Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Hands of the Ripper (1971)
the things to notice
TCM just aired this and like all the other Hammer films I enjoyed it a great deal. They're not cinematic achievements but they are fun and that's one of film's aspects I really appreciate. I also tend to look at technical aspects and the first thing that struck me is how fake the moustaches looked. The beards looked better but now I wonder. The second, I'm embarrassed to write, was Marjie Lawrence's cleavage which may not be how she would like to be remembered given her extensive body of work. Did they really dress like that in Victorian England? I'd also never seen Angharad Rees before nor had I even heard of her but then I found out this was her first co-starring and second film role and I was intrigued. And, incidentally, that's another thing I like about Hammer: they find and highlight young talent. Anyway lots of good talent here, a lot from TV, presumably because they come cheaper. Some goofs like when Rees begins to sit while her host invites her to do so. But I'm getting technical again. Eric Porter is great. He manages to save the day even skewered by a cavalry sabre. Which brings up another goof: the thing must be five feet long but you can't see the other end sticking out of Porter's body. Good final scene, good score, worth a viewing.
I agree it's very corny and exudes sentimentality but it's worth watching if only for Gloria Dickson doing the fox trot. At least it looks like her and they don't show her full length but it's a good number anyway. Marie Wilson is definitely dancing and she's charming as always. Ward Bond is also great as the bad, deeply troubled and insecure guy. The movie's fast so you can't get bored but oh, is it corny. The added attraction of Sheila Bromley rounds this out. She fakes the cops so well! It's Gloria Dickson's eighth film and she's the headliner. This is an actor you love to watch. She's relentless in her pursuit to keep Dennis Morgan out of trouble. He's such a dope but she makes it so believable. This was his first starring role and he puts in a very good effort but he doesn't sing and that's too bad. There's also a car chase that's quite fake but still fun, especially the real parts. It turns out as you might expect and keep that in mind if you watch it and enjoy the performances.
Return of the Bad Men (1948)
Stereotypical to the max, but...
Everything about this movie cries foul. Every western stereotype is thrown in along with the kitchen sink and just about every western outlaw. There is not much that is original, from the love interests, to the protagonists rivalry, to the unfortunate comic relief provided by Gaby Hayes' facial contortions. On the other hand once you get past that and accept the fact that this is not cinematic history it's actually kind of fun. Randolph Scott is magnificent in his perfection of the righteous western hero. Robert Ryan is at his most extreme surliness - he is evil incarnate, an inveterate liar all too ready and willing to jump at any chance to advance his lot at the expense of friend and foe alike. Anne Jeffreys and Jacqueline White are at their most gorgeous. The scenes where they let their hair down and look to make themselves even more beautiful (as if that was possible) are worth the price of admission. And lets not forget such veterans as Robert Armstrong and Jason Robards Sr. Its always good to seem them in their later careers. I guess anyone who has read some of my other reviews will know I'm a sucker for bad movies.
Cleo Moore at her best
I just sat through the better part of a day watching Cleo Moore movies and by far this one is my favorite. She was pretty good in "One Girl's Confession", she was OK in "Women's Prison" (she just didn't have enough to do) but here she really stretches her legs. She carries the whole thing all by herself and she does it with aplomb, like the veteran she was (this was her 23rd out of 25 movies). She plays a career woman driven by her shady past to rise to the top of her profession, photography. The only fly in the ointment was Richard Crenna whose character behaved like a spoiled child, his fragile male ego threatened by her success. The end was disappointing but right along the standards of the day. Still, this one's a keeper, even with Crenna in it.
Tarzan's Fight for Life (1958)
I must admit to being a Tarzan junkie so keep that in mind while reading my comments. There's not a whole lot to the plots, in fact they tend to be fairly similar. Some injustice takes place, usually perpetrated by evil white men, and Tarzan sets things right. That's about it and if you expect complicated character interactions and plot twists you'll surely be disappointed. One of the best things about these movies is the physiques, happily and gloriously shown with as little clothing as possible. Jane is always an eyeful so I sat down to watch this one (the second color Tarzan) because I had never seen Eve Brent, the twelfth Jane. Although not the prettiest she was perhaps the sweetest and her scenes with Gordon Scott were rather passionate. Their kisses would make the heart of any romantic flutter. Still, as good as that was, my favorite part was James Edwards' characterization of Futa, the evil witch doctor. He made 'Fight for Life' an over the top camp fest. Yes, Gordon Scott was a hunk, Eve Brent was eye candy, there was Cheeta (although the chip can be irritating), there's lots of jungle and dangerous animal shots, but Edwards elevated this one above its routine plot and production values.
The Main Attraction (1962)
I don't know why this one has such a low score. For starters you have a horse kick its legs to jazz rhythms. And Pat Boone is actually pretty good. He has a sort of presence, he's attractive, he looks like he's having fun. They all look like they're having fun. The film is kind of campy in its own way. With this cast it can't be helped. There's lots of sex, implied of course. Neither Mai Zetterling nor Nancy Kwan are shy about pouring it on and it's fun to watch. Especially Mai although Nancy Kwan can be sensuous as well. It's hard to imagine Pat Boone as a hard-nosed vagabond but he gets a lot of help from his costars and eventually we accept it. Both he and Nancy Kwan are athletic. It looks like it's really him some of the time on the trapeze. It's obvious that's her somersaulting and jumping on and off the horse, not a double. And there's real chemistry between them. It's too bad Yvonne Mitchell doesn't have much more to do but what she does have she does well. She's the icing on the cake. Kieron Moore is very good as her husband. This is an actor who can be really passionate and his character has real pathos. Granted, the story is not the greatest but it's good enough, there's plenty of good lines and enough action to move it along and keep us entertained. So, overall, it's much better than its score would have you believe. In fact I'd say it's good enough for a second or third look. It's just plain fun.
Susan Slept Here (1954)
Is this a sleeper?
This is a weird one. It's an older man/very young woman kind of story but it's not played that way until the very end. When they finally get around to it it's handled well but only too briefly. During the whole film you can't but notice the really obvious age difference. Dick Powell was 50 and Debbie Reynolds 22. He was old enough to be her father. He was old enough to be Anne Francis' father who was 26 at the time. The story is actually pretty good. The downside is that it's really just a comedy but occasionally it takes itself too seriously.
The cast was excellent. It was great to see Glenda Farrell in a more mature part. I love her brassy style. Dick Powell was pretty good too in, as someone else noted, his last film. Red Skelton was a surprise. He pops up for the blink of an eye and then disappears. Anne Francis was a knockout, as always. She dominated every scene and some of her lines had real zing. Thanks to TCM for running her out of circulation movies. The difference with Debbie Reynolds couldn't be more pronounced at all levels but I guess that was the point.
Then there's the dream sequence, one of the coolest fantasy segments I've seen in a long time. Francis appears as a spider woman, spinning her web around Powell while the child-woman, Reynolds, attempts to keep that from happening. Again, the difference between them couldn't be more pronounced. The tall, curvaceous Francis was like a cool drink on a hot summer day. Reynolds was no match. She couldn't hope to compete but gave it a good try anyway. Too spunky for my taste.
Bottom line, it's worth watching for the actors more than anything else. You shouldn't take the story too seriously and the lines sometimes get in the way when they're just plain silly. But hey, Anne Francis is in it, that alone is worth a look.
There's few reasons to sit through this unfortunate example of Hollywood film-making. The first - and the only reason I began to watch it - was the uncredited debut of Jane Greer, one of my favorite actors of all time. She appears about 5 minutes into the film as Eve Arden's secretary, doesn't say much, swings her leg over the arm of a chair, is scolded by Eve Arden, finally speaks her insignificant lines in her unmistakable voice and departs never to be seen again. More the pity. Normally that would have been enough for me but for some reason I soldiered on, curious about the long list of Hispanic performers. Some were pretty good although the acts tended to be repetitious. After some research I found that this film launched the career of two others: Lita Baron (Lupita) would make 24 more, the last in 1979, and Alma Beltran, who appears briefly as Miss Guatemala. Her career spanned 87 films, the last in 2002. So there you have it. If one looks hard enough one can always find a reason to watch a lousy film. In retrospect I have to wonder why Hollywood would make this turkey. Released shortly after the allied victory over Germany it's difficult to imagine what possible propaganda value it could possibly have. Was it supposed to show some kind of solidarity with our neighbors to our south? I have no clue. In any case don't bother with this one other than as a somewhat ludicrous curiosity.
Judge Priest (1934)
An epitome of ambivalence
There's quite a lot to recommend this one, the John Ford touches mainly. The way the scenes are arranged, the attention to detail are his trademarks. His direction is tight, focused, the actors deliver their lines in a believable, realistic manner. Nothing stagy about this. As for the actors they performed pretty much as expected. Will Rogers was his usual self, not the greatest of thespians but entertaining nonetheless. Anita Louise was simply delicious. I don't think I've ever seen her in better form and I credit Ford for extracting that performance as well as Tom Brown's who managed to keep his earnestness and wide-eyed innocence under check. Even stone-faced David Landau and bombastic Berton Churchill managed to give their stereotypical parts some originality.
My ambivalence is about the overt racism here, even granting the film's time frame and the period in our history it depicts. The least of it is that two of the central characters, Hattie McDaniel and Stepin Fetchit, are listed last in the credits, after Juror No. 12, whose only contribution was hitting the spittoon during the court scenes. Frankly it was difficult to watch despite some genuine tender scenes between the Rogers character and his servants. The one that stands out has him and McDaniel singing an impromptu spiritual and that one alone is worth the price of admission. The judge's relationship with the Fetchit character is much more problematic, even granting the "Coon" persona that Fetchit employed so successfully in his career he became a millionaire. There were just too many instances of the judge ordering him about just for the sake of it. It's painful to consider how humiliating it must have been for these two talented professionals to adopt their screen personae in order to earn a living.
I know I'm judging this film by 21st century standards, seventy-seven years after its release and if nothing else one might say that it exposed our country's shameful past, let the sunlight in on our deep, dark, secret. And in all fairness this is a film about southerners right after they had lost the Civil War. One can't really expect them to feel and express any remorse. People don't work that way. So from that angle I have no qualms. If anything I suspect the presentation of that society was probably mostly accurate. But I wonder at the motivations of the society that felt the need to make a film such as this, about a society that existed seventy years prior. And given Ford's sympathetic, realistic, treatment of American Indians in his later Westerns I wonder if he wasn't making just that point.
The Man with Two Faces (1934)
It's the performances
If this film has a weak spot it's the story's details. Without giving anything away the whole idea of Vance's (Calhern) Svengali-like hypnotic effect on his wife (Astor) is a bit far-fetched, even for 1934. And quite frankly Robinson's disguise left a lot to be desired. And let's not forget the clue that clinched the policeman's case. I can't imagine building a case of such flimsy evidence. There's other areas of concern but I digress. Now for the good part: where the film shines is in the performances. This bevy of fine actors does a most excellent job at presenting complex characters driven by events not of their own choosing. It's a pretty talky film but I didn't mind in the least. The dialog is spirited, lively, expressive. And the performers tended to make me forget the plot's weak points. They were captivating, all of them, Robinson, Astor, Calhern, Cortez (in a rare good guy part), and last but not least, Mae Clarke, in my opinion a most underrated actor.