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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sunday Movie Review: "The Snake Pit" (1948)


So, today is the first edition of the "Sunday Movie Review" (I know, such a clever title). I created this segment for a couple of reasons. One, in keeping with the tradition of movie blogs, I should probably be doing way more movie reviews than I already do. And it's not that I don't enjoy doing them, it's only that I don't think I'm real great at them... especially doing long ones. I'm used to do shorter ones on Netflix. But here I have all this space for pictures, and video clips, and well, they become quite extended.

But I guess writing a movie review each Sunday will give me enough practice to get really good at it... eventually. Anyhow, I am also staring this because of my new "drive in" header. This week will be the only one in which I am not going to change the header... I've decided to leave Clark and Vivien up until next Sunday so they can complete a full week (and a little more), and then I'll change it next Sunday. But most weeks I will probably be changing the movie that's playing at the drive in depending on what I watched (and reviewed)... which is why I've decided to write these reviews at the beginning of the week.

Also, school will be starting for me in a couple of weeks (ugh!). This will be quite an important year for me with my studies and all, so I probably won't be able to post every day like I do now. I know it's hard to believe with the amount I write these days, but for fear of neglecting this blog, the Sunday Movie Review will force me to update here at least weekly. And since I don't want this blog just to be made up of movie reviews, I will try to update once in the work week (Mon - Fri) and once over the weekend with my Sunday Movie Review. (I usually land up watching a movie either on a Friday or Saturday night, even during the school year, so don't worry about me not having a movie to review). At the LEAST. (Because I love blogging.)

Anyway, now that I've got all of that explained, I guess it's time to start. In the past couple of days, I watched two very different movies: "The Snake Pit" (1948) and "Inside Daisy Clover" (1965) and I had a hard time choosing which one to review for you. "Inside Daisy Clover" is a part of my Natalie Wood Movie Collection (which came yesterday), but not a very good movie. In fact, it was pretty awful. And even though I was thinking about doing a negative review about this quite terrible film, I'm think I'm going to have to go and do a review for "The Snake Pit."
I'm really loving this poster. It looks like the cover of one of those Nancy Drew Mysteries I used to read as a little kid.

I decided to rent this movie after it was on TCM about a year ago. I happened to catch it someplace in the middle. For some reason, it left a very loud and creepy impression on me (well, it is a movie about a mental hospital - but after watching it all the way through, that's not the feel that I got this time) and I didn't watch it. But my dad told me it was a good movie, and since recently I've really been loving Olivia de Havilland films, I decided to give it a try.

Here's the summary for those of you who don't know:

Deeply troubled Virginia Cunningham (Olivia de Havilland) finds herself in a mental hospital. Her world is a confused blur as the determined Dr. Kik (Leo Genn) tries to find a way to save her. Tortured by tarnished memories of her past, Virginia is forced to come to terms with her mental illness  (with her husband and doctor by her side) as she journeys through the several terrifying wards of the "snake pit." Celeste Holm makes an appearance as her nearly sane friend, Grace.

The cast has:
  • Olivia de Havilland as Virginia Cunningham
  • Mark Stevens as Robert Cunningham, her husband
  • Leo Genn as Dr. Kik, her determined doctor
  • Celeste Holm as her friend, Grace
  • And a series other supporting players as mental patients and a super annoying nurse
It's directed by Anatole Litvak. 

Olivia was nominated for an Oscar for this, and I really enjoyed her performance. It's quite a shame she didn't win because she is really terrific. She brings life to Virginia's character, and makes her human. Not only that, she makes Virginia a lovable character, one that you want desperately  for her to get better.

One of my favorite parts was Virginia's very sane (yet confused) thoughts that we only hear. This is a serious movie, but what goes on in her head brings light and even some laughter to the film. For example, there is a scene early on in the film when one of the nurses greets her with a, "Hello, Virginia." In her mind, we hear hers say something along the lines of: How do you know my name? And what am I supposed to tell you - Hello, Kiddo? Later on, her husband comes to visit her and Virginia thinks he's a fake. She tells herself, My, they do a good job.

She also delivers really cute lines throughout the film. In one scene, another patient boasts to her that she owns the Hope Diamond. Virginia says quickly in return, "Well, I have the Hopeless Emerald."

In another scene, we get a look into Virginia's head: she thinks she's drowning in a huge ocean. But in reality, she is only in a tub screaming her head off while nurses tend to her.

Virginia clutches on for dear life in her "drowning scene"

I really loved her character.

This is all Olivia, all her film. The performance of the doctor by a Leo Genn was good, if only stereotypical. I was not pleased with Mark Stevens as the husband. His character is stale. To be fair to him, he gets pretty bland lines, but he doesn't do much with them. Olivia gets all the great lines though and she really has fun with them and eats it up. I read that in preparation for this movie, she visited several mental hospitals and sat in on therapy sessions, and even attended a dance between two mental hospitals like you see in the film. No wonder she sparkles as Virginia!

Celeste Holm gets pretty big billing for this considering you really only see her character for ten minutes, as one of Virginia's friends.

A "Helen Craig"  plays Nurse Davis, or the super annoying nurse I mentioned. She is a fantastically wonderful character to hate. You know, like one of those really awful people who always manages to get her way and you just kind of want to sock her in the nose.

I guess to just put it simply, this is a really good film. They don't really make them like this anymore. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I know I haven't really talked all that much about it, and this review is kind of short. But I guess it ought to show you its brilliance through that alone, because when a film is so good, it usually leaves you a little at a loss for words. (If I had reviewed "Inside Daisy Clover," which I will probably land up doing eventually, I would've gone on for quite a while...) 

Lastly, the movie is right here on Youtube:

So you don't have an excuse not to watch it! I give it four of five stars. Really a rather good movie, and since it's not one of those films with the "classic" label stamped on it, totally deserves more credit.


Well, that's it for the first edition of the Sunday Movie Review. Before I sign off, I'd quickly like to note the passing of a great foreign film star from Bollywood's own "classic era." It is Indian actor Shammi Kapoor, who, as I was informed by my mom, died today aged seventy nine. I'm not all that into Bollywood films (and I haven't seen any of his) or foreign films at all for that matter, but in India he was hailed as a great actor of Bollywood's own golden era of the 50's and 60's, so I thought he most certainly deserved a mention.  

Anyhow, hoped you enjoyed the first Sunday Movie Review!


StanwyckFan said...

Blogger needs a 'like' button (if you know what I mean). I really liked this review and am dying to see this movie now. I had been contemplating watching it before so I'm glad you reviewed it for me. :) I also really like Olivia DeHavilland (we share a birthday...hehe).

Rianna said...

I know, it totally does! You should REALLY see it. It's a great movie and Olivia is amazing. I really like her, too. And that's so cool you share a birthday with her - July 1st! I don't share a birthday with any Old Hollywood star :( but Elizabeth Taylor and I are four days apart, so... close enough, lol.

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