Tag Archives: sexual violence

Walking Around in Someone Else’s Skin: The Classic Film, To Kill A Mockingbird



Usually considered to have originated with Horace Walpole’s novel The Castle of Otranto (1764), which was subtitled “A Gothic Story,” Gothic fiction is literature that attempts to combine elements of romance, mystery, and horror — without becoming either too fantastic or too realistic. Initially featuring decaying castles, curses, ghosts or other supernatural creatures and events, madness, murder, and “oft-fainting heroines,” Gothic fiction was hugely popular entertainment.

About a generation after Walpole, Ann Radcliffe introduced the brooding Gothic villain in her novel A Sicilian Romance: a tempestuous, moody, sometimes secretive, and extremely passionate male who usually encounters a heroine that completely upsets his life. Later this type of “villain” would be called the Romantic era’s “Byronic hero.” Radcliffe also introduced more independent heroines to Gothic fiction with her bestselling The Mysteries of Udolpho. Though Radcliffe’s heroines are still pretty helpless and faint far more than anyone I’ve ever encountered, they inspired “gothic feminism” which critics claim the author herself expressed as “female power through pretended and staged weakness.” Further, Radcliffe changed the infant genre of Gothic fiction by introducing the “explained supernatural,” where all the apparently supernatural events, from ghosts and moving furniture to strange knocks and cries in the dark, turn out, eventually, to have perfectly reasonable, natural explanations.

Gothic fiction and its various, evolving components spread into the literature of the Romantic era, appearing in the poetry of Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, Byron, and Poe. In the Victorian era, Gothic elements were more prominent in fiction, and are found in the work Charles Dickens (A Christmas Carol), Bram Stoker (Dracula), Robert Louis Stevenson (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), Emily Brontë (Wuthering Heights), and Charlotte Brontë (Jane Eyre).

Many of these Victorian authors added strong moral elements to their Gothic fiction, producing novels that questioned everything from man’s relationship with newly developing technologies and medical advances to man’s responsibility for feeding and educating the poor. Gothic literature became more than entertainment to pass the long hours of a dark and rainy night: it explored the meaning of life, morality, social responsibility, and man’s relationship to the Divine.

As Gothic fiction spread to authors in America, especially in the South, it became a sub-genre called Southern Gothic. Authors like Faulkner, Caldwell, McCullers, O’Connor, Capote, and Percy examined family relationships, sexuality, poverty, race, and the Southern myths of an idyllic antebellum past. Southern Gothic is filled with

deeply flawed, disturbing, or eccentric characters… ambivalent gender roles, decayed or derelict settings, grotesque situations, and other sinister events relating to or stemming from poverty, alienation, crime, or violence.

With its particular focus on the South’s history of slavery, Southern Gothic became a vehicle for fierce social critique.

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic of both American fiction and Southern Gothic. A coming-of-age story set in the fictional “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama from 1933-1936, during the Great Depression, the novel examines everything from family relationships and mental health to societal responsibilities, poverty, violence, and crime. The 1962 film version, adapted from the novel by Horton Foote, eliminated some of the novel’s childhood adventures to concentrate on the aspects of its storyline that make To Kill a Mockingbird so important to American literature and film: the ugly and intractable racism between whites and blacks, a bigotry and intolerance that still exists over most of the country.

Mary Badham as Scout (forefront) with author Harper Lee, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

The film’s (unseen) narrator looks back on her six-year-old self and on the events that changed her from an innocent to a more mature child. In 1933, Scout (Mary Badham) and her brother Jem (Phillip Alford) live in Maycomb, Alabama with their widowed father Atticus (Gregory Peck).

Mary Badham as Scout, Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, and Phillip Alford as Jem, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Together with a visiting neighbor, Dill (John Megna, modeled after Harper Lee’s lifelong friend Truman Capote, who spent summers next door to the Lees with his aunts), Scout and Jem roam around the neighborhood and create their own adventures.

John Megna as Dill, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

One of their most exciting “games” is scaring each other with stories about the never-seen Boo Radley (Robert Duvall, in his film debut),

Robert Duvall as Boo Radley, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

who lives just a few doors down and who is rumored to be a crazed, scissors-wielding psychopath, once locked up in the courthouse basement jail.

Paul Fix as Judge Taylor, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Late one night, Judge Taylor (Paul Fix) comes over to request that Atticus serve as the appointed defense counsel for Tom Robinson (Brock Peters),

Gregory Peck as Atticus, and Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

a black man who has been accused of brutally beating and raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox).

Collin Wilcox as Mayella Ewell (foreground), and Paul Fix as Judge Taylor (background), To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Atticus agrees, but despite his attempts to shield his children from the consequences of his decision to represent a black man in a racially charged crime, Scout and Jem soon become involved in the racial “war” brewing around them.

Collin Wilcox as Mayella, and James Anderson as Bob Ewell (both, foreground), To Kill A Mockingbird ©

In particular, the father of the ostensible rape victim, Bob Ewell (James Anderson) tries several times to intimidate Atticus into quitting the case. When that doesn’t work, Ewell threatens violence against Atticus and his children.

Phillip Alford as Jem, and Mary Badham as Scout, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Though the children continue to find “gifts” in the hollow of a nearby tree, these gifts and their former adventures pale in significance to the events surrounding the crime concerning Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell.

Gregory Peck as Atticus, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

By the time the trial starts, most of the town is divided and angry. Though Atticus warns his children to stay away from the courthouse completely, Jem refuses to be barred from the biggest event in the county, and Scout refuses to be left behind at home if Jem and Dill are going to the courthouse.

Phillip Alford as Jem, Mary Badham as Scout, and John Megna as Dill (L-R, foreground), with William Walker as Reverend Sykes (background, wearing suit and tie) To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Without Atticus’ knowledge or permission, Scout, Jem, and Dill sit in the gallery, in the “Negro section” of the court, and watch the entire trial.

William Windom as District Attorney (L), James Anderson as Bob Ewell (center), and Paul Fix as Judge Taylor (background R), To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Judge Taylor presides as the District Attorney (William Windom, in his film debut) badgers witnesses and makes his opinions about Tom Robinson’s guilt clear. Despite the fact that viewers can have no doubt whatsoever about the jury’s eventual verdict, the courtroom scenes are intensely riveting, especially when Atticus cross-examines Mayella herself.

Gregory Peck as Atticus, To Kill A Mockingbird ©

Though the verdict is not in question, Mayella’s father, angry at the Atticus’ not-so-subtle accusations of incest and child abuse, provokes Atticus repeatedly in an attempt to draw him into a physical confrontation. Then, he decides to provoke Atticus by going after his children.

Nominated for 8 Academy Awards, To Kill a Mockingbird won three Oscars:
Best Actor for Gregory Peck, Best Adapted Screenplay for Horton Foote, and Best Art Direction (set design, Black-and-White).

The film also won Golden Globes for Best Actor in a Drama (Gregory Peck), Best Original Score (Elmer Bernstein), and Best Film for Promoting International Understanding (to director Robert Mulligan).

When released, To Kill a Mockingbird was an overwhelming critical and popular success, earning more than 10 times its budget in 1962. To Kill a Mockingbird has gone on to become a classic, with the film listed 25th on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time (2007 list) [#34 on the 1998 list], and taking the top spot in AFI’s Top 10 Courtroom Dramas. Gregory Peck’s character Atticus Finch reigns as AFI’s 100 Greatest Heroes.

Everyone should see this film, though children under 12 may need to be cautioned about the subject matter and the language as this film deals openly with rape, clearly suggests incest, and uses language appropriate to the time and place of its story.

Be sure to watch the black-and-white version of To Kill a Mockingbird, not the colorized one: those who colorized it obviously completely missed the symbolism behind the story’s being filmed in black-and-white instead of in color. Available for rent ($2.99-3.99 SD/HD) from Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, GooglePlay, and Vudu.

Related Posts

If You Dance with the Devil:
8MM (Eight Millimeter), the Film

You Are Now Entering the Cruel World:
Texas Killing Fields, the Film

Shutter Island, the Film, is Shuddery Good

Murder, Anyone?
In a Lonely Place, the Film

The Sweet Smell of Murder:
The Noir Film Classic, Double Indemnity

The Citizen Kane of Noir Film:
The Killers

I Hate You So Much, I Could Die from It:
The Classic Noir Film, Gilda

When Murder Smells Like Honeysuckle:
3 Noir Film Classics

Top Crime Films:
Told from the Criminals’ Perspective

When Movies Tell Great Stories:
5 Classics from the 19502



Filed under Actors, Books, Classic Films, Classics, Crime Drama, Drama, Film Videos, Films, Films/Movies, Historical Drama, Movies/Films, No Spoilers Review, Official Film Trailers, Official Movie Trailers, Official Trailers, Rape, Review, Review/No Spoilers, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Violence, Violence

The World Breaks Everyone: Horror Film Classic Rosemary’s Baby



The world breaks everyone, and afterward,
many are strong in the broken places.

Ernest Hemingway
A Farewell to Arms

It all seems so ordinary and banal. Young couple in New York serendipitously gets the chance to rent an apartment in an elegant old building with an enviable upper west side Manhattan address. Because the apartment’s elderly resident died suddenly and the building is rent-controlled, the struggling, somewhat sporadically employed actor and his pretty, enthusiastic wife can afford to move in, redecorate it from top to bottom, and furnish the looming place, which has 18-20′ ceilings, stained-glass windows in its doors, bay windows with window seats, and elaborately carved, working fireplaces.

The Dakota (exterior only) setting for Bramford, Rosemary’s Baby ©

While Hubby goes to auditions seeking work, Wifey decorates, shops, and cooks, both of them dreaming of — and actively planning for — the little family they want to have. With such a great home in such an exclusive neighborhood, what difference does it make if you can sometimes hear the braying, nasal voice of the Old Lady next door complaining to her husband late at night? All apartments have thin walls and a few annoying neighbors, right? Of course, right.

John Cassavetes as Guy and Mia Farrow as Rosemary, Rosemary’s Baby ©

It is this very banality and seemingly ordinary setting — “like it could be a snippet out of your own life” — that makes Rosemary’s Baby (1968) such a great film. It is one of the best in the horror genre, but not for the reason you might expect. The film doesn’t have any scary special effects: except for the brief “nightmare” scene, there aren’t even any ghoulish costumes. No blood, gore, monsters, or masked villains wielding weapons while dopey teenagers run mindlessly about. Instead, Rosemary’s Baby, based on Ira Levin’s bestselling novel of the same name, concentrates its horror on the fact that virtually everything in the film could actually happen. Young, happy, pretty, and soon-pregnant Rosemary begins to suspect that something is wrong with her husband, wrong with her marriage, wrong with her unborn baby. Even worse, she soon comes to believe that there is a conspiracy to kidnap her baby upon its birth. However, it is because Rosemary is completely correct in her seemingly bizarre fears that Rosemary’s Baby — a triumph of psychological terror — is such a horror classic.

Rosemary’s Baby, first edition

This film is one of the few dramatizations that remains almost perfectly faithful to the novel on which it was based. All the foreshadowing about the neighbors conspiring in a group and doing something more than “not quite right”? In the book. Hubby Guy’s sudden emotional distance and Rosemary’s increasing isolation? In the book. Guy’s escalating psychological manipulation, emotional abuse, and ultimately physical abuse of his pregnant wife Rosemary? That’s in the book, too.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby (B&W still) ©

But the true horror of both the book and the film is more than Rosemary’s “paranoia and loss of control.” After all, her paranoia is based on subliminal indications about her reality: she is losing control of her own life — and of her baby’s — and other people in the apartment building are conspiring against her. Limiting us to Rosemary’s perspective with its film angles, its close-ups, and its spooky lighting, Rosemary’s Baby “relies on creating an atmosphere and story that speaks to [society’s] deeper, subconscious fears:” isolation, betrayal, and madness.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Mia Farrow, a soap-opera actress on Peyton Place who acquired international notoriety when she married famous singer/actor Frank Sinatra, 30 years her senior, does an outstanding job as Rosemary, and not just because she’s so young and waif-thin (okay, bony-thin).

John Cassavetes, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Farrow’s Rosemary is giddy and giggly when she and husband Guy Woodhouse (John Cassavetes) first look at the magnificent apartment available in the Bramford (named, by author Ira Levin, in honor of Dracula author Bram Stoker).

Maurice Evans as Hutch, Rosemary’s Baby ©

She’s slightly amused by her friend Hutch’s (Maurice Evans) tales of macabre deaths, suicides, murders, and cannibalism at the Bramford, but continues eating dinner as if he were discussing the weather.

Ruth Gordon as Minnie, Rosemary’s Baby ©

She’s friendly and pleasant to their nosy neighbor Minnie (Ruth Gordon, in her Oscar-winning role), who looks through the mail before handing it to Rosemary, and who examines the price-tags on the canned goods while the two of them are sitting at the kitchen table.

Sidney Blackmer as Roman, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Rosemary is subdued and slightly bored by the elderly neighbors, Minnie and Roman (Sidney Blackmer), when they invite Rosemary and Guy to dinner that night, and is somewhat surprised by Guy’s sudden burgeoning friendship with Roman.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

She’s excited when Guy miraculously gets more important acting jobs, attributing it all to his wonderful skill and talent. She works hard decorating the apartment, cooking, doing the laundry, making cushions for the window seats, trying to make friends with the neighbors, and trying even harder to “start their family.”

Ralph Bellamy as Dr. Saperstein, Rosemary’s Baby ©

When Rosemary finally does get pregnant, the real terror of the film begins. Instead of gaining weight, Rosemary loses it. Instead of bouts of morning sickness, she has frightening symptoms and cravings that the congenial obstetrician Dr. Saperstein (Ralph Bellamy) blithely dismisses, telling her — for months — that they’ll “be gone in a day or two.”

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

The scenes with pregnant-Rosemary are some of the most frightening of the film, as are the scenes where husband Guy begins to be more and more dismissive of Rosemary’s feelings, her concerns, even her basic human rights. When she wakes after a nightmare that she was raped, Guy’s response if terrifyingly abusive and distant.

Mia Farrow as Rosemary in Rosemary’s Baby ©

(Guy is undeniably the worst villain in the film, but I won’t get started on any rant about him in this post…)

John Cassevetes and Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Despite the fact that Rosemary’s health seems to improve somewhat mid-pregnancy, her life gets worse.  Guy becomes more and more controlling, resorting to manipulation, psychological battery, and emotional abuse to keep her submissive, obedient, and “nice.” Whenever Rosemary’s friends try to intervene, things only get worse for the already isolated Rosemary.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

When Rosemary finally realizes what is happening to her, she desperately seeks help, only to be betrayed in the most frightening way. Though everything Rosemary suspects is happening to her and around her is, in fact, exactly what is happening, she is threatened into compliance by those closest to her. The very people who are supposed to care for her and her unborn baby terrorize her into submission and obedience.

John Cassevetes, Mia Farrow, Ralph Bellamy, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Still, surprisingly, Rosemary isn’t broken. Isolated and imprisoned, Rosemary begins to rebel.

Ralph Bellamy, Rosemary’s Baby ©

When she escapes the apartment and goes into Minnie and Roman’s apartment, where the entire group of conspirators has gathered, Rosemary is still not broken. Not completely.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

By the last scene, though, which reveals Rosemary’s ultimate reaction to her baby, she is, at last, broken by the evil world that has surrounded her. That is the ultimate horror of Rosemary’s Baby: not necessarily that Rosemary herself is so broken that she might as well have let them kill her. Not that she is no longer naïve, innocent, and trusting. Not that she will never again resist evil. The true psychological horror is not that Rosemary is broken, but how she is broken.

Mia Farrow, Rosemary’s Baby ©

Paranoia, loss of control, isolation, and subjugation. Betrayal and sexual abuse. Emotional and psychological manipulation. Fear of madness. Being irrevocably broken by the world. Rosemary’s Baby shows us everything we most fear in life. Through the “lens of realism,” director Roman Polanski, in his first major Hollywood production, created a “brooding, macabre film, filled with the sense of unthinkable danger,” a danger that becomes reality for its protagonist Rosemary, who is forever “broken” by the world in this horror classic.

Rosemary’s Baby is available for rent — $2.99 (SD) / $3.99 (HD)— from Amazon (free for Prime members), YouTube, iTunes, and Vudu.

Related Posts

7 Wonders of the Horror Movie World

Seven Scary-Intense Suspense Films

Setting the World on Fire:
The Girl With All The Gifts, the Film

When Murder Smells Like Honeysuckle:
3 Noir Film Classics

Worms and Vipers in a Gilded Tomb:
Curse of the Golden Flower, the Film

The Thief, The Liar, and The Lovers:
Korea’s Complex Crime Film, The Handmaiden

When Clothes Destroyed the World:
The Royal Tailor, the Film

My Favorite Film & TV Villains



Filed under #31DaysOfHalloween, Actors, Books, Classic Films, Film Videos, Films, Films/Movies, Halloween, Horror, Horror Films, Movies/Films, No Spoilers Review, Official Film Trailers, Official Movie Trailers, Official Trailers, Rape, Review, Review/No Spoilers, Sexual Violence

When Movies Tell Great Stories: 5 Classics from the 1950s


 No Spoilers

Gloria Swanson as Nora Desmond, Sunset Boulevard ©

In the 1950s Hollywood was losing its audience — and its earnings — to television. “Weekly movie attendance declined from 90 million in 1948 to 51 million in 1952… and thousands of cinemas closed.” To recoup financial losses and win back viewers, studios invested in films modeled after the industry’s former successes, but employing the latest technologies, such as EastmanColor, a single-strip film that made color movies less expensive, and Cinemascope, in which anamorphic lenses “stretched” a “distorted image” to fit a wide-screen format that was almost twice as wide as those of previous films. Grand-scale epics like Ben-Hur and The Ten Commandments appeared. Countless science fiction films, most based on the genre’s classic literature, created the genre’s Golden Age in Hollywood: War of the Worlds,  The Day the Earth Stood Still,  Forbidden Planet, and Them!

Character- and story-driven films resurged. Some were original, some were based on bestselling novels, and some were adapted from critically and financially successful stage plays, including Strangers on a Train, Rear Window, Guys and Dolls, Sayonara, and Dial M for Murder. Most 1950s films featured powerful storylines, morally ambiguous characters, and memorable dialogue. Though the less expensive EastmanColor single-film technology was available, many directors chose to shoot their films in black-and-white, sometimes using unique or intriguing camera angles, perhaps imitating the classic Noir films from the 1940s. In many of these now-classic 1950s films, actors, screenwriters, and directors took huge artistic risks, creating some of the best films ever made. Here are five of the best 1950s classic films, presented in the order they were released, since they are all of outstanding quality.

Sunset Boulevard

“Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
Nora Desmond

One of the best films ever made, Sunset Boulevard stars a boyish William Holden as Joe Gillis, a struggling Hollywood screenwriter whose financial woes accidentally but serendipitously lead him to what he believes is an abandoned mansion. The neglected property is the home of silent-film star Nora Desmond (Gloria Swanson) who’s spent the last 20 years preparing for her great “comeback.” Intent on using Nora as a quick paycheck — by whipping her Salome into a feasible screenplay — Joe soon becomes ensnared in Nora’s celebrity world of wealth, possessions, and material comfort.

Gloria Swanson as Nora Desmond and William Holden as Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard ©

Though sexually involved with the older Nora, Joe casually and continually tugs the heartstrings on an ingenue (Nancy Olson) with whom he’s secretly writing another screenplay, and who knows nothing of his relationship with the jealous and emotionally unstable film star. Joe’s actions force all the characters to desperation, conflict, betrayal, and, ultimately, murder.

Gloria Swanson , William Holden, Erich Von Stroheim and Nancy Olson, Sunset Boulevard ©

A poignant hommage to Hollywood’s by-gone silent-film era, as well as an unflinching look at professional ambition, Sunset Boulevard was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won three, including one for co-writer and director Billy Wilder. Holden shines as the heel-with-half-a-heart, but Swanson’s brilliant and creepily gothic performance as the melodramatically bad Nora is what makes this film such a classic.

Trivia: Gloria Swanson was a real silent-film star, though, unlike Nora, she successfully transitioned into Talkies: all the photographs of Nora on display in her mansion are from Swanson’s own silent films.

Sunset Boulevard is available for rent from Amazon for $3.99 (viewing time once started is 48 hours, and you can watch it more than once for the same cost).

All About Eve

“Fasten your seat belts:
it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
Margo Channing

Sometimes Hollywood is at its artistic best when it turns its unforgiving lens on itself, as it does in All About Eve, an intense and brutally honest examination of the Machiavellian ambition in the theatre and film worlds. Bette Davis is New York stage star Margo Channing, who allows a seemingly naïve fan, Eve (Anne Baxter) to “worship” the star while becoming her personal assistant.

Gary Merrill as Margo’s beau Bill, Anne Baxter as Eve, Bette Davis as Margo Channing, All About Eve ©

Soon, Eve is causing dissension among all the characters; Margo, Margo’s longtime companion Birdie (Thelma Ritter), Margo’s beau Bill (Gary Merrill), playwright Lloyd (Hugh Marlowe), playwright’s wife (Celeste Holm), and theatre critic DeWitt (George Sanders). Everyone in the film is forced to re-evaluate their own personal lives, their morality, and their relationships after Eve infiltrates their lives.

Anne Baxter, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, and George Sanders, All About Eve ©

By the time a large number of the characters distrust Eve, however, she is already determined to conquer them all, and she doesn’t care how much damage she causes, as long as she herself becomes a star.

Anne Baxter and Bette Davis (foreground), George Sanders, Marilyn Monroe, and Hugh Marlowe (background), All About Eve ©

Filled with snappy lines and memorable performances, All About Eve was nominated for 14 Oscars, winning 6, including Best Picture. It is the only film ever with 4 Academy Award nominations for women: Bette Davis and Anne Baxter for Best Actress, Celeste Holm and Thelma Ritter for Best Supporting Actress.

Trivia: Marilyn Monroe’s first important film role.

All About Eve is available for rent for $3.99 from Amazon (48 hours viewing period once started). Note: The original film trailer was a faux interview with Bette Davis regarding the fictional Eve. This trailer is a modern one, since may be more interesting to viewers unfamiliar with the stars of the film.

A Streetcar Named Desire

“I have always depended on
the kindness of strangers.”
Blanche DuBois

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire came to Hollywood via Broadway. The production’s theater director, Elia Kazan, brought play to the big screen, using three of the stage show’s original stars: Marlon Brando as Stanley, Kim Hunter as his wife Stella, and Karl Malden as his best friend Mitch.

Vivien Leigh as Blanche and Kim Hunter as Blanche’s sister Stella, A Streetcar Named Desire ©

When Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) comes to New Orleans to live with her sister Stella, Blanche immediately dislikes Stella’s husband Stanley. The feeling is mutual: Stanley and Blanche clash constantly, causing a rift between husband and wife, and making the marriage erupt in angry, sometimes violent scenes. It is only because Stella is pregnant with their first child that Stanley permits his irritating and condescending sister-in-law Blanche to stay.

Karl Malden as Mitch and Vivien Leigh as Blanche, A Streetcar Named Desire ©

After his buddy Mitch falls for Blanche, intending to ask her to marry him, Stanley begins to investigate Blanche’s implausible stories of her past. As the tensions among the characters mount, Blanche and Stanley are driven to a ferocious confrontation in which each fights desperately for his own survival.

Vivien Leigh as Blanche and Marlon Brando as Stanley, A Streetcar Named Desire ©

Nominated for 4 Academy Awards — male and female Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor — A Streetcar Named Desire won three: Best Actress for Vivien Leigh, Best Supporting Actress for Kim Hunter, and Best Supporting Actor for Karl Malden.

Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire ©

Brando, who was nominated for Best Actor but did not win, was relatively unknown to film audiences at the film’s release. The play A Streetcar Named Desire was originally written with only one protagonist: the tortured and delusional Blanche. Brando’s performance as the equally tortured and sympathetic Stanley, a role which he originally “modified” on-stage and subsequently re-created in the film, catapaulted Brando to worldwide attention and critical acclaim.

Trivia: To mimic and symbolize Blanche’s claustrophobia, paranoia, and increasing anxiety, the set of Stanley & Stella’s apartment literally became physically smaller as film progressed, crowding the actors together.

A Streetcar Named Desire is available for rent for $3.99 from Amazon (48 hours viewing period once started).

On the Waterfront

“I coulda been a contender.”
Terry Malloy

In his first Oscar-winning role (second nomination), Marlon Brando plays Terry Malloy, a former boxer who dreamt of becoming a champion, now working as a longshoreman. Terry exists on the fringes of organized crime since his brother Charley (Rod Steiger) is the right-hand man of dock gangster Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb).

Eva Marie Saint as Edie and Marlon Brando as Terry, On the Waterfront ©

When one of Terry’s “favors” to Johnny gets a fellow longshoreman killed, Terry begins to feel the pricks of conscience — a commodity he would prefer to live without. After Terry meets Edie (Eva Marie Saint), the sister of the murdered longshoreman, Father Barry (Karl Malden) exploits Terry’s awakening moral principles in an attempt to get him to testify against the members of organized crime on the docks.

Karl Malden as Fr Barry and Marlon Brando as Terry, On the Waterfront ©

Torn between his growing love for Edie and his loyalty to his fellow workers (along with his devotion to his brother Charley), Terry must decide whether it is better to live as a criminal failure than to risk dying an honest man.

Karl Malden as Fr Barry, Marlon Brando as Terry, and Eva Marie Saint as Edie, On the Waterfront ©

Based on a series of Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative articles (“Crime on the Waterfront”) as well as on an original story by Budd Schulberg, who wrote the screenplay, On the Waterfront was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning eight. In addition to Oscars for the co-stars, Brando and Saint, the film won Best Picture, and Best Director for Elia Kazan.

Trivia: Brando didn’t like his dialogue in iconic taxi scene, so he refused to say it. Director Kazan, tired of arguing with Brando, filmed him and co-star Steiger doing the scene improv, resulting in a classic.

On the Waterfront is available for rent for $3.99 from Amazon (48 hours viewing period once started).

Anatomy of a Murder

“How can a jury disregard what it’s already heard?”
“They can’t… They can’t.”

One of the first mainstream films to discuss sex and rape in graphic terms, Anatomy of a Murder caused outrage when it was released in 1959. Jimmy Stewart stars as former prosecutor-turned-defense-attorney Paul Biegler, who’s hired by Army Lieutenant Manion (Ben Gazzara) after he shoots and kills a man accused of raping Manion’s wife (Lee Remick).

Lee Remick as Laura Manion, Jimmy Stewart as Paul Biegler, and Ben Gazzara as Lt Manion, Anatomy of a Murder ©

Despite the fact that it’s Manion who’s on trial for murder, pleading “irresistible impulse” — another term for “temporary insanity” — and PTSD-induced “dissociative crisis,” it’s Manion’s wife Laura who is really on trial, in the courtroom and in the small community where they live. What she wore, whether she was drunk, and if she was provocative to the victim on the night in question occupy more of the trial than does the professional testimony of the psychiatrists who examined the war and combat veteran, who claims he unconsciously reacted with violence to his wife’s attack.

Brooke Adams, George C Scott, and Jimmy Stewart, Anatomy of a Murder ©

Attorney Biegler responds with outrage whenever the Special Prosecuting Attorney (George C. Scott) attacks the character of Manion’s wife, but viewers are presented scenes in which the “bored” and “lonely” young wife, who is undeniably attractive and who flouts society’s conventions by not wearing a girdle under her form-fitting clothes, flirts inappropriately with her husband’s defense attorney. Viewers have even more questions about what actually occurred between Manion’s wife and victim than do the jurors.

Lee Remick and Jimmy Steward, Anatomy of a Murder ©

Adapted from the bestselling novel of the same name by Michigan Supreme Court Justice John D. Voelker (under the pseudonym Robert Traver), which was based on a sensational 1952 murder trial, Anatomy of a Murder vividly examines society’s discomfort with sex and sexuality, as well as with victims of sexual violence. Concentrating on the tendency to blame the victim in sexual assault and rape cases while simultaneously exonerating the victim in murder cases, the film is powerful for its morally ambiguous characters, its strong performances, and its groundbreaking handling of the topic of sexual violence. Nominated for 7 Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Picture, Anatomy of a Murder is considered among the Top 10 films in the category of Courtroom Drama.

Trivia: Films “explicit” language caused outrage, getting it banned in Chicago theatres. These words were considered especially offensive: bitch, slut, rape, contraception, penetration, sperm, and — believe it or not — panties.

Anatomy of a Murder is available for rent for $3.99 from Amazon (48 hours viewing period once started).


Leave a Comment

Filed under Actors, Classic 1950s Films, Classic Films, Crime Drama, Film Videos, Films, Films/Movies, Movies/Films, Official Film Trailers, Official Movie Trailers, Official Trailers, Rape, Review, Review/No Spoilers, Screenplays/Plays, StagePlays

The Ugliness of Westworld




You might think, from the title of this post, that I don’t like HBO’s stunning new hit series Westworld, based on the 1973 film of the same name, which was written by Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton, but you’d be wrong. I love Westworld, the series, and I think it’s far better written and acted than the original (and I’m such a Yul Brynner fan that I’ll watch anything he’s in). That doesn’t mean there’s not some ugliness in Westworld, the theme park, where hosts are provided to supply the über-wealthy guests with all their fantasies-come-true, even if those fantasies involve rape, murder, and general pillage. There’s ugliness in the theme park, in the corporate headquarters with the people who run Westworld, and there’s a bit of ugliness in the actual execution of the show. If you watch enough of Westworld, I’ve learned, it might even reveal some ugliness in yourself.


We’ve known from the premiere that there was going to be violence in the show. After all, the guests can do whatever they want to the hosts, who are robots, with impunity. Every time a host gets killed, s/he’s simply rebooted into the same story loop, ostensibly with no memory of what happened the day(s) before, or with any previous story loops. From the first show, however, we also knew that something was wrong with the hosts. It seems Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins), the mad-scientist-Frankenstein of the show, introduced something called “reveries” into the hosts’ programs, which allowed them to have more natural gestures, but also allowed them to access “memories” from previous “lives.”


As with most humans who have been traumatized or violated, the hosts don’t recall the happy memories in their “dreams.” They remember the traumatic events: the rapes, murders, massacres. The more they recall, the more ugliness is revealed in this theme park called Westworld. The uglier the events that have happened to the hosts, who sometimes interact only with each other in some of the most brutal scenes, the more uncomfortable viewers get, wondering what kind of people would create a theme park where guests performed such violence against hosts who, though supposedly unfeeling robots, look so much like human beings that guests often cannot tell who is a host and who is a guest.

Until they kill somebody.

Since the hosts can’t kill guests, or so their programmers insist, then we have to assume that the guests are at Westworld, looking for adventure, in a Wild West World where they can be unfaithful sexually, where they can shoot and kill anyone who’s not also a guest, and where they can commit other acts of violence without consequence and without any harm coming to the guests themselves.

You have to wonder what kind of twisted mind would create such an ugly place for “entertainment.”

“Robert Ford” would be your answer.


Despite his white-haired, grandfatherly appearance, Ford (Anthony Hopkins, in his scariest role since Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs) is not a nice guy. If he’s the God figure in this world, then he’s even scarier. Not only has he created these host-robots to be violated by the guests, he gets violently upset when he sees a worker who’s draped a covering over a nude host in headquarters. It seems it’s a rigid rule that the hosts must be nude while they are being repaired, questioned, evaluated, etc. by anyone who works for the corporation. Of course, Ford shouted that they hosts can’t feel anything except what they’re programmed to feel, so they can’t feel shame, embarrassment, etc, but the workers are still treating human-looking things as if they have no rights whatsoever.

Doesn’t that kind of attitude leak out into their work environment? I

would say Yes, especially given the way Ford bullies and threatens the employees, and given top manager Theresa’s cold treatment of Bernard, with whom she’s been having an affair.

Ford revealed that he knew about Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Theresa’s (Sidse Babett Knudsen) affair when she was attempting to persuade him to delay his new narrative, which is disrupting the work of his colleagues and the lives of the hosts, until after the Board had arrived. Theresa basically thinks Ford is insane and dangerous, and, as we learned in the latest episode, he may not be insane, but he is most definitely dangerous. In a frightening Reveal that validated viewer theories about Bernard, he was revealed to be a host. No, he’s not in the park itself. He’s in management. He’s a programmer. And he didn’t know that he was a host. After Bernard was fired by someone from the Board, who blamed him for the hosts’ going off-script to the point of violence, Bernard took Theresa to the isolated house in a forbidden sector of the park, where Ford’s younger self lives with his brother (more on this later) and his parents.


Viewers guessed immediately that the little boy walking about the park with Ford in earlier episodes was a host, but they didn’t realize that he was a younger version of Ford himself. Bernard discovered the family accidentally, and we learned that Ford maintains them himself, and that he also adjusts their programming, to make them more realistic, i.e., to make his father a more violent alcoholic. The hosts have been at Westworld since the very beginning: it seems that Arnold, Ford’s original partner, who supposedly died in an accident in the park before it opened, built the little family for Ford, as a gift.


So Bernard was not only unceremoniously dumped by Theresa after Ford bullied her, telling her that he’s never going to let anyone take Westworld away from him, but Bernard learned that the person responsible for the corporate espionage is Theresa, who’s been sending data out of the park via satellite relay, and then Bernard got the shock of his “life” when Theresa found the original drawings and schematics for “Bernard” in the basement lab of the isolated Ford-family house.


After Ford coldly dismissed Bernard’s protests that he couldn’t be a host because he has memories of his son, and grief over losing his son, Ford instructed Bernard to kill Theresa. He did. Because, you know, Ford is God, and what God tells you to do…

Anyway, Bernard dispatched Theresa most violently, but we still don’t know whether or not Theresa is a host. After all, hosts are not supposed to be able to hurt humans. Bernard just killed Theresa. If she’s human, he went against his prime directive… Oh, wait… I mean, he’s gone off his original programming. Per Ford’s instructions. Does that mean that the hosts do have the ability to hurt humans but only if Ford says so? Or is Theresa another host? Even if she is a host, she certainly suffered after her discovery that Bernard is a host, that Ford had Bernard take her to that isolated location where she was “offline,” which is why some viewers believe she’s a host, for the express purpose of killing her.


Bernard isn’t the only host who’s been suffering. Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) has been suffering ever since the early episodes, but viewers were led to believe that she was suffering because Bernard was surreptitiously meeting with her and having discussions intended to expand her moral and philosophical consciousness. From thinking that the world was “mostly good,” Dolores began to think there was “something wrong with this world, or with [her],” and to be so unhappy that she ran away from her family ranch, where the Man in Black (Ed Harris, in the most diabolical role of his career), affectionately known by viewers as MiB, raped her after helping kill her family members. Dolores is looking for meaning to her disturbing dreams, but she’s also looking for escape.


Dolores doesn’t like this world anymore, and she wants out. She thinks William (Jimmi Simpson, below R) is the answer to her prayers, but William is not doubt going to be as cruel to her as he’s been to his business partner and future brother-in-law Logan (Ben Barnes, below L), having abandoned Logan to the hands of revolutionaries and war criminals.  William felt good about that, telling Dolores that he’s finally understood that Westworld is not supposed to get its guests in touch with the worst of themselves, but with what’s most true about themselves.


So… William abandoned his colleague/friend/brother-in-law, has been sexually and emotionally unfaithful to his fiancée with Dolores, knows for a fact that he can’t live with Dolores because she’s not human… but he’s just gotten in touch with what’s “true” about himself, rather than with what’s “worst” about his nature? Lemme think about that for a while, okay, William, ’cause I think the “most true” thing about yourself that you just “discovered” in Westworld is that you are not a nice guy.


If Dolores was disappointed in Teddy (James Marsden) when he wouldn’t take her away today or tomorrow or next week, but promised to do it “some day,” she has no idea how bad she’s going to hurt when William’s joyride at the theme park ends and he leaves to go back to the real world and his life “out there,” which he keeps repeatedly mentioning even though he’s noticed that Dolores is catching those remarks and wondering aloud what they mean. Talk about cruel. He’s even more thoughtless than the little boy who, after staring at Dolores in the premiere, said, “You’re not real,” disturbing her, but only momentarily. These guests are more than just physically violent and ugly to hosts: they’re emotionally ugly.


Dolores’ old beau Teddy (James Marsden) is doing a lot of physical suffering in his new loop, but not as much as some of the hosts who are becoming victims of the notorious Man in Black — MiB — who has recruited Teddy to join him in his search for the Maze, a weird “map” he found inside one of the hosts’ scalp after MiB tortured and killed said host. MiB has been “coming to Westworld for 30 years,” which, not coincidentally, I’m guessing, is also the time they had their last serious malfunction with hosts, leading many viewers to questions MiB’s identity. Is he a host that has gained sentience? Is he a guest who’s become trapped in the park? Is he something more nefarious?

There are lots of theories — all neatly summarized by Elle McFarlane in her latest review — but I’m guessing that MiB is Arnold, who was Ford’s partner, who wanted to reach some real artificial sentience — which seems like a super-contradiction in terms, but I understand what it means in the context of the show — and who, not surprisingly, wanted to close the park and destroy all the hosts before Westworld even opened. Arnold died in an accident, but the fact that Ford has told no one but Bernard — whom we’ve just learned is a host — about Arnold makes me wonder if Arnold isn’t Robert Ford’s brother at the secret home in the forest.


Because Ford addressed the little boy who takes walks with him as “Robert,” because Ford constantly intrudes in the lives and scenarios of the hosts in the park without seeming to bother any of the hosts, and because the Man in Black addressed Ford as “Robert” when they met in the park, and because Teddy prevented the MiB from killing/harming Ford, I’m beginning to suspect that MiB is Arnold, who theoretically could kill/harm Ford since he is an original host or is Arnold-in-a-host-body, who is searching for the great meaning in Westworld, not realizing, now that he is in the body of a host (I don’t even try to pretend that I would know how that happened) that his supreme sentient moment would be realizing that he is one of the creators of the world wherein he is trapped, and that, furthermore, his own brother Robert killed him in the “accident” after Arnold wanted to prevent Westworld from opening to the public.


Now that might make the MiB suffer.

Not that I should feel empathy for this guy, host or guest, since he’s intentionally caused so much pain and suffering to all the other hosts… but, what is it with all the ugliness on this show? In the park, in corporate headquarters, in its execution?

(So, I’m going off-script myself for a moment to complain that the fine and talented Thandie Newton has to do almost all of her scenes completely in the nude, while the males in said scenes are dressed. Shame on you, Westworld creators. I realize that the male hosts are also sometimes nude when they are in corporate headquarters, but most of the male actors playing hosts in the nude are only seen in passing, very briefly, and none of the other male stars of the show have had nude scenes, let alone extended nude ones, full-frontal, with dressed colleagues. I’m just saying. It’s ugly in the extreme. End of rant.)


Maeve (Thandie Newton), who has become my favorite character in the show, is seriously suffering. After Hector helped her find the bullet lodged in her abdomen, where there was no scar, she began to intentionally die, even taking on guests for sex and baiting them till they killed her (I guess, technically, she’s committing suicide every day), so that she could end up back in the Body Department, where she once awoke during a procedure and “escaped,” seeing, to her horror, that there were hosts (some of whom she knew) bloodied and “dead” in a pile.


Maeve has already been suffering with the knowledge, revealed by Felix (above center, with Maeve), who wants to be promoted to a programmer, that she has been “built,” and that all her dreams and her past lives are nothing more than stories created by the Narrative Department. Though Maeve questioned Felix about how he knew that he was “real” and she wasn’t, saying that they both felt the same, Maeve has taken her suffering and done something constructive with it. She’s blackmailed Felix and his partner into showing her as much of Westworld corporate as they thought they could get away with, and insisted that they change her programming so that she’s more intelligent than the hosts are designed to be.

For some reason, these guys are actually letting a host push them around and threaten their jobs. I know Felix wants to be someone more important at WestWorld Co, but, for the life of me, I cannot imagine why his buddy has let Maeve push him around. Sure, she threatened to gut him, but, as he kept insisting, she can’t hurt him.


Maeve’s gotten quite ugly emotionally, but given the ugly scenarios the programmers have put her through, I don’t feel unhappy with Maeve. Instead, I feel proud of her, and applaud every new risk she takes, every new level of awareness, every act of threatened violence.

Wow. Why is that? Is is something ugly in me? I’m starting to wonder.

Especially after Theresa and the Board grabbed Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) from her in-park-storyline, brought her into corporate, and had some guy beat the crap out of her. It was horrifying. I got quite upset. I didn’t even know if I could continue to watch the scene.

Just then, mercifully, it ended. Corporate “rebooted” Clementine, and started the scenario again. Only this time, Clementine, who seemed to be “harboring a grudge” against the man who assaulted her, attacked and killed the man. When Security rushed into the room, ordering her to stop, she didn’t, so they shot her in the head.


Here’s the problem I’m having with that scene, and it has to do with my own responses, which are, quite frankly, ugly.

When the guy was beating the hell out of Clementine, I got triggered, and thought I couldn’t watch any more graphic violence done to a woman.

A few minutes later, when Clementine was rebooted and began violently assaulting the man who had assaulted her, I didn’t feel anything.

Not a thing.

I actually thought the guy deserved it.

Then they revealed that he was a host that they’d programmed to hurt her for the purposes of demonstrating that the hosts are going off-script and “remembering” violent things that have been done to them and seeking revenge.

I was more concerned with the fact that I was upset with the violence done to the woman, but completely unemotional about the violence done to the man by the woman he’d hurt.

I know I can’t watch scenes of sexual violence, given my personal history with incest-rape, no matter if the sexual violence happens to women or men, but I never before was in a situation where I was triggered by violence being done to a woman, but then calmly watched — even applauded — her doing the same sort of violence to the man.

Yowza! What’s that saying about me, right?

Has Westworld, the show, just revealed something ugly about my own nature, like I’m an inadvertent guest?

Is that what the show was trying to do, or was it completely unintentional?

Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Related Posts

Dreams & Nightmares in Westworld

HBO’s Chilling Westworld


Leave a Comment

Filed under Actors, Movies/Television, Recap, Review, Television, Violence, Westworld