September Classic Film Quickie Reviews

This month I managed to watch twenty-four films I had never seen before. Of those, four were foreign classics. Sadly I didn’t love any of this month’s foreign film choices.

Tony Curtis, Janet Lee & Dean Martin
Who Was That Lady (1960)

Several of these films surprised me in a good way including She’s Working Her Way Through College and Without Reservations. Others surprised me in a negative way. I also watched two film adaptations of Tennessee Williams plays. All in all, September was a productive month for me in terms of classic film.

Sealed Cargo(1951) -I really think Dana Andrews deserves more praise than he receives. In this lesser known film he is a fishing boat captain who unintentionally get involved in the war (WWII) effort when he runs across a damaged boat. He finds out the boat’s Danish captain is actually German and that the boat is full of weapons to be stealthily unloaded in Canada. It’s a great little war time film noir without a femme fatale and Andrews as an everyday hero.

A Slightly Pregnant Man (1973) -I thought this French comedy of a man who discovers he is pregnant would be funny. I also thought the fact that Catherine Deneuve and Marcello Mastroianni were involved at the time of shooting would heighten the romantic angle. Sadly, they had absolutely no chemistry on screen and this movie was so dumb and painful to watch I had to fast forward through many scenes.

Blood Alley (1955)- I expected to like this John Wayne and Lauren Bacall pairing better than I did. I think they were both miscast in this tale of a merchant captain and American woman who help an entire village of people escape Communist China. Several scenes actually reminded me of The African Queen, but the comparison was not in Blood Alley’s favor.

My Forbidden Past (1951) -Having just finished a book on Ava Gardner and discovering a new interest in Robert Mitchum, I expected to enjoy this gothic New Orleans tale of a woman seeking to set her ex-lover free from his new wife. Sadly it seemed even longer than its’ seventy minute run time. Still I consider no time wasted when Gardner and/or Mitchum are on screen.

Easy to Love (1953) -Finally! I’ve found an Esther Williams film I really like.  I loved the Everglades setting, the water-skiing numbers and Esther’s gorgeous costumes. Van Johnson plays a believable cad. So much so, that I hate that Esther’s character is in love with him and allows him to manipulate her.

The Priest’s Wife (1970) -I found the premise of a suicidal woman who falls for a priest interesting which is why I watched this one. Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni displayed once again why they make such a memorable onscreen couple. This is the third of their films I’ve seen. I really liked it until the very end. I hated the ending. I don’t mind how it ended, just the way that it did.

Who Was That Lady (1960) -I’ve never heard of this little black and white comedy starring Dean Martin, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. The men are buddies who concoct a story about being FBI agents in order to get Curtis out of trouble with his wife. But then a real FBI agent gets involved as do foreign spies and their lie begins to unravel. I loved the rapport of the three leads not to mention seeing real life spouses Curtis and Leigh playing spouses on screen. One of the final scenes when the men try to sink their submarine is hilarious.

A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) -This is what Raquel at Out of the Past calls one of my Cinema Shame films. This is the first time I’ve seen this classic adaptation of Tennessee Williams story. I’ll confess, that I deliberately put off watching this, because I guessed I would find the subject matter distasteful. And I did. Still I can’t deny the power of this film and its performances by Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh.

She’s Working Her Way Through College (1952) -An unofficial musical remake of The Male Animal. I watched this movie for Ronald Reagan and found myself dazzled instead by Virginia Mayo. Never has she looked more beautiful. And rarely has the color in a film been so vibrant. These things and the music make this a fun and entertaining film, even if it doesn’t quite live up to the original.

And God Created Woman (1956) -Brigitte Bardot’s breakout film left me with mixed feelings. For more of my thoughts, here is my review.

The Man Who Would Be King (1975) -This film has very high reviews on IMDb, which is the main reason I watched it, that and it stars Christopher Plummer, Sean Connery and Michael Caine. Connery and Caine are two former British Army vets who travel to the isolated kingdom of Kafiristan in order to establish leadership and plunder their wealth. Though I found this adventure film interesting, I also thought it was too long. It didn’t quite live up to the reviews I read.

George Washington Slept Here (1942) -The last fifteen minutes or so had me giggling. But I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could have. I found myself exasperated with Ann Sheridan’s character who is constantly making major life decisions without her husband and then expecting him to adjust. Jack Benny is the husband and handled these challenges much better than I would have if in his shoes.

Without Reservations (1946) -This comedy with John Wayne and Claudette Colbert was a lot more fun than I anticipated. I liked Wayne’s friendship with his army buddy played by Don DeFore. I also have discovered that I tend to enjoy road trip movies like this one. I will probably be watching this one again.

The Young Lions (1958) -This WWII film depicting two American soldiers and one German could have been extremely powerful with better editing. It was too long and the transitions between scenes were jumpy. It is still a very moving film however. It is Dean Martin’s first dramatic role and Marlon Brando is interesting as an introspective (blonde) Nazi soldier. But it is Montgomery Clift who just about broke my heart with his performance and his appearance.

The Power and the Prize (1956) -As a drama portraying an ethical quandary in big business, this film featuring Robert Taylor is really compelling. But as a cross-cultural romance it fails to engage my interest.

The Third Day (1965) -George Peppard stars as a man who has lost his memory after a car accident in which his passenger is killed. He must then try to piece together what really happened before being arrested for murder. I find amnesia stories fascinating and this one kept me riveted. I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between this film and a similar event with Ted Kennedy at Chappaquidick.

The Night of the Iguana (1964) -I watched this Tennessee Williams adaptation for the Deborah Kerr blogathon. Though its’ stars give great performances, I found the story distasteful. I’m about ready to give up on Williams altogether. For more, here is my review.

Made in Paris (1966) -An inconsequential little comedy that I watched for Louis Jourdan. Ann-Margaret stars as a fashion buyer. I found her performance lacking, but enjoyed seeing all the costumes displayed in the film.

Up Periscope (1959) -I’m still working my way through James Garner’s films. This one features him as a  navy diver and demolition man. It wasn’t bad, but I’ve seen better WWII submarine films. This one just lacked tension to keep it interesting.

Mountain Justice (1937) -I’m a fan of George Brent, but it is Josephine Hutchinson who really shines in this tale of an Appalachian nurse who is unjustly accused of murder. Her story of service to her community is a great little tale, whose impact is slightly lessened by the totally unrealistic ending.

Blood on the Moon (1948) -Continuing in my newly discovered fascination with Robert Mitchum, I enjoyed his performance in this film noir-western. I also loved Walter Brennan in a small supporting role.

The Loved One (1965) -I watched this one solely for the names attached and the fact it was a comedy. I mean you can’t go wrong with Jonathan Winters, Rod Steiger, Milton Berle and John Gielgud, right? Wrong, so wrong. It was utterly weird, overly long and I hated it. That is two hours of my life I can never get back.

Hiroshima, mon Amour (1959) -I thought the premise of this anti-war, inter-racial romantic drama sounded unique and intriguing. With opening scenes of survivors of the Hiroshima bomb, I expected a powerful message about the cruelty of war. Instead, I had to listen to a French woman bemoan to her Japanese lover who lost his entire family to the bomb, about the trauma of losing her former (German) lover during the war. It was slow, boring and self-indulgent when it could have been sharp, concise and impactful.

The Brass Bottle (1964) -A silly but fun little comedy about a man whose life is turned upside down after accidentally releasing a genie from a bottle. Tony Randall is brilliant as a man who wants nothing to do with his new benefactor. It’s not his best film, but may be one of his best performances.

Have you seen any of these films? Do you agree with my opinions? Which one of these movies am I wrong about?

 

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