Indiscreet (1958)

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Directed by Stanley Donen
Written by Norman Krasna from a play by him
1958/USA
Warner Bros.
First viewing/Netflix rental

Anna Kalman: I like a man with a glass in his hand.

The best part was watching two beautiful adults fall in love with each other.

Anna Kalman (Ingrid Bergman) is a famous actress on the London stage.  Philip Adams (Cary Grant) is a famous American international economist.  Anna’s brother-in-law wants Philip to take a job with NATO in Paris.  Philip thinks maybe he would prefer to go to Mexico.  Anna and Philip are introduced.  She is clearly smitten at first sight and invites him to go with her to the ballet. He informs her that he is married but separated and can never be divorced.  She is willing to date him under these circumstances and he rapidly decides to stay in Europe.  They fall deliriously in love.

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Later, the lovestruck Anna is informed that Philip has lied to her about his marital status. The third act is devoted to her comic revenge.

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Grant and Bergman retain all the chemistry they had in Notorious.  She is still radiant at age 43 and he is still, well, Cary Grant.  Watching them together makes up for any slightly silly comedy.  Also we get to watch Cary Grant dance!  Recommended for fans of these actors.

Clip – Cary Grant kicks up his heels

The Young Lions (1958)

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Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Written by Edward Anhalt from a novel by Irwin Shaw
1958/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/YouTube rental

Michael Whiteacre: Look, I’ve read all the books. I know that in 10 years we’ll be bosom friends with the Germans and the Japanese. Then I’ll be pretty annoyed that I was killed.

As usual, Marlon Brando is the standout in parallel stories that examine the personal lives of German and American soldiers during WWII.

Brando plays Christian Diestl, a charming German ladies man who works seasonally as a ski instructor in the Austrian Alps.  We are at a party welcoming in the New Year 1939 and Diestl’s current amour is American tourist Margaret Freemantle (Barbara Rush).  She is succumbing to his advances when she sees the New Year’s baby is wearing a swastika. Things get more sinister from there.  Christian himself is not political in the least but he thinks Hitler might be a good thing for Germany.  Margaret is horrified and makes a speedy exit.

The next thing we know it is 1940.  Diestl is now an officer serving in Occupied Paris.  He finds his duty, which is mainly rounding up resisters, distasteful.  His introduction to a French woman eases the pain.  He tries to get transferred to combat duty but is refused. A visit to his commandant’s sexy wife in Berlin does the trick, however.  The war becomes more and more disillusioning and painful for him.

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On parallel tracks, we are introduced to Noah Ackerman (Montgomery Clift), a humble Jew from New York, and Michael Whiteacre (Dean Martin), a hard-drinking nightclub singer.  We see their respective romances with Hope Plowman (Hope Lange) and Margaret Freemantle, the American who spurned Christian earlier in the film.  Both men are drafted. Noah suffers mightily from the anti-Semitism of his captain, sergeant, and fellow GIs but fights back nobly.  Michael manages to get himself transferred to the special service.  But all three of our protagonists end up on the road to Berlin toward the end of the war.

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This movie is two hours and 47 minutes long but kept my interest throughout.  That says something right there.  The story was somewhat cliched but was very well done and Brando, as always, was fascinating to watch.  I thought he did well with his accent and disappeared into his part.

The Young Lions was nominated for Academy Awards in the categories of Best Cinematography, Black-and-White; Best Sound; and Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Trailer

The Crawling Eye (1958)

The Crawling Eye (AKA The Trollenberg Terror)The-Crawling-Eye-1958-672x1024
Directed by Quentin Lawrence
Written by Jimmy Sangster; story by Peter Key
1958/UK
Tempean Films
First viewing/Netflix rental

Philip Truscott: Cute little things, aren’t they?

Alan Brooks: Yeah. I’m gonna throw a bomb at that one. You watch on the screen, see what happens.

Slow pace and a cardboard alien hamper what could be an intriguing premise in this British B feature.

As the movie begins, climbers are rappelling down the face of Trollenberg in the Swiss Alps.  Suddenly one of them falls.  The other two try to save him until one of them sees that his face has been ripped off.

Segue to a train car, where our hero Alan Brooks (Forrest Tucker) is on his way to that a same mountain.  In his compartment are two sister en route to Geneva.  One of them, Anne is irresistibly compelled to get off at Trollenberg.  We find the sisters perform in a mind reading act.  No signals are necessary as Anne actually is telepathic.  She keeps getting terrifying visions of death on the mountain and something seems to be pulling her there.

Alan goes to visit his friend Professor Crevett at his mountain observatory.  Both believe the strange phenomenon Alan observed in the Andes is repeating itself.  Something, which is protecting itself with a cloud and intense cold, is mighty annoyed.

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Don’t come here looking for camp or laughs unless you watch the MST3K version.  Nothing about it grabbed me.

Trailer

Lonelyhearts (1958)

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Directed by Vincent J. Donehue
Written by Dore Schary from the play by Howard Teichmann and the novel by Nathaniel West
1958/USA
Dore Schary Productions
First viewing/YouTube

Fay Doyle: All right, what did you call me up for? Who are you kidding? Listen, you wanted a sad story, you heard a sad story! You also wanted some action!

This had its hits and misses for me.  The acting made it work.

Adam White (Montgomery Clift) is a sensitive and thoroughly decent young man.  He is also very smart and eager to become a writer.  His immediate goal is to get a job as a reporter so he strikes up the acquaintance of Florence Shrike (Myrna Loy), wife of the city editor of a prominent daily, at the local watering hole.  Finally he gets his introduction to William Shrike (Robert Ryan).  Shrike is an embittered cynic.

After they match wits over ginger ale (White) and Scotch (Shrike), Adam gets his job. Unbeknownst to him, Shrike’s main motivation is to torture the young man his wife took an interest in.  Shrike has still not forgiven her for an affair she had 10 years before.

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So Shrike saddles White with responsibility for a new feature, a Miss Lonelyhearts advice column.  The tales of woe in the letters he receives are too much for the young man to bear but Shrike offers no way out.  Finally, White learns some hard lessons about his correspondents and himself.  With Maureen Stapleton’s film debut as one of the letter writers and Delores Hart as White’s fiancee.

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What a treat to see Myrna Loy again!  She gives a heartfelt and subtle performance.  For my money Loy is the best thing about this movie though all the acting was of a high standard.  The problem is with the very wordy script.  There are tons of speeches that ring false and a lot of predictable melodrama.  Nonetheless, I had teared up by the end though I would have preferred to see the story told in the eyes of the great cast.

Maureen Stapleton was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Lonelyhearts.

Clip

The Lovers (1958)

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Directed by Louis Malle
Written by Louise de Velmorin
1958/France
Nouvelles Editions de Films
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

“I know it [obsenity] when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that.” Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197 (1964) (Stewart, J., concurring)

If you look, you will see the birth of the French New Wave.

Jeanne Tournier (Jeanne Moreau) is bored despite her great wealth and social standing.  Her husband Henri, a newspaper publisher, barely tolerates her.  The couple live in a grand chateau in the countryside outside Dijon but Jeanne spends as much time as possible in Paris.  There she carries on an affair with polo player Raoul Flores and gossips with her shallow friend Maggie.  Even this doesn’t satisfy somehow.

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Henri eventually works up enough interest to demand that Jeanne invite Maggie and Raoul for the weekend at their home.  Naturally, Jeanne thinks this is a terrible idea but she complies.  On her way home from Paris, her car breaks down.  Now she is in danger of leaving her friends alone with Henri.

But a passing stranger comes to the rescue.  He’s not too impressed with Jeanne but agrees to drop her off at her home.  Henri invites him to stay the night.  The stranger proves to be the spark that lights Jeanne’s fire.

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This is quite OK and Moreau, as always, is a joy to watch.  Here she goes through several different mood changes and it is amazing to see her appearance change drastically.  The New Wave elements come in most clearly when Jeanne and Raoul go to an amusement park.

Don’t go into this looking for anything even approaching obscenity.  The film is almost anti-erotic until the stranger enters the picture.  Even then there is zero nudity and though the couple go to bed the camera is discreet.  There are some shots of Moreau’s face when her character is clearly enjoying whatever is being done to her off camera.  But it was all apparently too much for Cleveland Heights, Ohio at the time.

Fan trailer – clips set to Brahms

Desire Under the Elms (1958)

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Directed by Delbert Mann
Written by Irwin Shaw from the play by Eugene O’Neill
1958/USA
Don Hartman Productions
First viewing/Amazon Prime

They wa’n’t strong enuf fur that! They reckoned God was easy. They laughed. They don’t laugh no more. Some died hereabouts. Some went West an’ died. They’re all under ground–fur follerin’ arter an easy God. God hain’t easy. (He shakes his head slowly.) An’ I growed hard.  — Eugene O’Neill, Desire Under the Elms

More domestic disfunction in 1958, this time in New England.

Ephraim Cabot (Burl Ives) is a 76-year-old tyrant with a prosperous farm.  He works his three grown sons mercilessly and treats them with contempt.  The youngest, Eben (Anthony Perkins), seems to be the softest but he is secretly filled with steely determination to make all that Ephraim owns his own.  The source of this wealth was his own mother’s dowry.

Ephraim may be hard but he is also lonely.  He sets off to find a wife.  While he is gone, Eben digs up Ephraim’s secret cache of gold and buys up his half-brothers’ share of the farm. They take the money and set off to prospect for gold in California.

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Ephraim comes back with a young Italian wife, Anna (Sophia Loren).  She is just as determined to make the farm hers as Eben is.  After a stormy start, they end up in each other’s arms.  Tragedy ensues.

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This is an O’Neill drama with the gravitas of Greek tragedy and OK in its way.  It hinges, however, on believing the grand passion between Perkins and Loren.  I didn’t buy it for a minute.  Perkins is a fine actor but he is just not cut out to be any kind of romantic lead. Ives was certainly having quite a year!

Desire Under the Elms was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.

Trailer

Endless Desire (1958)

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Directed by Shohei Imamura
Written by Shohei Imamura and Hisachi Yamanouchi from a novel by Shinji Fujiwara
1958/USA
Nikkatsu
First viewing/Hulu

I like to make messy films. — Shohei Imamura

Is this film noir or pitch black comedy?  A bit of both really.

A group of veterans agreed to meet on a certain date to uncover a cache of morphine that had been buried by one of them, a lieutenant Hashimoto.  From the start, things are not as they should be.  Hashimoto’s “sister” and her thug husband tell them that he is dead and insist on joining in the hunt.  Likewise, the band is unable to shake a hanger-on whom nobody recognizes.  Finally, the group is required to hire the owner’s son in order to rent the building from which they plan to dig.  They are under time pressure as the authorities plan to demolish the whole shopping area where the drugs are located.

The hapless team have nothing but trouble en route to the treasure.

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Imamura could have picked up the pace a bit but basically this is an amusing romp.

Trailer (no subtitles)

White Wilderness (1958)

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Directed by James Algar
Written by James Algar
1958/USA
Walt Disney Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant

The prediction that glaciers will be gone from Glacier National Park has been moved up by 10 years to 2020, the same year it’s predicted the Arctic Sea will be ice-free in the summer. — Bill Kurtis

Disney’s faked lemming mass suicide turned out to be murder.  Otherwise, it’s about par for the course for a 50’s Disney nature documentary — that is to say corny but watchable.

The formula has now been set.  We begin with an animated “origins” sequence, follow with scenes illustrating the geology and climate, and end with many scenes of cute animals going about their daily business.

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When I was posted to Finland, I covered Arctic Council meetings and learned to love the extreme North.  This was made in Canada so the fauna is different but I still enjoyed it.

From Wikipedia:  A Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary, Cruel Camera, found the lemmings used for White Wilderness were flown from Hudson Bay to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where they did not jump off the cliff, but were in fact forced off the cliff by the camera crew.  Because of the limited number of lemmings at their disposal, which in any case were the wrong sub-species, the migration scenes were simulated using tight camera angles and a large, snow-covered turntable.

White Wilderness won the Academy Award for Best Documentary, Feature.  It was nominated for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.

Clip –  Lemming exodus

 

Rusty Knife (1958)

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Directed by Toshio Masuda
Written by Shintaro Ishiharo and Toshio Masuda
1958/Japan
Nikkatsu
First viewing/Hulu

“You can get much further with a kind word and a gun then you can with a kind word alone” ~ Al Capone

This is a gritty Japanese noir with more graphic violence that we would have seen on US screens at the time.

The authorities have been unable to pin anything on local crime boss Katsumata so he is loose and creating chaos.  Finally they get an anonymous letter from one of three men who witnessed the murder of a city councilman by Katsumata and his gang.  Katsumata astutely guesses and eliminates the rat.  The other two witnesses were named in the letter and it is a race between the mob and the police as to who will catch up with them first.

One of the witnesses has been trying to go straight after five years in jail for murdering the thug who raped his girlfriend and caused her suicide.  During the course of the story, he learns that he may not have eliminated all the culprits and sets about trying to do so.

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This is solid if not great.  There’s some nice cinematography and a jazzy score.  One wonders how corrupt Japan really was at the time.  It seems to be a recurrent theme.

Trailer (no subtitles)

Dunkirk (1958)

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Directed by Leslie Norman
Written by David Divine and W.P. Lipscomb from a novel by Trevor Dudley Smith and a book by Ewan Butler and J.S. Bradford
1958/UK/USA
Ealing Studios
First viewing/YouTube rental

Merchant Seaman: It may be a phoney war to you, but it’s not to all the blokes at sea. Never has been.

This war history was the kind of excellent “sleeper” I am always hoping for.

This is a dramatization of the events surrounding the evacuation of over 300,000 British and Allied troops from the beaches of Dunkirk.  We follow three different stories.  The briefest is press conferences and official conversations following the fate of the British army.  We also focus on the home front.  Bernard Lee plays a concerned citizen and Richard Attenborough plays a man who is more concerned with his wife and new baby than what he thinks of as a phony war.  Both of these men are boat owners who will have to decide whether to put their vessels on the line.

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The major drama comes from a small group of soldiers who have been separated from their company and must desperately try to cross enemy lines in an attempt to rejoin their comrades.  John Mills is a corporal who must keep them moving.

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This was just my cup of tea.  It is the kind of moving historical drama that the British were so good at.  The story is equal parts action and pathos.  Richard Attenborough is becoming one of my favorite actors but the rest are no slouches either.

Trailer