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Overly ambitious episode highlighted by good cast
This is a very dramatic episode and it makes you really admire the extremely hard work that was often done by actors and producers in the old TV days. The hard work in this case was necessitated partly due to the episode's over-reach to what is probably the limits of concept and story that can be accomplished via weekly TV. You either will buy into the "live and die by the play" persona of Jerome Cowan's character or you won't, but Cowan does bring stature and gravitas to his pivotal role. His character is a playwright and the whole episode is sort of an homage to Shakespeare. Heady stuff, a very ambitious TV concept and as I say maybe an over-reach.
The cast is terrific and they accomplish a dramatic ending, with skilled acting by TV perennial David Lewis. Lewis was around for many decades on television as well as having good parts in notable films such as the classic "The Apartment". He was highly respected in his era but is not very well known nowadays.
This episode was written by the distinguished Hollywood scriptwriter and literary editor Milton Krims. His participation is an indication that this episode of "Perry Mason" was in fact intended to be a really serious and high concept TV production but I didn't know that when I first saw the name "Krims" on the screen. I thought this must be a joke or a nom de plume- "Krims" spelled backwards is "Smirk", but now I realize who he was and that this is his real name.
Intense effort and a heavy tone with no relief or levity is tricky to do in a series TV episode, yet this one does manage to elevate to a high standard in my opinion despite the limitations of the genre.
She-Wolf of London (1946)
Its OK but lacking
You have here a lot of good atmospherics involving fog, several canines, and generally fine but somewhat routine mystery components, with competent acting and good Universal Studios production values.
June Lockhart is a lovely young beginner actress in this movie. But with a terrific supporting cast that includes Dennis Hoey, Martin Kosleck, Frederick Worlock and others this this film should have been better. The problem is, its simply lacking. It lacks a monster with scary make-up, a knowledgeable old expert doctor or scientist, or great mystery detective. There is no strange gypsy woman or macabre character of any sort.
And its odd that so much of the film plays out on the familiar Universal mansion front door/front porch set (the British of the film's locale would probably call it the "forecourt") that is in so many Universal films of the era. This doesn't bother me but I do believe that it reflects an overall lack of imagination in sets and staging.
Fans of the Universal product of the era will probably find this film satisfying but its too bad it doesn't have more oomph.
The Hunted (1948)
Good 1940's noir
This is a film that manages to keep the viewer's interest through well- conceived plot twists and a well-played romantic relationship between the two lead characters. Preston Foster is believable as a tough cop with a hard-nosed exterior who has a complicated emotional entanglement with an enigmatic and dangerous woman. Foster does a great job in the role.
A now rather obscure actress named Belita gives a studied and endearing performance as the ex-con blonde noir babe who maybe does or does not love the cop. She manages to convey a vulnerable yet dangerous persona that is not easy to maintain for an entire film length but she pulls off this feat with remarkable consistency and aplomb. The multi-talented Belita also gives us a fine and professionally done figure skating routine wherein her rather tall, lean and graceful style reminds me of the great Olympian Peggy Fleming. And its good to see noir icon Charles McGraw in a supporting role.
I found "The Hunted" to be a rewarding blend of constant emotional tension between the characters and plot tension related to the twists and turns of its basic noir story line. View it if you get the chance.
Its awful but also just bad
A 1950s creature movie can be awful and that's OK if its so bad its good- some are hilarious or have a fun goofy monster ("The Giant Claw"). Unfortunately The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues has none of the awful plus factors going for it. Its slow, boring and directed by someone who lacked the ability to even reach the lowest Ed Wood levels of schlock. And the monster here is not campy or anything.
Cathy Downs was capable of giving good performances, as was perennial leading man Kent Taylor. Downs looks fine as she wears various sporty outfits, swimsuits etc. but unfortunately that is all her role requires, no acting is even remotely required. Taylor seems rather bemused as he knows this movie is not redeemable even as camp.
I watch this movie because I like the cast, but the silly monster that bobs around the surface in shallow water has no impact at all.
A 1950's monster film completist will need this in their collection but other than such enthusiasts I doubt that anyone else would be interested.
The Big Boodle (1957)
1950's B-movie features authentic Havana locales
For a touch of exotic atmosphere only 90 miles from the shores of the USA in a part of the world that shares a common Spanish Colonial heritage with much of the United States, you can view "The Big Boodle". The atmospherics and locales of 1957 Havana are excellent, and filmed with fine black and white cinematography.
Errol Flynn stars and looks every inch the movie star, although he appears thin and tired. Signs of the serious heart condition that was to kill him in a couple of years are evident (his strained breathing even while at rest in a chair is noticeable). Nevertheless he summons enough energy to move at a fast pace- in fact the overall action moves at a rather fast pace, especially toward the end. Flynn's star quality was still intact although fading rapidly, and he carries the movie as always.
Flynn portrays a croupier with a sketchy past who is thrust into some really heavy criminal goings-on. He is believable in the role and his acting (as always) is very good. Gia Scala is OK as a young woman involved. Ms.Scala was one of the most remarkably beautiful women ever on film- its regrettable that her startling eyes cannot be shown here in color. Rosanna Rory is a cast member who is relatively obscure but is basically a capable Euro actress of the era. Pedro Armendariz is absolutely perfect as the cagey police chief. He was one of the finest screen actors ever and he is superb in this movie. Leading man type Carlos Rivas who you might recognize from the classic 50's monster film "Giant Scorpion" is also well-cast as a reckless and ambitious young Cuban.
Fine authentic atmospherics of pre-Castro Cuba, some decent acting, and the fast pace will probably overcome any reservations you may experience from Flynn's weariness and the B-movie nature of this film. I found it to be an entertaining departure into the long lost era of Errol Flynn and of late-50's Cuba.
Assassin of Youth (1937)
Not a good movie, but......
"Assassin of Youth" aka "The Marijuana Menace" is a cheap exploitation movie, obviously filmed quickly with low-paid actors. However, unlike the worst of such films of the era, there are some legitimate acting talents in this one. The lovely Luana Walters, who in my opinion should have become a much bigger star in Hollywood, has substance and screen presence while being able to actually act. Despite her talents she was often wasted in typical Hollywood fashion in low-budget westerns simply because she had some genuine horsemanship ability, having grown up around horses. Its sad that the movie industry has used and thrown away so many talents for such superficial reasons. Another cast member with a long Hollywood career was the multi-talented Fay McKenzie, who portrays the evil cousin with verve and impact. But in this movie you mostly encounter laughably bad acting by unknown actors, being poorly and sloppily handled by the director in hurry-up fashion.
Another distinction of this particular exploitation movie is that marijuana is clearly portrayed as a threshold drug and not a "Deadly Narcotic" as is so forcefully stated in bold headline letters in the ridiculous and preachy "Reefer Madness". Marijuana is portrayed here as being used to introduce youth to hard drugs, and the hard drugs are being purveyed by hardened organized career criminals, as they were then and still are today.
So this film is old, cheap, bad and all that. But it has a few redeemable qualities that made it at least watchable for me.
Tarzan's Savage Fury (1952)
Good Tarzan Adventure
A good Tarzan adventure film, another of the Lex Barker films that were made with decent budgets and not just cheap knock-offs. Barker does a great job as big hunk Tarzan (its definitely a role that requires more action than acting). First-class actress Dorothy Hart is lovely as Jane and does most of the real acting in this Tarzan household. She was a truly gifted actress who soon quit movies for roles in prestigious television productions and other activities that utilized her worthwhile abilities. There is also a little boy character well played by a lad named Tommy Carleton, although this character seems superfluous to me and was subsequently dropped from the Tarzan series. Former leading man Patrick Knowles does a great job as a vacuous baddie, a weak willed character whose actions are essential to the plot.
The overall story of "Tarzan's Savage Fury" is wholly inconsequential but the movie is directed at a nice crisp pace. It is definitely above average for a b-movie adventure flick. I can recommend this film for the action and physicality that Barker brings to the Tarzan role, and for Dorothy Hart's luminous presence and fine acting.
Tarzan's Peril (1951)
Good Tarzan adventure
This is a good Tarzan action movie. Featuring such notable supporting actors as Alan Napier and Walter Kingsford, you get the impression that the studio wanted to make a quality film here- its not just another b-movie throw away. Talented director Byron Haskins (who directed many notable movies of the 40's, 50's and 60's as well as a career in cinematography) is in charge with a sure and steady hand.
Lex Barker is a big strong hunk and he does a fine job as Tarzan, who faces some serious perils. Bad tribal chief King Bulam very nearly kills Tarzan with his bare hands and a knife in an exciting fight sequence. George Macready is at his meanest as he murders several people and almost kills everybody else. Macready is really a nasty baddie in this one. Virginia Huston is an athletic and poised Jane who contributes her usual lovely and capable movie effort in an underwritten role.
Dorothy Dandridge steals this movie with terrific screen presence. She is ravishing as Good Queen Melmendi. The director wisely showcases Ms. Dandridge, who ignites every scene she is in and makes it special. She is a powerhouse obviously destined for future star potential.
"Tarzan's Peril" is a worthwhile, vigorous and fast-moving adventure movie. You will be satisfied if this is what you are expecting from a film outing with a classic adventure hero.
On the Beach (1959)
It never happened, therefore it was not "inevitable"
The Cold War mass nuclear shots were never fired in anger or by accident. The big Cold War mutual destruction never occurred- so with hindsight this film's sense of inevitability is for me its biggest flaw. And the basic concept of this film (just passively sit back and take the bomb hits and fallout) does not reflect the thinking nor reflect the actions of leaders or of a large proportion of humanity at the time.
There were endless numbers of bomb shelters being built, enormous salt mines were to be used for mass shelter. The military had nuclear bunkers in use, culminating in the ultimate shelter at Cheyenne Mountain which was constructed in the early 60's. There was talk of using other large mines and existing caverns for mass shelter. There was a nuclear evacuation center at Greenbriar for Congress (although I am not sure when it was finished). By the film's anticipated time frame of 1964, the USA, Soviet Union, Britain, France all had submarine fleets so its possible that many submarines would have survived. Treaties for limitation of nuclear bomb tests and arms reduction were constantly being negotiated beginning in the early 1960's, some of them were signed and honored by the parties over the ensuing decades.
As has been noted by many reviewers, the film is slow and dull although well-acted by a stellar cast. The dullness doesn't really matter to me since the overall concept is so at odds with most public thinking and so at odds with efforts at negotiation in those days and communication through the "hotline" and other means, the movie is fatally flawed for me.
And of course, this film's anticipated Cold War accidental apocalypse never happened. But the non-happening was no accident. It was due to deliberate effort, hard work and planning by countless individuals including civilian, military and diplomatic the world over. From the pacifist protester to the hardest-line government planner who wanted to "win" a war to the voters (in countries allowed to vote) to builders of shelters the world over, all walks of life actively tried to do the best they could in their individual way to avoid such conflict, rather than sit around waiting for senseless death by technology.
Stranger from Venus (1954)
Interesting concepts, slowly presented
Some careful thought and preparation is evident in this production but overall it is made in a non-dynamic manner, very deliberate and you might say too slow. The direction seems primitive. Once this director sets his camera for a scene it is seemingly planted in concrete- it ain't gonna move. In some scenes maybe coffee or caffeine would have helped the director. Military personnel just stand around, and even scenes beside a Monet-esque lily pond are flat and unromantic.
The British actors are really good, especially the grey haired doctor and young Willoughby Gray who portrays "Gretchen". Helmut Dantine is very focused and is riveting in the lead role. In contrast, Patricia Neal looks as if she would rather be somewhere else and is not effective in her role.
The music is mostly of the orchestrated "English pastoral" style popular in the early to mid 20th century but other than providing a classy sound is not lively enough for a sci-fi film. There is a huge early-50's Packard auto that is loaded with chrome and very noticeable but is thoroughly ugly- its too bad because the earlier post-WWII Packard designs were generally more elegant and graceful. I always enjoy looking for mid-century ambiance and trappings in films from the era such as I found in this movie.
Some interesting science can be found here such as a proposed landing in a magnetic field area and concepts of interplanetary gravitation.
An advanced being lectures us on how stupid and crude we are in routine fashion that has been done in films numerous times before and since, so this aspect of the theme seems rather redundant.