Monday, May 30, 2016

The Lone Wolf And His Lady (1949)

Starring Ron Randell, June Vincent, Alan Mowbray, William Frawley, Collette Lyons
Directed by John Hoffman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A newspaper trying to remake itself with sensational new stories hires former jewel thief Michael Lanyard to cover the exhibition of a new diamond, but he becomes the prime suspect when it's stolen.

The final film in Columbia Pictures' long series of Lone Wolf adventures, it recasts the roles of Lanyard and loyal butler Jameson with Randell and Mowbray, and although they're not bad, they of course never got an ample opportunity to get comfortable in their roles.  Randell is capable enough, if not quite as suave as former Lone Wolves Warren William and Gerald Mohr, but while Mowbray is a fine actor, he doesn't have quite the presence or comic timing of Eric Blore, whose absence from the series after numerous appearances is definitely felt.  The mystery itself is no better or no worse than those in the other Lone Wolf films, but it's still an entertaining concoction, just not quite as much for me as the earlier films in the series.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Ten Little Indians (1965)

Starring Hugh O'Brian, Shirley Eaton, Fabian, Leo Genn, Stanley Holloway
Directed by George Pollock
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Ten strangers are invited to a weekend at an alpine cabin, but when they arrive, they discover their host is planning to murder them one by one.

An adaptation of Agatha Christie's murder mystery chestnut, And Then There Were None, the film doesn't compare favorably with the 1945 version that featured Barry Fitzgerald and Walter Huston, but is an enjoyable enough thriller with fine actors in the cast.  Romance between the young couple in the group is played up even more so than in that earlier version, which doesn't make a lot of sense since each of them must suspect the other could be a murderer, but the witty dialogue and clever staging of the 1945 film isn't replicated here with success.  Still, those unfamiliar with the earlier film or Christie's story should find this entertaining.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Twice-Told Tales (1963)

Starring Vincent Price, Sebastian Cabot, Brett Halsey, Beverly Garland, Richard Denning
Directed by Sidney Salkow
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Vincent Price stars in three horror tales from the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne, involving a fountain of youth, a young woman made poisonous by her father, and a house cursed by an accused warlock.

Following the horror anthology Tales Of Terror which also starred Price in three tales of terror from the works of Edgar Allan Poe, albeit for a different studio, this film's not a bad follow-up, although per Wikipedia, Hawthorne's tales were considerably changed to up the horror quotient, notably in the adaptation of The House Of Seven Gables, which features blood spurting from cracks in the ceiling.  A definite plus is the fine supporting cast, including Cabot, Garland, Denning, Abraham Sofaer, Joyce Taylor, and Jacqueline deWit.  Although the film doesn't have the reputation that Tales Of Terror and Price's other Poe films enjoy today and the budget shows, it's still a lot of fun.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Lone Wolf In London (1947)

Starring Gerald Mohr, Nancy Saunders, Eric Blore, Evelyn Ankers, Richard Fraser
Directed by Leslie Goodwins
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The Lone Wolf travels to London to view an exclusive pair of gems he plans to include in a book he's writing, but their disappearance after his arrival prompts Scotland Yard to follow him closely.

Another fun Lone Wolf adventure well constructed around Gerald Mohr's talented voice and Eric Blore's comic timing, the film's a very enjoyable lark, but there's not much thought expended in the screenplay towards using the British flavor of the setting to add color to the film.  I still enjoyed the production, and after seeing two of his Lone Wolf outings now, it's a shame that Mohr's run on the series didn't last longer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Notorious Lone Wolf (1946)

Starring Gerald Mohr, Janis Carter, Eric Blore, John Abbott, William Davidson
Directed by D. Ross Lederman
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Former jewel thief Michael Lanyard, aka The Lone Wolf, falls under suspicion again when a valuable jewel is stolen from Indian royalty, but has a scheme to find the real culprit.

Per Wikipedia, this was the first Lone Wolf film from Columbia Pictures after a three year absence, and the first to star Mohr, replacing Warren William after a long run on the series, although Blore returns as Lanyard's faithful butler.  Although the setup for the mystery is fairly clever, its execution relies on several coincidences and and not all the plot ends are convincingly wrapped up, but it still makes for an amusing romp.  Blore, a cinema treasure in his own right, plays very well off of Mohr, and Mohr's smooth delivery makes him a nice fit in William's former shoes.  

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Ghost Of Dragstrip Hollow (1959)

Starring Jody Fair, Russ Bender, Henry McCann, Martin Braddock, Elaine DuPont
Directed by William Hole
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A hot rod club's teen members explain to a reporter how they're misunderstood, and he tries to help them find a new clubhouse after they're evicted.

A very silly comedy/musical/horror film which includes a small role for creature effects designer Paul Blaisdell as a monster who tries to scare the kids after they move into a haunted house.  Clearly aimed at teenagers with a message that they're responsible enough without adults butting in, the film also tries to reach out to them with hipster lingo and a streetwise character who has to contend with a father who doesn't "get" her, and although this approach seems laughably dated, it's all in good fun.  None of the tunes are all that memorable, and too much attention is paid to a wisecracking parrot, although the bird has a few funny lines.  I still enjoyed it.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

I Walked With A Zombie (1943)

Starring James Ellison, Frances Dee, Tom Conway, Edith Barrett, James Bell
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A nurse travels to an island in the West Indies to take over the care of a plantation owner's invalid wife, and wonders if the voodoo-practicing natives might be able to cure her.

One of Val Lewton's best films, and although for me it doesn't have quite the same impact as Cat People, what it does have is wonderful direction from Tourneur, excellent photography and editing, and a memorable song commenting on the film from calypso singer Sir Lancelot.  The romance between Dee and Conway isn't quite successfully realized, and the picture's a bit too brief to delve deeply enough into the native rituals and the estranged relationship between Conway and Ellison's characters.  Nevertheless, I'd still rank it as a horror classic and worthwhile viewing.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Five (1951)

Starring William Phipps, Susan Douglas, James Anderson, Charles Lampkin, Earl Lee
Directed by Arch Oboler
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

After an atomic weapon is detonated, wiping out most life on Earth, five survivors come together, but the greed and hatred in one of them will threaten their new community.

Without a doubt, this is the finest of Oboler's films that I have seen, and it's a clear cut above the rest, thanks to good performances all around and fine photography from Sid Lubow and Louis Clyde Stoumen.  Oboler's script also gives each character insightful speeches which ironically comment on our world today as well as the post-apocalyptic world they inhabit.  I found it clever how Oboler was able to address racism and other issues in our world not so much by what his characters say, but through the situations he puts them in and how they react to each other.   It's unfortunate that this leads to a fairly bleak conclusion, but it's a powerful statement from Oboler worth revisiting again and again.