Monthly Archives: February 2010

40′s movies marathon – part 81

The Blue Dahlia(1946) - Doris Dowling, Howard Da Silva

The Blue Dahlia (1946, USA, Marshall) – Alan Ladd comes home from the war and discovers that his wife has turned into a shrewish, child-killing femme fatale, a common occurence in those days, judging from what I’ve seen so far.  Also, his friend has gone mad from war trauma.  And it’s raining.  Watched it all.

The Mask of Diijon (1946, USA, Landers) – A former illusionist is being a complete asshole to everyone he knows because he wants to “get in touch with the infinite”.  I believe meditation or drugs is the generally recommended approach.  Watched: 12 minutes.

The Kid from Brooklyn (1946, USA, McLeod) – Opens with an army of pretty girls singing about how much they just love to milk cows.  What could they mean?  Watched: 9 minutes.

Humoresque (1946) - John Garfield

Humoresque (1946, USA, Negulesco) – Virtouso violinist John Garfield enters into a complex relationship with Joan Crawford, a troubled New York aristocrat.  His mother doesn’t approve, and I don’t either.  There’s no reason not to go with the nice girl in this one.  Watched it all.  Lots of good music.

Two Years Before the Mast (1946, USA, Farrow) – The captain of the Pilgrim is a real meanie, who works his crew to death and sends out press gangs to find replacements.  But if you ask me, the real problem is the exploitation inherent in the capitalist system of production.  Watched: 15 minutes.

91:an Karlsson (1946, Sweden, Bolander) – The Swedish officer corps is full of fat and jolly old men.  Staying out of the war by cosying up to Nazi Germany clearly has its benefits.  Watched: 7 minutes.

40′s movies marathon – part 80

Great Expectations (1946) - John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Martita  Hunt

Great Expectations (1946, UK, Lean) – John Mills has a Dickensian childhood in alternate, gothic England, and after a series of rather unlikely events he gets married and lives happily ever after.  Watched it all.

The Overlanders (1946, UK, Watt) – Australians evacuate the Northern Territory, because the Japs may be coming.  Finally an Ealing movie that isn’t particularly good, perhaps because it isn’t about the English National Character.  Watched: 8 minutes.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) - Barbara Stanwyck, Kirk Douglas

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946, USA, Milestone) – Barbara Stanwyck kills her aunt in a fit of juvenile delinquency, and ends up married to Kirk Douglas, a cowardly alcoholic.  Life sucks all around, but at least they’ve got money and power and an entire little town to boss around.  Watched it all.

Anna and the King of Siam (1946, USA, Cromwell) – Welcome to the half-barbaric land of Siam!  (Cue dramatic music by Bernard Herrmann.)  Watched: 6 minutes.

Gilda (1946) - Rita Hayworth

Gilda (1946, USA, Vidor) – Glenn Ford is the cynical gambler who makes his own luck.  Rita Hayworth is the boss’s wife who sleeps around.  They’re headed for love/hate, murder and ruin etc.  These noir plots are beginning to get predictable, but oddly enough that actually makes them more enjoyable.  Watched it all.

Without Reservations (1946, USA, LeRoy) – Claudette Colbert has written a popular inspirational novel that makes everyone feel all warm inside despite the cover looking just a tiny bit like a Nazi propaganda poster.  She wants Cary Grant to star in the movie version, but will probably have to settle for John Wayne.  Watched: 13 minutes.

40′s movies marathon – part 79

The Killers (1946) - Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner

The Killers (1946, USA, Siodmak) – Two Tarantino-awesome professional killers arrive in a small town and murder a guy.  An insurance claims investigator (well, why not?) looks into the death, and puzzles together the life of the victim, a good boy gone bad.  A woman is to blame, though all she seems to do throughout the movie is lie seductively in the background.  Watched it all.

Devil Bat’s Daughter (1946, USA, Wisbar) – Devil Bat’s dead, daughter arrives in town, yada yada.  On a completely unrelated note, I miss MST3K.  Watched: 8 minutes.

Cluny Brown (1946, USA, Lubitsch) – Holly Golightly pretends to be a plumber in pre-war London.  Watched: 14 minutes.

The Verdict (1946) - Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre

The Verdict (1946, USA, Siegel) – A Scotland Yard superintendent hangs an innocent man in foggy, 1890′s London, loses his job, and falls to pieces.  A locked-room murder mystery gives him the opportunity to play the Holmes to his successor’s Lestrade, while Peter Lorre hangs about being Lorreish.  Watched it all.

Road to Utopia (1946, USA, Walker) – Bob Hope and Bing Crosby tell dirty jokes and parody the movies, none of it funny.  Watched: 9 minutes.

Badman’s Territory (1946, USA, Whelan) – I’m not against voiceover in movies, but two minutes of it is too much, especially when it’s just to inform us that we’re in a lawless town where one lone journalist stands up for the cause of Freedom.  Also I prefer the “absolutely true historical fact!” section of a movie intro not to be completely made up. Watched: 11 minutes.

40′s movies marathon – part 78

A Matter of Life and Death (1946)

A Matter of Life and Death (1946, UK, Powell & Pressburger) – David Niven bails from his plane without a parachute, and survives by a miracle.  From this point on, he’s either being visited by agents of Heaven, who accuse him of having cheated death, or he’s a confused veteran who’s cracking up.  Watched it all.  Whatever you do, for Heaven’s sake watch the opening scene:


Duel in the Sun (1946, USA, Vidor) – One sure way for a movie to piss me off is to open with a 9 minute musical prelude, followed by a 2 minute musical overture.  They’re the same thing, you pretentious assholes.  Watched: 12 minutes, only a minute into the titles, so I guess I’ll never know what this movie was actually about.

Suspense (1946) - Barry Sullivan

Suspense (1946, USA, Tuttle) – Some guy is hired right off the street, and quickly climbs his way to the top of the dangerous world of figure skating.  It’s Noir on Ice, (literally, in one scene), and not only does it work very well, it makes figure skating seem cool and daring.  Watched it all.

The DARK Corner (1946, USA, Hathaway) – Who is Bradford Galt?  He’s a private investigator, with a standard P. I. office, a standard secretary, and a standard William Bendix on his tail.  Watched: 6 minutes.

Inside Job (1946, USA, Yarbrough) – Say, did they make anything other than noir in 1946, or are the dice I use to select these movies loaded?  Watched: 4 minutes.

Prostitution, like any industry, is vulnerable to competition

Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner - Superfreakonomics

Sometimes Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, authors of Freakonomics and now Superfreakonomics, seem to have access to little known data that they are particularly qualified to interpret.  Other times they seem like Malcolm Gladwell-style writers who popularize interesting theories in a cheerfully superficial way.

They’re in the first mode, (I think), when they explain the shifting economic realities of prostitution, and in the second when they hold up geoengineering as the solution to climate change.

I like Levitt & Dubner in the first mode, not so sure about the second.  There was a big debate a few months ago about their climate change chapter.  Here’s some of it.  I don’t want to conclude about who’s more in the right, (I trust climate science, but not all its fervent supporters, and I’m not sure which is which here), but it seems to me that their attitude is misplaced.  “Why, the solution is obvious – we could just ..”  Geoengineering may be a nice approach, but it’s not obvious.

If Levitt & Dubner have an agenda it isn’t “climate change denial”, but a faith in cheap solutions over expensive ones, in clever individuals and companies over governments.  This is a theme throughout the book, such as in their chapter on seat belts.

What they’re really offering here is a lesson in economic insights such as “incentives matter” and “solutions have unintended consequences”, for people who didn’t know they were interested in economics.  That I like, and there’s more in their blog.

40′s movies marathon – part 77

House of Horrors (1946) - Robert Lowery, Rondo Hatton

House of Horrors (1946, USA, Yarbrough) – An artist finds inspiration in the deformed face of a killer, and uses him to act out his rage against the critics who mock him.  Beauty is virtue: The bad guy looks creepy and makes grotesque statues.  The good guy is good looking and paints pretty pictures of pretty pin-up girls.  I, for one, cheer for the bad guy.  Watched it all.

The Hoodlum Saint (1946, USA, Taurog) – William Powell returns from the war, (the previous one), and finds he’s got no job or money.  But he has friends, and a wise neighbourhood priest, so he’ll be allright.  Watched: 11 minutes.

Kris (1946) - Inga Landgre, Stig Olin

Kris (1946, Sweden, Bergman) – A girl who’s been adopted by a respectable small town family is visited by her fun-loving biological mother and a no-good dandy, who teach her to boogie woogie.  It’s a clash of small-town and big-town values, with a little of good and bad in both, but the small-town values come out ahead.  Watched it all.

California (1946, USA, Farrow) – The scourge of state-named movies continues.  There’s been maybe ten so far, so I guess there are fourty left.  This one shows how California was founded by Barbara Stanwyck, a prostitute with a heart of gold.  Watched: 12 minutes.

Beauty and the Beast (1946, France, Cocteau) – The French insist on making these odd, unappealing dramedies.  There must be a reason for this.  Watched: 11 minutes.  IMDB reviewers argue that “Cocteau’s attempt to socialize his female viewers and alleviate their fear of sex is clear through textual analysis”.

40′s movies marathon – best of 1945

The nice thing about watching old movies year by year is that, having now watched early 40′s war-related movies since, oh, April last year, (I was slower back then), I enter 1946 tired of all things war-related, just like the movie audiences of the time, (except for the trauma, missing limbs and lost friends etc.)

That said, I’ve been astounded by the quality of contemporary World War II movies.  The British movies surprised me the most.  Hollywood is consistently good at this point, but the British movies are the most creative and ambitious.  Hollywood films war.  Britain films a society at war, changing under the impact.

Here are my favorites from 1945:

Thugs and women of negotiable virtue

Scarlet Street



Confidential Agent


The yearly Hitchcock


War, huh, what it is good for

A Walk in the Sun

The Story of G. I. Joe

The True Glory

To the Shores of Iwo Jima

Perfect Strangers

A Bell for Adano

The Way to the Stars

Various islanders

‘I Know Where I’m Going!’

Caesar and Cleopatra

The jokes, they are funny

A Royal Scandal

Zombies on Broadway

Wonder Man

Hello kitty

The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail

The Famous Sword Bijomaru

That puppet still freaks me out

Dead of Night

Isle of the Dead

Dramatic performances

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Lost Weekend

Roughly Speaking

The horror did not end

Steven Erikson - Deadhouse Gates (Malazan Book of the Fallen)

Life in general continues to suck in Deadhouse Gates, Steven Erikson’s second Malazan Book of the Fallen.  As a civilian living in or nearby the Malazan Empire, caught between forces whose ambitions leave no room for pity, you can expect torture, starvation, rape, slavery, crucifixion and death.  It has always been that way, and always will.

As a protagonist of Erikson’s novels, you can, in addition to all of the above, expect horrors on a larger and more metaphysical scale: Possession and/or being eaten alive by spirits, being made the unwitting puppet of dark gods, and various advanced forms of suffering available on the higher planes of reality you may stumble into.

Bleak, then.  Yes.  There are no particularly good sides here, just victims and perpetrators, and the story does not so much climax as let the threads converge and fade away, leaving the world better only in some abstract realpolitikal sense.  Evil, here, is not imposed by outside supernatural forces.  It springs naturally from human nature.  The supernatural merely extends this evil to a higher plane.  Even the mostly sympathetic protagonists play the game of destruction like everyone else, for their own understandable but tragic reasons.

If the bleakness doesn’t grind you down, you’ll find this a perfect novel.  Remarkably, with so many plot lines, the end is particularly good, and, since Erikson’s novels are mostly self-contained, you can read Deadhouse Gates by itself.

I wasn’t sure after Gardens of the Moon if I’d read more Steven Erikson.  Now I am.

40′s movies marathon – part 76

Somewhere in the Night (1946) - John Hodiak

Somewhere in the Night (1946, USA, Mankiewicz) – A soldier wakes up after the war with amnesia, and goes looking for his old self.  Seems nobody liked his old self much, and the search takes him through the usual web of thugs and shady women in the noir underworld.  Watched it all.

Jungle Captive (1945, USA, Young) – A man who looks so much like a thug that it’s a wonder he’s allowed to walk about freely steals the body of the Ape Woman, (who must have been killed in some earlier monster movie), and plans to ressurect her with the Power of Electricity.  Watched: 13 minutes.

Ziegfeld Follies (1945, USA) – I have high hopes for you, post-war technicolor musicals.  This isn’t a good start.  Watched: 15 minutes.

A Thousand and One Nights
(1945, USA, Green) – Another failed attempt to walk in the footprints of The Thief of Bagdad.  This one is unusually bad, some sort of parody.  Watched: 7 minutes.  IMDB says it contains an early use of “groovy” as a slang term.  Groovy.

Love Letters (1945, USA, Dieterle) – A love story by Ayn Rand.  No really.  Watched: 9 minutes.

Mom and Dad (1945, USA, Beaudine) – Teenagers all across the nation are getting into all sorts of trouble because their parents never taught them about Hygiene, Social Diseases and the Facts of Life.  But before we get into any of that: hey audience, let’s sing the national anthem!  Watched: 11 minutes. The story behind the movie is a lot more interesting: It was the original exploitation blockbuster.