With access online to the New York Times records of their film reviews, it has been interesting to see how films were reviewed at the time of release . I’ve excerpted parts of these reviews to give a flavour of the critics’ opinions.
In March,1938, BRINGING UP BABY was not well received. Part of the review reads: “Have you heard the one about the trained leopard and the wild leopard who get loose at the same time……or the one about the Irishman who drains his flask and sees a wild animal which really is a wild animal…………”
“ LADY OF BURLESQUE moves at a snail pace,the dialogue is atrociously hackneyed…”
“Miss Stanwyck takes to scanty gowns like fish to water and proves in the dance numbers that she hasn’t forgot her early chorus training on Broadway……...”
May 1952: MACAO.
“It is remarkable how often Miss Russell,in an assortment of low-cut sweaters and gowns,is directed to lean towards the camera – and how often and casually Mr. Mitchum is surprised with his manly chest bared.For those who delight in such glimpses,MACAO is generous to a fault. Certainly the principal performers do not reveal much more……..”
Sept.1956: THE LAST WAGON.
“A familiar and unexciting journey across a plateau of western clichés is made by Twentieth Century-Fox,THE LAST WAGON, which rolled into the Globe yesterday,dragging a lot of Arizona scenery in color and Cinemascope………”
“99 RIVER STREET ,an Edward Small production that opened with a bill of vaudeville at the Palace yesterday under the banner of United Artists,is one of those tasteless melodramas peopled with unpleasant hoods,two-timing blondes and lots of sequences which purports to be every day life in the underworld.
In this stale rehash,John Payne is a cabbie seething with dreams of what he might have been in the boxing world. He is saddled with a wife who is as shallow,larcenous and amoral as an oyster………
To say that this film is offensive would be kind; to point out that it induces an irritated boredom would be accurate………..”
June,1953: PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET.
“It looks very much as though someone is trying to out-bulldoze Mickey Spillane in Twentieth Century-Fox’s PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET which came to the Roxy yesterday. For this highly embroidered presentation of a slice of life in the New York underworld not only returns Richard Widmark to a savage,arrogant role,but also uses Jean Peters blandly as an all-comers’ human punching-bag.
Violence bursts in every sequence,and the conversation is slangy and corrupt. Even the genial Thelma Ritter plays a stool pigeon who gets her head blown off……..Sam Fuller,who wrote it and directed, appears to be more concerned with firing a barrage of sensations than with telling a story to be believed……..”