Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

From 25 years ago, it’s a movie I never got to see before. Maybe it was because I was going to college about then and didn’t have time. The topic intrigued me. I was acquainted through trailers running on TV, and I had the idea there was a double meaning in the title. It’s Sneakers from 1992 and starring Robert Redford and also Ben Kingsley. It’s hard to imagine these two guys are 25 years older now. Then, so am I.

This is from Universal Studios. I caught it on Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

“Sneakers” is, or was, the term for people who used remote access to break into others’ computers for fun and mischief. I had the idea “sneakers” also alluded to the juvenile mentality of these people. Anyhow, back in 1969 we see two sneakers, Martin Brice (Redford) and a person named Cosmo (Kingsley) in a college dorm breaking into bank accounts and transferring large sums of money. Brice assures Cosmo there is no chance they will get caught and punished for this. Then he goes out for pizza.

His VW minivan won’t start (cold and snowy), and he watches in horror as police raid their dorm room and haul Cosmo off to  jail. Brice escapes and becomes Bishop.

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It’s maybe 23 years later, and Bishop now has his own company. What his company does is break into banks and steal money. Here he is closing out a fake account he has created for himself. $100,000 in bills go into his briefcase. He then dumps the money onto the table in the bank’s conference room and explains how it was all done and what the bank needs to do to  spruce up its security. He pockets a check for his services and goes back to his company’s digs, which appear to be in a warehouse of some kind. This is a shoestring operation.

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Two feds show up. They know Bishop is Brice, and they are not friendly. They are with the NSA and either he cooperates with them, or he goes to jail. They want him to steal a device from a mathematician who has developed it for nefarious purposes.

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Bishop enlists his employees, one of whom is a cashiered CIA snoop named Donald Creas and played by Sidney Poitier). Here we see Bishop sneaking past a hotel clerk while a co-worker distracts the clerk with a phony package delivery.

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They get the device, a “black box,” and the horror sets in. While the crew is celebrating their score and contemplating the big check they will receive at the hand off the next morning they discover the value of what they have stolen. It provides the user means to crack the most advanced encryption in use. They realize this is a prize many would kill for, and that turns out to be true. The two “NSA” types are not (currently) with the NSA, and they plan to kill Bishop and not make the payment. At the hand-over Crease, waiting in the getaway car discovers from a newspaper headline the mathematician has been murdered, and he summons Bishop back to the car before he can get the payoff check, which check was likely just an illusion.

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The box is gone, along with the two phony NSA spooks, and the crew is out the payoff. Then the group that obtained the box kills a Russian spook and his driver, and they kidnap Bishop, taking him to their headquarters and a room with a massive computer that has all the appearances of a period piece Cray supercomputer. Head of the operation is Cosmo, who did not die in prison as advertised. Cosmo warns Bishop off any future interference, and Bishop is dumped off on a deserted street.

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To cut to the chase, the crew figure out where Bishop was taken, and a massive sneaker escapade gets them the black box. No time to celebrate, though. The real NSA is onto them, and once again threats of prison are leveled at Bishop, by none other than James Earl Jones, here playing NSA Agent Bernard Abbott. Bishop’s crew agree to cough up the box in exchange for all the goodies they had expected to obtain with their expected payoff. An agreement is reached, and Bishop hands over the box.

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Ha! The joke’s on  the NSA. Bishop has retained the crucial circuit that does the decryption, and the movie ends with a TV announcer giving the sad news that the Republican Party treasury has been looted. On the bright side, on the same newscast, anonymous donors have made huge contributions to Amnesty International, Greenpeace, and the United Negro College Fund.

This plot is quaint on a number of points. About 1969 I was working with one of Seymour Cray‘s first computers, so I  was sort of aware of what the computer world was like back then. 1969 was too early for big banks to have their computer operations on-line and vulnerable to remote looting.

The encryption  cracking was developed by a mathematician named Dr. Gunter Janek (Donal Logue), and his process has been incorporated into an integrated circuit. This device would be truly amazing if it really had the ability to crack modern encryption, even back in 1992. That is definitely a bit of science fiction, as the difficulty of cracking these codes is well-studied mathematics. The cracking can be accomplished, in principle, but requiring massive, need I say “astronomical,” amounts of computation. The short answer is, no.

Bishop hands over the black box to the two phony NSA types. One of them reaches into  a briefcase, ostensibly to retrieve the payoff check, but suspected of about to pull a gun. No. There is no way, with this much at stake, the two were going to blow Bishop away in a public place. After shooting Bishop their next act would have to be quietly slipping away and hoping nobody noticed the gunshot and the dead body.

Anyhow, Cosmo has multiple opportunities to kill his former friend and former dorm mate, and he does not. Old college ties and all that. Cosmo is revealed as super altruistic—he’s doing all this to bring down major industries and the entire fabric of world economics. That will reduce humanity to a level playing field with everybody equally impoverished. And  to accomplish this in the name of world peace he has a Russian spook and his driver gunned down on a public street?

In the final encounter, Bishop’s crew has the black box, and they are back at their safe place, and in bursts the real NSA with real guns. And Bishop negotiates the handover of the box? If the NSA team was ready to negotiate, why the guns in the first place?

It was pleasant, in today’s political climate, seeing in the end the Republicans looted and all their money going to liberal causes. Who could have imagined 25 years ago?

I first caught Poitier in what may have been his breakthrough role. It was Blackboard Jungle in 1955, and it introduced film goers to rock and roll, with Bill Haley & His Comets playing Rock Around the Clock. Poitier was a high school tough, and Glenn Ford was a newby teacher at South Manual Trades high school in New York City.

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Poitier went on to garner an Oscar for his role in Lilies of the FieldShoot to Kill is the film I am waiting to see again, and I will do a review if it ever pops up on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video.

In 1991 Katie Hafner and John Markoff came out with their book, Cyberpunk. It detailed the exploits of Kevin Mitnick, Pengo and Project Equalizer, and Robert T. Morris. These were escapades that made headlines in the late 1980s and the early 1990s. These cases never came close to the level depicted in the movie, which plot seems to have presaged the level of criminal sophistication seen in modern cyber crime. Cliff Stoll’s book, The Cuckoo’s Egg is a detailed account, unmatched at the time,  of an extended computer crime escapade. It was published in 1989 and recounted Stoll’s encounter with Project Equalizer. At that early stage the protracted attack on American government computers never reached the level of  sophistication seen in the movie. That level appears to have been matched only years later.

A lot is made in the movie of cracking passwords. The truth is that fairly simple passwords, involving non-language combinations of letters and numbers, are beyond the ability of a computer to crack. Direct password attacks are routinely thwarted by the simple device of locking accounts after multiple log in failures and by notifying users of such attempts.

Successful intrusion is typically accomplished by:

  • Social engineering, convincing somebody to give out a password
  • Phishing, tricking a user into suppling a password in order to execute a bogus login
  • Security compromise, rogue or careless system  administrators [This was the approached used by Edward Snowden.]
  • Network snooping, intercepting network traffic and decrypting secure communications and stealing passwords sent in the clear

These approaches do not provide the drama and rapid development required of this movie plot.

A fact not reflected in most fictional tales of military espionage is that secret information is not kept on computers connected to outside lines. Thefts of classified government information have always involved somebody walking out of a secure facility with a copy of the stolen data. This is the approach used by Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I have had feedback from readers. Charlie Chan movies are not Bad Movie of the Week. I admit I was a great fan of Charlie Chan movies, although I never saw one on the big screen. They came and went before my time. Today I am a pretend movie critic, so I have to judge these on their technical and artistic merits. Hence, this week’s Bad Movie of the Week.

It’s Charlie Chan in the Secret Service, starring Sidney Toler in the title role, as most often. Toler, a boy from Missouri, played the Chinese detective from the death of Warner Oland in 1938 through the remaining 11 releases. My guess is there was a scarcity of Chinese in California, forcing studios to dip into the pool of European stock. This production does feature two actors of Chinese ancestry: Marianne Quon as Iris Chan and Benson Fong as Tommy Chan, two  of Detective Chan’s grown children. By the time this was made Twentieth Century Fox had dropped this and other low-budget work, due partly to a paucity of available talent during the war years. Toler picked up the rights and continued the series with Monogram Pictures, culminating in 1944. He died in 1947. Readers of these reviews will recognize Monogram as the king of low-budget films during the time.

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Police Detective Chan was typically with a metropolitan police force, but for the war effort he now joins the Secret Service. Opening scenes show two Secret Service agents, Inspector Jones (Arthur Loft) and Inspector Lewis (Eddy Chandler), doing personal security for George Melton (John Elliott), inventor of an advanced torpedo. Does anybody  beside me notice two grown men wearing hats inside a building?

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Melton excuses himself and tells the Secret Service to mind their own business while he attends a gala for some acquaintances downstairs. Within seconds Melton is dead. The Secret Service arrives, stunned, as the guests look on.

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Charlie Chan is called in. He must take over the case.

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Shortly, a copy of the secret plans for the torpedo are discovered. Melton had the only copy in his pocket when he left to greet his guests. Now detectives have found it stuck inside a book on a shelf in the room where Melton died. It’s an obvious hoax. Even movie goers in 1944 would realize you cannot represent a serious torpedo design in such a lame fashion.

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Chan’s two children show up, uninvited. They want to help with the investigation. Already present is a character named Birmingham Brown (Mantan Moreland). Brown is a recurring presence in Charlie Chan movies, previously in the role as an employee of Chan’s. Here he is a limo driver who happened to be present and got caught in the crime scene clamp down. He and the two Chan children are injected into the plot for comic relief.

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After that it’s an Agatha Christie plot. One more person gets killed, it’s one of the spies. What remains is for Chan to gather all suspects (all the guests) into one room and play out a charade before revealing the remaining culprit, also the one who killed the other spy.

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Not a lot of dramatic staging was wasted on this production. Charlie Chan leaves the Secret Service office in Washington D.C., gets in the cab, goes to the Melton mansion, gets out of the cab, and walks inside. The movie shows him walking out of the office, getting into the cab, getting out of the cab, and walking up to the front door of the Melton mansion. I could have done that.

There’s an outside shot of the Secret Service offices. In front flies the California state flag. Little effort was wasted on continuity, either.

Chan’s two children are his number three son and his number two daughter. My knowledge of Chinese culture is hazy, but I recall that the sons of your wife are your number one sons. Your number two sons are your nephews. Similarly with daughters.

This print is in excellent shape. See it if you can. I caught it on Amazon Prime Video, but you can also catch it free on YouTube:

 

 

 

 

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

A prize find from Amazon Prime Video. It’s an interesting and well-constructed crime, mystery yarn, well directed and photographed. The acting is passable, as well. It’s The Fake, which came out in 1953 from United Artists. It’s about dead sure I never saw this on the big screen as a kid. Details are from Wikipedia.

So, what’s it all about? What is the fake? We soon guess. The opening scene shows a ship unloading at a London dock. Various shadowy characters watch with interest. Several wooden crates are unloaded, marked “Tate Gallery.” The Tate is a famous London art gallery. We guess the crates hold paintings destined for the Tate.

One crate, in particular, draws special attention from the figures lurking in the shadows. One, marked number 11, gets the nod. An unruly character approaches the dockworker carting the crate to its destination. He deliberately starts a fight, which distracts everybody, well nearly everybody. During the distraction the number 11 crate is spirited off to a waiting lorry, and a substitute is put in its place. One of the shadowy figures, Paul Mitchell (Dennis O’Keefe),  observes this and gives chase. He has been hired to look after the security of the paintings. His intervention is intervened by another shadowy character, a Mr. Smith (Guy Middleton), special investigator for the insurance company carrying the load for the priceless shipment of paintings.

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Anyhow, matters get sorted out, and Mitchell shows up at the Tate with the real painting. It’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Madonna and Child, and Mitchell has figured it was scheduled for theft, so he had the ship’s captain bring it across from America in his safe. The real painting is placed in its rightful place in the museum, and the fake from the substitute crate is removed.

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There is a big reception at the museum, and all of the art swells of London show up. One guest, who arrives uninvited, is disgraced artist Henry Mason (John Laurie), let in the back way by his daughter Mary (Coleen Gray).

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Mitchell takes an immediate shine to the lovely Ms. Mason, but he is especially interested in the father. He suspects Henry Mason has been producing fake masterpieces, and he seeks to obtain a copy of Mason’s work to check out his hunch. To do this he commissions Henry to paint a portrait of the daughter, and, upon viewing it at the Mason home, he takes with him, instead, a smaller painting by Mason.

In the meantime, a master thief crashes the gallery and makes off with the real Madonna.

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The art expert at the museum confirms Mason’s work is identical to the fakes, and the finger points to Mary’s father. Mary is distraught, and the romance between Mary and Paul Mitchell begins to fall apart.

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But, Mitchell digs deeper and gets too close to the truth. The man behind the fakes and the theft of the Madonna, plus two additional da Vinci thefts from other museums, finds it expedient to have Henry Mason killed off, in a suicide fashion.

Mitchell is sure it is not suicide, and it is not. Villainous art buff, Sir Richard Aldingham (Hugh Williams), is behind the whole thing. He has ordered Mason’s killing, and he needs for Mary to be killed, as well. He directs his henchman, Weston, (Seymour Green) to make it look like a suicide. Weston, refuses, and Sir Richard murders him by putting poison in his drink.

Meanwhile, Mitchell and Smith tour the late Henry Mason’s workshop, and Mitchell spots a painting. He has seen the setting before. It’s Sir Richard’s study, only the painting shows the study with the stolen da Vincis in place on the wall. The paint on Mason’s final work is still wet. It’s a message from beyond the grave, fingering Sir Richard.

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Meanwhile, Sir Richard has taken Mary’s demise upon himself. On a pretext, he picks her up in his car and takes her back to his place. But Mitchell is already there. When the evil Sir Richard takes Mary back to his study for a final drink he turns on the lights and sees to his shock that the wooden panels covering the stolen paintings have been pulled back. Mitchell confronts Sir Richard with the hard evidence of his crime, and Sir Richard responds by pulling a pistol from a desk drawer.

Mitchell responds with a brilliant bluff. He holds up a vial of acid and threatens to destroy the Madonna. Besides, a missed shot will perforate the priceless work. Mary to the rescue. She knocks the gun away and foils Sir Richard’s evil intent.

Mitchell follows through with his threat and dashes acid on the painting. The paint dissolves and runs down the canvas. Mitchell has previously put the fake in place of the real Madonna.

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It’s the end of the line for Sir Richard. Later we see the real painting on  exhibit at the museum, and Paul Mitchell stops by to take Mary out the door, supposedly to matrimonial bliss. The strains of Moussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition wind down, as they have been playing off and on throughout the drama.

A few plot absurdities blind-side this production.

  • The theft of the fake painting at the dock is crude beyond what is required. The thieves think a longshoreman’s brawl is going to distract security enough to cover up the switching of the crates. No way. Any number of people present would have spotted the subterfuge. In fact, Mitchell does.
  • The murder of Weston is also an unbelievably clumsy affair. Slipping your henchman a poisined drink right there among your collection of stolen art, and then expecting him to walk away and die, which he does? No. Just no.
  • Mitchell figures out Sir Richard has the stolen works behind the panels in his study. He goes to the museum, gets the fake, takes it to Sir Richard’s house, replaces it for the real Madonna, and then waits for Sir Richard and Mary to arrive. Really? There was no indication Sir Richard would be coming home soon. Sir Richard has gone off to set in motion a sequence of events to end Mary’s life. He tells her he is taking her out of town. Apparently he takes her back to his study with the idea of slipping her a poisoned drink. Nobody else knew he would be taking this round about way. And Mitchell waits and waits for Sir Richard to arrive, and he never calls for backup. When Sir Richard becomes threatening, only sweet Mary is on hand to save his life. Unbelievable.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Remember, I watch these so that you don’t have to.

This came out in 1944, back when we lived in a town that didn’t have a movie theater. No TV, either. The title is Rogues Gallery, and that’s interesting on two points:

  • There was a drama show on radio (remember, no TV) when I was a kid, and the title was Rogue’s Gallery. It featured this detective or some such person, and his name was Richard Rogue. Hence the title. It came after this movie, so we wonder where they got the idea for the movie.
  • This movie has nothing anywhere near anything like a gallery full of rogues. We wonder where they got the title.

The opening credits show this was a production of PRC Pictures, Inc. Images are screen shots from the movie on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

What this film is really about is the adventures, over a few short hours, of a wacky girl reporter and her photographer sidekick. They are Patsy Clark (Robin Raymond) and Eddie Porter (Frank Jenks), although Jenks gets top billing, because he’s a guy, you know. Their boss is City Editor Gentry (Edward Keane). The two headline hunters are sent off to get the scoop on a new invention.

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People get killed in this movie, but it’s still played as comedy. Recall Greek comedy. The pair fail in their attempt to brush past the security at the Emerson Foundation Laboratory. The inventor, Professor Reynolds (H.B. Warner), refuses to see them. He is busy working on his invention. After they leave the professor is attacked in his lab, and the police are called. The plans for the invention have been stolen. Patsy and Eddie notice all the police traffic on the road heading back to the Emerson Foundation, and they follow the action.

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Lurking about inside the building, looking for a story, Eddie encounters the thief, dashing about the corridors of the darkened building. The stolen plans go flying, and Patsy recovers them.

Do they return the stolen plans? No way. This is a great story. They head off in their car to have the plans analyzed by an engineer friend. Before they get there the culprit, identity still undisclosed, curbs their car and demands the plans. Instead, Eddie points his camera out the car window and fires the flash into the assailant’s face. They make their getaway.

Patsy’s engineer friend, Joe Seawell (Norval Mitchell), doesn’t know how the invention works, but he can  tell it has something to do with eavesdropping from a distance. That is intriguing.

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Patsy and Eddie now take the stolen plans back to the Emerson Foundation where they leverage their possession for a news scoop. Patsy gets the story and phones it in. Eddie starts to take a photo.

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Just then the lights go out, and there is a gunshot. When the lights come back on Eddie is beneath an  overturned couch, with the plans. Outside, on  the terrace lies the body of Eddie Griffith (Earle S. Dewey). Patsy insists they phone Police Lieutenant Daniel O’Day (Robert Homans). When he arrives, the body is gone. It turns up in the the back passenger compartment of Eddie Porter’s car. When Patsy and Eddie drive the body to police headquarters to show Lieutenant O’Day, the body turns up missing again. It later turns up in O’Day’s car. (???)

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Patsy figures one of the principles of the Emerson Foundation is the culprit, and she is able to identify him through the use of a recording made by Professor Reynolds’ invention. By then professor is already dead, murdered.

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It turns out Eddie Porter has had a photo of the culprit all along. When he flashed their assailant through the car window he obtained a perfect image of the killer. Patsy and Eddie don’t get fired from the paper after all.

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Yes, the plot is the definition of lame. They go to the lab, they leave the lab, the inventor is koshed, they return to the lab, the culprit is chased through the building. the plans go flying, Patsy grabs them, they head off to the engineer’s place, they get waylaid, the culprit doesn’t get the plans, the lights go out at the Foundation, there is a shot, Eddie keeps possession of the plans, Griffith is found dead, his body disappears and is subsequently found in Patsy’s car then disappears to be found later in O’Day’s car, Patsy figures out who did it.

Acting is flat. Direction is stilted. This was 1944. There was a war going on. James Stewart and Clark Gable were flying combat over Europe. Talent was hard to come by.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

It was 10 months ago I signed up for Amazon Prime Video. Their business model seems to be to put out a set of select offerings for a period and then replace them with new offerings. Items available on DVD from Amazon and on Amazon video (rent or purchase) sometimes show up for free viewing. I waited for this one to pop up, and with the new year it did. It’s The Untouchables, from 1987 and starring Kevin CostnerRobert De Niro, and Sean Connery. It’s from Paramount Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s based on the real-life characters Al Capone (De Niro), Chicago mob boss of the Prohibition Era, and Eliot Ness (Costner), head of a Treasury Department unit with the goal of bringing Capone and others down. The opening scene has Capone getting a shave, surrounded by what appear to be adoring newspaper reporters, hanging on his every word.

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Grim reality is quickly established. A store selling beer refuses to buy from Capone. A young girl is blown to bits by a bomb delivered by one of Capone’s enforcers.

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Ness arrives at the headquarters of the Chicago police to work with them.

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Working with the Chicago cops is like working in a fish bowl, as every move is telegraphed to the mobsters. Ness’ first raid on a supposed liquor warehouse is a bust, as the cargo turns out to be a load of parasols. Very embarrassing.

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A despondent Ness encounters foot cop Jimmy Malone (Connery), and later enlists him. He needs honest cops he can count on.

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Ness also picks up a recruit,Giuseppe Petri (Andy García), as yet untainted by department corruption. They stage a successful raid, putting them in Capone’s cross hairs. An addition to their team is Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith), a mild mannered accountant with a flair for gunfighting.

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Malone has the inside to the Capone organization  through a corrupt police contact, and the Untouchables stage a raid on a cross-border liquor shipment. It’s all action.

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The raid nets them valuable documentation that can send Capone up for tax evasion. Capone retaliates by murdering their witness and also Malone and Wallace. Capone celebrates by bragging to reporters that the feds have no evidence that can convict him.

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Now look at this picture. This is De Niro as Capone. What American politician does this remind you of? How about we do a movie about Donald Trump and have De Niro play the title role?

It all comes to a head. The remaining Untouchables learn Capone’s gang is taking a potential witness out of town, with the real aim to kill him in an ambush at the train station (likely Union Station). Then comes one of the best orchestrated gunfights in American cinema, as Ness and Petri take out Capone’s shooters one by one and save the witness. A baby in a stroller, caught in the crossfire, is kept safe by Petri as he prepares to ice the last remaining shooter.

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Ness gets wind that Capone has bought off the jury for his tax evasion trial, and he kills Capone’s star hit man by tossing him off the roof of the courthouse building. Capone goes down screaming as he is dragged off to the slammer.

Yes, a lot of this is overly dramatized.

At the Canadian border the Untouchables work with the RCMP to ambush a liquor shipment at a border crossing. It’s a bridge, so this must be Minnesota. Why the Canadians get involved is not made clear, since Canada has no legal issue with distilling and selling liquor. When the gunfight starts prematurely, the feds mount horses and ride into battle, which battle seems to wind up back at the shack where the feds were waiting in the first place. In between  the feds out gun the gangsters, who are armed with Tommy guns and more.

Capone’s gang wants to eliminate their own guy, who can testify against him. How does he do it? He pretends he is going to spirit him out of town on a train, and then  sets up an ambush at the train station. Overly complicated?

While Ness and Petri wait at the train station for their quarry to arrive, the situation is made complicated by a woman trying to work a baby carriage (and baby) up a flight of steps. About the time Ness helps the woman get her load to the top of the steps the bad guys arrive, and the gunfight erupts. While guns blaze, the carriage (with baby) starts thumping its way down the steps. It’s a re-creation  of the baby carriage scene from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, but in this case the baby lives.

Eliot Ness was promoted within the Treasury Department following his success against Capone, but his life was generally downhill following. He died in 1957 at the age of 54.

Al Capone entered prison in 1932, at which time he was diagnosed with syphilis. He was released in 1939, but his health continued to decline, and he died in 1947.

The story of the Untouchables was made into a successful TV series that ran from 1959 to 1963.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Again, thank you, Amazon Prime Video. I can’t find these anywhere else. This is The Mystery Man from back in 1935, before I was born. And a remarkably clear print this is. It’s from Monogram Pictures, though the opening video shows the MGM lion, in color. Monogram is noted for a slew of low-budget productions during its time, and I have reviewed a slew or two.

I’m guessing “the mystery man” is a criminal  chap known as “The Eel” (LeRoy Mason), which fact I had to figure out on my own. But he comes in later. Opening shots show a high-profile meeting of staff in a Chicago newspaper. Ace reporter Larry Doyle (Robert Armstrong) is receiving an award. His reporting is credited with bringing down a notorious crime figure. Managing Editor Marvin (James Burke) is hosting the confab, and Doyle is presented a .45 caliber police revolver as a prize. The weapon plays critically in the plot, but only after a lengthly string of shenanigans, to be described.

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Doyle is a smart ass, and he mouths off to his boss and gets fired. He and his buddies go on a drinking binge, and when he finally comes around he is on a train pulling into Saint Louis. And just about broke. Broke also is sweet Anne Ogilvie (Maxine Doyle). They meet in a diner.

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Doyle figures that since they are both in the same financial stranglehold, they should team up and con their way into some creature comforts while Doyle waits for funds to be sent from Chicago. They check into an up-scale hotel as man and wife. This could get interesting.

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Funds are slow in arriving, and Doyle needs to pawn the pistol. The pawn broker is in cahoots with The Eel, and the gun enters a life of crime.

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Coincidence, coincidence, Doyle meets up with the prize pistole an hour or so later. He and his squeeze treat themselves to a night out at a place called The Trocadéro. They don’t think highly of the joint and soon leave. But as they are leaving Doyle spots what turns out to be a robbery getaway car. As the dynamic duo watch from hiding, a policeman arrives and engages in a gun battle with the driver. Both are killed. Then The Eel exits, bag of cash in hand. He ambushes the security guy who comes looking for him. In the mean time, Doyle has secreted himself in the getaway car, and The Eel hands him the money by mistake before hightailing it out on foot.

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Doyle figures he has the case wrapped up. He has The Eel’s money, and he knows where The Eel tossed the pistol. For reasons baffling to me, Doyle and Anne take the money back to their hotel room while Doyle works to parlay his position into a lucrative news story.

The tables are turned when it is revealed the gun that killed the security guy is the one presented to Doyle the previous day in Chicago and pawned just prior to the murder. The pawn broker fibs to the police, telling them he was shown the gun but never accepted it. He points his finger at Doyle.

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The police give Doyle an opportunity to unravel the crime story, and Doyle and Anne go back to the pawn shop, where Doyle confronts the broker and punches him out.

About that time The Eel comes, looking for his money, which was supposed to have been delivered to the pawn shop by the driver, now dead. When The Eel spots Doyle posing as the pawn broker, he corners him in the back room and offers him his life in exchange for the money.

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But Anne has been hiding in a closet and she lets fly a shot that takes down the notorious Eel. And that’s how Larry and Anne wind up getting married.

Acting is top tier, and so is direction and cinematography. The plot is a can of  worms. It starts in Chicago and works its way by means of a miracle not fully explained to Saint Louis. Then there is the lengthy saga of Larry and Anne getting to know each other and conniving to keep afloat until backup funds arrive. Finally, well past the half way point, the gun begins to play in the plot, and there is the crime and the resolution in the last few minutes. An award for drama does not await.

And that’s what gets this one the Bad Movie of the Week.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Thanks to Hulu. Here’s one I was wanting (sort of) to  see. Now I have. It’s Gone in 60 Seconds, from 2000. It’s a Touchstone production from Walt Disney Studios, directed by Dominic Sena. Details are from Wikipedia.

Unless you’ve been  asleep, you know  this is about stealing cars. More specifically, this is a car movie. It’s all about cars, and it  starts this way. Nicolas Cage is Randall “Memphis” Raines, a master car thief who’s gone straight so his brother, Kip (Giovanni Ribisi) won’t get mixed up in the business. That doesn’t work. We see Kip and friend boosting a Porsche, from a dealer showroom no less. The heist is carried out to  precision, but the takeaway is amateurish, as Kip, driving, does everything you would want to do to attract the cops.

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That requires that Memphis Raines, now employed running a go-cart track out in Sticksville, be called to the rescue.

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It turns out that Kip has contracted with sadistic criminal  master mind Raymond Calitri (Christopher Eccleston) to steal 50 pieces of high-end street iron. With the cops breaking up Kip’s operation, Kip is on the hook to Calitri, and Calitri is not the one you want to disappoint. As an inducement for Memphis to step in and fill the order, Calitri handcuffs Kip into a car that is about to be crushed at a recycling plant.

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Memphis attempts to  refund Calitri’s down payment ($10,000), but Calitri demurs, figuring to blackmail Memphis into completing the order (all 50 cars) for $200,000 and Kip’s life.

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I’m not getting  into the plot, but Memphis pulls in some previously retired notables and completes the order. All except one. Memphis gives himself the job of cobbing a 1967 Ford Shelby GT500, which he names Eleanor. Big scene in the movie. Cops are after Memphis and the GT500, and he sees his chance to  escape, using a rescue vehicle’s ramp to  jump a massive traffic tie-up on a bridge.

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Memphis gets the GT500 to Calitri, but badly damaged and a few minutes past the deadline. Calitri figures that’s a good enough excuse to kill Memphis and keep the $200,000.

In the meantime, two cops, Detective Roland Castlebeck (Delroy Lindo) and Detective Drycoff (Timothy Olyphant) are hot on  the case, and they arrive in time to bust up Calitri’s party.

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Suffice it to say the sadistic Mr. Calitri comes to an untimely end, with Raines saving the life of Detective Castlebeck in the process. This gets Raines a pass on the 50 cars stolen, all being restored safely to their owners, even the GT500 (Raines’ crew are expert restorers). All the boost specialist go back into retirement.

So what’s wrong with this movie? Start with the basic plot.

Kip took $10,000 down and a contract to deliver a list of 50 cars. He failed and with distinction. Smooth operator Calitri plans  to  recoup how? He’s going to threaten the life of Kip and even  Memphis if they don’t fulfill the contract in 48 hours. That’s going to  work?

Attempting to fulfill the 50-car contract in 48 hours is a schedule for disaster, which is what makes this movie exciting. There are 50 ways this can go wrong, and only one way it can  go right. A better bet would be to  drop a dime on Calitri and let  the police, who are already onto Calitri for capital  murder, take care of the matter.

Besides, words are spoken, and the contract is sealed. Really? What kind of contract is that? There is no guarantee that Calitri will keep his end of the bargain after receiving the 50 cars on schedule. What’s to keep him from reneging, killing Memphis and/or Kip and keeping the $200,000? Which was likely his plan all along.

Yes, none of this washes. Add the incredible leap across the traffic jam on the bridge, and not much is believable here.

This was co-produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, famous for the CSI series,  Without a Trace, and Cold Case for TV. His film credits include Beverly Hills Cop, Flashdance, Top Gun, The Rock, Con Air, Armageddon, Bad Boys, Enemy of the State, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

You may also have seen Olyphant as Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens in Justified which ran from 2010 to 2015. I caught the series on Amazon Prime Video late in 2016. No plans for a review, however.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

It turns out Amazon Prime Video has a trove of these treasures. They’re cheap-as-dirt crime stories that may or may not have kept people’s minds off the looming war. This is Double Cross, from  1941, out of Producers Releasing Corporation. It’s the first I’ve heard of this group, but there may be more from them in the pipeline. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

Here is the Silver Slipper, and you can guess what kind of joint it is. You will be shocked, shocked! to learn that gambling is going on here. Pretty Ellen Bronson (Pauline Moore) works as the house photographer, walking around, looking good, and taking pictures of customers who want them. Some do, and some don’t.

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Meanwhile, in the back room, Ellen’s brother Steve Bronson (Richard Beach) is schmoozing with Fay Saunders (Wynne Gibson), part owner of the establishment. This is not good. Steve is a motorcycle cop, and he shouldn’t be in such a place. That soon becomes apparent.

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Police raid the joint, causing a considerable ruckus. Steve flings open the door, revealing police tussling with club co-owner Nick Taggart (John Miljan), head gangster in town, and also Fay’s main squeeze. Fay reacts appropriately, or not, by un-holstering Steve’s service revolver and letting fly, killing a cop. The cops return in kind, mortally wounding Steve. Fay lets slip it was Steve who did the shooting. Poor girl.

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Steve’s best friend is Jim Murray (Kane Richmond), also a motorcycle cop, and Ellen’s main squeeze. Jim tries to pry details of the shooting out of Steve before he dies, but Steve regrets there is not enough time left to tell the story. Jim comforts Ellen, who must now find a new job, since the Silver Slipper is being shuttered by the authorities (gambling).

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Ha! We should have guessed. The mayor (William Halligan) is in Taggart’s pocket. Here the mayor is telling Taggart to never come to the office again, but to wait for a signal so they can meet. High class.

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Jim’s father is Police Captain Murray (Robert Homans). The captain gets tough, some would even say physical, with Taggart, threating to run him out of town. Taggart responds by putting out a hit on the captain. Bullets fly, coming through the window behind Captain Murray’s window, killing another cop, in the office to  drop off some papers.

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Jim pretends to go rogue to get in with Taggart. Ellen resumes her job when the Silver  Slipper reopens. Ellen hears voices inside Taggart’s office and determines the mayor has come in the back way and is picking up a payoff from Taggart. Jim gives Ellen a boost up, and she captures the scene with her trusty flash camera.

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Ellen is found out. The crooks want the photo. Jim spirits the film out and to a shop to be printed. This was before Canon 5D digital SLR cameras. Fay becomes distraught that things are falling apart. There is name calling. Fay harangues Taggart viciously. Not the person you want to harangue viciously, he has a knife. That’s the end of Fay.

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Taggart has Ellen and Jim as prisoners. He devises a scheme to ambush Captain Murray, using Jim as bait. In the back of the Dollar Moving and Storage van Taggart and two gunnies proceed to the place they expect Captain Murray to be waiting. But Jim has pulled a fast one. He has pulled the police radio from his motorcycle and installed it in the truck. He is driving, and he cold-cocks the henchman guarding him. He radios the cops, and they ride up en masse. The gunfight is not even close. The police ventilate the back of the van and waste the mug who had been guarding Jim. The remaining thug, Miggs (Heinie Conklin), goes soft and releases Ellen without harm.

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And that’s the end of the movie.

The plot is lame, without much appeal to plausibility. Performances by the players would plank over somebody’s footbridge, they are that  stiff. This print is poor quality, but it likely sparkled when first minted. A lot of cinematic history has been lost due to indifferent storage. Computer  digitization is currently archiving what remains, but had it been available 70 years ago, this would have been among the last in the queue to be scanned.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Again, much thanks to Amazon Prime Video for this one. It came out in 1947, when I was in the first grade. Saw it the first time in December. It was distributed by Screen Guild Productions. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s bad in a number of ways, but mainly for a planked over plot.

This starts with a police car chase at night, ending in a crash. Los Angeles, likely. The car goes off the road and into one of those steep canyons the place is famous for. Killed are gangster “Dixie” Logan (Robert Kent) and newly-minted District Attorney Lawrence Dale (Edmund MacDonald). The sole survivor is Dale’s supposed wife Marian (Luana Walters). Ace police reporter George “Mitch” Mitchell (Russell Wade) visits Marian in the hospital to get the full story.

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Marian recounts how it all started. She and Mitch first met at Wade’s office when she came there to apply for a secretary job. She gets hired and starts a romance with her new boss.

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Meanwhile Mitch romances the future Mrs. Dale, and this scene at an upscale restaurant is the only cultural interlude in the entire movie. Gene Rodgers plays a lively jazz piece. I believe we called it boogie-woogie in those days.

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Marian recounts how she came to watch Logan’s criminal racketeering trial and also to observe prosecutor Wade in action. He parades witness after witness to put Logan away for decades. Logan is defiant and vows revenge.

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Still in flashback, the janitor (Vince Barnett) who cleans Wade’s office is seen messing with a hidden recording device. About that time two hit men working for a local gangster identify him as a member of Logan’s gang and whisk him down the hall to dump him into an elevator shaft.

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The local gangsters want Wade to fire Marian, because they suspect she is involved in the spying. Wade is in cahoots with the gangsters. Instead, Wade marries Marian in a rushed ceremony. Leaving the wedding at the JP’s office, Marian escapes a pistol shot from a car that speeds away.

Back at Wade’s domicile, the newlyweds have a confrontation. Marian reveals that for her this is a marriage of convenience. She knows about Wade’s criminal involvement, and she intends to get Wade promoted to district attorney. He goes along with the plan. No wedding night bliss for him.

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Logan escapes. He confronts two witnesses from his trial, back in town to claim the remainder of the money promised by the local gangsters for testifying falsely against him. He coerces confessions from  the two, pays them, and sends them on their way, to be gunned down on the street as they leave. The killers are from the local gang. Mitch has been observing all of this and attempts to snag copies of the confessions, but he loses a tussle with Logan, and Logan gets away with the two documents.

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Anyhow, there is a big brouhaha involving Wade, Marian, and Logan. Everything comes to a head. Marian is in reality Logan’s legal wife, having set out to prove his innocence. Too late for Logan and Wade. She has mailed incriminating documents to the now district attorney, and the police are coming. The police chase ensues, and we are back to where the story picked up in the beginning.

All the crooks are either dead now or else incriminated, and Mitch makes moves on Marian.

Yes, this plot is too plastic to be real. Crooks are scheming with shady politicians to “take over the city,” whatever that means. There was a corral full of these idealistic story lines in the late 40s, and this is one of the lesser believable. Contemplate this segment of the plot:

Marian convinces Wade he should cut his three partners in crime out by playing them off against each other. Cut to three scenes in sequence with Wade telling each in turn something like, “I plan to get rid of the other two so we can have the city all to ourselves.” Pure corn.

This production chews up 64 minutes of celluloid, according to Wikipedia. No bathroom break needed.