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.