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4/10
Unfortunate generic title and weak script fail a great cast.
20 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
When a notorious showgirl manipulates her way into a receptionist position at a prestigious Wall Street investment firm, it's going to be a sticky situation for boss Franchot Tone. The showgirl is sultry Joan Bennett, engaged to Tone's ward (John Hubbard), determined to make a good impression on the boss and get his approval for marrying Hubbard. But he has no idea that this rather brash young woman is the one he's been trying to get Hubbard to break up with, so when she starts working for him, it's initially nothing but trouble. As always happens in these type of screwball comedy situations, the boss begins to get feelings for the screwball heroine, becomes screwball himself, lightens up to the foibles he faces with her, and ultimately ends with the film changing partners as they prepare for those wedding bell blues.

You don't expect much realism in the screwball comedies of the 1930's and 40's, but one thing you do expect is consistency in character, and for Tone's stodgy Wall Street investor, he splits his personality up into two parts. Bennett, initially finding issues with her switchboard operating machine just like Rosalind Russell did in "Auntie Mame", might be great in the nightclub, but as a switchboard operator, she wouldn't last an hour in most firms. The wrong use of an important word in the banking industry causes Tone and other investors to lose thousands of dollars, and her easy going manner allows a mousetrap salesman to irritate Tone and secretary Almira Sessions with his odd invention that nearly electrocutes Tone. Once he changes his tune towards Bennett, he tries to help her allegedly ailing sister Eve Arden learn to walk again, which leads to a very funny moment where Hubbard poses as a temperamental cook to prevent Tone from discovering his presence.

I expected so much more from this screwball comedy which came from Columbia, a major creator of many of the best of them. In fact, I could have easily seen Rosalind Russell in this part, needing a break from her career women roles to play someone a bit zanier, and foreshadowing her similar situation 16 years later in "Auntie Mame". That is not to say that Bennett isn't good in this film. She is actually quite good, showing her comic abilities throughout. However, I just didn't buy her and Tone ending up together, even though in a final burst of comic genius, the writers had their conscience appearing to each of the characters. Arden unfortunately does not get a lot of good material as far as her usual wisecracks are concerned. Her character does more physical reacting than verbal reacting. Thurston Hall and Grady Sutton give amusing performances in smaller comic roles, and so therefore the fault of this being a disappointment does not lie among the cast, but the writers who took major liberties with creating a remotely believable situation.
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4/10
She too will find her man Godfrey, but in the oddest of situations.
20 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
When a wealthy family patriarch (Fred Stone) is honored, his offspring look up to him with the highest of respect. That is until he begins to influence the newest member of the family, Count Francis Lederer, the new husband of spoiled granddaughter Ann Sothern. Moving onto Stone's ranch along with Sothern and his sons Grant Mitchell, Sidney Toler and Hal K. Dawson (and assorted in-laws and grandchildren), Lederer finds himself hired for a merely titular position in the family firm. But using his influence in local society and his wife's money, Lederer creates deals that could cost the family their fortune and dignity, all due to Stone's influence on his new grandson-in-law. This creates tensions in the new marriage, already having them because of family interference and their nuevo riche snootiness. and Lederer suddenly announces that he is dissolving the marriage.

This screwball comedy could have worked based on the differences between cultures, generations and morals, and the European desire to embrace anything all American. But all American doesn't flow into the business world, especially if it affects the family coffers, and Lederer's realization that patriarch Stone embarrasses his children disgusts him, as he finds more in common with the no-nonsense retired cowboy than his own wife or other snooty in-laws. It's amusing to see Lederer lighten up as he takes on certain personal traits that Stone shows him, poo-poo'ing father-in-law Mitchell's constant attempts to dominate his life, and eventually getting a ranch of his own. What could have been an amusing look at the conflicts presented here becomes a mixed reaction to an often shallow screenplay that doesn't make all the pieces fit comfortably together. Sothern's character doesn't have much depth, and that leaves it to Stone and Lederer to get the best parts. Then of course there's Billie Burke in one of her A typical dizzy matrons as Sothern's mother.
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9/10
You know the ending, but how about the journey to that fateful ending?
19 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It is perhaps because of the legend of the alleged surviving daughter, Anastasia (as well as a spooky priest named Rasputin), that the historical saga of Nicholas and Alexandra is remembered today, but unfortunately, the story of the end of the Russian royal line is cemented only in history, not in culture. This film shows the last years of their reign, the strong love that kept them going in spite of the many trials and tribulations in their marriage that brought a nation to its knees, and their determination to remain strong as they lived in exile. It is a story of family. It is a story of a poverty stricken country where millions of undocumented children died of starvation, leading to a revolution, and then finally, it is the story of a new power rise that is a story all in its own, touched on here by the brief presence of Vladimir Lenin, a Bolshevik leader who founded the Russian Communist party. As played by Michael Jayston and the Academy Award nominated Janet Suzman, it is obvious from the start that Nicholas and Alexandra are truly in love, but the weak-willed Nicholas doesn't really have what it takes to really be a great leader, and the single minded Alexandra has only one agenda: to cure her son Alexi from hemophilia.

It was very wise of the casting directors to choose the rather unknown Suzman in the role of Alexandra over a more popular British actress, with both Vanessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson very busy at the time. She is obviously a loving wife and mother, but as history has pointed out, she never was able to connect with her husband's people. Looking glorious in the lavish gowns, furs and hats (one of which makes an appearance in Alexandra's ghostly state in the Broadway musical version of the animated musical film "Anastasia"), Suzman is a conflict of emotions, often cool with her husband and daughters, and one sighted as she becomes manipulated by the sinister Rasputin (an excellent, multi-dimensional performance by Tom Baker) who soon has the nation in an uproar. Assassinations of other various Russian political figures and the Arch-Duke and Duchess of Austria, show the onslaught of World War I, and the very bitter war between Russia and Germany becomes the catalyst of Nicholas's decision to abdicate, setting into motion his own death sentence.

The last hour of this film that shows the royal family in captivity is particularly sad because of the audience's knowledge of where this will lead them to in the final scene. There are moments when it seems that they might make it out, but when even Nicholas's own cousin (King George V of England) must deny him a place of exile, they all seem to know that their destiny is set. The actor playing the crippled guard in their final home might be creepy looking from the first long shot of his appearance, but from my childhood memory, it was the kindness he showed them that stood out which leads to the shocking developments of their final moments. There are great moments of joy where the royal daughters have a snowy Siberian dance with the soldiers guarding them, and yet the sad fate, particularly of the ailing Alexi who shows much more strength in many ways than his own father. Also particularly memorable is the way in which Rasputin is dealt with and the two strong scenes of Irene Worth as Nicholas's mother, a character who would later play an important part in the legend of the allegedly fake Anna Anderson who claimed to be Anastasia.

This is a beautiful film which is best seen on a large movie screen or digital TV in its original widescreen format. The costumes, sets, photography, music and editing are all spectacular, and as directed by Franklin J. Schaffner (fresh off his triumph of "Patton"), it is rarely dull in its over three hour length. Certainly, even with the long running time, some of the facts or details seem to be missing, and a few facts have been proven to be altered, particularly the assassination scene which history has shown to be much more brutal than what is presented here. There are so many well known actors in small roles that it is very difficult to really review their participations in it, but such legendary actors as Laurence Olivier, Harry Andrews and Jack Hawkins do deserve at least a brief mention. Nicholas and Alexandra marked the end of an era in the history of any monarchy where their absolute power meant much suffering for the poor and much frivolity for the rich. They might not have the fame of the guillotined Louix XVI and Marie Antoinette of France, but theirs is a story which after seeing this film you will not soon forget.
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Fright (1956)
6/10
The acting is what is frightening, not the film.
19 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
With the two stars basically reading their lines rather than acting them out, what could have scored a "10" here flows way down to just "good" rather than "excellent". The idea itself is excellent, a pre-"Three Faces of Eve"/"Lizzie" drama about an alleged split personality. Eric Fleming at some points is truly acting and at other parts, simply reciting his lines, as a psychiatrist who in the very first reel interferes on the police chase of a wanted murderer who threatens to jump off a roof until Fleming intervenes. It's Fleming's avant garde ways of dealing with various mental disorders that makes him a press darling, and that leads the pretty but bland Nancy Malone to come to see him in need of professional help. But he doesn't want to help her; He wants to date her. In their next scene, he is indeed counseling her, yet still anxious to get her to go out with him in spite of his claims that dating a patient is not a good moral thing for a psychiatrist to do. Today, his pursuit of her might stir up controversy and jeopardize his license, but for the mid 1950's, he seemingly gets away with it, even though part of her suspects dishonorable motives, although they are not obviously of a sexual nature.

Anne, as it turns out, is living the ghostly life of a long dead beauty, the Baroness Mary Vetsera, who had an affair with the married Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria, aka "the Mayerling incident", which lead to the murder/suicide of both of them when his emperor father demanded that the lovers break off. The ghostly baroness continues to haunt Fleming, admitting her hatred for Anne and the fact that Fleming is seemingly in love with her, and when Anne/Mary disappears, the police suspect that Fleming has killed her out of unrequited love. Fleming takes the next step he needs in finding the missing Anne to cure her, but utilizing the incarcerated killer he coaxed off the roof to hypnotize him into thinking he's the crown prince, leading to a confrontation between the legal matters of the state prison, Fleming's desire to cure Anne, and Mary's desire to reconcile with her dead lover. It's a haunting story that is well written, but unfortunately weakly acted. It's apparently based upon a play, but I could not find any evidence of its existence. Still an interesting curio, it is interesting independent cinema that could have been a classic today had the leads had more of a spark than they do onscreen.
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8/10
The best of the Pink Panther movies still holds up over 40 years later!
18 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Yes, Blake Edwards keeps repeating the same gag over and over. How many times do former Chief Inspector Dreyfus and the current Chief Inspector Clouseau have to fall into the water? In Dreyfus's case, it's a duck pond, and in Clouseau's case, it's a castle moat, but I count at least eight in this movie. In the end of "Return of the Pink Panther", the audience saw Dreyfus in a mental institution which is where he is preparing for a hearing to be released from here, every day in every way "feeling better and better". It's obvious that in a world without Clouseau, Dreyfus would be a completely sane man, but like that one co-worker nobody can stand (but can't get rid of), Clouseau is the Christmas Fruit Cake that keeps coming and coming every year. Clouseau makes the mistake of coming to see Dreyfus on the day of his hearing and makes the matters worse, driving Dreyfus back over the cuckoo's nest and more determined than ever to kill Clouseau, and destroy the world in the process if he has to!

References to Lom's earlier roles as Napoleon and the Phantom of the Opera are made here as part of a loving tribute, and as a result, Lom pretty much ends up stealing the film, reminding me of one of those delicious old movie serial villains you hiss at but somehow admire for their raw determination to reach an evil goal. There's no pink panther diamond here, only the visual of the pink panther in the opening and closing credits haunting Clouseau through some very clever movie moments, one having Mr. Pink in Julie Andrews' Maria Von Trapp on the hillside postulant dress. Andrews makes a brief vocal appearance, having recorded "Until You Love Me" and seeing her voice played back at a different scene for the drag bar sequence with Michael Robbins in hideous drag lip-sinking to the record as he makes his moves on Sellers. It's a rare 70's glimpse into a gay establishment, filled with stereotypes yet not offensively done. The yellow face references to Cato (Burt Kwouk) remain and might draw some awkwardness, but it's part of the period, and who can deny the hysterical antics between Clouseau and his hysterically funny, if violent, valet?

The scenes at the Oktoberfest come off very well too, with a German song that sounds like "Booby Bundy" playing in the background as a large hitman in drag with daggers in his falsies stalks Sellers. Omar Sharif makes a brief cameo as the Egyptian hit man and is very funny, although I found Lesley-Anne Down's appearances as the sexy Russian spy distracting and the one element that slows down the movie to a hault. The castle sequences are hysterical, especially the famous bit with aged hotel clerk Harold Berens, Sellers in disguise as a dentist, and Lom's attempts at torturing one of his kidnapping victims. Some audiences today might find the erasing of the United Nations building a little too close to the destruction of the World Trade Center 25 years after this was made, but representations of some political figures of this time (Gerald Ford, Henry Kissinger) are very funny. This is a goof-ball picture if there ever was one, and one of the best comedies of the 1970's that stands out from the other weaker entries in the series. Edwards went all out with this one, and even if some of the gags just seem desperate, there's a charm to them that can't be denied.
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6/10
While not a total gem, it isn't quite cubic zirconia either!
18 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Having seen this as a kid in a double bill with "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" (back to back in chronological order), this one tends to escape me as to my original feelings towards it. I'm sure I laughed at much of it, but 42 years later, it is the "Strikes Again" entry in the series that I have watched over and over and find something to laugh at every time. I know I've seen this at least once on TV since that original viewing, so having re-visited it was like watching it for the first time. Of course, I remember the basic plot line: the valuable pink panther diamond is stolen once again and much to the frustration of Chief Inspector Dreyfus (the hysterical Herbert Lom), Inspector Clouseau (Peter Sellers back in the role after a brief replacement by Alan Arkin) is assigned the case to find the crook. In his very first scene, Clouseau is distracted by a robbery happening by a blind accordion player and his pet chimp, and thus brings on the frustration of Dreyfus who can't understand why his superiors won't allow him to fire the klutzy Clouseau. Certain that the original diamond thief Sir Charles Litton (Christopher Plummer) is at it again, Clouseau sets out to follow his every move, making idiotic slip-ups at every turn to the amusement of Litton's sex kitten wife (Catherine Schell). Every report of Clouseau's inept attempts to trap Litton continue to drive Dreyfus further down the road of insanity, especially after he accidentally shoots off his own nose after an encounter with Clouseau. Soon, Clouseau not only has to worry about the dangers in his search for the diamond thief, but the murderous attempts on his life by his own boss, as well as random attacks by his "good yellow friend" Kato.

Yes, the Asian/yellow reference is there for all to either laugh at or be offended by, as pre-p.c. society still had a long way to go in its education on offending other races through old fashioned stereotypes. If you can get past the offense on that, you can laugh at the silliness of it all, as well as predict every move that Clouseau will make and how everything will turn out for him. For example, his fight with a non-stop ringing doorbell ends up with him destroying it, as does his attempts to bug a phone and his attempts to find the missing diamond in Schell's hotel suite. A parrot, an overly powered vacuum cleaner, a lightbulb that pops in and out of its socket and causes Clouseau to become a source of electricity, two trucks that end up as flotation devices in a country club pool and even Dreyfus's cigarette lighter gun show how prop heavy the gags of this film are. It's typical Blake Edwards farce, as he seemed to believe in repeating the same gag over and over in each film, just like Mel Brooks would do with certain lines he kept using in each of his films.

Unfortunately, Sellers and Plummer do not share any scenes here, and Schell is simply there to provide some physical beauty for Sellers to ogle. You just know what's going to happen when Sellers sits on the side of a pool watching all the bathing beauties walk by, but even when it does happen, you can't help but laugh. I don't think this is an extremely funny film by any means, and at some points, I think it becomes a little slow and ends up being about 15 minutes overlong. But Sellers' comic genius is evident, and Lom is an outstanding straight man, getting loonier and loonier as each incident drives him to the breaking point. He never really got his due for his fine work in the "Pink Panther" series, having been trained more as a dramatic character actor who lucked out in getting cast as Dreyfus. Lom reminds me of an older version of Sir Anthony Hopkins who could do pretty much everything. Without Lom, Clouseau wouldn't have his achilles heel, just like without Margaret Dumont, Groucho wouldn't have had his either.
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Destination Space (1959 TV Movie)
4/10
The cliff notes version of "Conquest of Space".
18 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The colorful footage of that 1955 George Pal sci-fi classic has been made black and white here for a TV pilot that has some moments of intelligence but can't hold a candle to its source. A cast mixed with veteran actors and obscure newcomers offer a look into man's desire to explore space in spite of the dangers that are present and the debate over what is best for the world as far as space exploration is concerned. The film is actually at its best with a court hearing, where some of the dialog for and against the journey into the unknown, which follows a sequence that mixes new footage of a meteor shower and footage of the giant circular space station from "Conquest of Space". Of the veteran actors, Cecil Kellaway and Edward Platt stand out, with John Agar commanding as one of the military leaders. It's rather short and quickly forgettable, made rather cheaply for pilot season, although the inserted footage looks seamless. Ironically, the best sequences are not the newly filmed outer space scenes, but the hearing itself where what is usually overfilled with scientific assumptions and dull exposition is actually made to be quite amusing. I ironically got a copy of this along with "Conquest of Space" where the two films together show as to why the follow-up didn't quite make it onto TV.
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6/10
A colorful view of a world outside our own we perhaps should have avoided exploring.
17 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
O.K., so in the 63 years since this film came out, no actual earthling has walked on Mars, but the desire for space travel and the expansion of our overcrowded earth has continued. For this beautifully colorful George Pal adventure, the audience is taken into the somewhat restricted world of the astronauts where small cramped quarters, lack of real oxygen and a desire for something as simple as healthy water is a major concern. The first half of this film takes place on both the giant space wheel sent into orbit and the rocket sent up with supplies and other astronauts to prepare for its journey to Mars. Conflicts between father and son over their different ambitions for their lives as astronauts creates an interesting family subplot and interesting dimension past the science fiction themes 10 years prior to actual human space travel. The second half shows them on Mars dealing with the inability to get off the planet and the lack of water to sustain life. Sudden "Mars quakes" opens up the ground beneath them, giving me the hint that giant creatures were about to emerge from them. While that is not the case, what does happen is equally as thrilling, creating some brilliant special effects and some shocking visuals as the astronauts strive to leave this strange world and return home.

Not a great movie so much as it is an entertaining one, it does get a bit talky in the first half, but is still never dull. The often boring lives of the astronauts is interrupted by moments of their personal interactions, as well as a brief glimpse of a colorful musical number featuring Rosemary Clooney in "Here Come the Girls", a 1953 Paramount film that seems to parallel the mythical view of outer space with its Arabian Knights costumes. Walter Brooke and Eric Fleming are father and son, much conflicted with their differing views, and give very good performances. Benson Fong, as the wise Japanese astronaut, is most thoughtful in his performance, while Mickey Shaugnessy, Phil Foster (Laverne DeFazio's TV father) and William Redfield are certainly representative of the common no-nonsense American, out to have fun wherever they can, but still very determined with their mission. The final sequence is rather scary, and while I wouldn't call this a truly realistic view of what the conquest of space was really like, it gave film audiences a fun way to imagine it as only special effects master George Pal could do.
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10/10
We are still in danger of destroying our planet....and the universe!
17 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Without a doubt in my mind, the original version of this story remains the greatest sci-fi themed movie about a visitor from another planet and the dangers that awaits the earth if we don't change our ways. 67 years later, this film still resonates in an even more dangerous time, with so many other powers threatening our survival as a planet and little, if no, lessons learned from the horrors of the past. This film wastes absolutely no time in introducing the visitor from outer space, a human being like creature from an unnamed planet who is shot and hospitilized simply for offering a gift which some paranoid army soldier believes to be a weapon. He shot first and never got to ask questions later, but for the visitor (the outstanding Michael Rennie), lots of questions are asked, and many lessons are learned, particularly by the sultry voiced widow Patricia Neal and her lovable son (Billy Gray) who takes a shine to the new boarder even though potential stepfather Hugh Marlowe is instantly suspicious of him.

A genius of incomparable patience, charm and class, Rennie's visitor immediately impresses scientist Sam Jaffe over his ability to solve a difficult problem Jaffe had been working on in his efforts to use nuclear power for good. Jaffe, considered the wisest man on earth, looks on at Rennie in awe, seemingly immediately knowing what Rennie's mission is and determined to get the message spread for the good of all of the universe. Neal at first is conflicted. She likes her son having an older male companion, but something about Rennie to her (mostly thanks to Marlowe's paranoia) doesn't seem right. A visit to Rennie's spaceship (thanks to the most amazing encounter with the very dangerous robot Rennie reveals to be a police officer for universal safety) reveals everything to her, and Neal wakes up to her own blindness to the dangers earthlings pose to the future of the entire solar system.

Most subtle in its depiction of Rennie's alien civilization as peace loving and unselfish in every way, it also presents a view of our earth society as violent, paranoid, self centered, and most importantly, unaware of the dangers we put on the solar system because of our obsessions with war and nuclear power. Blow yourself up if you so desire, Rennie tells his captive earth audience, but leave the rest of the universe alone, or face the consequences. This film never loses steam as it intensely drags the audience into its calm but intense world of a desire for the end of the violent nonsense, and shows the hypocrisies of our world which we obviously have let get too far out of control. I don't know if I could bear to see the remake of this film, because it pretty much says everything here and cannot be improved on. Perhaps this film 67 years later should be passed around to every new leader in our world as well as a reminder of past destructions that not only killed millions but brought the perpetrators down viciously as well.
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8/10
A superb thriller in practically every way!
17 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
There are few plays or musicals from the Broadway stage that end up becoming a Hollywood film the very same year, but one of those rare examples is the Tony Award winning play "The Desperate Hours" which spawned several imitations on film the very same year, most obviously "The Night Holds Terror". But as well done as the imitator was, it is the original that deserves praise, giving Humphrey Bogart his most sinister sociopathic criminal since "The Petrified Forest" and giving fellow Oscar Winning actor Frederic March an equally good role to sink his teeth into as the patriarch of the family whom escaped convicts Bogart and his gang terrorize. Martha Scott, an underrated actress of stage, screen and TV, best known for character parts (in spite of a leading lady career of such classics as the original film version of "Our Town" and "Cheers For Miss Bishop") plays his terrified, but ultimately brave wife, determined to do everything she can to protect teenaged daughter Murphy and precocious pre-teen son Richard Eyer. She even risks her own life at one point in a powerful scene where her frustration takes over her common sense.

Bogart's fellow escapees include his younger brother (Dewey Martin) and the coarse Robert Middleton, a large human monster who seems to take glee in the terror he poses on his victims, and in one of the more horrific scenes, drives an innocent elderly junk man to a presumed death. The terror on the junk man's face is powerful, briefly overcome by the determination to survive, and from that moment on, the audience is in the grips of the desire to see Middleton's character disposed of in the most violent of ways. Martin is a bit more sympathetic and gentle than his brother and Middleton, at one point stopping Middleton from attacking the attractive Murphy. But he's as much in this as the other two escapees, so his fate is sealed as far as the audience's desire is concerned. Bogart is the smartest of the trio, utilizing every precaution to ensure their survival, and suspicious of every little move that the family they are holding hostage (while still allowing them to go through their outside daily routines with the knowledge that housewife Scott will be in peril if anything should arise) to the point of even checking out Eyer's homework project just on the suspicion that he should be trying to alert his teacher to their situation.

The always outstanding March delivers another fierce performance, at one point telling his concerned secretary (Helen Kleeb) to mind her own business when she expresses concern over his apparent nervousness. Murphy's boyfriend (Gig Young) becomes concerned over her sudden distance, even on a date, while a local cop (Arthur Kennedy) who was involved in Bogart's initial arrest, nervously fidgets during these desperate hours with the knowledge that Bogart will be coming after him for Kennedy's having struck and scarred Bogart with the butt of his gun when arresting him. The little details all add up to make a truly intense hour and a half of gripping terror that showed society at its worst. The fact that this is an apparently true story makes it all the more suspenseful, brilliantly written for the screen by its own playwright Joseph Hayes and superbly directed by the legendary William Wyler. Pretty much everything about this film is outstanding. I originally saw this as a double bill with the same year's "We're No Angels" (also from Paramount) where Bogart played a more comical prison escapee who hides out in the home of store owners unaware of whom they are playing host to. The common denominator between the two films of the lives of escaped convicts has stood the test of time with me, so it is difficult to think of one film without thinking of the other.
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7/10
Surprisingly enjoyable musical comedy that is quite timely 65 years later.
13 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Outside of "Flower Drum Song", I can't think of a musical that deals with an illegal immigrant, here a sweet Polish girl played by the delightful Anna Maria Alberghetti. She is seen early in the film escaping from immigration officials and heading to Greenwich Village to meet up with Lauritz Melchoir, a lovable old Polish immigrant who knew her family back in the old country. Instead, she finds a hungover shell of a legendary opera singer, reeling in pain from the tap dancing going on in the floor above him. This makes her befriend handsome Bob Williams and dancer Tommy Morton, and later Williams' girlfriend (a perky Rosemary Clooney), and breaks out singing an aria while they spoof a dog food commercial jingle that Clooney is working on. Soon finding out that she's wanted by the U.S. Immigration department, Clooney and her friends decide to plug her anyway with a different name to appear on Don Wilson's talent show where her identity is revealed, and this leads to a country wide demand for immigration to allow the young girl citizenship, something that the justice department and local congressmen are extremely opposed to.

More political in nature than most light-hearted musicals of this era, this has some touching moments, one particularly where the lovable Melchoir (a mixture of S.Z. Sakall and Sydney Greenstreet) emotionally sings "Vesti la Giubba" after listening to a recording of him in his heyday, showing the actor behind the great opera star. Clooney, taking on a rather juicy Doris Day type part, gets to sing her pop standard "Come On-A My House" and leads the foursome of Alberghetti, boyfriend Williams and dancer Morton in a Barrow Street production number, "Haven't Got a Worry in the World", dealing with typical Greenwich Village type characters straight out of "My Sister Eileen" and 1953's musical version, "Wonderful Town". The political aspect of this, mixed with the show business aspect of the film, makes it unique with Fred Clark very good as a government big wig doing his job but obviously not liking what he has to do, and Don Wilson obviously having fun spoofing himself. The always likable Lloyd Corrigan is amusing as Clooney's agent. Considering the immigration controversies in 2018, this shows how a film, probably considered dated for decades (if remembered at all), can all of a sudden become timely.
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Crazy House (1943)
7/10
"Universal's greatest comedy team is here!" "Oh, Abbott and Costello? Send them right in!"
13 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
...And in walks Olsen and Johnson.

Two years have passed since Universal underwent the torment of making the film version of the hit Broadway musical revue "Hellzapoppin'" and the memory of Oles Olsen and Chic Johnson has not left the back lot. Having spent two years on Broadway in "Sons O' Fun", they are back in Hollywood, prepared to start the next movie on their contract, but Universal wants no part of it. This doesn't stop Olsen and Johnson from unintentionally wrecking the studio, sending every contract player current on the lot from heading into a bomb shelter, including Pepe Le Pew (probably on loan from Warner Brothers) whom the players would rather take their chance with than this wacky duo and their assortment of macadamia pals. Left on their own, they must find their own star and producer, and after agreeing to try and get Cass Daley, they get the money they need from wealthy Percy Kilbride. But unknowingly, they sign her double, an equally wacky female named Sadie Silverfish and that means that they are in for legal trouble as they prepare to break her contract. Other factors get in the way of them trying to get the film made and sent out for a preview, but the boys are filled with zany ideas which sets into motion 90 minutes of shear nuttiness that I'm sure had audiences in stitches. Audiences today might be of another matter, however.

Musically, this film is a treat, with so many great musical groups and specialties that listing them would take forever. There are also cameos by Universal's contract players, either as themselves or in character, such as Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce's Dr. Watson, a special treat for fans of that long series. Portly Andy Devine is on his scooter to announce the arrival of Olsen and Johnson, while Alan Curtis is interrupted by the team while shooting a fight scene during the making of "Gung Ho!" Then there's a specialty list of comical character actors who bring additional laughs including Franklin Pangborn in his usual part of irritated hotel clerk, Edgar Kennedy as a tough judge, Billy Gilbert (in the same scene as Kennedy) as a beleaguered attorney for clients trying to stop the film from going through, along with Shemp Howard and Fred Sanborn as a duo of comics named Mumbo and Jumbo. Martha O'Driscoll and Patric Knowles provide a romantic subplot as the young lovers on screen and the film within the film, but ultimately, it is Olsen and Johnson (along with the deliciously funny bucktoothed Daley) who steal the show.

Going for more laughs than they had in "Hellzapoppin'", they also take a jab at their screen rivals Abbott and Costello in several scenes, probably the only two Universal contract players outside of Deanna Durbin, Karloff and Lugosi, who do not appear. (The later two were no longer exclusively under contract to Universal, but were both on the lot around this time.) There's time to rest from the chortles of this frenetic comedy team through performances by such musical notables as Count Basie and his orchestra, the Delta Rhythm Boys, dancers Sally and Tony DeMarco, and Marion Hutton along with the Glenn Miller singers. The last reel is devoted to a "live" preview that occurs when only the first reel of the completed film is received in working order, and this brings the film to a similar conclusion that "Hellzapoppin'" had just two years before. They go out of their way with the ending to be completely unique and indeed it is very funny. Depending on your style of humor, you may or may not like this overall, but it certainly comes down to an artifact of 1940's American culture that had audiences jivin' and jumpin' and has influenced much of what remains popular today.
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2/10
Only special films of a bad nature get a bomb.
13 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
In rating this, I decided that in this case, 2 was worse than 1. It is without a doubt the worst musical film ever made, making "Lost Horizon", "And Long Last Love" and "Can't Stop the Music" the best of MGM in comparison. Hopefully the legendary Joan Collins has learned to get over singing about getting chalk with her cheese, featured as part of a raunchy production number that looks like it was cut out of "Barbarella", and I'm sure she's grateful that it's not a cult classic like "Valley of the Dolls" and "Mommie Dearest". I can't see this as part of any gay cult festival either. In fact, if I wanted to break up with my lover or end a long term friendship, all I'd have to do would be to put this on. They'd change their phone numbers and emails immediately. Others might harass me in the middle of the night for giving them nightmares as a result of seeing this film

So what is so bad about this outside the ridiculously long, confusing title? Its star/writer/director, Anthony Newley, for one thing, predating the Broadway musical "Nine" by thirteen years, and giving off a vibe of such ego that it does nothing but a disservice to the charms he had showed in his live stage appearances. Unfortunately, unlike his two Broadway hits ("Stop the World, I Wanna Get Off" and "The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd"), this analytical musical reeks of meglomania and not in any charming, comical way. Each musical number gets exceedingly worse, culminating in a truly tacky number where one of the leading ladies is seen cavorting, believe it or not, with a donkey! No wonder showings of this film end up with near riots.

Newley is surrounded by an all star cast of comic legends and centerfold beauties, but all you can do is feel sorry for Milton Berle playing the God of Sleeze and George Jessel as a more wise deity, with Stubby Kaye wasted in a useless part. Otto Preminger did better with Groucho Marxx, Jackie Gleason and Carol Channing in the same year's disaster, "Skidoo", which is at least fun to laugh at. There is no entertainment value here, no moral lesson to be learned, and certainly not a master class on how not to make a movie. Research showed that this made a profit, making me wonder if Newley had the Max Bielestock idea of creating a huge flop yet failed. Even "The First Nudie Musical" (which this proves not to be the case) has more redeeming elements than this piece of filth.
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4/10
Universal concludes its last classic series in a throwback to the 40's Mummy and Invisible Man movies.
12 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
The sight of the Creature From the Black Lagoon wearing a large man's shirt here brought on chuckles from me here because he reminded me so much of Boris Karloff as the monster in "The Bride of Frankenstein". The third of the Black Lagoon series is entertaining but unmemorable, a basically unnecessary third installment to a trio of films where the first is a classic, the second is quite good in spite of being a retread, and the third becomes a reminder as to why some of the old movie monster series went on far too long. It all starts with a determined young socialite (Leigh Snowden) speeding across the bridge from the Florida Keys and storming up the gang plank of a docked yacht.

Snowden basically takes over the conversation from husband Jeff Morrow and scientist Rex Reason over the search for the mysterious creature which they want to experiment on to turn into a land walking creature. They don't count on the strength of this creature, at one point literally pushing their boat up with all of them on it, just with one hand. Arrows in the monster don't seem to hurt it, and neither does being doused with flames. But somehow, they get the unconscious monster to a hospital where he is put in a hospital gown and turns the facility into his own playground, basically tearing it and other locations where Snowden, Morrow and Reason hang out, to shreds.

There's also a smarmy guide (Gregg Palmer) who makes a play for the monster who somehow becomes enraged at this and goes once again on another rampage. Short on story but long on rampages, this is your run of the mill science fiction/horror programmer where the plot line is overwhelmed by some pretty neat set locations (a Florida swamp is pretty impressive) and a few decent effects, nothing new, but nothing laughable either. The performances are adequate and the film is short enough to not overstay its welcome, but isn't one I'd be recommending to fans of the sci-fi/horror genre to watch in a marathon with the other two.
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Plunder Road (1957)
5/10
"We're off on the Road to Our Ruin"
12 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Three trucks filled with extremely heavy bricks of solid gold, stolen from a fast moving train in the most clever way, becomes the caper of the century in this fraught with tension action drama where veteran actors Gene Raymond, Wayne Morris, Elisha Cook Jr. and several others make an attempt to transport it without being caught. As soon as the train theft is discovered, police across the nation are notified, and every highway is being scoped for the culprits. This becomes riveting simply to watch the five men in various states of paranoia in three different trucks driving down these highways of potential destruction, their lone thoughts driving each of them crazy in different ways. Cook is the most thoughtful of the five, planning to take his son down to Rio to start a new life, practically certain of his success, and even getting the viewer to sort of feel sorry for them. Raymond has a girl (Jeanne Cooper) waiting for him at the end of the line for the final stretch, but for a few of them, their road isn't paved with gold; It is paved with doom.

Yes, the Jeanne Cooper I mention above is the same Jeanne Cooper who schemed and loved and clicked her well manicured nails together for four decades as the wealthy and powerful Katharine Chancellor on "The Young and the Restless". She only pops up for the last twenty minutes of the film, but makes the most of her scenes, especially as she reveals how she wishes that her lover had not stooped to theft to make their dreams come true. But the fact that she obviously abandons a job to help him shows her as complicit, and she even goes as far as to help push the gold up large loading slides, showing that she's made of stronger stuff than most women, yet not as quite as evil as the great film noir femme fatales. If you want to see Ms. Cooper really in action on the big screen, check her out in the prison drama "House of Women" where she goes up against "Another World's" Constance Ford with a great cat fight.

While this film is tense and riveting at times, it also often becomes an absurd look as to why crime doesn't pay and the desperate measures criminals take to get away with their latest caper yet are constantly paranoid of what the end will bring. It is like they know that they will be caught. Only fools run in the face of arrest, and often that spells a meeting with the grim reaper. Raymond, Cooper and his young partner (Steven Ritch) go through so much in the last few reels that watching them makes you see how absurd it all is, that no heist is easy, and that when it all comes out in the open, they are not going to go down without some gunfire. In general, this is a pretty good caper action/thriller that is obvious as to how it will end, but what makes it unique is how each of the criminals reveals some of their back story to indicate what brought them to such desperation, and how their own inner psyche manipulates their individual destinies.
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6/10
It takes one rookie to turn his beat around.
12 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Not the first film to use a sinfully delicious jazzy score as its theme music, this look at a corrupt neighborhood surrounding a notorious dive bar is delicious melodrama from start to finish. It starts with a retiring beat cop showing newcomer George Montgomery around, and the locals, used to the passivity of the retiring cop, getting an idea of the nonsense that Montgomery refuses to tolerate. There's the typical refusal of local teen hoods who do not abide by the rules of the law, the hip girls they hang out with, as well as the local dive bar owner who is like an "uncle" to most of these hood rats, but not one who will send any of them down the right path. Veteran character actor Nehemiah Persoff gives a chilling performance as this "uncle" who utilizes some of the young women as "models" in a way that makes you well aware that they are not real models.

Montgomery is aggressively well meaning but determined to clean up the dirt he notices from day one, quickly making strides with a gang who beats him up over the incorrect conclusion that he had beaten up one of their own. Two of the women find themselves falling for him in spite of their initial resistance to his efforts to clean up this hood, one of them (Marilee Earle) a very young divorced woman who has become the local drunk, one who strips off her clothes every time she gets intoxicated. Earle becomes so dependent on finding respectability and love that it becomes painful to watch her continue to self destruct right in front of your eyes. It is so devastatingly real that it almost becomes unpleasant and uncomfortable to watch.

As for the pretty but rebellious Geraldine Brooks, her ties with the local teen thugs quickly begin to dissolve as she realizes the good that Montgomery is attempting, and while the script could have fallen into preachy cliches, it never does in regards to her character's or Earle's, or the two "models" that Persoff had sent downtown for bigger and better opportunities. I have lived in neighborhoods like this where the local dive bar would become more visited than the churches, and as Persoff said, the people of these areas are so well aware of their limited opportunities that any chance for temporary fake happiness like drugs or alcohol or gambling or physical pleasures become a must to hide their pains. Sometimes reality can be pretty grim, but many people are unaware of the counter cultures like this where others outside their social circle grasp onto what little life they can find. If those unaware of these cultures can learn anything from this, that is to be happy and relieved with their lot in life, because the lot in life for the people in these films is sadly hopeless, that is until Montgomery comes along.
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2/10
Taking a "trip" down memory lane, and that voyage is no valley of the dolls.
11 July 2018
I must admit that I got quickly hooked, like heroine abuser Barbara Marks does here, on the way this docudrama is told as Marks goes from troubled young school girl hanging out with a motorcycle gang and on occasion smoking pot to a full fledged gangster's moll on the run, desperately searching for her next fix. Bamlet Lawrence Price Jr. is the young man responsible for this film, having written and directed and co-starred in it, casting his parents, and trying to sell the evils of the drug counter culture as he attempted to break into the world of movie making. As his film resume shows, that never came to pass, but what results here is a noble attempt to tell a story, documentary style, and send a message of the evils of the world of drugs. Other than a few screeches or gasps, the actors here never speak, and only Kurt Martell's voice is heard as a narcotics cop involved in the case of the young woman he follows throughout the film to bring both to justice and to sobriety.

As the film starts, Marks and her parents (played by Price's parents) are being escorted by Martell to Union Station in L.A., either to be taken to a dry out ward or to go to court. Price Jr. is seen in the background as a Mexican thug who only shows up in the last half, with the first half showing Marks going from the motorcycle gang to unhappy wife to drug seller as a car hop waitress. This does not seem to have been meant for theatrical release, but somebody who saw it must have thought it important in the world of teenage angst of the 1950's to be shown in theaters. It is cheaply done and some of the situations are presented in rather ridiculous ways, but something about it does command your attention. Elaine Lindenbaum, as an aging heroine addict, reminded me of Anna Magnani, and her footage is unforgettable. There's no comparing this to the 1930's anti-marijuana films "Marijuana" or "Reefer Madness", as this never shows the wacky trips of those using the drugs, but there are some elements that bring on unintentional laughter such as the abundance of drug users going through withdrawal when the supply of the various drugs they are addicted to runs out or is unavailable due to the absence of the pushers. This goes both into the bowels of the L.A. drug counter culture and deep into the wastelands of Baja California north of the Mexican border. Even if you excuse the cheapness of the film, there is just far too much going on with far too many characters, but that does go to show the complexity of an ugly world where sometimes the only way to get off is death.
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2/10
Ain't gonna pull no punches. This is simply just purely rotten cinema.
11 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
With two of the "High School Hellcats" giving truly horribly grating performances and the third just bland, this piece of melodramatic trash had me remembering the line of Eve Arden in "Mildred Pierce" about Veda where she realizes she now knows why the alligators eat their young. Jana Lund and Susanne Sidney are the #1 and #2 leaders of a group of nasty teenage girls who bully newcomer Yvonne Lime into becoming a part of their gang, that is if she can pass all of their tests. Lime, a seemingly passive type, seems to fall for their promise of a gang to belong to, even though she seems sensitive and bright and comes from a good home. Why she has left her former school is never explained, but she's the Sandy of "Grease" to the "Rizzo" and "Marty" Pink Lady types of Lund and Sidney. At least with the character of the tough Rizzo, you got to see the vulnerabilities or hidden insecurities beneath her gruff exterior, but Lund and Sidney's characters are simply just braggard bullies who are rebels without causes and just nasty for the sake of being nasty. They start the film by bullying their male substitute teacher (in a Home Economics class!) then try to initiate Lime into fitting in with them by getting her to show up to school the next day in slacks, a big no-no for young ladies in 1958. They soon have her shoplifting, going out only with the boys that they approve of (even though Lund and Sidney are rather sadistically butch) and going to a party that results in one of the hellcat's sudden deaths.

The problem with quickly written movies like this is that they never take the time to create real people, just types, and not any type grounded in reality. Lund, who dominates the first part of the film, and Sidney, who dominates the last part, are vile in every single way, and the way they bellow their lines makes the melodramatic acting of the women in prison movies seem subtle in comparison. There is nothing redeeming about either character, and their performances are so ridiculously amateurish that it becomes difficult to even laugh at them. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Lime who is so bland that she barely rates a blip on the acting radar. Don Shelton and Viola Harris, as her troubled parents, only get a few elements written in their characters to explain why Lime would agree to become part of such a vile gang, even though after a scene where Shelton slaps her, he does get to show instant regret. Brett Halsey as the nice boy who dates Lime behind the backs of her vile girlfriends, does a decent job in creating his characterization. But in spite of those few small elements of realism thrown in around all this melodramatic nonsense, this just becomes so aggravatingly unpleasant that it's difficult to even find anything redeeming in it to call it a camp or cult classic. I'll take Ed Wood's "The Violent Years" over this messy Z film any day.
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1/10
These Viking women would cry over a broken nail.
11 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Absolutely silly from start to finish, the real problem with this female empowerment adventure is that it goes from episode to episode without really flowing from one plot element to the next. It is a badly written but often funny tale of a group of Viking women (lead by Abby Dalton of "Falcon Crest" and Susan Cabot) who decide to head out onto the Nordic seas to find their missing men and end up finding all sorts of other dangers, often going from one danger to the next without really believable explanation of how they got there. Pretty boy Bradford Jackson, who somehow didn't go off to battle with the Viking men, stows away on the Viking women's ship, and unless I blinked and missed it, went from hiding one moment to being amongst the girls in the next, having been discovered somewhere in between. They fight the winds, swirling sharks, a giant sea serpent who turns their ship over yet somehow they manage to all get to shore. There they come across a Barbaric tribe who place them in further danger, and along th way, Dalton and Jackson are threatened with being burnt to death, face another attack by the sea monster, yet somehow they never manage to look dirty or unshaven or with a hair out of place.

Dalton, one of my favorite actors on the long running night time soap opera "Falcon Crest", seems far too modern to be clad in cave women dress, as do most of the other females around her. We are supposed to think that the dark haired men are barbarians simply because they are unshaven, yet they seem to have more of a civilized society than the Nordic looking Viking women and the men they are searching for. The sea serpent is appropriately scary looking, and the effects of its attack on their small but elegant Viking ship are actually pretty good. But the idiotic dialog and weak performances exposes this film for the type of drive-in junk it is where scantily clad females run around like some sort of Amazon women from the moon, but never seem to be really ready for the strenuous adventures they will face. I'm sure that real Viking women were closer to the comic strip character of Helga who was married to Viking Hagar, not the pin-up types presented here. This is worth spending 65 minutes simply for a few good laughs at the expense of the film, but like many early American International films, is quickly forgettable.
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2/10
Teenage cavemen fight to find their next meet, as do the 20 something year old actors who play them.
10 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It's obvious from the start that the actors playing the youthful spear throwing cavemen are far past voting age, and in this clean shaven ancient world that there's a barber shop in one of those caves. It doesn't take much of a look past the posters and lobby cards of this early American International programmer that this will not be a realistic view of the pre-civilized world. Clean cut young "actors" look as if they've just set forth off UCLA's campus, with beards added to the older characters to express the difference between the generations. Seen among the giant dinosaurs, lizards and snakes are a variety of modern mammals, including bears, deer, horses and packs of "wild" dogs that look easily domesticatable.

Then, there's the script, overwritten with overly thoughtful philosophies, spoken in amateurish tones that makes this simply just too silly not to ridicule. Even so, there's an element of sweetness to this, and that makes this endearing as a fun bad movie. Future TV star Robert Vaughn is as sincere as he can be. Of the rest of the cast, only Ed Nelson seems to have gone on to other memorable roles. The settings take the prehistoric characters from the obvious sets of Runyeon canyon to the stock footage of the ancient world, some of which oddly look like paintings. Some of the footage becomes painfully slow, although there are unintentional laughs here and there as well. So for me, it becomes a guilty pleasure that I won't soon forget with an epilogue that has to be seen to be believed and must have been added on when they realized that without it, there would be no way the young hunks in this film would be believable as "teenage cave men".
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8/10
When being wicked really means protecting goodness.
10 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Nobody will mourn the truly wicked in this delicious supernatural thriller of a devoted wife (Janet Blair) who knows that something wicked this way comes as she casts spells to protect husband Peter Wyngard. Extreme envy and false accusations leads an unknown source to declare vengeance on psychology professor Wyngard, and that insights wife Blair to reach into her bag of tricks to protect him from harm. But his own disbelief gets him into trouble as he orders her to toss away her bag of protective tricks, leading to instant terror which occurs as soon as he burns the protective powders and picture she keeps in a locket. Things go from bad to worse, making Blair susceptible to the magic powers of the demonic forces out there, leading her to decide to take her own life in order to save his. It is quickly proven that true evil comes from forces you cannot see or often control as Wyngard opens his eyes to what is really going on and must take steps to stop it before both his and his wife's lives are taken from this great force from beyond hell itself.

Incredible acting from the two stars makes this psychological horror film one of the best of its genre's. The source from where the evil comes from is a true surprise and the perpetrator gives a performance of such delicious eccentricity and innocence that it does indeed turn out to be a huge surprise. This is the type of film that may chill you to the bone as every step of evil taken to destroy these two occurs with such delicious cunning, resulting in a confrontation that can only be described as spine tingling. The presence of a real threat to both Wyngard and Blair occurs simultaneously, and one can truly hear their heart pounding as the film reaches a stunning conclusion. Terrific pacing, a brilliant script and a haunting atmosphere of subtle evil disguised as innocence makes this a must. Veteran voice over actor Paul Frees provides an opening that sets the tone, and the supporting players (which includes "Black Narcissus" psycho nun Kathleen Byron as well as Margaret Johnston and Colin Gordon.
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5/10
Better than average sword and sandal, with some Greek mythology thrown in...and a little bit of "Cobra Woman".
10 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It's not "King Cobra" that's being sacrificed for, but a giant mythological creature, unseen for all but the last few minutes of this entertaining action/adventure that features Rosanna Schiaffino in a delicious dual role. She's twin sisters, just as Maria Montez was in "Cobra Woman", separated at birth because of her father's concern of the Greek prophecy that any younger twin must be sacrificed to the notorious Minotaur, a horned and fanged giant gorilla like creature that could destroy all of Crete if unleashed out of the will of the Gods. Like Montez's campy 1944 cult classic, the one remaining in her homeland is evil and sinister, while the other, raised by foster parents, is sweet and kind. Upon discovering the existence of her twin, the evil Schiaffino sets into motion a plan to kill her so she won't end up a Minotaur sacrifice and become queen when her father (Carlo Tamberlani) dies. The evil queen's men kill the foster parents, but before they can do away with the good sister, she is rescued by Athenian prince Bob Mathias and his pal Rick Battaglia, determined to protect her. But with the evil Alberto Lupo by the evil queen's side, any attempt for good by her decent father and the attempts of the two heroes to protect the good sister are threatened, with the aide of some torturous intentions that are truly heart burning!

Some fantastic art direction and good photographic effects makes this Italian made sword and sandal film as close as you can get to a Ray Harryhausen masterpiece, minus that master's artistic touch that make those films classics. The "Cobra Woman" connection for me was instantaneous from the very beginning, and fans of "I, Claudius" will also delight in the similarities in the court intrigue of the Greek rulers here. The two heroes are both brave and handsome, willing to sacrifice their own lives to protect the good princess, and this leads to some shocking twists in the last 20 minutes, and some good endings for a few of the villains. The appearance of the actual Minotaur is a bit disappointing, although I had to turn my head as Mathias got the better of this huge ugly creature. I've had mixed reactions to the dozen or so Italian period fantasies of this nature, some ridiculously stupid and some surprisingly above average. None of them, outside perhaps the original "Hercules", are truly great, but this one is as close as you can come to one where all the pieces fit nicely together to make a very entertaining package. Schiaffino is added to my list of great screen villainesses for her portrayal of the very determined Fedra, although her performance as Ariadna, the good princess, seems lethargic in comparison. Not since Joan Collins creeped up on an unsuspecting victim in "Land of the Pharaohs" and schemed to become all powerful has there been such a fascinating ancient queen of mean, and thus with that characterization, Schiaffino steals the film.
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7/10
Mediocre acting and plot holes bigger than moon marks can't hide the artistic trip of this one.
10 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I am a fussy critic when it comes to sci-fi and horror, not so much into space movies as I am into campy rubber monsters or the results of atomic energy abuse. To discover this film, however, at least on my first viewing, I found it surprisingly unique and even intelligent. Some of the details, especially the 2001 setting with an allegedly peaceful planet Earth, are too far fetched to be remotely realistic, but the idea of Uranus being occupied by an all knowing basically invisible ruler was intriguing. The group of astronauts (lead by John Agar) must face their worst fears, or their most haunting emotions, and the evil being uses this for control over their every move. Certainly, some of the psychedelic effects are very dated, but you can't judge a 55+ year old film by that. What you can judge it by is how it effects you emotionally or what kind of a message it leaves you with, or the artistic feelings that it brings on, and this touched me in all three aspects.

The transition of Uranus from its alleged reality to the emotional memories of one of the astronauts is powerful. I, too, grew up in a forest filled landscape that had a stream running through it, complete with a large rock in the middle that was a child hideaway. I too would be manipulated by that, as I would be by certain fears that resulted in recurring nightmares. There are several appearances by some scary giant creatures, and the voice of the ghoul of Uranus is frightening as well. One of the beautiful female creatures quickly becomes a demonic monster of manipulation, still beautiful physically but obviously a ploy of evil by the sinister mastermind who may seem like God in his fierceness, but is closer to the Lord of the underworld. Give this one an open mind outside modern expectations. Some elements may not quite work, but overall it's much better than many other science fiction space films of the same era, and one of American International's best films.
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The Vulture (1966)
5/10
Big Bird gets revenge.
7 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
A mythological creature with the face and hands of a man but the body of a giant killing bird is the titled monster here, a murderous ghoul which rose out of its grave, allegedly buried alive centuries ago and seeking revenge on the descendants of those who put it in its living grave, later transferred into a church cemetery. The braggardly brave Annette Carell boasts she has no fear of walking through a church cemetery at night, yet cowers immediately when she spots a wobbly tombstone that all of a sudden seems to take flight. Instantly, her hair turns white, and she ends up in a psychiatric ward where she must repeat to everybody who inquires exactly what she saw that night. A legend has it that through the underworld power of black magic, the corpse of the entombed has been given the power to turn into this creature and will not rest until all the descendants of the guilty are wiped off the face of the earth, and this includes sweet Diane Clare and her uncles Broderick Crawford and Gordon Sterne. How those two uncles could be lifted up by any creature is a comical mystery in itself, but the real unintentional laughs to go the "wise man" played by Akim Tamiroff who looks like both Raymond Burr and Orson Welles stuffed into three of Dracula's capes, walking with the aide of two canes and just generally creepy every time he is on screen. There's also a curse spouting mad man (Edward Carrick) who appears throughout the film ordering everybody (including Clare's husband, Robert Hutton) who pretends to know more about this curse than he obviously does, becoming one of the biggest "red herrings" in cinema.

Unfortunately, a full view of the alleged vulture is never shown, and the explanations given of how a man, through the use of the electrodes and various other powers, can turn themselves into another type of creature, becomes just a little too talky at times. The Cornish scenery is stunning, however, especially the old castle in the middle of the city, adds a true historical viewpoint to the film. This isn't quite a horror film, but more of a mystery thriller with horrific elements that when they do occur become somewhat outlandish. In spite of the presence of the commanding Crawford, it will be Tamiroff whom you can't forget in this film, playing a character that would have been right at home in either "The Exorcist" or "The Omen".
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3/10
It Conquered the Swamps!
7 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
If Judy Garland was considered the greatest singer that the movies (and the world!) ever had, then the unrelated Beverly Garland should be considered one of the movie's greatest screamers, certainly of the post nuclear age. Not since Fay Wray had somebody been able to unleash such sounds from her lungs, and whether it was fighting an upside down turnip or a strange furry creature named Curucu, Garland could shatter glass with her vocals. Here, wearing a dark wig, Garland is an enthusiastic nurse on her honeymoon who is abandoned on her honeymoon and determined to find the missing hubby (Richard Crane), ends up in the Louisiana Bayou where the swamps are thicker than the southern accents. She thumbs a ride with a creepy groundskeeper (Lon Chaney Jr. in one of his most outlandishly bad performances) to the plantation of a sullen widow (Frieda Inescort, deliciously over the top) who denies knowing her husband. But since Garland can't get a train out of this whistle stop until the next day, Inescort is forced to offer her hospitality, which brings out the curiosity of the truth seeking Garland who finds more than what she was willing to bargain for when she does catch up to the troubled husband.

Thanks to a local scientist (George Macready), the ugly truths are revealed, and in a role that Boris Karloff or Basil Rathbone might have played, Macready is shown to have a regretful conscience, adding dimensions to what could have been a cliched mad doctor. Between the swampy landscape and the melodrama of an obviously troubled family, this ends up being a mixture of Tennessee Williams and William Inge with a bit of Hammer Horror thrown into give it an even more gothic twist. The film is fast moving and sometimes unintentionally funny, especially every time Chaney snarls a line or Inescort becomes pompous, but especially with Garland's close presence to alligators and snakes whom she barely even flinches at. Chaney gets a hysterical mad sequence when he drunkenly begins shooting at the alligators, one of whose distant cousins once bit his hand off, living a hook where digits should be. It is so obvious that no effort was made to hide his full arm and hand, and that just adds to the atrocity of his performance. A prologue and epilogue has Garland being analyzed by two psychiatrists (Bruce Bennett and Douglas Kennedy) yet no conclusion is ever given to how she is allegedly cured of her delusions (which they are not sure are her fantasies) which ends the film on a strange note, but the conclusion of the nefarious situation in the swamps is actually quite thrilling even if a sudden change in Crane's appearance will have you squealing with laughter. This is the type of film that you can enjoy in spite of all its silliness, because it does draw you in even if most of what is there is beyond absurd.
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