Friday, July 22, 2016

Johnny Angel (1945)

Johnny Angel is an interesting little 1945 RKO film noir.

Johnny Angel (George Raft) is a sea captain, like his father. When he finds his father’s ship, the Emmaline Quincy, drifting at sea in the Gulf of Mexico, with its cargo intact but the crew (including his father) nowhere to be found, he is determined to find out what has happened. 

He puts a salvage crew aboard the Emmaline Quincy. After it docks in New Orleans a mysterious French girl is seen leaving the ship - this girl is Johnny’s only clue to the mystery. First he has to find her, then having found her he has to keep her alive. Neither task will be easy.

Both Johnny and his father worked for the Gustafson Line, run by the pudgy and ineffectual George Gustafson (invariably referred to as Gusty). In reality it’s Gusty’s old nurse Miss Drumm (Margaret Wycherly), now his secretary, who runs the line. Between them Miss Drumm and Gusty’s wife Lilah (Claire Trevor) run Gusty. Gusty is the kind of man who is destined to be run by women.

Lilah is two-timing Gusty with night-club owner and gangster Sam Jewell (Lowell Gilmore) but she also has her sights set on Johnny. Lilah likes men but she also likes money. She can’t decide which she likes most.

The mystery which is slowly unravelled is rather complex. Suffice to say that gold is involved. Lots of gold. Enough gold to drive men (or women) to murder, or even more than one murder.

This movie is a relatively rare example of a film noir with a flashback and voice-over narration from the point of view of a female character. 

Steve Fisher’s screenplay hits most of the right noir notes. Edwin L. Marin was a competent director and a year later would direct George Raft in another excellent film noir, Nocturne. Marin captures the noir mood effectively in Johnny Angel, with some help from cinematographer Harry J. Wild (who also worked on Nocturne and in fact shot many notable noir films).

George Raft gives an excellent performance as the obsessed son investigating the mystery involving his father. Raft was always a very convincing heavy but he could be equally effective in more sympathetic roles. He was best of all when he got to combine the two tendencies as he does here. Johnny Angel is a very tough guy who never takes a backward step from any man but he’s also a very nice guy. I suspect that it was Raft’s sublime confidence in his own macho qualities (he was a very tough guy in real life) that allowed him to switch effortlessly from tough to gentleness and charm.

The rest of the cast is very strong. Claire Trevor does her femme fatale bit as the wife of the owner of the shopping line – she is very much in love with his money, with him not so much. It’s the sort of thing she always did extremely well. 

Signe Hasso (who was Swedish and whose slight accent is clearly and unsurprisingly Swedish) plays the enigmatic French girl and she does an effective job. Hoagy Carmichael (better known of course as a composer) is Celestial, a cab driver with a knack for being around when interesting things are happening. Naturally he also gets a chance to sing. He’s a likeable and amusing (and rather charmingly eccentric) foil for the very serious Johnny Angel. Marvin Miller is all thwarted ambition and weakness as the milksop owner of the Gustafson Line.  

The nautical background and the New Orleans settings give the film a distinctive and attractive flavour, and it’s a fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining movie.  It’s one of those lesser known noirs that is well worth seeking out. Highly recommended.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Father Brown (1954)

Father Brown (released in the US as The Detective) is a light-hearted 1954 British mystery based on the popular stories Father Brown detective stories by G. K. Chesterton. This was the second attempt to bring Chesterton’s priest detective to the big screen, an earlier adaptation having been made in 1934. The 1954 version stars Alec Guinness as the little priest-detective.

The movie is based on Chesterton’s story The Blue Cross, which introduced both Father Brown and Flambeau, although the story has been much expanded and embroidered.

Father Brown is a mild-mannered bumbling and apparently slightly dimwitted English Catholic priest who is also an enthusiastic amateur detective. Needless to say his dimwittedness is merely on the surface - he is in fact a very astute detective. 

A very valuable cross has to be taken to France by Father Brown for a religious conference. Scotland Yard have made elaborate security arrangements with Inspector Valentine (Bernard Lee) being placed in charge. The security is necessary since the notorious thief Flambeau is known to be intending to steal the cross. Father Brown decides that the inspector’s security arrangements are worse than useless so he ignores them. His decision backfires but while the loss of the cross will be a serious matter Father Brown is more concerned with saving Flambeau from his career of crime. Since Flambeau has no desire to be saved and thoroughly enjoys his criminal life this will be quite a challenge.

Father Brown has to recover the cross, find Flambeau and persuade him to abandon crime and he has to keep Flambeau out of the hands of the police for long enough to allow him to achieve these objectives. Most of the film is therefore a double chase, with the little priest pursuing the master criminal while they are both being pursued by the police.

I’m not a great Alec Guinness fan and my concern with this movie is that he might overdo the comedy angle. Chesterton’s stories certainly contain a great deal of humour but they are also serious detective stories and they have moral, philosophical and spiritual dimensions as well. If the stories are played purely for comedy then they will miss the point. Guinness’s performance is better than I’d expected but at least some of my fears were realised - there really is too much emphasis on comedy.

Peter Finch is a surprisingly effective Flambeau, managing to be dashing and enigmatic with a hint of tragedy and also managing to be fairly convincingly Gallic. Bernard Lee played countless police inspectors during his career. He played such roles so often because he played them extremely well and his performance here is no exception. Joan Greenwood adds some glamour as an entirely unnecessary character named Lady Warren.

Director Robert Hamer had a flair for comedy (as he would demonstrate in School for Scoundrels) and his career was riding high at this time. Sadly it was not to last - alcoholism destroyed his marriage and his career and led to his early death in 1963. He handles things pretty well here. 

The screenplay does at least try to preserve some of the intriguing mixture of elements that made Chesterton’s stories classics of their genre although we’re left not entirely convinced that Father Brown is the great detective he’s supposed to be (whereas in the original stories we are left in no doubt at all on that point). 

The tone does get more serious as the movie progresses and there are some attempts to explain Flambeau’s motivations.

If you want to see how it should have been done check out the superb 1974 British Father Brown TV series with Kenneth More giving an absolutely splendid performance in the title role.

Sony’s Region 2 DVD is barebones but the transfer is quite satisfactory and the price is very reasonable indeed.

For my tastes it focuses a little too much on comedy but Father Brown is still enjoyable enough and Alec Guinness fans won’t want to miss it. Recommended.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Jet Storm (1959)

Jet Storm is an aviation disaster movie but in several interesting ways it differs from most movies of this type. This British production was released in 1959.

Thirty-two passengers are about to board an airliner in London en route to New York. One of the passengers, Ernest Tilley (Richard Attenborough), seems a bit distracted. He has good reason to be. He has just spotted a man about to board the same aircraft. He has been searching for this man for two years. He knew the man would be taking this flight but now he has confirmation. The man is James Brock (George Rose) and he was responsible for the death of Ernest Tilley’s seven-year-old daughter in a hit-and-run accident.

Not long after take-off two other passengers overhear Tilley talking to his wife. What they hear disturbs them enough to cause them to inform the pilot, Captain Bardow (Stanley Baker). Tilley was telling his wife that James Brock was about to die.

After speaking to Tilley it is obvious to Bardow that Tilley, an explosives expert, has planted a bomb aboard the plane. He intends to kill James Brock, and everyone else on board. Tilley blames the whole world for the death of his daughter, his bitterness exacerbated by his belief that Brock escaped justice through bribery. Bardow’s problem is that he has no way of knowing how Tilley intends to trigger the bomb so Tilley will have to be approached very carefully. Given his expertise in explosives it is likely that Tilley has designed his bomb with a remote control detonating device and any attempt to rush him, or threaten him, is likely to result in the immediate detonation of the bomb.

This movie is a skillful exercise in slow-burning suspense. At first no-one takes Tilley seriously. They assume he is merely making empty verbal threats. It gradually dawns on the passengers and crew that Tilley is dead serious and that his threats are anything but empty.

This movie does not quite follow the usual aviation disaster movie formula. While there is plenty of nail-biting suspense the real emphasis here is on the psychological reactions of the passengers. Thirty-two people suddenly find themselves facing possible imminent death. How will they react? As it turns out some deal with the situation with courage and cheerfulness. Others react with cowardice, selfishness, stupidity and viciousness. Tilley wants to kill everyone aboard because he believes that people are worthless and that when they discover they are about to die they will reveal themselves as corrupt and vicious and cowardly. In the case of about half the passengers his assessment is spot on. The question then becomes - can those passengers who behave bravely and decently somehow convince Tilley that people are worth saving?

And can the passengers who keep their nerve prevent those who have lost theirs from doing something foolish that will result in everyone’s death?

This film also departs from the usual formula in that the crew are not heroic paragons of virtue who save the day through their incredible skill and bravery. Captain Bardow is brave and he is very competent but no amount of flying skill is going to make any difference. Any attempt by the crew, no matter how brave and self-sacrificing they might be, to take any overt action against Tilley will simply cause him to blow up the aircraft immediately.

If the airliner and those aboard are to be saved it’s going to require a more subtle and indirect approach.

Richard Attenborough made a career out of playing vulnerable and/or damaged characters  and he’s wise enough to underplay his performance, which has the effect of making Tilley much more menacing. Tilley is just the sort of quiet inoffensive little man who might blow up an aircraft. Stanley Baker is excellent, as always. The support cast is a galaxy of wonderful British character actors. They’re all good and it’s almost unfair to single anyone out although special mention must be made of Dame Sybil Thorndike and also Elizabeth Sellars’ performance as the cool and aristocratic Inez Barrington. 

Interestingly enough the airliner portrayed in the film is a Russian Tupolev Tu-104. At the time the film was made the only other jet airliner in service was the British de Havilland Comet but given the series of well-publicised and disastrous crashes suffered by the British aircraft the producers might have thought that using a Comet for the film would be in poor taste.

Writer-director Cy Endfield went on to achieve huge success a few years later with Zulu. There are in fact intriguing parallels between the two movies - in both cases you have a potentially disastrous situation in which courage alone is not enough to save the day. Courage is certainly required, but it has to be combined with coolness and discipline. 

Jet Storm is not just one of the best aviation disaster movies it’s also a complex and engrossing psychological drama. Very entertaining and highly recommended.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Corridor of Mirrors (1948)

Corridor of Mirrors is a fascinating 1948 British gothic melodrama with perhaps just the faintest hint of film noir (enough to get it included in the 14th Annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival in 2016 anyway).

Mifanwy Conway (Edana Romney) has a wonderful husband and two lovely children and she is certainly not lacking for money. She seems to be very happily married. So why is she setting off to London to see her lover? It’s a complicated story, told mostly in flashback. She does meet her lover, at Madame Tussaud's wax museum, but she doesn’t meet him in the way you might expect. He’s one of the exhibits.

Seven years earlier Mifanwy was a high-spirited girl and a fixture in the night club scene. She and her friends belong to the infamous set known as the Bright Young Things. They live for pleasure and for parties and most of all they enjoy thumbing their noses at their parents.

It’s probably inevitable that her path will eventually cross that of Paul Mangin (Eric Portman). Mangin is an artist, fabulously rich and notoriously eccentric. Mifanwy thinks this will be a harmless romantic diversion, another way to deal with boredom. Mangin however seems to be fascinated by her to the point of obsession.

Mangin claims to have been born 400 years too late. He should have been born 400 years earlier. He should have lived in the Italy of the Borgias. It’s not all that uncommon to feel that way but Paul Mangin takes the idea very seriously indeed. In fact he does live in the Italy of the Borgias - he has recreated the past in his palatial home.

Mifanwy is the woman he has been waiting for. He has been waiting for her all his life. Women expect men to say such things but Mifanwy begins to suspect that in this case it is literally true. Mifanwy still thinks she can keep things on the level of a casual love affair but it is clear that to Paul there is nothing remotely casual about it.

There are plenty of bizarre plot twists to come and I won’t spoil the movie by revealing any more. Suffice to say that this is a movie that likes to surprise us and it throws plenty of ideas at us.

Star Edana Romney co-wrote the ambitious screenplay, based on a novel by Christopher Massie. 

This was the first feature film directed by Terence Young. Young went on to considerable success in the 60s helming three Bond movies (including the best of them all, From Russia with Love). 

The style of Corridor of Mirrors is unapologetically arty. This might irritate some viewers but there was probably no other way to handle this material. The story flirts with gothic horror and also with fantasy and the danger with this is that it could have subsided into whimsy or jokiness - in this case the artiness certainly works far better than whimsy or comedy would have. It also gives Young and cinematographer AndrĂ© Thomas the opportunity to indulge themselves in all manner of arty effects. Although it’s a British film it was for some reason shot in a French studio. 

Edana Romney looks striking and exotic and this is essential. The film could not have worked otherwise. As for her acting, she never really manages to make Mifanwy sympathetic and at times her character’s motivations are rather obscure. Fortunately this doesn’t really matter - what does matter is that despite his obsessiveness we should feel some sympathy for Paul Mangin and Eric Portman has no difficulty in achieving this. He also performs the more difficult feat of making Mangin seem like a man who might be mad without ever making him absurd. Had he seemed ridiculous for even a moment the entire film would have collapsed. 

The DVD cover artwork proudly tells us that this was Christopher Lee’s film debut. And so it was. But don’t get too excited - he has no more than a bit part. 

Simply Media’s DVD offers a good transfer. Image quality is excellent; sound quality is acceptable.

Corridor of Mirrors is a bewildering mishmash of genres and influences. It’s easy to point to the movie’s flaws but they don’t really matter. This is a breathtakingly ambitious and wildly strange movie that takes risks and if the risks don’t always come off the wonder of it is that more often than not they do come off. Very highly recommended.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bulldog Drummond's Peril (1938)

Bulldog Drummond's Peril, a B-picture released by Paramount Pictures in 1938, was one of the many films adapted (sometimes rather loosely) from the series of thrillers written by H. C. McNeile under the pen-name Sapper. This film stars John Howard as Bulldog Drummond. He was the ninth of thirteen actors to play the role (and he played it in no less than seven films). 

Bulldog Drummond's Peril was based on The Third Round, the third of the Bulldog Drummond novels in which the hero faces off against the brilliant diabolical criminal mastermind Carl Petersen.

The movie starts with the marriage of Hugh Drummond to Phyllis Clavering (Louise Campbell). The wedding festivities are interrupted by murder. 

Drummond suspects the murder may be connected with the disappearance of one of the wedding gifts, a very fine diamond. There is a curious story behind the diamond - it’s a real diamond and yet it isn’t. An eccentric professor named Goodman has found a way to manufacture fake diamonds that are in every way identical to the real thing. Not everyone is happy about the possible ramifications of this discovery.

The problem of course is that if it is possible to produce perfect diamonds in unlimited quantities then diamonds will cease to have any value. That means the discovery is in some senses quite useless. On the other hand it also means that it is worth a great deal of money to certain to keep this discovery quiet. The secret of Professor Goodman’s process is very much worth possessing.

It looks like Drummond is about to embark on another of his adventures, something that does not go down well with the new Mrs Drummond. Before their marriage he made her a solemn vow to give up such escapades but the lure of excitement is of course too much for him.

Watching this movie immediately after reading one of McNeile’s original novels offers a salutary reminder of just how wrong the movies managed to get Bulldog Drummond’s character. Not one of the actors who played the role was even remotely suitable. Captain Hugh Drummond should be a very big man, quite ugly, very loud, very boisterous, with a distinctly low-brow sense of humour and a general air of extreme heartiness. John Howard is not sufficiently physically imposing, he’s too conventionally good-looking and much too charming and debonair. Of course the makers of a movie are free to change whatever they like when they adapt a story for the screen but in the case of Hugh Drummond they managed to eliminate every single quality that made him such a memorable and oddly endearing hero. They turned him into a generic upper-class British hero.

It’s not that John Howard is a terrible actor or that his performance is bad - he simply bears no resemblance whatsoever to the character in the books. The problem is that the character in the books is a whole lot more interesting than the movie’s version of him.

John Barrymore plays Colonel Neilson of Scotland Yard (as he did in two of the other Bulldog Drummond movies). Although decidedly a supporting role Barrymore actually gets top billing. It’s a typically manic Barrymore performance. Reginald Denny plays the irritatingly dense Algy Longworth who acts as Drummond’s sidekick and provides feeble comic relief. E. E. Clive is more amusing as Drummond’s faithful servant who plays a rather active role in his master’s crime-fighting activities.

This movie has its problems but it’s not all bad. It’s frenetically fast-moving and energetic. James P. Hogan was one of those directors who never managed to break out of the B-movie ghetto but could be relied on to get the job done with reasonable efficiency. Stuart Palmer wrote the screenplay. Palmer was a popular writer of detective stories who achieved reasonable success as a screen writer as well. You might not expect penguins to play a significant role in a Bulldog Drummond story but Palmer had a thing for penguins so he manages to shoehorn one into the movie!

The plot’s twists and turns are at times somewhat predictable but they come so thick and fast that the movie is able to maintain the viewer’s interest without too much trouble. There’s also a notable motorcycle chase that provides some added excitement.

Bulldog Drummond's Peril is in the public domain and is very easy to get hold of. Most if not all of the available editions are pretty rough - if there’s been a really good DVD release I haven’t heard of it. The copy I have comes from one of the Mill Creek 50-movie packs. The transfer is fairly poor but since the cost of the movies in the set averages out at 37 cents per movie I guess I shouldn’t be complaining.

It’s a great pity that no-one ever bothered to make a real Bulldog Drummond movie. If you can put that to one side and simply take it on its own merits then Bulldog Drummond's Peril is enjoyable B-movie fare. Not as good as the excellent 1937 Bulldog Drummond Comes Back but still recommended.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Born To Kill (1947)

Born To Kill is a 1947 film noir released by RKO and based on James Gunn’s strange, overheated and disturbing 1943 novel Deadlier Than the Male.

The movie opens with a murder. The murder is important but it’s not absolutely central to the plot apart from the fact that it tells us something about the murderer. And the murderer is definitely central to the plot. We know the identity of the murderer but that’s just the beginning of the story.

Helen Brent (Claire Trevor) is in Reno getting a divorce. Sam Wild (Lawrence Tierney) has killed a man and a woman at the rooming house in which Helen is staying. Helen has no connection with the murder although she does discover the bodies. She does not call the police since she witnessed nothing important, has no idea who the murderer is and has no wish to become involved. 

On the train to San Francisco she meets Sam Wild. Unlike the audience she does not know he is a murderer. She does know that he is a very attractive man. He is clearly dangerous, has no respect for social rules and is little more than a well-dressed thug. To Helen that makes him very attractive. 

Sam more or less invites himself to the Brent house in San Francisco. Helen lives with her sister Georgia (Audrey Long). Actually they’re foster sisters. Georgia is fabulously wealthy. Helen is penniless and lives on Georgia’s charity. Once Sam figures out which sister has the money he loses interest in Helen and sets his sights on Georgia. Helen is more than a little conflicted about all of this. She loves Georgia but she resents her wealth. She is attracted to Sam but it’s pure lust - Helen is not dumb enough to consider even for a second marrying a man like Sam, but Georgia lacks Helen’s very extensive experience with men.

The main interest in the plot is in trying to untangle Helen’s incredibly twisted motivations. Sam is psychotic, violent and paranoid and suffers from delusions of grandeur but Helen is possibly even scarier. She has zero moral sense, she’s a practised and plausible liar and her whole life has been based on combining deception with selfishness. This would have made her an unpleasant enough person but the combination of Helen with Sam is clearly going to be exceptionally unfortunate. Helen will discover whole new depths of depravity.

The excellent screenplay by Eve Greene and Richard Macauley follows the novel fairly closely.

Robert Wise made a couple of surprisingly grim and pessimistic noirs, with The Set-Up (1949) being just as dark and perhaps more brooding than Born To Kill. When given the opportunity he really could plumb the depths of human misery although whether he really had a natural flair for this sort of material is debatable. Wise however had the ability to adapt himself to just about any genre.

Val Lewton, running RKO’s B-unit, had given him the chance to direct but Born To Kill was his first real A-picture for the studio. He clearly had absorbed a good deal of Lewton’s approach to film-making. Wise knew he had a good script and a good cast. He doesn’t go overboard with the noirish visuals, although with subject matter as noir as this he really didn’t need to. He does manage to ratchet up the tension very effectively as we wonder just how far Helen will go, and just how far she will allow Sam to go. Wise does a flawless job.

Lawrence Tierney missed out on genuine stardom (largely due to the fact that he had a reputation for being incredibly difficult to work with and somewhat unstable plus his liking for the bottle) but he is an authentic noir icon. He’s superb as the frighteningly intense and clearly insane Sam. Claire Trevor is just as good as a woman who is a mass of complicated and conflicting passions, none of them very admirable. 

With this movie you know you’re watching a real film noir because Elisha Cook Jr is in it. He plays Sam’s friend Marty and it’s quite a meaty role. It’s another little gem of a performance. Walter Slezak is fun as the not-too-honest but surprisingly efficient private detective Arnett. Esther Howard as Mrs Kraft, a friend of the woman murdered in Reno, is outrageously but enjoyably excessive.

Born To Kill is available on DVD in Region 1 and Region 2. The transfer is fine and there’s an audio commentary track featuring Eddie Muller with snippets from an interview with Robert Wise.

With some movies one can enter into a lengthy debate on their claims to film noir status. There is absolutely no need for any of that with Born To Kill. This movie is the real deal. This is hardcore noir. Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney deliver performances that are arguably the best of their respective careers. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Crusades (1935)

Cecil B. DeMille’s The Crusades is one of those wonderful Hollywood historical epics that has almost nothing to do with actual history. As a movie, though, it’s hugely entertaining. 

Released by Paramount in 1935 and costing $1.42 million (DeMille uncharacteristically running over budget and behind schedule) the movie was one of DeMille’s biggest commercial flops. DeMille was mystified by its failure and always believed it was a good movie. 

Ostensibly The Crusades deals with Richard I of England and his involvement in the Third Crusade, although mostly it focuses on the relationship between Richard and his bride, Berengaria of Navarre. It incorporates certain incidents and characters from earlier Crusades and mixes real history with a good deal of extravagantly imaginary material.

In real life the disastrous defeat of the Crusader army at the Horns of Hattin in 1187 and the subsequent capture of Jerusalem by Saladin provided the impetus for the Third Crusade.

The subject matter was well chosen given that the Third Crusade pitted the greatest and most celebrated Muslim leader, Saladin, against the greatest and most celebrated Christian leader of the era, King Richard I (Richard Lionheart) of England. Both Saladin and Richard are heroes not just of history but of legend and romance and both certain qualify as larger-than-life characters.

In the film Richard’s motivation is joining the Crusade is rather odd - it is the only way he can be released from his betrothal to Alys, sister of Philip II of France. Unfortunately by the time Richard’s army reaches Marseilles he’s run out of money and his army has run of food. King Sancho of Navarre comes to his rescue, supplying Richard with all the supplies he needs. There’s just one condition - Richard must marry Sancho’s daughter Berengaria (Loretta Young). Richard agrees but there will be trouble as a result, given that Alys has decided to accompany him on Crusade.

The first half of the movie focuses almost entirely on Richard’s complicated marital difficulties and the plots hatched against him by jealous rivals among the many kings and princelings taking part in the Crusade.

The action finally kicks in when Richard besieges the city of Acre, held by Saladin. From that point on there’s a great deal of action, interspersed with an extremely fanciful romantic triangle involving Richard, Saladin and Berengaria. Richard has vowed to take Jerusalem and Saladin has vowed to stop him and neither man has any intention of backing down. The ending, about which I propose to say nothing, is likely to come as a considerable surprise.

Henry Wilcoxon is surprisingly good as Richard – he’s terribly heroic of course, but he does bring also bring out his fundamental irresponsibility and hot-headedness, and his somewhat shabby treatment of Berengaria, so there is more to the characterisation than you might expect. The only thing wrong with Wilcoxon is that he doesn’t quite have the charisma that a hero of an epic needs. Ian Keith is very good as Saladin, although again it’s a performance that lacks that vital spark of charisma. 


Both Richard and Saladin begin the story as ambitious and arrogant men of violence (although tempered in both cases by a sense of honour). As the tale progresses they become more human and eventually they develop a mutual respect. It’s perhaps a little surprising to encounter actual character development in a movie like this.

As Berengaria Loretta Young is very pretty and outrageously noble and self-sacrificing. Most of the supporting players are adequate, although C. Aubrey Smith is perhaps just a little hammy (as he always was) as a Christian holy man. DeMille’s adopted daughter Katherine DeMiIle is delightfully spiteful as Alys.

Visually this movie has all of DeMille’s many strengths as a director. His framing of shots is exquisite and imaginative. DeMille was not a great believer in moving the camera unless he really needed to do and mostly he didn’t since he was a master of the art of creating a sense of movement and dynamism within a static frame. As always the more complex his shots and the more extras he has involved in them the more impressive DeMille’s skills become.The siege of Acre in this film is one of his great cinematic achievements. 

The sets are magnificent of course. 

The most interesting thing about the movie is the message it conveys. For a movie about war it’s actually very pro-peace. And for a movie about a clash between religions it’s actually a plea for religious tolerance. DeMille hired Harold Lamb, an historian and a fine writer of historical fiction, as a technical advisor on the film. Lamb’s historical fiction is notable for its even-handedness towards other cultures and his influence can I think be seen in the script. 

The Crusades is a movie about war, love and religious faith. On the whole, despite the liberties it takes with history, it’s remarkably successful and it looks magnificent. A very underrated movie by a great director. Highly recommended.