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The Purple Heart (1944)
First, let me start by saying that I was ten years old when this film was made. I knew nothing of the war. In retrospect, I have some confusion and a touch of anger when reading some of todays reviews. Most war films offer a message to make their point. Films such as Platoon,numerous Vietnam epics, Korean War films such as Pork Chop Hill.and The Steel Helmet all deliver messages in fine fashion.As a lad of eighteen, I was influenced by Sands of Iwo Jima to join the Marine Corps.Im sure it had the same effect on a lot of other teen agers. Now to The Purple Heart. Made during the war years. it tells of a bomber crew downed in China after a raid on Tokyo. Dana Andrews is the stalwart Captain who delivers the Message at the trials conclusion. As they march out to their doom, strains of Wild Blue Yonder swell in the background. Sure its propaganda, but things like that were needed during the war years. The cast, including Richard Loo as a Japanese General are uniformaly excellent.Under Lewis Milestones direction, this movie becomes a minor classic. To those who nit pick about the errors in these films, take a break! Enjoy them as a vital part of history. Many of them served a purpose and served them well.
Dr. Renault's Secret (1942)
While reading a review of another movie this film was mentioned. Deciding to check it out, I found it on line. Unlike some reviews I've read, I found it interesting. The short running time of fifty eight minutes was probably a good decision by the film makers considering the screen play offers few surprises. An American doctor travels to Europe to visit a doctor friend George Zucco and uncle of his intended bride.Forced to stay overnight at an inn because of a storm, the doctor is met by a driver Noel, played by J. Carrol Nash.. A murder occurs, with Noel being a suspect. Arriving at their destination, the investigation continues with other murders occurring. Confusing at times the film comes to a satisfying conclusion. A familiar cast with Lynne Roberts and Arthur Shields as a police inspector make good use of a screen play that drags in spots. Ray Corrigan doubles Nash in the stunt department. Nothing exceptional but a good way to pass an hour.
The Mysterious Doctor (1943)
Having seen this film at the tender age of nine, the images of a "headless ghost" walking around, conjured up nightmares for many nights to come. For a "b" film running a bit under one hour, The Mysterious Doctor manages to convey the proper amount of chills. While not in the Val Lewton class, the cast of Lester Matthews John Loder, Elenor Powell and a standout performance by Matt Willis,atmospheric photography of fog shrouded moors and an eerie score all combine to perhaps take the film up a bit from an average " b" thriller. The ending might seem sugary to todays viewers, but one must take into account that these were the war years.Having just recently seen it again on line, I still enjoyed the movie after all these years!
The Vanishing Legion (1931)
Produced by Nat Levine, this twelve chapter serial shows all the tricks that made Mascot Pictures so popular. No frills,thread bare sets,sparse dialog but lots of breath taking action.Harry Carey plays Happy Carridan,oil driller whose sabotaged at every turn by a gang called The Vanishing Legion,to keep him from drilling in an oil field. The Legion is led by a mysterious character called "The Voice".He directs the gang and gives orders over a short wave radio.Much of the serial is given to a young Frankie Darro who's Father is unjustly accused of murder.Vanishing Legion, like so many other Mascots has a ragged look,dated even for 1931. Harry Carey portrays Carridan in a happy go lucky fashion well suited for this type of character.Popular star Edwina Booth often goes over the top in her role as the female lead.Bob Kortman snarls his way through his role as the Voice's head henchman..Darro is charming and athletic in a juvenile role. Of course no Mascot would be complete without Rex,the Wonder Horse.The identity of The Voice will surprise many viewers.Carey's future wife Olivia appears in a minor role as a nurse. Except for the opening titles there is no music,the opening theme by Lee Zahler. Typical Mascot serial,aided greatly by the casting of Harry Carey and Frankie Darro.
The Red Rider (1934)
One of the better Universal western serials with a strong cast. Jones plays a sheriff whose friend played by Grant Withers,is wrongfully framed for murder. Jones lets Withers escape,resigns from his job and goes to assist in finding the real killer .Lots of fast action and plausible cliff hangers. Edmund Cobb is very good as Jones pal. Walter Miller is outstanding as the head heavy. Lew Landers directs.Red Rider is unusual in that it spends much of its time developing the characters. Jones is perfect as the easy going hero.Fifteen chapters of exciting western action.Jones was a well known western star and the Universals showcased his talent.There's a bit of everything here that a serial lover would want.Comedy, drama and most of all,hard riding action is combined to make The Red Rider a most enjoyable chapterplay. Eight stars out of ten.
The Mad Ghoul (1943)
Review...The Mad Ghoul
This is another Universal quickie that is often shrugged off as just another potboiler.Actually there's much more than meets the eye.There's a tight screen play,moody photography and excellent make up as David Bruce changes into the ghoul.Eveyln Ankers exhibits the proper histronics, Turhan Bey,is OK as her partner and Milburn Stone is also along as a cop.David Bruce elicits sympathy as Ankers would be boy friend, who unwittingly becomes George Zuccos agent to carry out the murders.Kudos go to Zucco ,who gives a great performance as the professor,whos desire for Ankers ,leads him to destruction.Robert Armstrong gives a strong performance as a pushy reporter. A short running time of 62 minutes keeps the movie going at a fast pace.Much better film than the title suggests. 6 out of 10 stars.
Dracula[ 1931] was filmed in two versions,English and Spanish,using the same sets.The Lugosi English version filmed during the day, the other at night. A majority of viewers seem to make Lugosi the definitive Dracula.I feel the camera work is much more fluid in the Spanish version.The Spanish cast is equally efficient,with Lupita Tovar a very sexy heroine. Carlos Villarias makes a suitable Count,who ,in my opinion is quite capable,tho probably not Lugosis equal.There is a faint eroticism thats just hinted at in the American version.Villarias may be criticized for his somewhat cartoonish definition of Dracula, but that alone is no reason not to enjoy the film.Hes different, but still good in the role. This version is slightly longer adding to the enjoyment. I give this version 8 out 10 stars.
Black Aces (1937)
Another rip roaring western from Buck Jones. Jones co-directed,produced and starred in this formula "b" western.Jones play's a devil may care rancher who takes life's worries a day at a time. When his intended engagement with childhood sweetheart Sandy McKenzie falls apart,Jones heads to town,and loses his ranch in a poker game.The shady card dealer Len Stoddard sends his brother Jake to ride with Jones to remove his property. While there ,Jake is killed. Jones is accused and has to flee the law.A gang called the Black Aces is extorting money from the citizens of Sweetwater ,sending black ace calling cards to their intended victims.Jones sets out to clear his name.In a scant 59 minutes, Jones gets the bad guys and renews his romance with Sandy.As in most of his films,Jones's easy going style and sense of humor makes for an enjoyable hour. Jones horse Silver gets to show off also. Veteran baddie Bob Kortman is along with Robert Frazier.Kay Linaker makes a strong leading lady. Viewers of the much later Dragnet series will recognize Barney Phillips as Jake.William Sickner lensed the film,with Cliff Lyons stunting for Jones .Print is so so. 59 minutes.Released by Universal. 6 stars.
Cheyenne Roundup (1943)
This western has it all .Top stars,production values,and plot.Johnny Mack Brown plays a dual role of twin brothers,one good and one bad, Gils and Buck Brandon.The plot opens with Gils being run out of town by Marshall Tex Ritter Gils vows that someday he will return to take care of Ritter. Later Gils and his gang,Roy Barcroft,Robert Barron and Harry Woods come across a ghost town,gold is discovered, and the three become rich. Gils sends for his girlfriend Jennifer Holt.Before they can marry,Gils sets out to fulfill his promise to kill Ritter.To reveal more of the plot would take away the suspense of watching this very good B western.Brown and Ritter handle the fights,riding and gun play in fine fashion,William Sickner lenses with a sharp eye for detail and Hans Salter provides a score that perfectly compliments the on screen action.Elmer Clifton directs the cast with a sure hand. Three big stars.
Road to Perdition (2002)
After viewing this movie in Blu -ray,words fail to express the beauty of this very violent film.Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as a world weary hit man on the run with his son after his remaining family is murdered. The film opens with a funeral of one of crime tzars Paul Newman 's victims. Visions of a Godfather era spring to mind as we view Newman as both a fatherly figure and coldblooded killer. Hanks playing Michael Sullivan, respects Newman because of favors received and an oath of loyality is forged between the two men. Daniel Craig plays Conner Rooney,Newmans hot headed son. Sullivan and Conner Rooney are sent on a mission in which the brother of the victim shown earlier is murdered by Conner.Michael Jr. ,brillantly played by Tyler Hoechlin,has stowed away in his fathers car and witnesses the brutal crime.The story escalates with tragic results.Strangely, the violence never seems excessive,but rather commonplace.A strong supporting cast headed by Jude Law makes this film engrossing from start to finish. Beautifully lensed by Academy Award winner Conrad Hall, and a lush score by Thomas Newman. Paul Newman and Tom Hanks are letter perfect in bringing their characters to life.A must see movie !