Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Dil was his sled

It's hard to believe, but it's been just about 30 years since the premiere of the movie The Crying Game. I recorded it to my DVR during one of the previous DirecTV free preview weekends and, seeing that it's going to be on again several times in the near future, starting with 11:00 AM tomorrow on Thriller Max, I finally decided to watch it to do a review here.

I assume most people know the "controversial" twist, so I don't feel so bad about having given it away in the title of this post. The real plot of the movie, which might be less well known, starts with Jody (Forest Whittaker) at a funfair somewhere in Northern Ireland. Jody is also a soldier for the British units trying to keep some semblance of peace in the restive territory, and as such his and the other military units are actively hated by the IRA, who want Northern Ireland reabsorbed into the Republic. With that in mind, an IRA cell led by Maguire (Adrian Dunbar) uses Jude (Miranda Richardson) to lure Jody with sex, whereupon they kidnap him.

At an undisclosed location somewhere in Ulster, Maguire and Jude hold Jody hostage, with the grunt work of actually guarding him being done by Fergus (Stephen Rea). The plan is to use Jody as a hostage to try to get the British to release a particular IRA prisoner; if the British don't they'll kill Jody after three days and it will be Fergus who has to pull the trigger. Jody, understandably, starts working on Fergus, while Fergus doesn't seem quite so enthusiastic about engaging in such kidnappings. Along the way, Fergus learns about Dil (Jaye Davidson), ostensibly Jody's girlfriend, who is a hairdresser in London.

Anyway, the three days pass, and Maguire does indeed hold to his plan to have Jody executed, with Fergus having to do the actual deed. Jody tries to escape, and would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for that meddling British army. In a cruel irony, just as Jody makes it to the road, he's run over and killed by a British APC. The British, however, are able to attack the IRA cell, with Fergus getting away.

Some time passes, and Fergus has made his way to London, taking on an assumed name and working construction. He's consumed with guilt, evidenced by the ridiculous dreams he has of Jody throwing a cricket ball with a strange aura around him. But at least he was able to escape the IRA, and with the rest of his cell gone, who higher up is going to know what became of him? This leaves him able to pursue Dil, at least in the sense of being able to find out what Jody saw in Dil so that Fergus can possibly assuage some of his guilt.

But Fergus begins to fall in love with Dil, which causes all sorts of problems. First off, if you were responsible for somebody's death and then fell in love with that person's lover, wouldn't you think that's just a little bit awkward? Worse for Fergus, however, is that Maguire and Jude didn't die when the British found Jody. Not only did they escape, but they've been able to track down Fergus. They're not about to let him escape the IRA, and intend to use him in their next terrorist plot, assassinating a judge somewhere in London.

The story in The Crying Game is a pretty good one, even without the twist for which the movie became famous. In some ways, it's actually a bit of a shame that the movie has the twist, since everybody remembers that rather than the rest of the movie. (Also, the twist comes a little more than halfway into the movie, not at the climax as you might think.) Stephen Rea gives a fine, Oscar-nominated performance, while the suspensful script actually won an Oscar. If there was one flaw, it's that parts of the movie seemed a bit unrealistic, notably those dream sequences. I'm also not certain if the ending of the movie is what would happen in real life.

But then, who ever said the movies are supposed to be real life? It's easy enough to suspend disbelief for the ending, and enjoy what is a darn good movie, even without that twist.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Eight Men Out

Another of the movies that I've had on my DVR for a while is Eight Men Out. I see that it's going to be on Cinemax tomorrow at 7:15 AM (or three hours later if you only have the west coast feed), so I recently sat down to watch it in order to be able to do a review here.

Baseball films have always been popular in Hollywood, so our non-American readers may already know a little bit about the Black Sox scandal that forms the basis of this movie. In 1919, the Chicago White Sox were generally considered to be the best team in Major League Baseball. But their owner, Charles Comiskey (Clifton James), had a reputation for paying his players extremely poorly, at a time when team owners held all the power in baseball. (Free agency wouldn't become a thing for another 50 years.) This caused resentment among the players, such as star pitcher Eddie Cicotte (David Strathairn), who was held out of five starts allegedly to rest him for the World Series, but in Cicotte's view not to get to the magic number of 30 wins which would have activated a $10,000 bonus in his contract.

With things like that going on, another of the team's players, first baseman Chick Gandil (Michael Rooker), met with representatives from gangster Arnold Rothstein (Michael Lerner), who ran a gambling syndicate. Rothstein was willing to offer players a substantial sum of money in exchange for deliberately playing badly and throwing the World Series, with Rothstein making a killing on the wagering. Eventually, eight players did take part in the conspiracy, although there has long been debate on how much certain of the players were involved. Third baseman Buck Weaver (John Cusack), for example, knew about the fix but claimed not to have tried to make any deliberate mistakes; he would get in trouble for not coming public with his knowledge until after the Series. More controversial was Shoeless Joe Jackson (D.B. Sweeney), one of the best players in the game at the time; he was most likely illiterate and gave into pressure to take money, although as with Weaver how much he did during the Series games is disputed.

Meanwhile, manager Kid Gleason (John Mahoney), a former player himself, knew fully well that there was always a threat of gamblers trying to influence games, while a cadre of players on the team, led by college graduate Eddie Collins (Bill Irwin), hated people like Gandil and were assiduously clean.

And so we get to the Series, and as you can probably guess, the White Sox lose it five games to three. However, some of the bad playing on the part of those who were in on the fix was pretty apparent right from the get-go, leading sportswriters to wonder openly whether anybody was trying to throw games. After the Series, the information comes out, which leads to a trial in which the eight accused players are tried collectively. It also leads to pressure to have one person in complete charge of baseball. The owners hired federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (John Anderson) to fill that position, which he only accepted on the grounds that he had a lifetime contract and complete control over the sport. And he really did mean complete, ruling the Major Leagues with an iron fist. Even the owners chafed under his control of the game, until they could get a commissioner who would be their mouthpiece in more recent years starting with Bud Selig. The eight players who knew about the fix were banned for life, although Weaver and Jackson maintained ther innocence.

Eight Men Out is a pretty good telling of the events, although if the movie has one big problem, it's that it really spends too much time on the actual games, with the trial and eventual banning of the players seeming almost like an afterthought. Still, Eight Men Out is definitely an interesting movie and one that's worth watching even by people who aren't fans of baseball. One doesn't really need to know the sport to follow what's going on in the movie.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Lucky Partners

Jack Carson is the star getting 24 hours of his movies played tomorrow, August 30. I think that for all the movie on the TCM schedule tomorrow, I've either blogged about it or haven't seen it yet. However, within the last week or so I watched a Carson movie that seems to have gotten a Warner Archive release but is not part of the Carson lineup tomorrow: Lucky Partners.

Carson, unsurprisingly, plays a supporting role here. Since the movie was made at RKO, the real star here is Ginger Rogers, playing Jean Newton. Jean lives in Greenwich Village with her aunt Lucy (Spring Byington), working at Lucy's bookstore. But she's engaged to Freddie (that's Jack Carson if you couldn't tell), an insurance salesman. That relatively calm life is about to be upended, however. In the film's opening scene, Jean comes across a random stranger, David Grant (Ronald Colman), who wishes her good luck.

Jean decides to buy an Irish Sweepstakes ticket, on the proviso that David spring for half the cost and they split the proceeds should they win. David agrees, but with a proviso of his own, which is that the two go on a trip together should the ticket pay off, as David has some sort of social experiment he wants to undertake and apparently needs a woman for it.

Freddie isn't terribly pleased, and tries to sell the ticket out from under Jean and David when he learns it has a greater potential to pay off (no, I don't understand the workings of the Sweepstakes either), and decides he's going to sell Jean's half of the ticket for a cool $6,000, which was a fairly substantial sum at the time. David in theory still has his half of the ticket, but Jean, apparently thinking that the $6,000 is for the whole ticket, decides to offer half of that to David.

David then decides to do a scaled-down version of the experiment, buying a car in Jean's name and then taking her up to Niagara Falls, where they'll register as brother and sister in separate rooms. Jean agrees, with Freddie eventually following the two of them up to Niagara Falls. As you can probably guess since Colman is billed ahead of Carson, David falls in love with Jean, and the feeling winds up being mutual. But David has a past, and is transporting a painting that may not legally belong to him, winding up in a trial in one of those small-town courtrooms....

Lucky Partners is a movie that I wanted to like more than I did, since the cast is appealing and everybody is professional. But the script does none of them any favors, and the courtroom scene is a particular mess. Most trials don't have sparks, so Hollywood has to create them, with the result being usually less funny than they think. Jean's motives also make little sense, at least in the beginning of the movie.

Still, with a cast like this, Lucky Partners is the sort of movie you'll probably want to watch for yourself and come to your own opinions.

Sunday, August 28, 2022

The Cornhusker State

Back in March of 2021, I recorded Nebraska when it had its TCM premiere as part of 31 Days of Oscar. If you have the Epix channels, you've got a couple of chances to see it this week, starting with tomorrow at 4:25 AM (or overnight tonight if you want to look at it that way) on Epix Hits. So I recently watched it to do a review on it here.

Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, an elderly man living in Billings, MT with his long-suffering wife Kate (June Squibb). We learn later in the movie that Woody was a heavy drinker for much of his adult life, and now probably has either Alzheimer's or the sort of brain atrophy and dementia brought on by a lifetime of drinking. In any case, the result is that we first meet Woody walking along one of the main roads, where he's picked up by the police.

Having to deal with Woody's increasingly erratic behavior is not only Kate, but also their two adult children, David (Will Forte) and Ross (Bob Odenkirk). Ross is the more sensible man, who understands that it's probably time for Dad to go into some sort of home, while David still thinks he can deal with Dad's behavioral issues as they come up. And there's a big one that caused Dad to go walking on the highway. Dad received a letter from a Publishers Clearing House-type organization telling him that he's won a million dollars -- if his number comes up and he tells them what magazines he wants to subscribe to. But Woody only sees that he's won the million dollars, and wants to go to Lincoln, NE, to collect his winnings.

Woody is walking because he's no longer allowed to drive. And dammit, he's going to walk the 1200 or so miles to Lincoln if he has to, that's how much the million means to him. Eventually, David decides that he's going to take a couple of days out of his life to disabuse Dad of the notion that Dad is about to become a millionaire. When the two of them go off, Mom and Ross decide to follow; in their minds David never should have done this in the first place.

Thankfully for the family, Woody and Kate both grew up in Hawthorne, NE, which is right along the way to Lincoln. Mom has called ahead, and Woody's brother Ray and sister-in-law Martha are willing to put everybody up for a night. After all, it's been so long since the various sides of the family have met, Woody having left for Montana 40 years earlier, before the two kids were even born.

There's a reason the two branches of the family are estranged. Woody had all that drinking that caused a falling-out with business partner Ed Pegram (Stacy Keach), while Ray and Martha's two kids are consistently in trouble with the law, dooming themselves to an even worse existence than David and Ross, who are at least trying to get ahead in the world.

In Hawthorne, David gets to learn about Dad's younger life, and what made Dad the father he'd eventually become. Dad lost a brother as an infant, went off to Korea, and had other loves before settling with Kate. But he also relied on his family for financial support at times, and now that they think he's set to win a million bucks, they want that money back, to the point of becoming increasingly grasping over it. Mom also shows the kids a thing or two about being the rock of the family. As much as she's exasperated with her husband's behavior, deep down inside she still loves him deeply, and she won't let the other side of his family badmouth him.

Nebraska is a fine example of the road picture, filled with excellent acting performances. Dern and Squibb both received Oscar nominations; while I haven't seen all the nominated performances from that year, both Dern and Squibb's performances are worthy of the nominations. The script also deftly balances drama with humor. Anybody who's had a parent with dementia will recognize the exasperation David feels at times, but will also understand that sometimes there's not much to do but stand back and laugh at the absurdity of it all.

If the script has a flaw, it's the same one I found when I watched Antonia's Line some time back: some of the characters are just too quirky, to the point of unrealism, with the quirkiness driving the plot a little too neatly. But that's a minor flaw, and one that's easy not to spot while watching the movie.

Nebraska is a movie that you should definitely see if you haven't already seen it.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Three Weeks Together

Vivien Leigh is the star being honored tomorrow (August 26) in TCM's Summer Under the Stars. One of her movies that had been sitting on my DVR for some time until I watched it a few weeks ago was 21 Days. TCM will be running it tomorrow at 7:00 AM, so now is a good time to blog about it.

Leigh really isn't the star here; that honor goes to Laurence Olivier. He plays Larry Darrant, a sort of ne'er-do-well who has returned to London where he now has a girlfriend in the form of Wanda (that's Vivien Leigh). One night, the couple are returning home to Wanda's flat, where she finds that she has a visitor: her estranged husband Henry (Esme Percy), whom she hasn't seen in years. Henry decides he's going to try to blackmail Wanda and Larry, pulling a knife on them when Larry refuses to pay up. In the ensuing fight, Larry kills Henry in what should be self-defense.

Larry has a brother Keith (Leslie Banks) who is a barrister, so Larry goes to him for advice. Keith, however, is up for a judgeship, and doesn't want any scandal in the family as that would likely ruin his chances to become a judge. So he suggests that Larry and Wanda leave the country, never mind that a good barrister could get Larry off.

Things are about to get a whole lot worse. There's a defrocked minister-turned-tramp, John Evan (Hay Petrie), who decided to pilfer Henry's body on finding it. The police find John with Henry's personal belongings on him, and naturally put two and two together and figure John must have been responsible. Now John is indeed, responsible, but only of theft. But because of his Christian faith, he has a lot of guilt, and has no intention of doing anything in his own defense at trial.

This is in some ways perfect for Keith. Somebody other than his brother will stand trial for the murder, and since to Keith it's pretty damn obvious that John wasn't the killer, John should be found not guilty, leaving Larry free once the trial ends. But Larry actually has a conscience, he not being an attorney, and seriously thinks about confessing. Things get worse for all involved when John is actually found guilty....

Considering the star power in 21 Days, I found it surprisingly flat. There's a good story here, but somehow it ended up as little more than a pedestrian programmer. It's not bad, by any means; it's more that it should have been a lot better. Indeed, producer Alexander Korda shelved it until after Leigh become an international star due to Gone With the Wind, seeing that the movie was a bit of a mess. Still, Leslie Banks does a fine job as the attorney who winds up being surprisingly sleazy, and fans of Olivier and Leigh will want to see it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima

Tomorrow (August 25) in Summer Under the Stars, TCM is honoring Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso, better known by his stage name of Gilbert Roland. One of his movies that I hadn't seen before is The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima, airing at 4:00 PM. With that in mind, I recently watched it in order to be able to do a post on it here.

Catholics are probably aware of Fatima becoming one of the major Catholic pilgrimage sights, much like Lourdes in the French Pyrenees did after young Bernadette claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary, something which was also turned into a major Hollywood movie, The Song of Bernadette. Fatima is a village in central Portugal where, in 1917, three children claimed to see a lady they referred to as the Lady of the Rosary, who told them to come back every month, which resulted in thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of Portuguese peasants going to Fatima with the children in the hopes they too could have the vision and be saved by the Virgin Mary's grace, she being the person Catholics pray to when they pray the rosary.

That much I knew, but there's more of a back story to the events in Fatima. In October, 1910, Portugal had a revolution that resulted in the young king being forced to abdicate. The parties who deposed the king were also extremely anti-clerical, in part because the Catholic Church had a lot of influence in the running of the country under the monarchy. (By the same token, the Spanish republicans of the 1930s were also highly anti-clerical, something usually downplayed in most retellings of the Spanish Civil War.) Portuguese rurals were, like a lot of peasants, much stronger believers of Catholicism than the ruling classes, leading to conflict. In the movie, the republican government is clearly portrayed as analogous to Marxists, since the movie was made during the anti-Communist era of the early 1950s; the fact that one of the pronouncements of the Lady of the Rosary had to do with consecrating Russia to the western version of Christ.

One day in May, 1917, young Lucia dos Santos (Susan Whitney) and her cousins Jacinta (Sherry Jackson) and Francisco (Sammy Ogg), had that fateful vision and told their families about it. This caused all sorts of problems since most people weren't going to see a vision, even if they had a lot of faith. But when you add in the fact the the government was trying to suppress the Church, you can imagine how dangerous it would be for the villagers in Fatima to have all those pilgrims coming. The kids, however, keep insisting that they saw the Lady of the Rosary no matter how much pressure the local government officials try to put on them.

As for Gilbert Roland, he plays a completely fictional character, Hugo da Silva, the sort of lovable rogue who shows up a lot in "kids in danger" pictures. He keeps having run-ins with the law, isn't particularly religious. Not out of the sort of anti-clericism the government has, mind you, but since the petty crimes he and the other rough male prisoners commit are usually things the Church would find sinful, how often would you see such men in church? But the kids are so pure, and Hugo is such a good guy at heart, the he eventually helps the kids out, even if he tries to find a way to make a buck off the pilgrims.

Eventually, the kids have one final mass gathering, which results, as it did in real life, in what's known as the Miracle of the Sun, in which many of the pilgrims claimed the sun danced across the sky and not only stopped a cloudburst but dried their clothes impossibly quickly, as well as other similar things. The way it's presented in this movie, however, is faintly ridiculous, leading the movie to have less power then the earlier The Song of Bernadette.

There is a plus, however; the movie has an epilogue showing color documentary footage of the 1951 pilgrimage which was addressed by a papal legate. The film itself won't make anybody believers, but it's certainly an interesting example of an era when Hollywood had much more reverence for religion than it does today.

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Constance Bennett Day, or, Briefs for August 22, 2022

I'm getting to the point where I've got more movies to blog about, some of which I watched a few weeks back not realizing they were going to be showing up in Summer Under the Stars. I don't know that I'm going to be blogging every single day again, but I think blogging is going to be a bit more frequent. However, I may be blogging about a few more movies that aren't on DVD, which I never liked to do since I didn't want to do posts on movies you'd have a hard time finding, unless they're coming up somewhere on TV. But I've got a lot of stuff on my DVR, and whenever we can get the house sold and move someplace else I'll probably wind up with a new DVR and lose all the stuff that's on the current one.

In any case, I noticed that Constance Bennett is TCM's star for tomorrow (August 22) in Summer Under the Stars. TCM is running several pre-Codes that I may or may not have seen. One that I know I did watch a few years back, having streamed it off my limited smartphone data plan, is Rockabye, at 1:30 PM. I thought I had written a draft post to put up at whatever point TCM decided to run it again, but apparently not.

Bennett plays a Broadway actress who has a tumultuous personal life, getting involved with a corrupt politician (Walter Pidgeon) that will cause her to lose custody of the child she was hoping to adopt. She's got a manager (Paul Lukas) who loves her, and a playwright trying to get a divorce (Joel McCrea) who writes a new play for her and falls in love with her. Which of the three men will she wind up with at the end of the film? Well, events in the movie conspire to make to choice obvious at the end. It's one of those pre-Codes that is strictly a programmer and not particularly memorable, although fans of early 30s movies will probably enjoy.

I actually watched Kelly's Heroes off of the DVR yesterday, since it was on TCM today as part of Clint Eastwood's day on TCM, but then I noticed the schedule conflict with Constance Bennett and decided to hold it back. Later in the week I've got a movie for Gilbert Roland and one for Vivien Leigh, along with a few things that are in fact on DVD that I've watched, so expect multiple more posts this week.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

The Kremlin Letter

A movie that's been back in the FXM rotation for a little while and that I surprisingly haven't blogged about before is The Kremlin Letter. I saw it once many years ago, and thought that perhaps I had mentioned it at some point here, but a search of the blog says no. It's going to be on FXM again tomorrow (August 21) at 9:50 AM, so, having recorded it from the recent run of showings, I sat down and watched that showing to do a post here.

The first thing I noticed is that, sadly, the opening credits are letterboxed to 2.35:1, but after the opening credits, the print goes down to the 16:9 ratio of today's television sets. After the pre-credits exposition of some sort of espionage business going on in Paris, we get to the main action. Charles Rone (Patrick O'Neal) is a US Navy officer who is called into a meeting with an admiral much above him in the military pecking order (director John Huston in a cameo). The Admrial tells Rone that Rone is being relieved of his duties because civilian intelligence needs him for some sort of super-secret mission, Rone being able to speak several languages and having other qualities suitably for the spy game. Rone is supposed to go somewhere to meet with a "Highwayman" (Dean Jagger) and his assistant Ward (Richard Boone) to find out about that mission.

Rone goes to some small town and meets the two men, who inform him that a letter was written in which the Soviets told the Americans that the Communist Chinese, having gotten the bomb, were a threat, and perhaps the US and USSR should try to work together behind the scenes to neutralize mainland China (remember that at the time the movie was released in 1970, the US still recognized Taiwan as the one China). The US responded, and it's that letter that has gone missing. Perhaps Rone could go to Moscow and get that letter.

But first, Rone is going to have to get a crew together for the mission. Those are a guy codenamed "Whore" (Nigel Green), who is now in Mexico; "Warlock" (George Sanders), in drag playing piano at a nighclub in San Francisco; and "Erector Set", who can get into safes. However, he's too old for the job, so he offers his daughter, B.A. (Barbara Parkins), whom he's trained to do the work he used to do, and is able to open safes with her feet.

Meanwhile, over in the Soviet Union, there's Kosnov (Max von Sydow), the head of Soviet intelligence, who has blackmailed one of his agents in the US. Kosnov is married to Erika (Bibi Andersson), who is on her second husband, the first having died and stashed a bunch of money in a bank in the West. Rone realizes he can use her to get at Kosnov and the other Soviets. There's also Bresnavich (Orson Welles), some sort of high-up official who also has a lot of pull. The other members of the group, along with Rone, set about getting to know various Moscovites who might be able to help them.

Unfortunately, somebody on the Soviet side has learned that these Americans are in town, and they infiltrate the ring, kidnapping BA and leading Warlock to commit suicide, which is what really tips Rone off to the fact that something is terribly wrong. Ultimately, the movie is more about who's trying to mess up the operation than it is about trying to get that letter back.

The Kremlin Letter received poor reviews on its release back in 1970, and it's not too hard to see why. The plot is convoluted and hard to follow, and in the end much of what goes on doesn't really matter. Unlike a fun James Bond movie or the other spy spoofs of the 1960s, this one takes itself too seriously and winds up being forgettable for the things for which it should be memorable, and memorable for things ancillary to the movie.

One of those memorable things is Sanders in drag; another is the movie's use of Russian. There are enough Russian characters that the use of subtitles in what is supposed to be an English-langauge movie is too much. And since almost none of them are played by actual Russians, it's easy enough to go with the old Hollywood routine of having everyone speak English. After all, nobody expects characters in movies like To Be or Not to Be or Steve McQueen's version of An Enemy of the People to speak in what would have been the characters' real language. Here, however, the scenes start off with people speaking in Russian before going into a voiceover. It reminds me of another movie, Town Without Pity, that did the same thing with German. It's an extremely distracting technique.

Still, some people think The Kremlin Letter is great stuff. So it's definitely one of those movies you might want to see and judge for yourself.

Monday, August 15, 2022

The Bounty Hunter

Randolph Scott is today's star in TCM's Summer Under the Stars, and while I have a couple of box sets of his westerns one that doesn't seem to be on those sets is The Bounty Hunter. It's on overnight tonighat at 12:45 AM, which would still be late this evening in more westerly time zones. So as I had DVRed it the last time it was on TCM, I made a point of watching it now to do a review here.

Scott, unsurprisingly, plays the titular bounty hunter, a man named Jim Kipp. At the start of the movie, he's pursuing a man who held up a couple of stagecoaches and killed a couple of people in conjunction with those robberies. This is otherwise unimportant to the plot, only serving as expository information to show us that Kipp is indeed a bounty hunter, and one with enough of a reputation that everybody knows who he is.

This everybody includes the Pinkerton detective agency, who have a baffling crime on their hands. A year earlier, a gang of three masked robbers held up a train carrying currency from the Philadelphia mint out to Dodge City. Nobody has seen hide nor hair of the three since, with the exception of an ambush in southwestern Kansas, and rumors that they've moved on further west. More oddly, none of the money has been seen, and there was a lot of money. This suggests that the three are still somewhere in the States -- well, technically, they might be in a territory, but they're still under US jurisdiction -- because otherwise, some of the money would have shown up in a foreign country that couldn't extradite them.

Kipp isn't interested in trying to find these three at first, until he hears of the reward for the return of the currency. This sends him west, and rumors eventually lead him to the town of Twin Forks. There, he goes to a hotel under a pseudonym, and finds George Williams running the joint, together with his wife Alice (Marie Windsor), although Alice doesn't tell Kipp that she's married to George, instead trying to pump Kipp for information. Kipp, knowing that one of the fugitives was shot in the leg in that ambush in Kansas, talks to the town's only doctor, Dr. Spencer (Harry Antrim), who ministers to the town together with his daughter Julie (Dolores Dorn). Dr. Spencer has a past, and this past leads him to tell an obvious mistruth to Kipp. So now Kipp knows he must be getting close to the three fugitives.

The next morning, however, a young man who had escaped from prison but is now leading an honest life as a rancher, spot Kipp and knows his true identity, revealing that identity to the town. So now, as with No Name on the Bullet a few years later, everybody in town wonders whether Kipp is after them. After all, they know that Kipp is a bounty hunter, but he deliberately hasn't told anybody, not even Sheriff Brand (Howard Petrie), exactly what criminal he's looking for.

The rest of the movie is a game of cat and mouse as Kipp accelerates matters by telling the postmaster he's learned that a letter with a photograph of one of the fugitives should reach him by the next stage. But it's a moderately appealing game for the viewer. The Bounty Hunter is the sort of programmer running around 80 minutes that Scott was churning out one after the other in the 1950s. Scott makes them all worth a watch, and thanks to direction from Andre de Toth here, The Bounty Hunter rises a bit above the other programmers, if not to the level of the prestige westerns or even the films Scott would later make with Budd Boetticher.

Two other things are worth noting. One is an early performance by Ernest Borgnine, playing a hotel receptionist who has a limp that could make him an obvious suspect in the train holdup. The other is something I spotted in the opening credits, which are in a "vanishing perspective" style where the letters all have lines leading to one focal point. This made me suspect that the movie was originally in 3D, and sure enough, there are multiple scenes where something gets thrown or aimed directly at the camera. However, The Bounty Hunter was apparently only released to theaters in a 2D print.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

The Good Die Young

Earlier this week, I mentioned The Voice of Bugle Ann, which I happened to watch back in July not realizing it would be part of Summer Under the Stars. Another movie that I watched some weeks back not seeing that it would show up in this year's Summer Under the Stars is The Good Die Young. It aired last year as part of a day of Gloria Grahame films; this year you can see it during a day of Laurence Harvey movies, at 8:00 AM, Thursday, Aug. 11.

Grahame definitely wasn't the star here; Laurence Harvey is closer to the star. However, it's Richard Basehart who handles the narration and shows up enough that I guess he'd be the nominal star. He plays Joe Halsey, who at the start of the movie is in the car on the way to a bank robbery with three people he had a modest acquaintance with. He's wondering how all of them got themselves into this situation, which fairly obviously means we're about to get a flashback, or a series of them since we've got four different characters with back stories.

First up is Joe, an American with a British wife Mary (Joan Collins). Mary has a clinging mother who claims that she's got some sort of illness that's going to kill her soon, which is why Mary returned to the UK. And now, Mary's mom (Freda Jackson) won't let her go, which is why Joe has run off from his job to come over to the UK to get Mary. The fact that Mary is pregnant complicates matters and makes things more urgent for them.

Another American abroad is Eddie (John Ireland), who is serving in the Air Force and somehow wound up with a trophy wife in the form of actress Denise (Gloria Grahame). However, she's only a trophy in the prestige department, as she's carrying on an affair with the star of the movie she's making over in Britain. This leads Eddie to commit desertion to try to get his wife back, and that's a serious problem. He needs money and a way to figure out his legal problems.

The first of the two Brits is Mike Morgan (Stanley Baker). He's a boxer who is going to have to retire from the fight game due to his injuries. However, he was at least modestly intelligent enough to try to save up some money. Except that his wife took that money and used it to bail out her brother, who promptly jumped bail. (Send your wife to jail.)

The other Brit is Ravenscourt (Laurence Harvey), a wannabe playboy and layabout who has been living off his wife's (Margaret Leighton) largesse until his father (Robert Morley) finally kicks it and the will comes into effect giving Ravenscourt his own money. He's also the charismatic leader of the four men who wind up meeting by chance at a pub, and gets them in on the plot.

Ravenscourt knows about how old currency notes are exchanged overnight at one of the big banks in London, and his plan is to rob the armored truck carrying those notes just as it gets to the bank. Somehow, everybody else winds up going along with it, something you could see teenagers doing, but these are all much older men who really ought to know better. The heist, of course, goes wrong, with Ravenscourt making things far worse by using his gun when he told everybody else there would be no shooting. Will any of the characters be able to avoid the enforced Production Code ending? Does that even matter since the movie was made in the UK?

Well, yes, it does matter, which is largely because the movie was made by one of those smaller British production companies that had the very good idea of bring over American stars to appear in the movies they were making, so that it would be a lot easier to get a distribution deal in the States, the language not being an issue. That would certainly explain Grahame's presence, as the big name who had already won an Oscar. Basehart was in Europe on his trip that would also result in his appearance in La Strada -- apparently, Fellini loved Basehart's work in Fourteen Hours, a movie I blogged about ages ago and is definitely worth watching. The main thing, however, is that since the production company was intending the movie to get shown in the US, they had to deal with the Production Code.

And that, unfortunately, results in a smallish flaw of the sort that a lot of movies like this have. You know that there can really only be one type of ending because the other kind would violate the code. However, the way that The Good Die Young gets there is pretty good, even if the Laurence Harvey character is thoroughly unlikeable. (That is, of course, a testament to Harvey's acting ability.) Richard Basehart gives another of the sort of good performaces that make you wonder why he didn't become a bigger star. The atmosphere of the movie is also quite good, from London at night to the world of boxing. If you haven't seen The Good Die Young before, you should definitely record this one.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Voice of Bugle Ann

With all that's been going on in my life, I haven't had so much time or energy to watch enough movies to keep the blog going on a daily basis. Recently, however, I did watch a pair of movies off of my DVR that just happen to be coming up this week on TCM as part of Summer Under the Stars. First up is The Voice of Bugle Ann, on TCM tomorrow, August 8, at 12:15 PM as part of a day of the films of Maureen O'Sullivan.

The nominal star here is Lionel Barrymore, playing Spring Davis, an old farmer in a rural part of Missouri who hunts foxes and raccoons together with his fellow farmers, using their dogs to track the prey. Spring has a long-time wife (Spring Byington), and an adult son Benjy (Eric Linden) who also works the farm. One of Spring's dogs has a littler, and Spring winds up taking care of the runt of the litter, a dog he names Bugle Ann because it grows up to have the perfect call for hunting.

Meanwhile, on an older farm in the area, a new man arrives, Jacob Terry (Dudley Digges). He's planning to raise sheep, which means fencing that will be dangerous to the dogs that roam the country. He's got an adult daughter Camden (Maureen O'Sullivan), who lives with Dad even though she has reason to think he's a mean guy. She and Benjy unsurprisingly fall in love, while nobody loves Jacob. Jacob, in fact, threatens to shoot dogs that trespass on his property.

This leads to a confrontation when Bugle Ann goes missing and presumed dead somewhere near the Terry property, and despite Jacob's protestations, every other farmer in the area is convinced that Terry shot an innocent dog. Jacob and Spring get into it, with Spring shooting Jacob dead when it looks like Jacob is about to draw his gun on Spring. Now, this is where the movie develops a bit of a problem, in that you'd think all the other witnesses around would say that Spring was shooting in self defense (even it it wasn't so clear). There's nobody who would support Jacob over Spring, so there ought to be insufficient evidence to convict. But Spring gets convicted and sent to a long prison sentence. Camden leaves, but refuses to sell the farm.

Things get really weird about a year later when everybody swears they could hear Bugle Ann's call again one night, even though they know she's dead because they eventually find her collar. And then Spring gets a mysterious pardon from the governor even though his is a case the governor really should take no interest in. What really happened that fateful night?

The Voice of Bugle Ann is the sort of movie that to me made me think of the famous Variety headline "Stix Nix Hick Pix" that had appeared about a year before the movie. It's not a bad movie; it's more that everything seems somewhat off. I don't know that Hollywood ever got the farm right, at least not in the days when they were mostly bound to the back lot. Now, there are stronger stories that overcome this, such as the lovely Hide-Out from a few years earlier. But The Voice of Bugle Ann really feels like it's missing something that I just can't put my finger on.

Still, it's worth a watch for the odd plot twist, and it doesn't show up all that often, so catch its rare TCM airing.