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309 reviews in total 
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Hoppy Impersonated!, 4 July 2015

It's a fascinating comment on "B" Westerns, and possibly on films in general, that one of the reviews on this site plugs this simple Western film as one the "better Hoppy films," while one of the other five cites it as "lesser Hoppy." Both reviewers are right, of course, and each took the time to comment from separate viewpoints. In a world as big as the Wild West, there should be plenty of room for both opinions. Too bad the world isn't so big any more!

Black-clad, cool-headed Hopalong Cassidy (William Boyd) must track down lawbreakers and get the guys in the slammer--and wouldn't it be a surprise to all of us if he failed to do so? Most Hoppy films have a distinguishing hallmark, and perhaps this one's is a Movable Herd and the men who move it.

Mystery Man is a low-key, genial cowboy movie with only one song tossed in for good measure, and the sheriff's daughter picking on whatever attractions Hoppy's second- hand man has to offer. For action fans, there is a good deal of gun-play behind boulders and dust-raising in Lone Pine, and' as is often the case, the cinematography by Russell Harlan is a major bonus point, taking what could show as dull chases and enhancing California desert landscape with background mountain majesties and banks of clouds. Harlan turns the ordinary into memorable--lucky us!

Don't Take It Serious--It's Too Delirious!, 26 June 2015

This is a deliciously daft precode, notable for the appearance of a very pallid Basil Rathbone as a high-strung Italian violinist (or was he French?), one of the few available talkies made by wide-eyed, silent star Billie Dove, and mainly, the presence of a slinky, sex-mad countess Olga, played with great verve by Kay Francis, who early on establishes her credentials by trying out the stable boy and then checking out the older dude who works the feed duties: Kay is constantly on the prowl in a very modern sense, while the script sets up poor Billie as the put-upon wife who gives up fortune for love and finds out husband's real talent is infidelity.

For today's moviegoer, this is probably pretty dull stuff, but for the film historian, the fan of Kay Francis, or anybody who wants to enjoy the minor delights of an early "B" romance, this can be great fun.

The Incidental Pleasures of "B" Westerns, 23 June 2015

This traditional "Hoppy" adventure was never meant to be any kind of classic, but mainly functions as Saturday Matinée fare, a pitting of the good guys against the bad guys with plenty of horse chases and gun-play to keep the kids in their seats and wanting to come back for more.

Having grown up in the 1940's, I watch the old Westerns today for reasons other than a gripping plot about which the outcome is clearly foretold. The photography in this one, for example, is exceptional, with cinematographer Russell Harlan going beyond the usual camera set-ups to capture the beauty of location shooting in Lone Pine, California-- the desert-like conditions shot against mountain vistas, the beauty of rustling sycamores framing the action, and exceptional long shots giving us such keen perspectives as robbing of the Well's Fargo Stage from several angles (Harlan, incidentally, went on to film the indelible images of To Kill A Mockingbird). FYI, an unsolicited commercial: Platinum Productions (though Echo Bridge) has released the Cassidy adventures in multiples for very little money, and the transfers are remarkable!

Another incidental pleasure of Hoppy Serves A Writ is Hoppy himself, of course, a cool character who always seems a little above the chaos around him: William Boyd, a leading man from the 1930's found his niche in these Westerns--and we don't have to listen to him sing! Frequently pointed out is Robert Mitchum's first major appearance in a film: a performance at the edge of narcolepsy, but Mitchum actually saddles up a few times and rides; future Superman George Reeves has a meatier role as a dude with attitude, attempting to romance the sole female on the film, but losing her to Hoppy's cute, mild-mannered assistant. And for those with an eye for familiar character actors, the laconic Byron Foulger serves as a shopkeeper; Victor Jory, so often a villain in both Westerns and crime films, sports a nasty scar on his cheek that marks him as the one to hiss.

In all, this is 64 minutes of matinée fun, perfect for a Saturday afternoon with a bowl of popcorn and all your memories of time well spent with your Hollywood pals.

Delon In Mellow Fade Out Role: Retired Cop Targeted by Mafia Guns, 13 October 2014

For years, Alain Delon has held the mantle of the handsome brooding detective, soft- spoken almost to the point of silence, quietly going about the business of murder-- or solving them. In Europe Delon has been a major star since the 1950's, justly celebrated for films made with Visconti, Antonioni and Clement; his few American films didn't do much to enrich U.S. appeal, but no matter. Le Samourai, Rocco and His Brothers, Mr. Klein, Purple Noon and many others justly cemented his reputation, and here towards the end of his career, he has made this swan-song to a lifetime of crime in the movies, playing a cop about to retire.

Fabio Montale is set mainly in Marseilles (where Delon actually grew up), and the rich Technicolor and sense of place contributes greatly to this series of related cat-and- mouse detective thriller, as Montale, the title character, attempts at last to make some kind of dent in mafia crime.

As the three parts continue, it is evident that for one reason or another, it is dangerous to know Montale; even though he is much loved by the populace, and especially by his mom-and-pop neighbors, who have a seaside home where Montale likes to hang out, there lurks in the darkness people who want to do him in, who want to drag him into deadly shooting when he is ready to retire. It is a civilized entertainment with a quality script, plenty of suspense, and a richness of character development in it's 4 1/2 hour running time.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Primitive Tuneful Delight For The Archivist Only, 2 August 2014

If you are possibly going to spend 75 minutes or so out of your life watching an early musical from MGM, there's a strong chance you already know what you're in for--this short quickie, compared to a creation from Busby Berkeley at Warner's a few years later, is primitive indeed, but captures a time and place in Hollywood like few other films are able to do.

The plot is simple--winsome secretary loves a songwriter who falls for a society dame. The songwriter is zippy Lawrence Gray who smiles through his tears, and composes a song when he wants to express himself in love or out of it. One of his interpreters (and comic relief) is a Sophie Tucker type, a sort of Red Hot Mama attached to her ethnic pianist (at least that's how's he's played). We get some peeks at various musical numbers, some out-of-step minstrels in a theatre and a nutty song and dance in a nightclub--and "you ain't seen nothing" until you've seen the production number for "Dust," one of the hero's hits--with several helpings of actual dust--and later, a catchy little number "The Whole Darned Things For You."

The pleasures in this film are to be found in the sense of history it represents, awkward dealings with the sound, none of it prerecorded--even an outdoor encounter with comedian Jack Benny is fascinating, and one wonders if the subway entrance was a location shot or on the MGM lot. "Jiminy Cricket" Cliff Edwards also makes a jokey cameo, and the film zips along at a good pace--but ending as if the producer decided the company had run out of resources and just called "cut" and "print." Children of Pleasure is an archivist's delight!

Araya (1959)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Striking Visual Style in Elemental Black and White Fits Elemental Lifestyles, 7 May 2014

This documentary-style, relatively short feature film is poignant, stunning in it's simplicity and rich in its humane impulses; it features actual workers in an almost impossibly hostile semi-desert bordering on the ocean that has served as a salt mine for over 450 years; the huge pyramids of salt are impressive, but even more so are the men who climb them with 140 pound baskets of salt, dumping them on top and receiving a few coins in their palms each time--and the women at the base of the pyramids who bag and tie the salt in hideously hot and dry climate.

While this group produces much of the money for the locals in their adobe villages, another group produces the food, venturing out in a large boat every morning hopefully to return with nets full of fish, as they have for hundreds of years. There is a strong sense of community that binds these people, and filmmaker Margot Benacerraf, instead of having anyone employ dialogue, follows her subjects with mostly poetic narration and a strong musical soundtrack.

There is actually a conclusion, and how the viewer reacts to it will certainly reflect attitudes toward modernization and the erasure of ancient traditions; this is a remarkably visual film, stunning to look at, whether from the top of a salt pyramid or bending down to a simple grave decorated with seashells in lieu of the flowers which cannot grow in this part of Venezuela. This is a valuable film document of a disappeared occupation; be sure to watch the "extra" which, fifty years later, follows up on some of the original workers.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
William Powell Shines in Zippy Light-Hearted Intrigue, 1 April 2014

Long before he directed Casablanca, Mildred Pierce and The Adventures of Robin Hood (among other brilliant films) Michael Curtiz took a hand in putting together this little Depression gem about shady detective work, women with money to spare, and a budding romance. The always puckishly sophisticated William Powell appears to have a great deal of fun playing what appears to be a shady detective—but one with an integrity and a great charm for women.

In this zippy little pre-code gem, Powell is hired to put a wealthy female gambler in jeopardy so that her considerable winnings can be taken back by the speakeasy where she gambles; can you guess what happens when the two meet? The woman is played by the engagingly attractive but underused Margaret Lindsay, and she's an apt foil for Powell's machinations (Lindsay has never looked better than she does in this film, and one wonders why she never moved into more major films).

This is another Warner Brother's quickie, a highly entertaining, fast-moving (67 minutes!) "B" film loaded with familiar character actors like Hobart Cavanaugh and Irving Bacon and even Toby Wing, whose wide-smile and sexy persona impresses immediately in a five second appearance as one of Powell's willing conquests. There's even a pre-code drug addict named "Whitey" referred to as a "hophead" into "snow," the sort of drug reference which, as a result of the new code, would completely disappear from films for twenty years after 1934; drugs didn't make a major appearance again until Sinatra's Oscar-nominated performance in The Man With The Golden Arm in 1956.

This is not a great film by any means, but a perfect Saturday matinée popcorn movie, an excellent example of a studio film that was no longer made after 1950.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
It's Ted McCords Movie..., 17 February 2014

The woman in the title is not particularly dangerous, but she seems to be crashingly masochistic. Joan Crawford, at this point in her acting career, has been playing women with an elegant sense style who fall for the wrong men, and this time it's super-petulant David Brian, who has probably been pouting since his older sister snapped his slingshot. Early in the film, Our Joan discovers her sight is in jeopardy, and purely by accident begins to bond with her doctor, mild-mannered but sensitive Dennis Morgan, set free from Warner's musicals for a year or so; Brian soon discovers the clandestine romance, and is ready to kill someone! He loves to wave his gun around!

Although not as tightly written as this semi-noir melodrama could be, there are plenty of exciting set pieces that delight the eye and excite the intellect--all the stuff with the trailer pursued by the motorcycle copy is, while totally illogical, fascinating and beautifully filmed, and therein for me lies a major interest in this film--the superb, careful use of the camera with which Warner films could be so effective--brilliant set interiors lit perfectly, whether in the home of a sick child's poor parents, or in an operating room's audience gallery, providing a dazzling set piece finale where everybody get's involved and there's enough shattered glass to build an igloo! Cinematographer Ted McCord is the man behind the camera; he's already lensed Crawford in numerous other films, and is responsible for a rich heritage of classics from The Treasure of The Sierra Madre to The Sound of Music--a dedicated artists, McCord's work could make a meatball look like filet mignon.

A sincere dedication from dozens of Warner contract players contribute to a wide variety of locales--from hospital waiting rooms to trailer parks, prison laundry rooms to doctor's offices, and the film, I think, accurately reflects the ability of a major studio to churn out a decent film every few weeks worthy of watching. This Woman Is Dangerous is no Mildred Pierce or Humoresque, but Joan is still in top form, manages to command attention, and there are few that can suffer as bravely. Well...Kay Francis, maybe..but that's another story.....

Della (1964)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A Crawford Classic It Ain't..., 9 February 2014

This is essentially a soap opera in so many ways, and the money spent (or lack of it) on location settings or interiors appears to be minimal. Crawford plays Della, a grand, nervous, demanding, slightly off-kilter grande dame who hides in isolation with her strange daughter high above the city's noise and hustle. A hot-shot lawyer operating for an outside corporation wants to purchase a huge chunk of Crawford's property--but she's not budging! Nobody pushes Joan around!

What plot follows is not half as mesmerizing as the period automobiles in glittering pastels or the various fashion statements that Crawford parades as if she had been born to them (one may notice, however, that almost all of her close-ups shift to a very soft focus--no need to adjust your television). Della has lived in this lavishly furnished mansion for decades, but if one looks closely at the garish flower arrangements, the truly tatty color combinations in the carpets and curtains and the weird accent colors chosen by some set decorator in a very big hurry with a very small choice, the corners cut are clear. The same goes for the tacky statues plopped down around the pool, particularly the one dubbed "The Sun God," looking like something from an old Tarzan movie that keeps ending up with flowers stuffed in its mouth for no apparent reason.

But reason isn't what this frenetic melodrama is all about--as you can tell from this review, half the fun of it is enjoying the trappings of a late period Tinseltown Product, a sprinkling of several fine character actors--Charles Bickford and Richard Carlson (looking utterly exhausted!) and the always commanding Joan , rising above the situation just as she did in Mildred Pierce, Flamingo Road or the almost perfect Humoresque . By this time, however, the studios were largely finished, had sold of most of their lavish inventory, and only cared about what money might be made from television. This is primarily a curiosity, and one must bring a good deal of suspended disbelief to the party to enjoy it.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Escape To Paradise With Esther And Her Friends, 11 January 2014

What a fascinating historical document, a dazzling Technicolor window into the hearts and desires of the American public, or at least what MGM was marketing to them in 1950! As long as today's viewer isn't expecting to see a gripping love story or the conflict that might occur when two radically different cultures attempt to meld, as long as plot or logic or suspense don't matter much, this musical document is amazingly entertaining! And perhaps it's entertainment value evolves from secondary values such as color and location and decent singing. It's not Mutiny On The Bounty!

I expect no one ever has watched an Esther Williams film for the intellectual challenge or for cutting edge plot development: first and foremost, we want to see Esther swim, to gloriously navigate the MGM waters as no one else has managed--in over a dozen films, this Million Dollar Mermaid dallied with her suitors, wore bathing suits perfectly, and ultimately proved who was boss in the romantic department, just as she does in this escapist delight. When Howard Keel sails into Tahiti (at the time there were no viable airfields accessible on Tahiti so the studio settled for Hawaii, and it's ravishing!), he mistakes Esther for a native swimmer, treats her with condescension and Esther goes along with the joke until she can turn the tables on him.

In the meantime, Howard learns how to live more gregariously with the local natives, a happy lot who seldom challenge his ways, and who are always happy to run off to a luau or a beach party when there's coconut to be husked. There are a couple of lavish MGM showpieces here, one of them a staged cellophaned hula extravaganza featuring dazzling hula action and a performer who utilizes his body as a percussion instrument: it's a frenzied five minutes!! And wait until you see the mind- boggling Dali-esque underwater fantasy ballet, a trip through a bright coral wonderland peppered with golden flashes from the local fishies!

Had Stanley Donen, director of such gems as Singin' In The Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, been allowed to direct, this might have been one of Esther's best--but she had suffered under his indifferent attitude toward her talents on Take Me Out To The Ball Game, and she refused to work with him, so the studio provided Robert Alton. Fortunately, we are spared Red Skelton or the other usual guest appearances which hamper the pace, and we are gifted with actual lush photography from the island of what appears to be Kauai for a 50's time warp, a zippy escape from any kind of reality.

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