TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944)

Billed as “Ernest Hemingway’s…” but it’s really a remake of Casablanca, debuting a 19-year-old actress named Lauren Bacall (who thinks she can sing). She’s no Ingrid Bergman, Dan Seymour is no Sidney Greenstreet or Conrad Veidt, Marcel Dalio is no Peter Lorre, and Claude Rains is sorely missed. Walter Brennan is just annoying. As much as I like Howard Hawks’s work (and as much as I think he’s winking at the audience here), this is a stinker.

Pickup on South Street

First time I’ve seen this 1953 film and I like it a lot.  Never been much of a Widmark fan but he’s fine as the anti-hero pickpocket. Thelma Ritter steals every scene she’s in, and Jean Peters makes the most of a poorly developed role. A good remark about Widmark’s character: “He’s got something decent trying to crawl out of him.” The maguffin is a strip of microfilm with industrial secrets that the “commies” have stolen. Widmark picks the wrong pocket and off we go.

The Boys

I found this Amazon Prime adaptation so much better than the comic books. The casting is superb. I mean, who knew Karl Urban (Bones on the Trek reboot) could command the screen like he does as Butcher. And Erin Moriarty as Starlight is the picture of innocence. I’ve read a dozen-plus issues of the comic and it’s sleazy and prurient in its pandering to fanboys. Showrunner Eric Kripke has given extra attention to the supes and made it all more character based (without backing off on the violence). I’m feeling vibes from Alan Moore’s Miracleman and will def be back for season 2.

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940)

Enjoyable, involving, suspenseful, unpredictable. Hitchcock is hitting his stride here. The only quibble is the somewhat incongruously light tone compared to the grim subject matter. This might have something to do with Robert Benchley being one of the screenwriters (and actors). As usual for the time, Hitchcock preferred to shoot indoors for outdoors and the sets have a wonderful hyper-real effect, especially the interior of the windmill. The Escheresque quality of its crisscrossing stairways is fascinating (even though this preceded Escher’s most famous works). Very much worth a look.

A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER (1953)

With Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters, and Gary Merrill. I’d never heard of this film but I’ve cast a wide net during my current noir binge and I’m glad I found it. Despite two glaring (at least to me) plot holes, this tight, cerebral thriller is riveting. Not one of its 77 minutes is wasted. IMHO a lot more films could benefit by being edited down to a similar running time. (I was impressed by the way Catherine McCleod steals all her scenes as Gary Merrill’s pulp-writer wife)

THE NAKED CITY (1948)

This procedural may be considered a noir classic but I found it talky and plodding until the finale on the Williamsburg Bridge. What I did find interesting was the use of NYC locations with natural lighting on the exteriors and the ambient drone from the streets running beneath the interiors. The narration gives it a documentary feel.