When the trick-or-treaters go to bed and October turns into November, some excellent films will mysteriously disappear. Many of them were directed by John Huston.
At the end of this month, Criterion will remove 59 feature films from its streaming service to make more for other classics. Here’s a few of them:
A The African Queen (1951)
Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Africa, and Technicolor all make for splendid entertainment in John Huston’s romantic comedy action adventure. The start of World War I traps an earthy, working-class mechanic (Bogart) and a prim and proper missionary (Hepburn) behind enemy lines and hundreds of miles of jungle. It’s a bum and a nun on the run, facing rapids, insects, alcohol (he’s for it; she’s against it), German guns, and an unusual (for Hollywood) romance between two moderately attractive middle-aged people in filthy clothes. See my Blu-ray review.
A The Big Chill (1983)
A group of baby boomers, now coming into their 30s, come together for a funeral. They were all radical activists back in the day; now they’ve forgotten their idealism and are either filthy rich or financially just getting by. Yes, Lawrence Kasdan stole the concept from John Sayles’ Return of the Secaucus 7, but Chill is the better film. That shouldn’t be a surprise – Kasdan had a studio budget and a cast that contained Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, William Hurt, and JoBeth Williams.
A- Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988)
Men are jerks and women are crazy. At least that’s the view of Pedro Almodovar’s comedy of infidelity. The picture starts like a reasonably serious comedy, sprinkling a few laughs in with the character development. Yet several touches (consider the décor and the detergent commercial) suggest something wilder. By the half-way point, the movie is as wacky as classic American screwball comedy–and considerably bawdier. Carmen Maura stars as the primary woman wronged, with an impossibly young Antonio Banderas playing the son of the man who wronged her.
B+ The Man Who Would Be King (1975)
John Huston creates an old-fashioned, rousing, very British adventure based on a story by Rudyard Kipling. The star wattage of Sean Connery and Michael Caine adds luster to this story of two crooks who set out to enter a mythic land with intentions of extreme wealth. Of course, not everything goes as plans. The movie is a bit racist, but this sort of story almost always is. It also shows off sweeping vistas, beautiful scenery, and two likeable criminals who inevitably will fail. Huston’s last great quest movie.
B+ West Side Story (1961)
This problematic classic swings erratically from glorious brilliance to astonishing ineptitude. The songs and dances – – especially the Jerome Robbins-choreographed dances – create a world of violent intensity and eroticism that both carry the story and shine in their own right. But dialog is often stilted and stage-bound, and juvenile lead Richard Beymer is so bad that he sinks every scene he’s in. But it’s the supporting cast – Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris, and especially Rita Moreno – who carry the movie.
B Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
Another western by John Ford…or is it really a western? It’s set during the American Revolution, which puts it a century before when most westerns take place. The men wear three-corner hats. They only got as far west as upstate New York. And it’s the redcoats that are riling up the Indians. Yes, it has the racism that’s in so many of Ford’s westerns (but not all of them). Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert play the main couple, surrounded by many of Ford’s regular stock company. This was Ford’s first color film, and, sorry, Searcher fans, but Ford always worked best in black and white.
B- Dinner at Eight (1933)
Considering all of the talent involved – George Cukor directing a screenplay by Frances Marion and Herman J. Mankiewicz, from a stage play by George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber, and with a cast including Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, and two Barrymores – the movie comes out rather disappointing. The comic moments are very well done (one bit at the end is classic), but the serious scenes, which compromise most of the film, are badly staged and overwrought. And yet this story about the depression threatening the wealthy hits an emotional target.
And here are some others that I can’t write about, but I wish I could. I can’t because I’ve either never seen them or haven’t seen them in a very long time:
- The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
- Fat City (1975)
- I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
- The Last Movie (1971)
- Libeled Lady (1936)
- The Life of Emile Zola (1937)
- Red Dust (1932)
- The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)
You can also checkout all the films that will go away.