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Another fun Popeye short
I was fortunate to see an excellent print of this. Popeyes is in pursuit of the rogue Abu Hassan, and Olive Oyl and Wimpy are along for the ride. Alas, their plane crashes in the Arabian Desert and the trio must trek across the desert getting more hungry and thirsty as they go. As to be expected, it is Wimpy who sees a mirage of sumptuous food. My favorite line of the film happens during this trek. Popeyes looks around and all he can see is sand and mumbles "I'd make a sandwich if I had a which." Abu Hassan captures Olive Oyl and Wimpy, but not to worry, Popeeye lays low not only the forty thieves but Abu (who could be Bluto's twin) - and all this to John Philip Sousa sounding music. Popeye's under his breath comments are always a highlight of these cartoons.
Sudden Danger (1955)
Was it suicide or was it murder?
This is one of five mysteries Westerns star Bill Elliott did in the fifties. He returns as a Lieutenant in the L.A. Sheriff's Department but is now called Andy Doyle. I preferred this entry into the series over the first due to the superior supporting cast of Tom Drake, Beverly Garland, Lyle Talbot and Minerva Urecal. Also, this entry was more of a true mystery than Dial Red 0. The first mystery is whether Wallace Curtis' (Drake) mother committed suicide or was murdered, a mystery that Lt. Doyle resolves. But if murder, whodunit? A prime suspect would be Curtis since he was accidentally blinded by his mother. Drake and Beverly Garland, who plays Curtis' girlfriend, Phyllis, really shine in this movie. In fact, their characters are more memorable than Elliott's. Garland had a long television career and is noted for her groundbreaking although short lived television series "Decoy." A good mystery with a solid cast.
Home, Sweet Homicide (1946)
A delightful gem of a movie
The movie is based on the book of the same name by Craig Rice, who was a popular mystery writer in her time. This movie is a pretty faithful adaption of the book and is somewhat autobiographical. Marian Carstairs (played by the underrated Lynn Bari) is a widow who writes mystery books featuring Detective Bill Smith as the protagonist. Her three children (Dinah, the eldest, April, and Archie, the youngest who is bossed around by his sisters and rightly resents it). Even so, the banter between the youngsters and their obvious fondness for each other and their mother is refreshing. When a murder happens in their neighborhood, the siblings decide they need to solve it and make sure their mother gets the credit for doing so and in that way she will get a lot of publicity for her books. Leading the murder investigation is a detective coincidentally named "Bill Smith," nicely played by Randolph Scott. Smith's partner, Sgt. O'Hare (played by the always excellent James Gleason) is continually frustrated by the youngsters' antics. In their effort to solve the mystery for their mother and to protect the husband of the victim from being accused of the murder, the children come up with the harebrained and potentially dangerous idea of giving the police untrue information. They also come up with the idea that Lt. Smith would be a good beau for their mother. This really isn't much of a mystery as it's easy to figure out who the murderer is but it is a delightful and highly entertaining movie. The siblings, played by Peggy Ann Garner, Connie Marshall, and Dean Stockwell work wonderfully well together and are a highlight of this movie. This movie has one of the best introductory credits I've ever seen. A group is singing a sedate "Home Sweet Home." The rendition is interrupted by screaming and other murderous sounds. It's hilarious. For those interested in Craig Rice, Jeffrey Marks has written an excellent biography of her entitled "Who was that lady? Craig Rice: queen of the screwball comedy."
Dial Red O (1955)
Straight forward police drama
Ralph Wyatt, a veteran with a outstanding World War II service record escapes from a mental institution to go and see his wife who divorced him. Soon thereafter, his harridan of an ex is murdered by her lover. We know from the get go who the murderer is (Paul Picerni as Roper) but Roper tries to put the blame on Wyatt. Bill Elliott portrays Sheriff's Department Lt. Andy Flynn as a dour, humorless detective who interestingly is also smart, non-judgmental and does not jump to conclusions nor is he corrupt. I only knew Paul Picerni from "The Untouchables" so I wasn't use to seeing him as a bad guy and he did a fine job. Elliott did a good job but his character isn't particularly memorable even though likable. An okay detective story worth the hour it takes to watch it.
Chu Chin Chow (1934)
A lavish production
This movie is adapted from the incredibly popular British musical stage show that had over two thousand performance on the London stage. It's based on the Ali Baba and Forty Thieves story. The sets are lavish and highly stylized and a large number of extras are used - the production values in this movie are stunning. The uncut 102 minute version is available from VCI Entertainment - it's a very good print. For me, the major reasons for seeing this film are that it is of such historical importance and that it features Anna May Wong. It was nice seeing her in such a prestigious film. That said, some of the acting was overdone and not really suitable for film, although undoubtedly fine for the stage. It's purely a matter of taste but I didn't find the story interesting or the music memorable or enjoyable. I think the movie is too long and slow going. I probably should have watched the 78 minute version - which VCI includes with the uncut version set.
Deadwood Pass (1933)
So so Western
Tom Tyler, a once very popular Western hero comes across as both likable and strong. In this outing Tom is a postal inspector who poses as the notorious Hawk, a thief who has just escaped from jail. Both the good guys and the bad guys are looking for the $200,000 in securities that the Hawk hid in, it is assumed, Deadwood Pass. The best action sequence is when Tom takes over for the stagecoach driver killed by bandits. Tom not only drives the stagecoach at top speed but he turns around and shoots a couple of bandits off their horses. Although a bit far fetched, it still is a good scene. Although there are a number of familiar names in the supporting cast neither they nor the personable Tom could raise this movie above the pedestrian. There's no humor or any memorable dialog and the leading lady (Alice Dahl playing the Sheriff's daughter) gives a bland and stilted performance. Not one of the best Tom Tyler Westerns.
Another good and entertaining episode
As is to be expected from this outstanding series, the production values, costuming, sets (especially the music hall), music, underlying humor, and acting are all top-notch. Suchet is the quintessential Poirot with, however, perhaps a more pronounced display of humor and wit than Poirot of the books. In this outing, an elderly and eccentric artist dies from an apparent accidental fall down the stairs. But Poirot, while having dinner with his dentist friend at Bishop's Chop House had seen Gascoigne on the night of his death. The waitress comments to Poirot and his friend how much Gascoigne has deviated from his previous schedule and dinner choices. When he later hears that Gascoigne died soon after that dinner, Poirot becomes convinced that Gascoigne was murdered. He also learns that Gascoigne's twin brother has also died. Although it doesn't distract from enjoying this episode, it is slightly flawed by having too few suspects and thus it is easy to figure out whodunit. This quibble is more than offset by the running and humorous side story of Hastings' enthusiasm for following a cricket match. Poirot refers to cricket as "Cricket, an English enigma. I don't know of any other game where even the players are uncertain of the rules." This episode is another winner.
The Cowboy Millionaire (1935)
A sneaky con man is no match for a cowboy
Any B western with George O'Brien is worth watching. He had the charisma, underlying sense of humor, good looks and athleticism that made him a joy to see perform and always entertaining. In this western, Bob (O'Brien) and his sidekick Persimmon (Kennedy) take a job at a luxury dude ranch in order to earn enough money to continue to continue working on their mining claim. Part of their duties are to greet incoming visitors at the train station and then take them to the ranch in a stagecoach. Along the way, they stage a mock holdup in order to evidently give visitors a thrill and a taste of the old West. In this case, the passengers are an English mother and her daughter Pamela (Bostok) and a smarmy hanger on manager. When the prank is revealed, the mother is amused, the manager livid and the daughter is insulted and in quite a snit. The two plot lines are the one-oneupmanship game played between Pamela and Bob and a con man trying to cheat Persimmon and Bob out of their valuable mining claim. Understandably, the con man works only with Persimmon who is naive and gullible. Bob becomes smitten with Pamela, but, still in a snit, she flits back to England. Bob pursues her there and they join forces in trying to catch the con man. O'Brien and Bostok work very well together and she holds her own in the acting and charisma even if she loses the one-oneupmanship battle. Edgar Kennedy is, well, the familiar Edgar Kennedy but this time in a Western. He is funny and one of the more entertaining obligatory sidekicks. Very enjoyable B Western.
The Delavine Affair (1955)
Okay British B movie crime thriller
Rex Banner (Reynolds) the owner of a small news agency and free lance reporter finds one of his informants, "Gospel Joe" murdered with a newspaper clipping about the Delavine robbery clutched In his hand. Banner sees a possible big news story but the police see Banner as a possible suspect. With the help of his wife and the news agency photographer, Banner tracks down the murderer, gets the reward and makes a bundle on the news scoop. A real plus of the movie was that it featured Honor Blackman, Gordon Jackson and Katie Johnson (forever remembered for her role in The Ladykillers). One highly distracting small bit about the movie was Banner's unfortunate hairdo - it made him look like a real doofus. A pleasant enough mystery but unremarkable.
Well, it has Houdini as the star
The best thing thing this movie has going for it is that it has Houdini starring as Haldane, a Treasury agent who is tracking down a worldwide counterfeiting ring. Also a plus is that it uses a lot of extras for crowd scenes and has a large number of different sets including a couple in London. One of the interesting crowd scenes was of a Chinese festival in Chinatown. The most exciting scene is when Houdini is tied to a water wheel and escapes - that was good. But the movie was a real slog to sit through - very dull. It was overloaded with title cards. The movie's introduction is three long frames starting with "China - old in wisdom when the world was young - mother of mystery and the black arts of necromancy behind her yellow veil of secrecy"...and on and on. Along the way, Haldane falls in love with a pretty but really dim (and dull) damsel in distress. With one important exception, all the Chinese characters are described as being sly, wily or sinister. Even the title cards are boring. The crooks, who are hiding out in a monastery are describe as "... Disguised in the habiliment of Godly men." Habiliment? You don't see that word used too often (like never). Glad I saw it once but that was enough.