Friday, March 23, 2012

Breaking the Black Silence

I’ve been meaning to a mini round-up post for days now, but have been too pissed about the Trayvon Martin case to do anything but sit in quiet fury. I’ve cooled off a bit now since things have been picking up with the case, so I figured I could do a little movie posting:

BLAST OF SILENCE is awesome. I love its grimy, pulpy feel. I love how quintessential a noir it is. I love the nasty, croaky second-person narration to Baron’s mostly blank, unassuming visage; It’s like this fatalistic voice nagging at the back of your brain. My only trouble with the film is that I wish I had watched it around Christmas time. Woulda been perfect.

I watched both Wyler’s DEAD END and Hitch’s YOUNG AND INNOCENT for my 1937 list. They both made it on with ease. Honestly, I find the “Dead End Boys” in DEAD END (same kids found in ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES) to be annoying, but the compelling presences of Bogart and Mcrea completely make up for that. The interplay between the two and the polarizing moral forces they represent within this impoverished community really propels the film. Sylvia Sidney’s in it too, and she’s all right. She’s mostly there to look beautiful and she at least succeeds at that (Anyone else think Anna Karina is a dead ringer for Sidney?). Anyway, DEAD END isn’t as good as ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES, but it’s still a very good socially-conscious gangster film.

I love YOUNG AND INNOCENT. It’s one of Hitch’s best “wrong man” films. It’s a highly entertaining adventure story with great, offbeat sense of humor. Among his very best of the 30s.

I wish I had gotten to see THIS GUN FOR HIRE before posting my ’42 list. I don’t think it would have cracked the list, but I could have at least discussed it then. As I said before, ’42 is a very good year, so even though TGFH is an honorable mention, I still really like it. It’s a mean little noir with a Batman-esque poison gas plot. It’s also Alan Ladd’s breakout film, and the first of several he did with my current object cathexsis Veronica Lake. Ladd is charismatic as a kitten-loving, but coldblooded hit man. It’s easy to see why he became a star. But, to me, the real star of the picture (surprise, surprise) is Veronica Lake’s face. Worth seeing just for that alone.

I’m a huge fan of the two Busby Berkeley films I’ve seen from 1933–FOOTLIGHT PARADE and 42ND STREET–and now I can add more more to that list in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933. FOOTLIGHT PARADE is still my favorite by a mile (Cagney seals the deal), but GOLD DIGGERS is a hell of a lot of fun (I highly recommend seeing all of them). Obviously, it’s got incredible dance numbers. Berkeley’s visual genius ensures the film is a larger-than-life spectacle. But what really makes the film great is the hilarious wisecracks of Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, and the beautiful Joan Blondell. Their wit and chemistry together is a sheer delight.

John is right; ROAD TO ZANZIBAR is worth seeing if only just to watch Bob Hope in a cage-match with a giant ape. It’s awesome and hilarious. However, the film’s also got some hilarious wisecrackin’ exchanges between Hope and Crosby, and is more akin to the self-aware zaniness of the subsequent ROAD pictures than the more mild ROAD TO SINGAPORE. Not as blissful as MORROCO and UTOPIA, but still pretty enjoyable.

I’ve seen several others recently, but I guess I’ll save them for another roundup soon. I'll probably do a BROADWAY DANNY ROSE post sometime this weekend.

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