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The previous entry was a bit bizarre, although I liked it a great deal,
with explanations that did not completely add up and a horror sideplot
to boot. This time the Crime Doctor series goes back to the mental
aspect of crime, the one for which Dr. Robert Ordway (Warner Baxter) is
so well trained.
Two female artists' models are murdered in the bohemian district of the city, and Ordway is brought in on the case by Inspector Dawes (John Litel), because there seems to be no motive. There are a couple of woman haters among the male artists and models, but suspect number one is a young man, Clive Lake, who has lapses of memory, and who came to Ordway as a patient in the first place because he is scared he may be injuring others during this "lost time". Also, the second victim was Clive's fiancée and her body was found stuffed under his couch during one of those times when he was having a memory lapse. The origin of Clive's lapses comes from childhood when his mother locked him in a closet as punishment and then forgot about him for three hours. Did I mention Clive's wealthy mom really hates the idea of him marrying a model, thinking she is just after Clive's money? I'll let you watch and see how this all works out. There is also an odd bit of casting here. John Litel, who is a police inspector here, played a master criminal and enemy of Ordway in the original Crime Doctor film. It's funny when I see things like this in any of the Columbia B crime serials of the 40's, because, at the time, Columbia considered them just filler versus their prestige films. Plus, with WWII on at the time, and Columbia being a poverty row studio, it was hard to find any A-list male stars that were not in the service. Yet these B films from the 40's - Crime Doctor, Boston Blackie, Lone Wolf - are the Columbia films I really enjoy watching from that period.
It's easy to see why 1959 critics called it "muddled". The film, which
is set in South America's jungles, manages to be an ecological
statement (man should take care of his surroundings), a love story, a
tale of redemption (in the film's first ten minutes, Abel (Anthony
Perkins) sees his father killed and vows vengeance on the killers.
Audrey Hepburn as Rima does her utmost in a near impossible part. Lee
J. Cobb overacts as Rima's protector.
MGM spent over one million dollars (a great deal of money in 1959) getting shots of South America to mix in with the main filming done on MGM's back lot. The mixing in of the shots is well done, but it's obvious what was shot at MGM and what were the South American jungle shots. Perkins is the voice of sanity in the film, because whenever the plot threatens to get too wispy, he brings it back down to earth. He has a scene where he serenades Rima with his lovely tenor voice. It was a pity that he was never in a film musical.
If the film has a message it seems to be that true love never dies.
The star of this film is William Boyd, who made a bunch of westerns for
Pathe in his time. As a matter of fact, on the opening credits,Clark
Gable isn't even listed. Later, when they name the entire cast he is
mentioned, but he comes way behind top rated Boyd and even now largely
forgotten Helen Twelvetrees.
Two pioneers, Cash Holbrook and Jeff Cameron, are trekking across the desert when they find a deserted encampment with one survivor, a baby boy. The two fight over where to go next. Jeff Cameron wants to stay at the waterhole because "it is a grub stake" - all people driving cattle through will need this waterhole. Cash Holbrook wants to continue on to grazing land so he can raise cattle. He calls Jeff stubborn, and takes the baby too, daring Jeff to shoot because if he does, the baby will fall from Cash's arms and break his neck.
About twenty years pass and Cash has become a wealthy cattleman. Not being ambitious in the old west has cost Jeff. He married, but his wife died in this harsh environment, and all he has left is his daughter, Mary Ellen (Helen Twelvetrees). In all of this time Cash and Jeff have agitated one another - Jeff is still angry at Cash for stealing the baby boy that is now a man, refusing to let Cash's herd use his watering hold for any price and makes him go 27 miles around. One night it is coming to a showdown. Cash is going to stampede his cattle to Jeff's watering hole and show him who is boss. Jeff and his daughter are prepared to shoot it out to stop him. Along comes a stranger - Gable as Rance Brent, and with him instantly taken with Mary Ellen, Rance decides to back them up in the shootout.
Cash's adopted son comes out and stampedes the cattle away from the watering hole to prevent the deadly shootout. Cash is angry, and throws Bill (Bill Boyd) out. Bill went to mining school, discovers tungsten on Jeff's land, and enters into a mining partnership with his dad's sworn enemy.
Now this is where the movie is weird. Bill is acting Gandhi-like saying that he takes neither side, he just wants Cash and Jeff to be friends again and that neither is bad or wrong. I beg to disagree, because to me Cash IS a bad man up to this point. First he uses Bill the infant as a human shield, and when Bill keeps something from escalating into bloodshed, Cash throws that son out of his life.
In the meantime, Jeff and Bill's mine is yielding lots of ore, and out of nowhere - certainly not out of any dialogue that I could perceive - Bill and Mary Ellen are in love. Meanwhile somebody is sniping at the drivers who are taking the ore into town to the railroad, and then some dynamite disappears and the mine is blown to smithereens. Everybody on Jeff's place blames Cash, and it is up to Bill to stop another potential showdown and shootout. I'll let you watch and find out what happens.
This film has absolutely no background music, which was common in early films, and much of the dialogue is very pedestrian. However, it is a good chance to see Gable in his first sound film, and although he hardly utters a word, you can see the beginning of "that Gable style".
... might be a better title than the vague "Crime Doctor's Courage".
The film starts by showing a young couple on their honeymoon. The new bride insists on going to the edge of a rocky cliff. Her husband (Stephen Crane as Gordon Carson) wants her to move away from the edge because his first wife died in an accident during the first week of their marriage just a year ago. She hit her head while swimming, it was ruled an accident, but the deceased bride's brother still thought it was murder.
The couple argue. During the argument, Gordon's new wife pulls away from him, loses her footing and falls off of the cliff to her death. The sheriff calls it an accident, but the brother of the first wife believes that now Gordon is some kind of maniac that enjoys marrying women and then killing them in ways that look like accidents. His parting words to the sheriff are "Who will it be next year?".
The answer to that question is Hillary Brooke as Kathleen Carson. She interrupts Dr. Robert Ordway (Warner Baxter) the psychiatrist on a vacation to sunny California that he is taking on doctor's orders. Kathleen has only been married one day and believes her husband could be insane. She asks Ordway to dinner to observe her husband. There are quite a few people at the dinner besides Ordway and the Carsons, and one of the servants is actually the first bride's brother who apparently has been popping up all over the place for the last year urging Gordon to either commit himself to an asylum or commit suicide before he kills someone else. Gordon is obviously troubled, retires to his study alone, and a shot rings out. Ordway and crime novelist Jeff Jerome (Jerome Cowan) burst in and find a gun near the body of Gordon, but the gun is cold. Somebody has tried to cover the murder of Gordon Carson with a fake suicide. But who could murder Gordon when he is locked inside his study and there are bars on the only window?
Ordway finds his help unwanted by the local police, but he can't help coming across clue after clue. For one, the newly widowed Kathleen disappears right after the murder, hiding at the castle like home of the mysterious Braggas. A new will leaving everything of Gordon's to Kathleen was made out the day before Gordon's death. As for the mysterious Braggas, nobody has ever seen them out after dark, there is a portrait of them that is apparently 300 years old, they keep coffins in their basement, and they perform a dancing act at a local club in which one family member disappears and then just as mysteriously reappears. Did I mention that Miguel Bragga is in love with Kathleen? Could a vampire that can disappear and reappear at will possibly be the murderer? Watch and find out in this atmospheric entry to the crime doctor series. There are more suspects than I mention here, so it is not so cut and dried as you might think and remember, this is the crime doctor we're talking about, a man of science and reason, not Kolchak the night stalker! Highly recommended.
In this entry of the Crime Doctor series, starring Warner Baxter as
psychiatrist Dr. Robert Ordway, Ordway's neighbor knocks on his door
one night and asks him to attend to a party guest, a diabetic, who has
passed out. He hasn't taken his insulin, which he usually takes before
dinner, but dinner has been delayed. Dr. Ordway asks the diabetic's
sister where he keeps his insulin, she retrieves it, and Ordway gives
him the dose. The man regains consciousness for just a few minutes and
then dies. Ordway has injected him with a mixture of insulin and
poison. As the police say to Ordway the next day "Someone has made a
fine sucker out of you." It turns out that Walter Foster, the victim,
was a man who inherited 250 thousand dollars - a tidy sum in those days
- and in a couple of years had blown through it all. The victim also
had some interesting last words "God has given you one face, and you
make yourselves another", from Hamlet. Me? If I was in such a bind I'm
sure I would just say "Help me I'm dying!!!", rather than quote
Shakespeare, but that's another story.
Angry that he has been made the patsy in this murder, and also having his natural curiosity about crime, Ordway goes about trying to find the murderer. This entry just oozes atmosphere. You have strange goings on at a funeral parlor, a screaming woman trapped in the funeral parlor with a dead body that is to be buried the next morning, and the parlor's hearse driving around menacingly at night, looking more like it is in search of creating corpses rather than just hauling them.
This entry was directed by William Castle and has that macabre feeling for which his films were well known. I'd say the story and direction make this a cut above the other Crime Doctor films, not that any of the others were bad or even mediocre. I'd recommend it.
... if I disliked it so much the first time why did I watch it again? I
had to look up something about the story from which this film was
adapted to get some things straight. Hazel Motes (Brad Dourif) is
returning from the Korean War in the novel. This is never mentioned in
the film. Since this film was made in 1979 and people seemed to be
wearing the fashions of the 70's in the film, I assumed Hazel was
returning from the Vietnam War. Plus when Hazel returns to his family
homestead, finding it abandoned and in ruins, there is a headstone that
says 1924 -...and the date of death is deliberately covered with weeds.
I assumed this was one of Hazel's elders, so it would make sense that
they set the film in the present (the 1970's, not the 1950's). But
there is one other thing that really bothered me. I was a teenager in
the 1970's in the south, and young people did not throw the N-word
around like they did in this film. It was considered very backwards and
rude among young people by then, although the older folks were a
different story. Now back to the movie.
The film keeps Hazel's motivations a complete mystery, although he seems to be on some kind of spiritual journey. Because the clothes he bought when he was picking civilian clothes make everyone assume he is a preacher, everybody asks him where he preaches and what he believes, so he is constantly saying he doesn't believe in anything. But it gets his mind on the subject. He notices that everywhere there are slogans about religion. A big neon sign flashes "Jesus cures". There is also a big rock with a Bible verse on it. So Hazel decides to start preaching about founding a "Church Without Christ", and strangely enough he gathers a crowd and even a competitor. He becomes fascinated with a blind preacher and moves into the same rooming house as him, but unfortunately the preacher's daughter becomes fascinated with Hazel.
The problem is, Hazel never talks about what he really is after, and on top of that he is completely unlikeable. He never shows a shred of kindness or decency to anybody and may have possibly killed somebody, although that isn't clear, in part because Hazel seems to care so little that he MIGHT have killed this person. He drives away from the scene, unafraid that the guy might be dead and that the police might be after him. The one thing Hazel does believe in? This broken down Edsel that he bought for 250 dollars. He has to jump wire it to start it if it starts at all, water is literally pouring from the radiator, and the tires are bald. He answers everybody who calls it a hunk of junk with "This is a good car!". He has no doubts. He seems as silly and staunch in his belief in this car as he seems to feel others are in their belief in religion. Then one day it is proved that the car is indeed a hunk of junk, and then Hazel's life takes an unexplained turn for the much worse.
If you can take a film with absolutely no likable characters, but that takes an unexpected turn at every junction, I'd recommend it. Just be prepared to be very confused and possibly offended.
... and it gets a 9/10 from me just for its novelty. It was one of
Edison's experiments in synchronizing speech in motion pictures, and it
turns out Edison far underestimated the difficulty of the task.
I got interested in this one watching the 13 part "Silent Hollywood" documentary with Edna's sister, Viola Dana, talking about this short, with just a small section of the short being shown. It is available for viewing in its entirety on youtube - at least today it is. Edison's sound system would not amplify the sound to the point it could be heard in a theatre, and projected at the wrong speed female voices come out quite deep.
It really has no narrative. It's just a 6 minute musical with the queen of the fairies calling forth characters from nursery rhymes to sing and dance. Old King Cole is particularly entertaining with his nimble dancing. There are just a couple of questions I have. Who was in charge of the art design? The queen of the fairies apparently lives in a very oddly decorated chimney, and dances in and out of the fireplace to cast her spells. The fireplace is decorated with what appears to be a human skull, and the skeletal remains of two dinosaur heads, one on each side. That's pretty scary stuff for children's' fare. Also, why does the queen of the fairies live in a chimney in the first place?
... but there is just about every precode device under the sun
included. Bill Keller (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) and Toodles Cooper (Frank
McHugh) are Marine pilots in Nicaragua, and when they are finished with
one particular mission get drunk, go AWOL, and soon thereafter their
term of service ends. It's not explained how they managed the assumed
honorable discharges, but then I don't know what the U.S. was doing in
Nicaragua in 1933 either. They then answer an ad for pilots in the
paper, only to find that the company has gone bust. They can't find
jobs of any type anywhere. They do have a roof over their head for now,
but sitting on a park bench they meet Alabama (Bette Davis) a homeless
and hungry out of work stenographer. Bill asks Alabama to share their
quarters with them, strictly on the up and up. She can tidy up the
place in return for a place to stay.
Here is where one of the big myths of this film come in. I've heard and even read people say that Alabama and Bill are sleeping in the same bed, with his feet where her head is and vice versa. Not even in the precode era could they get away with that. It is Toodles and Bill who are sleeping in that position in the same bed. Alabama is on the couch.
In their quest for survival Bill does do one stunt wing-walking parachute jump, lands on the train tracks and almost gets hit by a train. The trio also encounter a gun moll (Claire Dodd) who passes herself off as Park Avenue high society with a taste for good looking chauffeurs (Bill) and in a case of unfortunate timing, the jealous gangster behind the moll. He catches his girl and Bill in an embrace. Instead of killing him, which the gangster intended to do, he winds up hiring Bill as a bodyguard and to do some rum running across the Canadian border.
The film is basically about how the little people survived the Depression with a bunch of gangsters and thrills thrown in for good measure. Don't really look for a big dose of Bette Davis in this one, this is mainly Fairbanks' film.
When first hired by the gangster, Bill is asked if he is afraid of the law. Bill replies "The law we all laugh at?". Bill, like many hungry people laugh at the law that does not protect them from starving in the 30's, and he doesn't mind running liquor or using a gun to protect the gangster, but he differentiates between that and narcotics (he thought it was liquor he was running) and setting up people to be shot down execution style with it being made to look like self defense. In other words, Bill finds that the law is one thing, but his own conscience is quite another.
When the gangster decides to set Bill up to take a fall for his syndicate, will Bill find a way out? If so how? Watch and find out.
Nothing really special happens in this film, it is just more fun unique entertainment Depression era style in a way that only Warner Brothers managed to be able to do it. It also showcased three people whose circumstances Depression audiences could relate to, if not their rather thrilling adventures. The idea is that Alabama, Bill, and Toodles may be down, but they are not out.
...but this was a very fine Western, and I don't even like the Western
genre particularly well.
James Stewart plays Tom Jeffords, an ex-army soldier, scout, and now someone who is panning for gold in Apache country. He comes across a wounded Apache child and heals him, but he doesn't leave Apache country before he comes upon a war party. When they learn he isn't somebody who takes Apache scalps and that he helped one of their own, they let him go but warn him not to return. This teaches him that the Apache can play fair. He decides to learn their ways and language from an Apache in town, and sets out on the dangerous mission to meet Cochise, leader of the Apaches, and to try to slowly build peace between the Apache and the Americans, who are trying to settle Arizona after the Civil War - that is if he survives his first encounter with an Apache scouting party, who just might kill him for the sake of the Apache and Americans being at war.
I don't know how accurate this film is historically, but there is some fine acting, action, suspense, and even a touching Anglo-Apache romance. Although the idea of Jeff Chandler as Cochise, who usually played beefcake roles over at Universal, seemed somewhat laughable to me at first, his performance rings true. So true, in fact, there was a kind of sequel where Chandler again played Cochise and Jay Silverheels again played Geronimo.
Maybe this film had Jeffords as a kind of "loyal American loner" to speak to issues larger than just that of the history of which this film deals. As a loner Jeffords could see the problem more objectively than somebody with a large extended family and network of friends that could influence him against the reasoning of his own mind. With the Cold War in full swing and the civil rights era just beginning in America at the time it was made, maybe this film was trying to speak for the equality of all people and against the mentality of the mob. I think that's why so many Westerns were made in the 50's and 60's. There was the interesting story on the surface, but there was also the dealing with tricky social issues just under that surface that society wasn't quite ready to face in a direct manner yet.
This is technically a precode, although you never see anything happen
that is precode, just some precode ideas.
I loved Charles Bickford and Kay Johnson in Dynamite, and I guess that's because there you had two people from different worlds thrown together while their feelings for one another slowly build. Here Bickford plays Dan Wallace, a chauffeur, who falls in love with the daughter of a wealthy man, Cassy Pringle (Kay Johnson). When the film opens they are already in love, so there goes the chance to see the chemistry build again. When Cassy's father finds out, he orders Dan out of his house, and Cassy goes with him, with them marrying the next day. Dan has no trade, so the entire family lives in a cheap attic apartment while Dan works as a stevedore and in five years only rises to assistant supervisor of the other stevedores. Meanwhile he and Cassy have had two children who have no place to play in their cramped apartment that has been their home for the entirety of their marriage. Then Dan loses his job at the beginning of the Great Depression. Cassy's cousin is Dulce (Kay Francis), who married a much older but wealthy man whom she does not love, played by Lewis Stone. Dan and family move to a farm that Dulce wanted to give to them five years before on their wedding day, but now Dan's pride is all gone and he accepts the gift for the sake of his family. Dan is a man feeling like a disappointment as a provider and needing a boost to his pride, Dulce is a woman who has plenty of money but no passion in her loveless marriage. Complications ensue. I'll let you watch and find out what happens.
Everybody does a splendid job in this film. Kay Francis is great as a spoiled brat who thinks she should get everything she wants without actually coming out and saying that. Charles Bickford effectively portrays a man who is torn and who feels like a disappointment to his family. He often acts because he feels he "owes" people, and in the end his actions just make everybody unhappy. He didn't want material charity, why would he think the women in his life would want emotional charity? Kay Johnson gives a very subtle portrayal as the rich girl just happy to give it all up and stand by the poor man she loves, come what may. Winter Hall plays Cassy's dad, and he doesn't have much time on screen, yet he is a perfect portrait of pre-Depression Calvinism - he believes that rich people are intrinsically better than working people, and looks down upon them. The Great Depression is about to teach them otherwise - for awhile. Zasu Pitts is the comic relief as first Dan and Cassy's landlady and then when they move to the farm, their housekeeper? That is a transition I could never figure out, but she is needed comic relief for what is almost completely a heavy melodrama.
Just some background, Charles Bickford hated this film, calling it "melodramatic claptrap" in his autobiography. He felt he had been somewhat baited and switched by MGM, starting with the interesting "Dynamite" and then being forced to make this film instead of being loaned out to RKO, where he was wanted to play the leading role in "Cimarron". Also, the director of this film, William de Mille, brother of the great Cecil B., did not like directing sound films and only did a couple more after this. Also, Kay Johnson had been and maybe still was infatuated with Kay Francis at the time this film was made. So if things seem a bit awkward between the players, and if the direction seems a bit stilted, there is probably good reason.
Still, it's a pretty good study in human nature, so I'd recommend it.
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