Reviews of Classic Film, with artwork and news

LAST UPDATE March 1, 2024

Vampires of Silent Cinema Gary Rhodes

Vampires in Silent Film by Gary Rhodes - Amazon

Lady in a Cage - 1964: Often savage, sometimes simply over-the-top, but mostly effective "shocker" about a woman (Olivia de Havilland) recovering from hip surgery in her luxury home and having to use an elegant indoor elevator to get between the floors of her open-layout home. Then the elevator gets stuck with her in it. Located in an elevated place midway in the air, she is helpless as local denizens up to no good invade her home and commence to looting the place, only for one group (led by James Caan in his first onscreen role) as a particularly brutal young man who seems to have a Charles Manson-level of appetite for destruction, years before Charles Manson had ever became famous. A dark film about cruelty, inhumanity and the will to survive.

Holy Matrimony - 1943: An artist (Monty Wooley) who has spent decades overseas painting and simultaneously becoming famous back home in Britain is summoned to return to London on command of the King to be honored for his career. Loathing to engage with the problems of celebrity, he arrives back only to have his longtime manservant (Eric Blore) die from double pneumonia. In the confusion following the death the artist is mistaken for the manservant and visa versa, and seeing a way out of dealing with fame, assumes his dead employee's identity. Shortly afterward he is confronted by a woman (Gracie Fields) who had been corresponding with the dead manservant over possible matrimony, and not knowing that the artist had pulled a switch because she had never actually met the man she'd been writing to, the pair are convivial together and are soon married. A contented married life in a humble, charming home commences, but then the previous wife of the manservant, plus three grown children, appear, along with the problem of the new paintings the artist has been producing which are recognized as being from the hand of a famous man who everyone thinks is buried at Westminster Abbey. This leads to a bizarre trial focused on whether the dead artist (or manservant) possessed certain body moles. This gentle comedy has a genuinely unique story to it and Gracie Fields provides a perfect performance as the determined wife who views life in pragmatic terms. That 'down to earth" attitude is now forced to ponder the extremely valuable paintings her husband turns out with a question mark on her face and (hilariously) one hand covering one eye, struggling to understand the outrageous prices the paintings bring.

The Major and the Minor - 1942: Billy Wilder's first film as a director has Ginger Rogers masquerading as a 12 year old girl in order to get a half-fare ticket for a trip home to Iowa from New York City. She is fed up with the leering and harassing men of the city, and once aboard the train she is forced by circumstances to hide in the railway cabin of Ray Milland who has a "bum eye" and doesn't see through the phony 12 year old girl charade. Adopting a familial arrangement in which Ray is the "uncle" and "Su-su" (Ginger) is the unsophisticated niece, the pair end up at the military academy where Ray is on staff and Su-su goes to stay in Ray's fiancee's home, and then things get really complicated.

More about the comedy The Major and the Minor - 1942


Panique - 1946: Story of a mob and two crooks and one misanthropic astrologist.

More about Panique, 1946, directed by Julien Duvivier.

Taming of the Shrew - 1967: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton duel throughout the two hour runtime of this Shakespeare play adaptation, and though Burton's character of Petruchio is clearly destined to succeed in his pursuit of the violent, thin-tempered Katherina, the film's script by Paul Dehn, Suso Cecchi D'Amico and Franco Zeffirelli tries to balance the fighting we observe (which is almost entirely humorous) with the ongoing emotional alteration that takes place between the two.

For Petruchio, he's got to gain Katherina for financial reasons, and for Katherina, who has made a career of dodging romantic obligations foisted upon her by her family, this is just another contest she is determined, and seems perfectly able, to win. The sheer scale of the fighting between Burton and Taylor feeds a lot of the humor (overlapping into outright slapstick), but the twisting, funny dialogue is where the real laughter lies.

Background characterization by the rest of the cast seems watered down compared to the histrionics of Burton and Taylor, and I don't think I've seen a better Elizabeth Taylor movie in which her screaming, a liability in other films, perfectly suits the continual madness of the whirling "romance" between Petruchio and Katherina.

Franco Zeffirelli's storytelling is visually grand and there are a lot of colorful costumed bodies on the screen, but the architecture of the era is explored in a limited way which doesn't match the acting giantism of Taylor and Burton.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - 1931: A personality "split" taken to a whole different level.

More about the 1931 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with Frederic March and Miriam Hopkins.

Fast Reviews

Secret of the Incas (1954): Proto-Indiana Jones adventure with Chuck Heston up against the limits of his own obsession to find a hidden treasure, an evil compititor with an even greater obsession, a refugee who needs his help, and the vast high altitude landscape of the Manchu Picchu area in the Andes mountains of Peru.

More about Secret of the Incas 1954

Man's Favorite Sport (1964): Paula Prentiss is going to help Rock Hudson learn to fish and camp whether he likes it or not.

More about the 1964 Howard Hawk's Man's Favorite Sport

Fast Review: Ghosted (2023) Movies in which a relatively "normal" guy falls in love with a secret agent who wields action movie level combat skills has been made before, and in this regard Ghosted is like its predecessors with the guy often in shock and the lethal female regularly pushing the guy to try and keep up. But, Chris Evans and Ana de Armas are a good pairing and carry the picture forward with a bantering, bickering companionship that peels back layers of insecurity, anger, hubris, jadedness and comedy as they flip-flop between repulsing each other and falling in love while constantly having their lives put into danger. Stunt work is good and contains a lot of comedy itself, with in-jokes parodying Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark in places, a villain played by Adrien Brody who seems like an oily culmination of a number of maniacal cinematic super villains, but with a funny, frustrated edge to it. Ghosted also includes humorous cameos of various bad guys hunting the couple who we know better from the world of Marvel superhero movies where Chris Evans is the famous Captain America.

Jonathan Hole

Jonathan Hole

Born: August 13, 1904 in Eldora, Iowa. Died February 11, 1998 in Hollywood.

More about Jonathan Hole

Director Norman Jewison has died

Jewison won seven Oscar nominations and the Irving G Thalberg Memorial Award over the course of his 51 year career. His first directing credit was The Big Review TV program in 1952 and his last film was The Statement from 2003. Some of the more famous films (and he did a lot of famous films) are: The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), In the Heat of the Night (1967), The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), Rollerball (1975), And Justice For All (1979), and Moonstruck (1987).

Norman Jewison 1926 – 2024

"Norman Jewison, Director of 'In the Heat of the Night' and 'Moonstruck,' Dead at 97"VOA News

"How a self-proclaimed ‘goy’ named Norman Jewison made one of the most Jewish movies ever"

"Norman Jewison remembered: a versatile social chronicler who always resonated with the moment"Variety MSN

"Norman Jewison, ‘Moonstruck' and ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ director dead at 97 Foxnews

"For once, and perhaps for the last time, Hollywood had the decency to honor a truly decent man"Washington Examiner

As a measure of the significance of the career of filmmaker Norman Jewison, let us consider the following: After his death this month at age 97, is there a single living filmmaker who can boast of having directed Edward G. Robinson and Sidney Poitier, Doris Day and Steve McQueen, and Al Pacino and Cher?

Kino Lorber is bringing out out a Blu Ray of Witness for the Prosecution in February 2024 – Kino page about the release.

The film is a highly-regarded courtroom drama with Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester and is directed and co-written by Billy Wilder.

The Blu Ray has a couple of nice extras with a new commentary from film historian and biographer Joseph MacBride and also interactions between Billy Wilder and Volker Schlondorff discusing the film.

Kino has put out a Blu Ray of The Devil's Brigade from 1968 and take a look at this cast:

William Holden, Cliff Robertson, Vince Edwards, Dana Andrews, Richard Jaeckel, Claude Akins, Andrew Prine, Jeremy Slate, Jack Watson, Richard Dawson, Luke Askew, Michael Rennie, Harry Carey Jr., Carroll O'Connor, Patric Knowles, Wilhelm von Homburg, Hal Needham, Karl-Otto Alberty, Tom Stern

The Kino page talking about this edition of The Devil's Brigade.

Tod Browning Blu Ray Freaks The Mystic and The Unknown

Tod Browning 3 Films – Freaks / The Unknown / The Mystic: Tod Browning’s Sideshow Shockers, Criterion

Anna Strasberg has diedUK The Times and at Hollywood Reporter

Anna Strasberg was the widow of Marilyn Monroe's acting coach Lee Strasberg, and she inherited the task of managing the Marilyn Monroe estate from her husband when he died in 1982. When Monroe died in 1962, she had left the bulk of her estate to Strasberg.

Born with the name Anna Mizrahi on April 16, 1939, in Caracas, Venezuela, she studied at the Actor's Studio and married Lee Strasberg in 1967. She has 11 acting credits listed at IMDB.

She was the Godmother of Drew Barrymore (a role shared with Sophia Loren).

New British Film Institute chairwoman is Jay HuntVariety MSN

A hugely well-respected name in British TV, Hunt is currently the creative director for Apple TV+ in Europe, and has been a governor of the British Film Institute since 2020.

The British Film Institute began in 1933 and is a charity that works out of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. Using money provided from the British National Lottery it gives funding to film producers and organizes the annual London Film Festival. The BFI National Archive is considered the world’s largest collection of films and TV programming.

Fast Review: So Proudly We Hail, 1943

American nurses work, love, and strive to survive amidst the collapse of the US military's struggle against a victorious wave of Japanese troops during the dark onset of World War II.

More about So Proudly We Hail 1943 with Paulette Goddard, Veronica Lake, and Claudette Colbert.

Barefoot Contessa

The Barefoot Contessa Blu Ray

Glynis Johns - 1923 - 2024

She starred in such films as While You Were Sleeping, 49th Parallel, An Ideal Husband, Miranda, The Promoter (aka The Card), Around the World in 80 Days, The Sundowners, Mary Poppins and a lot of TV, such as Batman, The Love Boat, Erroll Flynn Theatre - IMDB role list

Glynis Johns star of 'Mary Poppins,' has died at 100UPI Press

She appeared in more than 60 films and won a Tony Award for her performance in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night MusicUK The Times

Glynis Johns was best known for playing Winifred Banks, the distracted suffragette wife of David Tomlinson’s Mr Banks in the Disney film Mary Poppins (1964), but it was as Desirée Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim’s musical comedy A Little Night Music (1973) that she achieved stage immortality, particularly with the heartbreaking ballad Send in the Clowns.

The number was a late addition after Sondheim, seeing how the director Harold Prince had staged a particular scene, realised that a song was required. Although Johns’s voice, variously described as smoky, silvery or wistful (what Sondheim equated with “a rumpled bed”), meant she was unable to sustain long notes, forcing Sondheim to write short phrases. “We were already in rehearsal and Steve wrote it overnight,” recalled Johns, who won a Tony award for her role. “He played it next morning on the piano and it was just perfect, the simplest thing he has ever written. I knew after one or two bars that it was a wonderful song and I couldn’t stop the tears rolling down my cheeks.”

"Disney’s Sister Suffragette: how Glynis Johns made Mrs Banks the feminist heart of Mary Poppins"Yahoo - UK Telegraph

"Glynis Johns, Tony Winner for ‘A Little Night Music,’ Dies at 100"New York Times

David Soul has died, star of "Starsky and Hutch" and the "Salem's Lot"National Post

Fast Review: A Haunting in Venice, 2023

In A Haunting in Venice, Poirot is up against not just dead bodies and the question of how did they get that way, but also a Halloweenesque series of supernatural occurrences in an old mansion of many floors with a subterranean level that dips below the level of the famous Venetian waterways.

More about A Haunting in Venice, 2023

Fast Review: Christmas in Connecticut, 1945

Barbara Stanwyck portrays a magazine writer who uses a fictitious Connecticut farm, husband and child as backdrop for a series of popular columns on cooking and homemaking. This is a successful ruse but it turns into a serious problem when her publisher invites himself over for Christmas Eve, with a navy veteran in tow, and now she's got to produce the nonexistent home, husband and child immediately or face losing her job.

More Christmas in Connecticut - 1945

Identity Crisis: Copacabana, 1947

Copacabana 1947 with groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda

Copacabana - 1947. Directed by Alfred E. Green.

Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda (as Lionel Q. Devereaux and Carmen Navarro) are getting down to their last dime as a failing theatrical team, and in desperation Groucho assumes the role of an agent to get work for Carmen. This effort pays off immediately with Groucho understanding what it is the nightclub owner Steve (Steve Cochran as Steve Hunt) wants for his stage and Groucho promising everything he can think of to nab the booking.

Groucho's quick work creates a problem, though. To get credibility as an agent he has pretended he reps for more than just one performer, and after all of his fast talking he realizes he's now booked Carmen as Brazilian performer Carmen Navarro but also the platinum-haired french singer Mademoiselle Fifi, who is also Carmen but with a different wardrobe, wig and a veil over her face.

More Copacabana 1947

AMAZON: Boris Karloff: A Gentleman's Life - 356 Page Biography

Fast Review: Lost, Lonely and Vicious - 1958

More or less a retelling of the death of James Dean, Lost, Lonely and Vicious is the story of "Johnnie Dennis," an actor who the film tells us is both famous and on the brink of super stardom. The trappings of this stardom are completely absent except for dialogue reminding us of the fact and his racing about in a sports car, otherwise he seems like just another screwed-up kid talking to other screwed-up kids in a malt-shop, all of whom dream of achieving movie acting stardom.

More on Lost, Lonely and Vicious - 1958

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