The 39 Steps

Film Title

The 39 Steps

Synopsis

Hook up with a spy girl, get wrongfully accused of murder.

Director

Alfred Hitchcock

Cast

Robert Donat
Madeleine Caroll
Lucie Mannheim
Godfrey Tearle.

1 hour 26 Minutes The Grandfather of all Spy Films. Without The 39 Steps, no Bond. No Bourne. No The Fugitive, the most obvious modern descendant of this film, which truly established Hitchcock on the map of international cinema. Fair value of The 39 Steps: $20.00. It’s must-see cinema, in the same way as Star […]

Double Indemnity

Film Title

Double Indemnity

Synopsis

A confident insurance salesman falls for the femme fatale, and they plot to murder her husband.

Director

Billy Wilder

Cast

Fred MacMurray
Barbara Stanwyck
Edward G. Robinson
Porter Hall
Tom Powers
Jean Heather

In a just universe, we’d all toil tirelessly in Billy Wilder’s cinematic fantasy, never once questioning his authority or perspective. There have been more visionary artists to be sure – and certainly more ambitious – but few are as perfect a fit for any occasion. Because of his genius regarding the melding of humor, pathos, […]

Suspicion (1941)

Film Title

Suspicion

Synopsis

A shy young heiress marries a charming gentleman, and soon begins to suspect he is planning to murder her

Director

Alfred Hitchcock

Cast

Cary Grant
Joan Fontaine
Cedric Hardwicke
Nigel Bruce
Isabel Jeans
Auriol Lee

“Gaslighting” is the use of psychological manipulation to make a person doubt their own sanity, and even to lose it. The term derives from the 1938 British play Gas Light and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations from Britain and Hollywood, respectively. It is somewhat surprising Alfred Hitchcock was not at the helm of the […]

Dreamers: John Huston’s The Treasure of the Sierra Madre & The Misfits

Speaking of cowboys, Isabelle Steers (Thelma Ritter) says to aging cowboy Gay Langland (Clark Gable), “I love every miserable one of you, though you’re all good for nothing, as you well know,” to which he replies, “That may be, but it’s better than wages.” That motto (“it’s better than wages”) is referred to several times […]

The Truth Of The Matter

Keeper of the Flame (1942) Directed by George Cukor. With Spencer Tracy and Kathrine Hepburn. 36 Hours (1965) Directed by George Seaton. With James Gardner, Eva Marie Saint, and Rod Taylor The “truth of the matter” can be an elusive concept. What is real? This is the persistent theme in the works of Philip K. […]

Network: A Look At A Classic

Film Title

Network

Synopsis

We are mad as Hell, and not going to take it anymore

Director

Sidney Lumet

Cast

Faye Dunaway
William Holden
Peter Finch
Robert Duvall
Wesley Addy
Ned Beatty

Network is certainly not the greatest movie ever made, and I would never argue that it achieves any lasting impact as a work of art. Its style is flat (like most television programs, appropriately enough), and you’ll hardly remember any of the visuals. Still, it remains my favorite films because I don’t believe a better […]

The Birds (1963)

Film Title

The Birds

Synopsis

Birds decide to attack all humans who refuse to practice social distancing

Director

Alfred Hitchcock

Cast

Rod Taylor
Jessica Tandy
Suzanne Pleshette
Tippi Hedren
Veronica Cartwright
Ethel Griffies

In his excellent nonfiction book Danse Macabre, Stephen King posits that the horror story is essentially conservative, a chronicle of the battle between Apollonian and Dionysian forces. These are the Light and Dark sides of the Force, respectively, if you prefer that terminology (obviously it is not only horror stories that utilize this formula). The […]

The Last Man On Earth (1964)

Film Title

The Last Man On Earth

Synopsis

A global pandemic and the inspiration for all zombie movies

Director

Ubaldo Ragona

Cast

Vincent Price
Franco Bettoia
Emma Danieli
Giacomo Rossi Stuart

The Last Man On Earth is a B & W classic starring Vincent Price. It is a dark and depressing movie based on Richard Matheson’s novel, I Am Legend. This film has to be the basis for dozens of zombie movies, including the classic Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. I debated even watching this […]

The Fighting 69th (1940)

Film Title

The Fighting 69th

Synopsis

James Cagney is a loudmouthed, self-centered braggart, and a soldier fighting in WW1. How will this turn out?

Director

William Keighley

Cast

James Cagney
Pat O'Brien
George Brent
Jefferey Lynn
Alan Hale
Frank McHugh

( “Faugh a Ballagh” ) A battle cry of Irish origin meaning ‘clear the way’ was first used as a regimental motto of the Royal Irish Fusiliers back in and now the motto of the Royal Irish Regiment. It was adopted by the the Fusiliers back in 1798 after the exploits of Sgt Patrick Masterson […]

A Note on Hitchcock’s Strangler Trilogy.

Flanked by Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Strangers on a Train (1951), Rope. A budding pianist anxious to know if his debut concert will be a success, Philip asks Mrs. Atwater to read his palm. She grants his request and says: “These hands will bring you great fame.” Her prophecy should please him, but […]