My weekly movie reviews. You can also read these on letterboxd.


Niagara (1953)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 Stars

Rather than watch someone else play Marilyn Monroe, I decided to take a look back at one of the Monroe pictures I hadn’t seen, one I’ve always been interested in because it strays from her usual comedic fare.

Henry Hathaway’s Niagara is a beautifully photographed and mostly engrossing mystery film with touches of Film Noir. One of the delights of watching the picture is witnessing the filmmakers playing with expressionistic lighting but in color instead of B&W.

The story is pretty good too, at least until the final act. Though I suppose it was somewhat inevitable, the climax set on the falls is over-the-top and I think this otherwise nuanced narrative could have used a more simple conclusion. The cast is quite good, especially the always reliable Joseph Cotten and a sultry Monroe, however one actor stands out like a sore thumb and nearly ruined the experience for me. I don’t know what Max Showalter is doing but his cartoonish performance belongs in another movie. It’s impossible to believe that an attractive, intelligent woman like Jean Peters would sign up with such an idiot. Again, his acting nearly spoiled the entire picture for me but he fades into the background in the second half, allowing for its strengths to rescue it from disaster.

On a final note, if I was remaking this film (and I think it could be improved on), there’s the opportunity for more than just one twist, a chance the filmmakers sadly missed in the original.

Watched on Criterion Channel


The World of Suzie Wong (1960)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

This is a film that could also be remade and improved upon. The original has a surprising lightweight tone considering the subject matter for the first hour and a half before a more dramatic and stronger conclusion. The last thirty minutes are quite powerful, from William Holden’s search for Suzie to his confrontation with his other white love interest to the exhilarating finale and touching ending. However, the movie doesn’t earn the weight of these moments during the majority of its runtime, which plays like a slightly more serious romantic comedy. In essence, I’m saying that the filmmakers didn’t focus their energy on the right parts of their narrative. Still, the movie is well worth watching if only for another solid Holden performance, an impressive turn from Nancy Kwan, and the stunning location photography.

Watched on Criterion Channel.


Twelve O’Clock High (1949)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

I wonder what Howard Hawks thought of this film because all I kept thinking the whole time watching it was I’d rather be viewing his flight films: Air Force, Only Angels Have Wings, and especially The Dawn Patrol.

Though highly regarded, I cannot appreciate this Henry King picture as much as most viewers do. Compared to those Hawks films, it feels phony, it seems cooked up in a studio office instead of bred from experience. Its ethics are confused and not well illustrated. I never really understood the validity of Peck’s early reprimands and also did not believe the pilots’ change of heart about him. The actor’s stoicism doesn’t play well for me here like it does in other pictures. The movie needed someone like William Holden in the lead, an actor who could capture strength, courage, and at the same time show vulnerability. For me, the movie is mostly a reminder of how much I like Dean Jagger, an underrated character actor. Otherwise, I do not understand the film’s reputation.

Watched on Criterion Channel