Mistress (1992)

From Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Productions comes this satirical comedy from actor, director, writer Barry Primus.

Robert Wuhl stars as a forgotten film maker who is in his forties when producer Martin Landau gives him a call about a long forgotten script, The Darkness and the Light. From here with a renewed dream in Hollywood the duo along with a young unproven script doctor played by Jace Alexander go about finding backers for the film’s production.

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The script in question is a rather downbeat story of a painter who will not sacrifice his visions for the popular vote and monetary success. Surely this is what Wuhl himself is about to experience as he begins to meet the money men. Each one of them happens to have their own ideas and a mistress who would make one heck of a leading lady.

First up is Eli Wallach who has a young bimbo blonde as his flame. Wallach gets to chew up the trio in a greasy diner. Scenes like this are why I never pass up an Eli performance.

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Then we come to Danny Aiello. An ex Vietnam vet with money. He wants a cheerful film. Not one that apparently will end in the suicide of the painter. Naturally he has a flame that is a recovering alcoholic hoping to get into the picture business.

Our last backer is none other than Robert De Niro himself. He carries a bit of his gangland roles to this one. He’s in it for the money and demands crucial changes to the script as he won’t back some art film that dies a quick death on opening weekend. It’s his way with more “sex and titillation.” His mistress played by Sheryl Lee Ralph is actually acceptable to Wuhl. Problem is she’s a demanding b–ch. Behind De Niro’s back she’s having sex with Aiello and tells Wuhl aggressively, “That’s right. I’m f-ing both you’re investors. So don’t f–k with me!”

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Wuhl is very quickly realizing that his vision is about to be twisted in any number of ways between his backers, their women and his partners. As Landau tells him, “They’re only making this picture to put their girlfriends in it.”

It’s Martin Landau that comes off best in this film as a producer who will do or say anything to stroke the money men and get Wuhl to agree and go along with the flow. He’s past his prime and just wants one more shot at the big time. Landau alone makes this rather rare title worth seeking out.

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The film itself loses it’s way down the stretch with some forced comedy that left me a little cold but the final scene of Wuhl being lured to chase his dream once more is rewarding.

Any film with a cast list like this is always worth a viewing and we even get a couple cameos from Ernest Borgnine and Christopher Walken. Added up, you get a list of heavy hitters in this look at the sacrifices made getting a script bought.

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Fury at Furnace Creek (1948)

One year after the Noir classic Kiss of Death, Victor Mature re-teamed with Coleen Gray in this enjoyable black and white western from 20th Century Fox.

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The film starts with the massacre of an army fort when a band of Indians led by a vicious looking Jay Silverheels ride in under the guise of a wagon train. From here the film jumps to a court martial involving the General who is believed to have made a tactical error resulting in the attack. The General dies in the court room. Most everyone believes he was involved with some underhanded dealings with a load of silver to be mined on the Indian reservation. The attack results in the Indians being relocated and Albert Dekker moving in and becoming a rich man in the silver business.

Clearing the General’s name falls upon his two sons. One a military man played by Glenn Langan and the other a family outcast, gambler and gunfighter played by our leading man, Victor Mature. Both arrive separately under assumed identities with no intention of reuniting as brothers.

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Langan wants nothing to do with Mature while Mature wants Langan out of town as he believes he is closing in on the truth. The key to the mystery is Reginald Gardiner who was the officer in charge of the wagon train before it was overtaken by Silverheels.

Mature has quietly become one of Dekker’s leading gunman after out shooting Fred Clark. It’s Dekker that wants Mature to take out Langan. He’s unaware that they are actually brothers. He only knows that Langan is here to dig into his silver operation. Can you guess who set up the General?

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In between punches and gunplay, Victor takes a little time to romance Gray. When she realizes just who he is and a gunslinger as well the romance takes a turn for the worse. Hopefully when the outlaws are buried and Mature exonerated she’ll come around.

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This mystery western was directed by H. Bruce Humberstone. Bruce had directed Mature in I Wake Up Screaming after doing some of the early Charlie Chan’s with Warner Oland. From here he’d move into musicals and Gordon Scott Tarzan films.

For fans of the atomic age, Glenn Langan would eventually become The Amazing Colossal Man in 1957.

Beautiful Coleen Gray was in a both Kiss of Death and Nightmare Alley prior to this effort and would also appear in Red River this same year. A pretty impressive list of titles for a relative newcomer.

Like Gregory Peck says while narrating the trailer, “No theater goer should miss it.”

Anthony Quinn Poster Gallery

Quinn’s passion always seemed to come shining through.

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The first starring role in 1947 opposite his then wife Katherine DeMille.

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Always at home in the western.

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As the Mountain.

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The bizarre side of Quinn?

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Caught up in a dramatic WW2 saga.

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Making spaghetti with Franco.

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One last epic opposite Ollie.

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Always a pleasure to see Quinn do his thing. But to hear him?

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An Eye For An Eye (1981)

In the years before Chuck Norris had his beard surgically implanted and moved his butt kicking operation over to Cannon he starred in a number of films with threatening titles. It’s been a while since I revisited a Norris flick so what better way to do so then pick one with Richard Roundtree, Matt Clark,  the always enjoyable Mako and the legendary Sir Christopher Lee.

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Chuck is a San Francisco cop whose partner Terry Kiser gets killed when the two are set up. From there Kiser’s girlfriend and daughter of Mako played by Rosalind Chao is strangled to death. Turns out she had some vital information she was hoping to get to Norris before her savage demise.

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Norris and superior Roundtree don’t agree with Chuck’s tactics and he’s off the force. This will of course allow him to work on the case outside of the law with his mentor and teacher Mako. There’s practically an army of assassins awaiting the duo around every corner. What our duo are really trying to find is an overly large killer in the form of Professor Toru Tanaka. This guy is huge and I was surprised his name wasn’t Oddjob.

Naturally there is a master criminal behind a narcotics ring who rules it all from a desk and a false front. I’m not saying who it is but we do have an actor in the cast who just might be the screen’s greatest villain. Once again I’m not playing spoiler here.

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Before the film ends the body count will be outrageous and it’s not entirely due to leaping back kicks from The Chuckster. Roundtree leads an army of police into battle that shoots anything in sight. You’d swear they were landing on Guadalcanal.

This one is directed by Steve Carver who also gave us what is probably the most enjoyable Norris flick. Lone Wolf McQuade.

This was made during Lee’s self imposed break with Hammer and horror films in general. He appeared in a wide variety of films during the late seventies and early eighties. Airport 77, Serial, 1941 to name a few.

As for Chuck, he delivers the fighting goods but falls flat when trying to emote and even sneaks in a love scene. With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek, see Lone Wolf McQuade for perhaps the sexiest love scene ever filmed between Chuck and the incredibly hot Barbara Carrera.

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In case you are not familiar with the actor Terry Kiser who plays Chuck’s partner, he played the funniest corpse on film in Weekend at Bernies.

In closing I’ll let Mako have the final line. “I tried to question him…… he preferred to expire.”

Mrs. O’Malley and Mr. Malone (1950)

Every now and then casting directors strike gold. When you take two of cinema’s best character players and put them in the leading roles of a fast moving murder mystery with a slant towards comedy, we the viewers get a winning formula.

How about Marjorie Main and James Whitmore.

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The film starts much like a Ma and Pa Kettle film. Main is living in Proudfoot Montana and wins a radio contest from New York. She names the tune “Possum up a Gumstump.” This nets her 50K and a trip to the Big Apple. As for Whitmore, he’s a lawyer who goes where the money is. Chases women at the drop of a hat which includes his secretary Phyllis Kirk and has been on a bender while his debtors are hunting him down to collect on the bad checks and IOU’s he’s passed around.

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With Main passing through Chicago enroute to New York they cross paths in a swank nightclub where Whitmore is supposed to collect ten grand from a recent parolee. It seems that Douglas Fowley may have 100 grand stashed away that he has done time for and everybody wants a cut of it. Whitmore wants his retainer, Ann Dvorak wants alimony from her ex Fowley and Detective Fred Clark wants the whole stash returned to it’s rightful owner. The bank.

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It turns out that Main is a avid reader of the magazine Foremost Detective Stories and recognizes Whitmore as a contributor to the tales of murder and detection. She’s even more excited when he winds up on her train heading to New York. It turns out everyone catches a ride on this train. It seems Fowley has jumped parole and is heading to the coast. Along for the ride are our aforementioned group as well as the woman Fowley is planning to run away with, Dorothy Malone. It seems they have the cash and it’s her hubby they stole it from.

No one on the train can seem to find Fowley and when Main and Whitmore call it a night and head for their berths they finally locate him. He’s in Main’s room with a knife in his back! Now the fun really begins as our two unlikely sleuths decide to move the body only to find it’s returned with another murder victim for good measure. It’s all going to wind up with a madcap chase with Main and Whitmore joined at the wrists. In handcuffs.

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At a running time of 69 minutes this programmer from MGM is time well spent. It’s not often we can see a couple of supporting pros take the lead and yet be joined by a variety of other well known faces.

James Whitmore really does have that dog faced Spencer Tracy look about him. I love it when secretary Kirk points out he wears a 25 dollar suit with a forty dollar tie.

Marjorie Main will always be Ma Kettle for me and even as I write this I keep wanting to refer to her as Ma. Truly one of the great character actresses to grace the screen. She even treats us to a stage number in this one.

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Norman Taurog directed this title. Here’s a fellow who gave us everything from Tracy in Boys Town and it’s sequel to winding down his career working on nine Elvis films.

The next time this one turns up on TCM set the time aside to enjoy it.

 

Appreciating Richard Boone of the Western

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For starters the western has always been my favorite genre if I am forced to pick just one. With the availability of western television shows turning up on DVD it has allowed me to see many of the shows from yesteryear. I grew up watching mainly reruns of Bonanza and Gunsmoke mixed in with as many of the genre’s movies as I could catch on Sunday afternoons and late night television.

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Richard Boone was primarily the bad guy in most of the movies I would see him in. Big Jake and Hombre spring to mind. But what a bad guy!

“My Momma taught me to remove my hat and my cigar in the presence of a lady. Whatever else I take off depends on how lucky I get.”

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Then there was Rio Conchos, A Thunder of Drums, The Shootist and even playing Sam Houston in The Alamo. When Boone is on camera it’s hard to notice anything or anyone but him outside of The Duke.

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I knew he had done the Have Gun Will Travel series but until it began to turn up on DVD I had never once seen an episode. I am now through the first five seasons and loving every minute of it.

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Having a chance to see many of the westerns from the golden age of television thanks to DVD releases I have to say that Boone as Paladin has to be my favorite leading man/character from the small screens western craze.

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His Paladin is a man among men. Tough minded, articulate, a ladies man. He’s a James Bond for the west without the gadgetry while at the same time able to play chess and quote Shakespeare. Boone’s equally at home in his San Francisco hotel dressed as a city slicker or clad in black on the western frontier. He’s a gunfighter with honor that commands respect from both the characters he encounters and from us the viewers.

If you haven’t seen Boone as the famed Paladin, do so now.

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Royal Flash (1975)

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When learning of the British Empire Blogathon graciously hosted by Phantom Empires and The Stalking Moon I immediately thought of Royal Flash for a variety of reasons. First off is the fact that it pokes fun at the stiff upper lip British type that puts on a “jolly good show” for God and Queen. Secondly, I have always taken great pleasure from Malcolm McDowell’s hell raising yet cowardly performance in the title role. Now throw in a rather brutish Oliver Reed reteaming with his nude wrestling pal Alan Bates and we have an underrated gem from the seventies that is begging to be rediscovered for both it’s comedy and adventurous spirit.

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Novelist George MacDonald Fraser adapted the second novel in his Flashman series and along with spirited director Richard Lester have given us this chapter in the life of  Captain Harry Flashman. A military hero by default for his acts during the Empires campaign in Afghanistan, McDowell as our leading man finds himself a well known name throughout England and high society. Greatly respected he is called upon to present a rather Patton(esque) speech to a group of young men heading out into the world. Join me in standing up for a round of applause as McDowell delivers the goods in the film’s opening scene.

Now it’s time to get in a little gambling and whoring. You see Flashman is no gentleman at all. He’s a cad. A bully. A backstabber. A thief. Most of all a coward. And so on.

While fleeing a police raid led by Bob Hoskins, McDowell runs squarely into the broad shoulders of Oliver Reed who plays our main adversary Otto Von Bismarck. Using a little bit of street smarts, he embarrasses Reed and takes off with his lady Florinda Bolkan. It’s going to be a love/hate relationship that sees the two tangle repeatedly from the start to finish.

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He’s a womanizer and she’s a social climbing nymphomaniac. They’ll make a fine pair.

When their love affair falls apart and Reed leaves England for Germany the narrative moves ahead four years. It seems Bolkan has reached out to Malcolm from Bavaria. With the promise of money he’s off to the continent.

This is where our film takes a turn towards espionage and a dash of the  Prince of Zenda. Reed is behind the reason for McDowell’s being brought to Bavaria. He’s hungry for power and politics. McDowell is a dead ringer for a Crown Prince that is indisposed. Reed’s plans include scarring McDowell’s face and marrying him off to Queen Britt Ekland. The latter half doesn’t sound to bad. After all gentlemen let’s not forget that just two years prior to this she was the Goddess of Love in The Wickerman.

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Alan Bates is Reed’s right hand who is always one step behind McDowell to keep him in line. That doesn’t stop Malcolm from letting loose with crude comments at any given time and continually pushing Reed’s anger to the limit.

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Just when Malcolm thinks life isn’t too bad he realizes that the real Prince won’t be coming back and Reed has no further use for him either.

Cowardice will only take him so far and when Bates implores him to “Come down and fight like a man.” McDowell cries out “Don’t be ridiculous.”

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Much like Richard Lester’s Musketeer films, this effort has it’s tongue firmly planted in it’s cheek. From it’s opening scene to it’s closing McDowell is hardly ever off the screen. He delivers an energetic performance that is both comedic and raunchy. He gets to play Errol Flynn in a lengthy duel with Bates despite doing his best to flee the situation. Once again he’ll find himself a hero by circumstance.

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Reed is best at being Reed. Brutish and imposing. Not a man to tangle with. Alan Bates shines here and develops a cautious friendship with McDowell despite their often being at odds. Florinda Balkan as the woman who comes and goes in McDowell’s life plays it deliciously with a hint of nastiness that only a wooden brush against the buttocks can define.

The cast is sprinkled with a who’s who of British cinema. Along with a pre-stardom Bob Hoskins we have Alistair Sim, Lionel Jeffries and Joss Ackland dropping in for added flavor.

The location filming adds an immense beauty to the backdrop for McDowell’s adventures including the Castle Linderhof in Bavaria. A place I know well from jigsaw puzzles my Mother worked on over the years.

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Looking back it’s unfortunate that there wasn’t a follow up to the Flashman adventures as it’s clearly a role that suits McDowell’s cheeky take on the character.

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So if you’re looking for a different view on the British Empire, look no further than the wild adventures of Malcolm McDowell in the only film version from the series of Flashman novels.