Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Reviews: 'Irma La Douce', 'The Harder They Fall', 'The Sheik', 'The Son of the Sheik', 'Intermezzo', 'The Public Enemy'

The Public Enemy - Well this was certainly a different kind of film. It starts off like a little like Reefer Madness does - warning about the danger of the people in this story. And how it is real - although the names and dates are all fictional. It essentially follows the crime life of two friends from their early mischief making days as boys and how they first started sneaking and stealing through to their ends. Cagney is just okay through most of the movie - nothing quite special, but there is a moment in the rain with him - and let me tell you, you take one look at him and you know the shit has hit the fan! He's awfully powerful in that moment, and all he is really doing is standing there, then walking. It's all in the face, and it is amazing. Harlow is in it, I don't know why. She makes an appearance playing a role I don't think she has ever played since; certainly not in any role I have seen her in. She plays a classy girl in this movie, and her fake british tells you plain enough that she is a bit of an elite character. I was not at all impressed. She was too fake. Again, maybe I am missing something; maybe watching it again might do some good, but just this once wasn't enough to wow me - although it is significant to note that this was THE film of the genre - not the starting point, but certainly one of the top of the early films.
So, 3 out of 5 stars.
Intermezzo: Ingrid Bergman in one of her first American films, and Leslie Howard. A very beautiful love story. Usually, I don't like stories about cheaters, but this one tugs at the heart strings. Howard is a violinist who is finally coming home from a long tour - he's also looking for a pianist to take the place of his old friend who has decided to retire. While he is at home, he meets his daughter's piano teacher (Bergman) who turns out to be a very talented pianist. They fall in love rather passionately and suddenly. Again, I will stop there so as not to ruin it. It is beautiful. Bergman is so ... readable in this role. You see her every emotion, no matter how small or big it is. When she is playing the piano, you see everything in her face and her motions, it really is beautiful. Leslie Howard is as wonderful as always. It is so touching - and so sad at times, and so incredibly happy at others. It is a wonderful movie. The young girl who plays Howard's daughter is so adorable. This is not one I had heard of until I saw the movie sitting on the shelf, and I must tell you that you should see it - especially my fellow saps!
4 out of 5 stars
The Harder They Fall: Bogart's last film. Too bad, he was as good as he ever was. This time he plays an out of work sports writer who is hired by a boxing manager to be the press agent of his latest discovery. Problem is, the latest discovery can't box, and can't take a hit. So, everyone "fixes" every fight, telling the world how amazing the discovery is. Boxing meets mafia meets corrupt businessmen. With Bogie in the middle. The acting is pretty good in the film on all sides. The boxer (Mike Lane) is a pretty sympathetic character, the manager is as good a rotten man as I've seen in films. The story is an okay one, and the drama is medium. There wasn't much to take from this performance, except for the last fight of the film. I can't say I understand why B&W boxing films are so much more effective than color - especially considering the look of the wounds - which you can expect to be impressive in any movie with boxing in it. Their make-up guy knows their stuff. For all of it's so-soness, it is a good film to see.
3 out of 5 stars
The Sheik: starring the original male sex symbol, Rudolph Vanentino. I really don't know about this one. For it's time, it is certainly racy. I can see how women went crazy about this picture. Rugged, mysterious, powerful man captures and eventually wins the love and admiration of a beautiful woman. The acting was a little melodramatic, but that was how it was done then, so it was appropriate. Photography was sketchy at points, but they got the close-ups on the ladies wonderfully. You can't really mess up close-ups of beautiful women, I guess. This is pretty much a female fantasy film of the time, and if you expect that, you're going to be pleased. I do have one thing to really criticize. The writers or director did a bad job with Diane (the woman). From the beginning she is presented as a strong-willed, spirited, determined girl, but she spends more than half of her time on screen crying and lamenting. That just doesn't work to have it both ways. Some character development needs to be worked on there.
It's not my cup of tea, but maybe after another viewing, I just might appreciate it more. I will say this: watching this movie is watching a piece of cinematic history, and there is a certain allure about it - and interest.
3 stars out of 5
The Son of the Sheik: And guess what it's about! Not very imaginativly titled; It's the son's chance to fall in love, fight it, then fall in love again. Now we are concerned with the story of a young dancer who has met and fallen for the young man. Unfortunatly, she works with a rather dubious gang. When they find out about the pair, they capture him, torture him, and tell him that the dancer does this for a living, and that he is not the first to fall prey to her charms. Once he escapes, he is bent on revenge. He gets his, and like his father before him, captures the girl. Everything gets sorted out and the young lovers end up happily together (I am going to assume that is not much of a spoiler). This film was the more traditional B&W instead of the shades of blue, yellow, and sepia that the original was. The photography was better, the close-ups were better, and overall, you can see what a difference a couple years makes in the film industry when it first was getting going. Still, it's not much but a pretty good sequal, although I like Vilma Banky as the dancer in this one a little more than Agnes Ayres in the last. Character-wise, at least, the dancer has more spunk and spirit than the lead girl in the first film, which I think was a better choice.
3 out of 5 stars.
Irma La Douce: Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. Initial reaction: Oh for cute! That is pretty much this film. It's cute. Lemmon and MacLaine work wonderfully together. I've seen some of Lemmon's comedies before, but until this movie I never realized just how good of a comedian he is. Basic Plot: an idealistic cop is promoted to work in a shady part of town. He gets fired on his first day after raiding the rent-by-the-hour hotel there. He meets Irma - a streetwalker. When he returns to the neighborhood and stands up to Irma's current "manager", he wins the right to be her manager - and her heart. Pretty soon he realizes that he doesn't want her working on the streets anymore, so he comes up with a plan to disguise himself as an English Lord and pays Irma to be his solely. Obviously things get complicated. Like I said, it's a cute film - definately not something you'll want to watch if you're looking for real life drama, but a good time comedy. It almost gets to be too much at a point or two, but all works out in the end.
Solid 3 out of 5 stars.

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