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Bank Shot (1974)
promising premise.....okay finish.
The music and the script both show that this will be a silly heist caper. George Scott had won the oscar for Patton a couple years earlier, so this was pretty lightweight fun compared to that. Sorrell Booke was the Boss on Dukes of Hazzard for YEARS in the 1980s. and Bob Balaban was so serious in so many Christopher Guest films, years after this. G. Scott is "Ballantine".. still in jail, but already planning his next heist with his "lawyer" Al Karp, played by Booke. fun, older, character actor Liam Dunn is in here as "Painter". Mel Brooks used Dunn in his films for YEARS... was the judge in "Whats up Doc?". supporting Don Calfa was in Foul Play. Joanna Cassidy co-stars, but I don't know much about her. this was one of her early credited roles. lots of laughing. she hits it off with Ballentine. Lots of planning, riding on motorcycles, driving around. we're half-way through, and not much progress has been made on the heist. Then, things start to happen...Can they hide a bank, that was housed in a mobile home, and then dragged away ? Mr. Carlin, from the Bob Newhart Show ( Jack Riley) is in here as the FBI agent, looking for the missing mobile bank. it's kinda slow, by today's standards, but fun for back in the day. some fun twists near the end. Directed by Gower Champion. didn't direct much. acted. directed, some crew credits. not the best, biggest ending. ah well. sadly, Champion died quite young at 59.
Lost Continent (1951)
A Newfield (wacky) production
Some pretty big hollywood names in this one! Hugh Beaumont from Leave it to Beaver; Cesar Romero was in plenty of films, but was GREAT in Skidoo.. and of course the Batman series. Sid Melton.. for those old enough to remember, he played Alf Monroe on Green Acres! Here, he's Sergeant Willie, part of the crew that crash lands on an island. Story line is pretty acceptable, but it still got mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000. and check out "Acquanetta"... born Mildred Davenport. she's listed as "Native Girl", a part she pretty much played for about ten years. always the exotic south seas girl. It's all silly, but entertaining. Directed by Sam Newfield; he and his brother were studio bigshots in hollywood for years, making their own offbeat films.
j. Crawford in early talkie
Joan Crawford, at the early days of talkies. She had been around for YEARS in silents films. and Robert Armstrong's biggest claim to fame was probably King Kong, with Fay Wray. J. Crawford is Mary Turner, who gets sent to prison, and vows to get revenge on her accuser. While in jail, Mary learns the ins and outs of the legal system, and uses it to her advantage when she gets out. She stays honest for a while, but even when she tries to keep on the up and up, things start going wrong. Directed by Sam Wood; he directed the Marx Brothers in two HUGE films, and had worked under DeMille. pretty good credentials. Didn't end well for co-star Marie Prevost...she died at age 38, from alcohol use. The film is okay. a snapshot of gritty life in the 1930s, when suspects and citizens didn't have many rights. Those police interrogation scenes just go on forever; they should have ended this one much earlier.
Lady L (1965)
a Peter Ustinov, but this one not so good.
If one reads the Trivia section on imdb, one sees that the production was pretty cursed to begin with, which probably explains the pretty low ratings as of today. Peter Ustinov has a great sense of humor, and we see that in HOT MILLIONS, with the awesome Maggie Smith. There was a real magic between them. In Lady L, there are certainly big names, Loren, Newman, Niven, but the magic just isn't there. It opens with Lady Louise (Sophia Loren) being honored, and then we go back in time to relive her life and loves. There ARE some clever lines and turns of phrases, but it's SO much work. The cast just isn't having fun. some fun scenes where Louise started as the laundress in a house of ill repute, but it's not fun or funny. Period pieces are usually slow to begin with, and this one just DRAGS.... skip it. watch Hot Millions instead. Story by Romain Gary, who had a bunch of novels made into films. Directed by Ustinov, but this isn't his best work.
The Bat (1959)
Vincent Price in yet another horror film.
Showing on Film Detectives channel..,. Vincent Price stars in The Bat ! the awesome Agnes Moorehead, (nominated for FOUR oscars !) is Cornelia van Gorder . Opens with Moorehead, just a couple years before the television show Bewitched, narrating a story about the rumors going around town about the evil bats that are killing people, and why the servants are scared and leaving town. and of top of that, the local bank has been robbed, and no-one is sure what happened. and the banks executives are off camping in the woods! it's all quite campy and silly, but there's just enough story to make a film. i think at some point even Vincent Price bought into the absurdity of cheap horror films and decided to cash in on silly hollywood. Written and directed by Crane Wilbur. the last credited role as director! it's very okay! you know exactly what you're getting with vincent price.
Girls in Chains (1943)
nothing to see here. move along...
The version shown on "Film Detectives" channel has turrible sound, picture, and editing, but it's probably taken from a copy out of copyright. The ONLY name i recognize in here is Sid Melton, who, for those old enough, remember him as the bumbling contractor Alf Monroe on Green Acres! In lieu of a good script, they keep dragging character actor Emmet Lynn in as the town drunk. he keeps wandering in and bugging everyone until they ask him to scram. The lead here is Arline Judge, who was married to director Wes Ruggles for a few years. In the story, a woman takes a job at a Reformatory, but she may or may not be on the up-and-up. meh. story is so-so. another low budget gangster film from PRC productions. no big thing. Directed by Edgar Ulmer, bigshot at PRC film Productions. Ulmer had started in the silents, and worked his way up to head of production, making both good films, and some real cheesy, low budget ones along the way. SO many better films to see. can skip this one, and go do something else. anything else.
Dance, Girl, Dance (1940)
Lucy, Bellamy, O'Hara !
Soooooo many big, fun, hollywood names in this one. Lucy, Maureen Ohara, Ralph Bellamy. Ed Brophy, Sydney Blackmer. Lucy and the girls are working in a dance hall gambling house, which gets raided. one of the earlier, more risqué roles for Lucy. This was ten years before she and hubby Desi did I Love Lucy! and she even does the Hula in this one. The dance director in the show is played by Maria Ouspenskaya, who always played older, wiser, stately woman. Check out her role in "the rains came". great stuff. Lucy really shines in the lead role here. and of course, she and Desi would go on to buy the whole damn studio. Great Stuff. i really recommend this one, if only for historical value. one of the more serious roles for Lucille Ball. A show within a show. climbing the ladder of success. Lots of references to Tiger Lilly... which Woody Allen would parody later on. Bellamy has a pretty minor role in this one, but would receive a Lifetime achievement oscar for his various roles in pictures. Dorothy Arzner stepped in to direct when the original director bailed out. Arzner has a great story on wikipedia... you gotta check it out! really good stuff.
Dodge City (1939)
E Flynn in a cowboy hat.
Errol Flynn stars with two-time oscar winner Olivia DeHavilland in this western from Warner Brothers. Flynn is Hatton, cowboy working for the rails, just as the railroad lines were just getting built. Alan hale and Frank McHugh are sidekicks, in here to keep things lively. viewers will also spot Cora Witherspoon. and Ann Sheridan singing a couple songs. Hatton keeps running up against bad guy Surrett (Bruce Cabot), and one of these days, there's sure to be a show-down. Henry Travers (Clarence, in "Wonderful Life" !) is in here as well. a treasure trove of hollywood critters. cattle drives. barroom brawls. gunfights. in kind-of-glorious-Technicolor! lots of action. pretty strong story. Directed by the amazing Michael Curtiz... directed Casablanca (Oscar). Mildred Pierce. and John Wayne three times. Good stuff.
The Gypsy Moths (1969)
skydivers with a backstory...
A John Frankenheimer film, carnival parachute jumpers come into town on the fourth of july. and they talk about how it gets more exciting as they get closer to the ground at the landing. Burt Lancaster and Gene Hackman star in this thriller. Lesser known Scott Wilson is the third member of the skydiving troop. and one of them (Lancaster) has a thing for their host Elizabeth Brandon (played by Deborah Kerr). Lancaster and Kerr would make five films together! filmed in kansas. when not parachuting, its all pretty low key, slow stuff. late 60s study on unhappy relationships, and finding people at unhappy points in their life. and a bunch of parachute stunts. Lancaster was an acrobat with the circus, so he was well prepared for skydiving. This film has a lot in common with Easy Rider. that one was from Columbia.. ya gotta be you, and whatever happens, happens. After the big stunts, it's kind of downhill from there. a few more minutes of story, but could have ended with the big stunts.
Once a Doctor (1937)
very okay story about medical doctors...
Donald Woods and Gordon Oliver are doctors. "foster" brothers, as they carefully point out at the very beginning of the film. It's a warner brothers shortie, at only 57 minutes. the brothers play hanky panky with the paperwork, and it comes back to bite them later. they break so many rules and laws, I wouldn't want either one as a doctor. Jean Muir is Paula, the focal point in our story, as the brothers fight over her. Directed by William Clemens. he directed some very okay films... some Falcon mysteries, Torchy Blane, and Philo Vance in the 1930s and 1940s. All very lightweight stuff. THIS one is also no biggie. not much meat on the bones, made in between wars. it shows now and then on Turner Classics, but as we can tell by the cast and the director, this ain't no shakespeare.
Bluebeard's Eighth Wife (1938)
comedic look at history... kind of.
Gary Cooper, Claudette Colbert, David Niven, and even Franklin Pangborn. Who could ask for bigger hollywood names, all in one film?? Nicole (Colbert) sells Michael (Cooper) a royal bathtub, but there are bumps all along the way. and don't forget the hilarious Edward Horton.. he's Nicole's father. they had ALL been in the film business for YEARS, so they were all pros by this time. Cooper is his usual cardboard, collected self. Nicole is worried that Michael has been married so many times, but they get married anyway. It's not much of a marriage, so Michael takes up reading. and one of the books is "The Taming of the Shrew"! and Nicole IS totally a shrew... she marries him, but then won't let him near her. gets pretty silly. lots of fast talking. All's well that ends well! A fun comedy from Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder. based on the play by Alfred Savoir, from fifteen years prior! It's fun if you just go with the flow.
If this was released towards the end of 1940, the U.S. was not officially in WW II yet, but word was certainly out about the movement and cruelty of Hitler's army as they invaded the surrounding countries. Robert Taylor is Preysing, american, over in wartime germany, looking for news of his missing mother, still a german citizen. He gets hints that she may have broken the local laws, but no-one will give him details on what she has done or where she might be. Getting emotional and loud, even in front of german officers, Preysing leaves and bumps into the Countess , played by Norma Shearer. Shearer had already lost husband and hollywood bigshot Irving Thalberg by this time. If you haven't seen her in "The Women", that one is a lot of fun! In Escape, the Countess may have information on where to find his mother.... with supporting cast Conrad Veidt, an actor who had already fled to the US, and Felix Bressart, who popped up in so many supporting roles. The story is mostly strong and full of suspense. However.... everywhere Preysing goes, everyone he meets asks him to keep his voice down, to act calm and normal; but... the entire film, he's yelling in public, making a scene, and embarrassing everyone who could help him. After the first five people said "Keep your voice down, everyone is listening and watching", you'd thing he would catch on, but he doesn't do any of that. That part was not very believe-able, and quite unlikely. Aside from that, it's pretty good! Danger, suspense. War-time intrigue. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy. He was one of the (many) directors on Wizard of Oz.
A Wicked Woman (1934)
family sticks together in hard times
Mady Christians, Jean parker, Betty Furness star in "Wicked Woman" from MGM. Christians is "Naomi", pregnant when her abusive husband Ed decides to leave with one of the sons. Naomi tries to rebuild her life on her own, but of course the sheriff comes looking for the husband, who never seems to be found. Naomi teaches the kids right from wrong, and makes a go of things. opens her own shop. Sterling Holloway is in here as a minor part. he frequently did the voice for winnie the pooh! and one of Robert Taylor's early roles. Charles Bickford is their guardian angel. It's pretty good. almost too sugary sweet.... mom is teaching all the kids right from wrong, at any cost. moves pretty slowly. takes a long time to get going. all's well that ends well.. hopefully. Directed by Charles Brabin... this was the last one he directed!
early oil drilling film before her oscar
Susan Hayward is Cherokee Lansing in "Tulsa" from Eagle Lion Films in 1949. Hayward worked hard for years, and finally got the oscar about ten years after this film; Robert Preston co-stars as "Brady", her oil well foreman. It's a showdown between the cattlemen and the new oil industry that was busting out all over. Everyone needed that oil, and there was no stopping it. This story has been told several times in several films over the years. Little guy up against the big, rich oilman. A couple songs by Chill Wills... apparently they wanted the awesome Hoagy Carmichael, but couldn't get him. Carmichael was amazing in To Have and Have Not.... check it out!. Tulsa is a good film. story about wild catters looking for oil. Directed by Stuart Heisler, who had worked with Hayward on two other films. Sadly, Susan Hayward was one of the many big stars who died early from cancer after filming "Conqueror" in Utah. shady.
Divorce in the Family (1932)
step dad issues in 1932...
So child star Jackie Cooper would have been TEN in this film, as Terry, son of the archeologist. Veteran actor Lewis Stone was probably best known as Dad in the Andy Hardy films. was also Great in "Grand Hotel". Maurice Murphy is the other son "Al", was about 20 at this time. anyhoo... mom remarries, and now Terry is very sad, and misses his father very much. Living with the new "dad" comes with so many new rules and strange meals, that Terry is not a happy boy. over the weekend, the older brother is more interested in girls, and mom is interested in the new dad, so Terry is feeling left out. Perfect role for Jackie Cooper, as he was used to playing the lead, down-trodden child, going through the growing pains. when the poop hits the fan, will the family stick together? the family members need each other, but now who is in the inner circle? Directed by Charles Reisner. had started as an actor in the silents (like Jackie Cooper !) and moved into the talkies around 1929. Worked with so many comedians, like Charlie Chapllin, Jack Benny, Marx Brothers, Abbot & Costello. Never won an oscar, but had a pretty good career! this one is pretty good. doesn't really cover any new ground, but is probably aimed at a younger audience.
Let's Try Again (1934)
kind of a yawner. so downbeat.
Let's Try Again started out life as a mildly successful play in 1926, by Vincent Lawrence. Diane Wynyard and Clive Brook star as husband and wife who are bored and looking for more excitement in life. After various actions and many discussions, they start talking about divorce. With all their ups and downs, will they go through with it? SO much dialog. not particularly clever or fun, it kind of goes on and on. can't really recommend this one. I guess the concept of amicable divorce was still pretty novel at the time. no big deal. can skip this one. nothing fun or un-usual about this one. it's another shortie from RKO, at only 67 minutes. Directed by Worth Miner. apparently, it was the quality of his work, not the quantity. he had expertise in theater long before moving into hollywood films. This one was his first directing project. and only directed two full length films, then moved onto television work.
Repent at Leisure (1941)
Wendy Barrie (barely) carries this one
At only 66 minutes, we knew this wasn't going to be a major work from RKO. Wendy Barrie stars as "Emily", about to be married to the Prince of something or other. But she's not happy, and laments that she doesn't really want to marry him anyway. She bumps into "Richard" (Kent Taylor), and they hit it off. Just one problem: Richard works in her own father's store ! Wendy Barrie starred in a bunch of the "Falcon" films as well as the "Saint" films. Kent Taylor did okay in hollywood, but looks like he never made the bigtime. and of course, Charles Lane is "Morgan", the manager; Lane played a HUGE number of bit parts over his LONG career, usually serious, somber roles, (bill collectors) who had to rain on someone's parade. So when the story has them telling lie after lie to Morgan to save their jobs, they get in deeper and deeper. It's all pretty silly. If you're old enough to know Three's Company, this is where Mr. Roper walks in and it all blows up! as usual, they could have avoided the whole thing if they had just told the truth. We rush through the whole story... it's okay, as a B movie. all over and done with pretty quickly. hard to buy into it all, since it's all built on un-necessary lies and mis-understandings. we were way into the hollywood film code by now, but a smidge prior to entering WWII. shows on Turner Classics. meh.
a look at the native american story
Anthony Quinn is first american Flapping Eagle, and of course, Shelley Winters as Dorothy. (she seemed to be miscast SO many times, in my tiny little opinion.) Story of life on the reservation. Quinn had been in films since the 1930s, so he was a seasoned pro by now, but he is so grandiose and over the top, that it gets kind of silly. Workers are blowing up all the land around the native americans to build a new highway, including their burial grounds. ( whether or not it really IS a burial ground, is up for debate.) this is a strange, serious yet comical take on the plight of the american indian groups, defending their land, as usual, against invasion by the white man. the audience is in on both the seriousness and the humorous approach, much like watching All in the Family. Directed by British Carol Reed. had a mix of hits and bombs; directed The Third Man. and won the Oscar for Oliver! Flap was filmed out in the desert of new mexico. Written by Clair Huffaker, who wrote THREE films for John Wayne!
Born Reckless (1958)
rodeo film from 1950s.
A typical rodeo film. fistfights, bronc riding. ten gallon hats. Stars mamie Van Doren and Jeff Richards. Van Doren has a VERY interesting bio on imdb, if you have a couple minutes... makes for a fun read. pretty x-rated. Richards had a much quieter life; had started as a baseball player, but moved into acting after getting an injury. Some songs sung in the nightclubs. maybe some of them were actually sung by VanDoren. Arthur Hunnicutt is the sidekick. Hunnicutt was oscar nominated for Big Sky... always played the western character, and usually with the big beard. When Kelly (Richards) meets interloper Liz (Carol Ohmart), things get tense. Will that put an end to Jackie? (VanDoren) This Warner Brothers film has many similarities to UA's The Misfits (Gable, Monroe), but Reckless was first! Misfits would come a couple years later, with bigger stars, but the stories are almost the same. Reckless written by Richard Landau... had started out by writing short documentaries; worked up to films and then television series. little bits and pieces of various shows. Directed by Howard Koch; had some pretty big achievments in his life: was president of the Academy, was head of production at Paramount Studios, and was VP of Sinatra Enterprises. not a bad life!
The Return of Count Yorga (1971)
better than part one !
MINOR SPOILER ...and the next year, they made a follow-up to Count Yorga! same vampire played by the same actor, Robert Quarry. (but they offed him in the first Count Yorga!) Some familiar names in this one -- thirty year old Mariette Hartley as Cynthia Nelson. Craig Nelson is the police Sergeant. and Yvonne Wilder... Aurora, from Seems Like Old Times (there really is a Chicken Pepperoni recipe!) and Rudy DeLuca (the killer in High Anxiety. he pops up in every mel brooks film.) They seem to be having a costume party, for the orphange. and when Jennifer "signs" that she wants to dance, it turns out that the count knows ASL... which i'm sure will come in handy later. Much more talking and story in this sequel. Probably the first time ever the sequel was better than the original. The Count's flock of women invade, and all hell breaks loose. When Cynthia is taken by the Count, they must get her back. the music is better, the story is better. everything is a smidge better than the first one. Showing on Comet channel. not bad.
The MacKintosh Man (1973)
Newman & Mason in spy film
It's a pretty good spy adventure, with Paul Newman, James Mason, and Dominique Sanda. Newman is Reardon, undercover, trying to flesh out the traitor in their intelligence leak. Sanda is "Smith", the daughter of the senior intelligence, helping Reardon along the way. We hear some of the setup details at the beginning, but things are pretty cloudy and confusing until about two thirds through; when Reardon meets up with Smith, things start to be answered and laid out. It's pretty ok. no big surprises or twists. and the ending is a little off, but don't want to say more, to avoid spoilers. Newman would make another film with Mason about ten years later "The Verdict", also shown on Turner Classics. Directed by John Houston... one of the lighter films he made. had made a bunch with Bogart.
Mark of the Vampire (1935)
some big names in early vampire film
Lionel Barrymore and Bela Lugosil. Don't say any more. Okay, throw in Donald Meek and Jessie Ralph. also amazing. That's really all we need to make an awesome film. It's only 1935, so the horror films hadn't gotten corny yet.... (think Vincent Price...). Some townies and visitors are in a local pub, mocking the superstitions and legends that they have heard around town. Meek is Dr. Doskil, discussing the strange goings-on and recent deaths; he seems to believe that there really are bats and vampires causing deaths in town. Irena (Elizabeth Allan) wants to find out what happened to her deceased father, but the doctor and the coroner cannot agree on a definite cause of death. then Lionel barrymore shows up as Professor Zelin, and backs up Doskil's theory. Lots of screams and ghostly clouds, music. shots ring out. more screams. bats. It's all chaotic, and lots of toying with vampires and victims, until they figure out what's going on. Having the big names in here keeps it on the up and up. Lesser stars probably couldn't have done it justice. Directed by Tod Browning.
Count Yorga, Vampire (1970)
a not-so campy vampire flick
This is listed as Count Yorga, Vampire, but the opening title thinks it's going to be called "The Loves of Count Iorga"; the explanation in the Trivia section gives us the full story on why that is. it started out life being one thing, and ended up as another. a Bob Kelljan production, it's written and directed by him. Starting as an actor in the 1960s, he turned to writing and directing. A couple has "The Count" (Robert Quarry) over to conduct a seance to try to contact Donna's mother. Donna screams, which brings it to a halt. after giving the count a ride home, Paul and Erica get stuck and camp in their VW bus, and get attacked. Erica gets bite marks on her neck, but she can't remember what happened. and apparently eats the family cat, but that scene seems to have been removed from the version I saw on Comet channel. it's a your typical horror film. with some remnants of the original plot left in. the guys spend most of the film running around, looking for the girls. and even when the bodies start piling up, the police don't seem to be interested. very average vampire plot, but it's not campy enough for Vincent Price, so you won't see him in here. this one is played quite seriously. the only other name i recognize is the narrator, George Macready; he was the nightclub owner in the awesome film Gilda, from 1946. pretty good. Kelljan died quite young at 52 from cancer.
Spock solves a mystery !
Doctor Spock!! by 1972, Nimoy had already finished the original Star Trek, and Mission Impossible. Here, he's Kovac, a race car driver, who keeps having visions that get in the way of his racing. Susan Hampshire is Michele, a self declared "expert" in the occult, and wants to get to the bottom of his visions. Rachel Roberts and Vera Miles co-star in this faux-horror; Roberts was actually nominated for an oscar for Sporting Life, ten years prior; that's about as close as anyone gets to an oscar in this cast. and of course, Rachel Roberts was awesome in "Foul Play", for those old enough to remember. Here, in the usual horror formula (agatha christie style ?) the people all gather at one location (England), then strange things start to happen. more visions. pretty lame script, iffy acting. people putting fingerprints on top of other fingerprints without thinking. silliness. it's up to the viewer to try to guess what's going on, but we're not really given any clues, so it pretty much just unfolds near the end. it's okay. interesting to see Leonard Nimoy in a very different role from star trek. and Rachel Roberts. Directed by Philip Leacock, British director, where this was filmed. the trivia says this was to be a pilot for a tv series, as we can tell from the very end.. it's a teaser about solving another mystery. which apparently never happens.
Red Hot Tires (1935)
From First National, which was already Warner Brothers by now.... Lyle Talbot, Gavin Gordon, and Mary Astor were already big hollywood names. Lovers triangle, with the two men fighting over Pat Sanford (Astor). This all takes place around the racetracks, which were apparently filmed at LA Legion and the Indianapolis Speedway. Lots of backdrops and stock footage. It's all pretty clean cut stuff, as the film code was in full force by now. Check out the wikipedia entry for Gavin Gordon -- some fun trivia from his life on there. Anyhow. the guys despise each other, and when shenanigans happen on the racetrack, there's a courtroom trial. will the truth come out? lots of action. its pretty good! Directed by Ross Lederman. never won an oscar, but made some respectable films. as of today, wikipedia thinks he was married to "June", but imdb says it was Doris Warner... odd. ah well.