A fabulously acted movie that holds your attention all the way through. Based on a true crime from the 1920s, director Clint Eastwood takes what could have been a simple movie and makes it into a psychological, intense drama. After a mother’s son goes missing, corruption in the Los Angeles Police Department takes over and forces the mother to accept a child that is not her own. When the mother protests, she is called crazy and put in an asylum. Apparently, this real-life case began the fall of the corruption among L.A.’s finest. Regardless of the truth of this story, it is an enthralling film. Angelina Jolie is superb as the wronged mother. And Eastwood’s knack for storytelling has never been better. The story lags a little near the end but all in all, a great film.
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This film, kind of a horror-thriller, still makes me jump and wriggle in my seat, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. Even though I know the outcome, it still works as an effective thriller that holds suspense throughout and features something many non-Hitchcock thrillers lack…a good plot filled with solid characters. The story is pretty simple…a released convict hunts down the witness whose testimony helped put him in jail. But, instead of killing or attacking the witness right away…once he finds him, this criminal chooses a slow torture process. He starts with stalking and then moves slowly on to more vicious and heinous things, making sure he never implicates himself at any time. Robert Mitchum plays the criminal, Max Cady, and this is a role he was born to play. I always have felt that Mitchum is a highly underrated actor and his subtly evil performance here seals, in my mind, that Mitchum never got his deserved due. Gregory Peck as the witness with the family he so desperately is trying to protect is not necessarily less impressive but this is a role Peck has played on a number of occasions…the trouble family man. He still is at the top of his game here, especially towards the end when Mitchum increases the stakes. But, this is all Mitchum’s movie…as the quintessential and un-stereotypical bad guy.

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Montgomery Clift as a priest? Really? I like Mr. Clift but I think that’s a tad of a stretch. And, apparently Monty thought so as well because he never seems quite comfortable in his vestments. Pushing that aside, this is a well-done thriller by the man who knows them best, Mr. Alfred Hitchcock. Unlike most Hitchcock films, there are some times in this one where Hitchcock asks us (the audience) to suspend our disbelief. I mean that there are quite a lot of “coincidences” that we are just supposed to believe are meant to be. All in all, a solid thriller with a cast of interesting character and one semi-unbelievable priest. Actually, since I like Clift as an actor, I wish he would have worked with Hitchcock again. I think they would have worked better together if Monty had a role he felt more suited for.

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Rear Window stands as the first highly successful film director Alfred Hitchcock made after a string of critical and commercial flops in the late 1940s and early 1950s. And what a comeback it was! James Stewart, who was appearing here in his second of four Hitchcock films, plays L.B. Jefferies, a man whose leg is broken and his heart is torn between his lady love (Grace Kelly) and his wild, adventurous travels as a freelance photographer. With the broken leg, Stewart is confined to a wheelchair with nothing better to do than look out the windows of his courtyard apartment. While looking out at all hours of the day and night, he sees something that he cannot explain. Was what he saw a murder or just a coincidence? This film, like other Hitchcock films Dial M for Murder and Rope, has the capacity to be a mundane movie, since most of the filming takes place in one room. But, in the hands of master director Hitchcock, mundanity never even enters the picture. The courtyard becomes an intricate part of the story, allowing Hitchcock to open up the movie beyond just Stewart’s apartment. Hitchcock also uses the perfect camera angles to heighten suspense at ever turn. Not only one of Hitchcock’s best, but also the film that marked the return of the true Master of Suspense.

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For a movie that takes place all in one small apartment (and mostly in one room of that apartment), this film sure has enough suspense and entertainment to fill anyone’s appetite for a good thriller. Director Alfred Hitchcock used this “one room” confining effect also in his 1948 thriller Rope, loosely based on the Leopold/Loeb murders. In Rope, Hitchcock seemed to be forcing the camera work around the room…seeming lost at times on which action to focus. In 1954’s Dial M for Murder, Hitchcock takes what he learned in Rope and improves on it. The camera is more fluid and less confined to the small area. The interaction with the characters does not seem too “crowded” as it often did in Rope. At times, in Dial M For Murder, the audience forgets this is a movie set mainly in just one room. This film is often overlooked in the Hitchcock filmography, mostly because it is not one of his best—but, that does not mean it’s not a good thriller. It just means Hitchcock directed so many good films that some of the smaller ones don’t get the attention they deserve. As for the plot of Dial M for Murder, you will just have to rent it and find out……

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