La Bête Humaine

Jean Gabin really likes trains. Jean Renoir also really likes trains. They wanted to make a train movie, and any train movie would do. So why not one that also includes murrrrrrrrder?

La Bete Humaine has a lot of bad psychology and therefore some bad social commentary. It also misses a theme from the original novel that it seems like Renoir and Gabin — who had just finished The Grand Illusion — should have leaned into but instead ignored. But it does have trains! Lots and lots of trains!

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Port of Shadows

Marcel Carne's Port of Shadows, released in 1938, is the one of the earliest films to have the term "film noir" applied to it. It also stars our favorite face of French Poetic Realism Jean Gabin (who shows up often enough that we should probably make him his own tag). This is our second outing with Carne after his 1945 epic Children of Paradise. There is significantly less mime in this one.

Alexander Nevsky

Alexander Nevsky, one of Sergei Eisenstein's famous Soviet historical epics, is a monstrous and mounstrously propagandistic film that has left all sorts of influence in its wake. Pat and I aren't really into it, even with it's massive battle sequences.

It is also the film that marks the point in our journey where our episode numbers and Criterion's Spine numbers being to irrevocably drift. Nevsky stands alone as Spine 87, while also being contained in a box set with Ivan the Terrible Parts 1 and 2 as Spine 86 which we'll talk about next week in a double episode. Ivan the Terrible Part 2 has a standalone release as Spine 88, but not Ivan the Terrible Part 1 which is confusing and dumb. Criterion, stop being confusing and dumb.

Pygmalion

Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard direct a film adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's play about elocution and overcoming class barriers: Pygmalion (1938). Pat and I conflate Shaw and main character Henry Higgins, probably unfairly, to complain about ideas that still plague society: "we can all be equal, as long as you act like me." (Shaw, as a socialist, was certainly a supporter of the plight of the working class, but as a believer in eugenics he probably still deserves some criticism of his views of equality of all.) Higgins is, of course, meant to be unlikeable, but that never stopped anyone from liking him (see the popularity of My Fair Lady, which turns the whole thing into a love story between Higgins and pupil Eliza Doolittle) so yeah. What's up with that, dumb people?

Anyway! Since Pat and I are both students of language this episode is mostly complaining about people who think there's even a such thing as some sort of unchanging "proper English". Enjoy?

The Lady Vanishes

Personally, I think we finally start hitting our stride on this one.

In this weeks Lost in Criterion we discuss Alfred Hitchcock's 1938 comedic mystery The Lady Vanishes and we surprise ourselves with just how long we can discuss a movie that is not nearly as heavy as the first two we watched. We also write off everything Hitchcock did prior to this, which I'd like to apologize for. While his pre-1940's British period is not fillled with as many classics as the rest of his career, the movies prior to The Lady Vanishes (which include the classics The 39 Steps and the original The Man Who Knew Too Much) are nothing to shake a stick at, no matter how large the stick may be.