Blogathon: Cool Off With The Classics

Another month, another movie blogathon! Marc over at Go, See, Talk came up with another great idea that is sure to start making its rounds in the film blogging community. The idea here is to “Cool Off With The Classics” — that is, to compile a list of black & white classics you would watch to “beat the heat.” Since I have been digging into more classics than usual lately, I thought this would be a fun event to participate in. So here we go… ten of my favorite B&W movies.

12 Angry Men [1957]
1) 12 Angry Men [1957]
Sidney Lumet’s early classic was one of my first experiences with a black & white film. I watched this for the first time in high school and could not believe that an “old movie” set in a courtroom could maintain my interest from beginning to end. An incredible film, and one that I absolutely must see again soon.

The Third Man [1949]
2) The Third Man [1949]
I saw this for the first time earlier this year and fell in love with it. There is so much to like about this movie, and of course it has some of the most memorable moments in cinematic history (such as Orson Welles’ big reveal). The closing shot is one of the best I have ever seen.

Crashout [1955]
3) Crashout [1955]
I caught this earlier this month at the Music Box Theatre’s awesome Noir City Festival. This rarely-seen prison break movie is a lot of fun, and surprisingly brutal for its time period.

Among the Living [1941]
4) Among the Living [1941]
Another rarely-screened movie that I caught at the Noir City Festival. This is a wonderful noir/horror hybrid with great performances from Albert Dekker and Susan Hayward.

Citizen Kane [1941]
5) Citizen Kane [1941]
This is the movie that made me excited to see more classics. We watched the entirety of the film in my university’s Music & Film class, and I was quite frankly amazed. One of the best of all time, obviously, and it felt great to finally understand the lyrics to the Kane-referencing White Stripes song, “The Union Forever“.

City Lights
6) City Lights [1931]
My 50 Movies Project is already reaping dividends, as it provided the means for me to catch this Chaplin silent classic. Words are not needed for Chaplin’s dynamic Tramp character, and his endless pursuit of love is inspiring (with hilarious results).

The Day The Earth Stood Still [1951]
7) The Day The Earth Stood Still [1951]
I am not a big sci-fi fan, so I was a little skeptical about this movie. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it. Intelligent, entertaining and backed by Bernard Herrmann’s incredible therimin-driven score, this is one of the better sci-fi films I have seen, regardless of age.

The Killing [1956]
8 ) The Killing [1956]
One of Kubrick’s earliest films is one of my favorites from him, and it has been heavily influential over the years (most notably for Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs). An exciting, well-crafted heist noir.

Steamboat Bill, Jr. [1928]
9) Steamboat Bill, Jr. [1928]
I have only seen two, maybe three, Buster Keaton movies, but this is the one I have enjoyed the most. Lots of laughs and some ridiculous physical stunts make this one of the more memorable silent films I have seen.

Seven Samurai [1954]
10) Seven Samurai [1954]
It is a testament to the film’s brilliance that I am able to sit through the full three hours without ever once growing bored or impatient. I saw it for the first time last year and it just blew me away. The quintessential samurai film.

Be sure to check out the rest of the participants in this blogathon, and feel free to join in on the fun as well.

Music Box Theatre’s Noir City: Chicago 3: Crashout [1955] and The Story of Molly X [1949]

For the third year in a row, Chicago’s legendary Music Box Theatre is hosting a Film Noir festival. A grab bag of cinematic classics and rarities, Noir City began last Friday and will conclude tomorrow evening. I was out of town for the first few days of the festival, so I missed out on some choice titles such as New York Confidential and The Blue Dahlia. I was able to go on Tuesday, however, and caught the “Men and Women of Conviction” double feature. Both movies are not available on DVD, so I was pleased to catch both of them on the big screen.

Crashout [1955, Lewis R. Foster]
Crashout [1955, Lewis R. Foster]
Six survivors of a prison break meet up in a hidden cave and agree to work together to escape the area. One convict, Van Morgan Duff (William Bendix), leads them along with the promise of sharing his bank loot that is buried deep in the mountains.

While dodging cops and watchmen, the convicts push forward by taking innocent people hostage and escaping increasingly tricky situations. It’s a suspenseful affair that includes some surprisingly brutal moments (such as the off-screen moment where someone is bludgeoned to death with a rock). The cast is great, although I did find Luther Adler’s performance to be a little too over-the-top. Bit roles from two lovely women (Beverly Michaels and Gloria Talbot) are welcome additions as well.

Crashout has a fun, quick pace, and it is wildly entertaining throughout. I thought the last scene was a little weak, but it still wrapped things up nicely. One of the better prison escape films I have seen. 8.5/10

The Story of Molly X [1949, Crane Wilbur]
The Story of Molly X [1949, Crane Wilbur]
This one was quite a bit different than what I was expecting. June Havoc stars as Molly X, a “brass-knuckled dame” who takes over her boyfriend’s gang after he is murdered. After finding out who killed her lover, Molly shoots down the assailant in cold blood and subsequently finds herself in a women’s prison. As the title indicates, the movie tells her story…

I have to say that it was refreshing to see a woman leading in this type of film. In the early stages, Molly X is gruff and doesn’t take shit from anyone. When she is locked up, she starts to break down and this is when the film starts to suffer. The entire middle section of the movie follows the introspective battles that Molly is dealing with, and it loses the grittiness that made the beginning (and later, the end) so intriguing. It’s an interesting character study, no doubt, but it kind of drags along before picking back up near the end.

I enjoyed The Story of Molly X, but it was a little underwhelming coming after the exciting Crashout. Still, June Havoc’s wonderful lead performance makes the movie worth watching. 6.5/10