Out of the Past (1947) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

This is one of the quintessential film noirs.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Robert Mitchum is Jeff Bailey, an auto repair shop owner living in a small town.  He has a girl, Ann Miller who is in love with him and a deaf-mute boy who helps him with his shop.  But he is hiding from his past.  He was Jeff Markham, a private detective that was sent on an assignment by underworld boss Whit Sterling (played with good natured panache by Kirk Douglas) to find a girl who stole $40,000 from Whit and shot him for good measure.  The girl, Kathie Moffat is hiding out in Mexico and while staking her out Jeff falls entirely in love with her and the two run away to live their lives far from Whit Sterling.

But Jeff’s partner Jack Fisher, hunts them down and demands the $40,000 to keep from telling Sterling about their double cross.  During a fistfight between Jeff and Fisher Kathie shoots Fisher dead.  While Jeff buries Fisher’s body Kathie skips out on him.  Jeff decides to take on the new identity as Jeff Bailey and settles in the small town of Bridgeport, California.

But now one of Whit Sterling’s men arrives in Bridgeport and recognizes Jeff.  He summons Jeff to Whit’s summer house on Lake Tahoe.  When Jeff gets there, he finds Kathie has reconciled with Whit and now it’s Jeff’s turn to square accounts with the underworld boss.  There is a complicated scenario where Jeff is supposed to recover some tax documents that Whit’s accountant is using to blackmail him.  But it’s really a set-up whereby Jeff will be the fall guy for the accountant’s murder.  And, of course, Kathie is part of the double cross too.  There are a number of reversals but finally Jeff arranges a deal with Sterling such that Kathie will be on the hook for Fisher’s murder and Jeff will be cleared of all the various crimes he’s been framed for in return for the return of the tax documents.

But Kathie decides to upend the deal by murdering Sterling.  Now she and Jeff are on the run for the various murders that have been committed and Jeff realizes that he’ll never have that small town life he tried to escape to.  He and Kathie die in a hail of bullets as he drives their car into a police ambush.

Interspersed between the action scenes we have the love story between Jeff and Ann.  She’s a gentle woman who believes that Jeff has a good side that exists beneath the tough persona that he projects to the world.  And her belief in him propels him to try and escape from the criminal existence that Kathie has drawn him into.  But fate eventually claims his life and leaves Ann to mourn him.

As with all good film noir, the plot is an awful mess.  All of their terrible choices propel the protagonists to their bleak fates.  But the movie is a pleasure to watch.  Mitchum is at the top of his game with a tightly knit plot and lots of great lines to toss off.  Kirk Douglas is an affable crime boss and adds a lot to the film.  Kathie is a wonderfully dishonest femme fatale and is constantly double-crossing everyone in sight.  And the rest of the supporting cast is fine too.  I highly recommend this movie for film noir devotees and basically anyone who likes a good story.

The Big House (1930) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

Other than Wallace Beery who starred and Lewis Stone as the Warden I don’t remember ever having seen any of the other cast.  This is a very early “talkie” and so the acting is a bit broad.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

An upper-class young man, Kent, is sentenced to ten years in prison for killing a man in an automobile accident while driving drunk.  He is put in a crowded cell with the two toughest prisoners.  Wallace Beery is “Machine Gun Butch” and the other prisoner is a master thief named Morgan.

Kent gets into conflicts with most of the prisoners because of his soft upbringing so he joins up with one of the prison rats and agrees to give information to the guards in return for lightening his sentence.  Kent has a beautiful sister Anne.  Morgan sees her when she comes to visit her brother and falls in love with her.  Because of a frame up by Kent, Morgan loses his imminent parole chance.  When an opportunity occurs Morgan escapes from the prison and goes to see Anne.  She figures out that he is an escapee but helps him escape pursuit.  Somehow or other they strike up a romance and he even comes home to visit her parents!

But eventually he is recaptured and arrives back in prison just as Butch is plotting a major jail break.  But Kent rats them out and the escape becomes a riot with Butch and his men holding the guards as hostages and both sides blazing away at each other with machine guns.  Finally Butch declares that he will kill all the guards one by one if his men aren’t allowed to escape.  When Butch kills the head guard, the Warden calls for the Army to bring in tanks to break up the riot.

Morgan decides to save the guards by locking them in a cell with a solid steel door and throwing away the key.  Butch decides that Morgan is the rat and goes gunning for him.  In the melee Kent is killed in the crossfire and butch and Morgan wound each other in a gunfight.  When Butch discovers that it was Kent who sold him out, he and Morgan reconcile with Butch dying of his wounds.  The tanks overcome the prisoners’ resistance and order is restored.  Afterward Morgan is hailed as a hero for saving the guards’ lives.  He is pardoned and upon getting out he is welcomed out by his fiancée Anne.

This movie is a parody of prison.  Butch and most of the other prisoners and guards are caricatures of the stereotypes that we would come to expect in movies about prison.  But I found myself enjoying the movie mostly because Wallace Beery is an enjoyable comic actor in most of the movies I’ve seen him in.  And how can you dislike a movie that features the prisoners setting up and betting on and cheering for their favorites in a cockroach race.  Especially when we find out that the race was fixed by the favorite being glued to the ground with bubble gum!  I don’t think I can recommend this movie for anyone in particular except for fans of Wallace Beery.  Good old Long John Silver.

The Westerner (1940) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

In this western story Gary Cooper is Cole Harden a drifter passing through Vinegarroon, Texas on his way to California.  But Vinegarroon is the home of “Judge” Roy Bean, the only law west of the Pecos River.  Bean (played by Walter Brennan) is a hanging judge who hands out rough justice based on being an advocate for the cattlemen.  If the cattlemen stampede a herd of cattle through a corn field and the farmer shoots one of the steers he’ll be hanged by Bean for the offense.

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

When Harden appears in the movie, he’s being led to Bean’s court house (saloon) because one of the locals recognized Harden’s horse as one that was stolen from a local.  Naturally the jury will declare him guilty but Harden manages to convince Bean that he is a friend of the famous actress Lily Langtry whom Bean greatly admires.  Claiming that he has a lock of her hair Harden gets Bean to “suspend” his sentence while evidence of his innocence can be found.  While Harden and Bean cement their friendship over bogus tales of Langtry and Bean’s rotgut whiskey the real horse thief walks into the saloon and Harden punches him out and retrieves the purchase price of the horse from his pockets.  When the thief attempts to shoot Harden, Bean beats him to the draw and thus reinforces the bond between the drifter and the hangin’ judge.

After this the movie drifts off into other directions.  Harden leaves town and while travelling through the area ends up working as a field hand for the Mathew family on their farm.  A romance blossoms between and Harden and the daughter Jane.  But we find out that Judge Bean has been persecuting the farmers and intends to drive them off their land through harassment and judicial malfeasance.  The farmers organize and decide to go en masse and shoot Bean to end their problem.  When Harden hears this, he gallops to Bean’s saloon and warns Bean.  Harden and Bean stop the plot and send the farmers away.  But Harden convinces Bean to remove all the cattle from the valley where the farmers live in exchange for Lily Langtry’s lock of hair that Harden claims to have.  Harden manages to get a lock of Jane Mathew’s hair for the purpose and when Bean fulfills his promise to move the cattle, he ceremoniously hands over the hair.

Now the farmers are triumphant and have a celebratory feast.  But while it is going on the cattlemen set fire to the fields and homesteads of the farmers and destroy the whole valley.  Jane’s father is murdered by the cattlemen and she blames Harden for the deeds she attributes to his friend Bean.

Harden forces Bean to admit that he was responsible for the fire and Harden leaves town to get a warrant for the arrest of Bean for murder and arson.  Coincidentally Lily Langtry is in the area for a concert and Judge Bean buys up all the tickets so that he can enjoy a private audience with Miss Langtry.  And the performance becomes the site of a shootout between Harden and Bean.  Eventually Harden fatally wounds Bean but before Bean dies Harden carries him backstage so Bean can see Langtry before he dies.

In the final scene Harden and Jane are a married couple on a rebuilt farm celebrating the return of the other settlers that had been driven out by Bean.

By the description, you can tell this is a very strange western.  The way I can describe it is a comedy for the first half of the movie that switches over into a more conventional melodrama.  From my point of view the comedic portions of the movie are the better parts.  Cooper and Brennan have a weird funny chemistry that makes the movie interesting and enjoyable.  The later romance and drama are okay but clash with the comedic elements.  I’ll recommend the movie based on the scenes with Cooper and Brennan even though as whole the movie is sort of a mess.

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

(Spoiler Alert – Skip down to last paragraph to avoid spoilers and read recommendation)

Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert are the newlywed couple Gil and Lana Martin.  They have migrated from the settled and comfortable area near Albany, New York to settle in the frontier farming community of Deerfield in the Mohawk Valley.  But this is during the American revolutionary war and the Mohawk Valley is the scene of conflicts between Americans and their Indian allies versus British troops, loyalist settlers and their Indian allies.  The movie starts off with Lana learning to accept the rigors of frontier life after her more affluent existence with her well-to-do family.  But once the young couple begin to prosper the attacks begin.  The Indians burn down their homestead and they are reduced to living as servants in the house of a rich old woman Sarah McKlennar (played by the irascible Edna May Oliver).  Gil is enlisted in the local militia and they participate in the Battle of Oriskany where they are victorious but at a cost of nearly half their men.

Meanwhile Lana gives birth to their daughter and the Martins find a happy life working for McKlennar.  But eventually war returns to Deerfield.  An overpowering war party of Indians is approaching.  The settlers abandon their farms for the relative safety of Fort Schuyler.  The settlers resist the attack for as long as their ammunition holds out but eventually Gil is sent out on a desperate mission to get reinforcements from Fort Dayton.  Three Indian braves chase him for hours through forests and grasslands until finally he reaches the fort and brings help.  Just as the Indians have occupied the stockade and a desperate hand to hand battle is under way, the militia from Fort Dayton arrive to save the settlers.  They quickly defeat the enemy and restore order.  The commanding officer informs the settlers that the war is now over and the English have surrendered to General Washington.  Lana and her child have survived the battle but Mrs. McKlennar was mortally wounded and as she dies, she leaves her farm and money to the Martins.

The movie is a semi-historical account and the action of the story is dramatic enough and the characters interesting enough to keep the viewers’ interest.  I found Edna May Oliver’s portrayal of the cantankerous Mrs. McKlennar as probably the dramatic highlight of the movie.  Fonda and Colbert do an admirable job as the young couple trying to survive the war and various character actors such as Ward Bond and John Carradine add substantially to the effort.  I would rate this movie as a diverting historical adventure story.  Perfect for a winter evening when you don’t want to go to sleep too early.

The Naked City (1948) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

In this movie the star is New York City at the height of its prominence as the largest city of the most powerful country on the planet.  The tagline of the movie is “There are eight million stories in the Naked City.  This is one of them.”  And almost every shot of the film highlights the sights and sounds of New York.  Everything from the crowded subway cars and crowded streets to dizzying vistas on the tops of buildings and the towers of the Williamsburg Bridge.

The story begins with the late-night murder of Jean Dexter, a pretty blonde model.  It is followed by one of the two murderers killing his partner for being too soft-hearted.

The murder of Jean Dexter falls into the lap of police Lt. Dan Muldoon played with his best Irish brogue by Barry Fitzgerald.  Assisted by detective Jimmy Halloran played by Don Taylor they run down leads until they find Frank Niles, played by Howard Duff.  Every word coming out of Niles’ mouth, including “and and but” is a lie.  And when they find out that he is engaged to Jean’s close friend Ruth Morrison but that Ruth doesn’t even know that Niles was a close friend of Dexter they know they’ve found their connection.  At every step Niles shows himself to be tied to the murder and to a jewel robbery ring.  But at the same time all evidence clears him of Jean’s murder.

Finally, the clues add up to the fact that Jean Dexter and Frank Niles were the brains behind the jewelry theft ring.  They hired two burglars and used information from the husband of a society matron to rob the houses of the wealthy when it was known that they would be at a party.  But finally, the burglars decided to cut Jean out of the picture by murdering and robbing her.  Under threat that he would be indicted as an accessory to murder Niles confesses and provides the names of the two burglars.

The climax of the movie is a manhunt and a shootout between the police and the murderer while he is cornered at the top of one of the towers of the Williamsburg Bridge, hundreds of feet in the air.

In a lot of ways, the movie is a standard police procedural.  But there are enough secondary players to round out the story in a satisfying way.  We meet detective Halloran’s wife and young son and hope with him that he won’t have to obey his wife and spank his son for crossing Northern Boulevard by himself.  We meet Jean Dexter’s parents and watch as the mother goes from declaring her hatred for her prodigal daughter to crying over her “baby” and hugging Jean’s cold dead body in the morgue.  We even meet the murderer’s Lower East Side neighbors who know him as the friendly harmonica playing guy that all the kids like.

This is not a great movie.  It’s a good one.  I recommend it as what it is, an interesting police story.

Sergeant York (1941) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

“Sergeant York” stars Gary Cooper as the eponymous WWI hero.  The story relates his pre-war life and shows how he overcame a wild youth to “find religion.”  He lives in a log cabin with his mother and younger brother and sister.  Being hillbillies, the soil of his family land is very poor.  When he finds a girl, he wants to marry he sets his mind to buying some “bottom land.”  But a rival in love frustrates this ambition and it was when he was set to settle this feud with his rifle that divine intervention steps in.  Lightning knocks him off his horse and damages his rifle and Alvin ends up at the church where Pastor Rosier Pile played by Walter Brennan, welcomes Alvin back to the Lord’s flock.

But when America enters World War I Alvin York has to somehow square his biblical aversion to killing with his duties as an American citizen.  This conflict and how the reality of the modern battlefield affects him is the climax of the film.  As was stated in his Congressional Medal of Honor citation Alvin single-handedly killed 28 German soldiers with his rifle and pistol and in doing so forced the surrender of 132 Germans and 35 machine guns.  In the movie York explains to the investigators of his actions that he killed the Germans to stop the guns.  As he explains it his actions were meant to save lives.

After the war Alvin returns home and to his great surprise a grateful nation hails him as a hero with a ticker tape parade down Wall Street in New York City.  But even more importantly his home state of Tennessee presents him with a beautiful house on fertile land in his hometown.

Sergeant York was made on the eve of America’s entry into WW II.  In fact, Pearl Harbor was attacked while the movie was still in the theaters.  It is claimed that thousands of young men went directly from the movie theater to the enlistment station.  It could be defensibly claimed that it is a propaganda film for the war effort.  Nevertheless, York’s war time actions were not exaggerated in any way.  Obviously, the supernatural basis of his religious conversion is pure Hollywood but doubtless the portrayal of Alvin York as a simple backwoods man was quite accurate.  The reality of poverty in the mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee was real and the importance of family and religion was true.

Gary Cooper’s portrayal of York is somewhat broad and even comical at times but I find that is one of the charms of the film.  The other actors in the Tennessee scenes equally play up the hillbilly stereotypical behaviors.  But recognizing those characteristics I still recommend this movie as a fascinating personal story that shows the collision of an older world with the 20th century.  Sergeant York was an American original.

Gaslight (1944) An OCF Classic Movie Review

“Gaslight” is a thriller based on a stage play of the same name.  And in fact, our term “gaslighting” is based on the psychological abuse that is featured in this story.

Ingrid Bergman is Paula Alquist.  As a girl she lived with her famous aunt Alice Alquist, a diva of the Opera stage.  But when her aunt is murdered Paula is sent away from her aunt’s home in London to study music in Italy.  As a grown woman she falls in love with a pianist who plays for the maestro that Paula studies under.  Charles Boyer plays her lover Gregory Anton.  He convinces Paula to marry him and then to move back to London and take up residence in her aunt’s former home.

But once they settle into the house Gregory begins a concerted campaign to undermine Paula’s sanity.  He engineers situations where she seems to lose things or moves things without knowing that she’s done it.  And Gregory conspires with the maid Nancy (played by Angela Lansbury) to undermine Paula’s standing in the home by treating her like a feeble-minded invalid.  And she is isolated from the outside world under the pretext that she has become erratic and would embarrass herself if others witnessed her mental decline.

But one person exists who is aware of Paula’s return to London and is interested in her situation.  This is a Scotland Yard detective, Brian Cameron played by Joseph Cotten.  As a boy he had met Alice Alquist and now he is determined to solve the old murder case.  He suspects that Gregory is up to no good.  Cameron employs the local constable whose beat includes the Alquist home.  He encourages the constable to date Nancy the maid and find out what is going on inside the house.  And Cameron directs him to follow Gregory Anton and find out where he goes every night.

And through Cameron we learn from his superior at Scotland Yard that there were missing jewels that belonged to a foreign king who was a lover of Alice Alquist.  He had given them to her but they disappeared after her murder.  Now Cameron has the motive he has always lacked for the murder and soon he’ll have more.

One of the recurring nightmares that Paula experiences is that every night after her husband leaves the house to go to “work” the gas in her room would go down as if someone had turned on another light in the house.  And at the same time, she would here noises from above her room.  But the attic was boarded up so no one could enter it and no one else ever notices the gas change but her.

Eventually Cameron figures out that Gregory enters the vacant house around the block in order to climb on the roof and enter the attic of his own home from the roof.  There he searches for the jewels of Alice Alquist.  Once Cameron figures this out he barges into the Alquist home while Gregory is in the attic and he confronts Paula with the information.  While Cameron is searching Gregory’s locked desk for his gun Paula notices a letter that Gregory had claimed that she had imagined.  This note was written by an admirer of Alice Alquist named Sergis Bauer and had been found in Alice’s papers when she died.  After examining it and comparing it to an example of Gregory’s handwriting Cameron informs Paula that Gregory and Sergis Bauer are the same man.  Now it is clear that Gregory is her aunt’s murderer.

Meanwhile Gregory has finally found the jewels in the attic and Cameron notices the gas light rising meaning Gregory is coming home.  Cameron rushes out of the house to catch Gregory on his way home.  But Gregory no longer needs to keep up a pretense of working outside his home so he comes through the boarded-up attic door inside the house.   When Gregory discovers his desk has been rifled, he accuses Paula.  She declares that a man did it.  When Gregory demands to know what man was in the house the cook lies claiming that no one has been in the house in order to stall for time.  But hearing this Paula begins to doubt her sanity again.   She is just about to collapse into despair when Cameron shows up and confronts Gregory.  A struggle ensues and after a stray shot Cameron disarms Gregory.  Gregory bolts up into the attic and Cameron follows.  Meanwhile the cook has summoned the constable from the street and he bounds up the stairs and the two policemen subdue and tie Gregory to a chair in the attic.

For the finale Cameron agrees to let Paula talk alone to the securely bound Gregory.  Gregory begs Paula to take a knife out of a cabinet drawer and cut him free to allow him to escape.  But now Paula taunts him with his own words.  She says she’s insane so she can’t trust her own senses that something is actually a knife.  Then she throws the knife away and says, “But I seem to have lost it.”  Then by chance she finds a piece of jewelry that Gregory claimed she had lost and she becomes agitated and she declares her hatred for him and her joy at seeing him being brought to justice.  And she opens the door and demands that Cameron take Gregory away to his fate.

Right up front in the discussion I have to state that listening to Charles Boyer’s voice in this movie annoys the hell out of me.  The combination of his accent and his constant hectoring of Paula makes me want to punch him in the nose.  But at the same time Paula’s inability to stand up to Gregory’s bullying is also very annoying.  I want to shake her and slap her in the face and tell her to snap out of it.  Interestingly, Camera Girl has claimed in the past that I employ gaslighting against her.  But I claim it’s just a combination of bad memory and growing insanity on her part.  Silly woman.

Beyond those visceral feeling I enjoy this movie, especially the ending where Joseph Cotten sets things right.  Ingrid Bergman is a very good actress and even in this exaggerated atmosphere of emotional turbulence she provides a very convincing performance.

Highly recommended.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

Cary Grant is Jim Blandings and Myrna Loy is his wife, Muriel.  Along with their two adolescent daughters they live in a cramped Manhattan apartment.  Muriel has been secretly planning to remodel the apartment with an architect for an estimated cost of $7,000.  When their friend Bill Cole (played by Melvyn Douglas) accidentally spills the beans in front of Jim he becomes outraged at spending so much money to continue living in such an unsuitable place.  He yearns to escape Manhattan and own a house out in the wide-open spaces of Connecticut.

The rest of the movie is a cautionary tale for any city dweller who contemplates becoming a rural homeowner.  Everything that can go wrong does and the combination of larcenous realtors and contractors and Jim and Muriel’s ignorance about building a house drive them to the edge of bankruptcy, unemployment and divorce.

Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Melvyn Douglas were three of the best actors Hollywood ever produced for the kind of light comedy this picture represents.  And the script writers provided them with plenty of scenes where they could fill out the characters they were playing.  Grant is the perfect harried husband.  He is constantly outguessed by his wife and hectored by his progressive-school-educated daughters.  His boss has given him an impossible assignment at work and every penny he ever saved has gone out the window building this house.  Myrna Loy is her usual sparkling self.  She is the dutiful wife but there is always a jaundiced eye and very often a sarcastic comment when Jim steers them off a cliff.  And Melvyn Douglas is the pessimistic lawyer friend warning them at every turn to abandon this fool’s errand and head back to the city.  He also becomes the object of Jim’s jealous suspicions when he always seems to be giving Muriel a kiss on the cheek whenever he leaves.  And when his daughters read in their mother’s diary that Muriel had been in love with Bill back in college Jim feels that his suspicions are justified.

This all sounds like a ridiculous movie.  And it is.  But it also represents a comical take on the experience of millions of Americans who fled the cities for the suburbs after World War II.  And the three stars of the film make the whole experience pleasant, funny and warm-hearted.  I can highly recommend this movie as an entertaining hour and a half.  I especially recommend it for a husband and wife who have bought their first home.  They’ll spend half the time nodding their heads in commiseration at the trials and tribulations of the Blandings and the other half laughing.

Night Must Fall (1937) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

This is a very strange movie.  Robert Montgomery plays Danny, a young man working at a hotel when a murder takes place.  The police suspect him but a rich cantankerous old woman, Mrs. Bramson, hires him to be her personal assistant and live in her home on an isolated forested estate.  Supposedly Danny is going to marry Bramson’s maid Dora.  But he seems more interested in Bramson’s niece Olivia played by Rosalind Russell.  To round out the household is the acid-tongued cook Emily.

So that’s the setup.  Mrs. Bramson is a bitter unpleasant woman who even despises her own niece but Danny pretends affection for the old lady and a sensitivity to her problems and becomes her closest companion.  Olivia can see that he is acting but for whatever reason she doesn’t expose him for a phony when she has the chance.

But much more seriously, she begins to suspect that Danny is the murderer and that he has the murdered woman’s head in a locked hatbox that he keeps in his room.  When the police inspector questions Danny about the murder and searches his room, he finds the hatbox and demands that Danny open it but Olivia intervenes and claims the box is hers and the Inspector relents.  Now this seems inexplicable.  She claims that she dislikes and distrusts Danny but for some reason she saves him.  Later on, Danny tells her that she is actually attracted to him because of the excitement he has brought into her life.

And indeed, Olivia is desperate for something to relieve the boredom of her hum-drum existence living with her aunt in this isolated rural environment.  She longs for excitement and for that reason has rejected the marriage proposal of Justin Laurie who is her aunt’s lawyer and an affectionate, dependable if unexciting suitor.

But everything comes to a head and Olivia cracks under the strain of living in the house with the manic Danny and she flees to Justin’s home leaving her aunt alone with Danny.  Danny murders her and empties her safe of a large amount of cash.  He prepares to burn down the house when Olivia returns and confronts him over the murder.  He happily admits it and informs her that she too will be murdered and burned in the fire.  But just then Justin arrives with the police and Danny has a final scene to declare his madness to himself in a hallway mirror before being carted away for justice.

This is a very strange movie.  My read is this is a woman’s movie.  Other than the murderer the main characters are all women.  The lonely house in the woods reinforces this strange dynamic of women isolated with a sociopathic man who preys on women.  But only Olivia has figured it all out.  Mrs. Bramson is completely taken in.  Dora and Emily can’t make up their minds if he is real or not.  But even Olivia is mesmerized by his tour de force.  She knows he’s a liar and she suspects that he’s a murderer but she retains a sympathy for him that’s hard to believe.

I asked Camera Girl about this because she’s a woman.  I said, “You’re a woman, is this possible?”  She said it could be somewhat believable that a woman who was so desperately bored might welcome the distraction of experiencing the weirdness of such a colorful character.  So, we agreed that although the idea of Olivia helping Danny escape detection is sort of hard to believe, the movie was fairly interesting.

Montgomery’s portrayal of Danny and Russell’s Olivia are fairly compelling characters.  And the rest of the cast is very good too.  As much as this movie is odd and the motif of Olivia allowing Danny to escape detection is far-fetched, nevertheless, I will still recommend this movie for people who like psychological dramas.

The Films of Alfred Hitchcock – Part 14 – Saboteur (1942) – An OCF Classic Movie Review

Saboteur is one of Hitchcock’s earlier Hollywood era productions.  It’s the story of Barry Kane, played by Robert Cummings, a wartime factory worker who is mistakenly accused of being a Nazi saboteur.  The story starts out at an airplane manufacturing plant where Barry and his friend Ken Mason are employed.  At lunch they bump into another employee named Frank Fry who acts very suspiciously.  Barry sees an envelope that Fry is sending to a man in another town and finds a large amount of money that Fry drops on the ground.  When he gives the money back to Fry, he becomes very angry.  Suddenly a large fire breaks out and Barry, Ken and Fry head toward it.  Fry gives Ken a fire extinguisher but when Ken directs it at the fire, he becomes engulfed by the inferno and dies.

During the investigation it turns out that there is no employee named Fry and Barry’s story about the whole event is doubted when it turns out the extinguisher was filled with gasoline.  He is blamed for the fire and is being hunted as a Nazi saboteur.  He runs away and hitches a ride with a truck driver heading for the town that Fry’s letter was addressed to.

When he reaches the address, the man living there, Charles Tobin, denies knowing anyone named Fry but Barry accidentally finds a telegram from Fry to Tobin.  Realizing that Tobin is one of the saboteurs and has called the police to arrest him, Barry flees but is quickly captured by the police.  Later he escapes from them by leaping off a bridge into a river.  Eventually he reaches the cabin of a blind man who suspects that he is a fugitive from the law because he can hear Barry’s handcuffs clinking against each other.  The blind man prefers to believe Barry is innocent and agrees to help him get out of his handcuffs.  But the man’s niece, Patricia “Pat” Martin, arrives and wants to turn him into the police because of the news reports branding him as a dangerous saboteur.

Now follows a confusing and slightly ridiculous chain of events that involves circus freaks and an eventual change of heart by Pat toward Barry.  Eventually Barry convinces part of the sabotage gang that he is working for Tobin and is driven to New York City where the next big action is planned.  Pat is captured and also ends up in New York.  The new target is a battleship that has been completed in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  The saboteurs manage to sink it and capture both Barry and Pat.  But by a clever ruse she is able to signal the police and all the saboteurs except Fry are captured by the police.  Fry escapes to the Statue of Liberty and there is a climactic fight on the torch of the statue where Fry falls onto the torch arm and is hanging by his fingernails.  Barry manages to grab hold of Fry’s jacket sleeve and is waiting for the police to bring a rope to allow for a rescue.  But before they can arrive the sleeve rips free and Fry falls to his death.  Barry kisses Pat and the movie ends.

Well, you can’t say Hitchcock doesn’t throw everything including the kitchen sink into the plot.  Bearded women, Siamese twins, midgets, trusting blind men, a pretty girl who models for billboards, sunken battleships, the Statue of Liberty, the Hoover Dam, leaps off bridges, Rockefeller Center, Nazi spies, shoot outs in movie theaters, you name it.  And this movie is noticeably a Hollywood product.  There is all of the wartime patriotism there and the tropes that the studios had built up at this point.  The production values are high but the dialog and acting are a bit mediocre.

It’s a pretty good effort but hardly one of Hitchcock’s finest productions.  I’d called it recommended but not highly recommended.  Let’s say it is moderately entertaining but it wouldn’t be something I’d re-watch often.