Updated RankingsThe Search
(1948)* * * - Very Good
I have to think this is where Zinnemann found his voice (and his first Oscar nomination). Story involves children rescued from concentration camps and reintegrated with difficulty into society. The drama comes from the authentic details Ė bombed out cities, the behavior of the kids, whose fear canít help but ring true Ė make for a great drama. Some later scenes stick out as manufactured in Hollywood because itís blended seamlessly into a documentary structure. Montgomery Clift (my main reason for watching) has never been more likable and Wendell Corey is here too. He makes every movie better. A Discovery.The Men
(1950)* * * - Okay
I can see why Stanley Kramer hired Zinnemann for this message movie about parapalegic war veterans, and the opening has the same docu-drama blend as The Search. However, the script this time is more blunt and despite some montages of day-to-day details, the overall presentation is like a filmed play. Performances are strong, but the characters donít get to expand beyond their rigidly constructed types and lessons are learned in just a couple of scenes.A Hatful of Rain
(1957)* * Ĺ
Some of the most dated cinema is any film about drug addiction before Hollywood was able to tackle it without coded language and references rather than direct emotions. Base it on stage play material and you have a movie constantly trying to connect through a thick blanket of compromise. All that can get through is the acting, so long as itís designed for the screen and not the stage. (Lloyd Nolan, usually a favorite of mine, comes off worst.)
This is better than The Man With the Golden Arm, but still not a fulfilling experience and itís a poor fit for Zinnemannís strength, though heís done these stage adaptations before with great acclaim, like A Man For All Seasons. The Sundowners
(1960)* * Ĺ
The eye for detail is there in the shots of sheepherding and shearing. The rest is brought down by Zinnemannís more theatrical instincts, which makes this Australian western as artificial as Oklahoma, but not as artificial as Baz Luhrmannís Australia, though itís closer than I would expect.
The problem isnít even the regional accents. At first I thought perhaps Robert Mitchum was dubbed, but his flaws are consistent and the acting really good. He mustíve loved working with Deborah Kerr and they have excellent husband/wife chemistry so vital to the film.
Meanwhile the story spins in a number of random directions, becoming something completely different in the last twenty minutes, with a questionable happy/sad/happy/sad/??? conclusion thatís like all possible outcomes were included for you to make of it what you will. Also starring Peter Ustinov and Glynis Johns (Mary Poppins). Nominated for 5 Academy Awards, including Picture, Director and Screenplay.Behold a Pale Horse
Miscasting Gregory Peck as a Spanish war hero in exile is far from the filmís biggest problem. Zinnemannís focus on characters combined with the script doing nothing to make those characters interesting prevents any thrills from getting in. Thereís a cat-and-mouse aspect that plays like a first step towards Day of the Jackal, but after Anthony Quinn sets a trap thereís a whole lot of nothing before Peck walks into it and it never feels like the two are connected, unlike Lebel and The Jackal, whose destinies are locked together. Julia
Curious story of a resistance fighter (Julia) during the rise of Nazi Germany as seen by a friend (Lillian Hellman) who idolized her but hardly knew her. Story of Lillianís attempt to see her friend by helping smuggle money into Berlin that will be used to smuggle Jewish people out is constantly intercut with scenes of Julia and Lillianís relationship so brief thereís never a feeling of this life-long idolatry thatís supposed to drive the story. Whatís clear is the two women have a long-lasting friendship in all ways but sexual (made explicitly clear in one scene), but it doesnít make sense because the two spend so little actual time together. Thereís a lengthy bit of espionage in the center, but performances are mannered and actions are vague, lacking Jackalís feel of being taken into the confidence of spies.