Kehr’s Weekly Recap: The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

The Red Badge of Courage (1951)

The making and unmaking of this 1951 film were described in painful detail in Lillian Ross‘s book Picture, which was for years the definitive document on Hollywood philistinism. Certainly writer-director John Huston‘s original version would be preferable to the mangled remains (it was cut to 70 minutes during a power struggle between Louis B. Mayer and Dore Schary), though the sequences that survive suggest that Huston’s vision was not particularly compelling to begin with. It’s the earliest example of Huston’s propensity for sacrificing the humanity of his characters to artsy camera angles and distended compositions—what he gains in graphic power he loses in emotional force. With Audie Murphy, Bill Mauldin, Royal Dano, and Andy Devine.

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Kehr Capsule of the Week: Winter Kills (1979)

Winter Kills (1979)

Very fine Strangelovian fantasy that sank without a trace in 1979. Jeff Bridges, the scion of a very Kennedy-ish clan, sets out to investigate the assassination of his president brother, but becomes entangled in a web of darkly comic paranoia, spun by an endless parade of iconographically aggressive guest stars—John Huston, Anthony Perkins, Eli Wallach, Sterling Hayden, Dorothy Malone, Ralph Meeker, Richard Boone, Toshiro Mifune, Elizabeth Taylor. William Richert‘s visual style balances flamboyant comic-book colors and intelligent wide-screen framing, a strategy of restrained excess that keeps the picture continually on edge. The film is funny, but it’s frightening and vertiginous, too—a complex tone that apparently left audiences baffled.

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