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Eddie Murphy's best comedy work was on Saturday Night Live with such
classic sketches as "Mr. Robinson's Hood." On the big screen, much of
Eddie Murphy's work is stretched to the breaking point, with funny bits
here and there. Not so for "Beverly Hills Cop." Murphy is able to
sustain his gift for levity from beginning to end. This is a must-see
for his many fans, if there are any of the younger generation that have
not already seen it. But it is also for any lover of exceptional action
flicks with humorous dialog and situations. The writers pass the fun
around. Fact is Murphy doesn't have the funniest line in the show. That
honor goes to John Ashton as Det. Sgt. John Taggart. Detective Rosewood
(Judge Reinhold) stands up like a wooden Indian and yells at the thugs
shooting at him, "Police! You're all under arrest!" The thugs answer
with a volley of machine gun fire. Taggart looks at Rosewood and tells
him deadpan, "You do that again, I'll shoot you myself!" Also nearly
upstaging the brilliant Murphy is Bronson Pinchot as Serge who has to
be heard to be believed. His verbal exchange with Murphy at the art
gallery is one of the high points of the movie.
The writers and director deliver the goods for the multi-talented Murphy by giving him a good story filled with wit and daring and making the film action-packed with nary a dull minute. Det. Axel Foley (Murphy) is one of Detroit's finest but he is at times a loose cannon. He attempts to make an unauthorized drug bust only to haggle with the dealers over money. Not realizing Foley is undercover, uniformed police check out the situation leading to one of the most destructive chases on celluloid. After being chewed out by Insp. Douglas Todd (Gilbert R. Hill), Foley meets up with an old buddy, Mikey Tandino (James Russo), from California. Tandino turns out to be a target for the drug kingpin, Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). Following Tandino's murder, Foley leaves for L.A. on vacation to find his pal's killer. The Beverly Hills Police Department unwittingly become involved to assist Foley in his quest. The laughs come fast and furious with most of the lines ad-libbed.
All aspects of "Beverly Hills Cops" work including the soundtrack. My son was a teen learning the keyboard when this film was first released. The first song he learned to play was Harold Faltermeyer's Beverly Hills Cop theme.
It is difficult to understand why "Beverly Hills Cop" was panned by many critics when first shown in 1984. I was hesitant to see it as a result of reading so many negative reviews. I learned quickly that film goers should judge for themselves.
Michael Crichton's admirable precursor to his masterpiece "Jurassic
Park" is almost as fresh and original today as when first released over
thirty years ago. The standout performance is by Yul Brynner who
somewhat parodies his role in the western classic "The Magnificent
Seven." Brynner was such an accomplished actor that he is able to put
just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek in his gunfighter character to
make it all work. The viewer is able to accept Brynner as a robot
without having to use much imagination. Even James Brolin is not as
wooden as usual. Richard Benjamin, the poor man's Dustin Hoffman of the
70's, is cast by Crichton to match his bland personality with the
rather bland lawyer figure he plays in the film. Crichton turns out to
be almost as good a director as he is a sci-fi writer.
Crichton's story gives a new twist to a plot that was beginning to become trite by 1973, robots getting out of control to take control. I recall a comic book story I read as a child in the 1950's about robots taking over the world and making slaves out of humans. By utilizing a futuristic amusement park via Disney as the setting, Crichton gives the old robot saga a whole new perspective.
If you enjoy "Westworld," and most sci-fi fans will, be sure and see its sequel, "Futureworld." Futureworld continues Crichton's story, without Crichton, adding more mystery and suspense to it. Though slower moving than "Westworld," and with the likes of Peter Fonda and Blythe Danner in the lead roles, it still packs a wallop; plus there's some damned good acting by Stuart Margolin as handyman Harry.
"When a Stranger Calls Back" is really a sequel to "When a Stranger
Calls" and not just a remix. The 2006 "When a Stranger Calls" is
actually a remake of the first twenty or so minutes of the original
1979 version which was the superior part of the film. The 1979 original
drifted aimlessly for the middle third of the movie before regaining
much of its momentum for the final third.
The made-for-cable "When a Stranger Calls Back" has some excellent scenes that do actually scare the heebie-jeebies out of the viewer. The use of the door rather than the telephone during the first part introduced a new aspect of the crazed psycho, that he could throw his voice. For this viewer the creepiest part occurred with Charles Durning encountering the monster in the alleyway. The cinematography with the camera zooming in on the creature all in black lurking in the darkness showing his blazon eyes before closing them for a full blackout is truly amazing. The angle of the shot showing Durning attempting to discover the hidden evil with the noir-like rain silhouetting his features is a stroke of cinema genius.
That the producers were able to reunite two of the key figures in the original after fourteen years makes "When a Stranger Calls Back" even more relevant as a sequel. Carol Kane and Charles Durning reprise their roles as babysitter Jill Johnson (Jill as in kill) and John Clifford respectively to great effect. The chemistry between the two is still present.
"When a Stranger Calls Back" is also more believable than the other two Stranger films. For instance, the babysitter does check the children first thing the way a real babysitter would do. "When a Stranger Calls Back" is not as brutal as the other two. In the made-for-cable sequel the children simply disappear. In the other two, there is no weapon found, meaning the the killer ripped the bodies to shreds using his bare hands.
If you enjoyed the 1979 flick, you should enjoy this one and the 2006 remake. All three are above average for mad slasher type suspense films.
The ironic title "The Perfect Marriage" gets the viewer in the right
mood to expect the worst. It seems that successful and rich
entrepreneur, Richard Danforth (William Moses), has the perfect wife in
Marrianne, aka Annie (Jamie Luner), who is adept at party mixing. She
appears to be the ideal spouse for her clean-cut aspiring husband.
Adding to Marrianne's blissful state is the fact that her father-in-law
is president of the company where Richard works. All is going well for
the happy couple when suddenly Marrianne's deadly past catches up with
her in the form of a slimy leach called Brent Richter (James Wilder).
Some time ago in another state, Brent and Marrianne had engineered the
death of her aged husband. The good wife, Marrianne,had jabbed her old
man in the neck with a fatal dose of potassium chloride. But poor
Marriane finds her partner in crime with another woman. Even worse, she
learns that Brent has squandered the old fellow's money on wine, women,
and bad debts.
Marrianne attempts to buy Brent off. When he refuses, she decides that she loves him once more. Together they concoct a scheme to get her father-in-law's fortune. This time around, however, Richard's secretaries become suspicious, leading to complications involving murder and mayhem. Most of this is routine at best, but there are a few novel twists and turns thrown in from time to time, especially in the way the writers deal with Marrianne at the end of the film.
The acting is not bad for a made-for-TV flick. The direction is adequate, though at times the film is a bit talky. So though the viewer has seen most of it before in a different guise, there is enough excitement to please fans of the genre.
Considering this made-for-TV flick was first televised in 1974, it
holds up very well and for the most part delivers the goods, filled
with suspense and thrills aplenty. What a great cast! John Forsythe,
heretofore known mainly for his rather bland role as "Bachelor Father"
and later of "Charlie's Angels" fame, surprises the viewer with one of
the best performances ever in a TV film. His David Ryder portrayal
should have given him an Emmy, but I'm sure it went unnoticed at the
time. Supporting Forsythe are such reliable actors as Earl Holliman,
Ralph Meeker, and Anne Francis.
The DVD transfer that I watched contained bleached-out color. This was distracting because the cinematography seemed otherwise excellent. Hopefully, a better transfer will be available. There are several above-average made-for-TV movies from the 1970's that are still unavailable on DVD. What a shame!
The talented writer Jack B. Sowards, who helped write the screenplay for the best of the Star Trek movies, "The Wrath of Khan," comes up with a doozy of a story for "Cry Panic." David Ryder accidentally hits a pedestrian while on a business trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. He examines the body to find the man dead. He then walks to the nearest house to call the police. He confronts a nervous woman who permits him to use her phone. Once the cops arrive, no body is found. As the mystery deepens, Ryder learns that the town is attempting to cover up a conspiracy of some kind. Ryder becomes the target of those who see him as a danger to their covert scheme.
In some aspects the plot is a reworking of "Bad Day At Black Rock," minus the political overtones of the McCarthy Era, yet original enough to warrant it being judged on its own merits. The resolution is rather abrupt, leaving much to the viewer's imagination; otherwise, a worthwhile and entertaining picture.
In good historical fiction as in good sci-fi what is revealed must be
possible, even if not likely. Though a superior B shoot-'em-up, "Return
of the Badmen" plays havoc with the history of the Old West, not only
in location but also in time period. Billy the Kid was never in Indian
Territory (Oklahoma). It is highly unlikely that the Sundance Kid was
ever in Indian Territory. The Bill Doolin Gang with the Arkansas Kid
are depicted fairly accurately as far as place is concerned. Doolin
called his band of cutthroats "The Wild Bunch" so maybe the writers
confused Doolin's gang with Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch. It is also true
that the Dalton Gang rode with the Doolin Gang in Indian Territory
(Bill Doolin began his outlaw career with the Dalton Gang). The Younger
Brothers with Frank and Jesse James hid out in Indian Territory but did
not venture as far west as Guthrie. Cole Younger allegedly had a child
(Pearl Starr) with Belle Starr in the area of today's eastern Oklahoma
The time line is also out of sync. Billy the Kid was killed in 1881, Jesse in 1882. When Frank turned state's evidence, the Youngers left alive went to prison. The Coffeyville, Kansas, blunder was in 1892. The 1890's was the time of the Doolin Gang's peak activity, joined by remnants of the Dalton Gang. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were active at the turn of the century. As the later classic western, "Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid" shows, Cassidy's version of the Wild Bunch was the last notorious outlaw band of the Old West.
The Oklahoma Land Rush that led to the founding of Guthrie, Oklahoma, took place in 1889, several years after Billy the Kid's death. The part of the film showing Guthrie growing overnight to 10,000 inhabitants is historically accurate. The lawman who takes Cheyenne (Anne Jeffreys) into custody to deliver her to the federal court in Fort Smith, Arkansas, had a long journey before him. It is today an almost three-hour drive by car from Guthrie, Oklahoma, to Fort Smith, Arkansas.
I have read that because horror film producers were successfully grouping monsters together in one film, producers of westerns thought audiences would turn out to see oaters that grouped badmen together in one flick. If "Return of the Badmen" overdid it a bit, the concoction does make for an entertaining picture. At the crux of the story is the conflict between Marshal Vance Cordell (Randolph Scott) and the Sundance Kid (Robert Ryan). These two skilled actors make the whole hodgepodge work. The Sundance Kid is portrayed as a hothead who is more interested in killing the Marshal than in robbing banks. Ryan's concept of the Sundance Kid is quite different from Robert Redford's later incarnation of the badman. Redford's Kid is jovial, fun-loving, yet deadly when provoked. Ryan's Kid is dead serious, at heart a cold-blooded killer. As to be expected at the center of the rivalry is a woman, Cheyenne, a reformed outlaw, niece to Bill Doolin. To complicate the situation, the Marshal is already betrothed to the banker's daughter, Madge Allen (Jacqueline White), not the sweet, innocent young thing one might expect, but certainly with higher morals than the resourceful Cheyenne.
George "Gabby" Hayes, still a bewhiskered windbag, expands his sidekick characterization to include being a respected banker. This time around, rather than being the brunt of many a joke, Gabby is a good-hearted leading citizen standing up for law and order. He becomes a help to the Marshal, not a hindrance.
Director Ray Enright keeps the film moving with plenty of action, including a final shootout involving a burning cart of hay. "Return of the Badmen" is exciting and should please fans of B westerns of the 1940's.
Republic's popular The Three Mesquiteers had several movie
incarnations, the most famous being Bob Livingston (as Stony Brooke),
Ray Corrigan (as Tucson Smith), and Max Terhune (as Lullaby Joslin).
Perhaps the best remembered because of movie icon John Wayne's role
consisted of Wayne (as Stony Brooke), Corrigan (as Tucson Smith), and
Terhune (as Lullaby Joslin) with Raymond Hatton (as Rusty Joslin) later
replacing Terhune. "The Kansas Terrors" consists of a sixth trio that
included Robert Livingston (as Stony Brooke), Duncan Renaldo (as Rico,
Rico Rinaldo, Renaldo), and Raymond Hatton (as Rusty Joslin).
Livingston had been so successful portraying the masked man in the
second Lone Ranger serial, "The Lone Ranger Rides Again," that he
reprises the performance in "The Kansas Terrors" as the Masked Rider,
even riding a white horse that looked a whole lot like Silver. Why
waste a good gimmick if it works?
The action in this film is supposed to take place on a Caribbean island, never named, yet the scenery looks much like Southern California with a few palm plants strategically placed here and there. The music in the movie is Mexican (Hollywood style), not Caribbean. The two Kansas Terrors are tough hombres, but I'm not sure that the word "terrors" applies to them. Even the third Mesquiteer (later movie & TV's Cisco Kid) is Spanish-American (from Spain, not the Caribbean). Why quibble when there's so much action to watch?
The plot is a simple one. Two gringos from Kansas deliver horses to the Commandante of a small Caribbean island who turns out to be a dishonest killer. A local rebel, Renaldo, is determined to free the island paradise from this tyrant. In the process he is labeled a bandit. The two Kansas terrors befriend the alleged outlaw and help him put his house in order.
In most B westerns the comical sidekick is not much of a fighter. In fact, many times he is more in the way of a good fight and often gets the hero sidetracked. Not so in "The Kansas Terrors." Rusty Joslin can hold his own against an entire army. He stacks them up like firewood. He is also actually comical this time around. Republic's noted stunt artist, Yakima Canutt, is on hand to keep the action shots exciting. Not a bad way to spend an hour if you like western adventure of the Saturday matinée variety.
Undoubtedly "Sullivan's Travels" is comic genius Preston Sturges' most
sophisticated comedy; "The Miracle of Morgan's Creek" his zaniest. But
"The Palm Beach Story" has more belly laughs than any Sturges gem.
Rather than try to rate his masterpieces, watch them all. His humor was
so advanced, so ahead of its time, that it is still not fully
appreciated by many film critics and historians.
Only Sturges would begin a movie with a wedding sporting a subtitle, "They lived happily ever after." It seems only a few years later the happily married couple is bickering over finances--they don't have any. Appears the funny old man who made his fortune in sausage, the Wienie King (Robert Dudley). He is so enthralled by the beauty of Gerry Jeffers (lovely Claudette Colbert) that he gives her $700 to get a new start. When she runs off to Florida on a train, the same Wienie King gives her husband, Tom (Joel McCrea), money to fly to Florida to catch her. Gerry is taken in on the train by the notorious Ale and Quail Club, an outrageous Sturges lampoon of all brotherhoods and fraternal orders since the beginning of time. When Sturges' cast of crazies headed by William Demarest start shooting up the place using real bullets, Gerry fleas to the shelter of John D. Hackensacker III, aka "snoodles," played with élan by master showman Rudy Vallee. Snoodles just happens to be one of the richest men on earth. Adding to the nuttiness is Snoodles' sister, The Princess Centimillia (portrayed knowingly by Mary Astor), and her latest appendage, Toto (Sig Arno), as in Toto of Kansas.
How do the patterns on this crazy quilt become symmetrical? You have to see it to believe it. Just get ready to laugh until the tears flow.
"The Savage Horde," a somewhat generic title unless the viewer
considers Wade Proctor (Grant Withers) and his henchmen to be a horde,
is a top notch Wild Bill Elliott oater with some of the best acting to
be seen in a B western. The Standout performance from a fine cast
belongs to former cowboy star Bob Steele as Dancer, proctor's aloof
paid gunman who gets pleasure from shooting men down in cold blood. He
reminds one of a similar character, Jack Wilson (Jack Palance), in the
classic "Shane" a few years later. Keeping up with the likes of Noah
Beery Jr., Douglass Dumbrille, Roy Barcroft, and Jim Davis is country
western songwriter and balladeer Stuart Hamblen who wrote such
standards as "It Is No Secret" and "This Ole House." He plays a
clownish role with a tragic twist at the end. Lorna Gray and Barbra
Fuller do well portraying frontier women in a man's world.
The cast consists of a gallery of Republic support players with faces easy to recognize, though the names such as Bud Osborne, George Chesebro, Marshall Reed, and Wally Wales, aka Hal Taliaferro, may not register at first. Former cowboy star Kermit Maynard, brother to the famous Ken Maynard, plays one of the ranchers. He was also a noted stuntman by this time. Character actor Earle Hodgins, noted for his medicine show con artist pitch, has a small but telling role. He is not as obnoxious as usual, actually turning in a fairly restrained performance.
The story is a familiar one about two brothers, one good (Lt. Mike Baker played by Davis) and one bad (John Baker, aka Ringo, played by Wild Bill Elliott). This time the "bad" one with a price on his head killed in self-defense but only his brother, the cavalry officer who has been assigned to track him down, believes his story. Ringo is determined to see an old flame to try to rekindle their romance and in the process gets caught in the middle of a range feud between cattlemen and homesteaders. The familiar plot has a few novel winds and turns before the final shootout involving plenty of action directed by B western master Joseph Kane. It is a Republic film so expect to watch the best stunt work around. The crisp black and white photography rests easy on the eyes and adds to the overall effect of the picture.
It would be difficult to determine which is better, "A Kiss Before
Dying" 1956, or "A Kiss Before Dying" 1991. It would benefit the viewer
to rent them both because the 1991 version gives the same story a
different perspective. Both are worthwhile and to be enjoyed by fans of
the suspense genre.
The story involves greed and misdirected love based on a novel by Ira Levin, later gaining notoriety with "The Stepford Wives." Bud Corliss (as in core-less)(Robert Wagner) is not so much dominated by his mother, as is Norman Bates in the later "Psycho," but tends to dominate his mother, played knowingly by the fine actress Mary Astor. Corliss continually criticizes his mother for the way she dresses and even invites her out on a dinner date with him, indicating a latent incestuous relationship. Corliss is presented as a callous egomaniac who murders his pregnant girlfriend, Dorie (Joanne Woodward), when he discovers that her rich father (George Macready) may reject him for his indiscretion. He then turns to Dorie's sister, Ellen (Virginia Leith), who is conducting her own investigation into her sister's strange demise. Ellen is assisted in her quest for justice by Gordon Grant (Jeffrey Hunter), who works with the police. Grant once had a glimpse of Corliss and Dorie together. Tension mounts as the pieces to the puzzle begin to fall into place leading to an exciting conclusion.
Robert Wagner gives the best performance of his career, showing the cinema world that he was not just another pretty face. Unfortunately, after revealing himself as an actor of great potential in this film, he slipped back into his pretty face image. Even today in his mid-seventies, Robert Wagner continues to dazzle the women while often giving lackluster performances before the camera. Though Virginia Leith is a bit bland as Dorie's inquisitive sister, Joanne Woodward shines as Corliss' doomed girlfriend.
Perhaps too much time is spent at the beginning of the film building up the house of cards, but the actual killing scene atop the municipal building is handled with skill by German-born director Gerd Oswald. The audience is led to anticipate the fall for what seems to be several minutes with the suspense becoming almost unbearable. The cinematography is exceptional, especially the last scene at the smelter. By all means, see this one in wide screen.
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