Reviews written by registered user
estabansmythe

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96 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Ruined by the guest star, 30 May 2016

The reason that Episode 10, "All the Best Diseases Are Taken," from November 1965, fails is for one reason, and for that, there are numerous contributors.

Gidge & LaRue (Lynette Winter) decided to protest when their local movie theater raises its ticket prices only for the Friday & Saturday evening showing that most of Gidget & her high school pals attend.

Gidge get protesting, folk singing hero Billy Roy Soames to join the cause.

However, in the end, Soames, who is staying Gidget & Prof Lawrence (the wonderful Don Porter) splits just before the rally, proving to be little better than a wandering bum to whom an actual commitment means nothing.

The episode's problem: As written by Tony Wilson, and as directed by journeyman E.W. Swackhamer, and as played by future cult film director Henry Jaglom, Soames is so thoroughly unlikable that the episode is ruined.

He's rude, crude, manner-less,and completely self-centered. He's disgusting and who can root for someone like that? And because of that, who can really enjoy this episode? What a shame.

Had guest Martin Milner in an earlier episode, "The Great Kahuna," played his legendary surf bum like that it would have ruined what is one of the show's finest episodes.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Filmed at the Arboretum, 3 April 2016

All of the outdoors exterior scenes of this episode: "Murder, She Wrote," "The Scent of Murder" (Season 11, Episode 12, that aired January 9, 1995), were filmed on the 127-acre grounds of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, CA.

The productions crew used the waterfall at the base of Tallac Knoll, the Old Fashioned Rose Garden, the Celebration Garden, the Herb Garden & the Tropical Greenhouse.

What wasn't used in this episode is the Lagoon and the landmark Queen Anne Cottage (originally built in 1885), which was used in the November 1989 episode, "Night of the Tarantula" with guests Hurd Hatfield, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, John Rhys-Davies & Shani Wallis. The Lagoon & Cottage are best known for their extensive use as Mr. Rourke's (Ricardo Montalban)home on "Fantasy Island" - Rourke's diminutive right-hand man, Tattoo (Hervé Villechaize)filmed his now-iconic, "de plane, de plane!" from the Cottage's bell tower.

Arcadia is just east of Pasadena in the San Gabriel Valley, approx. 20 miles east of Downtown Los Angeles. The Arboretum is directly across the street (Baldwin Ave.) from on of horse racing's finest tracks, Santa Anita.

It should be noted that filming began at the Arboretum in the early 30s when the Lagoon was used for the Johnny Weissmuller-Maureen O'Sullivan "Tarzan" adventures, including "Tarzan Escapes" in 1936.

As it happens, I did public relations/publicity & promotion at the Arboretum in the mid-80s.

Fairfield Road (2010) (TV)
0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
We've heard the title song before, 8 March 2016

I'm just starting to watch Hallmark's "Fairfield Road" (2010). I only got to the credits before one thing became obvious: I've heard this title song before.

"Fairfield Road's" composer is listed as Ian Thomas and this film is his only IMDb credit.

However, it must be noted that the music to his instrumental theme song is, in fact, "Durham Town (The Leavin')," a 1969 written and performed by Kenyan/British singer-songwriter and musician Roger Whittaker. The song hit #12 in Great Britain when it was first released in 1969. When it was re-released in 1976, it hit #8 in Canada and #23 on Billboard's Easy Listening chart (now called the Adult Contemporary chart).

What gives?

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The greatest B film ever?, 25 November 2015
10/10

Paul Bartel's "Death Race 2000" could very well be the Best B Film Ever.

It has every exploitation feature necessary; everything a low-budget flick needs to be considered a classic of the genre: beautiful gals flashing a nifty amount of nudity/T&A, really fun violence, a fast-moving plot, zooming action & hilarious characters delivering their lines with great zest.

Stallone's pre-"Rocky" Rocky is howl; Carridine plays it straight to perfection; B Queens Mary Woronov & Roberta Collins chew up the scenery & have a sexy blast; pre-Gopher on "Love Boat" & pre-Congressman Fred Grandy shows an unexpected side.

And the three TV broadcasters, the legendary "Real" Don Steele, Joyce Jameson and little known-but-terrific Carle Bensen are a scream! It's tongue-in-cheek farce at its finest! Man, I love this movie!

Lured (1947)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A wonderfully fun curio loaded with favorite actors, 23 November 2015
8/10

In a way, "Lured" is actually George Zucco's film. Why? Because of his counter-casting, even though there has never been any doubt that this great mostly-unknown English actor (except to horror & comedy-mystery fans) would have pulled it off with his usual style & class, and here, humor (remember, he was a hoot in "After the Thin Man" & "Topper Returns").

It's a fun whodunit with a really solid cast from top to bottom, including favorites Alan Mobray, Gerald Hamer, Joseph Calleia, Charles Coburn,and Alan Napier (Alfred the butler on "Batman").

"Lured" is about a lady killer on the loose in London, and includes a cast with such leading stars as Lucille Ball, George Sanders, Sir Cedric Hardwicke and George Sanders - but it's Zucco who always demands that the viewer watch.

Horror legend Boris Karloff shows up in as a crazed dress designer. His moment is priceless.

Hopefully, one or two of the terrific new retro networks will add this to their rotations.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A real movie, 17 June 2014

"Murder, She Wrote: South By Southwest," is a title that's an obvious homage to Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 classic suspenser, "North By Northwest," This is because while a great portion of the Hitchcock classic takes place aboard a train, so does this thriller - and a thriller, it is! I loved Angela's "Murder, She Wrote, series - but this is so much more competent; so much more professional - it's production so much more stylish; so much more like a motion picture.

I'm watching this for the first time right now as I type this because I was drawn to record a wonderfully positive review. On my on screen TV guide, some igno gave it one star...one lousy star! I'm sorry, but this is a full three-star mystery! This is one of the finest, if not the finest, Jessica Flether "murder, She Wrote" mysteries of them all!

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
It's Mantan not Rochester, 19 January 2013

This is directed to the guy who gives the kudos in "Phantom Killer" to Jack Benny's valet/chef/chauffeur/right-hand-man Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. You got it wrong, fellow. That was not Rochester playing Nicodemus, the janitor who sees a man talk who can't talk. Nope. It was the great Mantan Moreland.

BTW, this low budget Monogram 2-reeler is fun, especially if you're a fan of the dozens of Old Dark House mysteries that were produced in the 30s & 40s.

Mantan, who died in 1973 at age 71, is probably best remembered these days as Birmingham Brown, Charlie Chan's driver and cohort to Charlie's Numbers One, Two & Three sons in 14 Charlie Chan movies from 1944-1949.

Mantan also had solid roles in "King of the Zombies" (1941), "Dressed to Kill" (1941) with Lloyd Nolan as shamus Mike Shayne, "The Strange Case of Dr. RX" (1942) with another great, Lionel Atwill and many other fun films. He acted into the 1970s when he appeared in such TV series as "Love, American Style" and "Adam-12."

Mantan has deservedly been remembered in beloved fashion by many and needs to be recognized here.

Super 8 (2011)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A fun homage, 6 January 2013

I have no idea what director JJ Abrams style is. Why not? Because "Super 8" might very well have been directed by its producer, Steven Spielberg. This IS a Spielberg-style film - and that ain't bad.

Hectic family life; dysfunctional family life; families in crisis, Spielberg trademarks one and all are all here.

Overall, the film is an wonderful homage to 50s B movie drive-in "classics" albeit with $50 million worth of today's finest effects.

As others have written, it's "The Goonies"-meet-"ET"-meet-"Close Encounters." And let's not forget "Alien." Heck, there's even a fun tribute: an electric company guy doing his best "Close Encounters" Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, complete with identical yellow truck, yellow hardhat and sideburns.

But there's also touches of Spielberg's "War of the Worlds." Young heroes working to solve a mystery, a la the four 1939 Warner Bros. Nancy Drew mysteries with Bonita Granville & Frankie Thomas, as well as Disney's 1964 "Emil & The Detectives" have been around for decades and this is yet another fun addition.

The CG crashes are, as expected, too over-the-top (as they are in most blockbusters today), and the ending just doesn't come together in anything close to a satisfying fashion. And to be honest, there is a slight tendency to get frustrated waiting & waiting to finally see the mysterious "whatever." Face it, there are a lot of unanswered questions or unsatisfactory plot stuff, like the upside down folks, the cubes, the missing pooches, the tower and how it all comes together at the end (what was that?).

But it's still one hell of an entertaining old-style Spielberg popcorn flick! But the young cast is terrific, especially Riley Griffiths as amateur film director Charles. Riley made his film debut here, and as I type this it's the only film or TV work listed his his IMDb bio page. That should change.

Other young actors Joel Courtney (also making his film debut), Ryan Lee and Elle Fanning are each terrific! All the kids in the film are terrific.

I know that as soon as I complete this and send it on for approval I'll think of another dozen films that possibly/probably intentionally influenced portions of this highly entertaining movie.

A fun homage, 9 June 2011 Author: estabansmythe from Azusa, CA

Matchmaker Santa (2012) (TV)
12 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
I loved this!, 15 December 2012

The Hallmark Channel produced a dozen new made-for-TV Christmas movies for the 2012 holiday season. I've seen a few. They're alright.

However, when it comes to this one, "Matchmaker Santa," I am not the least bit shy about confessing that I loved it! Yes, it's not deep & it really has no antagonists nor any real conflict that's essential to most plots - but so what!

And yes, we all know very well who Lacey Chabert is going to end up with, but with all the rotten things facing us out there in real life, this is exactly what the doctor ordered!

This Christmas romance fits like a glove! It is quite wonderful! The Christmas atmosphere of the fictitious small town of Buford Falls (a possible nod to "It's a Wonderful Life's" Bedford Falls), courtesy of Art Director Vahn Armstrong & Set Decorator Linda Louise Sheets is so rich, so warm - so charming & wonderful.

And the supporting cast of veterans Florence Henderson & Lin Shaye as active local businesswomen; and John Ratzenberger as Budford Height's easy-going mechanic & town mayor; and Donovan Scott, who has made a fine career out of playing Santa, are all so friendly that before long it hits you that you'd love to have these folks for neighbors. In fact, you'd love to live in Bedford!

"Matchmaker Santa" is a marvelous, indeed, magical new Christmas movie, and this comes from a guy who loves the old classic holiday films and TV specials, but who has never been overly impressed with the new ones.

I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I always do whenever I see it.

Dave (1993)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Capra's take on The Prisoner of Zenda, 7 July 2012

I'm actually sort of surprised that no one has noted that the marvelous "Dave" is a remake of "The Prisoner of Zenda," about a commoner who impersonates his look-alike prince-crowned-king while falling in love with his princess to be. The only change in story is that while "Zenda's" hero lives happily ever after, alas, it's not with his princess.

Under Ivan Reitman's sure-handed blend of subtle comedy & drama, and backed by James Newton Howard's melodic score, Kevin Kline is aces as average guy/everyman Dave, who is plucked from Small Town, USA, to assume the position of the most powerful man on earth. Equally up to the task is Frank Langella as his evil, rotten, power- hungry Chief of Staff.

The co-stars, including Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin & Ben Kingsley,are each finely cast.

Three sound versions of "Zenda" were filmed: in 1937 with Ronald Coleman in the dual role & Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as his adversary; in 1952 with good guy Stewart Granger vs. baddie James Mason; and finally in 1979 - the least impressive version - with Peter Sellers, in his third to last role, fighting evil Stuart Wilson.

"Dave" matches up a lot closer with those earlier two versions than with the Seller's take. The shot of Dave heading back home over the hill, his job done, is a marvelous re-do of the Coleman version.

BTW, In 1968, Don Adams wrote a take-off on "Zenda" as well as its 2- part sequel in '69, but that's another story, so to speak.


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