June 1949: Kind Hearts and Coronets














Huh. Is this the first Ealing comedy I’ve watched in this blog series? I believe it is… Oh! They didn’t start until 1947, so that explains it. This is only their fifth movie, apparently.

This isn’t quite what I expected: It’s slow and witty, but it’s about a serial killer murdering his way into a title (i.e., killing all his relatives before him).

And many of them are played by Alec Guinness, which is fun.

He’s a psychopath, of course, but we root for him somehow. Some of the people he bump off are rather insufferable, but some are nice…

The sleepy performances by basically all the actors doesn’t make for an exciting movie. I mean, it’s a deliberate choice, but I don’t think it really works.

I don’t get it:

Kind Hearts and Coronets was released on 13 June 1949 in the United Kingdom, and was well received by the critics. It has continued to receive favourable reviews over the years, and in 1999 it was number six in the British Film Institute’s rating of the Top 100 British films.

I was mostly bored by this movie, I’m afraid to say.

Kind Hearts and Coronets. Robert Hamer. 1949.

Popular movies in June 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
28661 8.1 Kind Hearts and Coronets
1940 7.4 House of Strangers
1770 7.2 Colorado Territory
756 7.2 King of the Rocket Men
310 7.1 Lost Boundaries
1330 7.0 It Happens Every Spring
448 7.0 Sorrowful Jones
757 6.9 Lust for Gold
458 6.8 Any Number Can Play
739 6.7 The Great Sinner

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

May 1949: Africa Screams















Hey! Abbot and Costello. I haven’t seen too many of thse…

This is uncomplicated fun: A mix of physical humour, weak bon mots and general silliness. I’m smiling a lot while watching this, but I’m not actually laughing. But I can totally see an eleven-year-old me finding this to be the height of hilarity.

The bit with the cannibals has, perhaps, not aged as well.

Africa Screams. Charles Barton. 1949.

Popular movies in May 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
2418 7.4 The Window
459 7.2 Home of the Brave
2119 7.1 The Barkleys of Broadway
380 6.8 Streets of Laredo
271 6.7 Roughshod
640 6.7 Alice in Wonderland
388 6.7 The Lady Gambles
240 6.7 Manhandled
2908 6.5 Africa Screams
229 6.5 Johnny Allegro

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

April 1949: The Secret Garden





















Dean Stockwell!? But he can’t possibly…

Oh, he plays the ten year old boy.

And I was thinking of Harry Dean Stanton.

ANYWAY.

This is a fascinating movie. It’s not that often you see a movie that doesn’t fit neatly into a genre category or where you have no idea where the plot is going. This is one of those rare movies.

It’s so weird.

The idea of a secret garden is a very powerful one. It’s like a Jung Bodyan archetype.

Margaret O’Brien is perfect as the snotty, entitled ex-colonial plunked into the British countryside.

The Secret Garden. Fred M. Wilcox. 1949.

Popular movies in April 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
2650 7.5 Champion
1939 7.5 The Secret Garden
941 7.4 The Queen of Spades
3060 7.2 Passport to Pimlico
2014 7.1 The Stratton Story
237 7.1 The Sky Dragon
425 7.0 Mr. Belvedere Goes to College
1674 7.0 Flamingo Road
930 6.9 Ma and Pa Kettle
630 6.8 The Crooked Way

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

March 1949: Little Women

















Oh, this isn’t what I thought it was going to be at all? I thought it was with… Bette Davis? And an adult drama? Little Something Else? The?

Anyway, this is a big-budget Hollywood movie, and it really shows. When this kind of thing works, it really works. And this really works.

There’s so many great actors in here. Janet Leigh, Mary Astor, Elizabeth Taylor…

The “little women” in question are teenagers — I think, but because of the casting it’s a bit difficult to say. The actors range in age from 12 to 32… but at least Elizabeth Taylor is 17 here.

Anyway! This is a pretty flawless specimen. It’s got laughs, it’s got sobs, it’s got romance. And all these perfect little details.

The ending drags, though.

Veteran director Mervyn LeRoy is thoroughly professional, but not very distinctive.

Little Women. Mervyn LeRoy. 1949.

Popular movies in March 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
5986 7.8 The Set-Up
407 7.3 Alias Nick Beal
4929 7.3 Little Women
492 7.1 Manon
2105 7.0 Impact
2412 6.8 Take Me Out to the Ball Game
587 6.8 The Undercover Man
319 6.7 The Blue Lagoon
374 6.7 The Walking Hills
867 6.6 Edward, My Son

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

February 1949: Caught
















Quite a few of these late-40s DVDs have been from Olive Films, a company I was previously unaware existed. Is this a new iteration of one of the older quality-minded DVD companies? Like… uhm… Eureka? Artificial Eye? Curzon? Tartan? I know that some of those have gone under and been resurrected under other names…

All the Olive movies look great. They aren’t super-restored or anything (you can definitely see the film grain and the wear of the film stock), but that just adds charm. The discs look really sharp and cool.

But there’s not a lot extra features: At most, just the ad for the movie in question.

Anyway!

This is a Max Ophüls movie, so big, big drama, expertly shot. The first half hour of this film feels really special: We get an excellent portrait of a woman navigating her possibilities.

But when she marries, the movie loses interest. The husband is so awful that the scenes become a chore to watch. But then it gets interesting again. I really like Barbara Bel Geddes understated performance.

Contemporary reviewers didn’t much like it:

Handsome production values have been wasted on a complicated, unpleasant story that is a curious hodge-podge of romance and psychological melodrama … It is an odd picture, impressive in many respects and ‘corny’ in others, but on the whole too contrived and implausible.

That’s true. And there are parts of the ending I rolled my eyes at, but this is a pretty solid movie.

Caught. Max Ophüls. 1949.

Popular movies in February 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
269 7.7 Salón México
573 7.4 Down to the Sea in Ships
1518 6.9 I Shot Jesse James
2320 6.9 Knock on Any Door
422 6.8 The History of Mr. Polly
1154 6.7 The Bribe
293 6.6 Flaxy Martin
437 6.5 Cover Up
276 6.0 John Loves Mary
360 5.9 Tarzan’s Magic Fountain

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

January 1949: A Letter To Three Wives














*gasp* Nineteen fortynine! I just have 12 more movies to go for this blog project!

This is pretty good. We get presented with three women’s lives, possibly at a pivotal point for any of them, and it’s pretty interesting. But mainly I’m wondering whether Ingmar Bergman saw this movie and then thought, hmm, I can do this a lot better. And then did.

Because this pales in comparison with that movie, of course.

Still: It’s a solid movie. It’s mainly let down by the performances; and mainly the performances of the men. I don’t really buy any of them as real characters.

The disc includes the radio play (that the movie’s based on?), and it’s a lot funnier than the movie. The movie goes for pathos, while the radio play goes for slapstick. It’s fun!

A Letter To Three Wives. Joseph L. Mankiewicz. 1949.

Popular movies in January 1949 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
6538 7.9 A Letter to Three Wives
1552 7.7 The Passionate Friends
5293 7.6 Criss Cross
3206 7.5 Act of Violence
504 6.9 The Accused
245 6.8 The Sun Comes Up
817 6.6 Shockproof
1019 6.1 A Woman’s Secret

This blog post is part of the Decade series.

December 1948: Force of Evil















Hm… that’s a very familiar name? Oh, yeah, that’s what I thought: Orson Welles did a movie with a similar name.

This is definitely not that one.

It’s John Garfield playing a mobster(ish) lawyer. It’s about the intricacies of running a numbers game. Basically everybody in this movie are crooks.

I don’t know. I didn’t connect with this movie at all. It’s just not very interesting.

I do like the cluttered, dirty look of the interiors. It’s either very thoughtfully done or it’s filmed on a perfect location.

Force of Evil. Abraham Polonsky. 1948.

Popular movies in December 1948 according to IMDB:

Poster Votes Rating Movie
4817 7.8 Portrait of Jennie
3230 7.5 Yellow Sky
4366 7.4 Force of Evil
1557 7.3 Command Decision
715 7.3 Enchantment
2203 7.0 Adventures of Don Juan
243 6.9 The Feathered Serpent
2905 6.9 The Paleface
930 6.8 Mexican Hayride
626 6.8 Jungle Jim

This blog post is part of the Decade series.