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Greetings, and welcome to VIEWING THE CLASSICS. Here you'll find capsule reviews of vintage movies from the early days of cinema through the 1970s, with a special emphasis on sci-fi, horror, and mystery movies. Be sure to check out the Pages links, where you can find a Film Index of all my reviews, links to the reviews organized by cast members, directors, and other contributors, and links to my reviews of the films of talented young director Joshua Kennedy.

I also cover vintage television at my sister site, CLASSICS ON THE TUBE , so please feel free to check that out as well.

Thanks for visiting!


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.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Reptile (1966)

Starring Noel Willman, Jennifer Daniel, Ray Barrett, Jacqueline Pearce, Michael Ripper
Directed by John Gilling
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A Navy captain and his wife move into his deceased brother's cottage only to discover he and the rest of the community are threatened by a mysterious plague that's struck several men down.

One of the lesser Hammer horror films, but still fun, it does feature a tremendous creature makeup from Roy Ashton that should be well remembered by any viewer of the picture.  The film's screenplay isn't bad, although we don't really see enough of the monster, and it unfortunately lacks an acting presence like Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee to anchor the picture, although Michael Ripper is very good in one of his larger supporting roles for the company.  Also, the art direction is consistent with Hammer's best work, bringing the Cornish period setting to life.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Village Of The Damned (1960)

Starring George Sanders, Barbara Shelley, Martin Stephens, Michael Gwynn, Laurence Naismith
Directed by Wolf Rilla
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The village of Midwich, England is terrorized by a group of youngsters born under mysterious circumstances and possessing the power to read minds and control the minds of others.

A distinguished sci-fi/horror classic based on a novel by John Wyndham, the film features one of George Sanders' top performances and a wonderfully unsettling tone, combining the well-cast children with glowing eye effects and eerie music to convey their danger.  The screenplay is also first-rate, fascinating us with the children while fostering our imagination with what it leaves unsaid.  Also well-photographed and edited, it's a still potent chiller.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Curse Of The Faceless Man (1958)

Starring Richard Anderson, Elaine Edwards, Adele Mara, Luis Van Rooten, Gar Moore
Directed by Edward L. Cahn
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

The body of a giant Etruscan gladiator is found in the ruins of Pompeii, and a specialist brought in to examine the body is shocked to discover it's still alive, and has a connection to his beautiful fiancee.

A fun horror film from producer Robert E. Kent, it's unusual in its Italian setting and the presence of a narrator, but basically follows the standard formula for monster fare, although the "faceless man" would probably have made more impact if we could see his eyes or features beneath the volcanic crust he's encased in.  Nonetheless, it's an efficient little thriller, augmented by Gerald Fried's creepy music score and a colorful cast, who while none of them were major stars, play their parts well.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Terror By Night (1946)

Starring Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Alan Mowbray, Dennis Hoey, Renee Godfrey
Directed by Roy William Neill
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

Sherlock Holmes is engaged to protect a valuable diamond aboard a train traveling from London to Edinburgh, but when the gem disappears and its owner is murdered, Holmes suspects an old foe.

One of the final pairings of Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson, and despite the film's low budget, there's some entertaining mystery and suspense in sort of a small-scale version of Agatha Christie's "Murder On The Orient Express."  Though a good portion of the film is devoted to Watson's errors in trying to question the suspects, Rathbone still is given plenty of opportunity to shine, and Neill makes the most of some stock footage in convincing us the game's afoot on a speeding train.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Dressed To Kill (1941)

Starring Lloyd Nolan, Mary Beth Hughes, Sheila Ryan, William Demarest, Ben Carter
Directed by Eugene Forde
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

On the eve of his wedding, private detective Michael Shayne puts his nuptials on hold to investigate a double murder at his fiancee's hotel.

The third of the Michael Shayne mystery movies starring Nolan put out by 20th Century Fox, it's a good looking and well-polished whodunit, and Nolan is in good form as the amiable detective who solves the crime but can't avoid some hard luck.  There's some good chuckles to be had as well, as Shayne amusingly tampers with the crime scene before alerting the police, and causes trouble for Demarest as Inspector Pierson, whose temper reaches a boiling point like all the policemen in these types of movies.  Although the movie shows its age in the stereotypes played by Ben Carter and Mantan Moreland, it's still entertaining and makes me more than willing to check out the other Shayne films.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Ghost Goes West (1935)

Starring Robert Donat, Jean Parker, Eugene Pallette, Elsa Lanchester, Ralph Bunker
Directed by Rene Clair
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A Scottish clansman, after dying dishonorably, is cursed to haunt his castle as a ghost, but 200 years later, he may have a chance for redemption when the castle is sold to a wealthy American.

French director Rene Clair delivers one of his many charming fantasy films in this effort for British producer Alexander Korda, and although its not as amusingly scripted as it could have been, it's still a light and enjoyable concoction, with some good production values and well-done special effects.  The film features a fine cast, although Lanchester is wasted in a very small role, and the romance between Donat and Parker, if not very well defined, is sweet and cute enough to delight the audience.

Friday, June 10, 2016

From Hell It Came (1957)

Starring Tod Andrews, Tina Carver, Linda Watkins, John McNamara, Gregg Palmer
Directed by Dan Milner
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

American scientists studying nuclear fallout on a tropical island face danger from the natives who've been turned against them, as well as a supernatural tree monster.

Although you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who would take this picture seriously, it's a lot of fun, with a memorable monster and a foreboding theme for its attacks from veteran composer Darrell Calker.  A lot of story is crammed into the film, but much of the dialogue is unnecessary exposition, which is okay because we're obviously here for the tree monster, who doesn't fail to entertain.  Directed by Dan Milner and produced by Jack Milner, and despite the ludicrous premise and low budget, this is a step up from the Milners' previous picture, The Phantom From 10,000 Leagues, but according to IMDB, was sadly their last.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Eyes Without A Face (1960)

Starring Pierre Brasseur, Alida Valli, Edith Scob, Juliette Mayniel, Alexandre Rignault
Directed by Georges Franju
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

A doctor kidnaps young women in order to perform facial transplants on his disfigured daughter, but she only wants to die to end her suffering.

An excellent horror film from France, the production features some memorable music cues from acclaimed composer Maurice Jarre, but its real strength is the scenes in which there is no music on the soundtrack.  Ambient sound effects of the barking dogs, the creaking stairs, and the doctor's weary plodding footsteps through his home really up the tension, and the silence during a bloody surgery scene makes it even more chilling.  Scob gives a standout performance as the ill-fated daughter whose tight fitting mask and expressive eyes give us all we need to know without even paying attention to her dialogue.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Skull (1965)

Starring Peter Cushing, Patrick Wymark, Jill Bennett, Nigel Green, Christopher Lee
Directed by Freddie Francis
(actor & director credits courtesy IMDB.com)

An author on the occult is offered a chance to acquire the skull of the infamous Marquis de Sade, whose prior owners have been possessed and controlled by invisible creatures.

We have here one of several screen teamings of British horror icons Cushing and Lee, although Cushing has far more to do in the picture than Lee, who is credited as a "guest star," and although they're better known for their productions for Hammer Films, this one's from competitor Amicus.  It's worthwhile viewing for its first-rate photography by John Wilcox and former photographer Freddie Francis, who directed the film, may have had some say in the memorable shots from the skull's point of view, and it's gliding across the screen in a very eerie effect.   The story however is not the film's strong point, focusing little on background on de Sade and his notorious behavior, and staging fairly routine murders instead of unspeakable torture by the beings said to have possessed him and his skull.  Cushing is as always, excellent, but he's had better material to work with in numerous other productions.