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howdymax

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88 reviews in total 
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The Mark (1961)
7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Gut Wrenching, 23 February 2014
9/10

I had never heard of this movie before I saw it. In fact, I almost didn't watch it at all. As the black and white opening credits rolled, it looked cheap, and the cast wasn't all that impressive, but I had some dead time and took a chance. I'm glad I did. The story revolves around a man, who in the midst of an emotional crisis, almost sexually assaults a 10 yr old child. He is so appalled by what he almost did, that he offers no defense and spends three years in prison. After release, he enters into group therapy, and eventually individual therapy to work through his doubts. The story picks up from there. With the help of the therapist he finds a job, gets a promotion, falls in love with a co-worker, and is about to get his life back together. But as in most movies, at some point, it all hits the fan. I won't go further into the storyline, because it turned out to be a nail biter for me, and I would like it to do the same for you. Instead, let me comment on the performances. Stuart Whitman plays the lead, and does he ever play it. He has never been an expressive actor, but he hits every emotion required here, and there are lots of them. Sadness, optimism, doubt, fear, guilt, love. He does it all. Maria Schell plays the love interest, and practically every gesture is a marvel. Just a quick example. In a very emotional scene, she pulls out a hanky, puts it to her nose and blows it - loudly. How many times have you seen a principal actress put a hanky to her nose and actually make a noise? Rod Steiger plays the shrink, and he does it so well, he made mine look like an amateur. This is a British production from 20th Century Fox, but most buffs will recognize most of the supporting cast. Every one a pro. This movie was released in 1961 and could have turned into an exploitation flick. In fact, that's what I was afraid of. But instead, it was a sensitive, gut wrenching glimpse into a subject most people would rather not deal with. Well done.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Total Slapstick, 22 September 2013
3/10

I agree with a previous reviewer when he said he loves the old Monogram programmers. I do too. In fact, I took the time to track down and visit the address of the studio at the wrong end of Sunset Blvd some years ago. (The studio is now a PBS station and the offices are a take out chicken joint). But this attempt at putting together yet another amateur detective couple fizzled badly. Cross Torchy Blaine with The Mad Miss Manton, cut the budget in half, and give it to Bill "One Shot" Beaudine to direct, and there you are. The story isn't bad, but there are endless scenes of the the two sleuths creeping around dark rooms, tripping over furniture, and arguing with the dummy cops. We've seen it all before, and we've seen it done better.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Emotion Locomotion, 2 April 2012
8/10

This is Fritz Lang, so one would expect lots of dark emotion, double crossing, and sexual tension. Well, you won't be disappointed. This one has it all. The story is hardly original. In fact, Emile Zola was given story credit. It is a love triangle with Broderick Crawford and Gloria Grahame as an unhappy couple, with Glenn Ford at his somnambulistic best, showing all the emotion of a turnip. Watching him try to generate the emotion required to be the catalyst in a love triangle was almost painful. In fact, he almost sinks this movie into cinematic obscurity. Thankfully, it is resurrected by the performances of his costars. I am always amazed at the on screen sexuality of Gloria Grahame. She is hardly your typical Hollywood beauty. Her features are somehow askew, but she absolutely exudes sex. The other redeeming performance is given by Broderick Crawford. He plays her jealous, out of control husband. He has a natural explosive persona, but in this movie I kept waiting for him to fly off the rails.

Speaking of rails. This is a train noir, if there is such a thing. It all takes place around, aboard, and about trains. Glenn Ford is an engineer and Crawford the yard boss. Train buffs will love it. There are numerous scenes of the engineer and passenger compartments, the rail yards, the roundhouse, and plenty of rambling track shots. It is all diesel in the '50's which I think most people would agree was the zenith of train travel in the US.

Despite it's predictability and some of it's shortcomings, I still found this movie extremely enjoyable. My only real complaint came at the end, which seemed to leave the viewer at loose ends and feeling somewhat bewildered. Still, if you like trains and dark drama, take a look. It hasn't been around much and the title is fairly generic, so it isn't easy to find, but it is certainly worth the effort.

Tight Spot (1955)
1 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Every cliché in the book, 14 January 2012
3/10

Full disclosure: I've never been a Ginger Rogers fan off the dance floor, but she hits a new low in this one. A modest 2nd feature entry from Columbia, it should have been a pleasant escape. Instead, I found myself almost twisting in pain every time Ginger Rogers opened her mouth. The story is simple. It takes place in NYC where the feds are trying to get the goods on a mafioso so they can ship him back where he came from. Ginger is the witness they need to get it done. Problem is, she is a street wise con who would rather play games with the cops. I don't know what kind of accent she tries to imitate, but it's unrecognizable. Her wisecracks fall flat. The jokes left me wincing. It was directed by Phil Karlson, a usually reliable director, and the story itself, though predictable, was generally interesting, but Ginger's performance had me wishing I had tuned into the Home Shopping Network instead. Miss it if you get the chance.

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Ma Hat Ma Kane Jeeves, 4 December 2011
8/10

These depression era romantic romps served a real purpose. They took the audience out of their depressing existence into a world most of them would never know. They are frequently naughty and sexual innuendo and double entendres are everywhere - especially in pre-code entries like this one. In most of them, the male principals pretend to have some kind of vague position such as broker, banker, or sometimes they are just "in business", whatever that means. In this one, they don't even make the attempt. Nobody works. In fact, you rarely see the men in anything but tuxedos. They all live in swanky apartments, have country homes, use white telephones, and live on cocktails and snacks. Just like my well to do brother. Well, it's a short movie and ignoring all that annoying background saves a lot of time.

Still, it's a fascinating movie in it's own way. Pre-code allows the female lead, played by Dolores Costello to bounce from lover to lover without having to apologize for it. It also allows the irrepressible, outrageous, Polly Walters to get away with some of the snappiest, naughtiest dialog one could imagine. When she tells Warren Williams the taxi is waiting, he tells her to compensate him. She says: "I already compensated him - now he wants to be paid." Scrumptious. Another line worth noting. She tells him Bobby Brandon was evicted from a speakeasy for calling the doorman "a pansy". Pre-code also allowed Dolores Costello, by anybodies definition, a loose woman, to find happiness in the end - without paying a penalty.

As I watched this, I thought about how much talent went into this dialog. Compared to a lot of the visual filth we are subjected to today, it is amazing that anybody could have objected to the wit and humor that this movie and others like it gave us. Watch it with relish.

13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Tank Battalion? More like Tank Squad, 28 May 2011
3/10

I don't know why I was so generous with my vote, except that anything lower would have had to be a home movie. This "movie" was produced by Viscount Pictures and distributed by those Masters of Movie Magic at AIP. It supposedly takes place during the Korean War, but there is no story to speak of other than some vague plan to launch "Phase Two" of some other vague plan. There are a few names you might recognize, like Frank Gorshin, Barbara Luna, and Leslie Parrish, but it mostly stars a collection of less than stellar performers. The headliner, believe it or not, is Edward G Robinson Jr. I'm sure they included the G to make sure the audience would make the connection. The set consists of a sort of an arc of shacks and tents all connected together by fences or shrubs. Kind of like the backdrop for a high school play. The compound in the center is about the size of a large play room - just big enough for a couple of jeeps. If you added up all the principal players and the extras, you couldn't put together a game of touch football. There seemed to be no reason to make this movie. As far as I could tell, it was mostly a lot of snappy dialog interspersed with stock combat footage. They did find time to create a little romance with a couple of handy nurses and Korean comfort woman. They even managed to squeeze in a little skinny dipping. Thank goodness we were saved from that wiggle and jiggle with a sneak attack by the North Koreans. There is this unforgettable scene inside the tank. You don't have to be a tanker to know that the inside of a tank is tangle of mechanical stuff. Cables, vents, dials, controls, guns, optical devices, ammo racks, etc. Aside from a view finder and gun stock, this one was practically empty. I swear it had cardboard walls. More than anything else, it reminded me of the cockpit scene in Plan 9 From Outer Space. The only thing missing was the shower curtain. I'd like to say see it for the laughs, but it wasn't funny.

4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Make it a Double, 3 May 2011
7/10

Interesting and unusual movie. It seemed to start out as a routine backstage mystery, but as time went by, it got more and more convoluted. Edward G Robinson plays an actor about to star in a promising new play. Mary Astor is his actress sister about to make a comeback. It seems she was married to a Svengali named Stanley Vance, played by Louis Calhern. Mary was under his spell when he disappeared, until she hears that he died. She then goes to pieces. That sets the stage for the plot. It takes three years for her to recover, she falls in love with Ricardo Cortez, and when she is just about to make her breakthrough, he's back.

Now it gets bizarre. She immediately falls back under his spell - and I'm not kidding. She doesn't respond to anyone but him. Her eyes glaze over. She walks around in a trance. In fact, she acts a lot like the current crop of actors we have coming out of Hollywood today. Anyway, Vance doesn't really care about her, he just wants to cash in on her share of the profits from the play. The problem for Eddie is what to do about it. Well, I won't tell you, except to say it involves a complicated, and totally implausible plan. It really doesn't matter though. If you wouldn't watch this movie for any other reason, watch it for the unbelievable, robotic performance of Mary Astor. It was mesmerizing in it's own right, but it unintentionally bordered on laugh out loud funny. If I have a complaint, it would be that the Code was in full force in 1934. You or I could have come up with a better finale.

13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Money, money, money, 7 February 2011
8/10

A dramatic, inter-generational history of the House of Rothchild. Most people have a vague notion of the Rothchild banking dynasty, but like me, probably didn't know the history and pain that went with it. This story covers the origin and evolution of that dynasty and an explanation of it's motivation. The story centers around the elder brother, Nathan, played by George Arliss and his four brothers. I have to admit that I never saw the George Arliss magic until I saw this picture. He really was a major talent, although he was quite old when he did this. We see the family breaking out of "Jew Street" in Frankfurt, and establishing banks throughout Europe while struggling to overcome anti-semitic attitudes and actual pogroms. There are some personal vignettes involving Loretta Young as Nathan's daughter and her goy suitor played by Robert Young that tend to humanize the family but really don't amount to much. The real story is the family drive to help stabilize a war ravaged Europe and through it, command the respect of a deeply anti-semitic aristocratic European society. The picture paints a rather pastel version of what was probably a grueling battle for acceptance, but it managed to convey a feeling of warmth and respect for the underdog. There are some very nice touches. The family members all touch the mezuzah each time the enter or leave the house. Everybody kisses Mama, and George Arliss shows what appears to be a real tenderness whenever he interacts with Loretta Young. The brothers never appear to be avaricious, but rather an integrated force of will, determined to succeed, yet determined to play by the rules. All in all, an enjoyable and informative docu-drama. Well worth the 90 minutes.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Class Warfare, 8 June 2010
6/10

I know this movie is a revered favorite of most film fans, but in my opinion, it has a fatal flaw. Although it tries very hard to blend pathos and humor, the humor seems to fall into two distinct categories. There is the witty, sometimes hilarious humor that we see between Mr Roberts, Ensign Pulver, Doc, and especially The Captain. Then there is the slob humor we get from the crew, as well as all other enlisted personnel in the movie. I was in the service, and I am certain that most of the morons depicted in this movie, would never be allowed to serve. I don't mind a little moronic humor (I even like the Bowery Boys), but this almost amounts to class warfare. I'm not totally knocking the movie. There are a number of genuinely touching scenes worth seeing, and some of the comedy is priceless, but I think they could have toned down the stereotypes and improved the product.

2 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Johnny O'Clock - and his Cousin Seven, 24 May 2010
7/10

This movie pretends to be a sophisticated drama, but it falls way short. A little too much snappy dialogue. Johnny says: "Come here" The girl says: "I've been there". Johnny says: "Who ordered these drinks? The waiter says: Did you ever eat here? Johnny: No. Waiter: You'll need them." What the hell is all that supposed to mean? Typical 40's fashions. Geez, they were awful. Mostly baggy suits and corny hats for the men, and outrageous spangles and hats for the girls. But most of all there's the title. Johnny O'Clock. Johnny Allegro, Johnny Angel, Johnny Guitar, Johnny Omelet, Johnny Sneakers, etc. A few years later they moved on to the Charlies.

There is not much of a story. Dick Powell plays Johnny, a full time gambling club owner. He sets his alarm for 9pm every night, and wanders around the nether world rubbing shoulders with the demi-monde. All the girls fall for him and the tough guys fear him. He plays tag with the cops while trying to solve a mystery that involves a suicide, a pocket watch, and a dead cop. Don't expect me to explain. I've had a tough day, and this one requires more concentration than I can muster. Since Mr O'Clock doesn't get up until Nine O'Clock, everything takes place in the dark. That's pretty much where the movie left me. In the dark. I shouldn't be knocking it too much. Some of the performances are halfway decent, but the writer and dialogue coach should have been fired.


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