Monday, May 20, 2013

Jason goes to the Roxie for an Arch Oboler double feature

I've only made it to one night of the Roxie's current Film Noir series: I Wake Up Dreaming 2013. I've just been tired and/or busy elsewhere. But I was up there for a little Arch Oboler weirdness. A few years ago I saw his movie THE TWONKY and so I was interested in seeing more.

BEWITCHED (1945): Definitely a product of its time, and comes off as more than a little cheesy today. Joan Ellis is a good girl, and is celebrating her engagement. But she hears voices. In particular, the voice of a woman named Karen. Karen is a distinct and separate personality from Joan, but the voice is coming from inside her own head. And Karen torments Joan to the point of committing murder. While Joan sits on death row, Dr. Bergson desperately has to try to convince the governor that it's possible for two personalities--two actual, different people--to live in the same body! Yeah, split personality plots are cliche nowadays, but I guess in 1945 it was an unusual enough concept that it had to be explained to an incredulous audience.

FIVE (1951): One of the earliest (possibly the earliest?) movie to explore a post-nuclear apocalypse world. The Five of the title refer to the last five survivors (at least, the last five in that part of California). It opens on a woman walking down the street.  She's pregnant and survived the fallout because she was in an x-ray room at the time (um...that's not exactly safe for a pregnant woman, but I guess it was in the 50s.) She's rescued by a poet living in a house in the mountains. In due time, two more people show up in a car--a black man and a banker who was saved because he was in the vault at the time. They begin to make a life, but as her pregnancy starts showing the old banker is starting to show signs of radiation poisoning. They take him to the beach, where they find the fifth survivor. He survived because he was climbing Mt. Everest at the time (or so he says.) He's certainly proud of his survivalist skills and physical prowess. He's just not too thrilled that one of his fellow survivors is black. Lots of tension, fighting, danger. It's not so much plot-driven as character driven, and at that it's pretty engrossing.

Much like BEWITCHED, Oboler is treading on ground that will later be tread to the point of cliche. But while BEWITCHED has become cheesy and naive over time, FIVE shines with the freshness of the dawn of nuclear paranoia.

Total Running Time: 155 minutes
My Total Minutes: 328,095

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