Spoiler-Free Reviews of 2022 Movies: “Nope” & “Don’t Worry Darling”

Nope starring Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, & Michael Wincott

After random objects falling from the sky result in the death of their father, ranch-owning siblings OJ and Emerald Haywood attempt to capture video evidence of an unidentified flying object with the help of tech salesman Angel Torres and documentarian Antlers Holst. -Plot Summary (Universal Pictures)

I saw this movie a few mos. ago (w/ 2 gal pals) when we got discounted tickers. IF you’re expecting a story (somewhat) like Jordan Peele’s previous work (as I was), you MAY be V disappointed. The (slow) pace of the film is a big issue, until perhaps the last 30 mins. (which was a BIT interesting). Kaluuya plays a quiet/reserved man, more comfortable w/ horses than people. The actor can express a LOT w/ his eyes (though I don’t think this role is an acting challenge for him). Palmer (who had success as a child actor) plays the total opposite; she’s extroverted, quick to joke, and a (potential) risk-taker. It’s rare/refreshing to see a brother-sister relationship in movies.

I had issues w/ the (dark) lighting, BUT I think that was done on purpose. At 2 hr. 10 mins, it’s much TOO long; this is the case w/ current movies. Though it’s categorized as a horror/mystery/sci-fi movie, there are few thrills. However, IF you like a look at behind-the-scenes (BTS) of the movie biz, then it MAY be of interest. Peele has some V interesting themes and ideas, BUT the execution didn’t work (for me) this time.

Don’t Worry Darling starring Florence Pugh, Harry Styles, & Chris Pine

A housewife living with her husband in a utopian (1950s style) experimental community begins to worry that his glamorous company could be hiding disturbing secrets. -Plot Summary

I saw this movie a few wks. ago on HBO Max; as some of you MAY know, there was BTS drama btwn. Wilde (actor/director), Pugh, and Styles. At 2 hr. 3 mins, it’s still a BIT long. This is (another) case of style over substance; I think the cinematographer did a great job. Pugh is already a V respected actress; she does a fine job (w/ what she is given) here. Sadly, she and Styles have NO romantic chemistry; their (much talked about) love scenes are boring. In one particularly dramatic scene, you can see that Styles (known more for his music) is in over his head. There are ONLY 2 scenes btwn. Pugh and Pine that have any tension! There is a twist which MANY viewers could see coming. I see a LOT of critics were mad (some calling it Don’t Watch It Darling), BUT I simply didn’t care b/c it was banal!

Brief Reviews of Recent Views (DEC 2022)

Dead End (1937) starring Sylvia Sydney, Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart, Wendy Barrie, & Claire Trevor

The Dead End Kids (a teen ensemble of actors who’d also appeared on Broadway) are introduced in their Midtown East (NYC) slum, overlooked by the new apts of the ultra-rich. Their antics, some funny, some vicious, alternate w/ subplots: jobless architect Dave (Joel McCrea- one of Hollywood’s “Everyman” actors) is torn btwn Drina (Sylvia Sydney- a big star of the ’30s), his hard-working/childhood friend and Kay (Wendy Barrie), the glam mistress of a rich man; gangster “Baby Face” Martin (Humphrey Bogart- before his leading man days) returns to his old neighborhood and finds that nobody is glad to see him. Then violent crime, BOTH juvenile and adult, impacts the neighborhood and its inhabitants.

Samuel Goldwyn acquired the rights to Sidney Kingsley’s play for $165,000 – a V large amount at the time (equivalent to nearly $3M today). The play had been a huge success on Broadway; its content had to be altered b/c of censorship in film. As some of my fellow classic movie fans know, producers had a LOT more power than directors in the Hollywood studio system. William Wyler (director) wanted to film on location on the streets of NYC, but Goldwyn insisted that the movie be made in the studio. Richard Day (art director) was assigned to design the sets, which were the some of the MOST elaborate sets in film history. Bogart (who was borrowed from Warner Bros.) got his role after George Raft turned it down; James Cagney was Goldwyn’s 1st choice. In order to get past the censors, references to Francey (a young Claire Trevor) being a prostitute were veiled (though mentioned in the original play).

The Mark of Zorro (1940) starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, & Basil Rathbone

The Jagged Mark of His Sword Struck Terror to Every Heart – But One! -A tagline for the movie

I’m a big fan of The Mask of Zorro (1995) starring Antonio Banderas, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Anthony Hopkins. Many of you will know re: the premise of this movie: a young Spanish aristocrat, Don Diego Vega (Tyrone Power- 26 y.o.), pretends to be a “fop,” BUT protects the poor/powerless folks of Los Angeles (then a part of Mexico) as the masked vigilante- Zorro (“fox” in Spanish). Many viewers have commented that Zorro (who hails from the early 1820s) is a precursor to the superheroes we know/love today. Lolita Quintero (Linda Darnell- just 16 y.o.) is the love interest; she meets Zorro (in disguise) and is impressed by his words. Lolita’s greedy/corrupt uncle, Don Luis Quintero (J. Edward Bromberg), has taken over Diego’s father’s job; his elegant/shrewd wife, Inez (Gale Sondegaard), dreams of being presented in the royal court of Spain. However, the main threat to Zorro is Don Luis’ right-hand man- Capt. Esteban Pasquale (Basil Rathbone- a trained fencer). The swordfight btwn Power and Rathbone will amaze you- WOW!

Blood and Sand (1941) starring Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell, Rita Hayworth, & Anthony Quinn

Love flamed in the shadow of death! -A tagline for the movie

Illiterate Spanish peasant Juan Gallardo (Tyrone Power) rises meteorically to fame and fortune as a bullfighter, ONLY to sow the seeds of his own downfall. This movie didn’t impress me as much as the previous one; Power and Darnell are paired up again, BUT then Hayworth comes into the mix. The costumes looked great (IMO), esp. the ones worn by the bullfighters. There is a steamy (for that time) dance btwn (real) Latin hotties- Hayworth and Anthony Quinn (who plays Power’s friend/competitor). Power was Irish-American, though this dark hair/eyes and gorgeous looks got him cast in “exotic” roles.

The Racket (1951) starring Robert Mitchum, Lizabeth Scott, & Robert Ryan

The big national crime syndicate has moved into town, partnering up with local crime boss Nick Scanlon (Robert Ryan). There are ONLY two probs: First, Nick is the violent type, preferring to do things the old-fashioned way instead of using the syndicate’s more business-like methods. The 2nd prob is Capt. McQuigg (Robert Mitchum), an honest cop and the loyal Officer Johnson (William Tallman). They take on the Nick and try to foil the syndicate’s plans to elect Welch, the crooked prosecutor running for judge. I wanted to see it b/c of Mitchum and Ryan; Eddie Muller (TCM) commented that they should’ve switched roles. Muller also noted that it had 3 different writers and 5 directors over its (V troubled) production! Mitchum later said there were many reshoots.

Back from Eternity (1956) starring Robert Ryan, Anita Ekberg, & Rod Steiger

A South American plane loaded with an assortment of characters crash-lands in a remote jungle area in the middle of a storm. The passengers then discover they are in an area inhabited by cannibals, so MUST escape before they are found. Ryan is giving it his 100% (as he does in every role), BUT he doesn’t come in until 15 mins. into the movie. He speaks a BIT of Spanish- V cool! Swedish model Ekberg (sadly) can’t act and is NOT confident w/ her English. That doesn’t matter to the director/producers, as she’s there mainly for her looks (tall, blonde, and curvy). Later on, there is an (unneeded) catfight btwn Ekberg and another actress- ugh! The standout here is Steiger (looking youngish w/ dark/curly hair); he gets the best lines and is the most interesting (yet potentially volatile) character. Beulah Bondi (mom/grandma in MANY classic films) finally gets out of the house- LOL!

“Run for the Sun” (1956) starring Richard Widmark, Trevor Howard, & Jane Greer

A raging animal of a man…more savage than any jungle killer! -A tagline for the movie

Mike Latimer (Richard Widmark) is a Hemingway-like novelist who has been living in (self-imposed) exile for 5 yrs. A reporter for Sight Magazine, Katie Conners (Jane Greer), tracks him down in a small town in Mexico; she says some friends will be meeting w/ her soon. Mike enjoys having Katie around for company; she’s beautiful, intelligent, and challenging. They spend a week together, sharing meals and fishing on his boat. Mike lets his guard down, assuming that Katie is a tourist who likes his writing. Katie doesn’t reveal that he is her assignment; she feels badly about this (even telling her editor back in NYC). On a flight to Mexico City, Mike’s small plane goes off course and crashes in the forest! Katie has a few scratches, BUT Mike suffers more serious injuries. They’re near an estate owned by an Englishman, Mr. Browne (Trevor Howard), who is ready to help out. Browne is well-mannered/cultured, saying he’s also a fan of Mike’s books. Dr. Van Anders (Peter van Eyck) is another European living there; he is studying ancient civilizations. Only the local Indians (Native Americans) are nearby; the work on the estate. There are no phones to contact the outside world. After a few days resting/recuperating, Mike begins to realize that these men may NOT be as harmless as they seem!

Are you fan of the Indiana Jones movies? If yes, then you may also like this drama/adventure. The plot (partly) comes from The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell; this is a short story that kids often read in JHS here in the US. This movie is a remake of RKO’S 1932 hit The Most Dangerous Game (1932). While the earlier version was filmed entirely on the studio back-lot, this version was shot mostly on location. It’s implied that Howard’s character here is a former Nazi, NOT merely a madman like in the older version. The location of Browne’s estate was a former sugar plantation and refinery est. in the 16th C. In the ’80s, the main house and several buildings were turned into a hotel. The set for the inside of the house was the largest built at a Mexican studio up until that time.

In the 1st 40 mins of the movie, we get to see the easy/playful chemistry btwn Widmark and Greer; they seem to respect and like each other. Widmark is BOTH cynical and boyish; he smiles (and NOT in an evil way like in his noir films). There are a few moments when he speaks Spanish- V cool! Widmark gets to wear casual outfits, though Greer is more dressy and wearing glam makeup (until the 3rd act when practicality is needed). As a fan on YT commented, these actors should’ve made more movies together. Widmark and Greer appeared together in Against All Odds (1984), a remake of the noir classic Out of the Past (1947) starring Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and Greer. Mitchum and Eva Marie Saint were considered for the leads of this film. Sadly, Greer contracted a tropical virus during the location shooting; this eventually required her to have a heart operation! The actress also fractured her tailbone on a rock while filming the scenes in the swamp. Widmark thought this was one of his worst films; he’d tell his kids that if they didn’t behave, they’d have to watch it (LOL)! Perhaps the acting wasn’t challenging, BUT the physical work looked tough.

[1] This film, though a little too long, is very exciting, particularly the last section, and will really hold the viewer’s attention. Both Widmark and Greer are excellent. Greer is in her early thirties here and finally in a color movie, and she’s beautiful despite a couple of frumpy hairdos and outfits. Trevor Howard underplays as the villain and is an introverted menace.

[2] Nice direction, very effective photography in sharp color. Greer was never lovelier and, except in the incomparable Robert Mitchum, never found a better leading man. …this lady had real talent.

[3] Jane Greer appeared in so many B&W film noirs of the ’40s that it’s surprising to see her in technicolor. She looks great and has good chemistry with Richard Widmark’s adventurous writer.

Gripping suspense yarn will keep you glued to your seat as you wonder how it all turns out. Give it a chance, as it starts slowly before the plot thickens.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

“Warlock” (1959) starring Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, Dorothy Malone, & Dolores Michaels

In the frontier mining community of Warlock, rancher Abe McQuown’s (Tom Drake) San Pablo gang terrorizes the inhabitants, humiliating the town’s Deputy Sheriff and running him out of town. One of the cowboys in the gang is Curley Burne (DeForest Kelley); the actor would find fame as Dr. McCoy on the original Star Trek TV series. In desperate need of protection, the town’s leaders hire an (unofficial) Marshall, Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda), to bring law and order. Clay arrives w/ his close friend, Tom Morgan (Anthony Quinn), who is a businessman. These two men stand up to the gang and the town gets quieter (for a time). Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark), a former member of the gang, reforms and decides to become the (official) Deputy Sheriff. Frank Gorshin (uncredited) plays Billy, Johnny’s brother; he later appeared in the famous TOS ep- Let that Be Your Last Battlefield. IMDb notes that this was the 1st movie for Gary Lockwood (the main guest star on the TOS ep- Where No Man Has Gone Before). I didn’t notice him as one of the gang; look for the tall man w/ a black hat, blue bandana, and dark mustache. Lockwood started his Hollywood career as a stuntman; he’d go on to star in 20001: A Space Odyssey.

Jessie: The men you posted are coming into town.

Clay: I thank you for warning me, but I’ve already heard.

Jessie: Why does it have to happen? Why do these things always have to end in bloodshed?

Clay: Ah, that’s how things are, Miss Jessie. That’s why I was hired… why you hired me.

Jessie: And so they’ll come into town, and you’ll shoot them all down dog-dead in the street, is that it?

Clay: Or them me.

Jessie: Or them you…

Someone once said, there are ONLY 2 types of movies: the hero goes looking for adventure or a stranger comes to town. In this case, we find 2 strangers (w/ money, shiny guns, and fancy clothes) primarily concerned w/ making more money, then moving on to another town. This is a complex/mature Western, as it subverts some of the tropes of the genre. Some viewers thought Clay and Tom are a BIT too close (more than pals), though director Edward Dmytryk (known for his work in film noir) said the homoerotic undercurrents were unintentional. There are 2 supporting roles for women; BOTH are blonde, pretty (of course), yet also independent-minded. Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone- tall/curvy/glam) tracks Clay and Tom down, looking to get revenge. Lily invites Johnny over for a home-cooked meal at her house. Jessie Marlow (Dolores Michaels) is one of Warlock’s leaders; her father left her a successful mine. Jessie does NOT approve of violence, though she feels drawn to Clay.

The acting is strong here, as we’d expect from the main cast. Widmark can play the angst and action well; he still looks youthful. Fonda (in a rare “shady” role) conveys depth to a gunslinger. Quinn (using a slight limp) is playing against type; he was often cast as a “macho” man. The running time is a BIT long (and feels like it); there is much going on w/ backstories of several characters. The action takes place mostly in the town (20th C. Studios in Culver City, CA); I wanted to see more of the (Moab, Utah) locations. There is the use of matte paintings for some backdrops (commonplace long into the 1990s).

[1] Complex psychological western. I like another reviewer’s point about the conflict between law and order in the film. Only Widmark’s Gannon appears concerned with enforcing law in addition to order, while the rest of the town is more concerned with simply order. Fonda’s Clay Blaisdell stands as the pivotal character, a morally ambiguous gunslinger with a dubious past. The mutual attachment between him and sidekick Morgan (Quinn) is highly unusual for a macho western. As hired gunslingers, they’re a formidable team.

[2] Here all central characters are multi-layered, there is a plenty going on that begs the utmost attention, where tragedy hangs heavy with its looming presence, and Dmytryk threads all the story strands together with thoughtfully potent results.

Adapted by Robert Alan Aurthur from Oakley Hall’s novel, Warlock boasts three excellent male lead performances and a firing on all cylinders supporting cast.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

“Too Late for Tears” (1949) starring Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, & Arthur Kennedy

She Got What She Wanted… With Lies… With Kisses… With Murder! -A tagline for the movie

One night on an empty LA highway, a man in a speeding car tosses a bag into Jane (Lizabeth Scott) and Alan Palmer’s (Arthur Kennedy) convertible, as they’re heading down a mountain road to a party. When they open the satchel, they find $60,000 inside! Alan wants to turn it over to the police; Jane (w/ a life of luxury now w/in reach) persuades him to hang onto it “for a while.” Soon, the Palmers are tracked down by Danny Fuller (Dan Duryea), a shady character who claims the money belongs to him. To hang on to the cash, Jane relies on her feminine wiles, even if it leads her to danger!

Alan: What is it, Jane? I just don’t understand you! I’ve tried to give you everything you wanted, everything I could.

Jane: Yes, you’ve given me a dozen down payments and installments for the rest of our lives.

This is a B-movie (w/ a small budget), BUT packs a big punch when it comes to entertainment. It was independently produced and released via United Artists, so it wasn’t a studio picture. The director is Byron Haskin and the screenwriter is Roy Huggins (perhaps more known for his TV work, incl. Maverick). I always liked the work of older James Garner, so have been watching some eps of this Western series in the pandemic. In this story, the femme fatale is a housewife (rare for noir) married to a decent man!

Scott and Duryea play up the melodrama (which suits this story), as opposed to the more naturalistic Kennedy (who took this role in order to play Biff on Broadway in Death of a Salesman). Kennedy also had many character roles in Westerns. Kathy Palmer (Kristine Miller) does a good job as Alan’s caring/working gal younger sis. Miller had a supporting role in I Walk Alone w/ Scott. The character played by Don DeFore brings mystery when he enters the story; this actor worked in the theater, small movies, and eventually found success in TV.

Danny [to Jane]: You know, tiger, I didn’t know they made ’em as beautiful as you are, and as smart. Or as hard.

This movie shows us (yet again) that you don’t need famous actors, elaborate sets, or glam locations to make something effective (and enjoyable). The “bad girl” here is SO bad that she even scares a career criminal- whoa! FYI: Adjusted for inflation, $60,000 would be equal to about $663,000 (2021). The Film Noir Foundation provided the funds to restore this movie; the process took 5 yrs (after the print was discovered in France). TCM aired the fully restored version in 2015; you can also see it free on YouTube.