Catching up on the classics

I’m not a big classic movie buff. I’m not even sure what “classic” means when it comes to movies. Come on: I was born in 1975. Basic biology means that I’m pretty fond of The Empire Strikes Back, but it hasn’t made its way to the classic section of my local indie video shop.

Still, I’m fond of a handful of genuine oldies, and I’ve been introducing Heather to a few of them lately. We started with Casablanca a couple of weekends ago. It’s sort of one of the standard stock of classic movies, but that shouldn’t count against it, and the new DVD edition is great. The disc features the theatrical trailer for the film, and it’s quite a bit of fun. None of the “in a world where…” nonsense that populates every contemporary trailer; instead, the trailer directs the viewer to “Thrill!” and “Be Astonished!” Lots of fun.

We’ve also watched A Touch of Evil, which really is one of my old favorites. You have to suspend disbelief to accept Charleton Heston as a Mexican cop, but after you come to grips with Mister Cold Dead Hands saying Que Paso, Pancho? the movie turns the corner. The plot is pretty simple: A prominent border town businessman is blown to bits, and Heston’s cop is drawn into conflict with Orson Welles’ racist, corrupt police captain. The intrigue comes to involve the local drug gangs and Welles’ history of framing his suspects. The film’s photography, directed by Welles, is what really shines. Welles’ cameras move with the action and frame it beautifully, with especially dynamic motion in the final scenes. It’s great filmmaking, despite Heston’s bogus accent and Janet Leigh’s odd performance as his new wife. The contemporary version of the film is a re-edited print put together after Welles wrote a memo critical of the original release. When the memo was found several years ago, the film was recut and re-released, and is now on DVD.

Yesterday we found ourselves with an evening to kill, so we went looking for Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Now that’s a movie: Greed, gunfights, snakes, and banditos. But it was checked out. Who rents Treasure of the Sierra Madre on a Wednesday night? I suggested to Heather that it was our Bizarro-world analogues.

Instead of Treasure we ended up with Secretary, which is hard to sum up, especially knowing that my grandparents occasionally read this site. Here’s the review. It’s quite an interesting film, with some good performances.