Showing posts with label 1948. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1948. Show all posts

13 March 2015

DVD Review - He Walked By Night (1948)

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Film Noir
Simply Home Entertainment
Rating: PG
Alfred L. Werker, Anthony Mann
Cast: Richard Basehart, Scott Brady, Roy Roberts, Whit Bissell, Jack Webb
Release: 16th March 2015
Buy: He Walked By Night [DVD]

He Walked by Night is a fairly standard procedural noir fare but has enough style to move it up a level. It was directed by Alfred L. Werker even though Anthony Mann finished the film. It’s very loosely inspired by the real life Erwin "Machine-Gun" Walker who committed a similar strings of crimes as depicted in the finished film.

Richard Basehart plays the killer Roy Morgan, who in the beginning shoots and kills a police officer. This is after the police officer questions him because he is acting suspicious outside an electronics store. The rest of the film is basically the police trying to find this mystery man.

The film’s big set piece is it’s climax, in an L.A storm drainage system. It’s very similar to the climactic scene in Carol Reed’s masterpiece The Third Man and begs the question, did Graham Greene or Carol Reed see He Walked by Night? It’s very possible. The film’s director of photography was John Alton, who also shot one of the textbook examples of classic noir The Big Combo and numerous others; his use of light and shadow is partly what brings He Walked by Night up from being a fairly standard film to a solid one.

I would certainly not say He Walked by Night would be the best starting point for a budding fan of noir; there are dozens you should see before. Despite my reservations it has a strong lead performance by Basehart who plays a psychopathic killer very well. Overall, the film has a brutal nihilism that many of the best noirs do, but due to the standard of storytelling it misses it’s mark in becoming a classic.


Ian Schultz

15 January 2015

BFI To Release Chinese Masterpeice Spring In A Small Town On DVD

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Regarded as the finest work from the first great era of Chinese filmmaking, Fei Mu’s quiet, piercingly poignant study of adulterous desire and guilt-ridden despair is a remarkable rediscovery, often compared to David Lean’s Brief Encounter. Following its theatrical release last year as part of the BFI’s major season A Century of Chinese Cinema, Spring in a Small Town will be released on DVD by the BFI on 23 February 2014.

China / 1948 / black and white / Mandarin with optional English subtitles / DVD9 / Original aspect ratio 1.33:1 / Dolby Digital 1.0 mono audio
After eight years of marriage to Liyan – once rich but now a shadow of his former self following a long, ruinous war – Yuwen does little except deliver his daily medication. A surprise visit from Liyan’s friend Zhang re-energises the household, but also stirs up dangerously suppressed longings and resentments.

Focusing on people rather than politics, director Fei Mu’s greatest achievement perfectly captures the dilemma of desire raging against loyalty, and sits alongside both the tender family dramas of Japan’s Yasujiro Ozu and the wonderful post-war humanist realist cinema of René Clément, Satyajit Ray and Vittorio De Sica. It has been acknowledged as a formative influence by Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers), Chen Kaige (Farewell My Concubine), Jia Zhangke (Still Life), and Wong Kar-wai (In the Mood for Love).

Fei Mu’s deft use of locations, dissolves and camera movements makes for a fraught, febrile mood of hesitant passion, entrapment and ennui. Cinematically and psychologically sophisticated, Spring in a Small Town has been restored by the China Film Archive as part of the Digital Restoration Project. It is accompanied here by two rare and fascinating films from the BFI National Archive.

Special features
BFI re-release trailer
A Small Town in China (1933, 9 mins): an intimate portrait of community life in an unidentified Chinese town
This is China (1946, 9 mins): a fascinating compilation of scenes showing diversity and disparity in 1940s China
Illustrated booklet with film notes and credits

Fei Mu's Spring In A Small Town will arrive on DVD from BFI on 23rd February, we are hoping to review  so stay tuned and you can pre-orderSpring in a Small Town (DVD) now.

24 October 2013

Red River (1948) Masters Of Cinema Blu-Ray Review

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Release Date:
28th October 2013 (UK)
Eureka! Video
Howard Hawks
Montgomery Clift, John Wayne, Joanne Dru,

Red River is one of the finest classic Hollywood westerns ever made. The jack of all genres Howard Hawks, who also directed the great western Rio Bravo, directs it. John Wayne starred in both; he probably gives his finest performance in Red River.

The film unlike many pre-60s westerns doesn’t have the racial stereotypes that populate the film of let’s say John Ford. That’s not a dig at John Ford who was a mighty fine director in his own right but Hawks was a much more sophisticated director when it came to his subject matter. Orson Welles once perfectly described the different between Hawks and Ford “Hawks is great prose; Ford is poetry". Ford’s films were more about the poetry and mythology of the west while Hawks’ films were based on the true west.

Red River is based on a news article about the first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. It’s set after the end of the American civil war and the South is too poor after loosing the war. Thomas Dunson must lead a group of men including his adopted son Matthew Garth (Montgomery Clift) to move his massive herd of cattle to Missouri.

Dunson is determined to get to Missouri but he is told by many people on the way that the railroad has reach Abilene, Kansas. He instantly dismisses these claims because none of the people have actually seen the railroad. He becomes increasingly merciless in his control over the men and naturally a rebellion starts to grow.

The film is expertly told by Hawks with book passages to fill you in, it moves a very solid pace though out. Hawks after all directed one of the fastest moving films ever made His Girl Friday. The cinematography by Russell B. Harlan is outstanding with stunning point of view shots from inside the carriages. The only real flaw in photography is some of the rear projection is bit dodgy at times; it was clearly shot as pick-up after the location shootss. Harlan also shot To Kill a Mockingbird later in his career along with many films for Hawks like The Thing.

John Wayne’s performance is widely considered one of his finest if not his finest. He was never known for his great acting ability but he gives a fascinating psychological portrayal of a tyrant. The only other performance he gave that comes close would be The Searchers. Red River was only Montgomery Clift’s 2nd film role and was the one that really made him a star and it’s a great performance. Walter Brennan is great as usual; he is really the quintessential character actor of the first half of the 20th century he was literally in everything from Bride of Frankenstein, Swamp Water, Meet John Doe, To Have and Have Not and countless westerns.

The film has some hilarious gay subtext to a modern audience. It’s widely known now that Montgomery Clift was bisexual. The scene that makes the gay subtext very overt is when Cherry Valance (John Ireland) appears and is clearly eying up Matt and they have an exchange involving such lines as “Can I see your gun?” and “Would you like to see mine?” Dunson and Matt’s relationship is also rather suspect especially with the line at the end after a fight between the 2 a woman says “Everybody can see you love each other” There is also barely any women in the film and even they appear and the love interest is basically there just to verbalise the tension between Dunson and Matt.

Red River is possibly the finest western of the Golden age of Hollywood with great performance, expert storytelling, fantastic cinematography and priceless gay subtext. Masters of Cinema has done a very fine Blu-ray release even though a few more bonus features would have been nice.


Ian Schultz