Trouble Along the Way (1953)

Take a dash of Going My Way, a pinch of Leo McCarey and a healthy dose of John Ford. Now stir in the skills of Michael Curtiz and the dramatic side of John Wayne with that hint of romanticism and voila! we have this story of St. Anthony’s College and it’s unlikely saviour.

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Before the Duke turns up we’ll find that the College in question is run by the aging Rector Charles Coburn. A fine choice to fill in a role normally reserved for Barry Fitzgerald. He has been told that the school he has been with his entire life is to be closed due to a profit and loss margin. The school is in severe debt with little or no hope of sustaining a reasonable budget.

TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY, John Wayne, Charles Coburn, 1953

Coburn hits upon the idea of a football team and ticket sales. He’s a feisty old fox and refuses to let his school go down without putting up a fight. Now he needs to find an inexpensive football coach to take the ball and run with it. Enter a man looking for redemption.

TROUBLE ALONG THE WAY, John Wayne, 1953

Duke stars here as a disgraced University coach trying to raise a young girl on his own after throwing his wife out five years previously. He’s become a bookie to make ends meet and knows his way around the sporting games as well as a pool hall. His daughter, wonderfully played by Sherry Jackson is far too street smart for her age. The two have a great rapport in a seemingly happy life that is about to take a turn when the scornful ex re-enters their lives. It’s none other than one of the Queen’s of Noir femme fatales, Marie Windsor. Once again she’s a cold hearted dish placing her own wants above all else.

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As the title of the film points out, there will be trouble along the way to Duke’s redemption, the schools profitability and the Duke-Windsor court room battle that sees Donna Reed enter the picture. She’s been appointed by the court to see if in fact Duke is a good provider for his young girl not to mention is he raising in her in a suitable environment. Do I need to spell out for you readers that there might be romance in the air now that Duke has proven himself a leading man of charm and desire one year after Ford’s classc The Quiet Man. Duke’s role in The Quiet Man is actually referenced in this film’s trailer as the advertisers were obviously banking on his new found casting as a romantic lead.

This Curtiz effort pushes the sentimental angles from both the Duke and the Charles Coburn stories within. Coburn is one of those great scene stealers. Outwardly he’s a cantankerous old codger but inwardly a man of great sentiment. Here he has a wonderful straight man appearing as a young priest in his school. It’s Dabbs Greer. I get a good laugh when I see Dabbs as he seemed to play countless men of the cloth. Notably the Reverend Alden in the long running Little House on the Prairie.

There’s plenty of humor in here and a few other well known faces. Leif Erickson, Frank Ferguson and a young Chuck Connors helping Duke on the sidelines. While I didn’t spot him a pre stardom James Dean is supposedly in here somewhere in a crowd scene. Feel free to send me a pic or post the time of his appearance and I’ll check it out.

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John Wayne does fine here as the down on his luck coach trying to hold on to his little girl. Throw in the romantic angle and Wayne’s winning on screen personality takes over. Sure the scenes with Reed are hard to swallow at times but it’s so easy to overlook if you buy into the Wayne legend and I’m an easy mark when it comes to “The Duke.”

 

 

Frankenstein Unbound (1990)

When I learned that Janet aka Sister Celluloid was hosting the “Love Hurt” blogathon as a tribute to the work of John Hurt I immediately thought of two films to dwell on. One was the final film from Sam Peckinpah titled The Osterman Weekend, the other this throwback title from Roger Corman. To put it simply, I settled on this one because I love both the film poster and the legend of Mary Shelley’s Monster.

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I recall when this film hit the local art house theater in my hometown. The importance of it wasn’t so much who was in it but the fact that it was a return to the director’s chair of Roger Corman. Here’s the guy who made countless cheesy black and whites and then treated me to hours of late show thrills and scares with the Vincent Price – Poe cycle. Somehow it seemed fitting that if Corman was to return it would be with a tale that mingled the future of science with the Gothic era,

Our featured performer, John Hurt stars as a scientist in the year 2031. He’s in L.A. perfecting a modern day weapon that is based on atomic energy. His “ray gun” destroys it’s intended targets to the point of them disintegrating or if you prefer just disappearing. The side effect to his futuristic weapon is that it creates time slips. Holes in time if you will. Strange clouds pass overhead and the skies can open up creating something that reminds one of a black hole.

Stars JOHN HURT.   Licenced by CHANNEL 5 BROADCASTING. C5 Stills: 0207 550 5509.  Free for editorial press and listings use in connection with the current broadcast of Channel 5 programmes only.  This Image may only be reproduced with the prior written consent of Channel 5.  Not for any form of advertising, internet use or in connection with the sale of any product.

Sure enough our modern day Frankenstein, Mr. Hurt is lifted into the clouds with his futuristic Knight Rider styled car and deposited in 1817 Switzerland where the script will twist fact with fiction.

Hurt being a fish out of water with his modern clothes is quickly made out as a stranger and by chance comes face to face at a local inn with Raul Julia portraying Victor Frankenstein. It’s a short meeting but one where both are fascinated by the other. Hurt for obvious reasons and Julia for the strange man in front of him with weird clothing and a wristwatch that apparently is controlled by electricity of which factors in to his lurid experiments. Hurt has the advantage here of history being on his side. He knows Julia’s future and of his notoriety.

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Hurt will also meet Mary Shelley. He’s somewhat star struck by the young woman who would go on to write the supposed fictitious novel that is of course still in print to this day. Shelley is played by Bridget Fonda. The nice trivia angle here is the fact that her father Peter worked with Corman back in the days of the motorcycle craze mixed with the LSD trips of those AIP flicks.

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“I am a scientist! I cannot sin!” This from Julia’s God like mad scientist when discussing ethics with Hurt who wants Julia to admit to a monster he has created who is terrorizing the countryside.

Portraying the Monster is Nick Brimble. It’s an intriguing design from Nick Dudman and a far different look than the Karloff or Lee versions from years past. This Monster can speak and reason though it’s of a warped nature where violence overwhelms his being. What he does want is a mate. This keeps the plot moving somewhat in the direction of the original novel.

Hurt will of course be forced into the proceedings of creating a female along with Julia for what Hurt refers to as “an abomination in the eyes of God.” He though has a few ideas of his own leading to an arctic showdown.

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I won’t go any further with the plot though I would like to point out that despite the film’s holes and for me a lack of understanding towards the end, I still like this film immensely. I think mainly because it deals with the Frankenstein legend and giving us the impression that Mary Shelley based her novel on a real life incident  That it is indeed far from being a piece of fiction dreamt up on a stormy night of games and challenges as history tells us.

John Hurt perfectly fits into the role of a futuristic scientist who has created a monster all his own. On the flip side he seems well suited to the era of 1817 he is transported in time back to. Shouldn’t be much of a surprise when one looks over his filmography. It’s an extensive list with films based in various eras throughout history.

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On the flip side, Raul Julia is a rather cruel Victor. So was Peter Cushing yet Peter drew us in to his macabre experiments and desire to create life at all costs. Then again with Peter perhaps it was his arrogance and self righteousness that held our attention for a series of films. Julia is not likable here despite being an extremely likable actor who left us far to soon.

There’s a good score in here as well from Carl Davis and plenty of atmospheric shots of the Monster trailing a coach late at night as he goes about seeking his revenge by murderous means. They reminded me of the many coach rides through the woods in countless Hammer productions where one knew evil was lurking.

Academy Award winner Roger Corman would once again return to producing thus never directing another picture again. Sad but to be honest the time for the old fashioned horrors that Corman was essentially associated with have left us and while attempts have been made to reinvigorate their stories into modern films they have generally fallen flat.  That won’t stop me from revisiting this title again in the future or plenty of other Corman titles of which I was raised on.

If you haven’t seen this one, check it out along with many of the other titles that our featured actor has appeared in. John Hurt has been and remains a strong presence in films that he has blessed us with.

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Victory (1981)

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Legendary director John Huston has been associated with many of Hollywood’s greatest icons. Bogie being the most prevalent. Connery, Duke, Mitchum. Gable and Monroe’s final film. So for those not “in the know” let’s add Sylvester Stallone’s name to the list. Fan or not he’s an icon of cinema over the last forty years.

This WW2 film presents somewhat of a hybrid plot line. It’s a dash of The Great Escape, Stalag 17 and The Longest Yard all rolled into one. It also reteams Michael Caine with John Huston. Their previous go around together is for some, Huston’s best work. The Man Who Would Be King.

The plot is a simple one and Huston wastes little time in setting it’s direction. After the killing of an escapee in the film’s opening moments a selection of officers and Geneva Convention Red Cross representatives arrive at the prisoner of war camp. Among the German officers is Max Von Sydow. He takes note that the POW’s are playing soccer as a form of recreation. Acting as coach and referee is Caine. Max recognizes him as former pro player prior to the outbreak of war. Unlike the guards vs. the inmates of The Longest Yard, the proposal is a select group of former pros now in the camps vs. a team of Germany’s best.

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With no soccer skills to his name but a burning desire to escape, Sly is enlisted as the team’s trainer and promptly goes about trying to upstage the other actors with a routine that reminded me of Don Knotts repeating everything that Andy Griffith might say to jail house guests. Most of the film source books I have read over the years don’t speak to kindly of Sly’s inflated ego during this films production.

The game is to be used as a backdrop for a mass escape plan when it is decided that the game will be played in Paris. Serving as the game’s play by play announcer we’ll see Anton Diffring turn up though his voice has been dubbed by another for no good reason I can think of. With the score seemingly out of reach, our out of shape and malnourished inmates on the team will have to make a hefty decision at half time.

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Our trio of well known stars do their best in this odd ball entry in the career of Huston. At the end of the day I found the German’s weren’t mean enough as history has shown. Stallone as an inmate looks like he’s ready for a rematch with Apollo Creed as opposed to wearing rags and looking frail. Caine is amusing as he looks nowhere in the condition needed to play soccer. It isn’t because he’s malnourished either. Not with the paunch he’s hiding under his shirt.

Max Von Sydow comes off the best with dignity befitting an officer and has high hopes of a great sporting contest where grudges and talk of war would be left in the dressing rooms. His superiors don’t quite share his enthusiasm for fair play.

max von sydow in victory

The game itself isn’t exactly much to witness over the first half and generated very little emotion. Good or bad. Not wanting to play spoiler here but just remember that Sly is in here and there’s another half to play.

stallone in victory

The game is apparently littered with real life players of whom I know little about though world famous player Pele is in a featured role and gets plenty of opportunity to display his skills with a soccer ball.

I don’t mean to be to harsh on this film though I did enjoy poking a bit of fun at it. It’s a formula picture starring three well known actors and with the Huston name attached to it one shouldn’t so easily brush it aside. At the end of the day it’s watchable though not memorable.

A Promise is A Promise …… The Royal Tenenbaums Review by Aletia McKinnon

Around the house here Number 2 Son Kirk has a young lady he seems to be spending quite a bit of time with and for her Grade 11 Media Studies class she was to hand in a paper on a film of her choosing so she went about watching the films of Wes Anderson and settled on this effort which I must happily point out is one of my go to films starring Gene Hackman. Mr. Hackman is someone this site has always been a big supporter of. Click here for more on Gene. I promised our young budding film fanatic that I would feature her and the paper as a guest here on Mike’s Take.

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Here’s Aletia’s “Take” on the 2001 film.

Creative, quirky, dramatic and fantastic. These are just a few words that describe the movie. The Royal Tenenbaums is about Royal Tenenbaum and how he is trying to mend his family problems from the past. He wants to leave a positive impact on them before he dies. There are many reasons why this movie is so great, but the three which stand out the most to me are the plot, setting and camera style.

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The film is written and co-written by Wes Anderson and his good friend Owen Wilson; who also stars in the film.Because of this, the story carries their creative touch. They have worked together in writing films with each other for many years now starting with Wes’ first full length film Bottle Rocket (1996). Tenenbaums comes a long way in terms of development of characters and story. In the movie the plot brings the characters together to solve their problems from the past. The plot is creative and insightful. This is shown in the film because the events that unravel are about family issues, everyone can relate to them. It is also a story about redemption, Royal Tenenbaum trying to redeem his good qualities and make up for time lost when his kids were young. For example he tries to connect with his grandchildren who he has never met before. The plot is reinforced with other creative aspects  used in the film industry, i.e. actors, characters and more. With Wes’ quirky style of writing, it helps enhance the overall plot of the film and set up for a great setting.

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“Royal Tenenbaum bought the house on Archer Avenue in the winter of his thirty-fifth year.” in the movie, the setting really helps establish a certain atmosphere which the film needs. This ties all the characters together by putting them all in the same place at the same time. The setting also works well because it allows every character to have their own defining moments. The atmosphere created helps set up the film for certain camera styles and effects to be used.

Wes Anderson has a certain style when it comes to directing films. He likes to keep his frames symmetrical and he uses different patterns to help extenuate a scene. In this movie he uses certain camera angles and distances to help strengthen the emotion found in a scene. This is shown in the scene by the way of the greenline bus when Ritchie’s adopted sister, Margot, comes to pick him up.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Startraks Photo / Rex Features (334917c) LUKE WILSON, GWYNETH PALTROW,GENE HACKMAN BEN STILLER AND ANJELICA HUSTON SET OF THE NEW FILM "THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS" NEW YORK AMERICA 02 APR 2001

I believe that The Royal Tenenbaums is in fact the best movie Wes Anderson has created so far. Directorially it is a piece of art, scripturally you can relate it to your own family feuds. This movie use of camera shots and angles helps emphasize the plot and setting created for the audience. It is truly a great film to watch.

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The Brighton Strangler (1945)

New Years Eve, a foggy night, Big Ben and a romantic couple on a rooftop where the young woman is about to uncover a deadly secret.

“There will be no New Year for you. You’ll go out with the old one.”

So says actor John Loder portraying famed actor of the stage Reginald Parker. He’s been starring as the title character in a successful play in England during the air raids of WW2. After a long run the play is shutting down as the season is over and Loder plans on joining his wife in the country for a restful break from the rigors of fame.

brighton poster

After the theater has emptied Loder remains when German planes begin dropping bombs on the city. The theater suffers extensive damage and with some high quality effects Loder is struck down sustaining a serious head injury. As he comes to the lines begin to blur between reality and his stage role of Edward Grey aka The Brighton Strangler.

Wandering through the streets he happens upon a stranger who innocently asks a question that is also a line from the play. This shifts his mind towards fully assuming the wrong identity. The plot is set in motion.

Loder winds up connected to a young couple played by June Duprez and Michael St. Angel in a village outside of England. He’ll mistake long time character actor Ian Wolfe as a magistrate who put him away years ago and the films first killing takes place. Up until this point I wasn’t really sure if this RKO production was going to go quite this far. Now there’s no turning back.

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The town constable is seeking out a killer and other than the new stranger in town he has no leads. On the surface Loder’s new identity is that of a gentle man passing himself off as a writer and Miss Duprez thinks him a perfectly nice individual. Her hubby St. Angel isn’t quite so sure.

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Loder will murder again during the film’s brief 67 minute running time and it’s by pure coincidence that will lead St. Angel to the authorities and in turn pursuit of Loder along with the police. Can he arrive in time to prevent the next victim?

This proved to be a nifty little “B” programmer that was more than worthy of my 67 minutes. While I knew where the film was headed I wasn’t sure it was going all in towards the murder angle. It did and it easily held my attention.

In one of those “what if” moments I thought that if only Val Lewton had gotten hold of this it may have a better reputation. The plot plays like one of his thrillers and it was during this time that he had Boris Karloff working alongside with him. Not much of a stretch to see Boris in the role bringing to it that sense of grandiose. As it stands it was directed by Max Nosseck under the guidance of Producer Herman Schlom.

karloff and loder

Then again on the flip of a coin it could have been a Monogram potboiler with Mr. Zucco or Poor Bela. Sorry boys. No offence meant as I have seen most of your Monogram library of titles and will probably revisit them again.

It’s also worth mentioning that this plot line is somewhat similar to that of Ronald Colman’s Oscar winning turn in A Double Life where his stage role began to dominate his own being away from the footlights. This beat Colman’s film to the screen by a couple of years though I have no idea of the gestation period of the Oscar winner.

Worth a look for fans of the B category. Turns up on TCM occasionally. Give it a look.

 

Trivial Pursuit : Silver Screen Edition Part 1

While I won’t take credit for knowing every answer in the famed trivia game that originated here in my home country of Canada I will say that when playing the movie edition I was quickly sought out as a team mate in a room full of people.

This was a board game that was in our home and along with Monopoly and Sorry one of the only ones I recall the entire family playing around the kitchen table. Once we added the silver screen edition to the choice of subjects I took a jump in the betting favorite though my Mom wasn’t far behind.

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Scroll slowly as the answers are at the bottom.

Keeping things in an interactive mode I thought every now and then I might post a card from the game itself with it’s six questions of varying topics. Feel free to pipe in with the answers if you feel like it. Settings, Titles, Off Screen, On Screen, Producers, Portrayals.

The reason for selecting this card as my first go around on this line of posts is that three of the questions involve an actor who more than any other I have always referred to as “friend” despite never once meeting him in my life. Perhaps it’s because he was always winking at us and seemed to be having so much fun himself. The film in question is also one of the most enjoyable of his lengthy career and if you have the stomach for it it’s one of the better black comedies your likely to see.

So just what is the official name of the Creature who so deeply wanted to keep Julie Adams for himself?

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If your not sure of that MGM magnate does this help?

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As for the song “You Light Up My Life” I remember as a kid it was a big hit and sung by Debby Boone but I’ve never seen the film where it played prominently winning an Oscar.

Hope you got them all correct. Wow, this is as close as I’ll ever come to feeling like Alex Trebek. Or even the impostor below.

ferrell as trebek

and the answers are……..

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Gotta love that second question. Trying to trip us all up!

 

The Vengeance of She (1968)

With Kristina over at Speakeasy featuring two versions of H. Rider Haggard’s famed story (1935 and 1965) I thought it was time to look back at the sequel to the 1965 Hammer Films release that featured Ursula Andress as “She who must be obeyed.” This time out the leading character is played by Olinka Berova subbing in for Miss Andress.

Who you say? According to the films trailer it’s Olinka Berova. “A new star. A new face. A new woman!”

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John Richardson returns from the 1965 film and has mesmerist Derek Godfrey using his powers of persuasion to lure lovely Olinka to the hidden city and join Richardson in the blue flame that guarantees immortality. On her journey she sidesteps everything from sexually aggressive truck drivers to the slave trade. All the while Edward Judd is trying to get to the bottom of her nightmares with little success and gives in to seeing her through on her trek to the unknown.

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Starting out in a rather dreamy opening we find Olinka making her way along highways till finally stowing away on a boat commanded by Colin Blakely and featuring Judd as a guest who takes a certain interest in our fair haired damsel in distress.

Hammer regular Andre Morell shows up as a magician of sorts who battles the forces of Godfrey to save our lovely lass but comes up short. “She” is once again heading to her fate at Richardson’s side. Morell made a really fine Watson in the studios Hound of the Baskervilles opposite Peter Cushing’s Sherlock Holmes back in 1959.

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After escaping death in the desert our two leading actors finally enter the underground city where Olinka is immediately worshipped by those around her and poor Mr. Judd is imprisoned though he is treated to an exotic dance and more if he cares to partake. By this point in the film his heart has been captured by the stunning full figured curves of Miss Berova whose real name happens to be Olga Schoberova.

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There is more going on in this popcorn plot than just the Olinka story. Richardson yearns for his love of the first film and Olinka is a pretty good substitute for Ursula in the measurements department. Our evil character is brought forth by the occultist Godfrey who controls the mind of Olinka and wants nothing more than to enter the life giving blue flame himself so that he may become ruler.

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With a little help along the way Judd just might be able to find his way through the cavernous city to the secret chamber where the a magical star will cast it’s rays down to Earth and ignite the flames of life. It’s here that the struggle for dominance and power will take place between the leads in this so so sequel to the earlier film. This time directed by Cliff Owen in his only film assignment from the famed British studio.

John Richardson who returns here as Killikrates sandwiched the famous One Million Years B.C. from Hammer and Ray Harryhausen in between his two She films. Talk about a trio of gorgeous leading ladies in quick succession. Two of which I think it is safe to say are universally considered two of the most gorgeous women of the era. I’m speaking of Raquel and Ursula. Sorry Olinka. Richardson’s role almost serves as a role reversal from Ursula’s in the first film. It is he awaiting the reincarnation of his lost love as opposed to her in the first film

No classic here but it fits in with a sub genre of titles that Hammer were putting out during the era. The Viking Queen, Prehistoric Women and The Lost Continent.