Monday, March 31, 2008
RIP Jules Dassin
I'm not entirely sure Dassin directed the greatest heist picture ever made with Rififi(1955)--but it's certainly in the running. And I'm not crazy about the pictures from his Greek period that I've seen, notably the Oscar-nominated Never on Sunday (1960) and the Rififi riff Topkapi(1964)--but they were popular in their day, and of interest in our own, if you can acquire a taste for his avid actress wife Melina Mercouri (we will pass over his own thesping in Sunday in polite silence). I may need to see more of them. (1968's Up Tight!, a remake of The Informer with Raymond St. Jacques and Ruby Dee, looks worthwhile, too.)
Never mind. At age 96, Dassin was a true Hollywood survivor, forging a distinctive foreign and independent career from the ashes of the blacklist, and taking inventory of it all on a series of excellent Criterion Collection DVDs. I've blogged about Night and the City and its departed star all too recently here (hang in there, Googie Withers!) and The Naked City elsewhere. A word, too, for the hard-hitting and exciting prison expose Brute Force (1947), with Burt Lancaster at his toughest and Hume Cronyn at his weaseliest, and the underrated, atmospheric Thieves' Highway (1949) with Richard Conte. They're all available from Criterion, along with Rififi, so get them on your Netflix queue pronto. And The Tell-Tale Heart (1941), a short film that TCM runs between films, is a terrific Poe adaptation, also available as an extra on one of Warner Bros' Thin Man discs. I'm depressed that this blog is a series of tombstones these days (goodbye, Dith Pran) but if even one person is inspired to check out one of these titles the departed are aptly memorialized.