14th-century Norwegian drama lush, exciting
This week we begin in Norway:
rated, 80 minutes.
Available May 14 on DVD.
Fourteenth-century Norway looks barren, bleak and beautiful in this survivalist tale centering on Signe (Isabel Christine Andreasen), a 19-year-old girl who’s fled to the countryside with her family in hopes of dodging the Black Death.
But in the isolated wilderness, Signe falls captive to a small gang of marauders who kill her family. The gnarly group plans on using Signe and then disposing of her, but another young hostage takes pity, freeing her and then escaping with her.
Despite her fears, Signe proves a fierce protector and a fearsome adversary to the dim-witted bunch. A long chase dominates much of the action-filled narrative, replete with ample plot twists, gorgeous scenery and nasty characters. Ingrid Bolso Berdal plays Dagmar, the ferocious leader with severe mommy issues.
Fall Guy (***) and Loophole (***) The Warner Archive Collection releases two manufactured-on-demand titles that provide good example of the film noir genre.
One, Fall Guy, originated from the small studio Monogram Pictures, with the other, Loophole, coming from long-defunct Allied Artists. Both born in the heydey of noir, they feature shadowy lighting and deep-focus photography, sport distinguished femme fatales and have casts filled with noirish regulars in supporting roles: Elisha Cook Jr., Don Haggerty, Douglas Fowley and others.
Fall Guy originates from a short story by Cornell Woolrich (Rear Window) about a man (future TV director Clifford Penn) who wakes from a drug overdose believing he has killed a woman and stuffed her into a closet. Reeling back to life, he joins forces with an off-duty cop (King Kong’s Robert Armstrong) to untangle how he was framed. Rapidly told, tightly knit story directed by Reginald LeBorg. Released in 1947, 64 minutes.
Workhorse actor Barry Sullivan stars in Loophole as bank teller Mike Donovan, who’s been framed for embezzlement. The real thief proved so adept in the heist that Donovan cannot be prosecuted, but he’s fired from that job and then from a succession of jobs because of the interference of a Javert-like bonding company detective (the ever-snarling Charles McGraw). Dorothy Malone plays the steadfast wife, and Mary Beth Hughes is the platinum blond Lady Macbeth whose appetites push her man into crime. Directed by Harold Schuster. Released in 1954, 80 minutes.
Upstream Color (**1/2) Writer-director Shane Carruth also stars in this puzzling, long-awaited follow-up to his much talked-about 2004 film Primer. Here, he and fellow director Amy Seimetz play a pair of lovers, or would-be lovers, who struggle to find footing in their relationship.
Told in fragments, the illusory film defies understanding or description. For some reason, pigs are important. Local actor and University of North Texas graduate Dave Little ably conveys porcine concern as a concerned veterinarian. Not rated, 96 minutes.
The Wicked (**) Every cliche in the Official Horror Movie Playbook can be found in this tepid offering. At the beginning, a child disappears from a good Exorcism-like setting. Later, a group of teens goes camping in a forest, as all teens in horror movies must do. There, as expected, they find, first, a haunted house, and second, a witch.
Before long, the hapless teens are under attack, and the blood flows according to genre rules. The film even contains a “Don’t-go-in-the-basement” sequence, a monster who lurks, and a case of teen puppy love that complicates things. Not rated, 105 minutes.
And, finally, from this week’s TV offerings:
Private Practice: The Complete Sixth and Final Season This Grey’s Anatomy spin-off, also created by Shonda Rhimes, has rolled along successfully until now, when the doors at Seaside Health and Wellness will finally close.
Among the many adventures and melodramas of these 13 episodes, on three discs: Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) springs back to life, Addison (Kate Walsh) finally chooses between Jake (Benjamin Bratt) and Sam (Taye Diggs), and a new physician joins the team. With KaDee Strickland, Paul Adelstein and Brian Benben.
The set also contains deleted scenes and a blooper reel. Rated TV-14-DLS, 559 minutes.
Also available Tuesday on DVD: Jack Reacher, Safe Haven, Superman: Unbound.