Friday, March 31, 2017


2016, US, directed by Ron Howard

Seen on an airplane journey, and awful on every level.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


1932, France/Germany, directed by Robert Siodmak

The French-language version of Siodmak's Stürme der Leidenschaft, starring Charles Boyer rather than Emil Jannings. This is very early Siodmak, though it has some of the darkness and melancholy of the American films that brought him to greatest prominence in the 1940s, and it shows that he was already an assured hand with narrative. Visually, it's not overly distinctive, though several brief passages in the final third are more obviously Siodmakian. 

Monday, March 27, 2017


1962, UK, directed by Val Guest

Like Hell is a City, another Val Guest picture, this time a more straightforward procedural, with Jack Warner playing the lead detective (he’s already well advanced in years here – it must have been hard to sell him as an active detective in 1976, at the tail end of Dixon of Dock Green). While the narrative is more straightforward than the earlier film, the action is no less engaging, with a methodical exploration and elimination of leads, and an intriguing depiction of the back-streets of Brighton and surrounds – not quite the seamy side, but also something just a little short of respectability. It’s also very much in the Law & Order mode of police stories, resolutely focused on the professional rather than the personal lives of the cops (they mention offscreen lives but that’s about it). 

Friday, March 24, 2017


2017, US, directed by James Mangold

Sunday, March 19, 2017

It Always Rains On Sunday

1947, UK, directed by Robert Hamer

An atypically downbeat Ealing film, set over the course of the titular day with some brief flashbacks, and centered on a manhunt/criminal back on his home turf. The picture of British domesticity is very carefully and precisely undercut, with the crowded London streets seen to harbor a good deal more than they seem, while the East End’s market-sellers and Jewish businessmen (both legitimate and somewhat less legitimate) get an extended onscreen airing. Unlike in Hell is a City, which I watched immediately before this, there is a certain air of doomed romance, and while some commentators link that atmosphere to pre-war French films, I thought it equated at least as closely with some of the cynicism and sourness of immediate post-war French film.  

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Hell is a City

1960, UK, directed by Val Guest

An excellent, unusual British crime film set in Manchester and centered on a manhunt/man-to-man battle of wits between a criminal back on his home turf and an experienced, hard-bitten detective (Stanley Baker), marred only by a score that is rather intrusive at times. There’s nothing romantic about the criminals here, and indeed there’s a brutality in the depiction of the central crime and its aftermath that I don’t usually associate with the time period. In addition to a wonderful gallery of mostly northern character actors, there are some very fine bits of location business: pubs, backstreets, and moors and, in one extended sequence, wasteland used for a game of coin-tossing of the kind we see some years later in Wake in Fright – oddly enough another film featuring Donald Pleasance. The picture was made with the cooperation of the Manchester police, notable mainly because Baker’s character is less than entirely positive, particularly with respect to his home life. 

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Grand Central Murder

1942, US, directed by S. Sylvan Simon

A very efficient programmer that functions in some ways like an extended Agatha Christie unmasking: after some brisk early business, all of the suspects and several cops are gathered together to unravel a knotty mystery, with the lead detective in competition/collaboration with a wiseguy private dick/possible suspect (Van Heflin). There’s a breezy blend of tones -- murder, family dynamics, running jokes, banter -- that works very well, and the budget stretches to a good deal of location shooting that makes for an atmospheric and unusual backdrop. The camera movement is also quite creative in the cramped room where most of the action takes place, the camera roaming from one person to another as conversations evolve. 


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Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States