Monday, 22 June 2009


This is a fascinating historical curiosity - an example of the "Race" films that were made during the 1930s and 1940's specifically for black audiences. These low budget films aped all the major Hollywood genres from comedies and musicals to horror films and even Westerns. The film under review (directed by William Beaudine) is one of a couple of attempts to team Flournoy Miller with Mantan Moreland, here as two down at heel types who come into money and win a haunted casino because of their dexterity with dice. The film, while it has its share of rolling eyes, is generally lacking in to many of the racial stereotypes we see in in films aimed mainly at white audiences. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the film is watching Mantan Moreland carry the film virtually single-handed. Moreland was a familiar face in mainstream "white" productions and was a talented performer. Here he works his butt off, giving the material much more than it really deserved. Rating **

Look who is 73 today......

Have to admit that I am a HUGE Kris Kristofferson fan. Perhaps more for the music than the movies, although he's done a few great ones (including my all-time favourite Western) alongside those that paid the rent. I've been there since the first album back in the 70's and I've bought every one since. It's about time for a new album Kris........happy birthday.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


Reel Life 1955 : Audie Murphy recieves a medal for outstanding valour in TO HELL AND BACK

I've waited years to see this. Somehow this biopic of war hero/actor Audie Murphy has always eluded me. I've always been a fan of Murphy's films - mostly easy going Westerns - so a film based on his wartime exploits held some attraction for me but we kept missing each other over the years.Finally, I found this widescreen VHS copy in a box outside a charity shop - price 20p! Was I at all disappointed ? Well, no, I never really expected the film to be a masterpiece (it is, after all, directed by the anonymous Jesse Hibbs) but I liked it a lot, even if it somewhat plays down the incredible exploits that earned Murphy every American medal for bravery right up to the Congressional Medal of Honor, plus several French ones as well (see picture below). Murphy does a pretty good job of playing himself (this was his sixteenth film) and is ably supported by Charles Drake, Jack, Kelly, Marshal Thompson, Paul Picerni and David Janssen. A remake would be welcome showing something of Murphy's off-screen problems - then again, maybe not, as we're always too eager to show the downside of heroes and if nothing else Audie Murphy was a hero. Rating ***

Real Life 1945 : Audie Murphy recieves a French Medal for outstanding valour

Saturday, 13 June 2009


The Fleapit sends its congratulations to Christopher Lee who was honoured in the Queen's Birthday Honours with a Knighthood. Sir Christopher (as he will soon be) has been a familiar part of any film fan's life for many years, from his early supporting roles in British Films to his classic starring roles in many Hammer Horror films such as DRACULA, THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN and THE MUMMY and on to a succession of memorable appearances in the STAR WARS saga, THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy etc. I have been lucky enough to meet Sir Christopher on at least five occasions once was privileged, along with fellow fan Gary Parfitt, to be a guest for the evening at his then flat in London's Cadogan Square (where his neighbour was Boris Karloff) and on the sets of such films as THE OBLONG BOX and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN. I always found him friendly and happy to talk about his films, if somewhat aloof. Few actors today have appeared in such a wide range of films and the Knighthood is more than deserved. Arise, Sir Dracula!

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Farewell Grasshopper....peace be with you.

1936 - 2000

" Avoid, rather than check. Check, rather than hurt. Hurt, rather than maim. Maim, rather than kill. For all life is precious, nor can any be replaced. "

Master Kan : KUNG FU television series 1972

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


From the title I expected a voodoo thriller.....but I'm still not sure what I got! The film's open ing scenes inroduce Dr. Boris Karlov (I kid you not) in what seems like a standard early thirties mad scientist thriller, then the film brings on a plot about a cursed necklace (known as The Drums of Jeopardy) and just as you think you are going to settle down to a nice horror film the production does an about face and becomes a sort of spy thriller with bolshevik agents in New York trying to kill Russian aristrocrats. You are just beginning to accept this when the film becomes an Old Dark House thriller, a serial (hero and heroine trapped in a chamber filling with water) and ends with a police siege and shootout that wouldn't disgrace a Warner's gangster epic. Director George B. Seitz keeps things bubbling along at a fair pace so there is little chance to get bored.Cast are adequate with Warner Oland stand out as mad Dr.Boris Karlov. Rating ***

Monday, 1 June 2009


Roland West was a technically inspired director working during the silent era and in the early days of sound. Most of his films are lost but luckily his three most famous films, THE MONSTER, THE BAT and THE BAT WHISPERS, the ones his reputation rests on are all preserved. Thanks to my good friend Cerpts I finally get to see THE MONSTER starring the great Lon Chaney. Lon plays mad surgeon Dr.Ziska who takes over the lunatic asylum where he has been incarcerated and kidnaps travelers to try a little cross gender soul transference. It's all nonsensense and knows it. West is playing it for laughs and keeps the pace rattling along - helped by not having to insert the usual dreadful comedy relief that bogs down most old dark house films. West's comedy comes from his three talented "victims" - Johnny Arthur, Gertrude Olmstead and Hallam Cooley - who play it for all its worth without becoming irritating. Chaney is terrific as the mad doctor - bearing a strange physical resemblance to some of the mad doctors later played by Karloff with the likeness being quite startling at times. The film is continually inventive with some great stuntwork and some engaging slapstick. The disc also contained an interesting documentary from the TV series THE FEARMAKERS that discusses director West's contribution to the horror genre and his involvement as a suspect in the possible murder of his lover, the actress Thelma Todd. Rating ****