Movies I’ve Recently Seen: Get Carter, The Big Sleep, & 20,000 Years in Sing Sing

What with the big film festival and all, I’ve had very little time in the last month to simply watch movies. But here are three I managed to catch. All of them are old crime movies, and I saw all three on FilmStruck.

I also saw The Big Lebowski at the Castro, but since I’ve already written about it, I don’t need to discuss it here.

B+ Get Carter (1971), FilmStruck

Telephoto lenses, tight editing, and occasional shocks of violence propels this gritty crime thriller, which suggests that British mobsters are the meanest mobsters in the world. Jack Carter, who works with the London mob, knows that someone killed his brother, even though Scotland Yard insists it was an accidental. So Carter heads to Newcastle (where his brother lived and was murdered) to find the killer. Of course, the Newcastle mob doesn’t want him sniffing around. As you’d expect from a British crime film of the early 70s, there’s a lot of sex, nudity, and violence.

The Big Sleep (1946), FilmStruck

This is probably the most complicated murder mystery ever made. Humphrey Bogart plays Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective, Phillip Marlowe, and Lauren Bacall plays his client’s daughter. That’s pretty much all you need to know. The movie runs entirely on their star wattage and the clever dialog by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett, and Jules Furthman. The story is so convoluted that you shouldn’t even try to follow it. Legend claims that director Howard Hawks called Chandler to ask who committed one of the several murders, and the novelist admitted he didn’t know.

C- 20,000 Years in Sing Sing (1932), FilmStruck

Warner Brother made a lot of great gangster pictures in the 1930s, but not all of them were masterpieces. In this one, Spencer Tracy plays a famous criminal, loved by the public, who goes to prison for a long stretch. He rebels, but the wise warden brings him into line. A young Bette Davis plays his girl, who visits him a few times. Of course, there’s a breakout scene, and some scenes involving “the chair.” Clichés must be respected. Neither Tracy nor Davis come off as the great movie stars they were fated to be. The film runs only 78 minutes, but it still drags.