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Post #5

Criterion Channel (April 16, 2021)

If you ever grow weary of what Netflix, Prime, Disney and other major streaming services are offering, please try checking out the noteworthy selection available on the CRITERION CHANNEL.

You probably won’t find recent releases among the striking array of titles—ranging from important classics (like SEVEN SAMURAI. AMARCORD, THE THIRD MAN and SONS OF THE DESERT) to low rent, grade B oddities (like BAD GIRLS GO TO HELL and THE WITCH WHO CAME FROM THE SEA).

Frequently the films are packaged as collections (like a set of movies which have musical scores by Ennio Morricone), or perhaps grouped under a specific genre (Black Westerns, Gamblers, Japanese Noir), actor (Lawrence Olivier, Jeanne Moreau, Alec Guinness) or director (Preston Sturges, Wim Wenders, Gordon Parks).

Here’s a sampling of the films I have recently watched.

CROUPIER (NR/1999/91 minutes)
A young man, while hoping to become a published author, reluctantly takes a job in a London casino.  He soon finds himself breaking employee rules and regulations, possibly acting as an inside man for a proposed robbery and involved in other incidents…which will serve as a basis for his book.  A highly original look at people populating the world of gambling—complete with a Joker popping up at the end.  This proved to be a breakout role for the charismatic Clive Owen, with co-star Alex Kingston a standout as a down-on-her-luck gambler.

THE OLD DARK HOUSE (NR/1932/72 minutes)
Five travelers, stranded by a torrential rain storm, seek refuge in a very creepy mansion owned by the odd Femm family.  Lots of stairs lead some of the unsuspecting visitors to the most unseen members of the bizarre household.  Director James Whale successfully blends humor with horror in this overlooked gem which never achieved the popularity of Whale’s other horror efforts at Universal (FRANKENSTEIN, THE INVISIBLE MAN and THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN).  Boris Karloff gets top billing as Morgan, the frightening, volatile butler—and doesn’t utter one intelligible word during the entire film.  Melvin Douglas, Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart and other fine actors speak their well-written dialogue in admirable fashion.

THE MARK (NR/1961/127 minutes)
The attempt of a man to rejoin society after a three year imprisonment is memorably detailed here.  The disturbing nature of his crime–attempted child molestation–prompts a nagging question: has he been totally rehabilitated?  Stuart Whitman deservedly received an Oscar nomination as Best Actor for his nuanced, convincing portrayal, splendidly supported by Rod Steiger (as his empathetic psychiatrist) and Maria Schell (as a potential love interest—with a child).  This was strong subject matter for moviegoers in 1961 and is still a hot button today.

I think the CRITERION CHANNEL succeeds in providing an intriguing variety of entertainment.  Titles, perhaps, you won’t find elsewhere.

That’s the way I see it.

Click here to read more about Barry Steelman!

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