Bad Movie of the Week

Number 231 of a series

It doesn’t take long to find a bad movie. Go back to 1933, and there is a bunch. This is The Kennel Murder Case, with William Powell as Philo Vance. This is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The movie gets it title from the opening scene, a dog show, at which Philo’s Scottish terrier is eliminated before the final round. Then Philo catches an ocean liner to Europe.

I selected this shot to show how Powell looked in the old days.

Another person with a dog in the show was Archer Coe (Robert Barrat). He’s a generally bad fellow, and a competitor’s dog ends up dead in an alley. The next morning the butler brings Coe’s breakfast up to him, but the door is locked, and there is no answer. Peering through the keyhole, the butler spies the dead Mr. Coe, sitting in a chair.

Philo learns of this and interrupts his trip, getting off the ship before it sails and coming to investigate what turns out to be a murder. The original assumption was that Coe shot himself in the head inside a locked room. But the coroner discovers a nasty blow to the head and also a knife wound in the back. Philo figures out how the killer was able to lock the inside lock from the outside. The trick involves some fishing line that is ultimately pulled through the keyhole without leaving a trace.

But there were two murders. Archer’s brother Brisbane (Frank Conroy) was the first to strike, tracing back from his presumed train trip to Chicago to do the crime. But he never made it out of the house. The second killer finished the job and then killed Brisbane, leaving the body in a closet. Inside another closet is another dog, a Doberman, discovered by Philo’s dog. This dog was apparently struck by the killer, but he recovers.

Brought back to the scene of the crime, the Doberman is unleashed, and he goes straight for the sought after killer. The movie allows the Doberman to chew for mostly a minute before others come to the rescue.

On top of that, the print is in really bad shape. And this is the digitally remastered version. Amazon Prime has four copies available for viewing to Prime customers, and another is for sale. Hopefully it’s in better shape.

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Bad Movie of the Week

Number 231 of a series

I haven’t figured out why this one wasn’t BMotW years ago, but here it is now, from 1987, The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. There is not much to the plot, but here is a synopsis.

Arnold is police helicopter pilot Ben Richards in a dystopic future world where brutal government oppression keeps things straight, almost. Ben refuses to fire on unarmed civilians who are participating in a food riot, and he becomes an unperson, working in a slave labor camp, where prisoners die of starvation and rough treatment regularly.

But Ben engineers a break. The prisoners know what’s really going on, and they’re going to take their country back. Here he goes mano-a-mano and defeats a prison guard.

In the world outside, gladiator games keep the population distracted. One such game is The Running Man, which involves professional stalkers hunting down and exterminating prisoners turned loose inside a human game preserve. The master stalker is Captain Freedom, played by Jesse Ventura, before he became governor of Minnesota.

The Running Man is a TV game show, run by Damon Killian, played by Richard Dawson. Here he watches video of Ben’s prison escape and gets the idea of capturing him and putting him into the game.

Ben figures he needs to get out of the country, but he has no travel pass. He abducts somebody who has one, Amber Mendez (María Conchita Alonso), who looks really sharp in her workout suit when Ben walks up and places his hand over her mouth.

But at the airport Amber blows his cover, and Ben is captured. He and two other recaptured prisoners are put into the game, dressed in slick fugitive suites and harassed by goons on motorcycle until they start running down long, dark tunnels.

I will not elaborate further. Amber gets wise to the scheme when she views the actual footage of Ben’s rebellion, but she gets scooped up and thrown into the game with Ben and the others. The two other escapees die in the game as Ben and Amber defeat a series of stalkers sent after them, finishing up with Captain Freedom.

The crowd turns against the phony game, and Ben captures Damon. He places Damon in the fugitive sled, and sends the sled down a long chute and into the air, where it scores a bull’s eye on a notorious billboard.

And Ben and Amber get ready to make whoopee as the crows cheers them. And that’s the end of the movie.

Not so amazing, the film made $38 million in the U.S. on a budget of $27 million. It has since become a kind of cult classic, and last week I talked to an otherwise intelligent person show acknowledged he has viewed the film multiple times. Once turned out to be enough for me.

That same year, Jesse and Arnold appeared together in Predator, apparently Jesse’s first film. I have previously reviewed Arnold in Kindergarten Cop, one of his best roles. We have also seen Commando and The 6th Day.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 230 of a series

This has to be just about Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s worst move. Then, I never saw any of the Conan films. This is End of Days, and it came out in 1999, at the appropriate time for such a movie. Recall that as the 20th century closed down all kinds of doom was projected, not counting four-digit date software issues. The deal was 2000 was supposed to be the 2000th anniversary of Jesus of Nazareth (born in the year -4). 2000 was supposed to be the beginning of the new millennium, and it was, except the new millennium started at the end of 2000, not the first of January 2000. Anyhow, this is about the religious notion of end of days, and there is more on this topic than you care to hear. The movie is currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

When the movie opens we see a priest (or a monk) at the Vatican pulling out cannisters of ancient scrolls. He finds the one he is looking for.

He takes the document to the Holy Father with startling news. The girl that was prophesied is about to be born. It’s 1979, twenty years prior to 1999, and the girl is going to grow up to bear the child of the Prince of Darkness. Many churchmen declare the girl must be killed to forestall this prophecy. The Pope decides (since when?) it would be immoral to sacrifice an innocent. The girl must be protected.

It’s a few days before New Year’s Eve in 1999, and a Nameless Banker (Gabriel Byrne) is having dinner at a swanky Manhattan eatery, along with a business acquaintance and a most charming woman. He gets up and goes to the men’s room. While he is inside relieving himself, a disturbance in the fabric of time and space comes down the street and enters the restaurant. It follows the banker into the men’s room and engulfs him. The banker becomes the host of the Prince of Darkness.

The man exits the restroom, strides to his table, kisses the woman passionately, and goes outside. As he strolls away the restaurant is demolished in a fiery explosion.

Meanwhile, super cop Jericho Cane (Arnold) and his partner capture a crook. Here is Arnold doing his True Lies stuff, snagging the bad dude in mid-air while dangling from a cable attached to a helicopter overhead.

The girl is born, and now she is 20 and most likely still a virgin. Her parents are dead, and she is being raised by a mysterious woman, soon to be revealed as working for the Holy See. The church is dedicated to protecting the girl, but at the same time to prevent her being impregnated by the Dark Prince. The impregnation must occur between 13:00 p.m. and midnight on 31 December 1999. The reason for this is never adequately explained.

Here young and virginal Christine York (Robin Tunney) rides a subway train, confronted by an apparition. It’s a manifestation of the dark side, and Christine has been plagued with this kind of thing for years. From outward appearances she is schizophrenic.

Back at her apartment some men break in with the intent to kill Christine. But first they must administrate the last rites. These are people from the church, and their intent is to keep Satan from humping her and getting her pregnant.

But Cane and his partner, following up on a related case, happen by, and Christine is saved. Cane becomes interested in Christine.

And the movie plot is off and running as Cane must prevent the girl from getting knocked up during the critical hour, and the rest is cinema FX, packed with scenes such as this one of a subway car crashing in a tunnel.

Come the critical hour, and Cane destroys the banker, but the manifestation invades his body, and he prepares to impregnate Christine, by force, on a church altar.

By sure will power Cane overcomes the dark force and tells Christine to run. It is seconds before the ball drops in Times Square. The church is half wrecked, and Cane impales himself upon the sword of a fallen statue. This is most gruesome.

The ball drops, and the magic hour expires for another 1000 years.

Cane has given all and has atoned for his years of denial of the power of faith. It’s a tale for the ages.

Yes, and that is all the movie has going for it. Based on a legend concocted by people unknown at a time unknown and having no basis in fact or scripture. It is a bad movie.

As I watch through this I was struck by the many ways the prophecy could have been forestalled. Cane could have screwed the girl and gotten her pregnant. She could have gone on the pill (except the church would object).

Also, this Prince of Darkness is such an omnipotent being, how come he has to go through all theis rigmarole to impregnate the girl, and how come he is unable to use his vast powers to defeat some bumbling cops? If this shows the limitations of the Prince of Darkness, why are we so concerned that he could possibly dominate the world.

And finally, this planet is one of possibly billions of habitable worlds in the universe, and it just happens to be the center of all this attention? Tell me more.

My favorite Arnold film tends to be Kindergarten Cop, where Arnold does comedy well. The Terminator is good, also, but there he’s a stand-in for  machine and not a real person. True Lies was another comedic tough guy role for Arnold. I need to review Total Recall.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 229 of a series

The moment I started watching I realized I had seen this movie before, and I had. It came out in 1953 under the same title, mostly the same characters, and much the same plot. It’s Invaders from Mars, released in 1986. I reviewed the 1953 version in October, so I’m not going to go through the plot again. I will just post a few screen shots from Amazon Prime Video, where this is now streaming, and I will also post corresponding shots from the previous review. You will be impressed with how Hollywood producers can economize by recycling old material, apparently including sets. This is a GolanGlobus production, so you have an idea what to expect. Details are from Wikipedia.

Yes, movie titles improved in 33 years.

The Gardner (used to be MacLean) family beds down for the night after viewing a meteor shower. George (Timothy Bottoms) is a scientist working at a nearby military base. David (Hunter Carson) is a budding scientist. Laraine Newman plays Ellen Gardner.

But David looks out his window and sees a spacecraft land. That rail fence looks much like the one in the 1953 movie.

He tells his parents about it, and the next morning George goes out to Copper Hill to investigate. He returns much strange.

From 1953

Later that day George does not return from work. The police are called. They go out to  investigate. They return much strange.

From 1953

David notices that people who have become laconic, almost catatonic, have something in the backs of their necks. At school the mean teacher Mrs. McKeltch (Louise Fletcher) also eats live frogs. This is different from 1953.

The school nurse, Linda Magnuson (Karen Black) intervenes when David tells her his remarkable story.

In 1953 she was Dr. Blake.

Two army types sent to investigate disappear into  the sand. They return much strange.

 

David gets the attention of General Climet Wilson (James Karen).

 

When the two returnees attempt to kill the general, it is obvious that something is up.

The general sets the might of the United States Military into motion.

From 1953

They confront the invaders in their cave. Here a naive scientist figures to negotiate. They are horrible. They vaporize him.

From 1953

Here is the scene where the invaders capture Linda and prepare to insert a device into the back of her neck.

This is the iconic picture from 1953, where the horrid creatures subject the helpless and beautiful woman to their evil scheme.

In 1953 it was the movie poster.

The soldiers fight it out in the cave with the invaders and plant explosive charges. When they try to escape they see the exit has been sealed. David figures how to use one of the invaders’ weapons to blast open the exit.

Then everybody is running. The general and the soldiers run. Linda runs. David runs, pursued by his parents, who are under mind control from the invaders.

The explosives go off, and David wakes up from is dream.

From 1953

After being reassured by his parents, David tries to go back to sleep, but the storm again awakens him. He looks out his window. He see a spacecraft landing on Copper Hill.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 228 of a series

I was trying to figure out how this came to be, and I was thinking some Hollywood types were sitting around brainstorming ideas. Somebody probably said, “Let’s do a spoof movie.” And somebody else said, “That’s been done before,” but the first guy said, “No, I mean a spoof of a spoof,” and the second guy said, “Like what?” Then the first guy said, “Take National Lampoon’s Vacation, for example,” and the second guy said, “That’s ridiculous. That turkey is not going to come out until 1983. That’s nine years from now.” But the first guy was persistent, and he said, “I mean, suppose there was a spoof of a western movie.” The second guy said, “So?,” and the first guy said, “Let’s assume there was such a movie, so let’s make a spoof of that movie.” And the second guy said, “That’s never going to work. But, what the hey! We’ve got spare cash, and I know some funny guys looking for work right now. So what are we going to call it?”

And the first guy responded, “Let’s call it Blazing Saddles.” And the second guy said, “Ugh, that’s God awful. Just do it, and let me know when it’s done.”

So, here it is, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video (whence the screen shots) and featuring

Details are from Wikipedia.

Even the title is a spoof. “Blazing Six Guns.” Get it? Anyhow, the movie gets rolling into PC territory immediately. There’s a gang laying a railroad line out in the hot sun, and the crew comprises Chinese and Negroes mostly, and foreman Taggart uses language like “chink” and “nigger” when referring to them. Watch this review get flagged.

So Taggart needs to check for quicksand, and he directs Bart and another to take a hand cart into the suspicious area, where they promptly sink into the quicksand. Taggart thinks it’s a big joke, and he laughs while Bart comes up from behind and whacks him on  the head with a shovel.

So the rail line needs to be routed through a town called Rock Ridge. But first the evil Gov. William J. Le Petomane and attorney general Hedley Lamarr need to exterminate all living residents of the town, who happen to be white people named Johnson. We know that the governor’s sweet assistant Lili von Shtupp, the “Teutonic Titwillow” is going to be able to apply her obvious talents.

Meanwhile, outside the window, a public hanging is in progress. and Bart is to be one of the hangees, having been summarily convicted of bashing a white guy over the head with a shovel. The evil ones decide their first tactic is to run in a ringer sheriff to rile the citizens of Rock Ridge, making them vulnerable when the governor’s gang of cutthroats comes riding down on them.

So they pull Bart out of the punch line and pin a star on him. He’s thankful.

The Johnsons of Rock Ridge are thankful they are getting a new sheriff to replace the one that was just killed, and there is a big celebration in progress with a band playing. Somebody posted on a building with a spy glass watches for Sheriff Bart’s arrival, and at last he spots him riding across the desert. He is dumb struck at what he sees. He calls down to the crowd that he sees the sheriff coming, but he’s a n…er. A blast from the band drowns out the first syllable, and it’s interpreted as “He’s near.”

Then Sheriff Bart comes riding down the street, and all festivities stop. This movie is going to be a long spoof about racism in the Old West.

Not feeling very welcome, Sheriff Bart settles himself into the jail, where he plays chess with the Waco Kid. The kid has given up gunfighting and turned to drink instead. But he’s still blazing fast. He demonstrates by snatching the black queen off the board without Sheriff Bart even seeing his hands move.

Things are not turning out the way the evil officials planned, so the governor runs in  Lili von Shtupp to sap some of the sheriff’s vitality. It works the other way, as Lili acquires a fondness for black sausage.

But the evil band is coming to Rock Ridge to wipe out all the Johnsons, having recruited from all the evil tribes of the world. Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid figure they need to employ wit to defeat them, and they slow the invading horde by placing a toll booth along the invasion route.

The main line of defense is a fake town, constructed overnight by recruits from the railroad gang. The evil gang comes riding in to confront cardboard citizens strolling down the street between false front buildings.

The Waco Kid uses his skill with a pistol to set off explosive charges in the town to wipe out the invaders, and the town is saved.

Except, that the melee is now out of control, and as the camera pans back we see the action is occurring in the Warner Brothers back lot in Burbank, California. The chaos spreads beyond of the western set and into the set of an elaborate stage show.

And it goes downhill from there.

This is a silly movie, propelled by a lot of lame humor based on racial stereotypes, sight gags, and even flatulism, introducing the famous campfire scene. Whoopee!

This may have been the high point of Cleavon Little’s career. He died of cancer in  1992.

Slim Pickens turns in a classic performance, having already been a standout in Dr. Strangelove and The Getaway. where he had a bit role.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 227 of a series

I didn’t need to  dig into the Amazon Prime Video archives for this one. It’s a new release. From Wikipedia:

Acts of Violence is a 2018 action film starring Bruce Willis, written by Nicolas Aaron Mezzanatto, and directed by Brett Donowho.

Filming began in Cleveland, Ohio in March 2017.

With a running time of 86 minutes, it was released in a limited theatrical engagement as well as on video-on-demand by Lionsgate Premiere on January 12, 2018.

Cast

Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video. Here’s the plot.

Deklan MacGregor is a war veteran suffering mental issues. He can’t get help from the V.A. Here he is consulting with a therapist, right before he erupts and storms out.

Meanwhile, Detective James Avery teams up with Detective Brooke Baker (n the right) as they prepare to raid a street drug distributor.

The raid goes off much as planned, except the body of a young woman is found on a bed in this den of inequity. A GPS tracker has been implanted in her wrist. Also (we learn later) the drugs involved are a cut of carfentanyl, used to tranquilize large animals, such as elephants and rhinoceroses. Also, as the raid draws to a close, Detective Avery chases the operation’s honcho to the roof of the building, where there is a struggle for survival. The honcho goes over the edge and clings by his fingers. Avery tells him goodbye and watches him fall. The druggies are members of a gang headed by Max Livington. He’s a really bad dude who uses threats of violence and also murder to keep his empire in line. As a side operation, Max runs a string of sex slaves.

Back at the office Avery winds down in the manner of all hard-bitten police detectives. He empties the bottle into his coffee mug.

Meanwhile, Deklan is celebrating the impending marriage of his brother Roman to a sweet girl named Mia.

They go to separate bachelor and bachelorette parties, and while the women are celebrating Mia is confronted by one of Max’s gang. She rebuffs him and goes outside to phone Roman. A white van rolls by, and the guys working for Max scoop her up and drive off into  the night. This is not looking good.

When the brothers get an inkling that something is wrong, they spring into  action and track down Mia’s cell phone to a gang house. Deklan and Brandon are ex-military, and they are carrying their sidearms. They phone for the police, but they don’t wait. They assault the house and rescue some sex slaves. Mia is not there. They are in trouble with the police for their extra-legal action, and Deklan has a conference with Avery. The outlook is not good. Mia’s information will be entered into a database, and the attempt to locate her will be included in ongoing operations to track down all such women.

Meanwhile, Mia is having a rough time. The scenario is a direct appeal to pathos. Beautiful, helpless woman in a short cocktail dress is bound and held prisoner by a ruthless sex slave gang. Our heart goes out.

But Mia is not all that helpless. She breaks free from her bonds and gets the attention of the two who scooped her up. The two are in the midst of packaging drugs for distribution, and when they go to check out the commotion she is causing, she attacks them and runs out the door, just in time to be snagged by Max and his sidekick. Max is not pleased his two underlings have been so foolish as to violate his instructions by bringing a sex slave prospect to the drug center. He decides to have the sidekick shoot these two delinquents. Then he changes his mind. He will have the lovely Mia do it. He places the pistol in Mia’s hand and pulls the trigger, dispatching one of the pair, leaving the other with a reminder to not step out of line again.

The brothers decide the police are no help, so they arm up and prepare to take down Max’s gang on their own.

They start by ambushing four of the gang, killing three and taking the fourth prisoner. They intimidate the live one and get him to cough up Max’s full name and the location where they are holding Mia.

They raid the place, killing a number of the drug traffickers. But Mia has escaped and is fleeing across a rail yard. Again a scene of intense pathos. She hitches a ride with an elderly motorist, but the GPS tracker, by now implanted in her wrist, gives away their position, and Max’s men track them down and kill the driver, taking Mia prisoner and preparing to ship her off to Las Vegas, along with the rest of Max’s product, which is what he calls his sex slaves.

Max has previously cut a deal with the powers. They will let him slide in return for rolling on his mob. This latest bit by the vets appears to Max to be unfair play, and he orders retribution on any and all who have been messing with his operation.

The brothers, released by Avery, are given 24 hours to finish their business with Max before the police haul them in for disturbing the peace. They assault Max’s preparations to relocate, using sniper fire to suppress resistance while two of the brothers move in close with automatic weapons. They rescue Mia, but Max retaliates. When the brothers return to Brandon’s house, the gang has already come and gone. They have ransacked the house leaving Brandon’s wife Jessa dead.

In mourning, Mia and the brothers wait for the police to come. Max and his gang come first, headlights shining in through the window. A hail of automatic weapon fire disrupts the peace, and the brothers scramble to defend the house. They prevail in the end, with Mia contributing some deadly fire power. But Brandon is now dead, and Max has escaped, wounded. The police arrive and clean up  the mess, hauling the brothers off.

In true Dirty Harry manner, Detective Avery slams his badge down on his boss’s desk and walks out. He goes to where Max is trying to recoup his shattered empire, and he does not waste words. He stitches Max with a few rounds from  his sidearm.

Later we see the surviving brothers and Mia enjoying a gathering in the back yard with Mia and Roman’s new baby.

Yes, this is the cookbook vigilante action film, possibly traceable back to  Billy Jack. There is also a whiff of Dirty Harry and Death Wish. Combat veteran, psychically damaged, comes home after dealing with the bad guys only to discover the bad buys are also back home. And the cops, hands tied by protocol and bureaucracy, are woefully ineffectual. It’s time for the real action heroes to suit up and set matters right. Little is believable.

The police are going to let Max walk in return for rolling on his organization? It’s something that exists in the minds of imaginative screen  writers. The military vets are going to use their combat experience to take down a street gang in a frontal assault? The supposedly conflict-wise warriors go off to battle without first protecting the home front? Following one home defeat, the murder of Jessa MacGregor, they sit around and wait for the inevitable retaliation from Max’s gang. Max, cool street fighter that he is, figures the best way to take on a trio of combatants is to stand at the curbside and spray the house with automatic weapons fire. Despite having the advantage of firepower, numbers, and initially surprise, Max’s hardened fighters are defeated utterly, all killed, except Max. Again, according to the movie script cookbook, the sole survivors are the two top antagonists. Avery tracks Max down for a final duel, which in this case is a variation on Dirty Harry. Max is unarmed, but that counts for nothing, and there is no taunting, and there is no final grapple for supremacy, Avery executes Max with an absence of drama. What a surprise ending!

Bruce Willis previously appeared in RED, since reviewed. I have also reviewed Fire with Fire. I have a hankering to review some of the Die Hard movies, and I will if they ever pop up on Amazon or Hulu.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 226 of a series

This one’s old enough to drink. It’s Event Horizon, from 1997. A little explanation.

I took physics in college, and I had to do a number of term papers. One was my explanation of an event horizon. It’s this: if two events occur far enough apart in space-time, then one can have no influence on the other. That almost fits into the theme of this movie, only the title derives from Event Horizon, a space craft. To summarize the plot it’s best to think of Shakespeare’s The Tempest brought forward into the 21st century.

I watched a live staging of the play decades ago, and a very bad production is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. I tried watching it through but dozed off a couple of times. Anyhow, the Shakespeare plot involves a sorcerer who uses his magic to delude his enemies into believing they are stranded on an island. Thus empowered, the sorcerer achieves his ultimate goal. The movie plot has much the same elements.

This is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill) is the designer of Event Horizon, He dreams he is aboard a derelict Event Horizon, all aboard are dead, and debris and bodies float about, following random air currents. He wakens, and he is aboard a rescue vessel named Lewis and Clark. He touches photos of his late wife.

Event Horizon was a secret experimental craft designed to achieve superluminal travel. It disappeared years previously on its initial trip to Proxima Centauri, the star nearest the sun. Event Horizon has now reappeared in orbit around Neptune, and the crew of Lewis and Clark is about to go there and figure out what  happened. They enter “grav tanks” to protect themselves during their ship’s violent trip to Neptune.

A less appropriate crew of a critical mission is hard to imagine. They lack the cohesion and stability we have come to expect from modern astronauts, various ones having conflicts that eventually doom their performance on the mission. The remainder of the crew is:

They reach Event Horizon and make entry. The amazing gravity drive is revealed. It accomplishes much the same as the device in Contact, invoking similar concentric rotating rings.

Things begin to go badly. The gravity drive activates, and Justin is partially sucked into the drive portal. He comes free heavily damaged and later attempts suicide by exiting an air lock.

Event Horizon had entered an alien universe and returned a being in its on right. Like the sorcerer of The Tempest, it plays on the minds of the crew with the aim to condemn them to self-destruction. One by one members of the rescue crew encounter apparitions that drive them to their doom. Peters sees a vision of her son, and she follows it through the doomed ship until she falls to her death. So much for the benefits of artificial gravity.

Skipping over the remaining plot details, only three of the rescue party survive. They enter a section of Event Horizon that serves as an escape capsule, and Miller severs it from the remainder of the craft by detonating explosive charges, sacrificing himself in the process. Days later a rescue party arrives to find the three survivors in grav-tanks. Rescuers release Lieutenant Starck and the other two, including Justin, from the grav-tanks.

This could have been a great techno thriller, but I’m guessing the producers had Shakespeare more in mind. Probes into the characters’ psyches introduce distraction from could have been an interesting tale of man-machine conflict.

Neil also appeared in The Hunt for Red October, previously reviewed, and also The Piano and Jurassic Park, both in 1993.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 225 of a series

People who follow this series possibly will not believe it, but I never heard of it before. Here it is. In Great Britain there was a drama series based on the character of Paul Temple, a crime fiction writer who lends a hand solving actual crimes. Starting in 1938 a series based on the character ran on British radio, and ultimately there were four movie adaptations. This was the first, Calling Paul Temple, with John Bentley in the title role. This came out in 1948, 70 years ago, and it is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from  Wikipedia.

The movie runs for 90 minutes, and I watched it through once. That said, I found the plot intertwined enough to fuzz my diminishing wit, so I will fall back to sketching the plot and explaining what I was able to discern.

The opening scene you can tell is on a train, because everything is shaking  and swaying back and forth, and there is train noise. It’s the night express from London to Canterbury, and the conductor is going around punching tickets. When he gets to one compartment the occupant a comely and apparently well heeled blonde woman is dead. Further examination reveals she has been knifed. When the shade to the compartment is pulled down, the word “REX” is revealed written on the inside. This is the third of the Rex murders, and police are baffled.

There is more to come. We can tell this production spares no expense by the lavish set that opens scene two. It’s a swank night club, and patrons are sitting around at tables enjoying sumptuous meals while the floor show features a smashing blond chanteuse, Norma Rice (Celia Lipton) with a lovely voice delivering forth an absolutely vacuous number that goes on and on, chewing up celluloid by the yard.

Much as she is wonderful to look at, we are glad when the song is over, and she retires to prepare for her next number. At a table we see Paul Temple and his gorgeous wife (Dinah Sheridan) named, incongruously, “Steve.” They are joined by Sir Graham Forbes (Jack Raine), apparently with Scotland Yard. He wants to discuss the Rex murders.

He could not have come to a more auspicious place for the discussion, because immediately after her opening number, Norma goes to her dressing room to change. While there she pens a note to Sir Graham, asking him to come to see after her second number. She says she may be able to help him with the Rex murders.

Her dresser takes the message and heads for the club floor, and in the corridor she encounters a woman dressed in a gray suit going  the other way. The woman enters Norma’s dressing room.

Shortly, Norma makes an entrance and sings another number, accompanied by a bevy of charming womanhood. At one point in her song she is near the top of those stairs, seen in the shot above, when she collapses and falls down the stairs. Of course she dies. Of course she has been poisoned.

Paul and Steve accompany Sir Graham go up to Norma’s room to look for clues. The dresser tells about the woman in gray but can give no additional details. Steve strikes something with the toe of her shoe, and it’s a unique lipstick. Not thinking it might be a clue, she filches it for herself, and it is never revealed again in the movie, although there are subsequent references to this particular cosmetic brand from Egypt.

And now I’m going to cut out a lot of stuff. Paul scans the news, which is about the murders and the “girl in grey.” Also, on a road trip to Canterbury, Paul and Steve get ambushed by a man who is waiting alongside the road in a classic touring car and gets off four shots at them, sending their roadster into the bushes. They catch a lorry back to London.

The touring car traces back to one Dr. Kohima (Abraham Sofaer). It was his car alongside the lonely English road, but he was not driving, and neither was his chauffeur, who was on vacation in  Ireland. Somebody “borrowed” the car and then returned it. The mystery deepens.

Paul decoys Dr. Kohima out of the room on the premise of phoning about his car while Paul rifles the doctor’s files. He discovers the names of murdered women among the doctor’s patients. This is suspicious. Also, Dr. Kohima is Egyptian.

It deepens further when Dr. Kohima’s assistant, Mrs. Trevellyan (Margaretta Scott), pulls Paul aside and confides. She cannot talk at the office. She must meet him at her place after work. She gives Paul the address and the time to meet, 6:30.

Well Paul and Steve show up at the appointed time, only to find the door ajar and Mrs. Trevellyan gone. The clock on the mantle displays 6:15, and they shortly discover it is not running. They find a scrap of paper with four names produced by a typewriter in all caps: Mary Anderson, Lady Hackwill, Agatha Ladycross, and May Haddington. In script at the bottom is “Sent. B.T.” Steve holds up a desk pad to a mirror to read another cryptic message. Then they discover the ticking sound they hear is not the clock, but it is a time bomb. Steve rips the explosive charge loose and tosses it out the window, whereupon it goes off with a deafening roar. The timing mechanism is left intact for future examination.

It later turns out, as Mrs. Trevellyan explains, that she was lured out of her flat by a hoax phone call.

Skipping over some more detail, the woman in gray comes to  Paul’s flat while he and Steve are at lunch, and she sends the houseboy (Shaym Bahadur as Rikki) to  fetch Paul. After Rikki leaves, the woman starts to  pen a note to Paul. The note reads:

Mr. Temple,

In case anything should happen to prevent me seeing you, this is to tell you that REX is

She never gets to finish the note. The doorbell rings about that time, and she goes to the door.

Whoever was at the door shoots and kills the woman in gray, who then falls dead on the floor inside.

Skipping over more detail.

The whole deal is a blackmail plot. Somebody has snooped on Dr. Koshima’s files and is using information on patients to extort money. One guess is that some victims are being murdered to put the scare into the others. Then Paul’s friend Edward Lathom (Alan Wheatley) tells Paul that he is being blackmailed, as well. He cannot reveal his guilty secret, and he intends to pay off. He has been  instructed to leave the money in the Old Friar’s Monastery in Canterbury.

Paul and Steve arrange to be there when the blackmailer comes to collect. The collection agent turns out to be Mrs. Trevellyan.

Winding this down, Paul and Steve get lured back to the monastery, and are captured by a villain I was unable to identify but who binds them to a pillar and opens a sluice from the river to flood the chamber, sentencing them to a slow death. Along come reinforcements, and they are rescued.

Which brings it all to a head. The usual suspects gather in Dr. Kohima’s office to settle matters. Mrs. Trevellyan, who has been in a hypnotic trance induced by the doctor is now brought around. She had been blackmailed into divulging Kohima’s files. She is ready to reveal the name of the blackmailer. In the darkened room a shot rings out. She is wounded, and the perpetrator makes his escape.

It’s Edward Lathom. But the outer door is locked, and he can’t get out.

Neither can the others escape the inner office, for that door locked automatically, as well. Paul scales a drain pipe and corners Lathom in an upper floor. They struggle over the gun. A shot rings out. Lathom appears at the top of the stairs with the gun. Paul jumps him from behind and subdues him on the stairs. The murder mystery is resolved.

It’s a convoluted plot, and I left a lot out. A bunch of it is contrived. In multiple instances (3) we have victims about to reveal what they know, only to be cut short at the last moment. Mrs. Trevellyan survives. The woman in gray is murdered in Paul’s apartment and the next scene shows the crime mess all cleaned up and no sign of police snooping about looking for clues. Somebody ambushes Paul and Steve on the road to Canterbury, using Dr. Kohima’s car, which leads Paul and the police back to Kohima and the undoing  of the blackmailer.

Production quality is at or above par for the period, vis the elaborate nightclub set swarming with extras. Acting is dead on, and director Maclean Rogers keeps the action and the scenes visual and dynamic. I imagine Francis Durbridge‘s original plot exhibited more relevance, which was then subverted for the exigencies of making the movie.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like I said, the plot is just crazy.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s a real shocker.

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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