Satan Met a Lady (1936, Directed by William Dieterle) English 5

Starring Warren William, Bette Davis, Arthur Treacher, Marie Wilson, Alison Skipworth, Winifred Shaw

HAMMETT, DASHIELL, ADAPTED FROM) SATAN MET A LADY (1936) | WalterFilm

(5-Okay Film)

Amusing. Watered-down. Forgettable.

Valerie Purvis: Do you mind very much, Mr. Shane, taking off your hat in the presence of a lady with a gun?

Private detective, Ted Shayne (William), finds his partner, one he’s not particularly fond of, murdered, and weaves through a complicated search for lost treasure to find the killer. A film with Bette Davis as a femme fatale ought to be more memorable than this. Too much playing around with the source material. Based on Dashiell Hammett’s masterpiece The Maltese Falcon, this is an okay adaptation, but five years later John Huston made the ultimate adaptation by sticking to the book.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Hustle (2019, Directed by Chris Addison) English 4

Starring Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, Dean Norris, Timothy Simons

Weekend Box Office: 'The Hustle' Opens With $13.5 Million As 'Poms ...

(4-Bad Film)

Inferior. Misguided. Painless.

Josephine Chesterfield: Why are women better suited to the con than men?

Are they? Who knows, but this film doesn’t do much for feminine pride. Anne Hathaway stars as Josephine Chesterfield, a glamorous con-artist working the French Riviera. Her business is threatened by a small-time crook, Penny (Wilson), who will likely scare off the big fish with her short cons. You’re probably aware that this is a remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels which starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin. Some people know that Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, itself, was a remake of Bedtime Story starring Marlon Brando and David Niven. For that reason, I don’t object to a remake, though Dirty Rotten Scoundrels is one of my favorite comedies. I object to the casting because it doesn’t work and I object to simply recycling all of the best jokes from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and making them less funny. Hathaway hasn’t proven yet that she can do comedy and Wilson has no one to work off of. As for the recycling of jokes, to me, it undermines much of the film’s focus on female empowerment. They’re just doing what men have already done. Why not do your own thing like the wonderful Bridesmaids? If you’re going to remake a movie, especially a comedy which relies on the element of surprise, you should work up some fresh material.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(943)

D.O.A (1949, Directed by Rudolph Maté) English 7

Starring Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, William Ching, Laurette Luez, Neville Brand, Lynn Baggett

D.O.A. (1949) Full Length Movie on the MHM Podcast Network

(7-Very Good Film)

Intriguing. Convoluted. Melodramatic.

Homicide Captain: Who was murdered?
Frank Bigelow: I was.

I’m glad to find, reading other reviews of noir classic D.O.A, that I’m not the only one that had a hard time following the plot. Several characters flow in and out, there are red herrings, and key players are mentioned but never seen. I couldn’t keep up, but that didn’t keep me from enjoying the film. All you really need to know is that an average man, Frank Bigelow (O’Brien), goes on a business trip to San Francisco, spends the first night out on the town, wakes up the next morning feeling funny, and, upon visiting a doctor, is told that he’s been poisoned and has a couple days left to live. Film experts refer to these kinds of plot devices as ticking bombs. They give movies an important time element and are invaluable to good suspense. D.O.A has one of the best time bombs of any movie I’ve seen. Bigelow has to solve his own murder and get revenge before he keels over. You might think that too much of the dialogue is heavily melodramatic, but I like melodrama in noir. It serves as a nice counterbalance to the otherwise dark tales and this one follows through. No cop-out in the end.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(942)

Wait Until Dark (1967, Directed by Terence Young) English 6

Starring Audrey Hepburn, Richard Crenna, Alan Arkin, Jack Weston, Samantha Jones, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

Wait Until Dark (1967) Movie Review - MovieBoozer

(6-Good Film)

Convoluted. Suspenseful. Effective.

Roat: I cannot negotiate in an atmosphere of mistrust.

Three criminals- Roat (Arkin), Mike (Crenna), and Sam (Zimbalist Jr.)- of varying morality trick and torment a newly blind woman, Suzy (Hepburn), who may or may not be concealing a small fortune in the form of a heroin filled doll. A couple of truly terrific scenes to end the picture make up for a long setup that lags, a confusing narrative, and a conspicuous stagey feel that bothers most play adaptations. Hepburn goes a long way to make us care about Suzy and once the plot becomes clear, Wait Until Dark becomes a highly suspenseful thriller.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(941)

The Long Goodbye (1973, Directed by Robert Altman) English 9

Starring Elliot Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Jim Bouton, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Arnold Schwarzenegger

The Long Goodbye | Metrograph

(9-Great Film)

Cool. Distinct. Languorous.

Det. Green: Your name Marlowe?

Philip Marlowe: No, my name is Sidney, uh, Jenkins.

Det. Green: Come on inside, Marlowe, we want to talk to you.

The famous Philip Marlowe, private eye, star of Raymond Chandler’s classic mystery novels and several films, gets possibly his best adaptation in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye. From the moment he wakes up in the opening scene, to the surprise of the finale, Marlowe (Gould), is out of his element. He still basically looks and sounds the way we’re accustomed to; Gould is sly, witty, infinitely cool, always wearing a suit and tie. It’s his surroundings that have changed (his neighbors don’t wear any clothes at all). Very loosely working with Raymond Chandler’s novel of the same name, Marlowe gets involved with an alcoholic, self-destructive novelist, Roger Wade (Hayden), and Wade’s beautiful, unhappy wife, Eileen (van Pallandt), shortly after helping an old friend, Terry Lennox (charged with killing his wife) escape to Mexico. Other films that came before this one tried to transplant Marlowe to a more modern setting. The film simply titled Marlowe, for example, moved him to the ’60s, but The Long Goodbye doesn’t just “update” the material. It displaces the hero. He’s still essentially the romantic hero that he’s always been. Chandler described him as a “shop-soiled Sir Galahad,” in The High Window, but his loyalty and sense of honor seem out of touch here. In any case, this is a great film with an odd sense of humor and a unique style.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(930)

Blue Velvet (1986, Directed by David Lynch) English 9

Starring Kyle McLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini, Laura Dern, Dean Stockwell, Hope Lange, Brad Dourif, George Dickerson

Image result for blue velvet

(9-Great Film)

Strange. Illusive. Unforgettable.

Frank Booth: In dreams, I walk with you. In dreams, I talk to you. In dreams, you’re mine, all the time. Forever. In dreams…

There have been hundreds of essays trying to get to the bottom of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. Following Jeffrey Beaumont (McLachlan), a college kid returning to suburban Lumbertown after his father has a stroke, Blue Velvet quickly becomes the stuff of nightmares. Jeffrey finds a severed ear walking home from visiting his father and feels compelled to investigate. Like a dark Alice in Wonderland, Jeffrey goes down the rabbit hole and finds himself in an underworld populated by people like the seductive lounge singer, Dorothy (Rosselini), and pure evil in human form, Frank (Hopper). Of the theories I’ve read about Blue Velvet, and most hold water, I like the Oedipal idea wherein Frank represents the father (whom Jeffrey wants to kill) and Dorothy represents the mother (whom Jeffrey wants to sleep with). I also think voyeurism is a huge part of the film, as it is with any film noir or mystery (private detectives are called “peepers” right?). Jeffrey peaks in through the closet door and sees sex and violence. It’s attractive. Blue Velvet is a gorgeous film with a number of wtf moments. My personal favorite is the prostitute jumping up on the car and dancing while Jeffrey is beaten. A strange film for a strange world.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Harlem Nights (1989, Directed by Eddie Murphy) English 7

Starring Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Della Reese, Michael Lerner, Charlie Murphy, Jasmine Guy, Lena Rochon, Danny Aiello, Arsenio Hall, Robin Harris, Miguel A. Núñez Jr., Berlinda Tolbert

Image result for harlem nights 1989

(7-Very Good Film)

Leisurely. Appealing. Brash.

If anyone remembers Harlem Nights, Eddie Murphy’s lone directorial effort, disappointment or unsuccessful are probably the words that come up quickest. Murphy stars as Quick alongside a terrific cast that includes Richard Pryor, Della Reese, and Redd Foxx among many familiar faces. Murphy and Pryor’s characters run a speakeasy in Harlem during the 1930s and are doing so well that local big-shot, Bugsy Calhoune (Lerner), wants a cut of their action. They have to use their wits to outsmart the gangster. Harlem Nights isn’t funny. Parts of it are humorous and the actors perform with natural charisma but it’s not what you’d expect from a film starring Murphy, Pryor, and Foxx. I’m sure that’s where the disappointment comes from. Aside from that though, I think there’s a lot that is worthwhile about this film. The setting, the score by Herbie Hancock, and the performances above all. Murphy seems to have a deft hand at working with actors. Harlem Nights is better than it’s given credit for.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(899)

Some Like it Hot (199, Directed by Billy Wilder) English 8

Starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, Joe E. Brown, George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Mike Mazurki, Edward G. Robinson Jr.

Image result for some like it hot

(8-Exceptional Film)

Risqué. Skilled. Iconic.
I wrote earlier in reviewing Tootsie that cross-dressing doesn’t hold the same taboo comical effect it once had. Watching Some Like it Hot, imagining how it must have hit in the ’50s is fun, but the film doesn’t need you to make allowances for its time. It’s still funny, bawdy, wild, and a consummately made picture viewed today. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon play two down-on-their-luck musicians during American Prohibition. After witnessing a mob hit led by Spats Colombo (Raft), the two disguise themselves as women and catch a ride to Florida alongside an all-female band named Sweet Sue and her Society Syncopators. There they meet Sugar, played by the unforgettable Marilyn Monroe. This is a rather long film for a comedy, but it flies by on zaniness and comic invention. There are only a few substantial characters but they’re great characters and even the minor roles are cast perfectly (just look at the faces of Colombo’s henchmen).
-Walter Tyrone Howard-
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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 7

Starring James Stewart, Doris Day, Brenda de Branzie, Bernard Miles, Daniel Gélin, Christopher Olsen

Image result for the man who knew too much

(7-Very Good Film)

Surprising. Astute. Expert.

Hitchcock reworked the “ordinary man thrust into action” theme throughout his career. This particular film, The Man Who Knew Too Much, is, in fact, a remake of a picture he made twenty years prior with Peter Lorre. This time around, he uses major Hollywood stars in James Stewart and Doris Day. They play an old married couple, Ben and Jo McKenna, who travel to Morocco with their school-aged son. A seemingly random encounter with a Frenchman named Louis Bernard puts them right in the middle of an assassination plot and, making matters worse, their son is kidnapped. Typically grand entertainment by the great Hitchcock, The Man Who Knew Too Much does suffer slightly from being better in its first half (there’s a really effective misdirection in its opening act to follow its intriguing setup) than in its second half, but that doesn’t take away from its charms. The performances are excellent, including Doris Day, whom I’m a fan of, but stood the risk of being distracting in a genre we’re not used to seeing her in. Most of Hitchcock’s films along these lines feature a male protagonist boosted into the espionage world. This film offers an interesting twist in that you have a married couple both thrown in, and Hitchcock lets us know from the start that they’re not great with new situations (Stewart’s character very awkwardly does his best with local customs in a Morrocan restaurant). This makes their later ingenuity and success more appealing.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(876)

Dial M for Murder (1954, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 7

Starring Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings, John Williams, Anthony Dawson

Image result for dial m for murder

(7-Very Good Film)

Tense. Devious. Absorbing.

Hitchcock made so many films-all of them good in my book-a large percentage of them classic. The very best films he made, I’ve seen a few dozen times, so sometimes watching his lesser pictures (and I include Dial M for Murder among these), which are still very good, can be a more exciting experience. This is only my second time seeing Dial M for Murder after first watching it many years ago. It felt fresh. Based on a stage play, it follows a husband, Tony Wendice (Milland), plotting the perfect murder to get rid of his wealthy, cheating wife, Margot (Kelly). Unfolding very neatly from the plan to the execution to the aftermath, Dial M for Murder takes place almost entirely in one room. Hitchcock is masterful in how he constantly but unobtrusively moves the camera and also keeps his actors moving during conversation. It should be the yardstick for how to take something inherently theatrical and make it cinematic. I will say that some of my old disappointment from years ago came flooding back in the film’s final act. I found myself deeply invested in the husband’s schemes and, rather perversely, wanted him to get away with it. While the Chief Inspector character is well-drawn, his methods are unsporting at every turn and I’d have to say illegal. As a result, his inevitable triumph is less than satisfactory to me.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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