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Adam-12: Million Dollar Bluff (1971)
Interesting stories, and Lindsay Wagner's debut
Big, hulking Leo Gordon was a bad guy "to the bone". He terrorized, beat up and generally put the fear of God into scores of Hollywood's "toughest" screen heroes over the years. And it came naturally to him--he was an ex-convict who spent time in San Quentin Prison for armed robbery and once took several bullets in a shootout with police, He turned his life around, though, and eventually became one of the most familiar and in-demand villains in the business. He also turned into a first-rate writer, with several screenplays and a lot of TV series scripts to his credit. This episode of "Adam-12" was one of them--he wrote more than 20 altogether--and it's a good one.
Gordon wrote himself a good part, too, as a retiree who is a police "buff" who turns his fascination with police work into a hobby, and winds up making a nuisance of himself and actually putting himself and others in danger by showing up at the scene of crimes--he has a police scanner in his car--and inserting himself into Reed's and Malloy's cases.
The second story is about a woman who pulls the "palm switch" at jewelry stores, surreptitiously stealing expensive jewelry and replacing them with cheap copies. A young and startlingly beautiful Lindsay Wagner--this was her first TV role--plays a newly hired jewelry-store clerk who is a victim of the palm switch.
The stories move along quite well, thanks to veteran director James Nielsen, with none of the choppiness that often affected this series. Gordon does a good job of playing not a villain, per se, but a man with too much time and money on his hands who doesn't realize that he's doing more harm than good, and Wagner is charming as the nervous and somewhat timid clerk who's afraid of losing her job.
All in all, a very creditable episode.
Three Missing Links (1938)
One of their best
"Three Missing Links" ranks among the best of The Three Stooges' many shorts. They're bumbling janitors in a movie studio, and after wrecking a producer's office, they wind up getting hired as actors in a jungle epic to be shot in the wilds of darkest Africa (which was actually a sound stage in the wilds of darkest Burbank). Curly is to play a gorilla who is the love interest of the beautiful Mirabel Mirabel (the stunning but unfortunately little-known Jane Hamilton, who bears a strong resemblance to the equally stunning but better known
Virginia Mayo). Moe and Larry are cast as cavemen who are competing with Curly for the charms of Mirabel Mirabel. Problems arise when a real gorilla show up on location.
This is one of the Stooges' most consistently funny outings. It's the first one directed by their producer, Jules White, who tended to go overboard on the violence but shows a much more restrained hand here. The scenes in the producer's office are hilarious, with Curly at the top of his game and the great James C. Morton, who often served as a foil for Laurel and Hardy, serving that purpose here and doing a terrific job of it. The routines on the "set" in Africa are among the Stooges' funniest.
All in all, a first-rate entry in the long-running series and one that holds up well with repeated viewings, something that many of their later entries didn't.
The Hill (2009)
Quite possibly the worst piece of crap I've ever seen
The only good thing about this pathetic mess of a "war picture" is that it's short, only about a half-hour. In that half-hour, however, the "filmmakers"--and I use the term loosely--manage to cram in some of the worst writing ("War is a demon!"), acting, photography, editing, "special effects" and laughably stupid "battle scenes" I've ever seen. The "plot" is about an American patrol sent to establish an observation post on a small hill., but when they get there the hill consists of an open field with a small rise in the middle of it. It's obvious that no one who had anything to do with this film had ever been anywhere near the military, but at least they should have gotten some kind of advice from someone who has been. Damn near NOTHING is right--officers don't salute subordinates first; privates don't tell officers "go f**k yourself"; enlisted men don't call lieutenants "L T"--not during World War Ii, anyway; the words "intel" and "the bottom line is" weren't used during World War II; and in a masterpiece of stupidity, the writer has a German machine gun crew set up in the middle of an open field with no cover that's the worst place to set up an ambush, about 50 yards from a treeline that offers plenty of cover and is the perfect place to set up an ambush. If that isn't bad enough, the writer also has the American patrol assigned to take that hill make its way to the treeline, see the German crew in the middle of the field and its lieutenant suddenly orders his men to burst out of the cover of the treeline and charge the Germans, which results in most of them getting shot to pieces (oh, and there's an SS officer in charge of a regular German army unit, which wouldn't happen because the SS isn't part of the regular army, which is something ELSE the writer didn't know).
The movie is cheap-looking, but that isn't what makes it bad; the sheer incompetence shown in every facet of its production is what makes it bad. The movie is frustratingly stupid, has nothing to say although they make a failed effort at trying to sound profound, and I've actually written more about this train-wreck of a movie than it deserves, so take my advice--you can find far better things to do with a half-hour of your life than spend it watching this.
Lady from Chungking (1942)
Wong only bright spot in this murky "actioner"
Anna May Wong lends much more dignity--and professionalism--to this cheapjack PRC production than it deserves. Directed by Monogram stalwart William Nigh--he must have misbehaved and was punished by being loaned out to PRC--and written by longtime hacks Sam Robins and Milton Raison, this bears all the hallmarks of a PRC production that we've come to know and love: tinny sound, at times barely visible photography, inconsistent scripting and amateurish performances from newcomers on their way up and over-the-top performances from veterans on their way down. This one has Wong as the leader of a Chinese group resisting the Japanese occupation of China during World War II, and must match wits with a wily Japanese general (Harold Huber, miscast again, as he often was). I gave this three stars, based entirely on Wong's presence. She was almost criminally misused by Hollywood over the years, and she deserved better-and she certainly deserved better than this. Without her, this wouldn't be worth watching.
Very funny entry in a very funny series
Toody and Muldoon find out that Joel Pokrass, one of the boys on their PAL basketball team, isn't playing well because he's worried about his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. It turns out that the boy's father is a notorious slumlord (who Schnauzer calls "The Beast of the Bronx") and, although everyone likes Joel, not one person who lives in the 53rd Precinct will come to his Bar Mitzvah because most of them have lived, at one time or another, in one of Pokrass' crumbling slum buildings and hates him. Toody and Muldoon have to find a way to get people to come to Joel's Bar Mitzvah despite everybody's feelings about his father. This is an hilarious entry in the series, very well written by Nat Hiken with Joe E. Ross at the top of his form as Toody and Al Lewis in one of his best jobs as the eternally put-upon Leo Schnauzer. Burlesque comic B.S. Pully is the skinflint Pokrass and does an excellent job of it. Hiken's plots tend to go off on tangents before coming back together for an hilarious and clever ending, and this is an excellent example of that. Very, very funny episode.
Not the worst, but hardly the best
I saw this under one of its many titles, "Hell River", and was pretty unimpressed. It has a few things going for it--for one thing the photography is quite crisp, unlike many 1970s Euro-made WW 2 "epics", which tended to be either washed-out or muddy--and the music is at least appropriate and doesn't drown out or overwhelm what's on screen--but there are a lot more cons than pro's. The performances aren't particularly good, especially Adam West, wildly miscast as a Nazi officer; he is stiff as a board, has no chemistry or connection with anyone in the cast and slips in and out of an embarrassingly bad German accent. Rod Taylor is stalwart as usual, but he's simply too old to play an action hero. Xenia Gratsos, here billed as "Brioni Farrell", matches West's wooden acting and is rather plain-looking to boot. The plethora of action scenes are done in a very by-the-numbers fashion and tend to be unrealistic, i.e., when the partisans attack a German armored column the Germans are mowed down by the dozens but only a very few partisans fall, despite the Germans opening up with everything they had.
All in all it's not as bad as a lot of the cheap WW 2 crapfests the Italians ground out like sausages in the 1960s and 1970a--my God, what a tsunami of stinkers they were--but it's nothing to write home about. Watchable, to a degree, but not memorable.
Party House (2013)
Poor all around
I haven't seen very many Nacho Vidal movies, but if this piece of crap is any indication, I don't need to see any more. Nasty, mean-spirited mess with Vidal and a couple of his buddies and a slew of not particularly attractive women sexing it up on a bed, the floor and a couch. Vidal likes to slap, choke and mishandle the women he's with-- maybe that's part of his "shtick", but I don't like it--and they don't seem to be particularly thrilled with him, either. Technically, it's abominable--whoever he hired to shoot it hasn't the slightest idea of what he's doing--and while there are four or five other women in the frame at any one time, most of the "action" focuses on Vidal. There's a scene with him and Caroline Abril on a bed with four other women, but although the other women engage in twosomes, threesomes and foursomes, the cameraman focuses almost exclusively on Vidal and Abril; every so often you'll get a glimpse of the other women in action, but that seems to be more of a side effect than deliberate.
In any case, like I said, the women are second- and third-string at best, the "action" is not particularly well shot, and I guess to enjoy this movie you have to be a fan of Vidal and his frankly contemptuous treatment of the women he works with. I'm not. I don't think I'll be seeing any more Nacho Vidal movies anytime soon.
Jesse James' Women (1954)
Low-budget doesn't always mean bad, but in this case it most certainly does
Donald Barry stars in, co-wrote, co-produced, directed and probably did the catering, landscaping and janitorial work on this cheesy, badly shot, ineptly written, amateurishly acted and poorly made low-budget-- VERY low-budget--western purporting to be about infamous western outlaw Jesse James. If you're going to make a movie about a real person, it would probably help if you stuck at least a few actual facts in it, and that's what you get in this stinker--few actual facts. Other than showing that Jesse had a brother Frank and that he and fellow outlaw Bob Ford didn't get along, there isn't much about this movie that has any basis in fact. The short and paunchy Barry wrote Jesse as being completely irresistible to women--and makes sure that his henchmen mention that fact every so often--and plays him like a Vegas lounge-lizard in the vein of Wayne Newton (but even smarmier) who has scads of beautiful women just throwing themselves at him. To give Barry credit he did pick some absolutely gorgeous women like Peggie Castle, Lita Baron and Joyce Barrett to fight over him, but whatever efforts they try to make at giving this film some kind of professional touch are ruined by the juvenile and pedestrian script and Barry's completely botched attempt at directing. He smirks his way through the picture and doesn't really have much chemistry with his cast, most of whom are amateurs whose "performances" consist of haltingly reciting their lines and trying to stay on their marks (a few of them even have trouble trying to stay on their horses). The whole project reeks of someone getting a little money together and telling his friends, "Let's make a movie!". Castle and Betty Brueck have a rather long catfight in a saloon, which is actually done fairly well, and there's a sequence with Barry engaged in a boxing match with a traveling prizefighter that is handled tongue-in-cheek and is mildly amusing, but other than those small pluses Barry, Castle (who is far and away the best thing about this picture) and Baron have done far better work, and I wouldn't doubt that at least those two women didn't bring up this picture in any discussion of their careers, as well they shouldn't have.
The San Antonio Kid (1944)
My first Red Ryder western. Not impressed
I'd never seen a Red Ryder western before today, although I'd read and heard about them. Based on what I've seen so far, I am not impressed.
I realize that this series was made for kids, and I've taken that into account, but it was still incredibly juvenile; I can imagine kids sitting in a theater in 1944 watching this and saying "Oh, come on, get real". The script, even for a kid's western, is puerile and sloppy, although Bill Elliott does a pretty good job of trying to make the juvenile dialog he has to recite seem not so juvenile. Elliott definitely has a screen presence and did first-rate work in a string of westerns for Republic and, later, Allied Artists, but he's not shown to his best advantage here. Linda Stirling is quite attractive and athletic--as she showed in "The Tiger Woman" serial for Republic, which came out the same year as this film--and does the best she can with what she's given. The action is, of course, fast and furious, as you would expect from Republic, and the supporting cast is full of great western players--Leroy Mason, Glenn Strange, Robert Wilke, Tom London, among others--but what really ruined this for me were Earle Hodgins as Happy Jack and Robert Blake as Little Beaver. I like both of them as actors, but Blake was definitely not even remotely convincing as an Indian kid. His performance was so grating and annoying that I found myself closing my eyes and shaking my head whenever he came on. Hodgins specialized in fast-talking medicine-show hustlers, carnival barkers, two-faced small-town politicians, etc., and he was great at that, but playing the confused and confusing sidekick Happy Jack and seeing him getting constantly bested by Blake's bratty little Indian kid was depressing, to say the least,
All in all, I'd have to say that if this is a good example of Elliott's Red Ryder series, then I don't particularly want to see the rest of them. I'll give him a couple of more chances, though. We'll see what happens.
Katanga: The Untold Story (1962)
First off, it's NOT a 'documentary'
This "documentary" about what happened in the Belgian Congo when Belgium gave the country its independence and abruptly pulled out is not a documentary but a political propaganda piece. Almost total anarchy followed the Belgian pullout, with various warlords and tribal militias fighting each other for power and civilians being caught in the middle. Things got so bad that the United Nations sent in peacekeepers to prevent a wholesale bloodbath, and they wound up getting involved in the fighting also, especially in the Congolese province of Katanga, which wanted to break away from the central Congo government.
This film was produced by an ultra-right-wing outfit called American Awareness, which believed the US should leave the United Nations because it was actually a Communist-front organization that was secretly trying to impose "one-world government" on the US and turn it into a Communist dictatorship. That was pretty much a basic belief of many groups on the far right of the American political spectrum, such as the John Birch Society, and this wildly misleading and biased film tries to make that case by depicting the UN forces as the real villains and the Katangese as "the good guys". Being the Congo, things weren't that cut and dried, but you'd never know that by this film. It's determined to portray UN officials as dedicated Communists dead-set on turning the Congo over to their Russian masters to become a Communist satellite state and UN soldiers as bloodthirsty, murderous savages. This isn't a documentary as much as it is an extremely one-sided (and despicably race-baiting) propaganda film that tries to make the UN look like the personification of pure evil, with the message "See what happened in the Congo? The UN will make that happen here, too". There are many worthwhile documentaries about the tragic history of the Congo since its independence. This shrill, poorly made hit piece isn't one of them.
Very, very impressive
I started watching this movie thinking it would be a fairly typical one-reeler of the time, shot on the cheap, with a few perfunctory action scenes, a lot of smoke, some horses running around, and that would be pretty much it. I couldn't have been more wrong. This is an extremely impressive little film, and while I might not call it the "masterpiece" that the previous reviewer did, I do have to say that I was very, very pleasantly surprised by what I saw. This film is in no way, shape or form "cheap"--the producers put a lot of money into this little epic, with hundreds of extras and horses, elaborate (and apparently period-correct) costumes and equipment, batteries of cannons and exciting battle scenes. For an action picture the acting is actually rather subdued, as opposed to the often over-the-top ham that was common in pictures of the time, especially D.W. Griffith's. It had almost a documentary feel to it that I found quite effective.
I had heard of director J. Searle Dawley but, as far as I know, have never seen any of his films. Based on what I've seen in his work here, I've been missing out on a lot. I'll have to start looking out more for his pictures.
Hot Paprika (1935)
OK, I guess, Andy Clyde short
Besides The Three Stooges, Andy Clyde was probably the best known of the comics making Columbia two-reel shorts. This is the first one of his I've seen, and while it has its moments, it didn't impress me all that much. It has most of the same crew the Stooges used, and there are familiar faces in the cast who regularly appear in Stooges shorts (Bud Jamison, Harry Semels), but it's not really all that funny. Columbia's comedy shorts tended to be fast-paced and frantic, trying to cram a lot of gags into their short running time, but this one seems to go on forever, especially (as another reviewer mentioned) in a scene where Andy is rolling down a hill lying on top of a door. There's a neat little bit where Andy is dancing with some cute little senorita in a cantina that's actually pretty funny, but overall it just doesn't gel. Maybe his other shorts were better than this one, but they'd pretty much have to be.
The Terror of the Tongs (1961)
Color's good, lead girl is sexy, movie is terrible
Well, maybe not exactly "terrible", but not very good at all. It's nicely photographed, and Yvonne Monlaur--a French actress playing a Chinese girl--is hot, but those are pretty much the film's only good points. Everything else is subpar at best. Christopher Lee tries hard as the villainous leader of the murderous Red Dragon Tong, but he is sorely miscast, as is pretty much everyone else. The Chinese characters are, with a few exceptions, played by white British actors, and not played very well. The "hero", Geoffrey Toone, is stiff, dull and unconvincing and seems to be standing around waiting to be told what to do. There are a few perfunctory and poorly done fight scenes--although there's a somewhat better brawl on the docks at the end--and the script is predictable, anemic and lifeless. Many of the characters, especially Toone's Capt. Sale, act just plain stupidly--for instance, the Tong breaks into Sale's home and murders his daughter, then later sneaks into his home again and tries to murder him, but he takes no measures to protect himself (doesn't carry a gun, doesn't ask for police protection, when he hears a knock on the door he opens it without trying to see who it is first, etc.). The pace is leaden, thanks to Anthony Bushell's uninspired direction--it was his third and last film as a director, and I can see why it was his last--and the acting ranges from over-the-top ham (especially when the British actors try doing what they think are Chinese accents) to under-the-top inept.
Overall, despite a few small--VERY small--pluses, it's really not worth your time.
Blah French softcore
Cheap-looking, poorly edited French softcore flick about a teenage boy who has the hots not just for the sweet young thing his dad hires as the maid for the family country estate, but also for his sexy blonde stepmother, who seems to also be attracted to him--as is the maid to his father. The story--everybody bangs everybody else--is nothing new, having been done a million times before and far better. The acting is perfunctory, photography is washed-out, the women aren't all that attractive--well, maybe the new stepmother--and the only reason I gave it three stars was for the frequent gratuitous nudity, which is its only saving grace. Otherwise, skip it.
Across the Plains (1939)
Above-average Monogram "B"
This is the first Jack Randall western I've seen, and I must say I'm impressed. You learn not to expect too much from a Monogram picture--and that's usually what you get--but this one is different. Randall had an easy-going manner and wasn't a bad actor at all. He was a good rider and handled action well. In this above-average Monogram oater, he's a trail scout named Cherokee who was adopted by Indians as a child after his parents were killed by a bandit gang in an attack on a wagon train. His little brother (Dennis Moore) was taken by the bandits and raised as one of them, and they told him it was Indians who had killed his parents. Years later the two brothers run into each other but don't know they're brothers. Director Spencer Gordon Bennet keeps things moving swiftly, and there's some really good use made of locations at Lone Pine, California, that give the picture a very sweeping and expensive look, something you don't often see in your run-of-the-mill "B" western. Addison carries the picture well, Moore has a meatier role than he often got and does well with it, Joyce Bryant is pretty to look at, veterans Bud Osborne and Glenn Strange are around for authenticity, and there's a good gun battle at the end with somewhat of an ingenious little twist. All in all, a very pleasant and pleasing little B from Monogram. Check it out.
Poor excuse for an "epic"
Shoddy, clumsily written, hammily acted, sloppily directed with very poorly staged "action" scenes--and those are its good parts. This is an Italian mini-series, but it's much more reminiscent of the "sword-and- sandal" mini-epics that cheapjack Italian producers ground out like sausages in the 1960s, and not as entertaining as many of them. The acting is on the level of an overheated silent-era melodrama, and the script is so confusing and convoluted it's hard to follow who's doing what to who. This pitiful "spectacular" has few saving graces, and one of them is the exquisitely beautiful Karen Proia, who plays "Maria". Well, now that I think about it, she's the ONLY saving grace this film has. I gave it two stars, and that's just because watching her made viewing this claptrap a lot less painful. Otherwise, avoid this thing at all costs.
Yellowstone Kelly (1959)
It's a good one
I like Clint Walker, I'm a fan of Gordon Douglas' movies (e.g., "Them!", "Rio Conchos", "The Detective") and I can even tolerate Edd Byrnes--in small doses--but I really wasn't expecting much from "Yellowstone Kelly" when I first saw it a few days ago. Turned out that I got a lot more than I bargained for.
First off, Walker is a hell of a screen presence. I haven't seen "Cheyenne" in many, many years, and I kind of forgot just how much he can fill up the screen, and not just physically; he has the kind of commanding presence that John Wayne has, and although Wayne's a better actor, Walker's no slouch himself. He does a first-rate job here, and Burt Kennedy's script doesn't make him the kind of stock "hero" type that many "B" westerns tend to make of their stars.
Second off, the scenery--as pointed out by other reviewers--is spectacular. It has the kind of power that John Ford brought to the screen with his Monument Valley locations yet it doesn't overwhelm the overall film, as Monument Valley tended to do. In addition, Gordon Douglas' westerns are noted for their "balls to the wall" action scenes, as in "Rio Conchos", and this film doesn't disappoint in that department. There are several of them, from bar-room brawls to full-out Indian attacks, and they're all extremely well done.
Then there's Andra Martin. She's not given much to do, actually, but she is one of the most strikingly and exotically beautiful women to have ever graced the screen, and she does the most here with what she's given, and she's actually quite good.
A good supporting cast--Claude Akins and Warren Oates stand out, and even Edd Byrnes is far less annoying than he usually is--helps greatly. If there's any downside to this picture, it's the casting of white actors in Indian roles. John Russell and Ray Danton are good actors, but they don't even come close to being convincing as Indians and, as this practice usually does, actually hurt the picture.
Overall, though, I was more than pleasantly surprised with "Yellowstone Kelly". Walker turns in a first-rate performance, the scenery is beautiful, the action is well done, and on top of everything else there's Andra Martin. A very good combination. Walker made another western that I haven't seen, "Fort Dobbs", and if it's half as good as this one was, I'll have to check it out.
A little song, a little dance . . .
WJM's Chuckles the Clown is at a parade dressed as "Peter Peanut" and, as Lou Grant so succinctly put it, "a rogue elephant tried to shell him". Poor Mary Richards is emotionally devastated because of Chuckles' death, but unfortunately shows it in some not-quite-appropriate ways, culminating in a meltdown at Chuckles' funeral.
This is probably the funniest episode of this terrific series, and continually makes the lists of Top 10 comedy episodes. It's not every sitcom that can make comedy gold out of someone's death, but they pull it off flawlessly here. Everything is just letter-perfect: the writing, the directing, the acting--even Murray, probably my least favorite character on the show, comes off well. It's Mary Tyler Moore's turn to shine here, and she's just perfect. There were some episodes of the series that didn't quite come off particularly well--not many, but some-- but this is definitely not one of them. Besides being the funniest episode in this series, it's quite possibly the single funniest episode of any series, period. It's about as close to perfection as you can get.
Raiders of Old California (1957)
Good cast, but flabby oater's cheapness and incompetence is irritating
Although full of actors with a lot of experience in westerns--Jim Davis, Harry Lauter, Lee Van Cleef, Douglas Fowley--this cheap and irritating film from Republic comes across like it was made over a weekend by a couple of guys who got some money (very little of it, from the looks of things) together and said, "Hey, let's make a western!". This was released by Republic near the end of its existence--the studio went out of business two years later--although it wasn't actually made by them but was an independent production they picked up for distribution. That at least salvages their reputation somewhat, since Republic specialized in making westerns and knew how to make efficient, action-packed horse operas; I can't think of any of its own product that is as tenth-rate as this mess is.
There are so many things wrong with this film that it's difficult to know where to begin. For starters, although it's called "Raiders of Old California", it's set along the Texas/Mexican border, nowhere near California. As pointed out by other reviewers, the US troops wear uniforms and equipment that weren't issued until 15 years or so after the period the film was set in (the late 1840s). The film opens during the Mexican-American War of 1848 with a US Army attack on a Mexican fort, and it's an indication of what's to come--the "action" is dull, slow, poorly staged and full of stupid mistakes (while attacking the fort, the US soldiers don't bother running but stand out in the open, where they are promptly shot; soldiers fall off their horses although no shots are heard being fired; after the battle is over and the Americans have taken the fort, a Mexican soldier rides through the front gate and starts speaking to his commanding officer--in English--apparently not noticing that the fort has been taken over by American soldiers), and the "fort" itself is a painfully obvious, shoddily made set that looks like it was slapped together with wrapping paper and plywood.
The story of greedy villains trying to take land away from poor defenseless peasants and farmers has been done a thousand times before (and a thousand times better) and despite the cast of western veterans, no one acquits themselves particularly well. I hope their checks didn't bounce so at least they got something out of it, because this flabby, badly written, sloppily made hackjob isn't anything any of them should be proud of.
A bit hard to follow, but overall very worthwhile
"Kingdom of War"--which was the title I saw it under in a two-disc DVD set from Magnolia Home Entertainment--has some things going against it but a lot more going for it. For Westerners unfamiliar with Thai history, it gets a bit confusing because so many historical names and places are mentioned and the shifting political and military alliances change so often that it's hard to tell the players without a scorecard and, as other reviewers have mentioned, the acting is, at times, somewhat stilted. Also, I know that royalty is revered in Thailand, possibly more so than in other countries, but seeing the complete subservience of everyone to the various kings and lords--there were even scenes of people walking toward the king on their knees because apparently no one is allowed to stand taller than the king, something I'd never seen before--is somewhat hard for Westerners to take (we're much more comfortable cursing and swearing at our leaders than prostrating ourselves in front of them, as much as they'd no doubt probably like us to).
That's all small potatoes, though. Overall, I enjoyed this film way more than I thought I would. It's an epic in every conceivable sense of the word--thousands of extras, huge and fantastic sets, beautiful costumes and interiors (palaces, throne rooms, etc.), and truly spectacular battle scenes. The story--after you finally figure out who is who--is fascinating and not all the acting is stilted; the actress who plays Princess Lekin is not only one of the most ravishingly beautiful women I've ever seen but gives a first-rate performance, possibly the best one in the film. The man who plays King Nerusuan--the Special Features section, which you should really watch, says he is actually a Thai Army colonel who was hired because the producers wanted someone with military experience to play one of Thailand's great military heroes--also contributes an excellent job, along with several other actors in lesser roles (the head monk and Prince Menechan, among others).
As I said, it's a bit hard to slog through in the beginning, but once you get the different characters, kingdoms, etc., straightened out, it's an incredibly enjoyable film, both visually and story-wise. I recommend it.
I don't mind parodies at all--I loved "The Producers" and think "Springtime for Hitler" is terrific--but the people who did this travesty hadn't the slightest idea of what a parody was. This schizophrenic little short doesn't quite know what it's supposed to be--it bounces from slapstick comedy to musical numbers to (somewhat) serious comments on the brutal chain-gang system, and fails miserably at all of them. The lead "comic", someone named Jerry Bergen, was someone I had never seen before and, hopefully, won't see again. As bad as this short is, he makes it even worse, and with his incessant mugging, shouting and forced slapstick he manages to combine the worst excesses of Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey into one annoying and talentless little twerp.
If there's anything that could be even remotely considered to be a bright spot, it's a bevy of scantily dressed chorus girls doing a Radio City Rockette-type production number in the prison's chow hall--don't ask--and there's an amusing bit where the prison authorities track down the escaped prisoners not with large bloodhounds but with small poodles. Other than that, this atrocity has absolutely nothing whatsoever going for it.
Livin' by the Gun (2011)
Can't get much worse than this
What can I say that most other reviewers haven't already said? This "movie" is a total failure on virtually every conceivable level. About the only good things about it are the cinematography--which is actually pretty good--and the music, which is at least bearable. Everything else about it--and I mean EVERYTHING--is laughable. The reciting--in no way, shape or form could it be called "acting"--is universally abysmal (the worst by far is by the "leading lady"), the writing is a jumbled, convoluted mess, the direction is virtually nonexistent, the fart jokes aren't funny (yes, there's a character who actually farts loudly several times before he's thankfully killed off), even the sound effects are 12th-rate. A complete and utter waste of time. There's probably a movie somewhere on this planet that's worse than this thing is, but with any luck I'll never see it. Avoid this mess at all costs.
Definitely one of their lesser episodes
SPOILER: On their day off, Reed and his pregnant wife and Malloy and his date--a cute nurse--go exploring an old ghost town and run into a gang of nasty bikers, who disable their car and whose leader threatens to kill them. Although the series didn't very often show Reed and Malloy spending a lot of time together off-duty, you'd think the show's writers could have come up with a better idea than this. It's taken for granted that nothing bad is going to happen to the show's two stars, so no matter how much the bikers threaten them or actually attack them, there's no tension or suspense wondering if Reed, Malloy and company are going to come out of it OK--of course they will. So that means that the bikers will end up on the short end of the stick, which--to no one's surprise--is exactly what happens. The writing is simplistic in the extreme: the bikers are pure evil and are sneeringly referred to as "unwashed" and listening to "indecent, filthy music", which in 1969--when this episode was shot--was anathema to arch-conservatives such as the show's producer Jack Webb and pretty much a sign of the coming apocalypse that would be brought on by the "hippies", the "youth movement" and all the other forces of evil that were destroying America (to their way of thinking, at least). In addition, the biker gang's leader is played by Bruce Glover--Christian Glover's father--in such snarling, clenched-teeth, off-the-wall scenery chewing as to be embarrassing. Of course Reed and Malloy--and, by extension, the forces of goodness and decency--triumph, much as you knew they would. I actually like Adam-12 and thought it was overall a pretty good show, but every so often Webb's far-right politics would find their way into an episode or two, and this is one of them. Skip it.
Santa Fe Passage (1955)
Witney's done better
Disgraced Indian scout and his sidekick lead a wagon train carrying freight through Kiowa country to Mexico. John Payne is the scout, Slim Pickens is his sidekick and Rod Cameron and Faith Domergue are the wagon train "bosses". Director William Witney was an expert at making tight, fast-moving westerns, but he had a bad day here. Except for a well-handled wild-horse stampede and a couple of slightly less well-handled Indian attacks, this picture moves like molasses, with performances ranging from enjoyable (Pickens) to stiff (Cameron) to indifferent (Domergue) to awful (Irene Tedrow as a Kiowa "squaw" accompanying Domergue on the train). Payne looks like he'd rather be somewhere else and doesn't connect at all with Domergue, his ostensible love interest. Only Pickens and Leo Gordon as a villainous (what else?) trail boss manage to breathe any life into their characters, and the script holds no surprises for anyone (especially the "twist" ending). An OK time-waster, that's about all.
Down Texas Way (1942)
Batting 50/50 so far
I've only seen two of the "Rough Riders" series--this and "Dawn on the Great Divide". I was much more impressed with "Dawn" than I am with this one. Hopefully, the other entries in the series are better than this one is.
For one thing, it's as slow as molasses. Director Howard Bretherton--who also did "Dawn"--usually moves things along much faster than he does here. As mentioned by other reviewers, it's actually hard to follow, and I got tired early on of Tim McCoy's strutting and preening. I liked Buck Jones' work far better--he had a quiet authority that I found refreshing and he didn't seem to be deliberately trying to upstage or overshadow his fellow actors. as McCoy appeared to be doing. I didn't think much of Raymond Hatton--I usually don't--and he didn't give me any reason to change my mind in this picture. It had a good supporting cast--Glenn Strange, John Merton, the great Harry Woods, Tom London, Dave O'Brien--but its leaden pace, a very poorly done shootout in a saloon and its somewhat convoluted plot all work against it. It looks rushed--at one point Tom London, playing a crooked bartender, blows one of his lines and, in typical Monogram fashion, it's left in--and it just doesn't come together at all. If "Dawn on the Great Divide" was typical of the "Rough Riders" series, then I'll be looking for more of them. If "Down Texas Way" is typical, then I won't be.