Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

A priest seems to have guilty knowledge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evelyn: Doesn’t this soap lather?

Denny: No, it’s sandstone.

Evelyn: Then how do you get clean?

Denny: Rub until the dirt comes off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the end of the movie.

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Cody died right before the United States entered WWI

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

There’s a precocious kid involved in the enterprise.

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

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

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

It invades the city. Everybody needs to run.

Godzilla breathes fire to combat the creature.

Another monster menaces Godzilla.

An anti-Godzilla big wig confronts Godzilla and dies.

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Everybody knows going in this not going to be a serious movie. Start with the title, Legally Blonde. The implication is that being blonde is a handicap that needs to be covered by the ADA, so if you can demonstrate yourself to be legally blonde, we need to give you a break. This came out in 2001 from MGM and was a great hit, due about 100% to the scintillating performance of legally blonde Reese Witherspoon. As I write this the movie is streaming on Hulu, where I’m getting the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Witherspoon’s character is Elle Woods, elle being French for she. And is she ever rich and fashionable. In fact, her college major is fashion merchandising, which I am not inclined to capitalize, since I find it difficult to believe this is an existing degree program at a serious college.

Anyhow, Elle and her self-absorbed sorority sisters live in a make-believe world where fashion and status are the the alpha and the omega. In fact, if anything is to summarize this storyline, then that thing would be status.

So, a big day has arrived for Elle, and her sorority sisters are bubbling over with enthusiasm for her. Tonight Elle’s best beau is taking her to a most  swanky eatery and is going to pop the question. It is no secret that what matters in these young women’s lives is advancing properly through life’s grand chain of events—proper family, proper school, proper boyfriend, proper husband, proper life as the proper wife of the proper man. And the proper man arrives to pick up Elle for the proper event in her life. He is Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis), and Elle’s future is going to be just perfect, and proper.

Only, at the most elegant of all dining spots Warner Huntington III does not pop the question. Instead he delivers the awful truth that what he needs is the proper wife for a proper man on his proper career path. And the proper wife not a ditsy blonde majoring in fashion marketing. He is off to Harvard Law School and the rest of his life. And by the way, thanks for the ride.

Ditsy does not completely describe Elle Woods. She has fortitude. After crying her lovely eyes out she decides anything worth wanting so badly is worth the maximum effort. She announces to her proper parents from the pool of their proper home in a proper SoCal neighborhood that she is going to Harvard Law School, and she is going to lay claim to the most proper Warner Huntington III. Her parents are nonplussed.

But if there is one thing Elle Woods learned while obtaining a 4.0 average in fashion marketing, then that thing is marketing. She markets herself to the Harvard Law School admissions board in no-holds-barred presentation video. The board members are impressed. She has what Harvard Law School needs more of, tits an ass. Also an impressive score on the Law School Admission Test.

Harsh reality sets in when Elle Woods attends her first class. Harvard Law School is going to flunk you out if they can. This is made clear by one Professor Stromwell, played by Holland Taylor. In the meantime, Warner Huntington III has already given the coveted engagement ring to one snippy Vivian Kensington (Selma Blair), a classmate seen her gloating over Elle’s humiliation.

Vivian further rubs it in, flashing off the coveted engagement ring at Elle when Warner Huntington III introduces to the two at a chance meeting on campus.

Vivian loves to twist the knife, further demonstrating this story is all about status. There’s going to be a party, and Elle announces she would love to go, as well. Vivian lets slip it’s a costume party, so Elle shows up in costume. It’s not a costume party.

Cut to the chase. Elle, Vivian, and Warner Huntington III make it to the end of the first year at Harvard Law School and are selected for internships with the law firm of Professor Callahan (Victor Garber). All the major characters come together in one shot, as they interview the defendant in a major homicide case. With her back to the camera is Brooke Taylor-Windham (Ali Larter) from Elle’s college sorority. Brook is accused of murdering her fabulously wealthy husband, something over thirty years her senior. To the left is Emmett Richmond (Luke Wilson), a serious hunk of a person previously seen lurking about campus, and giving Elle some sound Harvard Law School advice. That’s Professor Callahan presiding over the interrogation.

Callahan professes not to buy into his client’s innocence, not a great position to take if you are defending her against a murder charge.

Meanwhile Elle has become involved in a sidebar with a manicurist, who so much wants to connect with the hunky UPS delivery man. Without wasting a bunch of ink, Elle’s advice pays off, as the movie ends up with the lady getting her dog back from an obstinate ex-boyfriend and subsequently married to the UPS hunk.

You never saw a worse trial performance by a Harvard Law School professor. He is completely inept in defending the widow Taylor-Windham, who has an alibi but will not disclose it. But Elle’s fashion expertise comes to the rescue. A key prosecution witness is the pool boy, Enrique Salvatore, at the Windham estate. He claims to have had a passionate affair with Mrs. Taylor-Windham, but Elle figures different. Enrique turns out to be much too fashion conscious for a straight guy. Elle figures he’s gay. After Professor Callahan asks him some functionary questions (he’s a Harvard Law School professor?) on cross-examination, Emmet Richmond steps forward to ask a few more, also more pertinent. Such as,  “How long have you been sleeping with Mrs. Windham? (three months) ending with, “And your boyfriend’s name is? (Chuck). That explodes all over the courtroom, especially when Enrique disclaims any such relationship, and the boyfriend, who is in court, calls Enrique “bitch” and storms out.

Professor Callahan has by now determined that Elle is just the type of lawyer his firm needs, and he arranges a private conference with her, wherein he indicates that T&A is what he really needs.

That’s the end of it for Elle, and she quits the team. But Emmet convinces her to stay on, and he takes over the defense after the widow Taylor-Windham fires Callahan and company. The principal witness against the widow is the step daughter, Chutney (Linda Cardellini), who discovered the widow kneeling over her father’s dead body. No gun was ever found. She was taking a shower during the time of the murder and did not hear the gunshot. But Elle destroy’s Chutney’s story by pointing out that nobody with any idea of fashion would be taking a shower immediately after an expensive perm job. The daughter did it.

Elle throws over Warner Huntington III and hitches up with Emmet. Raquel Welch appears in the movie as the first Mrs. Windham.

Yes, fashion consciousness wins the day, and that’s what this movie is all about, making it something not to take seriously. Of course, this is comedy, and we need to give it a lot of leeway. But not that much.

Law professor Callahan is shown to be completely inept in the defense of his client. A back alley law firm would have investigated the pool boy and discovered he had a boyfriend.

The widow was discovered kneeling over the just-shot husband. And there is no gun ever found. And the prosecution is going to make a case out of this?

The sidebar concerning the manicurist and the UPS guy plays no discernible part in the movie plot, seemingly inserted for additional comic relief and also to chew up 15 minutes of celluloid (hint, I don’t think they use celluloid anymore).

The defendant in a murder case will not reveal her alibi. She was having liposuction at the time of the murder, and her reputation as a fitness guru would be ruined if that ever came out.

Somebody supposedly as sharp as Elle Woods gets taken in by the standard plot device of conning somebody to show up inappropriately dressed at a party?

This was not the end of Legally Blonde. Wikipedia lists a slew of spin-offs:

There is no doubt T&A are going to feature in all of these.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Looking for another Bad Movie of the Week, so I turned (again) to Amazon Prime Video. This is a sci-fi feature straight out of Saturday morning TV. It’s about a world catastrophe involving rising ocean levels, and they needed a title. After much soul-searching they settled on Oceans Rising. Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry, so details are from IMDb. It was released last year by The Asylum and others.

Jason Tobias is Josh, and Summer Spiro is Pam. They are scientists, married to each other and  working for the government. Things are going badly for them, as Pam’s embryo transplant has failed to take, and the couple are facing life without children. However, said life promises to  be short, as the world is going to hell on the fast track.

The Earth’s magnetic field is flipping, and that is causing chaos for all concerned. Offices in Washington, where the two work, are by the hour rocked by earthquakes, and solar storms wreak havoc with satellites and the world’s power grid, due to the vanishing magnetic field. Polar ice is melting, oceans are rising, and tidal waves frequently invade the land.

Josh has a solution, but nobody will listen to him, and his violent outbursts only make matters worse for him in the government bureaucracy, and in his marriage to Pam. He throws the whole business over and moves to Texas, Galveston in particular. Josh has chosen Galveston, because those people appreciate what rising oceans can do.

Josh has acquired a boat, and he is stocking it for survival. Meanwhile, Pam comes to the realization that the peaks of power are in gridlock and unable to address the matter. She quits, hops a plane to Galveston, and arrives just in time to help Josh stash provisions on the boat.

It’s none too soon, for minutes after Pam’s arrival the big one comes, and the Gulf of Mexico rises up and swamps the whole place. Josh and Pam barely have time to unhitch the boat before the water comes.

They motor about in a Waterworld, searching for survivors to take aboard. They find an adequate number.

Quickly there is crew enough to engage on Josh’s quest to save the world. He must get to Brookhaven Labs, because Josh will use the accelerator there to generate a mini-black hole. His task also requires getting to CERN, where he will create a matching black hole. The two in combination will stop the magnetic pole reversal.

Josh figures Brookhaven is going to be above water since it was skillfully constructed on the highest point on Long Island, 98 feet above sea level. When the boat arrives they discover two soldiers shouldering the task of shoring up sandbag dikes around the installation. Josh leave Pam in charge of a crew to do the rescue work and also to engineer the black hole.

Josh and the rest of his crew head across the Atlantic Ocean and arrive in France, in the foothills of the Alps, still above water. They hijack an abandoned van and head for CERN.

There Josh works with Dr. Zicree (Paul Statman) to get another black hole going. The two black holes need to be synchronized for this to work, so Josh and Pam throw the starter switches at the same time.

It’s a beauty to behold, as charged particles zip around inside the accelerators.

And there is success, but when time comes to shut down both accelerators, the Brookhaven engine will not switch off. Pam saves the world by taking an ax to the power cable, but then falls lifeless from the electric jolt. Josh looks forward to a world saved, but without Pam.

Miracle of miracles! Pam revives, and everybody is happy. Except, I imagine, all those who were caught up in the ocean flooding.

Yes, pretty hokey. We know what it looks like when the oceans walk up onto the land. We all saw the videos from Indonesia in 2004. The disaster scene has the appearance of being shot in some quiet lagoon. The views of sub-atomic particles zipping around the colliders are fun to watch but a definite piece of imaginary thinking. We see Josh’s boat supposed to be making 30 knots across the Atlantic, but from all appearances the boat is idling at less than 10 in somebody’s lake. Much imagination is required to make this believable.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, it is. Amazon Prime Video is the go-to place for bad movies. All you have to do is navigate over to their sci-fi selection and take your pick. From 1958 this is The Trollenberg Terror, featuring Forrest TuckerLaurence PayneJennifer Jayne, and Janet Munro. This was distributed by Eros Films Ltd. out of Great Britain. Details are from  Wikipedia.

The first thing that got me was the unevenness. The opening scene shows what is obviously an artist’s rendition of Trollenberg, the mountain. I figured they paid the artist $2.75 an hour 60 years ago to produce this, while later in the movie there are excellent location shots of mountains that could have been inserted. The graphic artists must have had a strong union.

Next we see climbers (Jeremy Longhurst and Anthony Parker) on the mountain in the Swiss Alps. This is maybe the second worst studio mountain ledge mock-up, but I do not recall what was number one. Anyhow, a climber above calls out in distress. He’s obviously being killed, and he falls, his descent snubbed by the safety line. When the survivors attempt to pull him up to the ledge, the one on the right relinquishes the task in horror. The man’s head has been torn off.

Next two sisters, Anne and Sarah Pilgrim (Munro and Jayne) are trying to get some sleep on a train traveling on the way to Geneva. Alan Brooks (Tucker) is trying to read a newspaper. He’s a UN investigator on his way to Trollenberg, the village.

Anne, who we later learn is the mental side of a mind-reading act from London, gets restless. She goes to the window to view the mountain. She sees Trollenberg (the mountain) and passes out on top of Brooks’ newspaper. So they meet.

But Anne no longer wants to go to Geneva. She wants to get off the train at Trollenberg (the village) and stay at the Trollenberg Inn.

And they all do. Brooks meets Philip Truscott (Payne), who later turns out to be a reporter, sent to investigate what Brooks is up to in Switzerland.

We also meet two climbers, Dewhurst (Stuart Saunders) and Brett (Andrew Faulds). We can guess things are not going to end well for Dewhurst and Brett.

Brooks takes the cable car up the mountain to the observatory of  Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell). They have a history. Previously the two had investigated mysterious goings on in the Andes. Now Crevett has an elaborate laboratory, courtesy of the Swiss government. It has all the features necessary to make for a successful movie plot. The walls are feet-thick concrete, and the place is equipped with TV scanners to monitor the mountain. Also, apparently, ionizing radiation scanners.

Meanwhile, back at the lodge, Anne demonstrates her mind-reading powers. She surmises, without seeing it, a 500-franc note and its serial number. And more. Plus, she and her sister are absolutely stunning—eye candy for men watching the movie.

So Dewhurst and Brett take the cable car and then hike up to the base hut on the mountain, in preparation for a climb the next day. Things go badly. Brett leaves the hut and never returns. Dewhurst goes to look for him.

When others go to the hut to investigate they find Dewhurst’s headless corpse. When a search party organizes to look for Brett, a search plane spots him up the mountain side. When two searchers arrive at the ledge where Brett was spotted, the first one to arrive discovers Dewhurst’s head in a knapsack. Then Brett appears and kills the two searchers with an ice ax.

All this is unknown to those down below, and when  Brett arrives back at the lodge, he appears to have suffered some damage they cannot explain. Then Bret spots Anne in the lobby and lunges at her with a knife. He is subdued and placed in a locked cell. But he murders the guard and escapes, searching the lodge for Anne. She awakens when he enters her room, and she screams. Best movie scream I have seen  in a long time. Academy Awards, anybody?

But Brooks enters from behind and shoots Brett dead.

Now Brooks has figured that an alien invasion is underway, and the mysterious cloud that hangs around one side of the mountain is a manifestation. The cloud is gradually drifting lower on the mountainside and is approaching the lodge. Brooks determines the safest place is the observatory at the top of the cable lift, and he orders an evacuation to the observatory. But Hans (Colin Douglas) decides to attempt to escape by car, through the cloud. He later shows up, having been unsuccessful, but much changed. When it becomes apparent he has been taken over by the aliens the others put him down.

The final cable car prepares to leave the village for the observatory. But a little girl is missing. Brooks goes back to the lodge, and finds she has gone to retrieve her ball. Brooks arrives just in  time to rescue the child from an alien being with tentacles like an octopus and one big eye.

Back at the laboratory, all the survivors have collected within the concrete walls. On the TV scanners they can see the horrible aliens menacing the laboratory.

Brooks exits briefly to hurl a Molotov cocktail at one alien. When Truscott attempts to do another fire bombing, and alien grabs him. Brooks comes to the rescue.

Soon the aliens are all over the fortress laboratory. Brooks orders an air strike with fire bombs.

We see a Swiss bomber flying over and unloading fire bombs. Only they do not look like fire bombs. This is apparently stock footage of some general purpose (GP) munitions being unloaded.

The fire bombs kill off the aliens, and the mysterious cloud disappears. Sex becomes manifest as Truscott makes a bid for Anne, and Brooks gets cozy with Sarah.

And it’s a simple story, fairly well told. The monster aliens are a major F/X accomplishment, particularly showing up some of the amateurish studio sets. Wikipedia makes no mention of production cost or box office revenue. Despite the low-budget outdoor scenes, there is some excellent location shooting. We see airplanes banking and turning among towering mountain peaks, and the cable car exteriors are obviously not studio shoots. Acting is par for a B movie, and director Quentin Lawrence has done a smash-up job. Dramatic tension is skillfully introduced.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video, the source of these screen shots, is revealed to be a mother lode of recent-release bad movies. You will be seeing more of them. Science fiction is always a target for bad movies, because it is seldom handled well. This is Moontrap Target Earth, released in 2017 by MT2 Productions. Wikipedia does not have an entry for this, so details are from IMDb.

This is going to be a combination space travel, mystery, thriller. Not much goes into drama here, most of the movie is the special effects (F/X) and the visuals. It sets out with archaeologist Daniel (Damon Dayoub) rehearsing a presentation to an audience of one, his girlfriend Sharon “Scout” (Sarah Butler). He wants to announce his discovery of his remarkable find from the desert in Arizona, certain to be more than 14,000 years old.

Then he gets a phone call from a colleague, Carter (Chris Newman).

Carter has discovered another strange artifact out in the desert. He’s preparing to announce it to the world. He brags to Daniel how earth-shaking this is going to be, and he tells Daniel to watch for it on CNN. A helicopter is heard in the background

The helicopter lands, and it’s not CNN. It’s Richard (Charles Shaughnessy), and his female “facilitator” Nicole (Jennifer Kincer). After Carter explains all the wonders this discovery holds, Richard orders Nichole to dispose of Mr. Carter.

Then Richard pays a visit to Daniel and Scout. We soon see them at the site where Carter was murdered. Scout translates inscriptions on the artifact. It’s the above-ground portion of an ancient space craft.

Daniel and Scout make a deal with Richard to promote the archaeological study, but when the scientists appear before Richard’s mysterious panel in a grand hall, they are thanked for their troubles and sent on their way.

Back at the university, where supposedly Daniel and Scout do their research, they sadly inform their assistant Eli (D.B. Dickerson) (who is preparing a celebration) there will be no need to celebrate. While Scout and Daniel are in the back checking on a projector malfunction, Nicole appears at the door. She machine guns Eli and sprays the hall with bullets. Then she pours gasoline on Eli’s body and sets it afire. This is turning out badly.

We see Scout fleeing cross-country, learning on the radio that Daniel’s burned body has been discovered in his apartment.

Back at the grand hall, Richard is desperate to explain to his quasi-religious panel why there has been no progress in disposing of the disturbing artifact in the desert. Also why have the meddlesome Daniel and the slut Scout not been dealt with. Richard assures them the assignment will be completed.

But Scout comes up behind him. She has decided to make a crusade of Richard’s destruction.

But Nicole comes in and turns the tables on Scout. A chance discovery reveals that Scout holds special interest to the buried object, and Richard and Nicole take Scout out to the site.

The mystery unravels, as the object emerges from the ground, and a robotic creature appears. Richard is transported to the interior of the space craft, and a bolt of electricity is shot into the back of Nicole’s head.

Inside the spacecraft, Richard and Scout watch in wonder as the robotic creature pilots the craft to the Moon. Scout is commanded to remove her clothing and to dress in a provocative Queen of Outer Space outfit. Richard is impressed.

On the moon things seem to be progressing, as Scout dons a space suit designed for her. She and the android exit the space craft, where the android battles yet another android. Meanwhile Richard takes over the controls of the space craft and heads it back toward Earth. But something intervenes, and the space craft crashes onto the surface of the Moon and is destroyed.

As the friendly android expires, it hands over to Scout a disk-shaped key. She approaches a huge sculpture (see the image at the top), and inserts the key into a slot in the sculpture.

The Moon is turned into a habitable world with blue sky and clouds.

Scout enters the structure beneath the sculpture and joins Daniel (blue) in a journey through time.

Scout leaves behind a word to those who come after them.

And that is about it for the movie. Much ado about what? Special effects are commendable, but that is about the extent of this production’s budget. The audience (see above) in the grand hall appears to comprise cardboard cutouts, shot out of focus to disguise the fact. In most scenes they do not move.

Scout in the see-through outfit is worth a look, but there is not enough of that. The narrative cuts in and out of a number of dream sequences, at times making it problematic to follow the course of events.

Inconsistencies jump out.

If the plan was to kill Daniel and Scout, why not do it in the grand hall after they have completed their presentation?

Why does Nicole burn Eli’s body? Same with Daniel’s body. Nothing is gained, only additional notoriety.

For the story line I would like to have seen a clear driving force behind the plot. There is a mysterious assembly of interrogators at the grand hall, who speak off camera, in tones that smack of a religious cult, but we only have to guess they represent modern, decadent society, hinted at by a scene with a waitress in a truck stop. No firm resolution is delivered.

This movie runs 85 minutes, and you might be able to catch it still streaming on Amazon or elsewhere.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Hulu, where this movie is currently streaming, advertises it as a comedy, of sorts. The humor gets lost. It’s Colossal from 2016, distributed by Neon. The screen shots are from Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

This is going to be a scary movie. You can tell that at the very open, as a young Korean girl, at night in a park, sees a horrible monster, and screams. That get your attention?

In New York Anne Hathaway is an out of work writer named Gloria. She sponges off her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), living in his apartment, spending her nights partying. When she comes staggering home one morning he announces he has packed her stuff, and she needs to be gone by the end of the day. After he leaves for work, Gloria’s friends take note of his leaving and swarm in to continue the party. Gloria’s life is obviously out of control.

Gloria goes back home to small town America, where she movies into a vacant family home. She takes a cab from the airport, since she has no car. We next see her toting an air mattress home from the store when an old friend named Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) spots her and gives her a ride in his truck. He owns a local bar, and the two go there, where he offers her a job as a waitress. She boozes it up until the early morning hours.

Come morning Gloria is toting the air mattress on home from the bar, and she pauses in a park along the way. Then she continues on home, where she passes out on the uninflated mattress.

Come morning, and it’s broad-band WiFi to the rescue, as Gloria checks on the world outside and sees that Seoul, South Korea, has been under attack by a gruesome monster. It was about the moment, taking into  account the time zone difference, when Gloria was in the park.

Cutting out a lot of detail, Gloria comes to realize what she sees the monster doing reflects her actions coming home in the morning through the park. Back at the bar Gloria convinces Oscar and two friends to come to the park at the appointed hour. They unlimber their wireless devices as Gloria performs. Watching the live news from Seoul, the three see the monster duplicating Gloria’s moves. What is going on?

For reasons known only to the script writers, Oscar now begins to get out of hand. He goes to the park at the magic time and begins to act out for the monster of Seoul. Gloria sees that people are suffering, dying, while Oscar is having a good time. Gloria and Oscar commence a divergence of purpose.

When Gloria spends the night with Oscar’s friend Joel (Austin Stowell), Oscar becomes resentful and even belligerent. When Tim arrives in town and offers to take Gloria back to New York, Oscar goes off the deep end, setting the bar on fire.

Now things build to a climax. Gloria promises to go back to New York with Tim, but then she changes her mind. Oscar is playing increasing havoc with Seoul by messing around in the park. Gloria hops a plane and flies to Seoul, and she goes to the site where the monster appears on schedule. Standing in that place, Gloria reverses the projection and becomes the monster in the park, confronting Oscar. The monster grabs up Oscar in a mighty fist and hurls him off toward the horizon. It’s the end of the movie.

Yes, this is all most cool, but also all most ridiculous. What I haven’t mentioned is a childhood flashback that shows Oscar and Gloria together as children. He is seen smashing her doll house, a prelude to the future Oscar, a control freak beyond all bounds.

No competition. This is a Bad Movie of the Week.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I needed a bad movie to review for Sunday, today. I searched Hulu and noticed this title. Is this going to be a bad movie? It’s hard to tell from the title, Godzilla vs. Destroyah. Could be. I took a look, and, yes, it is bad. From 1995 out of Toho, it’s another lizard movie gone bad. Screen shots are from Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

I’m not going to bother listing the cast of characters, because they are people I never heard of, but I am going to guess about the plot. Something stirs up Godzilla. Science and technology are to blame. Godzilla menaces civilized regions of Japan. Another lizard kind appears on the scene. There is a protracted battle, consuming the major part of the run time and also wrecking everything in sight. All lizards die. And, yes. That is what happens.

The opening scene shows a comely news reporter type surveying a developing situation from a helicopter. She spots something in the sea. Yes, there is strange activity below.

At a busy airport a giant passenger airliner climbs into the sky. The pilots look on in horror as a gruesome beast rises before them. He is butt ugly. And in a foul mood.

There is great danger to the world. Godzilla’s source of power is nuclear fission, and if he goes critical the entire planet will be wiped out.

A scientist explains his Nobel Prize discovery. It’s miniaturized oxygen. These compact atoms can squeeze into the smallest spaces within solid metals. There is great danger in the application of miniaturized oxygen.

A young scientist, working in his room crammed with books, computers, and other nerdy stuff, is offered to work on a significant project. He declines. He will not pursue that work any longer. Then a phone call comes in. A famous scientist will be working on the project. Yes, the nerdy young scientist will jump at the prospect of working with the famous scientist.

Another lizard, more horrible even than Godzilla appears. There are multiple copies. This is a great menace to the world.

Godzilla battles the other monsters.

An armored regiment employs special weapons against the lizards. They all die.

The movie runs for 102 minutes, and that’s all I’m going to say about this.

Except that you can catch it streaming on the Internet. Hulu requires a (paid) subscription, but there are alternate sources. You will likely be required to sign up to watch. Search the title with Google.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

If you don’t recognize the title, then you need some background:

Simon Templar is a fictional character known as The Saint. He is featured in a long-running series of books by Leslie Charteris published between 1928 and 1963. After that date, other authors collaborated with Charteris on books until 1983; two additional works produced without Charteris’s participation were published in 1997. The character has also been portrayed in motion picturesradio dramascomic strips, comic books and three television series.

I caught the TV series back in the 60s, where I must have been watching in black and white. Anyhow, it’s had a long go-round, now landing in some recent films. This is about the 1997 movie starring Val Kilmer in the title role. It’s The Saint, again, in a release from Paramount Pictures and co-starring Elisabeth Shue as his love interest, Dr. Emma Russell. I often get my bad movies from Amazon Prime Video, but this one is streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The movie provides some background. In a Catholic school for unfortunate orphans there is one particularly recalcitrant boy, giving the ruling authority no end of grief. He gets confinement, but not before lifting a crucifix pin from the headmaster. From that meager acquisition he engineers a massive prison break, but sees a young girl friend fall, apparently to her doom. Thus is born a master criminal.

We next see The Saint in Moscow, stealing for hire a critical microchip.

That involves much adventure, and after he caches his fee in a financial account, he notices he’s about $3 million short of 50. He needs a round 50 million, then he retires. He goes over a list. Somebody wants the formula for cold fusion and will pay just the right amount.

Dr. Russell is the inventor, and she still has the secret. In disguise he attends her presentation and is severely smitten by her loveliness. The Saint is preparing to make his fall.

In  another disguise he romances Dr. Russell and lifts her notes. But she is at least as smart as he is, and she tracks him to Moscow, where he has come to hand over, and collect his reward, the formula to a Russian Billionaire, who in turn has plans to usurp the government and take over, using cold fusion as his ploy. To this end he has engineered a massive fuel shortage, and Russians are dying in the cold. It’s shades of the Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) all over again.

But now the Russian Mafia is after them, and the remainder of the movie explores how they manage to elude capture and turn the tables on the gangsters. The trick is that Dr. Russell’s cold fusion actually works, and the legal Russian president uses it to save the people and to show up the ringleader.


Which results in The Saint and Dr. Russell back in bed again, and that is about all there is to the plot.

And that is what is mostly wrong with this movie. It’s a tale of cliff-hanging thrills, hair-raising escapes, culminating in a denouement that plugs along for another ten minutes before the credits begin to roll.

All that said, it is most satisfying to see classic Val Kilmer re-emerge. The signature smirk from Top Gun of ten years before is back, along with the dash and flair from Top Secret, two years before that.

Elizabeth Shue is always great to see, but she is best remembered as the kind of teenage girl who could make Roy Moore squirm in Adventures in Babysitting. I look forward to obtaining a copy of that.

Cold fusion has come and gone, never making the big time after splashing briefly in 1989. Interesting to see it turn up as the MacGuffin in this one. Maybe it will find a home in entertainment after all these years.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Here’s one I am sure I never saw before. It’s Castle Sinister from 1948, and even Wikipedia doesn’t have an outline, so I am getting details from IMDb. It’s streaming now in Amazon Prime Video, where I obtain most of my bad movies and also these screen shots. But here’s the story.

A Major Matthews (Hugh Arnald) is seen leaving lonely Glennye Castle, apparently in Scotland from the accents. He notices a lone figure by the seaside cliff and goes over to investigate. Somebody comes up from behind and gives him a push. He plunges two hundred feet to the rocks. So begins the mystery.

This is an unfortunate turn of events, and the British War Office sends Captain Neale (James Liggat) to investigate. Neale is told to contact a British agent, a Mr. McTavish (Alastair Hunter), a local innkeeper. A greater bulk of the plot involves McTavish providing Neale with the background.

Some time past, in 1939, at the castle there was a nice tea, hosted by the Marchioness of Glenye  (Mara Russell-Tavernan) and attended by Michael (John Gauntley), next in line to assume the barony. In comes her young son, Nigel (Robert Essex), newly joined the army. Now we know the principal characters, save one.

More happened later. Nigel has had an accident while riding a horse, and now he is unable to rejoin his unit. He spends all his time at home.

Still more. After Major Matthews was killed, another War Department agent, Captain Fairfax (Lucien Boré), was sent in to continue the investigation Matthews had been doing. He left the castle and vanished. There is a hunt going on for the missing Fairfax.

But wait! A mysterious figure prowls the grounds, wearing a monk’s robe and a mask. He frightens even the postal delivery person riding up on his bicycle.

Yet another character is introduced. He is Major Selwyn (Karl Meir), who seems to already be acquainted with young Nigel. When Captain Neale turns up at the castle to discuss the fate of Major Matthews, he is strongly rebuffed by Major Selwyn, and he departs forthwith.

As we should have known all along, Selwyn turns out to be Nigel’s real father, having previously been  married to the Marchioness. He is also a German spy, and he intends to use the Glennye estate as a launching point from which to transfer stolen war plans to a German plane. He instructs the masked figure tie up his former wife, and it is revealed that the masked figure really is Nigel, his son by the previous marriage. When the son reneges on the scheme, Selwyn shoots him. By now the war plans are in the fireplace, and the plot is rapidly unraveling.

Selwyn attempts to make his escape over the castle’s parapet wall, and Neale, having now been alerted, fires. Then Neale is out of bullets, and Selwyn aims his own piece at Neale. A shot from Michael, now revealed to be a secret British agent, puts the kibosh on that plan, and Selwyn plunges over the parapet to the ground below.

The Marchioness takes to her bed and succumbs to her delicate heart condition.

And it’s pretty hokey. Actors walk across the set and speak their lines. Aside from the meeting between Neal and McTavish, there is little real drama. Inconsistencies are obvious. The Germans send in a four-engine bomber to pick up the plans. The Germans had no such aircraft.

And this one does not appear to be streaming on YouTube, so you’re going to have to purchase the DVD. Sorry about that.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I’m running low on bad movies, so it’s back to Amazon Prime Video to refresh the pipeline. The Bad Movie of the Week today is The House Across the Bay, and it’s as old as I am. One would think that would have been a very good year. This one stars George Raft as Steve Larwitt and Joan Bennett as Brenda Bentley, later Brenda Larwitt. Images are screen shots from the Amazon video stream, and details are from Wikipedia. The production company was United Artists.

You get an idea of the standards of production in those days, about the time the Germans were preparing to invade Norway and Denmark. The opening scene shows two high-rollers in an upscale night club, and they are heading to the back room to park their money at the roulette wheel. So, director Archie Mayo lines up two dudes and has them march up to the door and demand to be allowed to  come in and deposit their money. The only cinematic invention comes when they are refused, and they need to march back to the club owner, Mr. Larwitt, and demand action. This bit is an invention to show us what a tough guy Larwitt is, as we see him come back, dress down  the gatekeeper, and then proceed to enter, as well, and promptly drop $50 on a single spin. Now we know Larwitt is tough, impulsive, and free with his money. This is called character development.

How assertive and impulsive is Steve Larwitt? This is how assertive and impulsive. He meets one of the cabaret singers at his club, Brenda, and suffers her rebuff. Later he watches her deliver a dynamite performance and promptly fires her. As she exits the club after changing into her civvies he accosts her in the parking lot and announces they are going to get married. Then he turns on the charm, and eventually she comes around.

Surprise, surprise! It’s a marriage made in heaven. There is real love and devotion. What a happy couple! And Steve is rolling in dough. His tough business methods soon elevate him to the upper tiers in the business world. However, his high-handed hostile takeover approach makes enemies of the worst kind, and we see him escaping a drive-by shooting.

Brenda knows Steve is on the shady side of the law, and she decides to ice him down before he gets himself killed. She drips a dime on him, sending the IRS an anonymous letter containing what she has been told will send him up for about 12 months.

But Steve’s friend and lawyer, Slant Kolma (Lloyd Nolan) can’t seem to do anything to prevent a cascade of charges followed by a conviction followed by a 10-year sentence. It’s to Alcatraz for Steve, and Brenda takes an apartment on Telegraph hill, where she can watch and wait until her true love gets off the rock and comes back to her.

She is the epitome of the faithful “rock widow,” taking the monthly ferry trip over to visit Steve.

But then… Then she’s trying to get to a phone to call a cab for her friend Mary Bogel (Gladys George). There she meets Tim Nolan (Walter Pidgeon), a wealthy aircraft industrialist.

Tim doesn’t know Brenda is a convict’s moll, and he pursues her relentlessly. He wins her affections but not her commitment. She stays true to Steve.

Shyster lawyer Slant Kolma has the hots for Brenda, always has had, and it becomes apparent he muffed Steve’s defense, even helped pile on phony evidence, to get Steve out of the way. Brenda rebuffs Slant, and Slant, in turn, is furious that Brenda is cozying up to Tim. He horns in on Brenda’s visit with Steve and later comes back to plant false stories about Brenda and Tim. Meanwhile, Slant has siphoned off the money Steve left to take care of Brenda, and she has secretly taken a job as a cabaret singer at a night club.

Steve is infuriated, and he crashes the rock and makes his way to where Brenda is now working. He waits for her in her dressing room. As she tries to tell him the truth, Steve prepares to strangle the only woman he has ever loved.

Just then, Tim bursts in, and he has a gun. He forces Steve to listen to reason. He tells Steve Brenda has always remained true to  him and that Slant has been working against him.

And that’s it. Steve tracks down Slant and murders him. Then he puts back on his prison uniform and makes to swim back out to the Rock. Of course, the police boats are still sweeping the bay for him, and they spot him in the water. A cop raises a rifle and shoots Steve in the head.

Finally we see Brenda on a flight back to Indiana, and Tim pops up, sitting right behind her. He changes seats with a passenger and takes the seat beside her. This is going to end well.

Except this is a worrisome plot. There is a lot of rigmarole that fails to contribute much. For example, in the beginning we see Steve being sweet on another chorus girl, and we see tension between Brenda and her. That leads to Brenda meeting Steve for the first time, which meeting could have been more artful.

The drive-by shooting episode serves to motivate Brenda to shake Steve out of the cycle of crooked dealing he is spiraling into. It seems painfully contrived.

Steve gets pissed at Brenda after Slant unloads on her. So pissed he breaks out of Alcatraz. Wait. There were 300 or more inmates there at any one time, and there was likely not one of  them who was not pissed. But Steve is the only one who got so pissed he broke out of a locked cell and swam all the way to the shore. Not to be believed.

Now Steve is preparing to strangle Brenda. But Tim bursts in, delivers a few words, and turns the whole situation around. Somebody must have been watching the clock about then and decided they had burned enough celluloid, and it was time to draw the whole business to a close. A great opportunity for some real drama was ushered out the door.

The cops see Steve swimming in the bay. The don’t motor over and offer him a lift. They shoot him in the head. People, the police never did that sort of thing, even 77 years ago.

Brenda gets an apartment across the bay from  the Rock. And the title is The House Across the Bay. Am I being a stickler?

George Raft grew famous portraying gangsters in films, and few viewers knew he once was one, having been a “wheel man” for the mob in his youth. In his movies he got killed a lot, particularly as a friend of Paul Muni‘s, who shoots him when he thinks he has defiled his sister. It’s one of film history’s great dying scenes.

This was two years before Pidgeon starred in Mrs. Miniver, one of his most notable roles.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

After there was Batman (1966) and before there was The Dark Knight, there was Batman (1989). This was streaming on Hulu in October, giving me the opportunity to watch it for the first time. It’s from Warner Brothers. Details are from Wikipedia.

The setting is, of course, Gotham City, a thinly-disguised New York City. We get this early on when the opening scene shows some out-of-towners wandering into the wrong neighborhood. The father says this way to 7th Avenue. The kid says 7th Avenue is the opposite direction. They are obviously on 8th Avenue, now heading the wrong way, toward 9th Avenue, a region previously known as Hell’s Kitchen. Of course they get mugged.

But Batman comes to the rescue. Sort of. After the muggers pistol whip the husband and take his money and credit cards, Batman comes upon them and gives them a thrashing they will never forget. This in the early day’s of Batman’s career, and people are still trying to figure out what sort of crooked scheme he’s working.

Enter diabolical crook Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson). He’s about to transform how crooked deals are done in Gotham.

The big boss is the godfather-like Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). Jack notices that Carl is muscling on on Jack’s main squeeze Alicia Hunt, played by Jerry Hall. Jack aims to level the field.

Meanwhile, sizzling hot news photographer Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger) has teamed with ace reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) to get an exclusive story, with photos, on Batman. She gets invited to dinner at his sprawling mansion with reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), whose alter ego is Batman. If you’re like me you’re wondering who does her hair. She spends the night.

Carl schemes to  have Jack murdered in a setup safe-crack caper at a chemical company. That fails, but Jack falls into a vat of unidentified chemicals, requiring skin treatment and resulting in a clown-like countenance. The episode also unleashes Jack’s true nature, and he becomes The Joker, master criminal with a twisted persona.

Bruce Wayne’s secret is not for long. His trusted butler, Alfred (Michael Gough), sees that true love is withering on the vine, and he brings Vicky to the Bat Cave to  learn Bruce’s secret.

There ensue multiple encounters involving Batman, Bruce Wayne, Vicky, and The Joker, culminating in  The Joker’s master plan to  hijack the Gotham bi-centennial parade, throwing out wads of cash to the gathering throng, before activating the valves to unleash poison gas from a giant clown balloon.

Of course, Batman intervenes, introducing the Batwing  (we already witnessed the Batmobile), and there is a protracted battle to the finish between Batman and The Joker, during which Vicky repeatedly comes under menace. And I’m not going to tell you how The Joker meets his end.

This movie suffers from an unimaginative plot. The main characters are introduced, they exercise a sequence of sketches, each involving menace, intervention, rescue, retreat. Until the final, for which there is no retreat phase.

Jack Nicholson turns in a stellar performance, providing that’s not a stand-in recapitulating Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange, prancing around inside a museum, vandalizing priceless works of art. “Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

Keaton continues to find regular film work, but nothing that makes the Earth move. Much the same with Basinger. More’s the pity.

Jerry Hall is originally from Mesquite, Texas, (born in Gonzalez, Texas) and most famous as Mick Jagger’s squeeze for many years.

There is an interesting final scene with the dead Joker lying in the street. All that survived his fall from a great height was a little mechanical laugh box, but you have to imagine hearing “Ha ha, ha ha ha ha…” to the cadence of “ Ne Ne Na Na Na Na Nu Nu.”

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Apparently I’m never going to run out of bad movies. This is another from Amazon Prime Video, a treasure vault of bad movies. It’s Bank Alarm , from 1937 out of Grand National Pictures. And it’s in decent shape for being 80 years old. A notice up front informs that this has been remastered, but that may be only the sound. The notice talks of unavoidable dips in sound level. Details are from Wikipedia.

This features Conrad Nagel as FBI Special Agent Alan O’Connor and Eleanor Hunt as Bobbie Reynolds, Alan’s sharp looking assistant. They are trying to track down a gang of bank robbers. The FBI investigates bank robberies. They’re not having a load of luck. They captured gang member O’Hern, but then a hit man disguised as a lawyer rubbed him out inside the jail and then got clean away.

Despite their desperate need to corral the robbers, the FBI duo takes time out to greet Alan’s pretty sister, Kay O’Connor, played by Marlo Dwyer, as she arrives on a flight. Apparently on the flight, Kay has met the infatuating Jerry Turner (Frank Milan). This scene also introduces bumbling photographer Clarence ‘Bulb’ Callahan (Vince Barnett), who’s going to provide comic relief for the next 53 minutes of run time.

So urgent is their need to catch the bank robbers, that everybody takes the night off to dine, drink, and dance at Club Karlotti. Spoiler alert: Karlotti is the ring leader of the bank robbers. You can tell  he’s Italian by his name, except the Italian alphabet doesn’t have the letter K. You figure it.

Jerry excuses himself for a few minutes as he leaves the festivities to go into the club’s back room to confab with ring leader Karlotti.

Another heist is coming up. Jerry gets in on this one. It’s in the core of the Great Depression, and sheriffs around the country make an effort to  keep their districts clear of hobos, who roam the land looking for work or handouts. Jerry and his pal pretend to be hobos to get themselves thrown in the pokey overnight. The pokey is where they want to be, because in this small town, where a Nevada tunnel project is in work, the workers’ payroll is being stored in the same building as the jail. While the sheriff (Henry Roquemore) sleeps the pair pick the lock on their cell, grab the cash, and stash it under their mattresses. Come next morning the sheriff sends them on their way, with the cash stuffed in their shirts. Pretty slick.

In the meantime, Police Inspector J. C. Macy (William L. Thorne) vows mightily to catch the bank robbers.

But when Jerry and his pal departed the jail with their loot, they bummed a ride in a Cadillac, conveniently close by to pick them up. And somebody got the plate number. So when agent Alan goes to check on the Cadillac, it turns up at a farm. The farmer tells them some people drove up in the car, left it, stole his Ford, and drove away. He gives a description of the perps. The driver was a notably short person, he says.

The cops take the Caddy back to the police garage to check it for fingerprints. It’s clean, but when agent Bobbie gets in the driver’s seat, the first thing she notices is her feet don’t reach the pedals. Bobbie is a a short woman. No amount of adjustment will do. The farmer was lying. The driver was not by any means short. Further checking turns up the farmer does not own a Ford. The fuzz conclude the farm is a base for the robbers.

Meanwhile, the Second National Bank is held up,  and this time the robbers get away clear after bank workers attempt multiple time to activate the bank alarm. Hence the title of the movie.

Agent Alan questions bank employees. The man sitting with his back to the wall is the alarm company service man. He was in just prior to the robbery to test the alarm. It worked fine. They call in the head cashier, Leon Curtis (Phil Dunham). He’s the one who schedules alarm testing. He said he called for the test, because it was time, according to the testing schedule. But Alan has additional information that there were two men in to test the alarm. One came after the scheduled test. Things are looking suspicious. The robbery was an inside job.

Meanwhile, Inspector Macy is shown holding two bills in his hand. He is saying he is going to bust this case wide open. Later, those outside his office hear multiple gunshots. They rush in. Macy has been murdered.

Alan studies the two bills. One has been altered. It has the same serial number as another. Suspicion focuses on bank teller Curtis. He’s an immigrant from Serbia, and a master engraver. An attempt at counterfeiting? The robbers figure they must get those bills back. Jerry gets on the phone, and with a pencil gripped between his clenched teeth to disguise his voice, he phones Alan. He warns that if Alan doesn’t deliver the two bills by mail, the robbers are going to rub out Alan’s sister.

The fuzz respond by moving Kay to a safe apartment and substituting Bobbie at Kay’s hotel room. Bumbling photographer Clarence Callahan is sent over to keep Kay company, provide protection, and also to provide additional comic relief.

But Kay phones Jerry, not suspecting he is in with the robbers. She reveals where she is. Next we see, Clarence is recovering from a knock on the head, and Kay is gone, taken by the robbers.

Then there follows a bunch of round and round, which I will not detail, and the robbers are taken in a shootout, Kay is rescued, and Alan and Bobbie have plans to make the partnership permanent. They pose as Clarence takes a photo.

There is little not wrong with this movie. Start with the lukewarm acting and the dialog, which is beyond redemption. Get to the plot’s banality and some noticeable lack of continuity.

I only watched this through one time before skipping around to pick up details, but one thing was immediately obvious. The two robbers, posing as hobos, are in jail, on purpose, to grab the payroll cash while the sheriff is sleeping. They take the bills and stuff them under the mattresses in their cell. Later we are told the payroll is new bills, fresh from the Federal Reserve. But the bills the robbers are manhandling in their cell are obviously much used and not clean, crisp, and in tight bundles.

Alan and Bobbie pick up Kay and Jerry at their airport. Where do they go that night to celebrate (apparently in Los Angeles)? Why Karlotti’s club, of course. How much greater a coincidence can their be? And the friend that Kay meets on her flight? Why, one of the bank robbers. Amazing!

The robbers need to get the incriminating bills back. Why? Think about that for a few seconds. How are they going to get the bills back? They are going to threaten Kay. But they don’t have their hands on Kay at the time, giving the feds ample opportunity to stash her away in a safe place, which turns out to be of no help, since Kay spills to Jerry.

The robbers promise to release Kay after the bills are recovered. But Kay has by now already laid eyes on Jerry and the others as members of the gang. The gang has previously murdered Macy in his office after word gets out he’s going to crack the case. But when Karlotti gets his hand on Bobbie during the hunt and roundup, he does not use the opportunity to put a few rounds into her. Good news for Bobbie, but a prize for lame plots.

Conrad Nagel had a long and successful motion picture career, even if this production give no clue as to why. He started with Little Women  (silent) in 1918 and finished with The Man Who Understood Women in 1959. IMDb shows Eleanor Hunt’s last movie was in 1940. Grand National Films is one of those companies I have mentioned previously. The period 1936 to 1939 saw multiple startup studios come and go during this period. Grand National was purchased by RKO in 1940.

And you figured it out already. You don’t need to subscribe to Amazon Prime to watch this movie. It’s available to watch on YouTube. Here’s the link.


Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Old as I am, I never heard of this one before. It really was before my time. It’s Wives Under Suspicion, from 1938 from James Whale Productions and viewable currently on Amazon Prime Video. Truth is, this is not a bad production. The print is well-preserved, the dialog is realistic and direct, and acting is on par. What gets this on BMotW (barely) is the trite story behind the plot. Here’s a summary and a critique.

Warren William is District Attorney Jim Stowell, a fire-breathing, give no quarter prosecutor. To make this clear, he brags about sending a killer hoodlum to the electric chair (which scenes I have omitted), and he keeps an abacus score tally that features human skull tokens. He gleefully slides another skull over to the win side as his faithful office manager “Sharpy” (Cecil Cunningham) watches in dismay.

For a prosecuting attorney, he enjoys a splendorous home life, with a fashion model wife, Lucy (Gail Patrick), and two family friends Elizabeth (Constance Moore) and Phil (William Lundigan). This movie also features the standard studio prop of the era in the form of the comical person of color, in this case the household maid Creola, played by Lillian Yarbo. I swear, Creola has been placed in this film wholly for comic relief, and she plays the part to the hilt with all the antics a white audience of those days looked forward to.

But D.A. Stowell’s first love is his job, and his work comes home when he comes home. Setting out for a night on the town with the lovely Mrs. Stowell, the D.A. is ambushed and shot by a gangster friend of the previously electrocuted. Down goes the D.A., his elbow never to be the same again, while his trusty chauffeur picks up the gun he had been carrying and dispatches the shooter as he speeds away in a car. Very dramatic and very unbelievable.

That settles it. Stowell and Mrs. are going on vacation, and it will be impossible to  reach him. Except at the very last moment a new case comes sailing in, and Stowell takes over. It’s kindly political science professor Shaw MacAllen (Ralph Morgan), who has devoted his life to providing for his beloved wife, only to discover that she, neglected, has sought passion with another man. He has followed her and watched through a window as she embraced her lover. In a rage he pulled his trusty pistol and laid her low. This he confesses to Stowell in  the D.A.’s office, which confession is dully recorded by others outside. Stowell is going to prosecute to the letter of the law and will seek the death penalty for premeditated murder.

But Stowell finds his own life spiraling onto the same path as Professor MacAllen’s. He comes behind Lucy, primping before her mirror and kisses her. She shrinks back, an echo of the professor’s recount of his own downfall.

The case goes to trial. The D.A. is well on  his way to getting a death penalty conviction. Meanwhile, his suspicions of Lucy grow, and he seeks her out after she leaves the house. Through a window he sees her with family friend Phil. He pulls the pistol from his pocket. He starts to point it. He pulls back. The pistol goes back into his pocket. He goes back home.

The following day before the court he informs the judge he will withdraw the premeditated murder charge and will substitute, instead, a charge of manslaughter. The defense attorney has previously agreed to a guilty plea for manslaughter, and the trial ends forthwith.

Back home after the trial, Stowell finds Lucy has packed her bags and is preparing to depart his life forever. He wants a restart, despite what he has witnessed. Just then, Phil and Elizabeth charge in. They are freshly married and are booked to Niagara Falls. Everybody used to go to Niagara Falls for a honeymoon in case you missed that bit of American  history.

Wait, there’s more. Phil reveals that Lucy was by to see him the previous night, and she convinced him to reconcile with Elizabeth, which relationship had been going south previously. Horrors! There was a grave misunderstanding. It’s a textbook, movie-ending kiss.

Yes, much too trite. The story is rote drama. Does leave one teary eyed, however.

One complaint. Since when did a prosecuting attorney get the job of cranking confessions out of suspects? We see an army of cops drag the limp professor straight to  the D.A.’s desk (while the D.A is out) and begin an interrogation. Don’t they have facilities for that sort of thing down at the police station? Who wrote this script, anyhow?

Warren William had a successful film career before and following this production, but he died in  1948.

Gail Patrick enjoyed an equally successful career, eventually serving as vice president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She was executive producer of the Perry Mason television series, which ran from 1957 to 1966.

There is no English Wikipedia entry for Lillian Yarbo, but there is one in French:

Lillian Yarbo est une actrice américaine, née courant 1905 à Washington (district de Columbia), morte courant 1996 (lieu inconnu).

I just returned from a month in France, and I will take a stab at translating this. It says she was born in 1905 in Washington, D.C. and died in 1996. The article goes on to list an impressive array of film credits:

I like the way foreign distribution sometimes makes play with titles, possibly to make them more marketable. I have seen They Drive by Night, and I am wondering how it becomes  Une femme dangereuse in French. I am guessing the French title is more to the point, since the core of the movie is not Humphrey Bogart and George Raft driving trucks by night, but is more about Ida Lupino murdering her husband and being tried for the crime, hence the dangerous woman.

This runs for an hour and eight minutes and is worth a watch if you have recently been overwhelmed by modern cynicism, for example immediately after watching Pulp Fiction. Wikipedia reminds me this is a remake of The Kiss Before the Mirror  from 1933, also directed by James Whale. This one entered the public domain in 1966, after Universal Pictures failed to renew the copyright. You can watch it for free on YouTube:

If you do watch it, give me some feedback.