Reviews of Classic Film, with artwork and news

LAST UPDATE July 1, 2024

Fast Review: Eyes in the Night - 1942. Edward Arnold is one of the great "shouters" in classic Hollywood, able to wield belligerent but sharp dialogue at a high decibel, often accompanied by arm and face gesticulations that makes everyone else in the cast look like they're not moving (or small, Arnold himself was 5'10").

But in some of his roles, Arnold backs off considerably in the pyrotechnics. As the blind detective Duncan MacLain in Eyes in the Night, he presents a somewhat softer verbal delivery but it is still Edward Arnold's elaboratre movements, even though he is playing a character who simply can't see what's going around him. Allen Jenkins steps in as his "eyes" by describing the scene around them and the detective visualizes it in his mind, and with the benefit of his very hyper skilled seeing-eye dog Friday (who can open doors with his mouth, climb walls, navigate traps), the retired detective can put together clues and size up what's really going on.

A very young Donna Reed (as Barbara Lawry) and Ann Harding (as Norma Lawry) have a bitter and contentious relationship as step-daughter and step-mom, and it all gets tangled up into a story about Nazi spies running a weapons espionage operation right under the nose of a weapons designer and a local theatre company where the death of a "ham actor" (John Emery playing Paul Gerente) starts to peal back the layers of deception that are all around our main characters.

The dog Friday is an amazing stunt animal, and Edward Arnold using judo and wrestling assailants (he gets attacked a lot in Eyes in the Night, where being blind is made harder by assassins running loose), combined with the usual mechanics of an investigator putting together clues, makes this film an unusual and well-done B-level (or sub-A) detective film.

Donna Reed is good as a vicious step-daughter, heartlessly cruel until she sees the lies she's been telling herself implode. Ann Harding plays a long-suffering wife and step-mom who for awhile is the only one who can sense what's really afoot. Arnold's detective is handicapped, but he takes the time to mostly work at night and to knock out electrical illumination, something that puts his opponents on his level. A couple of other side-stories are well done and help fill out this tale directed by Fred Zinnemann.

Fast Review The Beekeeper โ€“ 2024: Depicting bad governments doing bad things has been a genre of cinema since the 1970's when real gov't scandals overwhelmed the news and made the topic not as controversial as it had been (when Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington premiered in 1939 it was pooh-poohed by a number of Senators and Congressmen for its depiction of high-level corruption as being too fantastic, a notion long since shelved in pop culture).

In the 21st century, The Beekeeper is about a secret organization of super-agents who safeguard the United States by being outside and beyond the control (and almost even the knowledge of) other agencies. Jason Statham plays a retired "beekeeper," who literally raise bees and jars up honey, who is forced back into action when a personal tragedy awakens him to the fact the "balance of the hive" (i.e., the country) is threatened. A secret, but not too secret major corporation is involved in an octopus-like spamming operation using altered gov't software on the internet to specifically target senior citizens. Using psychological techniques to empty their bank accounts with their confused but earnest cooperation is heartlessly portrayed as being driven by an army of phone-spam artists who work in competition with each other in large rooms spread around the country. There is a carnival-like atmosphere to their rooms (inside of respectable looking office towers) where giant TV screens and banks of computers help these professional crooks scoop up retirement accounts, which The Beekeeper shows us as, incredibly, technically legal.

When it turns out this massive fraud organization is a money-pumping tool that helped a past presidential campaign and is run by a "protected" son of a president, Statham's super agent Beekeeper has an impossible task ahead to adjudicate the problem because the spam operation is encircled not just with high-end legal protection (an ex-CIA director has the job) but by the FBI, Secret Service and other gov't agencies. The degree of which these federal government agencies are deceived about what's really going on is explored, as is the particular participation of a FBI agent (played by Emmy Raver-Lampman) whose mother committed suicide after having her entire financial world wiped out by the fraud organization Statham's Beekeeper begins to systematically destroy, location by location.

As a metaphor for contemporary political scandals and lawfare, The Beekeeper is pretty easy to parse, but as an action-film in which an avenging super-agent is simply pointing himself in the direction of bad guys and energetically and inventively taking them down, this film from Director David Ayers excels.

UK's Powerhouse Films releasing four classic film disks in September:

You and Me (1938) 2K restoration, film by Fritz Lang Powerhouse page

When Tomorrow Comes (1939) 2K restoration, film by John Stahl with Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer Powerhouse Page

You'll Never Get Rich (1941) High Definition remaster, film by Sidney Lanfield, with Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth Powerhouse Page

The Lady is Willing (1942) High Definition remaster, film by Mitchell Leisen, with Fred MacMurray, Marlene Dietrich and "Corey the Wonder Baby," Powerhouse Page

Donald Sutherland has died

Donald Sutherland

Donald Sutherland 1935โ€“2024

Canadian actor Donald Sutherland's career spanned six decades, beginning with his roles in classic films such as The Dirty Dozen (1967) and MASH (1970). He was often praised for his ability to seamlessly transition between genres, for example Don't Look Now (1973), Ordinary People (1980), and his more recent roles in blockbuster franchises like The Hunger Games series. Sutherland was given an Honorary Oscar in 2017.

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Repo Man 1984

The 1984 quasi-punk sci-fi mystery film Repo Man is coming out on Criterion Blu-Ray disc (4K digital restoration, approved by director Alex Cox, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack โ€“ one 4K UHD disc and one Blu-ray disc) in September. The Criterion page about their HD edition.

Fast Review: Cactus Flower โ€“ 1969

Cactus Flower 1969 - Goldie Hawn

At the start of Cactus Flower, a prone Goldie Hawn is on her couch as her tiny apartment fills with gas from her tiny oven. Like a sacrifice to a shrine she positions herself with arms crossed below a large framed photo of Walter Matthau, who has just broken a dinner-date with her, and she lays still and breathes in the killing fumes. Her suicide goes awry when her neighbor, unsuccessful playwright Julian (played by Rick Lenz), sniffs the gas out in the hall, and unable to get through the door, smashes out one of her windows to climb in and turn the gas off. He then administers mouth-to-mouth respiration to the passed-out young woman which turns into a heated kissing session until Hawn's character snaps awake, realizing these aren't middle-aged Walter Matthau lips!

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Columbia 100 Anniversary will have Lawrence of Arabia and Close Encounters of the Third Kind returning to movie theaters. Also, Rear Window will be in Theaters, too, as part of that film's 70th anniversary.

Fast Review:ย The Mazeย โ€“ 1953

As a mystery/horror film,ย The Mazeย digs right into a 1953 obsession, that of evolution gone wrong, but it is combined with a Gothic "haunted house" story about how to keep a dark family secretย very secretย for literally hundreds of years (though they keep a copy of a book titledย Teratology laying around in the open).

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