Thursday, April 27, 2017

Hitler's Madman (1943)

Director: Douglas Sirk

Writers: Bart Lytton, Albrecht Joseph, Emil Ludwig, Peretz Hirschbein, Melvin Levy, Doris Malloy, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Edgar G. Ulmer

Composers: Karl Hajos, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Nathaniel Shilkret

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Sensational!

Plot: Story of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, Nazi SS commander, by Czech partisans and the reprisals inflicted by the Nazis on the Czechs.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I think this is the third time I've seen this since the '80s and there's one thing that stick out and that I remember most is John Carradine's frighteningly good performance as Heydrich.  He's a beast and really sells this guy as a callous and murderous bastard.  It's worth watching just for Carradine but don't get too invested because he's only got a few, brief scenes.  He's sorely missed when he's not present.  There are some harsh moments of violence (mostly offscreen) which add to the grim nature of the story which is based on true events from the previous year.  The only thing correct about the ambush is that there was one but it didn't happen nearly like this.  There is some levity early on which goes away soon enough.  It's weird seeing very American actors (like the always fun and lovable Edgar Kennedy) with their very American accents pretending to be Czechs but then it's not like we'd get anything much different from wartime Hollywood.  The last half hour is pretty tight and thrilling compared to the rest of the picture which it needed to be.  It's a good film but its not without flaws.  Carradine goes balls to the wall evil Nazi while the other actors as Nazis are either dumb blunt objects that fanatically do as they're told or are playing them as dumb and silly.  I like smart, ruthless villains and they're a rare breed in Hollywood pictures.




Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Wrong Way (1972)

Director: Ray Williams

Writer: ???

Starring: Laurel Canyon, Candy Sweet, Forrest Lorne, Ray Wray, Ron Namkram, Kurt Ames, John Zinger, Joe Habit, Seymore Harris, Bill Fisher, Mercedes Cronkite

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They Did It The...Wrong Way

Plot: Two girls are driving home when their car breaks down in the country. They are kidnapped by a gang of drug-crazed hippies, and repeatedly raped. They escape, but soon run into a death cult who plan to gang-rape the girls, then kill them. Meanwhile, the father of one of the girls gets the police to begin an investigation into their disappearance.



My rating: 3/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Looking for some harsh 70s exploitation with lots of nudity?  Look no further.  6 minutes in the girls' car breaks down and it's so hot outside they need to change.


And a few minutes later...




That's a daydream from one of the bad guys.  A few minutes later the bad guys find the girls and gang rape them.  Meanwhile we cut back and forth to one of the girl's father calling the local sheriff worried about her.  The overweight sheriff grabs his shotty and goes a-huntin', still while the rape is in progress.  This literally goes on for twenty minutes.  They dudes leave the girls to wander off through the woods.  They come upon another group of hippies but these guys are digging a grave (wth the help of their women and toddler).  These bad dudes threaten to kill our two victims and take them hostage to live with them in the wilderness as sexual beasts.   But wait, this tale gets a little more complicated.  Two guys and a girl, whom we're just being introduced to in the last twenty minutes of the picture (and I think it's them that a police helicopter has been searching for), arrive at a little house in the middle of nowhere and get some three-way action going on.


Is this getting too hot for you?  That goes on for a few minutes and after that's done, we hear an officer over the police radio re-capping what they know (which is what we know, but the Cliff Notes version) and we get to see even more nudity from the cop's perspective.  He tells the sheriff to go check out a cabin for the two bad guys.  At this point the woman (who was a willing sex machine a few minutes ago) is now bound and gagged and the two dudes are locking her up while they go outside to talk to the fuzz.  Things got ugly when the sheriff sends his deputy into the cabin to look for the girl.  The two dudes shoot at the two cops and everyone dies but the sheriff, who took one in the gut. The end.  It's only mildly entertaining at times but largely dull.  It's 78 minutes long but it you trimmed it down to 40 it would probably be an alright exploitation picture that would hold your attention.  At least there's some so bad it's good dialogue and acting and lots of nudity.  Without it this would be a total stinker.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Shock Corridor (1963)

Director: Samuel Fuller

Writer: Samuel Fuller

Composer: Paul Dunlap

Starring: Peter Breck, Constance Towers, Gene Evans, James Best, Hari Rhodes, Larry Tucker, Paul Duboy, Chuck Roberson, Neyle Morrow, John Matthews, Bill Zuckert, John Craig, Philip Ahn, Frank Gerstle

More info: IMDb

Tagline: The Medical Jungle Doctors Don't Talk About!

Plot: Bent on winning a Pulitzer Prize, a journalist commits himself to a mental institution to solve a strange and unclear murder.



My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again? Yes.

I've gotta tell ya, this Sumuel Fuller kid is going to go places.  Having just watched the great THE NAKED KISS (1964) and now this one.  Wow.  I've seen a few of his pictures and liked them but he really knocked these two out of the park.  The performances are outstanding.  Peter Breck as Johnny, the reporter who goes undercover, is acting his ass off.  James Best has a monologue that hit me deep.  Hari Rhodes has some great scenes, too.  And here's something cool, Larry Tucker, who played Pagliacci (the really heavy fella), went on to write I LOVE YOU, ALICE B. TOKLAS! (1968) and BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE (1969).  And this picture has some great moments that aren't acting showcases like that brief scene with the shock treatment.  Yikes!  Fuller wrote and directed one hell of a interesting flick which gets better as it goes along.  Nearly the entire film is shot on the hospital set but the film is so riveting that the staleness doesn't enter into it.  It probably helps it since the audience is stuck in the same environment as Johnny and everyone else.  Don't read any spoilers about this.  Right now the full movie is on YouTube.  Watch it while you can (below).  And one more thing, how the hell did this not get recognized by the awards folks?




Monday, April 24, 2017

The Naked Kiss (1964)

Director: Samuel Fuller

Writer: Samuel Fuller

Composer: Paul Dunlap

Starring: Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, Marie Devereux, Karen Conrad, Linda Francis, Bill Sampson, Sheila Mintz, Patricia Gayle, Jean-Michel Michenaud, George Spell, Betty Bronson

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Candy's Place--where all kinds of men find all kinds of sweets!

Plot:  Kelly, a prostitute, traumatized by an experience, referred to as 'The Naked Kiss,' by psychiatrists, leaves her past, and finds solace in the town of Grantville. She meets Griff, the police captain of the town, with whom she spends a romantic afternoon. Kelly finds a job as a nurse in a hospital for handicapped children. The work helps her find her sensitive side in the caring and helping of her young patients. Kelly's path towards happiness is thrown amiss, when she witnesses a shocking event, which threatens not just her happiness, but her mental health as well.



My rating:8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

You've got to see this.  Get a load of the names in the story: Candy, Mac, Buff, Dusty, Rembrandt, Angel Face, Bunny, Hatrack, Zookie.  The film's got one hell of a pre-credits opening!  This is a wild and interesting ride.  There are moments of old school cheese (like when Kelly (Towers) meets Miss Josephine (Bronson) to rent a room in her house) on the acting front.  I'm sure it was easier to swallow 54 years ago but today it's just plain corny but I love it just the same.  Constance Towers is outstanding and she's given a lot to do.  Then there are a few scenes that are downright mature and amazing for that time.  They still hold up incredibly well.  This picture deals with prostitution, child molestation and murder.  The molestation shocker hit me upside the head, coming almost out from the darkness.  The children Kelly works with are just too adorable for words.  The song she sings with them, Little Child (Mon Enfant), is beautiful and the kids really shine.  The way that sequence is cut is nice, too.  Speaking of which, the story seemed like it was slapped together but it's not.  I realized that once it was over but there's an unusual mix of themes, situations, style and pacing that could feel like it was directed by more than one person or at least sections of the picture were given to different people to play with.  It's odd but damn if I didn't really enjoy it.  The way it all comes together is brilliant.  It's another home run from writer/director Samuel Fuller.  I'm about to start SHOCK CORRIDOR (1962), a film that's been on my radar for decades.  Watch it for yourself.  It's currently on YouTube in beautiful widescreen. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A Gunfight (1971)

Director: Lamont Johnson

Writer: Harold Jack Bloom

Composer: Laurence Rosenthal

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Johnny Cash, Jane Alexander, Karen Black, Dana Elcar, Robert J. Wilke, Keith Carradine, Eric Douglas, Paul Lambert, Raf Vallone

More info: IMDb

Tagline: It was the first time they sold tickets to a gunfight. Winner takes all. Widow takes the body.

Plot: Two aging gunfighters in need of money come to an agreement to organize an actual showdown between them and sell tickets for it. The townsfolk is more than interested to see the "show".



My rating:  6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

So I'm watching an episode of THE DICK CAVETT SHOW from '71 on YouTube where Dick spends an hour talking with Kirk Douglas.  This picture came up and it sounded like fun and being how YouTube has this movie in full free for nothing, here we are.  It's the first feature film financed by an American Indian tribe (The Jicarilla Apache Tribe in New Mexico).  The story sounded like it had some neat possibilities plus it's got Kirk Douglas facing off against Johnny Cash.  Karen Black hadn't hit the big time yet but she was certainly on her way having starred in FIVE EASY PIECES the year before.  Here's she plays Jenny, a prostitute who falls for her trick, Abe (Cash).  It's a thankless role but she does bring more to it than the role deserves.  Jane Alexander (as Nora, Will's (Douglas) wife) does a fine job, too.  Kirk Douglas brings it as usual but it's Johnny Cash that doesn't work so well for me.  He's way too dour.  I get that he's a defeated man but he's got no passion or fire in his belly or anything.  He's not all that bad but there's a stoic, wooden quality to his performance that made me long for someone with some acting chops.  It didn't help, either, that Abe and Will  concoct this scheme very early on in the film so you spend an hour after that building up to the duel which feels too long.  But the ending is great.  I can see how some folks would hate it but I thought it was ballsy as hell.  It grounded the picture and gave it some much needed weight.  I wouldn't tell anyone to watch it just for the last few minutes because there's a chance they'd dislike the movie even more but I found it to be a mature finish to a somewhat meandering ending.  The YouTube video above is the only one I could find in widescreen.  It's not available on DVD so this is your best bet even though the picture quality is OK and the audio worse.  But, hey, it's free.



Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dad's Army (1971)

Director: Norman Cohen

Writers: Jimmy Perry, David Croft

Composer: Wilfred Burns

Starring: Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier, Clive Dunn, John Laurie, James Beck, Arnold Ridley, Ian Lavender, Liz Fraser, Bernard Archard, Derek Newark, Bill Pertwee, Frank Williams

More info: IMDb

Tagline: At last! Their epic story invades the Big Screen!

Plot: The misadventures of a ragtag group of elderly Home Guard local defense volunteers at the onset of WW2.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

The DAD'S ARMY TV show ran from 1968-1977 and it's hilarious.  I've seen all of the available episodes for at least the first 4 or more seasons and I absolutely love them all.  The characters are fun, funny and lovable.  Even the hard ass Capt. Mainwaring (Arthur Lowe).  It's a solid 9/10 in my book.  I finally got around to seeing the movie the cast made and it's a letdown.  I don't know what it is with these British movies made of their shows but they're almost always lacking what made their shorter counterparts successful, and the Brits made a lot of them in the '70s.  This one just isn't nearly as fun as the show.  Maybe it's that the show's were faster paced.  And maybe, dare I even think it, it's also the absence of a laugh track that becomes familiar episode after episode.  Regardless, this picture should've translated better to the big screen.  The only problem is is that the funny just isn't there in a ratio like you have in the show.  The story is almost immaterial in that just having these characters around doing their thing is enough for a fun ride.  One thing I kind of liked (but seemed completely unnecessary except for people who've never seen the show) is that you see the origin of the group's formation.  If I remember right, the first episode of the TV series begins on the first day of enlistment.  We don't get to see these guys before they came together.  One one hand it was neat seeing them before they donned the uniforms but at the same time it wasn't all that amusing and it took a while before we were caught up to the beginning of the series. I'm glad the print I watched was anamorphic widescreen.  The film looked nice and grainy and it had that late 60s/early 70s WWII movie aesthetic that I like in these types of pictures.  I don't know why I'm still babbling on about this.  It must be because I had higher expectations for something that had no reason I can think of to not be as good or funny as the show they had already established for 2-3 years and had several more great years to go.





Friday, April 21, 2017

National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)

Director: Amy Heckerling

Writers: John Hughes, Robert Klane

Composer: Charles Fox

Starring: Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Dana Hill, Jason Lively, John Astin, Sheila Kennedy, Paul Bartel, Cynthia Szigeti, Robbie Coltrane, Eric Idle, William Zabka

More info: IMDb

Tagline: For over two thousand years, Europe has survived many great disasters. Now for the real test... The Griswold's.

Plot: The Griswolds win a vacation tour across Europe where the usual havoc ensues.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

It's fucked up that I still haven't seen the first Vacation movie except for a few scenes yet I've seen this one and VEGAS VACATION (1997) twice.  There are very few funny moments and most of what's funny is mildly amusing at best.  The hour and a half drags much to often and many scenes overstay their welcome.  The cast gives it their all but the movie just sits there flat.  The best gag in the movie and my biggest laugh is the Frisbee toss off the Eiffel Tower.  OK, I'm starting to not care for Chase in this role.  It's a one dimensional character but he's just not selling it as lively and fun as I'd like.  Sue me.  I miss the charismatic Chevy from FOUL PLAY (1978), SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES (1980) and FLETCH (1985).  Pacing is a serious issue and there aren't enough good gags to sustain the 95 minute run time.  The European location is a big bonus but it's hardly enough to make it worthwhile.  I won't be watching this one again.  It's a damn shame that this franchise isn't better because it's loaded with potential.  The Warner Bros. DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print.  The only extras are a commentary track with Chevy Chase, dry as usual, trying to be funny.  He's at his best when he's serious and talks about the making of the picture.  Other than that you get an anamorphic widescreen trailer.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hoodlum (1997)

Director:  Bill Duke

Writer:  Chris Brancato

Composer: Elmer Bernstein

Starring: Laurence Fishburne, Tim Roth, Vanessa Williams, Andy Garcia, Cicely Tyson, Chi McBride, Clarence Williams III, Richard Bradford, William Atherton, Loretta Devine, Queen Latifah, Mike Starr, Beau Starr

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Power is measured in enemies.

Plot:  In 1934, the second most lucrative business in New York City is a lottery know to the locals as "the numbers". Someday, Madam Queen, the powerful woman who runs the scam in Harlem, is arrested. Ellsworth "Bumpy" Johnson takes over the business and must resist against the invasion from merciless mobster Dutch Shultz.



My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I loves me some period gangster pictures.  I've seen a lot of them and there are a lot of really good ones, too.  This isn't one of them.  At over two hours, it's too long.  One of the problems I have with it is that character actions and some scenes take too long.  The camera lingers a second or two more than necessary.  That's either the director or editor's decision and it's just one of many things that keep this from being a lot better and more fun than it is.  I'm OK with one dimensional characters sometimes because an actor's performance can take it and have fun with it.  Fishburne is just drab, though.  On the other end you've got Tim Roth running for mayor of Over-the-Top-Ville.  Sometimes he's alright and sometimes he's a cartoon villain.  The romance between Fishburne and Williams is flat, cliche and boring.  And the fight choreography suffers from the same phoniness.  Everyone is obviously pulling their punches and the camera lingers long enough for you to see it.  This is where tighter editing would've improved these scenes.  At least they brought on the great Elmer Bernstein to score the picture but even that isn't given much room to shine as it's often too soft on the soundtrack.  I really wanted to like this one but I was bored by the pacing and lack of overall oompf this picture needed to make this a fun and enjoyable ride.  The MGM DVD sports a good anamorphic widescreen print as is the only extra with the theatrical trailer.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)

Director: Robert Altman

Writers: Edmund Naughton, Robert Altman, Brian McKay

Starring: Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, Rene Auberjonois, William Devane, John Schuck, Corey Fischer, Bert Remsen, Shelley Duvall, Keith Carradine, Michael Murphy, Antony Holland, Hugh Millais, Manfred Schulz

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  Purveyors of Paradise.

Plot:  A gambler and a prostitute become business partners in a remote Old West mining town, and their enterprise thrives until a large corporation arrives on the scene.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Probably not.

Knowing only that this was a Western with Beatty & Christie and nothing else, I popped the disc in a few nights ago and watched the trailer first, which I don't usually do.  It was clear this was a different kind of Western and probably all drama so it wasn't right for me at that moment and I gravitated to a cheap Corman picture I'd never seen.  Last night it was quiet around the house so I pulled the 11' screen down and gave this one a go.  I was pretty luke warm about it until the final few minutes.  It's a slow burn that rarely picks up steam; you're just watching these characters in their environment.  The actors do a fine enough job.  There is one standout performance and that's by the 6'7" Butler, the leader of the killers hired to snuff out McCabe (Beatty), played wonderfully by Hugh Millais.  He's only got 10 movie/TV credits but he owned every scene he was in here.  Oh, yeah, and it's Keith Carradine's first movie and he's great which makes his tense moment on the bridge even more tense. The music is sparse and appropriate.  It's mostly all seen played on screen except for the three repeated Leonard Cohen songs which were not written for the film but seem to fit nicely with the dim look and feel of the movie. 



The art/set design and cinematography are outstanding.  This little town looks authentic and well lived in.  It's grimy, wet and you can almost smell it.  The same goes with the costuming and everything else that attributes to what you see.  The only thing that's lacking, if anything, is the story.  I would've liked more and if that means holding my hand a little through a scene or two, then so be it.  It just felt like there was a good chunk missing.  It's almost too simple as in you're telling a story about a man who's building a town and gets partway through only to have someone offer to buy him out.  He refuses so the buyers send someone to kill him.  End of story.  Oh, and along the way he hooks up with a prostitute to run the town brothel and she's a real working girl who even makes him pay for sex.  That's the gist of it.  The ending is very nice and I was really touched by what happens to both McCabe & Mrs. Miller and I didn't see either fate coming.  That was great.  I might watch this one day, many years from now and see how it plays, knowing what to expect.  This picture is slow (which is perfectly fine) and there are a lot of nice touches that alone make this worth watching (like when the two couples are dancing and they stop to watch the music player move to the next song).  One thing I didn't care for was the sometimes look of the film as if it were filmed in constant haze.  When the picture was clear of that it looked great.  The Warner Bros. DVD features the film in anamorphic widescreen (and so is the trailer, yay!).  The extras you get are the trailer, a commentary track with Altman and co-producer David Foster and a 10 minute vintage featurette (fullscreen).

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Six Bridges to Cross (1955)

Director: Joseph Pevney

Writers: Sydney Boehm, Joseph F. Dinneen

Composers: Frank Skinner, Herman Stein

Starring: Tony Curtis, George Nader, Julie Adams, Jay C. Flippen, Sal Mineo, Jan Merlin, Richard Castle, William Murphy, Kendall Clark, Don Keefer, Harry Bartell, Tito Vuolo, Jeff Chandler

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Is This The Unsolved Secret Behind the Great $2,500,000 Boston Robbery?

Plot: Youth gang leader Jerry Florea is shot fleeing from a crime scene by rookie cop Ed Gallagher. Result: "he'll never have children of his own." Ed and Jerry develop a mutually beneficial friendship: Jerry gets the benefit of the doubt, Ed gets information that brings him rapid promotion. As years and jail terms go by, Ed's friendship with this likable rogue becomes strained, as hope for his reform dwindles. Can Jerry redeem himself in the end?



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Set your expectations a little lower if you're looking for a heist picture.  This isn't it.  Crimes are committed but they're mere seconds per whack.  This is a dramatic character study of a criminal, Jerry (Curtis) who has spent his life unchanging.  He befriends the cop, Ed (Nader) who shot him trying to get away from a burglary when he was a kid and he plays the cop's game for years.   Jerry is one big disappointment to Ed and his wife Ellen (Adams) but they still love him with diminishing return.  The performances are solid and Curtis is fantastic.  I don't think I've ever seen him better, but then I've only seen a few of his pictures).  The story is engaging enough (thanks to Curtis' charisma and enthusiasm) but I was let down by the lack of any heist action and onscreen criminal activity.  I understand that it's my preconceived notions of what the film was that's the culprit and not the fault of the picture.  The film was shot widescreen but good luck finding it anyway but fullscreen.  Maybe this has turned up on TCM that way but it's a Universal picture and I don't know if TCM shows their movies.  A couple of interesting bits, this is Sal Mineo's first movie and the internet says that Sammy Davis Jr. lost his eye in a car accident on the way to record the movie's titular song.  I knew about the accident but never remembered this flick had a connection. 









Monday, April 17, 2017

The Last Woman on Earth (1960)

Director: Roger Corman

Writer: Robert Towne

Composer: Ronald Stein

Starring: Betsy Jones-Moreland, Antony Carbone, Robert Towne

More info: IMDb

Tagline: They fought for the Ultimate Prize!

Plot: Ev, along with her husband, Harold, and their lawyer friend Martin, are swimming while on vacation in Puerto Rico. When they resurface, they gradually conclude that an unexplained, temporary interruption of oxygen has killed everyone on the island... maybe even the world!



My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Roger Corman made some good films but he also made his fair share of stinkers.  This one was shot on the cheap and probably on the double quick.  He was good at that.  The movie poster over sells the picture.  The film itself is nowhere near as sexy and dangerous as the poster lets on.  There's a little action at the end by way of the two men battling it out for Evelyn but that's the extent of that.  The low budget trappings don't help the film but the outdoor shooting locations elevate it and the pacing is good.  The actors do as well as expected under the circumstances.  It's not as polished as I'd like it but then this is a Corman quickie so you should go in with a certain level of expectation.  Robert "CHINATOWN (1974) Towne wrote and starred in this.  He's the weakest of the three actors but then acting wasn't his bag and Corman reportedly cast him to save money because he needed Towne, the writer, on set.  Rumor has it the script wasn't finished when shooting began.  The story is pretty good but it's missing any sense of real gloom and doom once they realize they're probably not in any danger from anyone or anything but themselves.  I did like the non-conventional outcome.  Overall, while it's not a snoozefest, it's not engaging but it does offer a little bit of fun.  I would've probably scored it better but, since this is in the public domain, I couldn't find a good color print, much less a widescreen print.  I watched it on an Alpha DVD and the print was utterly horrible.  It was only now when looking on YouTube that I found a better one which is available below.  Corman fans and B-movie fans will be more forgiving of the film than anyone else. 




Friday, April 14, 2017

ffolkes (1980)

Original title: North Sea Hijack

Director: Andrew V. McLaglen

Writer: Jack Davies

Composer: Michael J. Lewis

Starring:  Roger Moore, James Mason, Anthony Perkins, Michael Parks, David Hedison, Jack Watson, George Baker, Jeremy Clyde, David Wood, Faith Brook

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When the next 12 hours could cost you 1,000 million pounds and 600 lives you need a man who lives second by second.

Plot: When terrorists take over two oil rigs and threaten to explode them if their demands are not met, an eccentric anti-terrorism expert volunteers his unique commando unit to stop them.



My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

Boy do I miss the movie poster artwork of the 70s.    I remember seeing this on HBO in the very early 80s.  That would've been around peak Roger Moore for me even though I've never lost the excitement for seeing a Moore picture for the first time.  I really dig that guy.  The cast is fantastic.  James Mason and Anthony Perkins?  Are you kidding?  And the supporting cast is great, too.  It's fun seeing Moore play a woman-hating, booze-loving man of action that doesn't fuck around.  You do it his way or you're out and he doesn't compromise.  Just because he has contempt for the broads doesn't mean he hates the pussy.



Ffolkes  (Moore) is an interesting character and the kind you rarely see.  It's harsh how he treats women but he doesn't apologize for it and sticks to his antiquated ways.  James Mason adds weight to everything he's in.  Anthony Perkins isn't as good or fun as you'd think as the masterminding bad guy with a plan.  His exit is fun, though.  There's something missing from this film that keeps it from being a minor classic and I don't know what it is.  I can say that this film at times feels like a TV movie and the same goes for the score.  That doesn't help the movie at all.  Sometimes the dialogue crosses over to the cliche and hokey but try not to let that deter you from checking it out.  Fans of Moore or Perkins are going to need to see this regardless.  The Universal DVD has a nice anamorphic widescreen print with zilch for extras. 
 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Nice Guys (2016)

Director: Shane Black

Writers: Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi

Composers: David Buckley, John Ottman

Starring: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Angourie Rice, Matt Bomer, Margaret Qualley, Yaya DaCosta, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Lois Smith, Murielle Telio, Gil Gerard, Daisy Tahan, Kim Basinger

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Nice pair

Plot: In 1970s Los Angeles, a mismatched pair of private eyes investigate a missing girl and the mysterious death of a porn star.



My rating: 7.5/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

If you're not familiar with writer/director Shane Black then you should be.  You've at least probably seen several of the pictures he's written like the LETHAL WEAPON franchise or IRON MAN 3 (to name a few).  This guy is great.  Really.  This is only his third feature as director and it's just as you'd expect...fun.  The crime story is just complicated enough to give our two detectives (of sorts) something to keep them busy with until the credits roll which is perfectly fine.  I love the 70s L.A. setting.  The references from that decade are all over the place but they rarely hit you over the head like they did in the US version of LIFE ON MARS (2008) which I just recently watched.  There's a lot of subtlety in this picture and I REALLY appreciate that.  For example, the film opens with a car crashing through a house; you see the car approaching from inside the house but you don't hear it until it breaks through.  There are lots of peripheral shots like that which don't draw attention to themselves like you'd see in mainstream Hollywood movies.  Innocent people are accidentally shot but Black doesn't linger on it.  He treats them as if the bullet struck a wall or a tree.  He just moves on with the story as you should. The action is good as is the occasional comedy which is often laugh-out-loud funny.  I loved the Abbott & Costello homage when March (Gosling) discovers a dead body and he can't form words but only frightened sounds out of his mouth just like Lou Costello when he saw a ghost or something horrible.  I LOVED IT!  I liked the picture quite a bit despite my expectations being higher than normal.  I wouldn't mind if this were to turn into a franchise.  Black is good writing great buddy cop pictures and I hope he enjoyed making this film enough to want to see it continue. 


Friday, March 31, 2017

Sweet Justice (1992)

Director: Allen Plone

Writers: Jim Tabilio, Allen Plone

Composers: Shelley Cameron, Teddy Phillips, Robby Robinson

Starring: Finn Carter, Frank Gorshin, Marc Singer, Gregg Brazzel, Catherine Hickland, Kathleen Kinmont, Patricia Tallman, Marjean Holden, Michelle McCormick, Cheryl Paris, Mickey Rooney

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  When revenge is bitter...Justice is sweet!

Plot: The Army rejected six girls for active combat, but they end up terminating with extreme prejudice an army of lawless men, to avenge a brutal murder that otherwise would go down as an accident.



My rating: 5.5/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

Why watch this direct to video action flick that nobody's heard of?  Well, it stars Finn Carter whose biggest claim to fame was starring in TREMORS (1990).  She was great in that.  And then you've got Frank Gorshin as the heavy (and he's overdoing it but it's just what this kind of picture calls for) plus the great Mickey Rooney.  Once you get into it you'll notice that there's very little action (the ass kicking is saved for the second half) and a little bit of nudity (oh, goody).  The last third is by the numbers.  There's a short montage which isn't anywhere near as entertaining as a mid-80s montage.  The fights are weak thanks to the actors.  They're so heavily choreographed and performed so slowly that it's embarrassing.  Some good editing would've fixed that.  Instead we get very little editing and we see large chunks of the fight without a cut.  These days movies could lose some cuts but in this picture it hurts it.  So why watch it?  Mickey Rooney...




Did you hear him say, "Jesus!" as he went down?  Fucking hilarious.  Now THAT was some good editing.  The only other thing is Frank Gorshin's death scene.  He milks the shit out of it and it is glorious.



Great shit.  I would've loved to have met him before he kicked the bucket.  It's on OK picture with a little going for it but it exemplifies the direct to video pictures of this era.  It's not that good but it's not that bad. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

That Lucky Touch (1975)

Director: Christopher Miles

Writers: Moss Hart, John Briley, Monja Danischewsky

Composer: John Scott

Starring: Roger Moore, Susannah York, Shelley Winters, Lee J. Cobb, Jean-Pierre Casssel, Raf Vallone, Sydne Rome, Donald Sinden, Michael Shannon, Aubrey Woods, Alfred Hoffman, Vincent Hall, Fabian Cevallos

More info: IMDb

Tagline: When a No-No girl meets a Go-Go man - WHAM!!!

Plot: A European arms dealer (Roger Moore) meets a liberated woman journalist (Susannah York), who is writing a story about the ridiculous things men do with the armaments during a NATO war games meeting. Needless to say, the two meet and make sparks.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I last saw this over thirty years ago and I never forgot the main theme.  It's really catchy and fun.  Being a huge Moore fan going to back to when I was a kid in the 70s (he was my first cinema Bond experience...you don't forget the first.  Ahahahahaha).  Cobb is a lot of fun, as usual, and so is Winters.  She was always a pro and put everything into her performances even when they were small.  Roger Moore is Roger Moore.  I love the guy and I like his persona even though he didn't stretch his acting chops as often as I (and probably he) would like.  But he's charming and does a fine job.  Hell, the cast does a fine job all the way around.  It's not even that bad of a picture but it has some problems.  Being about an hour and a half is an issue.  Michael (Moore) and Julia (York) meet briefly early on but it's not until a half hour in that there's any type of get-to-know-you-time.  That's the extended sequence in his apartment after she's locked out of hers across the hall.  It's a lengthy scene that's cute and doesn't overstay its welcome.  At one point she locks him out of his place and this happens...



I'd totally forgotten about this bit since I first saw it but I remembered laughing hard just like I did this time.  It just tickles me to death and it's one of those things that could've been a last minute idea.  There's not an awful lot of time spent with Michael doing his arms dealing business but it's enough I guess to establish what he does.  The big issue I have is the final act when Julia throws a wrench into the war games that is not only not funny or all that necessary to the story but it makes for a very weak final half hour.  The first hour or so was strong enough that it deserved a better confrontation and finale.  One thing I noticed is that the ring tone for Lt. General Steedman's (Cobb) red hotline to the President barely made a beeping noise.  The VHS tape I had 30+ years ago had the awesome and hilarious ring tone that was used for Cobb's character in the FLINT pictures with James Coburn in the mid-60s.





Thursday, March 23, 2017

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

Director: Jordan Vogt-Roberts

Writers: Dan Gilroy, Max Borenstein, Derek Connolly, John Gatins

Composer: Henry Jackman

Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson, John C. Reilly, John Goodman, Corey Hawkins, John Ortiz, Tian Jing, Toby Kebbell, Jason Mitchell, Shea Whigham

More info: IMDb

Tagline: Awaken the King

Plot: A team of scientists explore an uncharted island in the Pacific, venturing into the domain of the mighty Kong, and must fight to escape a primal Eden.



My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Yeah.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD....YARRRRR!!!

This is in no way a remake of the '33 movie.  It's its own thing and stands alone so leave Kong's history at home when you see this.

The short?  It's fun.  The special effects are fantastic.  Kong gets a lot more screen time than you would expect and his fight scenes are a blast.  I love a jungle setting and this picture's set almost entirely on Skull Island (goody gumdrops).  It's not uncommon for these giant monster movies to fill the cast with characters you don't care about.  SKULL ISLAND gives you a few that you do like.  Forget Hiddleston and Larson, two of the three-ish leads.  They're both forgettable.  Samuel Jackson does his Sam Jackson thing which is fine.  John Goodman is great except he's not given much of anything to do once they're on the island and that's a damn shame.  The picture would've benefited from more Goodman.  I thought John C. Reilly was the best of the humans plus he's the only one that carries some emotional weight (that 8mm bit that ran at the beginning of the closing credits had me all choked up).  I haven't seen her in anything until now.  She might be a good actor but I'd never know from this picture.  Maybe it's her character in the way she was written or her dialogue but she wasn't that good.  When the gang come upon a boneyard (with hundreds of giant bones on top of the soil) that includes the remains of Kong's parents, she says something along the lines of, "I've taken too many pictures of mass graves and I know a mass grave when I see one."  The fuck?  It's so obvious to anyone with eyes that a four year old would recognize this as a mass grave. 


And that takes me to my only major beef with the picture and that's the entire boneyard scene.  I assume this ridiculous sequence exists to pad the film out longer with more action and to kill off a few characters they didn't need.  The human actions are dumb, really dumb.  I probably rolled my eyes at least four times.  During this bit (which is probably ten minutes long) I started noticing other dumb shit like Hiddleston and Larson dressed in short-sleeved shirts.  Earlier in the film Hiddleston is hired because he's an expert in navigating uncharted islands (which is ridiculous when you think about it) and he recites a laundry list of ways you could die.  You'd think covering as much skin as possible to protect yourself from mosquitoes and such would be a very simple thing to remember, you know, being an expert and all.  OK, now I'm down off my soapbox. 


Some things I dug (besides Riley, Goodman and Kong)?  The score was quite good.  You won't come out humming any themes but it was a nice melody driven score.  Setting this in the early 70s/Vietnam er was a huge plus.  The action is good, exciting and fun.  I LOVE the island and all of the giant critters in it that will kill your ass and it also paves the way for more monster movies with Godzilla and his buddies/enemies like Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah.  BTW, stay until after the credits for a small bit of exposition about this larger world of monsters.  It's a good movie with some fantastic monster action and it's got a couple of memorable characters that make it all worthwhile.  I liked it considerably more than the disappointing GODZILLA (2014) and you might, too, so see it before it leaves the theater.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Night Passage (1957)

Director: James Neilson

Writers: Borden Chase, Norman A. Fox

Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin

Starring: James Stewart, Audie Murphy, Dan Duryea, Dianne Foster, Elaine Stewart, Brandon De Wilde, Jay C. Flippen, Herbert Anderson, Robert J. Wilke, Hugh Beaumont, Jack Elam, Tommy Cook, Paul Fix, Olive Carey

More info: IMDb

Tagline: This was the night when the naked fury of the McLaines flamed out with consuming vengeance across a terrorized land!

Plot: A fired railroad man is rehired and trusted to carry a 10,000 dollar payroll in secret, even though he is suspected of being connected to outlaws.



My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

One bit of trivia on IMDb says the the original director, Anthony Mann, left the picture due to a falling out with Stewart (which is wild considering the pair had worked on 8 pictures previously).  It goes on to say Mann thought the script was bad and that Audie Murphy wasn't a good enough actor to be in film.  I read all of this after seeing the film and I have to agree.  I can't go so far as to say the script is bad but it's certainly average.  The film feels like it might've started as a B-picture until someone wrangled a top A-list star like Stewart to head up the cast, at which point more money was thrown at it but without improving the story and dialogue.  Why the film is titled NIGHT PASSAGE is beyond me except that maybe it's because there's a chunk of it that takes place at night where the good guys and the bad guys hang out at some joint until morning when it's guns-a'blazin'.  You might be able to find an answer offered up by someone on the IMDb message boards except IMDb recently took the boards off their site.  Idiots.


The cast is all over the place.  Most of the actors are OK to great but there are a few that had their own thing going that felt out of place.  Dan Duryea plays Whitey, the leader of the bad guys who keep robbing the railroad company's payroll train and he's playing it over the top like he's in a stage play.  It's simply too much.  Some of his gang, like Jack Elam (as Shotgun), are great in comparison.  Audi Murphy (look up this guy's life and feel humbled) is slightly monotone and drab.  But then there's this eccentric side to his mannerisms, from his walk to how he handles himself that's borderline laughable.  He plays an outlaw, The Utica Kid, who's a part of Whitey's gang and he puts off a serious Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) vibe from BLAZING SADDLES (1974) that felt like it was a direct inspiration for Wilder.  Another distraction from Murphy is that you can see him hitting his marks and thinking too much about the acting.  He came into acting late in life and he was made into a star because of his WWII exploits and I cut him some slack for that but he's so obvious about it that it hurts the picture.  Jimmy Stewart?  He's good but not completely.  I've always loved the guy but he too has his limitations.  He pulls off being a star better than being a great actor and there's nothing wrong with that.


I'll say this much, Olive Carey stole the show as an tough old broad called Miss Vittles.  She was friggin' hilarious and she was also the most genuine and likable character in the movie.  It's almost worth watching it just for her.  Now, if none of this matters to you and you have no interest in seeing this then you need to consider how drop dead gorgeous the location shooting is.  Stunning.  The train scenes were filmed on the railway between Durango and Silverton, Colorado.  I've ridden that line twice in the past 40 years.  It's a half-day trip riding a vintage train from Durango and ending up in Silverton, a 19th Century mining town perched in the mountains.  The ride each way is probably an hour and a half and every inch of it is as beautiful as you can imagine.  If I should ever watch this again, while unlikely, it'll be only because of the beautiful mountain scenery, fueled by decades of fond memories.

The Universal DVD has a good enough, yet often a little dark, anamorphic widescreen print and the sole extra is the theatrical trailer which is non-anamorphic widescreen.