Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Target: Harry (1969)
Vic Morrow is being pressured for counterfeit plates he doesn't have
"Target:Harry" is a nicely-done crime story. I'm becoming a Roger Corman fan. His films, the ones I've seen, have good suspense and intelligence behind them. This one has Morrow deliver some final lines that go right back to "The Maltese Falcon". The story parallels the latter in some respects.
Vic Morrow does a great job here as a tough pilot. He flies Stanley Holloway from Monaco to Istanbul in a seaplane. Holloway is shot and killed. He was supposed to deliver a set of counterfeit plates to Victor Buono. When he failed, Buono sets upon Morrow, who knows nothing about it. Cop Caesar Romero in Monaco also pressures Morrow. Buono has a competitor in Suzanne Pleshette, and she uses her feminine wiles on Morrow. Morrow keeps telling everyone he knows nothing about the plates but they keep at him. Buono has a very scary looking Turkish wrestler who would persuade anyone to talk. Holloway has a daughter (Charlotte Rampling) in Monaco and she becomes another lead.
Morrow knows he's in the middle of crooks and cops, and he's trying to find out what happened to the plates that Holloway was supposed to have been carrying. It's his show, and he's in the thick of it like Bogart with the Maltese falcon. If Buono is Greenstreet, then Pleshette is Mary Astor. The plates are the falcon. Buono is assisted by Michael Ansara. He's not exactly what he seems, anymore than Peter Lorre was.
We get an excellently-filmed foot chase sequence through the narrow street vending area of Istanbul. We get a nicely filmed chase sequence in the ruins of a temple on a Greek island. The acting is first rate throughout. The music highlights the suspense. This is quite a good film, done in the older ways in which such films were done in the 60s and 70s. And those ways were good ways in the hands of professionals of the time. They were lively and straightforward.
Morrow has star billing and a really substantial role. His fans won't want to miss this entry.
Reindeer Games (2000)
With troubling results, Ben Affleck assumes the identity of his erstwhile cellmate
John Frankenheimer's skill as a director shows through in "Reindeer Games". He was working with a decent neo-noir script that is heavy on the complications, double crosses and predicaments. His touch showed in orchestrating action scenes so that they seemed realistic, not cartoonish, edited so that the action was clear, and with good setups.
The movie featured the strong acting of Charlize Theron in a substantial part and the excellent acting of Gary Sinise. His skill shows in the way that he can yell, show anger and still make it seem very real and intimidating. Clarence Williams III had a notable supporting role. Dennis Farina has some comic relief. Ben Affleck was adequate, no more, and sometimes wobbly in even being adequate. The problem is partly in the part written into the script. He's just a little too self-deprecating, humorous, indecisive, hiding his cleverness and skills underneath. It makes it hard to identify with him. He doesn't give us a likable enough character with at least some glimmers of heroism. He seems too much like a college chap.
I found this movie a cut above the standard action movie because of a deeper neo-noir script and generally better acting and direction. It was an enjoyable outing that I think will hold up on a second viewing.
Money Madness (1948)
Hugh Beaumont, a complex thief and murderer, snares Frances Rafferty in his web
"Money Madness" is a really good b-noir that shouldn't be missed by noir fans and those who like tough crime stories. And it is easy to miss because it will be an obscure title for all but devoted fans who seek out such items of the past. However, it's on both youtube and the internet archive. I watched it again last night.
Hugh Beaumont arrives in a small town with $200,000 he has made off with from a gang robbery, but he can't flaunt this hot money without arousing suspicions. His character is complex. He's cold and calculating, manipulative, ready to kill without emotion, but the story also brings out that he falls in love for the first time with Frances Rafferty. This doesn't stop him from using her. She makes the mistake of marrying him, because she's held down by her aunt. Beaumont does a great job at making this character real and chilling. He can look very menacing. Rafferty does fine as a woman caught in his web.
Director Sam Newfield did hundreds of westerns before doing a few small noirs in this era. In this one, there are some good shots.
Recommended as a no-nonsense noir that establishes quite a chilling mood as Beaumont carries out his plans and as he entraps Rafferty in them.
A Little Trip to Heaven (2005)
Forest Whitaker investigates insurance fraud
"A Little Trip to Heaven" is a neo-noir that has notable positives and negatives that co-exist. The overall result is therefore mixed.
The story has possibilities, centering on an insurance fraud accomplished by a car crash and murder. The perpetrator has a history of such frauds, having done a previous one by a car crash too. But he has assumed a different identity to go undetected. He lives with his sister who poses as his wife, but she is now more on the up and up and doesn't know what he has done. Forest Whitaker is an insurance investigator who works for a company that makes every attempt to find loopholes so as to deny payments, so he comes to investigate. This story has several quite unrealistic elements and large plot holes to it that could have been smoothed over in a better script, and this brings down the movie. The car crashes themselves are unrealistic.
Another negative is Whitaker's Canadian accent. It is never made clear why he's where he is somewhere in the upper midwest of America or possibly even in Canada. The place looks more like Canada (it's actually Iceland). At any rate, his accent is constantly annoying (by being too exaggerated) and unnecessary in the bargain since every one else sounds American. The Canadian accent is more subtle.
Another negative is the music, which not only is grating but doesn't fit the story and mood. I understand that this is a matter of taste, but it didn't fit in my opinion. It annoyed me too.
The ending flies off into the realm of implausibility as Whitaker's character does a u-turn, apparently due to a change of heart about the girl and her more-or-less adopted son. But the u-turn is way too large. Then the movie ends with a Hollywood touch tacked on that completely changes the mood and doesn't fit the story.
Counteracting all of this are the very strong visuals and locations. The snowy backgrounds and dwellings are used very well indeed and add danger and intrigue. The story itself has enough complexity and mystery to it also to be engaging. The side characters and the Whitaker character (and performance) are more on the plus side.
What it adds up to is that we're rooting here for a good film in all departments, because this could be a very good noir, but the negatives tend to bring it down. Of these, we can live with the music and the accent (barely), but the ending and the transformation of Whitaker are too much to take, and they only remind us of the earlier plot holes. So that the film leaves us quite disappointed.
The Spy Killer (1969)
Spy chief Sebastian Cabot manipulates former agent Robert Horton
"The Spy Killer" is filled with double-crosses as Sebastian Cabot, who was once Robert Horton's spy boss 5 years earlier, manipulates him back into doing what he wants him to do. Cabot can be very nasty, even to Horton, and that makes this story and its follow-up ("Foreign Exchange") tick. Horton has to contend with the Eastern bloc spies, but even more does he have to contend with those supposedly on his side! His opposition is actually easier to get along with. Horton has to think ahead, and knowing what Cabot is up to or guessing it, he is continually finding angles to pressure Cabot who, in turn, finds way to pressure Horton right back.
There is good tension and occasional gunplay and tense moments in which it looks to me like Horton did some of his own stunts. He looks agile and in good shape. He delivers his sharp lines extremely well, in fast retorts. Jill St. John is Horton's girlfriend. She's vulnerable as an occasional pawn in the spy games.
This one's all about a notebook that contains 15 names in code, the names of agents. The retired Horton is virtually framed into a murder so that Cabot can get his hooks into him again. Horton gets the notebook, but then his independent streak sets in.
The director was Roy Ward Baker, who was extremely experienced and capable. The writer was Jimmy Sangster, another pro. In this film, these talents work together very well indeed. This and its followup are both recommended.
True Confession (1937)
Carole Lombard is delightful as an inveterate liar married to an honest lawyer, Fred MacMurray
"True Confession" is beautifully filmed and staged. It's funny in places, funny enough to have you laughing out loud, but it's also got dry spells where there are no laughs, even if the situations are amusing. Carole Lombard is excellent as the wife who makes up lies to make life easier, but they often get her in trouble. Fred MacMurray plays a straight-shooting lawyer who won't take on a client unless he or she is really innocent. He's good at comedy, but I think the script rather let him down on this one. John Barrymore plays a real oddball character, and he's quite funny all by himself. He's a pleasure to watch in action. I find the antics of the cop (Edgar Kennedy) as way too grating and unfunny. Una Merkel is a capable comic actress, and she has a few sharp lines, but a lot of the time she's trying to rein in Carole. Porter Hall, like the rest, can do good comedy. He has his shtick, but again I felt his part as prosecutor was too forced as written.
Overall, a film with a very good cast let down by a script that was uneven and quite often unfunny, but raised by smooth execution of the material and pretty photography.
Foreign Exchange (1970)
Robert Horton, retired from the spy game, is thrust back into it
"Foreign Exchange" is a solid and enjoyable spy story with plenty of twists. In spy stories, twists usually arise when the boss of the spy sends him on a mission that, unknown to the spy, has a different objective. The boss may lie to his own agent. At other times, it's a game of chess in which the boss plans on his agent's and opposition moves and then there are counter-moves already planned. In this movie, these kinds of nifty complications occur, but there is much more due to the independence of Robert Horton's spy character. He's no passive pawn. He's been out of the spy game for 5 years. He has information he's ready to use against his own boss (Sebastian Cabot) when things get hot for him. He's willing and able to cooperate to some extent with the Russian boss (played very nicely by Eric Pohlmann). Also, Horton is no slouch in transmitting pressure to other spies with questionable backgrounds, in the same way that Cabot has blackmailed him into a new mission. When Horton's interrogated, he can lie with a straight face and no loss in composure.
All of this adds up to a very good spy movie.
Special Agent K-7 (1936)
FBI agent Walter McGrail and lawyer Irving Pichel head the cast of this engaging murder mystery
"Special Agent K-7" is a good murder story that packs quite a lot into its package. My copy runs 66 minutes, not the original 71 minute running time. I think the movie would be even better without those cuts. As it stands, however, it's quite engaging and snappy with plenty of characters, including tough guys and reporters as is common in these 30s crime movies.
The story opens with a trial in which the confident defense lawyer, Irving Pichel, gets a hung jury. Before 12 minutes have passed, we learn that he bribed a juror, and soon enough that juror is killed. Pichel's acting raises this picture greatly. He had a deep, strong and distinctive voice. He came across as a firm character in many movies. Pichel, a good director, also directed 38 movies.
The story revolves around a second murder, which is of a night club owner played by Willy Castello, a b-player hailing from the Netherlands who often appeared in uncredited roles. He holds a gambling note signed by a young man played by Donald Reed. Pichel will defend Reed against murder. Reed's about to marry a feisty woman reporter played by Queenie Smith, and she knows the story's FBI agent, Walter McGrail. He's been prevailed upon to take this assignment against "organized crime", but his usual assignments are overseas as a special agent. McGrail is more or less undercover for much of the story, posing as a businessman in chemicals. He weaves in and out. Hanging around this night club with its gambling room is an assortment of tough guys, one of whom is Duncan Renaldo of Cisco Kid fame. There is room for one complete and nicely-done song done by Joy Hodges, who accompanies herself for real on the piano. The script, in some minor scenes and characters, moves too swiftly.
Among these old b-movies, one has to sort out the little gems from the creaky ones whose acting and production values are so bad as to undermine the movie. While not a gem, this movie is one of the better ones, with a good story and lively acting.
The Italian Job (2003)
Gold thieves take their revenge on a double-crosser and murderer in their midst
"The Italian Job" (2003) is a long movie. At first it's engaging, but eventually it becomes tiresome. It becomes mechanical and distant. Its emotions become pseudo-emotions. Its characters become stock characters without depth. The gang relies heavily on super-computer and hacking whiz kid operations, and this has a magical or unreal aspect, convenient for a superficial kind of story. The gang is a politically correct assortment. The actors are actually given little to do of a substantial nature. Donald Sutherland has become more charismatic as he got older, but he's bumped off early in the movie.
Overall, I was disappointed. After seeing it, I wondered how this compared to a more robust classic caper movie like "Topkapi". There we have a super and superior cast of actors, and each one creates a memorable character. They face a challenge and we see how they work to overcome each part of it more or less realistically. The caper engages us thoroughly. There is no need for chases or outrageously extraordinary deeds such as are depicted in "The Italian Job". A feeling of realism is maintained. One can watch "Topkapi" again some time without feeling bored. I cannot imagine watching "The Italian Job" (2003) again. Why would I want to? What is there in it that bears re-watching?
My Gun Is Quick (1957)
Robert Bray is thrown off the track as he solves three murders
"My Gun Is Quick" is a film noir that makes good use of locations to capture the every day 1957 Los Angeles, small lunch counters, modest apartment houses, freeways, oil derricks, upscale modernistic homes on the ocean, fancy boats, and strip clubs. The film looks good in widescreen and has some pleasing noir photography. This is Robert Bray's milieu as he walks (actually drives) a twisted path to solve three murders. Bray's Mike Hammer is blunt, determined, and occasionally quite angry, with some awkward shouting, but not enough to spoil the fun. The story is suitably complex.
Bray has to take some punches, but he also has an outing (off camera) with Whitney Blake that leaves them both smiling when they get off her boat. Blake is effective in a substantial part, but she's not the only female attracted to Bray's Hammer. There's always Velda, the shapely Pamela Duncan. There's a stripper (Genie Coree) and there's an aspiring actress (Jan Chaney), whom Bray befriends but who turns up dead, setting the story in motion.
Donald Randolph has a substantial part as a man out of prison who really wants to get the Venacci jewels that he stole during WW II. He got favorable comment from me recently for his appearance in "Gunsmoke" (1953). He scores again here, adding substance to a man obsessed. Randolph's girl friend (Patricia Donohue) is bait for Bray.
The cast of less-than-major players fits the movie and Spillane's work. Major players would spoil the illusion. The directors brought the Mickey Spillane world to life nicely, not overdone which would shatter the illusion, but with enough of his touches to make it real and allow us to buy into it. They got the right portrayals out of their cast. Combine those Spillane-tinged portrayals with the atmosphere of LA and the complex yarn and you have a solid film and noir.