June 2021 in Review
Yes I’m still watching movies at a regular clip but when the hockey team you’ve been cheering for since the day you were born has defied the odds and made their way to the Stanley Cup finals, well, let’s just say my writing habits have suffered greatly.
If you don’t mind …… GO HABS GO!
Now on to this months roll call.
Ssshhhh …. The Silent Film Project.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920)
The Great Profile, John Barrymore, starred in this early iconic horror film of the silent era. In this version of the Stevenson story the good Dr. John is a standup fellow helping the ailing poor and appears to be an all around do gooder. Waiting in the wings is lovely Martha Mansfield as the girl next door waiting to say “I do” at the altar.
All is fine in John’s life until he gets dragged to a local pub with naughty Nita Naldi dancing the hoochie coochie on stage. It’s a sexual awakening for John and if he’s going to sink into the depravity of whoring and boozing, (I believe that’s what may have been going on by this point when the cameras stopped rolling in the Barrymore home) he’ll need a potion to separate the good man from the wanton desires of the bad.
And along comes the famous footage of John’s on screen transformation into his alter ego, Mr. Hyde. You know the rest of the story.
Calling Dr. Death (1943) Lon Chaney in the first of 6 Inner Sanctum mysteries as a doctor accused of killing his estranged wife. He can’t seem to remember much about the day of her murder and J. Carrol Naish gives it the old Columbo try in getting the truth out of big Lon. I love these flicks!
Dead Man’s Eyes (1944) More Inner Sanctum fun with Lon Chaney again taking center stage as a painter who loses his eyesight through a freak accident. If only a donor could be found to bring back his sight. Murder is in the air when his soon to be father in law is murdered and Lon is the accused. That won’t stop the dead man’s will from stating his eyes are to be given to Lon in the event of his death. I love these flicks!
Weird Woman (1944) Lon is back in the third Inner Sanctum mystery as a University Professor with a top selling published novel to his name on the subject of voodoo and witchcraft. He’s taken on a young wife played by Anne Gwynne who is referred to as a “witch wife” by the overly jealous Evelyn Ankers. Remade as Burn, Witch, Burn in 1962. I love these flicks!
Ministry of Fear (1944) Classic Fritz Lang thriller starring Ray Milland getting caught up in a Nazi spy ring plotting to aid in the overthrow of England. This one never gets old and what’s not to like when slippery Dan Duryea keeps coming in and out of our story. Fritz and his monocle are at the top of their game.
The Bushwhackers (1952) Low budget western with an above average cast. John Ireland is world weary following the Civil War swearing off guns and violence. That isn’t meant to be when he finds himself caught up in a range war where Lon Chaney Jr. has evil gunmen on the payroll including Jack Elam and Lawrence Tierney. For a leading lady Ireland scores Dorothy Malone.
Easy to Love (1953) Esther Williams working at a water side theme park. Makes sense to me. The famous swimmer turned Hollywood starlet is overworked by her boss, Van Johnson. Yeah she hates him, or does she? Romance is in the air. Or should I say in the pool?
Wichita (1955) Joel McCrea takes on the role of Wyatt Earp prior to the days of the O.K. Corral. Here he’s playing a town tamer at odds with certain business owners who want him to ease up on city restrictions. Men like Edgar Buchanan and gunslingers like Lloyd Bridges who want to see him dead. Enjoyable Jacques Tourneur western with Vera Miles as the leading lady.
Safari (1956) Quite the jolting opening sequence in this Terence Young actioner that sees big game hunter Victor Mature’s wife and young son brutally murdered at the hands of the Mau Mau. He’s seething with revenge on his mind and will take on a job leading lovely Janet Leigh and her ass of a boyfriend on a lion hunt. All to get him close to the man who murdered his family so he can exact his own brand of justice. Predictable but enjoyable.
The Enemy Below (1957) Classic submarine thriller built on character rather than outright action. It’s Robert Mitchum’s ship vs. Curt Jurgen’s German sub where both men will earn the respect of the other in this cat and mouse battle of wills, depth charges and torpedoes. A winner from director Dick Powell.
The Gun Runners (1958) picked up a blu ray so I re-watched this enjoyable Audie Murphy effort. I actually featured this Don Sigel flick just two weeks after going on line with this blog so follow the link and see what I had to say….. back when I was less likely to say very much.
Escape From Zahrain (1962) Political prisoner Yul Brynner is marked for death by an Arab leader but thankfully Sal Mineo is on hand to free him and by chance some other unsavory characters played by Jack Warden, Anthony Caruso and Jay Novello. Brynner needs to cross a desert to freedom before returning to launch a rebellion so it’s man against the elements and the need for water. Hard not to like the cast in this one and even James Mason turns up in a smooth cameo. Love that Mason voice …. smooth.
The Wild World of Batwoman (1966) A definite nominee for the worst movie I’ve seen this year. Maybe ever? Maybe. From director Jerry Warren comes this attempt to cash in on the Batman craze. I’ll bet if I’d have watched this with a crowd, it might have been downright hilarious and at at least watchable.
Camelot (1967) In my attempt to see more musicals, I finally found three hours to see Richard Harris take on the role of King Arthur. One that he’d make his own on stage in the years ahead. I found the film entertaining for about two hours of the three with the final hour losing it’s way with some plot issues and likely plenty of scenes trimmed from the film to keep that running time down. Vanessa Redgrave plays Guinevere and Franco Nero gets to steal her away as Lancelot in Joshua Logan’s big screen take on the Knights of the Round Table.
The Oblong Box (1969) Grave robbing, African voodoo rites and murders all complimented by Vincent Price and good friend Christopher Lee who are on hand for this latest chapter in the Poe Cycle that were so popular in the 1960’s. Price has a brother running amok with a face turned inside out by an African ritual that was rightly meant for him. Lee gets tangled into the plot as a doctor needing corpses for his experiments. Let the blood flow. I know I’m getting old but this one has gotten better over the years.
Shock Treatment (1972) French thriller starring Anne Girardot as a woman who seeks to revitalize herself at a swank treatment center run by Alain Delon. She gets more than she bargained for when she begins to piece together just what is keeping those around her looking young and virile. New to me, I’ve learned the film caused a bit of a sensation due to the full frontal nudity of both leads frolicking on the beach with a group of others hitting the waves in their birthday suits.
Asylum (1972) More short stories from Amicus in the horror vein. Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Charlotte Rampling, Britt Ekland, Barry Morse and on and on. The thrills keep coming at you when Robert Powell interviews some inmates at the local asylum for the criminally insane. Plenty of fun to be had here.
Mean Johnny Barrows – Fred Williamson kicks ass……
Hitler : The Last Ten Days (1973) With all due respect to the film and those involved including Simon Ward, Adolfo Celi and Diane Cilento, I just couldn’t get past Alec Guinness’ performance as Adolf Hitler. To me it just looked like Alec pretending he’s Hitler in some Ealing comedy skit. I’d recommend Bruno Ganz in the powerful 2004 release, Downfall, instead.
The Giant Spider Invasion (1975) Clumsy but fun. Sheriff Alan Hale Jr., aka The Skipper, is among the “B” list of actors caught up with a VW covered in fur and long legs by the F/X team devouring farmers and cattle in the hillsides of Wisconsin. Barbara Hale, Steve Brodie and Robert Easton join in the fun. This one rides the line of camp and satire poking fun at those 50’s mutant monster flicks.
Master Mind (1976) Zero Mostel plays like Charlie Chan and at times succeeds in getting a laugh or two out of me. I would imagine if I’d seen this as a kid I’d have loved it. Seeing it for the first time in middle age, I can’t help but wonder if Peter Sellers turned this one down. Had his name written all over it and reminded me of some of his less than successful 1970’s slapstick outings.
Phobia (1980) Hey! I saw Sam the Record Man’s store on Young Street in Toronto in the backdrop of this John Huston thriller. Oh how I loved that store. Starsky aka Paul Michael Glaser plays a cutting edge psychiatrist who finds his patients are either killing themselves or being violently murdered. So-so flick that I like to think of as Huston’s attempt at a giallo thriller.
Panic (1982) A scientist is running amok after becoming infected with his latest chemical discovery that is turning him into a melting mass with a taste for flesh. Gross out horror flick with David Warbeck as a cop trying to stop the killer from infecting a small town before the military drops the bomb on them in order to stop the germ from spreading. Good thing we didn’t explore that option ourselves with what’s going on these days.
Monster Dog (1984) Rocker Alice Cooper plays the lead (dubbed) as a rocker (what else?) returning to the family homestead with some friends in tow. It seems there might be a large pack of dogs in the area tearing the locals apart. Film morphs into a werewolf tale with bad F/X and there’s even talk that Coop’s old man was inflicted with lycanthropy. I liked it which I must admit kind of surprised me.
Invasion U.S.A. (1985) It’s time for Chuck Norris to step up and kick Richard Lynch’s ass! Chuck battles an old enemy intent on disrupting and terrorizing the citizens of the United States. Silly and far fetched but if you love old Chuck ….. this one gets better with every viewing. Better? Well, lets say more enjoyable with every viewing and Chuck one liner.
Straight to Hell (1987) A spaghetti western wanna be from Alex Cox. A heist goes bad and a quartet of modern day hoods led by Sy Richardson head into what looks like Almeria, Spain to me and right into a tribute to spaghetti westerns. I had intended to write a piece on this one but found it to distant and weird so I took a pass. Even with Dennis Hopper making a quick cameo.
The Vice Academy Trilogy ….. (1988/90/91)Yeah I know. I’m a sucker for punishment. Scream Queen Linnea Quigley meets Porn Queen Ginger Lynn Allen in what amounts to a poor man’s version of the Police Academy films. And if memory serves, the Steve Guttenberg flicks were pretty much career killers. Straight to video fodder that I picked up on blu ray while buying out another collector. Cool box cover from Vinegar Syndrome and in a numbered edition no less!
The Last Outlaw (1993) Latter day western wasn’t bad. Mickey Rourke in full Marlon Brando mode plays the leader of a band of cutthroat Wild Bunch wannabes. Among the gang are Steve Buscemi, Keith David, Ted Levine, John C. McGinley and as Rourke’s main opponent, Dermot Mulroney. Following a bank robbery, Rourke, pushes the boys too hard and they turn on him leaving him for dead. What they don’t count on is Rourke’s surviving and taking up with the posse to gain his freedom and revenge. Better than I expected and a cast worth it’s weight in stolen loot.
Backlash (1999) Watching this inspired me to do a feature on veteran character actor, Charles Durning, who always seemed to be turning up with a badge in the movies.
As of late ….
Martin Scorsese’s love letter to the history of movies. A beautiful film that takes us all back to the pioneering days of motion pictures and the silent era as seen through the eyes of a young boy and a forgotten movie maker as played by Ben Kinglsey. A must see and proof that Mr. Scorsese can make a classic film outside of the gangster genre. One for the entire family just in case there was any doubt.
Police Story : Lockdown (2013) Jackie Chan returns to the force but I found this to be one of his lesser efforts. He’s confronting his wayward daughter at a nightclub when the place is overtaken by a group of terrorists. Seems he’s the target in an elaborate revenge plan. Too talky and plot heavy.
Stan and Ollie (2018)
Beautiful movie and really a must for film buffs. I thought both Steve Coogan as Laurel and John C. Reilly as Hardy brought magic to the screen portraying the famous comics of silent cinema. With a few flashbacks to their prime, the movie tells the story of their later days while touring the stages of England, well past their prime and coming to grips with their status in the industry. If you love the boys, then be sure to have some tissue handy. I recall hearing the film was gathering some Oscar buzz for the leads, too bad they were never recognized.
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) The plot is rather secondary in this latest big screen monster bash. Yes it’s all about the heavy weight tilt between our iconic box office champs. I’d liked to have seen this one on the big screen but alas it wasn’t meant to be just yet. Can’t say I liked the story line all that much sending Kong to the earth’s core but the twelve round fist fight was a beauty. Oh, there were a few names in the cast like Demian Bichir and Eiza Gonzalez as a father/daughter team intent on world domination.
The Bowery Boys
I finished off the four volumes of Bowery Boys titles this month. 48 movies in total thanks to the Warner Archive Collection. Spy Chasers (1955), Jail Busters (1955) Unlike some of the series entries, this one had a pretty decent cast surrounding the boys in this throwback to the prison flicks of the 30’s. Barton MacLane, Anthony Caruso, Percy Helton and Lyle Talbot turn up. Fighting Trouble (1956), Hold That Hypnotist (1957) and lastly, In the Money (1958).
The Monthly Report Card
40 Films Seen
28 New to Me Titles
17 seen on DVD
22 seen on blu ray
1 on Netflix – Stan and Ollie
If I could take just one of these to that well known desert isle for repeated viewings I’ll go with Fritz Lang’s Ministry of Fear. It’ll give me a chance to revisit it more often.
Most enjoyable of the new to me titles goes to Shock Treatment for a classic era movie and Stan and Ollie for something post 2000.
Most enjoyable revisit goes to Hugo.
If you missed my amusing story of buying a Christopher Lee as Dracula doll, check this out.
As always, let Brando and myself know your thoughts and tally to see how our notes compare.