Another Bunch of Old Movies, Reviewed

Here are twenty more free movies, reviewed.

My habit is to watch mostly older movies for 30 to 60 minutes at a stretch after dinner. One gets through a lot of old black-and-white movies that way. Here is the first set of reviews.

Here is my rubric:

  • 5: very highly recommended; rare, distinctively excellent, and memorable; a classic, or ought to be; one of the best films. Need not be perfect.
  • 4: highly recommended; excellent film, well-made; either highly enjoyable or quite important. Many old films can be highly recommended. Fewer new ones. Can have significant flaws, but none that make it repellant.
  • 3: recommended; above average; a good flick; not a bad way to spend an evening; has issues that make one think twice; but on balance, good enough to recommend.
  • 2: not recommended, but perhaps not a total waste of time; enjoyed myself, perhaps, a bit, but overall had serious objections to the film.
  • 1: very much not recommended; appalling film; few if any redeeming qualities

Enchantment (1948). 3. IMDb: 7.2. I remember liking it quite a bit, but not quite enough for a 4. It’s a love story, or two parallel love stories. In World War II, a young nurse (Teresa Wright) arrives at the London house of her uncle (David Niven), and we follow the tragic love story of Uncle Rollo and the budding love story of his niece. My rating isn’t higher, because, frankly, the movie just doesn’t pull off its ambitions perfectly.

Jesus of Nazareth (1977). 5. IMDb: 8.5. Here is the first rated-5 film in my first two lists, and it’s actually a television miniseries. I have watched a fair number of depictions of the story of Jesus on film, and this is quite simply the best. As with all films, I could find fault, but compared to other retellings of the Gospel story, this one is practically flawless. It is also six hours long, which gives important details time to breathe and flow. Robert Powell is an excellent Jesus, but if there is anything wrong, it is that he is a little bit too cold and otherworldly, not unlike an old oil painting depiction. But in so many ways, he hits the nail on the head.

Casanova Brown (1944). 3. IMDb: 6.2. This screwball comedy romance features two young people (Gary Cooper and Teresa Wright, again) who fall in love, get married and then divorced quickly. But it turns out that the marriage produced a baby. The father kidnaps the baby in order to prevent it from being adopted. Basically a 90 minute sitcom, but still charming enough to be watchable.

People Will Talk (1951). 4. IMDb: 7.4. A charming, kind, but eccentric professor (Cary Grant) first advises a beautiful but scandal-ridden student (Jeanne Crain), then falls in love with her despite her condition. Some hypocritical and jealous professors catch wind of this and seek to oust the professor, especially due to the latter’s association with with the mysterious Mr. Shunderson. All’s well that ends well. Rather better than the description details here here might suggest.

The Green Scarf (1954). 4. IMDb: 7.2. This is an abominable print of an excellent murder mystery. The premise is unusual: a deaf, dumb, and blind man who has become a celebrity (a sort of male Helen Keller) is accused of murder. It seems his estranged wife is accused of infidelity and he no longer trusts her, but she holds the key to freeing him. Very entertaining despite the poor print quality.

Merrily We Live (1938). 4. IMDb: 7.3. Another screwball situation comedy of mistaken identity, but as these things go, remakably good, thus my rating. Very enjoyable. The premise is that a guy (a young Brian Aherne), whose background we are not made privy to, breaks down in the country, goes up to a large country house with a rich eccentric matron (the wonderful Billie Burke). The guy becomes the family chauffeur essentially because he has nothing better to do, and of course he falls in love with the daughter, etc., etc.

The Million Pound Note aka Man with a Million (1954). 4. IMDb: 6.8. I watched this twice in the last several years, because I remember liking it so much the first time around. Based on a Mark Twain story. Two eccentric rich brothers in London spot an American (Gregory Peck) on the street and give him a million-pound note as an experiment. They will see him in a month. The movie is the story of what happens in the month. Suffice to say that Peck’s character acquits himself well in the end (of course he does), but not until after many hijinks.

The Scarf (1953). 3. IMDb: 6.8. Neither we nor the protagonist knows whether he strangled a woman with a scarf, but he escapes an asylum anyway and seeks to discover whether he really did the crime. Rather well done and entertaining, if occasionally campy.

The Courageous Dr. Christian (1940). 3. IMDb: 5.9. In a Ring Lardner story, a doctor plays a town-saving hero when he helps a group of poor people first to occupy a vacant lot in a town, and then, when an epidemic breaks out, he fights the outbreak. Definitely underrated on IMDb. As the title suggests, he upholds Christian ideals. Part of a series, apparently.

Little Nellie Kelly (1940). 3. IMDb: 6.4. A stage Irish Judy Garland musical. It’s about what you would expect from that description. Entertaining enough, but full of stereotypes. Very OK.

A Night in Casablanca (1946). 3. IMDb: 6.9. If I had seen any Marx brothers movies before, which I think I might have as a kid, I don’t remember them. This had more plot and story than I was expecting, and while a lot of what happens is strictly for laughs, it’s still very entertaining. It came as a shock to me that Harpo is called Harpo because he can play the harp, and extremely well, too.

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958). 4. IMDb: 7.3. A classic World War II submarine movie. Starring Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster, featuring honor, expertise, and mutiny.

The Scarlet Claw (1944). 3. IMDb: 7.2. This is one of the many Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes flicks. In this outing, Holmes and Watson fly to Canada for a meeting of a spiritualist society (really). When murder appears in the town, Holmes is on the case of course. Really not bad at all.

The Sheepman (1958). 3. IMDb: 6.8. A big-time sheep owner (Glenn Ford) moves to cattle country, woos Shirley MacLaine, and butts heads with a smarmy, crooked Leslie Nielsen (yes, really). entertaining enough to warrant a 3. Very OK.

Kansas City Confidential (1952). 4. IMDb: 7.3. This was an unusual premise: a morally compromised but not thoroughly bad ex-G.I. is framed for armed robbery. He flees to Mexico, investigating who really did it, and brings the gang to justice. Good acting, interesting premise, well told. Above-average noir.

Angel and the Badman (1947). 4. IMDb: 6.8. A Christian film, from back when it was possible to make a well-funded Christian film and without it being dismissed as that. John Wayne plays a bad guy who is nursed to health by a family of Quakers. The Quaker girl falls in love with him, and he eventually falls in love with her. He is able to abandon his former ways and finds redemption.

War of the Wildcats aka In Old Oklahoma (1943). 3. IMDb: 6.4. If you’re in the mood for John Wayne, you’ll probably like this: a classic Wayne vehicle, David-versus-Goliath story about Texas oilmen. Frequently over the top, as his later films would be.

Undefeated (1969). 3. IMDb: 6.6. The Civil War has just drawn to a close. A drover-turned-Union officer (John Wayne) had recruited his cowboys for the war, and now they are returning to the trail. At the same time, a Southern officer returns home to ruin and decides to move his family and friends to the supposed safety of Mexico. It turns out the two groups are going in the same direction and end up becoming friends. A very big expensive production, and entertaining for sure, but more over-the-top features kind of ruined it for me.

McLintock! (1963). 2. IMDb: 7.1. Like the latter two Wayne flicks, this is a “big” John Wayne comedy western about John Wayne being the big man in town; not terribly much of story, per se. His ego is really the star of the show. His fans will like it, I’m sure. Me, not so much.

Stagecoach (1939). 4. IMDb: 7.8. When this was made, John Wayne was still a young man, already a star but not the Hollywood institution he would become. So, with John Ford directing, this was not about him, but about a story, and a very good story: basically, saving a group of mostly strangers traveling in a stagecoach through Indians on the warpath. The travelers are a mixed bag of heroes and heroines in need of redemption and criminals in need of justice. Very close to a 5.





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