Helmut Käutner – Der Apfel ist ab AKA The Original Sin AKA The Apple Fell (1948)

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Lubitsch wrote:
Time again to raise more interest in post war German cinema before the Heimatfilm wave and Käutner’s witty and inventive comedy is just a fine example to do that. Again it’s in the end no masterpiece, but not unlike Geheimnisvolle Tiefe you can feel the experimental impulse and vibrancy of these early post war films.
An apple juice producer can’t decide between his wife and his secretary and tries to commit suicide. Being committed to psychiatry (the doctor being played by director Käutner himself) he falls asleep and dreams of adventures as Adam and Eve in heaven and hell. The realistic frame story is shot like a parody of a rubble film with tilted camera angles throughout, while the main story line, the dream, takes place in a surrealistic heaven and hell decoration which takes input from Dali, Miro and other artists. Continue reading

Mu Fei – Xiao cheng zhi chun AKA Spring in a Small Town (1948)

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Taking place in a ruined family compound after the war, the film tells the story of the once prosperous Dai family. The husband and patriarch, Dai Liyan is an invalid, and spends his days in the courtyard nostalgic for the past. His marriage to Zhou Yuwen has long been rendered loveless, though both still feel concern for the other. Liyan’s young teenage sister Dai Xiu, meanwhile, is too young to remember the past, and stays cheerful and playful in the ruins of her home. Into this dreary but unchanging existence comes Liyan’s childhood friend Zhang Zhichen, a doctor from Shanghai and a former flame of Zhou Yuwen before she ever met her husband. The rest of the film details Zhou Yuwen’s conflicting emotions between her love for Zhang, and her loyalty to her husband and his family. Continue reading

Julien Duvivier – Panique (1947)

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Summary
Recently released from prison, an attractive young woman Alice meets up with her lover Alfred. The latter, a vicious crook, has murdered an old woman at a fairground. The only witness was a reclusive old man named Monsieur Hire, who is secretly in love with Alice. Alfred and Alice contrive to divert suspicion on to Monsieur Hire…

Review
After his largely lacklustre stint in Hollywood during World War II, Julien Duvivier returned to France a changed man, and this is clearly reflected in his first French film after the war, Panique. Disillusioned with the mawkish tendency of American cinema, with its obligatory “Happy End”, Divivier set out to make a film that better reflected the times he lived in. To that end, he adapted a novel by the popular Belgian writer Georges Simenon, a story of unrequited love and cruel betrayal. Continue reading

William Dieterle – The Devil And Daniel Webster aka All That Money Can Buy [+Extras] (1941)

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Quote:
Jabez Stone is a hard-working farmer trying to make an honest living, but a streak of bad luck tempts him to do the unthinkable: bargain with the Devil himself. For seven years of good fortune, Stone promises “Mr. Scratch” his soul when the contract ends. When the troubled farmer begins to realize the error of his choice, he enlists the aid of the one man who might save him: the legendary orator and politician Daniel Webster. Directed with stylish flair by William Dieterle, The Devil and Daniel Webster brings the classic short story by Stephen Vincent Benét to life with inspired visuals, an unforgettable Oscar-winning score by Bernard Herrmann, and a truly diabolical performance from Walter Huston. Continue reading

Nicholas Ray – A Woman’s Secret (1949)

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Synopsis:
Susan is laying in the hospital with a bullet near her heart. Marian has told the police that she shot Susan in a rage as Susan was giving up her singing. Marian and Luke found Susan when she was a failure. A singer with a limited range, she was a diamond in the rough to which Marian and Luke taught how to walk, dress and talk. With the singing lessons, Marian had hoped that she would have the career that Marian would have had if she had not lost her voice. Even thought Susan is a scatterbrain girl, Luke does not believe that Marian would or was capable of shooting her. Luke hopes that Detective Fowler will be able to find out the truth and free Marian. Continue reading

Mark Robson – Edge of Doom (1950)

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Martin Lynn (Farley Granger) has crossed his breaking point. Poor, stuck in a menial job and mourning his recently deceased, devoutly Catholic mother, the mentally fraying youth visits his local pastor to arrange a decent funeral for her and, in a frustrated rage, kills the cleric with a crucifix. On the run in a clouded haze, Martin slips into the night and anxiously watches as circumstances result in someone else being arrested for the crime. But the empathetic Father Roth (Dana Andrews), inquiring into the incident, sees something suspect in Martin – as well as a soul worth saving. The only crime drama produced by Samuel Goldwyn, this under-recognized film-noir thriller with a unique religious twist is powered by a searingly intense performance by Granger as a man undone by unforgiving forces closing in on him. Directed with clockwork urgency by Mark Robson, shot in shimmering black-and-white by Harry Stradling and named one of 1950’s 10-best films by the National Board of Review, Edge of Doom is a haunting vision of darkness not easily shaken. Continue reading

Nicholas Ray – Born to Be Bad [+Extra] (1950)

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Synopsis:
One of the most oft-revived of the pre-Technicolor Nicholas Ray efforts, Born to Be Bad offers us the spectacle of Joan Fontaine portraying a character described as “a cross between Lucrezia Borgia and Peg O’ My Heart”. For the benefit of her wealthy husband Zachary Scott and his family, Fontaine adopts a facade of wide-eyed sweetness. Bored with her hubby, she inaugurates a romance with novelist Robert Ryan. All her carefully crafted calculations come acropper when both men discover that she’s a bitch among bitches. She might have gotten away with all her machinations, but the censors said uh-uh. Originally slated for filming in 1946, with Henry Fonda scheduled to play the Robert Ryan part, Born to Bad was cancelled, then resurfaced as Bed as Roses in 1948, this time with Barbara Bel Geddes in the Fontaine role. RKO head Howard Hughes’ decision to replace Bel Geddes with the more bankable Fontaine was one of the reasons that producer Dore Schary left RKO in favor of MGM. Based on Anne Parrish’s novel All Kneeling, Born to be Bad is so overheated at times that it threatens to lapse into self-parody; though this never happens, the film was the basis for one of TV star Carol Burnett’s funniest and most devastating movie takeoffs, Raised to be Rotten Continue reading