Shenandoah (1965)


I liked all kinds of movies, all sorts of different genres. I’ve recently come to really love old westerns. But sometimes Westerners are hard to watch through modern eyes. Their treatment of Native Americans is shoddy at best, and racist at worst. Shenandoah does ok by Indians, but its treatment of the Civil War and slavery is a little muddy.

I try very hard in this blog to not get political. I have political opinions, of course, but I want this site to be a place where all sorts of views can come and enjoy what I have to offer. This was especially true when I was just sharing live music. But now that I’m writing more reviews some politics will inevitably slip in. It is difficult to review certain types of art without letting some political opinions in. But I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

That being said there are certain opinions that I will let out proudly. I think it is pretty safe to say that slavery was bad. It was a great evil in this country. That’s not controversial, and if you want to argue that point then you can just see yourself out.

A lot of westerns are set during the Civil War. Very few of them are pro-slavery, but their treatment of that institution, and of black people in general, can be suspect. The older I get the more difficulty I have watching Civil War movies that make folks fighting for the Confederacy into heroes. I know not everyone who fought for the South owned slaves or was particularly pro-slavery. Lots of young men fought for the South because that was their patriotic duty, many probably had no opinion on slavery whatsoever.

I don’t want to get too far into the weeds with this. Shenandoah is a pretty good movie starring James Stewart. He plays a character who wants nothing to do with the war. He has no love for slavery, but neither will he lift a hand to help fight against it. My review wrestles with what to do with a character like that. It is something I wrestle with every time I watch a movie with outdated stereotypes. Sometimes I love the movie, but it is difficult to parse that with the way the movie handles certain issues.

Anyway, you can read my review here.

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema IX

film noir

Kino Lorber released two of their film noir sets in October which seemed weird to me since Noirvember was just a month later. But maybe they wanted to get them on the shelves a few weeks before the holiday so that fans would be ready to watch once November rolled around.

I watched these so long ago I had to read my own review just to remember if I liked this one (I did). You can do the same here.

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema X

film noir

I’ve fallen behind in posting links to my reviews over at Cinema Sentries. I wrote this one for Kino Lorber’s latest film noir boxed sets back in October, but what better time to share it than the tail end of Noirvember? To be honest this set was probably my least favorite one they’ve done. Mostly because the three films are boxing movies and not really noir. But whatever, you can read my review here.

The Accused (1949)

the accused

If you are growing tired of #31Daysof Horror then feel some relief in knowing that #NoirVember is coming in just a few short weeks. That’s when I’ll be talking about a lot of film noirs. But until then you can enjoy my review of The Accused, a rather good film-noiresque drama starring the always wonderful Loretta Young. You can read my review here.

Breakheart Pass (1975)

breakheart pass

I very much like Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries. I have recently come to love westerns. I’ve always dug a good movie set on a train. I ought to have been a fan of Breakheart Pass, a murder mystery/western set on a train starring Charles Bronson. Sadly, I found it a rather tepid affair. You can read my review here.

The Cheat (1931)

the cheat bluray

Not all classic films are true “classics” if you catch my meaning. Case in point is this Tallulah Bankhead film which is rather dull to watch. It does have some great Pre-Code moments – sexual innuendo, human branding and attempted rape – but that still can’t save it from being an utter bore. Here’s my full review.

Torch Singer (1933)

torch singer

One of the challenges you face when watching old movies is butting heads with some of its outdated morals. I always find it tough to watch films that portray the slave-owning confederates as heroes. Torch Singer doesn’t have any of that, in fact, it is fairly progressive in its point of view, but I still wrestle with how best to watch it in my review.

Counterpoint (1968)

counterpoint blu-ray

There are a lot of boutique labels putting out all sorts of movies on Blu-ray these days. All the recent blockbusters get releases, of course, and the certified classics. Companies like Arrow Video and Severin and releasing cult films and old schlock horror movies. Kino Lorber continues to do a magnificent job of releasing what I like to call Almost Classics. These were mainstream movies with A-list directors or actors that were aiming for greatness and somehow fell short. They usually aren’t bad, sometimes they’re even quite good, but for one reason or another they never quite attained classic status.

I’ve reviewed quite a few of these over the years and Counterpoint is one such example. It stars Charlton Heston and Maximillian Schell and has an interesting WWII era plot. But it has largely been forgotten and with good reason, as it isn’t really very good. Anyway, you can read my full review here.

Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema VIII

film noir

Beyond horror, I am a huge fan of film noir. That’s a particular type of crime drama was made in Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s. They use expressionistic black and white photography, a dark, cynical point of view, and usually a hard-boiled detective and a beautiful femme fatale.

Kino Lorber has been regularly putting out nice boxed sets of film noir featuring lesser-known titles in the genre. I recently reviewed one of those sets for Cinema Sentries and you can read it here.