I finally made it into a movie theater for the first time this year. Not only that but aside from a retro title, it was the first new release I’d gone to see on the big screen since seeing The Irishman upon it’s release in pre pandemic times. It took my love of “The King” to get me back into a movie theater to see Austin Butler enacting the legend of Elvis.
As always I try to vary genres and eras of movies to enjoy.
Adventure in Sahara (1938) Indicator Sam Fuller at Columbia Set blu ray.
Very much in that Beau Gest mold when Paul Kelly joins the Legion with revenge on his mind. He’s out to expose the sadistic treatment of soldiers under the command of C. Henry Gordon. A decent B flick with plenty of action co-starring Marc Lawrence and even Renfield himself, Dwight Frye.
They Drive By Night. (1940) Essential Bogart Collection DVD. Ida Lupino, Ann Sheridan, George Raft and Bogie. Yeah they don’t make them like they used to. Essentially two movies in one and it works. Raft and Bogie are brothers in the trucking business trying to make a go of things. Ann the cute gal at the diner and Ida the headstrong slightly nutty wife of trucking magnate Alan Hale with Raft and murder on her mind. Raoul Walsh directs.
The Westerner (1940) MGM DVD.
Superb William Wyler western that sees Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan trade insults and play off each other in fine fashion. Walter is Judge Roy Bean and Coop is the cowpoke who almost ends up with a noose around his neck but is smart enough to play on Walter’s love of Miss Lily Langtry. Kind of forgot just how good this one is and how it resembles an early Shane as the plot evolves.
Action In Arabia (1944) TCM Airing. George Sanders enters Bogart territory as an American reporter getting tangled up with spies in the title country. A good cast in this black and white propaganda piece that includes Lenore Aubert, Virginia Bruce, Robert Armstrong, Gene Lockhart, Alan Napier and making his film debut, Michael Ansara.
Seven Days to Noon (1950) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. A nifty thriller that sees Barry Jones setting a large explosive in downtown London as a means to prevent the government from further developing weapons of mass destruction. A Boulting Brothers film that costars Andre Morrel as the detective trying to hunt down both Jones and the bomb. Superior black and white entry and a foreboding of things to come.
Roaring City (1951) VCI Noir Set DVD. Hugh Beaumont and sidekick Edward Brophy get tangled up with shady gamblers and murder in this bottom of the barrel Noir entry though I must say Beaumont fits the genre prior to his Leave It to Beaver identity as Ward Cleaver.
The Mob (1951) Indicator Columbia Noir Collection #2 blu ray. Fine flick with Broderick Crawford in the lead role. Previously featured just after I started Mike’s Take when I had little to say.
She Devil (1953) Imprint blu ray. A well meaning lab experiment goes wrong creating a “she devil”.
The Fastest Gun Alive (1956) Warner Archive DVD.
Glenn Ford was in his prime about this time as a western star and he doesn’t disappoint as a gunslinger trying to hide from his past as a store clerk and husband to Jeanne Crain. But “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” The highlight of the film is the trick shooting by Glenn and the tension surrounding it when he finally sheds his store keepers smock and let’s the townsfolk know just what he’s capable of. Superb cast of costars led by Broderick Crawford as the heavy alongside John Dehner, Noah Beery Jr. , Russ Tamblyn, Dub Taylor etc.
The Unknown Terror (1957) Imprint blu ray.
A first time viewing for this nifty low budget thriller starring John Howard, Paul Richards and Mala Powers. More experiments have gone wrong in the lab on a secluded isle and I loved it. Wish I’d seen this one as a kid.
Horror of Dracula (1958) Warner Archive blu ray. Classic, pure and simple with Lee and Cushing towering above all others.
Murder By Contract (1959) Indicator Columbia Noir Collection #2 blu ray. Vince Edwards hires out as a contract killer in this superior noir entry.
Pirates of Blood River (1962) Indicator Hammer Collection Set Vol #5 blu ray. A non-horror tale from Hammer with stable regulars Christopher Lee, Oliver Reed, Andrew Kier and Michael Ripper.
The Scarlet Blade (1963) Indicator Hammer Collection Set Vol #5 blu ray. More swordplay via Hammer in a Robin Hood like tale that sees Lionel Jeffries raping the countryside and it’s people of wealth with Oliver Reed as his second in command. Things go awry when Lionel’s daughter, June Thorburn, falls for Jack Hedley’s title character and enlists Dear Ollie to sign on against her own Father. It’s Hammer and it’s got Ollie. Need I say more? Oh, and once again the studio delivers a look and feel far beyond their means.
The Brigand of Kandahar (1965) Indicator Hammer Collection Set Vol #5 blu ray. Borrowing scenes from an earlier Victor Mature flick, director John Gilling, has Ronald Lewis thrown out of the British army in India and pairing up with renegade Oliver Reed and his army to overthrow the British and it’s rule. Plenty of action and once again Hammer makes a good picture on a tight budget. Hammer Glamour is represented by lovely Yvonne Romain.
Genocide (1968) Criterion Eclipse Series 37 DVD. Japanese thriller taking place on a secluded island where a scientific experiment has given rise to the insect world with deadly results. Passable but not as good as Goke (1967) which is also in this box set of titles.
The Witchmaker (1969) Code Red blu ray.
Produced by actors L.Q. Jones and Alvy Moore this is an effective drive-in flick of the day featuring Moore tracking a coven of witches in the Louisiana Bayou. While L.Q. doesn’t appear in the film, he and Moore would tread similar ground with 1971’s cultish The Brotherhood of Satan. A first time viewing on Witchmaker and I liked it. I’m sure if I’d seen it as a youngster like I had Brotherhood I’d have been recommending it for years.
Suppose They Gave a War and Nobody Came (1970) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray.
Military comedy that may have been better off as a late 50’s effort when they were so popular. Still this one has some laughs when Tony Curtis, Brian Keith and Ivan Dixon play soldiers getting into trouble off the military base in a small town run by a bullish sheriff, Ernie Borgnine, who is in fine form.
Ride the Hot Wind (1971) Dark Force Entertainment blu ray. It’s the Al Adamson school of filmmaking in this low budget flick starring one time Disney kid, Tommy Kirk as a Captain who has been busted out of the military and ends up swinging with a motorcycle gang looking for trouble on a dead end ride. I’ve always had a fondness for these type of flicks even if they are amateurish at times with plenty of hammy acting and dramatics. On a positive note, I liked the soundtrack that had a Foggy Mountain Breakdown flavor. That’s the Flatt and Scruggs banjo tune that was used to great acclaim in 67’s Bonnie and Clyde.
The Master Touch (1972) Popflix DVD. Kirk Douglas goes overseas in this Eurocrime thriller.
The Kansas City Massacre (1975) Echo Bridge DVD. Playing on the popularity of films like Dillinger (1973) and other depression era gangster flicks that were in vogue during the early 70’s, prolific producer/director Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows) gives us his take on G-Man Melvin Purvis played by Dale Robertson tracking the likes of Bo Hopkins as Pretty Boy Floyd and other gangland figures of the day. O.K. made-for TV flick with a solid cast around Dale and Bo that includes Harris Yulin, Scott Brady, Matt Clark and Brion James among others.
The Fan (1981) Scream Factory blu ray.
Miss Lauren Bacall entered the world of the slasher film when she signed on for this thriller. She’s a famous actress (go figure) targeted by an overzealous fan intent on making her his own played by a young Michael Biehn. I’d heard it wasn’t all that good and I guess that’s pretty much the truth. James Garner is wasted as Bacall’s ex-hubby looking to protect her. I much prefer the Lee Grant/Michael Ironside thriller Visiting Hours that covers similar ground but knows what it’s meant to deliver to the viewers.
Wacko (1981) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. An early satire on the slasher film from “B” specialist, Greydon Clark. It’s got some laughs and a cast of “faces” most buffs will know including George Kennedy, Stella Stevens, Charles Napier and as the drunken cop on the case, Joe Don Baker, who got me laughing more than I had anticipated. Just used to seeing him play it tough vs. a parody of his brute strength image.
Angel (1983) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. Donna Wilkes stars as the title character. A schoolgirl by day and prostitute by night. All while a serial killer is on the loose preying on those in her profession. Better than you think when it comes to the VHS era of movie making. Rory Calhoun damn near steals the movie as a lovable faded western film star who befriends Angel and watches over her. Spawned a minor franchise minus Miss Wilkes.
Cutting Class (1988) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray.
A minor entry in the slasher field of movie making. However it does represent an early role for Brad Pitt on camera and one of the final appearances for Roddy McDowall. Yeah if I ever bump into Mr. Pitt I won’t bother with the typical questions about Tarantino and such that I’m sure he gets day to day. No sir, I’ll ask him what it was like working with Roddy.
As of late ….
Novocaine (2001) Artisan DVD.
It’s Noir done Steve Martin style. Steve is a dentist getting caught up in narcotics and murder. He’s got the wholesome Laura Dern for a love interest and the trashy Helene Bonham Carter luring him down a path of illicit sex and crime. Tongue in cheek with just enough of Martin’s sly humor to keep it entertaining although I wasn’t overly fussy on the final reel. Kevin Bacon steals the movie as an actor doing research for a movie role working with Det. Keith David who is assigned to Martin’s case.
Daddy’s Home 1 & 2. I like the set up with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in this pair of flicks and while the first film is no classic the second one pales in comparison. Will marries Mark’s ex. Will is playing the big lovable wimp while Mark is the tough guy who kills with one look. It works. Second film probably works on paper with the addition of John Lithgow and Mel Gibson but fails miserably and I didn’t even realize it was supposed to be a feel good Christmas movie. Stick to Elf for your Will/Xmas fun.
Suspiria (2018) Elevation Pictures blu ray.
Call me old fashioned but I much prefer Dario Argento’s 1977 classic/original. A coven of witches at a girls dance school still serves as the backdrop with Tilda Swinton as the apparent leader. I hate to do the comparison routine but I love that soundtrack from the original and Argento’s magnificent use of colors. Neither of which are to be found here and at a running time of 152 minutes I feel like the scissors should have been handed to the editor. I will add that while I was watching I had the impression that multiple viewings might help to peel back little nuggets I’m missing on the first go around. Sadly I’m in no hurry to revisit it any time soon.
The Man From Toronto (2022) Netflix. Love the set up of this Kevin Hart comedy where he is mistaken for Woody Harrelson’s Man From Toronto. An expert in torture and extracting information from his victims for some heavy paydays. Yeah I laughed but damn I hate lousy CGI and poorly directed fight scenes.
Against the Ice (2022) Netflix.
I’ve always loved man against the elements in movies and here’s one that’s well done based on a true story circa 1909. The exploration of Greenland has left two men stranded on the ice with very little hope of survival. The pair are played by Joe Cole and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau on location and that’s a credit to the overall look and feel of the film. A winner.
Elvis (2022) Movie Theater.
Not quite what I expected in the way the film was constructed but it works. Tom Hanks narrates the movie as Col. Tom Parker (the villain) and Austin Butler is an inspiring Elvis. The music is great and had me moving in my seat and yeah it’s heartbreaking as the world closes in on our famous singer to the inevitable ending. I’m old enough to remember exactly where I was and the feelings we all felt in our home on that fateful date in August of ’77. Still a fan after all these years even when I’m critical of “the formula” the movies ultimately fell into. Coles notes? Maybe but I’ll be happy to watch it again when it hits the streaming services.
32 Films Seen
22 new to me
The most enjoyable revisit? Always a tough call and Horror of Dracula an all-time favorite but I will say I loved getting back to Bogie and company in They Drive By Night.
Of the new to me titles I’d like to recommend Hammer’s The Scarlet Blade (aka The Crimson Blade) for a vintage era film and since many will catch up to the new Elvis biopic, I’ll forgo that and suggest Against the Ice for a more recent flick.
Feedback always welcomed.
Now on to August with Brando riding shotgun here in the movie room.
Another solid monthly round-up Mike, it’s always fun reading about what you watched over the course of the month and your thoughts on them. Drive by Night fits nicely between High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon as it showcases Bogie transitioning from character actor to star. I’ve been getting into pirate films again, starting with the ones made in Italy. Christopher Lee as a pirate is really cool, gotta check those films out. 1981’s The Fan was, I believe, Lauren Bacall’s last leading lady performance before settling into character parts and matronly roles.
Thanks and yes those early 40’s Bogie films are a great watch as he became the legend we know today. Had Lee been in his prime back in Flynn era he could have made a great villain in swashbucklers like Rathbone. Fun flick if you get the chance.
whoops on the Suspiria recommend 🙂 oh well, all faiths are welcome. I like Seven Days to Noon, great thriller. Unknown Terror and Witchmaker go on my “asap” list. Also will check out Visiting Hours, The Fan is one I’ve always been curious about, too bad it seems underwhelming. Glad to hear another rave for Elvis. If I can leave recommends, those Don Castle noirs that were just on TCM— High Tide and The Guilty— were pretty cool.
I was wondering if you’d catch my thoughts…. oh well. Hope you find those thrillers and enjoy them when you see them. I also hope you enjoy Elvis when you get the chance. Noted on those Noirs …. off to investigate.