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Thursday, October 31, 2019

The Bigamist (1953)

A businessman (Edmond O'Brien) leads two lives. In San Franciscohe lives with his wife (Joan Fontaine) who helps him run the business while they await word on an adoption. In Los Angeleshe lives with his wife (Ida Lupino) and their newborn baby. How he became a bigamist is the core of the movie's narrative. Directed by Ida Lupinothe film is surprisingly (and perhaps disturbingly) sympathetic to the bigamist. He didn't do it out of malice but with good intentions. Yet somehow the film doesn't extend as much empathy toward the two wives. I was waiting for the big scene where the two wives meet and confront each other but it never happened. The film could have used a powerhouse scene like that and Fontaine and Lupino are strong enough actresses to carry it off. It's a good little film but it never fulfills its potential. But mine is a minority opinion. The film is greatly admired and its reputation growing in the ensuing years since its original release. Considering the subject matterit's sort of ironic that the film was written by Lupino's ex-husband Collier Youngwho was married to the film's other leading ladyJoan Fontaine! With Edmund GwennKenneth Tobey and Jane Darwell. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Le Vieux Fusil (aka The Old Gun) (1975)

Set in France in 1944 during the waning days of WWIIa surgeon (Philippe Noiret) drives to a remote village where his wife (Romy Schneider) and daughter (Catherine Delaporte) are staying to avoid the German occupation. Howeverwhen he arriveshe finds his wife and daughter brutally slaughtered along with the rest of the village. Based on the horrific massacre at Oradour Sur Glane in 1944 and directed by Robert Enrico. The film was highly admired in France and won the best picture Cesar (the French Oscar) as well as a best actor Cesar for Noiret. Unfortunatelyin spite of it being based an actual incidentI found it not very different than your usual revenge drama like DEATH WISH but with Nazis instead of New York street thugs. Of courseit's more high toned what with Noiret having flashbacks of happier days in between the slaughter and the film seems to think it's more than just an exploitation vengeance action movie. I'm a huge fan of both Noiret and Schneider as actors and they're both very good here but in the endI found it rather pointless. With Karl Michael VoglerMadeleine OzerayJean Bouise and Robert Hoffman.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Blue Skies (1946)

A Broadway dancing star (Fred Astaire) and a nightclub owner (Bing Crosby) are both in love with the same girl (Joan Caulfield). She's not in love with the dancershe's in love with the nightclub owner but he's too unstable to make a marriage work. Directed by Stuart Heisler (THE GLASS KEY) with songs by Irving Berlin. The narrative of this film is old hat and not even Berlin's music or Astaire's dancing can cover up the tired screenplay. I can give a musical's book a pass if the musical numbers are great but in this caseit's only Astaire's dancing and Hermes Pan's choreography that occasionally elevate the movie out of its slump. I've never been a fan of Bing Crosby (either his singing or acting) and while Joan Caulfield is lovelyshe's on the bland side here. The musical highpoints of the film are Astaire's Puttin' On The Ritz number and the Heat Wave production number with Astaire and Olga San Juan. Stillthe film was a huge hit and garnered good reviews. With Billy De Wolfe and Frank Faylen.

The Scarecrow Of Romney Marsh (aka Dr. Syn, Alias The Scarecrow) (1964)

During the oppressive reign of King George IIIa General (Geoffrey Keen) and his troop are sent to a small village to smash a ring that smuggles brandy from France to avoid paying revenue to His Majesty. The leader of the smugglers is a masked man known as The Scarecrowwho smuggles not for his own profit but to pass the proceeds to the overtaxed villagers and other needy people. Based on the DOCTOR SYN books by Russell Thorndike and directed by James Neilson (THE MOON SPINNERS). Originally conceived by Walt Disney for a three part television event in the U.S.an edited version was shown theatrically in Europe and in the 1970s eventually shown in U.S. cinemas. Previously made into films in 1937 and 1962this version is a more family friendly effort (violence is kept to a minimum). Patrick McGoohan plays the title characterwho when not the masked Scarecrow is the village vicar. It's a pleasing and well acted action/adventure yarn with a nice period detail and enough plot complications to keep adults and youngsters engaged. If you prefer your adventure movies darker and more adultyou might be better off with the 1962 versionCAPTAIN CLEGG but they both work equally well. With Kay WalshMichael HordernPatrick WymarkGeorge Cole and Eric Pohlmann. 

Monday, October 28, 2019

Where There's Life (1947)

In New Yorka radio comic (Bob Hope) is kidnapped by agents from a small country called Barovia. It seems he is the heir to the throne of the assassinated monarch but they must get him to Barovia to be crowned before the same radical underground group that murdered his father assassinates him. Directed by Sidney Lanfield (THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES)this is one of Hope's lesser comic vehicles. The one liners are hit and miss though fortunately they tend to hit their mark more often than not. The plot is preposterous but I wish the script wasn't so ragtag. Hope is in fine form but there's only so much he can do with the weak material. Hope fans (like me) should be okay with it but others may not be so charitable. With Signe HassoWilliam BendixGeorge ZuccoGeorge Coulouris and Norma Varden.    

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Ring Of Bright Water (1969)

In Londona man (Bill Travers) buys an otter on impulse from a pet shop. It isn't long before he realizes that a London flat is no place for an otter so he moves to a small coastal village in Scotland where the otter can run free over the fields and swim in the sea. Based on the best selling non fiction book by Gavin Maxwell and directed by Jack Couffer. Maxwell's autobiographical book was about his experience of bringing back an otter from Iraq and living in Scotland. The film fictionalizes his storykeeping only the man and otter in Scotland storyline. Travers and his wifeVirginia McKennahad made BORN FREE three years earlier. This film has the same affection for wild life and the adorable otter (actually two otters) playing Mij is irresistible. This is a wonderful family film although the sad ending might be too traumatic for very young children. Travers and McKenna (as the village doctor) are just fine but they are no competition for the otter who steals every scene he's in. Wolfgang Suschitzky's cinematography does the beautiful Scottish location justice and there's a lovely score by Frank Cordell. With Peter Jeffrey.  

Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace (1962)

The renowned detective Sherlock Holmes (Christopher Lee)assisted by his loyal companion Dr. Watson (Thorley Walters)takes on his nemesis Professor Moriarty (Hans Sohnker) in regards to a priceless stolen necklace thought to have belonged to Cleopatra. Very loosely based on VALLEY OF FEAR by Arthur Conan Doyle and directed by Hammer veteran Terence Fisher from a screenplay by Curt Siodmak (I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE) though it appears other hands reworked Siodmak's script. This Anglo-German (more German than Anglo) production seems to be a product of too many cooks in the kitchen. It doesn't feel like an authentic Holmes mystery. The entire cast (even the British actors) are dubbed which hampers Lee's otherwise fine performance as Holmes. The movie is often incoherent. I still don't get the motive behind the murder of Wolfgang Lukschy's character. All one can do is commiserate on what could have been if Fisher and Lee were allowed to do their jobs. Watchable ..... just. With lovely Senta BergerIvan DesnyLeon Askin and Hans Nielsen. 

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Report (2019)

In 2005U.S. State Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) is disturbed by reports that the CIA destroyed almost 100 video tapes of interrogations on suspected terrorists in the years following 9/11 on the order of CIA director Jose Rodriguez (Carlos Gomez) and orders a staff member (Adam Driver) to investigate and provide a detailed account. What follows is a shocking and blatant misuse of powerdeceitcorruption and crimes against humanity. Directed by Scott Z. Burns in a semi-documentary stylethis is a compelling piece of film. It may not be Art or break new ground in cinema but stories like this need to be told and when done as skillfully as THE REPORT isit's riveting. Be forewarned that the images of torture are graphic and horrifying to watch. I can't imagine any humane person who won't be outraged by what is seen here. Torture doesn't provide the truthit provides confession which is not the same thing. Who wouldn't confess to anything to stop the torture and pain? The performances are good with Bening giving a strong award worthy performance. With Jon HammTim Blake Nelson, Ted LevineMichael C. HallMatthew RhysMaura Tierney and Douglas Hodgewho unfortunately overdoes the sadistic psychologist as if he were playing Simon Legree.

Friday, October 25, 2019

The Moon And Sixpence (1942)

A quiet unassuming stockbroker (George Sanders) quite suddenly abandons his wife (Molly Lamont) of 17 years and children and goes off to Paris to become a painter. He has no remorse or shame and indeedhe leads a life of self destruction and no emotional attachments. Other people are convenient only in how they are useful to him. Based on the novel by W. Somerset Maugham and directed by Albert Lewin (PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY). Vaguely inspired by the life of the artist Paul Gauguin. I've not read Maugham's novel but the film contains perhaps the most masochistic character I've ever come across: the Dutch painter played here by Steven Geraywho I suspect is supposed to be sympathetic . Treated like crap by Sanders' artist and eventually abandoned by his wife (Doris Dudley)he grovels so apologetically so that I lost any sympathy for him. Maugham's female characters don't come across very well either. They are either bitter and vindictive or subservient to the point of accepting even physical abuse as a sign of "love". The one exception is the bawdy Florence Bateswho all but steals the film. The Oscar nominated score is by Dimitri Tiomkin. With Herbert MarshallEric BloreElena Verdugo and Albert Basserman.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Count Three And Pray (1955)

Returning home from the Civil Wara man (Van Heflin) returns to the small Southern town where he lived. He is resented by the town folk for fighting on the Union side. But during the warhe found God and has become a preacher. Based on CALICO PONY by Herb Meadowwho adapted his story for the screen and directed by George Sherman (AGAINST ALL FLAGS). This isn't a traditional western. There aren't any gunfightsno Indianscattle rustlers or even a sheriff! The film focuses on Heflin's attempts to rebuild a church while avoiding the temptations of his previous life like womendrinking and brawling. There's a villainof coursein this caseRaymond Burr as the town bully who controls the town with a steel fist. In her film debutJoanne Woodward is quite appealing as a rough and tumble tomboy who reluctantly succumbs to femininity as she slowly falls in love with Heflin. I quite enjoyed it although western purists might be disappointed in the lack of action. With Allison HayesPhilip CareyNancy KulpRichard WebbJames Griffith and Kathryn Givney. 

The Killers (1946)

A gas station attendant (Burt Lancaster) in a small town is assassinated by two hired gunmen (William ConradCharles McGraw). The life insurance investigator (Edmond O'Brien) on the case tracks down his beneficiary (Queenie Smith) but it doesn't end there as he attempts to piece together why an ordinary guy living a secluded life in a small town would be the target for two gunmen. Very loosely based on the short story by Ernest Hemingway and directed by Robert Siodmak (THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE). A celebratedif slightly overrated, prime example of film noir. Everything from the terse dialog of Anthony Veiller to the classic chiaroscuro shadings of Elwood Bredell (ROMANCE ON THE HIGH SEAS) to the underscore by Miklos Rozsa screams out film noir. The film benefits from the presence of Lancaster and Ava Gardner in their breakout performances. This was Lancaster's film debut and he's a "Star" right out of the gate. Gardner was a contract player at MGM but it took Universal and this film to alert MGM that she was no ordinary starlet and that they had something special on their hands. While the movie is never less than engrossingthe O'Brien home office scenes are a drag (unlike similar scenes in DOUBLE INDEMNITY) though I suppose necessary. It was remade in 1964 by Don Siegel. With Albert Dekker, Jeff CoreySam Levene and Virginia Christine. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Millionairess (1972)

The richest woman (Maggie Smith) in England is unhappy in her marriage to a professional tennis player and boxer (James Villiers). Brought up in wealthshe believes money gives her power and buys anything. When she meets a poverty stricken Egyptian doctor (Tom Baker) who catches her fancyshe decides to divorce her husband and marry him. Howeverher wealth doesn't impress the doctor in the least. Based on the 1936 play by George Bernard Shaw and directed by Cedric Messina. The success of this chatty piece rests on the shoulders of the actress playing the lead (Katharine Hepburn had a great success in London and New York in the part) and hereMaggie Smith shines. No one does imperious and haughty better than her and Smith sashays in her furs tossing off Shaw's witticisms impeccably. Without a "Star" performance to coverthe play's faults glare out at you and you realize it's a rather glacial piece with a hollow heart at its center and only intermittently amusing at best. With Charles GrayPriscilla MorganDonald Pickering and Peter Barkworth.   

Monday, October 21, 2019

The Mist (2007)

After a freak electrical storm damages their homea commercial artist (Thomas Jane) leaves his wife (Kelly Collins Lintz) at home and goes into town with his son (Nathan Gamble) and neighbor (Andre Braugher) to purchase supplies. But a thick fog soon envelops the store and the employees and customers are trapped by something deadly in the mist. Based on the novella by Stephen King and directed by Frank Darabont (THE GREEN MILE). This is one of the best adaptations of King's works. Originally released in colorit was always Darabont's intention to release the film in B&W but the studio nixed that idea and it wasn't until the DVD release that Darabont got his wish. I saw the color version when first released and quite enjoyed the film but the B&W version is a revelation. Everything is heightened from the suspense to the emotional distress and the special effects aren't so obvious. The acting is good especially Marcia Gay Harden as a religious fanatic who is so annoying that you just want to punch her in the face. My one quibble is the film's downer ending which is different from the book which ends on an ambiguous note where we don't know the survivors' fate. I would have preferred the book's ending with them driving away in the mist and not knowing their fate instead of the grim finale we're given. With Frances SternhagenToby JonesLaurie HoldenJeffrey DeMunn and William Sadler. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Night They Raided Minsky's (1968)

Set in 1925an innocent Amish girl (Britt Ekland) from Pennsylvania comes to New York with the hopes of becoming a professional dancer. She auditions for Minsky's burlesque but her style of dancing (she dances stories from the Bible) is too conservative. HoweverMinsky the younger (Elliott Gould) and the show's lecherous straight man (Jason Robards) concoct a plan to use her to foil a moral crusader (Denholm Elliott) who wants the show shut down. Based on the novel by Rowland Barber and directed by William Friedkin (THE EXORCIST). The is an immensely enjoyableif highly erraticnostalgia piece and affectionate tribute to the world of burlesque. The milieu has been perfectly recreated and the choreographer Danny Daniels has assembled a spot on chorus line of slightly pudgy chorines whose "dancing" always seems a little bit off. Friedkin practically disowned the film when it was originally released but has come around to appreciating what's good about it and admitting the film's weaknesses are his fault. The faux period songs are by Charles Strouse (who also did the lovely underscore) and Lee Adams (they wrote BYE BYE BIRDIE). With Norman WisdomForrest TuckerJoseph WisemanHarry Andrews and in his final film roleBert Lahr who died during filming which accounts for the brevity of his role. 

The Plainsman (1966)

Returning home from the Civil War"Wild" Bill Hickok (Don Murray) finds the Cheyenne Indians armed with repeating rifles and on the verge of a war with the settlers and the U.S. Cavalry and a rivalry between the Cheyenne chief (Simon Oakland) who wants peace and a white hating brave (Henry Silva) who wants war. Directed by David Lowell Rich (MADAME X)this is a remake of the 1936 Cecil B. DeMille film of the same name with Gary Cooper. That movie wasn't exactly Cooper or DeMille's shining hour so this film doesn't have big shoes to fill. It's a routine westernneither bad nor goodjust sort of indifferent but inoffensive. The film looks good thanks to its Arizona and Utah locations (use of the Universal backlot is minimal) with lensing by Bud Thackery. There's an early underscore by a young John Williams (still billed as Johnny). With Bradford DillmanGuy StockwellAbby Dalton as Calamity JaneLeslie Nielsen as CusterEdward Binns and Emily Banks.    

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. (1966)

A U.S. Navy pilot (Dick Van Dyke) ejects himself from his jet aircraft over the Pacific ocean during an emergency and eventually finds himself on a desert island. His only companion is a chimpanzee but it isn't long before he discovers the runaway daughter (Nancy Kwanwho deserves better than this) of a tribal chief (Akim Tamiroff). Directed by Byron Paulthis anemic Disney live action comedy must have seemed dated even in 1966. It might have worked insay1943 with Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in the Van Dyke and Kwan roles and certainlyit would have been funnier and better written. The movie's rear projection shots are awful. Was Disney too cheap to fly the actors to an actual island location? The film's treatment of the indigenous Pacific islanders is embarrassingly stereotypical though it tries to redeem itself with a feminist angle when Van Dyke tells the native women they have rights and leads them into battle with the men. I definitely could have done without the chimp's antics which are supposed to be "cute". Am I the only one who's never found chimp antics fun? Even in the Tarzan moviesCheetah bored me stiff. Anywayif you're a fan of Van Dyke's muggingyou might be amused.

Hanja (aka Parasite) (2019)

A family struggles to survive living in a basement like dwelling in a downscale neighborhood. When the son (Choi Woo Shik) gets a tutoring job in an upscale homehe perceives how gullible the family is and under false pretenseshe inveigles jobs for his father (Song Kang Ho) as a chauffeurhis mother (Jang Hye Jin) as a housekeeper and his sister (Park So Dam) as an art teacher. Directed by Bong Joon Ho (THE HOST)the film (which won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes film festival) starts off as a black comedy then takes a very dark turn where the laughs are few and far between. It almost seems like two different movies but clearly Bong Joon Ho carefully crafted this abrupt switch to sort of lure us into a complacency ("Ohisn't this a witty movie?") before he plunges in the knife. We're not even sure who or what the title is referring to. Are the poor family parasites living off the rich family or are the rich family parasites living off exploiting the less fortunate? This is a startling film that takes a disturbing look at class consciousness in a fresh and original way. A remarkable film that should not be missed. With Lee Sun KyunCho Yeo Jeong and Jung Ji So.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Anastasia (1997)

Set in 1916 Russiaan evil sorcerer (Christopher Lloyd) interrupts a ball and places a curse on the Romanov family. When the palace is under siege during the Russian Revolutiononly the young Anastasia (Kirsten Dunst) and her Dowager Empress grandmother (Angela Lansbury) are able to escape but they become separated. 10 years laterthe older Anastasia (now Meg Ryan) with no memory of who she is attempts to travel to Paris to find out. Directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman (THE SECRET OF NIMH)this animated musical is a historical fantasy with no attempt at placing the historical events in a realistic context. Thus the Russian mystic Rasputin is now an evil sorcerer casting spells. If you've no problem with taking an actual historical incident and turning it into a wholesome family animated musicalyou should find much to enjoy here. The songs by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty are pretty good with one showstopperthe Oscar nominated Journey To The Past. I think the villainous Rasputin was a mistake and his presence is the weakest aspect of the movie. It would have worked just as well done straight without the supernatural elements. Stillit was a big hit and even spawned a hit stage musical. With John CusackBernadette PetersKelsey Grammer and Hank Azaria.

Abbott & Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1953)

Two Americans (Bud AbbottLou Costello) in London are working with the police. When a series of murders by a mysterious "monster" terrify the citythe two are determined to catch the monster who is really a doctor (Boris Karloff) who injects himself with a serum that turns him into the creature. Directed by Charles Lamont (MA AND PA KETTLE)this was one of a series of popular films where Abbott and Costello encounter famous horror icons like DraculaFrankensteinthe Invisible Manthe Wolf Man and the Mummy. I'm a huge Abbott & Costello fan but outside of an amusing sequence where Costello is transformed into a mouse and the movie's final gag shotI found this very disappointing. Unlike other famed actors who have impressively played Jekyll and Hyde like Spencer Tracy and Fredric Marchit's clear that Karloff has a stand in playing the athletic Mr. Hyde rather than playing him. The comic duo would do much better in their next encounter with the Mummy in 1955. With Craig StevensHelen WestcottReginald Gardiner and Marjorie Bennett.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Clemency (2019)

Years of carrying out death row executions have taken their toll on a prison warden (Alfre Woodard). It has affected her marriage and a tendency to drink too much. As she prepares for the execution of yet another inmate (Aldis Hodge)she must confront the emotional and psychological damage her profession has done to her soul. Beautifully written and directed by Chinonye Chukwuthis harrowing film is like a kick in the stomach. With her deliberate and methodical pacingChukwu spares us nothing and I had to fight the urge to look away during some scenes. Films on the death penalty are nothing new (I WANT TO LIVEDEAD MAN WALKING to name just two) but it's never been done with this perspectivethe executors rather than the executed. Woodward is sensationala searing and naked performance and Hodge is a revelation. Hopefullyboth won't be forgotten come awards time. There's an amazing amount of women behind this project. In addition to Chukwuthe film editingproduction designthe scorecostumes and visual effects were done by women. With Wendell PierceRichard SchiffMichael O'Neill and Danielle Brooks who has only one scene but she knocks it out of the ballpark. 

Proof (2005)

A young woman (Gwyneth Paltrow) has devoted years to caring for her mentally unstable father (Anthony Hopkins)a mathematical genius. But while she shares her father's unique mind and abilitiesshe fears she also inherited his madness. Based on the Pulitzer Prize and Tony award winning play by David Auburn and directed by John Madden (SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE). The film's title is twofold as it refers to proof as a mathematical term as well as evidence. While it has been opened up considerably from its theatrical rootsit remains an intimate film focusing on its four protagonists. The film serves as a reminder of what a wonderful actress Paltrow was (she played this role on the London stage) before she turned to "goop". She dominates the film with strong performances by Hopkins and Hope Davis as her sister. Jake Gyllenhaal is considerably weaker but then againit's the least interesting character in the film/play. A film dealing with mathematics sounds imposing (especially if you're not into math) but the film's hub is in its emotional corenot in mathematical theory. With Roshan Seth and Gary Houston.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Calling Dr. Death (1943)

A neurologist (Lon Chaney Jr.) blacks out during a long weekend with no memory of where he was. But when his wife (Ramsay Ames) turns up deadhe suspects he killed her and so does the police inspector (J. Carrol Naish) assigned to the case. Directed by Reginald Le Borgthe film was part of a series of movies based on the popular radio show INNER SANCTUM. It's a rather dull piece and Chaney's rote acting doesn't help much. He wasn't much of an actor really and he was always better in supporting or small roles as opposed to lead roles. There aren't that many characters in the film so it isn't all that difficult to figure out who the murderer is. The film shows a surprising bit of artistry during the flashback when the real killer is revealed which is done in a surrealistic manner. With the always welcome Patricia Morison as Chaney's nurseDavid Bruce and Fay Helm. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Outcasts Of Poker Flat (1952)

A disparate group of "undesirables" are run out of the town of Poker Flat. They include a gambler (Dale Robertson)an aging prostitute (Miriam Hopkins)a drunk (William H. Lynn) and the wife of a bank robber (Anne Baxter). Traveling through the mountains to get to the next towna snow storm forces them to lodge in an abandoned cabin. Based on the short story by Bret Harte (previously filmed in 1917 and 1937) and directed by Joseph M. Newman (THE BIG CIRCUS). This is a nice little western which focuses more on its characters rather than action. Not that there isn't any tension or conflictthere is but it's not the movie's raison d'etre. Others snowed in at the cabin include a killer (Cameron Mitchell)a young man (Craig Hill) and his pregnant girlfriend (Barbara Bates). Since the majority of the action takes place in that cabinit often feels like a filmed play. It's different enough to be worth checking out even if you're not into westerns. I liked it a lot. The score by Hugo Friedhofer (BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES) add another layer of quality to the proceedings.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Deep End (2001)

Set in Lake Tahoea housewife (Tilda Swinton) confronts a sleazy low life (Josh Lucas) and demands he end an affair he's having with her teenage son (Jonathan Tucker). He offers to end the relationship for $5,000 but when he is accidentally killedthe police treat his death as a murder. Based on the novel THE BLANK WALL by Elizabeth Sanxay Holiding (and previously filmed by Max Ophuls in 1949) and directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel. As far as remakes gothis one is pretty good. Anchored by a nice performance by Swinton that brings layers that allow her to create a more complex character. Aside from switching the daughter to a gay sonthe film stays pretty close to the source material. It's a pity they didn't have a stronger actor in the role of the blackmailer. In the 1949 filmJames Mason did wonders with the role but Goran Visnjic in the same part never rises above adequate. With Peter Donat and Raymond Barry.  

The Reckless Moment (1949)

A housewife (Joan Bennett) confronts a sleazy low life (Shepperd Strudwick) and demands he stop seeing her 17 year old daughter (Geraldine Brooks). Insteadhe offers to stay away from the girl for a cash payment of $5000. When he contacts the girl at her lakeside homefate steps in when he is accidentally killed. But when his body is foundthe police consider it a murder. Based on the novel THE BLANK WALL by Elizabeth Sanxay Holding and directed by Max Ophuls (LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN). This is an expert slice of film noir. Ophuls takes a lovely everyday settingin this case the (then) sleepy beachside city of Balboa in Southern California and turns it into a sun drenched nightmare. Aside from Bennettthe other central character is a blackmailersuperbly played by James Mason. He starts out with a heartless streak but as the movie plays onwe see him evolve into a more humane being. Remade in 2001 as THE DEEP END. With Roy Roberts and Henry O'Neill.

Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976)

An awkward young girl by the name of Bernice (Shelley Duvall) visits her popular cousin (Veronica Cartwright) for the summer but she doesn't seem to fit into the social group of her cousin's friends. Her cousin then undertakes to makeover Bernice so that she will become more socially acceptable but when Bernice's popularity rivals hersshe realizes she may have gone too far. Based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald and directed by Joan Micklin Silver (HESTER STREET). Fitzgerald's slight "the worm turns" tale gets a faithful rendering in Micklin's hands (she also adapted the story into a screenplay). Duvallperfectly castgives the gawky Bernice just the right balance of guilelessness and naivete while Cartwright as her cousin plays the conniving cat expertly. It's a pleasing piffle of a story really but popular enough to have been turned into a play and a musical. With Dennis Christopher and Polly Holliday.   

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Dolor Y Gloria (aka Pain And Glory) (2019)

A film director (Antonio Banderas) in ill health and whose career is in decline reflects on his childhood and memories of his mother (Penelope Cruz) while there is a resurgence in interest in him when one of his old films is restored and plays to new audiences. Directed by Pedro Almodovar (THE SKIN I LIVE IN)this autobiographical film is a lovely memory piece while still examining an artist's need to create and the emotional and mental blocks that can stymie that creativity. Antonio Banderas (who won the best actor award at the Cannes film festival for his performance her) gives his best performance in years. He almost always did his best work with Almodovar and I don't think I've ever seen him give a stronger performance. It's a lovely piece of restrained acting. The actresses playing his mother also bring some nice shading: Cruz as the younger version and Julieta Serrano as the older version. Those who were movie lovers as children should find much to appreciate and the final shot in the film should bring a smile to your lips. With Asier EtxeandiaCecilia RothLeonardo SbaragliaNora Navas and Cesar Vicente.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Battle Of Rogue River (1954)

Set in the Oregon territory of the 1850s before it achieved statehooda newly appointed post commander (George Montgomery) is ordered to make peaceif possiblewith the Indian population. But there is a sector that doesn't want peace with the Indians and secretly plots to destroy a truce with the intention of an all out Indian war. Directed by William Castle (STRAIT JACKET)this modest western programmer is enjoyable while never offering up anything fresh or new in the genre. The acting is on the stiff sidenot only George Montgomery who growls his lines but also the wooden acting of the Indians (all played by Caucasians) but at least the Indians aren't portrayed as savages and the duplicity of the white man is in the forefront. With lovely Martha Hyerwho brings a nice warmth to her characterRichard Denning and Michael Granger. 

Conspiracy Theory (1997)

A New York taxi driver (Mel Gibson) is a conspiracy theorist nut and even publishes a newsletter espousing his wacky conspiracy theories. He's certifiably crazy but like a broken clock that's right twice a dayhe apparently hits the mark because suddenly a covert government agency is after him. To this endhe attempts to coerce a lawyer (Julia Roberts) with the Justice Department to help him. Directed by Richard Donner (THE OMEN)the first part of the film is pretty wonderful for most of its running time. Gibsonwho gives a terrific performance herereally pulls us into his world of paranoia until we wonder if he's not so crazy after all. Julia Roberts' underplaying provides a nice contrast to Gibson's hyper intensity. Unfortunatelylike too many films it can't sustain itself and the movie's last 45 minutes become a standard action movie (Gibson may as well be in one of his LETHAL WEAPON movies). It's not enough to ruin the movie but it prevents it from joining the great conspiracy films of the 70s like THE PARALLAX VIEW, THREE DAYS OF THE CONDORALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN etc. There's a sensational score by Carter Burwell. With Patrick Stewart and Cylk Cozart.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Vampire (1957)

After a small town doctor (John Beal) accidentally takes an experimental bat serum pillhe finds himself addicted to the pills but worse than thathe has blackouts and when people suddenly start dying with two small marks on their throathe suspects he might be their killer. Directed by Paul Landres (THE RETURN OF DRACULA)this low budget horror film takes a more contemporary and different angle on vampires. The movie eschews the trappings of the genre and has no sleeping in coffinsstakes through the heartfear of crosses or daylightetc. It's a pity that it isn't better written because the film seems poised to move in a more complex direction  (like using vampirism as a metaphor for drug addiction) but it doesn'tit just dances around it. The acting is mediocre though I can't fault the actors as I suspect they didn't get much help from director Landres. Stillit's an interesting entry in the horror canon of the 1950s. There's a nice underscore by Gerald Fried even if it sounds remarkably similar to his score to Stanley Kubrick's THE KILLING. With Coleen GrayKenneth TobeyDabbs GreerJames Griffith and Lydia Reed.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Squeeze (aka The Rip-Off) (1978)

A retired safecracker (Lee Van Cleef)now living quietly in Mexicois talked into doing one last job by the son (Edward Albert) of an old friend. But the job turns out to be more complicated and dangerous than first thought. Directed by Antonio Margheriti (CASTLE OF BLOOD)this heist caper is rather formulaic in its plot and execution. There are a couple of twists and turns but if you've seen your share of these heist moviesyou should be able to cross the dots and figure it all out fairly quickly. Although the film takes place in New York Cityit was produced by an Italian film company and filmed in Germany with some NYC location shooting. Karen Black's awful performance asidethe acting is okay. I did love the 70s era disco underscore by Paolo Vasile although it dates the picture. With Lionel StanderRobert AldaAngelo Infanti and Peter Carsten. 

Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961)

A teenage girl (Deborah Walley) refuses to take a Hawaiian vacation with her parents (Carl ReinerJeff Donnell) but when her boyfriend (James Darren) urges her to goshe feels he's not committed to the relationship and breaks up with him. Directed by Paul Wendkos (THE MEPHISTO WALTZ)this is the second entry in the Gidget franchise following the 1959 film starring Sandra Dee. This lacks the charm of the 1959 film and while Deborah Walley is as cute as a buttonshe lacks Sandra Dee's effervescence. What we end up with is a sitcom-ish feature that feels like two different episodes tacked together. The movie doesn't take full advantage of the lush Hawaiian locations. Luckilyit has a nice quartet of old pros playing the parents who bring a lot to the party. In addition to Reiner and Donnellthere's Peggy Cass (AUNTIE MAME) and Eddie Foy Jr. (PAJAMA GAME) as the parents of Walley's rival (Vicki Trickett). With Michael Callan (the original Riff in Broadway's WEST SIDE STORY)who gets to show off his dancing skills which he rarely got to do in the movies and Joby Baker.   

Escort West (1958)

In 1865 Nevadaan ex-Confederate soldier (Victor Mature) and his 10 year old daughter (Reba Waterswho looks 14) are traveling West when they come across the three survivors of an Indian massacre: two sisters (Elaine StewartFaith Domergue) traveling to Oregon and a black quartermaster (Rex IngramTHIEF OF BAGDAD). He takes it upon himself to escort them through hostile Indian territory and to the safety of a cavalry camp. Directed by Francis D. Lyonthis unpretentious western programmer nicely shot in B&W CinemaScope isn't good enough to be called a sleeper but it's good enough to hold your attention for an hour and 16 minutes. It generates a decent amount of suspense and the script gives the actors an opportunity to develop a semblance of characterization. With Slim PickensLeo Gordon (who co-wrote the screenplay)William ChingNoah Beery, Ken CurtisHarry Carey Jr. and as the film's chief Indian baddieX Brands (I kid you notthat's how he's billed).


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves (1944)

After his fatherthe caliph of Baghdad (Moroni Olsen) is betrayed and killedhis son (Scotty Beckett as a childJon Hall as a man) vows to avenge his father's murder. He is adopted by a bandit (Fortunio Bonanova)the leader of a desert band of forty thieves. Very loosely based on the tale of Ali Baba in THE BOOK OF ONE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS and directed by Arthur Lubin (FOOTSTEPS IN THE FOG). Irresistible hokum! You're either a fan of this sort of Arabian nights fantasy or you're not. Shot in gorgeous three strip Technicolor this exotic adventure may not have the magic or charm of a THIEF OF BAGDAD or 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD but you'd have to work awfully hard to dislike it. There's an innocence to it that pulls you in and is just the sort of roborant to put you in a good mood. It's not the kind of movie where the acting matters much so you can overlook the performances (such as they are) of Jon HallTurhan Bey and especially Maria Montez who is captivating until she opens her mouth! You can even overlook the nonsensical casting of Andy Devine as an Arab bandit! Kurt Katch makes for a suitable villain. With Frank PulgiaRamsay Ames and Yvette Duguay.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Corridors Of Blood (1958)

In 1840s London before the invention of anesthesiaa surgeon (Boris Karloff) experiments with anesthetic gases in the hope that surgery can be performed without the patients suffering horrific pain. But his good intentions go awry when he experiments on himself and finds himself becoming addicted to his chemicals and having blackouts. Directed by Robert Day (TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT)this is a fine entry in the horror canon and highly reminiscent (in a good way) of the Val Lewton RKO horrors of the 1940s like THE BODY SNATCHER and BEDLAM. Boris Karloff's film career faltered in the 1950s in inferior vehicles in which he seemed cast merely for his status as a horror icon. This British thriller offered him a juicy role that he could sink his teeth into and he delivers one of the best performances of his career. As to the film itselfit offers more than just "horror" but instead an engrossing look into the medical community of the mid 19th century. Curiouslythe movie wasn't released in the U.S. until 1963some 5 years after its European release. With Christopher LeeBetta St. JohnNigel GreenFinlay CurrieAdrienne CorriFrancis De Wolff and Yvonne Romain. 

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Living It Up (1954)

A small town railroad worker (Jerry Lewis) is diagnosed with fatal radiation poisoning by his doctor (Dean Martin). When a New York journalist (Janet Leigh) hears about itshe talks her editor (Fred Clark) into sponsoring an all expenses paid vacation trip to New York City before he passes away. Alaswhen it turns out the radiation poisoning was misdiagnosedthe doctor and patient keep quiet about it so they can get the free trip and be wined and dined in Manhattan. Directed by Norman Taurogthis is based on the Broadway musical HAZEL FLAGG but with the genders switched so that Hazel is now Homer. The musical was based on the 1937 screwball comedy NOTHING SACRED which in turn was based on LETTER TO THE EDITOR by James H. Street. The songs are not memorable so they could have easily cut all the musical numbers except for an energetic jitterbug number danced by Lewis and Sheree North (recreating her stage role). It's one of the better Martin & Lewis efforts thanks to the strong storyline and Lewis is both funny and poignant as the small town hick having the time of his life. With Edward ArnoldKathryn GrantSig RumanEduard Franz and Marla English. 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Paradise Lost (1971)

Spanning three years (1932-1935) during the Depressionthe manufacturer (Eli Wallach) of a handbag business enjoys a middle class prosperity even though his company is struggling. But it isn't long before he and his family become victims of the Depression and start to see their lives unraveling. Based on the 1935 play by Clifford Odets and directed by Glenn Jordan (ONLY WHEN I LAUGH). Odets' play reflects the leftist (some would say communist) leanings prevalent in certain segments of the artistic community in the 1930s. It's a talky piece (it runs 2 1/2 hours) where the author lectures us using his talking head characters about the class system in America as well as the illusion that we are a democracy. It's not revived often and one can see why as it's a very topical (of its era) piece. As theaterit's rather tiresome but it remains an important artifact of the era and how the theater attempted to reflect the current social situation in its art. The acting is generally good across the board although some of the actors tend to overplay. The large cast includes Bernadette PetersJo Van FleetFred GwynneCliff GormanRose GregorioGeorge VoskovecMike KellinBiff McGuire and Sam Groom.