A quick roundup of good things I’ve watched lately:
Darker Than Amber (1970). Rod Taylor made a great Travis McGee, brought excellent action and an all-time brutal fight with William Smith, who’s scary as a psycho muscleman. A shame Taylor didn’t do more in this series. Fun appearance by Jane Russell on the eternal party boat. I liked the grit and heat and sinister feel of this detective yarn, compared to…
Marlowe (1969), which takes a more jokey approach to its twisted sister mystery. James Garner’s cool charm and quick wit is very appealing and got him out of close scrapes. Nice, memorable bit of office “reno” by Bruce Lee.
99 Homes (2014). Michael Shannon intense as the real estate broker who games the foreclosure system, and lures into his operation a recent evictee, whose dream of earning back his home comes from the same sentimentality and conscience that will lead him to blow the whistle. It was interesting to see this movie right before The Mind Reader (1933); both films’ crooked characters rationalize their crimes in terms of market demand and suckers already there–someone will be taking advantage, so why not me?
Crimson Peak (2015), gorgeous visuals, some graphic violence, and Gothic romance; a kind of twisted technicolor Rebecca or Spiral Staircase. The ghosts shock less the more they emerge and should have been left entirely to the imagination, since the human horrors spook so well. Jessica Chastain is as riveting tightly coiled as mad and unleashed, and despite the easy-to-guess sibling secret, it’s fun to watch Allerdale Hall and its terrible, pathetic inhabitants sink into the blood-red clay.
L’Eclisse (1962), mesmerizing and momentarily blissful, as Alain Delon and Monica Vitti try romance and constant motion to ward off discontentment, materialism, boredom and emptiness. His “easy come, easy go” superficiality, her ennui and indecision; she’s as exciting and fickle as the stock market where he works. I’m fascinated by this and L’Avventura, next I need to complete this trilogy (if out of order) and see La Notte.
Shack Out on 101 (1955), wild, gleefully unpredictable and wonderfully oddball noir where a seaside diner covers colourful international espionage and the selling of nuclear secrets to some unnamed Commie-ish nation. Lee Marvin menaces, Keenan Wynn weightlifts, and Whit Bissell makes good use of that famous dramatic principle, Chekhov’s harpoon.
Grace of Monaco (2014). I liked Nicole Kidman’s performance, but the directing style was better suited to a frantic espionage thriller, not this turning point for the disenchanted “bricklayer’s daughter” who decides to act her way to the confidence, stillness, serenity, and stealth needed to survive her marriage, the French Blockade and traitorous in-laws (lots of historical inaccuracies to arrange the plot so this Princess Grace can save Monaco).
River Lady (1948). Gambling-boat queen Yvonne De Carlo tries to engineer her logger sweetheart Rod Cameron’s life so he can share her high rags-to-riches rung and get revenge on the snobs. Her plans backfire when he rebels and falls for his boss’s daughter (Helena Carter). Good things here include Dan Duryea, in unrequited love with kindred, if less crooked, spirit De Carlo. Business and romantic rivalries are settled during an dynamite logjam/sabotage sequence. Paired this one with De Carlo gem…
The Gal Who Took the West (1949). Perfectly described at IMDb as the Rashomon of western romantic comedies. The various overlapping flashbacks and recollections of “Gal” Yvonne De Carlo explore her role and motives in the feud between cousins Scott Brady and John Russell. Uncle Charles Coburn worries and works to rid himself of De Carlo after she comes to town pretending to be an opera singer. The swanky debut where she breaks into “Frankie and Johnny” instead of an aria is one of many delightful moments showcasing her comedic touch.
Tokyo Drifter (1966), groovy, funny pop art gangland showdown that pulls back in the hip singer/drifter Tetsu (Tetsuya Watari). He just wants his freedom, but ends up getting chased across a sensational, surreal time-jumping candy-coloured collage of musical comedy (the epic saloon brawl!), cartoon violence and thrilling action. Crazy fun.
Wind Across the Everglades (1958). Conrad’s Heart of Darkness in the Florida swamps, with Burl Ives as the kingpin poacher resisting the activism of crusading ornithologist Christopher Plummer. Their conflict exposes local corruption and drops a romantic plot thread before an “only one gets out alive” ending where Ives and Plummer argue their respective appreciation for, connection to and stewardship of the swamp.
A Bullet Is Waiting (1954). Sheltered professor’s daughter Jean Simmons gets lessons in love and conflict when shady Sheriff Stephen McNally and his uncouth but decent prisoner Rory Calhoun get stranded at her remote ranch. Tense power struggle and much talk coax out the details of Calhoun’s crime and McNally’s grudge, then an armed character test once father Brian Aherne returns. Wonderful scenery in this, including the rugged, noble Calhoun, as well as Simmons’ awkward tenderness and blossoming desire for independence.
As always, thoughts and related recommendations are welcome.