A Really Good Movie You’ll Probably Never See

It’s a shame. You’re missing a damn good movie.

I just finished watching an old movie, “The Key” starring William Holden and Sophia Loren. It ran on Antenna TV the digital subchannel of WTIC Fox61. I sat through the commercials (never knew hazy headlights were such a problem) and watched the whole thing.

Made in 1958 in black and white it was mainly story with minimal special effects. That puts it at the opposite end of the spectrum from today’s theatrical releases.

William Holden plays an American captain of a British salvage tugboat. England was already fighting World War II. Pearl Harbor was still-to-come. Holden’s job was to salvage and tow merchant ships attacked by U-Boats. In the abstract he’s on missions of mercy.

Loren plays Stella, claiming to be Swiss, but with an Italian accent as noted by Holden’s character.

She gave herself freely and unquestioningly to the successive tugboat men “willed” the key to her apartment by her previous lovers who went out on rescue missions and never returned. – Bosley Crowther NY Times July 2, 1958

There is nothing feel good about this movie all the way through the closing credits! It is dark and brooding and in many ways depressing. Holden’s job is really a death sentence. Loren’s lot in life is witnessing a succession of death sentences.

As beautiful as Sophia Loren is (and in 1958 she was spectacular) and as talented an actress as she is this is William Holden’s movie. It is his intensity and realistically human portrayal of a man whose job was so futile that made me stay.

David Friedman, one of my Facebook friends and a law professor noted:

I hope the generation behind me (and mine) appreciates this stuff. I’m disheartened by the taste of my 23 year old students.

He’s right.

The mere fact this movie is black and white and slowly paced (the way a 1958 movie is paced) makes it unappealing to a generation raised on hyperactivity and action. Unable to instantly draw a contemporary audience this film has its own life sentence on a channel no one expects to be widely viewed.

It’s a shame. You’re missing a damn good movie.

4 thoughts on “A Really Good Movie You’ll Probably Never See”

  1. It is a shame that the younger generation would never even consider watching movies like this. I love old movies and enjoy watching antenna TV channel. I do find it funny that most of the commercials on this channel are about retirement,elderly devices or funerals. I guess the commercials are geared toward the audience that watch that channel, though I hate to put myself in that category.

  2. Read Nick Carr’s blog and his books. His writing, which depressed me only because I thought I could make living writing what had already been written, clarifies the problem. And it is a problem; stupid people are easy to manipulate, and the Right Wingnuts need to do that because their agenda is to make life even easier for the 1%.

  3. Oh, and as to the choice of black and white. Since you’re a camera guy, others here may be not, you’ll remember that the difference between B&W and color (film, at least) isn’t just, or even mainly, color. What? Well, yes. The other difference, and it is a quality leveraged by some directors and cinematographers, is dynamic range. Low ASA B&W film has a much greater range, and thus can sustain detail in shadow where color cannot. Color film is “flat” compared to B&W. This quality is particularly noticeable in early color TV shows, largely shot on set with wash lighting. “Bonanza” comes to mind.

    Hitchcock, if memory serves, used lighting for narrative purposes, and he could do that since he had the range of B&W to work with.

  4. The only flaw in this flick was that William Holden and Sophia Loren have no onscreen chemistry. Some of my favorite William Holden flicks in the same genre,
    The Counterfeit Traitor, Stalag 17, and Bridge on the River Kwai are worth checking out.

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