A great start to the year with a binge of flicks over the first few weeks and cold weather setting in. Yes, hockey still rules the sports world here in Canada so it was nice to see our Junior team win the World Championships over an extremely game Slovakia in the Quarter Final round and the Czech Republic for the Gold Medal. Now on to this months roll call.
Sadie Thompson (1928) TCM. Gloria Swanson stars in the title role of this silent flick and one look at her eyes and you can see why she was a legendary performer of the era long before she camped it up in the unforgettable Sunset Boulevard. Her leading man here did double duty directing. It’s Raoul Walsh prior to an eye injury that cost him his acting career. Swanson is the downfallen woman, Walsh the military man in love with her and Lionel Barrymore as the crazed bible thumper looking to save her soul if only he doesn’t let his own lust get in the way. Remade with Joan Crawford in 1932 and with Rita Hayworth in 1953. What prompted my checking this silent classic out was reading the thoroughly enjoyable Walsh autobiography I finally located. Both the film and the book are highly recommended.
Ride Him Cowboy (1932) Warner Bros. DVD. These early John Wayne efforts can only be taken in small doses but then that was the general state of the western genre at this time. Would you believe his horse is named Duke? No fooling and yeah it’s a quickie at 55 minutes and Duke, or rather John gets the girl.
The Long Voyage Home (1940) Warner Bros. DVD. An ensemble piece from John Ford featuring many actors from his stock company. It’s a simple tale of men at sea on the brink of WW2 and the pressures they face. John Wayne, Thomas Mitchell, John Qualen, Barry Fitzgerald, Arthur Shields, Mildred Natwick, Joe Sawyer and of course, Ward Bond.
The Maltese Falcon (1941) Movie Theater.
“The stuff that dreams are made of.” One of my all time favorite films and what a cast! Bogie, Lorre, Greenstreet, Astor and Elisha Cook Jr. cross paths on the hunt for the elusive Black Bird. John Huston’s directorial debut is one of the great films of the decade and beyond. I can only assume you’ve seen it but if you haven’t your only doing yourself a disservice.
House of Frankenstein (1944) Universal blu ray. What’s not to love when Boris Karloff returns to the series as a demented scientist looking to follow in the footsteps of the good Doctor Frankenstein. Star studded affair with J. Carrol Naish as Karloff’s hunchbacked assistant, Lon Chaney Jr. as The Wolfman, John Carradine as Count Dracula and Glenn Strange as The Monster. Horror fans will appreciate Lionel Atwill and George Zucco making appearances as well. Of the 1940’s flicks from Universal Monsters, probably my favorite next to 1941’s The Wolfman.
House of Dracula (1945) Universal blu ray. Lon Chaney and John Carradine return as does Glenn Strange as the Monster for another monster mash up. Fun yes but to be honest it’s probably the weakest of the Dracula/Frankenstein/Wolfman series that Universal Studios thrived on back in the day.
The Spider Woman Strikes Back (1946) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Gale Sondergaard “returns” in the title role associated with her appearance in the Sherlock Holmes/Basil Rathbone series. She’s accompanied by “The Creeper” Rondo Hatton in this Universal “B” quickie. Is she blind? Is she poisoning a small farming communities cattle? And what exactly is she doing to poor Brenda Joyce, her caretaker? Worked for me and at 59 minutes it’s easy to shoehorn in to a tight schedule.
They Made Me a Fugitive (1947) Indicator blu ray.
In your face violence highlights this gangland thriller starring Trevor Howard who has been framed for the murder of a policeman during a heist that he did participate in. He won’t take it lying down and following his escape from prison he’s hellbent on revenge. A must see as he bulldogs his way into the seedy underworld.
No Highway In The Sky (1951) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Jimmy Stewart plays in nervous with his many famous mannerisms portraying a scientist trying to prove that an airplane is bound to crash after so many hours in flight due to stress cracks in the tail end. Is he nuts or justified in his purposely destroying an airplane before take off? Somethng a bit different with a predominantly British cast. Jack Hawkins, Kenneth More, Glynis Johns and Niall MacGinnis and Wilfrid Hyde-White. Also turning up is Marlene Dietrich as a flight passenger who just happens to be a famous film star and comes to believe in Jimmy’s theory.
The Cockleshell Heroes (1955) Eureka! blu ray. Entertaining WW2 effort starring Trevor Howard and Jose Ferrer.
Tribute to a Bad Man (1956) Warner Archive DVD.
Solid outing with James Cagney turning up in a rare western role as a hardened ranch owner who hangs any and all horse thieves who cross his path. Robert Wise directed so not surprising this one is worth tracking down. Also costars Vic Morrow, Royal Dano and western favorite, Lee Van Cleef. Pulls very few punches for the era.
The Crimson Kimono (1959) Indicator blu ray. Sam Fuller directed this cop thriller that injects racial tensions between two men and a woman. Glenn Corbett and James Shigeta are detectives trying to solve the murder of a stripper in L.A. Their hunt will bring them into contact with the attractive Victoria Shaw. Corbet falls for her but so does Shigeta. The tempers between the two men flare when she falls for Shigeta. Ahead of it’s time and considering it’s from Sam Fuller that shouldn’t be surprising.
First Spaceship On Venus (1960) Image Entertainment DVD. Dubbed into English, this German flick starring Yoko Tani offers up a very Enterprise like crew of different nationalities as they make their way to Venus. Sure it’s dated and pedestrian but like other sci-fi flicks of the decade including Planet of the Vampires and those put out by Antonio Margheriti (War of the Planets and Wild, Wild Planet) I love the old fashioned F/X and model work involved.
Underworld U.S.A. (1961) Indicator blu ray.
Cliff Robertson takes center stage in this Sam Fulller crime drama. As a child, the Robertson character sees his father murdered by the crime syndicate and as he grows into manhood he has nothing but revenge on his mind as he works his way into becoming a member of the syndicate to get close to those he’s looking to unleash hell upon. Hard hitting as one expect coming from the cigar smoking director.
Nightmare (1963) Scream Factory blu ray. Freddie Francis directed this Hammer piece during their psychological thriller era thanks to the huge success of Psycho. Black and white and scripted by Jimmy Sangster it’s not bad as people go about driving each other over the edge of sanity but feels like two separate films stitched together. I much prefer their other attempts at the genre in films like A Taste of Fear and Paranoiac.
Jason and the Argonauts (1963) Indicator blu ray. A throwback to my early days discovering fantasy films and more specifically those from the wizardry of Ray Harryhausen. Excellent fantasy piece and if you by chance are not familiar with his work then seek it out. Maybe it’s my age but I never tire of revisiting this or any other film from this effects master be it a Sinbad adventure or his early titles like 20 Million Miles to Earth.
Roustabout (1964) Paramount DVD. When Elvis met Stanwyck at the carnival.
Crack in the World (1965) Olive Films DVD. Dana Andrews attempts to harness the Earth’s power but has he doomed us?
My Name is Pecos (1966) Arrow Video blu ray. Robert Woods returns to the town he grew up in to take out the local outlaws who now run it.
Bandidos (1967) Arrow Video blu ray. A fast gun has his hands mutilated prompting him to take on a youngster to seek his revenge. Pretty good bowl of spaghetti.
Countess Dracula (1971) Synapse blu ray.
Hammer thriller that remains a cult favorite thanks to leading lady Ingrid Pitt. She’s playing the title role in this tale of Elizabeth Bathory. Nigel Green costars as her lover and aid when it comes to securing the blood of …. virgins. What else?
Stanley (1972) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. A rather boring effort from director William Grefe involving snakes and the hander who protects them from hunters in the swamps. Low budget and I would guess influenced by the success of the rat infested Willard of 1971. Grefe basically recycled this in the far more entertaining Mako : The Jaws of Death following the release of Jaws.
Probe (1972) Warner Archive DVD. Made for TV movie/pilot starring Hugh O’Brian as a super agent backed by an agency with Burgess Meredith overseeing his actions via closed circuit cameras. Hugh is on the trail of diamonds seized by the Nazis during WW2 which brings him into contact with sexy Elke Sommer and diamond specialist John Gielgud. Entertaining of it’s type and I’ve always loved the roster that these TV affairs put together. This time out we get the above mentioned cast plus Angel Tompkins, Kent Smith, an unknown Jaclyn Smith and for you Dirty Harry fans, Albert Popwell. (Look it up) This morphed into a one season show titles Search for the 72-73 season.
Wonder Women (1973) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. A group of highly trained, scantily clothed women are the persoanl fighting force of the evil Nancy Kwan. If you love the 70’s B films that were coming out of the Philippines not to mention character actor Vic Diaz then this one is a must.
Horror High (1973) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. Made on the cheap this could have been titled I Was a Teenage Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A fun drive-in feature which caught me by surprise.
Dark Places (1974) Severin blu ray. Finally this Christopher Lee shocker gets a proep release on blu ray allowing me to replace an old VHS tape.
Solomon King (1974) Deaf Crocodile blu ray.
Thought to be a lost blaxploitation film starring Sal Watts in the title role, it’s much closer to the Dolemite series than it is Richard Roundtree’s celebrated Shaft trilogy. Surprisingly plot heavy with the title character an ex-FBI agent called back into the fold when a Princess is shot down by an evil brother looking to take over the some middle eastern country. King goes on a vigilante rampage in some amusingly inept fight scenes. Probably a much better watch if you catch it with a friend to laugh along with.
Frankenstein and the Monster From Hell (1974) Second Sight blu ray. Checked out the new release with all the trimmings. Follow the link for a closer look at my thoughts on the film which I had spotlighted previously.
Mr. Majestyk (1974) Kino Lorber Studio Classics. A Charles Bronson fan favorite highlighted by a memorable Al Lettieri in the role of a violent hitman.
Executioners From Shaolin (1977) Arrow Video Shawscope Collection. blu ray. More karate chops from the Shaw Brothers is OK but not the best film in the set of films from Arrow.
Satan’s Cheerleaders (1977) VCI blu ray.
Signing on for low budget specialist, Greydon Clark, are screen veterans John Ireland, Yvonne De Carlo and not surprisingly, John Carradine. A bunch of foolishness that sees a car load of young gals with short skirts and pom poms waylaid by Sheriff Ireland who just happens to be the head of a coven of devil worshippers. What can I say, it’s a time capsule.
Zoltan : Hound of Dracula (1977) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Anything to get the Count’s name into a movie title. Michael Pataki stars playing a family man on a cross country vacation with his brood. Meanwhile vampire protector Reggie Nalder has risen from the dead with his Master’s dog, Zoltan, and they’ve journeyed to America to bring Pataki into the vampire fold. Not worth getting into the reasons why but I do have to point out that it’s one of the career lows for one time Oscar winner Jose Ferrer playing the Van Helsing character looking to stake Man’s Best Friend. Truthfully it’s just boring as opposed to fun.
Damien : Omen II (1978) Scream Factory blu ray.
This may not equal the Greg Peck thriller but that doesn’t mean it isn’t damn well enjoyable. William Holden steps in as Peck’s brother who raises Damien as his own along with his wife Lee Grant. More gruesome deaths and an eerie soundtrack accompany the rise of the Devil’s offspring to manhood. Lance Henriksen, Robert Foxworth and Sylvia Sidney signed on for the thrills.
The Prisoner of Zenda (1979) Universal DVD. Peter Sellers assumes the dual role in this lampooning of the often told tale of a Prince and his look alike Pauper. Hit and miss the legendary comedian fares better as the pauper and even gets to play it tough at times. Elke Sommer and Lionel Jeffries costar in this film that was released not to long before Peter’s untimely death.
Eddie Macon’s Run (1983) Mill Creek Entertainment blu ray.
Later day Kirk Douglas effort has him playing it mean as he hunts down an escaped convict, John Schneider, who was falsely imprisoned. Kirk’s performance here has me wondering what he may have done given a bigger opportunity hunting down Harrison Ford in The Fugitive. What am I saying? He’d have nailed it.
Lust in The Dust (1984) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. What a riot. Just give it some time. Tab Hunter doing his Clint Eastwood impression and Divine tame the west in this crazy ass western that involves them in a hunt for a fortune in treasure. Geoffrey Lewis, Henry Silva, Cesar Romero, Lainie Kazan and Woody Strode join in the fun. The saying “They just don’t make them like this anymore” fits this one to a T.
Gremlins (1984) Universal DVD. The Joe Dante favorite with plenty of nods to monster films of the past. Little monsters are on the loose and as per usual with Dante films, he gathers a group of actors he was probably a fan of growing up including Keye Luke, Scott Brady, Dick Miller and Harry Carey Jr.
The Woman in Red (1984) MGM DVD. A misfire from Gene Wilder though I still laugh just by looking at him. He’s a happily married man who takes one look at Kelly Le Brock and let’s lust take over as he attempts to seduce her. Sadly it gets a little too melodramatic at times with a Joseph Bologna subplot. What it should have done is given us more Gilda Radner.
The Park Is Mine (1985) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Back when Vietnam vets were a popular plot device, Tommy Lee Jones, starred in this rather tame flick that has him going Rambo in Central Park NY. His intentions are good. He’s hoping to shine the light on forgotten veterans with the help of news lady Helen Shaver. A bonus to any film, Yaphet Kotto, turns up as the sympathetic cop.
Remo Williams : The Adventure Begins (1985) Kino Lober Studio Classics blu ray. I love Fred Ward and it was awesome to see him get the lead in a big studio film at the time and maybe even a film series. saw it at the theater. Heck, they even had James Bond director, Guy Hamilton, take the lead. Sadly the film turned out to be a failure in the end. Based on The Destroyer novels and I’ve heard the money machine known as Hollywood is thinking of trying to start all over again with a new feature.
Avenging Force (1986) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Michael Dudikoff aka #3 action star at Cannon during the 1980’s takes on John P. Ryan and his gang of white supremacists. I had featured the film prior to it’s blu ray release with some other Cannon Fodder. Have a look for more on this above average action entry.
Extreme Prejudice (1987) Vestron Video blu ray.
Graduate of the Peckinpah school and legendary director himself, Walter Hill, was behind the camera for this action packed tale of tough guys along the Texas border to Mexico. Nick Nolte never looked better as a modern day Texas Ranger at odds with his childhood pal, Powers Boothe, who is now a drug lord. Into the story comes an elite military group led by Michael Ironside and includes Clancy Brown and William Forsythe. With Rip Torn along as Nolte’s mentor on the force this couldn’t be any better. Top notch for those of us who cut their teeth on Walter Hill action flicks of the 70’s and 80’s.
The Running Man (1987) Lionsgate blu ray. The good old days when Arnold was king at the box office. Futuristic tale that finds Arnie and his one liners framed for a crime he didn’t commit resulting in his being put on the world’s most popular TV gameshow. A game that finds him fighting to the death in a world of sci-fi gladiators all overseen by the man who steals the movie, Richard Dawson. Dawson is the game show host while the gladiators Arnie must outlast include Jim Brown and Toru Tanaka. Enjoyable popcorn action flick that also stars the likes of Yaphet Kotto, Jesse Ventura and Maria Conchita Alonso.
Mindfield (1989) TVA blu ray. Canadian made thriller starring Michael Ironside as a cop who suffering from memory loss learns he was used as a CIA experiment. Assassins are on the prowl and so is Christopher Plummer turning up briefly for a paycheck.
Shocking Dark (1989) Severin blu ray. Grade C cross between the Terminator films and the Alien series. A classic example of the VHS exploitation era.
Grave Robbers (1989) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray.
I got more than I bargained for with this thriller via Mexico from director Ruben Galindo Jr. It’s part Black Sunday (1960) with a heavy dose of The Evil Dead (1981) crossed with some Blind Dead nods. What happens when a bunch of teenaged grave robbers find an ancient catacomb and sarcophagus? They releases a demon bent on bloodshed and revenge. What did you expect? Full marks for entertainment on this one.
Kickboxer (1989) Lionsgate blu ray. A Jean Claude Van Damme cross between his own success Bloodsport and The Karate Kid. And it works for those of us who enjoyed those early years with The Muscels From Brussels.
Convicts (1991) Olive Films blu ray. Turn of the century tale with Robert Duvall as an aging sugar plantation owner that employs incarcerated chain gangs made up of black men. James Earl Jones costars in a film told from the point of view of a youngster, Lukas Haas. Started strong but kind of lost me around the half way point.
Rising Sun (1993) 20th Century Fox DVD.
Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes team up for a high profile case involving a murder and a wealthy Japanese company’s business deal. Passable and that’s because of the cast involved. Harvey Keitel, Tia Carrere, Steve Buscemi, Stan Shaw and one of my favorite character actors, Mako, who along with Connery shares the best scene in the movie around a dinner table. It sure was a pleasure going to see so many Connery movies at the theater growing up. I miss those days.
Expect No Mercy (1995) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. A real yawner starring action man Billy Blanks. Nuff said.
Sworn to Justice (1996) Vinegar Syndrome blu ray. Action star Cynthia Rothrock plays it both tough and sexy in this martial arts special that could have used some better plot points but she looks great and having Mako, Brad Dourif and Tony Lo Bianco along for the karate chops does help.
as of late ….
Skin Trade (2014) DVD. A wider canvas than I anticipated in this Dolph Lundgren action flick that finds him seeking revenge against slave trader Ron Perlman who has a sex slave operation centered in Columbia. Parallel to this story is Tony Jaa as a Columbian law enforcement officer looking to put a stop to Perlman as well. The two action stars are bound to team up at the fadeout. Hard hitting and rough subject material but a good entry from Dolph who had a hand in the story and screenplay. Michael Jai White and Peter Weller also turn up keeping this one above par.
Holiday In the Wind (2019) Netflix. Rob Lowe and Kristine Davis star in this rom/drama set on an elephant reserve in Africa. No harm done here and just makes me want to see and pet a baby elephant. And in case you’re wondering, my wife has had a life long crush on Mr. Lowe.
The Phantom of the Open (2021) Netflix.
I had no idea of this true story’s existence. A middle aged first time golfer (Mark Rylance) fills out the forms to play in the British Open and gets accepted. Unbelievable! Where do I sign up for the Masters? A winning story that borders on the comedic situation of shooting the worst round in Open history and the dramatic rebound on him and his family. Hard to resist the simple charm of this one.
George and Tammy (2022) Paramount Streaming.
I’m very opiniated on this one as a life long fan of the Greatest Country Music Singer EVER born with Haggard a close second. Sure there is some truth in here but it’s heavily distorted in order to perpetuate the myth of Tammy Wynette. The acting performances are fine from Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain in the leads even if he looks nothing like Jones and is probably a good 12 inches taller. So on one hand I’m glad they’ve made a film about him/them but I would rather have seen one focused on Jones alone and his eventual redemption which this series doesn’t even go into and brushes off his eventual wife Nancy who is considered a Saint to most country music historians and by all accounts, Jones himself. Lastly, believe me when I say I can sing George Jones songs better that Mr. Shannon. Even my lovely wife was kind enough to point it out while we watched the 6 part series on Paramount. Time for a flashback photo of Jones, my son Ethan and I around the year 2000 with one of Jones’ Custom Martin guitars that is in my collection. Yeah, I’m a fan. A big fan.
Troll (2022) Netflix. Far better F/X than I expected in this Godzilla/Kong like tale from Norway where a giant troll with a Jimmy Durante nose goes on a rampage. Bottom line is I had fun with it.
Glass Onion : A Knives Out Mystery (2022) Netflix. Daniel Craig’s second go around as detective Benoit Blanc is another entertaining mystery in the style of Agatha Christie. This time it’s taking place on a private island owned by Edward Norton who has invited all his best friends/enemies for a weekend of fun and a make believe murder mystery that turns out to be the real thing. Dave Bautista, Janelle Monae and Kate Hudson are among the suspects. Plenty of cameos by the likes of Serena Williams, Ethan Hawke, Hugh Grant and in her final appearance, Angela Lansbury. Did you spot her?
Total count … 57
Revisits – 29
New to Me – 28
Most enjoyable revisit goes to The Maltese Falcon. It had been a while and to see it on a big screen with my son Kirk in tow and our very own Falcon made it even more memorable.
For new to me titles of the classic era I’ve got to go with They Made Me a Fugitive and would point you to The Phantom of the Open for something more recent I think you might enjoy.
Check your scorecard and let me know your thoughts on any of the above.
The picture of you and your son in the movie theatre with the Falcon is an all-time classic. And thanks for the flashback to the Connery/Snipes film RISING SUN, which I saw in the cinema back in the day.
This clip includes another all-time classic – the super-spray from Peter Lorre, which includes the immortal triple uppercut… “You imbicile! You bloated idiot! You stupid fathead!”
Love that clip and pretty much any clip from the film. Taking our Falcon was an automatic “lets do it” decision.
Well Mike, you saw a few of my favorites this month, including ‘No Highway in the Sky’ (Stewart, Dietrich, and Glynis Johns were all great) and ‘Countess Dracula’, but I was both shocked and thrilled that you watched one of my all-time favorite cult classics…Horror High! My brother and I know it as ‘Twisted Brain’, but good lord, what horrible goofball fun! I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen it.
And I agree with what you said about seeing Connery’s films…”I miss those days.” Yeah, I do too.
LOL. I had a lot of fun with that low budget flick. Not sure how I’ve missed out on it all these years. It’s like a warped Nutty Professor almost. Nice to see it get a blu ray release from Vinegar Syndrome. Even had some bonus interviews with the lead actor/monster. Yeah Connery was a real treasure to see on the movie screens growing up and for me he was well past his Bond years aside from Never Say Never Again.
Whoa, whoa, WHOA…I never knew there was a Blu-ray release of ‘Horror High’! I just checked it out…oh my, indeed there is, and look at all those bonus features! AND it appears to be the uncut version with that ridiculous, tacked-on ‘father on the phone’ sequence! Thanks for the info, Mike!
Have fun but don’t expect much from the co-feature Stanley. Found it boring.
Love Underworld U.S.A. (1961)! Cliff Robertson is such an underrated actor. We had VHS copies of Extreme Prejudice (1987), Remo Williams (1985), The Park Is Mine (1985) and Eddie Macon’s Run (1983)… they were all big hits in our household. 🙂
I totally agree on Robertson. I remember being happy for him when he took on role of Uncle Ben opposite Tobey Maguire in Spiderman bringing some authenticity to the role and film. My kids were the right age to see those at the theater. I keep meaning to revisit him in Naked and the Dead. Recently scored a blu ray.