1940s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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domino harvey
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#226 Post by domino harvey » Sun Sep 04, 2011 10:12 am

I'm one of those who finds Yolanda and the Thief to be at best a misfire, and the biggest problem is the sheen of flop-sweat from everyone involved trying to convince anyone watching that Lucille Bremer could ever be a musical star (also prevalent in Ziegfeld Follies, but that whole thing's such a disaster that it isn't quite as noticeable). As far as the artifice on display here, I think the problem isn't that it's too outlandish, but that it's often garish and not particularly enjoyable from aesthetic or musical standpoints.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#227 Post by swo17 » Sun Sep 04, 2011 12:14 pm

Just a heads up that Clair's I Married a Witch, unavailable as of yet in R1, will be airing this Tuesday morning on TCM.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#228 Post by knives » Mon Sep 05, 2011 2:12 pm

Technically it is available in R1 via Hulu. That's a sad prospect.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#229 Post by swo17 » Mon Sep 05, 2011 3:11 pm

Well, and presumably a Criterion release is on the way as well, but I'm not holding my breath for it to come out before the deadline for this project.

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willoneill
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#230 Post by willoneill » Mon Sep 05, 2011 7:12 pm

swo17 wrote:Just a heads up that Clair's I Married a Witch, unavailable as of yet in R1, will be airing this Tuesday morning on TCM.
Unfortunately not in Canada, however. It's been replaced by Night of the Lepus.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#231 Post by Mr Sausage » Tue Sep 06, 2011 11:46 pm

Finally caught up with Dead of Night, and it was a strange experience just for how familiar everything seemed. You could probably piece together the whole movie from various other anthology horror films (especially the Amicus ones of the sixties and seventies) and Twilight Zone and Tales From the Crypt episodes. I'm pretty sure the dummy episode has been remade at least twice on Serling's show. That said, this is as effective an anthology film as I've seen, quite a feat considering several different directors helmed the various pieces, something that usually makes for an uneven and ill-fitting experience. All of the stories have compatible styles and tones, and the framing story's conclusion has a delicious inevitability to it. Tho' I think Amicus' 1972 anthology film, Asylum, has the best framing story of any of it's type that I've seen, Dead of Night comes close. There's nothing obviously wrong or sinister about any of it: all the characters are perfectly normal in their banality, and they offer up their tales in a believable and unforced manner; and yet a lingering dread creeps in as the thing goes along so that the stories themselves gain an added atmosphere of unplaceable menace. The real triumph of the movie is its integration: it refuses to be a collection of unconnected variations on a loose theme (The House that Dripped Blood anyone?) and instead builds itself into a cohesive whole by connecting all of its disparate parts at the end.

It's not my favourite horror film of the era, but it's a real gem nonetheless.

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colinr0380
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#232 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Sep 07, 2011 7:48 am

Apropos of nothing, if you are interested in this trend of bizarre anthology remakes Mr Sausage, the Woman of the Snow episode from Kwaidan gets re-told beat for beat (just with the location changed to a US urban one and snow exchanged for gargoyles) in Tales From The Darkside: The Movie (it also seems to have been Julianne Moore's feature film debut, though she is not in the segment that was filched from Kwaidan!)

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#233 Post by knives » Fri Sep 09, 2011 9:56 pm

Jane Eyre-Surprisingly good adaptation though it looks a little lesser to me as I saw it with Cukor's Little Women. Welles sticks out like a sore thumb and I can't think of a worse performance he ever gave, but they play with the story in a way that makes this perfectly fine. Too bad it doesn't go past that level of quality.

Heaven Can Wait- Heaven, why did I wait?

Shock-This caught me surprised as a great psychological thriller. I originally went into it only expecting to like Price and while he is his usual great self the lead performance by Anabel Shaw is a down right revelation to someone who could be one of the greatest actresses ever. I haven't been this caught by surprise from a performance since Caged only shrunken down by how little she is able to do. The character right from the start is a bit of a wreck with a widow's PTSD going down even before she encounters Price under nasty conditions. It's a performance that manages to grasp this psychological duress so well that at times it doesn't feel like she's faking it. Her catatonic craziness also appropriately levels the film which Werker directs like the sick son of Secret Beyond the Door and Spellbound (there's even this great nightmare sequence early on that just kills it).

I should probably spend some my bytes on Price who gives one of his most complex monsters: An accidental one. He does some cruel and stupid things, but it's more because he's an animal than any sort of evil. In every respect it's the flipped coin to Witchfinder General, a very early apex to his affability applied to villainy. Even as he does cruel things he feels guilt and observes his own wickedness. He wants to help the person who could throw him in jail just as he's suspending her sanity. He's a pitiable creature which is more than can be said of his mistress. Lynn Bari sure knows here how to play a stock villain with the right levels of subtlety and bombast to make her enjoyable in spite of her simple nature. She's a petty little Iago and in that role expands the film's greatness. Actually amongst the surprisingly large cast the only dull point is Frank Latimore in the David Manners role. He even has that generic old timey actor voice. It's pretty bad, but thankfully he's barely in the film.

I really need to give more credit to Werker though who plays things with a slight naturalism, lures one into a tense mood that makes you think you have the cards only to punctuate it with scenes of stylish madness that has to be seen to be believed. I don't know which of these punctuations is my favorite,, but the mad man escape has to come pretty close. It's genuinely chilling and edited with such a play with space that it's like the film is teleporting. My previous two experiences with him showed a good director, but this hints at the possibility of a great one. I would ascribe this change to the cinematographer typically, but there are two here and the unity of style suggests that such a split isn't the case. Great movie all the same though.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#234 Post by matrixschmatrix » Fri Sep 09, 2011 10:51 pm

I have to say, I wasn't entirely sold on Heaven Can Wait, it seemed charming but unremarkable- more long the lines of the Chevalier musicals than the high points of Trouble in Paradise or To Be or Not To Be. I think it was hurt somewhat by immediate comparison to Sullivan's Travels, which I had just watched, but it felt very much like a trifle, a musical without music, neither screamingly funny nor heart-movingly deep.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#235 Post by domino harvey » Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:23 pm

I've already written up a nice little piece on Heaven Can Wait for when I finish the 1943 Best Pictures, but man, the entire extended sequence with Don Ameche stealing Gene Tierney from his cousin might be my favorite part of any movie, ever

As for Shock, I can't quite co-sign all the hyperbole but I'll concede that it's still a pretty good little film

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#236 Post by knives » Fri Sep 09, 2011 11:39 pm

I'm the king of hyperbole.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#237 Post by matrixschmatrix » Sat Sep 10, 2011 3:30 am

I've just finished the first part of Ivan the Terrible, and it seems absolutely spectacular- though obviously an unfinished story. Where Alexander Nevsky sometimes seemed bogged down and lost in its own sense of pageantry and repetition, this synthesized those same elements to create an almost entirely new kind of movie, as though something springing up from an entirely different tradition and grammar of film.

There are other works I was reminded of- the set design and total lack of naturalism (and obviously some of the plot) were similar to The Scarlet Empress, and some aspects of the examination the soul of a man in power and the operaticism reminded me of The Godfather- but broadly speaking it felt entirely new. I can imagine a parallel universe in which this became the nexus for all the strategies of moviemaking for decades, the way Citizen Kane did, so powerful and otherworldy it seems. Like Kane, it's an epic built simultaneously of nothing and of monumentalism, tiny movements and enormous gestures, about a man simultaneously fascinating and repulsive- but the actual strategies used to achieve that in Ivan are totally different, and far less familiar.

I'm not actually describing it well, and I'm not sure if I can, but there's no way this isn't going to wind up on my list.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#238 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sat Sep 10, 2011 1:58 pm

Perhaps part of the problem with Nevsky is that it is missing a reel somewhere in the middle of the film (the reel was left out of the "review copy" sent to Stalin, and then destroyed -- rather than telling Stalin about the error after he had already approved the film).

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Feego
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#239 Post by Feego » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:41 am

Mr Sausage wrote:Finally caught up with Dead of Night
I too just watched Dead of Night, and I must echo most of the praise it has received in this forum. It was, for me, a near masterpiece, but it was brought down a good notch by that damn Charters-and-Caldicott segment in the middle, which I felt did more to break the tension than relieve it. The film builds a steadily rising tension with each new story, each one longer and eerier (except for this one) than the last, and the framing device works splendidly to add to that tension, as we grow more and more curious about this man's nightmare and how it will play out. But the moment I saw Charters and Caldicott's faces (yes, I know those aren't their names here), I actually thought, "WTF?" I must say that I always found them a bit annoying in The Lady Vanishes, and they just seemed so horribly out of place here. This segment seemed to drag on without being very humorous at all. I honestly don't think the film needed such a protracted attempt at comic relief. There was enough relief, as far as I'm concerned, when the film returned to the storytellers.

But that really is just a minor complaint. The rest of the film was excellent, especially the justifiiably famous ventriloquist story and the amazing finale (which bears more than a passing resemblance to the finale of Carnival of Souls). If it doesn't quite reach the atmospheric visuals or emotional depth of Val Lewton's best films, it's still just great, spooky fun!

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#240 Post by knives » Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:16 pm

Mildred Pierce-Damn. Ann Blyth is one mean cookie. I know this is supposed to be Crawford's moment to shine and she does command the screen reasonably well, but Blyth just rips and whole in the screen. They didn't even need to add that stupid murder plot (I hope the recent miniseries changed that back) considering how viscous Blyth is even without it. I have to believe that she was a huge influence on Sirk when making Imitation of Life. Even if through some miracle this movie doesn't make my list this performance has to be in the top fifty of the decade.

The Fountainhead-Hey remember all of the criticism for The Toll of the Sea, just repeat that here. Obviously the script to anything Rand will have severe problems, but this film somehow comes across good. It's heavy handed with an ideology that I despise, but that fortunately takes a backseat to a pleasantly generic story most of the time. I have to admit stuff like the middle of the road scene had me laughing at the silliness of the whole thing (I actually think they're suggestions were an improvement on his bland model). That said Cooper's conviction in the role almost draws one in completely and allows the wish wash to go by. Same's true of Massey who brings his typical quiet villainy in a way that is legitimately mesmerizing (though he does have the advantage on Cooper by having close to manageable dialogue). Seeing him flat out admit to being a villain is such a fun prospect. The mannered acting across the board adds a little bit of fun too. The seriousness of the performances help to make it a great comedy (though the funniest bit is Neal's Ilsa costume with whip).

I should also compliment Vidor who not only unifies the acting to this bizarre alien language, but edits the film in such a way as to highlight the background. If nothing else the only good in a typical way thing about the film is it's emphasis on production design with a number of strange structures and a good understanding (far better than the script anyway) of what it's talking about. Vidor just makes it so fun to look at that I could just mute the teevee and have a better time with the film than I should. Actually, I suppose this fits with the editing again, he structures the film so that the stupid speak is kept to isolated little chunks while the majority is like him making silent films again. With that in mind I suppose the film is far better than I'm giving it credit for. Of course that suggest goes down the toilet when remembering that they kept that stupid speech and rape(s) in.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#241 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Sep 12, 2011 12:35 am

Christmas in July

This is the most Capra-esque Sturges I've seen so far- it has the little tight knit community of eccentrics from You Can't Take it With You, the lovable everyman getting rich from Mr. Deeds, the sense that the plot is occasionally veering off to the side to allow someone to make a little speech about something the creator cares about from pretty much every Capra, and obviously all the elements the two of them generally share (the fascination with powerful capitalists, the rapidfire dialogue, etc.) As such, I kind of feel as though I finally found the Capra with nothing that pisses me off that I'd been searching for.

Apart from that, Christmas in July feels like more of a minor movie than, say, Sullivan's Travels, and something of a retread of Easy Living, but nearly everything in it is so likable that it seems like a list contender anyway. The nods towards the war- with the cop accusing people of being Hitler and Mussolini, and all the ethnic but not unflatteringly stereotyped neighbors (and the giant Star of David on the deli) should have felt clumsy, but instead just seem charming, and obviously Sturges' normal cast of character actor ringers carries everything above and beyond- though I think Waterbury's speech about what defines a success stood out more than anything. Dick Powell still seems as much a charisma-free void here as he did in A Midsummer Night's Dream, but he's so forgettable that he hardly even bothers me. Overall, a delight.

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Dr Amicus
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#242 Post by Dr Amicus » Mon Sep 12, 2011 2:41 pm

The Gentle Sex (Leslie Howard, 1943)

More wartime nation building - this time 7 women, different classes and temperaments, join the Auxiliaries and all come together to do their bit. At just over 90 mins, there really isn't quite enough time to really differentiate the women - and an 'impassioned' speech from refugee Lili Palmer is more embarrassing than stirring - but this remains easy watching. A vague sense of being patronised is undercut by the film itself - patronising asides from some male extras are clearly frowned again, and there is a rather moving reference to women's service in the Great War. Hardly essential, and it won't be troubling my final list, but certainly worth catching if British war films interest you.

As an aside, this is the third WW2 film in a row which casts John Laurie as the token Scot. Apart from inspiring memories of Dad's Army, were there really no other Scottish actors around? There is also, briefly, as I've noted before reference to making a better world after the war and not repeating earlier mistakes. With all of this - in effectively officially supported films - is the 1945 election result really a surprise?

Can I just add my love for Dead of Night as well - although I rather like the comedy episode and feel it acts as a relief between the two big scare stories. This was a huge influence on Amicus as it was one of Milton Subotsky's favourite films - From Beyond The Grave manages TWO versions of 'The Haunted Mirror'...

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#243 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:05 pm

Dr. Amicus wrote:Can I just add my love for Dead of Night as well - although I rather like the comedy episode and feel it acts as a relief between the two big scare stories. This was a huge influence on Amicus as it was one of Milton Subotsky's favourite films - From Beyond The Grave manages TWO versions of 'The Haunted Mirror'...
I'm definitely pimping the Amicus anthologies whenever we get around to the Horror genre project. Even tho' From Beyond the Grave wears Dead of Night's influence pretty high on its sleeve, I think it might be my favourite of them (the fantastic third segment handles its comic elements better than the comedy episode of Dead of Night, even if I still like the latter's segment more than most).

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#244 Post by knives » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:11 pm

Hell when we get to the horror list better be pimping British horror in general. I'm not sure if anyone did it better.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#245 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Sep 12, 2011 5:25 pm

knives wrote:Hell when we get to the horror list better be pimping British horror in general. I'm not sure if anyone did it better.
After Hollywood in the thirties and forties, British horror is my favourite era for the genre for sure. There's no way I'm not giving a rundown of Hammer, Amicus, ect.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#246 Post by knives » Mon Sep 12, 2011 6:11 pm

We're going way off topic now, but I've been waiting for a good time to talk about John Gilling. His approach to the genre utterly fascinates me.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#247 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:05 am

Both parts of Ivan the Terrible count as one film for our purposes, right?

After watching the second one, my impression of the overall thing is only improved- the second movie pushes nearly every aspect of the first until it explodes into madness, and the overall effect is so astonishing that it's almost impossible to imagine where a third movie could have gone. By the time we get through the color sequence, it seems Ivan is invincible and unreachable, a maleficent sorcerer at an orgy that feels equal parts Fantasia and ritual sacrifice.

It makes sense to view this Ivan as an extension of the first- it seems almost unimaginable on its own. Even as it is it seems otherwordly, pulling back from the first's sharper focus on Ivan to explore in greater depth a world seemingly comprised almost entirely of rot, hatred, fanaticism, and fear. When the color begins to switch off at the end- remarkably cutting back and forth between black and white and color footage- the black and white now seems almost foreign, and the Bacchanalia becomes a Passion, as the only innocent we've got to hand is sacrificed.

It also feels like half a dozen Shakespeare plays are colliding- Ivan looks like Lear and refers to Vladimir as the fool, Efronsinia's madness is reminiscent both of Lady Macbeth and Ophelia, the whole structure of plots and counterplots borne of the lust for power reminds me of Richard III, and Hamlet's sense of melancholy and doom seems to pervade the whole atmosphere. It's perhaps not surprising- I imagine any heightened, metaphorical examination of royalty of this kind would bring Shakespeare to mind- but the fact that it can have all those associations rise up and not suffer by them speaks to the power of the thing.

I'm having a difficult time getting a handle on why this feels like such a huge movie to me- apart from my predilection for the biarre and the operatic- but to say the least, this is going to figure high on my list.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#248 Post by knives » Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:23 am

swo17 wrote:
THE RULES

1) Each individual list is to comprise no more or less than 50 films, ranked in your order of preference (with no ties). If you haven't yet seen 50 films from the decade that you think are genuinely great, please take advantage of the resources listed below and participate in the ongoing discussions to find films that you can be proud to put on your list.
2) Any feature film, documentary, experimental film, or short film released in the 1940s is eligible.
3) The date given on IMDb is the relevant date for determining eligibility, even when it's clearly wrong (unless a special case is made below). If the film is not on IMDb and you say it was released during the 1940s, I'll take your word for it.
4) Two-part films released separately (e.g. Eisenstein's Ivans) count as one film. Each entry in a trilogy (e.g. Ray's Apus) counts as a separate film.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#249 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Sep 13, 2011 4:41 am

Fair enough. Whatever the logic that gets it in, I'm glad I'll get to vote for this- I'd be (happily) surprised if I see anything specifically for this project that impresses me more than this one did.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#250 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Tue Sep 13, 2011 8:55 am

Been steadily watching new films (I'm not planning on rewatching anything until I've exhausted what I currently plan to watch) and I guess the two that stand out so far and that might threaten the top of my list will be Visconti's 'Ossessione' and Melville's 'La Silence de la Mer'. Both extremely impressive. I've done Visconti's career in reverse if you like, starting with his more opulent 60s films, but now tracing back his neo-realist roots. Melville, I'm ashamed to say, is completely new to me. I know he's better known for his crime films, but this is a terrific chance of pace - akin I suppose to Kurosawa's shift to more humane dramas. Laura, The Queen of Spades and The Shop Around the Corner have also impressed.

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