Back to watching various genres and eras now that the Halloween month is over where I did my annual horror fest. I did set aside enough time this month to “binge” on the Godfather saga after watching The Offer on Paramount. And with baseball season now over and the cold weather setting in I can concentrate on what really matters here in Canadian sports. Hockey and the road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
On to the roll call.
The Bride Comes Home (1935) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray.
Screwball comedy with Claudette Colbert falling for rugged Fred MacMurray despite the fact that gentle, wealthy Robert Young wants her for his bride. Wesley Ruggles flick offers up some laughs, but I think it tries too hard and comes up short when compared to others in the genre. Kudos to MacMurray who rose to leading man status in what should be considered his first year in tinsel town. By the time their careers entered the senior years both Fred and Robert were welcome additions to most homes thanks to their successes on the small screen in My Three Sons and Marcus Welby MD.
It Happened in Hollywood (1937) Indicator Samuel Fuller at Columbia box set. Capraesque tale that it’s impossible not to like. Richard Dix plays a silent cowboy film star ala Tom Mix who loses his film career with the advance of talkies while his gal, Fay Wray’s career skyrockets. Dix is a proud man who won’t lower himself to take on the roles of heavies in gangster films. When a small boy arrives at his door hero worshipping the cowboy myth, Dix, comes up with a great idea to make the child’s Hollywood dream come true. It’s here the film really shined. Dix gets the numerous stand-ins for the real stars to visit the child never giving up their real identity, so we’re treated to lookalikes for Dietrich, Chaplin, Garbo, McLaglen, Lloyd, Fields and Mae West among others. A real nice surprise.
Miracles For Sale (1939) TCM. Magic, murder and phony seances take center stage in what proved to be the final film for director Tod Browning who made his name directing Lon Chaney silents, Dracula in 1931 and Freaks in ’32. This MGM “B” flick stars Robert Young and Henry Hull. Not much to recommend it. What it really needed was Boris or Bela costarring which would have at least guaranteed it an audience for decades to come.
Night Editor (1946) Columbia Bad Girls of Film Noir Vol. 2.
Nifty Noir with Edward Gargan as the cop played for a fool by femme fatale Janice Carter who should have been a bigger star based on her performance here and in the recently featured Framed (1947). I love the set up. Gargan is out “parking” with Janice and the pair witness a very brutal murder for 1946 on screen. If he investigates then he’s going to have to explain to his Capt. and his wife just what he’s doing out with a hot blonde. Of course there’s much more to the story that will see Gargan’s career spiral out of control on the force. A few tweaks in the script and this one could have been dynamite.
Kiss of Death (1947) Twilight Time blu ray.
Henry Hathaway directed this Noir tale that gave Richard Widmark his one and only Oscar nomination in his film debut no less. The one where he plays the giggling killer who throws an old lady down a staircase while she’s in a wheelchair. Kudos to Widmark for eventually getting out of typecasting as the sniveling killer even if he did return to villainous roles periodically over his 45-year career on screen. As for the film, it’s Victor Mature starring as a con looking to go straight who plays stool pigeon on his old gang. Not bad but I don’t think it’s aged as well as other Noir entries. Brian Donlevy and Coleen Gray also star.
The Flying Missile (1950) rarefilmm : The Cave of Forgotten Films. One of the very few Glenn Ford movies I had to see. Glenn is a sub commander looking to advance the technology of launching missiles from Navy vessels. Overly dramatic at times and could easily have been tweaked into one of Ford’s successful military comedies of the late 50’s. No matter, Glenn the everyman makes it work with fine support by long time character actor, Joe Sawyer, at his side on deck. Vivica Lindfors costars and a great scene is stolen by John Ford favorite John Qualen. Among the cast you’ll also spot Kenneth Tobey, John Doucette and a minor part for Hugh Beaumont which caught me off guard as Hugh had by this time appeared in much larger roles during the previous decade. Special thanks to rarefilmm website which allowed me to finally see this under the radar flick starring Glenn Ford, one of my all-time favorite actors.
Rancho Notorious (1952) Warner Archive DVD.
A different style of western starring Marlene Dietrich from director Fritz Lang. Marlene runs a hideout where would be thieves and killers can lay low for a percentage of their take. Arthur Kennedy gets to play the good guy for a change. He’s on the trail of killers who raped and murdered his fiancé which forces him to team with gunfighter Mel Ferrer to gain access to Marlene’s hidden ranch house. All so he can bring to justice the men he seeks. Problem is he doesn’t know which outlaw it is. Could be George Reeves, Jack Elam, Frank Ferguson or any number of tough looking hombres. Long time since I’d seen this one and was a nice revisit.
Affair In Trinidad (1952) Indicator Columbia Noir Vol. 2. Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth make this one noteworthy.
The Seekers (1954) VCI Entertainment DVD. Jack Hawkins finds himself exiled from his homeland so along with his wife, Glynis Johns, he returns to an island paradise to begin life anew. Kind of a pioneering tale that takes a surprising turn towards a finale I didn’t see coming. Not bad and offers an early role for Kenneth Williams who would find fame as a member of the Carry On Gang.
Over-Exposed (1956) Columbia Bad Girls of Film Noir Vol. 2.
Catchy title considering the star of this Noir is blonde bombshell Cleo Moore. She’s a talented photographer working a clip joint and more than willing to do what it takes to further her career as the best picture taker in the biz as long as it pays big dollars. Boyfriend Richard Crenna wants to get married, but she’s got other ideas. When she takes a very incriminating picture of a local mobster her life is in peril. Hokey but enjoyable. One of Crenna’s earliest roles in a career that spanned over 50 years.
Fire Down Below (1957) Rita Hayworth collection Mill Creek blu ray. Star power carries the day when Robert Mitchum and Jack Lemmon are partners in a boat operation for hire. How about smuggling Rita Hayworth on board and get her to some island locale? World weary Mitch knows she’s nothing but trouble but that won’t stop Lemmon from falling for her. Of course this puts a big dent in the friendship between our leading men. Especially when Mitch takes up with Rita. As I said, star power rules the day in this Robert Parrish flick.
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) Warner Archive Collection blu ray. The movie that really set Hammer on its path to cult status among fantasy and horror film fans. Peter Cushing plays the creator and Christopher Lee the monster. Next up was Horror of Dracula and the rest as they say is history.
I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (1957) Youtube.
A schlock classic from A.I.P. Character actor Whit Bissell plays the mad Doctor descended from the Gothic era Frankensteins who dabbles in bringing the dead back to life. Enter the teenage craze era of rock’n roll and drive in theaters. Gary Conway stars as the monster with the face smashed by a bag of hammers. Laughable but enjoyable. Best line? …… ” Speak. I know you have a civil tongue in your head because I sewed it back myself.”
The Amazing Colossal Man (1957) VHS tape. Catchy idea from Bert I. Gordon that features a man caught in the fallout of a nuclear blast. The results being he begins to grow and grow too gigantic proportions with insanity creeping in. Attack of the 50Ft Woman is the obvious choice for a double bill. A sequel did follow, War of the Colossal Beast.
Love Slaves of the Amazon (1957) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Curt Siodmak feature that finds a group of explorers looking for the elusive green women of the Amazon who also play host to a fortune in treasures. Cool artwork on the cover of the blu ray but that’s as far as it goes.
Two Rode Together (1962) Eureka! blu ray.
A better film than I recall, this John Ford western treads familiar ground with his all-time classic, The Searchers. Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark are charged with brining back white children who have lived with the Indians for many years and now as adults may not want to come back or worse, don’t even recall their childhood roots. A harsh film at times and Stewart plays his aw-shucks mannerisms to a T yet he does recall the tortured characters he played in the classic westerns he made for Anthony Mann. As is usual Ford’s film includes many of his stock company including Olive Carey, Ken Curtis, Andy Devine, Harry Carey Jr. Woody Strode and a very fine performance from John Qualen.
Call Me Bwana (1963) MGM DVD. Later day Bob Hope effort falls short of his earlier output. He’s a cowardly jungle explorer who is enlisted by his government to locate a downed missile from space in darkest Africa before the Russians get there first. They send in one of their deadliest agents to beat Bob to the prize. It’s Anita Ekberg which complicates Bob’s mission. Good for a laugh but does get a bit tedious towards the end.
Dark Intruder (1965) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray.
Originally intended as a TV pilot, this Leslie Neilsen thriller wasn’t picked up so found itself released theatrically even if it’s only 59 minutes in length. Leslie plays a very Sherlock Holmes like detective in the late 1800’s involved in a case that combines Dr. Jekyll and Jack The Ripper like killings. Wonderfully photographed in black and white this one harkens back to the thrillers of the 1940’s and is worth seeking out.
Masquerade (1965) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Cliff Robertson takes center stage as a former spy enlisted by Jack Hawkins to assist in cracking a kidnapping caper in a third world country. Slippery Charles Gray also stars and for a spot of trivia it’s worth noting that when throat cancer stole the voice of Jack Hawkins, he continued to act with Mr. Gray dubbing him. Basil Dearden directs with decent though forgettable results.
One Before I Die (1965) Warner Archive Collection DVD.
Made in the Philippines, a rather amateurish production that has John Derek directing his beautiful wife, Ursula Andress in what can only be considered a warmup as to how far he’d go with a camera when directing future wife Bo Derek in the 1980’s. The camera lingers on Ursula in this war time tale of a platoon of soldiers trying to get to safety through jungles and coveting Ursula who is along for the ride. John appears only briefly in the film and while it’s hard not to admire the beauty of Miss Andress it’s costar Richard Jaeckel as a battle-hardened Lt. who really commands the film. Both Ursula and Jaeckel deserved better.
Bandolero! (1968) Twilight Time blu ray. Love this western.
The Hospital (1971) MGM DVD. I was under the impression this was some classic George C. Scott film that I’d somehow missed out on. Now having seen it I’ve no idea if I’d heard correctly. Can’t say I liked this one that teamed Scott with Diana Rigg. Scott’s a suicidal doctor falling for Rigg whose father is a patient. Meanwhile someone is going around the hospital murdering physicians. I just couldn’t get into it.
Fat City (1972) Indicator blu ray.
John Huston boxing film starring Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges. I couldn’t help but think that this story is that of Rocky Balboa had he never got out of the club fights with a once in a lifetime opportunity. Keach and Bridges are destined to live in shoddy rooms and take cheap paydays while getting their brains scrambled. Believable and great turn from Keach.
Moon of the Wolf (1972) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. Nice to see this old staple of TV Movies getting the blu ray treatment. Previously featured, have a look at what I had to say concerning this teleflick with plenty of faces you may recall.
Black Gunn (1972) Mill Creek Entertainment blu ray. Jim Brown uses blunt force to tame mobsters like Martin Landau and Bruce Glover.
Chato’s Land (1972) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Catching up with the recent blu release with this Bronson/Palance teaming for Michael Winner.
Serpico (1973) Paramount DVD. Al Pacino stars in this true story of a cop who wouldn’t turn bad along with many other officers on the “take” but rather turn on them naming names to anyone above who’ll listen. The problem is the corruption goes way up the chain of command. Truthfully, it’s good but I’d much rather watch The French Connection.
Shaolin Temple (1976) Shawscope Vol. 1 Arrow Video blu ray.
Another fine example of the kung fu flicks that populated the era from Shaw Brothers Studios. David Chiang and Ti Lung are once again front and center defending a temple from an evil warlord. The color photography and the fight choreography are wonderful to look at. I’d highly recommend the film and the boxset of flicks from Arrow.
Mr. Mean (1977) Code Red blu ray. Weaker effort from Fred “The Hammer” Williamson that he also directed. He’s off to Italy in a confusing tale of mob hitmen and violence. As much as I enjoy Fred’s screen persona, I must say i generally like his films of the early 70’s better than those from the last half of the decade.
The Bees (1978) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray.
Excitement is nowhere to be found when killer bees have been found in the U.S. Low budget effort with John Saxon leading the way with lovely Angel Tompkins by his side. The pair are bee specialists who along with John Carradine sporting some sort of Austrian accent making him sound like John Carradine sporting some sort of German accent are discovering that the bee can communicate with mankind if only they can find the key to understanding them. Best scene in the film comes when Saxon reverts to his karate moves when defending himself against a would-be assassin.
Thirst (1979) Severin blu ray. Modern vampire tale that sees the bloodsucker lifestyle turned into big business draining the precious red stuff from the bodies of human donors. They even package it in milk cartons. This Aussie thriller focuses on a descendant of Elizabeth Bathory whom the coven led by the likes of David Hemmings and Henry Silva intend to indoctrinate into the vampire’s way of life. Not bad and plays a little like the 1990 satire Sundown : Vampire in Retreat.
Seven (1979) Kino Lorber Studio Classics.
Exploitation filmmaker Andy Sidaris directs while William Smith plays it tough. Smith is in charge of putting together an elite team of sexy assassins to take out a crime kingpin with the backing of the government. Unofficial of course. Nice to see Smith take the lead even of the film is strictly a “B”. Martin Kove also stars as one of the heavies.
Double Target (1987) Severin blu ray. Miles O’Keefe takes up the fight that Stallone and Norris began when he goes back to Vietnam in search of a son he fathered there during the war. His presence doesn’t go unnoticed by Bo Svenson who is the military leader looking to see O’Keefe dead. Donald Pleasence appears as the man using O’Keefe for his own political gain and of course steals every scene he’s in. Bruno Mattei flick is a time waster with plenty of explosions and some not so realistic fight scenes. Yeah, Sly and Chuck did it way better.
Shakedown (1988) Shout Select blu ray. Peter Weller and Sam Elliott take a turn at the action flick though it’s not quite up to the standards of a Lethal Weapon. Still it’s enjoyable when the pair take on the establishment of crooked cops. Sam is the rogue veteran cop and Weller is a high-priced lawyer. Action specialist James Glickenhaus directs. If only they had changed that ridiculously phony ending to something a little more believable.
Black Eagle (1988) MVD blu ray.
Notable I suppose as an early Jean Claude Van Damme flick where he actually plays the heavy to Sho Kosugi’s action hero. Not much to recommend this timid action flick aside from the two leads if you’re a fan of either or both. If you’re expecting a showdown between the two stars, guess again. Ego? No idea but I was rather surprised that the Van Dammage guy didn’t get his ass kicked by Mr. Ninja.
Born to Fight (1989) Severin blu ray. A slice of Crocodile Dundee with Indiana Jones and we get this Rambo wannabe when Brent Huff takes Mary Stavin into the jungles of Vietnam. Plenty of violence and blood follow under the direction of exploitation filmmaker Bruno Mattei. Totally watchable.
Buried Alive (1989) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray.
Karen Lorre is off to assist a Dr. Robert Vaughn with his mental patients. Of course, he’s off his rocker and there’s plenty of bloodshed and grotesque killings to fill the screen for 90 minutes. Exploitation fun but let’s be honest, Vaughn had seen better days so I can only assume the cash was worth slumming. And let’s not forget Donald Pleasence who never read a script he wouldn’t agree to and even old John Carradine makes what was apparently his final screen appearance as a ghostly apparition. Nia Long turns up and so does Miss Ginger Lynn Allen who starred in …. nope not going there.
Death Ring (1992) Code Red blu ray.
A marketing man’s dream team. Norris, McQueen, Swaze and Drago. make that Mike Norris, Chad McQueen and Don Swayze. The trio with the familiar last names sign on with the always entertaining Billy Drago in this variation of The Most Dangerous Game. Drago chews the scenery as a wealthy degenerate who sells to his clients the opportunity to visit his private island and hunt down and kill a man. In this case it’s son of Chuck, Mike Norris. A decent effort from the VHS era that starts rather slow, but the action picks up enough over the final thirty minutes to satisfy my tastes.
Cthulhu Mansion (1992) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. Frank Finlay stars as a magician who along with his daughter are the victims of a home invasion. Let the magic and grotesque horrors begin. A classy actor, I usually associate Finlay with the wonderful Musketeer films of the 1970’s. Apparently this flick is based on a Lovecraft tale.
Red Sun Rising (1994) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray.
Solid actioner starring Don “The Dragon” Wilson. Here the martial arts specialist is a cop tangled up with a Yakuza outfit led by Soon-Tek Oh and his mystical, deadly bodyguard. Better than average cast surrounds The Dragon. Among them, Michael Ironside, Mako, Edward Albert and Terry Farrell.
as of late…
Rambo : Last Blood (2019) Netflix. I guess all things come to a close and in the case of John Rambo he quietly bows out in a rather cruel film that I can’t say I liked all that much. I don’t want to play spoiler but picture this, Liam Neeson doesn’t save his daughter from white slavery and heroin addiction in Taken. That’s all I’m gonna say aside from I wish Sly had finished the series in the jungles as opposed to battling Mexican slave traders.
Don’t Look Up (2021) Netflix.
Star studded affair when Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence discover that a giant sized asteroid is going to strike and wipe out planet Earth. Played as a satire/statement on today’s civilization, the pair now need to wake up the self-serving government led by President Meryl Streep playing the role as an inept female version of that guy who longs to be back in the oval office. Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Mark Ryland and Ron Perlman turn up for the destruction. Needed more of Perlman. Adam McKay film that scored him Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Screenplay.
Falling For Christmas (2022) Netflix. Take a slice of the fan favorite Overboard and toss in a plot point of It’s a Wonderful Life and we get this Lindsay Lohan Christmas flick for the holiday season. Yes, she’s wealthy, yes, she loses her memory, yes, she goes to work at a low rent hotel and falls for the owner and yes, she eventually gets her memory back. Now she’s gotta marry the snobby rich guy she’s engaged too. Or does she. Maybe a little Christmas magic might solve her problems. Hey, tis’ the season is my only defense.
The Offer (2022) Paramount Plus. Excellent retelling of the making of 1972’s The Godfather.
Watching this series prompted me to revisit The Godfather trilogy on blu ray from Paramount.. The first two films are classics and both deserving of their Academy Awards for Best Picture in 1972 and 1974. The third film released in 1990 is somewhat of a comedown. I had not seen it since its original release. I found it boring and uninvolving. I just don’t like the path that Coppola took for Pacino’s Michael Corleone.
47 films seen.
30 new to titles.
The most enjoyable revisit? Bandolero!
From the new to me titles I’d like to recommend The Offer for a recent title and as for something from yesteryear how about both Red Sun Rising and Shaolin Temple.
Also, a reminder that I’m giving Letterboxd a try. It’s an app where you can keep track of what you watch but also check out what others are watching. If you know of the App you can find me with the handle MikesTake.
Feedback welcomed as always.