Showing posts with label Ray Milland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ray Milland. Show all posts

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Kino Lorber Studio Classics: Arise, My Love (1940) and No Time for Love (1943)


Check out my latest YouTube video where I review two Kino Lorber Studio Classics Blu-rays: Arise, My Love (1940) and No Time for Love (1943). Both are Paramount films directed Mitchell Leisen and starring Claudette Colbert. Arise, My Love (1940) is a light romantic drama set in WWII starring Ray Milland. No Time for Love (1943) is a hilarious screwball comedy starring Fred MacMurray and also featuring Ilka Chase and June Havoc.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Lisbon (1956)

Lisbon: City of Murder, Intrigue and Excitement!

Captain Jack (Ray Milland) is a professional smuggler with an eye for the ladies. He goes by a strict code of ethics: no murder, no narcotics, just straight smuggling. When Jack arrives at Lisbon port he finds Inspector Fonseca (Jay Novello) hot on his trail. But luckily Jack and his shipmate Tio Rabio (Humberto Madeira) hide their loot before the Fonseca and his team can find it. In Lisbon, Jack meets with career criminal Mavros (Claude Rains) who has an assignment for him involving the wife of an American imprisoned in a Communist country. Jack is to arrange for Sylvia Merrill (Maureen O'Hara) to have a clandestine business meeting with Mavros and to help Mavros' team smuggle Sylvia's husband Lloyd Merrill (Percy Marmont) into Portugal safe and sound. However Captain Jack is about to get more than he bargained for with this new job. He's equal parts smitten and confused by the beautiful Sylvia. It's clear that she married her much older husband for money. Is she really concerned about her husband's well-being or are her efforts to ensure her financial security? Sylvia quickly becomes enamored with Captain Jack. And she's not the only one. Mavros' live-in girlfriend/employee Maria Madalena (Yvonne Furneaux) also develops an affection for him. But the mercy of her boss and the infatuated Seraphim (Francis Lederer). When Mavros plants an idea into Sylvia's mind to ensure that her husband doesn't make it back alive, she dismisses the idea at first. But $24 million dollars and the chance at real romance with Jack is much more alluring. Will Jack break his code of ethics or will he stay true to himself?

Lisbon (1956) was shot on location in Portugal for Republic Studios. Filming in Europe was big business for Hollywood in the 1950s and 1960s and this film has the notable distinction of being the first film entirely shot in Portugal. The story was based on an original idea by Martin Rackin and was adapted for the screen by John Tucker Battle. Paramount held the rights to the story before it was purchased by Republic.

Ray Milland not only stars in the film but he also produced it and directed it. In the credits he goes by R.A. Milland for his producer role and R. Milland for the director role. After making Dial M for Murder (1954), Milland took his career in a different direction and Lisbon was the second film he directed and the only one in which he received credit as producer.

I'm half Portuguese so for me Lisbon (1956) was like time traveling back to my dad's home country around the time he was living there. He emigrated from Portugal in the late 1950s and moved to Brazil before moving to the United States in the early 1960s. I've spent time in Lisbon and it's a gorgeous city. And 1956 Lisbon looks beautiful shot in Naturama and Trucolor. There are lots of great shots of the city and Milland used a variety of Portuguese actors in the film including Vasco Santana, Joao Benard da Costa, Humberto Madeira and singer Anita Guerreiro. Nelson Riddle composed the music for the film and his rendition of Lisbon Antigua was a huge hit in the US. It's a  fado song (a type of traditional Portuguese folk music) and is sung by Guerreiro in one of the scenes.

Story-wise, Lisbon was kind of a disappointment. It took too long to get to the point and when it did I didn't care much. The beginning and ending scenes were great. I loved the resolution to the story. It's very satisfying for Milland's character. And the opening scene shows Claude Rains as the heartless Mavros as he lures and kills a bird to feed to his cat. It gives us some insight into his cruel nature. Maureen O'Hara is absolutely stunning in this film. She has the most complex character of the cast which isn't saying too much because a lot of these characters are rather two dimensional. It's worth watching Lisbon for the beautiful on location shooting by Jack A. Marta, the brilliant color made even more beautiful with the newly remastered Blu-ray, for the great cast and O'Hara and Furneaux's amazing wardrobe.

Lisbon (1956) is available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Kino Lorber. When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

The Blu-Ray comes from a new high definition master from a 4K scan of the original Trucolor negative. It also includes audio commentary by film historian Toby Roan and a variety of Kino Lorber related trailers.

Thank you to Kino Lorber for sending me a copy of Lisbon (1956) for review. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

Alias Nick Beal (1949)

Alias Nick Beal (1949) poster

It's a story as old as time. A mortal sells his soul to the devil for what he really wants only to suffer the consequences later. Bargaining with evil always comes at a cost.

"I'd give my soul to nail him." - Joseph Foster

Joseph Foster (Thomas Mitchell) is a good man by all accounts. He's devoted to his wife Martha (Geraldine Wall). He runs an athletic club for wayward boys with his good friend Reverend Thomas Garfield (George Macready) and takes on a particular tough case with Larry Price (Darryl Hickman). As district attorney, he seeks to put a criminal in jail but just needs the proof.  And this is when his troubles begins. When he proclaims he would sell his soul for evidence needed in the case, a mysterious figure by the name of Nick Beal (Ray Milland) shows up. He's a strange man. He appears and disappears seemingly out of the blue. He's conjures up the much needed evidence and helps Foster run for governor. Then things start to spiral out of control. Foster develops a wandering eye when Beal hires prostitute Donna Allen (Audrey Totter) to play the role of dutiful campaign secretary and temptation to Foster. Then people start to question how Foster was able to get that evidence that had once been destroyed. Foster can't seem to shake the shadowy figure who haunts him day by day. Who exactly is Nick Beal and what does he want from Foster? Can Foster save his marriage, his career, his life?

Directed by John Farrow, Alias Nick Beal (1949) is a terrific Film Noir with a fantastic cast, captivating story, ominous music, beautiful and eerie cinematography. It's everything a film noir should be: dark, brooding and captivating. Based on an original story by Mindret Lord and adapted for the screen by Jonathan Latimer, Alias Nick Beal is a modern story in the tradition of Goethe's Faust. It's a morality tale with a clear warning against "trading principles for personal glory."

Audrey Totter and Ray Milland in Alias Nick Beal
Audrey Totter and Ray Milland in Alias Nick Beal

If you came to Alias Nick Beal for Ray Milland, you won't be disappointed. A few years after his Academy Award winning performance in The Lost Weekend, Milland wanted to strengthen his acting muscles with different types of characters. Nick Beal presented him with a chance to play a villain, a captivating one at that. Audrey Totter has a fantastic role as Donna who transforms from a lowlife to a career woman. She's a complex character who begins to doubt her newfound role. Totter is always amazing to watch on screen and I love her in this sort of two-part role. One of my favorite actors of all time Darryl Hickman has small but memorable role as a tough kid from the streets who becomes the recipient of Foster's benevolence. Cast members looked back on this film kindly. John Farrow and Audrey Totter both proclaimed it as one of their best films. Farrow could be tough on actors but he seemed to get on swimmingly with Milland.

Watching Alias Nick Beal, I couldn't help but feel like it came from a parallel universe. Another old Hollywood where many movies like this existed and this one just happened to sneak through to the other side. Perhaps it's the fact that this film is so highly sought-after and hard to get that makes it that way. This movie aired recently on TCM as part of their Summer Under the Stars tribute to Ray Milland. It was the first time they had ever screened the moment making it one not to miss. This film, along with many others, are part of the Paramount library owned and tightly controlled by MCA. If you find yourself with an opportunity to watch Alias Nick Beal, do so. Who knows when you'll get another chance.

Update: According to this article in The Hollywood Reporter, the last film Hugh Hefner screened at the Playboy Mansion, nine days before he passed away, was Alias Nick Beal. Did he tape it off of TCM?!

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