Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Last week  this column featured The Shadow Strikes, featuring Rod La Rocque as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow.  This is Behind the Mask, another in the five or so featuring The Shadow. It stars Kane Richmond as Lamont Cranston (The Shadow) and Barbara Read as Margo Lane, Cranston’s main squeeze. The Shadow Strikes came out in 1937, and this one followed in 1946. The big difference is in the improvement in cinematography and acting, but not much else. The story is still lame, a comedy of murder and mayhem. We are going to see people dropping dead all over accompanied by loads of laughs.

This is from Monogram Pictures (what else). Details are from Wikipedia and IMDb.

Opening scenes show shady reporter Jeff Mann (James Cardwell) making the rounds for his sideline operation (blackmail). A hundred here, a few hundred there, and people’s names won’t appear in his column. Here he muscles sumptuous gambling operator Mae Bishop (Marjorie Hoshelle). With each visit the eager Mr. Mann drops word that his fees are going up.


And that’s the end of the sleazy reporter. Back at his office at the newspaper a shadowy figure comes in through the window behind him. The first his co-workers notice anything wrong they see an ominous silhouette on Mann’s office window. It’s The Shadow, they are sure of it.


Meanwhile, the real Shadow, Lamont Cranston, is making cuddle bunnies with his fiancée, Margo Lane. They are going to be married the next day.


It goes downhill from  there. This has nothing to offer by way of a plot. Cranston, both as himself and as The Shadow, bumbles his way through the case of mounting bodies. Here he deals with some officers of the law.


Here Cranston has lured Edith Merrill (June Clyde) up to his place, the idea being to schmooze her and get her to lead him to an important source of evidence. Unfortunately girlfriend Margo and girlfriend’s girlfriend arrive first, and Cranston’s butler, Shrevvie  (George Chandler), hides them behind the couch just in time as Miss Merrill arrives. Here the two are listening with increasing agitation as Cranston makes progress of various kinds.

It’s all very comical, but that’s the last we see of the lovely Edith. As she exits and takes the elevator down a shadowy figure is waiting and grabs her from behind.


On another occasion The Shadow attempts to penetrate a suspect’s fortified position and tangles with three of his henchmen. He defeats the three through the application of John Barrymore gymnastics and Shrevvie wielding a pair of Indian clubs (they are in a gymnasium).


Of course it all comes to an end when Cranston gets the host of suspects together at the newspaper office and reveals the mystery killer.


What this has over and beyond last Sunday’s bad movie is a hint at direction and cinematography. Settings and shots are more realistic, and the action moves, comparatively. Vis, the stiffness rampant last Sunday:


Some of these movies are available to watch free on YouTube:

The Shadow Strikes

The Shadow Returns

But I’m guessing not this one. I will have a review of The Shadow Returns some Sunday in the future. Not soon.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I’m seeing this the first time, and it’s about time I did. It came out in  1974, and it’s been on the edge of my radar, but I always seemed to miss it. It’s Mr. Majestyk, starring Charles Bronson as Vincent “Vince” Majestyk. The production company (from Wikipedia) is The Mirisch Corporation,  which I never heard of, and it was distributed by United Artists. When it showed up on Amazon Prime Video the title screen showed the MGM logo.  This is obviously going to be  another tough guy movie.

Vince is ex-Special Services, ex-con, ex-family man. He now runs solo and has a melon farm in Colorado, where the filming took place. We see him trying to corral a team of workers to pick his crop of watermelons, about 160 acres. Little luck, and when he shows up at his field with a skeleton crew some interlopers try to buffalo him into using their crew, instead. He has an encounter with one of the wise guys named Bobby Kopas (Paul Koslo).

That little kerfuffle lands him an  arrest warrant sworn by Mr. Kopas, and soon we see him being transported by prison bus to the county law center. One of the prisoners is highly-touted mob hit man Frank Renda (Al Lettieri). Outside the courthouse the law caravan is bushwhacked by mobsters set on freeing Renda. There’s a firefight straight out of the Battle of the Bulge, with many casualties, and Vince makes a getaway in the bus, with Renda in tow, handcuffed.

Vince takes Renda to his hunting cabin in the boondocks, where he is offered $25,000 for Renda’s freedom.

Vince pretends to take the offer, but phones the police, instead. The police decline Vince’s offer of Renda in exchange for a clean slate, so Vince hands Renda over to his girlfriend Wiley (Lee Purcell). Vince still intends to take Renda to the cops, and this enrages Renda, who pulls a gun from Wiley’s purse. Vince escapes into the woods. Unfortunately, the only witness the state of Colorado had against Renda was a cop who got killed in the courthouse shootout, so the cops have to  drop the the murder charge against him. They release him on bail, and he immediately goes on a quest for vengeance against Vince. (???)

It’s complicated. Many bad things happen. Not finding Vince at his farm, Renda and his gang run off Vince’s skeleton  crew of pickers Then they machine gun the load of watermelons already picked. Some really bad asses.

Seeking retribution, Vince and his girlfriend Nancy Chavez (Linda Cristal) initiate a plan to turn the tables on the hoods. They decoy the convoy of crooks into a chase into the wilderness, Vince’s very capable F-150 Ford pickup truck showing its stuff.

Vince’s ploy is simple at the outset. He gets behind the crook’s convoy and forces two of the cars in turn off the road. Here the second one goes over the edge, with the predictable endo and the car dissolving into a ball of fire. Much poetic justice going on here.

You know what. I think I have driven through here. The wife and I took the Camry down a dirt road (showed the shortest route on the map) and through these tunnels. Creepy enough.

The surviving three crooks, including Renda and Copas, plus Wiley, retreat to their resort hideaway in the woods. Vince and Nancy stake the place out and Wiley is coaxed to desert the gang when she is sent out to negotiate.

Vince uses his Special Forces skills to take out Lundy (Taylor Lacher) and then Renda, shown here receiving a shotgun blast to the chest. Copas is spared, as he has volunteered as bait while Vince goes after Renda.

The police then arrive and politely request that Vince come down to the station and explain things. We assume Vince and Nancy are about to team up to grow melons, and more.

I have seen a collection of movies in  which nearly every frame can be pulled from the move, printed, and hung up on the wall in an art gallery. This is not one of them. The camera work is somewhat above point and shoot. Neither is the acting likely to attract the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. Nor the plot logic:

  • Frank Renda is a professional killer working for “the mob” with seven kills to his credit. And for that the mob is willing to take on the county police force in a blazing gun battle, incurring casualties on both sides. Really?
  • Renda’s murder charge is dropped after the only witness, a cop, is killed in the shootout. If the mob wanted to spring Renda, all they had to do was to ambush the cop some dark night, and much excitement could have been avoided.
  • The crooks surround Vince’s house and wait. Vince drives up and gets out of his truck. Then he vanishes from view. While the crooks watch Vince sneaks among them, lying low, checking out their number and location. Then he sneaks back into the house and finds Nancy has been there all the time. They hatch a plan to wait for Renda to arrive the following morning before they unroll their scheme to draw the crooks into a road battle. Yes, that makes a lot of sense.
  • The character of Wiley seems to have been miscast. Quiet of demeanor and lacking a great set of tits, we wonder what a scumbag like Renda sees in her.

Yes, you know where you’ve seen Al Lettieri before. He was the murderous, double-crossing Rudy Butler in The Getaway, previously reviewed. He was drug kingpin Manny Santiago in McQ, also previously reviewed. He died the year after this movie came out.

As mentioned, the truck chase gets our attention. From Wikipedia:

The Ford Motor Company used scenes licensed from the movie showing extreme driving of Majestyk’s Ford Pickup truck during commercials for its 1974 F-150 model.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series


Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows…

Those are the words I heard on the radio, growing up before television. The Shadow had “the power to cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him.” I remembered well. So well, in fact, that years later when  I met a couple, and they introduced themselves as Lamont Cranston and Margo Lane I knew right off they were fakes. I never let them know that I knew.

The character was originally developed as a “mysterious radio narrator who hosted a program designed to promote magazine sales for Street and Smith Publications.” In 1931 Walter B. Gibson expanded the character into pulp literature. The Shadow was “[o]ne of the most famous adventure heroes of the 20th century United States.” The Wikipedia entry mentions five movies, but I never saw any of these until February, when a collection showed up on Amazon Prime Video.

Here is The Shadow Strikes, starring “Rod La Rocque as Lamont Cranston/The Shadow.” It came out in 1937 from Grand National Pictures, which is probably why I didn’t catch it at the neighborhood theater. Margo Lane is not in this one. She probably came along later. We shall see. Cranston doesn’t have a main squeeze in this flick, but he does develop an itch for leading lady Marcia Delthern, played by Agnes Anderson.

For all its drama (people getting killed), this is played for fun. It starts with a big mix up. Cranston is examining the bullet that killed his father (obviously another story). Then, for reasons unclear to me on first viewing, he goes to the offices of Chester Randall, Attorney at Law. Whether he intended to crack Randall’s safe for some documents, or not, it  turns out that when he gets there two safe crackers are a few minutes ahead of him. They have the safe open and are looking for the “affidavit” in question. Cranston enters as The Shadow, wearing his black overcoat and hat and a black cloth mask. He gets the drop on  the crooks and phones the police.

Just before the cops arrive, Cranston steps into Randall’s private office and waits for the police to take the crooks away. When all leave, he goes to the safe and pilfers the items he was looking for. Surprise, surprise! Police Captain Breen (Kenneth Harlan) returns to check on things and discovers Cranston en flagrante. Cranston’s only way out is to assume the identity of the attorney Randall, and things go down hill from there. It’s pure comedy, with bodies piling up.


Before they can leave Randall’s office, Randall gets a phone call. Cranston continues to play the part and goes to the desperate client’s home to review and to  rewrite the man’s will. We know what’s going to happen. While the two are sitting there discussing  Mr. Caleb Delthern’s (John St. Polis ) family matters, somebody shoots Delthern dead. No point  in changing the will now. Rather than exit stage right, Cranston continues to play the part in order to solve the crime.


A key villain is arch criminal Barney Grossett (Cy Kendall), who runs an apparently illegal  gambling operation, where Delthern’s son Jasper (James Blakeley) has run up a tab of $11,000.


And on. Guess what? It was the butler all along. He didn’t want Delthern to change his will and cut out his son, who has plans to marry Marcia.


It’s all as flat and dry as the West Texas plains. Acting is not up to par with 1930s’ level, and cinematography is uninspired. Look at the image at the top of this post, where Cranston and Breen are having a pow-wow. The director’s instruction manual says the audience wants to see the front of people doing the talking, so both actors are turned just enough so the audience can see the fronts of their jackets. It’s drained of all drama. Compare that to just about any image from a modern film or even a TV production. Here’s a screen shot from Lethal Weapon. Modern directors get the viewer right into the action.


Dialog is uninspiring:

Breen: What’s up?

Cranston: I don’t know. Well thanks again, Captain. If you need me for anything, I’m at your service.

Breen: I think I’d better go along with you.

Cranston, Oh, I don’t think that’ll be necessary.

Breen: Well, you don’t seem to know what they want with you, and perhaps… Yeah, I think I’d better go along.

The story lurches along. Cranston wants to get the goods on Grossett. So he barges into  Grossett’s office, a couple of times, eventually leaving a hidden microphone. About as clumsy a maneuver as ever unwound on the big screen. Not spoiling the plot, but Grossett follows Cranston to his place. The evil  butler Wellington (Wilson Benge) is there with a gun. See the above screen shot. Grossett barges in and discovers Cranston is The Shadow. Grossett fires. Wellington fires. Both are dead. And Marcia marries he fiancée. Cranston compares a bullet from Grossett’s gun with the bullet that killed his father. That’s end of the movie.

Up next Sunday: another movie with The Shadow. A comparison between the two is worth a look.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

About the time this came out in  1974 I worked for a company that had some installations in New York City, so I was spending some time there. There were movie posters featuring the movie, and it  may have been up on one of the theaters in Times Square. I am sure I never saw all of it until this March, when it came available on Amazon Prime Video. It’s The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, also known as The Taking of Pelham 123. There’s also a book, available in Kindle, but I don’t promise to do a review.

It’s a crime thriller, set in Manhattan, and Pelham 123 is a subway train on the IRT (Interurban Rapid Transit) line. Pelham 123 is the  name of the train—final stop Pelham, starting out at 1:23 p.m., hence the title. The movie involves four criminals who hijack the train to extract $1 million dollars  ransom from the city. The production company is Palomar Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening scene shows Harold Longman a.k.a. Mr. Green (Martin Balsam) getting out of a taxi in mid-town Manhattan and getting on the train. He carries a package. We can guess what’s in the package. Get set for some action.

Others get on the train at different stations, each carrying a package. All are obviously wearing fake mustaches. All are wearing trench coats and hats. The last aboard is Bernard Ryder a.k.a. Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw). He kicks things off by thrusting a gun in the conductor’s face and taking over the train.

An interesting note is that Mr. Green has a bad cold and is always sniffling and sneezing. This is going to prove pivotal.

Walter Matthau is Lt. Zachary Garber of the transit police, who is in the process of escorting some gentlemen from the Tokyo subway system, here to see how the Americans do it. The New York City system is the largest in the world. The meeting with the Japanese executives ends abruptly when it becomes apparent a train has been hijacked.

These are four very desperate men. They want a million dollars within one hour, or they will start killing hostages. The mayor (Lee Wallace) must be brought into the picture, because he has to authorize payment of the money. Although Ed Koch did not become mayor of New York City until four years later, the mayor immediately reminds viewers of Mr. Koch.

There is gripping drama, as the crooks hurl threats and emphasize their demands.

The fire power is impressive. The four carry automatic weapons, and they fire them off when they feel it’s necessary. When negotiations falter, Mr. Blue puts the conductor off the train and shoots him.

Another criminal is Giuseppe Benvenuto a.k.a. Mr. Grey (Héctor Elizondo). He’s a loose cannon, eager to do damage, in need of anger management.

The police figure their only recourse is to pay the million dollars, and scenes show the frantic effort to get the bills counted and packaged as demanded.

Then the bills have to be brought to the 23rd Street station, and wouldn’t you know it, the cop car bringing the loot crashes. Motorcycle cops complete the delivery, and the crooks begin to put into motion their escape plane, which involves setting the train, by now down to a single car, loose heading south while they attempt to sneak topside through an emergency exit to a sidewalk grate.

That’s the point at which everything falls apart for the crooks. Mr. Grey refuses to ditch his weapon as part of the plan for the crooks to blend in with street traffic. Mr. Blue shoots him down on the steps leading to the sidewalk.

Meanwhile, all this time there has been a cop aboard the car in plain clothes, and he has been waiting for a chance to make his move. He guns down George Steever a.k.a. Mr. Brown (Earl Hindman), leaving only two of the original four alive.

Finally the cops have figured out what’s going on, and Garber confronts Mr. Blue in the tunnel. With no escape and no plan B, Mr. Blue takes the easy way out and steps on the line’s third rail. Mr. Green makes his escape, and a subsequent scene shows him rolling in cash on his bed.

To bad for Mr. Green. The cops have figured that one of the crooks must be a cashiered subway employee, because somebody was needed who knew how to operate the train. Garber and another cop go from door to door with a list of ex train drivers and end up knocking on Mr. Green’s door. He hides the cash, and brushes off the cops. As they are about to leave, Mr. Green sneezes. The jig is up.

It’s a tense but uneven plot. Four heavily-armed thugs take of a train and start killing people, demanding a million dollars. And bits of humor are sprinkled here and there.

Viewers’ credulity is stretched in places. The line apparently runs north and south approximately under Park Avenue, terminating at the south end of Manhattan Island. The cops concentrate their efforts on where the train car is and where they suspect the cooks must be. I’ve seen more police presence involved in a police car chase on Los Angeles streets than in this movie. It is never made clear why the cops don’t blanket all exits up and down the line. As it is, they get decoyed away from the 23rd street exit, giving the crooks a way out, although only Mr. Green takes advantage of the opportunity.

The final hunt for the escaped train man is unrealistic and lackadaisical. The most wanted man in the country is loose, and only two cops go door to door looking for him. The Constitution be damned, but any police force in the country would have hauled all suspects down to the station for questioning. Garber and the other cop ask Green a few questions and are satisfied with his answer, “I was here all day,” and they start to leave. Nah!

The cops believe the crooks must still be on the train car, because a dead man switch in the cab would prevent the train from moving without the operator present. And they don’t figure out what every train driver in the country has already figured out, that there is always a way to defeat these safeguards.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This came out in 2001, and I didn’t see it then. What happened was Barbara Jean went to Best Buy without me, and she came home with some great DVD movies that were on sale. One of them was Pearl Harbor. Being a movie snob, I sniffed at this, which resulted in Barbara Jean taking it right back to Best Buy and getting her money back. Which meant I wasn’t able to watch it until I caught it on Hulu in February. Here are some details from Wikipedia.

This stars Ben Affleck as First Lieutenant (later Captain) Rafe McCawley, Josh Hartnett as First Lieutenant (later Captain) Daniel “Danny” Walker, and Kate Beckinsale as Lieutenant Evelyn Johnson McCawley. What happens is Rafe and Danny grow up on neighboring farms in Tennessee, and Danny’s father is a crop duster. Both boys want to  fly. What happens next is a story about America’s entry into World War Two, as it must have happened on another planet.

So they grow up and join the Army, which is what was the United States Air Force in those days. Rafe meets good looking nurse Evelyn when she sticks him in the butt with needles. A great romance is formed, and they meet again in New York, where Rafe is due to be shipped out to England to contribute to the Battle of Britain as a volunteer. This is 1940, and America is not yet in the war. Rafe decides not to consummate their relationship before shipping out, because he doesn’t want their romance to look like a one-time fling.

The movie shows some great air battle scenes as Rafe makes a name for himself as a fighter ace, but all this ends with his plane going down in the Channel. In the meantime Danny and Evelyn get shipped off to Hawaii, about as far as you  can get from the war (heh heh). Word comes that Rafe is dead, and Danny and Evelyn get a thing going that terminates in the base parachute loft one night. Then Evelyn discovers:

  • Rafe is still alive and is coming to Hawaii.
  • She is pregnant.

This does not go well, Evelyn keeps her pregnancy secret from Danny, but Rafe is pissed his best buddy has been making time with his best girl while he was dead. It leads to fisticuffs. That’s Saturday night, 6 December 1941. The next morning the bad old Japanese attack the base.

Danny and Rafe make heroes of themselves, commandeering two fighters and annihilating six Zeroes (Zekes). The movie displays a protracted depiction of the Pearl Harbor attack. Then Rafe and Danny are summoned stateside to join up with their old boss, Jimmy Doolittle.

The two become B-25 pilots and join in on the  18 April 1942 raid on the Japanese mainland. All the planes have been forced to launch 200 miles too far from the mainland. Rafe makes a hard landing in a rice paddy, right in the midst of a detachment of occupying Japanese. With one crew member already dead, the survivors fight the Japanese to their last ammunition. Danny’s B-25 appears, and strafes the Japanese before, itself crash landing.

More Japanese come, and Danny is killed. Before Danny dies Rafe informs him that he is going to be a father. Then Rafe is repatriated and meets up with Evelyn. Then end shows the two of them married and  raising Danny’s son.

It’s about three hours of pure syrup, with some battle action thrown in. Treatment of historical events makes a mockery of a serious episode in our past. Start with the opening scene.

This is Tennessee, 1923. Danny’s dad is dusting crops from a bi-plane. Call me a stickler for facts, but commercial crop dusting from planes didn’t get under way until 1924.


The boys want to fly when they grow up.


About the best part of the movie is Beckinsale. Absolutely stunning. Here Affleck has his drawers down, trying to make time with her while she doubles the number of jabs, just for fun.


The last night in New York shows Rafe and Evelyn taking an unauthorized tour of the Queen Mary. Beyond absurd. The ship was being used for troop transport during the war, and it would have been impossible to get this close without getting your ass shot off.


Rafe, has to leave. We thought he was going on the Queen Mary, but he boards a train and watches through the window as Evelyn searches for him to say goodbye. Wait, isn’t the Queen Mary docked in New York. Where’s the train going?


The raid on Pearl Harbor is loaded with drama, some imagined. Historically, the battleship Arizona was destroyed by a bomb that penetrated to an ammunition magazine and exploded. The movie shows the bomb barreling down from the sky toward the ship’s deck, penetrating several levels before coming to rest among some warheads. The arming propeller on  the bomb continues to spin for a while, then the bomb explodes.

Not really. These propellers spin in the air stream as the bomb drops free, arming the bomb. Once the propeller rotates a defined number of times, the bomb is armed. The bomb fuse then responds to impact. Armor-piercing fuses detect the first impact, starting a timing fuse, which then detonates the bomb on the order of a few milliseconds after  the first impact. The movie over-dramatized this action twice for effect.


The recreation  of the attack is maybe the most elaborate ever depicted. Planes fly in, drop torpedoes, strafe ships and shore facilities, drop aerial bombs. Ships blow up, capsize. Men die horrible deaths by the thousands. Some of it is true to life.

A real character is Navy Messman Third Class Doris Miller, depicted here by Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Petty Officer Second Class Dorie Miller aboard the battleship West Virginia. The movie gives him a promotion and alters his heroics only slightly. As a black man, he had limited options. Mess cook was one such. However, aboard ships at general quarters, everybody is assigned a combat or damage control position. Miller’s was ammunition handler for an anti-aircraft gun. When the ammunition locker was destroyed he was ordered first to assist the ship’s dying captain and then to help man an anti-aircraft gun. He stepped into command of a gun and engaged enemy aircraft until his ammunition ran out For his action he was awarded the Navy Cross, the first for a person of color. In 1943 he was killed when the escort carrier Liscome Bay was sunk by enemy action.


Rafe and Danny recreate the exploits of Second Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor, with emphasis on the term recreate. The two had P-40 aircraft stashed at a remote field and drove there after the attack started. They got into the air and claimed six Japanese plane between the two of them. The two were the only American air defense in the engagement.

The movie over dramatizes the action of the two pilots, shown here playing a convoluted game of cat and mouse with the six Japanese pilots. The sequence consumes several minutes of celluloid and depicts some improbable combat tactics:

Taylor, who died in November 2006, called the film adaptation “a piece of trash… over-sensationalized and distorted.


Piled-on drama includes Japanese fighters strafing random people on the ground. Does not make sense, and never happened. Here’s a dose of reality. You mount a top secret mission. Sail 4000 miles, deep into enemy territory to strike a knockout blow against a powerful enemy. You launch two waves of aircraft to destroy the enemy fleet anchored in its harbor. At that distance from your carrier base your planes have limited time over target. And you spend some of that time and risk valuable aircraft strafing random targets? This fallacy was seen previously. In Harm’s Way stars John WayneKirk Douglas, and Patricia Neal, and it features the Pearl Harbor attack. One scene shows a Japanese fighter strafing and killing Kirk Douglas’ unfaithful wife and her lover along a beach road. Clue-deprived script writers flourish in Hollywood.

The immediate assignment of Rafe and Danny to Doolittle’s operation is highly unrealistic. When the Doolittle raid was conceived a few days after the attack, well-trained B-25 crews were already available for the job. The transition from single-engine fighters to twin-engine bombers would have required weeks of training  for Rafe and Danny. However, the show needed go on.

The raid on the Japanese mainland is completely cross ways with the actual events. The movie shows Doolittle’s raiders heading in for the attack in formation. In reality the bombers flew their missions individually, making a pass back over the flight deck after take off to get their headings. They seldom caught sight of each other after leaving the carrier Hornet.


All 16 planes of  the Doolittle raid were lost, being shot down, abandoned or crash landed in China, or interred for the duration after landing in the Soviet Union. Doolittle and his crew bailed in the dark over China and were repatriated. Doolittle thought the debacle would result in a court martial for himself, but he was awarded the Medal of Honor and flew combat missions over Europe. Forty-five at the time of the raid, he survived past the fiftieth anniversary.

Nothing like the episode in the rice paddy happened. It was night by the time the raiders reached China, and there was no way one crew would have been able to assist another, already down. It’s pure melodrama.


One thing accurate is Evelyn’s narration at the end. Until the Doolittle raid, America knew only defeat. Afterward, only victory. The Japanese Empire was crushed by annihilation bombing in 1945 and surrendered on 2 September 1945. Today the democratic nation of Japan is America’s strongest business and military partner in the region.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

The title is reused from an earlier production. Night Moves came out in 1975, starring Gene Hackman, This is a later production with no similarity to the prior. Night Moves was released in 2013 and doesn’t have the star power. It’s a low-key story about environmental terrorism with people getting killed. I caught it on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) are two environmentally conscious twenty-somethings, and they check out a dam across a small river in Oregon. They dam is an environmental monstrosity in their view. The lack of a fish ladder prevents salmon from swimming upstream to spawn. It needs to come down. They have a plan.


Dena is from amazing wealth, and $10,000 cash allows the to purchase a boat. We can guess what they plan to do with the boat. The catch phrase could be something like “boat, bomb, dam: some assembly required.” The name of the boat is Night Moves, hence the title.


Josh has a friend Harmon (Peter Sarsgaard). Harmon is a former Marine, and he knows how to build the bomb. Dena is leery of Harmon He’s prone to be loose with facts. Over lunch at a fast food table they discuss the destruction of the dam.


The plan incurs the purchase of an extra 500 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. Harmon already has 1000 pounds, but figures an additional 500 pounds will ensure success. Post Timothy McVeigh, the stuff is a controlled substance. There is intrigue as Dena weasels her way toward making the purchase at a country feed store.

The plot begins in earnest as the trio mix fuel oil with the fertilizer to make the explosive. They strip out the luxury boat and pack the hull with bags of the mixture. Then they head to the lake. There is additional intrigue as they attempt to be nonchalant, parking at a campsite on the lake and waiting for night to launch. It seems to them everything they do attracts unwanted attention.


The plan is successful. They park the boat against the dam and set a timer, making their way back to camp in a canoe. On-time, there is a loud boom in the distance,  and police cars are soon speeding  past them on the country road. At a police check point, Josh and Dena show their fake IDs and pass through.

Of course, things have not gone as expected. A camper downstream of the dam has been killed, and it’s a murder case, as well. Also bad is the reaction of their environmental movement friends. The dam is only one of a hundred and makes no difference in the overall picture. What is needed is not the destruction of dams but the winning of popular support for the cause. Police come prowling around, and tension grows. Josh loses his job because of the suspicion surrounding him.

Jena comes completely apart. The trio are supposed to have no further contact, but recriminations fly between cell phones, a dangerous trend. Despondent, Dena plots suicide, but Josh confronts her, demanding she cease inviting attention. Dena orders Josh to leave, and he panics. He kills her and hints at it in a phone call with Harmon. Harmon advises Josh to get very lost.

The movie ends with Josh applying for a job in  a distant sporting goods store. Security cameras about the store remind Josh that in today’s society it is impossible for a person to get completely lost.


The movie is devoid of dramatic action, possibly with the exception of when Josh strangles Dena. Technical details show a lack of authenticity. For example, the three park the boat next to the dam, but they don’t sink it. 1500 pounds of ammonium nitrate explosive might blow off the top of the dam, but it won’t topple the dam. To bring down the dam the explosion has to go off under water and at the base of the dam.

This is well known to anybody who has seen The Dam Busters. It’s a true-to-life film about an operation the Brits carried out in World War Two. The trick was to drop bombs into lakes behind three German dams. The bombs had to skip along the water until they bumped up against the dam. Then the bombs would sink and explode at the base of the dams. It worked, but with the loss of a third of the aircraft involved. If I can get a copy of the movie I will do a review.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


Monday again. Time for a new Quiz Question of the Week. This is one for the culturally-deprived. What is significant about the following?

I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doin’ Those Beat-o, Beat-o Flat-On-My-Seat-o, Hirohito Blues

Hint: it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. Post your answer in the comments section before you head to Google to get the answer.

Update and answer

Helen suggested this might be the longest title, and if she had said it was the longest song title she would have won first prize, a year’s subscription to Donald Trump’s health care program. Lucky Helen.

The clue is that songwriter Hoagy Carmichael is featured in the movie. He plays the piano and sings his songs in the bar where critical action takes place. What readers might also like to know is that Hoagy Carmichael is also in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the most prolific songwriter.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Continuing with the 1940s movie series featuring master detective Charlie Chan, here is one produced after the time lead actor Sidney Toler acquired the theme from Twentieth Century Fox. Opening credits list United Artists, but that’s just the video, which I’m watching on Amazon Prime Video. Once the film credits start rolling we see “Anglo-Amalgamated Film Distributors (Ltd).” I’m getting details from Wikipedia, which lists the production company as Monogram Pictures. Monogram was famous at the time (1945) for low-budget entertainment. Toler was the second actor having no Chinese ancestry to play the detective. Since the original was released without a copyright notice, it has fallen into the public domain and can be viewed for free on YouTube. The MGM Lion appears first, followed by the United Artists logo.

This production is characteristic of movies produced during World War Two. Viewers will find it loaded with patriotic references. The theme is wartime, and it involves a spy ring attempting to steal radar secrets being developed at a laboratory located in the same building with a radio/television studio.

Opening scenes show police following a suspect. He stalks a fog-bound waterfront street, doubling back, hiding momentarily inside a parked car, then taking refuge aboard a docked boat. Charlie Chan appears and meets Captain Flynn (Robert Homans). Chan has instructed Flynn and his men to keep an eye on the culprit, and he is dismayed to see they are about to apprehend him. Chan only wanted to follow the person, hoping he would lead to bigger fish.


Too late on multiple levels. The suspect is found to have been eliminated by a person unknown. Meanwhile, the killer has escaped in the car previously mentioned. But Chan has noted the plate number, and it tracks to a radio actor. They will turn their investigation toward the radio/television studio.

Meanwhile, we are introduced to Chan’s son, Tommy Chan (Benson Fong), and recurring character Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland). They are at the police station, poring over mug shots, where Brown’s photo shows up unexpectedly.


Arriving at the radio studio, Chan meets the cast of characters:

It was Diane Hall’s car that was mysteriously borrowed to commit the killing.


Mrs. Marsh is indignant at the interruption and stalks off.

Meanwhile, the killer makes an odd phone call, and immediately a teletype machine responds with instructions from the ring leader, unknown to  all.thescarletclue-04

Levity is introduced when Birmingham meets up with Ben Carter, playing himself.

Carter appeared in Gone With the Wind (1939) as well as casting all the other African American actors and actresses in it, Maryland (1940) and Tin Pan Alley (1940). Carter often performed in comic roles and in scenes which allowed him to display his singing ability such as in The Harvey Girls (1946) and A Day at the Races (1937). Among his most prominent roles were in the Charlie Chan movies The Scarlet Clue (1945) and Dark Alibi (1946).

The two play a comedy skit that involves each finishing the other’s line of thinking. This is one of those funny movies where lots of people die.


The Hamilton Laboratory, where secret radar technology is being developed.


At this point Gloria drops in to pay a visit on Ralph Brett (I. Stanford Jolley), her boss and also the killer. She announces she knows Brett is the one who “borrowed” Diane’s car for the previous night. She wants more significant roles in the radio show and more money. She is signing her own death warrant.

Brett makes the mysterious phone call and receives a teletype response to not worry about Gloria.


And that’s the end of Gloria. She sniffs something suspicious during a radio performance, asks for a cigarette, collapses and dies. Very strange.


Brett eventually outlives his usefulness. He receives a teletype to take the elevator, check for anything at the seventh floor, then proceed to the tenth floor. A mysterious hand throws a switch, and the elevator floor swings open, dropping the unfortunate Mr. Brett down the shaft. The only dramatic special effect in the movie.


A laboratory connects the mysterious odor and cigarette smoke with a deadly poison thus generated, which killed Gloria and subsequently another member of the radio cast. This before the unfortunate is able to tell Charlie Chan critical information about the case.


In the end the spy mastermind is undone by the trick elevator. It’s a playback from a Sherlock Holmes movie that has Holmes’ nemesis falling for his own dead fall trap.

In this case, the kingpin turns out to be the disagreeable Mrs. Marsh, and the cleaning woman, Hulda Swenson, turns out to be Janet Carter (Victoria Faust), a counter-espionage agent working with Chan. They examine the remains of the unfortunate Mrs. Marsh.


And that’s the end of the movie.

You saw they only real drama with the trick elevator. All the rest is fairly routine movie whodunit routine. Which gets this the Bad Movie of the Week award. Watch it for free. Slightly over an hour run time. A one-bagger.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Hard to believe this one is over 30 years old. It came out in 1985, around the time my movie going was beginning to  slack, and it never came on HBO or Turner Classic movies. I caught it on Amazon Prime Video in February.

It’s Silver Bullet, by Stephen King, who also did the screen play. It was produced by Dino De Laurentiis and Martha De Laurentiis and distributed by Paramount pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

Yes, this is a Stephen King story, so you are seeing  this, a human head lying between the rails on a railway line. There is prior footage that shows how this gentleman got into this predicament, but I’m being spare on the graphics today.

The story is told by teenager Jane Coslaw (Megan Follows), who by the time of the telling has grown up, the movie being set in 1976. She tells of how the killings started in her small  home town on the night of the last full moon before the end of the spring school term. This killing was passed off as an accident, the victim being a railway worker noted for heavy drinking on the job.


Jane is burdened by her crippled brother Marty (Corey Haim), for whom she is the designated caretaker. We see Jane as she witnesses a disagreement between two locals, one of whom accuses the other of getting her pregnant.


Pregnant and contemplating suicide is Stella Randolph (Wendy Walker). Just as she swallows the fatal dose of sleeping pills or whatever, the werewolf, for this is a werewolf film, bursts through her bedroom window and tears her apart.


The Coslaw family is beset by Uncle Red (Gary Busey), a heavy drinker and also feared to be a bad influence on Marty.


Marty’s friend, Brady Kincaid (Joe Wright) is next. He’s been mean to Jane, so he may have been coming his due. Flying his kite in the park is the last we see of him alive, and his body has been found torn apart.

Sheriff Joe Haller (Terry O’Quinn) tries to dissuade a mob from going into the woods to look for the killer. To no avail. Three more victims fall to the werewolf in a dark and foggy swamp.


Uncle Red is losing his wife (she’s leaving him), and he dotes on Marty. He constructs a super motorized wheelchair for Marty, which he names the Silver Bullet. It is fast.


Marty is told to never take the Silver Bullet out by himself. So that very night he takes the Silver Bullet out by himself. He brings along some fireworks with the idea of shooting them  off on a wooden footbridge. The werewolf attacks. Marty shoots the werewolf in the eye with a rocket and escapes.


Grownups won’t believe Marty’s story, but sister Jane goes looking for somebody in the town with one eye out. Horrors, it’s the Reverend Lester Lowe (Everett McGill).


Again, grownups won’t believe what Marty and Jane suspect. Then, on the road, the Reverend chases Marty with his car and tries to kill him.


Shown the matching paint scrapes due to a collision with the Reverend’s car, Sheriff Haller goes to investigate. The werewolf kills him.

Uncle Red takes matters in his own hands. He accepts two silver pendants from the children and takes them to a gun shop. Here the gunsmith melts them down and constructs an actual silver bullet.


Then Uncle Red lays a trap. He tricks Jane and Marty’s parents into taking a vacation, leaving him in charge of the kids. They wait in the house for the werewolf to attack. By nearly the end of the night Uncle Red is giving up, and he removes the silver bullet from the pistol.

Then the werewolf attacks,  bursting through the wall. The silver bullet goes flying, falling through a floor grate. The werewolf tosses Uncle Red about the room and goes for the two children. Marty fishes the bullet out of the grate and loads it into the pistol. A single shot does it for the werewolf, and everybody is saved. As the werewolf dies he re morphs into the Reverend, now missing both eyes.


And that’s the end of the movie.

There is nothing wrong with this movie except that it is about 100% predictable. It’s a straight-line werewolf story with victim following victim, until the principle characters confront the danger and eliminate it.

Except that there is a certain lack of reality, in addition to the werewolf bit. Multiple murders are occurring in the town, and there is no call for outside help. The story does not include any expected police procedures, gathering forensic evidence, talking to forensic experts.

Marty tells of shooting the werewolf at the footbridge, but nobody follows up to examine the evidence of the  rocket being fired and werewolf blood samples collected from the bridge.

The Reverend now is lacking his left eye, and nobody asks him what happened to his eye.

The story came from King’s  Cycle of the Werewolf, which might be worth reading. King is an excellent writer, his The Green Mile being a prime example.

Corey Haim parleyed his child star beginning into a successful acting career, but he died at 38 of a drug overdose.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Here’s one more of the Bulldog Drummond series. I don’t know when the supply is going to run out, but when it does I’m proposing a Bulldog Drummond binging party. Stay alert.

This came out in 1939, so I missed it by a year. Even a couple of years later it would have been wasted on my, the plot being too convoluted. Then, maybe not. It’s Bulldog Drummond’s Bride, featuring John Howard as Captain Hugh Chesterton ‘Bulldog’ Drummond and that good looking Heather Angel as Phyllis Clavering, Bulldog Drummond’s bride.

Wikipedia, from which I am drawing technical details, lists Paramount Pictures as the production company, but opening credits show, first, The Criterion Collection, followed by a splash screen proclaiming “A Janus Films Presentation,” then (from the film itself) “Congress Films, Inc. Presents,” and finally the title credits and the movie. I watched this on Amazon Prime Video, but you can also catch it on YouTube:

It’s a crashing opening. A London postman is collecting from a box in front of a bank when he is suddenly bowled over by a massive explosion from inside. Out runs a bank robber, loot in hand, and off down the street. A painter named Garvey (Gerald Hamer), working in an apartment nearby, is alerted by the explosion, and presently the robber, Henri Armides (Eduardo Ciannelli), climbs in through the window. The two are in cahoots.


Enter Drummond and bride-to-be Phyllis. They are making their way to their new apartment, which takes them right past the bank while police are throwing up a cordon around the neighborhood. The two cannot proceed further, and embrace amidst the hubbub.


It will turn out eventually, that the new Drummonds’ future apartment is exactly the one where Armides has taken refuge. He changes painter’s rags with his partner in crime and casts about for a place to stash the swag. He finds a place in what will later turn out to be Phyllis’ portable radio.


Then, when Drummond’s friend and cohort, Algy Longworth (Reginald Denny), drops by, Armides pretends to have gone bonkers from lead poisoning (paint), and smears himself, and also Algy. It’s his plan to escape the police cordon in disguise. The swag remains in the radio.


But the radio winds up in France. A telegram from Phyllis instructs Drummond to ship the radio forthwith by air.


Armides escapes from the mental hospital where he has been taken and reunites with Garvey. They search Drummond’s digs for the radio, seeing instead a telegram from Phyllis being slipped under the door. It advises Drummond that the radio has arrived safely in France. The crooks decide to waylay Drummond with that old fishing line-pistol trap, set to spring when Drummond opens the door.


Of course that doesn’t work. It never does. But Drummond gets wise. The crooks have taken the telegram, but they leave the envelope behind. Drummond contacts the telegraph office and gets a repeat of the message, concluding the crooks are on their way to France and sweet Phyllis. Drummond and Algy speed away by air to France to save Phyllis.

But Drummond’s affectionate prior supervisor, Col. J.A. Nielson (H.B. Warner), takes it upon himself to waylay Drummond and dissuade him from interfering with police matters. He fakes a message to French police, and Drummond is thrown into a French jail when he arrives. As luck would have it, Garvey is in the same cell, having been nabbed by the police in his attempt to hoax Phyllis out of the radio.

Dinner for Garvey arrives. It has been sent by persons unknown, but we soon figure out who sent the snack. The dinner includes a note instructing Garvey to break the wine bottle, which he does, after sharing the wine with Drummond. Garvey does not know Drummond and supposes him to be a master criminal, which he admires.

Inside the bottle is an explosive device that Garvey uses to blow a hole in the wall, enabling the pair to escape.


But Drummond’s friends have caught up with the situation, and Mayor Jean Philippe Napoleon Dupres (Louis Mercier) insists on performing the marriage ceremony right on the spot.


That doesn’t happen, because Drummond is hot on Armides’ trail, and there is a protracted fight on the rooftops. Drummond retrieves the radio and the money, but Armides escapes.


The wedding is concluded, and a bottle of wine is sent in. Drummond recognizes Armides’ work and tosses the bottle with the explosive into a well, where Armides has taken refuge. Poetic justice.


It’s a farce of crime and romance, where the audience laughs while multiple people die. Without the screen presence of Ms. Angel this might not be worth seeing. Too bad there are no nude scenes.

The description I have just laid on should explain why this comes in as the week’s bad movie. Contact me if you need more.