Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This seems to be the penultimate of The Falcon franchise, from 1948. About time. It’s Appointment With Murder, featuring John Calvert as Michael Waring, The Falcon. This time the notorious adventurer is working for an insurance company interested in recovering from an $80,000 loss. It runs for 66 minutes, but the plot is unnecessarily intertwined.

The opening shot shows two pairs of shoes, one pair of which is worth noting. I never figured out why women wear these things.

Anyhow, the one in the steeple-jack heels is Lorraine W. Brinckley (Catherine Craig), and she is finishing her walk with shady art dealer Norton Benedict, played by Jack Reitzen. Lorraine is proprietor of Brinckley Art Gallery, and the two examine a valuable painting by Italian artist Andrea Mantegna. Benedict has sold it to Lorraine, and she hands him an envelop with cash. They examine the painting, which appears to be uncatalogued and also wanting a mate, which object is next on  her list to acquire.

Switch to Milan, where The Falcon is also after the Mantegna. He deals with painter and art forger Giuseppe Donatti (Peter Brocco), who claims to  have painted the reproduction he is trying to sell. Donatti’s shady partner, Martin Minecci (Ben Welden), looks on.

Only, Minecci turns up murdered, and The Falcon returns to America with the painting. After an adventure at customs in New York, he journeys on to Los Angeles, where he barges in on Lorraine, seeking to get the two Mantegna’s together for the insurance company.

The plot becomes too involved. The Falcon takes his painting along with Lorraine’s, and he deposits the pair at a baggage check in the train station. He tears the claim tickets in half, and hands Lorraine half the pair. That way the two of them will need to stick together as they seek to find a buyer for the two Mantegnas. The reason for this is not clear. But Lorraine conspires with Benedict to obtain both paintings.

Somebody, apparently Benedict, sends two thugs to abduct The Falcon, and they take him to a warehouse space and proceed to slap him around in an effort to obtain his half of the claim tickets. The Falcon turns the tables on the thugs and escapes in a blazing gunfight.

Benedict and Lorraine go back to the claim check and convince the clerk to hand over the checked items when shown only the torn halves. But The Falcon has been a step ahead. He has checked a bird cage and a bird and has swapped out half of the new claim tickets for those he purloined from Lorraine.

Now Benedict shows his true self, and he resorts to his trusty pistol, which weapon he apparently used on the unfortunate Sr. Donatti. They go back to The Falcon’s hotel to collect the two paintings, The Falcon alerts the police. The desk clerk gets involved and is killed in an exchange of gunfire. The police arrive and subdue Benedict as he attempts to make an escape with The Falcon as a hostage.

The Falcon returns the two paintings to the insurance company, and he hands a wire recording he has made that will show Benedict’s culpability and also will exonerate Lorraine. And that is very much the plot, though I left out a few details.

What’s wrong with the movie is the whole lot of foolishness put forth as a plot. Here it is.

An Italian count had the two paintings. He claims they were lost in the war (Italy lost). The insurance company paid off on the claim. Now the company wants its money back, because the paintings are being returned to the count. That’s not the way it works. First, this is a war casualty, which claims are typically not covered by insurance policies. Second, The insurance company has the paintings, and they want the count to return the money he was paid. But that’s not the way it works. When an insurer covers a loss, the client gets to keep the money. If the company can recover the loss, then they own the recovered item. It’s up to the insurance company to recover their loss by disposing of the recovered item.

The Falcon is working for the insurance company. Early in the movie he and Lorraine have both paintings. That should have been the end of the movie. Aha! The paintings were stolen. We have them. Call the police. Seize the paintings. Hand them over to the insurance company. The movie is over. For reasons not made clear The Falcon wants to enter into a scheme with Lorraine to pair the two paintings and sell them for more than $80,000. That’s crazy.

The Falcon goes to Milan to meet up with Donatti. He has the other Mantegna, which he claims to have painted himself. How does  this painting later turn out to be a real Mantegna?

When The Falcon arrives at Donatti’s studio, there is a gorgeous American model posing. The Falcon makes a dinner date with here. We later see he never keeps the date.

When The Falcon is in Donatti’s studio, Donatti and Minecci endeavor to speak English. They continue to speak English when they are alone without The Falcon.

During the flight back to America, another passenger contrives to slip contraband into The Falcon’s valise. But The Falcon gets wise and turns the smuggler in to the customs agents. This is a pointless side bar to the plot, having nothing to do with the story.

The Falcon slips the hotel clerk a note telling him to alert the police. The clerk phones the police from the back room and then engages Benedict in a gun fight and is killed. Nothing more is said about the poor clerk, whose body lies ever more stiff on the floor while the movie continues toward an end.

It is obvious Lorraine has conspired with the murderous Benedict to double-cross The Falcon, but in the end he absolves her of any complicity, and the two go off together for a night on the town. Yeah, let’s hope he never turns his back on her in the future.

Like I said, the plot is just crazy.

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Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Back to Amazon Prime Video (these screen shots) for another bad movie, and this is not really old old one. It’s The Sand from 2015, and you know it’s going to be a teenage slasher movie from the opening scenes. Details are from Wikipedia.

Yes, we see a wild spring break party on a beach at night, and all stops are out. There is massive drinking, hijinks, and screwing of another girl’s boyfriend. We’ve all been there. You have? What’s it like?

A huge egg-like object casts up on the beach, arousing some curiosity and thereafter ignored.

Until the morning. Kaylee (Brooke Butler) is the first to come around, and the sun is already up. She’s finished the night in the lifeguard shack with Mitch (Mitchel Musso). When she looks around everybody else is gone except for her boyfriend Jonah (Dean Geyer), who is ensconced in the front seat of a convertible with another girl, Chandra (Meagan Holder). Another couple are in the back seat.

Marsha (Nikki Leigh) has spent the night close to nature on top of a picnic table. She is the first to die, except for those already missing. Kaylee is the one with the brains, and she spots the problem when the sand devours a bird. She suspects there’s something wrong with the sand, and she shouts warnings. Marsha ignores this good advice and steps onto  the sand, only to have her body dissolved into the sand.

During the night Gilbert (Cleo Berry) got really drunk, and they painted a dick on his face and stuffed him in a trash barrel, where his massive hulk has become stuck.

The boy in the back seat of the car gets out and is devoured. Jonah figures he has found a way to get across the sand and to freedom by placing two surfboards, one after the other, on the sand. But in his last stretch to reach the table the sand shifts the board he is standing on, and tendrils reach up from the sand and infest his abdomen. He does not die, but he reaches the top of the table with horrendous injuries.

Since the partiers had the foresight to lock their cell phones in the car trunk (to prevent the evening’s festivities appearing on YouTube), they cannot phone for help. Fortunately Rex (Jamie Kennedy), the beach patrol commander, arrives in his patrol car, but he is a total shit head, and the kids tell him so. He does not believe their story about the sand until it devours him alive.

Eventually the sand gets everybody else except Kaylee and Chandra, and they make it to the patrol car, taking Jonah with them. At night the creature in the sand attacks again, this time with enormous octopus tentacles. Kaylee defeats the sand thing by pouring gasoline on it and  throwing in a book of lighted matches.

Come daylight another person drops by and raps on the window. Jonah is dead, and the sand is free of the menace. Another closing shot appears to be an aerial view of Santa Monica Pier. Wikipedia tells me the creature is revealed as a giant jellyfish, retreating back  to the ocean and in search of another beach full of people.

And that’s the plot. If the writers had wanted to stretch it they could have gotten into how the survivors explain what happened to all the others, but that would not have been much excitement. Wikipedia further calls attention to “Blood Beach – a 1981 film with a similar premise.” What we have is a great opportunity to ogle college girls in skimpy outfits and even some bare tits. That aside, the production could have done with better F/X. Depictions of people being consumed by the sand often employ some local image blurring, which we are supposed to assume is what it looks like when a human body dissolves. Sub par for a 21st century production. This was distributed by Taylor and Dodge.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

You knew it was coming sooner or later, and here it is: Escape From New York, the poster child for bad movies and now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. It’s by science fiction writer John Carpenter, and  it stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a hard-boiled former special forces guy turned bad and now headed for the slam. This came out in 1981 through AVCO Embassy Pictures. I will give just a few highlights.

It’s the bad new days, and America’s crime rate has soared 400%. The government response is naturally to construct a bigger stalag to hold them. They have chosen Manhattan Island, making viewers wonder why the idea took this long. The rule is, you go in, you never come out. The opposite shorelines are walled off and manned with guards carrying furious firepower. We see an escape attempt by boat thwarted through the use of air-to-ground missiles.

Snake is being prepped to enter the land of lost and forgotten men (and women).

But wait! Drama develops. The President’s plane is hijacked and flown into a Manhattan skyscraper. Remember,  you saw this plot device first here. Before impact the president, with a mysterious valise chained to his wrist, is ejected inside an escape pod, and the prisoners capture him alive.

Well, the government has to get him back, because in 24 hours he will participate in a conference that will save the world from nuclear annihilation, and the critical item is an audio tape the President carries inside the valise.

Snake lands a glider atop on of the World Trade Center towers and makes his way to the street below, where it’s Mad Max on steroids, which answers the question of whether this scene was stolen from Mel Gibson, or was it the other way around. It turns out that Gibson’s dystopic setting came later, in 1985, and so was possibly inspired by Escape. The two films share other plot devices.

Of course, Snake does not immediately confront the President’s captors and hustle him back to the land of the midnight nuclear attack. There has to be some excitement first. And there is. Snake runs into a litany of prior acquaintances, who persistently ask upon spying his face, “I thought you were dead.”

Possibly Mad Max producers got a load of their ideas from this movie. Here Snake is compelled to defeat the reigning ruffian in a gladiator fight to the death before a screaming mob of social outcasts.

But he wins the fight, rescues the President, and, with the help of others, including a cab driver played by Ernest Borgnine. He escapes across the heavily-mined 69th Street Bridge (originally designed for railroad traffic) and delivers the President and the tape, which was so desperately needed to save the world. The man, now cleaned up and re-suited, stands before the TV cameras and delivers his presentation. And he plays the tape. But Snake has substituted the right tape for one he found inside the escape cab, and the man can only stand and grimace as “Bandstand Boogie” belts out to his audience.

No bad deed ever goes unrewarded and Escape from L.A. came out in 1996, the year prior to the setting of this movie and with Russell again playing the role of escape artist.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Here’s one from 1955, and it’s in color. It’s A Man Alone, starring Ray Milland and Mary Murphy. It also features Ward Bond and Raymond Burr, who was beginning to make a name for himself in films about that time, having been the wife killer the previous year in  Rear Window. The movie is currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. It’s from Republic Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening shots show a man alone (hence the title) in the desert, when his horse meets with an accident.

The man is Wes Steele (Milland), and he has the unpleasant task of shooting his crippled horse. That leaves the man alone and afoot in the desert with an empty canteen and a wad of cash stuffed in his shirt. Seeking to survive, he treks across the barren landscape until he happens upon the remains of a stagecoach holdup and massacre. A woman passenger and a man passenger have been shot dead. Likewise the driver and the woman’s small child. A strongbox that had contained cash is empty on the ground.

For some reason, not explained in the film, the man pulls the driver’s shotgun out of its scabbard and extracts two (apparently spent) shells. He replaces the shotgun. He takes for himself a canteen of water from  the coach, and he releases the trace horses, keeping one for himself. He rides the horse into the nearest town, leaving the other three horses to arrive ahead of him.

The three horses arriving alone stir some talk in the local saloon. The deputy sheriff wanders out into the darkened street to investigate while the man, who has just then arrived, is tying up his horse. In the darkness there is an excess of caution, and the deputy pulls his gun. The man, hearing the sound, pulls his piece. The deputy is wounded seriously in an exchange of fire, and the man seeks shelter in the darkened street.

The first place he finds an unlocked door is the local bank (or some other business). He lets himself in quietly, and eavesdrops as the stagecoach robbers discuss the day’s disastrous caper. The leader of the operation seems to  be a man known only as Stanley (Burr). His hired gunman named Clanton (Lee Van Cleef) describes the reason he had to kill all the passengers was the woman pulled off his mask and identified him. Their partner in crime, Luke Joiner (randon Rhodes) is aghast at the whole business and announces he wants to take his cut and get out of town. We know what this usually means in a criminal gang. There is only one way to deal with somebody who’s getting cold feet.

Steele, listening in the adjoining darkened room, makes a careless move and kicks a spittoon. Joiner goes into the room and fires off a shot. He is rewarded by two shots in the back from Clanton.

Steele makes his getaway in the dark and finds an unlocked cellar door. He lets himself in, and he hides behind the woodpile when a sweet young thing comes down the stairs. She is Nadine Corrigan (Murphy), and she is the sheriff’s (Ward Bond) daughter. The sheriff is in bed upstairs with yellow fever, which is why his deputy was the one taking the bullet earlier.

Steele hides out in the cellar overnight, and in the morning he reveals himself to Nadine. He shows his kinder side by helping her care for her ailing father. Over time an attraction develops.

Steele learns of Stanley, and he figures his gang was responsible for the massacre. One night he sneaks out and confronts Stanley, intending to stomp his ass into the ground.

That he does, leaving Stanley for dead. But Clanton spots him on the street and follows him back to the sheriff’s house. Soon a vigilante mob gathers, demanding Steele be turned over for hanging.

But in the meantime, Nadine has overheard delirious mumblings from her father, and she figures he has been covering for the gang of bandits. She examines her father’s books and spots suspicious wealth.

The sheriff, now recovered, wants to turn Steele over to the mob. Nadine convinces him he must do something honorable to atone, so he spirits Steele out of town in the dead of night, taking him into the desert and pointing the way to escape. Then he returns to the town to face his own justice.

The town’s people turn on him and proceed to string him up. But we know that Steele is not the kind of man to cover his own ass and leave somebody else to swing.

Before the noose can be tightened, Steele appears on the street and orders the Sheriff released. Steele tells the town’s people of Stanley’s complicity in the past string of robberies and in the massacre. Stanley and his men take refuge in the saloon, and one of  the gang volunteers to go out and mediate. Once on the street the man gives up Stanley, informing the people that Stanley is the ring leader. Canton shoots him in the back.

That triggers a gunfight in the saloon, where Steele kills Clanton and another gang member. The sheriff enters and arrests Stanley. He leads Stanley out into the street, prepared to face his own justice. Steele allows as how he will stay on in the town, and the movie ends there in the street with Nadine and Steele in a loving embrace.

And the plot is much too contrived. It has the stamp of Ray Milland, who directed it, all over—a story of fall  and redemption, pulling memories of The Lost Weekend, for which he earned an Oscar. The year before this movie he arranged the murder of his wife in Dial M for Murder, Late one night decades ago, I caught The Thief on TV, a film that has no dialog. I swear, that night I watched this from beginning to end without blinking, waiting for somebody to say something. That’s the kind of stuff Milland was famous for.

Of course, Raymond Burr went on to become more famous as Ironside, playing the title role in the long-running TV series.

The year before, Mary Murphy appeared in The Wild One with Marlon Brando, becoming famous for asking, “What are you rebelling against?” (“What’ve you got?”). She was Fredric March‘s daughter in The Desperate Hours, also starring Humphrey Bogart. Ward Bond finished up his career five years later as the wagon master in Wagon Train on TV.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

One man’s meat is another man’s poison. I’ve heard that before. It means what might be good for one person is not so good for another. This is Another Man’s Poison, It’s from 1951, and it features Bette Davis and Gary Merrill in the lead roles. As usual, I’m getting these screen shots from Amazon Prime Video, where it’s currently streaming. Angel Productions cranked this one out. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s a set-piece drama.

The film rolls, and we see a woman walking. Rather, we see the woman’s feet and legs. She walks and walks, all the way through the title sequence. She comes to a railway station at night somewhere in Yorkshire, England. A steam locomotive is puffing to a stop as the woman enters a public phone booth and places a call. She’s Janet Frobisher (Davis).

She is phoning Larry Stevens (Anthony Steel), who really cannot talk right at this moment, because he is with somebody else, Chris Dale (Barbara Murray). We are later going to find out that Chris is Janet’s secretary, and Larry is Chris’s fiancée and at the same time Janet’s secret lover. Janet asks Larry to come over to her house right away. This is going to get interesting.

As Janet finishes her suspicious phone call, the local veterinarian, Dr. Henderson (Emlyn Williams), intrudes and asks some embarrassing questions. Such as, why did Janet walk nearly a mile from her house to place a phone call.

Henderson gives Janet a lift home in  his war surplus Jeep. Inside, Janet fines she has an unexpected visitor. It’s George Bates (Merrill), until then unknown to Janet, but a recent accomplice with Janet’s husband in a bank heist that went wrong. He insists on seeing her husband. Unfortunately that is not possible at the moment, since Janet just minutes previous murdered her husband by allowing him to drink poison. Hence the title.

Yes, we now get down to the substance of this plot and it proceeds from  there. George’s idea is to dispose of the husband’s body in the local pond and then to assume his identity, since nobody in the neighborhood has ever met the husband. Janet resists, but George can be very persuasive, threatening blackmail.

Over the next few days their lives are swept up in a whirlwind of intrusive characters and also back-biting. Larry and Chris arrive, Chris to stay, since she lives in the house. Henderson contrives all manner of reasons to return to the house, and he expresses opinions about the identity of Janet’s new-found husband.

George lusts for Janet, Larry lusts for Janet, all the while stringing Chris along. Things get acrimonious. Janet has a beloved horse, and George takes the animal out for a ride in the rain against Janet’s wishes. He shoots the horse out of spite, claiming the horse broke his leg. Henderson arrives with the news the horse’s only injury was a pistol bullet in the head. Henderson departs, leaving his surplus Jeep at Janet’s house. The brakes have gone out completely.

Larry and Chris have it out, and Chris departs, moving out of the house. Larry goes after her. Janet has a plan. She convinces George to go after Chris and to take the Jeep. Of course the Jeep crashes, but George is only injured. He is now very hostile.

All seems to be finished for Janet, and she prepares to drink the poison she gave her husband.

Then she has another idea. George is about to depart and to blow the whole matter sky high. Janet proposes they have a farewell drink. We know where this is going. But George is suspicious, and he refuses the drink Janet offers. Instead he pours himself a shot from the fatal flask.

Henderson arrives, informing he knew all along about the subterfuge. When Janet’s husband arrived he gave him a lift to the house. He has always been aware the husband is not George.

Janet is distraught and suffers a collapse. Henderson gives her a drink, from the flask.

And that’s the end of the movie. It’s 90 minutes of fabricated melodrama, and after watching this through I was never able to figure out why Janet walked to the train station to make the phone call. She should have had plenty of privacy at home, since she had just killed her husband. A bunch does not make sense.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I keep going back to Amazon Prime Video—where I obtained these screen shots—for Bad Movie selections. This one is from 1940 by Monogram Pictures. The video stream shows a United Artists logo before the titles roll. It’s Phantom of Chinatown, and it stars Keye Luke as James Lee Wong, ace criminal investigator. Naturally the setting is in San Francisco.

The movie opens at Southern University, which gave me some pause, because I had never seen the words ‘southern’ and ‘San Francisco’ in the same sentence. However, Google offered up this link. Famed archaeologist Dr. Benton (Charles F. Miller) has just returned from an expedition to Mongolia, and he’s giving a lecture on his findings. Viewers are initially treated to a travelogue movie of the trip.

As Dr. Benton explains, the object of the expedition was a lost tomb, and his party, enduring great hardship, was successful. Dr. Benton opened the ancient sarcophagus and discovered within a mystery scroll, which he tucked into his jacket and concealed from the others. He is now prepared to discuss the scroll.

Before he can do that he takes a drink of water from a pitcher beside the dais, and he collapses and dies. He has been  poisoned. This is bad news for Dr. Benton’s attractive daughter, Louise (Virginia Carpenter), seen here schmoozing with her boyfriend Tommy Dean (Robert Kellard). New to the party is detective Wong. He is going to  get interested in the case.

We also meet Dr. Benton’s assistant, Win Lee (Lotus Long). She later turns out to secretly be an employer of the Chinese government. San Francisco Police Captain Street (Grant Withers) heads up the official investigation.

This movie runs about one hour, so there is not much story that can get packed into it. To sum up, the scroll reveals the location of an eternal flame, its eternity being due to a huge oil deposit, a source of great promise for the emerging Chinese nation. After much lurking about and throwing of knives and bonking people on the head, Wong and Street concoct a ruse to flush out the perpetrators.

The scroll has long been destroyed, but an image on film is recovered, and that is all that will be necessary. Win Lee prepares to take the documentation back to China, and James Lee Wong prepares to accompany her, for purposes of foreign relations.

Acting is amateurish; often the players seem to be reading their lines off a story board. A 21st century TV production company could have turned this into something that would raise your blood pressure. The past 78 years have not been wasted.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

No problem finding a bad movie of the week. Amazon Prime Video, source of these screen shots, is ever reliable. This one is Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen from American Cinema Productions in  1981. Wikipedia has the cast of characters:

So I watched this through, and I got the impression somebody said, “These actors’ careers are about shot anyhow, so let’s put them all together in one motion picture and seal their doom right now.” Hey, the titles are worth a look.

Charlie Chan is, of course, the fabled police detective from Honolulu, famously portrayed over 70 years ago by Sydney Toler, who picked up the role after Warner Oland had carried it for a few episodes. Very few of the movies featured Chan in his home town, San Francisco being the primary setting.

A preamble features a black and white clip, as from one of the early episodes, showing Chan putting away the infamous Dragon Queen. Fast forward, and now Chan is a grandfather, and his grandparent-in-law is the fabulously wealthy Mrs. Lupowitz. Here the wheelchair-bound butler Gillespie delivers the daily newspaper featuring a story about the most recent bizarre murder case.

The plot is really a succession of comedy skits that recapitulate the stereotypes of the original Chan movies. Charlie Chan’s number one son is replaced now by his number one grandson, living with his grandmother and eager to become a famous detective like his grandfather.

He is the number one son many times over, outdoing the original in personifying the definition of “maladroit.” Here he strolls down a Chinatown street, leaving behind a wake of chaos and destruction.

And we meet the great Chan, exiting a police helicopter and being greeted by his grandson, at the very moment tripping a host of news reporters, who fall one after the other into the bay.

Another bizarre murder. At a nightclub a mysterious hand pours a drink into the horn of an electric saxophone, spectacularly electrocuting the musician. The lights go out, and when they come back on, all the patrons, the suspects, have disappeared.

Gag skits follow. An outing at a riding stable devolves into a wild chase involving horse drawn carriages, people on horses, a police car, various cars colliding on a highway, and ending with the police car launching off a bluff, landing on the beach, and motoring into the surf. The Dragon Queen makes her getaway driving her stolen carriage along the beach.

Of course it all comes to  a head as Chan explains to the collected characters who the real killer is.

And it’s a real shocker.

Running time is 97 minutes. Surely you can spare that much.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Today’s Bad Movie of the Week comes from Hulu, where it is now streaming and where I obtained these screen shots. From 1957 it is The Tall Stranger, starring Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo. It’s based on a novel of the same name by Louis L’Amour, and I will get back to that matter later. I’m fairly sure I did not see this in the Palace Theater three blocks from where I grew up. I must have been trying to get past Algebra II or something at the time. The film was released through Allied Artists. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

This is going to be your typical western movie with settlers moving west and ranchers resisting settlers and both fighting Indians. You know there’s going to be some gun play. I’m fairly sure there is not a L’Amour tale that does not involve somebody getting shot. That includes the main character, Ned Bannon (MCrea), shown here alone in the wilderness and wondering about a noise coming from over the ridge. He is tall, hence the title. Both he and his horse are about to get shot. The horse dies.

So, the bushwhackers are likely rustling some cattle, and they leave Ned alone to die beside his horse. Ned does not get a good look at the shooter, his vision is blurred from loss of blood. But as the bad guy, known as Zarata (Michael Ansara) stops by to empty Ned’s canteen, he can’t help noticing the man’s spiffy boots and spurs and his gold-plated repeater rifle.

Anyhow, Ned gets found by some settlers coming through in their wagons, heading toward California. He is cared for by sumptuous Ellen (Mayo), who does not seem appropriately dressed for the trail.

Ned warns the settlers they are headed for trouble, because their next encounter is going to be Bishop’s Valley, where his estranged half-brother Hardy Bishop holds sway, notoriously averse to interlopers. However, two men, Harper (George N. Neise) and Purcell, who have inserted themselves into the wagon train, assure the settlers there is no such concern. They can pass right through Bishop’s Valley and continue west to California through a trail that has recently been opened. They strongly contradict Ned, who is from the region and knows of no such trail. Ned gets expelled from the wagon train.

We later learn that Harper figures to set the settlers against Bishop and his ranch hands. Secretly Zarata and his band are lined up to assist Harper in finishing off any survivors of the battle. Harper aims to scoop up the entire valley for himself.

Harper is forewarned of his half-brother’s arrival, and he prepares a loaded repeater rifle as welcome. However, the two wind up scuffling instead of shooting it out. Ned warns Harper of the trouble coming and offers to mediate.

Things get interesting when Zarata spies Ellen taking a bath in the creek, and he likes what he sees. He aims to  take what he sees, but Ned intervenes and observes that Zarata is the one who with the spiffy spurs and the gold-plated rifle. Zarata’s henchman gets killed in the ensuing shootout, but he gets back to his gang and prepares to take on  the ranchers.

There’s a terrific gun battle at the Bishop ranch. A handful of ranch hands get killed, but Ned and Harper turn the tables, and Zarata’s gang gets wiped out. Harper is fatally shot, but he strangles Zarata before he dies.

Ned advises the settlers to stay in the valley, and he rides off to catch up with Ellen, heading toward the Humboldt Trail in her wagon.

Yeah, it’s a formula Louis L’Amour story, only it is not the Louis L’Amour story. I have a Kindle edition of the book, and there is nothing about Ned riding alone in the wilderness and getting bushwhacked. The book mentions run-ins with Indians, but there are no Indians in the movie. There is no Zarata in the book. There is the half-brother, and there are settlers in wagons, and there is a conflict, but the rest is fluff installed by script writer Christopher Knopf.

If you don’t have a Hulu account, you can watch for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L0PhwEkk_s.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, it’s Amazon Prime Video again, where I obtained these screen shots. From England in 1951 it’s The Quiet Woman, starring Derek Bond and Jane Hylton. Details are from Wikipedia, which lists Tempean Films as the distributor.

It’s a simple enough story, with some pathos. Here we see smugglers putting in at the Channel coast near Rye, almost in sight of France. They are ex naval officer Duncan McLeod (Bond) and his former shipmate Lefty Brown (Michael Balfour), and they are expecting a friendly reception, which they are not about to receive.

Their goal is The Quiet Woman Inn, hence the name of the movie, turning out to be redundant.

The inn is just that day being taken over by quiet woman Jane Foster (Hylton), and Duncan is surprised when he unlocks the back door to store the booty. You can tell the two are going to end up being a  match.

Lefty goes for Jane’s bar keep Elsie (Dora Bryan). It’s the formula element in a formula plot.

But Duncan is not a full time smuggler. That’s only a hobby, which he now abandons when it becomes apparent Jane does not approve. He is a full time artist, and he hires Helen (Dianne Foster) to come out to the coast to model for a painting he is doing. Only it wasn’t Jane he hired but somebody else. Jane has inserted herself into the position, hoping to insert herself back into Duncan’s life. We soon see she is the ultimate schemer. Here Duncan gifts a painting to his war-time pal Bromley (John Horsley) as Helen looks on. During the war Duncan saved Bromley’s life, incurring a loyalty that plays into the plot. Bromley has come to  stay at the inn while he seeks suspected smugglers in the region.

The plot turns. Jane goes for a swim in the Channel and makes it out to Duncan’s boat. From  the shore a stranger watches as Duncan helps Jane into  the boat and offers her a towel. The stranger steals Jane’s clothing.

The stranger turns out to be Jane’s husband-turned-criminal James Cranshaw (Harry Towb) in his screen debut. He has escaped from Dartmoor Prison, and he is forcing Jane to help him escape. Here he menaces Elsie with a pistol.

Duncan, learning of Jane’s plight, attempts to assist by spiriting Cranshaw across the Channel to France, not knowing the fuzz have been alerted and that French authorities are waiting on the other side. Mid-Channel Cranshaw brandishes the gun when Duncan’s enthusiasm wanes. They struggle, and both go into the water.

But Lefty arrives in another boat and rescues Duncan. Not so fortunate for Cranshaw, as the last thing he sees in this life is an errant boat bearing down on him in the water.

Cranshaw’s body heading back to England on Lefty’s boat, Duncan pulls in to dock to find Jane waiting for him. It’s a storybook ending, of course. That’s the formula.

Acting is decent, but staging is flat. Imaginative directing and cinematography could have brought this production up to the level of an episode of Kojac.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yeah, Amazon Prime Video. Thanks again for another Bad Movie of the Week. This is Underworld Scandal from 1948, by Pine-Thomas Productions and distributed by Paramount. I was seven years old when this came out, and I do not recall watching it at the Palace Theater on the town square in Granbury, Texas, at the time. Images are screen shots from the streaming, and details are from Wikipedia.

First off, congratulations are in order for whoever came up with the title. I mean, back then if somebody had dropped by to visit me in class in the second grade and asked me to suggest a title for a movie about a bunch of teenagers who get in trouble with the law, are paroled into  a junior league basketball team, and then get into trouble with the law again, then Underworld Scandal would have been my first choice. It was somebody’s second choice, because the working title is now Big Town Scandal.

“Big Town” refers to the name of the city where all  the action takes place, and the reason for the name is not clear, because from all appearances this is a city on the order of Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Apparently 70 years ago there was an aversion to using real location names in movie plots.

Anyhow, the kids are caught boosting sporting goods, including a basketball, from a store that is for some reason closed at night. Rather than sending these first-offenders off to youth boot camp, the judge agrees to parole them to a newspaper magnate, who proposes to enroll them into the aforementioned junior team to keep them out of trouble.

And here they are, practicing for a season of serious play.

However, and this is where the movie gets interesting, one of the kids, Tommy Malone (Stanley Clements), has a crooked friend, Joe Moreley (John Phillips), who gives Tommy a  ride in his “new” car. He lets Tommy drive. He lets Tommy drive before revealing the car is “hot” about the time the police give chase.

Joe bails, and Tommy eludes the police by parking in the building where the basketball team trains. There he discovers the hot car has a load of hot furs in the trunk. Rather than blowing the scheme wide open, Tommy demands a cut of the action, and we soon see Tommy rolling in the green and showering his girlfriend, Marion Harrison (Donna Martell) with fine gifts. As the gangsters’ grips tightens they coerce Tommy, the star player, into  throwing a game.

Right here is where my brain falls off a cliff. This is junior league basketball, played in run-down venues with less than sellout crowds of about 100. And gangsters are boosting bets in thousands of dollars? No. Just no.

But, one of the team members gets wise, and he blows Tommy’s scheme to the others.

The team members decide to make things right and to return the stolen furs. But first they need to break into  the places where the furs were stolen, and one of the kids, John ‘Pinky’ Jones (Roland Dupree) gets shot by the police. He dies. Tommy and the others get away.

The police have Pinky’s fingerprints from the store and also Tommy’s, but they have not yet connected the prints to Tommy as the team plays the final game of the movie. Tommy has been ordered to throw the game, but the first half shows he is rebuffing the offer, as he and his team stretch a lead over the Giants at half time.

That’s when Joe lets Tommy know that a gun will be pointed at sweet Marion during the game. Tommy’s performance drops, and the Giants pull ahead. Then Tommy has a change of heart, and with seconds to go the Big Town Big Shots are trailing by a single point. The crooks decide to end the suspense, and a pistol shot from the stands takes Tommy down, just as he tosses the winning basket.

The police charge after the gangsters, and a fierce firefight erupts in the stands. One of the gangsters goes down, but another is getting away. Waldo ‘Dum Dum’ Riggs (Tommy Bond) can neither hear nor speak, but he could possibly make a living predicting the future. Seeing events unfold in the stands, he climbs a rope and positions himself. As the crook attempts to get by, Waldo swings by the rope, knocking the crook onto the playing floor. Eat your heart out, Errol Flynn.

Tommy is going to do some time, but Marion is going to wait for him. The team’s sponsors, newspaper folks Steve Wilson (Phillip Reed) and Lorelei Kilbourne (Hillary Brooke) decide to hook up, and the movie ends with their looking toward some serious sack time.

Yes, this movie is going to chew up slightly less than an hour of the remaining time you have  on this planet, so you might want to catch it on Amazon. Or you can watch on YouTube, where it is currently streaming for free.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I suspected this was going bad when the titles started to roll. Dell Comics does not make serious movies. Ana lent me the DVD from her private collection, whence the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. This is RED from 2010.

Following the titles we get to see Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), retired and having his morning coffee.

One of his routines to break the monotony of retirement is to phone up Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), who works for Frank’s previous employer, the United States Government. He complains that he did not receive his pension check. She handles it and takes care of sending a replacement check, which Frank tears up. He really wants to speak to Sarah. They have never met.

The opportunity presents itself dramatically as gunmen, hired by the government, come calling. This is where I become convinced this movie is a spoof. Of Course, Frank defeats and kills all the gunmen. He’s Bruce Willis.

Next Frank comes calling on Sarah, because he knows that she knows too much, and she, too, till be targeted. Sarah comes home from a bad date and is already stripped down to her underwear before she notices Frank is in her apartment. At this point I’m asking myself, where was Frank one cold Thanksgiving day when I locked us out of our house?

Next we meet William Cooper (Karl Urban), a professional killer. He is in the process of finishing off somebody the government has decided needs killing. Frank is his next assignment.

Well into the plot Sarah is still in her underwear, having been kidnapped, for her own safety, by Frank. A phony cop attempts to “arrest” Sarah at a New Orleans motel, but Frank intervenes and spirits her away, still in her underwear.

We are introduced to a number of Frank’s former business associates, here John Malkovich as Marvin Boggs. They team up with Frank

Here are two more: Helen Mirren as Victoria Winslow and Brian Cox as Ivan Simanov, killers all.

Without getting into the plot, Frank turns the tables on the rogue government operation to silence him. Sarah gets kidnapped and held as a bargaining chip against Frank. At a crucial meeting in a vacant building there is a showdown, and the bad guys, including the Vice President of the United States, are gunned down.

The victorious ex-operatives depart, later to re-converge in another caper.

RED stands for Retired-Extremely-Dangerous. That’s Frank, and, yes, there is going to be RED-2. I will review that if it ever streams.

In this film we see a number of other notables, including Ernest Borgnine, who died two years later. He sprang to stardom as a shy butcher in Marty 63 years ago. There is also Morgan Freeman, more recently explaining the universe on TV,  and Richard Dreyfus, who first caught my attention in Jaws and StakeoutI got to know Parker as Josh Lyman’s feminist girlfriend with the sleepy Valley Girl voice in The West Wing. We also saw her as the trailer-trash mother of The Client.

.Ana also lent me her copy of RED-2, but I only watched 30 minutes into it before deciding that ridiculous should be carried only so far. As mentioned, I will have another go at it if it ever streams on Amazon Prime Video or Hulu.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This was streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots, and I  needed a Bad Movie of the Week. I started watching, and as the credits rolled a name flashed by. DeForest Kelley. Yeah, the same. It promised to be interesting. This was Kelley’s film debut, and it was obvious he was destined for stardom, or at least a long run as an intergalactic sawbones. It’s Fear in the Night from 1947, which is 71 years ago for you math-inclined. Wikipedia, where I’m getting details, say this was distributed by Paramount, though that company is not listed in the credits.

This is supposedly a classic film noir, but not up there with The Maltese Falcon. It’s a strange tale.

A man is having a terrible dream, a nightmare. He is Vince Grayson (Kelley). In  the dream he is in an octagonal room with mirrors, and there is a terrific struggle. He kills a man and stuffs the body behind one of the panels, then locks the door with a key. He puts the key in his pocket. And that is all.

He wakes in the morning, haunted by the dream. Only, it wasn’t a dream. He still has the key, and he has blood on his hand.

He enlists the aid of his brother-in-law, Cliff Herlihy (Paul Kelly), who is a police homicide detective. Cliff isn’t buying the story. He thinks it’s all a bad dream. To relax tensions Cliff invites Vince and Vince’s pretty girlfriend Betty Winters (Kay Scott) to go for a ride in his new second-hand car. They spend the day in the country. For some reason he cannot explain, Vince recommends going out to a particular place in the country.

When the day turns sour, and rain starts to come in sheets, the four leave in the car, and Vince recommends they take refuge in a house. He gives directions, and when they get there he locates a key in a flowerpot by the door, although he has no  memory of having  been to the house.

The house is deserted, and Vince is drawn inexorably to an upstairs room. It’s the room where the dream murder took place.

Cliff accuses Vince of attempting to  deceive him by concocting the phony dream story. But just then a deputy sheriff comes in, demanding to  know what’s going on. There has been a murder in the house, and he is keeping an eye on the scene until the owner gets back  in town.

This does not clear things up for Vince, and he attempts suicide by dropping from his seventh floor apartment window. Cliff saves him and stays in the apartment to look after him. In a casual conversation, Vince recalls the recent visit of a person from the next apartment. The visit was strange, and Cliff thinks it especially strange. He does some checking. The strange visitor is exactly the owner of the house where the murder took place. He is Lewis Belknap (Robert Emmett Keane).  It’s figured that Vince was hypnotized to commit murder.

Without getting into the details of  the murder plot I will only note that the police set a trap for Belknap. Vince returns to the octagonal room and waits for Belknap to return. There he confronts Belknap and induces him into recounting the murder scheme while police secretly record the interchange.

Belknap again hypnotizes Vince, driving him to  the lake and inducing him to write a suicide note and to jump into the lake. Cliff rescues Vince. Police pursue Belknap in one of those standard movie car chases, and Belknap’s run ends when police shoot one of his tires, and his car goes over a cliff.

Vince must go before the court and explain how he killed the man while the man was attempting to kill him. We believe everything is going to  turn  out all right for Vince, and he and Betty are going to  be happy together. There is no mention that Vince will quit his job at the bank and go to medical school.

The movie is based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, who wrote a bunch of this kind of stuff, some of it available in Kindle. The story was variously titled And so to Death and also Nightmare. Ten years after this the movie was remade as Nightmare, starring Edward G. Robinson.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

From Amazon Prime Video, of course. There is a warehouse of bad movies there, standing ready to waste an hour or more of your time. In this case about an hour and 28 minutes. It’s Assignment Redhead from 1956 and featuring Richard Denning and Carole Mathews. It’s a British spy-crime drama, not much mystery involved. Production companies are listed as Amalgamated Productions and Butcher’s Film Distributors.  Details are from Wikipedia.

You can tell this is going to be a grim plot. The opening scene shows the man in the black hat and black overcoat signaling with a light. Then the burly guy comes into view. Ugh. That’s a dead body he’s carrying. The pair attempt to hid the body under some rubble. This is perhaps post-war Germany, apparently still smoldering in 1953 when Lindsay Hardy wrote Requiem for a Redhead, the basis for the movie.

Anyhow, as we figure out later, the pair is disposing of this person so they can substitute another in his place and get him into England.

Then we see the plot being executed. A pretty redheaded woman (it’s a black and white movie) is preparing to board a military flight to England. She is Hedy Bergner (Matthews), and she’s going to work in England as a cabaret performer at a nightclub. Another passenger is American Captain Hank Godowski (Robert O’Neil), who has purchased himself a slick German camera. He snaps a photo of the comely Fraulein Bergner, thus signing his own death warrant. We do not find out until later that the deadly impostor is caught in the photo, and the ruffians are desperate to get that piece of film.

Ha! The bad dudes did not hide the dead body very well and a German cop finds it. British MI-5 is alerted, including American Major Gregory Keen (Denning), who is working with them. Keen and (likely Scotland Yard) Sergeant Tom Coutts (Hugh Moxey) wander by to pay a call on Fraulein Bergner. Only later will we be become sure she is in with the gang of cutthroats, and she has charmed the unfortunate Captain Godowski into giving her his London address. Keen is much attracted to the redheaded conspirator.

Subsequently, while Godowski and his British friend Captain Peter Ridgeway (Brian Worth) are throwing a few down back at the hotel, a pair of assassins step in and put a knife into Godowski’s back from across the room. When they hear Ridgeway in the bathroom, one of them goes in there and clubs him over the head. They set up to frame Ridgeway for the crime. They find the camera and take the film.

Along come Keen and Coutts, finding Ridgeway blacked out on the bed, a knife in his hand. They would like to charge him with the crime, but he makes his escape out the window. Subsequently Keen watches in horror as a speeding car appears intent on eliminating Bergner. She tells them the driver was Ridgeway, but the authorities get a lead on the car and the driver. The driver was one of the gang. Bergner is implicated. The Keen-Bergner romance begins to cool.

Finally. Finally! We get to what this is all about. A certain French art dealer going under the name Max Rubenstein (Alex Gallier) turns out to have in a previous life been a French traitor, and in the course of events during the war he purloined $12 million in counterfeit American currency. The gang leader, Dumetrius (Ronald Adam) has come over in the disguise of the murdered man, and now he wants the money from Rubenstein. He holds leverage, and Rubenstein signs on for the bargain. His life and another person killed in his place in exchange for half of the $12 million.

Of course Dumetrius never intended to honor the bargain, and it is Rubenstein in person who rides the death car over the cliff.

Of course, the good guys ultimately prevail, Dumetrius shoots Bergner as he attempts to make his getaway, and Keen and Dumetrius duke it out on top of the burning hideout. Dumetrius takes the fatal plunge, and Bergner dies in Keen’s arms.

The book by Hardy is available on Amazon but not in a Kindle edition. I would get a copy, but I am sure the movie managed to mangle the plot. The plot runs as a multi-part police procedural with romantic interludes and snatches of thuggery thrown in to liven things up, and the pieces are not well-connected. I have the feeling the Hardy book put together, and director Maclean Rogers attempted to stitch significant pieces into a continuum. The result is a theme plagued by disjunctures.

The American release was titled Million Dollar Manhunt, with no mention of any red hair.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Time for another Bad Movie of the Week, and Amazon Prime Video is there when I need it. This is Shadow of a Man out of E.J. Fancey Productions in England. Release date was 1954 according to Amazon, 1956 according to Wikipedia, where I obtained technical information. The apparent locale is Hastings, on the English coast, and the opening scene features Inspector Gates (Tony Quinn) investigating a disturbance on The Pier. Never having been to Hastings I checked Google maps. And, yes, there is a famous Hastings Pier, still there 64 years later.

The gatekeeper tells of a couple, a man and an attractive young woman, going out on the pier late in the evening. Later another man came through, and out in the darkness shots were fired. A search finds a semi-automatic pistol and nothing else.

The scene shifts to Gene Landers (Paul Carpenter) holding an intense conversation with Carol Seaton (Jane Griffiths). Gene is telling what transpired out on the pier. The police will be looking for him. He needs to explain to Carol, and much of the remainder of the plot is a flash-back.

Paul Bryant (Bill Nagy) is at a night club with his wife Linda (Rona Anderson). Also there are Carol and Linda’s good friend Norman Farrel (Ronald Leigh-Hunt). You see them here in the background as a drunken and disorderly Paul gets punched by night club owner Max (Robert O’Neil) and ejected from the club. Meanwhile, a cabaret singer (Rose Alba) belts out the title song, Shadow of the Man I Love.

Back at the Bryant flat, Carol herds Paul into his bedroom, where he is left unconscious. There is much drinking and smoking of cigarettes. People smoked a lot in those days.

Norman goes in to check on Paul, then he leaves. Carol, who is also staying at the flat, goes to her room. Linda goes in to  check on Paul, then she comes out and phones for the police. Paul has expired.

Anyhow, Linda is an airline hostess, and she is out of  town when the police dig deeper into Paul’s death, and they find the broken tip of a hypodermic needle in his arm. He has died of an air embolism. Somebody has injected air into a vein, causing heart failure.

Also while Linda is away Gene arrives from America. He is a wartime buddy of Paul’s, and Norman has the sorry task to inform him of Paul’s death.

More develops. Gene is a writer with no place to stay, so Linda invites him to stay at the Bryant flat. Things are getting crowded, and interesting. Norman has a love interest in Linda, and he walks in while Linda and Gene are passionately embracing.

Now we get the full picture. Norman, who is diabetic, has used one of his syringes to inject the deadly air bubble. His scheme was to get Paul out of the way so he could make time with Linda. But then Gene came along and spoiled the whole thing.

Gene has brought with him from America the infamous pistol that was found on the pier. The police approve, since Gene obtained a permit on arriving in England. Anyhow, Norman took the pistol from the drawer in the Bryant flat and lured Linda out onto the pier on the fateful night. Gene came along and figured out what happened. He followed them, becoming the second man mentioned by the gatekeeper. Norman fired and missed. There was a tussle. Gene got the gun and fired, and Norman went into  the water.

Now the police have the whole story. Norman was not hit by Gene’s bullet, and  now he is on the loose, and he has armed himself with another gun. He has been spotted on the pier.

Gene and Linda go with Inspector Gates to the pier, where Norman has been spotted. They clear the pier, and the inspector prepares to go it alone and take Norman into custody. Gene offers to pitch in with the aid of his trusty pistol, but the offer is declined.

Gates confronts Norman, who wings him with a shot. Gene comes to the rescue and wrestles Norman to the ground.

Norman is taken away to be booked. We are sure Gene and the widow Bryant are going to become better acquainted.

The plot is overly complicated, and some of it does not ring true.

Norman has used hypodermic syringes twice daily to inject himself, but in the critical instance when he kills Paul, he breaks the needle. Then he takes the broken needle back to his flat, where the police find it, tying him conclusively to the murder.

The police searched Norman’s flat, and they found a case of hypodermic needles. One needle was missing its tip and was a match for the murder weapon. This raises some questions. Norman had a supply of needles at his flat. How come he happened to be carrying one around with him when everybody went to the Bryant flat on the fatal night?

Gene arrives in England with a pistol, and he registers it. Why? He figures the Huns are going to restart the war? The pistol has no position in real life, being introduced only to agitate the plot.

The police find Gene’s pistol, and Gates hands it over to Gene. Really? Isn’t that pistol now a piece of evidence in a crime investigation? By now the pistol is loaded. Previously Gene kept the bullets separate. Why is a police inspector handing a civilian a loaded pistol?

Gene shows up at the pier with the loaded pistol. The police relieve him of it forthwith, but I don’t see them impounding it and yanking Gene’s permit, forthwith.

In total, the acting is credible, and the plot, a bit lame, does work.—provided you war willing to accept a variety or premises.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Got to be the worst movie I have reviewed. It’s Sherlock Holmes And The Shadow Watchers from 2011. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, whence the screen shots. Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry. Details are from IMDb. Anthony D.P. Mann is Sherlock Holmes, and Terry Wade is Dr. John Watson, Holmes’ trusted colleague. The film also features Richard W. Kerr as Inspector Lestrade.

The opening scene shows a young woman walking alone in the dark streets of London. We know she is going to come to a bad end. She does. In a secluded carriage way a stranger grabs her and grips her by the neck as others wearing masks look on. They are the Shadow Watchers we learn later.

Lestrade brings the case around to Holmes, who agrees to have a look.

The woman’s friend is questioned. He’s an unsavory character, but apparently not implicated.

A priest seems to have guilty knowledge.

The priest and a prostitute have a thing going, and they know too much. Shortly both are put away by the mysterious group.

Suspicion points to the cardinal, who comes off as devious, but there is nothing to implicate him.

Holmes infiltrates the cardinal’s little group of evil  makers, who turn out to be clergy members who feel a religious need to observe violence at first hand. They are the Shadow Watchers.

Holmes springs his surprise, tangling with the strangler while the cardinal takes poison. The other cult members are apprehended as they leave the church.

And Holmes relaxes with his violin in their flat at 221-B Baker Street.

Acting is absolutely atrocious. None of the participants appear to have any professional experience, reading their lines as they sit for their appearances before the camera. Otherwise this could have been an interesting drama.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video to the rescue again. This is currently streaming, allowing me to get these screen shots after a short view (runs about an hour). It’s Cloak Without Dagger, featuring Philip Friend as Major Felix Gratton and Mary Mackenzie as Kyra Gabaine. As hinted, this is a spy thriller but not seriously solid as indicated by the somewhat frivolous title. It came out in 1956 from Balblair Productions in England.

To get the plot rolling there is a scene in fashion house in London. Models are displaying the wares before appreciative buyers. In particular we notice an exchange of glances between one of the models and a “buyer.” The model goes backstage for a change in costume. Somebody serves coffee—why is not explained—but before the model is due to go back out an unknown  powder is dumped into her coffee. She takes a sip, strolls out onto the runway, collapses, and eventually dies. Her last words are “Tell Enrico” to Kyra Gabaine, an American writer over to cover the show and other readable stories.

Back in her hotel room, number 501, Kyra answers the door, and there is Felix Gratton, formerly a major in military intelligence, but now working as a floor waiter at the hotel. They recall old times in Belgium at the end of the war. Kyra is distressed to find Major Gratton has come down to the level of hotel  waiter after such a promising career in the military. She suspects the come-down is related to the spy who got away, an episode that is about to unfold in the scene below.

Kyra notices a hotel guest on the fifth floor with a mannerism that matches what she saw in the club in Belgium so many years ago—the way the man rolls his cigarettes. She decides to investigate. Since his room is next to  hers, she hikes across to his balcony in her spike heels, a most interesting bit of drama.

She almost gets caught when the spy returns to his room, but she finds a body in the bathtub.

Felix won’t get involved, and the body vanishes, so Kyra, thinking to further Felix’s career, pursues the case on her own, fumbling, way. She enlists the aid of hotel detective Fred Barcombe (Leslie Dwyer). Together they make great progress.

As you suspect, Felix is working the case for military intelligence, disguised as a waiter. Kyra follows the trail of the spy, ending up in the basement of his wine business, where she witnesses a murder. Before she can raise the alarm a mysterious stranger grabs her in the dark and knocks her out with chloroform, leaving her to  sleep it off in the hotel ballroom. It’s Felix, trying to get Kyra to cease meddling.

Kyra and Barcombe follow the trail of evidence to a military testing ground, where they figure the spy network is planning to  infiltrate their agent in to observe the test, an atomic-powered tank.

It turns out the body in  the bathtub was a Mr. Markley, who has access to the site. They conclude his dead self has been substituted by the real spy. And it almost works. Kyra and Barcombe are arrested attempting to infiltrate the site. But in the nick of time, Mrs. Markley shows up. That’s not her husband. The impostor is arrested, and the chase is on for the spy.

He is spotted being picked up by a helicopter, and he gets away clean. Not quite. The helicopter returns with the spy in the custody of now Colonel Gratton of military intelligence.

Kyra looks on lovingly as her old flame takes charge and wraps up the case.

Do I need to explain why this is a bad movie?

The fashion model and (apparently) the spy exchange looks at the show. Back stage the woman in charge murders the model by slipping her poison. How many people need to get involved to make this plot work?

Kyra and Felix meet again ten years after the war, just in time to make the plot click. That amount of coincidence is allowed, but only once in a plot.

Felix appears only infrequently. Most camera appearances feature Kyra, nice to look at, but shouldn’t Mary Mackenzie have received first billing in the opening credits?

That bit about Kyra hiking it over the balcony railing in spike heels is a bit much. Makes for heightened tension and a bit of sex appeal, but no real person would be as foolish.

The action goes back and forth little advancing of the plot. The movie is a bit over 60 minutes as it is. Somebody felt there was need for some filler.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Showing my age, I watched this at the Palace Theater in Granbury Texas when it came out in 1953, and there are scenes that stick with me after all these years. It’s Pony Express, a highly fictionalized account centered around the actual Pony Express—1860-1861. Did I mention “highly fictionalized?” I am at times known for understatement. This has big names, maybe not as big in 1953 as later. There’s Charlton Heston as William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, and there’s Forrest Tucker as Wild Bill Hickock. I caught it streaming on Hulu this month. It was released by Paramount. It’s a simple story made overly  complex. Here’s a rundown of the plot.

The opening shows Bill Cody meeting up with some suspicious characters from a plains tribe. He tries to  figure out if they are friendly. They are not. They chase him down and kill his horse, but they have only arrows, and he has guns. Their leader, Yellow Hand (Pat Hogan), tells Bill he’s breaking off the fight, but will come back when his band has some guns. They later get the guns.

Bill treks across the prairie until he intercepts a stage coach, and he shares a ride with Evelyn Hastings (Rhonda Fleming) and her brother Rance (Michael Moore). The two are up to  no good. This is 1860, about the time states are figuring to break away from the Union, and they are part of a plot to engineer California secession. They eye Bill coldly, Evelyn, perhaps, with not so much chill. After all, that’s Charlton Heston sitting in the opposite seat.

At the next stop the coach is met by some phony soldiers who attempt to arrest Evelyn and Rance and take them away. But Bill sees through the ruse, and he breaks up the scheme with some amount of gun play. Problem is, Evelyn and Rance are in on the plot. It’s all a scheme to make it appear that… Actually, that’s an aspect that is never made clear to me.

At the next town Bill runs into his old friend Wild Bill Hickock. They engage in a bit of gun play to show off for the audience. Evelyn is impressed.

And here is the scene that I  recall seeing at the age of 12. Evelyn needs a bath after that long stage coach ride, and she gets instructions from a girlfriend of Bill’s, Denny Russell (Jan Sterling). The dialogue that I recall after all these years goes like this:

Evelyn: Doesn’t this soap lather?

Denny: No, it’s sandstone.

Evelyn: Then how do you get clean?

Denny: Rub until the dirt comes off.

Truth be, Denny is hot for Bill to an unhealthy degree, but she is too rascally a woman for Bill’s taste, and the ardor is not reciprocated. Makes for some sexual tension, especially after Evelyn develops a shine to Bill.

Lot’s of stuff. Evelyn and her brother plot to bring down the Pony Express enterprise that Bill and Denny’s father are cooking up. If California is kept isolated from the eastern states, then secession is going to be an easy sell. The Pony Express will cut mail delivery from St. Joseph, Missouri, to 10 days.

The secessionist group considers a number of alternatives. Kill Bill, destroy the Pony Express stations, various other devious acts.

But Yellow Hand and his troops have their own ideas. They ambush a party that includes all the movie’s remaining principals, forcing a stand-off at a stage coach station.

That episode comes to conclusion when Bill defeats Yellow Hand mano a mano, and the white faces are allowed to go about their business.

Finally we arrive in Sacramento, the capital of California and the terminus of the Pony Express. A mail satchel is dispatched from St. Joseph, heading west, with a 10-day schedule. The bad guys put their plan into action.

A rider is stalked and wounded on the trail. Closer to the terminus two other stations are destroyed by explosives after the agents are gunned down. But Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill ride to the rescue, defeating the bushwhackers with gunfire, and Cody takes the satchel into Sacramento before the noon deadline, putting the kibosh on a bunch of carefully laid plans.

The secessionists are sore losers, and they attempt to ambush Cody, but Denny is killed, instead. She dies in his arms. A massive fire fight wipes out the secessionists, and Cody picks up the return mail pouch and heads off out of town toward the east.

And that’s the end of the movie.

There is a bunch of irrelevant stuff added to boil the plot. The entire business with Yellow Hand contributes nothing.

The action starts and stops. During the siege at the stage coach station, Yellow Hand rides up and offers to duel Cody, winner take all. Cody declines. His plan is to sneak out the back after dark and set the prairie on fire, spooking the enemy’s horses. He gets captured, instead and engages Yellow Hand in the fight to the death. During all this, his life not worth a cup of warm spit if Yellow Hand wins, Rance contemplates finishing off Cody with an “accidental” shooting.

Time lines don’t make sense, and this highlights something I never understood about depictions of the Pony Express. The transit time from St. Joseph to Sacramento is targeted at ten days, could be eight. All along the route we see relief riders waiting to pick up the relay when a rider comes in. How do they know when the rider is going to be there? The relay rider could be waiting for hours. There is no way to alert the relay station when a rider is approaching.

there has to be a lot of back and forth between St. Joseph and Sacramento, but communication time between the two was measured in weeks at the time. Whoever wrote the original story had telegraphs and telephones on his mind at the time.

Bill Cody did ride for the Pony Express, but he was 14 at the time. Much too young to be the fabled gunfighter depicted in the movie. Cody’s and Hickock’s lives did intersect, but I’m thinking much later, when Buffalo Bill recruited Wild Bill to his wild west show. Wild Bill’s involvement was as a partner in the parent company of the Pony Express. He was ambushed and killed in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Bill Cody died right before the United States entered WWI

Heston went on to become Judah Ben Hur in the DeMille production. Later he was Moses. We enjoyed seeing him hawk pseudo science on NBC’s Mysterious Origins of Man.

The completion of a telegraph connection to Sacramento put the end to the Pony Express after a few months of operation.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

All right. I’m desperate for another bad movie. No, I’m not. Hulu has the mother lode. Here is Godzilla 2000 from 1999 and currently streaming. And is it bad? Of course. That’s the idea.

No other details. Here’s the story. The Godzilla Prediction Network makes an industry of studying the Godzilla phenomenon.

There is a cute reporter and also some light comedy. When she asks directions the worker turns around while holding the pipe and clubs his colleague on the head. That’s funny.

There’s a precocious kid involved in the enterprise.

Godzilla comes ashore. Tanks are there to fire a welcoming salute.

A UFO has crashed into the sea, and officials raise it. Its surface appearance is that of a ship-size boulder. Godzilla gives combat.

Oh, my God!. The creature from the UFO is morphing, I think.

It invades the city. Everybody needs to run.

Godzilla breathes fire to combat the creature.

Another monster menaces Godzilla.

An anti-Godzilla big wig confronts Godzilla and dies.

And the movie is over. Need I say more? See the whole thing on Hulu, or get the disk from Amazon.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, this one is bad. We could attempt to excuse it, owing to the era from which it springs. This came out in 1931, when pictures had been talking barely four years. Even so, a number of productions of immense quality came out during that time. This is not one of them. It’s Sherlock Holmes’ Fatal Hour, also titled, The Sleeping Cardinal. This was about ten years prior to when Basil Rathbone began portraying the famous crime detective along with Nigel Bruce as the bumbling Doctor Watson. In this production Holmes is played by Arthur Wontner, and Watson by Ian Fleming. No, not that Ian Fleming.

The setting, much as with all film portrayals, is in contemporary times. This allows the characters to enjoy the benefit of electric lights, telephones, and automobiles. Distribution was through First Division Pictures, Inc. and Ameranglo Corporation. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the source of the screen shots.

The opening scene turns out to be the best bit of real drama. Creative camera work shows a crime in progress, involving a murder. We only see shadows and silhouettes as an unfortunate bank watchman interrupts a break-in.

We next cut to a game of bridge in progress at an upscale home.

Four society swells are playing for money, and the master of the house, Ronald Adair (Leslie Perrins), is winning, as we are informed he usually does. A spurious ace of spades shows up in the game. Players suspect cheating is going on.

Holmes is brought in to examine the case of the killed watchman. The bank’s vault had £70,000, all of which remains untouched. This is a mystery. Holmes works the case by examining a sheet of wrapping paper, found at the scene. He determines the paper was just right to wrap up £70,000. Most interesting. The famous landlady Mrs. Hudson (Minnie Rayner) looks on. Rayner supplies the abundance of original character portrayal in the film. She was born about the same time as my namesake grandfather and had a fabulous career, dying ten years after this movie.

Subsequently we see young Adair alone in a room when the lights dim, and a voice speaks from a painting on the wall, apparently the painting of a sleeping cardinal. And that’s all I know about any sleeping cardinals. Anyhow, the voice commands Adair to take a £70,000 load of bills to Paris in a suitcase, using his status as a foreign diplomat to ease it through customs. If he does not comply his bridge cheating scheme will be exposed.

Yes, the infamous Provessor Moriarty is involved. Holmes and Watson are in their flat at 221 B Baker Street, when Watson receives a phone call to rush to an appendicitis patient. He is off in a flash. Next off Mrs. Hudson is confronted by a presumptuous child about some bad things being said by the child’s mother, and Mrs. Hudson rushes away from the house.

Holmes is now alone in the flat and knows something is afoot, and he knows what to expect. He has previously slipped Watson a note, informing him to scrub the phony appointment and to return. Holmes slips a revolver in his pocket and waits for the arrival of Professor Moriarty. Threats are exchanged, and Moriarty exits, passing Watson on his way out.

At this point Holmes instructs Watson to ring up Mr. Adair, but there is no answer. The butler, hearing the phone ringing, enters Adiar’s study to find the unfortunate man shot through the head. No weapon is found inside the room, but (get this) the window is open.

Here’s a note. Accustomed to reading the Arthur Conan Doyle books, we know Watson to be a bit of a fluff. Nigel Bruce played this role to a T, overplayed it, to be exact. Fleming is a more debonair Watson, but equally clueless.

And yes, Holmes’ trap works. Holmes has ensured that Moriarty feels imminently threatened, and he arranges for Watson to be off forthwith to the Euston Station (actually a short walk from 221 B Baker Street) and to make a big show of it, hailing a cab and rushing to the ticket window. Then a stealthy figure enters a vacant house across from the Holmes-Watson flat and fires an air rifle round at the shadow of Holmes showing on a drawn shade.

Of course it’s a ruse. The bullet only shatters a pallid bust of Holmes, which the crafty Mrs. Watson has been employed to move from time to time, keeping all the while out of the line of fire. The police are waiting inside the empty house, and they pounce on the culprit, Colonel Henslowe, a big-game hunter of great repute.

But Henslowe is missing his left arm (a tiger). How could he have climbed the tree outside Adair’s room to fire the fatal shot. Holmes knows. He has the police tear off Henslowe’s jacket to reveal Professor Moriarty, with two good arms.

It’s a fine plot, pulling especially from the Conan Doyle story The Adventure of the Empty House.

But I watched the criminal news, knowing that sooner or later I should get him. Then came the death of this Ronald Adair. My chance had come at last. Knowing what I did, was it not certain that Colonel Moran had done it? He had played cards with the lad, he had followed him home from the club, he had shot him through the open window. There was not a doubt of it. The bullets alone are enough to put his head in a noose. I came over at once. I was seen by the sentinel, who would, I knew, direct the colonel’s attention to my presence. He could not fail to connect my sudden return with his crime, and to be terribly alarmed. I was sure that he would make an attempt to get me out of the way AT once, and would bring round his murderous weapon for that purpose. I left him an excellent mark in the window, and, having warned the police that they might be needed—by the way, Watson, you spotted their presence in that doorway with unerring accuracy—I took up what seemed to me to be a judicious post for observation, never dreaming that he would choose the same spot for his attack. Now, my dear Watson, does anything remain for me to explain?”

Doyle, Arthur Conan; Books, Maplewood. Sherlock Holmes: The Ultimate Collection . Maplewood Books. Kindle Edition.

That is all well and good, but the acting and the dialogue are atrocious. Characters enter the scene like wooden soldiers, mounted on rollers and pulled by a cord. They speak their lines as though reading the obituary columns, and they they make their escape, barely showing their backsides.

Much of the plot is disjoint, as well. Professor Moriarty is supposed to be a criminal mastermind, his legion of seasoned crooks responsible for half the criminal activity in the world. But he has gotten possession of a printing press capable of turning out perfect copies of English bank notes. He must pass off the phony notes. But their identifying numbers match those of the real notes. His plan is to steal the genuine notes from the bank and smuggle them out of the country, leaving the phony bills in their place. Then his associates will spend the real notes abroad while the phony notes are being passed around in England. By the time duplicate notes begin to arrive back from the continent, revealing the hoax, all the genuine notes will have been exchanged for cash.

What? If the phony notes are so good, why not smuggle them to the continent and pass them there? It’s the bank caper that alerts the authorities, and Holmes, that something is up.

The phony notes are brought into the bank carefully packaged to keep them fresh. This is a smart move. If they have the appearance of having been fingered, then bank workers would examine them more closely. What, then, does the master crook of all the world do? He leaves the wrapper at the bank for the authorities to find. At a similar caper in Germany, a cardboard box is left behind.

Moriarty figures he needs to get rid of Holmes. The two discuss that in their meeting at the flat. Why doesn’t he shoot Holmes then and there? See the image above. Moriarty has his gun out and pointed at Holmes. Pull the trigger and nod to Watson on the way down the stairs.

Truth be known, it took me three attempts to get through this movie without falling asleep. Interested readers please know it can be viewed for free on YouTube:

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

About two inches into this film the trajectory of the plot becomes apparent. First some introductions. The title is The Circle, and that’s the name of a tech firm in the Bay Area. At the time I’m writing this the movie is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. It was released in 2017 by Playtone, among others. Details are from Wikipedia.

After some preamble, the plot gets rolling. We see distressingly naive Mae Holland (Emma Watson) interviewing at The Circle, and the interviewer is asking questions that you would get interviewing at Google. “How would you describe what The Circle is, say, to your grandmother?” The company is a culture thing. You’ve been there.

At an employee rally we meet Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), apparently the CEO of The Circle. He introduces SeeChange (not Sea Change). SeeChange is a new way of seeing. There is to be total transparency, like Facebook, but total saturation. SeeChange is to be facilitated by button-size body cams that can be attached anywhere, costing less than “a pair of jeans.” He brags about having that very morning posting these at various beaches, no permission asked, and at other places. They require no batteries and no wire connections. Along with the image comes complete information regarding the locale. It’s world transparency wherever one of these is posted.

We see more. The rally mirrors what we have seen in the past with Apple rollouts. The tech guru up front, eliciting round after round of enthusiastic response from his avid followers. We are talking true cult, people.

 

The cult ambiance becomes awfully apparent when two co-workers drop by to evaluate Mae. They are effusively supportive, but there is no getting past they are steering Mae toward total immersion in The Circle culture.

Mae meets Ty Lafitte (John Boyega), who turns out to be the inventor of “True You, a popular Circle product.” He takes her to a subterranean expanse, where, he tells her, all information on all persons will eventually be stored.

Mae’s posting of an image on The Circle social media feed brings unwanted attention to her friend Mercer (Ellar Coltrane). He meets her at work, where everybody recognizes him, and they accuse him of killing deer. He departs for parts unknown to get some privacy.

But privacy is what The Circle is not all about. A stated goal is total transparency, which means everything is known about everyone. Secrets are viewed as criminal activity. This is Facebook in seven league boots. Bailey introduces a United States Senator who has vowed to go 100% transparent.

Mae goes off the rails. She goes out at night to a place that rents kayaks and takes one for an unauthorized spin around San Francisco Bay. However, her every move is tracked, and when her midnight sail comes a cropper, she is rescued, and The Circle works to rehabilitate her. She comes back in a blaze, developing a concept of her own. Anybody, anywhere can be tracked down in minutes using the technology. At an introductory demo before an employee rally she elects to hunt down a woman from England who left her three children to die in a locked closet when she ran off to Spain. The woman is found within ten minutes, here seen on the big screen while Mae stands in awe at the spectacle unfolding. The sequence finishes with police taking the woman into  custody.

But Bailey suggests that Mae next search for somebody not wanted by the police. How about Mercer? Mae is reluctant, but the screaming mob insists. In less than ten minutes Mercer is brought to heel at a remote cabin in the woods. As multiple stalkers hound him he gets into his pickup truck and flees.

Still pursued, Mercer is distracted and drives his truck off a bridge. If you look closely you can spot Mercer’s truck taking the fatal plunge through that gap in the bridge railing.

I mentioned the plot is as predictable as the morning sun, and here it comes. Mae decides this business has gone too far, and, working with Ty, she announces at a company rally that Bailey and business partner Tom Stenton (Patton Oswalt) are going to join the rest of the world in total transparency. She proceeds to put up all their personal data, including their most secret of emails, on the big screen behind them. It’s the end of the pair, and we might conclude, the end of The Circle, and the movie, for all practical purposes.

And that’s what makes this a bad movie. You know it has to end this way. The most innocent of the inductees is the one most likely to turn the tables and bring down the ridiculous notion that privacy is anti-social.

I have previously commented on the illusion of privacy in this modern age. This came in connection with the Edward Snowden episode a few years back, when everybody was shocked, shocked!, to discover the government was peering into people’s private matters. I called this The Awful Truth.