Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

It’s the classic Steve Martin comedy, slapped with schtick and slathered with predictability. There is Steve Martin, of course,  and there is Michael Caine to add some flair. It’s Dirty Rotten  Scoundrels from 1988, and with a title like that you know it’s going to lean toward a spoof. It was distributed by MGM, currently streaming on Hulu, whence the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening finds a more-money-than-brains American tourist on the French Riviera being conned by suave British grifter Lawrence Jameson (Caine). She hands over a neck-load of sparklies to a the phony royal to finance a revolution to free his people. She exits for America, believing her sacrifice was for the greater good. It’s another day, another scam for the high stakes grifter.

Trouble arrives when high-pockets meets low-life Freddy Benson (Martin). Jameson notices Benson is playing small time, conning a rich traveler into  buying him lunch. At first Jameson finds Benson amusing, but then Benson  begins to tread upon Jameson’s turf. A bug tussle begins.

Jameson cons Benson into  teaming with him. He will teach Benson the art of the high-stakes filch, and Benson will appreciate the education. Here Benson is Jameson’s deranged brother. Jameson agrees to  marry rich American marks and move with them to America, but the unsettling brother will come along and join the happy family. It’s at this point the bride-to-be always backs out, returning alone, without her money.

When Benson learns he is getting a cut of the proceeds, he decides to challenge Jameson head on. Along comes Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly), the American soap queen. That’s a lot of soap, but if you ever watched such classics as The Sting, then you will suspect the sting is going to be reversed.

And it is. Janet strings the two along, playing each against the other and absconding to America with their money. But then she is back. She typically cleans up several million dollars a year working real estate schemes against guileless tourists. The three join forces.

And that’s the end of the movie.

You have to reflect back on the classic flimflam movies that set the tone. First there was The Flim-Flam Man, starring George C. Scott as the early 20th century cross-country huckster. Already mentioned is The Sting, followed by Paper Moon the same year.

This is fun to watch if you can get past the over-ripe corn. Steve Martin is his Saturday Night Live wild and crazy guy. Headly plays the shark woman roll less brilliantly than I would have liked.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

A priest seems to have guilty knowledge.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is the movie that gave the name to bad-ass women. It’s about the road-trip from hell. It’s Thelma & Louise from 1991, released by MGM. It features Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon in the title roles, two women, fed up with a man-driven world and aiming to break free. I once had a VHS copy, but it’s now streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

To summarize: Louise is taking leave of her waitress job, and Thelma is taking leave of her misogynistic husband Darryl. Before starting their trip to a mountain cabin for some fishing they take one last selfie. They will never return.

Thelma, young, trapped in a dead-end marriage, surging with hormones, is engineered to drag Louise to the grave. Beginning with a stop at a cowboy bar for some girlie fun, Thelma makes all the wrong movies. Completely lacking in situational awareness, she loads up with whiskey shots and mistakes a barroom troll for a knight in shining armor. When he sets up to rape her in the parking lot, Louise steps in, brandishing the pistol Thelma has had the bad sense to bring along. Louise says back off, boy scout says suck my dick, Louise plugs him through the heart. The vacation is over and the road trip has just begun.

Thelma takes a lust for a road-trekking cowboy and convinces Louise to let him ride along. Her idea is to have a good hump, but he turns out to be a convicted armed robber in violation of his parole. He screws Thelma and steals the packet of money Louise’s boyfriend Jim brought to rescue them.

Ever helpful, Thelma digs them deeper, robbing a store for some needed cash, and getting herself on candid camera for the benefit of the police, by now tracking the pair across Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma—ultimately to Arizona.

Men have done these women dirty all their lives, and now they get fed up with the antics of a low-life trucker they encounter several times on the road. They decide to settle his hash, having previously locked a highway cop in the trunk of his car and lifted his service weapon. Doubly armed, the two lure the jerk to a lonely spot and shoot up his truck, which explodes spectacularly.

Near Grand Canyon the armed representatives of straight society close in.

No place to run, and not liking the options, they ride the Ford Thunderbird into the clear air of the canyon.

Yeah, don’t watch this if you are on medication for depression. Nothing good ever happens, unless you count the barroom bully getting his ticket punched and the exploding truck. What is a problem is that you don’t have to know this plot to figure what comes next. Just assume it’s the worst decision that can be made and the worst outcome that can derive from the worst decision, and that’s what comes next.

Good performances all around. I saw Brad Pitt here for the first time as the ride-along cowboy. His career has since soared, moving on to Legends of the Fall and Moneyball. Prior to this I caught Geena Davis as a winsome dog trainer in The Accidental Tourist. Sarandon has enjoyed a long and successful film career, one early credit being Janet in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.


Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Good! Here’s one I never  say before. It’s Three Men and a Baby from 1987 out of Touchstone Pictures and currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. It features Tom SelleckSteve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson. as three bachelors, Peter, Mike, and Jack, living the high life in a New York penthouse. They are tremendously successful in their careers, all wonderfully artistic. They did their own interior decorating.

And it’s party, party, party for these guys, with girls coming and going. Peter is interested in one, but she does not appear to want to join the parade.

Jack heads off to Turkey to make a movie, and he leaves behind word that somebody will drop off a package they need to hold to be picked up. What arrives is Mary (Michelle and Lisa Blair), several months short of a year. Hence the title. Peter is reading a note from Sylvia, meant for Jack. She can’t take care of his baby any longer, so here is Mary.

For three confirmed bachelors, the three, initially only Peter and Mike, take to parenting in a storm, quickly getting up to speed on matters of baby formula, diaper changing, and sleepless nights.

But the real package has arrived, little noticed. It’s a drug shipment intended for one of Jack’s friends, and the dealers come by to pick up “the package.” Peter and Mike think the package is Mary, and they hand her off to the felons, discovering the true nature of the transaction almost too late. They intercept Mary before she can be loaded in the trunk of a car, and a horse patrol officer intervenes, enticing the crooks to scoot. The business also attracts the attention of a police narc, who probes the penthouse premises, taking a liking to Mary.

Jack comes back from Turkey, and the three team up to expose the crooks, who are then scooped up by the police.

Then Sylvia shows up. She wants to take Mary home to England,  and Jack is perplexed.

The three decide to head off Sylvia at the airport, but they are too late. Back at the penthouse, Sylvia is waiting. She can’t take care of Mary on her own. She joins the three guys in penthouse, making an extended family of five.

And that’s the end of the movie.

Hey, all this plot has going for it is a baby in the care of three free-wheeling bachelors. The business with the drug dealers does not connect. There is no drama. A cute scene with the men and Mary frolicking at a park is cute. All the hot chicks are fawning over the baby, and the guys. It’s eye candy without advancing the plot.

This was directed by Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock in the Star Trek TV series. An early appearance was an Air Force sergeant in the James Arness thriller Them.

This cost Disney a mere $16 million to  make, which I attribute to the lack of lavish sets and special effects. There are a few location shots in Manhattan, but the bulk of the activity takes place inside the penthouse. It pulled $170 million at the box office. Ten to one is good.


Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evelyn: Doesn’t this soap lather?

Denny: No, it’s sandstone.

Evelyn: Then how do you get clean?

Denny: Rub until the dirt comes off.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s the end of the movie.

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

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

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

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

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

Bill Cody died right before the United States entered WWI

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

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


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is one of those movies. It’s about the loner who’s had it with society and social structure, reminiscent of John Galt. He’s more valuable to society than society is to him. Of course, by the conclusion he will have successfully demonstrated that. It’s Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, starring Tom Cruise. It came out in  2016, released by Paramount and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots.

Here we see Cruise as Jack Reacher, former major in the United States Army. There’s been a fight out front of a road-side diner in rural America, and Jack has just trounced four jerks who messed with him. Arrives the crooked sheriff and his trusty deputy, figuring to  arrest this interloper and rid themselves of a threat to their illegal enterprise. And here is where it becomes cute. We see tough guy Jack Reacher telling them they made a mistake by running their operation on property owned by the United States Army. In the next 90 seconds two things are going to happen. First the phone on the wall is going to ring. Second, they are going to be wearing these handcuffs currently on Jack, and they are going to be headed off to prison.

And it comes to pass, as Army MP cars roll up, and the sheriff and his men are hauled off.

The person on the other end of the phone line was Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders), who has inherited the position with the 110th MPs recently vacated by Jack. Jack continues his aimless trek across America, becoming ever more curious about the mysterious Major Turner. When he finally gets around to looking her up in her offices in Fort Dyer, he finds she has been arrested, charged with espionage. Jack suspects a setup, quickly confirmed. He arranges to break her out of prison, and they set off to uncover what evil lurks with the U.S. Army.

Along the way they pick up Samatha Dutton (Danika Yarosh) alleged to be Jack’s illegitimate daughter. That rounds out the team of good guys in the movie, at the same time ramping up the complexity of the plot.

It turns out two of Turner’s military cops in Afghanistan previously uncovered malfeasance thereabouts, but were murdered before they could file a full report. Apparently it became necessary to falsely accuse her and thereupon engineer her death to cover up the sorry episode. Reacher and Turner track down a surviving member of the unit involved and get the true story from him. Military weapons scheduled for repatriation are being hijacked, and dummy crates are being shipped back home.

When Jack arranges for an MP officer to come and take the witness into  custody, the general in charge of the criminal activity gets the scoop and arranges for an ambush. The witness is killed, but the plot is revealed to the military cop.

Now all that is left is for Jack and Major Turner to intercept the return shipment and expose the crime. However, Jack figures the worth of the purloined weapons does not measure up to the coinage flowing into the criminal company involved. You guessed it. It’s not about weapons. It’s about Afghanistan opium being shipped home in the crates. Jack figures it out and pulls a launcher tube from a crate and dumps the contraband out on the tarmac. End of the line for the crooked general.

However, it’s not the end of the story. Jack’s nemesis, known only as The Hunter (Patrick Heusinger) wants to even the score with Jack, and his means is young Samantha. He tracks her down to where she is staying in a hotel in the New Orleans French Quarter during Mardi Gras celebrations. Of course Jack defeats The Hunter’s two associates, and The Hunter snags the girl on a high roof top above the celebrations.

Jack takes both The Hunter and himself over the edge, and does as promised. He breaks the creep’s arms, then his legs, then his neck.

Major Burns is restored, and Jack departs. No sex. The girl is not really Jack’s daughter, and he leaves her in the care of an upscale girl’s school.

We last see Jack continuing his trek to see America.

It’s a great action yarn with a hint of romance plus some sexual innuendo. And There’s Tom Cruise being Tom Cruise. And it’s trite. It’s the tired warrior coming out of retirement to right what is wrong. The first matter is showing what kind of stuff Jack is made of. We see the bodies of four toughs he has laid out in  the diner parking lot for the crooked sheriff to clean up. Never said, we get the idea Jack discovered they were up to no good, confronted them, then trashed them, and correctly calculated the immediate consequences. He phoned his previous duty station, got his replacement, the comely Major Burns, whom he has not met. He arranges for the cavalry (MPs) to arrive, and then he sits back and waits for things to develop. Absolutely most cool.

It’s when Jack gets curious and decides to find out if Major Burns looks as good as she sounds on the phone that he gets really involved. He quickly gets neck-deep in the shit when he figures out she’s been framed, and someone high-up in the Army is doing dirty.

There is a whole bunch of kick-ass to put Chuck Norris to shame (almost), with Burns showing her stuff, as well. Who would not fall for a girl like that?

Lots of lead flies, and none of it touches Reacher and Burns. Time after time they evade destruction against steep odds. Typical of this kind of movie and just as believable.

Did I mention classic Cruise. He has come a long way since Risky Business, but we see reflections of Top Gun and A Few Good Men. Fans so loved that vision of Maverick washing up after his crash they reprieve it while Reacher and Burns are holed up in hotel room after losing a fight. Also, if you watch closely, you will see Reacher doing the same thing with the fingers of his right hand, making a point as Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee defending two hapless Marines. All the stuff you love about Cruise.

As you have surmised from the colon in the title, this is one of a series of Jack Reacher stories. Cruise featured in a previous film titled Jack Reacher, which I have not seen.

Too bad, Cruise is showing his age. He was 53 when filming started.


Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

There’s a precocious kid involved in the enterprise.

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

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

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

It invades the city. Everybody needs to run.

Godzilla breathes fire to combat the creature.

Another monster menaces Godzilla.

An anti-Godzilla big wig confronts Godzilla and dies.

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


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I’m seeing this for the first time—it ran on Hulu through January, where I got these screen shots. It’s K-19 The Widowmaker, starring Harrison Ford as the captain. It’s about a disaster in slow motion that happens on a newly built nuclear Soviet submarine, apparently recapping an actual episode from 1961. It’s from Paramount in 2002.

The opening sequence sets the stage. The Cold War is in full swing, leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year. Yes, we once were that involved.

Ford is Captain 2nd Rank Alexei Vostrikov, taking over the K-19 in dry dock and in dire trouble. Captain 3rd Rank Mikhail “Misha” Polenin (Liam Neeson) hasn’t been able to get things shipshape aboard the boat, due apparently to failures at levels above him and also due to notable deficiencies in the workings of the Soviet Union. Vostrikov keeps Polenin on board to maintain continuity, but he takes a strong hand. The Party rules, and the Party needs the boat’s sea trials to showcase the USSR’s new play toy. It’s expected U.S. spy planes will spot the new boat in action and the decadent capitalist will also observe the launch of a test missile from a region covered by sea ice. We later learn that, following the show launch, the boat is to proceed immediately to station off the Eastern Coast of the U.S. as a bit of intimidation.

Vostrikov is anything but timid and complacent. He pushes the shaky K-19 to it’s limits, scheduling scary emergency drills and also taking the boat to the edge of crush depth. This is followed by a crash surfacing through thick sea ice, immediately followed by a successful launch of the missile. The crew celebrates, getting up a ball game on the ice and posing for class photos.

Of course, disaster strikes. Cooling fails on a reactor, and selected crew members enter the radioactive chamber in ten-minute shifts, sacrificing their lives for the boat, their shipmates, and the Party.

High levels of radioactivity induce the captain to surface the boat and give the crew escape to the outer hull.

They are near an American base, and a destroyer comes out to investigate. An HSS 1 (now designated H-34) comes to investigate and also to offer assistance. The crew offers the Americans the moon.

But the crisis worsens aboard the boat, and the political officer on board attempts to depose Vostrikov and replace him with Polenin. This falls through when Polenin’s first act is to arrest the political officer and to turn command back to Vostrikov.

To wrap it up, a Soviet submarine comes to the rescue, taking the K-19’s crew aboard, minus their contaminated clothing, and towing the K-19 back to the motherland. An attempt is made by the Party structure to pin the debacle on Vostrikov, but this is unsuccessful. Polenin and others testify at Vostrikov’s trial to his actions that saved the boat.

Nearly 30 years pass, and the Soviet Union crumbles. A gag order imposed on the crew becomes moot, and Vostrikov and surviving crew meet to toast those who gave their lives.

And it’s all based on an actual incident. What gets this movie my notice are a number of inconsistencies.

President Kennedy is mentioned in passing, and Kennedy did take office the previous January. However, the political officer is depicted showing a propaganda film to the crew. They should not be persuaded by the capitalists’ appeal with cascading consumer goods and lavish lifestyles. Their democracy is phony. The film shows a KKK rally and also newsreel footage from the Birmingham police oppression, which occurred several years later.

The boat is taken to the edge of crush depth, and we hear groans and poppings of the hull. We see the outer hull around the conning tower buckle inward from  the pressure. No. That part of the structure is not under pressure. It’s a faring around an inner pressure hull.

There is concern the reactor could go critical. It would be like Hiroshima, but many times over. No, it would not. A critical reactor will blow itself apart, ruling out any chance of a critical mass. It would be a disaster of massive proportions, but there would be no huge flash and shock wave.

Also mentioned is that it would be a thermo-nuclear event. Again no. Thermo-nuclear bombs are hydrogen bombs. They are initiated by a fission bomb (not going to happen) producing fusion of hydrogen reactant. The K-19 did not have deuterium (or tritium) packed around its reactors, and temperatures produced by a run-away reactor would not be sufficient.

Likewise, the K-19’s missile warheads would not be detonated. Vostrikov’s character is based on real-life Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev. A review of Zatevev’s life indicates he incorrectly believed these things would happen. That seems incongruous, being that Vostrikov was put in charge of a nuclear submarine carrying nuclear-tipped warheads, he would have needed to be up to  speed on the technology under his command. If not he, then at least the missile officers aboard would know. So would your average high school student.

Also, much is made of Vostrikov’s family history. His father was a Hero of the Soviet Union who spent the last years of his life in the Soviet Gulag. Where have we heard this before?

Marko’s father had been a true Soviet hero— and Marko was deeply ashamed to be his son.

Clancy, Tom. The Hunt for Red October (A Jack Ryan Novel, Book 3) (p. 4). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Yes, this story brings back memories of another movie about a Soviet submarine.


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I’m seeing this again. Truth be, since I saw it the first time, I saw it again under a different title and a similar plot. This is The Eagle Has Landed, starring, Michael CaineDonald Sutherland, and Robert Duvall. It’s based on the book of the same name by Jack Higgins. It’s about a scheme to infiltrate England with a German detachment during World War Two, and here lies the similarity to Went the Day Well?, based on a Graham Greene script. Parallels abound, indicating some amount of plot sharing. This came out in 1977 in the U.S., having been featured previously elsewhere. It’s from Columbia Pictures.

The scheme gets hatched in the office of German Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, who was a real character, heading up German military intelligence for most of the war. Italian dictator Benito Mussolini has earlier in the year been deposed in conjunction with Italy’s capitulation, and Mussolini has subsequently been rescued from a mountain prison by Nazi super-operative Otto Skorzeny. Now German Chancellor Adolf Hitler wants to put a cap on the caper by arranging the kidnapping of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Canaris calls the fictional Oberst Max Radl (Duvall) in and tells him to scope the plan. But under no circumstances is he to put anything into action. By now Hitler is gripped by frenzy as his enemies close inexorably on his shrinking empire.

Oops! Things get out of hand, as the pieces fall neatly into place. The right Churchill schedule coincides with the availability of the right person to do the job, plus a number of other things going right. The doomed Randl is struck by the whisper of beckoning fate, and also by a direct order from Heinrich Himmler, Nazi head of the SS and the Gestapo. Randl is ordered by Himmler to defy Hitler (ordinarily the kiss of death) and to carry out the plot. If it succeeds, Himmler will take the credit. If it fails, Randl will take the fall.

The right man is Skorzeny-like Oberst Kurt Steiner (Caine). Steiner makes his appearance when his battalion is returning from a rough assignment. At a train stop he rescues a Jewish girl from being murdered for attempting to escape a death train. For this offense he and his crew have been given a suicide detail involving torpedoes, which specifics elude me.

Anyhow, Steiner and the remainder of his detail take the opportunity to escape certain death by choosing almost certain death. They will go to England and kidnap Churchill.

The first to arrive in England is Irish rogue Liam Devlin (Sutherland). Devlin has to be in the movie, because the Jack Higgins book is part of a Liam Devlin series. Parachuting into England, Devlin meets British turncoat Joanna Grey (Jean Marsh), who gives him the cover job of marsh warden, plus a motorcycle and a shotgun.

In the village Devlin meets up with Molly Prior (Jenny Agutter), a comely lass who quickly forms an attachment to him. This arrangement is in conflict with one Arthur Seymour (Terence Plummer), who takes an instant dislike. The two have it out with fisticuffs in the town square.

Steiner and his men drop in, he disguised as an English commander of a free Polish contingent. He speaks perfect English, they pretend to speak Polish. Their German uniforms are hidden beneath their British livery. They pretend to be on maneuvers about the area, reflecting on the Graham Greene plot. All is friendship and smiles. We know it has to end.

It does. A young girl falls into the mill sluice, and one of the “Polish” soldiers jumps in to rescue her. He is ground up by the water wheel, revealing his German uniform. The cat is out of the bag. Also about this time, Arthur discovers the German equipment, and Molly shoots him with Devlin’s shotgun.

Out, too, come the guns, and the townspeople are herded into the church, same as in the Graham Greene plot.

Molly and the pastor’s sister, Pamela (Judy Geeson) see what’s going on and sneak out to alert the authorities. One authority who is not inclined to play well is cashiered American Army Colonel Clarence E. Pitts (Larry Hagman). He is determined not to be returned to desk duty in the states without seeing some combat. He squelches the alert message and leads his men into a fatal assault on the entrenched German special forces.

You instantly do not like Colonel Pitts, and you long to enjoy his eventual disgrace. Instead, he makes a foolhardy go to capture the devilish Joanna Grey. Instead, as he approaches with an armed grenade, she puts a bullet into his forehead, and he tumbles down the stairs, losing his grip on the spoon. Boom! Knowing she has no place left to go, she takes the short way out with the pistol.

But the cavalry does arrive, and a concerted attack by American troops wipes out the Germans in the church.

Randl takes the heat, as Himmler orders his arrest and execution. Justice moved swiftly in Nazi Germany.

Devlin and Steiner escape the assault on the church, along with a wounded German soldier. Steiner’s idea is to hunt down and kill Churchill.

He overwhelms an American captain and takes his uniform. Finding Churchill’s location, he waits outside on the terrace as the great man steps out for cigar and a brandy. He shoots and in turn is gunned down.

Only it isn’t Churchill. Historically, Churchill was not in England at the time. He was in Tehran for a conference with Roosevelt and Stalin.

A German E-boat takes the wounded soldier back to the fatherland, and Devlin treks off through the English countryside to continue his adventures. And that’s the end of the movie.

Yeah, this garnered applause and financial reward when it played the first time around, but I can’t let it go without pointing some obvious problems.

Get past the obvious heroics of Oberst Kurt Steiner, seen throwing away his career and his very life—and that of his men—to save a young girl from being murdered by the SS. This is an obvious setup to showcase his true heart.

Later we see the German infiltrators parachuting into England. In broad daylight. This would be late November 1943, during which time England had complete control of its skies. Any aircraft coming across the North Sea (this is in Norfolk) from enemy territory would have been spotted by British radar and gunned out of the sky forthwith. Also, people all up and down the coast would have spotted the subterfuge. The Germans did land spies in England during the war, but it was always by submarine and, I suppose, by fast E-boat.

The Germans have worn their uniforms underneath their disguises to they can be treated as legitimate warriors if captured. I’m not too sure how that’s supposed to work if you go in wearing British uniforms on top. The plot is unraveled when the waterwheel shreds the uniform of one of the soldiers. The Germans immediately go to their fall-back position when they could have  claimed the hidden uniform was part of their exercise. They could be training to seek out infiltrators.

The entire plan was based on knowing days in advance of Churchill’s itinerary. This would have been 1) something not laid out that far in advance (it was a vacation retreat of some sort), and 2) German intelligence did not also obtain the information that Churchill would actually be out of the country at the time. Very poor planning, especially for the very efficient Germans.

It’s night. The wounded German soldier is being evacuated by E-boat. Devlin and Steiner are going their separate ways, Steiner to hunt down and kill Churchill. It’s daylight. Randl is facing a firing squad. It’s the same night, apparently. Steiner hunts down and kills the fake Churchill. Who was in charge of continuity in this production?

Higgins wrote the book six years after Neil Armstrong immortalized the title.


Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Oh my God! I saw this when it hit the screens in 1961. It’s Disney’s major foray into sitcom TV for the big screen. It’s pure corn syrup and out of this world cute. People with a family history of type 2 diabetes should not watch this movie. It’s The Parent Trap, starring Haley Mills and also Haley Mills. That’s two roles for Mills. I did not investigate whether Mills got paid two salaries, but that’s water under the bridge by now. As I write, this is streaming on Hulu, where I’m getting the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Don’t believe this is way too cute? Then check out this from the title sequence. Yes, way too cute.

So, let’s get to the plot. Here we see way too cute Sharon McKendrick (Mills) arriving at summer camp (Camp Inch), delivered by the family chauffeur. She’s proper Bostonian, all of 13, and residing at 18 Belgrave Square. Is she ever in for the shock of her life.

Wham! The action starts early. Sharon runs head on into Susan Evers (Mills), an exact look-alike. Naturally the two girls take an instant like to each other.

Of course not. These are 13-year-old girls, the perfect formula for a teenage cat fight. And the war begins. Rival cliques are formed and nuclear war quickly escalates. The Sharon clique draws first blood, dumping the Susan clique in the lake by tumping over their canoe. In retaliation, the Susan clique sabotages the Sharon clique’s tent, creating mass chaos. Finally, the Sharon clique, now barred from the inter-camp dance for a failed tent inspection, sabotages Susan’s dance dress, unbeknownst to Susan until she steps onto the dance floor with her butt showing.

That’s final straw. The cat fight turns physical, and the dance turns into a shambles, complete with all the standard dance party fight gags, including punch bowl sliding down the capsized table into the face of the boy’s camp counselor and also the cake falling onto the face of Miss Inch, the girl’s camp counselor.

At this moment pause to appreciate the exquisite camera work by the Disney crew. Many scenes show Mills doubling up in the same frame with the aid of some industrial magic:

The film originally called for only a few trick photography shots of Hayley Mills in scenes with herself; the bulk of the film was to be shot using a body double. The film used Disney’s proprietary sodium vapor process for compositing rather than the usual chroma key technique. When Walt Disney saw how seamless the processed shots were, he ordered the script reconfigured to include more of the special effect. Disney also wanted Mills to appear on camera as much as possible, knowing that she was having growth spurts during filming

Yes, that does it. The girls are sentenced to quarantine for the remainder of the summer, required to live together in a remote tent. At this point the plot crystallizes. The girls get to talking to each other, and details come out. Not only do they look alike, but they share a common birth date. Also, each lives with just one parent. Sharon lives with her mother in Boston, and Susan lives with her father in Carmel, California. Then Sharon shows Susan a photo of her mother. Not only does it turn out to be Susan’s mother, as well, but it’s Maureen O’Hara for Christ sake!

The girls figure they were separated when their parents split up 12 years previous, and they initiate a scheme to get their parents reunited. Hence the title of the movie. Each wants to meet her other parent, so they switch identities, which requires Susan clip Sharon’s golden locks. They share sufficient details to facilitate the ruse, and at the end of summer each returns to the other’s home. Susan is enraptured by her glamorous mother. On the other hand, her grandmother is a bit on the stuffy side.

Out in California, Sharon meets her hunk of a father at the airport. He turns out to be Brian Keith, with the squarest jaw west of the Pecos.

There’s a fly in the soup, however. Mitch Evers is making plans to marry gold-digging Vicky Robinson (Joanna Barnes). Mitch is loaded.

Sharon sees right through the plot, and in private encounters Vicky reveals her true nature. The girls figure they need to act quickly.

So, Susan unravels the situation to her Boston family, and Margaret “Maggie” McKendrick travels out to California with Susan. Mitch is surprise to find his ex-wife in his house wearing only a bathrobe.

So, yes, the girls gang up on Vicky and, employing tactics they learned in summer camp, they sabotage her. Only they call it “submarining,” by which they probably meant “torpedoing.” Vicky’s true character comes out for all to see, including Mitch, and Vicky departs stage left.

As the movie draws to a close Mitch turns around in the kitchen and realizes what he saw in Maggie from the get-go. The final scene is a too-sweet wedding ceremony.

Other matters:

The twins were raised separately. There are differences. Sharon has learned to play the piano, which her father notices. That’s about right. But Sharon is also an accomplished horse rider, as evidenced by a beach riding scene with her father. Did she learn to ride a horse somewhere back in Boston? If so, then what’s she doing getting off the wrong side of the horse?

The girls scheme to get their parents back together. They stage a bit of entertainment, emphasizing “let’s get together.” Sharon, wearing a neat dress, plays a two bars from Beethoven on the piano. Susan, in jeans and a tee-shirt responds with a few riffs from a guitar. The dissonance is manifest. Then the two harmonize on a smarmy tune with the refrain, “Let’s get together, yeh yeh yeh.” I had to remind myself this was three years before the Beatles hit the big time, and it was two years before Bob Dylan advised, ““Tell Your Ma. Tell Your Pa. Our Love’s A-gonna Grow Ooh-wah, Ooh-wah.”

Hey, Leo G. Carroll plays the Reverend Dr. Mosby, always around to officiate at the wedding, no matter which bride, and also adding a ton of class as he always did in his roles.

And by now you too recognize this as too sweet for words, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

Haley Mills is, of course, daughter of Sir John Mills, famous for a number of stellar roles, including the village idiot in Ryan’s Daughter, where he won an Oscar.

Brian Keith had a long and successful career, starting in 1924 and ending with Rough Riders  in 1997, the year of his death.

O’Hara made a splash as the gypsy girl in The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1939.  She also starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn that same year. She paired with Keith again in 1961 in The Deadly Companions. Her last dramatic film role came in 1991 with Only the Lonely. She died in 2015.


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is a remake of one from 62 years ago. The Desperate Hours starred Humphrey Bogart and Fredric March, and was reprised in 1990 with changes in the title and the plot. Desperate Hours, from MGM, features Anthony Hopkins as besieged leader of his family Tim Cornell and Mickey Rourke as desperado Michael Bosworth, whose ruthless gang invades the Cornell home. As I write, this is streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The original, based on the Joseph Hayes book, jumps right into the police searching for the fleeing gangsters. This one begins with a bit of drama that provides some setting for what is to follow. We see a speeding car, throwing up dust along a mountain road, apparently in Utah.

When the car finally stops we are treated to the best legs to come our way in a while as attorney Nancy Breyers (Kelly Lynch) steps out. She leaves the car parked at a turnoff and walks those FMN shoes to a bus stop. We next see her hustling into a court house, where she prepares to defend Mr. Bosworth against heinous crimes. She has left the car parked for her gangster boyfriend to pick up later in the day.

She has more between her legs than you might expect. Prisoner Bosworth slips his hand into this sacred place, but only to fetch the weapon. He kills the guard and fakes a hostage situation, leaving breathless Nancy abused and bedraggled, feigning to be the victim rather than the accomplice.

Out on the street, Bosworth joins up with his brother Wally (Elias Koteas) and accomplice Albert (David Morse), recreating the role of dumber-than-dirt Simon Kobish from 1955. The Cornells are putting the finishing touches on a friendly divorce, and their spacious home is in the process of being sold when the Bosworth gang picks it from among many on the street.

Nora Cornell (Mimi Rogers) is home alone when the gang leader rings the doorbell. She is shocked when the brutish Albert comes in the back way.

To make the telling short, family members come to the home and are taken in, starting with rebellious teenage daughter May (Shawnee Smith).

Eventually young Zack (Danny Gerard) arrives, and the entire Cornell family has been scooped up into Bosworth’s deadly scheme. Tim is a war veteran and puts up resistance, getting stabbed for his efforts. The real estate agent drops by, and Bosworth kills him. Albert now wants out of the whole business, and Bosworth takes advantage of his slow wit. Albert gets the job of disposing of the corpse, and off he goes with a dead body in the trunk.

But Albert, as expected, muffs the assignment, which was all along a scheme by Bosworth to ditch him. He gets the car stuck in the dirt alongside a stream bed, wherein he ditches the body. Then he makes it back to the highway on foot, where his bloody appearance catches the attention of some college girls and ultimately the police. His life ends at the hands of police snipers.

But Albert was carrying Nora’s pistol, registered to her, and the body is identified and tracked to a slew of properties being handled by the dead real estate agent. It all points toward the Cornell residence on a quiet street.

Meanwhile, FBI agent Brenda Chandler (Lindsay Crouse) has not been taken in by the ruse back at the court house, and Nancy has been allowed to go about her business, which is to bring money and her sweet self to her lover Boswell. The police first plan to send Nancy in wearing a wire, and she is stripped to the waist in that effort, and also to provide some eye candy for the rest of us.

They decide against the wire, but Nancy insists on carrying a piece. Agent Chandler agrees, but she removes the bullets.

Then there is the expected climax, expected especially if you watched in 1955. Wally is riddled with police bullets out front, and Tim and Michael Bosworth have it out inside the house.

Only, by now Tim has discovered the unloaded gun, and Bosworth has it. When Bosworth attempts to use Nora as a hostage the leader of the Cornell clan takes him down for what he’s worth and thrusts him outside for the police snipers to finish off.

The Cornell family is reunited inside their spacious home.

It’s just as it was in 1955, with some differences:

  • Humphrey Bogart reprises Duke Mantee from The Petrified Forest. Mickey Rourke is cool and calculating, right up to the point where things began to go south.
  • The gangster’s moll never appears on screen in the original.
  • Also, the original has a bunch more going back and forth, with the drama stretching out for days.
  • The original likewise features the murder of an innocent witness. The original has the trash man becoming suspicious. The dumb crook tags along on the trash truck and murders him. He never makes it back to the house. He shoots a cop, then gets run over by a truck.
  • In both versions the crook’s gun is traced back to the house.
  • Both versions feature the unloaded gun.
  • Both end with the gang leader being machine gunned on the front lawn.

There is a lot to be suspicious about the plot:

  • I never came to understand the opening sequence. It’s the dead of night, and Nancy is absolutely racing the getaway car down an unpaved road in the mountains. Then the sun is up, and she is running the Mille Miglia along a two-lane hard top. Then she’s going more miles, like a bat out of Chicago, throwing up dust along an unpaved stretch. She now leaves the car and hikes a few feet to a paved highway, where she now must catch a bus back to town in time to make her scheduled court appearance. We know this is an unbroken sequence, because she is dressed for business the whole time and carries her lawyer’s briefcase.
  • Stashing the getaway car out on a lonely stretch of road seems overly dramatic.
  • We see Miss Sex Body smuggle in a gun between her thighs. What ever happened to metal detectors?
  • The authorities never buy the fake hostage escape caper. What was Bosworth thinking?
  • Bosworth sends Albert off on what he expects to be a one-way mission. And he doesn’t figure this business is going to trace back to the house?
  • Bosworth has duped his comely lawyer into aiding his escape. Now he puts his life on the line, waiting for true love to come his way.
  • It is never explained why American lawyer Tim Cornell has a trace of British accent.
  • The final police siege of the house mirrors what I previously mentioned about The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery. There is a family inside the house, and police are pouring volleys of machine gun fire through the front door? See the above images.

Hayes’ book, which I don’t have a copy, was based on an episode from 1952, involving a family named Hill. The Hills subsequently sued Time, Inc., over misstatements in a Life magazine article about the episode. The case bounced around for years, going to the Supreme Court and back. The case was not put to bed until 1967. Former Vice President Richard Nixon represented the Hills before the high court. It turned out to be a landmark case, establishing the present-day right to publish about people who become notorious through no fault of their own.

You can’t watch this, or the original, without recalling The Petrified Forest. Here is an absolutely ruthless gangster, risking it all for the love of a woman.


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This could have been a first-class flick, except for some improbable plot features. It’s Out of Time, from 2003 from MGM and featuring Denzel Washington as Matthias Lee Whitlock, Chief of Police in Banyan Key, Florida. It’s now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I’m getting these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Watching the opening scene you’re going to get very suspicious. We see Whitlock pulling night duty at the station when a call comes in from a lovely maiden, Anne-Merai Harrison, played by Sanaa Lathan. She tells the chief somebody broke into her house, and he should come right over. The chief doesn’t ask the usual questions, such as is the person still there. He just comes right over. We suspect there is a pre-arranged connection between the two.

Sure enough. After verifying the maiden is, indeed, safe, the two of them start to get it on hot and heavy. The chief’s honor is saved by the bell as a phone call takes him away on official business.

The background is Chief Whitlock has previously seized $450,000 in a drug bust, and it’s safely ensconced in his office safe. He shows it to his drinking partner, Chae, the medical examiner, played by John Billingsley. Chae has all kinds of ideas about what the two of them could do with that money, but it stays in the safe, for now.

Tragedy looms. Anne-Merai wants the chief to go with her when she visits an oncologist, Paul Cabot (Alex Carter), on the doctor’s weekend off. The doctor has bad news for Anne-Merai. Her cancer has come back, and she has about six months to live. He gives her a list of clinics offering experimental treatments.

The two visit a company, The Living Gift, willing to purchase Anne-Merai’s life insurance policy, valued at $1 million. They will pay her $750,000 and collect the $1 million when she dies.

Anne-Merai figures to beat the odds by using the money to seek alternative treatments, but she needs cash now. Anne-Merai submits a change to the policy, making Chief Whitlock the beneficiary. For reasons I was unable to derive from the movie, Anne-Merai can’t get the money in time from The Living Gift. Whitlock gets the idea to lend Anne-Merai the $450,000 so she can go to Switzerland for treatment. Then, after some rigmarole involving Anne-Merai’s husband Chris Harrison (Dean Cain), a former NFL quarterback-turned security guard, Whitlock gets a phone call from Anne-Merai. She tells him to wait, and she will meet him. He waits. She does not come. He gets concerned. He goes to her home. Nobody is there, but a neighbor spots him as he leaves.

Minutes later the house is completely obliterated by a blaze that is obviously arson. Two bodies, burned to a crisp, are discovered in the residue. The money is presumed destroyed in the fire.

Whitlock’s sharp-looking wife is Alex Diaz-Whitlock (Eva Mendes), recently promoted to police lieutenant in the nearby Miami police department. She’s a homicide detective, and she is investigating the apparent murders. The two are in the process of getting a divorce.

As Mrs. Whitlock and other fuzz close in on Chief Whitlock, who is going to come off as the prime suspect once the facts come out, the chief works frenzied mechanizations to throw them off the scent. For example, the cops subpoena phone records, records that show Whitlock and Anne-Merai have been exchanging intense communications. As the incriminating FAX comes in, the chief intercepts the sheets from the machine. Then he scans them, edits the scans, removing his phone calls, and then substitutes reprints, minus his calls, for the FAX sheets.

In the meantime, the neighbor who spotted the chief at Anne-Merai’s house is brought in, and she identifies the chief. He laughs it off and points to other dark-skinned people in the office. The poor woman becomes confused and agrees she must have been mistaken.

Meanwhile, a check with Anne-Merai’s doctor, not the oncologist, discloses she did not have cancer. Puzzled, Whitlock goes to the oncologist’s office, only to discover a different doctor sitting in the office. The other “doctor” was obviously a fake.

Whitlock persuades the real doctor to hand over a desk pen the phony doctor had used during the previous visit. It’s a pen the real doctor had not touched since. Whitlock has the pen shipped off to a crime lab and tested for fingerprints. The prints come back as belonging to a known crook. Whitlock traces the crook to a nearby hotel, finding the crook there with the money. A fierce struggle ensues, ending with both hanging seven stories up from a broken balcony railing. Cabot takes the plunge, and Whitlock escapes with the money in a valise.

So, it all comes to a head when Whitlock figures Anne-Merai and her husband have pulled a fast one. Reality crystallizes when Whitlock receives a phone call from Anne-Merai. There is a final confrontation with the Harrisons in a lonely shoreline dwelling. Things have gone sour between the Harrisons, and Chris has been beating his wife, again. She shoots her husband, and then she shoots Whitlock, but not seriously. Just in time, Alex appears and shoots Anne-Merai.

Just in time the Miami police show up, demanding the money from the safe that the chief had promised to arrange to deliver to them. Just in time Chae shows up with the money, complaining to Whitlock that he was unable to deliver the money to the Miami police, because Whitlock gave him the wrong address.

Meanwhile, Alex has been getting it all figured out, and she reconciles with her husband. The chief wants to accept the payout from Anne-Merai’s insurance policy, but he cannot, because it was his wife who killed Anne-Merai. Insurance companies will not pay out on policies when the proceeds will go to the person who caused the death. Anyhow, the divorce is off, and things are going to look up for the Whitlocks.

Some good acting, some great action scenes, some hot sex. Most-improbable storyline. Watching through one time and then going back to review the plot, I never figured out Harrison’s scheme. Suppose they knew Whitlock had the money. How were they going to get it from him? Fake Anne-Merai’s cancer? That’s going to guarantee he’s going to get him to hand over the money? No.

And there is a fatal flaw. The policy had to be taken before the cancer was diagnosed. That was weeks prior to the start of the movie. The drug bust that raked in the $450,000 was still fresh news by the second scene. Again, no.


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Another from Amazon Prime Video, the go-to place for vintage movies. This is Blown Away, from 1994, and it’s amazing how time has passed. This is not to  be confused with the erotic thriller of the same name that came out the year before. This one is about a psychopathic serial bomber bent on vengeance. It’s from MGM, details are from  Wikipedia.

Tommy Lee Jones is Ryan Gaerity, a prisoner, breaking out of Castle Gleigh Prison in Northern Ireland. He has been convicted of a bombing that killed several people, and to bust out he kills his cell mate and uses the dead body to shield himself when he sets of a prison-made bomb to blow a hole in the wall.

Gaerity then travels to Boston, Massachusetts, to settle a score with a former protégé,  Liam McGivney, now known as Jimmy Dove (Jeff Bridges). Liam is the one who upset Gaerity’s Northern Ireland bombing scheme and left Gaerity to take the rap. Now McGivney is enjoying life as a bomb specialist for the Boston police, and he is celebrating the birthday party of his lady friend. She is Kate, later to be Kate Dove (Suzy Amis). Lizzie (Stephi Lineburg) is her daughter.

McGivney is called in to handle the trickiest of cases. Here he has to defeat a most ingenious contrivance. At M.I.T. an overwrought student has coupled a bomb detonator to a desktop computer, which his girlfriend must now continuously type on the keyboard to keep the bomb from going off. The bomb maker is dead on the floor from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, while McGivney works to get at the mechanism. It’s another glorious success for McGivney.

McGivney’s uncle is Max O’Bannon, played by Jeff Bridges’ father Lloyd Bridges. Max knows of McGivney’s past, having, himself, previously been in the trade. He advises McGivney to move on while he is still on top, and still alive.

McGivney takes a job as an instructor in the bomb disposal school.

But Gaerity initiates a rampage against the disposal squad. In the case pictured below he has set a phony bomb to lure the team to the site. Then he explodes the real bomb with devastating effect.

Gaerity goes after rookie bomb technician Anthony Franklin (Forest Whitaker). Franklin comes home and plugs himself into his hi-fi phones, only to discover his setup is wired to a bomb. McGivney comes to  the rescue.

McGivney sends Kate and Lizzie into seclusion on Cape Cod, but Gaerity stalks them and prepares a deadly future. When Max attempts to track down Gaerity, he runs into him at an Irish pub. But Gaerity kills Max and escapes.

McGivney tracks Gaerity to an abandoned ship, where Gaerity has prepared an elaborate trick bomb trap. But Franklin has been following McGivney, having learned of his nefarious past. Together they defeat the bomb trap, and the ship explodes, killing only Gaerity.

Now McGivney must defeat Gaerity’s final trap. Kate’s Jeep has been wired to detonate a bomb, but only when she applies the brakes after driving the car some distance. McGivney tracks her and Lizzie after Kate finishes performing at a concert, and he gives chase on his motorcycle. Of course he is able to jump aboard the moving Jeep and disarm the bomb.

Franklin decides not to reveal what he has learned about McGivney’s past, and we can assume life follows a happier course from there on.

And, yes, a lot of this is pure hokey. Get past the rogue, anti-British bomber from the days of the Northern Ireland unpleasantness. In Boston we see a bomb disposal squad on almost weekly calls. One would get the idea the infamous Mad Bomber has been resurrected and cloned. Ironically, George Metesky died the year this movie came out. I’m sure there was no connection. Aside from that, even Ted Kaczynski never generated as much business as this squad is shown to be handling.

The computer bomb is a script writer’s contrivance beyond believability. The closest that reality has come to such a scheme has been the case of the bank robber’s bomb of 14 years ago. Likewise, the headphones bomb is a stretch, although the Israelis once took out an enemy bomb maker with a cell phone that contained an explosive charge.

The bomb wired to the Jeep is right out of the plot from Speed, which came out the same year as this movie. The year 1994 corresponds to the peak of the Ted Kaczynski bombing frenzy, possibly a motivation for such scripts.

In the class room setting we see McGivney demonstrating a Bouncing Betty land mine of World War Two vintage. The movie characterizes the device as a bomb that spring-launches itself into the air before exploding. In fact, the mine used an explosive charge to propel itself into the air, rendering the classroom demonstration problematic.

I mention Wikipedia in almost all my reviews, as I pull heavily from this free Internet resource. In return, every year I log on and make a sizable contribution. You should, as well. Nothing like Wikipedia has come our way before, and everybody interested in the straight skinny, enlightened, and crowd-sourced should work to ensure it stays on-line and current. Here is the (shortened) link to contribute. You have to click on the link to get the contribute page:


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I went into this thinking I was going to pick up another Bad Movie of the Week. It turned out to be not so bad. The title got me off track. It’s The Escort, showing a sleek-looking woman in a man-killer red dress. We all know this is going to  be that kind of movie. It’s more like Pretty Woman, which is, in fact, referenced in the plot. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, whence the screen  shots. It came out in 2015 from Cloverhill Pictures, among others. Details are from Wikipedia.

It features Lyndsy Fonseca as Natalie (aka Victoria), a drop-dead good-looking Stanford graduate. Natalie wasn’t able to get a job post-graduation, because earlier she listed on-line all the guys she had humped in her spare time. It seems that every job interview got hung up on the list and never went any further. Natalie was perceived as being better at something else than the position for which she was applying. Here we see Natalie entering a hotel room, where she proceeds to  strip down to her skivvies and treat her client like a naughty school boy so he can get his rocks off humping her in bed.

Enter Mitch (Michael Doneger), a journalist of sorts. He writes obits for a hard-copy rag. That’s not Mitch at the table with the two chicks. That’s Mitch’s brother, JP (Tommy Dewey). One of the chicks is JP’s. The other is a fix-up JP has brought to the party for Mitch, because JP knows how much his brother likes sex. In fact, Mitch likes sex so much that he is right now in the men’s room jerking off. Obviously Mitch has a problem. We can guess how the plot is going to resolve Mitch’s problem

But first Mitch’t boss resolves one of Mitch’s problems. Mitch has been diddling an intern on the job, and this is Mitch’s last day at the paper.

Mitch tries multiple interviews, but the answer is always the same. Hard print is dying, and there is not much need for somebody to write obits, or much of anything else. Mitch proposes to write an in-depth story, based on a hooker (escort) he met in a bar last night. The editor advises Mitch to go for it and to bring her something worth reading.

Mitch figures Natalie would make a great subject, and he is inspired by a high-minded review he reads on-line.

He tracks down Natalie and convinces her he is not a cop. He manages to do the convincing without having to show his balls. Typically that is something a policeman is not allowed to do when trolling for prostitutes.

In the meantime, Mitch is getting all the nookie he can handle through a mobile app called Climax, which hooks up pairs of horny people. You get the idea. Picture an egg timer.

A deal is struck, and Natalie and Mitch get to know each other. Since Natalie does not have a pimp to protect her, and since Natalie from time to time runs into rough customers and can use some protection, Mitch stands in where a pimp would normally provide the service.

In fact, Mitch takes Natalie to meet his family. Rather his father, Charles (Bruce Campbell), because his mother has long since moved on. Mitch’s father is an old-time song writer, living in a grand house somewhere in the Hollywood Hills. Natalie is impressed. Mitch’s father and Mitch’s young sister Emily (Rachel Resheff) are impressed with Natalie. Since Mitch’s father is a pot-smoking liberal, he is also OK with his son having a pro for a girlfriend.

The plot follows the usual ups and downs, as Mitch falls heavily for Natalie, but he finishes his piece for the hard-copy rag, and his career is starting to get back on track.

Natalie catches a copy of Mitch’s essay, and is impressed. Also, she has been accepted into an MBA program and is quitting her night job.

And that’s the end of the story, and yes, it is a remake of Pretty Woman.


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I waited until I read the book before reviewing the movie. It’s John Grisham’s first novel, finally made into a feature-length film released by Warner Brothers in 1996. It’s A Time to Kill, starring Samuel L. Jackson as Carl Lee Hailey and Matthew McConaughey as small town lawyer Jake Brigance. The book was a long time finding a publisher and was not an immediate hit. It lacks the intense continuity of many of Grisham’s later works, including The Firm (his second book), The Pelican Brief, The Client, and The Racketeer. The movie is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Hailey is a working class black man living in fictional Ford County, Mississippi. One ordinary day in Mississippi two small-time crooks get juiced up and go looking for sport. They spot Hailey’s ten-year-old daughter walking home alone along a rural dirt road, and they scoop her up, using her for a sex toy and an object of scorn for a couple of hours. Their attempt to leave her dead is not successful, and she identifies the two white brutes who did it.

As the two bad guys are arrested and begin their process through the legal system, Hailey pays a visit to his friend, lawyer Jake Brigance. He announces his intentions.

While sheriff’s deputies are leading the pair in cuffs into court, Hailey springs from a hiding place and unleashes on them with an automatic assault rifle. A deputy is also wounded.

Now Jake must defend his friend the killer, who has no money for the expected $50,000 fee. Jake takes the case anyhow, and he gets unexpected assistance from a third-year law student, the idealistic, brilliant, and sexy Ellen Roark (Sandra Bullock). She works for free and is of enormous assistance, all the while complicating Jake’s married life.

This is post civil rights Mississippi, and the county has a black sheriff, played by Charles S. Dutton. The sheriff is popular in this predominately white county, but the idea of a black man gunning down two white dudes and expecting not to be lynched ires the KKK. Local recruitment surges, and the Kluxers march.

Black ire is up, as well, and Martin Luther King’s message of non-violence has since faded. A black man hurls a Molotov cocktail, burning a Kluxer to death. Things get uglier.

A phone call from a mysterious source alerts police and the bombing of Jake’s home is thwarted. A white man, husband of Jake’s secretary, is beaten to death, and Jake’s house is torched.

The governor calls out the state militia to maintain order, but a sniper (Kiefer Sutherland) misses Jake and kills a soldier.

The sniper is Freddie Lee Cobb, brother of one of the white rapists, now solid with the KKK. He and his cohorts kidnap Ellen and leave her naked, tied to a tree, torching her car. A mysterious figure emerges from the darkness, unties her, and places a phone call to the police.

Jake has only the defense of diminished capacity, and his expert witness is a drunken psychiatrist who is exposed on cross-examination to have been previously convicted of statutory rape. Jake’s final hope is his summation to the jury, and here is where the book diverges critically. In the book the jury is facing another weekend of deadlock and sequestration, and a woman jury asks jurors to imagine if Hailey’s daughter had been white.

During closing arguments, a deeply shaken Brigance tells the jury to close their eyes and listen to a story. He describes, in slow and painful detail, the rape of a 10-year-old girl, recalling the story of Tonya’s rape. He then asks the jury, in his final comment, to “now imagine she’s white.”


Without a doubt the jury never buys Jake’s contention of diminished capacity. In the end they only see what they consider to be justice is done.

The book never resolves the matter of Klan’s actions nor those of murder of the Kluxer. But we do see the sheriff arresting Freddie Lee Cobb and also one of his own deputies.

What’s wrong with the movie is inherited from the book. The idea that a black man would be able to obtain such uneven justice in the rural South (e.g., Mississippi) is beyond belief, as are a number of other aspects of the story.

History is solid on this. These actions by the KKK would, in real life, bring a flood of FBI and federal prosecutors down to Ford County. No sign of them in the move (or the book). The legal process related to Hailey’s trial swarms with overt violence, yet the participants act in a manner oblivious to the situation. This was barely twenty years since the murder of civil rights workers Andrew GoodmanMichael Schwerner, and James Chaney, yet a vulnerable young woman working for the defense attorney feels it’s safe for her to booze it up and then drive down a lonely Mississippi road late at night.

The movie does offer some salvation. The book has only the dynamite bomber getting justice, while the end of the film shows an additional serving up.

Performances are significantly above the bar. It’s interesting to see Oliver Platt in the role of a lawyer five years before reappearing as a White House attorney in  The West Wing.

Samuel L. Jackson caught my attention playing a deranged killer in Unbreakable with Bruce Willis. I probably need to review that one. He is also famous for asking the burning question, “What’s in your wallet?” He recently caught my attention regarding his off-key politics.

Sandra Bullock is always good to see.

Kiefer Sutherland appears with his father in this one. Donald Sutherland is Lucien Wilbanks, the cashiered, but rich, lawyer friend of Jake’s who helps bankroll the Hailey defense. The younger Sutherland held up the major part of the 24 TV series.

I previously reviewed Matthew McConaughey as Palmer Joss, Jodie Foster’s love interest in Contact. He made a bunch of movies before and since this one, but none other that I have watched. Some appear to fit the bill for one of these reviews.


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I was shopping around for another Bad Movie of the Week, when I came across this one. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I usually go to look for BMotW, and it was a pleasant surprise. I could not find much wrong with it. It’s The Spaniard’s Curse, from 1958, and it’s a British production. distributed by Independent Film Distributors. To give readers a head’s up, I looked up the Spaniard’s curse. The movie appears to be based on a book by Ellis Peters, carrying the title The Assize of the Dying:

When Louis Stevenson is found guilty of murder, he leaves the dock loudly proclaiming his innocence. And he delivers, too, a chilling invitation to the four men responsible for his conviction: ‘You four, I summon to meet me at the time appointed, at the Assize of the Dying.’

Here is a brief rundown of the plot. The opening scene is innocuous on its face. A nondescript man saunters along a London sidewalk, keeping his eyes about him. He spots his prey, and as another man retrieves something from his jacket pocket, the ordinary man’s hand goes into the pocket, then out again with some treasure.

Cut to October 1st of some year, and citizens in the galley are awaiting the jury’s verdict in a murder trial. They are Margaret Manton (Susan Beaumont), Charlie Manton (Tony Wright), and Mark Brett (Lee Patterson), Judge Manton (Michael Hordern) is presiding. The judge is Margaret’s uncle and guardian, she apparently being without parents. Charlie is the judges son, and also a hotshot newspaper reporter. He’s covering the trial. Margaret is in to watch her uncle preside. Mark is half-brother to the murder victim, a Miss Zoe Trevor.

Basil Dignam is Guy Stevenson, the man on trial. The jury comes back with a guilty verdict, and an automatic death sentence is imposed. Asked if he has any comments, he invokes the assize of the dying (see above). It follows that all jurors, witnesses, and prosecutors will meet him in death within 30 days.

Margaret and Mark strike up an acquaintance, and they depart the court together. Disaster! At the bus stop the jury foreman is struck and killed by a car.

Margaret and her uncle have a close relationship, and he seems to  approve of her new acquaintance. Comes word that Stevenson has died of a heart attack.

But Margaret, Charles, and Mark set off to dig into the mystery of who really might have killed Zoe Trevor if Stevenson didn’t. They go to Zoe’s apartment, now vacant, and re-enact the murder sequence, using Stevenson’s testimony. Stevenson, a neighbor, came over to visit Zoe and also to borrow money. She had none. But Stevenson was arrested with some of Zoe’s jewelry. What happened to the remaining jewelry?

A pawn broker has some of it. They recover a broach and one ear ring of a pair. Who has the other? Perhaps a Mr. Arthur Jody (Roddy Hughes), the light-fingered fellow in the opening scene. He admits to pulling one ear ring out of somebody’s pocket, but not the other. That other was the person who pawned it.

To catch a thief, and a murderer, Margaret places ads in the newspaper personals under the heading “Speedwell” with the code “Other Half.” Mark shows up. Margaret thinks Mark is the perpetrator, and at first she runs. But he has only been following the same trail, and he expresses his love for her. The judge is in on the intrigue, as well, and he follows the fleeing couple, only to see them embrace and kiss in a doorway. Then the judge goes back to the meeting place, and he sees somebody waiting at the appointed place. A mysterious figure arrives and shoots the waiting person.

Back at his home a few blocks away, the judge finds his son, Charles, at home, already in bed. He was supposed to have been on a trip out of town. The judge finds the murder weapon in Charles’ jacket and throws back the bed covers to reveal Charles is still fully dressed. It also turns out that Charles and Zoe are secretly married, since 1944 when Charles was a combat pilot. Zoe had been squeezing Charles for money. When the judge attempts to phone the police, his son shoots him.

But Charles is undone. His alibi is trashed when the housekeeper comes back unexpectedly. Charles has but one recourse. He picks up the phone and calls his newspaper, giving them the last headline of his career.

This runs about 80 minutes, just about right for a good murder mystery. Alfred Hitchcock should have directed. There is not a lot of high drama, much of the plot focuses on the interaction between the three amateur sleuths. If you are expecting to experience the Spaniard’s curse, you are going to be disappointed. Only three of the principals from the trial wind up dead.


Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Trailers for this one started running last year. Now it’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. It’s Allied, from 2016, starring Brad Pitt as Wing Commander Max Vatan and Marion Cotillard as Marianne Beauséjour. It’s from a collection of production companies, none of them known to  me, including Huahua Media. Details are from Wikipedia.

Once the titles roll we see somebody descending from the sky by parachute into the Moroccan desert near Casablanca. It’s Commander Vatan, and he’s dropping into  German-occupied territory in 1942. Keep in mind it was later that year when Allied forces occupied all of Morocco.

Vatan is picked up by a car that comes along a desert road, and then he gets dropped off in front of a café patronized by foreigners, mostly French. It’s not Rick’s. Before going in Vatan deposits his valise into the trunk of a car waiting outside. Then he enters the room, searching for a woman wearing a purple dress and flashing a hummingbird code sign. He spots her, and she is absolutely stunning. She is Mlle. Beauséjour, who is supposed to be his wife for the duration of the mission.

They hit it off well as Vatan (from Canada) attempts to pass himself off as a Frenchman from Paris. There is attraction, and there is some good sex. Then they get down to business, which at one point has Vatan spotting a German officer who knows him. Vatan moves in and kills the German with his bare hands, and he and his “wife” set up for their real mission, the murder of the German Ambassador to Morocco. This they do by finagling an invite to a swanky party, at which place Sten guns have been secreted beneath one of the tables. At the appropriate moment there is an explosion in the street nearby, and Mr. and Mrs. Vatan upturn the table, grab the weapons, and unload on the ambassador and various others who attempt to interfere, including a number of German soldiers.

Surprise! They make a clean getaway, and the following year they are both in England, where Vatan has has managed to get the Mrs. brought into the country after proper vetting. They get married, and the following  year (must be 1944 by now) they have a sweet little girl.

Then their happy life ends as a Special Operations Executive (Simon McBurney) accuses Mrs. Vatan of being a German plant and not the real Marianne Beauséjour. He will test her worthiness by running a blue die test, planting fake intelligence where she can get at it, and then seeing whether it winds up getting sent to the Germans. Vatan is told if his wife cannot be cleared in 72 hours he must personally execute her.

This movie has great drama and heartfelt romance but also glaring plot defects. Where to begin.

First there is the Morocco mission. A special ops officer is parachuted into enemy territory on what is likely to be a one-way mission, and for what? To murder a German ambassador? No way. Ambassadors are not high-value targets. This makes no sense.

Vatan gets dropped off in front of the café, where his car is waiting. Says who? What better way to signal the Germans that a foreign agent is arriving in Casablanca than to have a car waiting for him? Real life spies would have him pick up the car at some other location, so he can be seen driving it to the café. Also, where did he get the car? He supposedly just arrived from France. Who saw him come into  the country?

Beauséjour is supposed to be a German plant, substituted in for the deceased Beauséjour, all for the purpose of convincing the Brits of her authenticity by executing the hit on the Ambassador. No. At any point in the operation either or both of the operatives could have caught a German bullet, and that would have been the end of the plot. Nobody does something like this in real life.

The British SOE informs Vatan that material which crossed his desk has been detected in messages transmitted  to Germany. His wife is suspected. No again. Crossing Vatan’s desk is not the same as passing beneath the eyes of Mrs. Vatan. This is not done. Classified material is not taken outside secure areas and especially is not taken home.

The SOE devises the blue die test by arranging to phone Vatan at home and giving him the sensitive information, which will then be picked up by Mrs. Vatan. Again no. Unsecured phones are not now and were not then used to transmit sensitive information.

While this is a beautiful and sensitive portrayal of love and loyalty, many of the plot devices are rude concoctions. But watch it if you you get a chance.

I mention Wikipedia in almost all my reviews, as I pull heavily from this free Internet resource. In return, every year I log on and make a sizable contribution. You should, as well. Nothing like Wikipedia has come our way before, and everybody interested in the straight skinny, enlightened, and crowd-sourced should work to ensure it stays on-line and current. Here is the (shortened) link to contribute. You have to click on the link to get the contribute page: