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Charlie Chan and Son investigate the theft of a missing ruby.
This episode was rather straightforward but had some unique touches (unique for this series, anyway). Number One Son is a tad more capable in this one, and seems to find more legitimate clues than Pop (Chan has no real reason to go for drinks at the bar other than to let Son go snooping). At the same time there was a nice bit when Charlie really worries about his son's safety. There was a surprising amount of baseball talk, maybe to make the British actors feel more American. However, some of the faux-American accents tended to slip a bit, but that's been true in films and TV forever. The end comes somewhat abruptly with the fates of the Maharaja and his wife feeling incomplete. As with the others, it's all nice enough and worth a look.
A bad episode from a great series
I've been a fan of the Fugitive for many years, first watching this incredible series when my local channel 56 KDOC used to play them weeknights. I was in my teens at the time and it was the first straight dramatic series that I got hooked on, having primarily watched sci-fi and action series up to that point. Since then I've seen most episodes from the series' four season run and have been moved by the best episodes of the series, and left cold by the worst. This one falls into the latter category.
The synopsis for this episode was recounted by another reviewer so I'll limit my comments to specific items: Throughout this episode Kimble behaves like someone who had never heard of medicine before, let alone possess the skills of a world-famous doctor. Kimble is suffering from some ailment at the beginning of the episode, and takes some random pills the ship's captain gives him. Not once does Kimble try some self-diagnosis, and he never questions just what pills he's taking. After being taken to the hospital and recovering, Dr. Howell recognizes him and blackmails him into joining the staff. The staff just accepts this change without the bat of an eye and immediately takes orders from the stranger. Kimble acts like even more of an idiot when he asks an orderly where the reserve medical supplies are kept. Since Kimble has been working at the clinic for three weeks (and he IS a doctor), it's ridiculous to have us believe he doesn't know where these things are kept. Then there's the completely random romantic subplot between Kimble and the female doctor, the only purpose of which is so there's someone alive for Kimble to say goodbye to at the end of the episode. There's absolutely no chemistry between Kimble and the woman, so that their supposed passion just falls flat.
This episode was made near the end of the fourth season, very shortly before the last episode. It's obvious that the writers were running out of plots and situations for Kimble to get into, which may have been part of the reason David Janssen wanted the series ended. Janssen really sleepwalks through this episode, which doesn't create much drama or suspense to keep the viewer involved. I watched it because I'm a completist, but I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone.
Swamp Thing (1990)
So close, yet so far...
I enjoyed the first SWAMP THING film for what it was, and despise the second for what it was. I had read the comics for many years but didn't know what to expect of a weekly show that would have a small budget. Looking back, I feel the series succeeded as often as it failed.
The best episodes were those that focused on Swamp Thing (or 'Alec' as he was referred to by the people who knew him). The series started out on shaky footing, and had Swampy act out of character. In the first episode he turns a bad guy into a tree until the writers establish that he would never take a human life. Any episode that had him turn back human was well done.
Most of the episodes made him a Rod Serling of the swamp, taking a back seat to the action. A lot of these weren't too bad, but the bad ones were terrible. These boiled down to two plots: bad guys hide out in the swamp, only to have to face their crimes in a nightmare-ish way, or people with problems wander in the swamp, to become better by facing their fears. The best of these was when Ray Wise (Dr. Holland from the original movie) guest starred as someone who might be an alien and almost kills Swamp Thing.
In my opinion far too many episodes chronicled Arcane's (Swamp Thing's enemy) foul adventures. I realize that there is a fan base of women (and some men) who found the character/actor too sexy for words and wanted even less of Swamp Thing in each episode. Be that as it may, I feel the series as a whole suffered for it, and that will keep people from rediscovering it.
The series lacked truly dramatic episodes, the ones that would get the media's attention (like how 'The Best of Both Worlds' episodes of Star Trek:TNG did). There wasn't a single two-part episode throughout the run, which would've allowed the writers to develop a deeper story. Plotlines were never adequately ended, such as the disappearance of Tressa's son.
In the face of all these detriments, I enjoyed the show (and have almost every episode on tape; doubtful there will be a DVD release). Although it could have been so much more, it was certainly better than many other shows or movies based on comic books.
Underrated Classic of TV Horror
This has to be one of the most creative and imaginative television shows of the 1980's. It's incredible to believe that there were only five postings before this one. Previous reviews have already outlined the plot so it won't be repeated here. Some reviews (here and elsewhere) tend to unjustly compare this series to 'The Fugitive' and 'The Incredible Hulk', as if those are the only two shows centering on a man on the run. Truth to tell, there was a show even called 'Man On The Run' well before the Hulk series, and there were other similarly-themed series like 'Starman', 'The Immortal', 'Otherworld', 'Logan's Run', and even the 'Planet of the Apes' TV series, as well as a parody of 'The Fugitive' that aired at the same time as it did. The idea of a "man on the run" show is as valid as a "hospital show" or a "lawyer show" or "ship in space show" or what have you. It is unfair to simply dismiss 'Werewolf' as just a copy of any similar show that preceded it.
'Werewolf' possessed many original features that separates it from the untold number of horror-themed shows that now flood the channels. Remember, there weren't many shows even like this at the time or before. The driving electric-guitar music, the graphic violence, and the mature themes (for a non-'dramatic' show) make every episode something new to enjoy. This series was the first in a long time, if not the very first, to have a weekly show deal with regular ongoing horror characters in a serious way. There were other shows that dealt with the supernatural, but they were anthologies like 'The Outer Limits'. The original nemesis for 'Werewolf' was played by Chuck Connors, who, through disputes with the producers, was written out and replaced with a new villain called 'Nicholas Remy'. Unfortunately the series was canceled shortly after this occurred and the final resolution has never been told (Sci-Fi Channel, where are you?!). Episodes such as 'The Wolf Who Thought He Was A Man', 'Running With The Pack', 'A World of Difference', 'Nightmare in Blue', and 'To Dream of Wolves' represent some of the best episodes of this too-short series.
Some previous reviewers have complained about the supposed 'inconsistencies' with werewolf lore, like seeing the pentagram on his own palm as opposed to the palm of his next victim. These people obviously know nothing of historical werewolf lore outside of film or else they would realize that the whole palm thing was created by Hollywood in the first place. Almost every culture on earth has legends regarding people transforming into animal form, be it wolf or fox or bear, dating back to the ancient Greek story of King Lycos. ANY Hollywood story must be viewed like any other adaptation, in that the 'facts' were changed where deemed necessary. It is doubtful that any film or television series has followed the historical rules regarding lycanthropy.
The 'Werewolf' TV series was no more accurate or inaccurate than 'The Howling' or 'An American Werewolf in London' regarding established werewolf lore, but it presented a new and creative series that attempted to bring to the screen the best of everything that happened before while not being simply a copy-cat of those stories. This series has many fascinating and compelling levels working in its favor, and it only takes the attention of the viewer to appreciate them.
What has eight arms and smells bad?
This...is one of the all-time worst monster films EVER. It not only employs every bad cliche from every other BAD monster film before, but it even does those poorly. I rented it last night hoping for something approaching DEEP RISING in entertainment. What I got was a 100 minute espionage film with about 5 minutes of octopus footage (and some of that repeated over and over). The characters and story needed a lot more work to be interesting, let alone believable. Now before people out there shout "What's so believable about a giant octopus?", the point is that any film like this has got to make the audience believe in at least the possibility of the events, and OCTOPUS doesn't. The film is almost a third over before even the idea of a giant octopus is introduced. With the most minimal of rewrites all the octopus footage could be removed and the story could still continue as before (Agent captures villain, sub crashes, escape in minisub, climax with terrorists on cruise ship). This isn't to say that 'more special effects equals good monster movie', because that would make DEEP BLUE SEA better than JAWS. But it does seem obvious that no-one on the production staff understood anything that makes a monster film effective. There are people who say "It's just entertainment, don't think about it." Well, it's obvious the producers didn't bother thinking when they made this, or only made this for people who didn't.
The Invisible Man's Revenge (1944)
Under-appreciated Gem of the Genre
This, the last of the Universal 'Invisible Man' series (before meeting Abbott & Costello), is a very enjoyable film that showed there was still life left in the concept. I won't outline the entire plot here, but be warned that spoilers will follow. Jon Hall, in his second invisible outing, plays a criminal named Robert Griffin who uses a formula for invisibility to exact his revenge on those that wronged him. It is interesting to note that in all the other films in the series it is the potion that affects the mentality of the respective invisible men, but in this film Griffin is unhinged to begin with and uses the opportunity invisibility allows him to realize his mad ambitions. In this particular aspect, and in a few other instances, this film is closer to the book than the other films (although the first film is an unrivaled masterpiece). As an audience we feel no real sympathy for the Griffin in 'Revenge', only fear. This is a dangerous man from the start who will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Another enjoyable feature of this entry is the very creative use of special effects, something that each film toyed with in new ways. Although the budget must have been pretty small for a film of this type (the matte effect isn't as perfect as in other films) the crew still managed to perform some amazing tricks. Of particular note is the scene where Griffin puts his invisible arm into an aquarium, the arm becoming visible like a bubble, and then confronting his foes with water outlining his invisible face. Very eerie and very effective. This film has something to offer any fan of classic horror. Granted, computer effects have done away with the types of effects done decades ago, this film did more with them that other invisible man movies have in later years (especially the hollow attempt done recently) and remains enjoyable to this day.
Fearless Frank (1967)
I first saw this film when I was 11 years old (on the KTLA 'Movies Til Dawn' at 2:00 am), and I didn't realize the impact it had on me until I saw it again a few months ago (17 years later). I found two scenes between Frank and False Frank had really affected me, SPOILER WARNING: One was when Frank, after he has fallen from grace, tries to fly and falls to his destruction on the pavement below and fades away. It affected me that the 'hero' of the film should die that way, the hero believing in his own abilities and dying because of his own failings. Second, when the False Frank is crying in the boat at the end of the film. I was again bothered by the image of the new 'hero' losing emotional control like that. Possibly these images don't mean anything to the vast majority of people who saw the film, but they had a profound effect on me. I am surprised at how few people have voted/commented on this film. I feel it is an undiscovered gem of film-making, waiting for a re-appraisal.
Atom Man vs. Superman (1950)
One of the Best
I am a 29-year-old serial fan and 'Atom Man vs. Superman' is one of my all-time favorites. This serial is a big improvement over the first one, and it gives Superman many things to do to show why he is the World's Greatest Super-Hero. Much has been made over the fact that animation was used to depict Superman flying. 'Atom Man' at least tries to improve upon it's predecessor by having close-ups of Kirk Alyn in flight to off-set the animated footage used in the long shots. As for the use of animation at all, I think we as audiences can tell what is used for an effect (stop-motion, CGI, miniatures, et al), and I would say that at least the animation was used creatively. Take the scene where Superman lifts the truck out of the path of the oncoming flood; I think the creative staff did a remarkable job at giving Superman fantastic things to do, and is probably the only chapterplay hero to do as many things in one serial as he does in 'Atom Man...'.
This serial gives the audience a pretty good story and is true to the characters regarding their comic-book origins. Whereas many serials (and modern films) completely change or contradict what has been told in the comic they're based on ('Captain America' for example), the Superman serials are completely faithful to their comic book origins.
If you have never seen a serial, this might be a good place to start. Superman is one of the most widely-recognized characters of all time, and will only help a beginner who is entering his (or her) first serial. Just remember not to watch more than one chapter a day (it'll add to the suspense if you wait a day or two).
I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957)
Better than you think
For years I avoided this film solely from the title and critic' comments about it. It was easy to label it as a bad film with the title it has, and it constantly appears on bad films lists. Recently I decided to watch as many Frankenstein films made by companies other than Universal as I could, and finally got around to this one. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this film, and how unfairly it had been judged by critics. It has a lot going for it, and my opinion was made by one scene in particular. The Monster had been kept in a cold, utilitarian lab under Dr. Frankenstein's plush opulent mansion, little seeing or knowing of the outside world. One night the lab door was accidentally left unlocked and he hesitantly ventures upstairs to the empty house. He enters Dr. Frankenstein's living room, in awe at all the splendor, his senses reeling at a world he never dreamed existed. Sitting down in a large stuffed chair, his body reacts to the soft cushions, experiencing comfort as never had before and almost melts into it. It is these moments of discovery that we get to know the Monster as a person, and not just a killing machine. Many films featuring a Frankenstein Monster use him as just a mindless brute with no personality or motivation. Teen-age Frankenstein, for faults in other areas, is one of the few to allow the Monster a goal: he expresses his loneliness and desire for companionship.
So for everyone who hasn't seen this film yet because of volumes of "Best of..." books, give it a try. You may not become a fan, but at least you'll see it for what it truly is.
The Shadow (1994)
Who knows what incompetence lurks in this film?
This has got to be one of the worst adaptations of any character in the history of film. For everyone who says "just enjoy it" or "don't analyze it" just proves that this film doesn't have much going for it. Although the screenplay attempts to pull as many details from The Shadow's history as possible, any attempt to tell a good story was made as transparent as the Shadow himself. I am disappointed that with such a great supporting cast (Johnathan Winters, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle) was given NOTHING to do! Curry goes from a sniveling coward to a sweaty maniac with no transition or explanation. And poor Ian McKellan, award winning actor, is simply wasted. The Shadow himself is poorly written, making wise cracks ("Next time, I get to be on top!"), something that he never does and is out of character. Many good moments are ruined by the intrusion of some silly one-liner that deflates what little tension was building. The Shadow even makes Uncle Wainwright forget about the Shadow, all the while driving around in a futuristic cab with sci-fi gadgets in it. Not exactly subtle.
Don't forget, The Shadow in this film doesn't even save the city, he just stops the bad guy in a climax stolen from "Highlander". Margot and her father are really the ones who saved thousands or millions of lives. Supposedly two different scripts were written, a dark serious one and a funny camp one. Shame the second one was picked, because we might've gotten a good film instead.