Guillermo del Toro’s ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ on Criterion Channel

Before Hellboy, Pan’t Labyrinth, and his Academy Award winning The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro directed the elegant and harrowing ghost story The Devil’s Backbone (Spain, 2001). Set in the collapsing days of the Spanish Civil War, in a makeshift orphanage where the sons of fallen Republican soldiers are protected by a war widow […]

Vera Clouzot in Henri-Georges Clouzot's Hitchcockian thriller with Simone Signoret

The original ‘Diabolique’ on Amazon Prime and Criterion Channel

Henri-Georges Clouzot was called the Hitchcock of France for his shadowy thrillers and the atmosphere of distrust and suspicion that ran through so many of his films. Diabolique (France, 1955, not rated, with subtitles), his 1955 thriller about a plot to commit a perfect murder and the wrenching tension when the corpse disappears, plays like […]

Simone Simon and Kent Smith star in Jacques Tourneur's classic horror film for producer Val Lewton

The original ‘Cat People’ on Criterion Channel

The original Cat People (1942) was made on a low budget for RKO’s B-movie unit, the first in an amazing series of B-horror films from producer Val Lewton that transcended its origins. It’s a masterpiece of mood and psychological ambiguity masquerading as a cheap exploitation knock-off. Cheap it is, but Lewton and director Jacques Tourneur […]

‘Le Doulos’ – the French criminal code on Criterion Channel

If classic French cinema is any indication, then gangsters were the great Gallic underground hero. Where the prototypical American gangsters are invariably cultural outsiders and immigrants who muscle their way to power in sprays of bullets, their French counterparts are dapper men with a code of loyalty who walk the tightrope between respect and disrepute. […]

Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Che’ on The Criterion Channel

Steven Soderbergh’s Che (2008) is both two features and one work, a 4 ½-hour production that carves out what Soderbergh, producer/star Benicio Del Toro, and screenwriter Peter Buchman see as the two defining periods in the life of Ernesto Che Guevara: the Cuban Revolution and the Bolivian expedition. Except for a brief scene where Guevara […]

Rock Hudson has ‘Seconds’ on Amazon Prime Video and Kanopy

John Frankenheimer’s nightmarish thriller Seconds (1966) opens on John Randolph as a businessman who has lost all interest in his life and tries an experimental program which promises a new, exciting existence. When he wakes up from the first step, he discovers he’s turned into… Rock Hudson! Hudson was not Frankenheimer’s first choice—he was, in […]

‘For All Mankind’ – To the moon and back on The Criterion Channel

For All Mankind (1989), Al Reinert’s celebration of the nine manned space flights between 1968 and 1972, was released to theaters in 1989, twenty years after first manned moon landing. It’s a stunning tribute composed entirely of the film documentation shot and archived by NASA, not a documentary of an Apollo mission but the story […]

‘Easy Rider’ – On the road to find America on Criterion Channel

Peter Fonda was already a counterculture icon when he suited up in black leather and a star-spangled helmet, mounted a Harley-Davidson chopper, tossed his watch to the desert floor, and drove off with a shaggy Dennis Hopper in search of America. The film was Easy Rider (1969), an independent film produced by Fonda, directed by Hopper, […]

‘Jubal’ – Frontier Othello on VOD and Criterion Blu-ray/DVD

Delmer Daves was a Hollywood pro with a long career and an impressive filmography when he made Jubal (1956). A screenwriter turned director, Daves moved easily between all genres—war pictures, romances, westerns, Biblical epics, and a few noir-inflected dramas—and oddly enough found his biggest success in glossy melodrama A Summer Place, but I think he […]

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

Joan Crawford is ‘Mildred Pierce’ on VOD and Criterion Blu-ray/DVD

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 […]