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Excellent cast, writer, director, and Leo Gordon and Barry Kelley have their best roles
4 December 2019
Leo Gordon too often was given the part of a sniveling villain, but here he gets to show that his talent would let him play almost anything.

Prolific, theater-trained Barry Kelley was on screen possibly more than in any other role, and did he make the most of it!

Virginia Mayo, one of the most gorgeous and talented women in the history of the world, is not just decoration: She has a pivotal role, including being a mother.

Joel McCrea probably never played any part badly. And just his appearance, his bearing, added strength and credibility, including here.

In fact, all the players were so great, the story almost doesn't matter -- but it does. Based on a Louis L'Amour story, this plot is involved but completely plausible. And it has lots of characters who are important to the development, who have their moment on screen.

One is played by Tom London, who first appears as only atmosphere, then stands out in a dangerous moment. (According to one of those "believe it or not" outfits, Tom London was in about 2,000 movies! Usually, as here, not given on-screen credit. Thank the heavens we have IMDb!)

Praise must be given to the prolific -- that means "busy" -- Thomas Carr. He is probably best known as a TV director, including of many of the "Adventures of Superman" entries, but he obviously knew how to present motion pictures.

Only the blah and generic title gets any, and mild, criticism. This is one great movie, which I highly recommend, and point out there is a very good print at YouTube. Enjoy.
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Word master Oscar Wilde's play as a silent movie?
3 December 2019
Perhaps only Ernst Lubitsch could have created this masterpiece, a play by one of the world's greatest users of words turned into a silent motion picture.

I remember seeing this at the late and very lamented Silent Movie Theatre on Fairfax in Los Angeles, in the 1970s. And I remember marveling then how Lubitsch was able to create such a magnificent work.

Yes, he had the help of superlative actors -- May McAvoy's performance was truly a revelation -- and of course had the basic Wilde play as well as Julien Josephson's adaption, but it's his camera placement and where the actors performed that make this such a wonder.

I cannot recommend too strongly this "Lady Windermere's Fan," but when you go to YouTube, be careful to check out the various editions before you settle down to watch. One is terrible, but the one I saw is great. Worthy of a great movie.
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Great acting, directing, script
26 November 2019
Republic had access to the best cowboys and the best stunt men and to some of the best actors generally. And here that great studio also had one of the best -- although terribly under-rated -- directors, R.G. Springsteen.

And in Bob Williams they had a very skilled writer.

It all came together for an almost perfect movie.

Gail Davis never looked better, and she is very worth watching, not just for her looks, but for her expressions. Eddy Waller has one of his best roles, and he grabs hold with both hands. Prolific actor Jim Nolan shows, again, why he was so busy, and makes us wonder why he wasn't even busier.

The prolific Mauritz Hugo steals many of his scenes so we don't wonder at all why he kept busy, but, again, we wonder why he isn't even better known.

Writer Williams gives him some good scenes, and, as a good writer should, he allows many characters to speak and participate. There is both humor and action in this excellent Western.

I highly recommend "Death Valley Gunfighter," which can be found in an often too-dark print at YouTube.
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Red Ryder: Gun Trouble Valley (1956)
Season 1, Episode 0
Great cast with lots of action, but some didn't make sense
26 November 2019
Too often, writers of Western action had characters jump into gun battles without knowing why or whom they were fighting. That happened once in this half-hour TV show that was apparently supposed to be a pilot for what should have been a popular series.

Well, the action, especially the fight scenes, was great, but the dialogue, especially that of "Little Beaver," was pretty bad.

So, ignore that, and the story hole, and enjoy this otherwise well-done Western, which you can find at YouTube. It might make you wonder why it didn't become a series, but it will remind you why we like Westerns.
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Dancing Feet (1936)
Lots of great dancing from excellent cast, however ...
17 November 2019
Other than the strange idea of dance lessons over the radio, this is both a lot of fun and a picture to admire for the talent of a superlative cast.

Bios here at IMDb don't mention that Eddie Nugent and the adorable Joan Marsh are pretty darn good dancers. That's puzzling to me.

But dancing is as much a part of the plot here as is the poor little rich girl trying to make her own way in life to show her grand-father she can.

Joan Marsh, to repeat, is adorable. She is a lovely lady just to look at, and her facial and body movements show her to be extremely talented.

Eddie Nugent is listed first in the on-screen credits, though Ben Lyons leads here at IMDb, and he is certainly better known.

I was not at all familiar with Nugent or Marsh, but now I will look for more of their work.

Isabel Jewell is the second female lead and, as usual, she always gets our attention, in every one of her scenes. She is a real icon of movies of this era, with a wonderful voice and tons of talent.

This is light entertainment, not trying to send any message or to be a classic motion picture, but it is so charming and so much fun to watch, it will be watchable perhaps long after some of the classics and alleged classics wear out their audiences.

There is a good version at YouTube and I highly recommend "Dancing Feet."
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Back Page (1934)
Ah, for the days of real, honest journalism
16 November 2019
As a former journalist myself, I almost always love these movies about small-town papers, or crusading big-town papers.

"Back Page" seems so unlikely today, with, in fact, reports earlier today, 15 November 2019, that the Gannett chain has been bought by a company with the word "investments" in its name.

In other words, it will probably be even less interested in news, but even more in profits, than was the Gannett operation.

"Back Page" is about journalists seeking to report news, as well as win and keep advertisers.

"Back Page" also benefits in having a perky, lovely, adorable Peggy Shannon as the forceful news reporter. She was an extremely capable and watchable actress, but never reached the acclaim she should have, and then died very young from a heart attack.

Claude Gillingwater is really the number two player, getting the chance to demonstrate his great talent by showing a wide range of emotions.

Harry Chandlee's story of small-town chicanery makes a good film, and I appreciate it more than most, perhaps, because I know of so many real-life parallels.

This is the kind of low-budget picture that shows the big-budget people how to make a good movie, with a strong story, talented cast, and high production values. I highly recommend "Back Page," and a good version is available at YouTube.
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Class war added to battle of the sexes marvelously performed
16 November 2019
This very clever and intelligent premise is performed by an extraordinary cast.

There are only two flaws: 1) All the characters are supposed to be Hungarian, but the daughter of the Count and Countess Sandor is the only one with an accent -- and the actress is actually French.

2) No time is set for the story, although it might be contemporary with its production, which is late 1930s, but there is both alleged poverty in the country, though never shown, and wasteful extravagance by the aristocracy. The cure offered for this situation will probably sound familiar to anyone watching the Democrat presidential primary race in 2019: government control and redistribution.

However, the opposition party wanting to end the poverty-stricken situation does want lower taxes, putting it in opposition to the 2019 Democrat Party, also.

There is some wonderful and moving dialogue from the several writers, although the original author seems to be Leslie Bush-Fekete, who probably deserves most of the credit.

Britain went through its class upheaval after The Great War, or World War I, since "mere" servants sometimes became officers while the sons of aristocracy were privates who had to take orders from "the lower classes" and, after the war, it was impossible for that class-distinction situation to return. ("Downton Abbey" dealt beautifully with that premise.)

How conditions and situations in Hungary were, a better historian will have to tell us. But however accurate "The Baroness and the Butler" is, there is truth here even if the facts are wrong.

There is a good print at YouTube and I highly recommend "The Baroness and the Butler" for a poignant and inspiriting 80 minutes.
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Police Story: Cop in the Middle (1974)
Season 1, Episode 14
Sad story about cop who makes one mistake
14 November 2019
Three of my favorites star in this excellent but heart-breaking entry: Chris George, Glenn Corbett, and Donald Barry.

The cast is just one reason to watch this. The story is another.

Police spend a lot of time and energy and manpower -- meaning taxpayer money -- trying to topple a leading criminal ... but, wait: Is he really a criminal?

The target of this police activity, at such taxpayer expense, is a gambling czar.

He offers a service to certain people who are after that proverbial "something for nothing." Which includes almost every person, such as the one who plays the horses, or who plays bingo at a church, or who buys a state-sponsored lottery ticket, or who plays a football pool at the workplace.

In the Los Angeles area, where the "Police Story" dramas take place, are several horse-racing facilities, and they also offer gambling.

Heck, Las Vegas is a short bus or train or plane ride or short drive, and there certainly is every kind of gambling there.

But non-licensed, non-government-sanctioned, gambling is still illegal. For reasons primarily of enforcing the moral and/or religious code of some people.

And such so-called "victimless crimes," or "consensual crimes," are still the primary focus of police all across these United States.

Since even the respective police officers themselves often see no real crime in gambling, they can sometimes become susceptible to bribes.

That kind of corruption is at the center of this show.

I hate to see Chris George play a bad guy, though he is so talented, he makes his character awfully believable. And I think most of us will still pull for him, wanting him to be able to make everything right.

How his character works out the situation is convoluted and tricky, but I think the most important lesson is this: Government has no business telling people how to live their own lives.

Trying to outlaw vices is both foolish and immoral, and creating such laws does more to create crime and, worse, to lead to corruption of law enforcement agencies.

Chris George and his fellow performers and the writers of "Cop in the Middle" have, as usual, given us an engrossing hour; but they have also given us a lot to think about.
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My Sister Eileen: The Photography Mix-Up (1960)
Season 1, Episode 1
Good beginning to a series
12 November 2019
For some reason, no explanation is given and apparently one must have seen the movie first to understand the setting, although if one watches long enough, one will catch on: Two sisters are in New York City trying to establish their respective careers, Ruth as writer and Eileen as actress.

From that nice-enough premise, we have a story, here in Episode 1 of Season1, that plays upon the looks of the gorgeous Shirley Bonne, who plays Eileen, and the apparently endemic problem of women trying to succeed in any business as other than go-fer or sex symbol.

But this show has some of the finest actresses, with Elaine Stritch as Ruth, and the wonderful Rose Marie as Ruth's best friend Bertha.

Yes, there are some good actors also, including especially Leon Belasco as the sisters' landlord.

This is not timeless classic entertainment, perhaps, but it's very good TV. And it's available without commercials (maybe) at YouTube.
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Lots of fun, as Sylvia Schnauser writes of her 51 loves
12 November 2019
Frequently over the top, this entry still has some very funny moments, and some very funny situations, and some very funny guest stars, including the prolific Charlotte Rae in the title role, and Charles Nelson Reilly as a suspect publisher.

Charlotte Rae actually played the continuing role of Sylvia, wife of Patrolman Schnauser, who was played by Al Lewis, a regular on the show.

This entry had one of the largest casts and all the players were necessary as the running gag kept running.

"Car 54" had so many episodes per season, it's a real eye-opener to modern TV audiences who think a "season" is about 13 entries. Probably not every show could be a hit, but so far, the ones I've seen have provided laughs and an appreciation of what talent those early TV creators had.
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Car 54, Where Are You?: Boom, Boom, Boom (1962)
Season 1, Episode 17
WHO is that singing?
12 November 2019
As the boys from the 53rd Precinct try to win a barbershop quartet singing contest, naturally the rest of the world refuses to co-operate.

Muldoon is the lead tenor -- and either Fred Gwynne has a magnificent voice, or he is an excellent lip-syncher! -- and must be protected ... and naturally the rest of the world refuses to co-operate.

Jan Murray guest stars as the nerves-of-steel TV star Jan Murray who is one of the judges of the contest ... and naturally the rest of the world refuses to co-operate.

To someone who is trying to see the entire series, via YouTube, this might be the best entry. Yes, it's a bit over the top, since it is TV, but it's seldom silly and it's often dead-mark-right-on.

Shot on location in New York, the series is a fascinating look at the era ("... Khrushchev's due at Idyllwild ..."), and a real delight for anyone who appreciates the type of humor Nat Hiken was so good at. And I do.
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La hantise (1912)
Astonishing early movie that even includes the Titanic
11 November 2019
Though very old-fashioned in that most scenes are set as for stage viewing, that is, with the camera locked down and not moved, this 107-year-old motion picture is pretty amazing.

It's well acted and the intertitles do not intrude too much.

It's French and seems rather advanced for 1912, but then I need to be reminded the Lumiere Brothers were considered co-inventors of the motion picture.

And the "special effects" must have intrigued, if not shocked, audiences of that era, and genuine footage of one of the ships involved in rescuing survivors of the Titanic is also inserted.

Very well worth the time to watch, if only for the historical value.
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Tragic Error (1913)
Astonishingly well done for 1913
11 November 2019
Good acting, great camera work and directing more than make up for the truncated script. intertitles last too long and too much of the story is told off screen or by intertitle, but the quality of acting and the mobile camera will keep any viewer watching. The print at YouTube is also astonishingly good, and the music behind it is appropriate and adds to the movie rather than intruding. I highly recommend "Erreur tragique" to, especially, fans of movie history.
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The Only Way (1970)
"A lesson to us all"
3 November 2019
That lesson is multi-layered: German National Socialism was not just about destroying Jews -- it was about destroying individuals and individualism.

Another lesson: Because demagogues can, often easily, arise and take control of governments, it is important, in these United States, to honor our Second Amendment. (You will see the usually peaceful Danes take up arms against the invader.)

This powerful motion picture is based on the true story of how the people of Denmark, almost unanimously, arose against a tyrannical and murderous invader to protect and defend a persecuted minority.

It is mostly very well done, especially the score by the magnificent Carl Davis, and the superlative acting. Directing and editing were not quite up to the script or the acting (and the haircuts seemed anachronistic), but this is a movie I can highly recommend.

As shown here, even the German invaders, as individuals, probably draftees, could often be humane and decent, just more people caught up in the viciousness of government. But war doesn't pay much attention to individuals, except as targets, as cannon fodder.

The single most important lesson for us all is that each of us, individual human beings, are valuable for our own sakes. Each of us is sovereign, each of us is self-owned and we must remember and we must remind others.

Freedom is our proper and natural condition, and each of us must remember that, must remind others, and must work to protect that freedom, must work to save other individual human beings from tyrannical government.

"The Only Way" is now almost 50 years old, and the incidents it portrays are more than 65 years in the past. Yet tyranny and mass persecution are always just around the corner.

Honor those brave and generous Danes, and remember this lesson: Government is always a danger, and most especially when it forgets that "We, the People" are sovereign individuals, when it concentrates (as 2019 politicians are doing) on groups rather than individuals, and when it assumes such total control over individual human lives.

I urge everyone to see this film, which is available at YouTube.
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The Westerner: Line Camp (1960)
Season 1, Episode 10
Great performance from Robert Culp
30 October 2019
Guest star Robert Culp was unusually animated in this entry to one of the best TV series I've ever seen.

"The Westerner" was truly an adult Western, and Brian Keith was surely the perfect actor to star.

In this entry, he is backed by one of the best cast ensembles of not only this series, but of any comparable one.

Tom Gries was writer and director of this Sam Peckinpah-produced show, and he and his cast have created a classic, though relatively unpleasant, story. I can't recommend it highly enough. Available at YouTube.
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The Slowest Gun in the West (1960 TV Movie)
Some of the best bad guys in the West
24 October 2019
Finding this by accident on YouTube, I was excited because I vaguely remembered watching it on TV, 'way too many years ago.

I had not remembered it as a Phil Silvers special, for some reason. But watching it and him, I was again reminded what a really fine actor he was.

Yes, he generally played the similar kind of bluff con man, but watch his face. Watch his body. He was incredibly expressive, so very much in control.

Jack Benny also very much played his well-known character, but, again, watch him, closely. He really could be a good actor. And was in this funny story.

Then we were given some of the very best villains ever filmed, including Bob Wilke and Lee Van Cleef and Jack Elam. And they and all the others were so excellent in their portrayals, I can't help wondering why this little gem of a TV movie is not better known and presented more often.

It has one flaw: That intrusive and annoying laugh track. There is absolutely no good reason for such interference.

But I highly recommend "The Slowest Gun in the West" for a less-than-an-hour's entertainment
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The Dick Van Dyke Show: One Angry Man (1962)
Season 1, Episode 24
So much good for just one short episode
18 October 2019
On top of the extraordinary regular cast, this courtroom show added the great Herb Vigran (whom I had the pleasure of meeting when he was in a play, "Merton of the Movies," too many years ago), the also great Patsy Kelly, veteran Herbie Faye, Doodles Weaver (rather hidden as the bailiff), and the adorable Sue Anne Langdon as the ditzy defendant.

Clever writers have a defense lawyer named "Burger" and a prosecutor named "Mason," with "Burger" played by the veteran talent Dabbs Greer.

This script is good enough in itself -- after all, "The Dick Van Dyke Show" is considered one of the very top shows in all TV history -- but to see the extraordinary collection of talent makes this a genuine must-see show.

I highly recommend "One Angry Man," available at YouTube.
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There is a lesson here for young people chanting "socialism"
18 October 2019
By great good fortune, I was able to watch this on Kanopy, a service of some public library systems. I had never heard of it before. I watched it tonight, 18 October 2019, frequently with tears in my eyes seeing how totalitarianism destroys families and individuals. "The Silent Revolution" -- or in a better translation from the German, "The Silent Classroom" -- needs to be seen by everybody, especially today's ignorant and/or misinformed young people who chant, usually mindlessly, "socialism" and "socialism" and "socialism." They're being misled by demagogic cries of "free, free, free," but the people, including the young people, will not be free. They will be, as were the young people of the Communist Bloc nations, herded into obedient groups, not allowed to question, not allowed to keep their own property or, ultimately, their own lives. Reading the other reviews, I am horrified and disgusted at the number of apparent communists or communist sympathizers who thumbed down the favorable reviews, though I have seen exactly that reaction to another true-life film about communist oppression, "Eleni." It's rare enough to see a motion picture describing the truth about the horrors and terrors of life under communist oppression, so I am very grateful to the producers of "The Silent Revolution," and grateful to Kanopy for letting me see it.
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Police Story: The Ho Chi Minh Trail (1973)
Season 1, Episode 5
Superlative cast in another story of how dangerous the Insane War on Some Drugs is -- for all of society
16 October 2019
When such superlative performers can be gathered into one cast for one series entry, we should realize just how great this "Police Story" series was and is. Even after all these years.

Every player is so completely believable, it would be hard to highlight any one.

Besides being top-notch entertainment, there is a double plot line and message: A policeman's lot is not a happy one and a policeman's wife's lot is possibly worse, yes, but there is another point not clearly explicated: Why are lives and resources put to such risk?

The police brag about having captured a "record amount" of some particular drug, of "having taken it off the street," but all that really means is the price to the ultimate consumer, the addict, goes up.

Sorry, but the iron laws of economics apply: Lower supply for unchanged demand equals higher price.

So the addict might have to burgle more homes, or hold up more convenience stores, or turn more tricks.

What such shows, and what the "news" and entertainment media and the government school systems nearly always fail to tell us is that, besides those iron laws, there is a moral failure too.

Most people, including the users, agree that "drugs are bad." But is it really intelligent or practical for there to be laws against them?

In fact, what we do not get told, as we should, is that it is the laws that create the societal problems. Especially the crime.

Nations and other jurisdictions that have decriminalized drug use have seen a huge drop in crime and the costs of crime.

Crime-fighters make good TV shows and movies, but, in real life, using police as soldiers in the Insane War on Some Drugs is expensive in money, property, and lives -- and, far worse, in restrictions on lives of even the most innocent.

"Police Story" continues, after all these years, to be a TV series standing high in my estimation. Even when I oppose the laws and government actions involved in this kind of story, I highly recommend this series and this entry.
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Womanhandled (1925)
Cute exposition of how the grass is always greener
15 October 2019
Richard Dix gave, in my opinion, one of his best performances, with a different type of character from what we usually expect.

Leading lady was "American Venus" Esther Ralston, who was still active in TV until the 1960s.

They were surrounded by mostly forgotten actors but who should be remembered for their talent.

Apparently there is a reel or more missing, so some of the narrative seems pointless or out of place, but what is here is fun and very well worth watching -- although the print at YouTube is fuzzy and hard on the eyes.

But for a pleasant hour of gentle fun-poking at some stereotypes, I highly recommend "Womanhandled."
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Very good story marred by some poor acting and too low budget
10 October 2019
Christopher Forbes would, in a more civilized world of more reason and knowledge, be called a renaissance man: He does it all, including writing, acting, even scoring.

As a director, he gets some great shots, with impressive framing and angles, but, alas, too many of his actors really aren't.

His leading lady here, Heather Clark, is an exception. She has some talent, probably some training, and looks believable on camera.

Some carp that she is not a believable boy, but in those circumstances she could have been accepted as a young boy. Other than her very pretty face, her female attributes are hidden by her clothes.

Writer Forbes, about whom I can find no information, seems to know his history. But I have one carp about the reference to that horrible prisoner of war camp, Andersonville.

There is a somewhat vague reference to an attempted raid that would have freed the Yankee prisoners from that obscenely over-crowded prison. "General Sherman" tells his subordinate general he expects that some of the freed prisoners would be able to re-enter the fighting units.

The commander of that camp was hanged by the vengeful Yankees after the war but, in fact, the Confederate government had tried and tried to effect a prisoner exchange, and the federals kept saying no. They wanted their own people to suffer, to be kept penned up, hungry and without medical care. If they had agreed to the exchange, it would have saved a lot of lives of their own soldiers but it would have eased some of the strain on the Confederacy -- caused by both Sherman's and Sheridan's hordes rampaging through Southern farms and destroying homes and crops.

Naturally those facts are not widely taught in government schools, so it would be nice to see them spelled out in movies about that conflict. (Federal treatment of Confederate prisoners was often nearly as bad, with very shortened rations and missing or poor medial care. Also, prisoners were outright murdered, especially after the assassination of Lincoln. Also not widely taught in government schools.)

Still, I give writer Forbes a lot of credit and I hope to be able to see the other films he has created.

And I hope he gets the recognition he deserves so he can also get the budgets he deserves.
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Coronado 9: Doomtown (1960)
Season 1, Episode 3
Gritty story away from the home base
9 October 2019
Two errors keep this otherwise excellent story from being rated 10: The town constable, speaking to Adams, says "y'all." Nobody but ignorant Yankee script writers say "y'all" to one person.

Script writer Ken Pettus is from Indiana and should have known better.

The other error, which would have necessitated a re-shooting of one scene, is when "Constable Usher" -- played by veteran Frank Ferguson -- speaking to "Blair Harper" -- played by veteran Richard Arlen -- calls him "Mr. Usher."

Otherwise, this is one powerful TV show, beautifully acted, and mostly well written. It was the third entry in the "Coronado 9" series, but had nothing to do with hero Adams' home town of San Diego.

Apparently the character has not been clarified, even this late in the series, but perhaps soon viewers will find out he's a private eye, with his office address at Coronado 9.

Well worth watching, for itself and because it's TV history. The entire series is available at YouTube.
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Coronado 9: The Widow of Kill Cove (1960)
Season 1, Episode 1
Remarkable what can, or could, be done with tiny budget
9 October 2019
This is a TV show from my childhood, and I don't remember ever seeing it.

Probably I appreciate it much more as a more or less adult.

There are four performers in this opening episode, and each and every one is top of the line.

Young Doug McClure showed great personality and that he was going to be a big star.

Anthony Caruso never made it to "star" category, but he was a very busy character actor, deservedly.

Beverly Garland, also beginning her career, displayed a lot of talent, and she still has a lot of fans today.

Rod Cameron had already been a star for a while. This role didn't take a lot for a veteran to perform, but he was likable and competent, and it's easy to see this show would be around.

Apparently the entire series is available at YouTube and I highly recommend this first episode.
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Great cast, gorgeous scenery, trite story
5 October 2019
Milburn Stone got perhaps his best chance to shine and he grabbed that chance with both hands. What a great performance.

All the players were great, in fact, even the ones who got perhaps only one scene.

The scenery there in Colorado, including some of the ancient "apartment buildings," briefly visible just before the big battle, would, by itself, make this worth watching, but add in the lovely Joanne Dru for even more scenery.

As usual, Hollywood gets a lot of history wrong, but since it isn't really trying to be historical, it doesn't matter much here.

Don't expect too much and this is a nice movie. Available at YouTube.
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Lock Up: The Case of Frank Crotty (1960)
Season 1, Episode 20
Entry in a TV series wins with great cast
5 October 2019
Two veterans, Macdonald Carey and John Doucette, two beginners who became major TV stars, James Drury and Leonard Nimoy, and one young man who, now 91 (in 2019), is still performing, Tom Troupe, make this series entry first class.

Supposedly based on the files of real-life Philadelphia lawyer Herbert L. Maris, the series ran from 1959 to 1961.

The premise here, that a young police officer, studying at nights to get a law degree, can be wrongly accused of murder is certainly realistic. And that an eye-witness (played by another veteran, Tom London, who, according to one source, says he was in more than 2,000 roles!) can wrongly identify him is proven possible practically every day.

It's a plausible story, very well acted and directed, but since it's a 30-minute TV show, most viewers will probably get more of a kick out of seeing Drury and Nimoy as very young men than out of the story.

Still, it is certainly interesting enough I can recommend you see it at YouTube.
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