Archive for the 1940s Category

Miracle on 34th Street (Seaton, 1947)

Posted in 1940s, 8/10 on December 30, 2013 by chrisfilm

Miracle on 34th Street (George Seaton, 1947)

Fight the good fight of the faith.  –1 Timothy 6:12a

A nice warm-hearted story of believing. A man believing confidently in himself despite heavy criticism from many of those around him. A little girl finding the ability to believe in the unbelievable. A grown woman slowing down long enough to believe again what she likely believed a long time prior. And a man fighting for these beliefs despite being unsure himself. It’s sentimental and it’s silly, but it’s a perfect Christmas movie that I can’t believe I had never seen until this year. New York feels real, as the does the department store experience of the 1940s – a culture I was obviously never a part of, but one that is strangely comforting in an American tradition sort of way. As my wife so accurately put it, this one is going in to the regular Christmas movie rotation.  7.5/10

miracle on 34th street 

 

The Undying Monster (Brahm, 1942)

Posted in 1940s, 7/10 on October 5, 2013 by chrisfilm

The Undying Monster (John Brahm, 1942)

Fathers shall not be put to death because of their children, nor shall children be put to death because of their fathers. Each one shall be put to death for his own sin.  –Deuteronomy 24:16

I have sad news. I wasn’t paying attention and accidentally watched my 2000th movie without planning. I had hoped to peruse my entire collection and choose the one that had the highest possibility of ending up as one of my new favorites. Instead, I picked on that was short because I didn’t have a lot of time, and so it was that my 2000th movie was ho-hum.

A beautiful depiction of 19th century England shot at a beautiful estate in a countryside on the edge of the water. Heavily focused on nighttime indoor shots, the sparse lighting makes for an eerie atmosphere. Unfortunately, so many hokey scary movie techniques are unnecessary used and they detract from said setting – a creepy butler, overbearing music, ridiculously fake screaming, and lots of red herrings of course! I did enjoy when the detectives were called on the scene and were seemingly mocking everyone for thinking the monster could be real, but after a while I started wondering whether they were actually mocking them or if they believed them and were just giving really bad performances. Overall, this could have been interesting if not so chalked full of stereotypes.  6.75/10

undying-monster

Blood on the Moon (Wise, 1948)

Posted in 1940s, 9/10, American Classic Western on September 5, 2013 by chrisfilm

Blood on the Moon (Robert Wise, 1948)

Drenched in irony, shadows, and Robert Mitchum suave. And when I say suave, I mean the ability to passionately exude a calm, collected, and natural presence despite being hurled into a deep and complex feud. He is fantastic as a man who doesn’t really know what he’s been called in to assist with but quickly decides there is only one way to handle it. With the protagonist taking a firm stance on one side of the feud, it’s easy to see the film as promoting that side. But I’m not so sure there really is a “good” side in this battle, and therein lies the irony. There is so much confident finger-wagging across the board almost exclusively from characters with as many flaws as those they are condoning. It’s a grand and accurate display of human nature. And speaking of grand displays, the use of shadow here is flawless, and the many other beautifully shot settings (dirt road town, a high-class saloon, a worn-down saloon, snow-covered hills, dust-covered plains, etc) help create an atmosphere that is incredibly easy to get lost in. I just wish I could have found more screenshots.  9.25/10

blood on the moon

Reign of Terror (A. Mann, 1949)

Posted in 1940s, 8/10 on August 15, 2013 by chrisfilm

Reign of Terror (Anthony Mann, 1949)

So much light and shadow and claustrophobia. John Alton is the best cinematographer ever to live, I’m convinced. The way he sets the tone with his images and framing devices is astonishing. A film about being held under thumb by a ruthless dictator with the real feel of entrapment even for the viewer is perfect. Even the gorgeous scenes towards the end of the film set at a farmhouse feel suffocating despite the outdoor shots. Yet again, I’ve found a film with cinematography so spectacular, it covers a multitude of other flaws.

reign of terror

But let’s talk about those flaws. While part of the idea to further enhance the claustrophobic atmosphere might have been to never let off the throttle pace-wise, this actually hurts the film overall. Giving everyone a chance to breathe and recognize the slowness and peace that certain parts of life and this world offer could have actually made the evils of the film even more terrifying. What it also could have allowed for is a little grey area for both the protagonists and antagonists. As it is, there are clean cut good guys and bad guys and no one has a mix of flaws and strengths. Overall, it’s still tense, daringly uninhibited (considering the time period), and obviously a treat to look at.  8/10

The Shop Around the Corner (Lubitsch, 1940)

Posted in 1940s, 8/10 on May 11, 2013 by chrisfilm

The 2nd half of my Jimmy Stewart rom-com double feature!

The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)

While it’s completely obvious where this movie is headed from the moment Margaret Sullavan makes her first appearance, it’s approach to unlikely romance is a well-handled and realistically paced development. The two dis-like each other, but for no real reason, and in a way that makes their eventual connection not only believable but even destined. It’s almost like the two 1st-graders who call each other names, pull hair, and embarrass one another to cover up for the crush each has on the other. This sounds contrived, but most of the potential hokiness is avoided because of the maturity in the way they handle their feelings once the truth of identities becomes known; Stewart plays this role perfectly and, of course, gets his girl in the end!  7.75/10

shop around the corner

You Gotta Stay Happy (Potter, 1948)

Posted in 1940s, 7/10 on May 7, 2013 by chrisfilm

You Gotta Stay Happy (H.C. Potter, 1948)

Jimmy Stewart, in classic Jimmy Stewart fashion, allows his sarcastic wit to get the best of him and ends up flat on his back as a result of a reactionary fist. Triggered is a line of events that include several goofy happenings and, of course, a romantic interest. The screw-ball half of this film is tedious. The running joke that he has a woman in his room despite it being innocent and an uncontrollable circumstance runs for over 20 minutes, feels unoriginal, and features way too much musical score being used as sound effects – that’s such an annoying technique. But when you move past this section of the film, a sweet little romance begins to bud (the shot of the two’s feet movements during a bashfully affectionate scene is especially well done), an exciting plane ride including a well photographed farm landing happens, and some genuine moments of flawed yet real human behavior come into the fold. In the end though, the hodgepodge of it all will bring a smile to your face, and that’s okay because after all, you gotta stay happy!  7.25/10

you gotta stay happy

Remorques (Grémillon, 1941)

Posted in 1940s, 6/10 on April 8, 2013 by chrisfilm

Remorques (Jean Grémillon, 1941)

This had potential. The story of a married sea captain falling from grace as he chases after a woman he meets at sea could have been an interesting topic if for no other reason than the reality I’m sure this situation presented at the time. But this doesn’t make a lick of sense. I hate for that to be my critique, but I can’t avoid it. Despite beautiful uses of fog, natural light, and sweeping camera movements to pull it all together into an atmospheric treat, none of what happens matches this level of quality.

remorques

The film introduces a happily married man who for no logical reason falls for a woman who ends up on his boat by chance. Strangely, he doesn’t even begin to fall for her until he runs into her on land in the following days (and then, BAM, he’s ‘in love’ with her). It was such a random and forced affair given the context. Though what I’m mostly perplexed about is why Grémillon didn’t just tweak the context to fit his idea. It could have worked with a little more depth! Sure, it might have been more clichéd, but at least it would have been reasonable. Instead it’s a rushed and underdeveloped oddity.   5.75/10