Movies reviewed this week: The Beast Must Die, The Black Vampire, Panic, Razzia, Le Doulos, Any Number Can Win, A Colt Is My Passport, and Branded to Kill.
2/14/2020: The Beast Must Die (1952): ***1/2
“I can understand your pain, Frank. But not your weakness.”
An Argentinan noir wearing a manor house mystery’s skin. Melodramatic, tragic, infused with moments of pure acid. The extended flashback gives the pathos weight.
2/14/2020: The Black Vampire (1953): ***
Lumpy, meandering plot propped up by some fun performances. But really the selling point is the spectacular noir cinematography, particularly the sewer scenes and all the use of windows to refract and distort the characters.
2/15/2020: Panic (1946): ****
“Your presence has become aesthetically intolerable, so I must ask you to leave.”
A bleak paranoid movie about mob rule, with a nuanced Michel Simon performance as a lonely man who hides behind both his mannerisms and an unruly full beard.
2/15/2020: Razzia (1955): **1/2
50s French exploitation movie in the criminal syndicate milieu. There’s a plot but mostly it’s about Jean Gabin expressing casual dominance over drug dealers. Reminded me of Donald Westlake’s Parker novels, in an unsentimental criminal vein.
2/15/2020: Le Doulos (1962): ****1/2
An insanely tightly woven ball of betrayal and accidents. It absolutely hums. Bonus points for swank opening credits.
2/15/2020: Any Number Can Win (1963): ****
This had me in the first five minutes, with Jean Gabin’s pissy voiceover critiquing the idiots around him. It remained propulsive for the next two hours. Great swinging 60s heist movie, great Alain Delon, great fun.
2/16/2020: A Colt Is My Passport (1967): ****
Just as much betrayal as Le Doulos, but no twists. This makes the fate of our criminals inevitable rather than tragic. Nicely fatalistic. Also — are the yakuza in the bulletproof car aiming to be us, the movie-viewing spectators? That’d be some savage commentary on our love of gangster flicks.
2/16/2020: Branded to Kill (1967): ****
“Booze and women kill a killer.”
Clearly a sophisticated allegory with Misako as Hanada’s Thanatos complex and his wife as his Eros stand-in. His inability to resolve his drives, as symbolized by his obsession with purity (rice), is his undoing.