Otto Preminger's Fallen Angel is a textbook example of well-crafted noir. It has the just right mix of atmosphere, characters, and flim-flammery. The mysterious Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) arrives in a small coastal California town and stops in at a diner called, naturally, Pop's Eats, to do some advance promotion for an itinerant phony psychic who will be putting on a show the next night. Within moments, he's deeply in love with the waitress, the classicly noir Stella (Linda Darnell), a real looker with great gams and a tough attitude. Those lips, those eyes, those barbed remarks... Eric's in love.
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McQueen plays Frank Bullitt, a celebrated lieutenant with the San Francisco Police Department, assigned to protect a celebrity witness in a Senate subcommittee meeting on organized crime. When the witness is killed in his hotel room, Bullitt has little time to discover the truth before the city's powerful DA (Robert Vaughn) unleashes his wrath.
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As the first American feature to be shot in Japan after WWII (its home-grown film industry had been trucking right along since not long after the peace treaty was signed), House of Bamboo makes the most out of its setting, and its spell-binding Cinemascope compositions make up most of the reasons to see it. The film opens on a supply train puffing across a snowy landscape that's hijacked by a gang of thieves who are more than happy to garrote the Japanese and U.S. guards on board before making off with the loot, .50-caliber machine guns. It's a sharply executed piece of work and ends with a hammer blow: achingly beautiful Mount Fuji, as shot between the boots of a dead soldier.
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'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.