August 1943: Hi Diddle Diddle

This is a B movie, I guess? Cheap and cheerful. It’s got a convoluted and silly plot that putters away in a very pleasing manner. Much intrigue and running around.

It’s not exactly a cinematic masterpiece, but it’s really funny. It’s just an almost-perfect bundle of silliness, and everything works out like it’s supposed to.

The newlyweds even get some private time at the end due to a helpful maid.

Hi Diddle Diddle. Andrew L. Stone. 1943.

Popular movies in August 1943 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
7558 7.5 Heaven Can Wait
2894 7.5 Watch on the Rhine
470 7.3 Holy Matrimony
279 6.9 Hi Diddle Diddle
3965 6.9 The Seventh Victim
692 6.8 The Man in Grey
958 6.7 The Fallen Sparrow
870 6.6 Destroyer
738 6.6 A Lady Takes a Chance
4651 6.5 Phantom of the Opera

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

July 1943: This is the Army

Oh Em Gee! Colour! It’s a movie in colour! Is colour even possible?! My eyes!

An Irving Berlin eleganza extravaganza. It’s about a bunch of guys drafted into the army and then they put on a show. As one does. It’s great! It’s got lines like

Angry sarge: “Did you sleep well?”

Private: “Sure. This bed has the softest mattress I’ve ever slept on the floor next to.”

that almost kinda make sense, which I like very much.

This DVD version, though, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s got so many artefacts (especially when there’s a lot of action) that it’s obvious that it’s been sourced from a torrent site with a very bandwidth-restricted codec. Which is a shame, because it looks like it was originally quite pretty.

At least the audio quality is pretty swell.

For major bits of the movie they give up on the pretence that it’s a real film and just show one musical stage performance after another. But they’re pretty impressive. A huge number of people performing, and the Berlin’s music’s pretty nice. (The movie started off as a Broadway musical where the profits were donated to the Army Emergency Relief fund, and they raised the equivalent of $135M in today’s money.)

Ronald Reagan is unexpectedly perfect for his part.

But… is it a good movie? It’s barely a movie at all. But I found it quite entertaining.

This is the Army. Michael Curtiz. 1943.

Popular movies in July 1943 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
1405 7.3 Stormy Weather
6544 7.0 For Whom the Bell Tolls
634 6.8 Victory Through Air Power

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

June 1943: Hitler’s Madman

Douglas Sirk! I love his 50s melodramas, but I haven’t seen any of his earlier stuff, so I’m excited to watch this movie.

Virtually all of the war movies I’ve seen so far in this series (that are set in foreign countries) are set in the Czechoslovakia. I guess it makes sense… it was an early invadee of the Germans. But why not, say, Poland? Is it a way to avoid the complications of the Jewish Question?

Just like the Fritz Lang/Bertolt Brecht movie, this is staunchly anti-Nazi, but it’s a completely different approach. That movie had cartoon evil Nazis (which is great and very Brecht), while this one has more melodramatic evil Nazis (which is also great). The scene where the Nazi commander picks out Czech girls to be sent to the front (as “entertainment” for the German soldiers) is absolutely horrifying.

Both movies are about the same event, sort of: Killing Reinhard Heydrich, the Gestapo chief in Czechoslovakia. But plot-wise, they have nothing else in common, really.

Like the Lang movie, it’s not completely successful as a movie. But it’s a very successful anti-Nazi piece. And you’d have to be a Nazi not to be moved by the final scene.

Hitler’s Madman. Douglas Sirk. 1943.

Popular movies in June 1943 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
10322 8.2 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
1163 7.2 Hit the Ice
1794 7.0 Bataan
901 7.0 The Constant Nymph
488 6.7 Hitler’s Madman
298 6.7 Coney Island
1179 6.6 Stage Door Canteen
676 6.5 Best Foot Forward
708 6.4 Jitterbugs
260 6.4 Crime Doctor

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

May 1943: The Ox-Bow Incident

Oh! A western! With a name like that I thought this was going to be about an obscure Pacific naval battle or something.

This is from a director, William A. Wellman, who’s done a shit-load of movies, but who’s unknown to me, for some reason or other.

Aaaanyway. This is a kinda odd western. It’s about a posse going after a criminal, but it’s mostly about the moral ramifications of taking the law into your own hands and all that stuff. Which makes me wonder whether this, taking the timing into account, is a pro-Nazi movie in disguise somehow. Is cow-rustling a metaphor for invading Poland?

Oh, oh, I get it! I mean, this is American movie making a passionate case against lynching people. The people being lynched at the time in the US were black people… so is this really an anti-racist movie?

Or is it just generally saying that a judicial system is a nice thing?

Or is it a totally metaphor-less movie just telling a story about the Old West?

Difficult to read.

“I thought there were one white man among you.”

So I don’t know what’s this about, but is it any good? This is Clint Eastwood’s favourite movie, and has a generally positive reception. There’s a lot of very pretty imagery here. The actors are arranged superbly to catch their best angles, and the matte painting is superb.

But I don’t know. I was scratching my head more than I was getting into the characters, really.

The Ox-Bow Incident. William A. Wellman. 1943.

Popular movies in May 1943 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
16529 8.1 The Ox-Bow Incident
4261 8.0 The More the Merrier
5151 7.8 Ossessione
2093 7.6 This Land Is Mine
3821 7.4 Five Graves to Cairo

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

April 1943: Clancy Street Boys

I am Confused, Bemused and Bemildred.

What is this?!?!

It starts off with a street gang spanking their leader… and then the rival gang spanks him… and I guess my general confusion is due to the video quality is kinda like fourth generation VHS, and the audio is more rumble than voice.

But what’s even more confusing are all these middle-aged looking people who are in these gangs… are they supposed to be teenagers? 12-year-olds? One of the gangs are all-white… is that a sign of something? Are they a metaphor for Nazis? Is this a bit from a serial? Are these all well-known characters? In the Marvel comic Fantastic Four, there’s a Yancy Street Gang… is that a take on this movie (if it is a movie) or something?

Wikipedia to the rescue. It’s a movie in the East Side Boys franchise. href=””>Yancy doesn’t mention them.

And they’re supposed to be like eighteen.

ANYWAY. This turns into a classic farce plot and they run through all the scenes you’d expect. It’s workmanlike, but it’s kinda amusing. And if I could make out more of the words, it would probably have been actually funny.

Clancy Street Boys. William Beaudine. 1943.

Popular movies in April 1943 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
437 7.3 Clancy Street Boys
340 7.2 A Stranger in Town
1427 7.2 Edge of Darkness
8134 7.2 I Walked with a Zombie
237 6.9 China
1000 6.8 We Dive at Dawn
703 6.8 Presenting Lily Mars
422 6.7 Slightly Dangerous
691 6.7 Fires Were Started
399 6.6 The Falcon Strikes Back

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

March 1943: Hangmen Also Die

Huh. A British war movie directed by Fritz Lang from a script co-written with Bertolt Brecht.

I had no idea what to expect here, but they use their not-inconsiderable talents to go all-in on the anti-Nazi propaganda war effort. And it’s great!

The Nazis are evil, eeevil; mincing and brutally sadistic at the same time.

“You know we have means to make you talk!”

But it’s not a total triumph. It aims for Total Paranoid Thriller, and there’s some thrilling scenes in here. But it’s a bit… flabby in the editing? I wonder whether that’s a result of the restoration? The pre-titles said that some scenes had been restored from acetate, which might perhaps mean that this is longer than the theatrical version?

Because, really, there’s way too many character arcs in here. I feel like there’s a classic thriller hidden inside here, but the various sub-plots are smothering it.

But I’m quibbling. This is fab. Those evil Nazis. So eeevil.

And pimply.

Hangmen Also Die. Fritz Lang. 1943.

Popular movies in March 1943 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
677 7.6 It Ain’t Hay
3283 7.5 Hangmen Also Die!
2046 7.3 Cabin in the Sky
1363 7.1 The Human Comedy
270 7.1 The Moon Is Down
565 7.0 Flesh and Fantasy
2878 7.0 Sherlock Holmes in Washington
325 6.9 Hello Frisco, Hello
293 6.9 The Silver Fleet
444 6.8 They Got Me Covered

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

February 1943: Air Force

It’s a war movie!

I’ve seen some spy stuff during this blog series, but very few out-and-out war movies. And it’s by Howard Hawks, so it looks like the shots are gorgeous…

Except that the transfer I have i ridiculous. There’s digital artefacts all over the place. Not just banding and exaggerated grains, but also a harsh mp3 audio track.

It basically looks like they mastered it off of a VCD disc downloaded from a 1998 torrent site.

Very not pleasant.

Anyway, this won the Oscar for Best Film Editing, which is, I guess, a way for people to say “this movie wasn’t very good, but we appreciate the effort”.

Because this is an odd movie. We follow a crew flying around the Pacific for hours. So lots of tight shots inside a plane, and then composited above documentary footage of locations.

Ah… it had a difficult production. I guess that explains the weirdnesses.

But I don’t know whether my general dissatisfaction with this movie is due to the bad DVD or whether the movie is just kind of boring. It’s 95% character development.

Air Force. Howard Hawks. 1943.

Popular movies in February 1943 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
2340 7.1 Air Force
491 7.1 Kid Dynamite
241 6.9 Claudia
246 6.7 Reveille with Beverly
265 6.1 The Youngest Profession
3090 5.5 The Outlaw
949 4.6 Dead Men Walk

This blog post is part of the Decade series.