Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

Bette Davis returns to her Washington, DC, home with her German husband (Paul Lukas) and their children. Actually, she and her husband have been involved in an anti-fascist resistance and run afoul of a blackmailer. This is one of those stories made specifically to spur US involvement in World War II, but by the time the film (based on a Lillian Hellman play) was released, we were already there. Davis is quite good, but the film is stolen by Lucile Watson, playing her mother, the widow of a Supreme Court Justice. Dashiell Hammett wrote the screenplay, and for some time the film just lets the characters talk before peeling back the drama, and some of the scenes (particularly Watson's, or the scenes with Nazi officers at the German Embassy) are so interesting and inhabited that I didn't care if anything happened or not. Engrossing. ***1/2

Stylish horror anthology film from Ealing Studios. Most of the stories are familiar from other iterations or stories influenced by the film (or flat-out ripoffs) that I knew where most of them were going, but the style with which they were told was very engrossing. I had the right conditions for this one: cold, dark night without too much light. Excellent stuff, but I especially liked Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist and Googie Withers as a woman whose husband becomes obsessed with a mirror. So glad I finally watched this. ****

Mary Pickford as a rich girl who wants to make friends with other children, then has a drug-induced dream about being enticed by Death in a fantasy world. It drags until we get to the fantasy stuff; plus, Mary Pickford is nearly 30 playing an 11 year-old, and it just looks bizarre seeing her with what appears to be men standing on things to look like they tower over her. Directed by Maurice Tourneur, written by Frances Marion. **1/2

Gloria Swanson stars in and produced this adaptation of a W. Somerset Maugham story, playing a woman in Pago Pago who runs afoul of a religious type who becomes obsessed with her moral character. Steamy and intense, and Swanson is excellent. It's a brave film for the time period, criticizing not only American involvement in the Pacific (something which has never had as much attention thrown on it as it should) but also the kind of moral hypocrisy that the Hayes Office threw at this film and then used to infantilize the medium for decades. ****

1 comment:

Tallulah Morehead said...

Dead of Night is an uneven movie, but it's a great movie.