A Game of Death (1945)

A Game of Death, RKO’s remake of their 1932 classic The Most Dangerous Game, was one of Robert Wise’s earliest directorial efforts, and was praised by critics on its release. Continue reading

The Yakuza (1974)

The Yakuza is a strange little mash-up of neo-noir and yakuza-eiga. It didn’t do well at the box office, but has become a cult classic in the years since. Continue reading

The Last Best Year (1990)

When Jane, a career woman and quiet loner (Bernadette Peters), discovers she has a terminal illness, she has no one to turn to. Her doctor recommends psychologist and friend Wendy Haller (Mary Tyler Moore) to help her come to terms with her diagnosis, and in doing so, helps her open up to others. Soon she has a small but solid group of friends and relatives there with her as she fights against cancer. The Last Best Year originally aired on ABC in November of 1990, just at the beginning of the golden era of made-for-TV movies, and was well-received by critics on its release. That said, Ken Tucker’s review makes a good point: it’s fantasy to the point of improbability, and for most people faced with terminal illness, they don’t get pat resolutions or unlimited financial and emotional support. Have you ever wondered what happens to the other patients of the doctors in these films? Wendy spends so much time with Jane that I can’t imagine she has time for anyone else.   It’s how we would want to deal with terminal illness if we had the choice, and somehow Jane has that choice, though there is never any explanation why. In real life, how do you even explain something like that? You don’t. In cinema, however, there is always some kind of explanation, usually that the person in question is deserving of a reprieve from death or, at the least, a good death. The Last Best Year is somewhat … Continue reading

The Klansman (1974)

The Klansman is trash. It just is, and there’s no way around that. But now it’s uncensored, restored trash, and a must for 1970s exploitation aficionados. Continue reading

Love in the Afternoon (1957)

Love in the Afternoon is a lesser Billy Wilder film, certainly, but its high points make up for its lulls. Chevalier is fantastic as Claude Chavasse, and in his scenes with Cooper or Hepburn, he elevates their performances noticeably. McGiver is astonishingly good as M. X, and Lisa Bourdin as his wife isn’t given much to do but just exudes charisma. The film is gorgeous to look at and a whole lot of light, fun entertainment. Continue reading

Bells Are Ringing (1960)

Even if Holliday wasn’t sure about Martin’s work ethic, it’s undeniable that they made an adorable couple on screen. Martin is pitch perfect as the playboy on the verge of a nervous breakdown, the kind of guy who knows every famous person on stage and screen and yet manages to be the kind of wide-eyed naïf who believes in fairy tales and guardian angels. And Judy Holliday is, well Judy Holliday. She’s amazing. Continue reading

Wait Until Dark (1967)

For those of you who haven’t seen Wait Until Dark before, you are in for a treat, especially from the film’s famous finale, which some reviewers have noted would not work on today’s experienced audiences. I disagree. I said it years ago in a little mini review and I’ll say it again: even if you’ve seen the film before, the finale could very likely give you an infarction! Happens to me every time. Wait Until Dark is a great film, one of the best psychological thrillers to come out of this era. Continue reading

Battleground (1949)

This print may be gorgeous, but Battleground is grimy. This is a film that is down in the dirt and the snow, eye-level with the foxholes (and, presumably, latrines) as they’re being dug. Everyone is caked in dirt and lord knows what else — in Kinnie’s (James Whitmore’s) case, it’s post-chewed tobacco and saliva. They’re underfed, under-informed, used and abused and forced to wear boots that don’t fit while marching about a thousand miles a day. This may sound strange to say to the uninitiated, but it’s the filth that makes Battleground so great. Continue reading

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Bad Day is mostly known as being an allegory for McCarthyism as well as a statement against the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, but it’s also a taut thriller based on good old-fashioned persecution fantasy, especially considering the quiet, amiable Macreedy is such a cipher that the bad guys can’t dig up even one detail on him that he doesn’t tell them himself. It’s also one of the quintessential examples of the overlap between film noir and western genres that produced such great films in the 1950s; listen to the “patriotic drunk” speech and tell me that couldn’t be picked up and plonked right down into a late-40s black and white noir starring Robert Mitchum. Continue reading

Loophole (1981)

Loophole has tension and suspense, but its best moments are subtle ones: wide-eyed silence over a polite afternoon tea, a banker spending the very money he is lending, the ancient love letters floating in sewage after robbers threw these worthless items away. Continue reading