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Greetings, and welcome to VIEWING THE CLASSICS. Here you'll find capsule reviews of vintage movies from the early days of cinema through the 1970s, with a special emphasis on sci-fi, horror, and mystery movies. Be sure to check out the Pages links, where you can find a Film Index of all my reviews, links to the reviews organized by cast members, directors, and other contributors, and links to my reviews of the films of talented young director Joshua Kennedy.

I also cover vintage television at my sister site, CLASSICS ON THE TUBE , so please feel free to check that out as well.

Thanks for visiting!


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Psycho (1960)

Starring Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young woman steals $40,000 from her employer, and drives off to use it to start a new life with her boyfriend, but makes the mistake of stopping for the night at the Bates Motel.

Hitchcock's classic shocker, so influential in ways both good (inspiring countless horror films to come), and bad (launching the "slasher" genre and with it numerous uninspired gorefests), still holds up, thanks to good performances from Perkins, Miles, and Balsam, Bernard Herrmann's unnerving score, and skilled editing, photography, and direction.  It's a little dated in some respects, but it's not hard to imagine the impact the picture had on audiences of the time.  Although the famous horrific shower scene is what's most remembered today, the rest of the film is artfully assembled, and packs enough suspense to be ranked among the best of Hitchcock's classic potboilers.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Naked City (1948)

Starring Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, Dorothy Hart, Don Taylor, Frank Conroy
Directed by Jules Dassin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The murder of a young model in New York City is investigated by a veteran police lieutenant and his young detective partner who try to find clues in the giant populous city.

An excellent mystery, authentically filmed on location in New York, the film illustrates the grinding efforts of police to solve the crime and takes us step by step through their investigation.  Although the gritty crime procedurals of today likely owe their existence to this picture, producer Mark Hellinger keeps the mood from getting too heavy with his easygoing narration, a number of light-hearted scenes, and charming humor from star Barry Fitzgerald.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Gaslight (1944)

Starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty, Angela Lansbury
Directed by George Cukor
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

In 19th century London, a young woman returns to her murdered aunt's home to make a new life with her husband, unaware he has diabolical plans to drive her slowly insane. 

A fine dramatic chiller, with Boyer and Bergman both excellent in memorable roles, this picture builds its suspense mainly through dialogue and performance, but also has excellent production values, recreating the gaslit city squares of London, earning both Bergman and the film's art direction Oscars, according to IMDB.  Although the plotline would soon become a tired retread over the years in weak psychological dramas, it's certainly fresh here, but would have been a lesser film without its stars and accomplished director Cukor.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Picture Of Dorian Gray (1945)

Starring George Sanders, Hurd Hatfield, Donna Reed, Angela Lansbury, Peter Lawford
Directed by Albert Lewin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young man desirous of eternal youth, wishes for his portrait to age instead of himself, and finds his wish not only comes true, but his evil deeds thereafter are also reflected in his portrait.   

Not completely faithful as an adaptation of the famous Oscar Wilde novel, this effort still comes fairly close, with much of Wilde's witty prose absorbed into the screenplay, and benefits from fine casting, with Sanders and Lansbury bringing standout performances.  It's hard to say whether Hatfield, as Dorian Gray, gives a performance that captures the soulless evil of the character well enough.   He doesn't have many opportunities with much of Gray's vile deeds only alluded to in the screenplay, but a more accomplished actor may have made his on-screen sins more impactful.  Still, this is a worthwhile and well-filmed production.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Ghost Ship (1943)

Starring Richard Dix, Russell Wade, Edith Barrett, Ben Bard, Edmund Glover
Directed by Mark Robson
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A young third officer spends his first berth at sea aboard a ship whose captain may be responsible for murdering one of his men.  

Although produced by Val Lewton, and often packaged with his other horror films made for the RKO studio, this is more of a straight thriller, but ties into the same psychological themes Lewton was known for.  It's one of his slighter movies in my opinion, with too short a running time to build much suspense, although there's some atmospheric scenes and charming songs from RKO contract player & calypso singer Sir Lancelot.  Wade's role is so similar to his part in Lewton's The Body Snatcher, it's easy to see why he was cast in that film two years later.  

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Mystery Of Mr. X (1934)

Starring Robert Montgomery, Elizabeth Allan, Lewis Stone, Ralph Forbes, Henry Stephenson
Directed by Edgar Selwyn
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After his latest theft is tied in with the crimes of a serial killer, a debonair jewel thief tries to help the police find the murderer.  

A worthy showcase for the talents of Robert Montgomery, this unusual mystery affords the actor a choice role he imbues with charm and cleverness.  The beautiful Allan makes a tempting prize for his character on the right side of the law and Forrester Harvey is quite good in one of his many blustery character parts.  The rest of the film is as winningly assembled as the cast, as the filmmakers move along the story at a logical pace, and build a suspenseful climax as Montgomery hunts the killer in an abandoned warehouse.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Secret Partner (1961)

Starring Stewart Granger, Haya Harareet, Bernard Lee, Hugh Burden, Lee Montague
Directed by Basil Dearden
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A shipping company executive falls under suspicion when the company is robbed, but the real culprit is a mysterious masked figure.  

We have here a fun British mystery with a very good cast and script that moves along at a brisk pace, augmented by a jazzy score from Philip Green that enlivens the production.  Granger is excellent as the film's protagonist, with Lee, better known as "M" in the James Bond pictures, offering solid support as an aging chain-smoking detective on his final case.  Although the filmmakers don't take the opportunity to build suspense with any chase scenes once Granger goes on the lam, they do a good job of sustaining the mystery to the final climax, which just might take you by surprise.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Shadows On The Stairs (1941)

Starring Frieda Inescort, Paul Cavanagh, Heather Angel, Bruce Lester, Miles Mander
Directed by D. Ross Lederman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An aspiring playwright living in an English boarding house discovers that several of the residents are engaged in suspicious activities.  

There's nary a big star to be found in this small-scale mystery which has only a few brief scenes filmed outside the boarding house, but the ensemble of actors do a capable job in the limited environment without overstaying their welcome.  Inescort's portrayal of the house's owner and operator is at times a little over the top, compared to the other actors' more restrained performances, but I still enjoyed the picture.  It's not a great film, but I found it to be a more than enjoyable diversion with a fairly clever story.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Haunted Honeymoon (1940)

Starring Robert Montgomery, Constance Cummings, Leslie Banks, Seymour Hicks, Robert Newton
Directed by Arthur B. Woods
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbles in solving murders, and his crime novelist bride agree to give up mysteries, but find themselves plunged into one when they arrive at their honeymoon cottage.  

Bringing together American stars with a British supporting cast, the MGM studio delivers a fine mystery with many whimsical touches of humor, an appealing lead in Montgomery, and a very lovely Cummings as his partner.  The filmmakers cleverly distract us with the wealthy couple's efforts to give up crime-solving, and so we ignore the clues to the murderer's identity until Montgomery unveils him in the film's climax, and then realize they were right in front of our eyes.  It's very well-executed, and tops the cake of what was already a charming piece of entertainment.