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A Christmas Carol (1938) Review


Very Good
For a film made in 1938, this A Christmas Carol has a lot going for it. In fact, it's probably the most underrated version of the classic Dickens story ever filmed.

Reginald Owen is a spot-on Scrooge, making like miserable for his devoted assistant Bob Cratchitt (Gene Lockhart). In this version of the story, Cratchitt is fired on Christmas Eve due to an ill-timed snowball, but Bob is so irrepressible that he blows his last shilling on delicious foodstuffs for his family, including the wee, crippled Tiny Tim (Terry Kilburn).

Continue reading: A Christmas Carol (1938) Review

Miracle On 34th Street Review


Excellent
Santa on trial! This Christmas classic has the inimitable Edmund Gwenn (who won an Oscar for his role) in full Santa regalia, wandering through Manhattan and telling a storefront setup guy he's got the reindeer out of order in the window display. The lighthearted comedy continues as Kris Kringle gets a job a Macy's department store... where he promptly begins sending customers elsewhere. This in turn lands him in a shrink's office and en route to a sanitarium. That's right: Good customer service is completely insane! The third act of the film gives it its rousing core, as Kringle is seated before a judge to prove he isn't crazy. The outpouring of support for him (including nonbeliever Maureen O'Hara and daughter Natalie Wood) makes the movie utterly priceless and unforgettable. You want the spirit of Christmas? It's all right here.

Continue reading: Miracle On 34th Street Review

A Christmas Carol (1938) Review


Very Good
For a film made in 1938, this A Christmas Carol has a lot going for it. In fact, it's probably the most underrated version of the classic Dickens story ever filmed.

Reginald Owen is a spot-on Scrooge, making like miserable for his devoted assistant Bob Cratchitt (Gene Lockhart). In this version of the story, Cratchitt is fired on Christmas Eve due to an ill-timed snowball, but Bob is so irrepressible that he blows his last shilling on delicious foodstuffs for his family, including the wee, crippled Tiny Tim (Terry Kilburn).

Continue reading: A Christmas Carol (1938) Review

A Christmas Carol Review


Very Good
For a film made in 1938, this A Christmas Carol has a lot going for it. In fact, it's probably the most underrated version of the classic Dickens story ever filmed.

Reginald Owen is a spot-on Scrooge, making like miserable for his devoted assistant Bob Cratchitt (Gene Lockhart). In this version of the story, Cratchitt is fired on Christmas Eve due to an ill-timed snowball, but Bob is so irrepressible that he blows his last shilling on delicious foodstuffs for his family, including the wee, crippled Tiny Tim (Terry Kilburn).

Continue reading: A Christmas Carol Review

The Devil And Daniel Webster Review


Extraordinary
It's the 1840s, and times are tough for New Hampshire farmer Jabez Stone, just as they are for other New Englanders. He's a hard-working, God-fearing man, but he's prone to cursing ("consarn it" is his favorite), and he doesn't always find time to attend church on Sundays. He has a good wife (named Mary, of course) and a Bible-reading Ma, but when he can't make his mortgage payments, that just doesn't seem like enough. In Washington, a heroic Massachusetts senator named Daniel Webster is introducing legislation that will ease his plight. But in the meantime, what's a working man to do?

In this folklore New England, the devil is a real thing, like a fox that steals hens or a dog that barks at nights, and if you want to make a deal with him, it's not too hard to do. One rainy day Jabez curses in the barn, and a little man named Scratch (Walter Huston) appears out of nowhere with a bargain to make: Jabez will have seven years' worth of prosperity and everything that goes with it, and at the end of the seven years, Scratch will get his soul. Jabez signs the contract, and Scratch kicks at the floor of the barn, where a pile of gold rises up from a loose plank. The devil is in the details though, and anyone who's ever seen a movie knows there's going to be Hell to pay.

Continue reading: The Devil And Daniel Webster Review

The House On 92nd Street Review


Weak
A procedural noir that's based on a true story, straight outta WWII! While this must have made for quite an experience in 1945 (the FBI busts up a Nazi spy ring in New York looking to steal the secrets of the atomic bomb!), today it comes across as a bit goody-goody, pandering to the FBI, pedantic, and not noirish at all. Most of the film is designed to show us how impressive the feds are at solving crime -- with presumably real footage of the punch-card computers used to ferret out who fingerprints belong to -- then reinforce the visuals by explaining how impressive this all is via voice-over. Sure, for the era, it must have been nifty tricks, but the smallish story that The House on 92nd Street bothers to tell along the way doesn't merit much more than a shrug. William Eythe would love to be Tyrone Power, but he just can't carry the picture. And the absurd Nazi spies would have gotten busted before they got anywhere south of, oh, 91st Street.

The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit Review


Very Good
You've heard of "the man in the gray flannel suit." He's the workaholic office drone who commutes into the city every day and struggles wearily to climb a daunting corporate ladder while dealing with petty office politics. In The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, Gregory Peck plays Tom Rath, that quintessential '50s organization man, an archetypal tormented post-war striver and father of the baby boom who wonders if he's making the right choices... or if he has the freedom to make any choices at all in his conformist world.

A Madison Avenue advertising executive, Rath lives in a comfortable Connecticut bedroom community and commutes in and out of the city, leaving him little time for his wife Betsy (Jennifer Jones) and his funny, television-addicted kids. Betsy, who in typical '50s suburban style is deeply concerned about keeping up with the Joneses, pushes Rath to find a better job, and he agrees even as he realizes that more work and stress is not what he wants. In fact, he's heading toward what we now call a mid-life crisis, although they didn't have a word for it back then.

Continue reading: The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit Review

They Died With Their Boots On Review


Good
In case the title is ambiguous, they died because George Custer was their general, and we all know about his Last Stand, etc. etc.

Errol Flynn takes one of his most curious roles ever in this big-budget western, playing the ill-fated general from West Point through the Civil War through his inglorious career killing off Indians before they got their payback at Little Big Horn. Custer is here portrayed as a hero but also an extremely impetuous one: Ranking at the bottom of his class in academics and willfully violating orders whenever they're given to him.

Continue reading: They Died With Their Boots On Review

Going My Way Review


Good
What's the point of this? Unsure, but in 1944 Bing Crosby dancing and prancing -- as a priest -- must have been a welcome respite from the War. Best Picture? Wow. They had cynics back then, didn't they? Father O'Malley (Crosby) prefers a baseball jersey to his priest's cloth, but more than anything the man loves to sing. Countless excuses (including an urchin's boys' choir) arise to allow for said singing, despite the curmudeonly oversight of Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). Other sappy movies of the era (It's a Wonderful Life comes to mind) have held up over the years. Going My Way, sadly, has not.
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