For Reel


Badman’s Territory (1946)
July 9, 2016, 2:23 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Tim Whelan
3.5 Stars
Badman's TerritoryThe 1940s in particular were a year in which the western genre, which had its foundation in the most literal black-and-white sense of morality, explored situations that were slightly more ambiguous, where heroes and villains tend to be complicated because of the nature of what exactly is right. Badman’s Territory is very much about how one’s personal code fits into the world around them, and particularly how a social morality must be achieved to bring order—in the outlaw town of Quinto, the good citizens request a lawman so as to have protection from one another. Randolph Scott plays the local sheriff who finds his way to Quinto when pursuing the gang that helped his brother recover after a shootout. When Scott comes face-to-face with the famed James gang, it is somewhat of a surprise that he is so cordial and thankful—even if they are criminals, the charitable act from the Coyote Kid (a delightful George “Gabby” Hayes) shows they are not soulless. Badman’s Territory is at its best when it indulges in the episodic, day-to-day life of the town and the people therein, including a horse race, a dance, and the shy courtship between Scott and a local printer (Ann Richards), however the action sequences are also well-choreographed.



Clouds Over Europe (1939)
March 16, 2016, 11:59 pm
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Director: Tim Whelan
3 Stars
Clouds Over EuropeReleased six years before the start of the second World War II, Clouds Over Europe involves nefarious baddies (clearly meant to be German, although never explicitly stated in the script) who use a ray to disable airplanes in order to capture both crafts and crew. When two “experimental” aircrafts go missing, the case is pursued by a good-humored secret agent (Ralph Richardson) and a stud pilot (Laurence Olivier). Although Olivier looks especially uncomfortable attempting to navigate the machinery the script requires him to, Richardson delights in portraying his characters’ every quirk. He’s a man who is entirely self-amused, delighting himself with little regard for those around him. As a prototypical Bond film (the villains’ warship is populated by henchman and looks like a secret lair), it plays with tongue-in-cheek humor and involves a number of action set pieces on air, land, and sea. The main pleasures are the more absurd elements–the villain who disables airplanes does so by wearing hilariously large, slightly askew goggles–but Richardson and Valerie Hobson (as a reporter) are also worth the time. It is surprising to see such a good-humored spy film released in Britain so soon before the war, with the propagandist elements are not as pronounced as they would be in later films of the genre.



The Divorce of Lady X (1938)
May 29, 2014, 11:31 pm
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Director: Tim Whelan
3.5 Stars
The Divorce of Lady XThe year before Merle Oberon and Lawrence Olivier starred together in the classic romantic tragedy Wuthering Heights, they were paired for this light-hearted technicolor comedy from producer Alexander Korda. Olivier plays a stuffy lawyer who is coaxed by a strange woman (Oberon) to share his hotel room with her during an unnavigable London fog. When an old friend (Ralph Richardson) comes seeking a divorce the following day because his wife spent the night in another man’s hotel room, Olivier is convinced that he’s the homewrecker. The color cinematography is the star of this otherwise fairly forgettable, if pleasant distraction–the opening sequence features the beautiful neon glow of the Piccadilly Circus before cutting to a costume ball awash in shades of pastel colors. As the first act proceeds, the flamboyance is maintained with the vibrant design of a hotel room where the lovers begin their attraction. Beyond the visual pleasures (chaotic as the palette may be), it is worthwhile to see both Oberon and Olivier perform screwball, which neither of them would do often throughout the rest of their respective careers. Despite their best efforts, it’s the dependable Richardson who steals the show as the increasingly suspicious client.