April brings baseball to our home which means the Toronto Blue Jays specifically and when combined with the Stanley Cup Playoffs there isn’t as much time left in the day to partake in screening movies. But I try.

1920’s ….

Lilac Time (1928) Rarefilmm : Cave of Forgotten Films.

One of Gary Cooper’s silent movies I thought I’d never see. Special thanks to the Rarefilmm website. Cooper plays a WW1 pilot going into battle while having to put off his romance with Colleen Moore to do so. Coop was still on his way up and it’s Miss Moore who gets above the title billing and she earns it with a wonderful, playful performance that turns to tears and seriousness when the war approaches her doorstep and the man she loves.

1930’s ….

Car 99 (1935) Rarefilmm : Cave of Forgotten Films. One of Fred MacMurray’s earlies films finds him as a police recruit under the guidance of a gruff sergeant, William Frawley. There’s a gang of thieves on the loose and just as Fred believes he has cracked the case he’s KO’d and as punishment is to be cut from the payroll. That all changes when his girl, Ann Sheridan gets kidnapped by the same gang as a hostage sending Fred into overdrive. A B flick that also serves as an early appearance from eventual Oscar winner, Dean Jagger, as Fred’s partner.

She Loved a Fireman (1937) TCM.

Same old plot from Warner’s with a different backdrop and subbing for Cagney, O’Brien and Sheridan is Dick Foran, Robert Armstrong and …. well 2 out of three are subs. Ann Sheridan is back in the familiar role of the tough talking girl that the cocky Dick Foran is out to catch. Like Cagney, Foran, is a cocky know it all looking to take any shortcut to land a job as a firefighter while bugging the hell out of Sheridan for a date and romance. All against the wishes of her brother and fire captain, Robert Armstrong. Just like Cagney, Foran will see the (fire)light and make good at the fadeout and win Sheridan in the bargain. At just 58 minutes it’s strictly a B but a special nod to the F/X crew putting those fires on camera.

The Human Monster (1939) VCI blu ray. Bela Lugosi in flick also known as The Dark Eyes of London.

1940’s ….

The Mad Doctor (1940) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. It’s Basil Rathbone playing nasty in between assignments from 221B Baker Street.

It Ain’t Hay (1943) Shout Select blu ray.

The Boys aka Abbott and Costello get tangled up with hoods and horses when Lou tries to do a good deed for a little girl and her Uncle Cecil Kellaway in this Damon Runyon story. He gifts them a horse not realizing it’s a highly prized racehorse that’s been reported stolen. Comedy mishaps ensue. Typical fare but The Boys are always good for a laugh.

1950’s ….

The Man From The Alamo (1953) Universal DVD. It’s Glenn Ford who walks away from the Alamo when he’s voted to go back home and look after family. Of course he’s considered a coward and will have to battle nasty Victor Jory and his outlaw brood to make good and win one of my favorite beauties of 1950’s cinema, Julie Adams. Directed by Budd Boetticher, it’s not bad but nowhere near as good as the series of westerns he made with Randolph Scott.

White Witch Doctor (1953) 20th Century Fox DVD.

Susan Hayward as a nurse/missionary is off to the jungles of Africa and will need a he-man to get her safely to camp. Paging Robert Mitchum who has left his trench coat on the sidelines for this outing from director Henry Hathaway. Anyone giving odds on Mitchum and Hayward settling down for a happy ever after ending? Not is the heavy, Walter Slezak has his way. So-so effort but the star power makes it work.

The Black Dakotas (1954) Mill Creek DVD. It’s Southern spies in this Civil War tale that finds Gary Merrill playing nasty from the outset murdering a White House messenger and taking his place to infiltrate a northern town and convince the Indians to wipe it out while at the same time knowing the war is lost helping himself to a gold shipment. At 65 minutes it’s an easy watch and Noah Beery Jr. always a credit to any movie or TV show he turned up in.

Ilya Muromets (1956) Deaf Crocodile blu ray. Also known as The Sword and the Dragon. This Russian fantasy proved to be a winner. Had I seen it as a kid I’d probably recall it with the fondest of memories as I do Harryhausen efforts like First Men in the Moon. It’s like combining the adventure of 1958’s The Vikings with a heavy dose of Mario Bava’s imagery and then adding fantasy and giant monsters into a fairy tale. Beautifully photographed and comes with my highest recommendation for those that like this sort of thing. A real great find and well deserving of it’s recent restoration.

Calling Homicide (1956) Warner Archive DVD. Strictly B fare with detective, Bill Elliott investigating a murder that stems from a modeling agency. Early appearance from good old boy James Best while 1930’s leading man Lyle Talbot was earning a paycheck by this point with Plan Nine on the horizon.

Gangster Story (1959) Echo Bridge DVD. Low, low budget affair is a curio due to the fact that it is the only movie ever directed by Walter Matthau who also plays the lead in this black and white 65 minute special. Walter is a career criminal on the run who falls for a librarian while on the lamb. The lady of the library is played by Carol Grace who had just become Mrs. Matthau off camera. Strictly a B flick for the lower half of a double bill and “kiss my grits” but there’s Vic Tayback turning up as a security guard.

1960’s ….

Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Hard not to enjoy this silly farce with Vincent Price as a cross between a Bond villain and his Pit and the Pendulum persona. Of course he’s using beautiful robotic women in gold bikinis to do his bidding to take over the world. Maybe Frankie Avalon can put a stop to those plans. Dwayne Hickman, Fred Clark and Susan Hart costar but the best gag in the film is a cameo by Frankie’s beach babe, Annette Funicello.

Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. Vinnie the P is back in this atrocious sequel that is most likely the worst film of his career. No sense going into the plot and as for comedy, it’s a dog in English. Maybe the Italian version was better since it was a showcase for a couple of Italian comedians. Incredibly it’s directed by Mario Bava and I have to wonder if they lost the voice tracks over the last 20 odd minutes for the English version forcing the producers at AIP to turn it into a mock up of silent slapstick movies.

No Diamonds For Ursula (1967) Rarefilmm : Cave of Forgotten Films. Having found this at the Forgotten Films website is appropriate because this is a yawner that I’ll have forgotten about by the end of the month. I’m not sure what year Dana Andrews found sobriety but I’m thinking he took this assignment to pay off his bootlegger. An old guy in a wheelchair blackmails 5 thieves into an elaborate diamond heist stealing a precious necklace from the store run by Dana. The 5 decide to kill the old guy but quickly find out there is someone else pointing a gun at them. It’s one double cross after another in the final reel. Dubbed affair but at least it’s Dana’s own voice is in the film.

Marlowe (1969) TCM.

James Garner steps into the shoes of Raymond Chandler’s Private Eye in an updated 60’s mystery. A good cast surrounds our leading man who is piecing together a blackmail scheme gone wrong leading to a series of ice pick murders. Gayle Hunnicutt shares above the title billing with Garner while the likes of Rita Moreno, Carroll O’Connor, Jackie Coogan and Kenneth Tobey fill out the cast. Is this a cult film? No but it’s on the radar thanks to the appearance of Bruce Lee as a martial arts phenom playfully tormenting Garner in a couple of scenes just prior to his popularity exploding worldwide.

Zeta One (1969) Kino Lorber blu ray. This was a tough one to get through which must prove I’m getting older. Nudity galore and I truly wish I had seen this British low budget effort when I was about 15 years of age. I’m quite sure I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more than I did on this first time viewing. Wink… Wink. It’s a spy spoof that’s boring as heck. Who’d have that watching a 20 minute game of strip poker with Hammer babe Yutte Stensgaard would be boring? Anyway you can see the familiar James Robertson Justice and Carry On Gang member Charles Hawtey turning up for the paycheck. Plot? A bunch of nude women hell bent on taking over the world….. I think.

1970’s ….

Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) Studio Canal blu ray.

Leave it to Hammer Films of the early 70’s to breath new life into the story of Jekyll and Hyde by doing a gender swap. Casting is the key and when we look at Ralph Bates as Jekyll morphing into Martine Beswick as Hyde all doubts of believability are vanquished. These two could easily have been siblings off camera. Sex and gore prevail under Roy Ward Baker’s direction. Better than one think despite the lurid title and exploitation feel.

Lucky Luciano (1973) Kino Lorber Studio Classics blu ray. I found this Italian effort a bit erratic in how it shapes the story of the famous mobster underplayed by Gian Marie Volente. Very talky and could have used more underworld violence but not bad with as a whole with Rod Steiger, Vincent Gardenia and Edmond O’Brien also participating.

Deadly Strangers (1975) Cheezy DVD.

Psycho thriller that has Simon Ward escaping from a mental institution, stealing a car and picking up a woman in need of a ride played by Hayley Mills. Not bad and even Sterling Hayden turns up in one of his final screen roles. Nothing is quite like it seems so don’t be fooled too easily. The DVD print is in need of a restoration and would make a suitable addition/release to a company like Severin.

Shark’s Treasure (1975) Scorpion Releasing blu ray. Cornel Wilde directed and starred in this shoddy effort that finds him along with Yaphet Kotto, David Canary and John Neilson looking for a lost ship full of gold and gems. The waters are shark infested and soon they are overtaken by escaped convicts who hold them hostage with murder on their minds. Hate to be tough on Mr. Wilde and Mr. Kotto but this one’s a real letdown.

1980’s ….

Murder In Coweta County (1983) DVD. Johnny Cash Vs. Andy Griffith and it’s an awesome matchup.

The Executioner Part II (1984) Vinegar Syndrome DVD. Bound to make my list of the worst films I sat in on this year. It’s not even a sequel. No the title is meant to draw in a crowd. Death Wish knock off proving once again that as likable as he is, Christopher Mitchum, was not much of an actor. Aldo Ray turns up for a paycheck as the Police Chief in what must be one of the worst looped films out there. Violent effort with the son of the “Mitch” as a cop looking to put an end to a vigilante’s rain. Turns out it’s his old Vietnam buddy running around shoving grenades down the pants of thugs and street scum.

Cold Feet (1989) Alliance DVD.

Things go bad for lifelong crook Keith Carradine when he double crosses his girlfriend, Sally Kirkland, and his psychotic partner in crime, Tom Waits. Played for laughs, Kirkland and Waits pair up to pursue Carradine to his family farm homestead in order to get their revenge and recover the stolen gems the trio had smuggled out of Mexico. No big deal but has a few good moments and I’ve always liked Carradine on camera and with Rip Torn turning up one can’t really go wrong.

Crime Zone (1989) DVD. Low low low budget affair set in a future that looks dark, militaristic and a clear separation between the levels of society. Not to mention Big Brother is clearly ruling the planet. A young couple are recruited by David Carradine to pull off a heist. The reason? He needs criminals to justify his police budget. Something like that anyway. Just another day and film in the life of Carradine that is best forgotten. Executive Producers? Carradine and Roger Corman.

Murder Story (1989) Severin Christopher Lee Collection Vol. 2 blu ray.

Minor effort but plays fine. A young writer looks to his mentor, Christopher Lee, in shaping a mystery novel only to fall face first into a real live murder case that finds the pair in serious danger when they begin to piece together a mystery that leads to a government coverup and assassins in pursuit. For those of us who are big fans of Sir Christopher this proved to be a nice change of pace for the legendary actor even if it’s a footnote in his filmography.

1990’s ….

A Bronx Tale (1993) HBO DVD. Truly a must see film that chronicles the real life childhood of actor Chazz Palminteri. In the film, Robert De Niro, who also directed, plays father to a young son who idolizes the local mobsters who run the neighborhood. Against his father’s wishes the boy will find himself invited into the world of hoods by the mobster who runs the neighborhood played by Chazz himself. Knowing the film is the story of Palminteri’s early years only adds to the flavor and respect I have for this one. I hadn’t seen it since it first came out but came across Chazz doing a lengthy interview on his early years, his mob associations and the film got me wanting to have another look. Glad I did. Superb with De Niro excellent and yeah it has a Scorsese feel to it.

Chasers (1994) Warner Brothers DVD.

Directed by Dennis Hopper, this feels like an updated 90’s edition of 1973’s The Last Detail that saw Jack Nicholson and Otis Young as MP’s transporting Randy Quaid to military prison. This time it’s played for laughs plus a gender swap with Tom Berenger and William McNamara assigned to transport Erika Eleniak to jail. Nothing goes as planned and Hopper turns up for a demented cameo. The major stumbling block is that it’s just not all that funny even with Hopper calling his old pals Dean Stockwell, Gary Busey and Frederic Forest to participate.

Outlaw Justice (1999) Artisan DVD. Made for TV western is rather tame but considering it stars three of my biggest music influences, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson it’s all rather easy to take in. Willie and Kris hit the trail along with Travis Tritt to hunt down an old nemesis who has laid poor Waylon in his grave. All that’s really missing here is the fourth member of The Highwaymen, Johnny Cash. Passable entertainment that I saw on it’s network debut back in the day. Nice to hear both Travis and Willie singing a couple songs on the soundtrack.

as of late ….

City of Lies (2018) Netflix.

Journalist Forest Whitaker calls upon a retired Johnny Depp in his research into the killings of Rap stars, Tupac and Biggie. The film does a fine job going from the present then back in time to when Depp was the leading detective on the case who suspected police involvement in the killings. No idea how close this was to the actual facts but I found it to be a well made film with a pair of actors who are well matched.

Everywhere I turn these last few weeks I see Nicolas Cage thanks to his recent shot at immortality as Count Dracula. His late night appearance on Colbert and all kinds of media outlets had me thinking I should check out some of efforts I’d yet to see hence the mini Cage fest below.

Trespass (2011) DVD.

Too much going on here in Joel Schumacher’s film with Nic Cage married to Nicole Kidman. He’s a diamond wholesaler who along with Nicole experience a home invasion with the thieves playing rough and looking to take all the cash and gemstones on hand in Cage’s wall safe. Cue the plot twists and turns that left me lost and uninterested far too often. I’d heard it was a letdown and wholeheartedly agree now that I’ve taken the time to experience it first hand.

Seeking Justice (2011) Alliance DVD. Decent action/crime drama that sees Cage’s wife, January Jones, brutally raped prompting Cage to agree to allow Guy Pearce’s secret organization to kill the rapist vigilante style. All that Cage needs to do to even the score is take his turn to murder a man when Pearce calls upon him. Not so easy for a mild mannered school teacher who realizes that Pearce is just as criminally insane as the man who raped Miss Jones. Never gets boring and I’m glad to say that Miss Jones role isn’t just window dressing as she’ll get in on the action down the stretch.

Stolen (2012) DVD.

Starting off with a heist gone wrong in a prologue, Nic Cage, finds himself doing an 8 year stretch. The film picks up steam when he’s released. He has a teenage daughter who could care less that he even exists, an ex-partner turned psychotic who wants the 10 million in cash that Cage has supposedly hid away from the earlier heist and lastly a CIA agent played by Danny Huston who also wants the cash to officially close the case. Worlds collide when the psycho ex-partner kidnaps the daughter forcing Cage to steal once again with Huston hot on his tail. Not bad.

U.S.S. Indianapolis (2016) Mongrel Media DVD. If you’re a fan of Jaws and specifically the Robert Shaw speech about his experiences about the Indianapolis and the loss of lives due to sharks, then you’ll have a good idea of what this Mario Van Peebles directed flick starring Nic Cage brings to the screen. Love the subject material thanks to my love of Jaws and the true history aspect of the movie but it’s done on the cheap and it shows. I did learn a something about the aftermath of the sinking and the military’s efforts to hush it all up. Nice turn by Tom Sizemore as an old seadog running the engines below deck. Passable but you’d be better off watching an A&E documentary or replaying Robert Shaw’s terrifying speech on the subject.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent (2022) Crave TV.

I had plenty of fun with this one that stars Nicolas Cage as himself. Kind of. His career isn’t booming anymore and with bills piling up Cage jumps at the chance to earn a one million dollar payoff by agreeing to spend some time with a super fan played by Pedro Pascal. Things get complicated when Cage is enlisted by the CIA to spy on Pascal, a suspected drug lord. Impossible not to like this one that inserts plenty of Cage(isms) into the story with references to many of his movie roles prior to this one.

Total of 35 films seen. Many of them squeezed into free time between periods of hockey games as the playoff excitement ramps up heading into the second round.

20 new to me and 15 rewatches.

Of the new to me titles the ones that stand out as destined to be re-watched are The Mad Doctor, Ilya Muromets and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.

Of the 15 revisits it was a real pleasure to sit in and watch Murder in Coweta County not having seen it since it’s debut back in 1983.

Thanks for dropping in and here’s hoping things start to warm up for the month of May.

Now back to watching movies with my best buddy Brando.