Friday, July 12, 2019

"Echo in the Canyon" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the documentary "Echo in the Canyon" as well as DVDs "Escape Room" and "Johnny English Strikes Again."  The Book of the Week is "Tell It To My Heart" by singer Taylor Dayne.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Distant Voices, Still Lives."]

Echo in the Canyon

A documentary about the historic L.A. music scene of the 1960's.

"Young girls are coming to the canyon..." 

So wrote The Mamas and The Papas founder John Phillips, and the canyon was Laurel Canyon, a little oasis amist the hustle and bustle of L.A. And along with John Phillips and those young girls, artists and musicians also flocked to that canyon during the 1960's and sparked a musical renaissance like no other that influenced American culture for ever after.

The Beatles played The Ed Sullivan Show February 9, 1964 and the musical world would never be the same again. Well, even the world in general.  That show was musically and culturally as ground-shaking as putting a man on the moon.  After that performance, every young man (girls, too) wanted a guitar and wanted to start a band.  Meanwhile, in Laurel Canyon and the Sunset Strip, bands like The Byrds, the Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield, and The Beach Boys were making music, turning what was once considered folk music into rock and roll - the California Sound.

Writer/director Andrew Slater and Eric Barrett along with Jakob Dylan (yes, Bob's son) recognized that time and phenomenon and wanted to pay tribute to the trailblazers, those who were at the musical epicenter of what was to be a culturally shattering earthquake of talent and brilliance and preserve it for the younger generation. The centerpiece of the film is a 2015 tribute concert led by Dylan called "Echo in the Canyon" which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Southern California folk rock scene with performances of the iconic songs from that era sung by him, Cat Power, Jade, Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple and Beck (Norah Jones also performs in the film) interspersed with his interviews with the key players of that time - Roger McGuinn and David Crosby (The Byrds; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), Michelle Phillips (The Mamas and the Papas), Brian Wilson (The Beach Boys), Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young), Ringo (guess), and music producer Lou Adler, along with reminiscences from the late Tom Petty (his last film interview), Jackson Browne, Eric Clapton, and others.  The film gives us a then and now - some iconic performances back then with the performers talking about them now .

The Byrds' 1965 debut album is given credit for starting the whole Laurel Canyon music scene.  They were inspired by The Beatles and, in turn, Brian Wilson's "Pet Sounds" supposedly inspired "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." In fact, as the late Tom Petty says in the film, there was "cross pollination" going on all over the place during those times, and it's those kinds of insights from the musicians that makes this film so fascinating. 

Those songs were the soundtracks of many Baby Boomers lives.  It was a great time to be young, to believe anything was possible. It was a time of innocence but the film ends with a strange, grainy performance by Neil Young that is perhaps a foreshadowing of the end of that innocence.

Now if you are a regular reader of my blog, you know my reviews often include my personal thoughts, memories and, yes, rants.  That's what makes my reviews special, right?  Watching this film was a delight because of the music, but it also brought back so many memories. It's a phenomenal film that brought tears to my eyes (Hubby cried through the whole thing) remembering back to such an amazing time - the mid-1960's, the time of my youth.

That was when I was in high school. And what a time for music! It was a time when listening to a new album was an event.  We listened to the whole record and played it over and over again.  Some of us, who will remain nameless, memorized the liner notes. I would stay up late on Thursday nights to hear the latest Beatles 45 played on the radio at 10pm on WLS and then my friends and I would talk about it at school the next day. 

And oh, those concerts!  Lying on the living room floor with my friend, Linda, we saw the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I think we might have cried. I saw the Beatles at the Olympia Stadium in Detroit in 1964 with my friend, Janice, and I saw The Byrds with my friends when the band performed at the roller rink in Grand Haven, a small Michigan coastal town ten miles from where I lived.  David Crosby, enshrouded in a cape (much is made of his affinity for capes in the film), was out on the dance floor dancing with some of the girls in the audience.  I stood so close to Gene Clark I could have grabbed one of the harmonicas he had tucked into his belt.  I saw Bob Dylan when he first went electric.  He played the first half of the concert as the usual folkie Bob Dylan, and then after the intermission, he came out with his band and played electric and everyone boo'd him.  I didn't.

I have always sort of felt sorry for the younger generation, that they missed out on what we Baby Boomers had.  Not just the music, but the changing times.  It was an exciting time to be alive.  It was a revolution on a magnificent scale and I was there!  

And you can be there too when you watch this wonderful film!

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film deserves an Oscar for Best Documentary because it is one of the best films of the year.  DO NOT MISS IT, especially if you are a Baby Boomer!

(And yes, these smaller indie films are sometimes difficult to find, but it's worth looking for)!

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


Escape Room (2019)

Six strangers are in an escape room trying to win $10,000 - and end up fighting for their lives!

We all know about escape rooms, right?  They can be creepy, but what if they are also deadly?  That's the premise in this thriller about six strangers, all with their own story, who have come together to try to win $10,000.

The film begins with a young man anxiously trying to escape an escape room as the walls start moving toward him to crush him.  Ew.  Then flashback three days earlier.

Meet Zoey (Taylor Russell), a young student who appears to be a science phenom.  But she is so shy she won't speak up in class nor does she have much of a social life.  Her teacher calls her over at the end of class and says, "Life is not a science experiment.  You can't contain your world forever.  Try to do one thing that scares you over break."

Then she receives a mysterious box that says "Open new doors."


Then there is Ben (Logan Miller), who is kind of a screw-up.  He works in a grocery store but has been sent back to the stock room because his customer service skills aren't so good.  Does he care?  Not really. He also receives a mysterious box.  His says "A chance to escape."

Next Jason Walker (Jay Ellis), a rich, arrogant day trader, receives a mysterious box in the mail with the note that says "Think outside the box." 

After struggling to open the mysterious boxes, a ticket to an escape room spits out, an escape room with a prize of $10,000.

Those three find themselves at the escape room where they also meet trucker Mike (Tyler Labine); Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll), a troubled war vet; and Danny (Nik Dodani), a nerdy kid who has already done most of the escape rooms around. And as they wait in what they think is the lobby of the escape room, suddenly horrifically hot heat lamps come on, turning the room into a real life convection oven.

Game on!

The six get out of the first room just in time, but as they encounter more rooms - a cabin, a freezing cold exterior with a frozen lake, an upside down pool hall, a hospital - of course, they start to turn on each other but eventually bond and reveal their secrets.  The escape rooms have the ability to make our victims relive some of their worst experiences and the power to eventually kill them. Who will die?  Who will make it out? And what links these six people together?

Though the actors are relatively unknown, they all form a really good ensemble. They make you care about them. You root for them.  And each of the escape rooms is a fascinating set piece on its own.  Kudos to the set designer.

I like the occasional horror film but not the really gory ones. Written by Bragi F. Schut and Maria Melnik, who did a great job fleshing out these characters, something not often found in horror films, and directed by Adam Robitel, this is actually more of a thriller than a horror film.  Yes, some of the characters meet some scary deaths and it's very tense, but it's not in the same category as some of the really gory films like "Hostel" and "Jigsaw."  This kind of horror film I can do.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I always thought an escape room might be kind of fun.  After seeing this film, not so much. But as an escape film, lots of fun!

Johnny English Strikes Again (2018)

After a hacker reveals the real identities of all of the MI7 agents, Johnny English (Rowan Atkinson) comes out of retirement to find the mastermind.

Johnny has been retired and is now teaching in the country but he can't help himself.  In addition to the usual curriculum, Johnny is teaching his charges spy techniques.  But when the current British spies are outed and the Prime Minister (Emma Thompson with not much to do here) orders that an "old one" be brought back, enter Johnny English once again in this third installment to the Johnny English franchise. Johnny must once again save the world, this time against a massive cyber attack.

In case you don't know, Johnny English is a confident, arrogant spy in the James Bond tradition, except he is also incompetent and stupid but surprisingly lucky, because even though he is incompetent and stupid, he always seems to get the job done while creating havoc for everyone else.  Think Mr. Bean as a spy, except Johnny talks.

And in case you don't know who Mr. Bean is, Rowan Atkinson made a career out of his Mr. Bean character, a silent confident, arrogant little man who as he goes about his business creates havoc all around him. Sound familiar? He has been playing him since the early 90's. Before that he was Blackadder so he is a sort of British National treasure.  All of those characters let Atkinson do the bumbling that he does so well. And this film is no exception.  It's a series of gags that lets Atkinson do his thing.  He is a one-man show who I usually find rather funny but in small doses.

Written by William Davies and directed by David Kerr, there are some funny observations as Johnny, who is a throwback to the 1960's and knows nothing about computers, takes on the hacker.  Likewise, the film comments on gun control, virtual reality and other current topics as well as hauling out all of those old spy movie tropes. The talented Ben Miller as Johnny's faithful side-kick is back, Olga Kurylenko provides some glamour and the European landscapes are beautiful, but none of that is enough to save this one-joke film. It's been 14 years since the first film and seven years since the sequel.  For the life of me, I can't figure out why we needed to see Johnny English again.

 You either like this kind of British humor or you don't.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't.  I thought it was kind of dumb.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

87 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988)

The lives of an English working class family in Liverpool in the 1940's.

The film consists of a series of vignettes told from the perspectives of different family members, the centerpiece being the abusive father (veteran actor Pete Postlethwaite), who terrorizes his wife (Freda Dowie) and three children, Eileen (Angela Walsh), Tony (Dean Williams) and Maisie (Lorraine Ashbourne). Based on director Terence Davies' own life, the film has a gauzy sepia look, the look of fragments of memories because that is what this film embodies, family memories.

The film begins with a lingering shot of the entryway of a house and the stairs leading to the second floor.  Voices of a mother and children are heard off screen.  Oh, what those stairs have heard.  Then the camera pans the entryway as the mother sings a tune and then focuses on the front door as a hearse pulls up - an intriguing way to show the passing of time.  

And that's what this film is - intriguing.

Father has died but then the film skips around, much as our memories do - a wedding, babies, a christening, Father putting out the presents from St. Nick and then the next day ruining dinner by pulling the tablecloth off of the table, friends sitting in the pub singing. 

Life in England after WW II was hard, but music helped make a dreary life less dreary. Singing was a release. The film's soundtrack and the pub singing punctuate this film, which could almost be called a musical. Watching this film after seeing "Echo in the Canyon (see review above)," I was reminded that this was the Liverpool that John, Paul, George and Ringo were born into.

In addition to the autobiographical elements of this film, Davies makes a statement about families in general and the scars we all carry. Families are complicated and lives are often predetermined by the past. Women with abusive fathers often end up with abusive husbands. But he also celebrates women who, though in a patriarchal society are often stifled by their men, remained strong.  You might not be able to kill your husband in real life, but you can sing a song about it in the pub!

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] remains Terence Davies' masterpiece.  One of the finest features ever produced in the UK, it's a highly distinctive marriage of style and content..."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

This was Terence Davies first film, and it won the International Critics' Prize at Cannes in 1988.  I see why.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...I have never seen anything quite like a good way! It's part musical, part family photo album, part impressionistic painting and put altogether it is a memorable film experience.

***The Book of the Week***

Tell It To My Heart: How I Lost My S#*T, Conquered My Fear, and Found My Voice by Taylor Dayne (2019)

Before there was Taylor Swift, there was Taylor Dayne. This is her story.

And if you were born after the 80's, you might ask, who is Taylor Dayne (you also might ask that question if you don't remember the 80's)? 

If that's the case, let me help.

This song was Dayne's first single which became an international top ten hit in 1987 and she went on to become one of the world's top selling artists with such hits as "Love Will Bring You Back," "Prove Your Love" and "I Will Always Love You."

But despite her success, life wasn't particularly kind to Dayne in her early years.  She had to overcome major health problems as a child, an abusive Dad, debilitating panic attacks and a long hard road in the club scene (cue the Russian mobsters) before her "overnight success." This memoir tells how she began, where she went and what she has learned.

Born Leslie Wunderman, Dayne grew up in a Jewish household in Long Island and her musical talent was recognized early and was her savior.  A chance encounter with a friend led to her first record "Tell It To My Heart" which immediately hit it big internationally and she was suddenly thrust into the spotlight, touring with Michael Jackson on his "Bad" tour.

This is not one of those "been through hell and back" redemption autobiographies, despite the usual money troubles and problems with the music industry that "overnight successes" often experienced.  Neither is this a celebrity gossip memoir, though she name drops the rich and famous who crossed her path (Whitney, Elton, Prince) and reveals her romances, though with few juicy details (she never married).  It's more of a self-empowerment journey, sharing what she has learned about her career, her issues and the story of how she made the radical decision to have twins as a single mother via surrogate. 

So if you have been wondering what happened to Taylor Dayne, you might enjoy this, but in a nutshell, she's doing just fine, thank you! 

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is one of those "what I have learned" books so if you are a celebrity gossip maven you might be disappointed (I was), but if you like to hear about a celebrity finding happiness, this is for you!

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Toy Story 4"


The Week in Reviews

(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to click on the share buttons to share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn, email it to your friends and LIKE me on Facebook at 

Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

Friday, July 5, 2019

"Yesterday" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the Beatles-inspired film "Yesterday" as well as DVDs "Cold Pursuit" and "The Mustang."  The Book of the Week is "Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee" by Casey Cep.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Fritz Lang's "Secret Beyond the Door."]


Struggling singer/songwriter Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) gets hit by a truck and when he wakes up, he discovers he is in an alternate universe -- where the Beatles never existed!

Young Jack has been toiling as a singer/songwriter for years, ever since he won a talent contest as a young boy.  He busks, he sings in dive bars, he writes his own songs, but nothing has happened.  His manager and friend, Ellie (Lily James), appears to be his only fan.  

So one night when things have gone badly once again, Jack announces to Ellie that he is giving it all up.  He gets out of her car (he doesn't even have a car), jumps on his bike and heads home with every intention of giving up singing and songwriting and going back to teaching.  But wouldn't you know.  On his way home, there is a massive world-wide power outage, Jack gets hit by a bus and when he wakes up things are different.  At first he doesn't notice.  Yes, he is in the hospital and has lost two front teeth, but everything seems like it is going on as before except one day at lunch with friends, Ellie gives him a new guitar since his was smashed in the accident.  "Play something," the friends shout.  So Jack starts to play the Beatles' song "Yesterday." Instead of singing along, his friends look quizzical and in awe.

"When did you write that?" Ellie asks.

Jack replies, " I didn't.  Paul McCartney wrote it, the Beatles wrote it."


He rushes home and looks up "Beatles" on his computer.  Only "beetles" shows up. Long story short, Jack discovers that not only has no one heard of the Beatles, the Beatles never existed.  Well, cigarettes, Coca Cola and Oasis have also been erased from everyone's memories, too, but maybe that's not a bad thing.

So after much confusion and soul-searching, Jack gets the bright idea that he can learn all of the Beatles songs and pass them off as his.  He feels guilty about it but fame is a strange bedfellow. It has a difficult allure.

Ed Sheeran shows up as a fan and there is also a side story about Ellie loving Jack all along, an unrequited love thing.  He has just been too tied up in his push for recognition and fame to notice that he really loved her, too, but we all saw that coming a mile away.

But there is also a twist at the end that I did not see coming, and you will either say "Of course," or you might think "cheesy." And you might also wonder if the Beatles songs would really have the same resonance today if we were hearing them now for the first time. It doesn't matter.  Director Danny Boyle and writer Richard Curtis (who also wrote "Love, Actually"and "Four Weddings and a Funeral") are clearly Beatles fans and want us to be too.  It's an unabashed fantasy homage where we wonder what the world would have been like without The Beatles.  I can't imagine.

This is yet another movie where a knock on the head puts our hero or heroine into an alternate reality and we must suspend our disbelief ("I feel Pretty," "Isn't it Romantic," "What Men Want," "Overboard" - and these are just the ones produced within the last couple of years!) Starting to be a sort of cliche?  Yes, but boy did I love this movie!  I didn't mind suspending my disbelief for this one, one bit!

Besides the Beatles, another obsession of mine is the long-running British soap "Eastenders" and that's where I first saw Patel, who starred on that show for several years playing a sort of sad sack kid. This is his feature film debut and he is great, the same sad sack character he played on "Eastenders," but he does sad sack very well.  And he can sing!  And who doesn't love Lily James?  From "Downton Abbey" to "Cinderella" to "Mama Mia! Here We Go Again," she is a sweet, engaging screen presence.  My one criticism is Kate McKinnon, who plays an American money hungry music agent.   I usually like her because I think her schtick is funny, and I get what Boyle and Curtis were trying to say about the music industry, but she over plays here and it is grating against the more subdued performances of the rest of the cast.

My own love of the Beatles goes way back to the beginning, the first album, their early tour of the U.S (yes, I was at one of the concerts)!  I wrote about them in an early blog post called "Why the Beatles Matter" and I talk about seeing Sir Paul in Seattle a couple of years ago. And to those critics who wonder if the songs would matter today read that blog post.  In it you will see a picture of the attendees. Look at their faces as they listen to Sir Paul.  I rest my case.  And, of course, the Beatles clearly mattered to Boyle and Curtis, too, because this is an homage to them, a Magical Mystery Tour. Enjoy the ride!

Rosy the Reviewer says...even if you are not a big Beatles fan, you will become one. This charming film will captivate you.  I promise.

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


Cold Pursuit (2019)

Yet another revenge movie starring Liam Neeson, except this time his deadly weapon is a snow plow!

I love Liam.  That voice.  Some of the stuff he has said are what legends are made of.

"I don't have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you." 

But this film begins with an Oscar Wilde quote: "Some cause happiness wherever they go, some whenever they go."  And that sets the tone because Liam or no Liam, people, this is a comedy! And no matter how over-the-top or crazy the movie, Liam never lets me down.  Liam makes it work. And this film is definitely over-the-top and, yes, crazy.

The film begins with snow plow driver, Nels Coxman (Neeson) giving a speech.  He has been made Citizen of the Year by a Colorado ski resort in the community where he lives.

"I'm just a guy that keeps a strip of civiliation open through the wilderness for people."

But it isn't long before Nels goes from Citizen of the Year to serial killer!

A murder comes along to ruin his life.  His son, Kyle (Neeson's real-life son with the late Natasha Richardson, Micheal Richardson), is killed via a forced heroin overdose by some bad guys led by Trevor "Viking" Calcote (Tom Bateman - and as you will see, all of the bad guys have memorable nicknames).  Speedo (see what I mean?), Kyle's friend, played by Michael Eklund, got himself involved in a dodgy cocaine deal and Kyle just happened to be an innocent bystander.  When Nels finds out about Kyle's death he is ravaged by grief.  So is his wife (Laura Dern, who had little to do so got out of all of this early on) has a breakdown and leaves him.  So that does it.  Now Liam has no reason not to just go crazy on those bad guys.  And in true Liam Neeson form, he does. Nels is out for revenge and by the time this film ends the death count is sky high. First Nels chokes Speedo to death, then moves on down the line to Limbo, Santa, Mustang. Bing-badda-bing.

And strangely that's the comedy part of this movie.  As each bad guy is dispatched with, he gets a little grave marker intertitle at the end of each scene listing his sobriquet, date of birth and religion, a macabre little send-off, courtesy of our Nels.  

Eventually word gets out that a serial killer is on the loose and the Native American drug gang, led by White Bull (Tom Jackson), gets blamed. Now it's really WAR - the Native American drug dealers vs. Viking and his guys with Nels on everyone's tails.

It's all gory stuff but kind of campy with a snowplow chase scene that is funny and spectacular at the same time.

Written by Frank Baldwin and based on the original screenplay of the Norwegian film "Kraftidioten (In Order of Disappearance") by Kim Fupz Aakeson and directed by Hans Petter Moland who also directed the original film, the film is very much a black comedy thriller.  Think "Fargo."  

Rosy the Reviewer says..when you are looking for a thriller with an original, dark comedy edge. If you liked "Fargo," you will like this.  I did!

The Mustang (2019)

Hardened criminal Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) is given the chance to redeem himself by working with wild mustangs through a prison rehabilitation program.

First of all I have to say that never in a million years did I recognize Matthias Schoenaerts, an actor I have admired ever since I saw him in the little seen film "The Drop," James Gandolfini's last film before his untimely death.  I went into this film a bit blind and didn't really check the credits as I usually do.  I just assumed the star was an unknown actor in a small indie film.  Well, when I saw the end credits I  couldn't believe it.  And that, my friends, is called acting!  Schoenaerts is Belgian but you would never know it from this film.  He embodies the persona of Roman Coleman, a hardened criminal who looks like he just walked out of a gang.

In the opening credits, we learn that 10,000 wild mustangs roam the American West and naturally the U.S. Government rounds them up.  Some are euthanized, most are in long term holding facilities and some are sent to Federal prisons for training.

So begins this film based on a real life practice meant to rehabilitate prisoners.  There is a long opening montage showing the round-up.  The horses are free, then imprisoned.  Then we see the prisoners who were all once free.  And that's how the movie goes.  In your face metaphors.

Roman Coleman has been in prison for 12 years for almost beating his domestic partner to death.  He is a hardened guy with a short temper.  He has just come out of isolation in one prison to be reclassified into another prison.  He says "I'm not good with people."  That's an understatement.

His first assignment is "outdoor maintenance" which is basically shoveling horse poop but he is also able to witness the training of the mustangs.  Naturally there is one problematic horse who is kept in isolation so the metaphor here couldn't be any more obvious nor could the outcome.  Man who doesn't get along with others, horse that doesn't get along with others...

The horse trainer, played by the usual hardened, gruff persona Bruce Dern does so well, sees some potential in Roman so recruits him into the program.

So man and horse learn from each other.  

However, it's a rough road for Roman, who thinks he can just get mad at the horse and say "C'mon!" Nope. Yelling at the horse?  Nope.  Calling the horse stupid?  Nope.  Saying please?  Nope. Sorry, kiddo, it don't work that way.  But feeling dejected and sad?  Oh, I forgot, this is a movie, so that did sort of work. Horse and man make a connection. But Roman has to learn patience and to control his temper, and, of course, he does because we have two misfits who need to bond.  It's all pretty obvious and predictable and slow-moving because it's a one-note premise. Man meets horse; horse kicks his ass; he tames horse, and in so doing tames his own psyche.  End of story.

So why watch?

If you like horses, if you like angry inmates, if you are intrigued by prison life, and if you like a well-meant film that takes itself very seriously, perhaps you will like this film.  Robert Redford was the executive producer and you can't get much more serious and earnest than he is.

But for me, the film's very earnestness and well-meaning intentions were its downfall.  Written by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, Brock Norman Brock (no, that's not a typo), and Mona Fastvold, and directed by de Clermont-Tonnerre, this is clearly a labor of love. Sadly it's so slow-moving that twenty minutes in I was getting fidgety, and the ending is over-dramatic and unbelievable, though I will say that the image that ends the film is poignant. But as moving as that was, it wasn't enough to save the film for me. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...can't recommend this but the film did make me respect Schoenaerts even more.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***

88 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Secret Beyond the Door  (1947)

A newly married woman starts to think that her husband wants to kill her.

Celia (Joan Bennett) is a hot commodity.  It seems all of the eligible men around her want to marry her and architect Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave) is no exception.  The two when Celia is on a trip to Mexico to get over the death of her beloved brother, and they fall in love and marry.  But it isn't long before Mark starts exhibiting strange behavior.  They move to his creepy mansion and Celia uncovers some of Mark's dark secrets.

Turns out there was another Mrs. Lamphere who died under suspicious circumstances.  They also had a son.  It doesn't help that there is also a loyal and creepy secretary with a disfigured face and the haunting feeling that Celia has -- that her husband wants to kill her!  Not a good start to a marriage!


  • Newly married woman
  • Sinister mansion
  • Sinister husband with a seemingly sinister past
  • An ex-wife who died under sinister circumstances
  • Sinister secretary living in the mansion
  • Sinister locked rooms

If this plot sounds familiar, it is.  This is very much like Hitchcock's "Rebecca," and in fact director Fritz Lang admits to being inspired by that film. 

Joan Bennett was a staple in films during the 30's and 40's, and Michael Redgrave started that whole Redgrave Dynasty of Vanessa, Corin and Lynn followed by the grandchildren Natasha and Joely Richardson and Jemma Redgrave.  Both Bennett and Redgrave exhibited the acting styles we have come to expect from 1940's film noir - over dramatic. 

The film was also rife with "faces," character actors you recognize but never knew their names.  Anne Revere, who played Elizabeth Taylor's mother in "National Velvet," plays Mark's no-nonsense sister, Caroline, and Natalie Schafer, who ended her long career as Mrs. Howell on "Gilligan's Island," plays Celia's ditzy friend, Edith. It's fun to watch these kinds of movies and try to identify all of the character actors who populated those films from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Sadly, though, we are also reminded of the sexism rampant back then...

"Thinking is the prerogative of men," says Mark during a conversation with Celia about feelings vs. thinking.

At least Celia pushed Mark off the hammock when he said that.  Because women often had "gumption" back in those films.

But despite the sometimes over-the-top acting and PC problems, I enjoy these old films.  They remind me of all of those hours spent watching old movies on TV with my Dad.  He grew up an only child and spent many hours at the movies so it was fun watching with him.  Halfway through a film he would say, "Oh, I saw this one!"  He was also an old softie and often cried at the sad, or even during really happy endings, chuckling and wiping his forehead (but really his eyes) with his handkerchief, thinking I wouldn't notice.

But I had to ask myself, of all of the great 40's films, why is this one of the ones I had to see before I died, especially since "Rebecca" is also in the 1001 book?

Why it's a Must See: " is the beguiling mixture of many genres -- women's melodrama, Freudian case study, serial killer mystery, and allegory of the artistic creative process -- that makes [this film] such a special and haunting oddity in [Lang's] career."

---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

OK, I will go with that and after several weeks of bloody awful movies "must see" movies, finally one I liked! Give me "women's melodrama" any day!

Rosy the Reviewer says...
Now you're talkin'! You can't beat the old classic films of the 40's!

***The Book of the Week***

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

This is a true crime story and a mystery, but the mystery here is not just about the crime but also about what happened to the book Harper Lee planned to write about it. 

In the 1970's, the Reverend Willie Maxwell was a well-dressed and well-spoken African American who may or may not have killed five of his family members to collect on their life insurance (but he probably did)!  However, he was always able to avoid prosecution thanks to his friendship with the savvy attorney, Tom Radney.  But he eventually couldn't escape Robert Burns, who had his own form of justice.  

During the funeral for Shirley Ann Ellington, Maxwell's stepdaughter who had been mysteriously murdered (and for whose murder Maxwell might well have been prosecuted), Burns, a relative of Ellington's, entered the church and shot Maxwell dead in front of all of the funeral attendees.  But unbelievably, despite all of the witnesses at the funeral, Burns was acquitted.  How did that happen?  Well, his lawyer just happened to be that savvy lawyer, Tom Radney, who had helped Maxwell avoid prosecution all of those years before when he was under suspicion for those suspicious deaths.  So who was Tom Radney?

And as for that second mystery?  We all know that Harper Lee only wrote that one iconic book "To Kill a Mockingbird (I know, "Go Set a Watchman" was published in 2015 and hyped as the sequel to "Mockingbird" but it was later affirmed to be "Mockingbird's" first draft, so it doesn't count). She was also  acknowledged as helping her friend Truman Capote write his book "In Cold Blood," but that doesn't count either because she never wrote anything about it. "To Kill a Mockingbird" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and Harper Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015 for her contribution to American literature despite the fact that she only wrote that one book. Why did she never write another book?

Well, according to Cep she planned to write a book called "The Reverend" about the Reverend Willie Maxwell, the attorney, Tom Radney, who could be likened to Atticus Finch, and the subsequent murder trial of Robert Burns. She attended Burns' trial, interviewed Radney and his family, knocked on doors around town and gathered reams of information about Maxwell, his murder and the subsequent trial of Burns. She was supposedly working on that manuscript for years.  

Cep speculates in this well-researched book, and we learn some things we might not have known about Lee: her alcoholism, her love of gambling, her contributions to "In Cold Blood" and what she really thought of her long-time friend, Truman Capote, in later years, her writer's block, the rumors that she had finished the book, but if she did, what happened to that manuscript?

"...Nelle Harper Lee's estate is sealed.  The entirety of her literary assets, including whatever else exists of The Reverend remains unpublished and unknown."

We may never know.  But like I always's the journey. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...part true crime, part mini-biography of Lee, this is a fascinating look inside the Deep South and a new take on the author of one of our most iconic books.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"Toy Story 4"


The Week in Reviews

(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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Go to, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.