The strange woman with an odd defense mechanism built-in, she doesn’t want to do it.
It comes out as jealous rages, her fate is foreordained.
Tourneur’s incomparable Freudian mystery, practically The Lady from the Sea, in view of the shipbuilder and his mistress, a colleague.
I Walked with a Zombie
Tourneur’s masterpiece brings to bear the dramatic force of a relatively simple story with tremendous effect by dint of its unique structure, almost like a chamber play or opera. Tight compression of all its various symbols (it’s related to Show Boat in some aspects) leads to its strange lucidity, as there are so many points of contiguity among its elements, all of which can very easily be opened up for fuller inspection.
A loveless husband, a spiteful mother, a jealous brother, a wife who loves him, and the former slaves of Saint Sébastien in the West Indies as chorus, with voodoo expressing the hoodoo, and a final gesture paid homage by Fernandez in Erotica.
Variety was bored, the New York Times was shocked.
The Leopard Man
The structure is complicated by a nightclub rivalry, one performer has a leopard on a leash, the other frights it away with her castanets, it kills a poor girl.
And then a rather unleashed professor kills it, and another girl, and the one with the castanets.
Crowther of the New York Times thought it was a very sorry business all around.
Days of Glory
The function of guerrilla groups in the war, to harass the enemy and during the counterattack to draw off his reserves.
In the event it is Russia, like so many places at that time, when there is nothing to commend itself to the participants save the honor of defending the country, the title describes the essence of the action.
“More heroic in conception than effect,” said Bosley Crowther of the New York Times. “Quite beautifully directed by Tourneur” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide).
Halliwell identifies it as a “lower-berth wartime propaganda piece”.
The realm of æstheticism, wealth and attainments, as a mad replacement for the unknown world of reality, a Jules Verne domain with an incrustation of evil-mindedness toward the beautiful woman as a witch.
A wartime drama set in 1903 that might have inspired Evans & Livingston’s “Mona Lisa”.
The title comes from Hippocrates, the hero is a doctor.
The film is elegantly placed between Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and Under Capricorn, just grazing each.
Life and air and good witches are the fairy-tale answer meagerly understood by critics.
Portland (Oregon) and Jacksonville, a long way from roads and stagecoaches, which comes first is a question.
Wagon trains, a cabin-raising, mule teams for business transport.
Gold prospecting, embezzlement, gambling, murder.
Indians, farming, commerce, brigandage, all the various elements in 1856.
Tourneur goes into it all with a complex, very nimble style.
Songs by Hoagy Carmichael, a character.
Time Out Film Guide speaks of “curate’s eggs,” on behalf of critics.
Out of the Past
The pictorial impression continually created is a testimony to the visual reality of Edward Hopper’s paintings. The successful dislocation of Tristan and Isolde has poetic lines (“out of the sun... out of the moonlight...”) accompanied or not by images, merging into the image of Robert Mitchum emerging out of the shadows, in a performance primarily founded on Bing Crosby’s crooning.
Some of the setups owe a debt to Hitchcock, who returned the favor by basing much of North by Northwest on Out of the Past, and this appears to be one of the films parodied in The Last Tycoon (“‘Nor I!’ Who says ‘Nor I?’”). The climax is echoed in Harper and Bonnie and Clyde and The Getaway, and the dénouement in Jules et Jim.
The main response before Donen to Hitchcock generally, not counting Reed. Lifeboat and The Lady Vanishes are the main cases in point, also The 39 Steps and Foreign Correspondent.
The “divided democracies” of Lifeboat are the four powers in Berlin. A Nazi underground is busy working at a new German state, but so is a German patriot they try to assassinate and then succeed in kidnapping.
The situation was immediately thereafter visited by Wilder in A Foreign Affair (using the same scarce equipment on location, it’s said).
This is Tourneur near and beyond his limits as a director, but not his abilities. Every amazing form of virtuosity he exhibits serves the turn, as in Lifeboat, of a simple appeal to unity in the face of a determined aggressor.
Stars in My Crown
Mulligan’s To Kill a Mockingbird adapts Tourneur’s averted lynching, here it is seen to be an afterthought of Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident with this modification of the will, “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”.
Eastwood’s Pale Rider opens with the fury of the “night riders” destroying Famous Prill’s farm, the rationale is identical, he stands in the way of mining operations.
King’s I’d Climb the Highest Mountain has the parson and the doctor at odds in an epidemic, here the source is found to be “slow fever” (typhoid) in a schoolhouse well.
The Flame and the Arrow
The Hessians are in Lombardy a thousand years ago, the problem is to convey an understanding of the principles involved. This is ultimately a very simple matter of hitting the hawk without harming its prey, but it requires extensive meditation on free will and the Christian mission and “the essence of the quintessence of the clown’s art” and so many other things to reach that point safely.
From the start it was taken to be an action picture possessing “just the right amount of dash” (Variety), thus “great fun” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide), and “should be an action classic” (Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader).
“Good-humoured Robin Hood stuff,” Halliwell’s Film Guide calls it, “with the star at his most acrobatic,” and cites Richard Mallett of Punch, “I never found a Technicolor costume picture so entertaining.”
Circle of Danger
The range of enquiry available to a Yank submariner in the Pacific who finds himself in London after the war, asking about the brother he raised who seems to have been killed by a member of his own commando unit in France just before D-Day, the only casualty, is about 33%, the postwar survival rate in that unit.
One of the strangest films ever made about the war, what with Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie behind the scenes, and a car salesman in British Intelligence to crown it.
“Too slowly paced” for Variety’s taste by Tourneur, “one of his more routine assignments” (Time Out Film Guide).
Halliwell’s Film Guide reports “virtually no mystery and absolutely no danger”.
Anne of the Indies
The tale of Captain Anne Providence the piratess is not to be taken at face value as the critics have done, it won’t bear inspection at that level and simply cannot be taken seriously at all. Hence the hollow entertainment perceived by writers on this film ever since its premiere, despite Tourneur’s signature. Variety praises Jean Peters as Ruth Roland come again, the New York Times is miffed at the paltriness of it, and so to the present.
Beneath the Technicolor exterior of pure fluff and bluster is the true Tourneur and the lady pirate, a wonderful villainess avenging her hanged brother like some variant of Scarface, and in love with a French captain (Louis Jourdan) turned pirate but actually working for the British upon compulsion, and he is married. It is too fantastic for words, and yet full of Tourneur’s acumen and precise technique. But not even the presence of Herbert Marshall and James Robertson Justice among the pirate crew has ever helped the critics.
Appointment in Honduras
A fictional place, a precise date in June, 1910.
A Shakespearean locus, somewhere, sometime.
Jumping ship with jailbirds from the hold and a couple of rich hostages, upriver, through the jungle with a money belt named Lisa.
The country is a dictatorship, the former leader is in hiding.
As regularly noted in reviews, a nasty stretch of country full of pitfalls and hostility from nature.
Otherwise, it was lost on critics, “dangerously routine” (P.W., New York Times), “a lurid jungle adventure” (Tom Milne, Time Out Film Guide), “predictable adventure drama” (Halliwell’s Film Guide), that sort of thing.
Stranger on Horseback
The judicial town-tamer come to review matters out West for the Federal government in a family town.
Tourneur takes it for a new thing, which it always is, and a classic Western likewise.
It’s this cross-purpose that gives the tessitura.
The scion has killed a man in self-defense, no arrest, no trial. Who to bear witness but the family and those who work for them?
The judge carries a gun.
Louis L’Amour is the author.
Howard Hawks has something to say on this theme, he draws it from To Have and Have Not and finds Rio Bravo, El Dorado, Rio Lobo.
“This town is ours.”
“No, that’s a state of mind, Miss Bannerman. The town belongs to the people, and laws have been written to protect them.”
An extraordinary film. “A mighty unusual judge, sir.”
“A very unusual prosecutor.”
A change of venue is sought. “Judge, you won’t get very far.”
“As far as an honest jury’s far enough.”
None too far. “As the poet said, y’honor, there are determined men who act by night.”
It dawns on Bannerman.
The economy is based on cattle and cowboys, hurrahing the new town is an expensive, deadly sport. Wyatt Earp takes on the job of marshaling.
Wichita’s business magnates object, led by the railhead ramrod and a prominent saloonkeeper with gambling on the side.
Earp’s fearlessness earns Bat Masterson his first byline on the Wichita Clarion, “Frontiersman Foils Felons”.
Plots against his life end with various showdowns, and Earp moves on with his new bride to his next job, in Dodge City.
The supreme analysis of Hitchcock (The 39 Steps, Rear Window), proceeding from Welles (The Trial).
“Footsteps in the sands of time are not made by sitting down.” This is how Hitchcock’s two halves meet, with an assist.
And what a beautiful picture of Los Angeles, Hollywood Boulevard, Robinson’s (“Spring Fashion Show”), a pure masterpiece.
Lubitsch is the unifying element (or Wilder), an insurance investigator way out in the wilds.
“What’re you gonna do with your end o’ the money, Red?”
“I’m gonna set up a scholarship at Harvard.”
The sublime ending is decades ahead of its time.
Night of the Demon
Tourneur’s amusing satire is a continual rhyme on Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. The parchment runes that fly to the fire, the tune in the Savoy hallway, the resemblance of Athene Seyler (which is the key), give it a structure to represent English country life as a feudal survival into which a disbelieving American stumbles. Its most curious feature is the medieval fire demon executing judgement.
Polanski remembers it most clearly in The Tenant (Hobart’s suicide leap in the courtyard), more remotely in Rosemary’s Baby and Macbeth.
The fulminating demon appears at the head of a smoke tower rushing through the woods or along the railroad tracks, an effect ultimately from Cocteau’s experiments.
Dana Andrews as the American psychologist, Peggy Cummins the English schoolteacher, Niall MacGinnis the lordly satanist, Seyler his mother, Maurice Denham a British investigator, all give precise and detailed renderings that exactly suit the mysterious unearthly revelation provided by Tourneur and his camera in settings by Ken Adam or on location.
The sins of advertising are venial, the proof is in the pudding.
The same techniques applied to political life are a fraud on the people.
Money is the key element from a foreign power, it turns public relations into a weapon.
Lincoln is cited at the Memorial. Tourneur has it all at his fingertips.
“If anyone can make this respectable,” Dave Kehr pays strange compliment in the Chicago Reader, “it’s Jacques Tourneur.”
Eaton & Baker Associates has a new incarnation, open a door and hear the project strategy, “all right, then, so much for the Jews, the way we handle the labor unions...”
Chinese brainwashing in the Korean War is a “professional” third degree, same approach here, only “amateur”.
Halliwell’s Film Guide finds it “too talkative to be very entertaining.”
1600 is the number of the boarding house with the phonybaloney veteran and his signature-forging wife in hellish argument.
A light hidden under a bushel in French Sudan, 1940.
Melford’s The Sheik is the key element of the composition withdrawn from critical understanding (“leaden-footed melodrama”, says Halliwell’s Film Guide). This gives what might be described as a romantic view of the circumstances.
Gilbert’s The 7th Dawn fared no better with critics. Anthony Veiller’s name on the screenplay ought to have counted for something, but there it is.
A brutal minimalism governs the filming and pertains to films shot in the period represented or slightly earlier, this is part of the surreal effect.
The Giant of Marathon
Phillipides, Olympic champion, head of the Sacred Guard.
A plutocrat with a useful mistress in thrall, and himself betrothed since childhood to the girl Phillipides loves, has in mind collusion with Darius king of Persia to restore an exiled tyrant.
Athenians know this means the end of Greece, Sparta must be next and so on, under Darius.
La battaglia di Maratona, the defense of Piraeus (the men of the Sacred Guard skewer the Persians and their open-mouthed ship-clamp, Spartans come to their aid).
Ennio De Concini wrote it, among others.
Andromeda is the girl’s name, she’s tied to a Persian prow for the assault on Athens.
McKee runs the wildest band of outlaws from the badlands of Colorado he can find, killing and robbing in the valley. He was once a marshal and scout, in his Sunday best he looks like a senator, says Ben (who “never could lie worth a hoot”), anyway a state senator. Naturally McKee leads the posse after the gang, naturally missing them every time.
His whole dream of bitterness turns on training his grown daughter in the East and moving there himself, forgetting the hundred dollars a month and the bullet in his shoulder.
The daughter comes out West for a visit, Little Joe asks for her hand. Hoss figures out the doubling-back in the mountains, Ben narrows down the neighbors to just one capable of it, an unthinkable proposition.
It comes down to a shootout, McKee and Ben, no contest. McKee clears his holster several hours sooner and somehow misses Ben. His daughter returns East after the obsequies.
The Comedy of Terrors
The undertaker unable to bring his operatically-inclined wife to pitch takes up drinking copiously, the rent comes due, he drums up business for himself.
The widow of his first victim absconds without paying. He kills the landlord, who is a great admirer of Shakespeare and a cataleptic.
The New York Times reviewer must have dined well that evening and, heady with the fumes of wine, didn’t get the joke, in which Romeo and Juliet also figures.
The Twilight Zone
The straightforward masterpiece of a brilliant author and a sagacious director. Matheson goes directly to the heart of the matter, Tourneur sustains the device to the very end.
Untamed no wife is, proverbially speaking. Here is the tale of a fool who died obedient to a maiden now spinster and lame, or of an antique hero reporting to Lacedaemon.
Tourneur’s direction is mainly close and medium shots with one extraordinary picture of the lady in bed amidst her expanse of bedroom, the entire detailed set in a one-second take.
Gladys Cooper takes the tragic calls one by one whose significance is not revealed until the last, 1) silence or static, 2) moaning, 3) Hello? Hello? etc., 4) Where are you? I want to talk to you, 5) You told me to leave you alone. I always do what you say.
The voice is pitched to maximum effect, neither hysterical nor neutral, with an even intonation.
Nora Marlowe takes the part of wisdom, just leave the phone off the hook, she says, remembering Sorry, Wrong Number.
War-Gods of the Deep
Bullheaded gods in a “golden shrine” close by an undersea volcano and a dead city called Lyonesse, inhabited by gill-men and smugglers who cannot bear the light, a doomed city, “The City in the Sea” by Edgar Allan Poe, which is heard in the course of the film.
A hen named Herbert, a girl who resembles lost Beatrice, John Le Mesurier’s vague clergyman who sees “some good in everyone”, human sacrifice to appease the volcano, 20000 Leagues Under the Sea, Thunderball, Roger Corman, Shangri-La, She, the critics were overwhelmed.
Vincent Price, Tab Hunter, Susan Hart, David Tomlinson.