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Scene Stealer Berton Churchill
"Stagecoach" is deservedly a classic of the Western genre, most prominently remembered today as the flick that launched John Wayne's career as a major motion picture star. The picture boasts a fine supporting cast, but undoubtedly among them, it is veteran character actor Berton Churchill's blustery and obnoxious portrayal of the crooked banker, "Gatewood," that stands out! Churchill was a familiar face in many pictures of the period, but is a name that is long forgotten by all but the most dedicated fans of films of Hollywood's "Golden Age." He certainly left behind a memorable performance in "Stagecoach."
The institution was a horror, but the film is a horror gem!
Not perhaps a "horror" film in the vernacular of today, but undoubtedly a darkly suspenseful tale, highlighted by what is one of Boris Karloff's most menacing performances. As "Sims," the Apothecary General of "Bedlam," Karloff is delightfully sinister as he engages in a duel of wits with Anna Lee's character of "Nell Bowen," played out against the horrors of the 18th century lunatic asylum of St. Mary's of Bethlehem. The story is compelling, the background music perfectly blended to both the story and the time period in which the story takes place, and the literate script is a delight to the ear! The supporting players all add their talents to making the story consistently interesting, but it is surely Karloff and Lee to whom acting honors rightfully belong! "Bedlam" is definitely an underrated gem that must rank as one of VAL Lewton's BEST films. The story builds suspense right up to the end, with an unexpected twist that audiences will find deservedly satisfying.
Cry Terror! (1958)
Will Keep You On the Edge of Your Seat!!
A genuine nail biter, from start to finish! This film is guaranteed to keep you in suspense from beginning to end! Led by Rod Steiger, who gives a riveting performance as the psycho-kidnapper, the rest of the cast performs most ably, lending considerable credulity to the storyline. Acting honors must go to the underrated Inger Stevens, whose career was tragically shortened by her untimely death. She lends just the right note of hysteria as the wife and mother whose family is being held, as she is made to follow the demands of the kidnap gang members in order to secure their safe release. The film also gives us some great shots of the NYC of the period, particularly the West Side Highway and other notable spots in the city.
Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954)
This "Phantom" is a Scary Flick!!
This version of "Phantom of the Rue Morgue" is far superior to the earlier Bela Lugosi version in virtually every respect! Firstly, the music score by David Buttolph adds a sinister spine tingling note that heightens the element of fright. The cast members, all of them, led by Karl Malden and the underestimated Claude Dauphin as the Inspector, move the plot along and ably hold the audience's attention as the story unfolds. The mood, the period, the locale of turn-of-the-century Paris are all re-created very well by Director Roy Del Ruth. The garish hues of Warner Color, too, heighten the imagery. Having first seen this flick more than half a century ago as a young boy, I was terrified then. Given some of what makes it to the screen these days, "Phantom" is, indeed, quite tame by comparison! Nonetheless, it is a very entertaining horror flick of the period
The Great Garrick (1937)
"The Great Garrick" Lays an Egg!
"The Great Garrick" is truly one of the very worst of Warner Brothers' productions of the 1930s. The studio which, during this period, gave us such diverse classics as "Forty-Second Street," "Charge of the Light Brigade," "Public Enemy." and "I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang" among others, failed miserably with this utterly dreadful exercise in film making! Audience reaction must surely have ranged from weary to teeth gnashing! Something akin to fingernails scratching against a blackboard! This is difficult to believe when one considers that the cast is first-rate, led by Brian Aherne in the title role, ably paired with the always lovely Olivia DeHavilland. A stalwart group of character actors, including Edward Everett Horton, Lionel Atwill, and Melville Cooper provide support........but even THEIR presence cannot save this flick from its tedium and sheer silliness! Three cheers to Warner Brothers for the splendid entertaining flicks that studio has provided us with during the Golden Age.........but this God-awful turkey must rank up there with the equally inane "Boy Meets Girl" as among the very worst they had to offer the film-going public!