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been watching old movies for most of his life.
World Premiere (1941)
Very enjoyable comedy if you like this sort of thing.
Like a previous reviewer I have also only ever seen this film surface once. This was on TV here in Australia, possibly in the early 80s or a little earlier. My memory of it is that it was a satire come comedy come espionage thriller which I enjoyed immensely, despite the low one and a half star rating that I remember seeing in the current edition of Maltin at the time. I have wanted to see it again ever since, but have not had much luck in tracking a copy down. It was advertised for sale as a DVD item from a now defunct (or so I believe) internet vendor, but when I actually received the DVD it was some kind of rap music video with the same title! But I digress.
This was John Barrymore's next to last feature. (His last was Playmates in support of Kay Kyser!) It was during this period that Barrymore's career was in decline, and his roles were inclined to humorous self parody. While his performance here does not plumb the depths of self- caricature the way his role in Playmates does for example, my memory of the performance here is nevertheless along similar lines. Unlike many who find these and other similar roles towards the end of his career a demeaning waste of his talents, I actually enjoy THIS John Barrymore more than the posturing ham of his earlier years. Don't get me wrong folks...I appreciate the earlier works more than somewhat...it's just that I enjoy all of Barrymore's roles from the last few years of his career a lot more. (Am still waiting to see Hold That Co-ed by the way, which seems to be a starting point of sorts for these kind of Barrymore flicks).
Paramount had apparently lost interest in Frances Farmer by this time in her career, as they appear to have been relegating her to their B features or loaning her out to other studios. Her last two Paramount pics appear to be this and Among the Living, the latter being yet another film I am also waiting to see again after close to 40 years, a very fine dramatic thriller containing one of Albert Dekker's finest early performances. In any event Miss Farmer, who could be a very effective actress, was certainly not put to much worthwhile use in World Premiere as I have very little memory of her at all from this film.
Which brings me to the real stars of World Premiere and the main reason for watching it, Fritz Feld and Sig Rumann. Though nominally only supporting players they really do steal the film, and it is such a pleasure seeing them with far more sizeable roles than the mere walk-ons in which they were frequently cast. It has always been my contention that what gave the Golden Years of Hollywood their gold was the large reservoir of wonderful supporting character players which could always be drawn upon, and these two guys are among my favourites.
Hoping whoever owns the MCA library now will make this available again some time, but given the track record of MCA and Universal titles that seem to have sunk into oblivion, I am not holding my breath.
Bride of the Gorilla (1951)
Not good but not as bad as its reputation suggests.
In my movie reference books this movie is variously described as a "bomb" or recommended as a suitable choice for inclusion in the 100 worst movies of all time. Nevertheless, I have no qualms in saying that it is not that bad, and was quite happy to sit for 65 minutes (the short running time probably helps) and see it through until the end.
To begin with Curt Siodmak's story is interesting enough (as are many of his screen writing efforts), and has more than a touch of complex moral ambiguity. His direction here however has very little flair and tends to be on the perfunctory side. The low budget is a major constraint, and for the most part the film tends to be on the flat side visually, with unimpressive jungle scenes and minimal interior set pieces of the kind typical for a low budget production.
The cast (described in one reference book as 4 non-actors) are actually all competent, and Raymond Burr, in fact, is quite good in the part, managing to impart a human dimension to what could have been merely an unsympathetic villain. In fact it is interesting to actually analyse how much of the films dramatic load actually rests on his shoulders.
They Won't Believe Me (1947)
Cautionary advice on the re-release version..
Great performances from the four leads make this noirish melodrama a stand-out. Cast against type, Robert Young gives one of his finest performances (far more interesting than that in Crossfire), subtly giving his role of philandering but strangely sympathetic heel a depth which may perhaps go by unnoticed by some. Rita Johnson, in the minimal screen time alloted her, is likewise able to intimate complexities of character which imbue her role of manipulative wife with a touching frailty.
The shortened re-release version (which I viewed in a colourized copy) has been cleverly edited to leave the plot intact, but with 15 minutes of cuts significant elements of character development (all-important in a film of this type) have been sacrificed. The deletion of part of the scene at Nicks dilutes the initial warmth of the relationship between the Young and Jane Greer characters. And a concert scene which shows up the petulant nature of the Susan Hayward character has been deleted altogether. Other elements deleted from the re-release print are some of the opening remarks made by Frank Ferguson, and some dialogue between Young and Hayward when they are in his car on the way to her apartment.
Star of My Night (1954)
Only for the kind of person who reads Barbara Cartland .
In this 1954 potboiler set designer Carl introduces his sculptor friend Michael Donovan to the girl he wants to marry, ballerina Eve Malone. Any astute viewer of this kind of tripe can work out the rest of the plot from there. Production values are typical of the kind of thing Kenilworth churned out at this time, and although you would never call this the most charismatic cast ever assembled, for the most part they deal acceptably with a script which wouldn't inspire more than a mechanical response. Griffith Jones in the romantic lead puts his role across with all the panache of an accountant giving an end-of-year financial report.
The Day Will Dawn (1942)
Wartime British flagwaver fails to gel.
British wartime propaganda film in which Hugh Williams plays a British foreign correspondent investigating German U-boat activities in Norway. The disparate elements of the film however, in terms of location, narrative and character, do not seem to have been successfully combined into a cohesive whole. Apart from the Hugh Williams character there is a lack of focus, and the film comes across as episodic and disjointed. Ralph Richardson, for example, is for the most part wasted in a role which despite popping up briefly all over the place, seems to have very little relevance to either plot or theme. Finlay Currie, always worth watching, does well by his part and has the most convincing accent of the piece, but Deborah Kerr sounds as Norwegian as praties. Francis L Sullivan trots out another of his well worn villains.
D-Day the Sixth of June (1956)
Or, How I Got Sidetracked on the Way to Normandy .
A film which springs immediately to mind after watching D-Day the Sixth of June is Abbott and Costello go to Mars. In that cerebral little opus A&C never actually get to Mars - they go to Venus instead, and even then it is only after some considerable preliminaries. Unlike that picture, D-Day the Sixth of June does actually get to the events referred to, but it is only as an aside for ten minutes or so at the end; like Abbott and Costello go to Mars, the title is a complete misrepresentation.
For most of its running time this film is actually a boring and clichéd melodrama in which Robert Taylor, Richard Todd and Dana Wynter play three two-dimensional characters involved in a love triangle against a backdrop of wartime England (Hollywood's conception of wartime England, anyway). The three roles may just as well have been played by cardboard cut-outs, but for what it's worth Richard Todd probably comes off best, being the only one of the major cast members who even hints at creating a real-life character. Robert Taylor is at his most wooden, and also possibly a little too old for his role. His love scenes with Dana Wynter generate less passion than an undertaker's convention. But then again, Dana Wynter always did seem to me to be a particularly passionless actress.
It can only be regretted that the film's makers did not spend more time on the subsidiary characters, who seem to me to be far more interesting. Brigadier Russell is well played by John Williams, and his resentment of the American interlopers is a theme which could have been developed far more fully. Likewise the flaky nature of Edmond O'Briens Colonel Timmer is never really explored or explained in any sense at all.
All in all, I enjoyed Abbott and Costello Go to Mars a lot more.
The Test (1935)
Questionable scenes involving animals.
In an impartial assessment of this picture I would consider it as a below average low-budget actioner, and probably give it about four stars out of ten. It features flaccid direction and poor acting - Grant Withers demonstrates his usual lack of charisma as the hero, and Monte Blue overacts as the villain. Although the locations are scenic and photographed adequately, any virtue in this was probably lost on me due to the poor quality of the print I viewed.
However, knowing that this film was made before regulations regarding the treatment of animals were incorporated into the production code, it is impossible for me to be impartial about it. Now I don't know how this picture was made, and it is possible that the depictions of animal cruelty it contains were a carefully orchestrated illusion, but in the knowledge of what went on at the time in the absence of production code regulations, and the fact that we are looking at a low-budget feature from a company I never heard of, I cannot view this film without great unease. In any event, these scenes are very unpleasant and I rate this film accordingly.
Francis Goes to West Point (1952)
Mule in a rut.
Although I have always had a strong affection for the Francis pictures, probably because I grew up with them, I always found that the preponderance of military settings in the series was a little claustrophobic and cramped the potential for humour. (Consequently my favourites have always been Francis Goes to the Races and Francis Covers the Big Town). In Francis Goes to West Point I find this tendency to be at its most pronounced. Not only are we saddled with a military setting (and a confined one at that, so that there is not even the chance to open the story out a little), but as well as the usual mandatory romance between Peter Stirling and some Universal starlet, there is a another romantic subplot involving other cast members, and a hackneyed football sub-plot as well. For this reason I have always found this instalment the weakest in the series, an honour generally accorded to Francis in the Haunted House, but I'd take that over this any day. Pity that the opening scenes where Stirling saves a government plant from saboteurs didn't lead to some other kind of storyline.
One Night with You (1948)
Romantic comedy set in Italy.
This picture is actually two pictures in one. The central romantic comedy of the two strangers (Nino Martini and Patricia Roc) missing their trains and being stranded together for the night is contained within the framework of a satire on movie-making in which an incompetent Italian film producer, Fogliati (Charles Goldner), is trying to get his three scriptwriters to come up with a plot suitable for his latest singing discovery. It is in the latter which, for me at least, the best moments of the film come. Of note are the ten minutes in which Stanley Holloway steals the film without a line of dialogue, and the ending, suspiciously similar to one Woody Allen used many years later. I wonder how many other times this device has been used.
The core story is pleasant enough, but nothing out of the ordinary. It is however beautifully lit. Patricia Roc is pleasing as usual, but Nino Martini although a fine singer, is a bit hard to believe as a romantic lead. I have always however found Bonar Colleano's performances grating (you will know him from countless performances in English films of this period as an abrasive American), and here he is more so than usual.The parallels drawn to "It Happened One Night" unfortunately elude me.
Finally, for those interested, you will also find a very brief appearance by Christopher Lee as one of Fogliati's assistants.
Journey Into Fear (1942)
I have seen two versions of this film - the 68 minute version supposedly recut by Orson Welles as part of his contract settlement with RKO (see IMDb trivia) and what I assume must be the first Norman Foster cut which was panned by the critics at the time. The latter I first saw on Melbourne television in the mid to late 1970s, and was impressed enough for me to rewatch it on two subsequent occasions within the next 10 or so years. The opening sequence with the fat assassin and the gramophone particularly stood out for me at the time because it was so unlike any movie opening I had seen in movies from this period.
Anyway, I had simply assumed that this was the version everyone else saw until I revisited the film again on Melbourne television last week and immediately realized from the opening minutes that this was not the same version I had seen all those years ago. Normally when I say this it is hard for people to believe I remember old movies this well, and simply dismiss it as being in my imagination, but fortunately I had an old VHS copy left over from my last viewing and was able to compare the two versions scene by scene.
For what it is worth, I prefer what I assume to be the original Norman Foster version, and it is this on which I have based my score of 8 for this movie. I still suspect that Welles had a directorial hand in this, all denials notwithstanding.