Walter Reisch

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Niagara Review


OK
If anyone can make a yellow rain slicker (with full hood) look good, it's Marilyn Monroe, though this waterlogged thriller comes up unfortunately short.

Set on the banks of Niagara Falls, honeymooners Polly and Ray (Jean Peters and Max Showalter) encounter the brazen Rose (Monroe) and her creepy husband George (the inimitable Joseph Cotten) in the bungalow next door. It soon becomes clear that their marriage is far from ideal, and within 20 minutes of its beginning, Rose has all but arranged for her husband's murder, in cahoots with her hunky boyfriend. Of course, George survives and gets his revenge, and then tries to make his escape with Polly in tow, who somehow seems to get in the middle of every turn of the plot.

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Gaslight Review


Weak
It would be mean to say that Ingrid Bergman played confused all too well, but it would nevertheless be true. Director George Cukor (My Fair Lady) likely didn't have to look too far when he was casting about for his female lead in this 1944 adaptation of Patrick Hamilton's old warhorse of a play, as he needed somebody with an imperious grace and a trusting demeanor that could easily be read as a lack of intelligence. Bergman fits the bill perfectly, playing Paula Alquist, a traumatized young British woman whose family sent her away from her London home after her aunt (an internationally famous singer whom she was living with) was found murdered. Years later, after a long stay convalescing in Italy, where she takes singing lessons in a desultory fashion, trying to emulate her dead aunt, Paula falls in love with the piano player, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), whom she marries after a whirlwind romance.

The seed of an idea that something is not quite right gets planted during their honeymoon, when Gregory convinces Paula - even though she's obviously still traumatized by her aunt's horrible murder - that they should move into the old London house together; he's just a little too insistent about it, in a way that would set any sane person's alarm off. But Paula goes blithely along, and they return to the house. It isn't long before Gregory is chipping away at Paula's self-confidence, convincing her that she's forgetful ("But, dear, I already told you, don't you remember?") and insinuating in a not-too-subtle manner that she's going crazy. At the same time, he's always finding excuses for them not to leave the house, Paula keeps hearing noises and wonders why the gaslight keeps inexplicably getting turned down low. All you need are hints of the dead aunt's jewelry and the longing way that Gregory stares at the Crown Jewels in a rare trip out of the house to the Tower of London, to figure out that there's a financial reward at the end of his chicanery.

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Ninotchka Review


Excellent
As a sex symbol, Greta Garbo may seem like an odd choice -- she lacked the drop-dead gorgeousness of subsequent Swedes like Ingrid Bergman -- but few stars have built or maintained a bigger reputation in Hollywood. A silent film star, Garbo caused a sensation when American audiences finally heard her voice ("Garbo talks!"). Ninotchka is one of Garbo's few comedies, and part of its success is because the script plays off of the actress' slightly stiff, very foreign demeanor.

Garbo plays Ninotchka, a Soviet envoy sent to Paris to sell jewels that belonged to a former Russian duchess now turned Parisian socialite (Ina Claire). Melvyn Douglas is a count who becomes infatuated with Ninotchka and tries to divert her away from her duty to the Party. It's not Casablanca -- but it's not just another frothy romantic comedy either, thanks to Garbo's performance and the clever screenplay by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett (who also co-wrote the legendary Sunset Boulevard and The Lost Weekend).

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Titanic (1953) Review


OK
Modern moviegoers rarely recall that there are a good half-dozen movies based on the Titanic disaster. Like Cameron's 1997 version, most are also called Titanic.

For those of you interested in a historical retelling of the Titanic disaster won't find it here; like Cameron, director Jean Negulesco puts a family drama on the boat. It may as well take place in a flat in London: Woman (Barbara Stanwyck) is taking the kids to America in order to escape deadbeat dad (Clifton Webb). Only dad shows up unexpectedly on the boat and causes all sorts of havoc with his overbearing ways, gambling, and general obnoxiousness.

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