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458 reviews in total 
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Ivanhoe (1952)
17 out of 20 people found the following review useful:
Myth, Legends, and Pomp of the High Middle Ages, 24 July 2006

The difficulty with bringing a piece of revered literature to the big screen has more to do with pleasing the fans of the work than in making a pleasing movie. Those who hold Walter Scott's classic "Ivanhoe" in high esteem will deem any adaptation to a largely visual medium unworthy no matter how much care and devotion are given to visualizing the original source.

This version of "Ivanhoe" holds up well and remains one of the more realistic films dealing with the myth, legends, and pomp of the High Middle Ages. The pictorial representation of Judaism at a time of wide-spread persecution of that religion throughout Europe by Christians who continually used the Jews as scapegoats was noble indeed for 1952, the height of the McCarthy witch hunts. The audience of the day undoubtedly overlooked this point when Rebecca is accused of witchcraft in order to insure conformity and stifle opposition to Prince John's tyrannical rule of England in King Richard's absence.

From a historical perspective, this film is about as accurate as any of the numerous Robin Hood tales prevalent at the time in the movies and on TV. Ivanhoe's father is correct when he remarks that Richard would be no better than John as far as the Saxons were concerned. Both Richard and John were ineffectual rulers. Prince John (later King John) has received a bad press as a result of the lionization of Richard the Lionheart. At least John stayed home and attempted to rule England; whereas, Richard was always traipsing about Europe and the Near East on a Crusade or leading his knights in battle mainly for personal gain. His ransom as a result of falling into the hands of the Germans was costly for his realm. Neither Richard or John was the skilled administrator their father, Henry II, proved to be, one of England's greatest monarchs. Neither inherited the diplomatic skills of their mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, one of the great women leaders in western civilization.

The division between the Saxons and Normans as a result of the Norman invasion of 1066 is at the crux of the story, Ivanhoe being Saxon, the royal family being Norman, descended from William the Conqueror. Nothing is said about those who lived on the British Isles before either the Saxons or the Normans, the Celts first, then the conquering Romans.

A highlight of "Ivanhoe" is the jousting tournament, leading to rivalry between Ivanhoe (Robert Taylor) and Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert (George Sanders), a rivalry that extends to winning the hand and heart of Rebecca. The alluring nineteen-year-old Elizabeth Taylor who portrays Rebecca is at the peak of her beauty and loveliness. George Sanders and Robert Taylor were much older than Elizabeth at the time. Taylor was uncomfortable making love, even on celluloid, to one so young, especially since he recalled her as a child in the early days of his movie career.

The brilliant Technicolor cinematography is bewitching even by today's standards. Adding to the eye-catching color are the action scenes, especially toward the end of the movie. The besieging of the castle is directed with élan by Richard Thorpe, who learned his trade well from directing action packed B films.

The acting is top notch throughout with Guy Rolfe as the loathsome Prince John stealing every scene he's in. The weakest is Emlyn Williams who plays Wamba (a chattel who becomes Ivanhoe's Squire). Wamba apparently is supposed to supply comic relief and is given some good lines by the writers, but Williams tends to overplay the part to the extent that at times the character becomes an obnoxious loudmouth.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Gene and Pat as dummies, 24 July 2006

From one of the most entertaining western programs on early TV, this "The Gene Autry Show" entry is one of the best. In those days Gene was still making movie westerns. The TV series was so well done that often the series was better than the movies.

This time Gene is a horse trainer and Pat is a tailor with his own shop. A man named Ramsey (Denver Pyle) wants Pat's business to enable him to turn the entire block into a casino. Pat provides plenty of laughs at the beginning of the program when he is being chased by two of Ramsey's henchmen, Frank (John Doucette) and Sloan (Gregg Barton), because a pair of pants he made for Slaon would fit an elephant. A hilarious fisticuffs takes place in Pat's tailor shop where he first tries to disguise himself as a mannequin between two other dummies. His pretense is uncovered when Sloan, lighting a cigarette, tries to strike a match on Pat's face.

That this show tries to be different is one reason for its success. Not only is Pat the comical sidekick but the outlaws join in on the fun. John Doucette, usually a wooden but mean galoot, dresses up like a woman and delivers the laughs. He becomes an effective foil for Pat. Even Gregg Barton, nearly always an ornery hombre, gets in on the fun. Notice that the title is itself humorous, a mimicking of the popular song and movie of the day, "Buttons and Bows." Another plus for this show is Gene as a horse trainer gets to show off Champion's talents, which are many.

Gene had a stable of actors and actresses by this time for his TV series and movies. Besides the supporting players already mentioned, Myron Healey plays the sheriff and Elaine Riley plays Joyce Lawson, one of Pat's regular customers and a friend to Gene who helps him catch the bad guys. Many parents of the day voiced their disapproval of the poor grammar used in shoot-em-ups as if the Old West cowboys spoke perfect English. Perhaps in response to this, Joyce Riley attempts to teach Pat correct usage of the King's English. Whatever the reason the English lessons provide a bundle of chuckles. Gail Davis usually appeared on the Gene Autry Show. Riley makes a good sub for her.

Pat, though not the best at physical humor, had a winning personality, was funny looking, and talked funny. He made Gene the best partner ever, with the possible exception of Smiley Burnette. Smiley had an added attraction that Pat lacked. That was Smiley's musical ability. He could write songs, sing them in an entertaining manner, and play just about any musical instrument placed in his hands, including a few of his own concoction. He wrote many a song for Gene to record. Gene usually put his name on the songs too, but to his credit, Gene always left Smiley's on the tune when it wasn't legally required. And without Gene's promotion, the songs, in all probability, would not have been hits. Gene sang one song per show. This time it's "Hoofbeats Pounding on the Prairie," which Gene sang from inside a cabin for a likeness of himself sitting in a chair on the outside, to serve as a decoy for the Ramsey gang.

The story is routine as always, basically what has been set forth above: The Ramsey gang is after Pat's shop and go about trying to bankrupt him so he'll have to sell to Ramsey. This leads to plenty of action and comedy to keep the entire family entertained for thirty minutes. If you haven't seen any of Gene's TV shows, this is a good one to watch.

Obituary (2006) (TV)
10 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Death Notice, 23 July 2006

The premise of this film is excellent, an obituary columnist for a local newspaper reading obituaries on her PC before the deaths occur, then ultimately reading her own. Reminds one of Mark Twain's comment after reading his own obituary in a newspaper, "The report of my death has been highly exaggerated." Unfortunately this made-for-TV flick does not develop the idea creatively and the viewer ends up with a routine murder mystery full of plot holes and psycho-babble. And it's not even a good whodunit. The killer can be identified early on as a result of quite obvious clues; plus the red herrings are just as easy to pick out. The viewer should be aware, however, that the opening sequence inside a mental institution is crucial for the story; so don't miss it.

The story concerns an obituary reporter for the Tribune, Denise Wilcox (Josie Bissett), with a very unsettling childhood. She is highly ambitious but her steps for advancement are blocked when the old editor expires and the new boss places Denise's ex-lover, Simon Castillo (Grant Nickalls), in the key staff position she was seeking. Her life becomes more complicated when she stumbles upon a dead body while jogging through the woods. The name of the murdered woman had appeared to her in a newspaper earlier but she is unable to verify this.

As the late Red Buttons used to say, "Strange things are happening." Other victims' names begin showing up on Denise's computer screen before they are killed. She begins to think that her old mental illness is returning. Her fears are assuaged by a young assistant, Luke (Craig Olejnik), who obviously has a crush on her. She begins to consult with a Gothic person who runs a Gothic revival shop about a strange sign that appeared as graffiti on a wall near where the first body was found, a sign that has of late been part of a recurring nightmare. It is a symbol of a Hindu goddess for both creation and destruction; this only complicates the situation. There are a few thrills toward the end when Denise's own name pops up on her computer and she is marked for death.

Besides the weak script (written by whom?), the acting leaves much to be desired. The cast is composed mainly of TV performers and it shows. Josie Bissett is a beautiful woman but only a passable actress. Of the three leads, Craig Olejnik does the best job. His final scene is chilling.

This muddled drama is worth watching only if there is nothing else of interest on the TV schedule. You may even want to opt for the shopping channel.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
God, Glory, and Gold, 23 July 2006

The most exciting part of "Captain from Castile" should have been the least exciting, the beginning of the story that takes place in Spain when the De Vargas family is wronged at the hands of Diego De Silva (John Sutton) in the name of the Spanish Inquisition. Pedro De Vargas (Tyrone Power) seeking a runaway servant from the New World, happens upon two of De Silva's men tormenting a tavern girl, Catana Perez (Jean Peters), by sicking dogs on her to tear the laundry she is carrying to shreds. Pedro deals forcefully with the men who in turn run back to tell their master. To avenge this effrontery to his station in life, De Silva, who heads the Inquisition in the area, declares the entire De Vargas family heretics, having them arrested and thrown into jail to be dealt with accordingly. Pedro's twelve-year old sister is tortured to death by orders from De Silva. Pedro, along with his mother and father, are broken out of prison by an acquaintance, Juan Garcia (Lee J. Cobb). In the process Pedro has the opportunity to kill De Vargas to avenge his sister's death but only wounds him. Pedro's mother and father hide out in Italy, but Garcia persuades Pedro and Catana, who has aided in the escape, to accompany him on an expedition headed by Hernando Cortez (Cesar Romero) to seek gold and adventure in the newly discovered West Indies. This part of the film is filled with action and suspense, well edited, directed with finesse by Henry King with breathtaking photography by Arthur E. Arling and Charles G. Clarke.

After such a magnificent build up, the rest of the movie should have been even more exciting, but, alas, it is not. Too much time is spent on the romance between Pedro and Catana, making this part of the film melodramatic soap opera, with a few exceptions such as the theft of the gems and the confrontation between Pedro and his old nemesis, De Silva, who reappears on the scene as an emissary from the King of Spain seeking to introduce the Inquisition to the New World. And just when the main event is to occur, the conquest of the mighty Aztec Empire by the handful of Conquistadors, the show is over. What a disappointment!

Though weak in its second half, "Captain of Castille, is worthwhile for several reasons. One is the on-location cinematography; the introduction reads that when possible the story occurs in the exact places where Cortez and his army traveled. Second, the acting is top notch with standout performances from Tyrone Power, Jean Peters, Cesar Romero, and in particular by John Sutton who plays the nasty villain De Silva with élan. (Jay Silverheels shows great potential in the small but significant role of Coatl, before he became typecast as Tonto.) Third, the musical score by Alfred Newman, which was deservedly nominated for an Academy Award, adds much to the overall effect of the film, especially the "Conquest" march. Finally, the movie serves as a good introduction to the history of the period, although the ill treatment of the Native Americans by the Conquistadores is basically ignored. Of significance is the emphasis on the class system that existed in Spain and was brought to Mexico by Cortez and his army along with the Catholic religion, still powerful forces in Mexican culture today.

25 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
Appointment with Retribution, 21 July 2006

"Act of Violence" is the penultimate noir film, containing many key elements that made the genre so formidable. Coming a year before Carol Reed's classic "The Third Man," the imagery of the tunnel as a symbol for the search for redemption is presented already full blown by Fred Zinnemann. The effective utilization of urban nocturnal sounds in place of music punctuate the mood of desperation and hopelessness like a sharp knife slashing the soul asunder. What can be more lonely than a distant train whistle in the middle of a dark night? Or wind whistling through the eves of houses occupied by deserted, lost individuals? No place is as desolate as the empty streets of a large city in the wee hours of morning just before dawn. Zinnemann and his superb cameraman, Robert Surtees, provide these chilling images plus so much more.

Who can forget Frank R. Enley (Van Heflin at his best) escaping from his demons, not just limping Joe Parkson (Robert Ryan) or bad boy Johnny (Berry Kroeger), through a vacant tunnel screaming at the top of his lungs, "Don't do it, Joe...Don't...." Or the scenes of Joe running down oppressive stairways to get away from the specters that haunt him. His actions are not enough to justify recompense. Recompense comes only at the end of the film, not a closing that most would want or expect in a Hollywood film of the day, but the required one for the theme of the story.

The entire cast of "Act of Violence" is first rate, giving performances worthy of recognition, but veteran actress Mary Astor as the lost soul, Pat, who takes an ambivalent attitude toward Frank, runs away with the show. She portrays despair and desperation writ large. Pat's human side wants to help Frank, to free him of the hell hounds nipping at his heels. But the survival part of Pat wants to throw him to the wolves for a pittance. A telling scene occurs when Johnny nonchalantly dashes a drink into her face for attempting to aid Frank. She reacts in an impassive manner, as if this were a daily occurrence. Pat is perennially at the mercy of men who treat her like trash. She views life the same way she views men.

One other performance of note comes from Taylor Holmes as Gavery, the aged shyster lawyer. Holmes makes his small part shine, becoming the epitome of an intelligent, educated professional, corrupted by greed and ego. His surroundings suggest Gavery is debarred, now living on funds extorted or purloined from illegal activities. Johnny, played to perfection by Berry Kroeger, is a crude, immoral mental dwarf ruled by emotion and violence, a counterpart to Holmes who uses punks such as Johnny to do the dirty work and be the patsy if caught. Johnny is also a foil for Joe who seeks to kill Frank for moral, altruism reasons.

The script by Robert Richards from a story by Collier Young is not much and would have withered on the vine in the hands of a journeyman director. Fred Zinnemann and cinematographer Robert Surtees breathe life into the routine story to make it one of the best noir thrillers of them all, innovative and entertaining. A leading citizen of a small town, Frank Enley, is being stalked by a former army buddy, Joe Parkson, because of an incident that took place in a German POW camp that led to the death of several fellow soldiers. Joe was left for dead but miraculously survived to hunt down the informer, Frank, and kill him. Frank attempts to escape by hiding out in a seedy section of Los Angeles. He meets a fellow creature of the night, Pat, who introduces him to a hit-man, Johnny. While drunk and out of his mind, Frank makes a deal with the devil. Realizing too late what he has done, Frank rushes to stop the inevitable.

6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
How To Carve A Turkey, 20 July 2006

This is a typical Pete Smith Specialty with Dave O'Brien, who later provided much of the slapstick, sorely missed. By the time "Let's Talk Turkey" was released, Pete Smith's voice had become readily recognizable to movie goers. Though narrating with somewhat of a nasal twang, Pete's delivery was highly entertaining, as distinctive as Howard Cosell's a few years later. Pete's scripts were light, breezy, and at times whimsical. The specialties he produced over the years covered a wide range of subjects and topics. They were welcomed by theaters across the nation as popular fillers between features or before a major feature as selected short subjects (one-reelers lasting about ten minutes each).

"Let's Talk Turkey" begins with a demonstration of how to carve a turkey properly. Informative and educational from a cuisine point of view, this part of the specialty is serious instruction. The rest of the short features how not to carve a turkey demonstrated by a newly wed who has been ordered by his new wife to serve the turkey to his in-laws, father-in-law, mother-in-law, and baby brother, who just happens to be the bully, Butch, who got his jollies from tormenting Alfalfa. He looks the part of a bully but has no lines to speak. His facial expressions say it all. This part of "Let's Talk Turkey" is good for a few chuckles.

Certainly not on a level with Laurel and Hardy shorts, the Pete Smith Specialties, including this one, were entertaining little tidbits to watch when returning from the concession stand and settling down for the main feature. They were much better than the Joe McDoakes (George O'Hanlon) one-reelers released during the same time period. G'bye now.

8 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Dancing Cigarette Packs, 20 July 2006

Had Fred Allen lived longer, his mark on the new medium of TV would most assuredly have been more lasting. He was a gifted comedian who had intelligence and good sense to match. When he appeared on the tube in a Mark Goodson, Bill Todman production labeled "Judge for Yourself," he was already a successful radio star who was noted for his long-running, good-humored feud with pal, Jack Benny. Fred Allen had even made a few Hollywood films, perhaps the best being "It's In The Bag," in which Fred played a character with the moniker, Fred F. Trumble Floogle (a name that must have made W.C. Fields proud). A good example of his wit and wisdom is one of my favorite quotes: "You can take all of the sincerity in Hollywood and put it into a mosquito's navel and still have room for two caraway seeds and a producer's heart."

"Judge for Yourself" was only on for a season and I got in on the last part of its run when the format had changed to a simple panel of judges deciding whether a song performed usually by Judy Johnson, The Skylarks, or Bob Carroll would become a hit. The judge whose decision matched the audience's approval (determined by applause) was the winner.

Being only ten years old, I wasn't much of a judge, but did participate at home to see how my decisions matched the program's choices. I remember one song in particular that threw me. "Cross Over the Bridge" was voted by the audience as the song most likely to become a hit. I didn't like the song and remember saying, "That will never make it. What a loser." To my chagrin, "Cross Over the Bridge" went on to become one of the biggest hits of the year. I can still visualize the set as Judy Johnson sang the song. There was a brook in the moonlight with a scenic bridge. As she ended the tune, Judy Johnson with a romantic expression on her face crossed over the bridge.

Dennis James was the announcer for the show. He was always hawking Old Gold Cigarettes. The Old Gold dancing cigarette packs unfortunately were one of the main attractions of the program.

The high point of the show was Fred Allen's monologue. In a way, Fred Allen reminded one of a Bostonian Will Rogers, only with more sarcasm. He was truly a funny man.

9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Bewildered Hearts, 20 July 2006

From a literal standpoint the title for this film seems somewhat irrelevant, since the house across the street only involves the opening sequence. But from a figurative viewpoint, the title is apt, indicating that most urban Americans don't really know much about what is going on across the street from where they live, crime, murder, shakedowns, and such. Across the street could be across the nation.

Dave Joslin (Wayne Morris) is the managing editor for the local newspaper, involved in attacking a crime syndicate running the city headed by boss Keever (Bruce Bennett). When a key witnessed is murdered by Keever's hit-man right in front of a stakeout, Joslin writes a scathing editorial about the ineffectiveness of the police department in handling the mob. Joslin's boss, J.B. Grennell (Alan Hale, Sr.), running scared, orders Joslin to back off. When Joslin refuses, J.B. reassigns him to the Bewildered Hearts office replacing Joslin's lady love, Kit Williams (Janis Paige), who is much obliged to be reassigned. (One wonders if this flick wasn't the basis for the early television sitcom starring Peter Lawford and Marcia Henderson, "Dear Phoebe," where the advice columnist is a man.) While doing his duties as advice to the lovelorn columnist, Joslin stumbles onto a situation that is connected to the mob hit. He and Kit begin a merry chase that leads them into dark corners, near-death escapes, and lots of other fun and mayhem before pulling all the loose ends together.

Wayne Morris is always a joy to watch. Janis Paige doesn't get to sing and dance, but does get to turn in a good performance as assistant sleuth. The rest of the cast is great, especially James Mitchell as Marty Bremer. "The House Across the Street" is basically a comedy-thriller, giving the audience a fair run for its money.

10 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Calling Dr. Harrigan, Dr. Lambert, Dr. Harrigan!, 19 July 2006

A Warner's "Clue Club" presentation, this short (just over one hour) murder mystery will satisfy the hidden sleuths in the audience. As with so many murder thrillers then and now, "The Murder of Dr. Harrigan" is set in a hospital where nurses compete for recognition, advancement, and romance with the handsome physicians, especially Dr. Harrigan (John Eldredge) and Dr. Lambert (Ricardo Cortez, being groomed by the studio as a Latin lover). The popularity of this type film led to the highly successful Dr. Kildare series later in the decade and much later to TV's popular "Marcus Welby, M.D." Countless other imitations have appeared and are still popping up from time to time.

The mystery is extremely complex for its day and time. Suffice it to say that a medicinal sleeping formula is being touted by several members of the hospital staff including the administrator, Peter Melady. That he has the completed formula works to his disadvantage since his rivals are determined to claim it for their own. Melady is preparing himself for an operation while his wife, Agnes (Anita Kerry), is in the same hospital with a broken arm. She is surreptitiously being entertained by her paramour, Kenneth Martin (Gordon "William" Elliott--maybe this is how he got his epithet "Wild Bill"). Peter Melady asks his arch rival, Dr. Harrigan, to perform the operation. This is like asking Jack the Ripper to perform an appendectomy on a lady of the evening. To make a long synopsis short, Dr. Harrigan ends up stabbed to death, Dr. Melady ends up missing in action, and an African-American winds up being taken to the morgue, leaving a covey of suspects lurking in the corridors.

The romantic angle is almost as confusing. Dr. Lambert is lusting after vivacious nurse, Sally Keating (Kay Linaker), who in turn is lusting after him. Nurse Lillian Cooper (Mary Astor) is lusting after one of the suspects in the case, plus is burdened with a secret revealed at the end of the flick. Nurse Brody (Mary Treen) lusts after a funny line. And Agnes Melady, needless to say, is still lusting after Wild Bill.

Besides Nurse Brody, humor is provided by the patients, particularly Wentworth (Johnny Arthur) as a whiner with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder who is staying in the hospital for a much-needed rest but keeps being bothered by nurses, doctors, plumbers, the police, and other patients; and by Jackson (Don Barclay), a harmless dipsomaniac who drinks rubbing alcohol and runs amok.

"The Murder of Dr. Harrigan" is worthwhile for those of us who love a good mystery. This is a short entertaining programmer in the Warner's "Clue Club" series, which included the popular "While the Patient Slept."

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Diabulin, 17 July 2006

MGM released a series of twenty-one two-reelers from 1935 to 1945 under the general heading of "Crime Does Not Pay." These were well made shorts that promoted respect for the law and gave publicity to such government law enforcement agencies as the FBI. Not merely propaganda or indoctrination, these two-reelers were entertaining short stories featuring many of the best character actors of the day, well-written, well-directed, and well-acted.

"Purity Squad" was one of the last in the series spotlighting the efforts of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to protect the consumer from bad medicine, in this case a pill, Diabulin, for type 2 diabetes that would replace the need for insulin injections. Ironically, sixty years later the drug community has actually created such a pill, Metaglidasen, now waiting for the approval of today's FDA. This film shows a much weaker FDA in 1945, largely dependent on state cooperation for approval or disapproval.

The story written by Charles F. Royal, who specialized in scripts for action B westerns, tells of a pair of con artists who take advantage of a discredited chemist to concoct a pill for type 2 diabetes. The two shysters also plant a janitor in the lab at the state capital to make sure the results on the test rabbits are positive by switching hares when needed. The FDA lab in Washington, D.C., runs its own tests which come up negative. Investigators are sent to the office of the state attorney general to find out what is happening to cause the two test results to be different. In the meantime diabetes patients who are taking Diabulin begin dying in alarming numbers.

I've seen most of the films in the "Crime Does Not Pay" series, which also led to a popular radio show at the time. None is boring. All, including "Purity Squad," are exciting and informative.

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