Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Easter To You!

Happy Easter, all! I'm going to watch Easter Parade later today, perfect Easter film :-)


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Torn Curtain (1966)

As I posted the other day, this is one of the many new films I watched while on holiday in Greece over the first week of my Easter break. I really enjoyed it, and just wanted to share a little about it as I know it is one of Hitchcock's lesser known films. This is a very complicated science-cold-war-espionage film so the plot summary is War and Peace length. Sorry!

{Many of the pictures in this post were found by chance, using google images, on Clara's blog, Via Margutta 51}

Torn Curtain Dir. Alfred Hitchcock

"IT TEARS YOU APART WITH SUSPENSE!" Gotta love vintage movie posters.

American physicist and rocket scientist, Michael Armstrong is on a cruise ship with his fiance and assistant, Sarah Sherman, attending a conference of physics. The couple seem perfectly happy for the first few days of the cruise, taking time out from the busy schedule to spend time together and enjoying the journey (before they are married, evidently the movie censorship was kind of non-existent by this point). But Michael Armstrong is corresponding secretly with the CIA about ordering and picking up a particular book in a shop once the ship docks at Copenhagen, Denmark. Sarah finds out once they are there and goes to pick up the book before he can stop her.

She starts to become suspicious about Michael's goings on and decides to try and find out what he is doing. She becomes even more disconcerted and upset when he tells her that he has to suddenly leave to fly to "Stockholm" and she definitely can't go with him. In an attempt to follow him, she asks the man at the desk at the hotel for a ticket on the same flight as Dr. Armstrong but he says that Armstrong's ticket is to East Berlin (on other side of the Iron Curtain). She follows him just the same, only to be discovered by him on the plane. Angry that she has followed him, Michael goes about his work. His anti-missile project was cancelled by Washington, so he has decided to offer his services to the East German government. But again, it is soon apparent that this is just a ruse for Armstrong to find out what the East German scientists know about anti-missile systems, and Michael is working with the CIA, and embarking upon a very dangerous mission as a double agent. But Michael's escort, Hermann Gromek quickly catches on to his plan while Michael is visiting a fellow agent in a farm in the country. Michael and the East German agent that he has gone to meet decide it is out of the question for Gromek to call the police so they murder him and bury him and his motorbike in the field.

Sarah is now furious with Michael for being so frosty and cruel to her, but Michael knows it's for her own good. He wants her to leave as soon as possible because he is afraid she will never see her family or friends again if she becomes too involved.

"We have strange ways of communication in this trade." Dr. Koska on bruising Michael's ribs to get him to see her about the murder.

When michael gets around to visiting the university he is under suspicion of murder and he and Sarah - who still knows nothing of his secret agent-ness - are both questioned. He asks for some time alone with her and he tells Sarah everything. Along with the university doctor, Dr. Koska (also an agent) Sarah decides they must leave the country. They wait for Michael to come and catch the special bus for smuggling agents over the border between East and West Germany, but he is still with Professor Gustav Lindt, the government's top scientist to try and find out if he has any important information. But while he is in the Professor's office, a loudspeaker tells the whole university that they should look for Dr. Michael Armstrong. Lindt then realizes that Michael has told him nothing, and that he has been stealing his ideas. Michael makes a run for it, getting to the bus just in time.

There follows a very suspenseful scene as the fake bus for helping agents get to the other side of the border is nearly caught up with by the regular bus. The police eventually catch up with them, but Michael and Sarah manage to escape just in time. They are about to start their journey to a post office to a man who will help them get back to America when they bump into extravagant and ditsy woman, Countess Kuchinska, who needs sponsors to get her toAmerica. After much persuasion, they give in to sponsoring her, but they are endangering their lives every second they waste in the country and...

I can't tell you anymore because it will spoil it for you! (if I haven't done so already by writing everything in that summary :-S)

Julie Andrews, Alfred Hitchcock and Paul Newman celebrating with Hitchcock.

I really liked this film and it deserves so much more credit than it gets at the moment. The chemistry between Julie Andrews and Paul Newman was good, I thought. And now, I am completely obsessed with Paul Newman. My to see list is full of movies like Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Cool Hand Luke. He is really great in this and Butch Cassidy And the Sundance Kid. And can I just say, his blue eyes... Everyone is always saying that Julie Andrews can't act (even she said that she didn't think she was a natural actress in her autobiography, "Home"), but I think she is more than good enough to tackle a role like this. I know that Hitchcock had his heart set on Eve Marie Saint and Cary Grant for the pair, but I think the film would have been turned into a Cary grant farce (even though imagining it it would have been funny) and not a serious spy picture.

Directing Julie Andrews

And there are holes in the plot.. It's like, if you were an agent, even a new one, you wouldn't carve a giveaway sign to all your identities deep in  a driveway and not cover it up.  If he had, there might not have been any need for the difficult business of killing Gromek in such a gruesome way. (Although the murder scene was very well choreographed.) The other Hitchcock I watched on holiday was Strangers on A Train which was more tightly constructed than this, but that didn't mean this was less enjoyable

Also, Hitchcock has the best cameo in this movie of any of them. He is sat in the lobby at the hotel in Copenhagen with Julie Andrews' daughter Emma on his lap. This film also was the end of the Hitchcock /Bernard Hermann partnership. Sad.

One of my favourite characters and performances was that of Lila Kedrova, a great favourite of my Grandma's who gave an amazing performance as Countess Kuchinska.

But I really enjoyed this film, and I would advise you not to be put off by it's unknown and unappreciated history.

At a press conference for the film.

P.S. You can check out Clara's amazing post about this film that she did for the Classic Movie Blog Association's Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon here. She is obviously a fellow Paul Newman fan :-)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Films Watched While On Holiday

Hi all! Glad to be back. I had a great time on holiday. Even though we were on a Greek island in the Mediterranean we managed to have a Wuthering Heights-esque storm complete with gale force winds and leaking windows for most of the week. It was so cool. I was very very happy to have been given a super cool job in the packing for Greece process before we left: movie organizer. It was my job to buy movies from iTunes for our iPods, converting DVDs into MP4 files (i'm totally not a geek...) and packing the DVDs. The job went well and I am proud to announce that we introduced my friends to a few great classics while we were there. Here is the list of the films I watched in rough chronological order.
  1. Rebel Without a Cause (1955) Dir. Nicholas Ray, starring James Dean and Natalie Wood: New to me.
  2. Torn Curtain (1966) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, starring Paul Newman and Natalie Wood: New to me.
  3. Brining Up Baby (1938) Dir. Howard Hawks, starring Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn: New to me and my little sister, absolutely crazy but we loved it!
  4. It Happened One Night (1934) Dir. Frank Capra, starring Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert: New to my friend who really enjoyed it :-)
  5. Now Voyager (1942) Dir. Irving Rapper, starring Bette Davis, Paul Henried and Claude Rains: New to all of my friend's family!
  6. Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? (1967) Dir. Stanley Kramer, starring Sidney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Katharine Houghton: New to my friend's family and they really loved it. This film has to be prescribed watching.
  7. Gypsy (1962) Dir. Mervyn LeRoy, starring Rosalind Russel, Natalie Wood and Karl Malden: most of us had already seen it but it was new to my friend's little sister.
  8. The Talk Of The Town (1942) Dir. George Stevens, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman: New to my friend's family again, watched during a storm
  9. Strangers On A Train (1951) Dir. Alfred Hitchcock, starring Farley Granger and Robert Walker: New to me. Scared the life out of me. How is this a PG and Torn Curtain a 15?
  10. Show Boat (1951) Dir. George Sidney, starring Kathryn Grayson, Ava Gardner and Howard Keel: I actually only watched about fifteen minutes of this on the plane due to sleep deprivarion, but it looked good!
Looking back I watched lots of Cary Grant films, and Katharine Hepburn films. The best film I saw that was a new one to me was probably Torn Curtain. I'm going to try and review all the new ones soon. 


Monday, 11 April 2011

Somewhere, Beyond the Sea...

Hey guys! I wanted to inform readers and all that jazz, that I am going to be staying with a friend's family on a Greek island from tomorrow until next Monday, so I probably won't be able to publish comments, read blogs or post. I am entering the realm of My Family And Other Animals, (not really, but I love this movie :-D) but I may be able to get to an internet cafe with mi padre. I am really looking forward to it, I found an amazing pair of vintage Audrey Hepburn style glasses at a vintage fair and they will definitely be getting lots of wear! I have my iPod full of classic films to get me through the flights, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Bringing Up Baby (1938), one I've already seen and shall be reviewing for the upcoming "Films of 1939" blogathon in May, Wuthering Heights (1939) amongst others I've had for a while. I leave you with some Roman Holiday (1953) graphics I made. As I said in the last post I did with my graphics in, feel free to use them, but i would be more than grateful for a credit. Sorry about the watermark, I don't have a proper GIF program :-)

dHextF on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
MHYlJb on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
More than enough to make me watch any movie
Of3Mcv on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
Sme2KD on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs
They about say it all.

{Just to say, there may be some references to the British school system in this paragraph. I would try and explain it, but it is too dang complicated! But end of term is like end of semester.}
You may have wondered why my posts have been so few and far apart recently. I have several answers.  I have been revelling in the newfound sunshine in my area (which is unfortunately bringing unwelcome small, flying creatures into my house) and over the term I have been doing homework and studying for tests. Life is so busy that I hardly have time to watch movies to blog about! But now the end of term and the test season is passed I should have more time to blog!

Have a great week, expect uncontrollable Easter Parade (1948) spamming when I get back.


Sunday, 3 April 2011

The Letter (1940)

Hey guys, do you know what's coming up on Tuesday? BETTE DAVIS'S BIRTHDAY!!! I shall probably be all jumping around in my room and being happy :-). So just to start the Bette Davis theme off, I'm reviewing one of my favourites, The Letter (1940). I'm going to try and write a few little posts that should be posted from now until Tuesday with the super amazing happy birthday one finishing the run on Tuesday afternoon. If you want to post a link to any Bette Davis reviews you've done, you can do so in comments to the posts.

The Letter (1940) Directed By William Wyler
A copy of this poster is stuck to my mirror :-)

Leslie Crosby and her husband Robert are the owners of a rubber plantation in Malaya. One dark night Leslie runs out of her house on the plantation following a man, shooting him in the chest over and over again. When asked why she did this, she explained that Geoff Hammond, a friend of her and her husband, had visited her and "tried to make love to her," so she shot him. Everyone believes her completely, but she has to be imprisoned in a jail in Singapore until the hearing is over. Everything goes fine with her plan until her lawyer and friend, Howard Joyce discovers a letter to Geoff Hammond from Leslie begging him to come and see her. When confronted with the news she confesses that she had been having an affair with him and when she found out that he had got married to a native woman she was furious.
Leslie Crosby and her lawyer
Howard tells her that the letter is in possession of Geoff's widow. And to get it back (which in itself would be a criminal offense) she has to pay $10,000 and collect the money herself, so Geoff's wife can see the woman who killed her husband. The hearing and trial goes well and she is cleared of all charges. But when she gets home, Robert has plans to move away using the money in his savings. Unknown to Robert, all of his savings had been used to buy the letter. This uncovers the truth about Leslie and Geoff. Still sure they can make everything work out, Robert goes on as planned. But when he comes to see her in her room, he tries to kiss her but she jerks away exclaiming, "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed!" During her celebration party she is kidnapped and murdered by Geoff's widow.


The review:
William Wyler can do nothing wrong in my book. His genius work on films like Mrs. Miniver (1942), Jezebel (1938) and The Little Foxes (1941) tops almost everything I've seen. Bette Davis gives a cold, calculating and manipulative performance as Leslie Crosby. Herbert Marshall (who was also paired with Bette Davis on The Little Foxes) was amazing as well. He was an extremely talented British actor who doesn't get enough credit for his work. This film is surely one of my favourite film noirs. Although the plot is very different, this picture reminds me of Double Indemnity (1940) - and Barbara Stanwyck's  performance is similar to Bette Davis's. The way that William Wyler makes her lace-making such an important part of the story is very clever.

I adore this film, so if you are feeling in a particularly noirey mood it is perfect.