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  • Thunderbolt

    Thunderbolt

    A reconfiguration of Underworld for the arrival of sound, so its poetry can echo on to Auden ("In the prison of his days/Teach the free man how to praise"). A feline eye opens Josef von Sternberg's camera, prowling across an ankle-level row of sweethearts at night until spotting the pert moll (Fay Wray) and the bank teller (Richard Arlen) intertwined on a park bench. A police matter, "don't get ritzy with me, you ritzy," her dream is to be "regular…

  • The Mummy

    The Mummy

    As primeval as the Nile, the sacrilegious side of amour fou. "Do you have to open graves to find girls to fall in love with?" The uncanny intro is practically Dreyer on the Universal lot, Vampyr is concurrent and Ordet adduces a detail or two: The camera pans to the occupied sarcophagus then back for a dolly-in close-up of the young archaeologist absorbed in the Scroll of Thoth, a cut gives a slowly opening eyelid on Boris Karloff's dust-encrusted visage…

  • Diary of a Shinjuku Thief

    Diary of a Shinjuku Thief

    Not so much a diary as an underground almanac or a most hectic Mad magazine fold-in,"a lovely Sunday" in the end all the same. The aesthete-punk's romantic yowl ("Let's steal something!"), the twinky shoplifter (Tadanori Yokoo) and the bogus bookstore detective (Rie Yokoyama) meet-cute in brisk little send-ups of Bresson's Pickpocket, it's the summer of '68. Eros is everybody's subject—discussed by a sozzled gaggle in a mock-vérité roundtable, theorized about by a wizened analyst, acted upon by the young couple…

  • Out of the Past

    Out of the Past

    It begins in the California Sierras, folds back to New York and Acapulco and San Francisco, then drifts onward to a Lake Tahoe roadblock, always with the irresistible flow of a dream. (The intricate structure is scarcely appreciated by the local police officer, who grumbles like a blindsided reviewer: "Too many people. Too much talk.") The gas station owner (Robert Mitchum) was once a gumshoe, his background of desire and betrayal catches up to the small-town sanctuary, a tale recounted…

  • The Fallen Idol

    The Fallen Idol

    The Jamesian theme is promptly noted, the camera's gaze is that of the unblinking 8-year-old (Bobby Henrey) at the top of the staircase, taking in an exceptionally busy London weekend. Home itself is "officially foreign territory," the French embassy is the cavernous warren (checkerboard floors, trap doors, uncanny spirals) through which the diplomat's lonely son drifts, tiny pet snake in his pocket. The butler (Ralph Richardson, magnificently subtle) pads along with a wink and a fable while the staff is…

  • The Red Shoes

    The Red Shoes

    The Goethean rupture, Ballet Russe treatment. To rush "into the jaws of Hell," that's the artist's duty, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger wouldn't have it any other way. (Their tabernacle is suspended between velvet balcony and orchestra pit, the stage separating the two stands at one point before a churning blue sea.) The imperious impresario (Anton Walbrook) shares with the young dancer (Moira Shearer) the religion of aestheticism, the student composer with a domestic side (Marius Goring) configures their notes…

  • Pinky

    Pinky

    A charging train dissolves to a soundstage evocation of mossy oaks and rickety fences and at once you recognize Faulkner's "long still hot weary dead" sundown, to say nothing of Elia Kazan's Deep South in Baby Doll and Wild River. The dainty gazelle at the dusty crossroads is the simmering axis of the portrait of antebellum segregation, she's the biracial belle (Jeanne Crain) back from nursing school and getting painfully reacquainted with bigotry. Home is a backwater shack encircled by…

  • Blithe Spirit

    Blithe Spirit

    The writer’s dilemma and the séance of inspiration, "make it a real rouser!" Noël Coward’s central gag is painstakingly fabricated out of Hamlet, of course, the spiritualist’s art is but a joke to the haughty novelist until the afterlife intrudes upon his marriage most mischievously. So it goes, the posh skeptics (Rex Harrison, Constance Cummings) invite the dotty medium (Margaret Rutherford) over for a dash of condescension and instead get a gateway into "the unseen," in drifts the impish phantom…

  • On the Town

    On the Town

    Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen take the MGM musical outdoors, the New York minute is stretched to 24 hours. The brief prelude has the hard-hat tenor at the dock if not yet quite out of bed, a lovely sleepy note before the allegrissimo Big Apple ode by a trio of sailors eager to "paint this town pink, green and yellow." (The slaphappy montage from a camera car, punctuated with a 360° turn on the RCA Building observation deck, anticipates the…

  • The Gypsy and the Gentleman

    The Gypsy and the Gentleman

    The line between Gainsborough romping and Hammer dread is a thin one indeed, Joseph Losey straddles it for the benefit of the upcoming decade (vide Schlesinger's Far from the Madding Crowd and Richardson's Mademoiselle). Aristos and proles and the games they play, the greased piglet cheered on by a slumming Regency bourgeoisie is avenged by the jangly pickpocket (Melina Mercouri) who makes herself at home in the crumbling mansion. The vixen's dangling bare calves welcome the craven blueblood (Keith Mitchell),…

  • The Man Who Knew Too Much

    The Man Who Knew Too Much

    A pile of postcards and brochures fills the screen before the credits and there's the joke, a secret agent's adventure cut short is a tourist family's class in global affairs. The dachshund that spoils the French skier's jump and the embrace that interrupts the sharpshooting game both belong to the precocious lass (Nova Pilbeam), her parents (Leslie Banks, Edna Best) on vacation in St. Moritz shrug and snip at each other most drolly. "Let that be a lesson to you,…

  • China Gate

    China Gate

    "Korea got cold, Indochina got hot," from the newshound's thrusting inquiry arise such coups, Samuel Fuller is always ahead of the game. The overture is a brisk lecture on Ho Chi Minh, followed by a tour of a bombed-out soundstage-village that culminates in the grand sight of Lucky Legs at the Bar de la Chance. (Angie Dickinson is introduced gams first before her close-up haloed by a bamboo hat, what better way to fill the Cinemascope rectangle?) Casablanca, even before…