films seen
average score
Alive and kicking


Bigger Than Life

1956 / 95m - USA
Bigger Than Life poster

Not the most subtle film on the subject, then again, most of Nicholas Ray's films are pretty brash and direct. I don't consider that necessarily a bad thing, I am after all a fan of directors like Gaspar NoƩ, but the presentation here didn't appeal to me at all, which made certain scenes more obnoxious than impressive.

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When Ed goes in for a medical check, the doctors find that he suffers from a rare condition. The outlook is grim and he's only given a few more months to live, but a new wonder drug might just help Ed survive. Ed starts a cortisone treatment and gets better, but he also gets hooked on the drugs.

Mason does a pretty solid job and the build-up of his psychosis is rather nice, but the soundtrack was a real earful and the cinematography often bordered on kitsch. The ending went gleefully over-the-top too. This film needed either a more subtle approach, or more effective styling.

Rebel Without a Cause

1955 / 111m - USA
Rebel Without a Cause poster

Legendary James Dean film. I don't think I had ever seen a film with Dean before, while watching all I could think is that he looked an awful lot like a beefier version of James Franco. It's not hard to see why he got such a big following, though acting talent probably didn't play a big part in Dean's success.

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Jim Stark has trouble fitting in, no matter where he goes. After moving to yet another town, he meets July. Jim vows to make a real effort this time, but trouble with his parents and some local gangs make it very hard to stay out of trouble. When a car race goes terribly wrong, Jim gets himself into a way bigger mess than he bargained for.

The rebellious side of the film isn't great, but it's at least somewhat entertaining, with the cliff scene being a clear standout. The dramatic side is pretty poor though. Performances are weak, characters are one-dimensional, and two hours is a bit much for a simple film like this. Far from good, but I guess its reputation is deserved.

In a Lonely Place

1950 / 94m - USA
Thriller, Crime
In a Lonely Place poster

They Live by Night

1948 / 95m - USA
Crime, Romance
They Live by Night poster

Nicholas Ray's first film is a tepid mix of film-noir and romantic drama, with a stronger focus on the latter. For its time, it appears to be a film that strived for a more realistic approach to the relationship between the two leads, but Ray was clearly still looking for ways to properly accomplish this.

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Bowie escapes prison with two other detainees. Once out, he hopes to settle down with Cathy, a young girl who falls for his charms. It doesn't take long before Bowie's former mates drag him back into a life of crime. The police is right on Bowie's tail, only he isn't willing to go back to prison.

If you're hoping for hardened criminals and exciting heists or chases, this won't be for you. Ray skips most of the classic film noir elements and instead aims his camera at the two leads. Their performances are too basic to support the drama and Ray's styling falls short, making this a pretty dull and uneventful drama. Not a good start.

Johnny Guitar

1954 / 110m - USA
Johnny Guitar poster

Beyond terrible. I'm not a big Western fan to begin with, but this one was particularly awful. The acting and dialogues are laughable, the music is grating, the editing sloppy and the plot a complete bore. Apparently everyone involved thought this was supposed to be very intense and serious, which just made it all so much worse.