Movie Diary 8/9/2010

The Expendables (Stylvester Stallone, 2010). Just about what you’d think, as long as you think Stallone’s face gets younger every year. (full review 8/13)

Tales from Earthsea (Goyo Miyazaki, 2009). A very very slow animated project directed by the son of the great Hayao Miyazaki. Very slow. (full review 8/13) 

Edge of Darkness (Lewis Milestone, 1943). An extremely serious wartime drama set in a Nazi-controlled seaside village in Norway, with Errol Flynn folding himself into a skilled ensemble and losing his usual jocularity. The script by Robert Rossen is full of eloquent (not sham) patriotism as well as no small amount of barbarity, and even a critique of capitalists along with the ringing anti-fascist rhetoric. Milestone directs with all the razor-sharp technical prowess he can muster, which is a lot, and the whole thing has a somber, steady beat. Imagine seeing this in a theater in 1943.

Uncertain Glory (Raoul Walsh, 1944). Glad to report that fond adolescent memories of this Flynn vehicle are not rebuked by a more mature viewing; the movie has a great concept (Flynn is a convicted murderer headed for the guillotine, who says he’ll give himself up as a saboteur in order to save 100 hostages held by the Nazis – what difference would it make, between the blade and the firing squad?) and a brisk, clean line.

Objective, Burma! (Raoul Walsh, 1945). Although some of the expectations of the platoon movie are fulfilled (fraternal joking, ethnic one-liners), this mission picture is a long, involved, intense experience – a much different tone from Walsh’s breezy Desperate Journey, which is more cheeky than desperate. Flynn leads his squad through the jungle, which is believably conjured here (Walsh is great at getting people to look convincingly filthy). I remembered the film as being more conventional than it is, or maybe just not quite as ambitious in scope. And Errol Flynn, playing it straight, is very good.

The Glass Wall (Maxwell Shane, 1953). Looking like a later-than-1953 movie (and shooting at the U.N. years before they turned down Hitchcock), this odd blend of naturalism (not just “filmed on real locations” but looking like stolen shots) and noir style has some moments, especially in the pairing of Vittorio Gassman and Gloria Grahame. Gassman’s an illegal immigrant, a concentration camp survivor who jumped ship in NYC.