Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I have had feedback from readers. Charlie Chan movies are not Bad Movie of the Week. I admit I was a great fan of Charlie Chan movies, although I never saw one on the big screen. They came and went before my time. Today I am a pretend movie critic, so I have to judge these on their technical and artistic merits. Hence, this week’s Bad Movie of the Week.

It’s Charlie Chan in the Secret Service, starring Sidney Toler in the title role, as most often. Toler, a boy from Missouri, played the Chinese detective from the death of Warner Oland in 1938 through the remaining 11 releases. My guess is there was a scarcity of Chinese in California, forcing studios to dip into the pool of European stock. This production does feature two actors of Chinese ancestry: Marianne Quon as Iris Chan and Benson Fong as Tommy Chan, two  of Detective Chan’s grown children. By the time this was made Twentieth Century Fox had dropped this and other low-budget work, due partly to a paucity of available talent during the war years. Toler picked up the rights and continued the series with Monogram Pictures, culminating in 1944. He died in 1947. Readers of these reviews will recognize Monogram as the king of low-budget films during the time.

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Police Detective Chan was typically with a metropolitan police force, but for the war effort he now joins the Secret Service. Opening scenes show two Secret Service agents, Inspector Jones (Arthur Loft) and Inspector Lewis (Eddy Chandler), doing personal security for George Melton (John Elliott), inventor of an advanced torpedo. Does anybody  beside me notice two grown men wearing hats inside a building?

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Melton excuses himself and tells the Secret Service to mind their own business while he attends a gala for some acquaintances downstairs. Within seconds Melton is dead. The Secret Service arrives, stunned, as the guests look on.

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Charlie Chan is called in. He must take over the case.

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Shortly, a copy of the secret plans for the torpedo are discovered. Melton had the only copy in his pocket when he left to greet his guests. Now detectives have found it stuck inside a book on a shelf in the room where Melton died. It’s an obvious hoax. Even movie goers in 1944 would realize you cannot represent a serious torpedo design in such a lame fashion.

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Chan’s two children show up, uninvited. They want to help with the investigation. Already present is a character named Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland). Brown is a recurring presence in Charlie Chan movies, previously in the role as an employee of Chan’s. Here he is a limo driver who happened to be present and got caught in the crime scene clamp down. He and the two Chan children are injected into the plot for comic relief.

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After that it’s an Agatha Christie plot. One more person gets killed, it’s one of the spies. What remains is for Chan to gather all suspects (all the guests) into one room and play out a charade before revealing the remaining culprit, also the one who killed the other spy.

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Not a lot of dramatic staging was wasted on this production. Charlie Chan leaves the Secret Service office in Washington D.C., gets in the cab, goes to the Melton mansion, gets out of the cab, and walks inside. The movie shows him walking out of the office, getting into the cab, getting out of the cab, and walking up to the front door of the Melton mansion. I could have done that.

There’s an outside shot of the Secret Service offices. In front flies the California state flag. Little effort was wasted on continuity, either.

Chan’s two children are his number three son and his number two daughter. My knowledge of Chinese culture is hazy, but I recall that the sons of your wife are your number one sons. Your number two sons are your nephews. Similarly with daughters.

This print is in excellent shape. See it if you can. I caught it on Amazon Prime Video, but you can also catch it free on YouTube:

 

 

 

 

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Remember, I watch these so that you don’t have to.

This came out in 1944, back when we lived in a town that didn’t have a movie theater. No TV, either. The title is Rogues Gallery, and that’s interesting on two points:

  • There was a drama show on radio (remember, no TV) when I was a kid, and the title was Rogue’s Gallery. It featured this detective or some such person, and his name was Richard Rogue. Hence the title. It came after this movie, so we wonder where they got the idea for the movie.
  • This movie has nothing anywhere near anything like a gallery full of rogues. We wonder where they got the title.

The opening credits show this was a production of PRC Pictures, Inc. Images are screen shots from the movie on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

What this film is really about is the adventures, over a few short hours, of a wacky girl reporter and her photographer sidekick. They are Patsy Clark (Robin Raymond) and Eddie Porter (Frank Jenks), although Jenks gets top billing, because he’s a guy, you know. Their boss is City Editor Gentry (Edward Keane). The two headline hunters are sent off to get the scoop on a new invention.

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People get killed in this movie, but it’s still played as comedy. Recall Greek comedy. The pair fail in their attempt to brush past the security at the Emerson Foundation Laboratory. The inventor, Professor Reynolds (H.B. Warner), refuses to see them. He is busy working on his invention. After they leave the professor is attacked in his lab, and the police are called. The plans for the invention have been stolen. Patsy and Eddie notice all the police traffic on the road heading back to the Emerson Foundation, and they follow the action.

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Lurking about inside the building, looking for a story, Eddie encounters the thief, dashing about the corridors of the darkened building. The stolen plans go flying, and Patsy recovers them.

Do they return the stolen plans? No way. This is a great story. They head off in their car to have the plans analyzed by an engineer friend. Before they get there the culprit, identity still undisclosed, curbs their car and demands the plans. Instead, Eddie points his camera out the car window and fires the flash into the assailant’s face. They make their getaway.

Patsy’s engineer friend, Joe Seawell (Norval Mitchell), doesn’t know how the invention works, but he can  tell it has something to do with eavesdropping from a distance. That is intriguing.

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Patsy and Eddie now take the stolen plans back to the Emerson Foundation where they leverage their possession for a news scoop. Patsy gets the story and phones it in. Eddie starts to take a photo.

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Just then the lights go out, and there is a gunshot. When the lights come back on Eddie is beneath an  overturned couch, with the plans. Outside, on  the terrace lies the body of Eddie Griffith (Earle S. Dewey). Patsy insists they phone Police Lieutenant Daniel O’Day (Robert Homans). When he arrives, the body is gone. It turns up in the the back passenger compartment of Eddie Porter’s car. When Patsy and Eddie drive the body to police headquarters to show Lieutenant O’Day, the body turns up missing again. It later turns up in O’Day’s car. (???)

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Patsy figures one of the principles of the Emerson Foundation is the culprit, and she is able to identify him through the use of a recording made by Professor Reynolds’ invention. By then professor is already dead, murdered.

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It turns out Eddie Porter has had a photo of the culprit all along. When he flashed their assailant through the car window he obtained a perfect image of the killer. Patsy and Eddie don’t get fired from the paper after all.

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Yes, the plot is the definition of lame. They go to the lab, they leave the lab, the inventor is koshed, they return to the lab, the culprit is chased through the building. the plans go flying, Patsy grabs them, they head off to the engineer’s place, they get waylaid, the culprit doesn’t get the plans, the lights go out at the Foundation, there is a shot, Eddie keeps possession of the plans, Griffith is found dead, his body disappears and is subsequently found in Patsy’s car then disappears to be found later in O’Day’s car, Patsy figures out who did it.

Acting is flat. Direction is stilted. This was 1944. There was a war going on. James Stewart and Clark Gable were flying combat over Europe. Talent was hard to come by.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Again, thank you, Amazon Prime Video. I can’t find these anywhere else. This is The Mystery Man from back in 1935, before I was born. And a remarkably clear print this is. It’s from Monogram Pictures, though the opening video shows the MGM lion, in color. Monogram is noted for a slew of low-budget productions during its time, and I have reviewed a slew or two.

I’m guessing “the mystery man” is a criminal  chap known as “The Eel” (LeRoy Mason), which fact I had to figure out on my own. But he comes in later. Opening shots show a high-profile meeting of staff in a Chicago newspaper. Ace reporter Larry Doyle (Robert Armstrong) is receiving an award. His reporting is credited with bringing down a notorious crime figure. Managing Editor Marvin (James Burke) is hosting the confab, and Doyle is presented a .45 caliber police revolver as a prize. The weapon plays critically in the plot, but only after a lengthly string of shenanigans, to be described.

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Doyle is a smart ass, and he mouths off to his boss and gets fired. He and his buddies go on a drinking binge, and when he finally comes around he is on a train pulling into Saint Louis. And just about broke. Broke also is sweet Anne Ogilvie (Maxine Doyle). They meet in a diner.

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Doyle figures that since they are both in the same financial stranglehold, they should team up and con their way into some creature comforts while Doyle waits for funds to be sent from Chicago. They check into an up-scale hotel as man and wife. This could get interesting.

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Funds are slow in arriving, and Doyle needs to pawn the pistol. The pawn broker is in cahoots with The Eel, and the gun enters a life of crime.

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Coincidence, coincidence, Doyle meets up with the prize pistole an hour or so later. He and his squeeze treat themselves to a night out at a place called The Trocadéro. They don’t think highly of the joint and soon leave. But as they are leaving Doyle spots what turns out to be a robbery getaway car. As the dynamic duo watch from hiding, a policeman arrives and engages in a gun battle with the driver. Both are killed. Then The Eel exits, bag of cash in hand. He ambushes the security guy who comes looking for him. In the mean time, Doyle has secreted himself in the getaway car, and The Eel hands him the money by mistake before hightailing it out on foot.

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Doyle figures he has the case wrapped up. He has The Eel’s money, and he knows where The Eel tossed the pistol. For reasons baffling to me, Doyle and Anne take the money back to their hotel room while Doyle works to parlay his position into a lucrative news story.

The tables are turned when it is revealed the gun that killed the security guy is the one presented to Doyle the previous day in Chicago and pawned just prior to the murder. The pawn broker fibs to the police, telling them he was shown the gun but never accepted it. He points his finger at Doyle.

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The police give Doyle an opportunity to unravel the crime story, and Doyle and Anne go back to the pawn shop, where Doyle confronts the broker and punches him out.

About that time The Eel comes, looking for his money, which was supposed to have been delivered to the pawn shop by the driver, now dead. When The Eel spots Doyle posing as the pawn broker, he corners him in the back room and offers him his life in exchange for the money.

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But Anne has been hiding in a closet and she lets fly a shot that takes down the notorious Eel. And that’s how Larry and Anne wind up getting married.

Acting is top tier, and so is direction and cinematography. The plot is a can of  worms. It starts in Chicago and works its way by means of a miracle not fully explained to Saint Louis. Then there is the lengthy saga of Larry and Anne getting to know each other and conniving to keep afloat until backup funds arrive. Finally, well past the half way point, the gun begins to play in the plot, and there is the crime and the resolution in the last few minutes. An award for drama does not await.

And that’s what gets this one the Bad Movie of the Week.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

It turns out Amazon Prime Video has a trove of these treasures. They’re cheap-as-dirt crime stories that may or may not have kept people’s minds off the looming war. This is Double Cross, from  1941, out of Producers Releasing Corporation. It’s the first I’ve heard of this group, but there may be more from them in the pipeline. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

Here is the Silver Slipper, and you can guess what kind of joint it is. You will be shocked, shocked! to learn that gambling is going on here. Pretty Ellen Bronson (Pauline Moore) works as the house photographer, walking around, looking good, and taking pictures of customers who want them. Some do, and some don’t.

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Meanwhile, in the back room, Ellen’s brother Steve Bronson (Richard Beach) is schmoozing with Fay Saunders (Wynne Gibson), part owner of the establishment. This is not good. Steve is a motorcycle cop, and he shouldn’t be in such a place. That soon becomes apparent.

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Police raid the joint, causing a considerable ruckus. Steve flings open the door, revealing police tussling with club co-owner Nick Taggart (John Miljan), head gangster in town, and also Fay’s main squeeze. Fay reacts appropriately, or not, by un-holstering Steve’s service revolver and letting fly, killing a cop. The cops return in kind, mortally wounding Steve. Fay lets slip it was Steve who did the shooting. Poor girl.

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Steve’s best friend is Jim Murray (Kane Richmond), also a motorcycle cop, and Ellen’s main squeeze. Jim tries to pry details of the shooting out of Steve before he dies, but Steve regrets there is not enough time left to tell the story. Jim comforts Ellen, who must now find a new job, since the Silver Slipper is being shuttered by the authorities (gambling).

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Ha! We should have guessed. The mayor (William Halligan) is in Taggart’s pocket. Here the mayor is telling Taggart to never come to the office again, but to wait for a signal so they can meet. High class.

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Jim’s father is Police Captain Murray (Robert Homans). The captain gets tough, some would even say physical, with Taggart, threating to run him out of town. Taggart responds by putting out a hit on the captain. Bullets fly, coming through the window behind Captain Murray’s window, killing another cop, in the office to  drop off some papers.

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Jim pretends to go rogue to get in with Taggart. Ellen resumes her job when the Silver  Slipper reopens. Ellen hears voices inside Taggart’s office and determines the mayor has come in the back way and is picking up a payoff from Taggart. Jim gives Ellen a boost up, and she captures the scene with her trusty flash camera.

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Ellen is found out. The crooks want the photo. Jim spirits the film out and to a shop to be printed. This was before Canon 5D digital SLR cameras. Fay becomes distraught that things are falling apart. There is name calling. Fay harangues Taggart viciously. Not the person you want to harangue viciously, he has a knife. That’s the end of Fay.

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Taggart has Ellen and Jim as prisoners. He devises a scheme to ambush Captain Murray, using Jim as bait. In the back of the Dollar Moving and Storage van Taggart and two gunnies proceed to the place they expect Captain Murray to be waiting. But Jim has pulled a fast one. He has pulled the police radio from his motorcycle and installed it in the truck. He is driving, and he cold-cocks the henchman guarding him. He radios the cops, and they ride up en masse. The gunfight is not even close. The police ventilate the back of the van and waste the mug who had been guarding Jim. The remaining thug, Miggs (Heinie Conklin), goes soft and releases Ellen without harm.

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And that’s the end of the movie.

The plot is lame, without much appeal to plausibility. Performances by the players would plank over somebody’s footbridge, they are that  stiff. This print is poor quality, but it likely sparkled when first minted. A lot of cinematic history has been lost due to indifferent storage. Computer  digitization is currently archiving what remains, but had it been available 70 years ago, this would have been among the last in the queue to be scanned.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Again, much thanks to Amazon Prime Video for this one. It came out in 1947, when I was in the first grade. Saw it the first time in December. It was distributed by Screen Guild Productions. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s bad in a number of ways, but mainly for a planked over plot.

This starts with a police car chase at night, ending in a crash. Los Angeles, likely. The car goes off the road and into one of those steep canyons the place is famous for. Killed are gangster “Dixie” Logan (Robert Kent) and newly-minted District Attorney Lawrence Dale (Edmund MacDonald). The sole survivor is Dale’s supposed wife Marian (Luana Walters). Ace police reporter George “Mitch” Mitchell (Russell Wade) visits Marian in the hospital to get the full story.

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Marian recounts how it all started. She and Mitch first met at Wade’s office when she came there to apply for a secretary job. She gets hired and starts a romance with her new boss.

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Meanwhile Mitch romances the future Mrs. Dale, and this scene at an upscale restaurant is the only cultural interlude in the entire movie. Gene Rodgers plays a lively jazz piece. I believe we called it boogie-woogie in those days.

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Marian recounts how she came to watch Logan’s criminal racketeering trial and also to observe prosecutor Wade in action. He parades witness after witness to put Logan away for decades. Logan is defiant and vows revenge.

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Still in flashback, the janitor (Vince Barnett) who cleans Wade’s office is seen messing with a hidden recording device. About that time two hit men working for a local gangster identify him as a member of Logan’s gang and whisk him down the hall to dump him into an elevator shaft.

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The local gangsters want Wade to fire Marian, because they suspect she is involved in the spying. Wade is in cahoots with the gangsters. Instead, Wade marries Marian in a rushed ceremony. Leaving the wedding at the JP’s office, Marian escapes a pistol shot from a car that speeds away.

Back at Wade’s domicile, the newlyweds have a confrontation. Marian reveals that for her this is a marriage of convenience. She knows about Wade’s criminal involvement, and she intends to get Wade promoted to district attorney. He goes along with the plan. No wedding night bliss for him.

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Logan escapes. He confronts two witnesses from his trial, back in town to claim the remainder of the money promised by the local gangsters for testifying falsely against him. He coerces confessions from  the two, pays them, and sends them on their way, to be gunned down on the street as they leave. The killers are from the local gang. Mitch has been observing all of this and attempts to snag copies of the confessions, but he loses a tussle with Logan, and Logan gets away with the two documents.

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Anyhow, there is a big brouhaha involving Wade, Marian, and Logan. Everything comes to a head. Marian is in reality Logan’s legal wife, having set out to prove his innocence. Too late for Logan and Wade. She has mailed incriminating documents to the now district attorney, and the police are coming. The police chase ensues, and we are back to where the story picked up in the beginning.

All the crooks are either dead now or else incriminated, and Mitch makes moves on Marian.

Yes, this plot is too plastic to be real. Crooks are scheming with shady politicians to “take over the city,” whatever that means. There was a corral full of these idealistic story lines in the late 40s, and this is one of the lesser believable. Contemplate this segment of the plot:

Marian convinces Wade he should cut his three partners in crime out by playing them off against each other. Cut to three scenes in sequence with Wade telling each in turn something like, “I plan to get rid of the other two so we can have the city all to ourselves.” Pure corn.

This production chews up 64 minutes of celluloid, according to Wikipedia. No bathroom break needed.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Darn it! I missed this one. About the time it came out in June 1959 I was into my first days of Navy Reserve boot training. Hulu to the rescue again. This is The Killer Shrews, and from the title you know this is going to be bad. Remember, I watch these so you don’t have to. This is a product of McLendon-Radio Pictures Distributing Company. Details are from Wikipedia.

You know this is going to be about some giant shrews run amuck. Think for a moment. Shrews are the most vicious mammals on this planet, but fortunately they are small. Are you thinking this will involve some monster shrews? You guessed right. Here’s how it goes.

Two men piloting a supply boat approach a small island. They are Captain Thorne Sherman (James Best) and First Mate Rook Griswold (“Judge” Henry Dupree).

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Strange things are about on the island. The two boat men are greeted coolly by the island’s five occupants. One, Jerry Farrell (Ken Curtis), brandishes a shotgun. The main building on the island has a heavily fenced enclosure leading to the main door. The gate gets bolted securely after they enter.

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Heading up the occupants is Dr. Marlowe Cragis (Baruch Lumet). He has set up shop on this isolated island to conduct some experiments in animal genetics. Things are looking ominous. His pretty daughter Ann (Ingrid Goude) eyes Captain Sherman with some appreciation.

The thing that strikes me all through the movie is that from the time the two boatmen land on the island to the end of the movie, nobody ever eats anything. A dinner is discussed, but it never appears. However, whenever anybody is offered a drink (often) the drink is never refused. The movie lasts through one night and into the following morning, and the characters quaff down a lot of hard stuff throughout.

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The first to get eaten is First Mate Griswold. Sent to secure the boat and stay aboard for safety, he gets surrounded by the giant shrews roaming the woods.

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And I am not going to bore everybody with a diagnosis of the plot. Suffice it to say that two other characters get killed by shrew bites (poisonous) and ultimately devoured. Then Captain Sherman hits on the plan of using some empty barrels as protection from  the shrews while the survivors make their way to the waterline and safety on the boat, anchored offshore.

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The other survivor, Jerry, elects to stand his ground, and he is chased down in the woods and eaten when he makes a break for it.

Meanwhile, there is excitement as shrews attempt to get at the remaining three survivors working their way to the beach under their barrels.

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But they make it and swim out to the boat, and that’s the end of the story. Captain announces plans to copulate with sweet Ann.

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I hope I don’t have to explain what’s wrong with this movie. The plot is predictable, and acting barely qualifies for an open SAG file drawer. But you know what? They spent an estimated $123,000 to produce this and made $1 million at the box office. Not a bad return. A candidate for a Halloween movie sometime, with popcorn.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video to the rescue again. This week’s Bad Movie comes from the ever reliable Monogram Pictures, and it’s another Boris Karloff feature, with the British actor reprising his role of master Chinese crime detective James Lee Wong. Details are from Wikipedia.

The title is threatening on the surface, and the opening scenes show a ship on fire at sea. Next, newspaper headlines blare the tragedy of the Wentworth Castle fire with many lives lost. Suddenly it all falls in  place. The sea disaster is actual news footage of the Morro Castle, which made news with horrendous loss of life in 1934. The movie, which came out in  1940, is playing of the real time event, still fresh in the public mind at the time. The image below is from Wikipedia and not from the movie.

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In the end the threat of being doomed to die never materializes.

We next see a stricken Cyrus P. Wentworth (Melvin Lang), owner of the shipping company. He is straightening out his affairs, including finalizing his will, even though he has been absolved of blame in the disaster.

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Minutes later Cyrus Wentworth is dead of a gunshot wound, and his prospective son-in-law, Dick Fleming (William Stelling) is charged with the crime. Wentworth had been violently opposed to the marriage. However, Wentworth’s daughter, Cynthia Wentworth (Catherine Craig) is a close friend of girl reporter Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Logan (Marjorie Reynolds), and she, in turn, is a close friend of the amazing Mr. Wong. Also, Logan is sweet on Homicide Squad Captain William ‘Bill’ Street (Grant Withers), and she drags Mr. Wong into the case. Wong will demonstrate that young Fleming is not the killer.

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Take a look at the above image. It’s almost a re-stage of an opening  scene from The Fatal Hour, which came out just prior to this production and has been previously reviewed. See the following two screen shots from that flick:

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Anyhow, Wong uses his connections with local Chinese Tongs to gather intelligence and solve the case.

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And that’s all I’m going to tell about the movie. Remember, I watch these so you don’t have to. Having said that, I must remark the mystery plot is intriguing, though far fetched.

It all centers around young Fleming’s being in the office, supposedly alone, with Mr. Wentworth at the time of the shooting. Wong jumps through a series of hoops and demonstrates others were involved, all connected with a scheme by a Chinese smuggler to move a passel of bonds out of his country to escape the conflict (World War Two).

The matter of the bonds turns out to be the point on which the plot rotates. The story line attempts to connect the burning of the ship with the bonds, and this reasoning  borders on  absurdity. This and other transparent contrivances strip the plot bare of credibility.

Additional detractions include stiff dialog and wooden acting. But scintillating performances was not what was driving Americans to the theaters in those days.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Needing another Bad Movie of the Week, I naturally fled to the refuge of Internet TV—Amazon Prime Video in this case. The Western genre of the 1930s and 1940s is a solid vein of low-budget productions. It may have been that money was tight in  those days (The Great Depression), and people needed cheap entertainment. For what it’s worth, it’s a cinematic archaeological study.

It wasn’t until Stagecoach in 1939 that westerns started  to grow up. The first really adult western was Shane in 1953. In the meantime a lot of mediocre talent found success, wealth, and ultimate prominence. Roy Rogers grew to stardom playing catch-up to Gene Autry, the original “singing cowboy.” He was in an early Gene Autry film, where the two had a fight scene. Autry won, according to Rogers, AKA Leonard Sly.

This is Texas Legionaires, also billed as The Man from Music Mountain, from 1943, released through Republic Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia, and the poster shot shows the original title and spelling. The Man from Music Mountain is a more apt title, since there is no way you can watch this movie and spot scenery that resembles Texas.

Roy Rogers plays himself, riding into town after a career of singing on the radio with his group, the Sons of the Pioneers. He is met with a home-coming celebration in his honor, such festivities being marred by an open dispute between cattle ranchers and sheep herders.

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Trouble is quickly apparent, as Victor Marsh (Paul Kelly) is seen in collusion with two troublemakers, working undercover at the sheep ranch of good-looking Laramie Winters (Ruth Terry).

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The younger Winters sister, Penny (Ann Gillis) has taken a shine to Roy, who has his eyes on the older sister.

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The situation grows deadly as Roy’s friend Adobe Joe Wallace (Hank Bell) gets wise to Marsh’s nefarious scheme. Before he can tell Roy, he is dry-gulched by the two rowdies.

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Leaving out a load of detail, Roy gets himself secretly deputized and begins an investigation of the goings on. He fakes an accident to get himself ensconced as an invalid at the Winters ranch. An creditable performance is delivered by Renie Riano as Christina, the housekeeper.

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Following an interesting series of reversals, the movie concludes with the standard shootout at the Winters ranch house. Roy tracks down the fleeing Victor Marsh and pulls him off his horse in a final showdown.

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It was de rigueur for these movies. We see a wagon load of running gun battles, men on horses chasing others, letting fly with their six guns at impossible range. It’s all for show. Viewers want to see some gun smoke and hear bullets fly.

This is a singing cowboy flick, so there needs to be some singing. Roy sings. His sidekick Pat Brady sings. The Sons of the Pioneers sing. Nothing is added to the plot.

The sheep herder versus cattle rancher theme was eventually settled in The Sheepman, in 1958, wherein Glenn Ford starts up a sheep operation in cattle country just to stir up a fight with a crooked rancher. He sells off the sheep after winning the battle. John Wayne pretty much closed down the genre in Big Jake. In the title role, he rescues a sheep herder from hanging and purchases the flock. And that was about the last we ever heard of sheep herders versus cattle ranchers, giving this production archaeological value.

Roy Rogers went on to bigger things, including a successful music career and a restaurant chain bearing his name. He died in 1998, a few months before Gene Autry.

Exe Jesus

One of a series

Note: I am writing this in May while the movie is still fresh. You are seeing it posted on Christmas day through the magic of Word Press scheduling.

Yes, this really is the Bad Movie of the Week. However, I could not resist using that title, because the new title is what this movie is all about, exegesis. All right, I misspelled it. So shoot me.

Kirk Cameron made it big as a little kid in Growing Pains. More recently he teamed with New Zealand creationist and evangelical wack job Ray Comfort. Need I say more? In fact, I have:

People like Cameron and Comfort tend to align themselves with the conservative element of society. And that’s unfortunate for American conservatism.

I also find this situation so ironic in my own experience. Once in a discussion with a conservative friend I noted that the American voters did not find much favor with presidential candidate Mitt Romney. The response I received was that the voters were sheep. And that’s worth examining.

There are two popular ways to get sheep to go where you want them. One is Kirk Cameron’s way, with a sheep dog behind them. The other is with a trained sheep that the others blindly follow. Both cases do not involve initiative and understanding on the part of the sheep.

Anyhow, forget about Ray Comfort for a while. This appears to be an enterprise entirely from Cameron. And Liberty University. Here’s the opening image from the movie.

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It’s Saving Christmas, and it features Kirk Cameron as part actor – part narrator. And if you think it’s about saving Christmas, you need to take another look. Here’s Cameron telling what he likes so much about Christmas, and a big part is the hot chocolate.

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Forget the plot. This is a message, not a drama. Cameron is over at the house of his sister, whose husband is getting a little fed up with Christmas. Did I mention, this is a Christmas party? The BiL becomes so despondent he goes outside to sulk in his car. Cameron joins him, and explains why all his delusions about Christmas are just that.

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The BiL finds modern Christmas over-commercialized. Don’t we all? The symbols are all wrong. Jesus was most surely not born in December, much less the 25th. Nothing about modern Christmas can be traced to the biblical account of the birth and life of Jesus. The Christmas tree is a hold over from a pagan European celebration, for example:

While it is clear that the modern Christmas tree originated during the Renaissance of early modern Germany, there are a number of speculative theories as to its ultimate origin. Its 16th-century origins are sometimes associated with Protestant Christian reformer Martin Luther who is said to have first added lighted candles to an evergreen tree.

It is frequently traced to the symbolism of trees in pre-Christian winter rites, in particular through the story of Donar’s Oak and the popularized story of Saint Boniface and the conversion of the German pagans, in which Saint Boniface cuts down an oak tree that the German pagans worshipped, and replaces it with an evergreen tree, telling them about how its triangular shape reminds humanity of the Trinity and how it points to heaven.

Cameron explains to the BiL how the modern Christmas tree evokes the cross on which Jesus was tortured and killed. Exegesis.

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Another thing that troubles the BiL is the presence of soldiers among the Christmas toys. Pictured is a toy that looks for all the world like the nutcracker from the Tchaikovsky ballet. This is another example of Cameron’s solicitous exegesis.

The soldiers, Cameron explains, represent the Roman soldiers sent by King Herod to kill Jesus and all other Jewish babies in Bethlehem. The problem with Cameron’s exegesis is that Herod (according to Matthew and nobody else) sent the soldiers only after Jesus was born, so it’s hardly possible they were present at the birth.

To appreciate Kirk Cameron’s elaborate foray into exegesis you need to see the movie for yourself. I watched it for free on Amazon Prime Video. A subscription is required, but being the piece of evangelical propaganda that it is, and you can watch it on Hulu or possibly for free on YouTube.

Also regarding Saving Christmas, with all today’s hoopla surrounding a supposed war on Christmas, there is very little mention of the modern controversy, engineered almost completely by right leaning evangelicals, who want everybody the strike back at what they contend are attempts to eradicate Christmas traditions across the country.

If you can get past all that, the movie ends on an up note. Cameron convinces the BiL that the modern Christmas is really all right, and the two return to the party for a joyous celebration, which includes hip-hop renditions of the greatest Christmas carols by the God Squad Dance Crew.

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In the end, Cameron reminds us what Christmas is all about. It’s about getting together with family and friends on one of the darkest days in the Northern Hemisphere, eating good food, drinking good wine, and having a good time.

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And all the rest is bullshit.

Likely due to its design as a propaganda piece, it received low ratings from critics and viewers. From Wikipedia:

Three weeks after release, the film gained additional notoriety when it became the lowest rated film on the Internet Movie Database‘s bottom 100 list. Cameron later responded to the low rating, saying that it was due to a campaign on Reddit by “haters and atheists” to purposely lower the film’s ratings.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Hulu to the rescue again. How many times am I going to have to go back to Hulu whenever I need another bad movie? As many times as it takes. Hulu is the mother lode. This is Godzilla vs. Megalon, from 1973 and out of Toho. I’m leaning on Wikipedia for help with this one, because it was hard for me to decipher.

You can  tell it’s going to  be a foreign film when the titles are in Japanese.

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I am not an expert on the genre, but I get the idea all the monsters that plague mankind have been relegated to Monster Island, where they can do their monster stuff without bothering us. Anyhow, nuclear weapons testing in the Aleutian Island Chain has upset this peaceful detente, causing disruptions on Monster Island. How that affected the main characters in  the movie was never made clear to me.

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The monsters run amuck.

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The first thing we notice anything is going wrong is when two men and a youngster are enjoying an afternoon at a lake. Goro Ibuki (Katsuhiko Sasaki) is an inventor. He has developed a humanoid robot, named Jet Jaguar, with amazing capabilities. His friend is Hiroshi Jinkawa (Yutaka Hayashi). Rokuro (Hiroyuki Kawase) is Goro’s nephew. When an earthquake strikes, trouble starts, and the two men have to rescue Rokuro from the lake, where he has been riding his pedal float. The lake quickly drains, and the three, puzzled, return home.

 

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When they arrive home, agents of the underground empire, Seatopia, are already there, burglarizing the place. Their intent is to steal the robot, but that is not immediately apparent to the audience. The agents rough up the three residents and flee.

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Back at Seatopia, Emperor Antonio (Robert Dunham) exhorts his followers. He will unleash Megalon and make the outsiders sorry for all their bomb testing and disturbing his kingdom.

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At the Emperor’s exhortations, Megalon appears. He is ferocious, and he is ugly.

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The mighty Japanese armed forces go into action to combat the menace.

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But the Seatopia agents strike back. This time they overwhelm Goro, Hiroshi, and Rokuro, taking Goro hostage and locking Hiroshi and Rokuro in a cargo container to be dumped in the lake.

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But the hired drivers rebel, and they shove the agent in charge out of the truck and over a cliff, apparently to his termination.

That leaves the container perched on a precipice overlooking a dam, when Megalon appears, causing water to slosh over the dam destructively. Soon Megalon bursts through the dam as Goro arrives to rescue them. Never mind. Megalon swats the container, sending is sailing over a nearby ridge, and saving poor Hiroshi and Rokuro a nasty fall over the precipice.

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In the end Jet Jaguar grows to enormous size, teams with Godzilla, and helps defeat Megalon.

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The world is saved.

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There’s more to  the plot, but my real intent here is to show you some screen shots from the movie. Yes, this is pretty bad, considering a number of absurd plot features.

For example, a slew of acetate is expended showing Hiroshi and Rokuro bound with cord and locked in the cargo container, destined for an inglorious death. They free themselves from their bindings, but they are still trapped inside the container, which is on the back of a truck, headed for a place to dump them off. The truck drivers ditch the Seatopia agent, but they still intend to dump the container off a cliff. What is going to save  the two helpless prisoners? Why, Megalon, sending the entire container with Hiroshi and Rokuro inside sailing over a ridge to a hard landing. That’s one way to escape.

In  the end we are all glad the world is saved from Megalon, and we have Godzilla to thank. And you have me to thank for watching this movie for you.