Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This is another from The Shadow collection. It’s International Crime, from 1938 and starring Rod La Rocque as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow. This was before I was born, and I’m not sorry I missed it. Significant aspects of the story are way lame. This appears to be a Grand National Picture, although the titles do not mention Grand National. You have to get the production company off the movie poster on Amazon or Wikipedia, where I am getting other technical  details. Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video.

Here La Rocque reprises his Shadow role from The Shadow Strikes. and Behind the Mask. It’s difficult to take any of the Shadow plots seriously, this one especially.

Here the Shadow is a radio crime commentator. He has a nightly broadcast, during which he recounts numerous incidences of crime while giving out sound advice to citizens in general. Here he speaks while his able assistant works the controls.

In barges cute Phoebe Lane (Astrid Allwyn) with a story about an impending crime. She’s a royal pain, but Cranston  can’t get rid of her, because her uncle owns the newspaper/radio station. She says a complete stranger (had an honest face) told her a specific movie theater will be robbed at 9 p.m.

Cranston alerts the police and rushes over there. Commissioner Weston (Thomas E. Jackson) is not pleased with Cranston’s butting in.

Sure enough. the advice about a robbery was a ruse to siphon police away from the scene of an actual crime. A safe has been blown up as its owner opened it, killing  the wealthy taxpayer. Cranston is there ahead of the police and gets stuck in the slammer as a material witness.

Bonded out, Cranston quizzes Phoebe, who now recalls the person with the holdup tale spoke with an accent. Cranston tries several accents until Phoebe recognizes his phony Austrian accent. They need to look for an Austrian.

But where to look? Why, where Austrians dine. Any Austrian criminal villain is bound to be dining out right now at a fancy Austrian restaurant, so the two put on  their glad rags and make the tour. Until Phoebe spots the man. He is international financier Flotow (Wilhelm von Brincken),  and when Cranston saunters over to Flotow’s table and pretends to be a fellow Austrian, Phoebe chimes in and gives away the scam. Flotow recognizes her from her picture in the newspaper atop her home body column.

More ensues, but the critical mass is that Flotow and associate put the squeeze on Roger Morton (John St. Polis), brother of the murdered man. They force him to write a suicide note and then hand him a gun.

But just then Cranston and the police enter and put an end to the crime spree. We see Cranston and Phoebe doing a follow-up broadcast.

Hokey to the highest degree, of course. Particularly that part about shopping around at Austrian restaurants looking for the stranger who gave Phoebe the bogus crime story.

La Roque began appearing in films about age 15, and had a long and successful career. But this was one of his final roles. Three years later he was Ted Sheldon in Meet John Doe, which starred Gary Cooper. He died in 1969.

Time was about up for Grand National Pictures. That company lasted from 1936 to  1939. We have seen them before.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

A quick testimonial for Amazon Prime Video. This source is a prime trove of those movies you never heard of, and, which if have heard of, you would never want on your personal shelf. This is Sky Racket from 1937, which I feel sure predates anybody reading this. It’s from Victory Pictures Corporation, which went the way of many such studios of that era:

Victory Pictures Corporation was a film production and distribution company that operated from 1935-39. It was owned by Sam Katzman and specialised in making low-budget movies, predominantly Westerns. It made two serials and 30 films, including some of the Western series’ of Bob Steele and Tim McCoy. It also made eight films based on the works of Peter B. Kyne.

The studio plant caught fire in 1937, causing $50,000 worth of damage.

And that about says it all.

The story and screen play are by Basil Dickey, responsible for 147 screen plays. We are all hoping this was not one of his better works. Details from Wikipedia consist of the cast of characters, and the plot gets summarized in two sentences. Here is more. Sketchy, but still more.

High-spirited heiress Marion Bronson (Joan Barclay) is getting married to Count Barksi (Duncan Renaldo). Only she isn’t. It’s one of those marriages. Money is being traded for social standing, and sweet Marion is the pawn being exchanged.  While the groom and wedding guests wait down stairs, Marion decides this not her future, and she shucks off her wedding dress and presses her handmaid, Jenny (Hattie McDaniel), into helping her make a getaway out the upstairs window using the old knotted bed sheet device. If you are watching this right now on Amazon, then you are wondering how the hefty McDaniel is going to  shinny down that rope of bed sheets. Hollywood magic, and possibly a stunt actor, make it possible.

Marion’s rich uncle has the keys to the getaway car, so Marion, over Jenny’s protests, boosts a gardener’s truck, which soon runs out of gas. Marion leaves the hapless Jenny to fend for herself and waits for her uncle and the count to show up in pursuit. Once they arrive, Marion emerges from concealment and hops onto  the back bumper as the car steers toward the local airport to head off the runaway bride.

At the airport Marion hops aboard a mail plane sitting idle on the apron and conceals herself in the front seat.

Oops! Worst airplane to stow away on. The mail plane is part of an operation by the feds to track down gangsters who have been sabotaging mail planes and stealing the loot after they cause the planes to crash. This flight is under the command of Eric Lane – Agent 17, played by “Herman Brix” (actually Bruce Bennett). Well into the flight and well into the scheme to track down the gangsters, Eric discovers the spunky Marion in the front seat. He thinks she’s part of the plot and pulls a gun on her. Then the plane suddenly loses power, caused by a remote device operated by the gang leader.

Anticipating having to bale out, Eric has brought along a parachute—only one parachute. He leaves the wounded plane with Marion clinging closer to him than unmarried couples are supposed to cling. They end up in a tree.

But the crooks have been following all this, and [much drama omitted] they capture the two and take them to a room in the back of a Los Angeles club. Here we are treated to two separate bouts of plot churn, as first one of the gang members recapitulates his medicine show spiel of days past, all for the entertainment of the club audience and for the movie viewer. On another occasion a club entertainer chews up more celluloid with a song and dance number.

Early in their predicament, Eric and Marion develop an unspoken understanding, and the two play a charade that puts Eric as a kidnapper, snagging the heiress for a $50,000 ransom. The crooks don’t know whether to take this for real, and there is much back and forth as they try to decide whether to play along or to just knock the two off and cut their losses. There were no mail bags in the plane. That’s ring leader Benjamin Arnold (Monte Blue) giving Marion the third degree while Eric sits tied up in a chair.

Much more drama is omitted, and final scenes find Marion locked in a closet in the ring leader’s headquarters and Eric coming to the rescue. Marion continues to show her spunk as Eric and ring leader Benjamin Arnold fight it out. Eric wins the fight, and all the crooks get arrested.

There has to be a Hollywood ending. The heiress and the G-man fly off together on a honeymoon.

It’s an interesting story, and I firmly believe that had I been given the script I could have turned this into a reasonable crime thriller. Neither Wikipedia nor IMDb provide any information about production costs and gross receipts, but I’m guessing both were low, even by standards of the 1930s. IMDb does mention this is, “Virtually an exact remake of Tim McCoy’s 1936 western, Ghost Patrol.”

This was not Bennett’s only dip in the pool. His film credits are impressive, with 91 being displayed on Wikipedia, some of which you may have seen:

He lived to be 100.

Barclay found steady work in Hollywood until 1945, when her career faded completely. You have seen this one:

She was in at least one other Falcon movie that I have seen but not reviewed.

This film is interesting in that it gave Hattie McDaniel top billing, along with Bennett and Barclay. Not typical for Hollywood in those days, but keep in mind she plays a handmaid and appears in only three scenes. She went on to earn an Academy Award in Gone with the Wind . Sky Racket was 18 years before Sidney Poitier broke the barrier and played a starring role in a major production.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This movie is prime for review on a number of counts, not the least of which is its poor print and sound quality. That it came out in 1936 should have no bearing, because there exist works in excellent shape from the same era. However this one suffers from an intriguing plot plagued by implausibility. It’s House of Secrets, and I’m obtaining the screen shots from Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia. Here’s a summary of the story.

Leslie Fenton is Barry Wilding, an American traveling in Europe, although the reason is never explained. Here he is on the ferry from France to England, and he has just rescued comely Julie Kenmore (Muriel Evans) from a man who was making untoward advances. Only, Barry does not know her name at the time. She refuses to tell him that or why she was in France. When Barry attempts to gain information by examining her purse, she chucks it into the Channel. Rather extreme some would think. There are more extremes to come.

Guess what. Barry has hardly checked into his London hotel when he gets a summons from a lawyer. It is never explained how the lawyer knew Barry was in London, since he only planned to  stay until he could catch a boat to America. Anyhow, the lawyer is named Coventry (Jameson Thomas), and he explains that Barry is heir to a British estate. All Barry needs to do is to sign, in blood, an agreement to never sell, and the 300-year-old place is his. They use red ink instead of blood, and the lawyer assures Barry it’s all perfectly legal.

Not so fast. Barry shows up at the estate, supposedly unoccupied since the death of his relative, only to be met by guard dogs and a distinguished gentleman in the form of a Dr. Kenmore, who also has a gun—pointed at Barry. Despite Barry’s protestations, he is ordered to depart forthwith and to never return. This is a disappointing turn of events.

And if you have guessed there is a connection between Julie Kenmore and Dr. Kenmore, you are right. The good doctor is Julie’s father. The intrigue thickens, as Julie shows up at Barry’s hotel room asking him to cease and desist. Who can refuse an offer like that? Everybody, of course.

Barry stops at a local lodging near his estate and gets the lowdown. This scene also introduces some of the rare acting talent in this movie. From IMDb I learn that Mrs. Shippam is played by Rita Carlyle, who puts in a sterling character performance.

Among the documentation that came with Barry’s inheritance is half a parchment that originally gave directions to a hidden treasure. Who has the other half?

It’s necessary to introduce Sidney Blackmer as Tom Starr, an American friend of Barry’s and also a police detective, in England to ferret out a murderer who fled American law. Tom helps out and eventually plays into the plot.

It turns out the killer Tom is looking for is Dan “Three Fingers” Wharton (Noel Madison), and Dan and his gang are looking for the treasure. They have the other half of the parchment. To cut to the chase, Wharton gets Barry’s half of the parchment, and the gang raid the estate, dragging everybody except Barry (missed him in their dragnet) down to the basement. They will force them to reveal the secret treasure. They threaten to turn on the valve on that tank and then leave everybody cooped up in a closed room filling with poison gas. In fact, that is exactly what they do.

But Barry comes to the rescue. He gets the drop on the gang and breaks into the closed room He is advised to turn on the valve attached to the other tank. It contains a gas that neutralizes the poison gas.

And that’s what the movie is all about. The government (Great Britain) has been seeking to develop the poison gas neutralizer, and seeing Barry’s estate vacant they took it over to run their experiments. Now the poison gas neutralizer is proved to be successful, and the whole business can come to an end, and Barry and sweet Julie can live happily ever after in the estate. They celebrate.

But what about the treasure? They spring up and go on a treasure hunt, quickly finding the ancient loot. Barry and Julie are going to live quite comfortably ever after. Of course, this movie was put out not knowing that a major world war was about to engulf England in barely three years, and everybody’s life was going to be disrupted in horrific fashion.

What’s wrong? A short count:

Barry meets Julie on the ferry. She tosses her purse into the water rather than reveal her identity. As though nobody on the boat knew her name already. Who gets on a cross-channel vessel without entering some kind of identification into a passenger manifest?

Barry is in London and receives a lawyer’s summons while the ink on hotel register was still wet.

Barry acquires an estate by signing his name to an agreement. Really? No title transfer and lawyer stuff?

Barry shows up and gets run off his estate. Police tell him to get lost and quit troubling these squatters. Why doesn’t Barry show his title deed to the property? Because he has none.

The British government wants to conduct secret experiments, and the only way to keep the secret is to take over somebody else’s estate. That’s going to keep the secret?

The estate has been around for 300 years, and nobody has ever found the treasure under a trap door in the basement?

My knowledge of poison gas is that it kills quickly. A few seconds inside a closed room with the gas valve on, and everybody would be Dead. With a capital D.

Yeah, a lot doesn’t make sense in this movie. It’s based on the novel of the same name by Sidney Horler. I wish I could get a Kindle edition and do a review, but it’s available only in hard cover. Others share my opinion of Horler’s plots:

Literary reviewers of the time, such Dorothy L. Sayers and Compton Mackenzie, generally gave negative opinions on Horler’s fiction. Horler’s novels have not been popular since his death. Critics have taken issue with Horler’s plots, described by William L. DeAndrea as “unbelievable” (Horler himself claimed to “give old man coincidence’s arm a frightful twist”) and characters seen as cliched. David Stafford describes Horler as “among the worst” of British thriller writers.

There’s a lot of that going around even today, much of which finds its way into movie plots.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Missed this when it came out in 1960. I must have been out at sea at the time. Good thing. It’s The Walking Target, starring Joan Evans and Ronald Foster, not exactly headliners even in those days. This was released by United Artists. I caught it on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

After a very dramatic title poster, we see convict Nick Harbin (Foster) talking tough with the prison Warden. We are informed in no uncertain terms this is the California State Prison. The warden is talking tough right back. He lauds Harbin  for being such a straight arrow for five years, but there is a remaining account he needs to settle. That’s the matter of the $260,000 he and his gang stole in an armored car robbery. Harbin says no dice and walks out.

He walks into the arms of waiting ex-girlfriend Susan (Merry Anders). She is dressed to kill and there is no doubt she has in mind the 260K. Harbin gets physical with some pesky reporters, and he and Susan head off to his bungalow in the country.

Been there. This setting seems to have been shot in those hills up coast from Malibu, where a lot of studios still shoot rural scenery. Also at the cabin is Nick’s friend Dave (Robert Christopher). Doesn’t take much figuring to know lots of people are looking to snag the stolen loot.

Nick goes looking for an old sweetheart, Gail Russo (Evans). Way back when she ditched Nick and married Nick’s friend Sam Russo. Then Nick convinced Sam to go in with him on the armored car caper, and Sam got killed. But only after Sam and Nick sealed the cash inside a welded compartment of a car, now belonging to Gail. An old geezer, living in the late Sam’s garage, tells Nick that Gail has gone back home to Gold City, Arizona.

A flash back shows Sam bluffing his pretty wife, even as he and Nick make preparations for the heist.

The flash back shows the death of a third partner, shot by an armored  car guard.

When Nick gets back to the bungalow he finds old friend Dave and old girl Susan making out. The layout falls into place for Nick.

Other gangsters are after the loot, and they’ve contracted Dave to get it for a cut. Meanwhile, Nick tracks Gail to her diner in Arizona. She still has the car, and the money is still there.

The gangsters track Nick to the diner and put the squeeze on, threatening to work Gail over.

Guess who. The police have not been idle, and two arrive shortly. Both get shot, but one is only badly wounded. Nick prevails in a row with the gangsters, and he reveals his plan to return the money.

And everybody goes home.

Not a bad plot, if fairly straight line. Acting is about par, no great demands placed on the players. Some visuals don’t ring true.

The cops see what’s going on in the diner and they enter after kicking in the door. The first is apparently killed in the exchange of gunfire, and the second is badly wounded. He finishes out the movie without showing an ounce of remorse for his dead friend.

Nick meets Gail at the diner and tells her the money is in her car. The drive out into the boondocks where Nick cuts open the sealed compartment with a cutting torch. Five years before, there was ample welding and cutting equipment at Sam’s garage, but where is Nick getting the torch to cut the compartment open?

Interesting that Gail kept the used car for five years and never junked it or traded it in.

Nick organizes an armored car heist, no guns used, but two guards are clubbed senseless. Then one of the gang gets killed by the police. Usually that would mean a murder charge for Nick. He gets only five years. Of course, it had to be a short term, because there was no way Gail was going to keep the car forever.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Ever since this came out in 2004 I’ve been wanting to see it, but I didn’t want to pay any money to see it. This week, April 2017, it turned up on Amazon Prime Video in conjunction apparently with the Easter holiday season. However, the film is not about bunny rabbits and Easter eggs, or even Easter. It’s an exotic bit of sadomasochism for adults, reflecting writer, director Mel Gibson‘s extremist views. It’s The Passion of the Christ, featuring Jim Caviezel as Jesus and Maia Morgenstern as Jesus’ mother Mary. The distributor was Newmarket Films. Details are from Wikipedia.

I’m not going to detail the plot. It’s whole cloth from the New Testament accounts by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, otherwise unknown. None of these writers were present, nor likely even alive, at the time of the events. See Bible Gateway for the text.

Those brought up in a Christian  world already know the story. Jesus was a radical Jewish rabbi during the time of the Roman occupation of the region east of the Mediterranean, particularly Jerusalem. He came crossway’s with the Jewish authority, who, according to most accounts, kowtowed to the Romans as a means of maintaining their own position. Jesus preached unorthodox philosophies and was thought by many to be the promised messiah, the god-man come to save the Jews from oppression. This did not sit well with authority, neither the Jews nor the Romans, and when Jesus crossed the line by throwing a fit and wrecking a temple, the Jews, led by King Herod, saw their chance to get rid of him.

The Jewish authority paid one of Jesus’ disciples, named Judas, to finger Jesus, so he could be arrested by the Romans. This scene shows Judas, knave that he is, down on  his knees before the authorities, grubbing to pick up the 30 pieces of silver he has spilled. Too bad for Judas. Ever since, his name has become synonymous with duplicity and betrayal. Although lots of people get named Jesus these days (my neighbor down the street), almost nobody gets named Judas. Or Hitler.

Anyhow, the movie covers the final 12 hours of Jesus’ life, starting with the night of his arrest and culminating with his death by crucifixion the following day. Justice was swift in those days. We see Jesus and his disciples reposing in an olive grove, and it is dark. No street lights in those days. Jesus confers with a spectral figure in female form and gets a hint of his fate. The movie dialog is a mixture of Aramaic, Latin, and Hebrew, languages I do not speak, so I can only follow the conversation through the subtitles. I’m guessing the specter informs Jesus he will  die and save all mankind from eternal damnation. But that’s just my interpretation.

Although the plot is  straight line with no parallel themes, there are flash backs in Jesus’ life to give perspective. Here he is in  better days, showing his mother a table he has built. He was a carpenter, according to biblical accounts.

Starting with Jesus’ arrest (Judas identifies him by kissing him on the cheek), the film is all about injustice and an escalating program of debasement, brutalization, and  torture of Jesus, ultimately resulting in his death. Famous characters from the biblical account are depicted in stereotypical rendition. Here is Roman Governor Pontius Pilate (Hristo Shopov), haughty and impervious. He attained a certain level of fame through the biblical account of his washing his hands after dealing  with the matter of Jesus. The movie shows the famous washing hands scene.

We see the Jewish hierarchy, standing so solidly with their Roman masters. The very picture of complicity. You have to dislike them.

The arresting soldiers begin by punching and kicking Jesus, putting him in shackles, then dangling him off a bridge by the shackles. The brutality is just beginning. The movie is all about this drum beat of brutal assaults. You have to wonder what kind of pleasure anybody has watching this.

Yes, Jesus must be crucified. The crucifixion to take place on a hill outside the city, and you have to wonder how come the crosses are not already set up there. History tells us the Romans used crucifixion routinely, and we don’t want to believe they constructed new crosses each time. Anyhow, it was a gruesome form of death, and it served to remind non-Roman subjects just who was in charge and what waited for anybody defying Roman rule.

However,  the movie has to follow biblical tradition, and a cross is constructed especially for him, in the city, and he has to carry it through the city gates and up the hill. Even though Jesus gets help (the Romans press an on-looker into service), it is an epic struggle, which is what this movie wants to show. Great injustice, cruel treatment to the extreme, the shameful killing of a hero of the people.

Here’s the part that a gaggle of true Christians are going to get off on. They lay the cross out on the ground and drive nails through Jesus’ hands to affix them to the cross arms. Then they drive a nail through his feet to affix them to the upright. That has got to be painful. It’s what crucifixion was all about.

Finally they stand the cross upright so Jesus can die by suffocation. The deal is, when you are hung by your hands, nailed in this case, you can’t breath, and suffocation comes eventually. Attaching the feet to the upright slows the process. According to history, the executioners would sometimes break a prisoner’s legs to hasten death. Believe it if you will, this was the humane thing to  do.

After Jesus dies great turbulence strikes the region. An earthquake destroys the temple, and a massive storm approaches. A soldier jabs Jesus in the chest with a spear to ensure he is dead, and then they all flee.

Friends and Jesus’ mother take down the cross and remove the body from it. There is a scene in the movie that exactly captures Michaelangelo‘s Pietà. A nice, if obvious, touch by Gibson. The body is placed in an ossuary in a crypt, a cave dug out of the side of a cliff. The crypt is sealed by rolling a large rock over the opening. The movie ends with the rock rolling back (presumably the following  Sunday) and Jesus walking forth.

No doubt, Gibson pulled out all stops depicting the brutality inflicted on Jesus. There is plenty of motion picture blood spurting in response to the nails being driven in. Tales of the Soviet gulags pale by comparison. The film is a reflection of Gibson’s ultra-religious views:

ibson was raised a Sedevacantist traditionalist Catholic. When asked about the Catholic doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, Gibson replied, “There is no salvation for those outside the Church … I believe it. Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly. She’s… Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.” When he was asked whether John 14:6 is an intolerant position, he said that “through the merits of Jesus’ sacrifice… even people who don’t know Jesus are able to be saved, but through him.”[162] Acquaintance Father William Fulco has said that Gibson denies neither the Pope nor Vatican II. Gibson told Diane Sawyer that he believes non-Catholics and non-Christians can go to Heaven.

Gibson’s religiosity would be difficult to detect from his earlier films. Previously reviewed are Mad Max and Mad Max, Beyond Thunderdome. Then there was the Lethal Weapon series, Payback, and Conspiracy Theory. I have watched, but not reviewed, We Were Soldiers, which features Gibson as the deeply Catholic Lieutenant Hall Moore.

What kills this movie is not only the fixation on sadism, but the plot, or lack thereof. There is no plot. If this had been a movie about a nameless woman, scooped off the street and tortured to death by some religious fanatics, the largely Christian fans would not only not watch it, but they would demand that nobody else should be allowed to watch it. The fundamentalist Christian audience gives a pass on the brutality depicted, because this is a bit of fiction ingrained in their faith, of scarce veracity at that.

No eyewitnesses to the crucifixion of Jesus wrote any of this stuff down. Accounts from biblical scholars hold that followers of Jesus scattered following the Roman crackdown, and the story was subsequently recreated from legends. The existence of an actual Jesus character is also questioned. Biblical depictions of Jesus’ birth do not square with know fact, heaping considerable doubt to the rest of the Jesus story.

Details of the movie do not jibe. Scenes of Jesus hanging on the cross by way of nails through his hands are recreated by having an actor supported from below. A real person supported as Jesus is shown would come close to dying before the camera’s lens. Perhaps more so.

Not wanting to be indelicate, but the movie shows friends of Jesus having removed his body from  the cross. They apparently pulled the nails. Not so. These were substantial nails, and a real carpenter would recognize the near impossibility of pulling them, having been driven through a four-inch timber and then bent over from the back side. The body would have been removed by cutting the hands. Realism is not a matter of concern here.

I had trouble with the language. The Romans speak Latin, and sometimes Hebrew when talking to the Jews. I don’t speak Latin, but it sounds as though the Romans are speaking Italian. They even speak with an Italian  accent. The Jews seem to switch between Aramaic and Hebrew, two of the three Semitic languages of the region, the other being Arabic. Gibson loaded the burden of  having actors speak these ancient languages on top of the more mundane production tasks. Not much is gained.

If you are a soaked in blood Christian, then this movie is for you. If you have any sense of propriety, you will  want to skip this snuff film.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This is number 166 of the series, so by now readers are ready. You have been sure all the while that sooner or later this one was going to pop up, and here it is at last. It’s Sharknado, from 2013 out of Syfy Films.

I have to admit, I gave a lot of thought to searching this out. Nah, I thought. This is never going to show up on Amazon. I thought several times about checking, but each time it slipped my mind by the time I got around to firing up the computer. Today I was doing absolutely nothing (retired) and said to  myself, “Go right now to the computer and check whether Sharknado is on Amazon.” It’s there (as of 13 April), so I spun it up on the big screen, made some hot chocolate, and sat through it—about 87 minutes. Here it is. Wikipedia has the cast list:

  • Ian Ziering as Finley “Fin” Shepard, an ex-surfer who owns a bar.
  • Tara Reid as April Wexler, Fin’s ex-wife.
  • John Heard as George, a drunk man who spends all his time at Fin’s bar.
  • Cassie Scerbo as Nova Clarke, a bartender who works for Fin.
  • Jaason Simmons as Baz, Fin’s right-hand man.
  • Aubrey Peeples as Claudia Shepard, April and Fin’s daughter who feels left out.
  • Chuck Hittinger as Matt Shepard, Fin and April’s son in flight school.
  • Christopher Wolfe as Collin, April’s boyfriend.
  • Robbie Rist as Robbie, a bus driver.
  • Alex Arleo as Bobby, one of Matt’s friends in flight school.
  • Connor Weil as Luellyn, one of Matt’s friends in flight school.
  • Julie McCullough as Jonni Waves, a news reporter.
  • Adrian Bustamante as Kelso, a lifeguard.

With all that what you get is a spoof of all disaster movies. It’s junkyard Jaws and predictable to watch. What is not predictable is the opening sequence, a seamy drama that plays out in an empty theater.

A fishing boat is dodging a giant storm (hurricane) in the Pacific off the coast of Mexico. They are catching sharks, cutting off their fins, dumping the carcasses back. The aim is shark fin soup,  a delicacy in Asia. We see an Asian man negotiating money for the day’s catch. The captain and the buyer are miles apart on terms. The storm hits, guns come out. Topside, planning to keep the money, the buyer is eaten by a shark that blows aboard. Then the captain and presumably the remainder of the crew. The sharks exacting some revenge? Nobody knows, because nobody survives to tell this part of the story.

The hurricane moves north to California, and the scene shifts to Santa Monica Beach. Yeah, I can tell it’s meant to look like Santa Monica Beach, pier and all, but something tells me they shot this elsewhere and filled in with some views of Santa Monica Pier. Here is one shot that does remind me of Santa Monica Beach, at least Venice Beach. This one is for you, Steve.

Then the storm strikes. But first the storm drives sharks to the Beach, and the sharks start eating people. A comely lass on a surfboard makes a quick snack for a large shark. Fin decides it is getting too dangerous, and he closes his bar, ordering everybody out and to higher ground. Do they promptly get up and leave? No, not until sharks start flying through the front window. Fleeing down the pier Nova, who has had a previous, life changing encounter with sharks, blows one of the critters away with her weapon of choice.

The iconic wheel breaks loose, rolls down the pier, and crashes into a building.

A shark eats George, and the survivors, including Fin, Nova, and Baz make it to April’s (Fin’s ex wife) house in Beverly Hills. There they encounter Fin’s daughter Claudia and April’s boyfriend, Collin, an absolute jerk. You know he’s going to shortly get eaten by a shark, and you are not disappointed. He never makes it out of the house.

Fin’s son, Matt, is at Van Nuys Airport, and the survivors, including Nova, April, Claudia, and Baz head that way. They stop along the way so Fin can rescue some kids from a stalled school bus.

At the airport, Matt devises a plan to snuff the tornadoes that are tossing sharks all about. He will fly a helicopter into  the funnels and throw out home made bombs to deflate them. Nova goes along to toss the bombs,  but a flying shark snares the helicopter and consumes Nova whole.

The tornadoes are successfully quenched, but sharks are falling all over. One eats Baz. Fin faces off the last remaining, chain saw at the ready. The shark swallows him whole. But then we see Fin cutting  his way out of the shark’s belly with the chain saw. He reaches back in and drags out Nova, barely alive.

And that’s enough heroics for the day.

Special effects are overboard, but the plot is the definition of thunder struck. Fortunately, this was conceived as a comedy spoof, so everything is in its proper place. You want reality, go see Apollo 13.

I’ve been to Santa Monica Pier a few times, and I do recall the bikini bottoms, so that part is authentic. However, there is no building at the end of the pier for the giant wheel to roll into. That part is a small bit of fabrication.

Also, no home made bomb is going to stall a raging tornado. Compare an elephant and a mosquito in terms of energy dissipation, and you get the idea.

This production introduced a lively franchise, but this is the only one I’m going to waste my time on. Catch it on Amazon Prime Video or on Hulu.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

It’s getting harder to select a Bad Movie of the Week these days. I’m making a point of setting aside my considerable collection of bad movies on DVD and going after those on my Amazon and Hulu subscriptions. These services rotate their stock, and what’s available this month is liable to be gone the next. This one is bad, and it’s from 1946, about the time movies were getting on their feet after the big war. It’s The Inner Circle, and I was surprised to find a Wikipedia entry, where I’m getting details. Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video. Republic Pictures produced and distributed this.

I don’t recognize any of the players, and I’m guessing none of my readers do, either. Anybody who knows these people, feel free to clue me in.

The opening shot is a Yellow Pages ad for Action Incorporated, a detective agency run by Johnny Strange (Warren Douglas). The phone book closes and slides out of view to reveal a revolver on the floor. The camera pans to disclose a dead body. This is going to be a murder mystery.

Next we see Johnny Strange on the phone to the newspaper classified section. He’s placing an ad for a secretary. These are the old days, before sexual equality. He specifies the secretary must be a woman (of course), 22 to 28, blond, good looking, skin soft to the touch, and a heart that can’t be touched. Is this Johnny Strange or Mike Hammer?

Before Johnny can complete the transaction a female fitting the description saunters in, snatches the phone from his hands, cancels the ad order, and announces herself as the new secretary. It’s apparent she fits the bill. She is Gerry Smith (Adele Mara). She takes charge right away, and this is critical.

  • She observes Johnny is paying for periodic cleaning of the office and is not getting it.
  • She picks up the phone to call the building manager, getting the number from Johnny.
  • Meanwhile Johnny’s other phone rings, and she finishes her call with building manager and takes the other call.
  • She speaks to the caller, apparently a client. She tells Johnny the details. Meet the woman in front of the jewelry store at 7:30 p.m. for further instructions. No other details available.

Note the image above. Johnny has two phone numbers. That is critical.

Johnny picks up the mysterious woman, wearing black and a black veil and speaking with a heavy Mexican accent. She takes him to an office where her husband has been killed. It’s the body from the opening scene. Things are tying together. She attempts to bribe Johnny into helping her dispose of the body, bidding the price up to $5000. She does not pay off. While Johnny is attempting to phone the police she conks him on the head with a bookend, places the pistol in his hand, and phones the police. Then she leaves and takes off her disguise, revealing herself to be Gerry Smith.

When Johnny comes to he’s holding the murder weapon, and the police are arriving. They are Detective Lieutenant Webb (William Frawley) and Police Officer Cummings (Robert J. Wilke). It appears that Johnny is going to be left holding the bag. Except that the gardener, Henry Boggs (Will Wright), has seen all the goings on through the window. But he doesn’t save the day for Johnny. Johnny’s secretary, Gerry, does. She arrives and lies to the police, giving a false statement about following Johnny and observing what went on through the window.

Meanwhile the housekeeper, Emma Wilson (Dorothy Adams), has also arrived, to further confuse matters.

Based on Gerry’s statement, Johnny is not indicted for the murder, and he and Gerry go on a quest for the killer. Johnny stops by the Penguin Club to talk to Rhoda Roberts (Virginia Christine), whose singing has been observed on a 78 platter Johnny retrieved from a wastebasket at the murder scene. Before this can conclude, in comes “Duke” York, criminal heavyweight and owner of the Penguin Club. After some conversation, “Duke” and two henchmen take Johnny for a ride in their car out to a place where the water is deep.

Without getting into details, Gerry and Lieutenant Webb come to the rescue.

Again, omitting more detail, we observe that Gerry Smith is Geraldine Travis, sister of Anne Travis Lowe (Martha Montgomery), who was previously riding in the car with a bank robber during a police chase and was more recently being blackmailed by the murdered guy. It’s all been an elaborate scheme by Gerry/Geraldine to protect her sister, who has turned out to be innocent of the killing.

Johnny also reveals how he caught onto Gerry’s subterfuge back at the office. When Gerry announced she was phoning the building manager,  she actually phoned Johnny’s other number. Then she pretended to take that call, talking to nobody, while Johnny looked on, confused. Johnny has become wise to the ruse when he phoned the building manager and got a message that the number has been changed, and here is the new number. This did not happen when Gerry placed her “call to the building manager.”

Lieutenant Webb has been secretly recording all of this on a 78 platter, and he hauls everybody in. But Johnny has a better idea.

He convenes all suspects (finger pointing at Geraldine) in the murder room and stages a radio broadcast, at which all parties will recount their parts, and the audience will finally be clear regarding the real killer.

Surprise, the killer turns out not to be Geraldine, and at the conclusion they embrace with closer encounters forecast.

It’s an interesting, but unbelievable, plot, and the performances are summer stock. How likely is it that Geraldine charges into Johnny’s office right at the moment he is phoning in his ad for a secretary, one who exactly fits the description of Gerry Smith? Yeah, I don’t believe it, either.

Would you believe it? The best performance is turned in by Dorothy Adams as Emma Wilson. She absolutely nails her small part. Here is a list of her notable movie roles:

The latter came out the same year as The Inner Circle, not mentioned in the above list for some reason, that reason being the same as the reason this is appearing in this week’s Bad Movie of the Week.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This is not the book. In Stephen King’s Children of the Corn , a short story, Burt Stanton and Vicky Baxter are driving cross-country between corn fields through Nebraska when the car runs over a child in the road. The movie, contrary to custom, provides additional background and depth. This came out in 1984 from Angeles Entertainment Group, among others. Peter Horton is Burt. Linda Hamilton is Vicky. It was recently available on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening scenes in the movie show a peaceful Sunday morning in Gatlin, Nebraska, some time previous. The townspeople leave morning church and many head for the local diner. It is then the evil Isaac Chroner (John Franklin), outside on the sidewalk, gives a signal through the window. The children in the diner begin to massacre the adults. Some are poisoned with coffee, others are cut down by sharp weapons. We later learn Isaac is the leader of a religious cult based on corn, hence the title.

Back to the present, a young boy attempts to leave the cult. With his suitcase he makes his dash toward freedom among the rows of corn. But he is waylaid by Malachai Boardman (Courtney Gains) and stabbed with a kitchen knife. He makes it to the road. That is when Burt hits him with the car.

Seeking help, Burt and Vicky stop at Diehl’s (R. G. Armstrong) shop. Diehl advises Burt and Vicky to go on to the next town, and he is subsequently killed by Malachai. Burt and Vicky attempt to make it to the next town, but their car ends up on a dirt path between rows of corn.

Going back to Gatlin, Burt and Vicky encounter Sarah (Anne Marie McEvoy). She and her brother Job (Robby Kiger) are not part of the cult. They can only give clues as to what is going on and what will happen. The town is apparently abandoned, all adults having previously been killed by the children, and cult member roam the town, stalking Burt and Vicky.

Vicky gets taken by the cult and posted on a cross among the corn as a sacrifice. A conflict ensues within the cult, and Malachai usurps Isaac, posting him on the cross in place of Vicky.

Burt works with Job and Sarah as the cult members attempt to trap Burt, using Vicky as bait.

The movie culminates in a showdown among the corn, as an evil entity moves beneath the fertile ground, carrying doom to all it encounters. Burt and Job defeat the evil and the cult by setting the corn ablaze.

Horton and Hamilton are the front-line players in the production, both turning in lackluster performances. Hamilton is mainly good looking throughout. She turned in a significantly better performance as Sarah Conner in The Terminator the same year. The plot has a lot to ask for, as well.

Gatlin, Nebraska—the children kill all adults in the town except Diehl. And nobody notices. Storms of state cops are not all over the place wanting to know what went on. Fortunately this was before cell phones became prolific. Else, Burt would have merely dialed 911 when he found the murdered kid on the road, and that would have been the end of the story.

Viewers of my ilk will experience long stretches of frustration as Burt and Vicky become needless mired in the children’s plot. Viewers obviously know what is going on in the background, but any reasonable person would have dumped all that naiveté after a couple of minutes. Makes the thing agonizing  to watch.

While there is a smidgen of reality with the children cooking up a religious cult and committing murder, the thing beneath the ground in the corn field is pure fantasy. All of Stephen King’s stories seem to have a load of supernatural, but this is a corn crib too much—not essential to the plot and becoming manifest only in the final minutes. In the book the hidden force plays a pivotal role.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This has to be the worst Steve McQueen movie ever, maybe after The Blob, which was his first starring role. This came out in 1959, probably a good reason I missed it until it came up on Amazon Prime Video. It’s The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery from Charles Guggenheim & Associates and distributed by United Artists. Details are from Wikipedia and IMDb.

If you think the title gives the plot away, your’re right. It’s about an actual bank robbery that occurred in St. Louis, Missouri six years earlier. In fact, opening credits announce, “This story is based on a true incident. Men in the St. Louis Police Department play the same parts they did in the actual crime.” The Southwest Bank in the movie appears to be the same bank involved in the original crime.

Opening scenes show three cars trailing in-line across the bridge from Illinois. Nothing like three cars moving in  concert to arouse suspicion, but none is aroused. The three park across from the bank and scope it out.

Later they gangsters drive to a park to discuss the plan. McQueen is George Fowler, scheduled to be the designated driver. He has no criminal record, but he does need the cash. The others are Crahan Denton as John Egan, the boss; David Clarke as Gino; James Dukas as Willie, a gangster upshot who vies to be the driver; and Larry Gerst as Eddie.

Here’s a problem. These hot shot gangsters are mostly broke, further evidence crime does not pay. Egan has some money, and he can bankroll his friend Willie. But George is down to his last two dollars, and Gino, a friend of George’s, is running on fumes. Somehow George and Gino are going to need to get some cash. Gino has an idea. George is an ex-boyfriend of Gino’s sister Ann (Mollie McCarthy). Gino coerces George into hitting Ann up for a loan. George can’t let on that Gino put him up to it.

George gets the money muffs the con. Ann figures it’s Gino who wants the money, and George tells her Gino is in Chicago and needs money for airfare to St. Louis. He will pay her back. That backfires when Ann spots Gino coming out of a diner, where he has been conferring with George. Ann is bound to crack the operation wide open.

Egan gets wise that the plan has been compromised. He figures to silence Ann, but he cant’ let on to George and Gino. He pretends he’s going to take Ann to the airport to  get her out of town, but he pushes her down a fire escape to her death, instead.

Yeah, the carefully-timed heist quickly goes sour. Two cops are at a donut shop nearby when the bank alarm comes in. One cop is wounded in an initial exchange. As Egan attempts to skedaddle with a hostage a cop puts one in  him.

Gino, figuring to never go back to the slammer, retreats to the bank basement and puts the muzzle of his pistol into his mouth. In the meantime, Willie, who has wormed his way into the job of designated driver, scoots in the getaway car. George makes a go of taking a hostage, but he does not have the ruthless instincts of his cohorts. He gets shot and hauled off by the cops.

Acting is barely par for this production. McQueen is his laconic self, And McCarthy just gets by. This was shot a few months before McQueen started appearing on our TV screens in Wanted, Dead or Alive, which shot him to the big time.

Examining the actual history of the robbery reveals correlation in some details. History does not mention Ann, sister of one of the robbers. The shooting of the robber by a policeman is real, and the actor playing the cop in  the screen shot above is Officer Melburn Stein, who died last year. From IMDb:

Policeman Mel Stein, a hero for shooting a bank robber and saving a woman hostage, only just died in 2016 at the age of 102. He retired to St. Louis County near Creve Coeur where he took long walks each morning and enjoyed martinis reminiscing with their neighbors including of his WWII experiences in the Pacific as a Marine, which contributed to his ability to remain cool under fire the day of the bank robbery.

Something about the movie that did not seem true to life was the number of shots fired by the police and the manner of the shooting. With Gino dead in the basement, Egan fatally wounded and carted away, and with Willie absconded with the getaway car, George is flat out of luck on the bank lobby floor. And the cops continue to pour lead through the bank windows. Did cops ever do this? No return fire. Bank crowded with civilians, and no target visible, the cops are shooting up the place. Reports from the actual even have it the police fired 40 rounds in  the one-sided exchange.

News reporters of the day were quick to respond, and Jack January, of the Post-Dispatch caught the following of the action:

The getaway driver was captured three days later, and the two surviving robbers received long prison sentences. IMDb notes “The movie American Heist (2014) is based on The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery.”

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I caught this on Hulu—Transporter 3. That’s a curious title. I gave it a look. For sure. Bad Movie of the Week.

It’s the third installment of the Transporter series. It stars Jason Statham as Frank Martin the guy who will transport anything anywhere, no questions asked. This came out in 2008 from EuropaCorpTF1 Films Production, and others. Details are from Wikipedia. It doesn’t take long to figure this is all about gimmicks and no plot. I’m going to hit the FX high points and summarize.

It  starts out ominously enough. A container ship plows the Mediterranean, while down below two of the crew decide to  get personal with what they suppose to be some valuable cargo. The cargo turns out to be deadly, and they are the first to exit the plot. Their bodies are dumped overboard in bags.

Next we see a black Audi arriving at a ferry port. There is a driver and a passed out passenger, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) in the front seat. The driver seems nervous. The passenger seems sexy. When the customs people get curious and demand both exit the car and come up to the office, the driver bolts. Police pursue. We eventually learn why. Neither the driver nor the passenger may step away from the car without attached bombs exploding.

The Audi plows into Martin’s living room. The driver is working for Martin. When an ambulance takes the driver away his bomb explodes. The people behind the plot introduce themselves and force Martin to take the job. He introduces himself to Valentina.

Frank stops by the shop of a friend, who figures out what the mechanism of the bomb is, but he can’t deactivate the system. The bad guys show up, and Martin lays some serious kick ass on them before continuing his mission.

It’s a chase. If either Frank or Valentina separate from the car the bomb attached to their wrist will go off. The chase gets serious, and there is some spectacular FX, including the usual with some bad guys flying off a cliff and their car exploding in a massive fire ball.

Frank is supremely frustrated. He figures out the “package” he is supposed to deliver is Valentina, daughter of a powerful trade commissioner. If the father does not sign off on unfettered delivery of the previously mentioned ship’s cargo (plus more), then the daughter will be killed. While Frank vents, Valentina gets horny. Frank has to put out to keep Valentina from canceling the game then and there.

Spectacular FX. Hemmed in on a bridge, with Valentina safely delivered to the bad guys and her bomb deactivated, Frank escapes by plunging  the Audi off the bridge and into the lake. The car is sprayed with machine gun fire and sinks to the bottom, but Frank succeeds in floating it to the top, and the police assist in getting it running again.

Frank must catch up with Valentina, being taken away aboard a train, but without leaving  the Audi. He jumps the car from a railroad overpass and onto the top of the speeding  train. Whoopee!

That’s not the end of it. After separating cars from the train, Frank jumps the Audi into the back of the remaining car with Valentina in it. With the Audi lodged inside the speeding railway car, Frank defeats the bad guys and rescues Valentina, who is  going to  be grateful in the best way possible.

And that’s all there  is to the movie. 94 minutes of running excitement and not much else. Absolutely unbelievable. Really a BMotW.

The movie has some serious continuity issues. The Audi has taken a nasty ride, sprayed with gunfire, jumped into a lake (crashing through the bridge railing), rescued from the lake, crashed on top of a moving train. And it still looks showroom fresh. It’s an amazing car. Too amazing. Give your credulity a break. And I’m not reviewing any more of these Transporter movies.