About JStafford

I am a writer for The Travel Channel, ArtsATL.com, Burnaway.org and other publications. I am also a film researcher for Turner Classic Movies and a member of the Atlanta Film Critics Circle. This blog is dedicated to overlooked, obscure or underrated movies and other cinema topics that I want to share.

Cagney & Blondell: Made for Each Other

Could there have been a more ideally matched couple from the Warner Bros. stock company than this pair of New York natives with their street-smart ways and attitudes to match? It seems strange that James Cagney and Joan Blondell aren’t usually included in that rarified group of Gable & Harlow or Tracy & Hepburn or Bogart & Bacall or Loy & Powell and others but Blonde Crazy (1931) alone is reason enough to add this duo to the Hollywood leading couples A-list.  Continue reading

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The Legend of Black Tiger

Chartchai Ngamsan stars as Thailand gunslinger Dum aka Black Tiger in the 2000 cult film, Tears of the Black Tiger.

When it first appeared in 2000, Tears of the Black Tiger (aka Fah Talai Jone), became an instant sensation at almost every film festival that programmed the directorial debut of Wisit Sasanatieng. One of the most ambitious productions to ever emerge from the Thai film industry, Tears of the Black Tiger seemed poised for international success upon its original release but got tangled up in distribution troubles and didn’t receive a U.S. theatrical release until seven years later, despite a great reception at the 2001 Seattle International Film Festival.    Continue reading

Gloom and Doom in Snowdonia

After winning the Michael Powell Award for Best British Feature at the 2019 Edinburgh International Film Festival and various other accolades in Europe, William McGregor’s debut feature Gwen is opening in selected theaters across the U.S. this August. Some critics have compared it to Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015), Ben Wheatley’s A Field in England (2013) and other historical dramas with supernatural elements but don’t be misled by those comparisons. The horrors that await Gwen are grounded in reality – sickness, animal deaths, misogyny and grinding poverty.   Continue reading

Follow the Money

In an amoral world where everyone is a liar, cheat, assassin or ruthless opportunist, can there be any heroes? It all comes down to a matter of charisma and underdog appeal in West German director Klaus Lemke’s Negresco – Eine Todliche Affare (1968), which is also known by the far more suggestive title, My Bed is Not for Sleeping. The film is a flashy, colorful babble of swinging sixties cinema that flirts with several genres without committing to any. Is it an espionage thriller? A sexy jet-set romance? A cynical expose of the La Dolce Vita crowd and their pretentious lives?  Continue reading

A Childhood on the Run

Kaim Alizadeh plays a 14 year old orphan on the run from border guards in Afghanistan in Delbaran (2001) from Iranian director Abolfazl Jalili.

Although released in 2001 and greatly admired by many prominent film critics, Delbaran, directed by Iranian filmmaker Abolfazl Jalili, is not nearly as well known as other Iranian prize winners such as Abbas Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us (1999) or Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Kandahar (2001) but deserves to be. The story focuses on Kaim, a fourteen-year-old war orphan trying to survive in a desolate Iranian village near the Afghanistan border. And the film is in the grand tradition of other renowned classics that feature child protagonists caught up in the madness of war such as Rene Clement’s Forbidden Games (1952), Andrei Tarkovsky’s Ivan’s Childhood (1962) and Elem Klimov’s Come and See (1985). The difference is that Delbaran is much more austere and understated than those better known masterworks.

A Russian youth (Aleksey Kravchenko) is captured by German troops in the harrowing WWII drama Come and See (1985), directed by Elem Klimov.

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Irene Dunne in a Sinclair Lewis World

Among the many film adaptations of Sinclair Lewis novels over the years, Ann Vickers (1933) is probably the least known of them all, and, it wasn’t among the most popular or critically acclaimed of Lewis’s novels either. Those would be Main Street (1920), Babbitt (1922), Arrowsmith (1925), Elmer Gantry (1927) and Dodsworth (1929). Yet, Ann Vickers is probably Lewis’s most fully developed female protagonist and the 1933 film version starring Irene Dunne and Walter Huston is a flawed but fascinating movie that provides an apt example of how the work of a great American writer can be completely altered, distorted or softened by Hollywood and the Production Code officials.   Continue reading

The Japanese Sinbad

Most moviegoers know Toshiro Mifune from his long and fruitful association with director Akira Kurosawa, most prominently Rashomon and The Seven Samurai, and a handful of major works from other directors in the Japanese cinema such as Kenji Mizoguchi’s The Life of Oharu (1952) and Hiroshi Inagaki’s Samurai Trilogy. But beyond his many period samurai roles and his more contemporary dramas and noirs (Drunken Angel, Stray Dog, The Bad Sleep Well), Mifune was much more than an international art house darling and award winning actor. He was a popular star and a product of the Japanese studio system just as Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy were creations of the Hollywood studio system. Like those two screen icons, Mifune also had his share of genre programmers and lowbrow general audience entertainments but The Lost World of Sinbad aka Samurai Pirate aka (1963) is one of his more enjoyable and eccentric efforts.   Continue reading