Last year, I read AJ Finn’s thriller suspense novel, The Woman in the Window, in which the protagonist spends most of her time drinking wine and spying on her neighbours. I didn’t like the book, but the protagonist, besides being an alcoholic and a voyeur, had one thing to recommend her: she was a lover of old suspense films. The book had plenty of references to classic noir cinema, and I got a kick out of seeing how many of those I’d watched. And making notes of the ones I hadn’t seen yet, but which I thought I should try to get hold of.
Sudden Fear was one of those I hadn’t seen before, and when I found a very good print on YouTube, I decided to give it a try.
The story begins at a theatre company; rehearsals for a play are in progress, and the playwright Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford), a very wealthy heiress who insists on working for a living because she doesn’t want to live off all her inherited wealth, is sitting with a few other people. Onstage, the lead actor, Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) is speaking a romantic dialogue to his co-star.
A couple of days back, a friend of mine, well aware of my obsession with old films, forwarded me a few URLs for sites where one can watch classic cinema for free. I had just begun watching Oklahoma!, and by the time I finished, I had a URL to add to my friend’s list. Yep, Sam: you missed this one: youtube, and I don’t mean a film in n number of parts. I mean the songs. Oklahoma!, for those who’d like to see it, is freely available on youtube—watch the songs in sequence, and you’re pretty much done.
I have no compunctions about admitting that when it comes to cinema, frivolity is right up my street. Comedy (even slapstick), romance, war, noir, Western, musical, sword and sandals: all is grist to my mill. Happy endings, the vanquished villain, the long fadeout on the kiss between the beautiful heroine and her handsome hero, and I’m happy too.
Which is why I was surprised at my own reaction to Not as a Stranger. It isn’t frivolous, not by a long shot; the heroine and the hero are ill matched; and the hero (maybe protagonist would be a better word) isn’t even a particularly nice character. Despite all of that, I still liked it—a lot.
I’d been toying with the idea of a `star week’ for a while now, and who better to launch one with than Robert Mitchum? Mitchum was born on August 6th, 1917 (which is why I’m dedicating this week to him on my blog), and is one of my favourite Hollywood stars. Though burdened with—as he himself mentioned—lizard eyes and an anteater nose, not to mention a gut he was perpetually trying to hold in, Mitchum acted in some memorable films: drama, Western, war, comedy, and, most famously, noir.
Over this week, I’ll be reviewing a handful of Mitchum films, showing off some of my favourite Mitchum screen caps (yes, I do find this guy very handsome), and more. You’ll get a glimpse of why I like ‘Old Rumple Eyes’ so much, and I’m hoping some of you out there will be converted!
But, to begin with: Macao. A typical Mitchum noir, somewhat reminiscent of the Bollywood noir one got to see in the late 50’s. Exotic, sinister, not always coherent, but entertaining nevertheless.
I am a devoted fan of Robert Mitchum, droopy eyes, awesome walk and all. I am also very enthusiastic about film noir (not surprising, since a large portion of Mitchum’s work was noir). Crossfire, made just two years after the end of World War II, focusses on a largely ignored consequence of the war: the sudden demobilisation of soldiers—men who, after years of knowing exactly whom they were supposed to hate, suddenly found themselves with no target for all that festering anger and hatred.
This is a taut, suspenseful film, but also a thought-provoking one, and perhaps a little ahead of its time.