Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TOUCH OF EVIL (1958)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 18 of 50)


A Touch of Evil is Orson Welles's later film noir set on the U. S. Mexico boarder. There may be some plot points that are a little sketchy, but the overall impact of the film is so strong and involving, I didn't care. 

The movie stars Charlton Heston as a Mexican lawman and Janet Leigh as his American wife. But it is Welles himself as Police Captain Hank Quinlan that really steals the show. Quinlan is overweight, drunk, unprincipled and thinks himself above the law when he's on a case. As impressed as we might be with Welles the director, Welles the actor is pretty good too.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Akim Tamiroff. The Russian born Tamiroff was a character actor who played mostly ethnic characters in over a hundred films, including Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville. In Touch of Evil, he plays a Mexican hood named Joe Grandi. But Joe is not nearly as sinister as Quinlan. In fact, he is responsible for a lot of the film's comic relief with his constant losing of his toupee and his inability to control the actions of his underlings.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 17 of 50)


This Orson Welles's late 40's film noir is definitely not his most accessible film. The plot involves Irishman Michael O'Hara (Welles) who falls hard for a tasty blonde who is married to a jealous husband and gets caught up in a game of deception and blackmail. The film is full of plot twists and includes a memorable finale set inside a hall of mirrors of an abandoned amusement park. Orson's wife of the time Rita Hayworth is quite good in an unusual and challenging role for her.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Everett Sloane. Sloane is best know as Kane's worshipful associate Bernstein in Citizen Kane. With that character in mind, it is interesting to see him in The Lady from Shanghai as Hayworth's jealous lawyer husband who grows to detest and tries to set up Michael O' Hara. He plays a brilliant attorney with bad legs and and unfortunately beautiful wife. It's film noir and those dames will always lead to your downfall.
  

Thursday, April 16, 2015

ACE IN THE HOLE (1951)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 16 of 50)



Ace in the Hole is probably the most famous Billy Wilder film that I had never seen before. It is the story of a little news story about a man trapped in a cave that gets blown up by an opportunistic reporter played by Kirk Douglas. And it is dark. And it is seedy. And it is a movie that is so bleak and has such a dearth of unsympathetic characters, I'm surprised that even a director as respected as Wilder got it made! The alternative title of the film was The Big Carnival, which is what the reporter turns this story into it.

Spike Lee commented that Wilder had a crystal ball peering into the future of modern day news coverage and how things are in today's media. It's easy to imagine the plot of this story being played out today each night on The Nancy Grace Show or on various Internet news outlets. Definitely not a feel good movie, but certainly a good one.

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Ray Teal. Ray Teal is one of those guys that I've seen if probably dozens of movies and television shows over the years (Out of 340 IMDB credits!), but I honestly didn't know his name before I saw Ace in the Hole. He is best known for his long run as the sympatheic sheriff on Bonanza. In Ace in the Hole, he plays also plays a sheriff, but this sheriff is crooked, opportunistic and pretty much only cares about being re-elected. It's a real meaty role for Mr. Teal. And I ain't votin' for him for sheriff!



Monday, April 13, 2015

THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (1955)

HOLLYWOOD'S GOLDEN AGE
(Post 15 of 50)


The timing of this film about a junkie trying to go straight is interesting. It would have been impossible to get a film with this subject matter made just a few years before. Yet the fact that they still can't do things like refer to heroin by name, makes the film seem a little antiquated by modern standards. I still think it's a tough little film that did break new ground. It also had those great opening credits by Saul Bass. And Sinatra? I'm a bigger fan of Sinatra the singer than Sinatra the actor, but he probably has his best dramatic role here (At least that I've seen).

And the Elisha Cook Jr. supporting player award goes to…Arnold Stang. Nerdy little Arnold Stang seemed born to be a second banana and provides some well needed laughs to this rather grim film. I know him best as the voice from one of my favorite childhood cartoons, Top Cat.