Oh no, I shouldn’t have waited so long to write about this… let’s see what I can remember. Rwandan genocide movie, shown from different character perspectives and overlapping timelines. That’s not clear at first, when small stories are set up then abruptly abandoned, but as they start to cross and join towards the end (including at least one Run Lola Run alternate-story), the movie gets much richer and more interesting.

Since there is a movie about a struggle, a young couple from opposite sides of the struggle must fall in love, so that happens. The girl’s parents are murdered, her boyfriend has to decide whether to support her or not, and the killer eventually confesses at one of those forgiveness committees. Also a priest on the run hides with an imam and regains his faith. And an outmanned military group tries to protect the courtyard where the girl and the priest are hiding.

Writer/director Brown’s first feature after a string of shorts, won an audience award at Sundance.

Hugo-inspired Melies shorts, followed by Melies-inspired silent shorts, followed by Sherlock Jr. Everything except A Trip to the Moon had live music by Donald Sosin and Joanna Seaton, and the films were introduced and attended by every Emory film person I’ve ever seen. A great program – Katy loved it too.

A Nightmare (1896)
Melies is trying to sleep, but different people keep appearing in his bed.

The Man With the Rubber Head (1901)
Magician Melies reveals that he’s got his own head in a box, and can inflate and deflate it using a bellows and a valve. Magician Melies is too excited, and Melies Head is super flustered. It goes on like this until M.M. decides to let a passing clown inflate his head, then he is pissed at the clown when it explodes. What did M.M. think would happen??

Extraordinary Illusions (1903)
A straight-up magic show, with things turning into other things. The beauty is he cuts on the action, so to speak, transforming things as they’re thrown into the air.

The Melomaniac (1903)
Conductor Melies lays out sheet music onscreen using eight Melies Heads as notes. Much fun for the musicians.

The Infernal Cauldron (1903)
A devil throws people into a pot, I think there was fire and maybe an explosion – I was mostly staring at the vivid hand-coloring.

A Trip to the Moon (1902)
A group of wizards stands around talking for three minutes – longer than any of the previous films – before they finally decide to take any trips to the moon. What was that all about? After the explorers journey to the moon and make moon men explode by whacking them with umbrellas, they capture one alien (sort of – he grabs onto their capsule) and bring him home triumphantly to an appreciative crowd. In my remake, I would have the moon man suddenly grab an umbrella and whack the mayor, making him explode. Hyper coloring and nonsense music by Air.

The Haunted Curiosity Shop (1901, Walter Booth)
Very Melies-style thing with a sarcophagus and skeleton and throwing someone piecemeal into a pot.

The ‘?’ Motorist (1906, Walter Booth)
Two complete psychos run over a cop, drive up a building, circle the moon, ride on Saturn’s rings, then escape police by turning their car temporarily into a horse. One of the ten best films ever made, according to Ian Christie. I’m inclined to agree.

The Dancing Pig (1907, Pathe Freres)
Someone in a sick pig suit harasses a girl, is forced to strip, then dances for about a hundred minutes. One of the ten best films ever made, according to nobody ever.

Princess Nicotine (1908, J. Stuart Blackton)
Two smoke fairies harass a weirdly antisocial smoker, featuring some matchstick stop-motion.

Fantasmagorie (1908, Emile Cohl)
Holy crap. One minute of trippy stick-figure animation, eating itself.

How a Mosquito Operates (1912, Winsor McCay)
A balding mosquito the size of a man’s head sucks gobs of blood out of the sleeping man after sharpening his proboscis, repeating his actions frequently since McCay discovered the joy of animation reuse. One of the ten best films ever made, according to Mike Leigh.

Sherlock Jr. (1924, Buster Keaton)
Presented on 35mm, as was A Trip to the Moon. What I wrote last time still goes, except this time the music was much better.

Wonderful adaptation, filled with Cocteau-like movie-magic. Introduced at Emory by Rushdie, who calls it “The Dream” for short, and isn’t a huge fan of James Cagney’s performance.

Katy and I already watched the McNutty version from 60-some years later, so I’m familiar with the story. Dark-haired Olivia de Havilland (her film debut, later in Gone With The Wind) is coveted by both Dick Powell (star of Christmas in July and The Tall Target) and Ross Alexander (short career: suicide), while blonde Jean Muir (star of The White Cockatoo) covets Ross. The lovers (particularly Olivia) give it their all, making their segments more welcome than Cagney’s. I noted that Kevin Kline brought “a touch of sadness to his mostly ridiculous comic-relief role,” but Cagney instead brings an entire can of ham. When he’s not wearing a donkey mask, Cagney works with slate-faced Joe Brown (the guy in love with Jack Lemmon at the end of Some Like It Hot) on their play to be performed for The Duke (Ian Hunter of Hitchcock’s The Ring) and his Amazon conquest/bride (Verree Teasdale of The Milky Way).

Interference comes from fairy queen Anita Louise (of Judge Priest, bringing less personality than Michelle Pfeiffer did) and sparkly-costumed elf king Victor Jory (Power of the Press) with his loyal minion, a cackling pre-Andy Hardy Mickey Rooney. The Queen has mini-minions Moth and Pease-Blossom (both sadly unaccounted-for), Cobweb (appeared in a pile of 1950’s westerns, costarring with Gregory Peck in The Gunfighter) and Mustard Seed (Billy Barty, had already been in fifty movies as Mickey Rooney’s brother, would live to appear in such acclaimed 1980’s dwarf-filled fantasy films as Legend, Willow, Masters of the Universe and UHF).

Lost best picture to Mutiny on the Bounty, but cinematographer Hal Mohr was history’s only write-in oscar winner. He later shot Underworld USA, Rancho Notorious and a Tashlin feature. Banned in Germany for being based on the Jew-music of Mendelssohn. Reinhardt had staged the play ten or more times, left nazi germany and staged Midsummer in Hollywood, then hired to make the film alongside cinema vet Dieterle (The Devil & Daniel Webster).

The most brightly-lit and also most pessimistic noir shown in Emory’s series. Nicholson is very good at acting natural, which he does too seldom, and John Huston is haunting as the villain, a human monster in broad daylight. I remember Faye Dunaway as being hysterical in this, but apparently I was only recalling the “she’s my daughter AND my sister” scene. Polanski himself plays a dwarf thug who cuts Jack’s nose open near the beginning of the investigation, forcing Jack to wear facial bandages through most of the movie.

Huston plays Dunaway’s father – he and her husband Mulwray ran the water department for years before selling it to the city, and now Huston is running a water/real estate conspiracy, stealing water from farmers and dumping it into the river. Jack is a nobody detective taking pictures of cheating husbands when he’s used as a pawn in Huston’s schemes to discredit his former partner and recover his grand/daughter – though Jack is plenty smart enough to keep up with the plot. He almost gets ahead, too, but loses his evidence against Huston, and loses Dunaway when the cops shoot her through the head.

Nominated for all the oscars, but really, what chance have you got against the likes of Godfather 2, The Towering Inferno, Earthquake and Art Carney?

A true low-budget “b movie” classic. Made by an indie studio with no-name stars, a rough, dirty-looking film print with short jumps and gaps, shown as part of Emory’s noir series. First Ulmer movie I’ve seen (unless watching The Amazing Transparent Man on Mystery Science Theater counts).

Ton Neal is kind of a pathetic character, a wannabe concert pianist playing a crappy New York restaurant with his sweetheart Sue singing – but she won’t marry him until one of them makes good, so she sets out for Hollywood. Later, Tom has failed to make his fortune, but decides to hitch-hike to L.A. to see his girl. He’s picked up by a slightly dangerous-seeming guy named Charlie, who lets Tom drive while he naps, apparently dying in his sleep. Or maybe he dies when Tom opens the door to see if he’s alright, and Charlie falls out of the car, knocking his head into a rock. Or maybe he’s not dead at all – either way, Tom panics, takes the man’s clothes, wallet and car, and carries on.

But Tom, the dummy, picks up a hitch-hiker who turns out to be severe control freak Ann Savage. She’s onto him, since Charlie had given her a ride in the same car, so she threatens to turn him in, gets him to rent them an apartment and buy her clothes and booze. In perhaps my favorite 40’s-noir death scene so far, one night he grabs the phone cord (I think it was to keep her from calling the cops) leading under her closed bedroom door and pulls with all his might, not knowing that the cord was looped around her neck. Now Tom is a two-time murderer, doesn’t want to bring his fugitive past into sweetie Sue’s life, so he hits the highway, stopping irritably in a diner (where Sturges regular Esther Howard is the waitress) to pause and recount his tale to us via voice-over.

Which leads to The Last Shot of Detour, the subject of a ten-page article by Morgan Fisher in Cinema Scope, which soon lost me when I realized it was a “close reading” of a one-minute piece of film, but after skimming a few pages I got interested again, in his discussion of strangely self-conscious moments in the movie that could only have been inserted on purpose. When watching the movie, the final shot made me laugh – Tom’s narrator voice tells us that one day on the road he’ll catch his final, fateful ride, and at that very moment the state patrol pulls up and takes him away. I hadn’t thought to consider it as a subjective shot, a flash-forward illustrating his thought, but without any cuts or visual cues that we’ve left the present.

Tom Neal, the non-brute lead of The Brute Man, was best known for beating the hell out of Franchot Tone in 1951 and killing his wife in 1965. Ann Savage memorably reappeared sixty-three years later in the great My Winnipeg. Detour was remade in the 1990’s with Tom Neal Jr.

D. Coursen:

Ulmer is actually taking several American fantasies (“going west,” looking to Hollywood for success and happiness, finding freedom and happiness on the open road) and performing unnatural acts on them, with devastating effects … Each ridiculous plot twist narrows his alternatives, increases his victimization, further emphasizes his lack of free will. In fact, the closest thing to a moment of freedom in the movie (though the character doesn’t perceive it as such) comes in the extraordinary sequence in which, working in the nightclub he professes to despise, he plays a brilliant, disjointed piano improvisation, shown largely through closeups of his crazily moving fingers.

Didn’t seem very noirish, nor very good, for at least the first half. Barbara Stanwyck (between Double Indemnity and The Furies) is at her least appealing as a spoiled invalid shouting into the telephone all day and night, and her husband Burt Lancaster (in his noir period, between The Killers and Criss Cross) barely appears. Eventually it all falls into place. She is even more spoiled than it first seemed, having stolen Burt away from his girlfriend, given him a meaningless job at her father’s chemical corporation, then fallen into a psychosomatic paralysis to keep him at home taking care of her. Burt is no jewel himself, attempting to break free of his father-in-law’s grasp by stealing chemical supplies and selling them to gangsters. The “wrong number” of the title is a call Stanwyck accidentally overhears at the start, two men plotting a murder – hers, on order of her husband, who tries to stop it at the last minute. Too late, and though I love Ms. Stanwyck, this was one movie in which I didn’t mind her getting killed.

Since the plot comes together in fragments from Stanwyck’s perspective, gathering backstory over phone calls as time ticks away, I was hoping for a flashback-within-a-flashback, and got one! Burt’s cutie ex (Ann Richards) is nice enough to try helping out, though her husband (Leif Erickson, the grinning would-be cop-killer in The Tall Target) is investigating Lancaster. I also liked meek scientist Evans (Harold Vermilyea of The Big Clock and Edge of Doom), Burt’s reluctant partner in crime, who manages to escape (but perhaps not for long, since the cops are closing in on Burt). The Franz Waxman score can best be characterized as loud.

Between this and The Snake Pit with Olivia de Havilland the same year, Litvak was on fire making popular pictures about mental women – unfortunately, his two stars’ oscar nominations cancelled each other out so the award went to Jane Wyman.

If I count right (and it’s difficult), this was director Orson’s fourth of twelve released feature films. All the usual Wellesian eccentric production tales surround it, and the usual claims of studio mistreatment (an unapproved music track, an hour of footage removed), and the usual reports of poor reviews and low ticket sales. That stuff aside, we’re left with a great movie, full of idiosyncratic camerawork and acting (why oh why does Welles assign himself an Irish accent) and super dialogue.

Trophy wife Rita Hayworth (who’d just starred in Gilda) takes a fancy to Irish-Welles, sends her rich husband Arthur (becrutched Everett Sloane of The Patsy, The Enforcer) to hire Welles for their yachting expedition. Welles doesn’t mind being around Rita, but Arthur and his partner Grisby (Glenn Anders of Laughter, hamming it up) get under his skin with their power plays and upper-class bitchiness.

Welles tosses a sharks-eating-each-other metaphor at the rich folk, later is spotted smooching Rita at the aquarium as a visual tie-in. What distracted me from thoughts of the Steve The Octopus controversy from Citizen Kane was noticing that sometimes Welles and Hayworth seem to be conversing before real fish tanks, and sometimes before massive projection-screen blow-ups of fish tanks, so unrealistically out of proportion that it must have been intentional.

Back in the fold, Grisby offers a way out – he’ll give Welles enough money to run off with Rita in exchange if Welles helps Grisby fake his death, boasting about a murder for which the police could find no body. But the plan, as all movie plans must, goes wrong. Grisby kills Arthur’s private investigator (Ted de Corsia, killer who gets chased over the Williamsburg bridge in the climax of The Naked City) then turns up dead himself, Orson the obvious suspect. He escapes the cops and finds Rita, but she’s behind it all, stashes him in an abandoned funhouse – for no reason other than to provide outstanding visuals for the final mirror-room showdown. Arthur and Rita shoot each other down, and Welles is left behind.

Now this is why I keep a movie journal – so I have to take the time to consider and remember what I’ve seen, so next year I’m not confusing Manoel on the Isle of Marvels with City of Pirates with Robinson Crusoe. I know I’ve seen Double Indemnity before, but last time shouldn’t even count, since I’d swear it was a Humphrey Bogart movie that involves some fictional law about not being able to prosecute someone twice for the same crime. Whoops, that was Double Jeopardy with Ashley Judd. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it again, as they say, for the first time.

It’s really a perfect noir plot. Fred MacMurray is an upright insurance salesman, very close with his boss Edward G. Robinson (the year before he’d take center stage in Lang-noir Scarlet Street). They’re on the same side – Fred sells policies and Ed sniffs out fraudulent claims. But Fred’s head is turned by Barbara Stanwyck (also his costar in Remember the Night), trapped in a loveless marriage with a rich man. When she suggests taking out life insurance on her husband, Fred is immediately on to her. But instead of reporting her spouse-murdering desires, his own desire for her sucks him into the plot. Why not use his inside knowledge of life insurance mechanics to help her, gaining himself a rich and beautiful wife in the process?

Problems: first, Fred is spotted on the train pretending to be her husband (who was already killed a few minutes earlier, strangled in his car). Fred has a brief uncomfortable chat with Sturges regular Porter Hall, who turns out to have a great memory when he’s later interviewed by Robinson. Second, Fred underestimated Barbara, who is now trying to seduce the boyfriend of her dead husband’s daughter so that he’ll kill the daughter and tie up any loose ends. Confrontation: Fred and Barbara shoot each other, and Fred stumbles back to the office to tell the whole story into Robinson’s dictaphone, providing us with a narrator/framing device.

Nominated for every oscar but lost all to Going My Way, Gaslight and Laura. Shot by Preston Sturges’s cinematographer John Seitz. Based on an acclaimed novel by James Cain (Mildred Pierce, The Postman Always Rings Twice) and adapted by Wilder with the great Raymond Chandler (The Blue Dahlia).

R. Armstrong for Senses:

Subverting Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray’s audience-friendly personae, Double Indemnity used genre to comment upon a changing America. Revolving around the combative mating ritual of a larcenous insurance salesman and a bored brassy claimant, the exchanges are tough, vernacular and eventually brutal, echoing a war entering its final bloody stages and a burgeoning crisis in American sexual relations. Featuring a manipulative, sexual woman, and shot on LA locations employing chiaroscuro lighting, this archetypal film noir remains a masterpiece of fleet narrative and sociocultural resonance.

Now that I’ve seen this twice (both times on 35mm at Emory) I’m positive it’s one of my favorite movies. Perfect actors, dialogue, camera and lighting, perfectly paced and scored. It’s such an ideal film that while walking out, I almost fell into the trap of wishing for the glory days of Hollywood because they can’t make ’em like that anymore. Close call – I’m feeling better now.

Criminal flunky Joe (Paul Valentine of House of Strangers) tracks down Robert Mitchum (early in his career) working at a small-town gas station, says that big badman Whit (Kirk Douglas, a few years before Ace in the Hole) wants to speak with him. Mitchum drives up to Whit’s house with his cutie girlfriend, tells her his long flashback story along the way. We spend such a long time in flashback that once the action picks up again, I keep forgetting we’re back in the present.

Mitchum was originally hired by the baddies (both with prominent chins) to track down Kirk’s thieving runaway girl Jane Greer (whose IMDB page is more interesting for trivia about how Howard Hughes used to stalk her than for her film roles). He finds her in Mexico, falls for her, and they run off together, live in hiding for a couple years until discovered by his partner (Steve Brodie, a cop in Losey’s M, also in The Steel Helmet, later Frankenstein Island and The Wizard of Speed and Time). She shoots the partner and runs off, Mitchum belatedly discovering that she’d also stolen Kirk’s money for which she’d been claiming innocence.

So now Kirk wants Mitchum to steal some incriminating files for him, but plans to frame Mitchum along the way as revenge for absconding with Kirk’s girl (now back in the fold). Mitch gets the scoop from Rhonda Fleming (of The Spiral Staircase, Spellbound), and steals the files, but can’t avoid the frame-up and flees home followed by the gangsters and the law.

Mitchum gets unexpected help from his deaf-mute employee, who dispatches Joe with a fishing-rod yank off a cliff. The kid was Dickie Moore – the youngest actor in the movie, but the one who would retire first, near the end of his child-star film career. The Femme proves to be extremely fatale, shoots Kirk to death, then drives herself and Mitchum into a guns-blazing police roadblock. The “happy” ending is that Mitchum’s sweet small-town girlfriend Ann (Virginia Huston – in her short film career she played Tarzan’s Jane once, and four characters named Ann) is free of his big-city corrupting influence, and can be properly courted by local cop Jim (Richard Webb, also of The Big Clock), in a world devoid of excitement or interest.

The author of the “unadaptable” novel wrote the screenplay himself, would later co-write The Big Steal and The Hitch-Hiker. Shot by the great Nicholas Musuraca, who practically invented film noir with his lighting – or lack thereof – on Stranger on the Third Floor in 1940. Nominated for nothing, in favor of timeless classics like Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, Ride the Pink Horse and Green Dolphin Street. Bah! Remade in the 80’s with Jeff Bridges, James Woods, and re-starring Jane Greer as the femme fatale’s mother.