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Having a Caribean cocktail with the stunning Yvonne De Carlo is always a welcome treat. Watering down the highball glass of shiftless men (with one exception) she encounters along the way is a daunting prospect. De Carlo's "Bahama Mama" is the swivel stick that stirs the island economy. She inherits a hefty sum of cash and quickly enlists Zachary Scott to accompany her to the Bahamas where she purchases a resort/casino. All of the female characters seem to be harboring dark secrets. The male characters, however, come off as clueless (Duff doesn't even recall having a past relationship with Miss De Carlo.) or righteously noble (Arness has the hots for De Carlo but would rather see her return to the mainland, before losing her dignity and money chest.) Arness' character is steadfast against the vice of gambling. He's always preaching against the evils of the roulette wheel. Sleazy Kurt Kazner, yet another investor, has eyes for the female lead, too, but also has ties to some unsavory gangsters. Duff's memory returns and he begins to woo the sultry Yvonne, but Duff's mother is an impediment. She dislikes show people (Decarlo is a singer) or anyone else (she feels) is beneath her son's station in life. Tough courting rules. Along the way, Decarlo sings and dances up a tropical storm. Her three musical numbers slyly comment on the action taking place on the screen. One reggae-riff, while she's in a drunken stupor, is a highlight. Multiple scandals pop up along the way; secrets are revealed. Duff's meddlesome mother is in the center of things. It all leaves you guessing and a bit perplexed. Set during the Christmas season, the exotic scenery and super bright day-glow colors leap (lords a leaping) from the screen. This film was written by the same woman who penned the Christmas classics Beyond Tomorrow and Christmas in Connecticut. Flame of the Islands completes the yuletide trilogy in fine fashion.
Unrelenting Rudolph Mate film noir, which tunnels deep into the underside of urban bleakness, but crests at the top of the genre's ring of royalty. Edmund O'Brien is Frank Bigelow, C.P.A., and all around swell fellow. But Bigelow--a great noir name--has a small problem. Perhaps a little indigestion and heartburn from a night of carousing? No--more serious. He visits a doctor and he tells him he's been poisoned. Luminous poisoning. We know this because the good doctor turns off the light and the test tube glows in the dark. Bigelow gets a second opinion. Same results. He's told he has a week to ten days (tops) to live. Bigelow turns tail and spends the rest of his life (and the movie) seeking his killer. Bigelow bounces and careens off the city landscape like Roger Rabbit on speed. The despair and cynicism of a modern metropolis is bored into like a doctor's syringe that is thrust into a patient's bone marrow during a spinal tap. At the Fisherman's Bar in San Francisco, Bigelow is slipped a Mickey Finn while chatting up a female hipster. From that very first lethal sip from a spiked drink, his humdrum occupation and clingy girl friend are all but a distant, fog-shrouded memory. His journey through Los Angeles' dark streets and its even darker denizens, puts his life in serious peril. He doesn't care. He doesn't have anything to lose. He no longer has to be polite or gentlemanly toward women. He has no trouble manhandling the broads he comes in contact with if it may help his cause. One has a great line: "If I was a man I'd punch your face in." Or something like that. Composer Dimitri Tiomkin's somber and, at times, quirky score (punctuated by wolf calls on a slide flute whenever the lead character spots an attractive dame), works fine in the long run. But Bigelow's run will be short. His penultimate line of dialog in the movie is simple but filled with confusion and regret: "All I ever did was notarize a bill of sale." Never has film noir been so fatalistic--but true.
The Geiger counter is off the meter in this Roger Corman effort. Red hot. Searing. Out of the radioactive mist stagger seven survivors. One, a man, has suffered radiation poisoning. The other six characters are relatively intact. But exposed. Beefy Richard Denning performs his best fireman's carry of the infected man, plucking him out of the lethal, contaminated fog. They all arrive safely in a valley protected by a natural barrier of mountainous lead. Or something. It's best not to think too much about such matters. Stumbling into a place where there are very few people, natural shields and a house with supplies, is alway a plus in this type of genre film. Mike Connors arrives and soon cracks thick skulls with Denning. They both want to take charge. He also has the hots for the daughter of the military man, in whose house they've all crashed. The gruff, older gentleman has only enough supplies for three people: his daughter, her fiancée and himself. The fiancé never makes it. Or does he? The Captain views the others as uninvited guests--extra mouths to feed. The daughter takes pity on them and allows them to stay the night. And longer. Softy. A stripper and prospector (complete with burrow) fill out the remaining cast. The characters fight, argue, dance, bicker, swim, fight (some more) and plan for the future. The father even marries off his daughter to Denning. His philosophy: start making babies as soon as possible. But what if the radioactive rains come too fast? Well, then they will all be pushing up daises. The surrounding hills are populated by mutated humans in different stages of decay and rot. The fog creeps and slithers around the rim of the valley like mustard gas. The movie does convey a spooky atmosphere very well, and violence and religious overtones are present and applied liberally. All you need for a rainy Saturday afternoon of viewing. But keep clear of any radioactive pellets cascading from the sky. They're killers. Now whatever happened to that fiancé?
Timeless. Movie feels as if it was made ten, or even twenty years ago.
Or maybe in the future? A revenge tale, competently steered by Director
John Singleton, hits on all cylinders. Although this crackerjack, high
octane thriller has a high body count, it is, I think, a very sweet
film of brotherly love toward each other and their adoptive mother. The
four Mercer brothers--two white, two black--reunite for their mother's
funeral. She has been murdered, execution-style, by a couple of street
punks. Hired guns. Mark Walberg is perfectly cast as the lead. He's one
of the few white actors who would be believable in such a role. His
timeout during a high school basketball game (to search some souls for
information on the killing) is staged and plotted well. You believe
he's a tough guy who takes no crap. Singleton's choice to shoot the
film in the winter, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas, in a
decayed Detroit, is the spot-on right thing to do. When was the last
time you saw a car chase in a snowstorm? Sweet direction there. Sofia
Vergara spins a keen turn as one of the brothers' girl friends. One
small quibble: the scene where Walberg cuts the rope of a bad guy
repelling off the face of a project, should have include the baddie
firing away when falling backward, a wink-and-a-nod to Sharkey's
Machine. The complicated corruption narrative has you engrossed from
the start. Why would anyone kill a sweet old lady, anyway? The whos and
the whys are properly addressed before the film ends. The last
confrontation between the evil gangster (he forces a henchman to eat
his dinner off the floor) and the good-by-default Bobby Mercer (he
loves hockey) lead to a quirky climax on a frozen lake. Fish bait?
Simply catch the movie with a comfy comforter and a cup of cocoa in
order to find out why--and to warm you up a bit. It's a cold movie to
watch. This flicker might give you a bad case of frost bite. No snow
On a personal note: The name Bobby Mercer (the more common spelling) always brings a smile to my face. The former major leaguer--ex-Yankee, Giant, and Cub--Bobby Murcer, was my favorite baseball player when I was growing up. He passed away last year at the age of 62. A piece of my childhood died that day. This movie resurrected it for about two hours. One last thing: I think the writer should have used the "Murcer" spelling simply because if you change the "c" to a "d," it spells murder. An apt description of what takes place throughout this movie.
A frantic 1960's romantic comedy that is still a vibrant look at a New York City that has all but vanished; however, the movie HAS shown signs of wear and tear of late. I like Redford but I don't get Fonda. She's all over the place; her nervousness bothers me. She handles the dramatic parts in the script fine, but displays a shrill, manic nature in performing the comedic elements. She's, ultimately, too over-the-top for my tastes. I wish the director would've simply yelled "CUT!" once or twice. Charles Boyer, on the other hand, is a godsend from above. Literally. He lives in the building's attic, one flight above the newlyweds. Boyer is fit--looking much younger than his stated age at the time--and his acting chops are sharpened to a razor-thin cut. The small, quirky (the radiator is skyward) N.Y.C. apartment set serves an important purpose: It's the unofficial arena for our trio of thespians to do battle. Joined (later) by Fonda's understanding mother and an agitated telephone repairman, Neil Simon's sly narrative is finally completed. Numerous public conveyances are used to provide color in this movie. The old cars, Checker Cabs, N.Y.C. buses and even the Staten Island Ferry, make classic appearances before the film's final fade out. The ferry takes the two couples--minus the phone guy--to sleepy Staten Island, so they can experience an authentic Albanian restaurant, complete with belly dancing and homemade brew. It's the highlight of the film.
I've always felt that the title of this movie would make a good fit for an alternative rock band's moniker. Ray Miland, the father of the nuclear family depicted here, believes strongly in the survival of the fittest. He's right. No going back. He does a steady, practical job in protecting his family at all costs: from the mountain marauders roaming the back roads after a radioactive mishap to coping with his family's fears after a bomb--the size of Los Angeles--has been detonated back home. The film opens up with a harsh close-up of a (now) vintage car's chrome, push-button radio on the dash. This simple image will stick in most viewers' thoughts long after the movie ends. The title soon follows with an atomic blast of block lettering, signaling the start of the film. All other credits will happen after the movie finishes. Unusual. Nice nostalgic touch: movie is preceded by the now defunct Orion Studio's lovely, spinning logo. The movie, however, is loaded with ugliness. The violence is NOT graphic but remains a player. There is a definite suggestion of rape (twice) in the screenplay. I'm not a fan of the film's score. The tinny, juvenile jazz score, I feel, is too intrusive and lacking in any sought of positive punch toward the action. Too much brass. I was impressed by the matte shot of the nuclear blast. Clean special effect. There is the ubiquitous presence of a working phone booth out in the middle of nowhere. Acting honors go to a youthful, empathetic Frankie Avalon and the young lady who plays the rape victim. William Bouchey's civilized doctor gives some sage advice. And the two soldiers at the end of the picture deliver their lines smartly and on pitch. Overall, the film holds up pretty well for modern audiences.
Working secretly from a basement in an U.S.C. science building, a trio of scientists crack open a window into the future. Endeavoring to open their portal can be a tricky proposition: in light that it is next to scientifically impossible to pull off. Accidentally, the two-dimensional view screen gives way to an actual exit to another world. Danny, the meddlesome errand boy, takes the initiative and vaults himself into a devastated, futuristic time zone. (A neat special effects trick is employed here: when an actor, entering the portal, steps off to the right side of the window, disappearing for a few moments, only to reemerge, with the help of rear projection, back into the background of the scene.) The two male scientists soon follow. Mutants respond to their intrusion as only mutants can: they attack. Two of the disfigured fellows even attempt to leap into the lab, but the female scientist repels them with a handy fire extinguisher. Smashing good tactic. In the nick of time, and just before the portal closes, she also takes the plunge into the future. This is a surprisingly good special effect. It works so well that they utilize it again, later on in the movie. The rugged terrain is photographed by the legendary cinematographer, Vilmos Zsigmond, but, at the time of filming, a new comer. He renders off some excellent tracking shots through barren canyons. High shots. Long shots. And even some shots that follow directly behind our group as they search for missing Danny. Confrontation ensues. Mutants don't like stone throwers so they retreat. When Danny is found up ahead, they take sanctuary in a cave protected by an invisible force field. The tunnel dwellers soon arrive and escort them to more comfortable surroundings for some well-needed answers. John Hoyt, the leader of the council, and looking fit and dapper, gives them some answers and asks them some questions of his own. For a movie geared to kids, the film has some frank talk about sex. Reyna, Danny's girl, is a looker and has the right amount of sweetness for us to buy her as Danny's girl. There are many bright touches along the way, and an ingenious time-loop that makes sense for a change. The battle sequences between the mutants, humans and worker-androids, are violent and fiery. Blood flows. Some androids and mutants lose limbs. Rightfully so. Terrific movie to watch with the kids on a lazy afternoon in the summer. Show them how things used to be. They'll be stunned. Trust me. I was.
Not yet, anyway. Motto: keep the smaller venues in play. Unapolegeticaly old fashioned and drenched heavily in the spray of cinematic clichés, this time capsule of a family drama clicks on all cylinders. I, however, might be a wee bit biased. I think I saw the Gold Cup Hydroplane Race depicted here on "Wide World of Sports," back in 1971. I was eight. It's one thing to recall the first moon landing, and another thing, entirely, to recall a long ago boat race in Indiana. I must be nuts. But it does create an odd, nostalgic feeling for me. The young boy, played by the kid from the new Star Wars films, emotes excitement well, but is lacking in conveying sorrow or remorse. He does, however, have a nifty Schwin bike: high handle bars, banana seat, and a sweet gear shift. Watching him peddle that two-wheeler through Madison, the Grass Roots blasting on the soundtrack, stirs memories from anyone who was around that boy's age, back then. Like me. The underdog "Miss Madison" team from the small, backwater village of Madison, a location the racing circuit wishes would gracefully fade away, somehow pulls it all together to compete in the big race. Along the watery way, the team suffers through a lack of funds for repairs, blown engines and the death of a skilled driver. It's all quite routine--but, ultimately, well done. The movie had the misfortune of spending four years on the studio's misfit shelf. Fitting. It's better than that. So crank up the air conditioner full blast and enjoy the final blow out.
Sleeper. "Dreamer" Tim Matheson, an actor I've always liked, is obsessed with exiting--even a ripped open hunk of flesh and a blood soaked bandage is little obstacle--the lower ranks of minor league bowling, and earning his pot-of-gold: his name on a P.B.A. card. Susan Blakely, an actress I've always liked, scores a three-strike turkey as Dreamer's pushy love interest. Old reliable Jack Warden is Matheson's surrogate father, a man who's own gargantuan-sized bag of dreams rivals those of Dreamer. A gaggle of goofy locals hang out at Warden's glitzy bowling emporium, a cheery place where no one is turned away. Comfy. Dreamer's route to stardom is cluttered along the way with squabbles with Blakely, unscrupulous P.B.A. executives and a past opponent with a vendetta. Real-life professional bowler Nelson Burton, Jr. and ABC commentator Chris Schenkel provide much needed color and authenticity. The tournament final is filmed in a crisp and clean style. A couple of promising scenes begin well but fall flat, otherwise the movie unwinds a refreshing look at a slice of life usually not projected on to the big screen. The kind of "little" film that Hollywood has, sadly, almost abandoned.
Unofficial sequel (methinks so, anyway) to Yvonne De Carlo's Fort Algiers, this hot and heavy desert drama arrives at the end of Miss De Carlo's initial leap into a Hollywood film career, 1945-59, just before her semi-retirement, and prior to her reemergence as "Lilly Munster," the antithesis of Donna Reed's more perfectly molded vision of motherhood. In this one, American Mature is running guns to the Tuareg tribes, while a French garrison, led by Dolenz, tries their very best to thwart the rebellion and any colonial retribution residue to follow. A love triangle soon erects itself between De Carlo, Dolenz and Mature. It's all very civilized and modern. Dolenz doesn't put up much of a fight. I would. De Carlo is definitely worth fighting for. John Dehner, who played a good guy in Fort Algiers, turns around and becomes the demented, evil Emir in this one. Another sadistic rebel has a scar running down the entire length of his face. Dehner tests one of Mature's automatic weapons on the fellow with the hideous scar. He dies. He later will turn up planted in the Emir's vegetable garden. Nice one. Green thumb? Spiders are cleverly enlisted to torture and kill the French. An Iman is rescued, secreted and forgotten along the way. Strange stuff: a long trek across the sands reveals some legionnaires impaled on spears, like shish-kabobs at an oasis barbecue. It's all a bit convoluted and thematically tangled. But, for the most part, highly recommended for folks who enjoy a few Camels with their Tuareg coffee.
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