Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Movies: Metropolis Reborn

Some big film news breaking in Germany: the discovery of a print of Fritz Lang’s original version of Metropolis. GreenCine Daily’s David Hudson has the details.

DVD: The Furies (1950)

It’s redundant to sing the praises of a title from the Criterion Collection. Of course the movie will be worth a look and the disc immaculately produced. But I’m gonna do it anyway.

Director Anthony Mann made a string of remarkable noirs in the late 1940s. In the ‘50s he reeled off one fine western after another, the best of them being Winchester ’73. The Furies, made the same year, is in many respects the Mann film that bridges the two genres. It’s dark and brooding, with an emphasis on psychology.

Walter Huston, in his final screen performance, plays T.C. Jeffords, owner of the title ranch and therefore king of the New Mexico Territory in 1872. He gallivants all over the coast spending his fortune like water, knowing his whip-smart daughter Vance (Barbara Stanwyck) is a steady hand at home. Vance endures T.C.’s antics because someday The Furies will be hers. Or so she thinks until she shows interest in a gambler that T.C. doesn’t cotton to, and a possible new stepmother appears on the scene.

The Furies is one odd duck of a movie. It’s a western that takes place largely indoors. It has little action, but several startling acts of violence. It’s the sort of film praised for its “complex characterizations,” which is a critic’s way of saying that people exhibit wildly contradictory behaviors that get a pass because they’re entertaining.

But The Furies is also my favorite type of movie, the kind in which shit keeps happening. Empires rise and fall! Great passions are extinguished only to burn anew! Grudges are carried and promises kept! It’s one damn thing after another, and I defy you to look away.

Speaking of Anthony Mann ...

TV: DVR Alert

During Noir City I saw Mann’s remarkable Reign of Terror, which treats the French Revolution as a crime story. Turner Classic Movies will give it a rare TV airing, under its alternate title The Black Book, on Monday, July 14, at 1:45PM EST. I’ll post another reminder as Bastille Day approaches.