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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, 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.