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Surprisingly good Hopalong Cassidy feature film
14 August 2018
Its been a long time since I watched a Hopalong feature film. This one kind of surprised me. The plot was more complex than the average horse opera. The acting is what you would expect of this type genre and funding. There were some surprisingly well-done shots by the camera as well. All in all, much higher rated than those who said it lacked this and that. Not a great movie, but one I would submit is about as good as it gets for this type movie. Hoppy actually has a serious interest in the girl ... but still rides off into the sunset with his buddies and his horse.
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The American West (2016– )
Are all these reviews accurate?
12 August 2016
I have to admit, when I watched this series, I was jarred by some of the inaccuracies I could see without being a specialist in the West. The costumer cut corners and used the same uniform for Custer over the entire series. Yes, he was a general at one point. But this rank ended after he was mustered out of the volunteers. When he came back into the regular Army is was as a Lieutenant Colonel. During this time, the time with the 7th Cavalry, he would not have worn a general officer's rank on his shoulders. The costumer obviously either was told to save money or paid insufficient attention to detail. Viewers will likely never find out. Then too there is the detail of John Tunstall being portrayed as an American when he was British by birth and presumably by speech. So when I read all of the other historical inaccuracies listed in these reviews, I wonder what else was wrong and if so much was wrong, then what was the point of The American West. Clearly not historical accuracy. In fairness, I did learn some new facts, only to have them disputed on these pages. With so much doubt cast about the facts, the viewer can only speculate about the slant and underlying purpose of The American West. When they could have known better, why did they produce something that is fraught with controversy? Good entertainment, but incorrectly classified if The American West is labeled as a documentary.
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Possibly Worse Than Plan 9 From Outer Space
25 May 2009
This is a very hard movie for anyone with actual naval service to watch. Clearly the producers did not bother to hire a technical adviser and it shows (or if there was a technical adviser he was ignored). There are so many things wrong about how the US Navy is portrayed and technology that it is hard to fit them all into a short review.

The USS Scotia, ostensibly a US Navy nuclear submarine looks more like a Russian Alpha class. Any submarine would crush at the depths played out in the story and would be incapable of radioing while underwater. Neither people nor plankton could survive outside any submarine at the depths portrayed in this movie. And there would not be light that deep.

The time setting is "today" but the USS Abraham Lincoln is a World War II battleship. And it, nor any other ship that large, could possibly travel 75 knots. There is a real world Abraham Lincoln but it is an aircraft carrier and more likely to have acted as a flagship. Uniforms are wrong and not only do the rating badges and insignia change from scene to scene but they are incorrect in the first place. And it is the "US Coast Guard" and not the "American Coastal Guard." Then there is the portrayal of personnel. A British-accented woman as the commander of a mini-sub? First of all, it is possible for a foreign-accented person to be an officer in the US Navy but not at all possible for a foreign citizen to be one. And despite advocates, there are no women permitted to serve on submarines – conveniently ignored in this movie. If there were women in the "Silent Service," they would be expected to adhere to grooming standards and not wear fashionable nail polish, garish lipstick, headbands, or ornamental earrings. The men are equally out of standards for grooming.

But even if women did serve, the placement of an ex-wife as the commander of a very small unit that includes the former spouse is suspect. And even if they were to serve together, the interaction between the two goes well beyond anything expected between two military professionals.

If you can get past all of this, which I admit is hard for anyone who has actually served, then there are other problems galore with the story. The first half hour is not particularly interesting because it is mostly an explanation of technical and scientific jargon. Captain (wearing Major General's stars) Nemo does not appear for way too long. Then quite honestly, the film just gets boring even though it is set underwater and features an obviously psychotic antagonist and many challenges to our heroes. Why did they think they needed the nightclub scene? I didn't mind the inventions that kept the plot going. I could even get into the plot to shift mankind above the sea to underwater - the new Atlantis. But I am not sure about whether it was the writing, the directing, or just the acting that made we want to ignore the words that came out of the mouths of everyone on the screen. Could it have been all three? The color is excellent and I did not have any problem with the sound that a few others had.

At least Plan 9 From Outer Space had……..wait; there is not much to offer for that either. Well, this one was in color.
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A Penny a Pound, Please
1 December 2008
This is not a great movie but it is a hoot. I mean where else can you see gangsters coming from the big city using aircraft to bomb their prey and disrupt a cattle drive. The accuracy of those ex-World War I pilots was uncanny and the secret ability of a hand grenade to blow up a dam should be exploited for modern day ordnance specialists who can only dream of such power in a small package. And all these gangsters wanted was a penny a pound to "protect" cattle from threat of non-delivery – very reasonable I would think.

Silent film star George O'Brien is effective as the hero and enjoyable to watch in his role. His biography is most interesting and worthy of your time. Charles Middleton is excellent as the heavy but I still prefer him as Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon serials. Maude Eburne turns in another great character actor performance.

The film quality of the version "Wings Over Wyoming" that I just saw on TCM was a bit grainy but the joy at watching such a unique B movie more than compensated. Some of the aviation sequences were likely lifted from other filming but what the heck, who cares. Better than most B Westerns and worth watching because it is so different.
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Cross Fire (1933)
A very different Western
6 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Surprisingly good movie that suffers only from some strange editing that makes transitions awkward at best. The writing of the script appears to have been done with the most unexpected insertions that take what might otherwise be a stogy "B" Western and presents the viewer with new and interesting directions. There is a Western murder mystery with the real killer framing someone else, embezzlement from within, imported gangsters with a machine gun, a World War I French component, boxing, the horse vs. car debate, and of course the love interest. The "bad guys" are a group of old-timers that were once the leading citizens of King City. I just loved the shot of the hero and his horse jumping off the cliff into the river and escaping the posse.

Check out the full credits – a very interesting mix.

Tom Keene is first-rate in a serious role that predates his appearance in "Plan 9 from Outer Space." Betty Furness is the believable love interest before becoming the New York City Director of Consumer Affairs and a panelist on TV game shows. The always excellent veteran character actor Edgar Kennedy includes this film in his over 400 film credits. Lafe McKee and the other old-timers are a real "hoot" as they figure out ways to hold up a truck and live off the land.

King Kong's Merian C. Cooper gets top billing as Executive Producer, David Lewis as Associate Producer, and David O. Selznick is uncredited as the Producer. Cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca and film editing by a young Frederic Knudtson. Yakima Cannutt is an uncredited stunt double.

Recommended as something very different for anyone who thinks that they have seen everything in the classic Western.
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Amnesia Victim Mystery
22 January 2008
Concise little mystery in which the hero needs to piece together who he is after suffering amnesia and realizing he is the major suspect in a murder case. Walter Abel does a credible job of not knowing who he is and working on the little clues that develop with the assistance of a girl he meets in the park. Margot Graham, Britain's Jean Harlow, does an excellent job of helping a stranger, believing him against all the evidence to the contrary, and, of course, developing a relationship.

The movie opens with a man stumbling forward in the fog – appropriate for the story line – and then wandering into Mason Park. Not much to go on to figure out his identity: initials in a hat band, theater tickets, and foreign cigarettes. Obtaining the aid of a female friend, they set off to the police station for assistance. Just before entering, the newspapers arrive and report on the murder of producer Richard Denning by a man in a pin stripe suit. Guess who is wearing a pin stripe suit? There is a very cute little scene that follows where Abel buys new clothes at a store run by an amateur detective. There are a couple of nice scenes that are as probably as good as it gets in this type of movie. One overhead shot of Abel jumping from a rooming house window stands out. Another notable is the use of the title of the novel on which the film is based as the title of a play that is important to the story.

The hero is never in danger – he just uncovers bits and pieces of his life and deals with them in turn. Naturally the actions of the police and the real villain(s) thwart Abel's attempts to return to normalcy. About mid-way through the movie, the plot gets a little confused as the hero is introduced to a series of people who know him and have obviously been placed in the story to provide an alternative answer to "who killed Richard Denning." A flashback near the end of the movie reveals the hero's non-complicity in the murder and explains all of the clues that have pointed to him. Still it is not quite enough to have the viewer or the police reach the correct conclusion on the actual murderer although the motive is reasonably clear. In the end, justice is served and boy gets girl.

Alan Hale does a great job as the detective inspector and Eric Blore is his usual excellent butler. The beautiful Erin O'Brien has a brief but memorable part.

Recommended. I watched this movie during the same month that TCM highlighted the Whistler series. It is much much better.
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Psychic detective
12 November 2007
A mediocre movie at best. The plot has promise – kidnapping, adultery, and a psychic FBI agent – but something falls apart in the execution of the concept for a film into an actual theatrical event. Must be the screen writing. The story drags at times and it seems like an eternity before the heroes can figure out what the viewer has already determined as obvious. And that is with the aid of a psychic detective – the scenes where she senses what has occurred are interesting but do not result in moving the storyline forward by leaps and bounds. But then the summing up at the end dumps a whole lot of facts on the viewer that seems to come from nowhere. Then too there is the parallel plot of medical problems with the heroine that remains unresolved at the end.

Let's review what is good about the movie. Shauna Black is certainly nice to look at but one can only wish that Laura Vandervoort would have had a larger part. The "ending" that opens the movie is revealed to be an incomplete truth about three quarters the way through and the real ending could have been a real show stopper. Jennifer Beals does yeoman's work with the material she has been handed – she deserves better. Finally the movie yields the best-dressed software company secretary in many years.

Not much to recommend here.
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Perhaps best of the Lone Wolf Series
13 October 2007
Enjoyable wartime mystery featuring the Lone Wolf as a double agent in London. Ninth in the series, and written in 1942, this entry is directed by Edward Dmytryk (his second in the series). The plot revolves around the theft of plans for a beam device and whether they will be sent to Berlin by a new radio photo transmitter. The Lone Wolf uses sound as the means to learn the secret hide out of the spy ring and scenes of the Blitz are used to show audiences the devastation being doled out on America's British allies. Despite the predictability of the story line, the film is more than a bit enjoyable, and one of the best of the series.

Warren William stars as the suave former jewel thief Michael Lanyard with his faithful sidekick and butler, Eric Blore. Also features Hillary Brooke as the love interest and Forrest Tucker as one of the Nazi spies. Although not credited, it certainly appears that a young Lloyd Bridges also appears albeit with a mustache. If true, he would have had a busy year since he also appears to be listed in over twenty other movies in 1942.
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"Did they ask if it was open?"
12 May 2007
Last of ten in the series with Warner Baxter playing the part of Dr. Robert Ordway, former criminal turned psychiatrist. The series ran from 1943-1949 and always involved the outsider specialist trusting and then helping hapless victims of the criminal justice system.

This entry opens with Dr. Ordway talking about the impending parole of inmate 9815, Stephen Carter (Stephen Dunne), after serving three years for a crime of arson that he did not commit. The plot thickens when the accused is implicated in the murder of the man who took his job when in prison. The solution should not be a surprise.

Lois Maxwell is not nearly as good looking or glib as she will become years later as Miss Moneypenny in seventeen James Bond movies. She plays the same role as a gate keeper for the head of the firm.

Prolific character actor Whit Bissell plays Pete Bellem who records and keeps playing a song that seems to be central to the strange comings and goings on at the Bellem Music Company…"In the house where I was born" …"When I was just a boy. A recording of Pete's song becomes a critical part of the plot.

Robert Armstrong looks a bit tired as gangster George 'Goldie' Harrigan. His new girlfriend Inez Gray, played by Adele Jergens, is best featured in a revealing negligee.

Interesting introduction to the new technology of piping recorded music over phone lines to paying customers rather than having them order selected records at a juke box.

The police are incredibly poor shots until the end. The writing is above average in this entry with such lines as, following an incomplete response to the police asking an alternate way out of an apartment building, "Did they ask if it was open?" Recommended.
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When a knife thrower kills he does not stab – he throws the knife . . . like this!
5 May 2007
While visiting an old friend in Paris, the Prefect of Police, the Crime Doctor gets involved with the complex stabbing murder of an old man supposedly by his son. The suspect is described as a worthless idler who suffers from some war-induced psychological problems. But is he capable of murder? The beautiful Micheline Cheirel (in her last film role) plays the love interest – married and loyal to the suspect but also the daughter of a knife-thrower who is an old friend of the murdered man.

The Crime Doctor always seems to know who is lying and telling the truth in the absence of any evidence to support his theories. The defendant's lawyer does not practice criminal law and the defendant does not appear to care whether he lives or dies. Is the only defense insanity? If he gets off the murder charge due to insanity, who inherits? What about a fourteen year-old contract between the murdered man and the knife-thrower? How many more murders? Intrigue in the art world leads the Crime Doctor to the solution.

Interesting dance apache sequences. Directed by future horror-meister William Castle. Fair.
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God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another
21 April 2007
Good entry in the Crime Doctor series where our hero, Dr. Robert Ordway, inadvertently gives poison to a man in diabetic shock. The police are willing co-conspirators to the Crime Doctor's sleuthing in this case but there will be additional murders before a final resolution.

The real issue is not murder but a business being run out of a funeral parlor. The dying diabetic mumbles something before passing that is later revealed to be from Hamlet: "God has given you one face, and you make yourselves another" (Hamlet 3.1). What could possibly be going on in the funeral parlor in the evening? Direction by future horror meister William Castle results in some excellent shots of where something sinister is implied with off-screen mayhem. Recommended
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Good ending with a twist
14 April 2007
Fair entry in the Crime Doctor series with some interesting plot twists by screenwriter Leigh Brackett and direction by future horror master William Castle. Plot involves Dr. Robert Ordway (Warner Baxter) taking on a walk-in patient with amnesia-type symptoms and the dread of an occultist's prediction of a violent death. There is a creaky abandoned house, a dysfunctional family with a meek sister that was engaged to the victim, and William Frawley as a credible police inspector.

Although sometimes billed as the best of the series, I found the acting somewhat dull and the short 61-minute film did not capture my imagination. I thought the Crime Doctor's Courage better. Menacing characters are presented and not developed – perhaps left on the cutting room floor. Interesting ending that is unlikely to be anticipated but explains all. Sixth in the series. Recommended.
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Locked room mystery
31 March 2007
Better than average World War II-era "who-dun-it" featuring Warner Baxter as a former gangster who suffered amnesia and has been reborn as a psychiatrist now known as Robert Ordway who helps both the police and criminals who want to go straight. Crime Doctor's Courage is the fourth in the series of ten and also involves a victim who might have some mental problems. The link to "courage" is not particularly clear.

This entry revolves around the death of fortune hunter Gordon Carson whose two previous wives have under mysterious circumstances and who in turn dies in a locked room under conditions that resemble suicide but Dr. Ordway labels murder. Hillary Brooke plays the part of widow Kathleen Carson who is involved with Anthony Caruso - a mysterious Spanish dancer whose act includes his sister that disappears on stage. As a mystery novelist, Jerome Cowan is a good supporting actor as is Lloyd Corrigan as an aficionado in crime.

Spooky houses with creaking doors, caskets in the cellar, and suspects that are never seen in daylight add to the air of suspense. The set for the dance sequence is quite elaborate and the ballet music very good. Direction, production design, and photography stand out. The exterior shots and costumes suggest more affluence rather than normally found in the average "B" detective thriller.

Strongly recommended.
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The Lash (1930)
El Puma but not The Lash
6 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
An interesting 1846 California "western" pitting the protagonist Richard Barthelmess, playing a young Francisco Delfino (Pancho) later the outlaw El Puma, against unscrupulous American land grabbers. Pancho returns from studies in Mexico City to find California invaded by "gringos" who impose their culture and use every trick in the book to obtain the land that was once given to loyal families by the King of Spain. Pancho is welcomed home by his Uncle (Tio) Don Mariano Delfino, played by Robert Edeson, Pancho's beautiful sister Doña Dolores Delfino, played by Marian Nixon, and a childhood sweetheart Doña Rosita Garcia, played by Mary Astor.

Pancho travels north to deliver 3,000 cattle is treated as a second class citizen in his own native land. He reacts violently against the worst of the land commissioners and head man in Spanish Gulch, Peter Harkness, played by Fred Kohler, when Pancho dares to buy a drink for Harkness' favorite barmaid. Pancho is beaten with a belt but is saved by the sheriff, Captain David Howard, played by James Rennie.

After his beating, Pancho delivers the cattle to Harkness in the form of a stampede through the village of Spanish Gulch. Pancho takes the money Harkness was to deliver in payment and sets off on a life as El Puma, patterned on Robin Hood or Zorro, robbing from the gringos and giving the money to the Church to feed the poor. Captain Howard arrives at the Delfino ranch and falls in love with Dolores. He also explains the derivation of the word "gringo". The latter is supposed to be based upon words sung by US soldiers who carried a green flag into battle during the Mexican war of 1846-1848 – "the green goes over the hill" – implying carrying the flag up against opposition. I did not find that derivation listed in a Google search which is why I have included it here.

Pancho's uncle is shot by Harkness and in his dying breath; Tio Mariano tells his nephew that his efforts are turning more Americans against the native Californians. Pancho disbands his gang, shoots Harkness, and delivers the original land grant to Captain Howard for safekeeping. Pancho escapes overland to Mexico where he weds his beloved Rosita and sends a letter to Captain Howard and Dolores telling them there is nothing preventing them from being wed.

The plot is based on the story, "Adiós," by Lanier and Virginia Stivers Bartlett. It is not at all clear where the title comes from since Pancho is neither beaten by the lash or uses one in his escapades. The print shown on TCM is in poor quality but this interesting story with Americans as the "bad guys" is worth watching. Recommended.
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Men of Chance (1931)
"Just Martha and me and Golden Lad makes three"
5 May 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Fair drama set in France and around the horse racing circuit in the US centered around a contest of wills between gentlemen who earn their living by betting on the outcome of horse races. Ricardo Cortez as Diamond Johnny Silk does well as the protagonist vs. an equally capable John Halliday, playing Vincent Dorval, as the antagonist. As the story opens, Silk has taken Dorval and his partner Joe Farley for a quarter of a million. Dorval schemes and wins back a like amount.

The fem fatale is Mary Astor, playing Martha, a American who has failed to make it as an artist in Paris and who is about to turn to street walking to earn enough to eat. Dorval rescues her, makes her into a "lady who glitters" and palms her off to Silk as a countess. Silk falls in love and Martha marries him despite not being in love to avoid returning to a life of hopelessness. What is clever in the writing is that Dorval assumes that Martha eventually will fall in love with Silk and manages to dupe her into betraying her husband anyway.

Martha cannot contain herself and confesses all to Silk who spurns her for ruining him. Martha in turn realizes that Silk only loved her because she was a countess. This sets the scene for the finale at the big race where Golden Lad can either win back Silk's losses or ruin him forever. The outcome is in doubt until the very end and there are some great shots of horse racing down to the wire. Recommended.
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Durango avenges his father's death
11 February 2006
In "The Return of the Durango Kid," the handsome and athletic Charles Starrett plays two characters set in 1875 Silver City, Texas: that of the son of a murdered rancher seeking to clear his name and that of the mysterious masked West Texas gunman who bends the law but is always on its right side. The outcome is never in doubt.

The writing is formula but it has a few twists and turns to keep the viewer's interest. The loot is cleverly hidden, keeps changing hands, and there is an innovative exploding strong box to contend with. Starrett is good in the leading role and Jean Stevens is nice to look at and does a credible job of the forward bad girl Paradise Flo who falls for the hero (she returns in a different role in "Frontier Gunlaw"). John Calvert is an excellent villain. Tex Harding is the side-kick Jim and he appears in a number of follow-on Durango Kid films in various roles. There are just enough musical numbers by "The Jesters" to annoy but the words to some of those songs are a real hoot, e.g. "He Holds the Lantern While his Mother Cuts the Wood." The Return of the Durango Kid is the first real follow-on to the popular 1940 "Durango Kid". Columbia's 1944 "Sagebrush Heroes" has him playing a radio actor play that only plays the "Durango Kid" on the air. In "The Return of the Durango Kid," Starrett's name is Bill Blaydon but in all other films, his name is different. Starrett rides off into the West at the end of this film remarking that there is some trouble elsewhere – making it clear to his audience that he would return. The series was so popular that it lasted until 1952 with a total of over sixty entries.
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Garbo (2005)
Excellent documentary
6 September 2005
Chronological documentary of the great Swedish actress Greta Garbo and her struggles to have a private life. Good analysis, great footage from many of her films, well produced and crafted. Narrated by Julie Christi. For anyone who wants to get a solid overview of the life of this extraordinary actress, this is a good place to start. Probably not the definitive biography, but for those of us who are still mesmerized by the persona that we saw on the screen, this will do just nicely. From comments made by those who new this lady in her post-Hollywood life, it would appear that the person that we saw on the screen was nothing like the real person that was molded and sold to the public. The documentary shows Garbo as a highly talented actress that had a true and unique gift that was captured for us to enjoy today. Highly recommended.
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Outcast Lady (1934)
Interesting but not completely satisfying
1 September 2005
The second film based upon Michael Arlen's novel The Green Hat (previous is the silent A Woman of Affairs with Greta Garbo). This sound version stars the lovely and talented Constance Bennett in the lead as a woman whose background precludes an English aristocratic family from accepting her as one of their own when the Herbert Marshall's character falls in love with her. The rest of the movie revolves around this star-crossed love and the consequences of trying to do the right thing instead of following your heart. I found Marshall's performance too wooden but it is offset by excellent supporting characters. The story line appears to suffer from cuts in content that cause inadequate transitions. Fans of Constance Bennett will be amused at the similarity of the ending of this film to one of the main events in a follow-on work, Topper. An interesting, but not completely satisfying film that probably bears comparison to the original novel. Gowns by Adrian.
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. . . . and thank goodness they have stopped
16 July 2005
In the late 1930s, picture puzzles were a national craze. "Everybody's Doing It" was one of those movies that cashes in on topical issues such as picture puzzles but loses its entire relevancy outside of the context of the times.

In summary form, this movie suffers from bad writing and lame lines, poor direction, bad acting, and bad editing.

The major point of this film is that artists were able to create puzzles out of a combination of pictures, letters, and symbols that when put together, formed a word or a short sentence. But rather than involve the audience in the solution, we are only treated to short glimpses of some of the puzzles from time to time and not brought into the plot as a participant.

The major storyline is that an alcoholic artist comes up with a very good idea that will help sell cereal and that he fails to deliver the final batch of puzzles that will finalize the contest. He goes on a bender, gets waylaid by a health nut hired on by his fiancé, and then ultimately gets kidnapped by the same health nut. The story sort of makes sense but only if the viewer makes allowances. There is the unnecessary complication of racketeers who sell the answers to the puzzles and rampant slapping and punching that would have worked well with the Three Stooges and sound effects but in the end gets annoying.

It is tough to single out whose acting should be singled out as deserving of mention. I guess it would have to be Lorraine Krueger since she not only spoke lines but also tap danced. Preston Foster is a real disappointment.

Some of the transitions between scenes do nothing to suggest continuity was sought after by the director. Sounds were a problem in that many of the scenes are difficult to understand and obviously were not retaken.

On the whole, there is not much to recommend. Better than, by a hair, "Plan 9 From Outer Space."
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Watch Tom Conway "Crack the Whip"
25 June 2005
Second in the Tom Conway Falcon series. Without much merit, but passable watching if you have not much else to do. It just does not seem like the actors had their hearts in this project. Tom Conway delivers his lines and not much else. Amelita Ward as the Falcon's female sidekick from Texas is simply too annoying and thankfully is shipped off to her former fiancé Buck Thompson at the end of the movie never to be seen again in the series. Two damsels in distress keep the Falcon off balance but their rivalry is just not credible. One of them, Jean Brooks, makes appearances in multiple Falcon movies but never again as part of a "crack the whip" at a roller rink. Clarence Kolb does a good job as the missing wealthy industrialist. Interestingly, in this entry, the policemen do not stand out and are more part of the woodwork then important characters. The plot is reasonably fair but viewers today will have to make allowances for the unexplained events such as blackouts, German-accented heavies, and gambling dens being converted to dining rooms which may not be quickly understood by a modern audience. Some of more important the scenes pass too fast to hear the words being said and understand their significance to the storyline. There is a critical clue that should allow the viewer to identify the true culprit before the end of the movie. As usual, the Falcon attracts your pretty women.
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"I don't want to be a detective anymore."
25 May 2005
Jane Wyman follows her similar role in Torchy (Blane) Plays with Dynamite with another Noel Smith-directed "B" movie pitting the skills of a female private detective against the might of the police department. Private Detective never quite makes up its mind whether it wants to emphasize the love interest or solving crime. Not that there isn't a plethora of crimes to be solved: we are treated to murder, blackmail, kidnapping – and that is just by the bad guys. The cops go in for breaking and entering big time with Max 'Slapsie Maxie' Rosenbloom as Detective Brody breaking down two of four doors attempted. Mike Mazurki does this type role much better. Morgan Conway is also hard to believe in his role as he was equally implausible as Dick Tracy in later movies.

The crime plot revolves around the framing of a "Reno divorcée" (who has a questionable relationship with her so-called fiancée) for the murder of her ex-husband. The murder is not too hard to solve so we would think then that the love interest would be played up instead. It would appear that some of the storyline ended up on the cutting room floor since there are good set ups for scenes that simply do not appear and then are referred to later at least in passing.

The writing clearly has a feminine touch with barbs being thrown at male chauvinism and oblique criticism of the stereotypical role women should play. This part of the storyline at least has continuity. Jane Wyman as Myrna 'Jinx' Winslow tells her boss no to "shhhh" her and then quits as she is fired from the Nation-wide Detective Agency. She keeps the job for at least one more case and after solving the murder tells her boyfriend Detective Lieutenant Jim Rickey (Dick Foran) that "I don't want to be a detective anymore." Not recommended unless you are trying to study how women are portrayed in traditional men's roles or just want to watch Jane Wyman going through the scenes with lots of very different hats and fur coats and even on the ledge of a tall building while wearing high heels.
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Money cannot buy happiness
16 April 2005
An extraordinarily-well written screenplay by Ben Hecht and Edgar Selwyn stands up surprisingly well over the years. Selwyn directs this little seen drama with good, but not great, results. The unusual plot leads the viewer to speculate what he or she would do if given the opportunities that unfold. As has been remarked by other reviewers, Frank Capra would have been very comfortable with the project. The major theme is to remind depression-era movie audiences that money does not lead to happiness and they are probably better off the way that they are. It would have been nice to see this film with come better leading actors, about all one can say is that they get the lines out and give life support to the drama. Cinematography is extremely good as you would expect from Harold Rosson. This could have been a very much better film with a better cast. One has to wonder why it has not been thought of for a remake? Highly recommended.
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Anyone can dance if they are properly persuaded
13 April 2005
Surprisingly enjoyable Western where Gene solves the murder of his father, rights the wrongs attributed to his old friend, and gets both the horse and the girl – all in just over one hour! The writing is clever and Gene's acting is both more fluid and his lines more subtle than in many follow-on films. The substance of the dispute – water rights: a very real part of the history of the American West.

George "Gabby" Hayes (it appears with all his teeth) does yeoman service as Doctor Parker. Smiley Burnette is good as the sidekick that cannot quite find the mate to a missing spur.

Good songs and the use of a modern record player allow Gene to trap three of the bad guys. Good chase scene. Best line in move is when the good guys line up the three bad men and Smiley (angry that they just shot a hole in his guitar) tells them to dance. The bad guys say that they can't dance and the response is "anyone can dance if they are properly persuaded." Sure this is a low budget Saturday matinée special, but it appears that someone was trying very hard to show that this team of actors and director Joseph Kane would be able to produce a winner that could be replicated. Highly recommended.
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As much about Chinatown as was Roman Polanski's Chinatown
26 March 2005
Fifth in the series of reporter-criminologist Torchy Blane who assists Detective Lieutenant Steve McBride in solving crimes. In this entry, Torchy figures out the solution to the deaths of three prominent men but allows Steve to get the credit at the end and make the collar. If this subservience is not enough, we are subjected to rampant racial stereotyping of Chinese and blacks. Detective Sergeant Gahagan provides comic relief that includes in this film his breaking into poetry from time to time. The film does involve Chinese burial tablets and has a few superficial shots that might have been take on the street of a major city "Chinatown" but the plot does not have anyone going there and doing anything. This version mostly takes place in police stations, at The Adventurers Club, homes, and at sea where a contribution is made by the US Navy. The plot is a remake of the 1920 "The Purple Cipher" and the1930 "Murder Will Out." It involves a combination of revenge murder and blackmail. There are notes to victims passed on Chinese laundry tickets and via additional means. Death comes via a multitude of means and bodies have a habit of disappearing. Fair.
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Dulcy (1940)
Loses something over the years
19 March 2005
This is at least the third time that the stage play "Dulcy" by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly was made by MGM into a film. A silent featuring Constance Talmadge appeared in 1923. Version No. 2 appears under the title "Not So Dumb" in 1930 and features Marion Davies (directed by King Vidor). A CD version is available featuring Zazu Pitts in a 1935 radio broadcast and you can pull down off the internet a 1937 radio version with Gracie Allen. Dulcy must have been a real hit on the stage and I would expect that the Gracie Allen version was a hoot. I just did not think this was a slap on the leg comedy that aged well for viewers the 21st Century. The story's premise is that a scatterbrained young woman tries to turn a weekend social event into a business opportunity for her fiancé. Ann Sothern is a good actress but the material just does not seem quite as funny as it obviously must have decades ago. There are clever written gags and lots of physical comedy. The material has the actresses in the lead playing as if they were actually dumb - not just clever and using being dumb as a technique to get their way. Today we no longer find funny folks who are not that bright and who seem to glide through life oblivious to their situation. All ends well, despite Dulcy's efforts, and perhaps some of you will find this a pleasant diversion. Recommended for social scientists and anthropologists attempting to research what was funny to us when.
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