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A stiff upper lip at West Point, 30 September 2014

In a great tradition of films about the Army Military Academy like The Long Gray Line, Flirtation Walk and The West Point Story steps The Duke At West Point. It's about three roommates at West Point, Louis Hayward, Richard Carlson, and Tom Brown and their first two years at the Academy.

Brown has gone to a military school and is gung ho army. Carlson is the son of a war hero killed in the first World War and has a presidential appointment. Hayward is the son of the military attaché at the American Embassy in London and has gone to Cambridge where he starred in Rugby, arguably tougher than American football.

If this had been done at 20th Century Fox Hayward's part would have been a lock for Tyrone Power. Hayward's a cocky arrogant sort who rubs his upper classmates the wrong way. But he has a great deal more character than they realize. He's caught off grounds after hours and doesn't reveal his reason for doing so. I won't reveal it here because it's centerpiece of the whole plot.

In fact Louis Hayward did many roles as a free lance actor that would have been done by Power over at Fox and Errol Flynn at Warner Brothers. Certainly those two are better known to film fans today, but Hayward is someone waiting to be discovered.

Producer Edward Small not having a major studio backing never got to West Point it seems. But with a lot of establishing shots the film has the look and feel of the Military Academy.

This film holds up as well as those others in portraying the tradition of West Point.

So are we, 30 September 2014

I still call the John Wayne-Robert Mitchum classic western El Dorado the 'much obliged' movie. So it was with some curiosity that I watched this Warner Brothers short subject I'm Much Obliged. In El Dorado everyone is constantly saying how they're 'much obliged'. The only things that star George Dobbs is obliged for is a punch in the nose delivered by Lester Cole.

Dobbs plays the columnist who writes the Mr. Inquisitor column whose tagline is 'much obliged. He calls around to various entertainers looking for news for his Walter Winchell like column and he gets to hear a bit of everybody's act. The best is singer Vera Van who delivers a rendition of that smoky torch You Let Me Down which Lee Wiley made popular in the Thirties.

I'm Much Obliged is a pleasant 20 minute musical interlude.

An Awful Letdown, 29 September 2014

Very old Elspeth Dudgeon flags down a bus and sits next to Nancy Kelly the descendant of an old hanging judge, or maybe burning judge would be better of the town she's headed for. Right after the bus crashes and everybody dies except for Kelly and the fierce German Shepherd dog who was Dudgeon's companion.

When she gets back all kinds of things start happening to make Kelly thinks she's possessed by the spirit of one of those women that was burned as a witch who threatened to come back and get even. For one thing the old woman's body was not accounted for. It's all a puzzle to the town doctor John Loder and the town preacher Otto Kruger.

In the words of that old Fred Astaire song, this film builds you up to an awful let down. Some compare it to a Val Lewton type thriller. I think if Lewton had anything to do with it he was right to keep his name off.

Everyone looks so earnest in this film though. A shame for some talented players to waste their time.

Jingle Bill a literate bandit, 29 September 2014

Wallace Beery was once one of MGM's biggest box office draws, but by the mid Forties he was reduced to B pictures of which Barbary Coast Gent is an example.

Barbary Coast Gent finds Beery a genial con man who has to flee San Francisco and his long time lady love Binnie Barnes and head for Nevada and the alleged precious metals that are to be found there. There's nothing alleged about the gold mine he accidentally finds. But what to do about it.

He certainly needs money and for once he uses his persuasive conning powers to get investors in on a real deal. But he's a guy who usually takes the money and runs and the real problems of mining prove to be formidable.

When former associate John Carradine blackmails him, Beery is forced to real outlaw ways robbing all kinds of places to make him the money that Carradine took. Rather stupidly he takes to using poetical verses left at every scene to identify him as a literate bandit known as Jingle Bill.

It all works out for him though, somewhat in the end. Think of the John Ford Three Godfathers and you'll know what happens to Beery.

MGM did provide Beery with some great players for a supporting cast with Henry O'Neill. Paul Hurst, Ray Collins and the best being Chill Wills as a laconic sheriff. Fans of Wallace Beery should enjoy this.

Trying to live it down, 29 September 2014

Dann Florek takes center stage in this episode where a man whom he arrested for murder years ago who served his time is now a suspect again. James McDaniel who was thought to be a model of rehabilitation even now a university professor is thought to be a suspect in a recent homicide of a young woman whose body is found in Central Park.

Of course when McDaniel's name comes into the investigation Florek with the history he has zeroes in on him. Later on Christopher Meloni and Mariska Hargitay find exculpatory evidence and the squad starts moving in the other direction.

The frame was a good one, but not good enough. McDaniel's quite good in the role of a man who can't escape his past.

Diamonds are a Nazi's best friend, 28 September 2014

Two generations of acting styles come together in Marathon Man. Dustin Hoffman plays a most reluctant hero a young pacifist graduate student at Columbia University who is a distance runner. He gets way over his head with an arch Nazi war criminal Laurence Olivier who did not drag out his patented Mittel-Europa accent. Instead he spoke a most precise English for the role, just like a foreigner having to learn the tongue.

His brother Roy Scheider is supposed to be in the oil business. Their father was a victim of the McCarthy Era blacklist who killed himself. Scheider actually works for a branch of the CIA, no doubt as Hoffman says the father would disapprove. I'm wondering how he got clearance.

A whole bunch of people from that section are dying and when Scheider dies Hoffman goes into action not knowing who to trust. But he's lucky, very lucky.

Olivier who has been living in South America in seclusion is forced to come to America to get his fortune in diamonds in a safety deposit vault. He's forced to do this after his brother is killed in a traffic accident right at the beginning of the film. Olivier's Dr. Szell is as terrifying a villain as his Richard III. It's what got him an Oscar nomination his only one in the Supporting Actor category.

Marathon Man has a lot of holes in the story, but the acting between Hoffman and Olivier is not to be missed.

Twisted, 28 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's Kelli Giddish who is shot right at the beginning of this SVU story, but it's Ice-T as her partner who is featured in this episode. There are some sniper shootings, first of Giddish and then of the son of Ice-T's old lieutenant Cathy Moriarty-Gentile. It's about Fin in some way, but then a real curve gets tossed the squad. The mother of the son of a known drug dealer kingpin who Fin was instrumental in putting away is also shot dead by the same sniper. Giddish is quite lucky to be alive.

The investigation goes back to Yul Vazquez who was Ice-T's old partner who took a bullet meant for Fin in their last bust the drug dealer Emilio Rivera. Nothing but bad luck has come his way since then, but he has a daughter Jessica Camacho who is in the Police Academy now. She's his pride and joy.

Can't say more, but I have to give it away because it's Camacho who is the perpetrator. She's bitter at the world for what has happened to her family. But she is a really a study in both narcissism and self pity. A few more killings of people who never did anything to her or her father show how twisted Camacho has become.

She's worth seeing in this frightening story. And what happened to her father has happened to many.

Stuck with it, 28 September 2014

This show begins with young David Gelles running out naked on his driveway high on something. Ice T and Kelli Giddish bust him of course and he goes to the psych ward until he gets off whatever he's on. Then the normal course of the criminal justice system will commence.

But things proceed anything but normal when during his incarceration Gelles sees a rape in progress while he's trying to flee the hospital. The judge orders SVU to investigate and they don't even know who the victim is.

That never stopped this squad before and they do come up with the victim who denies everything. Natasha Lyonne has a history of mental illness so proving anything won't be easy. We have a ward full psychiatric patients and a few family members for suspects.

Lyonne does well in a role that shows her as a victim of long term abuse. For her this episode is worth seeing.

Go Figure (2005) (TV)
"You're a Twirl Girl", 28 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Disney Studios produced this nice family film about young Jordan Hinson who wants more than anything to be a champion figureskater. Russian skating instructor Cristina Rose offers to take her on, but she has to get into this prep school where she is and the only way is through a girl's hockey scholarship. And not field hockey, the real deal on ice.

The coach owes Rose and takes Hinson on without actually intending to play her and the other girls on the team resent her at first and they don't even know she's really a figureskater whom they disparage as a twirl girl. But figureskating has taught her a few moves and the fact is she combines her worlds.

We even get an appearance from real life Olympic medalist Krista Yamaguchi who is Hinson's idol. All in all a nice story about a young figureskater.

"Is that a girl", 27 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

While it may have been fortunate that young Robert Walker, Jr. landed on a planet where supernatural beings gave him powers to survive, they did not exactly act as parents to him. So we have an immature 17 year old played by 26 year old Walker who has powers to create and destroy at will. Which he uses against those who don't 'like' him and that's defined rather broadly.

He certainly wasn't schooled in relations with the opposite sex as he asks William Shatner whether Grace Lee Whitney was that opposite sex he's heard tell about. When the captain of the Antares got rid of Walker and foisted him on the Enterprise Shatner should have suspected something was up.

In the end one of the Thasians played by Abraham Sofaer takes charge of Walker bringing him back to the only world he ever knew. Not after he's wreaked havoc on the Enterprise and its crew.

This was the first of several Star Trek episodes where the Enterprise came across a race of super beings who were just not concerned with the imperial wars of the Humans, Klingons, Romulans, etc.

This time I hope Sofaer and his race give Walker an education that includes the facts of life.

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