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Fibber McGee and Molly (1959)
So Where Are Fibber & Molly?
Because if you know the radio show you won't find them here. Oh, there are characters called Fibber McGee and Molly but there is almost zero resemblance to the originals. Characters we knew are gone.The running gags are all gone, even the hall closet is only used in the first episode and its off-screen. Hal Peary (Gildersleeve) is playing Mayor LaTrivia, okay, Gale Gordon was probably too busy but still. That LaTrivia is nothing like the radio version (of course it doesn't help that he's playing against non-Fibber & non-Molly) makes the character worthless. We have someone called Doc Gamble but he sure doesn't act like Doc Gamble - totally different relationship dynamic with McGee. And where did these bland next door neighbors come from - a cookie cutter? Teeny shows up only in the first episode - she was the lucky one.
At least Cathy Lewis could have done an Irish accent so sound like Molly. And how did the McGees become owners of commercial properties???
I gave it a 5 as its pretty mediocre fare for the times but t'ain't funny McGee.
Baby Face Harrington (1935)
Watch for the dialogue, better than others have given credit for being.
Yes its slow at times and a little creaky but it makes up for it with sharp witty dialogue unappreciated by some because of its understated dryness. Watch it for the interplay - Butterworth is superb, Merkel is delightful, great supporting roles for Pallet, Meek, Pendleton and the rest.
One of the most Britishly dry US comedies I've seen and definitely not the usual for its period.
Heavenly Days (1944)
Standard Rah-Rah Film But with Charm from the Jordans
If'n you're a fan of Fibber McGee and Molly then you already have listened to at least some of their patriotic radio shows - this film is better than those. Fibber is not nearly as dumb &/or sleazy as he often was in those moralistic episodes. Molly is charming as always - she had a great voice and laugh. Wish more of their word-play had gotten into the film, there's never too much of that. And it does suffer from not having any of the other regular characters in the film - could have had at least some brief appearances by Alice Darling or Beulah (though Marlin Hurt couldn't have pulled THAT off) but at least Lillian showed up.
If you want an idea of what the home-front was like during WW II this is a good start complete with America's favorite couple of the time.
The Shadow Returns (1946)
They tried but failed
to make a real Shadow movie this time. Burbank & Hawkeye appear although they don't actually do anything - in fact you'd think they were Lamont's buddies rather than The Shadow's agents from they way they are depicted.
Don't get me wrong, its better than 'International Crime' because it does at least feature The Shadow even if he isn't depicted as well as in the earlier serial or the pulps. And it does have more action than 'The Shadow Strikes' (it could hardly have much less). It would be nice if Margot wasn't a pretty much total flake and more of an agent/assistant/non-idiot. Though she comes off looking good next to Cardona & Weston who make the Keystone Kops look and sound good (yes, I know the Kops were silent but that would be an improvement for this film).
See it if you can but don't go out of your way.
The Missing Lady (1946)
I'm being nice here
because a 3 is pretty darned generous.
A potentially good short is ruined by being expanded into a feature-length comedy. Oh sure, there is a mystery but does anyone care? Everyone but The Shadow is an idiot in this film. Yes, Cardona, Weston, Shrevvy & Margot already were but... between the slapstick and the elevator obsessed old biddies (does anyone out there know how to strangle a character on a DVD?) this was a deserved good end to bad rubbish that the Kane Richmond Shadow series had become.
Go out of your way to avoid this one, unplug your set, leave the house if need be. The Shadow would have wept over this film.
A Burglar to the Rescue (1931)
Straight out of the original radio show
This is one of the few remaining shorts done in 1931 that feature The Shadow just as he was appearing on radio at the time. The Shadow does not participate in the story but appears at the beginning, several times during and at the end of the film when he does his sardonic narration and commentary. Sinister Cinema has this and 2 other Shadow shorts on a DVD which is visually & audibly excellent. Frank Readick is uncredited but his voice is unmistakable and his appearance matches that used in the promo photograph that was given away by the radio show at the time - it is a bit startling to see The Shadow wearing a domino mask & mustache but his appearance in the pulps hadn't yet settled either.
If you're a true Shadow fan you have to get this DVD.
Behind the Mask (1946)
If you liked Bruce Elliot's Shadow
Then you'll probably like this movie. Maybe.
If you like the Walter Gibson, et al, Shadow then you might want to avoid this unless you are an insane completist like me.
The Shadow & Margot were never meant to be a slapstick version of Nick & Nora and unfortunately that is what has been done to them in this. Okay, Shrevie was always played for laughs on the radio so he is acceptable that way (though I prefer the crafty cabbie from the pulps) but even then he wasn't a total moron.
Oh, the mystery part? Yeah, I suppose there is one and its not the worst mystery ever filmed, that might just be 'Sinister Hands', but if you don't guess whodunnit ahead of time its probably because you fell asleep & didn't care.
The St. Louis Bank Robbery (1959)
Period perfect noir
I came across the DVD of this by accident at the library. I'd never heard of it but figured, hey, its Steve McQueen so it must be good. And it is.
Very noir, no heroes (one borderline heroine though) or villains here - just four guys that took the wrong path and can't figure out any other way to live. One of them even needs the cash from the bank job to pay his lawyer who is defending him on another robbery charge! They're all losers and they know it but the idea of doing anything differently is beyond them. McQueen's character is about as sharp as Moose from Archie comics and probably the dumbest of the bunch. His former girlfriend tries to be his saving grace but he isn't smart enough to see it and you feel sadder for her than any of the four robbers. The weed of crime bears only bitter fruit for all the main characters by the end of the film whether they deserve it or not.
The film is done somewhere between the semi-documentary approach of the then-current Untouchables TV series and a straight crime film. Lots of detail, lots of character definition and pretty much zero action until the last ten minutes or so. Had they put quotation marks around the word great it would have made for an accurate ironic title. The lack of budget helps quite a bit - no fancy props or effects could be used, it had to be in b & w and it was probably filmed on location more for the sake of saving the cost of building or renting a set than authenticity.
If you like gritty crime films give it a try.
War Horse (2011)
You've seen it before or so you think
A friend & I caught a sneak preview last night - it was an amazing ride. I wouldn't have otherwise gone to see this film, its about a boy & his pet - seen this story a dozen times, nothing new right?
This is truly epic with multiple tightly interwoven subplots that give it a grand analogy feeling. You will love some of the characters and hate others but while there are heroes (in many ways) there are no villains - just people, no two alike, vividly delineated. You will be surprised, probably even shocked at some character's fates. This is not a predictable collection of clichés.
The warfare itself is gut-wrenching brutally realistic despite the lack of actual gore, which wouldn't have added anything had it been shown. This is NOT for the little kiddies unless they watched 'Saving Private Ryan' for their 4th birthday. Even the corpse-eating rats are present and they aren't doing any cute musical numbers either.
There were a lot of tears shed in the audience in sorrow & in joy and even a beat-up old man like me rode the emotional roller-coaster.
Seriously, if you don't want to see another movie about a boy and his pet then see this film, its so much more than that, you'll be sorry if you miss it.