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What Was The Last Movie You Watched?

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This Side of the Law from 1950 with Kent Smith, Robert Douglas, Viveca Lindfors, Janice Paige and John Alvin


Movies can hold together, even be classics, with convoluted stories and unbelievable twists. But to do so, the characters must be incredibly engaging, so much so, you don't care about all the unbelievable stuff because you just enjoy seeing the characters do their thing.

Many of Hitchcock's classics worked this way: does To Catch a Thief really make sense? Who cares because Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, with big assists from John Williams and Jessie Royce Landis, are so engaging as cat burglars, heiresses, nervous insurance agents, etc. that you don't even have time to notice all the plot holes and other silliness going on until you've seen the movie a few times.

This Side of the Law needed more engaging characters to overcome its convoluted story and unbelievable twists, but unfortunately, you only kinda care about some of its characters and, then, only some of the time.

The elements of a good 1950s-style "gothic" mystery are here in This Side of the Law including a creepy old mansion (with a cool, foreboding name, Sans Souci, meaning "without care") set on a high cliff, an unexplained missing patriarch, a bunch of sardonic relatives hanging around for a will/estate to be settled, a threatening dog and a polished family lawyer. But the story doesn't really hold together.

At the opening, with actor Kent Smith narrating in a desperate and defeated tone, we see Smith struggling to escape from an old and deep cistern. Through flashbacks, he explains the events that led him to his present precarious position.

It started when Smith, after being arrested for vagrancy, is approached by a lawyer - the lawyer for the family from the mansion - played by Robert Douglas. Seeing that Smith is a doppelganger for the family's missing patriarch, Douglas hatches the incredibly crazy plan to have Smith impersonate the man.

Douglas tells Smith he's doing it so that the missing man's wife (and presumed widow), played by Viveca Lindfors, will inherit the estate that her husband's brother and sister-in-law (played by John Alvin and Janice Paige) are trying to steal.

Our first clue as to what is really going on is that honest lawyers don't operate this way. Yet off Smith goes, as the missing patriarch, to the creepy mansion where he is, surprisingly, immediately accepted as the long-lost relative.

Smith, then, struggles to put the pieces of the story together as his estranged wife, Lindfors, wants nothing to do with her now-returned husband, his effete brother, Alvin, hates him and his viperish sister-in-law, Paige, clearly up to no good, wants to resume the affair they were having before the man Smith is impersonating disappeared.

With that convoluted and unbelievable set up, the human chess game is on as Alvin and Paige maneuver for control of the estate with Smith, as the patriarch, now back in the picture. At the same time, Douglas, through his occasional communications with Smith, tries to pull the strings from behind the scenes. Douglas clearly wants to get his hands on the estate's money.

Smith begins to fall for the aloof and hostile Lindfors, one, because she's arrestingly beautiful and, two, because she seems to be the only decent person in the family. But he's got the cunning sister-in-law coming on to him, his feeble but angry brother lurking in the background and conniving Douglas telling him what to do.

The climax - with a few murders and attempted murders driven by the evil sister-in-law, the weak brother and the greedy lawyer - at first leaves Smith in the cistern and later brings in the police and a too-easy and too-ridiculous resolution.

This Side of the Law could have overcome its plot-hole-filled story if the viewer had become truly vested in any of the characters. Smith, an excellent actor in supporting roles, is not strong enough here to carry the picture as the lead.

Douglas and Paige as the villains never become people you truly and deliciously hate; they are just off-the-shelf bad guys saying dialogue. Although, Paige does have a good moment or two of chilling on-screen nastiness.

The real opportunity lost here is Swedish import Viveca Lindfors. She has a sympathetic screen gentleness that, along with her quiet beauty, should have had us rooting for her. But her role is too small and her best scenes come too late for us to really engage with her character. One wonders why she didn't, eventually, have a bigger Hollywood career.

This Side of the Law has too many plot flaws and too many unbelievable twists - especially the ease with which Smith is accepted by a family that would know him intimately - to be a truly engaging movie, especially with a cast that is only okay.

Despite its many flaws, though, This Side of the Law is an entertaining enough seventy-two minutes, but you can't help seeing that there was a better movie here with a stronger lead, some thoughtful editing/rewriting of the script and a director who brought more of the story and character development forward.
 

steve u

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iowa
Martin Scorsese's Silence (2016) Starring Andrew Garfield ,Adam Driver and Liam Neeson with an outstanding Japanese cast.
Edit: Being raised in an American Christian family, now living in a Japanese household, this movie was interesting.
 
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Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
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Hudson Valley, NY
Silence is a very good, deadly serious film. It's my favorite movie directed by Marty in YEARS, a nice change from his more familiar, more flamboyant work. Like all his films, it's still about a bunch of dickish men fighting for control of their lives, but its somber priests make a nice change from his usual gangsters and hustlers.
 

steve u

A-List Customer
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352
Location
iowa
Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky (Eye surgeon recommended last month) 1979 film
Visually this movie was VERY interesting(in a good way). Some movies are purely to entertain, this movie made me think.
What would happen if your ONE deepest desire came true. Blessing or curse?
Reading how this movie made was just as interesting.
 
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15,727
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New York City
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Rockabye from 1932 with Constance Bennett, Paul Lukas and Joel McCrea


Even for a pre-code, Rockabye mixes in an awful lot of soap suds and "controversial" subject matter for one movie. It doesn't fully work as there's no one focal point, but Constance Bennett, near her career peak, along with Paul Lukas and Joel McCrea make it worth the watch.

Bennett plays a girl whom we are told comes from the poor part of town. Under the tutelage of her manager, played by Paul Lukas, she has "reinvented" herself into a proper lady and Broadway star. Lukas is carrying a torch for Bennett, but she doesn't know it.

When the movie opens, we see successful Bennett's public image take a hit as a former boyfriend, played by a very young Walter Pidgeon, is on trial for a shady political deal. At that trial, it is all but stated that they were having an affair at a time when, publicly at least, that was a big deal.

We then learn that single Bennett had just adopted a baby girl, whom we see she deeply loves. But the adoption agency, since the adoption had not yet been finalized, takes the baby back owing to the negative publicity of the trial.

After a trip abroad to get over things, Bennett comes back to start work on a new play by a young, handsome and well-bred playwright, played by Joel McCrea. While she was abroad, Lucas, against everything that is normal today, arranges with the new parents of Bennett's formerly adopted baby for Bennett to spend a day with the child from time to time.

In quick order, we see Lukas continuing to pine for Bennett as Bennett falls in love with McCrea, who then joins Bennett on one of her days with the baby girl in an awkward "don't we make a nice family" scene that is kinda creepy.

Amping up the melodrama, McCrea asks Bennett to marry him, um, er, uh, once his divorce is finalized. Bennett tosses aside the normal concern about marrying a man getting divorced at the same time he's planning his next marriage. She and McCrea vow to have many babies.

That would be enough plot twists and soap suds for most movies, but Rockabye has one more big one when McCrea's mother shows up to tell Bennett that McCrea's wife just gave birth. McCrea didn't know his wife was pregnant when they decided to divorce, but now that he has a son, the mother wants Bennett to step aside so that McCrea isn't separated from his new baby.

The climatic scene has Bennett at a party celebrating the success of her new play, the one written by McCrea, but while everyone is applauding her performance, Bennett is faced with the gut-wrenching decision of whether or not she will stand between McCrea and his new son.

It's too much story to hold together as threads are opened, but then, dropped or not fully developed. The ex-boyfriend angle is interesting, but never explored. Bennett's humble beginnings don't really play into her climatic decision. Lucas' unrequited love is left, well, unrequited.

Despite all that, Bennett shines as the Broadway star who hasn't forgotten where she comes from as she gets to sing, dance and do slapstick all with engaging verve. Lukas puts in his usual professional performance and McCrea is in his sweet spot as the hunky boy-toy, but it's not enough to overcome the challenges.

Rockabye is a story in need of a rewrite to tighten up or trim away its loose ends and to give the movie a more-cohesive narrative arc. The actors are enjoyable to see and there are several interesting themes, but Rockabye never fully gels, leaving the viewer watching a movie whose parts are better than the whole.
 

AmateisGal

I'll Lock Up
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6,002
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Nebraska
Super happy that my favorite classic movie actor, Dana Andrews, is the Star of the Month on TCM for July.

Tonight's films include two of my favorites: Laura and State Fair. I own both on DVD and have seen both multiple times. Will that stop me from watching them on TCM again? Nope.
 

Edward

Bartender
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23,253
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London, UK
Super happy that my favorite classic movie actor, Dana Andrews, is the Star of the Month on TCM for July.

Tonight's films include two of my favorites: Laura and State Fair. I own both on DVD and have seen both multiple times. Will that stop me from watching them on TCM again? Nope.

Just as long as those prunes don't give him the runes again....
 
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12,637
Location
Northern California
Act of Violence (1949) on TCM right now. I noticed that Robert Ryan was starring in it so I figured I would give it a shot. I became a Robert Ryan fan a few years back. It’s not that I think that his acting is particularly great. I think it is more the character or vibe he puts off that made him entertaining to me. I came in about thirty minutes late, but once again the gritty shots of yesteryear have caught my attention and I am hooked.
:D
 

belfastboy

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8,441
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vancouver, canada
Tulip Fever......another movie devoid of evoking any sympathy in me for any of the characters. The "look" of the movie was great, costumes, street scenes were impeccable, acting very good but in the end I cared nothing for the characters. All artifice no human connection.......or am I just becoming sclerotic in my dotage?
 
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Ann Carver's Profession from 1933 with Fay Wray and Gene Raymond


You have to marvel at fate. In the 1930s, talented actress Fay Wray played a variety of interesting and engaging characters, but she will always be known for having flirted with one famous furry beast. There are worse things than being immortalized for your role in a cinematic classic like King Kong, but still, Ms. Wray's career was about more than just one bad date.

In Ann Carver's Profession, Ms. Wray displays passion, talent and screen presence. It doesn't hurt that she is arrestingly beautiful, but she's not coasting on her looks. Like her co-star, Gene Raymond, her thoughtful performance rises above the melodrama of the material.

Ms. Wray plays the titular Ann Carver, a pretty coed who marries her big-man-on-campus football-hero boyfriend played by Gene Raymond. After graduation, they move to New York where he gets a job as a junior architect, while she, despite having passed the bar, becomes a homemaker.

They are happy but struggling on his small salary until, in a twist that only happens in movies, she all but stumbles into a law career and, in seemingly only months, becomes a celebrity trial lawyer with a corner office.

As the money pours in, the couple moves to a fancy apartment with all the usual luxurious accoutrements. Raymond seems genuinely happy for his wife, but can't help feeling unimportant as his small raises and successes at work appear meaningless next to his wife's outsized achievements.

In the next only-in-a-movie twist, Raymond, desperate to make money to feel more equal to his wife, accepts a lucrative offer to be a singer in a nightclub, an offer made because his college football career still has public currency. Until now, Raymond had tried to downplay his football past as he wanted to succeed on his talent as an architect alone.

Wray, passionately enjoying being a high-profile lawyer and no longer attuned to her husband's emotional struggle, is angry that his "silly" new career will be an embarrassment to her professional reputation.

There's one more really crazy only-in-a-movie climatic twist that leaves Raymond in need of his wife's professional talents to save him. It's ridiculous and forced, but so is the movie's ensuing ending that, disappointingly, seems more like a code-era wrap-up.

Despite covering a lot of ground in seventy minutes, the melodramatic story is handled with surprising nuance owing to smart directing and writing and the talents of the two leads. We see and understand how Wray, over time, becomes insensitive to her husband's predicament as the pressures of her job leave her with less bandwidth for their marriage.

Equally nuanced, Raymond isn't a stereotypical bruised-ego husband, at first, but a man whose self respect is slowly eroded. He is happy for his wife, but after enduring a series of small indignities, you feel him disappearing and desperate to regain some self esteem. It's one of Gene Raymond's most thoughtful performances.

Ann Carver's Profession is a pre-code, not about pre-code movies' favorite subject, sex, but about a woman with a career drive. At times, Wray is a pure Type A personality, while her husband is the, mainly, passive one in the relationship. It's a wonderful pre-code flip on the typical "husband ignores his wife because of his stressful job" story.

Had the movie had the courage of its convictions, it would have ended differently, but still, it's an overall honest look at the challenges faced by a two-career marriage. Despite cultural differences, as to be expected in a nearly ninety-year-old movie, Ann Carver's Profession still has something to say to our modern, mainly, two-career-marriage world.
 

Worf

I'll Lock Up
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4,984
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Troy, New York, USA
With Covid "at bay" for the moment, I'm back driving Seniors to the movies. Today's matinee was "Minions- The Rise of Gru". I must say, I went in expecting little (the last Despicable Me film was absolute rubbage) but I was pleasantly surprised. First, it had a plot, an actual plot that they stuck to for 2 thirds of the movie. Second, minimal "fart Jokes" and butt crackage. There was some but much less than in previous films. Third, the movie was/is laugh out loud funny. More so for folks that remember the 70's but there was plenty of chuckles for everyone. I had a great time. Considering the grim world we live in, fluff like this has it's place. I needed a good laugh and got it!

Worf
 

AmateisGal

I'll Lock Up
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6,002
Location
Nebraska
Born Yesterday with Judy Holliday and William Holden. Such a delightful movie. I love Judy Holliday!

Now watching It Should Happen to You! with Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon.
 

Edward

Bartender
Messages
23,253
Location
London, UK
With Covid "at bay" for the moment, I'm back driving Seniors to the movies. Today's matinee was "Minions- The Rise of Gru". I must say, I went in expecting little (the last Despicable Me film was absolute rubbage) but I was pleasantly surprised. First, it had a plot, an actual plot that they stuck to for 2 thirds of the movie. Second, minimal "fart Jokes" and butt crackage. There was some but much less than in previous films. Third, the movie was/is laugh out loud funny. More so for folks that remember the 70's but there was plenty of chuckles for everyone. I had a great time. Considering the grim world we live in, fluff like this has it's place. I needed a good laugh and got it!

Worf

You escaped disruption by the "Gentleminions" trend? I'm keen to see this one (I liked all the DMs, and the first Minions spin-off was pop-culture genius), though I hope I don't end up being unable to hear it with a bunch of those kids in. (Sooner or later somebody will see the profit in having a specific screening where audience participation is encouraged, and then I suppose we'll see whether it really is an organic fan-cult with staying power, or more about kids enjoying causing disrupting an otherwise 'normal' cinema screening.)



The Princess Bride for probably the thousandth time in my life. I love this movie. My daughter (she's 22) is reading the book and wanted to watch the movie again. It is an absolute classic.

I've never read the book, though I enjoyed the film. I wish someone had thought to get Peter Falk to record it as an audio book before too late...
 
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New York City
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The Lineup from 1958 with Robert Keith, Eli Wallach and Emile Meyer


The Lineup is a solid entry in the popular 1950s crime-drama genre with the added fun of it practically being a travelogue of mid-century San Francisco.

After a suitcase is stolen from a passenger alighting in San Francisco from a ship just in from Hong Kong, followed by the crook being killed in a car crash trying to get away, two detectives discover heroin hidden in an inexpensive chinese statuette in the luggage.

Realizing they are on to a potentially huge heroin ring that uses passengers as unwitting drug mules, the two detectives begin their investigation. The Lineup, though, quickly shifts perspective to the two "professionals" hired by the mob to collect the heroin from the unsuspecting carriers.

Foreshadowing Tarantino, director Don Siegel personalized the two hired guns. The older one, a worn-out professional looking to retire, played by Robert Keith, is training his replacement, played by Eli Wallach, but we come to see that, while Keith is a cold-blooded professional, Wallach is psychotic. (Director Don Siegel explored a similar mobster dynamic in his 1964 movie The Killers, comments here: #28,518 )

As Keith and Wallach try to "collect the merchandise," they leave a trail of dead bodies because each "pick up" goes awry. With the police, unknown to Keith and Wallach, getting close based on the too-many clues they've left in their wake, they kidnap the last drug mule - a mother and young daughter - because the daughter unwittingly found and destroyed the heroin.

Wallach takes these two to "the man" to explain why they are "short," i.e., can't deliver all the heroin they are supposed to, but Godfather-like, "the man" has no interest in explanations telling Wallach, effectively, you failed and you're dead. Psychotic Wallach panics, kills "the man," and then tries to escape San Francisco, but just as he gets back to the car, the police close in.

It's now Wallach, Keith, their two hostages and their suffering-from-alcohol-withdrawal driver speeding away in their souped-up Chevy from an ever-growing number of chasing police cars and upcoming roadblocks.

It would be eclipsed ten-year later in Bullitt, but for 1958, it's one heck-of-good, climatic car-chase scene using the wonderful hills and iconic background of San Francisco to maximum effect.

It's also like everything else in the Lineup where the thoughtful characterization of the criminals, the messy morality and the slower buildup to the action scenes foreshadows the changing approach Hollywood was just starting to take toward mob movies.

The Lineup's story, itself, is reasonably enjoyable, but what really works is Wallach and Keith as an early incarnation of crooks you don't root for, but still see as complex characters with an engaging interpersonal dynamic who are, oddly, just trying to do their (insane and illegal) jobs.


N.B. The movie The Lineup is an early example of a successful TV show, The Lineup, which ran on CBS from 1954 to 1960, being turned into a theatrical movie. Almost everything is older than you think.
 

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