Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1942.
1. Casablanca, directed by Michael Curtiz (8/10*)
This rating comes from hearing too much about how Casablanca is the greatest movie ever. I heard it before I had ever seen it, and I have heard it a million times since. I only ever watched it once (I think), and I was likely at 17 or 18. I think that I was unduly harsh, especially given the relatively downbeat ending. (We should remember that the ending is only relatively downbeat, despite what everyone will tell you.)
2. Native Land, directed by Leo Hurwitz, Paul Strand (8/10)
Watched as part of an anthology. My thoughts are murky on the subject. I seem to remember it was surprisingly provocative.
3. Saboteur, directed by Alfred Hitchock (8/10*)
Disclaimer: Saw during my Hitchcock phase.
4. Cat People, directed by Jacques Tourneur (6/10)
My dad once told me this was the scariest movie he had ever seen. It hasn’t aged well. Read the review of Cat People.
5. This Gun for Hire, directed by Frank Tuttle (5/10)
This is a pretty by-the-numbers ’40s noir with many of the conventions more obvious than normal (Ladd is tough, but sensitive, etc).
The best part is probably the variety of great locations.
The overly patriotic nature is a little annoying and so is much of the acting from the supporting players – particularly the talent agent near the beginning, who is terrible.
I suspect that the book is much better (and British).
6. The Pride of the Yankees, directed by Sam Wood (4/10)
The Pride of the Yankees was made before Hollywood (or perhaps any film industry) had any notion of how to make biography. Biography had been improving substantially for nearly 100 years at this point, but those improvements hadn’t made their way to film. What we have here is not biography; with the exception of one or two scenes, Gehrig is presented as a saint. It is far more an attempt to confirm popularly held impressions of the man than it is an attempt to tell his story. As such, it must be seen as a failure as anything other than blatant hero worship. Gehrig has a temper in one scene (that never appears again). In a couple scenes he lies, but his lies are always portrayed as noble and well-intentioned. Cooper is great, as this is the thing he does best, but we learn little to nothing about the actual man Gehrig.
The film also has numerous technical issues. There is very little actual baseball, and most of that is stock footgage of actual Yankees. When the crew finally puts the camera on the field, it’s to show Gehrig relieved at not having to hit. They filmed a couple slides and catches, but for the most part the baseball that is in the film is of a noticeably different stock. Such compositions might have been fairly innovative for Hollywood at the time, but they date poorly, were already commonplace in short films for decades, and are a horrible substitute for newly filmed playing. This film would have been leaps and bounds better if only made by a German or Russian, or someone who had seen some German or Russian films.
7. Mrs. Miniver, directed by William Wyler (4/10)
8. Flying Tigers, directed by David Miller (4/10*)
Watched in my John Wayne phase, which predates my Hitchcock phase by a few years. So take this rating with a huge grain of salt. On the other hand, this is likely propaganda.
9. Yankee Doodle Dandy, directed by Michael Curtiz (3/10*)
Yes, this is harsh. But one of the 100 greatest American films this is definitely not. James Cagney shouldn’t sing. And because he doesn’t work the rest of the movie doesn’t work. Don’t really know why this movie has any kind of critical reputation. Ugh.
PS I think Curtiz’s position as first and last on this list is really something.