Hiroshima, and a few more movies

#206  [archive]
NOV. 3, 2023

Hiroshima (1953)

Hiroshima is of the same genre as The Day After, On the Beach, Miracle Mile, Special Bulletin, and other nuclear war warning films. The distinction is that those are about what if, what might, what we hope won't happen, while this one's about a bomb that actually went boom.

In a Hiroshima classroom, a teacher's lectures are interrupted by students getting leukemia and other 'A-bomb diseases'. The bomb exploded eight years earlier, and its aftermath is still all around the city, in the sadness of the sickness, and the discomfort of those who hope they're healthy. Some kids are angry, some passive, some simply 'there', and eventually the teacher alters his lesson plan to lecture about leukemia, what it is and how it progresses.

The movie, though, is not a lecture. Nor is it a blast. But it's not to be missed.

The post-bomb classroom and hospital scenes would've been enough for a fine film, but midway through, school's out. We flash back to before the bomb was dropped, and what came after. It's literally jaw-dropping — I watched with my mouth open, aghast.

Hiroshima had been a city about the population of Seattle in the '40s — 345,000. The initial blast took about 70,000 of them, and 'quick' radiation sickness took twice as many more over the next few months.

Of those who didn't die, many were sickened later, and the fatal and non-fatal effects have continued for decades, into the generation born after the bombing. Without any scientific studies to cite, I'm quite sure that even today, among people living in Hiroshima or Nagasaki, leukemia and other cancers remain more common than among people living elsewhere in Japan. 

In the film, we see children lost in what's left of the city, their parents dead or dying or driven mad, and corpses lovingly dropped into the river to be swept away by the currents. Children teach each other to beg, and the skulls of the dead are soon for sale as souvenirs, to American tourists.

Local authorities seem to have been told nothing, and lie about what little they do know, because the language of bureaucracy is universal. The Japanese military is portrayed as useless, for what's a warrior to do once the war is lost? The Americans come off poorly, but less poorly than they deserve.

Through all this misery, it's also a story with individual characters to care about. They're dealing with the worst tragedy they'll ever see, though it's not half as horrific as the next use of such weapons will be. Technology marches on, and the weapons we've developed and stockpiled now are capable of much higher quantity killing.

The film's dialogue grows didactic occasionally, and soaring choral performances remind you to be sad, as if any decent human might forget, even without the Nagasaki Boys Choir. Considering the film's pedigree, though — filmed on location among the ruins — no amount of hammering its point could be hammering its point excessively.

Hiroshima is based on Children of the A Bomb, by Arata Osada, a non-fiction book filled with first-person stories collected from survivors shortly after the Big Hell of 8/6/1945. The film is quite somber, and only some son-of-a-bitch could walk away unaffected. We have become Death, destroyer of worlds.

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Green Girl (2014)
Streaming free

Susan Oliver was a beautiful blonde actress, who worked mostly on television — lots of television, from the late 1950s to the late '80s. In her most famous role, she played Vina, 'the green girl', on the first pilot episode of the original Star Trek, but you might also remember her from guest appearances on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Alias Smith and Jones, The Andy Griffith Show, Barnaby Jones, Ben Casey, The Big Valley, Bonanza, Burke's Law, Camera One, Cannon, Checkmate, Dan August, Days of Our Lives, The Defenders, Dr. Kildare, Father Knows Best, The F.B.I., The Fugitive, Gomer Pyle: USMC, Gunsmoke, I Spy, The Invaders, Johnny Staccato, Longstreet, Love American Style, The Love Boat, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Magnum, P.I., Mannix, Medical Center, Murder She Wrote, My Three Sons, Naked City, The Name of the Game, Night Gallery, The Outsider, Petrocelli, Peyton Place, Playhouse 90, Police Story, Police Surgeon, Rawhide, Route 66, 77 Sunset Strip, Simon & Simon, The Streets of San Francisco, Studio Three, T.H.E. Cat, Thriller, The Twilight Zone, The Untouchables, The Virginian, Wagon Train, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Wild Wild West, Zane Grey Theatre, and other shows.

She was never very famous, and isn't now, except among hardcore Star Trek fans. Titled The Green Girl, I was expecting a Trekcentric film, but there's very little of that. Star Trek was, after all, only a few days of her life, and this film pulls way, way back to tell us all about Ms Oliver.

She was twice under contract to major studios, but her movie career fizzled — intentionally, you could say — when she refused to do movies with stupid scripts. She had three offers to star in television series, each of which she declined. Apparently, she didn't want to be a big star.

She had a fear of flying, and figured the best way to overcome it would be earning a pilot's license. Then she flew across the North Atlantic, and competed in cross-country air races.

She insulted Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8.

She dated Sandy Koufax, sure, but also Mira Slovak, who'd defected from the Soviet Bloc by hijacking a commercial airliner. 

She was a feminist, and a little too under the thumb of her mother, and she never married.

When a friend finagled her a star on Hollywood Blvd, she politely declined.

Though she'd been dead twenty years when this documentary was made, lots of friends and former co-workers were eager to share their memories of Susan Oliver, and the interview snips are surrounded by hundreds of clips that inarguably establish she really was a very good actress. 

Despite being only Star Trek-aware of Ms Oliver before watching this, coming in with no interest in her or in 'celebrities', this film never bored me. How could it? I love old movies and TV clips, she seems to have seriously been a better-than-average human, and you could do worse than spending an hour and a half looking at Susan Oliver.

'The green girl' was a complicated lady who led a more interesting life than you'd expect. Maybe everyone does.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Gorilla (1939)
Streaming free

A serial killer who wears a gorilla suit has the city terrorized. He always leaves a message the day before a murder, telling the victim to expect him.

That seems an unlikely modus operandi for a successful murder, but this is a comedy. The Gorilla has killed five people so far. Is that funny?

Walter Stevens (Lionel Atwill) gets word that The Gorilla is coming to kill him — the note even tells him what time — so rather than, say, locking the doors or buying a gun, he hires Harrigan, Mulligan, and Garrity to be his personal bodyguards and private detectives. They're played by Harry, Al, and Jimmy Ritz, a/k/a the Ritz Brothers, a big comedy act of the 1930s. 

This is my first look at the Ritzes, and they're like the Three Stooges, only without any physical comedy — no nose-twists or head-smacks, which doesn't leave much to laugh at. There's one mildly amusing bit of dialogue, but it seems unfair to give away a comedy's best joke, so I shan't. What's left is a crowded tie for the film's second funniest line:

    • "Where's the back door?"
    "In back of you."

    • "You're making a big mistake."
    "Yeah? Well, it won't be the first time."

    • "We're detectives, aren't we?"
    "Are we?"

One of the detectives, Harrigan, keeps saying to another, "Make a note of that, Garrity," and after the third or fourth recitation, that line did get a giggle out of me. Also, vaudevillian Patsy Kelly plays a maid who screams a lot, which is funnier than the three brothers combined. Which isn't all that funny.

Bela Lugosi is in the cast, and does one quick kung fu move, but he doesn't wear the gorilla suit.

Verdict: NO.


• • • Coming attractions • • •

Morgan: A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966)
Popeye (1980)
Reflections of Evil (2002)
Sons of the Desert (1933)
Truck Turner (1974)
Who's That Girl? (1987)

... plus occasional schlock and surprises 

    • • • And then • • •

A Gnome Named Gnorm (1990)
Alexander Nevsky (1938)
The Bat People (1974)
The Beatles: Get Back (2021)
Berkeley in the Sixties (1990)
Brainwaves (1983)
The Card Counter (2021)
Cellular (2004) 
The Dark Glow of the Mountains (1985)
Dark Star (1974)
The Day My Parents Became Cool (2009)
The Decline of Western Civilization (1980)
Downsizing (2017)
Frankenhooker (1990)
The General (1926)
Get Shorty (1995)
Hugo (2011)
The Importance of Being Earnest (1952)
The Internet's Own Boy (2014)
Kids in the Hall (debut episode; 1988) 
Kids in the Hall (reunion debut episode; 2022)
The Killing of America (1981)
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) 
Line of Duty (debut episode; 2012)
Love Happy (1950)
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
The Man Who Thought Life (1969)
The Man with Nine Lives (1940)
The Manhattan Project (1996)
Not Wanted (1949)
Nothing But a Man (1964)
Phone Booth (2002)
PickAxe (1999)
Poison (1990)
Revelations (1993)
Ride in the Whirlwind (1966)
Romper Stomper (1992)
Room Service (1938)
Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)
Saved! (2004)
Scared to Death (1947)
Secret Weapons (1985)
The Shooting (1966)
The Soloist (2009)
Street of Crocodiles (1986)
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
Taken for a Ride (1996)
The Train (1964)
Welcome to New Orleans (2006)
Who Farted? (2019)
Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. No link for Hiroshima, which I would like to see. Thx

    1. Google's a good recommendation.

      As a kindness, I include links for the movies that are hard to find, or for movies found free. This one's neither.

    2. Smacked down twice. An honor!

    3. The pleasure was mine. Holler if you honestly can't find the film.

  2. If you're determined to continue with A-Bomb cinema (and why not? it will happen to all of us eventually) I suggest Black Rain (1989)


    Imamura was a remarkably diverse director, working in both docs & features and interested in any subject you can think of. His Vengeance Is Mine (1979) is one of the better serial killer films - not at all gross or graphic but a very compelling study of the Japanese iteration of the phenomenon


    1. Saw Black Rain when it came out, and remember it well. By which I mean I remember liking it, but nothing at all about it. Time for a rerun.

      Vengeance is Mine was a novel I wrote and threw away. Seeking the movie now...

    2. Claude When It Poors It ReignsNovember 4, 2023 at 7:48 PM

      Coincidentally, there is another Vengeance Is Mine, from 1984, starring the great Brooke Adams and directed by the great Michael Roemer - I see you have his Nothing But A Man on your coming attractions list.


    3. Nothing But A Man brings to mind Killer Of Sheep - not sure if I ever recommended it, but I am now, it's a masterpiece


      Probably one of the most amazing first films ever, alongside Badlands and Spirit Of The Beehive (with which it shares very similar style and tone). Burnett's To Sleep With Anger is also excellent.

    4. As you know, all recommendations are appreciated. You might not know, Brooke Adams is a favorite of mine, one of the many actresses forgotten past 40, but she was never less than excellent.


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