Top Fifty Films of the 50s — Number Twenty-Eight

#28 — From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953) Any film from the first part of the nineteen-fifties is going to seem tame when measured against the norms at play some sixty years later, so its advisable to remember that the beach make-out scene in From Here to Eternity became iconic, at least in part, due to its raciness. The various censorious powers-that-been offered a fleet of suggestions as to how to make the moment palatable, from having the two lip-locked lovers demurely stand up to slapping a nice, thick bathrobe across Burt Lancaster’s bank vault torso. There was also … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 50s — Number Twenty-Eight

Top Fifty Films of the 50s — Number Forty-Two

#42 — High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952) Beware the film critic who has stumbled upon a thesis. This isn’t automatically a problem, but it does lead to an overvaluing of certain films over others, sometimes for fairly questionable reasons. For example, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, which we will get to before this feature has run its course (although more quickly than most writers about film would consider prudent), has been elevated to the consensus pinnacle among The Master’s works perhaps as much because of how neatly it fits into pre-existing narratives of the his predilections and obsession than of any exhibited … Continue reading Top Fifty Films of the 50s — Number Forty-Two

Cianfrance, Hitchcock, Levine, Sonnenfeld, Zinnemann

Sabotage (Alfred Hitchcock, 1936). My instinct is to refer to this as an early Alfred Hitchcock film, but he was a decade and almost two dozen films into his career by this point. What’s more, this was released the year after The 39 Steps, so while Hitchcock may not have been The Master yet, he was a seasoned, skilled and respected filmmaker already. This was toward the end of the run of his British-made films, and there’s a certain added restraint–even somewhat pedestrian quality–to the narrative about a terrorist group staging bombings around London. It notably adheres to all of … Continue reading Cianfrance, Hitchcock, Levine, Sonnenfeld, Zinnemann

Fraker, Hood, Wilder, Yeatman, Zinnemann

Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder, 1953). This unlikely comedy set in a Nazi prison camp has a more famous echo that showed up on CBS around twelve years later. It’s not hard to see why someone might think this could turn into a nifty recurring show. The hook about prisoners of war who’ve cooked up their own unique society in captivity, complete with schemes to dupe the guards and cobbled together contraptions to better hide their small luxuries, is further enlivened by the colorful nature of the characters, a common result when Wilder’s is one of the names on the screenplay. … Continue reading Fraker, Hood, Wilder, Yeatman, Zinnemann

Brooks, Haskin, Ritt, West, Zinnemann

From the Earth to the Moon (Byron Haskin, 1958). In some respects, this is a bit of sci-fi fancifulness typical of the era when imagining trips to the moon was a common cinematic endeavor. The film is distinguished by the fact that it doesn’t imagine a bold future, instead reaching back to the distant past for its interplanetary adventure. It adapts an 18th century Jules Verne novel, sticking with the era of its publication. This means American entrepreneurs enriched by profits generated during the Civil War pulling together an unlikely launch into space. The action is turgid and the characterization … Continue reading Brooks, Haskin, Ritt, West, Zinnemann