The Fallen Idol (1948)

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"The Fallen Idol" (1948)

The Fallen Idol (1948).  95 minutes.  Directed by Carol Reed.  Starring Ralph Richardson (as Baines), Bobby Henrey (as Philippe), Sonia Dresdel (as Mrs. Baines), Michèle Morgan (as Julie), and Denis O’Dea (as Chief Inspector Crowe).  Screenplay by Graham Greene.

The Fallen Idol is a companion piece to the The Third Man, a film that I have often alluded to on this site.  The two movies were released back to back, The Fallen Idol in 1948 and The Third Man in 1949; both were directed by Carol Reed with a screenplay by Graham Greene; both explore a male protagonist’s worshipful attitude towards his male companion, which is rooted in childhood; and in both movies, the companion turns out to be more nefarious than the protagonist at first thinks.  But while The Third Man’s childlike Holly Martins is an adult who has yet to let go of his youthful adoration of friend Harry Lime, The Fallen Idol’s main character Phil is … Read the rest

Nosferatu (1922)

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Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu (1922). 94 minutes. Directed by F. W. Murnau. Starring Max Schreck (as Count Orlok), Gustav von Wangenheim (as Thomas Hutter), Greta Schröder (as Ellen Hutter), Alexander Granach (as Knock), John Gottowt (as Professor Bulwer), and Georg H. Schnell (as Harding). Based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker.

We are fortunate to have F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu in any form at all. The movie is based on Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula (1897), but Murnau never obtained permission from the Stoker estate to film his adaptation. Although the names and places were changed in the film from the original novel (this was done as a precaution), Nosferatu was still essentially Dracula. When Stoker’s widow determined that Murnau had made a film of her husband’s novel without her approval, she sued for breach of copyright in Germany and won. A judge ordered all existing copies of the film destroyed. Fortunately, Nosferatu had already been imported to France, and it is … Read the rest

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

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I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932). 93 minutes. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. Starring Paul Muni (as James Allen), Glenda Farrell (as Marie), Helen Vinson (as Helen), Preston Foster (as Pete), and Allen Jenkins (as Barney Sykes). Based on the memoir by Robert Elliott Burns.

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang is notable for being an early Hollywood social commentary film. Based on the memoir by Robert Elliott Burns, it tells the story of Burns (called James Allen in the movie), who after serving in World War One returns home to the United States with the dream of becoming a civil engineer but ends up doing hard time in a forced labor camp. The subject of forced labor had appeared in theaters previously in, among other things, a popular Disney short starring Mickey Mouse (“The Chain Gang,” 1930), and the 1932 movie based on Burns’s life was soon parodied in a short musical comedy (“20,000 Cheers … Read the rest

The Razor’s Edge (1946)

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"The Razor's Edge" (1946) featured image

The Razor’s Edge (1946). 145 minutes. Directed by Edmund Goulding. Starring Tyrone Power (as Larry Darrell), Gene Tierney (as Isabel Bradley), Clifton Webb (as Elliott Templeton), Anne Baxter (as Sophie MacDonald), Herbert Marshall (as W. Somerset Maugham), and John Payne (as Gray Maturin).

The Razor’s Edge wants badly to be a profound story of one man’s quest for spiritual enlightenment. Its title comes from a passage in the Katha Upanishad: “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over; thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard.” Protagonist Larry Darrell’s path is challenging insofar as it takes him across several continents and lasts many years. I cannot say that the terms with which Larry articulates his personal quest are as sharply focused as the titular image, but then again most of us have probably met people who describe their project of finding themselves using similarly broad strokes. As a result, the movie is an interesting … Read the rest