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The Horn Blows at Midnight

Jack Benny made this 1945 box office dud into something of a legend over the years by constantly citing it as the film that sank his movie career. It’s one of those morbid 40s fantasies, like Here Comes Mr. Jordan, about a trumpet player who dreams he’s Gabriel, sent to earth to announce the apocalypse. […]

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Wuthering Heights

The Emily Bronte novel was a favorite among the surrealists for its treatment of obsessive love, and Luis Buñuel originally planned to film it in the 30s (from a screenplay by poet Pierre Unik). Those plans fell through, but Buñuel returned to the project in 1953, during his sojourn in the Mexican commercial cinema. It’s […]

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Diary of a Lost Girl

G.W. Pabst’s 1929 follow-up to his notorious Pandora’s Box, again with the American starlet Louise Brooks, though this time as sexual victim rather than predator. The daughter of a pharmacist, she is seduced by a shop assistant and launched on a series of humiliations, which include bearing a baby out of wedlock, a term in […]

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The Natural

I’ve just about had it with directors who use the mythic mode as an alibi for unshaded characterizations, simpleminded plotting, and swells of artificial emotionality. Barry Levinson’s 1984 film preserves the Arthurian imagery of Bernard Malamud’s baseball novel while stripping away all its darkness and irony; what’s left is a sappy tale of youthful purity […]