Midnight Lace (1960, Directed by David Miller) English 8

Starring Doris Day, Rex Harrison, John Gavin, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowall, Herbert Marshall, Natasha Parry, John Williams

Midnight Lace 1960 Full Movie - YouTube

(8-Exceptional Film)

Gripping. Thrilling. Surprising.

Voice: Careful, Mrs. Preston. I wouldn’t want you to get hurt. Not yet.

Kit Preston (Day) is a happy American wife living in London with her doting husband, Anthony (Harrison). Walking home in the fog one afternoon, Kit has her life torn apart when a voice calls out to her making disturbing threats on her life. At first convinced it was simply a prank, the threats continue over the phone causing Kit to become more and more paranoid, while those around her (who find no proof of this mysterious stalker) question whether she’s losing her sanity. Described as Hitchockian, Midnight Lace does, in my opinion, earn that distinction, expertly balancing its many suspects and red herrings, ultimately leading us to its exceptional conclusion. Day, in an unfamiliar genre, proves (as she did in The Man Who Knew Too Much), to be perfect in the role as lady in distress.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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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 Happytime Murders (2018, Directed by Brian Henson) English 5

Starring Melissa McCarthy, Elizabeth Banks, Maya Rudolph, Joel McHale, Ben Falcone, Leslie David Baker, Michael McDonald

Spoilers: A 'Happytime Murders' Ending Explanation

(5-Okay Film)

Promising. Crude. Uneven.

Phil Philips: I never knocked a guy out with his own balls before.

The Happytime Murders is a brash, consistently vulgar romp starring Jim Henson-like puppets. That premise, alone, is going to repel a lot of people. I was interested. The result, however, is only sporadically funny and inspires more head shaking than laughter. Phil Philips is a puppet in a world that doesn’t care one bit for his kind. They’re less than second class citizens. Once a promising cop, he’s now a seedy private detective, but after the bizarre death of his brother, an actor, and other cast members from an old sitcom, “The Happytime Gang,” Phil’s forced to team up with his old partner, Detective Edwards (McCarthy), to catch the killer. Director and puppeteer, Brian Henson, son of the legendary Jim Henson, has proven to be an incredibly creative filmmaker. Even in this film, there are a number of good ideas, but a film like this needs to be as funny as it is vulgar and it’s not. Still, you can appreciate the work of the puppeteers which remains a form of magic even after they reveal the process behind it.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Under the Silver Lake (2018, Directed by David Robert Mitchell) English 8

Starring Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Callie Hernandez, Riki Lindhome, Don McManus, Zosia Mamet, Jeremy Bobb, Patrick Fischler, Rex Linn, Jimmi Simpson, Grace Van Patten

Fade to Black: Under the Silver Lake (2018) - Morbidly Beautiful

(8-Exceptional Film)

Curious. Alluring. Puzzling.

Comic Fan: Our world is filled with codes, subliminal messages. From Silverlake to the Hollywood Hills.

Noir in cinema has been nearly synonymous with nighttime throughout the years. It’s a nighttime genre. In Under the Silver Lake, a noir-drenched puzzle box of a film, the parts that I comfortably consider noir occur during the day. At night, the film shifts into a surrealist horror flick, not unlike the director, David Robert Mitchell’s previous film, It Follows. I didn’t like It Follows. I’m pretty sure I love Under the Silver Lake. It’s hard to say for certain after one viewing because it’s hard to say what it’s about. Andrew Garfield plays Sam. Sam seems harmlessly middling; unimportant, uninterested in much. The latter part is where he unquestionably proves me wrong. He’s a conspiracy nut, constantly watching the world for clues. A brief romantic moment with his beautiful neighbor, Sarah (Keough), leads him to a labyrinthian circuit of clues essentially in his backyard. I haven’t pinned down anything about this film yet. I noticed and appreciated some of the influences. Rear Window is the most conspicuous (Sam even has a poster of it on his wall). Like James Stewart’s character in that movie, Sam, too, loves to spy on neighbors. Except here, it’s a little more sinister. What I understood of Under the Silver Lake, I loved. What I suspect lies in waiting on further viewings, I look forward to finding.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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Woman on the Run (1950, Directed by Norman Foster) English 6

Starring Ann Sheridan, Dennis O’Keefe, Ross Elliot, Robert Keith, John Qualen, Frank Jenks, Steven Geray

Kennington Noir presents Woman on the Run (1950) on 35mm » The ...

(6-Good Film)

Efficient. Surprising. Nifty.

Maibus: So Frank is a fugitive from the law… that’s just like him!

Frank didn’t do anything wrong. He just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Witnessing a murder, the cops want him to be their lead witness, but he doesn’t relish the idea of risking his life to play informant so he runs. Now, the cops, the killer, a newspaperman, Dan Legget (O’Keefe), and his estranged wife, Eleanor (Sheridan), are looking all over San Francisco for him. This is a clever, ultra-efficient thriller with a neat trick or two up its sleeves. It’s also been pointed out to me how rare it is to have a noir featuring a woman as the lead. Sheridan plays the jaded, tough-talking dame who more than holds her own in this violent world she’s been thrust into. More proof that within the conventions of a noir and with the limited resources of a B-Picture, came many solid films (and some great ones).

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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The Cat and the Canary (1939, Directed by Elliot Nugent) English 8

Starring Bob Hope, Paulette Goddard, Gale Sondergaard, John Beal, George Zucco, Douglass Montgomery, Elizabeth Patterson

The Cat and the Canary (1939) – Journeys in Classic Film

(8-Exceptional Film)

Funny. Creepy. Effective.

Cicily: Don’t big empty houses scare you?

Wally Campbell: Not me, I used to be in vaudeville.

Quentin Tarantino once explained why Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was his favorite film as a kid, “it bent my mind that my two favorite genres could be put into one movie.” Bob Hope, my favorite classic Hollywood comedian, made a career’s worth of films in this mold-he’s lampooned westerns (The Paleface), private detectives (My Favorite Brunette), spies (My Favorite Blonde), costume dramas (Monsieur Beaucaire), and pirates (The Princess and the Pirate). Among his best films, however, are his ventures into horror. Horror and comedy (both dependent on the element of surprise) go well together and they go well together here. The Cat and the Canary is one of Hope’s finest. He arrives at a creepy secluded mansion on the bayou along with a host of other guests including Joyce Norman played by Paulette Goddard to find out the will of their wealthy deceased relative. When Joyce is named the sole heir, she spends the rest of the night with a target on her back with only Bob Hope as an ally. Psychics, murder, mystery, secret passageways, monsters in masks, and Bob Hope, it’s Scooby-Doo meets Agatha Christie. Sheer fun.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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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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Dragonwyck (1946, Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) English 6

Starring Gene Tierney, Vincent Price, Glenn Langan, Walter Huston, Anne Revere, Jessica Tandy, Spring Byington

Dragonwyck (1946) with Gene Tierney – Classic Film Freak

(6-Good Film)

Atmospheric. Eerie. Grandiose.

Miranda Wells: Nicholas – you do believe in God?

Nicholas Van Ryn: I believe in myself, and I am answerable to myself! I will not live according to printed mottoes like the directions on a medicine bottle!

Miranda Wells (Tierney) has lived a cloistered life courtesy of her strict, religious parents in early 19th century Connecticut. When the opportunity comes for her to live with a wealthy relative, landowner Nicholas Van Ryn (Price), she leaps at it and quickly finds herself drawn to the imposing figure, despite his being married. I imagine Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is the standard for all romantic gothic novels and their adaptations, though I haven’t read any of the books and have only seen a handful of the movies. There’s an affected, very mannered air about the dialogue and acting in these films. As a result, Vincent Price is perfect for his gaudy role here. He once remarked about many of his films, “(they) don’t date because they were dated to begin with.” I think that’s accurate, in general, and accurate about Dragonwyck in particular. Dragonwyck is a handsome, elaborately staged affair. The costumes, the house, and all of the trinkets inside it are expertly crafted. That’s the main pleasure of watching most period films and, on that score, Dragonwyck delivers while its story happens to be predictably maudlin and ultimately not up to as much as its busy, intriguing premise suggests. And I’m putting it as a side note but it’s very much front and center in the film: Gene Tierney is staggeringly, timelessly beautiful.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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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-

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Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972, Directed by Lucio Fulci) Italian 6

Starring Barbara Bouchet, Tomas Milian, Florinda Bolkan, Marc Borel, Irene Papas, Georges Wilson

Don't Torture a Duckling Review | Blu-ray Review | The Digital Fix

(6-Good Film)

Creepy. Lurid. Grisly.

 Tagline: A classic tale of the perverse from director Lucio Fulci.

The majority of the Italian giallo films that I’ve seen have the same fascinations; a string of grisly murders, an unlikely hero trying to get to the bottom of it, for starters. Don’t Torture a Duckling is a little more thoughtful than most. A small superstitious town in Southern Italy deals with the unsolved murders of several school-aged boys. The local police and a clever news reporter investigate. Unlike other giallo films that I’ve seen, rather than following one protagonist, Don’t Torture a Duckling follows several characters at different times. It’s the town that’s the focus; how they handle these tragedies, how everyone has blood on their hands. Fulci gives the film a genuine psychological element that makes it stand out among its peers. It’s interesting work and, like most murder-mysteries, very entertaining. It does, however, become a little hokey in parts, a little melodramatic.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

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