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24 July 2002
This B&W B-Grader is a far cry from being scarry. On contrary, all of the intended-to-be-scarry scenes are actually quite laughable.

The sound effects are even less of a success: the first of two times that I'd stayed up after-hours to watch this bomb, I had to roll my eyes when I heard what the giant spider sounded like: screeching tires. (Come to think of it, that calls to mind an interesting bit of trivia: Gene Roth, who played Sheriff Cagle, died almost two decades after this turkey's release when he got himself run over.) As for the script--in a phrase: truly uninspired. If anything good can be said of "Earth vs The Spider," it's that there are many, many movies made that were much, much worse!
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Cimarron (1931)
So cliche, you'll wanna shoot yer own hat!
11 October 2001
Warning: Spoilers
***SPOILERS*** ***SPOILERS*** There's not much that can be said about this early-talkie era flick. (I'm hesitant to call "Cimarron" a "film", because I feel that the word is too esoteric.) But what can be said about it...mainly speaks against it.

Take, for example, the overuse of portraying Indians as bad folk. In one scene, the little boy of the flick's lead character--an overbearing and over-ambitious family man who wants to set up a newspaper business-- is playing just outside of his father's office. An Indian kneels down in front of the child. "Hello," the boy says to the Indian, in a very polite manner. The Indian gives him a feather, stands up and walks off.

Yancy Cravat, Jr. excitedly runs inside the office. "Mommy! Mommy!" he shouts, holding up the Indian's gift. "Look what an Indian gave me!"

"How many times do I have to tell you!" she snaps at the boy. "You aren't ever to talk to those filthy Indians!"

Yancy Yates, Sr. (Richard Dix) comes across as a man who speaks with a forked tongue. At the start of the story, he seems to have a definite plan for giving his family a better life. But, we soon enough discover, he's no great over achiever--much less a totally good-moral minded man. His slave child, Isaiah (Eugene Jackson) is one tell-tale sign of this.

Upon his family's first trek to a Sunday morning church service--one

at which, curiously enough, Cravat is to give the sermon--Isaiah tries to come along, dressed up like Cravat, long-tail suit, holster, gun and all. Cravat tells him to go home. "Ya' all doesn't want me to come with ya' ta church?" Isaiah says with a pout.

"No!" Cravat corrects him, patting him on the shoulder. "You don't understand! I want you to stay and guard the house. And if anyone at all comes along... you shoot him dead!"

The characters--not to mention the actors--in "Cimarron" couldn't

act their way out of burlap sacks, despite their obvious efforts. And nothing in the script was any too commendable, either. (Granted: the incomparable Edna May Oliver--notorious for playing the Red Queen in Alice In Wonderland, also released in 1931--actually manages to look good, pulling off her portrayal of a pompous old woman, which is what she's also been best-known for.) But, aside from that, well...

Yancy Yates isn't popular in town from the first week he arrives,

and one of the outlaws decides to shoot Cravat's white hat off as he and his wife (Irene Dunne) are casually walking by. Despite her anger with the man who fired the bullet, Cravat just takes it completely in stride.

Not only was this story not "shooting for realism", but it was very

lacking in several key areas: e.g., Cravat's newspaper isn't ever really seen. (Bulletins and posters, yes--but not any newspaper.)

Perhaps strangest of all, though: this is set in a small town in

Kansas. Yet, for some reason or other, Yancy Cravat is dead-set on

calling his paper "The Oklahoma Wig-Wam."

Really good westerns have always been very few and far between--the only exceptions being Clint Eastwood's so-called "spaghetti westerns" of the late '60s to early '70s. Cliche westerns, on the other hand, are a dime-a-dozen.

If you like cliche westerns, "Cimarron" will do you proud--but, as for me... it did me embarrassment.
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Hitchcock, it's not. It's better.
6 October 2001
Without a shadow of a doubt, screenwriter/novelist Robert Bloch (1917 - 1994) will always be best remembered for the 1960 film that made Alfred Hitchcock a household name: "Psycho"; and young Janet Leigh played what small part she had, in The Bates Motel, to the hilton.

But the four-years-after thriller, "The Night Walker", which starred an actress who'd already been a star for more than a decade had a story line that haunted its lady in distress, rather than having her killed off after one scream.

Irene Trent (Barbara Stanwyck) was a troubled woman from the very start--having nightmares that seemed so real, she didn't know the meaning of the word "reality"; and having a literally-blind, eccentric husband (Hayden Rorke)--who was so demanding of her, that we might as well have wished she got away with murder.

Enter her lawyer and supposed friend, Barry Moreland (Robert Taylor) and a very overbearing "dream lover", (Lloyd Bochner), and you've got the formula for a workable "B" grade drama which, however predictable it might seem, isn't going to be very predictable at all. Throughout the entire story, there's a very gradual, even-paced sort of building-up-of-the-plot.

Had Alfred Hitchcock been handed this script, he'd probably have put in a subtle common-thread of humor. And, too, he'd probably have put himself in a cameo shot, in one scene or other. (Which scene that would've been would be anyone's guess: an observer at the wax figure wedding? Maybe he'd have himself under a hair dryer at Irene's beauty salon.)

But there was no room for that sort of thing, here. The story moved along on an even keel. Even by the time Irene had the final piece of her personal life's puzzle in place, the way the very final scene was to pan out was anything but predictable.

William Castle did one royal job, here, for insomniacs everywhere, for many generations to come.
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A sign of "Its" time
13 August 2001
The first thing I had to wonder, just prior to watching "The Wild Party" was whether or not it was based on the novelette I'd ripped through, just a month or so ago: The Wild Party by Joseph Mancuso March--originally published in 1928. Discovering that this was a very different story was my only disappointment.

It often seems that no small number of people, out there, don't want to give the early days of Hollywood the credit it so richly deserves. And that's sad; as sad as, say, the somewhat dark story behind "It" Girl, Clara Bow--whose mother considered slitting the girl's throat when Clara declared her she wanted to be an actress.

(Fortunately that didn't happen. If it had, film fans of today might not have an inkling of a clue that, even way back then--in the days that would become infamously known as "The Great Depression"--girls just wanted to have fun.)

Clara Bow plays her role of mischievous college girl, Stella Ames, to-the-hilt. And a young, debonaire Frederic March as straight-laced college professor Gilmore is her perfect counterpart.

The way the two begin seeing eye-to-eye may be said to be expected, but not totally predictable--because the antics of Stella Ames and her sorority sisters provide just the right element of subplot. If there was any one flaw in this gem, it was that the sound quality was often so scratchy, I was unsure, now and again, what one actor or another had said.

Still, this in no way detracts from the film's overall quality. (One must taken into account, after all, that 1929 was the infancy of the "talkie" era). Come to think of it, I can

only imagine what a "wild party" '29 must've been for many Hollywood executives and stars alike--the huge stock market crash aside!
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