Redemption and Remember the Night

TCM will be showing Remember the Night on Saturday December 22nd at 8PM ET. This article was originally posted in 2014.

remember-the-nightBarbara Stanwyck was always at her best when her character came from the wrong side of the tracks. She seemed to have a natural affinity for those whose lives have mostly been filled with hard times, scrapping by the best way they can. Maybe, it had to do with her sad Brooklyn upbringing, her mother dying when she was four, pushed from a streetcar by a drunk, and her father leaving only weeks later, never heard from again. That kind of pain has to leave an indelible mark on one for life. Yet, beneath the tough exterior would hide a gentle desirous heart longing for acceptance and love that would eventually reveal itself. This double side of Stanwyck’s persona is clearly on display in many of her films including this 1940 holiday comedy/drama.

Fred MacMurray is prosecuting Assistant District Attorney, John Sargent.  He arranges through a legal technicality, to have Lee Leander’s (Barbara Stanwyck) trial for shoplifting postponed until after the holidays. This gesture results in Lee, unable to post bail, having to spend the long holiday week in a jail cell. Sargent, in a twinge of guilt, or holiday spirit, arranges through a shady bondsman to have Lee’s five thousand dollars bail paid. When the bondsman delivers Lee to the ADA’s apartment, she is cynical enough, and has no doubt, her payback to him will be in sexual favors. To her surprise, Sargent expects nothing in return. He really just did not want her to spend Christmas in jail. The look of surprise in Lee’s eyes and face is priceless when this realization hits her. Continue reading

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Scream of Fear (1961) Selt Holt

Scream

Hammer studio was known for reinvigorating the horror film with its revisionist versions of Universal icons Frankenstein and Dracula along with providing a gaggle of sexy semi-dressed female vampires. But Hammer was more than just horror. The studio also made a series of suspense/crime films one of which is the 1961 thriller, “Scream of Fear.” Directed by Seth Holt with a script by Hammer main stay Jimmy Sangster the film contains its share of shocks closer in style to a Hitchcockian suspense thriller than Hammer’s better known blend of monsters and vampires. I first watched this eerie atmospheric film years ago on a beat up rented VHS tape and finally got to watch it again recently thanks to a copy I found at a local library. (1)

The film opens with a prologue prior to the opening credits. It takes place in Switzerland; the police dragging a lake for a body, a woman is soon found and identified as Emily Frencham.  We later find out she was traveling with  her friend Penny Appleby (Susan Strasberg), together on vacation, when Emily, for reasons never explained, left her hotel during the night and ended up dead in  the lake.  Sometime later we meet Penny, a wheelchair bound young woman who returns, for the first time in ten years, to the creepy looking villa of her father on the French Riviera. Her father left England years ago moving to France after divorcing Penny’s mother. After her mother’s recent death and with her father remarried to a woman named Jane (Ann Todd), Penny comes to France meeting her step mother for the first time. Continue reading

Hugo (2011) Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s  HUGO is a film lover’s dream. A homage to those early days of cinema when virgin movie audiences would jump from their seats frightened the oncoming train would  burst right through the screen and run them over.

The film is based on the children’s novel, “The Invention of Hugo Caberet” by Brian Selznick. The last name should sound familiar. Brian is a relative of the late Hollywood producer, David O. Selznick whose classic films included “Gone with the Wind,” “Spellbound,” “Rebecca” and “David Copperfield.” It must have been some kind of organic fate that attracted  the filmmaker, connoisseur and historian Scorsese to this woven tale of fantasy and celluloid love.

Enchanting is not a word that comes to mind when discussing Martin Scorsese films but I cannot think of a better one to describe this affectionate look at the early days of a new art. The name Georges Mêliés will mean little if anything to most current filmgoers, it’s a name almost lost in the passage of time. An early pioneer in the art of film,  Mêliés  short works were innovative gems of science fiction and fantasy using cinematic techniques like stop motion, time lapse photography, dissolves and editing to create early celluloid magic with works  like, “A Trip to the Moon” (1902) and “The Impossible Voyage” (1903).   

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