Archive for December, 2008


by Allan Fish

(USA 1940 133m) DVD1/2

The perfect symmetry of those walls

p  David O.Selznick  d  Alfred Hitchcock  w  Robert Sherwood, Joan Harrison  novel  Daphne du Maurier  ph  George Barnes  ed  Hal C.Kern  m  Franz Waxman  art  Lyle Wheeler  cos  uncredited (probably Walter Plunkett or Irene)

Joan Fontaine (Mrs de Winter), Laurence Olivier (George Fortescue Maximilian “Maxim” de Winter), George Sanders (Jack Favell), Judith Anderson (Mrs Danvers), Nigel Bruce (Maj.Giles Lacy), Gladys Cooper (Beatrice Lacy), Reginald Denny (Frank Crawley), C.Aubrey Smith (Col.Julyan), Florence Bates (Edythe Van Hopper), Leonard Carey (Ben), Leo G.Carroll (Dr Baker), Melville Cooper (coroner), Edward Fielding (Frith), Lumsden Hare (Tabbs), Philip Winter (Robert), Forrester Harvey, Billy Bevan,

Rebecca is a film unlike any other in Hitchcock’s CV.  It’s a woman’s picture, when analysed to its basic function, but it’s also a whole lot more besides.  It’s suffered more than any other film from the incredible post mortem discussions carried out on Hitchcock’s work.  Many now would exclaim that his Rear Window, Vertigo or Psycho have greater depth.  Indeed, they are masterpieces all, but as an exercise in direction and use of a studio’s resources, Rebecca is in itself a masterpiece.  This is not merely an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Brontëesque romance, but a multi-layered analysis of what it is to be haunted by the past.  No other film, not even Vertigo, has the feeling of there being someone else watching, someone dead.  When Mrs Danvers says “do you believe the dead come back to watch the living?” you know Rebecca truly does haunt us still.  (more…)


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by Allan Fish

(UK 1948 116m) DVD1/2

What right have you to butcher me?

p  Ronald Neame, Anthony Havelock-Allen  d  David Lean  w  David Lean, Stanley Haynes  novel  Charles Dickens  ph  Guy Green  ed  Jack Harris  m  Arnold Bax  art  John Bryan  cos  Margaret Furse

Alec Guinness (Fagin), Robert Newton (Bill Sikes), Kay Walsh (Nancy), Anthony Newley (The Artful Dodger), John Howard Davies (Oliver), Henry Stephenson (Robert Brownlow), Francis L.Sullivan (Mr Bumble), Mary Clare (Mrs Corney), Gibb McLaughlin (Mr Sowerberry), Kathleen Harrison (Mrs Sowerberry), Michael Dear (Noah Claypole), Amy Veness (Mrs Bedwin), Ralph Truman (Monks), Diana Dors (Charlotte), Josephine Stuart (Agnes Fleming), Ivor Barnard (Chairman), Frederick Lloyd (Mr Grimwig), Edie Martin (Annie), Graveley Edwards (Mr Fang), Michael Ripper, Deidre Doyle, Fay Middleton, Peter Bull, W.G.Fay, Maurice Denham, Henry Edwards, Hattie Jacques,

So speaks Fagin prior to capture in David Lean’s once seminal Dickensian film.  I say once seminal because somehow it isn’t rated as highly as Great Expectations, made two years earlier.  Yet the fact remains that, in this reviewer’s eyes, it’s an even greater achievement than its illustrious predecessor. (more…)

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 Revolutionary Road

by Allan Fish

(USA 2008 119m) DVD1/2

Where we keep the euphemism

p  Bobby Cohen, Larry Hart, Scott Rudin, Sam Mendes  d  Sam Mendes  w  Justine Haythe  novel  Richard Yates  ph  Roger Deakins  ed  Tariq Anwar  m  Thomas Newman  art  Kristi Zea  cos  Albert Wolsky

Leonardo DiCaprio (Frank Wheeler), Kate Winslet (April Wheeler), David Harbour (Shep Campbell), Kathryn Khan (Milly Campbell), Kathy Bates (Helen Givings), Richard Easton (Howard Givings), Michael Shannon (John Givings), Jay O.Sanders (Bart Pollock), Dylan Baker (Jack Ordway), Zoe Kazan (Maureen Grube),

So what does this film have to do with Who’s Afraid With Virginia Woolf?; aside from them both featuring warring marriages?  Nothing.  Yet that toss away line written by Edward Albee could not sum up Mendes’ film more accurately if it tried.  Revolutionary Road refers to the street where the couple at the centre of the film, the Wheelers’, live, and yet as Juliet said, “what’s in a name?”  Revolutionary Road is a euphemism – one used to describe a cul-de-sac or, as is perhaps more a propos in such a film, a roundabout which the couple are stuck on, the roundabout known in more succinct circles as conformity. 

            Take our couple; Frank Wheeler meets April in his twenties, sweeps her off her feet at an otherwise forgettable party, they marry, have two kids and move to suburbia.  So far, so ordinary, but that’s just it.  It’s sooooo ordinary, and both feel suffocation grasping them round the throat like a wrestler in an arm lock.  The problem is that this isn’t the free sixties, but the stifling, repressed fifties, so everyone around them thinks they’re nuts when they decide to leave for Paris to start afresh.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1942 102m) DVD1/2

We’ll always have Paris

p  Hal B.Wallis  d  Michael Curtiz  w  Julius J.Epstein, Philip G.Epstein, Howard Koch  play  “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by Murray Burnett, Joan Alison  ph  Arthur Edeson  ed  Owen Marks  montage  Don Siegel  m  Max Steiner  song  “As Time Goes By” by Herman Hupfeld  art  Carl Jules Weyl  cos  Orry Kelly

Humphrey Bogart (Rick Blaine), Ingrid Bergman (Ilse Lund-Laszlo), Paul Henreid (Victor Laszlo), Claude Rains (Capt.Louis Renault), Sydney Greenstreet (Signor Ferrari), Peter Lorre (Ugarte), Conrad Veidt (Maj.Heinrich Strasser), S.Z.Sakall (Carl), Dooley Wilson (Sam), Marcel Dalio (Emile, the Croupier), Leonid Kinskey (Sascha), Madeleine le Beau (Yvonne), John Qualen (Berger), Joy Page (Annina Brandel), Helmut Dantine (Jan Brandel), Dan Seymour (Abdul), Curt Bois (Pickpocket), Lou Marcelle (Narrator),

Casablanca is probably the cinema’s greatest movie legend, greater even than Gone With the Wind; idolised, revered, copied, cherished and, above all, reviewed with constant enthusiasm by millions of idolaters.  Films such as these fill you with trepidation, fear of perhaps not seeing what all the fuss was about.  In my case, I had no need to worry.  I love Casablanca as much as I did when I first saw it.  Indeed, like so many, I probably love it even more now, even though I can nearly recite each line before it’s spoken.  I mean, it’s even Hugh Hefner’s favourite movie.  “Here’s looking at you…” indeed. 

            It’s amazing to think it was so nearly so very different, planned to originally star – wait for it – Ronald Reagan, Ann Sheridan and Dennis Morgan (cue repulsed gasps).  It was enough to make you wonder what would have happened if another studio had made it; say RKO.  They’d probably have seen Casablanca as too sophisticated and rechristened it, and transferred the action to, Marrakech.  It would probably have starred Robert Young and Susan Hayward, which is enough to make even me nauseous.  Let’s move on.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1942 19m) DVD1/2

The pulse of a nation

p  Ian Dalrymple  Humphrey Jennings  Stewart McAllister, Humphrey Jennings  ph  H.E.Fowle  ed  Humphrey Jennings

Humphrey Jennings’ output at the Crown Film Unit during the war has long been the subject of critical eulogy, the sort of independent vision that draws both awe and wonder.  Listen to Britain is his greatest miniature time capsule, a film that demands viewing for anyone inquiring as to the mood of a nation at war.  It’s best summed up by the superb foreword of Leonard Brockington.  “I am a Canadian.  I have been listening to Britain.  I have heard the sound of her life, by day and by night.  Many years ago a great American, speaking of Britain, said that in the storm of battle and conflict she had a secret vigour and a pulse like a cannon.  In the great sound picture that is here presented, you too will hear that heart beating.  For blended together, in one great symphony, is the music of Britain at war; the evening hymn of the lark; the roar of spitfires; the dancers in the great ballroom at Blackpool; the clank of machinery and shunting trains; soldiers of Canada holding in memory, in proud memory, their home on the range; the BBC sending truth on its journey around the world.  The trumpet call of freedom.  The war song of a great people.  The first sure notes of the march of victory, as you and I listen to Britain.” (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1949 106m) DVD1/2

 How happy could I be with either, were t’other, dear charmer, away

p  Michael Balcon, Michael Relph  d  Robert Hamer  w  Robert Hamer, John Dighton  novel  “Israel Rank” by Roy Horniman  ph  Douglas Slocombe  ed  Peter Tanner  md  Ernest Irving  m  “Il Mio Tesoro” from “Don Giovanni” & various small pieces from “Così fan Tutte” by W.A.Mozart  art  William Kellner  cos  Anthony Mendleson

Dennis Price (Louis Mazzini), Alec Guinness (younger duke/the banker/Young Ascoyne/Henry/Admiral Lord Horatio/the general/Lady Agatha/the parson), Valerie Hobson (Edith d’Ascoyne), Joan Greenwood (Sibella Hallwood-Holland), John Penrose (Lionel Holland), Audrey Fildes (Mama), Miles Malleson (Elliott, the hangman), Clive Morton (The colonel), Arthur Lowe (Reporter), Hugh Griffith (Judge),

Let me be honest here, Kind Hearts and Coronets is probably the least visual film of the entire selection.  It’s rather a film whose deserved masterpiece status rests on its acting and its deliciously dark and cynical script.  Oh, and the fact that it’s the least Ealing like film they ever made and, consequently, the best.  Many films make you empathise with the hero, for whatever reason; maybe because you want to look as cool as them, or because you fancy the panties off the leading actress.  What’s remarkable about this is that you’d be wishing yourself to be a mass murderer, for the hero kills six of his relatives in this film, and plans the death of two others.  So, much as though frolicking with the unique Joan Greenwood would have been great, let’s take a reality check here; Louis Mazzini is a swine who, though perhaps originally justifiably full of hate, is thoroughly deserving to get caught and punished.  But did the fellow have to be so stupid as to leave his memoirs in his cell.  Forget morality, people, check your scruples at the door.  (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1946/1994 104m) DVD1/2

I sure do like that name

p  Samuel G.Engel  d  John Ford  w  Samuel G.Engel, Winston Miller  book  “Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal” by Stuart N.Lake  ph  Joe P.MacDonald  ed  Dorothy Spencer  md  Alfred Newman  m  Cyril Mockridge  art  James Basevi, Lyle Wheeler, Thomas Little  cos  René Hubert

Henry Fonda (Wyatt Earp), Victor Mature (Doc Holliday), Linda Darnell (Chihuahua), Cathy Downs (Clementine Carter), Walter Brennan (Old Man Clanton), Tim Holt (Virgil Earp), Ward Bond (Morgan Earp), Alan Mowbray (Granville Thorndyke), John Ireland (Billy Clanton), Roy Roberts (Mayor), Jane Darwell (Kate Nelson), Russell Simpson (John Simpson), Grant Withers (Ike Clanton), Francis Ford (Town Drunk), J.Farrell MacDonald (Mac the Bartender), Don Garner (James Earp), Ben Hall (Barber),

No one event in American frontier history, or indeed man, has inspired as many films as the stand-off in 1882 known as the gunfight at the OK Corral and Wyatt Earp.  But with due respect to Walter Huston, Burt Lancaster, James Garner, Kury Russell and Kevin Costner and all the others who have played the role, there is only one Wyatt Earp and only one gunfight; that depicted in John Ford’s seminal western, my own personal favourite of all his films on a pure affectionate scale.  If ever a film personified the credo of Carleton Young in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valanceprint the legend“, this is it.  Who cares that it’s historically inaccurate, it’s justifiable license, and the extra footage by no means hurts proceedings (including a reference to the barber in the theatre, an extended chase of the bullion coach and an obliged goodbye to the town from Wyatt). It’s also a film whose plot is so well known that no synopsis seems necessary. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 1946 104m) DVD2

Aka. Stairway to Heaven

It’s heaven, isn’t it?

p/w  Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger  d  Michael Powell  ph  Jack Cardiff  ed  Reginald Mills  m  Allan Gray  art  Alfred Junge, Hein Heckroth, Arthur Lawson  cos  Hein Heckroth  spc  Douglas Woolsley, Henry Harris 

David Niven (Squ.Ldr.Peter David Carter), Kim Hunter (June), Roger Livesey (Dr Frank Reeves), Marius Goring (Conductor 71), Raymond Massey (Abraham Farlan), Abraham Sofaer (Dr Leiser), Robert Coote (Bob Trubshawe), Kathleen Byron (Angel), Richard Attenborough (English Pilot), Bonar Colleano (American Pilot), Joan Maude (Records Angel), Bob Roberts, Robert Atkins, Betty Potter,

Yes, Dickie, it really is.  Considering his excellent roles in everything from Brighton Rock to The Great Escape to 10 Rillington Place, if asked to recall the most famous line spoken by Richard Attenborough in his whole career, it would probably be his only line in Powell & Pressburger’s forties fantasy.  There are no movies that you must see before you die, contrary to S.J.Schneider’s aforementioned work, but this is perhaps one you should.  After all, who can say that Powell & Pressburger aren’t right?  Better to be prepared.

            That’s more than can be said for Conductor 71, the heavenly messenger sent down to collect Peter Carter when he jumps without a parachute from his burning plane to avoid frying.  You see, he misses him in a ruddy pea-souper and Carter wakes on a beach, falls in love with a woman he just happened to send out his last message to over the radio and, in such changed circumstances, refuses to go with the Conductor when he finally comes for him.  Can Peter survive the resultant heavenly trial and the neurological surgery he must undergo to correct what is seen as a cerebral abnormality?  (more…)

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by Sam Juliano

After a ninety-degree turn that yielded a phantasmagoric futuristic science fiction film named The Fountain, which dealt with mortality and eternal life, (a film that stretched the boundaries of modern cinema and moved audiences on a level not experienced in recent years) eclectic American film artist Darren Aronofsky has returned to the gritty and disturbing images of his earlier Requiem For A Dream with a new film about a wrestler making a comeback.  Unpretentiously titled The Wrestler, this often painfully intimate character study features at its heart the quintessential American sports concept – the sportsman fighting against all odds to reclaim the glory of his past, against long odds.  We saw such a formulaic enterprise with the Rocky sequels, as America loves comeback stories, but we have never seen this kind of cinematic artistry crafted in the service of such a seemingly pedestrian subject.      

Randy “The Ram” Robinson was a major wrestling star during the 1980’s, reaching pinnacles of popularity and financial success.  But as can well be expected with this kind of bruising endurance test that limits one’s moment in the spotlight, Randy eventually plays the part of a has-been, and engages in matches staged in high school auditoriums, eyeing that  break that would precipitate a hoped-for comeback.  Randy is physically scarred, and he injects himself with steroids and engages in a gruesome staple-gun war with another wrestler (where he repulsively shoots thick sign staples all over his body to show his mettle).  This stomach-churning episode induces a serious heart attack, and Randy, who is also a heavy drinker, is told by his doctor that his body can no longer take this kind of abuse.  Two relationships then come into the wrestler’s life, that of an affable bar stripper named Cassidy (played by Marissa Tomei) and the other of his rarely-seen daughter (played by Evan Rachel Wood) with whom he hopes to repair hostile relations with.  He has little cash, and on occasion is locked out of his trailer home due to non-payment and even has to take on an embarrassing job at a grocery department in a supermarket, where one nagging elderly woman repeatedly tells him to add and take away from  the weight of a salad she ordered.      (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(USA 1940 77m) DVD1/2

Conscience, first class

p  Walt Disney  d  Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton S.Luske  w  Ted Sears, Otto Englander, Webb Smith, William Cottrell, Joseph Sabo, Erdman Penner, Aurelius Battaglia  novel  Carlo Collodi  md  Paul J.Smith  m/ly  Leigh Harline, Ned Washington, Paul J.Smith

VOICES BY:-  Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket), Christian Rub (Geppetto), Walter Catlett (“Honest” John Worthington Foulfellow), Evelyn Venable (the blue fairy), Frankie Darro (Lampwick), Charles Judels (Stromboli), Sterling Holloway, Mel Blanc,

If ever Disney had a golden era, this was it.  Pinocchio was released in the middle of a five year period that saw Disney not so much raise the bar of animation as to change discipline from high jump to pole vault.  The bar was now out of sight.  Yet in spite of this, I selected just three of the ‘Golden Five’ for the list, leaving behind Dumbo and Bambi, and including just Snow White, Fantasia and this censored adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s occasionally brutal tale.  (more…)

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