Seven Hundred And Fifteen

I’ve been watching so many movies it seems I have no time for any proper blogging. Here’s some of what I’ve seen recently:

Gun Crazy – Quite a perverse little film noir directed by Joseph H. Lewis and starring John Dall (the actor who wasn’t awful in Hitchcock’s Rope) as a sharpshooter with a gun fetish and Peggy Cummins as one of the most evil femmes fatale in the noir canon. The alternate title is ‘Deadly Is The Female’ which is great, but better might be ‘Guns Don’t Kill People, Women Kill People”.

The Killing – One of the few Kubrick movies I hadn’t seen was this innovative noir heist film about a robbery at a race track. Sterling Hayden stars as the head of the criminal enterprise and the great minor character actor Elisha Cook Jr. plays the man whose wife blows the whole operation. Femme fatale indeed. The Out Of The Past podcast did a two-part series comparing this to Reservoir Dogs, in that both are heist films that feature fractured timelines, but that’s about all they have in common. In the Tarantino film, the heist is a minor part of the story, it’s the interactions between characters that’s of interest. The Kubrick film, on the other hand, places the mechanics of the heist itself at the center of the narrative, and uses the complicated structure to heighten the tension of that heist. Anyway, it’s a terrific Kubrick film with one of the better endings in noir history.

Harakiri – Anti-samurai film by director Masaki Kobayashi (Samurai Rebellion, #11, 1967; Kwaidan) and starring Tatsuya Nakadai (Sword Of Doom, #3, 1966; Ran, #1, 1985). Nakadai plays a ronin who shows up at a samurai castle asking to be allowed to kill himself in their courtyard. He’s out to avenge the young samurai whom the callously forced to commit seppuku there with a bamboo sword. It’s a nasty and violent, yet slowly paced film about the hypocrisy between the samurai’s professed code of honor and the pragmatic politics necessary to being a ruling class. A very nice looking film, with yet another great performance by Nakadai, but the politics of it all was a bit heavy-handed for me.

How To Marry A Millionaire – Three hot chicks looking for rich husbands in what seems to have been a popular trope in the world of 1950s romantic comedies. An entertaining, if predictable trifle enlivened by the presence of Lauren Bacall and Marilyn Monroe. And Betty Grable’s alright too, I guess.

The Seven Year Itch – Another Monroe film, this one unfortunately doesn’t seem to have aged very well. Tom Ewell reprises the role he played on Broadway as a mid-life crisied yuppie daydreaming about having an affair with his upstairs neighbor. Monroe’s terrific, of course, but Ewell is far from it. The conventional line appears to be that he’s too stagy and not enough filmy, which sounds about right. My least favorite Billy Wilder film, thus far.

Freaks – Eh. Circus freaks are abused by an evil and annoying woman who turn on her, get her drunk and, apparently turn her into a chicken lady. An innovative and influential film, I’m sure, but not in a genre I’m particularly a fan of. The tension between the film’s ostensible theme that people should be nicer to freaks and the fact that the main reason anybody ever watches it is to, well, look at the freaks is interesting. But not that interesting.

Ride The High Country – Early Peckinpaugh Western about two old gunfighters trying to adjust to a modern world where their kind aren’t especially useful or welcome. Joel McRea (Sullivan’s Travels) is great as the wizened honorable lawman hired to escort some gold to a bank, and Randolph Scott is alright as his old partner along for the ride (and the hope of stealing the gold). It’s a bit slow in the beginning, some may say elegiac, but the elegy’s a little obvious for me, but picks up when the action gets rolling in the second half: then we get to see the Peckinpaugh that made The Wild Bunch (#4, 1969) and Pat Garret And Billy The Kid (#6, 1973) start to shine.

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