Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Movie: Man of the West (1958)

People told me that having a DVR would change my life. Of course, they said that about my cell phone and I seldom use the thing.

But I’ve developed a new and potentially unwholesome relationship with my TV now that, with the touch of a button, I can record movies that air at odd times.

Like this Anthony Mann western, with Gary Cooper stepping in for Mann’s frequent collaborator James Stewart. Cooper plays a reformed outlaw who gets caught in a train robbery and ends up falling in with his former crew. The slow build of Reginald Rose’s script gives way to a fierce climax. It’s as hard-bitten a western as you’ll find.

Lee J. Cobb plays the heavy. I’m a big fan; nobody blusters like Lee. But one of the pleasures of the film is the contrast between his sweaty, Method-influenced acting style and Cooper’s spare approach – and seeing how much more effective the latter is. Although it’s odd to hear Cooper refer to Cobb as “the old man” when Coop’s clearly got ten years on him.

The movie marks one of the sultry Julie London’s infrequent big screen appearances, but she doesn’t sing even though she plays a singer. The big surprise is Jack Lord – Steve McGarrett! – as a psychotic gunman. His epic brawl with Cooper is bruising, disturbing stuff.

Turner Classic Movies is repeating MAN OF THE WEST this Saturday night (technically Sunday morning) at 12:15 AM Eastern.

Movie: Kid Glove Killer (1942)

Then there’s this early Fred Zinnemann thriller. It’s kind of a proto-C.S.I., with police scientist Van Heflin using cutting edge techniques to determine who killed a reform-minded mayor.

I watched it for the chance to see character actor Lee Bowman in action. Bowman has always been my father’s go-to guy when playing Initials. L.B. even stumped Rosemarie.

Miscellaneous: Links

Slate offers a belated tribute to the late, great comedian Mitch Hedberg. THE INTERPRETER may have made the U.N. look good, but the building clearly needs help if the warning signs still tell people to “call MUrray Hill 2-4477.” Elsewhere in the Times, the terrible twosome of A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis blog the Cannes Film Festival.