Red River (1948, USA, Hawks)
John Wayne arrives in Texas and steals a good chunk of land from the people who stole it last. While turning it into a successful cattle ranch, he crosses the fine fine line between stoic Western hero and psychopath. (Yes there is a difference. It has to do with the way your eyes look while you slaughter people: Cold, or really cold.) Watched it all.
I love the style here. It’s all shot on location in New York, and the story sort of strolls along casually, with us just happening to be there to watch. But there’s still only a police procedural underneath, like everything on TV right now. Watched: 19 minutes.
The Bicycle Thief (1948, Italy, De Sica)
The realistic lives of the Italian working class are so real and gritty that even a stolen bicycle can make the difference between work and hunger. If you’re going to watch a neo-realist movie anyway it should probably be this one, because it’s actually pretty good. Watched it all.
Quartet (1948, UK)
Here’s how to make a literary movie extra boring: Have the author, W. Somerset Maugham, introduce the movie by explaining the Purpose of his Art. How to make it pathetic: Have him make a joke about some critics who once said something mean about him. Watched: 4 minutes.
Germania Anno Zero (1948, Italy, Rossellini)
Life sucks for all the ex-Wehrmacht, ex-Hitlerjugend and ex-Nazis in Berlin. No place to stay, no food, an no tolerance for freethinkers any more. What did they ever do to deserve this? Oh, if only Hitler was alive. Watched it all. The ruins of Berlin are the star here. Ruins always are.
Silver River (1948, USA, Walsh)
I hate Errol Flynn so much that I won’t even download a movie if I know he’s in it. (He, and Shirley Temple, but I don’t think she’s making movies any more). But sometimes one slips through the net. Then I catch it, for a segment I call: Out like Flynn. Watched: 3 minutes.
It would seem that there is nothing Disney did in the 1940’s that I do not like at least a little bit, no matter how far they sink from their golden years. I can’t even dislike this sentimental children’s movie, mostly live action, about a boy and his adorable black lamb. I mean, look at the intro sequence above, where memories from a scrapbook come alive. Isn’t it awful! But kind of nice! And so is the rest. Watched it all.
So Evil My Love (1948, UK, Allen)
It feels weird to watch movies that were written by Margaret Thatcher’s speechwriter. Mostly in a good way. Watched: 11 minutes.
There’s no need for monsters in alternate, Dickensian England, because the place is full of humans. They’re all rotten, all except the plucky hero, and some nice people he meets along the way who give false hope that maybe life isn’t so awful after all. But it is, and requires nothing short of a miracle to set things right. Watched it all.
Good Sam (1948, USA, McCary)
Gary Cooper wants to be nice to everybody, but his wife knows better: Helping people makes you look silly in front of your neighbors, and it’s really expensive too. Watched: 13 minutes. I find myself wanting to watch an evil version of this movie written by Ayn Rand, where Gary Cooper’s wife teaches him to be a selfish asshole uninhibited by altruism, and not the other way around.
Hey this is almost that Viggo Mortensen movie, A History of Violence. Only here, the violent past that comes back to haunt the nice suburban dad is the War, where there was no such thing as nice suburban dads. Watched it all. This is the darkest veteran movie yet. Surviving the war is portrayed as a cruel joke: It just makes the pain last longer, the pain of knowing what you’ve become.
The Snake Pit (1948, USA, Litvak)
It has always been a reliable ticket to the Oscars: Play a mad person. Watched: 13 minutes.
The Loves of Carmen (1948, USA, Vidor)
Rita Hayworth doesn’t look at all like a gypsy in 19th century Spain, she looks like a Hollywood actress in a technicolor movie. But she’s a non-gypsy in non-Spain who can violate the spirit of the Hays Code with the slightest twitch of an eyebrow, so who cares? Watched it all.
It was clever of Roald Amundsen to plan to go to the North Pole, and then surprise Scott by racing him for Antarctica – but it’s not cricket. Watched: 30 minutes, then fast forwarded to see the Norwegian flag on the South Pole. Muahaha – screw cricket!
Watching this and knowing that this was a low point in Disney history, when Walt didn’t really care about animated features and they were just trying to make ends meet by churning out cheap collections of shorts, makes you feel a bit humble. Pecos Bill above, and here’s Bumble Boogie. Watched it all.
Kirk Douglas is such as perfect asshole in his early movies, a walking magnet for hate. You just want to kick him and punch him, and you know it’ll feel good. What makes him different from Errol Flynn is that Kirk Douglas will get what’s coming to him by the end of the movie, and that makes it all okay. Watched: 19 minutes.
Key Largo (1948, USA, Huston)
The five hotel guests who look and act like gangsters, actually are. Especially the one who looks like Edward G. Robinson. Watched it all. I didn’t realize the first time I saw this movie how retro it is. The gangster movie had been dead for a decade. The bad guys are exiles who want to recapture their golden youth. But a great storm has swept the world, and revealed “Rocco”, “Curly” and “Toots” for the clowns they are.
The fishermen of a Sicilian village are being exploited. If only there were some sort of political system that could put power in the hands of the common laborer.. Watched: 16 minutes.
Another Shore (1948, UK, Crichton)
Robert Beatty hangs around in the Dublin streets all day, hoping that an old person will have an accident, so he can help and be rewarded and get rich and go live in a South Sea island paradise for the rest of his life. Hey that’s clever – I think I’ll head over to Dublin myself and try it out. Watched it all.
How I hate Errol Flynn. His smirk. His self-righteousness. The way he flynns his way through swordfights. Luckily I’ve read his Wikipedia entry. I know his career is going downhill at this point, and is about to reach bottom. When it does, I’ll watch his movies. And I’ll enjoy it. (Geez, what did Errol Flynn ever do to me?) Watched: 6 minutes.
Hamlet (1948, UK, Olivier)
Laurence Olivier’s dad has been murdered, and all he does about it is arrange for a controversial play to be performed, which only confuses the murderer. Then everybody dies in a hilarious accident. Watched it all. (No but really: Don’t tell me the last scene isn’t slapstick.)
Under the Sun of Rome (1948, Italy, Castellani)
A gang of teenage boys try to get into trouble and stay out of trouble at the same time. Watched: 19 minutes. I hope Italian moviegoers of the late 40′s didn’t only have neorealist movies to watch. I see the appeal, but realism can get pretty shallow.
Krakatit (1947, Czechoslovakia, Vávra)
A gang of dethroned aristocrats find it very interesting that Karel Höger has invented an explosive substance that is vastly more powerful than the nuclear bomb. Very interesting indeed. Watched it all. This may be one of the few good SF movies of the 1940′s. The oppressive atmosphere fits the birth of the Cold War – and, unintentionally, the arrival of Czech Communism a year later.
Fred Astaire is a professional dancer with a keen eye for women’s hats and a thing for Judy Garland. Watched: 24 minutes. Seen and liked it before, but this time I got bored.
Coroner Creek (1948, USA, Enright)
It’s hard to say who is more stupid in the opening scene: The evil Indians who set up an ambush by waiting slightly off the road, visible to anyone, or the wagon that travels right into it. Watched: 5 minutes.
The Red Shoes (1948, UK, Powell & Pressburger)
You never know what you’re going to get with Powell and Pressburger, only that it will be unforgettable. I’m almost afraid to start viewing one of their movies. It’s like standing on the doorstep of a dream world that is going to suck you in from the first step you take, and then it’s all out of your control. The images don’t go away, ever. Watched it all.
Million Dollar Weekend (1948, USA, Raymond)
I don’t know why, but one of the surest signs that I’m about to watch a bad movie is that it opens with uninspired shots of tall city buildings. Next scene is typically some guy behind a big office desk. Watched: 5 minutes.
The Man from Colorado (1948, USA, Levin)
With the Civil War over, Glenn Ford hopes the killing is over too, but it has gone into his blood, turned him rotten, a murderer. As the new judge of anytown, Colorado, his justice is a cold justice, without pity. Watched it all.
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948, USA, Foster)
Burt Lancaster kills a guy, then starts stalking some random woman. Creepy! But, these two being the stars of the movie, he’s not really a bad guy, and she kind of likes it. Watched: 19 minutes.
Macbeth (1948, USA, Welles)
Orson Welles is cursed twice, first to become the king of Scotland, a foggy scattering of rocks where even the nobles live in caves, and then to die for his troubles. Fate is a bitch. Watched it all. Makes me wish that Welles made lots of cheesy B-movies. Macbeth feels just like one, only .. better. Much better. The way you always wish a cheesy B-movie will be, but almost never is.
Up in Central Park (1948, USA, Seiter)
There’s no democracy in New York because that bastard Vincent Price controls everything. Send in the singing immigrants and the idealistic reporters! Watched: 9 minutes.
Raw Deal (1948, USA, Mann)
Claire Trevor busts her boyfriend out of prison, and they head out on the road in a stolen car, with the cops and the gangsters and the shootouts. Watched it all. Anthony Mann is the meanest of the noir directors. No glamour, just dangerous people hurting each other. He’s also a kind of feminist. His women are interesting characters in their own right, unpredictable, real. The movies hinge on their decisions.
Apartment for Peggy (1948, USA, Seaton)
The kind old man wants to kill himself, because it seems like the sensible thing to do, what with the housing crisis and everything. Watched: 10 minutes.
Moonrise (1948, USA, Borzage)
Dane Clark was picked on because his dad was a murderer, so he becomes one too. He should have checked to see if his conscience (and the Hays Code) was okay with it first. Watched it all.
Joan Bennett finally finds a nice guy to marry, but realizes that Something Is Wrong. Watched it all. Further proof that psychoanalytical bullshit can be a good plot device. Favorite scene: The tour of the husband’s collection of historical murder rooms, above, (which, yes, is one of the signs that Something Is Wrong).
Blood on the Moon (1948, USA, Wise)
The scene where Robert Mitchum and Barbare Bel Geddes flirt by playfully shooting each other’s hats off etc. is maybe the stupidest scene in all of western history. I mean, these are not very accurate guns. And they don’t seem to be aiming them very carefully either. Watched: 12 minutes.
Tip: When you’re hiding from the gangsters you robbed for a fortune, don’t just kill your twin brother who has a scar and take his place. That’s stupid. Trick the gangsters into killing him, then take his place. Just saying. Watched it all. On the other hand: Faking the scar of your murdered twin, and realizing that nobody notices that it’s on the wrong side of your face? Pretty brilliant.
The Iron Curtain (1948, USA, Wellman)
Ooh, communist spies! It’s about time. Watched: 8 minutes. I don’t want to downplay the anti-communist paranoia of this time, which reached ridiculous heights, but the Soviet spies really did arrive years before the fear of them. While they were learning how to build nuclear bombs, Hollywood was portraying Stalin as the benevolent grandfather of Russia.
Louisiana Story (1948, USA, Flaherty)
I love those jawdropping moments in this marathon when I realize that I’m watching something unlike anything I’ve seen that came before it. This is one of those moments, an almost dialogueless movie about a boy who lives in the swamp. Watched it all. Louisiana Story apparently has a reputation just slightly better than Triumph of the Will, because it was financed by Standard Oil and shows oil exploration as being not entirely evil and actually kind of exciting. Which makes you wonder what kind of alternative energy source some people think we should have been using for the last 60 years.
Ladies of the Chorus (1948, USA, Karlson)
Another nice thing about a chronological movie marathon is that it becomes more apparent what the new stars have, that the old stars didn’t. I’m not sure how to describe what it is Marilyn Monroe has here, especially when the movie itself is so bad, but it’s certainly something. Watched: 18 minutes.
Operation Swallow / Kampen om tungtvannet (1948, Norway, Dréville)
In this alternate history SF, a team of Norwegian saboteurs, who live on moss and reindeer blood, prevent the invention of a terrifying Nazi superweapon. Wait .. this really happened?! Huh. Watched it all. Apart from the sabotage scenes this is mostly a crappy movie, from the tell-not-show school of filmmaking, but see it as a reenactment, featuring many of the actual saboteurs.
The Kissing Bandit (1948, USA, Benedek)
Frank Sinatra returns to Spanish California to become an innkeeper, or maybe even a bandit, why not? Watched: 11 minutes.