Monday, 19 March 2018

HELL'S ISLAND (1955) Directed by Phil Karlson.

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Interesting B-Movie noir (in colour) written by Maxwell Shane with uncredited contributions by director Karlson and star Payne. All three have respectable film noir credits so it was relatively easy to construct a story out of genre clichés : take the basic premise from THE MALTESE FALCON, a self-serving femme fatale, a fat man villain in a wheelchair, a fallen hero and a voice over etc. etc. But Karlson was an effective director back in the 1950's and Payne worked well with him on several minor noir classics, so the whole thing moves along nicely without offering any real surprises but never getting boring. Rating **

Monday, 26 February 2018

THE MAN WHO WOULDN'T DIE (1942) Directed by Herbert Leeds.

Snappy little B-moves, one of a short series with Lloyd Nolan as private eye Michael Shayne. It's an old dark house mystery with ghostly killers, disappearing bodies and screams in the night. Of course it is all smoke, mirrors and clichés but it works wonderfully thanks to the wise-cracking script and Nolan's performance. A good supporting cast includes Henry Wilcoxon and Francis Ford (former silent director/actor and brother of John Ford), At 1 hour 4 minutes it is hard to fault it. Rating ***

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

NIGHT WORLD (1932) Directed by Hobart Henley.

I watched this because I'll watch anything with Boris Karloff in at least once. What a pleasant surprise it was. The story is set in a night club during one evening and tells the story of various members of management, customers, staff and showgirls. Being pre-code the film is fairly risqué in its dialogue, costumes and visuals (check out the two dummies on the stage behind the chorus girls) and the film even features an obviously gay character. There is an interesting and ultimately tragic subplot involving the Afro-American doorman (Clarence Muse). Lew Ayres is a young man trying to come to terms with the murder of his father by his mother (played by Hedda Hopper) who is befriended by chorus girl, Mae Clarke (revealing a very naturalistic acting style). George Raft is a lecherous gambler. Boris Karloff has a prominent role as club owner Happy MacDonald trying to cope with a cheating wife and some threatening bootleggers. Karloff was fresh from FRANKENSTEIN and the film doesn't miss the chance to include a "Frankenstein" joke, although, oddly, it doesn't involve Karloff. All in all a very satisfying little movie, which with a 58 minute running time leaves one little time to get bored. Oh, Yes, there is also an early musical number choreographed by Busby Berkeley. Rating ***

Pre-code goodies

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

THE TERROR (1963) Directed by Roger Corman.

 I was a big Roger Corman fan back in the 1960's but somehow was lucky enough to miss this mess. Reportedly made from an idea by Leo Gordon written on a napkin during a lunch date with Corman. Boris Karloff owed the director a couple of days so Corman set to work with the ghostly help of Monte Hellman and Francis Coppola and cobbled together this supernatural nightmare. To be fare the available DVD is a dreadful transfer and is panned and scanned but it hardly seems worthy of better treatment let alone a restoration. The plot is jumbled and not helped by interminable padding. The cast is interesting with not only Karloff but the young Jack Nicholson and Corman regulars Dick Miller and Jonathan Haze but it hardly rates as a milestone in anybody's career. When it was first shown in Britain critic John Cutts, writing in Films and Filming magazine said the film was comparable with Ingmar Bergman. I can only assume he was joking. Rating *

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 **