Friday, March 27, 2015

The Seventh Victim (1943)

Starring Tom Conway, Jean Brooks, Isabel Jewell, Kim Hunter, Evelyn Brent
Directed by Mark Robson
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After her sister disappears, a young woman travels to New York to find her, and fears she is in danger when she encounters characters who don't want her to be found.

Not quite a mystery, and not quite a horror film, although with elements of each, this picture is still enjoyable, although it might have been better off committing to one genre or the other.  Part of producer Val Lewton's series of films meant to induce terror through suggestion by leaving anything horrific offscreen, it does has some memorable scenes, including a murder committed in the dark and a memorable chase near the film's climax.  Still, a greater emphasis on twists and turns in the mystery, or greater focus on the nefarious activities of the film's villains, might have elevated this to something even better.  The film's casting is notable, with Tom Conway reprising his role from the unrelated Lewton picture Cat People, Hugh Beaumont of TV's "Leave It To Beaver," and future Oscar-winner* Kim Hunter in her film debut.

*Per IMDB, Kim Hunter won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in A Streetcar Named Desire

Friday, March 20, 2015

Super-Sleuth (1937)

Starring Jack Oakie, Ann Sothern, Eduardo Ciannelli, Alan Bruce, Edgar Kennedy
Directed by Ben Stoloff
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A movie star who aggravates the police by insisting he's a smarter detective, suddenly finds his life in danger when a notorious killer targets him.

More comedy than mystery, this picture's harmless light fluff that's a fun diversion, but not much more, with a nice supporting cast in Sothern, Ciannelli, and Kennedy, but each would go on to better showcases.  Built around Oakie's charming blowhard character, he's amusing enough, but the screenplay spends more time trying to point out his own failures to recognize the killer, then building suspense as to who that might be, revealing the villain fairly early.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Sorcerers (1967)

Starring Boris Karloff, Catherine Lacey, Elizabeth Ercy, Ian Ogilvy, Victor Henry
Directed by Michael Reeves
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An aging hypnotist invents a means by which he and his wife can control the mind of a young stranger, but she wants to use this new power for her own ends.

An interesting late-career showcase for horror icon Karloff, this picture doesn't feature him as the monster, but his wife, played by Lacey, intent on using their subject for the sensation of committing vile crimes without fear of punishment.  Although generally well-scripted, Lacey's descent into using her victim in violence against women seems wrong-headed, trying to emulate horror films of the time rather than trying something new and more imaginative.  Nevertheless, Karloff and Lacey give good performances, and Reeves' direction is also accomplished.  

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Macabre (1958)

Starring William Prince, Jim Backus, Christine White, Jacqueline Scott, Susan Morrow
Directed by William Castle
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A small-town doctor, blamed by many for his absence during his wife's death in childbirth, has no one to turn to for help when his daughter is kidnapped and buried alive.

To the best of my knowledge, this was the first in Castle's series of horror thrillers promoted with special gimmicks to draw in curious audiences.  Per Wikipedia, the gimmick here was an insurance policy that would be awarded to anyone who "died of fright" while watching the picture.  There's no big names in the cast, although audiences will recognize Backus from Gilligan's Island reruns and his Mr. Magoo cartoon voiceovers.  It's an efficient small scale chiller, on par with Castle's best work, and held my interest throughout.