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I recommend this to other classic films fans that like Mae West and Bette Davis.
15 December 2018
I recommend this to other classic films fans that like Mae West and Bette Davis. A friend of Bette's once taped the actual 1973 first meeting of the two on a cassette. What they do in this production is have actors who look very much like them (especially the one playing Bette) mouth the words to the actually voices of the actresses on the tape. It sounds strange, after a few minutes you get used to it. There are some nice little nuggets of film history included in their conversation and it also includes breaks that show what they are referring to in their conversation. I believe the meeting was for dinner at Bette's home, and she, Bette Davis, was actually a bit star struck by Mae. You get a taste for just how intelligent a business woman Mae West was too. So if you want a real treat give this film a chance, remember the voices are really theirs from the recorded tape.

I give this a 9 out of 10 stars for it's historic film history value
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Terrortory 2 (2018)
A big improvement from the first in the series...well worthy watching for horror fans.
18 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I believe in giving lower budget films a chance and I respect what a filmmaker can do with the money he has available and some good old-fashioned imagination. Some extremely successful films have been made on relatively small budgets; 'The Blair Witch Project' ($60,000 budget) and the first 'Halloween' ($300,000 budget) come to mind. The first movie in this series 'Terrortory' was...how do I put this nicely...well it was pretty bad all around...especially the acting and directing, yet it must have made some profit to warrant this sequel. I felt this movie was a marked definite improvement from the first one, just guessing but perhaps Kevin Kangas, the writer/direcotor, had gained more experience and money to work with to make 'Terrortory 2". The lead actor who played the hiking man mapping out the terrortory was pretty good in the role, since he tied the stories together and had the biggest part, it was important that at least he be a better actor than the others and he was. His name might be Richard Cutting I'm not really sure by the cast listing at the IMDB. All the stories were imaginative to various degrees and in a strange way made sense in keeping with the over all weird main storyline. Even the idea of the Terrortory having some limitations and buffer zones made sense and added to the fun; you have to give the characters some sort of hope to make the story more intriguing, IMO. Having safe zones was a great idea. I do not like gore fests so I could have done with less gore and more atmosphere, but I guess the filmmakers were playing to a different crowd than me in that area. Luckily the gore was not overwhelming. This is a good movie for Halloween viewing especially. (On the negative side the filmmakers did bring down the overall quality of the film with that low class credit comment at the end saying "All of the actors, actresses, and crew who came out and suffered under my tyrannical iron rule for nothing but snack bags, water, and five minutes with the on-set hooker", we didn't find that funny, it made us cringe, and knocked down my overall opinion of the filmmaker's humor; also it made the film seem more low budget and trashy than it might have.)

I did like the ending and how they tied the mapmaker into the story. I hope they bring that character back for any further sequels. I also recommend they continue to put more effort and gained experience into any sequel to continue their climb into a better quality of film for the masses.

I've been a fan of horror anthologies for decades, big budget and small and I have to say this was worth my time and I did enjoy it overall. I even found myself looking forward to a sequel. I'll give it a 6 out of 10 stars.
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Caught (1949)
Good acting, insensitive ending to the story
17 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Wild Calendar (aka 'Caught') 1949 - Writers: Arthur Laurents (screenplay), Libbie Block (novel), Director: Max Ophüls (as Max Opuls) Actors: James Mason, Barbara Bel Geddes, Robert Ryan.

************************************************************************************ Warning: There are plot spoilers in this review and the ending is revealed. *************************************************************************************

We were looking forward to seeing this film , it contains two excellent actors Robert Ryan and James Mason, so I figured it must be worthwhile. It was good for 90 % of the story and held our interest right up to the very unexpected last few minutes that surprised both me and my wife, not in a good way.

Here's the plot in a nutshell. A woman, Leonora Eames played (by Barbara Bel Geddes) wants to move up in the world so she goes to charm school to learn how to present herself in society and starts modeling expensive cloths. Her friend suggests this would be a good way to meet and marry someone rich. Soon Leonora does meet and fall in love with the super wealthy Smith Ohlrig (played by Robert Ryan). Unfortunately smith is not the man she thought when she fell in love he only married her to spite his analyst who said he had issues with marriage. Leonora finds that though she is extremely wealthy she is totally miserable with a man who has no time for her and uses her as a hostess for his business events. Smith is also convinced she only married him for his money and not out of love for him. He has some mental issues that include his thinking he's having heart attacks when there's nothing really wrong. I image today we would call these incidents panic attacks. Soon Leonora gets fed up with his cruel treatment of her and moves out saying she doesn't care about his money like he believes she does. She gets herself a small rather rundown apartment and is determined to live off her own money not her husband's wealth. She finds a low paying job with a dedicated, not too well off, pediatrician named Larry Quinada (Played by James Mason). Leonora convinces Larry to hire her in spite of his not thinking she's right for the job. He senses she's used to the finer things in life based on her appearance and hairstyle. At first she's not doing well on her job and quits when the doctor tells her. That same day her estranged husband, Smith, tracks her down to her apartment, he says he wants her back and needs her badly, things will be different he promises, they'll even have that long overdue honeymoon she waited for. Smith says everything Leonora had hoped to hear. She does go back to him that evening, the next morning she seems to have had a blissful night of reconciliation with her husband expressed in 1940s fashion, with her looking content sleeping late. Smith is nowhere in sight. That same day she learns nothing has really changed so she calls Dr. Quinada (Larry) on the phone and gets her job back again, it seems Larry also missed her. Leonora trains herself hard and soon becomes invaluable to Larry and his medical practice. Larry has no idea she is rich and married. Time passes, she spends many long days assisting him at his medical practice they even work all night long on house calls, eventually they fall in love. During this time Leonora finds she is pregnant, most likely from that night she and her husband tried to patch things up, so to speak. Larry does not know this. When he tells her he loves her, she admits she loves him too but says there are complications....I'll say there are. So she goes back to Smith, he treats her worse than ever, he tells her he'll make her life even more miserable if she doesn't give him the baby to raise once it's born. She refuses to give up her baby to him, at this point in the story she cares about her unborn child, you'll learn what I mean by that soon. Larry tracks Leonora down and finally learns she's married and that she's having a baby. The two men confront each other, the doctor loves her, Smith wants to ruin her, Leonora wants her baby yet also wants the doctor. Now here's the part that caught my wife and I off guard to the point we had to replay a few scenes because we weren't sure we got it right. More things happen to create stress for Leonora , she collapses in pain, Larry rushes her to the hospital, on the way there in the ambulance he breaks the news that she may lose her baby...acting all the while as if that would be a good thing ! And he's a doctor! Lenora also looks happy and acts like losing the baby is going to be a blessing, it will release her from Smith once and for all. Later another doctor at the hospital, a mutual friend who knows their situation, breaks the news to them that the baby was born prematurely and died. He tells them this as if it's good news. The story bizarrely ends with this miscarriage and the two lovers acting like now they can live happily ever after!

Up till the weird ending we had been enjoying the film; Robert Ryan is talented and played a good villain. James Mason was good as the so called "dedicated" pediatrician who turned out to not care much about babies' lives if they stood in the way of his love life. Barbara Bel Geddes was just okay as the main female character, to me she lacks charisma, she's not very believable in her role, and has little if any screen presence. Still up to the insensitive ending we had been enjoying the film.

I rate this movie a generous 5 out of 10 stars for the acting by the two male leads, the overall film was ruined by the insensitive ending I described.
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Madam Satan (1930)
Worth seeing especially once they're on the zeppelin...and things get...weird
10 November 2018
Warning: Spoilers
We just finished watching 'Madam Satan'. I had just read about it in one of the movie groups I belong to and wanted to view it because one poster referred to it as "a strange strange movie" and I often like films that are different. It wasn't what I expected; I was expecting some sort of 30s sci-fi story of the Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers type variety of that era; it wasn't. The story is about a wife who wants to win her husband back from the outgoing woman he's having an affair with. The husband was a cad and not really worth the effort his wife put in to win him back, I think he learned his lesson in the end. It's all done as a comedy farce. I enjoyed it for its very offbeat nature and occasionally witty dialog. The musical numbers were dated as might be expected, yet that didn't ruin the film for me. The last part of the story that took place at a masquerade party on a zeppelin high in the sky was surprisingly surreal. Some of the women's masquerade costumes were impressive, as were other aspects of the party like women serving drinks while driving little blimp-like serving carts around the party. The effects of the Zeppelin and the thunderstorm were impressive given this was made in 1930. It was all very...well ...weird, yet entertaining. I don't want to give away too much for those who haven't yet seen it. I enjoyed the film taking into account the time it was made and will save a copy in our video library.

I give this film a7 out of 10 stars for its very offbeat nature and the weird Zeppelin Masquerade party with very memorable imagery.
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Good acting overall, lacks the charm and diminsion of earlier versions of the story
9 November 2018
The other day I watched the 2016 version of 'The Magnificent Seven' with Denzel Washington. I won't say it was terrible, I will say that it was no where near as good as the 1960 version or the excellent Japanese film they were both based on 'Seven Samurai' (1954).

This latest telling of the story seemed to be little more than a vehicle for Denzel Washington to overact at being a stereotypical fast, tough, western gunfighter, it was as if he agreed to the role only if he could be a cool cowboy. His character was even called "Chisholm" instead of "Chris" like in the 1960 version. Yul Brenner was MUCH better in the lead role, he gave a depth and dimension to his character that was sorely lacking here and made me wish I was watching that earlier version instead. The same goes for the other actors and story in the 1960s cast, they gave that film a special charm which rightly earned it a classic western film status. Even the wonderful theme song was not used here except a little during the end credits. Denzel seemed only out to play a tough gunfighter. There was a minor attempt to give him some backstory, that didn't really work well. There was also no comparison between the villain here played by Peter Sarsgaard and the main villain in the 60s version played by the amazingly talented Eli Wallach . Mr. Wallach was able to give his villain much more dimension and personality, even making him almost likeable at times. The villain played here by Peter Sarsgaard is simply evil and cruel with no other dimensions to his character.

As a Christian, I particularly found the last scene offensive when Chisholm (Denzel) finally has his showdown with the lead villain who had abused the towns people terribly. Chisholm's revenge was to force the man to say The Lord's Prayer out loud with him in a ruined church as he was about to die. The villain, was already fatally wounded and begging for mercy, evil as he was I found this scene unnecessarily cruel and religiously offensive. I won't give away who did finally kill him.

I will say that Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and the others playing the remaining six did a good job acting with what they had to work with, unfortunately there was not much to this version of the story. This film lacks the charm and other qualities the previous versions I mentioned had, those qualities made them classics. I give this version a 5 out of 10 stars for the acting.
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Advantageous (2015)
A well writen and acted sci-fi film for thinking people...
6 October 2018
Warning: Spoilers
'Advantageous' is a well written rather unique, in some ways, science fiction film for those of us who prefer a thoughtful story over nonstop action and million dollar special effects. This is a thinking person's film. The story is about a not too distant future where high paying jobs are scarce unless you're under 30 and beautiful. Some might say that future is already here. A new technology has been developed that allows people to transfer their minds into younger healthier bodies that can be customized to look any way you'd like. This technology is still untested on humans. The lead character in the film, Gwen, is faced with losing her corporate spokeswoman job even though she is still smart , young and beautiful, perhaps she's 35 or 40 years old, unfortunately Gwen is not young enough for what her company wants in their spokesperson so she is let go. Gwen needs to see to it that her teen daughter, about to enter a costly prep school, is provided for. She tries her best but can't find a decent paying job to support herself and her daughter. It's obvious that her daughter means everything to Gwen and she would do anything for her. Gwen has an idea, in order to keep her high paying corporate spokeswoman job she will volunteer herself to be the first human to go through the body transfer process. She is, after all, the ideal candidate to be her own younger replacement since she already has the knowledge needed for the job. The corporate execs like Gwen's offer, perhaps this is what they had in mind all along, to force Gwen into changing her body or be jobless. There is a significant sacrifice required for this transformation that's kept from Gwen by the corporation, they obviously only care about the money to be made. Gwen is secretly made aware of this price by a friend she has within the company. The true nature of the transformation is hidden from other potential clients for good reason. I won't reveal the details here and ruin the surprises. The story is thoughtful, heartfelt, and intriguing; the acting is good by all those involved. There are some futuristic special effects that are well done, that's impressive since I suspect this film did not have a huge budget. I felt there were some slow sections in the story, my wife disagreed. Overall this is a very good, thinking person's sci-fi film, for me most of the best are like that. This is the sort of film you might want to discuss with other viewers afterwards. I also like the clear satisfying ending. I'm fed up with ambiguous endings that leave too much up for interpretation by the viewer, to me that's the invention of lazy writers. This ending is good and the film is well worth seeing.

I give this a 7 out of 5 star rating.
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The Big Heat (1953)
One of my favorite Noir films and one that will stick with you
30 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
********************************************************** ***** Warning: This review contains spoilers ******** **********************************************************

The first time I saw this film frankly I wasn't expecting much. I've always liked Glenn Ford as an actor, yet I didn't see him as a no nonsense, tough guy, two-fisted hero type. I thought he was better cast in films like 'Gilda' or 'A Stolen Life'. Well I was wrong, he was excellent in this role as Dave Bannion. My favorite scene in the film, maybe because I'm a guy, is when he walks into a bar full of rough mob goons, and shows them he's by far the toughest guy in the place. This is the scene that triggers Gloria Graham's character into thinking finally here's a man who'll stand up to these jerks and maybe even win. Because she saw the way he stood up to the gangsters she comes to him for help; sadly in the end that leads to her undoing.

Gloria Graham was also very well cast for her role as Debby Marsh. She was brave, beautiful, extremely seductive and very feminine. Her most seductive scene was when she was in Dave's (Glenn Ford) room on the bed coming on to him, even though her advances would have melted most men Dave loved his recently killed wife and was immune to Debby's charms. I think this may have made her like him even more. She was not used to being rejected by men, usually her great beauty opened any door she wanted for her. Later what happens to her face, and the loss of her charm, is particularly disturbing. The burn scene stayed with me long after the film ended. It was not disturbing because of the way the scars looked, it was more disturbing that her unblemished beauty and the power it gave her was destroyed. She once had a power over men and now she had forever lost that power. I'm not saying this scarring wouldn't be a terrible thing to happen to anyone, I mean her way of life was all about her beauty and she had little else. Without her beauty she felt her life was over, which is why she was willing to go all out for revenge...and boy did she get her revenge. I should also mention that Lee Marvin, as her boyfriend Vince, was also cast well...he could always play a heavy well. What Vince did to his girlfriend for revenge was possibly crueler than killing her, for the reasons I stated previously.

What also surprised me about this gem was it taught me more about director Fritz Lang's career. I fancy myself to be an amateur film historian, and here I realized I still had much to learn about directors. I always knew that Austria born Mr. Lang was a talented director based on his amazing early films like 'Metropolis' and 'M'. I didn't realize till this film, and the research I did afterwards, that he had a history of doing many other fine films I hadn't connected him to. I learned he directed some of my other noir favorites like 'The Woman in the Window', 'Scarlet Street' and others. I was also surprised that he had even lent his talents directing one of my favorite western films... 'The Return of Frank James'. I usually remember films by the actors and took a lesser note of the writers and directors. There are of course exceptions, like John Ford and some others, but I had never noted the films of Fritz Lang till I saw this gem of a movie, that was a mistake.
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I good film that makes you feel you're part of it through the eyes of Philip Marlowe.
21 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
'Lady in the Lake' (1946) - Director: Robert Montgomery, Writers: Steve Fisher (screenplay), Raymond Chandler (novel). Actors: Robert Montgomery, Audrey Totter, Lloyd Nolan.

We watched this movie last night for the first time and totally enjoyed it. I've been a fan of classic films for many decades, since I was a boy, and yet I still come across gems like this I've heard about yet never viewed. One of my hobbies is being a pre-1970s film historian, so it's always a delight to finally see a film I had previously only read about.

Two things struck me right away about this film. First, I'd always known Robert Montgomery to be a fine actor, yet I did not realize he directed too. I've since learned he directed at least five well known films and has an unaccredited contribution to the directing chores in 'They Were Expendable' which he also acted in. The second thing that struck me was that this film is shot almost entirely from the character Phillip Marlowe's view point, the audience experiences the scenes through his eyes. The only time we see his face is in mirror reflections or when he narrates to us. There's one scene where we see most of what's happening both to the side of the mirror and in the mirror almost straight in front all at once. I played it back and still couldn't figure out how they did this scene without showing the camera filming it.

Mr. Montgomery plays the lead Phillip Marlowe well even if a bit cranky at times towards the female lead Adrienne. At first I thought it would be annoying viewing the film through Marlowe's eyes as if we were the detective, soon it became fun like we, the audience were in the film. I believe the very talented supporting cast had a lot to do with making it all work. They played their dialog to the camera well as if they were speaking to a person not a camera, that must be difficult for an actor. Audrey Totter was especially good, for instance when her character Adrienne flirted with Philip I felt like she was flirting with me too, since I was seeing her through his eyes. There were a few moments when this "eyes of the character" gimmick didn't quite work, over 95 percent of the time it did. Besides the cast, the story was also good and I do enjoy a mystery. Also, I like a good ending and this had one that was very satisfactory.

I give this film 8 out of 10 and recommend it.
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Jersey Boys (2014)
Great songs, lacking charisma from the leads
10 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this movie last night, I've wanted to see the Broadway show for sometime now. HBO was free for a few days and this was one of their offerings.

Overall the film was just okay, I enjoyed it mostly for the great songs and the fact I'm from New Jersey too. I'm not really sure how true to life the story was. There were at least some things I know were factual, like the untimely death of Mr. Vali's daughter. I did not find John Lloyd Young's performance playing Frankie Valli to be that good even if he did win a Tony for performing onstage. Good stage actors are not always good film actors and vise versa. He simply has no charisma in my opinion. Also, some scenes were not that well presented . For instance the makeup used near the end of the film to make Mr. Young and the others look older was almost laughably bad. The supporting cast, the guys playing the other members of the group, were decent to good. Some of them were also from the Broadway show. Christopher Walken is also featured. I've found Mr. Walken's performances in recent to be lackluster, like he's phoning it in. Here he was acceptable playing a sentimental mobster who helped the group's career. I suspect the movie depicted Frankie Valli as a better person than he may really is. I guess that's to be expected from these bio stories. If you like the music of the 'Four Seasons' then you'll probably be able to tolerate this film too. Clint Eastwood has proven himself to be a fine director in the past, I don't think he did a good job with this film, perhaps he should stay away from interpreting successful Broadway musicals for the cinema. If he was trying to give it the look and feel of a Broadway show instead of a movie, he failed.

I give this film 5 out of 10 stars, that's being generous mainly because I enjoyed the musical performances and I'm a proud Jersey boy myself.
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One of my favorite films of all time
10 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is one of my all time favorite films. The reason I like it so much is that it's message is still very relevant today and it has a fine cast. The story is about the fictional richest man in the world John P. Merrick (Charles Coburn). Merrick wants to find out why the workers in one of his stores, a small part of his empire, are organizing a revolt. He plans to seek out who the leaders are and crush them from the inside by pretending to be a store clerk in his own store. When he anonymously joins them undercover, he experiencs first hand the other side of the issues and why his workers are organizing against him. He learns of the simple joys in life, like a fun summer day at a crowded beach with good friends. He begins to sympathize with their situation and lives. He sees how the working people are treated and judged unfairly, also how unreasonable his store mangers are. He also falls in love with a kindly salewoman Elizabeth Ellis( Spring Byington) and becomes good friends with another salesgirl Mary Jones who's played by Jean Arthur. Mary takes John under her wing trying to teach him how to sell shoes and such. Mary has a boyfriend Joe O'Brien (Rober Cummings) who is an idealist young man , one of the union organizors. Joe and John becomes friends too. The premiss is much Like in the contemparory TV series 'Undercover Boss', no one seems to realize a worker among them is really the big boss. I think many of us fanasize a situation like this, if only the top 1% could see first hand what it's really like to not have money and have to fight for a just reasonable wage and treatment.

There are many wonderful scenes along the way especially the day at the beach when John forgets where the locker is that he stored his street clothes in. He walks around in his bathing suit at Coney Island trying to find which of the many bath houses has his locker, they all look the same. Eventually he ends up in the police station accused of stealing his own expensive watch. Charles Couburn, one of my favorite actors, is in top form here. The entire story, if far fetched, is both funny and heartwarming. I highly recommend viewing this gem and rate it 10 out of 10 stars.
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Good Western with a standout performance by Jason Robards
4 May 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I just watched this on TCM free on-demand. The story starts with the famous Gun Fight at the OK corral as Wyatt Earp (James Garner), Doc Holliday (Jason Robards) and the other Earp brothers confront Ike Clanton's gang (Robert Ryan). The story is in some ways a sequel to John Sturges previous film 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral'(1957) with different actors. The plot here deals with the aftermath of the famous gun battle, the court trials, and the revenge killings that followed. I felt that Jason Robards' was the standout performance here by far. His fine depiction of hard drinking seriously ill Doc Holliday is both memorable and believable. One standout scene is after Doc has an argument with Wyatt Earp and gets punched for what he says, his reaction to that punch is one only a man of Mr. Robards' talents could express so well; he was hurt both physically and emotionally at the same time by the punch. The punch also revealed just how sick he was in spite of his hiding it. Mr. Robards is, in my opinion, one of the greatest screen actors and often underrated as such. James Garner was competent, yet only had to act like a tougher less good-natured version of his Bret Maverick TV persona, there really wasn't much range to his Wyatt Earp. Robert Ryan was also in the film, unfortunately he had very little screen time or decent scenes to show off his usually impressive talents; any decent actor could have played his role.

Overall it was a good if formula western with no real surprises to brag about. The reason it's worth watching is for Jason Robards' stand out performance, some excellent dialog, and fine music by Jerry Goldsmith. At the end the TCM host said this was considered John Sturges finest western, I have to disagree, a few of his other works 'The Magnificent Seven' and 'Last Train From Gun Hill' were at least as good or better. Don't get me wrong, this is a good western, just nothing special or different like some of his others works were. I give this film a 6 out of 10 stars.
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Flamingo Road (1949)
Sidney Greenstreet shines and an intriguings story...
27 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I just watched this on TCM free on-demand recently. It was a good film based on an intriguing story of a woman wronged who gets her revenge. The actors were in fine form for the most part. Sidney Greenstreet was the standout performance at his slimiest best. I was very impressed by him. Joan Crawford is always good yet I've seen her better than she was in this film. She seemed a bit too laid back for the type of revenge driven character she was supposed to be in this story. David Brian was impressive as the political boss that Joan falls in love with, he expressed a winning combination of strength and gentleness. Zachary Scott was also good as Joan's weakling lover that serves as the catalyst for her revenge.

My only complaint is the ending was too neatly tied up and abrupt considering all the slow buildup that came before. I give this film a 6 out of 10 stars. With a better more believable ending I would have given it 8 stars.
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An unusal film role for Joan, she shines once again...
24 March 2018
Warning: Spoilers
We viewed this movie last night through TCM on demand; I'd only seen parts of it in the past, not the whole film. I was impressed by Joan Crawford's skillful depiction of a highly intelligent woman whose face had been disfigured when she was as child. Her character seemed to be a genius in her knowledge and musical abilities. Because of her appearance she'd been shunned and unjustly treated; this forced her to hide half of her face from others. She spends most of her time in seclusion with a band of misfits and crooks. Her rejection by society turned her into a seemingly heartless blackmailer among other things. We could see that beneath her bitterness was a spark of something else, something good perhaps; her doctor played by Melvyn Douglas sees this too. Her doctor presents her with hope to restore her face using his skill, but will it work? It was an unusual role for Ms. Crawford IMO, at this stage in her career I'd figured she'd always want to look her most beautiful in roles. I couldn't imagine her appearing less than attractive even for part of a film; yet here she allowed her face to appear disfigured in some scenes. It was reminiscent for me of scenes that Gloria Grahame did years later in 'The Big Heat', another excellent film. The supporting cast in 'A Woman's Face' is good, especially Conrad Veidt as the evil man who has her in his power because he finds her attractive. For him she is willing to do anything...almost. The unthinkable crime he wants her to commit is the crux of the story, I won't reveal it here except to say at times we were on the edge of our seats wondering would she do it. Also of note in the supporting cast are Marjorie Main as a servant jealous of Joan and Albert Bassermann as a kindly grandfather.

I highly recommend this film and give it a rating of 8 out of 10 stars.
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Funny yet very outdated ending
14 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
'Kisses for My President' (1964) – Starring Polly Bergen and Fred MacMurray.

I watched this today again on TCM. It's a funny, if dated, spoof about the first woman president, Leslie McCloud (Polly), and the role of her husband, Thad McCloud (Fred). The story is good at first showing a woman can be a strong very competent leader for the country. It seems especially timely now when we just had our first female democratic presidential candidate in the last election. We almost had a long overdue female president. In the film the women of the country had united to elect a woman. Fred MacMurray gets a chance to show off his impressive comic talents in his role as her husband. He's especially funny in one scene where he's nervous about doing a white house tour before millions of TV viewers. To help relieve his nerves he's given pills and drinks by various people in order to relax him for the camera. None of them realize he's already been given something to relax him. By the time he has to appear for the show he's totally plastered. I found myself laughing out loud more than once at his physical antics. An early scene where he gets seasick during a romantic excursion on the presidential yacht is also very funny. So as a comedy the movie is pretty darn good. The problem for me is the almost sickening ending. ****** warning ending spoiler ahead***** Things are going well with Leslie McCloud's presidency and her husband is finally not such a bumbler in his role as 'First Husband'. At a public hearing meant to embarrass the president Thad is even able to finally bring down a sly windbag of a senator played by well known comedy character actor Edward Andrews. Later, all is going well till the president passes out and it's discovered she is...gasp... pregnant. Of course now she must resign from her strenuous duties or maybe lose the baby. The early 1960s message here is obviously that a woman is not physically able, due to her sex, of being president. It's also pointed out that her other two children are getting into trouble due to lack of proper parental guidance...why her husband isn't doing the guidance himself while she runs the country isn't explained well. The final insult was this line from Thad to his wife as they are leaving the White house following her resignation...Thad says that he has proved male superiority. He explains that it took many millions of women to put her in the white house and only one male to remove her from it, meaning himself of course since he had gotten her pregnant. Of course that line was said in a joking way yet the message to the audience was obvious. This could have been a much better all-around film if it had not fallen into preaching that sickeningly outdated early 60s message that a women's place is at home with the children caring for her husband. If only they had ended it differently this film could have been a timeless comedy. I'll give it a 6 out of 10 stars for the comic movements and what came before the ending.
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Terrortory (2016)
Low budget effort with very few high points
15 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
It's October and Halloween is right around the corner. We were looking for something scary to watch we'd never seen before. I checked on Amazon Prime and found a couple of new horror anthologies described as being like 'Creepshow' and 'Tales from the Crypt'.

I found this film and another low budget one that was recently made. The other is the better of the two and no gem either. When I see these films I realize they're low budget and perhaps a first effort for talented young film makers so I cut them some slack and give them a chance. Everyone starts somewhere and good low budget films have been made, especially in the horror genre.

With that in mind the framing story and also the first segment in the anthology called 'Siren' showed promise. 'Siren' can be taken as an interesting twist on the hunter becoming the prey after promising his wife venison to eat. Since I'm against hunting of any kind for sport, I saw a certain poetic justice in this segment. Even a reference of sort to hunters using decoys to attract their prey. The ending to 'Siren', intentional or not, was ripped off from 'The Descent'(2005). Still it was an okay entry.

Unfortunately from this point on the stories went downhill. I realized there was no real hope for the overall film reaching any kind of quality when they resorted to showing a stereotype chubby nerdy guy playing with himself behind a tree as he observed what he thought were two lovers in a tent. All he could even see WAS the outside of the tent not the couple inside. Watching the couple would have been sick enough, yet somehow the tent alone excited him. He was supposed to be one of a group of film makers in the woods. I saw no reason whatsoever for this stupid scene and it took the whole film to a lower level.

I will not get into detail on the remaining segments. I will say they were amateurishly acted and had pointless plots for the most part. Also the sound quality was often terrible. We had to turn the volume way up just to hear the dialog in parts, not that it mattered much hearing it, I suppose. There was the required bare-chested bimbo T&A scene in 'The Midnight Clown' segment. It was thrown in as if the viewers expected it so let's get this in somehow. She just lifted up her shirt to show one of the guys with a camera who wanted her to.

I should mention that the framing story of the couple with the sleeping child was okay, like the first segment was. I wish they had explained to us better what was actually going on with the creature that attacked them and what was happening to the dead to make them look like bug eyed dolls or whatever. On a bright note...I did find the final scene where the couple decide to go to the beach a humorous twist. I'll just say it "almost" made up for all the time wasted on the other segments.
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Fine example of a 50s Tearjerker...this one based on a true story.
1 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this the other night with my wife. The film is available on Netflix. It's a good movie if you like 1950s romantic tearjerkers like we do. Ms. Jones and Mr. Holden play their roles well as always. The romantic chemistry between the two is very believable and touching. The story itself was well written with a few overly melodramatic moments common in films of this decade. Still I'm a sucker for these movies, the same goes for 'All That Heaven Allows', 'Magnificent Obsession', 'Peyton Place' and others from the 50s with different actors of course. They're mostly high budget soap operas, still they're fun. This one takes place in Hong Kong and involves a married correspondent who falls in love with a widowed part-Chinese doctor. We see them dealing with the problems of a mixed culture relationship..and his marriage to an unloving wife. It contains beautiful scenes reminiscent of another film Mr. Holden was in 'The World of Suzy Wong'.(1960) which he would make years later. Reportedly Ms. Jones did not get along at all with William Holden on the set, so it's impressive they were able to have so much chemistry on screen. It's said she would eat garlic before a love scene just to irritate him. At the time of the filming she was married to studio head David O. Selznick and it's said she made constant demands. The plot is based on a true life story. I won't give much more away about the story except to say have the tissue box ready. I rate this 6 out of 10 stars.
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This swashbuckler is about as good as they get.
1 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Since I was a boy I've been a fan of the swashbucklers; Errol Flynn was in most of my favorites with a few exceptions...like this gem 'The Mark of Zorro'. It just doesn't get any better than this. Tyrone Power was near perfect in the role. He seems to relish playing his character's dual personality, pretending Diego is pompous, ornately dressed, frail and pampered, or as his secret identity, the brave and daring swordsman Zorro. It's the type of tale common to these films yet still intriguing...a man is called back to his home only to find the once happy people there are now cruelly mistreated by a greedy tyrant. As Zorro, he robs the tax money back from the tyrant to give to the poor and punishes the abusers. For some reason, not clear to me, he lets his father and mother think his time away has changed him into the delicate man described above. Other people like the local padre and the woman he falls for do learn his secret rather early on...so I'm curious as to why he kept his parents in the dark. Two alumni from another swashbuckler gem 'The Adventures of Robin Hood' are in this movie...Basil Rathbone and Eugene Palette. Their characters are much the same here. Mr. Palette is basically playing a Hispanic version of Friar Tuck and Mr. Rathbone is a variation of the Sheriff of Nottingham, with the lovely Linda Darnell in the Maid Marian type role. The actors are all perfect in their parts so it's fine that we've seen it before. The rousing music added to the experience; I believe it was partly composed by Alfred Newman. The ending will leave you smiling.

I would like to add that I watched this in the colorized version for the first time. I'd seen it in the original B/W many times before. I know the valid arguments against colorizing classics, still I have to say this looked stunning in color. For me it added a new dimension to a favorite. Here the color bought out the beauty of the women and detail of the intricate costumes and scenery. I found myself looking at the detail of the uniforms, even the shining silver of the belt buckle on Mr. Rathbone's guard uniform and such.

I rate this film a 10 out of 10 stars.
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A good film that might have been even better
28 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
'The House on Telegraph Hill' (1951) Starring Valentina Cortese and Richard Basehart. Contains minor spoilers.

Last night we were looking for an older film to watch that we had never seen before. We found this movie. It was a strange offbeat mix of friendship, love, infidelity, greed, stolen identity and murder. Richard Basehart shows here just what a fine actor he was. Sadly, I feel he is mostly associated with his role on TVs 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' and not his earlier films that showed his versatility. He was convincing here as a seemingly loving new husband who might just be hiding a murderous side. In some ways much like Gary Grant's character in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Suspicion' (1941). I wonder if that earlier film influenced the character for this one? 'The House on Telegraph Hill' was directed by the usually very talented Robert Wise.

I did like this film and it's worth seeing, however, I couldn't help thinking how much better it may have been if directed by the master of suspense 'Alfred Hitchcock'. It's hard to explain, some scenes just didn't ring as real to me as they might have in a Hitchcock film. Also, the occasional surprises should have had much more impact than they did. I really don't understand that, I expected more from Robert Wise. This was a good film that should have been a great film. The acting talent was all there, something else was missing.

It's interesting to note that the two leads Valentina Cortese and Richard Basehart met making this movie and were soon married. This may have added to the chemistry they had on screen together early on as two lovers. Their marriage lasted 9 years and they had one child together.

I do recommend this movie to people who enjoy crime dramas with some surprises. The story does have a very satisfying ending to it. Also, the resolution of the stolen identity story rather surprised me. I can't explain without giving too much away. I'll only say it seemed justified. I rate this a 6 out of 10.
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The Haunting (1963)
Okay, yet not as good as I was expecting.
6 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
We had a stormy weekend here so we decided to watch some films from my favorite genre...classic horror. I had picked up a TCM collection on DVD that includes a very nice sharp print of 'The Haunting' (1963). It was an okay film, I hadn't seen it in decades. Overall I was disappointed. I remembered it as being much better than it seemed to me now. Perhaps the buildup from all the positive things I've heard and read about it over the years since that last viewing had my expectations too high. I'm not saying it was a bad film, just that I didn't feel it was a great horror film.

Here are some reasons I was disappointed. I usually like Julie Harris and I can see what she was trying to do here depicting a damaged, overly sheltered, woman, yet I found her character irritating and unsympathetic. I really didn't care what became of her. She acted too me much like she did as the immature young girl she played in 'The Member of the Wedding' (1952). I felt this part called for something more. I believe a more versatile actress like Deborah Kerr could have taken the character and film to a higher level. Also, there were long stretches of unnecessary and to me boring dialog between the scarce scary moments a horror film calls for. On the plus side when it was scary it did it the way I like, with atmosphere and by forcing the viewers to use their imaginations...not seeing just what is beyond that door making all the noise. I prefer this to the in-your-face gore and senseless violence of many more current horror films.

For me 'The Uninvited' (1944), The Innocents (1961), 'Lady in White (1988), 'The Changeling' (1980) and 'Ghost Story' (1981) continue to be my favorite films of this type. I even liked 'The Others' from 2001 better. I realize this movie has many fans, these are simply my thoughts on it.
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Goosebumps (2015)
Good for kids, derivative and predictable to adults
21 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I was underwhelmed and disappointed by this movie. It's more or less a big budget version of the TV series. Actually I like some of the TV series episodes better, 'The Haunted Mask' for example. Having the actual author's name, R.L. Stine, used for one of the characters (Mr. Black) seemed indulgent to me, especially by giving him the god-like ability to create a human being. Jack Black was funny at times and the lead teens were also likable. The story is just a rehash of ideas used many times before, and done with more imagination by others. We've seen it all before, a possessed dummy, a werewolf, Abominable Snowman, killer plants, a blob like creature, zombies, an invisible boy {yawn}. I suppose kids under 17 might enjoy it more than adults. Personally I found it derivative and predictable.
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Some Intriguing new characters for the series otherwise disappointing
12 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
*************Warning extreme plot spoilers do not read further if you have not yet seen the film.***************** We watched this last night. I thought it was okay, not great. It did not have the impact a few of the other films had on me. I do like the new characters that were introduced. It was also great to see some of our old friends from the original series back again.

Some of what I did not particularly care for: There was too much rehashing of plot devices. For instance, a droid with info that leads to something the rebels and the Empire want. The supposedly last Jedi is in hiding (Obi-Wan Kenobi/Luke Skywalker). The force is again very strong in someone young and abandoned who needs to be trained. The main villain on the dark side of the force is related to some of the rebel heroes. Darth Vader was Luke's Father. Here it's Luke's nephew and Leia's son. Yet another death star type weapon rather easily destroyed by a few shots and explosions in just the right place. Yes, it was much bigger than the original death star, yet it seemed even easier to destroy. I was also VERY disappointed that Han and Leia had been separated for what was implied to be a long time. I had liked the way their story had ended in 'Return of the Jedi'. I felt this ruined their love story. Yes, they had a son, evidently they did a poor job raising and guiding him. Did they learn nothing from what happened to Leia's father about the dangers of the dark side? And where was uncle Jedi Luke during his formative years? (wink) Kylo Ren may be the least menacing of all the Star Wars villains and it's hard to believe who his parents are supposed to be looks wise.

I was also not keen on them making it out like Luke's light saber was some sort of holy Grail. Also the big lead-up to about 30 seconds of Luke in a hooded robe was silly to me. Yes, I'm sure all that lead- up to finally see Luke appealed to many other old fans. My biggest issue with the story was killing off my second favorite character in the series Han Solo. BTW- my favorite was Obi-Wan Kenobi as played to perfection by Ewan McGregor and before him by Alec Guinness. Harrison Ford did what I thought was a remarkable job bringing the character he originated back to life again after all these years. He used the same facial expressions and all unique to Han. Yes, he was notably older as we all are, yet he still made an excellent action hero. I was VERY disappointed they chose to kill him off. And afterward there was not much time devoted to mourning for him. I expected a Darth Vader Viking Funeral-like solemn send off...even without a body to honor. Instead after a few bowed heads and hugs they all seemed to move on rather quickly, even Chewbacca. I have not been this disappointed in the loss of a favorite fictional film character since Captain Kirk. And Han, after all he had gone through should not have died at the hand of his own son. As for Carrie Fisher, she seemed to be sleep walking through her part not at all bringing back Princess Leia Organa. In her case all the magic and strength of her character was gone. She looked fine, just no spark anymore. Perhaps she has health problems or simply is not a very good actress any more.

Overall this was a decent film. It was fun to see most of the original cast back again. The new cast members are very intriguing and show much promise. I especially like Daisy Ridley and it's nice to see that she does not need anyone to rescue her. She handles herself fine. I also very much like the character Poe Dameron he has a nice way about him as a hero. Also, Finn has a lot of potential and seems good-hearted. I just thought the attraction between him and Rey was a bit too much, like Han and Leia or Luke and Leia (at first). I would have preferred the stories of the original cast had ended with 'Return of the Jedi'. It was a nice neat happy ending. This movie ruined that for me, yet introduced intriguing new characters.
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Bogart at his most Evil
22 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
We saw this last night on TCM. Overall it was very good thanks to Mr. Bogart at his evil best. Haven't seen him this sinister since 'The Return of Dr. X' a film I actually liked in spite of the criticisms. Yes, he had played many gangsters, none as psychotic as this character IMO. Barbara Stanwyck is always good, here I don't feel she was given much to do, it was really Bogart's film. Alexis Smith was also well cast as the femme fatale bad girl out to seduce and steal Mr. Carroll (Bogart) from his current life. Nigel Bruce was also in the cast acting pretty much the way he always does...like his bumbling absent minded Dr. Watson. He seems that way in just about every role, not that he doesn't do it well. Actress Ann Carter (The Curse of the Cat People) was also note worthy as Mr. Carroll's daughter who seemed to be 12 going on 40. The part the painting of his two wives played in the story was chilling as was their appearance. Haven't seen a scarier portrait since Dorian Gray's final look. The story reminded much of an earlier film 'Suspicion' with 'Gary Grant, especially the role a glass of milk played in the story. There is one line by Mr. Bogart that's reminiscent of another famous line he once said in 'Casablanca', "Geoffrey Carroll: Y'know, I have the strangest feeling that this is the beginning of a beautiful hatred". 'TTMC' had a Hitchcockian feel to the story..
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Maleficent (2014)
A very pleasant surprise...a twist better than the original fairy tale
18 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
We finally saw 'Maleficent' the other day. I absolutely loved it ! It's the best twist on a favorite fairy tail I've ever seen. Angelina was perfect in the title role, she made the same character sympathetic, scary and later heartwarming at different times in the story. The actress could express a wide range of emotions with just her eyes and expressions. I anticipated what would awaken Aurora and I was not disappointed. The final resolution to the story was very satisfying too. It's rare lately that a movie leaves me with a big grin at the end as the credits start. I haven't enjoyed a fantasy film this much in a long time, with the exception of 'Oz the Great and Powerful' which I also enjoyed to a slightly lesser degree. I want the 'Maleficent' blue-ray now for my collection. Plus I just read that there are rumors of a sequel ! I'm hoping that's true. I give it 9 out of 10 stars.
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An offbeat horror story that will hold your interest
2 February 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This is a strange story of infidelity, horror and revenge. I wouldn't say it was a great movie, it did hold my interest and there were some very scary moments in it. After a certain point when the revenge started...it was predictable. I'd compare it to 'House of Wax' in some ways. I rate it a 5 out of 10 for the acting by the leads and the off-beat story. Barry Sullivan was good and he delivered some very chilling lines, especially when he was telling his former mistress to run while she could. It's a film with the type of plot more often found in Spanish, Mexican or Italian made films of that time. It's not like the standard run of the mill USA/UK type horror films made back then.
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Entertaining, not great
12 January 2016
I watched 'Wings of the Navy' (1939) on TCM Today. I wouldn't say it was a great film, it was entertaining and fun to see a VERY young John Payne and Olivia de Havilland in action. Olivia de Havilland was quite a talented beauty. She was at her peak in those years (1930s through the 40s) IMO. John Payne looked even younger than his 27 years at the time. I notice a marked improvement in his performance 8 years later in 'Miracle on 34th Street' (1947). In this movie he did little more than wear a uniform well and deliver his lines appropriately. George Brent was good in it as John Payne's older brother. He always could do the dignified characters well. I'd rate this a 4 out of 10 stars. I was just reading this about the movie at the IMDb: " 'Lux Radio Theater' broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on October 7, 1940 with George Brent, John Payne and Olivia de Havilland reprising their film roles." I find it interesting how many old films had the original cast do radio versions too. BTW - I enjoyed the footage of the early flying boat aircraft...especially the larger two engine models.
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