Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated Thrillers - Laura G ""

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Underrated Thrillers - Laura G

Laura runs the wonderful blog Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, which is a must for any classic film fans!
She is a frequent contributor here and is a person I go to regularly for movie recommendations (she's turned me on to many a great film!). In fact, this year she has done both and Underrated Action/Adventure list and an Underrated Detective/Mysteries for me and you should check both out:
She was did an Underrated Westerns list as well:
Laura can be found on Twitter here:

SLEEP, MY LOVE (Douglas Sirk, 1948) - SLEEP, MY LOVE is a well-paced thriller starring Claudette Colbert as a loving wife being "gaslighted" by her husband (Don Ameche). She's saved thanks to a sharp-eyed new friend (Robert Cummings) who realizes there's something strange going on in the Colbert-Ameche marriage. Colbert is always good, and it's fun to watch Ameche in an atypically smarmy role as the villainous "concerned" husband. Cummings is terrific as the smart and witty hero. There are fun supporting roles for Hazel Brooks as a demanding femme fatale, Keye Luke as Cummings' foster brother, and Rita Johnson as a bubble-headed friend of the heroine. The film has a nice sense of humor to go along with the spooky moments. I just had the chance to revisit this film in a 35mm screening at UCLA; what a treat!

Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (John Farrow, 1948) - This is an unusual, absorbing suspense film starring Edward G. Robinson as a disturbed clairvoyant. Distraught at being powerless to prevent tragedies he's foreseen, he becomes a recluse for years but then is compelled to try to save the life of Jean (Gail Russell), the daughter of his lost love (Virginia Bruce). This dark, brooding film has a compelling performance by Robinson, with quietly luminous Russell just right as the endangered Jean. John Lund plays Jean's supportive fiance, and William Demarest helps lighten the second half of the film as a skeptical police detective. This is an engrossing film with an excellent ending.

Not available on DVD, but a restored 35mm print has been shown at Noir City film festivals.

SECOND CHANCE (Rudolph Mate, 1953) - SECOND CHANCE is a highly enjoyable thriller which finds Robert Mitchum and Linda Darnell on the run from mob enforcer Jack Palance in Mexico. Besides the terrific trio of leads, the film is distinguished by its use of location shooting and a scary climax in a dangling aerial cable car. I had the good fortune to see SECOND CHANCE at the 2013 World 3-D Expo, and the 3-D effects really added to the chill factor of that final sequence. Director Mate, a former cinematographer, aptly combines some great visuals with nail-biting moments. Just plain fun.

Not available on DVD.

SUDDENLY (Lewis Allen, 1954) - I wasn't especially interested in the storyline for this movie when it turned up at the 2012 Noir City Film Festival, but it was part of a tribute to Sterling Hayden, an actor I always enjoy, so I gave it a try. I enjoyed it so much I ended up taking advantage of a chance to see it twice in a 24-hour period! SUDDENLY fell into public domain years ago and had only been available in murky, fuzzy prints for decades until it was digitally restored. Hayden is a very appealing lead as sheriff of the oddly named little town of Suddenly; he ends up in a hostage situation, along with Nancy Gates and James Gleason, while Frank Sinatra and his goons plot to assassinate the President during a stopover. While the movie has a nice small-town atmosphere, it's for the most part a one-set play, and a very effective one at that. Sinatra is fascinating as he gradually peels back the layers of a killer's warped psyche. A tense, fast-paced suspense movie.

Available on Blu-ray from Image Entertainment.

EXPERIMENT IN TERROR (Blake Edwards, 1962) - This is probably the least underrated of the five films on my list, but I chose it because it only came to my attention within the last few years, and it's a particularly fine example of the thriller genre -- scary, stylish, and beautiful. (If at all possible, watch it on the impossibly gorgeous Twilight Time Blu-ray.) Lee Remick plays Kelly, a gutsy bank teller who, along with her kid sister (Stefanie Powers), is menaced by wheezy, creepy Red Lynch (Ross Martin), who wants Kelly to steal $100,000. Glenn Ford is wonderful as the FBI man on the case, calm and reassuring. The movie has outstanding location work in San Francisco, with the climax taking place during a Dodgers-Giants game at Candlestick Park. When I saw this at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art a few years ago, the hometown crowd gave Don Drysdale a big round of applause, which provided a nice break from the tension! Highly recommended.

Available on DVD from Sony Choice and Blu-ray from Twilight Time.


john k said...

Wonderful choices Laura,and I am truly ashamed to say
that the only one that I have seen is SUDDENLY and that
was many years ago on TV.
I must say these lists make one aware of just how many
great movies are out there to discover!
I would love to see SECOND CHANCE in 3D.
Your fine reviews have certainly added these titles to
my "must track down" list,which seems to be forever
growing instead of reducing!

Jerry E said...

It's been worth the wait, Laura - wonderful choices!
The only one of these films I have still never seen is "NIGHT HAS 1000 EYES" (but really want to. All the more now).
I really like all these films and would support your recommendation to others to seek them out (mostly with difficulty).
"SUDDENLY" is a terrific, taut and vicious thriller which showed just how effective Sinatra could be as an actor (pretty fair singer too!! LOL).
But they are all really good, and under-rated, films.

Laura said...

Hi John and Jerry! Thanks so much for your feedback on my selections, I appreciate it! John, you have a of good viewing ahead of you. Wish a couple of these titles weren't so hard to find! I have a feeling you would really enjoy EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, in particular, and fortunately that one's easier to see.

I really hope that NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES comes out at some point -- it's a '48 Paramount film, so the best possibilities might be Universal Vault or TCM Vault? I'm glad you've been able to catch all of them but that title, Jerry! Nice to know that you second the recommendations. :)

Best wishes,

Anonymous said...

Really fine choices there, Laura. I've seen all of these and fully endorse your picks - you got a really good blend and balance there of a nice range of thrillers, all of which have noir elements but still remain quite individual.


Laura said...

Thanks so much for your feedback, Colin! I'm glad to know you've also enjoyed these films.

This was a fun list to put together; when I got to the end I realized I'd been fortunate to see each of these films in a theater. Hope very much more people will enjoy them!

Best wishes,

KC said...

Night Has a Thousand Eyes would be amazing on Blu-ray! I think I must have seen that at Noir City. Didn't realize it wasn't available on DVD. This is a really cool list Laura. I've got some new ideas!

Laura said...

I agree, KC, I'd love to see NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYS in a gorgeous Blu-ray. Criterion, are you listening? TCM? Anyone?!

Best wishes,