Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1954.
1. Seven Samurai, directed by Akira Kurosawa (10/10)
An iconic and highly influential film that is pretty much the standard for samurai movies, and even these types of ‘action’ movies in general (i.e. those films where people band together to rescue others through violence).
2. On the Waterfront, directed by Elia Kazan (10/10)
We can quibble that this was Kazan’s defense for his indefensible behaviour, and I guess we can criticize the film for this. But I think that rejecting a film for helping us understand why people do these things is the wrong thing to do. Kazan possessing the wrong political opinions does not diminish how good this movie is.
3. Sansho dayu, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi (9/10)
Some people consider this the greatest film of all time or, at the very least, “perfect.” I just think it’s very good. Read the review of Sansho the Bailiff.
4. La Strada, directed by Federico Fellini (9/10)
This is an excellent, realistic and affecting film which appears to have been made by someone completely different than the Fellini I’m familiar with. Yes, there are some touches that are recognizable in his later work but, for the most part, this film is remarkably grounded in plausibility.
For me, this is the best film he has made; certainly it is the least self-indulgent. The only thing keeping me from giving it full marks is the sound.
5. Rear Window, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (9*/10)
I saw this so early in my teens that I forgot nearly everything about it. Most of Hitchcock’s other most famous films from this era I’ve seen more than once. I’ve seen Psycho probably almost 10 times, Vertigo at least 3, and same with North by Northwest. But this one, I saw when I was, I don’t know…13? And I realized I have basically zero memory of it now. And, given that it is always on the best movie ever lists, I figured I should watch it again.
The opening shot is something. But I also notice how jaunty and oddly out of touch with the direction of the film the music in the opening is. That’s something I don’t remember even noticing.
It’s a novel film, with the lead basically confined and with so few locations. That part of it still feels innovative. And once the women head over to the apartment, it gets into Hitchcock classic territory in terms of suspense.
I feel like some things haven’t aged as well. The banter, for one. And the way in which Stewart delays his inevitable assault is just very, very dumb. (On the other hand, I haven’t had an old analog camera flash go off my eyes in the dark. So maybe it isn’t very dumb.)
I definitely feel like I liked it more when I was really young, and hadn’t seen as many films. I still think it’s a unique film, and it’s iconic. I don’t agree it’s one of the 100 best movies of all time, though it is regularly high up on those lists.
6. Chikamatsu monogatari, directed by Kenji Mizoguchi (8/10)
7. The Caine Mutiny, directed by Edward Dmytryk (8/10)
I haven’t seen this in a very long time, but it is a near-classic.
8. Dial M for Murder, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (8/10)
A good Hitchock film. Don’t bother watching the remake, this is quite a decent suspense film.
9. Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot, directed by Jacques Tati (8/10)
I get why this is considered a good movie. It was completely out of place with the 1950s. Harking back to the silent era was considerably avant garde for back then (as much as it can be avant garde to go backwards). For that reason I rank it higher than the other stuff I’ve seen by Tati. But this is not really great comedy. It’s far too safe and “gentle” (as the blurb says). Great comedy is dangerous and this is not. I really prefer Chaplin and Keaton and it’s not just because they were way more trendsetting and – I think – inventive but I guess it’s also because, as Americans, I understand their silent world.
It’s harder to laugh at Tati’s because I have never experienced anything like 1950s France. Even if I could relate to that, though, I still think I would find this film, and his other films, entirely too safe.
10. Track of the Cat, directed by William A. Wellman (7/10)
This is an interesting film that has a lot of potential, but is ultimately not what it could have been. The colours are the most immediately striking thing about the movie, as it’s a western but it’s in the snow, and there is of course that distinctive red jacket.
Mitchum is his usual fantastic self, but I found a few other actors to be overly hysterical (or in the case of Arthur, to be wooden). There is entirely too much melodrama in the homestead. Also, the obvious differences between the location shooting and the sets is somewhat annoying. With a bit better script and some slightly higher production values, not to mention a slightly better ending, this could have been a classic.
11. Gojira, directed by Ishiro Honda (6/10)
This is much better than most of the later Godzilla movies (that I’ve seen parts of, anyway). It’s far less preposterous. That’s not to say it isn’t preposterous, as it totally is. The thing that works the least is the “oxygen destroyer,” which makes no sense, especially since the “special” effects surrounding it consist of…um…bubbles. But they attempted to make a serious movie with a good moral. And I can appreciate that, despite the oxygen destroyer.
12. A Star is Born, directed by George Cukor (6/10)
More intelligent than anything else of its type, so that’s something.
13. Johnny Guitar, directed by Nicholas Ray (6/10)
A unique western which is spoiled by the over-acting.
14. Sabrina, directed by Billy Wilder (6/10)
This is one of the numerous Hollywood movies of the so-called golden age which prize “wit” and “charm” over over more important things, like story and character development. Like so many of them, there is little to fault in the production – save the general lack of location shooting – and it is populated by a better cast than most. But it still is a piece of its time.
15. Them!, directed by Gordon Douglas (6/10)
Thoroughly entertaining despite how stupid it is.
16. Carmen Jones, directed by Otto Preminger (5/10)
A mess. Read the review of Carmen Jones.
17. 2000 Leagues Under the Sea, directed by Richard Fleischer (5*/10)
Seen multiple times as a child.