Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Beyond the Sacramento (1940)
Luci Ward Writes Again!
Director: LAMBERT HILLYER. Original screenplay: Luci Ward. Photography: George Meehan. Film editor: James Sweeney. Western Electric Sound System. Producer: Leon Barsha.
Copyright 7 November 1940 by Columbia Pictures Corp. U.S. release: 14 November 1940. No New York opening. 6 reels. 58 minutes. U.K. release title: Power of Justice.
COMMENT: It's astonishing what a stranglehold Luci Ward had on the writing of "B"-picture westerns. Why she was employed is a typical Hollywood piece of illogicality, since her knowledge of the frontier is nil, her dialogue is stilted and her plots are merely variations of well-worn themes with as many clichés as there are leaves in a hen-party teapot.
This one is no exception. It emerges as a pretty mediocre Wild Bill Hickok western, with plenty of dialogue and not overmuch action. Admittedly, the climax starts promisingly with Mr Hickok making a most spectacular entrance, but, alas, the rest of it is lame. Dub Taylor's comic relief is chiefly concerned with a running gag about a cow-hide vest that is not the least bit funny.
Although Evelyn Keyes figures in a fair bit of footage, her fans will be hard put to recognize her. Even her personality is quite colorless. On the evidence of this film it would be hard to believe she had a Hollywood future.
One of our favorite villains, gravel-voiced Norman Willis, has only a secondary henchman role. The chief villains themselves are an undistinguished lot. Lambert Hillyer's direction is dull. Though competent, it does not exhibit any traces of his customary flair and style. Other production credits are merely okay.
Arizona Stage Coach (1942)
It's a hoot!
Not copyright 1942 by Range Busters, Inc. Released through Monogram Pictures Corporation: 4 September 1942. 58 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: The unusually complicated story of this 16th entry in the series, is a little difficult to follow. But if you pay close attention, you'll just manage to keep up with it. Not that you'll bother, because the whole affair, what with a loose talking dummy (in both senses of the word loose) and a hero with a bent for nasty practical pranks, is in many ways so childish, it's not really worth the effort. In brief, The Range Busters are enlisted to ferret out a gang of highwaymen who specialize in stealing Wells Fargo cash boxes from the Arizona stagecoach.
COMMENT: Of mild interest for rabid fans of Corrigan and company, this Range Busters entry, filmed against the serviceable but somewhat lackluster scenery of the Corrigan Ranch, does hold out three or four joys for the general viewer in the acting department. It's good to see Kermit Maynard filling the shoes of a bad guy and it's always great to find Charles King up to his old tricks. Another favorite heavy, Jack Ingram, can be spotted in a smallish but odd part as the local sheriff. But the real flavor of this entry is provided by Steve Clark who really revels in his role as a corrupt stage driver. And for once, Steve has the best lines in the movie!
The action spots are directed at a fast clip (with running inserts yet!) and, as inferred above, there's probably enough fast riding and quick-on-the-draw shooting to satisfy the inveterate fans. As usual, Mr King is handed a couple of songs, one of which he renders upside down. And also as usual, Mr Terhune and his poorly animated dummy (who receives an inordinate number of close-ups) waste a fair amount of our time.
DEATHLESS DIALOGUE. Corrupt stage driver (mildly chiding the leader of a group of masked bandits who has his eyes set on the cash box): "Say, this isn't the spot where you were supposed to hold us up." Bandit's quick-as-a-flash retort: "I liked this spot better."
Africa: Texas Style (1967)
Executive producer: Ivan Tors. Distributor: Paramount. Production company: Vantors. Producer: Andrew Marton. Associate producer: John Pellatt. Production manager: Derek Parr.
Copyright 2 June 1967 by Vantors Films. An Ivan Tors Production, released by Paramount. New York opening at RKO neighborhood theaters: 12 July 1967. U.S. release: 2 June 1967. U.K. release: 16 July 1967. Australian release: 5 January 1968. Sydney opening on a double bill at the Capitol (ran one week). 9,818 feet. 109 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Hoping to develop wild game ranching in Kenya as an alternative to cattle ranching, Howard Hayes, an English settler, engages two Texan cowboys, Jim Sinclair and John Henry, to rope and herd the animals. Cattle rancher Karl Bekker opposes the scheme, fearing that his cattle will be infected by diseases spread by the wild animals.
COMMENT: With a banal script that does not miss a single cliché and has trite dialogue and "worthy" sentiments to match, Andrew Marton cannot make much of this film, even with actual location filming. The actors come off poorly, and the animals fare even worse, being mainly used to cover up action where inept direction has left an untoward gap. There are one or two moderately exciting moments, and the film is in color. Otherwise, it's a bore.
The Adventures of Don Coyote (1947)
Ho hum! Not recommended!
Richard Martin (Don Coyote), Frances Rafferty (Maggie), Marc Cramer (Dave), Val Carlo (Sancho), Benny Bartlett (Ted), Frank Fenton (Big Foot), Byron Foulger (Felton).
Director: REGINALD LE BORG. Screenplay: Bob Williams, Harold Tarshis. Original story: Bob Williams. Photography: Fred Jackman. Film editor: Lynn Harrison. Music score: David Chudnow. Producers: Buddy Rogers, Ralph Cohn.
Copyright 9 May 1947 by Comet Productions. Released through United Artists. No New York opening. U.S. release: 9 May 1947. U.K. release: December 1950. Australian release: 9 March 1951. Australian distributor: Universal-International. 5,964 feet. 65 minutes.
COMMENT: This C-grade western is very short on action and has virtually nothing to recommend it: a few desultory songs, a couple of poorly-staged fights, pedestrian direction, poverty row sets, unattractive photography.
The plot has heroine Frances Rafferty (who deserves more inspired material than this) enlist the aid of the good Don to save her ranch from the attacks of a band of outlaws.
The Lost Continent (1968)
Producer: Michael Carreras. Executive producer: Anthony Hinds. A Hammer-Seven Arts Production. Made at Elstree Studios, Borehamwood, England.
Copyright 19 June 1968 by Hammer Film Productions Ltd and Seven Arts Productions. U.S. release through 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation: 19 June 1968. New York opening at New Amsterdam and neighborhood theaters: 19 June 1968. U.K. release through Warner-Pathé: 27 July 1968. Australian release through 20th Century-Fox Film Corporation: 7 November 1968. Sydney opening at the Palace (ran a predetermined two-week season). Running times: 101 minutes (copyright length), 98 minutes (U.K.), 93 minutes (Australia), 89 minutes (U.S.A.).
SYNOPSIS: Shipwrecked in the Sargasso Sea, a group of survivors find...
NOTES: The movie started out under the helm of director Leslie Norman. After a few weeks shooting, producer Carreras replaced Norman by taking the reins himself because he felt that Norman worked too slowly and that the already expensive film would go way over budget.
COMMENT: It takes some time to arrive at our exotic destination. Not that I'm complaining. Plenty of incidents keeps us constantly on our toes and the "continent" is certainly worth the wait. The sets and the denizens of this amazing place are highly bizarre, to say the least. True, the direction tends to be heavy-handed, though there are one or two really inventive touches (perhaps contributed by Leslie Norman) that add to the excitement. Paul Beeson's color camera does fine with its eye-catching visuals and atmospheric effects, though the lovely Hildegard Neff is not so attractively treated in close-up, while the famous stage and television actor Eric Porter does little with his role.
Lost Continent (1951)
As many debits as credits!
Copyright 15 August 1951 by Tom Productions, Inc. U.S. release through Lippert Pictures. No recorded New York opening. San Francisco world premiere at the Paramount: 19 July 1951. U.S. release: 17 August 1951. 7,533 feet. 82 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Hunting for a lost rocket, a small party of scientists crash-lands on an unknown Pacific island.
NOTES: Shooting from 13 April to 24 April 1951
COMMENT: By the humble standards of both Mr Lippert and the Neufeld Brothers, this is not too trying a little offering. On the debit side (in no particular order) are Mr Sid Melton who labors painfully to garner a few laughs from trite material; animated monsters that look like drawing-board rejects from The Lost World (1925); and a mountain peak that is obviously rooted on a film studio floor. We could also add Hillary Brooke to this side of the ledger. One of our favorite stars, Miss Brooke is treated shamefully here. True, she looks lovely, but she has only one scene. Count it! One!
I'll assign Cesar Romero to neither debit nor credit. He's competent enough, but I can take him or leave him. However, I like Chick Chandler and John Hoyt, and it's always good to see Whit Bissell making out as a scientist type. Although the monsters are pretty crummy, at least three or four of the excitements are grippingly presented by director Newfield and I very much the idea of presenting all the top-of-the-mountain footage on green-tinted stock.
Lighthouse Mouse (1955)
CAST: "Sylvester", "Hippety Hopper".
Director: ROBERT McKIMSON. Story: Sid Marcus. Animation: Philip De Lara, Charles McKimson, Herman Cohen, Rod Scribner. Lay-outs: Robert Givens. Backgrounds: Richard H. Thomas. Voice characterizations: Mel Blanc. Music director: Milt Franklyn. Sound effects editor: Treg Brown. Color by Technicolor. Producer: Edward Selzer.
Copyright 1955 by The Vitaphone Corp. A Warner Bros. "Merrie Melodies" cartoon. U.S. release: 12 March 1955. 1 reel. 7 minutes.
COMMENT: "I'm a pussycat, not an electrician!" complains the put-upon Sylvester, who has the job of repairing a lighthouse cable after it has been consistently disconnected by a mouse (whose slumbers the light is disturbing). "I never thought being a pussycat could be so complicated!" our feline is forced to sum up. Not only does he have the mouse to contend with, plus a grumpy lighthouse keeper and his tell-tale parrot, but the shipwrecked Hippety Hopper as well.
Well-drawn, cleverly characterized and most ingeniously plotted, this is a highly entertaining example of the Warner cartoon craftsmen at their best, just at the turn of the changeover to UPA style. That style has influenced the drawing of the keeper here, but otherwise Lighthouse Mouse is commendably very much in the ultra-smooth, classically refined tradition.
The Lady in Red (1935)
I hate cockroaches, but...
Director: I. FRELENG. Animation: Bob McKimson, Ben Clopton. Title song by Allie Wrubel (music) and Mort Dixon (lyrics). Other songs: "Sweet Music" by Al Dubin (lyrics) and Harry Warren (music); "Neapolitan Nights" by Harry D. Kerr (lyrics) and J.S. Zamecnik (music). Incidental music composed by Norman Spencer. Color by Technicolor. Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
A Warner Bros. "Merrie Melodies" cartoon. Copyright 6 January 1936 by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. U.S. release: 7 September 1935. 1 reel.
COMMENT: While the owner is at the bull-fights, cockroaches go on a spree in a Mexican café.
Despite its unpleasant subjects, this is an entertaining musical with two complete song numbers, including a Rudy Vallee type crooning "Sweet Music", and the title number sung by a male quartette.
The total effect is definitely breezy, definitely quaint and more than a trifle bizarre, even charming. Recommended.
Invisible Ghost (1941)
Make sure you watrch a sepia print!
Producer: Sam Katzman. Copyright 25 April 1941 by Monogram Pictures Corp. Produced by Banner Productions. New York opening at the Rialto: 7 May 1941. U.S. release: 25 April 1941. Never theatrically released in Australia. 7 reels. 64 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: An innocent man (John McGuire) is executed for the murder of his former sweetheart (Terry Walker), a housemaid employed by the father (Bela Lugosi) of his current girlfriend (Polly Ann Young).
NOTES: 33rd and final film of Polly Ann Young (older sister of Sally Blane and Loretta Young), who retired from the screen after this effort. She died in 1997.
COMMENT: Far-fetched but genuinely scary horror yarn, masterfully directed by Joseph H. Lewis who does wonders with an extremely limited budget. Lugosi is inclined to over-emphasize the catatonics, and Pembroke is singularly colorless as the police investigator, but Miss Young makes a suitably fair heroine and Mr McGuire is quite impressive as both Ralph and Paul. We also liked the sultry, blonde victim played by Terry Walker, silent star Betty Compson as the madwoman, and reliable Clarence Muse as the steadfast butler. A current DVD offering accurately reproduces the compelling sepia tones of the original release prints.
Smart Woman (1948)
Constance Bennett shines!
Despite the engagement of a third-string director in Mr. Blatt (who did far, far better work with "Escape in the Desert"), this movie will still appeal to solid fans of Constance Bennett (here making one of her final films as a leading actress, although her career would continue in shine in minor roles.)
Unfortunately, "Smart Woman", despite its engaging title, was not the catalyst Constance needed to remain at the very top.
True, it's a high grade woman's picture, featuring polished performances all around, plus elegant photography and attractive sets. In fact, production values shine all around!
The script, alas, despite its promising plot, is only moderately interesting. It lacks oomph!
Worse still, the direction never sparkles and rates no more than very disappointingly routine.
The other side is the good side in this ingenious thriller which also benefits from an extensive use of real locations. The screenplay, however, is somewhat thin on characterization. The narrative is fleshed out with two plots which only come together via the odd telephone call. Nonetheless, the pace is brisk and there is plenty of boom-boom action.
Constant changes of locale also keep our attention focused. All in all, the film is reasonably enjoyable for those of us who don't pay too much attention on the dopey plot and are just along for the ride.
The ever-reliable Pat Magree presents us with a brief but enjoyably hammy performance. Badel, however, is reduced to stooging.
Donald Pleasense is not presented with many opportunities for fine acting either, even though his role is comparatively large.!
Inki and the Minah Bird (1943)
Players: "Inki", "Minah Bird", "Lion".
Director: CHARLES M. JONES. Animators: Robert Cannon, Shamus Culhane. Lay-outs: John McGrew. Color by Technicolor. Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Copyright 31 October 1949 (in notice: 1942) by The Vitaphone Corp. (Which means of course that the film is actually not copyright at all as the statutory period for registering the original copyright had long since expired. However, it would be foolhardy to risk making a copy as Vitaphone have access to some very smart lawyers who could tie you up for years in court). A Warner Bros "Merrie Melodies" cartoon. U.S. release: 13 November 1943. 1 reel. 7 minutes.
COMMENT: This "Merrie Melodies" cartoon entry comes across as rather more than somewhat below par. It should in fact really be titled "Inki, the Lion and the Minah Bird". A great deal of the action actually centers on the first two, namely Inki and the Lion - and neither very witty nor smartly paced action it actually is either. Indeed, despite the charm of some of the backgrounds, this entry signally lacks comic invention in both spot gags and situations.
One of Disney's finest!
Not only is Grahame's plot followed with reasonable fidelity, but the Disney artists have obviously made extensive use of the original illustrations by E.H. Shepherd for their models - and even occasionally for camera angles (the pursuing train). The picturization is also excellently served by the behind-screen actors. Forsaking his usual smarmy voice, Eric Blore turns out to be exactly right for the manic Toad and is splendidly partnered by Pat O'Malley who transforms Cyril Proudbottom into an amusingly cheeky George Formby. Their "Merrily On Our Way" number becomes a highlight of fast-paced visual and vocal delights.
In the full-of-agreeable-surprises trial scene, John Ployardt is hilariously overbearing as the prosecutor, while all through the film Basil Rathbone is nothing short of inspired - ringing his commentary with just the right balance between the affably patronizing and mock solemnity.
For the sake of continuity, it's a pity Rathbone's services were not retained for Sleepy Hollow. Horror fans have voiced concerns that Bing Crosby brings perhaps a too-light air to the narration. Not only that but he substitutes for all the conversations as well. None of the characters "talk" and when Brom Bones is called upon to sing he does so of course (somewhat incongruously) in Crosby's voice. However, before we get carried away with this line of criticism, we must admit the device is surprisingly faithful to Irving's original concept which has no dialogue whatever and employs the same over-light, mock-heroic tone. Even the modern-sounding appellation, "the Sleepy Hollow Boys", is straight out of Washington Irving.
All told, to my mind, Crosby does an appealing job with both commentary and songs. However, the episode's chief joys lie in its witty drawings and spookily atmospheric climax. This climax is a little masterpiece of Gothic cinema. We know what to expect - and Disney does not disappoint us. The scene of Ichabod's post-midnight ride is so superbly executed and edited, it never fails to impress - no matter how often it's shown.
After some years of experimentation with live action and musical potpourris, Ichabod and Mr Toad re-established Disney's pre-eminence in the cartoon field. True, the stories form quite unidentical halves, but they do provide such effective contrasts - and each, in its own way, is so delightful in itself - that the enjoyment of the whole is more than equal to the sum of the parts. Is there a mind so bleak it could not be moved by Toad's predicament? or the shattering of his twirling assurance as Winky's evidence smiles against him (a neat touch this, both visually and structurally as Grahame's original is not nearly as tautly or as soundly plotted) or could not thrill to the fast excitement and frantic chase of his escape?
As for Ichabod, it would be a rare soul indeed who failed to laugh and marvel at - yet curiously sympathize with - the haphazardly fortunate Mr Crane, unwittingly besting Bones at every turn only to be finally outwitted by a terrifying embodiment of his own superstitious fears.
Yes, in short, this movie rates as a winner in my book! One of Disney's finest!
Lon Chaney, Jr (Butcher Benton), Casey Adams (Lieutenant Dick
Ein Toter hing im Netz (1960)
At least there are plenty of showgirls!
A Gaston Hakim Production. Not copyright 1960 by Intercontinental Film/Rapid Film. U.S. release through Pacemaker Pictures: March 1962 (original 86-minutes version under the title It's Hot in Paradise), November 1965 (re-edited 75-minutes version). Released in West Germany in 1960 as Ein Toter hing im Netz. Alternative U.S. titles: Hot in Paradise, Girls of Spider Island, The Spider's Web, Body in the Web.
SYNOPSIS: After their plane crashes into the ocean, a Hollwood talent scout, his secretary and six showgirls are stranded on a remote Pacific island.
NOTES: A German movie, filmed on location in Nicola, Yugoslavia.
COMMENT: It's sad to see a fine actor like Alex D'Arcy (How To Marry a Millionaire, Soldier of Fortune), reduced to acting in a German girlie movie that has now hit the airwaves as a somewhat tamer horror flick. Mind you, by the humble standards of both dubbed (D'Arcy at least provides his own voice) and "B" films, this entry in the monster cycle (cf. Wasp Woman) is not too uninteresting. In fact, the director manages to utilize his real locations to bring off a few adventurous effects.
True, production credits mostly vary from typical Poverty Row shortcuts to merely competent craftsmanship, but at least there are plenty of showgirls to distract one's attention. In fact, it could be argued there are too many girls, for at least five of these young ladies look so alike, it's impossible to tell them apart.
The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945)
Directed with verve and style!
Copyright 28 April 1945 by Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. New York opening at the Strand: 20 April 1945. U.S. release: 28 April 1945. Because the studio thought its commercial prospects were so poor, the film was never released in the U.K., one of the few major Hollywood studio "A" features to be voluntarily denied a British release in the 1940s. Australian release: 22 November 1945. 7,144 feet. 79 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: A good-natured but not overbright angel is despatched to Earth to sound the Last Trump.
VIEWER'S GUIDE: The film could be accused of irreverence and certainly its conclusion is morally up in the air. Dolores Moran is perhaps too vampish for family viewing.
COMMENT: This highly amusing entry in Hollywood's visiting angels cycle puts the lie to claims that action director Raoul Walsh was out of his element with comedy. Not only is Walsh's timing perfect but every laugh, every wisecrack and comeback, every double take, every bit of lunatic slapstick is forcefully yet deftly put across with maximum audience impact. Of course on the technical side Walsh was helped no end by his astute film editor Irene Morra who cuts away or dissolves from the action at precisely the right second, not allowing any scene to drag or end on too high a punctuation of slow burns and/or expressions of surprise. Photographer Sid Hickox is also a major contributor to the film's success, as is art director Hugh Reticker. The costumes designed by Milo Anderson are really stunning (especially a gown that Dolores Moran models for the finale), while the elaborately contrived, stupendous special effects are absolutely out of this world.
Jack Benny is a riot as the none-too-bright angel who yet has some neat lines in snappy comebacks. His run-ins with slow-minded, self-important cop James Burke and fallen angels (with twitching spasms) Allyn Joslyn and John Alexander are especially comical. Alexis Smith is suitably statuesque as the harpist who sets her mind to advancing Benny's career, though she is outclassed in the glamor stakes by Dolores Moran who has one of the best roles of her life here. Reginald Gardiner is also perfectly cast, as is Guy Kibbee and Make Mazurki - to single out but two names from a brilliant roster of support players.
Walsh has stated that he enjoyed making this movie, and had a stimulating rapport with producer Mark Hellinger ("an intelligent man") and photographer Sid Hickox. Unfortunately it was not successful on first release, either with critics or public, although it has now amassed a considerable cult following. Contemporary audiences doubtless found the movie too unusual, too barbed, too lunatic, perhaps even too irreverent.
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
A "New York Times" selection as one of the Ten Best Movies of the year!
It's possible just to sit back and just enjoy the comedy. Actually more than a few shudders of drama are included as well, though the producer has tried to break this down by the casting of that ripe-old ham Donald MacBride as a particularly squally police inspector. Nonetheless Rita Johnson and John Emery are as cool and nasty a pair of schemers as ever deserved the hangman's noose. Don Costello's shifty manager is far from comic too. Aside from MacBride, it is largely left to Montgomery himself - with the admirable assistance of Edward Everett Horton and the less skillful but determinedly plugging-away James Gleason - to make with all the funny faces and can-this-really-be-me double takes.
Midway between these two camps of farce and drama, Claude Rains plays Mr Jordan with such a suave, ironically smiling detachment that he succeeds in bringing yet a third acting force to bear on the script. Ironic detachment is a style of acting rarely used in the movies as it requires an actor with pres¬ence to bring it off - a gifted player like Claude Rains whose skilful performance is a double pleasure to see and hear. Another equally rare treat is provided by Lloyd Bridges who makes his two-line bit part memorable by mouthing his dia¬logue tongue-in-cheek.
But whether played for laughs or thrills or fatal¬ism, the blending is almost always perfectly entertaining - thanks both to the collective skills of the actors and the stylish artistry of director Alexander Hall. (Two other troupers that deserve to be singled out for praise are Halliwell Hobbes as a delightfully stuffy old butler, and Evelyn Keyes who makes her heroine seem appropriately lovely and, vulnerable).
Thirty years ago, Alexander Hall was a highly regarded director. He died in 1968 - too early for today's cult critics to get him down on tape - and his popularity has waned. Not all of Hall's movies are as enter¬taining or as well-served as Here Comes Mr Jordan, but there can be little doubt that Hall's was a superior talent in the fantasy field. Unlike most of the current crop of directors, Hall knew how to ration his special effects so that the movie wasn't swamped in a welter of dazzling but superfi¬cial visuals. Hall makes the effects reinforce the story - not today's way in which the story is merely an excuse for an endlessly juvenile display of cinema trickery.
Hall has a real sense of timing and contrast. Admittedly, his touch is occasionally a little heavy-handed (especially in the Gleason-MacBride scenes) - but compared to the Steven Spielbergs of this world it's the excesses of a gavel to a jackhammer. He knows how to move the camera too and keep the plot moving along sharply. Of course he has a clever script to work from, ingenious not only in its princi¬pal idea but in the way it twists and turns until all the loose ends are neatly tied up at the conclusion. Perhaps it all comes out just a little too pat - but after all isn't that just what we'd expect from a Mr Jordan?
Hall is also helped out by a fine array of a talent behind the camera. The sets are just right, neither calling a distracting attention to themselves by a tasteless if expensive gaudiness nor seeming on the other hand disappointingly cheap or sterile. The pho¬tography too has the perfect combination of atmosphere, realism and unobtrusive artistry. The music also contributes deftly but not egotistically to the entertainment whole.
That old adage, "Many cooks spoil the broth," is usually untrue so far as films are concerned. Here is the proof. Here Comes Mr Jordan is a delectable feast. The Warren Beatty re-make is a burnt breakfast.
Heaven Only Knows (1947)
Copyright 12 September 1947 by Nero Films, Inc. Released through United Artists. New York opening at the Broadway: 13 November 1947. U.S. release: 12 September 1947. U.K. release: 16 February 1948. Australian release: 1 April 1948. 8,982 feet. 100 minutes.
Early in 1948 the U.S. release title was changed to MONTANA MIKE.
SYNOPSIS: Angel reforms local western crime boss.
VIEWER'S GUIDE: Despite some violence, suitable for all.
COMMENT: Another entry in the Hollywood-finds-angels-sell-tickets cycle, though this one is surprisingly amusing and entertainingly intriguing. It's also most ingratiatingly acted. Donlevy, usually a rather uneven performer, is especially believable here. Direction and other credits are thoroughly skilled, whilst production values (particularly by the standard of independent movies) are breathtakingly elaborate.
In the difficult central role, Robert Cummings acquits himself particularly well. The part requires him to be a figure of fantasy yet thoroughly believable, keep a judicious balance between drama and comedy, and change pace near the conclusion from what is essentially a light part to one that is dramatically yet triumphantly sorrowful.
The director manages to keep the changing moods of the script on an even keel so that the "heavy" finale caps the whole picture in a satisfyingly forceful way. Although obviously derived from La Charrette Fantome (1939), this final sequence is one of the most memorable in the American cinema. Cummings has excellent support in Stu Erwin as a philosophical sheriff, Marjorie Reynolds and Jorja Cartwright. Even the smallest roles are faultlessly filled.
An inspiring and moving picture which runs the gamut from satire to slapstick, from action to tears. Rogell's masterpiece. And a lasting memorial too of the finely atmospheric work of the cinematographer's cinematographer Karl Struss.
Hare Brush (1955)
Get set for laughs!
CAST: "Bugs Bunny", "Elmer J. Fudd".
Director: I. FRELENG. Story: Warren Foster. Animation: Ted Bonnicksen, Arthur Davis, Gerry Chiniquy. Lay-outs: Hawley Pratt. Backgrounds: Irv Wyner. Voice characterizations: Mel Blanc. Music director: Milt Franklyn. Color by Technicolor.
Copyright 1954 by The Vitaphone Corp. A Warner Bros. "Merrie Melodies" cartoon. U.S. release: 7 May 1955. 1 reel.
COMMENT: The Warner Bros cartoon boys never seem to run out of cleverly comic ideas. This one is yet another amusing variation on the perennial rabbit hunt, this time with the roles ingeniously reversed.
This little triumph presents lots of pacey comedy, good gags (including would you believe), a wicked impersonation of director Freleng himself) plus some really clever and chuckle-some twists.
Haredevil Hare (1948)
CAST: Bugs Bunny, Marvin the Martian and his dog "reserve".
Director: CHARLES M. JONES. Story: Michael Maltese. Animation: Ben Washam, Lloyd Vaughan, Ken Harris, Phil Monroe. Lay-outs: Robert Gribbroek. Backgrounds: Peter Alvarado. Effects animation: A. C. Gamer. Voice characterizations: Mel Blanc. Music director: Carl Stalling. Color by Technicolor. Producer: Edward Selzer. Copyright 20 December 1947 by The Vitaphone Corp. A Warner Bros "Looney Tunes" Bugs Bunny Special cartoon. U.S. release: 24 July 1948. 7 minutes.
COMMENT: This clever Bugs Bunny entry marks the first of five appearances of the little Martian - a character far more memorable than his short filmography might suggest.
Mel Blanc hasn't quite got the voice right, but otherwise this is a must-see debut for all connoisseurs of Warner Bros cartoon-land.
Aside from a too-extended sequence in which Bugs seems to take forever to straighten himself out after a bumpy moon landing, the pace is fast, the effects often dazzling
Hare Trigger (1945)
One of the best!
PLAYERS: "Bugs Bunny", "Yosemite Sam".
Director: I. FRELENG. Story: Michael Maltese. Animation: Manuel Perez, Virgil Ross, Ken Champin, Gerry Chiniquy. Lay-outs: Hawley Pratt. Backgrounds: Paul Julian. Voice characterizations: Mel Blanc. Music director: Carl Stalling. Technicolor. Producer: Edward Selzer.
Copyright 29 May 1945 by the Vitaphone Corp. Warner Bros. Cartoons, Inc. (Bugs Bunny Specials) Merrie Melodies. U.S. release: 5 May 1945. 1 reel. 7 minutes.
COMMENT: Everyone likes this one. Not only does it mark the first appearance of our favorite Bugs antagonist, Yosemite Sam, but it's a very funny film in its own right. The stage is set right from the start when a train runs right over the diminutive Sam who is then forced to wheel in a set of aeroplane steps to mount his horse. He introduces himself to Bugs (who mistakes him for Jesse James) with these immortal words: "Yosemite Sam, the meanest, roughest, rip-roaringest, Edward Everett Hortonest hombre what ever packed a six-shooter!"
There follows a delightful lampoon of typical western clichés, both aural and visual, ending with a neat piece of cliff-hanging fantasy.
I also love Bugs' introductory gibberish version of "A Boy's Best Friend Is His Mudder".
CAST: "Edna May Oliver" (Priscilla), "F. Hugh Herbert" (Miles Standish), "Elmer Fudd" (John Alden).
Director: I. FRELENG. Story: Jack Miller. Animation: Gil Turner. Musical director: Carl W. Stalling. Song: "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby". Color by Technicolor. Producer: Leon Schlesinger.
Copyright 27 April 1940 by The Vitaphone Corp. A Warner Bros. "Merrie Melodies" cartoon from Leon Schlesinger Productions. U.S. release: 27 April 1940. 1 reel.
COMMENT: Not only fascinating for lovers of vintage Hollywood, but an entertaining cartoon in its own right with some splendid visual and verbal gags.
The lay-out and backgrounds are agreeably quaint.
Fudd as a singing telegram boy rendering "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby" to Edna May Oliver is a stand-out sequence, though there are others ("IN CASE OF INDIANS BREAK GLASS") that come close in wit and style.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
A mixed blessing!
Copyright 13 June 1947 by 20th Century-Fox Film Corp. New York opening at the Radio City Music Hall: 26 June 1947 (ran one month). U.S. release: May 1947. U.K. release: 30 June 1947. London opening at the New Gallery: 25 May 1947. Australian release: 18 September 1947. 9,416 feet. 104 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Widow finds a caustic-tongued, yet romantic ghost in her rented house.
NOTES: Charles Lang Jr was one of only three nominees for the year's prestigious Hollywood award for the best black-and-white Cinematography, yielding to Guy Green's Great Expectations.
Shooting began on 29 November 1946 and was completed on 13 February 1947.
COMMENT: Viewed today The Ghost and Mrs Muir does not hold up terribly well script-wise. But so beautifully photographed, every frame is a joy to look at, plus a marvelous, atmospheric score.
Nor is there a childish indulgence in special effects. In fact, only one ghost dissolve in the whole film. Astute camerawork is always evident, such as the single take in which the camera pans from Tierney's sleeping face to the clock on the mantelpiece, tracks back to reveal a silhouette of Harrison, tracks forward with him as he advances towards Tierney, then spins back to the clock-face for a dissolve.
Although very threatening, very atmospheric (aided by score and lighting, period sets and costumes), the script is not as witty or as clever as it self-indulgently thinks it is. In fact it's now rather familiar, even banal.
Miscast too. Unbelievable that anyone as attractive as Tierney would have to depend on parlor-serpent Sanders (a late entrance, but he overdoes the superficial charm) for a beau, nor can we credit a publisher actually reading a MS even in gas-lit days. Tierney's performance is too wispy, too superficially nervous for the strong-minded Mrs Muir of the plot, whilst Harrison is too obviously genteel, despite the seemingly put-on expletives. Sanders is too hammy. A pity the principals were not chosen with the same care as the support cast.
OTHER VIEWS: An off-beat romantic novel, directed with taste and intelligence. Besides Mankiewicz, a lot of the credit must go to the brooding, atmospheric music score of Bernard Herrmann and the fine art direction. The photography also strikes just the right note in its astute lighting: bleak but not horrifying, steering a very precarious course between nostalgia and fantasy. Perhaps its success lies in its lack of overt sentiment. A difficult exercise, uniquely and masterfully successful. -- JHR writing as Tom Howard.
From Hare to Heir (1960)
PLAYERS: "Bugs Bunny", "Yosemite Sam".
Director: I. FRELENG. Animation: Arthur Davis, Gerry Chiniquy, Virgil Ross. Lay-outs: Hawley Pratt. Backgrounds: Tom O'Loughlin. Film editor: Treg Brown. Music: Milt Franklyn. Voice characterizations: Mel Blanc. Color by Technicolor.
A Warner Bros. "Merrie Melodies" cartoon. Executive producer: David DePatie. U.S. release: 3 September 1960. 1 reel. 7 minutes.
COMMENT: Although most people do not regard this one as a highlight of the Bugs-Yosemite feud, I find it, even on repeated viewings, most amusing.
The characters, backgrounds, and lay-outs are most attractive too. The jests come thick and fast after Bugs announces to the impoverished but choleric heir to the House of Sam that he has inherited a million pounds - provided he can keep his temper.
Bugs strains Yosemite's attempts to be sweet and amiable by such stratagems as singing Foster's "I Dream of Jeannie" and monopolizing the bathroom.
Francis Covers the Big Town (1953)
By no means the runt of the "Francis" litter!
Copyright 8 May 1952 by Universal Pictures Co., Inc. A Universal-International Picture. No recorded New York opening. U.S. release: 17 June 1953 (sic). U.K. release (on the lower half of a double bill): 4 January 1954. Australian release: 20 February 1953 (sic). 7,741 feet. 86 minutes.
SYNOPSIS: Ace reporter is framed for murder. Fortunately, he has a witness who can prove his innocence. Unfortunately that witness is a talking mule. NOTES: Number four of the seven-picture series.
VIEWER'S GUIDE: Despite a slight emphasis on criminal activity, suitable for all.
COMMENT: Produced on an astonishingly lavish scale, this one not only benefits from its huge budget in sets, extras and real New York locations, but from a fine roster of support players including the ultra-lovely Nancy Guild (pronounced to rhyme with "child"), news editor Gene Lockhart and smooth villain Lowell Gilmore.
Director Arthur Lubin makes good use of his players and his sets, often staging the crowded action with long tracking shots. Definitely the most stylish and best-produced entry in the series.
The script is pretty much the usual thing with the verbose Francis sounding off and the usual double takes ("Who said that?" - "He can talk!"), but Lubin keeps it pacing along, even though the suave Gilmore is not introduced till rather late in the piece. Other technical credits match Lubin's expertise, with attractive photography and props, plus people-crowded sets, and a breezy music score.
The Foxy Duckling (1947)
Director: ARTHUR DAVIS. Color by Technicolor. Animators: Bill Melendez, Don Williams, Manny Gould. Backgrounds: Philip DeGuard. Lay-outs: Thomas McKimson. Music: Carl W. Stalling. Song: "The Old Folks At Home" by Stephen Foster. Producer: Edward Selzer.
Copyright 7 August 1947 by Vitaphone Corp. A Warner Bros. "Merrie Melodies" cartoon. U.S. release: 23 August 1947. 1 reel. 7 minutes.
COMMENT: The Tex Avery influence is still rather strong here in this amusing encounter between a feather-snatching fox and an evasive duckling.
True, the visual gags are mostly somewhat familiar, but they are all handled at a pleasing pace and with plenty of style - in the hilariously exaggerated Tex Avery manner, of course, despite the change of director to Arthur Davis (not a man that I recognize at first glance. I will have to look up his career).
Anyway, whoever the director is or was, I can heartily recommend "The Foxy Duckling".