Ministry of Fear

Marjorie Reynolds as Carla, with a swastika projected over her

A Hitchcock film that Hitchcock didn’t make, Ministry of Fear has the innocent man on the run, the dangerous/vulnerable blonde and a shadowy organisation pulling the levers in the background. Fritz Lang directed it, in mid 1943, but it took until mid 1944 before it was shown in cinemas (and even then it only happened piecemeal). Considering it’s about Nazis, a dangerous conspiracy and life during wartime, that’s a long time for a film to be sitting on the shelf. Fritz Lang didn’t like it, nor did Graham Greene, who wrote the book it was based on, but Lang was forced to work with the adaptation written by Seton Miller, who was the … Read more

The Major and the Minor

Ginger Rogers as young Su-Su

The Major and the Minor is an elevator pitch movie selling itself on its title. As to what’s in it for the viewer, quite a lot if you like comedy that rides right into inappropriateness. It’s written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett and one of the joys of watching this under-regarded 1942 comedy is looking on as two masters of their craft get into one tight spot after another – sometimes deliberately – and then Houdini-like spring themselves free. Maybe when they first came up with the idea Brackett and Wilder didn’t realise that half-price train travel out of New York in the 1940s applied only to the under-12s. Maybe they thought … Read more

The Big Clock

Ray Milland and Charles Laughton

The IMDb description of The Big Clock succinctly tells the story of what happens – “A magazine tycoon commits a murder and pins it on an innocent man, who then tries to solve the murder himself” – while remaining silent about the massive irony at the centre of the story. The further the man advances with his investigation, the more he’s going to incriminate himself. It’s also about the fact that the entire story is seen through the eyes of the innocent man. It’s dependable Ray Milland as the “man”. George Stroud is a journalist at the top of his game, who’s made his name on a true crime magazine bringing in the villains … Read more

The Lost Weekend

Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 10 June Dr Robert Smith takes his last drink, 1935 On this day in 1935, an alcoholic doctor called Bob Smith took his last drink. He was 56 at the time and had been drinking heavily since he was a college student, checking himself into drying out clinics periodically in an attempt to kick the habit. He had drunk through Prohibition, thanks to his access to medical alcohol and the profusion of bootleggers. And he’d drunk through nearly 20 years of his wife’s attempts to get him to cut down or stop drinking. It was his wife who encouraged him to … Read more