Nick of Time (1995)

“Who are you?”

“I’m the guy who’s gonna kill you’re daughter if you don’t get moving.”

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That’s a strong argument to do as Christopher Walken says. It’s up to Johnny Depp to decide how to play along with our villain long enough to find a way out of this assassination plot he’s found himself embroiled in.

Slick haired Walken and Roma Maffia are looking to pick a patsy who’ll do as they say with a little blackmail tactics. When Depp arrives at a train station with his young daughter he is approached by what he believes are two police officers and quickly discovers the next ninety minutes of his life are about to be the longest he’ll ever live.

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‘Your out of you’re mind.” says Depp. Walken answers in that perfect style all his own. “What’s your point?”

The plot is simple. Either Depp walks up and kills the state governor played by Marsha Mason or his daughter dies. He’s turned loose to do the job and finds himself under constant surveillance from Walken. Despite trying to find a way out he’s drawn in deeper when it appears as if those closest to Mason are in on the killing leaving Depp to having a hard time figuring a way out and saving both himself and his little girl.

Thankfully he has caught the ear of Charles Dutton who operates a shoe shine stand in the hotel where the political rally is taking place. With the aid of some hired help throughout the hotel Depp just might be able to get close enough to Mason without Walken and company knowing it to plead his case and hopefully gain the confidence of the woman he has been sent to kill.

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This film from director John Badham attempts to play out in real time over the ninety minutes the movie takes to get us to the finale. While I like the general idea of the plot I did find it plays longer then it’s actual running time as it stumbles occasionally to pad out the running length.

Like a Hitchcock film it tells us right up front what the problem is. Now it’s up to Depp’s Jimmy Stewart styled character to solve that problem. Joining in on the fun is Peter Strauss as Mason’s husband and veteran G.D. Spradlin who is one actor I never seem to trust when he turns up on screen in a political thriller.

With all the odd ball characters Mr. Depp has been playing throughout the years it is kind of nice to see him in something rather normal looking back at this role of the everyman caught in a situation beyond his control. Walken is of course…… Walken. Is there really any other way to describe this one of a kind actor. He’s so unique that his name can be used to describe his acting style when mimicked by or influencing others. The script by Patrick Sheane Duncan allows him a fun speech to preach to Depp just how serious he can be when things are not carried out to his liking. This alone makes makes the film worth a look.

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Outside of the supernatural settings of Sleepy Hollow which I must admit to loving, this offers us a chance to see the two leading men in a contemporary setting at odds against each other. No classic but one could do a lot worse though director Badham has given us better.

Rory Calhoun : Man of Action Poster Gallery

Rory Calhoun seemed to be an actor who could work well in most any genre that producers threw at him in the days of the studio system. During his early years like many others he was apprenticing in smaller roles and learning his craft. His eventual destination looking back was the western genre as it hit it’s peak.

While he seemed to get smaller roles in “A” productions (How to Marry a Millionaire) it was the “B’s” where he flourished till the western craze died down and the Italian invasion took hold. I took note later on when in 1992 he turned up in the George Straight movie Pure Country which I saw at the theater.

Tangling with Neville Brand and a gorgeous Yvonne makes for solid western adventure.

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Anytime Gilbert Roland turns up to lend support to the leading man gets my attention.

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Having his past and James Gregory coming back to haunt him.

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Struggling with Stephen McNally for one beautiful prize, Jean Simmons.

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Mixed up with diamonds, Barbara Rush and Timothy Carey.

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Brother vs. Brother. Calhoun vs. Graves.

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Off to war with Bendix and Jaeckel.

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Give the films of Rory a chance and learn to love the “B” film if you already haven’t.

Man In The Shadow (1957)

This Universal International production isn’t pulling any punches in it’s opening scenes when a young immigrant boy is dragged from a bunk house and beaten to death in a tool shed. The music is stern and the killers are two top baddies from fifties cinema. Leo Gordon and John Larch. This modern day western was directed by cult favorite Jack Arnold of countless “creature” flicks including the one who rose from the depths of the Black Lagoon.

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When an old man proves to be the lone witness the life of small town sheriff Jeff Chandler is about to take a turn towards violence and cowardice from those around him. It seems that the ranch where the supposed murder occurred is owned and operated by the all powerful Orson Welles. Welles doesn’t take kindly to Chandler coming out and asking a bunch of questions. He quickly pulls the “I am a powerful man” routine on Jeff and lays down a firm warning while chomping down on his overly large cigar.

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Jeff quickly responds, “You can push your wetbacks and your white trash around all you want, but don’t try it on me. ” The plots direction has been firmly set when Jeff discovers that Welles’ daughter played by Colleen Miller had befriended the young victim.

Quickly entering High Noon territory, Jeff learns that most of the men in town want him to just drop the case. Welles is the town’s main benefactor and his ranch is the only source of income to keep people afloat. Paul Fix and William Schallert lead the town council and Fix makes his presence felt but Jeff isn’t backing down. Welles’ egotistical land baron has either ordered a killing or is covering one up and Chandler wants to see justice done.

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Like Gary Cooper in High Noon, Jeff won’t have to many friends standing by his side but he does find an ally in character favorite Royal Dano as the final showdown approaches. Even his Deputy Ben Alexander has let him done much the way Coop’s did.

Chandler makes for a fine County Sheriff in this quickly paced thriller. He has three solid villains to contend with. Welles, Larch and Gordon. There’s sure to be fists flying and gunplay before the final fade out. He’ll also find out if he has any friends left in town after suffering a thorough going over from heavy set Gordon.

I really do like this film that sways towards vigilante justice nearing the end. It’s a western plot line that had been done before but seems a bit closer in tone to the films that were nearing in the seventies than those that had come before it. I never spoil the outcomes but I do wish it had a firmer hand towards the pay off.

A wonderful cast of character players are involved here from Royal Dano on down. Even James Gleason appears briefly as the town drunk. If I didn’t know any better I’d almost think this was the Andy Griffith show gone wrong.

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Any opportunity I get to see Jeff Chandler on screen works for me. He seemed to work well in most genres as a leading man and if it hadn’t been for his unfortunate death at an early age who knows what roles may have been waiting for him in the decade to follow. A sad loss to the world of films.

Not great but solid. Surely worth a look should you find the time and locate a copy.

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Movie Challenge…. Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)

Joining me once again in our monthly challenge is Kristina of Speakeasy. It’s when we assign each other a film that the other has yet to see. Click here for the previous films. This month she’s given me a wonderful title with one of my favorite character players and sometime leading man Claude Rains. It’s long overdue and about time I caught up with this delicious comedy.

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Robert Montgomery plays a boxer who is well on his way to winning the world championship with James Gleason as his trainer. He’s known as The Flying Pug due to his love of piloting his own plane. His life is about to take an unexpected turn when he crashes and finds himself walking above the clouds alongside Edward Everett Horton. Not far in the distance they see men boarding an airliner in this eye catching set piece.

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Standing guard at the planes entrance is Mr. Rains as our title character. It quickly becomes evident that these otherworldly men have a serious problem to contend with. It seems that boxer Montgomery has been called to his maker fifty years too soon. When Horton whisks him away to allow the spirit to reclaim the body they find that Gleason had it cremated. Montgomery wants action and demands that Rains find him a new body. One that is refined and in fighting shape.

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This dreamy plot winds up having Rains taking Montgomery into the home of Rita Johnson who along with her consort John Emery has just murdered her husband. Then again maybe not. When Rains smoothly convinces Montgomery to take over the dead man’s body the plot is set in motion. Montgomery finds himself in a stock market scam that the dead man had initiated. When he discovers that lovely Evelyn Keyes and her father have been made to suffer due to the shady business dealings he sets out to right the wrongs.

Much of the films comedy comes from James Gleason who shows up at the all new Montgomery’s door and after some convincing realizes that his fighter has returned in the form of another man’s body. To see him being introduced to the invisible Rains and attempt to carry on a conversation with the unseen spirit secured this long time character player a supporting Oscar nomination.

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Eventually Rains will have to intervene to direct Montgomery on his way to both love and happiness and allow him to find his true identity and destiny before the films fade out featuring a madcap boxing match, murder and more hijinks with Gleason.

For me the pure pleasure of this film comes from Claude Rains. Rains was such a joy to watch on screen during the forties when he really hit his stride at Warner Brothers opposite Bette Davis and so many other stars of the era. Truly a scene stealer. His soothing tones warm the heart as does his compassion and fatherly advice towards the Montgomery character. “So long champ.”

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There is plenty of trivia to dwell on with this film directed by Alexander Hall from the play by Harry Segall, It was remade to great success by Warren Beatty with James Mason in the Rains role. Fittingly Mason’s voice has that same uniqueness that Rains gave us throughout his career.

The fact that Rains is invisible to all the those on earth should recall the fact that he was indeed the screen’s first Invisible Man in the 1933 James Whale film.

I had half expected that the other characters in the film would see Montgomery in a different guise or another actors body. We the viewer see Montgomery the actor and he the character sees himself. Since he’s taking the bodies of others I thought it might have added some slapstick to see him through the eyes of the other characters. Who knows. Just imagine Gleason turning up to see the new Montgomery stock broker in the body of someone like Sydney Greenstreet telling Gleason he plans to continue his boxing career. Perhaps too much slapstick in that direction changing the tone of the film?

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Other Oscar nominations were secured by director Hall and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture but lost out to How Green Was My Valley and John Ford. It did however win two Oscars in the writing category. Original Story and Screenplay.

A good film that featured gowns by Edith Head, an early appearance by Lloyd Bridges and an actor that always seemed to be playing a butler, Halliwell Hobbes. Truthfully I had to look his name up. He’s one of those faces I know and always associate with a role as the hired help.

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A wonderful cast of character players in this feature from Harry Cohn’s Columbia studios with the superb Claude Rains leading the way.

Now please head over to Speakeasy and read about a Paul Newman film that Kristina has been challenged to watch. It’s from Paul’s early years and directed by a first timer who would go on to a lengthy and successful career.

The Horror at 37000 Feet (1973)

How about a title change to “The Horror of The Horror at 37000 Feet.”

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When a group of well known television stars hop a plane from London to New York they get more then they bargained for. It turns out some sort of altar from an old English Abbey is in the hold. The altar was used for human sacrifice and it wants another. When our small list of passengers become convinced of the power it possesses we’ll have a mutiny aboard between those who quickly resort to wanting to offer up a small child that is aboard to those with cooler heads.

Chuck Connors and Russell Johnson are our pilots in charge of the flight while our list of cliched passengers include Buddy Ebsen as a snobbish tycoon. William Shatner as a priest who has lost his faith. (Here’s the best chance he’ll ever have of reviving it). Roy Thinnes of The Invaders fame as the archaeologist responsible for the altar being aboard with Paul Winfield, Robert Donner and Tammy Grimes filling out the remainder of the rather small passenger list.

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Remember this is a television production at 73 minutes and not another big screen Airport adaptation so plenty of empty seats aboard due to budget restrictions. And where the heck is George Kennedy as Joe Patroni when you need him!

Everything from eerie music over the sound system to a mossy green substance oozing from the hold makes an appearance. Logic goes out the door early on and just seems to increase the silliness of this whole story in flight. How about building a camp fire style flame on board to keep warm after the plane’s temperature plummets. Makes sense to me.

Demonic possessions surface when one of our passengers who you’ll know from the start isn’t quite right comes forward near the climax and hopefully our spiritual guide Bill Shatner can push aside his alcoholic haze and inner demons to battle the one right in front of him.

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Television films of the seventies were always a mixed bag of treasures. Some stand out and some are just hard to fathom seeing today. Especially when thinking about the actors having to put themselves through the motions of such an inept script. Then again they are just that, actors. It’s a pay check after all. We see them as these figures that had cool shows on weekly television when times were better though I am sure they would rather be remembered for their past successes then this embarrassing flight.

On the plus side I should think that if this was watched with a group of like minded people on bad cinema this could turn out to be a hoot between the bad acting, outrageous script and the laughable f/x involved in giving the viewers a bit of stomach turning terror.

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The film’s director was David Lowell Rich who mainly worked in series TV and the movie of the week features. Strangely enough one has to wonder if this terror of the skies had anything to do with him landing the directorial job for Airport – Concorde ’79. It just might have because that film is arguably just as bad and phony as this one. He even had George Kennedy in that and it still didn’t help save the picture or the plane.

With all due respect to our flight Captain Chuck Connors, perhaps we needed the firm grip of Charlton Heston at the wheel. It’s been a while so how about a Heston cameo……..

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I don’t know about you but I’d feel much safer in the skies knowing that Chuck was up in the cockpit.

Morning Departure (1950)

In Sir John Mills’ autobiography he refers to this peace time naval story as, “one of the films I am proud to have been associated with.” A strong statement from  a legendary actor of the British stage and screen.

When a British submarine under the command of Mills is out on training maneuvers it strikes a floating mine and plummets to the depths of the sea. All hands on board are lost in areas that have been flooded. We are left with twelve survivors including a young Richard Attenborough. Mills will have to make life and death decisions for the remainder of his crew.

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Naval headquarters assigns Mills long time friend Bernard Lee to begin salvage operations to rescue the men from certain death. When his ship arrives at the location of the sinking Mills sends up four men equipped with breathing apparatus’ through one of the subs towers by flooding it thereby sealing it from use a second time. He plans to send four more men upwards from the rear of the sub when the signal is given from above as well.

Tensions among the eight remaining men will reach a fever pitch when Mills announces that the four remaining men will have no scuba equipment to flood the main chamber and escape. They’ll have to wait for salvage operations to actually raise the sub which could take more than a week at best. There is no guarantee that the submarine can be brought up  which of course would condemn the four men to their deaths.

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Mills will be staying below and rather than burdening himself with selecting four men to go above decides upon drawing cards to pick the next four to ascend. All the while above Lee is battling the weather and a superior officer who wants to abandon the operation.

In the films opening scenes the script focuses on aging commander Mills and his wife’s desire to see him retire from the navy and take a job with her Father’s firm. On the flip side we have young Attenborough married to a lush. He’s constantly being moved around from ship to ship and finds himself at odds with most crew members. He’ll have the opportunity to make good in the eyes of his fellow man before the fade out of this J. Arthur Rank Production. Not uncommonly this film went through a title change for it’s North American release.

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Serving as the film’s director is Roy Ward Baker who had a long and successful career. Once the ship is on the ocean floor he keeps the tension knotted up. Baker would also direct the most noted sea disaster story of the Titanic, A Night to Remember in 1958. As late as 1984 he would be directing John Mills once again as Watson opposite Peter Cushing’s Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and the Masks of Death.

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Attenborough is very young here and is on loan from The Boulting Brothers as the opening credits point out. Initially his character isn’t a likeable one but when faced with adversity he finds his true voice.

A nice addition to the many fine British films put out after WW2 that focused on the military during both war and peace times. The only thing that seems to be missing is Alec Guinness.

Wrong is Right (1982)

When it comes to star gazing at films with multiple actors that I follow I usually jump at the chance. Which begs the question of why it took me so long to catch up with this attempt at a black comedy from noted director Richard Brooks. I mean I saw The Swarm first chance I got years ago!

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The exceptional cast is led by Sean Connery (cue the Bondish opening theme) as an in your face reporter who travels the world delivering the news first hand for his network overseen by grouchy Robert Webber. Connery quickly becomes involved in a middle east struggle for power and oil wells. Some things just never seem to change. Could Sean become a pawn with countless men of power he associates with? When the Arab King is murdered the door swings wide open for his successor.

We have John Saxon in here as a C.I.A. agent that Sean isn’t sure of and Henry Silva as the next dominating leader of the middle east. Back on U.S. soil president George Grizzard seems lost in the political mess which includes a bomb happy general played by Robert Conrad and the leader of the opposition leading in the poles. It’s none other than Canada’s own Leslie Nielsen.

Much of the plot revolves around who is in possession of two suitcases suspected of containing nuclear bombs that arms dealer Hardy Kruger has been peddling to the highest bidder.

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This two hour fiasco is rather easy to pick on mainly because it comes across as a poor attempt at treading the waters of Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove.

It has a phony feeling that just doesn’t come off as I suspect Brooks was hoping for. The effects at one point are so bad I thought I had somehow gotten my copy of Connery in Meteor overlapped with this picture from Columbia Studios. That is definitely a cheap shot at Connery’s attempt at a disaster flick in case you are wondering.

Robert Conrad here can’t help but conjure up George C. Scott with lines like “The U.S. of A. may not always be right but God knows we’re never wrong.” which got me to at least grin. Or how about our President Grizzard announcing that ,”Did you ever realize that Dog spelled backwards is God.”

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Other notables turning up here are Katharine Ross who is wasted in a cameo, Dean Stockwell as an adviser to the prez. Rosalind Cash whom cult fans may recall from The Omega Man actually gets to play double duty here as an African American/female Vice President. For a film trying to make social comments this might be the best of them. Here we are a few years down the road and one has become a reality and the other may soon be happening.

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Henry Silva delivers a rather disturbing scene in here on the definition of terrorism that briefly sobers up the weak attempts at comedy while a very young Jennifer Jason Leigh gets an early role in her budding career.

I’m not much on political comments out here as I prefer to stick to films so I’ll just say that much of the topics in this comedy failure remain a focus of our media and world politics to this day and age. 33 years after this film’s release. For a much better Brooks film I think I’ll go over to the movie shelf and pull down my copy of the 1966 classic The Professionals. You might want to as well.