Monday, August 31, 2009

Pier 5, Havana (1959)

Directed by Edward L. Cahn
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb

Noir-ish drama set in Cuba after the revolution. Attractive cast wasted with stilted acting and drole narration throughout... "something didn't smell right about the situation, and it wasn't the fish."

Renegades of the Rio Grande (1945)

Directed by Howard Bretherton
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb

Flimsy plot involving stolen money and bandits trying to get it back. There is plenty of room for brawlin' and singin', including some yodelin'. Fuzzy Knight should not be confused with Fuzzy St. John.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bhowani Junction (1956)

Directed by George Cukor
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Frenetic movie that isn't helped with Gardner yelling lines every time she needs to emote. It tries to be a grand epic, but instead seems crowded and impersonal. Still, nice location photography in India makes it worth watching at least once.


The Crazy World of Julius Vrooder (1974)

Directed by Arthur Hiller
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb

Timothy Bottoms and Barbara Seagull (Hershey) fall in love in the psychiatric ward. Actually, for a patient Bottoms has remarkable freedom, and lives in a hole out in the woods by the freeway. Barbara eventually joins him. Some good moments as Bottoms and other patients deal with their Vietnam demons. A subplot involves the phone and electric companies tracking down Bottoms for stealing utilities in his home away from home.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Green Fire (1954)

Directed by Andrew Marton
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Granger and Kelly meet, fall in love, then have a falling out when his emerald mine threatens her coffee plantation. A rocky combination of romance and adventure, with a spectacular landslide in miniature for the finale.


Personal Affair (1953)

Directed by Anthony Pelissier
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(VHS, Hallmark)

English schoolgirl develops crush on professor, then disappears. Suspicions run wild in the small English town, forcing the professor to resign and almost destroying his marriage. Not a bad little thriller, with excellent performances all around.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Oath of Vengeance (1944)

Directed by Sam Newfield
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb

Buster Crabbe gets mixed up with ranchers and cattlemen. The film is basically a string of brawls. Fuzzy St. John is given plenty of room for his slapstick comedy relief.

Halls of Anger (1970)

Directed by Paul Bogart
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, MGM Limited Edition Collection)

Reverse racism is the topic of this 1970 drama. A group of white kids, including a young Rob Reiner and Jeff Bridges, are bused to a predominantly black high school. An idealistic black teacher is there to help guide the confused young folks. It feels like a TV movie of the week, and lacks any real dramatic push, especially given the subject matter.

Revolt at Fort Laramie (1957)

Directed by Lesley Selander
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb

News of the Civil War reaches a remote Cavalry outpost. The troops take sides and fight among themselves. Meanwhile, there's trouble with the local Indians, and the company must learn to fight together to defeat them.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ride Out for Revenge (1957)

Directed by Bernard Girard
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb

Standard programmer bolstered by fine b&w cinematography from Floyd Crosby. Indian sympathiser Rory Calhoun struggles with Army captain Lloyd Bridges over relocating Cheyenne Indians, who will fight to the death to stay in their homeland. Overly preachy at times, though the final scene does make one think about the Indian situation in more universal terms.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

On Borrowed Time (1939)

Directed by Harold S. Bucquet
My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Morbidly fascinating fantasy on death. Lionel Barrymore is visited by Mr Brinks, but because of a prior good deed is able to trap him in a tree. He finds not only himself immortal, but the whole world immortal with death up a tree. At first he is happy beyond words, but soon learns that death is as necessary as life. Bobs Watson is excellent as the boy Pud, and shares a particularly emotional scene with Barrymore towards the end.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Convoy (1978)

Directed by Sam Peckinpah
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb

Sam Peckinpah directs this inferior Smokey and the Bandit clone. The trademark Peckinpah violence is wasted on slow motion shots of bar fights and truck wrecks. In one particularly gratuitous scene, the trucks are shown in an extended montage as they dance ballet-like through dust and dirt. There are endless close ups of Kristofferson's steel blue eyes that are supposed to show him deep in thought but only reveal the hollowness of his character and the movie. It goes on for nearly 2 hours. Still, there is some redeeming cinematography of the New Mexico desert.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

12 to the Moon (1960)

Directed by David Bradley
My rating: BOMB
IMDb
(DVD, Sony Screen Classics by Request)

Twelve astronauts from different countries, along with a dog, two cats and some birds, travel to the moon. Along the way, they fight with each other, mainly over politics. Once on the moon, they are contacted via alien hieroglyphics which the Japanese woman can instantly translate. However, the moon people want the cats, which they find more interesting than the humans. They also allow two people to stay behind: a couple who instantly fell in love when they took their helmets off in a cave with air. Back on Earth, the moon people have unleashed a frozen attack, leaving everyone in suspended animation. It's up to the rocket crew to save the planet by exploding a bomb in a volcano. WOW.

Friday, August 21, 2009

They Came from Beyond Space (1967)

Directed by Freddie Francis
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb

Juvenile science fiction entry from Amicus films. It's basically a variation of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, though not nearly as interesting. The finale between Robert Hutton and Michael Gough, as the Master of the Moon, is anticlimactic to say the least.

Slattery's Hurricane (1949)

Directed by Andre De Toth
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb

Richard Widmark has flashbacks while flying into the eye of a hurricane. His girlfriend is Veronica Lake, but he still goes for an old flame who happens to be married to his best friend. Veronica has a nervous breakdown, but comes out of it when Widmark gets a military award and saves Miami from the hurricane.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Toys in the Attic (1963)

Directed by George Roy Hill
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, MGM Limited Edition Collection)

Dean Martin is miscast in this Tennesse Williams copycat film. He returns to New Orleans with child-like bride Mimieux to visit his overbearing sisters. The banter back and forth between the sisters is tiring. One of them makes a startling revelation, only it's so out of context as to be hilarious. There is a brutal attack on Martin and friend, surprisingly graphic for its time.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Secret Partner (1961)

Directed by Basil Dearden
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb

Well-paced British crime drama kept my interest throughout. I can usually spot plot twists well in advance, but this one is well "disguised".

Footsteps in the Fog (1955)

Directed by Arthur Lubin
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Sony Screen Classics by Request)

Tragic love story of a maid who blackmails her murderous master. It's hard to pin down why this should have been better, other than the fact that it is rather boring. Simmons and Granger, despite being married in real life, do not have much chemistry on screen. Sure, there is the titular murder in pea soup London fog, but it is far from tense. The plot twists are rather predictable, even the big one at the end. Victorian atmosphere is probably the best thing about the film.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Mike's Murder (1984)

Directed by James Bridges
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Slow exposition and an array of unlikeable characters make this one difficult to appreciate, but there are rewards for the faithful. Debra Winger is in love with a tennis instructor, who also happens to be a drug dealer and bisexual. She is not aware of his other life until he is killed in a bad drug deal. It's hard to figure why she would like such a heel, and it is a major obstacle to overcome in viewing the film. There is a tense ending between her and another drug dealing wacko. LA locations add greatly to the atmosphere.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Touchables (1968)

Directed by Robert Freeman
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb

Psychedelic film about sexual role reversal which takes place mainly inside a big bubble in a field. The opening theme is by Nirvana (not that Nirvana), and I heard snippets of Pink Floyd later in the film though not credited. The plot, such as it is, involves four women kidnapping a rock star, who is then pursued by a black homosexual wrestler and his mob. There is an interview with the rock star early in the film, which is the closest to an explanation you will get to the point of all of this. Still, some good cinematography, and it's rarely boring.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rusty Saves a Life (1949)

Directed by Seymour Friedman
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb

A stranger comes to Lawtonville to claim the inheritance of the town's rich attorney. Only problem, he's a city slicker who hates dogs, people, and generally everything about small towns. He has a dramatic change of heart when Rusty saves his life. Some very stilted dialogue just about sinks this one.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Quare Fellow (1962)

Directed by Arthur Dreifuss
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Kino)

Disappointing Irish prison drama. My main problem with the film was the lead character played by Patrick McGoohan. He is a newly hired prison guard (warder), young and idealistic. However, when faced with his first execution he begins to have second thoughts. He has a one night stand with the condemned's wife, apparently without remorse. I simply had no empathy for him after that point, and his change of heart regarding capital punishment seemed hollow and empty. There is, however, some beautiful black and white cinematography on display here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Dog Rusty (1948)

Directed by Lew Landers
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb

I'm starting to warm up to these old Rusty programmers. Lawtonville and its residents are becoming like old neighbors. Danny has aspirations to become a vet, and while working in the new doctor's office Rusty causes an accident. Danny tries to cover it up by lying and the film basically shows how the lie leads to all kinds of problems for Danny, and the whole town.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Wild North (1952)

Directed by Andrew Marton
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Good outdoor adventure drama with Stewart Granger and Wendell Corey. The heart of the film is a long journey through rugged wilderness as Mountie Corey brings accused murderer Granger to justice. Along the way they battle the elements, wild dogs and each other. The faded Ansco color print I watched on TCM gives it an almost surreal beauty.


Gun Glory (1957)

Directed by Roy Rowland
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Well-worn story of ex-gunslinger trying to go straight. He returns to Wyoming only to find his wife dead and son resentful. Somehow he talks the very attractive woman at the local store to move in and work for him. Tensions mount as father and son have problems with each other and the new lady. Meanwhile back in town, the preacher is having second thoughts about depending on God to keep a cattle drive from ruining everyone, and tries to get the gunslinger to help. Not bad per se, but very familiar, and Steve Rowland as the son is terrible.


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Son of Rusty (1947)

Directed by Lew Landers
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(VHS, Sony)

Low key programmer this time around. A stranger comes to town, and after word leaks he is an ex-con, gossip goes wild in the small town of Lawtonville. Rusty gets mixed up with the stranger's dog, almost gets dynamited to bits, and has puppies. The stranger is put on trial, but a local lawyer sets things straight by appealing to patriotism.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Roadblock (1951)

Directed by Harold Daniels
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb

Gritty little film noir benefits from LA locations, a beautiful femme fatale played by Joan Dixon, and a likeable insurance investigator played by Charles McGraw. While not in the same league as say Double Indemnity, this closely follows the film noir template, and perhaps that familiarity is its main weakness.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (1956)

Directed by Fritz Lang
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Predictable drama with Dana Andrews convicted for a crime he didn't commit... or did he? The actresses in this movie are just terrible, strictly B-movie material. Andrews is stoic but convincing. Probably my least favorite film by one of my favorite directors.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Space Master X-7 (1958)

Directed by Edward Bernds
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb

A space capsule returns to Earth with "blood rust"- a fungus which quickly grows to blob-like proportions. In fact, the film closely resembles the more famous Blob, with a typhoid Mary plotline. The ending could be called "Blob on a Plane".

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

In the French Style (1963)

Directed by Robert Parrish
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Sony Screen Classics by Request)

Piecemeal account of a young, beautiful American artist amidst the bohemians of Paris. Poor Jean Seberg goes from lover to lover, never getting what she wants from a relationship. When she does finally find someone, he is a somewhat normal American doctor. The scenes between Seberg and her father where uncomfortable and unintentionally hilarious.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hornets' Nest (1970)

Directed by Phil Karlson, Franco Cirino
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(VHS, MGM/UA)

Unpleasant little war drama with Rock Hudson and group of homeless Italian kids in wet underwear. The film starts out with a Nazi mass slaughter of a village. The kids spared want revenge. Along the way they almost manage to gang rape a helpful nurse, but Rock finishes the job for them. Mark Olleano as Aldo over-emotes. There is a final scene between Aldo and Rock, where Rock stands in as a universal "soldier" (he goes by Soldier the entire film), that just barely saves this from bottom-of-the-barrel exploitation fodder.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Badman's Territory (1946)

Directed by Tim Whelan
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Solid if unspectacular western starring Randolph Scott. The film tends to ramble and become unfocused, incorporating both the James gang and the Daltons, as well as a horse race and multiple love interests of Scott. Gabby Hayes a welcome diversion, as usual.


For the Love of Rusty (1947)

Directed by John Sturges
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb

Better-than-average boy and his dog programmer boistered by the wonderful performance of British actor Aubrey Mather, who plays the mysterious veterinarian Dr. Francis Xavier Fay. Our hero Danny is having problems relating to his father, and is drawn to the free lifestyle of the travelling veterinarian camping out in the woods. When Rusty accidentally causes a ruckus at a carnival, Danny runs away to live with the vet. There is a moving final scene with Danny and his father under the "celestial canopy".

Sunday, August 2, 2009

For Those Who Think Young (1964)

Directed by Leslie H. Martinson
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb

This is basically a vehicle for Woody Woodbury disguised as a beach movie. Woody's "cocktail comedy" routine is painfully unfunny. The only other plot involves James Darren as an unlikeable lady killer. Probably better known for its pre-Gilligan's Island pairing of Bob Denver and Tina Louise!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter (1968)

Directed by Saul Swimmer
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Low-key mix of psychedelia, travelogue, dog racing and juvenile romance. The songs are much better than the previous Herman's Hermits movie, Hold On!