals at your own risk A young mother has lost her small boy and can't get over it. Desperate about getting in touch with him by any means she engages an occultist who knows something about rites. Together with him she seals herself up in an isolated house way out in the country to concentrate fully on her quest, but the occultist is not very easy to get along with and not very sympathetic either. He keeps warning her, but she is determined, they go through with the ritual, and nothing happens, except what none of them had bargained for, although there was plenty of money involved. Of course, you must raise objections to this kind of film and the way they irrationally act in mumbo-jumbo that could go anything but right. Still, it's a very interesting film, and ultimately there is some catharsis to the ordeal, as she reaches the one thing she desires, which is fulfilled. It's a very suggestive horror film, reminding of others of the same kind like "The Blair Witch", "The Witch" and "Repulsion", and the story finally makes sense. It's a very odd film, I can't really recommend it, and once you have seen it you've had it. Extremely well made with sound effects that add to the tense horror momentums, you still have to acknowledge it as a very interesting study in the efficiency of self-suggestion launching you into the infinity and nightmare of the occult. 255 Elle (2016) (9/10) Complicated relationships with frustrations result in more than one 'crime passionel' Isabelle Huppert is convincing all the way as the executive mother running a turbulent enterprise with many artistic and tempered employees of creating violent computer games and has had a hard time and life creating her position out of an impossible start in life as the daughter of a mass murderer. Her position is seriously put at risk when she is assaulted at home by a masked rapist, the scene of which opens the film and sets the stage and the sustained suspense – not even when it is finally revealed who he is the plot ceases to thicken. Other people are involved, several employees and other lovers, and there is even a childbirth exposing the father as not the father. The main theme and red line of the film however is Isabelle Huppert's settling with her past, with her dying father in prison, with her grotesque mother, with her ex-husband and with her lovers, but she ultimately succeeds in emerging out of all the lies with her integrity saved and intact. It is therefore a very constructive film in spite of its shabby intrigues and decadent love affairs, one worse than the other, while at the same time it's an exciting thriller. The dialogue is intelligent all the way, and there is no risk of anyone falling asleep during its more than two hours in basically the same closed up environment all the time. An excellent if not outstanding French thriller and psychological drama dealing mainly with the ubiquitous human problem of sex. Paul Verhoeven is most famous for "Basic Instinct" with Sharon Stone and Michael Douglas 24 years ago, but this is equally intriguing and more complex. It's noteworthy, that Paul Verhoeven is 78 years old. The Love Witch (2016) (9/10) A deep dive into the abyss of the occult and its modern manifestations with great aestheticism 22 May 2017

I expected no good of this film but was prepared for silly new age nonsense and weird sex play of kinky nature and was greatly surprised by the high artistry of this very modern film which nonetheless hits a timeless character. Everything in it is good, it's a fascinating play with imagination, the story develops constantly into more ingenious innovations, in spite of the dominating occult ingredients it's very logical all the way, the actors are all good and convincing although they more often than not go over the top, and especially the music is very well made. The wedding scene tops the film and establish its character of almost Shakespearian timelessness,


like in the forest of Arden, and although many would find the finale objectionable and unnecessary, it can at the same time be seen as inevitable. Above all, it offers a very interesting insight into occult developments of the present world with the revival of ancient paganism, which is a very dynamic movement occurring all over the world today, maybe as a counterpoise to the threat of Islam, and the several ritual scenes are among the best in the film. This was a fascinating experience and something quite out of the ordinary and the more appreciated for its originality. Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe (10/10) An almost documentary account of the exile dilemma of Stefan Zweig and many other German artists during the difficult nazi years. 4.7.2017

This is a very sad film, but if the ambition was to give as correct and truthful a picture as possible of Stefan Zweig's exile dilemma, it has succeeded overwhelmingly well. The character of the film is as close to documentary as a feature film can be, it is almost overly realistic in catching every day life scenes of the author and his friends and family, and the introductory scenes in South America, especially the Pen conference in Buenos Aires in 1936 give insight enough into Stefan Zweig's public standing and views and his definite refusal to take any political standing at all. That was maybe his life's tragedy, he wanted to keep it pure of any commitment for or against any worldly state and ideology, but in the end he was forced to abandon his idealism to finally take a stand against nazism in his autobiography "The World of Yesterday" and his last work "Schachnovelle". That could be seen as a personal moral bankruptcy in giving up his idealistic view of humanity, and he committed his suicide almost directly after finishing the story. It was found after his death. Of course, a film like this can't tell the whole truth but only give glimpses of it, but the glimpses are accurate and expressive enough and give a fairly good view of the whole picture. He actually contemplated suicide already much earlier in his career, he even asked his first wife Friederike to join him in suicide, but she had her two daughters (from a previous marriage) to live for, while his second wife was free to join him. It's a beautiful picture for its infinite melancholy expressed only in suggestions but giving a very accurate interpretation of the very complex and tragic case of Stefan Zweig, who was the greatest writer of his time. Loving Vincent (2017) (10/10)


The mystery of Vincent van Gogh's death explained in all its unfathomable tragedy 29 November 2017

This is a very remarkable and impressing film made almost like a detective story searching out the truth behind Vincent van Gogh's death by a shot in his belly. It is based entirely on his paintings and is actually like a cartoon film made of his paintings, while the characters, who are all genuine and existed in reality, are impersonated by actors by their voices, and it is expertly done - couldn't have been done better. The chief character is the son of Vincent's postman, who is entrusted with the task of delivering Vincent's last letter to his brother, whom Armand Roulin, the postman's son, doesn't know is already dead. He interviews people who were in touch with Vincent and who he lived with, ending up with doctor Gachet, who provides the final solution to the mystery. I don't think there has been made a film like this before with the ambition to explain the whole situation, but here it is done thoroughly convincingly. No question marks remain as the full tragedy appears in all its pathetic regrettability and loss, unnecessarily, of a great genius. The solution to the mystery will not be revealed here, but it appears quite clearly and rather soon that van Gogh impossibly could have shot himself in the belly. Someone else must have fired the shot, but who and why? That is the mystery. Or was it just an accident, but how could then such an accident be explained? There have been various other van Gogh films made before, and the best is probably still the Kirk Douglas version based on Irving Stone's famous novel, while other films have fallen flat. This is probably the version that comes closest to "the true story", although, naturally, Vincent's character appears slightly romanticized and brushed up. Darkest Hour (2017) (10/10) You have never seen Winston Churchill like this before. 15 January 2018

There have been many Winston Churchills on screen and television, and although none of them have been completely convincing, they all managed to get as close as possible, which, although far from the goal, anyway generally were good tries. I wouldn't say that Gary Oldman is the best so far, but he is at least on level with Albert Finney, while Kristin Scott Thomas definitely is the most beautiful Clementine of them all. I always admired her deeply, she adorns every film she partakes in, she is intelligent and beautiful, which is an invincible combination - she just has to appear, and she turns any dreadful story to something deeply interesting. Her perhaps least successful appearance was in "The English Patient" as the romantic lead - she is only superior as a leading supporter. As for the rest, Roland Pickup makes a very convincing and almost heart-breakingly


melancholy Chamberlain, all too clearly singing on his last verse, who is the only tragic figure of this movie. The others are all quite all right. The music by Dario Marianelli was a positive surprise, it's very well manufactured, even pointing out and underscoring some comical moments, while the main character of the film is documentary - the effort has been to catch the strain of that terrible first month of Prime Minister Churchill's, which ambition definitely is achieved. It couldn't have been made better. So without flinching I join all the other 10-voters and hope to see the film again. The Death of Stalin (2017) (8/10) Stalin's dirty old men in deadly party quarrel after his death 2 March 2018

If this is supposed to be a comedy it isn't funny. I can well understand those who couldn't stand it more than 11 minutes. It's a bitter caricature all the way of the arguments of power, the humour is darker than black and not humorous at all, and all laughters are strained to grotesqueness in morbid hypocrisy, but that is probably how it was. It all makes a very realistic impression and couldn't perhaps be staged more realistically without the satirical caricature touch. The main factor that turns them all into ridiculous parodies is that they all speak cockney, all except the pianist, who makes the deepest impression of all and who introduces the morbid farce, the one serious person in the context. Although they all constantly speak in a foul loud-mouthed way without listening to each other and almost merely making a lot of noise and fuss, it is very well acted, and what saves the film is the fine choice of music. Music introduces the spectacle and also gives it a worthy exist. It's brilliant entertainment all the way, although all laughs get stuck in the throat. Michael Palin from Monty Python is the best and most convincing actor, and the actor who plays Krushchev has a startling resemblance to Putin. Perhaps it was intentional? I heard the film was forbidden in Russia, and a cinema owner who showed it anyway was prosecuted for it. Putin has tried to exonerate Stalin, so this political portrait of an active establishment in a superpower 65 years ago could be scaringly up to date. The Phantom Thread (2017) (10/10) Sensitively intimate insight into the delicacy of creative artistry 2 March 2018


Although there certainly are objections to this film in various ways, its story and its slow motion above all, it is a breathtakingly beautiful film. It is a film about beauty, the delicacy of its handling, the arduousness of its creation and its unavoidable complications. Daniel Day Lewis is a confirmed bachelor working as a tailor exclusively to the highest society, which has been his life's calling from the start. He finds a new model in a serving maid out in the country, none of them have seen each other before, so it's a fresh start for both, and they celebrate triumphs on their way together to begin with. The complications begin when she starts to take over his life and he objects. Questionable manoeuvres follow. Still the film remains sustained until the end on a very high level of exquisiteness, and it's truly a cinematic work of art of the very highest rate. There aren't many films about tailors, most of them tell opposite stories, so this is in every aspect a unique film and very fitting as a crowning masterpiece on Daniel Day Lewis' career.


Film reviews  
Film reviews  

350 film reviews - for a start. Latest update 16.1.2018.