Play Ball!

Yeah it’s baseball season and let’s be honest, we Canadians are expecting big things out of the Toronto Blue Jays this season. A World Series Championship? Let’s hope.

What does this do to my movie watching habits? Yeah it cuts down my free time but I’m still tracking at a high number though I’m up awfully late to squeeze them in. From binging on a 1940’s series to a couple of movies on Netflix, I’m always looking to vary my watching habits though it sure seems like I caught plenty of movies made in the 1940’s this time around.

On to the roll call and let’s hope something here inspires you to catch a title from yesteryear.

1930’s …

The Miracle Man (1932) streamed this thanks to rarefilmm : The Cave of Forgotten Films. Chester Morris stars as a con man who along with Sylvia Sidney leave the lecherous Boris Karloff behind and are off to a small country town where a local minister is known to heal the sick with the grace of God. A pre-code that is at times a bit creaky but there’s still a powerful scene within. One of the very few talkies I hadn’t yet seen that had Boris Karloff appearing.

The Secret of the Blue Room (1933) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray.

Little known Universal thriller at a time when Karloff and Lugosi were the front runners. Thankfully Lionel Atwill turns up in this “old dark house” styled thriller also featuring Gloria Stuart, Edward Arnold and Paul Lukas. Those who sleep in the blue room are not likely to see the sun rise. A quartet of men and Miss Stuart are out to solve the mystery in this effective chiller from Kurt Neumann.

The Lost Patrol (1934) VHS. John Ford classic with Victor McLaglen and Boris Karloff.

1940’s …

The Corsican Brothers (1941) Hens Tooth Video DVD.

First rate adventure starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Yes he’s playing a dual role. The Royal twins are separated at birth to save them from Akim Tamiroff who is out to lay siege to the territory by murdering their parents and claim the kingdom for his own in this swashbuckler that plays like a WB Errol Flynn picture. Enjoyable but damn it begs for color photography. Also starring J. Carrol Naish, Ruth Warrick and H.B. Warner.

The Falcon Series (1941-1946) Warner Archive DVD – Binging on 13 films.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) Shout Select blu ray. I never tire of this one. For my money it’s the all time greatest horror-comedy placing just ahead of Young Frankenstein. The fact that it has both Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi in their iconic roles of The Wolfman and Dracula playing along with Bud and Lou gives it a leg up on all those that followed. A must see but be sure to watch the Universal Monster classics first of you haven’t already.

El Paso (1949) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray.

John Payne stars as an idealistic young lawyer in the old west who finds things have changed in his hometown following the Civil War. Sterling Hayden and Dick Foran are stealing lands from returning vets and have a drunken Judge to back them up played by Henry Hull. When Payne turns to leading a group of vigilantes against Hayden, Miss Gail Russell will try to lead him back to righteousness and sticking to the courts in dealing out justice. Old hands Gabby Hayes and Denver Pyle turn up as well.

1950’s …

The Jungle (1952) VCI Entertainment DVD. This low budget special plays like a cross between a National Geographic documentary on India and a Tarzan flick minus Tarzan. What we do get is Marie Windsor as an Indian Princess, Cesar Romero as her handler/would be lover and Rod Cameron as the American big game hunter who leads an expedition into the interior to prove that the Wooly Mammoth still exists. It’s all foolish and padded with footage of India but I must say the elephants done up to look like Mammoths are rather impressive.

Cosh Boy (1953) Kino Lorber British Noir: Volume II DVD. Juvenile delinquent James Kenney takes center stage and to be honest is a thoroughly dislikable little SOB. I couldn’t wait for him to get his comeuppance in this Lewis Gilbert directed effort that also stars a very young Joan Collins as the little bastard’s girlfriend. Can’t say I liked the film all that much and yeah it’s cause I really hated Kenney’s character. Did I mention that already? At least Laurence Naismith turns up as a cop out to serve up some justice.

1960’s …

Cartouche (1962) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray.

Very reminiscent of the Richard Lester Musketeer films that would follow in the 1970’s, this entertaining adventure stars Jean-Paul Belmondo as a Robin Hood/Musketeer type in Paris during the 18th Century. Colorful and lavishly produced it also stars the stunning Claudia Cardinale as the woman who loves him. As usual when Miss Cardinale is on the screen I can’t take my eyes off her thanks to a childhood crush on this European beauty.

Billion Dollar Brain (1967) Imprint blu ray. Well the first two Harry Palmer films starring Michael Caine were solid entries in the 60’s spy genre but things fall apart in Ken Russell’s film. The first 40 minutes look good as Caine meets up with an old pal, Karl Malden, who has gone bad. The problems begin when Ed Begley’s nutty Bond-like villain turns up looking to start a world war. I must say that Begley does have one heck of a dialogue scene that proves to be the film’s highlight. Too bad this one didn’t work out. Keep your eyes peeled for Susan George and Donald Sutherland.

The Spirit Is Willing (1967) Olive Films blu ray. A haunted house is the setting for a comedy spoof from William Castle. I kept waiting for Don Knotts to turn up but as it is we have Sid Caesar and Vera Miles as a middle aged couple renting a haunted house for the summer. Ho hum but I suspect if I had seen this as a child I’d fondly recall it. At least John Astin turns up as he did quite often at this point in his career in a small but funny role. And why is Harvey Lembeck not worthy of being billed in the credits?

Tobruk (1967) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray.

Rock Hudson and George Peppard take the lead in this WW2 actioner that finds them battling the forces of Rommel. No classic but there’s little denying that this entertains. It costars Nigel Green as their commanding officer and one of the great screen villains, Leo Gordon, scoring a good guy role for a change but then Leo wrote the script this time so maybe that had something to do with it.

1970’s …

Count Dracula (1970) Severin blu ray. Christopher Lee tackles the Stoker role in a non-Hammer production.

Hollywood Horror House (1970) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. A cross between Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard and a serial killer flick. Just imagine if William Holden’s character Joe Gillis had been a killer leaving dismembered bodies around Hollywood who moves in with Norma Desmond to lay low and out of sight. Well that’s what we get when John Garfield’s son, David, moves in to one time 1930’s starlet, Miriam Hopkins, estate. Not as bad as it sounds but strictly for the drive-in crowd who enjoy a Herschell Gordon Lewis affair.

The Hot Rock (1972) 20th Century Fox DVD.

Odd caper film starring Robert Redford who leads a group of misfits on a jewel heist. Among them is George Segal playing it goofy. The gang is hired by Moses Gunn to steal the title diamond only to continue misplacing it and having to steal it all over again. Zero Mostel shines as a would be crook who gets his hands on the precious gem. Enjoyable but if we could only go back in time and film that one extra seen at the fadeout that we’re waiting on. No idea if it was filmed and got trimmed from the final release.

King Boxer (1972) Arrow Video Shawscope Collection. If you’re going to suggest a Shaw Brothers Kung Fu flick to a newbie go with this one. Lieh Lo plays the title role and he’s in training to become the Kung Fu champ of his district. A special nod to Arrow Video for restoring these films on blu. The Shaw Brothers had a distinctive look much like Hammer Films had their own and like Hammer, they’re addictive once you begin to watch them. It’s also fun to pick out the nods to this film in particular from musical cues to plot devices that Tarantino lifted for his Kill Bill saga.

Sweet Sugar (1972) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray.

Phyllis Davis finds herself in an all girl prison camp in this exploitation gem that might be the perfect film to recommend to a newbie looking to discover the 70’s women in prison flicks that played drive-ins everywhere back in the day. Murder, rape, crooked guards, crooked warden, a warped doctor etc… then a Dirty Dozen like showdown as the girls turn on their captors. Hell of a lot of fun! All that’s really missing is Pam Grier.

The Midnight Man (1974) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Burt Lancaster shines as usual.

1980’s …

The Awakening (1980) Scream Factory blu ray.

Thanks to the subject material, the script is based on a Bram Stoker novel and the fact that this thriller stars Charlton Heston, I like it probably more than I should. It’s an Egyptian rehash that appears to be influenced by the box-office smash, The Omen. Heston’s digging in the Valley of the Kings and discovers a tomb at the exact moment his wife’s giving birth. Hammer did it better when they released Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb back in 1971. Maybe they should have rewrote it to have Heston looking for the tomb of Moses.

Amazon Women On The Moon (1987) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. You either “get it” or you don’t. Me? I laugh from start to finish in this skit filled look at a late night TV stations broadcasting schedule from a number of directors including John Landis and Joe Dante. Everything but the kitchen sink goes into this one. Among those digging for laughs are Henry Silva hosting “Bullshit or Not.” And what a cast! Sybil Danning, Ed Begley Jr., Carrie Fisher, Mike Mazurki, William Marshall, Arsenio Hall, Steve Forrest, Joe Pantoliano, Steve Guttenberg, Kelly Preston, Ralph Bellamy and on and on….. hell if it was for real I’d order a copy of Don Simmons latest TV album.

Nightmare at Noon (1988) Scream Factory blu ray. Mindless but fun. A small town is infected with an experimental drug in the water. End result is the townsfolk are turning into raving maniacs. George Kennedy is the town sheriff who teams with tourists Wings Hauser and Bo Hopkins to do away with those who are murdering their neighbors and get to the mad scientist on scene, Brion James. Kennedy’s fun but good ole’ boy, Bo Hopkins, steals the picture which he’s been known to do.

Maniac Cop (1988) Arrow Video blu ray.

A perfect example of what made the VHS era so enjoyable. Robert Z’Dar plays the title character. A monstrous cop who cheats death and is now killing both cops and the public alike. How’s this for a dreamy “B” cast. Tom Atkins, Sheree North, Richard Roundtree, William Smith, sexy Laurene Landon and ….. and …. Bruce Campbell!!!! Doesn’t get much better than this for us nostalgic fans of the good old VHS days.

Grave Secrets (1989) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. Paul Le Mat is called upon to see if the hauntings in a small town’s bed and breakfast are for real. He’ll even call in his own mentor, David Warner, to assist. Yeah they’re for real and the pair will have to solve a murder mystery with the help of the woman who lives there. Low budget affair for those who like this sort of thing.

1990’s …

as of late …

Gotti (2018) Netflix.

John Travolta and a boat load of Razzi nominations flooded my memory as I sat down to watch this version of the Dapper Don’s crime career. While it’s no Scorsese epic and rather forgettable in the end, I just don’t see why it was targeted so intensely upon it’s release. Sometimes I think people/critics just have it in for some actors and or productions. For a better take on the John Gotti story, find a copy of the 1996 version of the same name starring Armand Assante.

Like a Boss (2020) Netflix. Ho-hum. O.K. so I tuned in because it stars Salma Hayek. The movie? Has to do with the cosmetic industry and I guess it’s a black comedy of sorts but not all that funny. Salma plays the villain looking to steal the ideas of two talented newbies in the cosmetics field, Tiffany Haddish and Rose Byrnes. Just as she gets the pair on the run they turn the tables. Maybe a missed opportunity?

The Father (2020) Amazon Prime.

Anthony Hopkins scored an Oscar in this powerful film that sees him as the aging father of Olivia Colman who matches the screen legend with an Oscar worthy performance herself. Hopkins is stricken with Alzheimer’s and slowly losing his grip on reality. Poignant yet at times this proves to be a terrifying film bringing to the forefront what many of us may have already dealt with or will in time face ourselves. Recommended.

Totals …

39 films seen

15 revisits

24 new to me

The most enjoyable revisit? I’d have to go with Amazon Women on the Moon simply because it’s been years since I’d seen it. Otherwise I’d have gone with Bud and Lou but then I watch that one year in, year out.

Of the new to me titles I’d like to recommend The Corsican Brothers for it’s old fashioned entertainment values that I enjoyed so much as a child falling in love with movies. Of course for a more recent title I’d be doing Anthony Hopkins a disservice if I didn’t suggest you take in The Father.

Let us know your score.

Contrary to popular belief, my sidekick Brando doesn’t always stay awake for the late night movies after the ballgame has ended.