Sunday, January 30, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

Ministry of Fear (1944) - Lang
Ministry of fear
Steve Neil (Ray Milland) is having a strange day. He gets released from an asylum after serving 2 years for poisoning his terminally ill wife. It was a mercy killing. Then he accidentally gets embroiled in a complicated Nazi plot involving a cake he won at a fair while waiting for a train to go to London 'to lead a normal, quiet life' and for some reason, everyone wants his cake: at first the ladies at the fair want it back, then on the train, it gets stolen by a man who pretends to be blind, who then dies in an air-raid. What the hell is going on?

This tight Graham Greene espionage thriller has great atmosphere and tension throughout with air-raid prone rainy London as a backdrop. The noir lighting in this film is just as sharp as Milland's hawky features. Highlights are the one involving the séance table and the night rooftop gunfight in the rain. I wish Lang could've elaborated on the nature of hypnosis in the beginning and the wall clock pendulum and séance element a little more because most of the time Ministry of Fear feels very much like a good Hitchcock film. One can easily see the film's influence on Coen Brothers. Anyone care for this slice of cake?

Life During Wartime

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) - Sturges
Macreedy (Spencer Tracy), a mysterious one armed man in black, comes to Black Rock, a small desert town in the West and starts asking questions about a Jap farmer named Komoko who is nowhere to be seen. The townsfolk are less than welcoming, even downright hostile. The local honcho Smith (Robert Ryan, On Dangerous Ground, Billy Budd) who seems to be in charge of everything, wants Macreedy disappear.

This tale of racism/blind patriotism in the post-war small town America presented in anamorphic widescreen, features some amazing desert vistas in day time as well as night exterior scenes. Ryan is as menacing as ever, even shooting down a woman in cold blood in order to keep his racist murder case dead and buried in Black Rock. We get to know Macreedy's retired vet story. Tracy keeps the righteous torch burning 'til the end. Sturges mixes elements of Western and noir and the result is spectacular. Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin appear as Smith's goons. I got a great kick out of watching the scene where Tracy karate chops Borgnine. Great stuff.

I'm half horse half alligator scene

Mixed Tapes: Searching for Billie

Another mix from me over at 8tracks: