Saturday, September 23, 2017

Dumbo (1941)


Academy Awards, USA 1942

Won
Oscar
Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture
Frank Churchill
Oliver Wallace
Nominated
Oscar
Best Music, Original Song
Frank Churchill (music)
Ned Washington (lyrics)
For the song "Baby Mine".

R·K·O Radio Pictures Inc.
Directed by Sam Armstrong, et al
My rating: 3.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Walt Disney)

A baby elephant in a circus is ridiculed for his big ears. When his mother defends him from hecklers during a parade, she is deemed mad and locked up alone in wagon. The abandoned Dumbo is befriended by a mouse determined to cheer him up by making him the star of the show. He does just that after discovering his big ears allow him to fly. An early Disney animated classic which includes the psychedelic-tinged "pink elephants" segment. The animation is not up to par with the other Disney classics, but the simple style allows the characterizations to shine.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1977)


American International Pictures
Directed by Don Taylor
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Kino Lorber)

Michael York and another man, lost at sea after their ship sinks, end up on a remote Pacific island where scientist Burt Lancaster is conducting experiments on animals. He slowly discovers that Lancaster is trying to turn them into humans, with decidedly mixed results. Some of his failures live in caves on the outskirts of the island, which is where York finds himself surrounded by some unfriendly mutants. The godlike Lancaster has laid down several laws in an attempt to make them more human, the first of which is not to kill. When he breaks it himself, it turns the human animals against him. Somewhat of a missed opportunity for the ending, but the blu ray contains the final image from a network showing that should have been used for the theatrical release as well. York and Lancaster give standout performances in this interesting story of a scientist who has lost his way, much like Victor Frankenstein. Makeup designer Thomas Burman creates realistic effects, echoing his earlier work as an assistant on Planet of the Apes. Soundtrack by Laurence Rosenthal completes the mood. Somewhat underrated gem from AIP's later period.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Terror (1963)


American International Pictures
Directed by Roger Corman
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, HD Cinema Classics)

Jack Nicholson is a lost French soldier who is befriended by a beautiful girl on a beach (played by Mrs. Jack Nicholson). She turns out to be a phantom, so Jack goes to the nearby castle to find her. There he finds Boris Karloff and his servant, who reluctantly let him stay the night. Karloff eventually admits to murdering his wife decades earlier and being tormented by her ghost. Driven to suicide, Karloff tries to flood the castle and everyone in it, but Jack manages to save himself and the girl. Their final kiss is quite memorable. Low budget Corman has potential, but is ruined by Nicholson's stiff, emotionless performance. Some of the Gothic atmosphere manages to slip through, but it's tough sledding.

Cat's Eye (1985)


MGM/UA
Directed by Lewis Teague
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Warner Bros)

Horror anthology based on three Stephen King stories. In the first, James Woods hires a company to help him quit smoking. Their extreme measures including torturing his wife, or worse, if he lights up again. In the second story, a tennis pro is kidnapped by the jealous husband of his girlfriend. The man, a wealthy mobster and casino owner, strikes a bargain with him: if he can walk around the narrow ledge of his penthouse apartment he will grant his wife a divorce. Much to his surprise, and constant distractions, the man makes it around, but there is a cruel twist waiting at the end. In the third story, a "troll" is tormenting poor little Drew Barrymore in her bedroom. Her parents don't believe her, until the troll almost kills her and her pet cat in an epic battle. Juvenile, comic-book level King, not even good for a few laughs. Littered with obvious references to/promotion of other King works.

Hardware (1990)


Miramax
Directed by Richard Stanley
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Severn)

In a bleak post-nuclear future, a scavenger finds a robot buried in the sand. He brings it to the city and sells it for scrap, ending up in the hands of an soldier and his buddy. The soldier gives it to his artist girlfriend who works it into her latest sculpture. The robot turns out to be a secret government prototype that can repair itself, which it promptly does. Soon, it is on the rampage in her apartment. A stylish but over-the-top alien clone, with kinky sex and gore to match.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Face of the Screaming Werewolf (1964)


A.D.P. Pictures
Directed by Jerry Warren
My rating: BOMB
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Scientists experimenting with regression hypnotize a patient, causing her to remember her past life as an Indian in Mexico participating in a human sacrifice ritual in a pyramid. Once awakened, she leads an expedition to the pyramid, where they awaken a mummy and a werewolf. The two monsters terrorize local residents. The most effective scenes involve Lon Chaney, Jr as the werewolf. However, this is the only redeeming value in an otherwise confusing mish mash of two old Mexican films edited together with new footage.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Oliver & Company (1988)


Buena Vista Pictures
Directed by George Scribner
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Walt Disney)

A stray kitten on the streets of New York City is befriended by a carefree mongrel and taken to a barge where he lives with a thief and other dogs. The thief owes money to loan shark and has only a few days to come up with it. During an attempted robbery, the kitten gets adopted by a wealthy little girl ignored by her parents. Thinking the cat has been kidnapped, the dogs stage a rescue. The thief hatches the idea to ransom the kitten to pay off his debts, but it falls apart when he realizes the owner is the little girl. She ends up getting kidnapped instead by the loan shark, and it is up to Oliver and company to rescue her. Entertaining reworking of Oliver Twist, with stylish animation from George Scribner. However, the music badly dates it (Huey Lewis and Billy Joel), getting in the way rather than complementing the story. Cheech Marin steals every scene as the voice of a feisty Chihuahua.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Get Mean (1975)


Cinemation Industries
Directed by Ferdinando Baldi
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Blue Underground)

The fourth and final entry of The Stranger series (unless you count Comin' At Ya) finds Tony Tony heading to Spain with a princess. He goes for the reward money, but instead gets caught up in a war between Vikings and Moors. Failing to get paid, he sets his sights on a treasure instead, competing with everyone else to find it. Less spaghetti western and more absurd period piece, with offensive characters, poor acting and explosions, lots and lots of explosions.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Silent Stranger (1968)


United Artists
Directed by Luigi Vanzi
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Tony Tony gets a scroll from a dying man in the Klondike and is told he will be given a large reward for it in Japan. He travels there with his horse only to get involved with two rival clans. One has a large machine gun manned by an American which gives them a huge advantage over the sword-wielding other clan. Tony gets swindled for his scroll, and decides to pit the two clans against each other. It works for awhile, but he still has to survive seemingly endless foes. He gets help from an experienced samurai, and an antique, large gun. The Japanese location works for awhile, as does the perpetual rain, but the extra does of humor drag it down from previous Stranger films. Even Stelvio Cipriani's soundtrack falls short.

The Stranger Returns (1967)


MGM
Directed by Luigi Vanzi
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

Tony Tony wanders into another dusty western town, this time finding bandits collaborating with a corrupt town official to steal a gold shipment. He gets out of a tricky situation at the beginning of the film and borrows the identity of a dead postal official to infiltrate the gang. He gets beat up and dragged behind a coach, but escapes. With the help of a slightly deranged preacher, he tracks down the gang for revenge, and the gold, which is hidden in plain sight. Just as entertaining as the first film, with Tony's easy-going persona and slight touches of humor offsetting the frequent violence on display. Another outstanding soundtrack from Stelvio Cipriani.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Stranger in Town (1967)


MGM
Directed by Luigi Vanzi
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Warner Archive Collection)

A gunfighter rides into a dusty western town, apparently abandoned. Bandits have taken over and soon appear, along with Mexican troops which they massacre in the town square. He approaches the leader of the gang with a plan to steal gold from American troops heading to the town. They agree and the plan succeeds. However, when he demands half for payment they scoff and try to kill him. He steals the gold and saves a local girl whom the bandits had taken hostage. The bandits pursue and he is taken hostage himself, but later escapes. Just when it looks like he is home free, the bandits appear for one last shootout. Entertaining if typical spaghetti western, helped by a twangy Benedetto Ghiglia soundtrack and some inventively lit scenes. Lead actor Tony Anthony, though, lacks the charisma to carry the film.

Foreign Correspondent (1940)



Academy Awards, USA 1941

Nominated
Oscar
Best Picture
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Albert Bassermann
Best Writing, Original Screenplay
Charles Bennett
Joan Harrison
Best Cinematography, Black-and-White
Rudolph Maté
Best Art Direction, Black-and-White
Alexander Golitzen
Best Effects, Special Effects
Paul Eagler (photographic)
Thomas T. Moulton (sound)

United Artists
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Criterion Collection)

Hot shot newspaper reporter Joel McCrae is sent to London to interview a Dutch diplomat who recently negotiated a treaty to reduce the threat of war in Europe. The diplomat is later assassinated in Amsterdam before McCrae can interview him. He learns that the diplomat is not really dead but kidnapped, having been replaced by a double. He tries to get help from the police but they don't believe him, so he turns to a British diplomat and head of a newly formed "peace party". He happens to be the father of the girl McCrae is falling in love with, but is also involved with the kidnappers. He survives an attempt on his own life and connects the dots with the British diplomat. He decides to blackmail him for information, but it is foiled at the last minute. War is declared in Europe, forcing everyone to evacuate to America. The all end up on the same plane which is shelled by Germans and crashes into the Atlantic. Some survive, some do not. Overplotted Hitchcock has its moments, such as the windmill sequence outside of Amsterdam, but is marred by stereotypical disaster ending and misplaced patriotic appeal for the end credits.

Claws (1977)


Can Am
Directed by Richard Bansbach and Robert E. Pierson
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

A wounded grizzly goes on the rampage in Alaska. One of its earliest victims loses his arm in the attack, and his livelihood, leading to the disintegration of his marriage. Obsessed with finding and killing the bear, he puts together a hunting posse with a skeptical forest ranger, a superstitious Indian, the hunter who originally wounded the bear and his ex-wife's new boyfriend. They go into the wilderness looking for the bear, and of course some don't make it out alive. Predictability is the least of this film's flaws, which includes ghost Indians and a flaming grizzly finale.

Black Tight Killers (1966)


Nikkatsu
Directed by Yasuharu Hassebe
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Image Entertainment)

A war photographer falls in love with a stewardess. However, on their first date she is kidnapped by a band of "ninja" girls. He sets out to find her with the help of his own ninja master. It turns out the kidnappers are trying to save a stash of gold that his girlfriend's father hid from the Nazis. A group of foreigners also want the gold, and kill the ninja girls one by one. The plot is not really the point here, but rather the vivid stylization of gangster tropes, particularly the use of eye-popping color. Less interesting are frequent breaks for go-go dancing which dates this badly. Still, a lot of fun.

The Monster of Venice (1965)


Directed by Dino Tavella
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

A serial killer stalks Venice in scuba gear, snatching young girls and taking them to his underwater lair where embalms them and puts them on display (it was released in America as "The Embalmer"). A group of visiting teenage tourists provides fodder for the killer, but a reporter who is following them gets in his way. Ridiculous early entry in the giallo genre, totally lacking in suspense, or sense. It has more in common with low budget Roger Corman efforts from the 1950s.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Istanbul Express (1968)


NBC
Directed by Richard Irving
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

Gene Barry is a spy posing as an art dealer. He is assigned to travel to Istanbul and buy scientific papers for the government. The train ride from London to Istanbul turns out to be full of surprises, as counter agents try to stop him and steal information. Stops in Paris, Venice and Belgrade provide many photogenic opportunities, which are probably the highlight of this made-for-tv production. John Saxon is a train detective who gets him out of a few tricky situations.

The Flower with the Deadly Sting (1973)


Directed by Gianfranco Piccioli
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

A surgeon kills his mistress accidentally in a moment of anger, then tries to cover it up by disposing of her body. However, he can't explain to the police why her car is at his house, nor to his wife, who has her own secrets. Nothing is as it seems in this twisting giallo, until all is revealed in a final underwater sequence that comes out of nowhere.

Young and Innocent (1937)


British Gaumont
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Mill Creek)

A down and out writer discovers the body of a woman on the beach, and is accused by the police of the murder. He manages to escape while entering the courthouse for his trial. He unwittingly involves the daughter of the police chief while on the run and trying to prove his innocence. Together they track down the man who stole his raincoat, the belt of which was used to commit the murder. The final scenes take place in a hotel ballroom in which the murderer is revealed to be a member of the band, all of whom perform in blackface. Somewhat overlooked early Hitchcock.

Secret Agent (1936)


British Gaumont
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Mill Creek)

A British officer is inducted into spy duty at the end of WWI. He is sent to Germany along with assassin Peter Lorre where they are to track down and kill a spy. Upon arrival, he meets his "wife" Madeleine Carroll, another spy who joined up for the thrill of it. She is being aggressively pursued by American playboy Robert Young. They follow a clue to a mountain climber and kill him, but it turns out he was not the spy. Carroll wants to give up and leaves with Young, but when he turns out to be the real spy her life is threatened. It all ends in a typical early Hitchcock train derailment and crash. Fun for awhile, but too similar to other early Hitchcock films to really stand out.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Waltzes from Vienna (1934)


Gaumont British
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Johann Strauss, Jr, plays second fiddle in his famous father's orchestra. He falls in love with a cafe worker, who convinces him to forget about music and learn to become a baker. Meanwhile, and older society woman pays him to set to music some of her lyrics, leading to the composition of the famous "Blue Danube". He becomes a sensation overnight, much to the chagrin of his father and girlfriend. However, he eventually wins them over at a big concert. Tame Hitchcock musical drama, with little to none of the director's touches.

The 39 Steps (1935)


Gaumont British
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Criterion Collection)

Robert Donat gets caught up with spies and assassins at a London music hall. He is given a map by a dying woman which leads him to Scotland, pursued by police who want him for her murder. Train passenger Madeleine Carroll gets involved when Donat uses her to hide from the police. He also gets help from a friendly farmer's wife, though her husband's jealousy almost gets him caught. It all gets unraveled at the London Palladium. Another exciting Hitchcock yarn, although the formula of innocent victim forced to prove their innocence, and an overabundance of trains, is starting to wear thin.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)


Gaumont British
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Criterion Collection)

A British couple on vacation unwittingly get involved with an assassination plot. Their young daughter is kidnapped and brought back to London. Unwilling to ask the police for help, they search for the girl themselves, eventually finding her holed up in a strange church being used by the group of terrorists. The wife foils the assassination plot, and the police follow the shooter to the church where a shootout ensues. The lone survivor heads to the rooftop with the hostage, in a typical Hitchcock ending. Peter Lorre goes all out as the leader of the criminals.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Number Seventeen (1932)


Wardour Films
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Mill Creek)

A man claiming to be a detective walks into an empty mansion and finds a dead body on the stairs and another man wandering the halls. A woman falls through the roof and claims the dead man is her father. The dead body disappears. More people show up at the house. It turns out to be the meeting place of a gang of thieves who are looking for a stolen necklace. When they find out the man is a detective, the flee to a nearby train yard, hop on a train and knock out the conductor. Unfortunately, they don't know how to stop it and it crashes into a ferry. Crazy, fast paced film where nobody who is who they seem, and nothing makes very much sense.

Rich and Strange (1931)


Wardour Films
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Lionsgate)

A bored suburban couple receive an unexpected inheritance and use it to quit their jobs and travel the world. Unfortunately, he suffers from debilitating seasickness which keeps him in bed, while his wife uses the time to flirt with a handsome bachelor. Not to be outdone, when he finally gets his sea legs the husband picks up a flirty "princess". The two couples see little of each other until the princess disappears with a load of money. They reunite with barely enough money to book a trip home. However, the ship is involved in a collision, trapping them in their room, apparently doomed to drown together. They survive and are rescued the next day, eventually ending up back in their same old suburban routine. Entertaining if somewhat preposterous early Hitchcock, a sort of suburban fantasy.

Lassie's Great Adventure (1963)


Twentieth Century-Fox Film
Directed by William Beaudine
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(DVD, GoodTimes)

Timmy and Lassie get trapped in a runaway hot air balloon and crash in the Canadian wilderness. Timmy uses his survival skills to get them out of a tree and to a nearby river where he builds a raft. They get separated when the raft crashes in rapids. Timmy is rescued by a large, silent Indian (Richard Kiel) while Lassie leads rescuers to his cabin. Entertaining if predictable, re-edited from several episodes of the TV series.

The Hook (1976)


Directed by Erricos Andreou
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

An older, wealthy man is married to a young, beautiful Barbara Bouchet. She convinces her lover to murder her husband during a sailboat race. Instead, the husband turns the tables and makes it appear her lover is killed, while in reality he is hiding out on an abandoned, desolate island. Barbara eventually finds him and they briefly reunite, until her husband shows up. Late giallo has some interesting plot twists, but too much sailing and dancing, not enough suspense.

The Skin Game (1931)


Wardour Films 
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Lionsgate)

An affluent British family's rural home is threatened by a land-grabbing neighbor who wants to build factories. In a tense auction, the neighbor wins the much sought after land by underhanded means. The other family resorts to blackmail to get it back. The ugly side of class warfare is exposed by Hitchcock in this grim story. Edmund Gwenn is memorable as the relentless capitalist with no soul.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The New Barbarians (1983)


New Line Cinema
Directed by Enzo G. Castellari
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Blue Underground)

An Italian Mad Max clone about rival motorcycle gangs in a post apocalyptic landscape outside Rome. The "Templars" set out to kill any remaining humans and set their sites on a nearby religious group. A former Templar tries to stop them. He is kidnapped and raped by the leader of the Templars. He later escapes and gets his revenge. Filled with ludicrous "special effects", including numerous decapitations, slow motion motorcycle "stunts" and other unconvincing, low budget concoctions. Good for an unintentional laugh, but otherwise bottom-of-the-barrel Italian schlock.

The Painted Hills (1951)


MGM
Directed by Harold F. Kress
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, GoodTimes)

A prospector strikes gold in the hills of California. His partner gets "gold fever", leading to murder. The prospector's faithful dog, Lassie, is given to his grandson, but Lassie escapes and tries to find his old master. Instead, she is poisoned and only survives with the help of an Indian medicine man. When she recovers, she goes after the man, eventually forcing him off a cliff! A dark and disturbing Lassie movie.

Murder! (1930)


Wardour Films
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Lionsgate)

A young actress is sentenced to death for a murder she did not commit. One of the jurors, who regrets his part in her conviction, sets out to prove her innocence. With the help of a stage manager and his wife, the amateur sleuths soon hone in on a cross dressing actor as the main suspect. In one of the more tense scenes, they lure him to an audition for a fake play in which his murder is re-enacted. Later, he commits suicide in a crowded circus. A bit talky and unfocused, but still entertaining with the usual Hitchcock flourishes.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Juno and the Paycock (1930)


Wardour Films
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Mill Creek)

An unemployed, alcoholic boat captain suddenly inherits a fortune from a long lost relative. He and his wife spend it on luxuries, only to find out that they won't get the money after all. Creditors show up en masse and rumors swirl. Their daughter is pregnant by the will's executor, who disappears when he realizes the mistake which he made. Her former boyfriend at first claims to still love her, until he finds out her condition. The family is torn apart by the scandal. Another overly melodramatic early Hitchcock offering, with some religious overtones towards the end.

Beauty and the Beast (1962)


United Artists
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

A young Italian duke and heir to the throne is carries the curse of an old sorcerer: he turns into a harmless werewolf every night. His newly arrived fiance is understandably upset, but it is her unconditional love which will free him from the curse. A rival prince discovers his secret and tries to use it to steal the throne. Predictable period drama with just a sprinkling of horror.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Bohemian Girl (1936)


MGM
Directed by James W. Horne and Charley Rogers
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Laurel and Hardy are gypsies who wander around an old Austrian city in search of people to tell fortunes to, and pickpocket. Ollie is married to a domineering woman who openly cheats on him. Her lover is sentenced to a public lashing, so she steals the young daughter of the count who ordered it. She tells Ollie it is his, and after she leaves him, he and Stan raise her. As a teenager, she stumbles onto her real father's castle and is sent to prison. Stan and Ollie try to rescue her, but get captured themselves and sent to the torture dungeon, with strange results. Odd adventure for the comedy duo, an uneasy mix of songs, comedy and scares. Best scene is Stan getting drunk on a barrel of wine.

Blackmail (1929)


Wardour Films
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Mill Creek)

Pretty Anny Ondra has a fight with her boyfriend in a restaurant and leaves with another man. She accepts his invitation to visit his loft, and ends up killing him in self defense. Her boyfriend happens to be one of the investigating detectives, and he quickly figures out that she did it. A petty thief who happened to be nearby also figures it out, and proceeds to blackmail them. Hitchcock's first sound film, and England's, is the first to really have that Hitchcock touch. We get a long chase scene that ends up on a rooftop, a murderess racked with guilt and many unexpected plot twists. However, some of the scenes go on far too long, particularly early in the film, as Hitchcock seems enamored by the novelty of sound. Still, it's a big step forward from his silent films.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Half Shot at Sunrise (1930)


Radio Pictures
Directed by Paul Sloane
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Comedy team Wheeler and Woolsey are American GIs in Paris during WWI. They go AWOL so that they can pursue local pretty ladies. Woolsey unknowingly falls in love with a general's daughter, a flirty Dorothy Lee, while Wheeler falls for the general's lover. The jokes never stop in this fast paced, slightly vulgar, vehicle for the two comedians, who are at the top of their game. Includes a couple of breaks for songs and dancing, including a memorable one involving Wheeler in a fountain.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Test (1935)


Reliable Pictures
Directed by B.B. Ray
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Friendly fur trapper Grant Withers spars with a band of thieves lead by Frenchman Monte Blue as Pepite La Joie, who has a blast with his characterization. Luckily for Withers, he has Rin Tin Tin, Jr, to help him out. Grace Ford is the romantic interest. California's Big Bear Lake is the backdrop.

The Eagle's Brood (1935)


Paramount Pictures
Directed by Howard Bretherton
My rating: 1.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

A Mexican outlaw saves sheriff Hoppy from quicksand, who agrees to help find his grandson in exchange for not arresting him. The boy's parents were killed in a stage robbery by bandits who run the "El Infierno" saloon near a place called "Hell's Center".  He is taken in by the friendly dance hall girl who hides him in her room, but she is murdered when the bandits find out. He hides out in the canyon until Hoppy finds him. Unusually downbeat, and violent, second entry in the long running Hopalong Cassidy series, with the characters not yet full developed. Even Gabby Hayes has yet to grow out his beard.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Manxman (1929)


Wardour Films
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Lionsgate)

Two childhood friends, a poor fisherman and an aspiring lawyer, fall in love with the same girl: the bartender at the local pub. She accepts a marriage proposal from the handsome fisherman, but her father refuses to consent. He travels to South Africa to make money in the mines, but while away his fiance falls in love with the lawyer. They receive a letter that he was killed in an accident, apparently giving them freedom to carry on, but he turns up alive a few months later. She won't admit to the affair and marries the fisherman, never revealing that she is pregnant by the other man! Later, her attempted suicide lands her in court, presided over by her lover on his first day as an important judge. Overblown melodrama aside, this is still one of the better Hitchcock silent films, with beautiful location shooting and fine acting.

Rape (1969)


Directed by John Lennon and Yoko Ono
My rating: BOMB
IMDb
(YouTube)

A camera crew hassles a young woman visiting a cemetery. They follow her into the nearby streets and eventually her apartment, ignoring her pleas to leave her alone. A technically inept film with no plot, no acting and little to recommend other than the concept, which can be grasped from the title alone. Biggest joke: music credit to John and Yoko, however there is no music.

Redes (1936)


Directed by Emilio Gómez Muriel and Fred Zinnemann
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Mexican fisherman, tired of being taken advantage of by the local mogul who pays them pennies a day for their labor, try to organize a union. One of their own, a quiet family man, leads them, but when he tries to implement a strike many do not participate. The wealthy businessman has him shot and killed, leading to more fighting. Cardboard acting by locals brings this down a notch, but some wonderful shots of a Mexican fishing village at work by cinematographer Paul Strand.

Champagne (1928)


Wardour Films
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Mill Creek)

Socialite Betty Balfour lands her private plane in the ocean to visit her boyfriend on an ocean liner. This upsets her father, who concocts a plan to teach her a lesson by pretending to lose the family fortune. She takes a menial job in an upscale French restaurant, pursued by her on-again, off-again boyfriend, meddling father and a mysterious man who claims to want to marry her. It all gets sorted out in the end. Hitchcock's attempt to blend comedy and melodrama just doesn't work. It has one "trick shot" through a champagne glass, but otherwise would be hard to identify as a Hitchcock film.

Nutcracker Fantasy (1979)


Sanrio Films
Directed by Takeo Nakamura
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Little Clara's wooden nutcracker toy goes missing in the middle of the night, in the process of being stolen by mice. The next day, possibly delirious with fever, she follows the trail through a grandfather clock and ends up in a giant palace where she meets her doppelganger, a princess. At first mistaken for the other girl, things are soon sorted out and she learns that the real princess has been changed to a mouse and put into a deep sleep for refusing to marry the son of the two-headed mouse queen. Clara seeks help from the Queen of Time, who tells her the way to defeat the evil mouse queen, and win the heart of a young prince. Superior stop motion animation, but the overly confusing plot is hard to follow, and it gets a bit saccharine at times.

Cathy Come Home (1966)


BBC
Directed by Kenneth Loach
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

A young couple in a crowded British city struggle to find proper housing when she becomes pregnant and he loses his job. They are soon unable to afford their posh modern apartment and move in with his mother. However, the crowded apartment soon leads to tensions and they are lucky to find another place that allows children. When that landlady dies, the new heirs kick them out and they are forced to live in a trailer on a street. Local residents object, leading to arson and tragedy. Forced to move once again, they end up in an abandoned building. Social workers allow her and the children to move into temporary quarters, but that does not include her husband, who then leaves town looking for work. When that time expires, the government decides to take her remaining children. Devastating account of homelessness and hopelessness, though Loach's heavy handed approach tends to distract.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

So Sweet, So Dead (1972)


Directed by Roberto Bianchi Montero
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Unfaithful wives are the target of a serial killer. He photographs them cheating, then slashes them in grisly ways, leaving the photos with the bodies. Inspector Farley Granger is assigned to the case. Suspects include a sleazy lawyer whose wife ends up a victim, a professor who is interested in the psychology of the killer and a morgue attendant with a taste for necrophilia. This features more nudity than most giallos, but eschews tension and style. The reveal of the killer is unsatisfying.

Phase IV (1974)


Paramount Pictures
Directed by Saul Bass
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(Blu-ray, Olive Films)

Ants react to a cosmic event by becoming super intelligent. A team of scientists is sent to Arizona to study them. They work in a dome near their geometrically shaped hives. A young woman takes refuge with them when the ants attack her family. Soon, the ants are inside the dome, forcing the scientists to fight or flee. In one of the stranger endings you will ever see, they end up joining the ants instead. This replaced the original ending, which I have not seen. Famous title designer Saul Bass's only directorial effort has plenty of flair and close-up imagery of ants, but lacks a compelling plot or characters. Nonetheless, intriguing and at times hypnotic, helped by electronic music by David Vorhaus and Desmond Briscoe.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Pardon Us (1931)


MGM
Directed by James Parrott
My rating: 2.5 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Laurel and Hardy get arrested for making beer during Prohibition. In prison, they are confronted with a variety of situations allowing them to stretch out their comedy routines. A recurring plot device involves Stan's buzzing tooth which sounds like he his is giving a "raspberry" at the end of his sentences, getting them in trouble with other prisoners and the warden. They escape for awhile and hide out with Negroes working in nearby fields, where Ollie sings a song in blackface. Stan's tooth gives them away and they end up back in prison. They get involved in a noisy riot, but accidentally save the warden's daughter, earning them a pardon. Laurel and Hardy's first feature film gets a few chuckles, but very dated.

The Farmer's Wife (1928)


Wardour Films
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Mill Creek)

Widowed farmer sets out on a quest to find a new wife. He makes a list of local eligible girls and visits each one. Despite obvious incompatibilities, he quickly proposes to each one, who just as quickly turn him down. Eventually he realizes his devoted housekeeper is the girl for him. Dreadful attempt at "rural comedy" from Hitchcock, based on a popular play of the time.