The Slipper and the Rose (1976): A Different Kind of Cinderella Story

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To view The Slipper and the Rose click here.

For some movies, finding a receptive audience is all a matter of timing, Upon its initial release, The Slipper and the Rose (1976), a sterling reinterpretation of the Cinderella story, missed its window of opportunity because it came out after a string of box office disasters had nearly buried the musical forever. And make no mistake; this is a musical through and through courtesy of intricate, tongue-twisting and enchanting songs written by the unbeatable team of Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman. Distanced from its musical cohorts, let’s reexamine the merits of this film and give it a fair shake. [...MORE]

A Forgotten Film to Remember: Obsession (1949)

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To view Obsession click here.

I know what you are thinking. Obsession (1976), the Hitchcock-inspired horror film by Brian DePalma about reincarnation, may not be his most respected work, but it is hardly forgotten. And, then there is Luchino Visconti’s Italian version of The Postman Always Rings Twice, Ossessione (1943), which is often listed in film history books, so it has not been forgotten. But, have you heard of the 1949 British film called Obsession? Or, perhaps by its alternate title, The Hidden Room? Yeah, me neither.

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Frieda (1947): One of the Best Films You Probably Haven’t Seen

FRIEDA, holding hands from left: Mai Zetterling, David Farrar, 1947

To view Frieda click here.

It’s funny how little things can make us happy, and I’m pretty giddy that we have a wealth of cinematic riches available on FilmStruck right now highlighting the very underappreciated work of director Basil Dearden. We’ve got eleven of his films, running the entire spectrum of his career, and you may recall we’ve featured several of this titles on Streamline over the past few months including Sapphire (1959), The League of Gentlemen (1960), Victim (1961), and All Night Long (1963).

However, Dearden got his start as a secret weapon of sorts for the beloved Ealing Studios, whose remarkable run of British classics spans multiple genres with an incredible arsenal of actors and directors at its disposal. Though he’d proven his dexterity with silly wartime comedy thanks to the well-crated The Goose Steps Out (1942) for Ealing, Dearden really proved his value with a pair of back-to-back anthology films: the evocative fantasy The Halfway House (1944) and the most influential horror omnibus ever made, Dead of Night (1945). In the latter case, Dearden was just one of four directors brought on board, but his helming of the flawless framing device (with a group of strangers in a country house swapping stories of the uncanny) couldn’t have been more perfect. Dearden also directed the shortest of the tales about a creepy premonition involving an old-fashioned horse-drawn hearse, but it’s the connective tissue that really shows off Dearden’s early talents as he slowly winds the audience up to a nightmarish finale no viewer has ever forgotten, a virtuoso concerto of disturbing visuals that must have left postwar attendees gasping for air. [...MORE]

The Brilliance of Early David Lean: The Passionate Friends (1949)

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To view The Passionate Friends click here.

A few months ago, here on Streamline, I wrote about David Lean’s film adaptation of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit in 1945 (you can read it here), and how it is among very few films I consider perfect. As I’ve been reintroduced to much of Lean’s early directorial efforts, I have come to realize that he rarely had missteps throughout his career, making at least eight truly “perfect” films. Needless to say, and without any hesitation, I consider David Lean to be one of the greatest directors of all time. And while I am well aware that I am not alone in this opinion, as Lean is highly regarded amongst both critics and film lovers, I believe that his earlier work has been seriously undervalued, especially when held up against the sweeping epics for which he is best known, such as 1957’s The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia from 1962.

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The Man Ray Movie Challenge: Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

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To view Caesar and Cleopatra click here.

In 1951, surrealist artist Man Ray, who was a fan of the cinema, quipped, “The worst films I have ever seen, the ones that put me to sleep, contain ten or fifteen marvelous minutes. The best films I have ever seen only contain ten or fifteen worthwhile ones.” Man Ray made this provocative statement because he liked to gripe that popular movies were too long. I don’t necessarily agree with the reason for his comment, but I like the idea behind it in general, especially the first half of the statement. I often find a scene, sequence, performance, shot or ten marvelous minutes in movies I don’t like. In the spirit of Man Ray, and with the entire FilmStruck catalogue at my disposal, I decided to challenge myself by occasionally watching and writing about a film that I detested. The challenge is to find something about the film that I did like, or to offer a suggestion on why it should be viewed.

This is not to suggest that any of the films available on FilmStruck are “bad,” which is vague criteria to begin with, but to recognize that viewers don’t all have the same tastes, and to acknowledge that some films don’t age well.

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A Daring Directorial Debut: Madonna of the Seven Moons (1944)

MADONNA OF THE SEVEN MOONS, from left: Peter Glenville, Stewart Granger, 1944

To view Madonna of the Seven Moons click here.

Arthur Crabtree is chiefly remembered for helming two imaginative science fiction and horror thrillers in the late 1950s, Fiend Without a Face (1958) and Horrors of the Black Museum (1959). But before he became associated with these cult favorites, Crabtree worked extensively with Gainsborough Pictures where he photographed some of the studio’s biggest hits including The Man in Grey (1943) and Fanny by Gaslight (1944), which helped make Stewart Granger a star. At Gainsborough, Crabtree built a reputation as an efficient and economical cinematographer who was responsible for giving these modestly budgeted costume dramas the polish and sophistication that they desperately needed so it’s not surprising that the British studio eventually gave him the opportunity to direct. Madonna of the Seven Moons (1945) is Crabtree’s first feature film and it is a strange, inventive and daring directorial debut that you can currently catch on FilmStruck as part of their “Early Stewart Granger” theme.

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A Brutal Film Noir: Cavalcanti’s They Made Me a Fugitive (1947)

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To view The Made Me a Fugitiveclick here.

Brazilian filmmaker Alberto Cavalcanti had quite an interesting career. After several years directing films in France, the director signed a contract with the prestigious Ealing Studios in England. While Cavalcanti only made a handful of films at the studio before departing due to a contract dispute, his tenure helped to establish his career as a director. During his time at Ealing, Cavalcanti directed Went the Day Well (1942), Champagne Charlie (1944) and a vignette in the mysterious and creepy Dead of Night (1945), which is best described as a sort of proto Twilight Zone (1959-1964). Immediately following his stint at Ealing, Cavalcanti made three more films in the UK, all in 1947: Nicholas Nickleby, The First Gentleman and They Made Me a Fugitive, which is arguably Cavalcanti’s finest cinematic achievement.

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A Forgotten Film to Remember: All Night Long (1963)

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To view All Night Long click here.

Basil Dearden is not generally a name that stirs excitement in the hearts of movie fans, or even classic movie lovers. I knew him as a British director who had worked in the 1950s and 1960s, but he did not make horror films for Hammer, and though he worked at Ealing Studio, he did not direct any of those iconic comedies that show up in retrospectives or DVD collections. Like many movie fans, my appreciation of British film of this period tends to lean toward Hammer and Ealing. Though I recognized Dearden’s name, I was not familiar with his body of work. After stumbling across All Night Long (1963) currently streaming on FilmStruck, I gained a newfound respect for him.

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The Mad King: The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933)

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To view The Private Life of Henry VIII click here.

Henry VIII rose to the throne in 1509  after his father, Henry VII died. His father was the last man to ascend the throne through battle, Richard III being slain on the field in The Battle of Bosworth. But son Henry VIII never earned his throne through battle and was born with a sense of monstrous entitlement that would carry over into adulthood, and make its impact on the entire empire. In fact, his time on the throne would see the power of the monarch expand beyond anything previously imagined. Four hundred years later, in 1933, Alexander Korda would bring Henry’s personal life to the screen with The Private Life of Henry VIII, starring Charles Laughton in the title role. It became a box office hit and, to this day, Laughton’s portrayal of Henry is what most people think of when they think of Henry VIII, even if they’ve never seen the movie or heard of Charles Laughton. It’s like Robert Newton’s portrayal of Long John Silver in Disney’s Treasure Island (1950). It doesn’t matter if you’ve never seen it or heard of Newton (though, if not, shame on you), your idea of a pirate probably comes from him. But Laughton’s performance, as good as it is, stands in service to a film that has only 97 precious minutes to tell a tale that could easily fill three hours and then some.

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Desperation and Bravery in Basil Dearden’s Victim (1961)

VICTIM (1961)

To view Victim click here.

In late 19th century England, the Criminal Law Amendment Act was implemented, not only banning homosexuality, but making it a criminal offense. For decades, this senseless, discriminatory and repulsive law targeted, and subsequently ruined, the lives of countless gay men in England. Fear of becoming social outcasts, these men were also at risk of losing their jobs and homes. But what made this law even worse was that it left the door wide open for blackmail. If these gay men weren’t already frightened of the serious consequences brought about by this inhumane law, they had to worry about being exposed and outed to their families and employers without consent. Much like Prohibition in America encouraged the rise of an extremely violent criminal underworld peddling booze and drugs, the Criminal Law Amendment Act created a lucrative business for unscrupulous individuals to profit off of secrets. Blackmail was such an issue within the gay community, that the Criminal Law Amendment was known as “The Blackmailer’s Charter.” In 1957, seven decades after the law was enacted, John Wolfenden, an educator, along with a committee comprised of doctors, religious leaders, lawyers and professors, came to a near-unanimous decision to recommend that homosexuality be decriminalized—their findings became known as the “Wolfenden Report.” While many of the observations made by the committee are archaic by today’s standards, they were both groundbreaking and controversial for the time. Unfortunately, it took England another ten years to decriminalize homosexuality. But in the years between the Wolfenden Report and the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, there were no shortage of harsh social commentaries and protests in favor of equal rights for the gay men targeted by the law. In 1961, director Basil Dearden and producer Michael Relph released Victim, a cinematic masterpiece, with a groundbreaking, unflinching look at the shameful treatment of the gay community and condemnation of its blackmailers.

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