Thursday, 9 November 2017

WYATT EARP'S REVENGE (2012) Directed by Michael Feifer,

This straight to video film is atrocious. Badly acted and directed with little or no attempt at period atmosphere. Val Kilmer plays the ageing Wyatt Earp being interviewed by a reporter and recounting the story of how he hunted down the killer of the woman he loved, dance hall singer, Dora Hand. Along the way he enlists the aide of Bat Masterson, Charlie Bassett and Bill Tilghman. Although inspired by a true event (the accidental killing of Dora Hand) the plot of the movie is total nonsense.The lawmen named had, at best, only a peripheral involvement in the events and no pursuit, as depicted in the film took place. The only cast member worth mentioning is Kilmer and he delivers a strange monotone performance of no interest. Rating *

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

FRONTIER MARSHAL (1939) Directed by Allan Dwan

Another re-telling of the Wyatt Earp story. As usual all the plot points and characters have been thrown into the air to see where they land. This time around Wyatt Earp is an ex-army scout who arrives in Tombstone and becomes town marshal. He meets Doc Halliday (sic) who here is not a dentist but a doctor. The central story follows the familiar story later used by Ford in MY DARLING CLEMENTINE but diverges when Doc is murdered by Curly Bill Brocious and Earp heads to the O.K.Corral alone. Earp is played by Randolph Scott without any attempt at accuracy but Cesar Romero is an acceptable Doc, although John Carradine, who is one of the film's villains, would have been a better choice. Uniquely, Eddie Foy Jr. appears as his own father. The film is watchable but nothing outstanding. Rating **

Sunday, 24 September 2017

SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE (1935) Directed by William Hamilton and Edward Killy,

This is based on a play by George M.Cohan which in turn was based on a novel by Earl Derr Biggers who was better known as the creator of the Chinese detective Charlie Chan. It was originally filmed in 1917, starring Cohan himself, again in 1925 and several remakes followed including one 1947 and again, in 1983, under the title of HOUSE OF LONG SHADOWS which boasted Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and John Carradine. The version discussed here dates from 1935. A writer accepts a bet that he can write a mystery novel in twenty-four hours while staying overnight in a creepy old deserted hotel. His efforts are continually interrupted by various characters including a gangster, a damsel in distress and the local hermit. Although dated this is quite entertaining if one is able to tune into this kind of old dark house mystery. The lively cast is led by Gene Raymond (bearing a startling resemblance to a young Danny Kaye), Margaret Callahan, Moroni Olsen, Eric Blore, Henry Travers and Walter Brennan. Rating **

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957) Directed by Gene Fowler Jr,

I read once that this was Ringo Starr's favourite movie. It is certainly a classic of 1950's schlock horror, Coming from producer Herman Cohen it is the prime example of that strange hybrid that combined horror and teenage rebellion, Troubled teenager, Tony, is always getting into fights and eating his hamburger raw. Psychologist, Dr,Brandon, sees Tony as the perfect choice to regress to one of man's more primitive states. Luckily, when one of Tony's friends is killed while walking home through the woods, the janitor at the local morgue, born in the Carpathians, recognises the signs that a werewolf is on the loose. Low-grade nonsense, maybe, but highly enjoyable nonetheless, if you are in the right mood. Cohen went on to produce two more teenage horrors, I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN and BLOOD OF DRACULA and a host of other horror movies well into the 1970's, Gene Fowler Jr. was mainly a television director and his only other notable feature was the under-rated low-budget I MARRIED A MONSTER FROM OUTER SPACE. Michael Landon, of course, went on to find fame in both BONANZA and LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRARIE. Whit Bissell who played Dr.Brandon was a familiar face in films and television and a year later he got tp play Dr.Frankenstein in Cohen's next horror film. Notable among the supporting cast is Guy Williams who is best remembered today as Disney's ZORRO and as Mr.Robinson in LOST IN SPACE. Rating : ***

Monday, 14 August 2017

STICK (1985) Directed by Burt Reynolds,

Burt Reynolds proved that he could direct with the excellent SHARKEY'S MACHINE but there is little evidence of that here. Based on a novel by Elmore Leonard this tale of an ex-jailbird out to revenge the death of a friend in a drug deal never really comes together. Supposedly the film originally contained more humour which was cut by the film company but I can't imagine that it would improve what we see. The cast, led by Reynolds (in poor health and condition after an accident while filming  CITY HEAT  with Clint Eastwood) includes Candice Bergen and Charles Durning, but their performances are strictly by the numbers. George Segal is another matter and his outrageous over acting and mugging are embarrassing. Rating *

Sunday, 13 August 2017

DOWN 3 DARK STREETS (1953) Directed by Arnold Laven

Arnold Laven (1922-2009) was a director who spent almost his entire career in television, making episodes of just about every series imaginable. On occasions, however, he would, emerge to direct a mid-budget feature before disappearing back into television land. Among his theatrical feature were GERONIMO, A ROUGH NIGHT IN JERICHO and THE GLORY GUYS, the latter from a Sam Peckinpah script. DOWN 3 DARK STREETS is, I think, one of his most interesting movies. It belongs to that sub-genre of documentary-like thriller purporting to show the investigation methods of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, complete with narration. When FBI agent Zack (played by Kenneth Tobey, taking time off from his monster fighting duties) is murdered, another agent, John "Rip" Ripey, takes on the three cases he was working on in an attempt to discover which of his investigations led to his death. The script is by the writing team of The Gordons (Gordon Gordon and his wife Mildred) based on their own novel. Four years earlier Broderick Crawford had co-starred with Glenn Ford in the film CONVICTED, Neither actors knew that both were destined to play FBI agent Ripley in different films, Crawford in the film under discussion and Ford in 1961's EXPERIMENT IN TERROR, also based on writing by The Gordons. It is perhaps a surprise to find that Gordon Gordon went on to become a stalwart of the Walt Disney studio. The cast of DOWN 3 DARK STREETS is excellent. The ever reliable Crawford headlines with Ruth Roman and Martha Hyer supplying considerable glamour in their excellent performances. Support comes from some familiar character actors including the aforementioned Kenneth Tobey, Claude Akins and William Schallert. All in all, very acceptable late night viewing. Rating ***

Martha Hyer and Broderick Crawford

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

MAMMA MIA! (2008) Directed by Phyllida Lloyd.

Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep, Julie Walters

Okay, here goes my street cred (if I ever had any). Some films exist completely outside the given parameters of "film art" and become "events" and whether you like them or not has little to do with the cinema. This is why people queue up for the sing-a-long showings of such films as THE SOUND OF MUSIC or THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW. I was never an Abba fan back in the day but I have a strong affection for MAMMA MIA! for several reason, not all associated with its quality as a film. Firstly I have seen the film on DVD at least ten times because my late partner, who was suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, during the final years of her life, loved music of all kinds and even at her most disturbed she could happily settle down an watch this with me. It was probably the last film she enjoyed and as it made her so happy it has a very special place in my heart. Secondly, ever since the days of the television series CYBIL I have adored Christine Baranski and will watch her in anything. Thirdly, the film does exactly what it says on the box. It isn't Bergman, Kurosawa or even Scorsese and certainly isn't Shakespeare but it was never intended to be. It is an entertainment, no more, no less and it is expertly put together by Phyllida Lloyd and her team. Of course, there are those who never quite get it - to use a phrase, they just don't hear the music. On the subject of music I am amazed at the criticism of the singing efforts of the stars of MAMMA MIA!, most of which has been aimed at Pierce Brosnan. Somebody even suggested that all the vocals should have been over-dubbed with the original Abba recordings! The only member of the cast with a musical theatre is Baranski but everybody does fine, very unrefined nature of the vocals fits perfectly the tone of the film. Sometimes it is enough to just have fun.. Rating ****