Drama · Thriller

Marlene Dietrich, Queen of Light(ing)

“We’re in China now, sir, where time and life have no value.” These few words define the parameters of Shanghai Express (1932), a film about a Dangerous Time And Place where characters have little control over anything, namely rail travel from Peking to Shanghai. The word express in the film title is a bit of sneering irony;… Continue reading Marlene Dietrich, Queen of Light(ing)

Drama · Thriller

Alfred Hitchcock’s Experimental Movie-as-StagePlay

There are two things that fascinate us about the lesser-known Alfred Hitchcock film, Rope (1948). The film, based on a stage play by Patrick Hamilton, was inspired by the infamous Leopold and Loeb murder case. (In 1923, two wealthy young men from Chicago kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy “solely for the thrill of the experience.”¹) So.… Continue reading Alfred Hitchcock’s Experimental Movie-as-StagePlay

Mystery · Thriller

Vacationing with Cary Grant on the Riviera

If you’re feeling Out Of Sorts because you’re unable to visit the Côte de’Azur (French Riviera) this winter, we know how you feel. Idea! If we (as in, yours truly) stumble upon a winning lottery ticket or buried treasure, we’ll spring for airfare to take us both to the French Riviera. We can visit all… Continue reading Vacationing with Cary Grant on the Riviera

Mystery · Thriller

Alfred Hitchcock’s Creepy Lodger

Even though it’s a silent film, you can tell it’s directed by Alfred Hitchcock. It’s cheeky and tense, the way many of his films are, with unexpected twists. We’re talking about The Lodger: A Film of the London Fog (1927), based on the 1913 novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes. The story is about a strange… Continue reading Alfred Hitchcock’s Creepy Lodger

Film Noir · Thriller

The Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten Melee in Niagara

As it turns out, Niagara Falls is a perfect place for murder. The 1953 Technicolor thriller, Niagara, shows us what a perilous place it is: craggy shorelines, thundering water, a 100-foot plunge pool beneath the falls. Yet, for all the danger there’s a fierce beauty. It’s easy to see why this area became the Honeymoon… Continue reading The Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten Melee in Niagara

Drama · Thriller

Jack Nicholson vs. the Dept. of Water and Power

Chinatown (1974) is not a Feel Good film. Jack Nicholson stars as 1930s-era private detective Jake Gittes, a cynical and persistent investigator who stumbles upon corruption in the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. The film is loosely based on the so-called California Water Wars of the 1920s, when water was being diverted from… Continue reading Jack Nicholson vs. the Dept. of Water and Power


Jack Lemmon Rages Against The China Syndrome

The China Syndrome (1979) was, for a time, more famous for issues surrounding it than the movie itself. When this thriller was first released, it received mixed reviews. Newsweek called the film “emotional manipulation”, while the New York Times said it was “less about the laws of physics than about public and private ethics”. The film, about a malfunction… Continue reading Jack Lemmon Rages Against The China Syndrome

Science Fiction · Thriller

All’s Fair in The Love War

Although we (as in, yours truly) are not the most enthusiastic supporters of television, we do feel an odd nostalgia for televised events we never witnessed, such as Elvis Presley’s first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, or the Apollo 11 moon landing. Another bit of TV business for which we recently developed a fondness is ABC’s… Continue reading All’s Fair in The Love War

Drama · Thriller

The Sidney-Poitier-as-Social-Barometer Film Theory

We’re working on a Sidney Poitier film theory. We started developing this theory while watching the 1950 thriller No Way Out, in which Poitier portrays a young doctor at a busy city hospital. As the film opens, Poitier is asked to fill a shift in the hospital prison ward, where he examines two white prisoners. The two are brothers, and are sporting gunshot wounds… Continue reading The Sidney-Poitier-as-Social-Barometer Film Theory

Drama · Thriller

Barbara Bel Geddes: Caught in an Unrealistic Worldview

One of the most satisfying experiences in film, in our opinion, is when a sympathetic character decides Enough Is Enough. A good actor lets you know the instant their character snaps, usually with a clenched jaw and don’t-mess-with-me expression. Barbara Bel Geddes has such a moment in the 1949 thriller Caught, a film loosely based… Continue reading Barbara Bel Geddes: Caught in an Unrealistic Worldview