My Cousin Rachel (1952) Olivia de Haviland/Richard Burton

I have a confession. I’ve never read any Daphne du Maurier. I plan to remedy this soon. She concocts impressive plots and they’ve been made into legendary films.

Saw Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) as a kid of course; fabulous.

Don’t Look Now (1974) with Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, well, wow. A fine example of how parents had no idea what we kids were watching. I saw it as a young teen and it scared me silly. It remains one of the weirdest movies that I like. Haunting. Dreamlike. Creepy. I recently got the book, but haven’t gotten to it yet. Eager to know how true to the book the film was. It’s high on the to-read-next-pile.

Rebecca (1940) with Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, and a small part by George Sanders who is so much fun to dislike. Also a Hitchcock classic. Perfection.

But last night, watched My Cousin Rachel for the first time. Had never heard of it! How is that possible? Wowee. In the gothic tradition of Rebecca, but directed by David O. Selznick, it should stand firmly with the greats, Rebecca (1940; Wuthering Heights (1939); Laura (1944) Clifton Webb, Dana Andrews, Gene Tierney; and Gaslight (1944) Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotton, Charles Boyer.

The plot is simple enough: a young man (Richard Burton) is raised by his devoted uncle, Ambrose Ashley. His uncle leaves for Italy, but does not return as planned, instead, he marries a distant cousin and remains in Italy. Not long after, the nephew receives two letters indicating that the uncle is unwell and suggests that his wife is killing him. The nephew packs off to Italy only to arrive too late, the uncle has just died and his wife has vacated their home.

It’s all very suspicious. The nephew vows to get revenge. All seems straightforward until he meets his cousin Rachel; she is not at all the gold-digging viper he imagined.

Or is she?

Don’t want to give too much away. This film grabbed me and kept me guessing. Just love it!

And check out how young Richard Burton was! “Introducing Richard Burton!”

The stunning film is in black and white. The cinematography is gorgeous. The acting is superb–and it really was acting, as they seem to have convincing chemistry when in real life Burton had issues with his prima donna leading lady.

Check out the trailer!

As with all films it seems, there has been a remake and even a TV mini series. Can’t speak to them; haven’t seen them. Well worth a gander at this original. Atmospheric, and I’ve heard, Burton portrayed a more refined Philip than Daphne du Maurier created. Not surprising.

I loved this film!

The Indian Scarf (1963)

A bit of explanation before I jump into the film itself. You may have seen my comments on Blood and Black Lace, the 1965 Italian giallo film, which I really enjoyed. Giallo is an Italian crime/mystery film genre that grew out of the cheap pulp fiction novels of the 50s that had a predominantly yellow cover. Early giallos were black and white, but with directors like Bava and Argento, lush, saturation of color became a signature of this form of film. Other notable signatures of this genre are stylishly-dressed, masked murderers who go on frenzied killing sprees–over hours or days not weeks and months. Often there are weird dream-like sequences. Whereas in an American film, the score of a noir film may be for subtle atmosphere, in a giallo, the score is prominent, sometimes jazz, sometimes classical, always a bit jarring to the scene. A warning to the curious, some giallo are uncomfortably violent, featuring graphic and bizarre deaths. Despite my appreciation for the many remarkable filming techniques in Argento’s Opera (1987), with gorgeous operatic selections in the score, I won’t be reviewing that one as it was too much for me. Honestly, I have to wonder if some of these films aren’t gateways to lower the audience threshold for sadism, murder and snuff films. Neo-giallo is not for me.

But before Italian giallos there were German krimis. English author Edgar Wallace, best known for King Kong, wrote over 175 novels, many of them crime novels, (see link below) which a German film company used to create their own giallo-style films, called “krimi“s. There is overlap of the two genres. (Link below with more about krimis.) Here’s the fun part– the stories are by an English author, set in England, performed in German, dubbed (badly) back into English. The early ones were primarily in black and white with the same actors appearing again and again, film by film. The atmosphere and camera work is notable; the acting is over the top, reminiscent of silent films where expressions are held for unnaturally long periods of time, actions are exaggerated, fight scenes are lame and limp-fisted, and the murders are quick and almost silly in their stagey-ness.

The Indian Scarf is a perfect and wacky whodunnit. An eccentric old man dies, the heirs gather like vultures, eager to get their share and run, only to find out that the pre-will stipulates they must all live together in the house for seven days before the real will is to be read. One by one, in rapid succession, they are killed off. Oh, and we are informed that there has been a flood so the peninsula is cut off, as is the phone. No escape and no way to call for help. The bodies are piling up in the chapel. Each victim is found with a distinctive scarf around the neck. Why does the killer leave the scarves? Does the killer have an endless supply of scarves? Scarf fetish perhaps? I wish I could tell you, but unless I hiccupped during the explanation and I missed it, none is given. There is a vague mention of India, but that’s about it.

This campy, atmospheric, wild ride has been compared to Clue for its pace and feel. As with Clue, the entire film takes place within a colossal and beautifully bizarre house. The set design, like the acting, is over the top. Now that I know the story, I will have to have another viewing just to take in all the props–wildly oversized flowers in jeroboams, massive statues, hidden passages, weird art and tchotchkes abound. In fact, early on, for no apparent reason, a box is lifted, releasing a tarantula. Why was there a tarantula there? No idea. Why was the box lifted? I couldn’t tell you. It made no sense in the storyline.

Eddi Arent as Richard Bonwit

Eddi Arent stands out with hilarious comedic talent as the butler–again much like Tim Curry in Clue or Hank Azaria’s Agador in The Birdcage (1996). Looking for a fun escape? This is IT! It’s on YouTube–see link below.

Link to film on YouTube:

Link to blog on Edgar Wallace with list of books:

Link to list of Krimi films:

strangle scene from The Indian Scarf which I have to mention has some super sound effects

I give The Indian Scarf FIVE MONKEYS for weirdness and camp.

Blood and Black Lace (1964)

60s/Thriller/ Suspense/Foreign

I remember this moment like it was earlier this morning. I was an early teen watching television. Commercial break, ho hum. The commercial had a creepy sing-song to it, and what I thought was a Prell commercial with Jacqueline Smith brushing her hair became a trailer for Suspiria. The hair-brushing figure turned around to face the camera with a skeleton face. I levitated off the couch and was down the stairs before I knew what I was doing.

This was my introduction to the giallo genre. Giallo is an Italian creation derived from cheap paperback thrillers popular in the 60s. That trailer terrified me so much that it took forty years for me to sit myself down and watch Suspiria. It turns out, it’s not at all what I expected. It wasn’t scary at all, in fact, at a glance, it could be dismissed as a silly 70s movie best seen while under the influence of hallucinogens. Certainly not the kind of movie that would earn commendation for a great plot, clever dialogue or anything remotely close to terrific acting. It’s campy and weird…but it’s the weird that gives it artistic merit. Strange camera angles and vivid colors create a lush dreamy/nightmarescape. Dario Argento’s Suspiria is always listed in the top must-see giallo films.

This subgenre of slasher/detective/mystery has influenced a myriad of directors and continues to have a cult following. Slasher films are not my favorite; men hunting women to cut them up does not appeal to me as the real world has too many predators, I don’t need to watch this as entertainment. I do like mysteries and artsy films. Mario Bava, like Argento, is considered a master of the giallo. I gave Blood and Black Lace a go. The plot is simple: a serial killer has targeted fashion models at a particular design house. Atmospheric, stylish, fast-paced, with plenty of suspects, this mystery was engaging and cinematically stunning. This should be mandatory viewing for film students. Look at this still for a second–the whites of her eyes matching the white white bra, the blue of her eyes, the color of the water. Perhaps it is the fake blood and fantasy (by which I mean that she’d hardly look like this if she were really murdered) that doesn’t run me off. She’s gorgeous. The shot is beautiful. Pure cinema.

Links to trailers and articles on giallo below– I’ll be on to the next one soon: The Bird with Crystal Plummage (1970). Contemplating getting a boxed set of Argento and/or Bava’s best films.

Four monkey hearts!

Blood and Black Lace Trailer:

Article on Giallo films by Furious Cinema:

Article: Why Watch a Giallo?

Mirage (1965)

Thriller/60s/Classic Cinema

Was looking for something retro and exciting and found Mirage with Gregory Peck, Diane Baker and Walter Matthau. The opening has catchy music–before the story began I was making a mental note to hunt up the soundtrack. The film opens with Gregory Peck’s character, David Stillwell in a New York City office that’s had a sudden power outage. Lots of people milling about in the dark, confusion, what’s going on. I was hooked right in.

He finds his way to the stairs and meets an attractive woman who seems to know him. Inexplicably, at the bottom of the stairs when she sees his face in the street light, she looks frightened and runs away. Once outside Stillwell finds a crowd gathered around the body of a man who seems to have jumped from the top of the building. From here the story takes off in now familiar and unsettling territory of a main character suffering from memory problems compounded by the appearance of men with guns trying to kill him and a rising body count.

Stillwell seeks help from a psychiatrist who sends him away. A sign for a private detective gives him hope, maybe a detective can help him figure out who he really is. Unfortunately, the detective, played by Matthau has never worked a case before but with reluctance, takes on Stillwell’s peculiar case.

At this point, I was thoroughly intrigued and entertained. My thoughts ran from “I am loving this!” to “Why have I not seen or heard of this movie before?” But already the film has gone from a Hitchcockian feel to a comedic one. So far so good… I don’t want to give away much more of the story. I’ll say right here that it is worth a gander but



I soon found out why perhaps I’d not seen this before. Had I stopped here, I would have looked forward to a funny and thrilling story as the bumbling detective helped Stillwell figure out the big questions– it is clear that someone is going to great lengths to make him feel crazy. Why? Are they trying to kill him or scare him. Why? The woman from the stairwell returns and won’t say what she knows. Can he trust her?

I was so into the story…

You know how sometimes people will collaborate on a story — here, you write the beginning and without looking at what you wrote, I’ll pick up the story from the last line and go with it? Mirage hits a peak of entertaining expectation and takes a dark nosedive into the politics and dangers of nuclear energy. The body count goes up. The comedic element disappears completely. Is this even the same film we started with?

I can’t recall a film that has demonstrated this kind of personality disorder or disappointed me so much so fast. As a rule, I wouldn’t bother to review a book or film that just didn’t do anything for me. We all have different tastes and maybe it’ll float someone else’s boat. I won’t shoot down the balloon just for sport. But this one… I put it out there with a big hairy question mark. I’ll have to research what happened with this film– why is it so darned unbalanced? A truly bad movie has no redeeming qualities and is a waste of time. This one evokes too much and lingers far too much for me to dismiss it. Gregory Peck! Terrific actor and a fine performance. Matthau is hilarious! I just don’t get why this one went right off the road…

Thoughts? Comments? Did you like it?

Wanted to give it 5 at first:


The Nightmare (1964)

Suspense/Thriller/60s/Hammer Horror

In 1952 the French novel Celle qui n’était plus (She Who Was No More) was published by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. 

In 1955 the French film Diabolique based on the novel was released. (Excellent. Atmospheric. Recommend if you can handle subtitles.)

In 1964 Hammer did it again without Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, castles, crypts or a healthy budget for fog machines. One might not recognize this gem as a Hammer film at all.

In 1996 Diabolique was remade again with Sharon Stone. It’s quite good, too.

But don’t dismiss the Hammer version, it’s atmospheric and suspenseful. In this version, Janet’s mother went mad and killed her father on Janet’s birthday. She was soon packed off to a boarding school for girls where she frightens the other girls with her terrifying screams at night. She is plagued by recurring dreams that her mother is luring her to a room at the asylum; Janet is tormented by the fear that she will go mad like her mother. She is soon sent back home to the cold care of a distant guardian, a hired nurse and a housekeeper. Her terror continues as she hears and sees things no one else does. Is she going mad? She has another birthday looming. The birthday cake with candles is a trigger of past trauma; the birthday seems nothing to celebrate…

Jennie Linden does a terrific job as a terrorized teen. Moira Redmond– trivia point, she tested for the Emma Peel role in the Avengers–she has that cool beauty–won’t say more but she has a juicy part! Even though I’d seen Diabolique, I wasn’t quite sure how this was going to end. Had me anxious to find out! The dog wanted to go out with eight minutes left to the end. Aargh!

I give it

Four Monkeys!

In a Lonely Place (1950)

Suspense/Noir/Thriller/Classic Cinema

Humphrey Bogart Gloria Grahame

Directed by Nicholas Ray

Vince, a volatile screenwriter in need of a career boost, invites an ingenue to his place to tell him the story of a book he’s to make into a screenplay. He soon loses interest in the story and the girl and sends her off to find a cab around the block.

The next morning, the cops are at his door. She’s been found murdered. Vince has a thin alibi–a beautiful neighbor saw the girl leave alone. Vince is grateful to and intrigued by this cool woman. In short order, they are mutually smitten and become a hot item. As the investigation keeps circling back to Vince as the prime suspect, Vince’s behavior suggests they may be correct. Laurel is torn between being madly in love with him and terrified of him.

If you like films of this era, don’t miss this one. Terrific performances by both leads. Edgy and suspenseful with a timeless story–while ink jars and old cars are gone, dangerous, passionate relationships spark up every day.

Click here to see official trailer:

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956) Dana Andrews, Joan Fontaine

A reporter turned author is having trouble finishing his book. Discussing the ills of capital punishment with his future father-in-law, they concoct a scheme to frame him for an unsolved murder. Once he is convicted, they will prove his innocence and reveal the flaws in the system. The father-in-law carefully documents all their activities as they plant evidence.

I wasn’t sure what to expect with this, but as a fan of Fritz Lang, I gave it a go. Enjoyed it though I will admit it is nothing compared to “Metropolis”, “Secret Beyond the Door” “Scarlet Street” or “M”.

Bleak subject? No chemistry between Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine?  Not enough tension? It did not do well at the box office and is not listed in Lang’s top films. But it IS still a Fritz Lang picture. Noirish  lighting. Funky camera angles.

Interesting concept though, and there’s a surprise at the end. Well worth a watch if you enjoy classic films and mystery.

There was a remake in 2009 with Jesse Metcalfe. Haven’t seen it. Usually, I’m not a big fan of remakes, but might have to give this a go for comparison.




Le Samourai (1967) (French) Alain Delon, François Périer , Nathalie Delon, Caty Rosier

I first saw Alain Delon in Zorro when I was around 11 and was swept away. Recently perusing a list of Top 100 best foreign films, Le Samourai popped up. Great!

I’ll say off the bat that this is a film buff’s movie. If you need fast action and lots of special effects you will be bored silly and hate it. In fact, the most animated character in the film is an agitated, caged bullfinch. A man of action heart throb in Zorro; he’s stony cold with dead eyes here.

And yet, here are some review snippets:

“I was completely blown away. This movie can be summed up with one word: minimalism.”

“stark originality”

“a blend of stylistic and thematic excellence”

All while being darned close to a silent film the dialogue is so sparse.

Still reading? Here’s the tricky part– the movie won’t really much sense until the end. You have to keep watching.
The plot is simple: a hit man’s job is not clean, there are witnesses including a piano player who looked him right in the eye. So his employer isn’t pleased, the cops are darned sure they’ve got their man but they don’t absolute proof. The employer wants him dead, cops are following him and harassing his girlfriend (Delon’s wife at the time, Nathalie, considered one of the most beautiful women in the world at the time)  to admit her alibi for him is a lie. 

The film begins with a quotation from the Bushido, the samurai code “There is no solitude greater than a samurai’s, unless perhaps it is that of a tiger in the jungle.”  Delon’s character, Jef Costello, moves with purpose, seemingly devoid of emotion. I’d hazard that the Terminator was modeled after this performance. Unrelenting and calculating.

The film itself– considered perfection by film-makers for it’s use of color, timing, atmosphere, camerawork and locations. At a time when films were shot on sets, this was a notable departure, being shot on locations in Paris, but not a Paris that you’d recognize from iconic photos– it’s mostly subways, stairwells, narrow streets.

My favorite scene is the first one. A dim room so still you wonder if it is a photograph. A hint of movement, there is a haze of smoke. Where is it coming from? Oh! There is a man on the bed blowing smoke rings. This moment capture the feel of the whole film– action and non-action, a gorgeous minimalist canvas (honestly, the colors of the walls and texture are mesmerizing) that speaks without words.

For more info at Internet Movie Database:
Perfect 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes:


MIDNIGHT LACE (1960) Doris Day, Rex Harrison, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowell


I’m going to kill you, Mrs. Preston,”  promises an unnatural high-pitched voice that ought to set the goosebumps scampering over your skin.

   An American woman (Doris Day), wed three scant months to an Englishman (Rex Harrison), lives in London and is terrorized by a stalker threatening to kill her. The threats always seem to come when she is alone and has no one to corroborate her experiences which occur with increasing frequency.

   This film may seem tepid amidst today’s offerings of graphic violence and terror, but for Doris Day fans, old movie fans and folks who just don’t want graphic frights, this movie holds up. The story takes off in the first moments; suspects abound, the tension never slacks.

   Doris Day refused to act in any other such film and opted for comedies for the rest of her career. No small wonder as her character, Mrs. Preston is under stress from the first moments of the film. In one climatic scene, her method acting turned to real hysteria and she collapsed.

   Costume designer Irene Lentz was nominated for an Oscar for her outfits in Midnight Lace. She and Doris Day were friends, and Day trusted her for her costumes as well as her own wardrobe. If you enjoy Hollywood fashion, this film is a goodie just for that.

   As a huge Myrna Loy fan, it is a treat that she is Mrs. Preston’s kind aunt. Roddy McDowell has only a few scenes but they are noteworthy and memorable. I’m not much of a Rex Harrison fan and this role did not make appear to push his acting abilities, but no grumbles about his work here.


Related article about Irene Lentz:

 Midnight Lace Trailer:

I give it Five


HOLIDAY (1938) Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn

Like the classic oldies? Have you seen Holiday (1938) with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn?  You might have missed it… it didn’t get as much notoriety as Philadelphia Story or Bringing Up Baby and that’s a shame.  Hard to imagine now, but Katherine Hepburn had built herself a bad reputation earlier in the 30s and was not a box office draw.  This is the perfect vehicle for her– a strong, quirky, well-to-do Main Line woman who doesn’t want to bend to societal demands. 
   The story is straightforward — a self-made man with a middle class background (Grant) falls in love with a woman (Doris Nolan) born into the Seton dynasty –one of the six richest families in the U.S.  He meets the family and soon discovers that getting married will be as complicated as getting marrying into a royal family.  There are rules and expectations.  And respectable society folk do not chuck their positions to find themselves as Grant’s character Johnny Case yearns to do, “…to try to find out who I am and what goes on and what about it.”( Unfortunately, this is perhaps why the film was not as well received as it should have been… post-Depression era folks did not embrace this philosophy.) As plans move forward he realizes he has more in common with his betrothed’s sister Linda (Katherine Hepburn).
Hepburn and Grant did four pictures together, three (including this one) with director George Cukor.  I for one, will be hunting up more Cukor films as this is a gem for many reasons:
  • acting is sublime–it is obvious that not only Hepburn and Grant had chemistry but they must have enjoyed their supporting cast members as well –Lew Ayres who plays her trapped and alcoholic brother; Edward Everett Horton (love him!!!) and Jean Dixon who play a sweet couple who are like surrogate parents to Grant. Scenes where they all escape the formal socialite scene to be themselves in the playroom are delightful.
  • Most of the film takes place in the Seton home –a home so large it has an elevator and a kitchen just a bit smaller than  a private airplane hangar. Opulent and stunning, it is a silent but shimmering character in the picture. 
  •  Costume designs by Robert Kalloch! Unfortunately, many animals died to make this film as there are quite a few fur wraps and hats to be seen but this was an age when clothing was ELEGANT.
Justin Chang recently wrote a review in the Los Angeles Times commenting that Holiday is the best of the Hepburn/Grant collaborations:

For more detail, please check out Margaret Perry’s blog (with a fun little meme of Grant and Hepburn doing a dance over a couch: