From the intense and violent opening scene of a woman being gunned down on a city sidewalk by a gun-wielding blonde, J. Lee Thompson's cinematic masterpiece Yield to the Night grabs a hold of its audience and never lets go. Based on the novel of the same title by Joan Henry, the film offers an intimate look into the life of a woman driven to murder. Told partly in flashbacks, we feel sympathy for Mary Hilton, a woman who has been sentenced to hang and is waiting on death row for her execution. Yet, before we get to the dreaded final act, we're treated to outstanding performances from a mostly female cast, led by our leading lady Diana Dors. Playing against the blonde bombshell roles she was typically cast in, Dors gives a career-best award-worthy complex performance that is both powerful and haunting. Pushing past her stunning aesthetic seems like a lot to ask of the audience. Yet after the first few scenes, you realize that Dors is giving everything she has to tell this woman's tale. Supported by a cast of talented actors (including a brilliant stand-out performance by Yvonne Mitchell), Dors uses each interaction with each character to give us a glimpse into the multifaceted Mary Hilton, a woman of whom many assumptions have been made (similar to Dors own career and hypersexualized image; the parallel is echoed between actor and character in a profound way, making both worthy of a deeper study by a film scholar - yes, there's a dissertation to be discovered and written here). What makes this film so ahead-of-its-time (as many modern critics have pointed out) is the rejection of the impulse to make another woman-in-prison exploitation film (which were common in the era this film was made) and instead create a fascinating and sad exploration of the life of a doomed woman who society convicted of a crime long before pulling the trigger. Adding to the still-happening and very necessary global discourse on capital punishment, this cinematic gem should be revered for its crafted storytelling, brave performances, and its determination to make a movie with a memorable message.
Watching Shawn Levy's sci-fi action comedy The Adam Project is a fun, thrilling experience. The concept of the film is clever: a fighter pilot travels back to a specific point in his life, only to meet (and bond with) his younger self. The always-charming Ryan Reynolds is our leading man, playing the grown-up version of Adam Reed. Reynolds continues to prove he knows a thing or two about being funny. Here, his comedic timing is sharper than ever, evident each time he delivers hilarious lines of dialogue. The pairing of Reynolds with young actor Walker Scobell (who plays a 12-year old version of Adam Reed) creates a fantastic comedic duo. Their dynamic is very enjoyable to watch. They are surrounded by an all-star cast, appearing mostly in supporting roles, including Mark Ruffalo and Jennifer Garner (both should've been given more screen time), and a devilish performance by Catherine Keener as an ultra-villain who you will love to hate. At the heart of the film, this is a good
Released a year-and-a-half after Rebel Without a Cause , John Frankenheimer's delinquent youth drama The Young Stranger is filled with echoes from the iconic James Dean film. Here, high school student Hal Ditmar (played with a passionate intensity by James MacArthur) is blamed for something he didn't do: assaulting the manager of a local movie theater. Claiming the act was self defense (which it was), MacArthur spends most of the movie trying to convince the other characters of this truth, namely his father who is a wealthy film producer, played by James Daly. The only one who seems to believe in him (albeit not without a layer of doubt) is his mother, played by acclaimed actress Kim Hunter in a subdued role compared to the more powerhouse performances in her remarkable repertoire of work. This is a simple film in that it features a small cast telling a straight forward story that takes place in only a handful of locations. Certainly a precursor to the ABC Afterschool Specials
Long before there was Orange is the New Black or Wentworth , there was Caged . This women-in-prison film noir from 1950 is an intense, gritty movie that offers an in-depth look into the complicated lives of its characters. Adapted from the story Women Without Men by Virginia Kellogg and Bernard C. Schoenfeld, the script (written by Kellogg) holds nothing back. While the drama is certainly heightened, the film is remarkable in its seemingly realistic depiction of prison life for women (at least for the time it's set in). Kellogg gives us relatable characters to root for and loathe, portrayed by a talented cast of women including Eleanor Parker in an Academy Award nominated lead role, Betty Garde in a heartbreaking performance as homicidal shoplifter Kitty Stark, and Agnes Moorehead as the sympathetic prison superintendent Ruth Benton. A prison movie wouldn't be true to genre without a villain and Hope Emerson gives us a ruthless one in her sadistic portrayal of the evil prison