Plenty of good titles this month and some best forgotten. Either way my watching count dropped after finally hitting the road for a two week trip to Nova Scotia to visit family in this pandemic world we live in. Was a long overdue journey and I’m just thankful that everyone is still safe and sound.
Oh, and then there’s the Blue Jays push to the playoffs that is yet to be determined though we’re running on fumes heading into the final week of regular season play.
On to the movie round-up.
Ssshhhh ….. The Silent Film Project.
The Ace of Hearts (1921)
It’s a secret society of assassins out to save the world from Hitler like men who would do us all harm with none other than the Man of a Thousand Faces, Lon Chaney, leading the way. Chaney is one of seven men and one woman, Leatrice Joy, who are committed to assassinating the latest power hungry dictator.
Who will do the killing is decided by which member of the group draws the Ace of Hearts. That misfortune goes to Chaney’s rival for the hand of Miss Joy, John Bowers. Chaney once again is playing the man who longs for the leading lady but she’s just out of his reach. She’s in love with Bowers and the two marry before he is to set the assassination attempt in motion.
If he turns coward and doesn’t go through with it, he’ll be killed by a member of his own secret society. This one’s all rather obvious in where it’s going to lead us and will give Chaney the chance to see that love lives on through a sacrifice of his own.
I can’t say this was one of my favorite Chaney films but on the other hand it’s nice to know it hasn’t been lost to time and deterioration like so many films of the era including his own, London After Midnight, a film that lives on in Horror fandom thanks to the wonderful look that Chaney achieved for the film.
The Raven (1935) Is Bela getting the best of Boris?
Bengal Tiger (1936)
B flick from Warner’s giving Barton MacLane a role that doesn’t find him as a crooked prison guard or mobster. No this time he’s a lion tamer with a heart of gold who marries June Travis knowing she doesn’t love him. She’s indebted to him but when she meets fellow Circus performer Warren Hull Barton’s life is about to fall apart. Plays like one of those Eddie G. Robinson flicks on a tight budget subbing MacLane in for Rico.
Black Angel (1946) When Dan Duryea met Peter Lorre.
Kansas Raiders (1950)
B western with an aging Brian Donlevy as Quantrill and a bunch of youngsters riding along for the killing and looting. Names on the rise include Audie Murphy, Tony Curtis, James Best, Richard Long and Dewey Martin. So-so but I’m quite sure there’s very little historical fact going on here.
California Conquest (1952) More popcorn adventures from producer Sam Katzman sees Cornel Wilde in a Zorro like tale with Teresa Wright as an energetic damsel who is just as good a shot and rider as he is. Some swordplay and John Dehner once again playing the heavy with the cooperation of Alfonso Bedoya. Good for a rainy day viewing.
The Law and Jake Wade (1958)
Damn fine western from John Sturges who had a way with he-man casts and delivering top flight action pictures. Bad Day at Black Rock, Magnificent Seven and Great Escape should convince you of that. Here we get a fine western with Robert Taylor renewing his association with a gang he used to run with led by Richard Widmark. They’re headed to a showdown at the fadeout. Also stars Robert Middleton, Deforest Kelly AND Henry Silva. Seriously, what’s not to love.
4D Man (1959) Previously featured sci-fi gem that deserves to be better known. Glad to see it turn up on blu ray which prompted this revisit.
The Stranglers of Bombay (1959)
Another Hammer film that plays strong to the era. A religious sect that strangles it’s victims are terrorizing the countryside in England occupied India. One of the studios better films in the non-monster category should be better known among Hammer historians and probably would be had Lee or Cushing starred as opposed to Guy Rolfe. George Pastell makes for a heck of a Hammer villain once again.
Die, Monster, Die (1965) Nick Adams takes center stage in this H.P. Lovecraft adaptation that sends him to the countryside in an attempt to court Suzan Farmer. Here he’ll meet her wheelchair bound father, Boris Karloff and her decaying mother. Then there’s the meteorite in the garden house poisoning all those around it with radiation. This one grows on you after multiple viewings since childhood.
The Reptile (1966) previously featured Hammer thriller.
The Rover (1967)
Little seen Anthony Quinn film from director Terence Young. I’d seen it ages ago on late night TV so to see it turn up on blu ray was a pleasant surprise. A period piece during the era of Napoleon. Haunting with a Morricone score, Quinn, finds himself caught up with a slightly crazed beautiful young woman, Rosanna Schiaffino, and the woman who tends to her, Rita Hayworth. The war is over the horizon which brings Officer Richard Johnson into the story. Get past the shoddy first 10 minutes and see if you like this one as much as I do. But then I love Quinn on camera in general and fondly recall hunting down his films while in my teens once I discovered for myself how he could command the screen as he got older.
Five Card Stud (1968) I know this isn’t the best western of Henry Hathaway’s career but I’ve always loved this one since childhood. In part because it had two Kings of Cool in it that I idolized as a kid, Dean Martin and Robert Mitchum. It’s a murder mystery in a western setting with a top flight cast to back up our leading men. Inger Stevens, Roddy McDowall and Yaphet Kotto among them.
Old Dracula (1974)
David Niven takes to a set of fangs and a cape in this lame attempt to cash in the success of Young Frankenstein. Watchable, just not all that funny. Considering the overall career of Mr. Niven, I would say this is one of his low points but yeah, I’ll probably watch it again in another twenty years or so in order to refresh my memory and who knows maybe, just maybe it gets better with age????
Walking Tall (1974) – A return to this Joe Don Baker bloodfest once again.
Street Killing (1976) Andy Griffith is a crusading D.A. looking to slam the cell door on mobster Robert Loggia and chief hood, Harry Guardino. TV production finding Andy in between gigs as Sheriff Taylor and Matlock. Also has Bradford Dillman appearing which gives us 4 worthy actors worthy of our attention to check in on.
S.O.S. Titanic (1979)
Having just visited the Maritime Museum in Halifax while on vacation that has some artifacts from the ill fated liner, I thought I’d crack the seal on the recent blu ray I’d acquired that tells us the story of the ocean liner long before Leo and Kate climbed aboard. Sure the F/X are a bit shoddy at times but once you’re aboard with Helen Mirren, David Janssen, David Warner, Cloris Leachman, Ian Holm, Harry Andrews and Susan Saint James you’re caught up in the lives of those trying to stay afloat once the iceberg leaves them doomed to their fate.
The Seventies with Mitchum, Mitchum and Mitchum. A trio of titles starring the Mitchum boys. The Wrath of God (1972), Blackout (1978) and Stingray (1978).
Cocoon (1985) What a pleasure it was to revisit this film for the first time since seeing it upon it’s release to VHS and the home video market. Another Ron Howard winner with a cast of old timers discovering the fountain of youth. Well, kind of in this delicious sci-fi/comedy/family film with Wilford Brimley in the central role accompanied by Don Ameche and Hume Cronyn. Also appearing are Brian Dennehy, Jessica Tandy and Steven Guttenberg (remember him). Oh, and one of my first screen crushes, Linda Harrison. Don’t know her? Maybe this will help.
The Man With One Red Shoe (1985) Early comedy in the career of Tom Hanks. Long before he became a celebrated actor of the Jimmy Stewart school. He’s a pawn in the spy world run by opposing players, Charles Durning and Dabney Coleman. Easy to enjoy and I have no idea why it’s taken me this many years to finally see it.
Eight Men Out (1988)
Superb period piece looking back at the baseball scandal of 1919 starring a number of “faces” one is sure to recognize from up and comers John Cusack and Michael Rooker to old timers like John Anderson and Clifton James. John Sayles film and easy to recommend to one and all. Not just for average baseball fans.
Beyond Dream’s Door (1989) Kind of forgot what happened in this one already…. Guess it wasn’t all that good.
Fatal Exam (1990) Oh boy. At 114 minutes this slasher flick tried my patience and it’s not even worthy of the so-bad it’s good category. Teacher sends a group to a haunted house where a religious cult did some sacrificing. I think. Best scene in the flick is an inept fight to the death between two of our lame brain actors where a crew member’s head enters into frame. Rewound that a couple times to finally get a laugh.
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Another fun revisit is this beloved film with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau going toe to toe to win the hand of the fair maiden, Ann-Margret. And who can blame them. Pushes all the right buttons and is smart enough to surround the boys with a fine cast from Ossie Davis and Burgess Meredith to Kevin Pollack and Daryl Hannah.
As of late ….
Back When We Were Grown Ups (2004) Made for Cable from director Ron Underwood. So-so drama of an aging woman played by Blythe Danner and all those around her including three step daughters, the return of an old beau and the 99 year old man she looks after. But let’s look at the cast which is what drew me in. Peter Fonda, Faye Dunaway, Peter Riegert and in his last film performance, Jack Palance.
The Marksman (2021)
And again Liam Neeson makes a revenge flick that works. I’m convinced he’s the Charles Bronson of our times. Fine setup with Liam along the Mexico border who saves a young boy from certain death crossing into the states from a drug cartel who are sworn to kill him and all his family members. Pulls all the right strings to keep us entertained and emotionally involved. Keep’em coming Liam.
The Monthly Report Card
28 films seen. A big drop over my usual tally but it sure was nice to finally go on a road trip.
13 new to me titles.
11 seen on DVD.
13 seen on blu ray.
3 seen on TCM – Bengal Tiger, California Conquest, The Wrath of God
1 seen on Amazon Prime – The Marksman
If I could take just one of these to that well known desert isle for repeated viewings I’ll make it a double bill and bring both Cocoon and Grumpy Old Men.
Most enjoyable of the new to me titles goes to Stingray. Proved to be fun drive-in fare.
Most enjoyable revisit goes to The Law and Jake Wade. And why not, I sat down to watch it with my 82 year old western loving Dad along with Number 2 son, Kirk on my Nova Scotia visit.
Drop Brando and I a line to let us know your thoughts and scorecard on how many of the above you’ve seen.