Van Heflin

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East Side, West Side Review


Weak
In the early 1930s, director Mervyn Leroy was one of the men responsible for the gritty, careening Warner Brothers house style, but by 1949, Leroy was one of main hack directors for MGM and a prime example of the staid MGM routine is on display in Leroy's prosaic staging of the cad-for-all-seasons East Side, West Side.

Barbara Stanwyck is mistreated high society wife Jessie Bourne, married to Brandon (James Mason), a well-heeled corporate lawyer who is also a regular heel, cheating on Jessie every chance he gets. As Brandon explains his philosophy to a hopeful conquest, "Just because a man has one perfect rose in his garden at home, it doesn't mean that he can't appreciate the flowers of the field." Even so, Brandon tries to "think with his head" but then Ava Gardner breezes in and all bets are off.

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Battle Cry Review


Good
Battle Cry is a colorful and overpacked CinemaScope-era World War II epic that, at two hours and 29 minutes long, feels about as long as the Battle of the Pacific it depicts. What sets it apart from other WWII flicks is its emphasis on the psychology of soldiering rather than the logistics of battle. It's not about the assault on the beach. It's about how the soldiers have been trained to feel about the assault on the beach. The result: too much talk and not enough flamethrowing for a film that covers the war's bloodiest battles.

We begin with a trainload of Marine recruits who are so stereotypical that the solemn narrator even introduces them by their stereotype labels: the dumb north country lumberjack Andy (Aldo Ray), the All-American boy Dan (Tab Hunter), the hoodlum, the sensitive bookworm, the "Injuns" recruited for Navajo code talking, and so on. They've left behind an assortment of families and girlfriends who will haunt their thoughts and test their faithfulness throughout 10 weeks of basic training in San Diego and the ocean journey to Hawaii and beyond.

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Shane Review


Excellent
When a reformed gunslinger looking to mend his evil ways stumbles upon a conflict between peace-loving sodbusters and ornery cattle ranchers in the middle of the old old West, trouble is bound to happen. And trouble is what Shane gets, as our title character (played by Alan Ladd) soon finds out as he returns to some of his rough-and-tumble ways as he tries to defend the homesteaders. Earnest and exciting, even if it's a bit white hat/black hat (Jack Palance even makes an appearance here as an evil gunman who wears, you guessed it, a black hat), Shane is one of the great westerns, a film that inspired many which would follow it.

Possessed Review


Good
Joan Crawford channels Joan Crawford in Possessed, a prototypical part for the stark actress.

Crawford plays Louise, who is introduced to us as she dazedly walks into a diner, asking for a man named David. After she collapses, she's hauled off to the mental hospital, where the doctors shake their heads and shrug. Flashbacks reveal why Louise is in such a state: She's kinda nuts, and the last thread snapped after she killed the mysterious David (Van Heflin).

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The Big Bounce (1969) Review


Weak
Alex March takes his sweet time getting us to even a small bounce, much less the titular big one.

In the parlance of Elmore Leonard's 1960s novel, a bounce refers to a crime, and party girl Nancy (Leigh Taylor-Young in one of her first screen roles) is really into bouncing. When drifter Jack Ryan (no, not that Jack Ryan), played by Ryan O'Neal, shows up, Nancy encourages Jack's bad-boy past, goading him into riding along on her minor crime wave. Eventually of course that takes a turn for the worse (this being an Elmore Leonard book), and while much of this is obviously intended as twisty comedy a la Get Shorty, television director Alex March never gets a firm grasp of the material, leaving the proceedings quite flat. The big finale couldn't be more unsatisfying.

Continue reading: The Big Bounce (1969) Review

The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers Review


Very Good
Whisper her name!

Thus read the ads for the original 1946 release of the classic, under-appreciated film noir The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and although the tagline refers to the character, the name that the title brings to mind is that of star Barbara Stanwyck. As Martha, Stanwyck plays a woman with a secret, living in the kind of anywhere-in-America town that film noir sketched so indelibly on the big screen, a town where everything would seem peaceful to a stranger, but the locals know that intrigue simmers just out of sight. If you have to talk about Martha - a woman who's not only notorious but powerful as well - it probably is best to lower your voice. In a town this size, word gets around.

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Airport Review


Very Good
With one grandiose entrance, Airport ushered in a genre of moviemaking that is still going strong -- the disaster movie. Filled with high-profile stars and backed by an enormous budget, Airport takes us through one harrowing night at Chicago's "Lincoln" airport, where a stowaway granny, a pregnant stewardess, a freak blizzard, duelling pilot-administrator brothers, various annoying wives... and one distraught passenger with a homemade bomb combine to create one wild ride. Too bad the "disaster" doesn't happen until 2 hours into the 2:15 movie. No matter -- Airport's unending sequels and spoofs are a testament that this film is a true piece of Americana, for good or for bad.
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