Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Laura G. ""

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Laura G.

Laura G. runs the lovely blog Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, which is a must for any classic film fans!
She can be found on Twitter here:
RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO (Jesse Hibbs, 1954) - For me, 2013 was the Year of the Western, as I explored films starring Audie Murphy, Tim Holt, George O'Brien, Rory Calhoun, and more.  I saw RIDE CLEAR OF DIABLO the first week of 2013 and it turned out to be one of my favorite films of the entire year.  The heart of the film is the curious relationship between an upright young deputy (Murphy) and a notorious gunslinger (Dan Duryea) who can't quite believe the fast-drawing, upright deputy is for real; their interplay is terrific.  From TCM's Audie Murphy Western Collection.

THE MARSHAL OF MESA CITY (David Howard, 1939) - This 62-minute film is a gem of a "B" Western, with original characters and creative staging.  I couldn't get enough of the sunny, handsome O'Brien's Westerns this year, but this was my favorite.  A young Henry Brandon (later Chief Scar in THE SEARCHERS) plays a hired gun who continually demolishes audience expectations, and the final smoky shootout is a masterpiece of economical yet dramatic staging.  Available from the Warner Archive.

WICHITA (Jacques Tourneur, 1955) - This film with Joel McCrea as Wyatt Earp encapsulates everything I love about Westerns.  McCrea is a stoic, honorable leading man, and the excellent supporting cast includes Lloyd Bridges, Robert J. Wilke, and Jack Elam among the bad guys.  There's also a small but memorable role for Peter Graves.  Beautifully staged by director Tourneur, beginning with the very first shot of McCrea on the distant horizon.  Available from the Warner Archive.

PANHANDLE (Lesley Selander, 1948) - A terrific Rod Cameron Western, cowritten and coproduced by 25-year-old Blake Edwards.  Edwards also has a flashy role as a hired gun, one of his last roles in front of a camera.  The storyline zigs when you expect it to zag, and it has some excellent dialogue.  There's also a memorably brutal fistfight and a very original gun battle in the rain at dusk.  Available from VCI.

THE CHASE (Arthur Ripley, 1946) - I was fortunate to see this in 35mm at the UCLA Festival of Preservation.  It was a dream of a film noir experience, with Robert Cummings and Michele Morgan in a surprisingly hot relationship for a 1940s film.  (I overheard others commenting on this after the movie!)  A bizarre atmosphere and many fascinating layers make this a noir must-see.  Available from VCI.

REPEAT PERFORMANCE (Alfred L. Werker, 1947) - I also saw this at the UCLA Festival of Preservation and liked it so much I watched it again just a month later at the Noir City Film Festival.  I loved everything about this stylish movie, which could be described as GROUNDHOG DAY meets film noir.  As the film begins, actress Sheila Page (Joan Leslie) has just shot her husband (Louis Hayward).  Sheila will soon miraculously be given the chance to go back in time until she gets things right.  The terrific supporting cast includes Richard Basehart, Tom Conway, and Virginia Field.  I liked it just as much the second time and hope that at some point it will come out on DVD, as I hope to see it again in the future.  A fairly unknown, underrated gem.

CRIME WAVE (Andre De Toth, 1954) - This immediately zoomed onto my list of favorite film noir titles, with its to-die-for B&W photography of Los Angeles; the lighting at the gas station, the shots inside the police station, and the final shots in atypically rainy L.A. are all amazing.  Add in Sterling Hayden, perfect as the toothpick-chewing police detective, and song and dance man Gene Nelson showing that Dick Powell wasn't the only performer able to cross from musicals to playing tough guys, and you've got a perfect movie.  Available in the Warner Bros. Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4.
NIGHTFALL (Jacques Tourneur, 1957) - NIGHTFALL is the second Tourneur film on this year's list, a highly enjoyable tale of a man (Aldo Ray) who's believed by some nasty types (including Brian Keith) to know the location of a bag containing $350,000.  Anne Bancroft is a young woman who goes on the run with Ray; they end up in my favorite little town in the Sierras, Bridgeport, California, which was also seen in Tourneur's OUT OF THE PAST (1947) a decade previously.

FLIGHT FROM GLORY (Lew Landers, 1937) - Early this year I binge-watched a number of programmers directed by Lew Landers; this story of pilots operating a rickety air service in the Andes was my favorite.  Preceding the similarly themed ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS (1939) by two years, it stars Chester Morris as a senior pilot who's not convinced a young pilot (Van Heflin) and his bride (Whitney Bourne) have what it takes to survive the poor living conditions and the daily threat of a plane cracking up.  Filmed by Nicholas Musuraca (OUT OF THE PAST).  Not yet on DVD.

EQUINOX FLOWER (Yasujiro Ozu, 1958) - This was my first exposure to Japanese director Yasujiro Ozu, and I enjoyed it so much I've already watched a couple more of his films, with many more certain to follow.  EQUINOX FLOWER tells of love and changing traditions in Japan; as with the other Ozu films I saw, the movie is visually beautiful, has an appealing cast (who also turn up in Ozu's other films), and provides interesting insights into the Japanese culture.  From the Criterion Collection.

GIRL SHY (Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor, 1924) - I've never been very interested in silent movies, simply because I'm a fast reader and find the too-long interruptions by the narrative cards to be tedious.  Meeting Harold Lloyd this year has changed my mind, especially as the Lloyd films are restrained in their use of the cards, often letting the audience infer the dialogue without spelling it all out -- and when the cards are used, they're often quite witty!  Jobyna Ralston is adorable as the girl of Harold's dreams from the moment she's introduced sitting with her little dog in her broken-down car ("a good car with bad habits").  This is a charmer, with a breath-taking climax shot in the Greater L.A. area.  On DVD from New Line Cinema.

TIM HOLT WESTERNS (Directed by Lesley Selander and others) - Finally, a tip of the hat of Tim Holt and Richard Martin, whose RKO "B" Westerns have provided great enjoyment over the course of the year.  The genial relationship of Tim and his sidekick, the jovial Chito Jose Gonzalez Bustamonte Rafferty (Martin), is at the heart of the films, but there are many more reasons to watch, including excellent casts and especially superb cinematographers such as Nicholas Musuraca and George E. Diskant (ON DANGEROUS GROUND).  30 of Holt's Westerns are available in three volumes from the Warner Archive.

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