Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Dedicated to Hollywood icon Olivia de Havilland on her 100th birthday Speaking honestly, The Snake Pit, released in 1948, is kind of a bad movie. It’s a thick slab of 20th Century Fox Post-War Message Movie, and if it remains more watchable than the previous year’s Gentleman’s Agreement, that’s only because every movie in history […]

A review requested by Hunter Allen, with thanks for contributing to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser. No less an expert on the films of Alfred Hitchcock than Alfred Hitcock himself once described his 1948 feature Rope as “an experiment that didn’t work out”, and who am I to disagree with Alfred Hitchcock? […]

The development of film noir, the not-quite-a-genre that wouldn’t be named until after the fact, but which dominated American genre filmmaking in the 15 years after World War II, snakes this way and that, constantly churning and turning out new variations on a theme. But it’s still possible to pin it down on a map […]

In 1948, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello met Frankenstein (as well as the wolf man and Dracula, and point in fact, they don’t meet Frankenstein, just his monster), and two flagging brands were revived. One of those was Universal horror, which had completely flatlined after 1945, as part of a more general fading of big […]

Horror, in its broadest construction, has always been something of a faddish genre. There have been comedies and character dramas for as long as there have been movies, and depending on where you want to set the margins around “action movie”, they’ve existed in some for or another for nearly as long. Horror, though, has […]

A review requested by Chris W, with thanks for contributing to the Second Quinquennial Antagony & Ecstasy ACS Fundraiser. Out of the Past is not the best film noir ever made, nor does it necessarily include everything that makes the genre its beautifully toxic best self (there’s a distinct lack of urban rot, which I […]

The Woman on Pier 13 had previews under the title I Married a Communist, and only came into its far less show-offy title when the test audiences rejected it for reasons that probably make perfect sense in the cultural context of 1949, but all it really says to me is that people used to have […]

The caveat first: throughout this Hollywood Century project, I’ve been using a definition of “Hollywood’ that limits us to films produced solely on money contributed by Los Angeles-based movie sturdios, or by independents working in the shadow of Hollywood. I’m now making a big exception for the first time, to accommodate 1948’s The Search, a […]

“Oh the Protestants hate the Catholics,And the Catholics hate the Protestants,And the Hindus hate the Muslims,And everybody hates the Jews.” -Tom Lehrer, “National Brotherhood Week” Some years ago, Northwestern film professor and queer studies scholar Nick Davis* wrote an analysis of the 2009 Best Actress Oscar race that included one of those perfectly formed and […]

I’m not the first nor the hundredth nor the thousandth to point out that the explosion of film noir could only have happened in the aftermath of World War II (the genre was established by 1940, and its roots extend back into Germany in the ’20s, but as a phenomenon, it’s a strictly post-war concern). […]

Every week this summer, we’ll be taking an historical tour of the Hollywood blockbuster by examining an older film that is in some way a spiritual precursor to one of the weekend’s wide releases. This week: Man of Steel has brought the grandaddy of all superheroes back to pop culture life, 2013-style. For, of course, […]

Written in honor of the legendary stop-motion animator and special effects technician Ray Harryhausen, who passed away on 7 May, 2013, at the age of 92. With all my sincerest gratitude for the menagerie of fantastic and prehistoric animals given life by his hands, and the unimpeachable matinee-movie thrills that even now I get when […]