My most-read article of each series of posts

So, every once in a while, I check my blog stats. I think it’s important to keep up with your audience as that is a good way of knowing where to go next and how to outline your articles. Your fans are loyal for a reason and I like to give back as much as possible. And the other day, as my new series of posts debuted, I was curious to know what the most popular article in each of my previous series was – just for fun. So… what were they?

DOUBLE BILL: 5thWoman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945) – This is a Fritz Lang, Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennet and Dan Dureya double bill that is somewhere in the cult bracket of the film noir canon. One of my favorite Double Bills to write.

COMEDY GOLD: 6thThe maracas scene from Some Like It Hot (1959) – I am not surprised at all by this, as Some Like It Hot is clearly the funniest film ever made. Nuff said.

SCREENPLAY BY: Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon – From A Double Life (1947) to Adam’s Rib (1949), these two were responsible for some of Hollywood’s greatest screenplays. Everyone loves a power couple!

FAVORITE ANGRY MAN: 12th (Juror 2) – Interestingly, Juror 2 has it! It’s most likely the first one that comes up in Google searches, due to algorithms, but I think it’s sweet that the most demure of the 12 Angry Men gets the attention he deserves.

WORLD CINEMA: Purple Noon (1960) – The first film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley is the most-read WORLD CINEMA post and again, I’m not surprised. Alain Delon’s ever-enduring popularity comes through here and rightly so.

I will be updating this list in the future to include the most popular ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES article. I wonder what it will be?

ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES: Notorious (1946)

Happy 2022… whatever’s left of it at this point, as we all slowly despair… But hey, let’s not dwell, because I’ve got a brand new series for you! That’s right, after DOUBLE BILL, in which I compared two films which, to the naked eye, have little in common, COMEDY GOLD, where I talked about some of my favorite funny moments, SCREENPLAY BY, in which screenwriters get the spotlight for once, FAVORITE ANGRY MEN, in which the 12 Angry Men are ranked in order of my preference, and WORLD CINEMA, where international movies are all the rage, I bring you ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES, which is exactly what it sounds like. I will showcase a film and give you three of my favorite quotes from it. Because who doesn’t love quoting quotes? First up, we have one of Alfred Hitchcock’s most romantic films, Notorious (1946), in which Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman) infiltrates a ring of nazis to gather information, with the help of government agent T. R. Devlin (Cary Grant), as the two of them fall in love with each other… Things get complicated with Alicia decides to marry the leader of the organization, Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains)… Here we go!

  1. I’m very sorry you all have to go. It has been a perfectly heinous party.’ Alicia – This kind of sounds more like a screwball comedy type of line, and it’s wonderfully delivered by Bergman. The whole party scene is very tongue-in-cheek, indeed.

  2. ‘Dry your eyes, baby, it’s out of character.’ Devlin to Alicia – This is the shift in Devlin and Alicia’s tumultuous love-hate relationship and one of the most acidic lines ever uttered in a film. It’s a soul-crushing moment, in which Devlin can’t contain his feelings anymore after Alicia tells him she’s going ahead with the plan to be with Alex Sebastian…

  3. I’m married to an American agent.’ Alex Sebastian to his mother (Leopoldine Konstatin) – I’ve always loved this line and Rains’ delivery. It’s such a great moment of realization and the stakes go up about 150%…

There you have it, folks! Stay tuned for next month’s ONE MOVIE, THREE QUOTES!

WORLD CINEMA: Aniki-Bóbó (1942)

As 2021 comes to an end (thank God), so does WORLD CINEMA (boooo!). And because I’ve spent the past few weeks in my home country for the holidays, that’s exactly where I’m taking the last WORLD CINEMA: we go over to Portugal and Manoel de Oliveira’s debut film, Aniki-Bóbó.

Aniki-Bóbó concerns the lives of a group of kids living in the working class streets of Porto, with a love triangle as its main focus: Carlitos (Horácio Silva) is in love with Teresinha (Fernanda Matos), who is also being courted by Eduardo (António Santos), which leads to, obviously, mayhem.

Set in Manoel de Oliveira’s hometown, Porto is the perfect backdrop for a film that, despite its simplistic plot, is made great by the execution. A sort of precursor to Italian neo-realism, Aniki-Bóbó is charming, sweet and humorous, with a touch of social commentary that is only to be expected. One of the most interesting things about it is that, like so many European films of that time, Aniki-Bóbó‘s main players are children, with their lives, loves and woes taking center stage, dealt with in a serious manner. The plot revolves around them, with the adults being supporting characters that ultimately put the kids’ plot into context and create a kind of conflict that is wonderfully resolved in a rather cute way by the film’s third act. Because of this, AnikiBóbó‘s charms are a breath of fresh air, its sense of wonder and innocence something that was rather bold for a debut feature.

And from debut feature to swan song, it is with Aniki-Bóbó that we bid farewell to WORLD CINEMA and 2021. Hope to see you in the new year, when I’ll be debuting a brand new series. Happy New Year!

Four classic movie families I would love to spend Christmas with

I actually, literally cannot believe it’s December. Like, what happened? Is this even allowed? Anyway, Christmas is (almost) here and I bring you four families from beloved classics that I would love to spend Christmas with:

The Lords, The Philadelphia Story (1940) – Let’s face it, Christmas with this lot would be filled with zingers, passive-aggressive insults, and a whooole lot of champagne and caviar. Because if that disastrous wedding is anything to go by, the Lords know how to throw a party! Invite Miss Imbrie (Ruth Hussey) and Mike Connor (Jimmy Stewart) again and you’ve got yourself one hell of a festive season.

The Bullocks, My Man Godfrey (1936) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Bullocks are the craziest screwball family ever. You’ve got Mom Angelica (Alice Brady), whose only concern is her flamboyant protégé Carlo (Misha Auer), Dad Alex (Eugene Palette), who can’t stand his family’s shenanigans, eldest daughter Cornelia (Gail Patrick), the snotty brat of the family and youngest daughter Irene (Carole Lombard), an adorable airhead who falls in love with their butler Godfrey (William Powell) after ‘winning’ him in a scavenger hunt. Phew! Yes please.

The Smiths, Meet me in St Louis (1944) – Meet me in St Louis is my all-time favorite musical. A few years ago, I wrote about some of my favorite things about it, and I think the Smiths are one of the reasons why it’s such a great film. The love, friendship and camaraderie between them all is heart-warming. It is also partly a Christmas movie, so it all works out.

The Setons, Holiday (1938) – The third film Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn made together and the loveliest, Holiday is another festive gem, about the love triangle between Johnny Case (Grant), Julia Seton (Doris Nolan) and her sister Linda Seton (Hepburn). Despite their enormous wealth and endless family drama, the Setons are a loving and supportive family, not to mention that they live in what is probably my favorite house in film history! *drools*

#FestiveSeason

WORLD CINEMA: En La Palma De Tu Mano (1951)

For Noirvember’s WORLD CINEMA, we travel all the way to Mexico for a dose of clairvoyance and melodrama, with En La Palma De Tu Mano (In the Palm of Your Hand), a Roberto Gavaldón film noir from their own Golden Age.

Arturo de Córdova plays Jaime Karin, a clairvoyant and scam artist who uses his girlfriend Clara (Carmen Montejo) to get the gossip about everyone in town so he can use it to his advantage. When he learns that the wealthy Vittorio Romano has died, he befriends his widow Ada (Leticia Palma) and… you can guess how this goes.

In the Palm of Your Hand is a crisp-looking melodrama, with a suave and charming protagonist, a scheming femme fatale and a very, very tragic ending. Though not entirely unpredictable, it is still incredibly enjoyable nonetheless, with quite a few moments that just scream film noir. The scene in which Karin and Ada are stopped by the police, in particular, just gets more and more tense as it goes on and it is probably the best moment in the whole film – massive Decoy (1946) vibes! Karin’s friendship with an illiterate old woman whose son is in the military is used as a way of showing his caring side, a really nice touch which proves to be effective as we end up sort of sympathizing with him. Towards the end of the film, he has reached his limit and realizes he must pay for what he’s done and we certainly feel for him. Film noir is filled with these morally ambiguous characters and Karin is right up there with the rest of them.

Long considered to be one of Mexico’s greatest ever films noir, In the Palm of Your Hand won the Ariel Award for *takes deep breath* Best Picture, Director, Actor, Original Story (Luis Spota), Cinematography, Editing, Sound and Set Design. Not bad, huh? #Noirvember

The Distraction Blogathon – Kiss Me Deadly (1955) and the glowing box…

I’ve been flirting with the idea of taking this blogging thing to a whole new level – no, not podcasts. YouTube. ‘Cause I’m a visual person, you see. And while there are tons of classic movie channels and content on YouTube, something that hardly ever gets talked about are the screenplays of some of those classics. Sure, Casablanca and Citizen Kane get talked about to death – is it weird that I pride myself in never having talked about them at all here on the Garden? I mean, what could I possibly say at this point that every Tom, Dick and Harry hasn’t already said? – but what about those poor suckers that don’t get a chance? Personally, I’m amazed Kiss Me Deadly (1955, dir. Robert Aldrich) doesn’t come up more often. And because this is Noirvember, I shall rectify that. And because this is a Red Herrings and MacGuffins-themed blogathon hosted by my friend Rebecca at Taking up Room, I shall rectify that even more. Bring on A. I. Bezzerides! Bring on the glowing box that everyone’s been homage-ing for years (lookin’ at you, Tarantino)! Let’s go!

We’ve talked about Bezzerides here on the Garden, on the much-missed (or is it just me?) SCREENPLAY BY series. His greatest and best-known achievement is, of course, Kiss Me Deadly and one of the things that makes it great is Bezzerides’ tight screenplay, which moves along beautifully, edging ever closer to that great twist. This is where we start off: a woman (Cloris Leachman in her film debut) runs down the road wearing only a trench-coat in one of film noir’s greatest openings. She stops a car, driven by Detective Mike Hammer (Ralph Meeker at his coolest), gets in, the opening credits roll… downwards… and then they crash, and she dies. But wait, it’s not quite that simple… You see, some guys railroad them, then torture her to death as Hammer loses consciousness. Before all of this, though, she tells Mike her name is Christina and to ‘remember’ her. What follows is typical film noir: anti-hero Hammer hounds the streets of Los Angeles looking for any clues as to who this Christina woman was and what she meant by ‘remember me’, he meets dodgy characters with cool names, he gets sent around town to all these places looking for anything that might be of use, he almost gets shot by Christina’s roommate Lily Carver (Gaby Rodgers) and he even gets to punch Jack Lambert at a pool party. He knows that there is something big connected to this Christina… something someone knows about but nobody’s telling. And then, just as we thought we were watching just another noir, Kiss Me Deadly gives us one of the greatest shock twists of all time.

Velda (Maxine Cooper), Hammer’s girlfriend and secretary, mentions the great Whatsit about an hour into the film and we soon learn that it comes in the form of a mysterious box containing… radioactive material. It is here that Kiss Me Deadly goes from being a noir with a familiar formula of ‘we don’t know what we’re looking for but we know we gotta find it’ to an allegory for all that American society feared in 1955. The interesting overlapping of the classic noir period and futuristic Sci-fi dystopia couldn’t have come at a better (or worse?) time and though Bezzerides himself admits that his screenplay was not, in fact, a metaphor for the whole McCarthy situation, one can’t be blamed for assuming so. With its nihilist and cynical tone, Kiss Me Deadly starts with paranoia and ends with paranoia. From the presumed femme fatale being chased by the bad guys, to the threat of a nuclear apocalypse. It’s a fun one, Kiss Me Deadly… For more entries on the Distraction blogathon, click here!

Overlooked and Underrated: Film Noir’s unsung heroes, villains and in-betweeners

Happy Noirvember to all of you dames and misters out there in the dark! This year, I thought I’d do something a little different. There’s a big blogathon coming up and WORLD CINEMA will logically be featuring a noir, so for Noirvember’s first post, I wanted to give a little shout out to just SOME of the characters and performances that I’ve enjoyed over the years that don’t seem to get a whole lot of attention. So, obviously, Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past or Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity won’t be here. Here’s to the unsung heroes, villains and in-betweeners!

Dana Andrews in Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950, dir. Otto Preminger) – Where the Sidewalk Ends is one of the most ingenious noirs out there and Dana Andrews’ Mark Dixon is a delicious anti-hero: a troubled cop who must come to terms with the fact that his own father was a crooked cop himself and that he must do everything he can not to end up like him. He almost manages, until one night, when everything goes wrong…

Richard Basehart in He Walked by Night (1948, dir. Alfred Werker) – I wrote about this amazing film a few years ago and referred to Basehart’s Roy Morgan as an impenetrable psychopath. A smart, resourceful and mysterious killer who manages to outsmart the cops as they chase him around the streets of Los Angeles. It’s a quiet performance which, in 1940s noir, was slightly rare and its calmness is its strength. Basehart is on top form in this.

Louis Calhern in The Asphalt Jungle (1950, dir. John Huston) – The wealthy lawyer in one of cinema’s most iconic heist operations, Alonzo D. Emmerich is a calm and calculating man and Calhern delivers a nuanced and restrained performance that kind of almost breaks your heart, even though it shouldn’t. He was Oscar-nominated that year for The Magnificent Yankee (1950, dir. John Sturges), so understandably went un-nominated for Jungle, but I maintain that he should have been. 

Jean Gillie in Decoy (1946, dir. Jack Bernhard) – I talked about Jean Gillie’s performance in this film a few years ago and I mentioned that I’ve long considered Margot Shelby, the mastermind behind one of the most far-fetched plots in any noir, to be a nuanced anti-heroine, rather than a villain or a femme fatale. She’s a fascinating, endlessly analysable, double-crossing badass.

Dennis O’Keefe in T-Men (1947, dir. Anthony Mann) – As I’ve said a few times, I think T-Men is the tensest of ALL noirs. Two Treasury men go undercover to bring down a notorious counterfeit ring – what could go wrong, right? The brief friendship between both of them is quite sweet and, as the tension builds, it slowly breaks your heart… This is a far cry from O’Keefe’s Joe Sullivan, the charming, two-timing cad from Raw Deal (1948, Mann).

Thelma Ritter in Pickup on South Street (1953, dir. Sam Fuller) – One of Thelma Ritter’s six (!) Oscar nominations, Pickup on South Street’s police informant Moe is a smart, endearing, wise-cracking woman whose exit is still one of the most heart-breaking I’ve ever seen…

And on that happy note, Happy Noirvember and stay tuned!

CMBA’s Laughter is the Best Medicine blogathon: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

The wonderful silliness of the ‘Abbott and Costello Meet…’ series of films is an absolute joy to behold! And because this is still Horror Month, I thought I would combine the two, comedy and horror, for the second Classic Movie Blog Association blogathon of 2021, Laughter is the Best Medicine, and talk about Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948, dir. Charles Barton)!

The plot is very simple: at a railway station, baggage clerks Chick Young (Abbott) and Wilbur Grey (Costello) receive a call from Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney Jr) about a shipment for something called McDougal’s House of Horrors. Talbot then turns into the Wolf Man, obviously, and Wilbur thinks the whole thing is joke. But when McDougal asks for the shipment to be personally delivered to his wax museum, Chick and Wilbur come across a horror movie scenario, involving Dracula (Bela Lugosi), Frankenstein’s monster (Glenn Strange) and a whoooole lot of misunderstandings.

Filled with hilarious one-liners, slapstick moments and a heavy dose of dramatic irony, this was the first in a series of movies in which the beloved comedy duo meet several of the Universal monsters and boy, did it start something great! Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is a hodgepodge of pop culture references, increasingly absurd situations and familiar horror and comedy tropes which, amazingly, work incredibly well together. Weirdly, Costello supposedly didn’t like the script at all, saying his child could have written something better, but later changed his mind when director Charles Barton was added to the project. Boris Karloff, on the other hand, refused to play the Monster again, but agreed to promote the film instead, which was nice of him. Luckily, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr were on board! It’s actually amazing that this whole thing even happened in the first place. A genius idea, I have to say. Click on the link above for more Laughter is the Best Medicine entries!

WORLD CINEMA: I Vampiri (1957)

Not going to lie, picking a horror film for the WORLD CINEMA series wasn’t easy. There are too many great ones that I have already talked about, like Les Diaboliques (1955) or Nosferatu (1922), obvious classics that other bloggers, YouTubers and podcasters have already reviewed countless times, or I just couldn’t make up my mind regarding the remaining ones. Ultimately, I went with Italy’s first horror picture of the sound era, I Vampiri (1957, dir. Riccardo Freda and Mario Bava).

Set in Paris, despite being an Italian film, I Vampiri starts off quite abruptly, as the body of a young woman is found floating in the river. In the next scene, the coroner explains that she has been drained of all her blood, like the previous victims. We are dealing with a serial killer that the Parisian press has nicknamed ‘the Vampire’, one that journalist Pierre Lantin (Dario Michaelis) is obsessed with, despite being told repeatedly to drop the case. It is Lantin himself who guides us through I Vampiri, the most reliable character in this beautiful mess of a film.

It is probably safe to say that I Vampiri’s place in film history is more significant than its actual effectiveness as a horror film. That despite its sellable plot with an admittedly good twist, it is too busy being too many things at once for any of them to be explored thoroughly. It goes from Horror, to Gothic, to police procedural, to romantic drama involving Lantin and the alluring Gisele du Grand (Gianna Maria Canale), to family drama, back to horror, while trying to keep its elements in place. The behind-the-scenes antics, with then-cinematographer Mario Bava stepping in to complete the film after Freda realized he couldn’t make it in just a few days like he said he would, may have contributed to its shambolic nature, but this also may have been a case of ‘going all out’ knowing what was at stake – Italy had yet to produce a big horror sound picture.

Yet, despite its lack of sense of direction at times, it somehow manages to pull itself together in the end and, all in all, I Vampiri is a perfectly enjoyable film, with a good, if misused, plot, gorgeous cinematography and striking special effects – the climactic moments are rather fascinating to watch. An interesting study on what was to come, particularly with Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) as well the entire Italian horror genre, and a good one at that.

The Night of the Hunter (1955), Charles Laughton’s horrifying masterpiece

Can you believe it’s October already? I certainly can’t. But you know what that means. Horror Month is here! And we kick off this year’s celebrations with Robert Mitchum’s terrifying turn as the Reverend Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter (1955, dir. Charles Laughton). But before we go any further, I must confess something: I cannot stand Shelley Winters. There I said it. Been sitting on that for 15 years. Some actors grow on me, some don’t. She never has. And yes, I’ll acknowledge that she has her moments – you don’t win two Best Supporting Actress Oscars if you don’t – but she just doesn’t do it for me and I can’t quite figure out why. So I’ll refrain from going too deep into her contribution to this film, which, again, I acknowledge is good and needed, and instead I’ll focus on the man of the hour.

Robert Mitchum plays the utterly wicked Harry Powell, a preacher who preys on women, marries them, then kills them. And when he finds out that Ben Harper (Peter Graves), the man he’s sharing a prison cell with, has hidden money somewhere in West Virginia, his wife, Willa Harper (Winters), becomes his next victim. After Ben’s execution and Powell’s release, he goes after Wilma and her two children, John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce)…

Based on the Davis Grubb novel of the same name, and adapted by James Agee, Charles Laughton’s only directorial effort is a truly frightening tale from start to finish. From Walter Schumann’s eerie, ominous music, cut off by Lillian Gish’s lovely voice in the opening narration, to her ‘duet’ with Powell in the name of good and evil, the film explores contrasts stunningly. The LOVE-HATE thing is now, of course, iconic and endlessly re-created, but its irony still stands and makes its point beautifully, even if we’ve seen it a million times. Laughton’s and cinematographer Stanley Cortez’s blunt use of horror tropes – the lighting, the shadows, good vs evil – is also effective and makes for one incredibly visually striking film, almost like something you’d see in a True Crime documentary these days (Willa at the bottom of the river, anyone?). And Harry Powell… I mean, has Mitchum ever been this… uncool? Actually, I take that back. Even as one of cinema’s most terrifying characters, he still manages to be cool (ish). Because of course he does. Not to mention that Powell’s evil ways can only come to fruition because of his enormous charm. Powell is clearly a narcissist, on top of being a psychopathic serial killer. But he’s not cool-cool, Robert Mitchum-cool that is, and that’s why his performance is so great. And if he can pop into the Horror celebrations for once, instead of next month’s Noir festivities, then that shows you how versatile he really was. And yes, some have claimed that The Night of the Hunter has noir elements here and there, and obviously it does, but out of the two, it is a lot more horrifying than anything else. And it stays right here. Happy Horror Month, everyone!