Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Time Limit (1957)

During the Korean War, a group of solders in POW camp in North Korea watch as one of them is shoot trying to escape. Soon afterward, another soldier (Richard Baseheart) suddenly becomes a mouthpiece of their capture’s communist propaganda. What was his reason? After the war is over, that is what a lawyer, played by Richard Widmark, is trying to find out.
            This solo directorial effort by character actor Karl Malden in an intriguing and sometimes surprising cross between a detective story and semi-courtroom drama. I use the term "semi"because the events of the movie are shown to be leading up to an almost certain court marshal. Therefore, most of the revelations do not take place in a courtroom with numerous persons, but in the small office of Widmark, in intense question and answer sessions.
            This intimacy is one of the films many positive assets. The acting is in top form, if not a little over-the-top (most the cast seems to be trying to give Oscar worthy performances). The dialoge always has your attention, even if it feels that the characters are speaking in monologues, rather than statements, revealing its stage bound origins.
            For the time, this movie refuses to provide easy answers, or even a conventional happy ending. There is no real antagonist, unless you count the North Koreans who imprisoned the solders, glimesed in the opening, as well as in lengthy flashbacks. The soldiers are presented as victims of starvation, cold, and impatience, and just not able (to quote another movie) “to take it anymore”.
            Overall this movie is definitely worth your time. Its plot, acting and passing are above average, and its willingness to look at how man can be reduced to his baser instincts through extreme means prevent it from aging too much (with the exeption of how the female secretary is presented, but that is another story).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Princess O'Rourke (1943)

Once upon a time, there was a Princess. She was living far away from her homeland, in a place called New York City. She was sad, because she felt like she was in a gilded cage. One day, her Uncle decieded to send her to California to cheer her up. But the Princess hated flying, so she ended up taking five sleeping pills to knock herself out. Unfortunately, these pills worked too well, and when the plane had to return to New York City because of weather issues, no one could rouse her from her slumber. Thankfully, a hansome young pilot took her to his apartment to sleep it off. When she awoke, he was not there, but they managed to meet again and fall in love.
            This was a very cute film. All of the performances are very good, especially Olivia De Haveland. She is aloud to show off some comedic gifts which I did not suspect that she possessed. Nowhere is it as obvious than when she is on the plane: continually taking pills, with a slow effect, but suddenly hitting the mark, and she collapses in one of the most graceful ways possible.
            The music can be a bit overbearing, adding light hearted emphasis to every action that is in the most remote way funny. And don’t get me started on the propaganda. After all, this was made during the war, and it does not let us forget it. There are mentions of the air force, women practice badanging a haplace deHaveland, and there is of course, a speech by the hero saying how glad he is to be an American and looing forward to providing a good answer to “What did you do in the war, daddy?”
            Dispite that, I really liked this movie: I wish that it was more widely know. Modern comedies today could take a page  on its timing, as well as inuendos. For example: “Honey, are you lucky I was raised right!” (it makes more sense in context)

5 reasons to see A Woman's Face (1941)

1. Seeing The Awesomeness That Is Conrad Veidt dancing in a Swedish Conga Line.

2. Some very nice B&W cinematography (as you can tell from the pictures)

3. Impressive, yet subtle burn make-up, which comes with Joan Crawford's impressive, memorable performance as disfigured woman-turned-criminal-turned-nanny.

4. Melvyn Douglas' amicable and likable performance as a gifted plastic surgen who so happens  to specialize in burn victims.

5. Conrad Veidt (again). Seriously, who else could make the description of someone else as   "a dove, a tame cowing dove. soft and weak and full of love for her fellow men" sound so sinister?