Monday Editor’s Pick: House of Bamboo (1955)

by on August 22, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Fri Aug 26 to Thu Sep 1 at 1:00, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]


Robert Ryan goes out with a bang at Film Forum, in a new 35mm print of Sam Fuller’s rarely screened Technicolor and Scope noir. (Be sure to read Imogen Smith’s feature on Ryan.)


David Thomson in Have You Seen…?:

Get yourself the chance to see it. Ideally, that means on a big screen, where the CinemaScope photography can be seen and felt… The passion for form in the picture for dynamic, changing compositions, and for the unique way in which Japanese interiors can have paper walls that instantly rip apart to reveal fresh shapes – all these things are Samuel Fuller, and Fuller alone, and they are his greedy eye for the marvels of form that arise whenever different races try to live together. Years ahead of his time, when it looked more like miscegenation than friction and misunderstanding. The alleged innovations of, say, Ridley Scott’s Black Rain all fall away if you have seen House of Bamboo first. And it was made thirty years earlier.


The first thrill is just to witness and inhabit Fuller’s command of the screen and the image. And, truth to tell, he was so restless, so quick, so inquisitve, he can leave even Nicholas Ray and Anthony Mann looking overcomposed. Especially take note of Robert Ryan’s cold, intellectual, and cripplingly organized boss.


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Saturday Editor’s Pick: On Dangerous Ground (1952)

by on August 14, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sat Aug 20 at 1:30, 4:40, 7:50 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*Double Feature with Act of Violence (1948)


Heavens to betsy, Film Forum rolls out yet another underdog classic for their Robert Ryan series. If you haven’t yet, make sure to read Imogen Smith’s profile of Ryan for Alt Screen — it’s a keeper.


Kevin Thomas for the Los Angeles Times:

Ray’s On Dangerous Ground, is a revelation, an unjustly neglected stunner. Considering Ray’s cult status, it is mystifying that On Dangerous Ground, which he and A. I. Bezzerides adapted from Gerald Butler’s novel Mad With Much Heart, is not as well-known as such other Ray films noir as They Live by Night (1948) and In a Lonely Place (1950). Working with two virtuosos, cinematographer George E. Diskant and the great film composer Bernard Herrmann, Ray hurtles us into the alienated world of a big-city police detective (Robert Ryan), a loner so embittered by 11 years on the force that he’s beginning to undermine his effectiveness by his increasingly violent physical abuse of suspects. Eager to get him out of town for awhile, his chief (Ed Begley) gives him a lecture and sends him to the snowy countryside to help track down the unknown killer of a young girl.


On Dangerous Ground develops into a confrontation, as unexpected for us as it is for the detective himself, between two very different kinds of lonely people: a rage-filled city man who trusts no one and a gentle country woman (Ida Lupino) who, because of her near-total blindness, feels she must trust everyone. The impact of Lupino upon Ryan is dizzying, and because Ray is working with people as talented as he is, he manages a shift from violence and anger to love and tenderness with an effect that is at once convincing and profoundly romantic. From start to finish, the film is breathtakingly dynamic, so much so that it seems amazingly fresh for all its genre conventions. The subtlety, richness and poignancy of Herrmann’s score makes it easy to understand why it is said that he considered it his favorite.

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Friday Editor’s Pick: Caught (1949)

by on August 14, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Fri Aug 19 at 3:25, 7:05 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*Double Feature with Clash by Night (1952)


Film Forum’s Robert Ryan retrospective continues with an ultra-rare restoration screening of Max Ophuls’ fascinating, noir-tinged melodrama Caught. Ryan headlines as an icy, borderline psychotic millionaire (an a-clef characterization of Howard Hughes). The role of his young wife went to Barbara “Stupid, Stupid, Stupid” Bel Geddes (the quote comes from her neurotic but all-too-human turn in Vertigo) who here, for once, gets to play the ingenue — but oh, at what a price.


Don’t forget to check out Imogen Smith’s profile on Ryan for Alt Screen.


Michael Sragow for the Baltimore Sun:

In many an erotic film noir, the central figure is the femme fatale — the shady bombshell who detonates all the greed and lust that would otherwise lie dormant in the morally ambiguous hero. In the bracing and original Caught, from 1949, director Ophuls reverses the dynamics.


Barbara Bel Geddes is wrenchingly confused as a good-hearted but upwardly mobile young heroine — a department-store model and charm-school graduate — who makes the mistake of marrying a millionaire. This Prince Charmless, played by Ryan, reduces everyone, including his wife, to a stooge or a trophy. Call Ryan’s magnate the “homme fatal.” His craggy “masculine” strength is terrifying because it’s divorced from love, tenderness or mercy. James Mason is reliably fervid as the virtuous doctor who tries to save Bel Geddes, and Curt Bois skulks expertly as the villain’s right-hand mouse — who roars, just once. Ryan, though, is staggering. His whole rangy body is a physicalized snarl.


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Robert Ryan at Film Forum (Aug 12-25)

by on August 12, 2011Posted in: Essay

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Sunday Editor’s Pick: The Naked Spur (1953)

by on August 7, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Sun Aug 14 at 2:50, 6:10, 9:40 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]
*Double Feature with Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Don’t miss Imogen Smith’s essay on Robert Ryan for Alt Screen. Of The Naked Spur she writes:

Ryan brought ferocious energy to Mann’s magnificent The Naked Spur, which brought the convoluted interiority of chamber drama into the dwarfing grandeur of the Western wilderness. As a wily outlaw captured by a bounty hunter (Jimmy Stewart), Ryan grins and cackles with delight at his own malicious cunning, reveling in the tortured guilt of Stewart’s ambiguous antihero. With his wrists tied, perched ridiculously on a small donkey, Ryan still finds ways to exert power, because he has X-ray vision for other people’s weaknesses—and is stone-blind to his own failings. Ryan rarely portrayed men who enjoy their villainy, and he was never a heavy you “love to hate.” Some actors have a gift for portraying evil that is pure, elemental, inexplicable, so that there’s a guiltless satisfaction in hating them. Ryan, by contrast, revealed the inner workings of sadists and bigots, the all too recognizable ingredients of self-pity, resentment, rage, and sheer sickness of being inside one’s own skin. There’s a strange, harsh beauty about his willingness to inhabit these ugly souls, condemning himself to a kind of moral quarantine.


For you autuerist types, here’s a long, heady piece on Naked Spur director Anthony Mann, written by Alt Screen Editor, Paul Brunick.


A conflation of Jonathan Rosenbaum remarks from the Chicago Reader and DVD Beaver:

An uncharacteristically nasty James Stewart plays an obsessive bounty hunter with Robert Ryan in tow in one of the very best Anthony Mann westerns, which means one of the very best westerns, period. This 1953 film has Janet Leigh in jeans, beautiful location shooting (and Technicolor cinematography) in the Rockies, and some of the most intense psychological warfare to be found in Mann’s angular and anguished oeuvre.


For natural splendors in color, you couldn’t do better than this gorgeous piece of landscape art, shot almost entirely in exterior locations in the Colorado Rockies. James Stewart plays a rather nasty and troubled bounty hunter—-a character diametrically opposed to his civilized lawyer from the east in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance—-and it’s characteristic of Mann’s best and most elemental western that, along with the four other characters, he never changes his clothes even once.


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Friday Editor’s Pick: The Set-Up (1949)

by on August 5, 2011Posted in: Editor's Pick

Playing Fri Aug 12 & Sat Aug 13 at 2:40, 5:45, 8:50 at Film Forum [Program & Tix]


Cinephiles have been grumbling about an overdue retrospective of actor Robert Ryan for some time now, and Film Forum delivers with a two-week commemoration running August 12 – 25. This underknown “real-time” boxing picture, cited frequently by Martin Scorsese as a major inspiration (so much so he had to consciously avoid copying it in Raging Bull), kicks off the series, on a double-bill with one of Ryan’s great evil turns in Crossfire (1947).


Make sure to read Imogen Smith’s essay on Ryan for Alt Screen.
Manohla Dargis in her feature for the Film Forum series, in The New York Times:

Ryan made “The Set-Up,” one of his favorites and most indelible films, two years later. Directed by Robert Wise (who had edited “Citizen Kane”), “The Set-Up” is a tight, intensely moving, pocket-size masterwork about Stoker Thompson, a washed-up, 35-year-old heavyweight who believes he’s just “one punch away” from changing his lousy luck. Part redemption story, part romance (his wife is played by Audrey Totter), the film unfolds in close to real time and takes place in the cruelly named Paradise City. Ryan, all muscle, sinew and heart-rending longing, slugs through one punishing round after another — look for the photographer Weegee hitting the bell as the timekeeper — creating a portrait of a man who endures ghastly physical punishment on his way to redemption.


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