#405- A Place in the Sun

Quick recap: George Eastman takes up his uncle’s offer of working at his company, only to end up knocking a girl up, falling in love with a socialite and getting the electric chair.

I’m really bad at recognizing movie stars so of course I had no idea this was Elizabeth Taylor. I loved her performance and just hoped whoever she was went on to do something special 🙂

Fun (?) fact:  Shelley Winters ( who played Alice) drove white Cadillacs for years after filming to compensate for feeling inferior to Elizabeth Taylor.

Thoughts and observations:

As a rule, I typically stay away from melodramas, but this one hooked me the moment Montgomery Clift appeared on screen.

From there, the plot was a wild ride from start to finish. I don’t remember ever being in a situation where I wanted both the best for every character and the worst. Even Alice, the poor factory whom George (Montgomery Clift) knocks up. She was absolutely a victim in every way but seeing her whine and pout when she was about to be shoved overboard was just too much to put up with from a character.

Even as I write this review, I’m still blown away by how much of a predator George Eastman was, yet I kept hoping things would turn around for him. On his first day at the factory, he was told that the most important rule was not to fraternize with the workers and he literally did just that moments later. And then while walking Alice home from the movies, his hands are all over her even though they had barely spoken before. I hated how pushy he was and knew their relationship would end badly. And I liked him even less when he started dating Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor) because he seemed so desperate to appear well off. And yet- as he professed his love for Angela, I couldn’t help myself but melt. I too was annoyed that Alice was around and found myself siding with George. I didn’t think he would murder her but I wanted him to live his life with his true love.

The end of the movie was just as much of a whirlwind and I still can’t decide how I feel about all of it. George was brought to justice as he should’ve been, but once again I found myself siding with him that he didn’t murder Alice. Even as the priest got him to confess that his inaction caused her death, I still wanted a different ending and wanted there to be some twist where everyone lives happily ever after. This movie was both frustrating and absolutely the most entertained I’ve felt in a long time.

Watchability score: 5/5

Up next: Europa Europa

#400- The Quiet Man

Quick recap:  Sean Thornton (played by John Wayne) moves back to his hometown in Ireland, where he falls in love with a feisty redhead and makes an enemy of her brother.

Fun (?) fact:  Maureen O’Hara whispered an unscripted line in John Wayne’s ear at the end of the movie to get a genuine shocked expression on his face. Neither she nor he or director John Ford ever revealed what that line was.

Thoughts and observations: 

Seeing as this is my 400th review, I chose a film I could easily snark on. So much low hanging fruit- from the casting of John Wayne to the ridiculous Irish accents, I was planning to let loose! But alas, I can’t, because I have fallen in love instead with The Quiet Man.

It may be the pandemic talking, but even the crowd scenes were lovely and made me feel like I was watching a real village. The horse races, the fishing obsession, the large gatherings to watch a man drag his wife across the countryside-I wanted to be part of all of it. The residents of the town all had stereotypical personalities and VERY thick Irish accents but it only added to the charm of the film. It was absolutely believable by the end of the movie that a person like John Wayne would settle in and find a wife just like Maureen O’ Hara.

What really drives the film for me is seeing Sean Thornton’s journey to truly fitting in to this sometimes backwards society. When he first rolls in (literally, in a horse any buggy) to Inishfree, he wants to move in immediately but his mind is still planted in the US. He initially scares Mary Kate Danaher by just walking up and saying hello and it takes him awhile to understand that things are done differently around here. I love how the movie is as much about character growth as it is a romance film. By the end, Sean has his girl after beating up her brother (also a tradition?) and all is right with the world…

Which leads me to my one big complaint about the movie- how often Sean shows that he ‘owns’ Mary Kate. The first time they have any sort of real interaction, she sneaks into the house he just bought and tidied up a bit. Upon catching her there, he kisses her hard and I can only imagine how bruised her lips must’ve been after that scene. This happens several more times when Sean loses his patience, including their wedding night when Mary Kate refuses to have sex with him for very (in her mind) valid reasons. And then there’s the penultimate scene where he literally drags his wife across the countryside, sometimes even pulling her hair so that he can ‘collect’ her dowry from her brother and they can finally consummate their marriage. Everything ends up fine and this was what audiences liked to see back then but geez, it’s still hard to watch and enjoy.

Watchability score: 4/5

Up next: My retrospect of the last 100 films

 

#398 and 399: Dracula (Draculi?)

Quick recap: The classic tale of the vampire Dracula, as filmed in 1931 and 1958.

                          Classic Dracula

Fun (?) fact: The Spanish version of 1931’s Dracula was filmed at night on the exact same set at the exact same timeframe as the English version.

and melodramatic Dracula

Thoughts and observations:

Having no time to do much of anything besides work these days, I feel it most efficient to combine two similar movies into one post. Interestingly, the 1001 Movies to See Before You Die list is chock full of various vampire films. I watched these two for Horrorfest this year but there are several more just waiting for my attention. In this post I will put Dracula head to head with…….Dracula, to see which film is the most Dracula of all time.

Opening scene: This round starts as a tie, since both begin with a traveler. The 1958 version edges ahead by just a bit because of the captured woman begging for help.

First Dracula appearance: no competition here, the 1931 version featuring Bela Lugosi is the champion. The first moments with him are creepy but also intriguing and I kept wanting more and more of this character.

Best looking mansion: Both mansions are creepy in their own rights but when I imagine the Transylvania castle, it’s the 1931 version that sticks with me. There’s just something about the appearance of abandonment that sends more chills than an ornately designed place. In other words, I would totally AirBnb the 1958 version and stay far away from 1931.

Renfield: This also goes to 1931 since 1958 didn’t have the character at all. Renfield should be necessary to any Dracula retelling.

Best Mina: This was a tough one! The 1931 version shocked me more but the 1958 version was just so dark. She was enthralled by Dracula and you could see how she both tried to fight but also gave in so easily.

Best Blood: Once again, 1958 is the winner. The director never shied away from any gruesome scene, and I can see a clear link between this film and later bloodbaths such as Saw and Hostel. 

Overall Impression: Despite sharing a number of characters and a basic plotline, these Draculas are so different. If you are looking for a classic retelling of Dracula, maybe something to show at a Halloween party, you can’t beat the 1931 version. But if you like your vampires to be oozing with sexuality, then the 1958 is the way to go. The 1958 version is also especially melodramatic, if that’s also your thing.

Watchability score:  4/5 for both films and a proper ending to a too short Horrorfest

Up next: Number 400!

#392-Voyage in Italy

Quick recap: A miserable husband and his equally miserable wife go on vacation where they find out just how miserable they truly are.

A barrel of fun, these two

Fun (?) fact: The Naples hotel the couple stayed in was the very same one Tony Soprano, of the Sopranos, stayed in many years later.

Thoughts and observations: 

As much as I fantasize visiting another country one day, Italy is just never in my Top 5 Destinations. But after watching this film, maybe it should be. If we can just ignore the main characters for a second ( or longer, if possible) there were so many breathtaking scenes- from the swanky hotel in Naples to the awe inspiring catacombs to the freaking VOLCANO just sitting there behind the villa. And these two married people-Katherine and Alex Joyce- hated every minute of it. Maybe I wouldn’t jump for joy if offered a trip to Italy but at least I wouldn’t be as miserable as these two. Among the many things they griped about:

  • the food. There’s a scene in which Katherine can barely stomach the spaghetti because she doesn’t know how to eat it.
  • people who speak Italian
  • how the air is too comfortable and it makes them sleepy
  • being at a party and having too much fun
  • being at a party and not acting like you are enjoying yourself

And it goes on. But what Katherine and Alex can at least agree on is how tired they are of each other and I totally get why. Alex spends his time criticizing his wife and shrugging off the few times she attempts to share deeply with him. And Katherine lives in a world of romance instead of reality, which causes her to deeply despise her husband. And yet when the two get the opportunity to spend time away from each other, they spend the entire time feeding their deep seated jealousy against one another. At the end of the movie, divorce is finally mentioned. Alex can’t be bothered to show any emotion while Katherine is about to lose her mind. The very last scene is of them getting out of their car during a parade, embracing, and saying ‘I love you’.

What I love about director Roberto Rossellini is how he was able to convey everything we needed to know about this couple just from their ‘slice of life’ vacation. There is a mention of a former lover of Katherine’s but that’s about it. No stories about how the two of them fell in love or shared previous vacations together or even whether the two had children. But that information isn’t needed because I could already tell the story just from the way they interacted. The best example of this is towards the end when Alex and Katherine visit the buried city of Pompeii. As they look at the fossilized remains of the people, Katherine is overcome with emotion and has to leave. Alex looks completely drained of any emotion but it’s easy to see just how much he is actually holding back. The way he looks at her as she pours her heart out to him is all the proof needed to know how much they truly care about each other. They should still check out a marriage counselor soon though, if there is any hope of a future for the two of them.

Watchability score: 4/5. Beautiful movie and interesting characters but the dubbing was a little confusing at times

Up next: SHAFT