Category Archives: 1959

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Sebastian said, “Truth is the bottom of a bottomless well.”

— Mrs. Venable

After the untimely passing of Elizabeth Taylor, I’m glad that her filmography will be center stage on the upcoming LAMB Acting School 101. I was surprised at myself that I have never reviewed one of Ms. Taylor’s before now. That changed with the big screen adaptation of Tennessee William’s play, Suddenly, Last Summer. It was nominated for three Oscars including Best Actress nominations for Katharine Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. The movie at times was make making it hard to sit still.

The story takes place in 1937 where a young neurosurgeon, Dr. John Cukrowicz (Montogemry Clift) is performing brain surgery on a deranged woman at the Lions Views State Asylum. He is performing an experimental procedure called a lobotomy. He is disappointed with the lack of proper equipment at the place that he threatens to quit.

Dr. Lawrence Hockstader (Albert Dekker) gives John a letter from a would-be patron, Mrs. Violet Venable (Hepburn) who wants him to perform the experimental surgery on her niece, Catherine Holly (Taylor) who is locked away at another asylum, St. Mary’s. They agree to meet at the Venable house to discuss matters. John is caught off guard with the overgrown jungle in the backyard of the estate.

Mrs. Venable talks endlessly about her son, Sebastian that died a year earlier. Apparently, Catherine was there that faithful day when Sebastian died. The incident has driven her to madness. It was described as dementia praecox to her. Catherine is having strange hallucinations about the incident, and she is taking out her frustrations on the staff there. They want Catherine to leave soon. Mrs. Venable thinks that the procedure would cure her of her ramblings.

John goes to St. Mary’s to see if Catherine’s condition in genuine or not. As he hides in a dark corner of the room, he watches Catherine burn a nun’s hand with her lit cigarette. when John tries to questions Catherine about the death of Sebastian, she cannot remember anything. He decides to transfer her to Lion’s View where he could keep a close eye on her and try to chip away at the mind block that she had about the incident.

As John is getting closer to the truth of Sebastian’s death, the more skeletons flying out of the closet.

The movie overall was entertaining to watch, but the grandoise speeches were a bit much for me to take. Mrs. Venable going on infinitum about Sebastian was tiring to watch. I thought Hepburn and Taylor deserved their nominations. I thought that Hepburn was probably placed in the wrong category. It seemed like a supporting role to me.

The final revelation at the end saved this movie for me.

Judgment: This lesser known Williams’ movie should be seen.

Rating: 7/10

The 400 Blows (1959)

Now, Doinel, go get some water and erase those insanities, or I’ll make you lick the wall, my friend.

— Petite Feuille

People have been urging me to watch François Truffaut’s film, The 400 Blows, which is currently the #225 Film of All-Time on IMDb. Apparently, Truffaut was instrumental in the French New Wave movement where the characters felt genuine and not manufactured. Not having any earthly idea what the movie was about. I was surprised that Turner Classic Movies was showing it. It was my lucky day. I watched this movie in the early morning hours. I was quite impressed with it.

The story follows a troubled young man named Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) living in a small Parisian apartment with his exacerbated mother, Gilberte (Claire Maurier) and his easy-going father, Julien (Albert Rémy). Trouble seems to find its way to Antoine when his teacher, Petite Feuille aka Sourpuss (Guy Decomble) catches him with a pin-up calendar in his hands. He is made an example when he had to stand in the corner while his classmates enjoy recess. He scribbles a phrase on the classroom walls, which gets him in more trouble.

Gilberte is always short with Antoine, because of his bad behavior in school. She has to be a mother, a cook and be able to work a part time job all at the same time. Julien tries to inject some humor in their gloomy situation. Antoine has to sleep in a cot next to the kitchen.

The next day, Antoine is late for school when his schoolmate, René (Patrick Auffay) tells him to skip school with him. He decides to tagalong on a day venture, which cumulated with catching his mother kissing another man out on the street. Asked what he had done that day, Antoine told his father a lie. He never told him about his mother. Later that night, his mother leaves word that she will be working late and doesn’t come home until Antoine’s bedtime. The parents get into a screaming match about something unrelated.

Another schoolmate blows the whistle on Antoine’s lie when he knocks on the door the next morning. Unbeknownst to Antoine, he let another lie spill out about a death in the family. His parents swap personalities all of sudden, but that does not deter Antoine from falling into a downward spiral.

At first, I thought this movie was about the boy growing up as a petty thief. After the movie was over, I come to realize that this movie is part of a series of five films that followed Antoine Doniel throughout his life young life. I’m getting the itch to see what happens next to Antoine. I’m not saying that the movie is a masterpiece, but it was certainly a ride that I will never forget.

Judgment: If you are unfamiliar with Truffaut, this is a good place to start.

Rating: ****

North by Northwest (1959)

north_by_northwest

Now you listen to me, I’m an advertising man, not a red herring. I’ve got a job, a secretary, a mother, two ex-wives and several bartenders that depend upon me, and I don’t intend to disappoint them all by getting myself “slightly” killed.

— Roger Thornhill

Being the last day of June, I will continue to watch more classic movies from now on. Watching another Alfred Hitchcock classic, North by Northwest. It was nominated for three Oscars. It is currently#30 of the Top 250 of All Time on IMDB. This is another example of why Hitchcock is underrated as a director.

Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) is an ordinary advertising executive that is caught up in a complex spy game when he is kidnapped by two henchmen, Valerian (Adam Williams) and Licht (Robert Ellenstein).

He is taken to estate by the name of Townsend. There is a man named Robert Vandamm (James Mason) thinks that he is an international spy named George Kaplan. Robert and his right hand man, Leonard (Martin Landau) question him about his intentions.

This tale of mistaken identity has many twists and turns that will spoil the movie.

Judgment: Another great movie by Hitchcock that should be seen.

Rating: ****1/2

House on Haunted Hill (1959)

house_on_haunted_hill

Once, the door is locked, there is no way out. The windows have bars the jail would be proud of and the only door to the outside locks like a vault.

— Fredrick Loren

Yesterday afternoon when I was surfing on the interwebs, I wanted to see a short movie. I logged on to Hulu and found the original House on Haunted Hill and watched it. This movie made want to watch 1999 remake again in a continuous loop. That’s saying a lot.

A wealthy man, Fredrick Loren (Vincent Price) invites half a dozen people to his mansion to stay alive during the night. Just like what I remember from the remake. Nothing much has changed.

This movie fails to deliver the suspense. It was not atmospheric. The dialogue was clunky. The acting left me cold.

It was a short movie, but not a good one.

Judgment: Watch the remake. Avoid this movie.

Rating: **

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