1956 in Movies

Movie reviews for movies released theatrically in 1956.

1. Bob le flambeur, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville (10/10)

It’s killing me that I cannot locate my review of this movie. One of the great all-time crime movies.

2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, directed by Don Siegel (10/10)

This was my favourite “old” movie for years. I recently re-watched it and found that it had dated quite poorly. I still think it is pretty awesome for its time, despite the ending which could have been better. I stand by my initial opinion even if I have reservations.

3. The Searchers, directed by John Ford (9/10)

I watched this during my John Wayne phase.

4. Aparajito, directed by Satyajit Ray (9/10)

A true landmark in Indian cinema. Unfortunately, I did not write down my comments at the time.

5. Un condamné à mort s’est échappé ou Le vent souffle où il veut, directed by Robert Bresson (8/10)

Almost one of the great prison escape films of all time. Read the review of A Man Escaped.

6. The Killing, directed by Stanley Kubrick (7/10)

I wrote this once: One of the great all-time crime movies and Kubrick’s first great film (after some major low-budget missteps). I have to say that the narration never bugged me when I was younger but now I see the problem. I feel like it doesn’t fit the film and was imposed afterward because somebody worried the audiences were too dumb.

Many years removed from my Kubrick obsession, there are numerous problems. The narration is obviously the worst of them, but the score is also pretty over-the-top. Deserves to be remade as it would probably work better now than it did then. Still cool to look at, in terms of shots.

7. The Man Who Knew Too Much, directed by Alfred Hitchcock (6/10)

Hitchcock remade his own film for American audiences. I haven’t seen the original. This is one of his lesser films. Essentially along the same theme as North by Northwest.

8. The Man Who Never Was, directed by Ronald Neame (6/10)

I seem to remember this being mildly interesting.

9. Anastasia, directed by Anatole Litvak (6/10)

This is a typical “Golden Age” Hollywood period drama – as much or more time has been spent on the costumes and the sets as has been spent on the script and conception.

That being said, it’s well done for what it is and, nitpick as I might, there’s nothing bad about it.

10. Written on the Wind, directed by Douglas Sirk (5/10)

Some people absolutely love Sirk and I think I know why:

  • crazy colours,
  • unusual acting,
  • more emotion than you’d ever find in a comparable picture by another Hollywood director,
  • and a willingness to deal – albeit implicitly – with things most other Hollywood directors of the day wouldn’t even touch. (In this case spousal abuse resulting in something very unpleasant.)

But wow is that emoting ever hard to take.

And some of those lines… ugh.

Sometimes melodrama is unique enough to find some kind of value to it, as when it touches upon an untouched social issue or what have you. But I’m not sure the focus on abuse is direct enough to outweigh the deep issues with this film. We have

  • overacting (it wouldn’t be melodrama without it),
  • a bad ending that feels imposed, whether or not it actually was,
  • and some poor plot devices (“remembered” dialogue instead of a flashback, a drunk confessing sins).

and really there’s nothing for the modern film fan who isn’t a Douglas Sirk fanatic to like here.

11. Giant, directed by George Stevens (4*/10)

As a teen, this bored me to tears.

12. The Battle of the River Plate, directed by Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger (4*/10)

I saw this in my war movie phase, well before I knew who Powell and Pressburger were, or paid much attention to film techniques.

13. The Conqueror, directed by Dick Powell (2*/10)

I don’t know that I ever saw more than a few minutes of this when I “watched” it as a teen or young 20-something.

14. Godzilla, King of the Monsters! directed by Ishiro Honda, Terry O. Morse (1/10)

Somewhere I have written of my outrage at this movie, but I can’t find it right now. Basically, this is an insult. Some American producer saw a Japanese film, thought “Wow this will sell if only…” and then decided that American audiences couldn’t handle and / or wouldn’t pay to see the Japanese movie.

The result is this: the original Japanese film inter-cut with new footage of Raymond Burr telling the Japanese what to do. Now, I’m not Japanese, but I can imagine that if this had been done to a Canadian movie, I would be livid regardless of the finished product. And, well, the finished product is terrible.


“Night and Fog,” directed by Alain Renais (10/10)

If you see one movie about the Holocaust, let this be it.

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