Sunday, February 28, 2021

It's gonna be all right

Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of British actor David Niven, so it's unsurprising that TCM is spending the morning and afternoon with Niven's movies. One that I haven't blogged about before is Tonight's the Night, which will be on at 11:45 AM.

Rathbarney is one of those typically whimsical small villages in Ireland that populate the mind of John Ford and, apparently, some parts of the British entertainment industry. The village is more or less owned by General O'Leary, who seems to own all the land in the area but who is very generous with his tenants. He runs an annual hunt and has let everybody run up substantial debts.

But this year's hunt is different. The General is past 80, and rides a horse that's getting as elderly, in equine terms, as the General. He foolishly tries to take a jump that he'd done every year in the past, but this time around, the horse balks, throwing the General over a stone wall and down a small embankment. It's not an immediate death, although it is terminal. But before he dies, he gets to dictate some final wishes, among them being that all debts should be cancelled.

The General, having lived more or less alone, only with his servand Thady (Barry Fitzgerald) and no family, has as his nearest relative a great-nephew, Jasper O'Leary (David Niven). Jasper shows up in Rathbarney, apparently never having seen the place before. Also returning to the village is Serena McGlusky (Yvonne De Carlo). She's one of the two daughters of second-tier landowner Major McGlusky (Michael Shepley), and she left to go to Canada with her husband, who has since died and left her flat broke. Before she left, there was some talk that she might wind up with the local doctor, Michael Flynn (Robert Urquhart), although after her departure there was suggestion the good doctor might marry Serena's sister Kathy (Noelle Middleton).

At any rate, when Jasper arrives, he's shocked at what he finds. The General wasn't much of a property manager, although his generosity helped the village function. Jasper isn't very well off despite being an heir, and he has no intention of living in Rathbarney. His plan is to bleed the townsfolk dry, at least as much as he can get out of the town, before moving on to greener pastures. Complicating things is that the General's dying wishes somehow never made their way into the will, despite there being quite a few witnesses to those wishes. So Jasper is probably within his legal right to do what he's doing.

The townsfolk, understandably, resent it. Perhaps they were taking advantage of the General, but he was the only person with any means in the area, and it was those means that allowed the village to function in what seems to have been a symbiotic relationship. (How much longer the place could have gone on is never mentioned.) But now, there's no way they'll have either any prosperity, or even any fun in life. So they want to drive Jasper out, by violent means if necessary. They draw lots, and getting the short straw is the barkeep's assistant, Terence (George Cole).

There are a lot of elements here that should lead to a very fun comedy, but I have to admit that in watching it, it wound up being less than the sum of its parts. I think part of it has to do with the characters being unnaturally quirky, to the point of obnoxiousness at times, not being helped by the presence of Barry Fitzgerald. I can't blame Jasper for wanting to get rid of Thady. Niven does well with the material he's given, as does De Carlo. All of the non-Hollywood people do an adequate enough job, although everybody's brought down a notch by the material. And, according to IMDb, none of the movie was filmed in Ireland.

Still, as always, this is the sort of movie you should probably watch and judge for yourself, since it's the sort of quirky movie that some people will probably really like. It doesn't seem to be available on DVD here in North America, so you'll have to catch the TCM showing.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

One wonders what happened to the first 61 detectives

Some time back, I purchased a box set of William Powell at Warner Bros., since I hadn't actually seen any of the four movies in the set. Recently, I watched another film off the set, Private Detective 62.

The film starts off with a prologue in France, as Powell plays Donald Free, a spy with a cover as a newspaper correspondent. His current job is to steal some French secrets, but he gets caught and declared persona non grata, and the US government can't really defend him since that would give the game away. So he's deported back to America, but just before the cargo ship is about to dock, the captain gets a radiogram that the French government wants him back in France in order to investigate him more fully.

Don jumps ship and swims to shore, ending up at some sort of beach house that he breaks into in order to dry off. Except that he's not alone, as there's a couple having a tryst: the woman in the relationship is married to another man. A shady detective, Dan Hogan (Arthur Hohl) comes in more or less unnanounced, with his secretary Amy Moran (Ruth Donnelly) as a witness. Don provides the couple with a cover story about this being his house, and he wants Hogan to pay for the damage Hogan did! Don even gets some money out of it.

However, there's a depression on, the movie having been released in 1933, and Don finds himself unable to get a job -- you'd think the feds or whoever was paying him to do his spying in France would have another job lined up for him, but that's not quite fully explained. After a long, futil attempt to find employment, he decides he's going to debase himself and look for a job with Hogan's detective agency, Don still having the business card.

Hogan is asleep (and probably drunk) in his office, so when one Harcourt Burns (Hobart Cavanaugh) comes in looking for somebody to investigate his wife, Don has an idea. Hogan has a license and no clients, while Don has a client but no license, so the two should form a partnership together. It's the only way they'll both survive.

Not that Hogan is particularly competent at doing regular detective work. But he is able to get a wealthy backer in the form of casino owner Tony Bandor (Gordon Westcott). Bandor bankrolls the place, which moves uptown and starts getting all sorts of wealthy clients, although a lot of what they're doing makes Don a bit queasy in terms of ethics, with Amy beginning to take his side.

Don gets a big-time job in the form of investigating Janet Reynolds (Margaret Lindsay). She's been gambling at Bandor's club, and somehow winning a ton of money at roulette. She's already taken Bandor (and by extension the detective agency, which is technically a partner in the casino although Hogan hasn't told Don this) for over $40,000, a very large sum in the early 1930s, and Bandor wants to find out how she's cheating. Don starts to investigate, but he falls in love with her and one of Janet's friends recognizes Don as a detective from a previous case. There goes Don's cover.

So Don decides he's going to help Janet from the other end as he's beginning to discover just how corrupt Hogan is. Janet has reached the point that she wants to cash in and go to Europe. But Bandor claims he doesn't have the cash at the casino, an excuse to try to buy time to stiff Janet. The scheme that he and Hogan come up with will have her go to Bandor's apartment alone the next day, where Bandor will cause a scene that will get Janet to shoot him with her gun. Except that Bandor has replaced the bullets with blanks, so while he'll play dead, he won't be injured but Janet will think she's killed him.

Hogan, however, is much slimier, realizing he can use this to double-cross Bandor, and have somebody else actually shoot Bandor after Janet leaves. Can Don unravel the mystery?

Well, with the sort of movie this is, you can probably figure out that William Powell is going to come out all right in the end, although the fun of it is seeing how he gets there. The movie is little more than a programmer, running a little over 66 minutes, but Powell does his usual consummate job and makes the movie well worth watching. The story more or less works, not being either a negative or anything particularly noteworthy. Ruth Donnelly probably comes off second-best among the cast and deserved a slightly bigger part, but she's not the romantic female lead. Hohl kept working in Hollywood for another 15 years although he understandably never became a star.

I'm glad that a movie like Private Detective 62 is on a box set. It's definitely worth seeing for anybody who likes either 1930s programmers or William Powell, but it's not big enough to merit the higher price of a standalone.

Masters of Czech animated film

I've mentioned on several occasions that I listen to what used to be the international short-wave broadcasters, although of course with advances in technology most of them have moved away from short-wave and on to the Internet. One advantage of this, however, is that it's a lot easier to recommend an interesting broadcast when it does come up.

This morning I got around to listening to Thursday's edition of Radio Prage, from the Czech Republic, and their cultural feature was Masters of Czech animated film:

In a new, six-part series, Radio Prague International traces the history of Czech animation, from its founders Jiří Trnka, Hermína Týrlová and Karel Zeman to the legendary surrealist filmmaker Jan Švankmajer. It will also focus on the present-day animation scene here in the Czech Republic, including FAMU student Daria Kascheeva, who received a student Oscar for her animated short.

Now, since the series just began, right now they only have a link to the first installment, on a couple of puppet animators I'd never heard of, Hermína Týrlová and Jiří Trnka, so this was all new to me, and interesting.

As always, you can listen to streaming audio, or download the MP3 (6.2MB, about 13 min). There's also a rough transcript of the program. I assume that once the other five episodes are, those will show up on the front page. And if you look at the sidebar on the right side of the page, they have some other interesting links for movie buffs, such as an interview they did with the late American animator Gene Deitch, who spent much of his working life in Prague.

Friday, February 26, 2021

The Rocketeer

Another of the movies that I had a chance to record quite some time ago is The Rocketeer. But it's only recently that I finally got around to watching it to do a post on here.

In the year 1938, Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) is a daredevil pilot who is testing a plane that he and his mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin) have been working on, hoping to fly it in a national airplane competition in the not too distant future. However, as he's flying, in the same area there are a couple of gangsters trying to get away from FBI agents. Cliff inadvertently flies over the skirmish, and the gangsters, unsurprisingly thinking the plane might be overhead tracking from the FBI, shoots at the plane, damaging it beyond repair.

Everybody converges at the airport, where the crippled plane lands and crashes into the car, sending it into a gas truck and destroying the car. The FBI agents retrieve the package that they were looking for which the gangsters had taken, and bring it back to its rightful owner.

This being southern California, that rightful owner is Howard Hughes (Terry O'Quinn), who of course was involved in aviation at that time before becoming more involved with Hollywood. But when they open the package, they discover that it's just an old vacuum cleaner, and not what had really been stolen from Hughes. Back at the airport, Cliff and Peevy examine the package they ended up with, and find out that it's some sort of jet-pack, which is of course a completely novel technology to them back in 1938.

Unsurprisingly, everybody wants that package. Peevy tinkers with it, trying to figure out a way to make it work better. Hughes, since his engineers basically invented it, obviously wants it back. And very high-placed bad guys want it, too. Eddie Valentine (Paul Sorvino) is a gangster who has been hired by swashbuckling actor Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) to get this package, although Eddie doesn't learn until much later in the movie that Neville is actually a Nazi sympathizer.

It turns out that there's more than just the rocket pack connecting Neville and Cliff. Cliff's girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly) is an aspiring actress, and she's actually got a bit part in Neville's latest costume action movie. When Cliff uses the rocket pack to save a stricken pilot at an air show, it makes the news, and through a series of events Neville learns about Jenny's relationship with Cliff, who is being called the "Rocketeer" although nobody knows his identity because using the pack successfully involves wearing a helmet that conceals the user's identity. Neville decides he's going to try to start a relationship with Jenny to see if he can learn from her who the rocketeer is and in that way get the rocket pack.

The Rocketeer, released 30 years ago and set in the late 1930s, is based on a graphic novel, which is part of the reason why the movie has a bit of a comic book feel to it. That, and I got the distinct impression that it was also going for the 1930s serials look as well. In those regards, the movie is quite appealing. The story doesn't have that much realism to it, but I don't think anybody should expect realism from a movie like this. The acting is adequate, but again, I don't think you're watching movies like The Rocketeer for the sort of acting you'd get from a serious drama.

Some of the special effects seemed a bit off, albeit in a way that I don't know that I can really describe. There are also any number of goofs in terms of history. The movie is set in 1938 and has a climax on board a zeppelin, although the Hindenburg disaster occured in 1937 and ended the era of the airship, so there wouldn't have been any airship to fly to Los Angeles for the climax. But again, for a movie like this, you're expected to suspend disbelief, so some more minor anachronisms like this are to be expected.

All in all, I think The Rocketeer will appeal to fans of the old 1930s serials, as well as people looking for a more vintage action movie. The last I checked, it is available on DVD.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

THX 1138

I don't engage in the "Blind Spot" blogathon that any number of movie bloggers do, mostly because I don't know at the start of the year what movies I'm going to get around to seeing over the course of the year, specifically which classics I haven't seen yet but will over the next 12 months. But a movie that would probably fit the Blind Spot blogathon is George Lucas' first feature film, THX 1138.

Set in the distant future, it's a dystopic future as most Hollywood looks at the future seem to be. As in the much earlier Just Imagine, the people don't have traditional names, but letter and number designations that seem more like license plates. Also to impose conformity on the people, they're all shaved bald and dressed in identical all-white outfits, with an exception for some sort of monks and the cybernetic police.

THX 1138, played by Robert Duvall, works at a factory that produces the android police, and goes home to a windowless cell where he lives with LUH 3417 (Maggie McOmie). However, LUH is not THX's wife, as this dystopic future society doesn't have families or sex. (Why anybody even has roommates is not explained.) LUH works at the surveillance center, along with SEN 5241 (Donald Pleasance).

Along with not having any sex and being shaved to all look the same, the people are drugged into conformity so that they don't have any intense emotions. If anything does go wrong, they can step into the nearest confessional, not that it's called this, where they talk to some detached-voice character that might even just be a computer program, filling their heads with platitudes and propaganda about serving the state.

THX obviously has some sort of issues in that he uses one of these confessionals. But he's not the only one. LUH does as well, as she decides to take and switch some of her pills with THX's for whatever reason. This results in the two of them having sex, which is of course highly illegal. SEN figures out that something is going on with THX, and finagles a change in roommates.

Ultimately, however, this results in both THX and SEN getting sent to some sort of prison, where a bunch of non-conformists are kept together (again, why the state wouldn't isolate everybody isn't mentioned). All of these weirdoes are joined by SRT (Don Pedro Colley), a hologram who's suffered from some sort of glitch that's turned him from a programmed hologram into a more or less real human who can interact with everybody else in the environment.

SRT convinces THX and SEN to try to escape, but it's going to be difficult, as none of them have any idea where to escape to. The police are in pursuit, but they have a budget they're not supposed to exceed, which foreshadows how the movie is going to end.

THX 1138 is the sort of futuristic movie where it's probably better not to think about the plot but instead focus on the visual storytelling. That's in no small part because the plot has a whole bunch of holes. How does a society wind up like this in the first place? Even countries that tried to impose communal living on everybody never wound up with something so extreme -- human nature is extremely powerful and fights against this sort of dystopia. And a dystopia this totalitarian isn't powerful enough to capture one little fugitive? Who runs the place and how do they not end up equally conformist?

Because of the plot holes, it can be a bit tough to follow THX 1138. I found myself thinking of A Clockwork Orange, another movie where it was obvious what the movie was trying to do, but which also left me quite cold. There was also Logan's Run, another dystopia in an underground city where people try to escape, winding up with Peter Ustinov in Washington DC.

One other interesting thing with movies about the future is seeing how trapped in the present they are. In the case of THX 1138, that includes surveillance being done with reel-to-reel tape and early 1970s mainframe computers.

Overall, THX 1138 is a visually interesting movie, but one that may not hold up for some people if they think about it too much, not just because of the plot holes, but because what plot there is isn't particularly original, either. It's still absolutely worth a watch, however.

Thursday Movie Picks #346: Love Triangles (TV edition)

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. It's the last Thursday of the month, which means it's time for a TV-themed edition of the blogathon. And since we're still in February, we've got more romantic tropes. So this time, it's the love triangle. I have to admit this was a rather difficult one for me. I had to stretch way back to get one, and stretch the theme for another:

The Many Wives of Patrick (1976-1978). I'll be extremely surprised if anybody else has heard of this one. The local PBS station had this one on many years ago as one of their Britcoms. Patrick Cargill plays Patrick, whose sixth marriage is currently marrying but who can't afford to pay alimony to yet another ex-wife, so he's trying to come up with some way to get wife #6 to initiate proceedings so he can remarry wife #1. Along the way, wives #2-5 pop in and out. A YouTube search only revealed one clip and no theme. And I actually had to do a search on the title to make certain I even had it right.

3's a Crowd (1979-1980). From the incredibly tasteless mind of Chuck Barris comes this take on The Newlywed Game, but with the questions being asked of two teams of three, each consisting of a man, his wife, and his secretary. No Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, or Jean Harlow here. You can see why people would find this offensive, especially when questions were designed to create conflict. Game Show Network did a retooled and watered-down version of the show in 1999, and neither is to be confused with the other Three's a Crowd, which was the successor to Three's Company and had John Ritter married to Mary Cadorette with father-in-law Robert Mandan.

Big Love (2006-2011). Bill Paxton is part of a fundamentalist Mormon sect and has three wives. Multiple wives equals love triangle, or some more complex shape. And who wants to deal with more than one mother-in-law?

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Upcoming films, Feb. 24-26, 2021

More normal service should resume tomorrow, but for now, I've gotten through blogging about all the things I've watched in the last week or so, so instead I decided to take a look at what's coming up that I might have mentioned recently:

TCM has been spending February with a spotlight on memorable perforamces by black actors, this being Black History Month. Every Wednesday in prime time it's been a bunch of different movies. This final Wednesday includes the recently deceased Johnny Nash in Take a Giant Step at 8:00 PM, followed by A Soldier's Story, which might be the best of all the movies shown in the spotlight. Third up is the 1976 version of Sparkle, at midnight.

I mention Sparkle because it got a remake in 2012 thanks to Whitney Houston, who apparently liked the original and got the rights to do a remake, although it took the rest of her life to get that remake made. That remake is also on this week, coming up at 6:01 PM Friday (Feb. 26) on StarzEncore In Black.

Tonight at 8:00 PM on The Movie Channel, there's Fast Times at Ridgemont High, for people of a certain age; I was a few years too young for it to be a movie of my generation. But it's still definitely worth a watch if you haven't seen it before.

I think it's been quite a few years since I mentioned the Fox quickie western One Foot In Hell, dating to the days when Cleopatra was costing the studio a ton of money and they needed other stuff to put in theaters quickly. It's actually not a bad little western. It gets two airings, at 6:34 AM tomorrow and then 2:41 AM Friday, on StarzEncore Westerns.

Just after the first showing of One Foot in Hell, you can switch back to TCM and catch Carnival of Souls, which might be more appropriate for October, but is still worth seeing any time of the year. That starts at 7:45 AM Thursday. Less interesting, to me at least, is Yolanda and the Thief, at 11:45 AM Thursday.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Broadway Babies

Musicals from before 42nd Street can often be a difficult slog to get through. But I'm always interested in an early talkie I haven't seen before, so when I saw the 1929 film Broadway Babies on the TCM schedule, I made it a point to record it and watch it.

Although there are a couple of musical numbers, Broadway Babies isn't as much of a musical as other movies calling themselves musicals. Alice White plays Dee Foster one of three "Broadway Musketeers" living together in a rooming house with Florian (Marion Byron) and Navarre (Sally Eilers). Their motto is to do things their own way, all for one and one for all. Dee has a boyfriend in Billy Buvanny (Charles Delaney), who is a stage manager for the show in which the three women are chorines, and thinks he can get Dee a starring role.

The theater where the cast rehearses is across the alley from a hotel where Perc Gessant (Fred Kohler) and his entourage are staying. Perc is a bootlegger from Detroit distributing alcohol to New York. The men look into the windows of the theater with their binoculars, and see those lovely leggy ladies, and want to meet them. With that in mind, the producer of the show brings them backstage and introduces them to Dee and her friends, asking them to show Perc and his friends a nice evening out.

Dee is of course reluctant to do so at first, since by now she's engaged to Billy. But she sees Billy talking to Blossom, another woman in the cast, and gets the wrong impression that perhaps Billy doesn't really care about her. So she decides she's going to spend some time with Perc after all.

Perc, for his part, is that rare good-hearted bootlegger, not really telling naïve Dee what he really is. But the two fall in love, with Perc getting Dee a starring role in a nightclub show which really causes a lot of friction between her and Billy.

Perc, meanwhile, has been spending his spare time playing high-stakes poker with some locals. Of course those locals are out to fleece Perc, which they do with a rigged game, except that Perc, being no dummy himself, figures it out and turns the tables, which leads to gunplay and a really ridiculous chance of character from Perc.

I'm not certain exactly how original Broadway Babies is. While there's a lot that seems old hat and trite to somebody watching 90 years on from when the movie was made, I wonder how much it was unoriginal even by the standards of 1929. The story is engaging enough and the camera and sound aren't as primitive as some 1929 movies, although of course movie sound and camerawork would advance greatly over the next few years.

Alice White is an appealing star, and it's a shame her career petered out. Everybody else is adequate at best, with stuttering Tom Dugan being obnoxiously cast as Billy's friend. The musical numbers are very much of the pre-Busby Berkeley era, although one with African shields is moderately interesting.

Broadway Babies has been released as a standalone DVD by the Warner Archive collection, but it's really the sort of movie that needs to be in a cheap box set. Worth a watch, but I wouldn't pay standalone prices for it.

Terence Fisher, 1904-1980

The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)

Since TCM is running a non-birthday salute to Dirk Bogarde today, I decided to look through the list of birthdays to see who's on the list. I wasn't certain if I had done a post on Norman Taurog before, so I decided to go with Terence Fisher, one of those names you might not recognize, but whose work you would.

Fisher, like a lot of directors, started out as an editor, in British movies of the late 1930s and 1940s. He moved to directing in the late 1940s, with a lot of movies I don't recognize, although there's So Long at the Fair which he co-directed with Anthony Darnborough, and the Diana Dors movie The Last Page (aka Man Bait, which I blogged about several months back.

It was in the late 1950s that his true claim to fame came, when he started working with Hammer on their horror movies, first with 1957's The Curse of Frankenstein. Fisher, along with cast members like Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, help define a style over the next dozen years or so. TCM seems to have the rights to the Hammer horror films as they trot them out every October.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Cast a Dark Shadow

Dirk Bogarde was born in March 1921, but for some reason, TCM is running a non-birthday salute to him tomorrow morning and afternoon. That tribute starts at 6:45 AM with Cast a Dark Shadow.

Bogarde plays Edward Bare, who at the start of the movie is married to the much older Monica (Mona Washbourne). She's a rich but childless woman who got her money from the family department store. Edward is decidedly not rich, living off of Monica's money and looking for a way to get at that money permanently. What he doesn't know is that Monica is looking to change her will to put Edward in it in a big way.

Monica brings over her solicitor Philip Mortimer (Robert Flemyng), who lives in the same small English country town as them and one that happens to have a surprisingly large number of large houses. Monica talks to Philip about redoing the will, which he technically has to do since Monica is of sound mind. But he sees that Edward is not a nice guy and does everything in his power to get Monica not to change the current will.

For better or for worse, Monica doesn't change the will. That's because Edward overhears Monica having a conversation with Philip about changing the will, and comes to the mistaken conclusion that his wife is writing him out of the will, not into it. So Edward has to set his plan into motion of killing his wife and making it look as though she had an accident with the gas fireplace.

Philip sees through all of this, but the coroner's inquest doesn't, and Edward is a free man for the time being. But he's not a wealthy man yet. As already mentioned, the will that didn't get amended only left the white elephant of a house to Edward, with the money from the department store being left to Monica's spinster sister in Jamaica (still a British colony at the time) until she dies, at which time Edward will finally get it.

But Edward, needing a cash infusion, decides that he has to go looking for another rich older lady. At one of those fading seaside resorts, he meets Freda Jeffries (Margaret Lockwood). She's a widow who inherited a bunch of money from her late husband, but she insists that she'll only mary Edward if they're equals, in it "pound for pound" as she says, each spending their own money.

Edward has to keep up the ruse that he's got money, and we of course expect Edward to start trying to come up with a way to get rid of Freda and get her money. Freda figures out pretty quickly that Edward doesn't really have much money at all, but something more alarming comes along, which is another rich woman with money, Charlotte Young (Kay Walsh). Edward seems to be falling in love with her. Edward's trying to bilk her out of money is one thing to Freda, but having a romantic relationship with her? No way, even though Freda doesn't particularly love Edward any more.

Cast a Dark Shadow is a moderately interesting movie, although there's a twist 15 or 20 minutes from the end that makes things a bit over the top. The performances are about as good as you can expect from the script, and having a second wife who sees through her husband and isn't exactly a lady is a really nice touch too. The whole time I was watching it, I got the impression I was watching a filmed version of a play, which turns out to be the case, although there's a fairly substantial amount of opening things up.

One interesting thing is that there is a birthday person in the movie, although it's not Dirk Bogarde. Kathleen Harrison, who plays Monica's made, was born on February 23, 1892. But the rest of the day's schedule is not a birthday salute to her.

Cast a Dark Shado is not yet on DVD, but according to the TCM Shop, the Cohen Collection is putting out on a double feature in April.

Sunday, February 21, 2021


Many years ago, when I was in college, I saw Sneakers when somebody was watching it in a dorm lounge. I hadn't seen it since, and when it showed up during one of the free preview weekends, I made it a point to DVR it. It's on TV tomorrow, at 4:51 PM on 5Star Max if you've got the Cinemax package, but it's also available on DVD.

A prologue introduces us to Martin and Cosmo when they were college students in the late 1960s. They're lefty computer science students in the days when computers meant mainframes and time sharing, but they're able to get into the computer lab late at night to use the computer to transer money from Republicans to liberal causes. The police come and arrest Cosmo, but Martin was out getting a pizza, so he's a fugitive now.

Decades pass, and Martin Bishop (Robert Redford) is working a white hat security consultant. That is, he and his firm are hired by businesses specifically to find out the security holes that would enable a computer hacker or other criminal to bilk them out of big bucks. Among his colleagues are Crease (Sidney Poitier), formerly of the CIA; Whistler (David Strathairn), a blind expert in electronics and the sounds various electronics make; "Mother" (Dan Aykroyd), an electronics technician; and Carl (River Phoenix), who does a fair amount of the grunt work.

One day, Martin is approached by a couple of guys who know his past. Dick Gordon (Timothy Busfield) and Buddy Wallace (Eddie Jones). They know about a Czech mathematician named Janek (Donal Logue) who is giving a lecture on large prime numbers, which are a big deal in the field of cryptography because it takes a substantial amount of computing power to figure out the prime factors of very large numbers (assuming, of course, these numbers aren't simply multiples of 2 or 3 or much smaller primes) and these numbers can be used to transpose the digitl 1s and 0s into patterns it's very hard to break. (OK, this is a simplification, but going into all the details would make for a very dry movie.)

Martin goes to the lecture, and from that and using human intelligence -- basic surveillance and confidence games with people around Janek, conning people being a big part of security breaches even today -- he and his colleagues deduce that Janek had figured out a way around the factorization problem and developed a computer chip that could basically hack into any current computer, no matter how good the encryption, meaning that all sorts of computer systems are at risk. Gordon and Wallace are from the NSA, and want Martin's company to get that chip for the Americans, since this is just after the fall of the Iron Curtain, and who knows who Janek is really working for?

So Martin and company are able to get it, but when the handover is to be made, Crease reads a newspaper article about the killing of Janek which makes him realize that Gordon and Wallace may not actually be NSA. Martin goes to the former Soviet, now Commonwealth of Independent States (remember that?) attache to figure out what might be going on, but Gordon and Wallace catch up with them, killing the attaché, framing Martin for it and abducting him, and getting the chip themselves.

It turns out that Gordon and Wallace were working for... Cosmo! Cosmo (Ben Kingsley) claims to be working for some shady organized crime group, except that they really weren't that organized before Cosmo showed up. The chip, at least if you believe Cosmo, would help the Mob stay one step ahead of the government. It doesn't quite add up, though, since why would Cosmo go work for the Mob when he and Martin both had ideals?

So Martin and his friends are going to have to figure out where Cosmo's men took him, and then come up with a way to get that chip back. This leads to the finale, in a Silicon Valley company with high-tech by 1992 standards security, and them tring to figure out how to break that security.

Sneakers is an entertaining enough movie as long as you don't think too hard, something that holds for a lot of the movies at the intersection of spying and heisting. My impression is that they get a fair amount of the technicals right: prime numbers and advanced math really are important for encryption, and conning people to get around security is often more likely to work (think phishing, for example). The presentation of computers is obviously made more visual-friendly if less realistic, and I think there are certain aspects of security the writers overlooked. A lot of the more sensitive computer systems would, I think, have been using air gaps even in the early 1990s, while Cosmo's company likely would have had fingerprint access in addition to badge and voice access. (I'm not certain how far advanced facial recognition was in 1992; it's not mentioned here.)

For a Hollywood look at computers and security back in the day, you could do worse than to watch a movie like Sneakers.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

The Teenage Awards Music International Show

Last year over Labor Day weekend, TCM did a whole weekend of concert films, which included what I think was the premiere of a movie I'd been curious about seeing for quite some time, The T.A.M.I. Show. Trying to work my way through the backlog of movies on my DVR, I finally sat down to watch this one to do a review on here.

There's nothing to review in terms of plot, since this is just a concert movie, not even with any sort of framing story the way that ABBA: The Movie has, or backstage scenes. It's just the musicians performing at a concert conceived as a big thing for screaming teens and to raise money for music scholarships (the movie record of the concert is the only thing we got).

After an opening theme that introduces us to the various artists and gives us as close as we're going to get to anything "candid" out of them as they make their way to the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, we then get Jan and Dean, who I think were a bit past their peak at the time the movie was released in 1964. They're more or less the emcees, introducing the artists, who come in a fairly broad range. They start with Chuck Berry, past his prime by 1964, who segues into British Invasion act Gerry and the Pacemakers, who did have some success but flamed out after a few years like most of the British Invasion artists. These two actually do a mash-up of "Maybellene" together, with the Pacemakers providing some bizarre hand clapping.

There's a fair amount of Motown, including Smokey Robinson and the Miracles (most of their big hits yet to come); Marvin Gaye (ditto, only much more so); and closer to the end of the show, the Supremes, who had already had one or two #1 hits by this time that they sing truncated versions of.

British Invasion acts who appear other than Gerry and the Pacemakers are Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas (not quite so successful); and, concluding the concert (more on that later), the Rolling Stones, who at the time I think had only had one fairly big hit, "Time Is On My Side"; their more famous stuff was to be made much later.

Jan and Dean were part of the beach music scene, and somehow the concert was able to attract the biggest beach music act of them all, the Beach Boys, who do quite well performing all of their hits to that date; the album Pet Sounds was still two years away from being recorded so none of that here.

Not quite fitting any of the other genres are Lesley Gore, big in 1964 and performing all of her big hits, including "It's My Party", and a group I'd never heard of, The Barbarians. They serve mostly to introduce the following, and penultimate act, James Brown. He was sometimes called "the hardest working man in show business", and from this performance, it's pretty darn easy to see why, as he puts out a tremendous amount of energy, although I did find myself wondering whether his backing band picking him up off the floor was staged. The Stones had to follow James Brown; good luck with that.

Several of the acts got backup dancers including women in fairly skimpy bikinis, one guy who did a bizarre writhing around on the floor bit, and apparently Teri Garr before she became a well-known actress. (From what I read, she's the one in the bullseye sweater.)

How much you like this movie depends on how much you like the music, of course. I found most of it interesting as a time capsule although I had varying degrees of like for the music. The Supremes sang big hits and I really enjoy their music; Lesley Gore also comes off extremely well for a young woman of 18. As I implied above, I'm probably the one person who didn't particularly care for the James Brown set, which I thought went on way too long and staged. The Beach Boys have great harmonies, of course, but they've never really been my thing.

The T.A.M.I. Show has been released to DVD, so if you like 1960s music, you might want to give it a try. It's a movie that defies any sort of traditional review, so I can't really say much more about it.

Friday, February 19, 2021

What are you rebelling against?

Back in June, TCM ran a spotlight on jazz in the movies, and it gave me the chance to record a foreign film that had an interesting-sounding synopsis: The Warped Ones. Recently, I finally got around to watching it.

Akira is a jerk who cavorts with prostitut Yuki who go around committing petty and not-so petty crimes while Akira berates people for not liking authentic jazz music. His assholish behavior harassing foreign tourists eventually gets him turned in to the police by journalist Kawashigi, sending both Akira and Yuki to a reformatory.

After getting out of the reformatory, Akira wants to get revenge on Kawashigi. He's met Masaru, a fellow young hoodlum who wants to join the yakuza, and together, Akira, Masaru, and Yuki go around causing general mayhem because, well, they can, I suppose.

Eventually, Akira goes to an artists' colony where he meets Kawashigi again, and Kawashigi's girlfriend Fumiko. This gives Akira his idea for a way of getting that revenge. Both Yuki and Fumiko get pregnant, Fumiko and Kawashigi think about killing Akira in a gas line "accident", and then there's the finale with the two men and two women; Masaru got himself killed trying to join the yakuza.

In and among all this, Akira continues to act like a jerk and trying to listen to all sorts of jazz. There's a scene at an art exhibit, another scene where Akira winds up going to the beach with a black American jazz musician, and some other stuff.

But don't expect much of a plot. The movie is basically 75 minutes of Akira being a nasty piece of shit who deserves his block knocked off but never gets it. As you can tell, I hated this movie, which has no redeeming story or characters, and never gets interesting. If I were going to mention Japanese delinquents, I'd much rather recommend Cruel Story of Youth, which I blogged about ages ago and is much more interesting.

The Warped Ones did get a DVD release on one of the Criterion Collection's Eclipse sets.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Pick-Up Artist

Another of the movies that I recorded during one of the free preview weekend was the light 1980s comedy The Pick-Up Artist. It's going to be on again, at 5:24 AM tomorrow on StarzEncore Classics, so I watched it to do a post on it.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Jack Jericho, a not very successful man for a bunch of reasons. He lives with his grandmother Nellie (Mildred Dunnock) in a New York apartment where he can't pay the rent; presumably his parents died when he was young which is when he started living with Grandma, but now she's elderly and you wonder how much longer she can live. But that's not what the movie is about. Jack is also a teacher in danger of losing his job.

But Jack's biggest problem is the way he treats women. He tries out terrible pick-up lines in front of the mirror, and then when he goes out into the real world, he has the audacity to try these lines on random women he meets. One would think there's no woman out there nuts enough to respond positively to these lines, but I suppose it's a corollary to Rule 34 that anything you can think of is going to be a turn on for somebody. Indeed, Jack has a sheet of paper with the names and phone numbers of a ridiculous number of women on it.

One day, Jack meets Randy Jensen (Molly Ringwald) and, after some attempts finds that the lines work on her, more or less. It gets her into his car and then Central Park where they have sex, but she's not about to reveal her last name or give him his phone number. So what does Jack do? He starts stalking her, and finds out that she works as a guide at the Museum of Natural History. Jack goes to the museum and books a tour for his students, specifically requesting Randy as the guide.

You'd think that would turn off Randy even more, and unsurprisingly, she's very unwilling to pursue a relationship with Jack any further as she points out during the tour. Jack can't be bothered to take "no" for an answer, so he continues to stalk Randy, finding out that she lives out near Coney Island, with her father Flash (Dennis Hopper). Flash is an inveterate gambler who's racked up a $25K debt with gambler Alonzo (Harvey Keitel), who wants the debt paid off immediately, if not sooner.

Amazingly, Jack is too stupid to figure out that Flash and Randy are father and daughter. But after helping Randy to get rid of the debt collectors, there might be a flicker of hope for him with Randy. But she was always Daddy's good luck charm when he gambled, so she thinks she might be able to go to Atlantic City and win the money that Dad owes Alonzo.

When Jack finally figures out where Randy has run off to, he gets his good friend Phil (Danny Aiello) and Flash and follows to Atlantic City, hoping for some way to help out Randy. But can they ever really love each other?

The Pick-Up Artist is the sort of movie that I think 50 years earlier would have been made -- cleaner, of course -- as a B movie. The idea of somebody like Jack meeting a working girl and then having everything spiral out of control over the course of 48 hours is something that seems like it would fit in in the Depression; a movie like The Girl from 10th Avenue sprung to mind. This more modern plot is full of plot holes, but the two leads make the threadbare material work. It's also nice to see Mildred Dunnock near the end of her career.

If you like 80s comedies, then The Pick-Up Artist will probably entertain you for its 80 or so minutes. It's nothing particularly great, but it's not quite as bad as its IMDb ratings, either. A search of the TCM Shop and Amazon says it's not on DVD, although you can watch it on streaming video.

Thursday Movie Picks #345: Forbidden Love

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. We've got two more Thursdays in February, so two more romance-themed editions of the blogathon. This Thursday, the trope in question is "Forbidden Love". I actually picked three more recent movies, "recent" meaning made after I was born. I'll go in reverse chronological order:

Mrs. Soffel (1984). Diane Keaton plays Mrs. Soffel, the wife of a prison warden (Edward Herrmann) in Pennsylvania circa 1900. To make herself feel useful, she provides tutoring and Christian teaching to the prisoners, which is where she meets Ed Biddle (Mel Gibson) and his brother Jack (Matthew Modine). She falls in love with Ed and helps the brothers escape, which causes problems for everybody.

Endless Love (1981). Martin Hewitt is a high school senior in love with Brooke Shields, a couple of years his junior. He goes far enough with her and insinuates himself enough into the family that her dad (Don Murray) wants the relationship broken off. This leads to a failed attempt to win back Dad's approval that results in the house getting burned down, Hewitt getting sent to a juvenile mental faciity, and pining after Shields from there, and following the family to New York when he gets out. He also has an extremely inappropriate relationship with her mom (Shirley Knight).

Equus (1977). Psychiatrist Richard Burton tries to figure out why young Peter Firth loves horses.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Super Fly

This month, TCM has been running a spotlight on noteworthy performances by black actors and actresses every Wednesday night in prime time. This gives me an opportunity to blog about Super Fly, which is on overnight tonight at 2:00 AM.

Youngblood Priest (Ron O'Neal) struts through New York City on the way to a meeting with his girlfriend Georgia (Sheila Frazier), showing that he isn't going to take any nonsense from anybody. Priest is a cocaine dealer, but as we see, he's also a user. Thanks to the illegality of drugs, it's a highly dangerous business, and Priest has been thinking of gettign out of it in order to live a life of retirement.

But to do that, one needs a substantial sum of money, especially if one is putting a bunch of that money up one's nose. As Priest's best friend and partner of sorts Eddie (Carl Lee) points out, at the rate Priest is using, the money he's got saved up to this point is only going to last him a year, and then where is he going to be? So naturally, Priest comes up with one of those classic tropes from crime movies: The Perfect One Last Score that Can't Go Wrong.

Of course, there's almost definitely going to be something, or multiple somethings that go wrong, or else we're not going to have much of a movie. Priest's plan is to take the $300,000 he and Eddie have saved up, buy 30 kg of coke, and then sell it off on the street which should more than triple their money. Now, the first obvious problem is getting that coke in the first place. Priest has an old friend in Scatter (Julius Harris) who has been in the business, but wanted to get out and is now running a hole-in-the-wall restaurant. He's got a stash for himself, but he's clearly reluctant to get those 30 kgs for Priest.

There's also the fact that it's going to take several months to deal all that coke, and in that time the other players in the business are sure to notice what's going on which of course happens when what looks like the police stop Priest and Eddie, only for it to be some higher-up white dealers who really run the cocaine business in New York.

So in some ways there's a lot in common with other gangster and crime movies, and yeat also a lot that makes Super Fly unique. It's not just because of the black protagonist, but that combined with the changing morals and an increase in location filming. TCM ran this last April as part of a spotlight on movies looking at New York City in the 1970s, and the low-budget location shooting gives Super Fly a wonderfully gritty look. I also love the production design. I've said in the past that I enjoy movies from the 1960s that are contemporary and show off the design of that decade in all its glory, while movies looking back at that era tend to look sterile. By the same token, Super Fly does the same thing for the 70s. One scene of Priest in a cafe doing a deal really reminded me of the look of another cafe scene in Panic in Needle Park.

Gordon Parks, Jr. brought other stylish direction to Super Fly as well, notably in one extended photo montage of the progression of Priest's cocaine deals set over Curtis Mayfield's "Pusherman". Some might have an artistic problem with it, but I think it works here and provides something really distinctive.

Super Fly would go well in a night of movies with the previously mentioned Panic in Needle Park and The French Connection. It deserves far better recognition than just as a blaxploitation movie.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

You still gotta stay happy

Back when Olivia de Havilland died, TCM replaced a day in Summer Under the Stars with a day of her movies, which gave me the chance to DVR a couple that I hadn't seen before. One of those, Princess O'Rourke, is on again tomorrow at 12:15 PM, so I sat down to watch it and do a post on it here.

Olivia, as you can guess, does play the princess, but her name isn't O'Rourke. She's Princess Maria, who at the start of the movie is the princess of some unnamed central European country that's been overrun by the Nazis, the movie having been released in 1943. The royal family has been forced to flee, with Dad in exile in London and Princess Maria, together with a secretary and an uncle, Holman (Charles Coburn), holed up at a hotel in New York (I'm guessing they don't control the embassy in Washington).

Maria is bored in New York, and has a count she doesn't care for pursuing her because the royal family needs a suitable marriage. Holman decides that the best thing to do would be to send Maria out west, since the royal family has some friends in California who have a ranch. It would be a nice change of pace for Maria, as well as a way to get her out of the spotlight for her own safety should the need arise.

The only problem is that she's going to have to fly out to California, something that she's rather afraid of doing. Holman and the secretary come up with the brillian idea of giving her a sleeping pill before the flight, so that she'll sleep through the flight (a redeye with train-like sleepers) and wake up in California refreshed.

But it doesn't work out like that. Maria can't sleep, so first she asks the stewardess for a sleeping pill. She still can't sleep, so now it's the turn of co-pilot Dave Campbell (Jack Carson) to give her a pill. When that still doesn't seem to work, she asks the pilot, Eddie O'Rourke (aha! there's the O'Rourke, played by Robert Cummings), for a pill, and he gives her two.

The pills eventually do the trick, and perhaps Holman should have told her in the first place that it wasn't going to be instantaneous. But taking five of them really knocks Maria out, to the point that when the plane hits fog and has to turn back to New York, she doesn't realize the plane has landed, and can't wake up. And when she finally does, it's left her with a cloudy brain such that she can't remember where she's staying.

So O'Rourke puts her up at his place for the night, since Dave has a wife in Jean (Jane Wyman) and Eddie has the room, although Eddie asks Jean over to change Maria into something more appropriate for sleeping.

You can probably guess more or less what happens next. Maria likes this way of being incognito, so after she leaves Eddie's place, she escapes the hotel to go see him again. He wants to see her, anyway, not realizing she's a princess, and so begins a beautiful love relationship.

Well, that's how it begins, but it's going to take some twists and turns before it gets to the end. The big one, of course, is what's going to happen when Eddie finds out that Maria is in fact a princess. Perhaps thankfully for him, he comes from a long line of sons, leading Holman to believe that he's likely to produce a son for the royal family, which after all is the chief duty of a Prince Consort. But is Eddie going to want the sort of life that a Prince Consort has to live? And is Maria going to want that sort of life for Eddie?

For unsurprising reasons, Princess O'Rourke made me think of You Gotta Stay Happy, which I blogged about not too long ago. Both are about a pilot falling in love with a rich woman, and they have the sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine. But of course there are a lot of differences, with the big one here being that Princess O'Rourke has the heavy hand of World War II hanging over it. Well, maybe not heavy in that it doesn't do anything to harm the movie; just that it gives the movie a completely different tone. It mostly works for Princess O'Rourke, and while it's certainly not the greatest movie in the careers of any of the main stars, there's nothing notably wrong with it.

If you want a change of pace from Olivia de Havilland, you could do a lot worse than to watch Princess O'Rourke.

Back in the FXM rotation, February 17-??, 2021

I have admit that I didn't really lok at the FXM schedule in much detail once I noticed that Sodom and Gomorrah was on this morning, and that was going to be my FXM movie to blog about. Looking at it a bit more in detail, and there are quite a few movies that I think are just now coming out of the vaults and are worth a mention.

First up is Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, airing today at 1:10 PM and again tomorrow at 3:00 AM. Peter Lorre is bloated; Walter Pidgeon is getting up there in years as is Joan Fontaine; and there's Barbara Eden and Frankie Avalon (no Annette Funicello) for the teens.

High Anxiety concludes the FXM Retro part of the schedule on Wednesday, at 1:25 PM. This is Mel Brooks' spoof of Alfred Hitchcock, worth a mention since it's got the recently deceased Cloris Leachman in it as well. It, too, has an airing the following day, at 10:25 AM Thursday.

Starting and ending the Thursday FXM Retro daypart is Fantastic Voyage. Your chance to see Raquel Welch in a form-fitting outfit, this one comes on at 3:05 AM Thursday and 1:15 PM Thursday.

Elsewhere on Thursday, there's The Day Mars Invaded Earth, at noon Thursday. This is one of those Maury Dexter cheapies, but it's surprisingly good for a cheapie. It's another movie that gets an airing the following day, at 4:45 AM Friday.

Finally, on Friday, I'll mention The Gods Must Be Crazy, at 1:10 PM. Surprisingly, a search of the blog suggests I've never done a post on it. It's been quite a few years since I've watched it, so I'll have to DVR it and do a post on it for some future FXM showing.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Four Daughters

John Garfield is the Star of the Month on TCM for February, and that's given me a chance to watch one of his movies that I've had on the DVR for a while, Four Daughters. It's going to be on in tomorrow's prime time lineup, at 12:15 AM Wednesday Feb. 17 (or still Feb. 16 in more westerly time zones).

Garfield isn't the official star here, since this was just his first feature film. The nominal star is Claude Rains. He's Adam Lemp, a widower who teaches at a school of music and has the titular four daughters, in whom he's tried to instill his love of and ability for music. He's done this with varying degrees of success. Daughter Key (Rosemary Lane) has dreams of getting a music scholarship in Philadelphia, while the other three: Thea (Lola Lane), Ann (Priscilla Lane) and Emma (Gale Page) are strictly amateurs.

Thea is being pursued by Ben Crowley (Frank McHugh with a ridiculous mustache), a well-to-do banker who could provide her security. Emma has a suitor in local florist Erniest (Dick Foran), while Ann being the youngest doesn't have anybody quite yet. But a man is about to come into everybody's lives.

That man is Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn), an up-and-coming composer/conductor who is going to be living with the Lemps while he's working on a composition for a contest that, if he wins, would earn him a nice stipend. Ann and Emma both fall in love with him, although neither Ann nor Felix seem to realizes that Emma has any feelings for him.

And then another man comes into the movie, which shouldn't be surprising since we know this is being run for John Garfield's turn as Star of the Month. Garfield plays Mickey Borden, a friend of Felix's, an arranger responsible for creating good orchestrations for Felix. Unlike Dana Andrews in Night Song, he doesn't seem to have any interest in composing, or at least any expectation that he's going to be successful, since he thinks everything in life is stacked against him.

Despite Mickey's non-stop snarkiness, Ann seems to become friends with him. So much so that on what is supposed to be her wedding day to Felix, once she's found out the true depth of Emma's feelings for Felix, she decides to run off with Mickey and leave Felix at the altar! Ann and Mickey run off to New York and find out that life in the big city isn't a bed of roses, but don't want to let the rest of the family know that there's anything going wrong. This leads to the movie's dramatic climax, on Christmas Eve no less.

Watching Four Daughters, I found it easy to see why Garfield became a star, even though I wanted somebody to put some sense in his character. It's also easy to see why the movie was a big hit, as it's the sort of material that would have been homey and comforting to audiences in the second half of the Depression. (Warner Bros. didn't intend Four Daughters as a prestige picture, but it wound up with several Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.)

That having been said, the nature of Garfield's character, combined with the sudden plot twist, do create some problems with Four Daughters that made it a bit less to my taste than some other people will probably find it. Even with its flaws, however, Four Daughters is definitely worth a watch.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sodom and Gomorrah

I've got several movies to blog about that are all coming up on TV within a relatively close timeframe, so I'm blogging about the first of them a bit earlier than normal. Sodom and Gomorrah recently started showing up in the FXM rotation, so I recorded it for a future airing. The next airing is on early Tuesday morning, at 3:20 AM, so now's the time to blog about it.

Sometime after Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt and they wandered in the desert for 40 years, they split up into smaller groups in search of better land to plant down roots. One of the groups is led by Lot (Stewart Granger), and has some dissension in its ranks in the form of Melchior (Rik Battaglia); fter all, who wants to be wandering around the desert like this? Eventually they find a river and think this is a good place to settle down.

However, the site Lot picks is more or less just across the river from the city of Sodom, which is ruled by Queen Bera (Anouk Aimée). She's got a brother Astaroth (Stanley Baker) who has been plotting to depose his sister with some help from the nomadic Elamites. Sodom is a wealthy city thanks to the presence of copious amounts of salt, which is mined with heavy use of slaves. Having the Hebrews around is going to screw things up in many ways.

One is that the Hebrews are extremely pious and virtuous, even though the Sodomites don't believe in the god Jehovah that the Hebrews worship. They explicitly oppose slavery, while saying they'll give sanctuary to any slaves who escape from Sodom and cross the river. There's also the fact that Lot and Bera are eventually able to come to an agreement on how much to pay for the land on which the Hebrews settle. Astaroth is going to have to get the Elamites to destroy the Hebrews too.

But first, Astaroth lets one of the slaves, Ildith (Pier Angeli), stay over on the Hebrew side in the hopes that she'll serve as a spy for him. Instead, she eventually falls in love with Lot and becomes his wife. One of Lot's daughters, Maleb (Claudie Mori), marries Lot's second-in-command Ishmael (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart), while the other one, Shuah (Rossana Podestà) is taken back to Sodom by Astaroth.

As for that contract to pay for the land, Lot does what the stereotype of clever Jews exiled to infertile ghettos has Jews do: use their brains to figure out a different way to make money and become wildly rich. In this case, that means damming the river and making the Hebrews' side of the river incredibly fertile. They'll also wind up with an even bigger salt deposit than the Sodomite side.

But Astaroth has those Elamites come and attack; they burn down the Hebrews' camp and destroy the crops, while the only way to defeat the Elamites is to destroy the dam and drown them. It makes Lot and the Hebrews heroes in the eyes of Bera, but it also means that the Hebrews, having no place to live, have to move into Sodom. Big mistake.

The Hebrews grow fat and happy in the temporal world, while Jehovah is getting increasingly pissed off at them and of course doesn't care for the debauched Sodomites. Lot defeats Astaroth in hand to hand combat that results in Astaroth's death, only afterwards realizing that Bera wanted this so she could get rid of her enemy. Lot is sentenced to death, but Jehovah sends a couple of angels to offer the Hebrews deliverance, as long as none of them look back at Sodom while Jehovah is smiting the city. You probably know what happens.Sodom and Gomorrah was one of those international epic co-productions that dotted the landscape in the years either side of 1960, this one involving the French, Italians, and Americans; much of the filming was done in Morocco. It wound up with a bloated budget thanks to cost overruns, but has the feel of a lower budget epic, which is of course to the film's detriment. The dialogue is risible, although to be fair, with people from so many nationalities, much of it was not in people's native languages if not just done in post-production.

The effects don't quite work either, which for a movie about the destruction of a city, is a bit of a problem. The battle with the Elamites really looks like obvious miniatures; I'm reminded of when TCM did a spotlight on MGM's effects guy and the modern day effects people brought in to talk about the movie pointed out that you can't miniaturize drops of water. That's especially obvious here. And then in the climax, when Sodom is getting destroyed, everybody simply looks like they're staggering around drunkenly while the camera is shaking.

Still, Sodom and Gomorrah is definitely worth one watch, with fans of sword-and-sandle movies and the epics of the era probably being most likely to enjoy it. For the rest of us, it's more likely to be finding it unintentionally humorous at times. The movie also desperately needs a restoration, based on the print FXM ran. (I thought at first it was panned-and-scanned down to 16:9, but IMDb says the movie was filmed in 1.85:1.)

Sodom and Gomorrah has gotten a standalone DVD release courtesy of Fox's MOD scheme. It's also on a box set with three other disparate religion themed movies.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Deep Valley

Another of the movies that I recently watched off the DVR thanks to its being on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive is Deep Valley.

Ida Lupino, really much too old for the part, plays Libby Saul. She's the adult daughter living on an isolated northern California farm together with her parents Cliff (Henry Hull) and Ellie (Fay Bainter). Ellie has some sort of illness which has her spending a lot of time in bed upstairs, while Libby's problem is that she stutters, which really ticks off Dad. Well, that, and the fact that she doesn't seem to want to do her share of the work around the house. Instead, she'd rather go off to an abandoned cabin in the forest which borders on their farm.

It's on one of those sojourns to the cabin that she sees something the presumably hasn't seen before owing to her family's isolation and her speech impediment. It's a prison work gang building a new road along the coast down the hill from the cabin. And these being prisoners and with the hot weather, a lot of them have stripped down to the waist and aren't wearing shirts. No wonder Libby's heart is set all aflutter despite her not having much prospects for a man.

The head of the work gang, Jeff Barker (Wayne Morris), shows up at the house one night, to talk about purchasing some land for the road project, and is immediately taken with Libby, not yet knowing about her speech problem, and certainly not knowing she's seen all those prisoners. Later that night, a fierce storm comes through, shaking the Sauls' house violently, and causing a landslide on the hill where they're building the road.

The landslide killed several prisoners and left a couple missing and presumed dead, including Barry Burnette (Dane Clark). He had gotten in trouble with the guards and put in the tool shed as a sort of makeshift sweatbox, and when the landslide came, it knocked over the shed. The logical thought might be that he died in the landslide too, except that his dead body is not found in the shed, so Barker thinks Burnette has escaped, and sure enough he has.

As you can probably guess, Barry makes his way through the woods, and finding that abandoned cabin, thinks that's not a bad place to stop for a bit while he tries to plan his next movie to figure out how to escape. You can also probably guess that Libby is going to go back there and find Barry. And then, on top of all that, you can fairly easily figure out that naïve Libby is going to fall in love with Barry, and the feeling will be mutual. Libby hasn't had a man, and here's Barry, fit from all that work and good enough looking. Barry hasn't had a woman in years, being a 10-year manslaughter sentence, and he wants Libby, filling her head with all sorts of nonsense of how they're going to live together in the big city, never mind from films like Dust Be My Destiny that fugitives are always going to feel themselves the prey.

So with all that story in mind, it's not surprising that there isn't much new in Deep Valley. There are shades of lots of other movies here, some earlier, like the aforementioned Dust Be My Destiny and also High Sierra, and some later, like Johnny Belinda (although of course here Barry has no intention of committing rape). The actors do the best they can with the material, and the acting isn't bad at all. But the material is trite and, in this case, also has any number of plot holes. There was also the extremely obvious rear-projection photography in the climax. And the Production Code means there's only one possible ending.

Overall, however, Deep Valley is definitely woth a watch the next time it shows up on TCM. I'm not certain I'd pay standalone DVD prices for it, but some people probably would.

Friday, February 12, 2021

The 'Burbs

One of the movies that I had the chance to record during one of the free preview weekends was The 'Burbs. It's going to be on Flix again tonight at midnight, and is on DVD and Blu-ray, so I recently watched it to do a post on here.

Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) is your typical middle-class family man, living with a wife Carol (Carrie Fisher) and son Dave in a well-manicured suburban cul-de-sac on the Universal backlot. There's a mix of neighbors such as Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern), a Vietnam vet who seems to want to relive his glory days in Vietnam; elderly Walter (Gale Gordon), who gets some joy in having his dog pee on Mark's lawn; and Art Weingartner (Rick Ducommun). There's also adolescent Ricky (Corey Feldman), although we never see his parents for whatver reason.

All of them have noticed that there's something odd going on in one of their neighbors' houses, these being the reclusive Klopeks. Their house is unkempt, the lawn is dead, there's an elaborate alarm system, and odd lights and noises emanate from the basement of the house. It's only natural that everybody should be curious about the place.

Unfortunately for Ray, it's the start of a week's vacation, and Carol would prefer to spend the week at their cabin up in the mountains. It's the source of some tension between them, as Ray and the other younger guys are not only getting more curious, they're beginning to get more worried about what's going on in the Klopek house.

What brings matters to a head is that one morning, Walter's beloved little dog is wandering the street alone, and when they bring him back to Walter's house, there's no answer at the door. They eventually break in out of concern, an find the place devoid of life, save for Walter's toupee. That's a big read flag for Ray, because just as Grace Kelly points out in Rear Window that no wife is going to leave the house without her wedding and engagement rings, no elderly man with a toupee is going to leave the house without it.

The guys all think that the Klopeks must be doing satanic rituals or something that otherwise puts people's lives in immediate danger down in that basement, and that Walter is probably already dead. But to find out what's really going on, they have to get into the house, so Ray and Carol along with Mark and his wife Bonnie make a visit over to the house. Dr. Werner (Henry Gibson), together with his brother Reuben (Brother Theodore) and a son/grandson Hans (Courtney Gains) are weird, to say the least, although Dr. Werner seems to be a researcher in, well, something. But why won't the Klopeks let them see the basement, and why do they have a guard dog down there?

Everything seems at least like something that can be answered, until Ray reveals that he found Walter's toupee in the basement along with his mail. In theory it's no big deal that the Klopeks might be picking up Walter's mail, but Ray deliberately left the toupee in Walter's house, and that shouldn't have been picked up. To figure things out once and for all, the guys are going to have to make a commando raid on the Klopek place, something that's just the thing for a Vietnam vet with delusions of glory.

There's the kernel of an interesting story, if nothing new, in The 'Burbs. Unfortunately, the movie is largely let down thanks to the direction, combined with some overbearing music cues. There's one scene, for example, in which director Joe Dante wants to show suspense by doing exaggerated closeups on everybody's faces (including Walter's dog). It goes on too long; it's clumsily handled; and, combined with the obvious music, it doesn't work at all. Bruce Dern's character is written as too much of a stereotype; unlike, say, Terry-Thomas in Make Mine Mink, he's not somebody you'd want to follow but someone you'd want to avoid.

Corey Feldman and his friends playing spectator for the climax are one of the high spots, but The 'Burbs is a film where the high spots are too few and far between. But, as always, watch and judge for yourself.

Programming notice for Valentine's Day Weekend

Sunday is Feburary 14, which means Valentine's Day is coming up. It's supposed to be a time for romance, although with governments still trying to use a virus to oppress everyone, how much romance is there? At least you can probably find some on the TV channels, which have no such constraints.

TCM is spending most of the next 72 hours with romances, starting sometime Friday morning (or during prime time Thursday night) depending on your view. There's romance in Rear Window at 6:15 AM that's secondary to the plot, so I'd argue the marathon really kicks off at 8:15 AM with High Society, which is the remake of The Philadelphia Story (Feb. 14 at 2:15 AM).

But the real purpose in bringing up TCM's romance marathon is to point out that some of the traditional programming won't show up this weekend. There's no Saturday matinee block, and there's no Noir Alley. At least, I assume nobody considers The Goodbye Girl (12:15 AM Sunday) or Wuthering Heights (9:45 AM Sunday) to be noirs. Silent Sunday Nights and TCM Imports will be on at more or less their normal times with movies that fit the romantic theme (City Lights and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg respectively).

As for FXM, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of romance until Sunday morning, when there's a four-film block starting at 7:45 AM with The Model and the Marriage Broker. I'm assuming this is purely coincidental, or else they would have programmed something other than The Man Who Never Was at 6:00 AM on Valentine's Day. A movie returning to FXM is Von Ryan's Express, tomorrow at 4:00 AM with another showing on Saturday.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Thursday Movie Picks #344: Friends to Lovers

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. As we're still in February, we're getting another romance-themed edition of the blogathon. This time, it's "Friends to Lovers", which reminds me of a terrible 1980s song:

Ah, but that's not really what this week's blogathon is about. It's about characters who have been friends (often long-term) and only realize in the final reel what everybody in the audience knows from the beginning, which is that they should have been together all along. With that in mind, I picked three films in the genre, although one of them only has the characters meeting (innocently) a few weeks before they wind up together:

The Farmer's Wife (1928). Lesser-known Alfred Hitchcock silent about a widower farmer (Jameson Thomas) who, having married off his daughter, needs a wife around the house. He goes to see a series of "lady of the house" types, but we know all along that the housekeeper (Lillian Hall-Davis) who has been working for him all along is just what he really needs. It's getting there that's the fun, more or less (this not being among Hitchcock's more highly-rated work).

Hot Saturday (1932). Small-town girl Nancy Carroll goes with her boyfriend (Edward Woods) and all the other twentysomethings to a dance/party place out on the lake. When the boyfriend gets too handsy in a boat on the lake, Carroll escapes, taking refuge at the lakeside vacation home of big-city playboy Cary Grant in a very early role. Grant is very proper, but an extremely jealous Woods starts spreading nasty rumors which costs Carroll her job, a relationship with woods, and a possible relationship with old family friend Randolph Scott. Carroll does end up with Grant at the end, in a very pre-Code way.

Cactus Flower (1969). Walter Matthau plays a dentist who has a series of young girlfriends whom he dumps by telling them a complete lie, saying that he's got a wife. The latest girlfriend (Goldie Hawn) attempts suicide, and the guy in the next apartment (Rick Lenz) saves her and the idea comes to ask to see Matthau's wife to satisfy her curiosity. Of course he doesn't have one, so he tries to impress on his spinster secretary (Ingrid Bergman) that perhaps she could play the part of the wife? We know that the two older stars are right for each other, but will they wind up together in the end? Goldie Hawn won the Oscar, but Bergman shows just how good she could be at comedy.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Indiscreet (1958)

A couple of months back, TCM featured Scott Eyman, who had recently written a book on Cary Grant. One of the movies they featured that night was Indiscreet, which I hadn't blogged about before, so I DVRed it and finally got around to watching it to do a blog post on here.

Cary Grant is one of the stars, but the other one appears first. That's Ingrid Bergman, playing Anna Kalman. She's an actress based out of London who, needing a change in life, went down to Spain for the winter, but quickly got bored of it and returned to London. So when her sister Margaret (Phyllis Calvert) and Margaret's husband Alfred Munson (Cecil Parker) show up to borrow the apartment to change for a function in central London, they're surprised to find that the apartment is not unoccupied.

Anna was planning to spend a nice quiet night in her apartment, but the Munsons are going to some NATO banquet on international currency, and they've got the keynote speaker, Philip Adams (Cary Grant) with them. He's an American who is apparently an expert on currency stability, and Alfred and his bosses are trying to get Philip a job in Europe working for them. Philip, being played by Cary Grant, is obviously good looking, at least in the way that a 40-something woman (Bergman was in her early 40s when she made Indiscreet and Grant was 54) would like, so when Philip makes the excuse that they could use Anna to make the numbers even, she decides to go, not that she needs much convincing.

As you can guess, Philip and Anna eventually start a relationship. But there's a catch. Philip informs Anna that he has a wife in his home town of San Francisco, and that she's never going to grant him a divorce, so Philip will never be able to marry Anna. So Anna knows what she's getting herself into with her eyes wide open, and still goes for it. Philip eventually gets a position working in Paris, and gets an apartment one floor below Anna's so that when he returns every weekend, he can be right in the same building as Anna.

There's one other catch. It turns out that Philip isn't really married. In fact, he's never been married, and has no intention of getting married. The false claim of a wife is what Philip thinks is the honorable way of telling women that he has no interest in a truly serious relationship with them right from the start, rather than leading them on into thinking he might marry them only to drop them later. And in the case of Philip and Anna, it has gotten pretty serious, to the point that Anna plans to follow him to New York when work is going to send him on a temporary transfer there. By this time, Alfred and Margaret have learned the truth about Philip, and Margaret is mean enough to tell Anna.

To be honest, Indiscreet isn't really about the story that goes on, but about the acting performances of the two leads. Those are unsurprisingly quite good, and make the movie work even if the actual story feels like material that's been done before. It's an intelligent take on two older people looking for (and finding love) and the pitfalls they face. If there's one flaw, it's that the ending felt a bit rushed to me, but that's a minor flaw. Other than that, Indiscreet is eminently watchable.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Big City Blues

It's been a while since I blogged about a pre-Code film. With that in mind, I fired up the DVR to watch the entertaining if imperfect Big City Blues.

Eric Linden plays Bud Reeves, who at the start of the movie is racing to catch the train from his home town of Hoopersville, IN, to go to New York City and make it big there. He was to wait for the next train out of town long enough to have a good talk with the station agent (Grant Mitchell), who himself had gone off to make a fortune in the big city 25-plus years earlier and came back, having done a bunch of different jobs and never making it big. Bud swears things are going to be different, but with a title like Big City Blues, one wonders whether that will be the case.

Bud has a cousin in New York named Gibby (Walter Catless), who frankly seems like the sort of schmoozer everybody ought to be able to see right through. For some reason, however, Bud doesn't see through him, and Gibby starts using Bud's $1100 bankroll to try to set both of them up. Gibby claims to know everybody who matters, but that is of course a load of hogwash, with all he really knows being some bootleggers and some second-rate chorus girls.

Among those chorus girls is Vida Fleet (Joan Blondell), whom Bud first meets in the lobby of the hotel where he's going to be staying. (Doesn't cousin Gibby have an apartment?) Vida has lived in New York for several years, but it turns out she too is from a small town, that being Oneida, NY. As such she understands Bud better than anybody else and even has a lot of sympathy for him, which Gibby clearly doesn't. Bud, for his part immediately falls in love with Vida and is lucky she isn't looking to exploit him.

Gibby wants to introduce Bud to more people, so he organizes a party which will be held in Bud's room. There's bootleg liquor there and a bunch of chorus girls and guys of ill repute there. (Humphrey Bogart is there, uncredited, in an early role as Shep, with his unmistakable voice.) Things get out of hand and punches are thrown, before somebody breaks a bottle of bathtub gin to throw and that kills one of the chorus girls. Everybody beats a hasty escape, with Gibby not bothering to help Bud.

Everybody who was in that room (well, except for the dead girl) is now a fugitive from justice, but Bud is the biggest one. He realizes he can't escape by bus or train, and so he goes lookin for Vida, who still has sympathy for him. Of course, the police eventually find everybody in that room, while hotel detective Hummell (Guy Kibbee) is also trying to solve the case.

Big City Blues is one of those movies that packs a lot into its brief running time of just over 60 minutes. With so many recognizable names as well as Warner Bros.' penchant for making punchy movies, it's unsurprising that the movie is elevated from being strictly a B movie. I shudder to think, for example, of what MGM would have done with the material.

That's not to say the movie is without its flaws. I mentioned early on that Gibby is so obnoxious that I couldn't imagine how anybody would be bamboozled by him, and that's what drives the movie's plot. Everything happening lickety-split also moves the film, even if that too is highly unrealistic. But overall, Big City Blues is definitely worth a watch.

Big City Blues got a DVD release on one of the Forbidden Hollywood sets.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Kill or Cure

Looking through my DVR to see what was on it that's available on DVD, I was somewhat surprised to see that the British movie Kill or Cure got a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archives. But that's because, like the four Margaret Rutherford Miss Marple mysteries, it was made by MGM in the UK and distributed by them in America. So I watched it recently to do a post on here.

Terry-Thomas plays J. Barker-Rynde, a typically questionable Terry-Thomas character who in this case is both a photographer and a private investigator. One night he gets a call from Margaret Clifford, a wealthy but presumably eccentric woman who tells him to come down to Green Glades and investigate what's going on, for which he'll receive the princely sum of £75, which was quite a bit back in the early 1960s. But one he gets there, he's supposed to wait for her to contact him.

Barker-Rynde doesn't know what he's getting himself into, mostly because he doesn't know what Green Glades is. He goes to the bar, only to find there aren't any alcoholic drinks, but only these nasty-sounding vegetable-flavored drinks. It turns out that Green Glades is a health spa, or at least the sort of spa that was predicated on taking wealthy fat people and making them weigh less by separating them from their money through a bunch of dubious exercise machines.

Barker-Rynde doesn't have any place else to stay, so when Dr. Crossley (Dennis Price) examines him and declares him less than healthy, Barker-Rynde stayes there to be seen under the auspices of Rumbelow (Eric Sykes). Not that it's pleasant, as the first of the privations involves spending much of the day in an unheated chalet when not taking the various quack cures.

Eventually, Barker does get to see Mrs. Clifford. Except that she doesn't answer when he calls, and when he turns to face her, he finds that she's really most sincerely dead! She's been poisoned with ricin. And then Mrs. Clifford's secretary Frances Roitman (Moira Redmond) also turns up poisoned, although she'll survive, just having to spend some time recuperating and confined to a wheelchair when she does have the energy to get out of bed.

There are any number of suspects, and local police inspector Hook (Lionel Jeffries) is brought in to investigate. There's also a £2,000 reward for information leading to apprehending the person who killed Mrs. Clifford, so that really gets Barker to investigate, as does Rumbelow. They're at cross purposes at first, but eventually decide to team up. As Hook, he has someone he's investigating, not realizing that it's actually Barker, who is presumably quite innocent.

Terry-Thomas was always quite good at playing characters who seem less than completely on the up-and-up, and he's not bad in Kill or Cure. But this is minor material for him, as well as for British cinema. There's only mild laughs, and while it's not a bad movie, it's certainly not a memorably good one either. Some of the vintage look at fitness crazes may be of interest, as exercise equipment has come a long way in the past 60 years. But overall, I'd certainly recommend other Terry-Thomas movies before Kill or Cure.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

All of Me

I recorded several of the movies that TCM ran in their programming tribute to Carl Reiner back in July. I've been slow in getting around to watching them, and only recently watched All of Me.

Steve Martin plays Roger Cobb, a lawyer hitting his midlife crisis. His girlfriend Peggy (Madolyn Smith Osborne) is the daughter of the head of the firm where Roger works, Burton Schuyler (Dana Elcar). Meanwhile, Roger has always had a dream of being a professional musician, even if that hasn't worked so well up to now. But Roger seems willing finally to put his life in order, by no longer pursuing his dreams of the music business, and proposing marriage to Peggy.

To move up in the firm, Schuyler has a rather unusual client for Roger. Edwina Cutwater (Lily Tomlin) is an extremely wealthy woman who has unfortunately been sick since childhood with some sort of undisclosed illness which never let her live a normal life the way other people got to. She's nearing the point where she's going to die soon, and is getting her affairs in order with an extremely unorthodox will.

Edwina believes in reincarnation, and has found a swami, Prakha Lasa (Richard Libertini), who claims to have developed a method of taking one person's soul and putting it in the body of another person. Now, there's the ethical question of whether the person in the body intended for Edwina's soul can truly consent, but that's not the legal question to be discussed in All of Me. After all, who really believes this nonsense? Instead, Edwina has found a woman who seems interested in the idea, Terry Hoskins (Victoria Tennant), who is the daughter of Edwina's stableman, Fred (Eric Christmas). Roger's job is to make certain that the will is in order, with Terry inheriting everything since, after all, Edwina believes that Terry is going to become Edwina.

Sure enough, Edwina dies, but it's not at home where it would be easy to arrange everything just so for the ceremony involving the transfer of the soul from Edwina's body to Terry's body. Instead, it happens at the law firm, and hasty, ad hoc arrangements have to be made. Prakha has a special bowl which will hold the soul while it's being transferred from one body to the other. Things don't go according to plan, and the bowl is accidentally knocked out a window, hitting Roger on the street down below.

And wouldn't you know it, but this soul transfer nonsense actually works! Edwina's soul winds up in Roger's body, but Roger is still very much there. Basically, Edwina gets control of one half of the body, while Roger has control of the other half, at least when they're both awake. To talk to the other half of his soul, Roger only needs look in any mirror and he'll see Edwina staring back at him.

Needless to say, all of this is quite disconcerting. And as you can guess, it causes all sorts of havoc in Roger's life. He doesn't particularly care for having a woman in his body, or at least in his head. Edwina certainly doesn't like being trapped in a man's body either, especially not the body of a man who is sex-obsessed.

There are two problems for Roger to resolve. The obvious one is getting Edwina out of him, and into Terry's body, where Edwina had intended to go. But the other one is with Rogers personal and professional life. Edwina's on again, off again control of Roger's body disconcerts everybody around him, as they don't get what's going on, and who can blame them. Also, Roger is being asked to defend his boss in a divorce case, which means showing probity in the court room, which Edwina doesn't necessarily want, since Edwina sees the wife's side of the case.

But it's just as important to get Edwina's soul into Terry's body. It's at this point that Roger learns that Terry never had any intention of giving up her soul in favor of Edwina's. To be fair to Terry, she probably accepted this arrangement figuring that the soul transfer would never work, and that it was a way of getting easy money, assuming that all of the legal difficulties over whether Edwina was competent to sign such a will in the first place could be worked out. But seeing that the transfer actually does work, she's not intending to give up her own soul.

All of Me has an interesting premise, and one that frankly presents all sorts of problems in pulling off. The sort of lies that Roger has to engage in in his professional life to keep people from knowing that Edwina was talking and not him can be grating. Also, there's the challenges for any actor in trying to portray two completely different people in one body. The script doesn't always work in Steve Martin's favor, and frankly there are times where I felt myself cringing at what I was watching. The movie does wind up working, more or less, if you stick with it. And other people may not have the sort of problems I naturally have with what I've always called the "comedy of lies".

The last time I looked All of Me is available on DVD. However, the print TCM ran was panned-and-scanned to 4:3, when it should be a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The print also looked a bit fuzzy and unstable. I have no idea of the quality of the print on the DVD.

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Comanche Station

Quite some time back, I bought a cheap box set of Randolph Scott westerns. I've already blogged about several of the films in the set because TCM ran a night of four of the films. But one that I hadn't blogged about before is Comanche Station. So I recently fired up the DVD player and watched it.

Randolph Scott plays Jefferson Cody, who at the start of the movie is riding through a desolate part of the west, before he's intercepted by a bunch of Indians. Unsurprisingly they take him back to their camp; surprisingly, it's what Cody wants. The thing is, there's a white woman who was taken hostage some months back, and Cody goes into Comanche country and pays ransoms for these whites. That woman, Nancy Lowe (Nancy Gates) lives near Lordsburg with her farmer husband.

Presumbaly, having paid the ransom on Nancy, Cody should have free passage to go through Comanche country to get back to Lordsburg. However, that doesn't mean that there's nobody who could be a danger. There's a stagecoach station that is apparently still in Comanche territory but that the Indians don't harass, having no reason to do so. But when Cody and Nancy show up there to water their horses, they find someone who is wanted by the Comanche, that being Ben Lane (Claude Akins). Ben has apparently had run-ins with the Comanche before, enough that they'll come after him any time they see him.

Ben isn't alone, either, being accompanied by two young men, Dobie (Richard Rust) and Frank (Skip Homeier), who have fallen in with Ben and turned to the bad side because it's the less difficult thing to do, they believe. They find out that Nancy's husband has a reward out for her return, but that he's going to pay it out whether Nancy is returned dead or alive. This gives Ben the idea of killing Nancy and collecting the reward on the dead body, something which the two young men are mildly uncomfortable about and which Cody isn't about to countenance.

But the Comanche show up looking for Ben, meaning that all of them have to leave the stagecoach station and head back to Lordsburg through Comanche territory with the Indians after them, and with Ben plotting a way to do in both Cody and Nancy.

Comanche Station is a western that doesn't really cover any new ground, but one which is very competently made, thanks to the high quality of the crew working on it. Burt Kennedy wrote the script, and Budd Boetticher directed. There's some good dialog and a good story, and nobody is over the top. For 75 minutes of solid entertainment, you definitely won't go wrong watching Comanche Station.

I found the print to be surprisingly good considering that this is a cheap Mill Creek box set. With three movies to a DVD, you'd wonder at the quality, and maybe it might be noticeable if you've got a 4K TV, which I don't (I've got a 12-year-old ~31-inch TV, so beyond a certain point I guess I'm not going to notice any improvements in picture quality; this one is past that point). But still, it's a great price.