Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video again. Always a good source for a Bad Movie of the Week. This one is Woman on the Run from 1950. Lots of bad movies in those days, but this is one of the best of the bad. It has a plot with real drama and suspense—almost believable.

First scene, and somebody is walking his dog. It’s in San Francisco. The man is Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott), and his life is about to  change. While Frank stops to light his pipe at the top of some steps, a car pulls to a stop, and two men inside begin negotiating a matter of life and death. One is a chunky fellow with a terrific Irish brogue, named Joe Gordon (Tom Dillon), and he wants payoff money to  keep quiet. He thinks he has a good argument, and he asks his companion “Danny Boy” for a cigarette. We don’t see Danny, but we do see Danny’s signature lighter when he lights Joe’s final cigarette. Then Danny shoots and pushes Joe out the passenger side door. Joe begs Danny for his life, but Danny fires again.

Frank has been watching all the while. The dog (Rembrandt) barks. Danny spies Frank. Danny fires twice and misses. Frank ducks for cover, and Danny drives off in haste. Take a good look at Frank. The movie is not about him, and we’re not going to  see him again until much later.

The police come. Frank is cooperative. Then he gets the big picture. He’s the only witness to a first degree murder. He’s going to  have to  testify. While the police are distracted Frank cuts Rembrandt loose and hauls ass, but not before telling the police where he lives.

Hard-bitten  Inspector Martin Ferris (Robert Keith), lacking  his prime witness, pays a call on Frank’s wife, hard-bitten Eleanor Johnson (Ann Sheridan). She’s not interested in telling the police where to find her husband, and she’s not interested in her husband. They’ve been married four years, and the fire went some time ago. Frank is an artist, too persnickety to make it to the big time. He has gone through artistic phases and disparages his own work. He has quit painting and has gone to work for a department store called Hart and Winston, where he applies his artistic talents for money.

Eleanor shows absolutely no interest in her husband. That is, until Ferris mentions that the killer shot at him twice. Her expression intensifies. Perhaps this is not a mere case of spousal neglect. Her husband, for whom she has no interest, is becoming slightly more interesting.

The police go off looking for Frank, and they tell Eleanor to stay put. They are going to need her assistance, willing or not, to locate Frank.

Meanwhile, hard-bitten newsman Daniel Leggett (Dennis O’Keefe) horns in. He smothers Leanor with attention, wanting a story about Frank. He wants an interview. They must find Frank. He helps Eleanor escape the police by way of the roof through a skylight.

Inspector Ferris has observed Frank’s prescription medicine. Eleanor goes to visit the doctor who prescribed the medication. She learns for the first time that Frank has a heart condition. He’s going to die if he doesn’t continue to take the medication. Eleanor didn’t know that about Frank. She begins to show additional concern.

No man is a hero to his own wife. I heard that years ago, and I tend to believe it. Eleanore visits Hart and Winston and learns more about Frank. More than Frank ever told her. A Mr. Maibus (John Qualen), who works with Frank, tells Eleanor things about Frank that Frank never mentioned to his wife. Apparently in his past life Frank was a world traveler and adventurer. Also, Frank is invaluable at the store. Financial success hangs on Frank’s talents, and Frank once saved Maibus’ job by threatening to quit if Maibus was fired. The sculptured mannequins he created for the store have been modeled after his wife. Eleanor is becoming more interested in Frank than she has been in years.

The ax falls. Leggett lights a cigarette for Eleanor with a distinctive lighter. “Call me Danny.” Sacré bleu! Eleanor is working with the murderer. Of course we won’t find that out until the end of the movie.

When Eleanor and Danny visit a rooftop Chinese diner where Frank and Eleanor often dined, they learn that Frank has been there. A cabaret dancer who works there tells them that Frank made a drawing and gave it to her. It’s the drawing of a face that looks much like Danny. Ditching Eleanor for a few minutes, Danny apparently (we don’t view the action) goes back to the diner, murders the girl, and destroys the drawing.

The end comes at a popular beach, where Eleanor finally figures out where Frank has gone to wait for her. Only, the scene was filmed at Santa Monica Pier, 381 miles away. When the action shifts to the beach scene we immediately spot the roller coaster, and we know it’s going to figure in the plot. Anytime there’s a roller coaster in a movie it’s going to play a critical role. Danny insists they ride the roller coaster. It’s a ruse to keep them hidden as the police begin to close in. Also Eleanor and Danny have figured Frank has been waiting by a sand sculpture on the beach, and Danny needs to distract Eleanor while he makes his move.

The roller coaster charges up and down the slopes and around sharp bends while Eleanor hangs on and screams. The ride stops, and Danny insists Eleanor must take another ride by herself, leaving Danny to stalk Frank.

The roller coaster ride repeats, with Eleanor holding on tightly and screaming. Then she recalls something Danny told her. He told her the killer shot at Frank twice. Nobody knows that but the police, herself, and the killer. Danny is the killer. She spots Frank on the beach and screams for him to run.

Danny corners Frank near the roller coaster and attempts to induce him to have a heart attack by forcing his head on the track. The police kill Danny. The ride ends. Eleanor embraces Frank, and it’s the end of the movie.

This movie has a lot going for it. From Wikipedia:

The film was recently restored and preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray (2016).

Acting is up to snuff, disregarding some of the minor players. The dialog is realistic, and the actors settle naturally into their scenes. This was four years before Elia Kazan brought On the Waterfront to us with real people and real dialog.

There is suspense, but attempts to build suspense drag at the plot. Eleanor and Danny visit clothing store after clothing store to find one where Frank might have gone for a disguise. There is scene after scene during which suspense is supposed to be building, but interest is lagging, instead.

An essential element of the plot is the wife’s growing realization there is more to Frank than she comprehended. It’s a likable plot device. A character is pictured initially one way, and as the plot develops and more becomes known the character takes on an entirely different form. Alan Campbell, Norman Foster, and Ross Hunter (dialogue) take the hit on this. They don’t handle the transition smoothly, hammering it in, instead. “No, Mrs. Johnson, your husband is not the milquetoast he pretended to be.” That’s not actual dialog from the picture, but it is my impression. I could have done better. For example, “I first met your husband when he pulled me out of the gun turret after we got hit.” The re-engineering of the Frank Johnson character should have been handled more obliquely. The screen writers show a lack of dexterity unbecoming.

Besides that, how come Eleanor never asked Frank, “What were you doing all those years before you met me?” Viewers get the idea, perhaps intended, that Frank and Eleanor met, had great sex for a few years, and never brought their complete selves into the marriage. I am sure that kind of thing does happen, but in this case it gets loaded onto the audience needlessly.

The roller coaster episode is overly dramatic, maybe fresh at the time, but now a cliché. What did surprise me was that there was no chase on the tracks resulting in Danny being killed by the cars or else falling from a great height.

For comedy, there is roller coaster action in the title sequence for The Naked Gun. There’s a monster and a roller coaster in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. There’s more roller coaster comedy in Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. There are move. Readers are invited to submit recommendations.

Ann Sheridan is a pleasure to watch. Hers is the only voice that comes close to that of Eve Arden for cool and brittle. She hailed from Denton, Texas, and attended North Texas State Teachers College. She was a co-producer of this film.

The copyright owners were careless and allowed the copyright to expire. You can watch this for free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIOB4CQhCT0.

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Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is akin to beating a dead horse. Since Star Trek: The Motion Picture came out 38 years ago critics have been whipping it back and forth, the consensus being that it missed the Star Trek frame of mind from the 1960s. And it’s overly long. It’s from Paramount Pictures in 1979. Here’s a quick look and some personal comments. Everybody knows the characters. I’m only going to credit the newcomers. I just watched it on Hulu, but it’s also available on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

In the beginning we see Spock undergoing the Kolinahr ceremony, but he cannot complete it and accept the medallion. Apparently he returns to Star Fleet.

The movie is sprinkled with spectacular views of Star Fleet operations.

Admiral Kirk takes command of the Enterprise, displacing Captain Willard Decker (Stephen Collins), much to Decker’s displeasure.

Apparently Enterprise has undergone some refitting, and the shakedown is not going well. The scene moves to the Enterprise bridge, where much disarray is obvious.

Long expected, if you ever watched the original TV series, there comes the eventual transporter accident. Two people are lost when the transport malfunctions. Long faces all around.

Replacement crew comes in the form of navigator Ilia (Persis Khambatta) from Delta. She’s an old flame of Decker’s.

There’s eye candy in the form of graphics and visual effects. I could not help noticing the rounded corners of this display screen. Those are hold-overs of when display screens were CRTs.

The Enterprise‘s mission is a mysterious cloud approaching Earth. As the Enterprise draws near it encounters powerful forces, ominous warnings, and the invasion of the bridge by a plasma column and an arcing beam. The beam lands on Ilia, and she vanishes, clothing and all.

Ilia soon returns in the form of a mechanical reproduction, right down to Ilia’s personality. Except the mechanical Ilia has been sent as a communications device to the Enterprise. The source is also purely mechanical, and it wants to be connected to the Creator. Nobody can figure out who or what the Creator is. The alien life form (the cloud) refers to itself as V’Ger (veejer).

Penetrating deep into V’Ger, the Enterprise crew discovers at its heart the Voyager 6 spacecraft, a fiction reflecting on the Voyager spacecraft program of the 20th century. The spacecraft has lost its ability to send back its data, and developed V-Ger as a means to get our attention.

Decker melds with the mechanical Ilia, and both join V’Ger in its quest for knowledge. And it all could have been accomplished in little over an hour instead of two hours and 12 minutes.

This movie runs long scenes with nothing much happening. Too much attention is paid to atmosphere and not enough to the story.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I’m on a roll here. Another bad movie review before I take some days off. Here’s one from 1934, apparently soon after photography was invented. It’s The Woman Condemned, distributed by Progressive Pictures. Apparently that concern is no longer in business. We begin to wonder why. I caught this streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the mother lode for bad movies. However, you can watch it for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH6GfQb7sq4. I’m writing this review in August. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s a pulp fiction plot, but that’s not all that kills this one. I will sketch the scenes. A radio singer gives a farewell performance. She’s Jane Merrick (Lola Lane), and she’s a hit with her radio audience. The studio audience loves her, as well. That’s them we see applauding behind the glass, but silently, because, you know, they’re behind the glass.

Then Jane tells her fiancée she must take some time off,  but she will be back, and they will be married.

Jane tells her maid, Sally (Louise Beavers) she is not to be disturbed by anybody or by anything. Then she makes a phone call to a man and discusses terms of payment. Something suspicious is going on.

The radio studio gets desperate. Without Jane singing nightly, their main sponsor, a dairy concern, is threatening to pull its sponsorship. The studio audience is fading, as well. They engage a detective agency to find out what’s the matter with Jane. The agency puts its best woman operative, from New York, on the case. We see Sally leaving Jane’s apartment with a suitcase.

As it turns out, their best operative is Barbara Hammond (Claudia Dell), who starts off her investigation by getting pinched by the police trying to break into Jane’s apartment from the fire escape. Coming before the judge at night court, she is spotted by ace reporter Jerry Beall (Richard Hemingway). It’s not that he recognizes Barbara as an ace detective. It’s that he recognizes her as a major babe.

Jerry instantly jumps to Barbara’s defense, claiming she is his fiancée, and she is always playing practical jokes. Won’t the judge please give this cute chick a major break? The judge has a taste for practical jokes, himself, and he immediately summons the county clerk and performs the marriage ceremony on the spot.

The newly weds talk it out over dinner at a swank club. The movie audience is entertained with a lavish cabaret show. Anything to  stretch out the run time?

Barbara puts Jerry off (no nooky tonight) and goes back to spy on Jane. She witnesses Jane having an altercation with a strange man, an altercation that involves money changing hands. The man leaves. Barbara enters. There’s a shot. Jane falls dead. The lights go out. The neighbors come. Jane is holding a gun. The neighbor has his own gun. He holds Barbara until the police arrive. Jerry follows the police inside and is dismayed that the love of his life is going to be charged with murder.

Jerry visits his wife in the slammer. He promises to get her out of this. After he leaves another man comes and talks to Barbara. Barbara tells him to sit tight. She has a plan.

Jerry breaks into Jane’s apartment by way of the handy fire escape. He checks through Jane’s Rolodex. Actually it’s just a small note pad, but it contains some phone numbers. He dials a few and comes across one that fires his curiosity. He poses as the police and demands the phone company give him the address.

Jerry goes to the address and meets a rude doctor, who turns him away. He returns to snoop at the window. Inside he sees people in medical garb pulling bandages off a woman’s face. It’s Jane! She’s not dead. Sally, the maid, is there. She spots Jerry at the window, and Jerry departs post haste to fetch his friend.

The two return and break into  the doctor’s office. Surprise! The doctor and his associates capture them and tie them up for the police. But Sally comes in and recognizes Jerry’s friend as Jane’s fiancée Jim Wallace (Jason Robards Sr.). They are clued in on the mystery.

Jane went to the surgeon to have a birthmark removed. While away she allowed her twin sister to hide out at her apartment. Her sister was trying to avoid a dangerous man. The dangerous man, apparently unaware of the twin business, tracked the sister down and fired the fatal shot. He is a mobster named Dapper Dan (Paul Ellis), but I doubt that’s the name his mother gave him.

Meanwhile Dan is brought to the police station, where he looks on while the police sweat a confession out of Barbara. Then the lights go out. When the lights come back on it’s Jane sitting there, the person Dan though he killed. He confesses.

The police chief congratulates Barbara on her brilliant scheme.

Yeah, it’s pretty much a dumb plot, and a bit tired. The fire escape device gets way over worked. In real life that would have been sealed up in short order.

Also, it’s hard to imagine the murder scene. Barbara is watching “Jane.” She enters the room. There is a shooting, but she does not see the shooter. Now the lights are out. How convenient. And what does ace detective Barbara Hammond do next but pick up the murder weapon.

Robards was the father of the more famous Jason Robards Jr. He had a successful film career, mostly not due to this performance. Dell’s film career spanned 14 years, finishing up in 1944 with Call of the Jungle. Lola Lane was one of the Lane Sisters, Here last movie was They Made Me a Killer in 1946. My observation watching the movie is that her singing voice was most cool, but I cannot imagine the success of a radio station hanging on it. Those people in Hollywood have wonderful imaginations, or else they expect we do.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

In line with reviewing a bunch of movies in August, here’s another. By the time you read this I will be taking some time off, and I don’t want to be bothered reviewing movies on my day off.

This is from 2011, distributed by Foresight Unlimited. It’s Flypaper, featuring Patrick Dempsey and Ashley Judd. And it’s a spoof, so I have no intention of taking much of this seriously. It’s currently streaming on Hulu, and details are from Wikipedia.

First I have to show a screen shot from the credits. Well done. Could have been the work of Saul Bass, long dead.

The action opens with a shot of somebody’s chronograph. It’s on the arm of a shady character, Jack Hayes (Eddie Matthews), who falls in behind Swiss Miss (Natalia Safran) as she enters a bank.

Meanwhile some maintenance workers unload their equipment and suit up to get on the job. Only, we know these aren’t union workers, because they exhibit a lot of hustle and diligence in getting the job done quickly.

A scruffy character named Tripp (Dempsey) sidles up to the counter, where Kaitlin Nest (Judd) smiles invitingly. The neckline of her dress is also inviting.

Also, Kaitlin is getting married. She has a stack of wedding presents behind the counter. That is significant.

Tripp is really an odd character. He asks for change for a hundred. He wants it in nickels, dimes, quarters, and ones. Then he changes his mind, and wants a different mix. He changes his mind again. Kaitlin is very accommodating. This is the bank where you want to do business.

Then Tripp glances around. Two more characters, scruffier than he is, enter the bank and start to  unload their baggage. Meanwhile the “maintenance workers” have penetrated the upper security door to the bank.

Tripp informs Kaitlin he thinks the bank is about to be robbed, and he leaps over the counter, taking her down on top of himself. Just where he always wanted to be.

And that’s when the killing starts.

It’s all a big farce, of course. Two separate crews have arrived at the same time to rob the same bank. One crew is high-tech, very professional, military precision. The other crew consists of two grease-neck jake-legs with barely an idea of how they are going to pull the whole thing off. As the day progresses the two gangs clash, Hayes is shot by a person unknown, and he turns out to be an FBI agent.

There is hostage taking, explosions, random gunfire, lights going off and back on, mysterious killings, revelations about who is involved in which robbery.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t read further if you plan on seeing the movie.

Everybody winds up getting killed except Tripp, Kaitlin, the two grease neck robbers, and two other bank people. The dead people turn out to be involved one way or another in the robberies. After the three professionals and the mastermind meet their just desserts, Tripp allows the grease necks to skedaddle with bags of loot, and the four survivors walk out. The police help Kaitlin load her wedding presents into her car.

Only, Tripp knows, as we all suspected, there is only one reason a sexy bank teller would have a stack of wedding presents behind the counter. She has loaded the boxes with bank money, and Tripp convinces her to let him in on the deal. They drive off together in Kaitlin’s Mercedes Benz.

What gets this designation as Wednesday’s bad movie is that it is all very silly, significant directing, cinematography, and acting notwithstanding. Worth a watch.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This one is bad. Really bad. For the first time I am reviewing a movie without watching it through. It is that bad. It’s Be My Teacher, from 2011, further proof they did not quit making bad movies in 1946. This is from Amazon Prime Video, but you can watch it for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSD3OlSW_1A. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s one of those student-teacher sexcapades we find so salacious on the evening news. This one puts the genre in a bad light. Here’s the story.

Alecia (LaTeace Towns-Cuellar) is a high school teacher, and she’s trying to avoid Evan (Derek Lee Nixon), a senior getting ready to graduate. Or not. He keeps skipping her class and is in danger of being expelled and flunking out. The problem is the sexual attraction between the two, and that’s what the movie is all about.

Nobody in this movie seems to have a last name.

We see Evan’s friends David (John Devereaux) and Taylor (Kari Gillespie) wonder at Evan’s preoccupation. Taylor is hot for Evan, and she can’t figure out what’s going on.

Alecia and Evan eventually score one morning in a class room before school starts, and things wander along toward a climax at the senior prom. Taylor has told Evan she’s having his baby, even though Evan does not remember a corresponding event (he passed out on top of her). David has a conversation with Taylor about it after which David gets ideas and puts the strong arm on Alecia in the girls’ restroom, whereupon Evan and David come to fisticuffs.

And that’s the end of the movie. Five years later Evan is out of college and throwing a party of some sort with his fiancée, and Alecia drops by with her son Evan, who it turns out has the same gluten allergy as Evan Sr. Alecia and young Evan depart, nobody being the wiser.

The camera work is bloody awful. Shooting resolution compares to 8 mm, and pan shots are uneven and jerky. Dialogue is lifeless and verging on juvenile. Performances are comparable.

For some really steamy teacher-student romance you might dip into the literate arts. I recommend Erskine Caldwell’s Episode in Palmetto, for which there does not seem to be a Kindle edition. Here’s the paperback:

In case he passed you by 60 years ago, Caldwell was the master of steam in his time.

This scene from Blackboard Jungle was much discussed with my high school friends when it came out in 1955.

Ah, we grow up too fast.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Here’s an old one from 1983, and it’s not so bad. There are obvious flaws and considerable prescience evident. I will explain later. It’s The Dead Zone, based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name. It’s from Paramount Pictures, currently streaming on  Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

This is about psychic powers, to be expected from Stephen King. We see high school English teacher Johnny Smith (Christopher Walken) giving his final lecture, only he doesn’t realize it yet. He finishes reading The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe, and promises to get into The Legend of Sleepy Hollow next time. Then he meets up with teacher and lover Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams), and they head off for an afternoon riding a roller coaster before heading back to Sarah’s house for some serious necking. But the ride has put Johnny off his stride, and he declines Sarah’s offer of sexual delights, vowing to save it for after their marriage. Quaint, to say the least, and nearly fatal.

On the drive home Johnny encounters a character that makers of Pet Sematary sought to use six years later. It’s the careless truck driver, shown in multiple flashes as catastrophe draws ever nearer. Sure enough, it’s a tanker truck, and the driver jackknives it in front of Johnny’s little car. Fortunately it’s only carrying milk. Unfortunately Johnny is unable to avoid clipping the end of the skidding trailer.

Five years later Johnny awakes from a coma in the Weizak Clinic, operated by Dr. Sam Weizak (Herbert Lom). Sarah has already married somebody else and has a child, a device later used in Cast Away, not by Stephen King.

But something has happened to Johnny during his coma. He has developed psychic powers. When he clasps the nurse’s hand he gets a vision of her young daughter home alone with the house on fire. The fire department is summoned in time to rescue the child. People start to wonder about Johnny.

Grasping Dr. Weizak’s hand, Johnny sees back to the time of the German invasion of Poland in 1939, when Sam’s mother gave him up to a wagon loaded with refugees, sacrificing herself. But Johnny tells Dr. Weizak that his mother is still alive. He tells him where she is now. Dr. Weizak phones and hears the voice of his mother.

Johnny’s mother dies, and Johnny goes home to live with his father. Sarah comes to visit while Johnny’s father is out. She brings along her child, and while the child is sleeping she unbuttons her blouse to give Johnny what she intended to give him five years before. It turns out to be the only pussy Johnny ever gets in his life.

But there is a series of crimes in Castle Rock, Maine (Stephen King is from Maine). Young women and girls are being raped and murdered. It’s a plague that’s been going on for over three years. Can Johnny help? Finally he agrees, and he goes to the scene where the body of a young waitress has been found on a snow-swept gazebo. Johnny removes her mitten and holds her bare hand. He sees the crime being committed. He sees the stalker lure a woman he knows up onto the gazebo. He sees the attack. He sees the killer’s face. It’s the sheriff’s deputy.

Johnny goes with the sheriff to the deputy’s house, where the deputy kills himself with the same scissors he used on his victims. But the deputy’s mother shoots Johnny, and the sheriff kills the mother.

Recovered again, Johnny has a talk with Dr. Weizak, who tells him about verified cases of psychic abilities and about a dead zone. Hence the title. Johnny must abstain from psychic activity, else it will consume his life, and he will die.

Johnny moves to another town and becomes a private tutor. One client is Roger Stuart (Anthony Zerbe) a man of great wealth who has a son who isolates himself from others. What the boy tells Johnny is revealing. It’s the father who lives in isolation. The day Johnny first comes to the Stuart home he is introduced to a campaigning politician named Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen). He also meets Stillson’s creepy henchman, Sonny Elliman (Géza Kovács). Stillson gives the appearance of evil personified. He is power mad and grasping, and nothing will stand in his way. Here is where Stephen King is remarkably prescient. We all know that Stephen King is no fan (understatement alert) of Donald Trump, and Stillson is a remarkable take on politician Trump. After the sinister duo leaves, Stuart tells Johnny he should register to vote, and he should vote against Stillson.

The son makes great progress under Johnny tutelage, but one day Johnny touches him and foresees a future tragedy, as the boy and another fall through the ice in a hockey game on a pond. He demands the hockey tournament Stuart has planned be canceled. Instead Stuart dismisses Johnny and tells his son the game must go on. The boy refuses to play, and the next day the newspaper announces the tragedy of two boys drowning after crashing through the ice at the hockey game.

Surprise. There is a Stillson rally scheduled across the street from where Johnny is living, and Sarah and her new husband show up to hand out Stillson campaign literature. Johnny decides to attend the rally and to meet Stillson again.

He does, and he shake hands with Stillson and sees the future. He see’s Stillson, now President of the United States, awake in the middle of the night with a sudden vision that he must launch nuclear missiles to settle an international dispute. He forces his military commander under threat of violence to submit his hand print to approve the launch.

Johnny talks to Dr. Weizak and confirms that had Weizak known of future events, he would have killed Adolf Hitler. Johnny determines he must kill Stillson. He sneaks into a campaign rally and secretes himself in an upper balcony.

When Stillson takes the stage, with Sarah, holding her child nearby, Johnny rises up to take the shot. But Sarah spots him in the balcony and calls out to him. Stillson turns aside, and Johnny’s shot misses. What comes next is the killer scene. Stillson reveals his true self. He grabs Sarah’s child and holds him up to protect himself from Johnny’s next shot. Sonny shoots Johnny, who lies dying as Stillson leans over him demanding to know who he is. Johnny has one last vision. It’s the future cover of Newsweek showing the image above and carrying the caption “No Future For Stillson.” He sees a pistol lying on the magazine cover, and he sees Stillson picking up the pistol and placing it under his chin. There is a shot, and Stillson’s blood spatters the cover. Johnny tells Stillson, “It’s over. You’re finished.”

Stillson and Sonny leave the auditorium on bad terms, and Johnny dies in Sarah’s arms.

And that is that. What to make of it?

Letting slide the matter of psychic abilities, Weizak’s claim that there are verified cases of psychic abilities is false. But then, this is fiction.

Then there is the opening scene. English scholar Johnny Smith tells his student The Raven is a great work of poetry. It is not. Poe was a great word smith but not a recognized poet. No critical review give The Raven marks as significant poetry.

Five years in a coma, and we are told Johnny has suffered some physical debilitation. The movie shows a man in remarkable condition for having just come out of a five-year coma.

Sarah comes by to visit Johnny and to swap some DNA. It’s an interesting interlude, but it is not relevant to the plot.

Yeah, no real military commander is going to  allow a lunatic President coerce him into participating in a mass murder. Think what you will of our guys, but they are really made of sterner stuff.

The final scene is  totally contrived. A man with a rifle tries to shoot a political candidate in an auditorium full of people and is, in turn, shot to death. And everybody leaves the room so Sarah can have last, tender moments with Johnny. Really? In real life there would be law enforcement all over in 15 seconds. This was directed by David Cronenberg, who takes full responsibility for the absurdity. Producer Dino De Laurentiis is on the hook for lack of management oversight.

We see Stillson as an egomaniac of the lowest character, threatening and bullying in his climb to power. It’s as though 38 years ago (the book came out in 1979) Stephen King envisioned the rise of Donald Trump. Only, in the case of Trump, holding up a baby as a shield would not have dissuaded his loyal base. Nice try, Stephen.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video to the rescue again. Always a good source when I need a bad movie to review. This is Streamline Express from 1935, before many of us were born. It was during a time Hollywood was making some very bad movies on the scale of a major industry. It stars Victor Jory as playwright – director Jimmy Hart. The production company is not identified. Details are from Wikipedia.

Jimmy is having problems with his current Broadway production. The run is due to start in a few days, and dress rehearsals are going badly, because leading lady Patricia Wallace (Evelyn Venable) is a no-show. Back in Elaine’s dressing room Jimmy earholes maid Fawn (Libby Taylor), who tells him the reluctant Patricia has absconded aboard the Streamline Express, hence the title.

The Streamline Express is a train 20 years ahead of its time. Besides not being an actual train (only one car), it’s a 120 miles per hour monorail and is scheduled that day to start its maiden run from New York to Santa Barbara, California, non-stop. Much ado is made about it, but Jimmy manages to sneak aboard the train, whose maiden  run is sold out.

Jimmy confronts Patricia, who rings for the steward and has him tossed from the train, luckily still at the station. But Jimmy is not to be denied. He pays the steward to switch places with him, and he spends most of the trip to California working to win Patricia back to the theater. She is eloping with her new fiancée, Fred Arnold (Ralph Forbes), fabulously wealthy and promising to keep Patricia sedentary in Santa Barbara. I almost wrote sedimentary.

There are others on the train, of course. There is husband John Bradley (Clay Clement) and his mistress, the blonde Elaine Vincent (Esther Ralston). Rejected wife Mary Bradley (Erin O’Brien-Moore) sneaks aboard after she learns her husband is leaving her for a hussy.

Also aboard is the balding Mr. Jones (Vince Barnett). Mr. Jones must get his pregnant wife to California, and quickly. If the baby is born in California, said baby will inherit $10,000, a lot of money in 1935.

The plot is a mangle of intrigue and double dealing, and everybody gets justice. The troubled marriage gets patched up. Two Jones children are born, one in Arizona and one in California. Jimmy realizes he is madly in love with Patricia, and Patricia has loved Jimmy from the beginning. They will be married in Santa Barbara and hurry back to New York for the opening of their new play.

Yes, and the performances barely register. This one runs for slightly more than an hour, but I kept looking at my watch all the time. You don’t have to subscribe to Amazon Prime to watch it. It’s available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74Z18UELYs8. Enjoy.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I first caught a glimpse of this while sitting through a long airplane ride. I didn’t plug in the ear buds, opting, instead, to try and get some sleep. I opened my eyes from time to time and kept seeing the same thing as before. I knew at the time I would need to see this movie some day, for free.

And here it is, Spider-Man, from 2002, now streaming on Hulu. All right, I did not actually watch it for free, because Hulu is a subscription service. However, I did not have to pay extra to watch Spider-Man after watching all that other stuff on Hulu, including Elementary, which I watch a lot. Spider-Man was distributed by Columbia Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

Anybody not just now climbing out of a World War Two Nazi bunker knows the Spider-Man story. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is a nerdy high school senior who has the hots for Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), also a senior and in Peter’s class. Actually, with a lot more class. Anyhow, at a school outing at Columbia University, Peter gets bitten on the finger by a mutant spider.

Returning from the outing and feeling mighty fatigued, Peter sleeps the remainder of the night. The next morning he awakes to an amazing transformation. He has developed the spiders’ quality of strength and agility, plus the ability to shoot spider web stuff. He shows his macho by defeating the perennial school bully.

He wins a pro-wrestling contest, only to be stiffed by the manager. His favorite uncle is killed by a mugger, and “Spidey” goes on the prowl for bad guys, in his made-to-order super hero costume.

A nemesis appears in the form of Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), billionaire father of Peter’s high school friend Harry. From there through the remainder of the movie it’s Spider-Man versus the Green Goblin (Norman Osborn transformed). All the while Peter watches from the side as Jane cuddles with Harry.

In the end, Spider-Man defeats the Green Goblin. Actually, the Green Goblin defeats himself when his robotic craft runs him through and through. And the plot consists of Spider-Man doing great deeds and the duet of Peter and Jane never connecting. It ends with Harry vowing to avenge his father’s destruction at the hands of Spider-Man. There will be a sequel.

And I will not be watching. It’s a small miracle this movie did not qualify as a Bad Movie of the Week.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Here’s one older than I am, barely. It came out in 1939, about the time world headlines were cooling after news the British gave the German navy a thrashing off the coast of Uruguay. It’s Slightly Honorable, featuring Pat O’Brien in the lead role. The distribution company was United Artists. Details are from Wikipedia, which entry is a mere shell, listing only the cast of characters. This production has been saved from oblivion and now rests peacefully among the Amazon Prime Video archives.

Films like this are the reason I created the Bad Movie of the Week series. It has a mystery plot which barely registers among all the other drama going on around it. Here is a short breakdown.

O’Brien is prominent attorney John Webb, and there is a major plot diversion involving a state highway corruption scandal. For example, there is a detour in the story line featuring a lab test of two samples of asphalt paving, one being from Oklahoma. Anyhow, ignoring the numerous side shows, I will give the bare bones narrative.

Dispense with some preliminaries, including the funeral of a corrupt politician, and get to the main plot. We see Webb confabbing with some acquaintances before heading into a cabaret club. One of the acquaintances Alma Brehmer (Claire Dodd), a sparkling blonde. Apparently everybody winds up inside the club.

On comes the show, featuring a firecracker singer-dancer. She is never given a name, but the part is played by Ruth Terry. She dogs the remainder of the plot, as will be seen. Webb comes to call her Puss. That’s the name I will use. Anyhow, following her act, Puss attaches herself to Webb, possibly twice her age (she’s 18, “and three months”).

But there’s trouble. As a viewer I am amazed to see the kind of rough stuff going on amongst such a crowd of upscale clientèle. One customer puts the move on Puss, rips her dress, and knocks her to the floor. Webb comes to the rescue, pulling this mere child to the safety outside after a standoff in force with some well-heeled thugs. This later on turns out to have nothing to do with the main plot.

Back at his office, Webb conducts business with his attractive and efficient secretary. She is Miss Ater, played by the bubbly Eve Arden. I show this image so readers can appreciate Ms. Arden’s appreciable qualities. Her film career spanned from  1929 to 1982, but it was her on-air persona that first caught my attention. For a long time she had her own television program, Our Miss Brooks, that cast her as a high school teacher. I can watch an old movie, and I can tell immediately when she enters the scene. It’s that brash and brittle voice. Nobody ever duplicated it. Sadly for viewers, she is a casualty of this movie’s multiple homicides.

But Puss barges in. Since Webb has previously rescued her, she is his forever, purchasing a new wardrobe on his credit. That does not appear to alarm him much (he talks of million dollar business deals). What does alarm him is when she begins to show off her new duds by changing costumes in his office. There has got to be a future in that.

But somebody has murdered the provocative Ms. Brehmer. Webb vows to avenge her untimely death, becoming immediately a suspect, himself.

In fact, most of the cast becomes suspect. Police attempt to sort out who was on first, and the session takes on aspects of a three-ring circus. In fact, that is a termed used in the movie to describe it.

Then there is the disappearing murder weapon. It turns up in Webb’s desk drawer, just as the police are coming to search. Webb can only think of one place to  hide it. The cop never looks up to see the knife stuck in the ceiling above his head.

I have to insert this, as well. Art, the elevator operator in Webb’s apartment building, is played by Willie Best. He comes on twice in the film, and each appearance opens showing him doing a small shuck and jive dance. Eighty years ago this was expected behavior of a black character in the plot. Interesting thing is, this was the same year Hattie McDaniel was putting in an Academy Award appearance in Gone With The Wind. It was going to take another fifteen years before Hollywood grew up and cast Sidney Poitier in a major dramatic role in Blackboard Jungle.

Tragedy! Webb returns to his office to find Miss Ater sitting at his desk, skewered by the infamous missing murder weapon.

Cutting out remaining details, Webb figures it was his partner, Russ Sampson (Broderick Crawford), doing the murdering to cover up a crooked past. By now Puss has so grown on the middle-aged Webb that he cannot live without her. He proposes in the back seat of a cab, and they get hitched.

Yes, this has some top tier talent, but they do not deliver much in the way of performance. The plot is a mishmash of unrelated themes. This might have done for a 30-minute TV drama, but it runs for 85 minutes. Wikipedia reports it made $386,116 at the box office under a production cost of $434,874. And  this was back when the Great Depression was pushing wages down. You can watch it for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKBWyqM_S8o. Let me know if you do watch it, and let me know what you think.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I’m celebrating 20th anniversaries, and here is another from 1997. I first caught it on broadcast TV many years back, and a noticeable difference is they cleaned up the language for home viewing. The movie features a bunch of tough-talking truckers and situations of intense emotion. It’s Breakdown, from Paramount Pictures and featuring Kurt Russell as ordinary guy Jeff Taylor, caught in critical circumstances. It’s a fairly well written and produced film, so there is not much to complain about, except for obvious plot contrivances. As I  write this, Breakout is streaming on Amazon Prime video where I go when I am desperate for a bad or not so good movie to review. Details are from Wikipedia.

Jeff and his sweet wife Amy (Kathleen Quinlan) are on a drive from Boston to San Diego in their new Jeep 4X4. A bit of preamble: Jeff has a close encounter with roughneck Earl (M. C. Gainey), then at a fuel stop a bit later it gets face-to-face. The reason this is important is that shortly after Jeff and Amy get out on the road the Jeep stops completely. Complete electrical failure, apparently. Earl comes by in his pickup truck but does not stop. Except, he drives a bit down the road, turns around, stops for a while, then keeps on going. Things are getting suspicious. Next a semi rig stops, and the driver, Warren “Red” Barr (J. T. Walsh) offers advice and help. He will drive them to Belle’s Diner, where they can call for a tow truck.

Critical here is that Jeff elects to stay with the Jeep, and Amy hitches a ride with Red. It’s the last we see of Amy until the end of the movie.

Yeah, Jeff discovers the Jeep’s problem is a loose electrical connector, and he fixes that. But when he gets to Belle’s Diner, Amy is nowhere to be found. Red did not stop at Belles. Things are getting mighty suspicious.

The local police are no help. Jeff catches Red’s truck out on the highway and forces Red to stop. The sheriff comes by about then, and Jeff explains the matter. Red denies ever having seen the Taylors before. Jeff can’t get any additional help from the local police, so he backtracks. Outside Belle’s, an apparent retard named Billy (Jack Noseworthy) advises Jeff that he knows what’s going on, and he instructs Jeff to head off along a specific road.

Jeff follows that advice and runs straight into a trap. The road is blocked by a locked gate, and Earl drives up from behind in his truck. Earl is loaded for war.

Jeff guns it out of there, crashes the gate, and takes the Jeep into  the river. Gunfire from the cliff above follows him.

The upshot is Jeff is captured by what is obviously a band of kidnappers. He is ordered, if he wishes to save his life, the recite the exact sum in his bank account, which sum Red tells him Amy has already told them. Jeff survives to live another day by remembering an earlier conversation he had with Amy about a $90,000 prize offered by a donut company. $90,000 is the magic number, and the crooks order Jeff to go into the town of Brackett (down below) and have the bank wire the $90,000 to Jeff, in cash.

But the Taylors never had $90,000 in the bank. It was just small talk. Jeff stalls and withdraws $5000 and bulks it up to look like more. Outside town, Earl stops his truck beside the  road and orders Jeff and the money inside. But Jeff has prepared for this, and he defeats Earl in hand-to-hand combat. Binding him with duct tape and taking his gun. Wouldn’t you believe it, about then the sheriff comes by. But the situation turns out badly for Jeff.

Since Jeff is the one with the gun, the sheriff draws down on him. Meanwhile, Earl gets himself free and pulls his spare gun. He shoots the sheriff and goes after Jeff. But the sheriff has one last shot in himself, and he kills Earl. The sheriff is dying, and the police are alerted. Jeff starts out on the quest to meet up with Red at the place Earl coughed up after being punched vigorously about the face and body.

Jeff spots Red’s rig at the truck stop and hitches a ride as it pulls out. In a great feat of daring-do he works his way along the side of the moving truck and finds a place to hide between the tractor and the trailer. He spends the night there as Red drives back to the family spread, where the kidnappers have their base of operations. Apparently this has been an ongoing family business for a number of years.

By then it’s dark and getting to be time for breakfast. Jeff watches from hiding as a bobtail truck drives up, and the robbers extract Amy, still alive and kicking. But they place her into a freezer chest beneath the floor of a shed and head in to breakfast. Jeff can’t break the lock to the cellar beneath the shed but he finds a pistol in the truck cab and enters the house, ready to confront the kidnappers.

There is a minor exchange of gunfire, and Jeff comes out on top, freeing Amy from the freezer and locking the kidnappers in the cellar. All but one, who escaped out the house when the shooting started.

Jeff and Amy steal a truck and make their getaway, and here comes the interesting part of the movie. The kidnappers give chase in  two cars and the semi rig. There is a running gunfight along a stretch of desert highway.

One after another, two of the kidnappers meet tragic ends. One rolls his car, which is consumed by flames.

The big rig trailer breaks loose and takes out the other car.

The cab of the big rig crashes through a bridge railing and hangs above an eye-popping drop. I forget how Jeff came to be on top of the cab, but he climbs hand over hand toward safety. Red, from atop the cab, attempts to finish off Jeff with a length of chain, but Jeff grabs the chain and pulls. Red plunges off the cab and lands on the rocks below.

Jeff and Amy notice that there is still some movement in Red’s body, so Jeff puts the tractor transmission into neutral, and the whole business lands on top of Red. They admire their handiwork from the bridge.

Of course, that is some wild adventure, and it is way too much to be believed. Stretch your credulity a lot, and this can be an enjoyable movie.

Lots of people killed, no nudity, no gentle, romantic scenes. Just some hair-raising adventure. This was written by Jonathan Mostow, who also directed. Producers were Dino De Laurentiis and Martha De Laurentiis. It runs for 93 minutes. Just about right. It made $50.2 million with a production  cost of $36 million. Location shooting was in the desert Southwest, including Moab, Utah, and Sedona, Arizona. A map shown in the title sequence shows U.S. 60 crossing IH-15, but I was unable to find such a place.