Starring Max Irons, Terrence Stamp, Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Stefanie Martini, Julian Sands, Christian McKay, Christina Hendricks
Adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel following private detective Charles Hayward (Irons) as he investigates a case given to him by an ex-girlfriend. The case involves the death of an enormously wealthy and corrupt patriarch, and, of course, all his relatives are suspects. Hayward meets the entire family of greedy eccentrics, as he tries to catch a killer. Christie became a world renowned master of the whodunit mystery, and nobody does it better. Her story has been transported to the screen with skill and a cast full of strong performances. While this is not the best Christie adaptation, it is a perfectly good time minus any truly memorable moments.
Starring Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Christopher Lee, Genevieve Page, Tamara Toumanova
Years after his death, the letters of Dr. John H. Watson, one of literature’s most famous narrators and chronicler of the eminent Sherlock Holmes are found. In them, he relates a Sherlock Holmes story theretofore untold, deemed to private for the public. In Sherlock’s most personal case of his career, a strange and beautiful woman with amnesia winds up on his doorstep. Deducing that she’s looking for a missing husband, Sherlock sets out to solve the mystery, all the while falling for the woman. This is a later work from Billy Wilder, and probably his last great film. It’s beautifully, lavishly constructed sets, wit, and style belie the poignant sadness at its core which make it a special take on the character. A late sequence featuring a Morse code message by way of umbrella is an indelible, agonizing image.
Starring James Franciscus, Karl Malden, Pier Paolo Capponi, Catherine Spaak
A blind man (Malden) and his adolescent niece become witnesses to a grisly murder, which precedes a string of related deaths and corporate conspiracy. They team up with a newsman, Carlo (Franciscus), to put an end to the killing. Superb thriller, even if I struggled to follow its plot at times. The final fight upon the roof tops is spectacular, and a certain violent death that involves an elevator shaft is glorious. All the hallmarks of Argento’s best: gory, beautiful color, and a great ’70s score.
Starring David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, Gabriele Lavia, Macha Meril
A medium (Meril) senses evil in the air, claiming a murderer is in the room at a demonstration, and is violently killed for it. Marcus (Hemmings), a British musician in Italy, witnesses her death and becomes the killer’s next target. Hoping to get to the bottom of things, he works with an overly eager reporter named Gianna to solve a string of murders. Argento is in a class of his own in terms of composition and camera movement. On the other hand, he clearly doesn’t care about dialogue, logic, or character development, and perhaps he’s right since none of the film’s deficiencies detract from its appeal. The lush color and brutal violence contrast nicely, and though the film is never all that scary, it’s thoroughly entertaining. Also, killer soundtrack.
Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Sam Levene, Donna Reed, Dickie Hall
Nick and Nora Charles return, this time getting wrapped up in a murder case involving a friend on a casual trip to a wrestling match. After the first film which is a great movie, this and the second one compete for the next best. It’s a return to a slightly more serious tone, with an engaging murder mystery and juicy characters. Powell and Loy are always the selling point though. What they bring to this series seems effortless. I also love the return of Lieutenant Abrams, played by Sam Levene, who first appeared in After the Thin Man.
Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Virginia Grey, C. Aubrey Smith
Nick (Powell) and Nora (Loy) Charles visit an old family friend who’s grown paranoid, certain that someone’s out to kill him. He’s proven correct not long after, and pretty soon Nick (a former detective) is asked to come out of retirement, this time with the help of his wife. The gritty, sophisticated edge that the original Thin Man movie had is gone from this, the third entry in the long running series of films. What’s left is Powell and Loy’s charm, light comedy, witty dialogue, and a decent murder mystery. Good enough.
Starring Rachel Weisz, Sam Caflin, Iain Glen, Holliday Granger
Certain that she is responsible for the death of his beloved cousin, Philip (Caflin) invites his cousin’s widowed wife, Rachel (Weisz), to his estate with plans of revenge. When she arrives, however, he can’t help falling under her spell. It’s hard to have a clear takeaway on the film and its story with just one viewing, mainly because it plays so much off of point of view. Philip is a jealous, naive, inexperienced man, and it’s his perspective we get for most of the film’s action. Rachel, played beautifully by Weisz, is harder to read. The filming is stately and straightforward, so it doesn’t get any points for style, but in terms of confident, strong storytelling, it’s a good film.