Laura

Laura. 20th Century Fox 1944.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure if I’ve been aware of this movie before it came up in recommendations or not. I seem to be vaguely aware of “Laura” as a title, but I may just be thinking of the song (which I know because Spike Jones exploded it), that turns out to be the theme from the movie with lyrics added.

Vincent Price appears to have a small role, judging by his billing, but he’s the biggest name I can see. The only other name I even recognize on the shortlist is Clifton Webb.

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Murder, He Says

Murder, He Says. Paramount Pictures 1945.
Murder, He Says. Paramount Pictures 1945.

Before watching the movie:

This was a suggestion from a Facebook friend. All I needed was Fred MacMurray or “murder comedy”, but this appears to be both. I actually wasn’t sure when I decided to do this if it was a comedy or a thriller, but I was fairly certain MacMurray never played against type (0r at least in anything dark) in anything but Double Indemnity. So I was fairly certain it’ll be a good time.

I’m a little surprised I don’t already have a tag for Fred MacMurray. I’ve invoked The Happiest Millionaire in a few other blog posts, and he actually appeared via archive footage in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, but in too minor a role to merit getting tagged as a star, and also I didn’t like what the movie did with the clips from Double Indemnity. Thanks to classic Disney films like Happiest Millionaire and The Absent-Minded Professor, as well as the impact Double Indemnity left on me as a young film student, I’ve always felt like MacMurray has had a minor presence here, but this is somehow the first time he’s starred in a review.

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Anchors Aweigh

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Anchors Aweigh. Metro Goldwyn-Meyer 1945.

Before watching the movie:

I only know this movie exists because it famously has a scene where one of the men, probably Gene Kelly, dances with Jerry the cartoon mouse, which must be a fantasy number.

Apparently, this is a musical about falling in love on shore leave. Sinatra and Kelly are friends and shipmates and at least one of them falls in love with a local girl in port. I would be pleasantly surprised if this didn’t make up the bulk of its plot on a love triangle, but I’m just looking forward to some songs about sailors having good clean fun ashore.

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Africa Screams

Africa Screams. Nassour Studios Inc 1949.
Africa Screams. Nassour Studios Inc 1949.

Before watching the movie:

On the one hand, Abbot and Costello. On the other, the theme park version of stereotypical Darkest Africa. Not sure how I’m going to feel about this, but the cartoon native on the poster isn’t helping.

I thought I’d already done an Abbot and Costello, but I was thinking of Laurel and Hardy in The Flying Deuces, so I don’t feel like I’m retreading much here. Even though star vehicle series don’t have continuity, I’m reluctant to revisit duos.

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Brewster’s Millions

Brewster's Millions. Edward Small Productions 1945.
Brewster’s Millions. Edward Small Productions 1945.

Before watching the movie:

I felt like I knew a lot about this movie until I started to try to write about it. What I know is that it was remade as a Richard Pryor vehicle (infamously), and the plot concerns having to spend a lot of money quickly in order to inherit a massive fortune. Apparently this is one in a long line of adaptations of a book, so it must have been very popular.

The name Dennis O’Keefe sounds familiar, and I thought I must have reviewed something else starring him, but I don’t seem to have a tag for him. Also the poster clued me in to the fact that Eddie Anderson, breakout star from the Jack Benny Program, has a role. I think it’s the first time I’ll be encountering him not playing Rochester, though the popularity of that character may mean this one is basically the same under a different name.

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The Philadelphia Story

The Philadelphia Story. Loew's Productions 1940.
The Philadelphia Story. Loew’s Productions 1940.

Before watching the movie:

This is one I thought I’d get to for years and never did, until now. I had access to it for a long time, and then I moved away from it. But now I can see it again, so I am.

I have the impression this is a screwball comedy, but I may be reading too much into it from its superficial similarity to His Girl Friday via the married couple and ex-husband dynamic and the fact that it shares one third of the same stars. Certainly it has more to do with that movie than with Philadelphia. Continue reading

The Pearl of Death

The Pearl of Death. Universal Pictures 1944.
The Pearl of Death. Universal Pictures 1944.

Before watching the movie:

Sherlock Holmes pops up so often here that he has his own genre category. So it was fairly inevitable that I’d get to the series starring Basil Rathbone eventually, even though I haven’t been very up on that version in the past. This is mostly by reputation at this point. Rathbone is considered definitive by some, and by others a poor portrayal that damages subsequent attempts. I have seen one installment before, but not much of it held my attention and my own opinions have changed since then.

At the time, I found the idea of setting the stories contemporary to their WWII production was lazy. The BBC’s current hit, Sherlock, however, has since demonstrated to me how much brilliance can be involved in making that kind of leap, and I should be judging it on the quality of the shift, not on the presence of it. Additionally, I was annoyed that they apparently tied Moriarty to everything, but most other adaptations do that too, and I should be judging it on how much they made that make sense, starting from the basis that a Napoleon of Crime would in fact have his fingers in a lot of crime. Finally, at the time I wasn’t aware that this series has been accused of practically lobotomizing Watson next to Doyle’s character, influencing many subsequent takes.

There’s a delicate balance in reviewing an installment from a film series. I try to avoid sequels that build on events from their predecessors, but this is more of the franchise type, with each individual film standing alone. In fact, it’s practically a television series before the popularization of television, due to the sheer number of films, the turnaround time between each, and the length of each (this one is only 69 minutes, and seems fairly typical). So how did I select which one? I have access to the third volume of the collection and this was the most interesting one in it. It’s based somewhat on The Adventure of the Six Napoleons.

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