Creature From the Black Lagoon

US (1954): Horror
79 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The amusingly slimy monster-a sort of rubbery, leering frog that stands upright, like a man-has obscene intentions toward the fainting heroine (Julia Adams). This low-grade horror film from Universal came out in 3-D, and kids seemed to adore the amphibious villain. (There were two sequels.) William Alland produced; Jack Arnold directed, from a script by Harry Essex and Arthur Ross. With Richard Carlson, Richard Denning, Antonio Moreno, Nestor Paiva, Whit Bissell, and Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning as the monster.

Cries and Whispers

Sweden (1972): Drama
106 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette

Ingmar Bergman's dream play is set in a manor house at the turn of the century where a spinster in her late 30s (Harriet Andersson) is dying. Her two sisters (Ingrid Thulin and Liv Ullmann) have come to attend her, and they watch and wait, along with a peasant servant (Kari Sylwan). The movie is built out of a series of emotionally charged images that express inner stress, and Bergman handles them with the fluidity of a master. Superbly photographed by Sven Nykvist in a style suggesting Edvard Munch, and with blood-red backgrounds, the film is smooth and hypnotic; it has oracular power and the pull of a dream. Yet there's a 19th-century dullness at the heart of it. Each sister represents a different aspect of woman-woman viewed as the Other-and the film mingles didacticism with erotic mystery. With Erland Josephson as the doctor, and Anders Ek as Isak. In Swedish.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Reeling.

Crime and Punishment

US (1935): Crime
88 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

There's almost everthing you can think of the matter with this Hollywood version, directed by Josef von Sternberg, but it has got a great Raskolnikov: Peter Lorre. He had only three roles that tapped his full talent-the child-murderer in M, the hero in THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK, and this remarkably suggestive and witty Raskolnikov. Stolid Edward Arnold is embarrassingly miscast as Inspector Porfiry; if Harry Baur, who did the role in the 1935 French version, had played opposite Lorre, the film might have caught fire. As the pawnbroker, Mrs. Patrick Campbell adds some distinction, but not much can be said for the Madonna lighting given to Marian Marsh's placid Sonya, or for the standard Hollywood performances of Elisabeth Risdon as Raskolnikov's mother, Tala Birell as his sister, and Gene Lockhart, Robert Allen, and Douglass Dumbrille. There's nothing Russian about them but the long-winded names by which they address each other. Lucien Ballard did the cinematography, in the stylized von Sternberg manner. Columbia.

Crime and Punishment

France (1935): Drama
88 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as CRIME ET CH�TIMENT.

Marcel Aym�'s adaptation has clarity and power; the director, Pierre Chenal, uses the controversial, rather stagey technique of conveying the characters' dissociation from their environment by a slight distortion in the settings. As Raskolnikov, Pierre Blanchar is older, more eccentric than one expects: he emphasizes the tortured isolation, the near madness, of the character. It is in Harry Baur's performance as Inspector Porfiry that the film achieves its stature; Graham Greene long ago described the performance as "the finest in the cinema this year, with his tortoise movements, his streak of cruelty, his terrible good humor"-it is one of the great performances of any year. In French.

Crime Without Passion

US (1934): Crime
72 min, No rating, Black & White

Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur devised a tricky plot about a devilishly unscrupulous lawyer (Claude Rains), who looks for a perfect alibi to conceal a murder. They also produced and directed, and they got very fancy; their pseudo-stream-of-consciousness story is dolled up with a lot of symbolism and dated avant-garde novelties. The film, which emphasizes nightclub life, was produced at the Astoria Studios in New York; Lee Garmes was the cinematographer and associate director, and the famous Slavko Vorkapich designed two montage sequences. The one with the Furies being unleashed is a true period piece; this is an entertainingly terrible movie. The blond Whitney Bourne is the lawyer's new love, and the brunette Margo his old love and his victim. With Esther Dale, and a fleeting appearance by Helen Hayes in a hotel lobby. Paramount.

Crimes and Misdemeanors

US (1989): Drama/Comedy
104 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Written and directed by Woody Allen, it's a sad, censuring look at an eminent ophthalmologist (Martin Landau) and other crooks in high places who (in Allen's view) have convinced themselves that they can do anything, because they don't think God is watching. Allen is making the film equivalent of a play of ideas, and the ideas have no excitement. He's telling us not just what we already know but what we've already rejected. Woody Allen himself plays a little, grubbing-for-a-living documentary filmmaker who falls in love but can't compete for the woman (Mia Farrow) against a darling of the media, a tall, egomaniacal TV producer played with a wonderfully smug, screwy abandon by Alan Alda. Except for Alda, and Landau (when he's showing nervous impatience), and Jerry Orbach, who plays the ophthalmologist's shady brother, most of the large cast is proficient yet brittle and dull. With Sam Waterston (as a rabbi who's going blind), Anjelica Huston, Claire Bloom, Joanna Gleason, Caroline Aaron, Nora Ephron in a bit, and Daryl Hannah-uncredited, but looking so luscious she almost stops the show. The bland cinematography is by Sven Nykvist. Orion.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Crimes of the Heart

US (1986): Drama/Comedy
105 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek playing sisters and sparking off each other are something to see. The play, by Beth Henley-a comedy about wacked-out normality, set in Hazlehurst, Mississippi-has its goofy charm; it's thin material, though, and her screen adaptation is just the usual "opening out." But the three actresses put so much faith in their roles that they carry the movie, triumphantly. They take the play's borderline pathos about heartbreakingly screwed-up lives-it's a mixture of looniness and lyricism-and give it real vitality. These are inspired performances. With Sam Shepard, Tess Harper, David Carpenter, and Hurd Hatfield. Directed by Bruce Beresford. De Laurentiis.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz

Mexico (1955): Drama/Comedy
91 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette
Also known as ENSAYO DE UN CRIMEN.

Only intermittently amusing black comedy, made in Mexico by Luis Bu�uel. Directed rather indifferently, though the story has a Bu�uelian perversity-perhaps a little more giddy than usual. It has a wonderful start: Archibaldo finds a music box which reawakens his memories of a childhood experience. His governess had found him dressed up in his mother's clothes, and while she was bawling him out for it, a stray bullet from the revolution going on outside had killed her. This gratification of his desires gave him ecstasy. Later, Archibaldo keeps trying to recapture that sexual pleasure, but his attempts to commit murder are continually frustrated by the deaths of his intended victims. With Ernesto Alonso as the smiling dilettante and fantasist, Archibaldo, and Miroslava Stern as the amoral Lavinia. The script, by Bu�uel and Eduardo Ugarte, is based on a story by Rodolfo Usigli. In Spanish.

The Crimson Pirate

US (1952): Comedy/Adventure
104 min, No rating, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

This wonderful travesty of the buccaneer film has the physical exuberance of the early Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., pictures. Burt Lancaster and his old circus partner Nick Cravat tumble and jump with exhilarating grace. They charge the film with physical sensations, and if you wanted to dance after seeing the Rogers-Astaire musicals, you'll want to get in condition after experiencing the acrobatics here. Robert Siodmak's direction is lively; Roland Kibbee's script is bright and improvisatory (much of the film's wit derives from a series of casual anachronisms). With James Hayter as a wildly improbable inventor who looks like Benjamin Franklin, and Eva Bartok, Torin Thatcher, and Margot Grahame. Cinematography by Otto Heller; music by William Alwyn. A Hecht-Lancaster Production; Warners.


UK (1970): War/Biography
145 min, Rated G, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Was there ever a period of history when the clothes were less photogenic? The actors waddle around in their Puritan barrels and bloomers, then stand still to make speeches at each other. Richard Harris, of the hangdog expression, delivers his lines in a cracked, rasping voice with no music in it. He plays Cromwell as a sullen prig who hates power; the movie never explains how he got it. Alec Guinness barely wiggles a few facial muscles and manages to make an acting showcase out of his restrained performance as King Charles I. But Shakespeare spoiled us for this sort of thing: we wait for great speeches and witty remarks, for rage and poetry, and we get dedicated stodginess. Ken Hughes wrote and directed this English production. With Robert Morley, Dorothy Tutin, Timothy Dalton, Michael Jayston, Frank Finlay, Patrick Wymark, Charles Gray, and Patrick Magee. Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Deeper into Movies.

Cross Creek

US (1983): Drama
122 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette

Very loosely based on Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings' semi-autobiographical tales of her years in an orange grove in the Florida swamps, this movie, directed by Martin Ritt, suggests a child's storybook version of women's liberation. Everything is lighted to look holy, and whenever the score isn't shimmering and burnishing, nature is twittering. It's all pearly and languid, and more than a little twerpy-it's one long cue for "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'." The heroine is envisioned as a muted, passive artist who soaks up the local color, and the audience is left to watch her soak. As Mrs. Rawlings, Mary Steenburgen is withdrawn; she has a tight, little-girl voice, and she seems to count to ten before she speaks-she comes across as a lyrical stiff. The movie is lulling, in a semi-stupefying way. Most of it is sun-coated and sugar-cured. But Rip Torn plays a Cracker on a grand scale; he's too powerful for sweetening. And Ritt shows his flair for melodrama in his handling of the hyper-emotional entanglement between Torn and Dana Hill, who plays his daughter; the two work together with what looks like spontaneous frenzy. The Cracker's emotions rear up very large, and he simply discharges them-when he's bashing chairs or tables, it's like brushing a tear away. It's a rampaging role, but Rip Torn doesn't seem to be afraid of anything, and he gives a demonstration of a wild-man actor's art. The picture would be stone cold without it. With Alfre Woodard as Geechee, and Peter Coyote-he has a Jiminy Cricket charm as Norton Baskin, who becomes Mrs. Rawlings' second husband. Also with Malcolm McDowell as Maxwell Perkins (who just happens to be in the neighborhood because he has been visiting "Ernest in Key West"), Cary Guffey, Joanna Miles, John Hammond, and Toni Hudson. The script is by Dalene Young; the cinematography is by John A. Alonzo. Produced by Robert B. Radnitz; Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book State of the Art.


US (1947): Crime
86 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Psychological depths are sounded, though not deeply: the murder victim is a Jew, the murderer an anti-Semite. (The depths in the original novel, The Brick Foxhole, by Richard Brooks were a little different: the victim was a homosexual.) This tense, well-acted thriller was made by the producer Adrian Scott, the director Edward Dmytryk, and the writer John Paxton. Robert Ryan brings his considerable talent for portraying obsessive, isolated individuals to the role of the sly, anti-Semitic ex-sergeant. With Robert Mitchum, Gloria Grahame, Robert Young, Sam Levene, and Paul Kelly. There are condescending little messages on the evils of race prejudice that make you squirm; this is the patina of 40s melodrama. RKO.


US (1986): Drama
96 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

It takes its title from the legend that the Mississippi Delta guitarist and singer Robert Johnson-perhaps the finest bluesman who has ever lived-sold his eternal soul to the Devil at a lonely crossroads. The movie gives Johnson a fictional friend, the harmonica player and singer Willie Brown (Joe Seneca) who went to the crossroads a few years later. Now 80, and in a prison nursing home in Harlem, Willie cons a white teenage Juilliard student (Ralph Macchio), who's trying to find a lost Robert Johnson song, into helping him escape and get back to Mississippi. The first three-quarters of an hour-with the grizzled old hipster Willie snarling at the boy's softness, his musical pretensions, his wanting to follow in the footsteps of other whites who have ripped off black music-is junkily entertaining. But when they're on the road in the South, Willie turns into a curmudgeonly guardian angel, the boy starts learning lessons about life, and the picture is contemptible. In THE KARATE KID, the bland, toneless-voiced Macchio was taught the martial arts by an elderly Japanese and defeated opponents twice his size; that picture was a box-office hit, so this time he engages in a musical variant of the big fight-battling guitars with the Devil's top musician (and winning the match with the assistance of Mozart). Sticking to the script by John "one-piece-of-information-per-scene" Fusco, the director, Walter Hill, shows little of his flair. It would be easy to quarrel with Ry Cooder's blues numbers, but at least they're dramatic-they have a twangy intensity. With Jami Gertz (not very pleasing as the boy's love interest), Robert Judd as Scratch, Joe Morton as Scratch's assistant, and Allan Arbus, Dennis Lipscomb, Gretchen Palmer, and Steve Vai as the boy's adversary in the final contest. There's some fine harmonica work by Sonny Terry. The cinematography is by John Bailey. Columbia.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

The Crusades

US (1935): Historical/Drama
123 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette

Maybe the most ludicrous of all the De Mille epics-possibly because it's more romantic and less spectacular. Loretta Young, in rope-like blond hair as Berengaria, has excruciatingly colloquial diction that blights her attempts at Middle Ages winsomeness; she is formally married to Richard the Lion-Hearted's sword. When the stalwart Henry Wilcoxon, as the King, finally meets her, he has to take a deep breath and freeze his facial muscles before delivering simple lines such as "I love you, Berengaria." Your heart goes out to him. This glorious schlock pageant will be even more enjoyable for those who take a few minutes beforehand to bone up on the historical data; they'll be able to appreciate how willfully and gratuitously De Mille garbled every single historical character and incident. It isn't that he improved on them: he simply had to make them his own. Charles Ludlam, of the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, could hardly improve on this one. With Ian Keith as the likable infidel, Saladin, who takes Berengaria prisoner; Katherine De Mille as the woman spurned by Richard; and Joseph Schildkraut, Alan Hale, C. Henry Gordon, Jason Robards, Sr., Montagu Love, George Barbier, Hobart Bosworth, Lumsden Hare, William Farnum, and Mischa Auer. Paramount.


US (1988): Drama
91 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette

In this variation on the famous story, Aidan Quinn is a Tidewater Virginia slave trader whose eagerness for profits leads him, in 1808, to charter a ship in the dangerous autumn months. The story has been re-imagined so that when the ship is wrecked and the immature, unfeeling money-grubber is swept onto an island, what follows is not a wilderness test of survival-it's an enforced spiritual retreat. Directed by Caleb Deschanel, from a script by Walon Green, this version is spare and evocative; it tends toward wordlessness and suggests a haiku movie. Essentially, it's all images of entrapment and freedom-it's about Crusoe's learning to revere freedom, after he has twice been saved from death by a native warrior (Ad� Sapara). Deschanel's lack of narrative skill is frank and deliberate; his emotionality and his feeling for atmosphere can carry a viewer along. He has a style; it comes out of the meekness in the way he works. And slim, curly-topped Aidan Quinn, with his dazed voice and his fixated blue eyes, is Crusoe as a hippie Christ figure-a young man finding his way to be gentle. Open, receptive, a New Age Montgomery Clift, he's the right actor for Deschanel's conception. The movie suggests a revised Tempest, in which Prospero and Caliban find out they're brothers. With a wonderful scrawny, predominantly Airedale mutt. Shot mostly on the Seychelles Islands. Island Pictures.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

Cry Freedom

UK (1987): Biography
157 min, Rated PG, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The producer-director Richard Attenborough attempts to use the martyrdom of the young South African Stephen Biko (Denzel Washington), the leader of the Black Consciousness Movement, to arouse the audience to the tragic injustice of apartheid. This epic collapses before midpoint when Biko is badly beaten while in the custody of the Security Police and dies, in September, 1977, of brain injuries. The story then shifts to the efforts of Donald Woods (Kevin Kline), a white newspaper editor, to escape with his wife and five children, taking with him the manuscript of a book he has written about his friend Biko. When Attenborough starts crosscutting from the escape to Woods' flashback memories (with bursts of choral music), the movie is dumbfounding. It looks as if Attenborough staged scenes and then didn't know what to do with them, so he stuck them in by having the escaping Woods think back. And every time Biko appears in a flashback our interest quickens; this man with fire in his eyes commands the screen-Denzel Washington is the star by right of talent. When the movie cuts back to the grayish, undefined Woods, the family escape story recalls THE SOUND OF MUSIC. And we're painfully aware that despite the movie's hopes of raising the white audience's consciousness, we whites are assumed to need a white man to identify with. Screenplay by John Briley, based on Woods' books Biko and Asking for Trouble. There are performers who seem exactly right: the rich-voiced Juanita Waterman as Biko's wife; Kate Hardie as the Woods' adolescent daughter; John Matshikiza as a black reporter; Gerald Sim as a police doctor, frightened when he sees Biko's injuries; and John Thaw as the duplicitous Minister of Police. Cinematography by Ronnie Taylor; shot mostly in Zimbabwe. Released by Universal.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Hooked.

A Cry in the Dark

Australia-US (1988): Docudrama
121 min, Rated PG-13, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

The director, Fred Schepisi, attempts an epic dissection of how superstitions can spread, and how false the public perception (based on the media) can be. He uses the case of Lindy Chamberlain (Meryl Streep), the wife of a Seventh Day Adventist minister, who was tried for murder and convicted, to ask why Australians cynically rejected her account of seeing a dingo (the Australian wild dog) slink off from the tent her 9-week-old daughter was in. Perhaps the thing that made her the most hated woman in Australia was that TV had accustomed people to grieving mothers who showed their frailty and their naked pathos, and here was Lindy on TV-stoic, matter-of-fact, and bluntly impatient at the endless dumb questions. Streep has seen that Lindy's hardness saves a part of her from the quizzing and prying of journalists and lawyers-that she needs her impersonal manner to keep herself intact. (From time to time, Streep suggests the strong emotions that Lindy hides in public, and we feel a bond with her-we feel joined to her privacy.) There are wonderful night scenes of the search for the baby in the blackness around Ayers Rock, in the Outback, and the movie is never less than gripping. But Schepisi, who worked on the script with Robert Caswell (it's based on John Bryson's study of the case, Evil Angels), put together more elements than he could develop. The film is like an expanded, beautifully made TV "Movie of the Week." Streep seems to be playing a person in a documentary. This is also true of the accomplished Sam Neill, though he seems faultlessly right as Lindy's husband, who becomes incoherent during the trial and loses his faith. You come out moved-even shaken-yet not quite certain what you've been watching. Cinematography by Ian Baker. Released by Warners.
For a more extended discussion, see Pauline Kael's book Movie Love.

The Curse of the Cat People

US (1944): Horror/Fantasy
70 min, No rating, Black & White, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Val Lewton produced this sequel to his famous low-budget thriller, the hard-to-forget CAT PEOPLE, in which Simone Simon tried to convince her husband (Kent Smith) that she would turn into a panther if he tried to consummate the marriage. He sent her to a psychiatrist who attempted to make love to her and was mauled to death, after fatally wounding her. In the misbegotten sequel, Kent Smith, who has remarried, fears that his small daughter, Amy (Ann Carter), is under the influence of his first wife, and by his repressiveness he drives the lonely, imaginative child to invent a friend, who is indeed the first wife (played once again by Simone Simon). The film is a true oddity, since Lewton perversely refused to give the studio the feline shocker it wanted, and instead tried to make a poetic film about a lonely child's need for an imaginary friend. The film is a clumsy mixture of unrealized ideas, gothic effects, and stiff, dull acting, but it has some unusual qualities; David Riesman devotes several pages to it in The Lonely Crowd. Directed by Gunther Von Fritsch and Robert Wise. RKO.

Curtain Up

UK (1952): Comedy
81 min, No rating, Black & White

Two of England's top performers match wits. Robert Morley plays the strutting director of a seedy stock company, Margaret Rutherford the spinster dramatist determined to keep every line of her play intact. The idea is more tantalizing than the movie; still, it has a bit of theatrical flavor. With Kay Kendall, Olive Sloane, Joan Rice, and Michael Medwin. Directed by Ralph Smart, from the screenplay by Michael Pertwee and Jack Davies, based on the play On Monday Next by Philip King. Rank.

Cutter's Way

US (1981): Mystery
105 min, Rated R, Color, Available on videocassette and laserdisc

Its original title, CUTTER AND BONE, is also the name of Newton Thornburg's 1976 novel, on which it's based. This moody fantasia on post-Vietnam bitterness is set in Santa Barbara and other parts of Southern California; it has an odd, hallucinatory lyricism-the atmosphere is never less than absorbing. John Heard is Cutter, a mutilated veteran whose conversation is a series of twisted, rasped-out gibes; Jeff Bridges is lover-boy Bone, an Ivy League beach bum who lives on his suntanned amiability. When these two friends become involved in trying to expose and/or shake down an oil tycoon who they believe is also a sexual psychopath, the film suggests a counterculture version of the anti-Fascist thrillers of the 40s. Directed by Ivan Passer, from a much too literary script by Jeffrey Alan Fiskin, the film is an attempt to get at something that-if it were arrived at-might turn out to be less subtle than all the ambiguous reaching and groping suggests. Writers who aren't forcibly restrained love to go for "mordant" protagonists, and actors love to play them. Heard gives a stylized performance of a man full of self-lacerating energy; Cutter isn't a character-he's a one-eyed, one-legged literary conceit. As his burnt-out wife, Mo, Lisa Eichhorn carries a load of existential sorrow and honesty-she's wound up tight, like an American Glenda Jackson, but without Jackson's shaping and style. The film is packed with symbolic gestures, though they're not quite as effective as the ghostly fiesta scene behind the opening titles, with se�oritas dancing to music that's different from the music we hear, and castanets silently clicking. With Stephen Elliott as J.J. Cord, and Ann Dusenberry, Arthur Rosenberg, and Nina Van Pallandt. The cinematography is by Jordan Cronenweth; the music is by Jack Nitzsche. Produced by Paul R. Gurian; United Artists.

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