Margin for Error (1943)

marginforerror_1Starring Joan Bennett, Milton Berle, Otto Preminger, Carl Esmond, Howard Freeman, Poldi Dur, Clyde Fillmore

Directed by Otto Preminger

Expectations: Moderate.

twohalfstar


Margin for Error is an interesting film for the way it handles tensions among Americans and Germans in the US during World War II, but interesting is about the kindest thing you could say about it. It’s not all that entertaining, nor does it deliver any deep message, so instead it just feels like some kind of pro-American propaganda film. The Germans are predominantly of the villainous “Sieg hiel!” variety, with the main villain sporting a monocle and doing absolutely nothing to hide his outright hatred of America, the country he’s living in and is a diplomat to. If he had a mustache you can bet he’d be twirling it like the war depended on it, too.

But before we get to this guy, Margin for Error opens on a military boat carrying a load of soldiers off to some unnamed foreign shore or WWII battle. Max (Carl Esmond), one of the soldiers, has a thick German accent. When the red-blooded American soldiers give him a hard time, Moe (Milton Berle) stops the group and tells them the story of how Max came to become an enlisted man. No, this doesn’t lead into a 1940s version of the Full Metal Jacket boot camp scenario; it’s about the intrigue that develops at the German consulate in some unnamed East Coast city.

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Confirm or Deny (1941)

confirmordeny_2Starring Don Ameche, Joan Bennett, Roddy McDowall, John Loder, Raymond Walburn, Arthur Shields, Eric Blore, Helene Reynolds, Roseanne Murray, Stuart Robertson, Queenie Leonard, Jean Prescott, Billy Bevan

Directed by Archie Mayo

Expectations: Moderate.

threestar


Confirm or Deny is an interesting film because it’s so unique. It’s hard to classify as it’s kind of a thriller, it’s kind of romantic, and it also has an almost fly-on-the-wall, documentary-like feel in its depiction of the war correspondents working in London during The Blitz, a series of Nazi air raids on British cities during World War II. These air raids happened from September 1940 to May 1941, so with a release date in December 1941, Confirm or Deny was also quite the topical film.

The original draft of the story was written by Sam Fuller and star journalist Hank Wales (who, according to Fuller, was the basis for the Hitchcock film Foreign Correspondent). The two newsmen caught wind of the Associated Press offices getting bombed during the Battle of Britain, so they decided to write a film about newsmen doing everything in their power to get the news out despite these incredible, extraordinary circumstances. The finished film reflects a lot of this general feeling, although like all of Fuller’s early scripts, the studio heavily re-wrote Confirm or Deny to fit their desires more closely. I’m guessing they added the romantic angle, as it really doesn’t fit at all, nor is it very believable or romantic.

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Suspiria (1977)

Suspiria (1977)

Starring Jessica Harper, Udo Kier, Joan Bennett, Alida Valli, Stefania Casini, Miguel Bosé, Flavio Bucci, Barbara Magnolfi

Directed by Dario Argento

Expectations: High. It’s Suspiria, even normal people have heard of it, so I’m assuming it’s good.


 

Well I guess there’s a reason why this is so popular! Suspiria is the Italian horror film to see if you don’t care for Italian horror films, as it has enough creepiness, fear and mystery to make it one hell of an interesting movie. Argento’s previous films tend to need a bit of coaxing and mental adjusting to experience properly. I don’t mean this necessarily in a bad way, it is a natural process I go through when I venture down a new path of foreign films. I find that I need to see a few before I can understand the rhythms and the flow they move at. I don’t watch foreign movies for more of the same, and in order to properly absorb them, some leeway must be given to allow for them to grow on me. If nothing takes root after a few films, then I leave that path behind and try something new. Coming into Suspiria I was a bit unsure if I’d continue down the Giallo path, but I find myself constantly thinking back to the Argento films I’ve watched over this past month and while I might have been less than completely impressed initially, I am haunted by the inventive shots and horrific scenes contained within them. Suspiria solidifies my interest in the Italian horror genre and is probably the most immediately likable of the Argento films I have seen so far.

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