Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, it is. Amazon Prime Video is the go-to place for bad movies. All you have to do is navigate over to their sci-fi selection and take your pick. From 1958 this is The Trollenberg Terror, featuring Forrest TuckerLaurence PayneJennifer Jayne, and Janet Munro. This was distributed by Eros Films Ltd. out of Great Britain. Details are from  Wikipedia.

The first thing that got me was the unevenness. The opening scene shows what is obviously an artist’s rendition of Trollenberg, the mountain. I figured they paid the artist $2.75 an hour 60 years ago to produce this, while later in the movie there are excellent location shots of mountains that could have been inserted. The graphic artists must have had a strong union.

Next we see climbers (Jeremy Longhurst and Anthony Parker) on the mountain in the Swiss Alps. This is maybe the second worst studio mountain ledge mock-up, but I do not recall what was number one. Anyhow, a climber above calls out in distress. He’s obviously being killed, and he falls, his descent snubbed by the safety line. When the survivors attempt to pull him up to the ledge, the one on the right relinquishes the task in horror. The man’s head has been torn off.

Next two sisters, Anne and Sarah Pilgrim (Munro and Jayne) are trying to get some sleep on a train traveling on the way to Geneva. Alan Brooks (Tucker) is trying to read a newspaper. He’s a UN investigator on his way to Trollenberg, the village.

Anne, who we later learn is the mental side of a mind-reading act from London, gets restless. She goes to the window to view the mountain. She sees Trollenberg (the mountain) and passes out on top of Brooks’ newspaper. So they meet.

But Anne no longer wants to go to Geneva. She wants to get off the train at Trollenberg (the village) and stay at the Trollenberg Inn.

And they all do. Brooks meets Philip Truscott (Payne), who later turns out to be a reporter, sent to investigate what Brooks is up to in Switzerland.

We also meet two climbers, Dewhurst (Stuart Saunders) and Brett (Andrew Faulds). We can guess things are not going to end well for Dewhurst and Brett.

Brooks takes the cable car up the mountain to the observatory of  Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell). They have a history. Previously the two had investigated mysterious goings on in the Andes. Now Crevett has an elaborate laboratory, courtesy of the Swiss government. It has all the features necessary to make for a successful movie plot. The walls are feet-thick concrete, and the place is equipped with TV scanners to monitor the mountain. Also, apparently, ionizing radiation scanners.

Meanwhile, back at the lodge, Anne demonstrates her mind-reading powers. She surmises, without seeing it, a 500-franc note and its serial number. And more. Plus, she and her sister are absolutely stunning—eye candy for men watching the movie.

So Dewhurst and Brett take the cable car and then hike up to the base hut on the mountain, in preparation for a climb the next day. Things go badly. Brett leaves the hut and never returns. Dewhurst goes to look for him.

When others go to the hut to investigate they find Dewhurst’s headless corpse. When a search party organizes to look for Brett, a search plane spots him up the mountain side. When two searchers arrive at the ledge where Brett was spotted, the first one to arrive discovers Dewhurst’s head in a knapsack. Then Brett appears and kills the two searchers with an ice ax.

All this is unknown to those down below, and when  Brett arrives back at the lodge, he appears to have suffered some damage they cannot explain. Then Bret spots Anne in the lobby and lunges at her with a knife. He is subdued and placed in a locked cell. But he murders the guard and escapes, searching the lodge for Anne. She awakens when he enters her room, and she screams. Best movie scream I have seen  in a long time. Academy Awards, anybody?

But Brooks enters from behind and shoots Brett dead.

Now Brooks has figured that an alien invasion is underway, and the mysterious cloud that hangs around one side of the mountain is a manifestation. The cloud is gradually drifting lower on the mountainside and is approaching the lodge. Brooks determines the safest place is the observatory at the top of the cable lift, and he orders an evacuation to the observatory. But Hans (Colin Douglas) decides to attempt to escape by car, through the cloud. He later shows up, having been unsuccessful, but much changed. When it becomes apparent he has been taken over by the aliens the others put him down.

The final cable car prepares to leave the village for the observatory. But a little girl is missing. Brooks goes back to the lodge, and finds she has gone to retrieve her ball. Brooks arrives just in  time to rescue the child from an alien being with tentacles like an octopus and one big eye.

Back at the laboratory, all the survivors have collected within the concrete walls. On the TV scanners they can see the horrible aliens menacing the laboratory.

Brooks exits briefly to hurl a Molotov cocktail at one alien. When Truscott attempts to do another fire bombing, and alien grabs him. Brooks comes to the rescue.

Soon the aliens are all over the fortress laboratory. Brooks orders an air strike with fire bombs.

We see a Swiss bomber flying over and unloading fire bombs. Only they do not look like fire bombs. This is apparently stock footage of some general purpose (GP) munitions being unloaded.

The fire bombs kill off the aliens, and the mysterious cloud disappears. Sex becomes manifest as Truscott makes a bid for Anne, and Brooks gets cozy with Sarah.

And it’s a simple story, fairly well told. The monster aliens are a major F/X accomplishment, particularly showing up some of the amateurish studio sets. Wikipedia makes no mention of production cost or box office revenue. Despite the low-budget outdoor scenes, there is some excellent location shooting. We see airplanes banking and turning among towering mountain peaks, and the cable car exteriors are obviously not studio shoots. Acting is par for a B movie, and director Quentin Lawrence has done a smash-up job. Dramatic tension is skillfully introduced.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://donate.wikimedia.org/w/index.php

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video, the source of these screen shots, is revealed to be a mother lode of recent-release bad movies. You will be seeing more of them. Science fiction is always a target for bad movies, because it is seldom handled well. This is Moontrap Target Earth, released in 2017 by MT2 Productions. Wikipedia does not have an entry for this, so details are from IMDb.

This is going to be a combination space travel, mystery, thriller. Not much goes into drama here, most of the movie is the special effects (F/X) and the visuals. It sets out with archaeologist Daniel (Damon Dayoub) rehearsing a presentation to an audience of one, his girlfriend Sharon “Scout” (Sarah Butler). He wants to announce his discovery of his remarkable find from the desert in Arizona, certain to be more than 14,000 years old.

Then he gets a phone call from a colleague, Carter (Chris Newman).

Carter has discovered another strange artifact out in the desert. He’s preparing to announce it to the world. He brags to Daniel how earth-shaking this is going to be, and he tells Daniel to watch for it on CNN. A helicopter is heard in the background

The helicopter lands, and it’s not CNN. It’s Richard (Charles Shaughnessy), and his female “facilitator” Nicole (Jennifer Kincer). After Carter explains all the wonders this discovery holds, Richard orders Nichole to dispose of Mr. Carter.

Then Richard pays a visit to Daniel and Scout. We soon see them at the site where Carter was murdered. Scout translates inscriptions on the artifact. It’s the above-ground portion of an ancient space craft.

Daniel and Scout make a deal with Richard to promote the archaeological study, but when the scientists appear before Richard’s mysterious panel in a grand hall, they are thanked for their troubles and sent on their way.

Back at the university, where supposedly Daniel and Scout do their research, they sadly inform their assistant Eli (D.B. Dickerson) (who is preparing a celebration) there will be no need to celebrate. While Scout and Daniel are in the back checking on a projector malfunction, Nicole appears at the door. She machine guns Eli and sprays the hall with bullets. Then she pours gasoline on Eli’s body and sets it afire. This is turning out badly.

We see Scout fleeing cross-country, learning on the radio that Daniel’s burned body has been discovered in his apartment.

Back at the grand hall, Richard is desperate to explain to his quasi-religious panel why there has been no progress in disposing of the disturbing artifact in the desert. Also why have the meddlesome Daniel and the slut Scout not been dealt with. Richard assures them the assignment will be completed.

But Scout comes up behind him. She has decided to make a crusade of Richard’s destruction.

But Nicole comes in and turns the tables on Scout. A chance discovery reveals that Scout holds special interest to the buried object, and Richard and Nicole take Scout out to the site.

The mystery unravels, as the object emerges from the ground, and a robotic creature appears. Richard is transported to the interior of the space craft, and a bolt of electricity is shot into the back of Nicole’s head.

Inside the spacecraft, Richard and Scout watch in wonder as the robotic creature pilots the craft to the Moon. Scout is commanded to remove her clothing and to dress in a provocative Queen of Outer Space outfit. Richard is impressed.

On the moon things seem to be progressing, as Scout dons a space suit designed for her. She and the android exit the space craft, where the android battles yet another android. Meanwhile Richard takes over the controls of the space craft and heads it back toward Earth. But something intervenes, and the space craft crashes onto the surface of the Moon and is destroyed.

As the friendly android expires, it hands over to Scout a disk-shaped key. She approaches a huge sculpture (see the image at the top), and inserts the key into a slot in the sculpture.

The Moon is turned into a habitable world with blue sky and clouds.

Scout enters the structure beneath the sculpture and joins Daniel (blue) in a journey through time.

Scout leaves behind a word to those who come after them.

And that is about it for the movie. Much ado about what? Special effects are commendable, but that is about the extent of this production’s budget. The audience (see above) in the grand hall appears to comprise cardboard cutouts, shot out of focus to disguise the fact. In most scenes they do not move.

Scout in the see-through outfit is worth a look, but there is not enough of that. The narrative cuts in and out of a number of dream sequences, at times making it problematic to follow the course of events.

Inconsistencies jump out.

If the plan was to kill Daniel and Scout, why not do it in the grand hall after they have completed their presentation?

Why does Nicole burn Eli’s body? Same with Daniel’s body. Nothing is gained, only additional notoriety.

For the story line I would like to have seen a clear driving force behind the plot. There is a mysterious assembly of interrogators at the grand hall, who speak off camera, in tones that smack of a religious cult, but we only have to guess they represent modern, decadent society, hinted at by a scene with a waitress in a truck stop. No firm resolution is delivered.

This movie runs 85 minutes, and you might be able to catch it still streaming on Amazon or elsewhere.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandra Bullock is always good to see.

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Hulu, where this movie is currently streaming, advertises it as a comedy, of sorts. The humor gets lost. It’s Colossal from 2016, distributed by Neon. The screen shots are from Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

This is going to be a scary movie. You can tell that at the very open, as a young Korean girl, at night in a park, sees a horrible monster, and screams. That get your attention?

In New York Anne Hathaway is an out of work writer named Gloria. She sponges off her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), living in his apartment, spending her nights partying. When she comes staggering home one morning he announces he has packed her stuff, and she needs to be gone by the end of the day. After he leaves for work, Gloria’s friends take note of his leaving and swarm in to continue the party. Gloria’s life is obviously out of control.

Gloria goes back home to small town America, where she movies into a vacant family home. She takes a cab from the airport, since she has no car. We next see her toting an air mattress home from the store when an old friend named Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) spots her and gives her a ride in his truck. He owns a local bar, and the two go there, where he offers her a job as a waitress. She boozes it up until the early morning hours.

Come morning Gloria is toting the air mattress on home from the bar, and she pauses in a park along the way. Then she continues on home, where she passes out on the uninflated mattress.

Come morning, and it’s broad-band WiFi to the rescue, as Gloria checks on the world outside and sees that Seoul, South Korea, has been under attack by a gruesome monster. It was about the moment, taking into  account the time zone difference, when Gloria was in the park.

Cutting out a lot of detail, Gloria comes to realize what she sees the monster doing reflects her actions coming home in the morning through the park. Back at the bar Gloria convinces Oscar and two friends to come to the park at the appointed hour. They unlimber their wireless devices as Gloria performs. Watching the live news from Seoul, the three see the monster duplicating Gloria’s moves. What is going on?

For reasons known only to the script writers, Oscar now begins to get out of hand. He goes to the park at the magic time and begins to act out for the monster of Seoul. Gloria sees that people are suffering, dying, while Oscar is having a good time. Gloria and Oscar commence a divergence of purpose.

When Gloria spends the night with Oscar’s friend Joel (Austin Stowell), Oscar becomes resentful and even belligerent. When Tim arrives in town and offers to take Gloria back to New York, Oscar goes off the deep end, setting the bar on fire.

Now things build to a climax. Gloria promises to go back to New York with Tim, but then she changes her mind. Oscar is playing increasing havoc with Seoul by messing around in the park. Gloria hops a plane and flies to Seoul, and she goes to the site where the monster appears on schedule. Standing in that place, Gloria reverses the projection and becomes the monster in the park, confronting Oscar. The monster grabs up Oscar in a mighty fist and hurls him off toward the horizon. It’s the end of the movie.

Yes, this is all most cool, but also all most ridiculous. What I haven’t mentioned is a childhood flashback that shows Oscar and Gloria together as children. He is seen smashing her doll house, a prelude to the future Oscar, a control freak beyond all bounds.

No competition. This is a Bad Movie of the Week.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I needed a bad movie to review for Sunday, today. I searched Hulu and noticed this title. Is this going to be a bad movie? It’s hard to tell from the title, Godzilla vs. Destroyah. Could be. I took a look, and, yes, it is bad. From 1995 out of Toho, it’s another lizard movie gone bad. Screen shots are from Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

I’m not going to bother listing the cast of characters, because they are people I never heard of, but I am going to guess about the plot. Something stirs up Godzilla. Science and technology are to blame. Godzilla menaces civilized regions of Japan. Another lizard kind appears on the scene. There is a protracted battle, consuming the major part of the run time and also wrecking everything in sight. All lizards die. And, yes. That is what happens.

The opening scene shows a comely news reporter type surveying a developing situation from a helicopter. She spots something in the sea. Yes, there is strange activity below.

At a busy airport a giant passenger airliner climbs into the sky. The pilots look on in horror as a gruesome beast rises before them. He is butt ugly. And in a foul mood.

There is great danger to the world. Godzilla’s source of power is nuclear fission, and if he goes critical the entire planet will be wiped out.

A scientist explains his Nobel Prize discovery. It’s miniaturized oxygen. These compact atoms can squeeze into the smallest spaces within solid metals. There is great danger in the application of miniaturized oxygen.

A young scientist, working in his room crammed with books, computers, and other nerdy stuff, is offered to work on a significant project. He declines. He will not pursue that work any longer. Then a phone call comes in. A famous scientist will be working on the project. Yes, the nerdy young scientist will jump at the prospect of working with the famous scientist.

Another lizard, more horrible even than Godzilla appears. There are multiple copies. This is a great menace to the world.

Godzilla battles the other monsters.

An armored regiment employs special weapons against the lizards. They all die.

The movie runs for 102 minutes, and that’s all I’m going to say about this.

Except that you can catch it streaming on the Internet. Hulu requires a (paid) subscription, but there are alternate sources. You will likely be required to sign up to watch. Search the title with Google.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://donate.wikimedia.org/w/index.php

Darwin’s Doubt

Number 5 in a Series

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

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

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

The cited text being:

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

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

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

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

Finally:

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

Here is the text from the book:

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

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

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

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commanding officers at Pearl are jubilant at not being vaporized.

The Missouri continues its journey to San Francisco.

It makes it final port call.

Ryback salutes in honor of the dead Captain.

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

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

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

https://donate.wikimedia.org/w/index.php

Darwin’s Doubt

Number 3 in a Series

Chipmunk confronts a diet soda can near Mirror Lake Utah

I have a copy of creationist Stephen C. Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt, and I have promised to review it. I was recently reminded of that by a post on the Discovery Institute’s Evolution News site. That posting excerpts a number of passages from the book. I previously reviewed the first of those. Here is another citation:

Intelligent agents can generate top-down patterns of appearance like we see in animal body plans.

Here is the pertinent passage:

“Top-down” causation begins with a basic architecture, blueprint, or plan and then proceeds to assemble parts in accord with it. The blueprint stands causally prior to the assembly and arrangement of the parts. But where could such a blueprint come from? One possibility involves a mental mode of causation. Intelligent agents often conceive of plans prior to their material instantiation— that is, the preconceived design of a blueprint often precedes the assembly of parts in accord with it. An observer touring the parts section of a General Motors plant will see no direct evidence of a prior blueprint for GM’s new models, but will perceive the basic design plan immediately upon observing the finished product at the end of the assembly line. Designed systems, whether automobiles, airplanes, or computers, invariably manifest a design plan that preceded their first material instantiation. But the parts do not generate the whole. Rather, an idea of the whole directed the assembly of the parts.

Meyer, Stephen C.. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (pp. 371-372). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Meyer is correct in stating (by implication) that a builder, on receiving a set of design specifications (blue prints and such), can proceed in constructing a device or assembly. Note the implication. There exists nothing like the desired assembly. The materials to construct it are present, and there is a pre-recorded set of instructions for construction. The instructions are the sole source of the information required for construction.

At this point a reminder is helpful. Define information as the agent that mediates cause and effect. I have stated this previously, perhaps not in this exact form. Nobody has ever challenged my definition. All are welcome to have a go at it.

What Meyer does not concede is that a set of instructions is not a prerequisite for constructing a device/assembly. Random processes can accomplish this. This is the basis of Darwinian evolution, and this is what the creationists argue strongly against. They pose it much like this:

Given even the finished components, steel sheet, machine screws, quantities of paint, it is unlikely to the extreme that a random process will assemble these components into a functional automobile, much less into one that somebody would purchase off the showroom floor and drive away.

To be sure, that is an extreme statement of the creationists’ argument, and those people do argue a more digestible case. Their most popular argument is more like this:

Given a completed, perfectly functional, automobile and given materials to be added to produce next year’s model, it is improbable to the extreme that this modification can occur by accident. Some sort of pre-conceived design is required. A set of documentation is required. At the minimum there must be an intelligent agent with the pre-conceived design upgrade in mind.

And this is what the so-called Darwinists object to. The creationists insist there must be a pre-conceived idea, there being no mention of who or what holds this pre-conceived idea. To be clear, the agency that Stephen C. Meyer represents is the Discovery Institute, and their concept is called Intelligent Design. Further, the narrators of Intelligent Design want to insist that religious faith is not at the base of their argument. And this last is an outrageous lie of grand proportions. Any notion that Stephen C. Meyer pushes Intelligent Design absent religious faith is daily countered by his own words and actions. For example:

The final four episodes deal with the New Testament, the contribution by Christians, telling the story of Jesus of Nazareth, his teachings, his trial and execution, and his return from the dead. Meyer wants to assure viewers all those doubts about the validity of the New Testament are groundless.

Following the trajectory of Meyer’s life and career, we see a relentless commitment to a defense of the Christian faith. His promotion of Intelligent Design is one manifestation of that commitment.

Returning to Meyer’s argument, biologists argue that random processes we observe in nature are adequate to have produced the life forms we see today. In direct counter to Meyer, the concept of Intelligent Design is intellectually bankrupt on a number of points. Repeating myself:

I scoff. Really? Let me get this straight. An Intelligent Agent, the Entity who created the Universe, the Earth, the planets, the sun, and all we see around us—this Entity, took over 13 billion years to get us to where we are today after first creating the Universe. Actually, over 13 billion years to get us to the point where there was a Universe and a planet Earth, and there were any number of species of plants and animals, but none resembling people. Allow me to repeat: Really? If that is Stephen C. Meyer’s concept of intelligence, then Heaven help the human species, because intelligence is all that’s keeping us going.

Additionally, at no point in their argument have proponents of Intelligent Design identified a mechanism by which the Intelligent Designer could have implemented these designs. Nor can they.

I will continue the review of Meyer’s book through an analysis of the Evolution News post prior to diving into a direct review of the book. Keep reading.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

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

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

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

The Stone mansion is  immediately flooded with cops and reporters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Poetic ending, however.

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

https://donate.wikimedia.org/w/index.php

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Apparently I’m never going to run out of bad movies. This is another from Amazon Prime Video, a treasure vault of bad movies. It’s Bank Alarm , from 1937 out of Grand National Pictures. And it’s in decent shape for being 80 years old. A notice up front informs that this has been remastered, but that may be only the sound. The notice talks of unavoidable dips in sound level. Details are from Wikipedia.

This features Conrad Nagel as FBI Special Agent Alan O’Connor and Eleanor Hunt as Bobbie Reynolds, Alan’s sharp looking assistant. They are trying to track down a gang of bank robbers. The FBI investigates bank robberies. They’re not having a load of luck. They captured gang member O’Hern, but then a hit man disguised as a lawyer rubbed him out inside the jail and then got clean away.

Despite their desperate need to corral the robbers, the FBI duo takes time out to greet Alan’s pretty sister, Kay O’Connor, played by Marlo Dwyer, as she arrives on a flight. Apparently on the flight, Kay has met the infatuating Jerry Turner (Frank Milan). This scene also introduces bumbling photographer Clarence ‘Bulb’ Callahan (Vince Barnett), who’s going to provide comic relief for the next 53 minutes of run time.

So urgent is their need to catch the bank robbers, that everybody takes the night off to dine, drink, and dance at Club Karlotti. Spoiler alert: Karlotti is the ring leader of the bank robbers. You can tell  he’s Italian by his name, except the Italian alphabet doesn’t have the letter K. You figure it.

Jerry excuses himself for a few minutes as he leaves the festivities to go into the club’s back room to confab with ring leader Karlotti.

Another heist is coming up. Jerry gets in on this one. It’s in the core of the Great Depression, and sheriffs around the country make an effort to  keep their districts clear of hobos, who roam the land looking for work or handouts. Jerry and his pal pretend to be hobos to get themselves thrown in the pokey overnight. The pokey is where they want to be, because in this small town, where a Nevada tunnel project is in work, the workers’ payroll is being stored in the same building as the jail. While the sheriff (Henry Roquemore) sleeps the pair pick the lock on their cell, grab the cash, and stash it under their mattresses. Come next morning the sheriff sends them on their way, with the cash stuffed in their shirts. Pretty slick.

In the meantime, Police Inspector J. C. Macy (William L. Thorne) vows mightily to catch the bank robbers.

But when Jerry and his pal departed the jail with their loot, they bummed a ride in a Cadillac, conveniently close by to pick them up. And somebody got the plate number. So when agent Alan goes to check on the Cadillac, it turns up at a farm. The farmer tells them some people drove up in the car, left it, stole his Ford, and drove away. He gives a description of the perps. The driver was a notably short person, he says.

The cops take the Caddy back to the police garage to check it for fingerprints. It’s clean, but when agent Bobbie gets in the driver’s seat, the first thing she notices is her feet don’t reach the pedals. Bobbie is a a short woman. No amount of adjustment will do. The farmer was lying. The driver was not by any means short. Further checking turns up the farmer does not own a Ford. The fuzz conclude the farm is a base for the robbers.

Meanwhile, the Second National Bank is held up,  and this time the robbers get away clear after bank workers attempt multiple time to activate the bank alarm. Hence the title of the movie.

Agent Alan questions bank employees. The man sitting with his back to the wall is the alarm company service man. He was in just prior to the robbery to test the alarm. It worked fine. They call in the head cashier, Leon Curtis (Phil Dunham). He’s the one who schedules alarm testing. He said he called for the test, because it was time, according to the testing schedule. But Alan has additional information that there were two men in to test the alarm. One came after the scheduled test. Things are looking suspicious. The robbery was an inside job.

Meanwhile, Inspector Macy is shown holding two bills in his hand. He is saying he is going to bust this case wide open. Later, those outside his office hear multiple gunshots. They rush in. Macy has been murdered.

Alan studies the two bills. One has been altered. It has the same serial number as another. Suspicion focuses on bank teller Curtis. He’s an immigrant from Serbia, and a master engraver. An attempt at counterfeiting? The robbers figure they must get those bills back. Jerry gets on the phone, and with a pencil gripped between his clenched teeth to disguise his voice, he phones Alan. He warns that if Alan doesn’t deliver the two bills by mail, the robbers are going to rub out Alan’s sister.

The fuzz respond by moving Kay to a safe apartment and substituting Bobbie at Kay’s hotel room. Bumbling photographer Clarence Callahan is sent over to keep Kay company, provide protection, and also to provide additional comic relief.

But Kay phones Jerry, not suspecting he is in with the robbers. She reveals where she is. Next we see, Clarence is recovering from a knock on the head, and Kay is gone, taken by the robbers.

Then there follows a bunch of round and round, which I will not detail, and the robbers are taken in a shootout, Kay is rescued, and Alan and Bobbie have plans to make the partnership permanent. They pose as Clarence takes a photo.

There is little not wrong with this movie. Start with the lukewarm acting and the dialog, which is beyond redemption. Get to the plot’s banality and some noticeable lack of continuity.

I only watched this through one time before skipping around to pick up details, but one thing was immediately obvious. The two robbers, posing as hobos, are in jail, on purpose, to grab the payroll cash while the sheriff is sleeping. They take the bills and stuff them under the mattresses in their cell. Later we are told the payroll is new bills, fresh from the Federal Reserve. But the bills the robbers are manhandling in their cell are obviously much used and not clean, crisp, and in tight bundles.

Alan and Bobbie pick up Kay and Jerry at their airport. Where do they go that night to celebrate (apparently in Los Angeles)? Why Karlotti’s club, of course. How much greater a coincidence can their be? And the friend that Kay meets on her flight? Why, one of the bank robbers. Amazing!

The robbers need to get the incriminating bills back. Why? Think about that for a few seconds. How are they going to get the bills back? They are going to threaten Kay. But they don’t have their hands on Kay at the time, giving the feds ample opportunity to stash her away in a safe place, which turns out to be of no help, since Kay spills to Jerry.

The robbers promise to release Kay after the bills are recovered. But Kay has by now already laid eyes on Jerry and the others as members of the gang. The gang has previously murdered Macy in his office after word gets out he’s going to crack the case. But when Karlotti gets his hand on Bobbie during the hunt and roundup, he does not use the opportunity to put a few rounds into her. Good news for Bobbie, but a prize for lame plots.

Conrad Nagel had a long and successful motion picture career, even if this production give no clue as to why. He started with Little Women  (silent) in 1918 and finished with The Man Who Understood Women in 1959. IMDb shows Eleanor Hunt’s last movie was in 1940. Grand National Films is one of those companies I have mentioned previously. The period 1936 to 1939 saw multiple startup studios come and go during this period. Grand National was purchased by RKO in 1940.

And you figured it out already. You don’t need to subscribe to Amazon Prime to watch this movie. It’s available to watch on YouTube. Here’s the link.