Still more movie reviews

More movie review below, with links to around 20 free movies (or they were free when I watched them) on YouTube. Lots of British films this time, including one rated “5.”

Previous reviews: 1 – 2 – 3


  • 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.

See 2 for more rating policy notes.

The Kennel Murder Case (1933). 3. IMDb: 6.9. With two of the superstars of early Hollywood, William Powell and Mary Astor, this is a somewhat complicated comic-detective-murder mystery. If you like the genre, you’ll probably like this. Philo Vance (Powell) is sure the person who died in a locked room must have been murdered…

Eternally Yours (1939). 3. IMDb: 5.7. Not sure why I decided to watch this one, despite its relatively low IMDb rating, but I didn’t regret it; the average rating is misleading, I’d say. Basic romance. Lady’s man David Niven is a successful stage magician who is caught by the lovely Loretta Young. While she seems to have tamed his penchant for dalliance, he takes up an extremely dangerous, genuinely deadly escape stunt, which he executes successfully, only to do it again and again. This disturbs Young so much that, eventually, she has had enough.

It Happens Every Thursday (1953). 3. IMDb: 6.4. Ah, I think it might have been Loretta Young that led me to watch these (unjustly) low-rated movies. Here she is paired with a young John Forsythe. This enjoyable, episodic story of a couple of New Yorkers who take over a seriously ailing small-town newspaper (when such actually mattered) is fun and entertaining, and gives one a taste of mid-century small town life, but is not exactly deep.

Molly and Me (1945). 4. IMDb: 6.9. I first saw this comedy several years ago on YouTube, forgot it enough to think, “This seems familiar” without actually placing it until I was ten minutes in or so. Then I decided, “This was fun, I’ll try it again.” I did, and indeed, it was maybe better the second time. An aging, actually decent (go figure) ex-politician is being taken advantage of by his hired help. His butler is actually an ex-actor who had decided to get steadier work. He needs to find a replacement housekeeper, and his old acquaintance Molly—an out-of-work actress—decides to take the job. When she causes the staff to be dismissed (for dishonesty, as I said), she helps to hire on an entire company of unemployed actors to play the role of domestics. They do an excellent job. The fun just begins there. Great comedy.

Dreamboat (1952). 3. IMDb: 6.7. Frankly silly and skippable, but I enjoyed myself. The eponymous dreamboat is Clifton Webb, the original “Mr. Belvedere” (of Sitting Pretty, which I recommend), playing a somewhat similar pretentious stuffed-shirt sort of character, this time a college professor with a beautiful daughter (Anne Francis). She wants to go into academia herself and has no idea about men or her own beauty. The professor, it turns out, was a swashbuckling hero in early Hollywood, but nobody connects him with that persona…until his old co-star, Ginger Rogers, whose star is now declining, appears and turns the lives of both father and daughter upside down.

Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992). 3. IMDb: 6.0. This “science fantasy” entry is also skippable, but I lasted all the way through, probably because Chevy Chase was surprisingly good in a relatively serious role. This is not an update of the classic H.G. Wells story, but it does feature the invisible man on the run from some crooked secretive spy agency that wants to control and use him for their own purposes. Maybe what makes the film most interesting is that it takes an interesting premise—what would be like to be invisible?—relatively seriously. Much of the plot revolves around the difficult situations one would get into in such a circumstance. Daryl Hannah is the love interest.

The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997). 3. IMDb: 6.6. A silly and improbable, but entertaining, comedy. Bill Murray is a not-terribly-bright American visiting his more sophisticated younger brother in London. The brother has important guests so he has Murray go to a unique, expensive entertainment in which one pretends to play the part of a spy in a “real-life” sort of situation, rather than on a stage. Naturally, he gets caught up in an improbable real spy operation. He thinks he’s still in the “show” and makes all the right moves (usually by accident). Lots of situation comedy.

A Star Is Born (1937). 3. IMDb: 7.3. I’ll be honest: I don’t remember being crazy about any of productions of A Star Is Born, but this one might be the best. Could have given it a 4. Fredric March is a very famous Hollywood star, but particularly because his alcoholism is getting to be a problem, he is on his way out. After a whirlwind romance, he marries a fresh-faced girl (Janey Gaynor) straight off the farm, whom the public adores. If there’s a reason I didn’t rate it more highly, it’s because it’s an enormous downer and didn’t seem to have much of terrible importance to say other than “love is important” and “don’t drink yourself into oblivion.” It doesn’t help that it glamorizes Hollywood and stardom, which at the time this was made was already becoming the cesspool of insanity and vice it has been for all the years since. Still—I watched to the end. Not bad.

Cromwell (1970). 4. IMDb: 6.9. Like many people, I often find historical features to be a boring history lesson; but when they properly dramatize people who do truly admirable and heroic things, the result can be fantastic. (Maybe the best example I can think of is A Man for All Seasons.) The only thing stopping me from giving this a 5 is that there were some rather slow spots. Richard Harris, as Oliver Cromwell, shows why he was known as the fantastic actor he was. As good as Harris is here, Alec Guinness frankly outshines him as King Charles I. The movie takes quite seriously the notion of Cromwell as the catalyst and early chief mover of the movement toward democracy in England. This also takes seriously Cromwell’s Puritanism and does not demonize it; it makes his motives beautifully clear and treats them respectfully. Lovers of true democracy and Protestantism (guilty as charged) will like it. With apologies to my Irish friends; I do know real history is more complex.

Hobson’s Choice (1954). 5. IMDb: 7.7. Finally, a movie I can rate “5.” I absolutely loved this film with two of the best British actors of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s: Charles Laughton and John Mills. This comedy-drama is mostly a comedy, but with lovingly and effectively conveyed serious philosophical themes. Laughton is the proprietor of a successful shoe shop. As paterfamilas whose wife is long gone, he wants to continue to exploit his three unmarried daughters. He refuses to give them dowries. The eldest daughter (Brenda de Banzie) is about 30 (so, supposedly over the hill in those days) and not exactly a ravishing beauty, but she is essential to the success of the shoe shop because she is a remarkably clever businesswoman. She essentially chooses the best man (John Mills, in a fantastic performance) from the basement shoe-making workshop and woos him. Eventually he actually falls in love with her and they open a competing shop. Anyway, I’ll let you watch it. Absolutely fantastic. Justice achieved, but in a lovely way!

So Well Remembered (1947). 4. IMDb: 7.0. The excellent story of a idealistic journalist (John Mills) who, through a series of interesting circumstances, finds himself married to the daughter (Martha Scott, in a complex performance) of the owner of the exploitative mill, whose low wages mean the local town is a depressing slum. She is ambitious for him, and in a crisis, they both show their true colors. About half the movie concerns what happens to the next generation—exploring the long-term consequences of choices made. A tragedy, but with justice done and lessons learned, and with hope in the end.

Funny Face (1957). 3. IMDb: 7.0. A problematic star-studded musical. A super-intellectual young philosopher working at a bookstore (Audrey Hepburn) is recruited as a supermodel for a Vogue-like magazine. The film is basically about how Audrey falls in love and is brought out of her intellectual cocoon, during her Paris photoshoot by (much older) photographer Fred Astaire. With songs by the Gershwins (among others) and such stars, and with such attractive sets and photography, you’d think it would be better. But frankly, it was hard for me to care about a philosophy gal who is besotted with half-baked French ideas (evidently loosely modeled after existentialists), even if she is Audrey Hepburn, particularly when the love interest is a man in his late 50s easily old enough to be her father. (I mean, frankly, I’d be embarrassed seeing myself in his place, even if I were a better dancer.) Not even the songs are very good, although it’s nice to hear Audrey sing herself (she’s not bad). The sheer spectacle and star power alone saves it from a rating of 2.

The Long Memory (1953). 4. IMDb: 7.0. After Hobson’s Choice, I was on a John Mills kick. Mills plays a wrongfully convicted man who was convicted by the lies of a criminal gang. Will Mills fall prey to his lust for revenge? Eva Bergh is an almost unknown Norwegian actress who tries to save Mills from himself. A Christian film, I would say. Edifying—very worthwhile.

A Song Is Born (1948). 3. IMDb: 6.9. Danny Kaye plays a music professor leading a bunch of professors commissioned to write an encyclopedia of music, and Virginia Mayo plays the mobster’s moll who introduces Kaye both to jazz and to love. If you’re a jazz fan, you’ll want to see this, as it features performances by many jazz greats. It is, strangely, an unnecessary and inferior remake of the 1941 film Ball of Fire (decidedly better; I’d rate it a “4”), which starred Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck (a better pairing).

A Canterbury Tale (1944). 4. IMDb: 7.4. Can’t quite bring myself to give it a 5, but very close. Not Chaucer. This is a special sort of film. Very very English, there is not a terribly lot of plot or even apparently much conflict, per se, but the film nevertheless moves along toward a surprisingly moving climax. In WWII, soldiers John Sweet (an otherwise unknown American amateur!) and Dennis Price meet the lovely Sheila Sim as they all get off at a train station one stop before Canterbury. They are all headed toward Canterbury but for one reason or another delayed in the town. The supposed conflict begins when, as the trio walk through the town, a mysterious vandal pours glue into Sims’ hair. Eric Portman plays a local magistrate, historian, and eccentric, who is eventually suspected of being the Glue Man. Each of the main characters has a problem that is resolved by the end of the film, as all converge independently on the cathedral. Obviously, an allegorical film with deeply Christian overtones. By the way, this is how to make a great Christian film.

This Happy Breed (1944). 3. IMDb: 7.3. Another very British John Mills film, directed by John Lean, although the main stars are Robert Newton and Celia Johnson. Again, another wartime film, this time showing how a respectable-but-poor family, in a lower middle class London neighborhood of cookie-cutter houses (the house is a character), gets through life from the end of WWI until just before the beginning of WWII. The characters were somewhat likeable but no great lessons were learned (except perhaps by the wayward daughter Queenie). Worth a watch if you like British film (I guess I do).

Great Day (1945). 3. IMDb: 6.4. The life of a former WWI army captain (Eric Portman again) seems to have meaning only because of his former actions, and now he seems to be a failure. Meanwhile his daughter (Sheila Sims again) is trying to decide whether to marry the rich but safe older man or the unestablished younger man, and his wife tries to help him—all while the ladies of the small town prepare to receive First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt as part of a wartime morale tour. A sort of “slice of life” with indeed a lesson learned. A bit melodramatic, but worthwhile.

A Brilliant Young Mind; also called X+Y (2014). 3. IMDb: 7.1. I liked this quite a lot, with reservations. I suspect people “on the spectrum” as well as nerds generally might appreciate it, especially if they are younger. An autistic young math genius (Asa Butterfield, who does a great job) loses his beloved father early in an accident, and he has a hard time forming affectionate relationships with anyone, even with his patient, loving mother (Sally Hawkins, also well done). He ends up getting a spot on the British team for the International Mathematics Olympiad. While in the semifinals in Taiwan, he forms an attachment…that begins to look like love…with a Chinese contestant (Jo Yang). Both make it to the finals, which are in Cambridge. There are more other minor characters with their own issues. Lots of pathos, and I at least cared what happened to the leads; but it was a bit formulaic.

With that, having finished the last movie earlier this evening, I am now finally caught up with these movie reviews. (I was months behind.) I doubt the next installment will be very soon.





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