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

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Guys and Dolls (1955)
Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Country: United States
Length: 150 minutes
Type: Musical

The chemistry between Marlon Brando's impulsive gambler and Jean Simmons' buttoned up (literally) "Save a Soul Mission" Sergeant (a Salvation Army proxy) is absolutely electric. So the scenes about the 2nd couple, fellow gambler Frank Sinatra and his dancer fiancee (Vivian Blaine) feel like a bit of a distraction. Plus Blaine has a couple of songs unrelated to the plot which could be snipped out and nobody would miss 'em. The verbal jousting between all the characters really snaps with intelligence and humour. I wasn't sure if the "SS" symbols on the black collars of the "Save a Soul" uniforms was an innocent coincidence, or a sly dig at moralisers. The 2.5 hours dragged a little at times but when it was working, I was utterly swept up.

The first Indian film in the book next.
64 years ago...

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Pather Panchali (1955)
Director: Satyajit Ray
Country: India
Length: 125 minutes
Type: Drama

This is the first Indian film in the 1001 book, the first of four by Director Satyajit Ray and the first in his "Apu Trilogy". 'Pather Panchali' ('Song of the Little Road') chronicles the fortunes of a family in reduced circumstances, sheltering in what is left of their crumbling ancestral home. Little Apu and his loving older sister Durga, their stern but caring mother, often absent father and frail elderly aunt. There are touches of 'The Railway Children' about it but it's simply searching for work that keeps the dad away, rather than political intrigue. The performances of the two child actors are astonishingly real and the eyes of Apu are deep pools of emotion. The Cinematography in every shot is gorgeous.

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Famous musician Ravi Shankar provides a beautiful Indian classical-music score. Satyajit Ray sometimes cuts all soundFX, leaving only the intensity of Shankar's Sitar playing, which suddenly gives way in one scene to reveal a cry of anguish from the father... I nearly cried too. Many films since (e.g. 'Godfather III') have used the same sound mixing technique. I'm looking forward to seeing the next two parts of the trilogy.

The 4k restoration by the Academy and Criterion (detailed in this video) is incredible, especially considering the negative was burned in a fire:

Next up, another Spencer Tracy movie.
64 years ago...

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Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Director: John Sturges
Country: United States
Length: 81 minutes
Type: Western, Thriller

Mysterious one-armed, black-clad stranger Spencer Tracy gets off the train at the small and remote desert town of Black Rock. The townsfolk eye him with suspicion because they have a guilty secret to hide and they suspect he knows it. 'Bad Day at Black Rock' is a Western at heart in the 'High Noon' mold but is a tense thriller on the surface. Tracy acts as both protagonist for the audience and antagonist for the other characters. Much of the nail-biting suspense is down to discovering the central secret at the slow pace the script intends, so avoid spoilers. Director John Sturges makes full use of the CinemaScope format to capture the desolate location and to crowd Tracy in the frame with threatening looking men. The cast is packed with quality character actors and the exhilarating aerial photography of the opening credits is worth seeing alone.

A "Docufiction" short next.
64 years ago...

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The Mad Masters (1955)
Director: Jean Rouch
Country: France
Length: 28 minutes
Type: Docufiction

What the f**k did I just watch?!? 'The Mad Masters' ('Les MaƮtres Fous') is a short French film chronicling the "Hauka" movement, Africans who met up to perform a bizarre parodic imitation of Colonial officials. They acted out a sort of play in Pith helmets, featuring trance like dances, copiously dribbling from the chin, the sacrificing and cooking of dogs, waving wooden rifles about and worshiping a painted ant hill. I don't know what to make of it?

The first feature made in Israel next.
63 years ago...

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Hill 24 Doesn't Answer (1955)
Director: Thorold Dickinson
Country: Israel
Length: 101 minutes
Type: War

'Hill 24 Doesn't Answer' ('Giv'a 24 Eina Ona') was the first feature film made in Israel, a war-movie about the founding of the state from the perspective of four soldiers who have different backgrounds and motives for being in the fight. One is a stern British/Irish policeman who is engaged to a beautiful Palestinian-Jewish resistance operative. One is a headstrong Jewish New Yorker who was originally only there for a sight-seeing tour of Jerusalem! One is a jaded but decent soldier who tells of his chance encounter with a former SS Officer. The fourth female soldier is a Polish nurse and Holocaust survivor. The flashback structure is episodic by design, a romance, a midnight raid, a religious revelation and a moral examination. The experience was marred by having to watch a terrible VHS transfer on youtube (see below), with barely legible Hebrew subtitles (thankfully it's 95% in English) because the obscure DVD is out of print and prohibitively expensive.

An Alec Guinness film next... huzzah!
63 years ago...

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The Ladykillers (1955)
Director: Alexander Mackendrick
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 97 minutes
Type: Comedy

'The Ladykillers' is rightly considered one of the very best of the Ealing comedies and once again stars Alec Guinness. I've seen it lots of times but on this re-watch, after having seen 'The Testament of Dr. Mabuse' I noted the similarities between Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse and Guinness' Prof. Marcus. They've both been plotting ingenious criminal schemes from their rooms in a mental asylum. Plus the way Guinness creeps around like Max Schreck's Nosferatu and the twisted angles of the house are also very German expressionism.

Marcus' plan involves his gang renting a room from a respectable old lady on the pretext of rehearsing a string quintet, committing a daring robbery, stashing the money, then getting the innocent dear to unwittingly collect the loot for them, from under the very noses of the police. Unluckily for the gang, they choose Mrs. Wilberforce (Katie Johnson), a dotty Sea Captain's widow who somehow manages to interfere with all their plans purely by accident. The film's title refers to the gang's thoughts of murdering Mrs Wilberforce. A pure classic of macabre humour.

A starring role for Ernest Borgnine next.
The Alec Guinness version is so good, and the Tom Hanks version is so bad.
(08-01-2019, 11:13 AM)asterixsmeagol Wrote: [ -> ]The Alec Guinness version is so good, and the Tom Hanks version is so bad.

Generally that's the view but I have heard some people saying it's an underrated gem. I'm curious to see it one day.
64 years ago...

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Marty (1955)
Director: Delbert Mann
Country: United States
Length: 90 minutes
Type: Drama, Romance

Marty (Ernest Borgnine) is a socially-awkward, kind and lonely middle-aged butcher in a very traditional Italian-American neighborhood. He's almost ready to give up ever finding love and marriage, when he meets a shy woman who seems to like him but his fear of being hurt again gets in the way. Borgnine deservedly got the Oscar for the role, whenever his tough-guy face crumples up in hope and fear your heart bleeds for him (the film also got Best Picture and two other Oscars). The central relationship is much like Rocky and Adrian but without the boxing. I loved all the Italian-American flavour of the neighborhood, especially the old ladies grumbling away in thick New York accents about all the people they know that have died. This is a near perfect heartbreaking and heartwarming film.

At a time when film and television never mixed, Director Delbert Mann unusually based 'Marty' on his own 1953 TV play. The Eureka! blu-ray included it on the bonus features so I gave it a go afterwards. It's about half the length and the sound and video are poor. Some of the supporting cast are the same but Marty is played by Rod Steiger. He physically fits the part and is believable but he's nothing like as powerful and nuanced as Borgnine with the same lines and scenes.

This is such a great scene:

Another Carl Theodor Dreyer film next.
64 years ago...

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Ordet (1955)
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Country: Denmark
Length: 126 minutes
Type: Drama, Religous

'Ordet' ('The Word') concerns a farming family in 20s Denmark, a devout father and his three sons. The eldest has lost his faith, the youngest wishes to marry a girl from another religion and the other is disturbed and believes himself to be Jesus. A couple of problems confront the family and they all have their ideas about God tested and reshaped. Director Carl Theodor Dreyer works in long takes with subtle smooth camera movements, minimal dialogue and sparse sets. The deep felt emotions conveyed by the actors make this 2-hour film (which mostly takes place in one room) a lot less boring than it sounds.

By the way... Kudos to whoever designed the theatrical poster (above) because it looks totally modern.

The first film by Jean-Pierre Melville in the book next.

I found it a bit distracting and unintentionally funny that one of the main characters is basically doing the hilarious high-pitched voice from this popular/famous Danish comedy clip:

It was a little frustrating that many of the film's releases (including the BFI DVD and Amazon Prime stream I watched) use a major spoiler for the cover art and posters:

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