1955 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies I’ve seen that were released theatrically in 1955.

1. Night and Fog, directed by Alain Renais (10/10)

This film is technically a short but I don’t care. If you see one movie about the Holocaust, let this be it.

2. Night of the Hunter, directed by Charles Laughton (10*/10)

This was the first or second “classic” Hollywood movie I saw that changed my perception of “old” movies as a teen. I have not seen it since.

3. Bad Day at Black Rock, directed by John Sturges (10*/10)

When I was a tween and young teen, this was my favourite “old” movie, probably because it was one of my dad’s favourite “old” movies. I watched it multiple times. I caught a little bit of it on TV a few years back and quickly turned it off because of how mediocre it seemed. I didn’t want to know. I will hopefully watch it again when I am no longer afraid of destroying my childhood illusions.

3. Kiss Me Deadly, directed by Robert Aldrich (10/10)

Though a little past the prime of the genre, this is one of the best. It has greater social import too, because of its subject.

5. Pather Panchali, directed by Satyajit (9/10)

Apparently a landmark in Indian cinema, this is an excellent neo realist film about peasants in West Bengal. Read the review of Pather Panchali.

6. Les Diaboliques, directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot (9/10)

I failed to write down my thoughts at the time, but this is one of the great thrillers of the ’50s. Please don’t watch the remake.

7. Rebel without a Cause, directed by Nicholas Ray (9*/10)

Iconic. But I saw it years ago.

8. Smiles of a Summer Night, directed by Ingmar Bergman (8/10)

The humour hasn’t exactly dated well (it doesn’t help that I don’t understand Swedish and the subtitles always effect comic timing) but this is still a fascinating movie. It is probably the most thoughtful romantic comedy I’ve seen (at least in a while) even though it really does hit on a lot of traditional themes. So for me that’s the real interest in it: this bizarre fusion of a traditional comic story and Bergman’s usual shtick. It’s weird but it works.

9. Ordet, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer (7/10)

There are a lot of things to like about this film:

  • the long takes (like Ophuls but less acrobatic, obviously more appropriate to this material),
  • the soundtrack (which is almost completely noise rather than music),
  • the ridiculously deliberate pacing, the argument between two men who believe but who hate each other because they believe differently.

But unfortunately things don’t hold up. Dreyer brings in music late in the film, which removes the effectiveness of the white noise (as well as the effectiveness of the concluding blank screen with music). The bigger problem is the source material, as the ending is utterly ridiculous unless of course you are a believer. Wouldn’t ambiguity have been the better choice?

10. Marty, directed by Delbert Mann (7/10)

An ending away from being a great movie. Still remarkable for a ’50s Hollywood film. Borgnine’s best performance by a mile.

11. To Catch a Thief, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (7/10)

Overly stylish, and quite “Hollywood”, but still quite enjoyable. And Grace Kelly is in it.

12. All That Heaven Allows, directed by Douglas Sirk (7/10)

Sometimes I feel like Sirk is the Norman Rockwell of old Hollywood: everything is so hyper-idealized. But I guess Winslow Homer is a better comparison, everything looks good, but things are lurking.

Read the review of All That Heaven Allows.

13. The Trouble with Harry, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (6/10)

This very dark comedy about a dead body is one of Hitchcock’s strangest and most offbeat films.

14. East of Eden, directed by Elia Kazan (6*/10)

Watched as a teen.

15. The Man from Laramie, directed by Anthony Mann (6*/10)

Seen during my John Wayne phase.

16. Blackboard Jungle, directed by Richard Brooks (6/10)

Kids today…This may be the first in the long line of “How can I reach these kids?!” movies that Hollywood has pumped out over the years. That doesn’t make it best, or the least.

17. The Ladykillers, directed by Alexander Mackendrick (6/10)

I know why the Coens wanted to remake this. It’s because they thought it could have been better. Too bad their version isn’t any good.

Guinness is fantastic. So is the old lady. Sellers is barely recognizable. All good things.

The laughs aren’t as frequent as they could be. And the obvious set made it harder for me to like the film. I know they had limitations, but they clearly found the house they wanted, so why not use it?

This could have been a lot better.

18. The Big Combo, directed by Joseph H. Lewis (5/10)

This is a pretty standard film noir/gangster film, almost wholly lacking in backstory (only one character has one!), character development or mystery. (The film’s central mystery is pretty boring.) The dialogue is hackneyed and almost sounds like a parody of better noir at times. A couple of the characters drastically change their behaviour during the film (particularly Wallace’s and Middleton’s) and it’s really hard to imagine that the villain is a gangster solely to get girls. (Also, this is the smallest criminal organization…)

The only reason I think this film is sometimes fondly remember – aside from the rather classic noir lighting – is the homosexual relationship between the two gunmen, which must have been rather unique at the time.

19. The Dam Busters, directed by Michael Anderson (5*/10)

Watched as a young teen.

20. Killer’s Kiss, directed by Stanley Kubrick (4/10)

Even the famous manikin factory scene cannot save this movie.

21. To Hell and Back, directed by Jesse Hibbs (4*/10)

Seen during my war movie phase.

22. Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy, directed by Charles Lamont (4*/10)

Seen during my Abbot and Costello phase. Thanks dad!

23. This Island Earth, directed by Joseph Newman (2/10)

Before Hollywood realized aliens should be, you know, aliens.