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

The Internecine Project (1974)

This political thriller wears the mask of a cozy murder mystery, the sunny days and party lights and comfortable wool blend sweaters distracting from the high body count. Internecine is the rare film that can justify its light content, withholding explanations because it trusts the audience to be smart, to not need any hand-holding to understand the plot. The Internecine Project is a quiet little film that is long overdue for a reassessment. Continue reading

Daisy Kenyon (1947)

Daisy Kenyon (Joan Crawford) is a successful commercial artist in love with the high-powered (and very married) attorney Dan O’Mara (Dana Andrews), the kind of smooth operator that charms everyone but his beleaguered wife (Ruth Warrick). At an uncertain point in their affair, Daisy meets the sensitive war veteran Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda), a widower who may be unstable but is also very kind. In an attempt to get away from her toxic relationship with Dan, Daisy marries Peter and they try to build a life together. Complications ensue — would there be a movie if they didn’t? Director Otto Preminger’s Daisy Kenyon (1947) treats its titular character in a comparatively realistic, morally way, especially in its portrayal of a love triangle that goes completely and unsurprisingly wrong. It’s fascinating to see so many critics and fans, both now and then, consider Dan to be the quintessential “great guy,” someone gregarious and successful and handsome and everything a woman could want. To me, Dan has always come across as a parody of the cinematic perfect man, a mash-up of an old pre-Code ruthless businessman with the current (for 1947) hard-boiled private dick. He shows his contempt for people by constantly calling them “honey bunch” or, for variety, “sugar plum,” which has lead many to consider Dan a hard-boiled character and the film, by extension, a film noir, but I don’t think it is, not strictly anyway. Dan may fight for the rights of the disenfranchised, but he can’t be arsed … Continue reading

Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler (1922)

Mabuse is a timeless character: irretrievably depraved, charismatic, over-the-top and sarcastic, the kind of evildoer who just really loves his job. Continue reading

Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1972)

Christopher and Katy (played by Mark Lester and Chloe Franks, respectively) are troubled siblings who spend their days at the orphanage dodging the mean adults who work there and refusing to speak at all. They both hope to go to the lavish annual Christmas party held at the mansion of the nice Mrs. Forrest (Shelley Winters), but only 12 children are picked each year, and neither of them make the list. The two stow away in the trunk of a car headed to the party and sneak in anyway, which horrifies the orphanage staff, but which Mrs. Forrest has no problem with. It’s a nice sentiment, but if she doesn’t care that there are more than 12 children at her home, why can’t all of the kids in the orphanage go? As lovely as the rich Mrs. Forrest seems — “Call me Auntie Roo,” she tells the kids — in reality, she’s disturbed, having never gotten over the death of her young daughter Katherine years ago. In fact, as we learned in the opening scenes, she keeps her daughter’s decomposed corpse in a cradle upstairs, and no one, save a few people close to Mrs. Forrest, even know the girl is dead. Auntie Roo is not well.   After repeated séances with no result, Mrs. Forrest starts to believe that little Katy is the return of Katherine. She wants to adopt Katy, but her brother Christopher is against it. With narrowed eyes and a lot of hate in his heart, … Continue reading

The Russian Woodpecker (2015)

It’s that connection between the corrupt past and the corrupt neo-Soviet present that gives The Russian Woodpecker its heft. The film never unearths anything startling, and its attempts to fool you into thinking it has are done in bad faith, but the film remains a compelling reminder of just how quickly we humans tend to fall back into old habits, even old habits that are likely to kill us. Continue reading

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is one goddamned entertaining film. Pelham is also exciting, especially for a film that consists largely of guys talking into radio mics at people they’ve never seen. Matthau is tough and confident — so confident, in fact, that he handily pulls off wearing the most beautiful, outrageous clothes, two yellow and red catastrophes duking it out with each other across his chest throughout the entire film. Continue reading

Gold (1934)

Gold is an odd little bird, irresistible and entertaining despite being a bit thin on plot. It’s believable and thoughtful and the performances range from good to fantastic. It’s hard to imagine getting all worked up over alchemy here in the amazing futuristic year of 2016, but it’s easy to do with Gold. Continue reading

Candy (1968)

Still, may the gods help me, there is a lot to like about Candy. Does it open with unwarranted psychedelia? Yes! Does it make any sense? No! Is it an attempt by the establishment to infiltrate the counterculture and make a buck off of it? Oh, hell yeah it is; this thing is as bad as Skidoo in that regard, and if you love watching old guys trying to be hip as much as I do, you will love this film. Continue reading

The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974)

It’s an odd, languid, beautiful, frustrating giallo that is really only held together by Farmer’s fantastic performance and the audience’s willingness to go along with the notable amount of nothing in so many of the scenes. Continue reading