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What I Watched in January 2020

For 2020, I decided on several movie projects, two long-term ones, and one to be completed before the end of the year:


My long-term projects are to watch chronologically the films in the Criterion Ingmar Bergman box set and the complete feature films of Alfred Hitchcock (omitting, of course, the missing film The Mountain Eagle). I’m not on any rigid schedule with either of these projects, but at the current rate I’m going (about two films from each project per month), I should finish the Bergman set sometime next year and the Hitchcock project sometime in 2022.

The project I am determined to finish in 2020 is to complete Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list. I’ve been chipping away at this 300+ movie project for years, but at the beginning of this year, I had 68 films to go. In January, I saw eight films, cutting my list down to 60, so finishing in 2020 is certainly doable if I keep up this pace.

I also decided, thanks to a suggestion by my friend Jenna, to finally do something about all the unwatched DVDs and Blu-rays I own. I wrote down every unwatched title and put them in a can (that used to contain a bottle of scotch, now empty). I’ve been drawing one out from time to time (completing six in January). Since “Out of the Can” sounds a bit undignified, I’m calling these films “Out of the Hat.”

So here are the 31 movies I watched in January:

Crisis (1946) Ingmar Bergman (Criterion Bergman Blu-ray box set)

Strangers on a Train (1951) Alfred Hitchcock (Warner Bros. DVD) Rewatch, 3x

Although not yet part of my Hitchcock project, this movie kicked off our fifth year of the Great Movies series at the Severna Park Library.

The Birth of a Nation (1915) D.W. Griffith (Kanopy)

My earliest unseen film from Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list

Cowboy (1958) Delmer Daves (Twilight Time Blu-ray)

Hardly anyone talks about this western. They should.

The Laughing Policeman (1973) Stuart Rosenberg (Kino Lorber Blu-ray)

More than a police procedural, this Walter Matthau/Bruce Dern movie had been on my to-watch list for years.

Vicki (1953) Harry Horner (20th Century Fox DVD)

This remake of the early film noir I Wake Up Screaming (1941) is really unnecessary, but surprisingly worth watching.

The Pleasure Garden (1925) Alfred Hitchcock (YouTube)

Violence (1947) Jack Bernhard (Warner Archive MOD DVD)

Lesser noir focused on exposing racketeers, featuring film noir’s greatest malady: amnesia.

Kong: Long Live the King (doc. 2016) Frank Dietz, Trish Geiger (Amazon Prime)

Light but entertaining documentary on the making of and legacy of the original King Kong (1933). Something with more depth would’ve been nice.

The 400 Blows (1959) François Truffaut (Criterion Channel)

Tremendous feature debut from François Truffaut about a young Parisian boy and his troubles at school, home, and beyond.

Big Jim McLain (1952) Edward Ludwig (borrowed from a friend)

Unless you’re a huge John Wayne fan, you can skip this heavy-handed tale of HUAC investigators (Wayne and James Arness) in Hawaii.

The Man from Nowhere (2010) Lee Jeong-beom (Amazon Prime)

John Wick (2014) was based largely on this film, but the Keanu Reeves movie can’t even come close to this Korean title.

Hitchcock/Truffaut (doc. 2015) Kent Jones (Universal Blu-ray)

A very interesting documentary that I wish had been a little longer (only 81 min.) and a bit deeper. (But you can always read the book.)

Souls for Sale (1923) Rupert Hughes (YouTube)

Another silent from Ebert’s Great Movies list with Eleanor Boardman as a young woman who’s determined to make it in Hollywood. Also stars Richard Dix.

The Mole People (1956) Virgil W. Vogel (The Classic Sci-Fi Ultimate Collection Vol. I DVD set)

A ‘50s sf movie that features a story both impressive and goofy. It’s not great, but I really like it.

The Circus (1928) Charlie Chaplin (Criterion Channel)

The circus and Chaplin… What else do you need to know?

First Blood (1982) Ted Kotcheff (Lionsgate Blu-ray) Rewatch, 2x

Another “Out of the Hat” viewing of a film I originally saw in the ‘80s. Better than I remembered, but I don’t like it enough to keep it.

School for Scoundrels (1960) Hal E. Chester, Robert Hamer, Cyril Frankel (uncredited) (Interlibrary loan DVD)

Many thanks to my friend Dave A. for recommending this delightful film about a man (Ian Carmichael) who enrolls in the “School of Lifemanship,” run by Alastair Sim, helping men in the game of one-upsmanship in all areas of life.

The Fall of the House of Usher (1928) Jean Epstein (YouTube)

From Ebert’s Great Movies list. Wonderful short atmospheric French film based on Poe’s story. This film sorely needs a restoration.

A Ship to India (1947) Ingmar Bergman (Criterion Bergman Blu-ray box set)

Un Chien Andalou (1929) Luis Buñuel (YouTube)

Surreal and wonderful short film, another from Ebert’s list. David Lynch must’ve seen this at some point.

The Stratton Story (1949) Sam Wood (Warner Bros. James Stewart: The Signature Collection DVD box set)

I love Jimmy Stewart and June Allyson, but this biopic of baseball player Monty Stratton is just too dramatic and manipulative for me.

The Vicious Circle (1957) Gerald Thomas (Amazon Prime)

Brit noir with John Mills as a man suspected of murder. This one’s pretty easy to figure out and not very satisfying.

No Man’s Woman (1955) Franklin Adreon (Amazon Prime)

This one’s worth watching for a marvelous up-to-no-good schemer role played for all it’s worth by Marie Windsor, but the rest of the movie isn’t up to the high standard she sets.

Departures (2008) Yojiro Takita (Interlibrary loan DVD)

Another from Roger Ebert’s Great Movies list. A cellist (Masahiro Motoki), laid off from his orchestra, finds work as an undertaker’s assistant. Even though I knew where this was going most of the time, I loved it.

They Made Me a Killer (1946) William C. Thomas (Alpha Video DVD)

There’s just something about this low-budget noir picture that I like, and not just its unintentional laughs. More here.

Romancing the Stone (1984) Robert Zemeckis (20th Century Fox Blu-ray) Rewatch, 2x

Another “Out of the Hat” movies, one I hadn’t seen in over 30 years. It was fun, I enjoyed it, but I won’t watch it again.

Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) G.W. Pabst (Kanopy)

Another from Ebert’s list. I may like this even more than Pandora’s Box from the same year.

Guns, Girls and Gangsters (1959) Edward L. Cahn (Mamie Van Doren Film Noir Collection Blu-ray set, Kino Lorber)

An “Out of the Hat” flick. Despite this being a “Van” movie with Mamie Van Doren and Lee Van Cleef, it’s really a dud. I liked The Girl in Black Stockings (1957) from this collection (marginally) better.

The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927) Alfred Hitchcock (Criterion Channel)

The second entry in my Hitchcock filmography journey will be posted soon.

The Flying Scot (1957) Compton Bennett (Network [UK] DVD)

My second Brit noir film of the month (also an “Out of the Hat” pick) is more crime thriller than noir. It’s not as good as either Rififi (1955) or The Narrow Margin (1952), but borrows elements from both and has some nice tension throughout.

31 days, 31 films. Now I’d like to hear what you watched last month. Thanks for reading.

Photos: Letterboxd, Roger Ebert, Movies Silently, TNT, British Comedy Guide, Senses of Cinema, A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, Los Angeles Times, We Are Movie Geeks, Did You See That One?, DVD Beaver, The Movie Scene, RareFilm

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