More movie reviews

Below, you’ll find not just reviews. You’ll find links to around 20 free movies (or they were free when I watched them) on YouTube.

Previous reviews: 12


  • 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 repellent.
  • 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; perhaps I enjoyed myself a bit, but overall had serious objections to the film.
  • 1: very much not recommended; appalling film; few if any redeeming qualities.

A few more notes.—The only scores used below, this time, are “3” and “4”. Basically, I don’t include films below a “3” because if a film is really that bad, I usually stop watching before the end; I don’t feel right about reviewing a movie I didn’t watch all the way through. Besides, I rarely put badly-reviewed films in my queue. I almost never use the “5” rating because I reserve “5” only for really unusually great films, and YouTube just doesn’t show that many great films for free. A “3” is not a bad or even “average” film. It is above average, watchable, i.e., I don’t regret watching it. Maybe more to the point, since the following are mostly films with moral standards from the Golden Age of Hollywood, even “average” or “mediocre” films could be watchable and worthwhile. These older films more typically have winning, edifying messages and fewer cynical and destructive attitudes. They also focus much more on good writing and storytelling.

The Scalphunters (1968). 3. IMDb: 6.7. Now this is how to do a comedy western, if you have to do a comedy western. Could have been a “4,” I guess. Silly fun, but also intelligent. Burt Lancaster is a determined, veteran trapper, who is just trying to get his furs back; Ossie Davis is the quirky, intellectual escaped slave; Telly Savalas is the bad guy with style and a bit of heart; and Shelley Winters is the world-weary moll.

The Vikings (1958). 3. IMDb: 7.0. This barely gets a passing grade from me. It makes little to no effort to be historically accurate. It was watchable, I guess. It’s basically the “Swords and Sandals” formula brought to England of the Viking-dominated Dark Ages, where it seems a bit out of place.

Angels in the Outfield (1951). 4. IMDb: 7.1. Another story of redemption. The today little-known Paul Douglas does a good job as the just-plain-mean manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates. An angel helps him to become a decent human being, as do a reporter lady (Janet Leigh), and a little orphan girl.

The Hitch-Hiker (1953). 4. IMDb: 6.9. This is a sort of crime-horror noir, a little like Cape Fear in that the criminal is pure evil, but very clever, with few redeeming features. Takes place mostly in the California and Mexico desert. How will the two guys who had just been out fishing escape his clutches? I thought it was quite well done on the whole, if perhaps a bit dated (or rather, a product of its time).

North West Frontier (1959). 3. IMDb: 7.1. Maybe a 4. It’s basically about a trainload of mostly Westerners who are attempting to ram a rickety train through a no-man’s land in a war-torn province of India. Lauren Bacall is great, and Kenneth More is good as well. There’s a love story and a secret enemy on board, so there are multiple tensions that are resolved.

The Naked City (1948). 3. IMDb: 7.6. Another maybe-4. Part noir, part early police procedural, part documentary. It doesn’t perfectly succeed as any of these (the documentary aspect is interesting, perhaps, but ultimately distracting). Still entertaining, and with a satisfying conclusion in which justice is done.

Young and Innocent (1937). 4. IMDb: 6.8. Very appealing story with likable leads. British, with some interesting English scenery and settings. A man finds a dead body on the beach, and, as he runs for help, is fingered as the killer. He then goes on the run, and a police constable’s daughter helps him. Naturally they fall in love.

I Am David (2003). 4. IMDb: 7.1. I don’t know how credible this is, but it is a quite compelling story. Ben Tibber, just 12 or 13 when this was made, carries the film almost entirely by himself—and he does a really good job, with excellent pathos and subtlety. He plays the eponymous David who escapes a Communist concentration camp in order to find his mother; the movie is about escape and the ensuing adventurous journey. Jim Caviezel is an important but minor character; in fact, all the other characters are minor characters.

Dead End (1937). 4. IMDb: 7.2. Remarkably good stage-style production of a story of good and evil, with Joel McCrea the hero and Humphrey Bogart his childhood friend who has become a rich gangster. Quite a good morality tale.

Whirlpool (1950). 4. IMDb: 6.7. I’m not sure how plausible many viewers will find it (it depends on some fairly outdated notions about psychology), but I found this to be a very entertaining noir. Gene Tierney is a beautiful young bride accused of murder; Richard Conte is her husband, a distinguished psychologist who seemingly can’t understand what is going on; and Jose Ferrer is her former psychiatrist. Keeps you guessing before arriving at a satisfying resolution.

The Brasher Doubloon (1947). 3. IMDb: 6.5. Maybe not a great movie, this Philip Marlowe noir—with another beautiful young dame, falsely accused and in need of rescuing—was very enjoyable. The characters don’t seem terribly realistic and the plot is rather complex and contrived, but it fits together very nicely, has style, and pulls back the curtain on the sometimes rotten underside of wealth.

Scandal Sheet (1952). 4. IMDb: 7.4. A story about a corrupt editor of a newspaper (the eponymous scandal sheet) attempting to cover up his own crimes. The hero, reporter John Derek, is very OK, but his fiancee, Donna Reed (Mary from It’s a Wonderful Life), is excellent, and the criminal newspaperman (Broderick Crawford) is especially well-drawn. Good storytelling.

Undertow (1949). 3. IMDb: 6.6. There are a zillion shows called Undertow, many of them apparently bad, but this one is pretty good. No big-name stars, perhaps, but this is very entertaining. It’s yet another murder noir, and another falsely accused innocent hero, helped by a winning heroine who chooses to believe him.

The Flame (1947). 4. IMDb: 6.5. This is a different sort of flick, a sort of melodramatic noir—two brothers of a rich family, one who squandered his inheritance, the other who built on it, but has a fatal illness. The screw-up has a beautiful girlfriend, and together the two of them plot to get the family dough from the wealthy brother. Doing so involves the two pretending not to be involved as the girlfriend plays nurse to the older brother, whereupon the two will murder him and inherit his money. A blackmailer catches wind of the plan and throws a wrench in the works. All does not go to plan, justice is done, and redemption granted. The plot is taken from Wings of the Dove by Henry James.

New York Confidential (1955). 3. IMDb: 7.0. This is a semi-classic mob film. None of the characters is really likable, although the filmmakers seem to have been trying to make Nick, a hitman with principles, into an anti-hero. Ultimately he emerges—as unrepentant anti-heroes should—as a mere thug.

Judge Priest (1934). 3. IMDb: 6.2. Will Rogers is one of the actors who I knew was famous, but I never saw him in anything. That is probably because he actually died in 1935. Anyway, this little John Ford film is a slice of the Old South, long before anything remotely like P.C. or wokeness took root, back when the older generation were Confederate veterans…and Democrats. It’s deeply populist. Modern Democrats won’t like it, and few will appreciate Stepin Fetchit’s brand of self-deprecating (most would say racist) humor.

Witness for the Prosecution (1957). 4. IMDb: 8.4. This is one of the great classics of Hollywood, starring Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power, and Charles Laughton, who are all superb, and written by Agatha Christie and Billy Wilder. Suffice to say that this film about the miscarriage of justice makes a lasting impression.

My Cousin Vinny (1992). 3. IMDb: 7.6. Joe Pesci’s finest hour. Ralph Macchio and his friend are wrongly accused of murder, while Pesci’s girlfriend Marisa Tomei steals the show. Pesci plays an undertrained lawyer (the titular Vinny, cousin to Macchio), while Tomei is his sharp-tongued, smarter long-time girlfriend. I’d like to give it 4 stars, because the ending and certain scenes (such as Tomei’s hilarious appearance on the stand in the final courtroom scene) is so great, but this fish-out-of-water comedy of errors…or stupidity…becomes so grating, so frequently, that it risks becoming just tiresome. But laughs come up soon enough that it never quite wears out its welcome.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992). 4. IMDb: 7.7. I had never seen this before. With Daniel Day-Lewis and Madeleine Stowe, neither of which I like that much, I didn’t expect much, but they are both excellent here. I never read the novel, but I gather the film does not radically alter the spirit of the original. Quite a good story, and the film is an excellent window into the early American frontier, the French and Indian War, and the psychology and cultural interplay of settlers and Indians.

Osvobozhdenie: Ognennaya duga aka Liberation: The Fire Bulge (1970). 3. IMDb: 7.4. Part one of a three-part Soviet-produced WWII propaganda epic. I don’t regret watching it, but it was pretty hard to get through. It’s very well made, but the focus is on historiography more than on storytelling, and as such, it plays like a lightly fictionalized documentary. Again, if you’re studying this part of history, it might be interesting to get a taste of the Soviet viewpoint on WWII.

Death on the Nile (1978). 4. IMDb: 7.2. The first of two treatments of Agatha Christie’s Poirot murder mystery that I watched. This first one has Poirot played by Peter Ustinov, and with Mia Farrow and many other big stars known for their excellent acting (Jane Birkin, Bette Davis, Olivia Hussey, George Kennedy, the list goes on), the performances are superb. The plotting and pacing seem rather better than the second.

Death on the Nile (2004). 3. IMDb: 7.9. This was a television production, part of the excellent Poirot series with David Suchet, which I highly recommend. Although I think I like Suchet more as Poirot in general, I have to admit that Ustinov acquitted himself rather better, and the Ustinov film is simply more entertaining. The supporting cast here, while good, just wasn’t up to the impossible standard set by the star-studded and spectacular cast of the earlier film. Perhaps more importantly, the cinematography and the pacing and construction of the actual murder circumstances were simply not as clear and interesting here as in the 1978 film. Both films are quite watchable in any case.

The Patriot (2000). 3. IMDb: 7.2. This is another case of a film which I had simply not been interested in, a Mel Gibson vehicle (Gibson, an American patriot? Whatever), but which I tried just because it was free on YouTube and it seemed like it could be OK. Probably my low expectations made the film rather better than I expected. I did not turn it off. While it cannot be called “deep,” it does treat serious themes of war, sacrifice, and patriotism, in the context of the American Revolution, respectfully and with seriousness.





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One response to “More movie reviews”

  1. James

    Appreciate the reviews!
    I’ll watch the 1978 Death on the Nile.
    I had watched Last of the Mohicans back in 1992 and agree with your assessment. I also enjoyed it.
    Thank you Larry.

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