May 2021 In Review
I’ll start by confessing that the Stanley Cup Playoffs are the most important thing going on right now and while my movie watching habits don’t take a back seat, my writing habits sure do. But then growing up in Canada, it’s all about hockey if you’re a sports enthusiast and I don’t have too many friends that are not cheering on their favorite team be it a Canadian franchise or one of the many south of the border.
Now let’s get on to the movies and begin with my endeavor to watch no less than one silent era film each and every month during the year 2021.
Ssshhhh …. The Silent Film Project.
Battling Butler (1926)
Actor/director Buster Keaton is at it again, never once cracking a smile. Well to do with a valet all his own, he takes a break from the high life and finds and falls for a mountain girl played by Sally O’Neill. Not much too look at, Sally’s brothers are not impressed with Buster. Easy fix. Valet, Snitz Edwards convinces the mountain clan that Buster (who just happens to share the same name as a professional champion prizefighter) is indeed the world champ.
Comedy hijinks follow when Buster decides to go along with the little white lie to win his beloved. What are the odds that the real champ comes to stay at the same location? Might Buster find himself in the ring and in the fight of his life before this one closes? Another fun filled effort from the days when Buster was one of the three Kings of silent comedy. Still is.
Decade by decade.
The Song of Songs (1933)
A great example of a Pre-Code with stunning Marlene Dietrich. She’s a virginal beauty who ends up becoming the nude model for sculptor Brian Ahern’s life size statue and don’t look now but Lionel “Pinky” Atwill is plotting his way into Marlen’s bedroom. Again Dietrich’s beauty leaves me short of breath and speechless.
Supernatural (1933) One of the earliest films I featured when beginning this blog. For more on the Carole Lombard thriller ……. click here.
Angels Wash Their Faces (1939) Somewhat of a sequel to Cagney’s film and dated from our vantage point. But what a cast. Ann Sheridan plays it tough with the Dead End Kids led by Billy Halop and the soon to be Bowery Boys, Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey. And hey isn’t that Ronald Reagan as the D.A. who has his eye on the Ooomph Girl?
Sullivan’s Travels (1941)
Veronica Lake once again proves to be a fine comedienne and more than just a Noir gal for Alan Ladd. Here she’s paired with Joel McCrea for Preston Sturges. I like the film but wish it wasn’t such a statement film towards the end. Oh and like Dietrich, I get lost in her beauty.
Broken Lance (1954)
First rate western with Spencer Tracy as the stern patriarch with 4 sons. Richard Widmark, Earl Holliman, Hugh O’Brian and the outcast Robert Wagner who was born to an Indian mother played by Katy Jurado. Well worth hunting down with Spence at the top of his game guided by director Edward Dmytryk.
Lisbon – Ray Milland stars and directs.
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
An absolute classic with Burt Lancaster playing the cold yet powerful columnist and Tony Curtis in what I’d call his best ever performance as Sidney Salkow, the young upstart who wants the power Burt yields. At any cost? “Match me Sidney.”
1970 ‘s ….
Angel’s Wild Women (1972) More schlock from Al Adamson that sees Regina Carrol and Vicki Volante as tough biker babes who find themselves in a Manson like commune at the real Spahn Ranch that was brought back to life in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The Living Dead At Manchester Morgue (1974)
Memorable take on the zombie craze in the first go around following the success of Romero’s all time classic. Effective gore and Arthur Kennedy on hand as a police inspector who has no use for tales of the dead rising. To top it off the multi-Oscar nominee is putting on one bad Irish accent. Worth a look. Also known under the name Let Sleeping Corpses Lie.
Journey Into Fear (1975) A rare Vincent Price title for his legion of fans.
Lucky Lady (1975) Bumbling Burt Reynolds, mean when he needs to be Gene Hackman and goofy Liza Minnelli star in this comedy of the bootleg era. Stanley Donen film isn’t half as bad as I’ve been led to believe but it does come apart at the seems over the final twenty odd minutes in an attempt to play it in a slapstick style. Geoffrey Lewis appears as a nutty ships captain rooting out rum runners and that’s good enough to draw me in. Love this guy and miss what he could bring to character parts.
Mustang Country (1976)
Western legend, Joel McCrea, played his final role in this family picture about an aging modern day cowpoke taking on a young Indian boy as he tries to capture a magnificent black stallion as the wild west comes to a close. Once again McCrea just plays it so relaxed it’s impossible to catch him acting. Not a classic but a fitting end.
Devil’s Express (1976) Throw in everything. That’s the way to go with this Kung Fu/Blaxploitation / Demon in the sewer system flick starring one, Warhawk Tanzania. Needless to say it’s exploitation filmmaking the way I like it. best seen with a group of buddies who love bad cinema.
Bruce’s Deadly Fingers (1976) One of the many films to come along following the death of Bruce Lee. This one stars Bruce Li and Lo Lieh at odds over who is going to find the diary of Bruce Lee first with instructions on the finer arts of Kung Fu. Seriously. Anything that works for the exploitation market.
A lame attempt to cash in the Jaws craze. Can’t say I thought too much of it and wasn’t fond of the many shark kills caught on camera. Susan George (my main reason for watching) in a thankless role and doesn’t even turn up till the 40 minute mark. Cool poster though and yes I have one here in the vault.
The China Syndrome (1979)
My first viewing of this since a school field trip upon it’s original release. I’ve been eyeing up a revisit for a while now. Not sure I really appreciated the subject material and the performance of Jack Lemmon back in the day. Superb film with Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Wilford Brimley also starring.
Forgotten Giallo Volume 3 Set from Vinegar Syndrome brought three more titles.
Murder Mansion (1972) I previously featured this one so click here to have a closer look at this bloodthirsty thriller.
Crazy Desires of a Murderer (1977) A whodunit with a memorable Corrado Gaipa as an overweight police detective called in to solve a steady stream of murders at a swank estate with a gang of red herrings on hand. I liked this one and I suppose that’s all that really matters.
Autopsy (1975) Of the three titles, I liked this one the least. Mimsy Farmer stars and for my money has partaken in one too many autopsies. There’s a killer running amok and might it be a nutty priest or maybe Ray Lovelock? Muddled but I’m still hoping that there’s a 4th Volume to these foreign language warped murder mysteries.
Visiting Hours (1981)
Slasher flick/thriller starring Lee Grant as a television crusader who is targeted by madman Michael Ironside. She barely survives her first encounter with him and for the balance of the film will have to fend for herself while admitted to the local hospital where she has Linda Purl as her nurse. The film also stars William Shatner and his T.J. Hooker era hairpiece as her producer at the station and mabye lover. Never figured that one out.
Night School (1981) Another slasher flick I missed back in the day. This one has Rachel ward who was on the verge of stardom thanks in part to her role in Sharky’s Machine as the gal Burt Reynolds falls for. Here she’s tangled up with a teacher who has been known to bed his young good looking students. Students that are starting to turn up decapitated. Ok of it’s type.
The Sender (1982) A relatively low budget thriller taking place at a psych ward starring Shirley Knight as the mother of a disturbed inmate. Might it be a mother complex? Not bad of it’s type.
Deadly Force (1983) Wings Hauser, remember him? Here he’s an ex-cop back in L.A. arguing with his ex-wife, avoiding the mob and looking to take down a serial killer. B film straight to VHS fun.
Best Defense (1984) Considering it’s been 27 years since this was released to horrendous reviews, I thought it was about time I checked in to see if this Dudley Moore/Eddie Murphy film deserved them or maybe it’s gotten better with age. Nope. It deserved the thrashing it got in ’84.
Maria’s Lovers (1984)
Nastassja Kinski stars in this odd tale of a young woman married to her childhood sweetheart, John Savage, following WW2. He’s got some issues in the bedroom and along comes smooth talking Keith Carradine. Anyway, my real reason for finally watching this was to see Robert Mitchum playing the father to Savage.
Dark Tower (1988) There’s some sort of spirit causing havoc in a newly minted high rise building. Can cop Michael Moriarity enlist some help to chase the spirit out of the building? Maybe spiritualist Kevin McCarthy or better still Theodore Bikel who steals the film as a scientist looking to prove his theories about the afterworld. Jenny Agutter and Carol Lynley also star. Trashy but I liked it and the ending when the mystery is revealed and the F/X that go with it.
Paganini Horror (1988)
Ultra low budget horror flick from director Luigi Cozzi. An all girl rock band in an old run down building and the spirit of something slaughtering them. My reason for tuning in? Cool art work on the blu ray and Donald Pleasence appearing and why the heck was he dubbed? Maybe the budget couldn’t afford to have him loop his own lines.
The Reflecting Skin (1990) Bizarre “vampire” flick is gorgeous to look at with it’s farmland setting but I really don’t know what the director was aiming for. Maybe I just didn’t “get it.” Not quite the Lost Boys here but if you’re a Viggo Mortensen fan, you may want to catch up with this one.
Bad Girls (1994)
Not quite the female version of The Wild Bunch but there were a few nods to the Peckinpah classic if you look for them. So-so but then what’s not to like when Madeleine Stowe, Andie MacDowell, Drew Barrymore and Mary Stuart Masterson take center stage as the babes on horses looking to take down James Russo and Robert Loggia playing the heavies south of the border.
as of late ….
Tailored for the legendary Harry Dean Stanton, it was his final leading role at 91 years of age. A slice of life tale of an old timer and his bar fly buddies including David Lynch, Tom Skerritt and Ed Begley Jr. The film doesn’t really go anywhere but it’s magical thanks to Harry and his knowing that his time is coming to an end as it was in real life. If you love Harry …..
The War With Grandpa (2020) Home alone style fun for the whole family I suppose. It’s Robert DeNiro and buddies Christopher Walken and Cheech Marin against his grandson who has been pushed out of his room now that DeNiro has moved into daughter Uma Thurman’s house. Forgettable but great cast and hey it’s got Rob Riggle in it as Uma’s husband and that guy makes me laugh just by looking at him.
The Bowery Boys
More fun and games with Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall as I near the end of the 48 films released by the Warner Archive Collection. Trouble Makers (1948), Triple Trouble (1950), Bowery Battalion (1951), Here Come the Marines (1952), Jungle Gents (1954) a quick mention that in this tale of diamond hunting in Africa, future member of The Dirty Dozen, Clint Walker, makes his film debut in a brief appearance as a very Tarzan like jungle man. Bowery to Bagdad (1954) shenanigans commence when the boys find a magic lamp that includes a real live genie played by scene stealer Eric Blore.
The Monthly Report Card
38 Films Seen
27 New to Me Titles
15 seen on DVD
21 seen on blu ray
1 on Crave TV – Lucky
1 on Amazon Prime – War With Grandpa
If I could take just one of these to that well known desert isle for repeated viewings I’ll go with Sweet Smell of Success. Mainly because it gets better with every viewing.
Most enjoyable of the new to me titles goes to Battling Butler for a classic era movie and Lucky for something post 2000.
Most enjoyable revisit goes to The China Syndrome.
So count them up if you will and let Brando and I know how many of the 38 you’ve seen.