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La gavetta di Wise si svolse all'ombra di Orson Welles, del quale fu
montatore, e di Val Lewton, del quale diresse due horror.
The Curse of the Cat People (1944) is more of a fairy tale than a
Amy is a strange child. She has a lot of imagination and shuns the other
children. Her father is worried because his first wife died of madness.
On her birthday her father makes her promise that she will play with the
other children. The other children are made at her, and run away. Amy
tries to follow them and ends up at a mysterious house. The voice of an
old lady calls her from a window. Amy doesn't see anyone but someone
throws a ring at her. A younger woman comes out of the house and sends Amy
away. Amy goes home and is reproached by her father who doesn't believe the
story and thinks Amy just made it up as an excuse for not playing with the
other children. Amy uses the ring as a wishing ring to wish for a friend.
The friend materializes in her imagination and she plays with him while her
parents see her playing alone. At night her mother sees the rings and orders her
to return it. The following day Amy walks to the mysterious house and tells
the younger woman that she wants to return the ring to the older lady.
The old lady appears in person and introduces herself as an old star, Julia, who
played in theaters around the world. The old lady tells Amy that the younger
woman is an impostor, liar and cheat. Then she tells Amy the story of the
headless horseman. Just then her parents' black servant comes looking for her.
The younger woman stares coldly at them without saying a word. When Amy and
the black servant have left, the younger woman reproaches the old lady for
calling her a fake: she is her daughter Barbara, but the old lady is convinced
that her daughter died as a child.
That night Amy has a nightmare about the headless horseman and calls her secret
friend to lull her back to sleep with his song.
The following morning Amy accidentally sees a photo of Irena. She is mesmerized
by the beauty of that face and uses the wishing ring to invoke her ghost. Irena
appears to her in the garden and they become good friends.
On Christmas eve Amy walks outside in the cold and gives a gift to Irena.
On Christmas day Amy walks to Julia's house to give her a gift that the old
lady is happy to receive, while the gift from her daughter lies unopened next
One day her father learns that Amy's secret friend is Irena and gets angry.
He wants Amy to repudiate the friend but Amy refuses. Later he tells Amy's
how Irena went mad, killed a man and then killed herself. He is frightened
that Amy would pick that ghost from the past as a friend. Meanwhile Irena
appears to Amy in her bedroom and bids her goodbye for her own good.
Irena runs after her in the woods as it starts snowing. Amy looks for shelter
in Julia's house but now Barbara hates her out of jealousy. Barbara is about
to strangle her but Amy sees Irena in her and calls her "my friend".
Her father finds her there and brings her back home.
The Body Snatcher (1945),
Robert Louis Stevenson's
short story "The Body Snatcher",
is a morality tale before being a horror
In 1831 medical student Donald is having a picnic
in a Scottish graveyard and chats with the mother of a man who has just
been buried. She is afraid of grave robbers but he reassures her.
Meanwhile a kind cabman (Boris Karloff) delivers a paralyzed girl, Georgina,
to the mansion of a famous doctor. The mother describes
the accident in which her husband died, and
how the girl is feeling more and more pain.
Donald happens to be one of the doctor's student and is more successful at
befriending the girl. The doctor refuses to operate the girl because his first
duty is to train new doctors. When the mother and her girl have left, Donald
tells the doctor that he would like to quit. To convince him to stay, the
doctor makes him his personal assistant who can live in his mansion.
The doctor lives with his loving
wife and a horrible servant, Joseph (Bela Lugosi). The doctor confesses to Donald that not
all the corpses they use for their studies come from the morgue as prescribed
by the law.
In the middle of the night a man digs up the body of the old woman's son, just
the woman Donald had met. Later Donald hears knocking at the door and helps
the cabman carry the corpse into the doctor's house. The doctor pays for each
corpse that the cabman digs up.
Georgina's mother comes to beg Donald to help her and he promises to talk to
the doctor. Walking around town, Donald meets the old mother,
who is crying because her son's corpse has been stolen.
Donald wants to quit again, this time on moral grounds, but the doctor explains
that those corpses are needed to perfect their science and save more lives in
At the tavern the doctor and Daniel meet the cabman, who invites them to join
him at the table and then treats the doctor like an old friend. The cabman
is sarcastic about their profession, disrespectful of the doctor's pompous
attitude and hints that he once saved the doctor's life. When Daniel asks
the doctor to operate Georgine, the cabman forces the doctor to accept.
Donald tells Georgine and her mother the good news. At home the doctor is
angry and his wife guesses why: she knows that her husband hates the cabman
and wishes him dead. The doctor tells Donald that he was just kidding: he
cannot operate the little girl because it would require a lot more research.
Now Donald realizes the need for corpses and he personally asks the cabman
to find one, so that the doctor can experiment before performing the surgery.
On the way he gives a coin to the blind girl dressed in black who sings in the
streets. The girl is still singing when Donald walks back home in the deserted
street. The cabman ties the horse to his carriage and drives out to look for
the corpse. The singing stops abruptly... Hours later the cabman shows up
at the doctor's mansion and delivers to Donald the corpse of the blind singer.
Donald accuses the cabman of murder but still pays for the corpse.
When Donald tells the doctor about the murder, the doctor tries to find
excuses and refuses to call the police, especially since Donald was, de facto,
an accomplice in the murder. The doctor's servant Joseph overhears the conversation.
The doctor finally performs the operation on Georgina, letting the students
watch so they can learn. The operation seems successful.
Later the doctor informs the cabman that he won't need his services anymore.
Outside Joseph tries to talk to the cabman but Donald arrives.
Donald tells the doctor that Georgina's wound has healed but she still doesn't
walk. The doctor is devastated. At the tavern the cabman makes fun of him,
hinting that the doctor is not a real doctor and that he, the cabman, was once
convicted of a crime to save the doctor.
Having learned of his murders, Joseph makes the mistake of blackmailing
the cabman, who does not hesitate to kill him and to send the corpse to the
doctor as a gift. When the doctor realizes whose corpse it is, he orders Donald
to dissect it like all the previous ones (to make the evidence disappear) and
then goes to confront the cabman. The doctor's wife warns Donald to leave
and reveals that the cabman took the blame for a crime that the young doctor
had committed: robbing graves.
Meanwhile the doctor kills the cabman after a furious argument, and then
carries the corpse home to show it to his wife.
Donald tells Georgina's mother how disappointed he is but just then Georgina
gets up and stands up, proving that the operation was successful.
Donald wants to inform the doctor and finds him in a town where he plans to
unearth a fresh corpse. On the way back, riding in the storm, the doctor hears
the voice of the cabman.
He checks the corpse and believes he sees the cabman's face during
a lightning. The thunder scares the horses that take off and
carry the doctor and his corpse over a cliff. Donald finds him dead at the
bottom of the ravine, next to the corpse: it's the corpse of a woman.
Born To Kill (1947) was his first film noir, a bitter portrait of two
cynical souls, a psychotic man and an amoral woman; but the plot is
implausible and amateurish.
Helen gets her divorce and is ready to leave town.
She bids farewell to her landlady
and meets another tenant, the young and vain Laury, who boasts how she's going
out with a new boyfriend. Helen visits a casino where she loses money and
is scrutinized by a silent gambler. She briefly meets Laury and her boyfriend.
When the two lovers return home in the evening, there's a man waiting for them:
it's the silent gambler, Sam, Laury's former boyfriend. Sam and the new
boyfriend fight and Sam beats him to death. Then he kills Laury too.
Helen discovers the bodies when she returns home. She is tempted to call the
police but then she doesn't.
Meanwhile Sam has returned to his flat. He tells his housemate Marty what happened.
His housemate reproaches him for killing people but then helps him come up
with a plan. The best thing is that he takes the first train out of town.
Helen happens to be on the same train and recognizes the silent gambler.
He is not shaken at all. He is self-assured and confident. He flirts with her,
and she doesn't do anything to discourage him. So Sam visits her at her new
address: a wealthy mansion. Helen coldly introduces him to her vain and rich sister
Georgia and to her aristocratic fiance Fred. They invite Sam to follow them
to a night club. Georgia reads about the double murder on the newspaper and
Helen tells her that she found the bodies but didn't want to get involved since
she was leaving town. When alone with Helen, Sam is still aggressive and
even offensive (hinting that she's marrying only for the money), but she seems
to like it. However, Sam immediately turns to Georgia and easily seduces her.
They decide to get married. Helen does not believe in his love and warns him
against hurting his innocent sister.
Meanwhile, the landlady has hired a private detective (the first one she finds
on the telephone book, who happens to be broke and inept).
At the wedding the detective, who has tracked down Sam by followed Marty,
manages to sneak in as a kitchen helper.
Helen catches him gossiping and forces him to confess his true identity.
She then shows him to the door but realizes that Sam is hiding something.
Helen invites Sam's only friend, Marty, to a restaurant and starts asking
him questions. She even invites him to stay at the mansion.
Sam wants to run the newspaper that Georgia owns, but Georgia is opposed to
the idea because he has no business experience.
Sam and Helen finally confront admit each other's attraction. They exchange
compliments about each other's depravity and get more and more excited until
She says that she's afraid of what she could become without Fred's money
(a prostitute? a killer?)
Marty catches them kissing and warns Sam against getting in a mess, but Sam
does not listen.
Then he overhears Helen calling the detective and begins to suspect that
Helen has been only pretending to be in love with him while in reality
plotting to destroy him.
Helen meets the detective. The detective has no doubt that Sam is the killer
but tells Helen that he has not yet informed his customer nor the police.
Realing that Helen has an interest in suppressing the case,
the detective does not hesitate to blackmail her.
When she returns home, Sam confronts Helen in front of Marty.
She tells him the truth but he is still suspicious.
The faithful friend Marty (whose motive is never clear but is ready to risk
jail for Sam) follows the detective and finds out who the sender is: the
landlady. He visits her and offers to help her investigation. He gives her
an evening appointment in a remote place, presumably to kill her.
Back at the mansion he talks to Helen trying to dissuade her from having an
affair with Sam. Sam sees Marty walk out of Helen's room and behaves rudely
to him. Later Marty meets the old lady and is about to kill her with a knife
but Sam attacks him: convinced that Marty is trying to steal Helen from him,
Sam kills Marty, and the old lady manages to escape.
Back at the mansion Sam admits to Helen that he killed his only friend out of
jealousy. Helen is mad at him and treats him like an idiot who always gets
himself in a mess. Helen visits the old lady trying to make it look like
Sam saves her life, but the old woman has guessed that Sam is a killer.
Helen threatens her with death if Sam is arrested.
The old lady spits on Helen's face. Back at the mansion
Fred confronts Helen: he realized that Helen does not love him and wants
to call off the wedding. She begs him in vain not to leave her.
The detective calls demanding the money, despite the fact that the landlady
has dropped the case as Helen wanted. Helen now refuses to pay. The detective
calls the police. Helen tells Georgia the truth about Sam. Georgia still wants
to defend and save Sam, the man she still truly loves.
Georgia accuses her of being simply bitter because Fred dumped her, of wanting
her to break up with Sam because she lost Fred's money and Georgia's marriage
to Sam deprived her of Georgia's money too. Just then Sam enters the room
and, not seeing Georgia, kisses Helen, thus proving to Georgia that Helen
was telling her the truth. The police has surrounded the mansion.
Sam, who has been suspicious of her motives just like he's been suspicious of
everybody else, thinks that Helen called the police on him and kills her
before the police kill him.
Blood On The Moon (1949) is a western.
Si impose con due drammi d'ambiente pugilistico.
The Set-up (1949)
è una parabola sulla dignità dell'uomo.
Un anziano pugile non vuole arrendersi nonostante sia dato per
spacciato da tutti e la moglie lo supplichi di ritirarsi.
Quando scopre che l'incontro è stato truccato
e che il suo manager vuole la sconfitta, fa appello a tutte le sue forze e riesce a vincere.
attendono però gli uomini del Sindacato, che lo picchiano e gli rovinano
la mano destra.
Si trascina nel vicolo a fatica, mentre intorno strombazzano le orchestrine
jazz dei locali notturni. La moglie, che lo sta aspettando a casa, lo vede
trascinarsi a fatica e accorre.
La sua carriera è finita, ma è riuscito a dimostrare ciò
The Set-up (1949) is a film noir with expressionistic overtones
about the existential crisis of a man who keeps chasing the dream
that has always eluded him.
In front of a boxing venue spectators are in line to get in and watch the
match of a boxer, Stoker. His manager thinks that Stoker is finished and
"sells" the match to a racketeer without even telling Stoker. Stoker is in
his hotel room with his wife. For the first time in their marriage, Julie
refuses to attend the match. Stoker is an aging boxer who has lost the last
matches, and tonight has to fight against a much younger boxer.
She is worried and hopeless. She tries to talk him out of it.
But he is still dreaming of the big break of his career and doesn't listen to
her. Backstage in the dressing rooms the world of boxing has no mercy. As Stoker
gets ready, he sees young inexperienced boxers as well as one who is almost
killed on the ring. In the meantime his wife is walking around the city,
pondering if she wants to attend the match or not. Stoker is going to be the
last boxer to get on the ring: he has plenty of time to see all the others
go and come back. When his turn comes, Stoker is disappointed to see his
wife's seat empty. His young rival is much stronger and more agile, and Stoker
is repeatedly on the verge of collapsing. Only desperation keeps him fighting.
To make him give up, the manager tells him of the deal he struck with the
racketeer. But Stoker finds the strength to beat the young rival and win.
He has only two fans in the entire audience,
a journalist and a newspaper boy. Everybody else leaves the hall in silence.
His manager has already left, afraid of the racketeer's revenge.
Stoker's dream has come true, but he doesn't have time to rejoice. The
gangsters corner him in an alley, beat him senseless and break his right hand,
so he will never be able to box again. His wife sees him limp towards the hotel
and runs down in the street. They hug. He is happy that he won. She cries
but is happy that he will never fight again. They both won.
svolge durante una sera ed è descritta con un realismo vigoroso fino alla brutalità. Il mondo del
pugilato offre un milieu unico in fatto di spettacolo, questioni sociali, suspence, criminalità,
avventura, psicologia, mito del successo, corruzione, crudeltà, giochi di potere, etc. Il pubblico e` un pubblico di bruti, selvaggi, maniaci.
So Big (1953) is a terrible melodrama, a loose adaptation of Edna Ferber's "So Big" (1924).
Two men and a woman drive to a suburban house surrounded by fields to visit
a Selina. A flashback tells her story.
Selina is one of the schoolgirls in a nice boarding school. All the girls
come from wealthy families
A business associate of her father brings the bad news to Selina: her father
died after losing all his fortune. Her best friend Julie cries for her: Selina
does not shed a tear. Julie's father finds Selina a job as a teacher in
a small town settled by Dutch immigrants. Besides the usual stress of teaching
unruly children, she also has to deal with the strange family who rents her
a room: the primitive farmer Klaas, his meek and dejected wife Maartje,
and their teenage son Roelf, a little rascal who already works at his father's
farm. Selina befriends the boy and brings out the best of him: he loves music
and she teaches him piano. One day the family attends a charity auction. One
of the items on sale is a humble object made by Selina. Roelf has saved money
and is ready to buy it, but a rich widower, Pervus, steps in and buys it for
an outrageous amount of money. Pervus has fallen in love with the new girl.
She starts teaching him arithmetic, a fact that makes Roelf jealous.
When she is alone with the boy, she tells him that his jealousy is
pointless: she would never marry a farmer. Instead she does just that: he
is aggressive and she can't resist the temptation. She soon learns how
Maartje became so ugly: the work at the farm is merciless. She gives birth
to a boy, Dirk (nicknamed "So Big).
Maartje dies and Roelf, who now hates that godforsaken land, bids farewell,
while the widower remarries promptly.
The next victim of the farmer's lifestyle is Pervus, and Selina is left a
widow with a still young son. Selina decides to take care of the farm herself.
She defies tradition by personally going to the market to sell her produce.
The market is a rough and rowdy place for men. The only women are prostitutes.
The men try to expel her. She is stubborn and want to stay, but none of the
men are willing to buy from her. The only people who are nice to her and her
son are the prostitutes. Desperate, she drives to her old neighborhood and
goes from house to house peddling her vegetables. She is almost arrested by
a police officer because she doesn't have a license to sell, but she is saved
by a wealthy lady who comes out of her mansion: it's her old friend Julie.
Julie is divorced and has two children, and lives with her father.
Julie's father drives her home on the first automobile ever seen in that corner
of the world. Julie's father also decides to invest in her innovative ideas.
Her vegetables bring her a modest wealth. She can pay for her son to go to
Dirk falls in love with Julie's daughter Paula. He wants to be an artist,
and his mother always nursed that ambition, but Paula only wants money and
talks Dirk into throwing away his artistic ambitions and become a business
man. Her mother is disappointed: her entire life was a plan to turn Dirk into
a special man, not a mediocre employee in a firm.
When Selina visits Dirk at his office and sees how busy he is, she simply
walks out. Her consolation is Roelf, who has become a world-famous composer:
he has fulfilled her dreams that her son has betrayed.
Selina and Dirk attend a performance of Roelf's work, and Dirk, whose relationship with Paula
is collapsing, is with a new friend, the artist Dallas. Dallas whispers to him
that she met the composer in the old days.
Dirk proposes to Dallas, but she is not interested in money: she wants a man
who has done real hard work. Dallas introduces Dirk to Roalf, who has come
to see Selina after so many years. She is still tending her farm.
Dallas and Roelf leave together. Dirk realizes that his mother is prouder of
Roelf than of him, and that Dallas likes Roelf better than him. Dirk realizes
he made the wrong choice but his mother forgives him.
Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956)
parte dagli stessi presupposti sociali ed
esistenziali nel raccontare la biografia di un altro campione: Newman si fa strada in un universo violento
e corrotto attraverso il quale conquista una propria personalità.
Rocky (Paul Newman) è un teppista del ghetto italiano,
figlio di un operaio prepotente e di una massaia premurosa,
dotato di un destro micidiale:
furtarelli, risse, fughe per vicoli miserabili, angoscia dei genitori.
Anche il padre rifiuta di aiutarlo
quando viene colto in flagrante. In riformatorio si mette subito in luce come
uno dei piu` violenti: un giorno colpisce una guardia e fa evadere tutti i
prigionieri, e ucciderebbe anche la guardia se uno dei compagni non lo
stordisse. Finisce in un vero penitenziario.
Dopo aver scontato la
condanna, si lascia convincere dalla madre a rigare diritto, ma proprio allora viene arruolato di forza.
Evade anche da li`, dopo aver litigato con un ufficiale.
Trova un lavoro come pugile, ma viene ritrovato dalla polizia e
condannato di nuovo al carcere.
Quando esce, decide di darsi al pugilato, aiutato da
comprensivo. Una brava ragazza che diviene sua moglie compie la trasformazione.
la sua carriera e in breve arriva alla soglia del titolo.
Il passato però ritorna, sotto forma di un
ricattatore che minaccia di smascherarlo se non perderà l'incontro.
Rocky si dà malato,
ma la giustizia e la stampa scoprono la verità e d'un tratto la nazione gli si rivolta contro e i suoi
stessi fan lo insultano.
Newman ha una crisi di sconforto, ma una visita agli slum, al padre umiliato,
lo convince a lottare ancora.
La sera del match c'è soltanto un angolo della nazione dove si tifa per
lui: l'angusto bar del suo quartiere.
Newman, benché inferiore, trova la forza di vincere per il
ghetto, per il padre, per la moglie.
Ha vinto per loro e loro lo accoglieranno a trionfatore.
Rispetto al precedente è molto più sentimentale, ma conferma lo stile drammatico secco ed essenziale ed un puntiglioso realismo.
Fra questi due diresse il fantascientifico
The Day The Earth Stoo Still (1951).
In this sci-fi film the aliens are a superior civilization (rather than
murderous monster) and they simply want to bring peace to the Earth (rather
than destroy it).
A UFO lands in Washington. The alien, Klaatu, brings a message of peace, but
a trigger-happy soldier shoots him. While the alien is being hospitalized,
his robot, Gort, mounts guard to the spaceship.
Klaatu asks the USA politicians to be allowed
to deliver a message to the entire planet, but the USA is reluctant and
basically keeps him prisoner. Klaatu escapes and assumes the human identity of
Carpenter, a good man looking for a room, while the country is swept by sheer
terror because the alien cannot be found.
Klaatu befriends his landlady, Helen, a widow and mother of Bobby.
Carpenter asks to see the most intelligent person in the world, a scientist,
who is soon convinced by Carpenter's prodigious intelligence that he is indeed
the alien. Carpenter asks the scientist to organize a special conference
of scientists, with the goal, again, to deliver his message.
One night the child, Bobby, follows Carpenter and sees that he can communicate
with the robot. Carpenter orders the robot to sedate the guards and walks into
the spaceship. Bobby runs home and tells his mom and her boyfriend Tom, who
never trusted the stranger anyway. They don't believe Bobby's story, but they
see the diamonds that he gave the child and begin to suspect he is a crook.
The following day Carpenter tells Helen the truth about himself, and his
peaceful goal. In the meantime, is sending
a dreadful signal to the Earth: all power goes off for thirty minutes all over
the world. Everything stops: trains, assembly chains, amusement parks...
even the government and the military are cut off.
The only one who enjoys it is the scientist. The government gets so scared
that it deploys thousands of soldiers in the streets to capture the alien,
now that, thanks to Helen's boyfriend, it knows who he is.
Carpenter is not afraid for his own life, but for what Gorn would do to
the Earth is Earthlings killed him, so he instructs Helen on the keywords
that would deactivate Gorn's program of total destruction.
The soldiers shoot him dead, and Helen rushes to tell Gorn the magic words.
Gorn stops, but hauls her in his arms to the spaceship.
Klaatu's corpse is kept in a cell, but Gorn has no trouble disintegrating
the wall and rescuing it.
The scientist had received approval for his conference of scientists, but
now the military deny him access to the spaceship, afraid of what the robot
might do. Inside the spaceship, the robot resurrects Klaatu.
The scientists are allowed to approach the spaceship, and Klaatu talks to them.
He warns the Earth to stop warfare or it will be destroyed.
Executive Suite (1954), sulla lotta senza esclusione di colpi fra manager per la carica di presidente, fu il suo
primo film sul mondo del business.
Executive Suite (1954) is a highly original thriller. It is set in motion
by a murder, but we never see the faces of the murderer or the murdered, and
we never learn the identity of the murderer. In fact, the thriller is not about
the murder at all. The thriller is about the effects of the death on the
comanpy that the victim was running. Basically, Wise finds a powerful metaphor
to show that life and death are less important than board meetings in the
world of business.
On a friday afternoon,
a man walks into a telegraph office to send a message to his secretary, calling
for an executive meeting that evening. He then walks out and is murdered on the
sidewalk (we never see his face, and we don't see the murderer). When the
police arrive, someone has already stolen his wallet. It turns out this is
Bullard, a powerful man who runs a company with an iron fist. George, a
who recognizes the body being taken away in the ambulance stands to profit from
learning the news before the rest of the financial markets: he immediately
orders to sell stock of the company, knowing that it will collapse during the
weekend when the
news spreads. He doesn't know that the police have not identified the
corpse... they found no wallet. Thus there is going to be no news.
Bullard's secretary receives the telegram and proceeds to instruct the vicepresidents
to attend the executive meeting. Each of them gets nervous at the news.
It turns out that they are expecting Bullard to appoint an executive
vice-president and any of them could be the winner.
The least excited to be called to the meeting is the vicepresident of
engineering, Don, who is supervising a crucial experiment. But they all have to
cancel their appointments to convene to the executive suite.
the businessman who sold the stock of the company, and who lives a rather
decadent and expensive life, is worried that no
newspaper is printing the news of the murder. He is counting on the news
to spread like wildfire. Instead, there is no such news in the paper.
He calls the hospital and is told that noone named Bullard has been
hospitalized. He begins to wonder if the dead man was indeed Bullard and
makes a phone call to... Bullard: he is told that Bullard is on his way
to an executive meeting. In the meantime, the vicepresidents are waiting in
the executive room.
To further complicate things, a young woman, Julia, walks into Bullard's office
threatening to sell all her stock. She claims she was tipped off by George (who
turns out to be one of the company's directors) to sell as soon as possible
because a bad news is about to break out. She is obviously attached to
Bullard and resentful. But she also appears to be a stockholder in a position to
blackmail Bullard. Fred, the only one of the vicepresidents who seems to be
concerned about Bullard, reproaches her as ungrateful.
When she is alone, Julia seems to contemplate jumping from the window.
The driver calls that Bullard was not on the train. The vicepresidents
assumed that he missed the train and won't come till monday, so they go home.
Don is truly upset: the
experiment failed because he couldn't be in the laboratory.
Finally, George realizes what has happened when he reads in the newspaper
that the police found a dead man with no id. He calls the police and tells
them who the dead man is. Soon the news is on the radio. Fred hears it at his
house and is honestly shocked. His wife is happy: Fred, the man who was closer
to Bullard, is next in line.
Fred is also one of the few people who is honestly sorry. Don to some extent
too. Erica, the secretary, who was secretely in love with the boss, too.
The others are only interested in their career. The most ambitious is Loren,
who starts immediately giving orders around, taking it for granted that he
is the most qualified to be elected president. In fact, he calls for a
board meeting to elect the new president.
Fred himself admits to Don that Bullard wouldn't trust him as president:
Fred is a good man, but is not cynical enough.
Loren also knows everybody's weaknesses: he knows where to find one of
the vicepresidents, Walt, at the apartment of his lover Eva.
While these men fight for power, George is concerned about his investment:
he makes money if the company's stock goes down. Loren has just done something
that hurts him: announce to the press that the company's revenues have increased.
Loren tries to get from Erica something compromising about the relation
between Bullard and Julia. Erica simply states that Bullard saved the company
after Julia's father died, and that they remained good friends.
Erica refuses to say more.
George confronts Loren and understands that Loren has done it on purpose:
he has released the good news to the press precisely to send George bankrupt
unless... he votes for him at the board meeting.
Don, a scientist honestly intersted in the good of the company, could care less
about the power struggle, but at the same time he knows that Loren as president
would be bad news. Fred is looking for an alternative to Loren, and Don is
the only one who can make it. Don first refuses, but then realizes there is no
alternative and accepts. Don is also the only one trusted by the workers.
The workers have not been happy that the company was not living up to its past
standards anymore: they were feeling betrayed by Bullard.
To elect Don, they are counting on Walt's vote (not knowing that Loren is
de facto blackmailing him about Eva) and they need Julia's vote.
Don confronts her, but she tells him coldly that she has decided to sell out
and has given Loren instructions. She has been sacrificed first by her father
and then by her lover to the company. This is her way to take revenge against
Loren the ambitious, Fred the good man, Don the scientist, Walt the weak
salesman, Jessie (who simply wants to retire), Julia the heiress and George the
womanizer are called to the board meeting.
Loren is assured of winning the four required votes (his own, Julia's,
George's, Walt's), but someone backs out. Everybody things it's Julia.
Instead, it's George, who wants to be reassured by Loren that he will get his
This gives Don a chance to address the board. He accuses the company of
becoming too cynical, of building cheap products to maximize profits.
He gets everybody's vote except Loren.
On the way out, Julia congratulates Don's wife, who is waiting outside: she's
going to live the hell that Julia lived all those years.
Dopo affrontò come in un film a tesi la pena di morte:
I Want to Live (1958).
Una donna viene accusata di un omicidio che non ha commesso, ma gli articoli di un
giornalista creano un'atmosfera che porta alla condanna a morte. Un criminologo, convinto della sua
innocenza, e lo stesso giornalista, che, forse anche per i rimorsi, ha cambiato opinione, tentano fino
all'ultimo di salvarla, ma, dopo un susseguirsi di speranze, la donna deve affrontare la camera a gas.
In the first Orson Welles-ian scene, a jazz band plays in a night club for a
decadent audience. In a room upstairs a prostitute, Bonnie, is teasing her
married customer. Two police officers knock at the door and arrest her for
Bonnie's main occupation is wild parties.
In order to help some friends, she perjurs herself and spends one year in jail.
She is fundamentally a drifter, enjoying the atmosphere of Hollywood clubs
and the company of gangsters. When she needs money, she accepts any role in
any scheme, from robberies to gambling, and, if necessary, prostitutes herself.
She gets a child from a bad husband.
She gets involved in another criminal scheme and this time an old lady is
strangled. The police surroundes their building and arrests them in front
of a crowd of photographers. While she is in jail, Bonnie reads in the newspaper
that she is suspected of the murder.
Desperate to get out, Bonnie accepts an offer from a fellow prisoner: a man is
willing to be her alibi for a little money. Bonnie makes the mistake of
admitting to him that she was in the victim's house the night of the murder.
It turns out that the man is an undercover agent who testifies against her
at the trial. The trial is covered by a press eager for morbid stories.
A journalist is particularly cynical in attacking her character.
She is condemned to the gas chamber, among the delight of the press.
She insults them and sarcastically invites them to the execution.
But she is desperate about her child.
As she awaits for the execution, the press switches sides. Led by the same
cynical journalist, they now believe
that she is innocent of the murder, no matter how amoral her life.
Appeal after appeal is denied, though, and eventually she is executed.
Non e` tanto un atto d'accusa contro il sistema giudiziario e la pena di morte, quanto un ritratto della party-girl dai suoi torbidi privati fino alla
camera della morte.
Wise diede un singolare gangster in
Odds Against Tomorrow (1959), su una rapina che si svolge in chiave depressa in una grigia New York invernale.
The photography is somewhat hallucinated. It depicts a sleepy city, often
observed from odd angles. The neighborhoods are examined in an almost
David is an old crook who thinks he has found the perfect caper. He asks two
old friends, Earl/Slater and Johnny, to partner with him. Earl/Slater is a
rude, arrogant and racist fellow. Johnny is a black vocalist and xylophonist,
a nice man who has lost a lot of money betting on horses and now is in trouble
with the mob. Neither is too excited about the plan, particularly racist Slater
who hates blacks. Most of the film is about the failed lives of these two men,
and why they end up accepting David's plan. Johnny has a wife and a daughter.
The wife dumped him, but he still loves them. Slater is a frustrated veteran.
He makes love with the sexy neighbor who is morbidly fascinated by the fact
that he once killed someone. The bank robbery goes horribly wrong when the
police see David leave the bank with a bag full of banknotes.
David, who has the keys of the car, is fatally wounded and shoots himself rather
than surrendering. Slater and Johnny are stuck, and end up shooting each other.
The shootout with the police turns into a duel between the two, who hate each
other. The duel ends when they shoot at each other on top of two oil tanks
The plot is implausible and the acting is amateurish, but the atmosphere is
This Could Be The Night (1957) is a comedy (with lots of jazzy
musical numbers and some that borrow the rock'n'roll rhythm) that is worthy mostly for the
fresco of offbeat characters and the contrast between the virginal protagonist
(symbol of the middle class) and the night-club gangsters (symbol of the
undergroud that threatens the values of the middle class).
Anne (Jean Simmons) is a prudish elementary-school teacher, in vain pursued by
fellow teacher Bruce. She needs to make more money so she applies for an
evening job as a secretary and accountant of a nightclub, owned by disreputable
former bootlegger Rocco, as her affectionate landlady warns her.
On the way to work, she witnesses Rocco's right-hand man Tony beating a man.
Anne gets to meet the crooked lawyer, sexy singer Ivy and other questionable
characters. Then she has a fight with rude Tony and decides to quit.
Rocco, platonically in love with Anne, is furious with Tony and tells him to
go and apologize. Tony meets her at school and convinces her to go back,
despite all sorts of bitter exchanges.
Her charm rapidly conquers everybody, from the
teenage immigrant busboy, Hussein, who is beaten by other boys and needs her
help to pass his algebra examination, to Patsy, whose mother
Crystal (Joan Blondell), a former entertainer herself, wants her to
become a stripper (while making sure that Tony and other playboys don't touch
her), but who in reality dreams of becoming a chef and needs Anne's secret
recipe to win a contest for a stove.
In the meantime Rocco keeps protecting her and giving her presents,
but Anne is morbidly attracted to the
(for her) mysterious Tony, who, in turn, treats her like a sex-less sister
(while sleeping with a different girl every night).
Her former suitor Bruce comes to the club and is seduced by one of the girls...
and threatened by Tony if he doesn't behave.
Anne does not resist the temptation and knocks at the door of Tony's apartment
to tell him that she doesn't need his protection.
But she ends up making love to him. He behaves like he is ashamed
and tells her to get out. But Rocco sees them leave together the apartment
and draws the obvious conclusion that Tony has seduced her.
He attacks Tony and then confronts Anne, who confesses that she loves Tony.
Rocco apologizes to Tony. Tony visits Anne at school (and uses is gangster-like
systems to teach discipline to the children) but just to give her the last
Hussein, who has passed the exam, is disappointed that Anne is gone.
Anne looks for another job. One day Rocco receives a phone call from a rival
club owner, asking for references on Anne. But Tony knows that Anne is getting
into something dangerous because that club is running an illegal gambling
joint. Tony rushes over to the club and saves her from a police raid.
Anne goes back to work for Rocco for the delight of all her friends.
Run Silent Run Deep (1958) is a war movie set in a submarine, and
vaguely reminiscent of Melville's "Moby Dick".
Rich (Clark Gable) is the captain of a submarine that is sunk by a Japanese
warship. He lives to take his revenge. He is given a second chance, relieving
Jim (Burt Lancaster) of the command of another submarine. Soon, Jim understand
that the enigmatic behavior of the new captain disguises a carefully planned
operation: find and destroy that warship, no matter how dangerous the task is.
The men almost mutiny, but Jim, faithful to the regulations, orders them to
obey the captain. The first attack against the mighty Japanese warship fails,
and almost results in the destruction of the submarine. Since Rich is wounded,
Jim takes over the command of the submarine and, first thing, orders a retreat.
But then he changes his mind, when he realized that the Japanese are following
their garbage sacks, which gives their submarine a chance to fool them.
Jim is puzzled by a mysterious trasmission that the radar picks up, and
Rich, despite his worsening conditions, realizes that a Japanese sub is tracking them and order a manouvre to avoid it. It works, and they manage to destroy
the mythical warship. Rich has barely time to see its arch-enemy blow up
before he dies.
Wise directed a film version of
West Side Story (1961), the musical scripted by Stephen
Sondheim and scored by Leonard Bernstein.
Flower Drum Song (1961)
Two For The Seesaw (1962), adapted from William Gibson's play,
The Haunting (1963), tratto dal romanzo di Shirley
Jackson, segna il ritorno all'horror con un racconto
ambientato in una villa infestata dagli spiriti. Vi si danno raduno
un antropologo, l'erede e due parapsicologhe.
The protagonist of the film is a haunted house, "Hill House", a maze of
vast staircases and tall corridors that the director turns into a living being,
the equivalent of the "monster" in the traditional horror film.
The plot unravels at a slow pace, creating terror by suggestion,
not by shocking scenes (Val Lewton's technique).
Several previous tenants have died in the house (the owner's two wives died
in mysterious circumstances, the owner drowned, his only daughter became a
bed-ridden old lady who willed the house to a young woman, who, upon
inheriting it, hanged herself).
An anthropologist, John, wants to conduct a psychic experiment and invites two
women (Eleanor and Theodora) who have had previous encounters with the
supernatural, and the young heir to the property, Luke.
Eleanor, a single woman who just lost her mother and who as a child was
protagonist of the only documented case of poltergeist,
has to steal her sister's car to get to the house,
where she is hardly welcomed by the servants. Intimidated by the house, she
is relieved when Theodora (a world-famous psychic) arrives.
The two complement each other: Eleanor is weak and Theodora is strong.
John appears and introduces them to Luke, who is skeptical of the whole
ghost thing. They have supper together and then they withdraw to their rooms.
Of all the characters, we only hear Eleanor's thoughts, who is obsessed with
her dead mother.
The two women are terrified by a loud knocking and footsteps that seem to
be approaching the door of the room where they took shelter.
Of all the characters, we only hear Eleanor's thoughts, who is obsessed with
Someone laughs and then the noise is over.
They open the door and find Luke and John chatting and walking: they didn't
The following morning they realize that someone has written "Help Eleanor come
home" on a wall. Eleanor, who is by far the most vulnerable of the company,
is frightened to death: the house knows her name.
The following night the two women go to sleep in the same bed. Eleanor hears
voices all night long and holds the hand that she believes is Theodora's.
In the morning, she realizes that Theodora has slept in another room...
Theodora is arrogant (accuses Eleanor of having hallucinations) and perhaps
lesbian. Eleanor is in love with John and just wants his affection.
Luke doesn't believe any of the ghost nonsense.
John's wife Grace comes to stay at the house, uninvited, and chooses to
sleep upstairs to find out the truth about these ghosts. The others
sleep in a large downstairs and are besieged by the loud footsteps.
Someone tries to turn the handle and open the door. Then walks upstairs.
Eleanor, convinced that the house is after her, runs upstairs to surrender
herself. Grace has disappeared. Eleanor has lost her mind and dances
with the statue of the original owner. John rescues her from a winding
stairs that is about to collapse. She swears that she saw Grace staring
at her through a trap-door from the attic. John is tired of her visions and,
despite her protestations that the house wants her, sends her home.
Delirious, Eleanor now considers the haunted house as her home.
Eleanor loses control of the car that crashes against a tree killing her,
and narrowly avoiding Grace, who was wondering frightened in the garden.
The Sound of Music (1965)
bellico Sand Pebbles (1966)
Andromeda Strain (1971), tratto da un romanzo di Michael Crichton,
è invece un classico della fantascienza, che crea una suspense del tipo
horror dalle stesse conquiste tecnologiche umane.
Una base militare sta cercando un satellite che e` caduto nei pressi di un
paesino. Si rendono presto conto che in quel paesino sono morti tutti.
L'alto comando richiede immediatamente che la zona venga chiusa al pubblico
e che alcuni scienziati vengano precettati e spediti sul posto. Mentre gli
scienziati vengono prelevati quasi di forza dalle loro case sotto il segreto
militare piu` stretto, due uomini cominciano a perlustrare il paese
(imbacuccati in tute protettive). Scoprono cosi` che i morti non hanno piu'
sangue, ma scoprono anche che qualcuno e` sopravvissuto: qualcuno e` impazzito
ma ha avuto tempo di suicidarsi. Un bambino e un vecchio sono ancora vivi.
A Washington i politici discutono come eliminare il pericolo di contaminazione,
ma per adesso rimandano il piano di annientare il paese.
Spiegano al presidente che la base militare venne fondata su consiglio di
uno scienziato per essere preparati contro organismi extraterrestri.
Nell'evento di una contaminazione interna, la base e` programmata per
autodistruggersi con una bomba atomica.
I due uomini tornano alla base e incontrano i due scienziati che sono appena
arrivati. Al piu` giovane dei quattro viene affidata la chiave che puo` fermare
l'esplosione atomica nel caso in cui venga automaticamente attivata.
I quattro sono litigiosi, e in particolare il piu` giovane e` ostile a tutta
questa tecnologia e a tutti questi sapienti. Attraverso una serie di esperimenti
riescono a misurare e vedere al microscopio l'organismo. L'organismo non si
comporta come nulla di umano, per cui gli scienziati ne deducono che debba
provenire dallo spazio.
Intanto un pilota dell'aeronautica muore misteriosamente e precipita nei pressi
del paese: nel suo ultimo comunicato, prima di impazzire, racconta che tutta la
gomma si dissolve.
Per un'interruzione delle comunicazioni (alla faccia dell'ultratecnologia della
base) il team di scienziati viene avvertito in ritardo di questo incidente e
del fatto che il presidente ha deciso di rimandare la distruzione del villaggio.
Il capo degli scienziati chiede che una bomba atomica venga sganciata
immediatamente sul villaggio per evitare che l'epidemia si sparga.
Ma proprio quando hanno convinto il presidente scoprono che l'organismo di
ciba di energia: quindi un'esplosione atomica non lo distruggerebbe, lo farebbe
crescere a dismisura. Bloccano l'ordine del presidente.
I due scienziati esterni scoprono che la base conosceva gia` l'organismo, segno
che non si tratta di un essere extraterrestre, ma semplicemente di un errore
umano: quella base costruita per prevenire epidemie extraterrestri e` stata
usata per generarne una a scopo militare. Non c'e` comunque tempo per questioni
morali poiche' uno dei due rimane chiuso dentro un laboratorio in cui c'e'
stata una contaminazione.
Il giovane riesce finalmente a capire cos'hanno in comune il vecchio e il
bambino che li ha salvati dal germe, e quindi cosa bisogna fare per impedire
al germe di crescere e propagarsi. Ma proprio allora Andromeda corrode una
guarnizione di gomma e i sensori della base,
individuata la contaminazione, attivano la procedura per autodistruzione,
ovvero per l'esplosione di una bomba atomica, proprio l'esplosione che
aiuterebbe Andromeda a crescere. Il giovane ha la chiave per bloccare
l'esplosione e con una corsa avventurosa riesce a fermarla appena in tempo.
Intanto l'aviazione sta usando un antidoto progettato secondo la sua intuizione
per sterminare Andromeda. Nessuno, ovviamente, puo` essere certo che Andromeda
sia stato davvero disintegrato.
Il film si perde in lungaggini tecniche, lengthy descriptions of the controls
of the military base, dalle sue procedure di sanitanizzazione, etc.
In questo modo spreca la suspense creata dalla catasfrote
e dal mistero circa la provenienza del virus. Gli autori del film
pensavano probabilmente che il fascino del film stesse nell'atmosfera
fantascientifica della base militare, mentre con il passare degli anni la base
sembra tecnologicamente obsoleta. Cio` che valeva e` l'idea dell'organismo
sconosciuto che deve essere identificato, isolato e distrutto. Purtroppo
questo tema passa a lungo in second'ordine rispetto ai deliri tecnologici.
La base assomiglia un po' alla stazione spaziale di Star Trek e il team di
scienziati riecheggia i rapporti fra i protagonisti del celebre serial.
La seconda meta` e` molto piu` eccitante perche' diventa un thriller.
Hindenburg (1975) è un film catastrofico che ricostruisce l'attentato di
un antinazista contro un dirigibile tedesco.
Audrey Rose (1977) è di nuovo un horror: un nonno
sostiene che la propria figlia si è reincarnata in un'altra bambina ma per dimostrarlo la
Star Trek (1979) è l'apice delle sue libidini fantascientifiche, ma
è soltanto la riduzione sotto forma di kolossal di un serial televisivo del '66-'68.