Archive for May, 2009

by Allan Fish

This only came to my attention today, being snowed under with viewing left, right and the proverbial centre.  But I implore, urge, and generally press gang in the fashion of Clark Gable on Eddie Quillan in 1935 (or 1789) to go to this site…


They are an organisation worthy of our and anyone’s support.  I quote Martin Scorsese’s Foreward on the title page…

I am proud to present this first line-up of films restored with the aid of the World Cinema Foundation. We launched the foundation in 2007 with the goal of restoring and preserving neglected films from around the world. We also understood, very quickly, that we needed to help create awareness of the films, to get them known and seen. That’s why we entered into a partnership with The Auteurs.

The diversity of these pictures reflects the foundation and all it stands for, but it also reflects world cinema itself, and the richness to be found in the lost corners of cinema history.

These films were made at different moments in history, under a variety of circumstances, all across the globe. Each title needed attention and care. I’m glad that the World Cinema Foundation was able to help with their restoration and preservation. Each and every title is precious to me, and my hope is that a viewing on this website will lead you to seek out screenings of these pictures or perhaps DVDs as they appear. They don’t deserve to be kept a secret. They deserve to be known.

I can only echo Martin Scorsese in saying that the films they are currently pushing for DVD release are essential.  The 1960 Korean film Hanyo (The Housemaid) in particular was a film that I wanted to see for many, many a long year, and it’s thoroughly deserving of its reputation.  Be aware these films are not available for download, but for free viewing, but that’s as it should be.  Take advantage of this and save some reddies for the necessary purchases of several of their films over the upcoming years.


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by Sam Juliano

     Our dear Jon Lanthier, who is one of WitD’s most loyal and gifted contributors hit it big yesterday, as his Slant Magazine review for the film Pressure Cooker, was used in the film’s promotional add.  Lanthier’s positive quote–“Breathtaking equal opportunity in its search for human poetry” was splashed between quotes by veteran critics V.A. Mussetto of The New York Post and David Denby of New York Magazine.  Lanthier, whose reviews appear on Slant’s pages, and at his “The Powership” blog, is a supremely gifted young man whose writing and insights are at the highest level of scrutiny, and his analytical skills are remarkable, especially for a man so young.

     Wonders in the Dark is extremely proud of what Jon has accomplished and we wish him continued success as his name becomes a standard in the world of film criticism.words of praise issued by critics of The New York Post and New York Magazine.  This honor, frankly could not have happened to a nicer and more talented guy, and it’s further proof of Slant Magazine’s pre-eminence in the world of cinema, and it’s talented publisher-critic, Ed Gonzalez.   The site is extremely proud of Jon and this terrific acknowledgement.




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big steal 1

by Allan Fish

(USA 1949 72m) DVD1/2

Oh – a two letter word meaning nothing in particular

p  Jack J.Gross  d  Don Siegel  w  Gerald Drayson Adams, Daniel Mainwaring  story  “The Road to Carmichael’s” by Richard Wormser  ph  Harry J.Wild  ed  Samuel F.Beetley  m  Leigh Harline  art  Albert S.d’Agostino

Robert Mitchum (Lieutenant Duke Halliday), Jane Greer (Joan ‘Chiquita’ Graham), William Bendix (Captain Vincent Blake), Ramon Novarro (Inspector Generale Artega), Patric Knowles (Jim Fiske), John Qualen (Seaton), Don Alvarado,

A film to bring a smile to the mere recollection, The Big Steal is one of those lucky flukes, a film for film buffs to adore.  It could so easily not have been made.  Howard Hughes had just taken over RKO and was making his likes and dislikes made pretty clear.  Robert Mitchum was persona non grata following his arrest and brief incarceration for marijuana possession, and was given the film as penance, a B movie to be directed by an effective novice called Don Siegel.  It would be shot on the cheap in Tehuacán in Mexico, and potential leading ladies were turning it down left, right and centre.  Then enter Jane Greer.  She and Mitchum had worked together immortally in Out of the Past a year or two earlier.  They were close friends, and Mitchum looked forward to working with her again, while his affection for her would help while she was in the early days of pregnancy and had to take it relatively easy.  There was one problem; Greer and Hughes had a history.  Hughes had brought her to California in the first place, but he obsessed over her, kept her under affective house arrest until she had enough.  She was now happily married, but it seemed like Hughes would hold fast to his promise that, though she would be paid, she’d never work again while he was head of RKO.  Thankfully, he relented, and Mitchum, Greer and Siegel set off south of the border.  What they made; though it wasn’t a masterpiece and was never intended to be, was one of forties Hollywood’s most purely fun films, a mixture of thriller with essences of romantic comedy.  (more…)

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Guess the pic

Jenny’s at it again…


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cleopatra 1 copy

by Allan Fish

(USA 1934 101m) DVD1/2 (France only)

I am dressed to lure you

p  Cecil B.de Mille, Adolph Zukor  d  Cecil B.de Mille  w  Waldemar Young, Vincent Lawrence  ph  Victor Milner  ed  Anne Bauchens  m  Rudolph Kopp  art  Hans Dreier  cos  Travis Banton

Claudette Colbert (Cleopatra), Warren William (Caesar), Henry Wilcoxon (Antony), Ian Keith (Octavian), C.Aubrey Smith (Enobarbus), Joseph Schildkraut (Herod), Gertrude Michael (Calpurnia), Leonard Mudie (Pothinos), Irving Pichel (Apollodorus), Arthur Hohl (Brutus), Ian McLaren (Cassius), Edwin Maxwell (Casca), Eleanor Phelps (Charmion), Claudia Dell (Octavia), Robert Warwick (Achillas), Harry Beresford,

Here, quite literally, is the queen of guilty pleasures.  After years of ridicule, de Mille’s films can be retrieved from the Room 101 they were unfairly sent to and emerge as among the most entertaining of their day.  He was a master of artifice, though unlike say Von Sternberg, who revelled in artifice for its own sake, de Mille allied this to spectacle for its own sake.  Cleopatra isn’t his best film – that’s The Sign of the Cross – but it was perhaps the last of real interest because it was the last made before the Hays Code enforcement of the summer of 1934.  His later spectaculars, Samson and Delilah and The Ten Commandments, since reclaimed by numerous filmmakers and critics, lack the opulent extravagance of his earlier films, perhaps because his favourite subject – sex – was forbidden after the Code crackdown.  Those later films, for all their camp value, are rather stolid affairs, and lack the moments of genius that punctuate the earlier work.  (more…)

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Movie Man’s most flattering acknowledgement of Allan Fish’s top choices for each decade can be found by clicking on link below.  It is to be noted that Movie Man scoured through older posts to secure Allan’s personal lists (which of course were informed by his excellent capsule reviews).

The results of each decade poll are now represented here as well. [updated 2010]

(The link can now be found on the sidebar)

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by Sam Juliano

     Top 25 ballots for the 1960’s poll will be accepted up until 11:00 P.M. EST on Wenesday, June 3rd.  Submissions can be made on the ‘Best Movies of the 60’s’ link under the site header.  The 60’s polling has been the most successful ever, what with over 40 ballots already submitted, some the result of the site getting over 11,000 hits over a two-day period near the conclusion of the 50’s poll.  The reason for the surge, of course was the great honor bestowed upon the site by the IMDB, which included Wonders in the Dark at the #4 position on it’s esteemed “hit list.”

     Voting Tabulator Extraordinaire Angelo A. D’Arminio Jr. has been monitoring the submissions since the poll launched, and has been keeping a running tally.  Mr. D’Arminio, of Binghampton New York and Fairview, New Jersey, is presently vacationing at Myrtle Beach, S.C., and he hopes to negotiate final results within just days of the June 3rd deadline.

     Thanks to all from all around the world who have spent their time and energy putting together lists-your participation is greatly appreciated, and to those who are still pondering a list, you have one week more.

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by Allan Fish

We will be going ahead with the seventies poll in a couple of weeks, but we need to take stock beforehand.  There are numerous reasons.  Firstly, to give everyone a chance to see the films they may want to see before submitting choices for the sixties poll.  Secondly, to allow Sam to do his duty and actually watch some of the stuff from the 1970s he’s had in his possession a few aeons so he can make a proper opening submission of his top 25 of the next decade.  Thirdly, there will be a couple of clarifications to make before submissions for the seventies poll…

In the interim, I will be beginning a series of entries on films which, though they wouldn’t make my best lists of given decades, fall into one of two categories.  Either personal favourites that I perhaps rate higher than I should (GUILTY PLEASURES) and the odd rarity long-neglected by western specialists (GUILTY CRITICS).

As per the title of this post, now we’re in the seventies it’s here that we move into a slightly blurry field of what counts as cinema and what as TV.  Film connoisseurs are happy to talk about Fassbinder’s TV output Jailbait, World on Wires, Berlin Alexanderplatz, etc, as cinematic works, as they are Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, Face to Face and Fanny and Alexander, Petersen’s Das Boot, Reitz’s Heimat trilogy, Kieslowski’s full Dekalog, Rossellini’s The Age of Cosimo de Medici, Von Trier’s The Kingdom, Ophuls’ The Sorrow and the Pity, Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth and others.  Yet all the above were originally made and shown on TV before showings in often edited versions in cinemas in various parts of the world.  Even some later British television series, from The Singing Detective to more recently Red Riding, have received film showings outside of the UK in arthouse cinemas.  Even recently, David Thomson in his ‘Have You Seen?’ included such recent TV works as Twenty-Thousand Streets Under the Sky and Longford in its listings. 

As many of these would really be permissable in a given poll of their respective decades.  So to be fair, I have decided to allow any TV work into the list so long as it falls under the category of one of the following

A one off DRAMATISED serial based around an original script or novel/play (in others words, the likes of Brideshead Revisited, The Singing Detective and Boys from the Blackstuff are valid, but The Sopranos, Star Trek, Buffy, Doctor Who, Twin Peaks, The West Wing, Deadwood, Talking Heads, Cracker, The Wire are not.  No serials likewise will be allowed if cheap sequel series with slightly changed titles came afterwards (so no Lonesome Dove, no Rich Man Poor Man, no House of Cards, etc.), or if one off specials followed (e.g. Blackpool).   Likewise, with Cranford having a second run at Christmas this year it, too, cannot be counted.

A one off TV film that must have been shown cinematically elsewhere (examples include The Last Seduction (shown on cable before going to cinemas, hence Linda Fiorentino being denied an Oscar nom), and the likes of Made in Britain, Longford and Boy A from the UK). 

So no series that ran for a number of series, no sitcoms, no documentaries unless shown cinematically in certain quarters (like the Marcel Ophuls works or MacQueen’s Gulag).  No place for say the works of David Attenborough, Simon Schama or Michael Wood, Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, Ken Burns’ The Civil War or The West, Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man or, more recently, Lawrence Rees’ Auschwitz.  I also will not allow Michael Apted’s Up Series as this has stretched over decades and would be impossible to quantify. 

Appropriately, the Movie Timelines are now amended to cater for this change and the TV works will now be listed in italics in those listings.  I didn’t make a point of this change in the 1960s as, though it was the decade of some strong TV dramas in the UK (An Age of Kings, The Forsyte Saga, The Caesars, The First Churchills, etc), it was really in the 1970s that the great series started to take hold. 

I hope this hasn’t confused the issue any, but we had to be clear before progressing with the modern polls.  We can’t allow certain TV works in because film directors made them, and not allow others just because they weren’t made by film directors.

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by Allan Fish

(Japan 1969 216m) DVD2 (France/Japan only, no Eng subs)

Aka. Erosu purasu Gyakusatsu

Appreciation requires an ambivalent participation

p  Shinji Sushizaki  d  Yoshishige Yoshida  w  Yoshishige Yoshida, Masahiro Yamada  ph  Motokichi Hasegawa  ed  Hiroyuki Yasuoka  m  Toshi Ichiyanaga  art  Tsuyoshi Ishii

Mariko Okada (Noe Ito), Toshiyuki Hosokawa (Sakae Osugi), Yuko Kusunoki (Itsuko Masaoka), Kasuko Ireno (Akika Hiraga), Etsushi Takahashi (Jun Tsuji), Taeko Shinbashi (Chiyoko), Daijiro Harada (Wada), Ejko Sokutai (Toshiko), Masako Yagi (Yasuko),

Upon watching this film for the first time, even in the shorter 166m version that was for a long time the only one available anywhere with English subtitles, one is left drained, a quite literal mental wreck.  Even those versed in the seminal works of Yoshida’s contemporaries, Oshima and Imamura, will be unprepared for this.  That his work still remains unavailable to the English speaking world, barely mentioned in any major film guide or tome, is one of the greatest oversights of accepted film reference literature.  If he only made this one film, Yoshida would be recognised as a giant. 

            Essentially the film relates the story of the famous Japanese anarchist Sakae Osugi, who was killed by the authorities soon after the Tokyo earthquake of 1923, aged 38.  It tells his story through his three women; his wife, Yasuko, his current lover, Noe Ito, who was killed with him, and Itsuko, who tries unsuccessfully to kill him in 1916.  His story is inter-cut with that of two students in modern day Tokyo, who discuss the merits or otherwise of free love and Osugi’s life and times. (more…)

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mepris 1

by Allan Fish

(France 1963 100m) DVD1/2

Aka. Contempt

Snakes, Funerals and la Bébé

p  Carlo Ponti, Georges de Beauregard  d/w  Jean-Luc Godard  novel  “Il Disprezzo/A Ghost at Noon” by Alberto Moravia  ph  Raoul Coutard  ed  Agnès Guillemot, Lila Lakshmanan  m  Georges Delerue  art/cos  Tanine Autre

Brigitte Bardot (Camille Javal), Michel Piccoli (Paul Javal), Jack Palance (Jeremy Prokosch), Georgia Moll (Francesca Vanini), Fritz Lang (himself), Jean-Luc Godard,

Welcome, my friends, to the true cinema of wonder.  There have been many films made about the movie-making process, but none of them remotely reach the depths of feeling, both for the subject and for the characters, as does Jean-Luc Godard’s wonderful masterpiece Le Mépris.  To put it simply, it’s his greatest film.

            The storyline is simple; a down on his luck writer with aspirations to great things is forced due to a lack of money to undertake a script-writing job on a sword and sandal adaptation of Homer’s masterpiece The Odyssey, to be made by great director Fritz Lang for an egotistical producer.  Slowly but surely, over the course of the pre-shoot, his wife slowly comes to not only lose love for him, but grows contemptuous of him, so much so that she begins an affair with the egotistical producer, a man whom she despises. (more…)

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