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Of Sharks and Hearts
Here are my thoughts on a couple of movies I've just seen.
KILLER SHARK (1950) is a hokey melodrama from director Budd Boetticher, who would make some great, gritty, noirish westerns with Randolph Scott a few years after this (Seven Men from Now, Buchanan Rides Alone) and who was still getting his feet wet (quite literally) in this Monogram cheapie. Still going by the name of Oscar Boetticher, the director seems to bring little to this tale of a young snob (Roddy McDowall, later Cornelius in Planet of the Apes) who joins his father on a shark fishing expedition and nearly gets the old man killed. Needless to say, he learns his lesson and saves his father's failing fishing business as well. Roland Winters, who was Charlie Chan just three years before, plays the dad and he is as forgettable as the rest of the cast. Not to be confused with the much-better Tiger Shark.
THE SECRET HEART, opened on Christmas day, 1946, and is a good melodrama for the holiday season. Compelling in a soap-operaish kind of way, the movie stars the great Claudette Colbert as the stepmom to two more-or-less adult stepchildren: the male is just out of the army (and is played by Robert Sterling, who played ghost George Kirby in the 1950s TV series Topper) and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. The female stepchild (June Allyson) is more problematic: she just likes to sit at home annd play the haunting piano melodies her late father played for her as a small child. She won't finish school, date boys, or do anything productive because she can't forget her father, the only man she ever loved. Even though he died when she was four years old, she won't – can't – let go of his memory. Like many movies from the '40s (the shrinks as heroes era of psychiatry era in films; see also Spellbound), The Secret Heart is textbook pop Freud on parade. Even as the worshipful daughter falls in love with her father's best friend and her mother's current lover (Walter Pidgeon), old Dr. Gillespie himself (Lionel Barrymore in a brief cameo) is warning stepmom Claudette that the child most re-experience the locales of her youth in order to cure herself. The truth will set her free, never mind that she might not be able to handle the truth: that her loving dad was an embezzling alcoholic who did himself in. Never mind, too, that this film is a lot of nonsense; it is an engrossing bit of nonsense, predictable but entertaining nonetheless, thanks to the charm of its leads.
September 16, 2012
Review from my MOVIE JOURNAL:
DAVID AND LISA (1962) Director: Frank Perry. Cast: Keir Dullea, Janet Margolin, Howard Da Silva. Shrink as friend – Howard da Silva plays the easy-going, fatherly therapist who runs a home for mentally disturbed teenagers. David (Dullea), an intelligent, angry young man who hates to be touched, and his cure begins when he starts to reach out to Lisa, a pretty schizophrenic (Margolin) who talks in rhyme. The movie posits the idea that care and understanding – and respect for an individual's rights – is key to a cure, with the avuncular, unscientific Da Silva a pefect foil for that. The talking cure is briefly depicted ("Tell me about it," is Da Silva's most common response), but the cure comes more from love than anything else.