Stalag 17 (1953, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 8

Starring William Holden, Otto Preminger, Robert Strauss, Harvey Lembeck, Don Taylor, Sig Ruman, Peter Graves, Neville Brand

Stalag 17 (1953) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

(8-Exceptional Film)

Irreverent. Masculine. Engrossing.

Sefton: There are two people in this barracks who know I didn’t do it. Me and the guy that did do it.

Sgt. J.J Sefton (Holden) isn’t your typical hero. Even as an antihero, he stands far from the pack. For the majority of Stalag 17, he wants no part of anything heroic, and seems fairly content to have given up. He’s a prisoner of war held in a camp famed for letting no one escape. He’s selfish, apathetic, and ruthless, but when two fellow prisoners of war are foiled and killed in their escape attempt, and Sefton is beaten by the other prisoners who suspect him of being a traitor (one that tips off the Nazis for small benefits), Sefton’s determined to get back at the real traitor just as soon as he figures out who it is. I’m amazed with every Billy Wilder film that I see with how he balances tones. Stalag 17 is another layered work and further evidence of his brilliance. Broad and bawdy in its comedy, the film as a whole, somehow manages to be as gripping and eventually rousing as any straight dramatic classic. Holden won his only Oscar for this performance and he’s convincing at every stage of Sefton’s arc. Sefton’s not even necessarily the main character for much of the film, as it’s a true ensemble piece, but slowly, reluctantly, he becomes a memorable hero.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,017)

The Thin Man Goes Home (1944, Directed by Richard Thorpe) English 7

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Lucile Watson, Gloria DeHaven, Leon Ames, Anne Revere, Harry Davenport, Edward Brophy

the thin man goes home | Tumblr

(7-Very Good Film)

Charming. Fun. Endearing.

Mrs. Charles: Well, all I can say is if you’re looking for crime in Sycamore Springs, you’ll have to commit it yourself.

Nora Charles: I wonder? Nicky always says that there’s a skeleton in nearly every closet and if you rattle it hard enough something always happens.

I’d watch Nick and Nora, fabulously witty married couple and part-time sleuths, go anywhere. In The Thin Man Goes Home, their fifth outing, the Charles’ visit Nick’s parents in some small New England town, where Nora meets his disapproving father (Davenport). Nora desperately wants her father-in-law to be impressed with Nick, who’s pretty much given up on that idea, but something of a dark, sinister miracle occurs when a dead body turns up at their front door, and Nick gets the opportunity to show how brilliant he is as a detective. After the first two truly surprising and original outings, the Thin Man series follows a fairly clear formula. You’ll get no complaints from me as I love these films and these characters, including Nick’s loyal brigade of small-time crooks.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,013)

Day of the Outlaw (1959, Directed by André De Toth) English 8

Starring Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, Tina Louise, Alan Marshal, Venetia Stevenson, Jack Lambert, David Nelson, Elisha Cook Jr.

Day of the Outlaw | Trailers From Hell

(8-Exceptional Film)

Bleak. Brutal. Beautiful.

Doc Langer: Well, I gave him a big shot of morphine. It deadens pain, makes the patient feel fine, but as soon as this dose wears off, he’s going to start coughing. Each cough’s going to rip the lungs a little bit more. A few hours after he starts coughing, he’s going to die.

The snow falls. The wind rages. A dying horse can be see almost crawling, slowly, on its knees. Set in 19th century Wyoming, this is a brutal environment, and Day of the Outlaw has a story to match it. Robert Ryan plays Blaise Starrett, a hard man and a steamroller. He’s in the middle of a land dispute with Hal Crane, and, perhaps more to the point, he’s having an affair with Crane’s wife, Helen (Louise). The two seem destined for a showdown that’s been a long time coming, but when it finally does come, their confrontation is interrupted by the arrival of a gang of outlaws, led by Jack Bruhn (Ives). Now all the townsfolk, even Blaise and Hal, have to work together to save their homes. Beautifully shot in black and white, perfectly capturing the relentlessly harsh setting, Day of the Outlaw is an outstanding, unique western. Like Rawhide years earlier, it blends the western genre with elements of a home-invasion thriller.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,012)

Hellzapoppin’ (1941, Directed by H.C Potter) English 6

Starring Ole Olson, Chic Johnson, Martha Raye, Mischa Auer, Hugh Herbert, Shemp Howard, Robert Paige, Elisha Cook Jr.

Hellzapoppin' - Film | Park Circus

(6-Good Film)

Trailblazing. Crazy. Memorable.

Louie: What’s the matter with you guys? Don’t you know you can’t talk to me and the audience?

Ole Olson: Well, we’re doin’ it, aren’t we?

Comedians Ole Olson and Chic Johnson interrupt classical dancers being tortured by demons in hell to adapt their stage hit, Hellzapoppin’. A young scriptwriter (Cook Jr,) lets them in on how he plans to update the show and mix in the cursory Hollywood romance. Olson and Johnson, then, wade their way through his Hollywood script, breaking the fourth wall every step of the way. This is an insane film. There’s no old Hollywood classic like it and there’s nothing to prepare you for the mile-a-minute screwball action that’s overwhelming. Even the later Road to…movies featuring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour played by the rules in comparison. As an exercise in style and in originality, Hellzapoppin’ is a brilliant film. As an isolated piece of entertainment, it’s simply passing. More episodically enjoyable than a whole work. There are a few sequences, however, that are absolutely incredible. First and foremost, the dance number by Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers. If you’re unwilling to see the movie, you must, at least, check out this dance scene because it’s awe-inspiring.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,008)

Rear Window (1954, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 10

Starring James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Raymond Burr, Thelma Ritter, Wendell Corey, Judith Evelyn

Through the Looking Glass, Down the Rabbit Hole: REAR WINDOW | Scarecrow

(10-Masterpiece)

Masterful. Inventive. Original.

Stella: We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. 

A countless number of essays and reviews have pointed out the Challenger deep level of subtext that makes Rear Window so many critics’ favorite Hitchcock film. Voyeurism as a whole and then the parallels between looking in on people’s lives through windows with watching people’s lives through television screens have been pointed out to me, and make the film a good cinematic example of Ernest Hemingway’s popular ice-berg theory (1/8 above the surface, 7/8 beneath). I’m going to focus my brief recommendation on the 1/8 above the surface because it’s here that separates Rear Window, for me, from say, Vertigo, another particular favorite of critics. All of Hitchcock’s films are worthy of deeper exploration and warrant the essays that have been written about them. Rear Window, like The 39 Steps or The Lady Vanishes, also happens to be one of the most entertaining movies ever made. Stewart plays Jeff, a photographer, layed up with a broken leg after a work incident. Decades before Netflix and Chill, Jeff finds very little else to do but stare out his window at his neighbors and watch their lives unfold. Later, he and his gung ho girl, Lisa (Kelly), are certain that a neighbor across the way has gotten rid of his wife…for good. Excellent narrative, beautifully polished film, you have only to watch the first two remarkably efficient minutes (the entire premise is established with a long take and no dialogue in those minutes) to understand Hitchcock’s powers as a filmmaker and storyteller.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Major and the Minor (1942, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 7

Starring Ginger Rogers, Ray Milland, Diana Lynn, Rita Johnson, Lela E. Rogers, Edward Fielding, Robert Benchley

The Major and the Minor (1942)

(7-Very Good Film)

Awkward. Nifty. Fun.

Mr. Osborne: Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?

I’m not sure if things were less sordid then or if sordid things were just less exposed, but a film like this could never work today. I don’t think it’s any deep cynicism on my part that passages of The Major and the Minor are slightly uncomfortable and awkward viewed in today’s day and age. Ginger Rogers plays a disgruntled New York working girl packing it in and heading back to small-town Iowa. Unable to afford standard train fare, she poses as a 12-year-old to get the discounted rate, which leads to one mess after another. Eventually, she stays with Major Philip Kirby (Milland) at his military academy for young boys, and the two fall for one another…even though he thinks she’s a child for most of the movie. Taken too seriously, I suppose, the film is kind of creepy, but with a little effort, it’s not hard to enjoy this, Billy Wilder’s first time directing an American film. This isn’t the real world put on the screen. It’s a screwball comedy and everybody’s a little crazy, but mostly harmless. On its terms, The Major and the Minor is a wonderfully entertaining film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Lady Eve (1941, Directed by Preston Sturges) English 7

Starring Henry Fonda, Barbara Stanwyck, Charles Coburn, Eugene Palette, Eric Blore, William Demarest, Melville Cooper

The Lady Eve | film by Sturges [1941] | Britannica

(7-Very Good Film)

Absurd. Witty. Eccentric.

Jean: I need him like the ax needs the turkey.

The Lady Eve might be the most romantic bout of cat-and-mouse ever. This battle-of-the-sexes comedy follows a con artist team made up of an elderly gentleman, Colonel Harrington (Coburn), and his daughter, Jean (Stanwyck), who set their sights on the heir to a massive fortune built on ale, Charles (Fonda). Their plan goes awry once the daughter falls for their mark, and the rest of the movie unfolds in a classic screwball manner. Stanwyck is divine in her demanding role, alternating between femme fatale and vulnerable woman in love with ease and great charm. Fonda and Stanwyck are a prototype for movie couples, and the supporting players are fantastic too. Like the writer-director himself, apparently, The Lady Eve is a strange, often absurd romantic-comedy. Best to just go with it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,001)

Bend of the River (1952, Directed by Anthony Mann) English 7

Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Julie Adams, Rock Hudson, Howard Petrie, Chubby Johnson, Harry Morgan, Royal Dano, Lori Nelson, Jay C. Flippen

Bend Of The River | Movies ala Mark

(7-Very Good Film)

Exciting. Complex. Proficient.

Glyn McLyntock: You’ll be seeing me. You’ll be seeing me. Everytime you bed down for the night, you’ll look back to the darkness and wonder if I’m there. And some night, I will be. You’ll be seeing me!

Glyn McLyntock. What a name. It could only have been born out of the pages of some dime-store western novel, which is the case here. Played by James Stewart, Glyn is an old raider, an ex-criminal, out to prove to himself and his new group of friends-Jeremy Baile (Flippen) and his two beautiful daughters- that he’s reformed. He’s helping a group of settlers establish a life out in the wilderness of 19th century Oregon, but when a greedy businessman holds out on their supplies, it’s up to Glyn to get them for his new adopted town. Complicating matters is Glyn’s new friend, Emerson Cole (Kennedy), also an ex-raider, not nearly as reformed. Excellent western drama with a number of exciting action sequences. Better still, the complex characters portrayed by Stewart and Kennedy. Rather than the simple classic westerns that dominated the ’40s, it’s hard to tell where this story is going. Add to that, the good guys and bad guys eschew the black and white characterizations of those films and instead occupy the gray in-between area.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(1,000)

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953, Directed by Howard Hawkes) English 6

Starring Jane Russell, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn, Elliot Reid, Tommy Noonan, Steven Geray, Taylor Holmes

American Dreams: How Joyce and Faulkner Fell For a Blonde

(6-Good Film)

Breezy. Witty. Fun.

Lorelei Lee: Don’t you know that a man being rich is like a girl being pretty? You wouldn’t marry a girl just because she’s pretty, but my goodness, doesn’t it help?

Much like the stereotypical, ditzy blondes being lampooned in its story, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is mostly superficial amusement, but that’s not to say it isn’t charming, at times witty, filled with catchy songs, or filmed with panache by Howard Hawkes. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell get a great vehicle for their personas. Monroe is the money-crazy, beautiful chorus girl (Lorelei); perhaps a little naive. Russell is the tough-talking dame (Dorothy) who does her best to look out for her friend. When Lorelei gets engaged to a millionaire’s son, the father hires detectives to dig up some dirt on her and break up the engagement. Fun, light entertainment that makes good use of its stars and Charles Coburn is always a scene-stealer.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(999)

The Princess and the Pirate (1944, Directed by David Butler) English 7

Starring Bob Hope, Virginia Mayo, Walter Brennan, Walter Slezak, Victor McLaglen, Hugo Haas, Mike Mazurki, Maude Eburne

The Princess and the Pirate (1944) David Butler, Sidney Lanfield ...

(7-Very Good Film)

Madcap. Irreverent. Fun.

Sylvester: My act is known all over Europe; that’s why I’m going to America.

In a long, prolific career with several dozen films, each chock-full of snappy one-liners, Bob Hope’s best lines might be found in The Princess and the Pirate. It also happens to be a pretty good swashbuckler. Hope plays The Great Sylvester, a not-so-great performer working in 18th century Europe, who gets caught up in the middle of feared pirate, Captain Barrett (McLaglen), and his crew’s abduction of Princess Margaret (Mayo). The production is first-rate and Hope is surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast. Mayo is winning as his love interest. Brennan is a blast as Featherhead (bearing a strong resemblance to Dopey from Snow White) and McLaglen lends the film just the right amount of austerity to work even apart from being funny.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(992)