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23 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
OK Beirut-set suspense film with Mickey Rooney and Lex Barker, 17 August 2004
7/10

An international co-production from the ubiquitous Harry Alan Towers, 24 HOURS TO KILL stars Lex Barker as an airline pilot whose plane, bound for Athens, has engine trouble and is forced to land in Beirut. The mechanics tell him they can have the plane repaired and ready to fly in 24 hours--the 24 hours "to kill" of the title. Mickey Rooney plays a member of the flight crew who, upon landing, is watched and followed by a number of people...and who acts quite suspiciously himself. The question of why Rooney is being followed and what he has done in the past to explain his being followed provides the suspense in the film. The script does not give the always-excellent Barker much particularity of character--he basically has to look handsome and act authoritative. His attitude toward the Rooney character changes throughout the film, and he is entangled in a relationship with a female member of the crew, so there are a few elements in the script that give the character some depth, but not enough. Mickey Rooney is given a far meatier role. Rooney is perfect as "Jonesy", affable on the surface, but complex underneath and with a BIG chip on his shoulder. There's not a lot of action in the film, and the few fight scenes are--as usual for Harry Alan Towers productions--unconvincingly staged. Although made in English, the film has the feel of any number of continental co-productions and an international cast. The ending can be viewed as either ironic or unsatisfying, but it certainly wasn't what I expected! There are a few interesting middle-eastern-looking shots that could either be location shooting or sleight-of-hand involving stock footage, but in any event the film does have a distinct middle-eastern flavor that keeps it from being generic or run of the mill. Overall, this is an entertaining b-movie worth watching for fans of Lex Barker (one of his last English-language starring roles) and for a colorful character role by Mickey Rooney (see PULP with Michael Caine sometime for another fine Rooney performance). If you have two free hours and want a standard-issue dose of b-movie international intrigue, it's worthwhile, but nothing worth seeking out.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
exciting Italian crime/mystery with Brett Halsey, 14 November 2004
9/10

Walter, a journalist who recently lost his job, is feeling a bit down, and gets even more depressed when his fiancée, Lisa, vanishes. She had recently taken up with a friend of theirs, a rich older doctor. As Walter (Brett Halsey) peels away each layer of the disappearance, he digs deeper and deeper into a world of crime and corruption and he gets into more and more trouble. Halsey, American star of Return of the Fly, Girl in Lovers Lane, and Return to Peyton Place, went to Europe in 1963 where he made quite a success and worked steadily, appearing in some classic westerns, spy films, costume dramas, and giallos. Films such as MAGNIFICENT ADVENTURER (where he plays Benvenuto Cellini), ESPIONAGE IN LISBON, TODAY IT'S ME TOMORROW YOU, and PERVERSION STORY are classics to me. Director Nick Nostro (familiar to me for his "gladiator" films starring Dan Vadis) keeps the action moving fast, yet manages to focus on Walter's state of mind also. Although the film is not wall-to-wall fights, some of them are quite over the top and show Nostro's roots in the peplum genre. In one scene where Halsey is in a car chase a suspicious character, another car cuts in front of him to stop him. Halsey gets out of the car to get into a fight with the crooks following him, and one of them belts him so hard he flies across the hood of the car! Margaret Lee is also present as a friend, Christina, who has always had feelings for Halsey but never put the move on him because of his engagement to Lisa. What is her motivation? Watch the film and see. As Italian crime-mysteries circa 1966 go, this one is quite good. With a strong leading man such as Halsey, a mystery angle that keeps the viewer guessing, and lots of action, WEB OF VIOLENCE is definitely worth watching.

15 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
A&C still in fine form in their waning days at Universal--great to have Karloff on board, 20 March 2006
9/10

I somehow missed this film on television as a child, but ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE is a fine vehicle for the boys and shows that they were still in excellent form in their last few years at Universal. There's a lot of physical comedy here and less verbal jousting than in their 1940's material, which is great because both Bud and Lou were amazing physical comedians. They are American police officers who are for some reason in England (learning British police techniques--I just saw a Columbo with that plot recently!), and stumble across a series of killings that has baffled the police. At the same time, we are introduced to Boris Karloff as Dr. Jekyll who has a young lady played by Helen Westcott as his ward (and, in an uncomfortable scene near the end, he professes his love for her "since she was a child"!!!!), and she in turn has an American reporter played by Craig "Peter Gunn" Stevens (always a reliable and attractive leading man)interested in her. There's a strange suffragette subplot that opens the film and is brought back a few times, including an off-the-wall musical sequence, but Ms. Westcott's character is the kind of movie-feminist who abandons the cause when the first hunky man takes an interest in her. The "transformation" scenes with Karloff are well done, and of course Lou gets "transformed" a few times himself. There are some exciting chases, and the scene near the end around the chimney on a roof is a classic that you'll have to see for yourself. Karloff underplays his role, which was probably a wise decision and keeps things from becoming campy. People either like A&C or they don't understand their appeal. Those who enjoy them will find ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE a fine, lesser-known later entry, and it would probably appeal to today's children too. Do those children or grandchildren a favor and introduce them to Bud and Lou--they'll thank you later.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
TV-special-quality hour of A&C highlights, hosted by Seinfeld--could have been better, 20 March 2006
5/10

My vote of 5 on this TV-special is one-half of a 10--since about half of the show is vintage A&C material and interesting comments from their children. Seinfeld is a talented man, but he's basically working from a not-too-interesting script here, and there is nothing that even the moderate A&C fan doesn't already know. For some reason, I was thinking that this was actually a DEAD MEN DON"T WEAR PLAID style film where Seinfeld interacted with the boys (now THAT would be interesting, and since Seinfeld now has a lot of clout in the showbiz world, maybe he could make such a film happen?), but only one scene does that, and only for a few seconds. Overall, this is a very-good introduction to the world of Abbott & Costello for those who are not familiar with their work, and I'm glad Jerry Seinfeld got the opportunity to champion the work of his heroes, but it's nothing special and I wouldn't go out of my way to see it. If you buy the fourth Universal A&C box set, you'll get this as a bonus, and like me you'll probably watch it once, find it entertaining, and watch actual A&C films instead when you need your dose of Bud and Lou.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
If you like Abbott and Costello, you should like this, 26 August 2004
8/10

Much of Abbott and Costello's late 40s/early 50s output put them in parodies of various film genres--this one is a parody of murder mysteries. I saw this as a child and liked it, although I was let down that Boris Karloff had such an insignificant role. Now that it's out on DVD as part of the third A&C boxset, I'm seeing it again, and I still think it's quite funny. There are many well-paced comic set-ups and the boys don't look bored as they do in some of their later vehicles. No great analysis is needed for a film like this--it's just classic comedy and has held up very well.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Powerful study of urban corruption, still timely today, 7 June 2002
9/10

This 1932 Universal feature, directed by action-crime specialist Edward L. Cahn, is a powerful study of urban corruption that is still timely today. Although only 72 minutes long (what a lesson today's filmmakers could learn in that department!!!), the film presents a complete urban society--law enforcement, judiciary, city administration, Mayor's office, organized crime--and a completely corrupt system. Eric Linden plays a bellhop at a swank hotel who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time his life to be destroyed although he has done nothing wrong. He's simply not "well connected." Simultaneously, corrupt cops conspire with a corrupt DA and a corrupt judge to keep graft-paying mobsters from suffering any harm. The society depicted in the film is corrupt, although there are honest and well-meaning individuals in any particular department who do their best to fight the corruption and to stand up for honest working people--however, those individuals are either destroyed or ignored or frozen out and they have little effect. As a pre-Code film, Afraid to Talk does not pull any punches, and its ending is something you'd never see in a corporate product playing the multiplexes here in 2002. The film moves at a fast pace, and the last five minutes perhaps move at TOO fast a pace, but in its own way the pacing helps to create the feel of inevitability that gives the film its unique fatalistic feel. I watched this with a group of 30 people, all of whom were speechless, realizing the sad, painful truths the film depicts. Afraid to Talk is a forgotten classic that packs a powerful punch, and still does today, 70 years after its initial release. If you ever get a chance to see it, don't miss it.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
well-paced French crime film, w/ Sean Flynn and fine jazz score, 18 December 2002
9/10

Based on a novel by the prolific James Hadley Chase, this stylish, well-paced, B&W early 60s French crime film stars the handsome, athletic, and charismatic Sean Flynn as an American in Paris whose curiosity gets him sucked into an international intrigue that is not fully explained in the course of the film, but which is exciting and mysterious as it's happening (I watch films such as these for style, not logic). I'm not sure if Flynn is doing his own voice here--I'd say no, if that IS his real voice in Stop Train 349--but the voice assigned him is not off-putting, and he carries the film well with a boyish enthusiasm that reminds me of the young Jim Hutton. The effective shadowy photography and rapid pace are complemented by a fine jazz organ score by Alain Goraguer (whose work you can hear on volumes 1, 3, and 4 of the recent JAZZ & CINEMA CD series within the massive JAZZ IN PARIS reissue series). France produced many, many great b&w crime films in the late 50s and early 60s, many with great jazz musical scores. These are known in the US mostly from being shown on old UHF stations in the middle of the night or occasionally playing on the bottom half of the double bill at drive-ins and second-run theatres. Fans of dubbed 60s euro-crime films should enjoy this stylish outing. Also, anyone who wants to understand the appeal of the late Sean Flynn should check this out (and also Stop Train 349, in which he gives a fine performance opposite Jose Ferrer).

14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
powerful early-sound George O'Brien western--not what I was expecting!, 17 March 2006
10/10

I wound up with a copy of this film by accident--and figured I'd watch it before sending it back to the collector who made me a copy of this instead of the film I'd actually requested, so I had little or no expectations...just wanted to see what it was. The first few scenes take place back east and feature Robert Warwick, so I was thinking "oh no, another of those 'dude goes West' films." However, the film soon shifts into high gear with Warwick's death, which motivates George O'Brien to go out to Wyoming. There's some well-placed humor in the film, such as when O'Brien lands his plane in a lady's bathroom (!), but the film is as much a mystery as it is a western. There's also a nice "Bad Day At Black Rock" kind of feel to the small town in which O'Brien arrives, asking questions. The way the plot develops is suspenseful, and the finale, which ends cold right after the climax, is powerful. The film, as with most 1931 productions, has no music, so ending the film abruptly and in silence is a powerful technique. The heavy in the film is played by the young Humphrey Bogart, in what must have been one of his first significant roles, and he is menacing and intense, just as he would be a few years later in PETRIFIED FOREST. George O'Brien, best known today for the silent classic SUNRISE and for his work in John Ford films, can play an upper-class polo-playing young man, but he is also genuinely tough (not a surprise, considering he was a boxing champ earlier in his life), has a keen sense of humor, and has a warm screen presence. He's also a fine horseman. In under one hour, this film tells a complex story, yet is exciting and plays like a good mystery, though in a western setting. Some who aren't that familiar with early-sound films may find it a bit slow going, but it's actually quite fluid for a 1931 film, and I give it a full 10 star rating. It completely achieved what it set out to do and holds up well today. (interestingly, my copy had "fade in" and "fade out" on the screen in between a number of films--was this a television print with those meant for the local TV station projectionist???). I don't get the Fox Movie Channel, but as this was a Fox film, maybe it will be shown there sometime. Watch for it...and don't get up to get a soda or a snack. Watch it uninterrupted.

19 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
textbook example of efficient, exciting b-movie programmer, 7 April 2006
10/10

The b-level programmers of Columbia Pictures during the 1930's are often quite exciting and well-paced. The studio's assembly line produced audience-satisfying product quickly and inexpensively. And, in this case, with a director like Albert Rogell, veteran of dozens of fine b-westerns in the silent era and who would continue working in bread-and-butter product through the 1950's, AIR HOSTESS (not the most exciting title!) has all the elements of a textbook example of the exciting, efficient b-movie. Daring stunt flier James Murray (of King Vidor's THE CROWD, who would die a few years later due to alcohol) sees his friend and mentor get killed during WWI and helps watch over the friend's young daughter over the years. The film soon switches to the early 30s, where the daughter (played by the perky Evalyn Knapp, perhaps best-known today for starring with John Wayne in the long-time public domain, dollar-rack favorite HIS PRIVATE SECRETARY in 1933) is a grown up airline hostess and Murray is a pilot who is still a daredevil but also an inventor of aviation technology looking for an investor to help see his plans to fruition. Needless to say, they fall in love, a number of problems arise, Thelma Todd appears (looking especially regal!!!!) as "the other woman", and the film ends up with an amazing train-plane sequence. Knapp is quite appealing (although a few flubbed lines are left in, reminding us that Columbia was NOT a major studio in 1932!), and James Murray shows the charisma that made him a star in THE CROWD. He has a brash quality, and had he lived, he surely could have made a career of playing wisecracking newspaper reporters and leads in b-action films. Interestingly, his character is drunk in about 1/3 of the film--one wonders if that was written into the film to capitalize on the bad publicity Murray had received for his drinking problems, or if he actually was drunk on the set and the writers quickly decided to play along with it (I'm betting the former). In any event, he is quite impressive and this is a major role for him, though the movie was undoubtedly a bottom-of-the-bill product that vanished quickly from theaters. In less than 65 minutes, we laugh, we cry (the scene where the WWI flier has his daughter's letter read to him is a real tearjerker), we feel for the characters, we cheer them on, we worry about them, and we are brought to the edge of our seats in a nail-biting climax. What today's directors could learn from a film like this and a director such as Albert Rogell. Also, it's not every film that's set in Albuquerque (at least half of it is!). Finally, those who collect films with spanking scenes can put this one on their lists, although it's a brief one. Highly recommended to lovers of classic fast-moving early 30's b-movies.

Air Police (1931)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
sloppily made early-sound indie action film, some entertainment and historical value, 17 March 2006
6/10

One of a handful of features from "Thrill-O-Dramas," a poverty row company dedicated to providing an alternative to the overly talky, stage-bound films of the early sound era, AIR POLICE stars gruff Kenneth Harlan and goofy Charles Delaney as partners working as "air police" to combat smugglers (never clearly defined) along the border. While the aviation sequences are few and unconvincing, the film does feature many entertaining nightclub and comedy and buddy sequences, as well as some excellent Latin orchestra numbers from Jose Cordova Cantu. Co-written by Arthur "Reefer Madness" Hoerl and directed by Stuart Paton, veteran of many low-budget silent action films, AIR POLICE provides a window into the world of independent film-making of the early-sound era, and it has an endearing sloppiness and spirit of fun that still makes for entertaining viewing today.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
exciting, fun Tiffany western with Ken Maynard in his prime, 17 March 2006
8/10

The 1930-33 westerns Ken Maynard made for Tiffany (in between stints with Universal) are a consistent lot, full of action and wit. Some incorporate off-the-wall comedy or horror elements (like Hoot Gibson, Maynard had a wild sense of humor!), but ALIAS THE BADMAN is a gritty, straightforward western with Ken as a ranger posing as an outlaw who is posing as a ranger! Ken has a politically incorrect stuttering sidekick named "Repeater" (Irving Bacon), and silent star Frank Mayo is impressive as the crooked town boss who turns the local ranchers against each other. Director Phil Rosen is better-known for his later mysteries and crime films, but he directed many westerns in the early sound period, and he handles the unique Maynard mix of comedy and action and mystery quite well. Maynard looks great here too, unlike in some of his later Columbia and Monogram films. An excellent entry in the Maynard series for Tiffany.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
strange in-house Coca-Cola dramatized documentary, plays like a Monogram or PRC feature, 17 March 2006
7/10

ALWAYS TOMORROW, made in 1941 for the Coca-Cola company and presumably aimed at bottlers and potential investors in bottling plants and distributor-ships, belongs to that curious genre of film, the Corporate Feature. This is not a documentary or a training film, but a Hollywood-made narrative drama featuring a cast full of familiar B-movie faces (led by comedian Johnny Arthur as a fussy, worrywart accountant for a local Coca-Cola bottling plant), and it plays like a typical Monogram or PRC feature, except for the lectures to the audience (in the style of an exploitation film) about business philosophy. The film's structure is strange in that it begins in 1941 with the story of Coca-Cola distributor Jim Westlake, and then works backward step-by-step until we reach the beginning of his career! You've probably never seen a film like this before, and you'll learn a lot about the history of the soda business while being entertained.

17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
surprisingly powerful adaptation of the Dreiser classic, 17 March 2006
9/10

The first and best film adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's classic novel of pointless crime and arbitrary punishment, the 1931 version of AN American TRAGEDY was directed by Josef Von Sternberg, who had just had great success with THE BLUE ANGEL (and who made a total of eight films with star Marlene Dietrich) and who captures the emptiness and isolation and desperate qualities of the characters well. Phillips Holmes, perhaps best known today for GENERAL SPANKY (the strange Our Gang feature film) is a revelation as the heartless, social-climbing Clyde Griffiths, and the young Sylvia Sidney makes a strong impression as the working girl killed in the "accident" that leads to the long trial sequence at the film's end, which is itself a classic of courtroom melodrama. Clyde is represented in court by Charles Middleton (who later played Emperor Ming in the FLASH GORDON films) as a cynical, grandstanding attorney. AN American TRAGEDY still packs a punch today and has a rawness and power and biting commentary on the class structure of society entirely lacking in A PLACE IN THE SUN, the 1951 film adaptation of the same novel.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
later Hughie Mack silent comedy short, with two elephants, 27 March 2005
6/10

Hughie Mack, a large and manic performer (as large as John Candy or Jackie Gleason at their largest, maybe bigger), was a popular and successful comedy star in the teens, so by 1920 (when this was made) he was no longer the draw he once was, and this may not be typical of his earlier work (which I haven't seen in years). In this two-reel silent short, Mack (whose persona here is manic and exasperated, almost like Ralph Kramden at his most out-of-control) gets a letter telling him about a gift/inheritance from India, and it turns out to be two elephants. Dot Farley, as Hughie's cook (although Hughie and his wife seem to be not very affluent, so I'm not sure how he hires a cook), has outrageous pigtails sticking out horizontally that look like something found on an alien, and she is just as over-the-top as Hughie in her performance (She is best-known to today's audiences for her sound film work in Edgar Kennedy shorts, as Edgar's harsh mother-in-law). Are the elephants funny? Well, they are funnier than the lion that Mack Sennett worked into a number of his shorts and films in 1931-32! Mack plays a character named Jonah Whale (get it?), and the title cards through the movie have a cartoon of a large man's face with the mouth wide open as if hollering, and the open mouth (the bottom half of the screen) contains the characters' lines, and sometimes little animated figures running around under the lines! There's a rough and tumble quality here that is appealing--you get the sense that the filmmakers just ran the elephants down the street or onto the minimal sets and filmed whatever happened. Also, Hughie Mack is a wild screen presence--if Fatty Arbuckle's comedy is too mannered for you, then Hughie Mack is the man for you. My only problem with this short (hence the six rating, and not an eight or so) is that the premise of the elephants is not enough to carry the film for a full twenty minutes--this would have been better as a one reeler. However, no doubt the elephants cost a bit to hire for a day or two, so the rent provided by a two-reeler might have been needed to recoup costs. If the thought of a huge man, a manic woman with gravity-defying pigtails, and two elephants doing primitive silent comedy appeals to you, keep an eye out for this film (the opening card on my copy is from a reissue print--the rest of the cards seem to be original--and the title ELEPHANTS ON HIS HANDS is crudely printed on it. I believe that AN ELEPHANT ON HIS HANDS was the original release title, although the alternate reissue title is more accurate!)

23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
exciting Kirk Morris peplum with exotic setting, 3 August 2003
8/10

This review is of the US TV print, THE DEVIL OF THE DESERT AGAINST THE SON OF HERCULES, which is probably edited. For some reason, a number of the sword-and-sandal films starring Kirk Morris put him in varied settings--Scotland, Atlantis,the Steppes of Russia, a generic "Arabic" setting. This one is set in the latter and does have some nice North African location shooting in a few scenes. It's the usual story of the daughter of nobility whose father is slain by an evil tyrant and who is sold into slavery, only to be saved by an honest, strong, brave man of common origin but renowned among the common people. Morris, who doesn't enter the film for at least ten minutes as the problem is established, is not usually given a lot of pages of dialogue in his films, and that's true here too, but like any stoic hero he doesn't need to say much because his actions speak louder than words and because all the words he speaks are of significance. The director here is Anthony Dawson/Antonio Marghetti, who has done many classics in the Italian Western and Horror fields. Here, he provides many unexpected visuals and keeps the pace moving quickly. The set design is vivid and unusual throughout also. This is an above average peplum film, fortunately in color (many US TV prints of sword and sandal films are B&W versions of films originally made and shown in Europe in color). I expect that someday these films will come to DVD in unedited form, letter boxed, in sparkling transfers, with original credits, such as has been done to Mario Bava horror films and various Italian westerns. But that day isn't here yet, so until then check the internet for VHS copies. If you like the genre, this one is worth seeing for the offbeat setting and the exciting pace. PS, Morris' mute sidekick is usually called Amute, but in one scene he is called, twice, something that sounds like "mosquito." Is that an Italian diminutive term of affection or a character name? Anyone know?

10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
twenty-something leads reading twenty-year-old Woody Allen dialogue, 22 September 2003
7/10

Average Woody Allen is still better than 90% of what's playing theatrically at any given time, so once again we all made the trip to the theatre as we do each year to see "the new Woody Allen." After SMALL TIME CROOKS and CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION and HOLLYWOOD ENDING, all of which were successful attempts to cross over and break out of the "Woody Allen market" and into the general audience, Anything Else features two young leads--Jason Biggs and Christina

Ricci--performing in what's basically a re-write of elements from earlier Allen films such as Annie Hall and Manhattan. Despite the appeal of the young leads, I can't see this film appealing to a young audience. At 45, I was the youngest person in the theatre (except for my teenaged children). Like, say, a later film of Laurel and Hardy or a later film of Clark Gable, this is of interest because it's Woody Allen. It has its charms. The casting is great--beyond Biggs and Ricci, Stockard Channing is hilarious of Ricci's mother, and both Jimmy Fallon and Danny DeVito (neither of whom I usually like) are well-cast in supporting roles. There is a lot of well-written, literate dialogue. Allen's insights into human nature are occasionally insightful. Allen is actually playing a character that IS NOT COMPLETELY his usual persona. The photography is beautiful, as always. Watch for Woody to switch studios again. I don't expect this one to be in theatres long, so see it while you can.

9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
post-Tom Conway "Falcon" mystery, from dir. of "Decoy", 25 July 2003
8/10

After the Falcon series ran its course with Tom Conway at RKO, the character was taken over for a few films with John Calvert in the role, made on a low budget for the interesting "Film Classics" company, which specialized in indie crime/noir/mystery films for a few years in the late 40s--this was the 2nd of 3 such Falcon entries. It most resembles the later PRC product, but is a step below PRC in the professionalism department, with a mix of veterans and seeming amateurs in the cast, and with a few small cheap sets. The plot revolves around art theft and fraud, and setting is LA and Italy, Italy being represented by a room and a staircase! John Calvert is quite different from Tom Conway as an actor--yes,he is tall and has a thin moustache, and he speaks in an subdued, educated manner, but he isn't the charmer or the wit of Conway's character, and here he is in the employ of an insurance company, where he reports to the hardest-working-man-in-b-movies, Lyle Talbot. There's never really any doubt about who does what to whom, but the various characters are all attempting to fool other characters as to their true identity and motives, so the "mystery" is how long that will keep up... as well as whether the Falcon will be able to resolve the art fraud situation. I've watched this film twice in the last year, and it's a decent late 40s low-budget mystery that's as good as the average 45-47 PRC film or late 40s/early 50s Eagle-Lion/Lippert output. Like a good little-known detective novel that you stumble across from the 40s or 50s, this film does what it needs to do and no doubt satisfied its audience in its day. Director Jack Bernhard--who made the amazing Decoy and the almost-as- amazing Violence the year before at Monogram--doesn't have the same kind of over-the-top, pulpy material to work with here, but no doubt could work efficiently in the vein of a William Berke or a Sam Newfield. Don't expect another Decoy here. Anyone who is seriously into low-budget post-WWII detective movies enough to even know what this film is will probably want to see it.

20 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
excellent Lippert crime programmer with Robert Lowery as an undercover arson investigator, 22 December 2004
9/10

Director William Berke knew how to deliver the goods in low-budget action films, crime films, westerns, and Jungle Jim vehicles. A fast-moving plot, a colorful and enthusiastic cast of veterans, interesting camera angles to cover what can't afford to be shot, clever little details to the characterizations and situations that make them seem realistic, and (mostly--not in the most hard-boiled films)a light touch to make the whole thing go down more smoothly (see my review of his 1935 David Sharpe short WILD WATERS). Looking at Mr. Berke's filmography, I've seen over 30 of his films and I've enjoyed every one of them! During his period working for Lippert Pictures, he made some excellent westerns and some fine detective-crime films with Hugh Beaumont (the Denny O'Brien series) and others (see my review of FBI GIRL, with Cesar Romero).This film stars the reliable and amiable Robert Lowery as a fire investigator who goes undercover to break the arson/insurance fraud ring led by Douglas Fowley, who is in great sneering form. In one scene, Berke has a low angle shot of Fowley barking orders to someone, and I thought to myself, "this is the model b-movie! These people KNOW what they are doing!" The fine cast also includes former Universal star Anne Gwynne as a schoolteacher who is moonlighting as a babysitter, and who becomes friends with Lowery. In the scene where they meet, Gwynne is grading papers on the dining room table while babysitting, and when Lowery chats her up and mentions that he did well in history class in school, she throws half of her pile of ungraded papers on the table in front of him and says "work on these!" Little touches like that make this film special. Marcia Mae Jones does a convincing job as Fowley's secretary, someone who is lonely and who is attracted to her boss while knowing what a sleaze he is, but Fowley knows she likes him and takes advantage of that fact. It's a dysfunctional relationship and it's played out very accurately. Once again, the kind of detail that makes this film special. Jones' facial expressions in the final scene in the car with Fowley are quite convincing also. There's a lot of action, and even though no viewer for a moment has any doubt how things will turn out at the end, the filmmakers manage to make it all seem fresh as it is happening, and by distinctive character touches and particulars in the script (the seedy backroom gambling den, for instance) they get us involved in a story that is so "Classic" in its details that the cynic could call it cliché-ridden. There are a number of b-movie gems hidden in the Lippert catalog waiting to be rediscovered. There's nothing noir about this film--Lowery is a hero, Fowley is the bad guy, and there's no grey area or corrupt world. It's just a well-done crime programmer that I pull out every few years and enjoy. Considering how many bad and pretentious films are playing right now on TV and in theaters, films like ARSON INC. are a breath of fresh air.

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
hallucinatory Italian crime-espionage vehicle for Henry Silva, 3 October 2004
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This 1967 Italian feature stars Henry Silva as a man about to be executed for murder. He then is executed, but wait...who's this other character played by Henry Silva? That's just the first of many tricks and double crosses in this strange, brooding film that seems to exist in someone's nightmare world. Nothing is sure here. The photography and an odd, multi-styled musical score help to create a disquieting, nightmare-like feel to the film. Fred Beir is co-billed with Silva, but his role is small compared with Silva's. Silva was no doubt chosen for this role because of his important part in THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, which this resembles in a vague way. I've tried to watch this film twice before over the years, but the time never seemed right and I never really got into the film's feel or rhythm. This time around, I've come to believe that the fractured, convoluted structure is intentional (which the fractured musical score--ranging from garage rock, to twangy eurospy guitar, to loungey vocals, to strange Gothic harpsichord music that would sound appropriate if Christopher Lee were about to emerge from a coffin in the dank cellar of a rotting castle somewhere--helps to underscore). In hindsight, it's no convoluted than the average Eurospy film and certainly LESS convoluted than the average Edgar Wallace film from Germany. There's some location shooting in New York and in Germany, and Mr. Silva is as intense and memorable as ever. Except for the lead actors, all the other credits on my English-language copy of this film are phony and Anglicized. It's also a pan-and-scan version of a film originally shot in techniscope. This is not the film to watch at the end of a long day--you must pay attention to it. I'd love to see a restored letterbox DVD of it--perhaps that will happen sometime in the next twenty years?

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
well-done British murder mystery with Alex Nicol, 28 October 2003
9/10

An eccentric, anti-social American composer/pianist living in a small British town commits suicide...or does he? An American reporter on holiday in the UK who is from the composer's hometown agrees to bring some of his personal things back to the family in the US and to meet some of the composer's friends while in England. As he asks around, something doesn't seem right, and the mystery begins. The British have always been able to make excellent low-budget murder mysteries, and this one is yet another little-known gem. The supporting cast were unfamiliar to me, but all were convincing as the small-town folks who had some kind of dealings with the late composer. Alex Nicol, who did a lot of acting work in Europe in the 1950s and 1960s, is a somewhat laid-back leading man, but that fits well here (actually, his performance reminds me a bit of John Agar). The resolution is somewhat unexpected but all the clues were there in hindsight, and I plan to watch the film a second time soon to see how the mystery is constructed and the clues are placed. If you like "B" murder mysteries, especially British ones, check this out.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
curious World War II revenge melodrama--good cast and locations, 8 February 2006
6/10

I remember seeing the ad for this film in Variety back in the early 80's. A strong cast--Rex Harrison, Rod Taylor, Edward Albert, Raf Vallone--and directed by the legendary Matt Cimber. The end result is a curious creation--a revenge melodrama with higher aspirations, a misfire that is still interesting to watch. Edward Albert's new bride and her family and brutally killed by Nazis in the waning days of World War II, and Albert swears to track the six men (four Germans, a Hungarian, and a Sicilian) responsible, which he does after the war is over, with the assistance of a prostitute who helps him. Albert was shot and left for dead by the Nazis, and he still has bullet fragments in his brain which cause him serious problems. The "track down the killers" revenge plot has been used in countless westerns and action films, and it's not done in any overly original way here (although the way he kills the car mechanics is novel, like something out of a Republic serial). Also, Albert seems to get access to the people he needs to kill quite easily (yes, Rod Taylor's character may be helping him get to them, but still more tension needs to be created for each buildup). One wonders if the film had a troubled production history as there is a credit for "additional scenes directed by...", which credits Joe Tornatore (director of Grotesque, with Tab Hunter), and also both Robert O. Ragland and Ennio Morricone scored different parts of the film. Rex Harrison was a strange choice for the Nazi officer who later is in line to become post-war chancellor of Germany. Did the producers want a Nazi with a British accent? And Rod Taylor's Australian accent is a bit off-putting for an American intelligence officer (I guess his character emigrated to the US from Oz). Raf Vallone isn't given much to do, but does it with his usual class. Edward Albert's character is obsessed, obviously, but also somewhat out-of-it due to his head injury. The latter aspect could have been dealt with more consistently throughout the film, but is basically dropped after the first two-thirds. Mr. Albert is also credited as an assistant (or associate, I forget) producer of the film. There are some attractive European locations used in the film, and it's always a pleasure to watch people of the caliber of Harrison and Taylor and Vallone at work (Mr. Albert has always been much under-rated too, in my opinion). The sleaze elements often expected in a Matt Cimber project are not in evidence here--except for a few seconds of bare breast, this could have easily gotten a PG rating. Still, unless you are a devoted fan of director Cimber, or of one of the stars, or of Mario Puzo, upon whose story the film was based, it's not worth tracking down an old VHS copy of this obscure film. Perhaps it will someday appear as a budget-bin DVD--if so, it's probably worth under five dollars to watch on a rainy day. I paid two dollars for my used video, and feel I got my money's worth.-

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
fun, ultra low-budget exploitation/burlesque comedy-drama, 14 May 2002
6/10

Also known as SIDE STREETS OF HOLLYWOOD, this is basically an extended series of silent 1940s girlie shorts narrated by Dorothy Abbott, who plays a midwestern reporter assigned by her editor to go to

Hollywood and get "the REAL story" about what goes on there. What mostly goes on in the Hollywood of this film is a series of "artistic" cheesecake photo sessions that our intrepid reporter stumbles across. In the middle of the film is a 3-D sequence that you need "eyescopes" to see in 3-D--my guess is that this was added to the 1953 reissue of this film (first released in 1948)--it is crudely spliced in and doesn't match the rest of the film. Later in the film, she answers a few personal ads and we see her meeting a few clownish guys whose routines are right off the vaudeville stage...or a third-rate 1930s Educational Pictures comedy short. Abbott, who I believe appeared in some DRAGNET and LEAVE IT TO BEAVER episodes, is a distinctive looking lady I'd like to see in a vehicle that is more worthy of her. Without ever really showing any nudity or sex, the film does has a sordid feel--a requirement in films of this type--but the reliance on narration, even in some scenes where Abbott appears, slows down the pace considerably. However, there is just enough plot to keep things going and the occasional lowbrow humor (surely the makers of this film are from a burlesque background!) helps too. This film should appeal to any follower of z-grade Los Angeles-based exploitation films of the 40s/50s. I dig out my copy every year or two and enjoy seeing it again. (note: East Side Kids fans will recognize the canned music used during the scene of the date with the hammy actor)

12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
lowbrow but fun Spanish-made Witchcraft/time-travel comedy, 12 September 2004
7/10

This Sidney Pink production was one of many quirky films the indie expatriate producer made in Spain in the 1960s, many of which featured well-chosen American stars. This was the first of two Pink films starring Jeffrey Hunter, best known as playing Jesus in KING OF KINGS and of being the original Captain in the Star Trek pilot (the second film in his two-film contract with Pink was the interesting allegorical western THE Christmas KID aka JOE NAVIDAD). Here he plays a Madrid University professor who imagines he sees a lovely young lady (played by the wide-eyed Maria Perschy) sitting in the front row of his class, but who is seen by no one else. She turns out to be a bumbling witch who likes him, and who winds up sending him to different periods in time in her attempt to bring him to her time period or to the present time. So about half the film (or so it seems)takes place in the Roman era with Hunter as a slave--that part of the film plays like a sword and sandal comedy. It also winds up in a futuristic period (1999 was the future in 1967) where humanity has been wiped out in a world war and only seven women are left, women who expect Hunter to repopulate the world with them! With the popularity of I DREAM OF JEANNIE and BEWITCHED during this period, a witchcraft comedy must have seemed like a safe bet for a feature film, but this film is a lot rawer and less refined than either TV show. Originally from Austria, Ms. Perschy is a distinctive-looking lady and fine dramatic actress who is quite a charmer and plays comedy well. During the 60s she appeared in all kinds of films in many countries and has continued working regularly up through the late 1990s...any fans of 60s eurocinema can probably name a dozen films of hers they've enjoyed. She also worked for Pink in the excellent "female western" THE TALL WOMEN the year before. Jeffrey Hunter was much underrated during his lifetime and died young--much of his later output was made overseas. I don't remember him doing a lot of comedy, but he is fine here playing an uptight college professor who is bumbling yet lovable. He looks uncomfortable in the sword and sandal sequences, but fortunately he is SUPPOSED TO look uncomfortable because he is after all a 20th century college professor, NOT a Roman slave! He carries the whole film well and any Hunter fan should seek this out. Overall, another interesting entry in the Sid Pink canon (see my reviews of two other Pink comedies...THE FICKLE FINGER OF FATE with Tab Hunter, and MADIGAN'S MILLIONS with Dustin Hoffman). This does not at all look like a Hollywood film, which gives it much of its interest. The comedy is not particularly sophisticated, and some of the supporting players' voices are not synchronized too well, but it's a pleasant comedy and those looking for something different will probably not regret the time spent. I'll spend 86 minutes with Maria Perschy anytime, and Jeff Hunter died while still a relatively young man, so any performance of his is worth watching, particularly those made outside the Hollywood studio system (check out THE Christmas KID or FIND A WAY TO DIE sometime).

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
very low-budget, shot-silent white slavery melodrama, 1 October 2002
6/10

First of all, the 1965 date is certainly wrong for this film--1955 is more like it. The title card seems to be taken from a 1960s Doris Wishman film of the same title, but then the rest of the credits are original (was this film issued under another name in the 50s???). Director Sid Melton is best known as a fine comic character actor, famous from his stints on Make Room for Daddy and Captain Midnight, and from his many supporting roles in Lippert films in the 49-52 period, and his starring turn in the fascinating STOP THE CAB from the same period, where he was teamed with the amazing Iris Adrian. I'm surprised he put his name on this film, but it is relatively tame and probably couldn't have hurt his reputation THAT much as it merely features the beautiful Misty Ayres slowly stripping down to her undies a few times. As there are TWO scenes of that in the first ten minutes, I was expecting most of the film would be in that vein (which I could have enjoyed, but that's another story...), but it then evolves into an attempt at a crime drama, with a few comic bits (an ongoing drunk routine, done by a woman who is a moll of the gangster in charge..and another one with a singing telegram delivery boy played by Sid Melton's voice!). Basically, Ayres arrives in the big city, tries to get a job, works as a waitress, is approached by a sleaze who runs a modeling agency, goes out on a job that is actually a front for prostitution, gets beaten up and put on dope... I won't give anything else away. The films plays on the same level as, say, Broadway Jungle, and its main impediment to being accepted by most viewers is that it is shot silent and has non-synced dialog and sound effects. The acting of the bad guys is also on a dinner theatre melodrama level and isn't helped by the flat non-synced dubbing. Films like this have a strange fascination for me, and no doubt there is an interesting story behind this film and Mr. Melton's involvement in it. If you already own Dance Hall Racket, Broadway Jungle, Barry Mahon's "crime-oriented" nudies, Virgin in Hollywood, and other films of that ilk, you should surely appreciate this unique film experience as much as I did. If you don't know what any of those films are, I wouldn't think this would have any appeal for you. Sid Melton fans might also want to check it out, if only to see another facet to this great funnyman.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
goofy Italian crime farce, with Ray Danton in great form!, 2 November 2004
8/10

The title of the English language TV print I watched of this film is HOW TO WIN A BILLION...AND GET AWAY WITH IT. Imagine a cross between THE GANG THAT COULDN'T SHOOT STRAIGHT and OCEAN'S ELEVEN, if it had starred the Bowery Boys instead of the Rat Pack, and maybe you'll have some idea about this goofy 60s Italian crime farce. Ray Danton plays both an aging crime boss AND his playboy-wannabe son, and he's very funny in both roles. And thankfully Danton himself--a man with a fine voice--dubs both voices. This is lowbrow comedy on a Franco and Ciccio or Bowery Boys level, and what holds the film together is the charm and wit of Ray Danton, spoofing the tough-guy roles he played in so many earlier films. No great analysis is needed of a film such as this--if you want a dubbed Italian slapstick crime comedy starring a fine American tough-guy actor who did a number of good films during his European sojourn, then you'll want to find a copy of this obscure film. My copy was taped off a UHF station in the 1980's. Why there isn't a cable network specializing in European genre films, I don't know, but until there is, I wouldn't hold my breath expecting to see this on television.

15 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
interesting semi-documentary study of bank robbers in Milan, predates the classic 70s Italian crime film cycle, 8 August 2005
7/10

First of all, my review is of the English-dubbed version of this film, released briefly in the US by Paramount. I have a feeling that some of the subtleties of the Italian original were lost, especially in some of the initial scenes where Tomas Milian's character is being interviewed by a journalist. This film is quite in demand, due to it being directed by the legendary Carlo "Crazy Joe" Lizzani, and the action scenes are handled well as one would expect (the scene where the robbers, under the leadership of Gian Maria Volonte, shoot at civilians to get Milian's police to stop chasing them was truly shocking), but I would not put this in the top tier of Italian crime films, although it should get some bonus points for predating the classic wave of 70s Italian crime films. Those expecting an over-the-top Milian performance will be let down, as he is given "guest star" billing, and he is basically in the handsome leading man mold here, puffing a cigarette through a cigarette holder and looking in charge, but Volonte is the real star here, as well as the young Ray Lovelock, who does a great job as a teen with a taste for "success" who allows himself to be sucked into the world of crime. Margaret Lee's role is not major, and those expecting a meaty role from this great seductress will also be let down. I see that this film received a number of awards upon its release--it must have lost something in the dubbing, as it's competent and has interesting elements, but is nowhere near the level of something like, say, CONFESSIONS OF A POLICE CAPTAIN or about two dozen others I could name. The completist should probably own this, but I wouldn't spend a lot of time or money tracking down a copy. Finally, the ending is quite odd--I rewound it three times to make sure I wasn't missing something. An American film would rarely end in such an ambiguous manner--thank goodness for Italians!!!

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
fast-moving, low-budget 30's crime programmer, with large role for Snub Pollard, 27 December 2004
9/10

Regis Toomey was one of the most reliable leading men of early 1930's Poverty Row, and he continued to appear in films and television well into the 1960's. His friendly persona always made him sympathetic, even when playing an ex-con, and he was convincing in any number of different roles and situations. Here he is paired with the great former silent comedian Snub Pollard, in what must be one of his largest roles of the sound era (along with his roles as sidekick to Tex Ritter), as a pickpocket/safe cracker. Directed by journeyman Al Herman, who helmed many films I've enjoyed over the years (Phantom of 42nd Street, and the serials The Clutching Hand, and The Black Coin), for Sam Katzman's Victory Pictures, BARS OF HATE (an irrelevant title if there ever was one--there is someone behind bars, but he is only mentioned and never seen, although his situation motivates the plot) is the model poverty row action film: it starts out in high gear and keeps moving throughout. This formula still works today--I recently saw CELLULAR with a full theater, and crowd completely ate up a similar combination of non-stop action tempered with light comedy. The films begins with a montage of faces yelling out "stop" and "get him" after Snub Pollard steals a woman's pocketbook. Simultaneously, Regis Toomey is speeding and starts to evade a policeman who puts on his siren and follows on a motorcycle. Snub breaks from those attempting to restrain him, Regis cuts down an alley, and soon enough the two men are together. It turns out that the pocketbook contains something that various criminals are after, so when Toomey and Pollard find the girl to give her the purse, the crooks are also after her... and the next forty minutes are spent with one chase and escape after another, much of it filmed on the streets of Los Angeles. Fuzzy Knight does a nice job as a bumbling crook assigned to watch Snub Pollard, and Sheila Terry (best known to many for the two westerns she made with John Wayne in 1934) is a perky female lead. One correction, though...Robert Warwick plays the governor, and he's only in it for about three minutes at the end. While rather loose and spontaneous in structure and feel, this film moves along at a quick pace and never really lets up from the first scene. It's almost a model of how to make a poverty row action film-- if it had more stunts and less dialogue from the leading man, it could be a Richard Talmadge film! I especially liked seeing Snub Pollard being given such a large and significant role. One of the joys of watching 1930s movies is never knowing exactly when Snub will show up in a scene, more often than not it seems unbilled! His many fans should seek this film out. The print I saw was in excellent shape also...it had a lot of splices in the last three or four minutes, but looked like it was shot yesterday.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
great 1950s R&B performances, 18 August 2003
7/10

This is a collection of exciting R&B performances from the early-mid 1950's, including Amos Milburn, Faye Adams, Lionel Hampton, The Clovers, Martha Davis, Sarah Vaughn, Paul Hucklebuck Williams featuring Jimmy Brown on vocal (check out the 3 CDs of Williams' recordings from this era on Blue Moon Records!), and Herb Jeffries, among others. Every performance is a gem. The genial host, Willie Bryant, keeps things moving and the lowbrow comedy from Nipsey Russell and Mantan Moreland helps create a wonderful "revue" feel for the show. There are two other short-features, ROCK AND ROLL REVIEW and RHYTHM AND BLUES REVIEW, which are taken from the same source but feature all different performances. You should own all three. Nat Cole and Count Basie are listed, but I must have been out of the room when they were on, or this is an edited version of the film. Still, it's classic material, and where else are you going to get vintage Amos Milburn and Paul Williams performances on video???

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Lee Tracy as radio newsman in this fun RKO programmer, 3 May 2006
7/10

Last month, TCM showed about a dozen Lee Tracy films, largely forgotten today (I managed to tape most of them), and I'm now working my way through them. Tracy's patented persona at the time--wisecracking newspaper man who gets by on his wits more than his brawn--is put to good use in this bottom-of-the-bill 1937 programmer from RK0. Tracy is an ex-newspaperman who has gotten into radio newscasting--not Winchell-style commentating, but on-the-spot live coverage of news from the scene. His assistant is the wonderful comic Tom Kennedy (see my review of FREE RENT, a Columbia short done with Monte Collins). His old newspaper colleagues do not appreciate being scooped by him and don't care for the exciting nature of his reporting, which makes their dry written articles seem irrelevant, so they are actively sabotaging his work. Add to that an ex-girlfriend who is a top reporter at one of the major papers (played by the little-known Diana Gibson, who seems to have been in films for four years and then vanished) and who spars with him throughout. Tracy and Gibson both stumble across a huge gold robbery about mid-way through the film, which propels everything to an exciting climax. Don't ask any questions about character motivation (Gibson's character starts off completely unsympathetic, but eventually softens up) or plot consistency--this is a b-movie that was undoubtedly just a day's work to its writers, who basically manipulated stock character types and movie conventions. Fortunately, with a colorful star like Lee Tracy, there's snappy dialogue and his ability to capture audience sympathy. In some ways, this reminded me of a slicker, more studio-bound version of the Frankie Darro-Kane Richmond action films being made across town at the Ambassador-Conn studio around the same time. BEHIND THE HEADLINES is no classic or hidden gem, but with as much reality present as in a Republic serial, and with Tracy's spirit of fun, it's an entertaining way to kill an hour.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
strange and VERY different from the first two Harry Palmer films, 14 November 2004
7/10

As an admirer of the first two films THE IPCRESS FILE and FUNERAL IN BERLIN featuring Michael Caine as Harry Palmer, I was excited to finally get a copy (pan and scan, with Spanish subtitles)of the obscure third entry in the series BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN, which also was the breakthrough film (in the US at least) for director Ken Russell, who'd worked primarily in British TV before this. It starts out promisingly with Palmer's seedy office and the promise of an exciting new case and reinstatement into the intelligence community. As Palmer goes to Helsinki, it continues well and features fascinating, little-seen locations in Finland. Oscar Homolka is wonderful as a Russian operative who knows Palmer from way back and helps him find his way through a strange land. However, as the film veers off into the wacko anti-communist cult led by Ed Begley (in a performance that would be more fitting in a serial like THE LOST CITY than a serious feature film) and gives a lot of attention to dated computers that huff and puff and don't look at all threatening, it loses a lot of steam and often treads into cartoonish territory. The scenes that are supposed to be set in Texas are laughable--it's certainly no part of Texas I've ever seen. Karl Malden is a fine actor, but he's given very little to work with here, and I hope I never again see him with his shirt off in a sauna. I'm not familiar with Ken Russell's TV work prior to this feature, but his over-the-top style seen in films such as LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM, the outrageously entertaining CRIMES OF PASSION, and LIZSTOMANIA is hinted at here with the ridiculous right-wing movement led by Begley and the computer-as-monster motif that takes up too much time in the film. A villain must have some level of believability to him for the audience to be fearful of him--even Ming The Merciless in the old serials had a convincingly real quality to him even though he was played in an exaggerated melodramatic style. Begley (and I blame both the script AND the direction here, not Begley, as he had been a subtle and nuanced actor elsewhere--surely Russell was egging him on to play the character so broadly) is not "real" for a minute in this role, and thus the threat he poses both to the hero and to the world for that matter was never taken seriously by me, leading to a lack of suspense, even though there was a lot of action and intrigue and narrow escapes, and the film was fun to watch. Maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind to appreciate the film. If a letterboxed version is ever released in the USA, and if I'm in the proper mood to take the whole film as satire, perhaps I'll retract my comments and "get" the vision of the filmmakers. Until then, I'd recommend the film only to Harry Palmer fans who have always wanted to see the film and to Caine fans--Caine is, after all, the one major element of the film (along with its fine photography and musical score) that can't be faulted. Ken Russell fans might want to check it out also, as many of the elements for which he's (in)famous are already in evidence.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
fun 60s Eurospy action with Craig Hill, 5 December 2003
8/10

BLACK BOX AFFAIR, a mid-60s European spy film starring American actor Craig Hill (who has continued to work successfully in Europe for over 30 years), should satisfy any fan of low-budget Eurospy genre films. It starts off with a wild montage that could be out of GLEN OR GLENDA or ROCKET ATTACK USA, moves on to a credit sequence featuring a catchy europop-lounge title song, and then before the plot begins to kick in, Craig Hill is attacked by TWO different sets of bad-guys! The whole film does not proceed at this breakneck pace, but there is some beautiful location shooting, a good amount of action, a pretty female lead in Teresa Gimpera, and as a hero the versatile Craig Hill more than holds his own. The Black Box of the title is only partially explained, and little effort is put into giving the characters much individuality, but if you ask those kind of questions, you wouldn't like this type of by-the-numbers spy film anyway. If you collect this sort of thing, you'll want BLACK BOX AFFAIR, and Craig Hill--who is excellent in all kinds of roles, both in his US and his later European career--gives the role the kind of authority and manliness it needs. One a four star scale, I'd give this a solid two-and-a-half, compared to other films in the genre.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
nice serio-comic murder mystery, good supporting cast, 17 August 2003
7/10

Nice change-of-pace here--a solid 1940s "B" murder mystery, but played in a witty manner with comic relief. Overall, though, it's still more of a drama than a comedy. This was Martha O'Driscoll's first film after the legendary HOUSE OF DRACULA and was made the same year as Tom Neal's legendary DETOUR. Ms. O'Driscoll plays a lady who had been engaged to a doctor but dropped him when she found he was insincere. The doctor is found dead. Tom Neal plays a basically honest adverturer who has been in trouble in the past and is an obvious suspect here--at least the police think so. The fine supporting cast also includes Samuel S. Hinds, a regular at Universal in the 1940s, as a professor with a secret; Robert Armstrong as an over-worked policeman; Elisha Cook Jr. as a quirky cab driver; even Marc Lawrence in a small role. The playful comedic segments don't get in the way of the mystery--anymore than they do in a Mantan Moreland-era Chan film--and judged as a mystery, it's a modest success worth 62 minutes of your time. The Universal B-movie "machine" was in high gear at this time, and it could churn out a quality product with regularity...and the product is still entertaining and watchable today.

Blonde Ice (1948)
23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
above average 40's b-crime programmer w/ wild femme fetale, 8 September 2004
9/10

Director Jack Bernhard was on a roll when he made this low-budget crime drama for the interesting "Film Classics" company (all of whose releases that I've seen have been fascinating on some level)--he had made VIOLENCE (about a crypto-fascist secret society preying on returning veterans) and DECOY (a noir classic with the ultimate femme fetale, as played by Jean Gillie) at Monogram in 46-47, and after BLONDE ICE he went on to direct two of the three John Calvert "Falcon" films which I found entertaining in a quirky way. BLONDE ICE teams Leslie Brooks (who played a similar "deadlier than the male" female two years earlier in SECRET OF THE WHISTLER), here playing a upwardly-mobile woman who uses marriage and murder as a way of improving her social status, with actor-singer-gameshow host Robert Paige, a reliable performer best known to me for the serial FLYING G-MEN and the horror classic SON OF Dracula. The film will not make anyone forget DETOUR or DECOY because to me it doesn't really aspire to the dark world of noir--it's not a corrupt world here, just an empty one for Claire Cummings. Les, her friend and the man she keeps coming back to whenever she conquers a new financially successful man (played by Robert Paige), is an interesting character because he is a devoted friend who knows that something is wrong but doesn't want to know about it. Claire states many a time that she loves him, but he seems to have gone beyond any romantic feelings for her before the film starts--his feelings for her are more like those of an ex-spouse who has moved on but who still wants to help his former partner who is having a run of bad luck. I disagree with those who don't care for Brooks' performance--she has a number of wonderfully feline poses and it's easy to see how men who ought to know better (such as the congressional candidate) fall for her. I also like the fact that no real explanation is ever provided for her actions other than social climbing, and she always seems unsatisfied with each new level she reaches. The supporting cast does a good job also--my favorite being Russ Vincent as the sleazy flyer/blackmailer, in a performance straight from the Jack LaRue school of acting. I'm glad to see this film available in a crisp-looking DVD. It has the flavor of a paperback-original crime novel with a lurid cover (the film's poster and title card have that flavor too)and it pulled me into its world for 70 minutes.

8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Dean Reed and Fabio Testi in convoluted but entertaining Euro-mystery, 11 March 2005
7/10

DEATH KNOCKS TWICE is an excellent vehicle for both leading man Dean Reed (in this film he reminds me of a cross between James Franciscus, Tab Hunter, and the pre-burnout Jan-Michael Vincent), who plays a detective out to solve a murder and robbery while stumbling across other corrupt activities, and for leading hunk Fabio Testi, who opens the film with a semi-nude outdoor love scene and seems to play half the film without his shirt on. If Joe Dallesandro had begun his European career at this point, he would have been great in this part, but Testi plays a sulking hunk well too, and here he is a spoiled painter who lives in a wonderful beach-front villa and sleeps with various women who meet untimely ends. The film may tend to introduce too many characters too soon, and the mystery does not seem so mysterious in the initial reels, but somehow the whole thing chugs along and becomes more exciting in its second half, which features an excellent high-speed car chase on a wet winding country road and some exciting stunts from Reed. There is a superb all-star Euro-trash cast, including Adolfo Celi, Anita Ekberg, Werner Peters, Leon Askin, Nadia Tiller, and Ricardo Garrone (the film was co-written by his brother, Sergio), and direction is handled by the reliable German director Harald Philipp, whose credits include some of my favorite films such as MANHATTAN NIGHT OF MURDER with George Nader as Jerry Cotton, and RAMPAGE AT APACHE WELLS, an adaptation of Karl May's novel THE OIL PRINCE, starring Stewart Granger as Old Surehand and Pierre Brice as Winnetou. The feel of the film is halfway between some of the later German crime films of the Edgar Wallace cycle, and some of the earlier proto-giallo films of the mid and late 60s. One wonders if Dean Reed viewed this film as a critique of capitalistic decadence (which it certainly is, although that may be unintended) or just a good leading role to give the Italian period of his acting career a shot in the arm. Either way, he handles himself well, looks great, and has charisma to burn. DEATH KNOCKS TWICE (the title will make sense when you see it) is not a must-see film, but I'm glad I watched it again, and the combination of director and stars make it desirable to the fan of European genre-films. Also, Dean Reed was not that prolific of an actor and some of his films have never circulated in English-language versions (to my knowledge), so anything that can be found is worth watching. My copy was taped off a TV station in Aruba back in the 1980's. A letter-boxed, restored version would certainly be welcome!

15 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
early Hammer mystery programmer, with Tom "Falcon" Conway, 27 July 2003
9/10

No great analysis needed here...a solid mystery with Tom Conway playing a private detective, ex-FBI, named...Tom Conway! The plot involves a jewel heist in the fashion industry, a crime that eventually grows into two murders. Conway is eventually asked to drop the case, and of course there is no better way to get a movie detective to devote himself to a case then to drop him from it! This was made during the period in the early 50s when Hammer made a number of low-budget mystery programmers with American stars such as Dane Clark and Forrest Tucker and Alex Nicol and Tom Conway (although we yanks think of him as British because of the accent, any time I see a British reference to him, he's called "american star Tom Conway," no doubt because his film success was here in the US). This one is a solid piece of work, which plays much like a 50s crime TV show. By this time Conway could play a detective in his sleep, and he lends his usual touch of jaded class to the film. The supporting cast is colorful, and as always director Terence Fisher keeps things moving quickly. Recommended to mystery and/or Tom Conway fans. Nothing special or original here otherwise...

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
classic 1940s Black vaudeville routines and musical acts, 12 September 2003

Forget the "plot"--it's just contrived to string together various classic vaudeville routines and exciting musical numbers from Black performers of the 1940s. If you enjoyed Killer Diller (made by the same people as this one, and also featuring Dusty Fletcher and Moms Mabley), you'll want to see this one too. It offers a rare opportunity to see African-American vaudeville routines that were probably old in the 1920s, now performed in the waning days of vaudeville. Dusty Fletcher, best known for his smash hit "open the door, richard," is a wonderful physical comedian (her accompanied by some acrobatic person in an ape suit!), and ANY opportunity to see the legendary Moms Mabley should be taken advantage of. The musical performances by Anisteen Allen, Una Mae Carlisle, and Bullmoose Jackson are wonderful, and it's great to see bandleader Lucky Millinder as compere. There's also some off-the-wall "novelty acts" worked into the show, including the one-legged dancer "Crip" Heard. The emphasis here is on the acts you're watching, NOT on the filmmaking. All in all, this is a pleasant way to kill 90 minutes and also gives us a window into a form of entertainment long gone--classic African-American vaudeville.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
the least-bad of Spade Cooley's three western features, 2 January 2005
7/10

The other two westerns that "starred" Spade Cooley--THE SILVER BANDIT and THE KID FROM GOWER GULCH--are usually thought of as some of the worst westerns of the post-World War II era (along with some of the Sunset Carson westerns made in 16mm), and they are. They are as incompetently done on every level as such 30's fodder as THE IRISH GRINGO or LIGHTING BILL (sic) or THE PHANTOM COWBOY. BORDER OUTLAWS, however, is nowhere near as bad. At its best, it's about as good as one of the lower quality entries from Monogram at the same time--say, whatever would be considered the worst Whip Wilson western. Bill Edwards, a too-stoic actor who sounds like he might have been a radio actor before getting into film(although looking up his credits, I see that that is not true--he was a rodeo champ!), is the leading man and hero in the film (by the way, is the Bill Edwards credited for the 1969 experimental film A MARRIED COUPLE the same person??). Spade, of course, plays himself, the jovial owner of a dude ranch. He's actually quite comfortable on screen this time and does not do a bad job. While I fast-forwarded through a few scenes (I initially saw this film back in the 80s) this time around, I think there is only one song, and it's a horrible operetta sounding thing sung (or at least mouthed) by the leading lady in the film, Maria Hart, who had leading roles in a few other z-grade westerns in this period, and whose last credit is Nicholas Ray's THE LUSTY MEN with Robert Mitchum. The film is directed by silent and early-sound action star and stunt whiz Richard Talmadge. He was second-unit director on many big Hollywood productions in the 50s and 60s, but his directing credits are mostly limited to small z-grade productions, including at least one shot in 16mm. I've always loved Talmadge's features (THE SPEED REPORTER being a personal favorite), so it's good to see him do an adequate job here (he also makes a brief appearance for about a second--don't blink!). The film also features his brothers, THE METZETTI BROTHERS acrobatic team, who play ranch hands who for no reason at all work in outrageous acrobatic stunts into every chore they do on the ranch. Those who like this kind of thing should check out some of the films directed by Gianfranco Parolini (aka Frank Kramer), who also puts in irrelevant acrobatic antics where they are not needed (remember RETURN OF SABATA, anyone?). I like this technique--it's like getting a circus act free for the price of the movie ticket! John Laurenz plays the same kind of Hispanic role here as he did in two James Warren westerns as "Chito Rafferty" (paging Chris-Pin Martin!)-- if Mr. Laurenz is himself Hispanic, I apologize, but he doesn't sound very convincing to me. Bud Osborne is his usual reliable self as the sheriff. Overall, this is an average z-grade western, but it's by far the least bad of Spade Cooley's three "starring" westerns. The film actually stars Bill Edwards (who starred in his own z-grade westerns, none of which I've seen), but Cooley's name and notoriety make this better known than any of Edwards' own films. There's not much music here and there's not much camp value, so I can't imagine the film having much appeal beyond fanatics who want to see all the obscure post World War II indie westerns that they can.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
compelling religious-themed murder mystery, 28 April 2001
10/10

I went to this film because I am a fan of Wilford Brimley and of murder mysteries, and did I certainly get a pleasant surprise! Of course, Brimley stole every scene he was in, and the film should satisfy any fan of classic b-murder-mysteries. However, beyond those elements is a serious study of the nature of religious faith, of tolerance, of community. The Mormon environment in the film should make LDS audiences happy because they rarely see themselves depicted on the big screen, but we non-Mormon viewers were given an opportunity to learn about the everyday practice of their faith, and the film's spiritual message is one that transcends any specific religion and should inspire any person of faith. Writer-director Richard Dutcher is quite effective as the stoic hero (harkening back to such classic western stalwarts as Wild Bill Elliott or Tim McCoy), and he has created many interesting supporting characters--even the smallest character role is crafted by writer and actor into a three-dimensional REAL person. The final scene, after the murderer is exposed and life gets back to "normal," is a beautiful wordless religious scene that had me in tears. Thank you, Mr. Dutcher, for making a VERY entertaining film and a beautiful meditation upon the nature of faith.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
first-rate Drummond mystery, w/ Ron Randell, 14 July 2003
9/10

This little-known 1947 Columbia feature, one of two featuring Australian actor Ron Randell as Bulldog Drummond, is a very good mystery that should be seen by any fan of 40s detective films. Randell is perfect for the role of Captain Hugh Drummond, as he is both charming and tough. Columbia always made a solid series detective film (their Whistler and Boston Blackie series come to mind), and this one has a good plot that will have the viewer guessing until the end, fast pacing, solid supporting performances, and no slow or boring passages. The plot, involving two different women who both claim to be a missing heir, allows for a good deal of dramatic tension, and overall this is a wonderful discovery. It's a better film than either of the Drummond films made the year after with Tom Conway in the role of Drummond (Conway was fine, but the films were a bit creaky and slow-moving).

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Ty Hardin in colonial South African-set Western-like film, 27 November 2004
7/10

Maybe I missed some quick reference in the dialogue, but I'm not exactly sure where or when this film is set, although I'd say in South Africa circa 1900 or so. With George Sanders and his British accent and Ty Hardin and his American accent, I'm not sure exactly what colonial authority these men represent, but I'm probably asking too many questions for a film of this type. Just go with the flow and enjoy... With that attitude in mind, I'd have to say this is a somewhat interesting western-structured film, but transferred to a South African setting. Substitute the indigenous black characters for American Indians, and the South African desert for Arizona; also, give the film a somewhat slower pace so we can soak up the locale and atmosphere; the end result is ONE STEP TO HELL. Both George Sanders and Rosanno Brazzi give the film some class, but both have a limited number of scenes. Pier Angeli adds some depth to the film, although Helga Line is not given much of a role. A veteran of both westerns and war films, Ty Hardin can make himself look convincing toting a gun in any setting, and his female fans can catch him with no shirt on in a few scenes (see my review of MAN OF THE CURSED VALLEY). The distinctive setting and particulars make this film somewhat interesting, but I wouldn't go to any great effort to find a copy. By the way, Ty Hardin's character introduces himself a few times as King Edwards, not King Ray.

Camera Shy (1930)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
early-sound Lloyd Hamilton comedy short parodying early-sound films, 25 December 2004
6/10

From February 1930, this early-sound Educational comedy short stars Lloyd Hamilton and has an odd structure to it, evidence of some of the new chances taken in the first years of sound comedy shorts. Hamilton begins by looking in a restaurant window at people eating (echoes of the Hamilton silent classic MOVE ALONG, perhaps?). He then wanders over to a film set on the street with a stereotypical leading man, leading lady, and director. The leading man is too wimpy to fire a gun during a fight and is fired. The film crew takes a break, which allows Hamilton (who had been disrupting the shoot with sarcastic comments) to approach the director and tell him and other members of the crew various stories starring himself that he feels would make good films in which he could star. Each of these stories is shown as a short within a short. They take place in the "Dear old south" of Hamilton's youth, he says, and for me they are all not very funny. The frame story of the filmmakers is much more funny. Still, the short within a short concept is interesting and the short is certainly not static the way that so many 1930 shorts and features are. Not one of Hamilton's best, but not bad either.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Robert Clarke tries to open a Mexican-themed nightclub in this minor Monogram musical, 18 February 2005
5/10

Actress-singer Virginia Welles and director Jean Yarbrough, from the 1950 Monogram musical SQUARE DANCE KATY, are reunited in this 1951 Monogram musical which stars the reliable Robert Clarke as a junior advertising man who saves his money to open a Mexican-themed club called CASA MANANA (presumably no relation to the famous Billy Rose nightclub of the same name in Fort Worth)in Los Angeles. He plans to have the firm's secretary, Virginia Welles, do some musical numbers as she is very talented, but her boss (Robert Karnes) wants her to marry HIM, not to get into show business, so he thwarts Clarke's plans in various ways and with various surrogates. Clarke has a partner in the club named Pedro (played by Hispanic actor Tony Roux), who provides some comic relief in the Pedro Gonzales-Gonzales vein. Comedy, dancing, and novelty songs are provided throughout the film by the Three Rio Brothers. Except for their first scene, when they meet Robert Clarke, most of their routines are performed separate from others, leading me to wonder if they are not just doing their nightclub act in the film? One routine where they seem to be moving in slow motion is clever, but that is counteracted by a VERY politically incorrect "Mexican" sequence in the Frito Bandito-vein that will cause most viewers to wince and hit the fast forward button as I did. As in SQUARE DANCE KATY, Ms. Welles is a charming presence, but her songs are stilted and the arrangements syrupy like the worst "Mickey Mouse" outfits of the Big Band era. One wishes she had been given more swinging material. It's a surprise to see the Livingston-Evans writing team responsible for some of the material in this film--I wouldn't include these songs on their credits if I were them. Oh, Spade Cooley performs a song for no good reason at all (well, probably because he was a TV star at the time and a hot name, and he always was anxious to "make it" in films, so he appeared in various Monogram and Lippert films in this period) at the beginning of the film, which is probably the best performance in the film except for Yadira Jimenez's act. It's great to see Robert Clarke in a lead role--he is probably the only three-dimensional character in the film--but except for Mr. Clarke's presence, this is a weaker film than SQUARE DANCE KATY, which was no masterpiece itself, but at least it had the occasional sarcastic humor of Vera Vague. I can't really recommend this film except to Clarke fans and people who want EVERY screen performance of Spade Cooley. Still, I'll watch the worst Monogram film before I'd sit through the "best" episode of FRIENDS or WILL & GRACE!

14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
another one of Wild Bill Elliott's excellent hard-boiled police films, 13 December 2003
8/10

After making his last western in 1954, Wild Bill Elliott made five excellent hard-boiled police films as Lt. Andy Doyle (Flynn in one). They were low-budget, streamlined films that hold up well today, and Elliott's stoic, tough persona works very well in the police genre. This one features James "Strange Illusion" Lydon as a prisoner getting out of jail for a minor offense, someone who is vouched for by Elliott as an honest man. Obviously, things DO NOT work out well for him! The supporting cast besides Lydon is excellent, including Timothy Carey as (of course) an abusive punk and Meg Randall as a cafe operator who's itching for romance. There's an amnesia-related plot, but I'll let you find out for yourself. It plays a lot like a 50s syndicated tv crime show, and like the others in this series it's got enough noir atmosphere and hard-boiled grit to satisfy the dedicated crime-film fan. It's hard to find, but if the description interests you, you'll find it worthwhile. I've now seen four of the five films in this series and all so far are great!

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Great western swing music and the genial charm of Tex Williams in this musical Western short, 14 February 2006
8/10

The deep, croaking voice of Tex Williams is unique in country music. He's best known for his talk-singing on songs like Smoke, Smoke, Smoke, but he could sing a beautiful ballad too and his timing was perfect. He always had a hot western swing band, too, having gotten his start with Spade Cooley and then going solo. During his most popular period, the later 40s, he starred in a number of western musical shorts at Universal. This one, CHEYENNE COWBOY, is typical of what's good about the series (and, by the way, contrary to the credits, Tex does not play "Tex" in the film). There's a condensed version of a b-western plot involving cattle rustling, the members of Tex's band (playing ranch hands) are good at comedy themselves, and everything moves steadily. While one song about the nature of women was quite witty and smart, a few of the songs, though well sung and played, were not first-rate compositions, though Tex could sing a restaurant menu and if it had a beat I'd listen. Other than that, this was a fun experience and my family, who do not share my enthusiasm for b-westerns or this kind of music, also had to admit that the 20 minutes they spent watching CHEYENNE COWBOY were well-spent. As I said in a recent review of a Ray Whitley musical western short, our best bet to see this may well be if the German "Bear Family" record label, which has gotten into DVD's recently, would do a region-free DVD of Tex Williams musical shorts. Why not write them and suggest it. There are also some excellent Tex William reissues on the German "Bronco Buster" label--any serious Western Swing fan should check them out.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
fast-moving spy drama involving code-breaking naval officers, 6 August 2003
8/10

Films released by Grand National tend to be slow-moving and talky, but this 1938 spy drama set in the world of Navy code-breakers (produced by Fine Arts Films for Grand National--in the studio's final months, most of their releases were pick-ups by other production companies) moves quickly, has a few interesting subplots, and gives a lot of nuts-and-bolts details about the world of cryptography (much like the serial THE SECRET CODE, although that was aimed at kids and this is aimed at adults). Director Charles Lamont had directed some fine mysteries at Chesterfield (another outfit that tended toward talky, set-bound productions but had a higher batting average than Grand National)in the early and mid-30s, and he was a good choice to helm this project. Also, star Leon Ames--whose credits range from playing Doris Day's father to playing the neighbor on the Mr. Ed. TV show to playing a crusading doctor in the classic exploitation hygiene drama NO GREATER SIN--is a reliable actor who pulls in the audience so we are as "into" the details of code analysis almost as much as he is, and we feel his anxiety, his impatience, and his excitement. The manner is which the code will be transmitted in the climactic scene is telegraphed early in the film (I'll let YOU figure that out for yourself--any fan of murder mysteries will spot the detail), but that shouldn't spoil the excitement. Don Dillaway plays Major Waring's (Ames) little brother, Lt. Waring, and gives a Dean Benton-like performance as the immature, impulsive young man who gets involved with German spy Joan Woodbury(!!!). All in all, the film is a solid piece of work and should appeal to fans of pre-WWII spy films. Incidentally, about six months after this, Grand National released a SECOND film starring Ames and his assistant (Charlotte Wynters) playing the same roles, entitled PANAMA PATROL, Grand National went under soon after, so the series never went beyond two entires. I haven't seen PANAMA PATROL in years, but if I stumble across my copy, I will review it.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
the Bowery Boys in the Air Force--classic slapstick!, 20 November 2004
9/10

By the early 50's, The Bowery Boys post-WWII formula had become a well-oiled machine. The "Boys" consisted of stars Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall, along with group members David Gorcey (here billed as "Condon") and Bennie Bartlett for reaction shots. And of course Leo's father Bernard Gorcey, as Louie, owner of Louie's Sweet Shop, where the gang hangs out. Comedy pros such as Elwood Ullman and Edward Bernds were working their magic with the series, and Monogram/Allied Artists usually surrounded the boys with talented casts of lesser-known players (such as Renie Riano, hilarious as the hatchet-faced WAC leader who orders Huntz Hall around) and old favorites (such as Lyle Talbot, and unbilled, Tris Coffin and Arthur "Canadian Mounties VS Atomic Invaders" Space). Basically, by this time in the series, the Boys were put into a certain situation or locale or profession, and they were let loose. Here they are in the air force (by accident, of course), with Huntz Hall mistakenly assigned to the female WAC unit, and they help a friend in the air force catch some spies (by accident, of course!). If you like Gorcey's constant malapropisms, Hall's rubber-faced, Shemp Howard-style maniacal antics, and the wonderful physical comedy of both, you will enjoy this film. I enjoyed these as a child, and now my children are enjoying them just as much. Gorcey and Hall left a wonderful body of work, and they were still on a roll in 1953 when this was released. They did three or four films a year and were favorites among exhibitors as they brought in regular crowds who couldn't wait for the next entry. Classic slapstick never ages, and this film should bring a smile to any slapstick lover's face --whether you are seven or seventy.

'C'-Man (1949)
10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
offbeat but interesting indie crime-noir film, 7 October 2002
7/10

The few who know this film are probably either hardcore film-noir completists or hardcore John Carradine fans who must have every film "the master" appeared in. I'm glad I recently had an opportunity to view the film, because it is a fascinating independently-made crime-noir film with a number of unique touches. Most of the film is shot either on location on the streets of New York or in VERY small low-budget sets. The location shooting is quite interesting, using unexpected camera angles and giving the film a kind of documentary feel--one suspects that director Joseph Lerner and cinematographer Gerald Hirschfeld were familiar with the Italian neo-realists. I could watch hours of this kind of footage, capturing 1949 New York, as it was experienced by people on foot, through great low-angle shots. And the musical score, by Gail Kubik, is quite avant-garde--sections of it sounding like early John Cage or Stan Kenton at his most atonal. Ms. Kubik was obviously a fine composer who adapted her avant-garde music well to a crime film--I'm anxious to hear some of her other work. Dean Jagger is not the most convincing tough guy, but he is a good enough actor to handle the expository dialogue and unnecessary voice-overs and make them sound SOMEWHAT natural! Lottie Elwen, playing a woman from Holland whom Jagger meets and who gets the mystery, such as it is, in motion, is quite seductive and was an excellent choice for the role. John Carradine can create a distinctive supporting character in his sleep, and once again he does that here as a fallen, now-crooked doctor who has had his medical license revoked (he's only in a few scenes). We should, with hindsight, give credit to the filmmakers who were obviously working on a VERY low budget, yet created a distinctive looking film and a film with lots of atmosphere. Fans of obscure noir-crime films should seek it out; although it's certainly not a flawless classic, there's something real and raw and spontaneous about it, and that quality transcends any other limitations the film has.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
slowly-paced but interesting late-silent western with Bob Custer, 18 March 2005
8/10

The more silent work of Bob Custer (aka Raymond Glenn) that I see, the more impressed I am with him. He radiates a strength and warmth on the silent screen that just doesn't transfer to the world of sound, although he certainly is not BAD in his sound films for the most part. It's just when I see him in a silent film, it's clear why he became a star. He projects that kind of persona in CODE OF THE WEST, a late silent feature western directed by the prolific J.P. McGowan. If you are looking for action, constant fistfights, and exciting chases, get another film as this one is slowly-paced. The story revolves around a group of crooked cowboys who are stealing insured packages and then submitting fraudulent claims to the railroad company. Railroad inspector Bob Custer is called in to analyze the situation. Part of the problem comes from the weak-willed, but well-meaning local station supervisor, very well-played by silent comedian Bobby Dunn. This is a role that requires a lot of depth, with a man who can be weakened with alcohol and manipulated by others, and who realizes his weaknesses and tries to not acknowledge them. Dunn does a wonderful job, and also gets to use his physical comedy skills. More intellect than brawn is used to crack the case, and when the final showdown comes in the saloon, which Custer tries to close single-handedly, it almost has a High Noon-style intensity to it because there HAVE NOT been constant shootouts throughout the film. I like this film a lot and I look forward to seeing another Custer western of the same period, THE LAST ROUND-UP, which I just received. One question I have to anyone who's seen this film: what the heck is that railing on the stairs made of that BENDS when Custer and the man chasing him grab on to it?

23 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
excellent early entry in Columbo series--impressive direction and acting, 9 December 2004
9/10

This was the second entry in the regular Columbo series, and it holds up well today. As I am able to look at it closely now on DVD and see how it is constructed, I am very impressed with the direction of Bernard L. Kowalski (who directed the fine MACHO CALLAHAN as well as countless TV episodes)--watch how the post-murder actions of the killer are shown on a split-screen effect on his two eyeglasses, watch how the murder itself is shown in montage fashion, watch the point-of-view shot from the perspective of the corpse. Also, the wild but impressive avant-garde musical score from noted jazzman Gil Melle was incredible and helped so much to create atmosphere. And the supporting performance of Brett Halsey as the golf pro was wonderful--such subtlety and complexity in a role that nine out of ten times would be a one-dimensional cutout. The "formula" had not yet been set when this episode was filmed, so there are still some surprises in Columbo's methods. Of course, Falk, Robert Culp, and Ray Milland are the highest-quality actors and it's a pleasure to see them work--all men are familiar from many other roles yet lose themselves in their characters here. In all, this entry in the Columbo series--and MANY of the others--are as well-crafted as a very good feature film.

20 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Anne Baxter against Mel Ferrer...with Columbo hovering close by, 2 March 2006
9/10

The Columbo DVD box sets are allowing me to savor these old episodes without commercials and with the ability to watch parts over again to see how clues are planted. As another comment also stated, this episode may not be the most cleverly plotted or most exciting, BUT it has the great Anne Baxter as a fading star who was married to a now-deceased studio head and is now pitted against a sleazy tell-all biographer, played by another great, Mel Ferrer. Baxter's assistant is having an affair with Ferrer. The assistant winds up dead, but switched cars with Ferrer at the last minute. So was Ferrer or the assistant the intended target? Columbo doesn't miss a beat as he investigates, and as in the best Columbo episodes every seemingly throw-away remark or observation later takes on great significance. And it's always fun to see the Columbo character star-struck around celebrities, asking the celebrity to call his brother-in-law on the phone and the like.

In addition to seeing Columbo "crack" the case, the viewer doesn't really understand the motivation for the crime until the final scene, which adds another level of excitement. With a supporting cast including Kevin McCarthy and Frank Converse, this is an episode you should definitely check out. Baxter and Ferrer bring such class to the show. And Falk is always perfect in this role...

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
enjoyable Spanish spoof of international "caper" films, 8 September 2002

This Spanish film (I'm reviewing the English-dubbed version, MISSION PHANTOM) is a enjoyable spoof of the many international "caper" films of the 1960s, where a ragtag band of colorful characters from different countries and backgrounds are brought together to pull of some "impossible" heist in a well-guarded place with amazing security. It is played for laughs, yet at the same time IS an intriguing heist pulled off in a creative way. The cast includes Fernando Sancho and Eduardo Fajardo--two men best known in the US for VERY different kinds of roles in European westerns (Sancho usually as a colorful Mexican bandido, Fajardo usually as a sadistic town boss or gang leader). No classic, but an enjoyable way to kill 90 minutes on a rainy day.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
heart-touching, melodramatic, early-sound Christmas short, 20 December 2004
9/10

This 1930 Vitaphone short is the kind of sentimental, melodramatic Depression-era Christmas story we just don't see anymore. From the beginning of the sound era, the simple 15 minute short tells the story of a man released from prison, wandering the streets looking for work and only finding a day or two here and there. He's got a heart of gold, but he's still the lovable pickpocket he's always been--he just needs a break. He sees a young lady about to kill herself by jumping off the pier, so he saves her, the police and a stolen watch provide further complications, and the Christmas spirit manages to brighten the hearts and lives of the four characters involved. How rare it is to see an ex-prisoner or someone living on the street depicted positively in a film nowadays. In 1930, such people were considered unlucky souls who had a few bad breaks but who could be your own brother or sister...or YOU. How social attitudes have changed (as shown by the 2004 election results!)!! Eric Dressler, an actor unfamiliar to me, does a wonderful job, like George Raft doing a scene written by Damon Runyon! Lenita Lane, as the lady about to take her own life, communicates the tragic situation well. Lane had a number of supporting roles in the 30s, and was even unbilled in some small walk-on parts. She was still working in 1959, when she appeared in THE BAT with Vincent Price. The other two actors, who are unbilled, are instantly recognizable. Weldon Heyburn (sometimes called "the poor man's Clark Gable" and veteran of many great b-movies) is the long-lost boyfriend of the girl, and Pat O'Brien is the cop who tails Dressler and keeps on his case, screwing up his chances of getting an honest job. The direction is simple, relying on the drama of the situation and the power of the actors to carry things along. Santa even makes an appearance, and of course he is a depression-era Warner Brothers Santa, the kind who could have walked off the pages of a James T. Farrell novel! Overall, a wonderfully sentimental and naturalistic piece that, for me, captures the REAL meaning of the holidays. We need more films of this type today.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
stunning 60s NYC indie thriller, slowed down by nudie inserts, 18 December 2002
9/10

This very-low-budget independent thriller--a gritty NYC Freudian rewrite of The Most Dangerous Game--was a real surprise to me, as its director has no other credits on the IMDB. Psychotic Eileen Lord (whose performance belongs on the same shelf as Jack Nicholson's in THE SHINING or Tab Hunter's in THE AROUSERS)hunts down three men--a junkie, an over-the-hill stage actor, and a professional wrestler down on his luck--and cackles with glee while she's doing it. The crisp B&W New York locations are so real you can taste them, and the small, sparse sets (and some real houses/apartments too, it seems to me) are shot imaginatively. The camera work is unconventional and the editing is tight and gives the film a good pacing. Unfortunately, this film, which probably ran about 55 minutes in its original form, is ruined by about 15 minutes of poorly-shot nudie footage edited in at a later date, or at least shot by someone else who had no style to speak of. These inserts, I suppose, allowed the film to play on the "adult film" circuit, and probably gave it more of an audience than it could have gotten otherwise. However, it really belongs on the same shelf with films such as THE THRILL KILLERS, and its true audience is lovers of 60s sleazy,grim horror-crime films. Nudie fans have hundreds of films to enjoy, but CONFESSIONS OF A PSYCHO CAT is a rare gem that once seen is not soon forgotten. Perhaps the release of this on a snazzy new DVD will cause the makers to come out of the woodwork and talk to some film researchers...maybe someday there will be a DVD with DIFFERENT VERSIONS of the film, including one without the inserts? A must-see for students of 1960s independent cinema.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Willy Castello's death-row "confessions", told through clips from earlier films. Amazing!, 19 January 2003
9/10

This 1942 Willis Kent production stars the great Willy Castello as death-row inmate Lucky Lombardo, who offers to serve up a detailed "confession" of his criminal exploits to teach the younger generation that crime does not pay. These exploits are shown by clips from earlier Willis Kent productions starring Castello (!!!) and a few that he didn't star in. For instance, who can forget his role as the slimy pimp in Wages of Sin, or the oily gigolo in Mad Youth, or the unlicensed abortion doctor in Victims of Passion? They are all here, as well as the obscure Smashing The Vice Trust, which has not surfaced in the last few decades, but which looks fascinating. In addition, clips are shown from Kent's productions of Murder in the Museum (including a more explicit striptease that was spliced into later versions of the film, NOT found in the 1935 original) AND Cocaine Fiends, in which WC did not appear. The new footage of Castello is awkwardly lit and shot, looking like a stag film, and the warden and his secretary who listen to the testimony are poor performers, but as always Castello is a fascinating performer, suave and tough and charming and seedy. The static photography and flat inadequate lighting of the new footage really give the feel of a grim death-row setting, and Castello delivers the purple-prose script completely convincingly--as if he were Bogart delivering a Clifford Odets soliloquy. In a sense, this film is a "best-of" Willy Castello. Any lover of classic 1930s exploitation films should love this picture. Unfortunately, my copy is a bit splicy, but as a 60-year-old underground relic, we should be happy it exists at all. Castello only made a handful of films, but he created a searing image on the screen and will never be forgotten by fans of hard-boiled grindhouse cinema. Confessions of a Vice Baron is a fitting tribute to Castello's unique talent and to a genre of films that continues to fascinate viewers in a new century.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
frothy romantic comedy/caper film with strong Bossa Nova flavor, 2 December 2003
8/10

A French/Italian/Brazilian co-production, THE GIRL GAME (as my English-dubbed, letterboxed VHS copy is titled) would be an average Euro lighthearted romance-caper film were it not for the Brazilian element in the mix--great locations, great music by Jobim and Bonfa, many Brazilian elements throughout the films, and if I'm not mistaken even cameos from Antonio Carlos Jobim, Luis Bonfa, and Joao Gilberto (one of the characters pretends to be talking to Jobim on the phone and makes plans to meet him and his "friends" Luis and Joao--later in the film we see the girls with guys serenading them who look and sound like the real musicians, but I thought it was just actors shown in medium shots pretending to be them, until I saw the three actually listed in the cast list!!!). We even get two songs sung by Norma Bengell! While the film itself is a pleasant time-killer, the bossa nova content makes it a fascinating document--an artifact from that brief period in the early 1960s when the romanticized Brazil of song and legend was THE place to be, the place to fantasize being. Anyone with any interest in this period should try to find a copy. Fans of dubbed Euro 60s co-productions will also like the film, but what makes it special is the bossa nova content

Corky (1972)
12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Robert Blake in an intense performance and totally unsympathetic role, 20 March 2006
8/10

Wow! CORKY, which played the drive-in circuit briefly in 1972 (it was the only Blake starring role I missed back then), must be listed among Robert Blake's greatest and most intense performances of the late 60s and early 70s. However, be warned that Corky Curtiss is a totally unsympathetic character who treats everyone horribly, is on an ego trip, and sets out to wound the people who care for him. The film begins in Texas, where Blake and his pal played by the under-rated Chris Connelly, are driving in minor car races on the weekend and working for shop owner Patrick O'Neal during the week. Blake is married to Charlotte Rampling, who looks the part but whose accent wavers and sounds like Duchess Sarah Ferguson auditioning for Hee-Haw. After alienating everyone in the town and abandoning his wife, Blake and Connelly take off to take on the southern racing circuit. Blake's abusive behavior toward the easygoing Connelly finally makes CC split from Blake, and Blake's a**hole behavior winds up digging himself a deeper hole and leaving him more alone and stranded. He fails to learn anything from this, and I'll leave you the viewer to watch the final 20 minutes...everything from when Blake meets the two boys at the swimming hole on through the violent ending. If you are a Blake fan, you will go crazy over this film. He's over-the-top from beginning to end, struts around without his shirt on and with a beer in his hand, jives everyone he meets, and perfectly captures the loud, offensive, boorish, vain good-old-boys we all can't stand in real life. The film's title during its making was LOOKIN' GOOD (and there is a song by that title played in the middle of the film), and that fits things well as about the only thing that Blake cares for is strutting' and LOOKIN' GOOD. Talk about an anti-hero, Corky Curtiss makes Kowalski from VANISHING POINT and the leads of TWO LANE BLACKTOP look like Mother Teresa. This is the kind of post-James Dean, out-of-control Method performance that only a few people, Mickey Rourke among them, can get away with. To the film's credit, it gets small-town life down perfectly in every detail. When Charlotte Rampling is trying to get a GED, working two jobs, and pulling her life back together, I thought "I KNOW dozens of people just like her," just like I know dozens of people like her a**hole husband Corky. It's no surprise this film wasn't a hit, although that could also have been due to distribution, because who would want to see such a downer of a film? The Robert Blake fan, that's who. And if you are one, track down a gray market copy of this film immediately. Mine was taken from an old 1980's TNT TV broadcast, but the days when films like this were shown on TV are long gone. As this was an MGM release, perhaps you could write Turner Classic Movies--I'd LOVE to see Robert Osborne's introductory comments about CORKY! This would be perfect on a double bill with THE DAREDEVIL, starring George Montgomery (see my review of the latter). Blake was untouchable in his prime, and films such as this one contain the proof. Director Leonard Horn, who passed away a few years after this, worked mostly in television, except for the strange 1970 release THE MAGIC GARDEN OF STANLEY SWEETHEART. With that and Corky as his two big-screen directorial efforts, one wonders what Mr. Horn would have done if he'd been given creative freedom to make low-budget feature films instead of TV episodes and TV movies. Someone should interview Blake or Rampling (Connelly, O'Neal, and Ben Johnson are gone) about this film and about Leonard Horn.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Nice mix of comedy and music in this Ray Whitley RKO western short, 14 February 2006
8/10

I was doing some research on the "Cowboy" record label, on which Bill Haley recorded in the late 40's, and as Ray Whitley also recorded for that label, I dug out some of the old Ray Whitley RKO Western musical shorts he made. CORRALLING A SCHOOL MARM is a nice example of the charm of this series. Ray (whose looks remind me of a cross between Rex Lease and Ralph Byrd) has a strong yet happy screen presence, he has a hot band, and his acting is as good as, say, Crash Corrigan's in the Range Busters films (and I LOVE Crash Corrigan, so that's a compliment!). There's even a well-developed plot about a school superintendent (Lee Lasses White, without a hat and bald and very funny)who has a crush on the young schoolmarm (Virginia Vale), who has a crush on Ray. It's amazing how much entertainment (both song and story) gets packed into this short. I could do without the opening scene where the school children sing a song, but it probably went over well with the kids who saw this film theatrically at the time. Director Charles E. Roberts was a regular in the RKO short subjects unit, directing Leon Errol and Edgar Kennedy shorts, and writing some of the classic Lupe Velez "Mexican Spitfire" films. Unless TCM (who own the RKO archive) happens to show one of these and you happen to catch it, our best bet might be that someday Bear Family Records in Germany might want to do a region-free DVD of Ray Whitley shorts. Why not write them and request it? Definitely recommended to the lover of musical b-westerns.

6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
enjoyable family entertainment;fine comic perf. from Hogan, 29 April 2001
8/10

I went in to this film hoping to entertain my children, a few of their friends who came along, and myself for 90 minutes on a weekend afternoon, and what I got was quality old-fashioned family entertainment and a reintroduction to Paul Hogan's fine comic talent. To most kids my children's ages, Hogan is better known as a spokesman for Subaru station wagons than as an actor. However, he is a wonderful comic actor, fully deserving of vehicles such as this. The yokel- among-the-sophisticates plot is timeless, ranging from Buster Keaton's "Elmer" character through the Bowery Boys, Ma and Pa Kettle, Jerry Lewis, Jim Varney, etc. Hogan is working in that classic tradition, and his skills as a physical comedian, his superb comic timing, and his loveable persona will make this film a favorite on cable TV and as a video rental for decades to come. There were no dazzling special effects, nothing shocking, no social or political agenda--just well-performed, funny family comedy. The only flaw, if it can be called that, in the film was that Paul Rodriguez's character was not given enough screen time. I could imagine those two making a great screen pair. Maybe in the next film, Mick Dundee could call on his old friend from the movie business, the character played by Rodriguez, to help him out of some jam. With that large Aussie sidekick who accompanied Dundee in the second half of the film (the name escapes me)playing off both Hogan and Rodriguez, you'd have a great combination! Think about it, Paul Hogan and Lance Hool! I'll pay to bring my family to Crocodile Dundee 4 when it comes out. We had an 8 year old with us viewing the film, and she loved it, so I'd guess that the film should be acceptable to children 6 or over, and there's nothing really offensive in it if you have to take children younger than that. With this and SPY KIDS coming out in the same month, it's been a good season for family films.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
gritty early 50s crime/drug/JD film, for fans of genre, 31 July 2002
8/10

The title "Curfew Breakers" is spliced into the title credits of this early 50s crime/drug/JD film originally called "Narcotics Squad," a title still seen in the credits. Starring the distinguished film and stage actor Paul Kelly, in one of his final roles, the film has a great shadowy yet naturalistic look to it, a "dragnet"-style narration in parts (common in post-dragnet 50s crime films), and hard-boiled performances from all. It harkens back to such 30s narcotics crime films as Cocaine Fiends, yet also foreshadows High School Confidential in some ways (although I'm not claiming it influenced HSC). Parents discuss drug issues with concerned school authorities (shades of Reefer Madness), overaged highschool students act tough and use dope, and hardboiled police officers are on the trail, led by the steel-jawed Kelly. The two musical sequences are quite interesting, the first featuring a Jimmy Cavallo/Mike Pedicin-styled jive combo with a rubberfaced, mushmouthed frontman, the second featuring the band's female drummer howling a bluesy tune. I'd love to know who these performers are. Anyone know? Overall, this is a satisfying 1950s drug-crime melodrama.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
above-average 70s Italian crime film, partially shot in New York, with Maurizio Merli and Van Johnson, 27 February 2005
8/10

FROM CORLEONE TO BROOKLYN is an exciting late 70s Italian crime film starring the dynamic and handsome Maurizio Merli as an Italian cop who is trying to find a killer who is mob-connected and who eventually has to bring a witness to the United States to testify against the suspect in order for the suspect to be extradited back to Italy. Written and directed by Umberto Lenzi, who directed any number of excellent police films in the 70s (and four great vehicles for Carroll Baker in the late 60s/early 70s), the film moves at a brisk pace and because Mafia killers are after Merli and his witness, the viewer never knows when they will next be attacked or by what method. The pulsating, police-funk score gives this the classic "sound" of a 70s euro-crime film, and the fatalistic ending is something one would rarely see in an American film. Van Johnson, as the New York police lieutenant who works with Merli, does a fine job of barking orders at underlings and projects a genuine concern for Merli's task and situation. I'm still not sure if Mr. Johnson did his own dubbing on this film, but had a cold and was not well-recorded, or whether someone was doing a Van Johnson imitation--after all, Johnson is an EASY to identify actor with distinctive phrasing and accent. A mimic could listen to the soundtrack of one of his films and do a decent impression. In any event, this would rank among the top third of 70s Italian crime films that I have seen. Also, much of the location shooting is in New York and is shot when there is snow on the ground, so the atmosphere is important in the film Recommended to fans of this genre of film, FROM CORLEONE TO BROOKLYN is an example from the "golden age" of Euro-crime films.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
solid 60's euro-spy film with great jazz score, 19 December 2001

This review is of the SWV video of an American International TV print, in color, of this obscure 1965 Italian film. A starving writer is offered $20,000 by an old friend in the intelligence service to pose as "Felix," an international smuggler, because the writer looks exactly like this Felix. There's lots of action, beautiful locations in Italy and (presumably) Istanbul, double-crosses galore, fistfights and chases, etc. Star "Christopher Logan" is obviously a European, who looks somewhat familiar, but I can't place him--he reminds me vaguely of a euro version of the young Christopher Walken or Sean Penn. As someone who has watched countless 60's European spy/crime films, I'd definitely consider this one above average. In addition, there is a superb modern jazz score throughout--like an unknown 1965 Blue Note quintet session. For fans of the genre, this film is well worth getting!!

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
fun silent-comedy parody of melodramas, 18 September 2004
6/10

This silent comedy short stars Earl McCarthy(who vaguely reminds me of Charles Starrett) as "Hairbreadth Harry," a parody of the hero of early melodrama and who had his own comic strip beginning in 1906 (the closest modern analogy I can think of is Dudley DoRight). Of course, there is the heroine Belinda (also taken from the comic), who is chased after by the bad guys, headed by Relentless Rudolph, who resembles Snidely Whiplash, gleefully stroking his handlebar mustache and laughing wickedly when he does something bad, stamping the ground and pouting and saying "curses!" when he is defeated by Harry or by circumstances. McCarthy continued to work into the early sound era (I remember him as the crusading reporter in Dorothy Davenport Reid's SUCKER MONEY in 1932, wearing too much silent-era-style makeup and lipstick, but doing a good job otherwise), but died young in 1933. During the silent era most of his featured roles seemed to be in comedy shorts--his appearances in features were generally small, which continued into the sound era, where many of his roles were uncredited walk-ons. SUCKER MONEY may well be his only starring role in a sound film, although he seems to have at least a featured role in his final film, CHEATING BLONDES starring Thelma Todd, which I haven't seen, and in the early-sound serial CLANCY OF THE MOUNTED,starring Tom Tyler, which I also haven't seen. DANGER AHEAD shows the modern viewer that the conventions of silent-film melodrama were antiquated and worthy of lampoon even by this point, and it's a fast-moving short that doesn't need much explanation to be appreciated. You can learn more about the Hairbreadth Harry comic strip by doing an internet search--you'll see some sample strips and learn about the character's history.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
entertaining dubbed European costumed swashbuckler with Fernando Lamas, 21 November 2004
8/10

One of the many European costumed historical adventures of the early 1960s, REVENGE OF THE MUSKETEERS stars Fernando Lamas (but, alas, NOT his fine voice as he is dubbed by someone else) as D'Artagnan, who is reunited with his old musketeer comrades (though not willingly at first!)to help Charles II, who is in exile in France during the Cromwell regime in England. There's also a subplot about a man and his young daughter who are scheming to interest Charles in the young lady so she will marry him and thus get England to move toward alliances with their corrupt friends in other European countries. Charles is depicted here as pasty looking and a bit of a fop (perhaps that is how people on the continent view the British?). Lamas makes an excellent D'Artagnan--had we heard his fine, rich voice on the soundtrack, he would have been even better. But, alas, it's too late to do anything about that now, so we must just enjoy the film we are given. And that is easy for fans of this genre as REVENGE OF THE MUSKETEERS has a lot of action (though not as much swordplay as one would anticipate), colorful settings, and colorful interpretations of the musketeers. As usual for a Musketeers-related film, this is played with a light touch, with a number of comic sequences slipped between the intrigue (and with a bassoon on the soundtrack reminding us of the comic nature of the scene in case we couldn't figure out otherwise). Worth finding for fans of these dubbed historical adventures, as I am. (NOTE: By the way, my video copy (which seems taken from a 16mm TV print) has some very brief but odd edits in it. The soundtrack doesn't seem to jump, yet it seems as though a second or two of visual is missing. If some projectionist at a TV station had clipped a few frames from the film, or spliced a broken film back together resulting in a few missing frames, I'd think the soundtrack would have a gap or at least there would be a pop. You could watch the film inattentively and not notice this, but it happens a few times in the transitions between scenes and makes me wonder what if anything I am missing.)

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
comedy team of Timberg and Rooney meet the young June Allyson!, 26 November 2004
8/10

Here is another late short from the dance-comedy team of Herman Timberg Jr. (and he IS billed as that here, not as Tim Herbert) and Pat Rooney Jr. This plot seems much like the shorts of Educational Pictures' other dance-comedy team from this time, Tom Patricola and Buster West, with the boys at a college, waiting for the big dance. Timberg's date is delayed, so Rooney cross-dresses and passes as his date. Like the Patricola and West shorts, this features scenes shot in very small sections of sets, often six or eight feed wide, with tight photography where if one of the actors stepped away a bit we'd see a blank studio wall. With loud and brash performances, though, one doesn't really notice this very often. Rooney handles the drag sections well (does EVERY comedy team have to do one of these cross-dressing bits?), and the slapstick is fast and furious. Timberg's girlfriend, when she does eventually appear, is played by the young June Allyson, who got her start in shorts. Another Educational short with Allyson from this period that is in circulation is DIME A DANCE with Imogene Coca. Even at this early period, Ms. Allyson had her distinctive voice and radiated charm. It's no surprise she eventually worked her way up to features and starring roles. I acquired some Timberg and Rooney shorts many years ago (see my reviews of LOVE AND ONIONS and THAT'S THE SPIRIT) and watched them once but my mind must have been elsewhere as I didn't find them particularly interesting. Watching them again, I'm really impressed with the team's skills. Not only are they fine dancers, but they do novelty songs well, they have great comic timing, and they have impressive physical comedy skills. It's a shame that their "big break," their own series of comedy shorts, came in the waning days of Educational Pictures and they were unable to follow up on this work. Herman Timberg Jr. (as Tim Herbert) continued to act and perform, but evidently Rooney left show business a few years after. I'd like to see all of their shorts (they made 10 between 1936-38). If you have a friend who collects old comedy shorts, ask him/her to show you something by Timberg and Rooney.

13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
an undiscovered gem of a small-town crime film, Gerald Mohr is once again the model of a hard-boiled leading man, 15 February 2005
10/10

The few notices about this film that I've read comment on the "Psychorama" process of subliminal messages/images used in the film (also used in the previous film by director Daniels/writer Dennis/ and star Mohr called TERROR IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE, aka My World Dies Screaming). Perhaps those were edited out of the old 16mm TV print my video was taken from, but I didn't notice anything different. However, forgetting that gimmick, this is a fantastic crime film which deserves to be well-known. The plot has been used before in westerns--someone (Tim McCoy perhaps) would wander into a small town and be mistaken for the new sheriff, and then act as if he were that sheriff and clean the town out of corruption. I haven't seen it before in a hard-boiled crime film, but it fits well here. I found the first fifteen minutes of the film--as star Gerald Mohr rides a train trying to get to L.A., is thrown off it by railroad cop Kenne Duncan, stumbles across an abandoned car, takes the car and assumes the driver's identity, and then walks into an unexpected welcome in a small town run by vice lord Robert Clarke (in a role that must have been fun to play--unfortunately, Clarke devotes only a few lines to this film in his excellent autobiography)--completely gripping. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering if Mohr would be "found out." Even after that element is resolved, the plot continues in such an outrageous way that is played in a totally straight, believable manner, I was riveted. The photography (according to Clarke's autobiography, this was shot in Roswell, New Mexico, but not knowing that I'd think it was somewhere in California's "inland empire") is superb and captures the small town world of diners and small merchants and vast open spaces beautifully. The supporting actors, some of whom seem like locals (Sam the jailer, played by Ray Dearhorn, comes across as a very lifelike and sympathetic man, and the actors who play the mayor and the hotel owner who hassles Liz Renay both seem like people who were not professional film actors but were well-cast in their roles), are perfect examples of the types found in the small towns in which I've lived. As the cocky Lt. who resents Mohr being chief of police, Harry Lauter (an actor with many excellent credits in westerns and crime films, and who also starred in KING OF THE CARNIVAL, one of the last Republic serials, where he acted opposite Robert Clarke) does a fine job, capturing the brashness and condescending quality of the man who is the big fish in the small pond. This also is one of the few REAL lead dramatic roles I've ever seen Liz Renay in, and she is fantastic. She often was used in smaller roles for name value, but here she is the female lead, and she is seductive, charming, warm, and everything a b-crime-movie leading lady needs to be. She also sings well, although we don't need to hear the "Flim Flam" song three times! As for Gerald Mohr, I've always considered him one of the great hard-boiled leading men, both on radio (where he played Phillip Marlowe) and in film. Here he is both tough and sympathetic, yet initially mysterious. He brings much depth to a role that many would have just walked through. For the fan of low-budget 1950s crime films (such as the ones made by Allied Artists or Columbia's b-unit), DATE WITH DEATH should be a must-see. With a fine jazz score, great location photography, an exciting plot, and some genuinely surprising twists and turns, DATE WITH DEATH does not need any subliminal gimmicks to be a model b-crime film. I give it ten stars out of ten. I've watched the film seven times in the last five years, and I still enjoy it and get caught up in the situation. Someone should restore the film and put it out on DVD for all to enjoy.

17 out of 55 people found the following review useful:
fans of lowbrow Stooges/Bowery Boys style slapstick, rejoice; all others avoid, 14 May 2007
8/10

I enjoyed Larry The Cable Guy's previous film, HEALTH INSPECTOR. It was a perfect example of lowbrow physical comedy that should have appealed to the Three Stooges and Bowery Boys fans out there. It used time-tested formulas dating back to silent comedy (check my reviews of obscure silent and early-sound comedy shorts and you'll see I love that tradition), and while they are simple-minded and obvious, they still work when in the hands of a comic master. For me, Larry the Cable Guy is in the Larry Fine/Leo Gorcey/Jerry Lewis vein, and also somewhat like the comedic sidekicks in old westerns. This new film is not as much of a gross-out vehicle as the Health Inspector. Bill Engvall is very much a straight man to Larry, while DJ Qualls is like a psycho version of Don Knotts/Barney Fife. These three are a great slapstick misfit trio, if crude obvious physical comedy is what you like. I presume anyone reading this already knows the plot--three loser guys are sent to Iraq to fight and mistakenly get dropped off in Mexico. Like any plot for a slapstick comedy, it's merely a device to hang routines on, and I found the routines to be quite funny. The writing is full of jokes and all three guys are great physical comedians. It's also nice to see screen heavies like Keith David and Danny Trejo in comic roles, David as the Sergeant who is leading the boys, Trejo as a weird bandit leader. Larry's stand-up routines are VERY different from this film. Don't see this film unless you liked Health Inspector. Or unless you want to see someone working the old Three Stooges/Bowery Boys type routines. My teenage daughter and I laughed quite often and found the film more than worth the money. By the way, the outtakes at the end of the film are interesting in that they show scenes that did not make the final cut. I hope those scenes will be included on the DVD. I anxiously await Larry's next vehicle, WITLESS PROTECTION.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Swiss melodrama/documentary on abortion, released in the US as an exploitation film, 7 September 2003
6/10

I can only imagine what some poor oversexed US theatregoer in 1966 who saw this serious Swiss melodrama/documentary about abortion, expecting a sexy exploitation film from the advertising, would think. There are clinical drawings of the female anatomy shown and the only skin seen is the bare legs of a lady having a baby! Perhaps K. Gordon Murray and David Friedman would provide an unannounced "square-up reel" in addition to the film, but as it is, there is no exploitation value to this serious film. On the other hand, watched in 2003 as a historical curio, the film is of much value. It is a serious and powerful tract supporting legal and safe abortion and presents a number of real-life stories of women forced to choose unsafe and illegal back-alley abortions. With a number of politicians in the US wanting to bring back the pre-Roe-vs.-Wade days again, the film is an eloquent voice in favor of reproductive freedom. It was no doubt seriously intended by the Swiss filmmakers and on that level is a fascinating historical document...although it has the entertainment value of some old b&w 16mm film I would have been shown in the early 70s in highschool "family living" class, something that would have seemed dated at the time.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
late-era Edgar Wallace crime-horror film, over-the-top, 31 July 2002

This 1968 color German-made feature was one of the last of the Edgar Wallace series, and like the later films it introduced horror and sex elements. The earlier black-and-white films were staples on american UHF TV in the 60s and 70s, and most are fascinating exercises in style and suspense. The later color films wound up being re-titled and shown on the bottom half of double bills at drive-ins in the early 70s, where I originally saw this one, where it was released by Sam Sherman's Independent-International Pictures. It's grotesque, sleazy, and over-the-top, and introduces too many characters, but seeing it again after 25 years I still find it a worthwhile experience and a good way to waste 90 minutes. No one makes 'em like the Germans do!

9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
solid entry in "Jerry Cotton" german-crime series, w/ George Nader, 9 March 2003
8/10

My English-language print of this film is called BODY IN CENTRAL PARK. This comes midway in the German "Jerry Cotton" crime series, starring George Nader, and it delivers the action and style one expects from the series. The plot revolves around rich businessman being blackmailed and threatened with the murder of their children. For a German crime film, the plot is relatively easy to follow, and the film is not as stylized as the earlier B&W entries in the series nor as convoluted as some of the later ones. While the Cotton series is often compared with James Bond, I really don't see much similarity, besides the fact that both men are government agents. The series (especially the early entries) seems more like an attempt to extend the early 60s German Edgar Wallace mysteries into imitation-American hard-boiled crime films. Eddie Constantine's "Lemmy Caution" crime films, which pre-date Dr. No and James Bond, seem much more Bond-like than Jerry Cotton, who could have been the hero of a 1950s US crime series, except for the 1960s modern settings of the films. Peter Thomas' musical score is relatively understated (for him, at least!) here, and Nader is as convincing as ever as the tough, stylish FBI man Cotton. If you have already seen some of this series, you'll want to see this one, although it's not the best. If you are not familiar with the series, any of the earlier ones--including this one--would be a good introduction to one of the best series of crime films of the 1960s. I'm hoping English language versions of these will eventually find their way onto DVD--perhaps in double bills! While Mr. Nader is no longer with us, perhaps some of the German cast/crew can do commentary tracks.

21 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
impressive German "Winnetou" western, w/ Stewart Granger instead of Lex Barker, 19 September 2003
9/10

RAMPAGE AT APACHE WELLS played theatrically in the US and used to get a lot of TV play as late as 1991. Its popularity is not hard to understand. Like all of the German-made westerns from the "winnetou" cycle, based on the literary works of Karl May (this one from his novel The Oil Prince, which IS available in an in-print English translation for those so inclined), this is well-mounted, beautifully photographed, beautifully scored, and well-acted. As I remember, Lex Barker made SIX films in the role of Old Shatterhand, Stewart Granger made two in the role of Old Surehand, and Rod Cameron made one in the role of Old Firehand (and I have not seen the latter...). As rugged and manly as Barker was, Granger also does well with the role, bringing his own unique humor and elegance to the character. If only he had made more of these! One surprising appearance here is Terence Hill (under his real name, Mario Girotti) as a complex, not-really-admirable character who grows throughout the film and sees the error of his ways. Hill plays the snivelling role convincingly, and he will be a surprise to those who only know his later heroic and comedy roles. Another interesting aspect of this film (more evident in the novels than in most of the films) is the details about German immigrants in America. As I live in South Texas, I live near some of the German settlements of the 1800s and have learned about the history of Germans in Texas-- it's interesting to see particularly German qualities in some of the settlers instead of just making them generic Anglo settlers. Of course, I don't go to films like this (or any film) for detailed history, but the particularity has a interesting flavor to it. The late Stewart Granger was a man with real star quality, with a charm and wit and elegance that is seen in every frame. While he camps it up in some of his European work of the 1960s (although always in an entertaining manner!), he certainly took the role of Old Surehand seriously. He is a nice mesh with Pierre Brice's warm but stoic interpretation of the Winnetou character. The film also has a full array of colorful supporting characters. Overall, while this may not have the depth or philosophical profundity of the finest Italian Westerns, it is a satisfying, impressively mounted Western that fires on all cylinders and deserves wider fame.

5 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
OK late-Republic western serial, noteworthy for star Tom Keene, 19 September 2006
6/10

The other review of this 1950 Republic western serial described it as "competent", and I second that. It's solid, features fistfights and gunfights and bar brawls and wagon/horse chases galore, and works well as bread-and-butter western entertainment--kind of like the later Rocky Lane films. The plot involves a collective of rural folk who have some oil leases, which are being sabotaged by evil Easterner I. Stanford Jolley (in an outlandish stovepipe hat, as oily as ever!). The head man for the locals is the great 30s western star Tom Keene, now billed as "Richard Powers" as he was during his 40s/50s supporting actor period. It's great to see the star of OUR DAILY BREAD as the star of a film once again, and he brings a kind of depth and gravitas to the role that the usual late-Republic bland leading men, chosen to match the Republic stunt men, usually lack. The mature Mr. Keene is obviously doubled in the fights A LOT, but that's OK--he's an impressive hero anyway. Roy Barcroft is along for the ride as Jolley's henchman, and such western stalwarts of Dennis Moore (as a workman drinking on the job!) and George Chesebro (as a wagon driver, if I remember correctly) are in small roles and not even billed. As I observed in my review of GOVERNMENT AGENTS VERSUS PHANTOM LEGION, a Republic serial from 1951, there was a kind of generic quality to some of the Republic product in this period (except for those that still had a weirdness quotient, such as JUNGLE DRUMS OF Africa or Canadian MOUNTIES VS ATOMIC INVADERS), but star Keene, the fine supporting cast, and an oilfield setting, make this serial a LITTLE bit different. Fans of "b" westerns or post-World War II Republic serials should find this entertaining and worthwhile, but it may drag a bit for the general audience.

12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
quirky first-of-three films with John Calvert as The Falcon, 28 August 2003

This was the first of three films made by the small "Film Classics" company in 1948-49 starring actor-magician John Calvert as The Falcon, and it's very much unlike the latter two films. In this one, Calvert does magic tricks at various times throughout the movie (!!) AND his co-star is a dog named Brain Trust (!!!) who is listed as playing "himself." Calvert actually talks to the dog in some scenes. Perhaps the dog was a nod to the successful Thin Man films, but fortunately the dog routine was dropped in the latter two films, as were the magic tricks (which are a pleasant distraction,actually!). The film starts, and ends, with Calvert sitting in his bathtub! In the first scene, a man named Ramon Delgado comes to see The Falcon and confesses that he killed a man last night because the man was involved with his wife. Delgado feels that the killing was in self-defense and asks the Falcon to help him turn himself in to the police and see that his rights are respected. Of course, as this is a murder mystery, things are obviously not as simple as that, and the plot unfolds in a fascinating way. As in the other films in the series, the resolution is unexpected and quite exciting. This film was directed by John Link, a journeyman who mostly worked as an editor, and it also features some nice location shooting in 1948 L.A. A fine supporting cast of veterans--Roscoe Karns as the police lt., Rochelle Hudson as the seductive Mrs. Delgado, Theodore Van Eltz as a seedy attorney, Lyle Talbot as a mysterious "business man",

and comedian Tom Kennedy, who often played a dim-witted copy, as a dim-witted thug! Trivia note: supporting actor Michael Mark appears in small but significant roles in all three Falcon films... in this one, he's the man working at the Salvation Army. Calvert's smooth, laid-back, but witty approach to the Falcon role is a refreshing change-of-pace, and it's a shame they only made three of these films. This is by far the quirkiest of the three, the latter two being more straight-forward detective films minus dog routines and magic tricks. All three Calvert Falcon films are recommended to fans of low-budget 40s murder mysteries/detective films.

Dial Red O (1955)
9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
excellent police film with former Western star Wild Bill Elliott, 3 October 2004
8/10

After retiring from the Western screen, Wild Bill Elliott made five hard-boiled police films at Allied Artists, this being the first of them. Elliott plays Andy Flynn/Doyle (the name changes after this one, but it's the same character), a detective for the LA sheriff's office. Elliott's stoic, brooding style is well-suited to crime films, and I'm sorry he did not make more. I've seen four of this group of five, and every one is a solid piece of work. They play very much like a grittier version of the many crime TV shows of the 1950s, and in the post-Dragnet era there is an emphasis on the step-by-step procedures used in investigating a case. Keith Larsen plays a WWII/Korea war hero who has not adapted well to the civilian world and is under psychological treatment; Helene Stanley chews the scenery as his party-girl ex-wife (her scene where she announces to her boyfriend why they "have to" get married is a classic!); Paul Picerni is the smarmy, suspicious friend of Larsen and great and good friend of Stanley. Former Columbia/Monogram regular Rick Vallin is put to good use as a police officer guarding Larsen after he is arrested. No big surprises here--the film simply delivers what it promises to: suspense, action, twists, a nice hard-boiled ambiance, AND Wild Bill Elliott. That's enough for me. While most of the film is shot on small, cheap sets, there are some good location shots of LA circa 1955 that help to give the film atmosphere. Finally, the scenes set in bars and lounges feature excellent West Coast Jazz from Shorty Rogers and his Giants, although if the band is seen, it must be just for a few moments as I went out of the room twice to get a soda and I didn't actually SEE Rogers on stage at all, just heard his music...perhaps I missed him during one of my soda expeditions. DIAL RED "O" is recommended to fans of 1950s b-crime films, if you can find it! (see my review of CHAIN OF EVIDENCE, another film in this series)

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
early German western, of historical interest, 5 December 2003
6/10

Made in 1963, this may well have been following up on the success of the first Winnetou-Shatterhand film, as there is a scene between star Hansjorg Felmy and his Indian chief friend that plays a lot like Lex Barker and Pierre Brice. In any event, Brad Harris is not the main hero here(and in this English version, his last name is NOT Cook--in fact, his last name is written in the sand at one point, so it can't be cook in the German version either!), but a young man accused of a killing he didn't commit. Horst Frank is once again convincing as a snivelling, oily crook, Colonel Kelly, a disgraced former military officer. Frank tries to deceive the local Indians and turn them against the local white population, and he also organizes the "pirates" of the title. While lacking the sweep and grandeur and the beauty of the "Old Shatterhand" series, and featuring an "oom-pah" musical score that conjurs up nothing West of Bonn or Stuttgart, the film is of historical interest because it pre-dates FISTFUL OF DOLLARS and thus the filmmakers were not working in a well-established tradition. It also features second-unit direction from Gianfranco Parolini, who would later pair up Brad Harris and Tony Kendall (here also in a small role) in many successful action films. Parolini's colorful, eccentric, circus-like style is briefly in evidence here and there, as in some action scenes we see movement at different depths within the frame, but there's not enough of his oddball touches to give the film much of the "Frank Kramer" style. Overall, if you have watched dozens of Eurowesterns and enjoyed the Winnetou series, you'll find this interesting as a historical curio. And Brad Harris fans will enjoy him in his first Eurowestern role. There's probably no need for anyone else to seek this out--if you haven't seen a German western before, watch one of the Lex Barker or Stewart Granger films based on Karl May novels instead. Fortunately, the copy of this film floating around is letterboxed, although it's a grainy PAL transfer.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
colorful, broadly played East German 60's children's film, dubbed into English by K. Gordon Murray, 24 January 2006
7/10

NOTE: This review is of the English-dubbed version of THE GOLDEN GOOSE, dubbed and distributed in the USA by K. Gordon Murray.

Of all the many children's films exported to the US by "master showman" K. Gordon Murray in the 1960's, THE GOLDEN GOOSE is one of the three of four best in terms of entertainment value. I showed my children (now teens) this film when they were in the 5-8 age range, and they loved the color, the slapstick comedy, the comforting broadly-played characters, and the sense of fun. Also, this film lacks the Gothic touches and overall weirdness found in some of Murray's Mexican imports (although those have a lot of appeal for adults watching them today). The young women in the film are dubbed by adults trying to sound like children, which gives the whole film a non-realistic quality, almost like story time at a daycare! I don't know what frame of reference today's children would have to help them with something like this--perhaps the skits performed at theme parks or when the high school musical comedy players go to elementary schools to perform--but THE GOLDEN GOOSE holds up well as timeless, simple family entertainment for the under 10 crowd. And the visuals are interesting enough that adults would not be bored. Unfortunately, the days when films such as this played in actual theaters were dead by the early 1970's--your best bet today for finding old children's films might be in the DVD/VHS pile at your local dollar store. Some of the children's films imported by Murray in the later 60's were more strange than entertaining, but THE GOLDEN GOOSE still contains a lot of entertainment value for those with old-fashioned tastes, or those parents who want to broaden their children's horizons.

Dog Blight (1936)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
funny Jack Norton RKO comedy short, and Jack DOESN'T play a drunk!!, 17 December 2004
9/10

When I stumbled across this 1936 Jack Norton comedy short, I was excited. I have always loved Norton's supporting roles as the drunken neighbor or the drunk at the office party, so seeing him star in his own short would be exciting "pure Norton." Imagine my surprise when he DOESN'T play a drunk here. No, just a meek husband who buys a dog for his wife, and gets into all kinds of trouble (some due to the dog, some not). About midway through, Jack has to cook a chicken dinner for his family and another couple who are coming over, and since his regular kitchen help is gone, he gets Willie Best to assist him. Best's comic timing here is superb, and he's the perfect foil for the bumbling Norton. Jack Norton is obviously a very talented man who could easily have had a successful career as a supporting comic actor without ever playing a drunk. This hilarious short is a wonderful opportunity to see Norton, ably assisted by Willie Best, play a much different role than is usual for him and I highly recommend it. Writer-director is Jean Yarbrough, who later did many fine comedies with both Abbott & Costello and The Bowery Boys.

James and Lucile Gleason in early-sound comedy short, 26 December 2004
8/10

An Al Christie production distributed by Paramount (billed as "A Christie Talking Play"), this was directed by William Watson (later director of many shorts at Educational, and previously director of many silents) and stars the husband and wife team of Lucile and James Gleason (they had a son, Russell, who was also very active in show business). James plays a drunk throughout the short--at first, he is at a club with his friends tying one on. He remembers that he has to meet his wife to see a play called FLORIDA. Lucile is waiting at home for him to return. James drinks so much that he winds up IN Florida, and vanishes for a week! In the meantime, James' brother played by John Litel comes to help Lucile. When James eventually gets home, Litel gets him to put on a ring that (he thinks) makes him invisible, and John and Lucile act as if James isn't there, talking about him in such a way as to get the message about his drinking across. Although somewhat creaky and from the early sound days, this short is quite funny...IF you like extended drunk routines a la Foster Brooks or Jack Norton. It starts off with an odd glee-club vocal (!!!) during the credit sequence and seems more dated than many silents (where can I get an art-deco clock like the one shown in close-up to begin one scene!). The teaming of the two Gleasons with John Litel, best known for his dramatic roles, works very well, and I can safely recommend this obscure short to any fan of early-sound comedy shorts.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Lloyd Hamilton in dual role in hilarious early-sound comedy short, 3 January 2005
9/10

From the first series of "Lloyd Hamilton Talking Comedies" from 1929, this begins with a glee-club vocal sung by prisoners behind bars, behind the opening credits as they roll. I've seen a few shorts beginning with glee club vocals from 29-30--was this just to present "sound" of any sort since the novelty had not yet worn off? In any event, this is a Lloyd Hamilton classic. Gangster leader Nick the Sheik (Hamilton) is released from jail and manages to run into "collector of rare coins" Vernon Snodgrass (also Hamilton), who looks exactly like him. With the cops after Nick AND Nick's old girlfriend wanting to get the romance cooking, you can imagine the confusion that ensues. The dual role really allows Hamilton to shine, and this master physical comedian steals the show. Rita La Roy (as the gangster's girl) is very sexy, with her short 20's hair, as she tries to seduce Hamilton--if anyone has her 1930 feature PLAYTHINGS OF Hollywood, I'd love a copy! For a 1929 short, this moves well and is quite fluid. Obviously, director William Watson learned quickly how to compensate for the drawbacks of sound recording technology. Definitely worth finding (it's on an old Grapevine compilation of Hamilton shorts).

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Bill Haley's second film, with Little Richard, The Treniers, and Alan Freed. Worth finding for 50s' rock and roll fans, 2 January 2005
8/10

The second film featuring Bill Haley and the Comets, DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK, features a lot of great music from Haley's Comets, Little Richard, and the Treniers, and this is probably the biggest dramatic role that Alan Freed had in any of his 1950's rock and roll epics, a role that he handles quite well. Bill Haley also seems more relaxed here in his dialogue scenes than he was in ROCK AROUND THE CLOCk, although Bill and band are really not the stars of the film. The character of Arnie Haines, played by Alan Dale, is the protagonist of the film, and Haines' story is the one told here. Dale sings three songs--a ballad that could have come from the big band era, a Johnnie Ray-style emotion-filled number, and a semi rock and roll number in the Bobby Darin vein. Dale is a fine actor and he has the dramatic ability and charisma to carry a film on his own. I was unfamiliar with him and wondered why he got the role in the film, since he was not playing himself. It seems Mr. Dale made his mark as a singer late in the big band era, and had his own television show in 1948. He had a number of hit records in the late 40s and early 50s produced by Bob Thiele (later of Flying Dutchman records fame, for those of us under 50). He was evidently a very talented man, as well as a courageous (standing up to the mob) and intelligent (published author) one. However, he is really not a rock and roll performer. If you can get past that, the rest of the movie is a lot of fun, the performances are exciting, and the show even gives away some of the phony tricks and staged events of the music promotion world. Haley never starred in a third film (although he and the band were in others, both here and abroad), and despite a half dozen hot songs in this one, he and band are basically guest stars in their own film. Little Richard does two of his best-known numbers in classic style (playing the piano while standing with his back to it, playing the piano while one leg is over the top of the piano, etc.), and the Treniers do two numbers that give some hint about why they were so legendary for their live act (although I'm sure this is a VERY watered down version of what they did live). I like Dave Appell's music, in the Philadelphia jive-rock style, but the number he does here is not that impressive. Overall, this is a nice window into 1950's rock and roll and a good opportunity to see some of the best artists of the period performing (or should I say miming). Worth finding for the 50's fan.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
comic showcase for under-rated Marjorie Beebe, with Lloyd Hamilton, 3 January 2005
9/10

Although Lloyd Hamilton may be the "star" of this film, it's a real showcase for the comic talents of the much-underrated Marjorie Beebe, who mostly appeared in Mack Sennett shorts in the early days of sound. She plays a young lady from a small town, Piperville, who comes to Hollywood and tries to get a job in pictures, delivering this outrageous "inspirational recitation" called "Life is just a crossword puzzle" which she no doubt was a smash with back home at the Elks' Club or the High School. She tries this for various casting agents (we see THREE auditions!), and is finally offered work as a stunt double, where we see her in all kind of dangerous situations, and Ms. Beebe's flair for physical comedy (I'd rate her right up there with Lucille Ball in that area!). Lloyd Hamilton is her lonely boyfriend from back home, who comes out to the West Coast to find her and of course destroys everything he encounters. Hilarious throughout... yet another comic gem from Marjorie Beebe. Running time is 19:25. Director is Babe Stafford, who did a number of early-sound shorts for Mack Sennett, including a number with Andy Clyde (one of which, The Cow-Catcher's Daughter, also starred Marjorie Beebe), and the Bing Crosby short SING BING SING.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Phil Tucker-directed, Lenny Bruce-written z-grade burlesque film--a classic of its type, 10 September 2004
8/10

Directed by the legendary Phil Tucker and written by Lenny Bruce (who also appears in TWO roles--check the server with the bad accent in the dinner scene and you'll see the second role, unless I'm mistaken), this is not as focused nor as hard-boiled as the classic DANCE HALL RACKET, the other film Tucker and Bruce made together. Basically it's a burlesque film not unlike the other ones Tucker directed (Baghdad after Midnight and Tiajuana after Midnight)-- a series of statically-shot burly-Q dancers doing their routines in front of a curtain, mixed with old-fashioned baggy-pants burlesque comic doing their routines and a vague, loosely-structured "Plot" that is in itself just a series of set-up pieces and routines. If you've never seen DANCE HALL RACKET or Broadway JUNGLE, the two films that to me are Tucker's masterpieces, you may not be prepared for something like this. Obviously shot in a few days in a small part of a small studio, DREAM FOLLIES is so anti-cinematic on every level, that it almost approaches the level of a stag film or an early Warhol effort. Signs are misspelled, edits are not matched, outrageous library harp music is used at inopportune moments at the beginning and end as a kind of framing device, and the performers are right off the burlesque stage. Some of the performers will be familiar to fans of Dance Hall Racket--"Icepick" is here, as is the guy with the bad toupee. And of course Lenny Bruce and his Mom. There is actually some excellent "Stripper" jazz played during the dance sequences that gives you a wonderful window into the long-gone days of classic burlesque, where jazz musicians would slum by playing in these bands and basically improvise on familiar riffs (one of these is basically a jam on "Lester Leaps In"). The comedy scenes in the office are played in an exaggerated manner below the lowest-grade Educational Pictures 1930s comedy shorts, and some sequences are shot silent and played in a silent-comedy manner with pratfalls and over-the-top reactions. Dick Kimball, the Bud Abbott of these z-grade quickies and no doubt a man with decades of burlesque comedy experience, delivers the antiquated risqué jokes as if this is the third show of the day in Barstow and he's looking forward to getting off the stage and getting a drink, but for those of us too young to have ever seen this kind of thing in person, the film is a wonderful time capsule. Of course, this film is not for the average viewer--it's amateurish on a level that makes Jerry Warren look like Spielberg, but Phil Tucker frankly didn't care. He had to get 65 minutes on the screen, and he did, and on a lowbrow level he completely achieved what he set out to achieve. The cheapness and lack of technique give the film a kind of authenticity and anti-Hollywood ambiance that I for one find refreshing. It's like the equivalent of a locally-recorded two-chord garage-band single--badly pressed and mastered, amateurishly performed, and failing every test of "correct" technique, but full of a kind of spirit and fun that make it timeless. If I had stumbled into a skidrow grindhouse in 1955 after having had a half-dozen drinks and was attracted by the promise of burlesque skin, and this film was shown on a big screen, I'm sure I would have loved it and felt that I'd gotten my money's worth. I've watched this film once a year for a decade. If you are a fan of Tucker or 1950s z-grade exploitation films, you will be similarly enthralled. Otherwise, don't watch this in a million years.

Dumb Dicks (1932)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Benny Rubin teamed with Harry Gribbon as incompetent detectives, a good vehicle for both, 26 December 2004
7/10

Benny Rubin made a number of comedy shorts for RKO-Pathe in 1931, some of which are not listed on the IMDb. This short teams Rubin with the great former Sennett star Harry Gribbon. As a bank robbery with tons of machine gun fire is happening right next to them, the boys are sleeping in their car/office. Eventually, they trail the crooks and wind up posing as psychics. Rubin's non-stop verbal riffing and Gribbons' pained reaction shots are classic. The only flaw with this is that the last section of the film, in the house (and the attic of the house) where the crooks are hiding, goes on too long. Other than that, this is a worthwhile addition to the Benny Rubin filmography (see my reviews of his two previous sound features where he was teamed with Rex Lease: SUNNY SKIES and HOT CURVES). Rubin had a long career, both as an actor and a writer. He is well-known to Jack Benny fans for his appearances with Jack on both radio and TV, and he had supporting roles on TV and in movies until the 1970s. While he is best known as a Jewish-dialect comedian, he did many different dialects during his career. His RKO-Pathe shorts are worth searching out.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
exciting aviation-thrills serial from late silent era, 1 January 2004
7/10

1928 was the last year when silent films dominated the market, and this aviation-based action serial from Pathe was one of the studio's last. Some pieces are no longer extant (half of chapters 3&6, all of 7, 8, and 9, and the beginning of the 10th and final chapter), but the beginning and end are there as well as enough to follow the action adequately. The surviving Grapevine print is beautifully restored and tinted in spots, although you can tell the print is deteriorated in some of the surviving sections. Basically, an inventor (Josef Swickard, in a role not unlike the one he later played in THE LOST CITY) has created a silencer/muffler for planes to silence any engine sounds, and the bad guys are out to steal the invention and put it to evil use. Frank Clarke, a real-life aviator whose other film credits seem to be all aviation-related, stars as the hero who also romances the scientist's daughter. The aviation stunts and photography are impressive as is the location shooting in Baja California. This seems to be the only IMDB directorial credit James F. "Jimmie" Fulton, most of whose credits are as an actor--in fact, he acted in other 1928 Pathe films. Just imagine you are in a small-town theatre the year before sound arrives in your town and is still just a rumor. Get some popcorn, settle back, and enjoy the action and the photography.

The surviving footage of the serial runs about 1 hour and 50 minutes.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
off-the-wall entry in German "Superbug" kiddie film series, 24 June 2008
6/10

SUPERBUG--SECRET AGENT is, I believe, the second of five films in this German SUPERBUG series, which is a takeoff on the HERBIE films of Disney, but which foreshadows KNIGHT RIDER in many ways. The English-dubbed version of this film is what I saw, and it is dubbed in a cartoon-like way that is in keeping with the cartoon-like feel of the film. In fact, on the level of being a "spy" film, this plays out a lot like a Scooby-Doo cartoon, but with live actors and real locations (Portugal, quite lovely and well-filmed!). There is much Stooges/Bowery Boys-style slapstick, and even the usually suave Joachim Fuchsberger (star of many fine Edgar Wallace thrillers in the 60s) finds himself mugging as if he's in an Edgar Kennedy comedy short. Superbug's owner, Jimmy Bondi (played by Robert Mark, who also directed and wrote the film under his real name), is a laid-back unshaven fellow with a cowboy hat, making him a relatively "safe" hero for a children's film. As another comment stated, this film is also quite reminiscent of the Terence Hill-Bud Spencer comedies of the 70s and 80s, with sound effects in the fight scenes and quirky semi-lounge music that immediately cries "foreign" to an American audience. Overall, I found this film quite entertaining as an adult...if you like lowbrow comedy and nice Portuguese locations. Think "a live action Scooby-Doo made in Germany, entertainingly dubbed in English" and you should have a good idea what SUPERBUG--SECRET AGENT has to offer.

7 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
old-fashioned Spanish zombie film, with nautical setting, 10 March 2006
7/10

note: this review is of the US release version, titled HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES and released by Independent-International. While this is part of the famous Spanish "Blind Dead" series, it has little to do with the others and has a completely different feel. The ancient zombies do appear, but this time they are at sea in a plot that reminded me initially of THE PLAYGIRLS AND THE VAMPIRE. There's not much gore and except for one ugly sexual attack (committed by one of the human cast, not by a zombie), there's little here you couldn't show to a 12 year old. In fact, this is really an old-fashioned zombie film--an abandoned old Spanish galleon that seems to exist in another dimension is stumbled across by two young models on a publicity stunt in the sea, and it turns out to be populated by the Blind Dead. The whole film plays like an amusement park haunted house--the kind where you cruise through it in a boat and are exposed to shocking sights, zombies flying out at you, etc. I found the film wonderfully entertaining on that level. I don't really care for gore films, so I found the tame nature of the film to be refreshing. The two "stars" in the film (in other words, NOT the models or the professor who is enlisted to help in the mission) are old favorites of international b-movies, Jack Taylor (legendary for his Mexican horror films and Spanish films of all types) and the lovely Maria Perschy, and like most established actors who find themselves in these type of films, they manage to keep a straight face yet communicate that they are having as much fun as the audience. Some viewers have complained about the many cheap-looking miniatures used for the ship, but they are well-done in an old Republic Picture serial kind of way, and those who cannot go beyond today's computer generated effects need to get a little "willing suspension of disbelief" and have some fun. Overall, this is a wonderful, old-fashioned zombie film that is quite unlike the rest of the Blind Dead series in tone and in amount of gore. You can still find the VHS of the US release titled HORROR OF THE ZOMBIES for next to nothing used (mine cost 99 cents), and except for not being letter-boxed, it's supposedly the same cut as that now being sold on a new Blue Underground DVD.

15 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
Spanish-made comic mystery with hilarious Tab Hunter performance, 23 December 2003
8/10

This little-known Spanish comedy, with an outrageous performance by Tab Hunter, was one of the many low-budget films made in Spain in the mid-late 1960s by producer Sidney Pink. These generally tended to be quirky films, much too quirky to be Hollywood products, and featured interesting American stars--Barry Sullivan, Guy Madison, Cesar Romero, Jeff Hunter, Rory Calhoun, and here Tab Hunter. Pink discussed this film in his autobiography, and he made it quite clear that he did not get along with star Tab Hunter. Hunter has always had a flair for comedy, and he is quite funny in this film, which is basically the standard "American overseas who gets caught up unintentionally in some intrigue" plot. Perhaps because he was outside of Hollywood and his Hollywood image while in Spain, Hunter lets himself go here with a performance that rivals his one in THE AROUSERS as his most over-the-top. Many of his gay fans will probably love this film if they can find a copy. The supporting roles--Luis Prendes as an annoying drunk who sticks to Hunter like flypaper, Gustavo Rojo and Fernando Hilbeck as comic impediments to Hunter's progress, Pedro Mari Sanchez as a boy who does chores for Hunter and eventually becomes a friend-- are handled well. Interestingly, the film was directed by Richard Rush, of Psych-Out and Stunt Man fame. How he got involved with this film and what he thought of it must be an interesting story. Unfortunately, the video copy of this that circulated in the budget bin in the 1980s is in black and white AND has cheesy new video titles-- the film was released theatrically in the US in 1967 in color. I hope someone will release this legitimately in color and with the full credits. I would love to have a commentary track by Tab Hunter himself, or director Richard Rush--or maybe they could be recorded separately and we could get both perspectives. Anyway, I won't be expecting a DVD release of this anytime soon. Still, the budget video of this can probably be found used, and it's a worthwhile purchase for Tab Hunter fans (such as me!) or fans of Sid Pink's 60s Spanish body of films. Hunter's autobiography is supposedly coming out next year, although I doubt that this film is significant enough to rate much coverage there. Hunter fans are also advised to check out his fine Italian western SHOTGUN (fine except for an awful musical sequence near the beginning) and his euro-spy film THE LAST CHANCE (and if anyone could help me with finding his other euro-film LEGION OF NO RETURN, please get in touch!). Overall, a fun low-budget comedy with Tab Hunter in fine form.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
fine gothic-horror film from Mexico, 24 August 2003
9/10

This review is of the English-dubbed, K. Gordon Murray presentation of the film as THE BLOODY VAMPIRE. From the first frames--with a slowed-down horse-drawn carriage almost floating through the fog-shrouded trail, the soundtrack containing an eerie wind punctuated by a slow churchbell and wolf howling--you know you are in the hands of filmmakers who know how to capture a disturbing setting of gothic horror. While this film does have some slow talky moments, I would rate it among the finest vampire films of the 60s, equal to the best ones coming from Italy and the Philippines. Director Miguel Mortaya is a master.

The SWV video (which may no longer be available, for legal reasons) is from a fine print, and contains the outlandish and LONG K. Gordon Murray spoken prologue with a swirling, headache-inducing spiral on the screen.

If you were to buy only one of the K. Gordon Murray mexican horror imports, this may well be the one to buy. The film is so visually stunning that even those who dislike dubbing may be able to get past it here and let the film's shadowy images wash over them.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Peter Lupus as Hercules in Babylon circa 1000 b.c.; an entertaining peplum, 7 September 2003
8/10

Peter Lupus (aka Rock Stevens) stars as Hercules in this colorful Italian sword-and-sandal opus, one of four Lupus made in Italy in

1964-65, before rocketing to stardom in the Mission Impossible TV show. We don't really think of any particular manner of dress in Babylon-- at least I don't!--so the costumers came up with some outlandish fashions here, and the art design is also creative! The scenes of intrigue in the palace are dramatically well-done and feature peplum/swashbuckler regular Livio Lorenzon as the ruler of Babylon, dealing with both his queen, the King of Assyria, and Hercules, who has come to reclaim the Queen of the Hellenes, taken as a Babylonian slave. In some scenes in the film Hercules has a over-large club that he both swings at people and throws! It lends a comic-book flavor to those sequences that is not really in keeping with the serious nature of the rest of the film. Lupus has a powerful physique and is one of the best actors in the peplum genre--all four of his Italian films are worth watching and are distinctly different from each other. Domenico Paolella directed three of Lupus' four peplums and also worked with such Amercians as Guy Madison, Lex Barker, Ed Fury, Don Megowan, Richard Harrison, Mark Forest, Ken Clark, John Ericson and John Ireland. Whether a peplum, a pirate film, a spy film, or a western, he seemed to be able to put together a fast-moving and entertaining feature. Hercules and the Tyrants of Babylon is recommended to any serious peplum fan. The VHS copy I watched, while a pan-and-scan TV print, is crisp and clear and colorful.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
pleasant low-budget drama with "good gangsters" redeemed by rural folks, 24 October 2006
7/10

This uplifting crime-drama, from the early years of Republic Pictures before the studio became an assembly-line, stars usual second-banana and character actor William Hall (a leading man in the Robert Kellard vein) as a former coal-miner who has come to the big city and gets in the way of two rival gangs fighting over a girl, and then finds himself associated with one of the gangs unintentionally. That gang hides out in a rural area (the leader of the gang, Dean Jagger, is not with them...this is just the colorful, "loveable" members of the gang!), where they meet a rural family and a small-time businessman and a dog, all of whom transform the minor criminals and cause them to finally stand up to the gang boss. Ah, there's nothing like those criminals with a heart of gold one finds in Damon Runyon or in 1930's movies. If you can accept the Hallmark Channel premise of this b-programmer, it's actually quite entertaining and fast moving, and has some nice supporting acting from the likes of Ward Bond (as the "cook" of the gang). "Bill" the dog gets a lot of screen time, and he's a good performer in the Rin Tin Tin Jr. vein who fights for the honor of the reformed gang moll with the Hungarian accent, played by Steffi Duna, who seems a lot more comfortable in the "good girl" than in the "tough girl" role. No great analysis is needed of a film such as this. It's good rainy-day entertainment with a positive, uplifting message, but still a crime film. Short of a Touched By An Angel or Highway To Heaven episode, one doesn't see this combination very often nowadays. Worth searching out for b-movie fanatics--others can wait.

32 out of 34 people found the following review useful:
classic seedy expose of "Escort Girl" racket--Wheeler Oakman and Betty Compson in top form!, 3 January 2005
10/10

While this film is not as sleazy as SLAVES IN BONDAGE or GAMBLING WITH SOULS, two earlier films that featured star Wheeler Oakman as a pimp, ESCORT GIRL is slickly made and well-acted by a wonderful cast, and while it doesn't "show anything", it does have a seedy, dirty feel to it, even though it's not unlike a studio-bound, low-budget Grand National crime drama. Oakman, great as the heavy in so many westerns, gets a meaty role as the co-owner of a sleazy escort service, co-run with Oscar nominee and major star of the silent era Betty Compson. Compson's daughter, who has been attending fancy boarding schools in other states, does not know what business her Mom is REALLY in, and suddenly appears out of nowhere. When Compson and Oakman learn that the daughter's boyfriend (Robert Kellard, featured in some classic serials, and playing the title character in the 1947 Columbia serial TEX GRANGER) works for the District Attorney's office, things start to get complicated. It's a joy to watch two pros like Compson and Oakman work--Compson's monologues about motherhood and the dirtiness of the escort business are delivered as if they were great literature. Also, this film LOOKS great. The VHS transfer looks as if it were shot yesterday. There's an incredible plot complication about two-thirds of the way through the movie that I won't mention, but is amazing, and the drunken "confession" after it is classic. In addition, the great screen drunk Arthur Housman stumbles through one scene, and Rick Vallin is priceless as a gigolo who is stuck with an elderly but rich lady as his date, night after night. It's a running gag throughout the film, and Vallin plays it to the hilt. I've probably watched this film a dozen times over the years. It's not as sleazy as other exploitation films, nor is it weird like a Dwain Esper film--it's VERY competently made. It just has a strange appeal to me. Perhaps it will have a similar effect on you? Fans of Wheeler Oakman or Betty Compson will not want to miss it.

14 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
clever but shallow and pretentious film-school exercise, 25 May 2004
3/10

Ten minutes into ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, it was clear that screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has a limited bag of tricks. What was clever in BEING JOHN MALKOVICH the first time I saw it became pretentious during the second viewing and insufferable during the third viewing. ADAPTATION was a similarly too-clever pretentious exercise in modernist style with no substance. ETERNAL SUNSHINE mines the same vein, but this time around the results are about as substantial as cotton candy and as permanent as a fireworks display. Except for the cutesy plot device--which was refreshing decades ago when handled by the likes of a Godard or a Philip K. Dick or a Harold Pinter--the film is like a second-string Woody Allen project fed into a blender (or rewritten by Donald Barthelme). The "insights" about relationships in this film are, as one critic aptly described it, about as profound as those in a Hugh Grant movie. And as "experimental" as Kaufman may think he is being, the plot is as predictable as that of any b-movie, once one figures out the premise of the story (which the slowest audience member will do in about 20 minutes). And what's the point of the murky faux-cinema-verite visual style in many scenes? The three points out of ten I awarded this film are primarily for the actors, Jim Carrey in particular. When will the Hollywood establishment and the critics finally learn that Kaufman is a one-trick-pony? The emperor is not wearing any clothes here. As someone who has championed and supported TRUE avant-garde filmmaking for decades, I see this as a cheap Hollywood pastiche of the avant garde. Those who found John Sayles' LONE STAR to be "multi-layered" instead of cliche-ridden will find much to praise and discuss in ETERNAL SUNSHINE. While Kaufman is not as bad as P.T. Anderson (at least Mr. Kaufman manages to honor traditional story structures while re-fashioning them, and at least he can create REAL if shallow characters, something Anderson hasn't learned to do), my evening would have been better spent watching a straight-to-video action film or some obsscure 1950s Allied Artists post-noir crime film. Rent this one...or better yet, rent something else!

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Marjorie Beebe and Lloyd Hamilton team up again in hilarious comedy short, 3 January 2005
9/10

After DOUBLING IN THE QUICKIES (see my review), the under-rated comedienne Marjorie Beebe teamed up once again with Lloyd Hamilton for this enjoyable comedy short. Hamilton and Beebe both work in a large department store--he in the toy department, she in the music department (which gives her a chance to sing a few sequences as she demonstrates songs for customers). One day while talking with a friend in the fur department and trying on an expensive fur, she sees a rich guy ("Windy Windemere, from Windemere Estate, Windemere, Long Island") looking at some merchandise and decides to pose as a rich customer to attract his attention. The next thing you know, she and her friend are invited to a party at his estate. Her friend Lloyd Hamilton comes along and impersonates a butler. Windy is more interested in the friend than in Marjorie, which sends her into a rage that generates many wild physical comedy sequences. There's a nice twist ending, and the whole short moves quickly and features lots of laughs. It's another opportunity to see the great Marjorie Beebe, and it's a nice showcase for her talents. Within a few years she was playing bit roles as older women in z-grade westerns, then she was gone from the screen, but Mack Sennett was an excellent judge of talent, and he spotlighted her in a number of vehicles in the early days of sound. Had Sennett not been in a serious business decline by 1932-33, perhaps he could have developed Marjorie Beebe as a major star in shorts and graduated her to features? Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but we can enjoy the fine shorts that she DID make, and FALSE IMPRESSIONS is a great example of her work. Running time is 20:00. I'm not that familiar with director Leslie Pearce, but he DID direct two classic shorts for Sennett: BILLBOARD GIRL with Bing Crosby, and THE DENTIST with W. C. Fields.

Fat Albert (2004)
4 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
wonderful adaptation of Cosby's old animated series--great for the family, 25 December 2004
10/10

As a fan of Bill Cosby's animated FAT ALBERT AND THE COSBY KIDS show of the early 70's, I took my own children to see this new adaptation of it, and we all thought it was excellent. As typical for any Cosby production, it was uplifting and had a positive message that was worked into the material in a much less intrusive manner than is usual for "uplifting" material. Some people seem to forget that in the original cartoons, Cos himself would appear as a kind of Greek chorus and give life lessons and extract messages from the cartoon action. I've always felt Kenan is a very talented man, and it's great to see that he can carry a major motion picture on his own (he did a great job in GOODBURGER also!). Both Kyla Pratt and Dania Ramirez, the "human" stars, are charming and also convincing in the dramatic scenes. The way that the cartoon characters enter the "Real" world is clever, and the scene with Kenan and Cos, AND the final scene at the cemetery were moving. I applaud Dr. Cosby for his decades of struggle to bring clean, uplifting, positive yet funny entertainment to us and to make the world a better place. If everyone tried to do that in whatever it is we do in our daily lives, we COULD actually make a change. Anyway, this is a wonderful family film, and we all found it very funny and engaging. The "Fish out of water" motif that worked so well in the second Brady Bunch movie works again here. We'll be buying this one on DVD the day it comes out--just like we saw the movie the day it came out.

FBI Girl (1951)
6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
solid crime-noir programmer, Raymond Burr in fine form, 8 January 2003
9/10

As usual for director William Berke, who had been producing and/or directing low-budget crime, action, and western films since the mid-30s, FBI Girl creates a nice hard-boiled feel, moves quickly, and still plays well today. It's the story of a crooked governor who tries, with the help of his evil henchman Raymond Burr (always convincing as a sadistic heavy!), to cover his criminal activities decades before by having a set of fingerprints stolen from FBI headquarters, fingerprints that would establish his true identity. Ace FBI agent Cesar Romero (who also intrudes once or twice with narration) discovers a few details that don't add up in a seemingly unrelated case, and the plot takes off from there. The strong cast--Burr, Romero, George Brent, Audrey Totter, Tom Drake-- helps a lot, and overall it's a solid "B"-programmer from the underrated Lippert Pictures. There's also a strange sequence where some of the characters are watching the comedy team of Tommy Noonan (of Promises, Promises fame) and Peter Marshall (of Hollywood Squares fame) perform on television! That's a novel way of working them into the film (usually there would be a scene where the characters go to a nightclub; however, this was no doubt cheaper to film than a nightclub scene). Recommended for fans of post-war crime films and early Television police shows. By the way, the scene depicted on the movie poster-- of Audrey Totter standing seductively wearing a form-fitting outfit with a slit up the side and holding a gun--appears nowhere in the film (she's not an agent, but a clerk, and certainly would not be holding a gun!), but it looks great!

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Bill Boyd in boring, low-wattage, z-grade espionage film, 28 December 2004
5/10

Bill Boyd, a major star in the silent era and a major star again when he became Hopalong Cassidy, made a number of low-budget films in between his peaks of fame, during the early sound era. I've seen many of them and some are quite entertaining, but FEDERAL AGENT is not one of them. It starts off well, with the other employees (offscreen, of course--it's probably the film crew saying the lines) of whatever federal agency he's reporting to kidding him about the straw hat he's wearing. Using the oldest premise in a crime film--someone's former partner is killed, leading him to swear a vendetta against the killers--Bill Boyd and his high-pitched-voice sidekick stumble through about 45 minutes of scenes before the crime is solved. There aren't many suspects and there isn't much criminology used (the trick with the dead agent having left messages on records where the first half contains music is cute), and there's next to no suspense. Boyd is always charming, but I can't believe that his charm would get him anywhere with REAL criminals and spies. Don Alvarado (I just watched him few days ago in the comedy short NO SLEEP ON THE DEEP, where he was very funny parodying his "latin lover" image) walks through the film without making much of an impression, probably realizing he wasn't given much of a role other than "agent with non-specific foreign accent." There are worse ways to kill an hour than to watch this film--this is my second time watching it (I saw it about eight years ago)--but I don't plan on watching it again any time soon. Only those who are devoted William Boyd fans need to track this down. If you want to see one of his low-budget 1930's indie films, try GO GET EM HAINES or RACING LUCK, both of which are z-grade but very entertaining.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
one of the few available Art Acord films, a late-silent that's probably not typical of Acord's work, 20 March 2005
7/10

Imagine if the only available film by Boris Karloff was THE TERROR? Or if the only available Bob Steele western was AMBUSH TRAIL? We probably wouldn't consider these men to be the greats in their respective genres that they are. While it's rumored that more than a dozen Art Acord films are owned by collectors, the same three from his waning days on the screen are the only ones in active circulation today, easily available to someone who would want to buy them. FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE, from 1929, is one of those. Directed by Robert J. Horner (never a good sign, but this is actually a competently made cheap-jack silent western, so perhaps the photographer made the important decisions or maybe Horner, like Oscar Micheaux, is not as bad a silent director as he is a sound director?) as silent films were on their deathbed, FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE stars Art Acord as the son of a ruthless land developer who is running small tenants off their land so he can sell the land to corporations building roads. Art is sent by his dad to force the Wayne family off their land, and when he sees how unjust this is, he sides with the family and takes a stand against his dad. The 1929 Art Acord actually reminded me of Lon Chaney Jr. somewhat (in the late 30s, for example), and he looked a bit puffy. He plays the "sensitive but tough" part well, but if his name was John Doe and this was the only film I ever saw with him, I don't know if I'd actively seek out others. Yet when I asked my father, a boy who loved westerns in the 1920's and saw them every weekend, about his favorite western stars from the 20's, he went into long descriptions of Ken Maynard, Tom Mix, and Art Acord. I assume he was talking about the Acord films made at Universal in the early 20's. Let's hope some of those have survived and find their way into circulation. As for the rest of this film, Tom Bay is quite impressive as the evil cousin of Art, who is trying to drive a wedge between Art and his dad so Tom can fill the position that Art does in the family. John Lowell is appropriately sleazy as "Bulldog" Weatherby, Art's dad, but the Bulldog's behavior in the film's finale is completely unrealistic (that kind of thing never happens in real life!), and what's going on when this old man tries to kiss the Wayne lady on the lips before Art embraces her in the final scene? Is that supposed to be funny? I found it sickening!! And the attempt at "cuteness" with the young Wayne children singing songs that are transcribed for us in title cards proves that silent films should not attempt to convey music elements. Overall, this is an interesting curio--OK as a z-grade late-silent western, and a rare view of Art Acord, but probably not typical of what made Art Acord a star. I have a few questions about elements in the film that seem elliptically presented, making me wonder if this is due to sloppy writing, budgetary unwillingness to film scenes that are more easily talked about, or poor continuity, but I don't think this film necessarily lends itself to such scrutiny. By the way, the FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE that the title refers to are actually the hired thugs of Bulldog, not some heroic group led by Art Acord!

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
okay post-Republic Sunset Carson western, made in 16mm for Yucca, 29 September 2003
6/10

This was one of the post-Republic 16mm features Sunset Carson made for Yucca Pictures. The best-known of these is probably SUNSET CARSON RIDES AGAIN, made in an off-brand color process and available in the 80s as a Goodtimes pre-record. These films are usually attacked as amateurishly made, poorly acted by everyone except Sunset, and technically slipshod, and all of that is still true here, but an exciting plot that is more complex than mere good guys vs bad guys keeps the film rolling and Sunset as always has an authoritative screen style, even though he is one of the most "aw shucks"-styled western leading men. There are a few awkward-sounding songs by some of the supporting players and Frank Sanucci's canned music cues (some of which heavy-handedly telegraph plot elements)will be familiar to anyone who has watched early and mid-40s Monogram westerns. The 16mm photography gives the film a grainy feel (although it's not as evident as it surely must have been on the big screen!), but in a way that helps create atmosphere. All of these Sunset Carson "Yucca Pictures" films feature similar casts and crew and some of the same sets. They play a lot like some of the 1940s PRC features (the Frontier Marshals series and the Texas Rangers series come to mind) although without the colorful and professional supporting casts; the main difference is that the whole film has a local-production, semi-professional feel. I suppose we should applaud Walt Mattox and Oliver Drake for keeping the b-western alive in the only way they could afford to at the time as the market was dying for this product. This is not worth seeking out unless you are a serious Sunset Carson fan or interested in some of the quirky independent productions that surfaced in the waning days of the b-western. However, Sunset is fine, and as many know he still carried himself well decades later when he hosted a program "Six-Gun Heroes" (I think that was the name) on public television in the late 70s/early 80s that was devoted to B-westerns.

14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
along with VAPORS, this is Andy Milligan's most worthwhile film, 1 March 2005
9/10

There's no question that Andy Milligan's film work was influenced by Andy Warhol. That doesn't downgrade the late Mr. Milligan at all-- no doubt when he was putting together plays in the 1950s, much of the aesthetic seen in VAPORS and FLESHPOT ON 42nd STREET was already intact. It's as if Warhol influenced the film-making, yet Tennessee Williams influenced the content. I thought Milligan's VAPORS (see my review) was a masterpiece, treating loneliness, desperation, and sexual confusion in a bold and honest way. You don't have to be bisexual or gay to find the humanity and universality in such a film. For me, FLESHPOT is equally fine. If VAPORS was reminiscent of early Warhol, when Andy himself was at the camera, FLESHPOT is reminiscent of the Paul Morrissey era. There's no Joe Dallesandro here, but Milligan was never about "stars" the way Warhol was. This is the story of two people who are sexually confused and sexually frustrated, and find that they have to "hustle" on every level of their existence. They may be in the gutter, but they both have somewhere inside them a spark of romance and dreams of a better life...somehow, somewhere. Neil Flanagan (aka "Lynn" Flanagan) brings a lot of depth to the role of queen Cherry Lane--sweet one moment, bitchy another moment; kind and considerate, but then thoughtless. Flanagan is, of course, familiar to any Milligan fan because of playing GURU in GURU THE MAD MONK. Diana Lewis's other credits seem to be mostly porn, but she makes the role of Dusty uncomfortably real. Everyone has known a few Dustys--the person who moves in with someone and basically provides sexual favors in return for room and board and some occasional pocket money. A number of people have BEEN Dustys at some low period in their lives. She is hard-bitten, cynical, knows how to manipulate the gullible, but she too has a dream of a better life that even the sleazy New York underbelly has not snuffed out. Some people manage to find a way out, or move somewhere else and reinvent themselves successfully, but many do not, and this is their story. The jumpy 16mm photography of Milligan's legendary Auricon camera almost becomes a participant in the film, and makes everything alive and moving, the way it does in real life. There's a lot of attention to dialogue in Milligan's 60s and early 70s work--the man may have been essentially a playwright. When it works well, Milligan's dialogue works as well as some of the later, less symbolic, more explicit Tennessee Williams plays. This being an Andy Milligan film, there are no happy endings, but this film would be phony and insincere if it offered one. FLESHPOT ON 42nd STREET is an honest look at characters living in an urban jungle, a place where if you don't take advantage of the next person you meet, that person will take advantage of you. Milligan does not judge these characters; he finds the humanity within them. This is equal to the best of the Warhol-Morrissey films, and in its own right is an impressive piece of work that seems more accurate and more rich the older I get and the more I've lived. Don't wait three decades for someone to proclaim this a masterpiece and one of the most significant "windows" into the early 70's, and for it to be shown at some film festival alongside TAXI DRIVER--score a copy now.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
classic cornpone pre-Hee-Haw Country-Western film from Ron Ormond, 24 October 2004
8/10

I am old enough (just barely) to remember that brief shining moment in the mid-60s when you could go to your local drive-in and see films such as this. They were extensions of the old "rural humor" found in the earlier film series such as The Weaver Brothers and Elviry, or Judy Canova's many wonderful vehicles, except that they would feature performances by then-current country music stars. Until the 1950s, it was common for country music performers to feature comedy as part of their "show" (they were called "entertainers" back then with good reason!), so in a way these movies were an extension of a country performer's "show" but extended to feature length. This one stars the great much-underrated Ferlin Husky, who does the entire film in his inarticulate "Simon Crum" persona (and while watching the film, I wondered if Jim Nabors and/or Jim Varney had been influenced by Husky's "Crum" character). If you've never seen Crum or heard a record done in the Crum persona, I would describe him as a rural Caucasian Stepin Fechit. The way Crum slows down the action around him and forces all the other characters to play by HIS slow-as-molasses rhythm and eccentric timing is directly from the Fechit playbook. There's a plot about a local election and a redistricting dispute, but that's just a device to keep the comedy coming, and OF COURSE there is a "show" and a talent promoter which provides the excuse for the many fine musical performances from performers as diverse as "Whisperin" Bill Anderson (how I miss not seeing him regularly anymore!) and the late Skeeter Davis, but also greats such as Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, and George Jones. And Del Reeves, another singer who like Husky had a kind of persona into which he could slip (see his movies such as LAS VEGAS HILLBILLIES or HILLBILLIES IN A HAUNTED HOUSE), also has an acting role in the film as well as singing. And this film actually includes Ms. Country Comedy herself, Minnie Pearl! If you like old-fashioned country comedy from the pre-Hee Haw age-- and it's a shame that that world is pretty much gone now as Nashville has gone corporate and boring and bland--this film is a time capsule that takes you into that wonderful world. Lovers of REAL country entertainment should try to find a copy of this film anyway they can.

Free Rent (1936)
Monte Collins deals with deadbeat brother-in-law Tom Kennedy in funny Columbia short, 25 January 2005
8/10

Writer-comedian Monte Collins (who visually resembles Jim Varney)was an active presence in the late silent era and then well into the 1940s, and probably best-known today for the Columbia shorts in which he either starred or had a supporting role. This 1936 entry teams Collins, always good as an exasperated character, with Tom Kennedy, who usually played dim-witted policemen or underlings of gangsters. Here Monte's wife has invited her brother, Kennedy, and his wife and child to live with them, and Kennedy eats like a horse, smokes cigars, and drinks heavily...all charged to Collins! Needless to say, he's fed up. After they are about to get evicted from their apartment because of Kennedy's behavior, Tom suggests that they build a trailer and just "Live off the land." The last 2/3 of the short is devoted to their misadventures as everything possible goes wrong. Kennedy and Collins, both regulars at Columbia over a long period, work very well together--they'd worked together in a handful of shorts prior to this--and lovers of physical slapstick in the Columbia (think Three Stooges) tradition will definitely enjoy this short. (see reviews of two other Collins shorts: THOSE TWO BOYS (1929, silent) and the strange TECHNO-CRAZY (1933)).

Frankie and Annette movie without Frankie and Annette, 24 June 2003

Accompanying my teenage children to this film--I never watched even part of an episode of American Idol--I expected to detest it. However, it's really just an update of an old Frankie and Annette beach party movie--or a mid 60s Elvis film--with Justin and Kelly in the roles. As such, it was not bad. The writers wisely chose to use time-tested plot elements and stock characterizations that have worked in B-musicals for decades and still manage to work today. Of course, the music was bad and the dancing was on the level of a 70s Brady Bunch special, but did anyone ever watch a Beach Party movie for the music? I certainly didn't. I watched for the comedy and the personal charm of the stars. Both Justin and Kelly have quite a bit of personal charm, and the supporting cast was just right, playing the slapstick quite well. Although this might not be much of a compliment, I thought this was FAR better than the Lizzie McGuire Movie, much of which was cloying and grating on the nerves. This harmless exercise in fun was just what it promised--85 minutes of silly "Grease on the Beach" antics that got me out of the 100-degree Texas heat for a while and left a smile on my face. With no real sexual or r-rated humor, it's also a safe film to take a 10-year-old to see. The fan of 60s Beach Party films, or Elvis films such as GIRL HAPPY, would probably find this piece of corporate product an equally acceptable way of killing 85 minutes. Hey, I'd rather sit through this a second time than ADAPTATION or any PT Anderson film!

Dead Run (1967)
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
clever, witty French spy film with Peter Lawford, 14 September 2003
6/10

I certainly would NOT include this,the English-language title of which is DEAD RUN, among any top list of Eurospy classics; however, its witty tone, nice locations and interesting camera work, and impressive acting from Georges Gerret (as a small-time pickpocket who steals some secret papers more important than he could imagine), Peter Lawford (using his old charm and wit once again, as a CIA agent so informal that I doubt the REAL CIA would ever employ him!), and familiar German faces such as Horst Frank (chilling!), Wolfgang Preiss, and Werner Peters make it worth watching and above average. Director Christian-Jacque had a diverse career--directing the odd but fun LEGEND OF FRENCHIE KING with Bardot and Michael J. Pollard, doing uncredited direction on the bloated but entertaining MARCO THE MAGNIFICENT with Horst Bucholz and Orson Welles (and the unnerving angular composition of so many shots in DEAD RUN shows that Mr. Jacque is a BIG Welles fan!!), directing BABETTE GOES TO WAR, the film that proved Bardot was more than just a cheesecake star, and helming one of the segments of the war anthology THE DIRTY GAME. He also made a few excellent films with Jean Marais in the mid-60s. Much of what is good about DEAD RUN comes from Jacque's interesting and stylish direction, as the story is cliche-ridden and not really memorable. Overall, though, if you like an espionage drama with the sense of class and visual style that only the French bring to a film, with a number of strong performances, you might want to find DEAD RUN.

22 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
The Our Gang Kids...in the Civil War!!!, 21 December 2004
5/10

When I first saw this obscure film--the ONLY feature of the Our Gang kids--I was expecting a feature-length version of one of their shorts, so naturally I was quite unhappy with GENERAL SPANKY. Watching it again after many years, I find it more strange than unsatisfying. There are a lot of excellent elements in the film, yet other parts of the film are cringe-inducing or surreal. Producer Hal Roach managed to take Laurel and Hardy from the world of comedy shorts to the world of features with great success, so it's not surprising that he would want to take the Our Gang kids from shorts to features. My only question is...why a Civil War vehicle, with Buckwheat as a slave! The box of the MGM/UA video states the Roach was inspired by the success of Shirley Temple in THE LITTLE COLONEL to cast Spanky, Buckwheat, and Alfalfa in an "Old South" setting, but Our Gang's brand of comedy is much different from Shirley Temple's. Interestingly, Hal Roach returned to the "Old South" setting a few years later, when he teamed Oliver Hardy with Harry Langdon (Stan Laurel refusing to re-sign his contract with Roach) in ZENOBIA, another strange film. Perhaps Roach was inspired to cash in on the GONE WITH THE WIND phenomenon with ZENOBIA? Since Mr. Roach was from New York State, it's interesting that he would buy into the "romantic Old South" mythology. In any event, as I said above, there are some excellent elements in this film. Buckwheat Thomas and Spanky McFarland are fantastic, charismatic performers who can easily carry a feature film on their own. Buckwheat, in particular, is quite moving, when he is looking at a birthday cake while incredibly hungry, and since he's never seen a birthday cake before, he thinks the cake is on fire, and because he is hungry, he starts to cry. The underrated Phillips Holmes (best known for the 1931 adaptation of Theodore Dreiser's AN American TRAGEDY), who reminds me somewhat of Onslow Stevens, is quite impressive as Marsh Valient, the Southern Gentlemen who takes in Spanky and Buckwheat. Holmes' scene with Spanky where the two of them discuss the nature of war was quite moving and still has a necessary message today (it reminds me of Oliver Hardy's speech on racial equality in ZENOBIA). Ralph Morgan turns on his gruff charm as the Union general who refers to Spanky as "General" and treats him as a peer throughout the film--the effect is somewhat surreal. Irving Pichel is superb as the arrogant and sleazy Union officer Simmons. On the whole, however, GENERAL SPANKY is such a strange experience, I don't really know what to make of it. Any serious Our Gang fan should see it, and people attracted to weird cinematic misfires might find it interesting also. It's still available cheaply from its early 90's VHS release. I've never been much of a fan of Alfalfa, and fortunately he doesn't appear in the film until half way through, and soon after he does his patented "off key singing" routine. It has not gotten any better with age. Fortunately, the film belongs to Spanky and Buckwheat, and they do a great job.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
solid rural drive-in melodrama from Ron Ormond, with Tex Ritter in fine form, 24 October 2004
9/10

Watching this film again after many years, I must say that it is a solid piece of work from writer-producer-director Ron Ormond. It is perfectly pitched at the Southern drive-in audience of the mid-60s and features lots of action, a crime-related plot, lots of religious homilies from Tex Ritter playing a preacher, lots of superb downhome music, and nice Tennessee atmosphere (shot at the Starday Records Movie Ranch!). This was one of Ritter's last films, and thankfully he is not just a guest star as he was in Forty Acre Feud, but the true star of the film along with Earl Snake Richards. Ritter could read the phone book and make it sound profound, so it's great to see him delivering sermons to his flock and life lessons to his family so convincingly in this film. Star Earl "Snake" Richards (who was also star of Ormond's WHITE LIGHTNIN ROAD, which is worth seeing too) is better known to rock'n'roll fans as Earl Sinks, the man who replaced Buddy Holly in the Crickets and who sang on the original version of "I Fought The Law." He also made a lot of records under different names in the 60s, but by the mid-60s had solidified a career as Earl Richards and made many country singles, well into the 70s. He has also been a successful songwriter and music publisher, with a career still going today. Interestingly, in this film, when Tex Ritter's older daughter, the "girl from tobacco row" of the title, puts the move of Snake's character, he goes instead for the younger (and more conservative) daughter Rita, played by Rita Faye (who also had a successful country music career before this as "Little" Rita Faye and who played on some of Patsy Cline's records), and if I'm not mistaken, Richards-Sinks and Rita Faye were married in real life. The soundtrack music is wonderful, real downhome country with fiddles, autoharps, and banjos, and the on-screen musical performances include such traditional performers as Martha Carson and Fiddlin' Arthur Smith. In addition, Johnny Russell both acts (as the sheriff and boyfriend of the older daughter mentioned above) and sings a song, AND plays fiddle, both on his own song and accompanying Richards. Russell, who passed away a few years ago, wrote "Act Naturally" and many other hit songs, as well as gaining country music immortality by recording the classic "Red Necks, White Sox, and Blue Ribbon Beer" in the early 70s, a song that will always be a symbol of that era. While GIRL FROM TOBACCO ROW is a low-budget film and will no doubt look amateurish to people who want slick, assembly-line Hollywood product, it may well be Ron Ormond's best-made film of the 1960s, and AS A FILM it's well above most of the other drive-in country-music films of the 1960s in that this is actually a solid drama on its own and the music is secondary. And it should be a must-see for Tex Ritter's fans. I highly recommend it to anyone who finds the above description appealing. Bravo to Ron Ormond for getting everything right with this one.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
solid detective film, with Brian Donlevy in Brazil, 1 December 2002
8/10

The last directorial credit of Richard Cunha (of Frankenstein's Daughter fame), this plays a lot like a color, Brazilian-set version of some of those early-50s syndicated TV detective shows with established stars such as George Raft or Cesar Romero, which makes sense since Mr. Cunha worked in early 50s TV. The always-reliable Brian Donlevy brings his usual gruff authority to the role of a US detective sent to Brazil to find an woman accused of a crime in the US who has assumed another identity in Brazil. He finds her eventually, but first gets sucked into a criminal plot and meets a mysterious but attractive British lady (at least she speaks with a British accent!) with whom he gets involved. A USA/Brazilian co-production, GIRL IN ROOM 13 benefits from the Brazilian setting, and most of the characters except for Donlevy and three others are Brazilian. The pacing is rather TV-show-like, but there are enough double-crosses and detective-film conventions to keep you watching, and of course Donlevy's understated yet strong presence, the element that holds the film together. A shame Mr. Cunha did not direct more films in the crime/detective genre, as GIRL IN ROOM 13 is a pleasant way to spend 90 minutes on a rainy day. (Don't know if this has ever been on video--mine is taped off a UHF station in the late 80s)

Girl Rush (1944)
6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
comedy team of Carney and Brown meet Vera Vague--with songs and Robert Mitchum!, 27 December 2004
8/10

The comedy team of Alan Carney and Wally Brown are often referred to as RKO's answer to Abbott and Costello. The difference is that Carney is not as over-the-top as Costello, and Brown is not a pure straight man a la Abbott--he's bumbling himself (it's as if Costello was 1/3 Abbott, and Abbott had 1/3 Costello in him!). Still, their films are enjoyable comic entertainment, and they are best known for the two films they did with Bela Lugosi:ZOMBIES ON Broadway and GENIUS AT WORK. In this film, they are musical comedy performers who keep producing flops, so they go out West to find some success. That starts the plot in motion (which takes them back East again, then back out West).The great Vera Vague (as Suzy) is in much of the film, romantically interested in Carney, which provides comedic sparks throughout. GIRL RUSH also provides an early starring role for Robert Mitchum. Mitchum had made a ton of films in 1943 (check his 1943 IMDb credits!) as he was establishing himself in Hollywood, and he really is the "hero" in this film. In hindsight, it's also clear how different from other actors Mitchum was--he is as different from others as James Dean was in the 1950's. GIRL RUSH is a competently made piece of bottom-of-the-bill, b-movie entertainment that would not make anyone's "favorite" list for 1944, but surely was fun and entertaining to watch while it was playing. Shown on TV today, GIRL RUSH has much the same effect. Carney and Brown are an excellent comedy team and were probably fine all-around entertainers in their day. With Vera Vague and her madcap antics added to the mix, you have a entertaining 80 minutes for a rainy day.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
obscure Hanna-Barbera "Scooby-Doo" rip-off, w/ Partridge Family Kids added, 8 April 2006

I never saw this show when it originally ran--my review is based on the run of the show as taped from Boomerang Network. After the massive success of SCOOBY-DOO, Hanna Barbera was asked to come up with a Scooby-like show--in effect, to rip off their own creation! This is their result. Three characters--Gilly, a photographer, and two of his friends (neither of whom have many distinguishing characteristics, other than looking like the human characters in Scooby-Doo from a distance)--work for a magazine that does exposes into supernatural phenomena. They are assisted by a quirky dog, Goober (voiced by Paul Winchell, as are many of the minor characters on the show also), who becomes invisible when trouble arises. He also makes asides to himself as the action unrolls. In these mysteries, about half the time, they are aided by the four YOUNGER members of the Partridge Family (in other words, NOT Shirley or David). Three of the four of them are not developed in any way or given many lines. The only Partridge heavily involved in the plots and given a lot of lines is Danny Bonaduce, which is good since his sarcastic and witty remarks are like having a member of the Little Rascals along for the ride. The plots are somewhat similar, although they work as mysteries aimed at the seven-year-old intelligence. This series SOUNDS more interesting than it is, when one reads a description of it on a history of animation website. It's not really worth finding a copy unless you are a serious Scooby fan or a student of early 70's Hanna-Barbera animation. I showed an episode or two of this to my teen-aged children, both big fans of the original Scooby-Doo, and they thought even less of it than I did. The usual professional H-B product, but just uninspired.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
exciting 30's poverty row combination of domestic melodrama and nautical adventure, 20 September 2004
8/10

I hadn't watched GORILLA SHIP for over a decade when I dug it out and re-watched it this weekend, and it's a nice little poverty row feature that surely kept the depression-era b-movie audience entertained. The film opens with about 12 minutes of domestic drama between husband Wheeler Oakman (veteran Western heavy and pimp in some exploitation classics), wife Vera Reynolds (star of many silent features, she starred in indie films of the early sound era and retired from the screen after making one more film for director Frank Strayer, TANGLED DESTINIES, which I've reviewed on the IMDb), and friend of the family Reed Howes (dashing lead of many silent light-action films and early-sound poverty row features, and then a reliable character actor for decades--singled out for praise in Ed Wood's book Hollywood RAT RACE as a true professional). Then we are introduced to the seedy ship of Captain "Gorilla" Larsen, played by actor-director Ralph Ince (brother of Thomas Ince), who plays the role like Sterling Hayden after a long and brutal weekend. The two stories come together in a surprising way, and then we find out that the Captain is not unknown to one of the three characters from the mainland. What happens after that is not entirely expected, and the film contains many clever touches. The always reliable George Chesebro takes a break from Western badguy roles to play the first mate, and he's as ornery as ever. Howes has a charming screen presence and also a certain "aw-shucks" quality that reminds me, say, James Garner. If Ben Affleck is able to mature over the years and acquire a certain gravitas in his screen persona, he could one day resemble Reed Howes. Overall, a fine way to kill an hour, and a reminder of how many great little b-movies were made on poverty row in the early 1930's. With cast and crew recruited from the late silent period, films such as GORILLA SHIP still can entertain and excite audiences 75 years after they were made.

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
competent but generic late-Republic serial, 4 September 2006
6/10

GOVERNMENT AGENTS VERSUS PHANTON LEGION, from 1951, is, like virtually all Republic Pictures product (up through 1955, at least), a competent and fast-moving and professional piece of work, but piece of work it is. Even the title has a generic feel to it, and almost every aspect of the serial suffers from a similarly generic, non-specific, non-interesting quality. The hero is bland and uninteresting. The lady who works with him is completely undeveloped as a character and is even more bland. The head of the phantom legion(one of four businessmen is a saboteur, the question is which one) is bland, and even his henchmen show a lack of imagination, trotting out the same old crashing cars off cliffs and staging fires. The federal agency the hero works for is ill-defined (I thought for a moment I was watching a David Mamet piece!), the nature of the materials hijacked and stolen is ill-defined, etc. On the plus side, the action is fast-moving, there are the usual well-staged cliffhangers, constant fist fights, and a number of car chases, and an excellent supporting cast of western-film veterans. Unlike some Republic serials, I don't think I could watch all of this one in an afternoon---I saw an episode or two a day over a week's time. By this time, Republic could produce a solid, professional serial in their sleep, and for this film it seems that they did. Personally, I find a number of Republic serials that came after this to be much more entertaining--Canadian MOUNTIES VS ATOMIC INVADERS is quirky and fun, and even the last two serials KING OF THE CARNIVAL and TRADER TOM OF THE CHINA SEAS have elements of plot and setting and atmosphere and supporting characters that make them more interesting than GOVERNMENT AGENTS. In short, a solid professional piece of work, and not bad to kill time with on a rainy day, but lacking inspiration and not a good introduction to Republic serials, unless you were out to make fun of them and point out their limitations and clichés.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
off-the-wall musical-comedy parody of modern art and communism!!, 9 January 2005
7/10

HAIL BROTHER is certainly one of the strangest comedy shorts of the 1930s, a musical-comedy parody of both modern art and communism! Billy Gilbert stars as a rich businessman who gets hit on the head and suddenly becomes a convert to the cause of modern, abstract art and the cause of collectivism, which causes a bunch of cagey "artists" of all types to move in with him and turn his mansion into an art colony and a commune where everything is shared. There are parodies of Gertrude Stein's writings and pretentious literary criticism, as well as a lot of interpretive dance (with hobos mixed in with dancers in flowing abstract gowns) and musical sequences, including a romantic theme called "You Inspire Me!" which is played in different forms THREE times, as if they were trying to break it as a hit! I can't get it out of my head since hearing it yesterday. Of course, there is a lot of well-executed slapstick comedy here too, so those not into music or dance or social criticism could still enjoy HAIL BROTHER solely as a comedy short. I remember hearing many years ago that in some city members of the Communist Party actually disrupted showings of this film, based on advance rumor that it was anti-communist. They shouldn't have bothered, as this is a broad burlesque that no one would have taken as serious social commentary, but anyone who has read Richard Wright's American HUNGER knows that during the Stalinist era members of the Communist Party were not known for having a sense of humor or irony! In any event, this is an off-the-wall curio that should interest any lover of the weird. I can't imagine any other comedy short company making this--RKO was too staid; Columbia was too focused on physical comedy and would have found the other elements to be getting in the way;Hal Roach's musical shorts were not this "hip". Say what you will about Educational Pictures, the company produced some strange product (the shorts of Joe Cook and Jefferson Machamer being good examples!). Checking director Leigh Jason's filmography, I notice that he also directed an old favorite of mine, the German made 1961 cheesecake-comedy FESTIVAL GIRLS, starring Alex D'Arcy in a hilarious role as a starving con-artist filmmaker who is a fast talker and bluffs his way through life. You may not like HAIL BROTHER, but I don't think you will be bored while watching it!

14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
charming depression-era musical;excellent vehicle for Al Jolson, 2 January 2005
8/10

It's hard for most of today's audience to imagine why Al Jolson was once considered the world's greatest entertainer. The well-known clips from THE JAZZ SINGER are more of an embarrassment today than something to be proud of, and he hasn't had much of his recorded legacy in print recently, and what is often tends to be later re-recordings. HALLELUJAH I'M A BUM is one of the best examples of Jolson's charm and wit as a performer and although the film is a quirky period piece, it should be of interest to anyone who appreciates musical theater. While the film features "songs," it also features dialog that is spoken to a beat and to a musical background. It's difficult to describe, but it's charming. Jolson plays Bumper, unofficial "Mayor" of the "bums" of New York. He's accompanied by a short Black sidekick named Acorn played by Edgar Connor, a very talented man (also seen in the infamous "Rufus Jones For President" short with the young Sammy Davis Jr. and Ethel Waters). Other colorful characters include the great Harry Langdon as the Marxist trash collector (his scenes with Jolson are wonderful...I think I read once that his part had been cut down somewhat. A shame the outtakes don't survive), and silent comedy legend Chester Conklin as Sunday, who operates a horse and carriage. Frank Morgan as the mayor of the REAL New York City, and Madge Evans as the mayor's amnesia-suffering girlfriend (whom Jolson saves from drowning herself) represent the "Straight" non-bum world, which Bumper and Acorn briefly join, but cannot find happiness in. I'm don't know a lot about the Rodgers and Hart team, but their songs and dialog are still fresh sounding today, and they created a wonderful vehicle for Al Jolson that, unintentionally, may well be the best documentation of him for the modern viewer. This is NOT a film that you may always be in the mood to watch. I can imagine many viewers catching a little of the romanticized homeless people reciting "Musical dialog" and scratching their heads in confusion. I don't usually like musicals (I bought the film back when it came out on VHS because Harry Langdon was in it), but I was won over by it and I can imagine I'll watch it again in a year or two and show it to friends who are involved in musical theater. Check it out if the above description sounds interesting!

Hard Work (1928)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
second banana Wallace Lupino in his own late-silent comedy short, directed by Jules White, 1 March 2005
8/10

Although best-known as the heavy in his brother Lupino Lane's comedy shorts, Wallace Lupino got to star in a handful of his own shorts in the 1926-28 period, all of which seem to be much harder to find than Lupino Lane's shorts of the same period. In this one, directed by future czar of Columbia comedy shorts Jules White, Wallace Lupino and his wife (with misbehaving son in tow) inherit an old house. As one would expect, it's a wreck, with cows walking out of the closet and everything in disrepair. Lupino of course goes on to destroy what is left of the house, with the assistance of his son. Like any Jules White film featuring humans (and not dogs, as in his (in)famous Dogville shorts), the comedy is violent and physical. My favorite scenes here involve Lupino crashing his head through a wooden ceiling (ouch!), having his son shoot soot through that hole into a once-clean kitchen, and the inevitable vacuum cleaner sequence where after vacuuming everything clean, all the dirt and grime is shot back into the room. Wallace Lupino wasn't the acrobat that his brother Lupino Lane was, but he plays the exasperated husband and father well. This is a one-reel Cameo short, distributed through Educational, and it runs about nine minutes, which is just long enough for a film that basically milks one situation and has no character development. As a piece of lowbrow silent physical comedy, HARD WORK succeeds in doing what it set out to do--getting some laughs out of a hard-working 1928 audience taking a break at the movies in the waning days of silent films, entertaining them until the main feature started.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Roadrunner-like entry in the Ant and the Aardvark cartoon series, 6 April 2006
8/10

The non-Pink Panther work of Depatie-Freleng is not to everyone's taste, but I've always enjoyed their work--the surreal visuals, always first-rate music, and quality voice talent and sound effects. Basically, the Ant and Aardvark series is cut from the same cloth as The Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, or going back more, Tom and Jerry, with the Aardvark (called an "anteater" in the cartoons)being the aggressor and the Ant the pursued. The series had an incredible Dixieland musical score featuring such west-coast jazz legends as Shelley Manne, Pete Condoli, Tommy Tedesco, and the great bassist Ray Brown. I could LISTEN to these just for the music. Some of the series entries have a laugh track, some don't--this one doesn't. It's also one of the most Roadrunner/Coyote-influenced ones. The "instant hole" could have been an Acme product from over at Warner Brothers. Also, for some reason, the backgrounds used in this particular cartoon remind me of George Herriman's KRAZY KAT, which is some ways is the granddaddy of this whole genre. You can find sets of these cartoons without much trouble on the internet. I highly recommend them to people who like both The Pink Panther and Roadrunner or Tom and Jerry. And don't let me forget the wonderful voice talent of John Byner, who portrays BOTH characters, giving the Aardvark a Jackie Mason-like borscht-belt tone and the Ant a Dean Martin-like casualness.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
interesting Republic newspaper drama, raises some important issues, 19 January 2003
9/10

By 1955 Republic was not the studio it had been during its heyday in the late 1930s and through the 1940s. They continued to produce well-made, low-budget programmers--although a lot fewer than in past years-- but their B series westerns were over, and the studio made its last two serials that year. Probably not much money or advertising was put behind HEADLINE HUNTERS, a film which after all played much like a TV show one could see for free at home. However, director William Witney--the man who helmed so many classic serials and westerns at Republic--manages to coax good performances out of Rod Cameron as an alcoholic, one-time-hotshot reporter who has lost most of his principles over the years, and Ben Cooper (whose boyish enthusiasm reminds me of the young Tab Hunter, certainly not Brando or Dean!, but who is fine nonetheless) as a college-graduate cub reporter who has principles but lacks experience. While much of the film is a predictable hard-boiled B-movie, the script sometimes rises above that and touches upon some important issues. Cooper's speech to Cameron after a joke Cameron plays on Cooper causes Cooper to be fired is an excellent statement that sounds like something out of Death of a Salesman, and the plot element about the Mexican-American man who is framed for a murder he knew nothing about, and who is taken advantage of because he doesn't speak English and because the court translator is crooked, got me hoping the film would veer off into some serious social commentary (unfortunately, it didn't). This is the kind of film which is a solid B programmer, but which has moments here and there that transcend the production-line nature of its making. Ben Cooper is actually the main star of the film, with Cameron first becoming an unintentional mentor and then a barrier to Cooper. In the end, both men grow considerably from the experience. Nothing original here, but the film is better made than it needed to be and deals with questions still relevant today. (The film also features soon-to-be Stooge JOE BESSER in a colorful role as the coroner!)

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
charming early-sound light romantic drama, well-played by stars Lloyd Hughes and Olive Borden, 8 August 2005
8/10

My copy of this rare 1930 film was missing the original credits, having a cheesy 1950's TV title card inserted (backed by canned 1950's TV music). The actual film seems to be intact otherwise. Coincidentally, I saw this film a few days after THE COSTELLO CASE, which was also produced by James Cruze and directed by Walter Lang earlier in 1930! HELLO SISTER is a charming light romantic drama where a spoiled rich girl, played by the intriguing and lovely Olive Borden (who's great at comedy...and melodrama too, if you check out her final film, the made-in-Florida CHLOE, from 1934), is forced by her late grandfather's will to change her wild flapper lifestyle and quit drinking, smoking, and carousing, and to attend church regularly! Prior to this, we meet two men in her life--a fawning, immature young man with whom she often goes out, and a spoiled arrogant rich boy who assumes (wrongly) that she will marry him when he gets back from his European vacation. While in church, she meets Lloyd Hughes, one of my favorite actors from the early-sound era (he worked in many poverty row features, and could be tough in one film and hilarious in the next one and tragic in the next--I was showed his Fanchon Royer production HEART PUNCH at a film festival where I was doing a tribute to Ms. Royer, and the audience found Hughes quite appealing and convincing, wondering why they had never heard of him!). Hughes is not exactly what he seems to be and there is a reason he is at the church that Borden doesn't know. Of course, this plot was not exactly new in 1930 (I've seen silent comedies with a similar plot), and it's still being trotted out today for romantic comedies. At 80 minutes, the film runs longer than the usual poverty row feature, but it moves briskly, and the two stars are fantastic (we even get to hear them sing briefly, but it's in an arch,antiquated style that is harsh on today's ears...mine at least). The minor characters are well-written and well-played (always a sign of a film where extra care is taken, despite the low budget), and while the print circulating is a bit rough, I was captivated for 80 minutes and completely enjoyed HELLO SISTER. By the way, the title is taken from a line of dialogue in the film, which you'll catch and understand when you see the film. Definitely recommended for the fan of early-sound poverty-row features, and a good example of the work of two much-underrated performers...Olive Borden and Lloyd Hughes.

10 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Excellent!!! A western in biker garb, 2 January 2005
10/10

I missed this when it originally played, but 30+ years later seeing it for the first time I'm very impressed. This is a biker film that anyone could enjoy, despite one's feelings about that genre. Imagine an old western where Bob Steele or someone like that wins a horse race on a horse that he has raised from birth and devoted his life to. After the race, a crook with a lot of money who came in second in the race offers to buy Bob's horse, but Bob won't sell at the ridiculous price offered. So the crook steals Bob's horse, and then Bob goes on a mission to get the horse back (wait a minute, that IS the plot of an old western serial from 1934, LAW OF THE WILD, I thought is was familiar). Transplant that plot into a biker realm, with Jeremy Slate in the lead role, and you've got HELL'S BELLES. His nemesis is played by the late, great Adam Roarke (who actually steals the bike from the guy who stole it from Slate!). Slate is always convincing, here taking what could be a two-dimensional character and turning him into a complex, three dimensional man with a fascinating back-story, someone about whom we care. The same can be said for Jocelyn Lane, as the woman with whom he is involuntarily teamed. They hate each other for much of the film, so in a way you have a biker version of THE African QUEEN, but once her real story comes out she is quite fascinating. Ms. Lane made a number of fine films in the 60's--TICKLE ME with Elvis, BULLET FOR PRETTY BOY with Fabian Forte, and some European genre films (wow, until looking her up on the IMDb, I didn't even know she was European!!) I'll have to dig out my copy of WAR GODS OF BABYLON. The Arizona photography on this film is excellent, the shots are beautifully composed, and director Maury Dexter has an excellent sense of pacing. His work at AIP in the late 60s is much underrated. MARYJANE is excellent, and YOUNG ANIMALS was very much ahead of its time. I gave this film a "10" rating, which I hardly ever do, because it don't think it could be improved upon. It took me into its world and kept me captivated for 90 minutes. For me, HELL'S BELLES is one of the definitive biker films, even if it is basically a western in biker garb. Highly recommended!!

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
a perfect introduction to Harold Lloyd's brand of comedy, 9 January 2005
9/10

I watched and taped all of TCM's tribute to Harold Lloyd last year, and have recently been working my way through the last few items I taped but hadn't watched. Wanting to turn my girlfriend on to Lloyd, I asked her to watch this short, made after he had established his "glasses character" but before he made the move to longer, feature-length films. HIGH AND DIZZY is the perfect introduction to Harold Lloyd's brand of comedy. As a doctor with few patients (he has cobwebs on his office phone), Lloyd shows great personal charm and the gags are brilliantly devised to move fast yet work a routine in every possible way before moving on from it. For instance, one scene where Lloyd helps his friend (they are both inebriated) put on a coat, and there is a telephone pole between the man's back and his coat, occurs naturally in the plot sequence, is milked every possible way for about thirty or forty seconds, and then leads to another ridiculous situation. The whole film is that well-constructed. Lloyd's great physical skills are in evidence throughout. Of course, there has to be a "danger" element in a Lloyd film, so here he (and his sleepwalking female patient) are put on a ledge. A drunken man AND a sleepwalker on a ledge about twenty stories high! Now THAT is a brilliant set-up for comedy. The clarity of the copy of the film provided to TCM by the Lloyd estate is sparkling, and Robert Israel's musical score, which subtly works sound effects (pratfalls, ringing telephones) into the musical compositions, helps to move the film along and also helps people not used to watching silent films to appreciate what is happening. It's sometimes hard to get an average person to watch a feature-length silent film, so HIGH AND DIZZY might be the perfect short to show someone as an example of Harold Lloyd's dazzling comedy genius. I heard a rumor that SAFETY LAST may be shown theatrically in 2005--let's hope that's true. Imagine how wonderful it will be to see Harold Lloyd's most famous "thrill comedy" on the big screen!

High C's (1930)
6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
three-reel musical comedy World War I short, with Charley Chase--not his best vehicle!!, 26 December 2004
6/10

This three-reel musical comedy short, set in World War I (!!!), begins with credits sung by two young ladies. Basically, the plot involves Charley as a music-loving player and singer who puts his music before the war activities. Charley and the "Ranch Boys" (including Hal Roach music director Marvin Hatley) sing at least four songs, including "My Little Quadroon". During one battle scene, Charley fakes the end of the war so he can get a German with a great voice from across the battle lines and into his quartet. Thelma Todd isn't given much to do as a French girl, and accents don't seem to be Ms. Todd's specialty! The 1931 short ROUGH SEAS seems to be a sequel to this, with more singing and more military antics (and a chimp!), and with Chase and Todd playing the same roles. Charley Chase is always funny, and he has a good voice and seems to be able to play a number of instruments. This kind of thing must have seemed like a pleasant novelty in the early days of sound, but it doesn't date very well today. Also, three reels (28 minutes, according to my count) is a bit too long, especially since the extra time is filled by quartet harmonizing. Hal Roach played around with longer-form shorts, and some of them worked, but this one should have cut a few songs out and had more comedy. Not among Chase's best vehicles!

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
one of Lloyd Hamilton's earliest sound comedies, with a Western setting, 3 January 2005
9/10

Released in May 1929, HIS BIG MINUTE is one of Lloyd Hamilton's earliest sound comedies. Like DON'T BE NERVOUS, which was also in Hamilton's 1929 series of "talking" comedy shorts, this also opens with a glee club vocal heard during the opening credits, although in this case men dressed in Western garb are singing "Ragtime Cowboy Joe." While the setting of this film seems to be a small Western town, Hamilton is dressed in his normal manner, with cap. At first, he wanders into a saloon and disrupts a card game, causing one guy to lose a large bet. He then stumbles into another building while escaping the card players' wrath, and he knocks down two men who were robbing a general store. He saves a lady's life by doing this, and she takes him home to meet her Father and two brothers. Guess who the two brothers are? Whether in the saloon, or at the home of the family, or in the bedroom scene where Hamilton has to sleep with the two brothers and one pretends to be a sleepwalking psychotic, there are a lot of laughs, although the sound on this one is a bit rough and over-recorded, and it seems as though most of the players speak their lines too loud. These flaws did NOT appear in shorts in this series made just a few months later, so we'll credit it to the bugs in the early sound era. By the way, as I said about DON'T BE NERVOUS, there is nothing static about HIS BIG MINUTE nor is it leaden as so many early sound films are. Available on an old Parrotville VHS compilation from about 20 years ago.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
another satisfying comedy from Woody Allen, 5 May 2002
10/10

Like Small Time Crooks and Curse of the Jade Scorpion, here is another warm, well-written, perfectly acted, PG-13 rated comedy from writer- director-actor Woody Allen. I think it's great that Allen is re-connecting with the general audience, showing that he can still be funny and that he belongs in the pantheon of all-time comic greats. This film in particular makes use of his brilliant physical comedy skills (he's often more of a verbal comic actor, like his hero Bob Hope). Once again, the casting is perfect--Mark Rydell as his devoted agent, Tea Leoni as his smart and sassy ex-wife, George Hamilton hilarious as a studio executive whose exact role in the production is unclear perhaps even to himself, Treat Williams (always great to see him again!!!!!) perfect as the self-absorbed and California-studied- casual studio head, and Allen himself evolving with his character's physical and emotion changes throughout the story. Unlike some critics I've read, I feel that the subplot about Allen's son--which doesn't come in until the film is 75% over--works quite well and shows once again what a traditional sentimentalist Mr. Allen must be at heart. This film opened in 700+ theatres and has the promotional push of Dreamworks behind it, so I was happy to see an almost-full theatre on the opening Friday night, although Allen's audience is clearly 35 and above. I paid full nighttime prices for three of us, and I must say, Mr. Allen, that you gave us our money's worth. The film is scheduled to be the opening selection at Cannes this year, and I hope it is a smashing success. If you've ever liked any of Woody Allen's films, do yourself a favor and see this charming and hilarious comedy. And it's fit for the whole family over 10, although it may be too talky for those younger. We're already waiting for the next film, Woody!

19 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Surprisingly good mystery with silent-film era plot, 20 June 2003
10/10

I got this film because I like 40s/50s mysteries, because I like Richard Conte, and because it was directed by William Castle and thus HAD to be interesting. Actually, it is an excellent little mystery. New York-based producer Conte comes out to LA to make some films and rents an old studio building that hasn't been used since the silent era (which was only 22 years ago at the time of this film). The last year of silents, 1929, a major silent director was killed at the studio, and the case has never been solved. Conte decides to research the director and the murder for a film plot--he digs up a few of the people who worked at the studio and learns more about the mystery... while a new mystery starts to develop and the guilty party from 1929 starts to cause trouble again. It's as cleverly plotted as the best Columbo or Perry Mason episode, and Conte as always is powerful and sympathetic. He was one of the great post-WWII stars and his work should be revived today--watch THE BROTHERS RICO sometime! Great supporting cast with Jim Backus, Richard Egan, the lovely Julie Adams, and silent star and 30s independent-film regular William Farnum. It's always good to be pleasantly surprised by a film that delivers much more than you expected, and this is such a nice little mystery. It's not on video or DVD, but keep your eye out for it.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
one of the last silent comedy shorts, with Monte Collins wrecking everything on a train during his honeymoon, 1 March 2005
8/10

Released in mid-1929, HONEYMOONIACS was the last silent "Mermaid" comedy from legendary producer Jack White (according to David N. Bruskin's superb book on the White Brothers--Jack, Jules, and Sam). It features the great rubber-faced comedian and writer Monte Collins (who somewhat resembles Jim Varney facially, or so I think) as a man with his bride (Betty Boyd) on a train during their honeymoon. As one might expect, everything goes wrong at every level. His wife wants him to open the window of the train so she can get some fresh air, and two or three minutes are spent milking every possible permutation of that, culminating in a blast of water coming through and soaking the two people behind Collins and wife. After these shenanigans in the front car of the train, everyone goes to the sleeping berths, and you can imagine how many slapstick set-ups can be created here (later shorts by The Three Stooges using this setting will be remembered by many). The viewer may well be physically exhausted himself after watching this short. Don't expect any great depth here--this is a slapstick comedy short made according to a formula. But if you like the formula, as I do, and if you can appreciate the work of a master physical comedian such as Monte Collins, you will love this short. My copy has a reissue title card and no cast list other than Collins. The cards within the film itself are the original "educational film exchanges" cards, but the film ends abruptly and has no closing card. It runs about 15' 30", so possibly it is edited. HONEYMOONIACS is a solid piece of work that still entertains today (my friends watching it certainly enjoyed it as much as I did) and shows that Jack White went out of the silent era with a bang, not a whimper!

13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Gene Barry as lounge-singing cold-war spy!, 19 August 2002
8/10

Those who like hard-boiled cold-war spy films, especially those made on a super-low budget, should love this 1958 classic, which features Gene Barry as a US intelligence agent whose "cover" is that of a mediocre lounge singer! Barry's character is intentionally smarmy and funny, and he contrasts well with the hard-boiled spy action, set is backlot versions of Hong Kong and Macao, with a lot of tight shots of characters standing in front of Asian-looking signs and sections of buildings, often only six or eight feet wide. And of course, an alley is an alley and a warehouse is a warehouse, whether it be in Macao or Atlanta. Put a few Asian details in a dark alley, have a few Asian characters, and voila, you've got a film set in the Orient! Like many 1950s spy/crime films, this features a hard-boiled dragnet-esque narration telling you things you just observed on the screen. Still, they don't make films like this anymore, and clearly the filmmakers (and Mr. Barry, who is brilliant in the part!)were "in on the joke" so HONG KONG CONFIDENTIAL should appeal to fans of films such as RED ZONE CUBA, ROCKET ATTACK USA, INVASION USA, and OPERATION CIA. As always, director Edward Cahn is a master of pacing. I don't think this has ever been released on video, but check it out the next time it plays on TCM.

17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Sam Katzman-produced 60's-folkie rewrite on "Don't Knock The Twist", 2 October 2004
6/10

This plot goes back AT LEAST to the big-band era. A promoter or reporter or minor producer who is under pressure at his radio network/TV network/record label/newspaper/etc.to come up with a blockbuster new concept or show discovers a new trend in music, helps some deserving up-and-coming performers get a break, and often finds (or rekindles) romance. In Don't Knock The Twist, Lang Jeffries played the promoter--here it's Peter Breck. In some of the Ron Ormond-produced "Jubilee" pictures it was Don Barry or Jimmy Ellison. In Good to Go it was Art Garfunkel. Like the Bill Haley rock'n'roll movies of the mid-50s or the Chubby Checker twist movies of the early-60s, this is a Sam Katzman production, meaning it will be shot on a few cheap sets and will feature a number of semi-talented unknowns along with the better artists, but also it will have a number of excellent supporting actors to carry the "plot" elements. Here we have Peter Breck, Ruta Lee, Joby Baker, and Bobo Lewis as the female comic relief. Not surprisingly, this film and Don't Knock The Twist AND the Bill Haley vehicle Rock Around The Clock were all written by Robert E. Kent, but he's working from a template that was old at the time. So how's the music? Well, the title song by Sheb Wooley (in its full version, heard later in the film) as a fine rockin' number, Johnny Cash's version of Frankie and Johnny is solid, Judy Henske does an intense version of Wade In The Water with the support of avant-garde male dancers, the black gospel-folk duo Joe and Eddie do a fantastic anthemic number, and George Hamilton IV does his hit Abilene. The "humorous" clean-cut folk of the Brothers Four doesn't really work for me, and some of the lesser acts have not dated well and seem to have somewhat shallow roots. Don't expect to see Dave Van Ronk, Phil Ochs, Ramblin' Jack Elliott or Dylan here--there's a line of dialogue about how the show they are producing will not include any of those coffeehouse, beatnik types!! Gene Nelson, an actor and dancer before becoming a director, has helmed a number of excellent films, but he must have been given few resources and a very limited number of days' shooting time here as the mismatched close-ups and casual framing of shots are not what one expects in an MGM release, even a bottom-of-the-bill drive-in release such as this one. Overall, a historical artifact of interest to Johnny Cash completists and popular culture fanatics who would actually want to see a "Rock Around the Clock"-type movie about the 1960s pop-folk revival scene (recently depicted nostalgically in A MIGHTY WIND). I'm glad I saw this once, but I don't think I'll be putting it on again unless I live to be 150!

Hoot Mon! (1926)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Anarchic silent comedy short with Bobby Vernon and Jack Duffy, 14 February 2006
8/10

Baby-faced silent comedy star Bobby Vernon could be described as a combination of Harold Lloyd (the all-American-boy go-getter type) and Harry Langdon (the overgrown baby with an anarchic streak), if you can imagine such a combination. This 1926 comedy short, produced by Al Christie's company for distribution by Educational, puts Vernon as a car salesman into an all-Scots society, where everyone wears a kilt and is a mean cheapskate (where did this stereotype begin, I wonder?). He offers "free accessories" to anyone who buys the car he has to sell, and the manic Scotsmen strip the car and leave him stranded! He then poses as a Scot, and the film becomes one over-the-top chase and destroy sequence after another. Vernon is pitted against the inimitable Jack Duffy, a tall gaunt man who usually played elderly curmudgeons, most of whom were scotch (and how was under 40 while playing most of these roles!). This short is pure physical comedy, so unless you like seeing people tripping, hitting each other with objects, spilling things, etc., look elsewhere! For me, this is one of the purest forms of entertainment, and you are in the hands of a master with people like Bobby Vernon and Jack Duffy.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Charles Napier euro-crime film, directed by Umberto Lenzi--a treat for Napier fans, 25 September 2004
8/10

I've been a fan of Charles Napier ever since seeing Russ Meyer's CHERRY, HARRY, AND RAQUEL at a drive-in circa 1973. After appearing in COP TARGET with Robert Ginty for director Umberto Lenzi, Napier got a chance to star in HIS OWN euro-crime film for Lenzi, and this film MEAN TRICKS is it. What a treat it is to see Napier beat the crap out of various punks and mouth great b-movie crime dialogue that sounds like it could have come from one of the later Mike Shayne novels. No one can get as many syllables out of the word "Bu**s**t" as Napier can. This has the flat, euro-TV-movie look of many later Lenzi films, but the man knows how to make an unpretentious genre film that delivers the goods. If the idea of Charles Napier as a hard-drinking, tough-talking crimebuster with a bad attitude is appealing to you, DO seek out this gem of a film. It's Napier at his best!

Hot Curves (1930)
9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Fun, but not up to the level of the first Rex Lease/Benny Rubin film, SUNNY SKIES, 22 September 2003
6/10

This is the second pairing of western/action-film/serial leading man Rex Lease and dialect comedian Benny Rubin for Tiffany Pictures in 1930, and it follows in the footsteps of their first film SUNNY SKIES, although it is not as well thought-out nor as charming as SUNNY SKIES. The setting this time is baseball (it was college football in the earlier film), and although the characters have different last names in this film, it seems as though we enter the film with their characters already established, although they are playing DIFFERENT people in a different environment. There are no songs here, no dancing, and not much of the pathos found in the earlier film. Although the handsome-popular gentile paired with the nerdy bumbling Jew was probably a well-established archetype in the vaudeville tradition by the time this film was made, I can't help but think of Lease and Rubin as a kind of earlier version of Martin and Lewis. That Jerry Lewis was aware of Benny Rubin can be inferred from the fact that Rubin appeared in small roles in a number of Lewis' solo films. People between 40 and 60 probably know Rubin best from his many appearances on Jack Benny's TV programs--those two probably played many of the same vaudeville houses together in the 20s and 30s. The supporting players are once again well-chosen (John Ince as the crusty team manager, Pert Kelton as Benny's girlfriend, Alice Day as the girl Rex foolishly ignores but eventually appreciates, Natalie Moorhead as the golddigger who teases and takes advantage of Rex), and Norman Taurog as always handles romantic comedy well (as he would do for decades after this!). See SUNNY SKIES first, but after that this film is worth watching too. The Rex Lease/Benny Rubin duo are still entertaining after 70+ years and these formulas are STILL being used today...but often not as well!

Hot Sports (1929)
late-silent Collins and Dent one-reel Cameo short, directed by Jules White, 1 March 2005
7/10

This one-reel Cameo short, distributed by Educational, was the second-to-last silent comedy short directed by Jules White, later of Three Stooges fame (his last silent TICKLISH BUSINESS also starred Collins and Dent). It stars the team of Monte Collins and Vernon Dent (see my review of THOSE TWO BOYS, which resembles this is a number of ways, using the same basic premise, but different routines), who have been described as "the poor man's Laurel and Hardy." Actually, there are a bit different than L & H and much more anarchic. Jules White used both Collins and Dent extensively when he was head of comedy shorts production during the sound era at Columbia. The boys are dressed in tuxedos, headed for the Plumbers' Ball, but they wind up crashing some fancy party instead. As this is only a one-reel short (THOSE TWO BOYS, with a similar plot, was two reels, so it started more gradually), we get right down to the anarchic physical comedy. As expected with a Jules White film, the comedy is physical, lowbrow, and often violent. Much of the humor here is butt-oriented, which shows the lengths the film will go to get a laugh. Pants are ripped, rear ends are hanging out, people sit on things that get stuck to their posteriors, the boys rip a piece of window shade every time someone bends over causing the person to think that he has ripped his trousers in the back, Monte Collins wanders around with the butt ripped out of his pants but doesn't know it, etc. I actually like this kind of lowbrow comedy (I'm a Police Academy and Bowery Boys fan!), so the film was great in my opinion. Those who have never seen a silent Jules White fan will see many of his standard procedures in early form here--this short is even BEFORE his infamous DOGVILLE shorts of 1930 and 1931. The running time here is 11 minutes and 30 seconds, not too long to get tedious.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
excellent!!--combines the best qualities of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK and PETRIFIED FOREST, 3 October 2004
9/10

A very late entry in the film noir cycle--and a small-town noir at that!--HOT SUMMER NIGHT is well-done in just about every way. Except for a few awkward dialogue passages between Leslie Nielsen and Colleen Miller in the man-wife scenes (a small part of the film), the film combines the best qualities of BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (outsider comes into hostile, secretive small town and is rejected) and PETRIFIED FOREST ("regular" characters held hostage by philosophizing criminals delivering stage-like soliloquies). The film also has multiple levels of social commentary, is full of unexpected and even shocking brief spurts of violence that send the plot in unexpected directions, and is acted perfectly by virtually every supporting actor in the cast. Each character (except for the wife) is three-dimensional and complex and somewhat contradictory...just like real people! Younger viewers might be surprised to see Leslie Nielsen strutting around in a t-shirt and acting like a tough guy, but he does it convincingly and his character--a newspaperman specializing in crime stories--would need to be able to turn the tough-guy persona on when he dealt with criminals in his work. Among the supporting players, Paul Richards is fantastic as the psycho Elly, a role that may have gone to Montgomery Clift or James Dean in a bigger-budgeted film. Richards, who has a huge body of television work, passed away in 1974, but I'm anxious to seek out his work as he is a major talent. James Best also gives one of his finest-ever dramatic performances here as Kermit, the abrasive punk who is far more complex than he seems to be when we first meet him as he assaults Leslie Nielsen in a bar. The soundtrack by Andre Previn is so good, I wish I could buy a copy. There's lots of fine sax-driven rock'n'roll in the bar sequences, and the piano trio material (presumably played by Previn himself) is worthy of being released as a jazz album. The film goes in a completely unexpected direction at the mid-point, and even the climax, though not entirely unexpected, had me on the edge of my seat. As a study of the nature of crime and the nature of small-town society, or as an entertaining 1950s crime film, HOT SUMMER NIGHT is one of those studio b-movies that is so much better than it needed to be--everyone involved with it clearly wanted to make something special and memorable even though working in an assembly-line studio format, and they succeeded admirably. Don't miss it the next time it plays on TCM.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
The second comedy pairing Harry Langdon and Charley Rogers is as much fun as their first, 27 February 2005
8/10

HOUSE OF ERRORS was the second feature film pairing silent (and sound) comedy great Harry Langdon (who also wrote the story) with British comic actor-writer-director Charley Rogers (best known for his work as a writer-director with Laurel and Hardy), playing Bert and Alf. In this one, the boys are the lowest level of employees at a newspaper and have always wanted to be reporters. They happen to overhear a potential story about an inventor who has a new model machine gun (this is a wartime film, after all!), and they pose as servants in order to get into his house. While there are some other wonderful elements in the film (one scene taking place in a flophouse features Monte Collins doing a brilliant routine about a flea circus--one wonders if Langdon, who wrote the story for the film, dragged that routine out of his old vaudeville days!), what makes it worthwhile are Langdon and Rogers. Langdon wrote in any number of scenes that rely on his brilliant physical comedy skills, honed during years of vaudeville work and in his classic silent shorts and features. The scene with the "fish hooks" coming through the window, the scene where he is walking along the molding on the wall of the flophouse, the scene at the movie's start with the car horn--there are any number of hilarious comic set-ups. Rogers is the more aggressive of the duo, and he is the perfect foil for Langdon's lost, confused character. This is a low-budget PRC feature, but director Bernard B. Ray was a master of getting the most out of a little because of his experience running his own studio in the 1930s and directing some classics in the western and action veins, starring the likes of Tom Tyler and Richard Talmadge and Jack Perrin. The lighting in this film is rudimentary at best and the sets ultra-cheap, but who cares? Langdon could perform in front of a brick wall, and he would be brilliant. I'm glad he had the chance to star in films like this one, the earlier DOUBLE TROUBLE with Rogers, DUMMY TROUBLE/MISBEHAVING HUSBANDS with Ralph Byrd, and his continuing series of Columbia comedy shorts during the early 1940s, in the last few years of his career and life. His timing and mannerisms and ability to play off others had not diminished. Langdon fans should NOT miss HOUSE OF ERRORS.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
clunky early-sound western with weak leading characters, 7 June 2005
3/10

As the previous reviewer stated, despite the title, this is not an animal film. Human stars Buzz Barton (a teen) and Francis X. Bushman Jr. don't have much presence, and the continuity is confusing. There is a good supporting cast (Edmund Cobb, John Ince, and the unforgettable Black actor Fred "Snowflake" Toones, who sings a country song (and well, too!) in one scene, and tries to out-Stepin Stepin Fetchit in the rest of the film), but not much else to offer. I've been watching some of director J.P. McGowan's late-silent films recently, and at his best he's quite efficient and creates a good pace with some interesting shots, but this must have been a for-hire job that he wasn't really into very much. As a fan of low-budget indie westerns of the early 30's, I'd put this is the lowest 25% of early-sound westerns. It may not be lost, but it's not worth finding or spending the time to watch.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Like a Simenon crime novel come to life on the screen!, 23 September 2003
8/10

Although there's no Inspector Maigret-type character here, from my perspective as an American viewer, this film is like a Simenon crime novel come to life on the screen. The film does not feautre gunfights, wild car chases, or exotic locales. Instead, it features some hard-working, unglamourous French police officers working on a case step-by-step, slowly, carefully. Each "shady" character has an interesting story and each witness has some kind of personal agenda. The police officials are not supermen or Bogart-like; they are office-based men who are professionals. In the US, the film was redubbed, changing character names, although I haven't viewed the French original, so I don't know if plot elements were changed. It was also released as an exploitation film, which is really a stretch. There is a white slavery element to the plot, but it's not sexy at all and there are NO scantilly clad women anywhere to be seen. Anyone taken in by that advertising angle had better like routine police dramas, or he will be let down! Overall, an interesting police detection drama, but no cheesecake and definitely not "shocking" or "daring" as advertised on the risque poster used to promote the film originally!

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
over-the-top anti-Communist dystopia wrapped in fundamentalist sermon, all served up by director Ron Ormond, 5 November 2004
8/10

This 1971 feature from legendary exploitation and western writer/producer/director Ron Ormond, teamed with apocalyptic fundamentalist preacher Rev. Estus Pirkle (best known as the source for the Negativeland song "Christianity is Stupid," which is also heard in its original form in this film), is pure over-the-top exploitation film-making at its rawest. Ormond's "dramatization" provide a running commentary on Pirkle's sermon, and also we have the story of a young lady who was making out with her boyfriend, who drops her at church "to keep up appearances," and the lady is moved by the sermon and by guilt to ask for salvation in the climactic scene. It's all edited together in the best agit-prop manner for maximum dramatic effect. Ormond's footage (the majority of the film) about a communist takeover of the United States is so grim and violent in a matter-of-fact way that it still packs a punch today. The semi-amateur quality of the production only adds to its melodramatic effect, in my opinion. This "lecture and dramatization" format was not new to Ormond, as he used a similar technique in PLEASE DON'T TOUCH ME, although the theme there was PRO sex education, and the theme here is ANTI sex education. There's a lot of 60s drive-in-style gore here, with knifings, a vomiting child, upclose shootings, impaling by pitchfork, and a decapitated head seen rolling away bloody. Had Ormond edited out the preacher and his commentary, and beefed up the communist atrocity footage and added more of a "plot" to that footage, he could have released this as an anti-communist and gore exploitation film to drive-ins. This is a primitive yet powerful film. As fire-and-brimstone apocalyptic preachers go (and I used to listen to these characters on the radio back in the 70s), Pirkle is impressive, in terms of being melodramatic and pushing every possible emotional-manipulation button that exists. He and Ron Ormond make a perfect pair, and this film is a gem that documents the anti-communist, John Birch Society positions of the 60s and 70s very well, even better than ANARCHY USA, since these dramatizations pack an emotional punch that documentary and newsreel footage do not. Students of cold war history who want to explore the link between anti-communism and fundamentalist religion need not look any further. If you really want to see this, an internet search should turn up a copy for you. No Ron Ormond fan should miss this. Some images, such as the young boy having his eardrums pierced with a stick by a sneering communist flunky so the boy can never again listen to the Gospel (!!!), are not likely to be forgotten by the viewer. I'll try to review the another Ormond/Pirkle collaboration, THE BURNING HELL, in the near future...

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
excellent Italian dubbed historical adventure with Lex Barker pitted against Guy Madison, 16 December 2003
9/10

If you do not like low-budget, early 60s dubbed Italian costumed historical adventures, you won't like this one either. However, for fans of the genre, THE EXECUTIONER OF VENICE is top-notch entertainment with nice Venetian settings, lots of court intrigue and duplicity, and two of the finest American expatriate actors in 60s eurocinema--Lex Barker as the hero, Sandrigo Bembo, adopted son of the Doge of Venice, and Guy Madison as the tracherous grand inquisitor, Rodrigo Zeno. Director Luigi Capuano specialized in this sort of adventure in the early 60s, working with Barker in 1960s TERROR OF THE RED MASK, and after this film, making four films with Guy Madison. Just prior to this one, he made two with Gordon Scott--MASK OF THE MUSKETEERS and LION OF ST. MARK--that I recommend to fans of the genre. No great analysis is needed of THE EXECUTIONER OF VENICE. It's just a well-mounted but economical historical swashbuckler and the only European film where Barker and Madison are paired as equals. Regrettably, this copy is pan & scan, so some dramatic scenes between Madison and Barker feature Madison talking to an offscreen presence and the interesting set design is not as easy to appreciate as it should be, but until someone releases this in widescreen, it's worth searching out. The climax and ending are quite satisfying, the supporting cast is memorable (Mario Petri as the executioner whose story is quite complex, and Feodor Chaliapin Jr. as the aging, infirm, but sympathetic Doge of Venice), and it's great to see Madison as a pure manipulative villian with no redeeming values or tragic backstory. Barker looks great and must have been complimented that the role he is playing is that of a man at least a decade younger than Barker himself!

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
CAVALIER IN THE DEVIL'S CASTLE--above-average dubbed costumed adventure, but not in scope or in color, 26 May 2008
7/10

From the credits I can tell that this film was shot in widescreen and in color. The US print available from SWV, which is worth watching for fans of dubbed Euro historical costumed adventures, is pan and scan, and also in black and white. Made in 1959 and distributed to American TV in 1965 via Walter Manley enterprises (who handled many superb European and Japanese genre films), the US version titled CAVALIER IN THE DEVIL'S CASTLE hints at what an interesting film the color, scope version might be, wherever it is. An evil ruler (played nicely in an arrogant, patronizing manner by Massimo Serato) seizes and keeps imprisoned the benign ruler of a neighboring territory, then tries to entice the daughter of that ruler to marry him and unite the territory. Meanwhile, a "masked cavalier" is standing up to Serato and uniting the populace against him. It should be no secret to the viewer which member of Serato's court is the cavalier, but until the inevitable happy ending, there is some intrigue, humor, well-staged fights and fencing duels, and a steady pace that keeps the viewer engaged. Director Mario Casta's other films that have appeared in the US in dubbed versions are all of interest and not at all standard fare: THE BLACK PIRATE with Ricardo Montalban and Vincent Price; BUFFALO BILL, HERO OF THE FAR WEST with Gordon Scott; KERIM, SON OF THE SHEIK with Gordon Scott (see my review); THE CENTURIAN with Jacques Sernas and John Drew Barrymore (although in the pan and scan version available, Barrymore is often cut out of the frame!); and GLADIATOR OF ROME with Gordon Scott. Even in dubbed, cut versions, Casta's films seem like unique takes on established genres with interesting visuals, and they seem to be well-acted. Of course, seeing these films in anything resembling the original widescreen color un-dubbed versions (and with English subtitles)is not likely to happen in my lifetime, so the US television versions will have to do. Remember, a film such as this is only going to appeal to someone who's already seen 50 similar films and has a hunger for them. For the novice, try something like THE EXECUTIONER OF VENICE (w/ Lex Barker and Guy Madison) and see if the genre interests you.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Cameron Mitchell is superb as Caesar Borgia, a classic!, 19 August 2003
10/10

This review is of an old US television print entitled CAESAR BORGIA. This is a beautifully shot, well-written, and well-acted Italian historical biography of the legendary Caesar Borgia, a man who lived a short but eventful life, is said to have been one of the inspirations for Machiavelli's The Prince, and fought to unify Italy. Widely admired and widely disliked, Borgia is not an easy person to put a simple label on, and this excellent film presents him as a three-dimensional character, fascinating and complex. He utilizes power effectively and is a fierce warrior, but his enemies often show themselves to be motivated by selfish and cynical reasons. Cameron Mitchell, who is fortunately allowed to voice his own dialogue (which he does not in the English language versions of films such as Erik The Conqueror or Blood and Black Lace), turns in one of his best performances (and his is a career full of fine performances) as the Black Duke. The script requires a number of speeches, and the stage-trained Mr. Mitchell delivers each one as if performing a Shakespearean soliloquy. Borgia may be ruthless, but his humanity is well-captured by Mitchell, and his realization that he has few true friends leads the viewer to empathize with him. The film is well-paced, the various subplots (a secret society called The Black Carnation is out to assassinate Borgia; his sister Lucretia Borgia has a complex relationship with her brother and is a complex character herself;Borgia's romantic entanglements)well-integrated into the main story. Also, action fans will enjoy the many exciting fencing sequences. Director Pino Mercanti's film directly prior to this one was KNIGHT OF 100 FACES with Lex Barker, and after this he helmed GENTLEMEN OF THE NIGHT with Guy Madison, but THE BLACK DUKE/CAESAR BORGIA may well be his masterpiece. The film holds up very well today and should be revived today and given a DVD reissue. My copy was taped off a UHF TV station in the late 1980s. By the way, the ending of the film came as quite a surprise to me. Obviously, I know the "end" of the real historical character, but where the filmmakers chose to end the film and the "spin" they put on the character and that particular ending were quite powerful-- in fact, the ending helps to put the film in a special class beyond mere genre film. It's rare to get a three-dimensional view of a historical character in any film--to get one in an Italian costume drama is not often expected. Try to find this film if you can.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Lex Barker in above-average Italian swashbuckler, 22 August 2003
8/10

SON OF THE RED CORSAIR (the English language title of this film) was made in 1958 (but not shown in the US until 1963), so this film predates Lex Barker's ascension into German stardom via the Dr. Mabuse films and eventually the series of westerns based on Karl May novels. During the 58-61 period he made a number of costume historical dramas in Italy, most of which are worth watching if you can find them. This exciting entry casts Barker as a Spanish count who is the son of the Red Corsair, a legendary pirate. He is simultaneously avenging his father's death, looking for his long-lost sister, romancing a lovely Marquise, and fighting off various enemies. You name it, this film has it--swordfights, romance, mystery, music and dance, comedy sequences, etc. It all works well and moves quickly,and the film packs a lot into 80 minutes. Barker is tough yet charming, elegant yet earthy. And he manages to keep a straight face while wearing various powdered wigs and/or ponytails! The dubbing is acceptable by the standards of the day. Director Primo Zeglio directed many costume historical dramas in the 50s and early 60s--including Morgan the Pirate with Steve Reeves and Seven Seas to Calais with Rod Taylor as Sir Francis Drake (a film often shown on TCM in the USA). In the mid-60s he directed four westerns (two under psuedonyms), including the excellent Cursed Valley with Ty Hardin. He also directed the cult favorite sci-fi Perry Rhodan epic MISSION STARDUST starring Lang Jeffries (which, if you think about it, is just another kind of costume historical drama in a different time/setting!). Unfortunately, the SWV video of SON OF THE RED CORSAIR, the film reviewed here, is a pan-and-scan black and white TV print of a film shot and released in color and widescreen. The film will surely be an awesome experience on DVD someday... Until then, even this b&w version is entertaining enough to be worth your finding a copy if you are a Barker fan or a fan of Italian swashbucklers of the era. They don't make them like this anymore and there will never be another Lex Barker.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
obscure Desert peplum with Gordon Scott, worth finding for fans of genre or star, 14 November 2004
8/10

Emir Omar (who looks like Alan Steel) is a brutal thug of a leader--stealing any young lady he finds attractive, shaking down local tribes and killing anyone who dares resist, etc. We see about ten-fifteen minutes of his barbarism when Gordon Scott--Kerim, son of the ruler of a small tribe threatened by the Emir AND someone whose sister was captured and killed by him--arrives on the scene to take on the evil Emir and unite the various tribes who have been crushed under his iron heel. Gordon Scott might not be the first actor who comes to mind when casting a middle-eastern role, but he does fine (in full beard) in the role. At first, he wears a full costume and head-dress, but he gradually wears less and less until he is bare-chested, and one remembers why this former Tarzan and peplum star was so popular at the time. Scott, who resembles his friend Steve Reeves in this film, was able to work well in a number of genres--jungle, peplum, costume adventure, western, and spy--and he has the charisma to carry a film on his own. There's a lot of attractive second-unit photography from Egypt, although since the Tigris River is mentioned, one presumes this is set in southern Iraq or Syria. The photography is quite colorful and the set design, while low budget, is complements the color scheme of the landscape. Gordon Mitchell is billed, but he's not much in evidence. I'm guessing that he is playing a mercenary leader who is hired by the Emir to get Scott and his followers, but that character's face is mostly hidden under a scarf and not much face is shown...and in any event the character's role is about four minutes long. It could be Mitchell--I'm not sure (I saw this on a small-screen TV, which didn't help). As a devoted fan of Italian sword and sandal cinema, I found this obscure film to be a pleasant surprise and I would recommend it to any fan of the genre. KERIM--SON OF THE SHEIK is certainly "above average," and it's always nice to see Gordon Scott again. Good luck in finding a copy!

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
lowbrow Italian comedy with Tomas Milian and Bo Svenson, for fans of the stars only, 22 October 2004
6/10

While the title of this film, SON OF THE SHEIK, is accurate, don't be thinking this has anything to do with the Rudolph Valentino classic. What we have here is a lowbrow, crude Italian late 70's comedy starring the great Tomas Milian (who has shown a gift for comedy in his PROVIDENCE films and elsewhere)as a loser in his 30s who lives with his domineering mother and dreams of opening his own gas station, but can't get a permit because he doesn't know the right people in the Italian bureaucracy. Then out of the blue, a beautiful American blonde woman comes along claiming to represent a large oil company and tells him that she will help him become manager of his own gas station. It turns out that Milian--whose birth was the result of a brief tryst between an middle Eastern emir and an Italian hotel maid (his mom)-- is the "son of the sheik" and this man wants his son to come back home. This plan is being thwarted by the lackeys working for an oil company, the main one played in an over-the-top fashion by Bo Svenson. Svenson also plays the slapstick very well, although the dubbed voice given him doesn't really fit a man of Svenson's size and authority. He wears ridiculous costumes throughout, chomps on a cigar, and seems to be having a lot of fun. Milian is dubbed the same actor who dubbed a lot of his 70s crime films, so the voice will seem familiar. There's a lot of crude bathroom humor and dated 70s jokes, but there's also a lot of physical comedy that manages to remain funny, which is a testament to Milian's and Svenson's talents. The scene where Milian first meets his father, who wants to check a birthmark on Milian's rear end, is a classic and surely the funniest scene in the film. The rest of the film is OK, but would seem better suited to Bud Spencer. Milian had just completed two superb crime films with director Bruno Corbucci directly prior to this--SWINDLE with David Hemmings, and HIT SQUAD with Robert Webber--so THE SON OF THE SHEIK must have seemed like a change of pace at the time, but the dated Arab stereotypes and cartoon-level humor have not held up very well. However, if you want to see Milian do a Jim Varney-esque comedy scene where he attempts to ride a camel, here is your chance. And I can't remember another entry in Bo Svenson's filmography where he plays Bowery Boys-level slapstick. So check out the film if those elements sound promising--for the rest of us, I can't really recommend you put much effort into finding this film. Except for the appeal of the two stars, it doesn't really have much to offer. Also, the full-screen video transfer is maddening, as the film was clearly composed widescreen and there are a number of scenes between two people where neither of them is seen but a dialogue goes on.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
average spaghetti western, somewhat redeemed by Guy Madison as a gunslinging priest, 12 December 2003
5/10

With two great titles (SON OF DJANGO and VENGEANCE IS A COLT 45), top-billed Guy Madison, and director Osvaldo Civirani at the helm (a man who has made quirky films in a number of genres--he sometimes misses the mark, but he takes chances), I had high hopes for this film.

The DEATH RIDES A HORSE-style opening sequence was quite exciting too, but the film that followed was a letdown. The pacing is flat, the lead character is neither interesting enough nor mysterious enough to command much attention, and Guy Madison, although top-billed, should really have been given "and with the special participation of" billing in the credits as he is essentially a guest star. Gabriele Tinti is the protagonist, and he basically stumbles from one scene to another, getting the tar knocked out of him, but not showing much of a distinctive character (Richard Harrison would provide wit as he went through such torment, Tomas Milian would spew contempt toward his tormentors, Craig Hill would command fear even after getting beaten temporarily). There are a few nicely composed shots, a few places where the music is haunting and we see Tinti riding alone, and of course Guy Madison is excellent as the gunslinging priest/minister who comes to Tinti's aid, but isn't exactly welcomed. This role is a bit different from Madison's later role in Reverend Colt, a much better film.

The "climax" of the film is quite unsatisfying too--I don't know if Tinti is to blame. Probably hurried writing and slack directing are responsible. Fortunately, AFTER the lame climax with Tinti, Madison's is the last face we see, so at least the film left a positive image in my mind.

Although a "revenge for a murdered father" film, SON OF DJANGO features little tension and this viewer at least didn't really care whether Tinti got his revenge. There are probably a dozen Bob Steele westerns from the 1930s with a similar plot, and nine-tenths of them as I remember pulled me into Steele's quest for revenge. Not here.

I can recommend the film only to Guy Madison collectors--he's fine here, although once again dubbed by someone else--and Eurowestern completists. And for the latter, I should say that this is not a BAD film, just an average one. It may well work for you, but didn't for me.

14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
1930's newspaper gossip columnist solves whodunit, 21 May 2002
7/10

Florid, over-confident newspaper gossip columnist Tommy Tilton (Ralph Forbes) turns sleuth when his friend is blamed for the murder of an ex-girlfriend with a taste for blackmail. We're introduced to a number of colorful supporting characters, with Tilton gradually figuring out the nature of the crime through a combination of bluff and insight. He also uses his column to "smoke out" the guilty party, even when he doesn't yet know who the guilty party is! Director B.B. Ray was an old hand at low-budget action films and westerns, and with minimal sets and dialogue that describes actions that would be too expensive to film, Ray keeps the action moving at a swift pace. Forbes plays the part of Tilton as something of a dandy, with a lot of empty bravado. When Tilton proclaims "I'll name the murderer" in the next day's paper, even though he doesn't yet have any proof, we audience members pull for him, WANTING him to crack the case. I'll let you see the film yourself to see how all this is resolved... Overall, a solid 1930s poverty-row murder mystery from Puritan Pictures, best known for their 1935-36 series of interesting Tim McCoy westerns, including the classic MAN FROM GUNTOWN.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
exciting Italian 60s swashbuckler w/ Peter Lupus (Rock Stevens), 17 August 2003
8/10

After achieving fame in the film MUSCLE BEACH PARTY, actor-bodybuilder Peter Lupus, then using the stage name of Rock Stevens, made four sword-and-sandal/adventure films in Italy during 1964-65, all of which are worthwhile. I've always felt Lupus, during this period at least, resembled the young Sylvester Stallone, and he is very comfortable on-screen and a convincing actor, which no doubt landed him the role soon after this on TV's classic MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. GIANT OF THE EVIL ISLAND, as the English-dubbed AIP-TV version of this film is called (which is panned-and-scanned), is NOT a sword-and-sandal film, but a costume swashbuckler where Lupus/Stevens plays Pedro, who becomes Captain of a ship when its older Captain retires and who is devoted to breaking up a lair of criminals led by one Maloch on a place called Evil Island. Pedro has TWO lovely ladies with whom he becomes intertwined: the shifty and scheming Alma and the good and true Bianca. The battles between ships are very well done for what must have been a moderate-budgeted film, and the sets and visuals are rich and colorful throughout. There's a lot of exciting swordplay (which Lupus handles convincingly!), and overall it's an exciting film and wonderful escapist entertainment. Director Piero Pierotti wrote and/or directed a few dozen films in the post WWII era, including such genre classics with American stars as PIRATE AND THE SLAVE GIRL and KNIGHT OF 100 FACES (both with Lex Barker), MARCO POLO (Rory Calhoun), the western HEADS OR TAILS (John Ericson--I'll need to dig out my copy of that and review it) the amazing NIGHTSTAR: GODDESS OF ELECTRA/WAR OF THE ZOMBIES (great performance by John Drew Barrymore), and THE AVENGER OF VENICE (Brett Halsey). I noticed in the credits that this was shot in totalscope, so perhaps some future DVD release will be in widescreen as such a visually striking film as this should be appreciated in its original form. Still, the pan-and-scan VHS/DVD version floating around is worth watching, and all four of Peter Lupus/Rock Stevens' Italian films are worth finding. The other three films are GOLIATH AT THE CONQUEST OF DAMASCUS, CHALLENGE OF THE GLADIATOR, and HERCULES AGAINST THE TYRANTS OF BABYLON.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
good 60's Italian pirate swashbuckler, 10 August 2003
8/10

The beginning sequences, about how the abuse of the Spanish led the buccaneers to organize to defend themselves, give this early 60s Italian swashbuckler an interesting spin and help to get things moving and create motivation and sympathy for buccaneer leader Don Megowan (first seen played by a child, depicting the childhood incidents that led him to become what he did). Director Domenico Paolella helmed fine peplum, spy, western, and giallo films and this little-known film is another feather in his cap. Star Don Megowan, an American best known for roles in Westerns and science fiction films in the late 50s and early 60s (he seems to have made only two films in Europe--this one and another called road of the giants/valley of the doomed, which I need a copy of!), cuts a strong, tough figure and was an excellent choice for the role (it's a shame he made no Italian westerns). Other faces such as Phillipe Hersent and Livio Lorenzon will be familiar to any fan of Italian early-60s genre films. This actually received an American theatrical release, and according to the AFI it was released in color and in widescreen. Unfortunately, the copy circulating among collectors is a panned and scanned b&w print no doubt made for TV. Also, the European release is listed as 13 minutes longer than the American release. I would imagine the film would be much better in color and in widescreen and I only hope that with the growing market for 1960s European genre films on DVD in their original format will cause someone to restore and release GUNS OF THE BLACK WITCH in its full glory. Until then, and I don't expect that time will be soon, the film is worth watching for fans of the genre. The director's next film was WOMEN OF DEVIL'S ISLAND, starring Guy Madison (and prior to GUNS, Paolella worked with Lex Barker--after Devil's Island, he worked with Richard Harrison on Avenger of the Seven Seas). Color, scope 35mm prints of this must be out there somewhere from the film's US release. Let's hope someone finds one and transfers it.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
slow-moving jungle melodrama w/Lex Barker, 4 July 2003
4/10

Perhaps the original color, Italian-language version of this film is superior to the black&white, English-dubbed version released in the USA by Medallion Pictures that I'm reviewing. I hope so. THIS version, which clearly was shot in color and then developed in black and white,looks flat and has poor contrast. And there is intrusive narration telling us the plot throughout. I don't know if this was in the original, or was added to keep the amount of dubbing down, with scenes of Italian expository dialogue simply cut out of this version and never dubbed. What dubbing there is seems minimal and flat, as many early 50s films seem to be. Lex Barker looks handsome throughout, although with the turban he's wearing, only his face visible through much of the film. What a change from a few years earlier when he was Tarzan and nearly naked through an entire film! All in all, the film is not very interesting. As I said above, perhaps in color on a big screen the location photography would be impressive, and perhaps in the original language the film would play more dramatically, but this b&w English-language version is only recommended to the most devout of Lex Barker's fans. Almost any Barker European film is better than this.

21 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
riveting, low-budget study of a police killing, quite good!, 22 September 2002
9/10

Between 1959 and 1962, director Edward Cahn made MANY very-low-budget films for a production company that went under a few different names, but all were produced by Robert Kent. TCM did a salute to Cahn in 2001 and dug many of these up, including this one, INCIDENT IN AN ALLEY. Chris Warfield plays a police officer who breaks up what he thinks is a robbery and possibly an assault in an alley, and shoots one of the suspected robbers who runs away. That takes place in the first five minutes. After that, the film surveys exactly what happened, looks at the incident from multiple perspectives, has a trial where the officer is charged with manslaughter, and THEN starts another plot which becomes just as exciting as the first one, and finally it all comes to wild but satisfying close in just over an hour! Pardon my vagueness, but I don't want to give anything away. This film, written by the great Rod Serling, is a completely unexpected gem that does not go in any direction you expect it to. Shot on a few small sets, b-movie veteran Cahn keeps an exciting pace going, and the acting makes each character seem individual and real. In some ways this seems more like a play than an action film, but that's not surprising considering Serling's background in 1950s live TV and Cahn's background in VERY low budget films where talk and atmosphere make up for scenes that would be too expensive to shoot. As I wasn't expecting anything special, just a b-grade crime film, I was very pleasantly surprised at the care taken in the making of the film and in the many serious and complex issues it dealt with both intelligently and realistically. Bravo to writer Serling, director Cahn, and star Warfield for his little-known gem of a film.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
OK low-budget, hard-boiled gangland drama with Cameron Mitchell, 20 December 2003
8/10

Here's another one of the 25 or so films director Edward L. Cahn churned out in a three-year period for the same production company (which went under a few names), some of which are surprisingly good and most of which are at least admirable for the creative ways they get around their VERY low budgets. Cameron Mitchell starred in 3 of these (see review of PIER 5, HAVANA). Here we are in the gangland genre. These are the kind of gangsters who wear dark suits, dark hats, dark sunglasses, and chain smoke...just in case you forget who the gangsters are. The syndicate seems to have broken down into some competing factions, one led by Ed Platt of "Get Smart" fame, the other led by Cameron Mitchell. The main boss over all the units, who has been in exile in Italy, is coming back to the USA to a small airstrip in upstate New York, and the competing groups heat up the competition prior to his arrival. I won't give away any more of the plot. Like most low-budget films, this features a lot of talk, which builds up the tension, as does the tough-guy acting from the principals. The film also uses that low-budget staple--the rewrite of PETRIFIED FOREST, where a group of criminals hold some regular citizens hostage. It's cheap to film, is in one setting, and constantly refers to outside events that don't have to be filmed. As always, director Edward L. Cahn is a master of b-movie pacing, and writer Orville Hampton wrote a number of fifties b-movie classics, TV shows from Perry Mason to Scooby-Doo, and some of this group of Cahn-directed films. And of course Cameron Mitchell is convincingly tough as the gang leader--if you need any convincing of Mitchell's subtlety as an actor, watch the way his character keeps changing in small increments in the last twenty minutes of the film after gangland leader Johnny Lucero arrives back from Italy. If you like 1950s gangland b-movies and like cheap rewrites of Petrified Forest, or if you are a Cameron Mitchell fan who needs to see everything the master appeared in, you'll want to catch this film. People raised on the elegant, operatic gangsters of Coppola and Scorsese might find a film like this primitive and laughable (it's their loss!).

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
taut, effective Republic murder mystery with fine cast, 21 January 2002
8/10

After two business partners take out double indemnity life insurance policies on each other, one of them dies in a questionable "accident." Ace insurance investigator Richard Denning, posing as a real estate agent, comes to town to find the truth. This 1951 programmer has all the good qualities of a Republic picture-- first rate supporting cast (Reed Hadley, Hillary Brooke, Roy Barcroft), exciting pacing and editing, an efficient and fast-moving script. Richard Denning (best known to younger audiences for his sci-fi films and for his appearances on HAWAII FIVE-0)has just the right combination of sauveness and toughness needed for this type of role. There are enough plot twists and mounting danger to keep everything moving at a fast pace, and overall the film is recommended to fans of 40s/50s B crime films.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
colorful, exciting Italian swashbuckler w/ Lex Barker, 14 September 2003
8/10

In this exciting, colorful Italian 1960 swashbuckling costume drama, Lex Barker plays Commander Luis Monterrey, a man who is seemingly successful and powerful (although an interesting early scene makes clear that although Monterrey is allowed to attend important social functions and mingle with the rich, he is NOT one of them, and is expected to "know his place" in society), representing Spain as a naval officer in the mid-1500s. You might be expecting a usual captain hero vs. bad pirates plot based on the first twenty minutes, but the film makes an interesting about-face, and then goes in a very different direction, which I won't give away. Barker handles the role convincingly, and is paired against, then with, pirate head Livio Lorenzon. One of Lorenzon's associates is played by Black American expatriate actor John Kitzmiller. The film could use some more swordplay, but overall, it's an exciting, well-played and well-photographed genre-film, for those who like Italian costume adventures. And the charismatic Lex Barker once again shows why he became such a popular actor in Europe in the late 50s and early 60s. This film was once a staple on US local TV twenty years ago, but an internet search should get you a VHS copy if you really want one...and the legit VHS copy, licensed from ZIV Television, that is circulating is of excellent quality.

Ireno (1932)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
one-reel musical comedy short with the young Ethel Merman, who is in great form!, 3 January 2005
6/10

This was not Ethel Merman's first short film--I see four others listed prior to this, and around this time she was also working in Betty Boop cartoons. Still, this 1932 short is the earliest Merman I've seen, and she is dynamite even then. A brash New Yorker (today's audiences would no doubt compare her persona on screen to Fran Drescher), Merman handles the dialogue well and could no doubt have made a successful career as a supporting actress in the Iris Adrian vein had her musical career not taken flight. As the short is only one reel (8-9 minutes), it seems to be over as soon as it begins (especially since Merman does a few songs during the 9 minutes), but Merman's trademark charm and authority was there even in 1932. Director Aubrey Scotto did a number of shorts in this period with Burns and Allen, and he also directed comedy or musical shorts with Rudy Vallee, Jack Benny, Louis Armstrong, and Lillian Roth.

13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
serious, well-intentioned study of reincarnation, 31 October 2004
9/10

This film was released during the short-lived "Bridey Murphy" reincarnation craze of the mid-1950s. As such, I expected it to be somewhat exploitative, but it actually turned out to be a serious, well-intentioned study of reincarnation that presented alternate viewpoints, explored psychological explanations, and told the story of someone whose reincarnation story appears to be true. Jock Mahoney, usually associated with western and jungle films, does a fine job as a pilot who has strange, unexpected flashes of memories and unexplained knowledge from the life of a World War I pilot who died in 1918. My teenaged daughter, who was working on the computer in the same room where I was watching this film, stopped her work a few minutes into the film, and soon after came over to the couch and watched the rest of the film, riveted. I should state that this is a low-budget B-movie and contains a lot of talky sequences and serious-minded soliloquies--the kind of things that are not too popular with today's jaded, ironic screenwriters-- but those who would enjoy a serious (although in some ways naive) examination of reincarnation on a b-movie level should find this film worth seeking out.

5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
amazing mix of post-modern and silent-era;Billy Zane is incredible!, 20 September 2003
9/10

This 1998 film was based on a script by the late Edward D. Wood, a script that featured NO dialogue in the tradition of films such as THE THIEF. While much of Wood's work was quirky low-budget entries into various genre-film traditions, his first released feature GLEN OR GLENDA was a truly visionary attempt to express the inexpressible through primitive avant-garde techniques. I WOKE UP EARLY THE DAY I DIED represents THAT side of Ed Wood, the experimenter, although this film is a comedy (a nightmarish comedy, however!), while the cross-dressing theme of GLEN OR GLENDA was taken so seriously by Wood that there was not room for comedy there. From the first few seconds of this film I knew that I was being taken to a new cinematic world, and I can't really compare that world with anything else. The technical side of the film--production design, sound design, music scoring, photography, etc.--is groundbreaking on any number of levels. In particular, although the film has no "dialogue" there is sound of all kinds and also "language", but you'll have to see how it's done yourself, as the cleverness and surprise of the methods provides a level of excitement throughout. The Glen or Glenda-esque technique of juxtaposing stock footage for surreal effects works well in the film and is kept to a minimum. The whole film is played at a hysterical fever-pitch, and Billy Zane provides an amazing tour-de-force performance that shows what a brilliant physical comedian and actor he is. In a just world, he would have been given some award for this performance. He even LOOKS like Ed Wood, and as played by Zane this character is at various timesfunny, sleazy, tragic, sympathetic, and anonymous(sometimes simultaneously!!!). What a shame that this film was caught up in legal troubles and never received a North American theatrical or video release, only playing a few festivals. Right now, it's only available on video in Germany (in fact, my copy is from a German source--the excerpts from Wood's screenplay that are shown on the screen from time to time are translated into german, although the newspaper headlines (that great low-budget technique of giving plot elements, especially those that would be too expensive to film, via newspaper headlines is used here in the Wood tradition)that Zane sees are in English). I think that this film could have gotten a word-of-mouth following had it been played at midnight in some large cities with some careful promotion. And if played off city by city slowing on the art-film circuit, it could have done well. In fact, if the legal issues can be resolved, I'd like to suggest that the film should STILL be given a theatrical release, especially a MIDNIGHT "cult" release. This is a classic waiting to be discovered.

Did I "understand" every scene? No, but I "felt" every scene emotionally. Did everything "work" in the film? Perhaps not. I've only seen it twice, and the first time I saw it I was interruped a number of times. However, with all the assembly-line junk playing the multiplexes and with so much "alternative" film being fetishistic or pretentious shot-on-video film-school rejects, we need actual Hollywood-made experimentation like this. The recent Bob Dylan film "Masked and Anonymous" took similar chances as did something like Steven Soderbergh's FULL FRONTAL. This film could find an audience much larger than either of those. If you are reading this review a few years from now and the idea of this film sounds intriguing, see if it has ever been released on video. You will NOT be bored. Invite some friends over...make it a party. Play the amazing soundtrack LOUD. I have a feeling that, wherever he is in the afterlife, Ed Wood is happy with this film and feels as though his unique vision has been justified and validated somewhat by the making of this film. Wood's probably also laughing that, just like he always seemed to get the bad breaks in life, the film made in tribute to him after his death is held up in lawsuits and sits unreleased in the country of its making.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
riveting French crime film with great performances from Henry Silva and Jack Klugman, 13 August 2003
10/10

Writer-director-producer Raoul Levy hit a home run with this moody, intelligent, very-well acted crime film. On the surface, the plot seems simple--mafia soldiers Henry Silva and Jack Klugman are on an assignment to kill a former mafia guy played by Eddie Constantine. But the story--and most of the film--is really about the relationship between Henry Silva's and Jack Klugman's characters, and both give brilliant performances. I would never have thought of this pair of actors together, but as well as I know each of their works, I saw only the two characters, real people, not the actors. Eddie Constantine is not in the film all that much--it's Klugman and Silva's movie. Raoul Levy is probably best known here in the US as the producer of five Bridget Bardot films and of the underrated THE DEFECTOR, the last movie of Montgomery Clift. The washed-out monochrome photography by Raoul Coutard, the brilliant jazz score by Hubert Rostaing, and Levy's intelligent, literate script all come together in a powerful film that will pack an unexpected wallop for those expecting just another euro-crime film. No wonder Henry Silva's european career took off right after this film. The existential plot could easily have been from a spaghetti western or a samurai film, and anyone who has ever considered those genres (and the euro-crime film) as metaphors for life and society should find a copy of this film as soon as possible. For me, one of the five best European-made crime films of the 1960's, and I've seen hundreds of them.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
fascinating but awkward Cold War melodrama, with familiar exploitation names, 20 December 2003
4/10

The backstory of this film is perhaps more interesting than the film itself--director Robert Dertano of Gun Girls and Girl Gang fame, teamed with exploitation photographer William C. Thompson, teamed with Tor Johnson (in one scene only), teamed with producer Stephen Apostolof (aka A. C. Stephen)whose own story as a refugee from communist Bulgaria this film tells. In its waning days (from 1955 on), Republic Pictures distributed some off-beat films in order to pad out its release schedule, as the studio no longer produced much of its own product. While Republic films were usually low-budget, they always had a slick, professional, assembly-line quality. However,This film has the murky, minimalist, semi-professional look of Dertano's earlier exploitation classics, and the first third of it is chock-full of stock footage and newsreel clips of riots and foreign cities. The difference is that instead of being set in drug dens and abortion doctors' offices, this film tries in its no-budget way to suggest foreign settings, which gives it an odd, otherworldly feeling, like the interiors in a 1930s z-grade jungle film. Also, the first two-thirds of the film feature a first-person narration from a Bulgarian communist official's point-of-view, a sort of "We'll bury you" kind of snide, threatening narration, although this is dropped after a certain point. I'm not sure about star Jacques Scott's accent, but otherwise he does a convincing job as an ambitious but naive freedom-loving refugee. The rest of the cast, some of whom will be familiar from exploitation films, are semi-amateur. Apostolof/Stephen is credited with production of the film, and with the "industry professionals" he relied on being Thompson and Dertano, it's no wonder the film has such a seedy look and semi-amateur feel. The melodramatic turn of the plot in the last half of the film really takes the film away from any anti-communist, freedom-loving message and turns it into low-grade melodrama. A fascinating curio that is of historic significance, but JOURNEY TO FREEDOM is not really that entertaining and, ironically, will probably appeal most to fans of Dertano's other films such as WRESTLING RACKET GIRLS or GUN GIRLS. It's a shame that they didn't think to cast Timothy Farrell in this film--what a great communist boss he would have made, or a sleazy party operative! Apostolof's next film was eight years later, ORGY OF THE DEAD. Both films have a few things in common--an idea that is more interesting than the actual product, a number of recognizable exploitation names, and a film that has a good "angle" to market but is actually somewhat boring to watch.

3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
entertaining lowbrow comedy;Anderson & O'Connell are great comic pairing!, 20 January 2003
9/10

After seeing the trailer for this about five times at recent films, I had NO desire to see it. However, as a good parent, I took my daughter and her friend to see it. To my surprise, it was a very funny lowbrow comedy worthy of Abbott and Costello, but with special effects (and not as talky!). Also, Jerry O'Connell and Anthony Anderson are a VERY funny comedy team with superb comic timing. I went into this film expecting to hate it, and now I would actually pay to see another film that paired these two (The kangaroo is actually not an important element in the film, certainly not as much as the trailer implies). Of course, this is NOT recommended for people who do not find Bowery Boys or Police Academy films funny, but I do, and I feel that the filmmakers successfully achieved what they set out to do with this film. And that's really the litmus test for any film. Whether or not any individual LIKES what the filmmakers set out to do is a matter of taste.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
old-time, small-town vaudeville review, w/ crime plot grafted on, 7 September 2003
5/10

Kentucky Jubilee is a valuable film historically because it captures the waning days of vaudeville, when it still had some hold in the small towns of rural America, and presents artists who would NEVER have been seen in a major-studio production. While the film has a tongue-in-cheek crime plot involving Jimmie "Shamrock" Ellison and Raymond Hatton (both fresh from the Monogram Johnny Mack Brown series AND the six Lippert westerns that director Ron Ormond shot in one month the year before), the centerpoint of the film is a number of unsophisticated vaudeville routines--cornpone comics, contortionists, country duo singers, etc. The host of the show and a character in the "frame story" also is bug-eyed in-your-face comedian Jerry Colonna, probably remembered best for his time with the late Bob Hope. That Lippert Pictures would release films such as this and a minstrel show film as late as 1951 says a lot about the small-town audiences who consumed Lippert films (there's an interesting section on the minstrel show film in Nick Tosches' book about Emmett Miller). Ellison has always been a charming leading man and Hatton is a seasoned pro (dating back to the silent era!) always worth watching, plus the film is a who's-who of late 40s b-movie supporting players, from Vince Barnett to Fritz Feld to Michael Whalen and Jack Dietzen. So if you find a Ron Ormond-directed vaudeville film with Jimmie "Shamrock" Ellison a tempting proposition, this film is for you. Those interested in the history of popular entertainment should also find it worthwhile...and it's not a bad way to waste 70 minutes.

Kick (1920)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
complete misfire--a slapstick ode to alcoholism and wife-beating. No thanks!, 20 February 2005
1/10

Milburn Morante had a long career in Hollywood, spanning from the teens to the 1950-51 season when he was doing small roles at Monogram. A tall gangly character made for slapstick, he made many silent comedies that I haven't seen, and I know him best for his small supporting roles (often unbilled) in poverty row sound films. What a shame that of his silents that are circulating, one of the easiest to find is KICK, a tasteless "comedy" dealing with a spineless husband who is dominated by his wife. She dreams of having a caveman style husband who will beat her to show his love. Simultaneously, Morante is having a hard time dealing with prohibition because he can't drink. So he gets a home brew kit, brews up a batch of beer, drinks it and gets plastered, hits his wife and gives her a black eye, and now she is happy because she knows he loves her, and presumably he's happy now that he is drunk again. Doesn't that sound like a laugh riot? Believe me, it's as tasteless and unfunny as it sounds. Harry Langdon's HEART TROUBLE is lost, yet this thing survives! Reelcraft films made dozens of comedy shorts during the 1920-21 season--I have seen one with Billy Franey and it was a good, solid piece of low budget slapstick. But this is a complete misfire. What were the makers of this thinking???? (And to add insult to injury, unless my timer is off, this runs OVER twenty minutes!)

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
surreal 1930s comedy short based around cartoonist Jefferson Machamer, 27 November 2004
8/10

Along with the comedy shorts of Joe Cook, this 1937 short featuring cartoonist Jefferson Machamer is one of the most surreal 1930s American comedy shorts I've seen. Of course, the whole idea of building a short around a working cartoonist playing himself would require an odd premise to be interesting for 17 minutes, and this one has Machamer (who takes time to sketch a few ladies on easels that just happen to be handy)enrolling in a Art Correspondence School-- which magically comes alive lesson-by-lesson in his mailbox at the post office and features lovely women hosting the lessons. Aided by his sidekick "Cloudy" (played by Henry Jines), Machamer (who wrote the short also) free associates his way through the short with all kinds of absurd literalisms and he has a wonderfully engaging screen persona, kind of like a better-natured Dabney Coleman! I saw this about 20 years ago, and just watched it again, and I really don't know what to compare it to. I'm reminded of the 1950s British radio show "The Goon Show" or Monty Python--and of course, Machamer's colleague at Educational Pictures a few years earlier, Joe Cook, and his comic surrealism. Are all of Machamer's comedy shorts this off-the-wall and this well done? This short could have wide appeal today if it were shown on television or made available on DVD. My copy is from an Official Films 16mm print, but unlike many of those, it does retain its Educational Pictures opening credits after the "Official" logo. This is the kind of short that once seen is not easily forgotten. Bravo to cartoonist Machamer for being such a pioneer. Is it too much to hope that someday someone could find all the extant Machamer shorts (the IMDb lists seven) and release them?

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
gritty b&w sexy Argen.crime film,with US-added color inserts, 1 December 2002

This is a review of the US release LOVE HUNGER, which takes an excellent 1962 Argentinian crime film, set in a desolate rural area, dubs it into English and adds a 12 minute color US-shot nudie sequence as a "flashback" story told by one of the characters. The original film, with three escaped convicts hiding out in the shack of an eccentric old man in a desolate rural area, and then seeing the beautiful buxom Libertad Leblanc who is at first thought to be a vision, is a raw and gritty crime film that holds up well today and is surely even better in its original Spanish-language version. The US color insert sequence does feature a lovely blonde running around nude, so I can't complain about it, although it does break the continuity of a tense and dramatic film. However, it is cleverly set up in the newly-dubbed dialog of the original film, so it's not as disruptive as it could have been. Altogether, this is a worthwhile film for those who like sexy Latin American crime films of the early 60s, and for fans of the lovely Ms. Leblanc. An interesting footnote: the trailer to this is added at the end of the video, and it features ONLY footage from the color insert, giving you NO IDEA what 95% of the film is like. Ironically, the b&w feature is a hundred times better than the insert, so while the ad is cheesy and deceptive, it might have brought horny guys into the theatre, where they would see a much better film than had been advertised (and there IS nudity in the original, so really the inserts are unnecessary, except that they allowed the distributors to put "scenes in color" on the movie poster and to have a color trailer). All in all, an interesting obscurity, thankfully rescued by SWV.

13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
atmospheric European horror with Cameron Mitchell as mad scientist developing killer plants, 21 November 2004
8/10

I hadn't watched this film for about 15 years, but after watching it again I must say that it works quite well. There is an excellent sense of atmosphere created, and Cameron Mitchell underplays his part more in the manner of a Karloff than of a Lugosi (as this is really an update of the old "mad doctor" films of the 30s and 40s). We take six diverse people--an unhappy married couple with a younger wife, a scientist, an older eccentric lady who is voiced in a Fran Drescher manner, a heroic young man (George Martin), and a desirable young woman for him to be interested in--who choose to vacation at the estate of a Count who is engaged in odd scientific research, and watch them deal with the gradual sense of doom...and the gradually more aggressive killer plants developed by Cameron Mitchell. The film is well-paced, and it leads to an exciting climax. MANEATER OF HYDRA/ISLAND OF THE DOOMED must have looked great on a massive drive-in screen back in 1967--it's still worth seeing today for the fan of 60's Euro-horror and for fans of the great Cameron Mitchell (although Mitchell does not dub his own voice).

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
satisfying 70's Italian variation on the Old Dark House horror genre, 1 April 2006
9/10

SEVEN DEATHS IN THE CAT'S EYE is not really a standard "Giallo" by any stretch of the imagination. It's actually a 1970's Italian variation on the Old Dark House genre--it even hearkens back to early sound films such as THE MONSTER WALKS and silent films such as THE CAT AND THE CANARY--but with a Hitchcock and Tennessee Williams twist, and all done in the stylish Gothic manner that Italians do so well. Jane Birkin is a girl home from boarding school to an old castle with the ultimate dysfunctional family. Hiram Keller, of FELLINI SATYRICON fame, is superb as James, the outcast of the home who turns out to be the only sane one. It's a florid, over-the-top performance that makes me want to search out more of the late Mr. Keller's obscure European films. And it's a hoot to see (but not hear) Serge Gainsbourg as a Scottish police inspector (he's dubbed). The mysterious cat motif works well, and there is a sly sense of humor and good fun throughout the entire film, but enough murders and atmosphere and mystery to make the experience well worth you time. This is not the kind of film to over-analyze--just enjoy it and let yourself go along for the ride as if you are on a roller coaster or in a fun-house. The widescreen transfer looks nice and the beautiful, rich colors come through well. I can imagine pulling this film out again every year or so and still being entertained. Recommended!

14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
fascinating Italian 70's mystery, shot in Australia, starring Ray Milland, 1 April 2006
10/10

Those expecting a sleazy, gory late entry in the "giallo" cycle of Italian cinema might be let down at THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE, but the film is actually a superb murder mystery, a fascinating character study, a police procedural, and a visually striking experience. Perhaps it's best to say that it was "inspired by a true story," since much liberty is taken with the original Australian case on which the film is based (and the Blue Underground DVD has as an extra an interview with investigative Australian author Richard Evans, who wrote a book about the real case from the 1930's). Ray Milland stars as a retired detective who spends time most of his time in his greenhouse (is this an allusion to the Columbo episode where Milland was into gardening?) but is brought out of retirement by a baffling case where an unknown corpse is found charred and decayed in an abandoned car on a beach. The police must first find who the woman is before finding who killed her. All the while as this story is being told we are following a second plot which I won't divulge here. At about the mid-point it seems as though the film might be nearly over, but it takes another turn and the chronologies of the stories become clear. As a regular watcher and reader of murder mysteries, the red herring characters were clear to me, the identity of the victim was no surprise, and the solution to the crime was not as much of a surprise as other IMDb reviews seem to think. However, I was riveted the way I am in a good Columbo episode thinking about the HOW and the WHY of the crime, and the clever way in which the various threads are tied together. Milland is, as always, superb, bringing many interesting quirks to the character of Thompson the retired detective. Michele Placido is impressive as the Italian immigrant waiter who is a major player in the parallel story, and Mel Ferrer is his usual suave self as a Professor who is having an affair with Placido's wife, who is played by the lovely Dalila Di Lazzaro. Fortunately, Milland and Ferrer provide their own voices. Howard Ross is also memorable as a vain and brutal German who is also having an affair with Dalila. While Riz Ortalani's music is largely the thumping electric euro-funk one expects in a 1977 film, it's much more subtle than, say, a soundtrack by Goblin, and two songs by Amanda Lear (my wife asked me "is that Nico?") are haunting and perfect, although many will find themselves initially put off by her singing. I don't think I can get the main song of hers out of my head. I had always considered buying a pan-and-scan VHS of this, but I'm glad I waited for the new and beautiful widescreen DVD. The Australian locations for the film as surprising and shot in an unexpected way that is fresh and makes the background an important character. I've been waiting to see this for two decades, and while it wasn't exactly what I was expecting, I was completely satisfied by it and watched it twice the day I bought it. Mystery fans and those into 70's Italian genre films should not miss it. However, don't expect the level of sex and violence you're usually provided in such films.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
interesting expose of 1930s quack radio-doctors, 16 September 2004
7/10

One of the last Republic films produced by the great Nat Levine, of Mascot Pictures fame, this stars Robert Livingston (The Three Mesquiteers) as a crusading young doctor out to smash the influence of quack doctors pitching their dangerous pseudo-scientific treatments over the radio waves. Obviously, the film is based on doctors such as the infamous Dr. John Brinkley, the "goat gland surgeon" who had a thriving radio-based business in the 1920s and 1930s (the quack doctor here, with an army of attorneys just like Brinkley had, as called Kennedy). Directed by Irving Pichel (maker of the classic QUICKSAND, among many others), LARCENY ON THE AIR plays like a medical version of a standard crime film, but like any Levine production or Pichel film, it's well-paced and wastes no time getting started. The leading lady is Grace Bradley, who married William "Hopalong Cassidy" Boyd this same year, playing a character much more complex than she at first seems to be. There are a lot of little-known but fine non-western, non-serial films made at Republic in the pre-World War II era. This is one of the many that are worth rediscovering.

18 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Lush, entertaining Arabian-set fantasy with Tab Hunter, but not his voice, 11 March 2005
8/10

If you are looking for a mindless but entertaining fantasy film that would be great for children, has a lot of exciting twists and turns and magical happenings, THE GOLDEN ARROW fills the bill nicely. Tab Hunter is perfect visually as the outcast who must prove himself and defeat all foes to win the hand of his love. As this featured a major star, it had a bigger budget than many cheap Italian costume epics with lesser-known Americans (it's comparable to, say , a Steve Reeves movie), so it's colorful and visually exciting. Director Antonio Margheriti (aka Anthony Dawson) turned out all kinds of genre films in the 60s and after--westerns, peplums, horror, spy, erotic, giallo, science fiction, etc--and generally produced an exciting, fast-moving product. The only flaw with this film--and, unfortunately, it's a major one-- is that Tab Hunter did not dub his own voice in the English version of the film (at least in the one I'm watching). That seems odd because Hunter has a distinctive voice that would have been well-known to American audiences of the day (as opposed to, say, Brad Harris or Richard Harrison or even Steve Reeves--who would know what THEIR real voices sounded like?). Also, in other European films that are quite obscure and were certainly NOT made with the US theatrical market in mind--films like SHOTGUN and THE LAST CHANCE-- Hunter DOES do his own voice. He certainly is doing his own voice in Sidney Pink's Spanish-made FICKLE FINGER OF FATE (See my review). Why MGM, a major studio, would not have paid Hunter to spend a few days in post-synchronization I don't understand. The voice assigned him is not TOO ill-fitting for his character, but it clearly is not Tab Hunter. While I enjoy the film and have watched it a few times over the years, I find it difficult to forget this as I'm watching THE GOLDEN ARROW. Still, it's a fun way to kill 90 minutes on a rainy afternoon, and it looks great (my copy is letter-boxed, fortunately). If it had featured Mr. Hunter's own voice, I'd consider it a classic.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
OK Italian Roman-era mini-spectacle with Richard Harrison, first film of director Alfonso Brescia/Al Bradley, 16 December 2003
7/10

This was the first film directed by the infamous Alfonso Brescia, aka Al Bradley. He directed some awful films, yet he also scored a bullseye now and then, such as with CONQUEROR OF ATLANTIS or with TURN...I'LL KILL YOU. This film is a solid Italian costume adventure, starring the great Richard Harrison as Valerius, a member of the Pretorian guard who has had enough of the excesses of dictatorial emperor Domitian, so he adopts the guise of the "Red Wolf" and secretly fights against the ruler and brings others together in a struggle for freedom. Harrison is joined in his effort by Giuliano Gemma, a actor popular with both peplum and eurowestern fans. This film has a different look from many peplums and costume spectacles, and contains some interesting camera angles and creatively framed shots. Brescia/Bradley clearly could be inventive when he wanted to be. REVOLT OF THE PRETORIANS seems to be little-known among American peplum fans and Richard Harrison fans--it deserves to be better-known and should satisfy fans of the genre.

Italian caper-heist comedy with Frank Wolff, 7 November 2004
6/10

In this Italian-French caper-heist comedy, recently released thief and safecracker Frank Wolff is hired to steal a weapons system from a government fortress (the first few scenes of the film look like a z-grade space opera as men look at screens and dials during a missile take-off). As is usually the case in these caper films, he puts together a motley crew of comic types, but since this is more of a comedy with crime elements than a crime film with comic touches, there is a lot of buffoonery and the result is much more like a euro version of WHO'S MINDING THE MINT rather than of GRAND SLAM. One of the more interesting touches in this film is the offbeat Swingle Singers-style "vocalese" heard through much of the soundtrack-- It lends a classy touch to the proceedings. Otherwise, I didn't find this film particularly memorable. The comedy is passable, and the film moves quickly, but when the things I find most interesting about a film are the cars in it and the musical score, I know I haven't seen a classic. If a dubbed European espionage-caper comedy is what you're looking for, then I guess MILLION DOLLAR COUNTDOWN is for you, but I wouldn't go to any great lengths to acquire a copy.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
starts off slow, but this Fabio Testi/David Hemmings euro-crime film eventually delivers the goods, 17 February 2005
9/10

When I first saw this film many years ago, I was put off by its slow and fragmented first ten minutes, featuring scenes of (gratuitous!) drug use in various parts of the world. Also, I had just seen David Hemmings' other Italian crime film from this year, SWINDLE with Tomas Milian (directed by Bruno Corbucci), which was INCREDIBLE, and this did not seem as good. However, once the film kicks into gear after fifteen minutes or so, it is quite good and features some incredible stunt work, imaginative action sequences, exciting guitar-driven music from Goblin (not as repetitive as some of their work), a wonderful over-the-top performance by David Hemmings as an interpol narcotics investigator, and a cool, smoldering performance by Fabio Testi as an undercover cop out to bust the international drug trade. As a later 70s product, this film features unnecessary closeup shots of drug use and some gratuitous nudity (a lesbian scene presented as a FANTASY of a minor character!), but there's not enough of either to derail what becomes a nail-biting action film. The final fifteen to twenty minutes of HEROIN BUSTERS are incredible--the motorcycle chase in the subway, which leads into an outrageous airplane chase--some of the most interesting and daredevil action-film stunt-work I've seen in a while. The film also has nice bursts of humor here and there (such as when Hemmings, chasing a crook, gets a ride from a young lady on a motorcycle and has to grab on to her breast to hold on!) and was quite satisfying on all levels. It does start slow, however, so don't give up on it (or fast forward through some of the initial scenes). What a "golden age" of Italian crime films the 1970's was--even a standard genre entry turns out to be a gem, the likes of which would NEVER be made today.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
quirky, episodic Eurowestern comedy, pairing Tomas Milian and Gregg Palmer, 24 November 2004
5/10

As someone who saw many Italian westerns theatrically in the late 60s and early 70s, I could feel the genre dying out as there were more spaghetti western comedies released and more films that introduced weirdness for weirdness' sake. SOMETIMES LIFE IS HARD, EH PROVIDENCE is an episodic Italian western comedy, with the amazing chameleon actor Tomas Milian as an eccentric foppish man in a bowler hat, named PROVIDENCE. He has a partner named Hurricane Smith, played by veteran film and TV actor Gregg Palmer. At first, their relationship is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach in THE GOOD, THE BAD, and THE UGLY, as they turn each other in for rewards and Milian pulls Palmer behind him on a rope. As the film's picaresque adventures continue, they encounter and attempt to con various other characters, they get put in jail, they escape, they make a lot of money, they lose a lot of money, etc. There are a lot of funny sequences here, and the two stars do a wonderful job and have a great chemistry, but the film was a little too episodic for me and it didn't seem like it was headed anywhere in particular. Maybe I wasn't in the right mood (I saw it first about ten years ago, and just recently watched it again). There was a sequel made a year later with the same stars, but a different director. I'll watch it again sometime soon to see if it's much different from this. Perhaps a nicely transferred DVD widescreen edition could revise my view of this film. Overall, it's recommended to Milian fans and to fans of "mismatched buddy" films (I was reminded, in a strange way, of the Jackie Chan-Owen Wilson films, and the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker films, and of course the Trinity films, although for me the PROVIDENCE films are more interesting and creative than the Trinity films). Director Guilio Petroni had previously worked with Milian on the underrated BLOOD AND GUNS (released in the US on VHS and probably easy to find), and of course is best known for the great DEATH RIDES A HORSE, also widely available on VHS. Also worth mentioning are the Three Stooges-style slapstick sound effects and an over-the-top score by Ennio Morricone with what sounds like a children's chorus singing odes to "Provvidenza". SOMETIMES LIFE IS HARD, EH PROVIDENCE certainly has a lot of odd and interesting elements in it, thrown together into a unique mix. While I may sound somewhat critical of it, it's a hard film to dislike.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
interesting US/Argen. mid-60s horror patchwork, 1 December 2002
7/10

As this film mixes Argentinian and US footage, I was expecting something in the Jerry Warren vein; however, the Argentinian scenes are dubbed and presented whole, and the US scenes are far more than just framing devices. In fact, I'd say the majority of the film is US-shot. The Arg. footage is taken from an adaptation of Poe's TELL-TALE HEART, which is then used as a dream sequence and a haunted memory of an old man serving time in a prison in the US footage. The US footage is very low budget using only a few actors and a few small sets, and some limited location work, but it is effective in creating a mysterious atmosphere. The older prisoner, Sidney, and his younger cellmate, Pierre, are well-played, although I don't know who plays who in the film...sorry. As for the "magicmation" aspect of the film, it only appears twice, and for about 5 seconds total, and it's the only part of the film in color, although the black and white photography in both the US and Argentinian footage is quite good and atmospheric. If you consider HOUSE OF THE BLACK DEATH or TERROR OF THE BLOODHUNTERS classics, as I do, then this film is worth seeking out. There is no doubt an interesting production history to Legend of Horror. I don't see any other IMDB credits for US director Bill Davies, but he does a lot with very little here and I would be interested to know what else he has done. It's hard to believe this didn't play theatrically until 1972, as is claimed. The Argentinian footage looks circa 1961 or so, and the US footage looks circa 1965. Perhaps some intrepid cult-film researcher can track down Bill Davies or someone else who worked on the film and do an interview.

20 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
Italian historical melodrama, like an old pulp men's magazine story come to life, 9 December 2003
7/10

According to the IMDB, this was American star Guy Madison's second European film, after SLAVE OF ROME and before SWORD OF THE CONQUEROR and EXECUTIONER OF VENICE. Madison went on to have a successful and prolific "second career" in Europe throughout the 1960's. This film plays very much like an old pulp men's magazine story come to life. A boatload of scantilly clad and sweaty female convicts from France are on their way to Devil's Island, the infamous French penal colony on the coast of South America. One of them is also looking for her sister. We are treated to various abusive policies by the corrupt prison-camp management and guards, along with sexual exploitation of the women by officials looking to trade favors for attention (don't get excited here--you could show this film to an eight-year-old!). Thirty minutes into the film, handsome, rugged Guy Madison arrives to take over administration of the penal colony, and he's something of a reformer, stopping the abuse and punishing those who do not respect the human rights of the prisoners. That doesn't win him any popularity among the old guard. Madison also falls in love with one of the prisoners, but Madison's character is not exactly what he seems to be, and there's also a question of a cache of hidden gold... Unfortunately, Mr. Madison does not dub his own voice, although the voice assigned to him is not too distracting. He plays the role with class and authority. The rest of the cast, with exaggerated gestures and exaggerated dubbing, along with the period costumes and the low-budget historical settings, give the whole thing a pulp-magazine-illustration feel. Collectors of women-in-prison films may want to seek this out as an early (and tame) example of the genre, and Guy Madison fans should be satisfied (even though he doesn't appear for 30 minutes into the film), but overall I'd rate it only "average" among early 60s Italian costume dramas.

Director Domenico Paolella directed many excellent costume adventures and peplum films, and later the intense Eurowestern HATE FOR HATE, and worked with many American actors in the 60s.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
interesting adult view of 1950s disaffected French twenty-somethings, 13 December 2003
9/10

This late 50s French study of disaffected youth (in their early 20's, actually--"grown up", but not yet settled down into the adult world) probably missed the mark by a mile in terms of being an accurate depiction of 1958 French youth (don't virtually ALL youth films made by adults do this? The ones that don't--River's Edge comes to mind-- are rare indeed), but director-writer Marcel Carne, of Les Enfants du Paradis fame, is too accurate an observer of humanity to NOT provide an insightful view of the essence of these characters. In a sense, the details are not important--you could change the details and set this film today and it would work just as well--but the loneliness and insecurity and superficial passion and self-righteous anger of the characters is captured well. The young Pierre Brice and Jean-Paul Belmondo are in supporting roles, but leads Jacques Charrier, Laurent Terzieff, Pascale Petit, and Andrea Parisy play the roles with subtlety and depth. There is also a fine jazz score, which you can get on the CD JAZZ IN PARIS--JAZZ & CINEMA VOL. 2. Unlike some who have commented on the film, I don't really see director-writer Carne as sitting in judgment on these characters--he seems as though he is an objective observer to me. Of course, these middle-class characters may seem like people who are spoiled and have nothing to whine about to some working-class viewers of the film, and I think Carne is certainly aware of this. For this American viewer (I watched a dubbed, fairly literally I'd say, version of this titled THE CHEATERS), the film provides an interesting window into the France of the 1950s. It also is self-consciously poetic (the scene on the ledge, saving the cat, is but one example of this) and has intellectual aspirations in that charming way that only French films can get away with--I can imagine the heavy-handed, melodramatic, shallow way this kind of material would have been handled by an American studio production, and the sensationalistic, moralistic, suggestive way this kind of material would have been handled by American drive-in/exploitation filmmakers. I feel that Marcel Carne has captured the essence of that period between, say, high school graduation and when, by one's early 30s, people have largely settled into a routine, whatever that routine may be. Those willing to watch the film with an open mind and not fire away at the many easy targets it offers should find a serious and valuable study of people in their early twenties. And even if you don't want to do that, you can go in the other room while the film is playing and simply enjoy the fine soundtrack, with great 50s jazz and instrumental pop, including the wonderful original score by an American "Jazz at the Philharmonic" group including Coleman Hawkins, Dizzy Gillespie, Stan Getz (spelled "goetz" in the credits), Roy Eldridge, and Ray Brown.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Lang Jeffries defends persecuted Christians against Nero--OK historical adventure, 2 November 2003
7/10

Perhaps because of the success of his earlier film REVOLT OF THE SLAVES, Lang Jeffries was cast again as a man fighting for the persecuted Christians against the Roman Empire in this film made two years later. While in the first film Jeffries was a slave, here he is a Roman military leader who loses his commission and is taken into custody for his defense of Christians who are tortured and persecuted by Nero and his henchmen. Jeffries is not featured particularly well in this film and he is not allowed to dub his own (very distinctive!) voice. His hairstyle also is not particularly flattering. Still, he plays the role convincingly and looks concerned, although he disappears for stretches of time throughout the film. Nero is once again depicted as an over-the-top yet effeminate dictator-clown. While he does not fiddle as Rome burns, he does pluck his lyre while Rome burns! I don't have a problem with the cheesy animation/model depiction of the fires--after all, this is a low budget film. One interesting detail is that in the indoor scenes shot on soundstages (and there are few exteriors here), the steam from the actors' mouths is visible when they talk! Some of the apostles are also worked into the plot of this film as is God, but you'll have to see it yourself to see how. Overall, this is a slightly above average "persecuted Christians" Roman empire costume drama and features an above average American star, Lang Jeffries, who is unfortunately not used that well in the film. It's probably only for the serious peplum (and by the way, Jeffries keeps his shirt on for virtually the whole film) and Italian historical-adventure fan.

7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
surprising pathos-filled change-of-pace for Abbott and Costello, 12 May 2004
9/10

Included in the second of Universal's multi-disc DVD sets of Abbott and Costello, LITTLE GIANT is a charming film, full of pathos, and NOT a standard A&C comedy. First, Abbott and Costello are not a team here. It's basically Costello's film, with Abbott in a dual role as both the film's antagonist and the antagonist's cousin, who befriends Costello. Second, the comedy is more physical than is usual for A&C and less verbal. It proves what a fine physical comedian Costello was. Third, the film tries for pathos instead of pure slapstick, and strays into territory more associated with Chaplin or Harry Langdon or even Jerry Lewis (as in Hardly Working, which this film reminded me of). Once again, Costello proves his talent as an actor of quality and depth. I applaud Universal for trying to develop the talents of Abbott and Costello in films such as this one and THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES, which followed it. Interestingly, after these two changes-of-pace for A&C, Universal played it safe by doing a sequel to BUCK PRIVATES, their first solo smash. Abbott does a nice job in both roles (obviously, the "positions" of his toupee were intentional!). A shame he did not get more character roles such as these. With the wide circulation the new DVD boxset will give LITTLE GIANT, I feel it will gain a new and understanding audience who will appreciate the chances the film takes. Finally, the wonderful Elena Verdugo is as charming as ever.

12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Elvis' strangest film starts out great,but second half weak, 1 August 2001
8/10

This must be Elvis' strangest film. It starts off in high gear, throws in a lot of mysterious twists, features a beautiful and funny co-star (Michele Carey--where are you? We need you back!), and has an intriguing soundtrack which doesn't sound remotely like anything else Elvis ever recorded--it even has a freak-out sequence, with the King singing a psychedelic song! I'm guessing that the creators of this film wanted to make a "swinging sixties" version of a screwball comedy, and they almost succeeded. For the first half, I thought I'd discovered a lost classic...or at least a lost camp classic! However, about mid-way through, the breakneck pace slows down, the weirdness goes away, and the rest of the film stumbles along like a mediocre sitcom. Still, no one could accuse this oddity of being a "formula" film, at least the first half. And this Elvis fan would much rather watch this or the equally quirky THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS than watch GI BLUES or BLUE HAWAII. TCM showed this letterboxed, the way it should be seen, so you might want to wait a year or two until a DVD comes out...or at least until TCM has another Elvis festival and shows the letterboxed version at 3 a.m...rather than watch it panned and scanned. I think that anyone with the least interest in Elvis would enjoy watching this film, if only for the freakout sequence with the song "Edge of Reality."

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
wonderful 1963 UK rock-and-roll film, with David Hemmings and distinctive Joe Meek music, but not for all tastes!, 25 March 2005
9/10

I've been watching some of the US (dating before Hard Day's Night) rock and roll movies over the last few months, and this UK effort from 1963 is much better than virtually all of them. First, it's very well acted and the script is full of little details that make the characters seem real--the Dad who works the night shift and rides on his son, but privately hopes that the son proves him wrong and stands up to him; the Mom who once had been an entertainer of some sort and understands her son's need to perform, but is also grounded in the real world; the hilarious American TV and film producer who is a tasteless and boorish man (kind of like Jack Palance's character in CONTEMPT but funnier) yet incredibly creative in his own strange way (a shame he didn't arrive on the scene 30 years later, he could have worked for the Fox Network!). David Hemmings does a fantastic job as the young messenger-service worker who buys all the music magazines, practices the guitar, listens to records all the time, and has the burning desire to play rock and roll. UK singing sensation and Joe Meek protégé Heinz Burt, whose records I always enjoyed (and who sings a few songs here), handles the acting well also as a member of Hemmings' band (as is a young Steve Marriott). As for the music, well, how much do you like Joe Meek's patented other-worldly production sound? I played my fiancée a few of the songs, and she asked "is that sea of echo and all the distortion intentional?" Yes is the answer. Meek also wrote virtually all the music in the film, including one number sung by Gene Vincent (I thought I had most of Vincent's records, but I sure as heck do not have this Meek-produced song, which Vincent sings while polishing some huge steam-powered locomotive or something, and while flirting with a young lady). Some of the female Meek vocalists are a little imprecise in the intonation department, and on the whole the rockers work better than the ballads, which tend to be of the moon/June variety. But the rockers are incredible, including the title track, LIVE IT UP, which is performed a few times in the film. Some of Meek's fine instrumental units perform too, and it's fascinating to see a world depicted where the musical backdrop is produced by Joe Meek. It's like some kind of alternate universe. My copy is a few generations removed from a UHF TV broadcast in the early 80's (probably the last period when one could see something like this on TV), and it also sports the much less interesting US release title SING AND SWING. For any fan of Joe Meek or of David Hemmings, this is an amazing film, and as an American I find the depiction of the up and coming British rocker quite convincing. I wish that I had seen this film as a child back in the 60s--I didn't see it at all until the late 1980's. It is crying out for a DVD release. Fans of 1960's rock and roll films should track this one down...

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
fast-moving, unpretentious Republic programmer, 26 August 2004
8/10

Best known for its serials and westerns, Republic Pictures also regularly made mysteries and crime dramas throughout its lifespan. The ones from the post-World War II-era are very little known, and while I've seen some misfires among them, many are solid b-movies that are always competently made, well-acted by the supporting casts, and completely unpretentious. Republic's output in this era always had a slick look, and never had a very dark or fatalistic feel to them (DECOY or DETOUR would never be Republic releases!), so those seeking hard-boiled noir should probably seek out obscure PRC or Eagle-Lion or Film Classics or even Lippert releases. However, LONELY HEART BANDITS is a fine little b-programmer, with a con-man and his female partner fleecing and sometimes killing lonely people who answer personal ads for romantic partners. The film wastes no time in getting started, and features a wonderfully evil performance by veteran supporting player John Eldredge, well-known for his appearances in many Universal, Monogram, and Republic productions. He probably loved playing this juicy role, as a "distinguished" older man who charms rich widows, marries them, takes their money, and sometimes (when he feels it's "necessary") kills them. There are no surprises here, and like much of Republic's 1950s output it plays a lot like a TV episode, but I found it to be an entertaining way to kill an hour. Of special interest is a memorable performance by Kathleen Freeman (fine comic actress, known for many roles in Jerry Lewis films) as Bertha, a friend of the heroine, who finds a man who is perfectly suited for her (you'll see what I mean by that!) through a lonely hearts club. During one of her scenes, Ms. Freeman does a beautiful job with a speech about how it feels to be lonely and without love. What a great talent she was--she will be missed. Overall, LONELY HEART BANDITS is not something you need to track down immediately, but is a solid b-movie that achieves what it set out to do.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
exciting Italian crime film, but also serious study of corruption, 21 December 2003
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

SPOILER ALERT!!! While some Italian crime films (particularly post-1977 ones) are just mindless violence (particularly violence against women), many pre-1977 ones are serious commentary on corruption and the justice system in Italy...and by extension to other Western countries. THE BIG FAMILY is such a film. The Mob is in charge at the film's beginning, the Mob is in charge at the film's end. Anyone who challenges it is killed or somehow taken out of the picture. A police inspector or prosecutor who is making progress may suddenly get the offer of a significant promotion...to another part of the country. Every branch of the government...and the church...is compromised. American businessman Richard Conte can come to Sicily hoping to do some construction projects and thinking that his friendship with the Don back in New York will help him here and that he doesn't have to play by the local rules. An honest cop works hard and makes countless sacrifices, and many good people die because he keeps on his quest. Eventually, he nabs the top man...and it turns out he has achieved nothing and he is back at square one. Even the top man is expendable to the overall survival of the big family. I was impressed by this film when I saw it fifteen years ago, and I'm still impressed with it today. It has enough action to satisfy any fan of 1970's Italian crime films, one of the most exciting genres in film history, but it also has a sobering message, one that is relevant to anyone watching the film anywhere. Although both CROSS CURRENT and GREAT TREASURE HUNT have their moments, THE BIG FAMILY is probably Tonino Ricci's most successful film as a director (I haven't seen his recent family films, although I especially want to see the Buck film with John Savage, nor have I seen the shark film with Treat Williams). Highly recommended to fans of the genre and those willing to see the value in a dubbed genre film.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
excellent Italian swashbuckler starring big-band singer Johnny Desmond, 5 October 2003
9/10

In the mid-1500s, a ship containing Spanish prisoners being sent to a Spanish penal colony in the Caribbean sinks at sea, but some of the prisoners manage to survive and make it to shore at a nearby island. They organize themselves under the leadership of Juan Olivares (dynamically played by charismatic singer-actor Johnny Desmond), manage to take over a ship with some cargo that they barter for supplies, and eventually are asked to fight on behalf of the Spanish crown against the English... or is the request sincere? That's just part of the plot of this surprisingly good Italian swashbuckling costume adventure. Colorful photography, lots of excellent fencing, an exciting plot with unexpected developments and an unexpected ending (to me, at least), and especially a fine performance by leading man Johnny Desmond in what was his ONLY European film appearance to my knowledge. Desmond sang in the big bands of Bob Crosby and Gene Krupa and may well be best remembered for singing during WWII with Glenn Miller's military band, including singing in foreign languages for the broadcasts to the occupied and enemy nations. He later had some hit recordings as a solo artist after WWII and worked in film and television in the 1950's (I've only seen Calypso Heat Wave, which did not prepare me for this!). Although he is dubbed here, the fact that he CANNOT rely on his fine voice for his "performance" makes the quality of his acting even more evident. He is dynamic, handsome yet tough, convincing in the fight scenes, creates a three-dimensional complex character, and makes me wonder why he did not star in more European adventure films. I could see him handling the same kind of roles Ray Danton did in Europe, although with less self-parody. I had never heard of this film until recently stumbling across a copy, but I recommend it highly to fans of the genre. Also, any big-band fans who like Desmond's singing will definitely enjoy seeing their man starring in a historical adventure (even though he is dubbed).

one of the last comedy shorts from comedy team of Timberg and Rooney, 26 November 2004
8/10

LOVE AND ONIONS is one of the last comedy shorts from Educational Pictures, and one of the last from the team of Timberg and Rooney (see my review of THAT'S THE SPIRIT). In this one (which lacks a title card on the circulating video), the first segment (these seem to have an "establishing" scene of about 5-7 minutes, then a "plot resolution" section which takes up the final 10-12 minutes) is an anarchic scene in a small neighborhood market where the boys are working. It's noisy and jerky and doesn't really capture the boys' natural grace of movement. As with THAT'S THE SPIRIT, the rest of the film takes place in someone's home where a tall "old maid" type who whistles when she talks is trying to get hitched with a man, and the boys help get it together for them. Johnny Johnson's Orchestra, who appear in other Educational shorts of the period, happen to be around and perform a swing number, while novelty organist "Milton Herth" kills a few minutes with a song. After that, Rose King, who plays the above-mentioned old maid, does a semi-operatic number in character, which breaks down a few times into swing. Finally, Timberg and Rooney get to do a dance routine, their specialty, and of course the plot (oh, we forgot about that!) is resolved to everyone's satisfaction. The print used her ends a bit early, with no closing credits. A nice entry from a talented team, unfortunately little-known today.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Interesting Ty Hardin Euro-western dealing with racial issues, 24 November 2004
9/10

As a pre-1966 Italian western, this film does not have many of the "trademarks" of the spaghetti western--there's no heavily echoed Duane Eddy-style guitar on the soundtrack, no extreme close-ups, no focus on desolate landscapes, no nihilistic feel. A young lady is attacked by three Indians (who look like Italian hippies!), but she manages to escape and is found wandering in the wildnerness by Ty Hardin, who nurses her back to health and proposes to take her to El Paso to a mission where Hardin's daughter is staying and where the lady will be safe and cared for. After fifteen minutes, that seems to be the "plot" of CURSED VALLEY, but nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and new characters and new layers of complexity begin to emerge until we are enmeshed in a difficult situation among warring family members with the added problem of the original Indians still trying to track down the lady. As the film proceeds, it brings up a number of interesting issues including racially mixed marriages, which it deals with in a surprisingly complex and mature manner. Visually, the film is attractive (the circulating video is letterboxed) with a number of well-composed shots (the one where Torito, the lady's husband, watches through a window his wife leaving with Hardin I still remember). Director Primo Zeglio (here using the Omar Hopkins pseudonym) also directed such interesting films as SON OF THE RED CORSAIR with Lex Barker (see my review), MORGAN THE PIRATE with Steve Reeves, the US-TV staple SEVEN SEAS TO CALAIS with Rod Taylor, and the space opera MISSION STARDUST with Lang Jeffries as sci-fi pulp hero Perry Rhodan. At this point in his career,Ty Hardin was only a few years away from his starring role as Bronco Layne in the BRONCO TV series (which still holds up well today), and had recently appeared in such hits as PT 109 and BATTLE OF THE BULGE. CURSED VALLEY seems to be his first European credit--he went on to make many films overseas. Unfortunately, Hardin does not dub his own voice here, so his performance is not as effective as it could have been, though it works well enough anyway (and Hardin's female fans should note that he appears without his shirt in a number of scenes in the first half hour). Overall, this is an interesting western, though not a typical Italian western. The musical score is quite rousing, often sounding like music from some 50s television western or a Republic western. Except for an acoustic guitar sequence, it does not have a spaghetti western feel at all. I consider this an above average western and would recommend it to any Eurowestern, western, or Ty Hardin fans.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Mark Forest's second peplum, set in 11th century BC Egypt, 4 September 2003
8/10

Most peplums with a Yugoslavian partner in the international co-production tend to have interesting location photography and a different visual style, and this one is no exception. The setting is the 11th century BC Egypt, where the nation is controlled by Persian occupiers who have enslaved the people. A well-intentioned pharoah who tries to defend the people is killed and his evil, manipulative wife (well-played by Chelo Alonso, in the tradition of over-the-top female villains in old Republic serials!) takes over and sells out the nation. On his return home to straighten things out, the pharoah's son, Kenamun, runs into Mark Forest (as Maciste, the Son of Samson) and the plot kicks into action. The plot also includes a mystical necklace that makes the wearer a zombie ready to be ordered around (shades of old serials once again!), and of course there is some romance. Mark Forest is as handsome as, say, James Darren, his physique is well-used in a number of difficult "tasks", and he is believable in the romantic scenes as well as the fights. I've seen 11 of his 12 1960s films and enjoy all of them. Interesting visuals, a unique setting, a fine female antagonist, Mark Forest's exciting presence--definitely an above-average sword-and-sandal opus for fans of the genre. Director Carlo Campogalliani was involved with many excellent historical films with American stars: Ed Fury's first Ursus movie; Steve Reeves in Goliath and the Barbarians; Lex Barker in Captain

Falcon; Jack Palance and Guy Madison in Sword of the Conqueror (that's one crying out for a DVD transfer--the circulating copies are very splicey). Check some of them out. A copy of this film was shown at UCLA recently at a peplum festival-- if there's a copy good enough quality to be screened there, it needs to be transferred to DVD now!

14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
German white-slavery melodrama, recommended!, 22 December 2004
9/10

Released in the USA as NAKED IN THE NIGHT, this film was advertised (and the VHS release still pushes this) as an "adults only" film, but except for three brief dance sequences (with pasties), it's mostly a crime film dealing with prostitution. As a crime film, it's quite good and well-acted by Eva Bartok and Sabine Sesselmann, the former as a lady trying to bust the racket, the latter as a sad victim of it. Heinz Drache, later in many German "krimi" films of the early 60's, does a fine job as a regular customer of the madam who isn't exactly what he seems. While the dubbing does not match the lips that well, the dubbed voices do a decent acting job and the dialogue is literate, so I had no problems with the post-synchronization. There is a fine Teutonic jazz score by Willy Mattes and moody, atmospheric photography. The credit sequence, with a speeding car careening down the street with the credits flying toward the screen, culminating in a car crash, started the film off with a bang, and the pace is kept up well throughout. In the late 1950's and the early 1960's, many foreign melodramas with a sexual element were marketed as "adults only" films in the USA. This brought a number of excellent films here that might not have gotten a US release otherwise, but gave the films the stigma of being tedious nudist or sex films, which many were not (thankfully, there are no American nude inserts here!). Despite the VHS cover NAKED IN THE NIGHT as a nudist or sex film, this is really a German crime film, and as such it's recommended to those who would want to see a Teutonic white slavery melodrama.

26 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
atmospheric 50's "B" crime-noir, 12 June 2006
8/10

I had an old fuzzy copy-of-a-copy-of-a-copy of a TV broadcast of this 1956 crime-noir B programmer, but now that there's a new letter-boxed DVD out, I threw the old tape away and can finally enjoy this film for what it is: a solid "b" crime film with good performances, good pacing, and great Los Angeles location photography. The under-rated William Campbell plays an average guy working as a locksmith, who is approached by a gangster who wants to break into a safe deposit box. Campbell, like most people probably, initially tries to be polite, but turns down the offer. Gangsters don't like being turned down, so one can imagine where the plot goes. There's a woman involved, a shady lawyer, another gangster who has gone legit, Mike Mazurki as an ex-boxer turned enforcer, and the comedy of Pedro Gonzalez Gonzalez (a regular in Batjac Productions of this era). The main female role is played (well) by Karen Sharpe, who hails from here in San Antonio! Anita Ekberg is in a small role as the girlfriend of James Seay's character, the owner of the safe deposit box. Ekberg is not really given much to do. The film, an early directorial credit of Andrew V. McLaglen. legendary director of many classic westerns and action films, is very well-paced and has amazing location photography of 1950's Los Angeles. A few key scenes take place in a bowling alley, actually Art Linkletter's La Cienega Lanes, which is of great documentary value in itself. Wait until you see the climax inside the bowling alley! This probably deserves a "7" rating, but I'll give it one star more for the nice widescreen transfer on the DVD and the great location photography. This plays a lot like an Allied Artists low-budget 50's crime film, and for me that is a high compliment. Check it out...

21 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Scott Brady and Raymond Burr star in German-made white slavery melodrama set in Brazil!, 1 January 2003
9/10

Ninety-percent of this film is a well-made, exciting white slavery melodrama about a German girl lured to Brazil for "modeling" work but trapped in a white slavery racket. She turns to an American engineer working in Rio (Scott Brady) who initially asks for help from a powerful Brazilian industrialist, Jaime Coltos (Raymond Burr), but soon suspects that Coltos is not exactly what he appears to be. That's all developed well and acted convincingly by Burr, Brady, and newcomer Johanna Matz. Then there is a frame story explained in a talky prologue about how Coltos almost led Southern Brazil to secede from the rest of the country and how Coltos, modeling himself after Jefferson Davis and Aaron Burr (!!!) was a brilliant strategist and almost a dictator. And at the end of the film, after the white slavery plot has been resolved and you think the film is over, we go back to the two characters in the frame story--a general and an American reporter--and we learn that Coltos was eventually found guilty of high treason and sentenced to hard labor for life. While Raymond Burr's character may be a crook and control a corrupt machine, there doesn't seem to be anything "political" about his actions in the film. I wonder if the frame story was added after the fact? And I wonder why? In any event, this little-known entry in the Raymond Burr filmography is worth seeking out. Coincidentally, it was one of the last releases of Lippert Pictures, the interesting low-budget company that was a kind of PRC of the late 40s and early 50s. Lippert always padded its release schedule with imported films, including a number of excellent UK and continental crime/mystery films, some featuring American stars, and as the studio wound down to its end, more and more foreign films appeared. My review has been of the US release of this film, entitled THEY WERE SO YOUNG (AND SO IN DANGER). Perhaps someone who has the original German language version could tell us if the frame story exists in the original, or if there were political elements in the main plot that were cut out for the American release.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
late 50's French white slavery melodrama, OK, 1 August 2002
5/10

This review is of the English-dubbed version of this 1957 film, entitled SELLERS OF GIRLS. Made in 1957 and released in the US in the early 60s, SELLERS OF GIRLS is a competently made French white slavery melodrama with a narcotics smuggling subplot. It starts off well, with a scene depicting a teenage girl in an abusive home with an unpleasant stepfather. She fantasizes about leaving home and going to Paris, which she eventually does. She is spotted by "recruiters" for white slavery, who can spot a girl from the provinces very easily, and soon she is sucked in by promises of a job. At this point, the film loses its interesting particularity and becomes a standard crime melodrama, not particularly gritty or distinctive, although it is a competently made as an early 50s Republic programmer, and like most French films of the era it features a good musical score--jazzy when the film is set in France, Latin-tinged when the film is set in some generic Latin American setting. Any viewer of foreign genre films is probably used to dubbing by now, but one problem here is that the sound effects are not synched well, which becomes a bit annoying. Other than that, this is an average French crime film (I gave it a "5" rating)and viewers intrigued by the risque title will NOT get what they are looking for. I won't give away the ending, but when one thinks the film is over, a fatalistic epilogue is added...how uniquely French!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Belinda Lee in French costume historical drama, 10 August 2003
7/10

From the title and the fact that France was the dominant country in this French-Italian co-production, I was expecting a cheescake "nature girl" kind of film. Not at all. This is a historical costume drama, with swashbuckling elements. The lovely Ms. Lee plays an innkeeper's daughter who marries an older French colonial official, but who is desired by a younger, attractive minor official. Maybe it's just this English-dubbed edition, but the editing/continuity is a bit strange here. In the middle of a scene, we jump to an awkwardly spliced-in scene of what is being discussed by the characters, then we cut back to the same place in the dialogue where we were and the dialogue continues! There are a few other awkward jumps in the film also. The main selling point of MARIE OF THE ISLES is Belinda Lee, and she is wonderful. Her premature death robbed the 60s film world of a lady who no doubt would have carved out a significant place in European genre films. If you are a fan, you'll want to see this film. If not, it's no masterpiece. There's more talk than action, and the light-hearted musical score would fit a film with circus clowns better than a historical drama. Somewhat hard to find--not in circulation in the usual genre-film circles.

Bloody Sea (1965)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
interesting Mexican crime-treasure melodrama, imported to US by K. Gordon Murray, 8 February 2006
8/10

This review is of the dubbed US version of the film, titled BLOODY SEA, and released here by K. Gordon Murray through AIP-TV. First of all, this is NOT a horror film, even though it was directed by Rafael Portillo, of the legendary Aztec Mummy films. It's an interesting combination of influences, at some times playing like TREASURE OF SIERRA MADRE, at other times playing like an early 60s European existential melodrama a la Antonioni. Take a bored, unsatisfied wife (always a staple of Latin American cinema of the 60s!) who is married to a useless alcoholic, and put her on a boat with three men with mysterious backgrounds and agendas; send them on a quest for some hidden treasure, and you've got an entertaining melodrama. There's some lovely photography of the Mexican coast, along with some jungle footage, some exciting twists and turns in the plot,and adequate English dubbing (from voices that are not as cartoonish as some of the regular voice artists used by K. Gordon Murray on his horror and children's films), so on the whole I feel that this English-language version of the film works quite well and was a pleasant way to kill 85 minutes. Good luck in finding a copy, however. The VHS version I have went quickly in and out of print. It's also nice to see Ariadna Welter in such a major and complex role--her character is central to virtually every scene, except for the underwater footage (which is quite good, by the way). As a devoted viewer of dubbed 1960s action films and melodramas, I'd rate this one as above average--it's a shame that more non-horror Mexican films did not make it into the international marketplace in dubbed form. It's also possible that one could find the original Spanish version of the film if you live in an area with a large Spanish-speaking population--I'll keep my eyes out for that too.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
English-language Swedish crime drama with John Ireland, 9 September 2003
8/10

Known as NO TIME TO KILL in its US form, this film is a footnote among cult-film fans because it was distributed in the USA by Jerry Warren's ADP films. In fact, a brief clip (about 30 seconds or so) of a robbery in an alley that comes about halfway through NO TIME TO KILL is used at the beginning of Warren's WILD WORLD OF BATWOMAN. However, for the film itself, it is shot in English (like Terror in the Midnight Sun), and somewhat minimalist in style. It almost plays like a longer, Swedish version of an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, but with sex-starved female characters. Ireland plays a man who was jailed for a crime he didn't commit and who goes to Sweden to find the man actually reponsible. I won't give away the plot, but the title NO TIME TO KILL works on a number of levels. This plays very much UNLIKE an American crime film and is quite unlike French or German crime films. The Swedes clearly have their own take on the genre. My print of this runs 61 minutes--I'd be interested to know if longer versions are available. An interesting curio...as always, Ireland is impressive.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
interesting Spanish character study of police inspector and bank robber, 20 October 2004
9/10

What a pleasant surprise this film, my copy titled BLIND VENDETTA, is. I was expecting yet another generic 70s euro-police film, which would have been fine, but what I instead got was an interesting character study of a police commissioner (Francisco Rabal, dubbed by a voice familiar to 70s euro-crime fans) and his nemesis, a bank robber (John Saxon, doing his own voice, as magnetic as ever!). We get to experience the daily life of both characters in a kind of parallel fashion, and of course this being a European film, they are depicted as similar people each doing his "job" and following a code. We get to know the Commissioner and criminal Mariano Beltran quite well separately, and with each crime and with the ways in which they taunt each other before and after the crimes, they are gradually brought together in the course of the film. The plot does not develop in a standard way, with an interesting sidetrip into France with Saxon and a teenage girl (who is explained as being the daughter of a friend), and with a showdown that's in an unexpected place. The eventual duel between Rabal and Saxon is handled well and ends in a surprising way, the kind of fatalistic/existential ending that is more common to European action films and was only seen in American films briefly in the 1970s. Director-writer Jose Antonio de la Loma has more credits as a writer than as a director (some of his 80s output (with some interesting casting!) were staples of the early video-tape-rental days), but he clearly thinks for himself and never lapses into by-the-book crime film clichés. I think that the fans of 70s Eurocrime films will find this an interesting film--it doesn't have as many gunfights and car chases as many Italian films of the day, but it's quite thoughtful and both Saxon and Rabal create memorable characters. I'll have to seek out more of de la Loma's work.

8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Interesting, twist-filled French murder mystery, 21 March 2004
8/10

My review is of the English-dubbed version of this film, entitled MURDER AT 45 RPM (interestingly, Reed Hadley seems to be voicing at least one if not two characters in the English-dubbed version). As a fan of murder mysteries, I must give this thumbs up. You are provided with a small group of suspicious characters, an interesting mystery that goes way beyond "who killed whom", and the usual French technical virtuosity and spiritual malaise. Serious mystery fans will probably place this on the same shelf with PLEASE MURDER ME and THE NIGHT WALKER, and it's as clever as either of those gems. I also like the fact that the writers of the film have constructed it in such a way that you really don't know if the victim is even dead until the film's final scene...which is AFTER the "resolution" of the crime! There are nice ironic twists throughout, but in unexpected ways. Overall, a nice little genre film that the serious murder mystery fan is sure to enjoy.

22 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
entertaining comic mystery--great supporting cast, 3 February 2003
7/10

Made in 1945 by Paramount's reliable Pine-Thomas "B" production company, MIDNIGHT MANHUNT is a model of what a bottom-of-the-bill programmer should be. It reminds me of the best PRC productions of the 1940s, with a mix of comedy, mysterious atmosphere, clever plot twists, and a colorful supporting cast. Leo Gorcey is given the same kind of malapropism-laden dialogue he had as a Bowery Boy; George Zucco is menacing and mysterious as only he can be; Ann Savage, of DETOUR fame, is perfect as the brash newspaperwoman; familiar faces such as Ben Welden, Don Beddoe, and Charles Halton pop up; and leading man William Gargan has always been reliable as a square-jawed, tough leading man, both in film and on radio. There's as much comedy as mystery, and both work successfully. The result is an hour of clever entertainment that represents the best 1940s "B-movie" entertainment. The plot involves a missing corpse of a mobster, but it's just something on which to hang a series of comic and mysterious elements. A great way to kill an hour on a rainy day.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Brett Halsey in standard-issue European 60s spy romp, with nice locations in Lisbon, 29 July 2005
7/10

Like b-westerns, many 60's European spy films have a number of interchangeable elements--from this film's opening scene of the hero in bed with a lovely lady and getting a phone call from the head of the spy service for whom he works, to the inevitable electronic gadget or invention of some eccentric scientist the intelligence services must protect, to the double-and-triple crosses where we aren't sure who is working for whom until the explanatory denouement. Director Tulio Demicheli was responsible two of my favorite Italian Westerns: THE BIG GUNDOWN with Lee Van Cleef and Tomas Milian, and GUNMEN OF THE RIO GRANDE with Guy Madison (in GREAT FORM!!!) as Wyatt Earp, and he's effective here although this film does not reach the heights of those two. Brett Halsey is an actor with a lot of charm, and he is perfect for the smirking yet tough role of agent "George Farrell." I won't go into further details except to say that I, unlike the other reviewer, enjoyed the music (the lounge-flavored organ improvisations are Walter Wanderly-like, and there are a few fine bossa-nova pieces worked into the club scenes), and there are some lovely location shots of Lisbon included. If you like this kind of fare, ESPIONAGE IN LISBON is an above-average entry, with a colorful and attractive star. If you don't like dubbed 60's European spy films, you probably wouldn't have read this far already. Check it out if you are a fan of the genre.

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
okay UK-Spanish mystery w/ Lex Barker in Morocco, 21 December 2004
9/10

This British/Spanish co-production stars Lex Barker as an oil company executive working out of Spain who learns that one of his colleagues on a secret mission in Morocco is killed. The films starts off well with a number of children playing on the beach finding the body, and Barker and his fiancée Juli Reding (perhaps best known from TORMENTED). There is some nice location photography (in crisp B&W), and the minimal sets should not bother any low-budget film fan. The overall feel of the film is not unlike the "international co-production" crime-spy TV shows of the 1950s or the typical 1950s b&w Euro crime/mystery film with an American star such as George Raft or Lloyd Bridges or Cameron Mitchell. Barker is required to look handsome, act concerned, and win a few fights, all of which he does well, while Juli Reding (with her wide-set eyes, she's a very distinctive looking lady, vaguely reminiscent of Jayne Mansfield) does not get to show the dramatic range here that she did in TORMENTED--she's mostly playing the traditional "girlfriend of hero" role. The great Fernando Rey is also featured in a large supporting role. While this is no all-time classic, it certainly does not deserve the two-star rating it currently has here on the IMDb. The script does not contain any overly clever plot twists, but it's a competent piece of work that should hold its own alongside any of the TV episodes or Euro genres mentioned above. Barker is always worth watching to his fans, and he is well-presented here, and Ms. Reding's filmography is so small that any fan of TORMENTED will want to see her here. This was issued in the US in the early 90s on a Republic Pictures Video VHS tape that is widely available used and as a cutout for a few bucks. I paid $2 for mine, and it was a pleasant way to spend 85 minutes after a long week. And next to the crap at the local multiplex or reality-TV shows, Mission in Morocco looks pretty darn good!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Governor Jimmie Davis in Monogram singing western, minus the shootouts, 16 September 2003
5/10

What a phenomenon the late Governor Jimmie Davis was. Film was just a small part of his long and successful career. After his somewhat- fictionalized film autobiography "Louisiana" was a hit for Monogram in 1947, the studio created this vehicle for him two years later. After a slow start on a riverboat (reminding me of the studio-bound Riverboat in the Universal serial Mystery of the Riverboat), the film kicks into gear when Davis goes to Montana (!!!) and sets out to take on a crooked town boss and land developer. Except for the musical sequences, of which there are a few including a full show featuring blackface minstrel routines (now you can actually see Lee Lasses White, better known as a western sidekick, doing his minstrel routine, described in Nick Tosches' book about Emmett Miller), the plot could be taken from any Johnny Mack Brown or Whip Wilson monogram western of the time, except that there isn't as much fistfighting and shootouts as you'd see in a western. Davis has an appealing laid-back yet authoritative style, but musical westerns (and this is a western, even if it has a Mississippi River "feel" to it) were on the way out in 1949, and Davis had a political career and business pursuits back home, so this was his last starring role (he appeared in Monogram's SQUARE DANCE KATY the next year, which starred Vera Vague, but the film was not a vehicle for him as this one is). It's an interesting curio and a real slice of Americana in that Davis is surely one 20th Century America's most colorful and interesting characters with a life story much too long and complicated to recite here. Governor Davis lived to be 101 (!!!) and dusting off this film would be a nice way to remember him (although I'd imagine today's networks would have to trim the minstrel show routines before airing).. as well as listening to his late 20s/early 30s double-entendre bluesy- country recordings issued on two Bear Family LPs in the 1980s.

a wonderful example of Andy Clyde slapstick at his best!, 22 September 2004
9/10

This 1936 Columbia short, directed by Jack White under his "Preston Black" pseudonym, is a perfect example of Andy Clyde's comic genius and still holds up well almost 70 years later as violent slapstick at its best. The premise is simple. Andy complains that his wife is not "Efficient" as a homemaker and needs more of a "plan". She tells him that if he doesn't like the way she does things, he should try doing it himself for a day. He does, and you can imagine the results. This is the ultimate bad day and more goes wrong in more different ways than you could ever imagine. The plot also contains a few clever subplots regarding storing things in the garage and the neighbor painting his car that come back to make the situation even more nightmarish. This being a Columbia short, the slapstick is wild, physical, fast-moving, and full of loud sound effects. Clyde stumbles acrobatically through it all with this ease of a comic master. Anyone who has enjoyed the Three Stooges should check out the studio's many other wonderful comedy shorts--start with Andy Clyde and Charley Chase and Harry Langdon and Buster Keaton, and then move on to Vera Vague, Monty Collins, Eddie Quillan and Wally Vernon, Hugh Herbert, etc. Why Columbia/Sony have not realized the goldmine they have in these hundreds if not thousands of non-Stooges comedy shorts, I don't know. They ought to be running on cable TV and available in DVD box sets. Columbia had a wonderfully efficient comedy machine in their comedy short unit from the 30's through the 50's. You know within 10 seconds that you are watching a Columbia comedy short. They are wilder and more anarchic than RKO shorts, and they are much better directed and written than Educational shorts. The production design, sound effects, and pace of direction are uniquely Columbia. Clyde was one of the greats. He began in the silent era and worked well into the 1950s, along the way serving as a fine sidekick to various Western stars, among them William Boyd and Whip Wilson. It's a shame he is not widely remembered today.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
pseudo-documentary on obscenity in film, with LOTS of clips, 15 August 2002

First of all, this is an American film, not an adapted version of an Italian "Mondo" film. It's a less tedious version of Barry Mahon's CENSORED, except that while that film had phony scenes all shot for the film (and all of which looked the same!), this one uses footage from various z-grade early 60s exploitation/sleaze films (such as the Olga white slavery and bondage series) and some sleazy Euro films with nudity. Basically, there is a narration about the history of censorship in film and the evolving tastes of the public, and this lecture is illustrated by all kinds of oddball clips. The true 60s sleaze-film fanatic could probably identify most of the sources--I recognized maybe 1/4 of the footage. Some of the sequences--like the cowboy film and the swashbuckling film excerpts--were so poorly done and with such a small cast that I wondered if they were original footage shot FOR this film, although I doubt it. If you like to see full-bodied women cavorting in their underwear, or being unconvincingly subjected to mild bondage and kinkiness, you'll get a rise out of the film. If you are looking for weird, reality-based Mondo footage, you should go elsewhere. I find myself digging this video out once or twice a year, so evidently it does work on ME on some primal level. There is an Ed Wood connection with this film too, but you'll have to see it for yourself to see what it is--I won't give it away.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
worthwhile Eurowestern caper with Mark Damon and Rosalba Neri, 24 October 2004
8/10

My review is of the English-dubbed, fullscreen VHS video, released in the US in the 1980s, entitled THE GREAT TREASURE HUNT. Lovable rogue Dean Madison (played by the charming Mark Damon, always good as a lovable rogue!) enlists a French munitions expert and his "niece" (played by the luscious Rosalba Neri--she and Damon would be reunited the next year in DEVIL'S WEDDING NIGHT) to help save his brother Sam, who has just been caught while robbing a bank. After that incident is resolved, about one-third of the way into the film, a blind man named Felipe is waiting for the quartet, and explains that he was kept prisoner and tortured by a mad Mexican general who has appointed himself as "El Supremo" and has built an impregnable fortress which is filled with gold. He suggests the quartet work with him to get that gold, so they head toward Mexico and thus begins the Great Treasure Hunt of the title. This is not a nihilistic, bleak Italian western--it's an entertaining caper film (really not unlike OCEAN'S ELEVEN or GRAND SLAM, but in western garb), nicely shot (except for too many unconvincing day-for-night shots), and well-acted by all the principals, especially Damon and Neri. Most of the music sounds unlike typical Italian western music (except in a few scenes), sounding more like a typical USA adventure film score. There's nothing profound or incredibly original here (although the surprise ending comes off well!), but it's an entertaining Eurowestern adventure, and those who must see as many Eurowesterns as they can will want to track down this one. As it was released on video in the USA, used rental copies can probably be found. A pleasant surprise! Damon appeared in many other excellent Eurowesterns, and of course went on to great success as a producer and film executive, capacities in which he still works as of this writing (check his producer filmography to see the many hits he's been involved with!). However, he's still a star as an actor in my house, and much of his European output is still in need of rediscovery. I hope to find more in the coming years...

Movie-Town (1931)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
fascinating early-sound short vehicle for under-rated comedienne Marjorie Beebe, in color!, 18 August 2004
8/10

Marjorie Beebe, a talented comedienne and actress of the early-sound era but nearly forgotten today, starred in a number of comedy shorts for producer-director-studio head Mack Sennett, and she was a brilliant physical comic who reminds me of Lucille Ball at her best during the I Love Lucy/Lucy Show era. This early-sound comedy short, shot in beautiful color and directed by Mack Sennett himself, really has no plot--most of the first reel takes place poolside where Beebe (who plays herself, Marjorie Beebe, actress in Mack Sennett films!) is chatting with an Italian count, played by Luis Alberni. Sennett himself appears, and there is some fine underwater footage in the pool, including a swimming sequence with Buster Crabbe, in one of his earliest film appearances, although a "non-acting" one. The second reel of the film takes place at a party. Music and show are provided by George Olsen's band, and their fascinating performance is a wonderful document of a pre-swing-era, 1920's dance band and their floorshow, which shows us how much is lost to us when we only hear music such as this on old phonograph records. Someone tries to convince Sennett to hire one Virginia Whiting (playing herself), a young woman hoping to get into films. Interestingly, this was the last of six comedy shorts that Ms. Whiting appeared in (in small roles) for Sennett. Her seventh and final screen credit was in a Charley Chase film at Hal Roach Studios. In this part of the film, Marjorie Beebe eats dinner with The Count, and a number of jokes are garlic-related. Beebe's natural,spontaneous comic style is a joy to watch throughout, and she looks great in color! While Mack Sennett's sound-era output is usually written off as awkward and not very funny--and often it is both of those--he was still taking chances, the use of color and the underwater photography being two interesting elements here. Overall, this is a fascinating curio sure to interest any fan of either Sennett or Beebe or early sound-era comedy shorts.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
not much of a film, but Mamie Smith is fantastic!, 23 January 2005
6/10

First of all, this IS NOT a murder mystery, despite the title. There is a murder committed, but it happens in the last minute or two of the film, and it's no mystery who did it as it's shown on screen. Black-cast films of the 30s and 40s are usually interesting to watch, even though they are usually on a technical level about one or two rungs below PRC or Monogram at their most threadbare. This one is no exception. There's some good swing music (and some bad syrupy numbers from a young lady singer), some good performances by Mamie Smith and whoever played the bartender (the scene where he makes a "brown bomber" drink is hilarious!), and interesting plot elements involving the small merchants of Harlem banding together against exploitation. However, the film is not well-paced, too much time is spent talking rather than acting, and some of the younger actors are a bit wooden. The great blues-vaudeville vocalist Mamie Smith, the true Mother of the Blues, is fantastic in her few songs (the one on the street when she is selling her pies, near the beginning of the film, is moving and bluesy) and in her acting. How great it would have been to see her performing on stage! Much of the crew and the cast of this film made another one called Sunday SINNERS the year before, which also features some exciting scenes with Mamie Smith. Speaking of PRC, director Arthur Dreifuss actually moved UP to PRC after making this film, directing some entertaining things such as THE PAYOFF with Lee Tracy and BOSS OF BIG TOWN with John Litel, and BABY FACE MORGAN with Richard Cromwell and Robert Armstrong. He then moved up to Columbia's B unit and did two good entries in the Boston Blackie series. He wound up working for Sam Katzman in the sixties doing Riot on Sunset Strip, The Love-Ins, and the Young Runaways. Co-screenwriter Vincent Valentini also scripted such exploitation classics as SEX MADNESS (a personal favorite of mine) and BOY WHAT A GIRL, starring Tim "Kingfish" Moore. MURDER ON LENOX AVENUE doesn't seem to be going anywhere, although the supporting characters are colorful (the hunchback assistant to the crooked Mr. Marshall) and Black-cast films are of historical and cultural worth. Mamie Smith fans, however, will not want to miss her in her final years--she was still in fine form and had a power and maturity to her performance. Since (to my knowledge) we have no actual performance footage of Ms. Smith, a film like this one is the best we can do today.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
solid entry in the "Sgt. Renfrew" mountie series, 2 October 2003
7/10

"Mountie" films are a curious sub-genre of the Western, dating back to the silent era. Kermit Maynard made a number of them in the mid-30s which are very good, and then starting in 1937 came the best-known series, Sgt. Renfrew of the Royal Mounted. James Newill starred in nine of these between 1937 and 1940. The series began at Grand National and moved to Monogram when GN went under. This film is the 8th of the 9 in the series and has all the elements needed for a fine entry in the series. Newill had a good operatic voice (we must remember, that Nelson Eddy influenced this kind of singing much more than Gene Autry!!!), he was a convincing action star, and he could play the comic banter with sidekick Dave O' Brien well too. In fact, after this series was over, the two of them moved to PRC where they made 14 films as "The Texas Rangers" with the edition of lanky cowpoke Guy Wilkerson as the comic relief. I have always LOVED those films and feel they are much underrated (for the 44-45 season the TExas Rangers films, Newill departed and Tex Ritter took over for another 8 films). The faux-Canadian settings of the mountie films (Probably a four hour drive or so to Northern California for location filming), the RCMP outfits, some minor characters with bogus French accents, these elements were a nice change of pace from the standard western, which probably accounted for the small-scale success of the two Mountie series. Add to that the appeal of Jack London's and Robert Service's writings, and you've got a whole "northwest" mystique that the films could play off of. This one also has a wonderful supporting cast--Al St. John as a drunk, Polly Ann (sister of Loretta) Young as the female lead, Chief Thundercloud, Karl Hackett trotting out the classic old "deaf person who mishears everything you say and redirects the conversation" routine, Snub Pollard, and even Kenne Duncan. Direction is handled by Louis Gasnier, probably most familiar nowadays from REEFER MADNESS. In fact, Gasnier is reunited here with REEFER MADNESS star Dave O'Brien. Who can forget O'Brien's incredible turn as Ralph ("bring me some reefer!!!")the psycho in R.M. Gasnier was directing films in france as early as 1905, and appeared in the 1914 serial Perils of Pauline. He also was a pioneer in spanish language filmmaking in Hollywood. This would be his second-to-last feature as a director. The best-known entry in the Sgt. Renfrew series is probably SKY BANDITS because of its strange sci-fi plot and the presence of horror icon Dwight Frye in the cast. That's excellent too, but Murder In The Yukon is also a fine and representative entry in the series for those who want to explore the "mountie" film sub-genre.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Barry Mahon makes a concert film, with Iron Butterfly lip-syncing In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida!, 9 February 2006
7/10

I originally saw this about six years ago, and when I stumbled across the video again recently in my garage, I just had to re-watch it to see if the film was as bizarre as I'd remembered. Yes, it is. Shot at a local amusement park in Florida called Pirate's World (used in other Barry Mahon films too), MUSICAL MUTINY features some local Florida musical artists (a Janis Joplin sound-alike, a Judy Collins folkie, and some vaguely interesting trippy 1969-70 rock bands who are almost good enough to have their records reissued on Rockadelic or Gear Fab...almost), and headliners Iron Butterfly, who do three or four songs, including the complete almost-twenty-minute In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, which they lip-sync! The static technique of the film--familiar to any fan of Mahon's who has watched THE SEX KILLER or PAGAN ISLAND-- actually gives the film a kind of documentary quality, which makes it far more interesting to watch than any phony Hollywood attempt at being hip. There's little I can add to Son Of Cathode's excellent analysis of this curio--except to say that if you are at all interested in off-the-wall low budget, locally made films of the 60's/ 70's, then MUSICAL MUTINY is a must-see. Iron Butterfly fans out there should remember that the band NEVER plays live in this movie. They appear on a stage, playing along (not always very closely) to their records, and we see crowd reaction shots, but there is no live performance in this movie (although we do hear the singer make a few comments before one of the songs). Now, I'll have to see MONDO DAYTONA/GET DOWN GRAND FUNK!

12 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
offbeat Italian western with military setting, 2 October 2003
7/10

MUTINY AT FORT SHARP is untypical for an Italian western, yet still an exciting and thoughtful film. It's set in the barren Mexican border area of the Southwest US, as many Italian westerns are, but instead of lone gunmen or bounty hunters or Mexicans, we have a confederate fort in the middle of nowhere led by a commander, Broderick Crawford, who has a "siege mentality" and is somewhat brutal in his leadership. When some French soldiers who are lost wander up from Mexico and arrive at the fort, the plot kicks into action. I won't give away where it goes from there as it is somewhat unexpected, but there is constant tension throughout until the film's sad but positive climax. Crawford is superb throughout as the dictatorial and delusional commander of the fort. Thankfully, the producers had him dub his own voice--you will remember how ineffective it was to have a generic dubbed voice for Crawford in GOLIATH AND THE DRAGON. Also, whoever dubbed the voice of the French captain here is the same person who provided the English language voice for many Eddie Constantine vehicles. Overall, a powerful western that's a lot more influenced by US "A" westerns of the 40s and 50s than by Leone or Corbucci.

Narcotic (1933)
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
strange, disquieting 30s exploitation from Dwain Esper, 1 October 2003
9/10

While not as over-the-top as Dwain Esper's MANIAC or as professionally made as his MARIJUANA: WEED WITH ROOTS IN HELL, NARCOTIC is a unique film experience. It has a jumpy, elliptical style--sometimes the next scene may be a few days after the prior scene, sometimes a few months or even years. Add to this the use of stock footage from silent films (in the first half) and stock footage of animals killing each other (in the last third).Also, the script mixes philosophy with medical jargon with drug slang with hard-boiled dialogue. And Esper's preference for odd, off-putting camera angles and introducing characters by showing their shadow.The whole thing, in under one hour, has a grimy feel to it. Even the worst poverty row b-movie tries, on some level, to be entertaining, no matter how far it misses that mark. This film really is NOT trying to entertain--it tries to create certain moods and reactions in the viewer, and it will use non-rational, expressionistic techniques to create those effects in the viewer. It's MUCH different from other 30s exploitation films such as REEFER MADNESS and COCAINE FIENDS. One must give Esper credit--the film was made 70 years ago but it is still a disquieting experience.

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
a country-music Jailhouse Rock, w/ Waylon instead of Elvis, 10 January 2002

I've wanted to see this film for years, and now that I have, I'm quite impressed. The plot is basically a rewrite of Jailhouse Rock or Wild Guitar, with the innocent but talented young singer/guitarist making his way up the lower rungs of the ladder of success, while learning how rotten and corrupt the music business can be. Waylon basically plays himself, which is better than any forced dramatics. There are also performances by many vintage country stars-- Faron Young, Tex Ritter, Loretta Lynn with the Wilburn Brothers, etc. There's also an odd scene at a club where Henny Youngman tells jokes about Arlin Grove (Waylon's character) to try to destroy his career! The film has a similar look to many southern drive-in films of the mid-60s, with some nice location shooting of the 1966 Nashville edited in here and there for atmosphere. Gordon Oas-Heim, as the sleazy manager (he was previously seen in H.G. Lewis' Color Me Blood Read), is suitably arrogant and oily, although one wonders how someone who undercuts his artists' credibility BEFORE they become big stars has ever made much money! Overall, this should appeal to the Jennings fan (he carries the film quite well in his smoldering, laid-back way), the vintage C&W fan, or the lover of rural southern drive-in films. I'm surprised this film hasn't received more attention-- it certainly captures the era well and is an important chapter in the career of one of country music's greatest talents, Waylon Jennings.

New News (1937)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Another gem from the Monte Collins/Tom Kennedy comedy team, 20 February 2005
10/10

I'm glad that Jules White (comedy short head-honcho at Columbia) believed in writer/comedian Monte Collins, giving him roles wherever he could. The rubber-faced Collins (whose looks remind me of Jim Varney) is great at playing an exasperated or overly eager character, and he meshes well with the lumbering, dim-witted character played by Tom Kennedy (see my review of FREE RENT). In this short, they are laundry workers who are mistaken for newspaper reporters, and then assigned to go undercover and get pictures of a society party. They pose as cooks/servants, and get into the swank affair, and of course they mess up everything AND they discover that everything is not what it seems. This plot and these characters seem familiar--was this short later re-tooled for The Three Stooges? or was the Stooges short the original? Perhaps Bud Jamison was also the head butler in the Stooge version as he is here? In any event, NEW NEWS is the perfect Columbia short with wild physical slapstick, goofy situations and characters, and hilarious problems with food and machinery. If you like the fast pace and reckless abandon of a Columbia comedy short, check out this example of the comic wizardry of Collins and Kennedy. Wouldn't it be great if we could see this kind of thing on television?

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
threadbare Poverty Row crime drama with Nurse as police informant, 26 September 2003
5/10

Although directed by cinema pioneer Karl Brown (the man who photographed Birth of a Nation and Intolerance), there's little evidence of his mastery in this quickly-shot crime programmer where Sally Blane plays a nurse whose brother has been made a patsy in a phony investment scheme and who volunteers to go undercover as private nurse to one of the crooks who framed her brother. It takes place in a few shabbily furnished rooms, there's more talk than action, and top-billed Lloyd Hughes, who is usually an ingratiating screen presence, is not in it enough. It was an E.B. Derr production for his Crescent organization, which made and distributed a number of Tom Keene "historical" and frontier films (not really b-westerns) the year before this, some written by John Neville, the author of this film. Derr released this through Monogram, which was likely starved for product after retreating from the merger that formed Republic Pictures and going independent again. I seek out and watch ANY poverty row 1930s film, so I'm used to this kind of thing and I found the film passable, but it's really not for the casual viewer, only the serious collector. If you want to watch an E.B. Derr production released through Monogram from the same period that is worthwhile, try FEMALE FUGITIVE starring Reed Hadley.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
exciting Tom Tyler b-western from Sam Katzman--some clever touches, 14 November 2004
9/10

I used to watch 30s b-westerns by the dozen, but haven't watched that many in the last few years. I decided to get back into them by digging out this Tom Tyler entry from 1937, near the end of his above-the-title starring career, after which he became an excellent character actor. The title will tell you nothing about this film, as there are no orphans here and the locale of the film is not specifically mentioned--it could just as easily be the Brazos or the Rio Grande or the Red River! Tyler's starring vehicles in the 35-37 period are mostly fast-moving and occasionally have some clever touches that make the same old clichés (or, if you prefer, archetypes) go down more smoothly and that help create suspense. The trick with any established film genre is to make the audience feel suspense and worry about the plight of the hero, even though we "know" what will happen and can sometimes recite the dialogue in advance of the actors. Tyler moves well (a former athlete), is convincingly tough (he was a boxer at one time), and is a convincing actor. Although there is a certain sameness to elements of these films, watching one every few months (the way they would have been viewed by the audiences of the time) is still enjoyable and exciting. The murder mystery angle (we see it done, so we know who is guilty, but we don't know HOW Tyler will prove himself innocent) is well done, the bad guy is a sniveling coward wanting to put the moves on the heroine, and there's a wonderful snake-oil-doctor and ventriloquist in the Max Terhune tradition who is cleverly mad integral to the plot in many different ways. Also in a small role is one-time Mack Sennett comedienne Marjorie Beebe, near the end of her screen career. Beebe was a wonderful talent, reminiscent of Lucille Ball during her TV heyday, but unfortunately she is not used that much here, with a few scenes as a lady who the heroine stays with after her father is killed. Beebe's charm manages to come through somewhat, and her comedic skills are hinted at in the scene where she accidentally gives away confidential information in a conversation where an evil character is present. Another unique item about the film is the presence of producer Sam Katzman as director! He's actually quite competent, and I'm guessing that the only reason he directed this is that as producer he didn't want to pay the money to a director and saved bucks by doing it himself. He only directed five films total in his career, all in this period, so once he went from a thin shoestring at his own Victory Pictures to a thicker shoestring with his later Monogram productions for his own production company, he could HIRE someone to do the directing. Overall, an exciting, witty b-western that is a nice vehicle for the under-rated Tom Tyler.

1 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
downbeat Brazilian sex melodrama, not that interesting, 4 December 2002
5/10

This review is of the dubbed US version of the film, entitled PRETTY BUT WICKED, which contains a few minutes of nude inserts. Overall, this B&W Brazilian film from 1963 is a melodramatic soap opera (in fact, it reminds me somewhat of a plot taken from a telenovela)where most all the female characters are raped and/or become prostitutes, and all the male characters are rapists or sleazes of one sort or another. Supposedly based on a play, it might have been interesting to see performed live on stage, but the film isn't very interesting and what does stand out from the tedium is unpleasant. To me at least, there's nothing really erotic about the (minimal) sex content. Try THE UNSATISFIED or THE PINK PUSSY or LOVE HUNGER or GAMES MEN PLAY if you're looking for a Latin American or Spanish sex melodrama.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
interesting Republic crime programmer with James Lydon as "average guy" who falls victim to temptation, 31 October 2004
8/10

Although Republic is best known for its westerns and serials, the studio churned out many crime dramas and mysteries over a two-decade period, films that are mostly little-known today. I've tried to see as many of them as possible over the years--some are not good, some are passable, some are much better than they needed to be, and some are gems. This one is certainly above average. James Lydon (best known in his day for the series of Henry Aldrich films, probably best known today for his starring role in the wonderful 1945 PRC rewrite of Hamlet, STRANGE ILLUSION) plays Donald Lewis, a young man working at a low-paying job in the payroll division of a large plant. When a large amount of cash comes through his department for Christmas bonuses, crooks led by Marc Lawrence learn about it and stage a robbery, but they do not get ALL the cash. In the beginning scenes of the film, we see Lydon and his girlfriend lamenting about how they cannot get married because of not having enough money. That "extra" money the criminals did not get could put Lydon on easy street and let him marry his fiancée. Should he or shouldn't he? I think you can guess what he does, and what happens afterwards provides the excitement and plot development of this interesting little film, directed by the prolific R. G. Springsteen. In his "adult" roles in the post-Henry Aldrich period, Lydon always did a convincing job when playing an "average guy" who is hit with unexpected problems. He has many of the same qualities that made James Stewart so good in similar roles. As usual for a Republic film, there is a strong supporting cast, including Rex Lease as a security guard, Iris Adrian as a gangster's moll, and of course the inimitable Marc Lawrence, the archetypal movie gangster (along with Jack La Rue). In some ways, this film reminds me of QUICKSAND, starring Mickey Rooney as a similar poor young workingman who falls victim to temptation, which was made the next year. Overall, OUT OF THE STORM is an above average b-crime entry from Republic. Not an amazing film, and certainly not a noir film in any way, but worth watching for the fan of b-crime films or of Republic Pictures.

Panic (2000)
3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
interesting, well-acted character study, 22 April 2001
9/10

I gather from reading the previous comments that this film went straight to cable. Well, I paid to see it in a theatre, and I'm glad I did because visually it was a striking film. Most of the settings seem like they were made in the early 60s (except for the shrink's office, which was dated in a different way), and if you leave the Neve Campbell sequences out, the whole film has a washed- out early 60s ambience. And the use of restaurants in the film was fascinating. For a first-time director whose background, I believe, is in writing, he has a great eye. Within the first ten minutes I felt the plot lacked plausibility, so I just willingly suspended my disbelief and went along for the ride. In terms of acting and the depiction of father-son, mother-son, husband-wife, parent-child relationships, the film was spot-on. William H. Macy, a pleasure to watch, seems to be filling the void left by the late Tony Perkins, if this and Magnolia are any indication. Tracey Ullman as the neglected wife was quite moving, to me. It was a three-dimensional depiction of a character too often viewed by society as two-dimensional. Of course, Donald Sutherland can add this to his collection of unforgettable portrayals. The depiction of the parents (Bain/Sutherland) reminded me, in an indirect way, of Vincent Gallo's BUFFALO '66, although toned-down quite a bit! I would definitely pay money to see a second film from this director. He has the self-discipline of a 50s b-crimefilm director (something P.T.Anderson will never have!), yet he has a visual style and a way with actors that commands attention.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
entertaining UK-made Tom Conway mystery, 27 May 2003
8/10

This review is of the US release of the film, under the title NORMAN CONQUEST. One of the many interesting UK pick-ups released by the fading Lippert Pictures in the early 50s to pad its schedule, this mystery should satisfy any fan of B-movie mysteries. Star Tom Conway made a big impression as the Falcon on film and Sherlock Holmes on radio (taking over from Basil Rathbone), and his charm and wit and style pretty much make any film he is in worth watching. The Conquest character--evidently well-known in the UK as there is no attempt to "introduce" his character in the film--has elements of Boston Blackie and the Thin Man and The Shadow (the interplay with his jealous fiancee is very Shadow-like)and Ellery Queen. He is a financially stable dabbler in detection and has a nemesis within the police force who always seeks to get him out of the way. This film should get some kind of record as the mystery begins in an outrageous manner within the first ten seconds of the film! I couldn't believe it, but you have to take films like this one with a LOT of willing suspension of disbelief, and if you go along for the ride, it's quite a bit of fun. There's still one thing I'm not sure about, though. In the scene where Conway spanks Eva Bartok, what is that little clown-like figure in the corner of the room? It's only seen once and never explained. I rewound the tape to watch the scene a few times to make sure I wasn't hallucinating. What's going on here? In conclusion, a solid little mystery here, and one of Tom Conway's last starring roles.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
exciting low-budget crime film, marketed as exploitation film, from director Elmer Clifton, 14 March 2005
8/10

PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE (the title on my copy, but also known as MAIN STREET GIRL) is an exciting crime film about a young lady (Jean Carmen, of Wolves of the Sea fame) whose father is killed when he refuses to go along with a protection racket. She vows revenge on the gangster who killed her father, and goes on a long quest which eventually succeeds. This is directed by the great Elmer Clifton, one-time associate of D.W. Griffith, and master of both exploitation films and westerns. Clifton had made the exploitation classics SLAVES IN BONDAGE and GAMBLING WITH SOULS for producer J.D.Kendis previous to this, but PAROLED is not really an exploitation film. It starts off with a police commissioner (Milburn Stone) giving the audience a lecture on abuses of parole through payoffs by organized-crime linked criminals who can afford it, but other than the broadly-played criminals, a scene with a few girls in negligees, and a scene where the heroine is in a room with a psycho that ALMOST becomes distasteful, there's no sleaze here. Judged against the competing poverty row crime films being produced by Monogram and Republic at this time, I'd have to say that PAROLED FROM THE BIG HOUSE works very well and is exciting. Jean Carmen is a unique looking lady who can command attention, and the script (from serial king George H. Plympton) has wonderful depression-era naturalistic touches, with Carmen pounding the pavement day after day, looking for work and homeless. There are a lot of close-ups, and as always Elmer Clifton can be given virtually no resources and the cheapest of sets and rear projection, yet make it flow. The print used by SWV on my VHS tape, released in the early 90s, looks like it was made yesterday. So many 30s genre films are taken from duplicate prints made for TV showing, and they tend to get a bit fuzzier with each duplication, but the crispness and the sharpness of this copy help make the film even more impressive. If you get this thinking it is an exploitation film (it was marketed that way both in its original release and in its video release), you may well be let down. If you think of this in comparison with other poverty row crime films of the day (just remember that static, talky films made at Grand National!), it holds up quite well. Special mention should be made of the character "Torchy", a pyromaniac member of the criminal organization, who is the film's comic relief, lighting some of the other characters on fire when they are introduced into the film! He is played with relish by Ole Oleson, who looks like a cross between John Waters and the Wild Weed-era Jack Elam.

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
mid-40s Republic crime comedy--good cast, but doesn't really work for me, 11 October 2006
6/10

The second film I've seen in two weeks made at Republic in the mid-40s starring Kane Richmond and Adele Mara is nowhere near as good as TIGER WOMAN (see my review). In this one, Richmond is some kind of advertising man who comes up with a concept for a women's clothing campaign (I think, based on the drawings we see) called THE THREE SPRINGS. Soon, various eccentric gangster types and crooked businessmen start expressing an interest in the campaign, feeling as though Richmond is actually making a reference to something else with the title and they are trying to cover that up. I won't give away the plot and say WHAT they think he's referring to with the ad campaign because that is the device that puts the plot, such as it is, in motion. Studios needed to churn out a certain number of b-movies per season, and often a project that might have sounded good on paper gets locked into the production schedule and it gets made even though it doesn't fully gel. That's what the problem is here. Each scene, on its own, is entertaining. Richmond--a kind of square-jawed, self-deprecating leading man who probably best resembles George Clooney among today's stars--is always a pleasure to watch. The top-billed star here Stephanie Bachelor--who was in films for a brief six year period, and who seemed to get leading roles mostly at Republic--as Richmond's girlfriend. She looks great and delivers the arguing-couple romantic banter well, but there's not much depth to her character. As for Adele Mara, she's given a thankless role here as a kind of femme-fatale, but we're not really sure how deep is her involvement with the bad guys, and the way the film disposes of her character cannot be excused. Unless my copy of the film is cut (and it's the Hollywood Television Service print, so it may be), I can't believe this script made it past ANY editor. My wife and I looked at each other as the "End" credit appeared, and asked, "What about Adele Mara"? We know what happens to her, but it is never resolved. WHAT??????? On the good side, this film is entertaining in pieces--the supporting cast (with such fine performers as Gerald Mohr and Gregory Gay) is colorful, there's a lot of witty romantic banter between Richmond and Bachelor AND Richmond and Mara. It's just that the plot doesn't hold together, the events in themselves don't command attention, and there's a rushed feel to many scenes as though the attitude was "let's get this in the can quickly." Some of the fights are the most phony I've seen in a Republic film--a studio known for its excellent stunt-men. Richmond and the bad guys seem as though they were just instructed to pull the punches because the stunt men couldn't make it today. Still, it was not an unpleasant way to kill 60 minutes and b-movie and Richmond fans will enjoy it. Bachelor and Mara are both wonderfully attractive and witty leading ladies. Just don't expend much energy or cost in trying to find a copy.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Fine battle sequences, but otherwise poor and laughable, 26 May 2001
2/10

I won't waste any of your time with a long review the way this film wasted 3 hours of my time. Simply put, there's about a half-hour of exciting, well-staged battle sequences that I wish I could have seen by themselves (perhaps theatres should list what time the battle scenes begin, then we can arrive late and miss the rest of the movie), and the rest of the film is dramatically weak, horribly written, and non-acted by two male leads who make Keanu Reeves seem like James Woods!! Ben Affleck is far too bland to carry a major motion picture, Josh Hartnett doesn't seem to be able to convincingly capture ANY emotion as an actor (one wonders how ANY woman would find him interesting!), and the female lead is given such a one-dimensional script that it's impossible to evaluate her performance. At least a dozen times during the film, the audience hooted at lines that were intended seriously, and some jokers in the audience actually completed the lines for the actors before the actors did--that's how cliche-ridden this dog was! Jon Voight as FDR was impressive, but someone should have told the filmmakers that an actor of Voight's caliber does not need to have a wax-museum style make-up job. I was waiting for Cuba Gooding Jr., but his performance is little more than a cameo and the script gives his character no depth. Alec Baldwin is badly miscast--audience members were making rude noises during his scenes. I'm surprised Disney didn't re-edit or re-shoot some of the film after what must have been poor preview response. TITANIC may have been a crowd-pleaser, but it did achieve what it set out to and I felt that I had more than gotten my money's worth from James Cameron and crew. As for this bomb, I feel like asking Bay-Bruckheimer for a refund--the battle sequences were worth about $1.00, so I feel as though I've been ripped off for the other $4.00 (PLEASE, don't pay over matinee price to see this!). Thanks to Roger Ebert, for pointing out that the emperor has no clothes!

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
late Columbia western serial, lots of action, good in small doses, 21 December 2003
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

***SOME SPOILERS*** This is the second-to-last Columbia serial, and one of the last American serials at all, as Republic closed up its serial production around the same time. Like most all of the Sam Katzman-produced serials at Columbia, this is 15 chapters long, and like most 15 chapter serials, the material gets a bit thin after a while. However, from the perspective of the budget-minded Mr. Katzman, it was no doubt a good investment to shoot a day or two more and get three more weeks of product. After all, considering 15 chapters versus 12 chapters, if you make four of the longer serials, you've got the same number of weeks of theatrical showings as FIVE 12 chapter serials, so it's like you've got a "free" serial...almost! When we watch serials today we should remember that 1) no one ever watched these things straight through, they saw them in pieces over three or four months; and 2) most theatre goers did not see all 15 chapters. The most regular theatregoers might have, but according to my older relatives who actually did see serials in the 30s-50s, they might see 5-7 chapters of a 15 chapter serial. So re-caps and "overlapping action" were not a problem to the viewers of the day. With that said, this is not a bad serial, certainly not as bad as we are led to believe by the commentators who have labelled all of Katzman's serials as garbage. Many of the non-western ones have a great "pulp" quality to them that is worthy of, say, a Charlton comic. Also, they have a fascinating z-grade ambience to them. We should remember that Ed Wood and Jerry Warren were aspiring to make a film AS GOOD AS The Lost Planet or Blackhawk. Dennis Moore, who had been starring in low-budget films for two decades when he made this (he was even in a Bud'n'Ben short in the thirties, West on Parade, and was in such exploitation films as Rebellious Daughters and Sunset Strip Murder Case), is always a convincing leading man, here playing a lawman masquerading as an outlaw on the run. The rest of the cast is a who's who of b-westerns worthy of a late 40s/early 50s Johnny Mack Brown or Charles Starrett vehicle: Kenneth McDonald, Rex Lease, Rick Vallin (a regular in these Columbias), Pierce Lyden, John Mitchum, Terry Frost, etc. Also, unless I'm mistaken, we see Kermit Maynard in a mountie uniform again (a nice touch!), and John Hart's unique voice is heard, immediately identifying him in an unbilled role. This also used the plot device of the bad guys tricking the Indians with modern technology, which I remember being used by the bad guys in Tom Mix's THE MIRACLE RIDER in 1935. I saw on the Serial Squadron discussion list that this film incorporates stock footage from earlier Columbia serials, but I haven't seen the serials mentioned for years, so I didn't recognize the scenes, although most post-1945 Republic serials used a good amount of stock footage, and the serial fan will quickly realize that flashbacks involving characters not seen otherwise in the film or expensive shots of battles or wagons falling of cliffs seen only in long shots are probably stock footage. Who knows if Columbia will ever release, or license for release by another company, serials such as this one. Your only hope of seeing this is probably to find someone who has made a video copy of a 16mm print. However, if you collect Columbia serials, you'll probably like this one. It's nice to know that Columbia was still releasing watchable product until its final days as a serial producer. Now I'll have to re-watch the final Columbia serial, BLAZING THE OVERLAND TRAIL, which co-starred Dennis Moore and was from the same director-writer-producer team. Haven't watched it in 10 years or more...

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
above average PRC detective mystery; Curtis is excellent, 17 September 2004
7/10

This is one of the two Philo Vance films starring Alan Curtis made during the waning days of PRC Pictures (see my review of the other one, PHILO VANCE'S SECRET MISSION). During this period, PRC was also making a series of Michael Shayne films starring Hugh Beaumont, and the Vance films are not unlike those (neither the Vance nor Shayne characters are much like their literary versions, but forget about that and just accept the films on their own terms and you'll enjoy them much more). Alan Curtis played both comedy (Buck Privates, Sue My Lawyer, etc.) and drama (High Sierra, Hitler's Madmen) equally well in his other work, and that skill allows him to be both convincingly tough and effortlessly witty, as this detective character requires. Terry Austin is a seductive but dangerous femme fetale, And PRC regular Frank Jenks is once again the lovable sidekick. The mystery has some clever angles (I like the cold cream and candy dispenser elements... you'll see what I mean in the actual film), there are a number of red herrings thrown in along the way to make things more interesting, and the climax is exciting. Curtis is an excellent Vance and I'm sorry he did not make more Philo Vance films. Still, the two we have are both very good for fans of gritty but witty low-budget, post-World War II detective films and are worth finding.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
solid PRC mystery with Alan Curtis as detective Vance, 13 April 2004
8/10

I like both of Alan Curtis's 1947 PRC films as detective Philo Vance. Curtis has the perfect combination of charm and toughness needed by a 1940's b-movie detective, and I wish he had made more films as Vance. This one involves Vance and his comic sidekick, played by PRC regular Frank Jenks, investigating a missing person presumed dead who was involved with a pulp-crime-fiction publishing company. Like any good murder mystery, there are a number of suspects and people who are not what they seem to be, as well as a local police inspector who is also looking into the case. Vance also has a lovely lady, an employee at the company, whom he befriends and flirts with/argues with for the course of the film. The resolution to the case is unexpected--at least to me it was!--and I would think that most viewers will be led down some false trails along the way, right up until the "The End" card comes on the screen. PRC detective films are often not-too-well written, relying more on atmosphere and clever quips than good story construction and thoughtful placement of clues, but this film holds up to multiple viewings, and once again it needs to be said that Curtis is an excellent detective. The other Alan Curtis-Philo Vance film is fine too, and I'll try to review it in the near future.

20 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
well-paced low-budget mystery with Cameron Mitchell, 18 December 2003
9/10

This is one of three low-budget programmers made by Cameron Mitchell for director Edward L. Cahn and the same production company (all UA releases) in 1959-60, all of which are worth seeing. Living in Miami, small businessman Cameron Mitchell comes to post-revolution Havana to find an old friend who was going to come and work for him, but never arrived and seems to have vanished. Although Mitchell's character is not a detective, this plays a lot like a detective film, and director Cahn is a master at pacing, so despite the miniscule budget (Havana is evoked by a few small sets and a few California exteriors with Spanish-language signs on them!), the film plays like a good little paperback-original mystery novel--especially so since Mitchell provides voice-over narration here and there to speed things along and to mention things that would be too expensive to show on camera. As always, Mitchell treats the role with the greatest respect, digging into the character and turning what could have been a generic role into someone the viewer cares about and roots for. Michael Granger is also excellent as the honest, professional Cuban police investigator who stays on the case himself and keeps running into Mitchell along the way. The film also features legendary 50s leading lady Allison Hayes (Gunslinger, The Unearthly, Attack of the 50 ft. Woman)as a woman who once knew Mitchell and was married to the missing man. Although a low-budget programmer that is only 67 minutes long and was no doubt made in a few weeks, PIER 5, HAVANA provides good, honest, hard-boiled entertainment and plays like a good 1950s detective TV show. Director Edward L. Cahn was the best kind of journeyman director, a true pro who could take a talented cast, a few small sets, and a genre-based script, and turn it all into a solid, unpretentious feature film that still entertains and engages decades after it was made. If you come to this film with enough willing suspension of disbelief, it won't matter that the punches thrown in the fight scenes miss by at least eight inches--the sound effects are synched accurately so you THINK the punch must have landed, and the scene has moved on before you have time to analyze it. I'll take honest entertainment like this over CGI effects any day of the week. This film was probably made for less than the bottled water budget on the last Eddie Murphy film. Bravo to director Cahn and star Cameron Mitchell!

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
late-silent Sennett short with Billy Bevan and Vernon Dent in the old jealous husband situation, 27 March 2005
8/10

A 1929 Mack Sennett silent short for distribution through Pathe, PINK PAJAMAS stars Billy Bevan as a man with a jealous wife, and Vernon Dent as his next door neighbor, a super-jealous husband. If you've ever seen a Leon Errol short, you've seen the various complications that happen here, although it's nice to see them in a silent context: the neighbor's spouse locked out in the hall, the guy caught in the neighbor's apartment in his bathrobe or something who has to hide in the closet, the lingerie delivered to the wrong address, etc. etc. Classic comic situations like these never date, and with pros such as Billy Bevan (he of the walrus mustache) and Vernon Dent (who had a great comic pairing with Monte Collins at this time, and who is best known for his work with the Three Stooges), the comedy never lets up, and director Phil Whitman keeps the pace steady. Interestingly, the title card says that this short is part of a "tired businessman's series." Since we never really get into the exact jobs of these two men, are the tired businessmen the ones who are in the audience WATCHING this film? Well, I can't ask Mack Sennett, can I? Overall, this is a very good late-silent comedy short featuring two men who I never tire of watching (and also fine support from Natalie Joyce and Anna Ward as the respective spouses--whichever lady plays Dent's wife is quite sexy and seductive!).

Pinocchio (2002)
3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A Beautiful Film for All Ages--USA audiences should not miss it!, 26 December 2002
9/10

With some negative advance word on this film, I was not expecting anything great when I took the children to see this the day after Christmas 2002, but from the first frame I was enthralled. This is a charming, magical film from a comic master. Don't let the fact that the film is dubbed in English scare you away--I'm sure the DVD will be bilingual, so we can hear the actual Italian voices. The English voice casting is superb, and Mr. Benigni was entirely correct in his decision to release a dubbed version in the USA, as children are not going to sit through a subtitled film. Roberto Benigni, like Stan Laurel or Harry Langdon, has an eternally childlike persona, so I had no problem accepting this 50 year old man in the role of a child, and neither did the four year old who was sitting behind me! The art direction and production design are beautiful and transported me into this storybook world. I was so carried away that I never once thought about any other versions of the story that I have seen on film over the years (I have not read the literary source). The rich details that fill the screen and the sensitive performances of Mr. Benigni, Ms. Braschi, and Mr. Guiffre deserve to be seen on the big screen, not just on your home TV when the film comes out on video. I hope American parents will take their children to this magical film over the holidays. Thank you, Mr. Benigni, for making such a personal, lyrical film and for not "going Hollywood" after your international success with Life Is Beautiful. This is a film I will always treasure, and decades from now I will show it to my grandchildren.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
surprising Pete Morrison silent-western, many fine elements, 21 March 2006
8/10

No question about it--like Black director Oscar Micheaux (and others such as, say, Louis Gasnier and Charles Hutchison), Victor Adamson was a much better silent director than sound director. Films such as this one and the much different OLD OREGON TRAIL are quite interesting and thoughtful for z-grade genre product. First of all, PIONEER'S GOLD has a large and interesting cast of characters. Spottiswoode Aitken, looking like a long-haired 80 year old John Kerry after a long weekend, is an old man who is isolated and lonely and thinks of the woman he loved long ago. He finds her daughter, a schoolmarm (or "school ma'am" as the titles call her), and offers her an inheritance if she marries his nephew (the son of his long lost brother) whom he hasn't seen for many years. A crook named "The Fox" who steals mail shipments, steals the letter to the nephew offering him this deal, and then poses as the nephew...and then the schoolmarm is kidnapped by a woman crook (who is part of a wild psychotic hillbilly family that could have been out of the pages of a Flannery O'Connor story--Merrill McCormick, always colorful as a bad guy, plays a grotesque member of this family who reminds me of Brad Dourif at his most off-the-wall in some weird indie horror film), who then poses as her! Leading man Pete Morrison I'm most familiar with through his later supporting roles. I'd describe him as a mix between pre-1931 Rex Lease with a twist of pre-1933 Lyle Talbot. He's an interesting looking man and I hope to see some more of his starring roles (any b-western fan has seen him in early sound westerns in supporting roles). His riding skills are superb and he has a natural screen presence and is good at projecting any number of moods. Running at about 62 minutes, PIONEER'S GOLD is a much better film than it needed to be as a piece of low-budget-western product, and has a complexity to it and a rich array of supporting characters. Bravo to Victor Adamson. How could this be the same man who made THE ADVENTURES OF Texas JACK or THE RAWHIDE TERROR???

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
classic "frigid wife" exploitation from Ron Ormond, 2 November 2004
9/10

The more of Ron Ormond's 1960's output I see, the more I'm impressed. This gem comes from 1963, and re-teams Ormond with his longtime partner Lash LaRue, with LaRue playing a psychiatrist who, with the assistance of a hypnotist, helps to cure a young wife of her frigidity, caused by a sexual assault as a teenager. The first scene of the film depicting the attack is accompanied by the guitar music from Ed Wood's JAIL BAIT; after that we get an overly long lecture on psychology; after that we get at least five minutes of mondo footage; and somewhere in the midst of all this we get a cheesy swirling disc, as seen in the pre-feature intros of K. Gordon Murray's "Young America Horror Club." The rest of the film is a bit more restrained, but still outrageous, as La Rue brings in hypnotist Ormond McGill (presumably playing himself), who had previously appeared in Ormond's vaudeville anthology VARIETIES ON PARADE, to put the wife into a trance, get her to remember her attack, and then convince herself that it was just a scene in a movie and that she should forget it! Besides the guitar music lifted from JAIL BAIT (and also used elsewhere), there's a lot of fine harmonica duets (heavily echoed) from Jimmy and Mildred Mulcay, who appeared in the earlier VARIETIES and also in the later GIRL FROM TOBACCO ROW and THE EXOTIC ONES (aka THE MONSTER AND THE STRIPPER). The effect of echoed harmonica music on the dramatic scenes is quite distinctive and gives the film a strange, unnerving feel in spots. If you've enjoyed FRIGID WIFE, TEST TUBE BABIES, or ANY Ron Ormond film, you MUST see this wonderful film, sure to become a cult classic when it gets more circulation. Legit VHS copies are still available at low prices, so grab them while you can.

Magnum Cop (1978)
13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
exciting Maurizio Merli euro-crime entry, with Joan Collins at her sexiest!, 17 February 2005
10/10

The late Maurizio Merli was a staple in many excellent Italian crime films of the 1970's, reminding me at times of both Franco Nero and Chuck Norris (!!!). FEARLESS (as the US video of this is known) is an exciting Italian police film, largely shot in Austria (which looks beautiful!), with Merli as a low-rent private investigator and former cop who is sent to Austria on a job, and while there sees a number of seemingly unrelated coincidences that lead him into a strange web of corruption and decadence. But at the forty-minute point, the film enters a new sphere with the arrival of JOAN COLLINS, looking incredibly sexy, doing a striptease in a club, and giving the film a wonderful shot in the arm. This film was made right before her "comeback" with the films THE STUD and THE BITCH, based on literary works by her sister Jackie. I've always admired Ms. Collins and the way she took charge of her career and showed the world how sexy an over-35 lady can be. The crime elements of the film work well, Merli is exciting and witty (as he usually was), and Joan Collins is a seductive femme-fat ale in a role that her fans simply must see. I've watched this film a number of times over the years, and I can't recommend it highly enough...an exciting 70's Italian crime film with the added attraction of Joan Collins at the height of her powers is a dream come true for this viewer!

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Sword-and-Sandal version of the times of Jesus--John Drew Barrymore as Jesus AND Judas!, 23 January 2005
9/10

I finally scored an English language copy of this interesting Italian sword-and-sandal style depiction of the life and times of Jesus, focusing on the career of Pontius Pilate, played by legendary French actor Jean Marais (Cocteau's BEAUTY AND THE BEAST). I previously had a Spanish language version, but the dubbing sounded like it was recorded in a radio station last week and there were virtually no sound effects. This original English version is MUCH more enjoyable, with both Basil Rathbone and John Drew Barrymore (as Judas, not as Jesus) doing their own voices in the dubbing. The story is structured with a wrap-around sequence where Pilate is on trial in front of Caesar, and Pilate recounts the events of his life. At the end of the film, we pick back up with this trial and we see what Pilate has learned from his life and from his encounter with Christ. Basil Rathbone, doing his own voice, is quite impressive as the Jewish religious leader Caiaphus--he tries to be a faithful spiritual leader to his people, while he understands the political necessities of the day. The scene where Rathbone challenges Marais to take down the Roman insignias off the Hebrew temple is quite impressive. Of course, the "gimmick" about this film is that John Drew Barrymore plays both Judas and Jesus. Let's start with Judas. This is a role Barrymore was born to play--he was always excellent as a tortured soul or an outcast or a man with a tragic obsession, and in the Judas created by these scriptwriters, the part requires all of these qualities, and Barrymore does a great job. During one of Judas's most intense scenes, we suddenly start getting angular, Orson Welles style shots of Barrymore that are unlike any other shots in the film! Yes, Barrymore also plays Jesus, but we only see Jesus' back and side and closeups of his eyes--frankly, had a man of similar build been under the robe throughout the film and it wasn't John Drew Barrymore, I don't think I would have known. Also, someone else dubs Jesus' voice when He speaks, which isn't very often. Peplum fans will see a number of familiar faces such as Livio Lorenzon and Riccardo Garrone, and the whole film has the look of a sword and sandal film. I feel like I understand more about the political world of Palestine in the days of Jesus after seeing this film, and Barrymore's unique portrayal of Judas is something I won't soon forget. As a fan of sword and sandal films in general, I thought PONTIUS PILATE was quite interesting and overall a success. Perhaps someone could restore the film for DVD? Finally, although my copy of this runs 100 minutes, I have a strange feeling some small sections have been cut. Perhaps the Euro version ran over 100 minutes?

Pop's Pal (1933)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Billy Bevan comedy short involving warring fathers-in-law, Lloyd Hamilton in small role, 25 December 2004
8/10

This 1933 Educational comedy short stars silent comedy great Billy Bevan (he of the walrus mustache) and George Bickel as warring fathers-in-law who bury the hatchet to help son John Harron (taking a break from poverty row features--see my review of MURDER IN THE MUSEUM)and his wife buy a boat company owned by Lloyd Hamilton, who appears in the second half of the short. Veteran gag writers Ernest Pagano and Ewart Adamson throw in everything but the kitchen sink to get a laugh in this short, and it works. We have a dog and a baby in addition to the above characters, and in the final chase scene that goes on for a while, we have ALL of the principals, a motorcycle, a car, a wagon, and a bicycle. This was Lloyd Hamilton's second-to-last film, his final one being an Andy Clyde short in 1934. He looks a bit weak and emaciated, but he had not forgotten his brilliant reactions and facial mugging. Bevan is always welcome to me, with a career going back to the teens and continuing well into the sound era, both in comedy shorts and in supporting roles. The pairing of Bevan and Bickel is inspired, and even the baby is funny (and cut when he says "dog" upon first seeing the dog his grandfather bought him). Well worth watching for Bevan or Hamilton fans!

22 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
original Columbo pilot film--a must-see for fans, 22 September 2004
9/10

Now that the original 1967 pilot film for the Columbo character, PRESCRIPTION:MURDER (based on Levinson and Link's play), is available as part of the new Columbo DVD set, I hope that many more Columbo fans will be able to see the original interpretation of the character. I had never seen this before, and I was quite impressed. About 85% of the elements that comprised the Columbo "formula" are there, but Mr. Falk's hair is shorter and neater, the overcoat is not rumpled (as much), and Columbo is a bit more aggressive than we are used to based on the later shows. It took a second pilot film three years later for Columbo to get picked up as a series, but the magic was there in 1967 for this film. Don't miss it. Gene Barry is a fine sparring partner for Peter Falk, and no fan will be disappointed.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Lloyd Hamilton in top form in 1930 comedy short, 3 January 2005
9/10

Directed by Alf Goulding, who did many Harold Lloyd silent classics, this short like many two-reel shorts divides up into two segments. First, we see Lloyd Hamilton in his apartment being driven up the wall by an opera-singing neighbor. After getting boiling mad, he finally does something to stop it. Then a tap dancer who lives on the floor above starts practicing...then a tuba player living beneath him starts practicing...THEN Hamilton is harassed by the landlord for not paying his rent and tries to get his trunk, which is being held until he pays his rent, out of the building. All of this is quite funny and takes up most of the first reel. In the second reel, Hamilton stumbles into a situation where a group of people involved with a dog show are waiting for the judge to show up, a judge they have never met. As you would guess, Hamilton is mistaken for the judge, and since he has nothing better to do, plays along. The parody of dog shows (70 years before Best In Show!)is spot-on, with contestants attempting to bribe and threaten the judge, and with the ridiculous pretensions of the human owners of the dogs being shown. Another winner from Lloyd Hamilton. Running time 19 minutes.

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
static Albert Zugsmith sleaze--nothing like his earlier Mamie Van Doren films--NOT recommended!, 18 December 2004
4/10

I'm surprised there isn't an Albert Zugsmith cult yet. The films from his "auteur" period (1958 on) are so odd and distinctive that someone needs to over-praise him and find some grand design in his body of work. Having seen many of his films over the years (including The Chinese Room and the trailer from Movie Star American Style or LSD I Hate You), I wonder why people who have seen the extant Andy Milligan films and Ray Dennis Steckler's projects haven't latched on to Zugsmith. This one is from the mid-60s, when Zugsmith no longer worked at second-string semi-majors such as Allied Artists, and was making films for the same "adults only" marketplace as Barry Mahon and David Friedman and Doris Wishman. I always find Zugsmith's sex-oriented films to be ugly--even if he has attractive looking cast members, the projects always have a dingy, sleazy feel that makes the films seem dirtier than they are. This one is oriented around voyeurism and low-rent Freudian psychology. There's even a psychologist who seems to be playing himself, and there's a disquieting incest subtext running throughout the film that will turn off most people's libido. On the good side,excellent (though diverse!) library music cued throughout the film, which makes the static visuals seem more vibrant than they are. Overall, PSYCHOPATHIA SEXUALIS/ON HER BED OF ROSES seems to be an attempt to make a Barry Mahon style film with a twist of Joe Sarno. It's sad to think that the man who produced Orson Welles' TOUCH OF EVIL was making films like this--one step above something like Lou Campa's SOCK IT TO ME BABY--seven years later. Unless you must see all of Zugsmith's films, you'd be much better off finding some Lou Campa or Barry Mahon or Joe Sarno film you haven't seen rather than sitting through this waste of time.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
a rare SOUND comedy short from acrobatic Lupino Lane, 2 January 2005
9/10

Lupino Lane was one of the great comedy stars of the late silent era. Between 1926 and 1928, he made many excellent comedy shorts distributed by Educational Pictures, shorts built around his amazing acrobatic skills. The man seems to have been made of elastic or rubber! My children are amazed when they see this kind of film which contains no special effects--just clever editing, amazing acrobatic stunts, and the occasional elastic appendage or body dummy. Lane did not continue making very many shorts in the sound era--I have only seen this one from 1929, yet surprisingly it is almost as good as his best silent shorts, and it's still primarily visual. In this one, Lane (whose voice fits his persona perfectly!) is a newlywed about to start his honeymoon, but one thing after another goes wrong, his wife's brother isn't happy about things, and there are a few annoying hotel employees who manage to mix everything up. The first minute or two, as Lane runs into a few other customers while trying to register at the hotel desk, are a good sign of what is to come--everything Lane does goes wrong, and it goes wrong in many different ways. If, for instance, he takes a pen from the desk--it won't write, then he'll poke someone with it, then it will squirt ink, then he'll blind someone with the ink, then the chain on which it was attached will spin around, then the chain will get wrapped around someone's neck, etc. That's a made-up example, but that's how he works. The way he complete milks EVERY possible permutation of a situation is amazing. I'm reminded of the scene in the "waxed room" from Jerry Lewis's CRACKING UP (although I don't know if Lane was an influence on Lewis). Lane went back to the UK soon after the coming of sound, but based on this short he could easily have continued making his films. This is much more fluid than most early-sound shorts. My copy is from a TV print with new opening credits, but the original "Lupino Lane Talking Comedies" card survives at the end of the short. Lovers of physical comedy should seek out ANY Lupino Lane comedy shorts. This one is special because it shows that he was just as good in the sound era as in the silent.

Rape (1969) (TV)
8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
John and Yoko's uncredited remake of Samuel Beckett's "Film", 12 December 2004
2/10

My copy of this is many generations removed from the Austrian TV showing from which it was taken, so if there is any subtlety to the photography, then I probably missed it. What I see is a pastiche of Samuel Beckett's "Film"--which I'm sure a Fluxus person such as Yoko would have been aware of, and John probably was too--where someone is running away from the camera, trying to hide, but being "invaded" and "violated", hence the provocative title. That's it, and it goes on for over an hour. There doesn't seem to be much if any dramatic tension to the chase, and the whole thing must have been more interesting in "concept" than it turned out to be in execution. Maybe with a pristine print on an actual movie screen I would be more impressed, but I have a feeling the result would still be tedious and pretentious. Don't expend much effort or money to find a copy of this.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
clunky yet fascinating early 30's exploitation patchwork, 10 January 2004
7/10

This feature, known as both PROTECT YOUR DAUGHTERS and RECKLESS DECISION (the latter is the title on my copy), features a frame story--shot on one small set-up with a static camera and actors talking in the manner of the padded footage in a Jerry Warren film such as ATTACK OF THE MAYAN MUMMY--and a core story from another film that takes up about 75% of the film. Interestingly, the credits contain the names of some of the actors in the frame story as well as actors CUT from the frame story! And the actors in the main story, including well-known William Farnum, are NOT listed in the credits. There's not much sleaze here if that's what you are looking for--this is even tamer than the sound version of ROAD TO RUIN. The credit for photographer Frank Zukor (aka Zucker) leads me to believe that the frame story may have been a NYC-based Bud Pollard production (Pollard is best-known today for his 1940's Black-cast films and for being president of the Screen Directors' Guild). Zukor shot Pollard's VICTIM OF PERSECUTION and some Yiddish-language features. Perhaps some Yiddish film scholar can enlighten us about the origin of this film. There's undoubtedly an interesting story behind this strange patchwork feature( While we're discussing exploitation films, I believe SEX MADNESS was also made by people who otherwise made Yiddish films). However, this film will be of interest ONLY to the serious student of exploitation films or odd patchwork features such as, say, GUN CARGO or CALL OF THE ROCKIES.

Red Snow (1952)
1 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
obscure cold-war programmer set among Eskimos of Western Alaska, nothing special, 12 March 2005
5/10

Here's an obscure cold-war melodrama, set among the Eskimos of Western Alaska, where the US Alaskan territory is separated by only a few miles from the extreme eastern section of Russian Siberia. Strange atomic-looking blasts (never really explained in the film, by the way) are coming from the Siberian side, causing the American military to use some of its forces of Eskimo background to investigate in their home areas and find out about any reports of Eskimos coming over from the Siberian side. The main Eskimo character is played by Ray Mala, familiar to serial fans from his starring roles in ROBINSON CRUSOE OF CLIPPER ISLAND and HAWK OF THE WILDERNESS. He isn't given a lot of lines, and the voice-over narration that is meant to be from his character is, according to the credits, read by someone else. The traitor among the Eskimos is played by well-known Korean-American character actor Philip Ahn. Perhaps the most interesting part of the film is the 25 minutes or so in the second half which takes place among the Eskimo people. A mix of location footage and close-ups shot in the studio arctic set or against an arctic rear-projection screen takes us on a hunting party, a feast, a wedding preparation, the building of an igloo, etc. The non-Eskimo military forces are filmed in a few small rooms, on a few sets in front of facades of military-looking buildings and phony snow, and in airplane cockpits. Guy Madison is top-billed, and this fine leading man brings his usual charm and wit to the role of a heroic lieutenant, but he can only do so much in a programmer such as this. Carole Mathews (best known to me for STRANGE AWAKENING/FEMALE FIENDS, with Lex Barker) is his romantic interest, and they are just about to kiss when a blast (animated) comes from the Siberian side that lights up the night. Their romance is picked up again later, but never really developed or brought to any climax. There are a few humorous moments with an enlisted man who hides his gum behind his ear when talking to his commanding officer, and who does some good vocal impressions of musical instruments like the trombone and the stand up bass, but again this humor is soon dropped and not developed. This must be one of the few films, if not the only film, producer-director Boris Petroff (aka Brooke Peters) made for a major studio (Columbia), but except for the Alaskan footage (and one wonders if that was shot specifically FOR this movie, or if the movie was written around already existing footage?), this is a VERY low budget film on a PRC level. It must have been a second feature in its day, or released by Columbia during an off-week. There is not enough cold-war hysteria here to make the film enjoyable on a camp level, and though on some levels it resembles the Sam Katzman-produced serials being made at Columbia during this period, it lacks the over-the-top and absurd elements that made those serials such fun to watch. Except for the Guy Madison fanatic, I can't imagine this film having much appeal to anyone. It's not BAD-- it's a professional though cheap piece of product, and it certainly shows respect for the native people of Alaska (which should earn it a few points when we think about how offensive it COULD have been in that department), but I can't imagine wanting to dig this film out again unless I am stranded above the Arctic Circle myself and all I have with me entertainment-wise is RED SNOW.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
solid, unpretentious spaghetti western, Ken Clark is excellent, 24 August 2003
9/10

This review is of the pan-and-scan AIP-TV version of this film, called SAVAGE GRINGO. I taped it off TV about 20 years ago. I liked it then, and I like it now just having re-watched it. The few references to this film I've seen note that Mario Bava took over the direction from Antonio Roman, who is solely credited on the copy I have of this film, and then fault the film because it has few if any distinctively Bava touches in it. If you are looking for an Italian western that is to the genre what HERCULES IN THE HAUNTED WORLD is to sword-and-sandal films, look elsewhere, as you won't get it here. With so many Italian westerns having so many odd cinematic techniques used in them, SAVAGE GRINGO is actually quite conventional. Perhaps Bava simply just did a professional job on this and did NOT see it as an auteur piece on which he would put his personal stamp or with which he would make some statement about life and art. He had already worked with Ken Clark previously in ROAD TO FORT ALAMO/ ARIZONA BILL (a film which DID have a number of Bava touches to it)--perhaps that was one reason he was asked to complete this film? In any event, Clark is fantastic in this role. He is tall and athletic and one of the better American actors to work in the spaghetti western genre--it's a shame he only made two. His character NEBRASKA is fascinating although enigmatic, and creates a warmth and passion in the role. He's also VERY quick with a gun and it's exciting to see him come out of the woodwork in the blink of an eye and blow someone away. Personally, I don't have a problem with his motivations never being clearly stated--isn't that a little bit like real life? While we have a feeling that Nebraska will win in the end, we don't really know HOW he will get to that point or what barriers he will face along the way, so I don't see that as causing any lack of suspense. The suspense is caused by wondering how the situation got to the point it did--who exactly is Kay? Why does she point out that she's not married to Marty, and if not, what exactly is going on here? How did this Bill Carter get to be running things? What's Nebraska's perspective on this? In a way, the film plays against our expectations of what we expect from other films. Judged solely as a spaghetti western, NOT as a Mario Bava film, I've got to give this an above average rating. It's not wildly original, but like an old genre western with Johnny Mack Brown or Charles Starrett (we always know the ending of one of their films in advance, don't we?), it moves quickly, has a lot of fistfights and gunplay, and has the right attitude. And Ken Clark is superb in a rare Western appearance. I have a French language version of the previous Bava-Clark western, Arizona Bill. I'll have to watch it again now (got it 10+ years ago) after seeing this one, and I've got the DVD of ROY COLT... (Bava's 3rd and final western) on order.

17 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Mickey Spillane investigates crimes at the Clyde Beatty Circus in cinema-scope!, 12 June 2006
6/10

Well, say what you will about RING OF FEAR, it's certainly a novelty. First of all, the real "Star" is the Clyde Beatty Circus, which couldn't have purchased better advertising than this beautifully shot color and cinema-scope production, half of which must be the circus's best acts. A psycho is at loose in the circus, so the great crime writer Mickey Spillane, playing himself, is called in to investigate! Spillane himself calls in for a fellow investigator to help, and that guy poses as a magazine reporter. Pat O'Brien plays the manager of the circus, and Clyde Beatty himself also appears and does a number of lion and tiger-taming routines. Irish actor Sean McCrory, in an over-the-top performance, plays a one-time circus employee who became a stalker of a lady working at the circus and escapes from a mental institution to re-join the circus (and this is NOT a spoiler--all this is shown in the first few scenes), where he's accepted back as ringmaster. There's even comedy scenes with Batjac Productions regular Pedro Gonzalez-Gonzalez! My favorite scene is one where Mickey Spillane shows up at the circus and runs into the uncredited comic master Vince Barnett, who is reading Spillane novels on the job all day and explains to Spillane himself how his productivity has gone down so much due to Mick's novels! Mick then produces his newest one, hot of the press, and hands it to Barnett, who almost salivates over it! There's not much "mystery" here since we know exactly how each crime is committed, and we only get to know about a half dozen employees of the circus at all, so obviously the suspect pool from which Spillane and assistant have to choose isn't really that large. No, what makes the film entertaining is the circus setting, the idea of Mickey Spillane playing himself, and the colorful performances. Pat O'Brien (no relation to the bar or the TV gossip host) could play a role like this in his sleep, but he still has the gruff authenticity that makes him so watchable and loved by audiences for decades. Spillane comes off as an amiable and sarcastic yet tough guy. Sean McCrory, the "human star" of the film (the circus itself being the main star), chews the scenery and one wonders how ANYONE would not instantly think he was guilty of SOMETHING. This film will no doubt get a large audience through its being included in the new box set JOHN WAYNE'S SUSPENSE COLLECTION, which contains four Batjac Productions (see also my review of MAN IN THE VAULT, also in the package). It's a fascinating curio that's worth watching once, and may have some camp appeal for future viewings. As a Spillane fan, I'm happy to see the master in anything, so I may well watch it again. The transfer is superb on the DVD with rich colors and fine widescreen composition. One can only imagine how beautiful and awesome the circus scenes were on a large 1950's movie screen.

16 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Sam Katzman's take on L.A. 60s youth culture, has some good elements to it, 31 August 2003
5/10

This legendary film is most legendary for its music scenes by the Standells(whose versions of the two songs they do are different from the ones appearing on the soundtrack album!) and the Chocolate Watchband (who are a VERY exciting live band and whose appearance totally justifies their devoted cult following). The actual movie has a kind of "Dragnet" feel, minus Jack Webb's patented hard-boiled ambience. With an actor as impressive as Aldo Ray in the lead--as a fair-minded police chief with a complex family situation who is drawn into the melodramatic situation that provides the film's plot--at least we are provided with a solid performance in a central role. And the young Mimsy Farmer's LSD dance is as bizarre as I'd heard it was. The rest of the film plays like a TV episode with a little extra sleaze added. Director Arthur Dreifuss was no stranger to exploitation films, having directed Black-cast and teen-oriented quickies in the 1940s AND directing the 60s classic The Love-Ins. Producer Sam Katzman had attempted to cash in on youth culture in the mid-50s with his two Bill Haley films and in the early 60s with his two Chubby Checker films (Don't Knock the Twist was excellent!). Frankly, this film takes the same youth/adult conflicts shown in those films and transposes them into 1967 Los Angeles. The difference is that the music is not the main element here-- it's only a backdrop to the Adult/Youth conflict. This film actually means well and presents a fair-minded analysis of the situation, and Ray is quite sympathetic and convincing, but the overall effect is reduced by weakly written roles for the (overage) teenagers and a "riot" that is anti-climactic and a conclusion that seems abrupt. Still the music scenes with the Standells and the Chocolate Watchband are GREAT, as are the songs by the exciting band who performs "Jolene" or something like that in a club scene. Perhaps this could be put on a DVD double-bill with another 60s AIP teen-exploitation flick?

22 out of 23 people found the following review useful:
Hugh Beaumont as detective Denny O'Brien--two stories, one film, 26 January 2005
8/10

Hugh Beaumont, who previous had played Michael Shayne for a series of detective movies at PRC in the 1946-47 season (entertaining films, but having little to do with the Shayne character as depicted in the Brett Halliday novels), put the trench-coat back on for a series of three hour-long feature films as detective Denny O'Brien, released in short succession through Lippert Pictures in 1951. One interesting element about these films is that each consists of two half-hour-long stories, almost as if one is watching back-to-back episodes of a television show. Another interesting element is that the films seem to have borrowed a number of elements from the radio show PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE, starring Jack Webb. Not only is O'Brien a man who rents a ship at the pier and does odd jobs, not only does each film start with monologues very similar to those of Webb, not only does O'Brien have a drunken ex-college-professor sidekick who does some legwork for him, but one of the three films has a plot line lifted directly from a Novak episode! (Perhaps other plots of these movies are lifted from Novak episodes I haven't heard) In any event, these three films are all enjoyable outings with Beaumont radiating the same kind of charm he always did, yet still being convincing as a tough PI spouting hard-boiled dialogue. This particular film has two stories: one of a fixed fight that O'Brien is hired to bet on, and the other where O'Brien is hired to pose as a woman's husband for an evening. Like the PAT NOVAK series, someone hires the detective to do something, he winds up getting beaten up or knocked out, and he wakes up with a dead body, and a police inspector who doesn't like him trying to pin the murder on the detective. That's the formula, and I like it. As often happens with Lippert films, there is a fine b-movie supporting cast, and there is no time wasted on non-essential items. I've owned this film for about 15 years, and I have no doubt watched it five times in those years. Beaumont fans will NOT be disappointed. The other two Denny O'Brien films are DANGER ZONE and PIER 23, both of which I also recommend to detective film fans who do not mind bargain-basement productions in the PRC/Lippert vein. These are directed by the ever-reliable William Berke.

16 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
the original rock'n'roll feature film--great showcase for Bill Haley and His Comets, 3 November 2004
8/10

Journeyman director Fred Sears (also an actor in many films--I remember him from Charles Starrett westerns) was a good choice to direct this low-budget Sam Katzman-produced quickie, meant to cash in on the rock'n'roll fad and the celebrity of Bill Haley and His Comets. Sears gets right down to business and features the music throughout--with wonderful (mostly) mimed performances by Bill Haley of his classic early Decca recordings, which still rock out today. Also seen are the pioneering lounge-rocknroll band Freddie Bell and His Bellboys, who were fine entertainers in the Louis Prima vein and who provided Elvis with Hound Dog. A plot is woven into the film here and there to keep things moving, but the emphasis is on the music. Haley's friendly persona comes across well in his limited dialogue scenes, and the other characters in his band, such as sax player Rudy Pompilli, are quite animated, capturing a bit of what his live shows must have been like (probably much wilder than this film). Alan Freed also appears and is worked into the plot, and the Platters sing their two biggest hits. All together, it's an excellent time capsule into the early days of rock'n'roll, and it's a wonderful showcase for the great Bill Haley, who still has not received his due as a music pioneer. It's easy to see why the film caused riots when shown overseas. Don't miss it if you like Haley, Freed, and the glory days of rocknroll.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
no-nonsense silent western short starring J.B.Warner, 14 March 2005
6/10

I viewed a 1937 Hollywood Film Exchange reissue of this film, with no cast of director credits on the new title card. The dialogue cards throughout the film seem to be original, but I don't know if the film was edited down at all from its original length--this copy runs 12:22. While most of the community is away at a lynching (!!!), a group of crooks plan to rob a Wells Fargo office. They have a young man tied up who is their prisoner and who they feel will talk (as we don't see him get kidnapped, I wonder if the film is cut?). He manages to escape but gets shot and informs his brother, the hero of the piece, played by J.B.Warner, a lanky man who to me resembled a young William S. Hart if played without any irony by James Woods. Warner, from Nebraska, died of TB at a young age and few of his films are in circulation today. I think I've seen one other many years ago. The sheriff is played by portly supporting actor Robert McKenzie (who had a sound career also, and was wonderful as the cowardly attorney working for town boss Wheeler Oakman in the 1936 Tim McCoy vehicle THE MAN FROM GUNTOWN), who does some physical comedy and packs five guns in his belt! Shorts like this are admirable for their no-nonsense attitude and for wasting no screen time--the "sets", such as they are, are probably full of found elements, and real buildings are usually used for outdoor shots, which give the films a nice sense of place and a kind of realism. They tell a complete story, efficiently and with atmosphere, in a short time and still entertain today. What more could we ask?

8 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
OK lowbrow Eurowestern comedy with Brett Halsey, 20 November 2004
6/10

Now that this is available in a beautiful letterboxed, subtitled DVD, ROY COLT AND WINCHESTER JACK can be enjoyed by anyone who wants to see it. Is it worth seeing? Well...what you have is basically a lowbrow Eurowestern comedy that belongs on the same shelf with STING OF THE WEST and IT CAN BE DONE AMIGO. The various supporting players are colorful, and there are two strong American leads in the charismatic Brett Halsey and the engaging Charles Southwood. Though hidden under a lot of makeup, Marilu Tolo is as sexy as ever. I've never found Italian western comedies to be that worthwhile (or western comedies in general, BLAZING SADDLES excepted)--for me, most of the best qualities of westerns are lost when they are played for laughs. There are a number of laughs in this film--Halsey and Southwood both play comedy well--but the viewer should be warned that the laughs are on a Bowery Boys/Police Academy-level. I like that kind of comedy, but you may not. The reason this film was reissued is that it was directed by Mario Bava; however, had I seen the film without knowing that, I would never have guessed. Bava scholars can no doubt find similarities, but I would not consider his direction a major element here (see my review of RINGO DEL NEBRASKA, one of Bava's two other westerns). Overall, this is an enjoyable Eurowestern comedy, with excellent and creative production design (now THERE is a Bava quality!) and good performances, but I don't really consider it essential, only for the serious Eurowestern fan or the Brett Halsey fan (of which I'm one).

an outrageous sound comedy short from silent comedienne Polly Moran, 20 February 2005
9/10

Made at Columbia the same year by the same director (Charles Lamont) as the short I just reviewed, NEW NEWS with Monte Collins and Tom Kennedy, SAILOR MADE stars former silent comedy star Polly Moran, and she is amazing--aggressive, wild, over-the-top. Only Patsy Kelly or Vera Vague at their wildest come near Moran in terms of manic female comedy. Here she is an illegal immigrant (wait, where's the accent? I'm guessing she is supposed to be Irish, but who knows where she is supposed to be from--there are no clues) who needs to find someone to marry in order to stay in the US. She eventually finds a sailor who grows to like her and want to marry her, but they get separated by various events and she must go find him on his ship! I'm assuming the sailor is played by Frank Mills (most of whose 1930s film appearances are "uncredited"), who is a stocky guy with great comic timing who could well have had his own series of comedy shorts. But this is a vehicle for Polly Moran, and it's "tailor made" for her talents: wonderful facial expressions, great ability to do pratfalls and comic fights, hilarious hard-boiled delivery of her lines in the style of an Iris Adrian. It's a shame she did not have a longer series with Columbia. Still, here is proof that Moran was as successful in sound comedy as in silent comedy. If you like Patsy Kelly, or Vera Vague, or Iris Adrian, or Lucille Ball at her wildest, you will want to check out SAILOR MADE, a wonderful Polly Moran vehicle.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
OK but disappointing sequel, 15 July 2002
3/10

The first SCARY MOVIE was a guilty pleasure that had a lot of laughs and was so over-the-top that it was also full of surprises. This sequel didn't really introduce anything new, and the first film was so extreme in the gross-out arena that they couldn't have gone any further in this one without getting an NC-17 rating. The clever moments here were few and far between, and it seems as though it is merely a cynical attempt to cash in on a successful franchise. If you liked the first one and it's a rainy night with nothing to do, you might get a laugh out of this, but rent it, certainly don't buy it, and please don't support a SCARY MOVIE 3 if they make one.

Stout comedienne Babe London in romantic mix-up in this one-reel "Cameo" silent comedy short, 12 March 2005
7/10

A one-reel "Cameo" comedy short distributed by Educational, SCRAMBLED EGGS has a simple but effective premise: Babe London (a stout physical comedienne not unlike, say, Lulu Roman or Muriel Landers) and Phil Dunham (imagine a balding, shorter, fussier Charley Chase) are sitting across from each other on a train, and both are waiting to meet their respective dates at the next train station. London is, of course, eating bonbons (isn't that the stereotype for the large person???), and one funny scene involves a guy a few rows back who cuts a piece of a plug of chewing tobacco that gets blown by the wind into London's box of candy. That routine is so good, the film makers used it TWICE...once for London, and once for Dunham when Babe offers him a piece. Once the two of them get off the train, you can imagine that there are countless mix-ups where the couples get entangled. Running time is 11 minutes, and the premise is solid enough to keep the laughs coming throughout. Silent comedy short fans should enjoy this. Ms. London continued to work for decades, her last credit being in 1960. Although much of her work in sound films is uncredited, you can catch her in walk-on roles, asking yourself "isn't that...", and finding that she's off-screen before you remember who she was! I've enjoyed all the silent comedy I've seen her in.

16 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
John Calvert's third and final film as The Falcon, 28 August 2003
9/10

Actor/magician John Calvert made three low-budget features as The Falcon in 1948-49 for the small "Film Classics" company. Tom Conway made a strong impression in many Falcon films in the early and mid-40s, and Conway had a smooth, urbane, sarcastic edge that for many made him the definitive Falcon. Calvert wisely does not choose to ape Conway's approach, instead taking a more laid-back interpretation of the role. His approach works well. The film was directed (as was the previous film, APPOINTMENT WITH MURDER)by Jack Bernhard, well-regarded for the film noir classics DECOY and VIOLENCE, both made for Monogram in 1947. This film is not as over-the-top as those two, but it is a solid little murder mystery with a fine supporting cast (Albert Dekker and Ben Welden as the owners of a gambling club, Douglas Fowley as a police inspector). The intrigue gets deeper and deeper as the film proceeds and I must say that the climax was a total surprise to me. It is fun to see all the other characters get angry and flustered while The Falcon maintains his cool and gradually breaks them down, seemingly effortlessly. There is also some nice location photography of the streets of 1949 L.A., which helps to create a nice L.A. flavor for a film that is otherwise largely shot on cheap, small sets. Anyone who loves a good murder mystery and appreciates series films such as Charlie Chan, Boston Blackie, etc., should enjoy this. It's not as slick as the RKO Falcons, but the low budget creates a nice cheap ambience which in hindsight turns out to be a virtue for the film. All three Calvert Falcon films are worth watching if you can find them.

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
the finest line-up of talent in any 1960's country music film AND the reunited Bowery Boys--don't miss it!, 28 December 2004
10/10

If this film ever gets any distribution on video or DVD, it should become well-known as it features the one and only reunion of Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall in their Bowery Boys characters AND the most incredible line-up of talent I've ever seen in any 1960's country music film, and I've seen (and reviewed some here) most of them. Country music fan Arnold Stang (who is very funny here--kind of in the Harry Langdon vein)'s wife, played by the lovely Pamela Hayes, hates country music and plans to put on a big opera benefit for her snooty friends. At the last minute, the opera company can't make it, so she turns to Arnold to put together a country music show in its place, and of course she gets converted to country music. Gorcey and Hall play the stagehands at the theater and get a lot of comic scenes in before the concert starts, and then they do comic relief backstage after every few acts. Reuniting Gorcey and Hall would be enough to get me to own this film, but it has an incredible country music show that lasts almost 90 minutes and features wall-to-wall REAL country music, with steel guitar and early 60's echo. I wrote down the names so I wouldn't forget any. Many of the artists do TWO songs, not just one: Little Jimmy Dickens, Carl and Pearl Butler (I hope their amazing clothes are in a museum somewhere--their music is especially good, so it's a shame they are not that well-known anymore), Lefty Frizzell, Bill Monroe, Dottie West, George Hamilton IV, Pete Drake and his infamous "talking steel guitar", Sonny James, Minnie Pearl (who does comedy AND sings a version of "Careless Love" that I won't soon forget!), Billy Walker (fantastic!), Connie Smith, Homer and Jethro, Johnny Wright (of Johnnie and Jack fame), Kitty Wells (Mrs. Johnny Wright, of course), fiddler Buddy Spiker, Del Reeves (whose second song after Girl on the Billboard is a parody of Heartbreak Hotel sung in a Walter Brennan accent!), Faron Young, and Webb Pierce, with a final singalong on "When The Saints Go Marching In" led by Sonny James. The whole show is hosted by Merle Kilgore, best known to those under 40 for his relationship with Hank Williams Jr.'s business empire. Kilgore's speaking voice is so rich and musical, I just wish the producers had had him sing. He made many great records in the 50s. By the way, the musical director for the film was Audrey Williams, but don't worry, she doesn't sing! This is a gem of a little film, shot in vibrant color. Any country music fan or Bowery Boys fan should track down a copy.

34 out of 60 people found the following review useful:
Bravo! An amazing showcase for Jennifer Tilly--an instant classic!, 25 November 2004
10/10

I haven't seen a Chucky film since the first one, but with Jennifer Tilly "playing herself" and with John Waters in the cast, I figured I'd give this a chance, and I'm glad I did. While Chucky (Brad Dourif) and his wife Tiffany (Jennifer Tilly) and their child Glen/Glenda (Billy Boyd) are entertaining, the film is really a vehicle for Jennifer Tilly, playing "herself", in other words, an exaggerated version of her public persona. And she is incredibly funny and incredibly daring in that role. For me, this is the performance of the year. I know that Ms. Tilly has a rabid following who see every film she is in, but now I am joining that fold. This film is funny, scary, a wonderful satire of Hollywood and the cult of celebrity. I don't know why others have put down Redman, but he is perfect for his role...also playing an exaggerated version of his public persona. If anyone doesn't "get" this film, then I guess they don't "get" performers such as Mae West or Jayne Mansfield. With this film, Jennifer Tilly should be elevated to that level of greatness. Yes, she is a fine actress who can play any kind of role convincingly, but she also has an aura about her that one cannot buy or train for. There are a few jokes about Julia Roberts in the film, but as Tilly herself surely knows Ms. Roberts could not have gotten away with a role such as this (although she did in a way play a similar role in FULL FRONTAL). Writer-director Don Mancini has hit a grand slam with this film, which will surely become a cult classic. Of the hundreds of films I have rated on the IMDb, this is one of the dozen or so that deserves an unqualified "10." John Waters is perfect for his role as a sleaze reporter--that he was offered a role in the film shows that the filmmakers surely know their lineage! Finally, there is a wonderful musical score by the legendary Italian composer Pino Donaggio. I can't imagine how a Chucky 6 could follow up this film, but the minds who created this amazing film can probably surprise us once again. However, should they choose to retire the franchise with this entry, they will be going out on top. I'll be buying the DVD the day it comes out. And I need to get a picture of Jennifer Tilly for my wall!

7 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Ty Hardin as eccentric patriarch in offbeat Euro-western, 1 September 2003
6/10

I checked out this film because of its star, Ty Hardin, and its intriguing title, and whatever you can say about it, it isn't boring! The first half of the film is the comedic, episodic story of "Sacramento" Thompson, who seems to be constantly getting into problems from which his grown children must save him, and who is a jack-of-all-trades including prizefighter and preacher! The first half of the film is leisurely paced and even features a gospel song. Hardin, who has always had a roguish charm, is perfect for this role and he's decked out in a gray-tinted beard, flashing his winning smile. Then, about halfway through the film, an event I won't mention triggers a kidnapping/revenge plot that continues through the rest of the movie. Without a star of Ty Hardin's talent and charm, I don't know if I would have finished watching this film, but he manages to make it all worthwhile. Hardin made a number of interesting films in Europe in the late 60s and early 70s. This one certainly does not resemble any other spaghetti western I've seen, so for that reason...AND to see Hardin's entertaining performance...fans of the genre might want to seek out this film.

2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
one of the last Chan films with Sidney Toler--OK for fans of series, 30 December 2003
8/10

I didn't think much of this when I first saw it years ago, but upon re-watching it I don't think it's that bad. True, it's not as good as the first half-dozen Chans that Toler made at Monogram, but the chemistry between Chan, his son, and Birmingham Brown is still entertaining, and there are a number of interesting supporting characters (and red herrings). The cheap sets and drab visual style actually create a fitting mood for the film, and while it's easy to pick apart a film like this, Toler isn't around to make any more, so we should enjoy what there is to enjoy about the ones we have.If you are already a fan of the series, you'll probably want to see this--just don't be to critical of it while watching. If you haven't seen any of Toler's Monogram output, start with THE CHINESE CAT, THE JADE MASK, THE SCARLET CLUE, or IN THE SECRET SERVICE, and save this one and THE TRAP for later.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
worthwhile Buster Keaton Columbia short, reprises parts of THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER, 27 March 2005
8/10

Though the quality varies, Buster Keaton's Columbia comedy shorts have given me much pleasure over the years, and no doubt had the same effect on audiences in the late 30's and early 40's. He would not have worked at Columbia for almost a decade if he wasn't delivering at the box office, Jules White has explained in interviews. This one pairs Buster and Monte Collins (in the Jimmy Durante role) in a partial remake of THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER, at least in the second reel. Teamed with them is the hilarious Elsie Ames, a brash Patsy Kelly or Vera Vague-style lady with wonderful acrobatic skills (see TAMING OF THE SNOOD with Keaton). This being directed by Jules White (my copy is an "Official films" reissue, without the original credits), there is a lot of violent slapstick--clanking pipes in the head, burning welding torches in the rear end--accompanied by outrageous sound effects, a technique used so effectively by White with the Three Stooges. Buster is in fine form, and takes a number of pratfalls himself, as well as playing a scene without his shirt on! Perhaps the highlight for me in this film--a scene I remembered for decades of seeing this-- is one where Monte Collins needs to screw one thing into another in the workshop, and then gives Keaton the screwdriver and turns his body while Buster holds the screwdriver stationary! If a dummy or a stuntman is used, it's slickly edited in because I didn't catch it. The final reel of the film is a re-make of the dueling sequence from THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER, with Monte Collins in the Durante role and Eddie Laughton (somewhat) in the Gilbert Roland role--some may even prefer this version as the pacing is tighter. Overall, a nice Keaton short that any fan of the sound-Era Buster should enjoy. Why Columbia has not released these on video or now DVD is beyond me.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Lloyd Hamilton destroys everything in sight as an electrician in this silent comedy short, 25 December 2004
8/10

The Lloyd Hamilton silent comedy shorts of the mid and late 1920s that I've seen have been uniformly good. In this one, we are introduced to a pretentious and uppity family who we just KNOW will be brought down to size later in the short. Then we cut to Lloyd Hamilton, stumbling along, and finding a job advertisement for an electrician's helper. He applies for the job (literally dangling over the business!), and from there on out there is solid physical comedy of all kinds. Imagine a silent film version of those Three Stooges shorts where the boys are plumbers and wreck the rich people's home, and then put all Three Stooges into one body, Lloyd Hamilton's. This is a must-see for Hamilton fans or admirers of silent comedy. If only films like this one were circulating in pristine shape--unfortunately, they aren't, but any copy is better than no copy.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
fine Eurospy action with David Janssen in one of his final roles, 28 September 2004
9/10

To my knowledge, the late, great David Janssen made two European crime films in the 1970s: THE SWISS CONSPIRACY (which I saw theatrically back when it was originally released, and which is the lesser of the two), and this one, titled COVERT ACTION for the English language market. Janssen plays an ex-CIA agent who has become an author, writing both non-fiction exposes (Phillip Agee was in the news at this time) and fiction spy novels. The CIA is on his case, in the person of Arthur Kennedy, CIA chief in Athens, where Janssen is staying. Janssen is pursuing a case that interests him, while dodging the traps set for him by Kennedy (and NOT dodging them too--the scenes where he is captured by the CIA and sent in for deprogramming are harrowing in the extreme!), and trying to help Maurizio Merli, a former colleague with personal problems. Janssen also is having an affair with a lovely lady (of course!). David Janssen was the rare individual to have not one, not two, but THREE excellent TV series under his belt: RICHARD DIAMOND, THE FUGITIVE, and O'HARA: UNITED STATES TREASURY. A brooding, understated actor, he is perfect for this role and generates a real intensity and depth. Like Charles Bronson, he is able to communicate pain through his eyes, and he generates a lot of audience empathy. Director Romolo Guerrieri (uncle of Italian crime master Enzo Castellari) worked in peplum, spaghetti westerns, crime films, and Franco and Ciccio comedies as a writer and director and assistant director and second unit director before making this film, and he has a great eye, making fine use of the Greek location shooting, both the mean streets of the city and beautiful seascapes. For fans of European crime and spy films, this is a must-see, and it should also interest any David Janssen fans out there. I've loaned this video to a number of friends over the years, and everyone has enjoyed it, singling out Janssen's unique screen presence and happy to have another example of his work available. Let's hope someone decides to do a letterboxed DVD of this soon.

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
entertaining Monogram "backstage" comedy-musical from Katzman-Beaudine, featuring Frank Fay and Billy Gilbert, 11 September 2004
8/10

From Sam Katzman's "Banner Productions" (of Bela Lugosi and East Side Kids fame--in one scene the movie poster from Katzman's Lugosi film "Bowery At Midnight" is seen in a theatre lobby) comes this vaudeville "review" which mixes up on-stage comedy and music with backstage antics (featuring, among others, the dynamic comedienne Iris Adrian, and in one of his final roles the great Harry Langdon as a stage director) and a plot about the rise and success of an ill-matched vaudeville duo, Frank Fay and Billy Gilbert. The film begins with Fay sneaking out of a hotel without paying, but getting caught. He goes to get a haircut from barber Billy Gilbert, and after trying to cheat Gilbert out of money, Fay and Gilbert become friends when Fay visits his home and hears him sing. They create an act together, and the film charts the gradual success of their act. As they play various venues, we see various little-remembered music and comedy acts (The Three Radio Rogues, who do impressions, Wee Bonnie Baker ("the tiny little girl with the tiny little voice"), Henry King's swing band, etc.) doing their acts. While Gilbert and Fay (who play versions of themselves) are very talented people, their "act" is not that good and it's hard to believe they'd get the offers that they do (one comes from Wheeler Oakman, not listed in the cast list). Still, the film is a nice window into an age long-gone, and it's interesting to see Frank Fay playing himself in the latter stages of his career. He had been a successful Broadway and vaudeville star in earlier days, but was on the way down at this time (why else would he be in a Monogram film!) and his legendary unpleasant personality (depicted here in the film by his conceited view of himself, his attempts to cheat others, and his two-faced character)probably didn't help him get work. As he is considered an influence on Jack Benny and other important comedians of that era, getting to see him while he was still somewhat in his prime is a treat. We also get to see his legendary routine of mercilessly picking apart the lyrics of songs sung by the vocalists who had the misfortune of appearing on the same bill with him. The few references I've seen to this film are because of Harry Langdon's presence, but unfortunately Langdon is not in the film that much (although his scenes are spread throughout the film)and he is not given an opportunity to engage in any extended comedy or to develop his character much. The pairing of Langdon and Iris Adrian could have been amazing, but they mostly play second banana to OTHER characters and don't get much interplay between themselves...unfortunately. Adrian gets more screen time than Langdon, as there is a subplot involving her and Fay (including an incredible scene on an apartment balcony that completely changes the course of the film, sending it into melodrama!!), and she's at her shrewish best. Had this been an MGM film, it would probably be slick and unwatchable, but the Monogram cheapness and slapdash production quality actually make the film far more watchable today. One scene worthy of praise is where Billy Gilbert suggests to Fay that they break up the act, for reasons that Fay does not know at the time. This is beautifully played by both of these old pros and actually brought a tear to my eye. Also, the film ends somewhat abruptly, but it's an ending that is moving and emotionally satisfying (I won't give it away)and works far better than any "traditional" ending I could imagine. Not a film that you need to track down (unless you are a Harry Langdon or Iris Adrian completist, or you are a student of Broadway who wants to see Frank Fay "playing himself"), but if you have a chance to see it, there are worse ways of killing 80 minutes (for instance, 15 of the 16 films playing at your local multi-plex!).

Spy Kids (2001)
Exciting fun for all ages, yet still pure Rodriguez!, 5 April 2001

"Like a roller-coaster ride through a fun-house"--that's how I described this delightful film to friends the day after I saw it.

Rare is the film the captures a child's wide-eyed perspective of the world, but writer-director Robert Rodriguez has hit the bulls-eye with this exciting family adventure that moves quickly and seems to engage viewers from 6 to 60.

There's enough movement and striking visuals and a simple good vs bad plot to keep the pre-schoolers I saw in the theatre fascinated; my junior-high aged daughter enjoyed the film's "hip" feel and wild technological gadgets and two enjoyable adolescent stars; and I enjoyed the film's beautiful photography, aggressively Latino perspective, and many clever allusions and small details. But all of us were swept away by SPY KIDS' pure entertainment value. My children and I were on the edge of our chairs, laughing, gasping with amazement, and at the end of the film we were all drained yet satisfied.

I predict that this film will become a family classic. Although it is totally different from films such as A CHRISTMAS STORY and MY DOG SKIP, like those it is a gem that will always stay fresh, will have an endless shelf life through DVD and cable TV, and will be entertaining my children's children.

Mr. Rodriguez is to be commended for following his own individual vision yet not forgetting how to please an audience. I would gladly pay again for the four of us to see this movie a second time.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
comic entry in Tomas Milian's "Nico Giraldi" police series...better than some of the later ones, 10 March 2005
6/10

I didn't much like this film when I first saw it ten or twelve years ago, but I was probably expecting a serious, fast-paced, violent Italian crime film as many of Tomas Milian's mid-70s films were. However this one emphasizes the comedy at least as much as the action, although it is still a successful package and the comedy/crime mixture works well. I haven't see all the later films (which ran well into the 1980's) with Milian as unconventional police inspector Nico Giraldi, but the one after this THE GANG THAT SOLD America, which also features a lot of US location shooting, does not work that well in my opinion and is full of dated pop culture references and unfunny humor. The first scene of LITTLE ITALY--as a dirty old man is looking through binoculars at a lady undressing...while his apartment is completely stripped clean by robbers only a few feet away from him!--sets the tone for the film. The plot, such as it is, takes Milian to New York and eventually to Las Vegas (and eventually to the gas chamber in Nevada in an outrageous climax!), and there's lots of great location footage of him walking along the old Vegas strip circa 1978. Eli Wallach appears (though his voice doesn't!) as a mafia don, in a role that didn't require much of this fine actor, but he plays comedy well and is good in the scenes involving his underlings, his red-haired wallflower oversexed daughter, and Milian (the scene in the Italian restaurant where Milian throws a pizza in the face of one of Wallach's underlings is classic!). Bombolo, who appears in a number of these later Nico Giraldi films, is a fine comic foil for Milian, and they have a good chemistry. I've yet to see the 1980's entries in this series (any kind soul out there with extra copies?), but in LITTLE ITALY the series still has some life in it, and Bruno Corbucci makes the mix of lowbrow Italian comedy and Italian police action work well. Not a classic, and action-oriented fans will be let down, but Milian fans will enjoy it. It would be nice to see the English-dubbed versions of all these films be released in a regular schedule at under ten dollars each on DVD and letter-boxed, but I won't stay awake at night waiting for that to happen any time soon...

7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
above average entry in Tomas Milian's 70s police-film series, 15 August 2002

THE COP IN BLUE JEANS, the US title of this film, was quite widely available in the video budget bins of the 80s and early 90s, so this may be the best known in the US of Tomas Milian's series of films as longhaired, unconventional cop Nico Giraldi. The films starts with a bang as a mini-crimewave is depicted in rapid-fire succession (the scene with the guy mooning the tourists to divert their attention as their possessions are stolen is a classic!), until after seven or eight minutes Milian jumps into action. Like most films of Bruno Corbucci, there is a serious political element in the film too, while it completely satisfies fans who just want an exciting violent action film. And of course, Tomas Milian is brilliant, creating an anti-hero (as he does so well!) who is unlike ANYONE in US cinema. I'm sure there are copies of this sitting in the 99-cent rack of video stores, so check it out if you want to see what is so good about the 1970s Italian police film genre or why Tomas Milian is one of the great icons of world film. My favorite film of this period w/ Milian is SWINDLE, where he is paired with David Hemmings. If you EVER see that offered or shown on TV, don't miss it!

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining country musical jubilee with Don Barry and Wally Vernon, 4 February 2005
8/10

With a plot not unlike that of KENTUCKY JUBILEE (also a Lippert release), ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK, HOOTENANNY HOOT, DON'T KNOCK THE TWIST, and many other "talent scout tries to put together a show" musical films, SQUARE DANCE JUBILEE finds leading man Don Barry teamed with rubber-faced funny-man Wally Vernon as television men looking in the rural west for talented country music performers to be featured on a network program (one in which we see Spade Cooley perform at the beginning of the film--in fact, Cooley addresses the audience and INTRODUCES the film!). The talent is fantastic, featuring Cowboy Copas doing a number of tunes, along with the lesser-known Claude Casey, who is also a fine country singer. Even west-coast country-music comic performer Herman the Hermit has a brief, strange appearance. If that's not enough, we get great performances from Max Terhune (without his dummy, Elmer, but doing some great vocal gymnastics!), Snub Pollard, Tom Kennedy, Tom Tyler as the "muscle" for the crooked town boss played with glee by John Eldredge (see my review of his great performance as the murderous blind date in LONELY HEART BANDITS, made the next year at Republic), and many regular b-movie faces. The film combines an exciting western-crime plot with entertaining music and dancing with well-played comedy sequences. Heck, even Don Barry himself sings a novelty song called "Girl in the Mink Blue Jeans" that isn't bad (although he was wise to keep his day job as an actor!). I don't see how someone could give this film a low rating because it completely achieves what it set out to do. It's basically a musical performance film strung together with a crime plot and comedy relief. The music is good, the western-crime plot is exciting and entertaining, and the comedy is well done. And it does all that in a little over an hour, and it probably was very cheap to make. If I were a small-town moviegoer in 1949 who enjoyed Spade Cooley's TV show, who had liked Don "Red" Barry in his earlier films, and who liked Wally Vernon's comedy shorts, I'd be pleased as punch to put down a dollar or so to get all of that in one entertaining package. This "Donald Barry production" for Lippert Pictures is an entertaining little gem of a b-movie, and I've watched it every year or two for a decade now. I look forward to watching it again soon...

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
so-so Monogram musical comedy, with not enough of Vera Vague or Jimmie Davis, 4 December 2004
6/10

With Vera Vague listed ABOVE the title, and with Governor Jimmie Davis prominently billed (after his two earlier fine vehicles for Monogram, MISSISSIPPI RHYTHM (see my review) and LOUISIANA), I was expecting a wonderful gem of a b-programmer with lots of Vera Vague's hilarity and lots of great music from Davis. Wrong. Why Vague, slapstick star of many great Columbia comedy shorts, is top-billed in the film, I don't know. She is basically a supporting character, playing the type of role she had in other musicals, sometimes with a rural theme as this one has, where she would be an acquaintance of the female star and would be fourth or fifth-billed. Here she plays Gypsy Jones, owner of a third-string nightclub where she herself is both manager and entertainment. What there is of her is wonderful--she does get to do a few routines on her own, but she is mostly reacting to the antics of the star, Katy of the title, who is played by Virginia Welles. Welles is a charming lady who sings well (though not remotely country!) and handles both comedy and romantic banter with class. Strangely enough, she made a film very similar to this one a year later, also for Monogram, called CASA MANANA, also directed by Jean Yarbrough (which is also something of a letdown, despite the presence of Spade Cooley and Robert Clarke in the cast--I can review it if anyone cares enough). The other "star" of the film is Phil Brito, who was featured in three musical films for Monogram between 1946 and 1950. This was his last film for Monogram. He seems to be one of those talents who could do big-band singing yet also pull of "classy" country material-- if you could imagine Eddy Arnold fronting the Spade Cooley Orchestra, you'll have some idea of his style in this film. Brito plays Dodo Dixon (backed by his Dixie Doodahs!), a small town phenomenon who has Virginia Welles singing for him back home. She wins a soap company singing contest (run by traveling talent scout Warren Douglas) and gets a gig in New York, and Dodo also goes to New York to hit the big time. Both Welles and Brito do well, with Dodo eventually landing a regular gig at Vera Vague's club, and using his rural folksy charm to promote his gig and winning over New Yorkers, who prove themselves to be just plain folks after all despite their hard-shell from city living. The end. While there is a chronology to the film and the scenes progress in a logical manner as the plot develops, there is little dramatic tension because both Welles and Brito's characters never really face any setbacks as they work their way up. Even in a throwaway rural musical, there has to be some "earning" of success. And the writers provide no dramatic buildup. Even the final scene, in a courtroom, provides no real suspense, not even the comedic type you'd see in a Three Stooges short where you'd worry that the Stooges would be jailed for contempt or something. There are a few mild laughs, everyone smiles and agrees on everything, and the film is over! As for Governor Jimmie Davis, he does two songs, both excellent-- "Take Me Back To Tulsa" and one I wasn't familiar with, the chorus of which goes "with the bases loaded, I struck out," that was clever and enjoyable. That's all Davis does in the film. I first saw this about 15 year ago and was let down. I gave it another chance now, and on second viewing I'm still let down. Welles and Brito are talented people, but the way Welles' character is written, she is somewhat bland and far less interesting than Vera Vague, who steals any scene she is in. Brito is certainly fine and carries his part of the film, but his character lacks the distinctive cute touches (the running joke about the signs falls flat for me) needed to make us WANT Dodo Dixon to become a star. And when we see Jimmie Davis do even a throwaway song, we wonder why the soap company and Vera Vague don't hire HIM as their performer (instead of Dodo Dixon), as Davis is such a pro and so much more interesting and commanding of a performer. There are some familiar faces in small roles throughout the film-- Tris Coffin, Ray Walker, Donald Kerr, Joseph Crehan, Earle Hodgins-- as is common in late 40s/early 50s Monogram product. Overall, this is an adequate piece of bottom-of-the-bill product, but only devoted fans of Vague and Davis need to search for a copy, and they will probably be let down as I was.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
exciting, well-acted crime drama about missing young women, 7 January 2002
9/10

Structured much like an exploitation film, but minus any sleaze

or cynicism, this 1948 crime drama exposes the sordid world of "modeling agencies" set up to entrap and exploit lonely runaway young women from small towns who find themselves in the big city, waiting for some kind of "break" toward a career in modeling or acting. With a first-class supporting cast (Conrad Nagel, Evelyn Brent, Wanda McKay, Ralph "Dick Tracy" Byrd), the film pits Audrey Long--the sister of the young woman whose murder opens the film-- against the seedy yet suave Kane Richmond. Richmond, in one of his last roles before retiring from the screen and re-entering the business world, is best-known as leading man in many 1930s/1940s action films and serials, yet here he is the heavy, and he uses his personal charm to comfort then exploit the young women who are all to eager for a "break." Director William Nigh--whose last film this was and whose credits as director-writer-actor-producer date back to the mid-1910s--keeps the action moving at a brisk pace, but clearly worked with each actor to capture the right tone of performance, so that as "predictable" as the elements of the film may be to the genre-film fan, each character seems real. I first saw this film six or eight years ago and just watched it again, and it's just as solid and riveting as I remember it. Kane Richmond is especially memorable in a rare villain role, and the devoted fan of B-crime films of the 40s (this was a Monogram release) should search for a copy.

Bobby Vernon impersonates a child in this late-silent comedy short, 25 February 2005
8/10

I've enjoyed the half-dozen or so silent comedy shorts I've seen starring Bobby Verson, a cherubic-looking, acrobatic young man who reminds me a bit of Martin Short in character. In this one, Bobby's friend has convinced his uncle that he and his wife have a child when they don't. As the father expects to see his grand-nephew, the friend convinces Bobby Vernon to impersonate the child! So Vernon puts on a Fauntleroy suit (for me, anytime an adult puts on a Fauntleroy suit, it's hilarious--Huntz Hall used this routine as late as the 1950's!) and pretends to be the child. But Uncle brings along the LARGE young lady Lena, who seems to be a late teenager but dressed and acting like an eight-year old (played by former child star Ella McKenzie, who was probably in her late teens herself)at her most obnoxious. The sight of these two grown people dressed and acting like children is positively surreal and great fun. Of course, the plot is complicated when Vernon's girlfriend arrives on the scene, and Vernon gets a kid from the neighborhood to put on the curly wig and Fauntleroy suit and pretend to be HIM pretending to be a child! Vernon is a wonderful physical comedian, and McKenzie is simply outrageous and over-the-top as the 250-pound over-aged child. A wonderful short, and now I'm going to have to dig out some of my other Bobby Vernon shorts. Vernon's career dated back to the teens and lasted until the mid-30s (he wrote some of Harry Langdon's shorts in the early sound era, also). This was the companion short with Grapevine's DVD release of the 1928 canine feature TRACKED.

3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
When Sid Melton meets Iris Adrian, the result is classic comedy!, 21 September 2003
8/10

Here's another obscure gem from the little-known, little-seen Lippert Pictures. Although a low-budget, 55-minute programmer, with comic talents such as Sid Melton and Iris Adrian in the lead roles, the film can't help but be entertaining. The plot involves Sid, as a nightshift cab driver in L.A., encountering various odd characters as part of his nightly work...and then coming home to the ultimate domineering wife, the great Iris Adrian, at her scenery-chewing hilarious best. During the first half-hour, Sid stumbles into a crime situation involving Tom Neal (who did a lot of solid character work at Lippert in the waning days of his career in the early 50s), and after that is resolved, he stumbles into the climactic story, one involving a widowed mother (Marjorie Lord) who is trying to win a radio contest by performing a certain task within 30 minutes (you'll have to see the film to find out what it is). When I first saw this film many years ago, it struck me as somewhat odd and "different" from the usual low-budget Lippert comedy. Watching it again, it no longer seems THAT off-the-wall, but it still has a very different look and feel than the usual Lippert comedy. Perhaps some of this is due to the presence of director Eugenio de Liguoro, a distinguished Italian director whose credits date back to the early 1920's. He also did important work in India in the 1920s and in Chile in the 1940's. According to the IMDB, Stop That Cab was not only his sole American film, but his last film. One wonders how he got involved with this project? Many others on the crew of this film have interesting credits: assistant director Maurice Vaccarino worked in a similar capacity on the Elmer Clifton/Ida Lupino productions THE JUDGE and NOT WANTED just before doing this film, and later went on to do THE PHENIX CITY STORY and ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS; cinematographer Carl Berger shot many jungle exploitation films in the 30's (including Love Wanga!) as well as a Yiddish film, and in the 40s worked regularly at Lippert, taking a break right before Stop That Cab to shoot Kroger Babb's ONE TOO MANY, a film that is usually praised for its slick, elegant cinematography. Because the film was shot on a few small cramped sets and is largely verbal, it has the feel of a filmed play, but classic comic actors Sid Melton and Iris Adrian are such professionals, they make it work beautifully. While STOP THAT CAB probably played for a few days at the small-town and neighborhood theatres serviced by Lippert and was probably revived back in the late 50s and early 60s when Lippert films were staples on local TV and UHF stations, I've rarely encountered anyone who has heard of let alone seen the film. Fans of Melton and Adrian should not miss it as it is a comic gem very reminiscent of the best of early-TV comedy. I would contend that ANY film with either Melton or Adrian is worth seeing! Having them together in one film is a dream come true...

28 out of 42 people found the following review useful:
powerful anti-censorship, McCarthy-era drama, a classic!!, 20 June 2003
10/10

In today's environment--with civil liberties in question and with a book praising Joe McCarthy on the best-seller lists--this powerful and eloquent anti-censorship film needs to be reissued. Bette Davis plays a small-town librarian asked to remove a communist-oriented book from her library. The city council tries to buy her off by offering to build a children's wing to the library that she has been asking for--after thinking, she refuses to remove the book. Not only do they try to take her job from her, but she becomes the target of a smear campaign based on half-truths and innuendo. As other reviews have

stated, both the "good" and the "bad" characters are three-dimensional, and Paul Kelly in particular is superb as an old friend of Bette's who tries to defend her but is caught up in the hysteria. The scene where Kelly is asked to vote to condemn her, pauses, and lowers his head in shame is quite moving. Columbia always made good, solid B-movies, and the direct, matter-of- fact presentation of this material only strengthens the overall impact. Also, The musical score, although subtle and not calling attention to itself, is perfectly crafted. In fact, the film is filled with nice little touches. Note to Columbia/Sony: put this out on DVD immediately! It will get uniformly positive reviews from the critics and it has a message needed now more than ever. If you have any opportunity to see this, do not miss it.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Republic Pictures' answer to CASABLANCA, with Arlen and Ralston, instead of Bogart and Bergman, 25 February 2005
7/10

I'm not one of those people who has memorized CASABLANCA or who watch it once a year. It was a good b-movie, but there are thousands of other films I need to see, so I've moved on, and I'm not in the least bothered that STORM OVER LISBON is basically Republic Pictures' low-budget echo of CASABLANCA, with Richard Arlen and Vera Ralston echoing Bogart and Bergman (after all, I can hear Republic president,and husband of Vera Ralston, Herbert Yates saying, "Bergman is a mysterious European with a seductive accent, so is Vera! This is a great vehicle for her."). The plot here is somewhat different, but there's no question that this film would not even exist without CASABLANCA. There's a lot of tension created in STORM OVER LISBON, and it's well-acted by Arlen, Robert Livingston, Erich Von Stroheim, Otto Kruger, Eduardo Ciannelli, and Republic regulars Kenne Duncan and Roy Barcroft reprising their heavy roles, but this time instead of working for an evil town boss in a western, they are working for shady club owner Von Stroheim. There's a well-staged dance sequence featuring Ms. Ralston, and after hearing for decades how bad she is, I was surprised at how bad she WASN'T. This was only her second dramatic film (I'm not counting her first two films, vehicles for her ice-skating prowess), and the script wisely does not give her many lines even though she is IN a lot of the film. The lack of dialogue helps to create a mysterious, seductive quality about Ms. Ralston, so whatever she DOES say we listen to and we apply a layer of mystery to. I don't know if her English is phonetic or not, but after having seen films starring Madonna, Tara Reid, Roseanne, and Milla Jovovich, I have no complaints about Vera Ralston. Richard Arlen is always a comforting presence in a film--his gruff, virile persona is one we want to empathize with, and he has a natural quality that makes him believable. A story of spies and intrigue and back-stabbing and desperation in the Lisbon of World War II, STORM OVER LISBON is a successful b-espionage film that is a great way to kill 70 minutes on a rainy day.

Cop-Out (1967)
12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Flawed but interesting loose adaptation of Simenon novel--strong James Mason performance, 14 January 2006
5/10

Of the 150 or so Georges Simenon novels I've read, STRANGERS IN THE HOUSE (at least the English translation by Sainsbury) would rank in the lower third. It's an excellent character study--as is virtually any Simenon work--and the concept is interesting, but it lacks suspense and ends with a whimper, not a bang. The film also is an interesting character study of a man (here Anglicized and played by James Mason) who was once a brilliant attorney, but after his wife left him, he became jaded and turned to drink, raising his daughter (here played by Geraldine Chaplin) on his own, but remaining very distant from her to the point that she has a separate life as a late-teenager that is completely unknown to him, even though it's happening within his own (large) home. One member of the gang she hangs out with is killed in the home, her boyfriend is charged with the crime, and Mason comes out of semi-retirement to defend him, cleaning up his life in the process and getting a new sense of spirit and motivation. The general plot of Simenon's book has been retained, but most of the specifics have been changed and a number of new elements introduced. Mason is quite impressive both as a cynical alcoholic and as a man reclaiming his spirit and his youthful idealism. Geraldine Chaplin looks quite young here, and does fine as the marginalized daughter who eventually begins to trust and even somewhat respect her father again. Bobby Darin is cast as some kind of thug sailor who is older and more experienced than the gang of teens but becomes a member of their group (and who is very different from "Big Louie", the equivalent character in the novel). When I first saw this film about ten years ago, Darin's performance reminded me somewhat of Robert DeNiro in TAXI DRIVER, although this second time I've watched the film I see less similarity. Still, Darin's character is brooding, thuggish, and repeats "Ain't it so" or "Aint' that so" throughout the movie (the song of the same name by Eric Burdon and the Animals is played a few times throughout the film). Mr. Darin probably viewed this as a good opportunity to re-build his acting career as a character actor (he later played the gigolo in Richard Brooks' THE HAPPY ENDING, see my review of that), and he certainly creates a memorable character here, as much as we might like to forget this annoying character!!! The weaknesses in the film are many--some sections move too slowly, others move too fast and lack tension. The ending, for instance, is quite abrupt and not adequately build up to. Some members of the daughter's gang are played by actors who do not convince--Paul Bertoya as Chaplin's boyfriend, a Greek Briton who faces discrimination, is awkward and hurts whatever scenes he is in. Worst of all, there's a phony "swinging sixties" and hippie undercurrent here that's a total misfire. Many films made then that attempted to be hip did succeed--BLOW UP, for instance (and there's a brief homage to BLOW UP in one scene here--I'll let you find it yourself)--but these twenty-three year old teenagers are laughably UNhip. At least when the thirty-five year old Bowery Boys were playing teenagers, they did it for laughs and the actors were in on the joke too. Here, it's just grating and ridiculous. The teenagers depicted in films such as RIOT ON SUNSET STRIP or MARY JANE are far more realistic than the ones here, and neither of those films is a masterpiece (although Mary Jane is quite underrated). And the identity of the killer is telegraphed so far in advance, and his character is played so broadly, that only someone sleeping through the film would NOT know who did it! On the whole, I can't really recommend this film, except for James Mason's performance. If you are at home recovering from the flu and will watch ANYTHING that's on, this is probably better than an OPRAH or MAURY show, but don't go out of your way to see it. And why Anchor Bay Video released this in its ROCK AND ROLL CINEMA series is beyond me! Trust me, except for bits of the Burdon/Animals song played here and there in the movie, there is no rock and roll content whatsoever.

16 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
strange, intense yet otherworldly swan song for Samuel Fuller, 2 January 2005
8/10

Director Samuel Fuller's films SHOCK CORRIDOR and THE NAKED KISS are among my all-time favorites. His attempts to achieve a kind of gutter-level truth through expressionistic exaggeration make his films completely unique. This film takes the classic noir novel STREET OF NO RETURN by Davis Goodis and turns it into a strange cinematic vision that is intense and brutal, yet otherworldly and cerebral. First of all, the film exists in no particular time--like RUMBLEFISH, it blurs elements from different eras so that it exists in some kind of alternate reality. Also, while the film supposedly deals with American issues, it looks so foreign (it was shot in Lisbon, Portugal, a city that has a unique look, but not a familiar look, as Paris or London or Rome or Berlin would have) that the whole thing seems to play out on an allegorical level. Even the music by Keith Carradine is odd--Carradine (known for his 70s hit "I'm Easy") is rooted in a kind of 70s folk-pop in the James Taylor vein, but his music is given an 80s Euro dance feel, and he looks like glam-era Kim Fowley (in the earlier times in the story) or trashed-out hippie-punk Kim Fowley (in the later times in the story). And while the film deals head on with racial issues, the Black actors in the smaller roles look nothing like African-Americans, which again takes the film away from any realism. Bill Duke is excellent as the harried police inspector, Keith Carradine is impressive as the protagonist (quite different from the book, but not attempting to be like the book, but like the screenplay), and once one gets into the "feel" of the film, it carries the viewer along for a wild ride. This is a memorable last film for the great Samuel Fuller. It has all of his good qualities and visually it's pure Fuller. The strange look and European feel to the film remind us that the man could not get a film deal in his own country and, like Orson Welles, was forced to put together overseas projects wherever he could. The Fantoma DVD presentation of the film is superb as are the extras (commentary by Carradine, documentary about the making of the film, etc.). The women in the film--Valentina Vargas as the woman who Carradine desires, and Andrea Ferreol as the woman who has nurtured him and who loves him but who he sees as a maternal figure (the line about "you've always been like a mother to me" is painful to hear!)-- are both incredibly sexy in a raw, animal-like way that we don't often see in films nowadays. If you've ever enjoyed a Samuel Fuller film, you should seek out this DVD. If you want to try something different, buy or rent this rather than going to see some empty Hollywood product at the multi-plex.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Shemp Howard meets Ozzie Nelson in this wonderful combination of comedy and hot swing music!, 3 January 2005
9/10

Films like STRICTLY IN THE GROOVE are the reason I continue to seek out and collect obscure b-movies. This is a wonderful combination of comedy (Shemp Howard, Leon Errol, Tim Ryan) and swing music from Ozzie Nelson and his band. Most of the musical numbers are up-tempo and full of exciting solos, and remind us what was so appealing about swing music to the young people of that day. In fact, the film is initially set in a college where the students (led by Ozzie and his friend Bob, played by Richard Davies, who is really the protagonist of the film) talk in outrageous swing jive language and ignore their studies to play music and dance. Davies is a charming and witty leading man-- he's probably best remembered for the Ritz Brothers's disappointing HI YA CHUM and The Andrews Sisters's vehicle PRIVATE BUCKEROO. Ozzie Nelson has a warm and engaging screen presence and reminds me of the young Buster Crabbe. The legendary Franklin Pangborn is priceless as the fussy manager of the resort where Bob is assistant manager and that the college crew turn into a swing oasis. If you want pure entertainment with no time wasted on non-essentials, STRICTLY IN THE GROOVE delivers the goods. Don't miss it!!!

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
charming comedy/musical/sports film with the great pair of Rex Lease/Benny Rubin, 22 September 2003
8/10

SUNNY SKIES was the first of two films pairing western/serial/action-film leading man Rex Lease (who also sings and dances here) and dialect comedian and comic writer Benny Rubin, made for Tiffany Films in 1930. While the second film, Hot Curves, has its charms, this one is the film to watch. SUNNY SKIES brings together this incongruous duo (who in many ways foreshadow Martin and Lewis!)for a film that features wonderful comedy, warm characterizations, fun 1920's-style songs (played on a ukulele!), great dancing, sports sequences, even some tragedy! Director Norman Taurog continued milking this formula for decades afterwards...even into his Elvis Presley films of the 1960's. While this was a low-budget quickie meant as disposable entertainment for the lower-end of the film marketplace, it turns out to be a charming window into a long-gone age--in fact, there's even a racoon coat in one scene! (all that's missing is someone crooning into a megaphone).

Rex Lease had a long and successful career as a stalwart leading man in low-budget early 30s action films and serials and westerns, and then he graduated into fine supporting roles at Republic and elsewhere. Benny Rubin had his own series of comedy shorts and was also a successful write of comedy both for himself and others. Rubin may be best known to those under 60 for his many appearances on the Jack Benny TV show. Also, Rubin seems to have been an influence on Jerry Lewis. In fact, Lewis himself used him in a number of small roles and cameos in Lewis' solo films. I don't know who ever thought of pairing the two, but the chemistry is superb, each plays a real three-dimensional character, and one minute you'll be laughing, the next minute you'll be teary-eyed. A wonderful slice of early-sound-era entertainment that still works today.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
discover the comedy shorts of Leon Errol today!, 27 November 2004
8/10

A balding, nervous, hen-pecked husband with a jealous wife in over 100 comedy shorts for RKO, Leon Errol may be best known today for his performances opposite Lupe Velez in the Mexican Spitfire films. I've got dozens of Errol's comedy shorts and love them, although they are best enjoyed one or two at a time as they followed a fairly strict formula. In this one, which is typical of his work over a 15+ year period, he is constantly being sent to Buffalo on business, and his wife (on whom he is NOT cheating!) thinks these trips are a cover for an affair. She decides to follow him to Buffalo, but winds up getting too close to him and pretends to be a widow, wearing a widow's veil that hides her face, so she can travel with him and keep an eye on him. Errol's comic timing and double-takes are wonderful, as is Dorothy Granger, Errol's longtime partner in these films. Like any long running series, some Leon Errol shorts are better than others, but you can probably pick one at random at find it enjoyable. How I wish these were available on cable TV with regularity. Should you ever see a Leon Errol short as a filler on TCM, PLEASE do not change the channel. I just happened to watch this one this afternoon and wanted to share the joy with others--if you don't know his work, find some.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
effective early-30s indie "old dark house" murder mystery, 17 August 2003
8/10

From the ever-reliable Frank Strayer comes this early-sound poverty-row indie murder mystery (so low budget that they didn't spend the fifteen dollars to license any music over the opening credits, they just have airplane sounds!!!). A plane headed to LA is forced to land about 300 miles east of LA in the middle of nowhere and the passengers/crew find an abandoned house where they stay for the night. One of the passengers is killed, some diamonds are missing, there's a violent storm outside, and it's off to the land of the "old dark house" murder mystery, a staple of early-sound-era poverty row filmmakers and a favorite genre of depression-era audiences. The cast includes many familiar faces if not big names--Syd Saylor (former silent comic and later western sidekick) as a former boxer who speaks in malapropisms, former silent comic actor and later writer/director Glenn Tryon (who starred in some early indie sound films and was a fine handsome and suave leading man) as the second pilot. There's a nice mysterious atmosphere and tension created throughout the film--you're constantly thinking something weird is going to appear out of the dark corners. There are some interesting subplots and red herrings thrown into the mix, all of the characters are colorful and have interesting personal histories that are transmitted quickly and tersely without wasted words or verbose expository dialogue, and the whole thing runs only 55 minutes, although you feel you've seen a longer film because so much is packed into such a short time. It moves at a brisk pace and completely achieves what it set out to achieve--to be an entertaining 60-minute second-feature which could take a depression-era audience out of the grind of daily life for an hour. Worth checking out if you like vintage murder mysteries.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
strange Educational comedy short mixing slapstick and political commentary, 28 December 2004
8/10

TECHNO-CRAZY has to be one of the strangest comedy shorts of the 1930's. Starring Monte Collins as a young man who dreams of technological progress in society bringing a "technocracy" that's a utopia and Billy Bevan as the Mayor, whose daughter Collins wants to marry, the short begins with a dream sequence where Collins is running a factory on his own and explaining to someone how no one needs to work in this new utopia and everything operates automatically. Collins wakes up from the dream, which leads into various physical comedy sequences at the home of the Mayor, and then with a police officer who keeps giving Collins tickets. Collins then escapes into a "social club" where everyone is a bearded radical (looking like the Russian nihilists and Bolsheviks depicted in clichéd silent movies) and want to bomb the Mayor to bring on "Technocracy." The end is surreal and must be seen to be believed. I'm not sure exactly what this film is parodying. Is it meant to be a parody of communism like the infamous "Hail, Brother"? Whatever it is, there are a lot of funny slapstick sequences, and Monte Collins is a great verbal comedian also, delivering the absurd rhapsodies to technocracy. Mostly, though, this film is of interest because it is so odd. I wonder if a 1933 viewer would pick up on the details of what is being parodied more than I am. It's also worth noting that this predates MODERN TIMES.

13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
low-budget Harry Alan Towers adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic, great cast!, 24 October 2006
7/10

While the ending of the novel is changed in this 1965 remake of Agatha Christie's novel AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, it's still an OK murder mystery, a kind of modern version of an old dark house chiller, with an excellent cast of UK veterans and US imports Hugh O'Brian and Fabian. A mysterious "Mr. Owen" invites ten strangers, all of whom seem to be guilty of some crime, to spend a weekend in an isolated mountain home. They gradually get killed one by one. My wife felt that the only interesting character in the film was the one who is killed first (you'll have to watch it to see who that is), but I found the whole thing to be entertaining and the ending to be surprising (although the clues ARE planted, when you watch it a second time). Like any Harry Alan Towers production, this is low budget but well cast, and once again Towers wrote the script himself under his Peter Welbeck pseudonym. The recent DVD reissue of this includes the infamous "Whodunit Break" (which appeared at the film's climax in its theatrical run but was cut from all TV prints) as an "extra" but does not edit it back into the film, which is good because it would make second and third viewings of the film painful. Watch that scene once, marvel that anyone would ever attempt anything so cheesy, and then watch the uninterrupted movie again. Nice to see Shirley Eaton as always (The Girl From Rio and Su-Muru), Hugh O'Brian is a charming and masculine lead, Fabian is entertaining, and the British veterans are as colorful as you'd expect, although some Americans may have trouble telling them apart initially, except for Dennis Price. Worth renting, but I can't say it's worth fifteen dollars. Maybe $8.99 or so.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
an excellent example of the Johnny Mack Brown "Monogram" western, 17 March 2006
9/10

During the 80's and early 90's, I managed to collect most of the extant Johnny Mack Brown westerns made at Monogram. While there is a sameness to some of them (true of virtually any western series--especially when you watch more than one of them each day!), on the whole they are a quality lot and, to me, the last GREAT b-movie series Westerns. By the late 40's, many of the western actors and crew members were probably available for work inexpensively, and Monogram put many of them to work in this series. As many of the films featured similar supporting casts, different films would feature some of them and in other films those same actors would have small walk-on roles not even credited in the beginning titles. Virtually EVERY supporting actor in these films is a western veteran who is a pleasure to watch. When people the stature of Lyle Talbot and John Hart are in a film and NOT listed in the opening credits, you know you've got a solid cast. Brown was always one of the best actors in b-westerns (check his early credits to see some of the major stars with whom he worked and held his own), and at this point in his career he had a depth and warmth and gravitas that commanded attention and respect, yet he lacked the aloof quality of a Tim McCoy and seemed approachable. The under-rated Jimmy "Shamrock" Ellison joined Brown in a number of Monograms, and he's fine here as a new sheriff with a secret. I. Stanford Jolley is superb as a grizzled robber with a link to Ellison that Ellison wishes he could forget. There are a number of genuinely emotional scenes involving Ellison and Brown, and the plot is quite clever (the story, incidentally, was written by actor Myron Healey!). The dozens of Johnny Mack Brown "Monogram" westerns are a fine body of work that can still be enjoyed today...when I'm watching one and my children wander into the room, they usually wind up staying for the rest of the film.

above-average Educational Pictures comedy short from dance-oriented comedy team, 26 November 2004
7/10

The sound comedy shorts of Educational Pictures are still relatively undiscovered and rarely discussed. Usually written off as poor and unfunny (and some are), one can find gems up until the end of Educational's run, about a year after this. The later Educationals often seem to be right off the vaudeville stage, featuring seasoned performers doing variations on what must have been their regular routines, which probably made for an efficient and cheap setup, since these people were pros and could adapt quickly to a new skit worked into the "act." This one features the dance-oriented comedy team of Herman Timberg Jr. (which is how he is billed here, NOT as Tim Herbert) and Pat Rooney Jr. Timberg is the taller and more suave of the two; Rooney the shorter and more clownish. The first third of the short takes place in a dance studio where the boys show off their skills. Then the action moves to a private home where George Shelton (Educational Pictures regular, who had made some great shorts with his partner Tom Howard (the William Burroughs of comedy) earlier, and who later worked with Howard on the classic IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT radio show) is having a spiritualist meeting, which is actually an excuse for a few crooks to fleece Shelton of his money. The "phony spiritualist" routine is always good for a few laughs, and while Timberg and Rooney try to protect Shelton and his daughter from the crooks, we also have scenes of the two running around covered in sheets, running into things, etc. All is of course resolved by the end of the second reel. The print on the circulating video is excellent, although missing the end title card. Timberg and Rooney and definitely worth rediscovering, as are Educational's other dance-oriented comedy team, Tom Patricola and Buster West.

8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
one of the worst of the 60's psychedelic "cash-in" films, 28 December 2004
2/10

While most of the quickie "cash-in" psychedelic films of the late 1960's are not very good, many are very entertaining or fascinating period pieces. Even such bad films as THE WEIRD WORLD OF LSD, SKIDOO, THE BIG CUBE, or LIKE IT IS are fun to watch. THE ACID EATERS is just boring and stupid. It does start off well with a clever montage capturing the nine-to-five work world (and lunch hour!), and there is some good photography of the mountains outside of the greater L.A. area. Also, the music score is interesting, kind of like outtakes from a non-existent Sandy Nelson Goes Psychedelic album. Unfortunately, the cast does NOT look remotely psychedelic; they look like people who would be nuzzling mixed drinks in cocktail lounges looking to pick up an anonymous sex partner to take to a local motel. Perhaps the producers were so familiar with casting these type of people for their sex films that they did not think that the same people would not work here. Also, as the other reviews stated, this is mostly a topless groping film. There's no real drug content (the LSD tower is absurd--the devil routine is like a bad imitation of the tinted color sequence in Albert Zugsmith's PRIVATE LIVES OF ADAM AND EVE), and all the colored lights and hand-painted LSD signs on the wall do not make a psychedelic experience. The final sequences in the LSD tower remind me of Zugsmith's MOVIE STAR American STYLE OR LSD I HATE YOU, which was horrible but more interesting than anything in this film. I guess that since David Friedman made nude westerns and nude crime films and nude jungle films, he felt he had to make a nude psychedelic film too. Trust me, this film is NOT worth purchasing, even if you can get it for five dollars. If you want to see an obscure psychedelic cash-in film, find a copy of MARY JANE or THE LOVE-INS or THE American DREAMER or HALLUCINATION GENERATION or MICROSCOPIC LIQUID SUBWAY TO OBLIVION. Don't waste your time with this.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
funny but convoluted Willie Howard comedy short, 12 December 2004
6/10

See my review of THE SMART WAY for more on dialect comedian Willie Howard. This 1937 Educational Pictures comedy short (my copy taken from an Astor Pictures reissue)features Howard in his usual "Professor Pierre Ginsberg" (the last name pronounced and spelled in variant ways) persona, running a French language school. A few minutes are killed showing his "lessons" and his ignorant, boorish students, when the plot takes a twist and he finds a missing item and returns it to its owner, which kills some more time until he winds up getting arrested after being confused with another Frenchman (this mistaken identity plot appears in a few Howard shorts). He then spends some time in jail, eventually gets out, and the short ends in a clever manner where he finds a wallet full of cash...and does not touch it, after the trouble he got into the last time he did a good deed. I won't give away what happens to the man who DOES pick up the wallet. Like many 30's comedy shorts, this seems to have a few unrelated sequences stitched together to fill the 17-18 minute running time. There are a number of funny sequences, and I'm probably being overly critical expecting too much unity in a short that is probably just a combination of shorter vaudeville routines. When I first saw the Willie Howard shorts in the 1980's, I wasn't too impressed with them, but watching them again I find them pleasant and engaging.

13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
fascinating window into Dennis Hopper's world circa 1971, 17 December 2004
10/10

This warts-and-all documentary of Dennis Hopper at home in Taos, New Mexico, in the period after the filming but before the release of his amazing THE LAST MOVIE, provides a fascinating window into a world that is forever gone and probably only lasted for a short time: the period when the sixties were over but we were still running on fumes from the sixties and things had not yet crashed and burned. This was a year when you could go see a film like VANISHING POINT at a mainstream movie theater and when THE LAST MOVIE was released by a major studio. I was an adolescent at that time and can testify that Hopper represented a heroic image to many of us back then. I never got to see this film at the time because it did not get much distribution. How interesting to see it thirty-three years later. Hopper raises so many interesting questions and issues in THE American DREAMER, but rambler and dreamer that he is, he moves on without stopping to analyze or apply any of it. Perhaps Mr. Hopper expected US to make the next move fueled by the ideas he threw us. The film itself shows Hopper at home editing what would become THE LAST MOVIE, pontificating on all kinds of subjects regarding the arts, society, sex, drugs,his own legacy, and life in general. Intercut with this is footage of Hopper taking his clothes off on the street in a residential neighborhood, shooting various guns, talking with representatives from Universal about THE LAST MOVIE, walking around. Voice-overs of Hopper thinking aloud are played during these scenes. The music is an assemblage of vaguely philosophical stoner folk that perfectly reflects the atmosphere. Hopper talks about honesty in film, and he certainly lives by his own ideology as this is one of the least flattering artist-approved film biographies I've ever seen. Bob Dylan's DON'T LOOK BACK and Woody Allen's WILD MAN BLUES are the only other films about well-known celebrities I'd include on the same shelf. If Mr. Hopper owns the rights to this, he should definitely release it on DVD. By the way, I mentioned earlier about the sixties crashing and burning (as symbolized in the final scene of VANISHING POINT). The film that for me documents the final nail in the coffin of the sixties spirit is WONDERLAND.

17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
moody, quirky low-budget late 40's crime-noir, 8 March 2005
9/10

As I was boxing up some old films for an upcoming move, I stumbled across THE ARGYLE SECRETS, a film I must have watched a decade ago. I didn't remember anything about it and even thought it starred Tom Conway (!!), but I must have been thinking of another film. So THE ARGYLE SECRETS seemed new to me, and I was VERY impressed by it. Yes, there are some similarities with THE MALTESE FALCON, but many detective/crime films were influenced by that classic. I have not heard the radio play on which this film is based, but taken on its own, this is--like many of the releases from the fascinating "Film Classics" company, an outfit that specialized in very low-budget but quirky and atmospheric crime and detective and late noir films--a moody and distinctive film that is surprisingly good. William Gargan (close your eyes while he is speaking and see if you don't think that his speech rhythms are reminiscent of George Raft) is always an excellent hard-boiled leading man, and here he plays a journalist who is entrusted with some vague information about something called The Argyle Album, which supposedly contains all kinds of incriminating information about WWII traitors and collaborators and profiteers. He is framed for the death of the man who gave him the information, and thus he is being pursued by both police and international crooks. There are a number of hair-raising sequences where he is about to be caught or killed (one scene where he sneaks into an apartment where a policeman--an almost unrecognizable Robert Kellard-- and his mother live, and the cop has a newspaper with Gargan's face on the cover, but insists on looking at the sports section first, but is always ABOUT TO look at the front page) is very cleverly done, and there is a very creative hallucination montage after Gargan is beaten up by the bad guys. There's also an undercurrent of suggested brutality in the film that is disquieting. Gargan beats a woman who asks him to so that she will have bruises on her and thus she can claim he escaped after choking her; Gargan strong-arms a woman into submission; and there's a scene with an acetylene blow torch that is quite effective and would be considered a classic if it had appeared in , say, THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI. Writer-director Cyril Enfield was responsible for some excellent and creative mysteries in the late 40s and early 50s--THE SOUND OF FURY (aka TRY AND GET ME) is an amazing film with a strong liberal message, and THE LIMPING MAN is a wonderful mystery with a switch ending that has to be seen to be believed. Endfield is superb at creating a sense of dislocation, of disorder. A surprising credit for Assistant to the Producer is famous silent-film archivist and entrepreneur Raymond Rohauer. The film is produced by Sam X. Abarbanel, a writer and producer responsible for some of my favorite guilty pleasure such as the Spanish crime films THE NARCO MEN starring the late Tom Tryon, and THE SUMMERTIME KILLER with Chris Mitchum. Also, there are a number of juicy supporting performances--Ralph Byrd as the police inspector who isn't sure about Gargan and appears in the final scene of the film which is hilarious (and which I won't give away), and Jack Reitzen (who was in a LOT of grade-c crime films in the late 40s), doing a florid Southern accent and chewing the scenery. There are many distinctive little touches in this film--for instance, when Gargan is being interrogated by Ralph Byrd, we see a few shadows of men with hats hanging suspiciously outside the opaque windows of the office. When Gargan leaves the office and walks off screen, about five seconds later we see these shadows head in his direction. Maybe using shadows allowed the producer to use non-actors to play the roles and save money, but the effect works for whatever reason it may have been done. I will undoubtedly watch this film again soon and show it to some like-minded friends who appreciate low-budget, indie crime films of the post-World War II era. Check it out if you get a chance--it will be worth your time if you find the above description interesting.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
comedic late-silent Art Acord western, 20 March 2006
6/10

My copy of this film is from a mid-thirties (I think) reissue with a different title (PURSUED) and title card and end card (all the other cards throughout the film are original and tastefully done, not like the cheesy reissue cards). It also seems to be missing the first minute or so, as Art Acord is present from the first frame, yet no title card announces him, although every other minor character gets his/her own title card. The quality of the print is also just fair--only in close-ups can one see details in faces as the print is washed out as if duplicated one too many times or perhaps blown up from 8mm. In any event, this film actually borrows heavily from another Horace "Maniac" Carpenter directorial effort done three years earlier, THE LAST CHANCE with Bill Patton. One or two of the puns in the dialog cards are even re-used here! Acord is quite funny as a marshal posing as a dude in a department-store "outlaw outfit" who acts like a clown as he tries to infiltrate a gang. Since he's such a harmless clown and since the gang needs a new member, they accept him. Acord plays this role more outrageously than Bill Patton did, even acting a bit swishy here and there (and I'm not reading this into the film, since the dialog cards confirm it was intended). No great analysis is needed of this film--and the quality of the print keeps me from saying much about the photography or the performances of the supporting actors. Carpenter himself has a small role, but I can't really see what he's doing with his face, just a white blur. The rating of 6 is for what the film might be in a good quality print--the print I saw would get a rating of 3 or 4. For the serious silent western fan only. I look forward to seeing more of Acord's work (he's from my one-time home of Stillwater, Oklahoma!)--see my review of FIGHTERS OF THE SADDLE.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
fast-moving, simple animated children's version of the 60s Batman, from Filmation, 3 April 2006

I managed to miss this 1969 series as a child, but I recently watched 20+ episodes (some titled BATMAN, some BATMAN AND ROBIN)taped off of Cartoon Network a number of years ago. Like most Filmation product of the era, the animation is limited, but the pace is fast-moving and the supporting voice actors over-play the roles as if in an old serial or melodrama, so the limited technique does not become a problem, and certainly would not have been a problem for the juvenile audience at which this show was aimed. The template for the show was the 1960s BATMAN TV show, and Olan Soule and Casey Kasem bring interpretations to the characters of Batman and Robin that are similar to those of Adam West and Burt Ward (although camp was not a concept grasped by most seven-year-old youngsters in 1969, so Soule and Kasem rein in the hokum somewhat). The children's versions of the various villains--Joker, Penguin, Mr. Freeze, etc.--are fun and colorfully acted by the voice talent. Also, isn't that Ted Knight narrating these? If you need a break from the recent dark,expressionistic interpretations of Batman--even in animated form--this simple, entertaining children's show should do the trick. Don't know if these are in print or presently being aired, but an internet search should turn up some episodes for you...

outrageous, campy L.A. crime drama--visually striking, 21 September 2006
4/10

Maybe it's just me, but how could one NOT laugh at the over-the-top performances in such previous Brian De Palma films as SCARFACE and DRESSED TO KILL. This film, however, has to be one of De Palma's biggest misfires since BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. First of all, forget even a semi-factual account of the real Black Dahlia killing. I have not read the Ellroy novel on which THE BLACK DAHLIA is based, so I can't comment on the adaptation. All I can say is that while this film features amazing 1940s production design and striking camera work, the script is one cliché after another and the dialogue is full of anachronisms. Is that supposed to be cute or "ironic"? And the performances are so over-the-top that the audience laughed at a number of scenes. Even such usually subtle and nuanced performers as Aaron Eckhart and Hilary Swank chew the scenery and make wild grotesque faces into the camera as wildly as later Orson Welles or later Richard Burton or later Cameron Mitchell at their most extreme. As a director, Welles can get this to work in his films such as LADY FROM SHANGHAI or MISTER ARKADIN or TOUCH OF EVIL because despite the excess there is still a sense of the unknown and the terrifying. In BLACK DAHLIA, it's just hammy acting. If I wanted to see this kind of thing, I'd rent WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE. The plot is nonsensical and has no relation to the real world--and during the last fifteen minutes we keep getting new resolutions to the murder that are even more outlandish than the last one. If De Palma intends this as a send-up of the L.A. noir genre, then he achieved what he set out to do. THE BLACK DAHLIA looks good on a big screen, if you can forget the plot and dialogue. If you are thinking of renting this, watch CHINATOWN again...or better yet, watch HOLLYWOODLAND. How does De Palma get financing for these projects??? If you want to see a crime film where almost every character plays it like Glenn Anders in LADY FROM SHANGHAI (a little "target practice"), this is your film. Whatever critic called this a "shrieking camp-fest" was totally on the mark.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Keaton's first film for MGM retains many of the best qualities of his earlier works, 21 December 2004
9/10

Seeing THE CAMERAMAN for the first time in pristine condition (thanks to TCM) and with a wonderful musical score to keep the pace going for the audience members not used to a steady diet of silent films, I was quite surprised. While THE CAMERAMAN does not really feature any incredible or death-defying stunts, there are a number of set pieces that provide exciting humor (the staircase sequence, for instance), and also some hilarious situations such as when he loses his bathing suit at the "municipal plunge" or when he has to protect his camera from the attackers during the tong war. Thankfully, MGM had not yet put Keaton in films that did not fit his established persona (SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK) or that did not take advantage of his particular comic gifts (FREE AND EASY). Keaton is wonderful throughout, charismatic, sympathetic, agile. Marceline Day is a charming female lead and actually makes a three-dimensional character out of what could have been a superficial role in other hands. She continued working into the sound era until the mid-30s, but wound up in poverty-row features (see my review of SUNNY SKIES, where she is teamed with Rex Lease and Benny Rubin), many of which I've really enjoyed over the years (MYSTERY TRAIN with Hedda Hopper, the pioneering women-in-war film FORGOTTEN WOMEN/THE MAD PARADE, the VD classic DAMAGED LIVES, the outrageous camp classic THE FLAMING SIGNAL with Noah Beery, Henry B. Walthall, and Flash the dog, and the superb urban melodrama BY APPOINTMENT ONLY. The multi-talented Harry Gribbon, who began working for Mack Sennett in the teens, is well-used as the omnipresent cop who happens to be wherever Buster is doing something that looks fishy out of its proper context. I've been watching some of his sound comedy shorts recently such as RURAL ROMEOS and BIG HEATED, and he was superb as an arrogant bluffer, was a master of mugging and physical comedy, and even sang well in ROMEOS. Overall, THE CAMERAMAN is well worth watching and shows that initially Keaton was able to work well within MGM's system. Things began to slip with his next MGM feature, SPITE MARRIAGE, although many of the MGM features have something worthwhile in them (see my review of WHAT NO BEER, his last, and often considered his worst). With the recent attention given to the MGM films, I think I'll watch some of them again. From my memories of watching them about a decade ago, I remember DOUGHBOYS as being the least funny and most labored.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
forty-minute crime drama with Tom Neal--entertaining but shallow, 19 October 2003
6/10

Fans of 1940s B-movies would want to see ANY film starring Tom Neal as a detective, so here's one that won't take you long to watch, although you may have a vaguely unsatisfied feeling when it's over. This is the second of two "streamlined" features (films longer than shorts but shorter than even a 55 minute b-programmer) made in 1947 with the same cast and crew, starring Tom Neal as detective Russ Ashton, and running 40 minutes. They were intended to share a double-bill. The good news is that this film has a great b-movie supporting cast (Allen Jenkins as the comedic assistant detective, Pamela Blake as Neal's girlfriend/secretary, Tom Kennedy as a bumbling police officer, etc.), a hard-boiled feel yet a number of funny sequences, and the great Tom Neal as the private detective, cigarette dangling from his lip. The bad news is that the premise on which the plot is based is not that interesting and, in order to fit the whole thing into 40 minutes AND leave time for comedy sequences, the "crime"(which really happens BEFORE the film starts!)and sleuthing and resolution don't have much tension or drama attached. Also, I didn't have a stopwatch handy, but I'd bet that Allen Jenkins is in the film more than "star" Neal. When the phony duke and duchess hire Neal's detective agency to guard their baby and their valuables, Neal sends Jenkins and Neal stays at the office to do some paperwork! Only later when circumstances force him to be involved does he appear on the scene. Perhaps the earlier film THE HAT BOX MYSTERY spends some time establishing the character of Russ Ashton, but here he really isn't developed at all and isn't given any quirks or distinctive detection techniques that make him stand out. While many b-detective fans complain about Hugh Beaumont's depiction of Michael Shayne, where HB is throwing peanuts on the floor, at least those scripts gave Shayne some unique features. The film is not bad and the experience of watching it is a positive one. Also, it DOES have the authentic flavor of a poverty-row 1940s detective movie, so if you like the genre and have some time to kill, it's probably worth watching, but based on this feature, I'd have to judge the forty-minute "streamline" detective feature film experiment to be a mild failure. There's not really enough time to develop much tension.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
clever WWII-themed entry in the Boston Blackie mystery series, 30 December 2003
8/10

Most all of the 1940s Columbia "Boston Blackie" films starring Chester Morris are worth watching. This entry has Blackie vouching for some convicts (remember, Blackie himself is a reformed ex-con), trying to get them early releases so they can work in factories aiding the war effort. A judge agrees, and lets them out to begin work. Obviously, things do not work out as planned...

Morris's personal charm and colorful acting style always help the film along, and his sidekick The Runt and his antagonists from the police force return from the earlier entries in the series. It's a fast moving 65 minutes, and like any of the b-movie directorial efforts of William Castle at Columbia in the 1940s, it features a number of clever visuals and plot contrivances. Also, the film is NOT a traditional murder mystery, but I don't want to give anything away, so you'll have to see it yourself. Definitely worth finding for fans of b-movie detective films. And it's always great to see Douglas Fowley as a gangster again!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
low-budget Twist musical, great for fans of Louis Prima, 15 August 2002

This z-grade Twist musical stars (and was made by the production company of) the great trumpeter/vocalist/band-leader/personality Louis Prima, backed by the equally great Sam Butera and the Witnesses. In fact, Butera gets a lot of screen time here.

The old "small club is about to lose its lease but people who believe in the music band together to keep the club open and in the meantime win everyone over to their music" plot is trotted out once again-- it was used in the mid-50s rock'n'roll movies and in early 40s swing movies too, and it works well here. But then, you are watching a movie like this because you like the Twist and/or Louis Prima's music, and on that level it delivers the goods. Legendary Playboy model June Wilkinson looks beautiful as Prima's girlfriend, the music is hot, and as a vehicle for Prima's antics the film is a complete success. Some people complain that Prima--who made his recording debut in the early-mid 1930s!--is much too old to do the twist, but he is one of the fathers of rock'n'roll (especially those "jive" artists such as Jimmy Cavallo, Charlie Gracie, Mike Pedicin, etc.)and since his act is based on self-parody anyway and he never takes himself seriously, I can't see anyone having a problem with that.

Unless you like Prima and the Twist, though, you'd probably hate the film. It's shot on two minimal sets, basically, and is as static as a Barry Mahon film. However, for me that only adds to the charm (who needs complex camera work when you are basically seeing Prima do his show and do some light comedy?). Perhaps someone will release this on DVD?

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
fascinating early-sound crime mystery--slow going at first, but stick with it!, 4 August 2005
8/10

An early-sound crime/mystery (I can't call this a "murder mystery" since it's not really a whodunit), THE COSTELLO CASE starts off slow, first with a virtually silent opening, and then with endless talk in one room about the killing of this Costello, about whom we never really learn very much. Just as you are wanting to turn it off, two minor characters are introduced, characters who at first seem clichéd, but we soon learn are POSING as clichéd characters. Then the film really takes off into territory the average viewer would NEVER expect, winding up with an amazing climax and resolution that is definitely pre-code and with some changes could have been in a 1970's Italian crime film. This film also features profanity in the dialogue (Hell and Damn), an unmarried couple living together, and an ending that the Hays office would have demanded be re-written. Tom Moore is fine as the dedicated and smarter-than-he-seems policeman Mahoney; Wheeler Oakman once again is cast well as an oily crook with a smarmy charm, and we also get to see him falling apart and begging for his life, which is always a treat (see THE MAN FROM GUNTOWN or ESCORT GIRL). And it's always a treat to see Lola Lane, who did a lot of convincing work in z-grade early-sound films, here as a woman once harassed by Oakman, but now having a second chance with a man fate brings her together with. Like many early-sound films, this plays like a stage drama, but I was riveted after a slow first fifteen minutes, and I think that any fan of independent films of the early 1930's should track down a copy of this rare film.

charming, funny Allen comedy with broad appeal, 26 August 2001
10/10

I'm a longtime Allen fan who took two non-fans with me to see this, and we all loved it. Like Small Time Crooks, Curse of the Jade Scorpion should have broad appeal outside the "usual" group of Allen admirers. First of all, the photography and period sets are beautiful. Second, as usual for an Allen film, the casting is brilliant. Not just the leads, but the supporting players such as John Schuck and Wallace Shawn and even Professor Irwin Corey in a small but significant role. Dan Aykroyd underplays his role as the philandering insurance company head (who inherited his position and is thus spoiled) perfectly, clipping his lines and controlling his emotions the way such a character would. Third, unlike some Allen films, this actually has an exciting plot that kept us going right up until the end. Fourth, I was expecting to dislike Allen's character based on the reviews I read here, but the script (and the acting) undercut CW Briggs' (Allen) character's romantic appeal so much that the "women are falling all over Allen" charge doesn't stick here. Fifth, the romantic coda after the "mystery" has been solved is certainly NOT 20 minutes long, maybe about 7, and it was charming and gave the film a sweet quality. After some of the sleazy, sex- obsessed Allen films of the 90s, this was a welcome relief! Sixth, the writing was witty and fresh and never predictable. In summary, this is a wonderful little film that should appeal to a broad audience, combining mystery and laughs, and is a classic comedy worthy of a Harry Langdon or a Bob Hope. Woody Allen has definitely still "got it" and he is to be commended for making two films in a row with such mainstream drawing power while still retaining all those uniquely Allen elements. Anyone who has ever found the Woody Allen persona funny should get out to the theatre and see this beautifully photographed and beautifully set film on the big screen! (oh, I forgot to mention, as always the classic jazz/swing musical score is a joy to hear and fits the film perfectly)

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
imagine a cross between Walking Tall and Vanishing Point..., 31 August 2003
9/10

I missed this at my local drive-in in 1973, but thanks to the wonder world of home video, I can now see it to my heart's content in the comfort and privacy of my own home. And what I missed was an incredible southern-oriented drive-in film that combines kick-ass crime elements a la Walking Tall with car racing and an incredible existential ending that I still can't believe I saw. George Montgomery, in one of his last starring roles, is perfect as the burned-out auto racer who only lives for the thrill of the race and is kind of lost once he gets out of that element. This amazing film introduces a race-relations subplot on top of that, features hallucination sequences that are chilling,and has the kind of tough ambience that only a 70s drive-in action film can possess. There must be an interesting story behind this film, as director Robert W. Stringer and writer Robert Walsh have no other IMDB credits. Did they work locally in television or industrial filmmaking or commercials? Or did they come out of the woodwork for one over-the-top masterpiece and then vanish into thin air? The film's producer was the legendary K. Gordon Murray, no doubt wanting to cash-in on the profitable southern drive-in action film genre, and doing a completely successful job of it. As I understand it, the film did not get widely distributed and I don't ever remember seeing it on television. Now it is around on VHS is great condition and is a must-see for anyone who would find a cross between Walking Tall and Vanishing Point to be appealing.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
a complete b-western in 25 minutes...with songs!, 19 February 2006
8/10

Decided to check out another Tex Williams musical western short this weekend (see my review of Cheyenne Cowboy). This one, THE FARGO PHANTOM (the title card was missing in my copy), features an exciting, full b-movie plot involving stealing gold shipments (in a clever manner!) crammed into the 25 minute running time. Tex, along with his fellow band-mates Smokey Johnson and Deuce Spriggins (the former in the Smiley Burnette role), wander over to Montana after stumbling into a gun battle in the Dakotas (hence, the title)and having to escape as they are blamed for a crime they did not commit. They get a job protecting a stage line used for payroll shipments. Yes, that plot is familiar, but it's carried off with style and excitement here. Tex is an authoritative western hero here--not just an ambling entertainer as he seems in some of the other shorts--and with a feature film's worth of material crammed into under one half hour, I'd imagine that audiences of the day would have found this short quite satisfying. I did, and I want to see as many more of these Tex Williams shorts as possible. Be sure to check out the reissue CD's of Tex's prime work on the German "Bronco Buster" label. There is also a nice collection available from the British Academy of Country Music.

silent melodrama about the corrupting influence of a nightclub and those behind it, of historical interest, 16 March 2005
6/10

This 1918 feature tells the story of a minister (Crane Wilbur, a name well known to exploitation and b-movie fans for his later writing and directing jobs) who has vowed to fight the influence of THE WEB, a nightclub that seems tame to today's eyes, but that is seen as a den of vice and a corrupter of young women. The first five minutes of the film introduce the major characters and we learn that Wilbur lost his true love long ago while in college, where he was a star football player. We then are given some flashback scenes of the girl posing for the camera and then of Wilbur's college days and how he lost her. The film then connects back to the present and tells the story of The Web's owner, a rich patriarch who lives outside the city and outside the influence of the reach of "the web" of vice he has created. One or two cards during the film mention financial and political influence of The Web, but these points are never developed (in the print I have, which is 35 minutes long. I have a feeling that the original film was longer, but have no way of knowing). Two thoughts came to my mind while watching this. First, how it resembles the classic exploitation films of the 1930s, but with less emphasis on the actual sleaze, more on the moral-ism and lectures (one sermon is given, and large chunks of it are provided to us on cards). Second, I'm reminded of two Spencer Williams films of the early 1940s: the use of superimposed images of devils and angels (and other visuals) reminds me of THE BLOOD OF Jesus, and the way the showgirls are brought to the reverend reminds me of GO DOWN DEATH (although, unlike the "fly girls" in that film, the girls working for The Web do not try to seduce the Reverend, they just disrupt his service). As Crane Wilbur himself, star of this film, later made a number of exploitation films as writer and/or director, he obviously remembered a bit about this film, although to its credit, THE FINGER OF JUSTICE provides absolutely NO titillation or depiction of any sleaze the way later exploitation films did. Overall, a film of some historic interest and one that will satisfy followers of old-time melodrama. Also, as this was made right around the period when Prohibition became law, it might give some insight into the world-view of the forces that supported Prohibition (it was produced by an actual minister!).

11 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
classic 1950s L.A. low-budget exploitation, 14 April 2002
8/10

Those who enjoyed Dance Hall Racket, Gun Girls, and the like should enjoy this early 50's L.A. exploitation film about prostitution. This isn't as sleazy or exciting as the above-mentioned films, but it's got the same hard-boiled dialogue, high-school play level acting, flat lighting, and static camera you expect from these gems, and it's also got an uncomfortable, "dirty" feeling throughout, which is an acceptable substitute for the lack of nudity. You'll recognize some of the cast and the canned music from Phil Tucker's Broadway Jungle, and it's directed by W. Merle Connell, veteran of countless exploitation and burlesque features. If you like a hard-boiled, sordid film that plays like a bus-station sleaze paperback, this is it. Enjoy! I did...

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
impressive yet little-known 60s biker-revenge rural melodrama, 9 November 2003

Director David Hewitt is best-known for his sci-fi work such as WIZARD OF MARS and JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF TIME, as well as the unclassifiable THE MIGHTY GORGA, which I've seen about ten times! This little-known biker/rural-revenge flick (shot in Texas?) was written by the great comic artist Pat Boyette, photographed beautifully in widescreen techniscope by the reliable Gary Graver (who also edited and has a brief cameo), and acted by an impressive troupe including Gary Kent (you want to see his character killed after spending ten minutes with him!), Jack Starrett as the sheriff (perfect for the role, and he has some nice comic scenes with Casey Kasem), the lovely Megan Timothy, and in one of his last films, Jody McCrea. With a hippie-bluegrass score, fine rural locations, a grim unwashed look to the characters and the production, a nice widescreen transfer on the VHS tape, and the above-mentioned acting/directing/photography, GIRLS FROM THUNDER STRIP is a lost classic that will surely attract more attention in future years.

Now, if only I can find a copy of the Hewitt's OTHER biker film, the patchwork HELL'S CHOSEN FEW (the bikers in this film wear Hell's Chosen Few jackets, by the way!). This is a film worth finding. 1960s independent films such as this take a lot of chances and are able to do so much on so little money. Too many of today's "independent films" are either pretentious film-school swill or shot-on-video predictable garbage or self-consciously "camp" or "decadent" bore-fests. Hewitt/Graver/Kent and crew were in the right place at the right time with the right talents and with the desire to CREATE. Thankfully, the drive-ins of the day provided an outlet for their work...work which we can enjoy today through the magic of video. By the way, this film would look GREAT on the big screen,although I can't imagine ever having a chance to see that happen in my lifetime...

27 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
well-acted study of a dead marriage, 13 December 2004
9/10

THE HAPPY ENDING might not seem special today, and may well seem very dated in some ways, but we must remember this is the pre-DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE era. I'm sure the film seemed pioneering in its day, questioning the role of the traditional housewife and demanding that women are entitled to the same satisfaction and autonomy that men expected. Writer-director Richard Brooks often dealt with social issues and political themes--that he took on women's issues is no surprise. The film is especially an acting tour-de-force: Jean Simmons as the unsatisfied woman; John Forsythe as the non-understanding but well-meaning husband; Teresa Wright as Simmons' mother; Dick Shawn and Tina Louise as a miserable couple; Shirley Jones as the woman who survived by having affairs with married men; Lloyd Bridges as a married man with Jones as his mistress; Bobby Darin as a lost and lonely gigolo looking for that one big score. I was also impressed by the film's structure--with two parallel stories a year apart and various flashbacks all presented in such a way that the details of the relationship's coming apart are given to us a little at a time, and we are gradually brought to the point where we understand WHY the present state has become what it is. It's quite well-paced and creates tension throughout. Also, the unexpected and non-traditional ending is perfect. It's tempting to wonder what these rich people are whining about when people in the same community are working two jobs, sixteen hours a day, or starving, or dying of cancer, but Ms. Simmons' performance makes us care about and sympathize with her character. The film would perhaps also be of value as an educational tool for future generations who want to understand the ending of the pre-feminist era. Those who enjoy the teaming of stars Jean Simmons and Shirley Jones and director Richard Brooks should also check out his excellent film version of Sinclair Lewis' ELMER GANTRY. Those who know Shirley Jones only from The Partridge Family might be shocked to see what a fine dramatic actress she is!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
early Spencer Tracy one-reel short--of historical interest, 1 May 2006
7/10

If you haven't seen this yet, don't read the plot summary. It starts off as a grim, naturalistic story of a starving urban family and the father's struggle to do something to make a change. How surprising to see Spencer Tracy so young and unformed as an actor! I won't give away the surprise ending because, frankly, without the surprise ending the short has little to offer. In only six minutes or so, it has no time to go into depth. Every time I see one of these early 1930's depression-era films that treat the underdog working man with such sympathy, I wonder what has changed so much in our society. Can you imagine any major studio project--other than a foreign import--set in the present time that sides with a working-class character who robs and pulls guns on his victims? Yes, it's another era, isn't it? That's not exactly what happens here, but this short plays on our expectation that that is what WILL happen. An interesting curio. Because TCM does not list shorts on its schedule, I just happened to be setting my TV to tape something on TCM later in the day when I caught the "one reel wonders" intro, and thought I'd hang around to see what it was. And after this, TCM ran an obscure 1930 interview with D.W. Griffith as filler! Great stuff, but is there any way we could find out about them IN ADVANCE, TCM???

Heat Wave (1954)
21 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
British "Double Indemnity"-style mystery, w/ two US leads, 7 October 2002
8/10

Released in the US by Lippert as "Heat Wave", The House Across The Lake (actually a more accurate title, although Heat Wave suggests some of Hillary Brooke's smoldering sensuality!) is yet another film owing a debt to both Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. American Alex Nicol stars as a heavy-drinking writer who lives across the lake from Hillary Brooke, a scheming Black Widow temptress who teases various men she meets while being married to a wealthy but distant husband (yes, all the cliches are here, but they play well!). Needless to say, Nicol begins a friendship with the husband while falling for the ravishing Ms. Brooke, and any lover of noir thrillers can probably predict the way the film develops. Still, it is well-played by the leads and by the British supporting cast, and Mr. Nicol convincingly portrays a man beaten-down by life, who is brought to the point where he has nothing to lose. I won't give away the ending, but it seems somewhat of a surprise while it is happening, which is what a good mystery should do, even if it is constructed from well-known plot elements of the genre. If you like post-war B&W noir-tinged mysteries of this type, it's a good way to spend 85 minutes on a rainy day--and another opportunity to re-acquaint yourselves with the two underrated American stars, Alex Nicol and Hillary Brooke (fans of Ms. Brooke should check out the early 50s gem CONFIDENCE GIRL, co-starring Tom Conway, for a real Hillary Brooke tour-de-force).

1 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
boring, stupid, sleazy (NOT in the good sense) non-mystery, 28 October 2003
9/10

I missed this back in the early 70s when it played my local drive-in under the reissue title LOVE IN COLD BLOOD. Now, through the magic of home video, I've finally seen it. In fact, I saw it about five years ago, hated it, and put it away. Recently, I dug it out again to see if it was indeed as bad as I remember it. YES is the answer. I'm kind of surprised that Stuart McGowan, a man with solid b-movie credits going back decades, could have been involved with a film that is so poorly made and so sleazy. This aspires to be some kind of mystery and also a Freudian psycho-killer film, but it fails miserably on both counts. Jim Davis and Scott Brady are highly billed, but have one-day cameos--and they lend the only professionalism the film contains. They were actually worked much better into their Al Adamson films than they are here. The Story brothers make Lou Ferrigno seem like Olivier--even though they are different people playing different characters, they are such bad actors that they SEEM like one person badly playing two roles in the same manner. They are completely uninteresting AND unsympathetic. Of course, the wonderful SABRINA is as charming and seductive as she was in the three films I've seen her in, but she is not in the film that much. More of her would have been welcome. Although I don't see his name on the IMDB credits, I was also sorry to see one-time western star Russell Hayden as an assistant director on this sleazy dog. Although it may have been interesting for drunken, hormone-filled teenage boys to see the crude Story brothers paw and rip the clothes off of women two or three times in the film in a 1970 drive-in, this film really has little to offer the drive-in film fan, the sleaze fan, or especially the mystery fan. Thankfully, this was not Stuart McGowan's final directorial effort-- he made two OK Tim Conway comedies in the late 70's, so he went out on a positive note. Once again, this is NOT bad enough to be a camp classic or sleazy enough to be interesting--it's just boring and stupid and not worth renting let alone buying!

The Judge (1949)
6 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
quirky crime drama, well-acted by Milburn Stone, 6 July 2003
8/10

One of the last films directed by the great Elmer Clifton, whose career dates back to the mid-teens and D.W.Griffith, The Judge was also the first production of Ida Lupino's production company, first called Emerald Productions, later called The Filmmakers.

This is a quirky film which is both hard-boiled and pretentious, raw and artsy. It is also a film that raises as many questions as it answers. Elements are introduced into the story, covered in detail, and then not developed. Dream sequences are introduced, but are unclear. The main character--who is a sleazy defense attorney, NOT a judge--is well-played by Milburn Stone, but his story is not really typical of anyone other than this one oddball character. Why the film is called THE JUDGE, I don't know. The show begins and ends with a judge pulling out a file from his file cabinet, and talking about what a unique and disturbing case this was. The same judge does rule on an important case in the film, but he is not central--one wonders why the film is not called THE DEFENSE ATTORNEY? While star Milburn Stone and some of the supporting actors give good performances, the doctor and Stone's wife are both amateurishly played. Also, no scored instrumental music is feature in the film: only avant-garde acapella choral music, and the wire recording of the violin practicing that is used to get the psycho killer to grab a gun, which is used later as supporting music. This gives the film an art-film feel. A few scenes were unclear and required me to rewind the tape and watch them two or three times. The scene where the guy selling the dolls picks someone's pocket--the guy who later kills a policeman and is blackmailed by Stone--was unclear. Where was that gun coming from? Is this sloppy continuity, or an attempt at being ambiguous? Who knows... When the film ends, somewhat abruptly I might add, the viewer will probably have a number of questions as we did. However, whatever minor flaws I may complain about, The Judge is a unique film experience. Not entirely successful, but unique nonetheless.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Solid silent Bill Patton western w/ good amount of humor., 14 February 2006
8/10

With so many silent westerns having been made, and so few of those having survived, I'll watch pretty much any silent western I can find. This 1926 entry starring Bill Patton is above average, and as a footnote was directed by Horace Carpenter, of later fame as the mad doctor in Dwain Esper's 1934 sleaze classic MANIAC. The plot here involves the standard "stolen payroll", and for the first ten minutes or so things are played out in a solid but standard manner, but then when Patton decides to infiltrate the gang, he does NOT do it by pretending to be a rough and tumble criminal from some other part of the country, but does it as a greenhorn in mail-order "outlaw clothes" who comes off as a buffoon. The gang does need another member, and this guy obviously poses no threat, so why not bring him on...the gang also relishes being able to make fun of him. Patton shows a wonderful Stan Laurel-like comic presence during these scenes, and he is teamed against gang leader "Black Bart" played wonderfully by Merrill McCormick, who looks like a long-haired and bearded Robert Walker Jr. There are a lot of close-ups in the film, and Carpenter comes off as a first-rate director of low-budget indie westerns. Each character is vividly drawn and the action moves at a brisk pace, but there is a lot of entertainment value and I'm sure the children of the day would have gotten a big laugh out of many scenes. I look forward to seeing more of his work (does his sound-era directing credit THE PECOS DANDY survive? Somehow I have the feeling that IS NOT a classic, but who knows...). A nice transfer on this long out-of-print Grapevine VHS video. A fun and exciting way to kill 55 minutes for the silent western lover.

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
clunky but fun early-sound Mascot serial featuring Rin-Tin-Tin, 25 March 2005
7/10

I've shown my daughter a few silent Rin-Tin-Tin films recently, so we were both taken aback somewhat at how clunky and awkward this film often is compared to Rinty's silent work, but then early-sound films are often this way. Still, like most any Mascot serial, this is a fun film with a lot of action. Walter Miller, featured in a number of silent and sound serials, is a charismatic leading man (although at first he certainly does not seem to be the protagonist!!), even if his attempt at a Mexican accent sounds more like the bad pseudo-French accents one hears in pirate and Mountie films. Fortunately, June Marlowe (best-known for playing Miss Crabtree in the classic early 30's Our Gang shorts--by the way, I'd LOVE to see the two films Ms. Marlowe made in Germany in the late silent era. Are they around today??) doesn't even attempt a Hispanic accent, as Dolores Valdez, female lead in the serial, but she is attractive and charming and wears those "jungle pants" well. The cliffhangers are often impressive (although the resolutions of them aren't!), and in one chapter ending there are actually FOUR cliffhangers delivered at once, which is a wonderful touch! Rinty made one more serial for Mascot, THE LIGHTNING WARRIOR with Frankie Darro, which is also recommended. Like a number of 1930-31 serials that come to mind, there's a lot of mysterious eyes looking through secret panels and from behind corners, and lots of shadowy presences in the corners of the frame, which no doubt looked eerie up on the big screen at the theaters of the day. The Grapevine print is good quality, but is taken from a 1950's TV copy which has new credits. Also, I'm guessing that the first chapter was cut by a few minutes to fit into a thirty-minute TV slot, because there are a few continuity gaps (and scenes shown at the beginning of chapter 2 as recaps that WERE NOT seen in chapter 1!) that we didn't see in any of the later chapters. Every Mascot serial is worth watching, and this is no exception. Although hampered by the awkward early-sound technology, THE LONE DEFENDER should appeal to any Mascot serial fan...and any Rin Tin Tin fan or dog lover.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
exciting silent "railroad action" film, starring Helen Holmes, queen of this sub-genre, 16 March 2005
8/10

I see that a film also titled THE LOST EXPRESS that also starred Helen Holmes and was directed by J.P.McGowan was released in 1917; however, based on the plot summary of that film, the 1926 feature that I'm reviewing is NOT a remake in any way. During the teens, Helen Holmes was a star of serials in the Pearl White/Perils of Pauline vein, having a series called THE HAZARDS OF HELEN. She made a number of "railroad action" films during her starring period, which ended in the late 1920's. When this film was made in 1926, we should remember that she would have been well-known to movie audiences and they would expect a railroad element and some exciting chases utilizing cars and trains as much as modern audiences would expect Fred Astaire to dance or Chuck Norris to engage in martial arts. This is a mature Ms. Holmes in THE LOST EXPRESS of 1926, so her physical stunts are kept to a minimum, although to satisfy the fans she does jump from a moving car onto a moving train. The exciting plot involves the theft of a rail car that is carrying the head of the railroad company, his wimpy assistant, and a Black porter. The railroad czar was planning on taking his grand daughter from his daughter, who had separated from her husband. These three are held hostage by some gun-toting crooks. At the same time, the daughter goes missing, the separated spouses argue and both try to take the girl, and the train is actually "lost" for a period. Miss Holmes plays a railroad company employee, working at a local station, who comes to the aid of the family and helps to find them, locate and take care of the grand child, and eventually capture the crooks. It's easy to see why these films were popular--this one provides action, an element of mystery to the plot, thrilling stunts (though the ones in this film don't compare with those in, say, a Richard Talmadge film), some light humor, and a dependable star who has a certain "average person" quality about her. Director J. P. McGowan, who directed Miss Holmes for many years and was her husband until around the time of this film, is well-known to me for his many low-budget westerns, as both actor and director. He was also executive secretary of the Screen Director's Guild for a period. There are sixteen films playing at my local multiplex that each cost tens of millions to make, if not more, and feature CGI effects and sound design as complex as a symphony, yet I'm sure that fifteen of the sixteen do not pack as much entertainment into them as this low-budget silent action-adventure does.

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Eddie Quillan is charming as Ellery Queen, but the film does not resemble the source novel, 14 December 2004
6/10

The literary work on which this film was based--THE Chinese ORANGE MYSTERY--is a locked-room murder mystery that is light on characterization but heavy on the puzzle aspect of the murder, where no one knows who the victim is, the victim's clothes have all been turned inside out, and everything in the murder room has been turned backward. To do a faithful film adaptation of the book would probably be difficult, especially for a 55-minute b-movie which needs to be fast-moving and witty. In the Ellery Queen film made the year before, THE Spanish CAPE MYSTERY, which was an OK film, the filmmakers basically streamlined the plot, but were unable to give much depth or interest to any of the characters (other than Ellery and Inspector Queen). THE MANDARIN MYSTERY takes elements of the book THE Chinese ORANGE MYSTERY--a rare stamp, a murder in a locked room, some of the character names--and basically creates a new story around them. I had just re-read the novel before seeing this film, but they have little in common. If you can forget the book and just treat the film as an entity of its own, it's not that bad. Eddie Quillan is a charming screen presence, and he tries to restrain his comic mugging somewhat, but the script does not allow him to show much analytical prowess, and he spends far more effort romantically chasing the girl who is the main suspect than he does working on the crime. Wade Boteler plays Inspector Queen well--professional, but with a warm heart--and he and Ellery do show glimpses of the rapport they have in the books (and in the Jim Hutton/David Wayne TV series). On the whole, though, this film is an average 30s murder mystery, played with a light touch by a charming comic actor, but it has little to do with either the novel on which it was supposedly based or with the Ellery Queen series in general.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
historically interesting example of UK silent Sherlock Holmes shorts, 4 January 2005
8/10

Evidently, more than 40 two-reel silent Sherlock Holmes films were made between 1920-23 in the UK by "Stoll Picture Productions" and starring stage actor Eille Norwood as Sherlock Holmes. I own three of them and this adaptation of THE MAN WITH THE TWISTED LIP is a good example of these short films. Dr. Watson is summoned to an opium den in a seedy London neighborhood to find a man who was reported lost. While there, he meets Sherlock Holmes in disguise, who reveals himself, takes the Doctor back to Baker Street, and explains the case to him. The man's wife, who initially summoned Dr. Watson, also appears. Basically, the short takes sequences from the story and strings them together as part of the tale told by Holmes through inter-titles. The seedy atmosphere is convincing, and suspense is created well when the wife sees her husband in the opium den window and when the "man with the twisted lip" is confronted at different times. It's also interesting to see how the Baker Street flat is depicted and to see the relationship between Holmes and Watson. As a Sherlock Holmes fan, I found this silent short quite interesting. I saw a rumor on the internet that these shorts are being restored by a company owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber (!!!). I'm not sure how many survive, but I for one would enjoy seeing all the surviving short films from this series. These Holmes films starring Eille Norwood were quite popular in England and in the USA, and they are a fascinating curio.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
dialect comedian Willie Howard as a detective in this OK comedy short from Educational, 12 December 2004
8/10

In addition to his usual profession as a professor of French, dialect comedian Willie Howard is also a detective in this comedy short. He is hired to find a missing lady--first he goes after a mysterious character called "Red Herring"! You can imagine how this progresses, as Howard stumbles from one situation to another--you even get to see him do an Asian routine, decades before Jerry Lewis! He also does a British routine, making me wish he did more various dialects in his shorts, as he is quite versatile and they are a welcome relief from the bogus French accent. I understand that Howard was born in Germany-- he could probably have done many different European accents. The short winds up at a party, where music can be featured, always a staple of Educational Pictures comedy short. This allows us to see Howard do a brief musical comedy sequence. Overall, this is a funny entry in Howard's series of Educational shorts.

12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Atmospheric murder mystery with seedy sideshow setting, 1 August 2001
9/10

I've always loved this curio, a z-grade murder mystery from producer Willis Kent (Cocaine Fiends; Reb Russell westerns) set in a seedy sideshow arcade with a cavalcade of odd and interesting carny performers worked into the plot. As a murder mystery, it supplies a number of good red herrings, and the cheap sets and downbeat atmosphere and hard-boiled dialogue give the film a raw, exciting feel... The cast is full of reliable veterans, many from the silent era (former silent actors filled the z-grade independent films of the early 30s), so that even the smallest role is colorfully played. And star Henry B. Walthall, of Birth of A Nation fame and a major star in the mid-to-late teens and early twenties (superb in Ibsen's Ghosts and also The Scarlet Letter), gives a

moving performance as a one-time college professor who has been reduced by tragedy to performing magic tricks in a sideshow. He gets a number of featured scenes and, as always, has an understated grace and elegance as an actor (see also the serial The Whispering Shadow and the feature The Flaming Signal for other films of his from this period). This was, I believe, his last film, and his name isn't even spelled correctly in the credits (his name is above the title!). By the way, trainspotters should note that there are three versions of this in circulation--a mail order outlet from Oregon recently released a crisp looking copy,but it is missing a scene at the beginning and has different canned music over the opening credits from an old copy I have from a worn 16mm--and the AFI catalog lists another version with later-filmed exotic dancing footage spliced into the dancing girl scenes. Today's "bad boys" of the post-Pulp Fiction cinema world could take a lesson in understatement and atmosphere from this film. Hats off to director Melville Shyer for another solid piece of work!

9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
The Arch Hall version of It's A Mad Mad Mad World, 20 February 2005
4/10

The films produced by Arch Hall Sr. and starring Arch Hall Jr. are overall an entertaining lot, considering the low budgets. They made a juvenile delinquent film (the Choppers), a horror comedy (Eegah), a rock and roll film in the Jailhouse Rock vein (Wild Guitar), a gritty crime film (the Sadist), and eventually a western (Deadwood '76), so it's not a surprise that they would make a slapstick comedy, and since this was made right after IT'S A MAD MAD MAD WORLD, I'm assuming the filmmakers saw this as in that vein, with a little rock and roll thrown in. Arch Jr. plays Britt Hunter, a rock and roll singing spy who is assigned to defeat a Russian agent who is carrying a rabbit that is carrying a vial of lethal bacteria...or something like that. A bunch of Keystone Cops-style international spies--played as broad ethnic stereotypes reminiscent of Jerry Lewis's "japanese" characters--are also after the rabbit and the Russian. If I saw this at a rural drive-in with a few kids in the car and maybe a beer or two in my system, I think it would work quite well as a film. I remember seeing this on TV as a kid and thinking it was as funny as, say, a typical Beverly Hillbillies episode. Arch Hall, a bit nervous on-screen in The Choppers, his first film, was relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera by this time, and he does a good job, looking good and acting cool. I don't know why this film is bashed so much-- I'd put it on the same shelf with the 1966 rock and roll spy parody OUT OF SIGHT, except that that film had a much bigger budget and was made by a big studio, Universal. The Nasty Rabbit is MEANT to be a ridiculous, exaggerated slapstick comedy played on such a broad level that children would enjoy it. The color photography is nice (and the Rhino VHS video is letter-boxed!), and considering the small budget that the Halls surely had to work with, they made an entertaining product. Where else can you see Arch Hall Sr. in a dual role--in fact, near the end of the film, he is playing in the same scene with himself!

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Charley Chase as college criminology prof out to find a sleepwalker on the campus, 26 December 2004
7/10

On the whole, I tend to prefer Charley Chase's Columbia shorts to his sound shorts at Hal Roach, as Columbia (as usual for them) emphasize physical comedy and the shorts tend to have faster pacing. Here, Chase is a college criminology professor who is called upon to find a sleepwalking bandit on campus--who he soon learns is himself! In an early scene, he is paired with the great Fred "Snowflake" Toones, who plays the night watchman. Of course, Chase winds up being caught in the sorority house. This being a Jules White film, there are great sound effects and all kinds of wild slapstick. THE NIGHTSHIRT BANDIT should appeal to both Chase fans AND Three Stooges fans, since any short directed by Jules White features many qualities he used in his Stooge shorts.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
early comic vehicle for Sunshine Sammy Morrison, 5 April 2006
7/10

Despite the politically incorrect title, this short (clocking in at about 22 minutes) is a nice comedy vehicle for legendary Black film comedian Sunshine Sammy Morrison, probably best known today for his run as a member of the before-the-Bowery Boys "East Side Kids" at Monogram in the early 40's. If the birth year given on the IMDb for Morrison is correct, he's only 9 in this film, and he already has a great comic presence. He's initially working in a store, then is attracted to a young black girl who comes in the store, then splits to the woods where he helps a greenhorn camper go fishing, then a guy in a bear suit AND a real bear tear things up, then Sammy eventually finds his way back to the store, hides in the stove, and is carried off by his dad. Sammy's character is a clever, inventive boy who is depicted as both smarter and stronger than the white kids taunting him in the first scene, and there's not really any demeaning "racial" humor. This may predate his membership in Hal Roach's OUR GANG shorts. Director is James "Paul" Parrott. Interestingly, the camper plays his role in the Paul Parrott fashion, and the policeman played by George Rowe even LOOKS like Paul Parrott--in fact, I looked up Rowe's credits just to prove to myself that there WAS such an actor, and it wasn't just a pseudonym for Parrott. Sunshine Sammy Morrison was a true film pioneer, one of the first Black stars and certainly the first Black CHILD star, and there's little that's demeaning or cringe-producing the way there is in, say, some performances by Stepin Fechit or Fred "Snowflake" Toones, as brilliant comedians as those men were. Roach comedies generally play well even today, and this one is no exception. Strangely enough, while the young girl in whom Sammy is interested is played by a Black girl, I think that the two Black women who come into the store and the actor who plays Sammy's dad may be Caucasians in black-face--it's difficult to tell with the picture quality, but I think so...in case you're interested. I'll see if I can dig up some more early 20's Morrison shorts from my collection...at age 9, he can carry a film by himself, quite an achievement!

Bill Franey as fish market delivery man who dabbles in plumbing...badly!, 12 March 2005
7/10

Checking the IMDb credits, I see that Billy Franey did a number of shorts in 1920-21 with titles such as THE DOG CATCHER, THE CAMERAMAN, THE BULLFIGHTER, THE THIEF, etc. THE PLUMBER was undoubtedly part of the same series. If you are not familiar with Billy Franey, he reminds me somewhat of Ben Turpin minus the cross eyes, and projecting forward about fifty years, John Ratzenberger of CHEERS fame. He appeared in nearly 150 films in the 1914-1918 period, and he can be seen in small roles in many poverty row films of the 1930's. In this short, THE PLUMBER, he is a fish delivery man who is taking an order to a couple who are also having plumbing problems. On the way he is stopped by a man trying to show him a scrap of paper with Chinese writing on it... a detail that is revived again near the end of the film in a self-reflexive scene! As he is fixing the couple's plumbing, there is an odd surreal scene where a guy next door (Bill Franey has broken through the wall) is taking a bath, Franey spills hair tonic all over him (after taking a swig of the tonic himself), and then the man picks up his bathtub, pulls it up around him, and walks out the front door! There is a slapdash quality to this film that I like. Fans of low-budget indie silent comedy shorts should like this. Running time is 9:57.

13 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
excellent entry in "Whistler" mystery series, 29 August 2004
9/10

This was the second to last film Richard Dix made in the Whistler series. The mysterious Whistler is seen as a shadow and heard in

voice-over narration, but the "star" of the films is Richard Dix, who plays a different role in each--some heroic, some cowardly, some honorable, some not so honorable. This must have been satisfying to Dix, since it gave him regular work AND allowed him to show his talent in a wide variety of roles. This particular entry gives Dix a complex role, as an artist married to a rich woman whose financial support allows him to continue his work. The plot is more complex than the synopsis suggests, and there are a number of twists and turns throughout, giving the film the feel of an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The "femme fatale" in this film is played by Leslie Brooks, who took this kind of role even further in the great BLONDE ICE two years later. Director George Sherman did a lot of exciting films at Republic prior to this film at Columbia, including many entries in the Three Mesquiteers series, and went on to do many more films, including episodes of such classic TV shows as Rawhide and Naked City. The centerpiece of the film, though, is Richard Dix, an actor of great presence (it's fair to say that Gary Cooper was influenced by Dix)and subtlety. SECRET OF THE WHISTLER would be a good introduction to this series, and it should appeal to any fan of INNER SANCTUM, THRILLER, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS, etc. Most of the other films in the series are worth checking out also. Perhaps sometime in the future Columbia could do a DVD boxset of the Whistler films the way Universal is doing the Francis and Ma&Pa Kettle films? And after that, perhaps they could reissue the Boston Blackie films?

4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
serious religious drama wrapped in blackmail melodrama, 28 January 2003
9/10

Director Irvin Berwick (Monster of Piedras Blancas, Hitchhike to Hell, Malibu High) is not a name that would come to mind when I think of thought-provoking religious dramas. So imagine my surprise when I see such a film wrapped up within a hard-boiled blackmail melodrama! While it could be argued that the evangelical setting of about half the movie is a mere plot element, Berwick takes it too seriously, spends too much time on it, and ends the film in such a way that it's clear the resolution of the religious drama is far more important to him than the resolution of the crime drama. This is actually a study of the nature of faith and salvation, put into a marketable crime melodrama package. Was Mr. Berwick ever interviewed about this film? It obviously must have meant a lot to him. Now I'm anxious to see the films he made after this in the mid-60s: Strange Compulsion and The Street Is My Beat. Although not as over-the-top as The World's Greatest Sinner or Wise Blood, and not as slick as Elmer Gantry, the Seventh Commandment really belongs on the same shelf as those classics. I don't want to give away much of the plot, as the element of surprise is important. However, if the combination of a gritty b&w low-budget blackmail melodrama mixed with serious religious issues of faith and salvation sounds intriguing, track this film down. I've never really seen anything like it!

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
atmospheric Val Lewton production dealing with cults--interesting but flawed, 17 October 2004
8/10

One of the lesser-known entries from producer Val Lewton, THE SEVENTH VICTIM has many fascinating elements, is well-acted by an interesting cast (including young Kim Hunter, in her screen debut), and creates an eerie and disquieting feeling. The first three-quarters are well-paced and gradually pull the viewer into the nightmare-world of a satanic cult. However, the last quarter is rushed, lacks the careful pacing of the earlier parts, and ends abruptly--and unsatisfyingly. As I had taped this off TCM, I watched the final five minutes three times to make sure I hadn't missed anything. Yes, I know what happens, but it seems a cheat to me. I don't know the production history of the film--there are enough Lewton fans out there who surely do--but it almost seems like an alternate ending was quickly shot after the film was finished. I've heard that important scenes were cut--perhaps someday these could be restored if they still exist and if they were actually shot and not just in the script. Overall, this is a fascinating film and is worth watching, but I think that the majority of viewers will feel unsatisfied and cheated with the last five-to-ten minutes. Perhaps this film will come together with multiple viewings; Tom Conway's character seems quite inconsistent on first viewing. Watch it next time it comes on and make up your own mind. I don't think you'll find it boring!

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Rex Lease and Rin-Tin-Tin Jr. in exciting b-western, 2 October 2003
8/10

1937's THE SILVER TRAIL was one of the last leading-man roles for Rex Lease, who moved on to character roles for the rest of his prolific career. It was also one of the last productions of Reliable Pictures, an outfit run by Harry Webb and Bernard Ray, specializing in very low budget action films and westerns that managed to be fast moving and quite entertaining, using established B-stars such as Lease, Richard Talmadge, Jack Perrin, and Tom Tyler. Lease is paired with Rin-Tin-Tin Jr. here and seems to have a genuine rapport with dogs. The scene in the restaurant where he defends Rinty's honor and then has Rinty climb across the table to join him will warm the heart of any doglover. The plot is that old standby where a miner has hit a rich strike and tells an old friend to come join him, but when the friend arrives, the miner has disappeared along with all records of him and his mine. Near the beginning of the film, there is a character called "Hank",

presumably the brother of Lease's character, who is never seen again, but performs two nice old-time country songs in the Montana Slim/ Wilf Carter vein. This character is not listed on the cast list. Also unbilled is Snub Pollard, who plays the cashier/bartender at the place where the dog walks across the table. We also have the federal agent posing as a drunk and many other classic "archetypes" that give b-westerns like this their charm. Overall, it's a fast-moving, enjoyable little film that surely pleased the small-town and third-string theatre patrons it was made for, and Rex Lease has a special charm and warmth that can elevate any film. Rin Tin Tin Jr. also is deserving of merit. His biggest roles were in three Mascot serials of the early-mid 30s: The Wolf Dog with Frankie Darro; The Law of the Wild with Bob Custer and Ben Turpin; and The Adventures of Rex and Rinty with Kane Richmond. Unfortunately, Rinty is not in a lot of this film--his scenes probably add up to 15 minutes. Lease had previously worked opposite a canine in the excellent INSIDE INFORMATION from 1934, with Tarzan the Wonder Dog. If you ever get a chance to see any Reliable Pictures releases from 35-37 starring Lease, Talmadge, Tyler, or Perrin, do yourself a favor and check them out.

The Simp (1920)
3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
hilarious 1920 vehicle for Lloyd Hamilton's physical comedy, 20 March 2005
8/10

With over 200 credits, Lloyd Hamilton was a prolific comic actor. This one comes after his "Ham and Bud" shorts of the teens, and before his series of shorts at Educational beginning in the mid-20s. The premise is simple: everything goes wrong for Ham, everything he touches breaks, yet he manages to keep that wonderful smile and skip in his walk. The film begins with him driving home in the middle of the night, smashing through a barn, and blowing up his car...and it ends with him crossing the street to embrace his lady love, and falling into a manhole! Everything in between is just as bad. There are a number of clever sequences, my favorite being one where a manic fish grabs a small dog and pulls it across a pond--Ham saves the dog, but the fish keeps on sliding across dry land, wreaking havoc! My copy is taken from a Pathescope reissue and hence does not have original credits, but it's interesting to see here on the IMDb credits that Charley Chase directed. I also watched Hamilton's next short, MOONSHINE,after watching THE SIMP, but it's nowhere near as good , with a bunch of moonshiners warring against revenue agents, and more attention given to the details of the outlandish hillbilly moonshiners than to Ham's comic sequences. However, THE SIMP is worth checking out if you ever get the chance. For me, any Lloyd Hamilton film is worth seeing (well, HIS DARKER SELF might be worth watching once ONLY for novelty value...). The Simp's running time is 12'41".

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
dialect comedian Willie Howard is tired of his nightclubbing, free-spending wife..., 12 December 2004
7/10

Willie Howard had been a success on the vaudeville and Broadway stage for many years with his bogus-French professor act when he made at least seven comedy shorts (distributed nationally by Fox) for Educational Pictures in the 37-38 waning days of that film-short studio in New York. Educational comedy shorts have the reputation of being cheap (true!), tacky (often true, but that's part of the charm), and unfunny. The latter is sometimes true, but as someone who has seen hundreds of these over the years, I think that anyone who likes lowbrow slapstick and filmed variations on vaudeville and burlesque routines will find the films enjoyable. Most of these have not been in TV circulation since the 60s, and most have never been available on video or DVD. They mostly circulate among collectors. Frankly, I'd rather take a chance on an unknown Educational short--which could be either brilliant or completely off-the-wall or horrible--than watch an assembly-line RKO comedy short. This entry, THE SMART WAY, was an Al Christie production, as were the other Howards (although there is no director credit on my copy, taken from an Official Films 16mm copy), and allows Howard to do his act relatively unencumbered by musical sequences or romantic subplots. His wife is addicted to nightclubs and big spending, and he asks his attorney how to get her over it. He suggests that Howard give her SO much partying and spending that she will get tired of it. That's the premise for the 18 minutes of this comedy short, and it works well. Aileen Cook (who also appeared in a Pinky Lee short at Educational) plays the spoiled, selfish, annoying wife well. Howard's ridiculous phony mustache and stiff, foot-long goatee and Pepe LePew accent probably seem familiar even to those who have never seen him before since his act has been borrowed and altered by many who came later. Pretty much any of the seven Howards I own are as good as the others, but THE SMART WAY has a good premise that keeps the action focused, while others such as THE AFFAIRS OF PIERRE go in too many directions. I find these shorts charming and recommend them if you can find them.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Scores a knockout on all levels!!!!, 17 March 2006
10/10

This film made some news while being shot here in Texas, so I was waiting for it to be released...but it played in Europe before being released here in Mr. Jones' home state. What a powerful commentary on the state of politics and culture here in Texas, and on Hispanic-Anglo relations. What a visually striking film--virtually any shot is beautifully composed and worthy of being displayed in a museum. What a powerfully acted film--Jones projects such depth, Dwight Yoakam adds another character to his gallery of colorful but unsympathetic losers, and as the title character Julio Cedillo (a native Texas also) is mesmerizing yet subdued. And Barry Pepper takes a completely unsympathetic role and makes it unforgettable as the Border Patrol agent. As a Texan, I can attest that this film totally gets it right about Texas life and culture. The last film I saw that was equally on-target was the TOTALLY DIFFERENT film THE ROOKIE with Dennis Quaid. The film-making is both post-modern and classic. The soundtrack is diverse and perfectly chosen. I've admired Tommy Lee Jones' work since ROLLING THUNDER (shot here in San Antonio, by the way)--it's nice to see that the man is as complex and intelligent and visionary as I thought he might be. I won't give away much about the plot as it should hit you unexpectedly for maximum impact. People will be watching this film and learning from it 50 and 100 years from now. Why wait? See it on the big screen--it's visually striking. So what's the next directorial project going to be, Mr. Jones?

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining Republic 40's crime-mystery with comic touches, 1 October 2006
8/10

Republic Pictures will always be best-known for its serials and westerns and John Wayne films, but their feature films, most of which resemble the "B" programmers of, say, Columbia or Universal, are a little-known asset of the studio. Most haven't been shown on TV in decades and few have been released on video. Republic issued a strange assortment of excellent and not so good (such as When Gangland Strikes) features back in the VHS days, but nothing really in 15 years. Republic features were almost always entertaining, economical, professionally made, well-cast, and tightly paced...just like their westerns. This particular feature, the first director credit of Philip Ford (nephew of John), casts the witty, square-jawed leading man of serials and b-action films, Kane Richmond, as a private eye sucked into a web of dirty dealings involving a nightclub owner, his wife, her "friend", etc. The night club is the Tiger Club, and thus the wife is the "Tiger Woman" of the title. No, this is not a jungle film and has nothing to do with the serial of the same name. Xavier Cugat vocalist and Republic leading lady Adele Mara plays Sharon, the Tiger Woman, and shows a range of emotions from confused, naive victim to mourning widow to shrill black widow. Ms. Mara is always a delight to see--her large seductive eyes are not soon forgotten!--and she did a lot of work for Republic in the mid and late 40's. Her boyfriend is played by British actor Richard Fraser (Picture of Dorian Gray), whose accent slips in here and there, and who does a good job of playing a character who thinks he's in control of the relationship with Ms. Mara but who is simply a plaything to be discarded. As always, Kane Richmond is the perfect b-movie leading man--handsome, athletic, witty, self-deprecating even while the character he's playing might be vain--and he and Adele Mara take what could be a standard, unimaginative mystery programmer and make it special. Also usual for Republic is the fine cast of colorful supporting players such as Cy Kendall (often a heavy, here a quirky police detective) and Gregory Gay (as a mobster/mortician (!!!!!) of uncertain ethnicity!). The print reviewed is a 16mm Hollywood Television Service (Republic's television syndication arm) copy with the republic logo removed, so it's possible that this copy could have a few minutes trimmed from the original theatrical release print, but most of these b-programmers are under an hour anyway, and the films moves quickly and gets a lot done in a short time. I also acquired at the same time as this film one made the next year at Republic with the same two stars, PASSKEY TO DANGER, and will try to review that within the next few weeks. THE TIGER WOMAN is a pleasant way to kill an hour, the mystery angle works quite well and while the conclusion could probably be anticipated, the film leads the viewer down so many other blind alleys that when the REAL conclusion comes it almost seems to come out of the blue. If only one could see the Republic library on some cable channel...

28 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
interesting, offbeat A&C effort, 18 May 2004
8/10

Coming after LITTLE GIANT, a film in which Abbott and Costello were NOT a pair and in which Bud Abbott played a dual role, here is the second film that experimented with the A&C format. The film is set in the Revolutionary War period and then in 1946, with Costello playing the same role in both parts, and Abbott playing different roles (although the characters are related, just spread over 170 years!). There are a lot of funny sequences, but the historical angle makes the rest of the film very interesting in its own right. With appearances by such b-movie stalwarts as Kirk Alyn and Rex Lease, a fine supporting cast, and good-looking historical settings,the film is handsome looking and holds up well today. THE TIME OF THEIR LIVES is a nice change-of-pace for the Abbott and Costello fan, and once again shows that Costello was capable of carrying an entire feature film himself--and that Bud Abbott was excellent in character roles, not just as half of a comedy team. Newly reissued on DVD, the film should find an appreciative new audience.

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
solid Republic mystery programmer, w/ Dale Evans in non-Western role, 14 July 2003
7/10

The late Dale Evans was a multi-talented lady--singer, songwriter, author, actress--and it's often forgotten that she worked as a pop singer in the big-band era BEFORE her fame as a Western star. Republic Pictures put her in a few non-Western roles, undoubtedly trying to expand her appeal to the general audience. I know nothing about the production history of this film, which has Ms. Evans top-billed, but it almost seems as though Republic had a completed script and had cast the film, and then was ordered by Herbert Yates, Republic president, to write Dale Evans into the film without changing the existing story. I say this because the film starts quite well, gets an interesting mystery established, introduces a well-drawn cast of diverse characters, and then after 20 minutes Dale Evans' character--sister of the crooked William Bakewell and fiancee of the good guy Douglas Fowley--is worked into the plot, but actually adds nothing to it. Her role could have been completely cut out of the film and the same events would have happened and nothing would be missed! Oh, she is in many scenes (not as many, however, as Fowley and other supporting players), but she is somehow peripheral. Also, the song she sings in a nightclub is not a very good composition and not a good showcase for Ms. Evans' talents in singing non-Western songs--it makes her sound shrill, which she never was in her Western material. The final third of this film is somewhat weak, which is a shame as the first third is excellent and the middle third interesting, but the climax, where the lead crook confesses the whole plot in a VERY unlikely manner, seems abrupt and ends the film with a whimper, not a bang. The Trespasser, however, does have many strengths, in particular the performances of Douglas Fowley, William Bakewell (great to see him in such a meaty role as a flawed character), Adele Mara, and Warren Douglas (the cruel practical joke he plays on another character at the beginning of the film starts things off with a jolt!)--also, the plot element of the forging of rare books unfolds in an interesting manner. Director George Blair worked his way up at Republic from assistant director in the late 30s to director of many features in the 40s, before moving to television in the 50s and directing many classic shows such as Superman and Highway Patrol.

Overall, the film is an interesting piece that doesn't quite work entirely, but should be of interest to Dale Evans' many fans. She does a good job here, but there were many leading ladies in 1940s Hollywood and only one Queen of the West, so she went back to the ranch again after the film following this one.

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
charming light-hearted mystery, with Bob Livingston as small-town sheriff, 13 April 2004
8/10

No great profundity here, just a charming little comedy-mystery-romance starring Bob Livingston, an actor of great charisma and wit, as a small-town sheriff pitted against/teamed with visiting big-city detective Stephanie Bachelor. Ms. Bachelor was in a number of films between 1943 and 1948, then seems to have dropped from the big screen. She too is an actor with charisma and charm, and the romantic disagreements between her and Livingston are delightful. Add to this a slate of colorful and quirky supporting characters, and a mystery that could have held its own in a serious mystery film, and you've got an hour of solid b-movie entertainment that is typical of what Republic Pictures did so well.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
standard but solid obscure silent western, 21 February 2005
5/10

THE UNKNOWN RANGER, starring Rex Ray (one of two roles listed for him on the IMDb) was a 1920 release, "presented" by Nathan Hirsh, a familiar name for z-grade movie fans, as his "Aywon" film company lasted into the mid-1930s. The copy I viewed ran about 41 minutes. It seemed complete, although it could be a later abridged version as one or two of the inter-title cards were clearly of a later vintage than all the others, so the film was reissued later. Other intact credits on the film are "supervised by Harris Gordon" (a Harris Gordon is listed as an actor in a few dozen films of the teens and twenties); photographed by Arthur Boeger (photographer on a number of films in the late teens, including another Aywon production that stars Rex Ray); and "edited by Martin G. Cohn" (editor on many films up through to the 1950s--I notice that he was involved with many of the Ambassador-Conn films of the 1930s, his name rang a bell as I am a big Frankie Darro fan!). Rex Ray, who vaguely resembles a leaner Tim Holt from a distance, is a ranger sent to the "Devil's River" area near the Mexican border to work undercover (with a "cover" job at a local ranch, the Sleepy O) and find someone involved with opium smuggling across the border. The first character introduced in the film, Ray's love interest, is Jo Blair, played by Marie Newell (the title card that introduced her character was a later reissue one, and did not include the actress' name). She is a wispy, post-Mae Marsh lady, who vaguely resembles Mary Kay Place as a thinner silent film heroine. A stranger, posing as a New York author, played by Ben Hill who gets his own title card announcing his character and the actor's name, claims to be seeking "a little local color," but when he is seen with a gun, Rex Ray begins to wonder what's going on...also, Ray remembers seeing the stranger somewhere before. 40 minutes is a good length for this kind of film as it allows more plot development than a two-reel short, but it isn't drawn out any longer than it needs to be (although the fourth reel drags a bit). The independent, states rights distributed silent western is a fascinating genre--a small percentage of those made survive in any form today, and no doubt some "stars" of these films are not remembered at all. In the small backwater towns of the Midwest and southwest, this kind of fare was standard--I have talked to older folks who saw these kind of films, and my father saw some of them in the mid-1920's. There's not much original going on here, but since the film is shot on a shoestring and has NO sets whatsoever, it's an interesting window into a world long gone. Structurally, the film has two flashbacks, both utilized when characters are recounting past actions for the benefit of other characters. The final scene between the hero and the villain was something of a surprise (I won't give it away), and gives an added level of depth to the film. Although a piece of genre product churned out for a particular audience at a particular time and no doubt considered disposable to some extent once it had been played out on its distribution circuit of c-level theaters in small towns, THE UNKNOWN RANGER still entertains, and fans of obscure indie westerns will not regret spending 40 minutes in Devil's River with Rex Ray.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
the comedy team of Collins and Dent destroy an exclusive men's club in this late-silent short, 23 December 2004
9/10

Sometimes referred to as "the poor man's Laurel and Hardy," the team of Monty Collins (the thinner guy with the prominent nose and the mugging facial expressions) and Vernon Dent (the stocky guy, well-known to millions for his Three Stooges appearances, but also a prolific actor in many different kinds of comedy roles at Educational and Columbia)made a number of shorts for Jack White's "Mermaid" production company, distributed by Educational, in the waning days of the silent era. Both actors are instantly familiar to any fan of comedy shorts, and both worked well into the 1940s (and the 50s in Dent's case!), so their voices are familiar to many. However, as a silent comedy team they do a good job. Yes, they were probably a cash-in on Laurel and Hardy's success, but they don't really ape Stan and Ollie that much, and in the shorts I've seen they don't really develop the individual characters that Laurel and Hardy had--Collins and Dent are basically an anarchic duo who enter any situation and destroy whatever order there is. In THOSE TWO BOYS (5/5/1929), the boys are described as rich oil men, and are invited to an exclusive men's club. For the first reel, they trip, stumble, run into, drop, crash, slip, and fall multiple times, turning the main room of the club into a wreck. At the beginning of the second reel, they go to the billiards room, and one can probably predict what happens there with balls, cue sticks, chalk, etc. First they mess with each other, then they mess with the other people playing, then anarchy reigns and everyone is fighting. For the last four minutes of the piece, Collins and Dent mess with each other's ties and trousers. Then they start kicking each other in the butt. Then two other people are kicked in the butt and begin kicking everyone else in the butt, and eventually there are about fifteen people engaged in the butt kicking! In fact, when there is a big group kicking each other, we see the occasional person flying about three feet into the air, presumably from a well-placed kick! My children came into the room during this butt-kicking scene, and couldn't believe it went on for so long. But that's the formula--start small, grow gradually, and then bring everyone into the mêlée. Jack White had an efficient comedy machine going in the silent era, and pretty much most any White production is worth watching for the silent comedy short enthusiast. Those wanting to learn more about White and the era should check out the book BEHIND THE THREE STOOGES: THE WHITE BROTHERS, published by the Director's Guild of America. All three White brothers--Jules, Jack, and Sam--are interviewed at great length and there is also a useful chronological listing of their work.

11 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Like a pulp detective novel come to life on the screen!, 15 January 2005
9/10

Just watched this again after about five years, and I'm still struck by the wonderful hard-boiled ambiance of the film, which perfectly captures the male-fantasy element of detective fiction. As a reader of things like Mike Shayne crime novels, I think that THREE BLONDES IN HIS LIFE captures the alcohol-soaked, blonde-loving, tough-guy feel of the typical Shayne novel better than any of the movies that featured the Shayne character. Jock Mahoney (see my review of I'VE LIVED BEFORE), always a reliable leading man with great physical charisma and macho attitude, is perfect as an insurance detective out to crack the case of a phony robbery staged to hide a jewel theft, a case that eventually involves murder. A former agent for Mahoney's company has gone missing and is implicated in the crime, and this agent had three blondes in his life. Soon, they are involved in Mahoney's life. I love the way that when Mahoney walks into a room to visit one of these women and question her, he first is offered a drink (he's a bourbon drinker), and then the woman either comes on to him, or puts up a shrewish front as a cover for the fact that she really WANTS to come on to him! The film is rather low-budget, but is shot very imaginatively. I commented to my fiancée as we watched this that it had the technical feel of a 50s syndicated TV crime show,with small but efficiently shot sets, but had excellent location photography also which helped create a nice atmospheric Los Angeles feel to it. It's also lit like a TV crime show. Imagine my surprise when I checked the IMDb credits and saw that director Leon Chooluck's only directing credit other than this is the HIGHWAY PATROL TV series! Chooluck has a long string of credits as production manager on a number of interesting b-movies, many of which I've loved, and he obviously learned how to organize an efficient production. Another interesting aspect of the film is that the production company, Cinema Associates, was a group of four people, one of whom was the legendary Haskell Wexler, of MEDIUM COOL fame. THREE BLONDES IN HIS LIFE captures the ambiance of a paperback-original detective novel better than most similar films I've ever seen. It features a strong, cool leading man in Jock Mahoney, and it deserves to be much better known. Check it out.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Italian crime/mystery, w/ Lloyd Bridges as ex-GI in post-war Italy, 15 July 2003
9/10

Produced and directed by W. Lee Wilder, this Italian production stars Lloyd Bridges as a GI who returns to Italy after the war to find some money he stashed a few years earlier (I don't want to give away too much of the plot, so I'll be intentionally vague)--needless to say, he has a number of problems in getting to it and a number of other people manage to get in the way of his getting it. Lea Padovani is the lovely but fiery lady he knew during the war who he tries to find to assist him, and the colorful Aldo Fabrizi is a man who lives right next to where the money was stashed and who befriends Bridges, but who Bridges must keep in the dark about his REAL reasons for being in the area. As always, Lloyd Bridges manages to make the character richly detailed and full, giving him some unpleasant qualities even though he is the "hero" of the piece, and making us feel for him as he faces danger and encounters one problem after another. The ending is nicely ironic while being positive and bringing the character to a new level of self-awareness. Wilder uses a number of nice, unexpected touches throughout and the location filming and mostly-Italian cast (except for two small supporting characters who play Americans)give the film a unique flavor. This originally received a US release through United Artists and was taped off TV during the early days of cable, when stations had a lot of time to fill and still played off-the-wall black-and-white B movies that could be gotten cheaply. Those days are long gone, but you should still keep your eyes out for this distinctive mystery with a fine Lloyd Bridges performance.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
labored "Jungle"-set silent comedy, with Charles Puffy, 18 September 2004
5/10

Hungarian actor-comedian Karl "Charles Puffy" Huszar had a brief period as a silent comedy star in the USA (he is described as being in the Fatty Arbuckle vein, although his comedy is a bit different and he actually looks more like Oliver Hardy), but before that he worked in his native Europe, having a small role in one of Fritz Lang's early 20s Dr. Mabuse films, and he then in the late 20s returned to Europe after his US period, working in both Germany and Hungary, and even had a role in THE BLUE ANGEL. His make-up in this silent comedy short, set in the jungle supposedly, certainly looks European. He is quite funny and expressive, but the short as a whole is filled with unfunny supporting players sporting what looks like "war paint" as every bad jungle cliché is trotted out. For historical purposes, it's interesting to see who Charles Puffy is (I've also seen another of his comedy shorts, but the name escapes me), but this short is not very good and one hopes he appeared in comedy vehicles more worthy of his talent (and one hopes they survive!).

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
another Phil Tucker burlesque film--delivers the goods for those who would WANT these kind of goods!, 10 September 2004
7/10

Everyone who has rated this film so far has given it a "1", the lowest possible rating. Compared to BARRY LYNDON, KUNDUN, GRAND ILLUSION, and the like, I'm sure it deserves a "1"...or less! However, is there anyone who WAS NOT expecting a one-take, crudely shot on a 15' X 20' set in a day or two series of strippers and cornball sex-based comic routines? Unlike DREAM FOLLIES (which is better known because of the Lenny Bruce connection), this film takes place entirely in one set that pretends to be a small club. We see a stage from which the strippers appear and do their routines--generally doing one routine, retreating back to the stage and curtain, and then coming out and doing an encore where they strip down to pasties and thin panties. A guitarist is seen on the side of the set (two guitarists in one shot, although I don't hear a second guitar in the music played during the strip sequences, and no other musician--the piano or sax or trumpet players, for instance--is seen) here and there, and he seems to be accidentally in the frame. His initials are seen on his amp in one scene, but obscured in another. Perhaps some L.A. music historian can tell us who he is. His solos on the soundtrack are excellent, but from my perspective I'm not sure he is playing with his fingers what I'm hearing on the soundtrack, which has me wondering why he was included in the film shoot? Perhaps he was playing a rhythm to which the dancer danced on the set, but it was not recorded and the "strip-jazz" music on the soundtrack was added later? The "plot" here involves two men--played by Snuffy Smith and Harry Keaton/Keatan (star of many classics of LA exploitation such as GUN GIRLS, THE VIOLENT YEARS, GIRL GANG, etc.)--who have no money, but decide to go to a strip club and eat and drink and run up a big bill, then get in an argument, go into the alley and fight over it, and split without paying the bill. There is also a compere who runs the club, someone who alternately sounds like he is badly doing a French AND a Spanish accent. This "plot" is the glue between the dance sequences, and I'd estimate that the body of the film is about 65% comedy and 35% dance. About 45 minutes into the film, when the initial "Plot" is concluded and I saw a cue mark in the corner of the frame making me think the film was over, it goes on for one more reel with about 8 minutes of silent pantomime comedy featuring Smith and Keaton separately with strippers at the table where their earlier scenes were shot, and then one final strip routine with a girl who is something of a contortionist. While these final scenes are entertaining, they ruin any pace the earlier 7/8 of the film had and give the final product an even more artless feel. It must be said that Rita Ravell is an attractive and sexy lady and one can see why she was successful at burlesque. My personal favorite, though, is the lady who slaps herself throughout her dance and roughly juggles her breasts by slapping them. If I were in the inebriated sleazy audience that saw this film originally, I would have hooted and hollered during her sequence. There's nothing particularly special about this film and few of director Phil Tucker's unique touches (photographer/editor W. Merle Connell, a name well-known to fans of z-grade LA exploitation, may well have "made" this film without much involvement from Tucker). Still, it's a window into a world that has been long-gone for over 40 years now, and as such it has value as a document of a unique piece of Americana--the burlesque show, both strippers and comics. It's an entertaining example of what it is, and I found it a pleasant way to waste 55 minutes on a boring evening--and I am completely sober and NOT under the influence of anything stronger than diet soda. If you've never seen a Phil Tucker film before, start with Dance Hall Racket and then Broadway Jungle, but this film achieves what it set out to do, so I cannot give it a rating of "1". By the standards of this seedy cheapjack genre, it's actually slightly above average.

Time Travelers (1966) (TV)
14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
fascinating minimalist sci-fi drama, made in Japan with (small) American cast, 12 July 2005
8/10

Running at just under an hour, TIME TRAVELLERS is a fascinating minimalist drama, much like a TWILIGHT ZONE episode, involving an American who lives and works in Japan and is employed at a nearby military installation. He lives with his wife and daughter (and dog, who is billed), and one morning time seems to stop, yet he continues on. His "double" also appears, but all other people vanish. Directed by and starring American actor Robert Dunham (best known for his roles in films such as DAGORA THE SPACE MONSTER and GODZILLA VS MAGALON), the film is VERY low budget, uses just a few set-ups and is somewhat leisurely paced (although maybe the Japanese do not require the fast pace found in American films). Many not used to low-budget film-making would find it amateurish and poorly paced, but it's actually a fascinating piece of work that creates an interesting tension and does a lot with a little. I acquired a copy from the director about twelve years ago, and just watched it again, and I like it even more this time around. Collectors of low-budget regional curios should love this film, and aspiring filmmakers could learn how little it takes to make an actual feature film when you have an interesting concept and some unique-looking locations. Highly recommended. A shame that Mr. Dunham did not direct any other films (that I know of)!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
later Jerry Cotton crime film still packs a punch for fans of series, 19 July 2004
8/10

This film (English title DEADLY SHOTS ON BROADWAY) is the last of the eight German-made Jerry Cotton crime films starring George Nader, according to the IMDB. It doesn't offer anything new, but delivers the usual uniquely German spin on the hard-boiled crime film--supposedly set in the US and with a few location shots spliced in here and there, but ALWAYS looking and feeling completely European. Director Harald Reinl, who made so many fantastic westerns and crime films, creates a nicely seedy feel in many scenes, although the fisticuffs are not particularly convincing. George Nader, as always, looks cool and suave yet tough. He was a fantastic leading man and a multi-talented person and he is very much missed. Like all the color Cotton films, this one uses a garish color scheme in the interiors that fits the pulp origins of the character/series. Heidy Bohlen is an attractive leading lady (also seen in THE CORRUPT ONES and THE LONG SWIFT SWORD OF SIGFRIED), but no one really stands out in the rest of the cast. Overall, this is worthwhile to fans of the Jerry Cotton series, but those new to the series might want to see OPERATION HURRICANE FRIDAY NOON or DEATH IN A RED JAGUAR or MURDER CLUB OF BROOKLYN first. Were any of those novels ever translated into English? I'd love to read one...

Top Flat (1935)
12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
The last Todd-Kelly comedy short released in Todd's lifetime--great fun!, 20 February 2005
10/10

TOP FLAT was the second-to-last comedy short in the successful series pairing Patsy Kelly and Thelma Todd. Todd had previously been paired with Zasu Pitts in a successful series of shorts, but Pitts demanded a raise in pay from Hal Roach, and since Roach had Pitts and Todd on staggered contracts (as he did with Laurel and Hardy), Pitts had little leverage since Todd was still under contract, so Roach simply replaced her with the much different Patsy Kelly. While the Pitts-Todd shorts are wonderful, I've always preferred the series with Patsy Kelly because their characters are so much different and because Kelly is such a comic dynamo. In this one, Kelly is a lady who is starving because no one wants to publish her Gertrude Stein-style avant-garde poetry (this is the second comedy short I've seen in the last few months to contain an explicit parody of Gertrude Stein's writings, the other was HAIL BROTHER). Patsy Kelly, also broke and unable to pay their rent, tells Todd to give up the writing and get a job, they argue, and Todd and Kelly separate, with Todd swearing she will be rich and life in an elegant penthouse. When the pair meet again, Todd's wish seems to have come true, but it didn't really, and the majority of the short takes that premise and runs with it. Todd's persona in these shorts is a lovely, somewhat idealistic yet scrappy young lady, while Patsy Kelly is an aggressive tomboy who is wild and manic. The chemistry works beautifully. This short has a lot of physical slapstick, involving virtually everyone in the cast, and also some musical sequences, featuring two of Kelly's friends who tag along when Kelly visits Todd's penthouse. One is Fuzzy Knight, whom I had never seen doing music before. Evidently he got his start in show business as a musician, and he plays a mean jazzy piano and delivers a novelty song very well. The entire short is well-paced and full of laughs. It's strange that these shorts are not really in circulation. They would play very well today and haven't dated much. It's a shame that Ms. Todd is better known for her tragic death than for her excellent body of work. While much of her work was in comedies for Hal Roach, she also did well in a number of b-movies in dramatic and serio-comic roles. Let's hope some legit company restores and releases both the Pitts-Todd and the Kelly-Todd shorts on DVD. I'm sure Leonard Maltin would be happy to provide some kind of introduction or commentary if asked. To me, this short is perfectly done and I give it a full 10 stars.

Tracked (1928)
5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
exciting (but cliché-ridden) late-silent action with Ranger the Dog, 25 February 2005
8/10

The Grapevine DVD of this 1928 FBO release is taken from the only known print, found in Sweden, and not in very good shape, but well transferred. This was one of ten low-budget silent films made between 1927 and 1929 starring Ranger the Dog. The latter ones in the series, such as this one, star Sam Nelson in various roles, presumably as the owner or friend of Ranger and as the protagonist. Yes, Ranger is in the Rin-Tin-Tin vein, but he is an expressive dog and he communicates emotions well. He also has a nice rapport with human star Nelson. Ranger is accused of killing sheep, and there is some incriminating evidence found, so the locals want him killed. They even convince Nelson that Ranger is guilty, and Nelson is given a gun and goes to kill the seemingly guilty party, Ranger. Meanwhile, there is a romantic subplot involving Caryl Lincoln, an attractive young lady (and daughter of one of Ranger's accusers) who is saved by Ranger in an exciting scene where a runaway team of horses is driving Lincoln to certain ruin...until Ranger runs, catches the team, grabs their reins, and stops them, saving Lincoln. Lincoln is also being pursued by a Snidely Whiplash-style oily villain (my teen-aged daughter pointed out how we knew this character was no good due to his mustache and his bowler hat!)who wants to marry her. While the surviving print is somewhat dark and grainy, there is enough action to carry the viewer along, and anyone who enjoys films with animal leads will find this a gem waiting to be discovered. Yes, one can predict pretty much EVERYTHING that will happen and every "type" expected in this film (the angry mob, the buffoonish rich guy, the strong silent rancher, etc.) is here, but we don't watch ancient low-budget animal films for great innovations...but for exciting entertainment. My daughter is NOT a regular viewer of silent films, yet she approached this with the right spirit of fun, got into the plot, and stayed for the whole film, when she could easily have gone to do something else. Looks like Ranger is still working his canine magic almost 80 years later...

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
interesting UK crime programmer with American director and star, and also with Petula Clark!, 24 March 2004
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I've seen a number of British b-movies from the 50s that feature an American star and were distributed stateside by Lippert Pictures. This film, although made in Britain with an all-British supporting cast, stars American actor Kent Taylor (an actor in the Robert Taylor mode, for those not familiar with him---probably best known to audiences under 50 for his Al Adamson and Filipino horror films) and was directed by longtime Republic pictures director R. G. Springsteen--it was released in the USA by Republic. The film begins with a dog-track robbery, then veers off into the story of one of the robbery's participants, his girlfriend, and her sister (played well by Petula Clark who, unlike in her French crime film DAGGERS DRAWN, does not sing here), and then by a cleverly plotted coincidence newspaper reporter Kent Taylor, who was in the police station after the crime was committed, gets brought into the story, although he is following something else. I won't give too much away, but in the classic "petrified forest" tradition, much of the film takes place in a limited setting with a limited number of characters--a tempermental actress, her manager, a drunk, a young mother, Kent Taylor, Petula Clark, and others who shall remain nameless as I won't be a spoiler. Each character is well drawn, there's even some comic relief, and Mr. Taylor brings his usual class to the film. There are no great surprises here, but it's an entertaining way to kill 75 minutes for the fan of b-crime and mystery films. Director Springsteen went on to direct a number of Western tv shows in the late 50s and early 60s and then a number of A.C. Lyles productions in the mid-60s--a personal favorite of mine is HOSTILE GUNS with George Montgomery and Tab Hunter. His final film is the obscure TIGER BY THE TAIL starring Christopher George from 1968, which I've always wanted to see. The few references I've seen to this film are due to Petula Clark's being in it. She is excellent, and while watching it I completely forgot that she was Petula Clark, singing star, because she played the character so well. My only complaint is that Kent Taylor seems a little too old to be attempting to romance her (KT was 48 at the time, PC was 23). Other than that, this is solid b-movie entertainment. My copy was taped off CBN in 1984...hope you can find one. If ONLY tv still showed films like this!

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
clever Don Barry post-Republic western set on a train--excellent cast!, 27 December 2004
9/10

TRAIN TO TOMBSTONE is one of the films Don Barry made at Lippert after leaving Republic. These films are often a bit different from the norm (Red Desert, for instance...) and usually have excellent supporting casts. Barry wrote the story for this film also, and it's cleverly constructed as we have a train that throws together a diverse lot of people, PLUS we have the suspense of knowing the someone on the train is a criminal, PLUS we have the added suspense of knowing that the train will possibly be attacked along the way, but we don't know for sure or when or how or by whom. So there are a few different levels of suspense, yet most of the film can be shot on a small, static set. Barry, considered a young Cagney when he first came on the scene before his western star days, was always one of the better actors among series western stars, and he commands attention well here. Robert Lowery, with added mustache and now in his "supporting actor" days, adds more tension to the proceedings as a marshal overseeing the train (or is he?), comedian Wally Vernon is funny as a salesman trying to sell corsets to Indian women, and Tom Neal plays a doctor, although his character is not really developed very much. While it's easy to fault the film (there are external shots of bad guys chasing the train, but usually there's just a mediocre projection screen out the window that looks about as real as the one used in THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY, and in one scene the characters are firing guns out the window at the projection screen!), if you come to it with enough willing suspension of disbelief, it's an exciting ride, and it only takes less than an hour. The same director and four stars also made I SHOT BILLY THE KID the same year--one wonders if they were made back to back, although Berke and three of the four stars were Lippert regulars anyway. Overall, this is solid b-movie entertainment. The train plot device was a nice change of pace, and anyone who has enjoyed Don Barry's work in other films should check this one out.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
perhaps the worst film ever made by star Duncan Renaldo or producer Fanchon Royer, 20 February 2005
2/10

One of US Military officer Joseph Girard's twin sons is kidnapped by the "Yaqui" Indians one day while playing. Years later, the son who remained with Dad becomes a fellow military officer, while the kidnapped son has become a bandit named "El Zorro." Ironically, the fiancé of the one son is kidnapped by another bandit, but taken from him by El Zorro, with whom she spends a few days, days which take up a LOT of the film's running time. I've always liked the poverty row productions of producer Fanchon Royer--I once did a tribute to her at a Women's History festival and showed clips from 6 or 7 of her films, analyzing them in terms of the "tricks" used by the low-budget filmmaker, discussing her "stock company" of actors and technicians, and surveying the genres in which she worked. Her films were usually well-cast, followed recognizable genre expectations, and had a nice sense of wittiness about them. As for Duncan Renaldo, he was excellent as the Cisco Kid and as Rico in the various Three Mesquiteers westerns. I've always found him charming and charismatic. However, this film is probably the worst project either party was ever involved with. Based on a story by Royer's friend Rex Lease, a good poverty row leading man, this film is a complete misfire. Did Lease think another "Mexican"-themed project would be marketable after making WINGS OF ADVENTURE (see my review)? If I had a dollar for every offensive Mexican stereotype in this film, I'd be a wealthy man! Duncan Renaldo's performance as El Zorro is only one step above something like THE IRISH GRINGO, while his performance as "american" son Kenneth Tolbert is hesitant and his accent varies. Just when I was about to ask the screen, "why does this man who has an Anglo father speak in a vaguely Hispanic accent", Joe Girard anticipated the audience confusion, and told another character who asks the same question, under his breath as if he's ashamed of it, "his mother was Spanish." (This is kind of reminiscent of Kevin Spacey's joking about how he is too old to play Bobby Darin in one of the early scenes in BEYOND THE SEA, an excellent film I highly recommend!) Edwina Booth was probably hired for this film because she and Renaldo appeared in the hit TRADER HORN, and their "reunion" no doubt had some publicity value. If nothing else, it shows that the rumor of her never returning to the screen after TRADER HORN was just that, a rumor. This was her last film. I think that the filmmakers intended for there to be some chemistry or sexual tension between El Zorro and Booth, but they don't seem comfortable with each other. When I first screened this film about ten years ago, I hated it. Now, realizing that it is played for laughs on some level, I merely dislike it. Still, it is not worth sitting through, even for novelty value. It's as bad as WINGS OF ADVENTURE. Be sure to check out the many entertaining films produced by Fanchon Royer or starring Duncan Renaldo...but just forget they ever made this dog.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
truncated silent version survives--a curio, not essential, 28 September 2004
6/10

Presumably, TROOPERS THREE was issued primarily as a sound film at feature length (IMDB lists it at 80 minutes)--my copy is a truncated silent edit that runs about 25 minutes. The first impression I had when first viewing this silent version a number of years ago was that it had very few close-ups, mostly medium and long shots. I'm guessing that the dialogue close-ups were edited out, and in a way I'm glad they were. Nothing is more boring than the silent versions of early sound films with endless dialogue cards and static photography. This shortened silent version of TROOPERS THREE has a lot of action (in medium and long shots, although there are some good low-angle close-ups of the cavalry in action) and some comedy (of the two directors credited, one presumes Breezy Eason handled the action and Norman Taurog the comedy). Basically, after a show of the REAL U.S. cavalry in action, three young men decide to enlist, and there are some comic sequences in the recruiting office. They go through basic cavalry training and become horse soldiers. Rex Lease pretends to be injured as a ruse to meet Dorothy Gulliver, he saves someone from a fire, there are a few other scenes, and it's over. This silent edit was probably put together quickly and cheaply for the few backwater theaters that still booked silent product in mid-1930 (and 1930 was the year when the last remaining silent theaters went under or went sound). Any sense of pacing or any plot development or complexity are lost in this version, but it's nice to have it extant if the sound version is lost. The cast is excellent, and Slim Summerville gets in a few good comic scenes, but with the editing and the lack of close-ups, no one--not even star Rex Lease--can be credited with much of a performance in the edited silent version. And since this was made with the intention of being a sound film (I'm guessing), it was not photographed or acted in a silent film manner. Still, Rex Lease completists (and I'm one of them!) will want to see this as will students of the early-sound/late-silent transitional period.

Twins (1925)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Stan Laurel in a dual role as twin brothers in this Joe Rock production, 20 March 2005
8/10

Stan Laurel was dropped by Hal Roach as a solo performer in 1924. He was having a difficult time financially then, and was taken in by an old friend, Percy Pembroke, who had connections with stuntman/actor-turned-producer Joe Rock. This led to Laurel being signed to Rock's production company (you can read an interesting account of this period in Fred Guiles' biography of Stan), and he made about a dozen films for Rock in 1924 and 1925, before going back to work with Roach again. TWINS fell midway during Laurel's period with Joe Rock, and it is a wonderful vehicle for Stan, who plays a hen-pecked husband who is about to go to Seattle on business. As he leaves town, his twin shows up at the train station, and the twin is engaged to be married to a friend of Stan's wife! Stan tells the twin to go to his house, where he can stay while in town. Of course, the twin is assumed to be Stan by all, and this causes the mix-up that fills the majority of the film. The twin has never been married, yet there is this woman claiming to be his wife! No great analysis needed here--just an opportunity to see a comic master in fine form. My copy of this is a bit blurry, as if the print was a duplicate of a duplicate--hopefully, there are better copies out there. Still worth watching, though...

6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Twist remake of "Rock Around The Clock"--Chubby and Dion are fine, rest of film is weak, 14 March 2005
6/10

TWIST AROUND THE CLOCK, the first of two TWIST films produced by Sam Katzman and featuring the great Chubby Checker, is basically a remake of the old BIll Haley vehicle ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK, and like that film, the "star" here, Chubby Checker, is little more than a guest star in his own film. In the earlier film, Alan Dale is featured as the lead performer and his story is told, with Bill Haley merely being a "friend" who helps the lead character and who performs a handful of songs. Here, Clay Cole is featured, and Chubby Checker does three or four songs, has a few lines of dialogue, and performs in a group number at the film's finale. Checker is a fine performer, and he handles the dialogue well--the NEXT Twist movie he was in, DON'T KNOCK THE TWIST, was MUCH better in that Checker was given a lot more importance in the story, and had much more dialogue with star Lang Jeffries. As for TWIST AROUND THE CLOCK, it also has Dion do three songs, and the vocal group the Marcels do a nice Christmas twist song. However, the dramatic sections of the film are weak, especially so since they are a carbon copy of the same plot in the earlier Bill Haley movie. If you take the Dion and Chubby songs, and the Marcels' number, out of the film, there is really not much else worthwhile. Fans of DON'T KNOCK THE TWIST will recognize the same cheesy sets and tiny "stage" used as the TV studio in that film. Serious rock and roll fans should see this film ONCE so they can say they have seen ALL the pre-Beatles rock and roll films, but only the lip-synched Chubby Checker and Dion songs are worth keeping. This was aired a few years back on AMC, where I taped my copy and originally saw the film.

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
slow-moving "video" to Lennon/Ono TWO VIRGINS music, 12 December 2004
4/10

This is basically a "video" to accompany 19 minutes of music from John and Yoko's TWO VIRGINS album. I haven't played my copy in a few years, so I can't tell you which side it is. For the first ten minutes or so, we see Lennon's and Ono's faces superimposed upon each other's (much like the record label on SOMETIME IN NEW YORK CITY a few years later). Then we see John and Yoko touching each other, hugging, and kissing for about ten minutes. They are clothed, unlike on the TWO VIRGINS album cover. The film is in color and seems to be have been shot in a lovely outdoor area in the midst of woods and gardens, with a lovely blue sky. Like the album the music came from , this probably meant more to the people involved in making it than it will to anyone watching it. Lennon does smile a lot, and I'm glad he was happy. Collectors will want to see this, but you might want to see it and then pass it along to another fan as it isn't the sort of thing you'll watch very often.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
surprisingly different Italian costume drama about the rise of Cleopatra, 8 August 2005
8/10

As a dedicated fan of dubbed 1960s European costume historical adventures, I went into A QUEEN FOR CAESAR with limited expectations, expecting strong performances from such a good cast, but not much else. Boy, was I thrown a curve! First of all, as the other review noted, the entire film takes place BEFORE Cleopatra's time with Caesar and Antony. We begin with Cleo and her nerdy, immature, arrogant brother Ptolameous, who sounds like he is being voiced (in the English dubbed version) by the fifteen year old Sal Mineo!! We also meet a Roman poet who helps Cleopatra; the military leader Pompeius (well-played by Akim Tamiroff), who lusts after Cleopatra and forces her to use her wiles against him to get what she wants; and her boyfriend Achillas, played by the reliable Georges/Giorgio Ardisson. Cleopatra is played by French actress Pascale Petit, who reminds me of a less buxom Jayne Mansfield and who does a wonderful job of being playful yet strong yet vulnerable, which is just what this character is at this point in her rise. As a Gordon Scott fan, I was anxious to see him as Caesar (by the way, I don't think he's too young for the role--he's in his late thirties at least, and he has a commanding presence, so he convinced ME that he could lead an empire and destroy his rivals!), but Caesar is only in the final third of the film, and Scott correctly received "guest star" billing at the end of the credits. I was not familiar with Cleopatra's history (assuming this film is historically accurate), so the final scene came out of the blue for me and was quite outrageous. My head was spinning for a while after a "THE END" credit came on the screen. On my copy of this film, the direction was credited solely to "V. Tourjansky"--Piero Pierotti was not mentioned. As 1960s historical dramas go, I must rate this as well above average. It may not have epic battles or grandiose court scenes, but I was never sure what direction it would go in, and each character was distinctive and full of little quirks that put the film well out of the realm of the average. It took me many years to find a copy of this, but I'm glad I did. I'll have to dig out some of the other films I have that star Pascale Petit--CODE NAME JAGUAR with Ray Danton, and FIND A PLACE TO DIE with Jeffrey Hunter. She is excellent and I can imagine her in a wide variety of roles. Recommended!!

12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
no-frills Monogram crime drama, interesting characterizations, 22 September 2003
8/10

Monogram was a wonderful little factory of b-movies, films that delivered the goods week after week for small town and neighborhood audiences. UNDERCOVER AGENT is a typical Monogram programmer, directed by Howard Bretherton, a man who directed many fine westerns and two interesting Columbia serials in the mid-40s, but it contains many small tidbits of particularity and humanity that make it somehow special even today, 60+ years after it was made. The plot involves sweepstakes fraud (I remember a similar plot being used in a 1930's Frankie Darro vehicle)and Russell Gleason, as boyish as ever, convincingly plays a postal inspector who is put on suspension due to an warranted but technical illegal shooting. He is gradually working his way up the ranks and wants to marry his girlfriend, played by Shirley Deane. One interesting detail in the story is that Ms. Deane's father, played by J. M. Kerrigan, is a hardcore alcoholic who is seen pawning his daughter's confirmation ring in the film's first scene. He is turned down and thrown out of establishments in scenes that echo of TEN NIGHTS IN A BARROOM. The film, like so many forgotten little b-movies of yesteryear, is full of such small details that still work today. Kerrigan's character, of course, eventually finds redemption (no surprise there!), but the sweepstakes scam is cleverly put together by the criminals, and cleverly busted by Gleason.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
fun lowbrow European crime comedy featuring early Dustin Hoffman, 10 January 2004
8/10

This Spanish-Italian crime comedy is another Sidney Pink production (see my review of FICKLE FINGER OF FATE) and stars the young Dustin Hoffman as Jason Fister, a bumbling treasury agent who is assigned to a case in Rome because the people in his home office want to get rid of him. His task is to track down a million dollars stashed away by a former gangster turned insurance man, played by Cesar Romero whose role must take all of five minutes. Although this film was not released in the US until 1969, from reading producer Sid Pink's autobiography I got the impression that it was made right before THE GRADUATE. His performance here is very good--kind of like a more subdued Jerry Lewis (or is that a more subdued Sammy Petrillo?). Having his voice post-synchronized later hurts a bit, but Mr. Hoffman does his best, and I found the film to be a harmless yet enjoyable lowbrow comedy, not too different in feel from such Pink productions as FICKLE FINGER OF FATE or WITCH WITHOUT A BROOM. It's certainly more of a success than, say, Who is Harry Kellerman? or Dick Tracy (not to mention Ishtar!). Hoffman shows that even in this early point in his career he is entirely capable of carrying a film by himself. Mainstream audiences might be put off by the dubbing or the low-budget production quality, but if nothing else it proves that Mr. Hoffman can make a Franco and Ciccio movie as well as Franco and Ciccio could have done! The scene where Hoffman plays both Fister and his enforcer "Red" is priceless and could have come from a Harry Langdon short at Columbia or Educational--high praise coming from a Langdon fan such as myself! Now, if only Alfredo, Alfredo will come out on video in the USA...

Unmasked (1950)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
OK Republic blackmail-murder mystery, with stunning Raymond Burr performance, 7 September 2003
8/10

I must concur with the other review of this Republic crime programmer. It's an above average b-crime film with an interesting blackmail/murder plot, but what makes it a classic is the stunning performance by Raymond Burr as the blackmailing, murdering, malicious, sleazy scandal-sheet publisher/editor. Burr had a long string of fine performances as villains in his pre-Perry Mason days, but this is one of the three or four best, perhaps because in standard Republic fashion the leads are quite bland. Paul Harvey is superb as the weak-willed theatrical producer whose wife is killed; Hillary Brooke isn't in the film that much, but she's quite memorable as the unpleasant Doris King; and Norman Budd is charming as the comedic, bungling, cigar-stealing criminal underling. The two leads, Robert Rockwell as the police detective and Barbara Fuller as Harvey's daughter, are somewhat bland, although it's hard to tell if the script or the performers were to blame. This was not uncommon at Republic, where the stuntmen and the supporting players are often more interesting than the no-name leads. Still, Republic b-programmers are always slickly put together and fast moving, and this one is no exception. Those who love Raymond Burr's early supporting work MUST see this film. Those who like Burr but are not too familiar with his pre-Perry Mason work must also see it--your respect for Burr, which may already be high, will grow much deeper. He was an amazing talent who is sorely missed. There were no small roles for him--if it was a bottom-of-the-bill b-movie that few if any critics would see, Burr still gave the film his full talents. In this film, Raymond Burr passes the ultimate test for a movie villain: you almost cheer him along, wanting to see how much evil he can get away with! Bravo, Mr. Burr!!!

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
entertaining Euro-spy action for genre fans, 18 October 2004
8/10

Directed by reliable journeyman Umberto Lenzi and starring Roger Browne (who began his career in peplum films, but always seemed better-suited to and more comfortable in spy-espionage films), LAST MAN TO KILL has everything the fan of Euro-spy films could want. A witty, sly hero (Browne is excellent here); interesting mid-east location shooting; a plot that is both simple and convoluted at the same time; cheesy lounge-spy music (with an organ that sounds like it was borrowed from Joe Meek's studio!); low-budget props and sets; chases and fights; and even the occasional zoom photography. The dubbed sound effects are outrageous, and in some of the action scenes sound like they could have come from a 1970's Hong Kong martial arts film. This only adds to the fun and excitement of the film! Not much to analyze here--if you are a fan of dubbed Euro-spy action, you'll want to see this one. And Lenzi's fans won't be let down either. My copy is from a pan-and-scan, English-dubbed copy taped off UHF television in the 1980s--unfortunately, the days when we could rely on this kind of entertainment being available regularly and for free are long gone. Roger Browne is also put to good use in the films RIFIFI IN AMSTERDAM and PASSWORD:KILL AGENT GORDON, crime-spy films from the same era. Of course, director Umberto Lenzi made dozens of excellent films in any number of genres--as late as the 90s he was still churning out wonderful low-budget action films such as MEAN TRICKS (see my review) starring Charles Napier.

Ursus (1961)
7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
colorful sword-and-sandal odyssey, well-plotted, with an appealing performance from Ed Fury, 31 July 2003
8/10

I taped this off late-night TV 10+ years ago, and dusted it off recently on a free evening for a return engagement. Maybe I was distracted the first time I watched it back then, because I was quite impressed with it this time around. First, although Ed Fury's acting is sometimes criticized by writers about the peplum genre, he handles the role with the seriousness it deserves, yet has an undeniable charm that such a hero needs on

the screen. I need to dig out some more of his films. Second, the sets are quite imaginative for a low budget film and are able to suggest much more than they actually show. Third, the plot has a number of nice twists in its final third, and the film culminates in a genuinely exciting climax and satisfying resolution. Story-writer Guiseppe Mangione was also responsible for such offbeat items as Tony Anthony's first two "Stranger" films, Barbara Steele's "Angel for Satan," the interesting "Hypnosis," and others. Finally, director Carlo Campogalliani has credits dating back to the silent era, and he manages to use his directorial sleight-of-hand to make the film seem much bigger budgeted than it actually was... always the sign of a true professional and artist. The bullfight scene was very well done, with a combination of Fury, a stuntman, and a stuffed Ed Fury doll (at least, I'm guessing that was how it was done). The editing is fine in that scene also. Computer effects have spoiled many young film fans today--this kind of combination of director and editor creating a magical sleight-of-hand that makes us "see" what isn't actually happening is always worthy of praise and is exciting to watch. In short, an excellent entry in the sword-and-sandal genre, and a credit to star Ed Fury (who has always reminded me of a muscular version of Edd Byrnes or the young 1950s Clint Eastwood)

5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Ed Fury's third and final film as Ursus--visually imaginative, 31 August 2003
9/10

Made in 1963, URSUS IN THE LAND OF FIRE was Ed Fury's third and final film as Ursus (although there was not much continuity from film to film with the specifics of Ursus' personal details!) and also Fury's final peplum film in the 1960's. Filmed in rich pastel colors (blue seems to be a favorite color in many scenes) and featuring fascinating and imaginative set designs throughout, the film is an above average peplum in every way. As another critic noted, the series of tests and physical challenges for Ursus are ingenious and require Fury to display his strength and physique to their best advantage. The sequence where he shows up at a tournament run by the evil ruler and then stands up to the evil one AND whips everyone who takes him on is very well-staged and exciting. Co-writer Luciano Martino has many strong credits as producer and/or writer in sword-and-sandal, westerns, giallo, and 70s crime films including a number of cult classics. Director Giorgio Simonelli went on to direct a number of Franco and Ciccio comedies--his previous peplum work as a writer includes two Brad Harris classics (Samson and The Fury of Hercules) as well as the fascinating 1963 horror film TOMB OF TORTURE aka METEMPSYCHO. This film may well be Ed Fury's best starring vehicle and is probably the film I would show someone I wanted to convince of Fury's status as a major peplum star. The US television print I taped off UHF in the early 1990s isn't really pan-and-scan--it's as though the outer two-thirds of the picture are just lopped off and you are watching the middle-third. The credits are hard to read as you only get the end of the first name and the beginning of the second name! As I've said about many other peplums, this cries out for a sharp, letterboxed DVD transfer. With this film's rich visuals, beautiful photography, and interesting set design, it's well worth tracking down for any sword-and-sandal film devotee.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
imaginative low-budget peplum with Ed Fury in fine form, 22 August 2003
8/10

This was Ed Fury's second film in the Ursus character, and in this one we learn that Ursus, of noble blood, was raised among lions. When he enters the "human" world, he is wide-eyed and naive, but gradually adapts to the ways of the world, saves a beautiful woman who loves him, and overthrows an evil dictator. Fury plays the various phases of the character's evolution (from naivete to a kind of disgusted smirking to a regal heroic bearing) well. The scenes among the lions and the wolves will be an easy mark for those who want to nit-pick, but the techniques used here will be familiar to any fan of low budget films and won't bother anyone familiar with the concept of "willing suspension of disbelief." As is common among budget-conscious Italian "spectacle" films, the art direction and production design are quite imaginative and suggest a lot for a few lira. I've got to give some credit to a film that takes a lot of chances, and this film is, like an old serial, so over-the-top in its entertainment value that anyone looking to have some fun and set aside any critical questions should have an enjoyable 90 minutes with Ed Fury and crew. I've been digging out the old Ed Fury films recently, and I must say that he brings a special charm to the peplum genre--it was nice to see him honored with a retrospective at UCLA last year. Director Carlo Ludovico Bragaglia has credits dating back to the 1930s, but his 1960s credits tend to be costume adventures and comedies. With this film, he's created a unique mix of peplum heroics, fantasy, and wit that I found quite entertaining.

Vapors (1965)
11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
an amazing document!--Andy Milligan at his most Warhol-esque, 26 September 2003
9/10

If I were going to try to convince someone of the value of Andy Milligan's work, VAPORS would be the film I'd show. In fact, I HAVE shown it to a few people over the years with that purpose. It's a gritty 16mm black-and-white feature set in a gay bathhouse and it seems very much like a "small theatre group" play, which makes sense since Milligan himself ran a few such theatre groups. The film transcends the gay aesthetic it represents and is really a meditation on loneliness--gay, straight, or whatever. While the room-tone echo on the recorded sound takes a little getting used to, it should not diminish the quality of the acting, which is quite moving in the case of the two leads. While the late Mr. Milligan was a unique filmmaker, Warhol always seemed to be his main-man artistically, and that's clearer here than anywhere else in Milligan's work. Milligan obviously knew what it meant to be lonely, to be afraid, and to reach out. This beautiful but raw film captures that as well as, for example, any Bergman film or Saul Bellow novel. History will view this film as a pioneering work of cinema. Please be warned, though, that it is NOT for the casual viewer or the viewer who cannot see beyond the film's lack of traditional qualities of slickness and "professionalism." Seeing this on a big screen at the time of its minimal release must have been a revelation!!! If Milligan had never made another film, this would rate him as a major filmmaker in my book.

18 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Lex Barker in unimaginative South African-set detective film, 9 February 2006
6/10

CODE 7, VICTIM 5 is now available in a cheap DVD, and for a few dollars (mine cost $3 US), it's passable entertainment, mostly for the presence of Lex Barker as private eye "Steve Martin" (same name as Raymond Burr's character in GODZILLA). This is a typical Harry Alan Towers production--find an out-of-the-way country where the pound/dollar goes a long way and without powerful unions, hire a lot of locals in small roles, use a lot of free locations to give the film "color," have Towers himself pen a by-the-numbers script over dinner or during a flight. South Africa photographs well (the film was shot by Nicholas Roeg, so it's no surprise), and is so unfamiliar to this American that the background almost becomes a character. The plot is the standard "someone is killing off one by one the members of a group from a previous time" and ex-Nazis are even dragged in. Ronald Fraser (best known in the USA for FATHOM, with Raquel Welch and the late great Tony Franciosa) does a good job as the local police inspector who finds jet-setting detective Barker to be a bit of a pest, but eventually realizes Barker's honesty and professionalism--Fraser and Barker are the perfect foils for each other. Nothing special here--probably of interest mostly to the Barker fan (or those who want a quick three-dollar travelogue of South Africa).

21 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
novel variation on "Most Dangerous Game" from wr-dir Wyott Ordung, 2 February 2003
9/10

Best known for some classic "B" science fiction films of the 1950s such as MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR, writer/producer/director Wyott Ordung attempted to work in the LA film noir/psychological drama vein with this 1956 rarity, taking the classic "Most Dangerous Game" scenario as a starting point, but reinventing it in a very novel way. I don't want to give too much plot away as the film unrolls in a surprising way. Chuck Connors, although best known for his Western roles and his fatherly manner on The Rifleman, plays over-the-top psycho roles well (see DEATH IN SMALL DOSES for proof!), and does so here, pitted against Korean War vet Don Ross (billed as "introducing"). It's an interesting psychological game of wits. Although many of the expository scenes are shot on a few small sets, much of the action takes place on the streets of 1950s Los Angeles, fascinating to look at and giving the film a wonderfully gritty and authentic feel. The film also has the ironic development of a Twilight Zone or Thriller episode, but further developed to feature length. This seems to be a unique entry in Mr. Ordung's filmography, and it shows that he can work well within the low-budget crime drama field with minimal resources because he can as a writer and director create tense situations and he had the good sense to hire actors such as Chuck Connors. Don Ross is fine too, although he is the down-to-earth one here and other than being tough and ingenious is not given the opportunities for histrionics that the script gives to Connors. Perhaps because Ordung is a "cult" name in Science Fiction circles, someone will do a video/dvd release of this little-known gem--I certainly hope so. It is due for re-evaluation. (It has a vague resemblance to CONFESSIONS OF A PSYCHO CAT, made ten years later...although that is probably coincidental. PSYCHO CAT was the first film I thought of while watching this)

9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
non-Edgar-Wallace German "krimi" with stunning Hildegard Knef, 28 August 2003
9/10

Although this 1964 German "krimi" b&w crime film has the look and feel of one of the Edgar Wallace based films (although it doesn't have as many outrageous plot contrivances!), it's actually based on a novel by the great crime novelist James Hadley Chase and features the stunning Hildegard Knef in the lead role, along with Gotz George, a name familiar to any fan of 60s German films. Knef, first seen in the film as a platinum blonde with a hairdo that retro girls would kill for, brings an air of icy yet seductive intrigue to the film, and it's a shame she did not make more of these. The plot, about a gang of blackmailers led by a crippled mastermind who is motivated by misanthropy, moves quickly and director Alfred Vohrer, an old hand at creating a bleak, mysterious atmosphere in his crime films, has created a gem of a krimi film with MARK OF THE TORTOISE. It has all the good qualities of the Edgar Wallace series, yet is quite different and a change of pace...largely due to the presence of the great Hildegard Knef.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A fine example of a Leon Errol comedy short, if you can only see one..., 9 February 2005
9/10

Most of Leon Errol's comedy shorts (and I think I've seen more than 50 of them!) involved Leon being a married man who is trying to get something past his wife. While the specifics of his character change from short to short, he's pretty much always married. In this one, he has just gotten married and has escaped to Niagara Falls for a honeymoon; at the same time, his son Leon Errol Jr. (who, contrary to the credits listed on this site, is definitely NOT played by Errol, unless his acting skills could add six inches to his height and take thirty years off his age and make him look totally different)has eloped and is honeymooning at the same hotel; AND an old flame of his has just married hotel detective Tom Kennedy (see my review of FREE RENT, where he appeared with Monte Collins) and they are having a secret honeymoon at the same hotel. Now, imagine the "musical chairs" kind of comedy possible with THAT combination, especially when there are two Mr. Errols and two Mrs. Errols, and then a third lady who is mistakenly considered to be a Mrs. Errol!! WEDTIME STORIES has everything that's good about Leon Errol comedies in one film. Errol's exasperated persona, rubber face, and brilliant comic timing made him a star for decades. RKO continued to churn out shorts with him for almost 15 years, yet audiences never got tired of him. It's time for a Leon Errol revival. Perhaps TCM (who own the RKO library, I think) could start playing these regularly?

12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
textbook example of a b-crime programmer--recommended!!, 15 January 2005
9/10

There are many excellent crime programmers buried within the output of Lippert Pictures, and here is another one. Yes, it's full of clichés (perhaps I should call them "archetypes"), but it is delivered with such sincerity and style that I was caught up in the story and cared about the interesting collection of characters. Like many Lipperts of this era, the cast is superb. Mickey Knox (who has had a long and interesting career both in Europe and in the USA) is a fantastic cold-blooded killer; Kent Taylor brings his usual touch of class to the title role; Sid Melton, a Lippert regular, is added for comic relief as a near-sighted mail-order detective school graduate (!!!), Robert Lowery (in his supporting actor period, after many excellent starring roles in the 40s) as a local railroad employee who is an early victim, and a very moving performance by Morris Carnovsky (acclaimed actor and also blacklist victim) as Knox's father, who knows what his son has become yet still loves him and believes he can change. There is a genuinely shocking moment near the end of the film between Knox and Carnovsky. The "wraparound" story seen briefly at the beginning and end of the film is outrageous and would be laughed out of any Screen writing 101 class, but these filmmakers were not interested in winning Oscars; they were delivering an entertaining and exciting piece of product for the tired working people who put down their money at the third-string neighborhood and small-town theaters that booked Lippert Pictures. If you like unpretentious action films (there are no noir elements here, although Knox's portrayal of the psycho killer will appeal to many noir fans), this one really delivers the goods. I watched it twice upon getting a copy recently and marveled at how efficiently it was constructed and how professional the end product was. There's also an interesting subplot involving the hobos who ride the trains and have camps near the train tracks--their society is depicted in a sympathetic and interesting manner. It's just one way that this film, which on one level is simply a genre crime-film product, is actually a very special piece of work that is far better made than it needed to be in order to fill its niche.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
z-grade western from infamous director Robert J. Horner, 23 January 2005
4/10

Director(and con-man,read the fascinating story of Horner's financial con-games at the Old Corral website) Robert J. Horner was responsible for a number of z-grade westerns during the late silent and early sound eras. I've seen two of his silent westerns, and like Black z-grade director Oscar Micheaux, Horner is a much worse sound director than a silent one. Every scene is one-take, which gives the film a certain life-like quality, since we occasionally stumble over our words in real-life just like the actors do here, and like them we just correct ourselves and move on. Many of the scenes seem randomly framed, and some of the close-ups do not match the medium shots very well. Horner did assemble an interesting cast of Gower Gulch regulars, including the great George Cheseoro as the heavy (chewing the scenery), Wally Wales as the sheriff (who seems like he was handed the script five minutes before the particular scene--Wales is a real pro and fakes it OK, but he seems to be line-reading), the silent-film team of Ben Corbett and PeeWee Holmes, Budd Buster, Richard Cramer (so good as the crooked gangster town boss in Richard Talmadge's THE SPEED REPORTER), and even silent comedian Billy Franey. Leading lady Edna Aslin seems to have made mostly z-grade westerns in her brief career, but she seems as though she might be good as, say, a gangster's moll or a gum-chewing, tough-talking waitress in non-Western films. I've seen a dozen Bill Cody westerns, I'm sure, but I've never seen him so loose and casual as the "hero." For much of the film, he floats around with an odd grin on his face as if he's not really part of the same world as the other characters. At first, I thought he might be drunk, but that doesn't seem so. I like the goofy aspect of his performance in this film. The plot, such as it is, involves a crook whose hired muscle are keeping the local ranchers from taking their cattle to market over a pass which is located on Government land and hence open to all. If you can imagine yourself living in some backwater small town in 1934, a place with really nothing to do, and there is a tiny, rundown theater that shows mostly independent, states rights westerns, and that's all that's available to you and what you are used to seeing, this film is not as bad as I remembered it being. With such professionals in the cast who had done this kind of thing dozens if not hundreds of times before and who could probably act out a passable scene at a moment's notice ANYWHERE and with a four-year-old behind the camera, WESTERN RACKETEERS is passable z-grade entertainment of the lowest order, and nowhere near as bad as PHANTOM COWBOY or LIGHTING BILL or THE IRISH GRINGO. I'd also rather see something raw like this than, say, a Fred Scott or Jimmy Wakely western. Still, this film is only for the poverty-row-western completist.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
classic 1960s country-western drive-in film--fine cast, weak songs, 24 March 2004
7/10

Finally got a chance to see this 1967 vehicle for country singer Leroy Van Dyke, which I missed at the drive-in 35+ years ago. In scratchy widescreen

techniscope, the film tells the story of a young man who gets out of the navy and stumbles into recognition in the country music world, even though he initially doesn't want it and wants to go into a career as an auctioneer. This of course allows Van Dyke to perform a new version of his classic hit "The Auctioneer", which sounds great, and Mr. Van Dyke is also a natural on-screen as an actor. His sister is played by the charming Kris

Nelson (Harmon), best known perhaps from the Ozzie and Harriet tv series with her then-husband Rick Nelson. She is wonderful in the role and I wish she had done more acting (someday I hope to see her 1970 film The Resurrection of Broncho Billy), although she has had a successful career as an artist for the last few decades. Tex Ritter and Faron Young also perform songs in the film, the problem is that the songs are all originals by writer-director Gene Nash, and frankly they are not very good, awkwardly written and with melodies that just aren't memorable...or easy to sing. Pros that they are, Ritter and Young and VanDyke manage to make the awkward songs sound convincing, but I'm sure they realized these tunes were duds as they were giving it their all. However, with the distance that almost 40 years gives us, the songs are of the period and we can tolerate them (it's interesting that most of them start of sounding country, but evolve through the song into bloated productions with choirs and strings)...almost. The role of a hungry record producer who is interested romantically in Kris Nelson is played by Bill Craig,who with his fine speaking voice and Bob Eubanks-esque diction sounds like an American disc jockey to me. Perhaps he was a successful country dj of the time and got into this film the way Ralph Emery got into some of the other low-budget country-western films of the 60s. In any event, Craig does a nice job and has a good amount of charisma--a shame he wasn't in more films. Bowery Boys fans will be excited to see Billy Benedict in a funny supporting role--I won't tell you when so you'll be surprised. Overall, this should appeal to the fan of films such as HILLBILLIES IN A HAUNTED HOUSE and NASHVILLE REBEL--and for once, the plot is at least equal to the musical performances, if not even given MORE weight. As of this writing, I believe Leroy Van Dyke is still touring widely across the nation, especially during county fair season, and he is still an exciting performer, one of the last of the old-school REAL country music singers. I think I'll go listen to him sing "Walk On By..."

14 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
Keaton's final MGM starring role, entertaining, 1 August 2002
6/10

Having heard for years how bad this film is, I must concur with the previous reviewer, who said "not that bad." This was the last of the three films where Keaton was teamed with Jimmy Durante, and while this is not as good a film overall as SPEAK EASILY, it IS better than THE PASSIONATE PLUMBER (although PP includes some great individual scenes), and also it is the only film of the three where Keaton and Durante work together as an actual comedy team. Much has been written about Keaton's alcohol abuse during the shooting of this film (in fact, Keaton was fired from MGM for that, even though WHAT NO BEER was a smash hit at the box office!), but since the Elmer character he is playing is basically a stoic, introverted guy, it's not too evident...and anyway, a pro like Keaton could deliver this uninspired dialogue in his sleep. The plot--involving Durante and Keaton starting a brewery near the end of prohibition and facing the wrath of both the police and the bootlegging underworld--allows for a number of good comic set-ups, the scene with Keaton explaining his business practices to the gangsters is particularly funny. Keaton's US career would revive a few years later when he began making his much-underrated comedy shorts at Educational Pictures, but WHAT NO BEER is the last film of his initial sound period at MGM, and as such it is a historic film. Also, it's an entertaining comedy with Keaton still in OK form.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
poorly-written, unsatisfying late-Republic programmer, 1 February 2004

Republic Pictures was in its waning days in 1956 when this strange, unsatisfying crime drama was made by a crew who had made many excellent later serials for Republic. A poor script with clashing moods, unrealistic dialogue, lines written solely to match later plot points that sound odd when spoken in dramatic situations, a "hero" who is not very sympathetic for most of the movie, continuity errors that are surprising for the slick professionals at Republic pictures (characters called by different names, rough edits that don't match what just happened and look like a Tarantino film, etc.), characters whose reactions to important events are not like anything you've ever seen in real life--there are many, many flaws in this film. It could almost be used in a screenwriting class for a "how NOT to write a screenplay" unit. The class could stop the tape every minute or two and point out the flaws. The film LOOKS good as Republic product usually does. The acting is convincing, although even the best actors can't do much with a poor script. On a positive note,the first five and last five minutes of the film are genuinely exciting. The film starts off like a hard-boiled crime film and ends like an over-the-top courtroom drama, but the middle 75% is a slow-moving, "Andy Hardy"-style smalltown drama. Except for Slim Pickens' comic relief and Anthony Caruso as the gangster referred to in the title, the pace is slow.Raymond Greenleaf as a smalltown prosecutor begins as an affable, gentle character out of a Capra film, but his chronic inactivity will make him an unsympathetic character to most viewers. He throws an important case with seemingly no remorse, blackmailed about something that for many viewers would not be a major issue. I felt that the character was too lazy to do anything to resolve the situation about which he was blackmailed. I could go on and on about the flaws and inconsistencies in this film. My fiancee and I spent about an hour discussing a laundry list of problems after the film--more time than we spent discussing OLEANNA, which we saw last week. Finally, the copy on the back cover of this video is completely deceptive. I can't believe the person who wrote the notes even watched the enclosed film. It is NOT a noir film in any way. It is NOT an exciting film, except for brief scenes at the beginning and end. As a devoted fan of Republic Pictures product, I found the film an interesting failure, but I can't recommend it to anyone who is not a serious Republic Pictures collector. There are some fine products from the 1955 and 1956 years at Republic, but this is not one of them and I wonder why Republic chose to issue this on VHS when 9/10 of their crime dramas from the 50s would be far more worthy of release. Watch a favorite film a second time rather than spend any time watching WHEN GANGLAND STRIKES, a title more interesting than the film.

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
One of the earliest Rin-Tin-Tin silents--great for those who love both melodrama and dogs, 18 March 2005
9/10

At the beginning of this film, Rin-Tin-Tin's fictional back-story is explained--evidently, he emerged during World War I in Germany and had a sister, but the sister got TB and died. However, Rinty was taken from the Germans by allied forces and brought back...to the Great White North...as a mascot. He gets lost when his cage falls off a sled, and he winds up being raised by wolves. Some time later, he finds a human (the human star of the piece, Walter McGrail, who "speaks" in the inter-title cards with the kind of bogus French accent often found in "Northwest" outdoor dramas, whether they be set in Canada or Alaska), nurses him back to health, and goes after his attacker. We then enter one of those archetypal western melodrama plots, here transferred to the "Northwest" genre, where a young lady is coveted by the successful business owner who tries to sabotage her poor, hard-working, honest beau. Director Chester M. Franklin returned to working with dogs both in the silent era (WILD JUSTICE) and the early sound era (his last directorial credit is TOUGH GUY with Rin Tin Tin Jr. and Jackie Cooper), and his last credit of any kind is the 1951 Lassie classic THE PAINTED HILLS, which he produced. I've seen two other silent Rin-Tin-Tin epics, and this one, running a full 75 minutes, is the most complex and the most satisfying. I watched it with my teenage daughter (her brother went out to the multiplex and saw THE RING 2, which is HIS loss!), and she sat through the whole thing, enjoying watching the wheels of melodrama plot development turning (and finding the depiction of women as weak, dependent figures who faint at important moments to be quite interesting!) and surrendering to Rinty's undoubted charisma. This may have been made 82 years ago, but it's still an exciting family-friendly adventure, and the "Northwest" setting gives it a little local (if imprecise!) color. Highly recommended! The print quality and transfer on the Grapevine DVD are fantastic. There are a number of beautifully framed shots of dogs and wolves in the wilderness, some of which could be framed and hung on a wall, and they look like they were filmed yesterday (just turn up the brightness and sharpness settings on your television).

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
the perfect 60's Southern drive-in car racing and moonshine film, from Ron Ormond, 9 December 2004
9/10

With WHITE LIGHTNIN' ROAD, writer-director-producer-photographer-editor-actor Ron Ormond created the ultimate low-budget, 1960's Southern drive-in car racing film. Ormond's mid-60s output is quite impressive (see my reviews of GIRL FROM TOBACCO ROW, FORTY ACRE FEUD, and PLEASE DON'T TOUCH ME), working in genres much beloved by Southern and rural audiences and giving them products that mirrored their tastes and environment. Ormond's work is well-remembered by people who saw the films way back when (I saw some of them), but not too well known today as other exploitation filmmakers from the same period, which is ironic since WHITE LIGHTNIN' ROAD and the three films mentioned above are all still not hard to find on inexpensive and good quality VHS tapes as of this writing. This film is rooted in car racing, with a moonshine subplot thrown in in honor of THUNDER ROAD, although the viewer also gets a crime subplot (with Ron Ormond himself as "Slick," the gangster running a crooked auto parts syndicate!), a shotgun wedding,and a cat-fight between the two main female characters. Earl "Snake" Richards once again stars (he was in GIRL FROM TOBACCO ROW) and he is as perfect of a Southern drive-in film hero as Earl Owensby or Joe Don Baker. Richards, also known as Earl Sinks, was vocalist with the Crickets in the period after their break with Buddy Holly (this happening while Holly was still alive, after BH went to New York, and the Crickets decided to stay in Lubbock and work in Clovis) and sang lead on the original version of "I Fought The Law." In the post-Crickets period he moved more toward country, and made many fine country records. He also had a lot of success as a country songwriter, and continued in the publishing world for decades. He had a brief period in films, but he made his mark--he was really an extension of the late-50s, Elvis-inspired leading men found in drive-in films, with the slicked-back hair, curled lip, and tough-guy attitude. Here he is NOT the hero, but ironically he is far more attractive than the hero, Joe, who is a bit bland and who has a strange accent in the film's early scenes (I know there are places in Louisiana and Virginia with odd accents, but I wonder if the actor playing Joe is actually a Southerner, or if he's just self-conscious and screwing up his line readings because he is nervous). Tim Ormond has perhaps his best role in an Ormond family film as the young boy who hangs around the racetrack and befriends Joe (and even helps him in his fights against Snake!). Tim Ormond provides a viewpoint character for the children in the audience (as he did in GIRL FROM TOBACCO ROW)--and he also gets the last shot in the film (no doubt a present from his parents, the filmmakers!). Legendary model Arlene Hunter appears as Ruby, the love interest who is desired by Snake but who wants Joe for herself, Joe of course not being interested in her. She eventually marries Snake in the shotgun wedding mentioned earlier. The rural photography is beautiful with lots of striking color, and the racing is well-photographed. Ormond actually staged his own races so there is not the usual five people depicted in a reaction shot looking at a race that is stock footage. The musical score is a grab bag--evidently using all kinds of library music available to him, we hear the old flamenco guitar from JAIL BAIT (which Ormond used in other films too) for ten seconds or so, the amplified harmonica music from the Mulcays used in other Ormond films, music that sounds like it could have come from old Lash LaRue films from 1949 produced by Ormond, and various canned music that could be used in circuses or bank commercials! There's no consistency to the nature of the music, although the music does drive the action and is well-suited to most scenes. It's interesting that Ormond DID NOT use any country music in this film. This film should have a large audience. I would think that any network than runs NASCAR or Dukes of Hazzard re-runs could show this film and have it do well--virtually everyone in today's audience would not have seen it! All of the Ormond family's 1960s films (I haven't yet mentioned THE EXOTIC ONES aka The Monster and The Stripper, which has a dedicated cult following and was released in 1968) hold up very well today and are very entertaining. Someone should look into re-mastering the whole lot of them for DVD and getting them into wide circulation. Tim Ormond is still around today (June Carr Ormond is still alive as of this writing, but she is getting up there in age!), so perhaps he could provide commentaries and extra material. WHITE LIGHTNIN' ROAD is a wonderful time capsule that takes us back to the Golden Age of rural drive-in cinema. If you lean toward that form of entertainment, you should find a copy of this immediately and show it to your friends. Bravo to the Ormond Organization! They totally achieved what they set out to do...and how many people in ANY line of work can claim that???

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
campy, entertaining 15-chapter murder mystery serial, 29 December 2003
8/10

One of the first of the Sam Katzman-produced serials at Columbia, WHO'S GUILTY is a bit different from the standard serial in that it is a murder mystery, and beginning with the second chapter each suspect is trotted out after the credits while the narrator points out incriminating things about him/her. My children saw this part of the film and though it was like the game CLUE come to life on the screen. This feels like a Monogram Charlie Chan film spread out over fifteen chapters, but minus chan and number one son and Mantan Moreland. Reliable b-movie leading man Robert Kent (Phantom Rider, She Shoulda Said No) plays a state investigator called into the case of the murder of a wealthy businessman, a man who lives in a mysterious estate and has all kinds of suspicious relatives who are waiting for their inheritance. Kent's comic sidekick (combining the number one son and Birmingham Brown roles, to continue the Chan comparison) is longtime comic actor and writer Tim Ryan, who has played similar roles in Bowery Boys and Chan films, but NEVER this dim-witted or clownish. There are constant red herrings, and the film makes some detours into subplots that wear a bit thin (a subplot in Mexico lasts three or four chapters, a gangster subplot comes up later), but 15-chapter serials almost always have some padding. Overall, this film's old-fashioned over-the-top acting (from the supporting players only--Kent is a stoic hero), occasional mysterious settings, and intriguing murder mystery add up to an entertaining, campy serial. However, unless you like the more humor-laced murder mysteries of the 40s (Boston Blackie, Chan, etc.), you probably will find this film unsatisfying and laughable. Taken in the right spirit, it can be refreshingly unpretentious entertainment and can provide a wonderful mix of laughs and thrills. Special mention should be made of Charles Middleton's wonderful performance as the suspicious butler--often sharpening knives with a gleeful look on his face!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Flash, The Wonder Dog paired with action star David Sharpe, 29 May 2002
8/10

I recently watched two 1935-36 features starring and written by future stuntman David Sharpe (Social Error and Adventurous Knights), which prompted me to dig out this old favorite, a 20-25 minute "featurette" where Sharpe and the amazing German Shepherd "Flash, The Wonder Dog" are united against a group of crooks building a shoddy dam with substandard materials and placing the whole valley in jeopardy. There's enough action for a feature film here, and the characters are quickly established in the first few scenes (when someone TRIES to hit a child with a car, you can be fairly sure he's the villain of the piece!). The location shooting makes the film fascinating to watch, and Flash is an amazing dog who will warm the heart of any dog lover. 30's b-movie heroine Gertrude Messenger, who was married to Sharpe, is also in the film, but the short running time keeps her character from getting much screen time. It's all Sharpe and Flash versus the bad guys. Any lover of early 30s Mascot serials should enjoy this entertaining short (in some ways, Sharpe is like a taller Frankie Darro!). Although this was no doubt a throwaway short rented for a low flat fee, the filmmakers did a much better job than they needed to, and there are some surprising point-of-view shots from a runaway mining rail car and an out-of-control auto with two little children trapped in it. If you like low budget, independent 1930s action films, be sure to see Wild Waters. By the way, fans of the classic serial THE LOST CITY will recognize the canned music from that film about halfway through this short.


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