1940s List Discussion and Suggestions (Lists Project Vol. 3)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#76 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:59 pm

Murdoch wrote:I know this is heresy to say, but I'm making my way through the Val Lewton box and outside of I Walked With a Zombie the films have been letdowns, especially Cat People. Despite the gorgeous productions and some brilliant isolated sequences - the chanting figures walking while the murderer is apprehended in Leopard Man, the silent sequence in Isle of the Dead - the films as wholes have failed to captivate me and they feel more like a series of beautifully filmed sequences whose parts are greater than what they add up to. I'm not saying this to incite backlash or to bait its ardent admirers, because I really want to like these films, but mainly to read Lewton's admirers on the board wax poetic on him (I read Cold Bishop's post on The Seventh Victim in the noir thread, which was very insightful even though I have yet to watch the film). Although after watching half of his oeuvre I think I just have to settle with he's not for me.
If you haven't watched Curse of the Cat People, it's worth a shot even if you didn't like Cat People- there's a narrative connection, as some of the same characters appear in both, but it's an almost entirely different movie in form, genre, and approach. It actually reminds me a bit of Guillermo del Toro's work, particularly Pan's Labyrinth and The Devil's Backbone- it uses fantastic elements to illustrate both how the world appears to a lonely child and the dangers of trying to force an imaginative child into conformity. It's a really lovely movie, and if Lewton's atmospheric type of suspense doesn't work for you it still might.

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domino harvey
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#77 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 10, 2011 9:02 pm

Gregory wrote:I'm in agreement with domino about The Best Years of Our Lives. This is a film every participant should see, and it's OOP, with just a handful of copies left on Amazon Marketplace priced below SRP that are in reasonably good shape, so folks may not want to hesitate on this one. The old HBO DVD was better, but that's long OOP. Netflix (or your local library) is another option, needless to say.
MoviesUnlumited has a few new copies in stock for MSRP, I got one a few months ago from them and can vouch for it (it even came with a nice o-ring)

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Murdoch
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#78 Post by Murdoch » Wed Aug 10, 2011 9:16 pm

Actually, I did like Curse a good deal, I think largely because of the lonely child narrative, but also I think Simon's English-language roles are better when she's used as a physical presence like in Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster or Curse... rather than made a central character given a lot of dialogue, as her line delivery was part of what held me back from liking Cat People. Also,
SpoilerShow
the scene where the woman is about to kill Amy for garnering so much of her mother's attention, but then changes behavior once Amy hugs her I found to both frightening and touching in how the woman is swayed by such a simple gesture. Some may find it sentimental maybe, but I thought it was a really beautiful moment and allowed for a complex display of wildly contrasting emotions.
I think my opinions of the films will change over time as I am warm to their charms, just not completely won over.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#79 Post by knives » Wed Aug 10, 2011 9:24 pm

Since I voted so high for Children in the Wind last round because of it's adorable hell on wheels moppet it would be wrong of me not to vote for Children of the Beehive and it's entire flock. With the possible exception of De Sica I don't think there's a better director of children than Shimizu in the history of the medium. These are absolutely wonderful performances that are shown with the understanding that children give their best performances in a documentary setting. It would not shock me if the kid actors were just told certain actions to do or given certain things to talk about and then let loose to do whatever within those confines.

This goes a long way to making the film possibly the most brutal depiction of post war Japan I've seen on film. It's not brutal in the way A Hen in the Wind is brutal. After all this is Shimizu I'm talking about and his wonderful sense of comedy fills the film preventing misery porn. Instead I mean there's a frankness and casual approach to showing the after effects of the way that because they're never really acknowledged makes them more disturbing and graphic to me. For instance the Fagin like care taker of the children is missing a leg presumably from a bombing, but it's never really referenced. Cripples are just a part of their daily life now. Even existing as an orphan, the one item that comes close to being prodded in the film, is treating with a nonchalance and jaded typicality that runs my blood cold. Maybe I just have Rossellini on the brain at the moment, but the film feels at one with Paisan and now more than ever makes me think that Shimizu is Rossellini's predecessor.

The next bit is more generically Shimizu, but this film lives more on this quality than any other film of his I've seen. This is a movie about showing more than anything else. There's no examining, questioning, or searching to be found. Instead we're presented with a reality, experience it, and hopefully take something away. Either way you cut it though Shimizu is as passive a presence as he can muster. Even to say he's observing these people may be giving him too active a role. It seems more like he found these characters and is presenting them. That's really important as any sort of involvement would be placing a personality or view onto the events and that would render them moot like some sort of crappy social picture. Instead we get as close as movies get to honesty.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#80 Post by matrixschmatrix » Wed Aug 10, 2011 9:39 pm

Murdoch wrote:Actually, I did like Curse a good deal, I think largely because of the lonely child narrative, but also I think Simon's English-language roles are better when she's used as a physical presence like in Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster or Curse... rather than made a central character given a lot of dialogue, as her line delivery was part of what held me back from liking Cat People. Also,
SpoilerShow
the scene where the woman is about to kill Amy for garnering so much of her mother's attention, but then changes behavior once Amy hugs her I found to both frightening and touching in how the woman is swayed by such a simple gesture. Some may find it sentimental maybe, but I thought it was a really beautiful moment and allowed for a complex display of wildly contrasting emotions.
I think my opinions of the films will change over time as I am warm to their charms, just not completely won over.
I think the Lewtons are done sort of a disservice by their reputation- they're movies that work best when they sneak up on you, and if you go in expecting something striking the way Citizen Kane is you're bound to be disappointed. But yeah, that's a really gorgeous moment in Curse- and I think there's a touch of Renoir-esque humanism about a lot of the stuff Lewton produced, where everyone has reasons that they think what they're doing is for the best, and almost nobody is an out and out monster. Which is funny, in nominal horror movies, but it works really well.

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Gregory
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#81 Post by Gregory » Wed Aug 10, 2011 10:01 pm

I'll be voting for Cat People, Curse of the Cat People, and I Walked with a Zombie. And in all three cases, I think it helps a lot of see them multiple times to get a feel for their nuances, of which there is no shortage, especially, I feel, in I Walked with a Zombie. There is simply no other film like it, partly due to how thoroughly it unsettles the viewer's assumptions and "received ideas" about anything in the film. As much could be said for the other two, probably. I know people will have a lot of viewing to do, as always, but these films are so short that I hope those seeing them for the first time will go back and see them a second (etc.) time to see what else emerges.

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Lemdog
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#82 Post by Lemdog » Wed Aug 10, 2011 11:05 pm

A provisional top 10.

1. The Lady Eve
2. Casablanca
3. Stray Dog
4. Jour de fete
5. The Third Man
6. Bicycle Thieves
7. Great Expectations
8. Late Spring
9. The Philadelphia Story
10. The Lady from Shanghai

After sitting on the sidelines for a few years I have decided get involved with the list project, and to use this opportunity to see films that I should have watched many years ago. I appreciate all the lists and films you choose to spotlight.

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#83 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:07 am

Gregory wrote:I'll be voting for Cat People, Curse of the Cat People, and I Walked with a Zombie. And in all three cases, I think it helps a lot of see them multiple times to get a feel for their nuances, of which there is no shortage, especially, I feel, in I Walked with a Zombie. There is simply no other film like it, partly due to how thoroughly it unsettles the viewer's assumptions and "received ideas" about anything in the film. As much could be said for the other two, probably. I know people will have a lot of viewing to do, as always, but these films are so short that I hope those seeing them for the first time will go back and see them a second (etc.) time to see what else emerges.
Am I the only one who thinks The Body Snatcher one of Lewton's best? It doesn't attempt to frighten or creep you out the way most of the others do, yes, but it's deliciously ghoulish, with Karloff's jokey needling of Henry Daniell gaining more and more malice until he becomes the canker at the heart of the picture. Yet Lewton/Wise include these nice little touches to bring out the complexity, such as introducing Grey harmlessly bantering with the sick child (and making his horse bells later figure into her recovery moment), or showing the increasingly pitiful state of his tired body as he enters his hovel.

The best of the Lewton box I'd say are I Walked With a Zombie, Curse of the Cat People, The Body Snatcher, and the Seventh Victim. Bedlam and Cat People are a tier below them, and the remaining, despite their brilliant moments, are unsatisfactory in one way or another. That said, for all its narrative and thematic muddle, Ilse of the Dead has the greatest Walk and the scariest Bus of all of them.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#84 Post by swo17 » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:27 am

Lemdog wrote:1. The Lady Eve
A man after my own heart. Also, welcome to the project!

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#85 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:34 am

Mr Sausage wrote:Am I the only one who thinks The Body Snatcher one of Lewton's best? It doesn't attempt to frighten or creep you out the way most of the others do, yes, but it's deliciously ghoulish, with Karloff's jokey needling of Henry Daniell gaining more and more malice until he becomes the canker at the heart of the picture. Yet Lewton/Wise include these nice little touches to bring out the complexity, such as introducing Grey harmlessly bantering with the sick child (and making his horse bells later figure into her recovery moment), or showing the increasingly pitiful state of his tired body as he enters his hovel.

The best of the Lewton box I'd say are I Walked With a Zombie, Curse of the Cat People, The Body Snatcher, and the Seventh Victim. Bedlam and Cat People are a tier below them, and the remaining, despite their brilliant moments, are unsatisfactory in one way or another. That said, for all its narrative and thematic muddle, Isle of the Dead has the greatest Walk and the scariest Bus of all of them.
I liked The Body Snatcher a lot too, though it has a significantly different tone than most of the rest of Lewton's stuff- it feels in a lot of ways like a self-conscious throwback to 30s horror- the Stevenson connection to Jekyll and Hyde, the casting of Lugosi and Karloff, the general nasty sense of humor, and the questions of how far one is justified in doing evil things in the name of progress all remind me of the Universal stuff, in a good way.

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#86 Post by knives » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:42 am

swo17 wrote:
Lemdog wrote:1. The Lady Eve
A man after my own heart. Also, welcome to the project!
Am I the only one who doesn't like Sturges as director?

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#87 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:50 am

Literally yes.

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YnEoS
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#88 Post by YnEoS » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:00 am

Hoping to participate in this round, I'm much more familiar with the 40s than I am the 30s, so hopefully I'll be able to find the time to keep up with everyone.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#89 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:06 am

Just watched Border Incident- it's sharp, it's willing to be brutal, and while it suffers from the inability to make systematic critiques that seem common to most Code movies (largely because I think that was explicitly part of the code) it does at least seem to have its sympathies in the right places- it refuses to criminalize the men who are willing to break the law to become immigrant laborers, it demonizes the human traffickers, and it makes a spirited defense for the rights of labor (and even sneaks in a reference to that Russian story about the laborers' hands that I can't remember enough of to find on Google.) It also casts an actual Mexican guy as the Mexican cop, which is always nice.

It feels like something of a minor movie, but a really good looking and well made minor movie.

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Cold Bishop
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#90 Post by Cold Bishop » Thu Aug 11, 2011 4:23 am

Do I have something for you! This is a movie that's really grown in my estimation the last few months, growing from a minor Mann to what I feel is actually an equal to T-Men/Raw Deal at this point.

And of course, Reign of Terror is one of those films that should be seen by everyone this project, although it's unfortunate that it's home video situation still has yet to be rectified.

As for Lewton, I consider I Walked With a Zombie, The Seventh Victim and Curse of the Cat People as his three masterpiece, and completely singular (especially for this decade!) in the way they almost bypass conventional narrative and generic forms and become something closer to cinematic symbolist poems. Lewton was perhaps the only American filmmaker making unapologetic art-house films this decade, somehow making the System work for to a degree that no one, save for RKOs brief experiment with Orson Welles, managed (if only, too, for a short while).

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#91 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:06 am

Cold Bishop wrote:Do I have something for you! This is a movie that's really grown in my estimation the last few months, growing from a minor Mann to what I feel is actually an equal to T-Men/Raw Deal at this point.
Wow, great piece, thanks. You (and a listen to the commentary) have convinced me that it's a movie of greater depth than it first appears, though I need actually to watch Raw Deal and T-Men- and give Border Incident some time to settle in- before I can think about it properly.

Of the Mann I've gotten to see so far, the stand out is actually The Furies, with its combination of classical elements and a simultaneous critique and romanticisation of capitalistic individualism, buoyed by some of the best performances I've seen in any Western. There some elements in common between that one and Border- the concern with land owners' treatment of the people under their power, the way Western elements keep creeping into both the imagery and the confrontations, etc. I think, however, that I'm missing the other point of comparison for Mann, his earlier noirs, of which I have yet to see any.

It's also easy, from a modern viewpoint, to forget how shocking some of the turns in it are, how often it strips the viewer of the safety nets they assume they'll be provided with. It's tough enough that it's impossible not to notice the extreme violence- the various things that befall Bearnes alone push it much further than you'd expect from any mainstream studio product- but the way it strips away narrative safety nets is more surprising still- unless, like me, you're watching it with jaundiced eyes.

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tarpilot
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#92 Post by tarpilot » Thu Aug 11, 2011 6:17 am

Three years after my initial viewing, Raw Deal remains one of the true hallmarks of my filmwatching experience. It wasn't my first noir by any means, but it was the one that truly opened me up to all its possibilities and poetry and etc. I also strongly recommend Mann's Two O'Clock Courage; it doesn't really hold a candle to his later masterpieces but the opening shot is a stunner of a long take and it's very well-shot on the whole by Jack MacKenzie, who would also do some nice work in Isle of the Dead, speaking of Lewton.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#93 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Thu Aug 11, 2011 10:48 am

Well she's pretty amazing in Letter from an Unknown Woman.

I think this will be my favourite decade of all. There's a huge amount of stuff I want to see - six months seems hardly enough.
domino harvey wrote:As for Fontaine, I agree she never recaptured the heights of her performance in Rebecca, and indeed that film seems to exploit her own persona for the good of the picture in a way a more guarded, experienced actress wouldn't allow, which is probably why there are diminishing returns as her career continues (though I don't have any problems with her later work, really, it's just not this).

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#94 Post by PillowRock » Thu Aug 11, 2011 11:56 am

Murdoch wrote:I think Simon's English-language roles are better when she's used as a physical presence like in Dieterle's The Devil and Daniel Webster or Curse... rather than made a central character given a lot of dialogue, as her line delivery was part of what held me back from liking Cat People.
I can see that. However, in Cat People that worked for me because the character was an adult immigrant who wasn't supposed to be at ease in English and that linguistic discomfort was a manifestation and a symbol of the Irene's overarching ill-at-ease-ness with life, the universe, and everything.

I also liked Simon in Mademoiselle Fifi. It's a little bit like watching some of the Euro ex-pat actors in the Marseillaise scene of Casablanca. The combination of the film circumstances and the real world circumstances of the time seems to create a stronger emotional connection to the material.

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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#95 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Aug 11, 2011 12:31 pm

I certainly agree with all the comments above, and you cannot go wrong with any of the films in the Lewton set but to be contrary to everyone else I'll say that The Ghost Ship is my pick (The Seventh Victim would be my second choice!), as I do have a soft spot for films where people are misunderstood, mistreated, shunned and variously abused until they eventually prove their correctness at the very last moment, and Ghost Ship is a supreme example of a film in that vein.

(I also can't hold anything against a film in which our ostensible hero is bound and gagged whilst other characters take part in the final, brutal fight scene!)

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#96 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:03 pm

colinr0380 wrote:I certainly agree with all the comments above, and you cannot go wrong with any of the films in the Lewton set but to be contrary to everyone else I'll say that The Ghost Ship is my pick (The Seventh Victim would be my second choice!), as I do have a soft spot for films where people are misunderstood, mistreated, shunned and variously abused until they eventually prove their correctness at the very last moment, and Ghost Ship is a supreme example of a film in that vein.

(I also can't hold anything against a film in which our ostensible hero is bound and gagged whilst other characters take part in the final, brutal fight scene!)
The problem with Ghost Ship, for me anyway, is that it doesn't sustain the trademark Lewton ambiguity. It tips its hand regarding the possible insanity of the captain too early (just less than half-way?). If it had kept the audience guessing longer whether the Captain is totally mad or just unorthodox, the movie would've been one of the very best of the Lewton's given that so much of it is otherwise outstanding, especially the whole bit with the swinging anchor, and of course that fight scene.

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swo17
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#97 Post by swo17 » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:44 pm

If this thread gets anywhere near as long as the last one, it's going to be difficult to remember where to find some of the more comprehensive posts that get made, so I've added a section to the first post (Guides Within This Thread, in the Resources section) that will take you right to the ones that have been made so far. If any of you feel like you've made a "guide" post that I've missed, let me know and I'll add it. And keep 'em coming. Great discussion so far, everyone!

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knives
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#98 Post by knives » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:54 pm

Cold Bishop wrote:Do I have something for you! This is a movie that's really grown in my estimation the last few months, growing from a minor Mann to what I feel is actually an equal to T-Men/Raw Deal at this point.

And of course, Reign of Terror is one of those films that should be seen by everyone this project, although it's unfortunate that it's home video situation still has yet to be rectified.
I'd also like to put in a word for Desperate which might actually be my favorite Mann Noir. It takes his ideas on the destructive nature of masculinity and maxes it out until the concept of macho appears to be the most deadly virus to catch.

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matrixschmatrix
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#99 Post by matrixschmatrix » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:12 pm

I thought of a movie I'd like to spotlight- Die Mörder sind unter uns (The Murderers Are Among Us). It's a deeply impressive movie, one of the few 'rubble films' I've gotten to see that was actually made by Germans. It has a lot of the noirish feel of something like The Third Man, full of heavy shadows and a desolate society where hope is almost extinguished, and it the lead performance has the bombed-out weariness of a man who has seen and done terrible things- but instead of keeping it as subtext, the movie directly addresses the crimes that were committed during the war and the idea that war guilt didn't end when the war did.

The movie conveys the physical degradation of living in Berlin after the war strongly, with all the characters scraping by on what remnant's of pre-war life and clothing and living space they can find- it has at times the anomie of a Fassbinder movie, the sense that these people's emotions have been ground out of them. Its message- of reintegrating the defeated German people by pushing the crimes of the shadows into the daylight- is obviously one that was favorable to the Allied powers, but it doesn't feel externally imposed: the weight of guilt hangs over the movie, the otherworldly ruins becoming almost expressionist representations of what is left of the character's souls, and gives weight to the horrors that need to be redressed.

The movie has a solid release- though, of course, it's unavailable on Netflix- but if possible, I would recommend this boxset, which isn't much more expensive than Murderers by itself if you buy it used and has at least one other really interesting postwar move (I Was Nineteen).

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Mr Sausage
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Re: 1940s List Discussion and Suggestions

#100 Post by Mr Sausage » Thu Aug 11, 2011 3:15 pm

At another member's suggestion, I'm going to try to give a rundown of the horror films of the forties. This is the period where the three major Universal Franchises converge into the grand Monster Mashups of the mid-forties. I'll start with those three strands:

Frankenstein:

Ghost of Frankentein: starts off right where Son left off, with Ygor, apparently still alive, fleeing the castle as the townsfolk attempt to dynamite it. He discovers the monster and takes off to find Frankenstein's other son, played by Sir Cedric Hardwick. This is the first of the series not to star Karloff as the monster. He's played by Lon Chaney jr. instead as a affectless zombie. Lugosi is back as Ygor, but it's clear he's less interested in this one than in Son. It's a quick 60 minute affair, goofy, fun, but inconsequential and probably the least of the Frankenstein movies. Watch it if you're going to watch any of the others, otherwise skip.

Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man: The fifth Frankenstein sequel and the first Wolfman sequel. This is the first Universal monster mashup, and it's deliciously gothic. Whether or not you're going to enjoy this one depends on how much you like the first five minutes, where graverobbers make their way through a misty, crumbling, shadowy graveyard to rob the Talbot family tomb. If the scene fills you with a bit of childish glee, than you'll love the rest; if not, it'll seem like a trifle. It's more a Wolfman sequel (the monster begins his decline into supporting status here), and Lon Chaney jr. is still in top form, wringing his hands and staring fearfully at the moon. Bela Lugosi's performance as the Monster is ruined by studio cuts, which leaves out the fact that he's blind. The final fight is a bit short, but good stuff anyway. Watch it if you liked the Wolfman. The transformation scenes here are outstanding.

House of Frankenstein: full disclosure: when I was 9 I watched this movie every day for two weeks. This one mashes up a bunch of monsters: the big three, Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster, Wolfman, and two others, Mad Scientist and Hunchback. The plot is ridiculous, but the craftsmanship in terms of direction, editing, art direction, make-up, and cinematography is top notch, and it's so briskly plotted that you'll be carried along to the end without realizing it. There are really two reasons to see this movie: Karloff, who gives his best ever Mad Scientist performance outside of Invisible Ray, and even moreso, J. Carroll Naish. Naish plays the hunchback assistant, Daniel, who falls in love with a gypsy girl (who pities him, but likes Larry Talbot more). Naish gives this quiet, mournful, sympathetic performance that kicks this one a level above what it should be. He's the emotional centre of the whole movie and manages to upstage all of the monsters. One of my very favourite films and one that, were I making a List, I'd have to include. I doubt it'll make anyone else's List, but you should see it anyway. Lots of fun with some great performances, especially from the supporting players. It's a great example of the craftsmanship and economy possible even in second tier studio productions.

House of Dracula: basically the same thing as House of Frankenstein, except no Karloff or Naish. It has its charm, but it's no comparison to its predecessor. Basic plot is that Onslow Stevens tries to cure monsters, but ends up becoming evil. Is worth seeing if you want to see the conclusion of the Wolfman storyline. Otherwise, not much to recommend it.


The Wolfman: The best of the forties Universal films. This one kicks off their major forties Franchise, and it's pure class. Lon Chaney returns from America to England after the death of his brother. His alienation from his surroundings and chilly relationship with his father makes it all the more tragic when he's afflicted with Lycanthropy. The performances really make this one: Chaney is pitch perfect as the nice guy whose life spirals into horror. There's some hand-wringing and whining, sure, but otherwise Chaney is very effective at showing the emotional breakdown of a nice man forced to commit horrendous acts. The supporting roles are outstanding, with Claude Rains playing the aloof father, Bela Lugosi the gypsy who turns Larry into The Wolfman, and the always outstanding Maria Ouspenskaya as the gypsy who cares for Larry as she once did her dead son. Must see.

Son of Dracula: The third sequel to Dracula. Dracula comes to Louisiana under the name Alucard. The plot, as tends to happen in these movies, is hokey, and, while Lon Chaney makes for an imposing Dracula physically, his voice is all wrong. The reason to watch this one is the atmospheric direction from Robert Siodmak. There's some justifiably famous scenes, the stand outs being when Dracula glides across the Louisiana swamp on top of his coffin, and when the lead is chased through a cemetary by Dracula in bat form only to be saved by a sudden appearance of the moon in a hollow cross.

The Kharis Mummy Films: Universal never did a sequel to the original Mummy. Instead, they pinched some footage from the Karloff original and made a new series. They are, in order: The Mummy's Hand, The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Curse, The Mummy's Ghost. Honestly, every single one of these is exactly the same. High priest orders underling to wake Kharis and have him shuffle about killing people. They're kind of dull, and Kharis is a boring monster. If you're curious, just watch one (preferably the first, which takes forever to get going and has a lot of bad comedy, but isn't bad when everyone finally gets to the dig site). That said, there is this one brilliant and astonishing moment in the last one where one of the mummified characters from the previous film rises out of the mud of a drained swamp and makes this agonizing and endless stumble through the woods shot entirely in a closely held tracking shot. It's almost worth watching the previous three just for that.

Phantom of the Opera: This is the film that originates the traditional Phantom mask covering the eyes and the plot point about him being mutilated as an adult (here by acid). Claude Rains is perfect as the Phantom, and there's some lively technicolour photography, but the movie tries to be two different things: a horror film and a romantic comedy. The comedic bits with Nelson Eddy and the other gent competing for Christine are lame and drag the picture down. Should have been left out. Still a fairly good adaptation of the story. Worth a view.

The Climax: Karloff's first colour film. It's a retread of the Phantom of the Opera, with Karloff as a mad scientist using hypnosis equipment to make a star of some Opera understudy. Amusing, and has less silly comedic bits, but overall nothing special.

Dr. Cyclops: Essential viewing. Albert Dekker shrinks his colleagues to miniature size and attempts to kill them. Much better than the later Incredible Shrinking Man, not least because it's not so self-serious. The special effects are wild, the colour photography is great; everything just comes together for this one. It's perfect entertainment and one of the period's best horrors. See it.

I'll do more, like Karloff's Columbia films, later.

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