Nicholas Ray – They Live by Night (1948)

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John Greco wrote:
Three men escape from prison, two seasoned bank robbers T-Dub (Jay C. Flippen) and Chickamaw (Howard Da Silva) along with young Bowie (Farley Granger) who was innocently convicted of murder. The three men rob a bank. When Bowie is injured he is brought to Chickamaw’s brother’s place where he meets Keechie (Cathy O’Donnell), Chickamaw’s tomboyish niece. After another bank job, the young lovers take off to get away from Bowie’s two thug partners and a life of crime. Unlike Bowie, his two cohorts quickly blow their share of the money and want Bowie for another bank job which goes bad resulting in T-Dub’s death. Bowie and Keechie are again running only this time instead of running to a new life they are running from the law and straight toward a tragic end. Continue reading

Stuart Heisler – The Glass Key (1942)

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Quote:
This is a solid remake of the 1935 film of the same name about big-city political corruption, and it starred Edward Arnold as the corrupt political boss and George Raft as his loyal lieutenant. Stuart Heisler directs this film noir in a workmanlike manner (though, the changed hard-edged ending from the novel is a copout). It is similar themed but less effective than The Maltese Falcon, which was also based on a Dashiell Hammet novel. The Glass Key was supposedly the inspiration for Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. The title refers to the political boss backing a candidate based on the expectation of being rewarded with the key to the governor’s house if all goes according to plan, but is breakable if there’s a betrayal. For Paramount this was a big box-office film because of the star team of Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd, who sparkled as lovers with opposite personalities. Continue reading

Jean Cocteau – Orphée AKA Orpheus [+commentary] (1950)

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Quote:
Jean Cocteau died on October 11, 1963, the same exact day that his longtime friend, the French chanteuse Edith Piaf, succumbed to liver cancer not all that far away. Some have even speculated that the news of Piaf’s death was what spurred the heart attack that claimed Cocteau, a beautiful, if melancholic coincidence, if we are to put our full faith into what’s ostensibly rumor, seeing as the famed poet, theater director, and filmmaker often remarked that he was more scared of the deaths of his loved ones than he was of his own inevitable demise. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)

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Quote:
Mr. and Mrs. Smith represented a change of pace for director Alfred Hitchcock. Out of his 50+ films, this one was his only comedy. Sure, The Master of Suspense usually added humorous touches to all of his films, but Mr. and Mrs. Smith was his only out and out farce.

The plot revolves around the Smiths, an otherwise happily married couple (Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery) who have a shocking conversation over breakfast in which Mr. Smith reveals that if he had to do it all over again, he wouldn’t get married. This sends Mrs. Smith into a huff and she starts PMSing on him. Then the Smiths learn through some contrivance that their marriage isn’t legal and after Mr. Smith doesn’t propose right away, Mrs. Smith goes into a snit and starts seeing other people. From there, the couple vie for each other’s affections by making the other one jealous until they finally realize they’re still in love. Continue reading

Robert Bresson – Les anges du péché AKA Angels of Sin (1943)

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Synopsis wrote:
A well-off young woman decides to become a nun, joining a convent that rehabilitates female prisoners. Through their program, she meets a woman named Thérèse who refuses any help because she says she was innocent of the crime she was convicted for. After being released from prison, Thérèse murders the actual perpetrator of the crime and comes to seek sanctuary in the convent. Continue reading

Marcel Carné – Les visiteurs du soir AKA The Devil’s Envoys (1942)

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Synopsis
Two wandering minstrels, Gilles and Dominique, arrive at the castle of the Baron Hugh just as he announces the engagement of his daughter Anne to the knight Renaud. However Gilles and Dominique have really sold their souls to The Devil and have been charged with traveling throughout the land and tempting mortals into damnation by causing them to fall in love with them. Dominique causes both Renaud and Hugh to fall for her. Meanwhile Gilles seduces Anne but then falls for her himself. And so The Devil arrives in person to visit a cruel punishment on the two lovers. Continue reading

Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger – The Small Back Room [+Commentary] (1949)

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The Small Back Room details the professional and personal travails of troubled, alcoholic research scientist and military bomb-disposal expert Sammy Rice (David Farrar), who, while struggling with a complex relationship with secretary girlfriend Susan (Kathleen Byron), is hired by the government to advise on a dangerous new German weapon. Deftly mixing suspense and romance, The Small Back Room is an atmospheric, post–World War II gem. Continue reading