The Woman in Question (1950)

Aka (in the US) Five Angles to Murder.

The last English-language film I reviewed on my blog was Anatomy of a Murder, which, while not strictly a multiple narrative film, was one of those that peeled back layers of a character and a story as the film progressed.

Then, last weekend, I finished Ngaio Marsh’s Died in the Wool, where the detective arrives on the scene of a gruesome murder a year after it’s been committed. He ends up learning all about the victim from those around her—and there are some very conflicting opinions there. Was she a saint, a saviour? An opportunist, a neglectful wife, what?

A few hours after I finished Died in the Wool (since it was Sunday night), I decided it was time to watch something on Youtube. I was looking for nothing more specific than ‘50s suspense films’, and The Woman in Question was among the search results. I began watching it simply because it starred Dirk Bogarde (whom I like a lot)—and then suddenly it took an interesting turn, and there I was, faced with multiple narratives, multiple perspectives, all over again.

Jean Kent in and as The Woman in Question

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Fahrenheit 451 (1966)

I’ve just finished reading what’s considered to be the finest work by one of science fiction’s greatest writers: Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Set in a dystopian future where literature is outlawed, this is a classic novel of tyranny, insecurity, and yet defiance and hope. In 1966, more than a decade after Bradbury wrote his novel, Francois Truffaut adapted it for the screen.

The firehouse

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Escape (1948)

It’s my birthday today, the 8th of January. Every year, on this day, I post a review of a film that features someone born on January 8. This year, it’s William Hartnell. Born on January 8, 1908 in London, Hartnell was best-known, in the early decades of his career, for his role as Sergeant Grimshaw from the popular Carry On films. In 1963, however, came a breakthrough that was to immortalize Hartnell on screen: he became the first Doctor Who.

In 1948, however, Hartnell acted in this somewhat unusual film about a fugitive, the girl who helps him, and the police inspector who’s on his trail. Hartnell was not the protagonist; that role went to Rex Harrison—but Hartnell put in a nuanced and restrained performance as a cop who’s not infallible, not hard-bitten and cynical, not incompetent or corrupt. A human being, and a cop.

William Hartnell as Inspector Harris in Escape

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The Innocents (1961)

My mother grew up in a family ruled by the iron hand of her grandfather, a strict disciplinarian who thought dining out, nightlife, and cinema were a waste of time. Not to mention immoral. As a result, while he was alive, about the only films the family went to watch were The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Kismet.

Mummy once told me that the first film she happened to watch after the old gentleman (and his controlling ways) had passed on was The Innocents. And that she liked it. When I discovered that it starred Deborah Kerr—a favourite of mine—I was curious. I watched this film shortly after I began blogging, but decided I’d postpone a review (and a rewatch) for after I’d read the story on which this film was based: Henry James’s famous The Turn of the Screw.

Deborah Kerr in The Innocents

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The Mouse That Roared (1959)

What is a country to do if its economy suddenly takes a nosedive? What if the country’s sole source of income is a product that’s suddenly no more in demand? Are economic reforms in order? Or a smart political move?

No; I’m not talking a 1950s tale of courage and enterprise in the face of economic disaster (not in the way one would’ve expected, at any rate). Not when you know that the star of this film—in a triple role, too, one of which is a woman—is the inimitable Peter Sellers. And not when you know that it revolves around a fictitious country, supposedly the smallest in the world, which decides that what its economy needs for a turnaround is to declare war on the United States of America.

The way to solvency Continue reading

Oliver! (1968)

People who’ve been frequenting this blog for the past couple of years probably know by now that there’s one annual tradition I follow on Dusted Off: every year, on my birthday—which is today, January 8—I post a review of a film featuring someone born on the same date as me. I’ve reviewed films featuring well-known stars born on January 8: Nanda, Elvis Presley, Fearless Nadia—and some lesser-known but also good ones, like José Ferrer and Kerwin Matthews.

This year, I’m wishing a happy birthday to Ron Moody (born January 8, 1924), the British actor whose first film appearance was back in 1958, and who’s acted all the way up to (according to IMDB) 2010. To celebrate Mr Moody’s 90th birthday, I’ll be reviewing the film that won him a Golden Globe, as well as an Oscar nomination—Oliver!, the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, aka The Parish Boy’s Progress.

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The Night of the Generals (1967)

As a young teenager, I went through a phase when I watched a lot of war movies. And when I say ‘a lot’, I mean a lot: everything from Operation Daybreak and Operation Crossbow to The Guns of Navarone, Where Eagles Dare, Escape to Victory, Von Ryan’s Express—and this one.  I remember The Night of the Generals as being an offbeat war film, because it didn’t have the drama and high adventure of most of the other war films I saw during that period. Instead, it was an unusual film, in that it was shown from the point of view of the Germans—and it combined suspense with war.

The three generals

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Dr No (1962)

Over the years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve posted tributes to dozens of personalities: directors, actors and actresses, singers, music directors, lyricists, even a writer. This time, therefore, I’m being a little different: I’m posting a tribute to a fictitious character. Ian Fleming’s suave spy, James Bond. Because today is Global James Bond Day, in celebration of fifty years of James Bond, onscreen—because Mr Bond first appeared in Dr No, released in 1962.

Twenty-four Bond films have been made. Bond has been portrayed by seven actors. But this one, starring Sean Connery as the first 007, seemed the appropriate Bond film to watch and review for this occasion.

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A Tale of Two Cities (1958)

Happy birthday, Mr Dickens!

Yes, Charles Dickens was born exactly 200 years ago today – on February 7, 1812, in Portsea. In his lifetime, he wrote a number of short stories and non-fictional works, besides about a dozen major novels. He was recognised as one of Britain’s greatest writers within his lifetime – and cinema took to his stories like a duck to water. Have a look at his filmography, and you’ll see what I mean. Dozens of adaptations, feature films, short films and TV series, have been made of Dickens’s work.

So, as a tribute to Charles Dickens, here’s one of them: a story of love and hate set against the backdrop of the French Revolution. A Tale of Two Cities.


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North-West Frontier (1959)

While I was writing the review of Ek Saal last week, I was reminded of this film. And that for what might seem an obscure reason to some: I S Johar was the man who suggested the story idea for Ek Saal, and he – now as actor, not writer – plays one of the important characters in this superb adventure film.

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