August 2021 In Review
What can I say, it looks like our beloved Toronto Blue Jays are going to come up short in the race for a playoff birth. It’s not quite over so still keeping my fingers crossed that time set aside for watching movies will be cut down if only the Jays can go on some sort of winning streak and make the post season.
But enough about that.
Ssshhhh ….. The Silent Film Project
Hangman’s House (1928)
The legendary John Ford directs this superbly crafted effort taking place in his homeland of Ireland starring one of his most well known stock players, Victor McLaglen. It’s also got an unknown in the cast getting a couple of close-ups in a horse racing scene. None other than John Wayne himself.
McLaglen is a wanted outlaw in his homeland who returns from the French Foreign Legion to kill the man who deserted his sister and left her to die. He’ll come into contact with a young man played by Larry Kent who wants to marry Miss June Collyer. Problem is her father wants her to marry the same man McLaglen is looking to kill, Earle Foxe.
It would seem that Foxe is playing up his social standing and Collyer’s dying father believes he can offer her money and a title. Not likely once he’s exposed as a coward but they’ve already married and so the drama begins.
This proved to be a first rate production and expertly directed which should come as no surprise to fans of Ford. I’m just wondering why it took me so damn long to finally give this one a shot. Now I’m going to be digging for more of his early silent works.
Not one to watch silent films outside of the slapstick comedy legends? Give this one a try and thank me afterwards.
Female (1933) A splendid pre-code starring Ruth Chatterton as a powerful business woman with a taste for the young men who work at her automobile factory. Yes it’s a role reversal of sorts. She’s seducing men and not looking for a husband until George Brent turns up. Recommended to those who love the films made prior to the Hays Code stepping in and forcefully taming just what could be seen and heard on screen.
The Black Room (1935) Easily one of Karloff’s greatest film performances. Not to missed.
A Message to Garcia (1936) Plenty of adventure with Barbara Stanwyck starring.
The Man With Nine Lives (1940) I love these Boris as a Mad Doctor flicks!
The Devil Commands (1941) Once again Boris Karloff is a kindly scientist who loses his way when experimenting with things best left alone. An early film from director Edward Dmytryk who would go on to helm some big films in the 1950’s including The Caine Mutiny and Raintree County. I love these Boris flicks!
Flying Tigers (1942) The Duke takes to the skies to defeat the Japanese in WW2.
My Gal Sal (1942) Rita Hayworth in glorious technicolor. A musical that pairs her with Victor Mature. She’s the famous songstress, he the songwriter. They’re constantly bickering at each other while flirting with the altar the entire film. OK of it’s type but no classic though Rita is captivating and Big Vic a far better actor than he ever gave himself credit for.
Lucky Jordan (1942) Entertaining Alan Ladd outing as the gangster turning good on the home front during WW2.
Cobra Woman (1944) Technicolor escapism starring Maria Montez and Jon Hall. Maria is playing twins. One good and one evil as we have come to expect. It’s an Island paradise where the good Maria must free the people from tyranny and beautiful maidens from sacrifice at the altar. Along for the fun is Sabu and Lon Chaney Jr.
Marine Raiders (1944) War time drama with Pat O’Brien and Robert Ryan fighting the Japanese in the jungles of WW2. Plenty of action and violence for a film of the era. It’s interesting to see Ryan here prior to his becoming a Noir bad boy. You can see the trajectory of his career blossoming towards the tortured soul characters he specialized in. A decent effort of the times even if it is purely made for propaganda reasons.
No Questions Asked (1951) Barry Sullivan gets caught up as a go between for gangsters and an insurance company looking to recover goods to save on payouts. It’s all a little too easy for Barry and the cops are on to him. At that point the underworld begins to turn on him. Nifty crime drama costarring Arlene Dahl and Jean Hagen.
Man Without a Star (1955) Previously featured but I recently caught up with a new blu ray release.
The Mole People (1956) I never tire of these Universal-International monster/sci-fi flicks of the fifties. John Agar and Hugh Beaumont journey to the earth’s core and find a lost civilization that have enslaved beautiful blondes and mole people. Sounds crazy I know but every few years I’m back to the earth’s core with John and Ward Cleaver.
The Jayhawkers (1959) Fess Parker joins carpetbagger Jeff Chandler’s outfit with the likes of Henry Silva and Leo Gordon riding along. Sounds like a winner but it’s really a soap opera that sees Chandler either hero worshipping Parker or falling in love with him. No seriously, this one is easy to toss jokes at. It’s also easy to pick on cause it’s not that good. After all, Fess, had to maintain his Disney image as one can see in the first dozen or so minutes that are rather ridiculous setting the tone for all that follows. Any fans?
Yesterday’s Enemy (1959) Strong stuff from Hammer Films with Stanley Baker leading a platoon of soldiers in what amounts to an anti-war film. Baker’s tightly wound performance is matched by a very laid back Philip Ahn as his Japanese counterpart.
Stage to Thunder Rock (1964) Another of those low budget A.C. Lyles westerns featuring “has been” stars of yesteryear. This one I found short on action but long on character development with a heck of a late career performance from Lon Chaney Jr. proving he still had some acting chops left. Also starring Barry Sullivan, Scott Brady, Marilyn Maxwell, John Agar and Keenan Wynn among others.
I Deal In Danger (1966) Apparently a big screen collage of episodes from the Robert Goulet series Blue Light. Goulet plays a WW2 spy working for the Nazi regime. Plays fine and I suspect much like a Man From UNCLE movie made up of more than one episode of that far more popular show. I can just hear Will Ferrell hollering GOULET as I write this out ….. GOULET!
The Torture Chamber of Dr. Sadism (1967) Full marks to a recent blu ray release of this Christopher Lee thriller from Severin. Sure beats all those old creaky VHS copies floating around for years. Way better than I recalled after 30 years between viewings. Eerie, beautifully photographed and very reminiscent of Mario Bava’s stylish films of the period.
Full House For the Devil (1968) Spaghetti western I’ve pretty much forgotten about already starring George Hilton. Now if I was smart I’d sell off the DVD but I am a collector you know.
Goro the Assassin (1968), Outlaw : Black Dagger (1968) and Outlaw : Kill (1969) The final three films in the series starring Tetsuya Watari and Chieko Matsubara. Loved the series as a whole even if they’re pretty much remakes of the first film. I’ll be watching these again at some point.
The Fox With a Velvet Tail (1971) One of those Giallo flicks with a Hitchcock twist. Poor Jean Sorel is being setup for a murder. Or is she the intended victim? Or maybe she’s actually pulling the strings. Not bad of it’s type.
Genesis II (1973) A Gene Roddenberry TV production of a future civilization on earth following the apocalypse. So-so sci-fi stuff with Alex Cord and Mariette Hartley. I much prefer the follow up, Planet Earth, starring John Saxon.
Showdown (1973) An old story with a couple of old timers. Rock Hudson and Dean Martin are clearly past their best before dates in this tale of two saddle pals going separate ways but with star power such as theirs, they make it work. Rock has turned to wearing a badge while Dino has turned train robber. Rock is gonna have to bring him in. We’ll see about that.
Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974) Clint Eastwood and the Dude vs. George Kennedy and Geoffrey Lewis. I’d forgotten just how many “faces” turn up in this heist flick that sees Clint taking on a young partner in Jeff Bridges while trying to keep the peace with hothead Kennedy and his sidekick, Lewis. Faces? How about Vic Tayback, Gary Busey, Bill McKinney, Gregory Walcott, Catherine Bach, Roy Jenson, Burton Gilliam, Jack Dodson and Dub Taylor. Directed by Michael Cimino.
Butch and Sundance : The Early Days (1979) I’d avoided this film for years and that’s mainly because I was a young know it all when it came out and I figured it was not worthy of Newman and Redford. Now make no mistake, Tom Berenger and William Katt are not the same caliber but damned if I didn’t enjoy this after all. Maybe it just had me pining for the western once again. Richard Lester directs and Brian Dennehy plays it mean and nasty. Just like we loved him.
Madman (1981) Time to slice and dice some camp counselors. If you like Friday the 13th, I’m sure this one will be to your taste. I’d never seen it but since I recently acquired an original one sheet I thought why not.
The Delta Force (1985) Yeah I love the cast that turns up in this Cannon flick led by Chuck Norris and Lee Marvin but every time I revisit the film I originally saw at the theater I come away wanting more. It’s overlong and the material is far too serious to insert Norris as a drop kicking military specialist. Robert Forster is one scary terrorist. You’re better off watching a 1977 flick titled Raid on Entebbe if you can locate a copy.
Strike Commando (1986) Reb Brown plays it Rambo style and it works. Overseas exploitation special with Christopher Connelly as a commander gone bad that leaves the musclebound Reb behind enemy lines. Not a good idea.
Primal Scream (1987) Ultra low budget sci-fi effort that had me thinking I should have gone with Star Trek II all over again.
Strike Commando 2 (1988) The follow up has Reb stepping aside for Brent Huff. Not as good as the first film but not all that bad as far as violent action flicks go behind enemy lines in modern day Vietnam by way of the Philippines movie making factory. So yes you can expect to see Vic Diaz but would you believe it’s the one and only Richard Harris turning up as the bad guy? Or was it for the paycheck? Harris of course makes it a must see in my world.
Def By Temptation (1990) Succubus time. Actor/director James Bond III gets tangled up with a beautiful babe down at the local bar. Problem is men who go home with her get the shagging of there life but lose it in the balance in a fine bloody fashion. Bill Nunn as a barfly is sure something isn’t right with the sexy lady and hey, that’s Samuel L. Jackson in flashbacks as the father of Mr. Bond …. Mr. James Bond the third.
The Crucifer of Blood (1990) Sherlock Holmes Heston style. Glossy Cable TV production with Heston in spirited form while Richard Johnson turns up as a so-so Watson. Script could have been better but I’m a Heston fan so all is forgiven.
The Frighteners (1990) How the hell did I miss this one? I totally enjoyed this very Beetlejuice like thriller from Peter Jackson starring Michael J. Fox as a man who can see spirits. As a matter of fact they work for him allowing him to con people when it comes to clearing their house of ghosts and evil spirits. But what happens when a real evil ghost turns up? A rollercoaster ride that easily moves from comedy to outright scares. I’ll be watching this one again.
Carolina Skeletons (1991) Above average TV drama that sees Lou Gossett Jr. returning to his small hometown a decorated war hero and digging into a decades old murder trial that saw his 15 year older brother put to death for the murder of two little white girls. Bruce Dern also stars as the town’s modern day sheriff as does Melissa Leo, Bill Cobbs and Clifton James. A good cast is always worth a look.
All-American Murder (1991) Christopher Walken turns up as a cop pushing a teenage suspect to find the real killer or find himself arrested for a series of violent killings that all seem connected to him. Easy to watch and directed by Happy Day’s Anson Williams. Who knew?
As of late ….
Domestic Disturbance (2001) Tight little thriller I missed when it came out. John Travolta has divorced Teri Polo and she’s got a new man in her life played by Vince Vaughn. But he’s got a shady past he’s kept hidden from her and the sleepy new town he’s moved into. Problem is he’s now step father to Travolta’s teenage son who is either crying werewolf far too often or did indeed see Vince murder Steve Buscemi. Worth a look.
The Go-Go Boys (2014) Documentary film about the rise and fall of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus and by extension Cannon Films. A must see for those of us growing up in the 1980’s when we all knew the Cannon logo and what it meant. Explosions, action, low budgets, Norris and Bronson.
Let Him Go (2020) I was riveted to the screen when I first saw the trailer for this Kevin Costner/Diane Lane flick and the film itself did not disappoint me. I loved that it was a period piece and the set up is totally believable with the actors involved at the top of their game. It draws you in to the story and keeps you on edge. I’ll spare you the details so you can discover them for yourselves. Trust me on this one and go check out the trailer.
The Monthly Report Card
41 films seen.
24 new to me titles.
11 seen on DVD.
26 seen on blu ray.
3 seen on TCM … Lucky Jordan, Marine Rainders and No Questions Asked.
1 seen streaming on the internet … Stage to Thunder Rock
If I could take just one of these to that well known desert isle for repeated viewings I’ll cheat a bit and go with the entire 6 Yakuza films in the 1960’s Outlaw series. They’re that good as a whole.
Most enjoyable of the new to me titles goes to The Frighteners for a classic era movie (pre 2000 on my blog) and Let Him Go for something post 2000.
Most enjoyable revisit goes to Lee’s Dr. Sadism. Mainly because I was so impressed with the new transfer and it had been so many years. Otherwise I’d have went with Man Without a Star.
Drop Brando and I a line to let us know your thoughts and scorecard on how many of the above you’ve seen.