Friday, December 30, 2016

The Alpha Omega Man (2016)

Starring Joshua Kennedy, Laura Laureano, Kat Kennedy
Directed by Joshua Kennedy
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

On a future Earth where a deadly plague has killed most of the population, a scientist who's survived faces nightly attacks from half-dead plague victims he hunts during the day.

I usually only look at classic films of the past in this space, but am making an exception for the work of young filmmaker Joshua Kennedy, a cinephile who enjoys the classics as well, and who has made some terrific films while completing his education at Pace University in New York City.  Here's a look at Josh's latest, a homage to Charlton Heston's The Omega Man (full disclosure, I have a brief cameo as one of the plague victims :)):

Joshua Kennedy's love letter to Charlton Heston and his 1971 picture, The Omega Man, based on Richard Matheson's classic novel, I Am Legend, offers what we've come to expect from Josh, in the recapturing of classic cinema moments while using inventive means of getting around his budgetary limitations.  In this film, the more expensive vehicles available to Heston are replaced by bicycles, a giant stadium is replaced by a university building, stadium lights are replaced by an A/V projector, and yet the scale of Josh's composition seems comparable to the film he reveres due to his skill as a filmmaker, and his retention of Ron Grainer's original score.

Kennedy plays Heston's role as Robert Neville, and there are moments when he sounds exactly like him, using much of the dialogue from the original screenplay, but he brings his own qualities to the role, including some touches of humor absent from the original picture.  His sister Kat gives an admirable performance taking on the mutant cult leader Matthias, played by Anthony Zerbe in the original, and her diction and facial expressiveness could not be better.  The makeup effect used to simulate the dilated eyes of the mutants in the original film is very well done, and I'm not sure how it was accomplished, but full credit must go to whoever created it.

Laura Laureano has a nice rapport with Josh and credibly recaptures Rosalind Cash's memorable turn as the infected but still beautiful Lisa, and Kennedy's troupe of friends, classmates, and collaborators add the proper notes as Kat's mutant followers and the early victims of the plague in the film's flashback sequence.  Dan Day, Jr. was a fine choice for reprising the newscaster who narrates the flashback, delivering the proper vocal inflection for the part.

Scenes where Neville fires a crossbow with machine gun sound effects are not really miscues, as Josh has told me that his having to use the crossbow had much to do with New York's ban on toy guns.  He had to exercise a great deal of patience to find times he could film on deserted New York City streets, but this paid off in some wonderfully memorable shots.

In summary, Kennedy's ode to the original feels as fun for the audience as it must have been for him to recreate one of his favorite movies.  In times when many filmmakers deliver dour works, it's very refreshing that Kennedy is able to capture his zest for filmmaking in his pictures with a reverent eye towards the greats of the past.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Omega Man (1971)

Starring Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo, Eric Laneuville
Directed by Boris Sagal
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

On a future Earth where a deadly plague has killed most of the population, a scientist who's survived faces nightly attacks from half-dead plague victims he hunts during the day.

An adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, the film takes liberties with the text and I've heard Matheson was not fond of it, but it's a very entertaining movie, with Heston perfect as the cynical hero who participates in a war of ideologies with Zerbe as the leader of the zombie-like nightstalkers.  I think it's paced a little better than the previous adaptation of the story, 1964's The Last Man On Earth, with Vincent Price, dispensing with that film's lengthy flashback sequence, incorporating some well-staged bits of action, and introducing Cash into the story much earlier.  Russell Metty's clever use of shadow in his photography and Ron Grainer's eccentric score add to the uniqueness of the film, which is wisely built around Heston and his ever reliable machismo.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Adventures Of Captain Marvel (1941)

Starring Tom Tyler, Frank Coghlan Jr., William Benedict, Louise Currie, Robert Strange
Directed by William Witney & John English
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Young radio broadcaster Billy Batson is given the power to change into the mighty Captain Marvel, and uses it to protect his friends from a masked villain after an ancient and powerful weapon.

One of the all-time great movie serials, this production is tremendously entertaining, with an Agatha Christie-like plot in which the suspects are killed off one by one, and fantastic special effects from Howard and Theodore Lydecker, who combine a convincing dummy with excellent stunt work by David Sharpe to convey the illusion of Captain Marvel leaping into flight.  Although Coghlan is a bit too old to accurately represent the Billy Batson of Captain Marvel's comic book adventures, his youthful voice and natural charm make him a fine protagonist who transforms into the super-powered Tyler with the classic cry of "Shazam!" in a well-executed puff of smoke.  Not much else is adapted from the comics, but the Scorpion, the masked villain bedecked in a silken robe and possessing a delightfully sinister voice is among the finest to oppose any serial's hero.  Although directors Witney and English helmed many worthy serials, to me this is by far their masterwork, with each chapter bringing forth new excitement and suspense.  Be forewarned that fans of today's superheroes may be a bit shocked as Captain Marvel does not show much mercy to the villain's henchmen.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958)

Starring Marshall Thompson, Shawn Smith, Kim Spalding, Ann Doran, Dabbs Greer
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A spaceship leaves Mars on a journey back to Earth, with a man its crew believes responsible for murder, but the real culprit, a lethal alien creature, has snuck aboard their ship.

Said to have inspired the Alien movies, this effective sci-fi chiller has a low budget and weak special effects, but is written, produced, and directed with such skill, it overcomes those trappings.  Screenwriter Jerome Bixby, who was behind Star Trek's memorable "Mirror, Mirror" episode, delivers an excellent plot and intelligent characters, while director Edward L. Cahn skillfully moves those characters around their tiered rocket, building suspense as the creature advances towards them.  Ray Corrigan, who filled many a gorilla suit during his acting career, inhabits the creature suit and brings it to life, and the filmmakers wisely confine our views of the monster, to build terror in our own imagination.  With all the accolades that have been stacked on the Alien pictures, I don't think this film has been given its due.  It may not have the eye-popping special effects or white-knuckle fright scenes those later pictures brought to the table, but it was there first, and remains a thrilling picture today.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Horror Of Dracula (1958)

Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling, Carol Marsh
Directed by Terence Fisher
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The determined Dr. Van Helsing tries to protect the victims of Count Dracula while following the evil vampire's trail towards a final confrontation.

Hammer Films' first Dracula opus is a memorable piece of Gothic horror with an excellent star-making performance from Christopher Lee in a minimum of screen time, and a wonderful turn by Peter Cushing playing a role 180 degrees opposed to his cruel Baron Frankenstein in the previous year's The Curse Of Frankenstein.  A landmark vampire film with Lee's feral performance as Dracula, accompanied by blood-smeared lips and pointed fangs, making this a daring departure from previous entries in the genre, Cushing's Van Helsing is also new and different.  His vampire hunter is a clever and noble hero as well as a man of action, sprinting after the Count in the thrilling climax to the film. Hammer's men behind the camera are important contributors as well, with James Bernard providing one of his most memorable scores, Jack Asher photographing the film in rich color, and Bernard Robinson providing memorable scenery, particularly in the atmospheric Castle Dracula.  Jimmy Sangster's script, though it takes liberties (and changes characters) from Bram Stoker's classic novel, delivers escalating thrills, and this may be the best film of director Terence Fisher, excitingly staged and gripping throughout.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Mole People (1956)

Starring John Agar, Cynthia Patrick, Hugh Beaumont, Alan Napier, Nestor Paiva
Directed by Virgil Vogel
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The discovery of a Sumerian artifact leads a group of archaeologists to explore a giant mountain where they descend inside and discover a lost underground civilization.

After a serious introduction by a real college professor about theories about the interior of the Earth, we get a pretty crazy story about an ancient Sumerian race of albinos enslaving hideous mole people and respecting the archaeologists only because they have a "cylinder of fire," namely a common flashlight.  Still, while it's no science fiction classic, the movie is very enjoyable to watch, with the grotesque mole people pulling their victims down through the dirt, and Alan Napier, better known as "Alfred" on TV's Batman, a hoot as the power-hungry high priest who wants to kill Agar, Beaumont, and Paiva.  The mountain scenes are not well-integrated with obvious stock footage, and Agar's romance with shunned slave-girl Patrick isn't all that compelling, but I didn't care, for this is an entertaining romp and cinematic comfort food for fans of 1950s sci-fi.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Mystery House (1938)

Starring Dick Purcell, Ann Sheridan, Anne Nagel, William Hopper, Anthony Averill
Directed by Noel Smith
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A company executive dies at a gathering of the company's partners at his hunting lodge, and while they try to hush it up as a suicide, his daughter hires a detective to find out the truth.

One of a series of mystery films to feature the characters of detective Lance O'Leary and his love interest nurse Sarah Keate, with Sheridan appearing as Keate before becoming more of a household name.  It's a good mystery with plenty of suspects to guess from, and some canny misdirection in the script to keep the audience from guessing the culprit too soon.  I had some fun spotting all the familiar faces in the cast, from Purcell who would later play the screen's first Captain America, to Hopper whose dark hair is quite a contrast from his silver-haired role on TV's Perry Mason, Anne Nagel of several Universal horror films, Ben Welden, (wearing a toupee!), often a gangster on the Adventures Of Superman TV series, and Elspeth Dudgeon, the character actress reputed for her role in James Whale's The Old Dark House.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Crawling Hand (1963)

Starring Peter Breck, Kent Taylor, Rod Lauren, Alan Hale Jr., Allison Hayes
Directed by Herbert L. Strock
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An astronaut is lost on his return to Earth, but his disembodied hand survives his ship's destruction, and somehow takes mental possession of a teenager, driving him to kill.

A low-budget sci-fi thriller, though capably assembled by Strock, is probably best known today for the appearance of Hale, shortly before playing the Skipper on the cult TV series Gilligan's Island.  Strock, who edited the film in addition to directing it, does make the most of his budget, using shadow effectively, and conveying the "space madness" through dark eye makeup on Lauren, although the picture's got some serious audio issues with fluctuating volume.  Lauren's acting isn't strong enough to anchor the film, the shots of the hand are too tight to suggest it's really moving on its own, and the script is a bit too loony to be taken seriously, but it's good fun for those inclined for a cheesy movie experience, which is probably why it ended up on Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Curse Of Frankenstein (1957)

Starring Peter Cushing, Hazel Court, Robert Urquhart, Christopher Lee, Melvyn Hayes
Directed by Terence Fisher
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The brilliant Victor Frankenstein is consumed by an obsession to create a living human being, and lets no laws or moral codes stand in his way.

We have here the film that put Peter Cushing on the map as a horror star, casting his driven Baron Frankenstein as the true "monster" of the movie, despite a memorable performance and makeup for Christopher Lee as his creation.  Adapted only loosely from Mary Shelley's novel by screenwriter Jimmy Sangster, and keeping none of the pathos for the monster's plight, it is nevertheless an efficient  thriller with Cushing a marvelous villain beyond redemption, although his behavior in this film pales to that of his character in the sequels to follow.  The picture's importance in launching the Hammer studio's vast library of horror titles cannot be understated, as can the standard the craftsmen on this film set for those to follow.    

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Alias Boston Blackie (1942)

Starring Chester Morris, Adele Mara, Richard Lane, George E. Stone, Lloyd Corrigan
Directed by Lew Landers
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Boston Blackie organizes a variety show at the prison he once did time at, unwittingly helping a young convict with revenge on his mind to escape.

One of Morris' long series of Boston Blackie films for Columbia Pictures, and it's a good one, with a nice balance of mystery and humor, and a yuletide setting, making it a perfect film to watch during the holidays.  Although the story of steering a young man from ruining his life was probably a chestnut even back when this film was made, the whodunit portion of the plot kept me guessing, and Morris is engaging as the ex-con who does enough in the movie to warrant a return to prison, but is given a wide berth by the police inspector tailing him.  Larry Parks plays the young convict on the loose but is better known for his impersonation of Al Jolson in a pair of later films.  And a young Lloyd Bridges plays a bus driver!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Mask Of Fu Manchu (1932)

Starring Boris Karloff, Lewis Stone, Karen Morley, Charles Starrett, Myrna Loy
Directed by Charles Brabin
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The discovery of the tomb of Genghis Khan sets off a race between a British archaeologist and the nefarious Dr. Fu Manchu to claim its prizes, but the evil doctor has operatives everywhere.

Boris Karloff's performance is a highlight of this version of one of Sax Rohmer's stories of the famed master criminal, as the actor's mirthful expressions while torturing his victims make for a very memorable characterization.  Among the other cast, Myrna Loy as Fu Manchu's daughter, who has her own designs on Fu's male captives, is certainly striking, while Karen Morley is a bit grating as the archaeologist's daughter who routinely plunges into hysterics.  Although Wikipedia indicates the film was controversial upon its release for depicting the Chinese villains with broad strokes, it seems tame today, except for a few bits of dialogue.  However, the best reason to watch the film is for its absolutely stunning production design and art direction, delivering visuals which feature terrifying golden figures guarding Khan's burial chamber, intricately designed death traps within Fu Manchu's lair, and a destructive device which shoots out bolts of electricity that figures prominently in the climax.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Mighty Joe Young (1949)

Starring Terry Moore, Ben Johnson, Robert Armstrong, Frank McHugh, Douglas Fowley
Directed by Ernest B. Schoedsack
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A producer of stage shows brings back from Africa a giant gorilla and the girl who can control him to star in a new nightclub he's opening.

The creators of King Kong deliver another giant ape tale, and though it's not the grand adventure Kong was, it's a charming film with impressive technical wizardry in its own right.  Willis O'Brien returned to supervise the special effects and employed a young Ray Harryhausen, on the cusp of his own brilliant career, as his first technician.  Together with other animators, they create a living breathing character with his own personality, and although the film borrows several elements from Kong, including star Robert Armstrong, its comes into its own with a fiery climax that shows off the ape's heroism.  The reddish-tinted shot of Joe Young clinging to a tree with a vivid fearful expression at the peril Moore faces atop a burning orphanage is one of my all-time favorites.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Case Of The Howling Dog (1934)

Starring Warren William, Mary Astor, Allen Jenkins, Grant Mitchell, Helen Trenholme
Directed by Alan Crosland
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Perry Mason takes on the case of a wealthy man plagued by a howling dog next door, but soon discovers there's a deeper and more scandalous conflict between the man and his neighbor.

The first Perry Mason film contains less humor than in William's later turns as Erle Stanley Gardner's crime-solving lawyer, but is still a well-staged and interesting picture, and notable for the casting of Astor, whose star later shone more brightly after films like The Maltese Falcon.  William is a fine choice for Mason, for although per Wikipedia at the time of his casting, he was known for playing seamier characters, he projects the nobility of Mason, while still embracing some unethical tricks in the pursuit of justice for his client.  Fans of the comedic stylings of Allen Jenkins will be surprised to see him playing a serious role as the police sergeant suspicious of Mason, and he plays it well enough, but it's easy to see why more light-hearted parts would become his forte.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Vengeance Of She (1968)

Starring John Richardson, Olinka Berova, Edward Judd, Colin Blakely, Jill Melford
Directed by Cliff Owen
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A beautiful young woman is tormented by messages in her dreams, calling her the fabled queen Ayesha, and compelling her to journey to the lost city of Kuma.

A pale sequel to Hammer Films' engaging adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's She, with none of the star power nor fun of the original film.  Billed as Olinka Berova, but per IMDB actually named Olga Schoberova, the leading actress is certainly attractive but not accomplished enough to carry the film, which probably would have been better if Ursula Address could have returned to take her role, but not by much.  With an overemphasis on Berova's befuddlement and satanic mysticism rituals, the picture lacks any exciting scenes or memorable performances.  It's a shame because the cast includes Hammer stalwarts who have been much better in other films, including Andre Morell, who isn't given enough to do, and Noel Willman, who speaks in quiet whispers that are difficult to understand.  This is clearly a lower budgeted production than the original, but Hammer's done more with less before much more successfully.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea (1961)

Starring Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine, Barbara Eden, Peter Lorre, Robert Sterling
Directed by Irwin Allen
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

When a radiation belt circling the Earth ignites and threatens the planet, Admiral Nelson sends his high-tech submarine on a mission to blow up the belt with a nuclear missile.

One of disaster film specialist Irwin Allen's earliest features, the movie is entertaining with some well-done special effects and big names in the cast, including Pidgeon, Fontaine, and Lorre.  There's a few plot holes in the script, and those expecting the beauty and scope of an underwater picture like Disney's 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea will be disappointed.  Nevertheless, the production is well-assembled, with convincing interior sets for the submarine, and a compelling mystery behind the identity of an onboard saboteur, although a subplot casting doubt as to Pidgeon's sanity isn't as believable.  The film paved the way for one of Allen's first forays into television, a series of the same name, with Richard Basehart and David Hedison taking over Pidgeon and Sterling's roles.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Grand Central Murder (1942)

Starring Van Heflin, Patricia Dane, Cecilia Parker, Virginia Grey, Samuel S. Hinds
Directed by S. Sylvan Simon
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The murder of a golddigging Broadway star is investigated by a police inspector, but he's challenged by a private detective hired by one of the suspects who thinks he can solve the case more quickly.

A fun murder mystery with crackling dialogue from MGM, the picture features a talented cast and some intriguing flashback sequences, shot Rashomon-style from different character's perspectives.  Unfortunately, it's not very original, featuring the usual stock characters, like Levene's gruff police inspector and Heflin's smart but antagonistic detective, and a climax that's a little too familiar, although mystery buffs who enjoy these tropes might find this to be cinematic comfort food.  Be forewarned that as the screenplay throws a plethora of suspects and possible motives at us, it sneaks in a number of clues that the most careful viewer may forget about until Heflin ties things up at the end.  I must admit with everything going on, I didn't have time to guess the murderer's identity, so its revelation at film's end was something of a surprise, always a favorable quality in a whodunit of this type.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Undersea Kingdom (1936)

Starring Ray Corrigan, Lois Wilde, Monte Blue, William Farnum, Boothe Howard
Directed by B. Reeves Eason & Joseph Kane
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Navy lieutenant "Crash" Corrigan and his friends trace a mysterious force causing earthquakes to the lost city of Atlantis, where a powerful despot is making plans to conquer the world.

Here's an action-packed and fun movie serial from the early years of the Republic Pictures studio, which per Wikipedia was formed from a number of smaller studios including Mascot Pictures, who provided much of the principal crew for Republic's serial unit.  Mascot's serial a year earlier, The Phantom Empire, seems to have inspired this production, which also features a lost civilization, lumbering robots, and plenty of men on horseback.  Although no one would call this a great science fiction opus, it's nonetheless very enjoyable, enlivened by thrilling music, chariot chases, sieges of a fortress, sword fights, and a great deal of derring-do for Corrigan.  Although no one particularly distinguishes themselves in the cast, Lon Chaney, Jr. some years before becoming a horror star, plays the captain of Blue's soldiers.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Four Sided Triangle (1953)

Starring Barbara Payton, James Hayter, Stephen Murray, John Van Eyssen, Percy Marmont
Directed by Terence Fisher
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A pair of childhood friends grow up to become scientists and perfect a duplicating machine, but when  one of them marries the woman the other also loves, the rejected one aims to duplicate her.

I'm very fond of this picture, a science fiction effort made by Fisher for Hammer Films before their success in horror movies, and it has an excellent concept and script adapted for the screen by Fisher and Paul Tabori from a novel by William F. Temple.  The photography by Reginald Wyer is crisp and features some very beautiful closeups of the lovely Payton, and the score by Malcolm Arnold has the proper flourishes during the well-directed laboratory scenes, in which Fisher shows the prowess he would bring to Hammer's Frankenstein films.  The only thing that holds the picture back in my opinion from being a complete success is some visual representation of the emotion Payton's character has for Van Eyssen's as it becomes critical to the story in the film's latter half.  I'm not sure if this is due to Payton's range as an actress or the lack of romantic clinches in the movie, but an improvement in this regard would have just completely sold me on the film.  Nevertheless, it's still a fine production and a quality early effort by Fisher.

The Thin Man (1934)

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O'Sullivan, Nat Pendleton, Minna Gombell
Directed by W.S. Van Dyke
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Retired detective Nick Charles is convinced by his wife Nora to help a young woman whose father has disappeared after the murder of his mistress.

MGM delivers a classic mystery with many laughs courtesy of the charming team of Powell and Loy, whose dialogue throughout the picture is sparkling and a lot of fun.  Based on a story by Maltese Falcon author Dashiell Hammett, the mystery is a good one but secondary to the comic scenes involving the leads and their terrier Asta.  It's interesting to see Pendleton, nearly always cast as a dimwitted but lovable type, playing it straight as the police lieutenant on the case, and there's many solid character turns by actors like Edward Ellis, Cesar Romero, and Edward Brophy.  It's a credit to their performances and that of the rest of the cast that when Powell invites all the suspects to a dinner so he can expose the murderer that we know everyone around the table without confusion.  Followed by five sequels, the popularity of the film is a testament to the chemistry between the stars.

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Bride Of Frankenstein (1935)

Starring Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson, Ernest Thesiger, Elsa Lanchester
Directed by James Whale
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After the Monster survives his apparent death, an evil scientist blackmails Henry Frankenstein into creating a mate for the creature.

A terrific sequel to Whale's 1931 Frankenstein film that launched Karloff's stellar horror career, the picture features the return of Karloff in his classic role, who speaks as the monster for the first and only time.  Although his performance in this film has been often parodied over the years, it is still a work of quality,  such that the distinguished British gentleman underneath the makeup isn't discernible at all.  Karloff is only one component however of a fine motion picture, which also features Whale's expert direction and the addition of wry touches of humor, something missing from the first film, as well as beautiful photography from John Mescall, and a thrilling score by Franz Waxman.  The screenplay, which according to IMDB several individuals worked on at one time or other, wisely recreates a sequence from Mary Shelley's original novel which was absent from the first film, a touching sequence in which Karloff's monster befriends a blind hermit played by O.P. Heggie.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Vengeance Of Fu Manchu (1967)

Starring Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Tsai Chin, Horst Frank, Noel Trevarthen
Directed by Jeremy Summers
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The nefarious Fu Manchu launches a new plot for vengeance against Scotland Yard commissioner Nayland Smith, which involves replacing Smith with a surgically altered double.

Third in the series starring Christopher Lee as Sax Rohmer's Chinese master criminal, this film features a new director, Jeremy Summers, replacing the previous film's Don Sharp, who had a talent for staging action sequences.  The fights are still well-choreographed, although the focus on Smith's double makes this production perhaps a bit less exciting, and there's some notable plot holes in Harry Alan Towers' screenplay.  Fans of the previous Fu Manchu movies should still find enough color and action to suit their tastes, but should be forewarned Lee doesn't have much screen time.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Spook Chasers (1957)

Starring Huntz Hall, Stanley Clements, Darlene Fields, David Gorcey, Jimmy Murphy
Directed by George Blair
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The Bowery Boys help Clancy who runs their favorite lunch counter to find a home in the country to relax his nerves, only it's run down and supposedly haunted by a dead gangster.

One of the later Bowery Boys films after Leo Gorcey had left the series, this entry relies on the comedic shtick of Huntz Hall to carry the picture with Gorcey's replacement, Stanley Clements, serving more as a straight man.  This is mostly accomplished through silly dialogue until they get to the "haunted house," when some more amusing physical comedy starts to come into play.  The audience has likely seen all this before in better pictures, and this isn't one of the Boys' better efforts, but it's such an amiable effort by all concerned, I can't criticize the movie too harshly.  Fans of the Boys should find enough to enjoy.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Devil-Doll (1936)

Starring Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O'Sullivan, Frank Lawton, Rafaela Ottiano, Robert Greig
Directed by Tod Browning
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An escaped convict with a grudge against the men who imprisoned him accompanies a fellow escapee to his laboratory, where he finds the man is experimenting with shrinking living creatures.

Another memorable horror film from Dracula director Tod Browning, and one wonders if the story might have originally been developed for his former star Lon Chaney, as Barrymore dons drag to hide his identity, similar to Chaney's performance in Browning's The Unholy Three.  Barrymore should be given credit for a convincing turn as his female persona, effectively replacing his distinctive voice with a high-pitched old lady's.  The "devil-doll" effects show their age when inserted into scenes with other actors, but the full-size mockups of tables, stairs, and small furniture scaled by the tiny people are first-rate, enhancing the believability of the production, which for a revenge tale, has an unusually sweet center as Barrymore's character tries to reconcile with O'Sullivan's.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Hound Of The Baskervilles (1959)

Starring Peter Cushing, Andre Morell, Christopher Lee, Marla Landi, David Oxley
Directed by Terence Fisher
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Sherlock Holmes is engaged to protect the life of Sir Henry Baskerville and investigate the mystery behind the ghostly hound that haunts his ancestral estate.

Hammer Films reunites their horror stars Cushing and Lee and director Fisher for this adaptation of the classic novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Cushing is marvelous as Holmes, playing him as a more brusque and easily bored individual than in previous adaptations, while Lee for a change provides the romantic lead in the character of Sir Henry.  It's also among the more exciting adaptations, beginning with a flashback to the barbarism of Hugo Baskerville and his relentless chase of an innocent young maiden, and highlighted by a number of dramatic conflicts.  Although the novel provides the bulk of what's on screen, Hammer clearly tries to capitalize on their past horror successes by reusing some of James Bernard's score for Horror of Dracula and adding references to evil and the powers of darkness in Cushing's dialogue.  I prefer the 1939 version with Basil Rathbone for its eerie tone and well-paced suspense, but this is one of Hammer's better productions featuring a classic character Cushing was born to play.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Monster (1925)

Starring Lon Chaney, Gertrude Olmstead, Hallam Cooley, Johnny Arthur, Charles A. Sellon
Directed by Roland West
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An amateur detective trails the disappearance of a wealthy farmer to a supposedly closed sanitarium, but it's been taken over by a mad doctor.

We have here a comic mystery enhanced by some dark and eerie scenes and the presence of Chaney as the villain, who plays his part with wide eyes and a creepy grimace, but it's not one of his more memorable characterizations.  Arthur is the familiar hero, seemingly patterned after Buster Keaton's character in Sherlock Jr., a somewhat meek and ridiculed clerk who wins a diploma from a correspondence detective school and continually consults a crime solving book.  Arthur is no Keaton, and his routines aren't all that amusing, but the film really takes off once we make to the sanitarium where West introduces us to Chaney and his sinister henchmen, and the secret passages and torture devices within, leading to a number of memorable suspenseful scenes.  I enjoyed the picture, but Chaney has had much better showcases.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Tingler (1959)

Starring Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts, Pamela Lincoln
Directed by William Castle
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A coroner studying the effect of fear on the human body in his spare time makes the incredible discovery that a living creature causes the tingling on our spine when we become frightened.

Modern audiences might not find this film as frightening as those of fifty years ago, but despite the fact that we can't enjoy Castle's gimmick back then of rigging vibrating seats in selected theaters, it's still great fun, and enjoyable to watch.  Not playing an out-and-out cad like he did in his prior film with Castle, House On Haunted Hill, Price is able to employ his considerable charm in serving as the very likable protagonist of this picture, though saddled with a cheating wife he probably goes too far in turning into one of his test subjects.  The showpiece of the film, a nightmarish sequence in which the mute character played by Evelyn reacts to terrors throughout her apartment, including the only color used in the picture, is the most effective from a horror point of view, but scenes involving the true monster of the movie, the "tingler" itself, are still entertaining, even though it's unable to move its individual legs as it waddles across the floor.  That serves as a cheerful reminder that the film left and still leaves smiles on the faces of many. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Mark Of The Vampire (1935)

Starring Lionel Barrymore, Elizabeth Allan, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, Jean Hersholt
Directed by Tod Browning
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A modern community is convinced that vampires haunt a castle whose owner has been recently murdered, and the police inspector calls in an expert on the legend to help.

A sound remake by Tod Browning of a lost silent film few have seen, London After Midnight, the movie may follow the same story, but it looks a lot like Browning's Dracula, and returns that film's star, Bela Lugosi, although he has a limited role.  Filled with creepy imagery and featuring the photography of acclaimed cinematographer James Wong Howe, it's a perfect film for Halloween-viewing with numerous scenes of skulking rodents, crawling spiders, and swooping bats, and although some of the creature effects appear obvious today, I relished them for their contribution to the film's dark mood.  Fans expecting more from Lugosi's presence may be surprised to see Carroll Borland as the chief vampire here, but her icy stare is very effective, and Howe lights her menacingly as she stalks Allan throughout the film.  We may never know if the movie is an improvement or not as good as London After Midnight, but it's certainly another memorable foray by Browning into gothic horror.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

She (1965)

Starring Ursula Andress, Peter Cushing, Bernard Cribbins, John Richardson, Christopher Lee
Directed by Robert Day
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After encountering a beautiful queen from a lost city, a young adventurer convinces his companions to accompany him on a dangerous journey to find her kingdom.

Hammer Films tries their luck at an adaptation of H. Rider Haggard's oft-filmed adventure, casting their horror stars Cushing and Lee as supporting players, although each have some meaty and worthy scenes, including some memorable dialogue with each other.  I enjoyed it very much, with Andress and Richardson probably giving off more heat than any of the stars of the previous adaptations, and composer James Bernard turning in a majestic love theme and a fun jaunty cue for the men's journey through the desert.  Cribbins also is very likable as Cushing's plucky manservant, and there's some fantastic sets on par with the classic 1935 version.  Expecting Andress and Richardson to pass for ancient Egyptians is probably a bit too much to ask, but for those in the mood for a fun period adventure, I'd heartily recommend this.  

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Robot Vs. The Aztec Mummy (1958)

Starring Ramon Gay, Rosita Arenas, Crox Alvarado, Luis Aceves Castaneda, Jorge Mondragon
Directed by Rafael Portillo
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The greedy Dr. Krupp tries again to take the breastplate and bracelet from the ancient mummy who protects them, planning to defeat him this time with a powerful robot.

Third in a series of Mexican horror films to feature an ancient monster based on the legends of Aztec mythology, following The Aztec Mummy and The Curse Of The Aztec Mummy, this effort doesn't stand on its own very well, with over half its running time devoted to presenting clips from the previous two films.  Nonetheless, the battle between robot and mummy at the film's climax is probably the most exciting sequence in all three movies, but that's not saying a great deal, as the films are as lumbering and slow as the titular monster.  However, I can't quite say I didn't enjoy the picture at all, as Castaneda's crazed scientist and the bulky robot with its human head fit the bill for another loony Mexican horror film experience.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Island Of Lost Souls (1932)

Starring Charles Laughton, Richard Arlen, Leila Hyams, Bela Lugosi, Kathleen Burke
Directed by Erle C. Kenton
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A shipwreck survivor ends up on the island of Dr. Moreau, a cruel scientist who has transformed the beasts of the jungle into half human creatures.

A still potent shocker, adapted from H.G. Wells' Island Of Dr. Moreau, the film is highlighted by some very impressive "manimal" makeups, each different from one another, and quite convincing, despite the picture's fantastic plot.  I've heard Wells was not enamored of the film or Laughton's performance, but I think the actor makes a marvelous villain, displaying his own bestial side, cracking a whip to keep the beast-men at bay, and threatening them with a return to "The House Of Pain," if they do not obey his laws.  Horror icon Lugosi is among the most fearsome looking of the creatures, his penetrating stare a fine compliment to his frightening bushy makeup, but each of the made up actors surely unnerved audience members in the 1930s.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Goke, Body Snatcher From Hell (1968)

Starring Teruo Yoshida, Tomomi Sato, Eizo Kitamura, Hideo Ko, Kathy Horan
Directed by Hajime Sato
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A Japanese flight crashes after encountering a UFO, and something from the spaceship takes over one of the passengers, transforming him into a human vampire.

We have here a very memorable horror film from Japan, which despite its effects showing their age, still has the power to unsettle viewers.  After establishing an actor's possession by the aliens in a gruesome scene, the filmmakers are able to build suspense without showing anything more than his sinister expression below a simple makeup scar in eerie closeups, and the terror in the actors trying to elude him.  It makes for an exciting and effective feature, enhanced by a haunting music score from Shunsuke Kikuchi, and the frightful use of color in the reddish skies that the plane plunges into, as well as the luminous shades of the kaleidoscope-like flying saucer.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Brides Of Fu Manchu (1966)

Starring Christopher Lee, Douglas Wilmer, Heinz Drache, Marie Versini, Howard Marion-Crawford
Directed by Don Sharp
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Nayland Smith discovers Fu Manchu's latest scheme, a plot to deliver destruction from a distance with the help of scientists he forces to work for him by kidnapping their daughters.

A swiftly made follow-up to Lee's debut as the master villain in The Face Of Fu Manchu, the picture brings back much of the first film's cast and crew, but recasts Wilmer as Manchu's adversary Nayland Smith.  Sharp again delivers a solid and colorful action-adventure, and Lee seems a bit more comfortable in his role, although the plot which involves Manchu's deadly manipulation of radio waves poses a challenge for the filmmakers to visualize, and the screenplay leaves a number of major questions unanswered.  Still, those who enjoyed the previous film should find this to be an entertaining sequel.  Among the "brides" is actress Carole Gray, who was quite busy in British sci-fi/horror films that year, also appearing in Curse Of The Fly, Island Of Terror, and Devils Of Darkness.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Woman Who Wouldn't Die (1965)

Starring Gary Merrill, Jane Merrow, Georgina Cookson, Neil McCallum, Rachel Thomas
Directed by Gordon Hessler
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A female executive's domineering ways lead her husband and one of her employees to conspire to murder her, but once they've done the deed, the husband fears she may have returned from the dead.

Although pretty derivative of past works, this is an absorbing and intricately plotted thriller with strong performances.  I enjoyed it, and must admit I didn't see the screenplay's final twist coming, but was somewhat disappointed that the filmmakers didn't try to do more to amp up the horror, although there are some effectively creepy moments.  Hessler would go on to make a series of violent horror films with Vincent Price, so it's interesting to see him create chills on a more subtle level here, including a nice sequence where Merrill witnesses lights turn out one by one in a house he had thought empty.  Still, I felt the picture was a bit too dialed back, and would have been much more memorable with a greater emphasis on unnerving the audience.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

The Creeping Flesh (1973)

Starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Lorna Heilbron, George Benson, Kenneth J. Warren
Directed by Freddie Francis
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

In the 19th century, a scientist brings back a gigantic skeleton from New Guinea, which he discovers possesses "evil" cells, and can regrow flesh on its bones when exposed to water.

Another of the many teamings of British horror icons Cushing and Lee, this time playing brothers without much love for each other, and Cushing in particular is wonderful as an excitable man of science whose decisions regarding his daughter ultimately lead her down a dark path.  Lee has his own sinister agenda, which at times seems a bit fantastic, with a Frankenstein-like laboratory hidden within the walls of the asylum he runs.  Freddie Francis in this picture may have delivered one of his finest pieces of direction after a distinguished run as a top-flight cinematographer, including a very taut sequence as Cushing tests the "blood" of the skeleton's reconstituted flesh, and a gripping climax where the monster of the film stalks Cushing for the return of a necessary item.  There's sumptuous color used throughout, and fans of the "titans of terror" will find much to relish in this quality horror film.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Master Minds (1949)

Starring Leo Gorcey, Huntz Hall, Gabriel Dell, Alan Napier, Jane Adams
Directed by Jean Yarbrough
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After Sach displays an ability to predict the future when overcome by a toothache, Slip and the Bowery Boys showcase him in a carnival act, which attracts the attention of a mad scientist.

Another of the Bowery Boys' ventures into horror territory features a legitimate monster played by Glenn Strange, shortly after concluding his roles for Universal as the Frankenstein monster.  However, the beast is obliged to trade brains with Hall's Sach, so for the majority of the picture Hall, surprisingly effectively, plays a snarling monster, and Strange plays the dimwitted but jovial young man, easily nailing his silly mannerisms.  It's a bit of a departure from the Boys' usual formula, and although the story's paper thin, I still found it to be entertaining.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Devil Bat (1940)

Starring Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O'Brien, Guy Usher, Yolande Mallott
Directed by Jean Yarbrough
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After being deprived of a share in the wealth of the company he works for, a vengeful scientist grows a gigantic bat creature he uses to attack the family members of the company's owners.

One of the first of Lugosi's films for the "Poverty Row" studios that starred him in a series of such low-budget pictures, it's a pretty slight movie but not without a fun factor.  Grinning while subjecting his bats to electric rays from the requisite machines of his mad scientist's lab, and leaving his unknowing victims with only a serious, "Goodbye," Lugosi's presence sells the film.  Despite the meager budget on display here, the giant bat prop looks somewhat convincing, swooping down in dimly lit night scenes that mask whatever special effects were used.  The material's beneath the actor's talents, but I can't help but look back on the film fondly, as despite its shortcomings, it still showcases Lugosi's sinister appeal.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Face Of Fu Manchu (1965)

Starring Christopher Lee, Nigel Green, Joachim Fuchsberger, Karin Dor, James Robertson Justice
Directed by Don Sharp
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Nayland Smith of Scotland Yard discovers that his nemesis Dr. Fu Manchu is alive, and is scheming to develop a deadly new chemical weapon.

Lee is cast as Sax Rohmer's fiendish Oriental villain in the first of several appearances as the character, following in the steps of Boris Karloff in yet another role, and he vanishes into the part effectively, although he plays the role with little emotion.  There's colorful photography by Ernest Steward and several effective stunt sequences, and Don Sharp does a fine job of directing the action, although the lab assistant played by Joachim Fuchsberger seems a little too skilled in hand-to-hand combat, often easily dispatching his would-be assassins.  Nonetheless, I enjoyed the picture, another testament to Lee's power as a captivating antagonist.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Thing From Another World (1951)

Starring Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, Douglas Spencer, James Arness
Directed by Christian Nyby
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

In the frozen Arctic, a team of scientists and Air Force men discover a spaceship and its monstrous pilot trapped under the ice.

One of the best science fiction films of the 1950s, the picture features a winning ensemble of a cast, and is highlighted by engaging dialogue and a memorable monster, as well as several eerie and suspenseful scenes.  This is likely the finest hour for both actor Kenneth Tobey as the stalwart Air Force captain, and Robert Cornthwaite as the determined scientist whose character became something of a sci-fi archetype.  Dimitri Tiomkin delivers an atmospheric and appropriately chilling musical score, and the film's direction is first rate, although per Wikipedia, there's been a great deal of contention over the years whether Nyby actually directed, or if producer Howard Hawks really helmed the movie.  Although John W. Campbell's original story "Who Goes There?" is named in the credits, the film is far from a literal adaptation of that story, but remains a gripping and impactful picture.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Find The Blackmailer (1943)

Starring Jerome Cowan, Faye Emerson, Gene Lockhart, Marjorie Hoshelle, Robert Kent
Directed by D. Ross Lederman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A private eye is hired by a politician to seize a talking crow used by his blackmailer, but the detective finds the blackmailer murdered, and the crow missing.

Although written like a hard-boiled mystery, the film has such an emphasis on comedy, and the plot's so convoluted, it plays more like a parody of the genre.  Cowan is perfectly cast in the lead role as smarmy detective D.L. Trees, and Lockhart is convincing as the ironically honest mayoral candidate whose deception of his fiancee has landed him in trouble with his conniving brother-in-law to be.  It's not the funniest film of its type, but the cast, playing all the film noir archetypes from cynical detective to femme fatale to dimwitted thugs, all appear to be having great fun in their roles, and the effect is infectious.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Alias John Preston (1955)

Starring Betta St. John, Alexander Knox, Christopher Lee, Sandra Dorne, Pat Holt
Directed by David MacDonald
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A wealthy stranger settles in a new community, and quickly becomes one of its leading citizens, but his short temper and distaste for his past point to the fact he has some disturbing secrets.

This small-scale melodrama on a modest budget might otherwise not stand out if not for the presence of Lee in one of his rare leading roles before becoming a star in horror films, and he's fascinating to watch here.  He runs through a gamut of emotions from joviality to anger to depression and paranoia, and in one memorable scene underscores his character's unease by twirling a cigarette through nervous fingers.  The script spends a bit too much time on the young man St. John jilts in favor of Lee, but becomes much more interesting when Lee takes over the film and we see the nightmares that have been haunting him.  That seems a bit prophetic of the imposing monsters that would haunt his audience's nightmares in films to come.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Atlantis: The Lost Continent (1961)

Starring Anthony Hall, Joyce Taylor, John Dall, Bill Smith, Edward Platt
Directed by George Pal
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A Greek fisherman rescues a shipwrecked woman, who reveals she's a princess of Atlantis, and guides him to her advanced but cruelly ruled kingdom.

Producer/director George Pal's follow-up to the better regarded The Time Machine, this picture isn't quite of the same quality, but is still a fun adventure.  Shaping the fall of Atlantis as a cautionary tale for the power hungry, the film doesn't focus too much on the benefits of Atlantis' advanced civilization in favor of presenting its excesses, like the slavery of foreigners and the transformation of its slaves into literal beasts of burden.  As a consequence we don't really get to see enough of the world that Pal and his crew have created before it's destroyed, but the romance of the young people at the heart of the story works well enough, and there's thrills a plenty from young hero Demetrios' battle to win his freedom and free his fellow captives.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Mad Love (1935)

Starring Peter Lorre, Frances Drake, Colin Clive, Ted Healy, Sara Haden
Directed by Karl Freund
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A brilliant surgeon with an unhealthy attraction to a beautiful actress secretly replaces the mangled hands of her pianist husband with a murderer's.

This remake of Robert Wiene's silent drama The Hands Of Orlac is refashioned as a showcase for Lorre in one of his first American films, and the actor's haunting stares and compelling performance as a villain on the verge of madness make for a most memorable film.  Enhanced by excellent photography and camera movement by Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane) and Chester Lyons and fluid direction by former cinematographer Karl Freund, the picture is a legitimate horror classic.  For me the only shortcomings were a scene in which Clive comes face to face with the owner of his new hands, handled much better in Wiene's original, and the poor attempts at humor by actors May Beatty and Ted Healy.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

The Unholy Three (1925)

Starring Lon Chaney, Mae Busch, Matt Moore, Victor McLaglen, Harry Earles
Directed by Tod Browning
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A trio of carnival performers scheme to use their talents to commit a daring series of robberies, but their leader grows jealous when his girlfriend falls for another man.

One of several collaborations between performer Lon Chaney and director Tod Browning, it may well be among their best, with Chaney, the "Man Of A Thousand Faces," playing a ventriloquist who also impersonates an elderly woman, proprietor of a pet shop he uses as a front for his crimes.  Although this role doesn't offer one of his more remarkable transformations, Chaney's acting is superb, convincing as the ventriloquist (in a silent film!) and believable as the old lady, simply by stooping over and adopting a kindly expression.  The film was remade by Chaney and Browning as a talking picture five years later, but the original is still an impressive achievement.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The Amazing Transparent Man (1960)

Starring Marguerite Chapman, Douglas Kennedy, James Griffith, Ivan Triesault, Red Morgan
Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An enemy spy breaks a safecracker out of prison with plans to turn him invisible to stage a daring theft of atomic materials.

Not a particularly good film, nor a terribly bad one, this effort from low-budget director Ulmer makes the most of limited special effects and an effective music score from Darrell Calker, but there's just not enough on the screen to make the picture particularly memorable.  Kennedy is well-cast and convincing as a hardened criminal but we really don't find out much about him, and Chapman is saddled with a even less-defined character who hitches her wagon to Kennedy's character, but it's never really clear why.  Still, if you're looking for an afternoon's diversion, you could fare far worse.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Mummy (1959)

Starring Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, Eddie Byrne, Felix Aylmer
Directed by Terence Fisher
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Archaeologists open the long lost tomb of an ancient princess but unwittingly restore to life a mummy who is directed to murder them to avenge their desecration.

One of the best Hammer horror films, in my opinion, the film boasts the winning tandem of Cushing and Lee and a wonderfully haunting score by Franz Reizenstein, so evocative of both the tragic tale of the mummy and the color and pageantry of ancient Egypt.  On a par with Boris Karloff in the original Mummy film, Lee emotes effectively with his eyes and stiff but swift and lethal movements.  The slower moving mummies of past films would not be able to keep up with him!  Jimmy Sangster's screenplay unites elements from several of the previous Universal mummy movies, and hits upon a winning combination of terror and pathos in Lee's Kharis, pining for Furneaux who resembles his lost love.  Cushing delivers more of the selfless heroism he displayed in Horror Of Dracula along with a cleverly phrased verbal confrontation with George Pastell's villainous high priest, in which he eggs on his adversary without ever raising his voice.  It's a pity none of Hammer's Mummy sequels would ever be as good.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Scared Stiff (1953)

Starring Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Lizabeth Scott, Carmen Miranda, George Dolenz
Directed by George Marshall
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A nightclub entertainer and his clumsy sidekick accompany a young heiress to a Cuban island haunted by ghosts and a zombie.

According to Wikipedia, this film is the fourth adaptation of the same play, and was last filmed as 1940's The Ghost Breakers, starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard.  Here it's remade as a vehicle for Martin and Lewis, and it's not a bad picture, featuring some fun numbers teaming the singer and comedian with Brazilian songstress Carmen Miranda.  Yet the horror scenes pale in comparison to the 1940 version, as for example, Jack Lambert's zombie does not have the same impact as Noble Johnson's did a decade earlier.  Although the presence of Lewis allows the filmmakers to jettison the stereotype played by Willie Best in the previous version, that leaves the film without any black actors, so that's not exactly progress.  Despite all that, fans of Martin and Lewis should enjoy the movie, but I'd recommend The Ghost Breakers as the better version for those looking for laughs and chills.  The two earlier silent versions of the story are apparently lost films, per Wikipedia.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The X From Outer Space (1967)

Starring Eiji Okada, Shun'ya Wazaki, Itoko Harada, Peggy Neal, Franz Gruber
Directed by Kazui Nihonmatsu
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An Earth spacecraft bound for Mars is forced to return home, carrying an alien object which grows into a monster that rampages across Japan.

What begins as a promising original science fiction adventure from Japan soon reverts into another of their giant monster movies, echoing territory Godzilla, Gamera, and others have tread before, although a more fanciful creature which seems to be enjoying its destruction distinguishes this effort.  I would have liked to have seen more of the story behind the aliens who were destroying prior Earth ships and why, or even more development in the love triangle involving Wazaki, Neal, and Shin'ichi Yanagisawa, but the film is what it is, and as an entry in the kaju genre, it's among the more entertaining if not quite what I was hoping for.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

She-Wolf Of London (1946)

Starring Don Porter, June Lockhart, Sara Haden, Jan Wiley, Lloyd Corrigan
Directed by Jean Yarbrough
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

In 19th century London, a bride-to-be breaks her engagement when she suspects a curse on her family has turned her into a ravenous werewolf.

The last of Universal's long series of monster movies, released between 1931 and 1946, is a rather disappointing send off, turning out to not feature a monster at all.  Nevertheless the film still offers a watchable mystery, even if the ending is a rather predictable one.  The revelation of the "she-wolf" is held off until the film's final moments, as we're presented with plenty of suspects, and it's interesting to view Lockhart a few decades before playing the family matriarch on TV's Lost In Space.  Fresh off his final turn playing Inspector Lestrade to Basil Rathbone's Sherlock Holmes, Dennis Hoey is also present to play another Scotland Yard inspector.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Raven (1935)

Starring Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lester Matthews, Irene Ware, Samuel S. Hinds
Directed by Louis Friedlander
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After he's jilted, a mad doctor, obsessed with the torture devices of Edgar Allan Poe, enlists an escaped convict he disfigures in his scheme for revenge.

Although Karloff usually always had the larger part in his film pairings with Lugosi, this film is an exception, with Lugosi getting a meaty role as the doctor whose obsession with Edgar Allan Poe points to his descent into madness, although he proclaims he's "the sanest man who ever lived."  Some of his dialogue comes off as rather bizarre, but fans of the actor will relish his depraved performance.  Karloff plays the more sympathetic character, using his half-scarred face and movements recalling his turn as the Frankenstein monster, but this is clearly Lugosi's showcase.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Violent Midnight (1963)

Starring Lee Philips, Shepperd Strudwick, Jean Hale, Lorraine Rogers, Dick Van Patten
Directed by Richard Hilliard
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A painter implicated in his wealthy father's death some years before becomes the prime suspect in a series of murders of young women.

Probably most notable for this being the debut film of producer Del Tenney, who went on to make the better known The Horror Of Party Beach, the picture offers a pretty good murder mystery with enough suspects to keep the audience guessing.  Fans of TV's Eight Is Enough may be surprised to see that series' family man Van Patten, playing a very different role as a hard-nosed cop.  Although made early in the 1960s, there's a surprising amount of sex and nudity, absent from Tenney's later pictures.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Dead Ringer (1964)

Starring Bette Davis, Karl Malden, Peter Lawford, Philip Carey, Jean Hagen
Directed by Paul Henreid
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A struggling bar owner, fed up with her wealthy twin sister, who stole her man and his fortune, murders her and attempts to pass herself off as her.

An interesting late-career role for Davis, who of course stars as the twin sisters and does a credible job of making herself vanish into her characters, well-supported by an intriguingly cast Malden, whose sincerity as the primary sister's boyfriend gives the film its moral compass.  Those who know Malden only from his American Express commercials would be impressed with his performance here.  Henreid, one of Davis' former co-stars decades earlier, does a fine job directing and the slick photography and suspenseful screenplay are a complement to Davis' star power, which still is formidable here despite her loss of youth and beauty.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Lone Wolf Strikes (1940)

Starring Warren William, Joan Perry, Eric Blore, Alan Baxter, Astrid Allwyn
Directed by Sidney Salkow
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The Lone Wolf is hired to recover a valuable pearl necklace after it's secretly replaced with a cheap imitation, but his client is too eager to help him in his investigation every step of the way. 

Warren William lays on the charm and smooth deception as he outwits both the jewel thieves and the police in another installment in the long-running Lone Wolf series for Columbia Pictures.  It's an amusing and entertaining picture, with Blore and his comic timing and droll delivery an equal to William's talents.  The film lacks the polish and sheen of higher-budgeted productions or even the B-product of larger studios, but it's easy to see why this was such a successful series.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Mad Doctor Of Market Street (1942)

Starring Una Merkel, Lionel Atwill, Claire Dodd, Nat Pendleton, Richard Davies
Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After a failed experiment that ends in murder, a reckless scientist flees the police aboard a doomed cruise ship, and is stranded with his fellow passengers on a South Seas island. 

An entertaining horror-adventure film from Universal, with Atwill in fine form as his typical sinister man of science, the picture also features a wonderful supporting cast, playing an amiable lot of characters stranded with Atwill.  Merkel and Pendleton in particular lighten up the proceedings with their usual comedic shtick.  It may not be a great film, but it's more than representative of the fun potboilers Universal was putting out for the better part of the decade.

Things To Come (1936)

Starring Raymond Massey, Edward Chapman, Ralph Richardson, Margaretta Scott, Cedric Hardwicke
Directed by William Cameron Menzies
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

When war breaks out in 1940, the world is decimated by the conflict, but a visionary has a plan to build a new and better Earth.

Author H.G. Wells contributed to the screenplay for the adaptation of his novel, "The Shape Of Things To Come," which is wonderfully realized visually by director William Cameron Menzies, convincingly creating an "Everytown" in three drastically different periods, including a spectacular world of the future.  The art direction and special effects are first-rate, and actor Raymond Massey makes a fine anchor for the century-long story, with Ralph Richardson and Cedric Hardwicke giving memorable turns as well.  Although the film is a bit talky, it may be the most visually impressive production ever to come out of Britain.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Road To Hong Kong (1962)

Starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Joan Collins, Robert Morley, Walter Gotell
Directed by Norman Panama
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A pair of con artists find themselves shot into space after memorizing a top-secret formula for rocket fuel wanted by a sinister organization.

The last of Crosby and Hope's "Road" pictures, coming a decade after their last one, finds the duo well-aged, but still intent on pursuing the youthful Collins, relegating their longtime co-star Lamour to a single musical number.  Her performance with Hope though is probably the funniest in the picture as their embraces are interrupted by a series of fish trapped in his costume.  The rest of the film doesn't contain gags nearly as inspired, for example copying a silly sequence from Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times which is less funny here, but the snappy patter between the leads is as memorable as ever.

The Frozen Ghost (1945)

Starring Lon Chaney, Jr., Evelyn Ankers, Milburn Stone, Douglass Dumbrille, Martin Kosleck
Directed by Harold Young
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A mentalist abandons his career and fiancee, blaming himself for a man's death during his act, but death follows him when he seeks refuge at a wax museum.

An entertaining entry in Chaney's "Inner Sanctum" series of mysteries based on the popular radio series, the film features a number of Universal's familiar contract players, including Ankers, Stone, and Kosleck.  The screenplay doesn't sustain the mystery quite long enough, revealing the murderer long before the main characters discover him, and rather puzzlingly has Kosleck throwing knives at people for little reason.  Nonetheless, I found it to be a fun enough thriller with an engaging cast.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Mystery Of The Wax Museum (1933)

Starring Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Glenda Farrell, Frank McHugh, Allen Vincent
Directed by Michael Curtiz
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A wisecracking reporter, trying to save her job, takes an interest in the opening of a wax museum when she notices one of its figures resembles a recent suicide victim.

A companion piece to the previous year's Doctor X, which also starred Atwill and Wray, was directed by Curtiz, and was filmed in early Technicolor, just like this film.  I would call it an improvement on its predecessor, with a meatier part for Atwill, who's quite good as the enigmatic sculptor who walks a thin line between sanity and madness.  The sets are also impressively designed and Glenda Farrell's snappy dialogue as the reporter comes off much better than that of the previous film's Lee Tracy.  Although it's less known for its own merits than for being the film that Vincent Price's House Of Wax was a remake of, it's still an entertaining horror-mystery worthy of admiration.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla (1952)

Starring Bela Lugosi, Duke Mitchell, Sammy Petrillo, Charlita, Muriel Landers
Directed by William Beaudine
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A pair of nightclub entertainers find themselves stranded on a tropical island, where a creepy scientist is experimenting in reversing the course of evolution.

Most reviews I've read of this picture have identified it as a nadir in Lugosi's career, forced to play off Mitchell and Petrillo, imitators of the better known team of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.  But I couldn't disagree more as I think this is a really enjoyable film, and although Petrillo's imitation of Lewis isn't a laugh riot, his earnestness won me over.  Mitchell isn't that great a song stylist either, but his numbers are just fine, and his romance with the lovely Charlita is a highlight of the film.  Lugosi doesn't have much to do, but he gets to play the mad scientist with his usual dexterity and it's a step above his roles for Ed Wood later in the decade.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Gay Falcon (1941)

Starring George Sanders, Wendy Barrie, Allen Jenkins, Anne Hunter, Gladys Cooper
Directed by Irving Reis
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Gay Laurence, a womanizing and crime-solving playboy, puts off his marriage and career plans to investigate a woman's parties where valuable belongings are routinely stolen.

The first of several "Falcon" films from RKO Radio Pictures, with the often-underappreciated Sanders a natural for the role of Laurence due to his gentlemanly bearing and suave delivery.  The mystery, with a somewhat obvious conclusion, doesn't seem as well-developed as the film's comedic bits, but it's an enjoyable film, and showcases Sanders' talents and rapport with his leading ladies.

Superman (1948)

Starring Kirk Alyn, Noel Neill, Tommy Bond, Carol Forman, George Meeker
Directed by Spencer Bennet & Thomas Carr
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Superman, the powerful hero of Metropolis, tries to defeat the plans of the sinister Spider Lady, who's after a deadly weapon the government has developed.

While not one of the better movie serials produced, I've always found this production tremendously entertaining, due to the Man of Steel's ideal capacity as a cinema hero, first proved in the decade's cartoon productions of the Fleischer brothers, and the splendid characterizations of the cast.  Alyn strongly resembles the hero of the comics as drawn by artists of the the time, particularly Wayne Boring, and Neill would become the pre-eminent Lois Lane for some time, returning in not only another serial, but also the popular The Adventures Of Superman TV series in the 1950s.  Much of the serial's story comes not from the comics, but from the Superman radio series, most notably incorporating the "This looks a job for...Superman!" dialogue that actor Bud Collier used as a vocal transformation from Clark Kent to Superman on the airwaves.  The driving music score was used in several other serials and films for Columbia Pictures, but to me never seemed as well-suited as it is here to the exploits of DC Comics' flagship hero.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Shadow On The Wall (1950)

Starring Ann Sothern, Zachary Scott, Gigi Perreau, Nancy Davis, Kristine Miller
Directed by Pat Jackson
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After murdering her conniving sister, a woman allows her brother-in-law to be convicted of the crime, but fears a psychiatrist treating her niece may stumble across the truth.

An interesting suspense thriller from MGM, most notable for the casting of Sothern as the murderer, after having starred as the spunky heroine Maisie in a series of films for the studio.  Although she does well in the part, Nancy Davis (Reagan), future First Lady of the United States, gives perhaps the most impressive performance, as the dedicated and impassioned psychiatrist trying to determine what the young girl saw.  I thought the "shadow on the wall," which presents the key to unraveling the crime, could have been handled a bit more subtly, but overall this is an entertaining picture.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Zombies On Broadway (1945)

Starring Wally Brown, Alan Carney, Bela Lugosi, Anne Jeffreys, Sheldon Leonard
Directed by Gordon Douglas
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An ex-gangster opening a new "Zombie Hut" nightclub threatens his press agents' lives unless they bring back a real life zombie to showcase at its opening.

One of a series of pictures from RKO teaming Brown and Carney as a comedy team that never really caught fire, and it's easy to see why, as there's just not enough laughs or funny business, but that doesn't mean this isn't an enjoyable film.  Lugosi is in fine form in one of his last showcases for a major studio, even if the script doesn't give him much to work with, and the characters are so amiable, I was more than willing to forgive the movie's shortcomings.  Fans of Val Lewton's I Walked With A Zombie, which takes place on the same island of San Sebastian, may enjoy the re-use here of some of that's film's actors and sets.  

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Catalina Caper (1966)

Starring Tommy Kirk, Del Moore, Peter Duryea, Robert Donner, Ulla Stromstedt
Directed by Lee Sholem
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A pair of teens vacation in Catalina, and stumble across a plot to sell a valuable stolen scroll.

Pretty much a clone of the "Beach Party" films of American International Pictures, borrowing Tommy Kirk who appeared in some of those to star, but it's a pale imitation, most notable for a performance by rock n'roller Little Richard, and the casting of future TV star Lyle Waggoner in a small role.  It's not terrible, even though the musical numbers are forgettable, and most of the comedy falls flat, although I had to snicker when the adult characters try to dance.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

That's Right - You're Wrong (1939)

Starring Kay Kyser, Adolphe Menjou, May Robson, Lucille Ball, Dennis O'Keefe
Directed by David Butler
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A struggling movie studio tries to reverse their misfortunes by signing Kay Kyser and his popular band to a contract, but have problems creating a story for the comical bandleader.

The first feature film to showcase Kyser and his band oddly doesn't feature more of their better-known standards, and is probably more successful in staging film recreations of their radio show, than launching them in an engaging adventure.  Nevertheless it's still charming and Kyser's "screen test" with Lucille Ball, long before her television success, is pretty amusing.  Fans of the band will have fun, and others may enjoy spotting some real-life Tinseltown journalists playing themselves.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Blue Dahlia (1946)

Starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, William Bendix, Howard Da Silva, Doris Dowling
Directed by George Marshall
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A Navy veteran returns home to find his wife has wronged him and tries to elude the police when she is murdered.

This film boasts a screenplay by reputed author Raymond Chandler, and offers a compelling mystery, but unfortunately concludes with a rather tacked on ending.  Per Wikipedia, Chandler originally had another murderer in mind, and was forced to change the culprit by the studio, and that character's motivations don't make a whole lot of sense, to me at least.  Nevertheless, there's still some nice crackling dialogue, and good scenes here for all the actors, although viewers expecting similar heat between Ladd and Lake as in their memorable film noir This Gun For Hire will be disappointed. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Before Dawn (1933)

Starring Stuart Erwin, Dorothy Wilson, Warner Oland, Dudley Digges, Gertrude Hoffman
Directed by Irving Pichel
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A detective arrests a psychic medium and her father for fraud, but he becomes convinced her abilities are real, and recruits her help in an unsolved murder.

A fun mystery with Erwin an unusually soft-spoken and compassionate detective compared to the usual hard-boiled or wisecracking leads in these films, but what really makes the picture memorable is some creepy imagery near the climax of the film, including the eerie face of a ghost and the revelation of a secret passage and staircase leading to where a fortune may be buried.  There's better written thrillers, but this is a hidden gem of a movie well worth discovering.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Belle Of New York (1952)

Starring Fred Astaire, Vera-Ellen, Marjorie Main, Keenan Wynn, Alice Pearce
Directed by Charles Walters
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The playboy son of a wealthy charity organizer falls for one of her beautiful employees, and tries to prove his worth by taking on a number of honest jobs.

This isn't one of Astaire's better musicals, because despite Vera-Ellen's reputation as one his more talented dance partners, the picture's nowhere near as fun as their previous pairing, Three Little Words.  Their routines here, staged by Robert Alton, are certainly impressive, and Astaire's footwork is memorably paired with special effects to show him dancing atop some very high places.  However the love story uniting the routines isn't as strong as past or future efforts, and the screenplay doesn't quite properly showcase the affable charm of Astaire present in his best pictures.  The film's standout sequence is Astaire's performance of 'I Want To Be A Dancin' Man," probably the best selection from Harry Warren and Johnny Mercer's score, and simply presents Astaire delivering his craft in a number ideally suited to him.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Frankenstein's Daughter (1958)

Starring John Ashley, Sandra Knight, Donald Murphy, Sally Todd, Harold Lloyd Jr.
Directed by Richard Cunha
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.co

A kindly scientist fails to realize that his uncooperative assistant is actually a descendant of the infamous Frankenstein family, and is engaged in secret experiments of his own.

More famous for its laughable monster than anything else, (a stocky man plays the female monster with only some lipstick on to convey it's a lady), this low-budget effort from producer/director Richard Cunha seems an attempt to capitalize on the success of Herman Cohen's teenage monster movies.  Had they kept the focus on Sandra Knight's character after being transformed into an ugly creature after taking a potion from the film's villain, it might have been a more respectable effort but the filmmakers try to go all out with the titular creature and fail miserably.  Nevertheless, the picture brings the fun, particularly for fans of 1950s horror, and I must confess a certain fondness for the featured song, "Special Date," from Page Cavanaugh and His Trio, who would go to enjoy more success than this movie.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Mexican Spitfire Sees A Ghost (1942)

Starring Lupe Velez, Leon Errol, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Elisabeth Risdon, Donald MacBride
Directed by Leslie Goodwins
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The Lindsays try to get an old mansion into shape for a visit from a refined couple, but underneath it, a gang of criminals tries to keep their operations a secret.

One of the many "Mexican Spitfire" movies, which starred Latina actress Lupe Velez in a series of comic misadventures as her temper often got her into trouble, but this installment is strangely bereft of that formula, with Errol taking center stage, not only playing his role as Velez' uncle by marriage, but also that of a comical British lord.  So much focus is spent on him playing Lord Epping, and playing Matt Lindsay impersonating Lord Epping, there's not much time for Velez to play anything but Errol's partner in deception.  The humor's a bit over the top throughout with Errol and MacBride in particular emoting wildly, but it's a fun diverting B-movie, even if the "ghost" of the title isn't a real one.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

After The Thin Man (1936)

Starring William Powell, Myrna Loy, James Stewart, Elissa Landi, Joseph Calleia
Directed by W.S. Van Dyke
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

On their return home to San Franciso, Nick and Nora Charles are drawn into a new mystery involving the disappearance of her sister's husband, which soon leads to murder.

The first of many sequels to the classic mystery-comedy The Thin Man, the film reunites Powell and Loy as the husband and wife detective team in a new story crafted by Nick and Nora's creator Dashiell Hammett.  I didn't find it quite as funny as its predecessor, but it's certainly enjoyable, and is notable for the inclusion of Jimmy Stewart a few years before becoming a major star.  You'll have to stay alert to catch all the twists and turns within the mystery, but the interplay between Powell and Loy was the highlight of all of these films and they're in fine form here once again.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Cat-Women Of The Moon (1953)

Starring Sonny Tufts, Victor Jory, Marie Windsor, Bill Phipps, Douglas Fowley
Directed by Arthur Hilton
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The crew of a new space rocket journey from the Earth to the moon, where they encounter a race of beautiful women, who hold a strange power over their female navigator.

One of the first films to add some sex appeal to science fiction, it's here in spades with the slinky cat-women of this picture who lure the film's men into a tempting trap, although Jory, surprisingly with a bigger role than top-billed Tufts, doesn't trust them.  There's more than a few sexist situations in the film, notably a scene in which Windsor is more concerned with brushing her hair while her male companions set to their duties aboard ship, but these seem pretty innocent compared to the innuendoes of present day productions.  Fans of 1950s sci-fi will appreciate the giant spider creatures and detailed matte paintings, and the movie's status as one of the few science fiction pictures of the era to be filmed in 3-D, although other than a couple of meteors, not too much is thrown at the audience.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

You'll Find Out (1940)

Starring Kay Kyser, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Helen Parrish
Directed by David Butler
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Kay Kyser and his band entertain at a birthday party for a young woman who's been targeted for death by a trio of fearsome villains.

I'm very fond of this picture, an entertaining combination of the fun big-band numbers of Kay Kyser and his orchestra as well as the only teaming of horror icons Karloff, Lugosi, and Lorre.  Although the horror angle gives this a darker tone than most of Kyser's other films, there's nothing to be taken too seriously, and everyone seems to be having a grand time, as did I.  Although many big bands were featured in films of this era, none seemed to bring as much humor into the act as Kyser's, led by his shucksy Southern gentleman persona.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Beast From Haunted Cave (1959)

Starring Michael Forest, Sheila Carol, Frank Wolff, Wally Campo, Richard Sinatra
Directed by Monte Hellman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A criminal gang plan a heist of gold bars from a ski resort town, but while making their escape, are trailed by a ravenous monster.

A low budget but efficient creature thriller from Roger Corman's Filmgroup company, the picture isn't great, but isn't bad either, and the creature, with fearsome tentacles and lengthy strands of hair obscuring its face and body, is one to remember.  Wikipedia indicates the screenplay was based on the same material as some previous Corman pictures, notably Naked Paradise, and although that film had better actors in Richard Denning and Beverly Garland, the creature makes this edition more distinctive. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Queen Of Outer Space (1958)

Starring Zsa Zsa Gabor, Eric Fleming, Dave Willock, Laurie Mitchell, Lisa Davis
Directed by Edward Bernds
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Astronauts from Earth crash land on Venus, which is populated by gorgeous women and ruled by a tyrannical queen, but one of her subjects wants to help them.

Badly dated today with a great deal of sexist dialogue and situations, the picture's still a lot of fun to watch, with fairly decent production values, costuming, and special effects, although there's quite a bit borrowed from past sci-fi films of the fifties, notably the uniforms from Forbidden Planet.  Gabor doesn't particularly distinguish herself, but doesn't embarrass herself either, and quality actors like Fleming and Paul Birch help sell the story, even though there's not a lot to it.  Perhaps the picture's most endearing quality is the way it nicely fits in with other sci-fi films of the decade as an escapist fantasy that probably no one intended to be taken seriously.    

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Arsenic And Old Lace (1944)

Starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Jack Carson, Edward Everett Horton
Directed by Frank Capra
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An outspoken critic of marriage decides to tie the knot, but delays his honeymoon when he discovers his aunts have been poisoning gentleman callers.

The film adaptation of the well-known stage play suffers a bit from the failure to cast Boris Karloff in his role from the play as a killer who hates when people say he looks like Boris Karloff, a key witticism from the play.  Nevertheless, Raymond Massey cast in his place, plays the role about as well as any replacement could have, and the film is well-tailored to Grant's talents, whose double-takes upon discovering his aunt's secret are very amusing.  Like a number of other filmed plays, it's source material is very evident with nearly the entire film staged on a single set, but the witty screenplay by Philip & Julius Epstein and the engaging performances of the talented cast won me over.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Zeta One (1969)

Starring James Robertson Justice, Charles Hawtrey, Robin Hawdon, Anna Gael, Brigitte Skay
Directed by Michael Cort
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A secret agent becomes involved in a mission to trace a young woman kidnapped by a race of beautiful women from outer space.

This picture is one of the most misogynistic movies I've ever seen, featuring rampant female nudity, and distasteful torture scenes involving the female characters.  Obviously intended to titillate the male audience, it starts off rather successfully in that department, but there's no inventiveness in the story or staging to sustain the patience of even a viewer looking for cheap thrills over the course of the film.  Justice is a charming enough lead and Yutte Stensgaard makes a memorable impact in the film's framing sequences, which makes it a little more perplexing while she's not in more of the film.  The filmmakers also waste opportunities to take advantage of the sci-fi setting, making for a pedestrian film hoping to hold the audience's interest with little more than the lovely ladies it disrobes.