Archive for Otto Preminger

Kim Walks Amuck

Posted in FILM with tags , , , on June 8, 2013 by dcairns

Sometimes you just want to grab a shot, isolate it, and hold it up to the light. A walk, a mermaid dress, an elegant camera move. In this case, for some reason the soundtrack refused to come with it, so we have to do without.

The first time I watched THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM I was bothered by the unconvincing, claustrophobic sets. This time round, I had the experience of having been to New York and the production design seemed to capture something authentic about the place — perhaps that very enclosed feeling. Though director Otto Preminger would abandon the studio, pretty much (that last scene in THE HUMAN FACTOR seems to violate his locations-only rule about as brazenly as you could wish for), his earlier films do make sensational use of the ability to film interior and exterior in the same shot, something that’s tricky out in the real world unless you have very bright lights to make the stuff indoors almost as bright as the stuff outdoors.

The Complete History of Kinema #3

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on April 22, 2011 by dcairns

Let’s see, well, we’re skipping golden age Hollywood, neo-realism and a few other things…

Interesting that George Stevens sued to try and prevent TV stations inserting ads into A PLACE IN THE SUN, and Otto Preminger sued to try and stop them cropping his films (which really do lose absolutely everything when viewed in the wrong ratio, almost uniquely in my view). I’d like to be able to say that Bert I. Gordon sued to prevent Elvira introducing his films, but that would be untrue, in a factual sense. But, in a deeper, poetic sense, very true indeed.


Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2010 by dcairns

An epidemic of axe murders grips Chicago! Victims found with heads split open! Killers found beside bodies in state of catatonic schizophrenia! And so, the above is not an encouraging thing to find in your hotel.

FINGERS AT THE WINDOW is a rather delightful comedy-thriller from MGM, with poor old Lew Ayres as a crime-solving out-of-work actor and Laraine Day as a dumb dancer (“She hasn’t the brains of a pancake!”) and, all too briefly, Basil Rathbone as the Mabusean mastermind who hypnotises his incurable subjects and sends them forth to kill! Kill! Kill!

Always with the pleasure, a little malaise: the cops speak of rounding up every “derelict and moron” in the city, a mission later referred to as a “moron hunt.” At a conference on psychiatry a paper is read about insulin shock therapy, the brilliant and human procedure whereby the mentally ill were deliberately overdosed with insulin to put them in a coma, for weeks sometimes. All of which adds an uncomfortable tincture of historical nastiness to a basically light-hearted yarn.

In one amusing scene, Ayres must use his powers of dramaturgy to fake madness, convincing a Viennese quack played by Miles Mander, the only man wirier than his own hair. This kind of scene ALWAYS works, folks. It works when Cary Grant does it in NORTH BY NORTHWEST, and it works when Richard Carlson does it in Siodmak’s FLY-BY-NIGHT ~

Mr. Carlson shows of his collection of wedding bands in FLY-BY-NIGHT.

Mr Ayres serves as role model for the chimp in the end credits of Police Squad. “He’ll stop when he’s tired.”

And it certainly works when Ayres does it. He’s more convincing here than as a shrink in THE DARK MIRROR. And in fact he also gets to impersonate a head doctor here, adopting the name of Dr. Stephen Dedalus — perhaps the only James Joyce reference to appear in an MGM noirball? It’s part of a run of Irish gags, which extends to making all the cops in the film exceptionally dense.

This seems to be the only screenplay by Rose Caylor (playwright and wife of Ben Hecht) working with Lawrence P Bachmann, a specialist in medical subjects who reprised elements of this idea for Otto Preminger’s WHIRLPOOL. But this one is better! Director is Charles Lederer, better known for co-writing The Front Page with Hecht. Only an occasional director, Lederer does a good enough job here to make me wish he’d done more. The movie isn’t as ambitious as Hecht’s co-directing efforts, but it hits its modest targets more frequently.

Hear Your Heart Beat.


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