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Stage Fright (1950)
"Stage Fright" has become one of my favourite Hitchcock movies. Even though it's not in the same league as "Psycho" or "Rear Window", it's still an extremely delightful piece of film making.
What makes it so enjoyable is the wonderful cast, which was mostly unknown to me before. Jane Wyman makes a lovely heroine for the audience to care about, and Marlene Dietrich is a riot as the stage diva, although I was a bit skeptical toward her at first. The scenes between Alastair Sim and Sybil Thorndike as Wyman's eccentric parents are hilarious. Richard Todd is perhaps a bit weak as the suspected murderer, but not distractingly so.
All in all, I find this a far more preferable watching experience than some of his more acclaimed films like "Notorious" or "The Birds" which are kind of cold and sterile. See it if you have the chance.
The Big Steal (1949)
Film noir in sunny setting
Despite this being a film noir piece, it's a very sunny movie in appearance, regardless of how unlikely that may sound. Multiple chases, great interplay between Mitchum & Greer, and fast-paced direction by Siegel make this a fun little film that can be enjoyed more than once.
My feelings towards "Charade" are fairly mixed. When I first saw it, I wasn't impressed. After repeated viewings, I didn't feel so negative about it anymore, but I still experience it as an uneven combination of light comedy and suspenseful mystery that suffers from some badly misplaced elements.
Firstly, the three villains played by Coburn, Kennedy and Glass really seem to belong in another movie, as they are way too quirky characters for this kind of glossy flick. (There's also a terribly annoying kid with his water pistol.) Secondly, the romantic angle between Grant and Hepburn seems ludicrous, mainly due to the huge age gap.
Although there are indeed some very nice location shots around Paris, nearly the entire middle section of the film takes place indoors and tends to drag on a bit. Also, Hepburn's acting doesn't quite convince at every turn, but that's almost inessential since she looks so elegant in her Givenchy costumes. Matthau, however, is surprisingly excellent in a rather unusual role for him.
Quest for Love (1971)
I caught this on a local movie channel thinking it would be pretty hokey, but I found myself completely captivated to this fascinating science fiction romance. Joan Collins gives an unexpectedly delicate performance devoid of her usually campy mannerisms, and competent actors like Denholm Elliott appear in supporting roles. Although the ending does seem a bit abrupt, it's not bad enough to leave a negative impression.
Move Over, Darling (1963)
Although this glossy remake of the 1940 comedy "My Favorite Wife" did not turn into the funniest Doris Day vehicle, it does provide several highly amusing moments (Doris's posing as the Swedish nurse is priceless). There are a couple of scenes that could have done with some trimming (Day and Garner's scene in the hotel room and the opening courtroom sequence come to mind) but the film benefits from an excellent supporting cast, Thelma Ritter being the stand-out.
The Tamarind Seed (1974)
Slow but involving.
"The Tamarind Seed" is sometimes classified as a spy thriller, however it doesn't really belong to that category. This is essentially a romance, make no mistake about that.
Julie Andrews and Omar Sharif are very good in this film and make a highly believable screen couple. The pacing is slow and deliberate, but the plot should be intricate enough to keep you interested. I kept waiting for Andrews to burst out singing, but that never happened.
Anthony Quayle and Sylvia Syms are excellent in supporting roles.
Overall, "The Tamarind Seed" is a good movie for a Sunday afternoon.
Nicole (Shirley MacLaine) works as a dancer is some shabby night club in Hong Kong. She is approached by Harry Dean (Michael Caine), a young cockney thief, who has thought out a brilliant plan to steal an invaluable piece of sculpture. The trick is that Nicole happens to be a spitten image of the late, beloved wife of multimillionaire Ahmad Shahbandar (Herbert Lom) who owns the sculpture.
"Gambit" is a consistently entertaining crime comedy with engaging performances from the principal actors. MacLaine in particular is rather impressive as the beautiful accomplice who keeps making difficult questions but can also be quite resourceful when needed. The plot contains a couple of neat twists and Ronald Neame's direction leaves no dead moments in the film. Also features a pleasing score by Maurice Jarre.
Mackenna's Gold (1969)
Best viewed as disposable time-waster.
It must be pointed out that "Mackenna's Gold" is a heavily flawed movie. From a technical viewpoint, it constantly borders on the inept. The rear projections stick out quite embarrassingly (especially when the actors are pretending to be riding) and the bits of sped-up film look pretty laughable. Others have also mentioned the sloppy editing and the poorly executed earthquake in the film's finale, clearly done with models.
Despite the numerous shortcomings, I have to admit I found myself enjoying the film to some extent. The story keeps moving along at a good enough pace and several veteran actors (Edward G. Robinson, Burgess Meredith, and others) pop up to keep the viewer interested. However, it's quite astonishing to learn that this was made by mostly the same people who were involved in the masterful "Guns of Navarone"... I wonder what happened?
Lover Come Back (1961)
"Lover Come Back" is another highly amusing Doris Day / Rock Hudson comedy that's just a shade below their earlier teaming, "Pillow Talk". Day is a chaste advertising agency representative; Hudson plays her rival who uses girls and liquor to get clients. Tony Randall gives them solid support as the wimpish inheritor of Hudson's agency.
As in all movies that used the talents of writer Stanley Shapiro ("Operation Petticoat", "That Touch of Mink"), the dialogue is often delightfully witty. One of the funniest scenes ensues when Randall tests his 'moose horn' with hilarious consequences (although the effect is somewhat marred by an unconvincing, obviously immobile moose). Cute opening credits, too.
Death on the Nile (1978)
While "Death on the Nile" is certainly entertaining enough, I personally tend to prefer "Murder on the Orient Express", mainly due to the fact that I love the wonderfully claustrophobic train setting. "Death on the Nile" does contain some impressive photography and beautifully filmed visuals, but the film is overlong and the pacing seems a little slack at times. Peter Ustinov makes a more palatable Poirot than Albert Finney and Angela Lansbury puts in a fabulous turn as well.
The quintessential romantic comedy?
Although I don't consider myself a big fan of romantic comedies, I thoroughly enjoyed "Sabrina". While it's not one of Billy Wilder's most important films, it's a wonderful movie in its own right. The crisp B&W photography is lovely to look at, and the cast is just about perfect. Audrey Hepburn is her usual delectable self, and even Humphrey Bogart - who at first seems way out of his element - fares surprisingly well. And I couldn't omit mentioning Walter Hampden who is downright hilarious as Bogart and Holden's stuffy father.
Minor Hitchcock film.
Compared to Hitchcock's other films from the 40s, "Suspicion" places somewhere in the middle. It's not as enjoyable as "Spellbound" or as elegant as "Notorious", but it's better than the rather mundane - if entertaining - "Saboteur" and the exceedingly dull "Rebecca".
The film starts out as a somewhat dated Cinderella story and then gradually becomes rather a chilling, psychological thriller. On the whole it's not one of Hitchcock's best achievements, although there are the usual clever Hitchcock touches, like the game of scrabble and the infamous milk glass scene. The film also benefits from Grant's superb performance as the simply lovable scoundrel.
When you see "Suspicion" for the first time, don't be discouraged by the first half an hour which often seems to drag; there are some delicious moments of suspense ahead. I personally thought the much-argued ending was fairly acceptable, though not entirely satisfactory.
Bus Stop (1956)
This adaptation of William Inge's play is one of the finest moments in Marilyn Monroe's career. The film itself doesn't always shine, but Marilyn's performance as the fragile night club singer is undeniably among her most memorable ones. Don Murray is equally effective as the handsome but stubborn moron who just won't take no for an answer. Eileen Heckart and Betty Field are excellent in supporting roles, too. Some parts of the film do feel rather awkward to watch in 2002, but the acting makes it worthwhile.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
Uproarious and hilarious
"Planes, Trains & Automobiles" is an uproarious comedy that contains sidesplittingly hilarious moments by the bucketful. Martin and Candy have invaluable chemistry which alone makes the film worth watching again and again. The ending is overwhelmingly sentimental but that does not spoil the experience.
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
This shamelessly insubstantial piece of fluff can be fairly enjoyable once you get past the initial disappointment. Marilyn puts in a great comic turn here, however the film is no match for "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "The Seven Year Itch". The comedy comes off as rather dated from today's viewpoint, but luckily the ending isn't as cheesy as one might expect. The opening musical number with the symphony orchestra is a definite minus - it's pointless and seems to go on forever.
Three Days of the Condor (1975)
An unrewarding experience.
Generally I don't like films directed by Sydney Pollack ("The Firm" being somewhat of an exception) and I've never been a Robert Redford fan either. Still, I thought "Three Days of the Condor" must be good because of the number of praising comments it has received.
Although the widescreen cinematography is quite pleasing for the eye and Max von Sydow does a nice job as the sinister professional killer, I found the whole affair tremendously disappointing. The film undeniably radiates paranoid atmosphere, but everything is ruined by the muddled plot which doesn't seem to make any sense.
The film also contains one of the most unsatisfying endings I have ever seen which really leaves the viewer hanging in the air. And what can one say about that absurd romance between Redford and Dunaway? I'd much rather watch any of Hitchcock's films five times in succession than to sit through this piece of waste once more.
"Hopscotch" would have been a much more mediocre comedy without Walter Matthau's brilliant performance. If you don't care about the rather implausible plot twists, this mild spy flick can provide good fun. Glenda Jackson is somewhat miscast as the Austrian lady friend, but her and Matthau's first scene together is simply delectable.
Married to the Mob (1988)
Michelle Pfeiffer is ideally cast as the frustrated mob widow in this colourful black comedy. Matthew Modine plays a clumsy FBI agent who has taken a fancy to her. Dean Stockwell steals the show as the big shot who keeps on pestering Pfeiffer; Mercedes Ruehl is dynamic as his jealous wife. It's all very eighties, but that just adds to the fun. A nice little flick, though not for every taste.
Capricorn One (1977)
Don't be discouraged at first glance...
The first couple of minutes of Capricorn One feel rather tedious, but the rest of this suspenseful conspiracy film classic is quite enjoyable. The cast is a great collection of more or less second-rate actors, including a brief but memorable turn by Telly Savalas. During its latter half, the movie turns into an incredibly exciting chase flick taking place in a secluded desert and involving a breathtaking aerial climax. Special mention must be made of Jerry Goldsmith's fantastically effective score.
Ingrid Bergman is as luminous as ever in her Oscar-winning performance in this gorgeous-looking costume drama. Baldhead Yul Brynner is ideally cast beside her and there are some delightful characters in the supporting cast, namely Akim Tamiroff and Martita Hunt, but Helen Hayes steals the show with her touching portrayal as the old empress. The film feels somewhat theatrical with its abundance of dialogue, but it's definitely a fine piece of work.
The Boys from Brazil (1978)
Old veterans Gregory Peck, Laurence Olivier and James Mason team up in this well-constructed and absorbing thriller. The plot sounded so bizarre that I had to check the film out. Although there is some choppy editing and cartoonish acting, "The Boys from Brazil" makes for a good viewing.
Not as great a classic as it's chalked up to be...
I usually love old classics, but I have never understood the appeal of this film. It's not a bad movie by any stretch; it's just a rather pedestrian one if you ask me.
When I first saw "Casablanca", the opening minutes felt bizarre and had me wondering if I was watching the right movie. Ingrid Bergman's enchanting performance is probably the best thing in the entire film, although the Ilsa Lund character is hardly one of her best roles.
Claude Rains was superb, whereas Paul Henreid was totally bland and completely forgettable. To sum it up, "Casablanca" is watchable, but it has no place in my 'Greatest movies of all time' list.
The Fortune Cookie (1966)
This Billy Wilder comedy indisputably pales in comparison to such great films as "The Apartment" and "One, Two, Three". Although the dialogue is frequently sharp, Lemmon and Matthau's delicious teamwork is the only thing that makes this drawn out, only occasionally amusing film worthwhile. Judi West is quite impressive as Lemmon's scheming ex-wife.
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
Excellent piece of work.
Just watched this film for the third time and it still made for a very entertaining viewing. The story progresses smoothly, without any complications (despite the rather unnecessary flashback sequences), and there are enough plot twists to keep the audience interested. Even if you're not too keen on courtroom dramas, you should take a look at this one.
Marlene Dietrich gives a surprisingly impressive performance as the seemingly deceitful wife of the defendant, played by Tyrone Power, who is effectively sympathetic in his role. However, the real gem of this film is Charles Laughton's marvellous portrayal as the grumpy old barrister, whose banter with his energetic nurse (Elsa Lanchester) adds a nice comic touch to the proceedings.
The Major and the Minor (1942)
Not the best of Wilder
The Major and the Minor isn't horrible, but it's certainly not in the same league with Wilder's comedy masterpieces. To find this kind of stuff funny, one has to suspend one's disbelief quite a lot. I personally thought that the premise of a visibly grown up woman disguising herself as an eleven-year-old girl was a bit too silly.
Based on a single joke, the whole thing feels drawn out even at 95 or so minutes.