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Full Version: TM2YC's 1001 Movies (Chronological up to page 48/post 480)
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67 years ago...

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Strangers on a Train (1951)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Country: United States
Length: 101 minutes
Type: Thriller

Tennis star and future politician Guy (Farley Granger) meets Bruno (Robert Walker) on a train journey where Bruno appears to joke about doing a sort of murder swap, if Guy will bump off Bruno's disapproving father, Bruno will get Guy's troublesome first wife out of the way. Of course Bruno isn't joking and actually does kill the wife, to Guy's horror. Walker brilliantly dances around the line between charming and friendly and over familiar and creepy. Hitchcock paints Guy's wife as so contemptible that he invites the viewer to forgive her murder. There are many memorable shots including a reflection of a murder in a pair of glasses and a shot of a Tennis crowd, heads moving back and forth except for Bruno's face staring chillingly forward.

'Strangers on a Train' is one of Hitchcock's top thrillers but it does have it's problems. Guy's girlfriend is a flat-line in the way she's written and played. The merry-go-round finale gets a bit silly with the people acting as if it's going 200 miles per hour or something. Masses of screen-time and fuss is put into how and why Guy must get to the fairground fast but in the end his train is delayed, Bruno gets delayed too and he just waits for Guy to arrive anyway. The main problem I had was that I questioned whether Guy deserved to suffer no consequences and to be free to pursue a career at the top of Government after he has covered up for a deranged maniac who has killed once, almost strangled a lady in front of Guy and who has possible plans to kill at least two other people (including Guy's future sister in law). Plus Guy's actions directly contribute to the death of an innocent bystander.

I can't remember what version I've watched in the past but this time it was the "Preview Version". I'm not sure about the differences outside of the final scene, I prefer the comedy bow it puts on the Theatrical Cut.

Another Ealing Studios classic next.
67 years ago...

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The Lavender Hill Mob (1951)
Director: Charles Crichton
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 81 minutes
Type: Comedy, Drama, Heist

The gentle and subtle Ealing comedy style masks what is actually a really tense, expertly paced heist-movie thriller. Alec Guinness and Stanley Holloway play two outwardly respectable and unremarkable old gentlemen who see a chance to commit the biggest robbery in British history and transform their humdrum lives. The tension is sustained throughout as they plan the job, pull it off and try to get away with it as the Police close in. The two main characters are so charming and likeable that you really want them to win. The script has a clever "cake and eat it" way of making the end a crowd-pleasing victory and a censor-pleasing defeat. It's impossible to tire of watching 'The Lavender Hill Mob' and just writing this makes me want to see it again already.

Another James Mason film next.

Well this semi-related clip I found on youtube is pretty f**king random and chuckle worthy:

67 years ago...

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Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (1951)
Director: Albert Lewin
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 122 minutes
Type: Drama

'Pandora and the Flying Dutchman' follows the lives of a group of ex-pats in a sunny Spanish port town. Pandora (Ava Gardner) is the flame to which all the men are drawn. She seems incapable of loving them yet takes an almost sexual pleasure in the power she has over them. One poisons himself, one commits murder and she forces another to destroy his life's work to demonstrate his devotion, in exchange for her hand in marriage. A mysterious Dutch captain arrives played by James Mason and soon attracts Pandora's attention. The Technicolor cinematography (By Jack Cardiff) looks beautiful and the atmosphere is thick with eroticism but I couldn't really sympathise with the characters.

Another John Huston film next.
67 years ago...

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The African Queen (1951)
Director: John Huston
Country: United Kingdom / United States
Length: 105 minutes
Type: Adventure, Comedy, Romance

'The African Queen' is one of those contenders for the title of "a perfect movie", one I loved re-watching. A UK studio Production but with an American Director (John Huston) and two Hollywood A-list stars (It's number 17 on the AFI's Top 100 but isn't included in the BFI Top 100 list). A British Missionary (Katharine Hepburn) and a Canadian steam-boat Captain (Humphrey Bogart) are suddenly flung together behind enemy lines when WWI finally intrudes on their secluded corner of Africa. She is chaste, pious and naive but fiercely determined, he is tough and worldly but rather laissez-faire and fond of the Gin. Almost the entire film is just this odd couple on a little boat learning to get along as they face the perils of the Ulanga River. Jack Cardiff's spectacular Technicolor Cinematography is a riot of golden light and vibrant green, an amazing achievement considering the huge cameras and jungle locations. The rich soundmix, full of the sounds of wildlife along the river feels quite modern and ahead of other 1950s soundtracks. I'm already looking forward to watching this again.

The first film in the book by Robert Bresson next.
67 years ago...

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Diary of a Country Priest (1951)
Director: Robert Bresson
Country: France
Length: 115 minutes
Type: Drama

'Diary of a Country Priest' ('Journal d'un curé de campagne') follows a pale-eyed, inexperienced young Priest as he struggles to communicate with and to help his new parishioners. He is wracked by self-doubt, troubled by a crisis of faith and suffering chronic ill-health. Claude Laydu's performance is effortlessly conveyed through his baleful eyes and haunted face but a constant voice-over also imparts his most secret and troubled thoughts. The Priest's quiff haircut and propensity for doom-laden introspection made this feel like the inspiration for a lost song by The Smiths. Robert Bresson shoots long takes and moves the camera slowly and subtly but always with a narrative purpose. Even to an atheist there is a "je ne sais qua" about this story of quiet faith that I found very moving.

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Another Vincente Minnelli film next.
67 years ago...

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An American in Paris (1951)
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Country: United States
Length: 113 minutes
Type: Musical

'An American in Paris' is very much a "Singin' in the Seine"  Wink trial-run for Gene Kelly's later and greater Musical. There is a riot of colour, effortless looking but highly intricate tap routines and romance in the Parisian air but all these pieces didn't quiet add up for me. I felt Kelly's painter character was mildly chauvinistic and his love interest was a bit drippy, so I didn't care for these two star-crossed lovers the way I was meant to. A couple of the subplots don't tie up in the end due to the last act being given over to a long dance spectacular. The best scene has Concert Pianist Oscar Levant performing a Gershwin dream-sequence in which he plays the orchestra, the conductor and the audience through some clever FX and editing.

The first film in the book starring Elizabeth Taylor next.
Was that some sort of prequel?
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^ Ha!

67 years ago...

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A Place in the Sun (1951)
Director: George Stevens
Country: United States
Length: 122 minutes
Type: Drama

There are touches of 'The Magnificent Ambersons' and Alfred Hitchcock thrillers in 'A Place in the Sun'. Montgomery Clift plays the poor relation of a wealthy family who yearns to reach the glamorous top of high-society and woe a beautiful heiress played by a young Elizabeth Taylor but a factory girl he got pregnant threatens everything. With modern eyes it's difficult to know exactly how I was supposed to feel for the characters and their predicaments. As a viewer, was I supposed to think sex outside of wedlock was just a fact of life, even if 1950s America thought it was immoral, or if I was supposed to be of that same opinion?  The film works as a strong indictment of Capitol-Punishment, showing how the weight of evidence against a person in a murder trial can be so damning and overwhelming that there isn't a judge, or jury in the world that wouldn't convict and yet it's only us the silent and solitary viewer of the death who knows the accused person is innocent. Raymond Burr has a small but standout role as a determined District Attorney over a decade before he played Perry Mason.

A groundbreaking Sci-Fi film next.
67 years ago...

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The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
Director: Robert Wise
Country: United States
Length: 92 minutes
Type: Sci-Fi

This is where all intelligent yet popular Sci-Fi entertainment begins. 'Star Trek', 'E.T.', 'The Twlight Zone/The Outer Limits' etc. Alien Klaatu arrives in Washington, announces that he comes in peace to the crowd and is immediately shot in the shoulder by a trigger happy soldier. After recovering he decides to secretly venture among the people and learn about Earth (specifically 1950s America) and it's violent ways.  Interestingly, just about the only rational people he can find to easily communicate with are a widow and her young son, the "grown up" men all seem to be running around in a panic waving guns everywhere. The story is rooted in then current fears of Atomic annihilation and Communist paranoia but it is also a retelling of the life of Christ for Atheists (take it whichever way you want)... although the MPAA did force one mention of God into the screenplay. The FX still look pretty convincing but the bendy rubber not-at-all-metal Robot costume looks rubbish. Composer Bernard Herrmann had the genius realisation that flying-saucers and Theremins would go together like strawberries and cream.

By the way, there is a level of ironic comment engendered by the sensationalist movie-poster (above) that was probably not intended Big Grin .

Another John Wayne film next.
66 years ago...

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The Quiet Man (1952)
Director: John Ford
Country: United States
Length: 129 minutes
Type: Romantic-Comedy,Drama

'The Quiet Man' is a Romantic-Comedy Drama with the emphasis heavily on the romance. John Wayne plays a stoic but amiable Irish-born American returning to the village of his birth, almost immediately falling for a hot-tempered local girl (Maureen O'Hara), starting an unintentional feud with her brother and generally struggling to fathom the arcane customs of the community. At first these are charmingly and comically old-fashioned but these beliefs get dangerously near to tipping over into unpleasantness on a few occasions. I know this a film portraying 1920s attitudes, made by people with 1950s attitudes but having scenes where our hero threatens the heroine with rape and later drags her 5-miles by her neck, would just not fly unquestioned today.

The doorway shot which was famously referenced in Steven Spielberg's 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' is pitched at such a level of elemental romance, that it's no wonder it's become iconic. I loved the way John Ford shot the flashback sequence in a radically different pre-'Raging Bull' style to the body of the film. The (mostly) location Technicolor photography is so stunning that it's just a shame it often resorts to inferior studio footage. A wide variety of inebriated character actors keep the laughs coming and Victor Young's magical score fills your ears. Not without it's problems but still a crowd pleasing film that put a smile on my face.

What better way to finish the watch than with yet another listen to Steve Earle's 'The Galway Girl' (where the film was partly shot):

The first film in the book by René Clément next.