Detective, Page To Screen

Walking The Beat: The New Centurions (1972)

Dixon Of Dock Green this film sure isn’t. This film gives us a frank look at the reality of policing the streets, and it throws us headfirst into the dirt, pain, and the horror of the streets of 1970’s Los Angeles. This is a warts and all portrayal of the reality of police work, it’s not a pretty job and it is always dangerous.

At the time this film was made and set, the days when a copper could simply defuse a situation just by walking around the corner were sadly long gone. In America an increase in prostitution, gun crime and violence meant that policing the beat was more dangerous than it had ever been.

The film is directed by Richard Fleischer, has a screenplay by Stirling Silliphant, and music by Quincy Jones. The film is based upon Joseph Wambaugh’s 1971 novel of the same name. Wambaugh was a serving LAPD cop when he wrote the book. His experience of the job meant that the novel was a very realistic portrayal of the Police department.

The realism and authenticity of the novel is carried over into the film. The films technical advisor was Richard E. Kalk, he was also a serving officer and he was Wambaugh’s police partner.

This is one of the best films about patrolling the beat ever made anywhere in the world in my opinion. George C. Scott is utterly ferocious here as Kilvinski, the tough, older, wiser and more experienced police officer mentoring a young rookie called Roy.

Kilvinski has seen it all during his years on the force. Nothing surprises him anymore. No form of violence shocks him to the core as it once might have; it still affects him of course, but he has learnt to hide the disgust and horror. He’s tough but fair, and he certainly does his best to help those in need when and where he can.

The film is split into a series of incidents involving Kilvinski and several other officers.

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We follow three young rookies. They are all very keen men, and they are all determined to bring law, order and justice to the streets that they will patrol. They are Roy (Stacy Keach),Sergio (Erik Estrada)and Gus (Scott Wilson). These men are each paired with a senior officer who will partner and support them while they get settled in. Gus is partnered with Whitey (Clifton James), Sergio with Galloway (Ed Lauter) and Roy with Kilvinsky.

There is a documentary look to the film which helps to make it come across as being very realistic. We are made to feel as though we are out there patrolling the streets with these officers, and feel like we are encountering and getting to know the villains and victims along with the police officers.

This film is both shocking and violent. It is also extremely bleak. It shows us that these officers can face death at any time from anybody. We also see that this job emotionally destroys the men and women who do it, they seldom remain the same as they were when they joined the force. It’s not just the dead officers whose photos hang on the station wall who pay the price, every single person on the force pays some kind of price for their service.

The film also shows us that for some on the force the job is literally all they have. If they retire, or if they have to leave for other reasons, it can be near on impossible for them to have a meaningful life away from the force.

The film also shows the effect that a police officers career can have on their family. The families of these officers are victims too, they also end up paying a heavy price for supporting their loved one in their job.

We see that the cops spend more time on the job and sadly their family then often begin to come in second place to the job. Jane Alexander is excellent as Fehler’s wife Dorothy. She has to watch the job create quite an impact on their personal life and she struggles to accept that change.

The entire cast give superb performances with special praise going to Scott. He was famous for being able to portray pent up rage, and for flipping into all out anger in many of his films. Here he gets to unleash the famous Scott screen rage on several occasions.

A scene that will stay with me forever is when one of the rookies is chasing a robbery suspect in the dark, somebody runs at him and he shoots them, when he gets closer he sees it’s the father of the robbery victim. This man had come out into the alley to look for the suspect too. When the officer sees what he has done he breaks down, and he looks so haunted, it’s a powerful moment for sure.

My favourite scenes are the following. Kilvinsky comforting Dorothy at the hospital. The officer briefing his men at the start of the film ( I love the banter between the guys in this). The shoot out in the bank car park. Kilvinsky and Roy getting a group of prostitutes off the street(this is a very funny sequence and I think it’s nice that there is a lighthearted moment in an otherwise serious and bleak flick). Kilvinsky and Sergio speaking to a despicable landlord, and Kilvinsky then giving this a guy a piece of his mind. Kilvinsky explaining his laws.

If you didn’t respect the police before seeing this, then I would seriously hope that seeing this would change your mind. These men and women risk their lives for us, the job takes a huge toll on them and on their personal life, and they often get very little reward for their sacrifice and hard times.

This flick tells it like it is, and it sure isn’t pretty. The story is gripping and the characters believable. It is the performances that draw me back to this one again and again. The actors playing the rookies all do a superb job of showing their personalities change as they get their eyes opened to the realities of the job. Scott steals all the scenes he is in, and his character really becomes the heart of the film.

This is one of my favourite films about police officers. I also think it is one of the best films of the 70’s, and it deserves to be more well known today. See this if you enjoyed Dirty Harry and Law and Order (TV series).

Any other fans of this one? Please leave your thoughts on this film below.

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British Cinema, Second World War

Ice Cold In Alex (1958)

I don’t know about anyone else, but I sure do love a good survival against the elements film. Ice Cold In Alex is one of the very best. You can practically feel the heat of the sun, feel the trickling drops of sweat, smell the sweat, and feel the raging thirst being experienced by all the characters.

Ice Cold In Alex is directed by J.Lee Thompson, the film is based upon the novel by Christopher Landon. Landon joined T.J Morrison in writing the tense and gripping screenplay for the film.

There’s some fine camera work on display here provided by Gilbert Taylor. The way this one is shot gives it an almost documentary look, and I think that it adds greatly to the realism of the story. The film was shot on location in Alexandria, and I do think that was the perfect decision, as you just can’t beat filming out on location for these types of films.

I like how this film isn’t really your typical war film. It is more of a character study than most WW2 flicks are. These characters are caught up in the war, but are not really taking part in it, as they are mostly seen moving through conflict zones or away from them. This one is more about what war does to those caught up in it and how you survive in such situations. It is also one of the best survival stories ever filmed in my opinion.

Our characters must endure insane levels of heat, and a serious lack of water and food. They find they must put aside their differences so they have a chance at surviving.  Their ambulance becomes their home and shelter, but it too becomes difficult to endure when it breaks down, or when the inside of it really heats up during the day making it unbearable for the passengers.

I also think the film was quite ahead of its time in showing John Mills character as suffering from the issues he does. He’s alcoholic and suffering trauma from his time as a prisoner.

It’s rare to see either of these issues depicted in war films made during or just after the real events. I think that the inclusion of this helps to make the character even more relatable in a way, as we can see he is suffering and fighting against himself to stay strong and in control. It also brings home the realities of war to us, people never come out of war how they went into it.

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Ice Cold In Alex begins in the searing heat of Tobruk, Africa in 1942. Rommell’s desert campaign is at its height. Nervous and boozy ambulance driver Captain Anson(John Mills)is ordered by his commanding officer to take his ambulance, affectionately known as “Katy”, and head over to Alexandria.

Anson is joined by his loyal mate Tom Pugh(the hugely underrated Harry Andrews)and two young nurses Diana Murdoch(Sylvia Syms)and Denise Norton(Diane Clare). The nurses were left stranded when they were fired on during an evacuation attempt at the harbour.

Anson is suffering from PTSD and alcoholism. He was recently captured by the Germans, he managed to escape, but his escape forced him to walk through the desert for a couple of days without water, and he is now reliant on alcohol to steady his nerves. When their convoy is attacked, Anson must try and find a way to stay sober so he can find a way of leading them all to safety.

Things get complicated when the group are attacked by Germans and they pick up a stranded African soldier, Captain Van Der Poel(Anthony Quale)who they begin to suspect of possibly being a German spy. Anson also has problems of a different nature, when he slowly begins to realise that Diana is falling in love with him, and that he shares her feelings and desires.

As the danger increases and the desert temperature gets hotter and hotter, our characters are tested in every way possible. Tempers are lost, courage is shown and a strong bond is forged.

The story is superb and it is filled with so much tension that it really keeps you on the edge of your seat. As good as the story is though I think it’s fair to say that it is the performances and characters that are the real highlight here. We become so caught up in the story that we become very connected with these characters, and they all come across as being quite believable and very real individuals. We feel for them and we fear for them.

Mills is perfect as the brave and cynical Anson, slowly snapping under the intense pressure and trying to stay off the alcohol. I consider his performance here to be the best he ever gave. Mills conveys so well the emotional and physical strain this mission is placing on Anson.

We can see the desperation in Anson’s eyes, you can feel his increasing desire for a drink to calm himself growing and growing. Most important of all Mills shows us that this man is almost at breaking point, when he snaps, it won’t be a pretty sight. I think it is such a shame that Mills never again got a role quite like this one. This is such a shame as he gets to show here what a truly gifted dramatic actor he really was.

There’s excellent support from the rest of the cast. Anthony Quale, as the strong, quiet, and enigmatic Captain Van Der Poel. I’ve never been a big fan of Quale, but I think he is excellent here and this is one of his best performances for sure. He keeps you guessing as to his characters motivation and loyalty.

Andrews is perfect as the gruff, no nonsense Tom Pugh, a seasoned veteran he focuses upon the task in hand and nothing else. This character is calm under pressure and is someone you’d want around in a crisis.

Sylvia Syms is excellent as Diana, the young woman with a cool head on her shoulders, who must overcome her own fears to stay strong in order to survive. I like how she acts tough, even during times when she could have just crumpled and broke down. The growing attraction between Anson and Diana is believable and both Mills and Syms convey their characters growing attraction perfectly.

Highlights include a nail biting walk and drive through a live minefield(which was an improvised sequence by the director).Van Der Poel getting trapped in a swamp. The famous ending in the bar, which of course gave us that famous TV advert for lager.

When I’m in the mood for a film filled with strong performances and a realistic and tense story, then this is a film that I always take down from the DVD shelf. No matter how many times I watch this it never fails to impress me, or to have me on the edge of my seat in fear for the characters (even though I know what’s going to happen to them. 🙂 ) A real British classic.

My favourite scenes are the following. All of the group trying to push the ambulance up a steep sand hill. The final conversation between Diana and Anson in the ambulance, where so much is said in what is unsaid. The minefield sequence. The group burying a fallen comrade in the middle of the desert and taking a moment to quietly remember them.

I own this one on Blu-ray and the picture quality is first rate. It’s so sharp and clear and looks very impressive. I’d say that’s the best version of this to get your hands on if you want to watch it.

Fun fact about the film. Real alcohol had to be drunk in the bar sequence, as none of the substitutes could get the look and froth of a real freshly poured pint. Several takes had to be done, and in each one Mills had to down a full pint. He ended up getting very drunk and had to go to his trailer to sleep it off! There are worse days to be had at work I suppose. 😉

Any other fans of this one?

 

Modern TV, True Story

The Crown (TV Series, 2016 Onwards)

It’s taken me a few months, but I’ve finally gotten around to watching the first season of Netflix’s lavish series about Queen Elizabeth II. It is one of the best TV series I have seen in a long while. It only took me two days to watch the whole first season as it had me completely hooked. I loved every minute of it.

The series was created and written by Peter Morgan, the man who gave us The Queen (2006)and Frost/Nixon (2008).The series will look at the Queen’s reign and will be set from 1947 to the present day. Different actors will be taking over from Claire and Matt after season 2.

The acting, the costumes and the out of this world music were the best parts of this season for me. This is one of those series where the actors are allowed to act, and real time is taken with characters and their situations. This series is not all about visuals and effects (I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to just be able to enjoy some fine acting for a change).

This has been Netflix’s most expensive production to date, and it is not hard to see why. You can see the money in every shot. It’s clear money was well spent on getting the locations, costumes, sets etc just right. The series also succeeds in creating an epic scale for this drama about a woman who has gained worldwide fame and significance.

Claire Foy is superb as Queen Elizabeth. She captures her body language and mannerisms perfectly. I think she looks a lot like her and sounds like her too. I like how she manages to convey how Elizabeth changes from a happy young woman, who is carefree, into a more serious, distant and strong woman who is struggling to become the symbol she is expected to become.  Whilst Claire delivers the standout performance of the series, there are many other terrific performances to enjoy here.

John Lithgow steals every scene he is in as the elderly Churchill. He is like a lion, still ferocious and strong, yet struggling to stay like that and trying to hide that fact. His performance here won John Lithgow the Best Supporting Actor Emmy Award.

My favourite actors in this are Jared Harris (son of Richard Harris), Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Jeremy Northam and Alex Jennings.

Matt Smith is excellent as Prince Phillip. I was sceptical about his casting at first, but he looks like him and really captures his personality very well indeed.

Jared Harris is particularly superb as the shy King George; a gentle and very ill man who hid the severity of his cancer from those closest to him, as he couldn’t afford to be seen as weak, or to cause his family pain. He captures the deep sadness of this man and really makes you feel for him. The King was well liked by the public and by those who knew him. By all accounts he was a gentle and humble man who tried so hard in this role.

Eileen Atkins is also excellent as the stern and strong Queen Mary. Elizabeth’s grandmother was a formidable woman, and Eileen captures her personality and regal nature perfectly.

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Season 1 begins in 1947 and finishes in the late 1950’s. It focuses upon Princess Elizabeth (Claire Foy)as she becomes Queen of England at the age of 25. Elizabeth takes up this position due to the sudden death of her father, King George IV (Jared Harris). This throws her personal life into chaos, as she now can no longer think of herself or her family before thinking of the crown and the royal system and traditions. From now on duty and public relations are everything.

In addition to us seeing what is going on in the royal household, we also see what is going on at 10 Downing Street. Elizabeth is supported by Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow). He is very set in his ways and he expects her to follow tradition.

He understands though(and is sympathetic) to the difficulties the Queen’s new role brings her, and he is also sympathetic to her frustrations. Churchill is facing problems of his own that he must attend to. His health is failing him, and there are calls within cabinet and the Conservative party for him to resign. It is hoped he will let Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden (Jeremy Northam)take over as Prime Minister. Eden waits in the wings for his moment of fame and glory. Ironically he is soon beset with his own health issues, which will lead him to be in much the same situation as Churchill in the future.

Elizabeth’s husband Prince Phillip(Matt Smith)is also struggling. He is finding it difficult to adjust to the change in his families circumstances, especially with him now being one step behind his wife, and also with the change in personality that her new role brings about in her.

Philip becomes frustrated with their new position and the royal marriage becomes strained. He does his best to stand by his wife, to protect her and to help her, but he cannot stand the restrictive, gilded cage that their life has become. The Prince rebels and this causes problems.

The Queen must also deal with her glamourous younger sister, Princess Margaret (Vanessa Kirby). Margaret falls in love with the dashing RAF pilot, Group Captain Peter Townsend (Ben Miles)and their relationship brings about the scandal of the decade. Elizabeth must choose between her duty and responsibility as Queen, and her position as a sister as to whether she allows this young couple to marry or not.

Margaret’s situation bears some resemblance to the abdication crisis of 1936, when King Edward VIII (Alex Jennings)abdicated the throne in order to marry Wallis Simpson. The abdication meant Edward’s younger brother George VI had to become King, and the strains of his new position is widely believed to have contributed to his ill health and early death. Edward couldn’t stand not being allow to marry the woman of his choice, so he had to give up his royal rights in order to have her.

This series shows that life as a Royal is not all luxury and good times. Whether you like the monarchy or not, it can’t be denied that the royals endure intense and never ending press intrusion and are under constant scrutiny by the public. This series shows what it is like for them to deal with that on a daily basis. It also shows how they sometimes struggle to endure the attention.

We are also shown the intricate labyrinth of Royal protocol. As we see in this (and I’m sure it’s the case in reality)even the royals themselves hate this and are frustrated by it. Heavy is the head that wears the crown. This series certainly shows us that saying is true. Anyone out there who thinks being monarch is an easy or desirable job should certainly think again.

I have a couple of issues with the series. If there are criticisms to be made I’d say it’s that there are only ten episodes. There should have been an extra long episode which served as the pilot episode. If they had done a two hour plus episode detailing Elizabeth and Philip falling in love, and dealing with the objections to him as her match that would have been good. It would also have been good to see more of King George performing his duty and having more scenes of him with his family, so we can feel their bond even more.

I would also have liked the sequence set after the wedding ceremony to have been longer. The births of Prince Charles and Princess Anne were also rather glossed over, which is strange as they were key events in Elizabeth’s life.

I also think that Victoria Hamilton wasn’t the best choice to play the Queen Mother. She does a good job of portraying a woman left adrift and depressed following her husbands death, but she just doesn’t convince me as the Queen Mum.

Much of what is depicted here is very well known to those of us who were born and raised in the UK, but there were some things featured that I wasn’t familiar with. These things include The Great Smog Of London, which occurred during 1952 and which led to thousands of people dying because they were breathing in the toxic air. 

I also wasn’t aware of the plane crash which killed Princess Cecilie, who was Philip’s favourite sister. She was killed along with her husband, their two sons, and the planes crew when the plane crashed into a factory chimney. She was heavily pregnant at the time, and when rescuers got to the plane they found she had given birth and her baby was found dead next to her. It is believed she went into labour during the flight and the pilot was trying to make an emergency landing because of that.

I also learnt a great deal about Anthony Eden, I didn’t know for example that he was seriously ill and dependent on medication before and during his time as PM. Seeing these things included here has made me go off and do some research, and to speak to my mum and dad to see what they remembered and I now feel much better informed. So I’m grateful to this series in that regard.

My favourite episodes are Pride and Joy. Assassins. Wolverton Splash. Hyde Park Corner. Act Of God. Smoke and Mirrors.

My favourite piece of music is the track entitled Duck Shoot. I like how this really becomes the theme of the series. It plays during several key moments including the King’s death, the foreshadowing of the King’s death (him coughing severely as Elizabeth takes a moment to think about her future as the next monarch) and during Churchill’s farewell dinner.

It was recently announced that Olivia Colman will replace Claire in the role of the Queen in seasons 3 and 4. I’m not sure what to think about this to be honest. I don’t know why they can’t just keep Claire and Matt and just use age makeup and different hairstyles. Olivia is a good actress but I don’t really see her as Elizabeth II.

A lavish and gripping series that sucks you in. Any other fans?

Blogathons

The Horrorathon: Day 2

Horrorathon 2.PNG

It’s time to brave creaking floorboards, ghosts and strange noises, as we gather for the final day of our horror film discussion.

Yesterday gave us some fantastic entries, I can’t wait to read what today will bring.

Day 2 Entries

 

The Stop Button looks at the bizarre horror film Suspiria.

 

 

Bonnywood Manor looks at the creepy occurrences taking place in Venice in Don’t Look Now

 

 

Old School Evil joins up with The Monster Squad.

 

 

Sparksfromacombustiblemind takes a look at the John Carpenter classic Halloween.

 

 

dbmoviesblog looks at the French classic Les Diaboliques.

 

 

Critica Retro writes about Silent horror film A Page Of Madness.

 

 

Sat In Your Lap looks at the macabre comedy A Comedy Of Terrors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogathons, Horror

The Horrorathon: Day 1

Horrorathon 1

The time has come for us to all gather together in a dark, cobweb filled, lonely old house. Why? It’s the best location in which to discuss those films that scare us silly.

Before we begin though, I  feel I must warn you about the coffin in the corner. A certain Count Dracula is sleeping in it at the moment, lets try not to disturb him, as things could turn ugly if he wakes!

Day 1 Entries

 

Bonnywood Manor warns us of the dangers of antique bath tubs and kitchens in The Haunting Of Julia.

 

Cinematic Scribblings braves a trip into the world of Edgar Allen Poe to review the horror anthology Spirits of the Dead.

 

Realweegiemidget mixes horror and comedy in this review of Kill Keith.

 

MoodyMoppet shares her verdict on Vincent Price’s 1963 film The Raven.

 

Vinnieh takes a look at the suggested horror of Val Lewton’s classic Cat People .

 

Sparksfromacombustiblemind writes about scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis.

 

I watch five horror stories in the classic horror anthology Dead Of Night.

Blogathons, Horror

The Horrorathon: Dead Of Night (1945)

Horrorathon 2

This is my entry for my horror blogathon. I can’t wait to be able to read all of your spooky film reviews.

I’m going to be writing about one of my all time favourite horror films. That film is Dead Of Night. As many of you already know I personally much prefer creepy and psychological horror stories instead of the violent and gory ones.

This film is the perfect blend of the supernatural and scares for me. The film brings to mind the scary stories from books, you know the ones I mean, those creepy tales of terror which are best read by a blazing fire on a dark and stormy night.

A sequence near the end of the film does the best job I’ve ever seen of bringing to life nightmares. This sequence manages to capture the disorientation and outright terror you experience when you are having a nightmare. Images and faces are jumbled up, time has no meaning and there is no escape from what you’ve become part of.

At the time this film was released the horror genre was practically non existent in British cinema. America was churning out scary and spooky flicks on a regular basis, but we just were not doing the same.  Then Dead Of Night was released, and this film quickly showed the world that the UK could also produce films that were able to chill the blood.

I would have so loved to have been in the audience when this film was first released. Not only was the content and style of the film something new but this film came out of Ealing Studios. Why is that important you may ask?

Well, the content of this film was about as far from Ealing’s regular output as it was possible to get. Ealing is best known for its comedies and picture postcard portrayals of British life, but during the 1940’s they did start to produce some grittier and darker films. This horror film was one of their darkest. 

The content of this film was so different that it must have come completely out of the blue for audiences at the time. Other films worth watching from the studios grittier and darker years include: Went The Day Well? Pink String and Sealing Wax and It Always Rains On Sunday.

Dead Of Night is not only a good horror film, but it is also a very unique and cleverly put together film. It has four of Britain’s finest directors at the helm. These directors each directed the different segments of the film. Basil Dearden directs the linking narrative, and also directs the hearse driver story. Alberto Cavalcanti directs both the Christmas party and the ventriloquist dummy stories. Robert Hamer directs the haunted mirror story. Charles Crichton directs the golfing story.

Although this wasn’t the first anthology horror film to be made (the earliest  that I’m aware of is Eerie Tales from 1919); Dead Of Night would however go on to become a film that was to become extremely influential on future horror anthology productions. The style of this film paved the way for films like The Amicus horror films, such as Dr. Terror’s House Of Horrors and The Vault Of Horror.  The hearse driver story surely has to have inspired the films Final Destination and The Night My Number Came UpThe Twilight Zone season 2 episode called Twenty Two also has strong similarities to this story too.

Dead Of Night consists of five individual horror stories, with each one being connected via a clever linking story. Ghosts, Deja vu, recurring nightmares, premonitions, haunted objects and a creepy ventriloquists dummy all feature here. 

Unlike many other anthology films, the stories and the overall structure of the film combine together here to make a perfect whole. It’s not like there are only a couple of good parts and the rest is rubbish, each of these horror stories sucks you in. The horror stories are not the only high points of the film though; the linking story itself is also extremely chilling, and it is one that I always want to keep returning to as the film goes on.

I actually think that the film would have still worked and been creepy (although undoubtedly not as successful) if only the linking story was shown, and instead of us seeing the horror stories we just see the characters telling their respective stories.

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The film begins with architect Walter Craig (Mervyn Johns)arriving at the country home of Elliot Foley (Roland Culver). Craig is there to consult on some renovations being undertaken in the house. Foley has some houseguests and Craig (despite never having met any of them before)knows them and claims he knows them due to seeing them in a recurring dream. As the guests speak to him he begins to start predicting things they will do, and he becomes increasingly uneasy and is convinced something terrible will happen soon.

The other guests all try and convince Craig that there is no truth to his fears. As the day goes on the guests are inspired by Craig’s claims, and they start to share weird and scary stories of strange incidents they have witnessed themselves. We see these stories play out on screen.

The first story is about a racing car driver (Anthony Baird)who is injured in a crash during a race. As he recovers in hospital he begins to have frightening visions. He later comes to understand these were premonitions. This sequence is very unsettling indeed and is one of my favourites from amongst the various stories. This sort of story is one that never gets old. It can be set in any situation really (public transport, meeting a dangerous person who will do you harm, an accident etc.)

The second story takes place at a Christmas party in an old country house. A young girl (Sally Ann Howes) goes exploring the rooms during a game of hide and seek. She comes across a lonely little boy dressed in old clothes. Chills are guaranteed when she later discovers who he is. This sequence is both creepy and touching. It is inspired by a real British murder case. The actor who plays the boy is uncredited, I find that very strange as he has quite a large role within the sequence.

The third story concerns a couple who are plagued by a haunted antique mirror. The husband (Ralph Michael)sees a different room reflected back to him in the mirror, instead of the room in which he is standing. He soon becomes obsessed by this mirror and undergoes a personality change. His wife (Googie Withers)tries to help him and she soon comes to see that he is not going mad as she had first feared.  

The fourth story is comic in tone and seems a bit of an odd one to have been included really. Having said that though there are some creepy moments to be found here (the man walking into the lake to drown himself for example). There’s also some clever camera trickery too. The story is about two obsessed golfers (Basil Radford and Naunton Wayne)who are in love with the same woman. One of the men ends up as a ghost and haunts the other . This one strikes me as just an excuse to show Wayne and Radford in a film; these two appear regularly throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s as the comic characters Charter’s and Caldicott, their characters in this film might just as well have been those characters.

The fifth story is the one that is best remembered. A ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave)descends into incurable madness. What causes this? He is convinced that his dummy is actually alive. Is he correct, or is he just simply an ill man who is sadly losing his mind? Ventriloquist stories are always creepy and this is one of the most unforgettable and well made of these stories.  Michael Redgrave gives one of the best performances of his entire career here, you really do believe he is becoming tired, unbalanced and downright terrified.

After the individual stories are over the horror continues on as we return to the linking story. I won’t reveal the ending in case people haven’t seen this, but if you have, then you will know the horror which awaits the viewer at the end of the film.

The film features many of Britain’s finest actors. Michael Redgrave and Googie Withers were two of the biggest British film stars of this era, and I’ve no doubt that their presence was a major reason for fans to check this film out. Mervyn Johns and Roland Culver were wonderful character actors and they are both excellent here. A very young Sally Ann Howes makes quite an impression in an early role.

The photography by Douglas Slocombe is incredible. The photography really helps to create an eerie mood which carries on from sequence to sequence. The film looks fantastic too. The music by Georges Auric is suitably chilling and it is the perfect accompaniment to the spooky visuals.

My favourites of the stories are the following. The linking story. The hearse driver. The ventriloquists dummy.

I think the best of the stories are the following. The linking story. The ventriloquists dummy. The haunted mirror. The hearse driver.

Be sure to see this one on Blu-Ray to see it looking at its best and to enjoy some interesting interviews about the film. Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below. If you’ve never seen this one, I highly recommend it to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogathons

The Horrorathon Starts On Thursday

The Horrorathon 3

Just a reminder that the horror blogathon begins next week. It will run on Thursday and Friday (26th and 27th October).

If you have not yet signed up, but you wish to take part, there is still time for you to do so. Just let me know your name, your blog name and the title (or titles)you are going to write about. You can sign up to take part and check to see who is writing about which films here.

I can’t wait to read all of your spooky articles.

Blogathons

Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon: My Tribute To Joan

Joan Fontaine Blogathon

Virginie over at The Wonderful World of Cinema and Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood are co-hosting this blogathon about Joan Fontaine.

The blogathon is being held in honour of what would have been Joan’s 100th birthday. Be sure to visit their sites to read all of the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself.

I’m just so very happy that there is blogathon taking place all about Joan. She is an actress who I have long considered to be an extremely underrated one.  I think her own superb talents were often overshadowed by the equally superb talents of her sister, Olivia.

Joan is best remembered today for her unforgettable performances in two Alfred Hitchcock films – Suspicion and Rebecca. Joan made a great many other films too besides those though.

I like Joan because I think that she had a real gift for portraying certain types of people, and I think that Joan was one of the most expressive actresses in film history. I think that she really excelled at portraying fragile, gentle and vulnerable women.

Joan always makes me feel her characters pain, happiness, or their insecurity. Her eyes speak volumes and convey so much more than words ever could. When she smiled or laughed she seemed to glow and beam from within. A truly radiant person indeed.

Joan was an actress who I think really could do it all. She could break your heart one moment, and have you scared for her the next. I like how she makes you connect emotionally to the varied array of characters she portrayed.

Joan and her older sister Olivia De Havilland were both born in Japan. Joan was a year younger than her sister. Both sisters would go on to join the acting profession. They were two of the most talented film actresses of their generation. Olivia went on to receive somewhat greater fame and attention than her sister did, and I think that is a real shame, as Joan really was every bit as talented as her sister was.

Two of my favourite films starring Joan are September Affair and Suspicion and I’m going to write a bit about each of them now.

September Affair is one I like quite a bit, as it shows Joan in a very different role to the fragile or tormented characters that she so often portrayed on screen. I love this film because it is romantic and sad, it also focuses on a growing relationship following a chance encounter. We have all met someone while travelling who we wish we could have known better, this film shows us what could happen if we spent more time with such a person in such a situation.

September Affair is a lovely film about Marianne and David (Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotten) , a couple who befriend one another whilst on a trip to Italy. As they spend more time together they begin to care about each other very much and fall in love. David is married (unhappily so)and he is desperate for a divorce.

When a plane Marianne and David were supposed to be on crashes, they are afforded an opportunity to start their lives afresh with each other, as they are both reported as being dead. The trouble is they are deliberately allowing those they have left behind to believe they are dead. Joan’s character must also come to terms with the fact that Cotten’s character will never give up his work, even for the sake of their new life together.

Joan fontaine 2

I love Joan and Joseph in this so much. Joan is excellent as an ordinary woman falling in love with this man, and also with a new life, in a new country. She lets you see her character falling hard for this man, but also shows us how keenly aware she is that he should go back to his family. If you’ve only seen Joan play fragile or nervous characters then this is a film you should check out. Joan is so natural and convincing in this role.

Joseph captures the desperation and desire of his character so well. He hates his old life, falls in love with this woman and wants her. But will she let them be together or not? Joan conveys so much with her expressions in this one. I love her in the early scenes where you can see her characters feelings for David grow and grow as she spends more time with him.

 

My second favourite Joan Fontaine film is Alfred Hitchcock’s Suspicion.  I think that Joan is at her very best here, as the innocent, love struck Lina. This girl falls in love with the seemingly perfect, and it must be said, very handsome Johnny (Cary Grant).

Not long after their marriage, Lina begins to suspect that Johnny is plotting to murder her. As her suspicions mount up, she becomes increasingly scared and anxious that he is trying to kill her. We in the audience believe her suspicions and fear for her. But is there any truth to her suspicions?

I like how Joan starts out in this performance as a fresh, innocent, and slightly naïve girl, and I like how she later transitions to a more worldly, paranoid and nervous woman. Truly this is a remarkable performance to watch. Joan deservedly won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance here (her win was to be the only acting Oscar ever given for a performance in a Hitchcock film.)

Joan Fontaine is an actress whose work I am very pleased to have been able to see. She sure was a talented actress and I only wish that she was as much an acclaimed actress today as her sister (quite rightly)is and was. R.I.P Joan. Happy 100th birthday to one of the best film actresses.

 

Here are my five favourite Joan Fontaine films.

1- September Affair

2- Suspicion

3- This Above All

4- Jane Eyre

5- Rebecca

Any other fans of the two films I’ve mentioned? What are your thoughts on Joan and on her skills as an actress?

 

 

Blogathons, Comedy, Romance

The Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon : Adam’s Rib (1949)

Hepburn and Tracy

Crystal over at In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood is hosting this blogathon all about Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Be sure to visit her site to read all the entries. I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

What do I think when I hear the names Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn? Well, I’d say that the first word which comes to mind for me is magical. Why magical? Well, it is because I think they are film magic together; this couple were the sort of film partnership that was only dreamt of in the industry, such screen teams really didn’t come along very often, and when one did arrive it was unforgettable and often unmatchable. What you see on screen between Tracy and Hepburn was the real deal, be it sexual tension, affection, or passion. 

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn truly were one of the greatest couples in film history. They had genuine chemistry, perfect timing, and they fitted perfectly together on screen as a couple. They make you feel the sexual tension and affection that their various characters feel for one another. This pair gave us some of the most romantic and sexy scenes in film history.

Both Spencer and Katharine were very successful film actors in the years leading up to their first screen pairing, in Woman Of The Year. Once that film came out, the names of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn would be forever after linked in the minds of film audiences. The couple made nine films together. Many of these are considered high points in the romance and comedy genres. 

The pair were in love in real life, and their off screen romance undoubtedly accounts for the warmth and intimacy that is so evident between them on screen. Unfortunately Spencer was married and he was also a Catholic, so despite his own unhappy marriage, there was just no way he was getting divorced. A shame really, he and Katharine were so meant to be together. Katharine helped him with his alcoholism and she also nursed him during his final years. They were the couple who should have been man and wife. Sadly they did not get a happy ending in real life.

Their characters in the films they made together faired much better when it came to a happy ever after. I’m writing about my favourite film that the pair made together. That film is Adam’s Rib (1949).

Why this one over the others? Well for starters it is a very, very funny film indeed. There’s lots of physical (especially during some of the courtroom sequences)and verbal comedy to get you laughing. The comedy is only half of the reason I love it so much though. I really love it so much for the films portrayal of marital happiness and for the affection between Spencer and Katharine’s characters.

Their characters in this are a couple who are soulmates, best friends and lovers. The way they look at each other in this one just totally melts my heart. In many scenes they are so intimate with one another, that it’s like someone left the cameras rolling after a take, and that we are actually watching Spencer and Katharine in a genuine private moment together.

The affectionate scenes between them both in this are my favourite moments out of all the films they made together. There is such warmth and obvious love between Spencer and Katharine in this one. It is beautiful to watch and really helps get across how their characters feel about one another.

I especially love them in the scene where they are cuddling up on the sofa after work one evening. Spencer’s character sees that Katharine’s is subdued and gently asks her if she is alright, and says he wouldn’t ever want to think of her not being alright. I think that might just well be my all time favourite Kate and Spence moment on screen (oh alright then, so maybe it’s a tie with their very sexy first meeting in Woman Of The Year.)  🙂

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Adam’s Rib was written by husband and wife screenwriting team Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon. Their inspiration for this story of married lawyers were William and   Dorothy Whitney. The Whitney’s were a married couple who were both lawyers, they ended up getting divorced and marrying the clients they were each representing in a high profile case. The screenwriting couple saw great potential in two characters who were married lawyers and who had to appear on opposite sides of the court in the same case. Thus Adam and Amanda Bonner were created.

Adam (Spencer Tracy)and Amanda (Katharine Hepburn)are two well respected and much sought after lawyers. They both love their job, and will both give a case their all. The pair also happen to be married to one another. In court they verbally spar, but then they come home to one another and leave all that outside. These two are such a devoted couple and adore each other.

Across town, Doris Attinger (Judy Holliday) follows her husband Warren. Doris is convinced that her husband is having an affair. She catches him with another woman (Jean Hagen) and fires a gun at them, the woman isn’t hurt, but Warren is injured.

The Bonner’s read about the case, and each of them has a different opinion on the case and about the people involved. They find it difficult to leave the case alone when Amanda is hired to defend Doris and Adam finds out he is prosecuting the case. Cue arguments, verbal sparring, flirtation, and an extremely spectacular battle of the sexes in the courtroom. Can the pair stop this case from impacting on their personal life?

The talented (and quite often overlooked in comparison to other actresses of the time)Jean Hagen and Judy Holliday both steal all the scenes they are in as the two very different women in Mr. Attinger’s life.

David Wayne is both amusing and annoying as Kip, he is a song writer who fancies Amanda and flirts with her to wind Adam up (he succeeds!). I want to slap Kip so many times, he is just so nosy and annoying.

As for Spencer and Katharine they are both terrific here, and they also look like they are having a great deal of fun in this one.

My favourite scenes are the following. Adam and Amanda talking to each other under the table in court. All the scenes where they debate in court. Amanda putting her head on Adam’s knee when she sees he looks angry and uncomfortable during the scene where they watch home movies. The liquorice gun scene. The massage and slap scene. Adam asking Amanda if she is alright, and saying that he would never want to think of her not being alright. The female weightlifter lifting Adam above her head. The footage from the home movies.

This is a funny and romantic film featuring memorable performances from the entire cast. There’s also plenty of witty dialogue to be enjoyed, and of course there is that undeniable Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn screen magic to enjoy.

The Bonner’s await you in court. Any other fans of this film? Please leave your comments below.

As a bonus here are the five films in which I think Katharine and Spencer each give their best performances.

 

Katharine Hepburn

1- Long Day’s Journey Into Night

2- Woman Of The Year

3- Summertime

4 – The Philadelphia Story

5- The Lion In Winter

 

Spencer Tracy

1- Bad Day At Black Rock

2- Adam’s Rib

3- Boys Town

4- Woman Of The Year

5- Inherit The Wind

 

          Here are my five all time favourite Tracy and Hepburn films.

     Spencer Tracy

        1- Woman Of The Year

2- San Francisco

3- Boys Town

4- Adam’s Rib

             5- Men Of Boys Town

 

        Katharine Hepburn

1- Summertime

2- Holiday

3- The Lion in Winter

4- Woman Of The Year

5- Adam’s Rib