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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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#276 Post by knives » Thu Oct 06, 2011 7:15 pm

I have a subtitled copy that people could use alternatively (though I think I'd need Swo's help with the logistics).

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#277 Post by knives » Fri Oct 07, 2011 12:47 am

So here's Children and as an extra thing I also have Naruse's Hideko for those curious. Too lazy to retype so I'll just quote myself for why it's totally worth watching both of these.
Since I voted so high for Children in the Wind last round because of it's adorable hell on wheels moppet it would be wrong of me not to vote for Children of the Beehive and it's entire flock. With the possible exception of De Sica I don't think there's a better director of children than Shimizu in the history of the medium. These are absolutely wonderful performances that are shown with the understanding that children give their best performances in a documentary setting. It would not shock me if the kid actors were just told certain actions to do or given certain things to talk about and then let loose to do whatever within those confines.

This goes a long way to making the film possibly the most brutal depiction of post war Japan I've seen on film. It's not brutal in the way A Hen in the Wind is brutal. After all this is Shimizu I'm talking about and his wonderful sense of comedy fills the film preventing misery porn. Instead I mean there's a frankness and casual approach to showing the after effects of the way that because they're never really acknowledged makes them more disturbing and graphic to me. For instance the Fagin like care taker of the children is missing a leg presumably from a bombing, but it's never really referenced. Cripples are just a part of their daily life now. Even existing as an orphan, the one item that comes close to being prodded in the film, is treating with a nonchalance and jaded typicality that runs my blood cold. Maybe I just have Rossellini on the brain at the moment, but the film feels at one with Paisan and now more than ever makes me think that Shimizu is Rossellini's predecessor.

The next bit is more generically Shimizu, but this film lives more on this quality than any other film of his I've seen. This is a movie about showing more than anything else. There's no examining, questioning, or searching to be found. Instead we're presented with a reality, experience it, and hopefully take something away. Either way you cut it though Shimizu is as passive a presence as he can muster. Even to say he's observing these people may be giving him too active a role. It seems more like he found these characters and is presenting them. That's really important as any sort of involvement would be placing a personality or view onto the events and that would render them moot like some sort of crappy social picture. Instead we get as close as movies get to honesty.
Bit pointless in this case, but reiteration is always nice I suppose.
Finally got to Hideko the Bus Conductor and in a lot of ways it's like Naruse boiled down to his essence with the money problems and the way relations grow and stagnate. It's probably just the times tiring him out, but some of Naruse's grit seems dropped in favour for, I'm not sure the right word, Shimizu-esque optimism. Even the possible gangster of a boss seems unusually good natured. I suppose this contradicts with what I said earlier, but without affecting the tone of the film it's like there are two forces at play here and Naruse is just really conflicted. It's not one of his best films, but provides a lot to ponder over all the same.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#278 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Oct 07, 2011 11:53 am

And if people want to see a film that features an entire scene shot in the rubble of Hiroshima (technically illegal -- though radioactive only politically, due to Occupation censorship laws), Children of the Beehive is the film to see.

Did Rossellini's films feature only non-professionals as did CotBH?

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the preacher
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#279 Post by the preacher » Sun Oct 09, 2011 4:59 am

Michael Kerpan wrote:Did Rossellini's films feature only non-professionals as did CotBH?
Yes, Paisan and Germany, Year Zero (also The Flowers of St. Francis) were shot with non-professional actors although some of them made a career.

Other movies close to Children of the Beehive are De Sica's Shoeshine and especially Hungarian classic Somewhere in Europe, although both films have more rigid scripts and less "life".

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#280 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Oct 10, 2011 5:14 am

Just watched Brief Encounter. It's very well made and delicately worked out, and the voiceover- which seemed overly leading at first, trampling over any idea that I could figure things out for myself- eventually felt deft and well executed. Fundamentally, though, I had a hard time sympathizing with the leads, and not despising them for their weakness- it reminded me a bit of Orwell's Burmese Days, which has a similar overtone of the sort of cowardly acquiesce to social pressures in opposition to anything one might personally want or believe that seems to characterize a lot of British stuff from the first half of the century, but the problems here seemed less insoluble, the stifled inaction less tragic and more irritating.

Obviously, I'm watching the movie through modern eyes, which doesn't do it justice- and I think part of the way the movie operates is on never giving you a proper release, keeping the audience caught up in the streams of emotion that have to squeeze through the almost totally locked off aspects of the characters' lives. But again, it's hard to see them as anything but weak, and kind of stupid.

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Gropius
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#281 Post by Gropius » Mon Oct 10, 2011 9:31 am

But doesn't the lack of a feel-good resolution make it refreshingly realistic, particularly for the period? Instead of a happily-ever-after elopement, both parties are forced to subordinate their individual impulses in the face of existing entanglements. This stoical holding back can be read as noble, pragmatic, cowardly, or simply inevitable.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#282 Post by matrixschmatrix » Mon Oct 10, 2011 3:13 pm

Yeah, it's not the downer tone of the whole thing that made it less successful for me- I just had a hard time wholly sympathizing with the decisions the characters made.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#283 Post by knives » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:49 pm

Does anyone know where if anywhere John Gilling's first two films are? The best I can find is a real shady looking thing for Escape from Broadmoor on Amazon that's also intensely overpriced.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#284 Post by YnEoS » Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:59 pm

matrixschmatrix wrote:Just watched Brief Encounter. It's very well made and delicately worked out, and the voiceover- which seemed overly leading at first, trampling over any idea that I could figure things out for myself- eventually felt deft and well executed. Fundamentally, though, I had a hard time sympathizing with the leads, and not despising them for their weakness- it reminded me a bit of Orwell's Burmese Days, which has a similar overtone of the sort of cowardly acquiesce to social pressures in opposition to anything one might personally want or believe that seems to characterize a lot of British stuff from the first half of the century, but the problems here seemed less insoluble, the stifled inaction less tragic and more irritating.

Obviously, I'm watching the movie through modern eyes, which doesn't do it justice- and I think part of the way the movie operates is on never giving you a proper release, keeping the audience caught up in the streams of emotion that have to squeeze through the almost totally locked off aspects of the characters' lives. But again, it's hard to see them as anything but weak, and kind of stupid.
So you think she should've just left her family to run off on a wild romance? I know the film played up the social pressure, but there's more at stake here than just what others will think of them. I'm pretty sure splitting up a family, especially a decent one, is difficult no matter what time period you live in. There's also no evidence that she would be any happier going away with the doctor. For all we know she may have been the same way with her husband when they first fell in love. I don't think being less cowardly would've made their situation any simpler to solve.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#285 Post by matrixschmatrix » Tue Oct 11, 2011 10:23 pm

It's not so much a question of what they should have done- even now, that's an extraordinarily difficult situation, and God knows it would have been more so in the 40s- as it is of the way they reacted to nearly being caught in would-be tryst at the flat, or to Celia's acquaintance horning in on their parting moments. We get a better picture of Celia than of Alec, so I'm thinking more of her than of him, but she never seems able to take a stand over much of anything- she cannot tell her husband she's dissatisfied, or that she needs more attention, she cannot tell the acquaintance that her company isn't wanted, she cannot bear the thought of some person she didn't know thinking her in some way cheap or tawdry, and she can hardly bring herself to express any feelings even towards Alec.

In some ways, the movie seems designed as an attack on precisely those strictures- the way the lead couple are compared to the no more successful but much more vulgar, straightfoward, and happy working class couple who shares the tea shop with them seems designed as an attack on all the barriers to feeling Celia and her class have erected. But if that is the purpose, it seems somewhat buried- the film seems as though the feeling it's trying to engender is less one of social outrage, and more one of romantic sighing over the inevitable cruelty of fate. We're so closely tangled with Celia's viewpoint that it seems difficult to argue that the movie critiquing her, or the way she sees the world- but she is a character who is deeply flawed, and whom in many ways I did not like. It's not an issue of outcomes- the story is designed as a tragedy, and I think it's an unavoidably tragic situation- so much as it is one of character, and how I relate to those characters.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#286 Post by knives » Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:09 am

Two more in today and both are pretty stellar. First was Welles Macbeth which despite some minor problems with the actors is basically perfect and my choice for him for the decade. To get all of my complaints out of the way actually let me just say that whoever thought up the ten minute overture deserved to be punched in the kidneys until they needed dialysis. God was that annoying (though not as irritating as Lionsgate not releasing a Welles helmed Shakespeare adaptation). This is basically the only adaptation I've seen where the bard's words aren't a hindrance. I'm not sure what Welles did exactly but the words came through as if spoken in modern English. It seemed very in the now. The overall look was amazing too, possibly the most visually spectacular of his films, even if it basically owed everything to von Sternberg and maybe Eisenstein.

Also caught the remake of The Glass Key, and it's official that Veronica Lake makes everything better though in this case the film would still be very good without her though not as close to great. She steals every scene and Heisler (who is tremendously underrated) has the camera make love to her in just the right way. The film's story is basically the poor man to Afraid to Talk or All the King's Men, but even in the face of a far rosier exterior to pieces to the plot still shwo the ugly of the society it's portraying. Even the hero's moral code which the film upholds brings more bad than good. So yeah, definitely one worth checking out.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#287 Post by knives » Sat Oct 15, 2011 1:14 am

Step Lively
This set is starting off far better than I anticipated. Of course with Whelan at the helm I should have expected as much. The story is a fairly simple let's put on a show type, but as usual it's more about how you fill in the holes rather than the big picture and here the holes are being filled with pudding. The performances, from all the regulars once again, are superb with Pallette typically stealing the show with his idiotic bluster. On that front a failed attempt at signing a paper is easily the highlight of the film with Menjou showing a slightly different side to his typical type of comedic performance. Oh yeah and Sinatra's here, but you wouldn't know that if his face wasn't on the box. He's barely more than a plot device and excuse for a romantic subplot, but fortunately he does it with pizazz.

The Three Musketeers
A bland film made bad by what came before and after it. I think I would have given this turgid adaptation a pass if it weren't for TCM showing Lester's adaptation before it and Lee's after. This buffoonish film is basically everything wrong with the studio era wrapped into one two hour sitting. Had it not been for a late into the film performance by a less cartoonish than wanted Vincent Price I'd have no compliment beyond the averageness of this whole affair to give. Speaking of performances Gene Kelly has never been worse. He's absolutely bored and seems to be taking the Brando tactic of adding as many weird tics to his performance as possible to stay occupied. Maybe if he had been cast as Athos instead of the odd looking Van Heflin (I should bring up Young and Coote, but they are given no character) this would work, but as D'Artagan bah. Of course as written he's too sloppy and talented to be believed even in the world of Hollywood.

This is where the immediate comparisons with the other films really hurts this one as it's obvious what could have been better. The fight scenes in particular are dead air. On this point it would be unfair to compare with the Lester version as it's such a radically different philosophy so I'll go to the Lee. In both cases there's the Flynning and grace as an essential component. It's Hollywood swordplay, but with the earlier film there's a roughness that makes you forget that everything is carefully coordinated ballet. It succeeds in trickery which is the only way the scenes can work. There's also a little bit of playfulness like they know the bullshit. It's not emptily playing for tension when it can't achieve it.

The colour also kills the presentation. Not because colour itself is bad for the story so much as they rub it into our faces that this is colour is the strangest most willey-nilley fashion. This isn't like a Suzuki films where it blasts you, but there's a method to the madness. No, it's random and makes no sense in context. Why would these three have such different uniforms from the rest let alone such bright and overdone ones. Definitely not one to bother with.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#288 Post by swo17 » Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:32 pm

Two films that will be on TCM this Wednesday, Oct 19th, that to my knowledge are only available with lackluster transfers, so it might be worth seeing how the broadcast transfers fare:

Hollow Triumph (aka The Scar)
Reign of Terror (aka The Black Book)

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#289 Post by Murdoch » Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:50 pm

swo17 wrote:Hollow Triumph (aka The Scar)
This is a strong contender for me, and made the upper half of my Noir list. B-noir at its best.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#290 Post by Yojimbo » Sun Oct 16, 2011 4:53 pm

swo17 wrote:Two films that will be on TCM this Wednesday, Oct 19th, that to my knowledge are only available with lackluster transfers, so it might be worth seeing how the broadcast transfers fare:

Hollow Triumph (aka The Scar)
Reign of Terror (aka The Black Book)
I was considering buying a DVD of Reign of Terror until I saw the customer reviews on Amazon. Hopefully this will get a restored DVD release soon, as I enjoyed Mann's other historical 'noir', 'The Tall Target', although I wouldn't quite rank it of the quality of his best contemporary noirs.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#291 Post by Titus » Sun Oct 16, 2011 5:05 pm

swo17 wrote:Two films that will be on TCM this Wednesday, Oct 19th, that to my knowledge are only available with lackluster transfers, so it might be worth seeing how the broadcast transfers fare:

Hollow Triumph (aka The Scar)
Reign of Terror (aka The Black Book)
They've broadcast Reign of Terror several times in the last few years, and the transfer is a beauty -- far better than any of the DVDs. I believe Sony is sitting on this print.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#292 Post by Yojimbo » Sun Oct 16, 2011 5:09 pm

Titus wrote:
swo17 wrote:Two films that will be on TCM this Wednesday, Oct 19th, that to my knowledge are only available with lackluster transfers, so it might be worth seeing how the broadcast transfers fare:

Hollow Triumph (aka The Scar)
Reign of Terror (aka The Black Book)
They've broadcast Reign of Terror several times in the last few years, and the transfer is a beauty -- far better than any of the DVDs. I believe Sony is sitting on this print.
I'm in a TCM UK region; although the quality of their films is improving, I wouldn't expect to see this show up anytime soon, although I remain hopeful

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#293 Post by tarpilot » Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:23 pm

Murdoch wrote:
swo17 wrote:Hollow Triumph (aka The Scar)
This is a strong contender for me, and made the upper half of my Noir list. B-noir at its best.
Co-signed. Some of Alton's best work and one of the great noir endings.

And Reign of Terror will definitely be making my list.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#294 Post by knives » Tue Oct 18, 2011 2:15 am

I don't quite understand the history behind Corvette K-225, but I'm glad that confusion got me to seek it out. It's hard to talk in depth of the film since it is such a straightforward simple little tale, but it's ability to push beyond whatever propaganda was initially intended to give a complex and emotionally intelligent view of the losses caused by war instantly takes it near the top of my list. The core relationship is so perfectly sown together with absolutely startling performances that I never knew what to expect. Surely some of this was my low expectations going in, but all the same I feel confident in claiming this as the best war film from the war.

The real shocker here and what best sells and enriches the emotions of the story is the subtle pieces to the lead performances. This is really Scott's Red River showing a level of performance that he had never reached before or after. He presents a conflicted person who doesn't allow that conflict to get in the way of his work. I'm not typically one to use realism as a point of compliment, but in this case that realism benefits the film to an immeasurable degree.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#295 Post by Tommaso » Wed Oct 19, 2011 4:11 pm

To come back to something mentioned a while ago.
Cold Bishop wrote:Spotlight #2: Le Main du diable (Maurice Tourneur, 1943)
Well, many thanks for this recommendation, I found this film pretty amazing, too. Cold Bishop has perfectly described its merits already in his post about the film, and I have nothing to add apart from saying that I was totally captivated, and that the older Tourneur really showed the younger one how to make a horror film without falling into any genre clichés. This may have some superficial resemblances to the Universal films, especially in the frame story, and the idea of selling the devilish gift at a cheaper price had already been developed very nicely and atmospherically in Heinz Hilpert's "Liebe, Tod und Teufel" (1934), but if it's based on a Nerval story, probably both films have their source or sources. But the acting and the cinematography are great, and the paranoid feeling that hangs over all of it makes this a true stand-out indeed. Highly recommended from me, too.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#296 Post by Mr Sausage » Wed Oct 19, 2011 4:50 pm

There is nothing of substance I can add that hasn't already been said by Cold Bishop and now Tommaso, but I have to echo their high recommendations of Le Main du diable. Despite having that atmosphere common to fables of being an old and well known story, it actually finds a number of ways to avoid being predictable. You know where the story's going, but are often surprised at how it gets there.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#297 Post by Cold Bishop » Wed Oct 19, 2011 7:10 pm

And once again, I extend my help to anyone who needs help tracking the film down.

One side-effect of me not participating in the 30s project is I didn't get to shill for my favorite Tourneur of that decade: Justin de Marseille, his stab at the French Gangster film. It's an entry that could and should be slipped alongside Siodmak's Tumultes and Duvivier's Pépé le Moko as high examples of that genre's Gallic tradition. But that's in the past.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#298 Post by swo17 » Thu Oct 20, 2011 12:36 pm

The Unseen Cinema set doesn't contain too many films eligible for this project (it only goes through 1941) but there are at least a couple of great ones:

Moods of the Sea (Vorkapich & Hoffman) (Disc 3)
Somewhere between Fischinger's animated synchronizations of image and sound, and studies of water like H2O or Regen lies this really beautiful exercise in shot composition and editing, set to an overture by Mendelssohn. The footage seems to be loosely edited so that the motion of waves against a rock wall or a serene beach roughly coincides with the ebb and flow of the music, not in a gimmicky way, but enough to make the pitter patter of droplets from a receding wave seem impeccably timed, or to add an air of majesty to the choreography of seagulls. Here's a YouTube link as well, but you should really see this on disc if possible, on the largest screen you've got.

"Sredni Vashtar" by Saki (David Bradley) (Disc 4)
Walks a fine line between competency and amateurism, and this is the perfect source material on which to take such an approach. This is pretty deliciously evil, aided in great part by the shadowy yet vivid imagery and choices like having the male narrator voice all of the (mostly female) character's parts. YouTube link.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#299 Post by knives » Sat Oct 22, 2011 7:19 pm

I haven't check to see yet if they have English subtitles on all or any of their videos, but it appears that a Czech company has placed many of their films on youtube with a significant portion applicable to this list the most notable of which being Zeman's Inspirace.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#300 Post by knives » Mon Oct 24, 2011 4:04 am

Arsenic and Old Lace
Ugg, I usually love Massey, but he's absolutely awful here. Every frame of the movie makes it clear that the play was superior and if not for a wonderful performance by Lorre I'd say this was entirely worthless. It's easily the worst feature that Capra ever did. I won't even bother talking about the other lackluster performances. Just watch The Boogie Man Will Get You instead.

Quai des Orfevres
Likewise this isn't the best film I've seen from Clouzot, but it's still pretty damn good. I think I like best what may also be tampering my initial excitement for it and that's how it heads in one direction before steamrolling into an other. It needs that earlier poor man's Renoir section for the more typical section to pack as much of a punch as it does. It's just sad that it had to be done so poorly. Okay maybe poorly isn't right and I guarantee that I'll like it dramatically more on second viewing, but as a first viewing that beginning section before it goes into noir mode needs some tightening and momentum.

It Happened in Brooklyn
If you play a drinking game with this movie and the word Brooklyn you will die. Also Jimmy Durante tap dancing = awesome, little kid tap dancing = hilarious.

My Name is Julia Ross
Easily the best Lewis film I've seen with truly menacing performances and an ability to get into a delirious mind only matched by Lang's Secret Beyond the Door.... The Dame's never been better and the performance is made all the better by just how petty it is. Definitely one to check out before the list is over.

Cry of the Werewolf
Absolutely a Cat People rip off, but a damn good one. Actually between this and the above I'm beginning to think that Wallace MacDonald should be considered the king of the Columbia Bs and not Katzman who never did work this good. The plot's a tad incoherent, but the mood is set perfectly and it's a tad ingenious how they use Foch's then weaknesses to the film's benefit. The only real false note is a flat performance by Stephan Crane who didn't seem to last long in movies anyway.

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