I have been on this pitch for quite a long time, and now I should like to inquire why we as the nation which produces the movies should never have developed any sound school of movie criticism. That we haven’t is obvious; read your papers. Why we haven’t is probably owing to the ineradicable ignorance in theatricals of the ordinary writing hack, and to the fact that the ordinary reviewer on a newspaper or magazine is traditionally an amiable chump who has been kicked upstairs.
The Maltese Falcon is the first crime melodrama with finish, speed and bang to come along in what seems ages, and since its pattern is one of the best things Hollywood does, we have been missing it. It is the old Dashiell Hammett book, written back in the days when you could turn out a story and leave it at that, without any characters joining the army, fleeing as refugees or reforming bad boys, men or women.
As a film that neither attempts more than it can do nor is satisfied with the trivial, Port of Shadows is a pleasure. It was made in France by Marcel Carné; and apart from the thrills and satisfactions of its story, it is one of those things an occasional French film-maker does so perfectly: an atmosphere created, a mood unbroken.
Those who are selling the French film Les Miserables to the American public are plugging the “challenge” angle; “France challenges comparison with the American version.” While this is a very good way to sell the picture to the kind of trade it will be sold to, there are still going to be some of us who will take a piece of that dare money as fast as anyone will put it up. Just to start with, the old picture made the course in one hour, forty-nine minutes: the present one covers roughly the same material m (counting intermission) two hours, fifty minutes.