Robert Aldrich – Autumn Leaves (1956)

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In the ’50s, Robert Aldrich was a favorite of the French Cahiers du Cinema critics. In the ’60s, though, Aldrich got sloppier as his budgets got bigger. Most of his later movies are at least a half hour too long, and formulaic action films like The Dirty Dozen and Too Late the Hero tarnished his once bright reputation. But movies like World for Ransom, Kiss Me Deadly, and Attack! still hold up as harsh portraits of violence, paranoia, and a new kind of universal dread that began with the A-bomb and ended with the JFK assassination. All of Aldrich’s early work is intriguing, but Autumn Leaves is his secret gem. It’s been passed over as camp because of its star, Joan Crawford, but Aldrich brings all his hard edges to this woman’s picture. The collision of his tough style with the soapy material makes for a film that never loses its queasy tension. Continue reading

Robert Aldrich – Apache (1954)

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Apache was based on Paul I. Wellman’s novel Broncho Apache, which in turn was inspired by a true story. Burt Lancaster plays Massai, a lieutenant of the great Apache warrior Geronimo (here depicted as an old man, played by Monte Blue). Though his tribe has signed surrender terms with the conquering whites, Massai refuses to do so. He escapes from a prison train and conducts a one-man war against the white intruders-and against some of his own people. Along the way, he claims Nalinle (Jean Peters), whom he previously regarded as a traitor to his cause, as his wife. John McIntire plays famed Indian scout Al Sieber, who-in this film, if not in real life-is sympathetic to the Indians’ plight and Massai’s single-purposed cause. The real-life counterpart to Massai was killed by Sieber’s minions after agreeing to call off the hostilies; United Artists objected to this, forcing producer/star Burt Lancaster to shoot an unconvincingly happy ending.
Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide Continue reading

Robert Aldrich – Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

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SYNOPSIS: In this atomic adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s novel, directed by Robert Aldrich, the good manners of the 1950s are blown to smithereens. Ralph Meeker stars as snarling private dick Mike Hammer, whose decision one dark, lonely night to pick up a hitchhiking woman sends him down some terrifying byways. Brazen and bleak, Kiss Me Deadly is a film noir masterwork as well as an essential piece of cold war paranoia, and it features as nervy an ending as has ever been seen in American cinema. Continue reading