Home Movies/Out on Digital: April 13, 2017
A Kind of Murder
The cloud of suspicion darkens over his head: Walter (Patrick Wilson) wishes his demented wife (Jessica Biel) was dead—and then she is in this film adapted from a Patricia Highstreet novel. The lies he tells to cover his guilty feelings ensnare him in the trap laid by an obsessive homicide detective. Although the dialogue flirts with anachronism, A Kind of Murder maintains a wintry noir mood and recreates the look of “Mad Men”-era New York.
Daughters of the Dust
The Gullah people, concentrated on the Sea Islands off the coast of South Carolina, are most familiar as the protagonists of George Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess. They are also central to writer-director Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991). Set in 1902, Daughters is a visually poetic, theatrically written evocation of life among a black community that, in its isolation from the mainland, preserved many African influences and developed a distinct culture and dialect.
After fleeing America in the McCarthy era, film noir director Jules Dassin worked in Europe. His Phaedra (1962) is a canny modern adaptation of the ancient Greek tragedy by Euripides. Set largely in Greece, it stars Melina Mercouri in the seductive title role and Anthony Perkins as the stepson with whom she falls in love. An exploration of power—erotic as well as economic—Phaedra overcomes its modest budget through astute cinematography and location shooting.
Technology fails again and again in Blast-Off (1967). Spoofing Jules Verne and satirizing Victorian notions of progress through science, Blast-Off follows a bungling international effort to send a man to the moon in a capsule fired from a giant canon. Burl Ives turns in a fine performance as P.T. Barnum, depicted as a huckster on the run who cons his way into the scheme. Blast-Off (aka Those Fantastic Flying Fools) also stars Terry-Thomas as a British swindler.