‘The Dirty Dozen’ – the original World War II caper on HBO Max

The 1960s were full of big budget wartime caper-style films—The Great Escape, Where Eagles Dare, Kelley’s Heroes, just to name a few—but none of them have the brawny machismo and wily bad boy gusto of The Dirty Dozen (1967), Robert Aldrich’s testosterone-fueled tough guy classic. Lee Marvin is the hard-as-nails Major who is “volunteered” to […]

Joan Crawford stars with Ann Blyth, Zachary Scott, and Jack Carson

Joan Crawford is ‘Mildred Pierce’ on HBO Max

Is Mildred Pierce (1945) film noir or melodrama? I say why choose? Film noir is almost entirely associated with crime stories and life in the shadows and at night in the city and sure enough Mildred Pierce, based on the novel by James M. Cain, opens with death and darkness and the twilight of the […]

Gary Cooper, Julie London, and Lee J. Cobb star in the 1958 western directed by Anthony Mann

Gary Cooper is a ‘Man of the West’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

The great western director Anthony Mann and aging western icon Gary Cooper teamed up for the first and only time in Man of the West (1958), a stark frontier drama of a trio of train passengers stranded in the desert after a railway holdup. Taking responsibility for his helpless compatriots (Julia London as a sad-eyed […]

Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden, and Ernest Borgnine star in Sam Peckinpah's western masterpiece 'The Wild Bunch.'

‘The Wild Bunch’ – Sam Peckinpah’s frontier apocalypse on HBO Max

The film that branded Sam Peckinpah with the nickname “Bloody Sam,” The Wild Bunch (1969) blazed onto theater screens in the era of Bonnie and Clyde, when genre conventions were being blasted away and directors pushed the boundaries of what was once considered “acceptable.” Peckinpah, ever the irascible maverick, rode roughshod over every unspoken rule […]

Gary Cooper is ‘The Pride of the Yankees’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

Gary Cooper, that great Oak of an American actor, progresses from the awkward and naively shy rookie to the seasoned “Iron Man” first baseman of the New York Yankees without losing his idealism or modesty in The Pride of the Yankees (1942). Nominated for 11 Academy awards (winning one for film editing), this handsome biographical […]

Fay Wray in the ape's paw in the original 1933 classic

The original ‘King Kong’ on HBO Max

King Kong (1933) is the king of the jungle of giant creature features. The acting and the dialogue verges on kitsch, but the production from explorers, adventurers, and real-life adventure filmmaking pioneers Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack is still awe-inspiring and the special effects of Willis O’Brien, groundbreaking in their day, are beautifully […]

Humphrey Bogart, Peter Lorre, Mary Astor, and Sydney Greenstreet in the film adapted from the Dashiell Hammett novel by John Huston.

‘The Maltese Falcon’ – the stuff dreams are made of on HBO Max

If there is a cooler, tougher, more shrewd and self-sufficient private detective in the movies than Humphrey Bogart’s incarnation of Sam Spade in John Huston’s note-perfect adaptation of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (1941), I’ve yet to see him in action. The 1941 classic wasn’t the first screen version of Hammet’s iconic novel, but it […]

‘The Big House’ – the original prison picture on Criterion Channel

The 1930 The Big House, directed by George Hill from a script by France Marion, is the original men-in-prison drama in terms of the way it established the conventions. There’s the pecking order of tough guys behind bars, the culture of loyalty, the sniveling snitches, the prison reform speech from the tough but committed warden […]

Rod Steiger is ‘The Pawnbroker’ on Criterion Channel

The Pawnbroker (1964), the Sidney Lumet-directed 1964 film based on the novel by Edward Lewis, is a real time capsule. It’s the first American film to really take on the legacy of the Holocaust on a personal level, and it’s set in a Harlem pawnshop where a stream of slum stereotypes wander in and out […]

Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper in the 1954 western by Robert Aldrich

‘Vera Cruz’ – The proto-spaghetti western on Criterion Channel

“You’re the first friend I ever had,” grins flamboyant mercenary Burt Lancaster to lean, laconic Gary Cooper in with a smile that suggests that he may be the last. They’re a pair of Americans abroad looking to cash in the Mexican revolution by selling their services to the highest bidder in Vera Cruz (1954), Robert […]