Tag Archives: Orson Welles

Bargain Therapy

It’s been a strange and none too pleasant couple of days.

My daughter Lauren and I were in HMV this afternoon, buying a birthday present for a friend of mine when I found a little gem that has gone some way to lifting my spirits. Browsing the shelves for something interesting I could call a gift, a plain white box with plain black lettering and a Hollywood legend’s face shown in close up without any decoration came into view. It was THE EDWARD G ROBINSON COLLECTION, 3 discs for a mere £10.

Not bad I thought…. It was on discovering what 3 films were contained within that the excitement kicked in.

First up is:


THE RED HOUSE, Delmer Daves (1947)

I’d been looking for this film since seeing it referenced in the essential Martin Scorsese documentary A PERSONAL JOURNEY WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES and was finding it impossible to source, that is until the good people at Elstree Hill Entertainment saw fit to put this neat little set together. My only previous exposure to director Delmer Daves has been the excellent DARK PASSAGE which “stars” Humphrey Bogart, although you don’t actually see his face until half way through the film. It had got the point where I was going to watch THE RED HOUSE in it’s entirety on Youtube, which should always be the last resort, and only employed by people doing serious time in jail with no access to a decent selection of DVD’s.


SCARLET STREET, Fritz Lang (1945)

I know very little about this picture other than it’s a remake of Jean Renoir’s LA CHIENNE, which I’ve also not seen. I’ve done a little research and there seems to be a raft of opinion that this is one of Robinson’s finest performances. This coupled with Fritz Lang at the helm should make this interesting viewing. Talking of Fritz Lang, I read a while ago that the lost sections of METROPOLIS had been found in the archives of a tiny cinema in Argentina. Exciting stuff as, for the time, METROPOLIS is genuinely stunning.


THE STRANGER, Orson Welles (1946)

This is Welles’s third feature (discounting JOURNEY INTO FEAR) following CITIZEN KANE and THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. It was apparently his first commercial success with Robinson again turning in a fine performance. The synopsis makes for interesting reading…
“Wilson of the War Crimes Commission is seeking Franz Kindler, mastermind of the Holocaust, who has effectively erased his identity. Wilson releases Kindler’s former comrade Meinike and follows him to Harper, Connecticut, where he is killed before he can identify Kindler. Now Wilson’s only clue is Kindler’s fascination with antique clocks; but though Kindler seems secure in his new identity, he feels his past closing in”

……. So. Daves, Lang and Welles for only a tenner. Maybe the world isn’t such a bad place after all.

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Desert Island Discs

Picture the scene….. The FED EX plane you’re travelling in has been struck by lightning, causing it to plunge into the ocean. You get washed up on the beach of a nearby island which is apparently without habitants. Instead of a football for company you find a 50 inch plasma TV with attached DVD player which was miraculously wrapped in waterproof packaging. Somehow you discover a power supply and are delighted that 10 movies have escaped unscathed in the over the shoulder folder holder you had on your person at the time of the tragedy.

These are the 10 films that will prevent you going insane whilst you wait for McDonalds to discover this is the one place they don’t have a restaurant….

My picks are:


REAR WINDOW, Alfred Hitchcock (1954)


THE BIG LEBOWSKI, Joel & Ethan Coen (1998)


2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, Stanley Kubrick (1968)


HEAVEN CAN WAIT, Ernst Lubitsch (1943)


MEAN STREETS, Martin Scorsese (1973)


MANHATTAN, Woody Allen (1979)


RASHOMON, Akira Kurosawa (1950)


RIFIFI, Jules Dassin (1955)


IF…., Lindsay Anderson (1968)


PAN’S LABYRINTH, Guillermo Del Toro (2006)

This was a really hard thing to do, and the selections could well change as I think about it more. There’s no Welles, Antonioni, Bergman, Ozu, Lynch, Powell & Pressburger…. God, the list is huge. These are the 10 films that tick as many boxes as possible whilst being infinitely watchable. I also think that each of these 10 films gives you something very different, from the half an hour of silence during the robery scene in Rififi to the technicolor joy of HEAVEN CAN WAIT. Although there are many other top ten lists that could be made, these movies would keep me going for a LONG time.

Although this post could be considered cliche, arbitrary or even downright lazy, there are rules…..

Trilogies are allowed, maximum of 4 (no more than a trilogy though, so you can’t select the POLICE ACADEMY series, not that you would…. I hope)
TV shows aren’t.
Box sets aren’t (unless it’s specifically a trilogy)
I say DVD, this of course includes blu ray. (That’s for Matt, the high def philistine )

So over to you good people. The ten movies that would keep you happy in times of hardship, let’s have it.

Today’s Viewing

I went to bed rediculously early last night, had a nightmare then woke up at 5am bright as a button but unable to close my eyes again for fear of the demons returning. The following movies have filled my morning with joy…..

I’ve been away

The usual cinematic musings have been on the coolest of back burners due to an unprecedented amount of time spent hanging about theatre types at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. I’ve been working with the 30 Bird production company on their fantastic show PLASTIC, which they asked me to film.

Theatre doesn’t get a lot of press on the blog, not surprising considering it’s cinematic allegiances but I have to say folks, if you’re in Edinburgh just now and are looking for something to go see, don’t go watching the usual ridiculous amount of comedy on offer, you can get that any time, get yourself down to the Pleasance Undergrand and check out what is a very unique visual experience. Mehrdad Seyf has created a piece which lingers in your consciousness long after you leave the space, which is not the norm for a fringe show. A special mention should go to my ex flatmate and good friend Claire Hicks who has produced the show, god that girl works hard. (She drinks tea in nightclubs you know)

Check a review HERE.

I can’t let the post pass without mentioning at least one flick. During some rare and much needed free time I took in the 1992 Robert Altman film THE PLAYER starring Tim Robbins as Griffin Mill, a hot shot Hollywood producer and features cameo appearances from…. well just about everyone. During the making of documentary, it’s revealed that had all the stars been paid their normal fee for appearing in a film, the picture would have cost in excess of $100m in salaries alone.

I make no apology for the size of the movie poster, it is HUGE though, there can be no doubt about that. I particularly like what this poster does, it actually tells you something about the picture. The strip of celluloid fashioned into a noose captures the nature of the film. Hollywood has no soul and no moral. No matter how powerful you may think you are, there’s constantly someone behind you looking to take your place by giving you enough rope to hang yourself.

The way that Altman uses cameo appearances from the likes of John Cusack, Angelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum and Burt Reynolds as themselves, casually seen dining in the restaurants that Griffin frequents, is a clever authentication of Griffin’s world. Richard E. Grant also turns up (with Dean Stockwell as his agent) playing a ridiculously overplayed but highly believable scriptwriter who’s trying to get his film made. The shallow nature of Hollywood is portrayed perfectly as initially, he’ll not allow his self proclaimed work of art to be altered in any way but later on in the picture, we find out he’s sold his soul to progress himself by allowing the studio to butcher his work.

The film is full of these little comments on the “system” of Hollywood.

The main premise of the film however is Griffin’s obsession to find a disgruntled writer who, in an effort to repay him for ignoring his (or her) work, sends him increasingly threatening, anonymous notes. This series of hostile correspondence unnerves the normally callous executive so much that he decides to seek out the perpetrator.



This element of the film, although the main focus, is probably the weakest. The comments and observations of the selfish movie merry-go-round are far more engaging and interesting than the search for the poison pen. There’s so much going on in this picture however, that you forgive this weakness in appreciation of what it actually accomplishes.

THE PLAYER could have easily been used in a recent essay I wrote on postmodernism in film. The first 8 minutes is one of the strongest examples of homage in cinema. (Gus Van Sant’s version of PSYCHO maybe takes that prize) Not only does Altman use the same one shot opening that Orson Welles used in TOUCH OF EVIL, he actually has the characters reference the film in conversation during the shot.

I’ve uploaded the full scene onto youtube for your enjoyment. Just for the record, he apparently used take 3.

Great Movie Openings: Touch of Evil

Ok, it’s late and I feel it may be time to turn in. The next snippet in the “Great Openings” series is maybe a bit obvious…. I make absolutely no apology for that. I’ve posted it bacause it’s one of the most amazing tracking shots in cinema history (go on, look for a cut, I dare ya!) and bacause Charlton Heston has bid us farewell for the final time. I’m tempted to post the chariot race, but I won’t……. Goodnight and enjoy.