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This is no mystery, for the viewer knows almost from the beginning who
the killer is, but it is a fairly decent made-for-TV suspense thriller.
The story premise is an intriguing one. A divorcée, Lauren Kessler
(Barbara Niven), and her retired prosecutor father, Stran Douglas
(Daniel J. Travanti), have moved into a new home unaware that a murder
was committed in the guest house not long before. When Lauren learns of
the dastardly deed she has her father check out the Pennsylvania law on
disclosure. He learns that the Realtor had done nothing contrary to
state law but becomes involved in reopening the case, since apparently
the local authorities had botched the investigation sending the
victim's wife to prison on circumstantial evidence. The couple's only
child, Genesis, was placed in the custody of the wife's sister, Clair
(Ellen Dubin), who works with Lauren and Stran to clear her sister and
free her from prison. Stran encourages his daughter to date a friendly
neighbor, Brian Ellis (Gary Hudson). Then the fun begins. The key to
the mystery for the amateur sleuths is to uncover the victim's lover.
The beautiful Ottawa scenery (a stand-in for Pennsylvania) adds much to the film. The acting is first rate with a standout performance by Lisa Zane, playing the ghost of Roxanne, Brian's deceased wife. Gary Hudson makes a quirky Brian Ellis reminding the viewer of Eric Roberts, an old pro at playing such roles. The suspense never lets up, even with the commercial breaks.
Somewhat predictable and filled with plot holes, "Murder in My House" is worthwhile for fans of the genre. Not bad for a made-for-TV flick.
This film, coming out at a time when the nation as a whole and
Hollywood in particular tended to be sympathetic toward the South,
presents a one-sided account of the events surrounding the Lincoln
assassination of 1865. This was due to some extend by the visual
impressions created by D. W. Griffith of Kentucky, especially his
seminal "The Birth of a Nation" which made heroes out of the
clandestine hate organization, the KKK. From a political standpoint,
the South had become important as a result of many powerful congressmen
and senators being from that region which by now had become the
stronghold of the Democratic Party, "The Solid South." Pecuniary
matters are usually the deciding factor for Hollywood, and there
existed a large ticket-buying public in that part of our nation. The
Civil War became The War Between the States or the War of Northern
Aggression. The volatile issue of slavery was replaced with the states
rights rationalization, forgetting that South Carolina and the other
ten Confederate slave states withdrew from the Union so their right to
own chattel would not be bothered. The right to own slaves became one
of the main planks in the Confederate Constitution.
"The Prisoner of Shark Island" presents the Southern view of history. It also conveniently omits the incriminating evidence against Dr. Mudd, that he knew Booth well. In fact, he was the one who had introduced Booth to a leading conspirator, John Surratt. After setting Booth's leg, Booth did not leave the Mudd house but stayed the night and was ably assisted by Dr. Mudd. Evidence indicates that Mudd knew much more than he ever admitted about Booth and the assassination conspiracy. The murder of Lincoln occurred in the federal district of Washington, D.C., not in a state, hence the reason for the military tribunal. Needless to say, the conduct of the trial would have been much different had it been a civilian rather than a military one. The fact that the one who pulled the trigger, Booth, was killed before coming to trial also muddied the water.
The part of "The Prisoner of Shark Island" that sticks with history best is Dr. Mudd's heroic efforts to combat disease at the prison. This justifiably led to his pardon by President Andrew Johnson.
The acting, direction, and cinematography are first rate. Written by a Southerner, Nunnally Johnson, the historical facts are a bit skewed but otherwise the script is a good one. If the viewer keeps an open mind, this is a very entertaining picture.
Pete Smith made a specialty out of, what else?, "Pete Smith
Specialties," nearly copping the coveted Academy Award for one of his
one-reel (about ten minutes) shorts, "Movie Pests," nominated in 1944.
He delighted audiences for over twenty years with these short gems
dealing chiefly with everyday problems and pet peeves of all kinds. In
the post-World War II period, Pete found an everyman-type soul to star
in many of these one-reelers, former B cowboy Dave O'Brien. O'Brien
also directed the latter day "Pete Smith Specialties" including this
one, "Ain't It Aggravatin'," which he helped write.
One reason for Pete Smith's popularity was his mesmerizing manner of narration. His voice wasn't much, very nasal, but his style and method of phrasing were unique and much copied by others, including the Disney studios who used a similar method for a series of cartoons featuring Goofy.
"Ain't It Aggravatin'" begins with aggravations involving parking a car. The first scene shows a method later used in the popular TV sitcom "Seinfeld" by Kramer when he parked, bumping the cars in front and back. Other aggravations are emphasized, ending with a long comedy routine involving brother Dave attempting to lay cement in back of his garage. Slapstick was the main comedic mode in the "Pete Smith Specialties" and "Ain't It Aggravatin'" is no exception. Dave could take a pratfall with the best of them. He had begun his Hollywood career as a stuntman; so he was no novice at the art.
Not as timeless as the humor of the Laurel and Hardy shorts or even that of The Three Stooges, the Pete Smith one-reelers were fun most of the time. "Ain't It Aggravatin'" is a good place to start, illustrating well the last years of the movie shorts as TV sitcoms began to take their place. It also shows the viewer Dave O'Brien at his best. If this one pleases you, take a look at some of the others, including the first "Pete Smith Specialties" from the early 30's.
A not bad little programmer directed with flair by Lew Landers about a
night waitress, Helen Roberts (Margot Grahame), on probation who is
trying to get her life together working in a waterfront dive run by
none other than Billy Gilbert, who is virtually wasted in a routine bit
part. Seems Helen's new boyfriend, Martin Rhodes (Gordon Jones of "The
Green Hornet" fame), is somehow mixed up with gangsters who are after a
hidden cargo he has. The result is murder and hot pursuit by both
mobsters and police of Helen and Martin. The approximately hour-long
second feature moves at a fast pace, filled with excitement and
Keep your eyes open for Anthony Quinn as one of the hoods, Don "Red" Barry as a victim, and Frank Faylen as a policeman, each just beginning his screen career. Gifted comic Willie Best is also seen briefly as a passerby with only one line. The cinematography by Russell Metty captures all the griminess, desolation, and seediness of the San Francisco waterfront. It's fun to hear the seamen sing "The Monkeys Have No Tails in Zamboanga," later popularized by US soldiers in the Pacific in World War II. Many John Wayne fans will recall it being sung by Lee Marvin in John Ford's "Donovan's Reef."
This programmer is action packed with a story filled with intrigue and
suspense. It was released during the transitional year 1946 when
Hollywood was switching from the Nazi/Japanese menace to the Communist
Cold War threat. Apparently, this entertaining little item was a hold
over from the year before.
"Step by Step" deals with a Nazi spy ring in American attempting to stop vital intelligence information from reaching a US senator, involving murder and impersonation. Two innocents, Evelyn Smith (Anne Jeffreys) and Johnny Christopher (Lawrence Tierney)--if you can believe Tierney as an innocent--stumble into the espionage web as a result of a chance confrontation on the beach where Christopher is walking his dog, Bazooka, a friendly little mutt who's not bad as a Nazi hunter. Christopher becomes suspicious when the Nazi agents try to pass one of their own, Gretchen (Myrna Dell), off as Evelyn. Christopher comments to the effect that Gretchen has the body but not the face. "She looks like she just bit into a green persimmon," is one comment used in the film to describe Gretchen's puss. Christopher and Smith find an ally in motel keeper, Caleb Simpson (George Cleveland), a jolly old chap who provides a lot of fun in this otherwise rather dour tale of mistaken identity.
One of the best program thrillers to come out of Hollywood at the time, the acting is first rate with Lawrence Tierney playing against type. He was the definitive big screen "Dillinger," released the year before, until Warren Oates came along nearly thirty years later to equal his performance.
A programmer was approximately an hour-long B (budget) film released to play as a second feature to a major Hollywood release or as a double feature with another B movie. This is the way it worked in my home town: The major release would play as an "owl show," beginning at midnight on Saturday. It provided a good excuse for a teenager, called youngster back then, to keep his date out late without upsetting her parents too much. The major flick would continue to play on Sunday through Tuesday. Then for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and the early evening show on Saturday, a double feature, sometimes a triple feature, would be shown which presented the programmers such as "Step by Step." Included in all this would be cartoons, selected short subjects, advertisements, previews (coming attractions), and newsreels. Saturday afternoons were set aside for the kids. Usually, B westerns, two or three, would be shown along with cartoons, shorts, advertising, previews, newsreels, plus the added attraction of a serial. This was a treat for the children. For only a nickle or later a dime, kids would be entertained all afternoon while their parents shopped or took care of other business. They might all stay around for the early evening shows. Only the teens and adults usually stayed for the owl show.
It takes a while for "The White Tower" to take off. After the long,
slow start, this film keeps picking up speed until the surprise ending
(or near the end), which takes on new meaning today as a result of the
recent controversy concerning Mt. Everest and comments by Sir Edmund
Hillary. I don't want to give away the ending of the film, but be sure
and read what Sir Edmund Hillary had to say a few days ago about the
peak he conquered in 1953, three years after "The White Tower" was
released and relate his words to what happens in the picture.
In beautiful Technicolor but before Cinemascope, it is easy to spot the interior sets, yet the exterior ones are breathtaking, even on a small screen. The cinematography is first rate. Too bad the script and direction weren't as effective. The script attempts to work a soap opera romance into the proceedings which becomes so melodramatic and naive that the viewer is asked to believe that attractive and likable Glenn Ford as Martin Ordway would risk his life and limb for the loves of a woman, even the vivacious Alida Valli as Carla Alton.
The performers do the best they can with what they're given. Lloyd Bridges as Hein, the never-say-die Nazi, makes a hearty effort to bring his despicable character to life as does Claude Rains in the somewhat nondescript role of Paul DeLambre.
Enjoy the scenery, the fine cast, and the excitement of the last fifteen minutes or so of the show and maybe you'll forget about the tired, hackneyed beginning and middle.
This is perhaps the greatest of the noir westerns. Director Robert Wise
had been in charge of the mythical "The Curse of the Cat People," not a
sequel to the horror classic, "Cat People," as the studio expected,
rather a fantasy film highlighting the imagination of a little girl.
Working with darkness and shadows emphasizing the mood of the picture makes "Blood on the Moon" seem gloomy and pessimistic, but actually the film is more about the redemption of a hopelessly lost cowboy, Jim Garry (Robert Mitchum), who finds meaning in life through the love of a woman, also named Amy (Barbara Bel Geddes) as was the little girl in "The Curse of the Cat People." The opposite of Jim Garry is his so-called pal, Tate Riling (Robert Preston). Rather than redemption, Riling falls deeper and deeper into the maelstrom of depravity, murder, and deception. Even his romance with Amy's sister, Carol Lufton (Phyllis Thaxter), is a treacherous, deceitful one. Riling uses Carol for his advantage, at times against her own family, while she is truly in love with him. Riling has few redeeming qualities and is bad through and through. The relationship between the two, Riling had actually invited Garry to join him, knowing what an expert he was with a gun, is the crux of the film. The story about the feud between the homesteaders, pawns for Riling, and the ranchers is a superficial one. Character studies make the movie worthwhile.
Walter Brennan as Kris Barden, a homesteader fooled by Riling for awhile, has a pivotal role showing how Riling's double dealings and egomania eventually catch up with him and destroy him. "One may smile, and smile, and be a villain" only so long. Barden is a counterpart to Garry's character. Frank Faylen, as Indian agent Jake Pindalest, in collusion with Riling's schemes for self-aggrandizement, on the other hand represents a counterpart to Riling's character.
The title is one of the best ever for a western. Supersitition has it that when there is blood on the moon (a particular atmospheric appearance of the moon), it's a sign that someone is going to be killed. When I was a boy one of my friend's dads operated a movie theater. He had accumulated a closet full of movie posters over the years. One day he was cleaning out his closets and asked me if I wanted the old posters. I eagerly latched on to them. Two posters impressed me above all the others. One was " The Grapes of Wrath" poster; the other was the "Blood on the Moon" one. Something about those titles and the art work on the posters grabbed my mind and my imagination. I didn't get to see either film for many years, eventually seeing them on TV. To me the magic of the posters matched the magic of the movies.
This is one of Hal Roach's delightful comedy shorts from the early days
of the Great Depression. Hal Roach had achieved success with the "Our
Gang" (The Little Rascals) and the Laurel and Hardy shorts. From an
artistic standpoint, the Laurel and Hardy series, including several
feature films, are among the best ever made by Hollywood or anyone
else. Still, the other shorts made my Roach also deliver the belly
In the Boy Friends series, Roach basically recycled his "Our Gang" kids after they had grown up and were no longer the cute little tykes the audiences loved. Mickey Daniels and Mary Kornman were members of the original "Our Gang" cast. They cut their teeth on Hal Roach's brand of slapstick and were still able to deliver the goods. Mickey could take a pratfall with the best of them. He had a goofy laugh that has to be heard to be appreciated, similar to the neighing of a horse blended with the hew-haw of a jackass. Mary Kornman describes him best when she tells her girlfriend, "Whoever rocked Mickey's cradle certainly overdid it." Adding to the fun are the antics of the other two boyfriends, Grady Sutton with his corn pone accent and David Sharpe, who went on to a career in B pictures as both actor and stunt double.
Though the Boy Friends series has been overshadowed by the "Our Gang" shorts and today largely forgotten, they are still entertaining and at times hilarious. "Call a Cop!" is one of the best in the series, filled with marvelous sight gags, including a variation of the Keystone Cops.
Following a slam-bang opening involving a wild car ride to the police station, "Call a Cop!" centers on a supposed burglar in the two girlfriends' house when a cat knocks some plates off the mantel. The three boyfriends are called on separately by the young ladies for help. This leads to all types of shenanigans involving mistaken identities and uproarious slapstick directed with his usual finesse by one of the Hollywood greats, George Stevens. It is non-stop laughter all the way with a Marx Brothers surrealistic-style ending not to be missed.
"Call a Cop!" is family entertainment at its best. The kids should enjoy it as much as the adults.
The great Jimmy Durante used to have a catch phrase, "Everybody wants
to get into the act." To some extent that was true of Bozo the Clown.
He had so many incarnations that it is difficult to comment on just
one. Undoubtedly, the most famous person to ever be Bozo was Willard
Scott, popular member of the "Today" show for years. He was also the
very first Ronald McDonald. The one I watched with my wife and two kids
in Jonesboro, Arkansas, in the 1970's was the Bozo on the super station
WGN-TV in Chicago, made available to us via cable TV. So the fabulous
Bob Bell will always be THE Bozo for us.
At one time there were actually two Bozo's on the show, the friendly, outgoing Bob Bell Bozo and then a mean, ugly Bozo, always causing trouble. Since the program was aimed at children, the good Bozo always came out the winner. My children loved the antics of the two Bozo's. They worked Bozo in between "Sesame Street" and cartoons. There was an early morning Bozo and an after school Bozo as I remember.
Another Bozo show watched from time to time by my kids was beamed out of KARK-TV in Little Rock, Arkansas. Gary Weir played the red-haired, white-faced Bozo for our state. I was able to book my children on the show. Unfortunately, the day they were supposed to appear was a snowy, blizzard-like day where we lived in eastern Arkansas. Even the main roads were closed. I was unable to call to cancel the appearance, the phones being out of order because of the inclement weather. This was not the case in Little Rock, in central Arkansas, where the weather was cold but no snow. About a week later, I received a personal letter of an irate nature from Bozo stating that because my kids didn't show up when scheduled they would be blacklisted and would never be able to be on the Bozo show. I may be the only person who ever received a threatening letter from Bozo the Clown.
Postscript: My daughter did meet Bozo later on a school trip. We still have a large autographed picture of Bozo with his arms draped around her. She kept quiet about the letter.
Not since early TV with "Your Show of Shows" have four master comics
interfaced so well. Jerry Seinfeld, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael
Richards, and Jason Alexander are masters of their art just as Sid
Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris were of theirs.
The shows are very different from each other, although "Your Show of
Shows" did have a bit of situation comedy with the hilarious "The
Hickenloopers." Too bad there aren't more shows with such inspired
writers and performers. Jerry Seinfeld helped create and promote his
show; such gifted comedy creators as Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, and Neil
Simon helped make "Your Show of Shows" a success.
"Seinfeld," in most episodes, consists of four stories that are interrelated. The four cast members live their own lives and get themselves in all kinds of messes just like real people. They are so close as friends that they have each other to fall back own when the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune get the best of them. It is quite understandable why none of the four has ever married. Even though in their 30's, Seinfeld and George are still tied to their parents. Both are also bundles of neuroses, particularly George. At least Seinfeld has his looks and job as a stand up comic to keep his ego fed. George is fat, bald, basically a loser, going from job to job, living with his parents much of the time. Elaine is attractive, has a decent job, yet is somewhat of a floozy, although she won't admit it to herself. She is also so self-centered that she is unable to give much in a relationship. Kramer, well, who could live with him? The only friend who can tolerate him for long is Newman, that nobody likes besides Kramer.
Most episodes of this popular long-running series are gems, with only a few clinkers from time to time. On rare occasions, the situations are so far-fetched that even the humor can't carry the show, for example, when Kramer adopts part of a highway and then proceeds to reconstruct it leading to disaster. Most of the shows are the funniest on TV during the decade of the 90's. Some are priceless classics.
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