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I Was a Male War Bride

Howard Hawks’s darkest comedy (1949)—a loosely constructed, episodic film that traces the progressive humiliations suffered by Free French army captain Cary Grant. The logical culmination has him disguised as a WAC called Florence in a wig made from a horse’s tail. The atmosphere is perhaps the most oppressive of all Hawks’s films, with Grant up […]

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The Prince and the Pauper

The Warner Brothers version of 1937, which solves the problems of trick photography by casting twins—Billy and Bobby Mauch—in the title roles. With Errol Flynn, Claude Rains, Henry Stephenson, Barton MacLane, and Alan Hale; Warners workhorse William Keighley directed. 120 min.

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Shchors

A rarely shown late effort by Alexander Dovzhenko, made in 1939 at the specific request of Stalin, who wanted a Ukrainian epic to pair with the Vassiliev brothers’ rousing Chapayev. The chosen hero was Nikolai Shchors, who commanded the Red Army in the Ukraine during the civil war. The results lack the lyrical intensity of […]

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And Then There Were None

Rene Clair, the French director (A nous la liberte, Le million) who spent the 30s in Hollywood, did a very workmanlike job with the classic Agatha Christie thriller about ten weekend guests on a secluded island who find themselves being murdered one by one. It was Clair’s last American film (1945) and it shows him […]

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La Balance

Bob Swaim, an American-born director working in France, has crafted a superior policier from a blend of ragged realism and romantic archetypes. Petty criminal Philippe Leotard is persecuted by Parisian narc Richard Berry, who threatens to expose Leotard’s romance with a prostitute (Nathalie Baye)—a relationship forbidden by French law—unless Leotard informs on a major drug […]

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In Like Flint

James Coburn’s second (and final) appearance as superagent Derek Flint finds him fighting to prevent a secret army of women from taking over the world. A palimpsest of 60s anxieties, but not much of a picture. Gordon Douglas directed this 1967 CinemaScope feature; with Lee J. Cobb, Andrew Duggan, and Jean Hale. 114 min.

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Improper Conduct

Written and directed by Cuban exiles Nestor Almendros and Orlando Jimenez-Leal, this documentary amasses a lot of talking-heads testimony to human rights violations by the Castro government. The chief target of oppression seems to be Cuba’s gay population, which proves—if any proof were needed—that Marxism doesn’t cancel out machismo. Though the film is more than […]

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Under the Volcano

A John Huston film in the tradition of his Moby Dick, The Red Badge of Courage, and Wise Blood, in which another unfilmable novel proves, indeed, to be unfilmable (1984). I’ve never understood what Huston hoped to gain with these overambitious adaptations, which admit from the start their inability to equal the source material, and […]

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And the Ship Sails On

A toned-down, rather depressive Fellini allegory (1984) set aboard an ocean liner carrying the ashes of a famous diva to her final resting place, in the days just before the outbreak of World War I. Symbols of life (a rhinoceros suffering in the hold, a band of Gypsy refugees picked up by the well-meaning captain) […]