Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This is not the book. In Stephen King’s Children of the Corn , a short story, Burt Stanton and Vicky Baxter are driving cross-country between corn fields through Nebraska when the car runs over a child in the road. The movie, contrary to custom, provides additional background and depth. This came out in 1984 from Angeles Entertainment Group, among others. Peter Horton is Burt. Linda Hamilton is Vicky. It was recently available on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening scenes in the movie show a peaceful Sunday morning in Gatlin, Nebraska, some time previous. The townspeople leave morning church and many head for the local diner. It is then the evil Isaac Chroner (John Franklin), outside on the sidewalk, gives a signal through the window. The children in the diner begin to massacre the adults. Some are poisoned with coffee, others are cut down by sharp weapons. We later learn Isaac is the leader of a religious cult based on corn, hence the title.

Back to the present, a young boy attempts to leave the cult. With his suitcase he makes his dash toward freedom among the rows of corn. But he is waylaid by Malachai Boardman (Courtney Gains) and stabbed with a kitchen knife. He makes it to the road. That is when Burt hits him with the car.

Seeking help, Burt and Vicky stop at Diehl’s (R. G. Armstrong) shop. Diehl advises Burt and Vicky to go on to the next town, and he is subsequently killed by Malachai. Burt and Vicky attempt to make it to the next town, but their car ends up on a dirt path between rows of corn.

Going back to Gatlin, Burt and Vicky encounter Sarah (Anne Marie McEvoy). She and her brother Job (Robby Kiger) are not part of the cult. They can only give clues as to what is going on and what will happen. The town is apparently abandoned, all adults having previously been killed by the children, and cult member roam the town, stalking Burt and Vicky.

Vicky gets taken by the cult and posted on a cross among the corn as a sacrifice. A conflict ensues within the cult, and Malachai usurps Isaac, posting him on the cross in place of Vicky.

Burt works with Job and Sarah as the cult members attempt to trap Burt, using Vicky as bait.

The movie culminates in a showdown among the corn, as an evil entity moves beneath the fertile ground, carrying doom to all it encounters. Burt and Job defeat the evil and the cult by setting the corn ablaze.

Horton and Hamilton are the front-line players in the production, both turning in lackluster performances. Hamilton is mainly good looking throughout. She turned in a significantly better performance as Sarah Conner in The Terminator the same year. The plot has a lot to ask for, as well.

Gatlin, Nebraska—the children kill all adults in the town except Diehl. And nobody notices. Storms of state cops are not all over the place wanting to know what went on. Fortunately this was before cell phones became prolific. Else, Burt would have merely dialed 911 when he found the murdered kid on the road, and that would have been the end of the story.

Viewers of my ilk will experience long stretches of frustration as Burt and Vicky become needless mired in the children’s plot. Viewers obviously know what is going on in the background, but any reasonable person would have dumped all that naiveté after a couple of minutes. Makes the thing agonizing  to watch.

While there is a smidgen of reality with the children cooking up a religious cult and committing murder, the thing beneath the ground in the corn field is pure fantasy. All of Stephen King’s stories seem to have a load of supernatural, but this is a corn crib too much—not essential to the plot and becoming manifest only in the final minutes. In the book the hidden force plays a pivotal role.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This was Stephen King‘s big breakthrough. Before there was The Green Mile, before there was Pet Sematary, before there was The Shining, there was Carrie, a notable piece of horror. This came out in  1976, and I don’t remember where I saw it  the time before. I just now viewed it on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is shy and unremarkable. She is maladroit and poor at sports. She fumbles a critical play, and her team loses a volleyball match. Back in the locker room the other girls taunt her or ignore her completely. Steve, here’s your chance to see naked teenage girls in the locker room.

Carrie is dangerously unworldly. Her mother is a religious psychopath and has not informed Carrie on basic feminine development. When Carrie’s first menstrual period is manifest in the shower, she panics and turns to the girls for help. Instead, they taunt her, chase her into the shower and throw towels at her.

Back home, Carries mother, Margaret White (Piper Laurie) is worse than the girls. She screams at Carrie that she is living in sin and must repeat that aloud.

In class, Carrie is the only one to respond after the teacher reads Tommy Ross’s (William Katt) poem. Tommy, with long, blond hair, is a certified hunk.

The girls who taunted Carrie are severely punished. Their gym teacher, Miss Collins (Betty Buckley) manages their detention, forcing them to do rigorous exercises.

The girls complain. One, Chris Hargensen (Nancy Allen), drops out, forfeiting her ticket to  the senior prom. Another, Sue Snell (Amy Irving) doesn’t drop out. She stays in. And plots revenge.

Meanwhile, Carrie has grown  angry, particularly when Principal Morton (Stefan Gierasch) persists in calling her “Cathy.” Objects move on his desk. Carrie investigates, pulling books from  the library. She comes across the concept of telekinesis. She can do it.

Sue works her revenge on Carrie. She connives to have her boyfriend Ross take Carry to the prom. She also connives to have the voting compromised so that Carrie and Ross are elected queen and king of the prom. She has set Carrie up, bringing her to the high point in her life.

Then Sue unleashes her plot. She has incorporated other students, including Billy Nolan (John Travolta) to slaughter some pigs and collect a bucket of blood. The bucket is rigged, and a pull at a rope dumps the blood on Carrie as she stands in her place of honor. Additionally, the bucket falls on Ross, knocking him out.

Carrie unleashes her fury on everybody. She leaves the auditorium engulfed in fire with everybody locked inside. Everybody, that is, except for the perpetrators. As Carrie walks home in her blood-drenched dress, she encounters Billy Nolan and Chris Hargensen, who attempt to run over her with the car. The car veers to one side and overturns. The two die in the burning car.

Carrie has defied her mother by going to the prom. Back home her mother embraces Carrie, then stabs her in the back with a kitchen knife. Carrie responds. Knives and other objects fly from the kitchen and pin her evil mother to a door frame.

Their house dissolves in flame.

Afterward, Sue is the sole survivor of prom night. She has a dream. She is placing flowers at the site of Carrie’s burned  house. There is a cross, really a for sale sign. On it are painted the words “Carrie White burns in Hell.” An arrow points down.

A bloody hand comes up from the ground to drag Sue down.

And that was our introduction  to the mind of Stephen King. He has taken our worst experiences of high school and amplified on them. You want to see how nasty high school girls can be? Come see this movie and be glad you have moved on.

Since this is a work of fantasy, there is not much that can be argued against the plot. If you want any of it to make sense, then you have to make sense of somebody setting an auditorium on fire and killing everybody through mind power alone. Beyond that there are some stretches of imagination.

Sue thinks she is going to pull of this business with the bucket of blood and then ever graduate from high school? Or live in this town?

Yeah, high school kids have done stupid things, thinking about five seconds into the future, but breaking into somebody’s pig business and killing some pigs is something that’s going to earn time in the clink, and screw all thought of going to college. Example: About the time I was starting at the University of Texas, some frat kids thought it would be cute to kidnap the Baylor bear mascot. They wound up killing  the bear (a cub). End of college for those guys.

Stephen King is an excellent writer, and his stories have enough reality to ground them while the remainder of his plots fly off into the stratosphere. If you can stretch your mind enough, you can appreciate a vicarious journey into the netherworld.

If I can obtain a copy, I hope to review Cujo.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This has to be the worst Steve McQueen movie ever, maybe after The Blob, which was his first starring role. This came out in 1959, probably a good reason I missed it until it came up on Amazon Prime Video. It’s The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery from Charles Guggenheim & Associates and distributed by United Artists. Details are from Wikipedia and IMDb.

If you think the title gives the plot away, your’re right. It’s about an actual bank robbery that occurred in St. Louis, Missouri six years earlier. In fact, opening credits announce, “This story is based on a true incident. Men in the St. Louis Police Department play the same parts they did in the actual crime.” The Southwest Bank in the movie appears to be the same bank involved in the original crime.

Opening scenes show three cars trailing in-line across the bridge from Illinois. Nothing like three cars moving in  concert to arouse suspicion, but none is aroused. The three park across from the bank and scope it out.

Later they gangsters drive to a park to discuss the plan. McQueen is George Fowler, scheduled to be the designated driver. He has no criminal record, but he does need the cash. The others are Crahan Denton as John Egan, the boss; David Clarke as Gino; James Dukas as Willie, a gangster upshot who vies to be the driver; and Larry Gerst as Eddie.

Here’s a problem. These hot shot gangsters are mostly broke, further evidence crime does not pay. Egan has some money, and he can bankroll his friend Willie. But George is down to his last two dollars, and Gino, a friend of George’s, is running on fumes. Somehow George and Gino are going to need to get some cash. Gino has an idea. George is an ex-boyfriend of Gino’s sister Ann (Mollie McCarthy). Gino coerces George into hitting Ann up for a loan. George can’t let on that Gino put him up to it.

George gets the money muffs the con. Ann figures it’s Gino who wants the money, and George tells her Gino is in Chicago and needs money for airfare to St. Louis. He will pay her back. That backfires when Ann spots Gino coming out of a diner, where he has been conferring with George. Ann is bound to crack the operation wide open.

Egan gets wise that the plan has been compromised. He figures to silence Ann, but he cant’ let on to George and Gino. He pretends he’s going to take Ann to the airport to  get her out of town, but he pushes her down a fire escape to her death, instead.

Yeah, the carefully-timed heist quickly goes sour. Two cops are at a donut shop nearby when the bank alarm comes in. One cop is wounded in an initial exchange. As Egan attempts to skedaddle with a hostage a cop puts one in  him.

Gino, figuring to never go back to the slammer, retreats to the bank basement and puts the muzzle of his pistol into his mouth. In the meantime, Willie, who has wormed his way into the job of designated driver, scoots in the getaway car. George makes a go of taking a hostage, but he does not have the ruthless instincts of his cohorts. He gets shot and hauled off by the cops.

Acting is barely par for this production. McQueen is his laconic self, And McCarthy just gets by. This was shot a few months before McQueen started appearing on our TV screens in Wanted, Dead or Alive, which shot him to the big time.

Examining the actual history of the robbery reveals correlation in some details. History does not mention Ann, sister of one of the robbers. The shooting of the robber by a policeman is real, and the actor playing the cop in  the screen shot above is Officer Melburn Stein, who died last year. From IMDb:

Policeman Mel Stein, a hero for shooting a bank robber and saving a woman hostage, only just died in 2016 at the age of 102. He retired to St. Louis County near Creve Coeur where he took long walks each morning and enjoyed martinis reminiscing with their neighbors including of his WWII experiences in the Pacific as a Marine, which contributed to his ability to remain cool under fire the day of the bank robbery.

Something about the movie that did not seem true to life was the number of shots fired by the police and the manner of the shooting. With Gino dead in the basement, Egan fatally wounded and carted away, and with Willie absconded with the getaway car, George is flat out of luck on the bank lobby floor. And the cops continue to pour lead through the bank windows. Did cops ever do this? No return fire. Bank crowded with civilians, and no target visible, the cops are shooting up the place. Reports from the actual even have it the police fired 40 rounds in  the one-sided exchange.

News reporters of the day were quick to respond, and Jack January, of the Post-Dispatch caught the following of the action:

The getaway driver was captured three days later, and the two surviving robbers received long prison sentences. IMDb notes “The movie American Heist (2014) is based on The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery.”

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I caught this on Hulu—Transporter 3. That’s a curious title. I gave it a look. For sure. Bad Movie of the Week.

It’s the third installment of the Transporter series. It stars Jason Statham as Frank Martin the guy who will transport anything anywhere, no questions asked. This came out in 2008 from EuropaCorpTF1 Films Production, and others. Details are from Wikipedia. It doesn’t take long to figure this is all about gimmicks and no plot. I’m going to hit the FX high points and summarize.

It  starts out ominously enough. A container ship plows the Mediterranean, while down below two of the crew decide to  get personal with what they suppose to be some valuable cargo. The cargo turns out to be deadly, and they are the first to exit the plot. Their bodies are dumped overboard in bags.

Next we see a black Audi arriving at a ferry port. There is a driver and a passed out passenger, Valentina (Natalya Rudakova) in the front seat. The driver seems nervous. The passenger seems sexy. When the customs people get curious and demand both exit the car and come up to the office, the driver bolts. Police pursue. We eventually learn why. Neither the driver nor the passenger may step away from the car without attached bombs exploding.

The Audi plows into Martin’s living room. The driver is working for Martin. When an ambulance takes the driver away his bomb explodes. The people behind the plot introduce themselves and force Martin to take the job. He introduces himself to Valentina.

Frank stops by the shop of a friend, who figures out what the mechanism of the bomb is, but he can’t deactivate the system. The bad guys show up, and Martin lays some serious kick ass on them before continuing his mission.

It’s a chase. If either Frank or Valentina separate from the car the bomb attached to their wrist will go off. The chase gets serious, and there is some spectacular FX, including the usual with some bad guys flying off a cliff and their car exploding in a massive fire ball.

Frank is supremely frustrated. He figures out the “package” he is supposed to deliver is Valentina, daughter of a powerful trade commissioner. If the father does not sign off on unfettered delivery of the previously mentioned ship’s cargo (plus more), then the daughter will be killed. While Frank vents, Valentina gets horny. Frank has to put out to keep Valentina from canceling the game then and there.

Spectacular FX. Hemmed in on a bridge, with Valentina safely delivered to the bad guys and her bomb deactivated, Frank escapes by plunging  the Audi off the bridge and into the lake. The car is sprayed with machine gun fire and sinks to the bottom, but Frank succeeds in floating it to the top, and the police assist in getting it running again.

Frank must catch up with Valentina, being taken away aboard a train, but without leaving  the Audi. He jumps the car from a railroad overpass and onto the top of the speeding  train. Whoopee!

That’s not the end of it. After separating cars from the train, Frank jumps the Audi into the back of the remaining car with Valentina in it. With the Audi lodged inside the speeding railway car, Frank defeats the bad guys and rescues Valentina, who is  going to  be grateful in the best way possible.

And that’s all there  is to the movie. 94 minutes of running excitement and not much else. Absolutely unbelievable. Really a BMotW.

The movie has some serious continuity issues. The Audi has taken a nasty ride, sprayed with gunfire, jumped into a lake (crashing through the bridge railing), rescued from the lake, crashed on top of a moving train. And it still looks showroom fresh. It’s an amazing car. Too amazing. Give your credulity a break. And I’m not reviewing any more of these Transporter movies.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is a strange one, but you quickly realize you are seeing The Blair Witch Project rebooted. This is Cloverfield. It came out in 2008 from Paramount Pictures. I watched in March on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

As in Blair Witch, somebody found video taken by people now dead (missing in the case of Blair Witch). We are treated to the intro added to the found clip for identification.

Rob is moving up in his company and is relocating to Japan. His friends have arranged a surprise party, and somebody is making a video. There is a problem. Beth shows up. It gets out that Rob previously humped Beth, and now he’s leaving without so much as a goodbye. Poor Beth.

Beth leaves after making a short testimonial on the video, and Rob’s friends urge him to make things  right with Beth. At that moment disaster strikes. The building shakes, and the lights flicker.

From the rooftop of the Manhattan apartment building the party goers watch as their world dissolves under an alien attack.

An attempt to escape over the Brooklyn Bridge is thwarted when some monster creature severs the bridge mid-span, and Rob’s brother is killed.

Rob learns Beth is trapped in her East Central Park apartment, and he determines to rescue her. Taking to the subway, Rob and three others encounter a small version of a monster in the tunnel, and one of the girls is severely injured.

Exiting the tunnel they encounter military forces, who advise them to evacuate. The injured girl is determined to be fatally infected by the monster and is taken away.

The remaining three make it to Beth’s apartment and rescue her. They board evacuation helicopters, but a monster attack brings down a helicopter in Central Park. A monster kills the guy who has been managing the video camera.

The remaining survivors take refuge under a bridge in the park as military forces come in to flatten  Manhattan. The video shows the last moments of their lives.

Well acted and skillfully captured by somebody who imitates amateur video camera work. Scenes are choppy, and panning is second grade. That’s second grade student level. The video loses some credibility as found footage by the introduction of flashbacks, which would not appear in video captured either on tape or on flash memory, which this purports to be.

Aliens attack. Massive explosions take down lower Manhattan. And the power doesn’t go off all over? Rob finds a working cell phone in an electronics store, and he phones his mother. Really? He can get a line with all this going on?

There is a clock on the wall at the party, and is shows 10 after midnight a few minutes before the shit goes down. The video stops somewhat after 6 a.m. During that time they were supposed to have evacuated a large part of the population of Manhattan? With the Brooklyn Bridge out?

According to Wikipedia this was to be the start of a franchise, but after nine years there is still no sequel. The theme has been continued, however, by 10 Cloverfield Lane, currently running on Amazon Prime Video. God Particle is coming out this year.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This one is really bad, especially for a comparatively modern production. It came out in 1977 and went under a number of titles. This is Warhead, starring David Janssen as Lt. Col. Tony Stevens, United States Air Force. The titles do not show the production company. I watched this on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening scenes show Stevens in what appears to be Jerusalem, at the Wailing Wall. Jews are praying, and Stevens is just observing. Then a car drives up. He is needed immediately. An American nuclear weapon has been jettisoned in Jordanian territory, close by the Israeli border. Stevens must parachute in and deactivate the warhead. Hence the title.

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Meanwhile the bad Palestinians ambush a school bus, blowing it up and killing all inside. Except for Lt. Liora (Karin Dor). She survives and kills all the attackers, except one. That one is Malouf (David Semadar), the leader. The Israelis mount a reprisal raid to kill Malouf. Lt. Liora is to go along, because she has just laid eyes on  Malouf and can identify him.

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The raiding party includes a sniper named Namoi (Joan Freeman) and Captain Ben-David (Christopher Stone), who is to lead the mission.

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Stevens parachutes into Jordanian territory and proceeds to disarm the bomb, still attached to its own parachute. He is surprised by a Palestinian band led by Malouf, who decides the PLO can make better use of the device.

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Surprise, surprise! These festivities are interrupted by the Israeli raiding party, who kill much of the band of Palestinians and take charge of the bomb and also Stevens. Malouf gets away again and regroups with the aim to  ambush the Israelis before they can return to the homeland.

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And that’s the core of the movie. Layer by layer the Israelis and the Palestinians whittle down each other’s forces, often by inventive and gruesome means until there is a final showdown at an abandoned fort in the desert. In a final battle all are killed, except Stevens, who travels back to Jerusalem and to the Wailing Wall, to ponder.

There is a lot of action: running gun battles, sneak attacks, blazing .50 caliber machine gun fire, gruesome death. All for nothing. Reality is tossed out the window.

Take a look at the nuclear device. Its front sports a transparent window and a light inside that pulses to the sound of something that brings to mind a reciprocating  water pump. Can anybody believe that? The thing is still pulsing at the end of the movie.

And get this. They are in Jordan. Malouf discusses tactics. The Israelis’ movements are restricted, he explains. There is the sea to one side and mine fields to the other. Only, Jordan does not have a coast line. Despite this, views at the abandoned fort show the sea in the background.

Forget about seeing this, that is, unless you are 15 years old and always wanted to see a war movie of some sort.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I watched this back in January, courtesy of Amazon Prime Video. I should have saved it for Christmas. But, no. It’s Midnight Clear. If the title sounds familiar, recall this:

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold!
Peace on the earth, good will to men,
From heaven’s all gracious King!
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Yes, that’s what this is all about. There is no Wikipedia entry, so I’m getting details from IMDb. The production company is listed as Jenkins Entertainment. My early guess was the setting is Houston, but filming actually took place in Dallas. The scenery just looks Texas, not to mention car license plates. It’s Christmas eve. It’s grim.

This movie is drama as a morality play. We are going to get lessons in life before the 95 minutes run time is up.

The opening scene shows Lefty (Stephen Baldwinabout to lose his job. He’s a demonstrated loser. There must be a badge for demonstrated losers, but Lefty seems to have lost his. He’s sleeping in his car because he’s homeless. A co-worker is coming to wake him and tell him he’s late for work. It’s a good way to keep your demonstrated loser badge.

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Yes, Lefty does lose his job. Reporting for work he is told by his boss that his days with the company are over. Goodbye. On his way out Lefty steals some stuff from the company and takes it to sell.

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We meet a host of other characters facing life crises. Here is Kirk (Kirk B.R. Woller). He runs a convenience store/gas station. He has become embittered with life.

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Here is Eva. Elderly, living alone, planning to  end her life. Her plan to take all her medication at one time is thwarted by the arrival of a visitor.

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Things get worse for Lefty. His wife has divorced him, and he is unable to get visitation rights for his son. At a meeting with his ex-wife’s lawyer he explains why he is called Lefty. He is actually right-handed, but when he was growing  up his family didn’t have much money, so when  he played baseball he had to borrow his brother’s baseball glove. His brother was left handed and others called him Lefty, because he fielded left handed.

At the meeting he is asked if his current address is still as listed. He attempts to flummox the lawyers by claiming he has just received a promotion at work, but the extra money hasn’t come through yet, so he doesn’t actually have a place to live. That ends the meeting. No court is going to grant visitation if you don’t have a home.

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Lefty’s next move is typical of him. He goes to a shop across the street from his ex-wife’s house and bums a cell phone from a customer, telling him he has to make an important business call. Then he phones his ex-wife Heather (Faline England) and cusses her out, falsely telling  her that her freaking lawyers screwed him over because she and her dorky boyfriend don’t want him to visit his kid. The shop owner comes out with a baseball bat and forces Lefty to return the phone to its owner.

Mary (Mary Thornton) takes her son Jacob (Dominic Scott Kay) to visit her husband Rick (Kevin Downes). He is in a perpetual care facility, having received irreparable injuries in an automobile accident. He doesn’t speak. Things are grim for Mary.

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Lefty steals more stuff from his former employer. He trades it for a pistol and some ammunition. His plan to use the gun to rob Kirk is aborted, and he leaves. His plan to kill himself with the pistol is called off, as well.

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Mary is going to visit relatives for Christmas. Her car encounters trouble, and she pulls in at Kirk’s station. He fixes the car for her. Kirk and Mary get something going.

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Eva turns out to be Lefty’s mother. They share dinner, and things begin to come together for everybody. Lefty and his mother go to church together.

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This movie has no great plot. It’s a story of Christian redemption, loaded with syrup. Acting is par for a modern film. Contrast it with standard fare from 70 to 80 years ago. And nobody dies. Watch it when you are feeling down and need a lift.

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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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:

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.