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The Return of Mr. Moto (1965)
No classic but lots of fun; you be the judge!
I'm not one of the reviewers who apparently lined up to bash this movie; I think that 20th Century-Fox guaranteed it a hostile reception by inviting comparison with the fondly-remembered Peter Lorre series of thirty years before. On its own it's a efficiently-produced crime thriller that moves along briskly and offers some genuine surprises and suspense to open-minded viewers. It's been suggested by some (including Henry Silva himself, in the DVD's audio commentary) that Silva is physically unsuited to play an oriental, but the same could be said of the Hungarian Peter Lorre in the earlier series, or the Swedish Warner Oland who became the definitive Charlie Chan. And it's worth mentioning that Henry Silva has convincingly played characters of various nationality over the years.
A beautiful letterboxed transfer of this film can be found as an extra on the final disc of the Peter Lorre/Moto DVD series; I found it well worth seeing for its entertainment value as well as Henry Silva's fascinating audio commentary.
Fingerprints Don't Lie (1951)
no classic but lots of fun, especially for boo-boo spotters
After reading those comments by other viewers I was prepared for the worst, but I enjoyed this movie more than I expected to; that organ music in the background is a real scream. By the way, has anyone other than myself noticed that the outside shot of the Marsden Building is flopped (printed in reverse)? Try reading the street number or the name Marsden over the entryway! This film was apparently shot back-to-back with MASK OF THE DRAGON, which has an almost identical cast, including hapless Sid Melton who is saddled with badly-timed "comic relief" scenes in both films, which is a pity since Melton was a talented comic when given good material; fans of the Gomer Pyle TV series may remember Melton as a bumbling con artist in several episodes. Appearing as a brutal thug in both films is huge wrestler "Killer" Karl Davis, known as the man with the world's coldest stare. (Davis also made an unforgettable zombie in the unsettling opening scene of 1955's CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN; watch for it!!)
Terror from the Year 5000 (1958)
Good movie, bad DVD presentation
RE: The DVD edition of 1958's "Terror From the Year 5000" recently issued by Incredibly Strange Film Works (ISFW) of Jamestown, MO: Those of you who've been waiting for a pristine-quality DVD edition of this fun Sci-Fi oldie will have to go on waiting. The very fuzzy picture and sound quality (with contrasts so bad that some night scenes are nearly impossible to make out) make this ISFW DVD a big disappointment, especially considering the $24.99 price tag! (The Horror/Sci-Fi fans among you may also remember ISFW's equally unsatisfactory VHS video edition of 1964's "Horror of Party Beach", mastered from a toned-down TV print with all the gore removed!)
I'd say that any DVD or VHS video bearing the ISFW logo should be approached with caution.
One Dark Night (1982)
Much better than its reputation suggests; watch for it!
The first sixty-or-so minutes of this undeservedly obscure horror film, when we're introduced to a fairly typical group of prankish teens, is unremarkable. However, the film offers a memorably horrifying climax that's well worth hanging on for: As the kids are setting up an elaborate practical joke in a mausoleum, a supernatural force causes numerous corpses, in varying stages of decay, to leave their coffins and pursue the now-terrified pranksters through the dark corridors. The film contains no gore (which is unusual for a horror movie of this period), but if your tastes run to ambulatory corpses it really delivers the goods. By the way, the film's shooting title was "Rest In Peace".
Phoney Cronies (1942)
Very funny; well worth a look
This obscure but lively slapstick comedy was probably intended by Columbia for The Three Stooges, but is quite funny as it is. Dudley Dickerson (who appeared in more Stooges shorts than any other black actor) easily steals the show; the sequence where he attempts to catch a mouse in the kitchen is priceless.
Three Little Kittens (1934)
Not your average thirties cartoon
A real oddity, this cartoon. It starts off with the three kittens singing and dancing, the sort of sugary cuteness typical of cartoons of the thirties, then veers off into a wild orgy of violence. The villain of the piece is a large rat, who isn't nearly as scary as what's done to him: After being lured from his hiding place he has his head slammed in a cash register, is hanged by the neck, then bombarded with walnuts, fruit, cans, burning cigars and pesticide. Finally, a heavy shoe is hoisted into a bombs-away position and dropped from on high, crushing the rat's head. (This is for kids?!) The kittens then exit, singing and dancing.
The Tell-Tale Heart (1960)
Builds slowly to some memorable horror scenes
One critic described this film as "A real bore"; I vigorously disagree. It has its flaws - modern audiences would probably find it slow to start, and that blaring backround music detracts from a few scenes - but it does build slowly to some wonderfully creepy and horrific scenes during the second half which are well worth hanging on for. I was also impressed with the sincerely tormented performance of Laurence Payne in the central role.
Song of the Birds (1949)
Still very powerful
The argument that it's wrong to kill or injure animals just for the fun of it could hardly be made more effectively or powerfully than in this simple, short film. Despite its age, it's lost none of its power to grip the emotions.
Georgie and the Dragon (1951)
VERY funny; don't miss it!
Quite simply one of the funniest cartoons ever made. When young Georgie brings home a baby dragon, his mother takes it in stride, but Georgie's highly excitable father is another matter, and he and the dragon just can't stay out of each other's way. This little comic gem is way overdue for re-discovery on video; what's taking Columbia Pictures so long?!
A Simple Sap (1928)
Still a delightful comedy
When this film (which, sadly, proved to be Larry Semon's last) was first released (February, 1928) critics grumbled that it was ten years behind the times. Seen today, however, it's still a lively and very funny slapstick comedy. Among connoisseurs of silent film comedy it's generally agreed that Semon's brief but impressive career got off the track because he didn't change with the times, but while it's true that too many Semon films seen too close together do show some repetitiveness, when viewed separately by modern audiences Semon's silent comedies can hold their own against those of any other silent comedian.