1957 in Movies

Movie reviews written for movies released theatrically in 1957.

1. Paths of Glory, directed by Stanley Kubrick (10*/10)

So there is obviously a rather huge problem with this film: Kirk Douglas. Douglas was perhaps the worst (male) emoter of the “golden age” of Hollywood. I try and I try to tell myself that this film is still great despite his explosion late in the film but the older I get, the more I struggle with it.

By the way, if you think Joe Flaherty isn’t much, check out his Kirk Douglas impression. It is amazing.

1. The Seventh Seal, directed by Ingmar Bergman (10/10)

Though I don’t personally like it when an aspect of the human condition is personified, I get that most people seem to find it acceptable. I just feel like it dates the film, almost like a painting of death playing chess dates itself. (I can’t really imagine an artist seriously trying to pass off something like that today, without a tongue far in cheek). That being said, this is one of the most complicated, provocative and thoughtful films of the 1950s, unlike almost anything else in its frankness, philosophical tone and bleakness (even if that bleakness is not absolute). Though I don’t personally wrestle with these demons (I am much more on the same page as the squire) I know most do and I know of few films released prior to this that deal with death and the meaninglessness of life as openly as this film.

3. Kanal, directed by Andrzej Wajda (9/10)

This isn’t Ashes and Diamonds but it’s still a pretty great Polish war film. Read the review of Kanal.

4. Smultronstället [Wild Strawberries], directed by Ingmar Bergman (9/10)

An occasionally surreal road trip spin on A Christmas Carol which feels like it was made by someone entirely different than who made The Seventh Seal. Read the review of Wild Strawberries.

5. The Sweet Smell of Success, directed by Alexander Mackendrick (9/10)

The best Hollywood movie about journalism to date. Regrettably I did not record my thoughts at the time.

6. Kumonosu-jô, directed by Akira Kurosawa (8/10)

It’s been years since I’ve seen the other two but I feel like this is the least classic of Kurosawa’s classic Shakespeare adaptations. Read the review of Throne of Blood.

7. A Bridge on the River Kwai, directed by David Lean (8/10)

I can handle the change in the lead’s nationality. (I mean, it’s William Holden, how can you go wrong?) But I can’t handle the ending…everything about this is awesome except the ending. Sometimes I hate producers.

8. Nights of Cabiria [Le notti di Cabiria], directed by Federico Fellini (8/10)

An assured depiction of a prostitute’s aspirations in Rome. Read the review of Nights of Cabiria.

9. 3:10 to Yuma, directed by Delmar Daves (8/10)

This is one of the better Westerns from the ’50s. It is mostly very well executed, the location shooting is a big plus and the acting is definitely above the average film of the period. There are a few things that don’t work, it’s hard to see how they could survive the walk to the train (that is handled better in the remake) and the appearance of Dan’s wife feels like it was mandated by some studio exec. The remake does a better job with the characterizations (of the minor characters) and actually deigns tell us what happened to the stage, but on the whole this is superior.

10. 12 Angry Men, directed by Sidney Lumet (7/10)

Entirely too black and white; literally as Fonda is actually attired to reflect his moral position.

11. Pyasa, directed by Guru Dutt (6/10)

Probably a Bollywood landmark. I don’t care. Read the review of Pyasa.

12. The Enemy Below, directed by Dick Powell (6*/10)

Seen as a teen.

13. Gunfight at the OK Corral, directed by John Sturges (6*/10)

Watched during my John Wayne phase.

14. An Affair to Remember, directed by Leo McCarey (5/10)

This is one of those “classic” bantery Hollywood rom coms with a Cary Grant-type (this time played by Cary Grant, here paired with one of his regular sparring partners, Deborah Kerr). It’s one of those movies where two unbelievably rich and self-assured people throw witticisms at each other (with a little tiny bit of slapstick) and we are supposed to think this is the Height of Comedy, and if we don’t I guess there’s something wrong with us. (At least we’ve mostly lost that generation of film critics who used to insist that there was nothing funnier than Wit and these movies were the absolute Wittiest!) And then the witticisms are worn down by the sheer attraction of the two leads (as are we!) and the Height of Comedy yields to the Height of Romance, and everything is wonderful. Or something like that.

Read the rest of the review of An Affair to Remember.

21. Plan 9 from Outer Space, directed by Ed Wood (1/10)

I watched this because I was curious at how bad it truly was. You should not do the same.