Movie reviews of movies released theatrically in 1948.
1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, directed by John Huston (10/10)
This was, for a time, my favourite “classic” Hollywood film. I haven’t seen it in over a decade, so I cannot really remember if it as great as I thought it was at the time.
2. Hamlet, directed by Laurence Olivier (9/10)
Olivier’s version was pretty much the definitive one for much of the last century, but it lacks a certain bravado that has accompanied later attempts at adapting perhaps the greatest play of all time.
3. Rope, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (9/10*)
One of the first Hitch movies I saw and certainly the first movie I saw set in real time; I really don’t know that I can remember whether it was as good as I thought it was at 16.
4. The Big Clock, directed by John Farrow (8/10)
The Big Clock is a very well directed film. It may be a little too clearly a film of its time (with the slightly peculiar things like “Oh my god you talked to another woman in a bar! We’re getting a divorce” type behaviour) and some of the acting is a little too 1940s, but the film has all kinds of cool camera angles (I think the director was watching Welles’ movies) and it’s exciting even though I knew what would happen (having seen the remake, No Way Out, three or more times).
5. Red River, directed by Howard Hawks, Arthur Rossen (8/10*)
Watched in my John Wayne phase, so I cannot really comment.
6. Bicycle Thieves aka The Bicycle Thief, directed by Vittorio De Sica (7/10)
I think this film’s importance and reputation revolves firmly around the fact that Americans had seen absolutely nothing like this when it premiered in the States. It is certainly unlike any American film of the era or most eras, and that’s certainly notable. But I think the Italian Neo-Realist movement made better films – certainly none so minimalist – and I think this movie rests primarily on the protagonist and his son and how you relate to them. My well-documented confusion regarding Italian characterizations made me like this less than I thought I have should have.
7. Force of Evil, directed by Abraham Polonsky (7/10)
Unfortunately I failed to record my thoughts at the time. I believe I thought it was, on the whole, quite a decent noir, with more than its fair share of people doing bad things.
8. Key Largo, directed by John Huston (7/10)
There’s a lot to like here – Lauren Bacall in particular – but there are things that just don’t work, particularly that musical number.
9. Sorry, Wrong Number, directed by Anatole Litvak (7/10)
There are lots of things to like about this movie. The attempts at claustrophobia, the flashbacks (though they are a tad excessive), the lighting, the pretty damn awesome final moments. Unfortunately, the filmmakers cling too much to its origins as a radio play. In so many scenes we can see this, as sound dominates (as it would have to on the radio) and where, instead of writing new material or omitting something, the filmmakers merely add a montage or a shot to fill in the void. This keeps the film from being truly effective. If they hadn’t told me in the opening credits that it was a radio play, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed. I don’t know. But knowing its origins really bugged me. I kept thinking “that was designed for radio” over and over, kind of like when you watch stage actors on screen for the first time as they shout their lines, not realizing they don’t have to project their voices any more.
10. Bud Abbot and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein, directed by Charles T. Barton (7/10*)
My Abbot and Costello phase occurred prior to my John Wayne phase, so needless to say I saw this movie a long time ago. The rating is highly suspect.
11. The Red Shoes, directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger (6/10)
Well, this is certainly an important film. Like most Powell / Pressburger films, it is innovative and beautiful to look at and, like most Powell / Pressburger films, it is utterly ridiculous. I wish these guys could have made a believable film at least once. It is amazing to look at, the production values are impeccable and there are some utterly brilliant technical moments but as usual they force the audience to try to suspend their disbelief too much. We have this elaborate ballet sequence in the middle that certainly is one of the most important filmed ballets ever (and certainly hugely influential on cinema as a whole) but what happened to the audience? All they had to do was make the story about a film of a ballet and they get away with it but no, that would be too…what? Believable? It’s unfortunate that these guys never bothered to treat their audiences with intelligence, as they are are some of the more remarkable filmmakers of their era.