Vicki (1953)

This turned out to be a nifty thriller with a plot that played like it could have been subsequently used as a template for an episode of either The Twilight Zone or Thriller.

vicki 2

It’s a murder mystery involving a pair of sisters  played by Jeanne Crain and Jean Peters told in flashbacks from the point of view of several characters. Vicki as played by Peters is the murder victim as the story opens. Her image is plastered all over the city on billboards and magazine covers. When the news of her death comes over the wire, cop Richard Boone demands the case.

boone in vicki

Boone wastes little time in marking her agent Elliott Reid for the electric chair.

Both Reid and Crain will tell the story in flashback sequence of Peters’ rise to fame and the circumstances surrounding her murder including Crain finding Reid hovering over the body. A fairly graphic sequence for the time period.

Boone has all the ammunition he needs in pointing to Reid as the killer. Peters was leaving him for Hollywood thus ditching him as her agent. As far as Peters and her growing ego was concerned, “If men want to look at me, let them pay for it.”

peters as vicki

The film is going to take a twist when hard nosed Boone who isn’t above both intimidation and physical violence in the interrogation room is spotted in one of Crain’s story telling flashbacks. There’s more to Boone’s character here than just being an early version of the vigilante cop along the lines of Dirty Harry.

While Reid continually pleads his innocence to the watchful eye of Boone, Crain as well serves as a suspicious character in the plot who just may have killed her own sister to ensure that Reid begins to take notice of her.

boone in vicki2

“I’m gonna haunt both of you like a guilty conscience.” Richard Boone makes his presence known to Crain as he continually pursues Reid edging him closer to either confessing or making a break for it thus condemning himself to the chair.

Perhaps I’m gullible but the plot from script writer Dwight Taylor had enough red herrings to keep me guessing just “who dunnit” as filmed by Harry Horner.

vicki poster

Both Crain and Reid seemed to have a motive in place the way Boone keeps bending it. Then there is Boone himself who has an eerie quality to him in his search for a killer. Is he just trying to find a fall guy to cover up his own crime? He’s trying awfully hard and he did demand the case from his chief, John Dehner.  TV mogul Aaron Spelling is even in here as a somewhat crazed hotel boy manning the switchboard and keys at the hotel where Peters and Crain lived. Somewhere in here there is a killer and the actual outcome is rather creepy.

This Noirish thriller is time well spent with Boone proving to be an extremely forceful presence on screen. He’s both terrifying and intimidating all rolled into one. If this Fox release had been an RKO production his role has Robert Ryan written all over it. His violence and powerful performance recalls Ryan in On Dangerous Ground as the police officer with a violent streak as well as Javert of Les Miserables in his dogged pursuit of Reid.


Trivia buffs take note that both Boone and Dehner appear together in this 85 minute feature. Both would go on to play Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel. Boone to great acclaim on television and Dehner took on the role in the days of the radio shows.

This was released as part of the Fox Film Noir set on DVD and has now found a well deserved spot in my movie library. Go find yourself a copy.

Ma and Pa Kettle (1949)

Though the characters of Ma and Pa Kettle first appeared in the Fred MacMurray – Claudette Colbert winning comedy The Egg and I, it is here in the first of 9 films that they embarked on their own series of lovable adventures once again played by Marjorie Main and Percy Kilbride.


The Kettles and their brood of fifteen children live on a run down farm overrun by weeds, chickens in the kitchen and general chaos. Main as Ma is a big strong willed woman while Kilbride as Pa is a meek tiny man and hasn’t worked a day in years. “Not since that lumbago set in.”

The town counsel of Cape Flattery wants the Kettle farm condemned and just before they make good on the threat, Pa wins a slogan contest  from the King Henry Tobacco Company winning the family a model house of the future. It’s a second chance for Ma and the kids to get out of the poverty they seem to be living in. Upon moving in it’s Ma who carries Pa over the threshold.

ma and pa chair

The bulk of the film makes light of Pa and his feeling lost in a home of the future. There’s a switchboard of buttons for lights and beds that fold into the wall keeping him continually lost as to how everything works. While shaving he makes the tragic mistake of turning on a set of sun lamps thus guaranteeing himself a “red as a lobster” sun burn. Pa’s had enough and moves back to the farm.

While all the comical shenanigans are going on we have Richard Long as the eldest of the Kettle children who is now a college grad and hoping to make something of himself in the business world. Love is in the air when he meets Meg Randall as a beat reporter looking to do a story on the Kettle clan and their windfall.

Jealousy from a fellow town resident results in Pa’s contest slogan being called in to question to keep the plot moving along which serves only to highlight the wonderful presence of Percy Kilbride. His Pa Kettle is just one of those on screen characters that strikes my funny bone dead center. It’s really a wonderful character he has created with his lazy demeanor and delivery.

When Pa is nominated to be the chairman of the county fair he’s a bit put off. “Take much work?” It’s an honorary position. No work at all.” he’s told. Without skipping a beat he’s quick to respond, “I accept.”


Universal-International turned the Kettle clan into a winning series that lasted till 1957 with Kilbride skipping the final two installments. No, they’re just not as good without him though Arthur Hunnicutt does his best as a relative of Pa’s who seems to have the same work ethic in the second to last title.

Studio director Charles Lamont was assigned to this series opener and would do the first follow up as well, Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Town which for my money is the best title of the series.

ma and pa lobby

It’s the classic fish out of water story in the vein of Tarzan’s New York Adventure. Lamont would also direct many of the Abbott and Costello features that the studio was putting out at this time. Not just handling duties on the Kettle series, Lamont was also taking care of the Francis series finale minus Donald O’Connor, Francis In The Haunted House.

Tune into the Kettles series of films for old fashioned fun starring the familiar face and shape of Marjorie Main and the hilarious laid back approach of Percy Kilbride.

The Greek Tycoon (1978)

While this may be a hammy tale of the rich and famous as well as a poorly veiled take on the Kennedy-Onassis relationship it does have the undeniable screen presence and charisma of a bigger than life Anthony Quinn. Truthfully it comes across as an “R” rated version of a daily soap opera.

grek tycoon1

Quinn stars as a shipping tycoon living the high life with a roving eye aimed squarely at Jacqueline Bisset. Currently she’s married to James Franciscus who is a United States Senator and just one step away from the Oval office. While Quinn bides his time waiting for Bisset to fall for his passionate outlook on life he has to contend with current wife, Camilla Sparv, his brother Raf Vallone and his dare devil son Edward Albert.

Spending much of his time on the family yacht in the gorgeous Mediterranean, Quinn seems to be brokering deals on ships that may not exactly be carrying legal goods but he’s very street wise and enlists the shady Charles Durning to offset any problems he may have with the U.S. agencies.

Jacqueline Bisset (als Jacqueline Kennedy), James Franciscus (als John F. Kennedy) Mr. President bittet seine junge Frau, auf den Urlaub mit dem griechischen Reeder zu verzichten Aus dem biographischen Film ,,The Greek Tycoon" (,,Der große Grieche") von J. Lee Thompson. USA 1977 Frei nach der Realität: die Beziehung Aristoteles Onassis' zu Jacqueline Kennedy stand Pate FILMFOTOARCHIV JAUCH UND SCHEIKOWSKI

With Bisset and Franciscus moving into the White House, Quinn is looked upon as an undesirable contact. This doesn’t hinder Bisset from going overseas and spending a few weeks with Quinn aboard his yacht. While the film doesn’t go into it, can you imagine how tongues would start waving in the media crazed world we live in today if such a thing took place?

greek tycoon4

Like the real life J.F.K. , Franciscus is assassinated leaving Bisset cold and alone. In comes Tony with all his swagger and money sweeping her off her feet and back to Greece. He’s now divorced and offers her the world.

Bisset is a bit down on herself but Quinn proudly points out to her, “Bullshit, you’re not unique.” In answer to her saying just that. One of his many romantic lines within.

It’s a love hate relationship with some physical fighting as she tries to keep up with Tony’s passion for life and his over the top performance for J. Lee Thompson’s camera. On their wedding night she throws him out of the bed to which he responds with a firm, “Bitch.” There emotional fisticuff scene to come is far to campy to ever be taken seriously and as the fight continues Tony loves her fire and continually tries to drag her to the bedroom. Hard not to laugh out loud but oh so fun.

No doubt here that Quinn looks like a million bucks and would seem a natural to play the role. After all he is eternally known as Zorba. He even spotlights his Greek dance here one more time, 16 years after his first go around on the Greek Isles. Heck, he even hits the disco dance floor.

quinn disco dancing

I can’t say this is any great piece of film making but it’s fun in a trashy kind of way. Because every scene is melodramatic it seems if it’s been paired down from some mini series of six hours into a two hour format. It’s strictly spotlighting all the “happenings” in the lives of our flashy cast members. Not to be missed is the amount of wrestling scenes Tony participates in. There’s the Bisset bout on the veranda of his stately palace. A shoving match with son Albert. How about an office tussle including pulling Raf Vallone by the legs to pry him loose from underneath a desk and the best of all when Tony takes one for the team while tussling with his totally nude mistress. Yup she’s full frontal though Tony manages to keep his robe on.

While some injuries may have been sustained all the fights end in a loving embrace. Tony Quinn style.

greek tycoon3

Quinn and director J. Lee worked together previously on Greek soil. In 1961 they teamed along with a first rate cast for the rip roaring adventure of the year, The Guns of Navarone. One year after Tycoon they’d team again for a WW2 tale titled The Passage.

Worth tuning into for that hammy soap opera styled epic with what the networks weren’t prepared to show. Plenty of nudity and F-Bombs.

The Ghouls Gallery of Movie Posters

horror stamps

When I narrow the field down to “horror” film stars I usually stick with what I suppose are the usual seven actors. Universal Studios and the designs of Jack Pierce led us to the classic era of horror and stars Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi and Lon Chaney Jr. Of course Lon’s father needs no build up to those who know their history of film and “the man of a thousand faces.”

The second wave of horror brought us the blood red all color look of the classic monsters making stars of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.

Lastly we have Vincent Price who forged his own association with horror. He brushed alongside the classical era of stars though he wasn’t what one would call a horror star until the fifties and the subsequent Poe cycle with director Roger Corman. While never appearing in the Hammer flicks with Chris and Peter he would team up with them in other titles including The Oblong Box, Madhouse and their final teaming, The House of the Long Shadows.

The lost silent with Lon Sr.

This undated photo courtesy of Heritage Auctions shows the movie poster from the 1927 film "London after Midnight." The poster for the film starring Lon Chaney, has sold for $478,000, making it the most valuable movie poster ever sold at public auction. Heritage Auctions in Dallas announced Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, that it is the only poster known to exist for the film in which Chaney, a star of early cinema, appeared as a vampire. (AP Photo/Courtesy of Heritage Auctions)

Boris and Bela. Or if you prefer, Bela and Boris.

“The phone is dead. Do you hear that, Vitus? Even the phone is dead. ”

the black cat poster

“Poe, you are avenged! ”

the raven poster

Lon Jr. and the world of the “Inner Sanctum.”

the frozen ghost

Peter’s final go around as the Baron.

frankenstein and monster from hell

I love this fiery look on Christopher Lee.

dracula a.d.

Good friend Vincent.

“Are you ready for Dr. Phibes? Hmm? ”

phibes poster


White Line Fever (1975)

It’s been well over twenty years since I’ve seen the story of Jan-Michael Vincent and his rig “The Blue Mule.” I loved seeing this as a kid on late night TV all those years ago and I’ve learned that I still love this tale of a young man fighting against crooked money men who run the trucking business in Arizona.


In a collage of photos over the opening of the film we see young Jan-Michael and sexy Kay Lenz celebrating the years of youth and marriage. From there it’s time to discover there dreams and passions. Buying a new rig they embark into the trucking business where Jan-Michael’s father had made a living.

slim pickens

They are about to see that things have changed when going to meet Slim Pickens who handles the shipping yard. Sure Slim is still a good old boy in a cowboy hat and suit but behind him L.Q. Jones is pulling the strings on transporting illegal goods. Honest working Jan-Michael stands his ground refusing play along and before he knows it he’s been busted up pretty good by one of L.Q.’s henchman, Martin Kove.

It doesn’t take Jan-Michael long to realize he’s been blacklisted and in a testosterone fueled scene he pulls out a shotgun and practically scares Slim out of his Nudie suit. With a snide grin L.Q. gives him a trailer to haul leading to another top notch action sequence out on the highways involving dueling rigs. This would be a good time to point out that the musical score by David Nichtern during these sequences really gets the pulse racing.

l.q. in qhite line fever

Joining Jan-Michael during his action sequences is his fathers old driving partner, Sam Laws playing “Pops” who is wonderful here and throws a bit of a race card into the dramatics when his own son thinks his father shouldn’t be hanging with the good looking white boy Jan-Michael.

Other truckers are taking notice of Jan-Michael’s stand against Jones and the real money men led by another mean S.O.B. when he wants to be, R.G. Armstrong. R.G. and his money men Lord over the industry in what is termed as the “glass house.” When murder and intimidation begin to take their toll, the script leads Jan-Michael into a variation on the vigilante theme that was so prevalent in the decade of the seventies.


The ending of his rampage is not to be missed and for those that have seen this film before you’ll know exactly what I am talking about in one of the damnedest stunts we are not likely to ever see again in our current CGI world of film.

Fever was directed and co-written by Jonathan Kaplan who also gave us another vigilante themed title just the year before with Truck Turner. He’s recently been credited as the producer of a documentary titled, That Guy Dick Miller. Miller is a well known character player  having a long association with Roger Corman. In White Line Fever, Miller plays a trucker named Roger Corman. Love the in jokes.

miller and vincent

Great job here of casting members of the Sam Peckinpah stock company to play our country bad asses. L.Q., R.G. and Slim. The only rascal missing is Strother Martin. Any one of these actors make any film that much better. Gives you a rooting interest when they show us their nasty sides.

Jan-Michael Vincent is one of those Hollywood actors that I just hang my head and wonder how it could all go so wrong in real life. On screen this guy had so much charisma during the seventies. I would catch his flicks on TV growing up in the early eighties when he had his Airwolf TV show. I was a fan. Sadly, it wouldn’t be long before one newspaper article after another told of his spiraling off screen problems leading to his downfall.


Looking back at films like this, The Mechanic and Damnation Alley still give us that ultra cool presence he easily displayed on screen with the winning smile to go with it.

This is a must see for fans of seventies action films. Check it out or revisit this ass kicking flick like I just did. Worth the time. Think I’ll go watch again!

blu-ray Review … 10 to Midnight (1983)

My first blu ray purchase from Twilight Time.


I for one have always thought this to be a top notch Charles Bronson thriller. Not quite a slasher film but awfully close with Bronson as a cop looking to take down a crazed killer who commits his murders in the nude.

If I was going to shell out the extra dollars to have one of the 3000 limited release copies then this disc was going to have to have something extra above the trailer that was included on the MGM DVD release I scored a few years back. Thankfully there is an audio commentary here featuring film historian David Del Valle, Bronson’s frequent collaborator and producer, Pancho Kohner and casting director John Crowther. Add in some cool radio spots along with the usual trailer and out came the credit card.


If you are not familiar with this flashy J. Lee Thompson effort it casts Bronson looking to take down killer Gene Davis before he continues his spree of killing. Teamed with young gun Andrew Stevens as his partner the duo conduct their homicide case getting nowhere as Davis has an iron clad alibi for each murder.

Bronson doesn’t exactly play legal here and takes a shot at planting evidence only to have it backfire when Geoffrey Lewis as the defence lawyer gets Stevens to dig for the truth behind the questionable evidence against his client.

With Davis back on the streets he marks Bronson’s daughter, Lisa Eilbacher for death. Time for Bronson the executioner to step forward.

bronson in midnight

The film is presented in widescreen as was the DVD from MGM previously but it’s the commentary that sells it for me. As a fan of the mustached one I find there is generally very little information available other than the usual fare. A couple of early rather bland bios when he was at the height of his fame, films of books and an A&E episode on biography. No definitive book has yet to be written on the man though a good one has been put out on the Death Wish series that I can recommend by Paul Talbot.

bronson death wish

During the commentary overseen by Del Valle, Kohner tells of the films origins and it’s being sold at Cannes based on a title and it’s star. Released by Cannon Films which currently seem to be going through a rediscovery period there is plenty of information here about that studio and it’s caretakers, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus. Bronson along with Chuck Norris would become the studios biggest money makers.

Most of the actors within are touched upon with Andrew Stevens spoken of very highly. Wilford Brimley, Lewis, Davis and company all receive some coverage but the majority of the conversations focus on Bronson’s life and career. Attention is also given to the life and career of producer Kohner whose Mother was Lupita Tovar. She had starred in the 1931 version of Spanish Dracula in the Mina role.

Kohner talks of their past films together including The White Buffalo and their next title in 1984 which turned out to be another exciting Bronson actioner, The Evil That Men Do. John Crowther served as the casting director on that film as well and offers some stories from that film’s production and behind the scenes stories of Bronson and his long time wife, Jill Ireland.


J. Lee Thompson naturally comes into the conversations not just as this film’s director but he also had worked with both Kohner and Bronson repeatedly over the years starting in 1976 on St. Ives. In total J. Lee would direct 9 Bronson films but is probably best remembered for two films of the sixties, The Guns of Navarone and Cape Fear.

Turns out our historian David Del Valle was actually employed by Cannon Films back in their heyday so even he himself serves as more than just a moderator during the film’s running time offering some of his own memories and stories.


Getting back to the film itself I will leave with a quick story…..

When 10 to Midnight was released in 1983 I was not quite old enough to get in as it carried the dreaded R rating. Had to be 18. Still, in my best attempt I approached the booth and attempted to buy a ticket. No I.D. meant no admittance. I wasn’t giving up that easily. I cajoled an older guy (older than me anyway) into getting me a ticket. He passed it off to me and I made my ill fated attempt to gain access to the screening room. That damn lady at the ticket window was too sharp and caught sight of me  giving my ticket to the door man and stormed out of her booth and sent me packing with my tale between my legs. Thankfully the VHS days were fast approaching though I did have to wait another year or so before finally getting to see the action hero of my youth do his thing bringing justice to the streets.

Not for the faint of heart but far more tame than what is now splattered across the screen, 10 to Midnight is a Charles Bronson flick worth catching.

September 2015 in Review

robards in the west

Overdue for a theme I went into a Jason Robards fest of 6 titles for the month. None of which can be compared to Once Upon A Time in the West but then few films actually can be.

Comes A Horseman – Robards Day 1.

Hour of the Gun – Day 2


The Perfect Host – Taking a break from the run of Robards titles I came across this nifty little thriller starring David Hyde Pierce. The film recalls Sleuth when David’s home is invaded by a thief on the run. Frightened and playing a rather weak character, David lets his captor take command until the wine begins to flow and our captor soon becomes the captive to a crazed home owner who may just be a serial killer. It’s bizarre and inventive. Worth a look.

Inherit the Wind – Day 3

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre – Day 4

Raise the Titanic – Day 5

The War Between Men and Women – 1 more Robards title for good measure.

Birdman – I finally caught up with the critically acclaimed film that put Michael Keaton’s name back on the lips of film fans. I liked it though I can easily understand someone claiming it’s too arty for their own personal tastes. I found the in your face style of direction and long takes refreshing from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. Ed Norton, Naomi Watt, Zach Galifianakis lend solid support as well. Life arguably imitates art as a has been film actor known for playing a super hero attempts to launch a Broadway production in the hopes of both finding himself and to be taken seriously as an actor of great depth.

Cattle Town

Flight to Tangier – Jack Palance find on youtube.

The Lady in Question – Cinema history is made when Glenn Ford meets Rita Hayworth for the first time.

Island in the Sky – Joining in on a William Wellman blogathon.


Cleaner – I found this to be a nifty thriller featuring a solid cast from Renny Harlin. Sam Jackson underplays his role here as a cleaner. A man who mops up after the dead. His life is thrown a curve when he cleans up a murder scene only to realize it was never investigated. Ed Harris, Eva Mendes and Luis Guzman get plenty of screen time and Robert Forster turns up briefly as well. While the murder plot is central the film has heart in the scenes between Sam and his on screen daughter played by Keke Palmer.

The Island of Dr. Moreau and Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley

A Bullet For Sandoval – going spaghetti with Ernie Borgnine

St. Vincent – The trailer for this Bill Murray flick has long caught my eye and I’m glad to report this didn’t disappoint. Bill’s quirky humor hits a homerun here as he plays a grumpy no good living next door to Melissa McCarthy and her young son who disrupts Bill’s world of horse races and hookers. Beneath the gruff exterior there beats a heart of gold. Richly rewarding and keep the hankies nearby.


The Shootist – From the heart on John Wayne’s final film for the Lauren Bacall blogathon.

wayne in the shootist

Needful Things

Night of the Howling Beast

The Wild Bunch – A pleasure to revisit this on occasion.


Goin’ South

Confessions of an Opium Eater – No fooling! It’s a real movie.

The Iron Glove

Tell It To The Marines

Bad Man`s River


The Intern – A night out at the movies. Robert DeNiro in what might be the most likable character of his career. He`s a seventy year old intern working as an unlikely assistant to Anne Hathaway who owns a successful company. The jokes are sure to be fairly obvious but there are surprises in store and the movie went places I hadn`t expected. I also thought it showed depth on the part of both leads and their characters. The film does a good job of riding the line between comedy and drama very well and Rene Russo turns up as a love interest for DeNiro. Nice to see the camera still loves her. Bottom line is I liked this film.

Four Frightened People

The Humbling – Sorry Al Pacino and Barry Levinson but I just could not get into this art house styled drama of an actor blurring the lines of reality with his many roles leading to a brief stay at the funny farm. Pacino is never off screen here so you get your monies worth if your a fan. Charles Grodin makes a rare appearance here as Al`s agent and Greta Gerwig plays a young woman infatuated with the elderly Pacino thus entering into an affair with old Al.  Sure I laughed in a few spots but overall pretty disappointing. If I recall the trailer itself may have been funnier.


Jackie Brown – Man, do I love this flick!

Going Hollywood – This month’s Mad Movie Challenge.

Total score 31 movies. 15 new to me titles including one trip to the theater. 16 rewatches including two faves. The Wild Bunch and Jackie Brown. Then there is The Shootist which gets me emotional every time.