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What Was The Last Movie You Watched?

Julian Shellhammer

Practically Family
Messages
752
Super-Sleuth (1937) with Jack Oakie, Ann Sothern, and Eduardo Ciannelli, dir. by Benjamin Stoloff. Oakie plays an actor who appears as a detective in the movies, and Sothern is the publicity chief for the studio.
Someone begins threatening Oakie via poison pen letters. High-speed hijinks and over the top acting rush us through the 70 minutes of Oakie "solving" the mystery. Sadly, the repellant stereotype of the Black butler or valet is scattered throughout the picture, this time by Willie Best.
We were looking for a mystery or whodunnit when we selected this, and got a slapstick near-mystery.
 
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The Glass Wall from 1953 with Vittorio Gassman and Gloria Grahame


A man unjustly accused goes on the run from the law trying to find the one man who can exonerate him. Along the way, he meets a blonde who tries to help him in his quest.

No, it's not North By Northwest or Saboteur, but a short eighty-minute post-war noir that could have used Hitchcock's directing skills, but still works as a low-budget, if uneven effort with a bit too-much obvious political preaching.

A "displaced person," played by Vittorio Gassman, from the ravages of post-war Europe is held up at US immigration because he can't give enough information to have his friend located - the man who can provide the evidence he needs to gain entry to the United States. He met and helped this man in Europe during their brief relationship in the war.

So he escapes from immigration custody and begins a desperate search in Times Square because he knows his friend's first name is "Tom" and he's a musician who once played in some club in Times Square. Good luck with that, buddy.

He has to search from the shadows as the police have released his picture to the newspapers, which run it on their front pages for several days (it must have been the slowest news period ever in New York City). Increasing Gassman's desperation, he broke a few ribs in his escape, plus he has only a couple of dollars in his pocket.

Along the way, he befriends a barely scraping by young woman, played by Gloria Grahame, who tries to help, but she needs help almost as much as he does. Starring along with Gassman and Grahame is Times Square, where a mix of incredible on-location shots and background stock footage showcase all the luminous brilliance and human seediness of the streets of The Great White Way.

Stalking Gassman all the time are the police and immigration officers who, like the newspapers, seem to have nothing else to do for a few days but to chase down this one illegal immigrant.

All of this is just a set up for a few "message" scenes. In one, a kind stripper takes a hungry Gassman to her mother's apartment for dinner. The mother upbraids her arrogant "I'm an American" son who wants this "dirty immigrant" (Gassman) out of their apartment with this killer line, "your father was a 'dirty immigrant' too."

It's wonderful to hear, in this pre-politically-correct era, this close Hungarian family sling the term "Hunky" around at each other in a way that says, "hey, we get that some see us in this insulting way, but still, this is one great country even if it isn't perfect." My grandparents, all but one were immigrants or first-generation Americans, and their friends almost all felt this way, too, about both the insults (shrug, it's better than a pogrom, beating or death) and America (love it).

As the search intensifies owing to a "deportation" deadline, and in the second way-too-obvious "message" scene, Gassman runs into a pre-dawn, deserted UN building looking for the Human Rights Commission. There he gives a speech in desperation - a cri de coeur - to an empty chamber shouting how the world can't truly be free until every man, everywhere, has a safe home. Dear Lord, subtlety is not writer Ivan Tors nor director and writer Maxwell Shane's metier.

After that (spoiler alert), it's a chase to the roof of the UN (a Hitchcockian echo) followed by a last-minute save where Gassman is reunited with his friend. Once all the confusion is cleared up, he's allowed to stay in America and gets to kiss the blonde (Grahame). The Glass Wall is clunky, too obvious and preachy, but the story holds your attention with a strong assist from the acting talents of Gassman and Grahame.


N.B #1. It's both funny and sad to see the still-being-completed United Nations building held up as a beacon of hope for the world's human rights challenges.

N.B #2 For about five years, I lived a block away from the UN, so often, my old apartment building pops up in the background of many movies with a UN connection, but not this one.

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Worf

I'll Lock Up
Messages
5,018
Location
Troy, New York, USA
"The Abominable Dr. Phibes" - Finally saw this ole chestnut on Svengoolie from a couple of weeks ago. I'd seen bits and pieces of the sequel but never the original. As for the good doctor... as they said in one of my fave Sci-Fi flicks "I can tell that where he comes from they sure don't breed em for beauty!" Great grisly fun. Even with Vincent Price barely speaking 100 words. I've recorded the sequel, gonna watch that whenever I can pry Puddin' away from "The Vikings".

Worf
 
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15,919
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New York City
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Early Summer from 1951, a Japanese film with English subtitles


Acclaimed Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu seemed to make the same movie over and over again, except he didn't. Almost always about a "normal" post-war middle-class family who, usually, wants to marry off a daughter, Ozu's films explore different nuances and angles of the same broad story.

His pictures are more journeys than destinations. Ozu's filmmaking shines when looking at a regular family's day-to-day lives buffeted, as all families' lives are now and then, by the occasional big-decision or crisis moments.

For a Western audience, almost seven decades after these movies were made, not only do the stories hold up on their own, but they are greatly enhanced by the incredible window they provide into a post-war Japan: A country trying to regain its footing while finding a balance between older Japanese traditions and encroaching Western influences.

In Early Summer, the Mamiya family - a mother and father, their unmarried twenty-eight-year-old daughter, their married son, his wife and two young children - live happily together. While they bump into each other a bit as all inter-generational families living under the same roof will, they have no real problems other than their unmarried daughter, played by Setsuko Hara.

Hara is a young modern woman for 1951 Japan: she has a good office job, goes out and parties with her girlfriends (who drink like modern young girls, i.e., a lot) and is indifferent to marrying. But she is also respectful to her family, deferential in an of-that-time Japanese way and she does more than her share of housework, even helping out with her brother's children.

While the story is about the family's efforts to find Hara a husband - her boss and brother are trying to set her up with a successful forty-year-old bachelor - the movie's real joy is its view into this family where traditional-Japanese and modern-Western cultures are blending in a surprisingly harmonious way.

Men and women switch back and forth between Western and Japanese clothing seamlessly, even intraday. The young boys wear baseball hats, play with model trains and are pretty spoiled (in a very Western way), but equally know when to pull back and be respectful Japanese children.

Businessmen blend American and Japanese approaches (this is three-plus decades before the West will try to copy the "Japanese model" for business success). Social events, from birthday parties to weddings, have both 1950s-American and traditional-Japanese customs, all somehow comfortably entwined.

Eastern-versus-Western values, though, drive the movie's central conflict that begins when the family tries to set Hara up in the old way of relatives finding her a match. Once the prospect's background has been researched and approved by the family, Hara is supposed to accept its decision, but, and this is the rub, she keeps putting it off.

In most American (although, not-Wasp) families, this major disagreement would be openly argued about with, in some households, plenty of yelling and door slamming. But in Japan in 1951, disagreement is, often avoided and, then, only discussed in nothing more than some harsh tones at critical moments.

For most of the time, it's ignored or only referenced indirectly. While modern Western psychology, with its belief in never leaving a thought unsaid or an emotion unexpressed, avers this is unhealthy, the Japanese approach allows the family to function pleasantly, day to day, even during times of meaningful disagreement.

(Spoiler alert for the next two paragraphs) In the climax, Hara cuts the Gordian Knot by rejecting the family-approved suitor at the same time she agrees, without consulting the family, to marry a family friend and widower.

The family is flummoxed, as they all seem hurt that their choice was rejected. Yet they are also cautiously happy that Hara is getting married to a good man, although they are a bit put off because he has a child from his first marriage.

Early Summer works because it has a good story driven by complex characters whom you quickly come to care about. It is equally enjoyable as time travel to a post-war Japan. Less than a decade after WWII ended, Japan was already on its way to somehow blending traditional Japanese values with modern Western ones into an incredibly successful cultural, social and economic model.
 

basbol13

A-List Customer
Messages
444
Location
Illinois
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Martyrs is a 2008 psychological horror film written and directed by Pascal Laugier. An international co-production of France and Canada, the film follows Lucie and Anna, played by Mylène Jampanoï and Morjana Alaoui, respectively, in which Lucie's quest to seek revenge on the people who abducted and tortured her as a child leads her and Anna, also a victim of abuse, into a spiral of something much more sinister.
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
23,541
Location
London, UK
The Little Stranger (2018).

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt6859762/

Based on a novel by Sarah Waters (who also wrote Tipping the Velvet, as memory serves, and is an alumnus of the university at which I teach). I selected it at random on Britbox because it features Domhnall Gleeson in the lead. Loungers may remember him from his turns in the Harry Potter franchise or the recent Star Wars films. He is one of the sons of the legendary Brendan Gleeson, a favourite of mine since The Treaty in 1991. A horror picture, specifically surrounding a poltergeist. Not one for those looking for gore or jump scares, this is very much more an atmospheric piece. Slow-paced, and works all the better for it, very creepy. Gleeson plays a young doctor from working class origins, returned to the Warwickshire village where he grew up, and become involved with the family in the local manor house at which his mother once worked as a servant. Some interesting meditations on class consciousness and difference among the rationalism versus spirituality aspects. The narrative is set in the immediate post-war years at a time when the final collapse of most of the Big Houses was in swing. Also uncertain times for the doctor as the new National Health Service has been mooted but not yet rolled out or detailed. Will Poulter's turn as an upper class, ex-RAF pilot, horribly burned during the war and suffering severely from what we'd now call PTSD in such a period when mental health was much less well understood is also very nicely done, a significant break from Poulter's usual fayre, and a very strong performance. Aside from all else, it looks beautiful. All key players occupy the period clothing in what seems a very natural manner, which really helps immersion in the story.
 

Worf

I'll Lock Up
Messages
5,018
Location
Troy, New York, USA
"War of the Worlds" - 1953 - I know that the remakes "Tripods" are more as described in the book (which I've read several times) but George Pal's FXs in this one are timeless. Gene Barry's alright in the lead, fluctuating between sheer terror and giddy nerdlike fascination with the Martian tech. Not a fan of the female lead who, despite being a scientist herself, spends the entire movie cringing and screaming. Other than that I still love this film. The sound effects will never leave my head.

Worf
 

basbol13

A-List Customer
Messages
444
Location
Illinois
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Stardust starts off Jim McLaine (David Essex) is working at a carnival in England where business is slow that night, as it is Nov. 22, 1963. In the background is Neil Sedaka singing "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen". McLaine meets an old friend (Adam Faith) and tells him the little rock and roll band he's in needs a road manager. Faith sees opportunity and molds the band known as the Stray Cats into a vehicle for Jim McLaine. There are so many great and true to life moments in this movie, the early recording sessions, Faith's behind the scenes maneuvering, Larry Hagman arriving when the Stray Cats make it big to muscle in on things, and Jim McLaine's typical 1960's rock and roll odyssey. Essex and Faith are excellent and it's a still relevant This picture is a sequel to That'll Be the Day, which is more about McLaine's coming of age in early 60's England, that is a great movie in it's own right, but the two can be watched independently of each other.
You get to see Keith Moon and Dave Edmonds and Adam Faith
 
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Blondie of the Follies from 1932 with Marion Davies, James Gleason, Billie Dove, Robert Montgomery and Jimmy Durante


Director Edmund Goulding packs so much melodrama into this engaging ninety-minute picture that it almost feels like everyone's acting on speed.

Marion Davies, the titular Blondie of Blondie of the Follies, is a poor Irish girl from the Bronx who, much to the dismay of her strict but kind old-school father, played by James Gleason, leaves home to join her life-long frenemy from the neighborhood, played by Billie Dove, in the Ziegfeld Follies.

That wouldn't be so bad, but very quickly, like Dove, Davies "acquires" a rich boyfriend - a middle aged tycoon played by Douglas Dumbrille - who installs her as a kept woman in a luxurious Park Avenue apartment.

Amping everything up, Robert Montgomery plays Dove's boyfriend who has tired of her just in time to fall in love with Davies. With that set up, the fur flies everywhere.

Early on, Davies' dad, Gleason, is disgusted by his daughter's new lifestyle and forbids her from continuing in the Follies, which prompts Davies to leave home in the first place. That would be a by-the-numbers story until, sometime later, Gleason shows up at Davies' apartment to make up.

It's a touching scene handled with poignant nuance by Gleason as you watch a dad realize he has to let his adult daughter make her own decisions or he'll lose her forever.

He's torn as he hates her new lifestyle, but he loves her so much he knows he just has to swallow it because he wants them to still have a relationship. Davies, matching Gleason's emotion and nuance, gets it; she loves her dad and hates that she's doing this to him, but she's gotta live her own life. It's 1932, but it's a timeless conflict sensitively handled.

Not sensitively handled, but instead handled with the raw passion many frenemy relationships have, Davies and Dove go round after round: "I hate you, you're jealous of me," "I could steal your boyfriend if I wanted him," only to, then, make up: "we'll always be friends," "I didn't mean what I just said."

They don't stop at just words, however, as they also throw punches and roll around on the floor fighting; whatever these two have means something to them. Davies and Dove left nothing in the locker room with their performances in this one.

Driving their anger now, though, is Montgomery in one of his better roles as a wealthy Wall Street playboy who falls hard for Davies. Yet Davies resists out of loyalty to Dove. Plus, she doesn't really believe Montgomery is in love with her; she thinks she's just the flavor of the month to him.

Montgomery's character is very real as he's neither hero nor villain; he's just a man who no longer loves one woman and believes he's found true love with another. Yet, he doesn't go all mushy on Davies; instead, he argues more like a man of finance would that his decision is a logical one. It's a fine bit of understated acting from a big star of the 1930s who has been nearly forgotten today.

The climax of Blondie of the Follies smashes a lot together in a hurry, with a final father-daughter scene, a A Separate Peace style frenemies brutal act and Montgomery taking one more shot at convincing Davies that he's sincere and they belong together.

Blondie of the Follies has some early talkies' cluckiness and several of the actors have yet to drop their silent-film mannerisms, but its frank and, oftentimes, modern look at families, morality and friendships gives it a contemporary feel despite its passé style. Plus, it's revealing to see that no one really pays for all the "immorality" in the movie, since the Motion Picture Production Code hadn't yet been enforced.


N.B. Tucked inside Blondie of the Follies is an incredible inside-Hollywood moment. In a scene set at a party in Davies' Park Avenue apartment, Jimmy Durante shows up out of nowhere playing just another partygoer. He and Davies then begin parodying Greta Garbo and John Barrymore from Grand Hotel (which had been released earlier that year). It's Hollywood playfully mocking itself in a way it rarely did back then. Since all four actors - Davies, Garbo, Barrymore and Durante - were MGM stars, you assume it was okayed by everyone involved, but still, it is something to see.

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Who?

A-List Customer
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Vernon, CT
“Red Hill”, an Australian western.

Before that, “The Man from Snowy River” and sequel, and “The Proposition”

I’ve been on an Australian thing for a month or so.

(lots of good hats)
 
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Blind Date from 1934 with Ann Sothern, Neil Hamilton and Paul Kelly


Early on, you think you have this one figured out, only to slowly realize you might be wrong. Blind Date starts out, as so many 1930s movies do, with a family just scraping by in the Depression (in an unrealistically nice apartment) on the daughter's paycheck.

The daughter, played by Ann Sothern, is engaged to a local boy, played by Paul Kelly, who spends all his time trying to get his just-opened auto-repair shop up and running. So much so, he ends up neglecting Sothern who, in anger, goes out on a blind date where she meets Batman's Commissioner Gordon.

Okay, he's actor Neil Hamilton and won't play Commissioner Gordon on the TV series Batman for another three decades, but it's still fun as heck to see him as a young man here playing the playboy scion of a department store empire.

Sothern falls for Hamilton and drops Kelly, but the "smart" viewer figures the rest of the movie will be Sothern learning that Hamilton, despite his money, is really a cad and Kelly is the good guy she should marry...fade to credits.

Blind Date doesn't make it that easy, though, as after Hamilton does play the cad, Sothern drops him, but resists going back to the open arms of Kelly. Then, when Sothern loses her job, Kelly quietly keeps her family afloat by hiring her Dad.

Hamilton, meanwhile, realizes he truly loves Sothern and fights his upper-class family's pressure to forget her, while Sothern is fighting her down-and-out family's pressure to marry the good guy "from her class" Kelly.

Wait, isn't Sothern suppose to realize, on her own, that Kelly is the good guy she should marry and isn't Hamilton suppose to move on to the next pretty young thing his money can attract?

That's the setup that Blind Date rebuffs as we slowly see that both Hamilton and Kelly sincerely love Sothern who, surprisingly, seems to really love Hamilton: this is not the love triangle we signed up for.

Amping up the pressure, Sothern, mainly out of familial duty because Kelly is, de facto, supporting all of them, agrees to marry Kelly, but her heart's not in it. Further increasing the pressure on Sothern, Sothern's Dad makes a mistake at work that injures Kelly, leaving Sothern even more in debt to him.

You really don't know how this one is going to end until the climax. There's a little Hollywood hokum at work in the resolution, but there's also some true character growth in several of the principals. Credit to Sothern, Hamilton, Kelly and Sothern's sister, played with youthful verve by Joan Gale, for performances that capture their characters' nuanced changes.

Blind Date, as was the norm then, rips through a lot of engaging story in its seventy-two minutes. But it is the movie's atypical take on the standard love triangle that elevates this seemingly run-of-the-mill Depression picture above many of its peers.
 
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Nightmare Alley last night. We weren’t impressed and barely entertained. We expected so much more and kept waiting for it to get better but it didn’t.
:D

I assume you mean the recently made version. I want to see it just cause, but am waiting for it to pop up on some service I already have as comments like yours tell me I can be patient.
 
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12,645
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Northern California
I assume you mean the recently made version. I want to see it just cause, but am waiting for it to pop up on some service I already have as comments like yours tell me I can be patient.
Yes, you are correct. Thank you for pointing that out. I have now corrected that. We were patient too just because something about the previews didn’t do it for me. Saw it was on HBO Max, it was hot outside, so why not. Should’ve gone outside.
:D
 

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
Messages
5,108
Location
Hudson Valley, NY
I was also quite disappointed with Nightmare Alley. I think del Toro is an outstanding, visionary director and I've liked/loved many of his earlier films. But this one, despite a solid cast and gorgeous production design, really did nothing for me.

And I gotta say: part of it is Bradley Cooper - after watching 20 years of his performances, I don't think this guy can act his way out of a paper bag. With such a weak actor in the critical central role, sure, the film has got problems.
 
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12,645
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I was also quite disappointed with Nightmare Alley. I think del Toro is an outstanding, visionary director and I've liked/loved many of his earlier films. But this one, despite a solid cast and gorgeous production design, really did nothing for me.

And I gotta say: part of it is Bradley Cooper - after watching 20 years of his performances, I don't think this guy can act his way out of a paper bag. With such a weak actor in the critical central role, sure, the film has got problems.
I am starting to feel the same about del Toro’s films as I do about Tim Burton flicks. Both directors turned out enjoyable films early on, but not so much later on. The visuals still tend to be nicely done, but the stories and acting are hit and miss. :D
 

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