• The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat

    The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat


    A train arrives at the same angle it would if you were standing on the platform awaiting its arrival. And yet the legends tell us that the first audiences who saw this screamed and cowered for their seats or ran for their lives to the exits. I always wonder how apocryphal many of these stories about early cinema are, by writers eager to exploit the perceived naivete of early audiences for dramatic effect. Maybe it did happen that way. Who knows?

  • Music Makes a City: A Louisville Orchestra Story

    Music Makes a City: A Louisville Orchestra Story


    On the tail end of the Great Depression, Louisville, Kentucky -- a thriving industrial metropolis on the Ohio River -- was inundated by its greatest natural disaster, the Flood of 1937. As the waters cleared and the massive cleanup proceeded the citizens and the elites of the town took stock of what they had and didn't have, and what it might accomplish in the wake of recovery. Despite a varied and robust arts scene the city lacked a proper symphony…

  • Paramount on Parade

    Paramount on Parade

    The studio musical-comedy extravaganzas of 1929-1930 turned out to be a bit of an aberration as things soon got back to normal once the technical kinks were resolved and the poetic fluid techniques of narrative and genre cinema resumed apace. I like these goofy gargantuan messes with people who can't sing and dance thrown alongside people who could; every contract star rustled up in a kind of coming-out party for sound and going-out party for the Roaring Twenties. The highlight…

  • Follow Thru

    Follow Thru

    Another one to add to the playlist of 1930 two-strip Technicolor musical-comedies where the big production number features devils dancing around a giant steaming cauldron. I watched this a couple of months ago and remember nothing about it even though I distinctly remember enjoying it. Nancy Carroll is in color, such as it is.


  • A Christmas Carol

    A Christmas Carol


    Back in the 1970s when I was young there were two versions of Dickens' classic that got played on TV a lot: the Richard Williams animated version and this oldish 1938 adaptation. Consequently, those hold a special place in my memory. The 1938 version began to recede from the media playlist and as I became more familiar with later versions, the classic 1950s version with Alistair Sim and the later color/widescreen musical version with Albert Finney, the old MGM '38…

  • Snowed Under

    Snowed Under


    Falls into the subgenre of Warner Bros. country cottage comedy, wherein New Yorkers exile themselves to Connecticut-or-thereabouts comfy isolated abodes for rom-com farcical hijinks. This one isn't as good or great as The Man Who Came to Dinner or George Washington Slept Here, and even if it does not realize the rich potential of its set-up it still has all the expected strengths of 1930s comedies, adept and fast-talking comedy players, first-rate character actors in support and crack pacing. If…

  • Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

    Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood


    I went into this movie cold. No reading of any reviews in advance. Nor will this review adhere to any kind of rigor. I don't see any great value in commenting to any deep degree on a new film that is already generating voluminous comment and which would require more time to pass to allow more thoughtful and considered assessment. First reactions are inherently suspect.

    First of all, bravo to Quentin Tarantino for making a movie that got me back…

  • Death Wish 3

    Death Wish 3


    Had no interest in this until I noticed Stuart Ashens and Oliver Harper did a recent Youtube collab commentary watch. So I synched up a "borrowed" copy and strung along. Without their play-by-play I'm not sure I could have gotten through it. This is every NRA/MAGA-head's apocalyptic wet dream, with the cops aiding and abetting vigilantism straight-up and the action quotient-level ramped up to Rambo-verse outlandish proportions. Michael Winner does this on a low budget and the sets look like…

  • The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

    The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

    I'm pretty sure at some point a few decades back I saw this severely truncated film documentary version (narrated by Richard Basehart) of William Shirer's monumental 1600+ page book. The only reason I am making note of this right now is because I'm deep into reading Shirer's incredible tome of epic reportage and will be spending the next several weeks on it instead of watching any films. When and if I finish it will surpass War and Peace as the…

  • The Inspector and the Night

    The Inspector and the Night


    This is the first review of this film on Letterboxd.

    "If I wanted to simplify the investigation I could arrest you, OK?"

    "The thing is that people hide different fevers."

    In a room as quiet as a tomb, a grandfather clock seems to have stopped. It's the middle of the night, and a disheveled man still wearing his day clothes is lying down for a sleep that won't happen, and he knows it. He picks up a magazine, becomes bored…

  • The Scarlet Pimpernel

    The Scarlet Pimpernel


    "Gad, if it wasn't for our fox hunting and pheasant shooting, I dare say we should be cruel, too."

    "That, Sir Percy, is the last word in cuffs!"
    "Oh gad, I should hope so, for there should never be another like it."

    A film of consummate wit, playfulness and charm, Korda's wonderful and lavish 1934 London Film production of The Scarlet Pimpernel is one I've adored for three decades, and which I'm admittedly highly overrating (consider it an outlier or…

  • The Female: Seventy Times Seven

    The Female: Seventy Times Seven


    Imagine, if you will, Roger Corman, for the sake of argument, getting hold of a copy of a foreign art movie, let's say H.G. Clouzot's Diabolique, and years later filming some new scenes of judicious nudity and overtly sexual situations and inserting them into the original film for grindhouse release and you kind of have the hybrid thing that is Setenta veces siete (The Female: Seventy Times Seven).

    The sexy opening whorehouse undressing scene is sort of the dead giveaway.…