A movie log formerly known as Bookishness / By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Man Hunt (Fritz Lang, 1941)

Walter Pidgeon spent much of his movie career at MGM, playing prince consort to Greer Garson: He was Mr. Miniver, Mr. Parkington, and M. Curie -- they made nine films together, if you count their cameos as themselves in The Youngest Profession (Edward Buzzell, 1943). So it's interesting to see him on his own in a 20th Century-Fox film, playing an action hero, the big-game hunter Alan Thorndike, who nearly assassinates Hitler, is beaten by the Gestapo, is pushed off a cliff and survives, escapes to a seaport where he boards a freighter for England, eludes his relentless pursuers, goes to ground in a cave, survives by killing his chief antagonist, and at the film's end parachutes into Germany, presumably to start it all over again. In fact, Pidgeon is a little too starchy for the role, which was better suited to someone like Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power, and he's upstaged (as who wasn't?) by George Sanders as the villain. Joan Bennett gives a nice performance as Jerry Stokes, the cockney "seamstress" (read: prostitute) who helps Thorndike escape. There's an entertaining scene in which Jerry encounters Thorndike's snooty sister-in-law, Lady Riseborough (Heather Thatcher). Roddy McDowall makes his American film debut as the cabin boy Vaner. This was the first of four films Bennett made with Fritz Lang as director, and they remain probably the highlights of her long career. Although Lang's American films never reached the heights of the ones he made in Germany, such as M (1931) and Metropolis (1927), he had a sure hand with the kind of suspense on display in Man Hunt. Dudley Nichols did the screenplay based on Geoffrey Household's novel Rogue Male.

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