I have a few surprises, revisits, regrets, and recommendations for you from my August viewing. This time I thought I’d comment very briefly on each film with recommendations in bold. I only saw 26 films in August, but that’s two more than last month. My Ebert project (discussed last month) took quite a hit with only three films, while I knocked down seven movies from my film noir project (designated 745). My main focus in late July and August was watching many of the films I’ve had sitting on the shelf for years. Those are designated with a * before the title. So here we go…
The Last Laugh (1924) Kanopy (Ebert)
Incredible silent film by F.W. Murnau with brilliant camerawork by Karl Freund with an ending that almost ruins the film. I want to revisit this one.
Man with a Movie Camera (1929) The Great Movies (2x)
My co-worker Julia’s pick for our library Great Movies series
*Howards End (1992) Criterion Blu-ray (Ebert)
Everything about this film is superb: script, art direction, set design, acting, cinematography… Far more than just another Merchant Ivory film about Edwardian class distinctions.
Viridiana (1961) FilmStruck (Ebert)
Disturbing yet fascinating story of a young woman (Silvia Pinal) preparing to become a nun when her uncle (Fernando Rey) welcomes her into his home for less than honorable intentions.
*The Man from Laramie (1955) DVD (745)
Previously discussed here
The Glass Key (1942) Arrow (UK) Blu-ray (745)
This is one of those film noir titles I’d been saving and I’m glad I did. Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix… I plan to re-watch and review this one in a month or two.
*French Connection II (1975) DVD
A huge disappointment. I never believed the premise for a second and thought the ending too unbelievable and unsatisfying. Watch it for Hackman, who’s always worth your time.
Strange Illusion (1945) borrowed from a friend (745)
A low-budget film noir from Edgar G. Ulmer, nowhere near as good as Detour, but it has several nice moments.
Open Secret (1948) AFI Silver (745)
Not a bad noir at all, one about a missing persons case that also addresses racism. Sheldon Leonard plays one of the most laid-back detectives in film noir - not in a cool way, but more of an “I can’t be bothered” way.
Los tallos amargos (1956) AFI Silver (2x)
Superb film noir from Argentina that I hope gets a Blu-ray release soon. I took my friend Tom to see this film and he talked about it for days. You will, too.
*Lost Horizon (1937) DVD
I’m a little gun-shy when it comes to Frank Capra. I love many of his films, but I always fear encountering one I haven’t seen will make me walk around saying things like, “Aw, shucks” and “That’s swell.” But I loved Lost Horizon and hope we may someday see a fully restored edition of the film. And then there’s Ronald Colman…
*The Wild Bunch (1969) Blu-ray
Absolutely spectacular Western from Sam Peckinpah with a superb cast. I must revisit this one soon and review it.
Entre Nos (2009) World Cinema Series, Maryland City Library
Entre Nos chronicles the plight of an immigrant woman and her two children in New York City after their father abandons them. The film gets a lot of things right without being overbearing or pedantic.
The Clock (1945) FilmStruck
Before Sunrise (1995) FilmStruck
Audy Christianos and I reviewed both films on the Film Don’t Lie podcast. I hope you’ll give us a listen.
*The Hitcher (1986) DVD (2x)
It was fun revisiting this thriller, a film I first saw over 30 years ago, but there’s too much disbelief I was required to suspend.
*The Vampire (1957) Blu-ray
The Vampire suffers from a generic title that cannot separate itself (even in 1957!) from other vampire films, although it’s not bad at all. A doctor (John Beal, center) is given pills from a bottle his young daughter thinks contains migraine tablets, but is in fact a bottle from a local scientist who gave it to the doctor on his deathbed. Not your typical vampire story… The most interesting character is a weird lab technician (played by James Griffith, above left) who, unfortunately doesn’t stay alive for very long. (But I’d see a movie about that guy!) And now I’m just realizing I’ve written more about this goofy B-movie than I have about any of the other films in this post….
Black Hand (1950) FilmStruck (745)
If you can buy that premise that Gene Kelly is the son of Italian immigrants, trying to fight a group of Italian extortionists in turn-of-the-(20th)century New York City, you should enjoy this. The film includes an effective, suspenseful escape scene towards the end.
*Mean Creek (2004) DVD
Previously discussed here
*Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) DVD
The barn-raising scene is simply jaw-dropping, but I enjoyed the entire film.
*Man of the West (1958) Blu-ray (745)
Another superb Anthony Mann Western, this one starring Gary Cooper who inadvertently reunites with a criminal uncle (Lee J. Cobb), who thinks his nephew is ready to return to a life of crime. Many noir elements and wonderful cinematography by Ernest Haller. Another one I need to revisit and fully review.
The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) FilmStruck (745)
The Otto Preminger film about a card dealer (Frank Sinatra) trying to beat his drug addiction and go straight, longing to become a professional drummer. This film is always lauded to the rafters and while I enjoyed parts of it, the script parades around too many characters whose stories don’t always work.
*Drifters (2003) Wang Xiaoshuai
A (mostly) quiet story of a Chinese man who loses custody of his son and wants to get him back. This is the first DVD (which was given to me) I’ve seen from Film Movement, a company I’ve considered supporting for quite some time. If you are a Film Movement subscriber, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the company.
*All of Me (1984) DVD (2x)
Still a fun comedy with a wacky premise: the right side of Steve Martin’s body is being embodied by Lily Tomlin.
Absolution (1978) Amazon streaming
Richard Burton’s last released (at least in the U.S.) film, in which he plays a priest at a British Catholic boarding school who hears the confession of a murder, but he can’t do anything about it. I Confess this is not. Very little character development (or motivation) combined with some odd pacing makes what could’ve been a very interesting film quite disappointing.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) at my brother-in-law Dave’s
Liked it much better than I thought I would, mostly due to the Guardians of the Galaxy cast. I just kept thinking, “Man, there’s a lot of money up there on that screen…”
You’ve made it this far… Please let me know what you watched last month.
Photos: The Film Sufi, Friday Night Boys, Blizzarradas