1951-1960

Pietro Germi – La presidentessa AKA Mademoiselle Gobete (1952)

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Based loosely on fact, La Presidentress stars Silvana Pampanini as a sexy nightclub singer with loftier aspirations. Posing as the wife of a judge, the singer manages to bed a high-ranking government official (Carlo Dapporto). As a result, the nonplused judge (Luigi Pavese) is given all sorts of promotions and special perks. When he finds out about the girl’s subterfuge, his first reaction is stark, raw terror: Wait till his real wife (Ave Ninchi) discovers what’s going on! When the judge’s former mistress (Marilyn Buferd) joins the fray, the fur really begins to fly. Read More »

Elia Kazan – On the Waterfront (1954)

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synopsis
This classic story of Mob informers was based on a number of true stories and filmed on location in and around the docks of New York and New Jersey. Mob-connected union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) rules the waterfront with an iron fist. The police know that he’s been responsible for a number of murders, but witnesses play deaf and dumb (“plead D & D”). Washed-up boxer Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) has had an errand-boy job because of the influence of his brother Charley, a crooked union lawyer (Rod Steiger). Witnessing one of Friendly’s rub-outs, Terry is willing to keep his mouth shut until he meets the dead dockworker’s sister, Edie (Eva Marie Saint). “Waterfront priest” Father Barry (Karl Malden) tells Terry that Edie’s brother was killed because he was going to testify against boss Friendly before the crime commission. Because he could have intervened, but didn’t, Terry feels somewhat responsible for the death. When Father Barry receives a beating from Friendly’s goons, Terry is persuaded to cooperate with the commission. Featuring Brando’s famous “I coulda been a contendah” speech, On the Waterfront has often been seen as an allegory of “naming names” against suspected Communists during the anti-Communist investigations of the 1950s. Read More »

Kaneto Shindô – Daigo Fukuryu-Maru aka Lucky Dragon No. 5 (1959)

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Daigo Fukuryū Maru (第五福龍丸?, Lucky Dragon 5) was a Japanese tuna fishing boat, which was exposed to and contaminated by nuclear fallout from the United States’ Castle Bravo thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on March 1, 1954. Kuboyama Aikichi, the boat’s chief radioman, died half a year later, on September 23, 1954, suffering from acute radiation syndrome. He is considered the first victim of the hydrogen bomb of Operation Castle Bravo.

Five years after the accident, the Japanese film director Shindo Kaneto made a film titled Daigo Fukuryu Maru. The actor Uno Jukichi played the role of Kuboyama Aikichi. Director Kaneto Shindo spoke at a screening of his 1959 film ”Daigo Fukuryu Maru” (Lucky Dragon No. 5), emphasizing the need to abolish nuclear weapons and to continue educating youth about the devastation they cause. ”Nuclear arms have been an issue since World War II,” the 91-year-old told an audience of over 90 people, citing this week’s multilateral talks in Beijing on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. ”They can wipe out the human race.” Read More »

Roberto Rossellini – Giovanna d’Arco al rogo AKA Joan at the Stake (1954)

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It was once said of Ingrid Bergman that she’d played Joan of Arc so often that she wouldn’t be satisfied until she was burned at the stake. Actually, nobody ever said that, but someone should have. Directed by Bergman’s then-husband Roberto Rossellini, Joan at the Stake is a nonmusical adaptation of the oratorio by Paul Claudel and Arthur Honegger. Essentially a glorified monologue, the film makes no bones about its theatricality. Bergman is impressive as always, far more so than the presentation. While not nearly as bad as its reputation suggests, Joan at the Stake was a box-office flop, principally because the torrid Bergman-Rossellini romance was old news by 1954. Read More »

Masaki Kobayashi – Musuko no seishun AKA Youth of the Son (1952)

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The story of a father and two teenaged sons, and the rivalry between the two siblings as they begin to discover the attraction of girls.

YOUTH OF THE SON (1952, aka MUSUKO NO SEISHUN) marked Masaki Kobayashi’s official directorial debut, telling the story of a father and two teenaged sons, and the rivalry between the two siblings as they begin to discover the attraction of girls. Although Kobayashi is credited as director, the movie was heavily influenced (and larger supervised) by Kobayashi’s longtime mentor Keisuke Kinoshita (1912-1998) and as such, it is more dominated by a sentimental tone common to Kinoshita’s films than displays of Kobayashi’s later, familiar lyrical visual style.
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Mikhail Kalatozov – Letyat zhuravli AKA The Crane’s are Flying (1957)

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Veronica and Boris are walking in the streets of Moscow and they love each other. Veronica is laughing, cause they are happy together this morning. They see some cranes in the sky. When arriving to Veronica’s house they talk about a rendezvous at the bank of the river. And the 2nd World War begins in Moscow. Boris works in a factory and he hasn’t got time to speak with Veronica. He has to go to the war … Read More »

Various – Boris Karloff’s Thriller [Season 1] (1960)

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Thriller (aka. Boris Karloff’s Thriller) was an hour-long TV Horror anthology series that originally aired on NBC from 1960 to 1962. Horror fans who grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s were nearly enraptured with the content and structure of this show. Indeed, in his non-fiction book on horror, Danse Macabre, Stephen King calls Thriller “the best horror series ever put on TV” (224; 1983 ed). At the beginning of each hour, Hollywood’s master of the macabre himself, Boris Karloff, would set the tone and prime the viewers for frightful and chilling dramatizations based on the works of some of the era’s greatest writers in the genre – writers like Robert E Howard, Cornell Woolrich, Richard Matheson, and Robert Bloch. Each episode was shot in eerie black and white and offered at least one story, with a few episodes dividing the hour between two or three shorter plays. Read More »