A few days after DVD Tuesday and not the greatest release week. But here's some of note: Peter Jackson's The Frighteners: Director's Cut, King Kong vs. Godzilla/King Kong Escapes, March of the Penguins, The Muppet Movie: Anniversary Edition, Murderball and three with Brad Pitt--Mr. and Mrs. Smith, A River Runs Through It and Legends of the Fall (reviews coming). Next week is a lot more exciting with Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney and two terrific Henry Hathaway pictures--The Dark Corner and Kiss of Death, a film best remembered for Richard Widmark's giggling, psycho performance as Tommy Udo, or, the guy who shoves an old lady in a wheelchair down a staircase.
As of now, Three Obsessions:
1. Born to Kill (1947) Nasty, mean, disturbingly sexual noir starring the great Lawrence Tierney at his brutal best. Claire Trevor (whom I worship--especially when she cooly discusses how painful it is to die: "A piece of metal sliding into your body, finding its way into your heart. Or a bullet tearing through your skin, crashing into a bone.") plays the black-hearted climber who falls for the similarly ruthless Tierney in a film adapted from the novel by James Gunn. Directed by Robert Wise, the film utilizes everything Wise learned from Val Lewton to stunning effect with, not only gorgeous noir lighting but genuinely nighmarish, violent attack sequences.
A scene in which Tierney beats up and kills his ex-girlfriend and her lover will shock you much more than your modern eyes would expect. The supporting cast is also stellar (Walter Slezak, Esther Howard and the noir fixture Elisha Cook Jr.) but Tierney, good GOD, is he wonderfully evil here. Known to many (and to too many) as the rough talking oldster in Resevoir Dogs, young Tierney is a man with immense sex appeal, the ultimate alpha male, the ultimate tough guy just dripping with testosterone of the ticking time bomb variety. His flashes of anger are potently scary, intense and real. He's an odd cross between smoothness (his voice is more noir puncuated and level over gravely) and harsh moodiness ready to explode. And nothing he does seems fake--especially killing. But we are talking about a guy who, in real life was arrested more times than the character he played (John Dillinger) and who was knifed in a bar fight. Long live the late Lawrence Tierney.
2. The Collector by John Fowles. Though William Wyler's movie is creepy and well acted, the novel (published in 1963) is another experience entirely. The story--about a man who abducts a pretty student named Miranda and keeps her captive in his cellar--is framed beautifully, first from the collector's perspective and then to Miranda's diary in which she refers to her captor as "Caliban." Gorgeously written, incredibly sensitive to both characters (especially Miranda, but without the stock pity or bravery of a typical victim) and an intriguing look at class politics, it washes over you magically. You will not be able to put it down. On a very large side note--Fowles passed away last month.
3. Laurette Taylor Or rather, never getting to really see Laurette Taylor. During a discussion about the first method actor (as in, who really was the first) with a friend, we started talking about Laurette Taylor only furthering my obsession and frustration. Taylor, the stage legend (who did appear King Vidor's film Peg O' My Heart), is considered by many one of the most influential actor/tress for the future method--someone Clift, Brando and Dean owed a debt to. Her most famous, watershed part was Amanda Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, a role she inaugurated and a role she would die playing (she died in 1947). She's discussed by many a theater patron and teacher who ever got to see her with breathless excitement about her absolute realness and incredible magnetism. She's also known as a notorious drunk who suffered greatly in life and profession. More must be written and known about her. Here's a poignant piece about her by Tennessee Williams from the New York Times in 1949. I just wish I could have truly experienced the actress.