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Love and Kisses (1965)
Oddity and Harriet
Released in theaters in 1965 during last season of his long-running family TV series, Ozzie Nelson's attempt to recast son Ricky and real- life wife Kris as slightly more risqué versions of their sitcom roles is a real weirdie.
Hard to imagine what Oz (who wrote, produced and directed) was thinking; it's almost as if this was his way to use all the story lines he knew would never get past the TV censors.
But did he really believe audience who'd made TV's most wholesome comedy a hit for more than ten years was dying to hear rockin' Ricky use (mild) profanity, see Kris perform a burlesque routine, watch Ozzie-surrogate Jack Kelly awkwardly guide Ricky through a teen-marriage sex talk (in which Ricky, a teen idol of many years and now well into twenties, seems to have biological knowledge of a dim- witted third grader, etc.)?
With cameos by O&H alums David Nelson and Skip "Wally Plumstead" Young as bystanders in a strip joint brawl (!), a creepy scene in which the teen newlyweds consummate their marriage in the groom's bunk bed, lots of exteriors shot on Universal's old Leave It To Beaver back lot set and a crazy ending wherein Rick serenades Kris in a hot rod. . . driven by a giant stuffed rabbit!
May not exactly be the "Rick 'n' Roll Riot!!!" the poster promised but still blandly bizarre in the extreme.
Lightning Strikes Twice (1951)
Beyond The Desert
Another crazed logic-free over-acted melodrama in the same late Forties/early Fifties hothouse mode of Warners' Beyond The Forest, The Damned Don't Cry and This Woman Is Dangerous, this time sans the stellar fuel tank of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford. Judge this rating accordingly-- if you enjoyed aforementioned pictures, you'll get a kick out this; if not, take shelter. . .stormy weather indeed.
No need to rehash plot revealed by earlier posters, a Texas-set dramatic chile con carne liberally laced with murder, unrequited love and dark secrets set in one of those those only-in-the-movies remote desert communities where people live miles apart in remote rancheros. . .but still show up in gowns and white dinner jackets at swank poolside barbecues that would put Manhattanites to shame.
Although the smoldering-yet-vanilla Richard Todd, underused Ruth Roman and Zachery Scott(in a "hey-it's-a-paycheck" role that comes out of nowhere and getsthere fast) are ostensible stars, show is stolen by cactus-chomping Mercedes McCambridge in (apparently unintentional) schizophrenic role as a butch desert denizen (think of her role in Johnny Guitar, only less feminine) who not only has inexplicable crush on charmless Todd after he has allegedly killed his wife. . .but is nevertheless selected to serve on jury during his murder trial to boot! Things go off-cliff (as does at least one vehicle) from there.
Whatever film lacks in reality, it more than makes up for in implausibility and psychological chaos that would baffle Freud. But rest assured, everyone gets their just deserts(sic). If you're in right frame of mind, a yucca minute.
Cancel My Reservation (1972)
Dreadful semi-serious schlock that is to Bob Hope's career what Caprice was to Doris Day's. Apparently realizing rather late in the game that the fluff which had been box-office gold during their movie heydays (enjoyable as it may have been when they were years younger and material was fresh) seemed mighty passé by standards of later Sixties- early Seventies, both signed on for roles in thriller/mystery roles that just planted their same old characters in darker situations.
Here, Bob is cast as a national TV talk show host who somehow winds up being prime suspect in a series of murders in a corrupt Arizona backwater involving Native Americans. Uh, why doesn't he call a lawyer? Because he is too busy making cornball cracks based on dated advertising slogans (of several years old, even at that time) and catch phrases which weren't funny that funny to begin with and will simply baffle most viewers today. (When Chief Dan George utters a Native American phrase, a comic subtitle explains he is actually saying "Why don't you go water your fern?" Despite a certain desperation appeal that some may appreciate in a campy or almost surreal kitschy "aging comic" sense, just painful!)
Before the very unmysterious mystery is cleared up, there are even gratuitous what-the-huh? cameos by Johnny Carson, John Wayne, Flip Wilson and Bing Crosby. (Jo Anne Worley was apparently busy during the lunch hour when these appearances were shot.) And once everything is cleared up, screen wife Eva Marie Saint announces that Bob, pushing 70 but claiming to be 42!, is about to become a first-time father!!!
Makes one yearn for the sophisticated humor of Boy Did I Get a Wrong Number or Eight on the Lam.
Cracking Up (1977)
A Reeking Steaming Pile
Dreadfully unfunny excrement featuring a handful of (later) truly funny folks (Edie McClurg, Fred Willard, Harry Shearer) who somehow survived this unpromising early-career mess. Hard to figure out what is going on here; looks like one of those SNL-inspired zip-budget sketch comedies (Groove Tube,Kentucky Fried Movie) of Seventies goosed up for mini-major studio distribution (American International) with gratuitous added footage (nudity, moronic storyline about post-earthquake LA) that has virtually nothing to do with scatter shot "comedic" skits. (Too bad they didn't edit in some laughs.) Film stock doesn't match and opening credits don't even list performers. Clearly aimed at undiscriminating drive-in crowd but there's not enough beer or weed the in world to make this steaming pile amusing.
Union Station (1950)
Unjustly over-looked B-movie kidnap caper marred by geographical heresy. Although landmark title locale is unmistakably famous downtown Los Angeles train station of same name, other scenes supposedly occurring in same vicinity involve elevated railways and nearby stockyards with no connection to actual LA landscape. Sort of like titling a movie Empire State Building, then having sequences take place in surrounding deserts, ski resorts and palm-studded sandy beaches. Had Paramount simply called it something like Train Station Confidential, this wouldn't have been an issue.
Great location photography, though, and a terrific (if somewhat tritely used) cast including William Holden, Nancy Olsen, Barry Fitzpatrick, Lyle Bettger, Jan Sterling and solid roster of supporting players of the era. (With notable exception of justly-obscure one-note actress who portrays kidnap victim at the top of her lungs.)
Well worth a look for film noir fans, LA history buffs and architecture aficiandos.
Meet Danny Wilson (1952)
Entertaining But Majorly Stupid
Fun to see early Sinatra in what may or may not be thinly-veiled version of his own reputed Mob-driven rise to fame, especially when miscast Shelley Winters is along for ride as female love interest (of sorts).
But story just doesn't hang together: A singer who's lucky to land third- rate club bookings readily agrees to give shrewd promoter half of all his future earnings in perpetuity (huh?)--then, when he becomes wildly successful almost overnight, attempts to welsh on the deal. (So who's the real bad guy in this deal?) Then, when singer refuses to play ball, promoter tries to murder him. (Again, where's the logic? Why kill the goose laying golden eggs, if all you've really got to do is threaten to break his wings?)
If this starred anyone but Sinatra (who sings a handful of standards), nobody would give this a second look. . .except maybe B movie insomniacs and fans of Shelley Winters' brand of Honey Baked histrionics.
Dangerous Crossing (1953)
A sea-going version of Hitchcock's The Lady Vanishes, only it's the new husband (Carl Betz of The Donna Reed Show fame) of luxury-liner honeymooner Jeanne Crain who turns up missing. . .that, and anything resembling a satisfactory solution to what is an otherwise engaging (if extremely talky) B programmer. Intriguing lead-in immediately sets the pace for what's-really-going-on-here suspense piece but ultimately endless chatter, redundant action and a ketch of illogical red herrings run this one aground. (Film buffs may recognize one of the supporting actresses wearing Celeste Holm's jeweled-necked gown from All About Eve.) As cruise ship thrillers go, sea minus.
Making Love (1982)
NOT ahead of its time
While this movie evidently struck an important chord with many viewers who apparently saw it an impressionable point in their lives, in no way is it the ground-breaking achievement a lot of people now perceive it to be.
More than ten years earlier, in 1971, the same sort of material was tackled in Sunday Bloody Sunday (starring Glenda Jackson and Peter Finch, both nominated for Oscars) with a far more realistic treatment of a gay-themed love triangle.
In fact, two similar made-for-TV movies (yes, TV!) hit the small screen years before with stories of husbands and wives who realized they were gay--1972's movie That Certain Summer (w/ Hal Holbrook and Martin Sheen) and 1978's A Question of Love (w/ Gena Rowlands and Jane Alexander). Again, both of these acclaimed TV films were far more convincing than Making Love, which was widely dismissed by most reviewers as a glossy soap opera--and whose cast primarily was comprised of TV show recruits with not much to lose.
Whatever else you think of this movie, hard to claim this day- late/dollar-short soaper was ahead of its time when an Oscar-nominated movie and two Emmy-nominated TV movies beat it to the punch by years.
Strictly for fans of all things Old Hollywood and bad movie buffs. For some reason, Hollywood was caught up in big Tinseltown wave of nostalgia in mid-Seventies (Gable & Lombard, WC Fields & Me, Day of the Locust,etc.--ultimately none of them very popular) so this must have seemed like a way for Paramount to hedge its bet--tapping into Hollywood nostalgia by way of Mel Brooks-style humor.
Doubtful Mel himself (who also dipped into the Old Hollywood genre himself with Silent Movie) could have done much with a feature-length satire on Rin Tin Tin, the kind of thing that might, at best, have made an okay 10-minute sketch on The Carol Burnett Show. The dog--easily the most compelling character in the film, but in a Lassie sort of way--isn't even funny and during last reels, when he's required to attempt suicide in a variety of "comic" ways, movie really becomes not only unfunny but downright distasteful.
Talents of human co-stars Madeline Kahn, Bruce Dern and blink-and-you'll-miss-her Teri Garr are totally wasted although Late Late Show fans may get a perverse kick out of seeing umpteen dozen former big-name and B-list stars of yesteryear who show up in embarrassing last-gasp career cameos. Filmic Parvo.
Dinah East (1970)
Can't speak to the version pictured here as I'm not sure I've seen it but it sounds suspiciously like a bootleg version that's been floating around Internet for years.
Several people who have reviewed it have commented on the atrocious transfer, which was case with disc I saw--everything reduced to fuzzy pastels, suggesting it was duped from multi-generational video that wasn't very good to start with. Plus, I may be one of the few people who actually saw this in a theater in 1970 and DVD version I viewed was obviously missing numerous key scenes, if not entire reels. "Plot" now simply lurches from one incomprehensible sequence to the next and makes no sense.
This seems to be one of those movies that has been out of circulation so long that it has somehow built up a reputation way beyond its actual merits. Not even enjoyably cheesy, it's simply a totally amateurish sexploitation cheapie that can't begin to hold a candle to the campy heights of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Myra Breckinridge or The Christine Jorgensen Story, films to which it is frequently compared, usually by those who haven't seen it.
Charm-free cross-dresser that plays Dinah is on sleepwalk mode, Warhol protégé Ultra Violet appears absolutely bored with her small cameo and most of cast looks like they were recruited from happy hour at a Santa Monica Blvd. hustler bar.
Despite its rep, this curio is just not very much fun and is frequently flat-out dull. Not that this review will probably discourage anyone who wants to see for himself. But you've been warned.
Capricorn One (1977)
Riveting Conspiracy Theory Nonsense
Nothing in this conspiracy thriller makes a lick of sense but put your brain on autopilot and you'll have a great time. (Story has plot holes you can fire a rocket through and could be used as a logic test.) Still, terrific B-list cast goes to town with some of the most preposterous plotting ever and aerial finale, though ridiculous, is genuinely rousing.
Early screen appearance by OJ Simpson was apparently pared to the bone in editing room--despite star billing, he has less lines than some of the supporting cast. And in the few scenes where he's actually required to register dramatic emotion (he spends most of film with blank look on his face listening to other actors talk), his face is shrouded in shadows, covered in hands, buried in a dry riverbed, anything to cover up his lack of performance expertise.
As time has demonstrated, his acting skills have improved remarkably in recent years. . .though not necessarily in movies.
Pie in the Sky
Sadly, I must agree with person who suggested that the overwhelming critical acclaim that greeted this movie almost certainly had lots more to do with its tragic back story (director/writer/co-star Adrienne Shelly was murdered shortly before film's Sundance premiere) than anything that transpires on screen. As a result, what probably would have been (at best) a so-so direct-to-video release or forgettable made-for-cable time-killer is now a vastly over-rated disappointment that can't begin to live up to its hype.
Doesn't help that DVD's misleading marketing campaign sells this as a feel-good "chick lite" comedy. Not even close--unless your idea of "delicious fun" (to quote prominent cover blurb) is story of a spunky-but-conflicted diner drudge who hopes her pie-baking skills will get her out of a hellacious marriage (complete with physical violence) and a twisted relationship with a weird obstetrician whose unethical tactics should have him called before a medical board.
Plot is reminiscent of a very dark episode of TV's Alice (right down to supporting characters straight out of Mel's Diner: a wise-cracking waitress, a ditzy waitress, a grouchy cook, quirky customers), tricked out with spousal abuse, extra-marital trysts, an unwanted pregnancy and flat-out illogical plotting and unbelievable situations. (Knowing that her mean-tempered husband is looking for her, why would a woman who is trying to escape from an abusive marriage wait for a bus on the main drag of a small town? In what diner would a full-time waitress also be expected--let alone have the time--to bake the dozens of pies that are the restaurant's specialty? And why. . .) Broad characterizations, fuzzy motivation and occasional lapses into tired sitcom shtick don't help.
Keri Russell is winning as the hard luck hash-slinger with pie-in-the-sky dreams and rest of the appealing cast (including Cheryl Hines and an under-used Andy Griffith) does what it can. Unfortunately, they're all stuck with a stale recipe in which pathos and whimsy never begin to gel and, unlike the heroine's famous pastries, this film just doesn't pan out. For a much more entertaining and involving movie in a somewhat similar vein, see Julianne Moore in the far superior The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, based on true story of a low-income 1950's housewife who used her jingle-writing contest skills to keep her off-kilter family afloat.
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
Pretty Sorry Number
I've never heard the legendary radio broadcast (featuring Agnes Moorehead in what has been described as basically a one-woman tour de force) but it had to be better than the overblown movie version, which today emerges with all the entertainment value of a film noir telemarketing call.
Basic plot rips long arm of coincidence out of its socket--screechy self-centered invalid is accidentally patched into phone call where she overhears two men plotting a murder--her own! (What are the odds?)
Then, to expand this flimsy premise to feature-length, a badly-cast Barbara Stanwyck (who appears so robust she looks like she should be out stringing wire on telephone poles herself) engages in a series of frantic phone calls that all invariably end up with person on other end of line drifting into a lengthy, often confusing, flashback. (Or, even more baffling, flashbacks within flashbacks.) Corny, dated, way over-acted. . .and by far one of Stanwyck's worst--and most over-rated (an Oscar nomination for this hysterical performance?)--roles.
Worse yet, rarely very suspenseful, although some viewers will doubtless be on edge of seats waiting for the annoying heroine to get her come-uppance. On other hand, frequently funnier than a call to Dial-A-Joke, especially when Stanwyck (one of the strongest film actresses of that era) repeatedly, and unconvincingly, bellows "I'm a sick woman!" into the phone at top her of lungs.
The Fugitive: Glass Tightrope (1963)
most implausible episode?
One of the more interesting--though implausible--episodes, if only because it breaks with the more realistic low-key template of most other segments. (As usual, viewers are still left in the dark as to how Kimball, who always works at minimum wage jobs apparently without supplying any ID or social security info, maintains a snazzy wardrobe replete with well-pressed slacks and sports coats.)
In this far-fetched (though intriguing) episode, Kimball is working as a deliveryman at a large department store who witnesses his boss accidentally kill a man when he (Kimball) goes to pick up a stag movie the department store head has shown to friends--at a public nightclub! (Since when did heads of department stores arrange porn movie screenings for their buddies--particularly in 1963? Isn't that what underlings were for?)
Later, when an elderly vagrant is arrested for the crime because he rolled the corpse, Kimball alerts police that the department store head is the real killer--but his tip is ignored because, we're told, police don't investigate leads from anonymous sources. Huh? Since when?
And, of course, the newspaper headlines ridiculously overstate the case: Instead of naming the well-known victim in the front page headline, the banner includes the name of the unknown vagrant instead of the famous deceased.
Truly ridiculous. But a welcome relief from the by-the-numbers plots of too many other episodes.
City Without Men (1943)
For lip-readers only
Picture quality on Alpha DVD release is terrible but garbled soundtrack is even worse. Almost like watching a primitive foreign-language talkie in a language not yet recognized. Basic situation--a boarding house full of girlfriends, wives, and mothers of convicts living across the street from a prison where their men are impounded--has possibilities (think "Stage Door" on visitors' day) but it's impossible to understand what Linda Darnell, Glenda Farrell, Margaret Hamilton (in change-of-pace role as a sassy beer-swilling card cheat), etc. are saying 80 percent of the time. (And what was Darnell doing in a Poverty Row clinker like this at this point in her career?) Odd little film with early David Raksin score, light years away from his "Laura" panache just a few years later.