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  • Detective Story

    Detective Story

    ★★★★

    Adapted from Sidney Kingsley’s gritty Broadway hit, Detective Story is an entertaining slice-of-police precinct life with the usual colorful cast of New York cops and cons (both petty and habitual) – a sort of prototype for TV’s Barney Miller (1975-1982), yet with fewer yuks. Censors forced Paramount to change George Macready’s villain from an abortionist to a disgraced former doctor that delivers and sells the progeny of unwed mothers. To their credit the screenwriters are pretty cagey on this angle…

  • Sons and Lovers

    Sons and Lovers

    ★★★

    I thought this film adaptation of the famed D.H. Lawrence novel by legendary cinematographer turned director Jack Cardiff was solid enough. While the black and white CinemaScope film is pretty great looking, I’ll admit I could sense little of a Cardiff visual style – a style that came through loud and clear when he was serving as cinematographer for other directors, including such dominant figures like Powell/Pressburger, Huston, Lewin and Mankiewicz. Just channel surfing the other day and catching a…

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  • The Mind Benders

    The Mind Benders

    ★★★½

    Another interesting one from jack of all trades master of none director Basil Dearden. A screwball "remarriage" comedy this is not, but it does, rather oddly, use genre elements (Espionage, Sci-Fi) to couch a story that is really just a reconciliation melodrama. While certainly not exactly the quality of The Manchurian Candidate as brainwashing films go, if you ignore the plausibility problems of certain of the player’s motivations and focus on the excellent acting - particularly from Mary Ure as…

  • Captive’s Island

    Captive’s Island

    ★★★½

    A moody and elliptical revenge story about a mysterious stranger who returns to a desolate and remote island where he spent part of his childhood with other reform school boys. It seems that the worst offenders were banished to this island and tormented by an evil guard/livestock herder. A well done but frustrating film. The central mystery is dispelled early on and the introduction of a female character appears to have little narrative purpose (not even as a love interest).…

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  • Angels Over Broadway

    Angels Over Broadway

    ★★★½

    Dark, offbeat film that’s difficult to imagine coming out of 1940, the sardonic sensibility (a Ben Hecht trademark) seems decidedly post WW2. The story concerns one rainy night in the life of four down and out losers – Douglas Fairbanks Jr.’s dapper broke grifter; Rita Hayworth’s melancholy airhead and wannabe nightclub performer; Thomas Mitchell’s boozy failed playwright; and John Qualen’s suicidal embezzler. Each gives an exceptional performance. Directors Hecht and Lee Garmes, who made a number of films together (including…

  • The Last Wagon

    The Last Wagon

    If you watch enough Cinemascope films that were released by Fox during the mid-fifties you start to realize that the camera typically seemed imprisoned. While the pretty vistas became more awe inspiring as the result of the wide frame the filmmaking became more staid, with little but static shots and minimal cuts (an occasional pan, but few tracking shots). As the filmmakers technical tools became more cumbersome montage took a back seat, and even exotic location shot scenes could seem…