Sunday, January 30, 2022

You Can't Get Away with Murder (1939)

Director:  Lewis Seiler

Writers:  Robert Buckner, Don Ryan, Kenneth Gamet, Lewis E. Lawes, Jonathan Finn

Composer:  Heinz Roemheld

Starring:  Humphrey Bogart, Gale Page, Billy Halop, John Litel, Henry Travers, Harvey Stephens, Harold Huber, Joe Sawyer, Joe Downing, George E. Stone, Joe King, Joseph Crehan

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  AMERICA'S TWO-FISTER ANSWER to the Gun-Mad Rats Who Rule the Underworld!

Plot:  Youthful tough Johnnie Stone has fallen under the influence of petty crook Frank Wilson, who involves him and robbery and murder using his sister's boyfriend's stolen gun.

My rating:   6/10

Will I watch it again?   Nah.

The Bogart of THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) (and beyond) is the Bogart I love.  A lot of what he did prior to that, mostly his really early stuff, he was stiff and the stuff caricatures are made of.  But here he is just two years away from being memorialized as Sam Spade that he's not just a cookie cutter bad guy and not just some other run of the mill actor walking the walk and talking the talk like any low rent stiff could do.  He, as Frank Wilson, does a great job manipulating Johnnie (Billy Halop) and he keeps on doing it until he's physically unable to, and by that time the damage is done.  I liked the film but it was painful watching Halop play the anguishing Johnnie.  The kid, as an actor, was trying too hard which meant his acting chops weren't up to the task of filling the role.  It doesn't help him that he's got a lot of screen time.  Besides, Johnnie was pissing me off to almost getting Fred killed by the electric chair.  All he had to do was tell the truth.  I suppose that was a big part of building suspense.  It just frustrated me and I was glad when it was finally over and Johnnie was finished.  It was a pleasant surprise hearing and then seeing Eddie "Rochester" Anderson pop up as a convict.  I love that guy.  It's an OK flick where you have to take the bad with the good.

Callan (1974)

Director:  Don Sharp

Writer:  James Mitchell

Composer:  Wilfred Josephs

Starring:  Edward Woodward, Eric Porter, Carl Mohner, Catherine Schell, Peter Egan, Russell Hunter, Kenneth Griffinth, Michael Da Costa, Veronica Lang, Clifford Rose, David Prowse, Don Henderson, Nadim Sawalha

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  Callan... doesn't make friends - and all his enemies are dead!

Plot:  Greg Callan's cousin David Callan top agent/assassin for the S.I.S., was forced to retire because he had lost his nerve. Now, Callan is called back into service to handle the assassination of Schneider, a German businessman. His former boss promises Callan that he'll be returned to active status if he follows orders, but as always Callan refuses to act until he knows why Schneider has been marked for death.

My rating:   8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

A long while ago I watched the last of the Callan movies, WET JOB (1981), and I liked it.  Now that I've seen the first, I'm full-on ready to tackle the TV series that started it all.  This movie is great.  Woodward is great as top assassin, David Callan.  He's really good at his job.  The rest of the cast do a wonderful job, too.  Eric Porter is Hunger, Callan's old boss, Peter Egan kills it as Toby Meres, Hunter's right hand man and Callan's replacement, Carl Mohner as Schneider, Callan's target, Catherine Schell as Schneider's girlfriend, Jenny and Russell Hunter as Lonely, an old contact of Callan's who gets him what he needs and takes Callan's shit when there's no one around to beat on.  It's swell cast and they all step up to James Mitchell's tight and sharp script.  

This has got two very good action sequences; one is a fight between Callan and Meres and the other is the excellent car chase in the video above.  This is some good shit!  I did not expect them to be this good.  Because this is a movie I expect the show didn't live up to this kind of quality often but I sure hope it did.  The story moves along nicely without any fat needing to be trimmed.  It's satisfying throughout but there were only two things that bothered me.  One is the odd harmonica-heavy score.  It's just damn strange and felt weird from the first few seconds of the film.  I thought it would disappear after the opening but it didn't.  The other is Callan the man and the ending.  He indicates that he knows he's being set up and he goes through with it anyway.  Now, one would assume that he's prepared something special off camera for the viewer so that we be be surprised and be impressed by his cunning.  But he doesn't have anything planned.  If he did, we don't see what it is because something unexpected happens and Callan improvises.  What he does with his improvisation is brilliant in its own right.  Sadly, what happens next with his (unbeknownst to Callan) re-classification at the hands of Hunter we'll never know what happens next.  It's a neat little suspenseful set-up for a sequel ala JOHN WICK (2014).   Having not seen the preceding series, I feel like this movie as a stand alone story is a great watch and highly recommended. 

Death Walks in Laredo (1967)

Original title:  3 Pistole Contro Cesare

AKA:  Tre Pistole per un Massacre, The Pistol, the Karate and the Eye

Director:  Enzo Peri

Writers:  Piero Regnoli, Enzo Piero, Carmine Bologna

Composer:  Marcello Giombini

Starring:  Thomas Hunter, James Shigeta, Nadir Moretti, Gianna Serra, Delia Boccardo, Umberto D'Orsi, Femi Benussi, Ferruccio De Ceresa, Vittorio Bonos, Adriana Ambesi, Gino Bardi, Gianluigi Crescenzi, Enrico Maria Salerno, Nicola Di Gioia, Jose Galera Balazote

More info:  IMDb

Plot:  A gunman teams up with his long-lost brothers--a French hypnotist and a Japanese kung-fu expert--to fight a villain who is obsessed with Roman emperor Julius Caesar, to the point of having built a palace, complete with slave girls, a huge sunken bath and his own "Praetorian Guard", and who is trying to cheat them out of a gold mine left to them by their father.

My rating:   6/10

Will I watch it again?   No.

You read the plot right.  It's kind of bonkers which makes it more watchable than most of your B-grade spags.  For starters meet your villain, Julius Cesar Fuller!

Yup.  He lives in opulence, like the Caesar of old in a Roman style mansion in the middle of the desert (here the American West as portrayed by location filming in Algeria!), complete with a bevy of beautiful women and the world's largest bathtub (or a big pool for us peasants).  The story has three men come together who all have something in common, they all the same father who was a notorious lothario.  By the end of the movie you find out they're not the only ones and by far!  Each of these three men are distinctive in that one has tricked-out, James Bondian weapons like a multi-barreled pistol that can kill four men at once as well as a pair of pistols that can fire from the butts.  Another brother knows karate (poorly as judged by the fight choreography) and another is a hypnotist with an uncanny, supernatural ability to stop people cold in their tracks!  They're all going to their dead father's homestead to claim their property.  But Fuller has taken it and the town for his own.  

As fuckin' fun as that sounds, it doesn't live up to the potential.  The action is OK, the humor is light, the villain is weak, dull and only has his gimmick lifestyle and a cloudy right eye to stand apart from other Spaghetti Western baddies, and the 82 minute length is further shortened by three, yes THREE musical/dance numbers that waste some time.  Star Thomas Hunter does a fine job.  He looks at home in a Western much like Clint or some of the other big names of the Italian Westerns.  I was surprised to see that his movie career lasted about 11 years from '66 to '76 with 20 features and that's it.  Based on this picture I would've expected more.  The music is pretty good.  As a fan of the genre I've been listening to Spaghetti Western scores for decades and I instantly recognized the theme song and sang along with it.  That was fun.  this is one of the better middle-of-the-road Spags and it's worth checking out if you've seen all the great films in the genre but want to avoid the dregs (and there are a lot of those).

The Shooting (1966)

Director:  Monte Hellman

Writer:  Carole Eastman

Composer:  Richard Markowitz

Starring:  Warren Oates, Millie Perkins, Jack Nicholson, Will Hutchins, Charles Eastman, Guy El Tsosie, Brandon Carroll, B.J. Merholz, Wally K. Berns, William Mackleprang, James Campbell

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  Suspenseful desert pursuit in the "High Noon" tradition.

Plot:  A mysterious woman persuades two cowboys to help her in a revenge scheme.

My rating:   8/10

Will I watch it again?   Yes.

That tagline is horseshit to bring up HIGH NOON (1952) like that.  The only thing they have in common is they're both Westerns and they both have suspense but the tension is quite different. And that trailer wasn't released until at least 1970, four years after this flick.  Anyway, I REALLY dig this movie.  I had a hunch about the ending early on because they kept avoiding the identity of their prey but that didn't take away from it's power much.  The film is masterfully directed by Hellman.  The cast essentially consists of four characters.  Coley (Hutchins), Woman (Perkins), Billy (Nicholson) and Willett (Oates).  Hutchins annoyed me at first but by the second half his goofiness had settled down and grasped the reality of the situation.  From then on he was great.  Perkins?  I'm not sure if I didn't like her character or acting.  She was a pissy little brat, the kind of character I don't like anyway.  I have my own ideas of what happened to her after the credits rolled.  That brings us to Warren Oates who, along with screenwriter Eastman and director Hellman (who I see died in April of last year at age 91), helped make this movie the great film it is.  He fucking kills it.  My only regret is the film is as short as it is.  I would be on board for another half hour of drama that goes beyond the end of the picture.  I'm sure it wouldn't take much to visualize that.  Don't misunderstand, I loved the ending it's just that I would like to see certain people get what's coming to them and all slow and painful like.  Get me?  A lot of this crew filmed this back to back with RIDE THE WHIRLWIND (1966).  I saw that one a long time ago and I remember liking it OK but after seeing THE SHOOTING, I think I should wait a minute as RIDE is probably the lesser of the two.  Plus Oates wasn't in it.

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Director:  Edward Dmytryk

Writers:  John Paxton, Raymond Chandler

Composer:  Roy Webb

Starring:  Dick Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley, Otto Kruger, Mike Mazurki, Miles Mander, Douglas Walton, Donald Douglas, Ralf Harolde, esther Howard

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  A night of murder the police won't let him forget! The only key to his safety... a woman's face he can't remember!

Plot:  After being hired to find an ex-con's former girlfriend, Philip Marlowe is drawn into a deeply complex web of mystery and deceit.

My rating:   7/10

Will I watch it again?   Yeah.

Is it me or is this a little too complicated for its own good?   I dig the flick and it's fun.  The dialogue, acting and such is right where you want it to be for a noir crime picture but sometimes it feels like a copout when all the information you need to figure out what's going on isn't given until the massive exposition dump near the end.  Sometime it works great like in THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) and sometimes it feels like cheating as in this movie.  Maybe I'm getting too worked up about it.  I don't know.  Dick Powell is always fun to watch but I do like my noir detectives to be on the darker side than wise-cracking.  Moose (played by 6'5" Mike Mazurki) was a tough and fun character.  It's still a fun ride despite my bitching about being in the dark until the end.

Born for Hell (1976)

Original title:  Die Hinrichtung

AKA:  Naked Massacre

Director:  Denis Heroux

Writers:  F.G. Ranger, Denis Heroux, Clenn Wood, Fred Denger, Geza von Radvanyi

Composer:  ???

Starring:  Mathieu Carriere, Debra Berger, Christine Boisson, Myriam Boyer, Leonora Fani, Ely Galleani, Carole Laure, Eva Mattes, Andree Pelletier, Ehmi Bessel, Karl-Heinz Kreienbaum, Paul Edwin Roth

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  For these nine young women, opening the door that night meant ending their lives!

Plot:  A disturbed American war veteran arrives in Belfast during the Northern Ireland conflicts, and proceeds to terrorize a household of female nursing students.

My rating:   7/10

Will I watch it again?   Maybe.

Good flick.  The first half of the picture sets it up and the second half is the home invasion.  Before the horror begins, we get to see both Cain's (played by Carriere) situation and we get to spend some time with the nine girls; all of this happening in Belfast, Northern Ireland, against the backdrop of a country torn apart by extreme violence.  For the most part, Cain is handled pretty well although I think there could've been a few more subtleties to give it a bit more nuance.  The filmmakers aren't giving Cain excuses but rather show you how this man, in his mental state, was able to find himself in a self-created situation that led to the murder of eight women over the course of one short night.   And with the set up involving the girls, that was handled masterfully, giving the audience enough information to know a little about each one to get a sense of who each are.  That was splendidly handled.

Once Cain makes his way into the girls' home, it gets ugly fast.  Cain's slippery slide to murder starts with an impulse that makes each subsequent murder easier to the point of being as natural as breathing.


The ending delivers something unexpected and still somewhat satisfying, insofar as Cain's fate is concerned.  I'm rather surprised at the low IMDb score.  I don't care to read the reviews on this one.  It's a good, well-made film, made at a time when edge was all the rage but this came from Europe whose filmmakers had a different sensibility and one that likely kept this from being the depraved exploitation film it would've been had it been made in the US.

I do have one last observation.  The version I watched was an English dub.  The dub itself was good which worked as it was set where English was spoken but the problem was with the sound levels for the music which often drowned out the dialogue.  What's more, the music, which is uncredited on IMDb, often didn't fit well with the visual.  There is one theme that did and it had a strong John Barry ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (1968) vibe and it was great.  It had the right tone and unsettling vibe about it that fit well but the other cues were problematic.  Add to that the music would often stop quickly, unfinished.  I can see how that could be used as a technique to set the viewer on edge but it happened so much that, if that were the case, it ceased being effective after the umpteenth time.  I'm curious as the mixing levels and the music in general on any of the non-English versions.  Please let me know if you've seen one of them.  Fixing these issues alone would've boosted my score another point. The print I watched had no title card.


TNT Jackson (1974)

Director:  Cirio H. Santiago

Writers:  Dick Miller, Ken Metcalfe

Composer:  Tito Sotto

Starring:  Jeannie Bell, Stan Shaw, Pat Anderson, Ken Metcalfe, Max Alvarado, Chiquito, Percy Gordon, Imelda Ilanan, Chris Cruz, Leo Martinez, Joonee Gamboa

More info:  IMDb

Tagline:  Spine Shattering. Bone Blasting. She's a One Mama Massacre Squad!

Plot:  A young karate expert searches for her brother's killer in Hong Kong.

My rating:   6.5/10

Will I watch it again?   Maybe.

This Blaxploitation flick, co-written by Dick Miller (!), has some clumsy but fun fights, bad acting, nudity and a short enough run time (72 minutes) that it's a no-brainer when looking for a cheesy double feature to watch with your friends.  This movie isn't made by slouches.  The crew behind the camera are professionals and, at the very least, the director and cinematographer had dozens of credits under their belt before taking this assignment.  Even with this being a mid-level B movie, there are moments where it looks better than it should.  The standout scene for me is when Diana (Bell) is watching an exotic dancer at the club and the camera slowly moves closer to her, cutting in between what her eyes are fixed upon.  It was so nice of a shot that it took me out of the picture for a moment, which was not a bad thing.

The color of the room plus the slow pull-in was a really nice touch.  


Stan Shaw (as Charlie), who I recognized from HARLEM NIGHTS (1989), was the only actor I knew until I saw this guy 

who played one of the main villains from the Filipino classic, FOR Y'UR HEIGHT ONLY (1980).  It's no surprise that you're not going to get anyone earning an MVP for acting in this picture.  It's largely below average but that's not necessarily a bad thing.  Most of the lead actors' acting is just bad enough that you can enjoy it.  It also helps that the pacing in this movie is pretty fast.  There's barely a dull moment.

The fighting is clumsy and you can tell the actors are fighting with little-to-no knowledge of martial arts or they're being too careful and slow to look like they do.  The camera only sometimes finds proper angles to hide that fact and it does most cleverly in the final showdown between Diana and Charlie.  There's a batshit funny scene where the bad guys show up to put the beat down on Ms. TNT.   She says something like

"You can't see black!"

and then she turns out the light, throws her robe off

and proceeds to kick everybody's ass in the room nearly naked!  

Except the bad guys get the idea to turn the light on...

until she turns it off again (rinse and repeat).

One thing I really liked is the technique of the slight speeding up of  certain bits of the fights as well as removing a frame here and there to give the hits more impact.  Most people probably think those things are dumb and clumsy but I love 'em when they're used well.  I'm pretty sure that Jeannie Bell had a stunt double for most of her more difficult work.  She goes from amateur kung fu to some kick ass flips and flying kicks and the difference in skill is stark.  But that's just one more thing that adds to the fun.  It's an odd combination of competence and amateurishness that works well together to form a fun movie for a Saturday night with friends and liquor.