Rear Window (1954)

Friend, blog reader and sometime fellow blogger Harvey nudged me gently last week with a bit of information I hadn’t remembered. August 13th, 2014 was the 115th birth anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock. Was I planning to post something Hitchcock-related to mark the occasion?

And how could I not? Hitchcock – in my opinion, one of the best directors cinema has ever seen, regardless of time and place – is a firm favourite of mine. I’ve reviewed several of his films; in fact, one of the first films I reviewed on this blog (The 39 Steps) dates from Hitchcock’s early British period. I’ve reviewed a hilariously black comedy (The Trouble with Harry); I’ve reviewed classics like Rebecca, and relatively little-known ones (among those not Hitchcock aficionados, I hasten to add) like Strangers on a Train or Lifeboat.

Time (and occasion) therefore, I concluded, to review one of my favourite of Hitchcock’s colour films, in the classic suspense mould. Rear Window, about a photographer stuck in his tiny apartment with a broken leg…

James Stewart as LB Jefferies 'Jeff' in Rear Window

Continue reading

Lilies of the Field (1963)

And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

-Matthew 6: 28-29, King James Version

I am very familiar with this passage from the Bible (part of the Sermon on the Mount, this passage is part of one of my favourites—a beautiful little piece of scripture on how futile it is to worry), but when I first heard of the name of this film, the relevance of its title didn’t strike me. When I started watching it, I realized: yes, the lilies of the field are impermanent, evanescent, depending on no-one and yet not even doing anything very visible to keep themselves alive. But they—like all the flowers of this world, especially the wild ones, with no-one to care for them—are amongst the most beautiful of God’s creations.

Not an exact parallel with the protagonists of this heart-warming and sweet little tale, but close. And with some subtly-put messages about being content with one’s lot, yet pushing on, working hard.

Sidney Poitier and Lilia Skala in Lilies of the Field Continue reading

Only the Valiant (1951)

Someone once told me “I don’t watch Westerns and war movies. Too much blood and gore, too little character development, and no message to take home. Nothing but guts and glory.”

True, if (and this is a very big, very emphatic if) the only war films or Westerns you’ve ever seen are the straightforward action types (and even among those, old films tend to be far less gory than their newer counterparts—modern Westerns and war films like The Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, True Grit, etc are, on the whole, far more graphic than their predecessors). But there’s nothing to stop a film—irrespective of genre—from also being well-written, from having good characterisation and character development, and from being something more than a battle of “let’s see who’s braver”. Some of the best films—in fact, even the films that I’ve found affirming virtues like humanity, peace, equality, and so on—I’ve seen have been war films or Westerns: Paths of Glory, La Grande Guerra, The Searchers

My point being, there are films out there that may seem, at first glance, deceptively run-of-the-mill genre film. Then, at closer inspection, they turn out to be something more.

Gregory Peck in Only the Valiant Continue reading

Alexander’s Ragtime Band (1938)

The other day, scrolling through previous posts, I realised I hadn’t reviewed any Hollywood films for a while (to be honest, I’ve not even watched many Hollywood films over the past couple of months). I also realised that it’s been ages since I watched any films starring Tyrone Power, one of my favourite Hollywood actors. Time to amend that, I decided. So I got out a Power film I hadn’t watched before. An Irving Berlin production, replete with good songs and plenty of Ty candy.

Tyrone Power and Alice Faye in Alexander's Ragtime Band Continue reading

The Egyptian (1954)

…and it’s a historical, again!

Frequent visitors to this blog would probably by now have realised that I have a weakness for history and historical films.  Give me a sword and sandals epic, a Mughal extravaganza, or just about any film set in the ancient, medieval, or even early modern world, and I’m happy. Even happier when it’s a somewhat unusual setting. And more when the film maker has spent two years researching the film.

The Egyptian is set in the Egypt of 3,300 years ago. The main story plays out as a flashback, the memories of old Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom), who looks back on his life.

Edmund Purdom with Michael Wilding in The Egyptian Continue reading

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Merry Christmas!
Aka Indiscretion, which doesn’t sound quite so Christmassy (in fact, it sounds rather more like a Hitchcock film) but describes this one better. Because this film, while it is about an eventful Christmas in Connecticut, is more about an indiscreet little bunch of lies, and the amount of hot water they land their perpetrators in.

Christmas in Connecticut (aka Indiscretion), 1945 Continue reading

In Memoriam: Eleanor Parker (June 26, 1922- December 9, 2013)

On my laptop, I have a bunch of wallpapers of some of my favourite actors and actresses. Every now and then, depending upon whose films I’ve been watching—and therefore, who’s my current favourite—the wallpaper changes (right now, in anticipation of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, it’s Richard Armitage). For a short time, the wallpaper had been one of Eleanor Parker.

Eleanor Parker in The Sound of Music Continue reading

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

The other day, someone commented on my long-ago list of ten favourite Robert Mitchum roles. It reminded me that I hadn’t watched a Mitchum film in a long, long time (unpardonable, considering he’s one of my favourite actors). And, since Mitchum’s role as the chilling Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter is one of the landmark roles of his career—well, it did seem appropriate to review the film.

Robert Mitchum as Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter Continue reading

12 Angry Men (1957)

I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve recommended this film to me. Sabrina Mathew’s blog was where I first read a review of 12 Angry Men (and a comparison to Ek Ruka Hua Faisla, which I’d seen ages back). Anu reviewed this film on her blog, too, and blog reader oldfilmbuff recommended it to me. So: Sabrina, Anu, oldfilmbuff: this one’s for you. Thank you for telling me about this one.

A tense scene from 12 Angry Men Continue reading

Charly (1968)

This was not the film I’d been intending to review this weekend.

The film I’d meant to watch was, instead, quite a different one: a Viking/King Arthur historical, the Robert Wagner-Janet Leigh-Debra Paget starrer Prince Valiant (1954). Why, then, am I reviewing this film, which has nothing to do with Vikings or history? Simply because Prince Valiant turned out to be—as a blog reader had so succinctly described The Long Ships in a comment—a ghanta film. (ghanta, for those not familiar with this particular usage of the Hindi word, refers to something cheesy, inferior, and generally avoidable).

Besides the fact that it consisted of slightly pointless (not to mention extended) violence and some very predictable romance, Prince Valiant had Robert Wagner looking like a masculine Amelie, which really put me off. To recover, I decided to watch Charly instead.

Cliff Robertson in and as Charly Continue reading