Tuesday, June 19, 2007

June 19th Log

1956, Fritz Lang, United States

1st Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

While The City Sleeps starts off almost like a horror film detailing the murder of a woman before quickly revealing the title cards. The scene quickly changes to the newsroom and it is here that the film centers its story, which is less a who-dun-it mystery then it is a race to find out who will solve the case and if there will be any more deaths leading to it. The film is directed by the great German export Fritz Lang, who regarded this as one of his favorite personal achievements, despite the fact the film earned little of the praise and accolades many of his other films received. While The City Sleeps centers around the chaotic chase to find the “Lipstick Killer” amongst the new reporters. Lang turns the film into a social study of the self-motivated news reporters and actually saves the most compassion for the murderer (slightly recalling his 1931 masterpiece M). The cast is a great one (Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, Rhonda Fleming, Sally Forrest, George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Howard Duff, James Craig, John Drew Barrymore Jr.).

1952, Nicholas Ray, United States
Repeat Viewing, Turner Classic Movies

On Dangerous Ground begins like a gritty film noir before shifting its tone to an expressive romantic longing that defines it’s filmmaker. Nicholas Ray centers the film around characters more so then the plot, and his favorite characters are the outsiders and misunderstood. He finds sympathy with them. These characters emerge over the second half of On Dangerous Ground, when a vengeful father (Ward Bond) and a tough cop (Robert Ryan) leave the city in pursuit of a murderer. There they find the criminals blind sister (played by the always terrific Ida Lupino) and a sense of loneliness and romanticism begin to unfold with Ryan’s character. Ryan gives a great performance as the understated hero and Lupino’s arrival comes nearly an hour in yet she transcends the beauty of the film (it is also said that Lupino assisted Ray with the direction while he was ill- she was Hollywood’s first notable female director of the era). Ray beautifully contrasts the brutal and dark city landscape with the quiet and lyrical snow-filled mountainside. Heightening this contrast is the expressive use of shadows and a masterful score from the great Bernard Herrmann. On Dangerous Ground is a tragic noir of longing. It’s beautifully made with a poetic stroke of simplicity.


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