Take 3: Suddenly (1954) Review

Movies that take place over a 24 Hour time frame (not including time loop movies) are the chosen subject for August’s Genre Grandeur. Since this theme is so broad, I needed to do some research before choosing my contribution. While reading through a list on Wikipedia, I came across the 1954 title, Suddenly. I have heard of this movie because it was recommended by Maddy from Maddy Loves Her Classic Films. Last year, I reviewed five of Frank Sinatra’s movies. While most of the movies I’ve seen were either a comedy or musical, Ocean’s Eleven was the only one that was dramatic in tone. This makes Suddenly a unique project in Frank Sinatra’s filmography. Movies from the Film-Noir genre have also been far and few between on my blog. So, I’m hoping this review makes up for that!

Suddenly (1954) poster created by Libra Productions and United Artists

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: In Frank Sinatra’s movies I’ve seen so far, he was given roles that allow him to achieve likability. This is made possible through a charismatic personality. While Frank’s character in Suddenly, John Baron, carries himself with suave charisma, he is not someone the audience wants to root for. In fact, this part of John’s personality can make viewers uncomfortable. That’s because, as the movie poster says, he is “a savage, sensation-hungry killer”. The darker material is different from what I’ve seen from Frank’s filmography, so far. However, Frank gave a strong performance that really showcased his range as an actor! While he carried his character with the charisma he has portrayed in other films, he was quick to adopt anger. Whenever someone gave him an insult, John immediately grew intense with rage. It not only showed how John had an underlying instability, but also showed how Frank was like a chameleon with expressions and emotions. These elements help create a character that puts the audience on edge.

Despite being the only actress in Suddenly, Nancy Gates’ did a good job portraying her character, Ellen Benson! While watching this film, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Judy Garland’s acting abilities. This is because, like Judy, Nancy brought a gentleness to her role. Throughout the movie, Ellen always put others before herself. She tries to protect her son, Pidge, from a world she feels is too dangerous. That part of Ellen’s story gives Nancy an opportunity to bring genuine emotion to her role. Toward the beginning of the film, Ellen and Sheriff Tod Shaw, portrayed by Sterling Hayden, debate over her overprotective nature. When Tod brings up her deceased husband, Ellen is immediately moved to tears. James Gleason provides a good counterpart to Ellen Benson with his portrayal of her father, Peter Benson. In the film, he has a more easy-going, light-hearted personality. While I wouldn’t say he was the movie’s comic-relief, Peter did prevent the story from being too dark. Peter’s ability to adapt to any situation and his quick thinking give the audience peace of mind, as it shows he has a good head on his shoulders and will know what to do. It also helps that Peter was the glue that kept his family together.

The subject matter: I was not expecting Suddenly to contain the real-life subjects it did. But they provided a good insight into the views, beliefs, and issues within the time period of the movie’s release. Because the movie takes place in and premiered a decade after World War II, the characters discussed the negative impacts of war. John Baron’s part of the story kind of serves as a cautionary tale when it comes to a war’s psychological aftermath. As John’s plan starts to unravel, the Benson family and Tod accuse John of being “un-American”. This reflects the McCarthyism that primarily took place in the ‘50s.  United States history is also included in the story, with presidential assassination attempts brought up within the script. Tod argues these attempts were failures, because the perpetrators were not only caught, but also frowned upon in history. His insight into this particular subject is interesting, especially remembering what would happen a decade after the film’s release.

Film-Noir’s new setting: Whenever I think of the Film-Noir genre, I think of stories that take place either in big cities or shady places with a dark, ominous tone. With Suddenly, the story takes place in a small, suburban town. This type of location usually hosts stories that are light-hearted and matched with a happy ending. Suddenly’s pairing provided a good contradiction. It also expanded Film-Noir’s horizons, showing that movies from this genre can take place anywhere. It was a creative decision that was definitely thought outside the box!

Children holding American flags during a sunset image created by rawpixel.com at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People photo created by rawpixel.com – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Some weak performances: While I liked the majority of the acting performances in Suddenly, there were a few that were weak. One of those performances came from Sterling Hayden. When his character was involved in police/serious matters, Sterling successfully carried his character with stoic confidence. But when it came to tender-hearted moments, like when Tod is asking Ellen on a date, Sterling appeared stiff and wooden. Another performance that was weak was Kim Charney’s. I know Kim was a young actor when portraying Pidge. However, Kim carried one expression and emotion throughout the movie, causing Pidge to appear one-dimensional. I am aware that performances from young actors or actresses can be hit or miss. But, for me, Kim’s performance was a miss.

Unclear story details: Suddenly is the type of story where the audience figures out what’s going on as the film progresses. However, there are some parts of the story that don’t receive clarification. When John reveals his plan, he says he is being paid to carry it out. But the audience never learns who this anonymous benefactor is or why John is being paid in the first place. When telling Ellen about his past, John says the “experts” removed the feeling out of him. The identities of these “experts” and the reason for removing John’s feelings are never revealed. The omission of these answers feels like the film’s creative team is intentionally withholding information from the audience.

A self-contained story: The film-noir genre typically shows characters doing what they want and going where they please. This reminds me of Cady’s quote from Mean Girls: “The limit does not exist”. But in Suddenly, the majority of the story takes place in the Benson family home, as John is holding the family hostage. That part causes the movie to feel stagnant and limited, which is the opposite of film-noir’s nature. It also doesn’t help when the movie’s conflict is drawn out for most of the story.

Diner image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/american-vintage-restaurant-hand-drawn_902205.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/food”>Food vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

When I think about Tod’s view on presidential assassination attempts, I am reminded of the Touched by An Angel episode, “Beautiful Dreamer”. The majority of the episode’s story revolves around the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, with John Wilkes Booth believing the act will make people see him as a hero. Instead, he is seen as not only a coward, but also one of the most hated people in history. I find it interesting that two different pieces of media from two different time periods share a similar belief. Suddenly also makes me think of the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Foxfire. That’s because the 1954 film felt more like a play than a movie. During my viewing experience, I found myself picturing the Benson family home as a stage, with any event outside of the home taking place off-stage. With the story being self-contained, I honestly feel this production works better in that format. Suddenly provides good insight into parts of the 1950s, with the characters’ dialogue sounding authentic. I also liked seeing Frank Sinatra’s performance, as it shows just how far he can stretch his acting abilities.

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

Have you seen any of Frank Sinatra’s film? If so, which one is your favorite? Tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Shock (1946) Review (Clean Movie Month #5)

It’s now the end of Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month. For my second year participating, I’d say I did a pretty good job staying consistent with my content! Throughout July, I have reviewed five films; two from the ‘30s and three from the ‘40s. The film I will talk about in this review, Shock, is a part of those aforementioned five, boasting a release date from early 1946. This film was included in The Blog Complainer’s Random Movie Roulette series, which ended up being the best movie out of that collection. Because of Cameron’s review, I chose to include Shock in my Clean Movie Month line-up! While I usually watch movies from my DVR, cable, or through physical media, the only way I could watch this film is from Youtube, where it was posted on the Cult Cinema Classics channel. I’m glad I was able to watch it so I could bring you this review of Shock!

Shock poster created by 20th Century Fox. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shock_movie_poster.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: So far, I have seen The Whales of August and House of the Long Shadows. Despite seeing a small amount of films from Vincent Price’s filmography, I noticed something different about his performance in Shock. In this film, the character of Dr. Richard Cross was terrifying because of his influence and choices. Vincent also expressed emotions in subtle ways. Good examples came from when Richard expressed fear anytime someone brought up his wife’s murder. This cast was so strong, even secondary characters were memorable! Even though his character, Mr. Edwards, was in the movie for a short amount of time, John Davidson did a good job with the acting material he was given! His performance was emotionally driven, as he didn’t rely on dialogue. It added intensity to one of the film’s suspenseful scenes. The one actor who stole the show was Anabel Shaw, who portrayed Janet Stewart. Her emotionality was on point in this film! One beautiful example is when Janet witnesses the murder.

The music: The music in Shock did a good job setting the tone throughout the story! Whenever a suspenseful scene played out, ominous or dramatic music was heard. In a scene featuring Richard and Elaine, a sweeping tune that would usually be heard in romance films served as background music. Musicality also boosted these scenes, with the strong percussion of that scene’s tune landing right on an intense moment. This helped the musical element of the project maintain a sense of consistency.

Moments of suspense: In Shock, suspense was included in a few scenes. Within these parts of the story, the suspense’s execution was well done! One example is when Mr. Edwards has a fight with Elaine. The build-up toward the moment itself was steady, like someone walking to their destination. The surroundings of the characters were dark and mysterious, which worked in the favor of that scene. Mr. Edwards’ lack of speech makes the audience question his motives. All of these elements effectively came together to create one of the best scenes in this film!

Clean Movie Month banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/07/01/cleanmoviemonth2020-is-here/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Limited amount of suspense: As I previously mentioned, I liked the suspenseful scenes in this film. However, these scenes were very limited. When I read Cameron’s review of Shock, I believed the film would be similar to a story like Rear Window. In the Alfred Hitchcock picture, there was a consistent use of suspense, as the audience receives the mystery in pieces. Because the whodunit, howtheydunit, and whytheydunit of the mystery was revealed early on in Shock, it caused the story to not be as suspenseful as I thought it would be.

Under-utilized characters: A few under-utilized characters could be found in Shock. One of them was Mr. Edwards, who was featured in about three inter-connected scenes. Before these particular scenes appeared in the movie, Richard talks about Mr. Edwards’ mental regression, saying how the patient may need to be moved to a new facility. Because of these story-telling details, I was hoping Mr. Edwards would play a larger role in this story. Sadly, it just felt like he was in the film for the sake of being there.

A slower pace: Because Shock is classified as a film noir, the pace is going to be on the slower side. But most films in this specific genre have an under-lying suspense that consistently weaves through the overall narrative. Since the suspense in this film was limited, it caused the pace to be slower than it should have been, as the majority of the movie revolved around Janet’s prognosis. I’ve mentioned before that mysteries, more often than not, have faster paces. As I already said in this review, the mystery was revealed early in the story. This also prevented the pace from picking up speed.

Love of mental health image created by freepik at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/people”>People vector created by freepik – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

All of the movies I chose for Clean Movie Month were enjoyable in their own respective ways. If I were to rank them, however, Shock and Goodbye, Mr. Chips would be tied toward the bottom of the list. Shock was a fine film, with memorable aspects that made me like the picture for what it was. Anabel Shaw’s performance was one of the best parts of this project, outshining bigger stars like Vincent Price. But some things in this movie held it back from being stronger. One of the movie’s biggest flaws was the limited amount of suspense. Because of this creative choice, the majority of the story felt like a drama than a film noir. Shock is a Breen Code friendly film. But I was surprised by the references of excessive alcohol use that were included in the script.  When Janet’s husband is asking about Richard’s medical credentials, one of the hotel’s employees says that Richard can cure a hangover. When an investigator working on Richard’s wife’s case is talking to Richard about a potential suspect, he tells Richard that the suspect is a “drunkard”. An excessive amount of alcohol use is never glorified or promoted in a typical Breen Code film. This is why I was shocked (yes, that word choice was intentional) to find these statements in a movie from 1946.

Overall score: 7 out of 10

What are your thoughts on this year’s Clean Movie Month? Are you excited for A Month Without the Code? Tell me in the comment section?

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Alphaville Review

For July’s Genre Grandeur, the theme is “French Film Noir”. Originally, I was going to review a film released within the Breen Code Era, as I’ve been participating in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s Clean Movie Month. But anytime I searched for a French film noir title that premiered between 1934 and 1954, the movie was either too expensive to purchase or unavailable to rent. So instead, I chose to review the 1965 film, Alphaville, as I was able to rent it. In my review of Alice in the Cities, I said that out of all the movies I’ve seen and/or reviewed that were created outside of North America, most of them came from Europe. The majority of these films were released from France. While researching Alphaville, I learned that the movie is labeled as a science fiction story. As someone who has seen both film noir and sci-fi movies, I was curious to see what a story with this specific genre combination would look like.

Since I saw a picture of the film’s poster on my television, I decided to take a screenshot of it. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Because I’ve seen a limited number of French films, I wasn’t familiar with these actors and actresses. However, I thought the acting performances in Alphaville were good! Eddie Constantine’s portrayal of Lemmy Caution reminded me of the performances I’ve seen from John Wayne. What I mean by this is Eddie presented his character with a tough and masculine exterior, but allowed emotion to break through that exterior. He also adopted a “no nonsense” attitude that worked for a story of this nature. Anna Karina also gave a performance that worked for this story! She incorporated a gentleness to her portrayal of Natacha von Braun. This can be heard through her soft-spoken voice and seen through her caring nature. Throughout her performance, Anna displayed emotions in a subtle way. In one scene, when Lemmy is being arrested, Natacha can be seen crying as silently as possible. Despite appearing in the film for less than five scenes, I liked watching Akim Tamiroff’s portrayal of Henri Dickson! The best part about it was how believable it was. A good example of this is any time Henri was experiencing a heart attack, as pain could be seen in his face.

The cinematography: There were some scenes in Alphaville that were shot in interesting ways! This was accomplished by applying various film-making techniques. When Lemmy was walking to a particular location, a continuous shot followed Lemmy to his destination. A perfect example can be found toward the beginning of the film, when Lemmy is being led toward his hotel room. For scene transitions, flashing lights were incorporated to signify a bridge between scenes. After Alphaville’s computer, Alpha 60, is finished explaining one of the city’s many beliefs, a neon sign of a math equation flashes until a scene involving Lemmy begins. Toward the end of the movie, some scenes were presented using an infrared light. This was to show a glitch in Alphaville’s technological system.

The film’s sci-fi world: When most people think of the science fiction genre, fantastical worlds with elaborate costumes, set designs, and makeup are usually what come to mind. For Alphaville, the creative team purposefully chose to film in real-life locations. This decision causes the titular city to appear grounded in reality. The science fiction elements of this story were woven into the behaviors of the citizens and the beliefs they hold. Using what they already had to create a science fiction narrative allowed the movie’s creative team to submit a film that goes against the genre’s norm.

Magnifying fingerprints image created by Balintseby at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/glass”>Glass vector created by Balintseby – Freepik.com</a>. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/fingerprint-investigation_789253.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The film’s science fiction ideas: In a typical science fiction film, the sci-fi ideas are presented as understandable enough for the audience to know what’s happening on screen. This was unfortunately not the case for Alphaville. The ideas associated with this story were so high-concept and complex, that I found myself not understanding what the characters were talking about most of the time. It also doesn’t help that the characters fail to provide clearer explanations for these ideas. This feels like the creative team expected the audience to know what was being discussed before they saw the movie.

Lack of context: In my review of The Crow, I talked about how questions emerged without an answer or an elaboration being provided. This is the exact same mistake that the creative team behind Alphaville made. The majority of female characters in the 1965 picture can be seen with number tattoos. No context is given for why they have this type of tattoo or the meaning behind the tattoo itself. In one scene, Lemmy and Natacha are attending a gathering where people who disobey Alphaville’s beliefs are being punished. Natacha explains how there are more men than women who get punished at these gatherings. She never gives further explanation for why this is the case. Because of the lack of context, it adds to the story’s overarching confusion.

No sense of urgency: Film noir movies usually have a slower pace. This is done on purpose to flesh out the overall story. However, there is an underlying sense of urgency. While watching Alphaville, I could not detect any amount of urgency in the story. For most of the film, Lemmy could be seen in his hotel room, roaming around the city, or visiting the Alpha 60 headquarters on rare occasions. Even though he resolves the film’s conflict, this doesn’t happen until about the last twenty minutes.

Colorful galaxy image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/lovely-hand-drawn-galaxy-background_2943080.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background vector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

I like participating in Movierob’s Genre Grandeur blogathon because it gives me an opportunity to see films that I may not have watched otherwise. This is certainly the case for this month’s selection, Alphaville. A combination of sci-fi and film noir was something I hadn’t seen before. But I found it to be an interesting contribution to both genres. The world presented in this story is not always found in sci-fi narratives. Bringing a newer idea to the table is what basing the world in a more realistic setting did. Cinematography was also a highlight of this project. It gave the film’s creative team a chance to experiment with different film-making techniques. However, the overall story was just ok. This was caused by confusing science fiction ideas and a lack of context. The majority of content from this story flew over my head, as I didn’t understand what the characters were talking about most of the time. I was frustrated by the overall project because I wasn’t able to grasp the concepts within Alphaville.

Overall score: 6.1 out of 10

Have you seen any French film noirs? Are there any movies from this specific genre you’d like to see me review? Please tell me in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Big Sleep Review + 130 Follower Thank You

My blog received 130 followers last week! To all of my followers, thank you for helping 18 Cinema Lane become this successful! This review would not be possible without you! For this blog follower dedication review, I have chosen a movie that was released in August of 1946. By looking at the title, you would know that the film I selected is The Big Sleep! I’m going to be honest; I don’t watch films from the film-noir genre often. It’s just not a genre that I purposefully go out of my way to watch. However, because I, as a movie blogger, try to go out of my cinematic comfort zone, I still chose to watch The Big Sleep. I also discovered that this movie is labeled as a mystery. Since I review mystery films from time to time, I figured this would be something that I might enjoy. Choosing this particular movie for this review makes sense, especially since the last time I reviewed a mystery film for a blog follower dedication review was when I wrote about The Moon-Spinners back in January.

The Big Sleep poster
The Big Sleep poster created by Warner Bros. Image found at https://www.warnerbros.com/movies/big-sleep/.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: What helped bring this story to life was the acting performances! I’ve seen Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, so I was familiar with his acting style. His performance in The Big Sleep embodied the tone and attitude of the film. Humphrey’s character, Philip, could either be mysterious and serious or charming and suave. That’s because he was able to effectively portray those emotions and personas when he needed to. Before watching The Big Sleep, I was more familiar with Lauren Bacall’s voice-acting work than her on-screen performances. However, I was very impressed by her portrayal of Vivian Rutledge! Her acting style is similar to Humphrey’s, in that her performance is more subtle in presentation. Her on-screen personality ranged from serious and head-strong to flirty and charismatic. With each scene and scenario, Lauren brought believability to her role.

 

The mystery: If you’ve ever visited my blog, you’d know that I watch and review a lot of the programming on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. What makes The Big Sleep different from those movies is how the mystery is written. As the mystery plays out on screen, the audience gets to experience the events alongside the characters. This allows the surprises and twists to catch viewers off-guard. The way this mystery is written also gives the audience the feeling that they are sharing moments with the characters. It helps them connect with the protagonist and the people around him.

 

The tone: Because The Big Sleep is a part of the film-noir genre, the tone is darker and more serious. A strength this movie has is how consistent it was. Throughout the film, the subjects and ideas that were expressed belonged to the real world. This kept the story grounded and the characters realistic. Since there were stakes in The Big Sleep, everything was handled with seriousness and reverence. These things made the story mature without becoming too dark or unpleasant. All of the aforementioned components helped maintain this tone’s consistency.

detective-desktop-1240088-1280x960
Vintage detective desk photo created by Olivier Bourgeois at freeimages.com. Photo by <a href=”/photographer/ornicar69-54520″>Olivier Bourgeois</a> from <a href=”https://freeimages.com/”>FreeImages</a&gt; Image found at freeimages.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A limited amount of suspense: In some mystery stories, the suspense is consistent throughout the film. Unfortunately, The Big Sleep was not one of those films. The suspense in this movie was very limited. It almost seemed like it was utilized for the sake of plot convenience. This made some parts of the movie more interesting than others.

 

So many characters: Mystery movies usually have a larger cast of characters. Some of them serve as suspects for the mystery. In The Big Sleep, I felt like there were too many characters. Sometimes, it was difficult to remember who was who and their connection to the mystery. What didn’t help was having some characters appear on screen for a short amount of time. Not every character was introduced toward the beginning of the film, like most of the films on Hallmark Movie & Mysteries. This felt like the characters could come and go whenever they pleased.

 

Lack of lighting: There were some scenes in The Big Sleep that featured very little lighting. Because of this, I had a difficult time trying to see what was happening on screen. One example is the scene where the person who shot Arthur Gwynne Geiger was being arrested. I understand that this movie is classified as film-noir. But just because a film’s tone is dark, that doesn’t mean the scenes have to be dark in presentation.

Private detective office interior cartoon vector
Interior image of detective’s office created by Vectorpocket at freepik.com. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/vintage”>Vintage vector created by vectorpocket – http://www.freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

As I said in my introduction, film-noir is a genre that I don’t watch often. But, because this review is meant to thank my followers, I was willing to go out of my cinematic comfort zone and share my thoughts on films that I think are worth my followers’ time. The Big Sleep is a movie that I ended up liking. The mystery was interesting and I enjoyed seeing the acting performances. However, this film does have its flaws, such as having too many characters and lack of lighting. For someone, like me, who doesn’t watch a lot of movies from the film-noir genre, I’m glad I gave this film a chance! Something that I mentioned in my review was how I watch a lot of content from Hallmark Movies & Mysteries. When I talk about films like The Big Sleep, it helps me expand my cinematic horizons when it comes to mystery films. For my blog follower dedication reviews, I will continue to share films that are different from the last.

 

Overall score: 7.5 out of 10

 

Do you watch films from the film-noir genre? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen