Confessions of Boston Blackie (1941)

Since I’m still here in Boston…….

Edward Dmytryk steps into the directors chair for the second Chester Morris outing as the famed jewel thief gone straight. Much to the chagrin of Richard Lane as Inspector Faraday who still has his doubts as to Blackie’s motives.

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This time out our tale involves the art world mixed with counterfeiting statues and murder. Blackie is caught in the middle while on one hand trying to stay out of the Inspector’s reach while on the other he’s trying to help solve a murder he’s implicated in and help Harriet Hill to get the money she is owed from the sale o a family heirloom.

Acting as a handler at an art auction, Blackie tags along with eccentric Lloyd Corrigan to help him purchase a large statue that has been put by Harriet for auction. Unknown to her the statue has been replaced with a fake. When she arrives at the auction house and looks the rather large statue over she declares it a fake setting off a series of gunshots leaving her with a “flesh wound” and Blackie wanted for murdering another man at the auction.

When the victims body goes missing, the Inspector has a hard time making any charges stick to Blackie. Turns out the body has been hidden in the fake statue leading our hero all over town trying to crack the case. He even gets a chance to go undercover and embarrass the good Inspector with some medical advice in a funny bit.

This action oriented adventure is sure to come to a thrilling conclusion and overall is a far more enjoyable effort than the first Boston Blackie title. Perhaps it’s the setting of the final confrontation between Blackie and the forces of evil that are out to kill both him and the film’s leading lady.

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Helping Blackie in his crime fighting once again is “The Runt.” This time the role is assumed by George E. Stone who would run with the character for a total of 12 films out of the fourteen that Morris starred in.  Stone is responsible like many sidekicks for the comedy relief here and along with Corrigan’s character does just that.

Mixed in to fill out the running time and cut back on the budget are some stock fottage shots of cars racing through the city that look to be from gangster flicks from the early thirties.

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Our director Dmytryk was at this time working in many B films getting his feet wet before running afoul of the HUAC hearings that derailed his budding career. He would rebound nicely in the fifties with many top flight films including The Caine Mutiny, The Young Lions and Warlock.

Like the first film and I suppose most of the series titles, it’s a diverting 65 minutes of fun to be had here.

Meet Boston Blackie (1941)

Since I’m off to Boston.

For my first title in the Chester Morris series I may as well start with the film that introduced him as the character created by Jack Boyle.

This series was put out by Harry Cohn’s Columbia studios during the heyday of crank’em out seventy minute mysteries featuring a devil may care sleuth who generally operates on his own outside the boundaries of the law with a sidekick in tow.

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Our introduction to Chester Morris as the title character begins as the ship he is sailing on hits port in the good ole U.S. of A. He’s been overseas for sometime due to a string of pearls that went missing a few years back. It seems that Blackie is a professional jewel thief and well known to the public as a safe cracker.

He makes contact with Constance Worth on board when he rescues her from what appears to be a thug strong arming her. Before any romance can develop he finds the same thug dead in his cabin just as his nemesis Inspector Faraday boards the ship wanting to take Blackie into custody. Starring as our quick to convict Inspector we have actor Richard Lane.

Blackie jumps ship and follows the lovely Miss Worth to a carnival where things are not what they seem. It turns out that a spy ring operates within the carnival using it as a backdrop for their purpose of locating vital U.S. military information. The plot only thickens when Worth is murdered putting Blackie on the run from both Lane and local police.

Enter beautiful Rochelle Hudson as our love interest who joins Blackie in his underworld adventure. Luckily for our hero she takes a liking to him and the smell of romance is in the air between fist fights and run ins with Inspector Lane.

She’s quick to point out to the Inspector she isn’t in love with Blackie. In classic “B” film style his comeback is “Why not? He’s a pretty swell guy. For a heel.”

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Like any decent hero of the era , Blackie will prove to be the better man and leave the Inspector happy with the outcome but somewhat disappointed that his original assumptions proved false. Along the way Blackie proves quick with not only his wit but his hands as well. He’s adept at magic tricks and getting out of handcuffs with ease.

Where Chan had his No. 1 son and Holmes had Watson, Boston Blackie has “The Runt.” In this outing the role is played by Charles Wagenheim. It was his only appearance in the role during the run of the series.

For the trivia buffs this kick off to the series was directed by Robert Florey. For me the name always represents the man who never got the chance to direct Frankenstein. He was originally slated to do just that but wound up getting the Lugosi assignment Murders In the Rue Morgue for the 1932 season as a consolation prize.

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If you have ever seen Tod Browning’s Freaks from 1932 or plenty of it’s images that turn up in books and on line then you’ll be sure to spot the actor known as Schlitze who played the part of a carny to gawk at for the tourists making their way through the boardwalk.

This title marked the return of Boston Blackie to the screen for the first time since the silent era. Morris would go on to play the role a total of fourteen times turning in his trench coat after the 1949 Boston Blackie’s Chinese Venture.

Boston Bound and Then Some = Boston Blackie Duo, Witches and More

With summer holiday season upon us I have decided to take a road trip to an area of the continent I have yet to visit. Home of the big bad Bruins for us rabid Montreal Canadian hockey fans. Or the “big green monster” for the Blue Jay fan that lives in me. Trying not to miss a day since I started Mike’s Take in late December of 2013 I thought I’d play to the spirit of the trip and feature films with Boston in the title. This led me to thinking of The Boston Strangler right off the bat but somehow that didn’t seem all that appetizing or conducive to tourism.

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Time to type in the key word Boston into my trusty catalogue of collected titles and up popped the series of films that ran during the decade of the forties featuring Chester Morris. This actually allowed me to visit a series I had previously never seen before. Let’s just say I’m long overdue as I generally love the mysteries of the era that featured Holmes, Chan, The Falcon, the Saint etc.

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Join me in either rediscovering the titles for yourself or perhaps like me visit them for the first time. If I happen to bump into you in Bean Town say hello. Just don’t expect me to put on a Bruins or Red Sox jersey.

From Boston it’s over to witch central for a day or two in Salem then on up towards Quebec Canada and home.

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So I’ll be sure to feature a couple of haunting witch flavored titles starring a horror icon.

Lastly if you know of any cool movie or book shops to collect at on my travels, leave me the address. Thanks.

 

July 2015 in Review

Taking a cue from a favorite blogger I thought I’d post a monthly review commenting on more recent titles that I get around to watching or even older ones I haven’t actually wrote up for a daily take. Just another way of keeping track of what I have seen and sharing some thoughts in the process. I’ll also link back to those that I did take the time to write at length about. Hopefully there’s something in here to catch your interest. So please give these “takes” a look.

The Vengeance of She

ESCAPE PLAN Ph: Steve Dietl © 2013 Summit Entertainment, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Escape Plan – Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up to find away out of a high tech prison that they meet up in. As I’ve pointed out before the importance of a film like this is that these two screen icons actually got together and made a film. Years from now we’ll look back and realize that alone is what makes the film worth while. Overall it seems like the script had some issues but at least it has Sam Neill in their pitching support. Both Jim Caviezel and Vinnie Jones play the baddies to the bone in fine fashion.

3 Days to Kill- Kevin Costner in a somewhat comedic role as an aging agent with a license to kill. Amber Heard turns up looking quite sexy and leading Kevin by the nose to do her nasty work. All this while Costner is trying to back off the violence and reunite with his estranged wife and daughter played by Connie Nielsen and Hailee Steinfeld. I say comedic yet the film was still on the violent side with some serious overtones. Not bad but I was hoping for more.

The Brighton Strangler

Victory

Frankenstein Unbound – Part of the John Hurt Blogathon

Trouble Along the Way

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The Final Terror – This early 80’s slasher flick is another “don’t go down to the lake” flick. No big deal but it’s a chance to see a pre stardom Daryl Hannah, Rachel Ward and Joe Pantoliano turning up for the bloodcurdling festivities. It’s all relatively tame by the standards of the slasher films that were making the rounds during the era. This early film from Andrew Davis turned up on blu so I gave it a shot.

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John Payne Double Bill – King of the Lumberjacks and Kid Nightingale

Wanted – I knew from the outset this was going to be a trial to get through. Certain bits of CGI can really turn me off and this one came close to a bullseye. i stuck it out mainly because of Morgan Freeman and Terence Stamp to be honest. Angelina Jolie is prominently displayed on the DVD sleeve yet she wasn’t the focal point of the film which caught me a bit off guard. Not really to my liking.

The Beast of Hollow Mountain

Kindergarten Cop

Variety Girl – Part of the blogathon dedicated to films of 1947.

The Price of Fear

Beneath the Darkness – Imagine Dennis Quaid re-inventing Norman Bates. Quaid plays a rather weird funeral home director with murder on his mind and a dead wife in his bed. Weird it may be but I got a kick out of it. Typical teen thriller for the video market with a surprisingly well known actor.

Montana Belle

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Black Sea – I thought the trailer for this Jude Law flick looked good. The film itself wasn’t bad but I was hoping for more. The plot involves Jude and a crew aboard a submarine treasure hunting a downed U-boat from WW2 containing millions in Nazi gold. Shares would be sure to increase if some men don’t make it back to the surface. Watchable but a missed opportunity I believe.

The Crimson Cult

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

42 – Finally got around to this feel good story of Jackie Robinson breaking into major league baseball. Feel good in the sense that it’s the triumph of the human spirit yet there are some downright uncomfortable racist scenes. A winning story with Chadwick Boseman in the title role and an almost unrecognizable Harrison Ford as the owner who takes it upon himself to challenge the color barrier.

The Cat and the Canary : 1978 version

Wild River

Son of Rambow – I just wasn’t feeling the love of this indie flick where a couple of young kids become star struck by Stallone’s First Blood and set out to film a reenactment of the movie in their own style around the local neighborhood. Perhaps there was more there than I realized because I’ve generally heard good things about this one.

Shoot the Sun Down

Albino Alligator

Alien Thunder

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

Too late for Tears

Bowery Bombshell

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The Blues Brothers – I had the opportunity to revisit this cult favorite at the local theater that caters to fans like me by playing something from the past on occasion. Hard not to repeat many of the lines here while watching with about fifty other people. Then there is the music. What’s not to like with Ray Charles, Aretha, Cab Calloway and company. How about the likes of Charles Napier and Henry Gibson on the war path. A super young John Candy and for the Star Wars crowd, Carrie Fisher. Kathleen Freeman as “The Penguin” always delights. Plain and simple it’s just a whole lot of fun.

“We’re on a mission from God.”

Bowery Bombshell (1946)

The word Bowery in a film title pretty much means one is about to partake in a seventy minute adventure with Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall and the Bowery Boys up to their usual pranks and get rich quick schemes. Although the low budget Bowery at Midnight with Bela Lugosi pokes a huge hole in that line of thinking.

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This time out the gang finds out that Bernard Gorcey who plays Louie the owner of their local hangout and Ice Cream Parlor needs help and has to come up with $300. The boys muster up $4.95. just a wee bit short. In fine fashion Leo launches in to his best car salesman routines with the gang as they try to land $1000 for an old wreck. You might say it doesn’t work out to well.

When leading lady Teala Loring snaps a photo of Huntz in front of a local bank she accidentally times it with a bank heist. No she doesn’t catch the robbers on photograph. What she gets is a loopy looking Huntz holding the bag of money as he hands it back to the robbers off camera. That photo turns out to be quite valuable to the gang of thugs and their mastermind Ace-Deuce. Love that name. It’s played by legendary Sheldon Leonard who did his fare share of these gangland roles with the tough guy talk throughout his long and successful career.

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The boys put Huntz on ice while Leonard has a couple of his thugs plant thousand dollar bills on him to ensure the cops and our intrepid detective O’Malley played by James Burke are sure he’s there man.

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The fun escalates when Leo and his “gang” go gangster in true Cagney/Bogart/Robinson fashion He even continually flips a coin much like George Raft did many years previously in Scarface. To the strings of Frankie and Johnny the boys enter Leonard’s nightclub along with Miss Loring as Leo’s “dame.” Leo’s tough guy act is first rate as he does nothing but growl and stare at the chests of all the bigger men that surround him yet are deathly afraid of the pint sized gangland wannabe. That is until they piece the whole thing together. Leo wants the cash from the bank job to get Huntz off the hook. Perhaps even a reward to save poor Louis and his ice cream parlor.

In order to do just that he’ll have to contend with “Moose” played by the enormous William Wee Willie Davis. It’s a comical farce as he and Huntz tangle with the behemoth but are sure to get the upper hand before the fadeout and bring Leonard to justice.

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This Monogram Studios outing with the boys was directed by apprenticing Phil Karlson who would go on to do a number of first rate flicks including Kansas City Confidential. A personal favorite.

For me the Bowery Boys generally offer some laughs and much like the 3 Stooges mean well at heart and somehow deliver right over wrong.

This flick is in my collection thanks to the sets put out by the folks at the Warner Archive.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Movie Challenge….. Too Late For Tears (1949)

What’s not to love when Kristina over at Speakeasy challenges me to a Dan Duryea Noir flick that I hadn’t seen? Nothing I can come up with. Now toss in one of the genre’s great femme fatales, Lizabeth Scott plus Arthur Kennedy and I’m hooked.

Welcome to the monthly challenge where Kristina and I send a title to the other to broaden our viewing experience or just catch up with a title that has somehow eluded the other throughout the years as is the case here.

“Here’s to crime. It pays and pays.”

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On a late night drive Lizabeth Scott and hubby Arthur Kennedy find themselves the recipient of a bag containing thousands of dollars. It’s a case of mistaken identity when their convertible is mistaken for another and the bag is thrown to their car from another passing by. A head speed chase ensues where if you look closely you’ll see our couple drive by Grauman’s. Yes it’s a Hollywood setting.

One look at Lizabeth Scott’s eyes afire when she pours the money onto the bed and we know where this is headed. Especially when she’s at odds with hubby Kennedy over his desire to turn it in to the authorities. He gives in slightly by agreeing to put the bag into a storage unit and holds on to the baggage claim ticket. The ticket will of course play a huge part in just how our plot develops and plays out.

While Kennedy is out of their homey apartment Liz opens the door to find the wonderful tones of Dan Duryea standing in the doorway.

‘Where’s my dough?” This after he finds a stash of furs that Scott has boxed up in a cupboard. She has answers for everything at which point Dan rhymes off with, “You’re smooth honey.” A couple slaps later mixed with a threat and he’s out the door with the promise of returning.

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Poor honest, hard working Kennedy returns to find the furs and just knows he’s in over his head with a woman who has eyes and desires for the finer things in life and little worries about how to acquire them. When Dan returns to push Liz around while Kennedy is out the script would have us believe that a split is agreed upon over an afternoon escapade in the bedroom.

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Liz continues her descent into greed and debauchery when she kills her hubby and seeks out Duryea as a partner with the full intention of turning the tables on him when the time comes. For now she needs Dan to help her locate the claim check for the bag full of money. This is where things are bound to get complicated and go awry just as Liz believes the riches are within her grasp.

Kristine Miller stars here as Kennedy’s sister who believes that Scott is somehow behind her brothers disappearance. When Don Defore turns up as an old army buddy of Kennedy, Miller enlists him to help her seek out the truth.

I’d love to go on with the plot line but I’m not one for playing spoiler here so will come to a halt at this point and look into other aspects of this thoroughly entertaining Noir effort from director Byron Haskin.

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I have to hand it to Liz Scott here. This is one evil b-t-h she gets to play this time out. From the outset when she lays her hands on the cash her mind is made up that she’ll keep every dime for herself with no intention of letting Kennedy talk her out of it or allow Duryea’s shadowy figure to reclaim it. Her lies are so complete that it gets to the point she actually looks like she believes the lines she’s throwing at the other characters as she digs the hole deeper.

Don Defore gets a good role here in something a bit different than I am used to seeing him in. To me he’s always been something of a Jack Carson type when Carson wasn’t available. But there’s a mystery to his character as well and just what his actual motivation is in regards to nudging Scott towards a confession. Could he be tied up with the cash and working for his own gain? I wasn’t so sure one way or the other and that makes for an entertaining viewing experience.

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Dan Duryea. Just the name sets up a characterization one should expect from the roles he’s usually assigned to. Here he’s aggressive, threatening and isn’t above taking advantage of Liz in the bedroom. But what adds to his role here is the fact that he’s really a novice when it comes to just how far she is willing to go to hold on to the money. That said, Dan is wonderful in this black and white thriller as he so often was during his long career that saw him move easily from gangland roles to the outlaws of the western. For more on Dan and his films just click here.

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The screenplay is credited to Roy Huggins which he adapted for the screen from his own Saturday Evening post serial and was produced by Hunt Stromberg.

Spotting character actors is always a bit of fun for me so make sure you catch a super young Denver Pyle being hit on by Scott after he thought he was doing the initial “hitting.” Once again Scott’s character turns the tables to her advantage even in this small scene with Denver. You’ll also catch sight of former thirties bad boy specialist Billy Halop in a brief role. Halop was at one time a popular Dead End Kid opposite Cagney and Bogie.

Thankfully, Too Late For Tears was recently rescued from deteriorating beyond recognition and played on TCM in an all new reconstruction. I had planned on watching it and when Kristina issued it as a challenge it only added to the fun. Now it’s time to head over to see what Kristina was assigned to check out. It’s an Irene Dunne film that she mentioned she hadn’t yet seen though admitting to being a fan of the leading lady. Just click here to be transported back in time to a real live Speakeasy where the lovely Kristina is dishing out the drinks.

On The Flip Side

It’s no secret that I’ve amassed a great deal of posters and films. Years back I used to clip out all sorts of articles and newspaper ads and glue them in a book or just let them pile up. Never one to throw anything out I now have an outlet for some of these clippings from the past.

I do wish that at the time I had taken better care of them. But at that time when I still wasn’t old enough to drive a car who knew I’d still be following and reading about many of the same film stars to this day let alone writing my own recollections about them.

What I began to notice after unearthing all this articles are the cut up promos that are on the flip side. These alone can stir up movie memories from years gone by. Have a look.

On one hand you can see the fondly remembered Stand By Me and then next day catch Reform School Girls.

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Before America fell in love with Jackie Chan we had to settle for……………

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A bunch of titles I wouldn’t have been aloud to see at my young age on this flip side. Tattoo not to mention the flicks playing at the “adult” theater. But I did see All the Marbles on TV eventually. At the time Peter Falk was not my main focal point if you recall the title.

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From Thursday August 28th, 1986. Here’s the weekly box office take list.

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I also found this clipping of a Sinatra show from TV Guide.

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Now for an interesting show on the flip side in the TV listings. Either you tuned in to Ol’ Blue Eyes or you checked out the other event for the night’s entertainment. Remember these? How about the list of names involved?

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