Jim Backus

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Angel Face Review


Excellent
There is a moment in Otto Preminger's film noir classic Angel Face, when you realize along with film's prize chump fall guy, ambulance driver turned chauffeur Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum), that the night has collapsed and that he is getting in too deep. Jessup is alone in his room and is trying to hook up with his true love Mary (Mona Freeman). Mary is out with another guy and Mitchum proceeds to loosen his tie, take a long drag on his cigarette and allows the coffin nail to hang from his lips as he gazes into the abyss with a stark, haunted, and hopeless expression. He then loosens his tie a bit more.

In Angel Face, Robert Mitchum, the poster boy of film noir, signs off on the genre with his last great portrait of doom. As Jessup, Mitchum is a hunk of a man and knows it but his laconic self-assurance belies that fact that all the women he meets in Angel Face, both good and safe (Mary) and evil and possessed (Jean Simmons' Diane, a cute and an attractive but not-so-innocent package of venality and psychosis), overpower him, and the evil one wins out.

Continue reading: Angel Face Review

Rebel Without A Cause Review


Excellent
Rebel Without a Cause, the second of the three films James Dean starred in before his untimely death, is the movie that made him an instant legend. Released just 27 days after his fatal car crash, the film froze him in time and later took on even more legendary proportions when his co-stars, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, also died premature deaths. (Amazingly enough, Dennis Hopper, who appeared in two Dean movies, is still alive.)

Nicholas Ray's study of the epidemic of juvenile delinquency that terrified post-war parents in the '50s is still compelling today even if the delinquency depicted -- leather jackets, switchblades, drag racing -- seems positively quaint by today's shoot-up-the-school-with-an-Uzi standards. Dean takes the role of Jim Trask and runs with it, chewing up the scenery when the script demands it and then throttling back into profound stillness in his moodier moments.

Continue reading: Rebel Without A Cause Review

Man Of A Thousand Faces Review


OK
This dutiful biopic tells the life story of early screen legend Lon Chaney, from his deaf-mute parents to his Vaudeville acts to his crazy first wife to his fame in Hollywood to his death from cancer. The problem is that James Cagney, in the title role, doesn't have 1,000 faces. He has one face, and it isn't Lon Chaney. Reportedly this film plays it fast and loose with the facts, which is unfortunate, because getting some insight into the actor is really the only reason you'd want to watch the movie, apart from Dorothy Malone's nice performance as Chaney's nutjob of a first wife.
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Rebel Without a Cause Movie Review

Rebel Without a Cause Movie Review

Rebel Without a Cause, the second of the three films James Dean starred in before...

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