Friday, October 10, 2008

O. HENRY'S FULL HOUSE (Henry Koster, Henry Hathaway, Jean Negulesco, Howard Hawks, Henry King, 1952, USA) Guaranteed 100% daily allowance of Irony. O. Henry popularized the short story format with the creative use of the twist ending utilizing dramatic or comedic irony and believably mundane characters. Though he didn’t invent this narrative device he brought the appeal to the casual reader and the mass audience. His prose has had a profound influence in modern cinema: Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, Quentin Tarantino, and the overrated M. Night Shyamalan (to name a few). This collection is enjoyable though uneven and sometimes flat. THE COP AND THE ANTHEM is a humorous tale with an excellent performance by Charles Laughton and a cameo by the wonderful Marilyn Monroe. But it’s THE CLARION CALL that steals the show: Richard Widmark’s intense and totally insane performance is so over-the-top and ludicrous that you can’t help but laugh out loud! THE LAST LEAF is a sadly beautiful portrait about sacrifice and love and is acted with an acute empathetic flair. Howard Hawk directs THE RANSOM OF RED CHIEF and this one joke contrivance interrupts the entire flow of the film with its heavy-handed attempts at slapstick. The film ends with one of the greatest short stories ever written: THE GIFT OF THE MAGI. With touching and competent performances by Farley Granger and Jeanne Crain, it’s a good upbeat ending to FULL HOUSE. It is better to give than to receive…so I give you this DVD recommendation. Enjoy. (B)

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