Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1950.
1. Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa (10/10)
It took me a really long time to see what is probably the most famous – or most important – Japanese film ever made. And unfortunately, I had pretty high expectations, which at first were hard for the film to match.
2. Sunset Blvd., directed by Billy Wilder (10/10)
The best movie by Hollywood about Hollywood to this point, bar none.
3. The Asphalt Jungle, directed by John Huston (9/10*)
I haven’t seen this movie in a very long time, but it was once among my favourites of pre-revisionism Hollywood cinema.
4. D.O.A., directed by Rudolph Mate (8/10)
The original D.O.A. has a fantastic concept and some interesting direction for its time. But in general, it’s not as good as I had heard (which really is a shame). One of the positive things that has occurred over the last 50 years in film is that character motivations and subtext have (in some movies) become a lot deeper. There were a few moments watching this movie where I was wondering “why did he react that way?” you didn’t really give me a reason (other than: this is the way people would react to this in 1949…and I really don’t know if that’s true or not). Also, there could be a greater amount of musing about the very existential situation Bigelow is in. In any case, the neat angles and the concept make up for some of the other problems. It’s not brilliant, but it’s worthwhile viewing.
5. Night and the City, directed by Jules Dassin (8/10)
Despite a very iffy beginning this quickly turns into a good film.
Though he occasionally borders on over-acting, this is Widmark’s greatest performance, and it’s probably one of the greatest lead performances in a classic Hollywood noir (keeping in mind the old device of actors saying their feelings out loud, which is frowned upon now).
On the whole, the film is very well shot and well paced. Occasionally the acting of the supporting cast is a little wooden, but that’s partly because Widmark is so above and beyond everyone else.
6. Panic in the Streets, directed by Elia Kazan (8/10)
And then I watched Panic in the Streets, which put everything in perspective.
That is to say, it’s amazing what a master filmmaker will do with a film, rather than just a regular director. Henry Hathaway’s work on Kiss of Death is certainly commendable, but watching Kazan’s Panic in the Streets immediately afterwards puts everything in relief. The direction of Panic in the Streets – despite the usual problems with the story that most of us have with older movies – is so much better it’s ridiculous. Just watching the first feel scenes you feel like you’re watching a master at work.
That’s not to say that Panic in the Streets is awesome, it’s just pretty good, but it wouldn’t have been pretty good without Kazan. Of course, with Kazan there’s always “the problem.” I imagine that if I had been alive when he was testifying to the House Un-American Committee, I would hate his guts. But I’m having a hard time of thinking of somebody who was as good a director from back then, with the exception of Welles, and he wasn’t consistent.
7. In a Lonely Place, directed by Nicholas Ray (8/10)
This is an interesting film, not the least for it’s portrayal of the artistic community in Los Angeles. It’s not the most gripping movie, as I didn’t quite buy into the conceit (whether because it’s Bogart – or because Ray – didn’t force me to believe he was capable of such things), but it still manages to keep your interest. It’s stands out among many other movies of the day I guess because the characters feel a little more believable than the usual archetypes. It’s worth seeing.
8. La Ronde, directed by Max Ophuls (8/10)
Corny and kind of ridiculous, but Ophuls was probably the greatest director of his era – in terms of “pure” direction, thinking nothing of storytelling and the like. A remarkable thing to watch, even if the story is borderline terrible.
9. Rio Grande, directed by John Ford (7/10*)
Watched during my John Wayne phase.
10. Gun Crazy aka Deadly is the Female, directed by Joseph H. Lewis (7/10)
I didn’t write down my thoughts at the time, but this is a pretty decent, if low-budget, noir.
11. All About Eve, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (7/10*)
I saw this back in my late teens and probably had a problem with the hysterics.
12. Winchester ’73, directed by Anthony Mann (7/10*)
I saw this during my John Wayne phase. Yes, I know he’s not in the movie. I watched it a long time ago, is what I mean.
13. No Way Out, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (6/10)
There is something to this, but mostly it’s pretty contrived. There are good parts here and there, but a lot of the situations feel set up just so the plot can move forward: for example, the head of surgery acts so much like a cop as he interrogates the female lead that we start believing he is a cop, all to introduce her into the plot. It’s nice to see a heroic female role so long ago, it really is. But, this film, which supposedly condemns racism, lists its black star fourth (!) in the billing…
14. Caged, directed by John Cromwell (6/10)
This film is shockingly brazen for its time. Though the hysterics are a little much, and though this inspired more cliches than anything else, it’s still quite surprising. It could do from a little more of an understanding of people, but it’s still at least unique.
15. Treasure Island, directed by Byron Haskin (6/10*)
I have seen this movie multiple times, but not once as an adult.
16. The Halls of Montezuma, directed by Lewis Milestone (4/10*)
Seen during my war movie phase, I then retroactively rated it sometime since.