Reviews written by registered user
|26 reviews in total|
Not even Art for Art's sake can make a philosophy professor change his
mind about doing something most people would think more than thirty
times about before they pulled a trigger. Thomas Mitchell, one of
America's greatest character actors here plays the lead and it is most
definitely the role of a lifetime and any other actors of his time
would have been pleased to play it. Mitchell, who often played drunks,
here plays a very sober professor of philosophy who is absolutely
convinced, for the greatest good, he must take another's life. There
are a few other entanglements, but this man must convince several
others there was a very excellent reason for committing his "crime of
This beautiful "B" movie from 1941 is one of the most unusual in theme I have ever seen. It deals with subject matter I was very surprised a small film from a major Hollywood studio would be allowed to deal with. I dare not give anything more away except to say, if it comes anywhere near your viewing area, do not hesitate to watch it. It is that superb!
"Harbor of Missing Men" is one of those small films that are no longer made, but many of us wish they were. Directed by R.G.Springsteen, no relation to the Boss as far as I know, it is tight, tidy and has no useless trim. It tells the tale of a hard knuckle guy, who's used to dealing with gun runners, but this time his load of illicit firearms is stolen so what's a sort of hero to do? He "takes it on the lam, Lefty" as they used to say way back in the day. That guy is "Brooklyn" Gannon ably played by B movie stalwart Richard Denning. Gannon ends up hiding with a family of Greek fishermen and sponge divers down the Floridian coast. The family is headed by Steven Geray who played every possible nationality even though he was from Hungary. This fisherman's daughter is played by Barbara Fuller who was once married to cowboy actor Lash LaRue and the main nasty is ably played by George Zucco who was one of the screen's meanest. The movie is filled with some of Republic's best "B" players and it gives the viewer what they want and does it as only many of the 60 minute companion features could. Nobody said "There's no such thing as no such thing", but this is the kind of flick that could and get away with it.
This flick is a passable representation of what one can call an "economical espionager". Something like what Sean Connery's wayward son Jason might have made if he beat his dad to the punch. It was co-produced by any number of countries, but mostly friendly ones, after-all, it was the early 1960's. Directed by John Paddy Carstairs of British B movie fame who did films like George Sanders "The Saint in London" which was a rarity for the time because it was shot on location. Its all about a Viennese wine merchant becoming a double agent for the United States. The agent is ably played by German and/or Dutch actor Peter Van Eyck, I've never been able to tell what his true nationality was. He gets suckered into the profession by Russian brutes and in those years they were the biggest and baddest of the bads. The cast is good for the time and offered it some good scenery chewing. Macdonald Carey, Mr. Stone Face as usual, Christopher Lee, minus fangs, Billie Whitelaw, a sweetener for certain and Marius Goring doing a dance with numerous demons. "The Devil's Agent" holds up OK though its past is definitely passed.
Ostensibly, a programmer, but I thought a semi-interesting one. How can
I say that? Probably, because I am a sucker for Ace, the Wonder Dog. He
wasn't just another poochie with a languid kisser, but a trained
thespian who could take down a bad guy or gal with consummate aplomb.
In all his scenes he made Richard Dix look almost human or at least as
spry as a petrified stick.
The story was more than a bit convoluted, but then it was written by three different writers and that barely gave each of them twenty minutes to tell their inclusion. Also, working in an art museum filled with rare antiques is not the kind of thing that can be readily spared a fanciful story. Say what you may, blindness is not easily explained at any story pitch,even if you have a wonder dog to introduce to the world.
Not a common story arc and filled with dread at every corner; these are just a few of the excitements of a mostly forgotten B-movie. Pull your chair closer to the screen lest you become blinder than the stooge Mr. Dix played.
Dynamic reciprocity nor nude dancing could save this one. It was,
though, at least semi-entertaining. Allan "Rocky" Lane and Robert
Barrat were stalwart cowboy stars most of their careers in "B" movies,
but on occasion they escaped the dusty trails for the spotlight in many
other endeavors. This one has them in a Land of Convoluted Escapes and
Escapades in a place that may or may not be pre war Germany or Spain.
In fact, it could also be Italy. At least, I think we can be sure it is
a fascist regime with none of them able to burst into a song like
"Springtime for Hitler" or "Home on the Range".
Yes, the camera work was above the usual "B" status and the director, one, good old "B" movie master Lew Landers who made everything from pot boilers to brain numbing rubbish here shows he had a fairly deft hand when dealing with " rah, rah, zis-boom-bah" get yer blood pumping and flag waving arms up in the air! He knew how to make audiences believe the Fascisties were the bad guys they really were. And in the end, when the audience thought all was right with the world, he made us know there are those who would be free and those who would stay behind to continue the fight.
There was a huge, glaring error though, in all this folderol; namely, there were two short scenes with the terrific character actor Dwight Frye, but he does not speak a word and just seems to nod to a radio. Yet he is dressed as one of the miscreants. Why is he even shown when he says nothing and does nothing? What is the point of including him? Of course, there is no answer and we are just made to wonder.
Yeah, its an OK time waster, but not much else. And now, I leave you.
While wandering down the dark streets trying to find something of value
to pick up out of the gutter, I chanced to come upon a piece of
detritus that was as lacklustre as one could ever hope to find sailing
into any sewer drain in any "Big Town".
What we see in the opening is a mess of stock footage, balsa wood and cardboard sets and camera setups where the camera is as stationary as any 1950's TV show. It is as if the camera was nailed to the floor pointing straight ahead. Actually, it was nailed to the floor. However, there are a few familiar faces including the handsome mug of Phillip Reed, Hillary Brook and Robert Lowery. Reed plays the head of a great metropolitan newspaper, but he does it like he was auditioning for an ironing board commercial, completely wooden. I wonder why Bob Lowery wasn't given the lead as he was more than capable as a leading man. He once played Batman and was also the manager of a circus company in "Circus Boy". Hillary is the goto gal correspondent who co-starred in many mellers including, but not limited to, Universal's horror flicks and the Abbot and Costello TV show.
After the exciting opening comes a plot in which four different tales are trotted out, only one of which I shall talk about here, primarily because they are worthless. That story delineates the tale of something called "Vampire Murders". Since this flick revolves around a big town newspaper's stories and not a horror movie's segments, don't let anyone suspect blood drooling excitements; instead, expect a reporting team tracking down the story told as ineptly as possible. A young man is released from a mental hospital, but he seems completely innocent of hoary crimes. With nasties popping out of the woodwork to dog his every step, he decides the only way out is his suicide. When he is rearrested he takes that way out, but all of it is told lacking any kind of finesse or even mystery even though this thing is supposed to be a film noir.
Suffice it to say, if this ever turns up on your very early local cable outlet and you choose to watch it, it could only be for one of two possible reasons: one, you need something to view because you are a fanatic complete-ist or two, you need something to put you back to sleep. With me, it is a sure fire method of inducing coma.
Jon Hall was a leading man in many adventure films and he freelanced
for several American studios during his lengthy career. When he first
started in the 1930's he used his birth name Charles Hall Locher, as
his father was Felix Locher, a sometimes character actor in silent
films. His cousin was the award winning cinematographer Conrad Hall.
Jon's first film using his screen name was John Ford's "The Hurricane"
with Dorothy Lamour in 1937.
He made six films with Maria Montez at Universal in the 1940's all of which were made in Technicolor and were very popular. But by 1959, he had definitely slowed down. After the TV show he did, "Ramar of the Jungle", he got into the manufacture of housings for underwater cameras. It was because of this that "Forbidden Island" came to be made.
The movie was primarily noted for its underwater photography and its music by the composer of exotic soundscapes, Martin Denny. In storyline it is actually a rather tired crime drama dealing with the usual band of miscreants trying to retrieve a priceless emerald from a sunken ship. Hall heads up the divers, who mysteriously start to die off after one of them discovers an underwater skeleton. The mayhem continues until the decidedly sunken conclusion.
This picture was his next to the last and that last one has become something of a cult item, "The Beach Girls and the Monster" which tried to cash-in on the beach blanket craze of the 1960's.
Jon Hall will always have a place, actually two places, on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; one for his movies and the other for television. His memory will not fade for those who enjoy his brand of colorful adventure.
"House in the Woods" could very well be subtitled "When Wooden Heads Last in the Dooryard Bloomed"; it is somewhat like an episode of Boris Karloff's sorely missed American television show "Thriller", but this British stinker has no thrills. A 60+ minute melodrama so talky it would drive all the bats from the belfry in one fell swoop. Not only that, but if there were some spirits of the living dead wandering in the wood, they, too, would once again wish to die! All about a mad artist, in other words, one who never sold a painting, who ensnares two of the dumbest people ever to wander through a classified ad section looking for a cottage to rent in the proverbial "middle of nowhere", but smack dab in the middle of "a tight little island". This artist claims he never paints anymore, but when he gazes upon Patricia Roc's glowing countenance and broken nose, he must paint her immediately. After more strokes than it took to paint the Sistine chapel, he burns the painting of his "dearest wife" and put's Roc's masterwork in its place. Be well assured her likeness is no "Portrait of Jennie". Several other machinations follow like many trips ten feet out of the cottage into the wood to pick up sinister cigarette butts.But what is the artist really trying to say? What is the husband of Roc's character really trying to find? The solemnity of the entire business is almost without circumference, or is it? The enterprise comes to a screeching halt with one of the most ill timed fist fights in the history of cinema, but it is hugely unintentionally funny. All the viewer can do is keep watching until the bitter, but not better end! Michael Gough, the stilted husband here of Patricia Roc, made some astounding stinkers in his lengthy career, but thankfully he was "resurrected" this same year,1957, in Terence Fisher's much finer "Horror of Dracula". Perhaps, a soft shoe or mellow tap dance would have helped lift "House in the Woods" out of its swamp of dreck; it certainly wouldn't have hurt.
Producers Releasing Corporation made this very unintentionally humorous
"Zorro" ripoff, supposedly based on a story by Johnston McCulley,
author of Zorro. If McCulley did write the story he evidently never met
a real Mexican let alone a Spaniard. The dialog in this, is spoken by a
mostly non Latino cast in typical stilted Americano Spanglish. Every
fifth or sixth word is an "authentic" word. The acting, if it can be
called that, veers from wildly florid to nonsensical hilarity. The
actress playing Dorothea, says her lines like she learned them while
working the pickup window at her local Jack In the Box. The main nasty
guy, Anthony Warde, screams every line like a commandant of a Nazi
death camp. And, Fred Coby, who? is about as authentic a Spanish land
owner as PRC could get. Yeah, sure. "Address me as Don Recardo, Dog
Swine!" I wonder just what kind of animal that could possibly be?
Perhaps, the ultimate question this thing asks might be, if Don Ricardo
did indeed return, where did he go to begin with?
When this originally played on the bottom of a double bill many years ago, it is doubtful many in the audience paid much attention to it. Today,only insomniacs, reviewers in training and/or lovers of mindless drivel would watch. As Anthony Warde intoned in so heartfelt a manner, "Be gone, vermin!"
What would it have been like if David Lynch were sitting in the
director's chair in the golden age of film noir? This picture might
give a hint of what it may have looked like. The thing is populated
with phantoms inhabiting the bodies of some of the screen's most
dastardly character types. There goes Charles Middleton posing as a
butler from the nether regions. And here comes a young doctor in the
guise of Charles Drake. I wonder what else he cuts up when he slithers
out the door in the evening? And then there's the film's handsome,
middle aged, Albert Dekker, in a bravura performance as an embezzler.
He continually wrings his hands and worries about other fantasies that
are too diseased for the light of night. He becomes obsessed and
woefully paranoid about "those who are coming" to get him. He locks
himself into his "fine and private" room there to gorge himself on a
worthless diet of potted meats and stale crackers. His self perpetuated
madness takes on epic proportions as he tries to get away from his
internal horror and this makes for the ultimate bad choice in causing
him to forfeit his life in a most chilling manner.
This is truly a low budget nightmare noir filmed with consummate skill and gusto by the German cinematographer John Alton before his career with the terrific director Anthony Mann. The two of them made some of the finest film noirs to grace the screen. Also, this particular picture uses forced perspective and scrunched miniatures to add to its otherworldly view. In the end, it is probably W.Lee Wilder, Billy's older brother's best attempt behind the camera. He wouldn't manage to trod any meaner streets than these again.
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