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The Judge (1949)
Strangest Story in the Annals of Modern Crime! They killed in different ways!
Drama

A study of an amoral and sleazy defense lawyer who suddenly tries to "go straight" when he finds out that his tart wife is cheating on him; as well as the similarities he has in life with one of his clients.

See Evil, Do Ambitious Evil I usually seek out detective movies from the early 30s because this is before the film narrative found short cuts and experimentation was the norm. After ‘Kane,‘ the narrative stance changed, and while novel forms got more radical, they are harder...


Published February 14, 2024
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Phantom of Chinatown (1940)
A Slight Case Of Murder... Solved by Jimmy Wong!
Director: Phil Rosen
Crime
Mystery
Thriller

In the middle of a pictorial lecture on his recent expedition to the Mongolian Desert, Dr. John Benton,the famous explorer, drinks from the water bottle on his lecture table, collapses and dies. His last words "Eternal Fire" are the only clue Chinese detective Jimmy Wong and Captain Street of the police department have to work on.

Conspiratorial Filmmaking I maintain that some very important conventions were worked out in 30s mysteries. The Charlie Chan series was instrumental in some of these, and this is the last of them. It incidentally has Charlie‘s son as the detective, the first Asian playing the character....


Published February 5, 2024
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Dark Command (1940)
A drama of undying love.
Director: Raoul Walsh
Drama
Romance
Western

When transplanted Texan Bob Seton arrives in Lawrence, Kansas he finds much to like about the place, especially Mary McCloud, daughter of the local banker. Politics is in the air however. It's just prior to the civil war and there is already a sharp division in the Territory as to whether it will remain slave-free. When he gets the opportunity to run for marshal, Seton finds himself running against the respected local schoolteacher, William Cantrell. Not is what it seems however. While acting as the upstanding citizen in public, Cantrell is dangerously ambitious and is prepared to do anything to make his mark, and his fortune, on the Territory. When he loses the race for marshal, he forms a group of raiders who run guns into the territory and rob and terrorize settlers throughout the territory. Eventually donning Confederate uniforms, it is left to Seton and the good citizens of Lawrence to face Cantrell and his raiders in one final clash.

Before the Pattern John Wayne ruined the western for me. The whole idea of the western until Leone was in constant repetition, walking the same route every time so that subtleties could be emphasised. Since everything else was given, we could focus on the smallest things. Real...


Published January 23, 2024
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Black Narcissus (1947)
A story of exquisite yearning in a strange and beautiful land. Towering over the screen ... as the mountains that saw it happen.
Director: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
Drama

A group of Anglican nuns, led by Sister Clodagh, are sent to a mountain in the Himalayas. The climate in the region is hostile and the nuns are housed in an odd old palace. They work to establish a school and a hospital, but slowly their focus shifts. Sister Ruth falls for a government worker, Mr. Dean, and begins to question her vow of celibacy. As Sister Ruth obsesses over Mr. Dean, Sister Clodagh becomes immersed in her own memories of love.

Black and White but Not Red All Over “Red Shoes” is a truly important film, significant enough to be on my short list of films that changed film forever — and to some extent life. It is rich and complex with all sorts of nested realities...


Published January 18, 2024
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Black Magic (1944)
Chan stalks a fiendish murderer!
Director: Phil Rosen
Comedy
Crime
Mystery
Thriller

Chinese detective Charlie Chan solves a murder linked to the occult. This movie had an alternative title: Meeting at Midnight.

Spooked The original intent of the Chan series, I suppose, was to introduce the “oriental” mind to the mystery genre. As with the equally strange notion of Belgian logic with Poirot, we would be charmed by novel synaptic paths. By the time of this film, indeed...


Published January 17, 2024
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The Big Sleep (1946)
The picture they were born for!
Director: Howard Hawks
Crime
Mystery
Romance
Thriller
Drama

Private Investigator Philip Marlowe is hired by wealthy General Sternwood regarding a matter involving his youngest daughter Carmen. Before the complex case is over, Marlowe sees murder, blackmail, deception, and what might be love.

Camera in the Head I’m an enthusiast of film, the kind of film that uses the uniquely cinematic qualities of the medium. From time to time, I see a non-cinematic film which I like. This is one such. By non-cinematic, I mean that the film is not...


Published August 12, 2023
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The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
An unforgettable story of forty gallant years.
Director: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
Drama
Romance
War
Comedy

General Candy, who's overseeing an English squad in 1943, is a veteran leader who doesn't have the respect of the men he's training and is considered out-of-touch with what's needed to win the war. But it wasn't always this way. Flashing back to his early career in the Boer War and World War I, we see a dashing young officer whose life has been shaped by three different women, and by a lasting friendship with a German soldier.

Three Strikes To me, what‘s interesting about this are the many different, completely different ways one can approach it. For most folks, at the time this was made, it dealt with deep national issues of identity and war. For most others fifty years later, this is a...


Published July 27, 2023
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The Big Clock (1948)
The Strangest and Most Savage Manhunt in History!
Director: John Farrow
Crime
Thriller

Stroud, a crime magazine's crusading editor has to post-pone a vacation with his wife, again, when a glamorous blonde is murdered and he is assigned by his publishing boss Janoth to find the killer. As the investigation proceeds to its conclusion, Stroud must try to disrupt his ordinarily brilliant investigative team as they increasingly build evidence (albeit wrong) that he is the killer.

Gears This has a crackerjack beginning: you zoom into a city through a window (common today but rare then) tracking a man going into the inner workings of a giant clock, then we zoom from the inside of the clock top the outside, then focusing on...


Published July 27, 2023
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Bicycle Thieves (1948)
The Prize Picture They Want to Censor!
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Drama

Unemployed Antonio is elated when he finally finds work hanging posters around war-torn Rome. However on his first day, his bicycle—essential to his work—gets stolen. His job is doomed unless he can find the thief. With the help of his son, Antonio combs the city, becoming desperate for justice.

Stolen This is a film about a child, one who is both IN the film and watches it. Hard as it is to imagine today, the world of film was had ideas on the surface, and lively controversies. Men took risks and sometimes survived. Here is an experiment...


Published July 27, 2023
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Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Three wonderful loves in the best picture of the year!
Director: William Wyler
Drama
Romance
War

It's the hope that sustains the spirit of every GI: the dream of the day when he will finally return home. For three WWII veterans, the day has arrived. But for each man, the dream is about to become a nightmare.

Slow Meditation on Observation This treacly story hides some masterful filmmaking. Film is all about observation, except the observed usually contrive to make the observer feel unobtrusive. During this period, intelligent filmmakers were playing with the form so that often films were not only engineered observations but the...


Published July 14, 2023
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