The first 45 minutes of part two of the televised Soviet telling of The Hounds of the Baskervilles (reviewed here as a single unit) are unspeakably wonderful, packed to the gills with sincerity and affection: Watson’s joy at finding Holmes, and being praised by him: Holmes’ firm understanding of his friend, and pride in his work; Watson’s deep sorrow at realized that Baskerville's heart is going to be cruelly broken. Particularly in a film which foregrounds the humor found in…
Sin Town 1942
There's very little substance to Sin Town, but it's always fun to watch Broderick Crawford, particularly when he's being a vaguely gullible con man with the gift of gab. Plus, Ward Bond is there, as an arrogant heavy who runs the titular community, and watching him spar with Constance Bennett is very nearly worth the proverbial price of admission, despite only happening once.
In addition, Andy Devine shows up as an actual smart (!), smooth (!!!!) associate of basically all…
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage 1970
For me, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage stands out among gialli for the warm, trusting male friendship at its center. At first, American writer Sam Dalmas (Tony Musante) is quite reasonably suspected of the attempted murder he claims to have witnessed, but it takes very little time for his relationship with police inspector Morosini (Enrico Maria Salerno) to shift from suspicion and hostility to unexpected closeness.*
Though it's not uncommon in the genre for civilians to investigate grisly murders,…
Pit Stop 1969
Pit Stop tells a story wrought from longing, crafted from a shared, but also very personal, desire to matter; to be important. For most, it's a craving for attention, but not a romantic or a sexual one — instead, Grant Willard, and Rick Bowman, and Ed McLeod, and Hawk Sidney want people to remember their names: to think of them, unbidden; to tell their children about them when they're gone.
All four men are trapped…
I have rarely met a movie that had me oscillating more wildly between the poles of "HATE IT!" and "LOVE IT!" than the 1954 version of Svengali. Until, that is, the montage of Trilby O'Ferrall (Hildegard Knef) touring Europe as an opera singer. IDK what happened, man, but something about that actress, and that character, suddenly singing with the divine voice of Elizabeth Schwarzkopf really (really) got me. It was all so impossibly ridiculous and moving that I was all…
Nitrate Kisses 1992
Underneath its erotic, archival, and sometimes explicit imagery, Barbara Hammer's Nitrate Kisses is an (experimental) documentary about history: about whose stories are preserved, whose are left out, and how such choices are made. While today, we're far more aware of the cis, het, white, male biases of history than the majority of people were in the early 1990s when the film was released, the film is nevertheless a deeply compelling document which both preserves history and makes a passionate case…
Aguirre, the Wrath of God 1972
Among other works well pleasing to the Divine Majesty and cherished of our heart, this assuredly ranks highest, that in our times especially the Catholic faith and the Christian religion be exalted and be everywhere increased and spread, that the health of souls be cared for and that barbarous nations be overthrown and brought to the faith itself. … We [the Papacy] command you [the Catholic Monarchs and the heirs of the Crown of Castile] ... to instruct the aforesaid…
Voice in the Mirror 1958
Voice in the Mirror offers Richard Egan one of his exceedingly rare lead roles in a pure drama, casting him as a fictional version of Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, here named Jim Burton.* Though the film is never quite as powerful as one would hope, its approach to the story is compellingly straightforward, free of the kind of sanctimoniousness one might expect from such a venture. Instead, Burton is highly fallible, failing constantly, even after committing himself…
L’invitation au Voyage 1927
L’invitation au Voyage is about going out to turn inward — leaving the comfort of one's home to rediscover what one holds inside.
In a theme bar full of sailing imagery, complete with portholes on the walls, and an intense sense of exoticism, director Germaine Dulac's protagonist finds refuge from her philandering husband and life of empty routine. Initially uncomfortable and, perhaps, ashamed, she sits alone, hiding behind the high collar of her fur, watching the youthful merry-makers around her.…
The Naked and the Dead 1958
I am sure there have been hundreds — thousands? thousands! — of dissertations written about American war films, as well as dozens of books. I've not read any of them, but I feel like I might need to start now, because the main thing The Naked and the Dead left me with is immense curiosity about the kind of men different generations of war films want Americans to value and respect.
The sweet, unsophisticated country boys from small towns are…
Lady Frankenstein 1971
While, in Lady Frankenstein's telling, the story around Victor Frankenstein (Joseph Cotten), his loyal minion (Jess Franco regular Paul Muller as Dr, Charles Marshall), and their monster are extremely conventional, once Victor's daughter, Tania (Rosalba Neri) shows up, everything suddenly perks up and goes in new directions, if only for a while.
Returning home after defiantly finishing top of her medical school class, despite the burden of having a vagina, Tania refuses to be sheltered by her father any longer.…
Don't Play Us Cheap 1972
Don't Play Us Cheap is just glorious, a celebration of undaunted joy, strength, and community. Living in a country that forces them to the margins, this multigenerational collection of Black friends pays that country no mind, learning from and supporting one another and moving ever-forward, confident in their power and ability to persevere, regardless of the obstacles in their way. After all, if the minions of the Devil himself are so easily faced down, what real challenge could any mortal…