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Gentleman Jim (1942)
You could have given Flynn any director, setting or costume but even at this point in his career, he could still never escape his self-moulded image. To be fair though, he tries his best as 19th century boxer James J Corbett in this 'biopic' - hurr hurr, as the Warner machine does its ineluctable best to see his story told as they see fit.
Hence, some of the studio's finest worked if not on historical accuracy, the splendid period recreation - characterisations and all - and Raoul Walsh sure loves pugnacity, as evidenced in his later Cagney films. It has to be said that Alexis Smith makes a splendid Olivia de Havilland.
Gould and 'Our Gang' regular Blake play a couple of vice cops who give up on the rest of their lazy and thick-headed department and decide to go about cleaning up the streets single-handedly (come on people, Eastwood, Friedkin and Michael Winner had already done their stuff). Enter every crime/sleaze caricature imaginable, and in 70s gear to boot.
Hyams' first feature is a very straight-faced but contemporarily 'hip' outing, which here and there seems inevitably hilariously dated in its trappings and social mores now, but also doesn't stray too inconsequentially from the tested 'buddy movie' formula. It's got a fine cast and Hyams' action style certainly won't disappoint fans of his later work.
In terms of violence, there is certainly a not-inconsiderable brutality quotient, but I don't know whether I was getting the complete picture in this BBC print, as the BBFC website indicates that 30-odd seconds (of what, not specified) were originally cut for both Cinema and Video.
Film-Making Plan 9 From Mars
Dubious is the artistic integrity of any sci-fi story set in 'Septober'. Nevertheless, this no doubt seriously-intended seasonal concoction for the kiddies is a scream today.
Wacky sets, props and colours aside, a consistent facetious hilarity is maintained via the allusions between 'Martian' and middle-class American domesticity throughout the story of Mr Claus' exploits after being kidnapped by the eponymous planet, following their concern that their children are being brainwashed by exposure to festive 'Earth Programmes' on their intergalactic TVs. "Something is happening to the children of Mars" espouses the anguished Martian Mom Momar to her husband; "Kemar, as leader of the Martians, you must do something about it".
Supporting the possible sneaky allegory about the universally deleterious effects of TV on kids is none other than a prepubescent Pia Zadora, before she grew up to sing a couple of deleteriously awful 80s pop songs and star in a couple of deleteriously awful 80s movies. I'm not convinced that Mom's diet of 'dinner pills' didn't go someway to achieving the catatonic state of acting that Pia and her on-screen brother achieve, but there you go you can't lambast parents for too many things at once in an ostensible flick for kids. That would be subversive!
If, by the time the sing-a-long 'Hooray for Santy Claus!' end credits refrain rolls around, you're not convinced that at least some involved in this prodigious production were not under the influence of something, it is always interesting to note the air-lock resolution premise of Alien being trotted out for the second time (following It! The Terror From Beyond Space). I fail to see how anyone, even men with polar bear costume fetishes, could not unilaterally love this film; at the very least it is so vastly superior to 'Santa Claus The Movie'.
Ryan's Four (1983)
3 'stars' were not enough to give intended series its 15 minutes
I'm a tad confused at finding this entry here. It implies a TV series beginning and ending with its inaugural episode, whereas what I am reviewing is a TV film pilot for the eponymous series, but there isn't a separate entry for it. Granted the film I saw was approximately 70 minutes long, which I guess would probably have been allotted a 90-minute broadcast slot (ie with ad breaks) on original US transmission, so perhaps the listed running time here is a 'guesstimate'?
Anyway, as mentioned this is yet another TV series pilot, the title referring to the four doctors newly-appointed by head of interns Skerritt, who is himself having trouble from the pedantic hospital administrator. Par for the course, the medical action takes second place to the domestic drama of the central protagonists.
Skerritt aside, the only other recognisables here today are Elibacher, who very shortly afterwards coincidentally went onto play a nurse as Charles Bronson's daughter in that unlikeliest slice of homo-erotic heaven '10 to Midnight', featuring Adonis-like nude misogynist murderer Gene Davis. Talking of which, here we also have the delectable Tim Daly, also doing little more than looking very sexy in very little as a middle-class novitiate medic, forced to take up one of his own hospital's beds through unfortunate happenstance.
Overall, it's fairly engaging but ultimately short on substance - which, given the running time is hardly surprising; it's a good movie to put off the ironing to.
Not Red Hot but Good
Struggling independent young couple Murphy and Bedelia - he's a lowly clerk, she's pregnant - are two of the more memorable residents of a small town whom the heat is upon, where personal emotions and intensities are rising along with the temperature.
There's dramatically nothing new here, and it isn't new on a TV budget. But in saying that, the TV disaster cycle spawned by the success of the big-screen genre in the 70s was often to be found to be far more briskly entertaining than its bombastic big-budget counterparts. In fact, in Heat Wave! in particular, the tack factor remains pretty low and preposterousness is kept to a minimum, in favour of building tensions amidst characters and their situation.
It's a shame that these films aren't shown TV anymore, as in their way they can be a more thoughtful yet entertaining watch than today's mindless blockbusters, and often at half the length.
The Hidden Eye (1945)
Courtsey of MGM's prolific/proficient second feature output unit, comes this sequel to Fred Zinnemann's debut feature 'Eyes In The Night', about a visually-impaired sleuth. This time around, the technical team is unfortunately less resourceful than their protagonist who is busy, with the aid of his faithful guide dog, trying to clear an innocent man of murder.
The replacement of B-frisson chills with chuckles is a miscalculation on this outing, and stereotype B-movie characterisations abound from vulnerable love interest to seedy villains. The story's gritty, 'urban' settings, replete with dark alleyways and disused warehouses, are never exploited to the full effect of their classic noir trappings.
The proceedings are all lighthearted enough if a little too genial. However, although there is some inevitable sentiment, the film is surprisingly unpatronising in its treatment of our blind hero. All in all it's a disappointing sequel, but not an hour-and-a-bit wasted.
Rider from Tucson (1950)
Holt and co come to the aid of a pal when two nasties try to nab his goldmine by nabbing his girl. One of these is a spunky gal monikered 'gypsy', played by Veda Ann Borg; another in the endless succession of 20s and 30s-drafted 'starlets' who never made it past the starting blocks. She did though take a few notable roles, including 'Mildred Pierce'; Shirley Temple's 'adult' intended career-rejuvinator Bachelor Knight; and nostalgic Betty Grable vehicle Mother Wore Tights.
Of course this is nothing new, but it seems much brisker than usual, and if it doesn't exactly cut it in the 'artistic' departments it is simply an hour's fun entertainment. Sometimes that's all you want out of Western cinema!
In Society (1944)
A&C as plumbers - cue a 100-or-so cross-talk routines, trouble with pipes and a plethora of vulgar noises, before the duo somehow becomes embroiled in a high-society art theft. Naturally they save the day, but not without ruining the substantive part of it first.
This particular A&C film is often much funnier than most, but it nevertheless remains as unbearably noisy, frenetic and annoying as any similar 'Three Stooges' short spun out to feature-length would have been.
Rather more insultingly, a lot of the footage is lifted from WC Fields' 'Never Give A Sucker An Even Break'.
The House of Usher (1989)
House of Idiot
Comment title paraphrases French & Saunders' skit on the 'The House of Elliot'. But here, it's application is unquestionably adroit.
A rare directorial effort from the man responsible for 1978's video-nasty-that-never-was, 'Killer's Moon', produced by soft-porn Eurotrash (ie TRASH, as in rubbish, junk) magnate Harry Alan Towers.
A slightly modernised version of Poe's Gothic saga; due to the complete technical incompetence of the above pair all this has to offer, in the way of thrills, is shaking furniture and fires. Pleasance jobs as the 'sinister' butler, which is at least a plot twist that affords him the opportunity to do something interestingly nasty (an off-screen incident involving an in-subservient maid's hand, and a meat mincer).
An experience akin to scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel - only, from beneath.
Double Indemnity - Italian Style
A definite B-grade revisiting of 'Double Indemnity'. Of chief interest is the plenty of reasons why this could have been made in Italy, none of which seem particularly savoury today.
This entry drops Wilder's film's cynicism, malice and ambiguity in favour of some admittedly brooding atmosphere. This however also carries the weight of an unfortunately extraneous voice-over.
Starlet Lane can do posing sultriness to be sure, but as a femme-fatale her complexities are insipid to say the least. Considering the Italo-connection, the men's tough-guy antics aren't in the least threatening, and the whole affair lacks much-needed dollops of passion.