Blind Spot Series: Little Caesar (1931)

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Caesar Enrico Bandello (Edward G. Robinson) — Rico for short — is tired of knocking over gas stations in his small town. He longs to be like the big-time crime bosses he reads about in the newspaper, and not just because of their impressive wealth. “Money’s all right, but it ain’t everything,” he says. “Ah, be somebody. Look hard at a bunch of guys and know that they’ll do anything you tell ’em. Have your own way or nothin’. Be somebody!”

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Blind Spot Series: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)

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During a training exercise for the Home Guard in World War II England, a group of young soldiers decides to “attack” the opposing side before the mock-war is officially set to begin. Among the men they “capture” at a Turkish bath is Major-General Clive Wynne-Candy (Roger Livesey). He’s furious that they would disobey the rules, but Spud Wilson (James McKechnie) argues that their sneak attack is more in keeping with the real conditions of warfare, where rules mean nothing to the enemy and victory must be won by any means necessary. Wilson has little respect for the bald, paunchy old major-general, who tells him that he’ll be an old gentleman too in forty years’ time. “In 1983, at least I shall be able to say that forty years ago I was a fellow of enterprise,” the younger man replies — which promptly gets him knocked into a pool.

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Blind Spot Series: Laura (1944)

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When advertising executive Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) is murdered shortly before her wedding day, police detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) must figure out who’s responsible. Among the suspects are her fiance, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), a man with a shady past and possibly a shady present as well; her aunt, Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson), whose house Carpenter frequents; and columnist Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), who acted as a sort of Pygmalion to Laura and was fiercely possessive. He had no shortage of potential rivals. “Wherever we went, she stood out,” he tells McPherson. “Men admired her. Women envied her.” As McPherson delves into her life, interviewing the people who knew her and sifting through the items in her apartment, even he, despite his cynicism, finds himself falling for her.

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Blind Spot Series: Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

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At a luxurious, baroque hotel, a man (Giorgio Albertazzi) confronts a woman (Delphine Seyrig) and claims that they were acquainted last year at Frederiksbad. When she says that she’s never been to Frederiksbad, he acknowledges that it might have been Karlstadt or Marienbad or Baden-Salsa, or even the very room where they’re now talking, and it’s also possible that it happened more than a year ago. Still, he insists that it’s true and tells her everything he remembers about their time together, about the way she looked and their surroundings and the conversations they had and the plans they made. She, meanwhile, keeps denying that she recalls any part of it.

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Twelve Classics for 2017

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As I did this year, I’ll be participating in the Blind Spot Series in 2017. Every month, I’ll watch a new-to-me classic film and write up my thoughts afterwards. Here’s my list:

If you’re interested in taking part, more information can be found at The Matinee.

Blind Spot Series: Metropolis (1927)

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The futuristic city of Metropolis is two worlds in one. Above ground, the privileged portion of the populace, including wealthy businessmen and their sons, leads a life of pleasure and ease; meanwhile, deep under the earth’s surface, workers toil away for hours and hours at backbreaking jobs in order to make that lifestyle possible, never getting to partake in the fruits of their labor. A young man named Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) — whose powerful father, Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), made Metropolis what it is — is blissfully ignorant of the workers’ misery until one day when he pays a visit to the city’s Eternal Gardens. His frolics with the women there are interrupted by the appearance of an unknown, simply dressed woman (Brigitte Helm) and a group of ragged children. “Look! These are your brothers!” she tells her young followers, the offspring of the workers. They’re all quickly shown the door, but Freder is both smitten and intrigued, and he decides to chase after her.

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Blind Spot Series: The Innocents (1961)

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In Victorian England, a woman named Miss Giddens (Deborah Kerr) applies to become the governess to a pair of young orphaned siblings, Miles (Martin Stephens) and Flora (Pamela Franklin). Their uncle and guardian (Michael Redgrave) wants to ensure that they’re well provided for, but beyond that, he has little interest in getting involved in their lives. He’s more than happy to put Miss Giddens in charge, provided that she leaves him alone. Although she’s somewhat taken aback when he tells her that the children’s last governess died, she accepts the job and sets out for his large, isolated house in the country.

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Blind Spot Series: Ordet (1955)

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Danish farmer Morten Borgen (Henrik Malberg) is a deeply religious man, yet recently his prayers seem to have gone unanswered. His son Johannes (Preben Lerdorff Rye), once an aspiring parson, was driven mad by the doubts and uncertainties to which his studies gave rise, and now he goes around proclaiming himself to be Jesus Christ and lamenting the fact that his family doesn’t believe in him. Although Morten has pleaded with God to restore the young man’s sanity, the situation hasn’t improved, so he’s given up hoping for a miracle. Still, his daughter-in-law, Inger (Birgitte Federspiel), remains optimistic. She urges him not to stop praying. “How do you know what your prayers may have set in motion?” she asks.

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Blind Spot Series: Ivan the Terrible, Parts I and II (1944, 1958)

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In the sixteenth century, Ivan Vasilievich (Nikolay Cherkasov), Archduke of Moscow, has himself crowned Tsar of All the Russias. His aim is to unite his country and make it glorious, but he must contend with enemies both without and within its borders — most notably the boyars, high-ranking Russian aristocrats whom he considers far too powerful and self-serving. His quest for national greatness soon takes a heavy personal toll.

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Blind Spot Series: The Wages of Fear (1953)

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When a huge fire breaks out at an American oil company in an isolated region of South America, boss Bill O’Brien (William Tubbs) decides that the best solution is to blow it out like a candle, using a nitroglycerin-induced explosion to do so. The nitroglycerin will need to be transported to the site of the fire by truck over rough roads, and O’Brien knows that no union will ever allow its members to take on such a dangerous job. He decides, instead, to hire some of the unemployed and underemployed foreigners living in the squalid nearby village, men longing to get away but too poor to afford it. Four of them end up driving the two trucks: Mario (Yves Montand) and Jo (Charles Vanel) in one, Luigi (Folco Lulli) and Bimba (Peter van Eyck) in the other. It’s a journey of some three hundred miles, and not a single inch is free from peril.

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