Films I Love, Unsung Classics

George Sanders As Simon Templar

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The Saint’s signature stickman. Screenshot by me.

In 1928, the author Leslie Charteris introduced readers to a man named Simon Templar. Simon was known to the Police and to criminals as The Saint.

Simon Templar was a suave and very charming gentleman thief; he was also something of a Robin Hood type figure who stood up to injustice and remained one step ahead of the Police (and of any bad guys) when they pursued him.

He was always on the side of good though and he would sometimes team up with the Police to help them stop bad and dangerous criminals. My favourite aspect of the novels (and the TV series adaptation)is Simon’s love/hate relationship with Inspector Teale of Scotland Yard; their banter is hysterical and I love how deep down they really like and respect one another. This friendship is found in the George Sanders films between Simon and Inspector Fernack.

Simon ended up becoming a very popular character with readers. Simon would leave a hand drawn stick figure man with a halo over his head as his signature mark on messages he had penned, or at the site of his own crime scenes. The stick man would feature in the opening of the RKO films starring George Sanders.

Simon first appeared in the novel Meet The Tiger (1928). This first novel also sees the introduction of the character Patricia Holm. Patricia becomes a frequent partner and girlfriend of Simon’s, she pops up in many of the novels but she doesn’t appear in the film adaptions. Charteris carried on writing the Saint novels until 1963. 

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Screenshot by me.

There have been several screen adaptations of The Saint made over the years, for both film and also for television.

There was also a 1940’s radio series adaption starring Vincent Price as Simon. Arguably though the most famous screen adaptation of Charteris’s work was the 1960’s British TV series starring Roger Moore as Simon.

I totally dig that TV series(thanks dad for introducing me to Simon Templar and also to a pre-Bond Roger Moore), but I much prefer the 1930’s and 1940’s film series starring George Sanders as The Saint.  

George took over the role of Simon Templar from Louis Hayward, who had played Simon in The Saint In New York (1938).The suave George Sanders was basically the go to actor in Hollywood at this time if you wanted someone to play a cad or villain in your film. As Simon, George got to show that he was actually just as adept at playing good guys and heroes as he was playing villains and heartbreakers. I also like how he plays Simon as a ladies man, but not in any way as a man who breaks the hearts of the women he dates or treats them badly (unlike the many cad characters George so often played in other films).

I was so excited when I first found out that George had played Simon in this film series. When I started to watch these films I became quite angry; I was so angry when I thought about how the studios didn’t let George play the hero more often on screen. What a wasted opportunity! When I read any of the Saint novels now it is George’s face that I see when I’m picturing Simon, he really is the perfect screen version of this character and is every inch the hero.

I quite like George’s other (relatively small number) good guy performances in films like Foreign Correspondent, Lured, The Lodger and The Falcon film series. His performance in the Saint series is a highlight in his career in my opinion. George Sanders perfectly captures Simon Templar’s wit, intellect, charm and (when necessary)his physical toughness. Through his portrayal I always get the sense that his Simon Templar is someone you would love to have as a friend and he would make you feel safe, but you certainly wouldn’t want him as your enemy.

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Simon and Inspector Fernack look for a clue. Screenshot by me.

I really love how George delivers his lines in these films, he shows us that words are Simon’s weapons and he throws them around like knives. George is clearly having a lot of fun during scenes where he fires off quips and insults at people he loathes.

I also really love the look George has on his face when he’s playing scenes where Simon sees through another characters lies. I also don’t think you’re ever in doubt that his Simon can more than take care of himself in a fight. He’s also got no hesitation in dishing out a bit of violence to villains who deserve a taste of their own medicine.

George Sanders played Simon Templar between 1939 and 1941. That all ended when RKO studios offered him the role of Gay Laurence in the 1941 film, The Gay Falcon. The Falcon series so closely resembled The Saint series, that Leslie Charteris actually ended up suing RKO Studios for plagiarism. I consider it to be a great shame that George didn’t get to star in any more Saint films. I think he was perfectly suited to the role of Simon and I consider him to be the best Simon Templar ever seen on screen. Given how much The Falcon resembled The Saint, you can watch those films and consider them a continuation of Simon’s adventures. Sanders tired of playing Laurence after only three films, his own brother Tom Conway went on to become that series lead playing Laurence’s brother. The Saint film series later continued on with two more films starring Hugh Sinclair as Simon.

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Simon and some lady friends hit the tennis courts. Screenshot by me.

I love George’s performance the most in The Saint Takes Over, The Saint Strikes Back, and The Saint in Palm Springs. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of watching any of his Saint films, but these three films in particular have become great favourites. In addition to George’s terrific performance throughout the series, I also want to give a shout out to the terrific supporting cast joining him.

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Jonathan Hale as Inspector Fernack. Screenshot by me.

Jonathan Hale plays Inspector Henry Fernack, friend and frequent professional thorn in Templar’s side. Fernack essentially replaces Simon’s friend, British Inspector Teale, once Templar moves across the pond to the US.

 

Hale is excellent and I think that he and George Sanders work very well together in these films. They are both terrific in comic moments involving the pair of them. I really love Hale in the scene where he has an allergic reaction to some seafood in The Saint Strikes Back. 

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Paul Guilfoyle as Clarence. Screenshot by me.

 

Paul Guilfoyle adds a great deal of comedy to the films as another of Simon’s pals, Clarence ‘Pearly’ Gates. He steals all the scenes he is in. I always look forward to him appearing in scenes, especially if he has scenes with George Sanders.

 

 

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Wendy Barrie. Screenshot by me.

Wendy Barrie pops up in most of Sanders Saint and Falcon films. She isn’t an actress who I’ve ever really been a fan of, but I think she is actually very good in these films. I like her in scenes with Sanders, and I think that they play off one another very well. She usually plays Simon’s love interest.

 

 

The role of Simon Templar could well have been written especially for George Sanders, he fits the role just like a glove. I love his performance and I like the elegant, suave and tough way he plays Simon. His performance as The Saint has become a great favourite of mine. I really enjoy returning to these films to watch his portrayal of Simon. 

These films are great fun and are very enjoyable and quality B pictures. You could do far worse than spend an hour watching one of these films. If you’re a fan of George Sanders then I highly recommend that you check him out in these films. 

Please share your thoughts on Sanders portrayal of Simon Templar. Which of these films are your favourites? I’ll be happy to receive comments about the books too.

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Films I Love, Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 9: King Solomon’s Mines (1950)

It’s time to take a look at another unsung classic film. This is one that I love a great deal. It really annoys me that so few people ever discuss, or even seem to know about this one today. It has a perfect blend of adventure, action, romance and mystery. It was mostly filmed on location. It also features two of the classic film eras biggest stars – Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr. There is plenty to enjoy in this film.

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Allan protects Elizabeth and John. Screenshot by me.

I will never forget the first time that I saw this film. I was in High School and in history class we were studying the Suffragettes. We had an exam coming up, and our teacher said that if any of us wanted to do so, we could borrow a tape from her to take home for a night to watch.

On the tape there was a documentary about the Suffragette movement. The documentary would help us as a part of our exam revision. I was one of those who borrowed the tape.

I finished watching the documentary and I was about to turn the tape off, when the tape cut back to what had originally been recorded on it. It cut to this film. The film was a few minutes in, starting at the scene where Elizabeth first meets Allan at his house. Seeing Deborah Kerr was in it, I carried right on watching. I was very glad that I did. I loved this film. As I had missed the title, I then spent some time checking out Deborah’s film information until I found that the film I had just seen was King Solomon’s Mines.  

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Stewart Granger as Allan Quatermain. Screenshot by me.

I couldn’t tell you a thing about that documentary now, but I can tell you that I was very happy indeed to have found this film on that tape. I wasn’t familiar with Stewart Granger at this time and he certainly made quite an impression on me in this film. I have been a fan of his ever since, and this is one of my favourite films that he ever made.

I love Stewart’s performance in this as the fearless, experienced, and smouldering adventurer, Allan Quatermain. It was a role he was well suited to playing I think. He’s got the tough guy of very few words persona down perfectly in this. It also doesn’t hurt that Stewart is one of the manliest and sexiest men who ever did live.  🙂 

Deborah Kerr does a fantastic job of playing a woman unaccustomed to the struggle and danger of going on their expedition. Allan is convinced that Elizabeth will not last long and will beg him to turn back. She finds the journey difficult to endure, but she stubbornly refuses to give in and put an end to her misery and exhaustion.

Deborah does her best with a role that is essentially a damsel in distress, she really tries to put across her characters determination and emotional distress. I think she succeeds quite well at this.

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Deborah Kerr as Elizabeth. Screenshot by me.

For a large part of the film Deborah sadly doesn’t get much to do apart from scream as animals scare her or try to attack her. These sequences lead to lots of moments of Allan rescuing Elizabeth, and at the moment of rescue the pair gaze into each others eyes and their growing bond and desire is ever more evident to us.

Stewart Granger and Deborah Kerr have some incredible chemistry going on in this film. The sexual tension between them is the thing I remember the most about this film. It is so evident and adds something extra to the film.

From the way Stewart and Deborah both look at each other (swoon)to their body language, they very clearly convey to us their characters growing feelings for one another.   

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Richard Carlson as John. Screenshot by me.

Richard Carlson (who I love in The Creature From The Black Lagoon)lends good support as Elizabeth’s brother. He can see before his sister can, that she and Allan are falling in love. He also knows the real reason (which we don’t learn until later on)why she is pushing herself so hard to find her husband. Carlson is an actor who I think given the right material could have become a much bigger star, sadly that wasn’t to be. 

The film is directed by Compton Bennett and Andrew Marton. It is based upon the 1885 novel of the same name written by H. Rider Haggard.

This was not the first adaptation of the novel, it had been filmed before in 1937. That earlier adaptation starred Cedric Hardwicke as Quatermain. Several other adaptions would follow over the decades.

The 1950 film is not an accurate adaption of the novel. In the novel Deborah Kerr’s character doesn’t exist, and the missing man being searched for is the brother of a man in Quatermain’s expedition party.  

Personally I think that adding the character of Elizabeth helped the film as the growing relationship between Elizabeth and Allen is possibly the most memorable part of the film. I also liked seeing how Elizabeth coped in a hostile environment and how she doesn’t want to be seen as weak or helpless by Quatermain and the others. 

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Elizabeth and Allan share a moment. Screnshot by me.

Elizabeth Curtis (Deborah Kerr)and her brother, John (Richard Carlson)hire  the experienced hunter and guide, Allan Quatermain (Stewart Granger). They hire him to take them in search of Elizabeth’s missing husband. Mr. Curtis was searching for the legendary King Solomon’s Mines and he hasn’t been seen since setting out on his adventure.

Allan accepts the job, but he warns them that it will be dangerous, difficult and it will be unlikely that they will find him. The trio set out, along with a number of native guides and bearers. Along the way they are joined by the exiled (and very tall)native king Umbopa(Siriaque).

The group encounter danger from tribesmen, from oppressive heatwaves and from some wildlife. Allan and Elizabeth start off disliking each other, but over the weeks that follow they both realise they are developing feelings for one another. 

The film also features one of the best examples of an only in the movies moment that I can think of. Elizabeth’s long hair proves to be a real bother to her during the trek, so she takes the scissors to it and cuts it off. After a quick wash in a rock pool by a waterfall, she emerges to sunbathe on the rocks. The next time we see her, she now has a perfectly styled (and blow dried) new hairdo. See my screenshots below to enjoy this transformation. Ah, the magic of film. 😉

The film is great fun and I highly recommend it. My only issue is that there are several scenes where animals are killed for no reason other than they scared Elizabeth. I can’t stand to see animals killed or hurt, and I really hate people who hunt animals. To see these animals killed (even though the animals were probably not harmed for real)really annoys me.

Also the whole thing with Elizabeth screaming every single time she comes across an animal is very annoying. Does she not know that she in these creatures natural habitats and so of course she will be very likely to encounter them at some point?

Anyway, I hope I’ve convinced you to give this film a watch if you’ve never seen it before. If you watch it for no other reason, then at least watch it to see Stewart and Deborah’s chemistry. 

 

Are there any other fans of this one out there? Somebody please tell me I am not alone in my love for this film!

Detective, Noir, Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 8: Woman On The Run (1950)

I came across this Noir gem purely by chance a few days ago. It came up as a recommended purchase after I had bought another Noir film. I had never heard of this one before, but I really loved the sound of the story. I also really like Ann Sheridan(who is the star of the film) and so I just had to have it. Having watched this yesterday, I can report that this certainly was money well spent. 

Woman On The Run is quite a unique Noir film. Originally titled Man On The Run, the title was changed to what it is now, and the focus was taken off of the pursued man on the run, and shifted instead onto his wife.  I think this change really helps the film. Such stories would usually focus on the man who has gone into hiding, by shifting the focus away from him, the film becomes an out of the ordinary depiction of this type of story.

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Ann Sheridan as Eleanor. Screenshot by me.

The film is also notable for having a female lead. It was pretty rare for a woman to have the main lead role in a Noir film; women certainly get big and interesting roles in these films, but the main character generally tends to be a male.

I found it very interesting for the focus of the film to be on Sheridan’s character. Sheridan also co- produced the film. Her character is one tough and independent gal. I wish she had been given more roles like this.

I really like how the marriage depicted in this film is far from ideal, and it is also far from what marriage was expected to be during the 40’s. I also dig how Ann’s character doesn’t cook for her husband. When asked what the couple do for food, she coolly replies “we eat out.” This gal is not content to sit at home cooking a three course meal for her man.  Good on her, is what I say! The two married characters have also fallen out of love, they tolerate one another, but have no interest in, or any desire for each other any more. The only thing keeping them together is their shared love for their pet dog, and the fact that their shared life is comfortable and tolerable.

Sadly this film isn’t one that is all that well known today, and there were quite a few years where it wasn’t known about at all. It is also a film that we recently came very close to losing forever. In 2008 a huge fire burned down part of the Universal Studios lot, in the process there were also a lot of films destroyed that were stored in the film vault there.

The print of Woman On The Run was among the films lost in this blaze. The interesting story of how a copy of the film came to be found and restored is included in a booklet with the Blu-ray release of the film. It is an amazing story, and I for one am very grateful that this film was able to be restored. The film is shot out on location in San Francisco. The locations used are less well known areas of the city and the focus isn’t heavily on landmarks.

The film tells the story of Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott). He is out at night walking his dog. While doing so, he witnesses a gangland execution. The killer spots him, shoots at him, and then drives off. Frank is unharmed and calls the Police. The cops ask him if he can identity the killer, he says that he can. The cops immediately want him in protective custody, but he doesn’t like the sound of that, so he makes off into the night to take a chance looking after his own back.

 

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Inspector Ferris and Eleanor. Screenshot by me.

Inspector Ferris (Robert Keith) persuades Frank’s wife, Eleanor (Ann Sheridan)to help them look for him. She is wary of leading them to him in case the gang should get to him if the Police get him to testify at the trial.

Teaming up with the charming and determined reporter Danny Legget(Dennis O’Keefe), Eleanor sets out to look for her husband. Legget will keep his silence as to Frank’s location in exchange for an exclusive interview with the couple. There are a couple surprising twists late in the story, which lead to a thrilling and suspenseful finale at an amusement park.

This is a very good film and it is one in which the characters and actors are the real stars. There is some very funny dialogue throughout the film. The wisecracks being thrown back and forth between O’Keefe and Ann Sheridan are class. I also love the dialogue and scenes between Robert Keith and Ann. I love how Eleanor and the Inspector rub each other up the wrong way, but they both come to develop a mutual respect for one another and even start to like each other.

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Danny and Eleanor in the city. Screenshot by me.

Ann Sheridan is very good as the tough woman who discovers herself falling back in love with a man she thought she was over. Dennis O’Keefe is a highlight in the film, I think this is one of the best performances he ever gave.

I really like how Dennis conveys Danny’s growing feelings for Eleanor to us. Robert Keith (father of Brian Keith)steals all the scenes he is in, I love his character and the way he delivers his lines.  

The film clocks in at 1 hour and 18 minutes, but boy does it manage to pack a lot in during such a short space of time. This one reminds me a bit of The Narrow Margin, with both films being compact Noir films that pack quite a punch, and have a gripping story.

My favourite scenes are the following. The skylight sequence between Danny and Eleanor. The finale in the amusement park. Ferris speaking to Eleanor for the first time and looking around her apartment. Danny and Eleanor escaping a Police officer tailing them.

This film also contains a very funny exchange between a drunk woman and Eleanor. It’s one that is funnier when you see it, rather than when you read the dialogue.

Woman:”Say, why don’t you wear a hat?”

Eleanor: “I look funny in hats”

Woman: “You’re not wrong!”  Haha.  🙂

Cracking little flick that deserves to be much better known. Do you love Film Noir? Then this is a film for you.

Horror, Unsung Classics

The Fog (1980)

Continuing on with the Halloween films theme, I’m now going to take a look at one of my all time favourite horror films. That film is The Fog. This is one that I will stick in the DVD player when I’m in the mood for something really eerie. This is a film that is shockingly, and very strangely seriously underrated in comparison with so many of the other films from horror legend John Carpenter. As far as I’m concerned this film should be up there with his classic films such as Halloween and The Thing.

It seems very strange to me that this ghostly tale of revenge and horror hardly ever seems to be mentioned now. It is a very good film and more than that, it is also a very good horror film too. I consider this to be one of John Carpenter’s best screen efforts.

The Fog is so atmospheric, it’s scary and it’s also very eerie. The scenes featuring the glowing fog are seriously creepy and are quite an unforgettable sight. John’s own score for the film is one of his very best, I think it adds so much to the film and is the perfect accompaniment. This is a film that sends shivers down your spine. It is also reminiscent of those ghost stories which are best read by a blazing fire on a dark night.

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John Houseman tells a story that will chill you to the bone. Screenshot by me.

The year is 1980. The film opens on a beach, with the great John Houseman playing an old sailor. The sailor is telling the spooky story of the crew of the ship, The Elizabeth Dane to a group of children, as they all sit around a blazing fire. Houseman conveys such terror, and paints such images in your mind with his words alone. This sequence really sets the tone for the horror to come.

The residents of the beautiful seaside town of Antonio Bay, California, are looking forward to a celebration event being held to mark their towns 100th anniversary. The local Priest, Father Malone (Hal Holbrook) discovers a diary written by his grandfather, through which he learns the terrible truth of how their town was actually founded.

In 1880, six men who would go on to found the town killed Blake, a wealthy man with leprosy, and his crew, and then robbed his ship The Elizabeth Dane of its gold. This gold was then used to fund the building of Antonio Bay.  

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The dead emerge from the fog to take their revenge. Screenshot by me.

Blake and his murdered crew have returned from the dead in order to hunt down six residents whose lives they can take in revenge for their own murders. This group come ashore after midnight, shrouded in a mysterious, eerie glowing fog.

Strange events start happening. Three sailors are killed out at sea, and then other deaths start occurring. Nick Castle (Tom Atkins)and his girlfriend Elizabeth (Jamie Lee Curtis)start to investigate and try and get to the bottom of the strange events. Who will survive? Can the undead be stopped?

This film manages to be the perfect combination of ghost story and slasher flick. The murder scenes are not overly graphic, but they come across as quite disturbing. The supernatural element makes your skin crawl, adding some real shivers to this horror tale.

I have to mention a few things I’ve picked up on. Has anyone else ever noticed these things? Twelve and six are key numbers in the story; the horror starts at midnight, there are twelve key characters in the film: Stevie, Andy, Father Malone, Nick, Elizabeth, Kathy, Sandy, Dan, Mrs. Kobritz and the three fisherman. Elizabeth tells Nick that he makes her twelfth time being picked up while hitchhiking. Stevie starts broadcasting at the radio at 6pm, there are six victims claimed by Blake and his dead crew.  

I also noticed that Elizabeth(Jamie Lee Curtis)has the same first name as Blake’s ship. Also, at around the 53 minute mark in the film, there is a man in glasses wearing a blue coat, this guy looks like Steven Spielberg. Does anyone know if it actually was Spielberg?

I also have a theory that is a possibility that the film is all a nightmare experienced by Andy (Ty Mitchell)after he hears the story on the beach. I’ve started to think that because the film opens with that scene, and just before that there is this quote from Edgar Allen Poe: “All that we see or seem is but a dream. A dream within a dream.” There must be a reason this was included. Could it be that this is supposed to be a nightmare after all? The film also has many moments where something suddenly happens, or changes suddenly to something scary just as nightmares have a tendency to do.

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Stevie on the air. Screenshot by me.

Adrienne Barbeau is excellent as Stevie, the sultry voiced DJ who gets caught up in the strange events. Stevie is a strong and resourceful woman, and Adrienne makes her one of the most memorable characters from the film.

My favourite scenes are the following. The windows mysteriously breaking on Nick’s car as he is driving. Stevie making her way down the steep steps to get to the radio station (located within a former lighthouse on top of a cliff). Blake and his men killing the fisherman. The finale in the church. Nick and Elizabeth finding the missing fishing boat. The children listening to the ghost story on the beach. Andy being rescued from the house.

The film was made on location out in Point Reyes, California. The beautiful location provides a stunning backdrop for many events in the film.

Spooky and a lot of fun, The Fog really is a film that makes for perfect viewing at this time of the year. Any other fans of this one?

 

Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 5: Family Plot (1976)

What’s that? A Hitchcock film considered an unsung classic? Believe it or not the answer is yes.On this day back in 1980, we lost one of the best film directors there has ever been in the world. Alfred Hitchcock died aged 80.

For decades Hitch had scared audiences silly and shown us how a suspense film should be made. Hitchcock’s films allowed actors to play roles quite different to what they usually accepted, and that is interesting for me to watch this change as a viewer. His films explored themes like obsession, the innocent wrongly accused, jealousy and mother issues. The majority of his work is highly praised and much discussed.

After reaching a career highpoint with Psycho and The Birds; Hitchcock’s last few films sadly declined in popularity and they are rarely praised the same way his earlier ones are. I agree wholeheartedly that Torn Curtain is pretty bad (apart from that excellent farm sequence) but I don’t agree with all the criticism of the others. I’m not saying all of them are perfect, but I firmly believe they are far from the weak films many consider them to be.

Marnie, Frenzy, Topaz and Family Plot are all films that I feel are worthy of more attention and reassessment.

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George and Blanche endure a scary car ride. Screenshot by me.

I want to talk today about one of my favourite Hitchcock films. That film is Family Plot. It ended up becoming Hitch’s final film and I consider it to be a really grand finale. The film features many of his key components; such as the beautiful blonde woman, thrills, suspense, humour, and a slight supernatural element too. In a way it is a tribute to all that came before. I love it because it is just so much fun.

Blanche Tyler(Barbara Harris)is a con artist posing as a medium. Blanche is hired by the wealthy Julia Rainbird(Cathleen Nesbitt)to help find the son of her dead sister. Julia will give Blanche $10,000 in reward. Blanche and her taxi driver boyfriend, George Lumley(Bruce Dern)jump at the chance to get some cash, so they start investigating and soon uncover something they will wish they hadn’t.

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Karen Black as the mysterious woman in black. Screenshot by me.

Meanwhile, across town, suave jeweller Arthur Adamson(William Devane) and his girlfriend Fran (Karen Black)are kidnapping wealthy people and asking for valuable diamonds as ransom. These two will soon cross paths with Blanche and George.

Harris is perfect as the kooky Blanche, she is a fake, but she acts like her abilities are real much to the amusement of George. Blanche is so loveable so we don’t hate despite the fact that she is conning people in her role as medium. Blanche comes across as someone it would be fun to know, she’s sweet, funny and life with her around wouldn’t be dull.

Bruce Dern is excellent as the cranky taxi driver who is happiest at home with Blanche, enjoying a bottle of beer in front of the TV. He is the Hitch everyman for the 1970’s, stressed from working hard and looking forward to his time off. As their investigation progresses, George pretends to be a Private Detective and he seems to have fun in this role/job change.  This is one of my favourite performances from Dern, and it’s a rare time where he gets to play a character who isn’t a villain or crazy.

William Devane is oily and overly charming. He makes Arthur a very two faced character and a real nasty piece of work. You know this is a guy who only cares about himself.

Karen Black has fun playing two roles. As Adamson’s girlfriend, she is bubbly and is only going along with his schemes to please him, she isn’t doing it because she is a bad person. As the black clad, blonde mystery woman who collects the ransom she is cool and determined.  In a way Fran reminds me of Madeleine/Judy in Vertigo; she is  a woman desperate to be loved, and who makes herself up to look like someone else because her man forces her to. Both Scottie and Arthur seem to have a thing about mystery blondes and ignore the real girl they are forcing to dress up.

Ed Lauter delivers strong support as garage owner Joseph Maloney. He may hold the key to the missing Rainbird heir.

Cathleen Nesbitt is moving as the elderly woman consumed with regret and remorse for her actions all those years ago.

The film also features a sadly much overlooked score by John Williams. The music works so well in the film, and for me is one of the most memorable scores for a Hitchcock film.

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Blanche. Fake medium or the real deal? Screenshot by me.

My favourite scenes are the following. George and Blanche bickering in the taxi on the way back from Julia Rainbird’s house. The entire sequence in the cemetery where George is looking at headstones. The first shot of Fran as she walks into the Police station dressed in black and wearing sunglasses. The brakes failing on George and Blanche’s car, leading to terrifying car journey. That wink at the end.

A playful and thrilling film. I consider this one a fitting tribute to all that came before in Hitch’s career.

I also always get a real craving for a burger after watching this. Why? Due to the scene where George and Blanche eat homemade burgers. 

I wish with all my heart that more people would show some love to this film. Any other fans here?

 

Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 4: They Might Be Giants (1971)

This is a film that really moves me like no other. In this film the lonely find companionship, the unloved find soulmates, the damaged find healing, and individuality is allowed a real chance to shine.

This is a film about what it means to be different. The characters individual natures and quirky behaviour set them apart from the so called norm, and in some cases this leads to the rest of society classing them as mad or dangerous.

Who is worse though? A man believing himself to be Sherlock Holmes, or someone who seems to take great pleasure in locking up people and threatening anyone who doesn’t do as they are told? As long as nobody is hurting anyone else, why do we all have to conform to be like others? Be yourself and just try and cope with the uncontrollable force that is life. Plus, as the funny but deeply frustrating telephone exchange scene demonstrates, there is plenty of madness already affecting the so called normal members of society.

Justin Playfair(George C. Scott)is a judge who retreats into the persona of Sherlock Holmes, after his beloved wife dies. Playfair believes he is Holmes, he has the detectives coldness and famed deduction and observation skills; yet retains Playfair’s obsession with stopping and punishing the evil people of the world.

 

Psychiatrist Mildred Watson(Joanne Woodward) is hired by Playfair’s brother to assess Justin, and if she deems it necessary insist he is committed to a mental hospital. At first Mildred sees him only as a sick man, but soon she gets caught up in his delusions. Holmes/Playfair believes that Moriarty is behind all the evil things happening in New York, from murder to injustice. The detective and the doctor set out to try and locate Moriarty(if indeed he even exists.)

Watson becomes as much of a friend to Holmes/Playfair, as John Watson was to the Holmes in Doyle’s stories. Both Holmes/Playfair and Watson are lonely and damaged in some way, yet each helps the other and finds salvation in their growing bond. Their growing romance is sweet to watch and the date night at Watson’s apartment is  touching, awkward, funny and sweet.

John Barry’s accompanying score is one of his very best. The music really touches your soul and fits the story perfectly.

George C. Scott is at his very best in the duel role of damaged patient and analytical detective. There are moments where he lets us catch a glimpse of Justin, and then the mask of Holmes descends once again as protection from the world.

Joanne Woodward is both funny and moving as the woman of reason drawn into a delusion, and possibly experiencing a break with reality herself.

My favourite scenes are the following. Holmes/Playfair correctly deducing about Watson’s life, the Rudolph Valentino scene, Holmes/Playfair teaching Watson how to walk like a detective, the elusive pimpernel scene between Holmes/Playfair and Peabody(Jack Gilford), Watson leaving and Holmes/Playfair mentioning that she went away in stockened feet, the “Mr. Rathbone” scene, and the hysterical cinema outing (especially when Watson says “good grief, I think they’re growing mushrooms!”)  🙂

Part human tragedy, and part comic look at the craziness that is life and humanity; They Might Be Giants is a very different kind of film than most.

Featuring many memorable performances, and an ending that can be seen in two ways and should lead to much discussion(just what is that light? Train lights? Moriarty actually appearing? Police torches?)

This is one that has long had a place in my heart. If you like Sherlock Holmes then do check this out. If you believe in individuality, then this is a film for you too.

I’ve always thought this plot would make a good series set in the modern day. Each week have Watson trying to help Playfair mentally, and have the pair also getting caught up in real cases brought to Holmes/Playfair’s door through people hearing of his incredible deductive/detective skills. The bond between Watson and Holmes grows, but maybe Watson comes to realise that it would be more harmful to actually make Playfair return to himself.

I don’t think this film will be to the taste of everybody, it is very unusual and quirky. Give it a go though if you like the actors, or like the sound of the film.

As ever, please share your thoughts below.

British Cinema, Romance, Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 2: The Passionate Friends(1949)

 

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Mary and Steven in Switzerland. Screenshot by me.

Continuing on with the unsung series. Today I’m focusing on this British romantic drama, starring Trevor Howard, Claude Rains and Ann Todd. I find it so hard to choose just one film as my all time favourite, but if I had to choose just one, I really do think this film might well be it.

If you think that H.G Wells only wrote science fiction,  then you really need to think again. In 1913, his novel about adultery, called The Passionate Friends was published.

This film written by Eric Ambler and directed by David Lean is based upon Wells’s novel(I’ve never read the novel, but from the write up I’ve found online, I think I’d be better off sticking with the screen adaptation as the original story doesn’t actually sound like my cup of tea. I may check it out at some point if I ever come across it.)

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Ann Todd as Mary. Screenshot by me.

Mary Justin(Ann Todd)is married to Howard Justin(Claude Rains), a much older man who is very wealthy. At a New Years Eve party Mary runs into her former lover Steven Stratton(Trevor Howard)and discovers that she still has feelings for him. The pair strike up a friendship but neither can deny their romantic attraction.

Howard discovers their affair and he puts an end to it, or at least he thinks he does. Nine years later in a Swiss hotel, Mary and Steven meet again and once again can’t deny their feelings. Mary has to choose which man she will stay with.

 

Not only is Mary torn between two different men, but she must also choose between two different types of love, the physical and the emotional. Steven is passionate, tender and expressive; whereas Howard is more reserved, gentle, and very set in his ways. Both men love her very much, but with which man (and type of love) does she find herself happiest?

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Trevor Howard as Steven. Screenshot by me.

In many ways this film mirrors Lean’s earlier classic Brief Encounter. You could almost view this film as the sequel to that, with Howard appearing in both(and as a doctor in both), the dull but loving husband, and a woman torn between one life and another. Both films even contain a scene at a train station where a main character contemplates suicide. Both of these sequences contain a shot of a bright light glow on the face of the actor. 

Ann Todd is superb as the young woman struggling against her own feelings and not really wanting to hurt either of these men, but knowing whichever choice she makes will end up hurting one of them. Todd was married to David Lean and appeared in several of his films, she is an actress who deserved many more film roles.

She is a very expressive actress and in this film she doesn’t need words in most scenes as her face tells us all we need to know(particularly during the tube station finale.)

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Claude Rains as Justin. Screenshot by me.

This features my favourite Claude Rains performance, as the man who knows what is going on under his nose, doesn’t like it but no matter what can’t give up the woman he loves. He makes us really feel for Justin and makes him likeable, which makes the situation even more poignant all round. I especially love him in the scene where he confronts Mary and Steven and they realise he knows about them; Claude owns that scene and makes it quite funny.

 

Howard is very good as the outgoing, earnest younger man, who is desperately trying to start again with the woman he loves. I love him in the scene where Steven and Howard have a confrontation at Howard’s home, and in the scenes in the Switzerland.

There is some gorgeous and interesting photography in this and beautiful scenes of the Swiss lakes and mountains.

My favourite scenes are the following. The New Year’s Eve party.  Justin’s outburst at Mary, which then leads us to the unforgettable finale. The entire sequence in Switzerland.

The ending isn’t one you forget in a hurry and it is very moving and suspenseful. This is a film that deserves a great deal more attention. Highly recommended. If you happen to be a fan of this one, please do share your thoughts.

 

Romance, Unsung Classics

Unsung Classics 1: Paris When It Sizzles (1963)

I’d like to start a series of posts about classic films that I think deserve some more attention. I’m starting with this romantic comedy starring William Holden and Audrey Hepburn.

Quite simply, I consider this to be one of the best and funniest films out there about the filmmaking process. Focusing on the screenwriting process, this film takes a look at all the film clichés and also at how quickly plot ideas can change, and how such ideas even come to be in the first place.

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Richard and Gabrielle share an intimate moment. 

The film is also a very clever mix of genres. At one point it is a thriller, whilst another scene finds us firmly in horror territory. The film also features an hysterical cameo from Tony Curtis, as a young method actor featuring in several of the films possible script scenarios. The film is basically one big in joke about the process of making films, and about the people who work in this industry.

Featuring some gorgeous photography in and around Paris, lots of humour and romance, and Holden and Hepburn having a great deal of fun, what’s not to like?

 

Richard Benson (William Holden)is a cynical Hollywood screenwriter, a ladies man, who loves a drink or two, and is living in a Paris apartment. Hired months ago to write a new screenplay, he has in fact been spending his time having fun and hasn’t written a word! With his deadline fast approaching he hires secretary Gabrielle(Audrey Hepburn)to help him begin and finish on time.

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Richard and Gabrielle take a well earned break from writing. Screenshot by me.

As he comes up with possible scenarios we actually see his ideas as film scenes on screen, featuring Holden and Hepburn as the various main characters. While all this is going on, Benson is finding himself falling in love with Gabrielle, but does she return his feeling? 

Holden has a ball playing various fictional adventurous leading men, and even a charming vampire! Hepburn shows a real gift for comedy as the secretary caught up in imagination, and as various fictional leading ladies.

The vampire grotto sequence is one of my favourites, as a romantic afternoon lunch suddenly takes a turn into the realms of darkness, when Holden’s charming playboy is revealed to be a vampire. It’s funny and ridiculous at the same time and just where is that beautiful waterfall/park they go into? It looks gorgeous. I also like the fountains featured in the final scene.

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The bath on a film set scene. Screenshot by me.

I also love the scene in the film studio featuring Audrey as a sexy woman of the streets taking a bubble bath on an exotic set.

Great fun, and highly recommended to fans of Holden and Hepburn. This flick deserves to be better known. Spread the word, folks!

If you’re already a fan of this one, please share your thoughts on the film.