Favorite new-to-me films of 2022

In 2022, I didn’t watch as many due to several life changes. I only watched a little over 400 feature-length films, but still saw several great ones. Below are my favorite new-to-me films of 2022, in order of when I watched them:

cat ballou3

Cat Ballou (1965)
Directed by Elliot Silverstein
I watched this in memory of Dwayne Hickman (and now we’ve lost Michael Callan), and had a great time. I wish we had more Hickman and Callan buddy films! Bittersweet to see Nat King Cole in this, since he died shortly after.

private war2

The Private War of Major Benson (1955)
Directed by Jerry Hopper
I wanted to watch this film for several years and was happy to finally watch it. An interesting different role for Charlton Heston and lots of cute kids. I loved seeing young Sal Mineo in an early role.

carnival of sinners

La main du diable/Carnival of Sinners (1943)
Directed by Maurice Tourneur
This may actually be my all-time favorite film of 2022. I watched this in January 2022 and it has stuck with me ever since. The visuals and storytelling are simply stunning. With an intriguing plot that keeps you wondering “How will our main character get out of this predicament?” My jaw was quite literally dropped throughout most of the film. Highly recommend seeking this one out. Few films have captivated me like this one.

this happy breed

This Happy Breed (1944)
Directed by David Lean
A visually stunning film with bright Technicolor that interestingly contrasts with the poignant story. Like real life families, you see the happiest and most crushing moments of their life. There are some very sad moments in this film, and the end left me worrying for one of the main characters, as if she was a real person. It’s overall so stunning, and I love John Mills.

sound of hte mountain

Yama no oto/Sound of the Mountain (1954)
Directed by Mikio Naruse
A beautiful and sad film about how you can do everything to a relationship, but it may not matter. In this case, it’s about a husband and wife.
Naruse also shows how separated the husband and wife are by showing the wife with her father-in-law more than she is with her spouse, showing you can love someone’s family more than you may love them. Really crushing but lovely.

obsession

Obsession (1976)
Directed by Brian De Palma
Featuring composer Bernard Herrmann’s last score, this film caught me off guard. I wasn’t sure if I’d even like it, but the end unexpectedly left me in tears. I loved the cinematography that gave the feel of steamy, humid New Orleans heat. I part suspected the end twist and was shocked I was correct. I also love Cliff Robertson. As someone born and raised in the south, the only downside was John Lithgow’s exaggerated (and bad) southern accent.

last of sheil

The Last of Sheila (1973)
Directed by Herbert Ross
Probably my second favorite film of the year, and the only one on this list that had a rewatch. This is an excellent all-star “whodunit” cast. The Last of Sheila is such a fun film to watch and has excellent dialogue throughout. You keep guessing and laughing throughout.

dANCE CARD

Un carnet de bal/Dancing Card (1937)
Directed by Julien Duvivier
I would love to have the gall to be a woman in her 30s, revisiting all the men who loved me when I was 16 and say, “Do you remember me?” without saying my name or giving any context. I loved the vignettes of this story and seeing what happened to each lover. Also visually stunning. Probably my third favorite film of the year. The film LYDIA was later loosely based on this story.

the river3

The River (1951)
Directed by Jean Renoir
Visually stunning in Technicolor, this is a very quiet, methodical coming-of-age story. It had some very sad moments where you thought, “This isn’t really going to happen, right?” and then it does. The film is equally heartwarming and heartbreaking.

lady godiva

Lady Godiva Rides Again (1951)
Directed by Frank Launder
I had the best time watching this movie. This was a fun, humorous look at the world of beauty contests and the rise and fall of a beauty queen. I loved Dennis Price playing a self-absorbed movie star, and the small roles played by Alastair Sim, Googie Withers and Trevor Howard. Not the best film ever made, but lots of fun. Also, you can catch a quick glimpse of Joan Collins in this film.

cash on demand

Cash on Demand (1961)
Directed by Quentin Lawrence
A thrilling, holiday-themed heist film that keeps you wondering what will happen. Peter Cushing gives an excellent performance in this.

underworld

The Underworld Story (1950)
Directed by Cy Endfield
That Dan Duryea. Even when you’re supposed to like him (I think?), you still aren’t sure if you can trust him. Duryea gives an excellent performance as a slimy reporter who may or may not be on the level, but also may be the only person you can turn to in this film. Howard Da Silva may steal the show, though. Stunning cinematography by Stanley Cortez. The only downside in this film is the odd casting of Mary Anderson, but otherwise I loved the film.

7 women

7 Women (1965)
Directed by John Ford
Beautifully photographed, this film yields excellent performances from a largely female cast, including Anne Bancroft, Sue Lyon, Margaret Leighton, Flora Robson, Mildred Dunnock, Betty Field and Anna Lee. Eddie Albert gives a great performance, as a weak man who tries to be strong and ends up failing. The only downside of the film is the dubious casting of Mike Mazurki

captain newman md

Captain Newman, MD (1963)
Directed by David Miller
Tony Curtis brings the comic relief, Gregory Peck brings the balance, but Bobby Darin and Eddie Albert provide the stand out performances. Darin deserved an Academy Award-nomination for this one. Wow!

niights of

Le notti di Cabiria/Nights of Cabiria (1957)
Directed by Federico Fellini
I can’t believe I saw “Sweet Charity” before seeing this. Needless to say, this film is worlds better than the American musical remake. This was a crushing film with some sweet and funny moments. I can’t believe it took me this long to see it.

dirty dozen

The Dirty Dozen (1967)
Directed by Robert Aldrich
Remember that scene in “Sleepless in Seattle” where they pretend to cry about a scene in “The Dirty Dozen”? Well, I actually did cry during “The Dirty Dozen”— largely because of the Donald Sutherland character. I really enjoyed this non-conventional World War II film with an all-star cast. Shout out to Robert Ryan looking really cool in sunglasses.

brainstorm

Brainstorm (1965)
Directed by William Conrad
A thrilling film with lots of twists and turns, that really makes you start wondering about the lead character, played by Jeffrey Hunter. Dana Andrews plays a rare bad guy role, and Hunter is excellent. Also doesn’t hurt that Andrews and Hunter are both very handsome.

beast must die

La bestia debe morir/The Beast Must Die (1952)
Directed by Román Viñoly Barreto
This is an excellent film noir thriller, that tells you right off what happens, but then uses flashback to show why it happened. While it is exciting, it also is mixed with heartbreak as we see the motive for the lead character seeking revenge.
I ended this year with seeing the French retelling of this story, and while it is similar, I think the Argentinian story is slightly better done.

my man and i

My Man and I (1952)
Directed by William A. Wellman
This film caught me off guard with how great it was. Ricardo Montalbán plays a naïve, unbelievably sweet guy, Shelley Winters plays a woman who is a mess, and Wendall Corey is just a bad dude. Claire Trevor, as Corey’s wife, gives Ricardo Montalbán a look that could melt butter. This was just a great story and I really didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.

reluctant saint

The Reluctant Saint (1962)
Directed by Edward Dmytryk
Another film that I didn’t expect to love as much as I did. Maximilian Schell is fabulous and broke my heart the whole time — but in the best way. I usually think of Schell playing suave or forceful characters, but here he is a sweet, mild man. It’s a quiet, lovely film.

hell to eternitty2

Hell to Eternity (1960)
Directed by Phil Karlson
This is somehow different than most World War II films made after the conflict ended. The film is based on the real life person, Guy Gabaldon, whose adoptive family was Japanese. Hell to Eternity is a thoughtful film. Vic Damone appears in a small role, playing a character that differs from his previous MGM youthful roles. It also features some surprisingly graphic battle scenes, which were unique for 1960 cinema.

Honorable Mention:
The Eve of Saint Mark (1944)
The Turning Point (1952)
Von Ryan’s Express
Let There Be Light (1946)
Return from the Sea (1954)
Night of the Iguana (1964)
The Great Mr. Nobody (1941)

Favorite new-to-me films of 2021

At the end of each year, I think back on my favorite new-to-me film discoveries.

For the past few years, I’ve shared these in just a Twitter thread, but this year, I decided to write a formal blog post. As of Dec. 29, 2021, I have watched 517 feature films. The following or the films I’ve continued to think about long after they were over. The first three may be a tie:

crimson

The Crimson Kimono (1959)
Written and directed by Samuel Fuller
Over the past few years, I have really gotten into director Sam Fuller’s films, and I was blown away by THE CRIMSON KIMONO. The story is powerful but it’s also visually stunning.

that man from rio

That Man From Rio/ L’homme de Rio (1964)
Directed by Philippe de Broca
I watched this in memory of Jean-Paul Belmondo and was left in a glittering haze of a love of cinema — in love with this film, Belmondo and the whole idea of traveling to Rio de Janerio. I daydreamed about this movie the whole next day of watching it. Its thoroughly charming.

dog fight max resolution

Dogfight (1991)
Directed by Nancy Savoca
If you follow me on any social media platform or have spoken with me in person, you’ve heard me mention DOGFIGHT.
As of Dec. 29, 2021, I watched DOGFIGHT six times from May 2021 to the end of the year. Why? I don’t really know – do you have to have a reason for why a film moves you? All I know is that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Don’t just go off the plot description that is given for this film. Watch it for yourself.

smallest show

The Smallest Show on Earth (1957)
Directed by Basil Dearden
This is the sweetest, most charming movies. I love to see real-life married couple Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers act together for starters. And then some of the actors are their co-stars, Margaret Rutherford, Peter Sellers and Bernard Miles. It’s just plain lovely.

come next spring

Come Next Spring (1956)
Directed by R.G. Springsteen
Steve Cochran usually plays a bad dude. And here, he plays a reformed bad dude and I loved it. Come Next Spring is really lovely and visually stunning in Technicolor. Ann Sheridan is also a major highlight in this film, but Steve Cochran’s sensitive performance blew me away.

home of the brave3

Home of the Brave (1949)
Directed by Mark Robson
I didn’t expect to cry as much as I did during this movie. Not only does HOME OF THE BRAVE look at racial tensions with Black and White soldiers serving in World War II, but it also looks at the complicated emotions of soldiers when their friends are killed in action. James Edwards is not recognized enough as an actor and he shines here.

no regrets

No Regrets for Our Youth/Waga seishun ni kuinashi (1946)
Directed by Akira Kurosawa
An incredible film that left me speechless. I was blown away. Actress Setsuko Hara is always wonderful, but I enjoyed seeing her play a different type of character than I’m used to seeing. Hara’s character is complex and transforms from a selfish, conflicted youth to a woman who sacrifices her life and reputation for a loved one.

here i am stranger3

Here I am a Stranger (1939)
Directed by Roy Del Ruth
This was my favorite new-to-me film from 1939 of this year. Richard Dix gave an emotional and sensitive performance of a father who reconnects with his son after many years. I also loved seeing Brenda Joyce play against type.
My full review here.

tickle me 7

Tickle Me (1965)
Directed by Norman Taurog
Have you ever remembered a movie scene that you watched as a child but you never knew what it was? Watching Tickle Me solved that mystery for me this year—I remembered Elvis and a woman in a haunted house and never knew what it was. Tickle Me is wacky and ridiculous, but it also made me laugh more than any other new-to-me movie I watched this year. Sometimes a feel good silly film is needed at the right moment. A movie doesn’t have to be the best, most serious Academy Award winner to find its way on a list like this. Shout out to my friend Nikki who loves this film. My full review here.

St. Louis Blues

St. Louis Blues (1958)
Directed by Allen Reisner
After wanting to see this film for years, I was happy to finally discover this musical. It’s interesting to see Nat King Cole in a lead performance, when he generally only appeared as a specialty act in feature films. This film is chock full of musical performances, and Eartha Kitt naturally steals the show. My full review here.

mad

Madeleine (1950)
Directed by David Lean
Why did I put off watching this film for so long? This had me on the edge of my seat, and also feeling heartbroken for Madeleine’s suiter, Mr. Minnoch. Even more interesting that this is based on a true story.

green for

Green for Danger (1946)
Directed by Sidney Gilliat
This “whodunit” had me guessing until the very end of the film. Thoroughly enjoyable, and Alastair Sim was wonderful (per usual).

magnificent

The Magnificent Dope (1942)
Directed by Walter Lang
I didn’t know what to expect from THE MAGNIFICENT DOPE, and judging by the title, I feared it would be an irritating, zany comedy. Far from it. Don Ameche as a bullish, unsuccessful business man and lazy Henry Fonda gets caught up in his success scheme when he wins the “biggest failure” contest. Both are in love with Lynn Bari. It sounds silly but it works in a charming way.

Heres-to-the-young-lady-still-1

Here’s to the Young Lady/Ojôsan kanpai (1949)
Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita
What a joy! This lovely romantic comedy made me laugh and left me feeling wistful.

strange

Strange Bargain (1949)
Directed by Will Price
Martha Scott and Jeffrey Lynn? Sign me up! I thought this was an exciting film noir with interesting twists. Now I need to watch the follow-up “Murder, She Wrote” episode.

song of the open road3

Jackie Moran, Bonita Granville, Jane Powell in SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD

Song of the Open Road (1944)
Directed by S. Sylvan Simon
This was the only Jane Powell film I hadn’t seen, and after she died I sought it out. It may be low budget, but I had such fun watching it. The film begins with teens riding bikes and singing and I was charmed at that moment. My full review here.

under pup3

The Under-Pup (1939)
Directed by Richard Wallace
This was another favorite 1939 new-to-me film discovery. I haven’t seen many Gloria Jean films, because they can be difficult to access. My full review here.

Honorable Mention
Films I loved but didn’t quite make the favorites list
Rembrandt (1936)
Convicts 4 (1962)
The Lovers (1958)
Invitation to Happiness (1939)
Murder at the Vanities (1934)
Seven Keys to Baldpate (1929)
Tennessee Champ (1954)
Crooks and Coronets (1969)
As Long as They’re Happy (1955)

I joined Letterboxd this year, so if you’d like to see my thoughts on other films I watch, you can find me here: https://letterboxd.com/HollywoodComet/

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at cometoverhollywood@gmail.com

Review: Enchanted Island (1958)

With bright blue eyes and a soprano singing voice, Jane Powell won over audiences with her first screen appearance in 1944.

She became one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s top musical starts from 1946 to 1955 — every one of her movies was filmed in Technicolor. Her co-stars were other bright new stars from “Holiday in Mexico” (1946) with Roddy McDowall to “Two Weeks with Love” (1950) with Riccardo Montalban.

But as the studio system declined and musicals failed to reign supreme, Powell’s career declined too. The last time movie audiences saw her in a starring role in a feature film was in 1958 in “Enchanted Island.”

But rather than a singing sweetheart, Powell dons a long black wig, a sarong and a tan as she plays a Typee woman who lives on a South Sea Island.

Set in 1842, a ship stops at a South Sea Island. Sailor Abner Bedford (Dana Andrews) is belligerent with the captain (Ted de Corsia), because the sailors are refused shore leave. The captain eventually relents, but Abner argues with the captain when he disapproves of drinking and carrying on with the native women; warning Abner and the crew that anything beyond the shore is dangerous.

After a fight, Abner jumps ship and sailor Tom (Don Dubbins) tags along. Abner’s intentions all along were to escape the ship, because he wants to be a free man.

Abner and Tom travel deeper into the island jungle and come across a tribe, the Typees, who are rumored to be cannibals. Abner falls in love with one of the Typees, Fayway (Jane Powell). The two are going to marry and Tom disapproves, believing that Abner needs to return to Western Civilization.

Tom runs away to return to civilization, and Abner and Fayaway live happily together. However, their happiness fades when Abner believes the Typees are watching him — making him feel less free — and he also has suspicions about what happened to Tom.

Continue reading

The Romanovs: 100 years of legends and rumors

One-hundred years ago, on July 17, 1918, the last royal family of Russia—Tsar Nicholas II, Empress Alexandra, their five children and a few aides —were taken into a cellar and assassinated.

Romanov family portrait in 1913

And while this was the end of the Romanovs and the Russian monarchy, it was just the beginning of 100 years of legends, rumors and myths that surrounded the royal family. From a 1928 American film based on Romanov imposter Anna Anderson to a 2016 Broadway musical, the world has been fascinated by the Romanovs. The curiosity doesn’t just revolve around if any of them survived (DNA and science now tell us that they didn’t), but also the relationship with Rasputin, the “mad monk,” the royal lifestyle and the seemingly charmed lives that the grand duchesses lived.

Below are films released from 1928 to 1997 about the last Tsar of Russia and his family:

Continue reading

Review: Friday the Thirteenth (1933)

When it comes to Friday the 13th films, audiences generally recollect horror films involving a man in a ski mask. But before those gory films came to be, British film released by Gainsborough Pictures follows a group on a bus just minutes before the clock strikes midnight on Friday the 13th.

Directed by Victor Saville, Friday the Thirteenth (1933) the film begins with the following statement:

“You hear of an accident. There are victims. Strangers to one another. Supposing we could put back the clock and see how chance made these strangers share this appalling moment.”

The film begins as we see people riding a bus on a rainy night with the clock ticking closer to Friday the 13th. Lightning strikes a crane, and the bus driver has to swerve to miss the falling debris and wrecks. Newspapers flash on the screen with headlines about the wreck and that two people were killed. Before we know further, Big Ben ticks back to the beginning of Thursday the 12th and we see what lead everyone to get on this bus.

Continue reading

Christmas on Film: The Cheaters (1945)

Last Christmas, I was wrapping presents and watching made-for-TV Christmas movies on YouTube when — after finishing Susan Lucci’s Christmas Carol — a film began autoplaying.

I was excited to find a new-to-me classic Christmas film (which I have previously palmentioned can be hard to find).

“The Cheaters” (1945) most likely won’t be added to my mandatory list of Christmas season viewing, but it’s a fairly enjoyable film.

Wealthy James C. Pidgeon (Eugene Pallette) is about to go bankrupt while his wife Clara (Billie Burke), children (Ann Gillis, Ruth Terry, David Holt), and brother-in-law (Raymond Walburn) are all still happily living off what little money he has left.

To top off the financial issues, Pidgeon’s daughter Theresa (Terry) demands that the family invites a charity case to their home for Christmas. She wants to impress her soldier boyfriend, Stephen (Robert Livingston) because his mother always invites a charity case for Christmas.

For their charity case, the family selects Anthony Marchaund (Joseph Schildkraut), a has-been actor who was injured in a car wreck at the height of his career. He now drinks too much and walks with a limp.

Continue reading

Christmas on Film: The Holly and the Ivy (1952)

2019 update: The Holly And The Ivy was released on DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time in Nov. 2019 by Kino Lorber. 

Like most of us, I grew up on classic Christmas films—from White Christmas to The Bishop’s Wife to Christmas in Connecticut. And as I realized new-to-me pre-1968 Christmas movies were dwindling, I began scrounging for more. Surely there were still some left to discover!

That’s how I stumbled upon “The Holly and the Ivy” (1952) last Christmas while browsing Amazon. But much to my dismay, the only DVDs sold were Region 2 (not able to play on U.S. devices) and it didn’t appear to be streaming online.

So as the holidays rolled around again this year, I searched and found someone selling a DVRed copy of this English film and I snatched it up.

Starring Ralph Richardson, Celia Johnson, Denholm Elliott, Margaret Leighton, Hugh Williams, Margaret Halstan and Maureen Delaney, the film takes place as a family returns home on Christmas Eve. And in the midst of the bright holiday, none of them are very happy and are hiding their troubles.

Continue reading

Review: The Very Thought of You (1944)

World War II films are my favorite genre. This doesn’t just include films about battle—I love looking at life on the home front, the Army Nurse Corps, and how actors were involved in the war effort in real life.

Then there are the World War II romance films, which often can involve a quick love affair that leads to marriage. A girl and a soldier meet while he’s on leave, and they marry, hardly knowing each other. They often marry so they will have someone to write home to or the girl falls in love with the uniform (we see this in Best Years of Our Lives).

One of the best in this genre is “The Very Thought of You” (1944). Directed by Delmer Daves and starring Dennis Morgan and Eleanor Parker, “The Very Thought of You” looks at whirlwind wartime marriages, and the disapproval a girl might meet from her family. War era films often show families happily welcoming soldiers into their homes and feeding them sandwiches and milk. But not in “The Very Thought of You”—we see the opposite.

Continue reading

Review: “Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches” (2016)

Rod Taylor

In the 1950s, Hollywood was filled with suave and stylish stars like Cary Grant and William Holden, and the brooding method actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean.

And then there was Rod Taylor, who was in a class all his own.

Hollywood’s top director, Alfred Hitchcock, cast him in “The Birds” (1963), Walt Disney wanted him to voice a Dalmatian, and even Albert “Cubby” Broccoli approached Rod Taylor about playing James Bond. (He refused because he thought that sort of story was best for television—it would never work in films—later saying this was the stupidest remark he ever made).

A 2016 documentary, “Rod Taylor: Pulling No Punches” highlights this standout actor’s life and work. Rod Taylor himself helps tell his story through an interview that was filmed in 2012.

Continue reading

Review: Geordie (1955)

Never have I stumbled over a more delightful film.

While searching for films about sports, the 1955 British film “Geordie,” released in the U.S. as “Wee Geordie,” came up in the results. I hadn’t heard of this film or several of the stars, but I decided to give it a go and I’m glad I did.

Geordie is smaller than the other students and gets picked on.

Geordie is smaller than the other students and gets picked on.

Directed by Frank Launder, “Geordie” follows a young boy named Geordie MacTaggart (Paul Young) who is the smallest in his class and Scottish village. The “wee” boy is fed up with being picked on at school and harassed about his height.

Geordie spots an advertisement for a mail-order body-building course on the back of his father’s (Jameson Clark) newspaper. He orders Henry Samson’s (Francis DeWolff) exercise correspondence and continues to work through the course until he’s a tall, strong 21-year-old man (Bill Travers — who was 6′ 6″). Geordie’s girl Jean (Norah Gorsen) is aggravated by the exercises and feels like it takes up all of his time.

Continue reading