Just when I thought I was going to have to binge on baseball movies to welcome spring, MLB settled their disputes and spring training has begun. Go Jays Go. I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year for Canada’s one and only team.
Wordle? Yeah I got hooked on that too but that hasn’t slowed me down any from trying to average a movie a day. Now on to this month’s roll call so keep you’re note pad handy. Maybe there’s something here worth tracking down.
Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936)
Warner Oland and Keye Luke are once again caught up in murders with the race track serving as the backdrop. A gambling ring is behind the killings and fixing races. I’ll be rewatching these entertaining mysteries into my senior years. And to Oland and Luke I say, “Thank you … so much.”
Dark Eyes of London (1939) Network blu ray. Fun Bela Lugosi thriller.
Fric-Frac (1939) Cinetrove International blu ray. Just the second film I’ve seen with French comedian Fernandel and the first in his native tongue. The other being his pairing opposite Bob Hope in 1958’s Paris Holiday. Here the comedian plays an assistant at a jeweler’s shop who is going to be set up as a patsy when he falls for a woman, Arletty, who is in with local thieves. Michel Simon among them. That doesn’t sit well with his employers daughter who has designs on the Frenchman. Has it’s moments though I felt it a trifle overlong.
The Vampire’s Ghost (1945) Imprint Silver Screams Collection blu ray.
Workman Lesley Selander directed this vampire tale that shares much in common with stories of voodoo. With Bela Lugosi nowhere in sight, John Abbott, assumes the role of a bloodsucker who may finally have met his match in this 58 minute quickie.
Johnny Allegro (1949) Mill Creek Noir Archive Collection Vol. 1 blu ray. Above entry for George Raft at this point in his career.
The Interrupted Journey (1949) Kino Classics British Noir : Five Film Collection II DVD. A Hitchcock like set up for Richard Todd when he leaves his wife for another woman that takes a turn towards murder. When he decides to back out of his plans and return home to his wife, the train he has jumped from crashes and his mistress’ body is found in the wreckage. The problem is her death is due to murder and not the crash. The police are soon circling. Todd’s good, the movie’s good but that ending???? Someone should have slapped the screenwriter.
Oklahoma Justice (1951) Warner Archive Monogram Cowboys Volume 1 DVD set. Say it ain’t so. Western hero Johnny Mack Brown walks into a frontier town bank, shoots the teller and makes off with the cash. Well, not really. It’s all a set up and the teller was in on the shooting with Johnny firing blanks in his direction. It’s all for effect to put Johnny on the run and to be taken in by a local outlaw gang so he can deliver that special brand of Oklahoma Justice. At less then one hour in length these are easy to shoehorn in when one’s time is limited.
The Quiet Man (1952) Eureka! blu ray. Absolute classic from John Ford starring Duke and O’Hara. It was St. Patrick’s Day so this was the obvious choice.
The World In His Arms (1952) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray.
A seafaring adventure with Gregory Peck at the helm. Ann Blyth is the lady he’s after and Anthony Quinn chews the scenery as Peck’s competition on the waters. Not quite a pirate picture with Peck looking to buy Alaska from the Russians and harvest the seal trade. That fine scene stealer John McIntire sails as Peck’s second in command. A fun flick and as it’s from director Raoul Walsh that shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Affair In Trinidad (1952) Mill Creek Rita Hayworth Collection blu ray. Rita meets Glenn Ford and the sparks fly.
The Miami Story (1954) Mill Creek Noir Collection Vol. 1.
Former gangster, Barry Sullivan, comes out of hiding to aid law enforcement in taking down criminal kingpin, Luther Adler in this “B” via director Fred F. Sears. Filmed in black and white, Beverly Garland costars.
The Vicious Circle (1957) Kino Classics British Noir : Five Film Collection II DVD. Mild mannered John Mills stars as a doctor who is either knocking off people he’s slightly connected to or he’s being set up as a patsy by shifty Lionel Jeffries. Fine Noir entry from director Gerald Thomas who was about to be forever identified with the Carry On series.
Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Columbia blu ray.
Every few years I love to rewatch this David Lean classic that claimed the Oscar for Best Picture of 1957. Superb WW2 adventure that stars William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins and Sessue Hayakawa. Guinness won an Oscar for his role as the commanding Officer in a Japanese P.O.W. camp who loses sight of his duty in a battle of wits against camp commander Hayakawa. I’m sure you’ve all seen it but if you haven’t than you’re only doing yourself a disservice. Easily would make a list of my all time faves.
Horror of Dracula (1958) Lionsgate/Icon blu ray. I watch this at least once every year and shouldn’t have to explain myself. Best of all Hammer films and for my money Dracula films as well. And yes I vote for Christopher Lee in the Lee-Lugosi controversy that fans love to debate about. But let me be clear. I still love Bela.
Castle of the Living Dead (1964) Severin Eurocrypt of Christopher Lee Collection blu ray. Previously featured is this Lee thriller that has since turned up in a restored blu ray edition.
Major Dundee (1965) Arrow Video blu ray.
A dry run for The Wild Bunch or a lost classic? I’ve always felt that Sam Peckinpah’s much maligned western is short of “classic” status but a worthy addition to his catalog of titles. Charlton Heston takes on the title role with Richard Harris as his leading costar. The cast of this south of the border adventure are mostly members of the Peckinpah stock company making it a must see. James Coburn, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Dub Taylor, R.G. Armstrong and lovely Senta Berger among them.
Kill, Baby, Kill (1966) Kino Classics Mario Bava Collection blu ray. One of my earliest introductions to Mario Bava and it still creeps me out. Superb supernatural tale of ghosts and a young girl right out of The Shining terrifying those who see her marking them for death. A must see.
Funeral In Berlin (1966) Imprint blu ray.
The second of Michael Caine’s spy saga playing agent Harry Palmer. This time he’s tangled up with a defecting Russian General played by Oskar Homolka. Unlike the first film in the series, this one takes on a decided tongue in cheek that I’m almost tempted to say leans towards the influence of Bond minus the gadgetry and stunts. Enjoyable as hell and with Guy Hamilton directing I’d expect no less. He’d already helmed Goldfinger and would guide three more Bond adventures in the 70’s.
The Caper of the Golden Bulls (1967) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Weak entry in the heist flicks that were popular in the mid to late 60’s this Stephen Boyd entry proves not to be another Topkapi. Still, Boyd, makes for an entertaining leading man here teamed with Yvette Mimieux and Walter Slezak.
Oliver! (1968) Columbia DVD.
Head bowed in shame I must admit that I’d never seen this Best Picture winner from Sir Carol Reed. No I’m not ashamed of missing a Best Picture but rather the fact that I’d avoided an Oliver Reed film all these years. Ollie plays the heavy and does his best to terrorize little Mark Lester and supposedly did so with equal gusto off screen as well. Why hadn’t I seen this? Again it goes back to the fact that I never chased down musicals all that much. Yes it’s a good movie and one I can easily recommend. “Please sir, I want some more.”
And God said to Cain (1970) Arrow Video Vengeance Trails blu ray Collection.
Antonio Margheriti directs this revenge tale that sees a rare opportunity to have Klaus Kinski play the good guy. He’s newly released from a prison quarry and headed back to the western town to seek vengeance on those who sent him away. I’d avoided this one for years due to the poor quality releases on the market. Thanks to Arrow for setting me straight with a solid transfer.
Dirty Harry (1971) WB Dirty Harry Collection DVD. A 70’s classic. Doesn’t get much better than this landmark film in the career of Clint Eastwood. I’m just going to assume you’ve all seen it. Often imitated but that’s as far as it goes. Demands a rewatch every few years. “Do you feel lucky?”
The Screaming Woman (1972) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Fun TV thriller of the seventies.
Fangs (1974) Dark Force Entertainment blu ray.
Aka Holy Wednesday. Here’s a perfect example of 70’s drive-in fare. Les Tremayne stars as an old coot who uses his pet snakes to seek revenge on those he deems have wronged him. That includes a gal who has a sexual fetish involving said snakes. All your getting out of me.
The Vampire’s Night Orgy (1974) Code Red blu ray. Love these low budget Euro horrors of the seventies. Cult leading man Jack Taylor and a bus load of travelers find themselves stranded in a old village where it seems the townsfolk come “alive” at night with an unquenchable thirst for blood. With all this carnage going on around him, don’t expect Jack to pass up the opportunity to spy on a lovely traveling companion through a peephole so the producers can squeeze in some nudity for the drive-in crowds. Fun of it’s type and perhaps better than you might expect.
The Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) Indicator blu ray.
Hollywood goes Giallo with a high class production and a leading lady of stature circa 1978. Photographer Faye Dunaway is experiencing visions of murders. The victims are all people within her inner circle. Detective Tommy Lee Jones is on hand to protect her from harm and while he’s at it, why not fall in love with the sexy lady. But can he save her in the end. Brad Dourif is in here but is he just a red herring? Flash and a decent outing but I’d rewrite the ending if only I could.
The Norseman (1978) Scorpion Releasing blu ray. I wouldn’t bother comparing this to the 1958 rip roaring adventure, The Vikings, starring Kirk Douglas. Directed by B specialist, Charles B. Pierce, and starring Lee Majors, the main issue I have with this film is I found it boring. It did have an abundance of “faces” that you might recognize including Cornel Wilde, Jack Elam, Mel Ferrer and even that great character actress, Kathleen Freeman though she fared better in Jerry Lewis comedies.
The Dark (1979) MVD blu ray.
Here’s a flick that always leaves me wishing I liked it more when all is said and done. It’s mainly because I’m a fan of three principle actors in this Alien like horror flick. William Devane, Richard Jaeckel and Keenan Wynn. There’s a deranged monster killing at random and our trio are out to put a stop to the gory murders.
The Incubus (1981) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. John Cassavetes stars in horror title I featured ages ago when just starting Mike’s Take.
Final Justice (1984) MVD blu ray.
Joe Don Baker as a modern day Texas Ranger runs afoul of the mob and finds himself personally extraditing a hitman to Italy but the plane gets waylaid in Malta. Yeah he loses his man and in a classic fish out of water story, Baker, takes his fists and six shooter to the locals as he hunts down his man in this Greydon Clark mash up. Not all that good but I did like the premise. Just needed a better execution. Maybe they should have called it Walking Tall Abroad.
House on Haunted Hill (1999) WB DVD.
Ho-hum. Geoffrey Rush stars in this remake of the old William Castle thriller of 1959. All anyone has to do to collect a million dollar paycheck is to stay alive till morning in the locked up house. Best thing in the film? Rush’s name. It’s Mr. Price. A definite nod to the original film’s iconic star, Vincent Price.
as of late ….
American Ultra (2015) Elevation Pictures DVD. Odd entry in the action flick genre. Spaced out stoner Jesse Eisenberg who is going nowhere in life despite a good looking girlfriend, Kristen Stewart just might be dormant secret agent with skills to match Liam Neeson. Slow start and offbeat casting but once it gets going this proved to be a pretty decent action flick. Could have been subtitled Stoner meets Universal Soldiers.
The Hitman’s Bodyguard (2017) VVS blu ray. Joining Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson together proves to be a winning idea when Ryan takes on the job of protecting a hitman who has the goods on a third world politician played by Gary Oldman charged with war crimes. It’s a road trip/action/buddy-buddy/comedy/F laced pciture all rolled into one. And oh yeah, it’s got Salma Hayek the most beautiful woman in movies as Sam’s wife and she out F-Bombs him!
Curtiz (2018) Netflix.
I had no idea this film existed. Caught sight of it while scanning movies on Netflix. Ferenc Lengyel stars as the legendary director, Michael Curtiz, the man who gave us one classic after another while working at Warner Bros. though he’s never been as well known as some of his contemporaries outside of film buffs. Filmed in black and white, Lengyel, looked like the Curtiz I see in old photographs and brought the director to life based on the research I’ve done over the years. The film revolves around the making of Casablanca while carefully keeping Bogart and Bergman in the shadows off screen. Not a great flick but nice to see Curtiz getting his due.
Django and Django (2021) Netflix. An easy decision to sit in on this documentary on the career of “Italy’s 2nd best director of spaghetti westerns,” Sergio Corbucci. On hand are the original Django himself, Franco Nero and of course, Quentin Tarantino to discuss the many westerns and other genre pics that Corbucci helmed. Fans of the Italian westerns should check this one out but beware of many spoilers if you’ve not seen Corbucci’s output.
The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard (2021) VVS blu ray.
The gang returns minus Oldman but adding Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman into the mix. Not as good as the first film but on the plus side we … rather … I get to see way more of Salma in this action packed sequel that has our leading lady running into an old flame turned master criminal played by Salma’s frequent leading man, Mr. Banderas.
36 Films Seen
15 new to me
The most enjoyable revisit? Tough call when I watch both The Quiet Man and River Kwai in the same month. Not to mention Dirty Harry and Horror of Dracula. So let’s go outside the box and select The Screaming Woman since it’s taken me nearly 50 years to see it a second time.
Of the newbies I’d recommend Oliver! Especially to those who are like me and don’t tune into too many musicals.
Add them up and let Brando and I know your score.