The Glass Wall, and a few more films

#292  [archive]
MAY 19, 2024
In a hurry? Skip to the last review, of The Glass Wall. It's definitely the best movie in this week's batch.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Glass House (1972)
Streaming free at Internet Archive
(with 1970s commercials)

At an unidentified state prison, the training and education of a new guard is juxtaposed with the arrival of baby-faced inmate Alan Alda.

Prison life is rough and dangerous, the guards and warden are corrupt or uncaring, and if you don't make a deal and kneel before the #1 inmate you're in for an unpleasant stay.

None of these are factors you don't already know, and none of this rises above such basics.

It's adapted from a story by Truman Capote, which must've been better, but this was made for TV and reeks of it. It's formulaic and predictable, and the implied violence is mild and inoffensive.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Glass Key (1935)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

Ed Beaumont (George Raft) is the top assistant and bag man for Paul Madvig (Edward Arnold), a mobster and crooked politician. They're best buddies, in almost a father/son relationship, but Beaumont is the one with common sense, and he's more and more disdainful of what Madvig is up to. One of the things Madvig is up to is Janet Henry (Claire Dodd), daughter of a different and less corrupt politician.

Based on a novel by Dashiell Hammett, the plot is complicated, but by the end it seems tidy, and some of Hammett's seediness and violence is on the screen.

The butler, the only black person in the movie, is called 'Midnight'. Future star Ann Sheridan has a small role. 

Verdict: YES. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Glass Key (1942)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

This is a remake of the 1935 edition, above, and better than the original.

Ed Beaumont (Alan Ladd) is the top assistant and bag man for Paul Madvig (Brian Donlevy), a mobster and crooked politician. They're best buddies, in almost a father/son relationship, but Beaumont is the one with common sense, and he's more and more disdainful of what Madvig is up to. One of the things Madvig is up to is Janet Henry (Veronica Lake), daughter of a different and less corrupt politician.

Lake owns her role, which was rather forgettable in the 1935 original. Donlevy is better, too. Ladd can't top George Raft, but the direction is livelier, and the changes to the story and script are all improvements. It's a little less seedy, but more violent, and William Bendix is frightful as the sadistic henchman who joyously beats the heck out of Beaumont.

The most impressive performance is by Ladd's stuntman, who does a wild jump from a third-floor window, rolls off an awning, and drops through a skylight onto someone's supper.

Verdict: YES.  

♦ ♦ ♦ 

The Glass Menagerie (1951)
Streaming free at YouTube

Amanda Wingfield (Gertrude Lawrence) is the mean, possessive, and domineering mother of two adult children — Tom (Arthur Kennedy), a warehouse worker who thinks he deserves better in life but has never much tried, and Laura (Jane Wyman), who's shy, walks with a limp, and seems as delicate as the tiny glass figurines she collects. A 'gentleman caller' (Kirk Douglas) is almost enough to rescue the movie, and might rescue Laura from her apparent destiny of being a limping old maid.

Everyone says Tennessee Williams is one of the great American playwrights, but I haven't yet seen anything he wrote that wasn't overly mawkish and melodramatic. This movie of the play is OK, but moves slowly indeed, always talky and of its era, with a Hollywood happy ending tacked on.

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Glass Wall (1953)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

"As long as there is one man who can't walk free where he wants, as long as there is one displaced person without a home, there won't be peace because to each man, he is the world."

Peter Kaban (Vittorio Gassman) is a Hungarian stowaway on a refugee ship crossing the Atlantic, not long after World War II. The rules allow legal immigration for people who'd helped America during the war, and Kaban should qualify — he saved an American soldier's life — but he can't prove it unless he finds the friend he helped, and he never knew the guy's last name. 

This sounds like bull to US immigration authorities, so Kaban is expelled from the country, ordered out on the next sailing. Instead he jumps ship in the harbor, to search New York City for an American buddy he knew only as 'Tom'. 

This is a message movie, and I agree with its pro-immigration message. It does feel exaggerated — a city-wide dragnet to find one illegal immigrant? — but it's uncommon to see such matters addressed in cinema, and frickin' rare to see immigration treated as anything but evil.

Gloria Grahame plays a hardened, impoverished local girl who's authentically gruff and tough, but eventually and believably takes a liking to Kaban. Hollywood rarely let Grahame do serious acting, but here's her chance and of course she's amazing.

Joseph Biroc's photography rocks, beginning with the opening shot of the ship approaching New York's harbor from a great distance. There are many crisp, crowded, breathtaking views of Times Square at night, and back alleys that aren't sets.

It climaxes with a chase across the conference room of the UN Commission on Human Rights, so yeah, this flick is as corny as a corn dog, but if you're not a MAGA moron you'll love it.

Written by Ivan Tors (producer of Flipper, creator of Daktari, and himself a refugee from Hungary) and Maxwell Shane (Fear in the Night, Nightmare '56). Jerry Paris plays almost the same 'best friend' character he did on The Dick Van Dyke Show, only with a clarinet instead of comedy.

Verdict: BIG YES.

There's one line that made me spill my soda. "Well, don't be bashful," a lady says to the immigrant. "We're just honkies like you."

Soon it's clear, though, that she's from Hungary, same as the immigrant, and the line is 'Hunkies', not 'honkies'. 


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Glastonbury Fayre (2018)
Glen and Randa (1971)
Glen or Glenda (1953)
Gloria (1980)
Glorious (2022)

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

— — —
Now accepting movie recommendations,
starting with the letter 'H'.
Just add a comment, below.
— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. 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. Tennessee Williams taking a hit! My favorites of his are his short stories, much grimier than his plays. *One Arm* and *Desire and the Black Masseur* really get the blood flowing.

    1. Never guessed he wrote short stories. I've found "One Arm" available for easy reading online, and I'll start it at bedtime tonight. "Desire and the Black Masseur" seems more efficiently locked behind capitalism, but a French film, Noir et Blanc (1986), is based on the short story, and I've added it to my watchlist. Thanks!

    2. Man, I had no idea there was a movie version of *Desire and the Black Masseur.* I'll have to look for that, it's gotta be crazy. Also glad to see you are applying for Social Security. Never made sense to me that you weren't trying to get it.

    3. Well, honestly, it never made sense to me either. It's like some people's refusal to see a doctor even when they're insured. It's going to be very unpleasant, every step of it will make me angry, and I'll be in a bad mood through all of it ... until the check arrives.

  2. When that first check comes, and you are sittin' in yer recliner watching free movies and eatin' cream puffs while the rest of the sheeple work, you'll think to yourself: life finally makes sense!

    1. Oh, I'm sure I'll still have to work. I never made even middle-class wages, and for about a third of my adult life I worked off the books and didn't file. At best I'm expecting a few hundred bucks a month from Social Security.

    2. It's none of my business, but you might consider finding a job at the University of Washington. Right now on Indeed they have 1500 positions listed, and you most certainly are qualified for many of them. Also, like the motherfucking government, they pay more than they should, have better benefits than they should, and it's difficult to be fired. At least that was the case when I was briefly a lab assistant there a couple decades ago.

      Also, working at a university is marginally better than working in the "real" world.

    3. I'm on the University's job list & notification system, and yeah, everything I've heard is that they're a better employer with better benefits than most.

      I haven't looked too closely or applied for anything at UW, because of the commute; from my place it's about an hour and twenty minutes each way, with a transfer that makes it variable. That's OK for a field trip but would drive me nuts five days a week.

      More often, I check out Harborview jobs, a big ol' hospital that's run by UW. There's a bus that goes direct, easy walking distance from my door to the emergency room.

      And it's never none of your business, man. I write my life, which means all of it's fair game for comments. The only things that are nobody's business are the few things I keep to myself — my psychopathic tendencies, the murders and terrorism, stuff like that.


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