When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand

The closest thing produced in the History of Cinema that could approximate the hamfisted, insinuating and obsessively repetitive rhetoric of this year’s U.S. Republican presidential candidates must be Columbia’s 1965 scandalous hootenanny of liquor and sex, LOVE HAS MANY FACES. This movie, lensing lusty and hustling lifestyles of Acapulco expats from beachbums to millionaires, brings […]

Cross a Nebraska homecoming queen with Simone Signoret and what do you get?  Mary Beth Hughes! And seldom did she get to merge those two sides as in the go-for-broke, nil-budgeted film noirs she did for PRC Studios at the end of World War 2, such as I ACCUSE MY PARENTS and THE LADY CONFESSES.  […]

Hollywood studios in the 1950s — when its underpinnings of entrenched success eroded — yielded a number of fascinating films.  Their culture of work, aesthetics and storytelling was looking down an abyss inconceivable a decade before as some of the best and brightest descended in free fall.  To keep a foothold, the dream factories introduced […]

This is written in conjunction with Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear‘s MONSTER MASH blogathon.  The rule is simple:  write about a movie made between 1950 and 1959 that centers on a monster… By 1957 Roger Corman had produced and/or directed enough movies, and his screenwriting partners had generated enough scripts, that they knew how to hook […]

Poor Henry Blanke. He had the sisyphean task of selling the world on a two hour suspension-of-disbelief in which the über-fey pianist and entertainer, Liberace, had two dishy babes madly in love with him…and in which Lee (as friends called him) reciprocated those mating urges. Blanke was sort of the St. Jude / Patron of […]

A great many fans of Elizabeth Taylor declare that 1974’s THE DRIVER’S SEAT is her worst film.  It isn’t — but it’s probably the least middlebrow thing she ever did. It’s a pedigreed package:  based on a Muriel Spark novella, filmed by a Neopolitan opera director with images burnished by master cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, featuring […]

One of the mystical, personal treasures of loving film is the cyclical timing of the appearances and reappearances of movies.  It can take many forms:  a feel-good favorite from your early years can show up on cable; a movie you saw in an empty theater 20 years ago –one that everyone else avoided — can […]

From its first shot, IN JENEN TAGEN grounds the viewer in both a mental and physical landscape that exists beyond resignation, where simple automonous acts of manual labor give the screen’s characters the sort of renewal and liberation that humankind must have experienced when they first used the wheel.  It’s a Rubble Film, an early […]

BOILING SAND participates in the FOR THE LOVE OF FILM (NOIR) film preservation blogathon this week with its post on Edgar G. Ulmer’s CLUB HAVANA.  You can DONATE here to the Film Noir Foundation to contribute for the restoration of Cy Endfield’s 1950 sleeper THE SOUND OF FURY, and have your name put in a […]

It was one of those days the expats where I lived called a “Bad China Day.”  This was a day when the commonly high-strung population of our city on the South China Coast seemed unusually aggressive in their pushing and shoving and shouting on the streets — like the crowd of extras clustering to jump […]

Even the title connoted admission of having lost one’s relevance.

Blame it on Paramount. As the mobilization of private and corporate life in America in the first frenzied months of World War II mushroomed, and the message repeated that all members of U.S. society must pitch in together, the Movie Industry made this symbiotic call-to-arms concrete by having all stars under contract at each major […]

Ideological and archetypal concepts battle wildly with each other throughout M-G-M’s REUNION IN FRANCE from 1942. Executive produced by a Republican and directed by a Leftist, cast with leads whose bodies of work have nothing in common, this flag-waving tribute to the French Resistance both praises and damns la belle France while trying to engender […]

Watching old Paramount movies on TV as a teenager, I thought — out of all the major studios’ films — theirs were the most racist :  Fred MacMurray and Madeleine Carroll’s interactions with the ‘plantation darkies’ in VIRGINIA, Bob Hope’s bizarre (in retrospect) relationship with his ‘boy,’ Willie Best, in THE GHOST BREAKERS, or even […]

When Hollywood (as Gloria Swanson rapturously proclaimed in SUNSET BOULEVARD) “had the eyes of the world,” it also had the power as a Culture Industry to discriminate in representing other forms of American popular entertainment that competed with filmdom’s market share. For example, Putt-Putt Golf was a hugely popular entertainment during the Great Depression, drawing […]

There were a lot of Hollywood talents from the studio era whose names were associated with the “factory” aspects of that time:  making one film after another of varying quality, jumping from genre to genre, producing “good Hollywood fare.”  The output of these industry creatives tended to be lumped together, the good with the bad, […]

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Running down the résumés of BURN, WITCH, BURN!‘s cast and crew, I couldn’t tell which artistic/commercial direction this film would lead me.  It could land in one of two distinct territories:  a flimsy story with fake blood and occasional flashes of tits, or it could be a thinking man’s gothic opera. BURN, WITCH, BURN!‘s director, […]

I have a single, personal mathematical equation that applies to the entire History of Film:  Cecil B. DeMille = Butt-Aches. Moribund and overblown movies such as THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH set me fidgeting after the first quarter-hour.  A movie-loving friend summed up the director’s tastes by pointing out DeMille’s movies […]

Remember at the end of 1946’s THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES when the characters played by Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright, despite their challenges of underemployment, post-war stress, and scant time knowing each other, decided to get married?  Did you ever wonder what sorts of lives and marriage that couple would be sustaining a […]

“Who was Frank Ryan??” I’ve been asking that question for a decade and haven’t come up with an acceptable answer. Ryan co-directed a comedy at RKO, then helmed four features at Universal.  One of the few verified facts I’ve found on him only increases the Ryan Enigma:  he died a few weeks after his 40th […]

Over the years, I’ve often wondered what the story was behind the Rochester-based creative team of Watson and Webber, who made experimental, avant-garde films in the 1920s and 30s.  James Sibley Watson was an M.D. with connections to early 20th Century modern poets such as E. E. Cummings and Marianne Moore.  The less-documented Melville Webber, […]

Most Film Noir has some sort of philosophical / existential aspect woven into it:  the private dick’s jaundiced look at love and morals, an old drunk’s musings on life slipping through his hands, etc.  But REPEAT PERFORMANCE is entirely built on a fatalist / defeatist foundation, and although it has elements of fantasy, it’s also […]

If I were using the old rule of judging a book by its cover, I shouldn’t be able to tolerate this movie. For most of the studio era, Twentieth Century-Fox generated tons of awful musicals, with listless plots, sexless dancing, and brassy orchestrations.  When Veronica Lake told Joel McCrea in SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS that “musicals hurt […]

[This review is dedicated to the gifted show business survivor, June Havoc, who passed away March 28th. –DB ] In Hollywood many years ago, I heard stories of life on the set of movies directed by W. S. Van Dyke.  One story went that every afternoon a portable cocktail bar was rolled onto the soundstage and […]



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