Love Hurts

Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson have a traumatic love affair in Autumn Leaves (1956).

Joan Crawford and Cliff Robertson have a traumatic love affair in Autumn Leaves (1956).

In 1956 directed Robert Aldrich surprised everyone by trying his hand at a “woman’s picture,” a melodramatic soap opera that on the surface appeared to be a complete departure from his previous work which included two westerns (Apache, Vera Cruz), a film noir (Kiss Me Deadly) and a drama (The Big Knife), whose emotional volatility equals the physical violence in the three preceding films.  Continue reading

A Walking Plague Called Sheila

The Killer That Stalked New York (1950)Think of the teeming hub of humanity that is New York City and then imagine a person with a highly contagious and deadly disease wandering among the masses, spreading death and panic. Based on an actual case in 1946 – a smallpox scare in which millions of New Yorkers received free vaccinations – The Killer That Stalked New York (1950) is a fictionalized dramatization of that incident. It stars Evelyn Keyes as Sheila Bennet, a modern day “Typhoid Mary” who contracts smallpox in Cuba while serving as a courier for Matt (Charles Korvin), her no-good musician boyfriend, in a stolen diamond smuggling scheme.

Smallpox vaccine is administered to citizens of New York City in 1947 during an outbreak of the disease

Smallpox vaccine is administered to citizens of New York City in 1947 during an outbreak of the disease

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Marriage as Tragicomedy

Aldo Ray as the groom & Judy Holliday as the bride in The Marrying Kind (1952), directed by George Cukor

Aldo Ray as the groom & Judy Holliday as the bride in The Marrying Kind (1952), directed by George Cukor

Often overlooked among the films George Cukor directed in the fifties, The Marrying Kind (1952) starring Judy Holliday and Aldo Ray might have suffered from the fact that it was not a pure comedy like Pat and Mike (1952) and It Should Happen to You (1954). It is quite unique from anything else that Cukor attempted and it deserves more than the no-frills DVD release that was issued from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment back in 2003. This is one that cries out for a Criterion Collection Blu-Ray upgrade with all of the extra features that celebrate the featured film in context to its time, place and creation. The Marrying Kind is also an intriguing reminder of the career Aldo Ray might have had if other directors had not cast the actor in roles that accented his imposing physical presence over his acting ability.    Continue reading

A Western for Adults

The Hanging TreeUnderrated at the time of its release, The Hanging Tree (1959) is now considered a superior western from the waning years of that popular genre which coincided with the end of the studio era. It is also considered one of Gary Cooper’s best performances from his final decade in film, comparable to his fine work in High Noon (1952) and Man of the West (1958), and a late period achievement for director Delmer Daves (Broken Arrow, 3:10 to Yuma). I was encountered the film at a Saturday matinee in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania when I was seven years old and remember being disturbed by it. This is an adult western. It is not a film for children.  Continue reading

The Neopolitan Trinity

Vittorio De Sica (left), Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni in TOO BAD SHE'S BAD (1955)

Vittorio De Sica (left), Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni in TOO BAD SHE’S BAD (1955)

Often overlooked or dismissed as a minor comic trifle, Peccato che sia una canaglia (English title: Too Bad She’s Bad) has, in recent years, acquired a much more favorable reassessment from film scholars and film buffs due to occasional revivals on Turner Classic Movies and a 2004 DVD release from Ivy Video. It not only has a delightful, rakish charm and evocative on-location filming in Rome but showcases three of the most iconic names in Italian cinema directed by the legendary Alessandro Blasetti, whose career began in the silent era and spanned six decades. Also noteworthy is the fact that the film is based on the short story Il fanatico by Alberto Moravia, the celebrated Italian novelist who saw many of his novels turned into major films – la ciociara became Vittorio De Sica’s Two Women, Il disprezzo became Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt and Il conformista became Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Conformist. Continue reading