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Notorious (1946) Review


Essential
It just doesn't get any more stylish than this. A high point in Hollywood's golden era, Notorious is a convergence of talent. Hitchcock is most "notorious" for psycho-thrillers (i.e. Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, Psycho) but the trademark mind-messing is restrained here, though not completely absent (there is an evil Nazi mother-in-law). Like Hitchcock's later espionage masterpiece North By Northwest, Notorious is sophisticated and entertaining. Uncoincidentally, Cary Grant is front and center in both films.

In Notorious, Grant plays a federal agent, looking for Nazis, who goes to Rio to protect Ingrid Bergman, who is married to a Nazi spy (Claude Rains) and is betraying him. Of course, Grant actually plays the suave, blasé, seemingly ordinary, seemingly heartless character he plays in all other films. Bergman is brilliant as the complex heroine.

Continue reading: Notorious (1946) Review

Underworld (1927) Review


Good
Josef von Sternberg's 1927 Underworld was given a rare airing at the New York Film Festival, introduced by festival director Richard Pena as the "ur-gangster film." Whether it is ur remains to be seen, since gangster films have been floating around the edges of American movies since the early silent period in D. W. Griffith's Musketeers of Pig Alley and Raoul Walsh's 1915 feature Regeneration. In fact, with von Sternberg as director, it is hardly a gangster film at all. It more of a reverie on what a gangster film could have become if the Depression hadn't got in the way.

The only way Underworld whispers "gangster film" under its baited breath is from the input of screenwriter Ben Hecht, who wanted to make a film based on his experiences as a Chicago crime beat reporter. And to be sure, there are instances in Underworld that directly link it to 1930s gangster movies, specifically Scarface, also written by Hecht, particularly the neon sign spelling out "The City Is Yours" to a mob chief and the brutal, shooting gallery gun battle at the film's climax. Also in evidence are Hecht's sarcastic Front Page style one-liners -- for example, one gangster tells another to attend a gangster get-together by saying, "You've got to show. Everybody with a police record will be there." This was von Sternberg's second feature and at the outset, Hecht had the most clout, but as the film progressed, von Sternberg emerged victorious.

Continue reading: Underworld (1927) Review

Barbary Coast Review


Very Good
Any self-respecting San Franciscan needs to give Barbary Coast a spin, a film of Gold Rush-era S.F., when the town was full of backstabbing gold panners, corrupt tycoons, and nary a "white woman" in the whole town. That changes when Miriam Hopkins arrives, fresh off the boat, only to discover her fiancee is no longer alive. To keep food on the table, she takes a job as a roulette wheel spinner (crooked, natch) for local boss Edward G. Robinson, who owns the movie -- at least when Walter Brennan's "Old Atrocity" (his actual character's name) isn't on screen. Lots of fun, despite a forced love story late in the picture, and full of chilly, delicious fog.

Notorious Review


Essential
It just doesn't get any more stylish than this. A high point in Hollywood's golden era, Notorious is a convergence of talent. Hitchcock is most "notorious" for psycho-thrillers (i.e. Rear Window, Dial M for Murder, Psycho) but the trademark mind-messing is restrained here, though not completely absent (there is an evil Nazi mother-in-law). Like Hitchcock's later espionage masterpiece North By Northwest, Notorious is sophisticated and entertaining. Uncoincidentally, Cary Grant is front and center in both films.

In Notorious, Grant plays a federal agent, looking for Nazis, who goes to Rio to protect Ingrid Bergman, who is married to a Nazi spy (Claude Rains) and is betraying him. Of course, Grant actually plays the suave, blasé, seemingly ordinary, seemingly heartless character he plays in all other films. Bergman is brilliant as the complex heroine.

Continue reading: Notorious Review

Whirlpool Review


Good
Hypnosis is always good for thriller fodder: Here we have poor Gene Tierney, a shoplifter, used and abused by a crackpot hypnotist named Korvo (José Ferrer), much to the chagrin of hubby Richard Conte (a psychologist in his own right). Korvo uses Tierney's Ann Sutton by framing her for his dirty work, but the inability of Conte's supposedly genius husband to put any of the mystery together (or the cops, for that matter), make Whirlpool a rather tedious affair.

Monkey Business Review


Very Good
Mr. Oxley's been complaining about her "punctuation," so she makes sure she's at her desk by nine. That's about the sum of Marilyn Monroe's contribution to Monkey Business, a screwball comedy (made about 10 years after the real end of the screwball era) featuring a kooky scientist, his patient wife, a brazen and dippy secretary, and of course a chimpanzee who's really calling the shots.

The plot involves the hunt for a youth formula by Barnaby Fulton (Cary Grant), which he thinks he has discovered when a self-administered sample drives him to do such crazy things as buy a new car and crash it into a chain link fence with his boss's secretary (Monroe) riding shotgun. The only problem is that the sample hasn't done anything; it's the water, spiked by the chimp when no one was looking.

Continue reading: Monkey Business Review

Spellbound (1945) Review


Very Good
Spellbound lands as one of Hitchcock's classics but it's far from his best work.

The entire plot is one of Hitch's more absurd (adapted from the novel The House of Dr. Edwardes). Back in 1945, the idea of psychoanalysis was just coming ito its own. Freud's ideas had really taken off, and wouldn't you know it, the time was right to make a movie based on the notion.

Continue reading: Spellbound (1945) Review

Twentieth Century Review


Good
John Barrymore shines as the stubborn and eccentric theater director in this screwball comedy, a man who comes unhinged (and he's not fully hinged to begin with) when his leading lady (Carole Lombard) splits the show. He chases her across country on the fabled Twentieth Century train, with loads of absurdities on the way. Funny, but it gets too repetitious in the last act and slowly crumbles into the relatively obscure minor work it has become today.
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Notorious Movie Review

Notorious Movie Review

It just doesn't get any more stylish than this. A high point in Hollywood's...

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