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Essay & Podcast Index

And index of my written reviews can be found over here. This is an index of the non-review pieces I’ve written here at The End of Cinema, as well as various other websites. And also the episodes of The George Sanders Show and They Shot Pictures that I’ve appeared on.

Podcasts:

The George Sanders Show:

Episode One: The Big Heat and Drug War  Jun 29, 2013
Episode Two: Dead Man and Ride Lonesome  Jul 06, 2013
Episode Three: Charade and The Truth About Charlie  Jul 12, 2013
Episode Four: Duel of Fists and Tears of the Black Tiger  Jul 20, 2013
Episode Five: Sneakers and Whirlpool  Jul 27, 2013
Episode Six: Two Lovers and Two English Girls  Aug 02, 2013
Episode Seven: Logan’s Run and WALL-E  Aug 09, 2013
Episode Eight: Gun Crazy and Point Break  Aug 16, 2013
Episode Nine: Ishtar and Sons of the Desert  Aug 26, 2013
Episode Ten: The Grandmaster and A Touch of Zen  Aug 29, 2013

Episode Eleven: The Top Ten Films of All-Time  Sep 05, 2013
Episode Twelve: The Black Stallion and The Killing  Sep 12, 2013
Episode Thirteen: Once Upon a Time in America and The Roaring Twenties  Sep 19, 2013
Episode Fourteen: Harakiri and Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai  Sep 27, 2013
Episode Fifteen: Solaris and Solaris  Oct 10, 2013
Episode Sixteen: Belle de jour and Belle toujours  Oct 17, 2013
Episode Seventeen: Cat People and The Black Cat  Oct 24, 2013
Episode Eighteen: Ingeborg Holm and The Holy Mountain  Oct 31, 2013
Episode Nineteen: The Big Parade and The Red and the White  Nov 10, 2013
Episode Twenty: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Three Ages  Nov 18, 2013

Episode Twenty-One: Monsieur Verdoux and Bonfire of the Vanities  Nov 25, 2013
Episode Twenty-Two: Computer Chess and The Chess Players  Dec 01, 2013
Episode Twenty-Three: The Hudsucker Proxy and Lady for a Day  Dec 08, 2013
Episode Twenty-Four: Crank and The Victim  Dec 15, 2013
Episode Twenty-Five: Meet Me in St. Louis and A Christmas Tale  Dec 23, 2013
Episode Twenty-Six: I’m No Angel, Dragnet Girl and 1933 in Review  Dec 30, 2013
Episode Twenty-Seven: The Wolf of Wall Street and L’Argent  Jan 14, 2014
Episode Twenty-Eight: Her and The Doll  Jan 27, 2014
Episode Twenty-Nine: The Train and Emperor of the North  Feb 12, 2014
Episode Thirty: Oscar Spectacular, The Great Ziegfeld & Chicago  Feb 24, 2014

Episode 31: The Three Musketeers and Jason & the Argonauts  Mar 13, 2014
Episode 32: Pride of the Yankees and The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings Mar 24, 2014
Episode 33: The Magnificent Ambersons and Platform  Apr 07, 2014
Episode 34: La ultima película and Never Give a Sucker an Even Break  Apr 22, 2014
Episode 35: Under the Skin and Starman  May 05, 2014
Episode 36: Hatari! and White Hunter, Black Heart  May 20, 2014
Episode 37: The 2014 Seattle International Film Festival  Jun 11, 2014
Episode 38: Snowpiercer and Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors  Jun 30, 2014
Episode 39: Lola and Lola  Jul 13, 2014
Episode 40: The Genius of the System, Hellzapoppin’ and The Barefoot Contessa  Jul 29, 2014

Episode 41: Rock ‘N’ Roll High School and Pitch Perfect  Aug 20, 2014
Episode 42: Strike and Matewan  Sep 01, 2014
Episode 43: Top Ten Films of All-Time  Sep 07, 2014
Episode 44: Videodrome and Wavelength  Sep 20, 2014
Episode 45: How to Marry a Millionaire and Down with Love  Oct 06, 2014
Episode 46: Gone Girl and The Vanishing  Oct 18, 2014
Episode 47: Toute la mémoire du monde and Russian Ark  Nov 03, 2014
Episode 48: Renaldo & Clara, Masked & Anonymous and Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2  Nov 15, 2014
Episode 49: Awaara and Sholay  Nov 29, 2014
Episode 50: Coffy, Golden Chicken and 2014 Discoveries  Dec 13, 2014

Episode 51: Love Streams, Streets of Fire and the Best of 1984  Dec 27, 2014
Episode 52: The Shopworn Angel and The Cheyenne Social Club Jan 10, 2015
Episode 53: Selma and Malcolm X Jan 24, 2015
Episode 54: Alphaville and A Separation Feb 11, 2015
Episode 55: Doctor Zhivago and Darling Feb 22, 2015
Episode 56: Where Danger Lives and Farewell, My Lovely Mar 06, 2015
Episode 57: Days of Thunder and Red Line 7000 Apr 11, 2015
Episode 58: Jauja and Three Crowns of the Sailor Apr 18, 2015
Episode 59: The Clouds of Sils Maria and Centre Stage May 2, 2015
Episode 60: Linda Linda Linda and The Affairs of Dobie Gillis May 17, 2015

Episode 61: SIFF Special – Interview with Atticus Ross May 30, 2015
Episode 62: 2015 Seattle International Film Festival Recap Jun 13, 2015
Episode 63: Blackhat and A Better Tomorrow Jun 29, 2015
Episode 64: Summer Interlude and Songs from the Second Floor Jul 11, 2015
Episode 65: The Green Ray and X: The Man with X-Ray Eyes Jul 29, 2015

They Shot Pictures:

They Shot Pictures #7: Hou Hsiao-hsien  Aug 28, 2012
They Shot Pictures #11: Mikio Naruse  Feb 25, 2013
They Shot Pictures #13: Johnnie To  Mar 26, 2013
They Shot Pictures #15: Akira Kurosawa Part One  Jun 15, 2013
They Shot Pictures #16: Jane Campion  Jul 01, 2013
They Shot Pictures #17: Sammo Hung  Jul 08, 2013
They Shot Pictures #19: John Ford Part One  Aug 31, 2013
They Shot Pictures #21: Festival Recap Part One  Oct 17, 2013

They Shot Pictures #22: Festival Recap Part Two  Oct 30, 2013
They Shot Pictures #23: Akira Kurosawa Part Two  Oct 31, 2013
They Shot Pictures #24: Claire Denis  Nov 28, 2013
They Shot Pictures #25: John Ford Part Two  Dec 19, 2013
They Shot Pictures #26: 2013 Year in Review Part One  Dec 22, 2013
They Shot Pictures #27: 2013 Year in Review Part Two  Dec 22, 2013
They Shot Picutres #28: FW Murnau  Feb 15, 2014
They Shot Pictures #29: Hayao Miyazaki & Studio Ghibli  Mar 04, 2014
They Shot Pictures #30: Vincente Minnelli Musicals  Apr 19, 2014
They Shot Pictures #32: Lau Kar-leung  Jun 25, 2014
They Shot Pictures #34: King Hu  Nov 17, 2014
They Shot Pictures #35: 2014 Year in Review Part One   Dec 25, 2014
They Shot Pictures #36: 2014 Year in Review Part Two  Dec 25, 2014

Essays and Lists at The End of Cinema and Seattle Screen Scene and Elsewhere:

Coen Fatigue  Jan 02, 2008
Movie Roundup: VIFF ’09 Edition  Apr 11, 2010
Movie Roundup: SFIFF Edition Part One  July 19, 2010
Movie Roundup: SFIFF Edition Part Two  July 27, 2010
VIFF ’10: Wrap-up  Oct 11, 2010
On the Late Films of Buster Keaton  Nov 22, 2011
For the Love of Film: One Week with Hitchcock  May 13, 2012
Ozu’s Fun with Salt  Jul 16, 2012
On the 2012 Sight and Sound Poll  Jul 31, 2012
More on the 2012 Sight and Sound Poll  Aug 02, 2012

Last Notes on the Sight and Sound Poll  Aug 16, 2012
Flights of the Red Balloons  Aug 21, 2012
VIFF 2012 Index  Nov 03, 2012
On Some Objections to Auteurism  Mar 08, 2013
The Johnnie To Whimsicality Index  Mar 17, 2013
On Infernal Affairs, The Departed and Johnnie To  Mar 19, 2013
Army of Milla: Resident Evil and Modern Auteurism: Part One: On Vulgar Auteurism  Apr 16, 2013
Army of Milla: Resident Evil and Modern Auteurism: Part Two: What are the Resident Evil Movies?  May 01, 2013
Army of Milla: Resident Evil and Modern Auteurism: Part Three: Resident Evil and Classical Auteurism  Jun 02, 2013
The Best 2012 Movies of 2013, So Far  Jul 13, 2013

VIFF 2013: Dragons & Tigers Awards  Oct 04, 2013
Running Out of Karma: Introduction  Nov 14, 2013
A Top 25 Films of 2013, More or Less  Dec 31, 2013
Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 Jan 09, 2014
The Best War Movies of All-Time  May 26, 2014
The Best 2014 (and 2013) Movies of the Year (So Far)  Jul 01, 2014
A Top 50 Films of 2014, More or Less Dec 21, 2014
The Best Older Movies I Saw in 2014  Dec 30, 2014
Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014 Feb 12, 2015
Seattle Screen Valentine Scene Feb 13, 2015

The 87th Annual Academy Awards Preview Feb 20, 2015
On the 2014 Academy Awards (Or, the Vice of Intended Ignorance) Feb 27, 2015
Fists and Fury at the Cinerama Feb 27, 2015
Hitchcock at the Uptown Mar 12, 2015
The Seattle Hou Hsiao-hsien Retrospective Mar 19, 2015
Underrated 1985 Films Apr 11, 2015
Underrated ’65 Jul 02, 2015

Essays at Metro Classics:

All About Bette  Aug 17, 2009
A Short History Of The Western Genre, And Why The Wild Bunch Was Ahead Of Its Time  Sept 07, 2009
A Short History Of The Musical Genre, Towards Defending As Essential The Arguably Extraneous Dance Sequence At The End Of Singin’ In The Rain  Oct 02, 2009
Clint Eastwood And The Myth Of The Last Golden Age  Oct 26, 2009
A Filmography Of Wong Kar-wai In Eighteen Images (Or, Yay! Pretty Pictures!)  Nov 09, 2009
Why Charlie Chaplin Is Better Than Buster Keaton  Nov 16, 2009
Disjointed Musings Somewhat Related To Gone With The Wind  Dec 01, 2009
On Eric Rohmer  Jan 12, 2010
Following Up On Eric Rohmer  Feb 01, 2010

Pre-Game Warm-Up: Gloria Swanson Edition  Mar 22, 2010
What If Double Feature: Meet Me in St. Louis  Aug 22, 2010
What If Double Feature: All That Heaven Allows  Aug 30, 2010
Hell is Other Movies: One Week with Nicholas Ray  Mar 29, 2011
Hell is Other Movies: Seven Samurai for Seven Samurai  Apr 12, 2011
Eric Rohmer: Comedies and Proverbs  Aug 23, 2011

Movie Roundup: 52 Movies To Go Edition

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs – Ho hum, another great Japanese movie about the miserable life of a woman/prostitute.  The main character of this one, Keiko, played by the great Hideko Takemine, isn’t exactly a prostitute, but rather a bar hostess, whose job it is to be charming and entertaining to the male customers, but not actually sleep with them.  She wants to open a bar of her own, but the economics of mid-century Japan make that extremely difficult for women, and director Mikio Naruse examines in great detail the complex maneuvers and moral compromises Keiko must go through to try to realize her dream.  This is my first Naruse film, and he has an elegant visual style that isn’t as immediately idiosyncratic as his contemporaries Kenji Mizoguchi and Yasujiro Ozu, but is quite lovely nonetheless. The jazzy score is pretty great, as are supporting performances from big stars like Tatsuya Nakadai and Masayuki Mori (at least one of the Seven Samurai shows up as well).  Despite its thematic similarity to many a Mizoguchi film, it feels completely fresh and modern, and more humane for the lightness of its touch and story construction relative to the more schematic Mizoguchis like Street of Shame or The Life of Oharu.  The #6 film of 1960.

Midnight Mary – Loretta Young plays a poor orphan girl who gets mixed up with gangsters after spending three years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit.  One day, she meets rich lawyer Franchot Tone (who continues to do no wrong in my eyes) who falls in love with her and tries to reform her.  But when she’s recognized by a cop, she pretends she never loved him and goes back to the gangsters (after another little stint in jail).  Eventually, the lead gangster tries to kill Tone and Young kills the gangster instead.  This is all told in flashback as Young is awaiting sentencing for murder.  This pre-Code William Wellman film is a solid bit of salacious melodrama and it is brisk and efficient in telling its wildly improbable, coincidence-driven story.  That speed, and the excellent performances, make for a fine, if not revelatory, experience.  The #16 film of 1933.

Mademoiselle Fifi – You know how John Ford’s Stagecoach is actually based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant?  Well, this is based on the same story, along with another of his short stories.  A variety of characters are sharing a coach through Occupied France during the Franco-Prussian War.  Each character represents a social type: nobility, businessmen and their wives, a political agitator, a priest and a laundress (played by the Cat Person herself, Simone Simon).  When the coach stops in a town controlled by the German Army (led by the scary Lieutenant with the title nickname), everyone eats with and fraternizes with the Germans except the laundress, who sticks to her patriotism.  The Germans won’t let them go until she changes her mind, leading to much in-fighting exposing the cowardice and avarice of the upper classes.  The political message is inescapable, the film being made in 1944, and Simon makes a particularly appealing symbol of Nazi defiance, her halting delivery effectively expressing the laundress’ humility and hard-headed simplicity.  Made at RKO under producer Val Lewton and directed by Robert Wise, it’s not as visually interesting as the films made there by Jacques Tourneur, but I suspect it would have been impossible for the Lewton unit to make an ugly movie.  The #13, film of 1944.

Socrates – Another of Roberto Rossellini’s fascinating “History Films”, albeit one that did not make it into the recent Eclipse box set devoted to them (it’s available on Hulu).  Like The Age of the Medici, The Taking of Power by Louis XIV and Cartesius, Socrates recreates in great detail the world of a major historical figure, in this case sticking close to the events of the Socratic Dialogues as recorded by his disciple Plato.  In addition to various philosophical arguments, these follow the course of Socrates’s condemnation, trial and execution for the crime of corrupting the youth by trying to lead them away from the gods. Seems he has the audacity to point out that nobody knows anything, prove it by taking apart everyone else’s arguments, then claim to be no more knowledgable than they are.  Socrates’s real crime was thus being passive-aggressive.  Like the other History Films, Rossellini cuts out all the extraneous things that get in the way of the ideas and the story and the audience: acting, character, fancy directing, etc.  That’s not to say the films are boring or ugly, on the contrary, every shot is carefully and classically framed, and Rossellini makes the most of his European TV-level budgets in terms of costume and set design and his actors are competent, if not emotive (they exist somewhere on the Robert Bresson end of the scale, though filtered through a few levels of dubbing).  What is left in the end is the pure expression of information, and in submitting to that we experience a deeper, more engrossing involvement in the events on-screen.  Not one that gives you emotional highs and lows, or that shocks and thrills you, but one that manages to create a sense of. . . well not really reality (it’s too obviously composed and performed for that) but of the actuality, almost tangibility of the ideas and the people (not characters) that espouse them.  They tend to make all other historical films or biopics, which invariably alter history for the sake of melodrama and “plot”, look silly, if not outright imbecilic.   The #5 film of 1971.

Midnight in Paris – A much more playful approach to history, from a director who, with a few exceptions, enjoys the silly as much as anyone.  Owen Wilson plays a writer with an obnoxious fiancée (Rachel McAdams) and obnoxious future in-laws.  They’re all in Paris for some reason, and Wilson, wrapped up in the romance of the city finds himself transported back to the 1920s, where he hangs around with Ernest Hemingway, the Fitzgeralds, Salavador Dali, Gertrude Stein and Marion Cotillard.  Wilson is a great avatar for Allen’s dialogue, his laid-back delivery making him seem like less of an impersonator than most of the actors who star in his films.  The movie’s a great deal of fun, Allen’s most purely entertaining since Mighty Aphrodite (another film that mixed the past and the present to great effect) and its opening sequence, a montage of Parisian sites set to Sidney Bechet, is one of the loveliest sequences of his career (that it is an obvious homage to his own Manhattan makes it no less charming).  The moral of the story is a bit forced, as Wilson learns that there’s wonder and romance at every time in history, if you know where to look for it (like used record stalls at flea markets, apparently, though this is wholly counter to my experience of such places).  Things would have been more interesting if the McAdams character was the least bit sympathetic.  As is, we have no doubt that Wilson is better off abandoning his life for the sake of supernatural adventures.

Movie Roundup: 55 Movies To Go Edition

Meek’s Cutoff – A group of settlers making their way through the Oregon Territory break off from their main group to follow a mountain man named Meek’s shortcut.  When we join them, they appear to be most definitely lost, though Meek, in a well-mumbled performance by Bruce Greenwood, insists he knows exactly where they are and where they are going.  As the settler’s distrust of Meek grows, and their water supply dwindles, they come across a lone, silent Indian.  Led by Michelle Williams, they slowly take their faith away from Meek and place it onto the Indian, who claims (wordlessly) to be able to lead them to safety but may very well be leading them to their doom.  A major step up from director Kelly Reichardt’s last film, Wendy and Lucy which, despite an excellent performance from Williams I thought was a little lacking in the plot motivation department.  Reichardt films in 1.33, an aspect ratio that not only recalls the classical Western, of which this is in many ways a subversion (there’s an interesting compare and contrast to be made here to Ford’s Wagon Master) but also mimics the POV of the women in the group, their heads bound by 19th Century bonnets, their blinder-vision making palpable both the claustrophobia of their place in society and the group’s limited knowledge of where they are going and the world around them.  It’s a movie about faith and feminism, about a group of women learning to reject the authority of their alpha male and place their trust in a despised and mysterious other, with no assurances that their new guide will be any better.  One of those movies whose resonances grow the more I think about it.  The #4 film of 2010.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams – The consensus line on this Werner Herzog documentary about cave paintings is that it’s the best argument to date for 3D cinema and I’m not going to disagree with that.  The paintings, found in pristine condition in Southern France, are the earliest yet discovered and Herzog examines them in exhaustive detail.  His narration, as always, is a blend of sardonic rationality and breathless cheesiness, but it’s the images that are unforgettable.  Because the cave walls and ceilings are contoured and uneven, and because the paintings were made with these surfaces in mind, the 3D camera brings them to life in a way that would be impossible with a conventional film.  We can see the ripples of the limestone and the way the uneven surface serves to almost animate the images on the walls, especially when combined with the flickering shadows that must have accompanied their ceremonial use as religious totems.  Herzog, as usual, doesn’t so much have an idea about the paintings as he has a dozen questions to which he poses possible answers.  Who made the paintings and why and what does that say about us, about the urge to create?  His speculations lead him, again as usual, to some strange places, but any film that starts with 30,000 year old cave paintings and ends with albino alligators has to be doing something right.  The #14 film of 2010.
The Tale of Zatoichi – The first of a massive series of films about a blind samurai (charmingly played by Shintaru Katsu) who solves crimes (or something, this is the only one I’ve seen), its debt to Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo is obvious.  Like in that film, a wandering ronin comes to a town and is hired by one side of a local gang war.  The ronin here is blind, a masseur (a common profession for the blind in Japan, in the movies if not in reality) who is both jovial and cunning (he repeatedly plays on other people’s underestimation of him due to his blindness, not only in swordplay but in everyday tasks like gambling as well).  Unlike in Yojimbo (itself indebted to Dashiell Hammett), the ronin does not play both sides of the war against each other, instead he bonds with the ronin the rival gang has hired (who is dying of tuberculosis) and the two stand apart from the petty criminals who employ them by their samurai codes of honor and dignity.  That doesn’t prevent them from fighting, of course.  Zatoichi very much lives in the same world as Yojimbo‘s Sanjuro, but he’s a bit more amoral and a little bit more sentimental.  But the major difference between the two films is in the visual style, where Kurosawa’s meticulous genius imbues every shot with meaning and purpose and Zatoichi director Kenji Misumi performs a competent job filming his actors in a noiry, occasionally flashy black and white.  The #16 film of 1962.

The Pajama Game – Doris Day becomes a union leader at a pajama factory and attracts the eye of the company’s superintendent John Raitt (looking like Rene Auberjonois as a Lifetime movie villain).  Their romance complicates union negotiations, as the uppity Miss Day won’t know her place as a proper 1950s housewife.  Until she does when Raitt proves the company had been ripping off the workers even more than was previously thought.  The workers get their little raise, Day goes home to raise Raitt’s kids and everyone lives happily ever after.  The plot manages to combine the glories of capitalist patriarchy with all the excitement of union negotiations.  Ah, but there’s music.  A couple of pretty great numbers, choreographed by the man who can do no wrong, Bob Fosse.  The standout is Broadway actress Carol Haney (she danced with Fosse in the memorable number in Kiss Me Kate) and her two big numbers here, “Steam Heat” and “Hernando’s Hideaway”, which ends up somewhere between the finale from The Gang’s All Here and the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video, are exceptional.  In general though, this was a big disappointment coming from director Stanley Donen.  I’m going to blame his co-director George Abbott.  The #26 film of 1957.
Wait Until Dark – An effective thriller with a somewhat perplexingly out-sized reputation.  Audrey Hepburn plays a blind woman who’s apartment accidentally contains a MacGuffin wanted by a gang of criminals led by Alan Arkin.  The crooks play on her blindness in an attempt to either find the object or get her to give it to them, and there are plenty of solid suspense sequences built by director Terrence Young, the man behind two of the better James Bond films (From Russia with Love and Thunderball).  But other than that, there’s not a whole lot to appreciate here.  The plot rests on a card house of contrivances, which wouldn’t be too bad if there was more going on underneath.  This is the fundamental difference between Hitchcock and his imitators: with Hitch, the suspense was never enough, there was always another layer, a set of meanings beyond the visceral experiences technique and construction can provide.  Neither of Hepburn’s Hitchcockian films (this and Charade, which is much more fun, one of the most charming movies ever made) have the depth of even a middling Hitchcock.  Without that, there’s nothing to see here but a very frightened woman.  The #16 film of 1967.

Movie Roundup: Four DeMilles and a Lang Edition


Samson and Delilah – Victor Mature plays Samson and Hedy Lamarr Delilah in Cecil B. DeMille’s way way way overblown biblical epic.  Samson is the popular Jewish judge from the tribe of Dan who is engaged to a pretty young Philistine (played by Angela Lansbury).  But he attracts the eye of Lansbury’s sister, Delilah, a vicious, lusty girl who sets a riot in motion at their wedding feast which leads to Samson killing a bunch of people and Lansbury herself getting killed.  Samson becomes an anti-Philistine revolutionary cutting down bad guys left and right armed with a jawbone.  The local ruler, played by George Sanders, of course, conspires with Delilah to capture Samson.  She seduces him and gives him a haircut.  Brought to the Philistine temple in chains, Samson is tortured until he brings the whole thing crashing down in a spectacular finale.  The whole thing is pretty ridiculous, yet the sheer perversity of the Samson/Delilah relationship is fascinating.  Unfortunately, it all has to be sold by Lamarr, who is certainly up to the task, but Mature, in trying to portray Samson as the ultimate square, sacrifices the seediness he brought to another twisted relationship, that between him and Gene Tierney in Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture.  It’s important, of course, that Samson be virtuous and upstanding, but without the spark of illicit uncontrollable desire for Delilah, his actions come off as just plain stupid, rather than tragic.  It’s probably my least favorite DeMille film, feeling more like a dry run for the corny greatness of The Ten Commandments, and a far cry from the potent mix of religion and sex of his thirties bible movies.  The #24 film of 1949.

The Sign of the Cross – This is much more like it.  Not technically a bible movie, as it takes place during the early years of Christianity, when the small cult was trying to grow within the Roman Empire under Nero.  Frederic March plays a Roman prefect who becomes enamored with a young Christian girl named Mercia (really), despite his long-standing relationship with Nero’s wife Poppaea.  When March releases a couple of accused Christians on the girl’s behalf, Poppaea (played by Claudette Colbert at her most amorally luscious) arranges with a rival prefect to have the girl and the other Christians attacked and arrested.  March saves the girl, barely (the sequence of the soldiers descending on the large Christian prayer meeting is all the more terrifying for the very real feeling of persecuted brotherhood we get right before the arrows start to fly), and proposes to her, but she accuses him of just wanting her for sex.  Somehow they all end up at an orgy, which has some creepy and intense dance sequences as March tries and fails either to get Mercia to loosen up or face his own evil lusts and convert to her religion.  In the end, Nero, played by Charles Laughton as an imbecilic lunatic, has the Christians fed to the lions (and various other animals) in another spectacular finale.  This is probably DeMille’s greatest blend of the sacred and the profane, as sequences like a lesbian orgy dance and Claudette Colbert nude in a milk bath are balanced by scenes of genuine Christian belief and piety.  The mixture is as self-contradictory as it gets, at least if you happen to belong to the particularly prim version of Christianity that got the film banned and censored for years and years.  For the rest of us, it’s a whole lot of fun, and might reasonably be seen as an attempt to resolve the tension between body and spirit that has been so fundamental to the religion for two thousand years.  That, or DeMille is just a huge hypocrite: he wants us to root for both the Christians and the lions.  The #5 film of 1932.
Cleopatra – A less successful DeMille/Colbert collaboration tells the familiar story of the Egyptian queen and her two Roman lovers.  From the first meeting with Julius Caesar (smuggling herself in a carpet), to his assassination, to her affair with Marc Antony, the film offers few surprises, other than making Cleopatra a much bigger part of the story than she really was (it’s her who has a vision of Caesar’s impending death, for example).  Colbert is fine, but Warren William (as Caesar) and Henry Wilcoxon (as Antony) are pretty dull.  Actually, I’m having trouble remembering any real differences between this version and the Joseph L. Mankiewicz version with Elizabeth Taylor, other than that one is more than twice as long.  For once, someone topped DeMille in the overblowing department.  The #14 film of 1934.
The King of Kings – This film though is much different from its early 60s remake, which was directed by Nicholas Ray with Jesus as a Martin Luther King-style non-violent revolutionary.  HB Warner plays Jesus here, and DeMille plays the Passion story absolutely straight, except for a little prologue where we see Mary Magdalene being all whorey (kind of like in Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, except more flapperish).  Other than that, the film follows the various events pretty closely (many of the intertitles are direct quotes from the Gospels): Jesus performs some miracles, enters Jerusalem, gives some speeches, gets betrayed by Judas (who in this version is a monarchist who hopes to make Jesus King and conspires with Caiaphas and the Romans to have him arrested), meets with Pontius Pilate (always a great sequence, and here is no exception as Jesus calmly freaks Pilate out) is crucified and rises again (in Technicolor!).  It’s a heartfelt, moving and reasonable telling of the story, DeMille reportedly went out of his way to tone down the anti-Semitism that had been a fundamental part of Passion stories for centuries.  Though Caiaphas and the rest of the evil Jews are shown to be largely to blame for Jesus’s execution, DeMille makes sure to show that they were not representative of the Jews as a whole.  HB Warner, who played the druggist in It’s a Wonderful Life 20 years later, brings a real otherworldly quality to Jesus, which, along with DeMille giving him a heavenly glow in every scene, manages to be both ridiculous and totally convincing.  The #6 film of 1927.
The Indian Epic – In the late 50s and early 60s, massive costume epics by great old directors like William Wyler (Ben-Hur), Cecil B. DeMille (The Ten Commandments), Howard Hawks (The Land of the Pharaohs), Nicholas Ray (The King of Kings), Joseph L. Mankiewicz (Cleopatra), Anthony Mann (Spartacus, until he got fired), etc were all the rage.  The trend even spread to Germany, where Fritz Lang returned after almost three decades in Hollywood and managed to top them all with this film, a totally different kind of epic from a totally different kind of filmmaker from the DeMille films I’ve been discussing.  This two-part film (The Tiger of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb are the two titles, based on a novel by his ex-wife Thea von Harbou that had been previously filmed way back in 1921 by director Joe May from a Lang and von Harbou script) is about a German architect who is hired to build a temple for the local maharaja. On the way, he meets a dancer and saves her from a tiger.  He and the dancer, played by Debra Paget, fall in love, but she belongs to a religious order and will be given to the maharaja.  After various intrigues and setup and a sexy dance sequence, the two escape and are recaptured in the desert.  Brought back to the palace, they’re imprisoned just as the architect’s sister and her husband show up.  They in turn try to solve the mystery of her missing brother.  More intrigue, some mazes, another, sexier dance and wild animal attacks follow.  It’s a fantastic film, in the sense that all kinds of crazy things happen (at one point the lovers are saved by a helpful spider) and in that it’s just a tremendous amount of fun.  It’s the ultimate expression of Fritz Lang’s comic book side (and I don’t just mean the cartoonish version of India that probably should never be taken to have any relation to reality), where evil geniuses develop elaborate schemes for power and revenge, while young lovers struggle not merely to understand the nature of the trap they’re in, but that they’re even trapped at all.  The #9 film of 1959.