• Ferry to Hong Kong (1959)

    Ferry to Hong Kong (1959)

    There was a moment long ago when an entire movie genre was constructed out of the idea that viewers in dreary European cinemas, in dreary post-war days, could achieve a vicarious kind of tourism by being wowed by colourful scenes from overseas. These were neither comedies nor dramas, but featured elements of both, and in terms of plot, not much was required.

  • Marlon Brando in Morituri (1965)

    Marlon Brando in Morituri (1965)

    Critics and studio officials alike have suggested that the reason the film Morituri failed to be a smash in 1965 was due to the fact that nobody understood the title, although I would beg to differ. If this had been the case after all, we’d have seen low, low audiences at Avatar, Quo Vadis, etc.

  • The Brave (1997)

    The Brave (1997)

    Later in his strange life, Marlon Brando hooked up with Johnny Depp and there are some amusing stories out there about the pair of them, which are all pretty much gossip, and which generally involve the older statesman giving the young buck good advice.

  • The Dark Corner (1946)

    The Dark Corner (1946)

     

    Classic film noir — deceitful people at work — a private dick with a dicky past — a murderous art dealer with an obsession about a woman in a painting — sluggings in the dark — frame ups — a cheating wife — crosses — and double crosses. 

    The Dark Corner (1946) presents full on film noir in the shape of an ex-con detective willing to bend the rules at every point, with the most wholesome role going to an angelic Lucille Ball — though even dear sweet Lucille is up to her elbows in blood, lying, is complicit in conspiracy to conceal evidence, washing murder weapons and immediately opting to cover up a crime rather than report it . . .

  • The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)

    The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)

     

    A woman’s place in film noir is evilly clear — she’s the seductress who tempts the man into his own destruction — although often she plays a stronger role as the heroine, a seeker hero of her own, solving a crime on behalf of an imprisoned or incapacitated male.  

  • The Naked City (1948)

    The Naked City (1948)

     

    This time yesterday, Jean Dexter was just another pretty girl.  But now she’s the marmalade on 10,000 pieces of toast.  In this fashion — by being murdered — this young model becomes one of the stories of The Naked City (1948) which was not just a seminal film noir, but a new departure in many different screen-crafts. 

    If you were looking for brave film making in 1948, this was it — cutting edge — innovative and yet sticking to some familiar aspects and techniques, as seen its police procedural and final chase and shoot out.  It was all the inspiration of Mark Hellinger, who was one of the most ground-breaking producers of the time. And directed by Jules Dassin, whose film noirs always appear in critic's top tens.

  • The Robe (1953)

    The Robe (1953)

    Cinema reached such a pitch in the 1950s that innovation became an end in itself.  There is something special about the innovations in technology such as Cinemascope. Just seeing these credits roll, you can’t help but imagine yourself back into one of the cinemas and imagine the thrill of seeing everything so large, colourful and wide. The Robe was the first film to use the Cinemascope lens, as designed by the president of 20thCentury Fox, and it was used between 1953, when The Robe was released, to 1967, when superior technologies took over.  It was wide, baby, wide.

  • This Gun for Hire (1942)

    This Gun For Hire 1942


    This Gun For Hire (1942) — one of the finest of the early film noirs available — and the first to show off the mutual talents of Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd — is a film noir to the core.  This classic film noir features a troubled protagonist, a strange mix of genres, and a mean streak that has you questioning its cruelty from the off.  This Gun for Hire might be the title, in fact, but I would on occasion simply like to refer to it as Psychopaths of 1942 — because that is what it is like at times.

  • Zombies are Our Monster

    There are no celebrities among zombies.  Zombies wander without personality or purpose, a parody of our own deaths.  Zombies have no literary heritage.  Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster and even the Wolf Man have a lineage in fiction, Gothic fiction and European folklore.  Zombies made their first ever appearance in The Magic Island (1929), William Seabrook’s study of Haiti.

    The zombie myth seems flawed by its lack of complexity.  The zombie is really a mummy in street clothes with no love and a big appetite.  Both are automatons; neither is cunning nor heroic… As opposed to the vampire, who is crafty, circumspect and erotic, these two cousins are subhuman slugs… The zombie is an utter cretin, a vampire with a lobotomy, and this is what has tended to make [all films since I Walked with a Zombie (1943) little more than vehicles of graphic violence full of people (usually men) poking each other and then occasionally eating them.  The zombie is so shallow… even Abbott and Costello refused to meet with him.

     

    James B Twatchell

    Zombies are however OUR monsters more than any of these others, they have for nearly 100 years been our cultural contribution to ourselves.  The word monster has roots in the Latin monstare meaning to show, as in the word demonstrate

    Thus, the zombie entered the USA in about the 1920s imported like sour sugar from Afro-Caribbean but primarily Haitian slave culture.  In our time, in the last 100 years, the zombie has been transformed and has come to signify what it originally did — the fear of death.