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The Postman Always Rings Twice

A literal-minded, stylistically conservative version of the James M. Cain pulp classic, which is to say a complete betrayal of it. Bob Rafelson’s direction has none of Cain’s lean hysteria; his Frank and Cora drift through their sex-drugged, sadomasochistic affair in a tone of depressed naturalism, without any invigorating sense of sin or transgression. When […]

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Frantic

Louis Malle’s first film (1957), made when he was 24, is a surprisingly suspenseful reworking of the perfect crime/sexual tension formula. Also known as Ascenseur pour l’echafaud (Elevator to the Gallows); with Jeanne Moreau, Maurice Ronet, and an improvised score by Miles Davis, playing with European musicians.

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The Bounty Hunter

Part two of Sergio Giral’s “Slavery Trilogy” is a portrait of Francisco Estevez, a bounty hunter who tracked down runaway slaves for the plantation owners of Cuba. He hatches an obsession for Melchora, the runaways’ legendary female leader, and the violent acts he commits in her pursuit appall even his white employers (1977).

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Operation Petticoat

A very funny pairing of Cary Grant and his ace protege Tony Curtis as two submarine officers (Grant older and wiser, Curtis young and ripe for deflating) with a cargo of women on their hands. Blake Edwards directs with his customary wit, breeziness, and acute sense of pacing (1959).

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48 HRS.

Nick Nolte as a surly, Neanderthal cop and Eddie Murphy as the fast-talking convict he springs to help him catch a pair of killers. This coupling of the physical and the verbal is one of director Walter Hill’s favorite ploys; if it doesn’t come off here quite as meaningfully as it does in Hill’s Southern […]

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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

Light-years better than the television series it inspired, this charming, frothy comedy-romance (1947) involves a widow (Gene Tierney) who rents an old house and finds she’s gotten the ghost of its former owner (a salty sea captain marvelously embodied by Rex Harrison). Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz before his humor turned cold-blooded; adapted by Philip […]

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Gabriela

Brazilian sex bomb Sonia Braga reteams with director Bruno Barreto (Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands) for the story of an unwashed peasant girl who becomes maid and then mistress to a bar owner (Marcello Mastroianni) in the Bahia of 1925. With Antonio Cantafora; based on a novel by Jorge Amado.

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The Man With the Golden Arm

Otto Preminger’s 1955 adaptation of Nelson Algren’s novel is something of a crossroads movie, suspended between the swirling expressionism of Preminger’s early career and the balanced realism that would later become his forte. Frank Sinatra, as the drug-addicted poker dealer, plays a reasonably naturalistic character, but he’s surrounded by a collection of bizarre archetypes (Eleanor […]