Roger Ebert / September 13, 1998
Come on, read my future for me. You haven’t got any. What do you mean? Your future is all used up. So speaks a fortune-telling madam, played by Marlene Dietrich, to the drunken sheriff of a border town, played by Orson Welles, in “Touch of Evil.”
Her words have a sad resonance, because Welles was never again to direct in Hollywood after making this dark, atmospheric story of crime and corruption.
It was named best film at the 1958 Brussels World Fair (Godard and Truffaut were on the jury), but in America it opened on the bottom half of a double bill, failed, and put an end to Welles’ prospects of working within the studio system. Yet the film has always been a favorite of those who enjoy visual and dramatic flamboyance. “I’d seen the film four or five times before I noticed the story,” the director Peter Bogdanovich once told his friend Orson. “That speaks well for the story,” Welles rumbled sarcastically, but Bogdanovich replied, “No, no–I mean I was looking at the direction.” Continue reading
Returning from a business trip to Rhodes, Markos finds out that his son has been kidnapped by a ruthless gang.The situation begins to get out of control as the child is sick and must receive special medication. Continue reading
A hidden gem of the French New Wave, Alain Cavalier’s thrilling black-and-white noir is as sleek and cool as it is gripping. Filled with thrilling plot twists, daring shoot-outs and stormy betrayals, Le Combat dans l’ile takes place against a backdrop of 60’s political turmoil and is strikingly shot by legendary cameraman Pierre Lhomme. Jean-Louis Trintignant is Clément, a member of a right-wing terrorist organization who becomes involved in a political assassination attempt. A member of his gang betrays him and he hides out with his wife Anne (a luminous Romy Schneider) in the country home of a childhood friend, Paul (Henri Serre). Clément defines macho, with his surly incommunicativeness and sudden outbursts of violence, with Anne often its recipient. Paul, by contrast, is a gentle pacifist, and as affection grows between him and Anne, the emotional as well as political tension soar. Continue reading
In 1945, Dutch-born actress Nina Foch had the good fortune to star in a pair of economical, satisfying thrillers. She was a damsel in distress in Joseph H. Lewis’ My Name Is Julia Ross, an updated Gothic set in England. In Budd (then ‘Oscar’) Boettischer’s wartime espionage drama Escape In The Fog, she’s a dame in distress in the city by the bay.
It opens in a nightmare she’s having. Walking one fog-bound night on the Golden Gate Bridge, she sees three men piling out of a taxi trying to kill a fourth. She screams – and the screams bring to her room in Ye Rustic Dell Inn other guests running to her aid. One of them is the intended victim in her dream (William Wright), whom she’s never before laid eyes on. They hit it off, though, and he persuades her to join him for a few days in San Francisco. Continue reading
Another Louis Jouvet’s tour de force., 8 March 2003
Some movies do not need a director at all:when Louis Jouvet is the lead,he carries everything on his shoulders.Here he’s got two parts: a crook and an honest man ,who is his perfect double. Jouvet is so good,a perfectionist extraordinaire ,that you do believe there are really TWO different actors on the screen,one self-assured,smart and tricky,the other one a born-sucker. Nevertheless, best scenes are to be found at the beginning:Jouvet selling a castle on the historical register to a couple of nouveaux riches: his crook becomes a true noble ,and when he says to these bourgeois he despises “call me excellency as everybody does”,his behavior compels respect. Continue reading
Screenwriter Dixon Steele, faced with the odious task of scripting a trashy bestseller, has hat-check girl Mildred Atkinson tell him the story in her own words. Later that night, Mildred is murdered and Steele is a prime suspect; his record of belligerence when angry and his macabre sense of humor tell against him. Fortunately, lovely neighbor Laurel Gray gives him an alibi. Laurel proves to be just what Steele needed, and their friendship ripens into love. Will suspicion, doubt, and Steele’s inner demons come between them? Continue reading
A fevered yet clinical study of jealousy, Leave Her to Heaven is probably John M. Stahl’s best-known film. In many ways, it is far removed from the sober, intense concentration of Stahl’s major and underseen ’30s soap operas; his early movies were deliberately plain and spare, while Leave Her to Heaven is overpoweringly artificial and rococo, with intimations of neurotic fantasies churning away underneath its lacquered, rotogravure images. Immediately pulsing with the thumping drums of Alfred Newman’s stormy score, the film proceeds very slowly at first, as Stahl builds a dreamlike Technicolor atmosphere around his three leads, Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, and Jeanne Crain. These actors are eerily one-dimensional, and Stahl uses their limitations as performers to his advantage, making them look like sleepwalkers in a sort of Life magazine nightmare. Continue reading