5 Classics worth your time this week:
Treasure of the Sierra Madre on Blu-ray. A stripped down 1-disc Academy Award winner edition; a special edition Blu-ray came out last fall. Humphrey Bogart was in the midst of changing gears from a smooth detective and often romantic screen star to more layered, complicated and in this case far less appealing figure. For all Bogart’s fantastic, if disturbing, work though, it was grizzled Walter Huston who won an Oscar for his role in the classic directed and written by his son John Huston, who won Oscars for both of those roles. There is possibly no greater cinematic story of the corrosive power of greed when it’s the sole motivating force for man (Bogart as Dobbs) with no scruples, soul or sympathy (even for those who save his life) and whose sanity crumbles under the weight of his paranoia. Few morality tales are as rich, character studies as bleak, or cosmic payback as fitting and just. Bogart’s masterful performance is a series of calculations as he measures situations, obstacles, men and their very lives against his lust for gold, and in his paranoia always judges them threats to be eliminated. Huston is the seen-it-all wise elder who only seems zany, Holt is the younger, more innocent and stable Curtin (in a role initially earmarked for John Garfield) as well as familiar Warner face Bruce Bennett as an aspiring partner who doesn’t get his cut. Studio head Jack Warner was reportedly a little nervous about Bogart’s image in the movie, and it wasn’t a hit at the time but good thing John Huston got his way with both story and ending; Treasure of the Sierra Madre was a mine that not only yielded golden statuettes, but more importantly, continues to reward the viewer and stands as a lasting classic. And to think, I got through this whole bit without even mentioning “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges. I don’t have to show you any stinking badges. ”
North by Northwest Blu-ray, excellent Hitchcock thriller with Cary Grant as the wrong man—one the greatest film scores ever by Bernard Hermann.
Cool Hand Luke on Blu-ray
Out now at Warner Archive: the Black Book (Reign Of Terror) an interesting historical noir set during the French Revolution, with secret operatives, corrupt police, and power mad figures all trying to get and keep their hands on the titular Black Book, Robespierre’s hit list of people in the way of his taking over the nation. Richard Basehart, Robert Cummings, Arlene Dahl, and Charles McGraw were all great actors often seen in noir, but this movie fits comfortably in that genre because of the dark look (courtesy John Alton, who worked on the noirs He Walked By Night, T Men, Raw Deal, The Big Combo) the direction (Anthony Mann, who besides some brilliant westerns also made the noirs T-Men, Raw Deal, and Side Street).
Speaking of noirs, an underrated but very good one is on Saturday at 1:30pm: Tight Spot, featuring a star far better known for her dancing. Ginger Rogers was cast against type as a heavily guarded key witness against the mob. Canadian-born Lorne Greene can be seen here in one of his earliest films as mob boss Costain, from whom Rogers must be protected by Brian Keith, while Edward G. Robinson is the D.A. desperate to get Rogers on the stand in one piece. In only a few minutes of screen time, Greene is fearsome and impressive, with his booming voice and chilling sneer, and all energies directed at snubbing out Rogers, who can get him deported for smuggling a Mafioso into the country. It’s a great, “tight” crime film directed by Phil Karlson, who rose from working on Abbott and Costello comedies, through some fast-paced violent noirs like Kansas City Confidential and The Phenix City Story, and helmed Walking Tall (1973).