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The Vampire (1957)
Good vampire flick
Straightforward, no-nonsense vampire film that is played with skill by a cast of good actors. John Beal (who many viewers probably have never heard of) was a highly respected, experienced actor who plays this strong lead role just fine. He even gives his character some sympathetic edges.
Colleen Gray is excellent eye candy, and the immortal sci-fi actor Kenneth Tobey is on hand (as he should be) in a believable performance as the Sheriff.
This is a wide-screen presentation and there is a good DVD available with first-rate picture quality.
Limited production budget does not detract here. This is a well-paced tightly done monster film that features genuine, sudden menace as the monster prowls the night.
This is not just cheap 1950's monster schlock. It is a legit effort- it's the real deal.
Black Friday (1940)
Odd film- with one memorable performance
Once in a while you run across an individual performance that blows you away. It can be in an old film or a new one, by a star or a virtual unknown. If you watch carefully you will see that, done in the fairly subtle, deliberate manner of some older film performances, a guy named Stanley Ridges gives one of those surprising, unexpected performances in "Black Friday".
Horror without fog, weird laboratories or other such atmospherics yet a gangster film with sudden violence, the movie itself I would classify generally as odd and forgettable. While obviously having a decent budget and a slick well edited look, it isn't much except for the acting which is all excellent.
Karloff is silky smooth and gives a pro acting demonstration, Lugosi is miscast but manages to have the requisite heavy menace that a gangster boss should have albeit with the wrong accent.
But Stanley Ridges gives an acting performance of Jekyll/Hyde perfection that holds together this rather shambling, genre-confused film.
I don't believe Lugosi and Karloff ever share a scene- its one of this thing's oddities.
Watch it and observe Mr. Ridges. You will be impressed and rewarded by what he accomplishes here.
The Glass Slipper (1955)
I hope that each successive generation of viewers can continue to discover and experience Leslie Caron's magic. This film, The Glass Slipper, is not very good but watching it you get what you might say is the "Leslie Caron Experience".
Anytime you are downcast or blue you can watch a Leslie Caron film from that era and immediately be mood-enhanced and lifted up by her. So, do I recommend you watch this film? You bet I do. You will see what a transcendent film star really is.
Michael Wilding is handsome. And pleasant. That's about it, but thats all he is supposed to be.
I don't care for the choreography, except for when Ms. Caron is doing ballet alone- of course, it is truly magic. Her scene alone in front of a closed door as she drapes herself headfirst down the steps is classic and simply beautiful.
The main musical score is excellent.
The She-Creature (1956)
Better than expected schlock 1950's
There are a few good things to be said about this schlock- I wouldn't just say its all bad and forget it. Yes it is slow at times, but better than you might expect with Chester Morris staying totally in character for every second he is on screen displaying acting skill and supreme polish. He is good as a strange, creepy hypnotist, although you don't get the impression that he relishes this role.
Marla English is a cut above the average 1950's big-chested b-actress in her role as the she-creature. Tom Conway is obviously washed-up but is OK in his role as a sleazy, cynical "event promoter".
The director framed Morris in most scenes to enhance his screen presence. Also there is some directorial skill in a few other scenes, such as when you have a three-layer deep scene with Ms. English close to the screen, the leading man in mid distance, and a carny operator in the background- this scene is a good piece of directing and staging as it ends focused on the carny who was in the background to start. Most 50's cheap-o films would not take the time and effort to plan and stage scenes as well as this.
The hypnotist (Morris) and the creature at times are menacing and overall Morris is hypnotic to watch, if at times slow-moving.
Washed up cheap cast and cheap 50's B&W but somewhat entertaining and not just a time-waster, despite its basic schlock nature.
The Mummy's Curse (1944)
A mess but curiously watchable
This movie is a hackneyed, cheap, rushed dog of a production. What in heaven's name are the Mummy and his princess doing wandering around Louisiana? Ridiculous. I am sorry but the fake Cajun accents are such a mismatch with ancient Egyptian stories this is just almost a non-movie. Louisiana and Egypt are both done a disservice here.
The script was shoehorned into the Louisiana locale and so is also just a total mess.
But the cast is good. Zucco is fantastic in his small role. Holmes Herbert is solid in his role as the doctor, Carradine is perfect and does a good job. Virginia Christine brings off her role in a sincere, fascinating and watchable way, and gives us a new and improved take on the princess. Kay Harding has the sweetest voice and is just right as the darling ingénue daughter of a tough foreman. I love to hear Ms. Harding speak with her unaffected soft voice and kind persona.
Ridiculous hack ideas are behind the concept of everything that takes place in this whole film. The lumbering, sad mummy is totally out of place (no tomb, no museum, no Egypt, etc.), as he wanders around the Louisiana countryside. The unwatchable ideas just keep coming so the film becomes curiously watchable to see how bad can it get, and is saved by the effective cast.
Conquest of Space (1955)
I don't know what to make of this film- it is OK production-wise. It is way too talky definitely, but the acting is quite good by the some of the cast (although Phil Foster is just terrible) so when most of them talk its OK as such. The talk is well staged and competently written. Its almost as if the producers and director were thinking in terms of producing a stage play- not usually a good approach to an outer space movie.
The artwork is above average and excellently done. Even the spacecraft are above average for the 1950's.
The whole film is competent but they forgot one thing- THEY FORGOT TO INCLUDE ANY ENTERTAINMENT VALUE. The main reason for this is simply lack of action. Even the increase in activity at the end is not given much punch by the cast.
Its good to see the young William Redfield and young Ross Martin. However they aren't given much to do. Would Ross Martin have been well used in "Wild Wild West" if just standing and talking? His acting would have been good but... unless you're doing Shakespeare too much talk probably isn't satisfying enough to a movie audience.
Someone should issue an edited version with Phil Foster cut out- and why not, he doesn't add anything anyway.
Uneven, but a watchable entry
Part of this film takes place in Frankenstein's basement. But the problem here is that mostly this is bargain-basement Frankenstein in general. EXCEPT for some of the acting, and for the atmosphere which is first-rate.
Knowles is alright but is bargain basement Basil Rathbone/Colin Clive. He's capable but bland. Ms. Massey is a cut-rate Evelyn Ankers but again, is capable and has the added advantage of a German-tinged European accent. And poor old Lugosi is wasted in a badly conceived role (oh well I guess you can't have a Wolfman sequel at the Frankenstein castle without having Frankenstein's monster at least show up).
Chaney is first-rate and vividly recreates his immortal Lawrence Talbot. He is great and not to be missed.
Three huge pluses: Ouspenskaya, Dennis Hoey and of course Lionel Atwill were three of the best character actors who ever lived and keep this film watchable.
The early cemetery scenes are fine old horror atmosphere, and I really enjoyed the highly creative ice-bound catacomb scenes featuring the two unfortunate monsters.
Plot holes, bad editing, chopped grafted together story are the misses, so I can recommend this only with reservations, mainly for the occasional streaks of brilliance to be found here.
And yes, horror fans will love it.
Loan Shark (1952)
Good tough crime film
While not a fan of Raft's starring qualities for major studio films, I really enjoy him in tough little black and white B films like this. Low budget, filmed quickly, they seem a good fit for his real life tough, sometimes lowlife persona and abilities. I intend this as a compliment to Raft and if you watch "Loan Shark" you will see what I mean.
In addition to Raft you have here a fine supporting cast including one of the best John Hoyt crime performances of his long distinguished career.
Factories, lunch boxes and cheap hoods. Really evokes the underside of the 1950's and moves along briskly. Surprisingly entertaining.
I Died a Thousand Times (1955)
Go back to the same place and remake it..literally
This is a literal remake of Bogart's High Sierra. The same roads, towns and even on the same rocks where High Sierra was made. It is scene-for-scene the same movie. It is almost uncanny in that respect. I felt deja vu all the way through.
On the plus side the wide screen production and beautiful color are worthwhile, as is the good acting here which I think is equal to the original but that is a matter of each viewer's taste.
Lon Chaney Jr. is terrific in his role and more than holds his own opposite the usually scene-stealing Palance. Also a plus is a classic brute thug Lee Marvin performance. You also get very young Nick Adams, Dennis Hopper and Perry Lopez doing good work.
Lone Pine, Whitney Portal Road and the Sierras never looked better and they are the main reason you might want to watch this if you are vulnerable to being put off by the striking literal remake nature of this film project.
Colt .45 (1950)
Worthwhile B western
Yes its just a routine B western. But its above average and worth your viewing time.
The villain is a rotten creep as portrayed by Zachary Scott. Randolph Scott is of course stalwart and solid in the lead role. Lloyd Bridges provides solid support.
But I really like this film because Ruth Roman is not your typical pretty b-western actress here. She is tough, forceful, physical and believable as well as very beautiful. She really pops in Technicolor wearing that fringe buckskin. Absolutely gorgeous and she out-acts every male in the movie.
The immortal Stanley Andrews, the stentorian-voiced ultimate Sheriff of all Western movies and later TV's Death Valley Days, contributes his dignified screen presence.
This film is a triumph of great casting over what could otherwise be routine.