43 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Stray (I) (2015)
You Can't Go Home Again With A Modern Twist!
16 September 2016

Nena Eskridge's riveting story of an abused woman desperate odyssey to find normality in a chaotic world is yet another echo of the dark side of past film noir classics. It is through Nena Eskridge's bold direction that this film defines itself as a "dark film" a.k.a. "film noir" through the films use of light and shadow and it's criminally inclined malevolent characters. While the film was obviously produced on a small budget, it reminds one of past classics like "Psycho" and "Identity". Nena Eskridge artistic rendering is painted with a broad brush filled with a Hitchcock cinematic type of magic that causes the viewer to wonder "What is going to happen next?" Actresses Gabrielle Stone provides a stellar performance as a confused and tormented young woman who is running from a dark past and is willing to do anything and everything to find a new life. This film is a timely reminder that "what we want, is not always what we want" and "what we get, is not always what we get". Arita Trahan turns in an amazing performance as an older woman that provides a much needed comparison as well as contrast to Gabrielle Stone's character. The cinematography provided by David Landau was excellent, and while the film was shot in color it still fulfills the necessary ingredients to be "film noir". Kudos to Nena Eskridge for the creation of her wonderful story of a woman with a mirror cracked personality who struggles to find a new life while trying to run away from a dark and disturbing past. This time around with Nena Eskridge's capable direction, the old adage "You Can't Go Home Again" takes on a whole new meaning.
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A Worthy Sequel To "The Robe" That Is Worth Watching But Flawed
28 July 2016
"Demetrius and the Gladiators" succeeds as a worthy sequel to "The Robe". Both films are historically flawed but provide ample cinematic excitement in their religious story telling. Victor Mature, who plays the lead role in this film, appeared in three box office champion films in the 1950's; #1 "Samson and Delilah"(1950), #1 "The Robe" (1953), and #6 The Egyptian" (1954). "Demetrius and the Gladiators" was made in the same year that "The Egyptian" was made and it did not make the top ten Box Office Champion listing. The battle in the arena between Glycon (William Marshall) and Demetrius (Victor Mature) is reminiscent of the battle between Kirk Douglas and Woody Strode as gladiators in "Spartacus" six years later. The most exciting scene in the film is Demetrius battling four tigers in the arena. One can only wonder how the stunt man pulled this scene off considering the setting and the time that this film was shot as computer graphics were not available. Susan Hayward is a welcomed addition to the magnificent sets and costumes. It is my understanding that there was some film left over from "The Robe" and that is why this film was made. One scene I thought was particularly awkward when Saint Peter (Michael Rennie) has a cup of wine thrown on him by Messalina (Hayward) when he tries to convince Mature to return as a Christian. Mature then offers him some wine.... and Rennie awkwardly replies that he "already has had some." The ending when St. Peter (Rennie), Demetrius (Mature) and Glycon (Marshall) march away after Caligula's (Robinson) demise is hysterically funny. I thought the emperor according to religious history had St. Peter crucified upside down. Anyway if your not looking for historical accuracy, and are looking for some exciting entertainment .... you may find this film of some interest.
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One Big Confusing But Entertaining Family Affair!
18 July 2016
Universal pictures "The Ghost of Frankenstein" was but another link in a long chain of successful sequels that helped movie audiences forget the "horrors of the present" such as WWII. Often times these films had a stock of actors like the John Ford acting troupe playing different characters in different films. In this one veteran actor Lionel Atwell portrays the jealous Dr. Theodore Bohmer who seeks to upstage Cedric Hardwicke (Ludwig Frankenstein) and bring the Frankenstein monster back to full strength. It all seems to be one big family affair as Hardwicke plays Basil Rathbone (Wolf Frankenstein) aka the son of Frankenstein's brother. To make matters worse Atwell dies in this one but re-appears as another character (the mayor) in the sequel "House of Frankenstein". Bela Lugosi (Ygor) of "Son of Frankenstein" re-appears as Ygor and this time wants a new body for his devious brain. Evelyn Ankers who played Lon Chaney Jr. (The Wolfman) girl friend portrays Elsa Frankenstein (Hardwicke's wife). Lon Chaney Jr. sheds his Wolfman garb and appears as the Frankenstein Monster. It's all very confusing.... but somehow the cast and the writers make it all work ... and we can all kick back and forget all the horrible things that are really going on in the real world.
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In The Beginning There Was "The Hunk"
18 July 2016
One Million B.C. was Victor Mature's (Louisville, Kentucky's second "Greatest") second film, and consequently launched a very successful career that encompassed the realm of "film noir" to "sand and sandal epics". His first film was a small part in "The Housekeeper's Daughter". One Million B.C. begins with a group of young people going into a cave to escape a snow storm and an Archaeologist interpreting various cave drawings that tell the story of the people that once lived there. What follows is a saga of two groups of cave people with two totally different cultures that wind up fighting one another. Eventually the two groups have to join forces to fight off several threatening dinosaurs. The special effects are a bit dated as well as disappointing. The viewer gets to watch an alligator with make-up type of fins fight a monitor lizard in one of the key scenes. One can only wonder what would have happened if the S.P.C.A. had been around at that time. Considering the fact that this film was released in 1940 and King Kong was released in 1933 the film makers would have been better served to use a Willis O'Brien type of stop action motion technique. The cave people actors in this film communicate with indistinguishably utterances and a lot of pointing with hand gestures. Lon Chaney Jr. and Victor Mature become engaged in an exciting alpha male battle that conveys the struggle of an evolving culture. The film is very entertaining even if the viewer has to remind himself from time to time that "humans were not living when the dinosaurs existed. Having said that, the film is well worth watching.
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Hoodlum (1997)
"Dutch Schultz" Finally Get His!
4 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Interesting film about the rise of Ellsworth "Bumpy" Morgan portrayed by Lauwrence Fishburn and the fall of "Dutch" Schultz portrayed by Tim Roth. My preference goes to the Dustin Hoffman version of "Dutch" Schultz in the more accurate rendering featured in "Billy Bathgate". "Hoodlum" falls short when they showcase Dutch being hit by his own henchman in the restaurant bathroom while in "Billy Bathgate" they get it historically right as Dutch's gang (five men) are wiped out in the restaurant by "Lucky" Luciano's gang. Hoodlum may fall short on accuracy but keeps the viewer on their toes as to what happens next. Probably one of the most accurate films I have ever seen was Rod Stieger's performance in "Al Capone".
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A "Red" Letter Buddy Western That Works
18 March 2011
The "Garden Of Evil" like so many westerns such as "Vera Cruz", "The Violent Men", "Broken Arrow", "Naked Spur","The Tall "T", and "Apache" all share a common bond. They opening credits are highlighted in large "red" letters, and are usually supported by some of the biggest names in Hollywood as well as veteran character actors. In other words, you know from the "get go", if you are a fan of Western films, that you are in for a treat... such is the case with "Garden Of Evil". Gary Cooper (Hooker), no stranger to "buddy films", this time finds a the "so called" buddy in Richard Widmark (Fiske). Similar to Vera Cruz where he teams up with questionable buddy, Burt Lancaster, the audience here is left to sort out the issue as to whether or not the friend is really a friend as they assist a beautiful Susan Hayward (Leah Fuller) in their trek for gold. In spite of it's often times trite dialog such as "If the world was made of gold, men would die for a handful of dirt!", this film succeeds on every level due to a wonderful soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann and the remarkable talent of it's stars to make sense out of gibberish. A stellar cast that includes; Gary Cooper, Susan Hayward, Richard Widmark, Cameron Mitchell and Hugh Marlowe traveling through Indian country leaves the audience pondering the usual, "Who will survive?"
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Scarlet O'Hara Goes To War Again!
15 March 2011
This is what I call a "procrastination movie". In other words, it is a one of those "must see" films that your friends told you to see, and you wound up "putting it off" for a long period of time for one reason or another. When you finally took the time to see it ... you wind up "kicking" yourself for waiting for so long to see it. Dumb me! I did the same thing with films like "North By Northwest" and "Glory. Vivien Leigh plays Myra, a ballerina, who meets Captain Roy Cronin, Robert Taylor on Waterloo Bridge during an air raid in London. The two are forced by fate to share several hours together. Sound familiar? Kind of like Rhett Butler's fateful situation of sleeping on a couch and running into Scarlet O'Hara after a conversation with Leslie Howard. Yep! It's Gone With The Wind all over again .... two people madly in love finding themselves surrounded by the chaos of war as they suffer the trials and tribulations of separation and reunion placed by circumstance. It is also my understanding that Vivien Leigh had to agree by contract to make this film when she signed for the role of Scarlet O'Hara in "Gone With The Wind". What a great flick this is! There is no question in my mind that this is Robert Taylor's greatest performance, and Vivien Leigh's 2nd best performance. How could she or anyone possibly top her Scarlet O'Hara? How does it end? I'll never tell ... but I wills tell you this .... Maria Ouspenskaya, who plays Leigh's Balarina Mentor, makes Bette Davis and Joan Crawford look like Girl Scouts when it comes to playing a "queen bee".
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Enjoyable Western With A Mule As Famous As It's Stars
22 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It's been sometime since I have seen this little cinematic gem. My take on it was that it was somewhat reminiscent of films like "Destry Rides Again" and "The Far Country", in so far as,the hero appears to be somewhat naive and innocent and caught in a love triangle. Murphy not only survives amorous flirtations of a conniving saloon girl, but overcomes various obstacles and intimidation's set fourth by a villainous Sheriff or legal authority. Audie Murphy does an admirable job as a naive back woodsman who winds up inadvertently sheltering an orphaned country girl(Sandra Dee). Beautiful Joanne Dru portrays the predictable saloon "bad" girl turned "good" girl that tries to manipulate Murphy to do the evil sheriff's (Gilbert Roland)bidding. Murphy finally realizes Roland's evil intentions toward Sandra Dee and the inevitable showdown occurs. Western fans have seen all this before, but if you are a true fan of western movies .... you go with the flow and enjoy every moment as the story unfolds. The one thing that a lot of folks don't realize about this film is the fact that it offers an interesting piece of movie trivia .... the mule featured in the film is just as famous as the featured stars (Murphy, Dee, Roland and Dru). Who was that famous mule anyway? None other than Donald O'Connor's old co-star - Francis "the talking mule". Does that surprise you? It shouldn't .... here is another example of "four legged trivia" ... What famous horse did Olivia DeHaviland (Maid Marion) ride in "The Adventures Of Robin Hood"? Would you believe a horse that was later sold to a cowboy star named Roy Rogers? You got it .... that horse was named Trigger!
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A "Poor Man's" Version of "Cleopatra" !
22 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Director William Castle, a "Poor Man's" Alfred Hitchcock, uses every trick in the book in an effort to make this film work from a woman dancer painted in gold (pre- "Goldfinger) to a man wrestling a bear ala the Samson vs the lion in "Samson and Delilah" ... but nothing can save this clunker. Rhonda Fleming, a "Poor Man's Cleopatra" appears lost against the likes of previous portrayals provided by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Vivian Leigh, and Claudette Colbert. Making matters worse, she changed the color of her hair for this film. The result is about as successful as when Lana Turner traded her blonde mane to become a brunette in "Betrayed". Bad move ... then again Cleopatra didn't have red hair ... so maybe Fleming shouldn't have made this movie at all. Raymond Burr's "Poor Man's" portrayal of Marc Anthony falls flat when compared to the likes of the work of Marlon Brando ("Julius Caesar") Richard Burton ("Cleopatra"), Claude Rains ("Ceasar and Cleopatra"). It's no wonder after a history of playing heavies in many 1950's mediocre films that he finally escaped to the sanctuary of television, and found a much needed success in either a courtroom ("Perry Mason") or a wheelchair ("Ironside"). One can't really blame the sets or the beautiful Technicolor, but the story line and the script were downright outrageous. Cleopatra (Rhonda Fleming) in this film plays the "heavy" and is using Marc Anthony (Raymond Burr) in an effort to defeat Rome. Lucilius (William Lundigan), a former confidant of Brutus, becomes friends with Marc Anthony and tries to save him from "himself" and the wicked Queen. In the meantime, Cleopatra, falls for Lucilius but is not able to win him over to her side. Is there anyone out there who wants to buy a bridge out there in the Brooklyn area? The lines in the script are so bad that the actors almost pinch their noses while reciting them! Try some of these on for size; Marc Anthony (to a slave); "Tell your Queen I'll be there ... and tell her it will take more wine than all of Egypt to make Anthony drunk with words!" Lucilius (to Anthony); "I've heard if a man needs Cleopatra, he doesn't need wine." Or how about this one after Cleopatra has failed in an attempt to have Luciluus assassinated the previous night; Cleopatra (to Lucilius); "Perhaps your heart Lucilius is more fickle." Lucilius (to Cleopatra); "After what happened last night I'm lucky my heart still beats at all." It's no wonder William Lundigan wound up selling Westinghouse refrigerators on television commercials after films like this. In conclusion, this may have been "ok" Saturday matinée movie fare but just as the old style "Classic" type comic books it should not be used as a point of reference in a high school history lesson.
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Peyton Place On The High Seas!
23 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Actor Sterling Hayden made his screen debut in 1941 in two adventure type of films "Virginia" and "Bahama Passage" and became the heart throb of many teenage girls. He soon became disgusted with the movie industry and joined the United States Marines and became a member of the OSS. Hayden may well have been a real life adventurer but was poorly miscast as a vengeful pirate in this Peyton Place On The High Seas "B" Movie wannabe epic. What this movie has going for it is; 1) Glorious Technicolor 2) The gorgeous Rhonda Flemming 3) a solid veteran character cast 4) beautiful sets and scenery. Having said that, the plot is so horrid that it is almost laughable. I don't know whether to blame Frank Yerby, the author of "The Golden Hawk" or the director Sidney Salkow for the terribly miscast lead. Kit Gerardo aka The Hawk (Sterling Hayden) is a French Pirate that sets out to revenge the death of his mother. He believes the culprit is none other than the Spanish Captain Luis del Toro (John Sutton). During The Hawk's pursuit of the evil Luis del Toro he winds up capturing i.e., rescuing two beautiful women. One is a lady turned pirate named Captain Rouge (Rhonda Fleming) and the other is Blanca de Valdiva (Helen Carter). Complications arise when Blanca de Valdiva finds herself in a situation where she is engaged to Luis del Toro, and at the same time hopelessly in love with his arch rival, The Hawk. Blanca's love for The Hawk is not reciprocated for The Hawk has become smitten with Captain Rouge (Fleming). More complications follow as The Hawk unknowingly burns down Captain Rouge's Plantation in an effort to destroy his nemeses Luis del Toro supply line. Now Captain Rouge finds herself in a position of hating the man she really loves. Apparently, Captain Rouge was a lady that had lost her family's Plantation many years ago and has turned pirate to get it back. Confusing? You bet! It gets even more confusing with a twist that will end all twist in the closing scenes. Unfortunately, the ironic twist that is to come is almost like a "we'e running out of film...we better wrap things up" type of thing. Near the end of the film Captain Rouge (Fleming) rescues The Hawk and Bernardo Diaz (Michael Ansara) from prison. Upon his release The Hawk orders Captain Rouge to have his men fire on the fortress. The lady pirate confirms the fact that she now realizes that she loves The Hawk with a submissive, "I never thought I would be taking orders from a man!" Pirate ships now surround the fortress and blow down it's impregnable walls. The audience is soon hit with the zinger to end all zingers when Luis del Toro (Sutton) now a captive of The Hawk says, "You show great concern for your prisoner, Captain." The Hawk responds, "I should show great concern for my father." Ah, now the audience realizes why Sutton has been so reluctant to punish his son, Hayden. As they explain away the death of The Hawk's mother as an accident, I am left wondering why did they kill so many people over such a big misunderstanding or more importantly "Why does the son look as old as the father?"
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So So Preachy B&W Western With A Message
30 July 2009
Lloyd Bridges shines as a cowardly calvary captain while actor, Vince Edwards, looks terribly miscast as an Indian in this Bryna Film Production. Bryna Productions was the company that was formed by actor, Kirk Douglas, that produced such films as "Spartacus", "Last Train From Gun Hill", "Paths of Glory", etc. I suspect this film was shot around the time that "Last Train From Gun Hill" was shot as some of the scenery where Rory Calhoun (Tate) has a confrontation with Vince Edwards (Chief Little Wolf) appears to be the same area where Earl Holliman rapes and kills Kirk Douglas wife in "Last Train From Gun Hill". What "Last Train From Gun Hill" has that this film doesn't have is a good script, a solid plot and beautiful Technicolor. "Ride Out For Revenge" is an interesting and entertaining film in so far as it points out the many wrongs that the "white man" has inflicted on the Indians as well as the hatred that has been sowed over the years through the losses of life from both sides. The plot puts Tate (Rory Calhoun) who loves an Indian princess (Joanne Gilbert) in the middle of an Indian vs "white man" confrontation. Now add the fact, that gold is found on the Indians land. Throw in a cowardly captain (Bridges) who hates Indians but would love to have their land and their gold. Sprinkle a widow (Gloria Graham) and a child (Michael Winkleman) that have both lost spouse and father by Indian massacre. Add a touch of vengeful Indian (Vince Edwards) whose father has been murdered by the town's people .... and you have all the ingredients for what is to come. The film, in my opinion, is at best a mediocre western with a very important but "preachy" message. What I found most interesting and important was the morale of the film which can be found is some of the final dialog of the film. Pretty Willow (Joanne Gilbert) says "If everything changes ... what will happen when someone comes to take the land from the "white man" and Tate (Rory Calhoun) responds "I don't know I never gave it much thought."
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Panoramic Western With A Middle Eastern Twist!
19 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Actor John Ireland and his wife Joanne Dru star in this originally released 3-D color Western that was filmed in what appears to be John Ford Country (Monument Valley, Moab). Ireland met his future wife on the set of "Red River" and appeared with her again in "All the Kings Men". While this film is not in the same category with those two cinema classics, it does feature Rod Cameron and a healthy menu of great character actors such as Guinn "Big Boy" Williams, John Dehner, Morris Ankrum, etc. The story centers around Ireland, Dru and her brother (Darryl Hickman) robbing a bank. Eventually Ireland and Dru join Rod Cameron as he leads an expedition complete with camels to survey a new route to California. The group encounters a band of outlaws as well as Apaches along the way that keeps the viewers interest. What I found most interesting was the introduction of Middle East values to the wild west. A conflict result when Dehner, a mule skinner, starts a fight with the Arab camel drivers when he tries to force them to eat pork .... a custom opposed by their religion. Dehner grumbles about the camels constantly and cannot accept the fact that they are necessary for the expedition. I thought the script left something to be desired as the dialog was sometimes humorous when it was not meant to be. An example of this is when Dehner complains to "Big Boy" Williams, "What are you trying to do kill my mules? Standing out in this sun is worse than working them to death!" Williams replies, "The camels seem to be enjoying it." Dehner counters, "They ain't got sense to know better. All this map making is a bunch of buffalo chips. Can't he tell that's a mountain without looking through a spy glass?" Big Boy then shakes his head and says, "Man when they gave out brains in must have been in New Orleans!" The only thing that saves this film from being less than mediocre is the veteran group of actors, the John Ford type of location, numerous action scenes and the beautiful color employed in the filming.
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Kiss of Death (1947)
Beyond The Film Noir Came .... A Moment Of Retribution And Silence!
7 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I highly recommend this classic film noir story of a thief, Nick Bianco (Victor Mature) that is faced with the tough decision to turn "stool pigeon" and "rat out" a maniacal killer, Tommy Udo (Richard Widmark). Nick is a "two-time loser" and the only way he will ever get to see his orphaned kids is by "playing ball" with the cops (Brian Donlevy and Karl Malden). This film is magnificently directed by Henry Hathaway who directed such great films as True Grit, How The West Was Won, Rawhide, 13 Rue Madeleine, etc. I once read that Victor Mature was a close friend of Henry Hathaway, and that he was well aware of Hathaway's temper and reputation of mistreating actors on the set during the filming of his pictures. Consequently, Mature warned Hathaway going into the film that he "wouldn't put up with any temper tantrums or abuse during the filming". Hathaway complied in order to get Mature to agree to do the film. Richard Widmark remarked in an interview that "Kiss of Death" was his first film, and that contributed to that wonderful maniacal laugh he gave in many of the films most memorable scenes. The nervous laugh probably was also due to Hathaway's heavy handed direction. In any event, Hathaway threw a temper tantrum during the shooting that caused Mature to walk off the set and sit in a limousine for an hour or so until one of Hathaway's aides begged him to return. Mature's returned to the set on condition that Hathaway behave himself i.e. no more temper tantrums. Later during the filming when Hathaway once again started to go off into another outburst ... Mature politely raised his finger and said "Not even pantomime!". This is one of Victor Mature's best films...and newcomer Richard Widmark steals the show. Widmark was a very underrated actor and deserved a supporting actor Oscar for his performance!
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A Film That Has James Dean's Fingerprints All Over It!
14 June 2009
Actor Paul Newman once said in an interview that actor James Dean's death in an auto accident wound up making him a movie star. Prior to Dean's tragic demise, Newman's body of work was mostly television. Things seemed to take a turn for the worse when he accepted a starring role that Dean had turned down in "The Silver Chalice". The film was so bad that Newman took out an ad in "Variety" and apologized for making it. A short time after Dean was killed in his tragic September 30, 1955 car accident, Newman appeared in two films that Dean was scheduled to star in; "Somebody Up There Likes Me", the true story of World Middleweight Champion, Rocky Graziano, and "The Left Handed Gun", the true story of the legendary outlaw known as "Billy the Kid". It was because of these two films that actor Paul Newman was soon destined to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars. "The Left Handed Gun", from my point of view, shares a somewhat haunted past with several other films such as "Soloman and Sheba" and "Something's Got To Give". These films share a common bond for they are films that find themselves in the same haunting situation in which the star of the film dies and is replaced, leaving the film aficionado to speculate and search for something that could have and should have been there. Tyrone Power died on the movie set in "Solomon and Sheba" and was replaced by Yul Brynner. If you look closely at some of the scenes in that film, you can still see Tyrone Power in some of the original footage such as crowd scenes or battles at a distance. Marilyn Monroe died before she was able to complete "Something's Got To Give", and if you look at some of the hair styles and costumes and various drawings planned for the original film, it becomes obvious that they do not work on Monroe's replacement, Doris Day. "The Left Handed Gun" is a film that has James Dean's fingerprints all over it. If you try real hard, you can even see him in the film. Newman seems to make an effort to somehow mimic Dean in this this dark, moody, foreboding film. Actor Steve McQueen once said he tried to mimic James Dean in his first film "The Blob", and later admitted it was a mistake. Newman, on the other hand, pulls it off. Even the musical score for the film is somewhat reminiscent of the music in "East of Eden". Another thing I found unique about this film was something it had in common with one of Brando's films, "Viva Zapata!". In the "Left Handed Gun", Hurd Hatfield (Moultrie) is a man that seems almost intoxicated with the concept of creating a legend than becomes obsessed with the desire to destroy it. This role shares a unique similarity to the one Joseph Wiseman (Fernando Aguirre) portrayed in "Viva Zapata!". Both characters represent some kind of strange catalyst that seek some kind of cathartic release in the death of a legend. Dean's fingerprints become most noticeable during a scene in which Newman lays against an adobe wall, and anguishes for his past sins and betrayals. As Newman takes on a series of Dean like mannerisms, the evil Moultrie taunts him, "What is it? What's wrong? You all right? Your not like the books? You don't wear silver studs! You don't stand up to glory! Your not him! Your not him!" Pehaps, Moultrie is right. Maybe Newman isn't Dean, but his performance works. I give this film high marks, and recommend it for anyone who likes a great western or just wants to be entertained.
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Timbuktu (1958)
Not As Good As I Would Have Liked It To Have Been ....
12 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
My take on the Jacques Tourneur film "Timbuktu" is simply this ... it was not as good as I would have liked it to have been. The photography, the camera work, and the scenic movie sets deserved better. This mediocre adventure film virtually suffers from it's lack of color. Director Jacques Tourneur approach to the film seems to indicate that he chose a black and white film noir type of brush similar to the one he used with such classics such as "Out of the Past", "Cat People", and "I Walked With A Zombie" rather than use the Technicolor type of brush normally required for the usual Saturday Matinée Adventure film. It's hard for me to be critical of this film as I have always been a big fan of actor, Victor Mature, as he comes from my hometown, Louisville, Kentucky. Apparently, Victor Mature had some close ties with Director Tourneur as well as actor George Dolenz. He appeared in Tourneur's "Easy living" (1947), and with Dolenz son, Mickey, in the Monkeys movie "Head" (1968). The cast (Victor Mature, Yvonne De Carlo, George Dolenz, and John Dehner) render remarkable performances given the almost comedic dialog they were given. In one scene, Dehner tortures a Foreign Legionaire by allowing tarantulas to crawl all over him in an attempt to force a confession causing Mature to remark ... "Which one of those spiders was your mother?". In another scene when the unfaithful wife (De Carlo) realizes that the husband she believes to be a coward (Dolenz) is going to rescue her lover (Mature), she tries to tell him how ashamed she is. Her husband stops her and says, "I am sorry that I failed you. It isn't that I didn't ... don't love you ... It's just that I didn't think war was a time for love. Perhaps I was wrong." Add a holy man, Mohamet Adani, to the mix that just happens to look a lot like Woody Allen. The Mohamet, after being rescued from being kidnapped by the evil Emir (John Dehner), tells his rescuer, Mature.... "that he is anxious to return to his Mosque" Their perilous journey to safety is really hard to swallow. The final result which I found myself in ... was just trying to hold back the laughs ... when the laughs really weren't called for in the script.
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Ambush (1950)
A Black and White Horse Opera That Should Have Been In Color And Free Of Ratings!
21 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I am of the opinion that "Ambush" comes off as a standard black and white horse opera for two reason. First off, as I was watching the film I couldn't help but wonder as to how much better of a film it could have been if it had been filmed in gorgeous Technocolor which would have emphasized the beautiful Monument Valley type of surroundings. Secondly, the film being a product of it's time (1949), was limited to the morality and the censorship that most assuredly was imposed on it. In other words, various organizations such as Catholic Legion Of Decency played a big part in what could be portrayed during the context of the film's plot and what was presented on the screen i.e., if any studio violated their code of ethics that appeared in the good old "Sunday Visitor", a Catholic publication, the Legion of Decency would give it a "C" for Condemned or a "MO" for Morally Objectionable to discourage patrons from going to theaters to see the film. The plot of this film has Lt. Linus Delaney (Don Taylor) falling for an enlisted man's wife Martha Conovan (Jean Hagen). The woman's husband Tom Conovan (Bruce Cowling) is an abusive drunk that continuously beats his wife and eventually becomes an army deserter. Rest assured that their is no hope for this star struck couple ever to find happiness! Obviously, there is only one way for a "taken" woman to get the other man....and that is for the out of luck husband or fiancé to die. Enter Captain Ben Lorrison (John Hodiak), a fool hardy Officer reminiscent of Henry Fonda in "Fort Apache". In other words, a man who will not listen to someone that has been there and knows what and when to do it as exemplified by a scout, Ward Kinsman (Robert Taylor). Taylor inadvertently falls for Hodiak's girl Ann Duverall (Arlene Dahl) but he has two things going for him that the other Taylor doesn't have; 1)Dahl is not married to Hodiak and 2)Hodiak is a prideful by the book officer and his stubbornness to attack the Indians when he has been heeded not to eventually gets him killed. Alas! Robert Taylor gets Dahl while Don Taylor and Jean Hagen sadly stare at each expressing a tearful, wordless "Goodbye" while humoring the good old Catholic Legion of Decency. I don't know about you guys out there...but I always looked at my good old Sunday Visitor to check out the movies I wanted to see, and I didn't let those darn old "Condemned" or "Morally Objectionable" get in my way of my entertainment.
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Just Another Kid Brother Or Friend Full Of Hubris Western ...
27 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I am of the belief that "Saddle The Wind" (1958)can be pretty much summed up when Robert Taylor (Steve Sinclair) takes a gun away from his brother John Cassavates (Tony Sinclair)after he kills a man and says, "The use of it ... you got from me .... but where did you get the love it?" How many times have we seen the older reformed gunfighter take away a gun from his gun crazy kid brother who just happens to be full of hubris? We have seen this pedestrian western plot time and time again. Sometimes it is reworked, and the kid brother full of hubris may be changed to a son full of hubris or a friend full of hubris but regardless of whether they be kid brother, son, friend or any other concocted character, it is the "hubris" that leads to their untimely demise which is usually delivered by the reluctant reformed gunfighter. Examples of these re-occurring reformed gunfighters and kid brother type of characters show up in films such as "Vengeance Valley" (1951)starring Burt Lancaster (Own Daybright/fast gun) Robert Wagner (Lee Strobie/friend with hubris), "Man Without A Star" (1955) starring Kirk Douglas (Dempsey Rae/fast gun)and William Campbell (Jeff Jimson/friend with hubris), "Gunman's Walk" (1958)starring Van Heflin (Lee Hackett/fast gun father)and Tab Hunter (Ed Hackett/son full of hubris). What I find most astonishing about these usually entertaining pedestrian western with similar plots is they always seen to work and entertain time and time again. Rod Serling wrote this one and the dialog is everything a western movie fan could ask for!
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War, Inc. (2008)
Where's Minnie?
12 January 2009
I not really sure whether or not the reason I was disappointed in this film was because it wasn't what I wanted it to be or whether it seemed to lose it's comedic value because of what seemed to be a pretentious message wrapped up in a most confusing plot. This film offered three of the stars of one of my favorite movies, "Grosse Point Blank", (John Cusack, Joan Cusack and Dan Aykroyd). Cusack once again appears as a "troubled hit-man" as he did in "Grosse Point Blank" but this time the gimmick that worked so well ... just doesn't work. When I rented this film the lady behind the counter at Blockbuster warned me "It's no "Grosse Pointe Blank". Boy was she right! What this film doesn't have is Minnie Driver and a contained plot that flows with humor that still makes some sort of outrageous sense. My take on this film was that the film makers couldn't make up their mind as to whether they wanted to make a comedy or get across their anti-war message. Nothing wrong with an anti-war message type of film ... just don't let the message interfere with the entertainment that it promises to deliver. In other words, everything seemed forced, and that is what caused this film not to work for me. I would have much rather watched a "Grosse Point Blank 2" but sometimes sequels that should have been made are not such as a "Dirty Dancing 2" that could have starred Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey.
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Dave and Charley (1952– )
A Blast From The Past!
18 November 2008
I remember seeing this show many years ago. As I recall Cliff Arquette played his beloved character role of "Charley Weaver", and he would be visited from time to time by Dave Willock and Dennis Day. He had a huge ball of string the size of a beach ball, and supposedly lived by some railroad tracks and his entire house (a shack) would shake when the train came by breaking up a comical conversation from time to time. Cliff Arquette became quite famous on the television circuit with his appearances on the Jack Parr Show, the Dennis Day Show, and eventually his long running role on the "Hollywood Squares", not to mention the fact that he wrote a best selling book "Letters From Mt. Idy". Only a few people were aware of the fact that while all this was going on with his "acting life" that he had become somewhat of an expert as a historian on The Civil War. In fact, he became a curator of his own Civil War Museum in Gettsburg, Pa. I believe it was this short running show of "Dave and Charley" that opened his long running career. Cliffe Arquette aka "Charley Weaver" was a comic "Icon of Yesteryear" that I will always cherish.
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How Can You Go Wrong With Robert Aldrich, Hammer Films, Jeff Chandler and Jack Palance?
18 August 2008
The answer to that question is, "You can't!" I saw this film when it first came out in 1959, and I recently had the opportunity to see it again after 49 long years on Turner Classic Movies. I think the thing that makes this film so memorable to me is that the two leading actors Jeff Chandler and Jack Palance were given the opportunity to "break the mold" so to speak. Chandler who always played "the good guy" and "Palance" who always played "the bad guy" got the opportunity to switch roles. Earlier in their careers Chandler played a Roman Soldier (good guy) opposite Palance's Attila (bad guy) in "Sign of the Pagan". Chandler appears to be having a ball with the role of Karl Wirtz. His speech about how his Uncle Oscar taught him how to "look out for number ono" is reminiscent of the Burt Lancaster (Joe Erin) speech about the man who raised him (Ace Hannah) and how he double crossed him as well in "Vera Cruz". Interstingly enough, both films "Ten Seconds To Hell" and "Vera Cruz" were both directed by Robert Aldrich. The film's plot is about a German Bomb Disposal Unit working for the British after WWII which make a pact that the survivors will split the spoils of their labor after the job is finished. The texture and mood of the black and white film adds to the suspense of the film. One of both Chandler and Palance's best films.
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Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner Out West!
18 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I recently had the opportunity to watch "Walk Like A Dragon" on Turner Classic Movies. It had been some 48 years since I had first seen this little gem that was way ahead of it's time. Back in the day, I was really impressed with singer Mel Torme's acting performance as a deacon turned gunfighter baddie. Some things change over the years while other things do not. Looking back on it now, Torme's performance that I once thought was "top of the line" turned out to be as disappointing as it was amateurish. Perhaps that was the reason he was reduced to just doing various bit parts on television roles thereafter. Having said that, kudos are in order for director/writer James Clavell for his wonderful "cross over" story. The plot involves a young man named Linc that rescues a young Chinese woman Kim Sung (Nobu McCarthy)from being sold as a slave by buying her. During the process of the film, he begins to overcome his own prejudice and begins to see her as a person, and soon falls in love with her. Keep in mind at this point in time the Chinese "coolies" and their women were looked down on, and were considered to be less than human. To complicate matters, a young Chinese man, journeying with Linc, Cheng Lu (James Shigeta) shares the same affections for her, and wants to buy her. Consequently, he hires a gunslinger, the deacon, to teach him how to use a firearm as he plans to kill Linc and take his woman for himself. The gunfighter (Torme) attempts to stop him, but in the process is killed. Now the Chinaman must face off with the man who trained the gunfighter (Linc) to take possession of the woman (Kim Sung). This film deals with a lot of issues regarding "slavery" "freedom", as well as "racism". In a sense, it is just as innovative a film as "Guess Who"s Coming To Dinner" that hit the screen seven years later. Consequently, it covers a lot of lingering issues that are as real today as they were then. Questions such as "How will two people deal with all the prejudice and racism that will surround them in the future?" and "Will it be possible for them to find the acceptance and tolerance that will allow them to live a normal life?" are showcased for the viewer to ponder. It took a brave group of filmmakers to make these two remarkable films as that risked the loss of box office revenue for the sake of principle back then. Heavy stuff to be played out in an Old West setting. To my way of thinking, the film passes my 48 year test while good old Mel Torme's performance does not.
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Red River (1988 TV Movie)
This Movie Re-Make Should Have Never Been Made!
14 May 2008
Watch the original and don't waste you time on this flick. Wayne and Clift are perfectly cast, and while I always enjoyed James Arness as Marshall Dillon...he is not right for this movie. This movie re-make should have never been made. On a lighter note, I remember actor Victor Mature was offered the role played by John Wayne in the original film by actor Sylvester Stallone who was intending to play the Montgomery Clift role in the film. Mature's response was "I'll play his (Stallone's) mother for the right money!" Fortunately, somebody got this one right...and didn't to it. Truth is some classics are best served by just leaving them alone.
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So Bad It's Good Type Of Movie!
24 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
My son recently surprised me with a gift that game in the form of "Tales Of Terror" (A 50 DVD Movie Pack). This collection of "horror films that most people have never heard of" included "The Werewolf of Washington" which featured actor Dean Stockwell as a "political lycanthrope". It might surprise you to know that Stockwell was nominated for one Oscar, four Emmy Awards, and won two out of his six Golden Globe Nominations. The thing that I remember most about him was the fact that he looked a lot like the late great James Dean, and for a time there was a lot of talk about him playing Dean in "The James Dean Story". Warner Brothers later decided to make the film into a documentary. I have often wondered what an actor of Stockwell's talent could have done with that role. Having said that... I now can fully appreciate Stockwell's sense of "professionalism" if not his talent after viewing "The Werewolf of Washington". Stockwell puts forth his best effort in this comedy spoof type of rip off of the old Universal Studio version of "The Wolfman". The script seems to have a mind of it's own as it wanders around aimlessly in numerous directions trying to find itself. Actor Stockwell finds himself in a quandary as to whether to play the scene "straight" or as some kind of "comedic foil" and who could possibly blame him? I think what really transpires in this film is a series of disconnected "comedic skits" that range from the lead getting his fingers stuck in bowling ball to a President trying to break into a locked bathroom stall to a midget mad scientist (Michael Dunn)advising the President while standing next to what appears to be the Frankenstein Monster. Maybe Dean Stockwell should have received some kind of special award for just appearing in this film!
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So "Bad" It's "Good"
15 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I have always believed that some films can be so "bad" that they can actually be "good". If you are of the same mind, this one is for you. How can I possibly knock a film where a dedicated scientist young daughter switches a "lab rabbit" to protect it from extermination, then adopts the rabbit as a family pet that will soon becomes a monstrous man eating saber-toothed rabbit that will eventually spawn thousands and thousands of it's own kind, and threaten mankind's very existence. Wow! What a plot! The thing that I found most interesting about this film was it's cast. Produced by A.C. Lyles, a Western genre producer, and accompanied with a lot of Western genre actors such as Rory "The Texan" Calhoun, Stuart "Cimarron Strip" Whitman, Paul "The Rifleman" Fix, and last but not least the late great, I. Stanford Jolley. Please note that Mr. Jolley played the "heavy" in many Western films that date back to 1935, and made over some 350 movies. Add the beautiful Janet "Psycho" Leigh and DeForest "Star Trek" Kelly to the mix... and you have a situation in which I personally believe that this group of veteran actors should have been given some kind of special award if not an Oscar! Why do I say this? Because each and every one of them gives a commendable performance under the most outrageous situations imaginable.
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The Roost (2005)
An Entertaining Low Budget Bridge To The Old Friday Fright Night Theater
23 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
In my opinion, this movie is getting a really bad rap from a lot of your viewers. Perhaps, it is because this film reminded me of the old "Fright Night" television show that appeared in Louisville, Kentucky area on Saturday nights at 7p.m. That particular show always opened with a scene of an old local Victorian style mansion embedded in a sea of fog with a short introduction by a character called the "Fearmonger" played by a local celebrity named Charlie Kissenger as he introduced one of the old 1940 Universal Horror Classics. This film seemed to try to spoof that wonderful bygone era. The actual film that followed the introduction, "The Roost" reminded me a lot like the grainy amateur style filming of the "Blair Witch Project". The fact that a group of people on their way to a wedding are attacked by a coven of vampire bats, and that once they are bitten begin to act like a bunch of zombies seem to be an entertaining spoof that served as a low budget bridge to times gone by. I for one enjoyed this film, and recommend it to anyone who like a good horror film.
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