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What I Watched in April 2021, Part I

Compared to many of my Film Twitter friends, I don’t watch all that many movies, but things got a little wild during a good part of April, forcing me to split my list into two parts. For today’s post I’ve got silent films, film noir, Hammer horror, and at least four different languages represented. I hope you’ll find something of interest to watch here. (And in case you missed my March viewing, here it is.)


Tol’able David (1921) Henry King (private link from Flicker Alley) Rewatch, 2x

Research for our Great Movies virtual discussion featuring special guest Fritzi Kramer of Movies Silently.

Drive a Crooked Road (1954) Richard Quine (Columbia Noir #1 Blu-ray box set, Indicator, UK), Rewatch, 2x

The Astrologer (1975) Craig Denney (YouTube)

I think it's highly relevant that I watched this on April Fools Day. To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of the film, but I find it fascinating. Also fascinating is the fact that of the 24 actors listed in the film's Letterboxd entry, only three of them ever made another movie, and one of them (Joe Kaye) appeared in Star Wars.

Here’s the Letterboxd description: “Craig Alexander, a con-man ‘psychic’ on the carnival circuit, lucks into a criminal enterprise to pilfer some legendary rubies in Kenya. His luck holds and he winds up the sole beneficiary of the ill-gotten wealth, which he parlays into an astrological empire. But once he reaches the top, there’s only one direction he can go…”

This is a very conventional description of a very unconventional cult movie. Look for this one on YouTube before it gets pulled. (Thanks to my friend Michael C. for recommending this!)

The Cat and the Canary (1927) Paul Leni (Kanopy)

After our discussion of Tol’able David, my cohost Darnice and I were talking with Fritzi Kramer, who totally sold me on watching The Cat and the Canary, and I’m so glad she did. I don’t know if The Cat and the Canary (which has been remade at least five times) is the original “Reading of the will in the old dark house” movie, but it’s terrific, a perfect blend of comedy and horror. That’s really all you need to know. Just watch it and have a great time. Highly recommended.

Chop Shop (2007) Ramin Bahrani (Criterion Channel)

Alejandro (Alejandro Polanco) is a 12-year-old Latino street orphan working in one of the many auto-repair/junkyard shops in Queens. When his 16-year-old sister Izzy (Isamar Gonzales) comes to live with him, Alejandro struggles to make their lives better. Chop Shop is a tough, gritty film with fantastic performances from mostly non-actors. Director Bahrani also directed Man Push Cart (2005) and a film that might be better known by American audiences, 99 Homes (2014), starring Michael Shannon. But don’t miss Chop Shop.

Thunder on the Hill (1951) Douglas Sirk (Kino Lorber Blu-ray)

How about some nun noir? Previously discussed here as part of the Kino Lorber box set Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema II

Accident (1967) Joseph Losey (Criterion Channel)

Harold Pinter’s adaptation of Nicholas Mosley’s 1965 novel is the third of four collaborations with director Joseph Losey, which also includes The Servant (1963), Modesty Blaise (1966), and The Go-Between (1970). In Accident (which begins with an accident, then turns to an extended flashback), Oxford don Stephen (Dirk Bogarde) tutors two philosophy students: the young and beautiful Anna (Jacqueline Sassard) and the overconfident but likable William (Michael York). Too bad for Stephen, but Anna and William seem to be attracted to each other. Also attracted to Anna is Stephen’s arrogant colleague Charley (Stanley Baker), who sets in motion a series of events that will change everyone’s lives. Philosophy fans will know that the word “accident” doesn’t mean a sudden, anticipated event, but rather the application of a general rule to a situation where the rule don’t actually apply, such as “Birds can fly. Therefore, emus must be able to fly too.” (Taken from Whether you’re a fan of philosophy or not, Accident is worth checking out.

I Want to Live! (1958) Robert Wise (Library DVD)

I’d been putting off watching this film for decades, knowing it would either be a real downer or woefully dated. It’s a little of both, but neither as much as I had expected. Susan Hayward won an Oscar for her portrayal of Barbara Ward, a prostitute arrested and convicted for a murder she didn’t commit. The film’s focus on the real crime - Ward’s handling by both the justice system and the media - is compelling and absorbing. A good supporting cast includes Simon Oakland as journalist Ed Montgomery. Look for a young Gavin MacLeod as a policeman.

The Gorgon (1964) Terence Fisher (Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection Blu-ray box set, Mill Creek; Indicator UK Standard Edition Blu-ray)

To be reviewed in an upcoming post continuing my journey through the Hammer Films: The Ultimate Collection box set.

The Price of Fear (1956) Abner Biberman (Kino Lorber Blu-ray)

Previously discussed here as part of the Kino Lorber box set Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema II

Ordet (1955) Carl Theodor Dreyer (Criterion Channel)

Previously discussed here

Monsieur Hire (1989) Patrice Leconte (Kanopy)

From Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list, a remake of Julien Duvivier’s 1947 film Panique, Patrice Leconte’s version spends much more time with Hire (Michel Blanc), a reclusive tailor who becomes the object of derision from his neighbors, particularly the local school children. Perhaps understandably, Hire desires no contact with others, but becomes obsessed with a young woman named Alice (Sandrine Bonnaire) whom he can easily watch from his apartment across the way. Meanwhile, a police inspector (André Wilms) believes Hire is the killer of a young local woman. As I watched the film, my preconceptions and predictions about where the film was going were assaulted in the best of ways. A tremendous film, and a great double feature with Panique.

The Female Animal (1958) Harry Keller (Kino Lorber Blu-ray)

Previously discussed here as part of the Kino Lorber box set Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema II

Exotica (1994) Atom Egoyan (Criterion Channel)

Exotica is one of those fascinating mosaic movies like Short Cuts (1993) or Magnolia (1999) where we meet characters who seemingly have no connection to each other, until they do. In fact, in his review, Roger Ebert says that “By the end, it is revealed that these people are so tightly wound up together that if you took one away, their world would collapse.” Most of the film takes place at a “gentleman’s club” where these characters all converge. It would be pointless to go into the details of each character, why they’re here and what they really want, but the structure and performances are fascinating. This is only the second Atom Egoyan film I’ve seen after Remember (2015). Perhaps I will see more.

The Ear (1970) Karel Kachyňa (Criterion Channel)

The Ear is a Czechoslovakian film that was suppressed as soon as it was completed, never seeing the light of day on a large scale until 20 years after its completion. Once you see it, you'll understand why. A high-ranking Communist official named Ludvík (Radoslav Brzobohatý) and his wife Anna (Jiřina Bohdalová) return home after a party to find their power and telephone are out. But their neighbors’ lights are on. A bit tipsy from the party, Anna is ready for a little husband-and-wife activity, but Ludvík suspects they’re under surveillance. The Ear is a marvelous political paranoia noir with just enough comedic moments that make the film even more frightening. If you have the Criterion Channel, you shouldn’t miss this one. It’s also available on Blu-ray and DVD (separately) from Second Run.

That's the first half of my April. Please let me know what you watched!

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