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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.

Heaven Can Wait (1943) Review


Weak
The premise at first seems quite a nice one. Henry Van Cleeve (Don Ameche, looking prematurely aged but still dapper in evening wear) comes down a staircase into a cavernous, Art Deco-inspired office where he is being interviewed by a dandy fellow referred to as His Excellency (Laird Cregar). Pretty soon it's clear Henry is actually dead, His Excellency is in fact Satan, and Henry is, for reasons that it will take the rest of the movie to explain, lobbying to be granted admission to Hades. Pressed for grievous offences or mortal sins, Henry can only say, "My whole life was one continuous misdemeanor."

Putting his lead foot first, director Ernst Lubitsch saddles his story with a script that never properly uses its complete potential. Henry feels that as part of his interview process, he must go through the story of his life, which would have generally been a decent idea, except that he led a pretty uninspiring one. Growing up in the mid-to-late 19th century, Henry is swaddled in privilege from the get-go. The scion of a wealthy family residing in a Fifth Avenue mansion, he becomes a general ne'er do well at quite a young age, something which the film (or at least his recounting) tries to blame on the effects of the women in his life (mother = too controlling, French maid = too permissive). By the time Ameche appears again as his younger self in the 1890s, his playboy ways have just been (supposedly) swept away by his having fallen in love with a beautiful woman whose name he doesn't know. Problem is, when he finally finds out the identity of the woman - Martha Strabel (Gene Tierney), of the Kansas City Strabels, who made their fortune in the meatpacking business - it turns out she's already betrothed to his stiff and deadly dull cousin Albert (Allyn Joslyn). Being of thin moral fiber anyway, Henry elopes with her. His carousing appears hard to put behind him, however, and 10 years later, Martha is ready for a divorce.

Continue reading: Heaven Can Wait (1943) Review

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