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Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943)
Director William Beaudine is No Val Lewton But Infinitely More Prolific
For Every Good Thing in this Remake from Director William "One Shot" Beaudine, there are Bad Things that Make it a Tough Watch. The Monogram Studio was Known for its Low Rent Productions and Often Hid that Shortcoming with Darkness. But Beaudine, Unfortunately, One of the Most Prolific Directors Ever, was No Val Lewton.
So the Mystery Element is Succinct with its Foreboding Look and Musty Surroundings but is Negated by the God-Awful Comedy Relief that is so Prevalent, this Must be Called a Mystery-Comedy. Even the Masked Killer, while Looking Ominous behind the Peep Hole, is "Overshadowed" by the Goofiness of the "Sleeping Detective".
Overall, if Lowbrid Compilations of Inept Slapstick and Silliness Mixes Well with Your Mystery Movie Input, then Have at it. But Most Viewers will Find this Dated and Dumb with Only a Smattering of Interest Interspersed Among the Shenanigans.
Note...To this Day no one has uncovered the "Thirteenth Guest", and the identity remains a "Mystery".
The Story of Temple Drake (1933)
One of the Most Talked About Pre-Code Films A Must See
Infamous Pre-Code Movie that is Often Cited as One of those that Brought the Hays/Breen Code Finally to its Place as Predeterminer of All Things Hollywood. It was Banned in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and Once the Code Took Effect, the Do-Gooders Made it Clear that this One was Never to be Re-Released in Any Form. Thanks a Bunch.
Because of All the Hoopla this was a Rarely Seen, Until Very Recently, Film that was "Lost" for Decades. Then when it did Resurface it was in Bad Prints that were a Disappointment at Best and Impossible to Watch at Worst.
But Recently, thanks to TCM and Others, a New 35MM Print has been Restruck and Pre-Code Fans were Salivating to get a Glimpse at this Faulkner Story that was Considered Unfilmable. But Paramount did Film it and Release it with a Title Change, because the Book was as Infamous as the Movie would Become. The Book, Sanctuary, was Considered Lurid Trash. The Movie, The Story of Temple Drake, was Considered Lurid Trash. So Everyone Wins, so to Speak.
It is Quite a Ride with Miriam Hopkins Playing the Lead, a Late Teen Southern Belle with a Family History on Her Side and a Beau Always at Her Side that were Always Invited to but Never let into "The Temple". A Scrawl on the Bathroom Wall says it All..."Temple Drake is a Fake...She Wants to Eat and Have Her Cake".
The Movie is Divided Distinctly in Two Parts. First are the Fancy Free and Gay Party Scenes where Temple Bounces from Boy to Frustrated Boy, Comes in at Dawn and is Happy just to Dance and Drink the Night Away. Part Two is a Gothic Horror Story that Pulls Few Punches. The Fantasy Daydream has Become a Nightmare when Temple Finds Herself Stranded in an Old Dark House with Hillbilly Horrors.
There are Filthy, Sweaty Men Lusting After Her Disrobed, Pre-Code Female Form and this Climaxes with a Barnyard Rape and a Stockholm Syndrome Situation. Jack La Rue is the Bootlegger, Pimp, Murderer, Rapist, that has Temple Under His Spell and After Spending Some Nights in a Brothel, the Final Act of Capitulation, the Courtroom Conclusion is Brought About so Things can be Set Righteous.
This is a Racy, Raunchy, Sordid Story of Sex, Murder, and Drunks. All Surrounding a Southern Family Tradition. Class Structured Elitism Exposed in the William Faulkner Way with a Heaping of Pre-Censorship, Expressionistic, Hollywood.
Note...This is one of the most written about Pre-Code Films and there is much more information to be found elsewhere with in depth discussions about the Film's History.
Red Heat (1988)
Director Walter Hill Fizzles, Arnold Sleepwalks, and James Belushi is Awful
Walter Hill is an Underrated Director of B-Movies. But when Given an A Budget His Films Tend to Suffer and this is a Prime Example. It is Not Awful but is More Embarrassing than it Needs to Be. The Comedy is Inconsistent with a Couple of Funny Lines but James Belushi Overacts so Shamelessly that Most of the Time He is Just a Cringe Magnet.
Arnold is OK and His Terminator Like Performance, of a Stereotypical Russian, Works Well. But the Chemistry with Belushi Never Clicks. Ed O'Ross as the Villain is Quite Scary. The Typical Walter Hill Violence is in Evidence but is Rather Ho Hum and Repetitive. Even the Bus Chase and Standoff Finale Fizzles and isn't Filmed with Much Pizazz.
Overall, this is a Huge Waste of Talent and that Includes Laurence Fishburne, Gina Gershon, and Peter Boyle. A Mess Really, this is One that the Director Probably would Like to Have Back Because Considering the Money Spent and the Talent on Display, Walter Hill is Much too Good to Make a Flick this Bad.
It was a Money Maker and was Made at the Height of Eighties Buddy Cop Movies and Arnold's Career was Peeking. But Overall this is Average at Best and at Worst One of the Director's More Glaring Failures.
I Was Framed (1942)
Mind Jarring Juxtapositions One of Director Lederman's Trademarks
The Unsung and Almost Forgotten Director D. Ross Lederman's Career Spanned Four Decades and is Awash in B's Filled with Mind Numbing Transitions while Compiling Sometimes Drastic Dramatic Changes in Tone and Presentation that Make You Pay Attention.
In this One for Example, the First Act is Film-Noir, Completely Night Time, Shadows Lurking Everywhere and Sinister, Creepy Villains About. But when the Framed Man Escapes from Prison, a Reporter who was Exposing Corruption at the Highest Level, with His Pregnant Wife Along, Ends Up in a Small Town "A Democratic Town", the Feel of the Film Snaps into a Drama of Socialism where Payment for Health Care is Not Expected, and is Happily Included with a Place to Live and a Job.
It is this Type of Jarring Juxtaposition that is Trademark Lederman. The Middle Act is Complete with a "Charmer" Child that Sings and Hangs About with a Negro Servant Given Many Lines and is a Good Friend to the Tantalizing Tot. Another Lederman Rule Shattering Flourish.
Then in the Third Act Things Tense Up Again for Another Foray into Crime and Punishment when a Blackmailer Shows Up and Not Only Demands Money, but Wants the Wife to be More "Friendly". The Director Again with a Scene that Bends Hollywood Tradition.
Sure the Ending is Abrupt and the Film is Not Wholly Realized and is Not as Successfully Rendered as Some of the Director's Other Entertaining and Hard-Hitting Quickies, but has Enough Against the Grain Goofiness to be Worth a Watch and Overall Lederman Showing Why His Movies are Not Quite the Same as His Hack Contemporaries.
The Hatchet Man (1932)
Pre-Requisite Apologies to the Politically Correct Violent and Seductive Oddity
This is a Hard-Hitting, Mysterious Looking, Gaudy Movie that Exudes Enough Oriental Charm and Tong Gangsterism to Make it an Oddity Well Worth Seeing. It's a Pre-Code Entry and Therefore has some Welcome Violence and Drug Doings.
Of Course, it Seems a Prerequisite to Mention that the Two Leads Playing Chinese are Not Chinese, but Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young, both with the Help of Makeup and Silks can Pull this Off.
So with Apologies to the Politically Correct, this is After All a Time Capsule and Cannot be Faulted for being what it is. A Racist Industry Reflecting a Racist Society Without Such Sensitive Concerns, So We have to Make Our Amends in Retrospect.
This is a Gripping Story of Tradition and Circumstance and is a Darn Good Yarn. The Ending is Cutting Edge and the Film has Many Aspects that make it an Interesting Look Back on Hollywood and the Way it Presented Pictures to the Public.
Overall, a Must See for Film and Cultural Historians. The Movie Looks Fantastic and is Shadowy and Sultry, Violent and Seductive.
Now, Voyager (1942)
Tina Could be Considered the Heart of the Film
The Much Mentioned "Ugly Duckling" Theme Represented in this Film is a bit Misrepresented. The Ugly Duckling was Born Ugly. Physically Different, Anthropomorphically Strange, whereas Bette Davis is Not Physically Ugly or Different, She is Psychologically Scarred and Cannot Present Herself as Normal or Pretty because She is Repressed to the Point of the Ability or Desire to Externally Show Anything Other than that what She has been Told..."You were late and unwanted."
Although the Mother is Presented to be Cruel and Unusual and a Tyrant to Her Daughter, the Metamorphosis of the Young Miss Vale is Nothing More than Cosmetic (no plastic surgery) and Interpersonal. The Psychiatry Clinic and the Claude Rains' Doctor is Thankfully Subtle and Restrained for the Era that was Becoming More and More Infatuated with the "Science".
The Freudian Mother Complex Finally Peaked in Films with Psycho (1960), but here it is just as Horrifying. The Only Thing that Really "Cured" Charlotte was the Removal from Proximity from Her Excessively Depressing Environment.
This was Bette Davis' Biggest Box Office Success and is One of Her Best Remembered Roles and the Movie is Among the Most Popular "Weepies" of All Time. Her Romantic Interlude with Paul Henreid is Remembered and is Consequential to the Story to be Sure, but it Could be Said that the Movie Works so Well and Reaches its Emotional Level because of Charlotte's Natural Love and Mothering of the the Twelve Year Old Tina (a warm and heart wrenching performance and character).
It is that Sacrifice and Attention Given the Damaged Tina, that Makes Charlotte so Endearing and the Third Actis so Essential to the Plot and Cannot Help but be the Lynchpin to the All of the Romantic Ruminations that Came Before. The Final, Oft Quoted Line is Embraced and Celebrated Anytime the Movie is Discussed. It's a Good Line, but it Could Not have Worked so Well without the Uncelebrated Character of Tina, the Little Lost Girl, that Charlotte Vale can...Now, Mother.
The Finger Points (1931)
A Crime Reporter Wets His Beak
Early WB "Pulled from the Headlines" Story that in this Case the "Headlines" were Literally the Gist of the Movie. This is One of those Newspaper Exposes Popular in the Early Thirties when "Print" was The Thing.
Gangsters could be Exposed and Brought Down by "The Press" that could Alert Authorities and Stir Public Outrage. "Crusaders" was a Term Often Used to Describe those Pushing to Remove Vice and Murder from the Streets.
In this One, Silent Star Richard Bartholomew, Regis Toomey, and Fay Wray are the Headliners with Clark Gable (in his fourth film) Supporting. The Film has its Moments of Intrigue Concerning Payoffs and Gangs, Crime Reporters and Ethics.
There is Quite a Contrast here from the Spit-Fire Dialogs that were a Trademark of the Genre and Bartholomew's Slow Delivery and Stiff Performance may put Some to Sleep. But it is a Relief from the Usual Machine Gun Spouting that was Routine at the Time.
Regis Toomey is, well, Breezy as Breezy the Third Wheel in this Triangle and Fay Wray has that Pleasant Voice and Delivery and is Filmed Quite Cute. Clark Gable, some say, Steals the Show but His Character here doesn't do much Except Maybe in a Scene or Two, and is OK but Surely Nothing Special.
There are some Pre-Code Interest like an Unrepentant Protagonist and Pre-Marital Overnighting, but Not Much Else. Overall, Based on a True Story and with Enough Interest to Recommend, this One is Not a Must See but is Worth a Watch.
For the Defense (1930)
Not Much to Offer Pre-Code Enthiusiasts
Not as Good as The Mouthpiece (1932) this Similar Story of a Shady Defense Attorney whose Clients were the "Poor Souls" (low-lifes and gangsters) that Desperately Needed a Lawyer. For the Most Part He gets Them Off. Loosely Based on Real-Life Attorney William Fallon (who defended Arnold Rothstein).
The Film is Not Without Interest, Mainly the Teaming of William Powell and Kay Francis, it is Nonetheless a Talky Bore at Times and the Pacing is Ponderous. Powell Broods More than Usual and His Drunk is more "Pity Me" than Witty and Whimsical.
The Mood of the Movie is Sombre and Serious and Never Makes Much of an Impact, but it is a Pretty Good Pedestrian Paramount Picture. The Pre-Code Stuff is More Implied than Usual and has Very Little to Offer those Seeking this Out for Sleazy of Edgy Stuff. There is a lot of Drinking, a Few Skanky Characters and a Raccoon Coat for Some Flavor.
The Nutty Professor (1963)
Just in Time Jerry Lewis Makes a Movie that Cannot be Ignored
Director-Writer-Star Jerry Lewis' Timing was Perfect, because He Made this, His Masterpiece, at the Very Last Moment before Pop Culture Changed Dramatically a Year Later with Beatlemania. It was Done in the Last Gasp of the Rat Pack and Rock n' Roll as We Knew it.
It was a Time when the Plasticville Fifties would Shortly be Shoved in the Dustbin of History and a More Mature, Philosophical, and Challenging Freedom in Art would be Forthcoming and a New Zeitgeist would Zip onto the Scene.
There's No Way the Hybrid (Dean Martin-Frank Sinatra-Jerry Lewis) Buddy Love could have Passed for Anything Resembling Hip just a Year Later. So Jerry Lewis Snuck this One in just in the Knick of Time. It is the Movie that All of Jerry Lewis Movie's are Compared, With or Without Dean Martin. It's so Representative that it is Accurate to Say that if You Only Ever See One Jerry Lewis Movie, See this One.
The Film is Enchanting with its Classic Dual Personality Story, Effervescent Technicolor, Stunning Leading Lady, and the Jerry Lewis "Charm" of Silent Slapstick, Sight Gags Galore, and Smarmy Sentimentality (that rarely worked so well for Jerry).
It is His Best Remembered Movie, His Most Popular Movie, His Most Critically Acclaimed Movie, and it has the Ability to Soften the Most Hardened of His Critics to at Least Acknowledge there is a Talent at Work Here.
The Depth and Greatness of that Talent is Up for Debate. But this Movie, while Containing a Goodly Amount of the Jerry Lewis Schtick, is Undeniably an Entertaining Oddity with so Much Vibrancy on Screen it is Difficult to Ignore and Must be Considered Art.
The Sight Gags, Always a Highlight in Jerry's Films, are Fantastic here and there is an Equal Amount of Drama to Balance the Silliness and the Transformation Scene Contains some Terror.
Overall, it is Widely Considered the Peak of Jerry's Success both Critically and at the Box Office. He would Never Again be as Good or such a Phenom. Although Hardly Done Making Movies, He would Never Again Come Close to this Type of Terrific.
Bullet Scars (1942)
B-Movie Master Lederman and Another Violent Finale
Ultra-Short but Long on Entertainment, this is Another Quickie from Director Lederman that Delivers a Sombre, Violent Story with a Shootout at the End that is just Bullet Crazy and Anticipated a Style that would Not Become Prevalent Until the Late Sixties and Continue to this Day.
Howard Da Silva is a Gangster that is a Psycho, but Loves His Bullet Scarred Pal that is On Life Support, Kept Alive by County Doctor Regis Toomey. Except for a Bit of Comedy Relief from a Pill Popping Goon, this is a Downbeat and Edgy B-Movie that is Exceptional.
The Climax is a Frenzied Free for All that Ends in a Blaze of Glory. Chalk Another One Up for the Prolific Director that Made Close to 300 Movies from the Early Days of Hollywood Silents and Ended with a Stint in TV. An Unknown Talent that Seemed to have an Unlimited Supply of Energy. The Same could be Said about Most of His Movies.