Reviews written by registered user
bsmith5552

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639 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Who Done it?, 25 April 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte" was intended as a follow-up to the highly successful Bette Davis/Joan Crawford/Robert Aldrich success, "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" (1962). However, after filming had begun, Crawford began causing lengthy delays through her frequent "illnesses" and hissy fits. She was subsequently removed from the project and replaced by Olivia DeHavilland.

The story opens in a 1927 prologue where rich and powerful southerner Big Sam Hollis (Victor Buono) is confronting his daughter Charlotte's illicit lover, the married John Mayhew (Bruce Dern). He cajoles the man into breaking up the affair just as the couple were about to run off together. That same evening, Mayhew is brutally murdered and Charlotte is assumed to have committed the act.

Fast forward to 1964 where we find Charlotte (Bette Davis) living as a recluse in the Hollis mansion with her creepy servant Velma (Agnes Moorehead, Big Sam having died several years earlier. The mansion however, is slated for demolition and Charlotte is being forced to abandon her home. In the meantime she is being comforted by Dr. Drew Bayliss (Joseph Cotton) her family doctor. Charlotte sends for her cousin Miriam (De-Havilland) to help her face this crisis.

A British journalist, Harry Willis (Cecil Kellaway) arrives on the scene to investigate the original unsolved crime of 37 years earlier. He interviews the murdered man's widow Jewel Mayhew (Mary Astor) who provides some insight. She gives him an envelope to be opened only upon her death.

Meanwhile back at the mansion, we learn of a plot between Dr. Drew and Miriam to drive Charlotte insane in order to get their hands on Charlotte's considerable fortune. As they proceed with their plans, things go awry and.............................................

Bette Davis was becoming adept at playing slightly off their rocker middle aged ladies. Charlotte was no exception. She moves from sanity to unstable moments quite convincingly. The moment that she finally literally scared out of her wits is mesmerizing. DeHavilland, still showing bits of her "Melanie Wilkes" character form "Gone With the Wind", makes her nasty side seem more believable. Cotton as always, is excellent as the two faced doctor.

Victor Buono, who is billed as a guest star, impresses as Big Sam. Buono, who never got the recognition he deserved, was only 26 years old at the time of this film. Agnes Moorehead almost steals the film as the mysterious housekeeper. Also in the cast are George Kennedy as the demolition foreman, William Campbell as a reporter for a crime magazine, Frank Ferguson as the newspaper editor and Dave Willock as a taxi driver.

I wonder how the film would have been received had Joan Crawford not been fired?

Yet Another Version of this Film!, 15 April 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Light of the Dark" is a bit of a mystery to me. The IMDb description has a story line that starts with a traffic accident and runs 33 minutes. The heroine is called Bessie MacGregor. The version that I watched runs 37 minutes and has no character named Bessie MacGregor, but rather has a heroine named Elaine and starts with an entirely different beginning. It is this version upon which I base my comments.

A distraught wandering young waif (Hope Hampton) arrives at a seedy boarding house and seeks lodging. She is evidently fleeing a broken romance. The land lady takes her last dollar for rent. The young lady, whom we learn later, is named Elaine is admired by another boarder, small time crook Tony Pantelli (Lon Chaney). After several days of looking for a job Elaine collapses from hunger. Tony carries her back to her room and cares for her.

Shift the scene to England where J. Warburton Ashe (E.K. Lincoln) is equally distraught over an apparent broken romance. As luck would have it, his dog discovers what is believed to be The Holy Grail in the ruins of an old cathedral. Turns out it IS The Holy Grail.

Meanwhile back at the boarding house, Elaine has become delirious. One day Tony brings her a newspaper where she learns that Ashe has returned and has The Holy Grail in his possession. Tony is curious about the goblet and Elaine recounts to him the story of The Holy Grail.

In a flashback sequence in the time of King Arthur, we are introduced to Sir Galahad and his young unnamed maiden, also played by Lincoln and Hampton. The young maiden has seen a vision of the Holy Grail and its healing powers and has Galahad set out on a quest to find it. Find it he does and the cup is used to heal the maladies of the people of the area.

Fast forward to the "present" where Tony decides to acquire the cup in order to heal Elaine of her sickness. He goes to Ashe's mansion and takes the cup while assaulting Ashe in the process. He brings the cup to Elaine and convinces her to touch it and be cured. Later, Tony is arrested and brought to court and....................................

Lon Chaney as always, is outstanding as Tony. He once again evokes the sympathy of the audience with his hopeless quest for the love for the heroine, a recurring theme in many of his films. Again his facial expressions showing pity, anger, compassion, fear and relief dominate the film.

There is apparently a full length version of this film running about an hour but is not readily available. And there's the alternate 33 minute version described in IMDb. In the 37 minute version, there are some gaps in the presentation but it is more or less the full story as I see it.

I sincerely hope that the full version becomes available so that Chaney's fans are treated to yet another masterpiece from "the man of a thousand faces".

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Excellent Comeback for Both Stars!, 11 April 2017
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It is well documented the Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, to put it mildly, didn't like each other very much. But to their credit, they saw the advantage of teaming up in a bizarre horror film that would revive their ebbing careers. That film was "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

In 1917 Baby Jane Hudson is a big star in vaudeville with her father. Her sister Blanche is envious of her success and vows to be more famous some day. Fast forward to 1935 and Blanche has turned into Joan Crawford and Baby Jane, Bette Davis. Blanche has become a successful movie star while Jane's career has floundered.

A tragic accident causes Blanche to become paralyzed and Jane to become her full time caregiver. The rivalry between the two carries on. Both are immersed in their past successes however, Jane has begun to lose it. She continually harasses Blanche to the point of serving up bizarre meals to force Blanche to stop eating. Blanche is prevented in calling for help by the ever increasingly paranoid Jane. Housemaid Elvira Stitt (Maidie Norman), sympathetic to Blanche becomes suspicious of Jane's actions.

Jane meanwhile is dreaming of a comeback and hires Victor Flagg (Victor Buono) to accompany her and help manage her career. Blanche in the meantime has made it to the phone and calls for help but Jane walks in and catches her. Jane then ties Blanche up and imprisons her in her room. Elvira, sensing trouble forces Jane to open the door to reveal the pathetic Blanche bound up to her bed. This forces Jane to take action and.........................................

Davis and Crawford had been rivals since their salad days in the 1930s, when both were major stars. Both were immensely talented but just couldn't get along. Now as both were well into their 50s, they were smart enough to see the value of teaming up for the first time in their long careers. Unfortunately this was the one and only time they did so. Plans to re-team them for "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte) (1964) fell through. Both finished their careers in TV and in "crazy old broad" type pictures. Davis' "The Whales of August" (1987) was an exception.

Also in the rather large cast were Marjorie Bennett excellent as Buono's mother Dehlia, John Ford favorite Anna Lee as the next door neighbor Mrs. Bates and Davis' daughter B.D. Merrill as Liza Bates. Too bad she didn't inherit her mother's considerable talent.

By God they still had it. Too bad that this was their only collaboration.

Lon Chaney in a Wesren?, 10 April 2017
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"By the Sun's Rays" is an early Lon Chaney film best remembered for the scene in which he attempts to rape the heroine. It's essentially an early western complete with robbery, treachery and vengeance and runs a mere 11 minutes.

The mining office is being robbed of it's gold shipments. It appears that the gang is being warned in advance of the shipments from within. Manager John Davis (Seymour Hasting) is puzzled. The company dispatches detective John Murdock (Murdoch MacQuarrie) to solve the crimes. Clerk Frank Lawler (Lon Chaney) is under suspicion who also has lustful eyes for Davis' beautiful young daughter Dora (Agnes Vernon).

While rounding up the crooks, Murdock discovers that Lawler has been signaling the gang with a mirror by the sun's rays. Davis tells his daughter to return to the office to keep Lawler busy until the posse's return. A frustrated Lawler sees his opportunity and..............................

I'm not positive, but I believe that this film is the oldest surviving Lon Chaney film. A pity.

See What the Boys in the Back Room Will Have!, 6 April 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Destry Rides Again" is the oft filmed story of a non gun toting lawman who cleans up a frontier town. It was previously filmed in 1932 with Tom Mix and later in 1950 as "Frenchie" with Joel McCrea and in 1954 as "Destry" with Audie Murphy.

This version which came out in the movies' best year 1939, stars Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart. This film recharged her career and Stewart was just emerging as a major star.

The town of Bottleneck is a lawless place under the control of gambler Kent (Brian Donlevy) who with his cronies and Frenchie the "saloon singer" (Dietrich) are cheating honest ranchers out of their properties by luring them into poker games.

Rancher Lem Claggett (Tom Fadden) is the latest victim. When he loses his ranch, Sheriff Keogh (Joe King) is murdered trying to get the man's ranch back. Kent has Judge Slade (Samuel S. Hinds) appoint town drunk Washington Dimsdale (Charles Winniger) as the new sheriff. Dimsdale however, takes his job seriously and sends for Tom Destry Jr. (Stewart), the son of his former friend Tom Sr.

Destry is at first a laughing stock until he demonstrates his prowess with six shooter. Frenchie it seems has a heart of gold and starts to take a liking to Tom. Young Janice Tyndall (Irene Hervey) also has her eye on Tom. Barfly Boris (Mischa Auer) loses his pants to Frenchie in a poker game which results in his wife Lilly Belle (Una Merkel) charging into the saloon and having a slam bang fight with Frenchie.

Following a tragic event Tom becomes angered, straps on his father's guns and.....................................................

To me, there was just too much light comedy in light of the seriousness of the story. The likes of Auer, Billy Gilbert As the bartender and Allen Jenkins and Warren Hymer as Donlevy's boys is just too much comedy relief. Even Winniger's character has comedic traits. Jack Carson, who would soon become known for his comedic roles, plays a rough and tough rancher who is at first mistaken for Destry.

Dietrich's character was hilariously parodied by Madeliene Kahn in "Blazing Saddles" (1974)to the point that Dietrich's performance is overshadowed to modern viewers. It did however, get her back into the spotlight as she would follow this film up with two with John Wayne. James Stewart was just starting to be seen as a major star. He would appear in the classic "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" the same year and win an Academy Award the following year for "The Philadelphia Srory".

Despite it's faults, this film is still looked upon as a true classic.

She Flies Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease!, 6 April 2017
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Panther Girl of the Congo" is one of the last serial turned out by "the serial factory", Republic Pictures. At this time studios were turning out films about over sized or mutant creatures. This one deals with an over-sized (now get this) craw fish.

Mad scientist Dr. Morgan (Arthur Space) is creating mutant craw fish in order to frighten the local natives away so that he and his cronies, Cass (John Day) and Rand (Mike Ragan) can mine diamonds from an abandoned mine. International Wildlife Federation Representative Jean Evans (Phyllis Coates) is filming wildlife in the jungle when she comes upon one of the mutant creatures. Evans summon hunter/guide Larry Sanders (Myron Healey) for assistance.

Over 12 chapters, the pair escape life threatening situations each chapter as they battle with the bad guys. For some reason Evans is called Panther Girl. We don't actually see a panther in the story except at the end of each chapter. What we do see is the fetching Ms. Coates in a micro mini skirted costume each time she goes into the jungle. She swings across the jungle on vines in sequences I'm sure I've seen in other Republic serials. She also gets to ride an elephant from time to time and battle a rubber crocodile as well..

It was refreshing for me to see long time western villain Healey in a leading role. This may have been his only starring role. Space, Day an Ragan make formidable villains. Oddly enough neither the heroes or villains can hit the broad side of a barn with their rifles. Although the Lydecker Brothers do their best with the monsters, I can't help but wonder why a rogue panther wasn't considered as the, pardon the expression, elephant in the room.

Not one of their best but still a competently made serial nonetheless.

Plenty of Treachery in This One!, 3 April 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"The Black Dakotas" is a tight action packed little 65 minutes of a western. It takes place in 1864 during the American Civil War.

An emissary from President Lincoln, Zachary Paige (Frank Wilcox) is being sent to negotiate a treaty with the Sioux Indians under Chief War Cloud (John War Eagle). The Indians are to be paid $100K as part of the deal. Brock Marsh (Gary Merrill) is travelling with him when their stage coach is stopped. John Lawrence (Fay Roope) is a southern patriot who plans to substitute Marsh for Zachary and divert the gold shipment to the confederacy. After Lawrence leaves, Marsh , who has his own plans, murders Paige.

Later in town a posse headed by Marshal Collins (Robert F. Simon) brings Lawrence in under arrest. With the urging of loud mouthed townsman Grimes (Peter Whitney) a trial is quickly held and Lawrence sentenced to be hanged. In spite of the intervention of stage line owner Mike Daugherty (John Bromfield) and Lawrence's fiery young daughter Ruth (Wanda Hendrix), Lawrence is hanged and Marsh puts his plan into action. Gimpy Joe Woods (Noah Beery Jr.) reveals himself to Marsh as Lawrence's right hand man and agrees to help him get the gold for the south.

Daugherty agrees to take Marsh (as Paige) to the Indian village but are attacked by renegade Black Buffalo (Jay Silverheels). Marsh almost is burned at the stake before being rescued by Gimpy and a posse. They go on to meet with the Chief to negotiate the treaty.

Later, Sheriff Collins and Judge Baker(Howard Wendell) discover that Marsh is an impostor forcing Gimpy to reluctantly gun them down. Grimes and the townspeople believe that Ruth did the shooting and set out to get her. Then as the stage carrying the gold approaches......................................

As it turns out, top billed Merrill is the chief villain who ruthlessly guns down several people over the course of the film. Bromfield is the hero and Hendrix the object of his affections. Lawrence's gang includes such recognizable faces as James Griffith, Richard Webb, Clayton Moore and Chris Alcaide. Silent screen veterans Heinie Conklin and Hank Mann have small parts as townsmen. There's also a couple of good scraps involving Bromfield with Whitney and Merrill. I'm not sure but I think that this was the only feature film in which Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels appeared not as The Lone Ranger and Tonto.

Gun Fury (1953)
All Star Raoul Walsh Western!, 1 April 2017
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Gun Fury" is lifted a couple of notches due to the direction of veteran director Raoul Walsh. He keeps the story moving and riveting at the same time. He was able to get Rock Hudson on loan from Universal and employed several up and coming actors in the process.

Four travelers, Jennifer Ballard (Donna Reed), Buffalo bones buyer Weatherby (Forrest Lewis) and Southern charmer Frank Slaton (Phil Carey) along with his partner Jess Burgess (Leo Gordon), are heading across Arizona. Jennifer is going to meet her fiancé Ben Warren (Hudson) in order to get married and move on to California. At a stop over the girl is surprised by the unexpected appearance of Ben.

As they continue their journey, Slaton reveals himself as the notorious killer he is as he and his gang rob the stage of it's sizable gold shipment. His gang includes Blinky (Lee Marvin), Brazos (Neville Brand) and Westy (John "Lefty" Cason). During the robbery Ben is shot and believed dead as the Salton gang makes off with the loot and Jennifer. Slaton has a run-in with Jess and ties him up and leaves him to die.

Ben however is only wounded and takes up the pursuit. He rescues Jess and the two form a partnership. They are later joined by an Indian Vincente (I hope I got this right)(Don Carlos). When the trio catches up to the gang an exchange is arranged (Jennifer for Jess) and.............................................

Hudson was just hitting his stride and had made other westerns, so he was at home in the saddle. He is quite good as the revengeful Warren. Donna Reed was about to win an Academy Award for "From Here to Eternity". Carey never did make it to the "A" list but was always dependable in the westerns of the day that he appeared in. Roberta Hayes livens things up as Slaton's "girl he left behind", Estella. Marvin and Brand have little to do as members of the gang but would soon graduate to better parts. I always liked John Cason who appeared in many "A" and "B' list westerns of the day. He could always be spotted with his left handed holster and his distinctive voice.

Originally filmed in 3D by a director with but one eye.

Below Average Durango Kid Oater!, 29 March 2017
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Blazing Across the Pecos" starts out promisingly enough with an Indian attack on a trading post but soon gives way to its small budget and aging villains.

Mayor Ace Brockway (Charles Wilson) is trying to drive rival Matt Carter (Thomas Jackson) out of business by having his trading post attacked by Chief Bear Claw (Chief Thundercloud). The Chief is being supplied with rifles by Brockway. The Durango Kid (Charles Starrett) discovers a hidden Indian costume and a saddle ornament discarded by Brockway henchman Buckshot Thomas (Jack Ingram). Durango you see is trying to discover who is behind the raids.

Later as Steve Blake, he manages to get appointed Deputy Sheriff under that fearless lawman Smiley Burnette and begins to investigate. Blake manages to foil assassination attempts by such fearless killers as Gunsmoke Ballard (Frank McCarroll). As Durango, he gains the support of newspaper editor Jim Traynor (Paul Campbell) and Carter's daughter Lola (Patricia White). The army buys up Carter's cattle for $20K which allows him to pay for much needed supplies for the settlers. Brockway gets Bear Claw to attack the supply train in return for 100 rifles, however the rifles are taken by Durango and.......................

This film owes most of it's action sequences to stock footage first the attack on the fort then the raid of the supply train and lastly a cattle stampede. There are no fist fights other than the one in silhouette in the saloon between Starrett and Ingram. And the ending...no chase and no shoot out, what a disappointment. The supporting cast is below average. I can't say that I've ever heard of Charles Wilson or Frank McCarroll both who were too old for their parts.

Patricia White later became Patricia Barry and went on to a lengthy career in both movies and television. Jock (Jack) Mahoney who doubled Starrett as the Durango Kid in the action scenes (of which there are few), gets to play a small role in the film. Musical group Red Arnell and The Western Aces liven things up with a couple of numbers as does Burnette complete with his frog voice.

And look out Durango, Gene Autry is on his way to the studio to eat up even more of your budgets.

Great Cast; Gripping Story!, 28 March 2017
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I probably liked this film more than most, but I thought it had a great cast and a good story. The battle scenes are well staged and exciting to watch. The interplay between the various characters keeps the viewers interest throughout.

The time is 1916 at the time of Pancho Villa where a U.S. army battalion has been sent into Mexico to "get Villa" who had previously led a raid onto American soil. Major Thomas Thorpe (Gary Cooper) is assigned the task of identifying American heroes to be recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor. As American entry in WWI is immanent, the army needs American heroes to help in the recruitment of new recruits.

A cavalry charge led by Col. Rogers (Robert Keith) on an enemy stronghold, results in the identification of four candidates: Lt. Fowler (Tab Hunter), Sgt. Chawk (Van Heflin), Cpl. Trubee (Richard Conte) and Pvt. Renzelhausen (Dick York) in addition to Pvt. Hetherington (Michael Callen) whom Thorpe had already identified. In addition American Adelaide Geary (Rita Hayworth) is arrested for aiding and abetting the enemy and "comforting" rebel leader Arreaga (Carlos Romero).

Rogers, upset at not being commended for his victory by Thorpe orders him to escort the group alone to Army Headquarters in the town of Cordura. Along the way, they are attacked by Arreaga and are forced to give up their horses and walk the rest of the way. During the trek Thorpe is asked to withdraw his recommendations for medals for various reasons by each of the five men. And , Thorpe has a secret of his own. Gradually they become alienated from Thorpe and he is left alone to bring them in irregardless. Only Adelaide sticks by him. Also Hetherington becomes ill and the group is forced to carry him causing further tension. At last they reach the railway line and......................................................

An obvious flaw in the casting has Cooper, who was in his late 50s, as Thorpe who would have been a much younger man however Coop gave a performance that reminded one of his Will Kane in "High Noon". Hayworth was also quite good as the "well travelled" Adelade. Van Heflin was never better as the bitter Chawk. The rest of the cast were equally as good including Hunter who was known more for his light comedies with the likes of Natalie Wood.


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