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Reviews

Knock on Wood
(1954)

Danny Kaye as a ventriloquist getting mixed up with Man Zetterling as doctor Nordström, a psychiatrist
He also gets mixed up with two dummies, which he now and then gets into arguments with ending by his smashing them to pieces, so his doll fixer in Paris, Monsieur Papinek, gets very busy with Danny Kaye's doll destructions while at the same time he gets mixed up with some serious spying business, which eventually also involves the totally innocent Danny Kaye, since his dummies are used for smuggling state secrets. That's the beginning of the mess. Danny Kaye in almost all his films excels in getting immersed in unfathomably deep trouble, but somehow he always manages to extricate himself out of it as well, no matter how complicated the mess of circumstances gets. Here it starts in Paris, continues in Zürich and then ends up in London and even at a theatre with a tremendous ballet performance which almost brings the conductor to a nervous breakdown. There are many crooks here, and they are difficult to keep track of, while they gradually one by one are sorted out by constantly accumulating murders. I am afraid anyone could laugh himself to death by this film. It must be one of Danny Kaye's funniest if not the very funniest, and the virtuoso action will never keep you relaxed for a moment. Mai Zetterling though, with her wonderful blue eyes that Danny Kaye instantly falls in love with, seems to be the only one keeping rather cool, while ultimately even she is brought to some smiling by Danny Kaye's indefatigable desperation.

3 Steps to the Gallows
(1953)

Murder mysteries in a night club
An American lands in England and immediately gets into trouble, because he can't keep his fists to himself. He comes to visit his brother without knowing that his brother is going to hang for murder in three days. Of course he is innocent, but only the American brother is convinced of that and find it impossible to convince anyone else, except a night club singer, who eventually joins him on his quest to sort things out. Her father in Paris appears to have had something to do with the murder, and he also joins up in London sticking out his neck for all the involved hoodlums to chase him down as best as they could. There is another lady involved also, and it eventually becomes evident that it is all about smuggling diamonds, a terrible racket, for which apparently any human life is worth sacrificing. A certain James Smith turns up from nowhere crowning the mysteries by disappearing without leaving a trace behind, and we never learn anything more about him, although he seems to be the key character who really does something about the mess of all these mysteries. Eventually it proves that even the criminal inspector has known everything about the whole muddle all the time, but he wanted to lure out the big rat. The big rat of course when he finally is check mate wants to kill himself, but like so many murder attempts in this film, also that attempt fails. Eventually, the impossible equation of all these mysteries is finally solved, but the audience will find it a hard brainstorm to get head or tail out of this entangled confusion of constantly furious and desperate action.

Emergency Call
(1952)

Almost documentary blood transfusion thriller
You can't get much closer to reality than in describing and recounting the circumstances and very critical instances in the emergency of having a very short time to save a child's life with the rarest possible blood group, for which three donors are needed, and the difficulties in getting them in time are constantly towering here, even mounting to criminal complications and crooked business in the field of boxing. The realism is total, the film is aptly scripted with impressing accuracy from both the views of the hospital and Scotland Yard, and the human destinies involved are gripping, especially the last one, a compromised case of innocence. The acting is equally superb, no one is overacting, everyone is natural and neutral, and they are all on equal footing. There are many films like this from England around these years, and they are generally all reliable and impeccably realistic, like Italian neorealism, no matter how prominent actors are in them. This is better and more exciting than most thrillers, and yet it is all fictional, but the reality is too convincing not to raise a certainty with the viewer that it must all be taken more or less directly from reality.

Teheran
(1946)

Derek Farr is overacting, and all the others are not acting at all
It starts promising enough with a romance in Rome, a Russian ballerina gets sacked from the ballet for no obvious reason in 1938 under the fascist regime, and the smart correspondent Derek Farr is there to save her from the fascist hoodlums and wants to bring her to England, when she disappears. That's the first half hour of the film. Five years later he is a war correspondent in Teheran to watch the meeting between Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin in November, but suddenly Natalia reappears at a night club in the middle of a brawl, and of course she becomes more interesting to Derek Farr than Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, but unfortunately she is mixed up with a double crosser who intends to blow up Roosevelt in his wheelchair, apparently just to keep the war going, since he is in the war business. The story and plot could have been made something of, but unfortunately, as a previous reviewer observed, there is neither a qualified script, direction nor acting here. Bogart, Greenstreet and Bacall could have made something of it with Michael Curtiz. The romance, that looked so promising in Rome, loses all credibility in Teheran, and although Derek Farr is good enough an actor, his main contributions here is to get more fights on his hands, since there are hoodlums also in Teheran. In brief, an awkward effort at an efficient thriller which only fizzles. It is mainly worth watching for the scenes of Roman street life and the exotic scenery of Teheran.

The Ghost Train
(1941)

A weird night of stranded passengers at a haunted local train station in a storm
This comedy, labelled as a "horror" film, is tremendous in its constantly more unexpected turns. It starts innocently enough as an ordinary local voyage on a train with a comedian subjecting his fellow passengers to various pranks, which eventually leads to the train being late and a group of passengers missing their connection, so they have to pass the night in a local station house, where the station master is most unwilling to let them stay, but as there is a storm breaking loose with rain squalls and thunder he has to let them stay, whereupon he leaves them after having told them a ghost story of a ghost train, that 43 years earlier accidentally passed the bridge when it was open, so all the train went down the drain. Since then the station has been haunted, says the station master and leaves them in the storm. The situation grows more complicated later on as a wild young lady turns up escaping from somewhere, while apparently people are chasing her to lock her in as certified, and when her brother turns up in the storm informing the passengers that she is crazy, the situation grows more complex, and it continues to grow more complex all the way until the end. The comedian continues his pranks all the time, while the passengers don't find him funny at all, while he is just outrageously funny, and the storm keeps getting worse; but the film is replenished with comical details and happenings, they have to repeatedly for instance fill the tea pot with water from a hose, and finally there is actually a train turning up from nowhere causing some terror and panic, but that train proves to be something completely different from an ordinary train. The story has been filmed a number of times, it used to happen on the line between Ireland and Northern Ireland involving some mine as well, but here there is only a tunnel. You will be sure to laugh your sides off practically all the time - and constantly be surprised at what happens next.

L'oro di Napoli
(1954)

One of de Sica's major comedies and perhaps the best of them all
Vittorio de Sica knew his home town Naples by heart, as he, like his favourite actress Sofia Loren, practically had grown up there from the gutter. In these six episodes are reflected different insights and aspects of Napolitan life, reflecting both comedy, tragedy, drama and, as always in de Sica's films, deep humanity. One of the episodes is dedicated entirely to a funeral procession of a dead child. The most dramatic episode is the fifth with Silvana Mangano getting married to an unknown man, naturally she is shy and feels rather uncertain about the venture, and gradually the whole scheme of the situation unfolds, and she naturally reacts. Her performance is the most memorable in this film. Sophia Loren is still very young here and brilliant as a pizza hostess selling in the streets with her husband and extricating herself magnificently out of a scandal. Vittorio de Sica plays the lead himself in one of the episodes, actually making a satire out of himself, as he was a great gambler himself and needed some detachment and to handle the situation, which this sequence illustrates perfectly. The brilliant comedian Totó introduces the episodes in a very domestic situation of outrageous difficulties and awkwardness, and he manages it in a very Italian way. In brief, these six chapters of daily life in Naples in 1954 will go through to eternity with the rest of de Sica's films as timeless and ageless expressions of deep sympathy and keen warm-hearted observation.

The Rise of Catherine the Great
(1934)

The drama of the rise of Catherine the Great from humiliation to power
Elisabeth Bergner is a great actress and always lovable, but she is not convincing as Catherine the Great - she is too lovable for that, and an Austrian at that, while Marlene Dietrich in Sternberg's "The Scarlet Empress" of the same year was more appropriate and more convincing as a Prussian princess. On the other hand, Douglas Fairbanks Jr makes perhaps the most interesting Peter III on screen, showing nuances and possibilities that usually are ignored in all those other Catherine films. Flora Robson is perfect as usual in one of those many roles of queens and empresses that suited her perfectly. The direction by Paul Czinner (also from Austria) is very meticulous and carefully planned in well considered dramaturgy, so there is nothing wrong with this excellent costume film of the early thirties, although Marlene Dietrich's and von Sternberg's version is more stylistic and impressing in more artistic liberty. Paul Czinner went on with Elisabeth Bergner in Shakespeare's "As You Like It", a triumph of Shakespeare in Hollywood, and then to ballet films and opera films, in which he constantly surpassed himself.

Sciuscià
(1946)

The saga and tragedy of two boys and a horse
This is perhaps the most disturbing of all Vittorio de Sica's many masterpieces, as it deals almost only with children, mainly boys who aren't even old enough to know or understand what they are doing or what happens to them. The mood is a precursor to Visconti's terribly realistic masterpiece "La terra trema" two years later, but here it all happens in the bleakest parts of central Rome, and only the horse offers some kind of relief. The boys, who spend all their earnings to buy a horse they love riding, are lured into black market dirty business and get caught and end up in juvenile prison, where the sanitary conditions are horrible and the boys are crowded together into small dark cells. Naturally they want to escape. The only comedy moment of the film, in which you recognize the mature de Sica's splendid sense of human humor, is when the direction decides to give the boys some entertainment by showing a film, and naturally things happen during this performance. The direction as always in de Sica's films is splendid throughout like all the actors, and although the story is slightly exaggerated and dramatized, the impact of the realism is convincing and shocking enough. His next film "Bicycle Thieves" would be milder, while this is downright upsetting all the way through, and there is even one innocent casualty, who will make your heart bleed.

Merry Andrew
(1958)

Danny Kaye as a university scholar getting mixed up with an Italian circus
This is one of Danny Kaye's most amiable and sympathetic films, as he plays a very regular university teacher from Oxford and Cambridge, a regular becoming Mr Chips type, with a very autocratic father for a headmaster and two almost equally imposing brothers, who all do their best to help him get married, but with Danny Kaye at their hands of course they can but fail completely, while they anyway manage to make the best of it, including the lovely bride, and some may think Pier Angeli is a poor substitute for her. As a teacher his main interest is archeology, and by permission from his father he sets out to dig for a unique antique statue in old Roman ruins, at which site he finds an Italian circus. So he gets involved with the circus. All the hilarity of this film is with the circus, in which a chimpanzee plays a more important part than any human, and Michael Kidd's expert choreography adds an extra flourish to this film, as the main ballet number is really impressing while at the same time the absolute highlight of musical numbers. Danny Kaye made this film directly after "The Court Jester", perhaps his greatest triumph, and here the touch and presentation is more intimate, softer and more human, like stepping down a bit to more human concerns with children and all, while after this film he turned even deeper down into humanity by "Me and the Colonel" (from the Second World War) and the very down to earth "Five Pennies" based entirely on reality. So this as a film is an ace among aces and like all these four unsurpassed as such.

L'affaire du collier de la reine
(1946)

Stunning and elaborately sumptuous reconstruction of the most scandalous affair in French royal history
Viviane Romance is of course the star here who sustains the entire picture and who succeeds in even outshining queen Marie Antoinette who is ousted out into the shadows, which she also was in reality by this astronomical deceit perpetrated by Jeanne de la Motte (Viviane Romance) who succeeded in duping even a royal cardinal in outrageous manipulation. The tragedy of the story is that the queen got all the blame and never recovered from her sullied reputation, although she was completely innocent - she actually turned the offer of the necklace down, probably the most expensive jewellry ever manufactured, while others saw a great opportunity for personal greed and used it ruthlessly. Although Jeanne de la Motte was sentenced and justly punished by lashing and branding, she actually got away, fled to England and from there carried on a ruthless propaganda campaign against Marie Antoinette, claiming to be a victim of the queen and asserting her innocence in flamboyant and outrageous insolence. The film includes most of the very complicated turns of this mess of a scandal and even gives an excellent rendering of the perhaps greatest charlatan of all times, the Sicilian Count Cagliostro, also known as Joseph Balsamo and many other names, and ending up badly like all the others of this crooked game. Maybe the peak of the scandal was that the poor gullible cardinal de Rohan actually was aquitted, while he must be held accountable for having allowed himself to be duped and not even resigning as a cardinal from church. He was considered as much a victim of the court as Jeanne de la Motte, and although he was innocent in his naïve stupidity and a victim of his own folly of credulousness, he did have a heavy responsibility as a prince of the church, while the criminality of the woman Jeanne de la Motte will remain a wondrous mystery for all times as a most incredibly destructive and abnormal mind.

Santa Fe Trail
(1940)

Before the Union broke - the preliminary contentions
This is a great dashing adventure with Errol Flynn and Ronald Reagan blazing off in saddles with Olivia de Havilland between themselves, but the one who makes this film is actually Raymond Massey as the very dramatic villain John Brown creating massive problems for the union by his ardent fanaticism, which makes him really an awesome study in religious autocratic megalomania and intolerance. He caused some serious disturbance in the union in 1854, and what's worse, his prophecies and fanatic will and purpose came true as the union broke six years later and the civil war plunged America into national suicide. Historically this film is therefore of great interest, and it shows both Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis at a more prominent stage of life than what they later became, Robert E. Lee as a venerable and able Viginian general and Jefferson Davis as a war minister whose blonde daughter becomes, as we suspect, Ronald Reagan's wife. The pace and action of the film is superb throughout, there is never a dull moment, and Errol Flynn is at his dashing best, while the still young Van Heflin here makes one of the most interesting characters as something of a heroic traitor.

False Identity
(1990)

Digging up a lost war hero after seventeen years and finding him still alive
This is clearly a film that has been neglected and bypassed, maybe even scrapped, which is a pity, because it presents one of Stacy Keach's best performances and also a remarkable one by Genevieve Bujold. She plays a Canadian from Montreal, like she is herself, so she plays herself, and no one could have done it better. Stacy Keach plays an ex-convict who has lost his memory and who knows nothing about himself, while the one thing he knows for some strange reason is to draw pictures. He doesn't know himself their origin, he paints out of a subconscious memory of which he has no control. The first scene of the film shows how he lost his mind - he is beaten all but to death and by some miracle survives and is taken care of, but his head damages are so severe so he must have a metal plate implanted in his skull. Although throughout almost the entire film he acts as the half way zombie he is supposed to be, you must always suspect some dormant raving monster inside with unlimited sources to let hidden forces out, and you will be rewarded - it will happen. But the long traumatic ascent to that final awakening is a strenuous ordeal for all involved, and there are many people involved in it, who don't want to speak about it but ultimately have to. It's a great mystery of amnesia involving more traumas than one, as Genevieve Bujold also has lost a husband, so there are many knots tied up in this local family drama, keeping a whole town in fear of being found out, but there are no secrets that will not ultimately be found out.

Monsieur Vincent
(1947)

A monument to charity and a challenge to every human conscience
There are many heart-rending scenes in this film, like taken directly from the reality of the 17th century with all its infernos of gutter life of the poor, the hungry, the sick and the invalids - they are all here, collected in Monsieur Vincent's hospitals for everyone in need, in whatever condition they are, and his hospitals and almshouses are always crowded, even with beggars and invalids fighting over beds that just have become vacant after one patient has died. Pierre Fresnay makes an unforgettable impersonation of the great pioneer of charity, penetrating deeply into the mind and character of the humble priest, who basically had to stand alone all his life against the overwhelming inhumanity of man, and even of women. It is a rich film, not hesitating to expose every aspect of the saint's difficult life and all his adversities, as even the beginning of the film brings you right down the shocking abyss of the horrible recklessness of man, as he gets stoned by the villagers, hiding behind their closed windows, when he comes to take his office as a vicar in a village that has been without a priest for ten years, all the villagers having turned savage as a result. It is a walk through a hell that never ends, and when Monsieur Vincent finally feels his end is coming (at almost 80 years), his dominating feeling is of insufficiency, that he hadn't done enough, that he hadn't really done anything at all during his 50 years of constant overwork, only for the poor and the endless crowd of interminable and eternal incurable misery...

The Great Man
(1956)

The other side of journalism
Does journalism have to be dirty? Does it have to be all deception, smokescreens, cooked books, make-up, phoney mirages and artificial manipulations to avoid the truth? There are many films of journalism like this one, the most notorious being Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane", which W.R.Hearst never could forgive Orson Welles for trying to be so frank about, and this is another digging up cesspools in quest for the truth, with most unexpected results, as the great man they are trying to build a monument for proves like a black hole of nothing, if not garbage. Stll José Ferrer as the investigating journalist with the task of eulogizing the deceased idol tackles the issue, finds out everything and doesn't mind the smell but goes through with it, for good and for worse, and everybody listens. It's not a very inspiring film, but it is interesting, and the argument is important: is it really worth to bother about the truth, when there is really nothing in it? The truth for truth's sake is the motto here, and you have to admit that journalists have to make a living, and when they have no choice but to make it by standing for the truth, they just have to face it, and so must the audience. Whatever aftertaste it might leave, that's not the journalist's business any more.

St. Martin's Lane
(1938)

The buskers of London, Charles Laughton as the professional and Vivien Leigh as his lost love
This must be one of Charles Laughton's very finest performances, and yet they are many, as a busker of London reciting poems in some kind of cockney, catching Vivien Leigh as a thief and persuading her to join their musical street gang, as she becomes their dream girl ballerina. Unfortunately Rex Harrison from high society discovers her, and she can never become normal again. Her character is as complex as only she could make complex characters, like Scarlett, Myra and Blanche, but here she is still sparkling, young and gay and intoxicatring as a dancer. Rex Harrison is the usual cad, while Charles Laughton makes your heart cry, especially when she tries to save him from the gutter by bringing him to the theatre, where he finds out the hard way that he was born and will remain a busker.

My Week with Marilyn
(2011)

The British leading actors at the mercy of Marilyn Monroe's erratic and whimsical caprices of incalculablity
They are all there: Dame Sybil Thorndike, Vivien Leigh, Laurence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller, Sir Kenneth Clark, Judi Dench, all perfectly impersonated by the leading actors of that day, like Kenneth Branagh, Julia Ormond and Michelle Williams as the best impersonator of Marilyn Monroe on screen yet, and Eddie Redmayne as the young and innocent Colin Clark, who can't help himself from engaging in the cinema and who happens to become third assistant director to Laurence Olivier's "The Prince and the Showgirl" in 1956, being selected by Marilyn herself to be her intimate friend in the ordeal of having to act together with Laurence Olivier, "the great actor knowing well how to act but striving for some unreachable stardom, while Marilyn is a star but doesn't know how to act." Thus the stage is set for disasters. They all reach some kind of fulfillment, though, for they are all very convincing as the great actors they are impersonating and bringing back to life, and it's hard to decide who succeeds best in this. Sir Kenneth Clark makes a brief appearance in the beginning, dissuading his son Colin from his cinema fancies, and he is just as convincing as the others. Kenneth Clark made the great television series "Civilization" in the late 60s which was an is a classic in cultural historical presentation and education. It is interesting to note that his son Colin also (after his adventure with Marilyn Monroe) became a professional producer of documentaries. The film is based on his diaries of his experience of Marilyn Monroe, and it gives a very interesting insight in both Laurence Olivier's and Arthur Miller's delusions. The film is a cornerstone of later film history.

Voice in the Mirror
(1958)

Straight from the gutter
This is realism at its best. Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" with Ray Milland starring in practically the same story was also quite excellent and rewarded with an Oscar for its staggering sincerity, but this is more convincing. There are no stars here,. unless Julie London can be reckoned as such, who makes a performance that lights up the whole film in all its hopeless gloom of darkness - most scenes are nocturnal - but all the other characters are like picked up directly from the gutter and drunk tank and perform the better for not being stars. The story takes quite a few very upsetting turns, but also takes some surprising turns for the better, hope is always there, although it looks thoroughly hopeless from the beginning and for some while, until Jim meets a fellow drunk who is worse off than himself, and they find something together that somehow seems to work some miracle. Additional weight and impressing quality is added to the film by Henry Mancini's music, which always works miracles to any film. To cut short all the praises and qualities, this is a film that should be seen by everyone, for learning something about real life in the gutter.

Crimson Peak
(2015)

Ghost hunting in a maze of a family of heavy traumas
This is not bad for being an ordinary horror and ghost story, but there is actually an interesting point in it. Mia Wasikowska is a young beautiful daughter of a wealthy entrepreneur in America, but she has lost her mother and wants to get along in life by writing ghost stories. She has no success until a young handsome aristocrat comes across from England and seemingly falls in love with her, so he takes her along to his family estate in Cumberland, north England, a rather scary place suitable to Poe stories. here she gradually gets more and more like imprisoned at the mercy of Ton Middleston, her lawful wedded husband, baronet, and his sister, who is a cool piano player. However, they have some awful family secrets, and thus an endless horror nightmare begins with all kinds of atrocities, murders and bloodsheds and so forth, until an American doctor friend comes across who has suspected some nasty business, and he gets dragged into the mess of a horribly afflicted family. The film is marvellously well made, like all del Toro's films,. and a wonder to look at from beginning to end, the splendour constantly towering new visual wonders on top of all the previous ones, building up almost architecturally to a most impressive spectacle, while the sum of it all actually turns out to give her palpable evidence of that ghosts do exist in reality, which was her main object to prove from the start. But who will believe it?

The Holly and the Ivy
(1952)

Problems and settlements in a parson's family at Christmas
The problems are overwhelming from the start, and everyone is drowning in them. However could anyone still keep straight after all these turbulences, horrible confessions, dreadful upsets, outrageous self-sacrifices, tears and forebearance going too far, with the two youngest children getting out and away and drinking away Christmas Eve? Well, it's all storms in a teacup, and Ralph Richardson as the parson is no stranger to humanity, and the only problem is that his children don't tell him everything, probably because of respect for his religion, but his humanity goes deeper than formal religion, which they don't understand, for they are not mature enough, not any of them, not even Jenny, (Celia Johnson) the saint among them; while their aunt Lydia is the one who sees and understands everything and forgives and blesses everything with a perfectly generous heart, overflowing with goodness, just like Jenny; but then there are some bitter fruits having been reaped from life by the youngest sister Margaret (Margaret Leighton), which has settled her on a course of drinking. Denholm Elliott as quite young and fresh here makes a marvellous performance as the one who finally after all these years opens his mouth, and John Gregson is the perfect suitor who doesn't understand anything. Well, it's just a storm in a teacup, and the tea is still there, and finally that cup of tea will taste quite well for all involved.

Malinconico autunno
(1958)

A young widow's only son hopes and thinks he finds a better father
Raffaello Matarazzo, precursor of Visconti and Vittorio de Sica, was the specialist in Italy for undauntingly exposing deep human problems of justice and relationships and solving them, in one way or another, either by hopelessly drastic tragedy or by constructive indefatigable struggle. I will not divulge which of these two ways he chooses to follow here, but things really look seriously bad as the crisis is exacerbated by villainy and gunfire. The women as usual in Matarazzo's films are impressingly outstanding, especially Yvonne Sanson here much more mature than in her previous films with Matarazzo and Nazzari and a full blown woman of the same kind of beauty as Sofia Loren and Irene Papas, but as usual in Matarazzo's films, the children take the prize. The acting and direction of this film is quite astounding in high dramatic tension and excellence, and Matarazzo also succeeds well in building up this very critical drama to almost unendurable heights of insufferable conditions. The music is striking as well, and although a theme of much delicate heartbreaks, the film never falls to bathos of sentimentality. If Matarazzo is the Douglas Sirk of Italy, he is far ahead of Sirk in realism, credibility and humanism.

A Life at Stake
(1955)

Falling into a trap by trying to avoid it
This is not just a B- low budget feature but actually a complicated existential drama of some psychological interest. Keith Andes is an honest architect who has been swindled once and is constantly on the alert against happening to it again, so he happens to it again, but this time it's more complicated. He is contacted by a lawyer who seems professional and honest enough, who presents him with Angela Lansbury, the last woman I would trust in any film - I never liked her, and here she proves more false than ever, while she commits the mistake of actuallty falling in love with her victim. Fortunately she has a younger sister who is still young and innocent who is not in her sister's business and who gets to know more than she should. Angela Lansbury's husband, though, is in it indeed, and when it comes to murder he obviously doesn't hesitate, which makes you suspect he has arranged murders before. Finally Angela Lansbury's womanhood gets the better of her, and there is a settlement betweern her and her increasingly suspicious victim, who has been suspecting her all the time but followed her manipulations nonetheless into constantly more insidious booby-traps. Well, the outcome is somewhat unexpected, but this is actually a htriller in the class of Hitchcock, and he would have been able to make much of it. Here there was a narrow budget, so they had to do without effects and special tricks and expensive circumstances, but the result is anyway actually impressing - no fooling around here in professional speculations in unsuspected deaths of innocents.

On the Double
(1961)

Danny Kaye doubling it up
The tempo is unusually fast here for a Danny Kaye film, as you had learned to take it more easy with his films like "Me and the Colonel" and the very serious "Five Pennies", but apparently he agreed to return to professional hilarious farce again and with a vengeance. It's all British although there are a few Americans in it as well, but the relief of the film and what saves it is the lovely Dana Wynter, wife of the monstrous general he has to impersonate, who hated her husband and came back home just to divorce him, but found Danny Kasye instead as something of her husband's better alter ego. They both appear together in the beginning of the film in the first of many hilarious scenes, but he is never heard of again, while the fake conquers the scene. The top hilarious scene is when he gets kidnapped to Germany and has to go through all kinds of ordeals, turning them to great slapstick fun, until he faces his own assassins. Actually, you miss the serious Danny Kaye here from his two previous films, to which genre he never returned. He was funniest as a clown but he proved his artistic worth best in those two changeling films.

The Man from Morocco
(1945)

Horrible ordeals through the Spanish civil war and victimised by the Vichy bullies, there is some nasty spying business on top of that
This film is worth watching only for its cinematography, which is sustained in enjoyable beauty all the way. The actors are good, Anton Walbrook is always worth watching, and Margaretta Scott is not bad either, but the script is a shambles. What could have been a good and great story, there are hopes for it through two thirds of the film, but then it gets all messed up, as Reginald Tate as the rotten scoundrel Ricardi is a total failure, and every time he comes back into the picture, it gets worse. The finale is a pitfall, an artifical end pasted on just to finish off the misery of a bad script, which makes the sum of the film a total disaster. Its marvellous cinematography saves it and makes it enjoyable, if you can put a blind eye to to the awkward spies. This was the last film that Mutz Greenbaum (Max Greene) directed, while he continued as a cinematographer in many films. Maybe he felt it himself, that in spite of his meticulous direction and splendid cinematograhy, saving his art and expertise from a bad script was not really what he was meant for.

The Years Between
(1946)

Problems of war and peace, and peace starting new ones.
Colonel Michael Wentworth (Michael Redgrave) goes to war and is reported dead after some time. His wife refuses to accept that he is dead and is slowly but definitely breaking up especially psychologically, so she is persuaded to do something about her situation and take her husband's seat in parliament, although she knows nothing about politics. However, she grows into the profession and even becomes popular, and so four years pass, and after this eternity of a bloody war the husband suddenly comes home without warning. He has been a prisoner of war and has had no possibility to communicate about his surviving his own death. Then the problems begin. Michael Redgrave and Valerie Hobson are always worth watching, and this is even a story by Daphne du Maurier, who wrote only good stories (like "Rebecca"). So the film is interesting indeed but totally without drama, it's like a domestic play about difficulties of relationships because of the war, another man coming home from the war having lost his leg in it and doesn't want to continue with his wife any more because of that, and other things like that. It's all right as a time document, anticipating the problems resulting from the peace, problems that no one had expected and that suddenly come importuning, causing new conflicts where there were none. Good play, good direction, good music, but merely an insight just passing by.

The Last Wagon
(1956)

Ordeals of survival in the scorching valley of death among apaches on the warpath
The greatest assets of this classic western, rating among the best ever, is the astounding photography around the hills of Arízona and Richard Widmark's performance. The story is excellent as well, the dialog is thoroughly and consistently sustained with reasonableness and interesting arguments, the most interesting one being about the racism of white Americans against Indians. Richard Widmark is no Indian himself, although he is called Comanche Todd, but when his father, a preacher, died whern he was eight, he was taken care of by Comanches and brought up as if he was an Indian - no racial problems there. He thereby makes an interesting character with his legs on both sides and a soul born white but trained with an Indian mind. The story is about crises that occur as a caravan travels through apache country to Tucson and gets massacred on the way, leaving only a few children and immature youngsters as survivors, while Richard Widmark, convicted as a criminal to be hanged, tries to save them all from further massacres. It is a rather hardcore account of problems with Apache Indians in 1873, the odds are overwhelmingly against them, but somehow humanity prevails while inhumanity gets lost on the way. The visual splendour of this film is quite outstanding, there are few films that equal it, and Widmark's character as a combined martyr, revenger, survivor and wronged victim of fate of ruthless sincerity and honesty makes this western one of the best.

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