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What Was The Last Movie You Watched?

Edward

Bartender
Messages
23,730
Location
London, UK
Two films last night, both in the horror genre.

X, is a picture right out of the 70s made in 2022. An extremely well done pastiche of 70s genre pictures. Centres on a group of young people who go to Texas to make a porn film, where they cross the wrong locals. There are a couple of sex scenes and a touch of nudity if that's not your thing (though in keeping with the era in which it is set, it's tamer than the average Game of Thrones scene, and not as explicit as anything amouting to actual porn). Mixed feeling about the ultimate villain depending on how you interpret it: either she's suffering from dementia with tragic consequences, or she's a clever subversion of what people expect from a little old lady. I suspect the latter is more the intention. Otherwise, it's a fairly standard "arrogant young people go to the wrong place with their Modern Ways and get themselves in trouble they should have avoided" trope. Very much in a similar vein, albeit with less cartoony antagonists, as the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What really impresses, though, is how well they pastiche the look and feel of a period piece. One could easily believe this to actually have been made in the year in which it is set - 1979. I've not seen that aspect done so well in a film since David Lynch's 1980 picture The Elephant Man, which perfectly pulled off the illusion of being a film made several decades prior to its actual creation.

Broil (2020) is another thing altogether. A mysterious family, dominated by a resented patriarch, meet for a family meal that becomes a showdown. It's a sort of vampire picture, but so much more. Very nicely done. though (in a similar vein to, say, Kill List it will require several rewatchings, I suspect, in order to fully grasp some of the non-linear plot details. An interesting piece, though, and well put together. One which ultimately covers some very dark aspects of humanity via characters who are less - or, depending on your view, more - than human.
 
Messages
16,057
Location
New York City
thinganotherworldhd_pub.png

The Thing from Another World from 1951 with Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Douglas Spencer and Robert Cornthwaite


Today, to fully fully appreciate The Thing from Another World, it helps to understand that the sci-fi/horror-movie genre, at the time, was inchoate. It also helps to understand that era's political and cultural context: the free world had just defeated two empires bent on global domination and a new "Cold War" against another totalitarian nation had just started.

All that "film study" insight is interesting (maybe), but the best thing about The Thing from Another World is you can ignore all the egghead stuff and just enjoy the movie as a ripping good action tale.

Director Christian Nyby and uncredited co-writer and director Howard Hawks packed a lot of sci-fi, philosophy, low-budget special effects, action and, even, romance into this fast-moving ninety-minute picture.

At an Arctic military and scientific-research outpost, a spacecraft is discovered buried in the ice. When an attempt to uncover it destroys the craft, all that is salvaged is one believed-to-be-dead alien. The alien is brought back to the station where it's mistakenly thawed and, then, it goes on the attack.

The rest of the movie is the outpost trying to defend itself from the "monster." It's a perfect setup as the isolation of the base, including spotty radio communication with "headquarters," forces the captain of the small military force and the base's lead scientist to make decisions on the fly.

The military wants to destroy "the monster" as quickly as possible as military men are trained to kill existential threats. The scientists want to find a way to communicate with it as they are trained to spot opportunities to expand mankind's knowledge. It's not a stretch from there to see parallels to the, at the time, aborning Cold War.

As opposed to modern "message" movies, The Thing from Another World presents both sides of the argument quickly and reasonably fairly, which leaves you wanting to study the alien, but you don't want everyone to die trying.

It's a balanced view exposing the complexity of the decision: something today's agenda-driven filmmakers, despite all our modern "sophistication," rarely do.

The special effects - thermite bombs and electricity as weapons - were cool for the time. Today, despite feeling hokey, they also provide a neat look at 1950s technology.

Yet nothing matters in a movie if you don't care about the characters, so Hawks and team created several reasonably engaging ones. The captain of the military force, played by Kenneth Tobey, is in the mold of the square-jawed, courageous leader that ruled moviedom for several decades, but he brings enough self-doubt and modesty to have you rooting for him.

It doesn't hurt that Toby's character is also in the middle of a romance with one of the few women on the team's scientific staff, played by Margaret Sheridan with the smart sexiness you'd expect from a Hollywood-conceived woman working at an Arctic research base.

Her ability to simultaneously convey intelligence and prurience makes you wonder why Sheridan didn't have more of a career in movies.

Rounding out the leads are Douglas Spencer as a war-weary and humorously sarcastic news correspondent trying to get "the greatest story of our time" out to the public and Robert Cornthwaite as the conflicted head of the scientific research program.

The Thing from Another World raises questions of morals and ethics about alien lifeforms that have been debated by sci-fi movies and TV shows ever since, but it never loses sight of its primary mission to entertain.

So while it puts your brain to work a bit, you can also enjoy The Thing From Another World as simply a darn good action-adventure story. You really can't ask more of a sci-fi movie that, while dated in many ways, has also aged pretty well.

MV5BMzMyZGQ0MmEtNWNiNC00NjAxLTliZjYtYWY4ZGRhYzdkYjk0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTAyNDQ2NjI@._V1_.jpg
 

The one from the North

Familiar Face
Messages
63
Location
Finland
View attachment 467548
The Thing from Another World from 1951 with Kenneth Tobey, Margaret Sheridan, Douglas Spencer and Robert Cornthwaite


Today, to fully fully appreciate The Thing from Another World, it helps to understand that the sci-fi/horror-movie genre, at the time, was inchoate. It also helps to understand that era's political and cultural context: the free world had just defeated two empires bent on global domination and a new "Cold War" against another totalitarian nation had just started.

All that "film study" insight is interesting (maybe), but the best thing about The Thing from Another World is you can ignore all the egghead stuff and just enjoy the movie as a ripping good action tale.

Director Christian Nyby and uncredited co-writer and director Howard Hawks packed a lot of sci-fi, philosophy, low-budget special effects, action and, even, romance into this fast-moving ninety-minute picture.

At an Arctic military and scientific-research outpost, a spacecraft is discovered buried in the ice. When an attempt to uncover it destroys the craft, all that is salvaged is one believed-to-be-dead alien. The alien is brought back to the station where it's mistakenly thawed and, then, it goes on the attack.

The rest of the movie is the outpost trying to defend itself from the "monster." It's a perfect setup as the isolation of the base, including spotty radio communication with "headquarters," forces the captain of the small military force and the base's lead scientist to make decisions on the fly.

The military wants to destroy "the monster" as quickly as possible as military men are trained to kill existential threats. The scientists want to find a way to communicate with it as they are trained to spot opportunities to expand mankind's knowledge. It's not a stretch from there to see parallels to the, at the time, aborning Cold War.

As opposed to modern "message" movies, The Thing from Another World presents both sides of the argument quickly and reasonably fairly, which leaves you wanting to study the alien, but you don't want everyone to die trying.

It's a balanced view exposing the complexity of the decision: something today's agenda-driven filmmakers, despite all our modern "sophistication," rarely do.

The special effects - thermite bombs and electricity as weapons - were cool for the time. Today, despite feeling hokey, they also provide a neat look at 1950s technology.

Yet nothing matters in a movie if you don't care about the characters, so Hawks and team created several reasonably engaging ones. The captain of the military force, played by Kenneth Tobey, is in the mold of the square-jawed, courageous leader that ruled moviedom for several decades, but he brings enough self-doubt and modesty to have you rooting for him.

It doesn't hurt that Toby's character is also in the middle of a romance with one of the few women on the team's scientific staff, played by Margaret Sheridan with the smart sexiness you'd expect from a Hollywood-conceived woman working at an Arctic research base.

Her ability to simultaneously convey intelligence and prurience makes you wonder why Sheridan didn't have more of a career in movies.

Rounding out the leads are Douglas Spencer as a war-weary and humorously sarcastic news correspondent trying to get "the greatest story of our time" out to the public and Robert Cornthwaite as the conflicted head of the scientific research program.

The Thing from Another World raises questions of morals and ethics about alien lifeforms that have been debated by sci-fi movies and TV shows ever since, but it never loses sight of its primary mission to entertain.

So while it puts your brain to work a bit, you can also enjoy The Thing From Another World as simply a darn good action-adventure story. You really can't ask more of a sci-fi movie that, while dated in many ways, has also aged pretty well.

View attachment 467549
I remember seeing that film on tv in early 70's when I was 5 or 6. Can't remember how I was able to see it for my parents would never let me... Gave me nightmares for weeks!
 

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
Messages
5,125
Location
Hudson Valley, NY
Of course, The Thing From Another World is a mega-classic that I've loved for 50+ years. A couple of quick notes:

The film is based on "Who Goes There?" by John Campbell, a classic 40s SF magazine short story. (Campbell was actually more significant as an editor of those mags - guiding writers like Asimov and Heinlein in their early days - than as an author.) But the later John Carpenter-directed The Thing (1982) is actually a closer adaptation, because it has a shapeshifting alien as in the original story.

I'm old enough to remember the discussions/arguments/evidence that Howard Hawks was the actual director, and that credited-director Christian Nyby was just his film editor. And the film is VERY Hawksian, about a bunch of tough guys in a remote, dangerous situation... plus an equally tough, one-of-the-guys woman. (Very similar to Only Angels Have Wings [1938] and other Hawks films.) In the early 80s, a lot of comparisons were made to how Poltergeist was VERY clearly producer Steven Spielberg's film, despite credited-director Tobe Hooper.

One of the scientists is played by Paul Frees, who made few appearances, but was an absurdly prolific voice actor for decades. His distinctive, familiar voice can be heard in lines like, "It's... round."

The "walking carrot" alien is played by none other than soon-to-be-Gunsmoke star James Arness!

"Watch the skies. Keep watching the skies!"
 

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
Messages
5,125
Location
Hudson Valley, NY
Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) on Showtime, with Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Kwan (yes, Short Round!), Jamie Lee Curtis, the great James Hong, etc.

This is a way-strange film that I suspect makes more sense after a second viewing. It's essentially a multiverse-crisis martial arts comedy.

Michelle Yeoh has to deal with her difficult family and an IRS audit of her laundromat business... while simultaneously saving reality. Along the way we bounce through lots of other versions of reality, including one where people have hot dogs for fingers, experience outrageous fight scenes using unlikely weapons (e.g., sex toys), and there's a crazy live-action parody of Ratatouille that comes complete with a new Randy Newman song.

EverythingEverywhereAllAtOnce.png

Of course, Yeoh is simply great, and the rest of the cast is very good. There's exciting action and some really surprising, bizarre realities that I won't spoil here.

My only complaint is that this story's version of the multiverse and the rules that underpin it aren't really sufficiently explained, and it's nearly too much to process amidst the rapid-fire reality changes. And there are some definite pacing problems. For example, I was waiting for the film's big climax... which apparently had already happened, and it was over.
 

Julian Shellhammer

Practically Family
Messages
768
Of course, The Thing From Another World is a mega-classic that I've loved for 50+ years. A couple of quick notes:

The film is based on "Who Goes There?" by John Campbell, a classic 40s SF magazine short story. (Campbell was actually more significant as an editor of those mags - guiding writers like Asimov and Heinlein in their early days - than as an author.) But the later John Carpenter-directed The Thing (1982) is actually a closer adaptation, because it has a shapeshifting alien as in the original story.

I'm old enough to remember the discussions/arguments/evidence that Howard Hawks was the actual director, and that credited-director Christian Nyby was just his film editor. And the film is VERY Hawksian, about a bunch of tough guys in a remote, dangerous situation... plus an equally tough, one-of-the-guys woman. (Very similar to Only Angels Have Wings [1938] and other Hawks films.) In the early 80s, a lot of comparisons were made to how Poltergeist was VERY clearly producer Steven Spielberg's film, despite credited-director Tobe Hooper.

One of the scientists is played by Paul Frees, who made few appearances, but was an absurdly prolific voice actor for decades. His distinctive, familiar voice can be heard in lines like, "It's... round."

The "walking carrot" alien is played by none other than soon-to-be-Gunsmoke star James Arness!

"Watch the skies. Keep watching the skies!"
One of the key hints that Hawks had a large hand in the direction is the "overlapping dialogue" between characters. See His Girl Friday for an excellent example.
 

Worf

I'll Lock Up
Messages
5,043
Location
Troy, New York, USA
"The Thing from Another World" - I gave my review of this film YEARS ago. It's one of my faves. I own four seminal 50's SciFi films. The first being the one discussed here... "Them" (the first and the best giant bug movie), "The Day the Earth Stood Still" and lastly, the original "Gojira". There are some others I love but these are the jewels in the crown. I love the overlapping dialogue best though, it flows naturally as does the ribbing that's standard issue in the military. I also love the little touches... When our heroes first go looking for the "Super Carrot" they open a door that holds radioactive samples. Before leaning in to check the room one of the enlisted men gently places his right hand on the butt of his shoulder holstered 45. Its a simple thing but its the RIGHT thing done imperceptibly, just like a combat vet would do. Good I LOVE this film....

"Did you get your picture Scotty."

"No you were in the way and besides the door wasn't open long enough."

"You want me to open it again?"

"NO!"

Worf
 
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16,057
Location
New York City
Eric-Stoltz-and-Gillian-Anderson-in-The-House-of-Mirth.jpg

The House of Mirth from 2000 with Gillian Anderson, Eric Stoltz, Dan Aykroyd and Laura Linney


Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth is one of the great American novels of the twentieth century, but its inside-baseball look at the social machination of the upper crust of fin de siècle New York society, where a slight head nod can carry great meaning, is hard to translate to the screen.

Director Terence Davies' version of The House of Mirth takes too long to kick into gear, but for those who stay with it, the second half, finally, catches some of the spirited dialogue, searing social commentary and emotional power of the novel.

Oversimplifying, The House of Mirth is the story of a young beautiful complex and conflicted woman, Lily Bart, who craves the acceptance and luxury of the upper class society of which she lives on the margin. Yet her moral code, which has much to admire and some elements to question, so warps her decision making at times that she becomes her own worst enemy.

The choice of Gillian Anderson, a nice looking actress, to play Lily Bart is an odd one as one of Bart's defining features is her arresting beauty. It's the gift that opens doors for on-the-edge-of-society Bart, but it's also an asset that she senselessly squanders.

If you didn't know all that coming into the movie, Anderson's casting would only confuse a viewer. That's just one of several reasons why, to appreciate Davies' movie, one needs to have read the book first as the story is too complex and nuanced for even a long movie to fully present.

But if you have read the novel and if you sit through the slow start - and, today, can endure the diminishing quality of the film print - there is much in the movie to enjoy, including its beautiful settings, its talented actors and Wharton's piercing dialogue.

The costumes, on-location footage, period details and architecture take you back over a hundred years to the world of the very rich. It's a world where everything physical is heavy and studied, much like the unwritten but restricting rules of this rarified society.

While miscast physically, Anderson delivers an engaging performance as Miss Bart, which requires her showing a range of emotions through facial expression and body English as what was said in that rule-bound society was often quite restricted.

Eric Stoltz is equally impressive as one of Anderson's love interests and her only confidant. The surprise in the cast, though, is Dan Aykroyd as Gus Trenor. He delivers a powerful performance as a man who knows the rules of "society" and is willing to enforce them harshly when he feels he's been deceived.

Laura Linney is also outstanding playing the vicious leader of her insular world, as she, like her husband Aykroyd, plays for keeps in this brutal game of societal chess.

There are several other outstanding performances including Anthony LaPaglia's. His, in particular, deserves note as he plays the outsider, a Jew, trying to break into this very Waspy "society" with a smart balance of aggression and discretion.

LaPaglia's scenes with Anderson capture the insight and power of Wharton's writing as LaPaglia's character sees the entire social game for exactly what it is and tries, time and again, to get Anderson, who also sees it, but can't step outside of it, to make smart decisions for herself.

Despite being about an exclusive and tiny sleeve of the population, The House of Mirth still holds timeless and universal lessons about morality, peer pressure, sexual relations and societal rules and conceits. Plus it's just a heck of a good story with a complex and flawed heroine you can't help rooting for.

The House of Mirth, the movie, falls well short of the book, but as a post-read amusement, it's a worthy effort with impressive acting and period details. It can be enjoyed as we wait for the still-to-be-made definitive movie version of Wharton's classic.
 

Doctor Strange

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FF, I just watched it last week. I've never read the novel, so this was my first exposure to the story.

Frankly, I thought the film was a stiff. Mostly miscast, indifferently produced and shot, and largely dramatically inert. Several of these actors, to me, are just too contemporary to believe in a costume drama - including Aykroyd, LaPaglia, and Stoltz. And story wise, it wasn't clear to me exactly how and when Lily Bart broke convention so badly as to be shunned and ruined. That's not good storytelling.

I guess it's not fair to compare it to a masterful adaptation like Scorsese's The Age of Innocence, but I gotta tell you, I'm likely to forget that I even watched this one. It didn't make me want to rush to read the novel either.
 
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FF, I just watched it last week. I've never read the novel, so this was my first exposure to the story.

Frankly, I thought the film was a stiff. Mostly miscast, indifferently produced and shot, and largely dramatically inert. Several of these actors, to me, are just too contemporary to believe in a costume drama - including Aykroyd, LaPaglia, and Stoltz. And story wise, it wasn't clear to me exactly how and when Lily Bart broke convention so badly as to be shunned and ruined. That's not good storytelling.

I guess it's not fair to compare it to a masterful adaptation like Scorsese's The Age of Innocence, but I gotta tell you, I'm likely to forget that I even watched this one. It didn't make me want to rush to read the novel either.

I think that's fair as I implied in my comments that if you hadn't read the book, you'd have a hard time following the story and its many nuances. I know I'd have been completely lost and bored (heck, I was a bit lost in bored in the first half and I know the story).

As you note, it also lacked the true period details and feel that later period movies would come to have, but I kind of forgive an early '80s movie for some of that as few period movies in that era were period-detailed accurate.

I liked Ackroyd's and LaPaglia's performances as, in the general not-truly-period-accurate tone of the movie, they captured their characters well, but again as noted, a much-better version of the movie still needs to be made.

I'm a big fan of the novel, but since it's a long book, I would not recommend it as someones' first Wharton read. Of course, I have no idea if you've read anything by her, but if you haven't and want to try her out, I'd suggest something like "Ethan Frome" as a start to see if you like her as an author or the one you noted, "The Age of Innocence" (which was, as you note, made into an outstanding movie).
 

Julian Shellhammer

Practically Family
Messages
768
Christmas movie watching has been unleashed. Selections, based on the choices of the grandkids, have been Elf, A Christmas Story, and The Muppet Christmas Carol. The last was new to me and was a lot of fun; Michael Caine played Scrooge without any exaggeration, and Gonzo and Rizzo as sort of narrators and Greek chorus worked remarkably well. A great deal of dialogue and narration were taken directly from the book, which was enjoyable.

NB: the movie was produced prior to widespread CGI, no? If so, then there was a lot of sets built that looked marvelous.
 

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
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5,125
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Hudson Valley, NY
Fading... You know, if I didn't read Edith Wharton back when I was an English major, there's no way I'm gonna read her now!

The film was made in 2000. I mean, Merchant-Ivory alone had made over a half-dozen better period dramas by then. (*) Marty had already made The Age of Innocence. And the excellent Little Women adaptation also in 1994 (with Eric Stoltz's performance nearly the film's weakest link.) And there'd been how many excellent BBC/Masterpiece Theater adaptations of classic novels about the gilded age? No, I can't excuse it's being a weak film because good adaptations were still rare in 2000.

(* The Europeans, The Bostonians, A Room with a View, Maurice, Howards End, The Remains of the Day, The Golden Bowl)

And regarding Gillian Anderson, she's okay, but her performance is even more contained and opaque than perhaps it should be. But the film has bigger problems than her.
 

Doctor Strange

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Jerry & Marge Go Large (2022) - Interesting little flick set 15 years ago about a retiree and his wife (Bryan Cranston and Annette Bening) who exploit a weakness that he uncovers in the design of a national lottery to make a fortune. And not just for themselves, they incorporate a business, and their many friends in their little town become shareholders and partners in beating the lottery.

Based on a true story, they made millions of dollars... and completely revitalized their community, allowed people to start businesses, send waves of kids to college who'd never have gone otherwise, etc.

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Nothing special, but it's an okay watch.

Oddly, I kept thinking that Bryan Cranston was channeling Richard Jenkins, because while Cranston has played a wide range of characters... Jerry is exactly the kind of lost, nice, ordinary guy that Jenkins nearly always plays!
 

Julian Shellhammer

Practically Family
Messages
768
Sometime last week it was The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) with Richard Basehart, Valentina Cortese, and William Lundigan, directed by Robert Wise. Cortese is a Polish concentration camp prisoner who upon Allied liberation assumes the identity of a deceased fellow prisoner in the hopes of making her way to America. Involved is a young child who had been sent to America before the war, a nanny who raised the child, and Basehart, who is the guardian of the child and administrator of the family's estate.
No spoilers, but there is a sizable deal of tension between the three principles: is someone out to eliminate Cortese, and who, and why? If you're interested, check it out as we did on the tube of you.
 

Nacht Segler

New in Town
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6
Location
Eastern-ish PA
I watched the recent version of "All Quiet On The Western Front" as that interested me in relation to the other versions.

Then I watched "The Bodyguard" from the 90s - because I never saw it and was interested in seeing it due to the fuss about it.
 
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New York City
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Scene of the Crime from 1949 with Van Johnson, Arlene Dahl, Gloria DeHaven, Jerome Cowan and Leon Ames


This solid noir crime drama doesn't have quite the grit of a Warner Bros. or RKO production as MGM was too "classy" for that, but its serviceable story, backed up by strong dialogue, a detailed look at police procedure, talented acting and a couple of good romantic angles keep it engaging throughout.

When a veteran detective is killed one night, and a suspicious thousand dollars is found on his body, another detective, his friend and former partner, played by Van Johnson, begins an investigation that points to a small gang of thugs trying to muscle in on the established mob's numbers racket.

This kinda complicated story is really a crook-versus-crook affair with cops getting killed in the crossfire. There are some wonderful crime-fighting inside reveals as we see the police making small concessions to lower level thugs (looking the other way at some minor crimes) in return for information on those further up the chain.

But Scene of the Crime is less about the internecine gang war than Van Johnson's life as he and his older and younger (newbie) partners try to conduct an investigation, while Johnson's wife pushes hard for him to leave the force and take a safer and better paying job heading up security for a large corporation.

Scene of the Crime, like other crime-drama movies at that time, does a good job of walking you through the steps of an investigation as witnesses are questioned, suspects followed, phone lines tapped, informants manipulated and evidence scrutinized.

Through it all, Johnson's wife, played by Arlene Dahl, who is clearly at the end of her emotional tether, can't take the pressure of not knowing if her husband will come back alive each time a phone call takes him away. The stressed-out cop's wife is not a new challenge in movies, but Dahl draws you into her plight.

Johnson also has a blonde, cute and, maybe, informant, played by Gloria DeHaven, to manage because, as part of the investigation, he begins an affair with her believing she has information about the head gangster trying to take over the rackets. The on-screen slap and tickle is tamped down to assuage the Motion Picture Production Code, but we know what these kids are doing.

It's an odd relationship as Johnson truthfully tells DeHaven he's both married and a cop (more Code-appeasement nonsense?), yet she just goes along since he takes her to nice restaurants. It doesn't quite fit, but eventually it all makes sense giving DeHaven a brief, but outstanding, femme-fatale moment.

Van Johnson is not your usual hard-boiled noir actor, especially in the hands of MGM where he still tilts a bit to matinee idol, as when he romances both Dahl and DeHaven. Yet, he pulls it off with an assist from MGM's strong roster including Leon Ames as Johnson's captain and Jerome Cowan as a head mobster.

The climax, as well (no spoilers coming), feels too MGM perfect as the final gun battle, explosions and arrests are beautifully choreographed, but lack the chaotic verisimilitude of a Warner Bros. shootout. It also doesn't help that MGM saved money by filming most of the scenes on sets, at a time when noir was already moving to the real streets.

Still, Scene of the Crime is well worth the watch for its professional production qualities, acting talent, crime-drama aspects and the one scene where Gloria DeHaven lets her inner femme fatale rip.

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Christmas Holiday from 1944 with Deanna Durbin and Gene Kelly


What do you do if you want to tell a story about a really good person loving a really bad person? Well, I guess you can make a very dark movie about it, inexplicably title it Christmas Holiday and, finally, put two of Hollywood's, usually, most-upbeat stars in it to further confuse the audience.

A young officer, played by Dean Harens, is handed a Dear John letter right when he is about to go on leave before shipping out. On his way across country to find out what happened with his girl, his airplane gets waylaid in New Orleans where he meets a nightclub singer - really a prostitute, but the Motion Picture Production Code said she had to be a "nightclub singer -" played by Deanna Durbin.

Sensing a deep sadness in Durbin, Haren takes her to Midnight Mass, which is a beautiful Christmas Mass and the only beautiful Christmas moment in this dark, twisted tale.

Back in his hotel room - it's innocent and it feels genuinely innocent, not Code-forced innocent - Durbin tells Haren the story of her marriage. Through flashbacks, we see sweet and lovely Durbin meet a handsome and roguish man, played by Gene Kelly, who presents himself as a cheery neerdowell - if he was only that.

Before Kelly will ask Durbin to marry him, he takes her to meet his mother who appears to be a caring, albeit a bit too obsessed with her son, mother of a formerly socially prominent family now living with just her son in genteel poverty.

She warns Durbin that her son has faults, which she doesn't specify, and that Durbin will now have to protect her son from himself. It's a bit creepy and would cause any normal woman to run, but happy Durbin just powers through it all with blinders.

The marriage starts off good with mother, son and new wife Durbin all living in an odd happiness in their shabby mansion. But then Kelly, who had hinted at his gambling problems (in a wonderful scene where he takes angelic-looking Durbin to a seedy gambling dive and, oddly, a blackhole didn't open up), is arrested for killing his bookie.

Durbin, who is ready to stand beside her husband, is dressed down by the now-enraged mother for not doing more to protect her son from himself. It isn't said, and is only obliquely hinted at, but this mother and son would probably have something to talk to Freud about.

(Spoiler alert) The son is convicted, the mother ends up in New York as a housekeeper to a wealthy family and Durbin changes her name, but becomes a "working girl." Durbin does this as some sort of penance, since she believes she should have done more to protect her, let's be honest, two-screws-loose husband.

(More spoilers). After Durbin tells Harens this story, they both note the similarity (not really, but they think so) between his still loving the girl who just broke up with him hours ago and she still loving her murderer husband who has a mother fixation. Good grief.

(Last spoiler) There's one final scene where Kelly, having broken out of prison, confronts Durbin in the club angry that she hasn't been faithful to him (buh, buh, buh she was only whoring herself in penance to him). Before he can "punish" her, the police shoot him and the movie fades as Durbin looks up from her dead husband, hopefully, broken of the spell.

That's about it. First you expect a Christmas movie from Christmas Holiday and then, when you realize you aren't getting that, you start looking for something more than the tale of a bad love story, but that's all you get. The overlay of the soldier and his Dear John letter seems unnecessary and contrived.

It's Durbin's picture and she carries it with ease. Durbin was born to play innocence personified, she all but glows at Midnight Mass, and Kelly is outstanding, playing against his later type, as an evil and warped charmer. It's worth it for their performances and the okay story, but you also feel like there was supposed to be something more to Christmas Holiday that was never realized.


N.B. Double-threat singer-actress Durbin gets to warble out a few tunes, but dancer-actor Kelly never moves to the music in this one. Yet he does get to show off his impressive acting chops. Chops that would later be a bit obscured by his famous hoofing.
 

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