There’s very little time for movies once the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin when you’re born in Canada and raised to believe that Lord Stanley’s Cup is the ultimate prize in professional sports. Couple that with the baseball season and our beloved Blue Jays can only mean one thing. My movie numbers are down.
But still I persist….
Murder By Television (1935) Mill Creek Mystery Pack of 50 Titles. The whole point in finally checking this title out is it stars Bela Lugosi. Low budget poverty row effort offers Bela the lead as a sleuth of sorts who will get to play it like Holmes and Chan at the fadeout when he gathers a group of suspects and breaks the crime down to unveil the guilty party. And here I just assumed going in he was going to be the killer.
Off the Record (1939) TCM.
Fast talking Joan Blondell wants nothing more than to be a big time reporter on the paper run by her fiance, Pat O’Brien. He just wants her to marry him and settle down while he covers the crime capers. Of course she’s onto a big time case and is out to prove she’s more than capable of bringing in a killer. Dead End Kid, Bobby Jordan, costars in a role much like those he played with Leo, Huntz and the gang.
Indianapolis Speedway (1939) TCM. Pretty close to a scene for scene remake of 1932’s The Crowd Roars. Pat O’Brien steps in to Cagney’s seat as a racing car driver on the downside. This time it’s John Payne as his younger brother, Ann Sheridan as the woman Payne loves and Frank McHugh as Pat’s racing buddy. For the record Frank played the same role opposite Cagney which allowed the studio to recycle some of his footage to cut down costs for director Lloyd Bacon.
Parole Fixer (1940) TCM. Paramount enters the world of Warner Bros. by putting out this gangster pic that by today’s standards is rather laughable at it’s core. A group of elderly ladies love to champion the release of long time criminals convinced they’ve mended their ways. That doesn’t quite work where Anthony Quinn is involved. Quinn plays it real nasty when facing off with FBI agents Jack Carson and Lyle Talbot. Richard Denning and Virginia Dale are shoehorned in for a little romance and kidnapping sequence. Directed by Robert Florey.
China (1943) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Another title I featured years ago that has since turned up on blu allowing me to ditch the VHS copy. Alan Ladd and Loretta Young star.
The Lady and The Monster (1944) Imprint blu ray.
It’s Curt Siodmak’s Donovan’s Brain from Republic Pictures that subs in Erich Von Stroheim for Karloff or Lugosi. Take your pick. Richard Arlen gets the lead role opposite studio favorite Vera Ralston. George Sherman directs what proved to be a decent thriller of the period and for me a first time viewing.
Midnight Manhunt (1945) Mill Creek Mystery Pack of 50 Titles. Poverty Row effort proved to be an enjoyable murder mystery when George Zucco believes he’s killed a man for a case of stolen diamonds only to find the corpse has disappeared and due to some key plot points needs to get it back. Ann Savage is a fun, saucy heroine and Leo Gorcey costars with plenty of his patented takes on the English language as if he’s playing Slip Mahoy of the Bowery Boys.
Red Ball Express (1952) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray.
Stoic Jeff Chandler takes command of the title group during WW2 and their efforts to supply fuel to the tanks on the front lines. A decent effort thanks to director Budd Boetticher who is best known for his westerns with Randolph Scott. Under Chandler’s command you’ll see Charles Drake, Hugh O’Brian, Jack Kelly and a young rising star by the name of Sidney Poitier.
Time Is My Enemy (1954) Kino Classics British Noir Vol. 2 DVD. This one grabs you when the supposedly dead Dennis Price returns to blackmail his wife who has remarried and now has a son. Price is a no good thief and wanted for murder after a jewel heist gone bad. Don Chaffey directs and damn if only the ending didn’t play it safe with a feel good fadeout that doesn’t stay true to the tone of the initial scenes.
Private’s Progress (1956) Studio Canal Terry-Thomas Box Set on DVD. A Boulting Brothers gem with Ian Carmichael enlisting in the army to the chagrin of those around him including Richard Attenborough, Terry-Thomas and Dennis Price. Track this one down.
Action of the Tiger (1957) Warner Archive blu ray. Van Johnson takes on a role usually reserved for the likes of Alan Ladd.
Time Lock (1957) Kino Classics British Noir Vol. 2 DVD. Not much Noir really going on here when a little boy playing around Daddy’s bank vault is accidently locked in at closing with a time lock set for the following Monday. Time to call in the police, safe crackers and blow torches AND a young Sean Connery as one of the workers trying desperately to crack that safe.
Visa to Canton (1960) Indicator blu ray.
A non horror title from Hammer starring Richard Basehart as a Bogart like character who has remained in China following WW2 finding himself tangled up with spies. Burt Kwouk, Erich Pohlmann and Bernard Cribbins offer up a familiar cast for those of us looking at the credits. Hammer’s own Michael Carreras actually directed this one. Not bad in large part to Basehart, an actor I feel is often overlooked and under appreciated.
The Damned (1962) Indicator blu ray. Odd number in the Hammer Universe. Directed by Joseph Losey the story is made up of two parts. First it starts off as another angry young man flick with Macdonald Carey running afoul of a motorcycle gang led by Oliver Reed. Then it morphs into this scientific experimental film that finds Alexander Knox overseeing a group of children tucked away in a secret cave under military watch prepping mankind for an eventual nuclear conflict. Odd? Yeah, but it’s not without merit.
Law of the Lawless (1964) rarefilmm : The Cave of Forgotten Films.
Another of the low budget A.C. Lyles westerns that gathers a posse of familiar faces led by Dale Robertson and Yvonne De Carlo. Dale is a reformed gunman now serving as a Circuit Judge called in to oversee a case involving an old pal up on a murder charge. How about William Bendix, John Agar, Lon Chaney Jr., Bruce Cabot, Barton MacLane, Roy Jenson and Kent Taylor on the Lyles’ payroll for our viewing pleasure.
Ali Baba and the Seven Saracens (1964) Peplum adventure is strictly run of the mill stuff but Gordon Mitchell and his unmistakable “mug” always makes for an entertaining villain.
The Brotherhood of Satan (1971) Arrow Video blu ray. I featured this low budget favorite ages ago but needed to check out this new blu ray release.
Going Home (1972) Warner Archive DVD.
Straight drama that finds Robert Mitchum murdering his wife while his little son watches as the film begins. Fast forward and we’ll see that son grown up as played by Jan-Michael Vincent. When Mitch is released from prison the pair will try to repair the damage that Mitch has inflicted on the young man who carries some deep rooted emotional scars. So-so but can’t say I like the fadeout where Brenda Vaccaro’s character is concerned. She deserved better.
Symptoms (1974) Mondo Macabro blu ray. A nifty little psychological thriller that finds Angela Pleasence (yes Donald’s daughter) on the verge of insanity living at a countryside estate. Are the people that are coming in and out of her life real or imagined? Worthwhile tracking down if you’re into this type of thing from the man who directed one of the best vampire flicks of the 1970’s, Jose Ramon Larraz.
Death Promise (1977) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray.
Low budget action flick plays like an early script option for Death Wish 3 minus the Bronson character. Grindhouse flavor and I love the dummy getting thrown off the building at the finale.
Spotlight on a trio of Richard Jaeckel films, The Kill, The Amazing Mr. No Legs and Mako: The Jaws of Death.
Highpoint (1982) Code Red blu ray.
I’d long heard this was somewhat of a disaster so I thought it was time to find out for myself. …… Well, it’s not all that good but I have a hard time giving a BIG thumbs down to anything that stars both Richard Harris and Christopher Plummer. Not to mention it’s filmed in Canada and concludes atop the CN Tower in Toronto with one hell of a stunt fall. Beverly D’Angelo, Saul Rubinek and Maury Chaykin costar.
Dead of Winter (1987) Scream Factory blu ray.
I saw this Arthur Penn thriller at the theater when it first came out and I still like to revisit it every few years. It’s a three part story that finds Mary Steenburgen as an aspiring actress hired by Roddy McDowall and Jan Rubes to play substitute for a leading lady who has taken ill. Twists, turns and murder are sure to follow in a snowbound location. I’ve always been a fan of Steenburgen and as for Roddy? He’s like an old friend. 1987 was a great year for McDowall as he delivered two memorable performances. Here in Penn’s thriller and as Vampire Hunter, Peter Vincent, in the cult hit Fright Night. I still miss him.
The Cellar (1989) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. A decent thriller from the days of practical F/X and the VHS rental. Patrick Kilpatrick along with his wife and son move into an Arizona ranch house that has a history dating back to the American Indians and curses laid upon the lands. Yeah there’s a big ass creature lurking below the floorboards of the house.
As of late ….
Just Getting Started (2017) Netflix. Morgan Freeman and Tommy Lee Jones finally make a movie together. Flawed to be sure, it’s a variation on the Grumpy Old Men theme. Morgan runs a retirement community and is hero worshipped by the old boys clubs including Joe Pantoliano and has his pick of aging widows. That is until Mr. Jones turns up catching the fancy of all the gals and proving to be just a bit better at most everything than Morgan is. Be it golf or poker. There’s a mobster subplot that’s mislaid but at least Rene Russo turns up as the prize catch. Hate to say it where this trio is concerned but it’s a disappointment in the end and I suspect they knew it.
The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot (2018) RLJE Films blu ray.
Any film with a title like this one is sure to catch my interest. Now toss in Sam Elliott as the lead actor and I’ve gotta see it. Honestly Sam delivers an outstanding performance as an aging WW2 veteran who we will see in flashbacks with Adrian Turner playing his part kills Hitler in an assassination. Fast forward to the mid 1970’s and he’s called upon to take out the Bigfoot by his gov’t. That part didn’t work well for me. I wish they had abandoned that idea and left it as a straight drama because there’s a love story at the heart of this film that gives it it’s true power.
The Comeback Trail (2020) VVS blu ray.
Film buffs are sure to like this one thanks to the many classic movie references involved when low budget film maker circa the mid 70’s, Robert De Niro, embarks on a can’t miss money making scheme to get him out of hawk from a mobster played by Morgan Freeman. Borrow more money, look like you’re making a big budget film, hire a washed up cowboy star and have him killed in a stunt on set. Collect the 5 million insurance money and you’re rich. But what if that washed up cowboy star played by Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t die so easily and maybe is delivering a comeback performance worthy of an Oscar? I had fun with this one and believe it deserved a better fate than just turning up in a bargain bin of discs I came across. But then again, I’ll watch any movie with these guys going solo. Casting the three of them in the same movie? I’m all in.
All the Old Knives (2022) Amazon Prime.
A spy thriller minus any action sequences. A thinking man’s thriller and I loved it. Chris Pine stars as a gov’t agent assigned to look into an age old terrorist stand off that went wrong leaving multiple hostages dead. Could someone from inside the agency have been giving vital intel to the terrorist group? Also stars Thandiwe Newton, Laurence Fishburne and Jonathan Pryce. Maybe it’s a matter of taste but I overhead a coworker telling someone he found this boring and didn’t bother watching the whole movie. I say he should have stuck with it. Let me know what you think if you’ve seen it.
30 films seen.
21 new to me titles
The most enjoyable revisit? Dead of Winter. Again it’s the McDowall/Steenburgen factor. A close second goes to Private’s Progress.
Of the new to me titles I’d like to suggest checking out Midnight Manhunt if you’re into the Poverty Row thrillers of the 1940’s. Of the more recent titles go with the Chris Pine thriller, All the Old Knives and hopefully you find it as enjoyable as I did.
As always feedback welcomed and encouraged.
In closing a quick nod to both Ray Liotta and Bo Hopkins. These gentlemen have brought hours of entertainment into my home for decades and I’ll miss them.