Aside from a few hockey games there hasn’t been too much to interfere with my movie watching this month. A month that saw me watch my first Hallmark Christmas movie. You know the ones that play nightly for what seems like an eternity during the holiday season. Most everyone I know tells me they’re all the same formula with just a few tweaks and new faces. It’s one of those new faces that drew me in ….. more on that later.
Now on to this months roll call.
Ssshhhh ….. The Silent Film Project.
Two Arabian Knights (1927)
This Lewis Milestone picture has me convinced it served as a template to the eventual Road pictures starring Hope and Crosby. It stars a pre Hopalong Cassidy, William Boyd, a very Victor McLaglen like, Louis Wolheim and Mary Astor long before she famously found herself in the hunt for “The Black Bird.”
Boyd and Wolheim begin their adventure in the trenches of WW1. Not only are they fighting the Germans but each other in a mud pit of a trench. With death looming the pair turn their aggressions on each other in a slugfest that ends with them surrounded atop the pit by German soldiers.
I must say this is one expertly directed visual. So much so that I called in my son to check it out for himself. It proved to me once again that many of these silent efforts were strides ahead of the early talkies and beyond in scope and camera work. Mainly because talking pictures were so stage bound due to the the need of recording the actor’s voices.
Not surprisingly, Milestone, was awarded a directing Oscar for this thoroughly enjoyable action adventure.
The boys will find themselves in a snowbound German P.O.W. camp before escaping to an ocean liner where it’s off to an Arabian adventure where they’ll vie for the love of a beautiful princess, Miss Astor, in what would become the Dorothy Lamour part in the Bob and Bing comedies if my assumptions are remotely correct.
Villains and plenty of heroism follow to keep us entertained at the fadeout. A winning effort by all and film buffs keep your eyes peeled for the ship’s purser, Boris Karloff. Thought to be a lost film, a print was apparently discovered in the vaults of Howard Hughes following his death. We can all be thankful for that.
On to this month’s spotlight…..
Having long proclaimed to be one of the biggest Charles Bronson fans on the planet, November 3rd, marked what would have been the legendary tough guy’s 100th birthday. With that in mind I dedicated much of this month’s writings and viewings to Bronson. I welcome one and all to have a look.
Dracula’s Daughter (1936) Edward Van Sloan returns as Prof. Van Helsing who finds himself tracking a female vampire, Gloria Holden. Not bad but it sorely misses the return of Bela Lugosi who was written out of the script!!!!
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Revisiting this old favorite reminded me of just how much I love movies. Errol Flynn is the ONLY Robin Hood in my world and I’ve had a crush on Olivia De Havilland since seeing this movie as a kid. I sat watching this with the biggest smile on my face. And let’s not forget Basil Rathbone and Claude Rains as our villains. Just like I was a kid all over again. Magical. Hey Bugs! “Welcome to Sherwood!”
Western Union (1940) Leaps and bounds ahead of a good majority of westerns that were released during the era. Far from a B picture and directed in glorious color by Fritz Lang. Dean Jagger’s attempting to install the telegraph across dangerous territory with Randolph Scott as his ramrod with a shady past. One that involves the heavy, Barton MacLane. Also starring Robert Young, Virginia Gilmore and John Carradine. For a 1940 picture, this one doesn’t pull too many of it’s punches.
Reap the Wild Wind (1942) Big screen entertainment courtesy of Cecil B. DeMille. A seafaring adventure with Ray Milland at odds with John Wayne over sunken treasure and the hand of Miss Paulette Goddard. A popcorn special but entertaining nonetheless.
Hoppy Serves a Writ (1943)
A minor entry among Hopalong Cassidy films but of great importance in the overall history of the legendary Robert Mitchum. He made his film debut here alongside William Boyd, Victor Jory and George Reeves. I was long overdue to see Mitch’s entry to the movies.
Colt Comrades (1943) More fun with Hopalong Cassidy and would you believe this one also has Mitchum, Jory and Superman himself George Reeves costarring just as they had in Writ.
A Foreign Affair (1948) A lesser Billy Wilder film is still above most others in my eyes and that’s exactly what I thought of this military comedy starring Jean Arthur and Marlene Dietrich. Two of my all time favorite actresses. Jean is the mousey politician visiting Germany during it’s occupation by the U.S. forces and Dietrich is the songstress still wowing audiences at a local nightclub. She’s also in a relationship with American Officer, John Lund. Comedy, spies and tear drops follow over the course of the film that to be honest, needed a bigger name in the role essayed by Lund. I say this with all due respect. Paging Tyrone Power?
Abbott and Costello In the Foreign Legion (1950) Bud and Lou end up in uniform and promptly find themselves mixed up with spies, Patricia Medina and even giant sized wrestler Tor Johnson of horror fame. Hard not to laugh when Bud and Lou are giving us their schtick. Check out that narrator ….. none other than Jeff Chandler.
The Man Who Watched Trains Go By (1952)
The wonderful Claude Rains plays a bookkeeper at a firm overseen by Herbert Lom. When the books don’t balance and Lom turns up dead, Rains, finds himself making off with a suitcase full of cash pursued by a police inspector and a femme fatale. A minor entry but Rains is a real treat to watch.
Bend of the River (1953) One of the Jimmy Stewart/Anthony Mann westerns that deserves our full attention. Stewart finds himself leading a wagon train and riding alongside Arthur Kennedy who may turn out to be his enemy by the final reel. Superior entry with Julie Adams, Rock Hudson, Jay C. Flippen and Royal Dano among those making the journey.
Pickup On South Street (1953) A classic Noir from Sam Fuller starring Richard Widmark as a pickpocket getting tangled up with a communist ring when he picks the wrong pocket. A must see also starring Jean Peters and one of the greatest character actresses of them all, Thelma Ritter, in a heartbreaking performance worthy of the Oscar that instead went to Donna Reed for her work in From Here To Eternity.
Beachhead (1954) Not bad WW2 effort with Tony Curtis and Frank Lovejoy battling the Japanese on an island paradise when in drops Mary Murphy to allow for Tony’s love interest. Sticks mostly to action sequences but the budget ran low when needed at the finale. Some really bad F/X are employed that weren’t fooling anyone then or now.
The Man From Del Rio (1956) When Anthony Quinn proves fast on the draw he’s thought to be a good fit as a town tamer/sheriff and takes on the job of what he imagines to be one of respectability. He’s also hoping he can entice Katy Jurado into a relationship. He’s to learn that he’s just another gunfighter in the eyes of the townsfolk in this black and white western with strong performances from the leads on down to the costars that include Peter Whitney, Whit Bissell and John Larch. Thankfully this has resurfaced on blu ray as a double feature from Kino Lorber Studio Classics along with another superior Quinn western ……
The Ride Back (1957) Low-key and sparse tale of William Conrad going across the border to bring Anthony Quinn back to the U.S. for trial after he’s gunned a man down. At odds on the trail, Quinn, is beginning to sweat a little more each day as his freedom and life hang in the balance. Solid character study if you’re not looking for fireworks in your westerns. Damn I love to see Anthony Quinn do his thing on camera.
Beyond the Time Barrier (1959) Astronaut Robert Clarke finds himself hurled into the future as if he’s Charlton Heston. No apes but he does find a race of superior beings on an Earth that has been ravaged by war. Better than you might expect but then it’s directed by cult favorite, Edgar G. Ulmer.
A Taste of Fear (1961) A revisit thanks to Indicator’s blu ray release, this Hammer effort was one of the first I put a spotlight on when the blog began in December of 2013. Back when I had very little to say and was discovering just how to work a blog. The film? First rate thriller from the Studio That Dripped Blood.
The War Lord (1965)
A tough gritty film with little flash to it but damn it’s a good flick that deserves to be better known when it comes to the films of Charlton Heston. A tight budget when compared to El Cid or Ben-Hur, Heston plays a medieval Lord granted lands but is soon bewitched by the virginal Rosemary Forsythe. Directed by Franklin Schaffner, this is a solid entry and costars Richard Boone as Heston’s right hand man who is loyal to the end. Dynamite action sequences and the film just has a breath of authenticity to it. Recommended.
Swamp Country (1966) Oh boy….. Rex Allen of country music fame stars in this super low budget flick involving a murder and a suspect hiding out in the “swamp country.” Should have added some gore and hired Herschell Gordon Lewis to direct ensuring it a cult following cause it sure does play like one of his flicks minus the gore.
Torn Curtain (1966) I like the set up for this Hitchcock flick starring Paul Newman and Julie Andrews but I do think it’s a tad overlong and it lost my interest over the last half hour or so. Tries hard but Cary Grant was on the verge of retiring and Grace Kelly already had. What I’m trying to say is the film which concerns a scientist gone over to the Russians was about ten years too late. But then who am I to question “The Master?”
My journey through Japanese Yakuza flicks continued with this entertaining effort starring Akira Kobayashi and Jo Shishido. The pair are sworn enemies but will find common ground when Kobayashi faces off against a rival family. Damn those knives look mighty sharp when the combatants go hand to hand. First rate and the genre and era in general is worthy of one’s time.
Hammerhead (1968) Spies were everywhere in the 60’s. Since I have the original one sheet to this I thought I’d finally sit in and watch it. I like Vince Edwards, love Judy Geeson and when Hammer’s virginal beauty, Veronica Carlson, popped up in a small bit, my heart skipped a beat. For more on the film head over to a real Wolfman’s take on the film.
Kill Them All and Come Back Alone (1968) Spaghetti western with Chuck Connors taking center stage accompanied by Frank Wolfe. There’s treasure to be had during the civil war and Chuck is out to get it all for himself. Better than I expected with plenty of gunfire and action sequences from director Enzo G. Castellari.
Captivating flick involving three men and a suitcase full of cash in a desert town. Just who has the upper hand continues to change between Mario Adorf, Anthony Dawson and Marquard Bohm. Sparse location adds to the sweaty feel of the film and while I enjoyed it as a whole, I did feel a bit letdown by the fadeout thinking this was a missed opportunity. Solid role for the harsh features of Dawson though.
Lover of the Monster (1974) Isn’t it wonderful to see Klaus Kinski lose his mind on camera? The answer is clearly yes even if the film is lacking in delivery. Here it’s a cross between Jekyll and Hyde mixed with the Frankenstein myth. Kinski and his wife return to her late Father’s estate where Kinski discovers the experiments the old guy was up too. Klaus comes unglued the way we like him followed by a murderous rampage worthy of the Frankenstein Monster. Once again I’m let down by the fact that Klaus is dubbed.
Madhouse (1974) Anything with Vincent Price and Peter Cushing can’t be all that bad and I’ll watch anything that these two appear in multiple times. Still, this one comes at the end of Price’s run of thrillers with A.I.P. and it’s not up to par with his earlier outings. Price plays to form as an actor who had become famous for a series of Dr. Death movies now looking to make a comeback but someone is bumping off his costars.
Smokey and the Bandit (1977) What the hell do you expect me to do when I come home from work and my son is ten minutes into the most famous of Burt Reynolds movies on Netflix? You grab a chair and before you know it you’re East Bound and Down with Burt, Jerry and Sally with Jackie and Mike in hot pursuit. Comedy classic I saw at the theater as a kid. I’ll have to do a proper write up on this one at some point.
Whodunit? (1982) Seriously, who really cares? Low budget thriller with someone bumping off those who have gathered together to film a low budget movie. Maybe if Jason or Freddy had shown up for the carnage it would have been more memorable.
Raiders of Atlantis (1983)
Love the art work on the blu ray release featuring a very Rambo like Christopher Connelly. That’s all I have to say about this one though there’s plenty of action to be found in Ruggero Deodato’s flick.
American Ninja (1985) Hey, it’s a Cannon production starring Michael Dudikoff. What’s not to love? The title tells all.
Necromancer (1988) When a University student is raped by a trio of goons and gets no sympathy from Russ Tamblyn as her aging lover/acting teacher she turns to the dark arts awakening a vengeful demon to do her bidding. Let the blood flow. Yeah it’s kind of fun in that low budget way I’ve always liked.
Scanner Cop (1993) While not an official sequel to the Cronenberg film, it’s a story on it’s own starring Daniel Quinn who has the power to burst veins and blow up the heads of his enemies. And with Richard Lynch as his chief enemy, be sure to hang around till the payoff.
Scanner Cop II : The Showdown (1994) Daniel Quinn continues fighting crime and comes to realize he’s going to face off against a master criminal who has “the Power” he too possesses. Fan favorite Robert Forster turns up for the paycheck as well. Released in a spectacular blu ray edition from Vinegar Syndrome, both films are plenty of fun for those that fondly recall the VHS days.
As of late …..
Dawson City : Frozen Time (2016) The story behind not only a gold rush and the years ahead for this Canadian town but also the story of how reels upon reels of silent movies were rediscovered and saved in the late 1970’s. For both history buffs and movie historians.
The House (2017) Will Ferrell always seems to strike my funny bone and this outing is no different. Here, he and Amy Poehler decide to open up an underground casino to raise enough money to put their daughter through University. Plenty of laughs and over the top gore which I didn’t see coming when someone is caught cheating. (Think Casino and DeNiro’s hammer treatment) It won’t be long before the mob gets involved fronted by Jeremy Renner. Good for a laugh or two even if it’s all rather forgettable in the long run.
now about that Hallmark Christmas Movie….
One December Night (2021) Everyone’s favorite cult actor, Bruce Campbell, turns up as an aging rock star reuniting after many years with his estranged singing partner, Peter Gallagher, for a TV special. Add in that Bruce’s son is falling for Peter’s daughter and we might be headed to a very merry Christmas at the fadeout. If that set up sounds a bit like The Sunshine Boys to you, I thought the same. I had fun with it but then I’m an apostle of Ash and his fight against The Evil Dead.
The Monthly Report Card
42 Films Seen
20 new to me titles.
1 seen on TCM – Two Arabian Knights
9 seen on DVD
30 seen on blu ray
1 seen on television – One December Night
1 seen on Netflix – Smokey and the Bandit.
If I could take just one of these to that well known desert isle for repeated viewings it’s got to be The Adventures of Robin Hood. Pure entertainment.
Most enjoyable of the new to me titles? Believe it or not I’m going with Scanner Cop. Love that VHS era and this was just plain fun and Richard Lynch as the baddie seals the deal.
The best revisit is of course Robin Hood with The Great Escape right behind it.
Brando and I await your scorecard so let us know how many of these you’ve seen yourself.