Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This seems to be the penultimate of The Falcon franchise, from 1948. About time. It’s Appointment With Murder, featuring John Calvert as Michael Waring, The Falcon. This time the notorious adventurer is working for an insurance company interested in recovering from an $80,000 loss. It runs for 66 minutes, but the plot is unnecessarily intertwined.

The opening shot shows two pairs of shoes, one pair of which is worth noting. I never figured out why women wear these things.

Anyhow, the one in the steeple-jack heels is Lorraine W. Brinckley (Catherine Craig), and she is finishing her walk with shady art dealer Norton Benedict, played by Jack Reitzen. Lorraine is proprietor of Brinckley Art Gallery, and the two examine a valuable painting by Italian artist Andrea Mantegna. Benedict has sold it to Lorraine, and she hands him an envelop with cash. They examine the painting, which appears to be uncatalogued and also wanting a mate, which object is next on  her list to acquire.

Switch to Milan, where The Falcon is also after the Mantegna. He deals with painter and art forger Giuseppe Donatti (Peter Brocco), who claims to  have painted the reproduction he is trying to sell. Donatti’s shady partner, Martin Minecci (Ben Welden), looks on.

Only, Minecci turns up murdered, and The Falcon returns to America with the painting. After an adventure at customs in New York, he journeys on to Los Angeles, where he barges in on Lorraine, seeking to get the two Mantegna’s together for the insurance company.

The plot becomes too involved. The Falcon takes his painting along with Lorraine’s, and he deposits the pair at a baggage check in the train station. He tears the claim tickets in half, and hands Lorraine half the pair. That way the two of them will need to stick together as they seek to find a buyer for the two Mantegnas. The reason for this is not clear. But Lorraine conspires with Benedict to obtain both paintings.

Somebody, apparently Benedict, sends two thugs to abduct The Falcon, and they take him to a warehouse space and proceed to slap him around in an effort to obtain his half of the claim tickets. The Falcon turns the tables on the thugs and escapes in a blazing gunfight.

Benedict and Lorraine go back to the claim check and convince the clerk to hand over the checked items when shown only the torn halves. But The Falcon has been a step ahead. He has checked a bird cage and a bird and has swapped out half of the new claim tickets for those he purloined from Lorraine.

Now Benedict shows his true self, and he resorts to his trusty pistol, which weapon he apparently used on the unfortunate Sr. Donatti. They go back to The Falcon’s hotel to collect the two paintings, The Falcon alerts the police. The desk clerk gets involved and is killed in an exchange of gunfire. The police arrive and subdue Benedict as he attempts to make an escape with The Falcon as a hostage.

The Falcon returns the two paintings to the insurance company, and he hands a wire recording he has made that will show Benedict’s culpability and also will exonerate Lorraine. And that is very much the plot, though I left out a few details.

What’s wrong with the movie is the whole lot of foolishness put forth as a plot. Here it is.

An Italian count had the two paintings. He claims they were lost in the war (Italy lost). The insurance company paid off on the claim. Now the company wants its money back, because the paintings are being returned to the count. That’s not the way it works. First, this is a war casualty, which claims are typically not covered by insurance policies. Second, The insurance company has the paintings, and they want the count to return the money he was paid. But that’s not the way it works. When an insurer covers a loss, the client gets to keep the money. If the company can recover the loss, then they own the recovered item. It’s up to the insurance company to recover their loss by disposing of the recovered item.

The Falcon is working for the insurance company. Early in the movie he and Lorraine have both paintings. That should have been the end of the movie. Aha! The paintings were stolen. We have them. Call the police. Seize the paintings. Hand them over to the insurance company. The movie is over. For reasons not made clear The Falcon wants to enter into a scheme with Lorraine to pair the two paintings and sell them for more than $80,000. That’s crazy.

The Falcon goes to Milan to meet up with Donatti. He has the other Mantegna, which he claims to have painted himself. How does  this painting later turn out to be a real Mantegna?

When The Falcon arrives at Donatti’s studio, there is a gorgeous American model posing. The Falcon makes a dinner date with here. We later see he never keeps the date.

When The Falcon is in Donatti’s studio, Donatti and Minecci endeavor to speak English. They continue to speak English when they are alone without The Falcon.

During the flight back to America, another passenger contrives to slip contraband into The Falcon’s valise. But The Falcon gets wise and turns the smuggler in to the customs agents. This is a pointless side bar to the plot, having nothing to do with the story.

The Falcon slips the hotel clerk a note telling him to alert the police. The clerk phones the police from the back room and then engages Benedict in a gun fight and is killed. Nothing more is said about the poor clerk, whose body lies ever more stiff on the floor while the movie continues toward an end.

It is obvious Lorraine has conspired with the murderous Benedict to double-cross The Falcon, but in the end he absolves her of any complicity, and the two go off together for a night on the town. Yeah, let’s hope he never turns his back on her in the future.

Like I said, the plot is just crazy.

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Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is one I missed when it came out. It’s Sleepers from 1996, featuring such notables as Kevin BaconRobert De NiroDustin Hoffman., and Brad Pitt. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, allowing me to get these screen shots. Details are from  Wikipedia. This is a crime, social justice, courtroom drama, with a story going back to 1966. It takes two and a half hours to run, so I had to wait for some serious slack time to watch it.

Four kids grow up in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, which I will explain later. Suffice it to say, in those days this was not the toniest place in town. It’s also the setting for West Side Story.

Anyhow, the place is the definition of multi-ethnicity, with scads of Italians, Hispanics, Jews, maybe some Irish, but I couldn’t tell. The four pals live in the streets, and about the time their hormones are beginning to kick in their lives go to shit in single day. They hit upon the grand idea of ripping off a hot-dog vendor, and they end up making off with his cart. When the cart goes down the steps to the subway and puts a man in the hospital the law cracks down on them with a vengeance.

They are sent to Wilkinson Home for Boys, a place in upstate New York that is dressed out as a prep school but is in in actuality Attica writ small. The guards brutalize the boys, employing beatings and sodomy. One boy who helps in a scheme to humiliate the guards in a touch football match is beaten to death. The boys remain quiet, under threat of retaliation, and they vow to carry their debasement to their deaths.

But one, Michael, has taken an interest in The Count of Monte Cristo, the story a man, falsely imprisoned, who escapes and plots vengeance.

Thirteen years after they get out it’s 1981, and two of the boys are hardened criminals, one with a record of multiple murders. The two are in a pub one evening when they spy the key guard, Sean Nokes (Bacon). They sit themselves across the table from him, introduce themselves, and shoot him multiple times.

Unfortunately,  there are multiple witnesses, and the men are put on trial for second degree murder. One of the kids, Shakes (Jason Patric), has grown up to become a newspaper reporter. Another, Michael (Brad Pitt), is now a prosecuting attorney, and he wrangles the job of prosecuting his two pals. The back history of the four is secret due to their age at the time of their crime, so Shakes’ scheme is to get the two killers off and also to work justice on the Wilkinson Home and its guards. He arranges for washed-up lawyer Danny Snyder (Hoffman) to defend the killers. His scheme is to throw the case.

A part of the scheme is to bring back one of the guards, a friend of Nokes, to testify as a character witness for the victim. Snyder has all the dope on the Wilkinson guards, and his cross-examination eviscerates the corrupt Wilkinson culture.

Additionally, a friendly priest (De Niro) testifies he was attending a Nicks game with the two killers at the time of the crime. The killers are not convicted, and after the trial they meet for the final time in their lives. Within a few years both the killers are dead from their life styles.

It’s an interesting story and one that could have been told in less than two hours, but I had the time. As a historical  note it’s the tale of a place whose time has passed. Hell’s Kitchen came to my attention while I was still in high school and before West Side Story. Out of high school and in the Navy, I got a glimpse of Hell’s Kitchen when my ship docked on the Hudson shore. One of the guys in my division was from the neighborhood, and he went by for a visit and got knifed.

A few years later I was back, doing some work at the Post Office building nearby, and we would sometimes wonder over to Manganaro’s for lunch. This was in the early 1970s, and at the time it was not a place you wanted to be alone or after dark.

Times have changed:

Since the early 1990s, the area has been gentrifying, and rents have risen rapidly. Located close to both Broadway theaters and the Actors Studio training school, Hell’s Kitchen has long been a home to learning and practicing actors, and, in recent years, to young Wall Street financiers.

It does take some of the spice out of the story.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Back to Amazon Prime Video (these screen shots) for another bad movie, and this is not really old old one. It’s The Sand from 2015, and you know it’s going to be a teenage slasher movie from the opening scenes. Details are from Wikipedia.

Yes, we see a wild spring break party on a beach at night, and all stops are out. There is massive drinking, hijinks, and screwing of another girl’s boyfriend. We’ve all been there. You have? What’s it like?

A huge egg-like object casts up on the beach, arousing some curiosity and thereafter ignored.

Until the morning. Kaylee (Brooke Butler) is the first to come around, and the sun is already up. She’s finished the night in the lifeguard shack with Mitch (Mitchel Musso). When she looks around everybody else is gone except for her boyfriend Jonah (Dean Geyer), who is ensconced in the front seat of a convertible with another girl, Chandra (Meagan Holder). Another couple are in the back seat.

Marsha (Nikki Leigh) has spent the night close to nature on top of a picnic table. She is the first to die, except for those already missing. Kaylee is the one with the brains, and she spots the problem when the sand devours a bird. She suspects there’s something wrong with the sand, and she shouts warnings. Marsha ignores this good advice and steps onto  the sand, only to have her body dissolved into the sand.

During the night Gilbert (Cleo Berry) got really drunk, and they painted a dick on his face and stuffed him in a trash barrel, where his massive hulk has become stuck.

The boy in the back seat of the car gets out and is devoured. Jonah figures he has found a way to get across the sand and to freedom by placing two surfboards, one after the other, on the sand. But in his last stretch to reach the table the sand shifts the board he is standing on, and tendrils reach up from the sand and infest his abdomen. He does not die, but he reaches the top of the table with horrendous injuries.

Since the partiers had the foresight to lock their cell phones in the car trunk (to prevent the evening’s festivities appearing on YouTube), they cannot phone for help. Fortunately Rex (Jamie Kennedy), the beach patrol commander, arrives in his patrol car, but he is a total shit head, and the kids tell him so. He does not believe their story about the sand until it devours him alive.

Eventually the sand gets everybody else except Kaylee and Chandra, and they make it to the patrol car, taking Jonah with them. At night the creature in the sand attacks again, this time with enormous octopus tentacles. Kaylee defeats the sand thing by pouring gasoline on it and  throwing in a book of lighted matches.

Come daylight another person drops by and raps on the window. Jonah is dead, and the sand is free of the menace. Another closing shot appears to be an aerial view of Santa Monica Pier. Wikipedia tells me the creature is revealed as a giant jellyfish, retreating back  to the ocean and in search of another beach full of people.

And that’s the plot. If the writers had wanted to stretch it they could have gotten into how the survivors explain what happened to all the others, but that would not have been much excitement. Wikipedia further calls attention to “Blood Beach – a 1981 film with a similar premise.” What we have is a great opportunity to ogle college girls in skimpy outfits and even some bare tits. That aside, the production could have done with better F/X. Depictions of people being consumed by the sand often employ some local image blurring, which we are supposed to assume is what it looks like when a human body dissolves. Sub par for a 21st century production. This was distributed by Taylor and Dodge.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

It’s sometimes nice watching a movie you’ve seen before. This is Rear Window, but it’s from 1998 instead of Rear Window from 1954. Sixty-four years ago Alfred Hitchcock hatched his plot with James Stewart as the action photographer laid up with a broken leg, whiling away his days watching his neighbors out the rear window of his Greenwich Village apartment. Now it’s Christopher Reeve as a quadriplegic architect in much the same situation. This is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

We see the opening scene, and we know exactly what is going to happen. A car is speeding down a dark and winding road. Oh, Jesus. Somebody stop this. But the plot cannot be rewritten, and the woman fumbles with her cell phone as her car drifts across the double yellow line.

Eventually that gets around to Jason Kemp (Reeve), a prisoner of his wheelchair while he is comforted by his ex-wife, worried about her alimony.

But Jason gains enough mobility to  resume work for his architectural firm, which work he accomplishes from  his apartment. He whiles away his down time watching his neighbors out his rear window.

His firm has hired a new partner to work with him to complete the project he had been working. She’s Claudia Henderson (Daryl Hannah), and she’s almost as sexy as Grace Kelly.

Just as 64 years ago, there is a married couple living across the air shaft, and they are continually fighting. He’s a sculptor, producing massive steel works in his adjacent studio. She’s a blond bombshell alcoholic. When he begins to knock her around, Jason phones 911. The police come and arrest the sculptor, but he bails out and returns to the apartment.

There is a dark and lonely night, and Jason, unable to sleep, hears screams and sees the flashes of light as lots of welding goes on across the way. The next morning the wife is gone. Yeah, you’ve seen this movie before. A portage company comes and hauls off a large steel sculptor.

Jason phones his policeman friend, the one who worked the case of his fatal collision. He is Detective Charlie Moore (Robert Forster), and he is skeptical of Jason’s suspicions. As 64 years before, he checks out the disappearance of the wife and reports back that she went off to Rhode Island for a few days. He phoned there and talked to her. Then she returns to the apartment, but much changed.

It’s not the same woman. Claudia is sure of it. When she left she did not take her jewelry and her perfume. What woman doesn’t do that? Almost word for word from Grace Kelly. So Jason stirs the pot, sending anonymous emails to the sculptor (Ritchie Coster). That gets things going, and in the absence of Raymond Burr, the sculptor pays Jason a visit in the middle of the night. He has in mind eliminating Jason as a witness.

But help arrives in the form of Jason’s caretaker Antonio Fredericks (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) and finally Detective Moore.

The sculptor goes to trial, but they have not been able to find the body, because they have not been able to find the sculpture. Then Jason’s building project is completed, and Claudia cuts the ribbon. The coverings fall back revealing, the sculpture.

Not so fast. They still do not find the body, and the case against the sculptor goes on without a corpus delicti. Meanwhile, Claudia has acquired an affinity for Jason, and they two get romantic, with the expectation that in the future modern medical science will enable their relationship to become physical.

The movie ends with the camera zooming in on what appears to be the sculpture of interest. The director wants to leave the mystery hanging.

This was Reeve’s first film after his 1995 crippling accident. He ultimately died from his injuries in 2004. Wendell Corey played the cop in Hitchcock’s film, and Thelma Ritter was dynamite as his caretaker.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

You knew it was coming sooner or later, and here it is: Escape From New York, the poster child for bad movies and now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. It’s by science fiction writer John Carpenter, and  it stars Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken, a hard-boiled former special forces guy turned bad and now headed for the slam. This came out in 1981 through AVCO Embassy Pictures. I will give just a few highlights.

It’s the bad new days, and America’s crime rate has soared 400%. The government response is naturally to construct a bigger stalag to hold them. They have chosen Manhattan Island, making viewers wonder why the idea took this long. The rule is, you go in, you never come out. The opposite shorelines are walled off and manned with guards carrying furious firepower. We see an escape attempt by boat thwarted through the use of air-to-ground missiles.

Snake is being prepped to enter the land of lost and forgotten men (and women).

But wait! Drama develops. The President’s plane is hijacked and flown into a Manhattan skyscraper. Remember,  you saw this plot device first here. Before impact the president, with a mysterious valise chained to his wrist, is ejected inside an escape pod, and the prisoners capture him alive.

Well, the government has to get him back, because in 24 hours he will participate in a conference that will save the world from nuclear annihilation, and the critical item is an audio tape the President carries inside the valise.

Snake lands a glider atop on of the World Trade Center towers and makes his way to the street below, where it’s Mad Max on steroids, which answers the question of whether this scene was stolen from Mel Gibson, or was it the other way around. It turns out that Gibson’s dystopic setting came later, in 1985, and so was possibly inspired by Escape. The two films share other plot devices.

Of course, Snake does not immediately confront the President’s captors and hustle him back to the land of the midnight nuclear attack. There has to be some excitement first. And there is. Snake runs into a litany of prior acquaintances, who persistently ask upon spying his face, “I thought you were dead.”

Possibly Mad Max producers got a load of their ideas from this movie. Here Snake is compelled to defeat the reigning ruffian in a gladiator fight to the death before a screaming mob of social outcasts.

But he wins the fight, rescues the President, and, with the help of others, including a cab driver played by Ernest Borgnine. He escapes across the heavily-mined 69th Street Bridge (originally designed for railroad traffic) and delivers the President and the tape, which was so desperately needed to save the world. The man, now cleaned up and re-suited, stands before the TV cameras and delivers his presentation. And he plays the tape. But Snake has substituted the right tape for one he found inside the escape cab, and the man can only stand and grimace as “Bandstand Boogie” belts out to his audience.

No bad deed ever goes unrewarded and Escape from L.A. came out in 1996, the year prior to the setting of this movie and with Russell again playing the role of escape artist.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Saw this one before. Must have been on TV, because I don’t have a copy. It’s now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. It’s Marathon Man from 1976, based on a novel of the same name by William Goldman. It’s from Paramount Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia. Here’s a quick overview.

Opening  titles show Thomas Babington “Babe” Levy (Dustin Hoffman) on a running trail, apparently along the Hudson River near Columbia University, since we soon learn he is a graduate history student there. The scene switches back and forth with a sequence showing an old German immigrant withdrawing a packet of something precious from a bank safety box. As he exits the bank he brushes up beside a man wearing a blue blazer, and he slips the packet into  the man’s hand, and the two go their separate ways. This movie is supposed to be a super suspense thriller, but it kicks off with grand comedy.

Mr. Szell (Ben Dova) gets into his car and shortly gets involved in a road rage tussle with an immigrant Jew. The exchange between the two involves racial slurs and some common German insults: “Gehen Sie zum Teufel!” (Go to the Devil or Go to hell). It ends when both drivers crash into a fuel truck and are incinerated. Babe, crossing a bridge on his run, observes the conflagration.

Cut to Babe’s brother, Henry “Doc” Levy (Roy Scheider), from all appearances a very shady operator. He is the person the late Mr. Szell passed the packet to. Anyhow, he’s now in Paris, up to something nefarious. He drops off the packet to another suspicious character, and he notices the man seems surprised to see him, alive. When he returns to his car a time bomb hidden in a baby carriage detonates near his car.

Things continue to unravel. He goes to the opera to for an agreed meeting with the suspicious man. When he gets to the specified opera box, he finds the man has been murdered. As he exits the opera he warns off a woman who is coming to  meet him. She disappears into the darkness and is apparently murdered. Back at his hotel room he kills another man who comes to murder him. Something is afoot.

He discusses the situation with his partner in suspense, Peter Janeway (William Devane).

Meanwhile, down Uruguay way, Dr. Christian Szell (Laurence Olivier), is the brother of the other, late, Mr. Szell. He changes his appearance in  preparation for coming to the United States. His brother’s death has made it necessary for him to be doing what his brother had been doing  for him.

Meanwhile, Babe’s fortunes improve. Researching in the school library (before Google), Babe spies a very interesting woman. She is stand-offish, but he pursues her to great success. She is Elsa Opel (Marthe Keller) from Switzerland.

Only she is not from Switzerland. Doc comes to New York to visit Babe at his apartment. Meanwhile Elsa and Babe have been attacked in Central Park by muggers wearing suits. Doc is most interested in this. The brothers also get into  a heated discussion of their father, who was a victim of the McCarthy witch-hunts and subsequently shot himself with a .45 Colt.

Doc treats Babe and Elsa to dinner at a swanky restaurant, where he quickly determines that Elsa is a phony. She is not from Switzerland, but from Germany.

Doc pays a visit to Dr. Szell, who is now in New York, his appearance disguised. He is der weiße Engel (the White Angel), a notorious Nazi fugitive who performed grotesque medical experiments on Jewish prisoners. In a face-to-face confrontation Dr. Szell guts Doc with a blade he hides in his sleeve. Doc makes it back to Babe’s apartment, mumbles a few words, and dies.

The police come. Janeway comes. The police leave with Doc’s body. Janeway questions Babe and warns him some people may come calling. Janeway will keep an eye out.

The people come while Babe is in the bathtub. As they work at breaking down the bathroom door we get to see Dustin Hoffman’s bare butt. Sorry, no screen shots.

They take Babe to visit Dr. Szell, who performs dental procedures without anesthetic as a way of obtaining the answer to that question that has burned for all time in our brains, “Is it safe.”

But Babe escapes, and he learns Janeway is in on the scheme. Here comes the part for the marathon runner as Babe outdistances Janeway down darkened Manhattan streets. He contacts Elsa, and she picks him up in a car, driving him to this house out in the middle of nowhere. Babe immediately suspects Elsa, and that suspicion proves to be true.

As they wait, Babe exhibits his father’s pistol, which he has kept all this time. Presently Janeway arrives in a car with two other gunmen. In a ridiculous standoff, Babe kills the two accomplices and rushes outside the house. Elsa makes a move, and Janeway shoots her dead. Babe blasts a few rounds through a window and kills Janeway. Now it’s just Babe against the evil Dr. Szell.

Szell has gone to the bank with the safety box key, and he has retrieved a passel of diamonds from the valult. He is now confronted with a mystery. He has been in the Uruguay outback since 1945, and he knows nothing about the jewelry business. He needs to find out what his treasure is worth. New York is the place to go. We see Szell visiting jewelers, apparently on 47th street, the city’s diamond market place. Unfortunately for Szell, these shops are run almost entirely by Jews, some of whom are Holocaust survivors.

One jeweler, a survivor, thinks he recognizes Szell from the concentration camp days. A woman on the street, played by Madge Kennedy, knows immediately he is der weiße Engel, and she runs down the street shouting this out. The jeweler comes out and confronts Szell, who slashes his throat with his famous sleeve knife.

But Babe has been stalking Szell, and he confronts  him on the sidewalk with his father’s pistol, saying “It isn’t safe.” He forces Szell to go with him to a city water plant, where there will be a final  showdown. Wary of any knife trick, Babe keeps his distance and names the price for Szell’s life. He takes the valise full of diamonds and tells Szell he can  keep all that he can swallow. He punctuates his demands by periodically tossing a few diamonds into the water.

But quickly Szell has had enough, and he is sure Babe will not shoot. Babe throws the remaining treasure into the water, and Szell tumbles down  the steel spiral stairs, falling on his own blade. We see Babe running along the Hudson, pausing to toss the pistol over the chain link fence, into the water.

Great suspense, mystery, action, drama—from beginning to end. However, there is no point to this narrative except to thrill viewers with suspense, mystery, action, and drama. Olivier was being treated for cancer while making this film. He obtained an Oscar nomination for performance, beat the cancer, and lived another 13 years. This was Ben Dova’s only film appearance. It was Madge Kennedy’s final film. She died 11 years later.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Here’s one from 1955, and it’s in color. It’s A Man Alone, starring Ray Milland and Mary Murphy. It also features Ward Bond and Raymond Burr, who was beginning to make a name for himself in films about that time, having been the wife killer the previous year in  Rear Window. The movie is currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. It’s from Republic Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening shots show a man alone (hence the title) in the desert, when his horse meets with an accident.

The man is Wes Steele (Milland), and he has the unpleasant task of shooting his crippled horse. That leaves the man alone and afoot in the desert with an empty canteen and a wad of cash stuffed in his shirt. Seeking to survive, he treks across the barren landscape until he happens upon the remains of a stagecoach holdup and massacre. A woman passenger and a man passenger have been shot dead. Likewise the driver and the woman’s small child. A strongbox that had contained cash is empty on the ground.

For some reason, not explained in the film, the man pulls the driver’s shotgun out of its scabbard and extracts two (apparently spent) shells. He replaces the shotgun. He takes for himself a canteen of water from  the coach, and he releases the trace horses, keeping one for himself. He rides the horse into the nearest town, leaving the other three horses to arrive ahead of him.

The three horses arriving alone stir some talk in the local saloon. The deputy sheriff wanders out into the darkened street to investigate while the man, who has just then arrived, is tying up his horse. In the darkness there is an excess of caution, and the deputy pulls his gun. The man, hearing the sound, pulls his piece. The deputy is wounded seriously in an exchange of fire, and the man seeks shelter in the darkened street.

The first place he finds an unlocked door is the local bank (or some other business). He lets himself in quietly, and eavesdrops as the stagecoach robbers discuss the day’s disastrous caper. The leader of the operation seems to  be a man known only as Stanley (Burr). His hired gunman named Clanton (Lee Van Cleef) describes the reason he had to kill all the passengers was the woman pulled off his mask and identified him. Their partner in crime, Luke Joiner (randon Rhodes) is aghast at the whole business and announces he wants to take his cut and get out of town. We know what this usually means in a criminal gang. There is only one way to deal with somebody who’s getting cold feet.

Steele, listening in the adjoining darkened room, makes a careless move and kicks a spittoon. Joiner goes into the room and fires off a shot. He is rewarded by two shots in the back from Clanton.

Steele makes his getaway in the dark and finds an unlocked cellar door. He lets himself in, and he hides behind the woodpile when a sweet young thing comes down the stairs. She is Nadine Corrigan (Murphy), and she is the sheriff’s (Ward Bond) daughter. The sheriff is in bed upstairs with yellow fever, which is why his deputy was the one taking the bullet earlier.

Steele hides out in the cellar overnight, and in the morning he reveals himself to Nadine. He shows his kinder side by helping her care for her ailing father. Over time an attraction develops.

Steele learns of Stanley, and he figures his gang was responsible for the massacre. One night he sneaks out and confronts Stanley, intending to stomp his ass into the ground.

That he does, leaving Stanley for dead. But Clanton spots him on the street and follows him back to the sheriff’s house. Soon a vigilante mob gathers, demanding Steele be turned over for hanging.

But in the meantime, Nadine has overheard delirious mumblings from her father, and she figures he has been covering for the gang of bandits. She examines her father’s books and spots suspicious wealth.

The sheriff, now recovered, wants to turn Steele over to the mob. Nadine convinces him he must do something honorable to atone, so he spirits Steele out of town in the dead of night, taking him into the desert and pointing the way to escape. Then he returns to the town to face his own justice.

The town’s people turn on him and proceed to string him up. But we know that Steele is not the kind of man to cover his own ass and leave somebody else to swing.

Before the noose can be tightened, Steele appears on the street and orders the Sheriff released. Steele tells the town’s people of Stanley’s complicity in the past string of robberies and in the massacre. Stanley and his men take refuge in the saloon, and one of  the gang volunteers to go out and mediate. Once on the street the man gives up Stanley, informing the people that Stanley is the ring leader. Canton shoots him in the back.

That triggers a gunfight in the saloon, where Steele kills Clanton and another gang member. The sheriff enters and arrests Stanley. He leads Stanley out into the street, prepared to face his own justice. Steele allows as how he will stay on in the town, and the movie ends there in the street with Nadine and Steele in a loving embrace.

And the plot is much too contrived. It has the stamp of Ray Milland, who directed it, all over—a story of fall  and redemption, pulling memories of The Lost Weekend, for which he earned an Oscar. The year before this movie he arranged the murder of his wife in Dial M for Murder, Late one night decades ago, I caught The Thief on TV, a film that has no dialog. I swear, that night I watched this from beginning to end without blinking, waiting for somebody to say something. That’s the kind of stuff Milland was famous for.

Of course, Raymond Burr went on to become more famous as Ironside, playing the title role in the long-running TV series.

The year before, Mary Murphy appeared in The Wild One with Marlon Brando, becoming famous for asking, “What are you rebelling against?” (“What’ve you got?”). She was Fredric March‘s daughter in The Desperate Hours, also starring Humphrey Bogart. Ward Bond finished up his career five years later as the wagon master in Wagon Train on TV.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

It’s been more than two years since I signed up for Amazon Prime Video, priming myself to catch a few old movies I have not seen in decades. There are two I have been especially on the lookout for, one being Working Girl, starring Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford. This one is Baby Boom, with Diane Keaton and Sam Shepard. It came out in 1987 from United Artists. Screen shots are from Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

The title is, of course, from the period following the end of World War Two. A bunch of people put off procreating during the war—besides, a few million American males were off fighting Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo, and they weren’t getting much nookie. When the soldiers came home, and the wartime economic sanctions ended, people began making up for lost time. The result was the Baby Boom, a population explosion that is only now subsiding.

However, this is a different story. It’s about feminism in the work place, where, 30 years ago at least, women were finding their way into the work place, even the upper reaches. This story is loaded with lessons about conflicting career with family. Men, of course, are excepted from this conundrum. As one male character in the story—the big boss—says, he can have it all. He works a never-ending treadmill, creating wealth and moving into the business stratosphere. Meanwhile, his faithful (we hope) wife is managing his living side—home, community, children. He may not actually know how many children he has.

J.C. Wiatt (Keaton) is a woman who believes she can have it all. She is a human dynamo, a high-level management consultant at an upper west side Manhattan concern. She is often referred to as “Tiger Lady.”

Her love life is as structured and as spare as one of her management reports. She lives, unmarried, with an investment broker. Their sexual encounters are unspontaneous and brief. Her life is about to change.

J.C. is on track for partnership and is given to opportunity to haul in a massive food distribution company as a client. Then a phone call arrives in  the middle of the night, and the next morning she is at the airport to take delivery on the inheritance from a distant cousin. It’s a baby, Elizabeth (Kristina & Michelle Kennedy), and J.C. is the only surviving  heir.

Truth be, Elizabeth is a huge water balloon dropped into the midst of J.C.’s career prospects. Here is a woman who barely has time for a roll in the hay with her boyfriend, and Elizabeth is going to suck up every second of J.C.’s spare time and also carve a gaping hole in her career prospects. Realizing the only way to avoid drowning in this whirlpool, J.C. decides her salvation requires dumping dear Elizabeth onto somebody else.

The adoption papers J.C. signed give her the option of shedding this sweet child through adoption. At the critical moment, J.C.’s iron will caves to her humanity. She sees the kind of soulless parents about to take Elizabeth off to Minnesota, and she reneges on the deal. Elizabeth is going to be hers forever.

Of course, that sinks J.C.’s career. Although she snags the fat and juicy client, her boss back-shelves her and gives the account to a back-stabbing subordinate. J.C. responds by purchasing a Vermont country home and taking Elizabeth to live in the upper reaches.

We all know that is not going to work out. The country estate turns out to be a money pit, purchased well above market value. J.C.’s woes come to a head when the local handyman announces her well, the place’s sole source of water, has run dry. Here she loses it completely, going into a rage, and collapsing face up in the snow.

When she wakes she is looking into the wise and kind face of Dr. Jeff Cooper. Dr. Cooper’s warm and caring manner decompresses J.C., and she unloads all her troubles on him, including her lack of sex for the past six months. Only then does she discover Dr. Cooper is a veterinarian, not an M.D. She is so furious at this humiliating herself, that she vents her rage on Cooper, subsequently rebuffing all his attempts at friendship and more.

But, during the time before Vermont turned into a vast snowfield, J.C. has amused herself by harvesting the estate’s generous crop of apples. Now, with nothing left to do in the winter, she gins up a formula for gourmet apple sauce for Elizabeth. Then she realizes a business opportunity and begins to market gourmet baby food. Using her deep marketing skills, J.C. launches Country Baby, which quickly becomes a market challenge.

Meanwhile, romance is building with Dr. Cooper, and J.C.’s sex-free life comes to an end. This spiritual bliss is intruded upon by a phone call from her previous employer. The giant food distributor wants to purchase Country Baby, and J.C. drives back to New York City to look over the offer. It is grand beyond compare. $3.5 million cash purchase price, plus a juicy position for J.C. in the corporation with perks that would make Donald J. Trump salivate.

And she turns it all down. She drives back to Vermont, back to Elizabeth, back to setting her own pace, far from the towers and canyons of Manhattan, and back to the bed of Dr. Jeff Cooper. We know as the end titles roll that another baby boom is in the making.

What a sweet story, but there is a lot that’s wrong with the story. Some enumeration:

  1. J.C. Wiatt is supposed to be a top-of-the-class business executive, yet opening scenes reveal a school girl response to  being offered a partnership. Whatever happened to  Tiger Lady?
  2. She meets the envoy from London, bringing Elizabeth into the country, and she signs the transfer papers without reading them and not realizing she is taking charge of a baby. Does a hard-nosed business person ever miss fine details such as these?
  3. We watch in dismay as J.C. fumbles again and again as she attempts, in  vain, to manage the baby and her career. Any working parent standing on the sidelines could have advised her, hire a qualified governess right now. Instead, we see J.C., famous for requiring subordinates to cancel social plans and work through the weekend, needlessly sacrificing attention to her work in order to personally manage Elizabeth. To be sure, this is a major part of the story. It’s a real life woman, an actual human being, whose parenting instincts come immediately to  the surface when faced with the circumstances.
  4. She purchases this estate out in Vermont, sight unseen. Can anybody believe this? I’m a fumbling engineer, but I would never make a major purchase such as this without a first-hand look and a professional appraisal.
  5. I watched the progress of time. The story starts during the summer when Elizabeth enters as a one-year-old baby. Then there is the first winter in Vermont. Then there is spring, as we see the apple trees blossoming again. Then there is another apple harvest, which takes us to another autumn. Now J.C. starts her company. Now we see the company growing. Time must be passing by. And Elizabeth does not seem to get that much older. Elizabeth was played by twin girls over a 5-month shoot. Anybody who has watched a daughter grow up will recognize the time warp that intrudes into this plot.

Anyhow, this is a nice morality play. The real things in life are those that are close to the heart, and as an engineer I use the word “heart” figuratively.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

One man’s meat is another man’s poison. I’ve heard that before. It means what might be good for one person is not so good for another. This is Another Man’s Poison, It’s from 1951, and it features Bette Davis and Gary Merrill in the lead roles. As usual, I’m getting these screen shots from Amazon Prime Video, where it’s currently streaming. Angel Productions cranked this one out. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s a set-piece drama.

The film rolls, and we see a woman walking. Rather, we see the woman’s feet and legs. She walks and walks, all the way through the title sequence. She comes to a railway station at night somewhere in Yorkshire, England. A steam locomotive is puffing to a stop as the woman enters a public phone booth and places a call. She’s Janet Frobisher (Davis).

She is phoning Larry Stevens (Anthony Steel), who really cannot talk right at this moment, because he is with somebody else, Chris Dale (Barbara Murray). We are later going to find out that Chris is Janet’s secretary, and Larry is Chris’s fiancée and at the same time Janet’s secret lover. Janet asks Larry to come over to her house right away. This is going to get interesting.

As Janet finishes her suspicious phone call, the local veterinarian, Dr. Henderson (Emlyn Williams), intrudes and asks some embarrassing questions. Such as, why did Janet walk nearly a mile from her house to place a phone call.

Henderson gives Janet a lift home in  his war surplus Jeep. Inside, Janet fines she has an unexpected visitor. It’s George Bates (Merrill), until then unknown to Janet, but a recent accomplice with Janet’s husband in a bank heist that went wrong. He insists on seeing her husband. Unfortunately that is not possible at the moment, since Janet just minutes previous murdered her husband by allowing him to drink poison. Hence the title.

Yes, we now get down to the substance of this plot and it proceeds from  there. George’s idea is to dispose of the husband’s body in the local pond and then to assume his identity, since nobody in the neighborhood has ever met the husband. Janet resists, but George can be very persuasive, threatening blackmail.

Over the next few days their lives are swept up in a whirlwind of intrusive characters and also back-biting. Larry and Chris arrive, Chris to stay, since she lives in the house. Henderson contrives all manner of reasons to return to the house, and he expresses opinions about the identity of Janet’s new-found husband.

George lusts for Janet, Larry lusts for Janet, all the while stringing Chris along. Things get acrimonious. Janet has a beloved horse, and George takes the animal out for a ride in the rain against Janet’s wishes. He shoots the horse out of spite, claiming the horse broke his leg. Henderson arrives with the news the horse’s only injury was a pistol bullet in the head. Henderson departs, leaving his surplus Jeep at Janet’s house. The brakes have gone out completely.

Larry and Chris have it out, and Chris departs, moving out of the house. Larry goes after her. Janet has a plan. She convinces George to go after Chris and to take the Jeep. Of course the Jeep crashes, but George is only injured. He is now very hostile.

All seems to be finished for Janet, and she prepares to drink the poison she gave her husband.

Then she has another idea. George is about to depart and to blow the whole matter sky high. Janet proposes they have a farewell drink. We know where this is going. But George is suspicious, and he refuses the drink Janet offers. Instead he pours himself a shot from the fatal flask.

Henderson arrives, informing he knew all along about the subterfuge. When Janet’s husband arrived he gave him a lift to the house. He has always been aware the husband is not George.

Janet is distraught and suffers a collapse. Henderson gives her a drink, from the flask.

And that’s the end of the movie. It’s 90 minutes of fabricated melodrama, and after watching this through I was never able to figure out why Janet walked to the train station to make the phone call. She should have had plenty of privacy at home, since she had just killed her husband. A bunch does not make sense.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is currently streaming on Hulu, and I avoided watching it, because I knew what it was going to be about. It’s Parkland, from 2013, produced in part by Tom Hanks through American Film Company
Playtone, and distributed by Exclusive Media Group. The screen shots are from Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

Parkland, as everybody who lived in Dallas knows, stands for Parkland Memorial Hospital, the Dallas County hospital. It’s the public service hospital for the county, where you go if you’re having a baby, and you can’t afford medical care. It’s supported by a county-wide tax, but people from neighboring counties make use of the facility. It’s where they took President Kennedy when he was shot a few blocks away in November 1963. And that’s what this story is about, but not all the events take place there.

22 November 1963 dawns like any other day, much as did 7 December 1941 and 11 September 2001. People are going about their business, not realizing that shortly their lives are going to be upended. Dr. Charles James Carrico (Zac Efron) is preparing to start his day as resident, meaning the go-to doctor of the day. He is soon to receive the most important patient in the world.

Everybody knows that President Kennedy will be in Dallas this Friday. People are making preparations. The President has spent the night in Fort Worth, about 35 miles to the west. He will fly into  Dallas Love Field in the lat morning and will tour through downtown about noon.

Among those getting ready is Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), who has his 8mm movie camera and is looking for an elevated spot to get a good view.

The plot move quickly, and Mr. Zapruder watches through his viewfinder as the history of the 20th century pivots. The stricken President is driven directly to Parkland.

Shocked at seeing the most important person on the planet lying, likely already dead, on his operating table, Dr. Carrico has to be coaxed to commence the fruitless task. We see the awful conclusion as Jackqueline Kennedy reacts to the fatal pronouncement.

Everybody already knows the main plot, but this film dwells on the back story, the people not in the news that day. As news announcements disclose that Lee Harvey Oswald has been arrested after murdering a cop in south Dallas (Oak Hill), his brother Robert (James Badge Dale) hears the news at work. He leaves immediately, his life in Dallas at an end.

Reaction to the murder among law enforcement officials is swift and wrought with recrimination. Lee Oswald had been a known trouble maker, and nobody had been able to prevent his getting at the President.

Law enforcement is about to be further embarrassed, as Oswald is murdered while in police custody. Dr. Carrico loses the second most important patient on the planet.

The following Monday a state funeral is held for President Kennedy, with the symbolic empty saddle and burial at Arlington Cemetery. Robert is left to bury his brother in a donated grave site. No pallbearers are available, and news photographers volunteer. As Robert begins the task of shoveling dirt over Lee’s coffin, workers standing by pitch in to help.

It is all over, and the world goes on.

The seamy underside of the historic event is played out.

Government officials prepare to load the President’s body onto Air Force One, but the county coroner objects. The law requires an autopsy before the body can  be released. This is a murder case. The Secret Service has the guns, and the coroner is overruled, this following a physical struggle.

Abraham Zapruder realizes he has world history inside his camera, and he takes it to the Dallas Morning News. They realize they can’t develop the 8mm, so they recommend the Kodak lab north of Love Field, a place I have used. The lab does not normally process 8mm, but the task is assigned to a specialist at the lab, who develops the film, making copies for Zapruder, the Secret Service, and the FBI. Zapruder is immediately set upon by hoards of media outlets, bidding for the priceless cargo. He ignores the ringing of his phone until he finally picks it up. Life magazine is calling, and he grants them an audience, because he respects the publication. As Zapruder, in his office at work, sets conditions for use of the images (no shots of the President’s head exploding from the impact of a bullet), people outside his office are pounding on the door and slipping offers in writing under the door.

We see Robert visiting his brother in jail and speaking to him by phone through a glass partition. Afterward the police wonder what was said. It is not realistic such a conversation would have been private.

The police advise Robert to move away from Dallas and to change his name, which he does.

Lee Oswald’s mother is shown as a shrewish bitch, convinced Lee is innocent and the victim of a conspiracy. She boasts of the expected wealth to come her way from her son’s notoriety, this before Lee is murdered.

Some historical accuracy is lacking. An account published shortly after tells of the scene in the Parkland emergency room. The doctor worked on Kennedy’s frontal injuries before turning the body over. He saw the massive head wound and only then realized it was “incompatible with life.” The film does not show this bit.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I keep going back to Amazon Prime Video—where I obtained these screen shots—for Bad Movie selections. This one is from 1940 by Monogram Pictures. The video stream shows a United Artists logo before the titles roll. It’s Phantom of Chinatown, and it stars Keye Luke as James Lee Wong, ace criminal investigator. Naturally the setting is in San Francisco.

The movie opens at Southern University, which gave me some pause, because I had never seen the words ‘southern’ and ‘San Francisco’ in the same sentence. However, Google offered up this link. Famed archaeologist Dr. Benton (Charles F. Miller) has just returned from an expedition to Mongolia, and he’s giving a lecture on his findings. Viewers are initially treated to a travelogue movie of the trip.

As Dr. Benton explains, the object of the expedition was a lost tomb, and his party, enduring great hardship, was successful. Dr. Benton opened the ancient sarcophagus and discovered within a mystery scroll, which he tucked into his jacket and concealed from the others. He is now prepared to discuss the scroll.

Before he can do that he takes a drink of water from a pitcher beside the dais, and he collapses and dies. He has been  poisoned. This is bad news for Dr. Benton’s attractive daughter, Louise (Virginia Carpenter), seen here schmoozing with her boyfriend Tommy Dean (Robert Kellard). New to the party is detective Wong. He is going to  get interested in the case.

We also meet Dr. Benton’s assistant, Win Lee (Lotus Long). She later turns out to secretly be an employer of the Chinese government. San Francisco Police Captain Street (Grant Withers) heads up the official investigation.

This movie runs about one hour, so there is not much story that can get packed into it. To sum up, the scroll reveals the location of an eternal flame, its eternity being due to a huge oil deposit, a source of great promise for the emerging Chinese nation. After much lurking about and throwing of knives and bonking people on the head, Wong and Street concoct a ruse to flush out the perpetrators.

The scroll has long been destroyed, but an image on film is recovered, and that is all that will be necessary. Win Lee prepares to take the documentation back to China, and James Lee Wong prepares to accompany her, for purposes of foreign relations.

Acting is amateurish; often the players seem to be reading their lines off a story board. A 21st century TV production company could have turned this into something that would raise your blood pressure. The past 78 years have not been wasted.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This one has been streaming on Hulu for several weeks, and I’ve been ignoring it, because I saw it decades ago. I once had a VHS copy. I wasn’t keen on watching it again, because it is way too sweet, but this is Bad Movie Wednesday, so here it goes. It’s Regarding Henry, featuring  Harrison Ford in the title role. It’s from Paramount Pictures in 1991, so everybody was a lot younger then. Screen shots are courtesy of Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

Henry Turner is a cut-throat lawyer working for a cut-throat law firm, and we see him winning his last court case. He defends a hospital against a Mr. Matthews, who we can surmise received careless treatment. The hospital contends Matthews never advised staff he was diabetic, resulting in injuries for which that institution is being sued. Henry convinces the jury that, despite counter claims, the problem lies with the plaintiff and not with his client. Henry and his law office fellows celebrate with a nice dinner that evening.

Henry is not a nice man. He is stern abrupt, and domineering at the office and much the same at home. We see him reprimanding his sweet daughter Rachel (Mikki Allen) before going out to dinner.

Henry’s life turns 180° after dinner when he steps out to the local convenience store for some cigarettes. He walks in on an armed robbery in progress and gets gunned down.

One of the shots hits an artery, and Henry suffers irreparable brain damage. Recover is going to be slow and improbable. In the rehab center he meets physical therapist Bradley (Bill Nunn), the man who is going to save his life.

A good part of the movie depicts Bradley working diligently and gradually pulling Henry back from the brink.

Then Henry is back home with his lovely wife Sarah (Annette Bening), and they re-engage with their high-flying friends. A lapse of caution reveals the insincerity and shallowness of their erstwhile friends, and Henry and Sarah withdraw into their own world.

The two resurrect their former love for each other.

Back at his law firm, Henry reviews the Matthews case and realizes his team withheld evidence that substantiates the defendant’s claim. At home Henry discovers a love note his business partner previously sent to Sarah and realizes the two had been going at it behind his back. A former lover at the law firm discloses to Henry they, too, had been messing around. Henry delivers the crucial evidence to Matthews, and when he returns to his law office to say goodbye a call comes in from Matthews’ lawyer.

Henry reconciles with Sarah, and they drive up the the swanky boarding school where they previously parked their daughter, and they take her home. The three are going to be a family again.

And that is really too sweet.

The movie starts with a real shocker, as we see the star player getting shot in the head and the chest. We’re thinking this is going to be a short movie.

Then there is the rehabilitation, which seems  a bit strange. Henry starts out unable to speak and barely able to move. Bradley goads him on, putting hot sauce on his breakfast eggs to get a reaction out of him. From that point on Henry’s recovery is remarkably swift, barely months later he can stroll down Manhattan streets on his own.

After his injury Henry loses all memory of people. He has to learn everybody’s name. His daughter has to teach him how to read again. Yet he recalls the Matthews case and has the appropriate file pulled. He seems to recall the essential  elements of legal practice. That is amazing.

It is really not clear why Henry’s law firm accepts him back when it’s obvious he will not be able to  practice law. Most likely a law review board somewhere would want to examine him before they allow him to represent clients again.

Henry’s law partner sent Sarah a love note, and she kept it around for Henry to find in the apartment. Dudettes, this is an absolute no-no.

We saw Bening five years later as the President’s girlfriend in The American President, where she was absolutely stunning, turning in a stellar performance. A lot of cold water had to be thrown on Indiana Jones to get Henry Turner for this movie. There is a long stretch during which we wonder if he’s going to get a speaking part.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

No problem finding a bad movie of the week. Amazon Prime Video, source of these screen shots, is ever reliable. This one is Charlie Chan and the Curse of the Dragon Queen from American Cinema Productions in  1981. Wikipedia has the cast of characters:

So I watched this through, and I got the impression somebody said, “These actors’ careers are about shot anyhow, so let’s put them all together in one motion picture and seal their doom right now.” Hey, the titles are worth a look.

Charlie Chan is, of course, the fabled police detective from Honolulu, famously portrayed over 70 years ago by Sydney Toler, who picked up the role after Warner Oland had carried it for a few episodes. Very few of the movies featured Chan in his home town, San Francisco being the primary setting.

A preamble features a black and white clip, as from one of the early episodes, showing Chan putting away the infamous Dragon Queen. Fast forward, and now Chan is a grandfather, and his grandparent-in-law is the fabulously wealthy Mrs. Lupowitz. Here the wheelchair-bound butler Gillespie delivers the daily newspaper featuring a story about the most recent bizarre murder case.

The plot is really a succession of comedy skits that recapitulate the stereotypes of the original Chan movies. Charlie Chan’s number one son is replaced now by his number one grandson, living with his grandmother and eager to become a famous detective like his grandfather.

He is the number one son many times over, outdoing the original in personifying the definition of “maladroit.” Here he strolls down a Chinatown street, leaving behind a wake of chaos and destruction.

And we meet the great Chan, exiting a police helicopter and being greeted by his grandson, at the very moment tripping a host of news reporters, who fall one after the other into the bay.

Another bizarre murder. At a nightclub a mysterious hand pours a drink into the horn of an electric saxophone, spectacularly electrocuting the musician. The lights go out, and when they come back on, all the patrons, the suspects, have disappeared.

Gag skits follow. An outing at a riding stable devolves into a wild chase involving horse drawn carriages, people on horses, a police car, various cars colliding on a highway, and ending with the police car launching off a bluff, landing on the beach, and motoring into the surf. The Dragon Queen makes her getaway driving her stolen carriage along the beach.

Of course it all comes to  a head as Chan explains to the collected characters who the real killer is.

And it’s a real shocker.

Running time is 97 minutes. Surely you can spare that much.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

After Tom Hanks made Splash and became famous for Bachelor Party and The Man with One Red Shoe, he went on to star in classics like Turner & Hooch and The Bonfire of the Vanities. Then suddenly he was at the top of the heap after scoring the best actor Oscar two years in a row with Philadelphia and Forrest Gump. About that time I figure he made a bet, something like, “If I don’t get the Oscar for Apollo 13, then I promise to sign up for any number of wacky movies you want me to do. But first I have to do Saving Private RyanThe Green Mile, and Road to Perdition.” Recently the winner of that bet appears to be calling in his marker, because we have seen Hanks star in such downers as The Circle (previously reviewed) and now this one, A Hologram for the King, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. This came out two years ago, almost to the day, released through Lionsgate. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

I am not going to regurgitate the plot, just explain some of the movie to let you know what you’re in store for if you decide to watch. The intro shows Hanks explaining modern life. Everything you thought would be guaranteed turns out to be illusionary. You get what life deals you.

What life deals Alan Clay (Hanks) is a dead-end assignment to sell a high-tech presentation tool to the Saudi government. Never is culture shock more brutally presented than when Clay wakes up late in his Jeddah hotel room, having missed his ride to the site of the sales presentation, a desolate camp miles out in the desert, where the fabulously rich Saudis are constructing a city of one million people from scratch. Out on the street in front of his hotel he is obviously the odd man out.

But Clay is, if nothing, self-reliant and  resourceful, and he engages a local driver, Yousef (Alexander Black), to be his guide. The adventure begins.

Out at the remote site he finds his staff already ensconced in a stadium-sized tent, remote from the main building and lacking the basics: food, water, Internet connectivity. He strives to bring things together, successfully, but all the while enduring what is obviously a royal run-around.

His problems worsen as he discovers a prominent cyst on his spine.

That brings him into contact with a sharp-looking doctor, Zahra (Sarita Choudhury), who treats him and removes the cyst in surgery. Clay is divorced, and Zahra is in the process of divorcing her husband. Things get interesting.

The plot drifts a bit as Yousef becomes convinced he is being targeted by a wealthy adversary and needs to retreat to his home territory, far from other civilization. Clay tags along. This adventure includes being challenged by a local jihadi, who becomes convinced Clay works for the CIA. There is also an episode that involves stalking wolves at night with a sniper’s rifle. Soon the main plot is rejoined.

Due to Clay’s management skills the sales demonstration goes off flawlessly, and the king is impressed.

Previously Clay has explained how he worked for Schwinn in America, where he sought to reduce production costs by moving manufacturing operations to China. Unfortunately the Chinese copied his company’s designs and started producing their own bicycles at a fraction of the cost.  Now the Chinese win this contract, bringing the project in at half the price and with a shorter schedule.

Clay ends up in bed with the doctor and begins a new career in Jeddah, where he is going to spend a whole bunch of time with his new love.

I’m not going to diagnose the plot further. If you enjoy a tale of frustration and redemption, then you may want to  give it a look. It’s based on the book of the same name by Dave Eggers. the Kindle edition is $12 plus tax.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Today’s Bad Movie of the Week comes from Hulu, where it is now streaming and where I obtained these screen shots. From 1957 it is The Tall Stranger, starring Joel McCrea and Virginia Mayo. It’s based on a novel of the same name by Louis L’Amour, and I will get back to that matter later. I’m fairly sure I did not see this in the Palace Theater three blocks from where I grew up. I must have been trying to get past Algebra II or something at the time. The film was released through Allied Artists. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

This is going to be your typical western movie with settlers moving west and ranchers resisting settlers and both fighting Indians. You know there’s going to be some gun play. I’m fairly sure there is not a L’Amour tale that does not involve somebody getting shot. That includes the main character, Ned Bannon (MCrea), shown here alone in the wilderness and wondering about a noise coming from over the ridge. He is tall, hence the title. Both he and his horse are about to get shot. The horse dies.

So, the bushwhackers are likely rustling some cattle, and they leave Ned alone to die beside his horse. Ned does not get a good look at the shooter, his vision is blurred from loss of blood. But as the bad guy, known as Zarata (Michael Ansara) stops by to empty Ned’s canteen, he can’t help noticing the man’s spiffy boots and spurs and his gold-plated repeater rifle.

Anyhow, Ned gets found by some settlers coming through in their wagons, heading toward California. He is cared for by sumptuous Ellen (Mayo), who does not seem appropriately dressed for the trail.

Ned warns the settlers they are headed for trouble, because their next encounter is going to be Bishop’s Valley, where his estranged half-brother Hardy Bishop holds sway, notoriously averse to interlopers. However, two men, Harper (George N. Neise) and Purcell, who have inserted themselves into the wagon train, assure the settlers there is no such concern. They can pass right through Bishop’s Valley and continue west to California through a trail that has recently been opened. They strongly contradict Ned, who is from the region and knows of no such trail. Ned gets expelled from the wagon train.

We later learn that Harper figures to set the settlers against Bishop and his ranch hands. Secretly Zarata and his band are lined up to assist Harper in finishing off any survivors of the battle. Harper aims to scoop up the entire valley for himself.

Harper is forewarned of his half-brother’s arrival, and he prepares a loaded repeater rifle as welcome. However, the two wind up scuffling instead of shooting it out. Ned warns Harper of the trouble coming and offers to mediate.

Things get interesting when Zarata spies Ellen taking a bath in the creek, and he likes what he sees. He aims to  take what he sees, but Ned intervenes and observes that Zarata is the one who with the spiffy spurs and the gold-plated rifle. Zarata’s henchman gets killed in the ensuing shootout, but he gets back to his gang and prepares to take on  the ranchers.

There’s a terrific gun battle at the Bishop ranch. A handful of ranch hands get killed, but Ned and Harper turn the tables, and Zarata’s gang gets wiped out. Harper is fatally shot, but he strangles Zarata before he dies.

Ned advises the settlers to stay in the valley, and he rides off to catch up with Ellen, heading toward the Humboldt Trail in her wagon.

Yeah, it’s a formula Louis L’Amour story, only it is not the Louis L’Amour story. I have a Kindle edition of the book, and there is nothing about Ned riding alone in the wilderness and getting bushwhacked. The book mentions run-ins with Indians, but there are no Indians in the movie. There is no Zarata in the book. There is the half-brother, and there are settlers in wagons, and there is a conflict, but the rest is fluff installed by script writer Christopher Knopf.

If you don’t have a Hulu account, you can watch for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4L0PhwEkk_s.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I watched this stream on Netflix last year, but I did not have a copy for review. It is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s Eye in the Sky from 2016 out of Entertainment One and Raindog Films. It’s about drone warfare, and it wants you to think through the morality of remote control combat. We shall see.

The war is in Nairobi in Kenya, where some terrorists are making plans to carry out a suicide bomb attack within the city. We see a dusty neighborhood where life struggles for normality despite a desperate tension barely beneath the surface. Here we see a father, Musa Mo’Allim (Armaan Haggio), prepare a hula hoop for his daughter Alia (Aisha Takow). Due to her unquestioned innocence, she is  to be the plot’s central theme, the collateral sacrifice in the pursuit of a higher goals.

It is  morning, and a Reaper (Predator) drone is overhead, monitoring the activities of a terrorist group in Alia’s neighborhood, a poor section of this major city

Thousands of miles away in England the sun is just coming up, and a woman prepares for a day at work. She is “Colonel Katherine Powell, a UK military intelligence officer” (Helen Mirren). This scene is pivotal in portraying an aspect of modern war. Increasingly war is not up close and personal.

The Reaper relentlessly flies its mission, possibly unnoticed by those on the ground.

The center of attention is a particular room in a particular building in Alia’s neighborhood. Inside the room combatants in an unsymmetrical war are preparing to strike at their enemy, which is assumed to be Western style civilization. A man sits for a martyr’s video, which will be dispensed after he has completed his deadly mission.

Outside in the adjacent streets, counter forces are quietly marshaled. Jama Farah (Barkhad Abdi) is an undercover Kenyan NIS agent monitoring events close up. Not explained is why Kenyan government forces cannot move in and neutralized the growing threat. We see Jama constantly in danger of being comprised by the gang of insurgents who permeate the area.

Tiny drones with audio and video capability penetrate the terrorists’ complex and obtain information that turns the mission from the capture of two operatives to interdiction with prejudice of the suicide bombing.

The film emphasizes the dispersion of command and control and also the attached bureaucracy involved. Disparate locations involved in the operation include an American base in Nevada and various other points on the globe where official approval must come from traveling officials. The need to observe strict niceties of killing produces a mad scramble to cross all the ‘t’s and to dot all the ‘i’s before an innocent girl’s life is put in jeopardy.

Tension builds as Alia takes loaves of bread her mother has baked and sells them in the street adjacent to the drone target. When Jama attempts to resolve the situation by purchasing her remaining loaves, it only encourages Alia, who brings more bread from home.

The final scenes show the targeting reticle centered on the bomber’s room as Alia completes her last sale and prepares to depart. The Hellfire missile strikes the building, flinging parts into the air and upending the white car. Alia’s small body is crushed by the debris, and she dies shortly after in a hospital. The bomber thread has been neutralized, hundreds of innocent Kenyan citizens have been saved, and modern warfare has done its job.

The obvious theme is the impersonality of modern warfare, and underlying that is the perception of drone attacks as somehow unsporting. In olden days fighting men faced each other with clubs and axes. Then smarter men figured that placing a point on the end of a long stick allowed them to kill the enemy while remaining beyond the swing of the ax. Spears and then arrows proved even better. Then came the gun, fired from the hand or the shoulder or launching deadly projectiles from miles away. Aircraft introduced an entirely new dimension to remote killing. First came bombs dropped from airships, then attacks with guns and bombs from airplanes. The atomic bomb, later coupled with the guided missile, today disconnects the assailant completely from his target. Modern missiles mean there is no more “going downtown.” Still the drone is viewed by some as a criminal instrument of war. The movie wants to remind us of that.

Beyond that, the movie takes some liberties, the destruction of the terrorists’ hideout being one of them. The drone fires a Hellfire missile into the house. The Hellfire has at most an 18-pound warhead. Yet we see a car parked outside the house being flipped in the air. No. Just no.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, it’s Amazon Prime Video again, where I obtained these screen shots. From England in 1951 it’s The Quiet Woman, starring Derek Bond and Jane Hylton. Details are from Wikipedia, which lists Tempean Films as the distributor.

It’s a simple enough story, with some pathos. Here we see smugglers putting in at the Channel coast near Rye, almost in sight of France. They are ex naval officer Duncan McLeod (Bond) and his former shipmate Lefty Brown (Michael Balfour), and they are expecting a friendly reception, which they are not about to receive.

Their goal is The Quiet Woman Inn, hence the name of the movie, turning out to be redundant.

The inn is just that day being taken over by quiet woman Jane Foster (Hylton), and Duncan is surprised when he unlocks the back door to store the booty. You can tell the two are going to end up being a  match.

Lefty goes for Jane’s bar keep Elsie (Dora Bryan). It’s the formula element in a formula plot.

But Duncan is not a full time smuggler. That’s only a hobby, which he now abandons when it becomes apparent Jane does not approve. He is a full time artist, and he hires Helen (Dianne Foster) to come out to the coast to model for a painting he is doing. Only it wasn’t Jane he hired but somebody else. Jane has inserted herself into the position, hoping to insert herself back into Duncan’s life. We soon see she is the ultimate schemer. Here Duncan gifts a painting to his war-time pal Bromley (John Horsley) as Helen looks on. During the war Duncan saved Bromley’s life, incurring a loyalty that plays into the plot. Bromley has come to  stay at the inn while he seeks suspected smugglers in the region.

The plot turns. Jane goes for a swim in the Channel and makes it out to Duncan’s boat. From  the shore a stranger watches as Duncan helps Jane into  the boat and offers her a towel. The stranger steals Jane’s clothing.

The stranger turns out to be Jane’s husband-turned-criminal James Cranshaw (Harry Towb) in his screen debut. He has escaped from Dartmoor Prison, and he is forcing Jane to help him escape. Here he menaces Elsie with a pistol.

Duncan, learning of Jane’s plight, attempts to assist by spiriting Cranshaw across the Channel to France, not knowing the fuzz have been alerted and that French authorities are waiting on the other side. Mid-Channel Cranshaw brandishes the gun when Duncan’s enthusiasm wanes. They struggle, and both go into the water.

But Lefty arrives in another boat and rescues Duncan. Not so fortunate for Cranshaw, as the last thing he sees in this life is an errant boat bearing down on him in the water.

Cranshaw’s body heading back to England on Lefty’s boat, Duncan pulls in to dock to find Jane waiting for him. It’s a storybook ending, of course. That’s the formula.

Acting is decent, but staging is flat. Imaginative directing and cinematography could have brought this production up to the level of an episode of Kojac.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This one has been streaming on Hulu for a while, and I finally decided it was necessary to see it. It’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald. , and it is going to  take two hours and 45 minutes out of your life. Since I never read anything by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I’m going to struggle explaining the story.  This was distributed by Paramount and Warner Brothers, as the title sequence shows, and if you want to  see these logos as you have never seen them before, then you need to watch this. Not fully comprehending it all, here is my overview of the story.

An old woman is dying, and, as this is a story about life from birth to death, several actors play the part, the main one for Daisy Fuller being Cate Blanchett. She tells the story while her daughter reads Benjamin Button’s journal.

During World War One a clock maker and his wife sent a son off to war, and a coffin came back. The clock maker buried his son, and he worked tirelessly on a clock. The clock was activated in the train station on the day the war ended, and it ran backwards, to the amazement of all. The clock maker explained this was the only way we could bring back those we had thrown away.

On the same day a New Orleans industrialist’s wife died giving birth to their baby, but the baby was so grotesque, withered like an old man, that the father snatched the infant and carried him away, with the idea of tossing the creature into the river. Instead, he left the baby on the steps of an old-folks home, where a black woman who worked there took him in and raised him.

We watch as Benjamin matures, at first confined to a wheel chair as a crippled old man, but becoming younger and stronger as he matures. At a religious revival the faith-healing preacher encourages him to walk on  his own, and since he has actually grown younger and less inform, he can, indeed, walk.

Benjamin grows healthier and younger, and he takes a job on an ocean-going tug, where the world-wise captain teaches him the ways of the world.

World War Two comes, and the tug joins the war on the east coast, where German submarines are sinking United States ships. In a horrific encounter at night, the tug rams and sinks a U-boat that has torpedoed a troop carrier, and all on the tug except Benjamin are killed in an exchange of fire with the sub.

Back to Benjamin at the retirement home. He is already sexually accomplished when he meets Daisy at the retirement home. They meet again and again throughout the story, he growing less mature and she more.

She becomes an accomplished ballerina, pursued by hot and cold lovers until an accident with a Paris taxi cab ends her career. In the meantime, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng) has acknowledge his son to bestow his inheritance.

Benjamin and Daisy become long-time lovers, and  they have a child. Daisy grows older, and Benjamin grows younger, and they part.

In the end an aging Daisy cares for Benjamin as he regresses to infancy and becomes unborn (dead).

F. Scott Fitzgerald notwithstanding, the setting seems to be 2005 New Orleans, and as Hurricane Katrina rages outside, Daisy (apparently) dies, and the movie ends.

Of course there is a lot odd with this movie, aside from retrograde aging. Up front we see the clock maker’s son arriving home in a coffin. I feel fairly sure no American bodies were brought home from the war until possibly it was all over, and this part is curious.

Also curious is the end of Benjamin Button. He begins life as an infant with the body of an old man. When it comes time for Benjamin to die it is necessary to shrink him to the body of a youth, a child, and finally as a newborn infant. Yeah, right. Even some of the wackiest fantasy writers would have trouble with that concept. At what point does Benjamin die? Does he die at the point he should have been exiting the womb, or does he die, as pro-lifers would assert, at the point that the male sperm exits the egg? It’s troubling to say that this is the really weird part of the movie.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yeah, Amazon Prime Video. Thanks again for another Bad Movie of the Week. This is Underworld Scandal from 1948, by Pine-Thomas Productions and distributed by Paramount. I was seven years old when this came out, and I do not recall watching it at the Palace Theater on the town square in Granbury, Texas, at the time. Images are screen shots from the streaming, and details are from Wikipedia.

First off, congratulations are in order for whoever came up with the title. I mean, back then if somebody had dropped by to visit me in class in the second grade and asked me to suggest a title for a movie about a bunch of teenagers who get in trouble with the law, are paroled into  a junior league basketball team, and then get into trouble with the law again, then Underworld Scandal would have been my first choice. It was somebody’s second choice, because the working title is now Big Town Scandal.

“Big Town” refers to the name of the city where all  the action takes place, and the reason for the name is not clear, because from all appearances this is a city on the order of Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Apparently 70 years ago there was an aversion to using real location names in movie plots.

Anyhow, the kids are caught boosting sporting goods, including a basketball, from a store that is for some reason closed at night. Rather than sending these first-offenders off to youth boot camp, the judge agrees to parole them to a newspaper magnate, who proposes to enroll them into the aforementioned junior team to keep them out of trouble.

And here they are, practicing for a season of serious play.

However, and this is where the movie gets interesting, one of the kids, Tommy Malone (Stanley Clements), has a crooked friend, Joe Moreley (John Phillips), who gives Tommy a  ride in his “new” car. He lets Tommy drive. He lets Tommy drive before revealing the car is “hot” about the time the police give chase.

Joe bails, and Tommy eludes the police by parking in the building where the basketball team trains. There he discovers the hot car has a load of hot furs in the trunk. Rather than blowing the scheme wide open, Tommy demands a cut of the action, and we soon see Tommy rolling in the green and showering his girlfriend, Marion Harrison (Donna Martell) with fine gifts. As the gangsters’ grips tightens they coerce Tommy, the star player, into  throwing a game.

Right here is where my brain falls off a cliff. This is junior league basketball, played in run-down venues with less than sellout crowds of about 100. And gangsters are boosting bets in thousands of dollars? No. Just no.

But, one of the team members gets wise, and he blows Tommy’s scheme to the others.

The team members decide to make things right and to return the stolen furs. But first they need to break into  the places where the furs were stolen, and one of the kids, John ‘Pinky’ Jones (Roland Dupree) gets shot by the police. He dies. Tommy and the others get away.

The police have Pinky’s fingerprints from the store and also Tommy’s, but they have not yet connected the prints to Tommy as the team plays the final game of the movie. Tommy has been ordered to throw the game, but the first half shows he is rebuffing the offer, as he and his team stretch a lead over the Giants at half time.

That’s when Joe lets Tommy know that a gun will be pointed at sweet Marion during the game. Tommy’s performance drops, and the Giants pull ahead. Then Tommy has a change of heart, and with seconds to go the Big Town Big Shots are trailing by a single point. The crooks decide to end the suspense, and a pistol shot from the stands takes Tommy down, just as he tosses the winning basket.

The police charge after the gangsters, and a fierce firefight erupts in the stands. One of the gangsters goes down, but another is getting away. Waldo ‘Dum Dum’ Riggs (Tommy Bond) can neither hear nor speak, but he could possibly make a living predicting the future. Seeing events unfold in the stands, he climbs a rope and positions himself. As the crook attempts to get by, Waldo swings by the rope, knocking the crook onto the playing floor. Eat your heart out, Errol Flynn.

Tommy is going to do some time, but Marion is going to wait for him. The team’s sponsors, newspaper folks Steve Wilson (Phillip Reed) and Lorelei Kilbourne (Hillary Brooke) decide to hook up, and the movie ends with their looking toward some serious sack time.

Yes, this movie is going to chew up slightly less than an hour of the remaining time you have  on this planet, so you might want to catch it on Amazon. Or you can watch on YouTube, where it is currently streaming for free.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Thanks again to Ana for lending me the DVD. This is a very watchable movie, afflicted with but a few historical omissions. It’s Darkest Hour, featuring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill (later Sir Winston Churchill), British Prime Minister during the bulk of World War Two. It’s about Great Britain’s darkest hour, when the main body of the British Army became trapped on the French coast by the Wehrmacht and threatened with annihilation. The very existence of the nation was at stake. This was released last year by Focus Features and Universal Pictures. Details are from Wikipedia and also from Churchill’s book Their Finest Hour.

The events of May and early June 1940 were critical, and the movie marches viewers through the period, beginning with the 9th of May, just before the dam burst. I do not recall following these events in the news. Apparently I was gestating somewhere in Hood County, Texas, at the time. I have since made up for this oversight by reading the history.

As the movie portrays, in response to Germany’s invasion of Poland, following a litany of offenses and double-dealing by the Nazi state, the British and the French decided they must make war on Germany, and hostilities commenced on 3 September in 1939. Then nothing much happened for months, except that the British warned other countries they would be next after Poland, following which said countries sat still and prayed for forbearance while Germany’s Chancellor Adolf Hitler continued his grand plan by invading and quickly conquering Norway and Denmark before setting his sights on The Netherlands and Belgium. Yes, also—seldom mentioned—Luxembourg, as well.

The 9th was calm on the continent. The Germans were preparing to launch their attack on The Netherlands and Belgium. On the other side of the Channel was turmoil. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who had for months negotiated away the Allies’ (Great Britain and France) power against Hitler, was now in tremendous disfavor. At a tumultuous Commons meeting there are savage calls for him to resign. He sweats. Not known to the many is that Chamberlain is dying. He has terminal cancer, and he will not live out the year.

As friends and adversaries of Chamberlain gloat on Chamberlain’s agony somebody asks the pregnant question, “Where’s Churchill?” The response is, “Making sure his fingerprints are not on  the knife.”

Chamberlain goes to  King George VI and announces he is dissolving the government. The King must approve a new Prime Minister.

Churchill, at the moment unpopular for the failed Norway campaign and historically for his failed Gallipolli Campaign from the previous war, secludes himself at Chartwell, his country home. A stenographer/typist comes to work for him. She is Elizabeth Layton (Lily James), and she finds the assignment daunting. Churchill is a demanding overlord, requiring complete subservience and attention to detail. She strives mightily, but she is not up to the task. After a few minutes Churchill orders her to leave.

But… But outside, preparing to go, she accepts a telegram from a dispatch rider. It’s from the Palace, and it requests Mr. Churchill come see the King. Elizabeth remains Churchill’s secretary for the remainder of the war.

A theme of the movie is the interplay between two polar opposites. Clementine Churchill (Kristin Scott Thomas) is charming and level-headed, while Winston is impetuous and bombastic. You get the idea that at one time the fate of a nation hung on this dynamic.

This is a part I find unfamiliar. The British TV series The World at War recounts a critical interchange not exploited in the movie. J.R. Colville was Chamberlain’s private secretary at the time, and he tells of a meeting. Edward Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax was the logical successor to Chamberlain, but no peer had been Prime Minister for nearly 40 years. Chamberlain asked Churchill and Halifax to join him in the cabinet room, and he put Churchill on the spot. He asked Churchill point-blank whether, in the 20th century, the Prime Minister should not be from the House of Lords. If Churchill answered there should be no reason why not, then Chamberlain would immediately recommend Halifax to the King. If Churchill responded in the contrary, then there would be only one obvious choice, and that would be himself. Churchill did not respond. He turned and stared out the window.

Chamberlain recommended Churchill to George VI, and the course of history was set. To bad the movie does not capture that meeting. Here are Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) and King George VI (Ben Mendelsohn) at the critical moment.

Churchill responds to the cable from the Palace and accepts with true British grace.

The war on the Continent split completely open on 10 May, Churchill’s first day on  the job, and the movie posts periodic reminders as the calender advances toward the darkest hour. By 26 May the combined British and French force were solidly trapped at Dunkirk on the Channel coast, and a smaller contingent of Allied troops was similarly trapped at the coastal town of Calais, the narrowest point in the Channel.

We see Churchill standing ground as opposition within Parliament demands he seek terms with the Germans, Benito Mussolini acting as an intermediary. This is abhorrent to Churchill, a war hero from the 19th century and about the only person in Great Britain who constantly challenged Hitler’s rise to power. Churchill sees, as in the actual history, that a brokered peace with Hitler will be yet another of the dictator’s traps, proclaiming the British should expect to soon see the swastika flying over Piccadilly Circus.

Churchill is at his lowest point, seeing absolutely no support in Parliament. Then Clementine announces a visitor, George VI has come to call. This is one of those knock-you-over-with-a-feather moments. The King is of a like mind with Churchill, and he promises his full support. It’s now up to Churchill.

Inspiration comes when Churchill is forced to ride the Underground to a Parliament meeting. He is alone with British subjects, and they reveal they are of the same mind as he. They say they will fight to the end, and they will never give up.

Churchill gathers members of Parliament in the cabinet room and relates his encounter and the sentiment of the people. Those in attendance rally behind him. Elizabeth must now help him with his Parliament speech. He dominates, getting almost complete support from Parliament. Great Britain will fight, and the Axis forces will be defeated. Churchill’s speeches are for all history.

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight in the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air; we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing-grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender; and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might. steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the Old.

Churchill, Winston. Their Finest Hour (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 1726-1732). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say: ‘This was their finest hour.’

Churchill, Winston. Their Finest Hour (Winston Churchill World War II Collection) (Kindle Locations 3356-3363). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Churchill orders a flotilla of small boats to assist in the rescue of Allied forces at Dunkirk. In the meantime he orders the contingent at Calais to sacrifice itself to  stall the Germans. We witness the destruction of that force by Luftwaffe bombers. Elizabeth’s brother is one of those trapped at Calais. The story of the Dunkirk evacuation is told in last week’s movie.

The movie reminds us the Dunkirk force was largely saved to fight again and that less than five years later Hitler was dead and Nazi Germany was defeated.

The movie gives the impression the Calais force was wiped out, but the outcome was not as grim. 300 British soldiers were killed, 200 wounded (evacuated), 3,500 captured. 16,000 French, Belgian, and Dutch were captured.