Lives and histories intertwine with shock and suspense in latest releases
This week we begin in Pennsylvania:
This passable psychological-thriller uses the overly familiar device of multiple personalities, while also mixing in elements of horror, witchcraft, reincarnation and the always popular soul-transference.
Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein directed from Michael Cooney’s script about Cara (Julianne Moore), a forensic psychiatrist who responds to a plea from her father (Jeffrey DeMunn) to examine Adam (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). She reluctantly relents, only to witness how Adam physically convulses into his other selves.
Before long, Cara finds herself wrapped up in a long-past murder, as well as with the lives and histories of several people who all seem to intertwine.
Eventually, Adam, or one of his other selves, threatens Cara’s family.
Marlind and Stein show no reluctance to incorporate hoary genre devices, such as having a figure dart in front of the camera, having the camera slowly creep up behind someone, having someone pop a head up from behind, and various other gimmicks.
Overall, however, the creepy atmospherics of the Pennsylvania settings help to maintain adequate interest.
Terror on a Train -- Right Cross -- and The Decks Ran Red -- Warner Archive releases three variously engaging, manufactured-on-demand titles.
In Terror on a Train (72 minutes, 1952), Glenn Ford plays an expatriate American in Birmingham, England, called in on the job when it looks like a suspected terrorist has set a time device triggered to a bomb on a train filled with sea mines.
The train stops in town, and everyone evacuates the area. Ford, using the skills he learned during World War II, must check the individual train cars. To complicate his fragile state of mind, his wife (Anne Vernon) picks this night to leave him.
Cinematographer-turned-director Ted Tetzlaff creates and then maintains suspense as Ford works away, but more importantly, he films his night scenes with great élan, conjuring up stylish yet still ominous settings.
Real life husband and wife Dick Powell and Jane Allyson star in Right Cross (90 minutes, 1950), a somewhat lumpy mixture of romance, boxing drama and even racial introspection.
She plays Pat O’Malley, daughter of ailing fight promoter Sean O’Malley (Lionel Barrymore). She loves world boxing champion Johnny Monterez (Ricardo Montalban), who loves her but secretly hides a possible permanent injury to his right hand.
And more, he sports a huge chip on his shoulder, believing everyone looks down on him because he is a Mexican national. He freely admits and talks about this perceived prejudice, something rarely seen or heard in a 1950 movie.
Powell plays free-spirited boxing journalist Rick Garvey, who harbors a good-natured crush on Pat while being a friend and confident of Johnny’s.
A romance plays out, while several injuries occur, both to right hands and to personal feelings and prejudices. Several notable character actors fill in some minor roles, including a 23 year-old unbilled Marilyn Monroe in a tiny part.
The Decks Ran Red (84 minutes, 1958) features a compelling cast, including James Mason starring as Captain Rummill, an eager salt who takes the helm of his first ship only to find it a rusty tub in New Zealand filled with a crew bent on revolt.
Ever-snarling Broderick Crawford, surely the most one-dimensional actor ever to win a Best Actor Oscar, plays Scott, a bitter sailor who schemes with fellow mate Martin (Stuart Whitman) to kill everyone on board and scuttle the ship for insurance money.
Fabled and ill-fated Dorothy Dandridge took one of her rare screen roles as the cook’s wife, whose on-board presence sets off several fights, leading to the ship’s eventual mutiny and subsequent crisis.
Inescapable -- The timing would seem right for this international thriller about Adib (Alexander Siddig), a Syrian man who migrated to Canada years earlier after escaping a governmental death sentence.
Now, when his grown daughter turns up missing in Syria when she is supposed to be in Greece, he travels to Damascus in an attempt to find and rescue her.
It sounds like the plot from the two Taken movies, but the execution differs, as writer-director Ruba Nadda avoids excessive violence and plentiful action and instead relies on limited action and psychological interplay. It also results in a less exciting film.
An embarrassingly out-of-place Marisa Tomei plays Fatima, the woman Adib left behind years ago when he fled to Canada, and Joshua Jackson is a Canadian diplomat who knows more than he lets on.
Rated R, 93 minutes. The DVD also includes a 16-minute “behind-the-scenes” featurette, three minutes of deleted scenes and a 31-minute featurette of the Q&A at Indigo.
Least Among Saints -- This seemingly sincere, yet emotionally overwrought, drama mixes standard coming-home elements with abandoned-child dramatics.
Do-it-all filmmaker Martin Papazian wrote, directed and then took the leading role as Anthony, a recently released soldier who returns to his Tuscon home to face few prospects and a wife who divorced him.
He drinks too much and suffers from nightmares, which leads to his harassing his now ex-wife.
The local police chief (Charles S. Dutton) tries to counsel Anthony, as well as keep him out of trouble and jail.
Shortly after moving into a shabby new house, Anthony’s next-door junkie neighbor dies. Her 10-year-old son, Wade (Tristan Lake Leabu), knows only to go to Anthony for protection.
The adult bonds with child and wants to protect him and perhaps keep him under his guardianship. But the local social worker (Laura San Giacomo) naturally objects.
When she relents and allows Wade to stay a few days with Anthony, the two take a road trip to try and find Wade’s real father. When that falters, Anthony erupts, leading to his separation from the one person who cared about him.
In the end, naturally, a formulaic redemption kicks in as both Anthony and Wade help each other to find themselves along with some semblance of peace.
Rated R, 109 minutes. The DVD includes commentary, a three-minute “Script to screen” segment, four minutes of cast interviews, and a five-minute featurette with reflections on the film from several military veterans.
Also on DVD: The Curtis Harrington Short Film Collection, Venus and Serena.