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4/10
Sort of like combining "The Love Boat" with film noir...and the writing is wildly uneven.
29 November 2020
"Las Vegas Shakedown" is a wildly uneven film...with writing that is occasionally brilliant...and also occasionally terrible. It also is a strange sort of film...with lots of stories that look like they come from "The Love Boat" combined with gritty film noir!!

The story is set in a Las Vegas resort owned by Joe Barnes (Dennis O'Keefe). He is a tough sort and his bottom line seems to be making money...which is odd since later in the film he's a benevolent benefactor! But no matter for now. The normally unflappable Barnes is worried as he's received word that someone is coming to get him...but who? In the midst of all this suspense, oddly enough, he meets and falls in love with a woman (Coleen Gray), fixes a couple marriages AND manages to take on and beat the baddies coming for him!!

On the plus side, Thomas Gomez generally plays a wonderfully vicious criminal. I loved how he was so heartless...especially towards the end. But the film ALSO makes him utterly ridiculous, such as when the very rotund guy (he looks like he weighs close to 300 pounds) climbs out a window with more grace than Douglas Fairbanks! It's obviously a stuntman and the director was, frankly, an idiot for allowing this scene to be made in the first place!! What also never should have been in the film was making Barnes so very hard and money-hungry....yet also benevolent and quick to give away the casino's winnings...which simply made no sense. What also didn't make sense was the nice old banker and his wife...they were cute...but the ending portion with him and his wife (Charles Winninger and Elizabeth Patterson) was nonsensical. Overall, a tough film that also tries to be heart-warming and sweet...and only ends up being frustrating as a result. I really wanted to like this film.
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Mousey (1974 TV Movie)
3/10
Murder porn made for TV in the States.
29 November 2020
"Mousy" (also known as "Cat and Mouse") is a made for television movie that was, according to IMDB, shown as a theatrical release overseas. It stars Kirk Douglas and Jean Seberg and John Vernon co-star in the film.

When the film begins, George Anderson (Douglas) is in a foul mood and walks off his job as a school teacher. Apparently, his wife left him for another man and he's sick of being seen as a meek man....hence the students' calling him 'Mousey'. He spends the rest of the movie working out a twisted revenge against her, though much of it is directed against innocent folks, as he travels to Montreal where his ex- lives and begins a reign of terror.

While in some ways the film is an interesting character study by Douglas and the filmmakers, it borders on being 'murder porn'....a movie that seems to get off showing a vile human being killing for kicks. And, unlike Freddy Kruger or Jason, this is realistic. I also worry that some sicko might watch the film and enjoy it or take their queue from it. Overall, a disturbing and somewhat offensive movie...one I cannot believe they actually made for television. Not for the squeamish!
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1/10
Was this actually designed to make you crazier?! And what about the mental health of the people that made it?!
29 November 2020
"Time Out for Trouble" is a super-bizarre film made by the Oklahoma State Department of Health and the University of Oklahoma that was inexplicably shown on Turner Classic Movies. I THINK its purpose is to help mentally ill women learn better coping skills by anticipating problems and having alternatives. However, I really am not sure what the film was trying to do...and it even could have been made to make folks crazier...it's THAT weird and confusing!!

The film was made with what looks like a cheap 8mm camera and organ music as an accompaniment. The plot involves some evil mantel clock that mocks a woman and encourages her to go off the deep end....and it's very sad when she instead takes care of herself. It's so wacky and weird and confusing...and horribly made...that you really have to see it to believe it. A truly dreadful and useless film with dubious production values...or even value to any viewer!
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TNT Jackson (1974)
4/10
I wish TNT had fought the fiendish Dr. Wu on Kung Fu Island instead....
29 November 2020
In a giant sea of blaxploitation films, "TNT Jackson" doesn't stand out from the crowd other than its setting and gender of the protagonist..and its copious nudity. Otherwise, it's a standard cheap action film of the 70s and not a lot more.

Ex-playboy model Jeannie Bell stars as TNT Jackson, a lovely lady from Harlem who has ventured to the worst part of Hong Kong in order to discover what's happened to her brother. Apparently, he got on the bad side of a organized drug ring...and she soon gets their attention. To help her is a local Chinese man as well as an undercover federal agent.

The martial arts are spotty...though the double who does all the acrobatics for TNT was very good and it's very hard to tell that a double was used...so kudos for the director for this. Unfortunately, in the close combat scenes, they are spotty...from pretty good to pretty bad. As for the story...it's all pretty tandard stuff apart from the setting (Hong Kong). For fans of the genre, this one in't bad but it certainly won't convert anyone to the genres of blaxploitation or martial arts.
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3/10
It's designed for little kids...so I am not the target audience.
28 November 2020
"Yôkai Daisensô" ("Yokai Monsters: Spook Warfare") is a Japanese film about an evil demon taking on a whole host of Japanese Yôkai ('spirits' or 'imps') during the feudal era.

It all begins in Babylon. The empire crumbled centuries earlier and now two grave robbers accidentally release a very powerful demon, referred to as Diamon in the film, though it looks much like Pazuzu. Regardless, it's very bad, very strong and, apparently, about to go on vacation to Japan. However, the creature's propensity to kill folks and suck their blood causes a few minor problems. One of the weaker Yôkai, a Kappa (water spirit) sees this creature in action and warns the other Japanese Yôkai....who don't believe him. Little did they know that eventually they'd be forced to confront and fight the demon.

The biggest problem about this film is technical. The costumes are mostly crappy (even by 60s standards). Now hold on tight....I'm about to say something radical. So many of the 60s Japanese creatures, especially Godzilla and Rodan, were crappy costumed folks that look completely ridiculous today. Now I know many folks adore these films...and I'm glad you enjoy them. But don't mistake them for great art....the special effects are terrible. But in addition to looking awful, the film also apparently was designed to appeal to kids and frankly it takes serious mythological creatures and makes them rather silly and childish. Not a film I enjoyed, though I at least was able to finish it.
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7/10
Good compared to many other serials.
28 November 2020
In 1936, 'The Green Hornet' was created for the radio. Only four years later, Universal Studios made the first movie serial version of the crime fighter and I saw it mostly in order to see pre-stardom Alan Ladd before his break out films of 1942 (such as "The Glass Key" and "This Gun for Hire")....but ended up enjoying the serial in its own right.

Now I should stop for a moment to talk about serials. These installment films were very popular in the 1930s-50s and normally had to do with crime fighting, such as the Batman, Spy Smasher, Captain Marvel and other serials. A few were westerns or sci-fi. If you see them today, you'll notice a few things about all of them....death-defying escapes that are often utterly ridiculous and a lot of repetition. Audiences of the day didn't mind seeing the heroes appear to die at the end of one chapter...only to see that they actually survived miraculously (sometimes with film footage that completely contradicts what you saw the previous week). And, seeing the inconsistencies wasn't easy in the day because folks were never intended to see them all in one sitting! And, as far as repetition goes, this is because each episode needed to summarize each week in case a viewer missed a chapter or to jog their memories. They were never intended as high art and they were usually made by second and third-tier studios, such as Monogram, Republic or Universal.

When the story begins, police officials meet with Britt Reid (Gordon Jones), the publisher of 'The Daily Sentinel'...the town's newspaper. They are concerned about organized crime and Britt seems to care little about their concerns. Of course, he is the hero of the tale...so you know that he's only pretending to be a lazy jerk. In reality, his way of dealing with it is to don the guise of the Green Hornet, accompanied by his man-servant Kato* (Keye Luke)...and his hot rod car.

Soon you learn that one of the activities of this organized crime ring is graft in public works projects. The mobsters use substandard equipment in building dams and other dangerous projects...and when one of the workers threatens to go to the police, he dies in an 'accident'! So, Britt is out to get the goods on these gang activities as well as figure out who's behind this evil. And, it turns out that there's one big baddie...and his 12 evil disciples...and they are up to all sorts of crimes in addition to the dam project.

Because this is a serial, you really cannot compare it to a normal film. Sure, it's cheesy at times...but all serials are...so I cannot deduct points for this. And, compared to other serials, it's a pretty good and exciting one. Decent action and worth seeing.

*In the serial, Kato is a Korean by birth. However, on the radio he was originally Japanese. Why the change? Well, although the USA and Japan were not yet at war against each other, tensions between the two nations over the Japanese invasion of China made having Kato being Japanese a public relations problem...so they changed him to Korean.
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5/10
Linda main problem isn't that she's plain...it's that so many folks around her are jerks.
28 November 2020
This film features Edith Fellows...a diminutive singing star from the 1930s who appeared in several Gene Autry westerns. However, as she got older, she had difficulty finding roles in films because she was quite small, a couple inches under five feet tall. In fact, because of her size the roles she did get were generally juvenile ones. Here in "Her First Romance" she gets a rare chance to play someone who isn't a child...nor quite a grown woman, as she was 17 and budding into a lovely young lady. Despite this, the film finds her playing an ugly duckling sort of role...something which might have been distressing for Fellows to have to perform. Imagine a teen being told to play such a part!

When the movie begins, it's made very clear that Linda (Fellows) is plain and they dress her in ordinary clothes and glasses. It's hard to hide that she's really rather pretty....though all the young men in the film seem to think she's unattractive. Her half-sister, Eileen, who is also her guardian, however, is quite different. She's pretty, popular and a rather ugly person inside who loves telling Linda how unattractive she is...and discouraging her when she tries to improve herself.

Out of the blue, a young man asks Linda out to a dance. She's shocked, as she isn't at all popular. What she doesn't know is that he's only doing this because he was put up to it because he's a pledge to some dopey fraternity. She learns the truth just before the dance and although she is stunning, she vows not to go and tells her date to get lost. However, out of the blue, a famous singer (Wilbur Evans) who met Linda only the day before arrives and this handsome and talented man takes her to the dance. And, considering they both love to sing, they seem like a well-matched couple despite the age difference. Suddenly, she's a sensation with her peers! But now, she only wants this singer...which is a bit creepy due to him being twice her age. What's next for Linda?

Apart from a nice performance by Fellows, the other reason to see this film is to see Alan Ladd in one of his pre-stardom roles. He's only a supporting player, but for 1940 it was a plum role for him. On the negative side, the film is silly because when Linda is in before mode, she is ridiculously unpopular...and when she pretties herself up, she's like a hunk of meat thrown into a den of wolves she's so wanted by all the young men! Subtle it ain't! It's also a bit cringe-worthy when Linda becomes infatuated with the singer and she throws herself at him...a man twice her age. This aspect really severely impacted on the film...particularly the ending, which left me a bit confused and dissatisfied. Worth watching but nothing more overall.

By the way, although I enjoyed this film, I thought it was pretty hilarious how at the dance Linda and her date sang a VERY complicated duet...and it was perfect despite neither practicing it together. Only in films!
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4/10
Despite what the summary says, this film is certainly NOT lost!
28 November 2020
In 1940, Alan Ladd was an unknown actor who had only bit parts in films. Two of his projects that year had a common thread...these B-movies ("Blame It on Love" and "Sauce for the Gander") were actually ads for Hotpoint appliances. But instead of everything being about Hotpoint, the films are stories about young couples....and Hotpoint makes their lives better.

When the story begins, a 'man on the street' reporter (Ladd) is interviewing folks. One of them, Mr. Tupper, makes an idiot out of himself by essentially saying that housework was easy and men could easily do it themselves. The man is an instant pariah....and folks all over town hate him and reporters flock around him. As for Mrs. Tupper, she isn't overtly angry but instead suggests that if her job as a housewife is so easy, he should try it and she should go work in his office.

This plot, if you've seen any television from the 1950s-70s, is one of the more familiar ones....and tons of TV couples used this plot. And, like all these shows, the movie greatly exaggerates the work of housewives and husbands in order to make a comedic point...as well as to sell appliances in the case of this film!

So is it any good? Well, it is mildly amusing and enjoyable but some of the humor (particularly when the wife is driving a tractor) is very broad and low-brow. Of course, the same can be said for this plot in the sit-coms! But what cannot be said of the television plots is that they'd have a commercial not so subtly placed within the program...which you get in this film as the housewives show off their wonderful kitchens and go on and on about Hotpoint appliances! It makes for a very weird viewing experience!

By the way, as the summary mentions, IMDB is incorrect....this film is not lost and is available on YouTube.
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5/10
A short film that turns out to be an ad for electric ovens!!
28 November 2020
"Blame It on Love" is a strange sort of movie. This is because it clocks in at 46 minutes...way too short to be a B-movie. So why was the film so short? Why didn't they pad it another 5-10 minutes to make it a standard B? I had no idea...until it became a commercial for electric ovens! I kid you not!! However, the reason I saw the film is because it offers a look at a young pre-fame Alan Ladd, who appears unbilled as a director.

When the story begins, Terry (Joan Marsh) is a popular singer with a hit song. But as was the custom back in the day, when she fell in love, she was just expected to give up her career and be a housewife. As for her hubby, Jeff (John 'Dusty' King, of B-western fame), he comes from a rich family but wants nothing to do with the family fortune and business and he becomes a struggling aircraft engineer. Unfortunately, their life isn't as great as they anticipated....his job takes up all his time and she is a terrible cook. As a result, their happy marriage is on the skids. Do the pair have any hope of making a go of it?

So, despite a lengthy commercial being tossed into the picture towards the end, is it worth seeing? Yes. It's not exactly brilliant but you do get to see Ladd and the story has an interesting idea...that a woman CAN have it all if she just gets the right appliances! I am a house husband and must say electric appliances saved my marriage....well, except for all the gas ones I prefer.

By the way, it was interesting that Joan Marsh played a big band singer. This is because in reality, John King had actually traveled as the singer with a big band himself. It was also interesting to see Marsh's character singing on TV...a relatively new invention and which wasn't available to at least 90% of America...and only in a couple selected markets for a few hours a week at most. Also, Ladd also appeared in another ad for Hotpoint appliances, "Sauce for the Gander" and both films are available on YouTube.
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3/10
See the film for the cameos...though most of them, frankly, are terrible!
27 November 2020
Through most of the 1940s, "Duffy's Tavern" was a popular radio program. It was set in a bar and the show featured lots of famous guest stars stopping by the joint. Well, considering its success, it's not surprising that they'd make this film version as well as a 1950s television series.

It's pretty obvious that Paramount pulled out the stops to make this film, as the story called for many, many cameos from stars under contract with the studio. Bing Crosby (and his young sons), Alan Ladd, Dorothy Lamour, Veronica Lake, Betty Hutton, Paulette Goddard, Sonny Tufts, Eddie Bracken and several other stars appear in the film along side with the usual radio characters from the show.

The plot is scant and instead of getting into explaining it, suffice to say the bartender needs to raise money fast or he'll go to jail So he somehow convinces some stars in New York (all, oddly enough who are under contract with Paramount!) to put on a benefit show. Most of the acts are poor, but the singing of Betty Hutton and Cass Daley are something to hear....once! They both sing with as much subtlety as a stripper doing her act at a Baptist picnic!! Neither one so much sings as screams and somehow Daley managed to out-scream the queen of sing-screaming, Hutton! Unpleasant doesn't even begin to explain it!! Overall, a very slight film with some horrifyingly bad cameos.
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7/10
Quite enjoyable...though certainly hard to believe!
27 November 2020
When the story begins, you learn that Salty (Alan Ladd) is in a fix. His partner absconded with $20,000 and the man that loaned Salty and his partner wants his money...or he'll make Salty pay one way or another! So, the fast-thinking gambler Salty hatches a plan. He knows of an incredibly fast race horse that is bound to be a big winner...but it's also supposedly unrideable. But Salty knows of a disgraces jockey who would control the beast...and so he buys the horse and plans on giving Johnny (Stanley Clements) a fake birth certificate and having him pose as a much younger jockey without a past! But an unforeseen problem arises when the birth certificate says the 22 year-old jockey is 17....and the racing officials won't let Johnny ride unless he enrolls in school!

The schooling offers some major problems....the biggest of which is Johnny is a larcenous jerk. Keeping him in school is practically full-time work for Salty, as Johnny seems to do his best to do his worst. In addition, Johnny is smitten with his school teacher (Gail Russell) and wants Salty to help him win the girl...no doubt a problem because she thinks he's only 17! But Johnny is a dope and he doesn't seem to understand that no woman would want a lunkhead like him. He's uncouth and tough to love....plus how will he explain the truth to her?! Plus, she seems much more interested in Salty than his hot-headed protege. And what about the $20,000...and the thug who seems more than ready to wrap Salty's legs around his head like a pretzel!?

So is this worth seeing? Yes....though I should point out that the story is pretty hard to believe. It's a 'turn off your brain and enjoy' sort of film....a lot of fun and well acted but very lightweight when it comes to the story and the finale.



By the way, based on performances like Clements had in this film, it's certainly understandable why he would be picked to replace Leo Gorcey in the Bowery Boys films when Gorcey quit the series in the late 1950s. In "Salty O'Rourke" he essentially plays a Leo Gorcey type character...though a much more larcenous one.
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The Big Show (1961)
7/10
Why the circus? Why Germany??
27 November 2020
One of the best films of the late 1940s was "House of Strangers"...starring Edward G. Robinson and Richard Conte. It's a tense and exceptionally well written and well acted movie...one you'll long remember. In light of just how good it is, you wonder why the studio decided to remake the film....and change the setting from a family business in the States to a family-owned circus in Germany. My only guess is that the 1950s and early 60s saw a butt-load of circus films, including the Oscar-winning "The Greatest Show on Earth", "Trapeze", "Circus World". For the most part, I actually thought these circus films were pretty dull....and moving the setting to a circus made the movie a hard sell for me.

The story begins with the oldest son, Josef (Cliff Robertson), arriving at his family-run circus after spending some time in jail. Why he was in jail is unknown and the film then consists of a long flashback. In the flashback, you see that the family patriarch, Bruno Everard (Nehemiah Persoff) is a controlling man who treats his grown children more like employees or children than adults. He tells them what to do and, aside from a bit of grumbling, they all knuckle under and do what he demands. Whether for right or wrong, he never allows them to live their lives or make important decisions...including who they can or cannot marry. Obviously something has to give....as this arrangement cannot go on forever.

There is nothing wrong with "The Big Show". Persoff in particular is a great actor (and the father in this story is still alive and kicking at 101 years of age) and Robertson is just fine. But the problems are that only one of the sons is actually German and none seem to have German accents...which is odd for a family of Germans!! They sound American. In addition, while a good film, it offers no improvements over the original and is actually a bit disappointing because of this and a lack of originality. My advice is to just watch the original film and "The Big Show" only if you insist on comparing the two.
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9/10
This turned out to be far better than I ever expected.
27 November 2020
When the story begins, a merchant ship has just arrived in Boston and the Captain of this ship has a reputation as a real jerk. That same night, the ship owner's son, Charles (Alan Ladd), is knocked out by a press gang and later awakens on this same ship...forced to become a crewmember on this ship of the damned.

Through the journey, the Captain (Howard De Silva), is a real monster--treating his crew with little respect nor dignity. Over time, the crew begin to die off from scurvy...and yet the captain does nothing to remedy the situation. His only desire is to complete his round the world journey as fast as possible. Eventually it gets so bad that mutiny seems to be the only alternative. What's next?

This film surprised me. At first, I thought it was going to just be another Alan Ladd featured adventure flick...the sort of thing Paramount churned out again and again once he became a star. Instead, I was taken aback by two things. It really was NOT an Alan Ladd film but much more a film with an ensemble cast. It did not rest solely on Ladd's shoulders and the film allowed for several really good performances. De Silva was at his evil best but kudos also to William Bendix, Brian Donlevy, Albert Dekker and young Daryl Hickman. In addition, the film had real depth to it....and was very exciting. It was not just another programmer. Overall, a surprisingly good and exciting adventure film...one I really enjoyed.
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Route 66: Black November (1960)
Season 1, Episode 1
3/10
Village of the damned.
26 November 2020
As long as you don't mind that the episode really make no sense whatsoever, this premier episode of the anthology series "Route 66" is worth seeing. I am not familiar with the show and this was the first one I saw...but they have to get better than this one!

The episode is very much like the film "Bad Day at Black Rock", as Tod and Buzz (Martin Milner and George Maharis) end up in a crappy town with a broken down car. The place turns out to be the meanest place on Earth....and several folks try to beat the crap out of our heroes. It turns out some guy named Garth (Everett Sloane) runs the place and keeps everyone under his control. And, if he wants the pair dead, he can easily have this happen. But why?? What sort of secret is this hellish town hiding??

Had the solution to this mystery made any sense at all, then I might have enjoyed the show more. But so much of it is confusing and nonsensical. And, after the mystery is solved, everything in town seems perfect....who cares that the two guys were repeatedly beaten and they were almost murdered?! It really boggles the mind how they decided to show such a weak and dopey episode as the first, as it might have driven away potential viewers. I'll see another few episodes and decide if it's worth it...but based on this one, the answer, so far is nope!
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Possessed (1931)
8/10
The theme is a common one to Crawford films of this era...and it makes for a dandy drama.
26 November 2020
In the 1930s, Joan Crawford played in many films where she was a working girl who wanted more out of life...particularly money. Considering it was in the middle of the Great Depression, I am sure this is how many women felt and MGM was tapping into this...making her a sort of 'every woman' character of the 1930s. Now just because this plot is a bit familiar doesn't mean it's bad...just one she repeated in films like "Sadie McKee", "The Bride Wore Red" and "Mannequin".

When the story begins, this desire for something better immediately hits the viewer. Marian announces to her nice but poor boyfriend (Wallace Ford) that she wants more out of life...a nice house, money and all the trappings a girl can get IF she holds out for the right man. Soon she bumps into a rich drunk who encourages her and soon she heads to New York to find a rich husband.

Soon after arriving, she meets Mark (Clark Gable) and she makes no bones about the fact she wants a rich guy. He's captivated though there is no romance...it's more like a business transaction between the two. Several years pass as she remains Mark's kept woman....living in posh surroundings but only being a mistress. Is this enough for Marian? And, how long will this continue to last...especially when her old boyfriend shows up for a visit?

This plot, if you haven't guessed, is definitely a Pre-Code one in its sensibilities. In movies made after the tough Production Code was enacted (taking effect in July, 1934), films about mistresses would rarely be approved...and if they were made, the story would have to condemn them, as premarital sex was a no-no in these more sanitized films. Here, while Marian eventually tires of 'the arrangement', clearly the pair are having sex and she is enjoying many benefits from taking the easy way to the top....and from mid-1934 through the 1950s, the studios would not have been allowed to go there in a story...adultery had to be bad as well as punished.

So is it any good? Yes. The acting and polish are what you'd expect from a prestige MGM film and the subject matter, while certainly anti-Code, certainly is interesting and timely. And, although at times it's hard to believe everything in the story, it's exceptionally well written and engaging. One of Crawford's best of the era.
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Without Honor (1949)
4/10
Not a bad idea for a film....but some overacting and weird direction make this one hard to enjoy.
26 November 2020
The general plot to "Without Honor" is pretty good. But I found myself unable to love or even like the film due to some bad acting and a director who helped elicit some bizarre performances...particularly (but certainly not exclusively) Laraine Day's.

The story begins with Jane (Day) meeting with her lover, Dennis (Franchot Tone). He's there to announce that their affair is over...he's staying with his wife and she should stay with her husband. However, during their argument, they get into a tussle and he's accidentally stabbed with a fork. While he's lying dying on the laundry room floor, she's in a panicked state for pretty much the entire rest of the film.

Soon, Jane's brother-in-law, Bill (Dane Clark) arrives. He apparently hates her guts and has spent years looking to get revenge on her....and he now knows she's an adultress after paying a private eye to follow her. And, he's now there to meet with her, her lover, his wife and Jane's husband (his brother). During this time, Jane continues to do pretty much nothing other than look scared or constipated...not sure which. Of course, Jane does NOT expect Dennis to come walking through the door, as he's apparently dead in the laundry room.

When the wronged wife (Agnes MoOrehead) arrives, her reaction is just plain bizarre. She accepts that her husband is a philanderer and he's apparently done this before...that isn't the surprising part. What is surprising and hard to believe is how nice she is towards Jane....really TOO nice to be realistic. She's almost motherly towards Jane...which makes no sense. What also doesn't make sense is why Jane STILL seems lost in a fog. Sure, she is traumatized, but her reactions throughout the film just seem weird and unrealistic...just like the wronged wife. What's next? Well, the husband arrives home...and there's, of course, a twist.

The twist, though difficult to believe, didn't bother me....what really did, and why I am rating this one only a 4 is that the acting by Day and Moorehead seemed poor...and the writing and direction all contribute to it. Watchable but it should have been much better...and there are many great parts to the plot.
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10/10
1949 was an incredible year for race films.
23 November 2020
1949 was an incredible year for films when it came to race. Several movies that year were ahead of their time when it came to dealing with black America and prejudice. Up until I saw this film, I would have said the best of these is "Intruder in the Dust"...a film about a Southern town intent where the mob was intent on lynching a innocent black man. "Pinky" is a film about a very light-skinned woman who passes for white. And, "Lost Boundaries" is the sad story based on a real family where a very light-skinned black doctor faces discrimination from all sides.

When the film begins, Dr. Carter (Mel Ferrer) has just graduated from medical school. He's also just received an internship at a Southern black hospital (in those days, hospitals in the South were segregated)...but when he arrives, the internship is rescinded because he is so light-skinned. Having few other options, Carter finds himself moving to a New England town and eventually taking a job....and not telling anyone he's not a Caucasian (despite appearances)....though it pains him not to be publicly proud of his heritage. It's simply because he can't find work as a 'black' doctor. Eventually his understandable decision to pass comes to light.

This story is based on the lives of Albert and Thyra Johnston and is essentially true, but with a few change (such as names and places). It's interesting because this story and the real life folks were New Englanders...defying the stereotype that prejudice was just confined to the South in the old days.

While I had a few minor gripes about the story (such as how everyone back in the 1920s dress and look like folks from 1949), there isn't a lot to dislike about this film. It honestly deals with race in a way that is even, possibly, more open than we are willing to talk about it today. The film doesn't shy away from offensive language...which I think helps the story because it clearly shows how ugly racism is. A terrific and seldom seen film that needs to be seen. I particularly liked hearing from a black man in the story who said that he hated the way whites were 'overly polite' when around him...a strange and covert type of racism. Unflinching and exceptionally well made...and, not surprisingly, a film not made by any of the major studios.

By the way, some today might complain that the blacks posing as whites were all played by white actors. However, for 1949, this sort of thing simply wasn't very likely...and so, considering everything, I appreciate the casting decisions and understand this.
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8/10
Alligators aren't quite as horrid as the documentary would indicate!
22 November 2020
"Prowlers of the Everglades" is an excellent Disney nature documentary and is well worth seeing. However, be forewarned...some of the film is filled with hyperbole that really is meant more to interest viewers instead of passing on real facts. What I am referring to are the alligators, as the film makes them sound like scary, ultra-dangerous creatures...calling them 'monsters' as well as calling them 'the scourge of the swamp'! Sure overly dramatic and silly things are pretty typical of the 1950s nature films but really are misleading and silly. While I would not recommend you hug or kiss a gator, I live with them around our property and they are not particularly aggressive..especially towards people.

The film consists essentially putting cameramen in the Florida swamp and having them record the many interesting creatures--birds, turtles, gators and otters, among others. For an older documentary, the footage is very good and clear and represents the best of the era. Just remember, as I said above, the film occasionally exaggerates....a wee tad.
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Mara Maru (1952)
6/10
A decent film with a less than convincing finale.
22 November 2020
Gregory (Errol Flynn) has received word from his partner to return. But when he arrives, his partner isn't waiting for him but is out getting drunk. Not only that, the man is surly and threatens Gregory. What gives? Obviously the partner did NOT contact him but someone else. But who and why? Well, before these questions can be answered, all sorts of stuff happens to poor Gregory. First, his partner is found dead and he is accused of the killing. Second, someone lights Gregory's boat ablaze...killing a young mate in the process. Soon, all sorts of disreputable characters show up and want Gregory to help them with a treasure hunt...but it seems very, very likely that they mean to do him harm.

This is a decent noir-like film. My only gripes are that it enjoyable but should have been more enjoyable given the plot. And, the ending to me felt like a movie ending...but not necessarily a believable one. Worth seeing but easy to miss as well.
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7/10
Very good, though the film, like so many war films, depends on too much grainy stock footage.
22 November 2020
"Men of the Fighting Lady" is a very good and highly unusual film. It's highly unusual because the screenplay is based on two different short stories by two different authors! And, even more unusual, Louis Calhern plays one of these authors, the famous writer James Michener. It's also a bit unusual because it's a Korean War film....and, oddly enough, Hollywood made very few Korean War movies.

The story is about a group of fighter-bomber pilots flying Panther jets from a US aircraft carrier. What happened to the men is described to Michener (Louis Calhern) by the ship's doctor (Walter Pidgeon)....a story about the pilots flying interdiction missions over Korea. The part of the story that is longest and most interesting is a true story of a pilot hit by shrapnel. The plan is badly damaged, he is blinded and he cannot eject...and another pilot trails him and talks him down onto the carrier deck!

The story is interesting and the acting quite good. But like too many war films, it's filled with lot of grainy stock footage that obviously doesn't fit. What's worse, occasionally it's VERY sloppy...such as when a dark blue Panther jet becomes a silver F-84 fighter plane! Another time, during a bombing run, a Panther becomes a WWII era propeller fighter, the F4U Corsair*! This is not only sloppy but insults the audience's intelligence.

Overall, worth seeing...despite the sloppy footage issue.



* To folks who know a ton about planes, yes I know that the F4U Corsair was also used in Korea....but a propeller fighter becoming a jet fighter...that's just stupid and obvious.
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8/10
I liked the character...I liked the dialog.
22 November 2020
"Assignment to Kill" is far from a perfect film. There are a few plot holes and a lady at the end of the film who is there...but with no real explanation for who she is nor her bizarre actions. Still, despite a few minor problems, I liked the film...mostly because I loved the sort of man Patrick O'Neal played in the film...a seemingly amoral private detective who is hiding some actual ideals!

Some time ago, four shipping accidents occurred in a very short space of time...all to the same company. It seems obvious that the sunken ships were sunk on purpose but there's absolutely no proof. Work by various other detectives working for the insurance company either came up with nothing or they died by what appeared to be an accident. So, they company has sought out yet another men, Richard Cutting (Patrick O'Neal) to look into this case.

This is a highly unusual film in that although O'Neal was the star, he rarely ever got to star in movies. Often he played villains, especially on television shows. Here he's excellent...cool, complicated and not at all like most movie detectives. He's also a man who acts like his moral compass is broken but over time you can see that he actually has a very strong and idiosyncratic conscience.

The trail takes him to Zurich, as a plane crash in the mountains which happened some time ago was just discovered. The pilots' remains were found but it appears as if the passenger might have escaped with their life. Cutting thinks this man might know about the sunken ships...and his part-time secretary (Joan Hackett) might be able to help him. However, Matt Wilson (Herbert Lom) and his goons always seem to be at his heels. What's next? See the film.

Apart from the acting by O'Neal and Lom, the dialog was really nice. It was so good....but the actual details of the story were occasionally poorly thought out...making it a story with a few flaws which I was still able to enjoy. Well worth seeing.

By the way, coincidentally, one of the characters in the story is murdered in Zurich. This same actor died in real life in Zurich only a few months later.
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Jeepers Creepers (I) (1939)
3/10
A couple of self-entitled city folk get a lesson on decency...a lesson that's about as subtle as a stripper at a Baptist picnic!
21 November 2020
The Weaver Brothers and Elviry are a strange and forgotten act from the 1930s to 1950. The trio were popular on radio and made a few films...mostly awful ones such as "Swing Your Lady". Abner (Leon Weaver) played a judge who was the heart of the trio, Elviry was the lady and Cicero (Frank Weaver) was a mute who was essentially a version of Harpo Marx. All of them played Hillbilly types from Arkansas and in addition to singing, they acted and dispensed a lot of old fashioned values and advice. Oddly enough, Roy Rogers played in several of their films, such as "The Arkansas Judge", "The Old Homestead" and this one, "Jeepers Creepers". While they were very popular in the South during their heyday, they are difficult to love in the 21st century as they just come off as hokey and contrived.

When the story begins, almost the entire small town is in church where Abner is preaching. However, M.K. Durant (Thurston Hall) is visiting town and has no interest in church or anything else except himself. You soon see that Durant is a nasty, selfish plutocrat who knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. And to him, the locals are all a bunch of ignorant boobs who are beneath him. As such, he and his spoiled daughter do what they want and couldn't care less how it hurts others. When M.K. carelessly starts a fire and the sheriff (Rogers) puts it out and warns him, Durant ignores him and says that he can do whatever he wants...because he's rich! Well, Sheriff Rogers has had enough and arrests him. Soon, M.K. is hauled before the judge, who also happens to be Abner, he's sentenced to a day of hard labor....and his daughter is given the same because of her contempt for the court!

Now you'd think M.K. would have learned something from all this. But instead, he's still a pig-headed jerk. And, when he discovers coal in the town, he steals the land out from the Weavers and begins strip mining! To do this, he brings in a rowdy group of hooligans that soon begin destroying everything they come into contact with...and M.K. doesn't seem to care. As for his daughter, she's appalled by him and soon sides with the town. But M.K. doesn't care and plans to do whatever he needs to make a buck. Is there any hope for the town?

The story idea is pretty good and could have worked well. It didn't because, frankly, the Weavers were a hokey and annoying act. Rogers was quite good as well Hall who could play a wonderful heel. But the film is terribly dated and about as subtle as inviting a group of strippers to crash a Baptist picnic!!
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2/10
Oh, good grief...NOT Pinky Lee!!! I'd rather see ANYONE instead of him in this movie!
21 November 2020
I have seen the majority of Roy Rogers' films and must say that I much, much prefer his earlier films. There are two main reasons for this. First, the sidekick in most of the films in the early to mid-portion of his career was Gabby Hayes...and you can't get a sidekick better than Gabby. In fact, in the later films, they tried several sidekicks other than Gabby...and a couple of them were downright annoying...such as the bumbling Gordon Jones or the lisping and super-annoying Pinky Lee. The other reason is that in the later films, Roy tended to play a fictionalized and highly idealized version of himself that is much nicer and less tough than his earlier characters...not that they were mean. It seems in the later ones, they wanted Roy to be the ultimate swell guy....and often at the expense of excitement in the script. He was already nice enough in the earlier films in my opinion! Because of my general feelings, it's not surprising that I wasn't looking forward to seeing "In Old Amarillo"...a later Rogers film with Pinky Lee. For the record, Lee is much like a lisping, nasal and less subtle version of Pee Wee Herman...which makes no sense at all in a western!

When the story begins, you learn that there's been a bad drought on the range. Now Roy's been made foreman on a ranch and he's out to make sure the men economize on the water in order to help them through this crisis. At the same time, someone is trying to make it much worse and they don't seem above murder to make these ranchers miserable and lose their homes, livestock and land. But their ultimate weapon in their efforts is the stupid and headstrong son of Roy's boss.

I didn't like this film...mostly because of Pinky. But Estelita Rodriquez is pretty tough to like. While she appeared in many Roy Rogers films, this is possibly her worst appearance because she's loud and almost like the reincarnation of Lupe Valez...which, like Lee, just doesn't fit into this picture well at all. I also hated the 'funny' sound effects that you hear whenever Pinky does something dopey. What did I like? Well, I really liked it when one of the baddies bashed Pinky over the head...at least that shut him up! But you know it's bad when THAT is the highlight of the movie for me!
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6/10
Pretty standard fare.
21 November 2020
"Along the Navajo Trail" is a very standard Roy Rogers film that's filled with what you'd expect....Dale Evans, Gabby Hayes, Estelita Rodriguez, the Sons of the Pioneers as well as a very typical baddie.

The story is about a local baddie, Bentley (Douglas Fowley). He and his men are terrorizing the countryside trying to get the ranchers to sell out to him. But it' not because he wants to keep the land...he plans on selling it to an oil company wanting to put in a pipeline. The problems are that they cannot prove that he's behind all the terror AND the last agent who was sent to investigate was murdered. Can Roy manage to get to the bottom of everything?

The answer to the question above is, of course, yes. Roy ALWAYS catches the baddie and it's not any surprise. It's how he does that you need to tune in to see! Overall, pretty much what you'd expect and want out of a Rogers film.
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Nailed It! (2018– )
9/10
So good, it's often copied.
20 November 2020
"Nailed It!" is my favorite cooking show because it manages to do something other cooking shows never do...it makes me laugh. Most cooking competition shows are incredibly serious and I appreciate how NOTHING is serious on "Nailed It!"...nothing. The trophy the folks win is ridiculously silly and the hosts really do a lot to make it fun. I was shocked with the chemistry between goofy Nicole Byer and the seemingly sophisticated and decorated French chef, Jacques Torres...they really work great together. And, most of the time, the guest panelists pick up on this fun vibe and are quite fun as well.

I have no idea if the American version of "Nailed It!" led to others, but regardless the idea works so well that there are now French, Mexican and Spanish versions as well...and perhaps others. Why? Because this show is goofy good fun.
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