Somewhere in the Night

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Somewhere in the Night (1946, B+W, 20th C. Fox).
Written & Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz (House of Strangers, All About Eve).
            This is a John Hodiak picture.  For most of my life I knew him from Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Lifeboat’, of course, and Judy Garland’s ‘The Harvey Girls’.  He was good, but I never sought out him in anything else.  I often even avoided seeing his films.  Then in getting to know some Fox films noir I came across this film.
            It is compelling from the very beginning.  An unknown hero seeking his unknown past.  Soon, he is under the eye of the police and various dangerous people.  In a nightclub he takes refuge in the dressing room of a young singer (played by Nancy Guild – pronounced as in wild, as the Ads said.).  She enlists the help of her boss, played by Richard Conte.  A shadowy character himself, he runs the Club she sings in.  The extremes of our hero’s trap are Lloyd Nolan as a cop, who knows more than he tells, but tells enough for you to know he’s watching you, and the legendary Fritz Kortner (Pandora’s Box, The Razor’s Edge) as the head of a low-rent gang of thugs.  All of them seek a lost $2 million dollars, which can be found only through our unknown hero.  A good complex plot, full of darkness and untrustworthy characters played by great actors, all after a Macguffin.  Soon I was loving every minute of the film.
            It’s not just the stars, but Margo Woode plays an amazing tough chick who puts on airs because she speaks a little French.  Then, there are the two gems of performances: Josephine Hutchinson as a young woman aging too fast due to loneliness, and Housely Stevenson as her father, locked in an asylum because he saw too much.  This is a dark film but you don’t notice, because it is so polished.  Check it out. – EdeF.

Designing Women

Sunday, July 18, 2010

I want to warn you off of a very, very awful film, 'Designing Women'.  The title is a play on words; the contrast between a man-trapping woman and Bacall's occupation in the film.  On the surface you'd think it'd be funny and good; Gregory Peck and Lauren Bacall in a Vincente Minnelli-directed film.  But you must avoid this at all costs!  It is smug, self-assured (with no good cause), and very unfunny.  It is everything wrong with 1950's filmmaking.  But it was a big hit.  However it stinks.  Vincente Minnelli just a year or so before did the great Van Gogh biography, but he's really 'off his feed' here, and he insists on dragging Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck down with him.  If you see this, you will think less of everybody involved.  I'm not joking.  To rent this film for 1¢ would be a waste of money!  Consider yourself warned.  It truly sucks.