Kirk Douglas in ‘Detective Story’ – the original precinct cop drama on Peacock

Detective Story (1951) is the godfather of the TV precinct show. Adapted from Sidney Kingsley’s Broadway play and directed by Hollywood master craftsman William Wyler, it plays out almost entirely in the detective squad room over the course of a long shift. Kirk Douglas stars as Det. James McLeod, a law and order zealot with […]

Ava Gardner and James Mason star in the ravishing romantic drama from Albert Lewin

‘Pandora and the Flying Dutchman’ on Criterion Channel

I have a soft spot for Albert Lewin, a literary Hollywood writer/producer turned director with a continental sensibility and an eye for handsome imagery (if not always cinematic storytelling). His productions tended toward literary adaptations (The Good Earth, which he produced, and The Picture of Dorian Gray, which he scripted and directed) but Pandora and […]

‘The Tall Target’ – steam noir on Criterion Channel

Anthony Mann’s The Tall Target (1951) is a rare period piece noir. This one is set in 1860 and the tall target of the title is President-elect Abraham Lincoln. Dick Powell plays the lone police detective who believes in the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln on his journey to be sworn in as President and, in […]

‘The Big Night’ – teen rebel noir on Amazon Prime Video

The Big Night (1951), the final American film made by Joseph Losey before he fled Hollywood and the blacklist for Europe, has a title just generic enough to suggest anything from a musical extravaganza to a teen sex comedy. But vagueness aside, it’s really quite a provocative youth noir with John Drew Barrymore as an […]

Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Strangers on a Train’

Strangers on a Train (1951) is one of Alfred Hitchcock’s undisputed masterpieces, a thriller of demented wish fulfillment turned into a waking nightmare that turns on a chance meeting. Demented playboy Bruno (Robert Walker, whose insidious insincerity is unsettling from his first scene) meets champion tennis player Guy (Farley Granger). Bruno knows that Guy has […]

Arch Oboler's 1951 nuclear holocaust classic

‘Five’ – the last people on Earth on Amazon Prime Video

Arch Oboler’s Five (1951) is not the first end-of-the-world film, but it is the first to end it by nuclear holocaust: it opens on the familiar mushroom cloud and Oboler proceeds to scrubs the wonders of the world and the landmarks of civilization free of human habitation with a few simple visual effects and the […]

Patricia Neal, Michael Rennie, and Gort, directed by Robert Wise.

‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’ – the original science fiction classic

The original The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) remains the most thoughtful of the first contact films. Michael Rennie makes a striking American film debut as Klaatu, the well-spoken stranger from outer space who lands his saucer in Washington D.C. to speak to the world’s leaders. They shoot first, of course, and Klaatu escapes […]