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The High Chaparral: The Guns of Johnny Rondo (1970)
Season 3, Episode 18
Good show, so-so episode, awful song
7 January 2014
I've always been a fan of "The High Chaparral", even more than I was of "Bonanza", but this particular episode I found to be mediocre at best. Steve Forrest is Johnny Rondo, a notorious gunfighter who has hung up his guns and is on his way to California with his teenage son (Kurt Russell). He gets a job at the Chaparral to make some money for his journey, but three brothers are following him to get revenge for his killing of their fourth brother. Forrest is OK, Russell is OK, the story is OK. The whole episode is just OK--except for the extremely irritating "Ballad of Johnny Rondo" that gets sung almost every few minutes (it seems) by Faron Young for no apparent reason; it does nothing to advance the story and pretty much repeats the same lines over and over, about "16 holes in 16 souls from the guns of Johnny Rondo" and some other lines that are even more trite. It had the same effect on me that the hideous "It's a Small World After All" caterwauling you hear at Disneyland.

As another poster has noted, the episode looks more like a busted pilot for a spin-off than anything else. One of the things I liked abut the series was that much of it was shot on location, but much of this episode seems to have been shot on a soundstage, which makes it look cheap. All things considered, this isn't one of the series' better episodes.
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Fishing Feats (1951)
Narration somewhat annoying, but great fishing footage
5 January 2014
I've always found Pete Smith's nasally voice and wannabe smart-alec delivery to be the worst part of his series of shorts, and this one is no exception, but the great footage of commercial and sport fishing makes up for it. The shots of Chinook Indians hauling in salmon from precarious perches on the rocks alongside a raging river in Oregon are fascinating, and there's a spectacular shot of a sport fisherman battling a great white shark that was so big--750 pounds--it had to be towed back into the harbor after it was caught. There's footage of another sport fisherman landing a marlin in the waters between the California coast and Catalina Island, and some terrific shots of tuna fishermen using huge bamboo poles to catch huge tunas and fling them over their shoulders into the boat's hold, over and over and over; I had always thought tuna were caught in huge nets dragged behind the boat but I had never heard of nor ween this method before.

Overall, one of the better Pete Smith shorts I've seen. It's we3l worth a look.
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Screen Directors Playhouse: Want Ad Wedding (1955)
Season 1, Episode 5
Witless comedy
16 December 2013
William A. Seiter was an experienced comedy director, who guided such classic films as Laurel & Hardy's "Sons of the Desert", but he fell on his face with this one. This forced, unfunny comedy about a goofy navy lieutenant who wins a free wedding in a department-store promotion is beneath Seiter's considerable talents. The script is pure hackwork, with painfully obvious, predictable and unfunny "jokes", the laugh track is incredibly annoying and unnecessary, the performances by a cast experienced--for the most part--at comedy are not particularly good and not helped at all by Seiter's heavy-handed direction. The whole thing looks suspiciously like a failed sitcom pilot, and if that's the case it deserved to fail. It's a complete dud and embarrassing to watch.
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Landis is the best part of the movie
2 December 2013
This "screwball" comedy about lawyers, newlyweds, magicians and disappearing dead bodies is a bit too forced for its own good. Pat O'Brien was an old hand at this type of thing, and it shows, but George Murphy wasn't, and that shows, too--he's constantly trying to keep up with or even upstage O'Brien, but he's not up to it. The convoluted writing doesn't help matters, either, but in movies like this a good cast and director can overcome the script's shortcomings. That's not the case here, however. The slapstick is trite--there's nothing really funny about someone falling into a lake, which happens several times--and although there are some sharp lines in the script, there aren't enough of them to keep the film going.

By far the best part of the movie, however, is Carol Landis. She's a revelation. She has seldom looked more stunning, and the combination of her beauty, sweetly sexy voice and first-rate comedy chops are irresistible (as an extra added attraction, Landis puts in a brief appearance in a bathing-beauty contest; it's only a few seconds, but it's worth it). She has far more chemistry with O'Brien, who plays her nemesis, than she does with Murphy, who plays her husband, and their scenes together really crackle as opposed to her scenes with Murphy, which fall flat.

Overall, it's an OK comedy-mystery that has its moments, but not enough of them. It's worth a watch once, maybe, if only to see Carol Landis at her prime. She would unfortunately commit suicide a few years later, apparently despondent over a failed affair and a stalled career. A sad, sad ending for one of the most beautiful, talented and underrated actresses Hollywood has ever seen.
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Hot Rod (2007)
Stupid, brainless drivel is a miserable failure on every conceivable level
5 November 2013
There's not much that can be said about this steaming pile of offal that hasn't already been said in the REAL reviews here (I don't believe any of the glowing reviews for a second; they were either written by paid shills from the studio or the actors themselves). The dialog is incoherent, brainless, nauseating (especially when Rod is explaining how his father died--"his teeth were ground down to powder and his face exploded through the back of his skull"--or when he's talking to the girl he loves about how he wants to see her "crap yourself". Unf--- ingbelieveable) and as stupid as the alleged "jokes" are, the director doesn't know when to end them and they just go on and on and on. The only person in this sh!tpile who doesn't come across as being severely brain-damaged is Isla Fisher, who doesn't have much to do except look cute and sexy, and she does that adequately. There's only one even remotely funny line in this dud, when a woman gives Rod some money and says "Get the f--k off my porch". There's no phrase that describes this movie better than that.

Other than that, this verminous puddle of excrement has nothing-- absolutely NOTHING--going for it.
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Terrible "comedy"
16 September 2013
I've never heard of Mr. and Mrs. Jack Norworth, and hopefully I'll never hear of them again. This is an absolutely awful "domestic comedy" about a battling husband and wife who do nothing but yell, scream at and insult each other in the bathroom when they get up in the morning. There's nothing even remotely funny in anything they say or do; both are talentless hacks with no sense of timing and don't work together well at all. Their main goal seems to be to outshout each other and there's a very disturbing scene where Norworth puts both hands around her neck and starts to shake her as if he was beginning to strangle her. DIrector Alf Goulding has done way, way better work than this--he directed several good Laurel & Hardy shorts--but this thing doesn't seem to have been directed at all; apparently Goulding just pointed the camera at these two dimwits and stopped a few minutes later.

What a waste of time, film, and everything else. This short is completely worthless. Avoid it at all costs.
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Rogue's March (1953)
Lawford's charm can't save this one
7 September 2013

In this period picture set in the Indian "raj" in the mid-1800s, Peter Lawford is a British army officer framed for espionage by Russian spies and drummed out of the army. He escapes from the police on his way to prison and makes his way to India to gather evidence to clear himself, a task he figures to accomplish by enlisting in the army under a different name. A variation on the old "Four Feathers" story, this low-budgeter from MGM can't make up its mind whether it's a thriller (Lawford trying to clear his name and find the real spies) or an action picture (the British fighting rebellious Afghan tribesmen in the Khyber Pass) and doesn't really succeed at either--you know that Lawford's going to clear himself (he does) and that the British army will win the day (they do). There's some odd casting (Janice Rule is Lawford's British sweetheart but doesn't even try to hide her American accent, Australian actor Michael Pate plays a Cockney soldier with a laughably exaggerated Cockney accent, American actor Richard Hale--who often played Indian chiefs in westerns--plays a Russian spymaster in the same kind of chopped, singsong manner in which he played Indians), and the picture overall is stiff and mechanical; a burst of action at the end isn't particularly well done (although it was filmed on location at the Khyber Pass and uses hundreds of extras), and even Lawford's charm, good looks and way with a line can't really save it.

It's a bit better than most of the innumerable period "action" clunkers Sam Katzman was churning out at Columbia--several of them with the same setting as this picture--at around the same time, but that's about all that can be said for it.
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Movie is fair to middlin', photography is bad to awful
20 August 2013
I won't bother to summarize the plot, as all of the previous reviewers have done so and there's nothing new I can add. As others have noted, this is not one of Scott's best films, or even one of his better ones. Director Edwin L. Marin has done some good westerns in the past--John Wayne's "Tall in the Saddle" comes to mind--but he doesn't seem to have had his heart in this one. Direction is perfunctory, performances are nothing special--although Bill Wiliams as a bitter one-armed cowboy has some good moments--and the action scenes are routine and not particularly well done. The worst thing about the film, however, is the photography. For some reason producer Nat Holt, who had done many of Scott's previous westerns, saw fit to use the cheap, crappy Cinecolor process for this film instead of the much superior Technicolor or Deluxe or even the chintzy Eastman Color, which would still have come out better than Cinecolor. The colors are muddy, everything is way too dark--even the day shots--actors' faces seem to fade into the background, and the major action setpiece takes place at night and the colors are so dark and muddy that, while the battle is certainly noisy, you can barely see anything.

All in all this is a decidedly below-average Scott western. The lousy photography definitely detracts from the film, but it didn't really have anything going for it in the first place.
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Cheap, hammy soap opera/sci-fi hybrid doesn't work on either level
9 July 2013
Low-rent at every conceivable level, this overheated British space opera has a turgid script, laughable "special effects", ham acting--except by lead Bill Williams, a reliable American character actor who usually plays a good guy but here does a good turn as the ship's tyrannical captain--flat and dull photography and isn't worth spending your time on. The story of a crew being sent on a 25-year journey to a habitable planet because Earth is on its last legs had possibilities, but hack director Bernard Knowles shoots everything in the most boring, unimaginative ways possible, without anything even remotely resembling thought, flair, or any kind of style whatsoever. Even low-budget veterans like Edward L. Cahn or Sam Newfield would have given some pizazz to this suffocatingly dull, plodding cheapo. Don't bother with it.
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The Big Mouth (1967)
Of all the bad Jerry Lewis films, this is one of the worst
24 June 2013
Brainless, witless, infantile Jerry Lewis idiocy, worse than most. Poorly written, ineptly directed--Lewis' directorial style seems to be mostly "keep the camera on me as much as possible"--braying "comedy" has Lewis being a dead ringer for a mobster who cheated his associates out of some diamonds and was murdered by them, but they see Lewis and mistake him for the guy they think they killed. Along with his usual bag of completely unfunny "tricks", he pulls out his offensive squinty-eyed, buck-toothed Japanese "character", obviously finding nothing wrong with this incredibly racist characterization.

A stupid, embarrassing mess. Don't waste your time.
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Stiff, talky "action" picture
13 June 2013
Audie Murphy was actually a better actor than he was usually given credit for--he did excellent work in "The Red Badge of Courage" and his own biography, "To Hell and Back"--but you couldn't tell by this low-rent war picture. Murphy pretty much walks through the picture, although co- star Alejandro Rey tries to breathe some life into it. The sloppy direction, poor script, overacting by Gary Crosby (as usual), tired performance by a tired-looking Dolores Michaels and its overall cheesiness combine to make this picture definitely one of Murphy's lesser efforts. A burst of not particularly well done action at the end can't really save it. The ending is predictable, trite and not even remotely believable. Overall, pretty much of a dud.
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Heavy-handed, unfunny "comedy"
8 June 2013
Director Mervyn Leroy has done much, much, much better work over his long career than this mess. Supposedly a "comedy" about airmen at a forgotten Air Force base in Japan who turn their installation into a luxury resort hotel, everything about this picture is second-rate. Ernie Kovacs is a brilliant comedian but he plays it straight here and it doesn't work. Dick Shawn isn't a brilliant comedian and he also plays it straight--for the most part--and it doesn't work, either. The script is ham-fisted, and the supporting performances by a usually reliable cast of good character actors--Jack Warden, Don Knotts, Parley Baer and others--aren't much better than those of the leads. Former model Margo Moore--whose career didn't last very long--is around as Kovacs' love interest, but unfortunately they have absolutely no chemistry together whatsoever, and the "romance" comes across as stiff and forced, which pretty much describes the entire movie.

There are service comedies that are worse than this one--Tommy Noonan and Peter Marshall's 1959 disaster "The Rookie" comes to mind--but there are also many, many better ones. Avoid this dud.
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This was made in 1950? I don't think so
2 June 2013
This cheap--VERY cheap--five-minute short has a chef demonstrating how to use such kitchen utensils as can openers, peeling knives and french- fry cutters, among other things. It's not much to look at--the camera is locked on the chef's hands using the various tools for almost the entire length of the film--but there are several things that make me believe this film was not made in 1950, as stated in the IMDb listing. The chef says his lines in a kind of sing-song cadence that carnival barkers, medicine-show spielers and W.C. Fields used to use. The sound is extremely primitive, with a lot of pops and hisses, such as you'd hear in talkies from the early 1930s. The photography is very grainy, and not at all what you would see in a film--no matter how low the budget--made in 1950. Also, the opening credits are in the kind of art-deco style used in many low-budget films from the early 1930s, especially by Warner Brothers. All of this makes me believe that the film was made around 1933 or 1934, but I'd feel safe in betting money that there is no way this short was made anywhere near 1950.
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Okay, but they've all done better
17 May 2013
This "B" western from Universal Pictures is no better or no worse than most other westerns Universal ground out at the time. It has a good cast who've all done this kind of picture before (and better), a director with a long and extensive background in turning out this kind of western (and better), first-rate cinematography in excellent locations, and a script that's serviceable, at best. The plot of greedy white men trying to push Indians off their land when a valuable mineral--in this case, silver--is discovered underneath it has been done endlessly before and nothing different is done with it here. The climactic battle between the villain's gang and a Comanche tribe is somewhat poorly done--which is unusual for director George Sherman, who usually handles action scenes far better (check out his work on "The Battle at Apache Pass")--but at least it's interesting to see a battle in which the Indians are the good guys and the whites are the bad guys.

Overall it's an OK western, nothing special. It's worth a one-time look, but not more than that.
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Flat "thriller"
18 April 2013
Although it has its moments, "Twelve Hours to Kill" is pretty much a by- the-numbers wannabe "noir" with little imagination, style or flair, hampered by a poor script, leaden direction and overwrought performances by lead actor Nico Minardos and several supporting actors (although Barbara Eden, as the romantic interest, is actually quite good). The story is about a Greek immigrant who witnesses a mob hit and flees to a small town with a pair of hit men after him, and finds out that that the case not only involves murder but police corruption. A director like Phil Karlson or Don Siegel could have made this into a crackerjack thriller, but under longtime hack Edward L. Cahn it's strictly routine. Minardos isn't a strong enough actor to carry a picture, and even if he was the lame script would defeat him.

Other than a young and very pretty Barbara Eden, about the only reason to watch this picture is to see an early glimpse of Gavin McLeod and Ted Knight, later to be such memorable adversaries on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and playing adversaries here, with McLeod as a hit-man and Knight as a cop. Otherwise, there's really no need to spend any time watching this.
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Trail Guide (1952)
Average Tim Holt oater
19 October 2012
Tim Holt turns in a workmanlike job in this run-of-the-mill entry in his long-running series of "B" westerns for RKO. The story about cattlemen vs. homesteaders has been done countless times before, and there's nothing new to be found in the script. The action scenes are OK, the production values are good--as they usually were in this series--and there's a better-than- average supporting cast of veteran western players: John Pickard, Kenneth MacDonald, John Merton, Frank Wilcox. Pretty, but wooden, Linda Douglas is the female interest, and the picture moves along at a satisfactory pace. Tim Holt's westerns were always a bit too cut-and-dried for my tastes and Richard Martin's irritating Chito Rafferty has grated on me from the first time I saw him--the patently phony Mexican "accent" and the "devil-may-care" attitude that he was never able to quite pull off--but on the whole they were better than most of the series westerns at the time, especially the awful Whip Wilson ones from Monogram, and this is no better or no worse than others in Holt's series.
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The High Chaparral: The Arrangement (1967)
Season 1, Episode 2
Good start for the series
15 September 2012
Big John Cannon enters into a marriage of convenience with the daughter of a powerful Mexican cattle baron in order to cement an alliance against rampaging Apaches. Cannon's young son Billy, still grieving over the death of his mother who was killed by Apaches, resents his new stepmother but resents his father even more for getting married "before my ma is even cold in her grave". As if Big John didn't have enough trouble, he learns that Apache chief Cochise is about to lead an attack against his ranch.

This second part of the series' two-part pilot serves as a good introduction to the series. Linda Cristal is fine as the beautiful patrician daughter Victoria Montoya who is Cannon's new wife, Cameron Mitchell is in his element as Buck, Big John's raucous and rambunctious brother. Mark Slade overdoes it a bit as the headstrong but sensitive young Billy, but the climactic Apache attack on the ranch is exciting and well-done. Overall, a very worthy effort.
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Cinema Circus (1937)
Color's nice, girls are pretty, otherwise not much to it
31 July 2012
This 1937 Technicolor short from MGM has many of its and other studios' stars doing small parts or acts in a circus setting. William S. Hart and Rex Bell do rope tricks, Mickey Rooney shows up in a gorilla suit, there's an annoying segment with The Ritz Brothers aping The Three Stooges (and not very well) as audience members gawk at a dozen or so leggy showgirls prancing around in a dance routine, Cliff Edwards does his "Ukelele Ike" bit in a routine with an almost unrecognizable Pert Kelton and another group of leggy showgirls dressed--skimpily, as luck would have it--as Indians, Lee Tracy is the ringmaster, and various other celebrities show up. The Technicolor is nice to look at, as are the bevy of beautiful showgirls, but overall there's not that much to it. Worth a look, though.
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Small Town Security (2012– )
Where in God's name did they find these people?
28 July 2012
At first I thought this thing was, like "Reno 9-1-1", a parody of the brainless, low-rent, patently phony garbage that has come to be known as "reality" TV, as personified by the Kardashians, "Lizard Lick Towing" and other such abominations. However, after watching it for several painful minutes I realized that, unfortunately, these people actually ARE real (for lack of a better word). This jaw-droppingly, stomach-turningly, embarrassingly, hideously awful train wreck of a show consists of a tenth-rate "security" company--I wouldn't trust these people to guard roadkill--headed by Joan, a dull-witted, cigar-smoking, foul-mouthed gargoyle who has an utterly unjustified sense of her own importance who shuffles around the office issuing orders, insulting employees and doing nothing (other than making a complete fool of herself on a local cable-access TV show). Her slack-jawed husband--who proudly wears the most godawful toupee in recorded history, although he seems to be under the impression that no one notices it--is completely cowed by her and can't wait to get out of the house, but is incapable of drumming up any new business. Her "lieutenant" is a female-to-male transsexual who, sadly, thinks he's a combination of Rambo and Conan the Barbarian but comes across more of a combination of Truman Capote and RuPaul. As if he doesn't have enough problems, he also--for some ungodly reason--has a crush on Joan. To top things off, there's a skinny, ugly, stupid, constantly yapping Chihuahua who, if anything, is the perfect mascot for this show. I don't know what rock the producers kicked over to find this collection of bizarros and losers, but if you can sit through the entire 30 minutes of this disaster, you're a better man than I am Gunga Din.

This rancid, steaming pile of offal is, without exaggeration, the worst show ever shown on television on any network, at any time, in any country. It's just not physically possible that there has ever been a show, is now a show or ever will be a show worse than this one is. Ever.
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The second-worst Stooges short ever made
15 June 2012
The worst Stooge short is, without a doubt, "Cuckoo on a Choo Cho", made two years after this, but this is a close second. I can't think of ANY shorts with Joe Besser that are funny, but even the worst of those abysmal efforts pales in comparison with this and "Cuckoo" (as bad as the Joe Bessers are, I'never never given any of them a "2", as I did for this one). No use going over the "plot", as other reviewers have taken care of that. Suffice it to say that this short is almost completely humorless (in that respect it's one up on "Cuckoo", which WAS completely humorless). The Stooges play themselves and their girlfriends, all of them badly. The physical stuff--head butts, eyepokes, etc.--are without exception very poorly done and the "script", for lack of a better word, is witless, the Stooges' delivery is way off and the whole thing is a huge waste of time and should never have been made. It's embarrassing and painful to watch. Skip it at all costs.
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Killer Shark (1950)
Low-grade "adventure" has nothing going for it
2 June 2012
Roddy McDowell (who was also a co-producer, so he has no one to blame but himself) stars in this blah quickie from Monogram about a college student who goes to sea with his father, the captain of a shark-hunting boat, and the troubles that ensue. McDowell is, frankly, not very good in the role; his character comes across as naive, dense and rather stupid. The supporting cast is, for the most part, weak, the script is convoluted and trite, and the only remotely "exciting" thing that happens in the picture is some poorly integrated stock footage of a real shark boat hauling several large sharks--and one VERY large shark-- aboard as part of their catch. There are some phony dramatics involving villain Douglas Fowley, as a shady crew member mixed up with smugglers, and some painfully unfunny comic relief from rotund Nacho Galindo as a cook named "Maestro" who giggles and laughs uncontrollably throughout the picture.

Director Budd Boetticher--billed here as Oscar Boetticher--has done much better (much, MUCH better) work. This film isn't really worth wasting your time on; it's talky, boring and the "fight" scene that occurs near the end of the film is very poorly done. Overall, a real snoozer. Skip it.
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Not Wellman's finest hour
28 May 2012
Routine, by-the-numbers war film made on an off-day by the great William A. Wellman. It's no better, and somewhat worse, than other WW II films of that era, with some sappy and contrived love stories thrown in. Although Wellman hadn't made "B" pictures for years, that's just what this one comes across as--far too much of it is shot on sound stages (apparently to save money on location shooting) which makes it look cheap, as does the surfeit of poorly integrated newsreel stock footage, and what little action there is isn't particularly well done. The script is, to be honest, awful, and the acting--other than Garner, whose first major role this was and who's quite good and Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, who plays an arrogant young West Point officer on his first combat assignment--is for the most part pedestrian, with the tired stereotypes you see in pretty much every war picture: the slow-witted hillbilly, the fast-talking city slicker, the weary veteran sergeant, etc.

Overall, it's slow and boring, with some unnecessary comedy relief thrown in and too much attention paid to the GIs' love interests. Not one of Wellman's better films, by a long shot.
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Nothing special
26 May 2012
Cheap combination of western and teenage rebel flick doesn't work in either genre. Lead Russ Tamblyn doesn't pull off the "troubled youth" bit at all, head bad guy Scott Marlowe's aping of James Dean works even less, and the "gang" of youthful miscreants is about as threatening as The Jets from Tamblyn's later "West Side Story". The producers were smart enough to get a good supporting cast--Walter Coy, Myron Healey, Rayford Barnes--of familiar faces who know their stuff, which is more than you can say for the rest of the cast. Hack writing, amateurish acting, poorly staged "action", sloppy direction--this low-rent programmer has it all. Nothing to write home about. You can do worse than watching this, but you can do a whole lot better, too.
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Has its moments, but overall mediocre
24 May 2012
Lee Marvin is a crazed American serial killer on the loose in Mexico City who kidnaps an 11-year-old boy who is the only witness to his most recent murder. The boy is the son of down-and-out musician Ricardo Montalban, who frantically searches the city for his son and the psychopath who took him, and in the process hooks up with lovely Anne Bancroft. The Mexico City Police Department joins the pair in their hunt. Marvin is quite good for the most part--although he goes over the top on occasion--and Bancroft looks beautiful but doesn't have all that much to do. Montalban, unfortunately, crosses into "ham" on too many occasions, and the ending is trite and pat. Good use of Mexico City locations works in the film's favor, but the less-than-inspired writing, somewhat sloppy direction and Montalban's overacting work against it. Its good points and its bad points more or less cancel either each out, and the end result is that, while the film manages to hold your interest and has some tense moments, it's somewhat overheated and basically pedestrian.

And, contrary to what several posters believe, it is not in any way, shape or form a "film noir" piece.
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Dragnet 1967: The Big Kids (1967)
Season 1, Episode 16
Even preachier than usual
19 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
"Dragnet" had a strong tendency towards preaching and simplistic moralizing, seeing pretty much everything in black-and-white. This particular episode does it more so than most. Friday and Gannon are assigned to the western San Fernando Valley, which has experienced a huge population explosion and a subsequent increase in juvenile crime. They're investigating a rash of shoplifting committed by teenagers, and discover that a ring of youths at a local high school calling themselves "Tbe Mod Squad" requires its members to steal merchandise totaling $20 at local stores in order to belong to the "club". Webb's extremely conservative political and social beliefs are more evident in this episode than in most, and the "causes" of all these problems are shown to be such things as the "new morality" that kids see in the media--Friday's captain complains that "even homosexuality is praised; how do you fight that?"--"permissive" parents, "weird" clothes, and the usual litany of social "ills" that conservatives were complaining about then and are complaining about today.

Some things never change.
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