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Ships with Wings (1942)
Interesting period piece, but comic-book antics
"Ships with Wings reminded me of three other war films. Three years earlier, John Clements in "The Four Feathers" had played another disgraced British officer who redeemed himself, and "Casablanca" also portrayed Italian officers as ineffective popinjays.
Most strikingly, though, just as "Air Force" depicts an instant United States naval victory days after Peal Harbor, SWW portrays a mass sinking of German ships by the Royal Navy at a time when Axis forces were sweeping across the Eastern Mediterranean. Such fictitious achievements may have been designed to raise morale, but I wonder how contemporary cinema-goers reacted to the preposterous antics shown in the last part of SWW, which today look risible. Another reviewer has described them as "comic-book".
To avoid "spoiling", I won't list all the half-dozen improbable actions, though I do wonder why there was no attempt by the carrier's crew to deal with the burning aircraft that had crashed on its deck.
The film did start well, with some good scenes of the launching of HMS Ark Royal and of aircraft of the early 1940s.
As always with films of this period, there are some interesting names to look out for among the cast.
A Prize of Arms (1962)
Competent film with many well-known faces
I watched APOA courtesy of TalkingPictures TV channel, which is proving a treasure trove of little-known films, often low budget, of the 1960s.
The plot unfolded in a satisfying way, with a parade of familiar British actors of yesteryear in small parts, including,as noted, "Likely Lad" Rodney Bewes. Stanley Baker inevitably impresses in the starring role.
The film must have been made with the co-operation of the British Army and so shows officers and soldiers reacting to the raid in an efficient manner. (One or two of the actors could have worn their berets in a more military manner, and there was one sloppy salute - and what about the motor-cycle rider stopping off at a pub for a drink or two on duty?) One thing that did puzzle me was why the highly-strung Fenner was running in a panic through crowds of mocking soldiers and incurring the wrath of, I think, the regimental sergeant-major. Perhaps the clip that showed the reason for this was edited out?
Overall, very entertaining.
A Matter of Choice (1963)
Plodding start, then it gets interesting
AMOC is another of those low-budget 1960s black-and-white films that I enjoy, though unlike others available on "movie channels", there were hardly any nostalgic shots of contemporary London.
It gets off to a slow start with lots of talking (but some period atmosphere), and I started to fidget and wonder where it was leading. Then it got better, as the two lads found themselves getting into more and more trouble. Early in the film, they came across as obnoxious (somewhat impoverished "Hooray Henrys"), but I started to feel just a little sympathy for their predicament. (One of them remarks ruefully that the girl who stood him up was "only 15", an attitude that might outrage society today but back in the 1960s was not that exceptional.) And the way the film ends means they will still be in deep trouble - something that viewers are left to realise for themselves.
I wonder what Anthony Steele thought about "starring" in this modest film after being a major name in the 1950s? He has less of a speaking role than half-a-dozen of the other actors and spends some screen-time unconscious.
I'm glad that after my early doubts I persevered with watching this film.
East of Elephant Rock (1978)
Attractive scenery and cast, but it fizzled out
With so few reviews and no comments so far here on IMDb, EoER would appear to be an obscure film, which I came across on one of the lesser British TV channels.
Very handsome scenery, a good cast and a reasonable plot. John Hurt impressed and Judi Bowker - whom I can't recall seeing before - shone. But in the last quarter of the film some of the changes in characterisation did not convince, and it all rather fizzled out.
When EoER first came out, it attracted some controversy and hostile criticism and with the passing of years some of the racist language and "white" attitudes can make one wince. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East_of_Elephant_Rock
The prurient might like to note that we get a brief full-frontal view of John Hurt as he jumps out of bed, whilst Judi Bowker's modesty is ensured by a sheet.
Escape Route (1952)
Verv average thriller
"It has some very good London exteriors showing WWII bombed out building, streets, and vintage cars but that's about it," notes another reviewer here, and that sums up "Escape Route". I watched it mainly for the nostalgia of the outdoor scenes in London, especially close to the Thames. The plot isn't too bad, though I wasn't convinced by Rossi's ploy to publicise his arrival in London - would the police have really plastered photographs everywhere of an American who had slipped through Immigration? And what happened to the taxi driver whom Rossi told to wait when he checked out the first address. There was no sign of him when Rossi left the building and walked off.
Raft was 51 when this film was released and looked it, despite wearing the toupee that can be discerned in shots of the back of his head. When a it wasn't a stuntman doing some of the more athletic scenes, Raft still looked clumsy and some of the punches were all too obviously "pulled".
East of Sudan (1964)
could have been so much better
EoS has been screened several times recently on British TV and the synopsis seemed promising. It turned out to be a mix of "Ice Cold in Alex" (Anthony Quayle and Sylvia Syms escaping from a beleaguered town), "North West Frontier" (heroic Brit, governess and child escaping from a beleaguered town), "The Four Feathers" (much stock footage) and several travelogues (stock footage of various animals and native dancing).
Other reviewers here on IMDb have already commented on the amateurish mixing in of the footage of charging animals. I am resigned to the heroine in films of this vintage apparently having access to make-up and hairdressing facilities as she undergoes various privations, Miss Woodville continuing to look glamorous at the end. And Murchison's rapidly falling in love with Miss Woodville is par for the course, though usually in films such relationships develop into a three-way romance with rivalry between the two men. In EoS his passion seems to have fizzled out as quickly as it appeared.
But there were at least three risible scenes. The first was when, after Baker had rued the small stock of ammunition, Murchison fires his revolver several times in enemy country to stampede a herd of animals to delight Asua. Then he sets off the signal fire when he sees a boat on the Nile. Not even the most callow officer would be so stupid. Thirdly, when the fugitives are hiding from the slavers they are barely concealed by a few fronds of foliage; they are fully visible to the camera - and thus to the men searching for them inches away who do not notice them.
One might also think Baker very well-spoken for a private soldier who had been demoted from sergeant several times, but, as other films ("Beau Geste", "Under Two Flags") have shown, "gentleman-rankers" did exist.
The Moves4Men channel on British TV is providing me with some excellent films that I wouldn't otherwise have seen (as well as some recordings which I delete within ten minutes of starting to view). "Hellgate" is one of the grittiest Westerns I've seen, especially considering that it was released in 1952, when the rigours portrayed on screen were usually somewhat muted.
The characters sweat copiously, their clothes are filthy and they show evidence of having no access to razors - in contrast to too many action films where the actors remain remarkably clean and well-shaven.
One reviewer here has referred to Ward Bond being "inexpressive", but he certainly looked thuggish to me, and Robert Wilke was as malevolent as ever. Perhaps Joan Leslie was a tad too pretty? The way the film ended was a bit anti-climatic and I would have liked to see a bit more soul-searching going on before the concluding decision was made.
I'm very glad to have watched this film.
Fort Courageous (1965)
Some merit, except at the end
Some scathing comments were appended to one version provided on Youtube and I feared the worst. But the wasn't too bad, apart from the last few anticlimactic minutes which others have commented on. The scenery was good and the fort looked authentic enough.
Quite why two attractive women were travelling on their own across such hazardous country I don't know, and the scout fired his revolver at fleeing Indians at the most optimistic range I've ever seen, even by Western standards; his eventual death was quite gruesome for the time when the film was made.
For once, none of the actors was known to me but they all did well enough.
Tempted almost to give it a six, but five will do.
Fort Algiers (1953)
Undemanding adventure yawn
I watched this courtesy of the Movies4Men channel, which offers a very wide range of quality. This was middling. Set in the early 1950s, it seemed to have an early-20th-century atmosphere to it, with massed Arab attacks on Legionnaire forts and columns of soldiers marching to the rescue with no motorised or air support. There were a few mid-century cars in the stock footage of Paris and an Arab town, and Yvette does use an eavesdropping device, but that's all.
The actors do well enough, though I didn't recognise Leif Ericson as the crop-haired sergeant - he certainly chewed the scenery. And it's always good to see the dependable John Dehner (and Yvonne de Carlo).
I was a bit puzzled by the Amir calling on his troops not to mention, on pain of death, the massacre at the beginning of the film, as it would have soon become common knowledge.
The mid-film relaying of the message did go on a bit and, as has been mentioned, there was something wrong with the distance and time when the Arabs arrived at the oil well.
All in all, pleasant, predictable viewing.
Return of the Frontiersman (1950)
Good enough Western for 1950
ROTF is a very acceptable Western for 1950 - though I'm not sure to which particular Frontiersman the title refers. Well filmed, good scenery and some interesting actors - not least the veteran Tim Holt, the up-and-coming Rory Calhoun and, in an uncredited role as the lecherous cowhand, future beefcake star Richard Egan.
One has to be a little forgiving with the evolving plot and McRae's dénouement, but the film moves along nicely enough.
But it did jar that within hours of having a bullet removed from his shoulder McRae was able to use his arm for shooting, riding, fighting and lifting Julie London - a miracle recovery second only to James Stewart's in "The Man from Laramie" after he was shot with revolver pressed against his palm!