Night of the Hunter(1955) A truly delightful film, despite the fact that it's actually quite menacing at times. Robert Mitchum plays a false priest who travels the country marrying widows and killing them. While in jail for stealing a car, he meets a man on death row for killing a guard during a bank robbery. Knowing the money was never found, and rightfully suspecting it was hidden somewhere on the man's property, Mitchum begins to romance his widow(Shelly Winters) and menace her two children. The film is at times comic, at times horrific, and features an odd, stilted, dreamlike quality even before the lengthy sequence where the children drift calmly down a river, watched over by nocturnal animals on the shore and followed always by Mitchum. Character actor Charles Laughton's only directorial effort utilizes archetypes and iconography in a more effective manner than most, from the Love and Hate tattoos on Mitchum's fingers to the exaggerated set design and use of shadows. A wonderfully expressionistic film, full of moments that will stick with me.
Machete(2010) Machete has enough gonzo moments for a dozen films, but also feels strangely lifeless. That's surprising for a movie with so much bloody violence and nudity. Robert Rodgriguez mimics the 70's sleaze and exploitation films he clearly loves, but brings none of the energy present in his earlier films to the table. It gets a lot of the details right - the smash cuts, the aggressive zooms, and of course the violence and nudity - and amplifies them to ridiculous heights, but the film lacks the vibrancy and energy of even some of the worst grindhouse films.
Great Expectations(1956) Commonly cited as the best Dickens adaptation, and for all I know it is. The film is a perfect distillation of the novel, keeping most of the main characters while spending only as much time with them as is necessary to keep the plot moving. The story, for those unfamiliar, concerns Pip, a young blacksmith's apprentice who finds himself the beneficiary of a large sum of money and the promise of property. His benefactor wishes to remain anonymous, but it's fairly likely that the mad Miss Havisham, locked away in her mouldering mansion, is behind it. Casting is fantastic, as Joe Gargery, Miss Havisham, Herbert Pocket and Estella are all exactly as you would imagine from reading the book, although I imagined Pip to be a bit more nebbishy than the film made him. Most of the alterations to the plot are merely omissions, as every full length novel contains too many plot points and characters to adequately squeeze into a 2 hour movie(let alone a book as filled to the brim as Great Expectations), although the film's ending swaps out Dickens' original ambiguously bittersweet finale for a more definite happy ending. Director David Lean does a great job crafting a cohesive film out of moments lifted directly from the novel, but ultimately it serves to remind you the book is still there, ready to be read again.