DDDDDD – Exceptional and unparalleled.
DDDDD – Excellent, a special film.
DDDD – High Enjoyable, recommended.
DDD – Worth watching, but unexceptional or flawed.
DD – Bland, dull and average.
D – You’ll envy the deaf and blind.
Barton Fink (1991) John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, John Mahoney. Dir: Joel Cohen.
A playwright accepts a job in Hollywood, experiences writer’s block and experiences a series of strange events. Deliciously dark study of the creative process and the breaking down of a pretentious artist, as he faces the dark and baffling world of the real people he supposedly knows all about.
In a Lonely Place (1950) Humphrey Bogart, Gloria Grahame, Frank Lovejoy. Dir: Nicholas Ray
An actress provides the alibi for a screenwriter accused of murder, they romance, but his unbalanced behaviour begins to give her doubts. Interesting noir thriller which contains an unusually intense performance by Bogart, but it is does veer too much toward the melodramatic.
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway, Hume Cronyn. Dir Tay Garnett.
A drifter and his mistress plot the murder of her aged husband for ownership of his highway diner. Famous presumably for being sexy for the time, dim and irritating characters ineptly scheme to become somebody by inheriting a crap shack in the middle of nowhere. Double Indemnity is better.
Blood Simple (1983) John Getz, Frances McDormand, Dan Hedeya, M.Emmet Walsh. Dir: Joel Cohen.
A Saloon owner hires a killer to murder his wife and her lover, but it backfires, bringing them all down. First Coen feature is stylish and full of unexpected twists, but it could do with more pace and a bit more humour to fit its contrived plot.
The Firm (1993) Tom Cruise, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Gene Hackman, Ed Harris. Dir: Sydney Pollack
An arrogant young lawyer joins a law firm run by the mafia and is then harassed by the FBI. Cardboard characters and a bland, clichéd script make for a watchable but rather vacuous two hours of entertainment.
The Masque of the Red Death (1964) Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, Patrick Magee. Dir: Roger Corman
A Devil worshipping Prince holds a party within the safety of his castle while plaque ravages the land outside. Shot with more money that the average Corman adaptation, there’s less tongue in cheek in this darker Price vehicle, with a grim finale. It’s stylish and intriguing, with many memorable moments.
I Know Where I’m Going (1945) Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, Pamela Brown. Dir Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell.
A determined girl is unable to sail to her fiancée, and waits for the weather to pass in a Scottish village with a desirable nobleman. Beautifully shot, restrained British romance which is subtler than viewers will be used to these days. It isn’t exciting, but is very cosy and warm.
A Matter of Life and Death (1946) David Niven, Roger Livesey, Raymond Massey, Kim Hunter, Marius Goring. Dir: Emeric Pressburger, Michael Powell
Having escaped death, a pilot in love discovers he should’ve died and must fight his
case in heaven. Beautiful and imaginative film, which is both sentimental and silly, but also intelligent and thought provoking. The charm, wit and optimism of it all will be irresistible to even the most cynical.
The Stepford Wives (1974) Katherine Ross, Paula Prentiss, Nanette Newman. Dir: Bryan Forbes
Man and wife move to a too perfect community, full of grinning idealised women. Too long in the build-up - the twist was probably quite obvious even then (Buffy would’ve solved it all in 45 minutes). But there are some memorable and effectively creepy scenes,
The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) Boris Karloff, Myrna Loy, Lewis Stone. Dir: Charles Brabin.
The diabolical villain wants the sword of Genghis Khan so he can unite the East to rise up against the West. Immense amounts of camp OTT fun, with great sets and set pieces - providing you can laugh at some of the less than PC attitudes on display.