Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

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 […]

We’re not so far past Valentine’s Day that I can’t share with you what I think to be one of the great, specifically American love stories ever put to film, a sex-soaked film noir from either 1949 or 1950, depending on your source. Customarily known nowadays as Gun Crazy, it went through most of its […]

It doesn’t speak well of this series that I took off two months after only two entries, but going forward, there shouldn’t be any gaps for a while. Please enjoy my continued soul-bearing. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, a 1948 vehicle for Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, enjoys a prominence in the private mythology […]

Inasmuch as it’s ever the “wrong” time to adapt a movie from one of the foundational texts of contemporary Western literature, 1952 was an odd year for 20th Century Fox to mount a new American Les Misérables. The 1930s’ great spate of prestige pictures based on classic 19th Century novels that had birthed the studio’s […]

1945 and the end of the eight years of World War II brought about many changes in manners sociological, cultural, and aesthetic; as will happen when civilization-defining conflicts end. We are going to concern ourselves at present with only one, a small one in the grand scheme: the sudden death of horror in American cinema. […]

The next several decades of undying controversy notwithstanding, the 1946 release Song of the South was a game-changing project for Walt Disney Productions: it was not just a more than fair box-office hit, it was one of the few films that company released between 1942 and 1950 for which that can honestly be said. While […]

My deepest thanks to reader Andre Virul for providing me with a copy of this film. Writing about Song of the South is incredibly tricky, because every fiber in my being wants to treat it as one thing, a technologically innovative film and one of the key steps in the development of the Walt Disney […]

It is readily observed that there were six package films produced by the Disney Studios from 1942 to 1949, a desperate cost-saving measure in the years during and immediately following World War II. Not so obvious is the fact that these six films can be easily broken into three pairs: two Latin American goodwill efforts, […]

I think it might be really fun to bring one of these Disney reviews in under 2000 words again, so I’m going to skip the history lesson this time, except to reiterate what happened to the Disney Studios in the post-war ’40s: Walt Disney was inattentive, they were running out of money, and the package […]

It’s all on display right there in the title: Fun and Fancy Free. I do not know but that I catch a slight whisper of defiant desperation in those words, but then, Make Mine Music is still fresh in my memory, and that is enough to make it clear that things at Disney were not […]

It is a known thing that Walt Disney took the failure of Fantasia badly, and on a rather personal level. The film that was to have been the culmination of his artistic ambitions become a well-reviewed box-office meltdown, and if the studio never again came even close to making such a self-consciously artsy movie again, […]

And so we come to the death rattle of Universal horror. For some reason that will only ever be known to those involved, the studio suits determined that the best way to retire their classic monsters was to mix traditional horror cinema with the comedy duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The first of […]