Vincente Minnelli‘s 1955 melodrama is set in a posh mental hospital; he choreographs the various plots and subplots with the same style and dynamism he brought to his famous musicals. Charles Boyer is the head of the clinic, a secret alcoholic worried about competition from hotshot young shrink Richard Widmark. Widmark, in turn, is caught in a triangle with his childish wife (Gloria Grahame) and an understanding colleague (Lauren Bacall). Among the guest loonies are Oscar Levant (who sings “Mother” in a straitjacket), Lillian Gish, Susan Strasberg, Fay Wray, John Kerr, Paul Stewart, and Adele Jergens; John Houseman produced. 124 min.
Carl Dreyer‘s great 1955 film is concerned with the moral and metaphysical shadings of love: Is it a thing of sex or of the spirit? A force of repression and control or a promise of infinite expansion? A farmwife dies; her brother-in-law, a failed preacher, promises to raise her from the dead. The conflict is crystallized in a famous exchange of dialogue (from Kaj Munk‘s play), when the father, trying to comfort his widowed son, says, “She is no longer here . . . she is in heaven.” The son replies, “Yes, but I loved her body too.” Dreyer’s direction has been described as too theatrical, perhaps because the action is largely confined to the farmhouse set, yet the spatial explorations of his camera and cutting are profoundly cinematic and expressive. The film is extremely sensual in its spareness, a paradox always at the center of Dreyer’s work.
The sometimes underrated Joshua Logan made his directorial debut with this overripe 1955 Daniel Taradash adaptation of a characteristically hyperbolic William Inge play, and the surprising thing is how much of it works—at least until the climactic dance scene with William Holden and Kim Novak, when camp and hysteria tend to take over. Jo Mielziner does such a formidable job of adapting his own theatrical set designs to homespun midwestern locations that you wonder at times if he—and maybe cinematographer James Wong Howe—shouldn’t be credited as codirectors. The secondary cast—Rosalind Russell, Susan Strasberg, Betty Field, Cliff Robertson, and Arthur O’Connell—also keep things pretty lively. 115 min.
Ingmar Bergman goes poaching on the terrain of Renoir, Lubitsch, and Mozart. This 1955 film is his lightest and most appealing, but the light touch doesn’t come naturally to the Brooding Swede; a few of those smiles feel uncomfortably forced. Eva Dahlbeck is wonderful as the aging actress who hosts a summer party on her country estate—she seems much more responsible for the film’s gently wise tone than Bergman’s heavily telegraphed ironies. With Harriet Andersson, Ulla Jacobsson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, and Margit Carlquist. In Swedish with subtitles. 108 min.
An action film for people who don’t like action films, directed in overstated CinemaScope by John Sturges in 1955. Spencer Tracy is a mysterious one-armed man in black who faces down the residents of a small isolated town, whom he suspects of having killed the father of his Japanese war buddy. Spence knows karate, Robert Ryan and the rest of the rednecks don’t; but everybody can moralize like hell.