Category Archives: 1958 Films

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof-1958

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof-1958

Director Richard Brooks

Starring Paul Newman, Elizabeth Taylor

Scott’s Review #1,356

Reviewed April 12, 2023

Grade: B+

If not for a drastically modified ending that completely changes the scope and message of the film version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) have ranked a solid ‘A’.

Instead, it is reduced to a grade of ‘B+’ which is a shame because the film for the most part is fabulous-themes such as greed, jealousy, and heartbreak are explored.

Director Richard Brooks who never shied away from controversial subject matters with later films like In Cold Blood (1967) and Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) created the screenplay with James Poe as a collaborator.

The film is based on the 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by Tennessee Williams and stars titular talented actors  Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Burl Ives, Jack Carson, Madeleine Sherwood, and Judith Anderson.

After Brick Pollitt (Newman) injures himself while drunkenly revisiting his high school sports-star days, he and his tempestuous wife, Maggie (Taylor), visit his family’s Mississippi plantation for the sixty-fifth birthday of his aggressive father, Big Daddy (Ives).

In declining health, Big Daddy demands to know why Brick and Maggie haven’t given him a grandchild, unlike Brick’s brother Gooper (Carson), and his overbearing wife, Mae (Sherwood).

The accusations result in shadowy secrets involving an unseen ‘football buddy’ and best friend of Brick’s that brim close to the surface but are never wholly unleashed.

In 1958 Newman and Taylor were each at the top of their game and their talent, good looks, and chemistry nearly smoldered off the screen. Easy on the eyes to say the least one can relax with the comfort of witnessing good-looking people with tremendous acting talent hash it out.

The rest of the cast, especially Ives and Anderson, give bravura performances as fury and family drama emote most of the film’s running time.

Nearly rivaling the ferocity of the bitter scenes between Brick and Maggie is a lengthy and ultimately tender scene between Brick and his father. The sequence is for the ages and infuses some sympathy for the materialistic Big Daddy who tearfully admits to loving his father, a drifter who loved his son more than life itself.

Ives should have won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar but missed a nomination for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof entirely. Instead, the actor won the Academy Award for a film called The Big Country.

Shot like a play because it’s based on one, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof feels claustrophobic and stuffy despite the glamour of the family estate where most of the action takes place.

Servants serve and scamper after the four little rascals belonging to Gooper and Mae nicknamed ‘Sister Woman’ while cutting the cake and dealing with party favors of the rich and powerful.

Sadly, the film is nearly ruined with a piss-poor and severely botched wrap-up reuniting Brick and Maggie cementing their sexual union and ascertaining the fact that they are a straight couple.

You see, in the original play, Brick’s sexuality is in question heavily but the film removes almost all of the homosexual themes.

The hated Hays Code limited Brick’s portrayal of sexual desire from Skipper and diminished the original play’s critique of homophobia and sexism.

These items are the basis of the story and their removal leaves a huge void in the film. We assume that Brick had erectile difficulties due to his injuries and drinking but the point is weak and uneven, and also makes the continued mention of Skippy irrelevant.

Newman in particular was unhappy with the film.

The Southern traditions and hot summer atmosphere are portrayed wonderfully by Brooks making them feel suffocated and anxious. Doom and gloom hovers over the film.

But, a stark change of course with the writing and Williams’s original concept is unforgivable save for all the other elements of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958).

After seeing the film twice I yearn for the authenticity of seeing or reading the play.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director-Richard Brooks, Best Actor-Paul Newman, Best Actress-Elizabeth Taylor, Best Screenplay-Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Cinematography-Color

Horror of Dracula-1958

Horror of Dracula-1958

Director Terence Fisher

Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee

Scott’s Review #1,083

Reviewed November 17, 2020

Grade: B+

The first colorized retelling of the classic vampire film starring Bela Lugosi from 1931, Horror of Dracula (1958) infuses style and a modern feel into the production making it a formidable entry compared to the original.

The film launched the popular and delightful British Hammer Horror film series, which included eight Dracula sequels.

British horror films nearly always add macabre elements and a British sophistication that merge class with gothic, and the film is a perfect late-night watch during the Halloween season for maximum effect.

The atmospheric tone is key and will leave horror fans in bliss. The addition of horror stalwarts Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee only increases the pleasures.

On a gloomy night in 1885, a librarian named Jonathan Harker (John Van Eyssen) arrives at Count Dracula’s castle in Romania to begin his new assignment.

Secretly a vampire hunter, he is bitten by a desperate woman, really a vampire, begging for help. Jonathan manages to kill the woman but is then killed by Dracula (Lee). Doctor Van Helsing (Cushing) arrives at the castle to investigate, but Dracula already has designs on Jonathan’s fiancée, Lucy (Carol Marsh).

A battle of good versus evil ensues.

Lee brings sexuality to Dracula that Lugosi lacks, though Lugosi is the creepier of the two. I love the close-up scenes where Dracula bears his enormous fangs and his eyes turn red in good close-up style.

The casting of Lee is perfect as he becomes identifiable even in the first installment. I also love how Lee is tall, giving the character a menacing, foreboding, distinguished look.

Many might secretly welcome him nibbling on their necks!

Cushing, later to be cast as the villain, is wonderful as the empathetic Van Helsing. Lee and Cushing play well against each other. Van Helsing is stoic and confident as he smoothly leads the charge against Dracula and guides Jonathan’s loved ones into unchartered and unimaginable territory. It’s almost as if he has been through this before.

A great scene occurs when Van Helsing arrives in town for a brandy and a drink at the local pub, its inhabitants suspicious and frightened, draping garlic over the entryway and hoping he will leave soon.

The best part of House of Dracula is the atmosphere we are treated to and the color razzles dazzle. The story is good, but the texture powerfully shines through.

Careful not to be too showy, director Terence Fisher, soon to be a Hammer horror main fixture, uses his limited budget to his advantage in clever form.

Fisher realized his project was a colorized version and created a polished-looking, colorful, stained glass window, prevalent in several scenes. Dracula’s castle, especially the bedroom where Jonathan stayed, is part cozy and homespun, part gothic and chilling. The cellar crypt is equally vast yet confining, as the open coffins provide wonders of who lies in them.

The plethora of books elicits a cerebral feeling.

The finale is well done, but not as spectacular as expected. Other parts are better. Van Helsing chases Dracula in a race against the sunrise, ripping curtains down to provide harsh light, and turning Dracula to dust.

I was expecting a little more and more blood or a good stake through the heart. Fortunately, that entertainment was provided earlier in the film.

Having never read the 1897 Gothic horror novel by Bram Stroker (it’s on my list!), the film is pretty on target.

The film bestows creepy elements and sexuality with great color, lighting, and set design. The lesson learned is that a hefty budget and CGI can’t replicate the creative design and good effects.

Touch of Evil-1958

Touch of Evil-1958

Director Orson Welles

Starring Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh

Scott’s Review #914

Reviewed July 2, 2019

Grade: A

Touch of Evil (1958) is a film noir directed by the legendary influential Hollywood director, Orson Welles.

The film contains suspense, drama, and mystery, but is to be praised largely for visual treats to enhance the cinematic experience. The dark and foreboding thriller was revolutionary for the time of release and influenced many films of similar ilk in the years to come.

Robust and fraught with tension, the experience is marvelous and worthy of study for its many nuances.

Welles directs the work and stars in and writes the screenplay, so his entire being is invested in the production and execution.

Known mostly for the legendary Citizen Kane (1940), a film that arguably changed the course of cinema with its direction and cinematography, Touch of Evil explores a different genre entirely but keeps the excellent aspects of Welles’s loftier film, including black and white, intact, resulting in a grand and dangerous crime infused classic.

The screenplay was loosely based on the novel Badge of Evil by Whit Masterson.

The tension is ample from the onset as the humidity-drenched Mexico-United States border is the focal point. A car driven by a young couple is laced with a bomb and detonates as soon as they cross into U.S. territory.

In a hint of irony, Newlyweds Miguel “Mike” Vargas (Charlton Heston), a drug enforcement official in the Mexican government, and his wife Susie (Janet Leigh) pass the car several times on foot before the explosion.

An investigation ensues with the introduction of other characters, including Police Chief Pete Gould (Harry Shannon), District Attorney Adair (Ray Collins), and police captain Hank Quinlan (Welles), with a prime suspect being Sanchez, a young Mexican secretly married to the victim’s daughter.

Typical in the film noir genre, events are not what they seem like as layers of the plot slowly unravel. The heavyset and disheveled Captain nostalgically visits a brothel run by Tanya (Marlene Dietrich), who barely recognizes him because he’s gained so much weight since their last meeting.

Vargas forsakes his bride to spearhead the investigation but soon locks horns with corpulent Quinlan and the duo begins to feud. Could Quinlan or Vargas have something to do with the car bombing, or could other supporting characters be behind or involved in the shenanigans?

This is a great part of Touch of Evil as the film leaves the viewer guessing.

Heston and Leigh smolder as the lead couple and their chemistry is apparent from the first scene in which they appear together. Sexy and mysterious, she hunkers down in a dump fraught with peril, while he attempts to solve the crime and keep his girl safe.

Outside factors play heavy roles in keeping the lovers apart although Heston playing a Mexican man is quite the stretch, the audience will nestle comfortably into the events as they reveal deeper layers.

Wells, once a handsome man, is not afraid to let it all hang out as the fat and racist Quinlan becomes one of the greatest and most complicated screen villains as his true colors emerge.

As the film’s title boldly suggests does his character contain complexities that make him evil and keep some sympathies or does he wreak havoc on all he touches with his devious nature only the tip of the iceberg?

Viewers await the final act to have several questions answered as motivations are finally revealed.

Touch of Evil (1958) gave delicious and pulsating material to filmmakers clever enough to study its intricacies, most notably Roman Polanski for Chinatown (1974).

Nuggets were also thrown the way of Alfred Hitchcock who got the idea for Leigh to appear in Psycho (1960) two years later, catapulting her character alone in a hotel peril, mixing in a weird hotel clerk.

The power the film had to hatch other great films from its ingenuity is the most fun part of watching it repeatedly.

South Pacific-1958

South Pacific-1958

Director Joshua Logan

Starring Rossano Brazzi, Mitzi Gaynor

Scott’s Review #903

Reviewed May 29, 2019

Grade: A-

South Pacific (1958) contains a magical and romantic aura that will mesmerize the dreamy viewer seeking exotic paradise and cinematic escapism.

Marveling at distinctive and experimental color hues to shift from sequence to sequence, usually from romantic to ordinary scenes, the film has otherworldly appeal and lavish locale sequences, some real, others studio manipulations.

The surrounding war story is relevant, the interracial relationship is more progressive than the times were, and the two leads share tremendous chemistry.

All these qualities combine with catchy songs to make the film a darling watch, providing tremendous enjoyment and an impassioned payoff.

The film may not be the best of all musicals but there is very little to criticize.

Attractive Navy nurse Nellie (Mitzy Gaynor) falls head over heels for suave French plantation officer Emile (Rosanno Brazzi) as the pair enjoy a wonderful date amidst the gorgeous beach landscape. The feeling is mutual and Nellie and Emile seem destined for happiness.

He confides to her that he once killed a man in his native France causing him to flee his country, never to return. The Navy requests Nellie spy on Emile to utilize him against their hated Japanese enemy.

In a separate story, but just as romantic, Tonkinese trader Bloody Mary (Juanita Hall) is determined to marry her beautiful dark-skinned daughter Liat (France Nuyen) to handsome Lt. Joseph Cable (John Kerr). He throws away a chance at lasting happiness by refusing to marry her due to prejudicial feelings.

Despite best efforts, he cannot get her out of his mind and the couple reunites briefly before tragedy strikes.

The World War II backdrop plays heavily into the story and atmospheric elements make the film ooze with sensuality and sunny desire so that the result is good, escapist fun with brazen musical numbers added to set the perfect tone.

They contrast the island where most events occur, foreboding military airplanes flying overhead, some manned by the main characters, dangerously with a hint of foreshadowing.

South Pacific has much to be treasured for, especially with its songs.

For one thing, all of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s immortal songs from the stage production, “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali Hai,” “There Is Nothing Like a Dame,” “I’m in Love With a Wonderful Guy,” “Younger Than Springtime” is retained, and, as a bonus, a song cut from the original stage production, “My Girl Back Home,” is revived herein.

The songs are integral to the plot and hold up well on their own, especially the robust “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outa My Hair” possessing a naughtiness as Nellie sings it from the shower.

After the successful release of the film version of Oklahoma! (1955) Rodgers & Hammerstein decided to tackle South Pacific as their next big project. The stakes were high due to the success achieved by the former but the latter did not measure up.

Some thought Gaynor was miscast though I personally like her just fine.

Nonetheless, the production is gorgeous and quite on par with Oklahoma! With the knowledge of the same producers and proximity in the release, many similarities can be ascertained from each film.

The South Pacific may be a far cry from the mid-western USA but both films have an outdoorsy feel. Numerous scenes use luscious natural landscapes to add beauty to the big screen.

A key point to remember is that South Pacific is far from fluff despite the tendency for comic scenes or light-sounding numbers.

The film distinguishes itself quite well with a strong anti-war slant as Emile decries killing and promotes harmony in more than one scene almost as though the film encourages us to learn from a French man rather than an American.

To this end, the important subject of racism is brought up not only in the Liat/Cable story but also when Nellie struggles with the notion of raising two children of a different race.

Perhaps not revisited as often as such unforgettable genre contemporaries as West Side Story (1960) or The Sound of Music (1965) and justifiably not as dynamic, South Pacific (1958) is a lovely film with impressive key production values, a worthy story, and enough sing-along tunes to keep one humming for days.

The picture never feels dated and exists as a timeless member of the stage productions magically brought to the big screen club.

Oscar Nominations: 1 win-Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, Best Sound (won), Best Cinematography, Color

Vertigo-1958

Vertigo-1958

Director Alfred Hitchcock

Starring James Stewart, Kim Novak

Top 100 Films #6

Scott’s Review #151

1089727

Reviewed August 7, 2014

Grade: A

Over the years Vertigo (1958) has easily become one of my favorite Alfred Hitchcock films and I learn, appreciate, or see something new with each repeated viewing.

It is an absolute masterpiece.

The primary appeal to Vertigo is its mystique and dream-like quality which provides a beautiful cinematic experience. It is ominous, psychological, and gloriously complex, even confusing at times.

That is what makes it wonderful.

The colorful opening visuals are dynamic, groundbreaking, and stunning considering the time.

The story involves a retired detective, Scottie, played by Hitchcock stalwart Jimmy Stewart. Scottie suffers from vertigo, which hinders his daily life.

After an incident in which a police officer is killed and Scottie blames himself and his vertigo for causing the death, he whiles away the days brooding and keeping companionship with Midge- a college friend whom he was once engaged to.

One day he is hired by another college friend to follow his wife, played tremendously by Kim Novak, who is acting strangely and periodically disappearing, obsessed with a painting of a woman from years past.

From this point, the plot twists and turns in a mysterious fashion, and mixed in is a romantic, bizarre, obsessive, love story.

Is Scottie in his right mind? Will his vertigo continue to haunt him? What is the secret to Madeleine and Judy? Is Midge as sweet as she appears?

The score to Vertigo is haunting and unforgettable adding so much mood and ambiance to the film.

Set in San Francisco, several location shots are featured- Golden Gate Bridge, downhill streets, the Mission, and Red Wood forest.

As with all Hitchcock films, all sets and details are perfect from paintbrushes, coffee mugs, curtains, and furniture, to the gorgeous bright red décor of the restaurant heavily featured in the film.

How exquisite does Kim Novak look in the film??

Originally critically panned upon its release it is now considered one of the greatest films. Influential to other films with its unique camera angles and slow, methodical pacing.

The film is not always an easy watch as it is complex, to be fair, but like a fine wine, it gets better and better.

Vertigo (1958) is a layered psychological thriller that is appreciated more with each viewing.

Oscar Nominations: Best Sound, Best Art Direction