#76 Notorious

Watched: January 15 2017

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains

Year: 1946

Runtime: 1h 41min

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Alicia Huberman’s (Bergman) father is convicted of treason and his daughter naturally throws a party with ice and Cary Grant. As would we if Grant were available. However, she throws in a DUI for good measure, which we would not. After the drunken drive, it turns out that Devlin (Grant) is some sort of government agent and he has a job for the former party girl. After a gruesome hangover (wonderfully filmed, by the way) the two fly to Brazil to start her assignment.

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“So, what exactly is this assignment?” “Well, we shall fall in love and then I shall ask you to prostitute yourself. You know, for patriotism. USA! USA!”

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The two fall in love and then the orders come through. In Devlin’s defence, he was not aware of the exact nature of his new love interest’s upcoming job before recruiting her, but he does not exactly help her out once the government asks Alicia to put the moves on an old friend of her father’s who used to be in love with her. Instead, he encourages her to use all her “womanly viles” to get the information they need from former German Nazi leader Alex Sebastian (Rains – no longer invisible).

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“Yes, my good Nazi friend, of course I’d rather marry you than have a sultry affair with Cary Grant. Isn’t my enthusiasm evident?”

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The reason Alicia is recruited is partly because of her previous relationship with the subject of their investigation, but it is just as much due to her former reputation as a sexually active, hard drinking socialite. While Alicia herself feels she is over this period of her life, her past is enough to condemn her in the eyes of the government agents who pressure her into taking on the assignment. She is even persuaded to go so far as to marry Alex.

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Marrying another man puts yet another strain on their relationship for some reason

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Further complications ensue when, after an intense espionage scene during a party, Alex and his evil mother realise that their new family member is in fact a spy. They start poisoning her, but pride and pent up anger towards her handler Devlin stops her from being upfront with him about her condition, instead blaming her reduced state during their next meeting on a hangover. How will the lovers get out of this pickle?

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We strongly suspect that the filmmaker is trying to tell us that something may be wrong about the coffee.

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This Hitchcock classic is every bit as tense and chilling as you would expect, and the character of Alicia is someone it is easy to sympathise with. She just wants to be treated like a person and make a new life for herself, but all the men see her as a thing – less than proper because of her past (sexual) frivolity and her family. Even her new beau falls into that trap, although to give him his due he does defend her to his colleagues. He just cannot seem to do this to her face.

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He has no problem doing other things to her face though

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Although Alicia, played beautifully by Swedish icon Bergman by the way, is through with her rebellious and flirtatious past, that’s all men want from her and that is all they see. So she obliges. It is interesting that even though Hitchcock has a reputation for having been a dick to women, his female characters are usually very sympathetic and strong. However, they are always put through hell, and they are usually made weak by feelings of love, which may be symptoms of misogyny in itself. Or the stories of his hatred for women may be somewhat exaggerated. Who are we to tell?

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Instead, let’s focus on the story of two ridiculously gorgeous people falling in love and overcoming personal, international, and political obstacles to be together. Yay!

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What we learned: Once you’ve lived up to a certain persona, people won’t let you forget it and move on. Also, if you’re going to infiltrate an enemy organisation, you need nerves of steel (and don’t make stupid key mistakes).

Next time: The Big Sleep (1946)

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#45 The Adventures of Robin Hood

Watched: September 30 2016

Directors: Michael Curtiz, William Keighley

Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, and Una Freaking O’Connor!

Year: 1938

Runtime: 1h 42min

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Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you: our first feature film in glorious technicolor! And what a film! Swashbuckling heroes, forbidden romance, great fight scenes and men in tights! What more can two ladies ask for on a Friday night?

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Perhaps a cheeky bastard defying authority while carrying a big piece of meat..?

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The evil Prince John (Rains) and his sidekick Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Rathbone) start a reign of terror against the Saxons in the absence of John’s brother, King Richard the Lion Heart, who’s in captivity after fighting in the crusades. However, one Saxon nobleman will not be subdued – Robin of Locksley, a.k.a. Robin Hood (Flynn), the sassy leader of a band of merry men who make it their mission to protect the people and defy the rule of the Norman upper classes.

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“We’ll start sharing our loot with the oppressed once we’ve paid off these matching outfits. We should have considered the price of green dye before deciding on this colour scheme…”

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Robin, Little John, Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck and the other famous and beloved characters from the Robin Hood legends not only rob from the rich and give to the poor, they also assassinate all who threaten, torture and/or kill Saxons. Which John did in abundance.

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His mistake was going full oppressor. You never go full oppressor.

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This was one of the best Friday nights we’ve had in a while (sad, we know..). The colours are really vibrant (particularly after so many weeks of black and white films) and the characters are fun and cheeky – especially Flynn’s Robin. There’s bravery, political activist women (though turned that way by love for a man), the glorious Una O’Connor (imagine our happiness when we spotted her!), wonderful fight sequences (some in shadow), humour, romance, suspense and a great score.

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We must admit to a weakness for men who shoot arrows while on horseback. But only in historical clothing.

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Another interesting detail is that for macho men, the outlaws are very happy to be shown up by others. We think a lot of people can learn something from them about lightening up and not taking themselves so seriously…

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Like these guys.

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What we learned: unlike other Robin Hoods, he can speak with an English accent. (Okay, we’re Norwegian and not particularly good at distinguishing accents in English, and we know that Flynn was Australian so this may be a blatant lie, but dammit! Men in Tights [1993] is NOT on the list, and this may be our only chance to quote the great Cary Elwes in this blog, so we’re bloody well going to go for it!)

Next time: The Lady Vanishes (1938)

#33 The Invisible Man

Watched: September 9 2016

Director: James Whale

Starring: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Una O’Connor

Year: 1933

Runtime: 1h 11min

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A man (Rains) is walking through a snow storm. He has 1/2 mile left to go to civilization. Cut to the Lion’s Head pub, a local pub for local people – there’s nothing for our man there! Nevertheless, the stranger enters and demands a room and privacy. Inn keeper Jenny Hall (O’Connor) is so done with his shit even before he is installed in his new rooms.

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“A ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ never hurt anyone, mister! Coming in here with your demands and your bandages and your snow and you didn’t even shut the front door. Men!”

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Meanwhile, the stranger’s girlfriend Flora (Stuart) is worried about him being missing and confides in his colleague Dr Kemp (Harrigan), who promptly hits on her. Classy.

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“Out of sight, out of mind, eh? Eh?”

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The stranger, who we learn is scientist Jack Griffin, has managed to turn himself invisible and is working on a cure whilst also spiralling into madness brought on by one of the drugs in the invisibility cocktail. When the Halls finally move to evict their disruptive tenant, he throws a fit and shows off just how much of a bastard he is, assaulting the landlady and going on a bit of a spree.

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I mean, look at that adorable face! Who would possibly hurt her?

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After wreaking havoc on the small village, Griffin goes to see Kemp to enlist his help in creating an antidote and taking over the world. Not necessarily in that order. From that moment on things take a turn for the worse, and murder and mayhem ensue.

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“We’ll begin with a reign of terror” – actual line from the movie

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Despite being a horror film, this is as funny as it is scary. There’s some very entertaining slapstick (how could there not be, with a naked, invisible man with no boundries running around?), and some amazing secondary characters. Griffin himself is a megalomaniac, but it seems he has become that way after turning invisible, possibly because he is no longer confronted with himself in the mirror, or because he can now get away with pretty much anything. Or because of the “monocane” he’s injected himself with. No matter the reason, he’s kind of hilarious when he’s not running around killing people.

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“If I don’t even have a head, how can I be responsible for my actions?”

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This film has amazing performances, great humour and very impressive special effects and we recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet seen it.

What we learned: Don’t meddle with things man is not supposed to know. Don’t do drugs of which you don’t know the full effects. Una O’Connor is amazing.

Next time: Dames (1934)