Film Review: M (1951)

Release Date: March, 1951
Directed by: Joseph Losey
Written by: Norman Reilly Raine, Leo Katcher, Waldo Salt (additional dialogue)
Music by: Michel Michelet
Cast: David Wayne, Howard Da Silva, Luther Adler, Raymond Burr, Jim Backus

Superior Pictures, Columbia Pictures, 88 Minutes

Review:

“Ordinarily you look for a dame or a bankbook, get a victim with known enemies, what do we got? Some missing shoes. What’re we looking for? A man with a twisted mind. Could be anybody.” – Inspector Carney

M is a film that never needed a remake. Fritz Lang’s 1931 original is a perfect film and even though it pre-dates film-noir by a decade, it is one of the absolute best films in that style. In fact, it’s a stylistic bridge between German Expressionism and the classic film-noir look of 1940s Hollywood.

However, the original M was a German film and its dialogue was in the German language. So with Hollywood being Hollywood, it was only a matter of time before there had to be an American adaptation.

This certainly pales in comparison to its German counterpart but it is still a very, very good classic film-noir.

One thing that gives this some real merit is in the cinematography and the shot framing. There are incredible shots in this film. The use of the City of Los Angeles, primarily the Bunker Hill neighborhood, is superb. Many of the shots have lots of depth and texture. The shot where the child killer and the little girl are running down the stairs is haunting and then there’s this other great shot of a guy sitting on a crooked bench on a hill with the city behind him, as the camera is positioned to shoot directly down the street in the background. Props to whoever scouted out some of these locations, as the city really is a character in this film. It’s also a real time capsule to a bygone era because Bunker Hill no longer exists and it was well represented in this picture.

Additionally, the shots within the Bradbury Building, which was used in a lot of movies, probably most famously Blade Runner, look fantastic. The Bradbury Building is almost always the star whenever it’s used and even though it is used sparingly in this film, man, does it really feel alive in this.

The acting is also great. The evil child killer in the film is played by David Wayne, who I mostly know as the Mad Hatter from the ’60s Batman TV show. Now his performance is nowhere near the level of Peter Lorre’s, who played the same role in the original German version, but he is convincing as hell and pretty damn stellar in this. His speech at the end is incredible and emotional. I also really enjoyed Howard Da Silva, Raymond Burr and Jim Backus.

To be frank, this is not a movie that probably needed to be made but it justifies its own existence and is still a superb motion picture. That being said, the original M is, in my opinion, impossible to top. But this finds a way to stand on its own two feet and it was well crafted and better than it deserved to be.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: the original, superior 1931 Fritz Lang version of M, The Prowler and Footsteps In the Night.

Film Review: His Kind of Woman (1951)

Also known as: Smiler with a Gun (working title)
Release Date: August 15th, 1951 (Philadelphia premiere)
Directed by: John Farrow, Richard Fleischer
Written by: Frank Fenton, Jack Leonard, Gerald Drayson Adams
Music by: Leigh Harline
Cast: Robert Mitchum, Jane Russell, Vincent Price, Tim Holt, Charles McGraw, Marjorie Reynolds, Raymond Burr, Jim Backus, Philip Van Zandt

A John Farrow Production, RKO Radio Pictures, 120 Minutes

Review:

“This place is dangerous. The time right deadly. The drinks are on me, my bucko!” – Mark Cardigan

This has been in my queue for awhile, as I’ve spent a significant amount of time watching and reviewing just about every film-noir picture under the sun. It didn’t have a great rating on most of the websites I checked but it looked to be better than average.

Now that I’ve seen it, I don’t know what the hell most people were thinking. This film is absolutely great! I loved it but I also have a strong bias towards Robert Mitchum, Vincent Price, Raymond Burr and Charles McGraw. I also love Jane Russell, even if she didn’t star in films within the genres I watch the most.

His Kind of Woman is a stupendous motion picture and it really took me by surprise.

This is just a whole lot of fun, the cast is incredible and bias aside, I thought that Vincent Price really stole every single scene that he was in. I’ve seen Price in nearly everything he’s ever done and this might be the one role, outside of horror, that I enjoy most. He starts out as a bit of a Hollywood dandy, shows how eccentric he is as the film rolls on and then shows us that in spite of all that, he’s a friggin’ badass, ready to go out in a blaze of glory just to save the day.

I also love that this is set at a resort in Mexico, as it has a good tropical and nautical feel, which should make Tikiphiles happy. But really, the picture has great style in every regard.

I love the sets, I love the cinematography, the superb lighting and how things were shot. There are some key scenes shot at interesting and obscure angles that give the film a different sort of life than just capturing these fantastic performances in a more straightforward manner. One scene in particular shows Mitchum talking to a heavy and it’s shot from a low angle with shadows projected onto a very low ceiling. It sort of makes you understand that something potentially dreadful is closing in on Mitchum.

Out of all the film-noir pictures I’ve watched over the last year or so, this is definitely one that I will revisit on a semi regular basis.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: other film-noir pictures starring Robert Mitchum, Vincent Price, Raymond Burr or Charles McGraw.

Film Review: Angels Revenge (1979)

Also known as: Angels Brigade, Seven Angels
Release Date: February, 1979
Directed by: Greydon Clark
Written by: Greydon Clark, Alvin L. Fast
Music by: Gerald Lee
Cast: Sylvia Anderson, Lieu Chinh, Jacqueline Cole, Liza Greer, Robin Greer, Susan Kiger, Peter Lawford, Jack Palance, Jim Backus

Arista Films, 97 Minutes

Review:

“Women can make a difference!” – April

This film is almost completely unwatchable. Thankfully, it was riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and they made it much more tolerable. Still, it is a real chore to sit through this thing and I’m a guy that will watch Jack Palance in anything.

These are what I call jigglevenge movies. It’s a movie where a bunch of big breasted women get together to get revenge on some man pig that is evil. In this case, these women band together to kill some man pig drug dealers. Of course, the big disappointment with this film is that these pretty girls wear unflattering jumpsuits for almost the entire film.

Although, they have a cool armored van that looks like a time traveling DeLorean had sex with the A-Team van. Then again, it is unimpressive and useless, as are the women piloting the thing. They could’ve outfitted it with all sorts of cool weapons and gadgets but that probably would’ve needed a budget and I’m pretty sure that all Jack Palance and Jim Backus got for doing this movie were two-for-one coupons they had to use together at Big Hector’s Enchilada Bus and Foot Massage.

Angels Revenge or Angels’ Brigade or Charlie’s Rejects is dumb, boring and pointless. It is obviously trying to ripoff a famous show featuring bad ass beauties also referred to as “Angels” but it isn’t a tenth of what that show was and that show wasn’t that great to begin with.

This is also rated PG, which really limits what this film can do in regards to expressing its sex appeal. I guess that’s why this jigglevenge movie has the jiggle contained in Super Dave Osborne jumpsuits. I mean there are a few bikini beach moments but nothing spectacular. Everyone looks bored and disinterested and that’s not sexy. Have you ever been to the strip club and the girls look bored and disinterested? It’s not a fun time and I’m certainly not buying any of them drinks or chow mein from Mr. Wu’s next door.

So considering the awfulness of this picture, it needs to be run through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read, “Type 6 Stool: Fluffy pieces with ragged edges, a mushy stool.”

Although, I did like the line from the trailer where the narrator states, “…a fighting force of velvet bodies primed for action!” That alone saved this from getting a one out of ten rating but it’s not even a line in the movie, just genius marketing.