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What movies have you seen this week? 12/1-12/7 (1 Viewer)

Thomas T

Senior HTF Member
Sep 30, 2001
I know that this section is supposed to be about newer "theatrical" films but we movie lovers watch movies from all eras and there's no other place on the HTF to strictly discuss movies themselves (as opposed to the technical nature: aspect ratios, 4K, MOD vs. pressed, atmos dolby, Criterion etc.). So I thought perhaps a weekly thread about the films we've seen all week might be interesting. Moderators if I've overstepped any boundaries, please let me know.

We all have different opinions so I do ask that in any discussion we should be respectful of the other person's opinion even if we disagree with it. Herewith the 11 films I saw this week:

Raffles (1930)

After falling in love with a member of the aristocracy (Kay Francis), an upper class thief (Ronald Colman) decides to retire. But when a friend (Bramwell Fletcher) finds himself in debt for a thousand pounds, the gentleman thief decides to pull one more job to help his pal out. In spite of some genuine charm, this is a static film. Based on the novel by E.W. Hornung by way of Eugene Wiley Presbrey's stage adaptation, the film does little to disguise its stage bound roots. I'm not a particular admirer of Mr. Colman who often seems to confuse acting with enunciation but he's appropriately cast here and bring his particular brand of gravitas to the part. Since this is a pre-code film, there's little proselytizing or recrimination about Colman's criminal offenses. Even the film's Scotland Yard detective (David Torrence) can't help but like the thieving rogue. The film seems like a rough draft of the Blake Edwards' far superior gentleman thief caper The Pink Panther. Remade in 1939. Directed by George Fitzmaurice. With Frederick Kerr and Alison Skipworth in the film's best performance as an aging deaf dowager with eyes for Colman.

The Lost Weekend (1945)

An alcoholic writer (Ray Milland) is due to visit the country with his brother (Phillip Terry) but instead he goes on a drunken binge that eventually lands him in the drunk ward of a hospital. In 1945, this was hair raising stuff, potent enough to win the best film, best director (Billy Wilder) and best actor (Milland) at the Academy Awards. While there are still a few powerful scenes depicting the harrowing effects of alcoholism, much of the film feels simplistic especially in its near laughable neat little ending. We've come a long way since 1945 in understanding alcoholism and one has merely to compare Milland's work here with Nicolas Cage's performance in Leaving Las Vegas to see the difference. While Milland is effective in his sober scenes, even as he's ready to jump out of his skin for a drink, his drunk scenes don't ring true. His Oscar notwithstanding, he's simply not a good enough actor to make for a convincing drunk. Two of the scenes still stand out: the bat and mouse hallucination and the drunk tank sequence with Frank Faylen's nasty male nurse. Miklos Rozsa's theremin wailing score seems more appropriate for a horror film, it sounds too "one step beyond". With Jane Wyman as Milland's faithful girlfriend, Howard Da Silva and Doris Dowling.

Soldier Of Fortune (1955)

When her photographer husband (Gene Barry) goes missing in China, his wife (Susan Hayward) travels to Hong Kong in an attempt to locate him. When the local police are of no help, she contacts a businessman (Clark Gable) with a dubious reputation who may be the only man who can help her. Based on the novel by Ernest K. Gann (The High And The Mighty), this is a rather formulaic adventure movie that benefits from the appealing Hong Kong locations invitingly shot in CinemaScope by Leo Tover (Day The Earth Stood Still), a lovely underscore by Hugo Friedhofer (Best Years Of Our Lives) and the powerhouse duo of Gable and Hayward in the two leads. There's really not much action in the film, the film's escape finale is almost ludicrous in how easy our heroes rescue the prisoner held by Red Chinese. But it's easy to get caught up in the glamour of it all. Directed by Edward Dmytryk. With Michael Rennie, Tom Tully, Alexander D'Arcy, Richard Loo (effectively used), Jack Kruschen and Anna Sten (Samuel Goldwyn's 1930's failed discovery) as an aging Russian hooker.

The Passionate Stranger (1957)

A handsome young Italian (Carlo Giustini) gets a job as a chauffeur to an invalid (Ralph Richardson) in a wheelchair and his wife (Margaret Leighton). The wife is a novelist and decides to use the chauffeur as a character in her book. When the chauffeur reads the manuscript, he gets the wrong idea and sets forth to make fiction a reality. The concept is quite intriguing actually. The film is split into two parts, a film within a film. The film is in B&W and a comedy but when the novel is acted out (about a third of the film), it's in color and quite very dramatic. The execution isn't all it should be however. Perhaps it's too subtle and there should be more of a difference between the two halves. Yes, the B&W segment is a comedy but it should have been even more satiric to contrast with the high melodrama of the novel section. The director Muriel Box, who co-wrote the screenplay with husband Sydney, needed a lighter touch both as a writer and a director. With the exception of Giustini who seems limited by his command of the English language, the cast does surprisingly well with the material as everybody gets to play two roles, each quite different from the other. For example, Patricia Dainton as the maid is quite sweet and wholesome in the B&W section but quite the flirty tart in the color section. This is one film that could definitely use a remake. With Marjorie Rhodes and Allan Cuthbertson.

The Restless Years (1958)

A 16 year old girl (Sandra Dee) with an emotionally unstable single mother (Teresa Wright) who keeps her sheltered and a misfit (John Saxon) whose salesman father (James Whitmore) keeps moving from town to town are attracted to each other. But small town gossip may prove to be their undoing. Films about small town hypocrisy like Kings Row and Peyton Place and their effect on innocent people are almost a genre unto their own. This modest B&W CinemaScope effort isn't in those films' league but it's a moderately engaging effort. One of two films that the German director Helmut Kautner made in Hollywood, it's based on a play by Patricia Joudry called Teach Me How To Cry. It's rather simplistic in its execution with its characters black and white rather than gray shadings. Dee and Saxon make for an attractive pair which compensates for their still unrefined acting skills but the adults take care of the histrionics. The lush underscore is recognizably by Frank Skinner. With Virginia Grey, Margaret Lindsay, Jody McCrea, Hayden Roarke, Dorothy Green and Luana Patten as the treacherous high school bitch.

Topkapi (1964)

A larcenous woman (Melina Mercouri) recruits her former lover (Maximilian Schell) to help her steal a priceless emerald encrusted dagger from the Topkapi palace. His team includes a mechanical wizard (Robert Morley), an acrobat (Gilles Segal) and a strongman (Jess Hahn). But they also need a dupe and to this end, they approach a small time con man (Peter Ustinov) whose inclusion leads to a myriad of problems. Based on Eric Ambler's novel (Light Of Day), this heist film was quite popular when first released but its charms have dimmed considerably in the ensuing years. As a crime caper, it's too far fetched to be much fun and the cast works overtime to make something of their characters but to no avail. Mercouri's femme fatale for example, we never get to know anything about her except she's a nymphomaniac but we never get to know her or her back story. She remains as enigmatic at the film's conclusion as she was at the film's opening. Pretty much the same for all the others. I don't want to be too hard on it. It goes through its paces diligently and with a certain style. Directed by Jules Dassin with an overactive underscore by Manos Hadjidakis. Inexplicably, Ustinov won an Oscar for his work here which is merely adequate. With Akim Tamiroff, Titos Vandis and Despo Diamantidou.

Soldaat Van Oranje (aka Soldier Of Orange) (1977)

A group of university students in the Netherlands lead a carefree life even though the clouds of Hitler's Germany and WWII hover over their future. When the Nazis invade Holland, their lives take different paths. There have been countless films about WWII seen through the eyes of the Americans, British, Germans, Japanese, Italians and French. But this is one of the few that examine the Dutch experience. The director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop) does it up in a grand "epic" scale (the film even has an intermission) and the scope of the film is fairly ambitious. Though the film begins with the interactions and fate of the five students, the second half of the movie focuses on just two (Rutger Hauer, Jeroen Krabbe). Though the actors are clearly too old for their parts, the actors acquit themselves nicely though this isn't a film where the acting need be much more than adequate. As far as WWII films go, this is certainly one of the better ones. It keeps it real without any unnecessary jingoism or sentimentality. With Edward Fox, Susan Penhaligon, Huib Rooymans, Lex Van Delden, Eddy Habbema and Belinda Meuldijk.

Streets Of Fire (1984)

In an urban city seemingly populated by no one but young people, a rock star (Diane Lane) is kidnapped during a live performance by a biker gang lead by a thug called Raven (Willem Dafoe). The manager (Deborah Van Valkenburgh) of a local diner writes to her drifter brother (Michael Pare, Eddie And The Cruisers), the rock star's ex-boyfriend, to come and save her. Referred to as a "Rock & Roll Fable" in the film's poster, the film makes no pretense to realism. It's a fantasy city where there are no people over 40 (Logan's Run without the sci-fi) in night rain drenched streets and fluorescent day-glo colors with a constant rock 'n roll beat. The director Walter Hill had played around with this territory before, notably in his wonderful inner city nightmare yarn The Warriors. Streets Of Fire was expected to be a major hit but it got the cold shoulder from both critics and audiences but the ensuing years has seen it grow a large cult following. Though Hill considered the film a musical, I wouldn't go that far. I'd call it a semi-musical and some of the songs (written by Stevie Nicks, Jim Steinman and Dan Hartman) are pretty good as is the pulsating underscore by Ry Cooder. With Amy Madigan (who just about steals the film), Rick Moranis, Bill Paxton, Lee Ving and Richard Lawson.

Murder With Mirrors (1985)

A man (John Woodvine) believes his stepmother (Bette Davis) might be in trouble so he asks her best friend Jane Marple (Helen Hayes) to invite herself to her friend's large country estate. But before he is able to tell Miss Marple what his suspicions are, he is murdered. With the assistance of the local police inspector (Leo McKern), Miss Marple does some sleuthing to ferret out the murderer. Based on the Agatha Christie novel They Do It With Mirrors, this is one of three Miss Marple films that Helen Hayes did for television. While she doesn't come across as remotely English, Hayes brings her own pixie-ish charm to Christie's old maid amateur detective. It's not one of Christie's better mysteries, it's fairly easy to figure out who the killer is and how they did it. The suspects aren't a particularly interesting lot either. Some of the actors like Dorothy Tutin as Davis's widowed daughter and Tim Roth as a wayward cosh boy flesh out their thinly written parts by their strong talent but most of the others are rather colorless. This was made after Davis's stroke and though the effects of the stroke were still obvious, she seems more sturdy than frail. Directed by Dick Lowry with a forgettable score by the usually reliable Richard Rodney Bennett. With John Mills, Frances De La Tour, Anton Rodgers and John Laughlin.

Music Box (1989)

When a Hungarian emigrant and naturalized U.S. citizen (Armin Mueller Stahl) is charged with WWII war crimes by the U.S. Office Of Special Investigation, his attorney daughter (Jessica Lange) decides to represent him against the advice of her attorney father in law (Donald Moffat). Costa-Gavras specializes in political thrillers, films that often incorporate the ordinary person fighting the oppressive fascist state or the dissemination of evil ideology: Missing, Betrayed and, of course, his masterpiece Z. Based on an original screenplay by Joe Eszterhas (Basic Instinct), the film fits neatly into the courtroom drama genre rather than political thriller even though the emphasis is on is he or isn't he a war criminal. There are no surprises, perhaps not even the somber last 15 minutes or so. The question the film raises ("is blood thicker than spilled blood") deserves a more complex examination. Still, it's a more than decent movie with a superb performance by Lange that justifiably earned her an Oscar nomination and Armin Mueller Stahl is top notch too. With Frederick Forrest, Lukas Haas and Michael Rooker.

The Imitation Game (2014)

During WWII, a British mathematician (Benedict Cumberbatch), with very limited social skills, is selected by the government to be part of a team to break the Nazi's "unbreakable" Enigma code which is costing thousands of lives and prolonging the war. Soon, he becomes not only the head of the program but its only hope. Based on the true story of Alan Turing, the key leader who broke the Enigma code which very likely shortened the war by two years, this is more than just a WWII thriller. Turing was a homosexual when it was still a crime in England and what happened to him after the war is the stuff horror stories are made of. I'm not familiar with the work of the Norwegian director Morten Tyldum but based on this film, he has the assured hand of a crackerjack storyteller. I'm not particularly a fan of Cumberbatch but his work here blew me away. It's not easy playing an essentially unlikable character but Cumberbatch totally commits himself to the part, never once winking to the audience to give Turing some charm. It's not what I'd call a work of "Art" in the cinematic sense but it's the kind of movie that makes you appreciate how superb movies can be when all the elements fall into place for a good solid piece of craftsmanship. The excellent (all the way down the line) cast includes Keira Knightley (a lovely performance), Matthew Goode (so memorable in Stoker), Charles Dance, Mark Strong and Rory Kinnear.

Thomas T

Senior HTF Member
Sep 30, 2001
TV season sets and mini series can be problematic. I've been slogging my way through the 1978 mini series Centennial (all 20 plus hours of it) for several months now between gaps in my movie watching. I think I have four more episodes and I'm done.

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