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12/03/15 − From Craig Jones: “On TCM I’ve managed to catch a couple of films I’d never seen before. What made them special was a chance to see Conrad Veidt play something other than the heavy. Blackout from 1940 where he is a Danish sea captain stuck in London during the Blitz. He’s trying to find a spy who escaped from his ship and it combines some comic elements with its suspense tale. Above Suspicion from 1943, his last film. He plays a “tour guide” and a bit of a gigolo and even though he is there to help our two protagonists (Joan Crawford & Fred MacMurray, two people I had a hard time imagining together) his is a wonderfully sly performance. While he didn’t mind playing Nazis (being extremely anti-Fascist) in order to portray the evil they do, his early death robbed us of some fine work that might have come his way. An underrated actor.
MOVIEMAXIMUS: I have never seen either of the movies you mentioned but I will look for them on TCM. It is a shame that his last film Above Suspicion came only a year after his most memorable role as Major Strasser in Casablanca.
From jemjay: “Thanks for the informative reviews of some interesting old movies. So many popular (and often bad) movies are available for streaming now, that it’s good to learn about or be reminded of less well-known movies that are worthwhile. I’ll be looking for several of the movies you reviewed. I was also reminded of a film I saw when I was a child and that I have never seen or heard of since: The Unfinished Dance with Margaret O’Brien. I don’t really know how good it is, but it made an impression on a 5-year-old. Do you know if it’s on DVD?”
MOVIE MAXIMUS: Yes, The Unifinished Dance (1947) is an MGM drama starring O’Brien as a ballet dancer. Cyd Charisse co-stars with Danny Thomas who made his film debut in the movie. It is available in the WB Archive Collection. The DVD is MOD or a “manufactured on demand” DVD-R meaning that a copy is made when it is ordered. You can order it directly from Warner Brother (www.wbshop.com) or you can try Amazon (www.amazon.com).
From Craig Jones: “I love a good noir. One of the thrills is seeing good black and white cinematography. Even though it was late in the genre The Big Combo (1955) took b&w to an extreme that is just fascinating. John Alton almost removed all the greys in some scenes, taking black and white literally. Comments?
Also a fan of Edward G. Robinson. Known mostly for his gangster roles and his terrific performance in Double Indemnity most people don’t know of his range. The Red House (1947), Woman in the Window (1944) & Scarlet Street (1945, directed by Fritz Lang) and his Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945) showed how versatile and intelligent an actor he was.
And one question: Was Bogdanovich too close to his material when he did Nickelodeon (1976)? The early days of filmmaking cry for a great film or two. And he obviously had great material to work with, loved the period. Why did the movie fail?”
MOVIE MAXIMUS: Thanks for the great comments and suggestions, Craig. I agree Robinson was underrated. He was a versatile and sensitive actor. I will be reviewing all the noir titles you mentioned in the near future. I would also like to add The Stranger (1946) directed by Orson Welles in which Robinson plays a relentless Nazi hunter. If you look at my “10 Most Wanted” list I am also hopeful that some day we will see an official restored version of The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) which also features a wonderful performance by Robinson.
Many of these noir titles are available in bad public domain DVDs so I will also cover which are the best quality discs available. The Big Combo, directed by Joseph H. Lewis, is a great overlooked film in the genre as well. I’ll be tracking down the best version of that film as well because there are many bad discs out there that ruin the fine work of cinematographer John Alton.
As for your question about Nickelodeon, I haven’t seen the movie since its original release but I remember enjoying it. There is a DVD available in which Sony/Columbia filled Bogdanovich’s request to have the movie converted to black-and-white which is how the director originally wanted to shoot it. I will take a look at that version and review it in the near future.