Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Innocents (1961)

The Innocents (1961)
Notes: 11/30/10
Creepy. Disturbing imagery
Gets stranger as it goes
Deborah Kerr does a pretty great job.
The sound effects are chilling.
The cinematography is really terrific. Sense of depth in the frame.
So well shot. Some really beautiful shots throughout.

Review: B+
The film's trailer describes it as 'a new and adult motion picture experience.' I'd say the word that sums it up best is 'creepy.' The pacing of the film is rather slow, though Michael Redgrave has one memorable scene that sets this ghost story in motion. The film commands the viewer to surrender to the very mature beauty of Deborah Kerr. The film cannot succeed without her performance and she carries it gracefully. There are a few scenes that may meander a bit (I'm not really a fan of freaky children), but the ghost story elements are so well-directed that it's easy to forget the parts that don't work. The distubing imagery and chilling sound effects really take over in the last half and create a pretty frightening film experience. A major asset is the terrific cinematography by Freddie Francis. There are some beautiful shots in this film and the sense of depth within each frame really adds to enjoyment.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)

Notes: 11/27/10
Trippy opening titles.
Spotty acting. I can't tell if John Kerr is trying too hard or not hard enough.
Vincent Price is just the right level of looney.
The sets and chilling atmosphere offer the most highlights.
Love that shot of the castle on the stormy cliffside.
The exhuming scene is pretty effective.
Barbara Steele is very exotic looking.
The pendulum set piece is fun.
No one will ever enter this room again.” - frightening ending!

Review: B-
Roger Corman creates an effectively creepy atmosphere for his Edgar Allen Poe adaptation. At the center of it all is looney Vincent Price stealing the movie away from everyone. Some chilling sets and fun scares help the viewer along, despite John Kerr's sleepwalking performance and some uninteresting flashbacks. Above all, it's the ending that really makes this movie worth seeing. That final shot will haunt me forever.

Victim (1961)

Notes: 11/27/10
Opening credits are very tense. Basil Dearden did a good job there. Exciting music by Philip Green.
Very frank subject matter. Homosexuality. Blackmail. 
Like with last year's Oscar Wilde, the Brits seem to be one of the more advanced filmmakers in terms of human sexuality.
Not all that involving, but certainly a milestone in queer cinema.

Review: B-
Exciting music, tense direction, and fine work by Dirk Bogarde still fail to make this British crime drama very involving. Despite this, it is the frank depiction of negativity towards homosexuals in 1960s England that makes this film a milestone in queer cinema. Use of the word 'homosexuality' and 'queer' was not very common in films at the time. Bogarde is a handsome leading man done up to look older and aristocratic. His commitment to the role, as well as the film's place in history, make it worth a look.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Ballad of a Soldier (1961)

Notes: 11/7/10
From the beginning, I suspect this will be a tearjerker.
Impressive cinematography.
Interesting Russian point of view of WWII.
Simple story with some very emotional moments.
I can't imagine what it was like to be separated so completely from people.
Devastating in parts.
Thoughtful vignettes about separation, isolation, and reunion.

Review: B+
Thoughtful vignettes about separation, isolation, and reunion set in Russia during WWII. Simple story of a young Russian soldier taking leave from battle is full of some very emotional moments. It's difficult not to relate to the young man as he meets fellow soldiers, a potential love interest, and his mother, with often devastating results. The cinematography is nicely done.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All in a Night's Work (1961)

Notes: 11/6/10
Great supporting cast and fun opening credits with music by Andre Previn.
Introductory shots of Shirley's character is lightly daring with the camera lingering on her ladyparts.
Cliff Robertson! One of my favorites. So cute.
Shirley MacLaine was a very likable leading lady.
Norma Crane is fun as Shirley's friend.
Story is kind of silly and uninteresting.
The cast pretty much makes this movie worth watching. Shirley and Dean in their prime.
Review: C+
Shirley MacLaine and Dean Martin were pretty much at the top of their game when this forgettable little romantic comedy came about. No one ever talks about it anymore, and that not really a surprise. Despite the likable leads, the supporting cast offers the most interesting elements. Good to see Cliff Roberston, even if it's in a lousy 'nice guy' role. Worth skipping in favor of the stars' other 1960-61 efforts.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Babes in Toyland (1961)

Notes: 11/2/10
Colorful Disney version
Shades of original Laurel & Hardy version, including L&H stand-ins.
Songs are OK. Colorful costumes.
Over-the-top, stagey, and not necessarily involving
Fun to see Ray Bolger (The Scarecrow!)
Annette Funicello was kind of pretty.
Ed Wynn and Tommy Kirk add much-needed spark. Fun effects!
Can't tell what I think of Tommy Sands. I think it's the hair that's the problem.
Fine. Nothing really wrong with it, but not a must-see.

Review: C+
Colorful Disney version of the '30s Laurel & Hardy favorite. Much of the movie is a candy-colored bore, except when Ray Bolger is present. It's cool to see him in a role outside The Scarecrow. Ed Wynn and Tommy Kirk also add some much-needed spark, along with some very fun special effects. In all, nothing to complain about, but little to recommend.