Wednesday, November 3, 2021

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Cinema '62: Lives of Crime

The following films deal with crime, at least as it was interpreted in 1962. We've got murder, rape, stalking, sex trafficking, drug use, conspiracy, racketeering, theft, and back-alley abortions. Bring the kids!

Cape Fear
dir: J. Lee Thompson
pr: Sy Bartlett
scr: James R. Webb
cin: Samuel Leavitt

An ex-con plots revenge against the lawyer whose testimony put him away. A brutal movie. The way Mitchum's Max Cady leers at a waitress or stares at the lawyer's teen daughter is chilling, to say nothing of his actual assaults against Barrie Chase and Polly Bergen. Pulse-pounding score, nifty swamp finale, great performances from Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum. See it if you've the stomach for it.

The Connection
dir: Shirley Clarke
pr: Lewis M. Allen / Shirley Clarke
scr: Jack Gelber
cin: Arthur J. Ornitz

A documentary crew hangs out with heroin addicts waiting for the connection. Everyone gets a chance to say their piece - sometimes it's philosophical, sometimes it's impenetrable, often it's hostile. Avoids the melodrama and just sits in the environment with them - at one point, the "director" complains that there's nothing going on, no action, they're just shooting up and laying down. Well, exactly. Makes the argument that documentarians and "realist" directors are just as exploitative, just as sensationalizing, just as dehumanizing as any other entertainer.

Confessions of an Opium Eater
dir/pr: Albert Zugsmith
scr: Robert Hill
cin: Joseph F. Biroc

Vincent Price as action hero, infiltrating and dismantling a Chinatown trafficking ring. Notable for a mildly trippy sequence where Price is chased by assassins while under the influence of opium. Creaky cheapie, for Price completists only.

Experiment in Terror
dir/pr: Blake Edwards
scr: Gordon Gordon & Mildred Gordon
cin: Phillip Lathrop

A bank teller is terrorized by a man threatening her and her teenage sister. Like many a Blake Edwards movie, it's well-made but a trifle overlong. The opening scene in the heroine's garage and a humdinger of a sequence in an apartment full of mannequins show Edwards could have made it doing more suspense/horror films. Its secret weapon is Ross Martin's performance as the psycho at the center. 

dir/pr: Donn Harling
scr: Richard DeLong Adams & George Mitchell
cin: Vilis Lapenieks

A young man gets caught up in the machinations of a crime syndicate run by a newspaper editor, a doctor, and the chief of police. Fun cheapie that looks like it was made by a bunch of friends at their homes. A mid-film catfight between two beautiful buxom blondes in lingerie is both extraneous and fulfilling. Has at least one effective jump scare, give it credit for that.

The Case of Patty Smith
dir/pr/scr: Leo A. Handel
cin: Howard Schwartz

AKA The Shame of Patty Smith, AKA Patty Smith, AKA Patty. A girl seeks an abortion after being gang-raped. Terrific pre-Roe v. Wade drama about how anti-abortion laws (and sermons!) are antiquated, unrealistic, and, ultimately, do more harm than good to the woman and the community. Bookended by dry lecturing from grey-haired old men, in between is a compelling story with fine performances.

Tomorrow - an almost-final five, all in glorious color!

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