Greatest Films of the 1950s
Greatest Films of the 1950s

Greatest Films of the 1950s
1950 | 1951 | 1952 | 1953 | 1954 | 1955 | 1956 | 1957 | 1958 | 1959


Academy Awards for 1953 Films
Title Screen Film Genre(s), Title, Year, (Country), Length, Director, Description

Angel Face (1953), 91 minutes, D: Otto Preminger
Director Otto Preminger's dark noir of murder involved a love/hate relationship and betrayal (similar to The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)) by a scheming, psychotic 'angel of death' femme fatale. In the plot, an ambulance was called to the hillside Tremayne estate, driven by working class Beverly Hills resident Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) and his partner Billy (Kenneth Tobey), to treat the 'accidental' mysterious gas inhalation-poisoning of Catherine Tremayne (Barbara O'Neil), the American stepmother of 20 year-old English stepdaughter Diane (Jean Simmons). The question was - was it a suicide attempt or attempted murder? The disturbed and spoiled heiress Diane immediately became infatuated with Frank when she met him during the distress call. A fter following Frank's ambulance in her own sports car and meeting up with him in Harry's diner, Diane came onto him, and he postponed his dinner plans with his steady blonde girlfriend, hospital receptionist Mary Wilton (Mona Freeman), to go out to dinner with Diane instead. Diane became even more determined to sabotage Frank's relationship with Mary and shake her faith in him. She hired Frank as their family's chauffeur, and arranged for him to live in a small apartment over the garage, while encouraging him to attain his future plans to invest in his own car repair shop - with co-owner financial help from Catherine. As a result, Frank began to fall in love with Diane. She had been thoroughly spoiled by her father, well-respected, henpecked novelist Charles (Herbert Marshall), and she wanted to have him all to herself. The deceitful Diane proceeded to tell a series of lies to Frank and began to drive a wedge between Frank and Catherine. Frank began to suspect that Diane was an outright liar about the gas-poisoning incident. When Frank threatened to desert Diane and return to Mary, she piteously begged for him to stay and promised to pack up and run off with him and sacrifice everything to keep him. Diane also confirmed her intense hatred for Catherine - arguing that the "rich widow" had poisoned her father's ability to write. Frank was temporarily convinced to remain romantically entangled with Diane, although he knew her main secretive objective was to murder her wealthy and controlling step-mother, in order to acquire Catherine's inheritance for herself. A plan to eliminate Catherine (devised by both Diane and Frank) by tampering with the Tremayne car went terribly wrong when Catherine and Charles both drove off - and the two died when the car went over a cliff. Delirious and devastated by her father's unexpected death, Diane was imprisoned in a prison hospital-infirmary where she kept insisting that she had planned and executed the car accident-murder by herself, although Frank was also implicated. Charged with murder, Diane's defense lawyer Fred Barrett (Leon Ames) urged Frank and Diane to marry, so that they couldn't testify against each other. The strategy worked and the newly-married couple was ultimately acquitted. But Frank was ready to give up on Diane and divorce her, and become reconciled with Mary. Shortly later, Diane confessed to her lawyer that she alone had killed her stepmother, without Frank's help. The lawyer tore up her written confession of guilt, stressing that the double jeopardy rule prohibited a re-trial. Fatefully in the surprise, ironic bleak ending, as Frank was packing to permanently leave for Mexico by bus, Diane begged him to take her too but he adamantly refused ("It's all over. It's finished"). She offered to drive him to the bus station rather than take the taxi he had ordered, and he reluctantly agreed. As they sat in the car in the driveway ready to drive off, she produced a bottle of alcohol and two glasses. Just when he poured them drinks, Diane - in retaliation - gunned her car in reverse over the embankment and killed them both - the same cliff where the Tremaynes were killed.

The Band Wagon (1953), 111 minutes, D: Vincente Minnelli
Director Vincente Minnelli's and MGM's great movie musical (with Michael Kidd as choreographer) under the guidance of MGM producer Freed, was an extravagant, big-scale classic romantic comedy that marked a pinnacle for backstage musicals. With a witty screenplay by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, it has often been thought of as Fred Astaire's best MGM musical, but did poorly at the box-office. The musical featured the well-recognized anthem song - a hymn to show business - "That's Entertainment" that was sung and danced by the ensemble, and also reprised at the end of the film. In the story, Tony Hunter (Fred Astaire), a fading Hollywood movie star and a song-and-dance man (known for his top-hat, cane and tails acts and as "the grand old man of the dance") was interested in a Broadway comeback in NYC. In the film's opening sequence upon his arrival in NYC, Tony Hunter performed the solo song "By Myself" as he strolled down Grand Central Station's railroad platform when a mob of photographers and reporters ignored him and instead favored the arrival of Ava Gardner (as Herself). Tony was chosen to perform in a new light-hearted stage musical (known as 'The Band Wagon') scripted by his friends Lily Marton (Nanette Fabray) and Lester Marton (Oscar Levant), a show-writing couple who would also perform in their own play. The Martons promoted acclaimed actor-director Jeffery Cordova (Jack Buchanan) to be the director of 'The Band Wagon', although he had never directed a musical comedy; Hunter chose Broadway novice and rising, long-legged, classically-trained ballerina Gabrielle "Gaby" Gerard (Cyd Charisse) as his co-star. To convince her to join the show, Cordova offered Gaby's mentor and possessive boyfriend Paul Byrd (James Mitchell) the position of choreographer. A clash of egos and changes in the playwrights' original intentions occurred when the rising, pretentious theater star/actor Jeffrey Cordova became the "artistic" director and insisted on a rewrite - to make it a modernistic, dark Faustian tale. To test their dancing compatibility, the duo of white-suited Hunter and white-dressed ballerina Gabrielle went for a carriage ride in Central Park, and then performed the sublime, classic, graceful, and elegant 'getting to know you' love duet and production number "Dancing in the Dark." Although the premiere of Cordova's modified show failed miserably in its debut in New Haven, Connecticut, it eventually succeeded when it was revamped, rewritten and returned to the Martons' original script and songs; the show became a huge success as it traveled to Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, before returning to Broadway. In the film's dance finale, Tony and Gabrielle appeared in the film's jazzy balletic 8-minute dreamy, pulp B-movie production number: the "Girl-Hunt Ballet" (memorably choreographed by Michael Kidd) - it was a film-noirish take-off or satire of Mickey Spillane's hard-boiled pulp detective novels; in the number, Hunter and "Gaby" portrayed the characters of private eye Rod Riley and two dangerous, sinister femme fatales, including a blonde and a brunette siren in a slinky, sparkling red dress ("She came at me in sections...more curves than the scenic railway.... She was bad! She was dangerous. I wouldn't trust her any farther than I could throw her. But, she was my kind of woman"). The show was an immediate hit, and Gabrielle (who had broken up with Paul) confessed her love for Tony, and praised him for managing and saving the show: "We've come to love you, Tony. We belong together. The show's going to run a long time. As far as I'm concerned, it's going to run forever."

Beat the Devil (1953, US/UK/It.), 89 minutes, D: John Huston
Director John Huston's off-beat, campy adventure comedy and crime film was a major box-office failure - and misunderstood by film audiences at the time, mostly for its witty and sardonic script by co-scripter Truman Capote. The film opened in the small Italian port town of Porto Verto (filmed on location possibly at Ravello on the Amalfi coast) where "four brilliant criminals" were introduced (they were later dubbed as "The Committee"): the fraudulent leader Peterson (Robert Morley), German-accented Julius O'Hara (Peter Lorre), professional killer "Major" Jack Ross (Ivor Barnard) and Ravello (Marco Tulli). The foursome was arrested, handcuffed and hauled off to jail by the police. The story of what had led to their incarceration was narrated by a formerly wealthy, middle-aged "roustabout" American named Billy Dannreuther (Humphrey Bogart), the 5th member of the disreputable group who had been hired to assist them. In a flashback to six months earlier in the town, the group of partnered "associates" was about to board a tramp steamer (the SS Nyanga) bound for British East Africa "in a quest for uranium" - part of a complex scheme to acquire uranium-rich land in Africa via a land auction. Two other couples joined the foursome group of "desperadoes": Billy with his voluptuous Italian wife Maria (Gina Lollobrigida), and an upper-crust British married couple - prim and proper Harry Chelm (Edward Underdown) with his flighty, inquisitive and narcissistic wife Gwendolen Chelm (Jennifer Jones in a blonde-wig) who was prone to exaggeration. While unexpectedly stranded and delayed, Billy met with his associates, and hinted with his suspicion that Major Ross (who had just arrived late from London) had murdered Paul Vanmeer, a British Colonial officer who needed to be silenced before exposing their plan. Gwendolen began a romantic affair with Billy, while Maria reciprocated by sleeping with her husband Harry. Meanwhile, Gwendolen bragged to Billy about dubious claims that her husband had inherited an African coffee plantation (with uranium deposits). The group began to suspect that Billy was secretly holding out on them, and was trying to double-cross them and work with the Chelms separately. Once the ship was repaired and departed, it wasn't long before intrigue, betrayals and double-crosses became rampant amongst the characters. When the ship's engine malfunctioned and exploded, Harry jumped ship, and the rest of the passengers boarded lifeboats. Soon, the group came ashore on an African beach, where they were immediately arrested by Arab soldiers. The group was interrogated by a suspicious Arab official named Ahmed (Manuel Serrano), but eventually was released after bribes, and they returned to the Italian port town in a sailboat. After arriving back, the entire party was questioned by Jack Clayton (Bernard Lee), a detective from Scotland Yard regarding the earlier murder of colonial officer Paul Vanmeer in London (ordered by Peterson to silence him and committed by Major Ross). Gwendolen openly revealed everyone's guilt (except Billy's), including Peterson's entire crooked scheme with his compatriots to exploit uranium deposits in Africa, and Major Ross' deadly intentions with a dagger toward her husband. The flashback abruptly ended - the foursome of crooks was arrested, handcuffed, and led away. The film concluded with the arrival of a wired telegram for Gwendolen, with news from Harry that he was alive in British East Africa and had indeed acquired the land rich with uranium, and had become a wealthy land-owner ("Uranium King"). He was even willing to "overlook" Gwendolen's infidelity. Maria fainted while Billy heartily laughed at the outcome: "Oh, this is the end, the end!"

The Bigamist (1953), 80 minutes, D: Ida Lupino
Ida Lupino's unusual, sympathetic, and even-handed film noirish melodrama was about the controversial topic of bigamy. With her film, she became the first woman to both act in and direct a Hollywood film. 38 year-old Harry (Edmond O'Brien) and 32 year-old Eve Graham (Joan Fontaine) (a "perfect wife") were in a Child Adoption Center office in San Francisco signing papers in the film's opening. The fastidious head of the agency Mr. Jordan (Edmund Gwenn) noticed Harry strangely paused when asked to sign a paper to allow a thorough investigation into every detail of his private life within the next few months. In a co-owned business the couple had established four years before, Harry served as a traveling salesman for the Sutter Sales Corporation dealing in electrical appliances (e.g., deep freezers), often traveling to the Los Angeles area for business for long periods of time. The two were hoping to adopt a four or five-year old child, after Eve's diagnosis four years earlier that she was infertile. Jordan traveled by train to Los Angeles to look into Harry's references in his current office there. He traced Harry to a single-family home and was alerted by a baby's crying to the fact that Harry had another wife and a baby. In a flashback (partially told in voice-over) for much of the remainder of the film, Harry explained how everything had evolved. Feeling that his wife Eve was estranged, emotionally disconnected, and "bitter and restless," the lonely Harry sought companionship with an equally-lonely Phyllis Martin (Ida Lupino) during a bus tour of Hollywood star's homes. They struck up a platonic friendship, but then on Harry's next trip to Los Angeles after becoming disillusioned with Eve, he looked up Phyllis again in the Chinese restaurant where she was a waitress, and their relationship began to slowly heat up during many evenings together. On the night of his birthday celebration, they slept together (off-screen). After returning home, Harry found Eve packing to travel to Florida to attend to her father after a heart attack. He decided to rededicate himself to their marriage, and they agreed to adopt a child together. Three months later, however, Harry returned to LA and again met up with Phyllis, who confirmed that she had quit her job and then told him that she was pregnant ("It's yours"). Feeling responsible, Harry decided that he couldn't desert Phyllis even though she told him that he was free to leave. Harry felt compelled to propose to Phyllis ("Will you marry me?") and she accepted. When Eve returned home from Florida, Harry remained reluctant to divulge his difficult situation. During a brief pause in the flashback, Jordan asked: "How did you expect to get away with it?...Did you think you could live this lie for a lifetime?" Harry's 'gallant and foolish scheme' was to maintain a secret double marital life until the adoption was finalized and legal, and then he would divorce Eve. He rationalized that she would be happy as a single mother with an adopted child. A baby boy was prematurely born to Phyllis, named Danny. When the flashback ended, Jordan at first considered calling the police, but then left in a taxi after telling Harry: "I despise you and I pity you." Harry composed a farewell note to Phyllis before returning to San Francisco, where he also said goodbye to Eve and then turned himself over to the awaiting authorities. Eve was informed on the phone by Harry's defense attorney Tom Morgan (Kenneth Tobey) that Harry had been charged with bigamy. In the film's concluding courtroom scene, both wives attended the trial. Harry's defense attorney deemed that Harry's actions needed to be punished, but should be "tempered with mercy." The Judge (John Maxwell) summarized: "When a man even with the best intentions breaks the moral laws we live by, we really don't need man-made laws to punish him. He'll find out that the penalty of the court is always the smallest punishment." The court was adjourned until the following week, when Harry would be sentenced. He was led away as the two wives glanced at each other and at Harry.

The Big Heat (1953), 89 minutes, D: Fritz Lang
Fritz Lang's dark, very brutal and violent, classic, expressionistic film noir/melodrama and gangster film explored the seamy underworld of American organized crime. The film opened with the unusual suicide of guilt-stricken, supposedly-honest, 41 year-old veteran fellow Kenport Police Dept. cop Tom Duncan. His evil, conniving and greedy widow Bertha (Jeanette Nolan) absconded with his handwritten case notes (with damning evidence) that were to be mailed in an envelope addressed to the local DA in the Hall of Justice, and locked them up in her own safe-deposit box. The widowed Bertha was in cahoots with big-time, ruthless, meglomaniacal kingpin and local mob boss Mike Lagana (Alexander Scourby). His brutal, sadistic, reflexive, cold-blooded henchman Vince Stone (Lee Marvin) was keeping company with his vainly narcissistic, brassy, free-spirited femme fatale girlfriend/moll Debby Marsh (Gloria Grahame) - a sado-masochistic, abusive relationship. Homicide Sgt. Dave Bannion (Glenn Ford) was determined to relentlessly discover the truth, when there were contradictory reports that Tom wasn't in ill-health or suicidal, and was in the midst of divorcing Bertha. Tom Duncan's barfly mistress Lucy Chapman (Dorothy Green) at the Retreat Bar completely refuted Bertha's version of events about Tom. Shortly later, Lucy was found thrown from a moving car on the parkway (off-screen) - she had been brutally beaten and tortured (with cigarette burns) and murdered (by strangulation). Bannion became more suspicious when other compromised individuals in the police department wanted no more questions about Duncan's sudden suicide or Chapman's murder, including Department Head Lt. Ted Wilks (Willis Bouchey) and Police Commissioner Higgins (Howard Wendell). The Syndicate also decided to intimidate Bannion by retaliating against him. There was a shocking scene of a car bombing (with a blinding explosion outside Bannion's house) that accidentally killed his beloved young wife Katherine or 'Katie' (Jocelyn Brando). The frustrated Bannion was essentially suspended and then resigned from his position at the police department to tenaciously pursue justice on his own, and avenge the mob's murder of his wife. One of the film's most celebrated scenes was the coffee-scalding scene - an enraged, jealously-vindictive Stone hurled his boiling coffee into the face of girlfriend Debby Marsh, when he suspected her of speaking with Bannion (and more) and divulging information. Realizing that her days were numbered, Debby courageously joined forces with the homicide detective for revenge on the culprits. Lagana's thugs were implicated in the car-bombing, and it was revealed that Tom Duncan was on Laguna's payroll for years. It was also suggested that Bertha Duncan was blackmailing both Laguna and Stone with Tom's papers in her safe deposit-box (for $500/week). Bannion confronted the obviously-guilty Bertha Duncan in her home and was tempted to strangle her for her collusion with the Syndicate. Separately, Debby went further - the scarred femme fatale cold-bloodedly murdered Bertha with three gun shots (after calling them both "sisters under the mink" for wearing fur coats - symbols of corruption), as she was phoning Lagana. In retribution, she also returned the coffee-scalding favor to Vince. But then, as she walked away, he fatally shot her twice in the back. Dave burst in, arrested Stone and took him into custody for her attempted murder, and learned that Debby had admitted to killing Bertha. During Debby's moving death scene, the sympathetic Sgt. Bannion cradled her head with her mink coat. The film ended with Bannion's return to his duties in his homicide department job after indictments were brought against Lagana and his corrupt Syndicate, and the Police Commissioner Higgins.

From Here to Eternity (1953), 118 minutes, D: Fred Zinnemann
Fred Zinnemann's provocative, Best Picture-winner (with seven other Oscars) was an adaptation of James Jones' 1951 best-selling, hard-hitting novel of on-duty/off-duty military life among recruits in the pre-Pearl Harbor era of 1941 - on the eve of WWII. It was a combination romance, combat and melodramatic film set (on-location) on Oahu during peacetime just before the Pearl Harbor attack. The ground-breaking film's subjects (ill-suited for television) included prostitution, adultery, military injustice, corruption and violence, alcohol abuse, and murder. Sensitive loner bugler and career soldier Pvt. Robert E. Lee "Prew" Prewitt (Montgomery Clift) was recently demoted and transferred from the Bugle Corps at Fort Shafter to the Army's Schofield Barracks on Oahu; due to his skill as a talented boxer, he was dealt harsh "treatment" and hazing persecution when he stubbornly refused to fight for Company G's regimental boxing team. He was chastised by the company commander Captain Dana "Dynamite" Holmes (Philip Ober) and other officers for going his "own way." Meanwhile, the bored and frustrated base commander's neglected, promiscuous wife Karen Holmes (Deborah Kerr) became engaged in a torrid and forbidden love affair with the good-guy career soldier First Sgt. Milton Warden (Burt Lancaster). The film's most famous scene was their nighttime erotic lovemaking scene - their embrace in the pounding Hawaiian surf. Meanwhile, Prewitt often frequented a private downtown Honolulu 'social club' known as the New Congress Club, stocked with hostesses (another term for prostitutes or call girls) - he became close and eventually fell in love the club's employee Alma Burke, or "Lorene" (wholesome actress Donna Reed in an 'against-type role). After a month of torment, abuse and repeated vicious beatings in the stockade at the hands of sadistic, villainous, bullying, racist, cruel stockade captain of the guard - Staff Sergeant James "Fatso" Judson (Ernest Borgnine), Prew's good-natured Italian friend Pvt. Angelo Maggio (Academy Award-winning Frank Sinatra) was ultimately beaten to death (and died in Prewitt's arms). Prewitt retaliated with the vengeful manslaughter (stabbing) murder of "Fatso" by knifing Judson to death in a back alley. He suffered injuries himself with a stomach wound, and then went AWOL by hiding at Lorene's apartment while she treated his wounds. When the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was announced on the early morning of December 7, 1941, Sergeant Warden took charge and rallied his enlisted men to prepare to fight. The obstinate Prewitt left his sympathetic hostess/hooker-girlfriend Alma (Lorene) and made an ill-advised attempt to return to the barracks in the dark. He was accidentally and tragically killed by sentinel guards who reacted nervously to him (thinking that he was a Japanese ground-based saboteur) when he failed to halt and identify himself on the golf course. Sgt. Warden reacted to the "good soldier's" demise with praise and a glorifying, lamenting epitaph. In the film's final scene, Karen and Alma leaned on the railing of a Matson ocean liner while departing wartime Hawaii for the mainland to find new lives - after lost and failed loves.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), 91 minutes, D: Howard Hawks
Director Howard Hawks' musical was advertised as having "The Two M-M-Marvels Of Our Age In The Wonder Musical Of The World!" After the introductory 20th Century Fox logo, but before the title credits, the opening rendition featured the nightclub entrance of two bombshells -- dumb blue-eyed blonde and veteran gold-digger Lorelei Lee (Marilyn Monroe) and cynical, wise-cracking brunette Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) who burst onto the screen through black curtains, wearing dazzling, glittering, sparkly red and white costumes while singing and dancing "Two Little Girls From Little Rock." Afterwards, in their nightclub dressing room, Lorelei (with a distinct passion for diamonds) received an engagement ring from her admiring, extremely rich boyfriend Gus Esmond, Jr. (Tommy Noonan). Gus' strict father Mr. Esmond Sr. (Taylor Holmes) had always been adamantly opposed to the idea of their marriage. The two performers were sent ahead to Europe on an ocean cruise ship (the Isle de Paris) bound for Paris before a planned wedding, with Dorothy serving as Lorelei's "chaperone." Before the ship departed, Dorothy had already invited handsome members of the Olympic relay team on the cruise to her shared room for champagne and a 'bon voyage' party. Gus gave Lorelei a letter of credit ("like money") to cover her expenses upon her arrival, and promised to later rendezvous with her in France. Gus' resistant father prohibited Lorelei and Gus from traveling together, so Lorelei was traveling to Paris without him. It was also revealed that Gus' father had hired a private detective Ernie Malone (Elliott Reid) to spy on Lorelei during the trip. Lorelei was warned by Gus that their marriage would be called off by his father if there was "even the slightest hint of any scandal." In a notorious choreographed song/dance scene, the sexy Dorothy Shaw was in an athletic gym on the cruise ship filled with disinterested male body-builders and gymnasts from the Olympic team, as she sang "Anyone Here For Love." During the cruise across the Atlantic, private detective Malone had quickly fallen in love (at first sight) with Dorothy. Lorelei also became intrigued by a rich, geriatric, married South African diamond mine owner (the second largest mine) named Sir Francis "Piggy" Beekman (Charles Coburn). Piggy's jealous wife Lady Beekman (Norma Varden) was introduced to Lorelei and immediately showed off her diamond tiara. The next day, Dorothy became suspicious when she caught Malone surreptitiously taking snapshots through Lorelei's room porthole to incriminate her and ruin her reputation - she was caught innocently being hugged by Piggy. The two schemed to retrieve the film from Malone, and Lorelei was able to convince Piggy to reward her with Mrs. Beekman's tiara as a sign of his gratitude. However, Dorothy then caught Malone retrieving his hidden planted reel-to-reel tape recorder in their cabin - it had recorded Piggy's and Lorelei's damning conversation. Once they arrived in France, they learned that Mrs. Beekman had filed an insurance claim regarding the theft of her tiara, but Lorelei refused to relinquish it. The two discovered that their "letter of credit" and hotel reservation had been cancelled due to Malone's damaging report to Mr. Esmond, Sr., who regarded Lorelei as a "blonde man-trap." The two showgirls resorted to finding work in a lavish song/dance revue nightclub show at Chez Louis. Lorelei went on stage to dazzle everyone with her pink-dress show-stopping performance of "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" (Monroe's most famous musical number) - a declaration of her true beliefs. When Lorelei was about to be apprehended and arrested by gendarmes for taking Lady Beekman's tiara, she decided to give it back but realized that it had been stolen from her dressing room's jewelry box. In a subsequent night-court hearing on grand larceny charges, Dorothy donned a blonde wig (to impersonate Lorelei and play dumb), to ultimately convince Malone to not hurt her best friend Lorelei. Malone, now fully in love with Dorothy, responded by exonerating Lorelei - he took two gendarmes to the airport to apprehend Piggy, bring him back to the court, and reveal that he possessed the tiara. The case against Lorelei was promptly dismissed. In the film's conclusion back at the nightclub, Lorelei (who truly loved Gus) delivered a speech to convince Gus' father that he should give his consent to marriage. The film ended with a double marriage ceremony on the cruise ship back to the US - Lorelei with Gus, and Dorothy with Malone.

House of Wax (1953), 90 minutes, D: Andre de Toth
Andre de Toth's highly-successful, classic Technicolored horror film was created in "Natural Vision" 3-D (it was the first 3-D film produced by a major studio, Warner Bros' first 3-D film, and the first 3-D film released with a stereophonic soundtrack). In the film's opening set in the 1890s in NYC, Matthew Burke (Roy Roberts) was in a business partnership with eccentric wax sculptor Professor Henry Jarrod (Vincent Price) - they co-owned a wax museum. It was deliberately set on fire by the impatient Burke who had suggested it would be the fastest way to collect on the insurance (a total of $25,000). All of the historical figures (considered "friends" and living and breathing creatures by Jarrod) inside the museum melted, and it was presumed that Jarrod died in the burning building. Later, a cloaked black-garbed disfigured individual went on a rampage of murder. Burke was confronted by the murderer in his office and killed, and his body was hung by a rope in an elevator shaft. And then Burke's promiscuous, gold-digging ex-fiancee Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones) living in a boarding house was drugged and strangled by a cord. Later n the morgue body storage room, the black-garbed killer emerged from under a sheet to steal Cathy's corpse. It was then revealed that Jarrod had survived the fiery blaze and appeared about 18 months later, with scarred and useless hands - and wheelchair-bound. After receiving financing, he rebuilt a new House of Wax exhibition museum that would showcase a "Chamber of Horrors." Cathy's friend - leading lady Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk), also found herself pursued by the killer. During the museum's debut, as Sue wandered around the museum's exhibits, she was suspiciously amazed by the likeness of the figure of Joan of Arc to Cathy. The film's obvious twist was that the vengeful Jarrod (in the disguise of the cloaked, face-disfigured killer and later wearing a facial mask to hide his melted face) had been committing the many murders. He then stole their corpses from the New York City Morgue and coated them with molten wax using wax body dip machinery to produce very life-like statues for his waxworks exhibits. During Sue's scary 3rd visit to the museum after-hours while she was being watched, she made the shocking discovery that her friend Cathy's corpse had been dipped in wax to create the Joan of Arc wax figure. When she confronted Jarrod, he admitted his hideous plan - Sue was to be his next "leading lady" for immortality - Marie Antoinette. In the film's most shocking moment, the Phantom-of-the-Opera-like Jarrod had his face beaten by Sue and his wax mask was broken off to reveal his hideously-burned and disfigured face below. She fainted and awoke in the museum's cellar laboratory, where she was strapped and naked under a boiling vat of wax as Jarrod prepared her to be his next exhibit victim. During a struggle with authorities who arrived at the scene just in time to rescue Sue, Jarrod wound up falling into his own burning cauldron of tallow (at over 450 degrees F.) from an upper bridge - it was his apt and richly-deserved fate.

I Confess (1953), 95 minutes, D: Alfred Hitchcock
In this film-noirish crime thriller/drama, humble Canadian (Quebec) priest Father Michael William Logan (Montgomery Clift), an ex-war hero, listened in the church booth to the confidential confessions of his church's live-in handyman/caretaker Otto Keller (O.E. Hasse), a German refugee. Keller admitted that he had disguised himself as a priest, and in a failed robbery attempt, he had killed lawyer Villette (Ovila Légaré), where he served as a part-time gardener. Keller also told his wife Alma (Dolly Haas), the church's housekeeper about his crime. Innocent, martyr-like Father Logan was implicated and became a prime suspect, after two schoolgirls testified that they saw a priestly figure leaving Villette's home at the time of the crime. Father Logan was unwilling to reveal his knowledge or his whereabouts (at the time of the murder) to anyone, claiming rigid sanctity known as 'priest-penitent privilege.' He also refused to tell anything to Police Inspector Larrue (Karl Malden). During the investigation, Logan's pre-priesthood lover Ruth Grandfort (Anne Baxter), married to respected Parliament member Pierre Grandfort (Roger Dann), attempted to help by providing Logan with an alibi. She stated that she was meeting with Logan just before the time of Villette's murder. They were discussing Villette's blackmailing attempt. [Note: About five years earlier, seen in flashback, Villette scandalously saw the married Ruth and Logan spend the night together during a storm - although they were chaste - and now threatened to divulge this information.] Police turned around her testimony, concluding that Logan had a clear motive to kill Villette. They also discovered (planted) bloody priest's robes in the bottom of Logan's chest, with a blood type that matched Villette's. Father Logan was accused of the murder and went to trial, denying any involvement in the murder, while not revealing anything about Keller's confession. Prosecutor Willie Robertson (Brian Aherne) insinuated (unfairly) that Logan and Ruth were having an ongoing affair. The jury ruled that Logan was not guilty, because of insufficient evidence. As Logan left the courtroom, the angry, suspicious and hostile crowd believed he was guilty. Knowing the truth of the murderer's identity, Keller's wife Alma attempted to tell a policeman that her husband was the real killer - she was silenced by a bullet from the panic-stricken Keller. The police went to arrest Keller, cornered in a hotel ballroom. The killer incriminated himself when he accused Logan of hypocrisy - by telling the police about his confession. When Father Logan approached Keller to plead with him to surrender, Keller attempted to shoot Logan, but was killed by a police sniper.

It Came From Outer Space (1953), 81 minutes, D: Jack Arnold
Director Jack Arnold's and Universal-International's 3-D widescreen sci-fi horror thriller with stereo sound was the director's first sci-fi work, adapted by Harry J. Essex from an original Ray Bradbury fantasy and film treatment known as The Meteors. The deliberately slow-paced film, a variant of film noir within the sci-fi genre, featured suspenseful and atmospheric cinematography and a memorable, massive, one-eyed Cyclopian monster. This unique early 1950s tale of benign, non-harmful aliens that crash-landed on Earth in the Arizona desert near a typical small American town remained a Cold War-era cautionary tale, with an anti-conformist, anti-McCarthy message. By the technique of shape-shifting, morphing or cloning, the 'invading' aliens absorbed and duplicated the outward appearances (but not the personalities) of some of the nearby townspeople in order to help disguise their efforts to repair their damaged, buried spaceship within a crater. The peace-loving aliens' only crimes were theft (of items in a local hardware store!!) and kidnapping. In the film's opening, amateur astronomer John Putnam (Richard Carlson) with his supportive and sweet-natured fiancee Ellen Fields (Barbara Rush), a local schoolteacher, were stargazing. They witnessed the crash-landing of a 'meteor' - actually, a circular saucer or spacecraft, creating a massive crater nearby. By himself, Putnam climbed down a steep incline into the crater's rocky pit, and as the smoke cleared, he could see an open hexagonal window, hatch or porthole in the side of a partially-buried gigantic space object or vehicle. A diaphanous, shivering iris of a cosmic creature (seen from its eerie fish-eye POV) appeared in the window and then abruptly shut in front of him. Behind him, he heard the rumblings of a massive rock slide avalanche that soon completely buried the mysterious object in the pit. After he reported his findings, Sand Rock's local Sheriff Matt Warren (Charles Drake), the local newspaper editor Dave Loring (Alan Dexter), university scientist-friend Dr. Snell (George Eldredge), and even Ellen had trouble believing him and thought he was crazy or might be imagining something as outrageous as the arrival of an extra-terrestrial Martian spacecraft. As Ellen and John drove back to town, the "It" from outer space, a one-eyed, squid-like alien monster, appeared directly in front of their car, and then apparently shimmered as it spied on them through its iris from its fish-eyed iris POV. Soon after, two young county telephone linemen friends: the younger George (Russell Johnson) and his boss Frank Daylon (Joe Sawyer), also encountered and were attacked by the one-eyed creature, but this time, the two engineers were absorbed (or "globbed" up) by a bubble created by the one-eyed cyclops alien monster. When John encountered the two changed or strangely-behaving men in town, the cloned, "duplicated" or "shape-shifted" individuals (the aliens had taken taken on their likenesses), claimed that the 'visitors' from space meant no permanent harm. Shortly later, three miners at the site of the mostly-abandoned open mine shaft of the Excelsior Mine (close to the newly-created crater) were also absorbed or duplicated. Putnam claimed to the skeptical Sheriff that the alien duplicates told him that they were benign, and that the humans must not intervene. Other events signaled strange happenings, and further kidnappings: George and Frank's stolen phone truck loaded with electrical equipment, and further similar items (copper wire and some metal parts) had been stolen from the local hardware store. Two more individuals disappeared - Dr. Snell and his assistant. Ellen was next to be intercepted and cloned. Putnam searched for her and found her wandering in the desert. He pursued her into the opening of the Excelsior Mine shaft, where she vanished and a booming alien voice explained how the aliens wanted to work undisturbed (with the help of cloned humans) to repair their spacecraft with complete privacy before leaving soon and continuing on their long voyage home. The alien also told how it would be premature for the Earthlings to see their frightening, repulsive and scary appearance. After continual begging and negotiation, Putnam was finally granted his request to see the alien creature, and he was horrified by its massive, unwieldy, one-eyed Cyclops-like bulbous, gelatinous, non-human shape (resembling a large soft-surfaced crustacean). The Sheriff was unwilling to trust or believe that the aliens wouldn't harm Ellen, and was inclined to intervene, against the aliens' wishes, and destroy them. He quickly assembled a posse of rifle-toting townsfolk as John raced to the mine to warn the aliens to quickly finish their repairs and get out. In the mine shaft, the 'cloned' Ellen (who knew of the mob's approach) attempted to kill him with a laser beam, and he responded by shooting her dead - her body dissolved in a lake. Further inside the mine, a 'duplicated' version of John threatened to destroy Earth. John was able to rationally bargain for a peaceful resolution with two strategies: (1) the aliens would be allowed to complete their repairs if all the unharmed hostage-humans were released from the mine shaft, and (2) to protect the aliens working inside the mine, dynamite was detonated at the mouth of the mine to seal and block it off so that the repairs could proceed without interruption. The film concluded peacefully as everyone watched as the alien space travelers blasted off in their glowing, repaired spacecraft from the interior of the crater. Putnam predicted that hopefully one day, the alien visitors would return on more cordial terms when Earthlings were ready to accept them.

Julius Caesar (1953), 120 minutes, D: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Director/writer Joseph Mankiewicz's and MGM's black and white epic historical drama was an adaptation of William Shakespeare's historical play 'The Tragedy of Julius Caesar' about political intrigue, power and betrayal in ancient Rome. Much of the focus within the film was on the character of high-ranking Roman Senator Brutus rather than Julius Caesar. It illustrated a specific period in Roman history when the republic came to an end and transitioned to imperial dictatorship. An arrogant Caesar (Louis Calhern) returned to Rome in 44 BC, victorious after defeating Pompey. He was greeted by his faithful wife Calpurnia (Greer Garson), and the citizenry celebrated with rejoicing and revelry and placed garlands on Caesar's statues. However, Caesar was warned that his life was in danger by a blind soothsayer ("Beware the Ideas of March"). With other elites and politicians, an introspective, troubled, and indecisive Brutus (James Mason) conferred with his brother-in-law - ambitious and crafty Roman Senator Cassius (John Gielgud), who urged and pressured him to join with a group of schemers who had formed a conspiracy of Liberators to free Rome of the autocratic Caesar; Cassius spoke the famous line: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." Casca (Edmond O'Brien) reported to them that Caesar's loyal protege and right-hand man Mark Antony (aka Antonius) (Marlon Brando) had offered Caesar a crown three times during the victory ceremonies at the arena; Caesar made a big show of refusing the crown, possibly hoping that the crowd would convince him to accept; Casca regarded Caesar's rejections as a cheap theatrical trick ("it was mere foolery"); afterwards, Caesar swooned and passed out and looked weak as he left the arena ("he fell down and foamed at the mouth and was speechless"). The conspiratorial plan was to assassinate the tyrannical, ambitious, popular and triumphant military leader Caesar after his rising popularity and increased hero status following his defeat of his military rival Pompey. The elimination of Caesar, a potential self-appointed dictator if crowned king, was intended to prevent him from abusing the Roman citizenry if he ever became Emperor. Brutus rejected the excessive idea of murdering Mark Antony along with Caesar: "For Antony is but a limb of Caesar. Let us be sacrificers, but not butchers, Caius." Caesar was warned a second time that his life was in danger, this time by his wife Calpurnia who told him of her nightmarish, fearful bloody omens of his death (including his statue with 100 spouts of pure blood). She urged him to remain home, but he decided to not yield to her fears. In 44 BC on the Ides of March (March 15th), as Caesar approached the Senate to be crowned, he was brutally stabbed to death, including by the hand of Brutus who delivered the last fatal blow to his stomach (with Caesar's famous line: "Et tu, Brute?"). Caesar's vengeful supporter Mark Antony was allowed to approach without harm and view Caesar's body; with tremendous self-control, he made peace and shook hands with each of the conspirators. He was also reluctantly given permission to speak after Brutus at Caesar's 'funeral' memorial, but then in private over Caesar's corpse, Antony apologized and angrily vowed revenge for the 'foul deed': "Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood." The betrayer Brutus defended his actions with a well-accepted winning speech to the hysterical masses, about his patriotic and dedicated love for Rome and his fear of Caesar's dangerous and threatening ambitions. He vowed that he was protecting Rome, and asked the audience if he had offended anyone, but no one replied that he had. The end of Brutus' speech was interrupted by Mark Antony who appeared behind him carrying Caesar's corpse; he began his eloquent oration with: "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!"; he first told the crowd that he came to bury Caesar, not to praise him. Antony's manipulative speech convinced the commoners that Caesar had been good for Rome, and that the people should sympathize with the fallen hero who had been butchered after refusing the crown three times. He inflamed the crowd when he showed them Caesar's ripped robe where Brutus had stabbed him ("This was the most unkindest cut of all"). He also read to them Caesar's will that included payments of 75 drachmas to all citizens. The mob was persuaded to drive the traitorous, self-serving conspirators out of Rome. Two opposing armies were formed: the conspirators vs. the superior forces of Mark Antony, who had formed a triumvirate with Lepidus (Douglass Dumbrille) and Caesar's adoptive son Octavius (Douglass Watson) to rule over Rome. During a battle between the two factions, the forces of Brutus and Cassius were overpowered at the Battle of Philippi in 42 BC, and the two committed suicide separately to avoid capture. Cassius ordered his bondman Pindarus (Michael Ansara) to thrust into his chest using the same dagger that ran through Caesar, while Brutus impaled himself on his own sword, held by Strato (Edmund Purdom), after seeing Cassius' corpse. The film concluded with Mark Antony standing over Brutus' body with praise for him, even though he was one of the assassins, as "the noblest Roman of them all."

The Earrings of Madame De... (1953, Fr./It.) (aka Madame De...), 105 minutes, D: Max Ophuls
Director Max Ophul's period romantic melodrama was about deception and tragic romance as a pair of earrings was passed amongst wealthy aristocrats. The film was remarkable for the director's sweeping and moving camera and B/W cinematography. In the film's opening scenes, the pretty, spoiled Countess Madame Louise de... (Danielle Darrieux) was forced to discreetly sell her pair of heart-shaped diamond earrings, an expensive wedding gift from her cool-headed, stiff, determined and aristocratic high-ranking military officer husband General André (Charles Boyer), to pay her debts due to her lavish spending. She sold them back to the original jeweler Monsieur Rémy (Jean Debucourt), who had sold them to her husband. The Countess and André were in a love-less marriage - she often entertained suitors. When she suspiciously and falsely claimed that the earrings were lost at the Opera, it was publicized in the newspaper ("THEFT AT THE THEATRE"). Mr. Rémy became worried that he might be responsible, and awkwardly sold them back to André, without Madame's knowledge. The miffed husband transferred them to his secret, heartbroken mistress Lola (Lia Di Leo), who was permanently leaving him and departing from the train station for a holiday vacation to Constantinople. Once she arrived at her destination, Lola traded in the "souvenir" earrings to make up for her casino gambling losses. Italian Baron Fabrizio Donati (Vittorio de Sica) purchased them in a Constantinople pawn shop three months before traveling to Paris, France to serve in a high diplomatic position. Coincidentally, the infatuated Baron soon became acquainted with the Countess and pursued her until she reciprocated to begin a romantic affair - the beginnings of a love triangle. He told her that they were destined to meet. André was already aware of the Baron and had earlier met him at several embassy functions. Over time, he became fully knowledgeable about the flirtatious Countess's dalliances with the Baron, when she announced that she would take a long restful holiday by herself to the Italian Lakes region. To the Countess's complete surprise, Donati presented her with a going-away gift of roses and her own earrings before her departure. Once she returned to Paris, she experienced a passionate rendezvous with the Baron, and attempted to prevent André from seeing that she had her earrings back since they were symbolic of her affair with her lover. Louise pretended that she had found them in her long gloves stashed in her dresser drawer - to explain their disappearance on the night of the opera. André feigned surprise ("Incredible indeed"), but knew that she was obviously lying. The telltale earrings continued on their transactional journey at another formal ball, where Louise had been openly wearing them during a waltz-dance with Donati; after ordering Louise to remove the earrings, General André confronted the womanizing Donati in the smoking room about the earrings given by him to his wife - he explained how they were previously a wedding present - but now they provided evidence of Louise's promiscuous relationship and her constant deceptions and lies. The General pressured Donati to sell them back to his jeweler, to facilitate his re-purchase of the earrings for her. Louise fainted knowing about the confrontation due to utter humiliation, and also became extremely despondent and depressed when she was forced to end her affair with Donati. Louise was overwhelmed with joy when the earrings were given back to her, but then was dismayed when André compelled the Countess to give her returned earrings to his young niece Elizabeth who had just given birth to a child. To save her husband from bankruptcy, the niece sold the earrings back to Monsieur Rémy who again offered to sell them back to André (for the fourth time), but he angrily refused. Desiring the earrings herself, the Countess decided to buy them back from Mr. Rémy (after selling her precious furs and other jewelry), and she told her husband what she had done - to spite him. André jealously confronted Donati at a gentlemen's club, and challenged him to a pistol duel. The General prepared himself with target practice, putting three shots in the heart on the target (echoing the heart-shaped earrings). The Countess feared that if Donati accepted, he would be shot dead; she begged that he not go through with it, and even stressed that the two of them hadn't even had sex, and their love was dead. She visited the church to pray at St. Geneviève's shrine to save Donati's life. She placed her beloved earrings onto the altar - gifting, donating, and bequeathing them to the Saint. As she approached the dueling field, she heard only one shot (presumably from André who fired first as the "offending party," with the implication that Donati was shot dead) - the outcome remained ambiguous. Due to racing up a steep hill (with a weak heart), she fainted and fell against a tree - and died of a heart attack. The film came full circle in the conclusion - the Countess' earrings were viewed on the church's altar as a "Gift of Madame De..."

Mogambo (1953), 115 minutes, D: John Ford
Director John Ford's and MGM's Technicolored remake romance/adventure film (twenty-one years after Red Dust (1932) upon which it was based, that coincidentally also starred Clark Gable as the hero) was shot mostly on location in Africa. The film opened as African big-game animal trapper and weatherbeaten safari leader Victor Marswell (Clark Gable) for a safari company returned to his African ranch; upon his arrival, he was angered to encounter stranded ex-showgirl Eloise "Honey Bear" Kelly (Ava Gardner) taking a sexy outdoor shower. She was marooned and would have to wait a week in order to take a boat to leave Africa. Eloise became better acquainted with Marswell after they shared a drink during their first night, and an attraction (and beginnings of an affair) developed between them. After a week passed, however, Victor coldly ordered Eloise to pack and leave on an arriving steamboat. As Eloise was leaving, Marswell also greeted a newly-arrived couple: clueless British anthropologist Donald Nordley (Donald Sinden) and his cool, prim, and sheltered blonde wife Mrs. Linda Nordley (Grace Kelly). That same evening, Eloise arrived back at the camp with the drunken Skipper (Laurence Naismith), due to problems three miles down river with the steamer boat's engine - she would now be stranded for another four weeks until repairs were made. A love triangle began to form when a strong romantic relationship developed between Victor and the married, vulnerable, and secretly-lustful 27 year-old Linda Nordley; Honey Bear watched from the side and spouted cynical jokes ("dumb cracks") about everything. Marswell was increasingly drawn to Mrs. Nordley and was trying to keep his love for her a secret from her husband, as their sexual attraction intensified. During an expedition into gorilla country designed to have Donald study the creatures, Marswell connived to spend more time with Mrs. Nordley in private. The safari afforded time for their romance to blossom - the two illicit lovers kissed before a waterfall and then during a dusk walk while Donald was completely ignorant of their affair. Linda had to face the decision to break up with Donald when Marswell proposed to openly inform Donald of their affair the next day. Ultimately, Marswell realized Donald's true and steadfast love for Linda (Donald: "Forgive me if I tell you how much I'm in love with her"), and that she was completely unsuited for life in Africa. Marswell changed his mind about divulging the affair to Donald ("I went yellow"). To help facilitate the complete sabotage of their forbidden affair, Eloise (who now felt Marswell was within her own reach when he told her: "Yes, you're all right Kelly!"), they deliberately staged being caught hugging and carousing in his tent. The enraged and hysterical Mrs. Nordley wounded him in the arm with a gunshot from his own pistol; when Donald arrived, Eloise cleverly and quickly explained and invented an alternative version of what had happened to conceal the affair, that the drunken Victor had been making another pass at the very "decent" Linda when she defensively shot him. After the Nordleys left the camp, the melodrama ended when Marswell realized that Honey Bear was his true romantic partner. Victor proposed to her, but she rebuffed him, but then looked back and realized he cared for her. She decided to leave her departing canoe, jumped in the shallow water, ran up to him, and enjoyed a closing embrace with Marswell on the river's edge.

Monsieur Hulot's Holiday (1953, Fr.) (aka Les Vacances De Monsieur Hulot), 114 minutes, D: Jacques Tati
Writer/director Jacques Tati's satirical, episodic French comedy was filled with many visual gags and slapstick and a minimalist plot - it was the first of a number of original films that introduced and portrayed the bumbling, tall character of Monsieur Hulot (Tati himself as his alter ego); it was followed by Mon Oncle (1958), Playtime (1967), and Trafic (1971). The nostalgic, observational film composed of short vignettes (or set pieces) was always shot from mid-distance and devoid of close-ups. Although mostly silent in terms of dialogue, the film (with a jazzy score) included background sounds (both natural and created sound effects). In 1950s France, leisure-seeking vacationers were met with hustle-and-bustle, stressful situations, hassles and lots of disorder, in their efforts to get to the beach for a summer holiday. The main character: self-absorbed, likable, courteous, pipe-smoking, gawky and long-legged Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) was driving to the same destination as the other bourgeois travelers - for a vacation-holiday by the sea in the coastal village of Brittany at a small, sleepy seaside hotel (Hotel de la Plage). He was driving in his battered, small, jerky, backfiring 1924 Salmson AL-3 jalopy. Hulot was inadvertently the cause of many disruptions occurring around him as a result of his awkwardness, clumsiness, absent-mindedness and accident-prone nature. At the hotel, he accidentally left the front lobby door open, and a fierce wind blew in and created chaos. In another minor disaster, Hulot unlocked a winch crank that released a small boat back into the ocean, as the owner was painting the boat's name on its hull - the painter's brush remained stationary as the boat went into reverse, causing a long brushstroke along the length of the vessel. While Hulot was seated inside his tiny kayak by the shore and painting it, in a perfectly-timed sight gag, every time he dipped his brush, his paint can floating on the water (and carried back and forth by the tide) was in just the perfect position next to him. When Hulot stepped on his kayak, it split in two and then folded up or collapsed upon itself, looking like the two jaws of a shark. The panicky beachgoers who saw the monster-shaped creature fled from the shore. Another time, Hulot left a trail of muddy footprints into the hotel. In the countryside at a cemetery, he was mistaken for a mourner, and his spare tire (covered with mud and leaves) was misinterpreted as a memorial wreath. He also bought a tennis racket and with an ususual serve was able to defeat several other players. In the hotel, his vigorous ping-pong ball game disturbed card-game players in an adjoining room. At the hotel's Masque Ball costume party, the only ones to really dress up (other than wearing party hats) to participate were Hulot (as a one-eyed pirate), a pretty blonde named Martine (Nathalie Pascaud) (as a harlequin with a bare back), and some children. While in disguise and dancing with Martine, he timidly made romantic advances toward her. Then, at a planned outdoor picnic by the resort, Hulot found himself chasing after his runaway car. Later, Hulot was chased by dogs and hid in a shed, where he accidentally set off fireworks, creating an impromptu fireworks show on the beach at night. In the film's nostalgic conclusion, the guests were packing up and preparing to return home at the end of their vacations. Hulot joined the retreat by driving off from the beach in his sputtering old car - the image was freeze-framed. The entire B/W film was envisioned as a series of black and white images - actually film postcards (with a stamp affixed in the last frame) [Note: in some versions, the stamp was red and the only colorful element in the entire film.]

The Naked Spur (1953), 93 minutes, D: Anthony Mann
Director Anthony Mann's Technicolored, vengeful bounty-hunter had only five acting-speaking roles. The beautifully-filmed, stylistic, and moralistic 'adult' western was the third of James Stewart's five western collaborations with director Mann (also Winchester ’73 (1950), Bend of the River (1952), The Far Country (1954) and The Man From Laramie (1955)). In the untamed Colorado Rockies in 1868, Howard Kemp (James Stewart), a tormented, brooding and manic anti-hero, was intent on tracking and capturing a wanted murderer and bringing him back to Abilene, Kansas for the advertised bounty. [Note: Kemp had a mysterious past that was uncovered later during a delirious state of fever when he was suffering from a leg wound. Earlier, when he went off to fight for the Union in the Civil War, he trusted his faithless fiancee Mary with the title to his ranch and farmland, but then while he was away fighting in the war, she sold his property and ran off with another fellow.] Therefore, Kemp sought to apprehend cunning outlaw Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) with a $5,000 bounty on his head (dead or alive), in order to repurchase his land in Abilene and settle down. Ben was found to be accompanied by blonde, short-haired, tomboyish 'traveling companion' Lina Patch (Janet Leigh). Lina was the daughter of one of Ben's deceased friends, Frank Patch, who was killed while robbing a bank in Abilene. Accused killer Vandergroat had murdered a marshal in Abilene, Kansas, and Kemp had been on his trail for a long time. The fearless Kemp first enlisted the aid of grizzled, luckless prospector Jesse Tate (Millard Mitchell) by claiming he was an official lawman, and would pay Jesse $20 for his time and trouble. The two were soon joined by dishonorably-discharged, amoral, playboyish and disreputable Union cavalry rider Lt. Roy Anderson (Ralph Meeker) (who it was revealed later was being pursued by a Blackfoot Indian war party, for defiling one of the chief's daughters). Things became more complicated when Ben was apprehended with Jesse and Roy's help, and Kemp was revealed as a mercenary bounty-hunter. Then, the two others wanted to split the reward three ways with him. During their trek back to Abilene, scoundrel Ben used persuasive tactics of psychological warfare (greed, discord, suspicion, mistrust, and jealousy within a love triangle) to create conflict among his three captors. Ben convinced Lina (with unpredictable shifting loyalties) to distract Kemp so he could escape from the back of a cave during one night, and he also unbuckled Kemp's saddle-strap so that he might topple the bounty-hunter off a steep ridge - but neither ploy fully worked. One bluff that did work was to convince Jesse to desert the group at night to visit a nearby goldmine. Besides a violent Blackfoot native Indian attack from twelve riders that ended up in a massacre (only Kemp was wounded in the leg), the exciting climax came at a raging riverside after Ben had ruthlessly killed Jesse. Ben was positioned high up on a rock face, poised as a sniper with a rifle to ambush Kemp and Roy. As he fired at Kemp, Lina pushed Ben's rifle up, preventing him from firing accurately. Kemp climbed the face of the rocky cliff behind Ben and flung his "naked spur" (used to scale the cliff-face as a axe/piton) into his lower cheek or neck - after which he reeled around and Roy shot him from a distance and finished him off. Ben's corpse fell into the roaring river below. Roy was able to string a line across the rough water and retrieve the body - so that they could claim the reward. However, while swimming in the rapidly-flowing river, Roy was lethally struck by a gigantic log stump, drowned and was carried downstream. Kemp hauled Ben's body back to the shore by a rope, and became insanely single-minded and heartless - determined to claim the reward all for himself as he strapped the corpse on his horse. After Lina's pleadings to leave the ordeal behind them (and a proposal of marriage), Kemp gave up his potential blood-money bounty, buried Vandergroat's body in the ground, and then rode off with her to start a new life in California together.

Niagara (1953), 89 minutes, D: Henry Hathaway
Director Henry Hathaway's Techni-colored melodramatic noir was a thriller about the destructive nature of a femme fatale's alluring, out of control sensuality and lust as she plotted to kill her husband. One of the film's taglines compared star Marilyn Monroe to the metaphoric ever-present roar of the famous Niagara Falls: "A raging torrent of emotion that even nature can't control!" At the Rainbow Cabins (modern housekeeping units) within sight of the landmark, famed Niagara Falls vacation spot, tension quickly developed between a married couple who were vacationing together (on the Canadian side): Rose Loomis (26 year-old Marilyn Monroe), a beautiful, voluptuous and young sexy blonde woman who was a sinfully-wayward, unhappily married woman and trashy femme fatale, with her husband George Loomis (Joseph Cotten), a depressed and emotionally-unstable shell-shocked Korean War veteran. Two others (on a 'delayed' honeymoon after two years of marriage) who arrived at the Cabins from Toledo, Ohio were pretty Polly (Jean Peters) and clean-cut Ray Cutler (Casey Adams). They became friends with the Loomis couple, but soon suspected something was wrong with the troubled pair. During a trip to the scenic tourist tunnel under Horseshoe Falls, Polly spotted Rose kissing a man not her husband. The trashy Rose was cheating on her husband, and engaged in an affair with Ted Patrick (Richard Allan), her secret young lover. Together, Rose and Ted were arranging to murder George and make his death look like a suicide, to collect on George's life insurance policy. Rose's most flaunting appearance was in a tight-fitting, low-cut pinkish-red dress at an outdoor teenaged dance party at the Cabins, where she asked that the DJ play the record, "Kiss" (the illicit lovers' theme song). Rose's angry and crazed husband interrupted the romantic musical interlude by racing from their cabin and destroying the LP with his bare hands (and cutting himself in the process). Rose and Ted's dastardly plan was for Ted to kill George, and then signal her that George was dead with Rose's special song ("Kiss") from the Rainbow Tower Carillon. After the Carillon played the son and George's shoes were unclaimed from the tourist area, Rose assumed that George was dead until she visited the city morgue, where she was called upon to identify a retrieved body from the Falls. She was shocked that the dead man was Ted, not George - she fainted and collapsed. George had killed Patrick in self-defense and thrown his body into the Falls, and then decided to "stay dead" to start his life over. George conducted a revenge killing in the film's most suspenseful sequence. Rose's jealous and incensed husband stalked and pursued his scheming and trampish wife who was trying to flee from Canada. He followed her up the shadowy, Carillon clock-bell tower before murdering her by strangulation (in a striking overhead shot). Then he told her corpse: "I loved you, Rose. You know that." In the exciting and climactic finale, George hijacked the boat that Polly was on. Their boat went adrift when it ran out of gas, and it was headed toward the waterfall precipice. A desperate George (now after having deliberately murdered Rose) tried to submerge and scuttle the boat, but went over the falls to his death, while Polly was rescued by helicopter from a rock outcropping.

Pickup on South Street (1953), 80 minutes, D: Samuel Fuller
Director Sam Fuller's action-packed film was a raw, hard-boiled, Cold War-era, crime-noir thriller. Due to a chance encounter, the plot became embroiled involving distrust, violence, and a fateful criminal and sexual attraction between the two lead characters. The film's 'MacGuffin' was a valuable, highly sought-after roll of microfilm containing top-secret government information wanted by Communist spies. The film became known for its savage brutality against the femme fatale - from both her snarling future lover and ex-lover. In the opening scene set on a crowded New York subway during rush-hour, recently-released ex-con and tough-minded pickpocket Skip McCoy (Richard Widmark) edged flirtatiously close to ex-prostitute femme fatale Candy (Jean Peters) to make her his latest petty-theft robbery victim. He stole/fingered sensitive government/military microfilm contained in an envelope (bound for Communist spies with her as the unsuspecting courier) from her opened purse as two other FBI agents were conducting surveillance. McCoy didn't realize he had inadvertently obtained stolen US microfilm to be smuggled out of the country by Communist spies. Candy met with her shady ex-boyfriend/loverJoey (Richard Kiley) and told him about the theft. He falsely told her he was selling classified business secrets to a rival firm: ("a new patent for a chemical formula"). Unbeknownst to the mistreated Candy, Joey was actually an exploitative courier-contact working for the Communists. He had asked her for a final favor to deliver an envelope with the microfilm. He was upset about the loss and convinced her to use her seedy connections to locate the pickpocket and retrieve the microfilm. In the police station, Skip was identified as a possible suspect by stool-pigeon police informant Moe Williams (Oscar-nominated Thelma Ritter). McCoy was called in to be questioned by Police Captain Dan Tiger (Murvyn Vye). He professed his innocence to the authorities and denied stealing the microfilm. McCoy realized he had stolen a strip of valuable microfilm after viewing it in the NY Public Library. He hid it (knowing it would be worth alot in exchange). Candy was directed by "stoolie" Moe to the location of Skip's hideout. Skip found Candy with a flashlight searching through his possessions. He punched Candy unconscious and then searched her purse before reviving her. He lovingly rubbed her sore jaw for a few moments and then after a few kisses, Skip remarked: "You look for oil, sometimes you hit a gusher." Candy reported back to Joey that she had no success with Skip. He demanded that she continue to press McCoy to acquire the film, and gave her $500 bucks to use as bribe money. During her second visit to Skip's place, the two developed a sweaty, rough and tumble, sado-masochistic love relationship. Skip stole the bribe money from her purse, pushed her away and riskily demanded a huge payment of $25,000 in exchange for the prized microfilm from the "Commie" syndicate. She became puzzled when accused of being involved with the Communists. To stall for time and save McCoy's life, Candy riskily gave Joey a fake address for McCoy. Shortly later, Moe also notified Skip to stay away from his shack to avoid someone gunning for him. The film's most downbeat scene was Moe's death, after she refused to reveal the pickpocket's whereabouts to Commie hitman-killer Joey, even though he bribed her with $500. McCoy stealthily returned to his shack-hideout and found Candy there (who was blaming herself for Moe's death). He told her that he was willing to deal with Joey and return the strip of microfilm in exchange for the 25 grand. She gave him Joey's address, but then thinking that she could clear Skip's name and involvement on her own, Candy knocked him unconscious with a bottle, and took the marked microfilm strip to FBI agents Zara and Tiger ("the pickpocket squad"). They directed her to go back to Joey (a "Communist agent") in order to apprehend him and detect the king-pin of the organization. Joey entered Candy's apartment, and was astonished to see that she had the microfilm - but noticed a frame missing (Skip had taken one of the frames for himself). He brutally knocked her around for not divulging Skip's address a second time, but then found the address in her purse. Skip paid a hospital visit to see the bruised Candy, and finally realized that she really loved him because she wouldn't tell Joey where he lived. Back at his shack, Skip ripped up his single stolen frame of microfilm, and then evaded capture by Joey and his partner Fenton, and overheard that there was only 30 minutes until the microfilm that they had would be delivered to "Mr. Big" - first in a subway restroom, and then the remaining film frame (if obtained) at the airport. Skip followed Joey to a subway station and observed the microfilm being delivered to a Communist agent in a restroom. He beat up the agent, and also retaliated against Joey - he brutalized him mercilessly on the subway platform and then next to the tracks, before turning him over to authorities. In the film's ending set back in the police station, Skip was released - and vowed to resume his relationship with Candy.

The Robe (1953), 135 minutes, D: Henry Koster
Director Henry Koster's exceptional Biblical epic, with spectacular pageantry, was notable as the first film released in the widescreen process CinemaScope from 20th Century Fox. Its sequel in the next year was Demetrius and the Gladiators (1954). The film's setting was during the might and glory of the Roman Empire in 32 AD when Emperor Tiberius reigned. Three of the film's main characters were introduced in the opening scene set in a slave market: (1) Roman military tribune and cynical womanizer Marcellus Gallio (Richard Burton), (2) his grown-up childhood sweetheart Diana (Jean Simmons) who was the ward of Emperor Tiberius (Ernest Thesiger) in Capri and was unofficially pledged to marry Tiberius' nephew and heir Caligula (Jay Robinson) - his corrupt Prince Regent in Rome, and (3) defiant Greek slave Demetrius (Victor Mature) - an educated Greek and an excellent candidate for a servant or gladiator. Marcellus wagered 3,000 pieces of gold - and successfully acquired Demetrius, but also personally offended Caligula. Demetrius was unchained and ordered to voluntarily report to the house of Marcellus' father Senator Gallio (Torin Thatcher). The angered, tyrannical Caligula, in an immediately-spiteful and vengeful decision that evening (and to remove Marcellus from romantic competition), reassigned Marcellus with a military transfer to Jerusalem (in Palestine). Throughout the film, a romantic relationship was blossoming between Marcellus and Diana, although they had to remain discreet. After their banishment, when Marcellus (with Demetrius) arrived into Jerusalem, it was the Jewish feast time of Passover when soothsayers spoke of a coming Messiah. It happened to be the same day as Jesus' triumphant Palm Sunday entry riding on a white donkey while surrounded by devotees, who believed he was the Messiah. With one glance at Jesus, Demetrius was converted and became a follower. Marcellus played a role in the betrayal by Judas (with a payoff of pieces of silver), arrest (by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (Richard Boone)), trial, and execution (crucifixion) of the Messianic Jesus. He was assigned the position of supervising the punishment of "three criminals." After the crucifixion (witnessed by both Demetrius and Marcellus), Marcellus won Jesus' discarded home-spun cloth dark red Robe (at the foot of the cross), causing him great agony and guilt, before Demetrius ran away with the robe. Due to her influence, Diana helped to bring Marcellus back to Rome, and although he appeared bewitched by the robe-garment, Tiberius reluctantly granted Diana's wish to marry Marcellus. First however, Marcellus was assigned to return to Palestine (in the land of Galilee) to investigate a religious sect (of Christians); in his quest, he was compelled to search out the robe (in the hands of his runaway slave Demetrius) and destroy it. He disguised himself as a Roman homespun cloth merchant, traveling through country villages. In Cana, he spoke to an honorable and quiet village elder Justus (Dean Jagger), a weaver, who also led the close-knit Christian community there. He shockingly confessed that he was a first-hand witness to Jesus' death and burial, but the loving people forgave him. With Demetrius, he also realized that it was his guilty-conscience and not the robe that was driving him mad. Marcellus decided to pledge his life to serve Jesus and become a missionary. A year later, Caligula was now reigning as Emperor of Rome. Marcellus, who had been secretly hiding in Rome, had become a member of the Christian "sect" of fanatics ("one of the ringleaders") - and therefore was a "traitor and a conspirator against the state." Demetrius had been taken captive and was being tortured in the dungeon to divulge Marcellus' (and other Christians') whereabouts. Diana secretly met up with Marcellus, and although she pledged her love for him, she was skeptical about his "story" and his risky plan to rescue Demetrius, but she still supported him. A successful nighttime rescue of the almost-dead Demetrius culminated in the Gallio home where he was miraculously revived by Jesus' disciple Simon the Galilean (Michael Rennie) (called Peter, and known as "The Big Fisherman"). Marcellus' father Senator Gallio (Torin Thatcher) was relieved that his son Marcellus was alive, but renounced and disowned Marcellus due to his religious conversion. Marcellus voluntarily surrendered in a gesture of self-sacrifice so that Demetrius could escape from guards, but was imprisoned and went on trial before the crazed emperor Caligula. After Marcellus determinedly refused to renounce his faith and beliefs, Caligula sentenced and condemned Marcellus to death for "high treason." Diana chose to accept his faith and die with him as her "chosen husband," while also powerfully denouncing the jealously-mad Caligula as a tyrant. The film concluded as the two exited the trial hall and climbed a staircase together - walking hand in hand to their execution and ascending into Heaven.

Roman Holiday (1953), 118 minutes, D: William Wyler
Director William Wyler's Oscar-winning story was written by Hollywood Ten blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, who was fronted by Ian McLellan Hunter. The delightful, old-fashioned, dramatic, fairy-tale courtship and romance film (with some elements of comedy), a variation of Capra's It Happened One Night (1934), was shot on location and contained the first major starring role of the much-beloved Audrey Hepburn. In the bittersweet Cinderella storybook tale in reverse (with an April-October romance), a modern-day royal princess, Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) from an unnamed European country, took an official royal state visit to Rome, Italy. Quickly bored with ceremonial protocol, she made a daring runaway venture and slipped out of the palatial Embassy that night, to escape the endless tedium of the many official occasions and her expected roles to play - to experience life beyond the claustrophobic and imprisoning confines of her royal position - without royal control, duties, escorts and chaperones. "Incognito," she encountered street-smart, undercover American newspaperman Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), one of the many reporters who was planning to interview the Princess the next day. He protectively took her to his apartment in a taxi, and then early the next morning, realized her true identity. He promised his boss to get an exclusive story on the Princess that would help him with his career advancement. For his scoop, Joe coordinated with his carefree, bearded photographer friend Irving Radovich (Eddie Albert) to pursue them and take candid pictures. During the Princess' entertaining 24 hour tour and 'common people' adventures around Rome, they visited a hair salon, a street vendor, lunch at a sidewalk cafe, riding on Joe's Vespa scooter, seeing the famous monuments and sights, and in the evening, dancing on a riverboat barge down by Sant' Angelo on the Tiber River. They successfully evaded royal "black hat" agents who recognized her on the barge, and swam for shore to escape. They both found themselves desperately falling in love, and although they dreamt of becoming closer to each other, Ann also knew she would inevitably have to part from him and return to her other life and duties. By this time, Joe had already changed his intentions and decided to give up his 'exclusive' story-scoop about the Princess and not violate her privacy or exploit her. During their tear-jerking, sentimental night-time parting scene, Joe drove her back to a street corner within sight of the imposing, imprisoning gates of the Embassy, to say goodbye. In the final bittersweet, moving ending during the next day's press corps interview, the Princess could only be polite and impersonal to Joe: "So happy, Mr. Bradley" - she could not reveal the secret of her day with him, and they had to pretend that they didn't know each other. Afterwards, she slowly turned toward the audience, gave a wide smile toward everyone (and then directly towards Joe), held a tear-inducing gaze, and then departed.

Shane (1953), 117 minutes, D: George Stevens
Director George Stevens' mythic, highly-praised and classic adult western, based on the 1949 novel by Jack Schaefer, told about a range war conflict between frontier homesteaders and cattle ranchers in the post-Civil War period. The film's opening exhibited beautiful, Oscar-winning Technicolor cinematography as it showed the approach of a lone, handsome ex-gunfighter - simply named Shane (Alan Ladd), who descended into a beautiful Wyoming valley. He rode up to the farm of the Starrett family, headed by determined, hard-working homesteader Joe (Van Heflin), his wife Marion (Jean Arthur), and their young son Joey (Brandon de Wilde). Shane was at the homestead when he witnessed a conflict between them and hired cowhands attempting to move the sod-busting "squatters" off the land to keep them from their claims. Aging land and cattle baron Rufus Ryker (Emile Meyer) rode up with his cowhand ranchers, including his brother/foreman Morgan Ryker (John Dierkes) and cowboy Chris Calloway (Ben Johnson). They were intent on intimidating and provoking a range war, but the presence of Shane (and his reputation) helped to fend off the open-range land cow ranchers, at least for the time being. Shane agreed to temporarily become Joe's hired hand, and ostensibly to help confront the open-range land cow ranchers. Although ex-gunslinger Shane was trying to reform his life and make a break from his violent past, he was drawn into numerous conflicts (intimidations, tauntings, fist-fights and brawls, etc.) in his defense of the mostly cowardly farmers against the ranchers. Shane helped turn the tide against Ryker's men, but this only prompted Ryker to send for his own gunslinger - a cold-blooded, hired gun from Cheyenne to bait and kill the helpless homesteaders. On Independence Day, Wilson (Jack Palance) arrived in town as a black-clothed evil gunman. One of the homesteaders who didn't want to appear weak, the proud and hot-headed ex-Confederate Frank "Stonewall" Torrey (Elisha Cook, Jr.), was tricked and taunted into drawing his gun by Wilson in town. Torrey was brutally shot dead in the showdown against Wilson and was hurtled backwards onto a muddy street. One of the most moving scenes in the film was Torrey's hill-top funeral. The normally-pacifistic Joe was persuaded to put on his guns and go to town to kill Ryker, and Marion was unable to dissuade him. Meanwhile, Shane - without Joe's knowledge - had learned of a double-cross from Calloway (who had quit Ryker's group) that would pit Starrett against a "stacked deck." Knowing that Starrett didn't stand a chance against the seasoned killer Wilson, Shane changed back into his buck-skinned clothing - with his gun strapped on his waist. Shane and Joe fought in a monumental and violent fist-fight to determine who would go to town to face Wilson. The victorious Shane departed for town after a simple, but long farewell handshake with Marion. During a final shootout in the saloon (with Joey's aid when he yelled out to prevent an ambush: "Look out!"), Shane outdrew and killed the evil and dark Wilson, as well as the Rykers, but was wounded himself. He rode back to the Starrett farm, where he spoke briefly with Joey, telling him that he had to move on - he indicated to Joey that he would never return. The film ended with a classic, poignant goodbye and farewell sequence. As the nomadic loner Shane rode off slumped in his saddle, the young, anguished, distraught, and heartbroken Joey gave a poignant cry after his mythic hero ("...Come back...Bye, Shane!") with echoing words, as Shane steered toward the mountains.

Stalag 17 (1953), 120 minutes, D: Billy Wilder
Writer/director Billy Wilder's entertaining black comedy and dramatic war film chronicled the imprisonment of Americans in a large German POW camp. The setting was known as Stalag 17 "somewhere on the Danube" in late December 1944 during WWII; there were about 40,000 POWs there, including a group of captured US Sergeants (630 US airmen) who were incarcerated. One of the characters served as the narrator to provide the story as a flashback - Clarence Harvey "Cookie" Cook (Gil Stratton, Jr.). Inside Barracks # 4 where 75 men were cooped up; everyone helped to coordinate the attempted escape of two US airmen: Manfredi (Michael Moore) and Johnson (Peter Baldwin), who were being supported by Barracks Chief "Hoffy" Hoffman (Richard Erdman), and Security Chief Frank Price (Peter Graves). Cynical wise-guy POW Sergeant J.J. Sefton (Best Actor-winning William Holden) watched as the two escapees were given supplies and information. While the others wished for their success, the enterprising Sefton callously forecast: "I bet they don't even get out of the forest" - and even dared to wager about their success or failure with cigarette-bets. Sefton predicted correctly - Manfredi and Johnson were mowed down almost immediately. One of the prisoners voiced what everyone was thinking: "Maybe the Krauts knew about that tunnel all the time!" - and Sefton was suspected to be the most-likely Nazi informant. The next morning with his buffonish NCO supervisor Sgt. Johann Sebastian Schulz (Sig Ruman), the camp's Commandant Oberst von Schernbach (Otto Preminger) crudely displayed the bodies and warned of any future escape attempts. Resourceful black marketeer Sefton delivered a precise explanation of his motivations to try to remain as smart and 'comfortable' as possible during his imprisonment, and not foolishly try to escape, although he often exploited the other prisoners. It was revealed over time that Schulz was receiving hidden messages from an informant in a hollow black chesspiece, using a signaling system (either a looped or straight cord on a naked lightbulb hanging above a chessboard). Captured Lieutenant Dunbar (Don Taylor) and Sgt. Bagradian (Jay Lawrence) were temporarily assigned to Barracks 4, and foolishly bragged about blowing up a German ammunition supply train (with 26 cars) by rigging a time bomb in the Frankfurt train station. Naturally, a message about Dunbar's destructive train-bombing act was transferred by the internal informant to Schulz and then to the Commandant. After Dunbar was arrested and interrogated, Sefton was falsely accused of being guilty for squealing, and was beaten by his own barracks-mates in his bunk. With a bruised face, Sefton became determined to find out the identity of the spy. During Christmas festivities, Sefton noticed unusual changes in the light cord, and from the shadows, he witnessed Price conversing in German with Schulz about the details of Dunbar's time bomb. An escape attempt was made to rescue Dunbar from two SS officers who were preparing to drive him to Berlin. The lieutenant was successfully released and hid in the water tower until nighttime. Price eagerly volunteered to help escort Dunbar out of the camp - but as the internal spy, he was actually planning to turn him in. Sefton exposed Price in their midst as a German-born spy: ("You're kaput, Price!...He's a Nazi, Price is....He spoke our lingo so they sent him to spy school, and fixed him up with phony dogtags"). He snatched the black queen chesspiece ("the mail box") from Price's pocket, and then demonstrated the signal-message system to everyone. Price was restrained, as Sefton volunteered to help Dunbar escape. Price served as a "decoy" (rigged with clattering tin cans) and was shot down in the middle of the compound by guards, while during the chaos, Sefton crawled to Lt. Dunbar before escorting him out of the camp through the outer barbed wire fence to safety.

Summer With Monika (1953, Swe.) (aka Sommaren Med Monika), (repackaged as Monika: The Story of a Bad Girl (1955)), 96 minutes, D: Ingmar Bergman
Writer/director Ingrid Bergman's controversial romance film about lovers on the run (similar to Lewis Gilbert's Friends (1971) and Terence Malick's Badlands (1973)) was based on the novel by Per Anders Fogelström and the director's adaptation, and became one of Bergman's most influential early films. It was one of the first foreign-language films that made its brief nudity a major selling point for US audiences, and helped create the stereotype that Swedish women were sexually liberated and enjoyed swimming in the nude. However, there was only one controversial scene of nudity (skinny-dipping) and love-making in the beautiful, sunny outdoors. A few years later, legendary exploitation distributor, producer and showman Kroger Babb bought the film rights, then cut out approximately 33 minutes of the film, dubbed it into English, replaced the musical score with a jazzy one by Les Baxter, and renamed it to ready the film for the drive-in circuit - it was now known as Monika: The Story of a Bad Girl (1955). In the story, a young couple (two disaffected rebel teens), both from working class families in the industrial port city of Stockholm, became romantically-attached to each other: boyish-looking 19 year-old Harry Lund (Lars Ekborg) and almost 18 year-old Monika Eriksson (Harriet Andersson), a grocery store worker who was viewed as very adventurous, flighty, aggressive and earthy. The defiant Monika's first words were to reject their work responsibilities, and she was eventually able to encourage Harry to join her to escape their dull, tawdry family lives and horrible jobs and run away. They took Harry's father's boat out of Stockholm before experiencing a brief idyllic and euphoric romance at the beach on Orno Island in an archipelago throughout the coming summer; as they hugged, they congratulated themselves for rebelling: "We've rebelled, Monika, against all of them." In the film's only scene of very brief semi-nudity, she stripped off her clothes to sunbathe, then let Harry touch her breasts before she impulsively jumped up stark naked and ran to the water; their time of freedom was filled with sun-drenched cavorting and singing in the outdoors, love-making and romancing, until Monika noticed one day: "Oh dear, I've grown tubby" - a sign of her impending pregnancy. Harry realistically insisted that they had to return home, due to their lack of nutritious food and money, and worsening weather: "We have to go back so I can start working. You need proper food," but Monika disagreed. Eventually, Harry was convincingly optimistic about them settling down in their future: "We can't go on like this. We have to get married, and I need a job to support us." Upon their return, they were forced to have a quiet shotgun marriage and live in a very claustrophobic rented apartment with their new infant daughter "Little Monika" (or June as Monika preferred). Harry struggled to make a living for them and attended night school to become an engineer; shortly later, the resentful and frustrated 'bad-girl floozie' Monika, who was lacking any maternal instincts, became impatient and dissatisfied with her domesticated, monogamous role as a homemaker-mother with family responsibilities. The unsettled and promiscuous Monika would soon fall from grace; she was caught cheating by Harry in their own bed (off-screen) during an affair with her ex-boyfriend Lelle (John Harryson). Afterwards during a fierce argument and fight about her unfaithfulness and the fear of eviction due to Monika's overspending, Harry asked for a divorce; Monika blamed him and worried more about her looks: "You got me pregnant! Things wouldn't be like this!...And I'm all ugly now!"; she added: "I want to have fun while I'm still young." He repeatedly struck her, and she abruptly left him. It was the end of their marriage. Harry responsibly retained custody of their child as a single father. The film concluded with a close-up of the grown-up Harry (who had come of age) wistfully recalling and reprising the best memories of their time together in the sun-kissed outdoors (seen in a flashback as he gazed into a mirror while holding his baby daughter 'Monika').

Tokyo Story (1953, Jp.) (aka Tokyo Monogatari), 136 minutes, D: Yasujiro Ozu
Yasujiro Ozu's acclaimed, deliberately-paced melodramatic masterpiece (the best film of his entire career) was a classic family drama that illustrated how changing industrialized times in post-war Japan of the 1950s had severed the virtue of children and society honoring one's parents, and created tensions between generations. An elderly, unassuming middle-class couple from the provincial western seaport coastal town of Onomichi: Shukishi (Chishu Ryu) and 68 year-old Tomi Hirayama (Chieko Higashiyama) had raised five adult children (one was deceased); their youngest daughter Kyōko (Kyōko Kagawa) lived with them and was a primary school teacher. The two parents planned on a two-week journey to travel to Tokyo by train to visit all of their extended family members, including two of their very career-minded, grown children: they first arrived at the home of Dr. Koichi Hirayama (Sô Yamamura), their eldest son - a pediatrician and doctor of internal medicine, and his wife (their daughter-in-law) Fumiko (Kuniko Miyake) and their two children (the grandchildren). Also there to greet them was their visiting eldest daughter Shige Harayama Kaneko (Haruko Sugimura), Koichi's sister. At the Hirayamas, the older couple also met with their kind-hearted, sincere and humble widowed daughter-in-law Noriko (Setsuko Hara), a trading company office worker, whose husband (their second son Shōji) had been MIA during the war eight years earlier and was presumed dead. The two adult children, Kiochi and Shige were both polite to their undemanding parents, but both privately felt interrupted, detached, and imposed upon in space, resources, and time, etc. Since their arrival, the elderly parents remained upstairs in Kiochi's home, because there was nobody to take them out - everyone was too busy to entertain them. The parents moved on to the home of Shige Kaneko, their selfish eldest daughter who was the owner of the Ooh La La Beauty Shop, a hair-dressing salon, and married to her equally-selfish husband Kurazō Kaneko (Nobuo Nakamura). Shige called Noriko to urge her to take a day off from her work to usher the in-laws around to see the city's sights on a tour bus. Noriko willingly and happily accepted the task to entertain the in-laws, and the older couple was graciously thankful and grateful that Noriko had spent time with them. Shige and her husband plotted to send the parents away to the Atami Hot Springs Resort to keep them occupied while spending as little money as possible on them. The older couple had a lonely, miserable time at the resort and hotel due to the noisy nightlife of the other younger guests and they decided to return to Tokyo after one night. They were also determined to return home as soon as possible. During the parents' early return to their home, Tomi became seriously ill. She recovered at the Osaka home of her younger son Keizō Hirayama (Shirō Ōsaka), a rail company employee, but once they arrived in their hometown of Onomichi, she fell into a coma and soon died. All of the next generation's children and Noriko traveled to Onomichi, except for Keizō who arrived late, to attend the funeral. All of the family members (except for Noriko) were selfish, insincere, heartless and guilt-ridden, and impatient to leave. Shigi, Kiochi and Keizō made plans to get tickets and quickly left town on the night express train to attend to their own busy lives, while it was expected that Noriko would remain behind to help Kyōko, the youngest daughter. In the tender concluding scene with the lonely father before Noriko returned to Tokyo on the afternoon train, Shukishi spoke about his wife's time with her as her "happiest time" in Tokyo, and how he wished she would remarry. Shukishi presented Noriko with a memento - his dead wife's "old-fashioned" wristwatch, to make her "happy" - it brought tears to Noriko's eyes; he also thankfully and gratefully noted to her: "It's strange. We have children of our own, yet you've done the most for us, and you're not even a blood relative. Thank you." Sitting on the train, Noriko knew that Shukishi would now suddenly be left to live alone: (Shukishi: "Living alone, I feel the days will get very long"); the film ended on a view of the solitary Shukishi fanning himself - destined to be by himself for the remainder of his life.

Ugetsu Monogatari (1953, Jp.) (aka Tales of Ugetsu), 94 minutes, D: Kenji Mizoguchi
Kenji Mizoguchi's beautifully-composed, expressionistic anti-war film and ghostly-supernatural fantasy story was a fluid fable and morality tale of greed, the folly of ambition, misdirected love and infidelity. The "refashioning" was based on two stories by the 18th century writer Akirari Ueda (often described as the Japanese Guy de Maupassant). The film cleverly seemed to exist simultaneously in both a ghostly dreamworld and the real-world. The film's story was set in late 16th century feudal Japan during the Age of Civil Wars. Its main characters were two couples: (1) a restless, vain and ambitious craftsman-potter and peasant farmer named Genjuro (Masayuki Mori), living with his loving, dedicated wife Miyagi (Kinuyo Tanaka) and their young son Gen'ichi in a village hut, and (2) the second couple was Genjuro's peasant neighbor and simple-minded brother-in-law Tobei (Sakae Ozawa) who had fanciful but foolish dreams about becoming a respected and noble samurai warrior; his shrewish wife Ohama (Mitsuko Mito), Genjuro's sister, failed to discourage him from fantasizing about finding glory as a samurai warrior. During the civil war, according to Genjuro's wife, he had become a "different man" - he espoused monetary greed and the acquisition of more food and material gifts. The two families were able to escape from marauding troops and ventured by boat to the markets at Nagahama to sell his pottery wares. They borrowed an abandoned boat that Ohama (a boatman's daughter) rowed across the foggy mists of Lake Biwa. During the trip, they came upon a phantom ship where a dying boatman warned them (particularly the wives: "Take care of your women") to be on the lookout for pirates where they were going. Fearing the "bad omen," potter Genjuro decided to return his resistant wife (and child) to the shore so they could return home. Genjuro marketed his ceramic wares in the busy village bazaar in Nagahama where one of his high-spending customers was a bewitching, seductive, glamorous, ghostly, vengeful and threatening noblewoman-princess Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) - "daughter of the late Lord Kutsuki." Meanwhile, Tobei greedily took his share of the profits from sales to purchase a spear-sword and a suit of armor from another market vendor for a proper samurai outfit, and also abandoned his wife Ohama. She was subsequently assaulted, held down and raped (ironically) by a group of roving Samurai soldiers. Genjuro was lured him to Lady Wakasa's creepy but elegant castle, where he was immediately betrothed to her. The newlywed husband experienced scenes of seductive ecstasy in paradise with his spirit-lover/enchantress. Meanwhile, on her way back to their home village, Miyagi, the potter's wife was attacked and raped by hungry, savage, marauding soldiers, and lethally speared to death. At the same time, Tobei stole the severed head of a suicidal defeated enemy general in a bag and falsely took credit for killing the general. He was rewarded with a horse, armor, and vassals, and while celebrating in a town's brothel, he ran into his disgraced wife Ohama, one of the prostitutes. He begged for her forgiveness ("I never dreamed you'd be brought to this") and she asked if he could restore her honor or otherwise she would die. Back in the marketplace, Genjuro was warned by a Buddhist priest that Lady Wasaka was a long-dead apparition ("a spirit of the dead"). His bare back was painted with script to protect him from "the jaws of death" and exorcise the dangerous ghosts. In Kutsuki Manor, Genjuro protectively repelled Lady Wasaka and learned that she had died without knowing love, but had returned as a ghost to experience the joys of true love and happiness with him, not knowing that he had a family. Genjuro grabbed a sword, and began to assault the ghost-like personages. After falling to the ground and fainting, he awoke to find that the manor was only ruins - an illusory pile of burnt wood timbers. He quickly returned for a homecoming with his wife Miyagi, and found that she was overjoyed to see him. The next morning, he learned that it was all an illusion or dream - his wife was only a phantom. At his wife's grave, Genjuro asked: "Miyagi, why did you have to die?"; Miyagi's long-suffering, tranquil and patient spirit (in voice-over) assured Genjuro, as the camera slowly pulled back: "I did not die. I am at your side." She continued to encourage his pottery work ("Helping you spin the wheel is my greatest pleasure"), and how he had become her ideal man although she was now in a different world.

The Wages of Fear (1953, Fr./It.) (aka Le Salaire De La Peur), 148 minutes, D: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Director Henri-Georges Clouzot's suspenseful, nail-biting adventure thriller and road film was based upon Georges Arnaud's 1950 novel Le Salaire De La Peur ("The Salary of Fear"). It was a film-noirish tale of greed, macho-competition, dehumanization, misogyny, and exploitation. In the small, poor, hot and remote, "god-forsaken" South American town of Las Piedras (near to Caracas, Venezuela) in 1950, some of the film's main characters were introduced in the town's central gathering place - a cantina-bar known as Corsario. The first half of the film introduced the setting and many of the derelict, unemployed, unfortunate, down-and-out individuals (mostly Europeans) who were stranded, trapped and desperate to leave the town (the only way out was an expensive airlines ticket). The playboyish, ex-petty thief Mario Livi (Yves Montand) was a French Corsican in exile, involved in a slightly-abusive affair with local cantina-bar waitress Linda (Vera Clouzot, the director's wife in her feature film debut) who sincerely loved him, but she was also forced to sleep with her demanding boss Paquito Hernandez (Dario Moreno). Aging, dapper, nihilistic and arrogant con-artist and ex-gangster Mr. Jo (Charles Vanel) arrived in town by plane; as a result, Mario began to spend all his time with Jo - another French compatriate who had lived in Paris; he soon gave up his talkative and hard-working best friend and fat Italian roommate Luigi (Folco Lulli), employed as a mason. Jo successfully separated Mario from both his roommate Luigi and from Linda. In town, an exploitative, domineering American oil company, the Southern Oil Company, or SOC, announced a catastrophe - a disastrous oil-well fire 300 miles away. The only way to extinguish the fire was to cap the well and destroy it with highly-explosive nitroglycerine. The company needed men to drive two trucks (loaded with 200 gallons of the unstable explosive in jerry-cans) on a treacherous, death-defying mission across rough terrain to the site. Four "transients" or other non-union and non-company volunteers were hired (for bonus wages of $2,000 each) to take the suicidal job. Eventually, the chosen few for the job included: strong, blonde German-born expatriate and pilot Bimba (Peter van Eyck), the dying Luigi, Mario, and at the last minute, the substituted Jo. The four drivers were dressed in company uniforms and watched nervously as the nitro was loaded onto the two trucks. The second half of the thrilling film consisted entirely of the dangerous drive itself; the drivers were paired up at the start, Mario with Jo, and Luigi with Bimba. Four major obstacles were featured during their treacherous journey, bringing out the cowardice or bravery of some of the characters: (1) a rippled 'washboard' road required driving at either less than 6 mph (that would prolong the trip) or at least 40 mph to avoid excessive vibration. The two trucks almost collided with each other at the end of the stretch. (2) a construction barrier required the trucks on a winding, tightly-angled mountain road to negotiate a narrow hairpin turn by backing up onto a rotting wooden platform above a cliffside - the structure ultimately collapsed after the second truck barely made it. (3) a huge boulder that had fallen from the steep cliff walls blocked the roadway, and nitro from the truck had to be used to detonate and clear it. The boulder was successfully blasted out of the way by Bimba. (4) a sudden flash of light and billowing clouds of dense smoke signified that a deadly explosion had struck the lead truck carrying Luigi and Bimba. The blast created a large pit or crater that was quickly filled with spilled oil from a ruptured oil pipeline. Mario and Jo had to navigate their truck through the oil-filled crater, and Jo was lethally-wounded when his leg was run over. Jo died on the way just as the truck entered SOC's flaming oil field headquarters. In the film's unexpected, surprising and ironic conclusion, after collecting double his promised wages ($4,000 dollars) and being praised as a hero, Mario drove back in an empty truck to the Corsario cantina (where a celebratory party was taking place for him), and was expected to arrive in a few hours. On his return trip, the death-defying Mario dangerously and recklessly weaved back and forth, and suddenly swerved off the road. His truck barrelled through a guardrail and over a cliffside; he was killed clutching his lucky Paris subway ticket. Telepathically sensing Mario's death, Linda fainted while dancing in the cantina.

The War of the Worlds (1953), 85 minutes, D: Byron Haskin
Director Byron Haskin's and producer George Pal's science-fiction cult classic was an updating of H.G. Wells' 1898 science-fiction novel. The story told of the invasion of hostile Martian spacecrafts shaped like green manta rays with cobra probes. It was the winner of the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for its spectacular state-of-the-art visual F/X. Before the credits, an opening black and white prologue and montage told about our war-torn universe as a result of our most recent Second World War, and the possibility for a new "War of the Worlds." The film's post-titles Narrator (Cedric Hardwicke) told about our universe (illustrated with colorful matte paintings of the planets of our Solar System) and described how all the other planets were inhospitable to the Martians except for the lush green environment of Earth ("the blue planet") - it was viewed as the perfect place for alien migration. In 1950s Southern California (first in the town of Linda Rosa, about 30 miles from L.A.), a very large cylindrical-shaped, other-worldly object created a fireball and crashed in the San Gabriel Mtns. It caused a minor forest fire, carved out a small crater at the site of the impact, and brought many onlookers. It was evident that the object was radioactive. Two nearby residents were intrigued, along with many others: USC library science instructor Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) and her uncle, Pastor Matthew Collins (Lewis Martin). While investigating the crash, Sylvia became the love-interest of heroic scientist Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry) of the Pacific Institute who arrived at the scene after he was interrupted nearby during a fishing trip. When the hatch on the strange radioactive object unscrewed itself and opened, a metallic Martian weapon of some kind (a long-necked, cobra-like probe with a flashing red eye) emitted a deadly heat ray that scorched and disintegrated three men guarding the site, who were holding up a white flag as they approached. There was a power outage and lack of telephone service (and wristwatches also stopped). During a closer investigation, a more massive heat-ray vaporized the car carrying a Deputy as he attempted to flee from the Martian war machine. Following reports that cylindrical objects were landing elsewhere around the world, and more heat-ray attacks by the long-necked probes were occurring, the military was called in. Soon after, three manta-ray looking, swan-like alien war-machines emerged from three cylinders at each crash or impact site. Sylvia's pacifist uncle Pastor Matthew Collins foolishly walked toward the war-machines to try to communicate with them, reciting the 23rd Psalm ("...And I will dwell in the house of the Lord - forever"), and was rapidly destroyed (off-screen). The probes began to zap objects with green disintegration heat rays throughout the Los Angeles area (and elsewhere in the world) to attempt to destroy civilization. These other-worldly weapons were capable of burning, melting, and vaporizing weapons and soldiers. During an escape attempt, Sylvia and Dr. Forrester crash-landed in a small military plane and sought refuge in an abandoned farmhouse, where they were approached by a long tentacled probe - a tri-colored "electronic eye," that peered in through a window. In a scary moment, an alien Martian placed its creepy, tentacled and fingered hand on Sylvia's left shoulder. They fled just before the house was incinerated by a hovering war machine. In the film's concluding second half, the warring invaders began an assault on Earth, and destroyed everything that resisted. They remained impenetrable by employing their own protective force-fields. Los Angeles was evacuated as the Martians were proceeding to conquer the world, and mobs of people panicked during their flight, while looters took over. Outside a church in SoCal where Sylvia and Forrester were finally reunited, one of the threatening alien war machines suddenly lost power and crashed into a nearby building. Miraculously, Forrester realized that the aliens were dying. The film ended in an uplifting scene with survivors standing on a hillside thankfully singing hymns. The Martian threat had fallen prey to bacterial infection (an ironic twist), described by the Narrator, who intoned (in voice-over) that God had saved humanity by "the littlest things."

The Wild One (1953), 79 minutes, D: Laslo Benedek
Director Laslo Benedek's (and producer Stanley Kramer's) crime drama was a sub-genre-defining motorcycle outlaw biker film. The Columbia Pictures' film (co-scripted by John Saxon) was based upon Frank Rooney's Harper Magazine's January 1951 short story "The Cyclists' Raid", and became a landmark film of 50s rebellion. It was the first feature film to examine outlaw motorcycle gang violence in America. The opening title, shown over a long, ground-level shot of an empty, open country road and its white median strip, was a memorable, cinematographic sequence: ("This is a shocking story. It could never take place in most American towns -- but it did in this one. It is a public challenge not to let it happen again"). 40 black leather-jacketed cyclists (members of 'The Black Rebels Motorcycle Club') roared directly into the stationary, low-angled camera; the motorcycle gang rode in a tightly-knit squadron formation, led by sideburned, leather-jacketed anti-hero Johnny Strabler (Marlon Brando) - the film's narrator. The disruptive gang of outlaw bikers rode into the main drag of Carbonville, CA and interrupted a legitimate, weekend motorcycle race competition. They were quickly thrown out of the competition and town by Sheriff Singer (Jay C. Flippen) and told to "Hit the road...get goin'," but not before they stole the second-place prize trophy. In the nearby town of Wrightsville, CA, the bikers continued to cause havoc. The town's cafe-bar served as the central gathering place, where the main characters were introduced: police chief Harry Bleeker (Robert Keith) - and his brother - opportunistic owner-merchant of the local bar/cafe Uncle Frank Bleeker (Ray Teal), and Harry's attractive, clean-cut daughter Kathie (Mary Murphy) who worked for her uncle as a waitress. Kathie and Johnny (who took an immediate interest in Kathie) represented two very opposing lifestyles: a square, stable, but restricted hick vs. a hip wanderer. When Johnny was questioned: "Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?" while tapping out a jazzy beat on the top of the jukebox, he raised his eyebrow and drawled his amorphous reason for rebellion: "Whaddya got?" Although members of Johnny's BRMC gang were ready to leave town, they were halted by the arrival of a group of rival cyclists led by crazy, vulgar biker Chino (Lee Marvin). Both gangs threatened to take over the operations of the town after Chino was arrested and jailed. Gang members of both groups wrecked the town, looted stores, and one group of bikers cornered Kathie ("Johnny's girl") in an alleyway after she left the cafe and surrounded her; Johnny intervened, heroically rescued her and drove her during a moonlit ride (she clung to him on the back of his motorcycle) to a secluded park just outside of town. When Kathie expressed her envy of him - and his lifestyle of freedom, Johnny didn't respond to her romantic fantasy and rejected her crazy dream. She began crying and hugged him ("Johnny, Johnny, I love you"), but he pushed her away. Then embarrassed, she ran away. One of the townsfolk Art Kleiner (Will Wright) witnessed the incident and misunderstood, assuming that Johnny was intending to rape her. Kathie watched as Johnny was attacked on his cycle by a vigilante mob of townspeople, and she rushed to the office of her father to alert him. Meanwhile, Johnny was dragged into a building where he was pinned down while being viciously beaten up. The police chief finally found the courage to confront the mob and take Johnny into his protective custody. Johnny attempted to leave town, but someone tossed a tire iron at his moving bike's wheel spokes; he was thrown free of his bike that plunged out of control and inadvertently struck and killed an elderly bystander in the crowd. County Sheriff Singer and other police cars restored order to town, and Johnny faced possible manslaughter charges. Kathie defended Johnny, explaining that it wasn't Johnny's fault; she also vigorously defended Johnny from further accusations of rape in the park; although Johnny was lectured by the Sheriff, he was ordered to be set free. In the concluding scene, Johnny gave a wordless goodbye to Kathie in Bleeker's Cafe, where he expressed his gratitude to her redemptive nature by gifting her with the stolen trophy (and a smile) before departing from the deserted town.

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