Saturday, February 25, 2012


I've having the opposite problem to John. I've watched too many movies in February, and don't have the attention span or interest for anything else, especially writing about them. I've gotten a number of these 40s and 50s lists in the bag, but have lacked the impetus to post on them. I suck. Anyway, I'm making myself post this '55 list, and will hope to post a '59 list today as well. Tomorrow I'm shooting for one of my patented big roundups. I think I've got like 20 films to write about. That probably won't happen, but I'll try to mention a few. It's been a slow blog month to say the least.

So, 1955 was the year my mother was born, and also a pretty great year for movies:

1. Smiles of a Summer Night (Bergman)
2. The Night of the Hunter (Laughton)
3. The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Bunuel)
4. Ordet (Dreyer)
5. All That Heaven Allows (Sirk)
6. Rebel Without a Cause (Ray)
7. Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich)
8. Les Diaboliques (Clouzot)
9. Lola Montès (Ophüls)
10. The Trouble With Harry (Hitchcock)

HM: East of Eden (Kazan), To Catch a Thief (Hitchcock), Night and Fog (Resnais), Lady and the Tramp (lots of people), Killer's Kiss (Kubrick), Riffifi (Dassin), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (Lamont)

I’ll just briefly say something about a few of the films I’ve never written about before:

SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT - Bergman flirted with the pastoral sexual farce in the years leading up to this (his first great film, no doubt), and would toy around with it, mostly in the form of comedic interludes, in some of his work a few years later (the bawdy elements in THE SEVENTH SEAL or THE MAGICIAN), but here it reaches sublime, unrivaled heights. Beautifully shot and staged, funny, entertaining, poetic–it’s Bergman’s comedic masterpiece.

THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER - A shame that this is the only film Charles Laughton ever directed, but what a film to rest your name on. One of the darkest and most unsettling of the 50s, this is a great thriller-noir featuring Bob Mitchum at his creepiest and some gorgeous black-and-white photography. A classic and a must-see, of course.

THE CRIMINAL LIFE OF ARCHIBALDO DE LA CRUZ - A genius black comedy about the world’s greatest would-be murderer. Bunuel was brilliant and insane–and this is a mad, beautiful melodrama.

ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS - Speaking of melodrama–Douglas Sirk was a master of 50s melodrama, and this is perhaps his finest and most visually vibrant film. Much has been said about the irony laden in Sirk’s work, but this is a film that works even as a straightforward narrative because of how explicitly it critiques 50s conformity and the shallowness of appearances. If WRITTEN ON THE WIND and IMITATION OF LIFE are pure irony (two films I like very much), then I at least prefer ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS for having the irony but also something genuine.

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE - Let’s keep the thread going, shall we. Ray was another master of 50s melodrama. A rebel and an iconoclast, he is someone who understood this material inside and out. And he knew how to get the best out of Dean. This film is a counter-cultural touchstone, and it speaks for itself.

LES DIABOLIQUES - Clouzot was considered the French answer to Hitchcock largely for this truly creepy thriller (though I think he earns that distinction more for THE WAGES OF FEAR–one of the most genuinely nerve-wracking films I’ve ever seen). Still, this film is no slouch. Frigthening, brutal, and a wickedly funny ending.

THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY - While Clouzot was busy taking over the suspense reins this year, Hitchcock made one of his few outright comedic films, and it’s a blast. The humor is dark, dry, and very British, though the film is set in a beautiful, albeit artificial, Vermont in autumn. It’s a wonderful and absurd little film from a man who probably got a kick out of surprising people with his great sense of humor.

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