Corridors of Blood (1958)

Corridors of Bloodcorridors-poster
Directed by Robert Day
Written by Jean Scott Rogers
1959/UK
Amalgamated Productions/Producers Associates
First viewing/Netflix rental

Resurrection Joe: He died peaceful, governor.

Boris Karloff brings class to a late role.  This is also notable for co-starring two famous Frankenstein monsters, Karloff and Christopher Lee.

It is 1840 and London is mired in Dickensian squalor.  Dr. Bolton (Karloff) is a famous surgeon, altruist, and researchers.  His most valued asset is the speed with which he can finish his operations.  This is because his patients must be strapped down and held by several strong men due to the excruciating pain involved.  In the evenings, Bolton experiments with various gases he believes may become useful as anesthetics.  Unfortunately, all of his experiments are performed on himself.

Bolton also spends one day a week attending to charity patients.  He gets called out to a bawdy house called Seven Inns and tricked into signing a death certificate.  Resurrection Joe (Lee) had previously dispatched the patient and does a thriving business selling corpses for dissection.

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Bolton finally thinks he is ready to demonstrate a pain-free procedure using nitrous oxide. His patient goes berserk in the operating theater and his reputation is badly damaged. Undeterred, Bolton starts experimenting with stronger and stronger mixtures, now containing opiates,  His concoctions send him into dreamlike states that always seem to lead him back to the Seven Inns.  Worse, he becomes an addict and his hands aren’t as steady as they once were.

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This has a little bit of everything – gruesome surgeries, mad scientists, body snatchers, and Jeckyll and Hyde.  It was filmed on the MGM lot and the production values are quite good.  Lee is interesting as the affable, soft-spoken villain.  Karloff had this well-intentioned but ultimately doomed scientist nailed by his 69th year.

IMDb had this listed as 1959 when i put it on my list.  Now it is shown by most sources as being a 1959 film.  The Criterion Collection DVD has an interesting commentary by the producer and a horror film expert.

Trailer

1958 Recap and Ten Favorites

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I have now seen 92 films that were released in 1958.  While the year had its definite pleasures in the mid-range, it was a bit weak at the top end.  I have only two films left over at 9/10 for the also-ran list.  They are The Ballad of Narayama and The Defiant Ones.  The ranking doesn’t mean much except for the top two.  This is the first year in which the majority of films on my list were in living color! A complete list of the films I watched can be found here.

10.  Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – directed by Elia Kazan

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9.  Gigi – directed by Vincente Minnelli

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8.  Equinox Flower – directed by Yasujiro Ozu

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7.  The Music Room – directed by Satyajit Ray

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6.  Ashes and Diamonds – directed by Andrzej Wajda

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5.  Damn Yankees! – directed by George Abbott and Stanley Donen

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4.  Elevator to the Gallows – directed by Louis Malle

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3.  Vertigo – directed by Alfred Hitchcock

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2.  Mon Oncle – directed by Jacques Tati

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  1.  Touch of Evil – directed by Orson Welles

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The Chase (1958)

The Chase (aka “Stakeout”; Harikomi)stakeout-poster
Directed by Yoshitaro Nomura
Written by Shinobu Hashimoto; story by Seicho Matsumoto
1958/Japan
Shochiku Ofuna
First viewing/Hulu

What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order. P. D. James

This Japanese film noir starts out very, very slowly but pays off in the end.

Two Tokyo detectives are on the trail of an accomplice to the robbery of a pawnshop and murder of its owner.  They suspect the accomplice will attempt to contact Sadako, an old girlfriend in his home town on the southern island of Kyushu.  They check into an inn across the street from where she lives and proceed to watch her.

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Sadako is now married to a much older widower with three children.  She appears to be the ideal subservient wife, spending all her time cleaning, mending, and shopping.  Her husband gives her only 100 yen a day to buy food.  The younger of the two detectives finds it hard to believe such a boring woman could ever have been involved with a criminal.  They continue their stakeout for almost a week with no action whatsoever.  Eventually the detective begins to pity Sadako.

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This movie begins with a long train ride to Kyushu before the credits even begin to roll.  So it started out with one strike against it.  But gradually you get drawn into somewhat of a comedy in which the innkeepers are suspicious of their guests and the mystery about the woman.  Things build until you care about all the characters and I thought the end was moving.

Trailer (no subtitles)

The Old Man and the Sea (1958)

The Old Man and the Seaold-man-poster
Directed by John Sturges
Written by Peter Viertel from the novel by Ernest Hemingway
1958/USA
Leland Hayward Productions/Warner Bros.
First viewing/Netflix rental

“It is good that we do not have to try to kill the sun or the moon or the stars. It is enough to live on the sea and kill our true brothers.” ― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

The best part was listening to Spencer Tracy’s voice-over of Hemingway’s glorious prose.

The story takes place in a Cuban fishing village and the sea nearby over a period of about four days.  An Old Man has been unable to catch a fish for 84 days running.  He taught a Boy to fish but the Boy’s parents no longer allow him to accompany the Old Man. Nonetheless, the Boy loves him and continues to care for him on land.

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The Old Man is undeterred by his bad luck and sets out exactly as usual.  His luck changes when he hooks a huge marlin.  So begins an epic battle with nature.

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The novel should have been unfilmable.  The key to this movie’s success was the retention of the Old Man’s voice through Tracy’s voice-over.  The story is a brilliant meditation on man’s relationship to the natural world and I enjoyed the film and Tracy’s performance.

Dmitri Tiomkin won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture.  The Old Man and the Sea was nominated in the categories of Best Actor (Tracy) and Best Cinematography, Color.

Trailer

Cairo Station (1958)

Cairo Station (Bab el Hadid)bab-el-hadid-aka-cairo-station-1958
Directed by Youssef Chahine
Written by Mohamed Abu Youssef and Abdel Hai Adib
1958/Egypt
First viewing/YouTube
#349 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

“My fault, my failure, is not in the passions I have, but in my lack of control of them.” ― Jack Kerouac

I didn’t know what to expect but it was not a psycho killer plopped down into the middle of a comedy.

Qinawi is a poor cripple.  A kiosk owner took pity on him and hired him to hawk newspapers.  Qinawi’s infirmity has given an him a foot fetish and an obsession with beautiful girls.  Lately his obsession has fixated on Hanuma, a saucy girl who illegally peddles soft drinks.  She is engaged to a union organizer.

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Hanuma rebuffs all of Qinawi’s many advances and marriage proposals.  Finally, he becomes unglued and hatches a plan to prevent anyone else from having her.

cairostation4The first thing that struck me about this movie was its very odd tone.  It reminded me a lot of a Bollywood film with no singing and much more undress on the part of its ladies.  I was getting ready for an adventure/comedy but after a lot of lighthearted teasing and shenanigans, things get very, very dark.  I was not surprised to learn that this was banned in its native Egypt for twelve years.  I can’t say I was crazy about the film but I won’t forget it any time soon.

Fan (?) Trailer

The Defiant Ones (1958)

The Defiant Onesdefiant-ones-poster
Directed by Stanley Kramer
Written by Nedrick Young and Harold Jacob Smith
1958/USA
Curtleigh Productions/Stanley Kramer Productions
Repeat viewing/My DVD collection
#345 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Law officier: How come they chained a white man to a black?

Sheriff Max Muller: The warden’s got a sense of humor.

Chained prisoners serve as a metaphor for race relations in the United States.  Fortunately, it’s a well-made, well-acted metaphor.

Prisoners are being transferred back to jail from their work on a chain gang.  The police van runs off the road, allowing Johnny ‘Joker’ Jackson (Tony Curtis) and Noah Cullen (Sidney Portier) to escape.  Problem is they are burdened by both their chains and racial animosity and distrust.  They will have to find a way to work together to reach freedom. Meanwhile, the local sheriff (Theodore Bickel) has problems controlling his team, many of whom would just as soon set the Dobermans on the convicts when and if they are found.

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The story follows the adventures of the escapees as they slog through rough terrain.  Will their budding friendship and a little outside help save them?  With Cara Williams as a lonely single mother.

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This could be obvious and just terrible in the wrong hands.  Fortunately, the writing is strong and the direction is taut.  Mostly, though, the film is carried by the outstanding performances of its leads.  Portier and Curtis make their characters much more than symbols of their races.  We are made to root for them while having a nagging suspicion that the Hayes Code will have its way in the end.

The Defiant Ones won the Academy Awards for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Written Directly for the Screen and Best Cinematography, Black-and-White.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Picture; Best Actor (Portier); Best Actor (Curtis); Best Supporting Actor (Bickel); Best Supporting Actress (Williams); Best Director; and Best Film Editing.

Trailer

Hot Spell (1958)

Hot Spellhot-spell-poster-2
Directed by Daniel Mann
Written by James Poe from a novel by Lonnie Coleman
1958/USA
Wallis-Hazen
First viewing/YouTube

I think every family is dysfunctional, and some manage to control it better than others. Viggo Mortensen

This kitchen sink drama is sort of a Dixie-Fried clone of Come Back, Little Sheba.

Alma Duval (Shirley Booth) is engaged in a futile struggle to keep her family intact.  She is caught in a web of delusion about both her family’s rural past and their present situation in New Orleans.  Her husband Jack (Anthony Quinn) feels trapped by Alma’s forced domesticity and spends as much time away from home as possible, lately with his 19-year-old girl friend.  He’s frustrated with his sons as well.  He feuds with the eldest who wants money to get in business on his own and dismisses the younger, gentler, boy.  He seems to be closest to daughter Virginia (Shirley MacLaine) but wants to run her love life.

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Things have gone from bad to worse and Alma’s friend (Eileen Heckart) thinks she needs a total personality overhaul to keep her man.  But Alma can’t be taught to drink, smoke, or toughen up at her age and the time is coming for her to face reality.

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The acting just has to be good with this cast.  Booth had her character honed to a fine edge by this time and it is almost painful to watch her cheerful desperation.  Despite that, the story never really clicked with me.  It seemed derivative and dated.

The Woman Eater (1958)

The Woman Eater (“Womaneater”)woman-eater-poster
Directed by Charles Saunders
Written by Brandon Fleming
1958/UK
Fortress Film Productions Ltd.
First viewing/YouTube

Tanga, the native: You want masta? You come in.

By 1958, George Coulouris was specializing in B movies and TV.  He gives this dreary skid-row British production just a bit of class.

Mad scientist Dr. Moran (Coulouris) goes deep into the Amazon jungle in search of a serum that will bring the the dead to life.  The ritual involves a snake charmer, drums, and a woman-eating plant.  Moran brings the drummer and the plant back to England, where he feeds fresh victims to the plant in hopes of extracting the serum.  Apart from some staid romance, not much else happens.

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The best part is the opening snake charming ritual.  It is downhill from there.  This movie is entirely missable.

Le beau Serge (1958)

Le beau Sergele-beau-serge
Directed by Claude Chabrol
Written by Claude Chabrol
1958/France
Ajym Films/Cooperative Generale du Cinema Francais
First viewing/Hulu

The priest: Who do you think you are? Jesus Christ? What can you do?

François Baillou: I don’t know. That’s why I’m waiting.

A do-gooder gets his comeuppance in Chabrol’s directorial debut.

After success in the big city, Francois returns to his home town to recuperate from a bout of TB.  It is perhaps the last place on earth anyone would look for a cure.  The town is bleak and everyone is in a perpetual rut or worse.  Francois’s friend Serge has become a wretched alcoholic.  Serge’s downfall began when he gave up his studies to marry Yvonne. She was pregnant but the couple lost the child at birth.  Francois becomes obsessed with helping Serge.

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No one seems inclined to cooperate with Francois’s efforts.  To add to his troubles, he begins an affair with Marie, despite being warned off the relationship by everyone who knows her.  All this angst begins take a toll on Francois’s health.

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This is a worthy debut but I felt like the director was sending a message that I just did not get.  Probably it is that no good deed goes unpunished.  Serge certainly went about things without ever understanding exactly what was going on.  Nor did I.  I also did not understand a lot of the use of music in the film.  It is given to portentous dramatic flourishes at the oddest times.

According to IMDb, this is generally considered to be the first film of the French New Wave.    I guess it’s as good a candidate as any.

Trailer – no subtitles

TCM Intro

 

A Night to Remember (1958)

A Night to Remembera_night_to_remember_film_poster
Directed by Roy Ward Baker
Written Eric Ambler from a book by Walter Lord
1958/UK
The Rank Organization
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Dr. O’Laughlin: People first, things second.

Forever the best of the Titanic movies in my book.

This tells the same story as James Cameron’s more famous 1997 Titanic, minus the framing story and the romance.  The character out of dozens we get closest to is Second Officer Charles Herbert Lightoller (Kenneth Moore).

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The film nicely recreates the doomed voyage with beautiful and accurate sets and costumes.  It also covers activities aboard the S.S. Californian, a ship ten miles away which failed to notice any of the Titanic’s distress signals, and aboard the S.S. Carpathian, 50 miles away, which picked up the survivors.

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I liked this even better on my second viewing.  Throughout is that poignant stiff upper lip courage that I find so irresistible.  The special effects are convincing for 1958.  And the absence of the Rose-Jack romance only improves things.  I’m sure many respectable young women had sex with working-class stiffs in 1912 – but not in the back seats of cars parked in the Titanic’s hold!

The DVD contains a very good commentary by a couple of historians.

Trailer