st-shot

IMDb member since November 2006
    Lifetime Total
    1,000+
    Lifetime Name
    1+
    Top Reviewer
     
    Poll Taker
    10x
    IMDb Member
    15 years

Reviews

The Maltese Falcon
(1931)

Bird watchers
Made a decade before the re-make Bogart classic The Maltese Falcon more than holds it own in this poverty row presentation featuring an inveterate skirt chasing Sam Spade ( Ricardo Cortez ) along with the identical rogues gallery to be found in the redux. Far from the polished masterpiece, it remains a cut above similar detective films of its day with its convoluted plot and fresh dialogue from the Hammett novel.

Ruth Weatherly (Bebe Daniels) shows up at Spade & Archer detective agency in hopes of locating her sister. They take the case but Archer is killed while working it. Another man, Joel Cairo, shows up at the office in search of a statue followed by other dubious types, including cops to accuse and confuse the situation for Spade who is left to sort out matters for himself.

Cortez is no Bogart but he works with a similar edge, displaying a coolness and disdain for cops and condescension for less than forthcoming clients. His horn dog ways and cynicism click well with the plot. Dudley Digges is also no Sydney Greenstreet but he makes for an unctuous villain with his surly lust for the falcon. Daniels is a convincing conniver while Spade's girl Friday played by Una Merkel is a comically astute observer.

Much of what is found in the classic originates here including the homosexual make-up of the gang which in some cases takes even broader liberties with the topic. Jettisoning comparison the 31 Falcon is a slightly superior work to similar gumshoe films of that era.

Trouble in Paradise
(1932)

Sedate sex comedy.
Notorious second story man, jewel thief Gaston Monescu (Herbert Marshall) crosses paths with fellow thief, pickpocket, Lily (Miriam Hopkins), in Venice. Mutually impressed by their illicit skills they form a partnership in crime and romance. They eye a huge payday bilking a perfume heiress, Mariette Colette (Kay Francis) but Gaston makes a professional miscue and falls for Colet, much to the chagrin of Lily who stands to lose on both ends.

Paradise is classic Ernst Lubitsch with much inferred not only to get around censors but heighten the comic value as well with the three leads in a state of incertitude on what their next move will be. Lubitsch for his part puts the audience to work with suggestive notions by way of clocks and his go to closed doors while balancing the mild suspense of who Gaston will be with at the film's close.

Marshall is benignly suave as he charms Lily and Colet. Seizing the moment he earnestly charms both with equal dubiousness leaving you to wonder if is a superb con artist or incurable romantic himself. Hopkins is a feisty, resourceful partner in crime who is not about to give up Monescu without a fight. Francis, strikingly cosmopolitan, spends most of her time on cloud 9 whether dealing in romance or business. Edward Evrett Horton and Charlie Ruggles as Colet suitors offer up additional laughs with a very civil disdain for each other.

Some moments do seem self-satisfied and slow but overall this light comedy with ribald undertones makes for a whimsical sex tale.

Hold Back the Dawn
(1941)

Border seduction.
Charles Boyer reverts to his gigolo playbook and use of his bedroom eyes in order to get across the US border by seducing school mom Olivia DeHavilland in Hold Back the Dawn. While the chaotic mess that is the border these days may only require good aquatic abilities, the more orderly 1941, could leave folks at bay waiting to get in for years.

Rumanian Georges Iscovescu is jolted by the fact it will take 8 years for him to gain asylum in the US due to a quota system. Taking up residence in a Tijuana hotel he impatiently waits his turn when he finds out an American wife will gain him entry. On July 4th he sets out in search of a wife and after a comically failed first attempt comes upon schoolteacher Emmy Brown, turns on the charm and soon hitched. Georges has no intention of staying with her once over the border and an American agent (Walter Abel) sees through the scheme.

Boyer is an ideal suave sleaze as he manipulates the naive Olivia, a sweet comic innocent that is almost too gullible. The romantic close-ups the two share are moments of incredible pang and passion given edge by Boyer's craven exploitation of the doe eyed sap. Paulette Goddard as a gold digging former dance partner adds a fine supporting performance as she deviously works all matters to her advantage.

Written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder with their noted cynical sense of humor it projects a type of screwball melodrama that brings a touch of unevenness to some moments, necessary, however, to pave the way to Boyer's redemption, along with a dig or two about US immigration laws.

The Sea Wolf
(1941)

The Sea Wolf sinks just before reaching shore.
Things are quite dark and dreary in this sinister Jack London sea story featuring a sadistic sea captain (Ed Robinson) and a couple (John Garfield, Ida Lupino) on the run from authorities aboard the bad ship Ghost.

Wolf Larsen runs a brutal scavenger ship and he brooks no debate with any subordinate. George Leach and Ruth Brewster are particular targets of his wrath but not the only one as he humiliates and drives his ship's doctor to the extreme as well. The rest of the crew is a scurvy lot as well showing little regard for life or limb as they sadistically entertain themselves with keelhauling and public humiliation. Also aboard is an author played by Alexander Knox who draws out the intellectual side of Larsen obsessed with power quoting Milton while displaying a total lack of humanity to all those around him.

The claustrophobic fog shrouded setting conveys a sense of hoplessness once underway that spirals to a general mood of deep cynicsm throughout before an upbeat deus ex machina allows the protagonists to sale off into the sunrise.

Robinson's sadistic Larsen ranks with one of his better villains as he cruelly gets his jollies humiliating crew before an approving audience. Garfield and Lupino show some believable hard edge while Knox plays London's heroic alter ego as the only sound and decent person board ably with Barry Fitzgeralds sniveling Irish cook is a far cry from his Going my Way cleric but every bit effective.

Studio filmed and ably directed by Michael Curtiz, Sol Polito's camera work creates a perfect atmosphere for the evil goings on deck including the mawkish finale that betrays the mood and of the unforgiving world of the picture the audience has just cruised through.

The Batman
(2022)

Comic book in the dark.
Overlong, convoluted with a permanent case of the blues The Batman is one well done, as in overcooked, bore. Featuring a tortured Batman (Robert Pattinson) struggling not only with the usual rogues gallery of villains he must confront inner demons as well.

Seeking to avenge his terrible childhood, The Riddler begins to off Gotham City pols and officials. Cryptically he implicates Batman's old man that sends the caped crusader (now looked upon as a vigilante) into a funk. Yet fight on he does.

Serious as an undertaker, The Batman makes no room for the spirit of the fantasy as it bogs down in gloomy end to end ambience. Accompanied by a glum music score of self importance, Pattinson along with an emaciated Bat Girl (Zoe Kravitz) slog through the muck and mire of Gotham City taking on chaos and destruction for 3 hours. Director Matt Reeves also does himself no favors by watering down the caricature presence of The Riddler and The Penguin to near normality. A work of gloomy bombast.

Born Reckless
(1930)

Born Reckless best aborted.
John Ford continues to be flummoxed by early sound while Edmund Lowe is a sorry case for an Italian in this hackneyed mobster pic. Spitting one tough guy cliche after the next it fails to even approach the onslaught of classic gangster films (Little Caeser, Public Enemy, Scarface) with more convincing leads that would follow over the next year.

Louis Berretti (Lowe) is about to get sent up the river when a judge gives him an option to go to war instead, which he accepts. Upon return he goes straight and opens a club but his loyalty to his old pals remains and a spat between factions threatens to ruin his future.

As in his previous Black Watch, Ford seems confounded at getting anything but stilted performances out of his actors. The wooden Lowe is dreadfully miscast, looking more upscale financier than slum grown with the rest of the characters outside of a buoyant Lee Tracy not worth mentioning for their own good.

There are some tense moments and limp attempts at humor but Ford's ham fisted direction squanders them in this flaccid gangster pic devoid of the violent passion that would infuse the aforementioned films waiting in the wings.

Pygmalion
(1938)

Pygmalion has plenty to sing about.
Pompous elocution professor Henry Higgins (Leslie Howard) crosses paths with Cockney flower girl Eliza Dolittle (Wendy Hiller) in Piccadilly and smugly declares to colleague Colonel Pickering he can pass this "guttersnipe" off as a lady. The result however teaches everyone a lesson.

Pygmalion is simply a quality work in all departments. Hiller in her film lead debut is an outstanding Eliza as she climbs the emotional ladder from insecure waif to defiant woman. Both comic and touching she delivers one of the finest female acting performances of the thirties. Howard adds the right amount of condescension and impatience to his Higgins in order to chafe and add to the give and take in scenes of absolute chemistry between the two. Wilfred Lawson as Dolittle's old man simply owns every moment he is present in. Eloquently conveying GB Shaw's words, wit and social insight the three along with a well fitted minor supporting cast jell tightly while brisk direction by Howard and Anthony Asquith and editing by David Lean, all contribute to make Pygmalion ageless.

The Cheat
(1931)

The Cheat rips off.
Tallulah Bankhead hams it up to the hilt in this laughable tale of gambling addiction and sadism. At 29 and already showing the ravages of a dissolute life style, Lu has a hard time convincing she's a sensitive innocent with a gambling problem as she continuously rasps "Oh, Jeffrey" to a clueless husband after each faux pas.

Compulsive gambler, wanna be socialite Elsa Carlyle (Bankhead) drops a bundle at a casino and then doubles down by ripping off a charity milk fund and losing it in a stock deal. With debtors on her door step she accepts the help of a wealthy, tasteful gentleman (Irving Pichel) with a sinister side. He bails her out but when he demands repayment and she rebuffs, he brutalizes her. She returns the favor by shooting him.

Bankhead's stridency is overwrought as she projects for the balcony audience as if in a play. Her halting utterances and feigned naiveté are more laughable than heartfelt as she frets with a wretched lack of conviction. The perverse Pichel character leers throughout while the rest of a forgettable cast looks on aghast and disapproving in this lurid potboiler that never reaches lukewarm.

Torch Singer
(1933)

Claudette vamps it up.
After a slam bam, thank you mam, pregnancy, dad (David Manners) takes a slow boat to China and abandons chorus girl/singer Sally Trent (Claudette Colbert). She attempts to bring up the child but penniless she allows it to be adopted. She then works her way up the ladder as a torch singer in clubs before a fortuitous event turns her into a radio sensation that she manipulates into a search for her long lost daughter, Sally.

Colbert handles the mawkishly melodramatic script well, in tears one moment, hard as nails in another. The script is all too pat however with its happily after ending drowning in suds. One absolutely touching and eloquent scene that does deserve mention is Trent arriving at a ramshackle home in hopes of finding her daughter who turns out to be a black child with the same name and date of birth. "Was she black?" asks the little girl. "I don't remember, it was long ago," Trent says with the perfect answer, reminding us we are all God's children..

The Black Watch
(1929)

The Black Watch is an ugly one.
Victor McLagan, Myrna Loy and John Ford directing his first sound feature all fail miserably in this stiff and awkward effort from the early sound era trying to find its voice. Miscast and Islamic insensitive it's a hackneyed mess from the outset.

As WW1 commences Captain King (McLagan) of the Black Watch Brigade is given a top secret assignment in India interpreted as cowardice by his fellow soldiers. There he makes contact with rebel leader Yasmani (Loy), intent on ruling the world, but India will do for now.

Ford directs poor performances from both his leads while showing an obnoxious fondness for bagpipes and Irish tenors, nearly turning this turgid adventure yarn into a musical. McLagan and Loy are embarrassing as they spout insipid dialogue. Vic is simply not the leading man type and Loy in spite of some exotic hooded eye portraiture and posing is simply to All American to be an Indian Goddess. Together they display a cringing romantic interest that director Ford seems at a loss to rectify.

Ford, Mclagan and Loy (once properly cast) would go on to have excellent sound careers but here in their early days they come across as rank amateurs in this low adventure effort.

Morocco
(1930)

Svengali and Trilby go to Hollywood
Marlene Dietrich made her American debut in this romantic drama directed by mentor Josef Von Sternberg. Released in the US before The Blue Angel Dietrich more or less reprises the role of the cabaret singer with a past littered in relationships gone wrong.

Amy Joly books one way passage on a tramp steamer to Morocco. There she finds work at a raucous club that plays to both swells and boisterous legionnaires where she meets and becomes attracted to one Pvt. Brown (Gary Cooper), a sybaritic hound who is immediately drawn to her but not about to give up his ways with other women.

Lee Garmes chiaroscuro photography of the medina and portrait work on its glamorous leads along with Hans Drier's lush set design gives Morrocco a solid exotic ambience but it labors under a weak storyline. Sacrificing development Von Sternberg seems to be more concerned with making love to the glacial presence of the alluring Dietrich in a variety of leggy outfits, highlighted by her in top hat and tales planting a kiss on a giddy young lady at the club.

Adolph Menjou as a wealthy pursuer brings a sophisticated magnanimity to his role while Paul Porcasi as the frazzled cabaret manager provides some comic relief. The over the top climax is a bit ridiculous but it did little to impede the Von Sternberg Dietrich combination and runaway success of some of the finest looking productions of the early 30s they would going forward make together.

All Night Long
(1962)

Be Bop Shakespeare
Hipster impresario Rod Hamilton (Richard Attenborough) gets a bunch of hep cat jazz artists to attend a party marking the first year anniversary of bandleader Aurelius Rex (Paul Harris) and his singer/wife Delia Wayne ( Marti Stevens). A conniving drummer, Johnny Cousin (Patrick McGoohan) scheming ways however turn the party into a tense night of deception and violence.

All Night Long is an Othello rip off buried in jazz riffs and mechanical performances. Director Basil Dearden brings in some jazz heavyweights (Dave Brubeck, Charles Mingus) in hopes their interludes will give the same rhythm to the storyline but without the Bard's words, the players merely wander around at this dull self-pity party with Dearden at a loss to find the right note. Dullsville.

Obsession
(1949)

Monty saves the day.
Shrink, Clive Riordan finds out his wife (Sally Gray) is having an affair with an American (Bill Cronin) and manages to imprison him with plans to kill in due time. An elaborate attempt at the perfect crime he is dogged by a Scotland Yard detective while his scheme is temporarily put on hold by the wife's dog, Monty.

Directed by Ed Dmytryk during his blacklist period, The Hidden Room has plot holes that just cannot be filled around the lover's imprisonment. Far from a remote area, a constant racket would draw attention. The relationship between jailer and prisoner is surprisingly civil and somewhat sadistic, settling into a series of cynical conversations that grow wearisome after awhile. Newton is surprisingly composed through out while a Columbo like detective (Naunton Wayne) parries with him in cat and mouse fashion to get to the bottom of things when a mere tail on the major suspect would bring the mystery to a fast close. An improbable mystery that asks its audience to overlook much of the obvious drawbacks.

Ladies' Man
(1931)

Just a Gigolo
Bill Powell steps out of his usually engaging character type to play a sleazy gigolo in this ho-hum story of women juggling that ends badly for the smug charmer.

Jamie Dellicourt is the ladies man of the day as he charms and seduces high society women of distracted husbands. Presently he is working double shifts with a mother and daughter team but finds himself enthralled by a financially challenged woman ( Kay Francis) where love replaces monetary gain. It does not sit well with his benefactors and they stir the disinterested husband and father to violent action.

Powell lends a certain tenderness to his heel as he transitions to true love, albeit too late, as the scorned mistresses exact revenge by way of a bravura finale (hampered probably by censors) saturated in utter cynicism.

I'm No Angel
(1933)

The legend struts her stuff.
Man hungry, lion tamer Tira (Mae West) agrees to a dangerous circus act with the big cats that catapults her to the big time and the attention of her favorite past time, wealthy men. It's only natural she would fall hard for the likes of Cary Grant but first she must put her knowledge of jurisprudence to test in some hilarious cross examinations in order to save her reputation.

Mae West was a living breathing caricature, a truly one and only that her audience was more than willing to go along with her outrageous stride through the real world. It paid off in reams of laughter as she dished out lines that she authored causing a moral overhaul of the film industry's moral code. There's very little to take serious and the broad performances of all involved simply add to this over the top burlesque as they make way for diva Mae who does not disappoint. Her performance is more stand-up than role and that's just fine, as she fires off memorable one-liners in no need of repeating given their classic status nearly a century later. I'm no Angel is one funny cartoon.

Murders in the Zoo
(1933)

A man scorned.
Put upon philanthropist, zoologist Eric Gorman (Lionel Atwill) finds himself pre-occupied with snakes (one being his cheating wife) in this quickie B horror. Brief but biting, Gorman allows the animal kingdom to do his dirty work while playing a welcome supporter of the zoo.

The film opens on safari in Indo China where Gorman has just dealt in grisly fashion with one of his serial adulteress wife's lovers. Back in the States he brings a rare black mamba for research to a zoo while wife Evelyn plots with another lover to split on him. Once again Gorman deals with him in diabolical fashion. When his wife rejects his sexual advances he deals with her in a more heavy handed fashion. Meanwhile a zoo doctor (Randolph Scott) threatens to expose Gorman who goes to extremes to prevent it.

It's feeding day at the zoo as alligators and snakes feast on a human menu fiendishly orchestrated by Gorman. For some odd reason Charlie Ruggles in a supporting role tops the bill but it is Atwill who walks away with the picture. Coldly sadistic, pathetically romantic, only the cheating wife can garner him a scintilla of sympathy.

Ernest Haller once again provides stellar lens work, especially in the nocturnal setting of the zoo. Ed Sutherland direction along with the editing is weak in spots, watering some some suspenseful moments down but overall this trip to the zoo provides a fair share of thrills and chills along with probably Atwill's finest villain.

Kiss and Make-Up
(1934)

Here comes Cary
In one of his earliest leads Cary Grant is marketed the way female eye candy was in the day as a dashing and suave plastic surgeon in Kiss and Make-Up. An insipid and lame comedy musical with Wampas babies running all over the set, Cary even gets to warble a tune a couple of times though Helen Mack and Edward Evrett Horton one up him with a rendition of a simple ditty entitled "Corn beef and Cabbage." Whether modeling tuxes or robes Grant is displayed in a way to slay women both on and off the screen with little help from the lifeless script and near non-existent plot. "Kiss" does make some pointed jabs about cosmetic surgery and the narcissism driving it but tries to remain light, resulting in lame.

The slapstick finale is hackneyed and desperate but not before showing more than its fair share of close-ups and profiles of an actor about to become an icon and legend of Hollywood film over the next 30 years.

Merrily We Go to Hell
(1932)

Sloshed
Newspaperman, aspirant playwright Jerry Corbett (Fredric March) is somewhat of a charming alcoholic who tends to run late after a few drinks. He meets an heiress (Sylvia Sidney) who falls for his charm and excuses and they marry. His career takes off as a playwright but drunk he remains and much to suffering Sylvia's chagrin they separate with unfinished business.

Prohibition was still in effect in 32 but you'd never know it from the barrage of drunks and partying going on in "Merrily." Directed in distracted fashion by Dorothy Arzner, it's a movable feast of imbibing for Corbett and his coterie of drinking buddies as they stumble from one speak easy and house party to the next and unlike the patient Sydney it wears thin fast for the viewer.

March looks like he's in training for his Star is Born role. A touch more subdued than Norman Main, his intoxication less flamboyant but annoying nonetheless. Sidney is much too forgiving to sympathize with when she along with Corbett could benefit from a good shaking and strong talking to or at least seek therapy. The melodramatic pile-up at the end is uneven and smacks of cop out in this film that never really sobers up.

Design for Living
(1933)

Code buster
Ernst Lubitsch pushes the censor to the brink in this Noel Coward play featuring an all star cast and sassy dialogue that would be banned in part once the Breen Hollywood Code of Moral Decency was up and running. Time, like the code has hindered the audacity to a great degree but many of the lines have the same bite they had back then.

A painter (Gary Cooper) and a playwright (Fredric March) agree to move in with Gilda (Miriam Hopkins) in a Paris garret. Gilda being young and attractive and the men simply being men, immediately address the obvious and the trio vow "no sex." She goes on to become romantically involved with both; first the playwright then the painter.

Hopkins modern, open minded, confident woman is a rarity for1933 and she does so by being the driving source of the trio, flaws and all but true to herself. Neither March or Cooper acquit themselves well, especially the laconic Cooper looking uncomfortable in a tux. Both seem to have difficulty catching up to Gilda's free spirit that also includes another paramour played by Edward Everett Horton who in fact outshines all the stars during the course of the picture.

Racy in its day, Design for Living's story may have aged over time but put into perspective it offers up a prime example of what passed for sophisticated adult comedy back then.

This Is the Night
(1932)

Cary debuts in fine mess
Paramount introduces leading man for the ages Cary Grant to filmgoers as of all things a cuckold in this tired romantic comedy with little of either to show for it. Poorly written and miscast, it simply rings hollow with the graying and bumbling Roland Young (Topper) trying to keep his affair with Grant's wife (Thelma Todd) under wraps as they set off for a brief vacation in Venice.

In order to keep things discreet Gerald Gray (Young) employs Germaine (Lila Damita) to get the javelin throwing Steve Mathewson (Grant) off his back while he keeps his wife Christine (Todd) on hers. The conspiracy is dreadfully obvious however without a hint of sly wit that is crucial to bedroom comedies of this nature. Frank Tuttle proves he is no Lubitsch or Sturges but I'm not certain they could have done much better with the anemic script and poor casting of the entire dramatis personae who fail to get up much velocity in this early screwball. Limp and lacking spark, abound with cloying performances, This is the Night is lights out early.

The Virtuous Sin
(1930)

Mortal Sin
Director George Cukor gets his feet wet as a co-director with Louis Gasnier ( Reefer Madness) in The Virtuous Sin, a basically three person melodrama that manages to fail in nearly every department. Featuring an incredulous storyline and unconvincing performances it stumbles from scene to scene while Kay Francis models fur coats and frocks seducing a general (Walter Huston) in attempts to set her husband free from the brig.

Soldier, scientist Victor Sablin is on the verge of a medical breakthrough that will save millions but WW1 breaks out and Gen. Platoff (Walter Huston) prioritizes his killing enemy instead. Sablin balks and is tossed in the brig. His wife Marya (Francis) devises a plan to save him by working in a brothel that the General frequents on occasion. It works but unforeseen fallout accompanies.

All dressed up with no talent to show, Francis clumsily connives while maintaining naivete, her coquetry hackneyed. Huston is a cantankerous curmudgeon, loud and brash with zero romantic chops. As Marya's husband (eventually in real life as well) Ken McKenna overacts monstrously to every revelation while Jobyna Howland does a dull Mae West brothel madam. Compositionally the scenes are draped in typical Paramount gloss but come across limp much in part to the listless performance of the leads and uninspired direction of one man on the way up and one on the way down. Their conferences together probably showed more drama.

An American Tragedy
(1931)

The previous "Place."
This was the first attempt at Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy.

The second, A Place in the Sun, made two decades later with mega stars Monty Clift and Liz Taylor today might make the first redundant but the original is a game effort on its own.

Bellhop Clyde Bridges (Philips Holmes) finds himself in trouble back east and heads west. He contacts some wealthy relatives and gets a job at the factory overseeing mostly females. Craven but handsome he gets into a relationship with factory girl, Roberta (Sylvia Sydney) and impregnates her. A social climber he finds romance with upper crust played by Anna Lee. On the edge of all he hoped for only Roberta stands in his way. He decides to drown her.

Lee Garmes exquisite photography captures the light and dark side of young romance with some alluring imagery and graceful camera movement. Director Von Sternberg after prologue gives the film a comfortable pace up until the gripping boat scene. The tempo changes at trial where Von Sternberg seems to lose control in the chaotic court scenes with fights breaking out as well as ham acting by both prosecution (Irving Pichel) and defense (Charles Middletown) while the wooden Holmes begins to resort to hysteria. The 12 Angry Men moment is then brief and brutal.

Sylvia Sidney steals the picture with her pitiful tragic eyes a match in comparison to Shelly Winters in the 51; the gap between Holmes and a decent Anna Lee compared to Monty and Liz, immeasurable.

.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
(1947)

40s Romantic Fantasy at its best.
Leaving in laws and widowhood behind her, Lucy Muir (Gene Tierney) rents a coastal home inhabited by the ghost of its former owner Captain Graham (Rex Harrison). The captain is usually successful at running off renters but Muir fails to be intimidated and wins the crusty respect of Graham. They banter with hints of romance but live in two different worlds and she takes up with a a writer (George Sanders) who deceives her, driving the ghost off.

Tierney and Harrison make for a perfect pairing as they squabble and debate while developing a strong attraction for each other. Tierney displays a strong independence throughout as she not only takes on the ghost but disapproving in-laws, landlords and publishers. Harrisson follows suit as an irascible curmudgeon who softens at the end. Sanders as expected strings his cad role out perfectly.

Under Joe Mankiewicz's fluid direction, Charles Lang's impeccable camera work and Bernhard Herrman's hauntingly romantic music score The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is one well crafted love story, touchingly told.

Jitterbugs
(1943)

Gassed
Stan and Ollie make the scene as zoot suit hipsters in Jitterbugs, a sluggish wartime comedy with a few but very sparse comic moments that recall the boys in their prime. There's some comic drag from Laurel and chuckle inducing by Hardy doing a poor southern gentleman imitation but it's more than clear the boys looked fatigued and needed a rest.

As a two man traveling band the pair run out of gas in the middle of nowhere where an amiable con-man befriends then uses them to sell a fraudulent product and make a run for it. The shysters however eventually redeem themselves when they come to the aid of others at the mercy of other con men.

The pair both look brittle and tired as they deliver stale lines an expressions from their prime that result in more melancholy than mirth. Like Mantle and Mays they had stayed too long at the dance and found themselves far from their golden past and their prime. Jitterbugs has two left feet.

5 Fingers
(1952)

5 Fingers Grips
British embassy valet to the ambassador Ulysses Diello (James Mason) has a dream. To move to Rio and live a life of luxury far from the inferno that has engulfed WW2 Europe. In order to do it he sells top secret information to the Nazis who question whether to believe him or not. In order to keep a low profile he enlists a former employer, an impoverished countess (Danielle Devereaux) to assist him. She however turns out to be a fatal flaw as she runs off with most of the cash and reveals his duplicity to authorities.

Directed by the usual sure hand of Joe Mankiewicz, 5 Fingers is an excellently made spy thriller based in fact with a lot on the line as the D-Day invasion approaches. Well written and paced, Mason elevates it further with his classic arrogance and disdain toward all those around him as he confidently puts his plan into action. Detached and condescending most of the way it is his tragic romanticism that helps bring about his downfall and the perfectly cast Mason's performance delivers it with aplomb.

See all reviews