Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '45 - Kristina Dijan ""

Monday, November 30, 2015

Underrated '45 - Kristina Dijan

Kristina Dijan loves all kinds of movies, blogs about them at Speakeasy and tweets @HQofK
Fallen Angel. 
The men come to Pop’s diner for the coffee, and to ogle the gorgeous coffee slinger, waitress Linda Darnell, who steals from the till and serves sides of sass with every burger. Con man Dana Andrews stumbles into town doing groundwork for phone Clairvoyant John Carradine. Andrews falls hard for Darnell and they hatch a plot to get him married to wealthy local spinster Alice Faye, then run away with her money. When Darnell is murdered after breaking it off with Andrews, he becomes detective Charles Pickford’s prime suspect. Suddenly Faye’s love and the security of marriage to her seem like a way out. Director Otto Preminger’s follow up to Laura is just as stylish, far more passionate and surprisingly hopeful. It was the first of four movies he did with Darnell and the end of a career phase for musical star Faye, who gives a rich performance as the sheltered but wise and mature woman who sees Andrews as a redeemable loser and her last chance at love. 

Strange Illusion. 
King of the B-movies Edgar J. Ulmer’s Detour deservedly gets the attention in 1945 but that same year also saw the release of his low budget twist on Hamlet. An intellectual young man (James Lydon) is visited in a dream by the ghost of his recently departed father, a Judge who tells him to protect mother from a sinister gentleman caller, much like her current fiance Warren William. Details from that warning dream start coming true, and then Lydon suspects that William and his psychiatrist are connected to unsolved murders, including his father’s. Lydon feigns a breakdown to do some amateur investigating into their shady asylum and gets stuck inside with both his story and his sanity in doubt. Ulmer’s movie examines criminal and psychological mysteries and starts with a surreal dream sequence whose delirious dread lingers into the story’s waking hours.

A Walk in the Sun. 
In one of the best WW2 movies, director Lewis Milestone follows an American platoon on an intense trek from their beachhead landing to an Italian farmhouse destination where they fight Nazis. During their “walk” they talk about everyday things, reflect on their fears, confusion, memories and hopes and try to stay alert to the constant, hidden danger. Diverse, interesting characters played by a deep cast that includes Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, Norman Lloyd, Lloyd Bridges, Sterling Holloway, Burgess Meredith as narrator and John Ireland, who thinks over what he’ll write his sister and settles on the understated version, about how easy it was: all we did was blow a bridge and take a farmhouse. Lyrical, introspective and ending with a costly siege, this film was a big influence on the likes of Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan. 

Dead of Night. 
Architect Mervyn Johns arrives at a home and is overwhelmed by a powerful wave of deja vu; he’s been here with these five people before, and knows exactly how and when the sixth will arrive. As he shares his story, and the events of his dream play out to their murderous finale, the other guests relate their own encounters with the paranormal. A race car driver’s premonition saves him from dying in a bus crash, a schoolgirl sings a boy to sleep and then learns he was murdered long ago, a woman buys her fiancĂ© a haunted mirror that fills him with the jealousy and murderous rage of its previous owner, golfing buddies vie for a woman and get stuck haunting each other, and most disturbing, a ventriloquist (Michael Redgrave) is possessed by his dummy. This is a fantastic anthology of diverse spook stories glued together by a linking narrative that calls into question the sanity of the “dreamer” Johns and the existence of these people and the whole event.  

My Name is Julia Ross. 
Speaking of questionable sanity and bent realities, here’s a great thriller starring Nina Foch as a young woman hired to be personal secretary for an elderly widow (Dame May Whitty). A couple days after taking the job, Foch awakens from a drugged state, in a different house, in an isolated location, with a new name and everyone insisting she’s had a nervous breakdown. She learns that she’s the disposable tool in a scheme wherein Whitty’s neurotic son (George Macready) will cover up his rich wife’s murder and get her inheritance. With no loved ones looking for Foch (so far as she knows) she’s on her own. Director Joseph H. Lewis wrings much suspense out of the volatile mother-son tension and the heroine’s failed escape attempts, while impressive shadowy visuals disorient and imprison her in this Gothic manor. 


Anonymous said...

Good choices. I've never seen the Ulmer film but I'd like to now. Really can't argue with any of the other picks there - all solid stuff, or better.


Jerry Entract said...

Great choice selection, Kristina, and very varied.
Like Colin, I have never seen the Ulmer but would like to now. I guess maybe you like Dana Andrews (me too) with 2 films and Julia is certainly a popular girl! (see my own choices). "Dead Of Night" is a true Ealing classic - that ventriloquist's dummy is truly unnerving!!

john k said...

Lovely stuff Kristina,
I too have,for some reason, never seen the Ulmer film.
Great to see so much love for the Lewis film in this series.
I second Jerry's comments regarding DEAD OF NIGHT.

Silver Screenings said...

These ALL sound great! I might have to turn the next snowy weekend into a "1945 Marathon"!

Kristina said...

Thanks to all of you for the comments--
The Ulmer is offbeat but enjoy what ambitious stuff he could whip up on such a low budget. Love to see Julia Ross on so many lists, always deserves another vote, as does the great Dead of Night. So great to go through everyone else's lists and find so much more!

Tam May, Author said...

I always love forgotten films. Dead of Night is one of my favorite psychological horror films. Highly recommended. The part with Michael Powell and a ventriloquist's dummy is absolutely chilling.