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The Red House

The Mysterious Morgans
Were it not for Miklos Rozsa's theremin score one might take this fanciful cross between the Kansas scenes in 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'Deliverance' for a rural silent melodrama of the sort made by Murnau or Sjostrom; complete with a vamp played by the young Julie London.

As one savours the beauty of the sunlit daytime exteriors and chiaroscuro of the gothic night scenes one hopes that this is all leading somewhere; but alas it isn't.

The Caine Mutiny

Office Politics
Stanley Kramer made this as his final production for Columbia as after a run of flops he wanted to go out on a sure-fire hit.

The original Broadway play (which comprises only the final third of the film) based on Herman Wouk's novel was already combat proven; and Kramer saw to it the film enjoyed all the frills, including pin-sharp Technicolor, a stirring score by Max Steiner and a star cast all at their best.

Superficially a war film but familiar to anyone who's worked for an impossible boss. Bogart shows more courage than Queeg ever does in playing such a paranoid monster; while Fred MacMurray as usual makes a memorable heel as a gobby smartass who when the chips are down proves even more cowardly than Queeg.

Sitting Bull

"When the white man win a battle they call it Victory. When the Indians win they call it Massacre".
The white men spend more time fighting each other than the Indians until eventually they arrive at Little Big Horn in this rather static and talky western in which J. Carrol Naish brings gravitas to the title role and Douglas Kennedy's briefly-seen Custer isn't the usual flamboyant caricature.


"Ridding the world of evil is an ugly business"
More video game than movie, this noisy, violent, foul-mouthed return of the gargoyle-faced hero doesn't even bother to call itself 'Hellboy II'. Still, it has a cool if underused villainess in Milla Jovochich who visits a devastating plague upon London.

It was released in 2019, so even junk can be prescient!

The Earth Dies Screaming

Robots and Zombies in Surrey
The lurid title is misleading, since a sleepy little village simply gets sleepier in this quickie retread of 'Village of the Damned' and 'The Day of the Triffids' which strikingly anticipates 'The Night of the Living Dead' with added robots.

Like Romero's later classic a small group of people take cover in a quiet rural area (here played by the village of Shere in Surrey) which provides an incongruously picturesque backdrop to an infestation of zombies; and like the later film is crisply shot in black & white and atmospherically scored (here by the celebrated composer Elizabeth Lutyens.

The Man in the Sky

"Let's live dangerously!"
If Andrew Stone had ever worked for Ealing he would have come up with something like this neglected gem, which for over an hour keeps you on the edge of your seat as with elegant simplicity it deftly juggles Jack Hawkins' attempts (reminiscent of 'Doris Day in Julie') to land a damaged plane and his even more harrowing problems at home; the plane's ominous creaks echoing Stone's skilful use of sound.

Made in the days when Sonic Booms were called 'Bangs' and the make-or-break sum in a house purchase was £500; it has a contemporary resonance in the cynical response of a newspaper editor that "If he doesn't crash there's no story".



The Plot Hatches
Harry Bromley Davenport gorged himself on cheese and pickles and then dreamed up this visceral and fanciful cross with a meaningless title between 'The Omen' and 'E. T.' with lashings of sex & violence in which nubile young women get stalked and violated by slavering aliens and slavering men; while a young lad uses telekinesis to bring a toy soldier to life and creates his own new model army with the assistance of a pint-sized clown in a top hat.

All very Freudian, with an insistent synthesised score by the director. Sloe-eyed Bernice Stegers brings a robust presence to the boy's mother; while the female contingent also includes future Bond girl Maryam D'Abo and future 'Eastenders' star Anna Wing.

Torn Curtain

"It takes a scientist to pick a scientist's brain".
Hitchcock's fiftieth film continues to be grievously underrated; although it broke even at the box office and even it's detractors concede it contains one his most memorably grisly murders (which never fails to make your eyes water no matter how many times you've seen it).

Despite a hammy lead performance by Paul Newman - double-taking throughout the film like James Finlayson - who ungraciously later dismissed it as "Not so good", it nevertheless contains several other vintage scenes (including one in which the Newman actually shouts "Fire!!" in a crowded theatre), and also probably Hitchcock's greatest McGuffin of all, mathematical formulae on a blackboard which we barely see.

It also features a cameo by Mort Mills, the politely inscrutable patrolman in 'Psycho', here hiding behind an enormous moustache.

The Greatest Showman

The Mighty Barnum
The first screen biography of Phineas T. Barnum since 'The Mighty Barnum' with Wallace Beery in 1934 is a typical 21st Century musical hybrid of meticulous Victorian decor and costume and extremely contemporary declamatory singing and knock 'em dead choreography and camerawork. All rather exhausting.

The Girl in the Spider's Web

The Trees Fade in the Mist
In 1919 Fritz Lang created a gang called 'Die Spinnen'; nearly a hundred years later the girl with the dragon tattoo is back in the tiny, chain-smoking form of Dutch actress Sylvia Hoeks (dangling throughout by her shoulders like a marionette and obviously in the lead despite only being billed third) to do battle with their namesakes in this lugubrious thriller which employs Stockholm as a backdrop as countless other films have used London or L. A.


"You can't make deals with Toriano"
Charlton Heston and Jack Palance make formidable adversaries squaring up against each as an alpha male Apache-hating Cavalry scout and a very saturnine Indian brave heading an insurrection in this rugged Technicolor western based on a novel by W. R. Burnett vividly rendered on location in Texas by veteran cameraman Ray Rennahan.


"Welcome to Yonder"
Imogen Poots shines in this Lovecraftian blend of the 'Twilight Zone episode 'It's a Good Life', 'The Stepford Wives' and Eraserhead' in pastel colours courtesy of 'Edward Scissorhands' and 'Pleasantville'.

It merits the accolade that you hope the conclusion will live up to the build-up; which fortunately it does.

Magnificent Obsession

"What's the matter with him? Hasn't he got any brains?" "He doesn't have to, he's got four million bucks"
Douglas Sirk's 1959 remake of 'Imitation of Life' was a masterpiece that transformed the thirties original. Five years earlier this set the ball rolling but isn't and doesn't and - complete with biblical references and pianos and heavenly choirs on the soundtrack - parodies the original rather than transcends it.

The warm and sympathetic Jane Wyman (described by other members of the cast as a "girl") is always a pleasure to watch, however, and both she and it glows in Technicolor; with Russell Metty's photography showing early evidence of the high contrast gloss he would perfect in his later teamings with Sirk.

The Whip Hand

The Town That Ran Out of Fish
'Bad Day at Black Rock' meets 'Quatermass 2' in this gothic-looking RKO quickie directed by visionary production designer William Cameron Menzies and atmospherically photographed by veteran noir cameraman Nicholas Musuraca in which reporter Eliot Reid receives a frosty welcome in a decaying little hamlet straight out of Lovecraft.

Laurence Tuttle, later Sheriff Chambers' wife in 'Psycho' presciently plays a character called Molly Loomis.

A Yank in Ermine

"Okay your honour, get with it!!"
Eastman Colour (sic) has been lavished on this tinny comedy with a noisy score by Stanley Black in which stereotypes abound as three American goodwill ambassadors hit a sleepy English village as wintry as the welcome they receive.

The colour process was new then, hence the strange makeup some of the cast wear.

The Bridal Path

"We haven't had trouble like this in Scotland since Rudolf Hess landed".
More a travelogue than a story. The plot is actually rather creepy, with Bill Travers roaming the highlands seeking a wife as if he was visiting a market; and encountering comely lassies who find him irresistible everywhere he goes.

Rendered picturesque however by the rich Technicolor location photography by Arthur Ibbetson in the days when Scottish policemen wore check bands on their caps and by the Campbelltown Gaelic Choir on the soundtrack; the usual familiar faces are joined by a young Annette Crosbie and Graham Crowden both in their big screen debuts.

A Tale of Five Cities

An American Amnesiac Airman in Europe
A very poor man's hybrid of 'Un Carnet de Bal' and 'A Foreign Affair'. It's not exactly good, but contains evocative footage of bombed out postwar Rome and Berlin in those far-off days when ten shillings constituted a note, has an attractive leading actor in Bonar Colleano, one of the guest stars is a young Gina Lollobrigida; and there's even a glimpse of a youthful Marcello Mastroiani.

First Man

From Egelloc to the Moon
A long, laconic insider's view of NASA's sixties space programme, light years away from 'The Right Stuff'.

Very much an interior film despite the soaring subject matter; Neil Armstrong's previous career as a pilot in Korea is hardly mentioned - almost as much time being devoted to his private as his professional one - and Buzz Aldrin doesn't even appear until the last quarter and when (SLIGHT SPOILER COMING:) they eventually reach the Moon it finally becomes quite exhilarating.

Of the three occupants of the White House during this period only Kennedy is shown, Johnson & Nixon being conspicuous by their absence.

Bush Christmas

"Snake and grub for Christmas!!"
The exotic wildlife looks without too much interest in this Aussie travelogue and template for the sort of thing the Children's Film Foundation were making ten years later as a trio of crooks (led inevitably by Chips Rafferty) are harassed by a bunch of kids.

This being Down Under, there isn't the water for (SLIGHT SPOILER COMING:) the miscreants to get their usual dunking at the conclusion.

The Criminal

"You're only a villain when you get caught, Johnny."
Following in the footsteps of 'The Asphalt Jungle' and 'Rififi', this was originally commissioned by Hammer and then taken up by Merton Park. Raw even for Joseph Losey, veteran cameraman Robert Krasker in glacial black & white does for London in winter what he did for Vienna eleven years earlier in 'The Third Man', and Losey employs a jazz score by Johnny Dankworth and a ballad sung by Dankworth's wife Cleo Laine to create mood as he later did in 'The Servant'.

An amazing cast includes the screen debuts of Patrick Magee and Tom Bell.

Night Song

The Blind Piano Player
Dana Andrews and Merle Oberon (the latter playing George Sand in skirts to Andrews' moody Chopin) spend this slick soap opera (set mostly in San Francisco but almost entirely reliant upon back projection) awash with name-dropping and purple prose hunched over a piano with a faraway look in their eyes; but only Andrews is actually supposed to be blind.

Atmospherically shot by Lucien Ballard, with classy comic relief by Ethel Barrymore and Hoagy Carmichael; at the finale (SLIGHT SPOILER COMING:) Rubinstein plays Andrews' own composition at Carnegie Hall. The End.

Umi yori mo mada fukaku

The Empty Table
The adventures of an impecunious n'er do well and onetime novelist staying with his folks while scratching a living. As in late Ozu not a lot happens but you keep watching.

King of the Khyber Rifles

The Night of the Long Knives
Previously filmed by John Ford in 1929 with Victor McLaglen as 'The Black Watch'. This handsome-looking Empire film set in 1857 is actually a far more sombre, character-driven film than the swashbuckler the title suggests - with an atmospheric score by Bernard Herrmann - in which Tyrone Power's swarthy complexion here sees him play a haste caste romancing a pert young Terry Moore playing the daughter of General Michael Rennie and caught between the Regiment and a very saturnine Guy Rolfe as his brother.

Garden of Evil

"We're all going to be murdered together..."
A bit of a waste of a terrific title, although it captures the sour tone of the piece, with some remarkably graphic violence; including a punch-up in which Coop's opponent eye-wateringly falls not once, not twice, but THREE times into a fire.

Handsomely shot on location in CinemaScope, with Susan Hayward as the haughty heroine with her hands on her hips (described by sneering Richard Widmark as "like something hammered out of silver"), an exotic young Rita Moreno (still recently going strong in Spielberg's remake of 'West Side Story') and a score by the one and only Bernard Hermann.

All in a Night's Work

Meeting Adjourned
Shirley MacLaine was at her most fresh and unaffected when she went straight from 'The Apartment' to this breezily amoral piece of fluff (set in New York but never actually leaving the studio) which features familiar faces old and new (Charles Ruggles plays Cliff Robertson's father, for example), and reunites her with her fellow Rat Packer and co-star from 'Some Came Running' Dean Martin (there's even a joke about Frank Sinatra); in which she's seen sprinting from a hotel bedroom wearing only a turkish towl for the most innocent but unlikely of reasons.

The image and likeness of Charles Evans as Martin's uncle the late Colonel Ryder - author of the immortal lines "Love is like a wild volcano, seething with dark desire" - dominates the entire film but he's as usual uncredited (although since he begins the film as a corpse he admittedly doesn't have a speaking part).

(At the film's conclusion yet again a bugging device produced clearer sound over sixty years ago than 21st century technology would be capable of today.)

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