The other day I watched a film called “Caught” (1949), by the great German-born director Max Ophüls. I’ve seen “The Earrings of Madame de” (1953) (originally at The Brattle in Harvard Square, circa 1979) and “Letter to an Unknown Woman” (1948) multiple times.
But “Caught” was new to me, and afterwards I thought to share with all ten of my readers some of the many movies I’ve enjoyed in 2018.
The Laemmle Playhouse 7 is right down the street from me, so I do see a certain number of first-run pictures.But I’m also a sucker for black and white films from the 40s through 60s with evil femme fatales, sadistic husbands, conniving mistresses, deranged prison wardenesses, and demented DIY surgeons. I thrive on close-ups of faces, twisted with love, terror, and the anguish of betrayal especially, as was often the case in those pre-airbrushed days, when accompanied by bad teeth, clearly false facial hair, and (for the women) half-inch thick painted-on eyebrows.
The male lead in “Caught,” a pathologically money-hoarding multi-millionaire, was reportedly modeled on Howard Hughes. So of course I then had to brush up on Howard Hughes. At wiki I learned: “In 1958, Hughes told his aides that he wanted to screen some movies at a film studio near his home. He stayed in the studio’s darkened screening room for more than four months, never leaving. He ate only bars and chicken and drank only milk. and was surrounded by dozens of Kleenex boxes that he continuously stacked and re-arranged.
He wrote detailed memos to his aides giving them explicit instructions neither to look at him nor speak to him unless spoken to. Throughout this period, Hughes sat fixated in his chair, often naked, continually watching movies. When he finally emerged in the summer of 1958, his hygiene was terrible.”
Substitute super-strong coffee for milk, black licorice Twizzlers for chocolate bars and chicken, and the edge of my hoodie sleeve for Kleenex (I do NOT watch movies naked!) and that person could have been me.
I mean doesn’t everyone spend around mid-November through mid-March holed up in his or her room catching up on all the films they missed during those pesky months filled with warmth and sun?
Somehow “Caught,” in which James Mason plays a doctor and the love interest of Barbara bel Geddes, led me to “The Seventh Veil” (1945),which somehow led me to a couple of websites devoted exclusively to British cinema from the 60s “kitchen sink” era, which somehow led me to fandor, and all I can say now is God help me.
So far from that particular cache I’ve seen “Jungle Street” (1960), “Saturday Night Out” (1964), and the truly delicious “Blind Corner” (1963) (stellarly sinister wife of blind concert pianist plots with lover to kill him) and I am already thinking I should really limit myself to one or eight a week.
Here are a few other random films I’ve especially liked this past year:
Room at the Top (1959): (Laurence Harvey at his weaselly best)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957): (Burt Lancaster in iconic role of newspaper gossip columnist J.J. Hunsecker)
The Face of Another (1966): (creepy black and white Japanese existential drama; features skin-grafting)
Seconds (1966): (the gruesome dangers of man-made “rebirth,” starring Rock Hudson)
Patterns (1956): (written by Rod Serling: the wages of corporate greed on soul)
Come Back, Little Sheba (1952): (Burt Lancaster as alcoholic husband, Shirley Booth as annoying but beloved wife)
Jet Storm (1959): (air travel in the days when people dressed up to fly, you could still smoke, and the TSA didn’t pre-check passengers for bombs)
The Awful Dr. Orlof (1961): (former prison doctor, aided by blind henchman Morpho, abducts beautiful women from nightclubs and tries to use their skin (clearly an obsession of mine) to repair his daughter’s fire-scarred face)
The Browning Version (1951): (splendid British boarding school drama)
The Comedians (1967): (based on the Graham Greene novel, with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, sizzling)
The Pumpkin-Eater (1964): (philandering college professor husband encourages wife and mother to have an abortion with devastating results. With Anne Bancroft and Peter Finch)
Phaedra (1962): (Beyond! An absolute must-see. Melina Mercouri and Anthony Perkins)
Which reminds me–There’s a seminarian who helps out at morning Mass and who looks exactly like Tony P. in “Psycho.”
He wears a pristine white alb, neatly belted at the waist, and as I pass by him kneeling at his prie-dieu after the Eucharist, I always half-expect him to look up and say “…Mother?”