Category Archives: 1957 Movie reviews

The Seventh Seal-1957

The Seventh Seal-1957

Director-Ingmar Bergman

Starring-Max von Sydow, Gunnar Bjornstrand

70127971

Reviewed October 23, 2016

Grade: A

The Seventh Seal is an Ingmar Bergman Swedish masterpiece that, after three mere viewings, I am just beginning to fully appreciate, and fall in love with. It is not that I did not “get” the dark, artsy theme to begin with- I did, but The Seventh Seal is a savory dish meant for repeated offerings and with each, I have loved it even more. The subject matter of the plague and of the Black Death are very heavy. It is a quiet,yet powerful, dark, art film about death.

The film is shot in black and white, which does nothing but enhance the cold, stark concepts of the film. Color would have certainly made the film more cheery or bright- if that can be said given the subject matter. Instead, the filming is cold, yet illuminating, and the whites seem very white- the blacks- very dark, which is symbolic of the films concepts.

In the story, a disillusioned medieval knight-Antonius Block (Max von Sydow)  returns home from war disenchanted with life. He has fought in the Crusades and has returned home to Sweden to find it plagued by the Black Death. He begins to play a game of chess-alone- and is visited by Death- a hideous pale creature shrouded in black. Antonius challenges Death to a game of chess- his fate left up in the air so long as the game continues. Throughout the film, Antonius is the only character who can see Death- the other characters cannot, making the film open to interpretations.

The other characters in the story are a troupe of actors that Antonius meets along the way to his castle and a young, fresh-faced girl who has been branded a witch and is fated to be burned at the stake is featured. Since she is close to death, Antonius takes particular fascination with her.

Throughout the film and the trials and tribulations of the characters, Death is continuously lurking around, watching these characters, which is a fascinating part of the film. They, obviously, cannot see him, so we can only assume their time in this world is limited.

What makes The Seventh Seal so powerful is its honesty- harsh as it is. The knowledge that death is coming for these people is fascinating and many of the characters discuss god in length, pray, as religion is an enormous aspect of the film. It almost contains a good vs. evil, god vs. devil component, and again, important to stress, is highly open to interpretation. Great art films are.

Numerous scenes reverberate and are major iconic moments in film history decades later. The scene of Antonius and Death playing chess on the beach is chilling and ghost-like. Death- his pale face and black cloak would frighten anyone. This scene has been referenced numerous times over the years.

The inevitable final shot- my favorite- is a long shot of peasants being led to their fate by Death as they are pulled begrudgingly by a rope held by Death is reminiscent of the Pied Piper and is entitled “dance of death”. The individuals are dressed in black and are atop a hill surrounded by sky, making the morbid scene highly effective. The Last Supper scene is also powerful as a last meal is enjoyed by the group- unsure of what fate has in store for them the next day.

I anticipate more viewings of this brilliant piece of film making.

The Strange One-1957

The Strange One-1957

Director-Jack Garfein

Starring-Ben Gazzara, Pat Hingle

70118583

Reviewed June 7, 2013

Grade: B

The Strange One is a very strange (no pun intended) obscure psychological drama from 1957 starring a very young Ben Gazzara and George Peppard.

The setting is a military academy where bullying and intimidation run rampant between the young cadets and some of the staff. The sadistic lead bully is Gazzara who is mesmerizing to watch in his low key yet frightening portrayal as a macho guy who gets what he wants and decides to destroy his victims.

The film reminds me of a long Twilight Zone episode as it feels like a television thriller, but is effective as shot in black and white. Gazzara is clearly the standout in the cast as a charming, sadistic, bully in a military academy who terrorizes and manipulates anyone in his path, though a major flaw is there is no explanation for his behavior- How did he become so terrorizing? Was he abused? What is his motivation? In a sense, however, this makes it all the more fascinating.

There are some clearly homo-erotic scenes, which is surprising to find in film in 1957 when the Production Code was so strict. The Strange One is an interesting little film.

An Affair to Remember-1957

An Affair to Remember-1957

Director- Leo McCarey

Starring-Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr

232349

Reviewed July 11, 2013

Grade: B

An Affair to Remember is an excellent example of how romantic comedies have changed over the years. Rom-coms are not my genre of choice as typically they are clichéd and predictable. The romantic comedies in years past were vastly different- they had a glamorous, innocence to them that is lacking with the generic rom-coms of today.

In An Affair to Remember, the charisma of Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr is what makes the movie. They portray two strangers who are taking a luxury cruise and inexplicably fall madly in love despite having significant others at home. They wine and dine each other and revel in merriment for a week’s time and make a pact that if they cannot forget each other in a year’s time they will meet at the top of the Empire State building on a specified day and time. It does not get much more romantic than that. The extravagance of the gorgeous sets on the cruise ship makes the film a visually satisfying experience and any film set in New York City, as the second half does, is a plus in my book.

An Affair to Remember is not a cutting edge film, though for 1957 the subject matter of adultery may have raised a few eyebrows, but rather a pleasant, warm romantic comedy of the past. A film meant to sit back with and escape with sappy, sweet, fun romance.

Peyton Place-1957

Peyton Place-1957

Director-Mark Robson

Starring-Lana Turner, Lee Phillips

60010779

Reviewed April 19, 2014

Grade: B+

Pure scandalous soap opera, but well made. The sleepy, seemingly wholesome, quiet New England town is captured well, but secrets lie within its white picket fences (don’t they always).

Topics such as adultery, rape, murder, and suicide are tackled. Not sure I quite agree with the slew of Oscar nominations it received that year (1957), but acting-wise, Hope Lange was the standout for me.

It reminded me of the syrupy prime-time soaps of the 1980’s, but certainly much better written and acted then they were. This is not intended to demean the film as it is interesting, engaging, and dramatic, with good characterization, but when analyzed, it is fluff, just good fluff.