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:


Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

If you don’t recognize the title, then you need some background:

Simon Templar is a fictional character known as The Saint. He is featured in a long-running series of books by Leslie Charteris published between 1928 and 1963. After that date, other authors collaborated with Charteris on books until 1983; two additional works produced without Charteris’s participation were published in 1997. The character has also been portrayed in motion picturesradio dramascomic strips, comic books and three television series.

I caught the TV series back in the 60s, where I must have been watching in black and white. Anyhow, it’s had a long go-round, now landing in some recent films. This is about the 1997 movie starring Val Kilmer in the title role. It’s The Saint, again, in a release from Paramount Pictures and co-starring Elisabeth Shue as his love interest, Dr. Emma Russell. I often get my bad movies from Amazon Prime Video, but this one is streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The movie provides some background. In a Catholic school for unfortunate orphans there is one particularly recalcitrant boy, giving the ruling authority no end of grief. He gets confinement, but not before lifting a crucifix pin from the headmaster. From that meager acquisition he engineers a massive prison break, but sees a young girl friend fall, apparently to her doom. Thus is born a master criminal.

We next see The Saint in Moscow, stealing for hire a critical microchip.

That involves much adventure, and after he caches his fee in a financial account, he notices he’s about $3 million short of 50. He needs a round 50 million, then he retires. He goes over a list. Somebody wants the formula for cold fusion and will pay just the right amount.

Dr. Russell is the inventor, and she still has the secret. In disguise he attends her presentation and is severely smitten by her loveliness. The Saint is preparing to make his fall.

In  another disguise he romances Dr. Russell and lifts her notes. But she is at least as smart as he is, and she tracks him to Moscow, where he has come to hand over, and collect his reward, the formula to a Russian Billionaire, who in turn has plans to usurp the government and take over, using cold fusion as his ploy. To this end he has engineered a massive fuel shortage, and Russians are dying in the cold. It’s shades of the Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) all over again.

But now the Russian Mafia is after them, and the remainder of the movie explores how they manage to elude capture and turn the tables on the gangsters. The trick is that Dr. Russell’s cold fusion actually works, and the legal Russian president uses it to save the people and to show up the ringleader.


Which results in The Saint and Dr. Russell back in bed again, and that is about all there is to the plot.

And that is what is mostly wrong with this movie. It’s a tale of cliff-hanging thrills, hair-raising escapes, culminating in a denouement that plugs along for another ten minutes before the credits begin to roll.

All that said, it is most satisfying to see classic Val Kilmer re-emerge. The signature smirk from Top Gun of ten years before is back, along with the dash and flair from Top Secret, two years before that.

Elizabeth Shue is always great to see, but she is best remembered as the kind of teenage girl who could make Roy Moore squirm in Adventures in Babysitting. I look forward to obtaining a copy of that.

Cold fusion has come and gone, never making the big time after splashing briefly in 1989. Interesting to see it turn up as the MacGuffin in this one. Maybe it will find a home in entertainment after all these years.

Darwin’s Doubt

Number 5 in a Series

If there remains any doubt regarding the underpinnings of Intelligent Design, one only has to review the day-to-day endeavors of its key proponents. Stephen C. Meyer founded and currently heads up the Center for Science and Culture (CSC) of the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is the principal organization supporting this attempt to cloak religious creationism and disguise it as cutting-edge science. The above image is a screen shot from  Does God Exist, a video series hosted by Stephen C. Meyer and produced by Focus on the Family, an organization whose purpose is the promotion of a conservative Christian viewpoint.

This is a continuation of my review of  Stephen C. Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt. It draws on a an item posted to the Evolution News blog. That posting excerpts a number of passages from the book. I previously reviewed three of these excerpts. Here are the remaining two:

Intelligent agents can generate new structural (epigenetic) information and construct functionally integrated and hierarchically organized layers of information as we see in animal body plans:

The cited text being:

The highly specified, tightly integrated, hierarchical arrangements of molecular components and systems within animal body plans also suggest intelligent design. This is, again, because of our experience with the features and systems that intelligent agents— and only intelligent agents— produce. Indeed, based on our experience, we know that intelligent human agents have the capacity to generate complex and functionally specified arrangements of matter— that is, to generate specified complexity or specified information. Further, human agents often design information-rich hierarchies, in which both individual modules and the arrangement of those modules exhibit complexity and specificity— specified information as defined in Chapter 8. Individual transistors, resistors, and capacitors in an integrated circuit exhibit considerable complexity and specificity of design. Yet at a higher level of organization, the specific arrangement and connection of these components within an integrated circuit requires additional information and reflects further design (see Fig. 14.2).

Conscious and rational agents have, as part of their powers of purposive intelligence, the capacity to design information-rich parts and to organize those parts into functional information-rich systems and hierarchies.

Meyer, Stephen C.. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (p. 366). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Some analysis will be helpful. Take the first two sentences: “The highly specified, tightly integrated, hierarchical arrangements of molecular components and systems within animal body plans also suggest intelligent design. This is, again, because of our experience with the features and systems that intelligent agents— and only intelligent agents— produce.” Meyer insists that examination of the lowest level of structure of living organisms suggests the work of an outside living agent. Here he is appealing to intuition without providing a factual basis. He compares the functional organization of living organisms to the construction of intricate systems devised by people. By implication, he wants the reader to consider that an entity with human-like qualities is behind the development of living organisms.


Meyer concludes that “both the Cambrian animal forms themselves and their pattern of appearance in the fossil record exhibit precisely those features that we should expect to see if an intelligent cause had acted to produce them” (p. 379) He summarizes his argument as follows:

Here is the text from the book:

When we encounter objects that manifest any of the key features present in the Cambrian animals, or events that exhibit the patterns present in the Cambrian fossil record, and we know how these features and patterns arose, invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin. Thus, when we encounter these same features in the Cambrian event, we may infer— based upon established cause-and-effect relationships and uniformitarian principles— that the same kind of cause operated in the history of life. In other words, intelligent design constitutes the best, most causally adequate explanation for the origin of information and circuitry necessary to build the Cambrian animals. It also provides the best explanation for the top-down, explosive, and discontinuous pattern of appearance of the Cambrian animals in the fossil record.

Meyer, Stephen C.. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (p. 381). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Again some analysis. Take the initial sentence: “When we encounter objects that manifest any of the key features present in the Cambrian animals, or events that exhibit the patterns present in the Cambrian fossil record, and we know how these features and patterns arose, invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin.” Standing alone in the book this would seem to be a bald proclamation of fact. It will be interesting to peruse the remainder of the book and see whether Meyer has, indeed, demonstrated that “invariably we find that intelligent design played a causal role in their origin.” I suspect this phrasing represents considerable overreach on the part of the author. In following posts I will examine the arguments Meyer makes in the book, and I will keep coming back to this matter of conclusions well-jumped. Keep reading.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

And… Here’s another I saw before. Likely on TV. Right now it’s streaming on Hulu, where I got these screen shots. This is Under Siege, from 1992 and starring Steven Seagal as Chief Petty Officer Casey Ryback. With Seagal on board you know this is going to be a kick-ass plot with lots of ammo expended. Your expectations are exceeded. This is out of Warner Brothers. Details are from  Wikipedia.

The heavy action takes place aboard the USS Missouri, during its time the pre-eminent battleship in the American fleet. The story has it that the Missouri is being retired, and there is a ceremony at Pearl Harbor. We get to see a lot of what I presume to be file footage of the ship.


Aboard ship, Ryback is retiring, as well. He has been a top Navy SEAL operative,  and he’s winding down his active duty as cook aboard the ship. He and Captain Adams (Patrick O’Neal) go way back, and Ryback is the only one who is allowed to cook for the Captain.

It’s a special occasion. President Bush is coming aboard for the ceremony. This is file footage slipped into the movie to add realism.

The Missouri leaves Pearl, heading for San Francisco and retirement. But Captain Adams is not getting along well with his executive officer, Commander Krill (Gary Busey). And for good reason. Krill shows signs of cracking up, and now he has taken upon himself to have a helicopter land on the Missouri without the Captain’s knowledge. Krill assures the Captain it’s all right. The admiral is throwing a surprise birthday party for the Captain, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if anybody told the Captain about the part. Things are beginning to look shady.

Krill and Ryback do not get along. Krill does not know Ryback is more than a cook, but he does not like him, anyhow. He wants all  the mess crew to stand down for the upcoming festivities. Ryback is cooking up a load of bouillabaisse for the Captain, and Krill spits in the pot. That instigates a fight with Ryback, and Krill has Ryback locked in the meat cooler for the duration, he thinks.

Arrives the helicopter and the band and the waiters for the party. Also the Miss June Playmate, Jordan Tate (Erika Eleniak),  whose job it is going to be to pop out of a big cake half naked.

But the helicopter detail is in reality a gang of mercenaries infiltrating the ship to steal nuclear-tipped Tomahawk missiles. Tommy Lee Jones is William “Bill” Strannix, ex-CIA, the leader of the band and also the leader of the mercenaries. He is one bad dude. A might touchy, too.

At the given moment the infiltrators reveal themselves. They pull weapons and shoot critical members of the crew. Krill and an accomplice march to the Captains cabin and shoot him dead. Surviving crew members are herded into a forward compartment and held as hostages.

Meanwhile Ryback has overpowered and killed the two assassins sent to kill him. He roams the ship undetected neutralizing mercenaries in ones and twos. Meanwhile, Miss Tate has taken too many seasickness tablets and has missed all the festivities. She has been snoozing inside the giant cake. Snoozing, that is, until Ryback rolls the cake out of the way. At that point she awakens and pops out, to Ryback’s amazement and delight.

At first Tate plays the standard bimbo, wanting nothing to do with killing people. Ryback turns her around, and she becomes a kick-ass gunfighter. A stolen North Korean submarine comes alongside to take on the stolen missiles, but Ryback disables, temporarily, a forward diving plane. Then, after Krill goes aboard and supervises the fixing of the machinery, Ryback enlists some seasoned gunners to activate one of the ship’s 16-inch turrets. They load a few rounds and make confetti of the sub, and Krill. Tate helps hustle the powder bags.

In case you never saw any of these guns, here’s a night view. Could be studio mockups, or possibly guns aboard the USS Alabama, a museum piece at the time.

Yeah, you knew he would do it. Ryback and the surviving Missouri crew defeat the mercenaries, and Ryback has a final showdown with Strannix in the ship’s command center, here finishing him off by stuffing his face into a live battle status CRT, after stabbing him in the head with a knife.

But two missiles have been  launched at Pearl. An F/A-18 takes out one, but Ryback must disable the other using a key sent out from Pearl. Here we see the missile view as it flies toward Pearl with its nuclear warhead. Except, of course, Tomahawk missiles have no display system. Except for versions used in testing, they do not radio any video back to their base. It’s just for dramatic effect.

Commanding officers at Pearl are jubilant at not being vaporized.

The Missouri continues its journey to San Francisco.

It makes it final port call.

Ryback salutes in honor of the dead Captain.

And that’s all the movie, except that Ryback is going  to make some sack time with Miss Tate.

And that’s what this movie is all about. A plot involving devious and vicious people, lots of close order combat, but also a great stab at realism. Apparently the Alabama stood in for the Missouri, providing a realistic rendition of a Navy warship.

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 of the Week

One of a series

Here’s one I am sure I never saw before. It’s Castle Sinister from 1948, and even Wikipedia doesn’t have an outline, so I am getting details from IMDb. It’s streaming now in Amazon Prime Video, where I obtain most of my bad movies and also these screen shots. But here’s the story.

A Major Matthews (Hugh Arnald) is seen leaving lonely Glennye Castle, apparently in Scotland from the accents. He notices a lone figure by the seaside cliff and goes over to investigate. Somebody comes up from behind and gives him a push. He plunges two hundred feet to the rocks. So begins the mystery.

This is an unfortunate turn of events, and the British War Office sends Captain Neale (James Liggat) to investigate. Neale is told to contact a British agent, a Mr. McTavish (Alastair Hunter), a local innkeeper. A greater bulk of the plot involves McTavish providing Neale with the background.

Some time past, in 1939, at the castle there was a nice tea, hosted by the Marchioness of Glenye  (Mara Russell-Tavernan) and attended by Michael (John Gauntley), next in line to assume the barony. In comes her young son, Nigel (Robert Essex), newly joined the army. Now we know the principal characters, save one.

More happened later. Nigel has had an accident while riding a horse, and now he is unable to rejoin his unit. He spends all his time at home.

Still more. After Major Matthews was killed, another War Department agent, Captain Fairfax (Lucien Boré), was sent in to continue the investigation Matthews had been doing. He left the castle and vanished. There is a hunt going on for the missing Fairfax.

But wait! A mysterious figure prowls the grounds, wearing a monk’s robe and a mask. He frightens even the postal delivery person riding up on his bicycle.

Yet another character is introduced. He is Major Selwyn (Karl Meir), who seems to already be acquainted with young Nigel. When Captain Neale turns up at the castle to discuss the fate of Major Matthews, he is strongly rebuffed by Major Selwyn, and he departs forthwith.

As we should have known all along, Selwyn turns out to be Nigel’s real father, having previously been  married to the Marchioness. He is also a German spy, and he intends to use the Glennye estate as a launching point from which to transfer stolen war plans to a German plane. He instructs the masked figure tie up his former wife, and it is revealed that the masked figure really is Nigel, his son by the previous marriage. When the son reneges on the scheme, Selwyn shoots him. By now the war plans are in the fireplace, and the plot is rapidly unraveling.

Selwyn attempts to make his escape over the castle’s parapet wall, and Neale, having now been alerted, fires. Then Neale is out of bullets, and Selwyn aims his own piece at Neale. A shot from Michael, now revealed to be a secret British agent, puts the kibosh on that plan, and Selwyn plunges over the parapet to the ground below.

The Marchioness takes to her bed and succumbs to her delicate heart condition.

And it’s pretty hokey. Actors walk across the set and speak their lines. Aside from the meeting between Neal and McTavish, there is little real drama. Inconsistencies are obvious. The Germans send in a four-engine bomber to pick up the plans. The Germans had no such aircraft.

And this one does not appear to be streaming on YouTube, so you’re going to have to purchase the DVD. Sorry about that.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I have been  waiting for this to pop up on Amazon Prime Video, or else on Hulu. And here it is, on Hulu this month. It’s Ruthless People, featuring Danny DeVito in one of his headliner performances. There is also Bette Midler, for which performance I have nothing to compare. Screen shots are from Hulu, and details are from Wikipedia. This was produced in 1986 by Touchstone Films.

DeVito is ruthless Sam Stone, shown here in the opening frames with his sleazy mistress Carol Dodsworth (Anita Morris) having a little tete a tete in a swanky restaurant. Sam is detailing to the ever more breathless Carol how he plans to kill Mrs. Stone (Midler) to get access to her millions.

This heartwarming meeting breaks up, and Sam drives to his spacious home in Bellaire. But his wife Barbara is not there. Only her noisy little dog. Not having the opportunity to do in Mrs. Stone at the moment, he takes a rest. Then he receives a phone call. It’s from a kidnapper. They will kill Mrs. Stone unless Sam coughs up $500,000. If Sam calls the police or the press, they will kill her. It would appear Sam’s problem has solved itself.

The Stone mansion is  immediately flooded with cops and reporters.

Meanwhile, Carol makes plans to blackmail Sam. She sends her real boyfriend, Earl Mott (Bill Pullman), out to video-tape the murder. But Earl has never seen Sam and does not know what he looks like. Instead of getting a video of Sam killing Barbara, he gets a very clear shot of police chief Henry Benton (William G. Schilling) coupling with a prostitute in a parked car. It’s some raucous sex, which comes off as gruesome murder to Earl, and he cannot bear to watch the video. He advises Carol to skip it, as well.

Meanwhile the kidnappers, Ken and Sandy Kessler (Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater) are at wits end as Sam refuses to pay the ransom.

Oops, Carol finally gets to see the video and realizes it’s not Sam.

Meanwhile, Barbara is in the Kessler basement working out, shedding 20 pounds and starting to look really good.

Sandy has been designing some slinky outfits, and Barbara tries them on. She likes them, and the two decide to go into business together. She leaves to get some supplies, and Ken returns home. Their hostage has flown the coop, and Ken and Sandy need to get out of town before the police arrive. The police do arrive, but it’s an officer asking them to be on the lookout for the Bedroom Killer (J. E. Freeman).

Then the Bedroom Killer arrives. Then Barbara returns. They confront the Bedroom Killer, who is killed falling down the basement stairs.

That gives Ken an idea. They convince the police that Sam did kill Barbara, and Sam is charged, having to bail himself out Now he needs to pay the ransom and get Barbara back, else he’s in big trouble. He brings the $2.2 million to a designated place, and Ken shows up to make the exchange.

But the police are waiting. Ken threatens to have Barbara killed if the police try to stop him. The police force Sam to turn over the valise full of cash. Then Earl shows up, sent by Carol to steal the money. The police demonstrate their presence and arrest Earl. Ken sets off in the getaway car with the money, followed by half the police force in Los Angeles.

But Ken has had a plan all along. He drives off the end of what appears to be the Santa Monica Pier, and some money floats to the surface. When the police retrieve the car, it’s the Bedroom Killer inside. And no money.

The police figure all but a few thousand dollars went out with the tide. Barbara returns unharmed to Sam’s loving arms, now much attracted to the new Barbara. She pushes him off the pier and joins Sandy down the beach, where Ken wades ashore wearing SCUBA gear and carrying the valise full of money. The three of them engage in a celebratory dance, and the credits roll.

Classic DeVito, one of his best, maybe after The Jewel of the Nile. Performances by Reinhold and Slater are not up to snuff, especially with DeVito and Midler on the ticket.

The plot is complicated to satisfaction, what with intertwined scams and comical misunderstandings. In a bid to get Sam Arrested, Carol sends the police chief the incriminating tape, then phones him, demanding he arrest Sam, based on the evidence on the tape. The police chief, seeing himself hump a prostitute on the tape thinks he’s being blackmailed. And so on. It get complicated but not so much to make it impossible to follow.

Poetic ending, however.

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 of the Week

One of a series

I’m running low on bad movies, so it’s back to Amazon Prime Video to refresh the pipeline. The Bad Movie of the Week today is The House Across the Bay, and it’s as old as I am. One would think that would have been a very good year. This one stars George Raft as Steve Larwitt and Joan Bennett as Brenda Bentley, later Brenda Larwitt. Images are screen shots from the Amazon video stream, and details are from Wikipedia. The production company was United Artists.

You get an idea of the standards of production in those days, about the time the Germans were preparing to invade Norway and Denmark. The opening scene shows two high-rollers in an upscale night club, and they are heading to the back room to park their money at the roulette wheel. So, director Archie Mayo lines up two dudes and has them march up to the door and demand to be allowed to  come in and deposit their money. The only cinematic invention comes when they are refused, and they need to march back to the club owner, Mr. Larwitt, and demand action. This bit is an invention to show us what a tough guy Larwitt is, as we see him come back, dress down  the gatekeeper, and then proceed to enter, as well, and promptly drop $50 on a single spin. Now we know Larwitt is tough, impulsive, and free with his money. This is called character development.

How assertive and impulsive is Steve Larwitt? This is how assertive and impulsive. He meets one of the cabaret singers at his club, Brenda, and suffers her rebuff. Later he watches her deliver a dynamite performance and promptly fires her. As she exits the club after changing into her civvies he accosts her in the parking lot and announces they are going to get married. Then he turns on the charm, and eventually she comes around.

Surprise, surprise! It’s a marriage made in heaven. There is real love and devotion. What a happy couple! And Steve is rolling in dough. His tough business methods soon elevate him to the upper tiers in the business world. However, his high-handed hostile takeover approach makes enemies of the worst kind, and we see him escaping a drive-by shooting.

Brenda knows Steve is on the shady side of the law, and she decides to ice him down before he gets himself killed. She drips a dime on him, sending the IRS an anonymous letter containing what she has been told will send him up for about 12 months.

But Steve’s friend and lawyer, Slant Kolma (Lloyd Nolan) can’t seem to do anything to prevent a cascade of charges followed by a conviction followed by a 10-year sentence. It’s to Alcatraz for Steve, and Brenda takes an apartment on Telegraph hill, where she can watch and wait until her true love gets off the rock and comes back to her.

She is the epitome of the faithful “rock widow,” taking the monthly ferry trip over to visit Steve.

But then… Then she’s trying to get to a phone to call a cab for her friend Mary Bogel (Gladys George). There she meets Tim Nolan (Walter Pidgeon), a wealthy aircraft industrialist.

Tim doesn’t know Brenda is a convict’s moll, and he pursues her relentlessly. He wins her affections but not her commitment. She stays true to Steve.

Shyster lawyer Slant Kolma has the hots for Brenda, always has had, and it becomes apparent he muffed Steve’s defense, even helped pile on phony evidence, to get Steve out of the way. Brenda rebuffs Slant, and Slant, in turn, is furious that Brenda is cozying up to Tim. He horns in on Brenda’s visit with Steve and later comes back to plant false stories about Brenda and Tim. Meanwhile, Slant has siphoned off the money Steve left to take care of Brenda, and she has secretly taken a job as a cabaret singer at a night club.

Steve is infuriated, and he crashes the rock and makes his way to where Brenda is now working. He waits for her in her dressing room. As she tries to tell him the truth, Steve prepares to strangle the only woman he has ever loved.

Just then, Tim bursts in, and he has a gun. He forces Steve to listen to reason. He tells Steve Brenda has always remained true to  him and that Slant has been working against him.

And that’s it. Steve tracks down Slant and murders him. Then he puts back on his prison uniform and makes to swim back out to the Rock. Of course, the police boats are still sweeping the bay for him, and they spot him in the water. A cop raises a rifle and shoots Steve in the head.

Finally we see Brenda on a flight back to Indiana, and Tim pops up, sitting right behind her. He changes seats with a passenger and takes the seat beside her. This is going to end well.

Except this is a worrisome plot. There is a lot of rigmarole that fails to contribute much. For example, in the beginning we see Steve being sweet on another chorus girl, and we see tension between Brenda and her. That leads to Brenda meeting Steve for the first time, which meeting could have been more artful.

The drive-by shooting episode serves to motivate Brenda to shake Steve out of the cycle of crooked dealing he is spiraling into. It seems painfully contrived.

Steve gets pissed at Brenda after Slant unloads on her. So pissed he breaks out of Alcatraz. Wait. There were 300 or more inmates there at any one time, and there was likely not one of  them who was not pissed. But Steve is the only one who got so pissed he broke out of a locked cell and swam all the way to the shore. Not to be believed.

Now Steve is preparing to strangle Brenda. But Tim bursts in, delivers a few words, and turns the whole situation around. Somebody must have been watching the clock about then and decided they had burned enough celluloid, and it was time to draw the whole business to a close. A great opportunity for some real drama was ushered out the door.

The cops see Steve swimming in the bay. The don’t motor over and offer him a lift. They shoot him in the head. People, the police never did that sort of thing, even 77 years ago.

Brenda gets an apartment across the bay from  the Rock. And the title is The House Across the Bay. Am I being a stickler?

George Raft grew famous portraying gangsters in films, and few viewers knew he once was one, having been a “wheel man” for the mob in his youth. In his movies he got killed a lot, particularly as a friend of Paul Muni‘s, who shoots him when he thinks he has defiled his sister. It’s one of film history’s great dying scenes.

This was two years before Pidgeon starred in Mrs. Miniver, one of his most notable roles.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I was sure I saw this one before on HBO, but when I caught it again this month on Amazon Prime Video I had the feeling I had missed some of it. Anyhow, it’s F/X from 1986, and it had a good run at the time, spawning a franchise. It followed a plot formula, familiar even back then. Here’s an outline.

It’s a dark and stormy night in Manhattan when a car pulls up to a swanky uptown restaurant. A man exits the car and comes in out of the rain. He doesn’t have a reservation. He pulls a machine gun and starts shooting up the place. It’s a mad house.

Bullets are flying, people are cut down at their tables, a bank of large fish tanks dissolves into a shower of glass, and a flood of water and fish wash across the scene. At the very last a blond floozy recoils from the mayhem and begs for her life. She is machine gunned and dies spectacularly.

Because, that’s what it’s all about. It’s a movie set, actually in Manhattan, and the brilliant special effects (hence the title) work of cinema artist Roland “Rollie” Tyler (Bryan Brown). It’s a successful shoot, and it’s a wrap. A crew begins scooping up fish and siphoning off water. “Killed” patrons get up off the floor and head to get out of their costumes and makeup. The blond floozy is actually Roland’s best girl Ellen (Diane Venora).

But in comes a “producer” who wants to hire Roland. He’s Martin Lipton (Cliff De Young).

It turns out Lipton is not really a producer. He’s with the United States Justice Department, and he wants Roland to stage a fake assassination on a mob boss, Nicholas DeFranco (Jerry Orbach). The scheme is being managed by a Col. Edward Mason (Mason Adams), who ultimately convinces Roland to work the scam.

So DeFranco is rigged with special gear and brought to a fancy Manhattan restaurant, almost a replay of the opening scene. Roland plays the part of the hit man, and he empties his weapon into the gangster.

Only, it’s not the gangster. It’s a person hired under false pretenses to impersonate DeFranco, and Lipton has substituted the blank cartridges in the pistol with live ammunition.

Roland makes his exit and gets in the waiting car with Lipton, who immediately pulls a pistol and attempts to shoot Roland. Roland turns the tables, the driver is killed, and Roland escapes into the rain. Remember, once again it’s a dark and stormy night in Manhattan.

From a phone booth (this was 1986) Roland calls Mason to tell him what just happened. You guessed it. Mason is in on it. He orders Roland to stay put. A police car will come to get him.

But somebody else wants to use the phone, and Roland watches from a doorway, out of the rain, as a police car rolls up, and two “cops” riddle the unfortunate in the phone booth.

Now Roland realizes the shit is deeper than imagined, and he takes it on the lam, spending the night with Ellen in her place.

But come the morning, when Ellen goes to open the blinds, a sniper’s bullet comes through the glass and kills her. Her second death in the movie.

Roland waits, and the sniper shows up. Roland kills the sniper and launches a scheme to turn the tables on the crooked federal agents. He has his own arsenal at his disposal—his bag of movie tricks. Thus develops the movie’s (and subsequent offshoots) theme. Special effects to defeat bad guys.

Enter two honest cops, Lt. Leo McCarthy (Brian Dennehy) and his partner (not readily identified). They figure out something is fishy about the whole business, and as they barge close to the truth McCarthy is relieved of duty. Of course he keeps working the case. That’s the formula.

Roland regains his van, which the police had impounded, and he leads the police on a chase through the streets and along sidewalks. More special effects.

Roland makes his way to Mason’s Mansion, protected by a mass of armed guards. He defeats the protection detail one at a time, by tricking one into touching an electrified iron gate and another by tricking a fellow guard into shooting him.

But DeFranco is alive and is about to leave the country with Mason. He has the key to a box in a Swiss bank, from which everybody plans to live a life of leisure. But Roland knows DeFranco wears a pacemaker, and when DeFranco touches a charged glass plate his pacemaker comes to a halt. That leaves only Mason, who attempts to bribe Roland with the key.

But Roland is again a step ahead. He places the Uzi he stole from one of the dead security detail on a table, after removing all the bullets and also after dousing it with crazy glue. When Mason picks up the Uzi and discovers it will not shoot and also that he cannot put it down, Roland shoves him outside where the police are waiting with guns drawn.

Roland fakes his own death and later joins McCarthy in Switzerland. Roland is a master of disguise, and he already has a DeFranco’s face in his bag of tricks. With the key, that’s all he needs to get at the box and the loot.

Closing title scenes are a tour through the Swiss Alps.

Jerry Orbach was already a Broadway legend when he played second fiddle in this movie. He later went to greater popularity as Lennie Briscoe for 12 years in the Law & Order TV series. He first came to my attention decades ago when he was one of the special people who drank Dewar’s Scotch.

From Wikipedia:

sequelF/X2: The Deadly Art of Illusion, was released in 1991. A spinoff TV series entitled F/X: The Series was produced from 1996 to 1998.

Even watching this for the first time you’re going to know Roland is being set up. You only need to figure out how they are going to do it. It’s not hard, either, to figure Roland is going to use special effects to defeat the conspiracy. Beyond that, there are gaps in logic.

The crooked feds need to spirit DeFranco out of the country along with his magic bank box key, and they need to make everybody think he’s dead. So they concoct an elaborate scheme and pull a phalanx of others in. What were they thinking? What keeps the coroner from taking fingerprints to verify the identity of the corpse? The conspirators got into trouble when they got all these other players involved.

They need to kill Roland. And they engage a sniper, yet another person, to take a shot into a high-rise apartment. And the hired gun shoots Ellen instead? Then he comes to the apartment and lets himself in, only to be killed by a movie special effects man? If he could let himself in, why didn’t he do that to begin with?

It gets mentioned that maybe Roland should squelch the plot right out of the gate by unloading to the New York Times. The Watergate episode is mentioned. People, if a bunch of crooked government officials are out to track you down and kill you, the quickest way to get them off your back is to notify some reporters. The bad guys are going to be spending all their time dodging questions and trying to get out of the country to have any opportunity to mess with you.

Roland is one slick operator. In fact, he is too slick. He drives up to Mason’s house, never having seen it before, and he is able to disable alarms and lights as though he had the schematics burned into his brain. Remember, this is night time.

Yes, the movie is like Roland’s life, all special effects.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

After there was Batman (1966) and before there was The Dark Knight, there was Batman (1989). This was streaming on Hulu in October, giving me the opportunity to watch it for the first time. It’s from Warner Brothers. Details are from Wikipedia.

The setting is, of course, Gotham City, a thinly-disguised New York City. We get this early on when the opening scene shows some out-of-towners wandering into the wrong neighborhood. The father says this way to 7th Avenue. The kid says 7th Avenue is the opposite direction. They are obviously on 8th Avenue, now heading the wrong way, toward 9th Avenue, a region previously known as Hell’s Kitchen. Of course they get mugged.

But Batman comes to the rescue. Sort of. After the muggers pistol whip the husband and take his money and credit cards, Batman comes upon them and gives them a thrashing they will never forget. This in the early day’s of Batman’s career, and people are still trying to figure out what sort of crooked scheme he’s working.

Enter diabolical crook Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson). He’s about to transform how crooked deals are done in Gotham.

The big boss is the godfather-like Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). Jack notices that Carl is muscling on on Jack’s main squeeze Alicia Hunt, played by Jerry Hall. Jack aims to level the field.

Meanwhile, sizzling hot news photographer Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger) has teamed with ace reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) to get an exclusive story, with photos, on Batman. She gets invited to dinner at his sprawling mansion with reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), whose alter ego is Batman. If you’re like me you’re wondering who does her hair. She spends the night.

Carl schemes to  have Jack murdered in a setup safe-crack caper at a chemical company. That fails, but Jack falls into a vat of unidentified chemicals, requiring skin treatment and resulting in a clown-like countenance. The episode also unleashes Jack’s true nature, and he becomes The Joker, master criminal with a twisted persona.

Bruce Wayne’s secret is not for long. His trusted butler, Alfred (Michael Gough), sees that true love is withering on the vine, and he brings Vicky to the Bat Cave to  learn Bruce’s secret.

There ensue multiple encounters involving Batman, Bruce Wayne, Vicky, and The Joker, culminating in  The Joker’s master plan to  hijack the Gotham bi-centennial parade, throwing out wads of cash to the gathering throng, before activating the valves to unleash poison gas from a giant clown balloon.

Of course, Batman intervenes, introducing the Batwing  (we already witnessed the Batmobile), and there is a protracted battle to the finish between Batman and The Joker, during which Vicky repeatedly comes under menace. And I’m not going to tell you how The Joker meets his end.

This movie suffers from an unimaginative plot. The main characters are introduced, they exercise a sequence of sketches, each involving menace, intervention, rescue, retreat. Until the final, for which there is no retreat phase.

Jack Nicholson turns in a stellar performance, providing that’s not a stand-in recapitulating Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange, prancing around inside a museum, vandalizing priceless works of art. “Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

Keaton continues to find regular film work, but nothing that makes the Earth move. Much the same with Basinger. More’s the pity.

Jerry Hall is originally from Mesquite, Texas, (born in Gonzalez, Texas) and most famous as Mick Jagger’s squeeze for many years.

There is an interesting final scene with the dead Joker lying in the street. All that survived his fall from a great height was a little mechanical laugh box, but you have to imagine hearing “Ha ha, ha ha ha ha…” to the cadence of “ Ne Ne Na Na Na Na Nu Nu.”

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

The title of this movie is Metro. The reason for that is under investigation. This is a continuing celebration of films that came out in 1997, 20 years ago. It was a period in my life when I had absolutely no time for viewing movies, so I’m seeing this for the first time. As I write it’s being streamed on Hulu, hence the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Eddie Murphy hit it big in the 1980s, first as the brash crook sprung from the clink for 48 hours by Nick Nolte. Murphy became so famous at catching crooks that they did another 48 hours worth. With that warm up, they decided Murphy ought to be a real Beverly Hills cop, and they made three of those. I think the franchise is beginning to wind down with this one. This is classic Eddie Murphy, brash and hyperbolic and in this case devoid of cohesive plot. It works like this.

Now Murphy is Inspector Scott Roper of the San Francisco Police, and he is not so much a crime solver as he is a specialist—a highly-regarded hostage negotiator. When there’s a tight situation that calls for a steely assessment of the situation and rapid response, it’s Inspector Roper they call. Here he is arriving at the scene of a bank heist that’s gone wrong.

Yeah, Earl really screwed this up. He shot a guard, and police have him boxed in. He wants a getaway car and an airplane. Else he’s going to start killing  people.

Instead, Earl gets donuts plus some distraction, followed by a well-placed bullet from Officer Roper, which takes him down and into custody.

Next we see Roper waiting down below while his partner, Sam Baffert (Art Evans), goes to the apartment of a suspected jewelry store robber, Michael Korda (Michael Wincott). Oh, bad news. Korda is disarming and hits it off well with Sam, and Sam leaves, feeling it was a blind alley. But then we see Sam taking the elevator down, where Korda waits for him at the bottom and slashes him to death on the elevator.

This puts Roper in a bad mood, and he’s not finished with Korda. He shortly encounters Korda in a jewelry store robbery gone south, producing another hostage situation. This time Korda out-foxes the cops by shifting his ski mask to a hostage and making his getaway after a sniper shoots the hostage.

Much excitement and the prize for protracted chase and mayhem on a San Francisco cable car. Korda gets captured.

Now it’s Korda’s turn to be pissed, and he sends his cousin and partner in  crime, Clarence Teal (Paul Ben-Victor), to work some havoc on Roper’s main squeeze, the good-looking Veronica “Ronnie” Tate (Carmen Ejogo). Bad news. Roper gets there in the nick of time, saving Ronnie. Clarence gets struck and killed in the street by a car.

Korda is now maximum pissed, and he escapes from the clink on a path to revenge. And also to get back the jewels he stole, now locked in police evidence room.

Roper and Ronnie are preparing to take a vacation to Tahiti and lie naked on the beach (Ronnie thinks) and in the bed (Roper thinks). But Korda takes Ronnie hostage, and he wants the jewels back, else he has unpleasant plans for Ronnie.

Roper steals the jewels from the police lockup and teams with his sniper sidekick Kevin McCall (Michael Rapaport) to undo Korda’s plan. The swap is supposed to take place in an abandoned facility at what appears to be the decommissioned Mare Island Navy Shipyard. Korda has rigged a sadistic arrangement that has Ronnie strapped to a rotating platform featuring a cutting knife and also a switch, which Roper must keep his finger on, lest the platform rotate and send sweet Ronnie to the knife.

I’m not going to spoil it for you, but just suffice to say that McCall comes into action, Roper rescues Ronnie, and Korda meets a fiery end.

And there is no real plot. This is just an exercise meant to show off Murphy’s bold as brass persona and also to wreck a bunch of cars and fire off a ton of ammunition. The ending is unbelievably silly, as Roper and Ronnie finally make it to Tahiti and talk about going naked. We don’t get to see Ronny naked, but there are bare breasts. Sorry, Steve. There was not enough there to be worth posting.

Murphy’s acting streak continues, with Hong Kong Phooey to be released.

Ejogo is going strong, as well, although her performance here does not predict that. She excelled portraying Coretta Scott King in Boycott and Selma.

In this production Rapaport (not pictured) is cool, deadly, and bland. His career is on a tear, stretching from 1992 to the present. I have not seen him in any other films.