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1. Plenty of the movies I see are so obscure it eventually dawned upon me that I really ought to describe some of them for the benefit of other researchers.
2. Having hit the age of 60 I can tell that my recall of films I've just seen is developing a shorter and shorter half-life; and as mortality beckons feel that it will from now on be wise to set down any impressions worth recording fairly promptly.
The Screaming Skull (1958)
Portrait of a Lady
The heroine actually does most of the screaming in this very poor man's 'Rebecca' that although an AIP release actually owes far more in content and style (and the friendly warning at the start) to William Castle. Director Alex Nicol makes his job considerably easier by casting himself in a role which requires him to speak only in monosyllables.
Scarlet Street (1945)
"No one escapes punishment!"
Amazingly the Hays Office was still cracking the whip (although a naughty word got past them into the credits because it was in French) when Fritz Lang unleashed what was probably the most bleak and cynical film of his entire career. A bleak and unrelenting hybrid of gallic low life and German stylisation with Edward G. Robinson in the Emil Jannings part infatuated with tramp Joan Bennett herself abjectly in thrall to the ghastly Dan Duryea.
Pony Soldier (1952)
Redcoats Out West
Garrulous Technicolor nonsense whose grasp of geography is evident from the use of Texan locations pretending to be Canada and whose fidelity to factual accuracy is evident from casting Cameron Mitchell and Thomas Gomez (the latter looking like Jabba the Hutt) as red indians. It boasts an interesting score by Alex North, who rapidly went on to much greater things.
Carnival of Souls (1962)
"I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore"
As Kim Newman observed nearly forty years ago, "If quality alone were the deciding factor in horror movie trends we'd now be inundated with copies of Herk Harvey's 'Carnival of Souls'".
As it is this after sixty years this cross between Ambrose Bierce, H. P. Lovecraft and the Twilight Zone episode 'The Hitch-Hiker' continues to reign in magnificent isolation.
Saturn 3 (1980)
"Enjoy your Dreamers"
It took a lot of talented people to make a film as ridiculous as this super-stylish nonsense. Only last night I saw 'Re-Animator' and the transformation undergone by this film's officious baddie is if anything even funnier.
The Switch (1963)
A breezy quickie in which Conrad Phillips and the always glamorous Zena Marshall make a charming couple as they cross the path of the usual bunch of mean-looking crooks.
Marine Raiders (1944)
"God bless you, Danny!"
The last film Robert Ryan made at RKO before he temporarily quit movies for the real thing. It benefits from photography by later film noir maestro Nicholas Musuraca, with whom Ryan would work again under more auspicious circumstances (and also contains a fleeting appearance by Martha MacVickers, soon to play psychotic nympho Carmen Sternwood in 'The Big Sleep').
Although Pat O'Brien's officially the star it's Ryan who carries the film, and it was already clear he was no ordinary hunk.
"Does this building have a basement?"
Lovecraft wasn't exactly known for his sense of humour and probably served as the template for the charmless nerd at the centre of this visceral, totally bonkers, grotesquely funny quickie.
Jaws 3-D (1983)
Welcome to Seaworld
Originally made during a short-lived 3D boom of the early eighties, hence the fifties-style credits, vivid matte lines and sundry bizarre shots of sharks, blood, objects and body parts floating in the ocean. Done with a reasonably light touch with an attractive cast, especially Bess Armstrong as the senior biologist looking very robust in a wetsuit.
All Night Long (1962)
"Don't worry man, everything's cool..."
There were a couple of scenes depicting black nightclubs in Dearden & Relph's 'Sapphire', here they've become an entire movie in this fascinating period peace featuring the likes of Dave Brubeck and Charlie Mingus, with Patrick McGoohan perfectly cast as a modern Iago, Marti Stevens as a formidable Desdemona and Maria Velasco a fox as the distaff half of the film's other interracial pair.
Eddie the Eagle (2015)
The Eagle Has Landed
It didn't seem like it at the time, but the eighties are now forty years ago and is lovingly recreated - complete with mobile phones the size of housebricks - in this typically British anecdote rooting for the underdog whose essential good nature extends to the engaging presence of Iris Berben as a sympathetic fraulein called Petra.
Why, Why? Why??
All the way through it comes as a shock to hear the characters addressed as 'Marius', 'Cesar' and 'Panisse' in this glossy and interminable travesty of Marcel Pagnol's classic thirties trilogy on which Joshua Logan blew all the capital he'd recently earned on 'South Pacific; for which he went all the way to Joinville but might just as well stayed in Burbank.
Jack Cardiff's Technicolor photography is ravishing, as is Leslie Caron in the title role, she's far too mature and knowing; and as for Horst Bucholz...?!?
Murder, Inc. (1960)
"I've got a cageful of canaries sing pretty good"
Before he found his vocation catching bad guys on TV Peter Falk made an early splash as a vicious killer in this x-rated derivation from 'The Untouchables' unusual in depicting Jewish rather than Catholic mobsters (including a taciturn Joseph Bernard resembling Banat in 'Journey into Fear') in which Falk gets an introductory credit despite having already been in films for the past two years.
"Look Loretta, he's a vampire now!!"
About two thirds of the way in someone finally glanced at the title on the script and a mummy looking like Dorian Gray's portrait lumbers on; at which the heroine gasped with considerable understatement "How horrid!"
Up till them it's been mainly talk with the odd bit of aggro thrown in (it's nice to see the girls use their fists since the producers of 'Batman' considered it unladylike for Batgirl to use her's) with the heroines' most formidable opponents being the sisters of the head of the Black Dragon gang whose skills at judo are brought to play against their wrestling.
Teenagers from Outer Space (1959)
"You're from another world, aren't you?"
A camp classic on account of it's title, it's really not that bad; especially considering creator Tom Graeff obviously created it for peanuts (although his tin ear is evident from the fact he named his hero 'Derek'). The rather mature aliens use expression's like "man of surgery" when they mean doctors, and the swift way one of them reduces a yapping dog to bones with a focussing disintegrator ray made me wish I'd got one too.
Times Square (1980)
"Do we want to live in an X-rated city?"
A slice of low-life as much a period piece as 'Angels with Dirty Faces' that locates it's nihilistic young heroines in Times Square in those far-off days when it was to New York what Soho was to London.
Dark Tower (1987)
"A Woman Alone in a Deserted Building at Night - That Can Be Very Scary"
The last gasp of Freddie Francis's directorial career is a typical eighties thriller - all tinny sound and synthesised music - but a refreshingly glamorous lead for Jenny Agutter as a power-suited career girl in big hair, high heels and a short skirt.
Scott of the Antarctic (1948)
"I hope I don't wake tomorrow, Bill"
Only the English would make so unrelenting a film commemorating a great calamity and only the English would probably think of rendering the Antarctic in Technicolor; but it's actually a canny choice since it serves as a valuable reminder that in addition to the colours of the rainbow the process had also perfected rendering a pristine white against which the colours of their Union Jack vividly stand out.
Three Hats for Lisa (1965)
Bobbies, Bearskins & Bowlers
A quickie retread of 'Roman Holiday' and 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg' with musical numbers resembling those of a Cliff Richard vehicle (complete with the late Una Stubbs). Not exactly good, but rather charming it offers views of London as it looked in 1965 (complete with the Post Office Tower nearing completion) and the unique spectacle - if this is a recommendation - of Sid James singing and dancing.
Django Unchained (2012)
"You go to Hell, dentist!"
It now seems inevitable that Quentin Tarantino would make a spaghetti western and only he would know his Morricone or the western genre in general well enough to use the maestro's score from an obscure war movie called 'Hornet's Nest' or to call Chrisoph Waltz's horses Tony and Fritz; Waltz himself probably being the first dentist hero since Painless Potter.
Making the Klan figures of fun and constant use of a certain naughty word are also characteristic of the lad; although the film's at least an hour too long - also characteristic of the lad - and would have been twice the film it was at half the length. Likewise his grasp of history, since it begins with a caption claiming 1858 was two years before the Civil War.
The Purple Heart (1944)
"It's the fear of being afraid that makes me more frightened than anything else"
Probably the strangest film to come from any of the combatants in World War II, doubly so as it's the work of the director of 'All Quiet on the Western Front"; here adopting a dreamlike stylisation rather his usual gritty realism.
Although plainly inspired by the Moscow show trials of the thirties, in retrospect it's ironic that the defendants in the actual Tokyo trials were the Japanese themselves. With hindsight the use of film as evidence in court anticipates what happened at Nuremberg, the maltreatment and brainwashing of prisoners what happened in Cold War Eastern Europe, the trial of the airmen what happened to Gary Powers and the crew of the Pueblo and possibly the final reckoning currently being anticipated in store for Putin for his activities in Ukraine. (A further irony is that Torben Meyer who in 1961 played one of the defendants in 'Judgement at Nuremberg' here appears as a representative of the Swiss Red Cross.)
Cover Girl (1944)
"Just climb aboard my magic carpet and away we'll go!"
Since Rita Hayworth's in the title role, Gene Kelly's dancing doesn't receive the prominence it later attained (although the scene were he dances with his reflection provided a taste of wonders to come and a hint of the sinister side to him that occasionally showed itself), while Phil Silvers became more amusing with less follicles and more brain cells as Bilko.
It all looks fabulous in Technicolor, however, and there's always Eve Arden delivering caustic asides; while Jess Barker as the young Otto Kruger in the flashbacks is the most convincing such substitution I've ever seen.
Come Back, Little Sheba (1952)
"Live each day as it comes, and stay sober doing it"
Shirley Booth added an Oscar to the Tony she'd already collected on Broadway in a film of interest in hailing from the days when Hollywood could now deal with unglamorous subjects like alcoholism, unwanted pregnancy and domestic violence. It also demonstrates the value of cinema as a medium that it preserves Miss Booth performance for posterity.
Powder River (1953)
"Some call me Chino"
It demonstrates that black & white was perceived as the default position for serious postwar Hollywood cinema that this character-driven western potboiler was one of the very few colour films namechecked in Robert Warshow's 'The Immediate Experience'.
As for the film itself the most memorable characters are Cameron Mitchell as a doctor succumbing to headaches and blackouts due to a brain tumour and Corinne Calvet usually with a cigar protruding from her glossy red lips and wearing bright colours as a brassy 'businesswoman' known to the rest of the cast as 'Frenchie'.
Streets of Laredo (1949)
A good-natured Technicolor remake of 'The Texas Rangers' the beauty of the locations offset by the tiny Mona Freeman, first taken for a boy, but as is usual for a western all it takes is a frock to transform her from a bobcat to a babe; plus leering villainy from Adolfo Bedoya.