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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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#151 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:14 am

Watching Born to Kill-

The coding in this one is so thickly layered that I'm not sure I'm going to be able to sort it out very well. It's obviously a pretty great movie- particularly the gradual, finely shaded darkening of Claire Trevor- but I haven't entirely been able to sort out what I think about it.

Tierney is obviously a Stanley Kowalski type, a representative of both the form of masculinity that was evidently in crisis after the war and a highlighting of what that masculinity represented. It feels like a perfect Brando role- enough so that thinking about what he would have done with it hurts the movie to some degree, as it's badly lacking his magnetism. As it is, Tierney is repellent, an obvious monstrosity, and doubly so when he's evidently being charming; it's difficult to understand why all the women in the movie go weak in the knees for him. Nevertheless, his character is fascinating, and it's rewarding to see such a character played as a monster and not as a John Wayne style hero.

The social critique in the movie is interesting as well- there's an implication that where the wealthy act more moral than the poor and the 'social climbers', it's because they have the insulation to do so. Georgia is sweet, but she's also totally ready to become as complicit in her husband's crimes as Trevor ever was, and equally willing to believe that Trevor is parasite only after her money (which, of course, Georgia did nothing to earn.) No one comes out of the film unscathed, except perhaps Esther Howard's character, who has only surface vices- and the wherewithal to put up a fight that delighted me more than anything else in the movie.

There's something I don't like about the treatment of Trevor's character, though I can't put my finger on it- some of the criticisms of her 'coldness' seem to stem from her lack of interest in settling down to a dull homelife with her Ralph Bellamy-type fiance as much as they did from her cold blooded willingness to countenance and propagate evil- though again, there were so many layers of coding in this that it could easily have been critiquing that implication, or something.

To some degree, it doesn't matter- it's a killer movie, one that I'm really surprised didn't make the noir list, and one which hopefully I'll be able to push on to the 40s.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#152 Post by Cold Bishop » Tue Aug 16, 2011 2:10 am

Lighthouse wrote:Another overrated "classic" is The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
Now that we have a list where you can actually vote for it (A noir? Maybe superficially. A Western? ha!), make sure to see We Were Strangers, which is one of my three favorite Huston films. While not ostensibly a "war film", it's still one of the greatest "men on a mission" films, coming nearly a decade before the genre came into vogue, and despite this, this is as tough as they'd ever come. Among its many virtues: you spend the majority of the film in complete disbelief that Huston was ever able to get this greenlit, given how openly radical, aggressively deglamorized and unapologetically violent it is. And it also features one of the cinema's greatest images:
SpoilerShow
Jennifer Jones brandishing a machine gun with complete abandon.

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Lighthouse
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#153 Post by Lighthouse » Tue Aug 16, 2011 7:39 am

Surprisingly We Were strangers wasn't released in Germany, and is a pretty unknown film here. But I'm interested to watch it since it was mentioned in the Western Lists Project. What makes it a western or a half-western in your opinion?

I'm trying to get a copy, but it won'´t be easy.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#154 Post by domino harvey » Tue Aug 16, 2011 10:51 am

I think Cold Bishop's comment might be a reference to me, as I threatened to vote for it in both the Noir and westerns list and I think I got pushbsck for at least one if not both of those? It's a western for me for simple reasons: its setting and basic revolutionary plot

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#155 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:45 am

I'm tempted to vote for Treasure of the Sierra Madre as my number 1 film.....

What's the best _findable_ (and affordable) version of Cluny Brown?

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#156 Post by knives » Tue Aug 16, 2011 11:48 am

If you can find the BFI version that's the way to go.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#157 Post by Michael Kerpan » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:24 pm

knives wrote:If you can find the BFI version that's the way to go.
Probably burnt up, right? ;~{

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#158 Post by knives » Tue Aug 16, 2011 12:32 pm

I'm not sure if he sold it off yet, but Donald Brown has the real deal going in the trades thread.

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zedz
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#159 Post by zedz » Tue Aug 16, 2011 4:24 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:Spotlight #1: They Made Me a Fugitive (Alberto Cavalcanti, 1947)

If you participated in the Noir project you already heard an earful. But since none of you mugs voted for it, it's payback time, and now you have no excuse to miss the hard-boiled masterpiece of British film noir. This isn't just possibly the greatest British film of the decade, it's a strong contender for my #1 film of the 40s.
I'm a big fan of Fugitive and urge everybody to see it, but I'd also like to use this opportunity to pump my favourite British noir, It Always Rains on Sunday (which you can also watch as your Googie Withers tribute screening), and my favourite Cavalcanti, Went the Day Well?, now freshly out on BluRay.

EDIT: Having now caught up with the rest of this thread I see Went the Day Well? has already been well praised, so I'll suggest instead my other favourite British noir, The Upturned Glass.

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tarpilot
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#160 Post by tarpilot » Wed Aug 17, 2011 4:35 pm

Has anyone (Sausage?) had any experience with the Inner Sanctum films? I blind bought the set last year and figured there was no better time than now. None are more than 65 minutes so I imagine I'll fit in all of them eventually, but I was just wondering if there were any particular titles to pay attention to. Weird Woman and Frozen Ghost look the most promising.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#161 Post by knives » Wed Aug 17, 2011 6:05 pm

That Raoul Walsh kid, he's a pretty talented one, eh. Started my little month dedicated to him a month early courtesy of TCM's Bogie marathon with High Sierra and They Drive by Night. to say the least both are as great as one can expect and it makes me really annoyed I've seen so few of his films (got the Flynn set in kevyip though).

High Sierra's really the most successful version of this story I constantly see Bogart in. It's far more laid back than I was expecting, but I think that benefits it as the typical Walsh bursts of cynicism and violence are more explosive than usual. It eventually sets up the sort of tone with it's characters that anything could come of them. Bogart gives off the stench that he'd be willing to kill anyone at any time no matter what the situation actually called for. It's a bit funny actually to see where Tarantino ripped off some of his stuff I couldn't know the source to before on Reservoir Dogs. Madsen and that whole character in particular own Bogart a big check though Mr. White's speech about the jinx seems lifted wholesale from a very similar speech Bogart gives.

Anyway back to the movie. The few plays the film gives to Bogart's (and really even the film itself) humanity becomes increasingly more like a joke. He's this unstable romantic who stares off into sunsets (easily the best visual gag of the movie) yet he kills more and more with not a shred of humanity at times. His cunning and need for survival just works to kill him more than the police can. Not even these women that he tries so hard to protect and love seem able to cure him. They just work to delay his inevitable breaking. Some of the looks Bogart gives have this silent agressiveness like he just wants to light a fire under everyone. This gets a real workout with a scene about an hour in where he just has to yell at a bunch of idiots or kill them.

While I think White Heat is more interesting about this respect the film is still really great and deserves it's legend status. This isn't hurt by the stylish look of the picture which is actually really bright like a romance. There's a warmth to each image that contrasts with the characters almost to highlight them in neon.

As to film number two, it seem Thieves' Highway has a nastier big brother (okay the comparisons are superficial, but I was quickly thinking of it). From frame one Walsh sets up a sense of danger and villainy that chokes the air. Raft's arrogant face just breathes a bad time. Even in his more gentile moments (this applies to his career in general, but is pushed to greater heights here) he looks as if he's thinking up a plan for a quick buck. He's just a ruthless man with none of the delicate attempts at humanity Bogart tried in the previous movie. Speaking of, Bogart does really well in his second banana role and though he's not given much to do he maxes out his character's potential. it's an earnest and love filled performance that manages just enough complexity to feel for this little guy.

I guess I haven't talked much about the other carry over yet, but where in High Sierra Ida Lupino is underutilized to suit the narrative here she commands the screen in what has to be her second best performance I've seen. It's really weird how she treats her character as almost a Myrna Loy screwball which makes the turns she goes through as a sort of femme fatale all the more menacing. She's so nasty she doesn't even need to act like it. I should admit right now I kept getting her mixed up with the other girl so problems in my comprehension may have occurred. Assuming that didn't happen though it's a great turn.

I really loved this one and it's one of the best Walsh's I've seen in general where all of Raft's relationships bring forth new emotions and thoughts. His ferocity is toned down to make these connections more flexible, but he keeps enough to stay on edge throughout.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#162 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 17, 2011 6:19 pm

One of the things Walsh seemed to be able to do pretty well was draw a character who is both a totally affectless psychopath when it comes to killing, beating, robbing and so forth, and on the other hand a person with human feelings and dignity- in both White Heat and High Sierra, regardless of what the plot might claim, the leads' affection for other people and their violence exist in parallel, with neither diminishing the reality of the other. It's a dichotomy that feels really modern to me- there isn't the sense that violent people can't be real people, nor the sense that nobody who loves anybody could ever be a bad man.

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tarpilot
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#163 Post by tarpilot » Wed Aug 17, 2011 6:21 pm

Vvvbbbbbbbbb
Last edited by tarpilot on Sat May 23, 2015 7:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#164 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:00 pm

Despite Bava usually getting credit for inventing the giallo, it strikes me that Siodmak's superb The Spiral Staircase is the the first giallo, or at least the prototype that assembles the notable elements. We have a killer whose psychosis is seated in a childhood trauma that is hinted at through impressionistic POV shots that distort/fetishize the killer's obsession and advance specifically visual themes of sight, gazing, ect. We have a decades old mystery to be solved, a heroine who's dragged into the proceedings entirely by accident, elaborate murder sequences (the first of which includes a crash-zoom right into a dark closet to reveal the killer watching his victim, something Argento will repeat in Deep Red), and most telling, we have perhaps the giallo's most iconic visual: a sequence in which a figure in a black trench coat stalks the heroine through the shadows.

The only thing keeping it from being unequivocally a giallo is that no lead character actively attempts to solve the mystery. The heroine is simply the target and not the typical agent of the giallo. Then again, Blood and Black Lace didn't exactly have one, either.

However you classify it, this one ranks along with Hangover Square and I Walked With a Zombie as my favourite outright horror films of this decade. I'm surprised it isn't talked about more.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#165 Post by knives » Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:03 pm

Is there a non-archive release for Colorado Territory? That's definitely the one I'm most interested in. I'm definitely going to try to see The Strawberry Blonde and Pursued too. I really desperately need to see more of his work with these two adding things up to a measly six (ten if you count the ones in the kevyip).

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#166 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:20 pm

Mr Sausage wrote: I'm surprised it isn't talked about more.
I don't pretend to know what its reputation is with horror fans, but in general it's a fairly popular film, and it has its rampant fans on the board (of which I include myself). I think it placed on our Noir list too

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#167 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:37 pm

domino harvey wrote:
Mr Sausage wrote: I'm surprised it isn't talked about more.
I don't pretend to know what its reputation is with horror fans, but in general it's a fairly popular film, and it has its rampant fans on the board (of which I include myself). I think it placed on our Noir list too
This must be a case where it's only talked about when I'm not around. Good to hear it has its fans.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#168 Post by Cold Bishop » Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:16 pm

Yeah, I'm really hoping to extol Siodmak's "period" films this go around, as I ended up culling them from my Noir list (not because they didn't deserve a spot, but much like Reign of Terror and the Brahms, it was just easier to put a foot down on non-contemporary-set works).

Not just The Spiral Staircase, but also The Suspect is worth a look. And despite generally liking his films, I've only seen half of his 40s output, so here's hoping there are a few more gems (I still have yet to see The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry).

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domino harvey
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#169 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:31 pm

Siodmak's great, of course. You can read my thoughts on the Suspect and the Strange Affair of Uncle Harry here. But while he's got a lot of killer noirs from this decade, I doubt I'll have room for anything other than Phantom Lady, which despite its flaws remains as unshakable from my memory as Ella Raines at the end of the bar. I do have some unwatched Siodmak in the ol' unwatched pile, so that could change, but the next two decades are so chock full of great films that even 41-50 of my final list could pass for 1-10 without much outrage, and a lot of fantastic films are going to be left off the final tally.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#170 Post by knives » Thu Aug 18, 2011 12:48 am

Hey my crazy Oscar thing has finally paid off. Most of these live action shorts range from abortions to useless, but The Gay Parisian rises not just up to good, but great. Directed by Jean Negulesco, with such greatness I will bump up Daddy Long Legs to be watched tomorrow, does such an amazing job here you'd think he was a lost Archer. The film is an absolute phantasmagoria of sound and colour fused together with such vibrancy and life I nearly choked. It's a short hit that stays no matter the effort to take it away. In short it's as perfect as these little studio shorts could ever get. I guess I should make this my spotlight.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#171 Post by domino harvey » Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:02 am

In the Maltese Falcon set, for those curious. Negulesco made some interesting films this decade (Johnny Belinda being my favorite), but he's better known for being Fox's go-to guy at the start of Cinemascope to film the studio's expensive looking filmed vacations in the mid 50s. Daddy Long Legs is of course brilliant, and the Best of Everything is likely to be one of my spotlight titles for the 50s list. Unfortunately a large portion of his work has been unavailable in ideal form for home viewing for some time, and since he's one of the most consistently 'Scope directors of the 50s, VHS boots were fairly useless. Fox Movie Channel and TCM are starting to close the gap, but he strikes me as closer to being lost to time than I'd like, even now.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#172 Post by knives » Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:58 am

It appears that he's a perfect excuse to pick up that Reagan set too as one of his shorts is there.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#173 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Aug 18, 2011 7:35 pm

Watched Siddon's spotlight, The Uninvited, and it's a pretty good haunted house movie. I wouldn't share his hyperbole that it's better than The Haunting (it's doing different things anyway), but it competently assembles the familiar elements: locationless sobbings, mysterious aromas, rooms suddenly turning cold, family trauma, ambiguous parentage, a possible murder. It has one or two creepy moments and some comic bits here and there, but mostly it's a well done mystery story. Rather appropriately, the setting is almost exactly the same as the wonderful The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (my vote for the decade's best ghost story).

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#174 Post by domino harvey » Fri Aug 19, 2011 9:46 am

It's funny you mention the Ghost and Mrs Muir connection, because I also just saw it recently and made the same mental linkage based on locale. I'd also agree that Mankiewicz's film is superior, but I think the Uninvited was still a very strong film, with a surprising restraint towards its supernatural depictions. Indeed the best moments were those that took a more minimalist approach-- my favorite effect was real simple: the seance where Milland and his sister are trying to fake a spirit connection only to have the real spirit take over and push the glass hard in the opposite direction. I don't think the Uninvited will make my list, but I was glad to have seen it.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#175 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:10 am

Watched Monsieur Verdoux yesterday. Chaplin claimed it was amongst his best films. Who am I to disagree? It's wonderful.

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