1950s movies marathon – part 116

Horror of Dracula (1958, UK)

Peter Cushing hunts down Cristopher Lee to punish him for his crimes against symphonic metal. Watched it all. This isn’t a good Dracula, but it is a very fun one, the most fun anyone had made up to that point, with blood and cleavage and gothic camp in screaming color. The Bela Lugosi version is the one everybody remembers, and calls a classic, for some reason I don’t understand. It was horrible, and was made at the lowest point in Hollywood history, right at the birth of sound movies. You’re better off watching this.

Touch of Evil – Director’s cut (1958, USA, Welles)

I’m confused by how popular this movie is. The self-conscious stylishness screams at you from every scene. Orson Welles is awful, his character is a caricature whose purpose seems to be to demonstrate Welles’s acting talent, and Charlton Heston feels off somehow, perhaps because no amount of makeup can make him look or sound like an authentic Mexican. The result is interesting, but a flawed masterpiece? Film buffs are very strange people.  Watched it before, and half of it this time.

Ascenseur pour l’echafaud / Elevator to the Gallows (1958, France)

A quiet murder farce where the punch line is revealed in slow motion throughout the second half of the movie, but is no less funny for it. Watched it all. Who knew French filmmakers (other than Tati) had a sense of humor?

1950s movies marathon – part 115

The Master Builder (1958, UK)

My favorite way to view Ibsen’s Byggmester Solness is as a preview of the rise (and – spoiler alert – fall) of fascism. The connection seemed obvious to me the first time I saw it. Solness believes that certain chosen people have the power to bend the world to their will, and he wishes for the sort of sturdy viking’s conscience that allows you take what you like without feeling bad about it. So he’s a proto-fascist. Later I learned that this is not a common interpretation. Don’t ask me why. Watched it all.

Ivan Brovkin na tseline (1958, USSR)

Not all late 50s Soviet movies portray the hardships of Soviet life as a sort of anvil that you forge beauty and greatness on, they’re not all surprisingly sentimental movies where the humans are more human precisely because the factories are brown and the bureaucrats gray, where the system isn’t perfect but the next generation will set it all right, (you can see it in their eyes). Some are also reflections of that grayness, like this p.c. story about the patriotic youth on the collective farm. Watched: 11 minutes.

The Trollenberg Terror (1958, UK)

Headless corpses, radioactive clouds, walking dead, and clairvoyant girls. The horror sound movie didn’t start with the Universal “classics” in the 1930s, but in the UK in the late 50s. There was little worth watching inbetween, (trust me on this). Now there are both good horror movies, like the Hammer ones, and enjoyable mediocre ones, like this. Watched it all.

1950s movies marathon – part 114

The Man Upstairs (1958, UK)

The madman on the top floor wanders about at night, freezing, erratic, causing a nuisance for his neighbors. Everybody sees something different in him, something that confirms their own view of the world. Political and philosophical points are made over him. An entire civil mini-society is created from the struggle over what to do with him. But in the end he’s still just a madman who wanders about at night, freezing, and erratic, oblivious to the meaning he holds for others. Watched it all. I think this may be the first British message movie done in that cramped, stage-like style of American movies like Fourteen Hours. I like that style.

Cairo Station (1958, Egypt)

Drinking, partying, men who collect softcore pornography, flirtatious girls without hijabs. And one or two religious busybodies who stand in the background and complain about how scandalous it all is, ha ha. Want to guess who had the last laugh? Watched: Bits and pieces.

Vynalez Zkazy / The Fabulous World of Jules Verne / Deadly Invention (1958, Czechoslovakia)

There’s not really any Jules Verne here, except in the sense that the movie creates a world populated by illustrations from Jules Verne books, and is shot in such a way that every scene looks like an illustration in a 19th century novel. Watched it all. The story isn’t much, but the visuals – unbelievable. Don’t miss it if you enjoy (the fun-loving form of) steampunk. There’s also a bit of foreshadowing of Terry Gilliam here.

1950s movies marathon – part 113

Vertigo (1958, USA, Hitchcock)

Woman is an inscrutable being, mysteriously connected to all womanhood before her, and also possibly trying to use you for her own evil ends. At least the exciting Kim Novak type is. For the man who has lost all taste for adventure, there’s always the safe Barbara Bel Geddes type to fall back on. Watched it before, and again now. This movie made #1 of a recent all-time movie list. Ranking movies is an odd undertaking that has little to do with loving them, but if you have to choose a number one, it should be a movie without flaws, and with a few touches of greatness. This is that – the opening titles (above) are one of thouse touches. But nobody is ever going to truly love a movie like this. That’s reserved for movies with more greatness, and more flaws.

Aphrodite, Goddess of Love (1958, Italy)

True Italian peplum! Well, basically a Hollywood Bible epic, with the usual early Christians and the obligatory decadent banquet scenes etc. Boring. Watched: 26 minutes.

The Time Element (1958, USA)

Rod Serling! In a proto-Twilight Zone TV movie! See, there are two tracks of science fiction, one fantastical, and one idea-oriented. Ideas dominate in novels, especially in the best of the 1940s and 50s, but Serling brings that track over to television with The Twilight Zone. And this is a preview of that, a time travel story that would have made a typical short story for the time, not brilliant, but good enough. Watched it all.

1950s movies marathon – part 108

Throne of Blood (1957, Kurosawa)

The warlord’s court is full of soldiers and guards, trained to kill, and armed to the teeth, every one of them, but when they all start murdering each other for no good reason at all, sure, let’s blame it all on the one woman character in the entire movie! (Who said watching movies from a feminist perspective can’t be fun?) Watched it all. I like this better than the Scottish version.

Woman Basketball Player No 5 (1957, China)

Chinese youth are full of life and a little bit “naughty”, or at least that’s the word the subtitles use. Watched: 8 minutes. For some reason, watching late 50s Chinese movies makes me feel a little bit peckish.

The Sweet Smell of Success (1957, USA)

A small-time press agent with big ambitions sucks up to the city’s most powerful asshole columnist, because the only place to be in society for a status-starving sociopath is right at the top, baby, right at the top where you can stamp on the fingers of all the other greedy bastards. Watched it all. This is like an unclean version of All About Eve, where the glamour has gone away, and all you’re left with is a bare-knuckles street fight over status and power.

The best movies of 1957

The ones you’ve already seen

12 Angry Men

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Paths of Glory

Hammer time

The Curse of Frankenstein

The Abominable Snowman


3:10 to Yuma

The Tin Star

Men in War

My Gun is Quick

The Lonely Man


Throne of Blood

Quatermass 2

A Face in the Crowd

Nachts wenn der Teufel kam

The Snow Queen


Ni liv

Ill Met by Moonlight

Saint Joan

The Sweet Smell of Success

The Good Soldier Svejk

Mito Komon

Don Quixote


The Cranes are Flying


Different Fortunes

Next up: 1958, on account of it being the year that followed 1957, with some 643 movies and clips in the queue.

1950s movies marathon – part 112

3:10 to Yuma (1957, USA)

There was a remake of this a couple of years ago. What a sad thing that is, to make a remake of a perfect movie. You don’t have the luck of the original, all those little touches that just happened to turn out right. You don’t have a boyishly evil Glenn Ford. All you have is a few scraps of plot, and a famous title. What a sad, sad thing. Watched it all.

Raznye Sudby / Different Fortunes (1957, USSR)

Forget France and Italy. Russia in the 50s is the place for young people to be in love. Even the steel plants look romantic. Watched it all. The world of the Soviet Dream is amazing, and, in this case, oddly capitalistic: Newlyweds make ends meet by taking extra jobs, and forego creative dreams by becoming workers and bureaucrats, because whatever else you can say about communism, none of the characters in these movies believe that it is magic, that it creates wealth out of thin air. (That belief is reserved for modern welfare state dependents.)