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A street of much-rationed, much-regulated Londoners discover that they’re technically part of the Duchy of Burgundy, and decide to secede from England. Watched it all. What an amazingly libertarian movie this is, especially for the time. What they’re really doing is creating an economic free zone, free from regulators and moral busybodies. Suddenly the economy is booming, everyone’s getting involved in local politics, and are generally having a good time. Of course it doesn’t last, but only because they’re sabotaged by the British government.
Border Incident (1949, USA, Mann)
Most Mexicans who want to work in the US are law-abiding citizens who enter it legally, but there are some who try to cross the border illegally! Unfortunately they are usually killed by bandits. Which is a shame, so let’s send the police to protect them. Watched: 15 minutes.
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The Spider and the Fly (1949, UK, Hamer)
I guess any well-worn trope becomes interesting when I haven’t encountered it in a while. In this case it’s the gentleman thief, who foils the French police in humorous ways, then goes off into World War I to serve his country, because one is after all a patriot. Watched it all.
Post Office Investigator (1949, USA, Blair)
One trend in the late 40’s was to make movies about all the brave deeds government employees did to keep their country safe: Fighting terrorists, Communists, illegal immigrants, and, in this case .. er, stamp thiefs. They were really scraping the barrel at this point. Watched: 3 minutes.
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Rotation (1949, Germany, Staudte)
I’m actually a bit offended that the first German-made post-war movie I see is about a couple of ordinary Germans whose lives are mildly inconvenienced by the reign of Adolf Hitler. As if that was the great crime of the Nazis: That they made life difficult for German dissidents. But I grudgingly approve, because this is a good movie, and that trumps anything. Watched it all.
Tokyo Joe (1949, USA, Heisler)
Humphrey Bogart must have really not wanted to visit Japan for this movie. Every scene that shows his character in the streets of Tokyo is shot with a double, from behind, or with Bogart acting against a rear projection. It looks ridiculous. Watched: 9 minutes.
Love Happy (1949, USA)
As a Marx Brothers disciple I’m ashamed that not only didn’t I know that this movie existed, I didn’t even know it featured a not yet famous Marilyn Monroe for about 30 seconds. Watched it all. It’s awful though. When Chico says “tutsi fruitsy ice cream”, referencing his own part in one of the funniest scenes in movie history, it’s actually kind of sad. And when Harpo plays the harp, as he always did, it’s even sadder. Because it’s all over now.
Red Light (1949, USA, Del Ruth)
There’s something about a 1940′s thriller when they get it just the right amount of hard-boiled. Not too clever, no fancy film-noir love triangles, just a dangerous anti-hero with a gun. This is almost there, but falls short by being terrible. Watched: 20 minutes.
Stray Dog (1949, Japan, Kurosawa)
The same theft turns two war veterans in two different directions: One towards becoming a cop, the other to become a criminal. But they’re both in a sense similar, stray dogs burning up with anger and despair. Watched it all. In post-war Japanese movies you never see any sign of the American occupation forces, because of censorship. But in movies like this you do see how society was changing under their impact.
Fängelse / The Devil’s Wanton (1949, Sweden, Bergman)
If you were to make a parody of an Ingmar Bergman movie, it would probably be about a movie director who has long, philosophical discussions with his bohemian friends about life, the nature of evil, and the atom bomb. The parody wouldn’t be funny at all, and that would be the great joke. Watched: 16 minutes.
Mighty Joe Young (1949, USA, Schoedsack)
It pays off to pay attention to the credits. This one has Ray Harryhausen working on the special effects. Watched: 3 minutes, then fast-forwarded to see Harryhausen’s stop motion scenes, which are amazing. It looks like they were having fun thinking up creative ways for the stop motion gorilla (who has the face of a Wallace & Gromit character) to interact with the live action characters.
Døden er et kjærtegn (1949, Norway, Carlmar)
A car mechanic who talks like an old-timey radio announcer gets picked up by a married woman who also talks like an old-timey radio announcer. Their shared speech impediment becomes the basis for a dangerous romance. Watched: 28 minutes.
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Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949, UK, Hamer)
Twelve D’Ascoyne’s stand in line between Dennis Price and the dukedom he believes is his birthright. They’re all played by that asshole Alec Guinness, so that makes it okay when he starts bumping them off, one by one. Watched it all. Watching these early Guinness movies makes me wonder what Star Wars would have been like if he’d played Obi-Wan Kenobi as a really creepy, mean old man.
Sands of Iwo Jima (1949, USA, Dwan)
Only four years after the war, and already there’s a streak of insincerity in the war movies. The characters are just a little bit less real, and more like stock characters. Basically, they’re less Robert Mitchum, and more John Wayne. Watched: 9 minutes.
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On the Town (1949, USA)
Hey, lonely sailor! Come to New York, where you’ll meet girls in no time, even if you look like Frank Sinatra! Watched it all. It seems that Betty Comden and Adolph Green were involved with everything I think of as Real Musicals. They took the whole corny “hey let’s break out into song” trick and made it just the right amount of self-aware. But this isn’t one of my Comden&Green favorites.
The Bridge(?) (1949, China)
“Quickly rob to live, warm waters all grew a Chinese foot of half”? “The bridge shelf sees and then take not to live”??! I knew Communist Party rhetoric could be dense, but in this case I suspect the problem is the translation. Watched: 3 minutes.
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Now, I dislike Ayn Rand, her books, and her followers, and that includes you, all your friends, your children, and your children’s children to the seventh generation, etc. etc., (in a half-friendly family squabble sort of way), but it has to be said that this is the most intellectually interesting movie of the entire decade. And it is an inspiring fable. Rand’s insanities aside, her ideas here about the unshakable integrity of the individual, and what it means to take responsibility for your choices, are close to what I try to live by. Perhaps you need to be delusional to empathize with Roark. Perhaps I am. Watched it all.
Samson and Delilah (1949, USA, DeMille)
Behold – a new age of Biblical epics is upon us! As you may recall from Sunday school, Samson was the great warrior in the Book of Judges who introduced the principles of LIBERTY and FREEDOM to the DECADENT (ie. bikini-wearing) world of 1000 B.C. Watched: 12 minutes. I think these movies get better later. Right? And less campy? At least I remember seeing one or two good ones.
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A legendary hidden gold mine in the mountain has attracted adventurers and murderers for generations. They usually meet bad ends. The plot here is unusually complex for a movie. It shifts between two different centuries, and manages to be just as interesting in both of them. Watched it all.
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Gategutter / Boys from the Streets (1949, Norway, Skouen)
There are no easy paths through life for working class kids in 1920’s Oslo. Crime is fun but dangerous. Honest labor feels better, but you’re exploited by the middle class. And Communism is appealing but also a bit scary. What’s the point of revolution when all you want is a steady job? Perhaps the answer is some sort of non-Communist Labor movement? Watched it all. I didn’t know there were Norwegian neo-realist movies, but this one fits right in with what the Italians were doing at the time.
Tight Little Island (1949, UK, Mackendrick)
Whiskey runs out on a Scottish island, oh no! War is hell! But maybe they could think of some desperate plan to get hold of some! Watched: 17 minutes. An entire community ravaged by alcoholism is no longer one of those inherently mirthful concepts, I guess.
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Burt Lancaster doesn’t care about recovering the diamonds he has hidden in the desert. He just wants to get revenge on the cop who once tortured him for no reason. Watched it all. I think this marks the point when South Africa takes over from Nazi Germany the role as the world’s creepy Aryan assholes.
Peggy Olson gets pregnant with some loser from work, and has to give the baby away. It’s the madhouse next for her! Watched: 19 minutes.
Well, that was 1948. A year of slow but noticable change in the movie industry, and of change in this marathon, where I learned how to upload clips of the scences I can’t or don’t want to forget. You can also find the clips on YouTube, and that may actually be more interesting than these reviews, because is there anything more pointless than reading about movies? I try to make clips that represent what I liked about the movie, so if you like the clip, you’ll probably like the movie.
Best of the best
The Red Shoes
Meanwhile, in the former Axis
Germania Anno Zero
The Bicycle Thief
A Hen in the Wind
A Foreign Affair
Angry murdering murderers and the murdering murderers who murder them
The Man From Colorado
Act of Violence
The Treasure of Sierra Madre
Disney at their worst
So Dear to My Heart
Preston Sturges at his worst
I can’t think of more categories
Daughter of Darkness
The Treasure of Sierra Madre (1948, USA, Huston)
Being poor doesn’t make you a better person. It makes you greedy and mean and paranoid, and desperate to hold on to any wealth that may come your way. Well, or maybe that’s just Humphrey Bogart, whose latent psychotic tendencies are triggered by the sight or thought or even smell of GOLD, GOLD I tell you, the hills are full of GOLD, and it’s all mine!!!!! Watched it all.
.. and so we enter .. 1949!
You can put a moustache on Edward G. Robinson and teach him to talk like Chico Marx, but that still doesn’t make him a believable Italian-American. And it’s a shame too, because this looked pretty good until he showed up. Watched: 20 minutes.
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Trust Anthony Mann to make the most out of a low budget, and bring out the Reign of Terror not the way it actually happened, but the way it appears in our nightmares, a time of blood and chaos and fanaticism. Watched it all.
The Red Menace (1949, USA, Springsteen)
The Communist Party has tentacles all over America, and every time they manage to seduce and ensnare another disaffected veteran, a Party boss in some secret Party lair strokes his Party cat and goes muwhahahaha. Watched: 14 minutes. I kind of look forward to seeing some genuine red scare movies now. Maybe there are even a few good ones?
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Unfaithfully Yours (1948, USA, Sturges)
Rex Harrison accidentally has his wife tailed by detectives, and tries hard not to learn what awful secrets they’ve discovered. Watched it all. So now Preston Sturges is with a major studio again? I’m glad his autobiography has just come up in my book queue, because the more I see of his movies the more I want to find out who he was. It’s almost like his movies were made by a real person, with a brain and a heart and everything.
Johnny Belinda (1948, USA, Negulesco)
In movies from this era is you can usually tell when a major female character is about to be introduced because the music suddenly shifts into a single high-pitched violin. Watched: 9 minutes.
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I wonder how this movie was pitched. “See, it will be set in Berlin. There’s ruins and poverty everywhere. It will deal with black marketeering, fraternization, Nazi leaders who escape justice, and corruption in the Army, all seen through the lens of the growing disconnect between soldiers and the people back home. And it will be hilarious!” Watched it all.
Open Secret (1948, USA, Reinhardt)
While fast forwarding through this awful movie, I thought I saw .. I thought I saw .. yes, I saw a television set! Watched 5 minutes.
Drunken Angel (1948, Japan, Kurosawa)
As tuberculosis is to the young yakuza Toshirô Mifune, so he and his friends are to society: An infection that consumes its victim from within, and resists any half-hearted treatment. Watched it all.
A Hen in the Wind (1948, Japan, Ozu)
There’s a better way for a young mother to stay alive in post-war Japan than to sell off your last belongings. But don’t expect any thanks from your husband, who thinks a family can survive on nothing but good intentions while he’s been stuck in a POW camp. Watched it all.
Rogues’ Regiment (1948, USA, Florey)
And the award for least plausible Nazi Untergang scene goes to .. Watched: 8 minutes. I hope the war criminal they’re hunting turns out to be Vincent Price. He’s really starting to get the hang of his Evil Voice.
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Road House (1948, USA, Negulesco)
This is something new – I love when that happens! What’s new is the way Ida Lupino walks into a bar, sits down by the piano, and sings like she thinks singing is pointless but can’t think of a reason not to. Everything bores her, but seeing as there’s nowhere else to go, she intends to chain smoke her way through life until something interesting happens. Watched it all.
A Southern Yankee (1948, USA, Sedgwick)
You can tell this is a comedy because the title sequence summarizes the story with the use of cute caricatures. Watched: 4 minutes.
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Rope (1948, USA, Hitchcock)
Two men kill their friend just to see what it feels like. It feels good. Rope is maybe my favorite movie ever. I rewatch it every chance I get, and it’s comforting to know that, even if I hadn’t discovered it already, I would have today. Watched it all.