#308- Pickup on South Street

Quick recap: A pickpocket unknowingly intercepts some microfilm that was about to be given to the Communists. Now he must decide whether he is going to stay a two-bit felon or move on up to full on traitor status.

it’s a film-noir so expect plenty of sass from this dame

Fun (?) fact: In the French and German versions of the film, the dialog is changed completely and turns into a story about drug dealing.

My thoughts:Apparently, pickpocketing was one of the worst crimes one could commit in New York City in the early 50s. Skip McCoy, the thief with the heart of gold (or something) had already been convicted of stealing 3 times before and one more time would send him to the chair. When my mom’s wallet was stolen in Chicago a few weeks ago, we dutifully reported it even though we knew that sucker was long gone.

Pickup on South Street was a wild ride but overall a weak addition to the film-noir genre. There were several thrilling scenes and violence galore but a spying ring just felt like a letdown. The Communists were bad news but by the end this felt more like a propaganda film for the Red scare than a true film-noir. Part of my issue is that I never really bought into Skip McCoy as a hero. Not only was he a pickpocket but he was violent towards the girl he stole from and then made out with her too, which was I guess a thing back then. Candy, the love interest, had her own issues and I found myself internally screaming on her behalf for continuing to choose such bad guys to fall in love with. In the end, Skip and Candy end up together and we are made to believe this is a good thing but realistically we know there is no good way this relationship will go.

My favorite part of the film and the reason I liked the movie so much was because of Moe, the stool pigeon. I really wish they had cut out all of the Commie BS and mystery and focused on this woman. Moe spent her life selling ties as a front and keeping tabs on all the crooks and criminals. When the police needed help, they called her in and she set a price to give info. I loved the symbiotic relationship she had with the crooks and especially Skip. Neither were happy with the other’s life choices but both understood the need to make a living. For all this, Moe was saving up for a nice burial plot when she died. When of the Commies offed her, Skip paid for a funeral so she wouldn’t be sent to Potter’s field.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Destry Rides Again

#305- Man of the West

Quick recap: Gary Cooper plays former outlaw, Link, who must go back to his wild west gang when his train leaves him and two other passengers behind.

probably thinking about why he keeps getting thrown into roles he is too old to play

Fun (?) fact: Gary Cooper was 10 years older than Lee J. Cobb, who played his surrogate father, Dock Tobin.

And these two were supposed to be the same age, according to characters in the movie

My thoughts: As you have probably picked up on, Gary Cooper’s age was an issue for me in Man of the West. Now, before I get into my spiel, I just want to go on record and say that I am not ageist. There are plenty of  actors who have played meaningful roles, if not some of the best roles of their career when they were in their 50s and 60s. Gary Cooper did a fine job in this film, in fact. But the role shouldn’t have been given to him. And it really wasn’t his to begin with, looking at trivia. Jimmy stewart was originally cast but he had a falling out with the director and seeing as how there were literally only two men in Hollywood at the time, Cooper was chosen. I don’t know, maybe this is Gary Cooper’s thing, being in a role meant for a much younger man. He did the same thing in Sergeant York, but that was mostly because the real Sergeant York insisted on him. A few years after Man of the West Cooper would be dead so maybe he wanted one last role. I don’t know, but it really took away from the impact of the film, seeing him fit into something not meant for him.

Story wise, Man of the West was no better or worse than other Westerns I have seen. It was darker than I expected, especially that rape scene at the end.  A lot of innocent people died and in the end, good triumphed, so no surprises there. What did surprise me was that I thought I was going to see a buddy movie, from the synopsis I read. The singer Billie and the Gambler Sam were Link’s companions when he was stranded by the train. I thought the three of them would become best pals and fight the bad guys together, but that’s not at all what happened. As soon as Link introduced him to his old gang, Sam was told to dig a grave and Billie was told to strip. Zero fun was had by all. I really did like the role of Link, despite his age. Cooper added a lot of depth to the character and there was this melancholy mood of his that really resonated with me. I’m glad there was a happy ending, but with almost everyone dead, I don’t know how happy it really was.

Final review: 3/5

Up next: Forrest. Forrest Gump

#300- The African Queen

Quick recap: She’s a missionary, he a riverboat captain who delivers the mail to remote areas in Africa. Together, they team up to fight the Germans and maybe even fall in love.

Fun (?) fact: Katharine Hepburn was so disgusted with John Huston and Humphrey Bogart’s drinking during filming that she stuck to water only. As a result she got dysentery, which is some kind of life lesson I feel I should pay attention to.

My thoughts: In the hierarchy of Romantic movies, the ‘ uptight woman falls in love with spineless man’ is probably my least favorite. I was worried that’s what I was heading into with this film, but I’m so glad that ended up not being the case.

I loved Katharine Hepburn as Rosie and I would even venture to say she is one of my favorite characters I have encountered on this list. There was just something about her instant love of adventure that immediately endeared her to me. I’d like to think I would do the same in her situation, except picking leeches off the love of my life. Sorry. Rapids, yes. Germans, hell yes. Leeches, no. I also loved Hepburn’s chemistry with Humphrey Bogart’s Charlie. It was a little too much at times but the moments when they were just sitting together and enjoying each other were really sweet. He seemed to genuinely care for her and she for him. I didn’t buy the ending where their tiny little boat sank a German ship but my heart might have melted a bit when at the end they were able to celebrate the fact that they just got married.

The constant threat of danger got a little old after awhile but it also made for an entertaining film so I won’t fault the plot too much. The scenery was lovely and I really appreciated that they filmed on location. Anything less would’ve made this movie a laughing stock, I think. Still, it doesn’t make me want to pack up and trek through Africa anytime soon.  I love a good adventure but the director made it seem that I would be attacked the second I landed.

 

Final review: 5/5

Up next: In Retrospect Part 3!

#289- Forbidden Games

Quick recap: Two children cope with the horrors of war by creating a pet cemetery (but not the Stephen King kind).

What a lovely romp this movie was!

What a lovely romp this movie was!

Fun (?) fact: The movie was originally shot as a short but was then changed to feature length. By that time the actress who played Paulette had lost her baby teeth so for many scenes she wears false ones.

The boy called this owl 'The Mayor' and now I want to change my cat's name

The boy called this owl ‘The Mayor’ and now I want to change my cat’s name

My thoughts: Picture it: A board room, somewhere in France. Let’s go with a board room in the Eiffel Tower because that’s about the only landmark I know. In walks René Clément, director of Forbidden Games and the writer for the screenplay, Jean Aurenche.

René: Alright, I like the plot of the film, but I feel like it should be more sad. Children growing up in World War II is depressing, but we can do better.

Jean: What if we kill off the girl’s parents?

René: It’s a start. I like where you are going with this, but let’s dig deeper.

Pierre, the custodian, who has apparently been standing in the corner of the room this whole time: Kill a puppy.

René and Jean stare at Pierre for a moment, stunned.

Pierre: And then have an old lady throw the dead puppy in the river as the little girl watches. The little girl will fish the dead puppy out of the water and then carry it around for awhile while crying.

René: Break out the champagne, Jean! We have a hit on our hands!

 

As this totally accurate scene shows, Forbidden Games is another depressing war film. It’s sweet how the boy, Michel, takes care of the little girl Paulette, but there’s just so much that is sad.And then you add in all the dead animals and I could barely watch many scenes. There’s a particularly sad exchange between the two children as Michel explains to Paulette that her parents are dead and have been buried in a mass grave. She reasons it is because they are cold and need a spot to warm up and that’s where the idea of a cemetery is born. It was heartbreaking to watch that and it doesn’t help that those two kids are just about the cutest I’ve ever seen. For now, though, let’s turn back to that board room in France as René and Jean try to write an ending to their movie.

René: I think we’ve hammered home the point that war is hell with all those death scenes. How about a happy ending to give the audience a break?

Pierre, who still hasn’t left his corner, spits on the ground in disgust.

Jean (stammering): Paulette has to leave Michel’s family and is reunited with a distant Aunt?

Pierre walks over to Jean and slaps him in the face with all his might. Jean, holding back tears, stands up.

Jean: How about Michel is about to be beaten within an inch of his life and Paulette is taken away to live in an orphanage? She waits at the train station and sees all these reunions around her. Someone yells the name, ‘Michel’, which causes her to run away from the nun, in search of the only person alive who cared for her.

Everyone in the room high fives and opens another bottle of champagne. Pierre nods ever so slightly and leaves the room, his job done.

He returns seconds later to gather the trash from the bin, remembering his real job, nods again, and walks out.

Final review: 4/5. Depressing as hell, but an interesting perspective at least

Up next: Glengarry Glen Ross