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Perhaps the inspiration for the 2005 film "Four Brothers," this
overlooked John Ford gem from 1938 is a winner all the way, except for
the nondescript title which makes one think this is going to be some
type of religious outing, especially since Barry Fitzgerald is in the
Good performances abound, in particular Loretta Young as a headstrong globetrotter, Lynn Cherrington, who is determined to get her man but gets involved with murder and intrigue along the way; David Niven as one of the Brothers Leigh, Christopher, whose derring-do is often derring-undone; George Sanders playing against type as another of the Brothers Leigh, Wyatt, a barrister who knows the law better than he knows people; Reginald Denny as a gunrunner named Capt. Douglas Loveland who lets a pretty skirt get the best of him; Alan Hale as Mr. Furnoy, a scoundrel in sheep's clothing; and the always reliable C. Aubrey Smith in a brief appearance as the father, Col. Loring Leigh. Veteran actors Barry Fitzgerald and John Carradine do their usual superior jobs but have only small roles.
John Ford's direction adds much to the total effect of the film. Note the action scenes in South American of the revolution where camera work and film editing are paramount. The firing squad sequence plays almost like a clip from Woody Allen's "Bananas," including several covert comedy touches that would later be labeled black humor.
Not surprising for such a crisp script with probing lines, the hand of novelist William Faulkner shows through. This is obvious in the conversations between the brothers, at times playful, at other times dead serious, and in the repartee between Lynn Cherrington and the four brothers--also between her and her father.
The story concerns Col. Leigh being accused of causing the death of several of his men in India. He is given a dishonorable discharge by the British army as a result. He summons his four sons to meet with him at their home in London. The youngest is enrolled at Oxford; the oldest is a practicing barrister; another is some sort of diplomat in Washington, D.C.; and the fourth is in the military. The Col. has a briefcase full of papers to prove his innocence. While perusing the documents in the study to get his defense together while the four brothers are waiting in the foyer, a shot rings out. The Col. is dead but not from suicide as indicated by the position of the body and gun in hand. That the papers are missing points to murder.
The four brothers then begin globe trotting to find the killer and the motive behind it. Two go to India to investigate. The other two go to South America. Geoffrey Leigh's American girlfriend, Lynn, tags along to help though her assistance is discouraged by the brothers. The plot becomes more complicated when it is learned that a gun syndicate called Atlas Arms may be behind it all.
This was New Zealand writer/director Jane Campion's first film, showing
all the imaginative talent that would later garnish her an Oscar for
the magnificent "The Piano" in 1993. Much is revealed in a short nine
minute time span about an impatient man with a short fuse, a
disenchanted, petulant woman, and a brat of a child. It is obvious that
the man and boy are father and son (they even look alike). The woman
seems out of place. She is listed in the credits as the man's sister,
ergo the boy's aunt, yet she seems emotionally distant from the two.
"Peel" is an appropriate title, applying literally to the peeling of the orange that starts the commotion that leads to confrontation, and figuratively signifying the peeling away of the outer skins of the trio to lay bare the inner turmoil and conflict. The first phrase of the title, "An Exercise in Discipline," is used in a sardonic sense. There is little discipline involved in the battle among the three where emotions run amok and a ripple effect occurs from child to adults. What begins as a tussle between father and son for domination and control ends as a stalemate with father and son teaming up against the sister/aunt. To further emphasize the ignorance and stupidity exhibited, the entire show takes place along a busy public highway in broad daylight.
On a higher plane, Jane Campion indicates that major battles which may destroy individuals, families, and nations often begin over the silliest of occurrences, in this case the peeling of an orange and throwing the husk out a car window. The narrow minded among us can become so stubborn concerning minor infractions of rules and regulations that we forget how mundane and harmless such actions really are. The man decides this after much ado when the boy picks up all the pieces save one that have been strewn along the roadway. He surrenders to the boy's wishes and wistfully places the boy atop his shoulders to return to the parked car only to begin a new war with his sister, who is late for her destination as a result of the orange peels fiasco.
Color adds to the effectiveness of the allegory with the bright shades emphasizing the frayed emotions, lost tempers, and broken dreams. "Peel" is a much underrated short by a gifted artist.
This movie is called "The Case of the Black Cat" because horror films
were popular money-makers at the time of its release and the use of
"black cat" in the title made it sound more ominous. An alternate
moniker was "The Curse of the Black Cat." Apparently the producers
thought that title was too misleading. The Erle Stanley Gardner Perry
Mason story on which it is based was labeled, "The Case of the
Caretaker's Cat," which was the title of the TV version when it played
on the old Raymond Burr series. The cat and its caretaker owner are at
the center of the plot; so that title makes more sense. Why not use a
black cat in the 1936 film version? When the movie was being made, the
"black cat" reference in the title had not been proposed; that the cat
in the story was gray and white spotted determined the kind of cat to
use in the picture.
To most fans of the Erle Stanley Gardner character, the definitive Perry Mason will always be Raymond Burr. The first big screen Perry Mason was Warren William and he made a dandy. His "The Case of the Howling Dog" is one of the very best in the William series. Unfortunately, the three follow-ups in which William played, while entertaining, were not up to the standards of the premiere feature. Ricardo Cortez, said to be a difficult actor with whom to work, does very well with the Perry Mason character, making "The Case of the Black Cat" one of the best translations of Perry Mason from book to screen.
The initial screen perception of Perry Mason was one of a debonair, skilled, yet at times unscrupulous, counselor-at-law who would use almost any trick to win a case. His courtroom shenanigans were part of the show. Even Raymond Burr began his TV program in that vein, becoming more law respecting and less law bending as the series progressed. Ricardo Cortez assays the role more along the lines of the later Raymond Burr personification of Perry Mason, though still willing to bend the law a bit when it helps his client, in this case a gray and white-spotted cat.
That the Perry Mason mysteries were not one-dimensional but at times highly complex was one reason for their popularity with amateur armchair sleuths. "The Case of the Black Cat" is no exception. A rich invalid, Peter Laxter, hires Mason to help him rewrite his will. Not long after the will has been changed, Laxter's mansion burns to the ground with Laxter in it. Perry convinces District Attorney Hamilton Burger (Guy Usher) to conduct an investigation. The findings show that Laxter had been dead for some time before the house burned. His heirs become the prime suspects, including Wilma Laxter (Jane Bryan) who runs a waffle house, since she had been disinherited by the new will.
Another prime suspect is heir Sam Laxter (Gordon Elliott aka Wild Bill Elliott). The caretaker, Charles Ashton (George Rosener), has a cat, Clinker, who meows at the moon so much it keeps Sam Laxter awake. He throws items at the cat, threatening to poison it if the mewing doesn't stop. The caretaker appeals to Mason for help after receiving yet another threat from Sam Laxter, this time in the form of a note. Thus Perry takes the cat as a client and the fun begins.
Though a film about US entry into World War II centering on the
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, "In Harm's Way" has a 60's look and
feel about it. The opening sequence with Barbara Bouchet as Liz
Eddington salaciously dancing around teasing all the men and
infuriating all the women is more a twist than a swing. The dress she
wears is also more of a sack dress than the skirts fashionable in
America in 1941. John Ford's 1945 "They Were Expendable," starring John
Wayne, is a superior film overall and is closer to home since it was
made during the war years. Still "In Harm's Way" has its moments and
should be enjoyed, especially by the many fans of the Duke.
The story about Capt. Rockwell Torrey (Wayne) trying to get to know the son he has not seen since the boy was four nearly slips into maudlin sentimentality several times, but is yanked back to more refined cinema by director Otto Preminger. Ditto for the budding romances between Admiral Torrey and Maggie Haynes (Patricia Neal), and between the admiral's son, Jere (Brandon De Wilde) and Annalee (Jill Haworth). The battle scenes are exciting and well-staged. The ending is a bit much but still satisfactory. The acting by a Hollywood cast of major stars of the era is top notch all the way as is to be expected.
The screen play by Wendell Mayes from James Bassett's novel, "Harm's Way," is effective, telling the story of Admiral Rockwell Torrey's daring comeback following humiliation at Pearl Harbor. Torrey is sent to salvage a mess up by politically motivated Admiral Broderick (Dana Andrews), whose tactics are similar to General George B. McClellan's in the early days of the American Civil War and for like reasons. The assignment is in reality a backup operation to take pressure from the main assault by the Japanese on General Douglas MacArthur's forces in the Pacific. Against great odds, including one of the largest ships in the Japanese navy, Admiral Torrey and his fighting men, including several nurses, must persevere. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz (Henry Fonda) personally places full confidence and support in Torrey. Along with the brutal fighting are the subplots involving the romances and father-son theme mentioned above.
John Wayne fans and war action fans should enjoy "In Harm's Way." I highly recommend "They Were Expendable" for those viewers who like this movie.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is another winner from the pen of sci-fi master writer Richard
Matheson, author of the classic film "The Incredible Shrinking Man,"
though "Scream of the Wolf" plays more as a murder mystery than as a
traditional werewolf flick. Made-for-TV on a limited budget, almost
nothing is shown in way of special effects, which on the positive side
leaves more room for suspense and less room for gore and guts.
It seems some huge wolf is the culprit in a series of murders taking place in the woods around Byron Douglas'(Clint Walker) lair. As Sheriff Vernon Bell (Philip Carey) investigates he uncovers strange tracks indicating a four-footed creature; then the markings become those of a being walking upright; finally, the prints suddenly end as if erased. When dogs are brought in to trail, the scent changes unexpectedly when the tracks end.
Local hunter, now adventure writer, John Wetherby (Peter Graves) is turned to for assistance. He is unconvinced that a werewolf is to blame, determining that either a monster wolf or a human monster is responsible. When he calls on his former hunting buddy, Byron, to participate in the track down, Byron refuses, maintaining that it's time for his old partner to renew his interest in the pursuit of the kill. John's girlfriend, Sandy Miller (Jo Ann Pflug), is partly accountable for his giving up the hunt. She now helps him to catch the perpetrator of the dastardly deeds, placing herself in death's jaws.
The primary suspect from the beginning is weird glory hunter, Byron. But is he really the killer and if so, is he really a werewolf? Another suspect is Byron's man servant, or is he a red herring? He was hired on the basis of his ability to successfully arm wrestle Byron. Or could it be the star of the show, former trophy hunter John Wetherby?
Clint Walker, usually a wooden actor, gives one of his best performances in a different type role. He is convincing as the macho hunter intent on bringing his erstwhile friend back into the game. Peter Graves makes a good foil for him. The rest of the cast is above average for a TV movie from the 1970's.
A major criticism of Matheson's story is toward the end when "Scream of the Werewolf" almost becomes yet another retelling of Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game." Otherwise, this little movie is a gripping murder mystery filled with thrills and chills, with a few frightening scenes, especially if you're watching alone in the dark with dogs howling outside.
Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp or Little Man character wins World War
I, called The Great War at the time, single handedly, even capturing
the Kaiser, something the entire Allied armed forces were unable to do.
Too bad it all turns out to be a dream, which is somewhat of a cop out
and the weakest part of this mesmerizing silent short (almost a feature
film at 46 minutes).
There are inventive gags galore including Charlie having to put on a gas mask to eat Limburger cheese sent from home, then using the cheese as a weapon against the Germans; Charlie sleeping underwater in a flooded trench next to a soldier he continues to annoy; Charlie disguising himself as a tree--one of his best sketches ever--and Charlie pretending to beat up his friend who has become a POW, then hugging him when the enemy is out of sight.
One amazing feature is how much Charlie, when he is behind enemy lines dressed as a German, resembles Hitler over ten years before Hitler and his Nazi thugs rose to dominate German politics. Obviously Hitler patterned his appearance after Charlie's from this film.
This action-packed Rocky Lane oater is a good one with one flaw, Nugget
Clark (Eddy Waller) is missing. And though Cricket Adams (Walter
Baldwin) has some humorous lines, his continual griping and
cantankerousness becomes grating after awhile. In pre-Nugget Clark
days, veteran character actor Tom London was a suitable Nugget Clark
type for Rocky. Too bad he wasn't used this time.
The story by M. Coates Webster is not as cliché-ridden as many of the B western scripts of the day. Rocky, undercover as usual, seeks to find those who killed his friend and who are behind a rash of robberies in the vicinity (Durango is not mentioned). The sheriff, Bill Walters (Ross Ford), has his hands full since the ranchers stand to lose their land if the money to pay their bank mortgages doesn't make it through. Cricket Adams is against the sheriff but his niece, Janis (Aline Towne), is in love with the lawman. Rocky shows up to help the sheriff and in the process persuades Cricket to favor the budding romance between the sheriff and Janis Adams. The plot centers on $40,000 being hidden in a feed sack amidst numerous others in Cricket's barn with both the outlaws and Rocky trying to determine which sack contains the stolen money.
There is plenty of action and fancy stunt work to entertain the fans with a protracted fisticuffs near the end between Rocky and the boss outlaw, John Blake (Steve Darrell). Republic was adept at showing the cowboy stars at their best when riding in pursuit of the bad guys. Rocky astride his stallion, Black Jack, chasing the outlaws was always a high point of the Allan Rocky Lane features.
Rocky had a nervous habit of pulling at his gloves. Whether this was intended by the director is unknown. But it didn't subtract from his popular appeal at the box office. "Rough Riders of Durango" is one of Rocky's best outings.
"Rozbijemy zabawe..." is a highly underrated early short by famed
director Roman Polanski, made in Poland while he was still a student of
film technique. It is perhaps one of the finest allegorical short
features ever made, showing the under crust turmoil of the 50's decade
better than most major Hollywood films of the time with the exceptions
of "Rebel Without a Cause" and "The Wild One," certainly more clearly
than the highly touted "Blackboard Jungle."
The barbarians at the gate, which is literally scaled when the outsiders crash the masquerade party where the socially acceptable rich and privileged teens are wallowing in the comfort and security of their parents' wealth and power, take over following an orgy of violence. One is reminded of Sergei M. Eisenstein's famous scene from "Oktyabr(Ten Days That Shook the World)" when peasants are shown sitting on Tsar Nicholas II's throne. Society becomes total chaos. Anarchy reigns. Who picks up the pieces?
This colorful James A. FitzPatrick taveltalk gives the viewer a glimpse
of the paradise of the Pacific just a few years before the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, just west of Honolulu. Although the
traveltalk doesn't show Pearl Harbor, it does show such popular tourist
attractions as Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head.
Narrator FitzPatrick relates the history of Hawaii and how the Polynesians first came to the islands across the Pacific, concentrating mainly on the aboriginal population. Perhaps due to time since this is a one-reel short, only nine minutes in length, almost nothing is said about the later European and American interlopers.
The Statue of King Kamehameha, the monarch who united all the Hawaiian islands under one government, is spotlighted. How the traditional Hawaiian lei is made is also featured.
A highlight of "Honolulu: The Paradise of the Pacific" is the native music played throughout the film. The Hula dance made famous by the Hawaiians is presented by two cuties in grass skirts. The traveltalk appropriately ends with "Aloha Oe," written by the last queen of Hawaii, Queen Lydia Liliuokalani.
Writer Cameron Kent has some good ideas but fails to make them gel in a
script full of plot holes and improbable situations. The cast headed by
Yancy Butler as target Sandy Dickinson do the best they can with what
is given them. Perhaps the stand out performance is by Barry Flatman as
archfiend Frank Sutton hiding behind the law for his nefarious schemes
of self-aggrandizement, but no one is less than adequate for this
Sandy Dickinson is in prison for murdering her abusive husband to protect herself and her son, Justin (Matthew Harbour). Surprisingly, the man who prosecuted her on involuntary manslaughter charges, Frank Sutton, obtains a parole for her after she agrees to falsely testify for him against a mob leader. Unbeknownth to Sandy, Frank keeps witness files, hence the apropos title, on key witnesses who somehow end up dead.
Sandy becomes a target for Frank's hit men but successfully eludes them by her own machinations and talents as a make-up artist. She is aided by a police detective, Dennis McCoy (David Nerman), and her friends from prison and elsewhere. That Sandy and Dennis fall in love doesn't prevent Sandy from using Dennis to deal effectively with Frank to get rid of him for good. How she does this is much too contrived but still entertaining.
A bonus is the haunting music of Canadian artist Christopher Dedrick, particularly the closing theme.
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