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Mrs Gilvray opens the door to cop Webb Garwood

The Prowler

“A masterpiece of sexual creepiness” – writer James Ellroy’s verdict on 1951’s The Prowler, a film that gave two good actors roles of a lifetime and which languished in the pit of obscurity until it was rescued by a restoration in 2011. The “sexual creepiness” arrives early on. Married woman Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes) calls the cops after seeing what she thinks is a prowler outside her window, peeking at her as she got out of the bath. The cops turn up. No one there. Or is there? One of the policemen, Webb Garwood (Van Heflin), has taken an instant interest in Mrs Gilvray and he returns later that evening, ostensibly just to … Read more
Meinhard Neumann as Meinhard


Western isn’t set out West but out East, in Bulgaria, where a gang of Germans have just arrived to build a hydro-electric system close to a remote village near the Greek border which could probably do with the infrastructure upgrade. Beware, Indians! There have been Germans here before, one of the locals tells the new arrivals, back in the War. Nice, respectful, orderly types, he reminisces. Though this guy is maybe 70 and can only have vestigial memory of the Second World War if any at all. The Germans build a camp, hoist a flag, get on with their work and, in their spare time go swimming in the river. There, the boss, … Read more
Claude approaches Billie with the intention of strangling her

Murder by Contract

Shot in seven days and decades ahead of its time, Murder by Contract is a lean, spare, ascetic, almost arthouse film noir from 1958 and was once described by Martin Scorsese as “The film that has influenced me most.” It stars Vince Edwards, an actor who is not particularly well known but who is particularly good as the almost existential hero who weasels his way into the hitman business and ends up – in the film’s protracted climax – confronted with the job too far, the one revealing an actual heart beating away beneath his refrigerated exterior. The setup is exquisitely done. Claude (Edwards) urgently insinuates himself into the good books of hitman … Read more
A young Patricia Highsmith

Loving Highsmith

Delicately ambiguous as a title, Loving Highsmith also turns out to be a clever way of signalling the approach of its director, Eva Vitija, to its subject matter. It is both fan letter to the writer of classics such as Strangers on a Train (she really loves her Highsmith), and an attempt to delve into the love life of the author herself – what Highsmith was like to love. Highsmith’s dates are 1921 to 1995 but you’ll struggle to get that information out of this documentary. It isn’t full of details of that sort, and there isn’t particularly a timeline that can clearly be followed. Watch it with the Wikipedia page to one … Read more
Stephen receives the benediction of Penda

Penda’s Fen

As far as the work of director Alan Clarke goes, Penda’s Fen is an outlier. A strange take on folk horror, it’s become something of a cult in the decades since it was first broadcast in 1974 in the BBC’s long-running Play for Today strand. Pre HBO and streaming, TV was predominantly a writer’s medium rather than a director’s. Even so, Clarke made a name for himself as a director in TV for two reasons: his focus on often punishingly gritty social-realist subject matter and his eye for talent. Prime (though relatively late) examples of this include TV features like 1979’s Scum, set inside a young offenders prison, where he gave Ray Winstone … Read more
Young Tiny by the climbing frame

The Fury

The Fury (aka De Helleveeg in the original Dutch) gives Hannah Hoekstra something to do. Impressive in any number of films and TV shows, Hoekstra has at this point in her career (2016, she’s 29) played sexy young things with attitude and varying levels of coquettishness. And that’s just what she plays here, with a twist, and with a chance to show what she is capable of when she has a really broad canvas to work with. She plays a young woman called Tiny, a working-class girl in a dead-end job in 1960s Netherlands whose life with her family consists of them trying to marry her off while she works for them as … Read more
Michael and Elsa in the hall of mirrors

The Lady from Shanghai

Early on in The Lady from Shanghai there’s a key piece of dialogue explaining the title. Orson Welles’s Michael O’Hara, an Irish sailor in New York between jobs, meets a woman (Rita Hayworth, Welles’s wife at the time). Michael is on foot, Elsa is in a horse-drawn carriage taking a turn around Central Park. In clear “I am hitting on you” dialogue, he charms her with stories about all the wickedest places in the world he’s been to. The Far East is high on the list, with Macau, Shanghai among the places mentioned. Elsa’s been to all of them. Gambling? he offers. Kind of, she shrugs. The “lady” is no such thing, of … Read more
Letitia Wright

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

When Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was first proposed, no one imagined that the sequel to the huge hit of 2018 was going to be made without its star, Chadwick Boseman, who unexpectedly died in 2020, having kept his battles with colon cancer super-heroically to himself. What to do? Cast someone else in his place? It was an option, and one Boseman’s own brother Derrick suggested, as a memorial to the character Chadwick had played. Or marshal the forces of CG to bring the lead actor back to digital life? For various reasons neither was considered a goer – social media kickback always being an issue. In the end, writer/director Ryan Coogler et al … Read more
Ruth Weyher as the "Woman"

100 Years of… Warning Shadows

The remarkable Warning Shadows (Schatten: Eine nächtliche Halluzination) is often lumped together with other German movies of the 1920s as expressionist but it’s only tangentially an expressionist movie. It’s too strange to fit in that box, too individualistic. As silent movies go it’s strange too. Once it’s done its introductions – the characters’ names materialise as the actors appear on stage in front of a white screen which will take on significance later – there are no intertitles, not one. The American born but Germany-raised director/writer Arthur Robison does it all with images and his actors, no further explanation necessary. The story is weird as well – like a sexed-up fairy tale – … Read more
Emily out on the moors


“How did you write it? How did you write Wuthering Heights?” Charlotte Brontë asks her sister Emily as Emily lies on her deathbed. Emily is the answer, a feverish blend of fact and fancy, part biography, part romantic extravaganza. It’s tasteful but not twee, gothic but not ridiculously so. Pulling off the impressive feat of being about the life and the work, and taking inspiration from 1940s Hollywood, Frances O’Connor’s debut movie as a writer and director tells the (not very true at all) story of the adult life and death aged 30 of author Emily Brontë. O’Connor also borrows from Jane Austen for her story of a picky young woman who meets … Read more
Wille and Virginia

100 Years of… Our Hospitality

1923 is the year when Buster Keaton’s run of classic feature-length comedies gets out of the blocks with Our Hospitality, which signals its intention to be different even in its opening credits, which linger on the screen far longer than those of most films of the era. Here, they say, is something to be savoured. The story is William Shakespeare via rural 19th-century America via the mind of Buster Keaton, a re-working of Romeo and Juliet crossed with the Hatfield and McCoys feud, with Buster playing Willie McKay, a guy who falls in love with a young woman he meets on the train journey back to his Appalachian homeland where he’s inherited a … Read more
The Tobacco Force

Smoking Causes Coughing

Smoking Causes Coughing. Of course it does. It might be the only bit of sense there is in Quentin Dupieux’s latest film, a drama-free but quirk-heavy work of surreal flippancy centring on a gang of superheroes who call themselves the Tobacco Force. In their tight suits and helmets, this gang look like the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers but as we meet them they appear to be fighting a character who’s escaped from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, a gigantic upright Tortoise called Tortusse (the film is in French, which explains the tortoises name, and the film’s original one, Fumer Fait Tousser). Struggling, even five to one, the Tobacco Force decide to combine their … Read more

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