The Night of the Hunter (1955) starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, & Lillian Gish

 

The_Night_of_the_Hunter_poster
A poster of the film

[1] Great art transcends time, but The Night of the Hunter has not lost an iota of relevance (or quality).

[2] Whoa. Lighting, framing, performances, all so unsettling…

[3] Robert Mitchum is fantastic, but Lilian Gish steals it for me.

#TCMParty (from recent live-tweeting session)

nightofthehunter
Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum)

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them. -Rachel Cooper (in the prologue to the film)

I saw this VERY effective (and a BIT scary, even for adults) film for the first time recently on TCM. It was directed by actor Charles Laughton, who hit it out of the ballpark on his first (and only) try. It was a box office failure, perhaps b/c it seems way ahead of its time (as several critics/viewers have written). 

Spike Lee paid homage to this film, which is one of his faves, in Do The Right Thing; Radio Raheem wears love-hate on his knuckles. 

lovehate-dorightthing
Radio Raheem (Do The Right Thing)

[1] Mitchum is tremendous in the title role, his role is larger than life and was also slightly playing with fire in it’s portrayal as a reverend as corrupt or evil. Chapin is really wonderful as young John and has a much better character than some of the others in the cast. Winters is good in her performance.

Lillian Gish is another luminous presence in the film because she projects no-nonsense kindness and sweetness toward the children she takes into her home.

-Excerpt from IMDB review

Later on in life, Mitchum said that Laughton was his favorite director and this was his favorite role. Laughton originally offered the role of Harry Powell to Gary Cooper, who turned it down as being possibly detrimental to his career.

Night-of-the-Hunter-Courting
Harry (Mitchum) talks with Willa (Shelley Winters)

In this parable of good and evil, Harry Powell is the ultimate boogeyman – a relentless, nightmarish force who preys on children and it is even suggested by John that he doesn’t even sleep. …he often casts imposing shadows and is sometimes seen as a lone figure in the fog, almost a mythical force of terror.

-Excerpt from blog post (Plain, Simple Tom Reviews) 

It’s the time of the Great Depression somewhere in the Midwestern U.S. In the process of robbing a bank of $10,000, Ben Harper (Peter Graves) kills two people. Before he is captured, he is able to convince his son, John, and very young daughter, Pearl, not to tell anyone, including their mother, Willa (Shelley Winters), where he hid the money (inside Pearl’s cloth doll). Ben is captured, tried and convicted. Before he is executed, Ben is put in the state penitentiary with a cellmate, Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), who calls himself a preacher (and dresses as such). However, he is really a con man and murderer, swindling rich/lonely widows before he killing them. Harry does whatever he can to find out the location of the $10,000 from Ben, but is unsuccessful. After Ben’s execution, Harry decides that Willa will be his next mark, figuring that someone in the family knows where the money is hidden. Despite vowing not to remarry, Willa ends up being easy prey for Harry’s outward charms. Her gullible older friends/neighbors (The Spoons) help convince her that a husband is a MUST to help raise kids.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

The Brothers Karamazov (1958) starring Yul Brynner, Lee J. Cobb, & William Shatner

bros-poster
A poster for the film.

Alexi was the young monk who personified what it means to be a generous and forgiving Christian; Ivan the spiritually conflicted and deeply honest man of science; Dmitri the tortured deeply human soul who takes on suffering…

I just happened upon this film- had never seen it before. William Shatner is VERY young (and cute) here; he plays Alexi, the youngest brother in the family who is a monk. This film is about money (particularly inheritance), sibling rivalries (and alliances), forbidden love, and honor. Yul Brynner is perfectly cast as Dmitri, the oldest brother in the dysfunctional family. He is a Lt. in the Russian Army whose favorite hobby is gambling. Of the two female leads, Claire Bloom (Katya) and Maria Schell (Grushenka), I thought Bloom are more effective.

bros-alexi-father
Alexi (William Shatner) and his father Fyodor (Lee J. Cobb) have a serious talk.

Brynner is very charismatic and gives the right emotional intensity and vulnerability, while Cobb gives his patriarchal role so much juice and life, his demeanour sometimes even quite intimidating (the role is a problematic one due to being one that could easily fall into overacted caricature, Cobb admittedly does overact but enjoyably and the character still felt real). Richard Basehart brings many layers and nuances to Ivan… William Shatner does suffer from a greatly reduced (in terms of how he’s written) character, but surprisingly this is Shatner at his most subdued and moving, most of the time in his acting for personal tastes he’s the opposite.

-Excerpts from IMDB review

At the start of the film, Alexi convinces their wealthy father, Fyodor (Lee J. Cobb) to give him some money to pay off debts run up by Dmitri (Brynner). Fyodor is reluctant, knowing of Dmitiri’s irresponsible spending; he is also tyrannical and lecherous. Dmitri should be getting some money (which comes from his deceased mother’s side). 

bros-all
The brothers is the Karamazov family with their father.

Alexi is in the role of peacemaker in the family; while Dmitri is the “black sheep.” These two brothers are tight, though they have opposite personalities. The other brothers are Ivan (Richard Basehart), an atheist writer and Fyodor’s unclaimed bastard/servant, Smerdjakov (Albert Salmi). 

bros-katya.jpg
Katya (Claire Bloom) is engaged to Dmitri- he’s NOT that into her though!

The daughter of Dmitri’s captain, Katya (Bloom), falls deeply in love w/ him after he helps her father out of a difficult situation. Dmitri admits that he wanted Katya, BUT didn’t love her. She explains that she doesn’t mind that. Some time later, when she becomes an heiress (thanks to a grandmother), she proposes that they get engaged. Dmitri agrees to it; after all, she is a beautiful, respectable, and wealthy woman. Katya goes to his town and meets his family, impressing them w/ all her charms. She and Ivan spend a LOT of time together; he falls in love w/ Katya, BUT she only sees him as a friend (and future brother-in-law).  

bros-fyodor-grushenka.jpeg
Fyodor (Lee J. Cobb) has dinner with his mistress, Grushenka (Maria Schell).

So, why is this engagement taking SO long? Dmitri stays away (gambling and drinking), so there is no time to get to know and (maybe) fall in love w/ Katya. Back at home, Ivan and Smerdjakov are getting impatient to inherit; they’re waiting for their father to die. Fyodor shows no signs of slowing down; he has a young/blonde mistress, Grushenka. Though he’s NOT the sentimental type, Fyodor proposes marriage. 

bros-grushenka-dmitri.jpg
Dmitri (Yul Brynner) plays a song for Grushenka (Maria Schell).

For anyone interested in family dynamics and love relationships “Brothers” presents a web of triangulated rivalries and unrequited, seething passions — fiction that rings powerfully true.

I am embarrassed to admit I haven’t read this great novel — although the movie makes me want to — so I wasn’t familiar with the story. 

-Excerpt from IMDB review

Grushenka, who owns a tavern and has made some money of her own, buys Dmitri’s debts (on behalf of Fyodor). When Dmitri learns of this occurrence, he insults her servant (a former soldier), and then sets out to find the mysterious woman. He sees Grushenka at a skating pond (where she is having fun w/ another man, not Fyodor). It’s basically love at first sight (at least on his side); Dmitri is a VERY passionate man after all. Grushenka seems VERY taken w/ him, too, BUT she is also a professional (who knows how to survive in a man’s world). Check out this film to find out what happens next! 

Orange is the New Black (Season 4)

NOTE: This post contains SPOILERS for the latest season of the Netflix original series.

oitnb-season4
The promo poster for Season 4

What Piper does is try on identities. -Taylor Schilling 

In Season 3, Piper (sometimes dubbed “a clueless white girl”) was using the Whispers work assignment to her advantage; she got a big ego (as we see at the start of THIS season). Well, Maria is NOT going to put up w/ that attitude! Also, the Dominican (who was disowned by her gang leader dad for falling in love w/ a Mexican man) has plans of her own to profit HER girls, the latinas. The numbers work in her advantage, as the prison (now managed by MCC, a private corp.) gets an addition of MOSTLY latina women. 

It’s all grounded in the reality that they DO love each other… -Laura Prepon (Alex) on the (love-hate; complicated; manipulative) relationship between her character and Piper

oitnb_s4_faceoff
Maria (who starts running drugs) gets in Piper’s face in the Season premiere.
oitnb_branding
The latinas hold down Piper before Maria brands her with a swastika.

What did YOU think of Piper’s comeuppance (for joining w/ the White Power women)? Yes, she needed allies, BUT (as she often does) Piper didn’t realize the consequences of such an (unholy) alliance! 

When you know something [drug addiction] firsthand, there’s a sort of responsibility, which (for me) can often feel like… you know… too much pressure. -Natasha Lyonne (Nicky)

The relationship between Red and Nicky has been fraught w/ tension b/c of Nicky’s reluctance to get (and stay) sober. As we know from real-life statistics, MANY women (and men) are in jail b/c of drug-related issues; others get into drugs while imprisoned. 

I have my “daughters.” That is my way of surviving w/ my morality- and what I hope to consider- my integrity- intact. The tough side is, there’s a line. If you cross it, you are out. And that costs me as much as it costs them, but there has to be a moral compass. And I adhere to it very strongly. -Kate Mulgrew on the maternal and tough sides of her character (Red)

Red has been one of my favorites from the start; she doesn’t have much to do until later in the season. She’s back in charge of the kitchen- good to see. Mr. Healy seems to have fallen in love w/ her (yeah, we saw that coming); she sternly tells him that “no relationship between a prisoner and a guard is consensual”).

oitnb_s4_doggett_boo
Pennsatucky/Doggett and Big Boo have one of the most interesting friendships on the show.

Season four has some of the most explicit and complex discussions of consent I’ve ever seen on television. And in a time when there is still so much confusion surrounding consent and anger when it’s violated.

It’s significant that OITNB doesn’t just show Pennsatucky’s reaction to her rape. Instead, it forces Coates to reconsider everything he thought was true, to confront the ugliness inside him and surrounding him that pushed him to a place where he could ignore a woman’s needs for his own basic pleasure. He didn’t think he was raping her, but that doesn’t matter.

And now he knows it.

-Caroline Famke, Vox 

oitnb_s4_lolly_alex
Lolly and Alex in the greenhouse
oitnb_s4_lolly_healy
Lolly and Mr. Healy have a talk in the yard.

We see what Alex is capable of when she kills the man (disguised as a new guard) in the greenhouse. Lolly (who becomes more and more unhinged in S4) and Frida (a convicted murderer) knows about this crime; they handle it in VERY different ways. Frida helps Alex bury the dead body in the garden. Alex has trouble sleeping, goes to hang out w/ Piper, and (in time)- they are a couple again. 

Mr. Healy tries to help Lolly, who starts spouting paranoid stories. We learn more re: his backstory; his mother had mental problems when he was a young boy, then was put in a psychiatric hospital. THAT gets to the root of WHY Mr. Healy want to help troubled women. He falls short (of course)!

oitnb_s4_new_guards
Three of the new guards: Dixon, Humphrey, and Capt. Pescatella
oitnb_s4_bayley_jail
Bayley and his high school friend in jail (flashback)- talk about white privilege.

The new guards (former war vets) are NOT only working at Litchfield, they’re also living in the (built by prison labor) cabins on the property. They have issues and secrets of their own! Humphrey  forced Maritza, at gunpoint, to swallow a live baby mouse and pushed Crazy Eyes/Suzanne into a bloody brawl with Kukudio.

oitnb_s4_poussey_judy
Poussey (RIP) assists Judy King, her TV idol, during a cooking class.

When I heard that Judy was a cooking show celebrity and she was going to prison for some financial mischief, you think of Martha Stewart right away. [In the book on which it’s based, author Piper Kerman said Stewart was almost sent to Danbury, the inspiration for Litchfield.] She’s Paula Deen-like, because she’s Southern, but Judy King is another entity altogether. It’s just that those two are the ones that spring to mind.” -Blair Brown, Hollywood Reporter

We see how Judy King (veteran actress Blair Brown) is treated better, given her own room, etc. (being a rich and powerful celeb). I esp. liked her friendships w/ Poussey and Cindy. Do YOU think that these were real friendships? 

oitnb_s4_roomies
Alison (a Muslim) and Cindy (a Jew) are roommates.

Alison (who is Cindy’s bunk mate) wears a hijab (black scarf in this case) as a sign of modesty, due to her being Muslim. She also uses her hijab to hide a cell, which she uses to secretly communicate with her child via text. Cindy (a convert to Judaism) is suspicious of Alison at first, BUT in time, they get to know each other and become allies.

Speaking of unlikely allies… Figueroa dropped a sly bomb on Caputo when she asked him if he knew re: more inmates coming to his prison when he visited her house. Caputo, my the middle of the season, knows that his girlfriend (Linda) does NOT want the best for his inmates. Were YOU a bit shocked to learn that Linda had NEVER even visited Litchfield (though she worked for MCC)? 

oitnb_s4_finale
Daya points a gun at Humphrey while the other inmates look on (some cheering).

It’s war. Taystee has nothing to lose; she’s lost everything that she cared so deeply about. It’s time to fight. I think that’s where we will see Taystee go. -Danielle Brooks on what she sees next for her character

The season four finale of Netflix’s prison dramedy OITNB capped a season that explored the Black Lives Matter movement and the injustice that exists in the prison system. 

The final moments of the season see Daya picking up CO Humphrey’s loose gun and aiming it back at him during a prison-wide riot, Attica-style. …After being abandoned by fiance Bennett, losing her daughter and seeing her mom released from prison, Daya has so much pent-up anger and frustration, she might just shoot.  -Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter

Short/petite Poussey is killed by baby-faced guard, Bayley- VERY unexpected/shocking scene! Taystee, who was probably her closest friend, is heartbroken. Soso tries to drink away some of her sadness. Judy King has the star power to right at least some of the wrongs she witnessed in prison. Will she tell the truth about Poussey’s murder?