Archive for the Category »Film Genres «

Biography of Val Lewton, Man in the Shadows

This post is part of the Val Lewton blogathon hosted by Stephen, aka Classic Movie Man & Kristina of the Speakeasy blog – see more posts at either Classic Movie Man’s Lewton page or the Speakeasy Lewton page.

When Kristina invited to me to participate in this blogathon honoring movie producer Val Lewton, my first instinct was to turn down the offer. The horror genre had never been a particular favorite of mine, and not only had I never seen a Val Lewton film, I had never even heard of him. But being someone who is always trying to expand my knowledge of film history, I decided to learn more about him and his movies before I made a decision.

The simple way I use to describe the type of movies I most like to watch would be those “about real people doing real things in normal settings,” and with names like Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and The Leopard Man, the movies produced by Val Lewton didn’t exactly sound like they’d fit that bill and sounded like they’d be too strange for my tastes.

But when I watched clips of a few of his movies, I realized that they were more like the type of movies I usually like than I ever would have guessed based on their titles alone. In fact, the one Val Lewton movie that I have watched so far, The Seventh Victim (1943), had “normal” looking scenes set in restaurants, hotels, apartments, and even a school where the main character, played by actress Kim Hunter, worked as a kindergarten teacher. Had I not known better, I never would have guessed it was considered horror at all.

When I read that the great director Martin Scorsese described his movies as “wonderfully inventive, beautifully poetic and deeply unsettling . . . some of the greatest treasures we have,” I took it as a sign that I should find out more about those movies and the people who made them, which is why I decided to do this biography of Val Lewton. Continue reading »

Road House: The Ida Lupino Blogathon

This post is my entry into the Ida Lupino blogathon being hosted by Jen at her blog Miss Ida Lupino. Please be sure to visit her blog on August 3 to view a list of all those who participated.

When I decided to participate in the blogathon, I didn’t know very much about Ida Lupino other than that she is often associated with film noir. As a fan of film noir, I’d heard her name mentioned many times before often accompanied by high praise of her work, but for some reason I never made it a point to watch more of her movies. But knowing that Jen is such a big fan of Ida Lupino that she would devote a blog entirely to her (something I once thought about doing for my fave, Jimmy Stewart) I decided that Ida was someone worth getting to know.

To become more familiar with Ida Lupino’s work, I chose to watch the movie Road House (1948) for no particular reason other than that it was the only Ida Lupino movie they had in stock on the shelves at my local library. :-) I guess you could call it a case of serendipity, because it turned out to be a wonderful choice! Not only did I really enjoy the movie and Ida’s performance, but the special features included with the DVD were as interesting and as much fun to watch as the movie itself. Continue reading »

The Adventures of Robin Hood: Me, Watch an Adventure Film?

Yay, I did it! I actually sat down and watched one of the classic movies I thought I’d never get myself to watch. See this previous post for a list of some of those movies. That may not seem like something to get excited about, but if you knew how little patience I have for watching the kind of movies I typically don’t like, you’d know how big of an accomplishment that is for me. :-)

After I wrote that post, I was encouraged by the reviews of a couple of my fellow classic movie bloggers to watch The Adventures of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn and Olivia De Havilland, which I did last week.

The main thing that was keeping me from watching that movie is that it is an adventure film set in the year 1191, and that is so different from the type of movie I usually enjoy watching. But after reading a review by Audrey from the blog Fedoras and High Heels, I realized that out of all the movies on my list, it was the one I was most likely to enjoy. I figured even if I didn’t like the setting, I would at least be captivated by the beautiful Technicolor images and the charm of Olivia De Havilland and Errol Flynn. Continue reading »

The Killer is Loose (1956) on Netflix Instant

When I’m in the mood to watch a movie but don’t have much time or am too tired to sit through a long movie, one of the things I like to do is find a shorter movie to watch through Netflix Instant. You can find a lot of movies there, especially classic thrillers and film noir that are often considered ‘B’ movies, that have a run time between 60-90 minutes, which is perfect for the two situations I mentioned. Because a lot of those films star little known actors and actresses, it’s also a good way to get introduced to new talent without investing a lot of time if the movies are not the greatest quality.

Killer Is Loose, The from Warner Bros.The other day, I was searching on Netflix, and I came across a movie that I had never heard of before that starred one of my favorite actors, Joseph Cotten. I always love it when I find movies by my favorite stars that I didn’t know existed!

The movie was a thriller called The Killer is Loose (1956) about a deranged bank teller (Wendell Corey) accused of robbery who seeks revenge on the police officer (Joseph Cotten) who accidentally killed his wife. It also starred Rhonda Fleming and Alan Hale, Jr., better known to many as the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island. With a run time of only 73 minutes, watching it was easy to fit it into my busy day. Continue reading »

The Pajama Game (1957)

As a resident of the state of Wisconsin as well a huge football fan, I’ve certainly been no stranger to the world of union disputes lately. With the labor unrest in Madison and the battle between NFL players and owners both dominating the news, it was quite timely but totally coincidental that I decided to watch a movie whose plot basically revolves around a union dispute.

However, there was just a *slight* difference in the amount of money being fought over in the movie. By slight I mean billions of dollars (in the NFL) vs. 7 ½ cents an hour. ;-) Sounds a bit ridiculous I know, but the movie I’m referring to is a musical comedy from 1957 called The Pajama Game, which centers around a union in a pajama factory fighting for a 7 ½ cent raise. With $1/hr. being the minimum wage in 1957, 7 ½ cents probably did seem like a lot back then, but it’s funny how insignificant it seems now compared to the amounts currently being contested. Continue reading »

White Heat: At the Top of the Greatest Gangster Movies

As much as I love watching old movies, I have to confess that I haven’t spent much time thinking about them lately and therefore haven’t been doing a very good job of keeping up with my blog. Living here in Green Bay Packers country, the last few weeks have mostly been spent in nervous anticipation of the Super Bowl followed by jubilant celebration of their world championship, and that’s pretty much all I was able to think about. I was surprised when I looked at the calendar and realized it had been over two weeks since I last watched a movie, but I guess that’s what happens when you have an all consuming love for your football team, which we certainly do here in Titletown.

Anyway, enough of me boring you with my football talk. :-) Last night I finally got back to my other great love, watching old movies, and to start things off I decided to step outside my comfort zone by watching the movie White Heat (1949), a movie that is often considered to be in both the film noir and gangster film genres, the latter being defined by the American Film Institute (AFI) as “a genre that centers on organized crime or maverick criminals in a twentieth century setting.” Continue reading »