Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Laura (1944)

Several weeks ago I picked up Laura and watched about two thirds of it before it failed. I tried cleaning it without success. It wasn't due yet, but I took it back to the library hoping they could quickly run it through their cleaning machine. There was a hold on it, so instead they checked it in. The library itself had placed the hold for the purpose of maintenance. I went out of my way to select a different copy to request. Several weeks later, it arrived. I'm certain it was the exact same copy. Not flawless, but I watched it uninterrupted, with my youngest son.

Laura (Gene Tierney) is dead. Murdered in her own apartment. Dana Andrews is Detective Mark McPherson. He first interviews fussy newspaper writer Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) and learns a little about Laura. The two then visit Laura's would-be fiancee, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) who is staying with Laura's aunt (nudge nudge, wink wink). Waldo does not like Shelby.

Through the investigation we learn that Laura was a singular individual. Beautiful, charming, talented, kind, she had it all. We wonder who could want to kill her while we learn that each suspect has a possible motive. Then, the story twists, making us reevaluate all we have learned.

Wittier than expected dialog, great acting, and a top notch story, it's hard to find fault with Laura. Webb's Waldo in particular has some great lines:
"I don't use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom."
"In my case, self-absorption is completely justified. I have never discovered any other subject quite so worthy of my attention."
"It's lavish, but I call it home."
"I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbor's children devoured by wolves."

Price, too has some great ones:
"I don't know a lot about anything, but I know a little about practically everything."
"I can afford a blemish on my character, but not on my clothes."
The Providence Library will be showing Laura later in the month and had this disk failed, that's where I would have been. In fact, I may still. Laura was awesome. AMRU 4.5.

Gene Tierney was hot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Vertigo (1958)

The last of the film noir movies showing at the Providence Public Library was last Sunday. Or so I thought. They added six more dates including one movie that had been cancelled due to weather. I convinced my wife to see Vertigo.

Scotty Ferguson (James Stewart) is a detective afraid of heights. It happened all of a sudden, one day while dangling by his fingertips over certain doom. Rather than become a desk jockey, he retires. Midge Wood (Barbara Bel Geddes) is his cute college buddy who he never managed to hook up with.

Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), an old college friend, stops by to hire Scotty. Seems his hot, young, trophy wife (Kim Novak) is haunted, and that concerns 'oll Gavin. He wants Scotty to keep an eye on her.

Turns out that Madeleine has a great grandma who committed suicide, and g-gram seems to be sending Madeleine on the same career path. Can Scotty save her? She sure in purdy!

Despite being an early critical and financial failure, this is regarded as Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece. AFI ranks it the tenth greatest film and best in the category of Mystery. Just about every organization that likes to rank films, ranks near the top. Even IMDB ranks it 40th (behind The Matrix and all three Lord of the Ring films, of course). I don't know if was despite or because of this that ...

I was disappointed.

Sacrilege, I know, but that's where I ended up. The high point is the story. It made sense from all angles, a rare feat with mysteries. Also, it was a visually appealing film. What I disliked was, well, Stewart. His stammer was charming back in his youth, and worked for him as a troubled banker, but as a 49 (and not looking a day over 51) year old detective, he was a muttering old fool. And what's this about it being film-noir? Noir is supposed to be a hard-boiled detective story. Stewart was soft boiled, at best.

And I must say something about the tedious pans and overdone score. I was really getting sick of the violins.

There also seems to be a missing scene. Midge (way too young to have gone to college with Stewart) visits Scotty in the Boobie Hatch (spoiler alert!), has a brief conversation with the doctor, then disappears from the movie. Then suddenly Scotty is roaming the streets, apparently fully recovered. Transition, please!

I know the reputation Vertigo has. It had many great elements. Maybe it's a victim of high expectations, I don't know. AMRU 3.

Kim Novak was hot.