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.