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Not Your Usual Western Hero
13 October 2019
Victor Jory as a top-billed leading man! I just had to see this role reversal after years of seeing his commandingly villainous roles. Actually it's a shrewd bit of casting since Jory's Gene Stewart is a flawed hero, to say the least. He picks fights, makes stupid bets, and gets sodden drunk; that is, when he's not running guns to Mexico. In short, he's no Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, or even Lash LaRue. So will Stewart ever reform and deserve top-billing hero in an oater. Well, maybe if snobby easterner Majesty Hammond (Sayers) will get off her high horse and give him a job at her new ranch. Then maybe he'll have a chance. (Actually that "high horse" is the renowned Trigger of the popular Roy Rogers series.) But first Stewart will have to deal with baddie Hayworth (Ankrum) who also runs guns Mexico way. Good thing Stewart's got Mexican sidekick Poco (Beery Jr.) to fill-in the cracks.

Jory's adept in his conflicted role, but I'm especially impressed with the stately Sayers' range of subtle emotions. Too bad her career ended rather abruptly. The narrative's first part is mainly in town, but once the scenery moves out to the familiar Alabama Hills, things really pick up. Director Selander makes good use of the rock monoliths, while that impressive series of dynamite explosions looks real and not processed. After all, this is Paramount Studio, so they've got the bucks to back up even a 60-minute programmer like this. So, all in all, catch this rather unusual oater if you can.
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Honolulu (1939)
A Powell Showcase Even If Gracie Steals The Show
13 October 2019
It's the kind of fluffy production big-budget MGM excelled at. Actor Young gets dual parts, one as a heart-throb celebrity, the other as an average Smith living in Hawaii. To escape pressures, each is anxious to trade places with his look-alike twin. So heart-throb Mason goes to Honolulu while Smith goes to New York. Trouble is this reciprocal move pairs each with his look-alike's girl, so complications ensue.

Actually, the plot line is heavier than usual for a musical. Nonetheless, director Buzzell keeps things moving. As expected, Powell shows off her flying feet, while I especially like that first number on shipboard that's quite beguiling. However, it's Gracie Allen who steals the show with her shrill comic antics. However, she's got only one skit with under-used husband George Burns that comes at movie's end almost like it's an add-on for George's sake. Also. don't look for popular tunes among the musical selections, after all it's the dancing feet here that's central. There's some flavor of tropical Hawaii with two hula-type dance numbers, otherwise there's not much location scenery. Typical of the time period is the racially stereotyped humor from Willie Fung and Rochchester Anderson, who, whatever else, are adept comedians. All in all, the movie's a crisply done, well-mounted showcase for Powell, Allen, and Young, but nothing special.

(In passing- for old movie fans, especially of the noir classic Detour {1947}, look for notorious Hollywood bad boy Tom Neal as an ambulance attendant with one brief line.)
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Decoy: The Gentle Gun-Man (1958)
Season 1, Episode 30
He's Not Actually A Bad Guy
10 October 2019
No need to recap the plot thanks to reviewer Kapel. To me the show's high point is when the husky slum-dwelling women descend on poor Casey like a flock of vengeful vultures, their dark coats masking poor Casey's pummeling. It's a moment of riveting action in a cop series that didn't depend on action for its appeal. Rather, human interest again comes to the fore with the unfortunate deli owner Knish. His tender scenes with a sympatico Casey are the entry's focal point. Then too, catch the slum-like streets that Casey traverses and the deli sits on. They're a long way from the fabled Wall St. but add real urban atmosphere. All in all, it's 30-minutes with a Jewish slant to the neighborhood and characters that add ethnic color to the proceedings. So tune in to this solid series entry.
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Funny But Over-Done At Times
7 October 2019
A bumbling sanitation worker can't seem to hold a job or his girl, so she gets him a job as a door-to-door Fuller Brush salesman. But can he with his madcap ways hold on to it, and just as importantly win his girl away from his slickster competition.

I hope Red and Janet got extra pay for all those stunts they do at the bang-up climax. In fact, the 15-minutes of non-stop acrobatics may set a slapstick Hollywood record. I really liked the first part where the bumbling Red goes door to door trying to sell his Fuller brushes. The comedic potential of Red and behind-the-door surprises promises a comedic gold mine. However, the screenplay soon transitions into a murder mystery and from there into a lengthy chase ending in a war surplus warehouse and a wildly acrobatic finale. Of course, there's a lot of funny stuff in the latter two, but still there's little chance to catch your breath between stunts. Piling stunts on like that, to me, lessens the chance of enjoying particularly funny ones. My guess is that ex-Disney cartoonist Frank Tashlin was behind these bouncing, swinging, belly-flop antics. They seem right up his alley.

Anyway, Red proves one of the liveliest comics around, while Blair does a lot more than stand around looking pretty. Still, I'm wondering if Columbia owed sexy blonde vixen Jergens a payday since she sort of drops in and out but still leaves her vampish mark. All in all, it's a funny, if at times over-done, Skelton feature. He's at his peak during this period and there's nobody quite like him, so stay tuned. It may not be his best comedy, but it's sure to tease the funny bone in his inimitable style.
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Almost A Sleeper
5 October 2019
It's an unusually intelligent storyline for a horror flick. In short, what are the ethical limits to scientific experimentation, even in finding a cure for cancer. Using what is now called "cryogenics", Dr. Kravaal (Karloff) crowds those limits while experimenting with a cancer cure on a remote island. Unfortunately, the promising experiments require live subjects who may not be so lucky. Dr. Mason (Pryor), one of the men trapped on the island with Kravaal, is torn by Kravaal's challenge to conventional ethics. So he's the one we sympathize with as we struggle with the same dilemma-- just how much can be sacrificed in finding a cure.

By no means does Karloff ham up his role. Instead he's perfect as a dedicated and distinguished medical scientist, more obsessed than evil. Except for actor Brown's overdone Adams, the rest of the cast also manages conflicted roles. Credit Columbia for the riveting sets-- for example, the cabin about to be eaten by dead plants, the many dingy underground scenes that really do look subterranean, the laboratory that really looks worked in. All in all, it's an unusually well mounted flick for its subject matter. If there's a problem, it's with the absence of a clear bad guy to heighten a sense of horror amid the dark surroundings. I don't get a sense of menace common to the genre. Instead, the 74-minutes is more like a "think piece", which all in all, may be more worthwhile than a good scare.
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Dagwood Gets Cement Shoes
2 October 2019
Wow, is that spider woman Adele Jergens in a Dagwood movie. For a minute I thought I'd loaded the wrong DVD. But no, thank goodness. It's Dagwood and in a pickle, as usual. This time he's mistakenly given Jergens' diamond watch to Blondie as an anniversary present. Now he's got to make good with one of 40's-noir best vixens, or he's in big trouble. Then there's I Love Lucy's favorite neighbor, Bill Frawley, to help him out with a loan-- at compound interest, of course. Worse Dagwood's boss is competing for a big construction project against some swindlers that our hero's inadvertently helped. So now his job's in trouble. Good thing Daisy and her pups are on friendly guard.

All in all, Dagwood gets most of the screen time with Blondie mainly on hand. The flick's a pretty good comedy, though I could use more B&D byplay, the series' main spark. A plot involving crime may lend to viewer interest but may also compete with the comedic parts. That's not necessarily the case here, but to me it's life in the suburbs with our ditzy couple that really scores. Anyway, whatever you do, don't let Dagwood dry your dishes.
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When Camera Was King
30 September 2019
You may need a score card to keep up with the plot, but it's fast-moving enough to slide by. Flash is trying to break into newspapers with his talent for photography. But that involves him with a number of tricky characters wanting to use his photos for their own benefit.

I'm glad that lame first scene in a college frat house is not indicative of the flick as a whole. Actually, the cheapo's pretty well acted, though actor Linden could use more fire, while the director is more concerned with pacing than with atmosphere. And how about Boots Malone. Frankly, I'd like a pair of those Boots, though one would be enough. The actress is actually an engagingly sweet persona, a long way from tough strapped leather. Too bad she left the business early on. This is a movie period when press-room flicks like The Front Page (1931) were popular. Looks like this sub-60 minute programmer from budget outfit Grand National was intended to ride the wave, which it does in fairly entertaining if obscure fashion.
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Deadly Duo (1962)
Pretty Good Little Cheapo
29 September 2019
Smoothly done crime flick. By 1961, 60-minute b&w B-movies were largely a relic of the past. But this little indie with B-movie vets like LeBorg and Lowery show that the skills still survive. So what's the deal with the twin sisters, nice girl Sabena and the vixenish Dara, both played by actress Henderson. They're so alike, yet unalike. Then there's struggling attorney Morgan (Hill) who's hired by rich woman to fly to Acapulco to seal a deal where suddenly widowed Sabena gives up her little son for a half-million dollars. At same time, Morgan will get a fat attorney's fee he badly needs. But once there, Morgan meets Dara and her sinister husband Jay (Lowery) and the charming Sabena. Understandably, widowed Sabena doesn't want to give up son for any money amount even to her mother. However, the grasping Dara and Jay have other plans as they hover in the background. Meanwhile, attorney Morgan's beginning to question the ethics of his mission. Thus tensions rise and we wonder how will things turn out.

Henderson really scores, especially as kittenish Dara. In times past, production would have had to split the screen to get the same performer into the same scene. Here, however, technology has apparently triumphed since no split screens are sealed over by such gimmicks as doors jambs or wall ends. Thus the twins are an excellent effect all to Henderson's thespian advantage. Production also does a good job of inserting stock shots of Acapulco into studio scenery, though I did tire of Morgan driving the same car along the same driveway about ten times over. Anyway, it's a good little B-flick with interesting plot, plausible performances, and smooth directing. So cheapos can still entertain.
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Decoy: Cry Revenge (1958)
Season 1, Episode 29
Lampert Shows Her Stuff
26 September 2019
I'll leave a plot recap to fellow reviewer kapel. As expected from the series it's a strongly acted half-hour, especially Lampert as the quirky Norma. She's really quite riveting as an unpredictable daughter with simmering anger at the world. Too bad the actress never had the career her talent deserved. Chapman too does well as the conniving Farley. Between them that romantic roll on the floor, or should I say roll in the hay, goes about as far as TV censorship of the period would allow. It's surprising given an "Ozzie and Harriet" 1958. And look for drama radio queen Carlon as the emotionally torn mother. Anyway, Garland's Casey doesn't really have much to do, except to get insulted by Norma. Also, don't look for any NYC locales since the drama unfolds indoors. Nonetheless, it's a solid entry in an unfortunately neglected series.
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Rip-Roaring
23 September 2019
Rip-roaring re-creation of WWII in the Pacific. It's more a tribute to Marine Corps fighting spirit than a traditional flag waver, even though it duplicates probably the greatest flag raising scene in US history. Wayne's perfect as the veteran Sgt. Stryker who must ready his squad for combat. At this career stage, Wayne is not yet an icon. Thus he shows his under-stated acting skills that were largely replaced by his sheer iconic presence later on. As a result, his thespic talent is too often under-rated by critics. The storyline, aside from combat, involves Stryker's difficulties with two of his men, played by Agar and Tucker. Tucker is something of a physical rival, while Agar does his duty to a Marine Corps father while rejecting the Corp's spirit. There's also brief time with girls while the guys are on leave, and I especially like the sensitive way Julie Bishop's status as a reluctant hooker is insinuated along with a lot of subtle heart.

Of course, the film's dramatic centerpiece is the lengthy combat footage. Budget-minded Republic went all out here. They blend effectively real war footage along with well done studio set-ups and location re-creations. The latter is largely thanks to the Corps cooperation which involves hundreds of real marine troopers. In fact, that beach-head footage of the assault on Tarawa may be the most intense of any post-war combat film. It's truly scary, as it should be.

Anyway, after seven decades the film may have lost some of its topicality, but the human elements remain, along with a fine turn by America's favorite cowboy, this time as a steadfast and heroic soldier.
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Waste of Lugosi
21 September 2019
The incomparable Lugosi, hidden door panels, and dead men in the cellar, so what else does a dark, cold night need. Well, for one thing, a better director who can bring out the movie's sinister potential. Instead, helmsman Fox films in flat pedestrian style while failing to bring out Lugosi's riveting screen presence. In fact, given the results, almost any Hollywood villain could have replaced the evil ex-Dracula in the central role. On the other hand, the plot has an interesting aspect-- using a charitable soup kitchen on the Bowery as a cover for crime. Why exactly the screenplay complicates that with Lugosi also playing a professor in addition to the soup kitchen proprietor is unclear to me. It only unfocuses much of the plot. Also, there seems to be two leading men heroes, Archer and O'Brien. Given the divided narrative and two heroes, perhaps the writers were trying to blend two different plot concepts. Anyway, be sure to catch Hollywood's real life bad guy Tom Neal in an apt gunsel part. All in all, it's a bungled programmer and waste of the great Lugosi.
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Get Smart (1965–1970)
Goofy Fun
19 September 2019
Goofy spy series satirizing the then popular James Bond movie series. If Bond can do no wrong, agent Smart (Adams) can do no right. Nonetheless, our Control agent somehow stumbles through each contest with evil Kaos thanks to the writers. Adams is perfect in the lead, just convincing enough to make us believe all the nonsense he either says or does. In my book, bringing that off successfully was one of the bigger acting triumphs of the period. Also, shouldn't overlook Feldon's statuesque straight-man or should I say straight-woman role. Note how well she responds to Smart's antics with a subtle roll of her eyes. Then too, Platt makes a convincing no-nonsense head man of the bureau. How he manages such a straight-face amid the nonsense is another triumph. I would love to have been eavesdropping on the laughing crack-ups between takes. One notable question is just who does the evil Kaos band of agents represent. One would think the Soviets since it is the height of the Cold War. Still, most of their slimy agents speak with a German accent. So maybe the writers are trying to finesse a potentially tricky issue.

Anyway, it's a funny show that doesn't really depend on its time period for laughs. After all, goofiness straddles time periods as the perennial Marx Brothers attests. Then too, Smart and Co., including Kaos and especially Feldon, have to be the best-dressed cast in all Hollywood TV. So give it a try if you haven't already.
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Shane (1953)
A Few Remarks On The Subtext
16 September 2019
No need to echo consensus points from 300 reviews. What follows is my brief effort at characterizing the movie's important social subtext.

Besides the first-rate cast, majestic scenery, and excellent script, few Westerns capture the mythic history of the West better than Shane. The battle is really one between two types of society. The Rykers represent a feudal type with their land baron ownership of huge swaths of as yet barren land. I'm glad the script includes struggles they've had in taming the territory for their huge cattle-grazing purposes. It's not like they've sacrificed nothing for their dominant position. No doubt it would have been easy for the film to portray them as unadulterated bad guys.

On the other hand, The Starretts and their neighbors may be squatters on the land, but they represent a different future, one of broad settlement, farming pastures, and cooperative community. In short, they're a communal threat to the Strykers dominance. That's shown in their family gatherings, common purpose, and common desire to come together; that is, if they can resist The Strykers' effort to drive them apart. Actor Heflin's dad Starrett represents this resolve and dedication to the community dream, as well as a strong sense of personal morals, which are just the sort needed in order to lead the transition. He has the guts, but does he have the skills, and that's where Shane comes in.

Of course, it's Shane and little Joey that represent the drama's appealing heart. In short, Shane amounts to the vital transition figure between the old and the new. As a gunfighter, he's a product of the open range of the Starretts, but as an exceptional man who's sampled the Starrett's family life he senses the need for constructive change and is willing to risk his life for it. Meanwhile, Joey, in a meaningful sense, represents the power of Shane's enduring norms, which Joey will no doubt carry into his own and the town's future. Ironically, however, Shane realizes that his strength is also an unintentional threat to the Starrett's cohesion as a family unit-- mom (Arthur) is attracted to him, while he's replacing dad as Joey's adult model. Thus, in the celebrated closing, Shane must ride away into an uncertain future, his contribution to civilizing the West his lasting legacy. At the same time, Joey will chase after the hope of somehow being the good man's equal in his coming years. And our last shot is Shane as he rides toward the majestic peaks he has now earned. Thus concrete events in the film transform into a spirit of the new West.

Anyway, this is my take on what I think is the film's powerful subtext embodied in characters and events. All in all, the movie was a critical hit when I was a kid, and I think it still is.
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Pretty Good Programmer
15 September 2019
The flick's a PRC programmer that manages some suspense. So, will an eager Fowley and Atwill get to the warden before an innocent Parker is executed. It's certainly one of the lengthiest suspenseful countdowns on white-knuckle record. The story's told in flashback as Parker walks the last mile, so things look bad for her from the outset. Then too, it's two of moviedom's traditional bad guys Fowley and Atwill playing good guys, so seeing them as heroes takes some getting used to. Though the exposition gets a little difficult at times, there's a standout nightclub scene where Parker's dress catches afire with a romantic aftermath that solidifies a relationship. The acting is good, except for the wild-eyed Jones whose expressions at times are almost clownish. All in all, it's a decent little programmer that, with a few changes, might have fit into the old Perry Mason TV series.
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Street Corner (1948)
Shirley Temple Meets Sex-Ed
12 September 2019
The doggondest movie I've seen in years. From the title, I was expecting an exploitation cheapo where titillation is concealed in a public service wrapper, Elmer Clifton style. But no. Whatever else the flick is, it's sincere in its anti-abortion and non-marital sex message. But, oh my, what titillation there is is the grotesque kind the Army used to scare recruits away from vd risks. It's sex as anti-titillation.

The narrative itself starts out as a routine teen drama of the time. Middle-class Marcia Mae Jones is the embodiment of girlish innocence. Unfortunately, she gets romantically careless one night with her boyfriend and one thing leads to another. In the censored fashion of the time, her intercourse is conveyed by a dropped flower and her missed period by subtle innuendo. Now, being respectably middle-class, she and boyfriend must marry, except her intended is suddenly killed in a road accident. So now, what is Jones to do. She can't tell her parents who are wrapped up in their own concerns. So what else can she do given her class background but get an abortion and keep outward respectability.

Now, the 1948 movie's rather daring to this point, but not wildly so. But then, out of the blue, we're suddenly exposed to a lecture using clinical footage of live vaginal birth, a C-section, and the grotesque effects of syphilis on both male and female sex organs. I had to pinch myself that such visual explicitness would occur in what appeared to be a conventional Hollywood-type production. But there it is in all icky up-close detail.

To me, the question is where could this package with its x-rated material be shown, especially in Production Code, 1948. My guess is that the x-rated footage could be edited out for commercial neighborhood showing and then re-inserted for instances of special viewing. Because of shrewd storyline construction, I think this could be done without harm to the story or its emphatic anti-abortion message. However that may be, the sudden transition from teen angst to vaginal and penile close-ups is jarring, to say the least.

The production itself is quite competent for a low-budget indie. Jones is sweetly sympathetic in the lead and makes me wish I were her age again. Then too, Crehan, the authoritative voice of proper behavior, manages not to be too off-putting. My only complaint is with the abortionist who's made to look like the ultimate evil in an obvious effort at visual manipulation.

All in all, it's a strange flick impossible for me to rate, and unlike any I've seen in many years of movie watching. I just wish IMDB had more info about it. Anyway, catch up with this genuine oddity if you can, but be prepared, as reviewer Hafer puts it, for a heavy "yuck" factor.
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Caddyshack (1980)
Needs More Gopher
9 September 2019
Mildly amusing outdoor comedy. Given the talent involved, the results are rather disappointing. I get the feeling much of the narrative was improvised as they went along-- the storyline stumbling around in choppy fashion between golf course antics, nude sex, and O'Keefe's effort at raising college money. It's almost like a series of skits minus coherent connecting threads to build on. Nonetheless, there are some generally amusing elements-- the mischievous gopher, with his impish little face and clever effects. I'm just sorry he wasn't given more pranks since the comedic possibilities are a bucket-load. Instead, we get Ted Knight mugging it up in Ted Baxter style, along with a curled-lip Bill Murray doing something or other. Otherwise, it's a boisterous Rodney Dangerfield injecting real energy, while Chevy Chase plays his mystical club member in fairly straight style.

All in all, I expected better given the splash the movie made on first release. Perhaps a sequel with a different director and writers could better tap the rich potential that's clearly there. That is, if our naughty gopher is still in residence.
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Wake Island (1942)
First-Rate Flag Waver
7 September 2019
It's 1942 and the war in the Pacific is still in doubt. Japan has taken the Philippines and is moving on the rocky atolls of the central Pacific. Wake is smack in the middle and of no real value except militarily as a stepping-stone to bigger prizes.

This Paramount production adds up to an expertly mounted flag waver. Sure, maybe the Japanese have taken the island, but viewers are treated to heroic resistance from the Marine defenders that's bound to rally a grim American home front. The battle scenes--air, water, and ground--are realistic as heck, location shots blending almost seamlessly with occasional sets. Then too, the set-up footage of what purports to be an island Marine base is convincing as heck. Clearly Paramount understood the significance of its production.

For old time movie buffs, it's a treat catching the likes of Bill Bendix, Preston Foster, and Brian Donlevy, the former two providing the flick's macho humor. But don't look for skirts, it's an all male cast, understandably. And except for the tricky Japanese diplomat in the first part, the enemy is not parodied, rather surprising given the circumstances. All in all, the 80+ minutes amounts to a first-rate tribute to American fighting spirit even under impossible odds. However, if you don't like movie bullets or explosions, steer clear.
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Decoy: Ladies Man (1958)
Season 1, Episode 28
Drama on High
5 September 2019
A highly dramatic episode. Each of the three leads-- Tolan, Nettleton, and Harvey-- gets a chance to emotionally shine. Garland's policewoman, of course, keeps a cool guiding head and a good thing too. (Am I mistaken or has Garland been somewhat glamorized, especially the eyebrows.) Plot-wise, nut-case Tolan hates his emotional dependency on women causing them and him terrible distress. He appears one of the more twisted characters in the series itself. Also, the climax amounts to a riveting slice of "what will he do".

All in all, I agree with reviewer paularoc: the boxed gun used to shoot Nettleton is quite a stretch. In fact, in my book, the whole episode appears more contrived than usual. Nonetheless, the compelling characters override plot difficulties while Rosenberg's direction, especially close-ups, remains dynamic. So fans of the series, women especially, should tune in.
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Brando's Breakout
2 September 2019
A prestige movie at the time, it's one that we folks were supposed to extol as a slew of Oscars and suddenly cool torn T-shirts can attest. However, except for Brando, I think its appeal has dwindled over time. Above all, ASND amounts to a filmed stage play with all the pitfalls therein-- a confined set, lengthy dialogue, and no action. In short, the result poses a contest for viewers to sit through. Of course, it's the performances that are supposed to grab you, and Brando's explosive Stanley does that with a one-note performance that amounts to crashing household goodies at a moment's notice. I guess that's supposed to make up for the static staging.

Anyway, it's Leigh as the hapless Blanche who gets the spotlight and an Oscar. However, her turn strikes me as relentlessly theatrical. She doesn't just register an emotion, she flourishes it in theatrical style. And since she's in most every scene, the exposure's unrelenting. No doubt, Blanche is a plum role-- a refined upper-class woman deprived of her privileged background, having gone through stages of degradation and now in a mental down spiral. Maybe a new life in New Orleans with sister Stella and romance with gentleman Mitch can reverse the down trend. Well, it might if Stella could divorce herself from brutal husband Stanley who despises Blanche's refined ways. But apparently his macho potency is more than the sweet-natured Stella can break with. This is really the central tragedy of the story, though we have to infer it. Of course, in 1951 such topics as masculine potency could only be implied and Brando embodies it to the proverbial T. To me, however, it's Kim Hunter who really delivers in award fashion as sweet-tempered Stella. It's clearly a subordinate part to Blanche by helping highlight her sister's miseries. Nonetheless, Hunter brings off the sympathetic role in fine non-sappy fashion.

No need to go on. All in all, the movie (but not the subject matter) remains a product of its time, whose lasting impact, along with some memorable lines, was to confirm Brando's rebellious reputation and skyrocketing fame.
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Slickly Done Madcap
1 September 2019
Guess I won't be going to Warsaw, Vermont, anytime soon. They speak only two abrupt words there and everyone except Lombard looks like The Wicked Witch of The East. No wonder Lombard wants to get the heck out even if she has to pretend to be dying to do it.

The Selznick production's a first-rate effort all the way around, from colorful sets to snappy direction to vibrant acting. The premise is a tricky one- deceiving popular emotions by faking death, but the Selznick crew brings it off in astute madcap fashion. It's the kind of material that could go badly wrong without sure hands to guide it.

Lombard calibrates nicely in the central role, while the boisterous Connoly almost steals the show with a flashy performance. In fact, his newspaper editor is assertive enough to rescue General Custer. On the other hand, reporter March has to low-key it as Lombard's sensible advisor. And did I imagine it or does Lombard, wittingly or not, flash a bandaged middle-finger salute during the dance numbers. Also, NS is apparently (IMDB) the first comedy to be filmed in color, the process then being only a year or so old, but you'd never know it from the print I saw.

Anyway, seldom does Hollywood combine disparate elements as slickly as here, even when some story elements are touchy. All in all, I would think the Wellman helmed flick amounts to one of the radiant Lombard's best.
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Clifton's Unfocused Mix
29 August 2019
The premise may be a stretch but does hold some interest. Too bad Clifton's direction mangles the potential. So why does Hobart leave a strange letter with kindly soul Whalen along with several thousand dollars. Whalen's to hold the letter until a large remaining sum is paid him. If the money is not paid, he's to open the letter and see that justice is done whatever that might mean. And, oh yes, the transaction is to take place after Hobart's death which she implies is imminent.

Yeah, the plot's kind of involved. Still, we wonder what's in the mysterious envelope, why Hobart is to die, and what would be the required justice. Unfortunately, director Clifton undercuts the mystery with no atmosphere, silly comical characters, and a meandering narrative (he's also a co-writer). Fortunately, actress Hobart gives the story what impact it has; at the same time, leading man Whalen's character is both a stretch and blandly played. For me, the best part are the nightclub acts and Woodbury's revealing tight skirt.

Overall, the flick's a wasted opportunity. I'm just sorry RKO, for example, didn't get a shot at the material during its 40's period of dark shadows and ironical fate. Then we might have had something memorable instead of a belly flop.
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Dangerfield vs. Shakespeare in a Laugher
25 August 2019
The comedy's a Dangerfield showcase. He gets to mug it up no matter the situation, so if you're not a fan, skip it. To me, however, the comedy flick is hilarious, as Melon (RD) throws his weight around with a fist full of dollars and muscleman Burt Young to help. So what does rich guy Melon care about proper behavior when it's only money that counts. After all, he's already conquered the business world; so conquering academia in order to help his son should be a snap. Never mind that once enrolled he looks like an overripe melon in a classroom of tulips. And get a look at all those tulips in skirts. All in all, it's a rich setup perfect for the comedian's brand of blubbery humor. I especially like his encounters with snobby Professor Barbay; it's like Curly of the Three Stooges facing off with Mr. Stuffy Stone Face.

Nevertheless, there's an apparent subtext underlying the robust humor. Namely, can college's intellectual refinements really prepare graduates for a real world jungle. Here the screenplay gets a little muddy in working things out. So the script tackles the opposite-- namely, does the jungle prepare for the classroom. Here Melon figures college will be a cinch, even for an aging fat guy. After all, he's already proven his jungle skills with a bag of money and knowing the right people. But the challenge turns out to be tougher than he thought, since his tools will only take him so far amidst a room full of Shakespeare and Shelley. So, perhaps there are limits to his jungle success. But whether the classroom prepares for the jungle is less clear.

Nonetheless, the flick's full of laughs, tapering off somewhat near the end as the more serious threads emerge. Still, who can forget Sam Kinnison's hilarious professor who could scare even me into studying. His monstrous grouch amounts to a touch of inspiration. All in all, the porky comedian shows he can be as funny on the big screen as he is on the small.
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A Sturdy Mediocrity
22 August 2019
Nothing remarkable here. Nonetheless the programmer reflects quality Hollywood craftsmanship even at lowly Republic Pictures level. Floundering songwriter Pryor wants to help equally floundering songstress Bradley. Both are talented and together they show promise, she trilling his words and music. Trouble is both are blackballed in the industry through mix-ups. Thus they struggle to win their rightful place, and just as importantly, by remaining together.

Bradley was new to me, but she's quite winning in the role, projecting both sweetness and dedication. Too bad she retired early to become Hopalong's real life wife. The songs and staging are entertaining without being memorable, while Newell and Kelton supply occasional comic relief. Also, it's kind of nostalgic for us geezers to see how radio programs were put together during that era. Anyway, it's the kind of light entertainment that kept old time movie-goers coming back for more Hollywood escapism, even if it was at the bottom of a double-bill. So modern day viewers could do a lot worse.
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Sex, Blood, and Got-cha's
19 August 2019
A 10 on the Horror Movie Scale.

A sex, blood, and got-cha classic, no doubt about it. So who's splattering the new camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake and why. It's this mystery that carries the storyline leaving little time for character development except for Alice, who evolves from defenseless teen to aggressive survivor. Otherwise, it's attractive hormonal kids parading around in their underwear or playing 'strip Monopoly' a nifty variation on the board game usual. Too bad the kids keep disappearing. Wisely, the horror movie's gore is not overdone to a sickening degree as in many horror movies. Instead there's just enough to give us a sudden jolt. Then too, the ending's thoughtful enough to leave us wondering whether there is a real curse after all, and whether Alice will be next.

No need to go on after so many reviews. All in all, I can see why the cheap flick struck a popular chord and a gold mine-- the photography is unerring and underrated. Also, a special tip of my geezer cap to the enchanting Robbi Morgan, whose Annie makes me doubly yearn for those innocent teen years. Meantime, don't watch this alone, but especially not if you hear rain hitting from somewhere you can't be sure.
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Catch The Grabber First Part
18 August 2019
That slam-bang opening creates a problem for all that follows. Too bad the remainder settles into rather listless soap opera. In that opening grabber, Robson's old street lady is an untamed alcoholic firebrand who shreds judge Daly's courtroom like a ragged tornado. She cares nothing about the court's staid dignity or the assembled onlookers. It's a heckuva act like nothing I've seen. But where do you go from there with 70-more minutes to fill. Well, the old lady gets adopted by court order by fan dancer Lombard who aims to tame and bring out the motherly good in her. Then too, Lombard herself wants a new career while being pursued by wealthy suitor Pryor. Maybe now an adopted mother can help her. So, will the changes each needs really take hold.

Too bad the follow up fails to rise above the strictly conventional, not helped by Pryor's lack of charisma. Lombard, however, shows her talent with a nicely under-stated performance conveying both sensitivity and depth. All in all, the two lead actresses prove better than the conventional material. But who can forget Robson's early tour-de-force that leaves the stereotype of nice old lady in cinematic shreds, which is about the only reason to catch up with this antique.
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