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 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 wanders into 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.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

7 Murders for Scotland Yard (1972)


Directed by José Luis Madrid
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb
(YouTube)

A killer is stalking prostitutes and other low life women in London. His penchant for removing organs gets him a modern Jack the Ripper moniker. The chief suspect is trapeze artist Paul Naschy, whose wife is one of the victims. Other possibilities are an impotent school teacher and even the chief inspector from Scotland Yard who is having an affair with the school teacher's wife. The killings are rather nasty, with close-ups of knifes cutting into flesh. However, with (at least) seven of them, it gets rather monotonous, and the identity of the killer is not too hard to guess.

The Ring (1927)


Wardour Films
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
My rating: 3 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(DVD, Lionsgate)

At a carnival sideshow, a man is enticed by a girl selling tickets to enter the ring against a famous boxer. To everyone's surprise he wins, but he turns out to be the world heavyweight champion. The girl turns out to be engaged to the boxer, but he pursues her anyway. As their romance heats up, the two fighters become increasingly agitated. Eventually, they meet each other in the ring in the climactic final fight. Hitchcock's mix of melodrama and sports has visual flair on par with The Lodger, his earlier silent success, and is just as good. His one and only original screenplay.

The People (1972)


ABC
Directed by John Korty
My rating: 2 stars out of 4
IMDb Wikipedia
(YouTube)

Young teacher Kim Darby accepts a job at a rural school in an isolated community. She suspects the kids are part of some sort of religious cult when they refuse to sing, dance, or even pick up their feet while walking. However, the truth turns out to be something far more provocative: they are aliens who have settled on Earth after the destruction of their own planet. They possess psychic powers which enable them to levitate and move objects. William Shatner is around to add credibility as a country doctor. Executive produced by Francis Ford Coppola, with music by his father Carmine. Comes across like a lost episode of Star Trek, only with a lower budget.