Blogathons

The Ingrid Bergman Blogathon: The Bells Of St. Mary’s (1945)

Ingrid bergman blogathonVirginie over at Thewonderfulworldofcinema is hosting this blogathon all about the actress Ingrid Bergman. Be sure to check out all the other entries on her site. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I am so happy that we are discussing Ingrid because she was such a gifted actress, and she is one of my great favourites from the classic film era.

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Ingrid is luminous as Sister Benedict. Screenshot by me.

Where do I begin with Ingrid Bergman? Well, to me she is one of the(if not the) most expressive actresses in all of film history. Ingrid’s eyes spoke volumes and often she really didn’t need dialogue in a scene, as her face told us all we ever needed to know about what her character was feeling.

When Ingrid Bergman smiled her whole face lit up, there was warmth and light in her eyes and she made you feel what she was feeling.

Ingrid appeared in many different genres over the years. I have always liked watching her act best in dramas though, I think that is the genre which suited her talents best.

Ingrid was an actress who I can never catch acting, by that I mean that she is always totally natural in her screen performances. Ingrid brought such great depth to the many characters she played throughout her career. I also think that Ingrid had a real knack for being able to convey emotion so convincingly that she makes you feel what her characters are experiencing at particular moments.

One of my favourite films of Ingrid’s is this lovely film from 1945, The Bells of St. Mary’s. This is the sequel to the very popular Bing Crosby film, Going My Way (1944). Bing reprises his role in this sequel as the kind, music loving, Catholic Priest, Father O’Malley.

These two films are feel good and they show us that there is goodness in humanity, even if you have to look more closely at times to find it. In these two films bad times can be made better by singing, or by sharing your troubles with others, and everything turns out well in the end. What’s not to like? 

Both of these films will be sure to leave you with a smile on your face. I like both films very much, but of the two, this sequel is my all time favourite. It is a comfort film for me, and it is one I turn to when I’m in need of some cheering up.

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Father O’Malley and Sister Benedict share a happy moment. Screenshot by me.

In this film we find Father O’Malley(Bing Crosby)taking up the position of priest at St. Mary’s convent/school. He soon finds himself at odds with the head nun, Sister Benedict(Ingrid Bergman) as they both have very different views on how the school should be run. As the months go by they grow to respect each other and gradually start to become friends. They both agree that the children need a bigger and more modern school building to work in.

The question of whether O’Malley can get their new building off the wealthy and selfish Horace P. Bogardus(Henry Travers) is the main storyline. A moving subplot sees O’Malley and Sister Benedict also both trying to help Patricia(Joan Carroll), a troubled teenager who has come to them because of family problems and who is very depressed. It’s nice seeing both Sister Benedict and Father O’Malley being there for Patricia and each trying to help her in different ways (essentially standing in as her parental figures.)

Sister Benedict falls ill and she won’t accept that her condition could be extremely serious. Father O’Malley tries and helps her see the truth of her situation, but finds it difficult as she often pushes him away.

Ingrid practically glows in this film, she radiates an inner light (and does in so many of her other film performances.) She captures the kindness and self sacrificial quality of Sister Benedict so well, there is a real naturalness about her in this performance that makes you totally believe in the character she is playing.

Ingrid makes Sister Benedict strong and determined, and she also makes her someone who can be easily moved and hurt. There are many times in this film when Ingrid makes your heart break for her character as she just looks so sad and vulnerable.

This is a film I would recommend to someone who had never seen Ingrid in a film before. I would recommend it because I think it lets her show how varied her acting skills were and would be a good introduction to her film work. It’s also one I’d recommend as being a good family film.

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Sister Benedict prays for guidance. Screenshot by me.

My favourite scenes from the film are the following. The nuns laughing when Father O’Malley is introducing himself to them, only to realise he is being upstaged by a playful kitten on a shelf behind him. Sister Benedict watching Mr. Bogardus praying in church and noticing the stray dog sitting behind him, this scene is both touching and funny as the dog makes cute/random noises that are funny, this scene also shows us that Bogardus is not all bad.

The final scene between Sister Benedict and Father O’Malley (this moves me every time I watch it.) Patricia reading her report about senses out loud. Sister Benedict praying to God and crying as she begs to be able to understand the decision that has been made regarding her future. Patricia trying to look older and Father O’Malley being deeply amused by how she looks.

This is a beautiful and touching film about friendship, and about finding good where you least expect it. Ingrid is at her best in this film, and her performance is excellent.

Here are five Ingrid Bergman films that I really love.

1 – Notorious

2 – The Bells Of St. Mary’s

3 – For Whom The Bell Tolls

4 – Stromboli

5 –Anastasia

I also love Ingrid in Indiscreet, A Woman Called Golda, Intermezzo and Journey To Italy.

Any other fans of this film and of Ingrid’s performance in it? Please leave your comments below.

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Blogathons, Thriller

The Van Johnson Blogathon: 23 Paces To Baker Street (1956)

Va Johnson blogathon

Michaela over at Loveletterstooldhollywood is hosting this blogathon all about the actor Van Johnson. Be sure to visit her site to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself. Today would also have been Van’s birthday, so happy birthday and R.I.P to him.

Van Johnson was a very popular film actor during the 40’s and 50’s. He was always reliable, and if I see his name in a films credits then I will be sure to give that film a look.

For this blogathon I’m writing about my all time favourite Van Johnson film performance. It’s my favourite for two reasons. Firstly because I really like how he plays his character. Secondly because he gets a chance here to really show off his dramatic acting ability. His role in this film is one which he can really sink his teeth into.

The film I’m writing about is Van’s 1956 thriller, 23 Paces To Baker Street. This is a cracking little mystery thriller, and it is a film that I really wish was much better known and discussed today. Not only is it a very good film, but it also features one of Johnson’s best film performances. The film is also quite unique for the time period in having a handicapped lead character.

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Hannon hears a worrying conversation. Screenshot by me.

I really like how the film shows Van’s character as being able to be independent and live a productive life, despite being blind, and despite his own personal reaction to his blindness and all the problems which that entails.

Van does a very good job here of playing a man eaten up with despair, anger and fear;  yet he also shows us that Hannon is also someone who won’t let his disability stop him from doing things. Van also lets us see as the film goes on, that Hannon is becoming obsessed with this case and will push himself harder and harder to solve it.

The plot device of a blind witness adds to the suspense of the story greatly as we are as much in the dark as Johnson’s character is. Hannon’s blindness also makes him very vulnerable when the villains end up turning their attentions on him.  I always think that this story (or at least the blind witness aspect of it)would have made terrific material for Hitchcock. 

The film is directed by Henry Hathaway, and it is set in London during the 1950’s. Phillip Hannon(Van Johnson)is a successful American playwright who is extremely bitter having recently become permanently blind. Hannon lives in London, in a Thames side apartment with his loyal manservant Bob(Cecil Parker). Hannon is angry at the world and is fast becoming an embittered soul.

Hannon’s current bad temper isn’t helped when his former fiancé Jean(Vera Miles)stops by to see him. Hannon doesn’t want her to feel sorry for him, but he cannot understand that she doesn’t, nor that he can still have romance and be happy despite his loss of sight.

One night in a pub, Hannon overhears a conversation that troubles him very much, two people are talking about kidnapping a child. Reporting what he heard to the police he is annoyed when they say they don’t have enough evidence to do anything. Hannon, Bob and Jean do some investigating of their own. On the streets of a very foggy London, this trio try and find the couple from the pub and try and prevent the kidnapping from taking place. Soon the film becomes a tale of mistaken identity, murder and suspicion.

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Hannon and Jean. Screenshot by me.

I really love the relationship between Hannon and Jean. It’s obvious right from the first time they come back into each others lives that they still have feelings for one another.

Hannon deliberately pushes Jean away from him because he doesn’t want to seem vulnerable or pitiable to her. Jean would never see him like that, she just wants to be with him any way she can. Jean happily accepts the role of assistant to Richard Hannon just so that she can be near him and be in his life in some way. She will take anything she can get if it allows her to be with him.

Van and Vera both do a terrific job of conveying their characters complicated relationship. Often they convey us information about their feelings not through words, but through the way they look at each other, or by the way one responds to what the other says or does. Their relationship is poignant, frustrating and believable.

Van is the vital glue that makes this film work. I’m not sure anyone else could have played the role of Hannon quite the way he does. This is my favourite film that Van made and it is one which shows off his dramatic acting talents very well indeed.

Cecil Parker steals every scene he is in as the protective Bob. He wants to help Hannon, but will never force his help upon him. I also like how Parker becomes sort of like Dr. Watson to Johnson’s Holmes. Bob really enjoys becoming an amateur detective as the film goes on.

Vera is very good as Jean, she really makes you feel for her character, and we know Jean wants the best for Philip and that she still loves him.

My favourite scenes are the following. Hannon and Jean’s first meeting. Hannon and Bob on the riverboat, when they talk about describing what they are seeing around them. The sequence at the derelict house. Hannon and Jean interviewing the nurse maid. Hannon overhearing the conversation in the pub. Jean sitting at Hannon’s feet making him tea after the derelict house sequence. The end on the balcony.

I highly recommend this one to fans of Van Johnson and to anyone out there who likes a good mystery thriller. I’d love to read your thoughts on this film. Any other fans? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

British Cinema

Unsung Classics 7: Mandy (1952)

Mandy was directed by Alexander MacKendrick. The film was produced by Ealing Studios.This one is a real gem, in addition to being a very good film, it also serves as an extremely educational experience for people who don’t know that much about deafness.

The sequences set at the deaf school were filmed on location at the Royal School For The Deaf, which is in Manchester (it is now called The Seashell Trust). The film features strong performances from all in the cast, and it is a very moving and uplifting film showing people that there is hope out there during tough times.

    Mandy Miller as Mandy. Screenshot by me.

The film also features one of the best performances by a child actor (Mandy Miller) that I have ever seen. Mandy Miller is such a natural young actress, and she conveys so much in this film with her expressions and eyes alone. The fact that she is so young and can convey so much emotion in such a natural way is impressive. Mandy wasn’t in very many films, I think that is a real shame and a loss really, she was a very gifted young lady.

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Searle helps Mandy to communicate. Screenshot by me.

The film also does so much to highlight that people who are deaf are just like the rest of us. If taught and supported properly, they can communicate, cope and live perfectly normal lives.

At the time of this films release, illness and disability still had a great deal of a stigma attached to them. Issues such as deafness were swept under the carpet so to speak. People didn’t want to know about such things. Shame on them I say, disability is not catching!

I also really hope that people who saw this film back at the time of release came to understand that deaf people(and anyone else with a disability for that matter)are just as normal as anyone else. I also hope this film helped educate people more about the condition of deafness.

The film focuses on a family who are affected by deafness. At first glance Mandy(Mandy Miller)seems like any other child her own age, she is, except for one slight difference though. Mandy was born deaf.  Mandy’s loving parents Christine and Harry(Phyllis Calvert and Terence Morgan)raise her at home, because she is mute and can’t communicate with her family or anyone else as she has no concept of language.

As she gets older, Mandy becomes hard to control and becomes a danger to herself. Mandy withdraws into herself and doesn’t understand the dangers surrounding her in everyday life. Eventually Mandy is taken to a residential deaf school, which is run by the progressive teacher, Dick Searle (Jack Hawkins). Here Mandy can at last make friends, and she can finally learn how to communicate in a hearing world.

The growing friendship which develops between Christine and Searle as they bond while helping Mandy, could so easily have developed into a romance, but it doesn’t. This relationship is touching and is well conveyed by Jack Hawkins and Phyllis Calvert.

The film also does a good job of showing the strain that can sometimes exist in the lives of family members of people with disabilities. The parents in the film are loving and devoted, but they know that Mandy needs professional help and that help is something they are not equipped to give. Dealing with her condition and with her going away to school sadly places a strain on this couples marriage.  

All the adults do a good job here, but they are essentially in supporting roles. Mandy Miller is the real star of this one.

I think that Jack Hawkins is excellent as the gruff teacher who doesn’t act in a conventional way. Searle doesn’t care about manners etc, he just wants to help the children and do a good job as a teacher. This attitude makes him disliked by the schools governing board. He’s the man for the job though, and he will help no matter what they say.

An uplifting, moving and very interesting film that raises awareness about deafness.

Please leave your comments on the film below.

 

 

Classic TV, Page To Screen, Romance

Jane Eyre Discussion Part 2: My Favourite Screen Adaptation

With the novel Jane Eyre being so beloved, it is not hard to see why so many screen adaptations for this one exist. There have been many big and small screen adaptations made over the years. I like many of them, and despise a good many more of them.

My biggest complaint by far about this story on screen, is that most of the adaptations cut far too much of the novel out. The development of Jane and Rochester’s romance is often rushed, and there is way too much cut out from the rest of the story. Much of the beautiful original language of the novel is also missing, making the dialogue more akin to modern language.

I think that the worst adaptations are the 1934 and 2011 film versions. I think the best of the big screen versions is the 1943 film starring Orson Welles and Joan Fontaine, even though this version is rushed too, it captures the atmosphere of the novel. It is also a very good film unlike the other two I mentioned.  I also have a real soft spot for the much underrated 1970 TV film, starring George C. Scott and Susannah York; this version still cuts much out, but Scott is the actor who is pretty much like the Rochester of the novel in terms of looks and mood.

My favourite screen adaptation however will always be the 1983 miniseries. This version stars Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke.  This one has held a special place in my heart since I borrowed the video boxset from my local Library. This was made by the BBC and directed by Julian Amyes. It was adapted for the screen by Alexander Baron. Why do I love this adaptation so much? How much time do you have? 

I think the performances by Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke are absolutely superb. They both make you care for their characters of Rochester and Jane.

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Zelah Clarke as Jane. Screenshot by me.

Zelah captures Jane’s quiet and gentle nature, and also her inner self desperately yearning to break free. In the later part of the series when she flees Thornfield Hall, Zelah makes Jane so vulnerable and devastated that you just want to wrap her up in your arms.

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Timothy Dalton as Rochester. Screenshot by me.

Timothy captures the fiery passion, the enigmatic nature, despair, tenderness and frustration of Rochester perfectly. Plus he is so handsome and sexy too. 🙂 I also think the height difference between Timothy and Zelah works for the series because the pair look so adorable together. Jane being small in comparison to Rochester adds to her vulnerability.

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A happy moment for our couple. Screenshot by me.

 

The series is also pretty much word for word like the book. It even contains the vast majority of the original language that other adaptations change. 

This series also features the gypsy fortune teller sequence. It also focuses heavily on Jane’s childhood, and upon her time later with Rivers and his sisters, something which other adaptations barely focus upon.

 I love that this series tales its times and just lets the actors act, and lets them bring these characters to life for us. The series isn’t rushed in any way.

This is also the only adaptation where I as a viewer feel what Jane and Rochester are going through. The proposal sequence is a good example of this, Zelah makes your heart break when she delivers the famous speech about Jane having heart. The way she and Timothy look at each other in this is incredible. I can’t find the words to describe what those looks convey, they just have such strong chemistry and make you believe the emotional bond between the characters. You believe that they really are falling in love before you.

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Rochester comforts Jane. Screenshot by me.

This adaptation also focuses on the fact that Jane and Rochester each serve as a rescuer for the other.

Jane saves Rochester from depression and horror, and he saves her from cruelty and a life of blending into the background, instead of standing out in the crowd.

Zelah and Timothy convey all that perfectly, particularly in the scene where Rochester tells Jane he has found the pure and innocent being he wishes to be with in life.

This series features strong performances from the entire cast, and it really is the adaptation which is the closest to the book. There are many adaptations out there, but it is to this one that I return again, and again and again.

The series itself is also a good example of the sort of series that we in Britain used to excel at producing. Series that took their time and were not rushed. Series that allow the actors to convey all we need (no need for fancy editing, or for intrusive music in every scene).

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Jane and Rochester discuss her leaving. Screenshot by me.

My favourite scenes are the following. The “so, you’ve come out at last” scene where Jane becomes ill and faints. The proposal scene. The scene on the stairs where Rochester says he thinks Jane looks depressed. Young Jane standing up to Mrs. Reed. All the scenes with Grace Poole. Jane saving Rochester from the fire, and their conversation afterwards. Jane asking for permission to go and visit her aunt. Rochester looking at Jane’s paintings. The aftermath of Mason getting attacked by Bertha. The gypsy fortune scene. All the scenes where Jane is staying with the Rivers siblings. The “is this my mustard seed?” scene. Rochester greeting Jane in the grounds when she returns from her aunts house. Rochester begging Jane to stay with him. The final scenes.

If there is a downside to the series I would say it lies with the age of Zelah. She is my favourite screen Jane, and she is superb at conveying Jane’s emotions, the trouble is that she looks much older than Jane’s eighteen years. This seems to always be a problem in all of the adaptations. Timothy is also more handsome than the Rochester of the novel (who to my mind resembles how George C. Scott looked in the 1970 film)but Timothy really is the best actor to have been able to so perfectly capture the personality and torment of the man he plays.

The chemistry between Zelah and Timothy is unmatched by any other actors playing Jane and Rochester. They make you believe their characters love and need for one another.

Beautiful costumes and music all add something to the series. My favourites from amongst the supporting cast are Mary Tamm as the beautiful and self centred Blanche. Robert James as the cold and cruel Mr. Brocklehurst. Jean Harvey as the loveable and loyal Mrs. Fairfax.

I’d love to hear from you what you think of this series? What are your favourite screen adaptations of this story? Leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Book Chat, Romance

Jane Eyre Discussion Part 1: The Novel

It’s time for some book chat. I’ve wanted to write about Jane Eyre for such a long time now. I love this novel so much. I do hope that you will all indulge me as I first discuss the novel, and then in a future post while I write about my favourite screen adaptation of this classic love story.

For anyone out there who doesn’t know the story, here is a brief plot description. Jane Eyre is an orphan, who is left to be raised by her cruel aunt. Jane is sent to a boarding school that is so bad it is more like a prison. Jane overcomes her childhood horrors and becomes a governess. She is appointed governess to Adele, the young ward of Mr. Edward Rochester, the mysterious master of Thornfield Hall. Rochester falls in love with Jane and does all in his power to make her fall for him in return. Secrets and heartbreak await within the next pages.

Jane Eyre  (hereafter written as JE) was written by Charlotte Bronte, and was published in 1847. Charlotte Bronte and her sisters, Anne and Emily, wrote a small number of novels which continue to enthrall readers more than a century after they were published.  JE in particular remains a beloved and much discussed classic novel.

Why though does this story continue to delight readers today? Why is there still such an interest in this novel?

I think it remains so popular because it is all about finding your soulmate. Jane and Rochester each find that special someone and they become so close it’s like they are one being. Even today we are still desperate to have a person like that in our lives, all desperate to be loved and to be accepted for who we are.

I’m sure it is also so frequently discussed because there is so much within it that is still worthy of discussion and debate. It deals with child abuse, with treatment of the mentally ill, with loneliness and despair. The novel also has lots of details within it about what life at the time the novel was written was like.

The relationship between Rochester and Jane is very interesting too. Rochester plays with Jane’s emotions, he goes after what he wants (her as his love and salvation)and awakens her heart, desires, and passions. Their connection is a genuine one, and even though it’s partly brought about through his control of the situation, their connection isn’t there just because of his control over their situation.

JE also shows us that true love is not about looks and sex, but about two souls and minds connecting. It lets us see that people should marry for love, not for money, or so that they can bring two estates together. I think that so many of the themes and issues in this novel are still relevant in our world today.

I first read JE in my early teens and instantly fell in love with it. It has become a firm favourite, and it is a novel I can read again, and again and never get bored with. I connect with the lonely, damaged and passionate Jane. I pity and adore the brooding and desperate Rochester. I pity the extremely ill Bertha. I love the time taken to develop the relationship between Jane and Rochester. I smile at the antics of the adorable Adele, and of the loyal Mrs. Fairfax. I hate the selfish Blanche. I want to slap the evil and hypocritical Mr. Brocklehurst(what a loathsome creature he is!)I really feel the growing affection, friendship and romantic attachment between Jane and Rochester.

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A photo of my copy of the book.

I also love this book for the old language. There are many words, objects and phrases etc that I was unfamiliar with before reading the novel. Their inclusion in the novel lead me to go and research what they meant. There are some great words in it that you never hear used anymore, words such as physiognomy for example.

In so many screen adaptations of JE, these old words and ways of speaking are not present, I think that’s a real shame as it’s not being true to the novel, or to the time period it is set in. My favourite screen adaptation retains the novels historical language though, something for which I will always be grateful.

If you have never read or watched Jane Eyre, please don’t read any further. Massive spoilers ahead!

Through her novel, Bronte gives us a window into her time, and she also gives us a heroine who stays true to her principles and who is a strong, passionate and independent woman. Jane suffered unspeakable cruelty and injustice in her childhood, she did not let that break or define her when she became an adult though.

Jane is admirable for being able to move above and past the horrors of her childhood. She is a shy, gentle and passionate woman who wants to be accepted for her mind and soul, not for money or appearance. Society (even today)places too much importance on looks and status, it is the person inside and our actions that should count most in this world. This novel tackles these issues at a time when they were of paramount importance to all who lived.

The character best remembered from this story by most people, is the brooding master of Thornfield Hall, one Mr. Edward Rochester. Like Jane, Rochester had a deeply unhappy childhood, he wants true love and contentment more than anything else in this world. Despite his marriage to Bertha, Rochester wants Jane, he needs her and wants (and deserves)his own happiness too. Rochester loves Jane and also sees her as his salvation from the awful situation he has found himself trapped within. Some will judge him harshly for wanting to marry a woman despite already being married. 

I on the other hand don’t hate Rochester for that, on the contrary, I pity him and respect him. We see he was not cruel to Bertha, he looked after her very well. He could have just shipped her off to the nearest asylum and dumped her there, but he didn’t. Between him and Grace caring for her she was well looked after, and was treated with compassion and as much dignity as was possible in the time period. She was not mistreated or ridiculed. 

At the asylum Bertha no doubt would have been badly treated and been scared. So he gets all my respect for keeping her at home. Secondly, Bertha was raving mad and  Rochester was told nothing of this when his marriage to her was arranged. How would you react and feel if you were him in such a situation? He lives a pretty depressing life for years until the kind, pure and fresh Jane comes into his life. Here is the wife he should have had long ago.

I see no problem with him taking Jane as his wife because why should he remain married to someone who isn’t even aware of his existence? At least he didn’t try and take Jane as his mistress, he was all set to marry her until Mason showed up and ruined everything. I’m pretty shocked that you couldn’t divorce due to mental illness in those days. I understand the “in sickness and in health”vow, but I think that should only apply if something develops during the marriage, Bertha had a pre-existing condition that was deliberately kept from Rochester by her family. Rochester quickly discovered the truth shortly after the marriage. Why should he have to stay married in that instance? Plus Bertha’s condition was never going to improve and she was totally insane. 

I’m in two minds about Jane’s reaction when she learns the truth about Bertha. I get that her religious and moral convictions made her think that she had no choice but to leave and not stay and marry Rochester. On the other hand why couldn’t she see what I said earlier? It’s not like he was cheating on his wife, she was his wife in name only anyway, because they were not intimate either emotionally or physically. So where is the harm in Jane staying with him?

I’ve read this again recently and picked up on something I never noticed before. It seems like Jane only gives herself one hundred percent to Rochester when he is no longer in control of their situation. At the end he is a blind cripple, he no longer has any dominance in their relationship. He had experience in making love and in matters of the heart, and he played with Jane early in the story due to her inexperience in these things.

At the end he cannot see her reactions to say a kiss they share, or how she reacts on their wedding night the first time they make love. To me it’s like she didn’t like to be seen (at times) and now he can’t see her she comes to him. He can no longer be in control of their intimate moments the way he is at the end ( I know later he regains his full sight in eye.) This doesn’t take anything away from this romantic story, but it does add an  interesting aspect to think about. Has anyone else noticed this?

In short, JE is a novel that I never get bored of returning to. It’s well written, descriptive, vivid and it moves me so much. Bronte’s characters are as interesting and alive today as they were when they first appeared in 1847.

In my next post I will share my favourite screen adaptation of the novel.

What are your thoughts on the novel? I welcome you comments and thoughts on my observations and views of Bronte’s story. Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

British Cinema, Detective, Thriller, True Story

Robbery (1967)

In August, 1963, the British public could talk about only one thing over their bacon, eggs,toast and orange juice. The topic of the day was a robbery. Not just any robbery though. Oh no, this robbery was considered to be the robbery to end all robberies.

Early in the morning of the 8th of August, 1963, sixteen men had held up a Royal Mail train on its way down from Glasgow to London. They boarded the train while it was stopped on a bridge. They severely injured the trains driver, Jack Mills by hitting him with a metal bar, and then they made off with all the cash on board. The grand total they got away with? £2.6 million. At the time this was the largest money robbery in British history.

Several of the gang were eventually caught and a trial was held in 1964. Two of the gang, Ronnie Biggs and Charlie Wilson, escaped prison in daring prison breaks, and they and many others in the gang lived abroad for decades. The case is well known here in the UK, but if you’re not familiar with it you can find more about the case, trial, and the gang members themselves online.

The robbery and what happened afterwards sounds like it’s a plot straight out of a film. Fact can be stranger than fiction though, and that is certainly true in this particular case. It proved too much of an opportunity to pass up on, and so in 1967, production began in the UK on a film based upon the robbery. It was a rather fictionalised account and peoples names were changed etc, and it didn’t end quite how the real life event did either.

The film was directed by Peter Yates (who would go on to great fame as the director of Bullitt) and it was produced by Stanley Baker and Michael Deeley. Baker would also star as the leader of the gang aiming to rob the Royal Mail train of its cash. The films electrifying score was by Johnny Keating, and his music adds so much atmosphere to the film.

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The gang force the train driver to follow their instructions. Screenshot by me.

Robbery is a tense, gripping and gritty flick. It has you on the edge of your seat throughout and I think it has a very realistic look to it. I also like how the Police are not shown as idiots or the enemy here as is so often the case in films mainly focusing on the criminals.

Also we don’t really (well I didn’t anyway)feel like we should be fully on the side of either the Police, or of the criminals, the depiction of what both sides did and went through is well balanced I think.  We can envy at the audacity of the plan, and the fact that it works, but we never forget that these men are criminals, nor that the Police have to do their job and get them.

The first fifteen minutes are some of the most tense I’ve ever seen in a film. The film opens with four criminals setting up a robbery in broad daylight. They set up a gas canister in the car of a man who has a briefcase handcuffed to him. The gas is set to go off at a certain time, it does so knocking out the driver and the man with the case, and causes the car to crash. Three of the gang in a stolen ambulance take the two men out of the car and drive off. In the ambulance they remove the case and some diamonds.

They abandon the ambulance and get into a getaway vehicle, they are spotted by coppers in a passing car who are on the look out for the stolen ambulance, thus begins one of the best car chases in film history. The Police pursue the robbers car at high speed, as the gang try and evade capture. Filmed out on location in and around London streets, this chase had me on the edge of my seat, peeking through my fingers. In some ways this can easily be seen as the warm up for Yates film Bullitt(which features another brilliant car chase.) The bit where the gang get nearer to a London school crossing is edge of your seat stuff.

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Stanley Baker as Clifton. Screenshot by me.

The film sees Paul Clifton(Stanley Baker)get a crew together to help him rob a Royal Mail train. Clifton has thought every possibility through, and is leaving nothing to chance. He doesn’t bet on the determined Scotland Yard Detective George Langdon (James Booth).

Langdon gets to hear interesting info from some of his informers which alerts him to the fact that a big job is about to go down. Langdon and fellow colleagues set about trying to uncover what the job is, and do their best to capture the criminals.  

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James Booth as Langdon. Screenshot by me.

Stanley Baker is excellent as the tough criminal mastermind who you wouldn’t want to mess with. James Booth (Baker’s co-star in the classic war flick Zulu)steals every scene he is in, as the copper determined to get the gang.

Barry Foster, Clinton Greyn, Frank Finlay, George Sewell and William Marlowe all impress as members of Clifton’s crew. Joanna Pettet has a small role as Clifton’s stylish wife, she doesn’t get much to do here, but she does make an impression when she is on the screen.

My favourite scenes are the following. The opening car chase. Frank Finlay’s character being rescued from the prison yard. The line up, where the schoolteacher identifies the man who was driving the speeding car. Clifton’s wife asking him why he has a gun. The train robbery sequence. The discussion at the football match. I also really love the opening title sequence, where the names and credits go backwards, giving us the impression that the train is passing them by.

This is a realistic and thrilling crime film inspired by a incredible true story. I’d also like to say that fans of vintage British cars will be in for a real treat, this film is full of old cars that are sure to bring back happy memories for car lovers.

I highly recommend you see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking at its best. The Network Blu-Ray release also has lots of very good extras to enjoy, including an interesting interview with Stanley Baker.

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Detective, Noir

The Big Heat (1953)

What a film this is! A gripping story of violence, corruption, hate, revenge, and a strong determination to fight back against evil. It also quite interestingly shows us that the line between people who are good and bad can sometimes get quite blurred.

The film is based upon the Saturday Evening Post Serial by William P. McGivern. I have never read this but would love to do so. If you have read it, I would love to get your take on the differences  and similarities between the text and the film. 

For a film from the 50’s, this one is very violent and brutal. Some of the violence we actually see on screen, some is inferred, but all of it makes quite an impact on us. The film still shocks and grips when viewed today. The clothes and cars may have dated, but the story, shock of the violence, and the types of people seen in the film certainly haven’t changed all that much.

The film is directed by Fritz Lang. He made so many masterpieces throughout his career(especially his German Silent films, such as Metropolis), that I find it very hard to single out any one of his films as being better than others. The Big Heat is one of his that I would certainly single out though, and for me it is his best American film.

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Bannion. Screenshot by me.

Lang focuses on the darkness of humanity and really rubs our noses in that darkness and dirt. He also lets us see that there can sometimes be good, decency and courage found in the sewer of humanity. This is a film that is all about humanity, and Lang focuses upon the characters and their actions instead of making the film one that is all about visuals or action.

This is what I call an actors film. The camera is focused on the actors throughout and lets them convey to us what’s going on. The entire cast all deliver superb performances, and for some I think it’s fair to say they deliver career best performances. Glenn Ford in particular is excellent as the good detective who ends up going around filled with barely concealed rage and hatred.

The vast majority of the films power comes via the interactions between characters and their reaction to the violence that occurs throughout the film. I also love how the film is split into little sections which almost come across as mini films in their own right. Apart from one scene, the film all takes place inside.

The interior locations and the close way the camera is focused on the actors really gives the film a claustrophobic feel. Much of the film also has an almost documentary style feel about it. There is a strong sense of realism in this film.

I like that women play a major role in this film. The female characters we see are very strong women and once they get mixed up with Bannion’s investigation they suffer unspeakable cruelty. Much of the violence in this film seems to be directed towards women. Women are the main victims in this film, they either end up getting killed, physically scarred, emotionally damaged, or have their lives put at risk. Even Detective Bannion’s own daughter suffers too; in as much as her childhood innocence gets shattered and lost by what happens to her mum.

                                  Debby gets permanently disfigured. Screenshot by me.

It is also the women in this film who take most of the risks, or who get hurt the most. In the end it is a woman who gets revenge on two of the main villains of the film. Bannion, who is supposed to be the films hero, actually doesn’t get his hands dirty all that often, but through his investigation and persuasion others face danger or lose their lives by helping him get revenge. Bannion also does or say things that make him not unlike the people he is seeking revenge against. There’s that old saying which I think applies to him and his situation; violence begets violence. Revenge is just a never ending cycle of pain and violence.

The film begins with Bertha Duncan (Jeanette Nolan)hearing a gunshot. She comes downstairs and finds her husband (a police detective)dead in an apparent suicide. She reads a letter he has written, but we don’t see what is in it. Throughout all of this she never looks shocked or upset in any way, she looks cold and seems unbothered by the grim sight before her. She makes a call to dapper crime boss Lagana (Alexander Scourby)to inform him of the death, he seems to have mixed feelings to her news, and he says he will see her soon.

Detective Dave Bannion(Glenn Ford)is put on the case and at first seems convinced it is a simple suicide. His suspicions are aroused when he speaks to Lucy Chapman(Dorothy Green)a woman who was Duncan’s mistress and who claims there is no way he killed himself. Bannion sees there is more to this when Lucy is found brutally murdered shortly after telling him what she did.

Across town, the thuggish Vince Stone (Lee Marvin)is one of Lagana’s men and he is put in charge of getting rid of Bannion. A car bomb meant to take out the curious detective accidentally kills Bannion’s wife Katie (Jocelyn Brando) instead. Bannion driven crazy by grief is determined to get revenge and uncover the truth about the case. He also puts his young daughter into the protective custody of former army pals of his to keep her safe.

Stone’s flirtatious, and fun loving girl, Debby(Gloria Grahame)is rebellious, and she takes a liking to Bannion. This affection gets her a pot of boiling coffee in the face, scarring her for life. Debby teams up with Bannion in his quest to get the men who killed his wife. Debby gets to dish out some revenge of her own along the way.

Glenn Ford is excellent as a decent, ordinary man plunged headfirst into violence, grief and pain. He is excellent at conveying little gestures or looks showing Bannion becoming enraged and no longer playing by the rules. His performance is all in the eyes, pay close attention to him in every scene. Glenn often looked quite baby faced in many roles, but here he looks more mature and proves what a good dramatic actor he could be.

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Vince. Screenshot by me.

Lee Marvin steals every scene he is in as the despicable heavy, who has no feelings for anyone, not even for a woman who is supposed to be his girlfriend. Marvin had such an expressive and fascinating face and here he says so much with that face. You sure wouldn’t want to mess with this guy!

Gloria Grahame (who to me has always been quite an underrated actress)is at her best as the fun loving, strong and stubborn Debby. In the last part of the film Debby becomes the main focus of the film instead of Bannion. Gloria relishes these scenes where she shows us Debby overcoming her pain to become a strong woman determined to get some justice for herself and Bannion.

Jocelyn Brando (older sister of Marlon) is very good as Bannion’s loving wife. She gives him a normal, happy and stable existence away from the darkness of his job. Jocelyn and Glenn work well together making us feel this couples connection and devotion.

Jeannette Nolan steals every scene she is in as the ice cold woman who thinks only of her self. Her character is one of the most interesting and controlling in the whole film. Jeannette was a superb actress, but I think this may be one of the best performances she ever gave.

Alexander Scourby oozes evil as the big boss who thinks he is king of the city. He has people very afraid indeed, but of course he won’t dirty his own hands by killing or injuring, he hires heavies to do that for him. Lagana uses words and body language to scare and intimidate, he finds this doesn’t work on Bannion. Scourby is excellent and gives you a good sense of what his character is all about.

This film features many fine supporting performances from the following: Dan Seymour, Willis Bouchey, Edith Evanson and a young Carolyn Jones.

My favourite scenes are the following. Debby answering the phonecall from Lagana for Vince. Bannion and Katie sharing a steak, a drink and a cigarette. Debby going to Bannion after she has been injured. The carbomb sequence. The “sisters under the mink” sequence. Bannion speaking to the old woman through the fence. The finale in the penthouse. Bannion’s Lt speaking to him after Katie’s funeral.

This is a taut film which packs quite a bit into just 89 minutes. There is not one wasted second in this. There are also scenes where you don’t find yourselves wondering why two characters are suddenly together, as they will say a few words that explain all (we don’t need to see them come together to do what they are about to when we catch up to them).

I also like how Bannion is showed to enjoy a very happy marriage and home life. Quite often in films like this the detectives are unmarried or are unhappily married. I like how this film takes a different approach. I also like how this happiness in his character allows Ford to turn in a very dark performance once the happiness is shattered. 

I also have to praise the photography by Charles Lang, he keeps the camera close to the actors at all times and makes us feel a part of the scenes. The film is interesting visually, without the look of the film being the sole focus of attention (like many of the visuals in Fritz Lang’s Silent films).

Be sure to see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking its best. This format also has some great extras for you to enjoy too.

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

 

Dystopian, French Cinema, Page To Screen, Science Fiction

Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

Francois Truffaut’s 1966 film is an excellent adaptation of the acclaimed 1953 novel of the same name. The novel was written by the American Sci-Fi author, Ray Bradbury. Both the book and the film highlight that the desire to open yourself up to new ideas will never (hopefully not)die.

Books give us access to new cultures, worlds, ideas, and perspectives. Both the film and the novel also highlight that when something is forbidden to us, that ban only increases our curiosity about, and a strong desire to seek out the banned thing.  Fictional novels also allow us to relax and to take a break from reality. How is that break different to watching a drama on TV? Reading exercises your brain and imagination, you see in your head the characters, the locations, the clothes etc.

Reading is an experience unlike any other as it is your mind which brings the words to life. Written words are among some of the most powerful things to be found on this earth, some people don’t like that fact, and they want to silence some of those words and control access to them.

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Books are burnt by the firemen. Screenshot by me.

This is a film that made a very strong impression on me when I first watched it a few years ago. As a book lover it makes me so mad to see books being destroyed in this film. It makes me even more angry to see the gaining of knowledge, and the use of ones own imagination, being denied and controlled by the state.

The film also depicts people addicted to drugs, and when they run out, more drugs are given to them by the state. Many people have to take stimulants, most likely to stave off the frustration and dullness of what the reality of this life is. 

It is not hard to see the eerie similarities in the film to the notorious book burnings in Nazi Germany. That state also controlled what was taught, what people did and didn’t do. It also ensured that all citizens followed a strict and controlled life. As we know, if anyone didn’t conform, or anyone took a stand against the Nazi’s they were killed or imprisoned.

This film is also very interesting to look at from a visual perspective. The futuristic buildings look sleek and very Art Deco, yet they also look cold, and there is nothing unique about them (reflecting the confirmative society the film is set in.)  The suspended monorail on which people travel to and from work is also very interesting visually. I think that reflects the futuristic leaps made in engineering/transport in the future. This sequence was filmed at the SAFEGE monorail test track in France.

When I watch this film it makes me think of what books mean to me. Books are a vital part of life for me, just like breathing in the air is vital for me to survive. I simply cannot imagine being without books. It sickens and scares me when access to books is denied, or when they are destroyed.

I’m not a fan of E-books, or of Kindles either, they hurt my eyes, and I find them very impersonal. While this technology may encourage some people to read (which is always a fantastic thing to achieve)I do not want them to ever replace real books.As far as I’m concerned nothing will ever be able to replace the special feeling of holding a book, or of borrowing a book from a Library, knowing that many readers before me have turned these same pages and gone on the journey I’m about to embark upon.   

Francois Truffaut’s superb film is set in a future where books (and the reading of them)are banned by law. Some citizens still read books in secret though, if they are discovered they are reported to the authorities. Firemen are then sent after these people. The firemen seek out and burn the books in these peoples possession.

With public libraries being closed all around us (or threatened with closure), with younger people being hooked on their phones, TVs, and computers instead of reading physical books or engaging face to face with other people; I would say that this film is terrifyingly relevant for our society today. Too many people are nowadays content to sit back and binge on the rubbish being churned out online or on TV instead of engaging with real life and using their own brains and imagination. 

                Julie Christie as two very different women. One is a TV addict, the other is a book lover. Screenshot by me.

Many in society are now just like the TV addicted zombie like people who are depicted in this film. Many young people now don’t even read, and they have zero interest in ever doing so! Their loss I say, but doesn’t it worry anyone else how dumbed down things are becoming in society at large? It seems like fewer and fewer people are avid readers, and that technology is taking over our lives. If this is the future, then it is not one I’m looking forward to being a part of it.

In the future society seen in the film, books and the reading of them are banned. The state controls the lives of its citizens, and all are expected to watch TV for all (or for most of the )day. Some people still read books in secret, if they are discovered the authorities send firemen after them. These men, clad all in black, search for books, and when they find them they burn them. The title of the book and film refers to the temperature at which book paper burns at.

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Montag gets curious about books. Screenshot by me.

Montag (Oskar Werner) is one of the firemen, he is a yes man (like the majority of his society)and he sees nothing wrong in destroying books. When he meets schoolteacher Clarissa (Julie Christie)he starts to question his entire way of life. He himself becomes a hunted fugitive after he is caught reading.

Montag must also make a choice between the two women in his life. Should he make a new life with Clarissa, or remain with his TV addicted, glamorous, drug dependent wife, Linda (also played by Julie Christie. ) This man must make a choice between living a restrictive life, or living in seclusion and being allowed to have intellectual freedom.

Oskar is superb as the man who slowly begins to have his eyes opened to the cruelty and evil being committed daily around him. He starts of as a very closed off character emotionally, and then turns passionate, angry and horrified. His performance is all in the eyes, keep watching him closely throughout.  This is one of my favourite performances by him.

Julie Christie shines in a duel performance. She is vibrant, passionate, and outgoing as Clarissa. As Montag’s wife Linda, she is self centred, brainwashed, chic, and so very dull.

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The sadistic Captain. Screenshot by me.

Cyril Cusack is marvellous as the loathsome and cruel Captain who is Montag’s superior officer. This man takes sadistic pleasure out of burning books, and in causing great distress to the people who read them. Cusack is excellent and he steals every scene he is in.

Bernard Herrmann composed the music for the film and it adds greatly to the film. It is a mystical, beautiful and very ominous soundtrack, and its presence is a big part of the overall film experience.

Excellent performances, and striking images abound in this terrifying vision of a possible future for mankind. This is my favourite Truffaut film, and it is one that contains a story that will impact viewers very strongly. The way in which Montag discovers books can be shared without getting caught is very powerful as yet (thankfully)nobody can read your thoughts, and they also can’t eradicate your memories or emotions.

My favourite scenes are the following. The first time we see the firemen. The opening title sequence (this shows us that this is a TV controlled and conformist society.)Montag reading his first ever book. The old woman burning herself alive so she can die with her books. Clarissa asking Montag if it was true that firemen used to put out fires, instead of starting fires. The finale in the woods. Clarissa and Montag’s discussion in the cafe. Montag being pursued by the flying policemen. Montag’s wife participating in the nationwide TV programme. The Captain getting what he deserves.

Interestingly the film also depicts something that has now become a reality for us today. TV is now such a major part of life, and many people are sadly glued to a screen more than they take part in real life. Many people now have big flat screen TVs, many also now have multiple TVs in their home (one isn’t enough obviously), and some people even watch tiny TVs (now phones)at times too. Knowing that all of this was predicted by Bradbury and depicted by Truffaut decades before it came true, is something that I find to be quite spooky.

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

Blogathons

Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon 2017: The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Hitchcock blogathon EvaEva over at Classicsandcraziness is hosting this blogathon all about Alfred Hitchcock. Be sure to visit her site to read all the other entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’ve recently just finished hosting my own Hitchcock blogathon, and when I saw that Eva was also hosting one, well I just couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to carry on writing about Hitch’s films.

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A few of the main characters. Screenshot by me.

I’m writing this time about The Lady Vanishes, which is one of Hitch’s British films, and was actually the last film that he made here in the UK until he returned here in the 1970’s to make Frenzy.  

The Lady Vanishes is a Hitch film that I love a great deal. It is an excellent mystery thriller, has a nice blend of genres within it, and has lots of humour thrown into the mix as well.

There’s also lots of fun to be had in watching a romantic relationship slowly develop between a couple who at first can’t stand each other one bit. This is also a film in which you should never take the characters at face value, more than a few of them will surprise you as the film goes on.I also really like how this film doesn’t waste a single moment, and it really manages to pack quite a bit into an hour and a half of running time.

Fans of the comic, cricket obsessed characters Charters and Caldicott are also in for a treat. The duo feature here in fairly major roles ,in what was to be the first screen outing for them. These characters popped up in many British films throughout the 1940’s. 

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Michael Redgrave and Margaret Lockwood. Screenshot by me.

The lead actors of the film are Margaret Lockwood and Michael Redgrave, they would both soon go on to become very popular stars in British cinema. Here though they are both in the very early stages of their respective careers, you’d never guess that this was only Michael’s first screen appearance, or that Margaret had only been acting on screen herself for only around five years. They are both excellent and come across very natural in their performances.

Iris (Margaret Lockwood)is on a walking holiday in Europe with two of her friends. Iris is returning home to the UK before her friends do. When she gets home she will soon be getting married. About to board her homebound train, Iris is hit on the head by a heavy plant pot that falls from a window above her. Iris has a very sore head but seems to be fine otherwise.

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Miss Froy. Screenshot by me.

Iris is befriended by Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), an elderly governess who is also returning home to the UK. During the journey Miss Froy looks after the injured Iris, who falls asleep and when she wakes up Miss Froy is missing. Fellow passengers and train staff claim she was never on the train!

 

Fellow passenger, Dr. Hartz (Paul Lukas)is concerned that Iris’s head injury could be causing her to hallucinate, but Iris is adamant that she is telling the truth and that Miss Froy was no hallucination.

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Gilbert and Iris go searching on the train. Screenshot by me.

The only one who believes her is the witty musician, Gilbert (Michael Redgrave)who had met and annoyed Iris the night before at her hotel (he was playing music loudly and this disturbed her sleep.)

Can Gilbert and Iris stop bickering long enough to get to the bottom of what is going on? Just what has happened to the little old lady dressed all in tweed?

Margaret is excellent as the woman who is thrown into danger and adventure, but who won’t back down in her search for her friend. She makes you really feel her mounting confusion and desperation, particularly as it seems more and more likely that she imagined the missing old lady.

Michael steals every scene he is in as the dashing, heroic and witty Gilbert. I love how he conveys to us by the way he looks at Iris that he is falling hard for her. Michael looks at Margaret with such tenderness (I’m swooning just writing this 🙂 ) and you just know these two should get together. I’m really impressed by how good Michael is here considering this is his film debut. He acts like he has been in front of a camera for years before this.

Paul Lukas is excellent as the respectable surgeon who may or may not be hiding a secret. Paul has your attention in every scene he is in. Is his character one to be trusted?

Dame May Whitty is perfect casting as the little old lady, who as it later turns out has quite a few surprises up her sleeve.

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Charters and Caldicott. Screenshot by me.

Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford are hysterical as the friends to whom nothing else matters apart from getting home to watch a cricket match. They are a riot, and it’s not difficult to see why they went on to appear in many films over the next few years.

Cecil Parker and Linden Travers are also both excellent as a couple who are having an affair. They may have seen Miss Froy, but refuse to get involved as they don’t want to draw attention to themselves.

Googie Withers who(like Margaret Lockwood)would soon go on to become a popular leading lady of British cinema, has a small role as one of Iris’s friends.

My favourite scenes are the following. Gilbert and Iris’s first meeting at the hotel. Gilbert climbing out of the train window as another train comes by on the opposite track. Gilbert and Iris meeting again on the train. All the scenes featuring Charters and Caldicott. The shootout finale. Gilbert and Iris finding the magicians box in the luggage compartment. Gilbert getting all worried about Iris after she faints.

In this film, a whistled tune turns out to be of vital international importance, major head trauma is somehow avoided when a heavy plant pot falls on a human head, and a packet of tea proves to be a vital clue to the whereabouts of a missing woman. There’s romance, arguments, secrets and dangers galore. You really don’t want to avoid boarding this train!

Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

 

 

 

Blogathons

Announcing The Horrorathon: 26th and 27th Of October, 2017

The Horrorathon 3

In a couple of months time it will be Halloween; cue the scary music, flickering candles, screams, and people banging at your door thinking it’s fine to demand sweets. A perfect opportunity then for us to discuss those films that scare us.

You can discuss anything related to horror films. For example you could discuss your favourite scary film. The Universal Monster Movies (Dracula, The Invisible Man etc.) The Hammer Horror films. The films of Val Lewton. The Horror directors. The Horror stars, such as Vincent Price, Lon Chaney Sr, Peter Cushing etc. It’s entirely up to you.

As usual, I will only be accepting two duplicate posts about the same film, actor etc. There are so many films and stars out there for this genre, that we shouldn’t all need to write about the same ones. Check the participant list below to see who is writing about what. You are welcome to write more than one post.

New to blogathons?

How do I take part?
Very easily. Leave me a comment below telling me what you want to write about.  Leave me your name and the name of your blog too. Then grab one of the banners below, and put it up somewhere on your site to help spread the word.
What will happen on the Blogathon days?
I will put up a new post on each day saying the Blogathon is going live. Leave me your name and the link to your completed entry in the comments. I will then create the link to your entry on my post.
I’ve never participated in a Blogathon before. What’s it all about?
You’re in for lots of fun then. 🙂  Blogathons are a great way of connecting with other bloggers. It’s a good way of getting more visitors to your site who may not otherwise have ever known your blog existed. I love Blogathons for the varied opinions and comments different bloggers can bring to the same subject.

It’s up to you on which of the days you make your entry live. All I ask is that nobody posts late, you can post early if you like, let me know and I will add your link in on one of the days.

Grab one of the banners below to help spread the word, and put it up on your site somewhere. Have fun writing, and please don’t scare yourselves too much!

 

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Horrorathon 1

Participation List

Maddylovesherclassicfilms – Dead Of Night

Cinematic ScribblingsSpirits of the Dead

LifesdailylessonsblogThe Haunting      13 Ghosts

Thoughts All SortsMy Reaction To Horror Films.

                                   VinniehCat People

Sparksfromacombustiblemind –  Post on Jamie Lee Curtis       Halloween (1978)

Bonnywood ManorDon’t Look Now      The Haunting of Julia

RealweegiemidgetKill Keith

Wonders In The DarkI Walked With A Zombie

Serendipitous AnachronismsThe Legend Of Hell House

In The Good Old Days Of Classic HollywoodThe Bat

dbmoviesblogLes Diaboliques

Critica RetroThe Page Of Madness

The Wonderful World Of CinemaTopic to be decided

Moody MoppetThe Raven

Old School EvilMonster Squad

Sat In Your LapComedy Of Terrors

It Came From The Man CaveTrick or Treat?

Silent-ologyThe Man Who Laughs (1928)

The Stop ButtonSuspiria

A Viewers Guide To Classic FilmsHouse Of Dracula

 

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 3

Hitchcock blogathon 2

For the final day of our get together, we are in a posh hotel in New York. Our guest speaker is one Mr. Roger Thornhill. Unfortunately he is running late, this is due to a serious case of mistaken identity. 

We better make a start without him. Let our third and final day of Hitchcock discussion commence.

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 3 Entries

Lifesdailylessonsblog takes a look at Hitchcock’s Suspicion.

dbmoviesblog writes about Rope.

The Humpo Show boards a train to write about Strangers on a Train.

Taking Up Room peeks through the curtains to take a look at Rear Window.

One Mann’s Movies Special takes a look through the binoculars at Rear Window.

Anybody Got A Match? Takes a look at   To Catch A Thief .

 

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 2

The Hitchcock Blogathon 4

We are now meeting in the conference room of the Bodega Bay hotel. This is a lovely little town, unfortunately it appears that they are having some trouble with birds. Best stay inside when taking a break!

Let our second day of Hitchcock discussion commence.

Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 2 Entries

Bonnywood Manor takes to the high seas to discuss Lifeboat.

Sparksfromacombustablemind braves the scariest bathroom in film history to discuss Psycho.

Cracked Rear Viewer climbs up a windmill to take a look at Foreign Correspondent.    

Realweegiemidget takes a look at the man himself in Hitchcock.

Review Donkey   boards the train to discuss The Lady Vanishes.

Check back tomorrow for day 3!

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Day 1

Hitchcock blogathon 3

The time has come for us to discuss the work of the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. (1899-1980)

The Bates Motel conference room is now open for all the participants to gather together to discuss the work of Mr. Hitchcock. Whatever you do though, do not ask Mr. Bates about his mother!

I will put up a new post on the 5th and 6th of August. If you are taking part on those days, just leave me your links when the blogathon post for each of those days goes live.

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon Entries: Day 1

I Found it at the Movies takes a look at the macabre Rope.

Silver Screenings discusses the silent classic The Lodger .

Cinema Essentials looks at one of the greatest of Hitch’s films The 39 Steps.

Critica Retro looks at the Masters of Cinema: Alfred Hitchcock book.

I take a look at  Sabotage. Marnie. Shadow of a Doubt.

 

 

 

 

See you tomorrow for Day 2!

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Shadow Of A Doubt (1943)

Hitchcock blogathon 3

This is my third and final entry for my Hitchcock Blogathon. This time I’m writing about the film that Hitch called his personal favourite from amongst his own films.  It’s really not hard to see why he loved this one so much.

Long before David Lynch showed us that small towns hid secrets, and that all was not well behind closed doors; Hitch gave us all of that in just one film. That film is Shadow Of A Doubt, and it is a nightmare depiction of discovering someone you love is not who you thought them to be. This film also shows innocence being lost, and horror and disruption landing in a small American town.

There is also some terrific Hitchcock black humour to be found in this film. Henry Travers and Hume Cronyn play two best friends who meet regularly to discuss (in minute detail) ways in which they could kill one another and not get detected. These bizarre conversations appear throughout the film, at one point even carrying on at the dinner table!

The film is set (and filmed out on location)in Santa Rosa, California. We are shown the positive sides of small town life in this film. You (usually)get good and supportive neighbours, have a strong sense of community, and you feel that your town is the safest place you could be.

Hitch also shows us that living in a place like this shelters the inhabitants from the violence etc that you will be (unfortunately)almost certain to encounter in the big city. The trouble with being sheltered from it is that you never believe anything bad will ever happen to you, or to those living in your community.

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Charlie arrives in town. Screenshot by me.

This film sees the eyes of the small town community being opened to evil. This evil comes in the form of Charles Oakley (Joseph Cotten).  Known to all as Charlie, he is a smooth talking, charming and elegant man.

He is also a serial killer, who targets wealthy widows and is dubbed by the Police and media as ‘The Merry Widow Killer’.

Charlie’s identity is as yet unknown, but the Police have gathered many leads and are beginning to suspect him.

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Charlie and young Charlie reunite. Screenshot by me.

Charlie gets on a train and travels to Santa Rosa. He goes to stay with his beloved elder sister, Emma (Patricia Collinge), and her husband Joseph ( Henry Travers).

Charlie is happy to see them, and they are happy to see him. Charlie is overjoyed to be reunited with his teenage nice and namesake, young Charlie (Teresa Wright).

These two have a fascinating relationship. They have an almost telepathic bond with each other and can read each other like a book. Young Charlie looks up to her uncle and sees him as a breath of fresh air in her life.

When Detective Jack Graham (MacDonald Carey) speaks to young Charlie about her uncle, she soon begins to suspect that her Uncle may well be hiding a dark secret. As she begins to investigate him he become suspicious and soon their relationship becomes one of cat and mouse.

When I first saw this film I was in my mid teens, and I picked up then a strong hint of something that almost seems like sexual tension to me between the two Charlie’s. The more I’ve watched this as I’ve grown older, I can still detect this weird tension between them. The way young Charlie behaves around Uncle Charlie, it is almost like she has a strong crush on him. 

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Charlie and young Charlie. More like twins or a couple than simply uncle and niece. Notice the same pose they are both in during this scene. Screenshot by me.

There are also several scenes where they seem to act out things like a couple who’ve had a spat would (such as her acting weird around him, or running off and him chasing her and taking her to the bar.) Am I alone in noticing this tension? I find it hard to believe that something like this would be in this by accident. Everything Hitch included (even the smallest things)were included intentionally.

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Uncle Charlie attacks his niece. Screenshot by me.

Joseph Cotten is excellent here as a man with a very dark secret indeed, who presents a likeable front to the world.  This role showed what a good dramatic actor Cotten could be, it’s a shame he never again got a role quite like this.

His famous speech about pulling back the fronts of houses to find swine is unforgettable. That speech (although chilling)is correct because behind closed doors many unpleasant things go on all the time that we are never privy too. 

In most cases neighbours, friends, family etc wouldn’t believe or accept those things as true if they were told, as the people involved come across as nice when they are out and about in public.

The film also focuses on the dual nature of Charlie and on why he is the way he is. It is revealed later that after a childhood head injury his personality changed. That to me suggests that his actions as an adult are down to his personality change caused by this injury. In regards to this, I think that Hitch was quite ahead of his time looking at psychology and other issues causing someone to do something unpleasant. Charlie goes through life with two faces and personalities and switches between them as when it becomes necessary.

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Charlie has her innocence shattered. Screenshot by me.

Duality as a theme continues in the film with the nature of Charlie and young Charlie. She represents the innocence and joy he had as a child.

He represents the reality of adulthood, innocence dies, and with pressures and responsibilities there is less joy to be had when you are grown, than when you are younger.

Their characters are also almost like twins, and although they are separate they have this connection and outlook that makes them almost like one person.

Teresa Wright is excellent as the young woman who loses her innocence and sheltered nature quicker than she should have done. She captures the horror and disbelief of discovering an unpleasant truth about someone you love. Teresa is a very expressive actress, and in many scenes in this she doesn’t need dialogue as everything we need to know can be seen in her face.

Patricia Collinge is very moving as the devoted elder sister to Uncle Charlie. Emma clearly adores him and worships the ground he walks on, almost to the point of self delusion. You almost don’t want him to get caught for her sake. You know she would break when told the horrific truth.

An excellent film that is one of Hitch’s best in my opinion. It is also a good one to watch if you are after strong performances.

My favourite scenes are the following. The finale on the train. Uncle Charlie chasing Charlie into town and taking her to the bar. Young Charlie trying to get in the Library at closing time.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please share your comments below.

 

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Marnie (1964)

The Hitchcock Blogathon 4

This is my second entry for my Hitchcock blogathon. This time I’m writing about Marnie. This is one of Hitch’s later films, and it is one which I think really deserves to be better known and appreciated by audiences today.

This one hasn’t been as well received by audiences as the vast majority of Hitch’s other films were. I think that was because this isn’t really your typical Hitchcock film. Marnie explores problems of the mind, and it’s far from the usual suspense/thriller films audiences had come to expect. 

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Tippi Hedren delivers a powerful performance in the film. Screenshot by me.

This is the second and final Hitchcock film to star Tippi Hedren. She was excellent in The Birds, but I really think she outdoes herself in Marnie.

Tippi lets us see that this woman is truly messed up (both emotionally and psychologically)she really makes you feel and believe that Marnie has some major issues in her life that have left her emotionally scarred. In the scenes where Marnie is scared of something, Tippi looks truly petrified and traumatised.

This is an interesting film as most of the suspense lies in unlocking the secrets hidden within Marnie herself. There are some other suspenseful moments (such as the shoe dropping on the floor etc)but it is mainly Marnie’s psychological issues which keep us on the edge of our seats throughout.

This film has become famous for the scene where it is strongly implied that Mark rapes Marnie on their wedding night onboard the passenger ship. This sequence caused friction between Hitch and the original scriptwriter Evan Hunter . When Hunter left the project, the script was written again, and this time around by a woman! Jay Presson Allen, who had no trouble in writing that scene, or in writing it the way Hitch wanted it to be.

The sequence as it stands is shocking, but we don’t actually see the act of rape take place, so to be fair we don’t actually know for sure if that is what happens to her as we don’t see anything. The way it’s cut together though does strongly suggest that was what took place. I’ll come back to this sequence later.

Margaret “Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren)is a compulsive thief who is on the run after robbing her employer of $10,000. Getting another job as a secretary at Rutland’s Publishing Company, Marnie attracts the attention of its widower owner Mark Rutland (Sean Connery). Unbeknown to Marnie, Mark saw her at the previous company she just robbed and keeps a close eye on her.

Marnie robs Mark’s firm. This time though she is caught by him. Mark blackmails her into marrying him in return for his silence. Marnie agrees and Mark tries to unlock the many mysteries that surround this woman.

Marnie hates being touched, is repulsed by the idea of sex, has panic attacks when she sees the colour red, and freaks out during thunderstorms. Mark slowly begins to uncover the horrific events in Marnie’s past that have caused her to become the woman she is now.

Sean plays a pretty unique character for a Hitchcock film, in that he appears to be pretty much unlikable. At first glance there is an air about him that makes it appear that he is studying Marnie, and at times it looks like he gets a kick out of forcing her to work on her issues. Marnie herself says to him “I’m just something you’ve caught!”

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Sean Connery as Mark. Screenshot by me.

Having said that though, I’ve often wondered if he appears like that to us because we see him from Marnie’s point of view?

Her perception of him may well be warped by her issues and how she is so wary of men and sees them all as things to be avoided and not trusted. Going back and viewing the film with that possibility in mind makes it more interesting I think.

It even makes you go back and think again about that suggested rape sequence, should that sequence actually be taken at face value? Was Mark actually doing nothing more than being a husband making love to his new wife, but due to how damaged she is, to her the act of making love seemed like rape to her? It also makes you think if he was a genuinely horrible person, why is he even trying to help Marnie at all with her issues? If he was so bad why would he care about her at all? Towards the end we see that he does care about her and she comes to trust him and values his help.

Mark also seems to care more for animals than he does people, and he talks about slowly gaining an animals trust. Throughout the film he uses the same techniques with Marnie, he is patient with her and allows her to come to him over time.

Tippi and Sean are both excellent.  There’s strong support from Diane Baker as Mark’s trouble making sister in law, Lil. She openly flirts with Mark, and it’s obvious she is jealous of Marnie when Mark brings her home.

Louise Latham plays Marnie’s mother. At first she is a typical Hitch mother, cold, distant, seemingly responsible for messing up her child etc. As the film goes on though we see her in a very different light. Louise is excellent particularly in the scenes when the truth about what happened to Marnie is revealed.  

Mariette Hartley plays Susan, a fellow secretary at Rutland’s who befriends Marnie. She is only in a few scenes but steals each one she is in. I love her amusement over her boss constantly forgetting the safe combination.

There’s also a small appearance by Bruce Dern, as a violent sailor who causes problems for Marnie and her mother.

Those watching this and expecting a typical Hitch film will be surprised. This film is quite unlike his others. I think the negative response to this one is a real shame, as the film is very good and has many memorable moments. The performances from the entire cast are also solid throughout.

My favourite scenes are the following. Marnie and Mark playing the word association game. Marnie dropping the shoe. Marnie freaking out over the red ink. Marnie and Lil meeting for the first time over tea. Mark telling Marnie he trained Sophie (a wild animal)to trust him. Marnie trying to get the gun off Mark. The final sequence when we learn all about what happened to Marnie.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.

 

Blogathons

The Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon: Sabotage (1936)

Hitchcock blogathon 2

This is my first entry for my Hitchcock blogathon which begins this Friday.

In this first post I’m writing about one of Hitchcock’s early British films. That film is his 1936 espionage thriller Sabotage.The film is based on the novel The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad.

Hitch always liked to ensure he kept his audiences squirming in their seats in suspense and fear. This film features a sequence aboard a bus that has us doing both of those things, and it also has us getting very angry at Hitch.

The infamous bus sequence of which I speak is rivalled only (for me) by the Statue of Liberty sequence in Saboteur, and by the shocking shower murder in Psycho. The Sabotage bus sequence is also note worthy for being very realistic, it is utterly shocking, horrific and brutal when viewed today; so I can only imagine how audiences in the thirties must have responded to witnessing this sequence upon the films original release.

The sequence of which I speak sees a boy board a bus in London. He is unknowingly carrying a bomb, which is hidden inside a package he has been asked to deliver. We know the time it will detonate. As the boy carries it around town, the clock is counting down to the time of detonation. It makes us feel angry at Hitch because there’s no happy end to that bus sequence and also because a child is killed and was powerless to escape their horrific end.

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Sylvia Sydney as Mrs. Verloc. Screenshot by me.

The film is set in London in the 1930’s. Many scenes take place in a family flat above a cinema. The family who live there are the Verloc’s, and they both own and run this popular cinema. The Verloc family consists of Karl Verloc(Oscar Homolka), his much younger wife (Sylvia Sidney)and her younger brother, Stevie (Desmond Tester).

Unbeknown to his wife, Karl is a member of a group of saboteurs. The group have already done several things to cause problems (such as shutting down the electricity to the city.) They now want to go a step further and create sheer terror, they want to set off a bomb in central London.

Scotland Yard’s investigations have led them to the Verloc’s cinema and they put an undercover officer to work in the shop next door to keep an eye on what’s going on. That officer is Ted Spencer (John Loder) and he befriends Mrs. Verloc and her brother. His feelings for them are genuine, but he tries to keep in mind that Mrs. Verloc could also be a part of the group too. Karl has to collect a bomb and he is tasked with setting it off. The race is on to try and gather proof against him and to stop him before he does fatal damage.

 

This is a very bleak and serious film and there is precious little Hitchcock humour to be found here. The subject matter of this film is even more relevant today, given the world we are currently living in. I think that our own experiences with these horrors make us realise that this film is sadly far from being just a frightening fiction. There are plenty of Verloc’s roaming around our communities today, and that is truly a chilling thought indeed.

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Oscar Homolka as Mr. Verloc. Screenshot by me.

Mr. Karl Verloc is one of Hitch’s coldest and nastiest villains. Homolka does a very good job in portraying this horrible man. Right from the start it’s pretty clear to us that he is a chap to steer clear of, there is no soul to be found within him. His personality did make me wonder why his wife stayed with for so long?

There must have been something about him that made her want to be with him, or maybe she just couldn’t accept the unpleasant truth staring her in the face and denied his true nature to herself? As the film goes on, Verloc becomes more and more loathsome and his attitudes towards his actions more shocking. What happens to him in the end is more than justified I’d say. If ever anyone had that end coming to them it was certainly him.

This film also does a good job of capturing a loved ones inability to accept that a family member could be capable of murder or of a serious criminal act. Mrs. Verloc (who as it turns out is not involved with the saboteurs in any way) won’t accept the truth about her husband until his actions cause her to lose someone very dear to her.

Sidney is excellent as the woman who has her whole life destroyed. Her perceived image of her husband is shattered and her innocence comes to an end too. Your heart goes out to this woman and you pity her for the terrible situation she finds herself in.

My favourite scenes are the following. Mrs. Verloc struggling against her desire to pick up the knife and use it to hurt her husband. Mr. Verloc meeting a fellow saboteur at the London zoo aquarium. Stevie showing Ted behind the back of the cinema screen and the window into the flat where Ted can spy on the saboteurs meeting there. The bus explosion. Mrs. Verloc watching an animated film and laughing, her uncontrollable laughter soon turns to tears.

Good performances all round, a tense and shocking story and many memorable sequences help to make this one of Hitch’s best films. I like how many scenes in this could almost be from a Silent film; the famous sequence with the knife for example plays out with no dialogue, the power of it comes from Homolka and Sidney’s expressions in that moment. Hitch knew full well the power of actors faces in key moments, this film is very much an actors film and he uses them to full effect.

What are your thoughts on this film? Please leave your comments below.