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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

Deception (1946) Review


Weak
Three big stars (or rather, two big stars and Paul Henreid) can't overact their way out of this mess, a noirish tale about musicians and egomania that's long on talk and short on substance. Deception does prove one thing, though: Even the "classics" aren't always all that classic.

Lawrence Of Arabia Review


Essential
Being the self-proclaimed professional film critic that I am, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I had not seen Lawrence of Arabia (just out in a special DVD edition) until only recently. After all, it's considered by just about everyone to be the masterpiece epic of director David Lean, who also directed films such as Bridge on the River Kwai, and Doctor Zhivago. So one day, a friend of mine loaned me a copy of the video and I sat down and watched it. I was initially skeptical that something made almost 40 years ago would be able to keep my attention for the butt-numbing 3 1/2 hours of its duration. But now I fully understand why this has become the film that other epic films are judged against -- the winner of seven Academy Awards in 1963 for Best Picture, Director, Editing, Cinematography, Art Direction, Music, and Sound. After watching the film again, I am convinced that it is simply one of the finest works of cinematic genius to ever illuminate the big screen.

Based on the autobiographical writing of British officer T.E. Lawrence during World War I, Lawrence of Arabia depicts Lawrence (played by then-unknown actor Peter O'Toole) as a lieutenant lacking any sort of military discipline whatsoever. Bored with his assignment of coloring maps for the British Army in a dimly lit headquarters building, Lawrence jumps at the opportunity to be re-assigned as an observer for an Arabian prince fighting against the Turkish army. Lawrence quickly sees just how caring and great these desert dwelling people can be and ends up rallying the various tribes together to fight the Turks and help the British turn the tide of World War I.

Continue reading: Lawrence Of Arabia Review

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

Now, Voyager Review


Good
It's saying something that despite having Bette Davis in the leading role, three Oscar nominations, and one win, Now, Voyager is nonetheless best known for a single scene in which Paul Henreid lights two cigarettes and hands one to Davis.

Just don't blink or you'll miss it. This 1948 meditation on spinsterism is a kind of precursor to Good Will Hunting, giving us an antisocial shut-in (Davis) who suddenly blossoms after a quick spin on the therapist's (Claude Rains) couch. Off come the glasses, up goes the hair (way up -- that coif gives me nightmares now!), and away goes our Charlotte on a pleasure cruise. So comfortable with her new self, Charlotte promptly woos a married man (Paul Henreid) on the boat, falling in love with him.

Continue reading: Now, Voyager Review

Deception Review


Weak
Three big stars (or rather, two big stars and Paul Henreid) can't overact their way out of this mess, a noirish tale about musicians and egomania that's long on talk and short on substance. Deception does prove one thing, though: Even the "classics" aren't always all that classic.

Mr. Skeffington Review


Good
A rather silly domestic drama, Mr. Skeffington has Bette Davis romancing her way through the first two World Wars, falling in and out of love with the title character (Claude Rains). Full of hair tearing and high society parlor angst, Skeffington is overlong and a bit trite, but Davis's wild transformation into "old lady" in the film's third act is truly harrowing.

Casablanca Review


Essential
"Play it again, Sam." Well, those lines aren't in Casablanca, but the words "Bogie and Bergman" rank just below "Bogie and Bacall" when it comes to famous celebrity film pairings. Sometimes a kiss isn't just a kiss -- in this case, it's forever. And it was certainly the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

A new double-disc DVD of Casablanca enhances the film for novelists and cineastes alike. I rarely do this, but I listened to Roger Ebert's entire commentary track, which he uses to discuss the film's curious shortcomings (what good would letters of transit signed by Charles de Gaulle be in getting you out of Morocco?), Bogart's past and rise to fame (this being his first starring role), Bergman and her foibles, endless points about the film's dozen or so famous lines, and extended commentary on the lighting, special effects (if you can call them that), and camerawork.

Continue reading: Casablanca Review

The Sea Hawk Review


Good
Captain Blood's Errol Flynn hits the high seas again in this overstuffed historical epic. The film careens from the water (as Flynn's Captain Thorpe plays pirate against the Spanish galleons of the Elizabethan era) to the royal drawing rooms (as Thorpe raises the ire of Queen Elizabeth (Flora Robson)). Meanwhile, he's in love with a Spanish lady from one of the ships (Brenda Marshall) and he tries to woo her while avoiding capture.

The sea adventure is fantastic (two life-size ships were constructed specifically for the film) but frankly I could have used far less parlor rooming in the picture -- especially because Robson is so difficult to believe as Elizabeth, despite the severe hairdo. Flynn -- in his 10th collaboration with director Michael Curtiz -- acquits himself just fine, though perhaps he should have taken his sword to the overblown script as well as the Spaniards.

Continue reading: The Sea Hawk Review

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Claude Rains Movies

Lawrence of Arabia Movie Review

Lawrence of Arabia Movie Review

Being the self-proclaimed professional film critic that I am, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit...

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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Casablanca Movie Review

Casablanca Movie Review

"Play it again, Sam." Well, those lines aren't in Casablanca, but the words "Bogie and...

The Sea Hawk Movie Review

The Sea Hawk Movie Review

Captain Blood's Errol Flynn hits the high seas again in this overstuffed historical epic. The...

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