Bad Movie of the Week

Number 250 of a series

A new month means a new lineup on Amazon Prime Video, so I browsed the movies available. I can’t be sure this one wasn’t there before, but this is the first time I ever heard of it. It’s Odd Thomas, from 2013, and it’s based on the first of the Odd Thomas novels by Dean Koontz. There are several.

But first we are introduced to the Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) character. He relates for us his origins. His name really is Odd, and there is some dispute as to how that came about. However, it is not unwarranted. Start with his family life. His mother was, herself, odd, to say the least.

When Odd was 12 they carted her off to an asylum.

Now he’s on his own, early 20s and already collecting a reputation for being odd in the desert town of Pico Mundo (Peak World). For example, he can see dead people. The girl in the picture is Penny Kalisto (Ashley Sommers), and she is dead, murdered. And Odd has just realized that the guy in the car, Harlo Landerson (Matthew Page) is the person who killed her. For some reason the killer saved a piece of white felt with her blood on it, and that evidence is now in the killer’s pocket.

Confronted with the devastating accusation, Landerson bolts, and Odd chases him down and takes him prisoner.

Two police officers, Bern Eckles (Kyle McKeever) and Simon Varner (Nico Tortorella) haul the murderer off to the slam.

The town police chief, Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe) is keyed in on Odd’s mystical power. As Odd converses with the dead girl, Porter approaches, and she saunters back across the swimming pool, fading into a cloud of dust as she goes. Porter helps Odd keep his special powers under wraps. He advises Odd to claim seeing the evidence when examining the perp’s wallet.

At night Odd is set upon by a host of visions of people who beg for his help. They are being shot by a mysterious figure wielding an automatic weapon, and they are all wearing the same, strange attire.

Break to further character development, as Odd explains he keeps his life simple, for example by choosing to work as a short order cook at a diner.

He is visited by his girlfriend, Bronwyn “Stormy” Llewellyn (Addison Timlin).

Chief Porter drops in, as well. Also a swarm of bodachs, spirit creatures from Gaelic mythology. Only Odd can see them. Bodachs kill any being that they know can see them, so Odd keeps it cool, working hard at pretending they are not there.

But he notices they swarm a patron named Bob Robertson, referred to thereafter as “Fungus Bob,” due to his moldy appearance. Odd becomes alarmed as seeing the bodachs swarming Fungus Bob, because such a swarm is indicative of massive death portending.

Skipping over the vast body of the plot, Stormy works with Odd as he narrows his investigation of the coming doom. In the interim, Fungus Bob is shot by a person unknown and left in Odd’s bathtub. Odd borrows a car and disposes of the body in an abandoned military base.

Then he tracks the plot to a planned attack on the shopping mall, where Stormy works at an ice cream parlor. By now he knows that Varner and Eckles are in on the plot with Fungus Bob. They are cult members who have moved to Pico Mundo and infiltrated the police force. He tracks Eckles to the security room at the mall, where Eckles has just murdered the guards. He ambushes Eckles with a baseball bat as he comes through the door. Then he goes looking for Varner.

Too late. Varner appears inside the mall with an automatic weapon, spraying patrons with bullets. One fusillade sweeps through the ice cream parlor.

Odd confronts Varner and kills him with the pistol he has taken from Eckles.

But Bob’s van is parked at the mall entrance, and it is packed with explosives, set to go off in seconds. Odd takes over the van and drives it out of town. Eckles grabs on and enters the cab in an attempt to kill Odd, who jumps out just before the van plunges into a drainage channel and explodes.

Odd is hailed as a hero, and he and Stormy make plans to spend the rest of their lives together. But the vision of Stormy is just that, for she was killed in the hail of bullets aimed at the ice cream parlor.

Odd exits Pico Mundo on foot to start a life of adventure that will develop into six additional Odd novels.

Production costs of this movie were high ($12 million), possibly owing to the extensive incorporation of CGI. I could not detect any top-tier talent involved, although all roles were adequately executed. And the plot is interesting, but apparently the concept did not connect well. The box office came in at $1.1 million. I’m thinking there will not be a bunch of sequels coming out.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 249 of a series

Another James Bond flick and a most unusual one. It’s The Spy Who Loved Me from 1977, and the back story is worth retelling. The title comes from an Ian Fleming novel unique among Bond stories. This one is told from the perspective of a third person, hence the title. Its being unique in this way gave the story a trajectory like no other. Fleming refused to release the plot for reuse, so the producers of the movie took the title and Fleming’s Bond character, and they concocted an original plot. This is streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

To appreciate the total disconnect from the original, here is how the book starts:

I WAS running away. I was running away from England, from my childhood, from the winter, from a sequence of untidy, unattractive love-affairs, from the few sticks of furniture and jumble of overworn clothes that my London life had collected around me; and I was running away from drabness, fustiness, snobbery, the claustrophobia of close horizons and from my inability, although I am quite an attractive rat, to make headway in the rat-race. In fact, I was running away from almost everything except the law.

And I had run a very long way indeed – almost, exaggerating a bit, halfway round the world. In fact, I had come all the way from London to The Dreamy Pines Motor Court which is ten miles west of Lake George, the famous American tourist resort in the Adirondacks – that vast expanse of mountains, lakes and pine forests which forms most of the northern territory of New York State.

Fleming, Ian. The Spy Who Loved Me (James Bond – Extended Series Book 10) (p. 1). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

So the woman, Vivianne Michel, relates her troubled coming of age, passing through two demeaning relationships with men before setting out on a cross-country tour on a moped. She stays a few days at a remote motel and gets sucked into a scheme by its gangster owner, who plans to have her killed and blamed on the arson that will send some insurance money his way. In the nick of time James Bond drops in and spoils the crooked scheme, ending up in the sack with Vivianne. And that’s the story.

Screen writers Christopher Wood and Richard Maibaum had something more adventurous in mind. Their story begins with major-power submarines being captured by a technology that takes command from the crew.

And thus begins the standard James Bond (Roger Moore) plot, which includes the obligatory chase down a snowy mountain range.

We meet Anya Amasova/Agent Triple X (Barbara Bach), being given the assignment to recover the technology.

We meet the evil mastermind behind the plot, Karl Stromberg (Curd Jürgens), here paying off the two scientists who developed the technology. Sitting at the other end of the table is his disloyal secretary (Marilyn Galsworthy), soon to meet a ghastly fate.

When the double-dealing secretary departs the room and enters the elevator, the doors close, and the bottom opens, dumping her into a pool with a hungry shark.

Stromberg does some double-dealing himself. As the two scientists depart in a helicopter it is blown out of the air.

The chase is on, and the scene shifts to Cairo, where a delightful wench sets a trap for Bond. She relents at the last moment, taking the bullet meant for him.

Bond captures the gunman and questions him on the roof top before letting him go.

The setting moves to the pyramids of Giza, where we meet Jaws (Richard Kiel). He’s called Jaws because he’s a Herman Munster stand-in, and all his teeth have been replaced by steel ones. He kills by biting people.

Such as this Soviet operative.

Bond meets Amasova. There will be sex before this movie is over.

They meet Jaws, and Bond defeats him by collapsing scaffolding on top of him. The ruffian survives. In fact, throughout he demonstrates to be indestructible.

Romance begins in a boat ride on the Nile, right before she knocks Bond out with trick cigarette smoke.

Eventually we get around to Stromberg’s super oceanic research vessel, where the final action will take place.

The movie is two hours of wacky attempts at assassination. Here a motorcycle with a side car sets out behind Bond’s Lotus. But the side car is really a homing road missile, which the driver releases to chase down Bond’s car.

Of course all this fails, and the rider exits the movie.

That failing, a conventional motorcar gives chase, but Bond’s Lotus opens up a compartment behind the license plate and sprays oil on the killers’ windshield. Off the road it goes.

Next, Stromberg’s personal pilot and accomplished assassin goes after Bond with murderous, but inaccurate machine gun fire from a helicopter. The problem seems to be the twin guns are set too far apart, and when the pilot centers on the Lotus, the rounds strike on either side of the car. We can see that watching the movie, and we wonder why the person who up-armed the helicopter did not detect this problem.

A close look.

Bond dives the lotus into the sea, where it converts to a submersible vessel.

From below the surface, Bond spots the circling helicopter and fires a missile. Goodbye helicopter.

Bond joins with an American sub crew in an attempt to track down the source of the mysterious technology, but that boat also gets captured and drawn into Stromberg’s fake tanker ship, where the crew are forced to surrender.

But Bond breaks free using the second oldest trick in the book—upsetting a stack of gas cylinders.

There ensues a massive fire fight within the bowels of the tanker. Many are killed on both sides.

Meanwhile, two of the captured subs are sent off onto missions to annihilate world class cities. The navy guys prevail and take the remaining sub out, nailing Stromberg’s tanker with a torpedo as they depart. The ship goes down with the remainder of Stromberg’s team.

Bond confronts Stromberg at his elegant dining table, where Blomberg prepares to eliminate him by means of an under-the-table rocket launcher, which is apparently standard for such tables. Bond dodges the rocket and retaliates by firing his Walther PPK back through the empty launch tube, several times, right into Stromberg’s crotch. That has got to hurt.

Bond initiates the destruction of the research vessel, and he and Amasova prepare to save themselves. Jaws is last seen swimming solo to a distant land mass. We also see the sole reason Bach was cast for this movie, because acting was never one of her accomplishments.

Again, for your viewing pleasure, Steve.

As standard, the film runs slightly more than two hours. It shovels out a string of capers highlighted by novel ways of killing somebody, ways Bond can make it into bed with some seductive wench, professionally executed stunts and special effects, all held together by a Saturday matinée plot.

Richard Kiel is “best known for his role as Jaws in the James Bond franchise, portraying the character in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) and Moonraker (1979); he lampooned the role with a tongue-in-cheek cameo in Inspector Gadget (1999). His next-most recognized role is the tough, but eloquent Mr. Larson in Happy Gilmore (1996). Other notable films include The Longest Yard (1974), Silver Streak (1976), Force 10 from Navarone (1978), Pale Rider(1985) and Tangled (2010).”

Bach also appeared in Force 10 from Navarone. She is married to Ringo Starr.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 248 of a series

Another Bond movie and once again not much of a plot. Besides, this one carries the same title as an Ian Fleming short story that relates an entirely different set of events. The move is A View to a Kill, and the short Story is From a View to a Kill, not exactly the same. The short story is from a Fleming anthology titled For Your Eyes Only., which title was attached to a movie that is nothing about the Fleming story that carries the name. This is streaming on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s worth comparing the story and the movie. Here’s how the story begins:

THE EYES behind the wide black rubber goggles were cold as flint. In the howling speed-turmoil of a B.S.A. M.20 doing seventy, they were the only quiet things in the hurtling flesh and metal. Protected by the glass of the goggles, they stared fixedly ahead from just above the centre of the handle-bars, and their dark unwavering focus was that of gun muzzles. Below the goggles, the wind had got into the face through the mouth and had wrenched the lips back into a square grin that showed big tombstone teeth and strips of whitish gum. On both sides of the grin the cheeks had been blown out by the wind into pouches that fluttered slightly. To right and left of the hurtling face under the crash helmet, the black gauntlets, broken-wristed at the controls, looked like the attacking paws of a big animal.

Fleming, Ian. For Your Eyes Only (James Bond – Extended Series Book 8) (p. 1). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

Yes, the Fleming story is about a gang of Soviet spies who set up a scheme to ambush and kill motorcycle couriers carrying secret NATO correspondence. James Bond happens to be handy (in Paris) and is called in to work the case. He figures out the location of the spys’ base of operations, and he sets up a reverse ambush, enabling friendly forces to wipe out the spy ring. End of story.

This came out in 1985, and the opening scenes of the movie dispense with the obligatory downhill ski chase. Has anybody besides me noticed the number of Bond films that involve a ski chase.

Anyhow, James Bond (Roger Moore) escapes successfully with the microchip he retrieved from the body of MI6 Agent 003. Somebody is hatching a plot against the American microchip industry. This naturally leads to MI6 operatives, including Bond, infiltrating Ascot Opening Day.

Here we are introduced to the dark and deadly May Day (Grace Jones), who is going to torment Bond relentlessly until the closing scenes.

Happy for all of us, Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell) attends, as well, becoming enchanted with the progress of the horses and giving the screen writers cause to lift that immortal line from another movie, “Move your ass!”

The arch villain is psycho industrialist Max Zorin (Christopher Walken), who makes a show of breeding race horses while he plots to extort the world.

A target of Zorin’s is Stacey Sutton (Tanya Roberts), whose company has been taken over by Zorin.

So, the CIA agent Bond enlists to foil Zorin’s plot is murdered, and Zorin schemes to murder a California geologist, burn down the San Francisco city hall, kill Bond and Sutton, and blame the whole matter on Bond. This naturally leads to a wild chase through city streets, as Bond and Sutton escape in a stolen fire truck. Didn’t we previously see this scene in Con Air?

Many police cars are wrecked, climaxing when Bond jumps a raised draw bridge in the fire truck.

I have skipped a bunch of the plot, including the part where Zorin plants tons of explosives in an abandoned mine with the plan to unzip the Saint Andreas Fault and wipe out California’s Silicon Valley. We get to appreciate how psychotic Zorin is when he massacres his crew of mine workers by flooding the chambers and machine gunning those trying to escape.

Bond, Sutton, and May Day survive, and Bond extracts the detonator charge with the help of May Day. She rides the mine car with the detonator outside the mine and disappears in a flash when it goes off harmlessly.

Meanwhile Zorin has escaped in his blimp to observe the destruction of Silicon Valley from the air. When he sees his plot has been foiled, he zooms down and scoops up Sutton, for what reason is not explained. Bond snags a mooring line and manages to ensnare the blimp at the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. There the girl is rescued, Zorin plunges 746 feet to the water, and the blimp disintegrates in a fiery explosion when Zorin’s accomplices mishandle a packet of dynamite.

And the movie winds down in standard fashion with Bond and Sutton sharing some sack time.

We are treated to seeing Patrick Macnee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett, working with Bond to unseat Zorin until Zorin gets wise to them and has Tibbett murdered. This is for those fans of British TV spy series.

Watching this I could not help seeing a recap of Goldfinger. Anybody else?

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 247 of a series

Another Bond film, now streaming on Hulu. I’m not reviewing these in any special order, just taking them as they show up on Hulu. This time it’s Sean Connery as 007 agent James Bond. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s Diamonds Are Forever, based on a novel of the same name by Ian Fleming, and to get some perspective you need to review some history. Fleming published the novel in 1956, before most of us were born. During the time the De Beers company had a corner on jewel-grade diamonds, and they needed a marketing ploy to sell them. Some ten years before, their advertising company came up with the slogan, “Diamonds are forever” to let you know that when you gave a lady a diamond, as in an engagement ring, you were giving something that would last forever, like your love. All jokes aside, diamonds are quite durable, and they are the hardest natural substance we commonly encounter, except they are carbon, and they will burn up in a fire.

Anyhow, this is about a crime caper that involves a load of diamonds, hence the unimaginative title.

Opening up we see Agent 007 engaged in a fruitless quest to locate and kill the notorious Ernst Stavro Blofeld. He finds where Blofeld has established a facility to create body doubles of himself to decoy enemies such as 007. Bond kills one double, and later kills another, thinking he is done with Blofeld. Not so, and the plot continues.

Now we switch to the diamond mines of Africa, where workers enterprisingly pick rough stones out of the diggings and smuggle them out in their teeth. A corrupt dentist processes a procession of miners with toothaches, taking from each a stone and giving to each a packet of money.

Then the dentist is off with a packet of stones to meet the courier who is prepared to take them out of Africa. Only, two assassins, a Mr. Wint (Bruce Glover) and a Mr. Kidd (Putter Smith) have already intercepted and killed the real courier. They take the packet from the dentist and kill him.

The diamonds wind up in Amsterdam, the diamond market of uncut diamonds of the world at the time (maybe still). Possession of the diamonds has landed in the exquisite hands of a Miss Tiffany Case (Jill St. John). Yes, Fleming had a way with names. But Bond is on the trail, and he tracks down Miss Case, grabbing up the diamond shipment and submitting to the requisite tumble in bed.

Bond has been posing as smuggler Peter Franks (Joe Robinson), and when Franks shows up there is a fight to the death. Bond smuggles the diamonds to the USA, their intended destination, inside the intestines of the unfortunate Mr. Franks. Here he meets CIA Agent Felix Leiter (Norman Burton) at the airport, where Leiter poses as a customs inspector. When Leiter inquires as to where the diamonds are hidden, Fleming takes another turn at humor, having Bond respond, “alimentary, Mr. Leiter.” Most amusing.

Anyhow, the adventure is not over. Bond still has the diamonds, and the crooks still want them. I admit to having read the book decades ago, but I do recall that a thunderous load of details has been changed for the movie. Anyhow, Bond is in Las Vegas, where there are casinos to gamble in and sexy hookers to snuggle up to him. After he wins at roulette, Miss Plenty O’Toole invites herself up to his room and gets mostly naked. Then the bad guys show up and toss Plenty out the window. Fortunately she lands in the pool. A gangster looks out the window, and remarks famously, “I didn’t know there was a pool.”

The case devolves into the standard Hollywood mangling of a straight-forward spy plot. There has to be a quantity of mass mayhem. There is a vehicle chase in the desert involving many gangsters crashing their cars while chasing Bond, who is driving a mock-up moon rover, something that did not exist when Fleming wrote the book.

The carnage continues as Las Vegas police get involved and wreck any number of cars trying to catch Bond.

Along the way Bond has been captured, placed into a coffin, which coffin is fed into the furnace. He comes to as the the flames start to eat away at the coffin, and it’s at this time the crooks quench the burners and extract the scorched box. They open it and demand to know where the diamonds are.

There is also the encounter between bond and homosexual lovers Wint and Kidd. They take the unconscious Bond to a place in the desert where a pipeline is being laid, and they leave him in one of the pipe sections about to be installed. Comes morning, and the construction crew arrives. A crane picks up each pipe section in turn, laying them, Bond inside, into the trench. A welding machine comes along inside and welds the sections together. When it encounters Bond he puts a stop to it, triggering a reaction from the construction company. They come looking for the machine, and Bond steps out.

Anyhow, the supposed recipient of the diamonds is a billionaire named Howard Whyte (Jimmy Dean), who is working on an earth satellite project. Only Whyte has been imprisoned by Blofeld, whose scheme it is to launch a satellite that incorporates the diamonds in a reflector to turn it into a deadly laser weapon. Blofeld will threaten the planet with destruction unless he is paid billions. Yes, lasers didn’t exist in 1956, and satellites were still a dream.

Anyhow, Bond and White figure out where all the monkey business is going on, when Bond points out a Whyte business location that is not supposed to exist.

It’s an oil-drilling platform off the California coast, and Tiffany Case is there as the guest of Blofeld, who has sexual expectations. Bond infiltrates the base and hooks up with Case in a scheme to switch the tape cassette that controls the satellite. Get this, a tape cassette is the thing that determines which parts of the planet are to be zapped. Anyhow, you see here Tiffany Case trying to switch tapes, and one copy is tucked into the back end of her bikini.

There is a battle between good and evil as American forces attack, and Blofeld attempts to escape in his miniature submarine. But Bond takes over control of the crane that is lowering the sub into the water, and he crashes it into the platform superstructure. That eliminates Blofeld and the machinery that controls the satellite. The world is saved.

Case and Bond set off on a cruise together, where they are accosted by Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd, still working for somebody. They disguise themselves as stewards and bring a sumptuous feast to the suite, since Bond has never actually seen the two.

But Bond becomes suspicious when he recognizes the smell of Mr. Wint’s cheap perfume. When Kidd approaches Bond with flaming skewers he douses him with alcohol from a bottle of spirits. The burning Kidd jumps into the ocean and is never seen again.

Bond grabs the bomb Wint and Kidd have stashed in the service cart, and he stuffs it into Wint’s underwear before tossing him overboard, where he explodes in mid-air.

Yeah, we don’t believe a lot of this either. I no longer have a copy of the book, but you can take a peek at the Wikipedia summary and see the movie is a ghost of the original plot. The deliciously evil characters of Mr. Wint and Mr. Kidd are there, but Bond kills them early before shutting down a diamond smuggling operation. There is no mention of satellites and lasers.

If you know the Bond stories, you will know there is another one that involves CIA Agent Felix Leiter. In the prior story Leiter has lost an arm and a leg in a shark attack, but for this movie he has recovered remarkably, and he is back working for the CIA.

St. John played a number of sexy bimbo roles, in defiance of being one of Hollywood’s brainiest players.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 246 of a series

Yeah, you might have thought otherwise, but all these movies are bad. In my younger days I watched as the concept developed and evolved, and I read the books. What the producers did was take some perfectly good Ian Fleming yarns and cobble them into formula cinematic productions—as predictable as rain. At a certain point each production opened with the following title graphic.

This one is On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, staring George Lazenby as British MI6 agent James Bond, code name 007. The bulk of the bond films are now streaming on Hulu, where I obtained screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

I read the book decades ago, and some parts I dis-remember. Watching the opening scene I pictured the hillside roads above the principality of Monaco, but Wikipedia says it’s Portugal. Anyhow, Bond watches as Countess Theresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo (Diana Rigg) wades out into the water at sunset, apparently aiming to meet the waves for the very last time. He drives his Aston Martin down onto the sand and drags the countess back from the brink. He is immediately assailed by two rough characters, both of whom he disposes of with some effort. But the countess gets away.

Shortly he sees her at what I presumed to be the Casino de Monte-Carlo, but then this is in Portugal. She makes an extravagant bet, which she cannot cover. Bond, apparently subsidized by the British treasury, covers the bet and goes to meet her in her room, where he is attacked—from my observation—by the two thugs from the beach.

Anyhow, the two thugs work for Marc-Ange Draco, father of the countess, and also a richer-than-God industrialist criminal. Draco wants Bond to save his wayward daughter—marry her for £1 million. Bond declines, but that’s what he winds up doing eventually.

Bond is really supposed to be tracking down master criminal Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Telly Savalas), who is hatching a scheme to threaten the civilized world and thereby extort billions. To that end Bond goes in disguise as genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, with whom Blofeld has been negotiating in order to establish his claim of royalty and thereby escape prosecution (???). That takes Bond to the roof of Switzerland’s Piz Gloria, where Blofeld has established a fake allergy clinic as a means to spread a deadly infection world-wide by means of a gaggle of comely female clients. Here Bond has the immense pleasure of meeting Blofeld’s alluring assistant, Ilsa Bunt (Ilse Steppat). How would you like to wake up one morning and find her in bed with you?

Bond meets the bevy of glamorous (and horny) allergy clients who are scheduled to spread Blofeld’s pathogen unknowingly across the face of the planet. In classic Bond fashion, Bond humps two of them in a single night.

But Blofeld trips Bond up on his lack of thorough knowledge of Sir Hilary’s area of expertise, and he imprisons him in the resort’s cable car machinery room in preparation for disposing of him at a later time. Blofeld must first send the gorgeous carriers on their deadly mission. This is formula for all such films. If Blofeld did what real gangsters do, immediately put a bullet in Bond’s ear, that would have been the end of the movie.

Instead, Bond escapes the one locked room in the entire facilities that has an extra opening, the cable port, and the remainder of the movie has Bond being pursued by Blofeld’s gang. Here gunmen race downhill on skis, firing their weapons into the snowbanks and into nearby trees, never hitting anything of worth.

At a brief lull in the chase, Bond encounters the Countess di Vicenzo at a skating rink, and she joins in the escape down the mountain. Blofeld puts an end to thirty minutes’ of excitement by triggering an avalanche down on Bond and the girl. Blofeld’s men drag the countess from the snow, not finding Bond buries nearby. But this is not before Bond and Tracy have enjoyed some sack time overnight in a mountain shack.

Bond now has what he needs to report to MI6, and they accept that, but they will not intervene to rescue the countess. Bond’s boss, M, sends him out of his office, whereupon Bond contacts Tracy’s father, and they launch a helicopter attack on the mountain redoubt to rescue the daughter.

Of course, Draco’s crew of militants-for-hire defeat Blofeld’s thugs, and they destroy Blofeld’s control center, ending the threat and forestalling payment of the world ransom. There follows a wild chase on down the mountain, a chase that includes a several minutes’ interlude involving two bobsleds. My own experience—I’ve ridden half an Olympic bobsled run, and those rides do not last that long.

Bond leaves Blofeld hung up on a tree limb along the bobsled run, and for the first and only time in his career he gets married.

But that’s the end. As Bond and his new bride stop to pull flowers from off their honeymoon Aston Martin, Blofeld and Bunt drive by, Blofeld at the wheel and Bunt firing a machine gun.

Although much is changed from the book, the end of the movie is lifted directly from the book:

‘It’s all right,’ he said in a clear voice as if explaining something to a child. ‘It’s quite all right. She’s having a rest. We’ll be going on soon. There’s no hurry. You see – ’ Bond’s head sank down against hers and he whispered into her hair – ‘you see, we’ve got all the time in the world.’

Fleming, Ian. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (James Bond – Extended Series Book 11) (p. 258). AmazonEncore. Kindle Edition.

After I had read the book and seen the movie, my youngest daughter remarked to me she was at that ski resort once with her grandmother. Check with her if you want additional perspective.

The movie plot stretches believability in a number of ways, one of them being the chase down from the lift station at the top of Piz Gloria. Bond hitches a ride on the descending cable car. Then he skis down some more. Then its down some more. Finally, after a 30-minute chase. They are still within the avalanche zone. Just how high are these Swiss mountains, anyhow.

This was Steppat’s last movie. She died three days after it premiered. Fleming died in 1964, two years after the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, came out and the same year his last book,  Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang, was published.

I see that Hulu has up for streaming the following:

  • Dr. No (the first Bond film)
  • From Russia with Love
  • Goldfinger
  • Thunderball
  • You Only Live Twice
  • Diamonds Are Forever
  • Live and Let Die
  • The Man with the Golden Gun
  • The Spy Who Loved Me
  • Moonraker
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Octopussy
  • Never Say Never Again
  • A View to a Kill
  • The Living Daylights
  • License to Kill
  • Golden Eye
  • Tomorrow Never Dies
  • The World is not Enough
  • Die Another Day

Not included among films made from the Fleming novels is Casino Royale, which is not actually based on the short story of the same name and is not part of the Bond movie franchise. I figure I have a few weeks to view these before they are pulled from the lineup, so expect a slew of bad Bond movies in the months to come.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 245 of a series

I don’t know why these are sometimes hard to find on Amazon Prime Video. Amazon knows I like to review bad movies, but often they hide them way down in the listings. This is Vengeance Valley from 1951, and I swear I never saw it when it came out. It’s based on the Luke Short novel of the same name, and I acquired a Kindle edition for comparison. Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

The story is told by Hewie (Carleton Carpenter) a young cowpoke who works at the ranch. Looking at the scenery I got the idea the setting is Wyoming, but Wikipedia says Colorado. Anyhow, two cowpokes come riding in from the winter range. Before heading to the ranch house they stop at the saloon for something to warm their bellies. They are Owen Daybright (Burt Lancaster), the ranch foreman, and Lee Strobie (Robert Walker), misfit son of the ranch owner, Arch Strobie (Ray Collins).

There’s word floating around the saloon, and it filters to the two cowpokes. Apparently there has been a new arrival in the valley since the two ranchers left back in the fall, and the addition is the result of some shenanigans between Lee and a comely restaurant waitress named Lily Fasken (Sally Forrest). Only this last information is, for the time being, a matter of conjecture.

Lee shrugs off his situation and sits at the card table to gamble away some of his money while his own bride Jen (Joanne Dru) pines for his return back at the ranch house.

Since Lee won’t soldier up, Owen stops by the widow’s ranch where Lily and the new addition are convalescing. He lays $500 on her, since he figures his boss’s son is not going to step up.

Also at the widow’s house is Jen, who Owen is thinking made a mistake marrying Lee. Something is happening here.

Lily has two brothers, Hub (John Ireland) and Dick (Hugh O’Brian), and they consider the dishonor of their sister a matter they need to handle. The second brother arrives by train, telling Sheriff Con Alvis (Jim Hayward) they plan to kill somebody.

Meanwhile Lee shows his true colors as he goes about breaking a new horse. All cowboy fans know that a horse, no matter what his lineage, is born with an instinct to buck off anything that crawls onto its back. The way to make a horse ridable is to “break” it by letting it buck until it realizes that bucking won’t work. Often the rider doing the breaking gets thrown several times before the horse finally caves in.

The horse bucks Lee into the dirt, and Lee takes it in true character. He grabs a whip and lashes the horse with it. This elicits a strong reaction from the other cowboys, and Lee’s stock takes a nosedive. He will never be accepted at the ranch again.

Even Lee’s pretty new bride starts to see through him, especially when it becomes he is the one who humped Lily.

Anyhow, the Fasken brothers confront Owen and Hewie. They have guns, and the cowpokes are unarmed. Nevertheless, Owen gains the upper hand in a fight, and the Faskens wind up in the sheriff’s jail for a week.

Meanwhile, things begin to unravel at the ranch. Lee sees his days are numbered. His father recognizes his son’s failings, but tries to overlook them. This leniency is stretching thin, and Lee looks for a way out. He convinces Arch to deed over half the ranch to him before the cattle drive, and he plots to dispose of Owen out on the trail. He enlists the aid of two rustlers, and when the sheriff ships the Laskens out on the train, one of the rustlers is there to advise them of the plan. They get off the train, pick up three waiting horses, and join the cattle drive in a scheme cooked up by Lee.

Lee hooks up with another rancher on the drive and strikes a deal to sell his father’s cattle. Then he arranges an ambush for Owen. The two Laskens are waiting when Lee and Owen ride toward the telegraph station, supposedly to head off the rancher who purchased the cattle.

The shooting starts. Lee skedaddles, and Owen picks off one of the Laskens. The cowboys, hearing the gunshots, ride to the rescue. They pick off the remaining Lasken brother. Own rides down and kills Lee in a duel by the creek.

Back at the ranch, Owen explains to Arch what happened, and Arch agrees it was a thing that needed doing.

About that time Jen arrives in a buckboard, and Owen has the happy duty of telling her she is no longer a married woman. Not shown is Hewie and Lily getting together.

This is not all that bad a movie. It’s well-photographed, and the dialog is realistic. The director has put in a lot of stuff about life on the ranch not strictly required by the storyline. There are interchanges between the characters that can be counted as great additions to the color but providing nothing to advance the story. That business of Owen chasing Lee across the badlands is overdrawn, much as is done in about half the westerns I ever viewed. We see Lee riding. We see Owen riding. We see Lee riding. And on and on. We see pokes firing off their pistols at impossible distances and getting unlikely hits.

A comparison with the book shows that, contrary to many book conversions, character names are generally preserved. Interestingly, Wikipedia uses “Strobie,” and the book shows “Stobie.” Could be Wikipedia’s reviewer didn’t have access to the full credits and didn’t hear the name correctly.

It’s apparent some of the action in the movie is made up, so we can assume a lot of it is. The duel between Owen and Lee never happened—there was more of a free-wheeling gunfight. From the book:

A close bellow of gun behind him swiveled his head. He saw Mead Calhan lowering his gun, and then he saw that Lee was down, gone from his horse which was bucking wildly now.

Short, Luke. Vengeance Valley (Kindle Locations 2544-2545). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

Truth be known, the book is much better than the movie. Although Luke Short was never known for deep character development, his depictions of rough and ready action are legend. And knee-deep.

Sullenly, then, Dick Fasken holstered his gun. As soon as he did, Mead Calhan stepped up to him, yanked the gun from the holster, and hit Dick Fasken in the face with all the strength in his squat and powerful body. Dick fell flat on his back, and did a somersault before the force of the blow was spent.

Short, Luke. Vengeance Valley (Kindle Locations 659-662). Open Road Media. Kindle Edition.

Good news to all Burt Lancaster fans. MGM failed to renew the copyright, and the picture entered the public domain in 1979. You can watch it for free on YouTube:

 

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 244 of a series

This came out in 1987, and I never heard of it. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video until November, so I watched it and grabbed some screen shots. It’s The Monster Squad, and you know it’s going to be fun, but not so good. Details are from Wikipedia.

I watched this through once, and it appears to be a kind of monster movie spoof, featuring all your favorite monsters. It starts with Count Dracula (Duncan Regehr), apparently in the 19th century, based on the technology. With torches and pitchforks the people are coming after Dracula. They use a bundle of dynamite (19th century technology) to blast open the portcullis of Dracula’s castle. Then they enter and encounter all the horrors. Challenged by Dracula, they proceed to have a virgin (a mere child) to read an incantation, but she continues to be distracted by Dracula’s threats and is never able to finish and thereby to invoke the edict. The people, including the virgin, are sucked up into a vortex, and Dracula prevails for another hundred years.

Forward a hundred years, and some children have formed a Monster Squad, studying up on all the classic monster lore, and conducting monster proficiency examinations to induct new members. Meanwhile, a vintage B-25 bomber is flying a cargo that includes boxes of ancient corpses. The pilot hears a noise in the back, and he leaves the first officer in charge while he goes to investigate. Dracula is on the loose, and he surprises the pilot, who trips the control and opens the bomb bay doors. Dracula merely reverts to a bat, drops through the opening, and flies away to do his deadly business. The Frankenstein monster’s body, in a wooden crate, falls into a pond.

The father of one of the Monster Squad is a policeman (Stephen Macht), so action shifts to the local police station, where strange stuff begins to manifest. A wild guy (Jonathan Gries ) claims he’s a werewolf and demands to be locked up so he can’t hurt anybody. Too late, he views the full moon through a window and begins to transform, grabbing a cop’s pistol and shooting into the ceiling. A cop puts three bullets (not silver) into him, and they cart away the body.

But in the wagon on the way to the morgue, the Wolfman comes around and disposes of the driver, escaping.

Dracula gathers his monster minions in the swamp. They include the Wolfman, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and a mummy. In the box is the body of the Frankenstein monster, soon to be resurrected.

The Monster Squad meets in their tree house to discuss strategy for combating the influx of monsters.

A wannabe member is little Phoebe Crenshaw (Ashley Bank), who recapitulates the iconic scene from Frankenstein, the movie, dabbling beside the water as the monster comes up behind her. Unlike in the 1931 movie, Phoebe’s little body is not found floating in the water. She and the monster bond, and he becomes her protector and subsequently a protector of the boys.

The Monster Squad boys know their stuff, and they fashion sharpened wooden stakes (for Dracula) in the woodworking shop, and stolen silverware is melted down and molded into bullets (for the Wolfman). In a final showdown the Squad saves the world. Patrick (Robby Kiger) shoots Dracula’s consorts with special arrows, and Phoebe, the nearest available virgin, reads the incantation, allowing the vortex to suck up all the monsters, including the Frankenstein creature.

When the military arrives to do battle, the Monster Squad tells them it’s all over but the shouting.

High quality cinematography and some good directing. Definitely a kid movie, PG-13.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 243 of a series

I’ve been to Tombstone a few times, and I can attest to the realistic scenery. This is Hour of the Gun from 1967 and starring James Garner as Wyatt EarpJason Robards as Doc Holliday, and Robert Ryan as Ike Clanton. The screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

Yes, this is about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but the gunfight is only the beginning. Here we see the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday walking out to meet some of the Clanton gang in the streets of Tumbstone, 26 October 1881. There are five of the Clantons, including Billy Clanton, son of leader Ike Clanton. The four lawmen demand the Clanton people give up their weapons. The Clantons had a recent history of death threats toward the Earps.

The Clantons refuse to disarm, and they open fire. Holliday plus Virgil and Morgan Earp take hits, but after 30 seconds of firing three of the Clantons, including Billy Clanton, lie in the dust and never get up.

There is a power struggle in the town, that region of the country for that matter, with Ike Clanton hosting a collection of gunslingers to assist in opposing the onslaught of civilization. The four lawmen face trail for murder, but the judge decides they were acting within their duties as law officers, and therefore there was not crime.

Ike Clanton is not satisfied, and he launches a campaign of vengeance. First Virgil Earp is shot from ambush in the streets of the town. He survives as a cripple.

There is an election for a new city sheriff, and Morgan Earp is winning it, but a shotgun blast through the pool hall door kills him. His opposition in the election, Pete Spence (Michael Tolan) is given the job. Now it’s Wyatt who’s on a mission for revenge.

Wyatt takes his brother’s body to Tucson by train, and Clanton’s men follow. A planned ambush at the train station goes badly, and two of the Clanton assassins are killed by Wyatt and Doc.

Clanton’s gang begins to disintegrate. Clanton dismisses Spence and orders him to leave the area. Spence and others rob a stage coach for the mine payroll and kill three. Wyatt tracks Spence down and catches him with some of the loot. He notices Spence’s shotgun is nearby, and he turns his back for a moment. Spence seizes the opportunity and blazes away. But Wyatt has set him up, and he ducks behind a doorway, emerging to waste him with a volley from his pistol.

A similar fate awaits another ex-Clanton gangster. Wyatt elicits his confession to complicity in the shootings of his brothers and allows the man to go for his pistol before shooting him multiple times.

Meanwhile, Doc, suffering from tuberculosis, goes to Colorado for convalescence. He and Wyatt make the trip twice, and on the second trip Doc remains there to die.

Wyatt traces Ike to Mexico, where his gang is caught stealing cattle. The Mexican Federales are unable to prosecute Ike after their two witnesses, Clanton gang members, are murdered in their jail cells. Wyatt finally confronts Ike in a church courtyard and waits for him to go for his gun before killing him.

Wyatt leaves Arizona and never returns.

So, that was all about 137 years ago this month, plus some. Obviously the story begins on 26 October 1881 and goes forward from there. Despite the promise of the opening credits, little of the movie matches written records. In fact, few of the written records match anything. For example, I can find no record that Wyatt Earp killed Ike Clanton:

Clanton and his brother Phineas were charged with cattle-rustling and pursued by detective Jonas V. Brighton. On June 1, 1887, at Jim Wilson’s Ranch on Eagle Creek, south of Springerville, Arizona, Phin Clanton surrendered, but Ike resisted and was shot dead.

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is the most notorious of the Old West shootouts, but it was hardly known until 1931, two years after Wyatt died. Wyatt Earp retired with his family to Los Angeles, where he cavorted with western movie actors.

This came out the year after Garner made a big splash as a race car driver in Grand Prix.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 242 of a series

I need to check on this. Yes, it was on Wednesday I posted a review of Ghostbusters from 1984. Of course there needed to be a sequel, and there was. Here it is. From 1989, here is Ghostbusters II, with much of the same cast and crew.

Like its predecessor, this is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the source of these screen shots. It’s from Columbia Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening title shot tells this is “5 years later.” There is a crack in a New York City sidewalk, and a slimy ooze emerges and spreads. Along comes the enchanting Ms. Barrett, since married, since divorced, not arriving at her apartment, carrying her groceries, pushing her new baby, Oscar (William T. Deutschendorf and Hank J. Deutschendorf II) in a carriage. There is a special place in hell for parents who name a child Oscar, but that’s another matter. Anyhow, the carriage wheels roll through the ooze, and as Dana engages with the building superintendent, the carriage starts to roll away. Not just roll away, but on and into Midtown traffic while the frantic mother chases after it. It rolls and dodges traffic, as if by luck (or magic) and finally stops. Dana is curious, and she considers calling her old friends with the Ghostbusters.

And we see the new logo. Number 2.

The five years have not been good for the Ghostbusters. The luster has come off the business, and they are reduced to doing birthday parties. Even the sixth graders think this stuff is a big hoax.

Dana stops by Spengler’s research lab to try to get some answers. She does not want Peter involved, since she wound up marrying a musician instead of him (he never asked her).

She is now working as an art restorer at a museum, under the direction of Dr. Janosz Poha (Peter MacNicol). He’s the nerd’s definition of a nerd, and his attempts at cozying up to Dana are brutally inept.

But in the museum is a painting of Vigo the Carpathian, a European tyrant from centuries past. Alone in the museum, Janosz is accosted by the spirit of Vigo coming out of the painting. He is commanded to obtain a baby to enable his rebirth. We know which baby this is going to be.

The Ghostbusters, following up on Dana’s request, check out her apartment. Peter checks out Dana. He is enchanted by the baby he figures should have been his. Then the team moves to the sidewalk, where they discover a sinister presence underground. Bypassing the city’s permit process, they set themselves up as a repair crew and proceed to punch a hole in the street to locate the sinister force.

They are successful in the first part. They find beneath a river of ooze and recover a sample. In the second part they sever a main power cable and punch the Big Apple into darkness, leading to a criminal trial. As evidence, the police bring along stuff they found in the Ghostbusters wagon, including a beaker full of the ooze.

The ooze is strange stuff. It reacts to human emotion, and as the judge starts to pronounce sentence he becomes more enraged, and the beaker becomes more volatile, finally erupting into the ghosts of the Scaleri Brothers, the pair of which the judge previously sent to the electric chair.

Anyhow, the Ghostbusters are (temporarily) vindicated, but things are not going well for Dana. Mysteriously, Oscar climbs out on the building ledge, where an apparition, apparently in the employ of Vigo, snatches him and carries him away.

I won’t stretch out a deconstruction of the plot, but suffice it to say the Ghostbusters figure the mysterious ooze can be turned around and made to work for them. They accumulate a boatload of the stuff and apply it to the Statue of Liberty, and they activate it with soothing vibes. This animates the statue, which wades the Hudson and comes to Manhattan to do battle with Vigo.

The Ghostbusters triumph. End of movie.

Five years after the original, much of the charm had worn off the concept, but this production still earned $112.5 million in the American market and $215.4 million world wide. It was the eighth best grossing movie of that year.

The script is by Aykroyd and Ramis, those two in the middle above. We saw a lot more of Peter McNicol later, as he played Professor Larry Fleinhardt for six seasons of Numb3rs. Also, he was a camp supervisor in Addams Family Values.

I’m not going to review any additional Ghostbuster sequels.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 241 of a series

You knew eventually I would get around to this one. Here it is. Burt Reynolds died recently, and this was one of his more notorious movies. He met Sally Field here, and the two enjoyed one of those brief Hollywood marriages. That was 41 years ago. Now it’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The title is Smokey and the Bandit, and that’s about the most excitement you’re going to get out of it. This was back in the days when trucker lore was the big rage, and everybody had a CB radio and knew all the highway jargon. “Smokey,” of course is the police, particularly the highway police, because they might be seen wearing these hats likes forest rangers wear, like Smokey the Bear wears. Get it? There used to be a thing called the Gum Ball Rally, and it was an off the books cross-country race engaged by those rich enough to have the fast cars and bold enough to defy the law. The story went that in Ohio if you got on your CB and asked for a smokey alert some patrol officer would come back that there were no smokeys here. This was not to be believed, because the reality was that “Ohio is wall-to-wall Smokey Bears.” Those were the legends of the times. Wait. In case you need further explanation, it was called the Gum Ball Rally, because of the lights on the top of cop cars that looked like gum ball machines.

Reynolds is “Bandit.” That’s his handle. His birth name is Bo Darville, another reason to use “Bandit” for a handle. He is so famous, so popular, he is paid by truck rally promoters just to show up and be there. At this one he accepts the proposition, for much cash, to drive to Texarkana (from Atlanta) and bring back a load of Coors. Some history is involved here.

In those days Coors was strictly from Golden, Colorado, and they limited distribution of their product, because it was not pasteurized, and they did not want to suffer quality defects from long transport times. In the late ’60s I lived in Austin, and you couldn’t get Coors that far east, but you could get it in west Texas, where I sometimes worked at the McDonald Observatory. People would take the charter flight out to Alpine, and they would sometimes bring back a shipment of Coors. We called it something like the Coors Express.

Eventually politically conservative commentator Ronald Reagan weighed in on the matter, because the FTC sued Coors for restraint of trade, and Reagan considered that companies should be allowed to restrain trade to any extent they desired.

So the opening scene shows a trucker being busted for transporting contraband, a load of Coors, east of Texas. The basis of this movie is no Coors east of Texas.

Bandit elicits some up-front for the run, an item of which is the star of the show, this 1977 Pontiac Trans Am. Fact is, this plot is so thin, and the dialog so weak, this car is the move.

The scheme, which does not make any sense, is for Bandit to drive point in the Trans Am in order to smoke out all the mounties while his buddy Cledus “Snowman” Snow (Jerry Reed) keeps a low profile and mothers the cargo.

On the trip back from Texarkana Bandit picks up runaway bride Carrie (Field). That adds romance to the movie and also to Reynolds’ private life.

Interest in the plot is introduced by way of Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason), whose son is the stranded groom. Sheriff Justice is, of course, relentless in his pursuit of Bandit in the Trans Am, having no clue as to the existence of the contraband Coors.

Of course, Bandit meets multiple smokeys along the way, allowing stunt driver Hal Needham, also the film’s director, to show us what the car can do. Here’s the Trans Am displaying considerable over-steer in the dirt.

To be sure, the plot involves destruction of multiple police cars, as they variously roll over, t-bone, or go into the drink.

Needham made this jump with Lada St. Edmund in the car, standing in for Field. Truth be told, if I were director Needham I would have used a mannequin and saved a movie credit and also an insurance premium.

I won’t leave readers hanging. This cop car eventually does go into the water.

And Bandit makes it back with the load, with Sheriff Justice close behind, by now his sheriff’s car missing both doors and the roof, that courtesy of a steel cable stretched across his path. Bandit and Frog (Carrie) taunt him on the CB from a few feet away as they head off on another exciting run, this time to bring clam chowder back from Boston.

To add edge to the plot, Bandit is required to make the Atlanta-Texarkana and back run in 28 hours., which leaves me in mystery. I’ve made the Dallas-Tucson run, about the same distance, in 15 hours, and that’s while keeping within the posted speed. OK, 85 mph in West Texas. To be sure, this movie was in the days when double-nickels was imposed by federal mandate.

My inclination was to be sorely offended by the bland dialog in this production. Here are some quotes, courtesy of IMDB:

  • Sheriff Branford: The fact that you are a sheriff is not germane to the situation.
  • Buford T. Justice: The god damn Germans got nothin’ to do with it.
  • Junior: What did he say?
  • Buford T. Justice: SHUT UP! ONE SHIT AT A TIME!
  • Junior: All right.

 

  • Junior: My hat blew off, daddy.
  • Buford T. Justice: I hope your goddamn head was in it.

 

  • Carrie: You have a great profile.
  • Bandit: Yeah, I do, don’t I? Especially from the side.
  • Carrie: Well, at least we agree on something.
  • Bandit: Yeah. We both like half of my face.

Wikipedia reports that the dialog was scripted on the set.

This has to be the worst movie I have reviewed that contained this much star power. Field came to the production with a best actress Oscar from Norma Rae, and Gleason had been nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for The Hustler. This was the second highest grossing film for 1977, after the Star Wars debut.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 240 of a series

Another selection from movies filmed in (near) Sedona, Arizona. I was out there last month and picked up on a list of films that used the location. This production made ample use of the famous Red Rock scenery and apparently Oak Creek, that runs through the canyon. Other than that, this is about somewhere out west where mining is a prime industry, and pioneering is a way of life. It’s Johnny Guitar from 1954 out of Republic Pictures. It stars Sterling Hayden as Johnny Guitar (Johnny Logan) and Joan Crawford as Vienna (no last name given). It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. We are also treated to Mercedes McCambridge as hard as nails Emma Small and Ernest Borgnine as badman Bart Lonergan. Ward Bond you will recognize as John McIvers. Details are from Wikipedia.

Speaking of the famous Red Rock country, the film opens with cowpoke Johnny Guitar riding through some of that. I use the term “cowpoke” loosely, because there is no evidence Johnny has ever poked, pushed, prodded, or even touched a cow. First he experiences some blasting, as miners scratch for gold and silver. Only the blasts appear to be somewhere besides Sedona, because the geology is totally unlike the region. Likely the locals and the Bureau of Land Management would not allow blasting away at some scenery that today rakes in millions of tourist dollars each year. Anyhow, Johnny also hears some gunshots, and he looks down.

He sees some men robbing a stage coach and killing somebody. He rides on.

He comes to Vienna’s place, definitely a cut above your typical frontier saloon. The place is up class, and Vienna is something to look at as well. She has hired Johnny to come out to the rough country to work in her establishment, ostensibly to play the guitar. We later learn there’s a flame going between the two, one that’s unquenched since they parted ways five years previous.

Only, Emma and her followers resent Vienna and her upstart ways, and Emma leads a brigade that charges into Vienna’s place to blame the holdup, and the killing of Emma’s brother, on Vienna and the four pieces of loose change that hang around her place. Emma demands the local authorities force Vienna to close her place by the next day. Things are going to get tense.

The four unsettled hombres decide they need to clear out of the territory. Accused of being robbers, they always assert they grub a living from a silver mine they have. Fact is, the mine has run dry, and they need to move on. To get traveling money they decide to pull a bank heist. They barge in and do the deed while Johnny and Vienna are there to close her account so she can pay off her staff and close her place.

Emma places the bank job on Vienna’s head, and she leads a posse to Vienna’s place to string everybody up. Meanwhile, one of the robbers has gotten separated from the others and has made his way to Vienna’s place, where she has hidden him beneath a table.

He is Turkey Ralston (Ben Cooper), and Emma threatens to hang him outright unless he implicates Vienna. He does, and they hang him forthwith. After dragging Vienna and Turkey out to be hanged, Emma takes down the chandelier with a shotgun blast, burning the place to the ground.

After Turkey has been well and properly hung from the local bridge, only Vienna is left. Nobody will whip the horse out from under her, so it’s left to Emma to do it. It’s something she relishes.

But Johnny has made his way in the dark onto the bridge, and he cuts the rope and rescues Vienna. They escape in the darkness, and they make their way to the robber’s secret hideout by way of a tunnel behind a waterfall.

But Turkey’s horse gets restless and heads for the hideout, leading the posse there. Emma meets secretly with Lonergan and arranges a double cross. When the scheme comes to light there is turmoil within the gang, and eventually the remaining three are killed. Emma faces Vienna for a fight to the death. Emma fires first, but a wounded Vienna blasts Emma onto the world beyond.

The posse has come to see this was a feud between Emma and Vienna, and they no longer want any part of it. They turn around and head back home.

Johnny and Vienna come down from the robbers roost to start a new life together.

Hold it right there. This has the basis of a good plot, but some (a lot) of the dialog is junior high. Here is an exchange between Johnny and The Dancin’ Kid (Scott Brady), a rival for Vienna’s affections:

Kid: All of a sudden I don’t like you, mister.

Johnny: Now that makes me real sad. I always hate to lose a friend.

Vienna: That’s the way it goes. Win some, lose some.

There’s a lot of that in this movie.

It’s possible some of the lame dialog can be laid to Roy Chanslor, who wrote the book and also The Ballad of Cat Ballou. Wikipedia claims that “Philip Yordan rewrote the script on location.”

There’s a lot in this movie that doesn’t fit. Who was responsible for continuity, anyhow. We see Emma gun down the chandelier and quickly the two-story edifice is totally engulfed. Later we see the posse ride past the conflagration. And later we see them riding past. And later we see them riding past. And later we see them riding past. Get the picture?

The posse figures to block the bandits’ escape by blasting away various parts of the mountain. We see explosion after explosion, apparently with nobody around setting off the charges. You have to ask, with the bandits heading hell bent for leather to escape, how did the posse get ahead of them to plant all those charges?

Look at the final scene. These four high plains drifters discovered a silver lode in the mountains, and they worked it by themselves to keep the location secret. In the meantime they built this place, apparently designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, all by themselves, as a temporary place to bunk while they worked the mine. And nobody noticed them trucking all this building material up the trail and through the waterfall. When did they have time to work the mine? Maybe I’m being too picky.

Joan Crawford subsequently became even more famous through the memoirs of her stepdaughter. Her nature was manifest during this production, as Hayden and McCambridge found her disagreeable to work with. Sterling Hayden was a real hero in World War II, earning a Silver Medal. He ot his big role as Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove.

I recall Mercedes McCambridge as Rock Hudson’s tough-hided sister in Giant. It seemed to me, watching her in my youth, that casting directors had her number on their speed dial, labeled “Masculine Woman.”

This was three years after the start of Ernest Borgnine’s career. I previously saw him in The Whistle at Eaton Falls, a film that is currently withheld from the public. His major break was as a shy butcher in Marty, where he played the title role and won an Oscar for best actor. The real money was McHale’s Navy, which ran on TV for four years. He was a real Navy vet, re-enlisting after the United Stated enter World War II and finishing as a Gunner’s Mate First Class. I previously reviewed Bad Day at Black Rock, RED, and Escape from New York.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 239 of a series

This title shot explains how I came to review this movie. The name of the movie is Albuquerque, which is the most prominent city in New Mexico. But the scenery is nowhere near Albuquerque; rather it’s in another state, Arizona. Specifically the scenery is from Sedona, where I was all of last week. In the town there is a series of plaques along a scenic walk, each one explaining something of the local culture. One plaque lists all the movies filmed in the region, and one of these is this, based on a book by Luke Short. The movie came out in 1948 and is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The film stars Randolph Scott as Cole Armin, a former Texas Ranger, coming to Albuquerque to work for his uncle, John Armin (George Cleveland). That’s where the story gets interesting.

But first viewers are treated to more of that famous Red Rock scenery, for which Sedona is famous. This is Bell Rock, a sandstone formation, several hundred feet tall, which stands alongside Highway 179. A few years ago Jim Eng and I went about 200 feet up, where we obtained some fantastic photos.

More of the Red Rock scenery as we see a stage coach heading toward Sedona, rather, towards Albuquerque.

The opening scene introduces one of the most colorful characters to grace western movies during my childhood. Here is George “Gabby” Hayes as Juke, the driver and also a top notch mule skinner. For the uninformed, “mule skinner” means driver of mule teams.

Tragedy strikes quickly as three gunmen stage a holdup. Cole has been entertaining fellow passengers, including the striking Celia Wallace (Catherine Craig). But Cole is without his weapon, and he has to surrender meekly as the bandits take Celia’s money ($20,000) and shoot one of the passengers. There follows a dramatic scene where the flurry of gunfire spooks the horses, and the coach goes tearing off along the desert road with a young girl, Karolyn Grimes as Myrtle Walton, trapped inside. Cole borrows a loose horse and overtakes the coach, saving the day for all but the dead passenger.

Cole’s life as a hero is short. When the remains of the stage coach run arrives in Albuquerque, and Cole discloses his kinship with John Armin, a decided chill sets in. John Armin has a reputation as a ruthless, even criminal, businessman. When the local sheriff, Ed Linton (Bernard Nedell) shows a lack of interest in catching the culprits, Cole’s suspicion grows. It turns out the sheriff works for John Armin.

John Armin is an old man, confined to a wheel chair, and needing a younger man, such as his nephew, to take over and run his freight hauling business. Also working for Armin is the brutish gun slinger Steve Murkil (Lon Chaney, Jr.), billed as “Lon Chaney” in the titles.

Cole quickly figures out he does not want to work for his uncle, and he throws in his lot with sweet Celia’s brother, Ted Wallace (Russell Hayden), who runs a rival freight business. When the Wallace freight business begins to show some competition, John Armin brings in outside help in the form of the smashing Letty Tyler (Barbara Britton). Letty arrives on the coach and proceeds immediately to the offices of the Wallace freight company, where she comes upon Ted being robbed by a masked man with a gun. Letty immediately whips her own weapon from her handy purse, and gets off two shots, scaring the bandit away. She is awarded with a job at the Wallace company. Not known, but ultimately suspected by Cole, is that Letty’s pistol was loaded with blanks.

As a plant for Armin, Letty brings him inside information on his competition.

But one part of that information leads to an attempt to bushwhack Ted, who suffers a disabling wound to the leg. Letty has gone sweet on Ted, and she ultimately unloads the details to Cole. I’m cutting out a chunk of plot detail and getting to the crux.

The Wallace company bids on a contract to carry ore from an isolated mine in them there mountains, and Armin sends along one of his plants as one of the drivers. The shipment comprises ten loads and ten drivers, and when the Armin guy arrives at the mine he hightails it back to town on a horse, previously stashed for the purpose. Cole must take the place of the absent driver, and he is not actually a mule skinner.

The route down the mountain is treacherous, and Cole’s wagon has been sabotaged. On the steep road the brake must be applied constantly, and somebody has cut partly through the brake lever with a saw. When Cole pulls harder on the brake lanyard, the lever snaps, and there are tense moments before Cole hauls out his trusty bull whip to snag the remaining part of the lever and apply the brake.

Getting down from the mountain is only part of the hazard. Armin prepares his cadre of gunslingers to ambush and annihilate the Wallace company when the wagons arrive in town. Letty gets wise to the scheme, and she makes Armin a deal he cannot refuse. She comes behind him as he prepares to watch the shootout from his office window, and she places her pistol, now with live ammunition, at the back of his head. The moment the shooting starts she is going to pull the trigger.

But Letty has alerted Ted and Cole of the ambush, and the drivers arrive in town with their load and also with their own men hidden in one of the wagons. There is one massive shootout in the streets of Albuquerque, and the Armin gang is wiped out. After the smoke clears they find Armin slumped in his wheelchair with a hole in his head.

It’s wedding bells for two of the couples, and the movie ends happily, along with this improbable plot.

Big complaint: Amazon’s copy of this video does not play well. Inadequate rendering of the video stream results in low quality video. Most apparent is the smearing of images containing motion.

It’s interesting to compare a move with the book that was its basis. The book is Luke Short’s Dead Freight for Piute, and I obtained a copy for comparison. Nowhere in the book does the word “Albuquerque” appear. So much for realism. Of course, the book does not mention Sedona.

A practice I have observed previously involves a movie studio acquiring the rights to a book, throwing away the plot, and retaining the title. This may not be the case here. I have not read the book, but the opening pages are encouraging. The book starts with Cole and Celia on the coach to somewhere, and bandits rob Celia of her money. We can suspect there will be a close parallel between the book plot and the movie.

Most disturbing of all is the huge gunfight scene. A contingent of seasoned gunmen ambushs a wagon train as it pulls into town, and they are completely defeated by the freight men. The outcome of the battle is grotesquely lopsided. How much of that are we supposed to believe?

Lon Chaney, Jr. was the son of the more famous Lon Chaney, known as “The Man of a Thousand Faces.” Four years after this release Lon Chaney, Jr. appeared as a washed up gunfighter in High Noon with Gary Cooper.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 238 of a series

This came out in 1999, and somewhere I watched it through. Anyhow, it’s now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, and I brought it up on my computer to capture some screen shots. It’s The Blair Witch Project. Details are from Wikipedia.
The big deal about the plot is the footage was supposedly found a year after the characters went missing in the Maryland outback. It’s a scary movie where everybody dies, so you know that catastrophe is always about to strike, and you sit on the edge of your chair waiting for doom. To keep up the appearance of authenticity, the producers have left in what are the supposedly unclipped ends of the video clips. Such as this:
The problem is, many sequences have the appearance of having been clipped, removing blurry and off-subject frames, which normally appear when you pick up the camera and hit the record button before you bring the view finder up to your eye, but when it suits the whim of the editor. Here are a few more frames to illustrate. We see the recording started when the subject is not ready, and the camera is not centered.
But this sequence, showing the guy saying goodbye to his mom, seems orchestrated. We do not see the mom, nor do we hear her. No need for another actor on the payroll.
And they are on their way to oblivion.
Camera starting up, they guy is not yet ready to speak his part.
There is a story. The guys have to admit to the girl they forgot to bring the map. It is the prelude to the tragedy that is beginning to unfold.
The final scenes show the three, individually, at odds with something unseen. We watch the rambling video as the three seek out their nemesis. We hear a noise and watch the scene blur as a camera falls.
Fade to black. Of course.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 237 of a series

This one came out in 2001, and you don’t need to expect an in-depth review. It’s Evolution, and it’s currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s a science fiction film and also a comedy. Think of it as Ghost Busters done small. You’r going to see some parallels.

As with all good sci-fi flicks, this starts with an asteroid hurtling towards the earth. Here it comes.

Meanwhile, out in the Arizona desert, a nefarious character is unloading a body from the trunk of his car. He drags it to an abandoned shed, and pours gasoline around the outside. Then he sets it afire. By now you’ve figured out this is only a dummy, and we see this is wannabe fire fighter Wayne Grey (Seann William Scott), practicing the art of rescuing a buxom blond from a burning shed out in the desert.

Wayne rescues the victim, and begins to apply mouth-to-mouth. A miracle. She is recovering. He looks to the sky. He sees the asteroid coming straight at him. He runs. Just in time. The asteroid obliterates the burning shack and flips his car into the air.

Meanwhile, back at Glen Canyon Community College, geology Professor Harry Phineas Block (Orlando Jones) is discussing her academic future with a comely student. It’s hard to miss the parallel with Bill Murray. The phone rings. They want him to go check out the meteorite.

He and biology Professor Ira Kane (David Duchovny) head out. The space rock has penetrated the ground and lodged itself inside an cave beneath. They get  samples of the gooey stuff clinging to the meteorite and take them back to the college where they observe the stuff grows and evolves, hence the title.

Back at the site for more research the two are stymied by Kayne’s nemesis from his days as an Army colonel, Brigadier General Russell Goodman (Ted Levine). Kane also meets up with Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore). There’s obviously going to be some sex in this movie.

Attraction grows.

Yes, you knew it was coming. The junior college scientists figure out the stuff on the meteorite is evolving at break-neck speed, especially when exposed to heat, such as flame. The Army is aiming to eradicate the menace with Napalm. We know where this is headed.

But the scientists have figured out the chemical basis for this new life form, and they determine that selenium is the antithesis to this kind of life. Where to get the selenium? They scoop up stocks of Head and Shoulders shampoo and load up a fire engine.

As the Army applies the Napalm, and as he critter grows out of control, the intrepid scientists, plus Wayne, charge in and hose down the critter’s innards with H&S, saving the world and all mankind. Then Kane and Reed rush off screen to make whoopee.

The closing credits kick off with a salute to H&S shampoo.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 236 of a series

If you think this movie is going to be about Italy, then you’re going to need to wrap your head around a bit of culture shock. The title is Once Upon a Tim in Venice, and it’s Venice, California. Big difference. It came out last year, and you may ask yourself why it’s already streaming on Hulu (whence the screen shots), and then you’re going to say, “Oh, right. This film sucks.” Details are from Wikipedia.

Hey, the movie features Bruce Willis and John Goodman, so you may wonder where they went wrong on this. That’s going to become apparent. This is what you might get if Quentin Tarantino and the Cohen brothers took a lunch break, and the Cullen brothers happened by and found some of their loose stuff lying around, and they said to each other, “Why don’t we steal this stuff and make our own movie—something like Pulp Fiction and The Big Lebowski combined. With Willis and Goodman we’re halfway there.” And that’s my explanation of how this came about.

The story is told by John (Thomas Middleditch), an assistant to Steve Ford (Willis), a Venice, CA, private detective. In fact, Steve is the only P.I. in all of Venice. Anyhow, John has to track down the wayward sister, Nola (Jessica Gomes), of two really rough characters. As the movie opens, John has tracked Nola to where she is attending a group therapy session for sex addicts. He pretends to join the group, posing as a crazed sex fiend who is unable to pause his rambunctious (and phony) sexual encounters.

When Nola exits the session, John approaches and convinces her to come with him. He takes her to Steve’s place and leaves her there. We next see Steve working madly to extinguish Nola’s sexual fire.

Then Nola’s brutish brothers show up, and we shortly see Steve skateboarding naked along Venice streets at night. He has his pistol, and when a cop stops him for skating while nude, Steve hides the gun in the crack of his ass while he identifies himself to the friendly cop, who knows him. Maybe the funniest line in the film is when Steve retrieves his gun and remarks, “Now I know what that feels like.”

The brothers of Nola.

Channeling The Big Lebowski, Steve gets crossways with a gang lord, who steals Steve’s stuff, including his dog. That’s the dog. You need to get a good look, because the rest of the movie is going to be about getting the dog back, again channeling The Big Lebowski.

Yeah, there’s gang lord, Spyder (Jason Momoa) with the elusive dog. We’re going to see Steve negotiate a convoluted maze of schemes to get the dog, and that’s the rest of the movie.

Yes, Venice Beach. Nothing much like it.

Of course, Steve and his friend Dave (Goodman) arm up and go after the gang. Makes for lots of spray and pray.

And it all ends well.

Check out Venice Beach if you have not. For those local (San Antonio and abouts), the way to get there is to get on Interstate 10 and head west. When the freeway runs dry, get off and find a place to park. You’re at Santa Monica Pier. Follow the beach in the direction of Mexico about 300 yards and be prepared for a new world of experience. Go on Saturday (maybe Sunday, too), when the vendors and the performers set up their stalls on the sidewalk.

Walking in a winter wonderland

What you see is what you get.

We’re getting used to seeing Bruce Willis’s ass, first noticed in 12 Monkeys. I have reviewed  Acts of Violence, RED, and Fire with Fire.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 235 of a series

This came out in 1951, and I am surprised I have no memory of having seen it before. It’s Warpath, starring

There were some heavy hitters playing these roles, but it was all for bought, done in by a lame storyline. It’s streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

In a dusty town along the 19th century frontier, Vickers runs into one of the people he’s been looking for these past eight years. He kills him in a gunfight.

Barely seconds later he stops into the local tavern for a shot of rye and immediately gets into a tussle with an Army sergeant (O’Hara), whose been making lewd advances on beyond-cute Molly. He takes down the sergeant and the sergeant’s corporal sidekick and follows up by asking a few questions. The other two fellows he’s looking for are in the 7th Cavalry, and he heads out of town on the train (with Molly) to join up.

There’s a great scenic shot of the train snaking its way through the Black Hills, but it’s obvious this is a poorly constructed tabletop model.

In the Army, and under the command of Sergeant O’Hara, Vickers wins the affection of Molly, which does not sit well with his sergeant. But the confrontation is short lived, as the dance is interrupted by the call for M Company to pull out most quickly to confront some Indians who are resisting settlers poaching on their territory.

M Company finds itself out numbered and decides to make a stand on that island in the middle of the river. It turns out to be an excellent choice, such a choice that later in the movie the director uses the same setting for a different locale on the North American continent.

The troops fend off the Indian attacks with great losses, and Vickers wins sergeant stripes. He was formerly a major in the Civil War. From the cast of characters and the battles being fought, this is obviously 1876, the year George Armstrong Custer and his regiment got wiped out at Little Big Horn.

Anyhow, Vickers figures that O’Hara and Molly’s father are the two he is looking for. O’Hara deserts, and Sam Quaid lights out of town, also, knowing his time in the civilized world is running out.

Sam sells his store and takes Molly with him to join up with the wagon train Vickers’ troop is riding protection on. Again the troops are out-gunned, and this time the Indians prevail, capturing Molly, Sam, Vickers, O’Hara, and others. The Indians want to know where Custer is heading. The palefaces don’t know, so the Indians start executing prisoners, one by one, starting with the settler who started the fight by killing two people in the Indian village.

O’Hara has smuggled in a pistol, and he starts a ruckus, distracting their captors so Molly and Vickers can escape. The remaining prisoners perish.

Vickers reports to his captain, but it is not in time to save Custer from his fate.

The battle over, and Vickers has been elevated to officer status. He and Molly stand together, overlooking the valley, contemplating their future lives together.

Decent acting, but the plot is overly involved. It wanders from episode to episode and involves multiple improbabilities. Notice how Vickers and Molly are the only survivors of the wagon train.

There is much to do in this movie with the Garry Owen March, which was also a theme used in Little Big Man, also concerning the fate of the 7th Cavalry. The 7th saw action as late as the Vietnam War, where my brother served in the unit.

My favorite Edmund O’Brien film is 1984, the original film from 1955, where he played the part of Winston Smith. He was in one of the clips from White Heat used in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, previously reviewed. I need to find more Edmund O’Brien films to review. Keep watching.

I’ve reviewed a number of Forrest Tucker films, including:

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 234 of a series

This week’s bad movie is a sequel to last week’s, so I’m not going to recap the plot. Suffice it to say it’s the same story.

  • The shark attacks.
  • People are unaware at first.
  • People become aware after several have been eaten.
  • There is a plot to kill the shark.
  • Human fallibility wins out, and others get eaten.
  • The shark is killed.

It’s Jaws 3 from 1983, starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. There are others listed, but Quaid an Gossett are the only two having something approaching stardom. This is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

And, there’s water. There’s always water in theses shark movies, because you need sharks, which live in water, and you need bikini-clad damsels, who sometimes go in the water. We see a newly inaugurated water park, which I presume is in Florida, and they are putting on a great show featuring water skiers building human pyramids.

Danger lurks. Cue that John Williams score.

Gossett is Calvin Bouchard, in charge of the operation. Of course he’s concerned about profits, because all these shark movies are about profits before public safety. He watches the water. For what reason is never explained, because he never spots anything.

But somebody does spot the shark trolling the water beauties, and there is a mad scramble to get everybody out of the water. Bad business for a water park.

Quaid is Mike Brody and John Putch is his brother Sean, survivors of the shark attack in the previous movie.

The water park features an “enclosed” lagoon. I put “enclosed” in quotes, because the shark penetrates the enclosure and begins to pick off victims, starting with a luckless diver sent down to repair the protective gate in the middle of the night, all alone. Reality check. This appears to be something professional divers never do.

The park also features an underwater section, essentially a tunnel (tube) laid along the bottom of the lagoon and featuring large windows that allow visitors to view nature up close. This works fine until the shark plows into the tube wall, starting a leak, causing the safety doors to close, trapping a number of visitors as water rises chest high.

Yes, they do repair the leak, and, yes, the trapped visitors are freed, but the shark is not finished. As Sean and his true love (Bess Armstrong as Kathryn “Kay” Morgan) gather in the control room to watch, the shark attacks the viewing window. The control room is under water in the lagoon. The window caves in, water plus shark enter the control room, the shark eats. Only Sean and Bess survive.

This is not one of Quaid’s best performances. Neither is it Gossett’s. The remainder of the cast appear straight out of summer stock. The previous year Gossett was Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman, for which he picked up an Oscar. I first caught Quaid in Breaking Away,, a film about bicycle racing and coming of age. I continually hunt for a copy to review. The same year this came out he was astronaut Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff.

There is a glaring technical glitch in the plot with the underwater viewing tunnel. In the movie it is depicted as having emergency doors that seal off sections in case of flooding. Absolutely wrong. No engineer would ever sign off on such a thing for reasons demonstrated in the story. The world has multitudes of underwater tunnels, and none have provision for sealing people inside. The writers created this device to add suspense and also to chew up some celluloid, allowing the movie to be stretched to 99 minutes, which is mercifully short.

Oh, Jesus! There is yet another sequel. It’s Jaws: The Revenge, and there will be a review if I can lay my fingers on a copy and if $50,000 in unmarked bills is not left on my front doorstep beforehand. In the meantime, please enjoy Sharknado. And yes, you are welcome.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 233 of a series

The plot is so well-stitched, earning this one its place as BMotW. From 1978, it’s Jaws 2, with Roy Scheider reprising his role as as Police Chief Martin Brody of the friendly resort of Amity Island. It follows by three years the original shark movie, based on a book by Peter Benchley. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. If you saw the original, you know the plot.

Two divers discover the sunken fishing boat from the earlier movie. So does yet another great white shark, who eats both, but only after one of them gets some photos.

When the divers go missing the chief begins to resurrect his old suspicions. Next we see two women on a water ski outing. One is driving the boat. The shark stalks the skier, and while the driver is not looking the shark takes the bait. When the driver sees what’s going on she panics, and, attempting to counter the shark, she explodes a gasoline can on the boat. No live witnesses.

Suspicions throbbing, the chief constructs some cyanide-tipped bullets for his revolver. They never get used in the movie.

Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), left over from the first movie, is showing potential investors around the community. A major annoyance is Brody, embarrassing them all by sitting in his shark observation tower while tourists enjoy the beach, unaware. This reprises the original theme. A concerned and vigilant chief of police pitted against a town council that is more concerned about scaring away tourists and investors.

When the photos taken by the deceased divers are recovered, the town council refuses to believe they show a shark. They act to rid themselves of this troublesome priest, and Brody is out of a job. At this point the plot devolves into teenagers (plus one juvenile) putting themselves into harm’s way as a festive rollick on the water begins. Also, under the water.

The shark attacks the party crowd out of sight of land, and the remaining 30+ minutes of the film is consumed by screaming teenagers, fighting off the shark, falling out of boats, getting eaten, desperately seeking help. A harbor patrol helicopter lands to rescue them, but the shark attacks and sinks the helicopter.

Of course, Brody sails to the rescue. The final shark attack comes as the group is about to be rescued at Cable Junction, a small spit of rock that houses power and communications hookups. Brody accidentally pulls up a power cable with the anchor of the police boat, but he feeds it to the shark.

The shark takes the bait, and we watch a glorious minute of the shark being fried.

And that’s the end of the movie. We only imagine Brody will get his job back. We do see the mayor eating a small serving of crow when others report the shark attack. We know from history this meal will not stick, because there is going to be a sequel, and we need somebody to play the doubter against all evidence that a shark is on the prowl.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 231 of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 231 of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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