The Princess Comes Across (1936)

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Paramount Pictures uses the tried and true backdrop of a ship crossing the ocean on it’s way to North America for an excuse to join frequent co stars Carole Lombard and Fred MacMurray together in one of their four co starring features during the mid thirties. This time out Carole is a Swedish Princess on her way to America to become a motion picture star and continue her life of luxury. When asked who her favorite movie star is, she seductively responds Mickey Mooose. As for Fred, he’s a band leader on his way home after a tour on the European continent. Our stars first cross paths quite innocently. Fred has the Royal suite and ships Captain George Barbier is trying to convince him to give it up to the Swedish Princess but Fred isn’t budging. Well, not until he gets a look at the Swedish beauty.

As it turns out we have a blackmailer aboard and all might not be as it seems including our leading players. Things get real prickly when the blackmailer turns up dead in Lombard’s suite. From here the film takes a surprising turn to the who done it genre. Sig Ruman and Mischa Auer are among our on board detectives who are out to unveil the killer and fingers are pointing at Carole. What’s Fred to do? I’m not telling but have a strong suspicion you’ll figure it out.

For his stint as a bandleader Fred even sings a lively song in this one and has great support from William Frawley as his go to guy for all things legal or illegal if necessary. Frawley is always a welcome sight on any cast list as are most of the faces who fill out the characters making the ocean crossing on  the Paramount back lot. He would of course go on to be a cast member of Fred’s My Three Sons years later.

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Once again Fred MacMurray proves he could play light comedy or get tough when needed. He was a great go to guy when casting directors were looking for someone to play opposite most of the leading ladies of the era. Lombard gets plenty of costume changes which was customary for the times and one can’t help but feel cheated every time you see her in a film due to her tragic passing. She had so much more to give us.

The Liebster Award !

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Well as this is all new to me I have to say thanks for tuning in  to Marta at Ramblings of a Cinephile who has been kind enough to swing this my way. I am so tempted to stand on the back of my desk chair and hop to the back of the couch and make my way to the television set and put another movie in the player. Kind of like that Italian guy.

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In accordance to the rules, here are my responses to the 11 questions asked of me.

1. Favorite vacation spot?  St. Lucia

2. Favorite Color? Blue

3. Favorite Dessert? Chocolate Cake and Vanilla Ice Cream

4. Favorite B/W Movie? The Maltese Falcon

5. Favorite Superhero? Super Stone

6. Favorite TV Show? Andy Griffith Show….who wouldn’t want to live in Mayberry?

7.Favorite Book? Bram Stoker’s Dracula

8. Favorite Beatles Song? Hard Day’s Night…I guess. Country boy here.

9. Favorite Dog Breed? St. Bernard. Mine weighs in at a trim 190lbs.

10.Favorite Beverage? Cold glass of Lemonade.

11. Favorite Nerdy Franchise? Original 5 Planet of the Apes Films.

My nominees for the Liebster Award that should be checked out go to.

http://tensecondsfromnow.wordpress.com/

http://filmgeek101.wordpress.com/

http://monsterminions.wordpress.com/

http://bloodymurder.wordpress.com/

http://bogiefilmblog.wordpress.com/

http://therosebudcinema.wordpress.com/

http://davescorneroftheuniverse.wordpress.com/

http://thetimothycareyexperience.com/

http://forgottenfilmcast.wordpress.com/

Liebster terms & conditions: There’s no obligation to participate, and a money-back guarantee if you’re not completely satisfied by this nomination.* The bloggers who have been nominated must link back to the person who nominated them. Nominees must answer the eleven questions given to them by the person who nominated them. Those nominated must choose eleven of their favorite bloggers who have less than 200 followers to answer their own set of questions. When you are nominated, you cannot nominate the person who nominated you. * No money changed hands during the making of this post.

Yes I did steal the above quotation from fellow blogger and mad movie challenge pal Kristina at Speakeasy who was kind enough to link me as a nominee as well.

 

Pier 23 (1951)

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If it wasn’t for a VCI Entertainment collection of forgotten Noirs I am quite sure I would never have seen this film let alone ever even heard of it. After watching all 57 minutes of it (yes that’s all) I realized it’s not all that good and probably padded the lower third of a triple feature way back in the day. Having said that there are a couple positives here and standing front and center is the fact that Hugh Beaumont does as a pretty good job here in the lead as a store owner on the docks who has a knack for dabbling with clients from the wrong side of the tracks.

Beaumont’s voice over narration works well with lines like “She was a tall blonde with lots of speed.” True to the genre he wears a trench coat but trades in the dangling cigarette for a pipe which can double as a prop gun in his coat pocket when trying to corner a suspect. The fact that some of the filming is on location helps as does a couple familiar faces including strongman Mike Mazurki and would be bombshell Joi Lansing. We even get Edward Brophy as Beaumont’s drunken partner and confidante.

The unusual thing is that the film is broken into 2 separate cases that have nothing to do with the other. So at the half way point case one is solved and on to the next dame waiting in his office holding a gun on him. Episodic to say the least. I can only assume this was meant for television one way or another. Although this is earlier than Darren McGavin’s Mike Hammer show that’s what I felt like I was watching when I realized the first case is really over and on to the next episode.

Hugh Beaumont dabbled in film for years and even visited The Mole People before achieving his greatest role as Ward Cleaver who was always befuddled by the Beaver and trying to stay calm at the toughest of times. Mike Mazurki appears here quite suitably as The Ape, a huge wrestler who sometimes squeezes a might to hard and curvy Joi Lansing went on to a career in low budget efforts and an occasional visit to The Beverly Hillbillies.

In Search of the Castaways (1962)

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For this Jules Verne tale Hayley Mills hooks up with Walt Disney studios for a live action adventure aimed at the kiddies back in the day. Passable time filler but no where near the success that Disney proved with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Joining Mills in the search for her castaway Father is Maurice Chevalier, Michael Anderson Jr. and Wilfrid Hyde White. Chevalier plays a French professor helping Mills and her brother in their search while White plays the Owner of a fleet of ships that Mill’s father worked for.  Their journeys lead them around the globe battling through earthquakes and volcanoes not to mention an original cad in the form of George Sanders who once again proves untrustworthy. No surprise there if you know anything of Sanders career in film.

This Disney production was directed by Robert Stevenson who worked mainly for Uncle Walt from Old Yeller through to the Flubber films and Herbie the Love Bug as well. Throughout the films 98 minute running time we get songs from Chevalier and Hayley as they go about crossing the globe with plenty of matte shots and back screen projections to give us that location feeling which of course never works. I think the film was trying to emulate the James Mason film from 1959 and another Jules Verne title, Journey To The Center of the Earth but doesn’t come close to succeeding if that was the intention. There is a hokey slay ride down a mountain and some decent model ships crossing the ocean to keep the young ones entertained but overall this is for the little ones or followers of the star attractions.

The year previous to this title Mills had been in a fan favorite The Parent Trap for Disney which was a much more entertaining film than this. Michael Anderson Jr. had just appeared opposite Robert Mitchum in The Sundowners and would move on to play a lead role in the rousing John Wayne adventure The Sons of Katie Elder in 1965. The elder statesmen of the film, Chevalier, White and Sanders had of course been around for years and would all continue to act in films till their inevitable passings.

For a Jules Verne on screen adventure I would suggest sticking to Under the Sea from 1954 or Center of the Earth from 1959.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973)

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The 1970′s was an interesting era in that the TV Movie of the week was a regular event from the top networks. There was what I like to call the disease of the week movies, the family dramas and an abundance of horror films which are the ones that suited me just fine. By the time I was seeing them they were pretty much 5 to 10 years old but they were regular fodder for late night showings in reruns. Some of them are fondly remembered from Dark Night of the Scarecrow to the films of Dan Curtis(need to talk about those soon!) to Spielberg’s Duel.

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Another plus in the movie of the week was that there was usually an abundance of familiar faces and for this 74 minute thriller we get Kim Darby and Jim Hutton as a couple who move into an old mansion that has secrets to hide. Turning up as an elderly carpenter is William Demarest who gives Darby a stern warning to leave the fireplace bricked up in the downstairs office. Sure! Like that’s gonna happen. Evil spirits in the form of troll like creatures with pumpkins for heads turn up and start to wreak havoc on the cast assembled by director John Newland. Newland was mainly a television director and worked on series ranging from Thriller to Star Trek and Fantasy Island.

Although there isn’t anything wrong with this effort I didn’t see it way back in the day so it doesn’t hold the memories of a Trilogy of Terror or The Screaming Woman for me. Then again for Guillermo Del Toro the film obviously meant something to him as he spearheaded the 2011 remake of the same name. There is an abundance of tele films that have all but disappeared but occasionally surface through archive editions or youtube. Seek them out.

As for our cast, Kim Darby cemented her place in the movies by giving John Wayne all he could handle in True Grit and Jim Hutton was a noted leading man for some time before his untimely death in 1979. William Demarest who had been in films for decades was nearing the end but would reunite with Hutton on the latter’s Ellery Queen mystery show in 1975. Go to a book from Fraser A. Sherman for a nice guide on this genre of television films from McFarland Publishing.

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24 Hours to Kill (1965)

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Since his passing last week I have been meaning to dig thru the titles I have starring The Mick. I came upon this flick that paired Mickey Rooney and former Tarzan Lex Barker. Something a little different from a time period where Rooney had aged into a solid character actor.

For this 94 minute euro thriller from producer Harry Alan Towers Rooney stars as a member of pilot Barker’s flight crew who due to a faulty engine have been rerouted to Beirut. From the moment the plane touches down, Rooney is sweating bullets and will be dodging them before long. It seems he has a history with a local smuggling ring led by Walter Slezak. Slezak reminds me a little of Sydney Greenstreet here as he wants a certain shipment returned and isn’t about to let Barker step in his way when it comes to exacting his vengeance on pint sized Mickey.

Overall this is another passable entry in the Rooney canon. Director Peter Bezencenet must have had a heck of a time trying to frame Rooney and Barker when they are on screen together. Rooney’s head appears at the bottom of the frame and Barker must have been slouching trying to keep his head low enough to stay in frame!

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Nice location work here as well during the plane’s stop over as our crew tries to take in the sights while at the same time stay a step ahead of Slezak’s army.

Fans of euro thrillers, Christopher Lee and exploitation cinema should be familiar with producer Towers. He was behind many of Lee’s films including the Fu Manchu series and would be responsible for funding many of Jess Franco’s films over the years. One of this films leading ladies was Maria Rohm who would marry Towers and retire from the acting profession.

Not great but by no means bad. If you have 94 minutes to kill then check out 24 Hours to Kill and appreciate another effort from a Hollywood legend. Alas we don’t have many left.

Five Came Back (2014) by Mark Harris

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After spotting this book on the shelf at the local bookstore it took me all of two seconds to decide I wanted to read it. What we have here is a well researched book from author Mark Harris on the military careers of 5 influential directors who were all heavyweights in Hollywood as America entered the war. For the better part of the next 4 years these men were filming footage of the real thing and not an attack by warring armies on the Hollywood back lots.

The book covers the real life war stories of John Ford, George Stevens, John Huston, William Wyler and Frank Capra. It goes into detail on there contribution to filming the war effort and getting the necessary documentaries and propaganda on to movie screens across North America. Covered is Ford and the battle of Midway, his efforts on D-Day and subsequent filming of They Were Expendable. Huston and the real story behind the battle of San Pietro. Capra’s position as an overseer of the films and what could be released. Wyler’s work on the documentary Memphis Belle and subsequent hearing loss while filming from the bellies of aircraft. Stevens from D-Day to his filming the atrocities at Dachau and the life changing effects it would have on him. It was his footage that would be used at the Nuremberg trials.

Admittedly the book probably won’t interest the mainstream but for those who are a student of WW2 or classic Hollywood history then there is much to be found here. Politics of the Armed Forces and the studio machine play havoc with our main characters throughout. After all these men were Generals on the sound stages of Hollywood. In adjusting to life back in tinsel town it’s interesting to see how the careers of the 5 directors play out. Capra filmed It’s a Wonderful Life. Huston would eventually get to work on Sierra Madre and stay busy till the end of his life. Ford would move almost exclusively towards the western for the balance of his career and solidify his association with John Wayne. Wyler would embark upon The Best Years of Our Lives as a way to make peace with himself. Then there’s George Stevens and the nightmare of Dachau that would influence his career choices as he moved from light romps to A Place In the Sun, Shane and The Diary of Anne Frank.

All in all worth the time if so inclined. Ironically there is a good movie in here somewhere.

 

Someone Behind the Door (1971)

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In the late sixties and early seventies action superstar Charles Bronson found himself like many contemporaries in Europe making films, no doubt due to the success Clint Eastwood had in the Leone films.While overseas Bronson made 2 films that were surprisingly in the Hitchcock mold. This so-so effort from  director Nicolas Gessner teamed him with Anthony Perkins. The other being an earlier little gem called Rider On the Rain.

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For this odd movie in the Bronson library he is cast as a stranger wandering the beach with amnesia. Delivered into the hands of noted doctor Perkins the plot begins to take shape. Perkins has pieced together who or rather what Bronson is and decides to use him as a pawn in a scheme to rid himself of his unfaithful wife and her lover. What better way than to convince a murderous amnesiac that your wife is actually his. So goes the plot in this stage bound effort that was scripted by Jacques Robert who also wrote the source novel the film is based on.

As is customary with Perkins he is rather quirky and suspicious from the outset as he goes about setting up Bronson as an instrument of jealous revenge. No surprise that Perkins wife is portrayed by Jill Ireland who was of course Mrs. Charles Bronson. This was the 5th of their 15 appearances together before her untimely death due to cancer. As a Bronson fan it’s hard to criticize here (fan’s are always forgiving) but I must admit he’s better when he does less. Some of his dialogue doesn’t fit the macho tough guy although this time out his character is supposed to be confused and searching for his identity. It’s just that some of the scenes with Perkins come off as kind of overdone and occasionally goofy. Bronson was still 3 years away from his iconic hit Death Wish whereas Perkins was 11 years past his and another 12 to reviving it and to a certain degree his career in Psycho II.

By no means a classic, the general idea here is pretty good and in better hands this could have worked a lot better. Bronson and Perkins are an odd couple for sure but then I have generally found Perkins opposite anyone to be a bit odd post 1970. The film has been in public domain and a regular title in bargain bins on cheap labels so it was nice to pick up a widescreen release from Lionsgate on DVD recently with a cool box cover.

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The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938)

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Samuel Goldwyn it seems to me always loved to see his name first over all productions he was in charge of and I guess you can’t hold that against him. Generally speaking he made some pretty well known classics with The Best Years of Our Lives front and center. Alas, this isn’t one of them and is considered one of his and Gary Coopers missteps.

The film looks to me like it should have been made as a 12 part serial which was a popular form of entertainment during the era this script was put into production. It has the backdrop along with a hero and villain to do just that over a 12 part adventure. We get Cooper and his manservant on a ship wreck, stranded in desert sandstorms and scaling snow covered peaks on his way to China. This all in the first 20 minutes! Could have easily turned that into the first 3 parts.

Upon Coop’s arrival in China we get his introduction to spaghetti and firecrackers from H.B. Warner as well as meeting the latest Samuel Goldwyn discovery Sigrid Gurie. Who you say? The next Garbo! Or so thought Sam. It’s hard sometimes to look back at these films and judge them. Despite the fact that we are in China and there are plenty of Asian bit parts for real Asian stand ins, there isn’t a real Chinese actor in the mix. Alan Hale turns up as a warlord, Binnie Barnes as a temptress and a very young Lana Turner as peasant girl. All with eye makeup to give them an Asian look. Cooper plays the Italian Marco Polo in a style that resembles his shy befuddled Deeds with a twist of the lover that Coop supposedly was off screen around tinsel town.

The only actor in the production that suits his role is Mr. Basil Rathbone as the evil Minister of State. It’s essentially a replay of his role in The Adventures of Robin Hood. A role that suits Basil just fine. Though Rathbone always made for a good villain he was of course about to embark on his career defining role as the detective from 221 B Baker Street.

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The film is directed by Archie Mayo who just two years earlier gave us the Bogart breakthrough The Petrified Forest and would retire from directing duties in 1946. No where near as bad as it’s been said, just one of those enjoyable “bad” films with Cooper giving the ladies a lesson in kissing that one shouldn’t miss out on.

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