Monday, July 31, 2023

The first Academy Awards

If you've ever looked at lists of Academy Award winners, you may recall that the first winner of the Best Actor Oscar is listed as Emil Jannings, usually for The Way of All Flesh. Unfortunately, The Way of All Flesh is presumed lost with the exception of one scene. However, in that first edition of the awards, the acting awards were technically supposed to be for an actor's body of work over that "season", the "seasons" running from August through July much like later TV seasons. (Note also that up until 1934, the lists give two years, eg. 1927-1928, for the period in question.) Jannings was also the lead in another movie that helped him win that Oscar, and that movie survives: The Last Command.

Jannings plays Sergius Alexander, who at the start of the movie is a Russian émigré in Hollywood taking work as an extra. Director Leo Andreyev (William Powell in an early role, unmistakable since he already has that moustache) is also an émigré, and is looking for someone to play the part of a Russian general. He sees Sergius, and realizes that Sergius would be perfect for the role, in part because Sergius was a general before the Revolution. Indeed, we're about to get that back story....

In one of Hollywood's most original plot devices, we get Yet Another Flashback, this time to the era of the Russian Revolution. Sergius isn't just a general; he's a Grand Duke and a cousin of tsar Nicholas II who of course would be executed a few months after the action of the flashback, so Sergius wouldn't exactly be liked by the communists. But he's not near Saint Petersburg with the tsar and his family; instead, he's out in the field commanding troops. An acting troupe is also traveling around Russia to entertain the troops, but a couple of Sergius' men inform him that two of the troupe at least are revolutionaries: the aforementioned Leo, and Leo's companion Natasha (Evelyn Brent).

With a revolution on, Sergius should probably have the two killed, but he makes the serious mistake of letting them live, in part to torment them and in part because Natasha is pretty. It's a big mistake, because they're not going to return the favor of leniency. Well, at least Leo isn't. Natasha finds herself falling in love with Sergius, so she keeps looking for reasons to keep Sergius alive even as the Bolsheviks close in. Now, of course we know that Sergius survives since he has to wind up in Hollywood (as does Leo), but how do the stories of these three characters play out?

Reading up on the reviews of The Last Command, it seems that it has acclaim from those in the know as a masterpiece. I personally wouldn't rate it quite so high, although it's definitely a darn good movie and one that's worth a watch. The story may be a bit unrealistic, but that doesn't take away from the fine acting.

Tomorrow is August 1

Today is the final day of July, which once again means that August is just about upon us, and the annual tradition of TCM's Summer Under the Stars. As always, rather than a traditional Star of the Month, each day is given over to the movies of a different star, although star is used rather broadly here because of TCM's desire to tick off demographic check boxes that weren't commonly checked during the studio era.

TCM does have a portion of their website dedicated to Summer Under the Stars, which you can find at Oddly, the front page doesn't show all the data, leaving off the films for the stars of the last week or so of August, but the link to the PDF does have all the movies.

A few quick points. The first star, tomorrow, is Lucille Ball, which is mildly surprising since her birtdhay is August 6 and it would seem more logical to honor her on her birthday. (I distinctly recall her being one of the rare weekend birthday salutes as her centenary back in 2011 fell on a Saturday.) I thought I'd blogged about Valley of the Sun (1:15 PM before), but apparently not. And then, on Thursday, August 3, there's a 24-hour salute to Stella Stevens, who died earlier this year. For better or worse, TCM don't seem to have been able to get the rights to The Poseidon Adventure.

There are also several movies on the schedule that I've watched fairly recently and have been intending to blog about here as I get through the movies I've watched more or less in order. However, with those movies coming up I'm going to be moving them forward in the posting queue and apologize if I'm off by a day on when they're airing. More on those movies when they come up in the TCM schedule.

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Prowl Cars

Surprisingly, Eddie Muller has admitted that there are some movies out that that might not be quite noir. At least, that's the impression I got when he presented one of his Noir Alley selections a few months ago, a movie called Between Midnight and Dawn. It's closer to a police procedural than a true noir, but at least you can see why Muller might have selected it for Noir Alley.

Mark Stevens is the nominal star here, playing Officer Rocky Barnes, a patrolman for the Los Angeles Police Department. He's on the night shift together with his partner and good friend Dan Purvis (Edmond O'Brien); indeed, the two served together in World War II and that's given Purvis a bit of a hard edge. There's all sorts of crime that the two could deal with, although they'll ultimately deal with one particular criminal.

Meanwhile, while the men are in uniform driving around in cop cars, there are women working for the force doing things like dispatching the cops. Rocky really likes the voice of one such radio dispatcher, and would like to find out who is behind that voice. Luckily for him, he eventually hears the same voice taking dictation for his commanding officer, so he finagles his way into the office to try to meet the woman. That woman is Kate Mallory (Gale Storm), and Rocky tries to get her to go out on a date with him.

Ulimately, Kate goes out with both cops, and the threesome winds up at a nightclub run by notorious gangster Ritchie Garris (Donald Buka). He's the sort where everybody knows he's really a notorious gangster, but nobody is actually able to do anything about it because he's so good at keeping the authorities from figuring out how he's actually breaking the law. Except that he's about to get too big for his own britches.

Garris' new scheme involves getting people into big gambling debts, and then having them sign ridiculous loan deals and putting up big private property like cars and houses as collateral. When the gamblers keep gambling, they won't be able to keep up on the payments, and Garris' loan company will be able to repossess the property. This leads to a murder that sets the crime half of the plot in action.

But there's a second plot as well, and that's Kate's relationship with the two cops. Both of them are smitten with her, but it's Rocky who has a much stronger desire for her. However, that desire isn't mutual at first. The reason is that Kate's father was on the force as well, and he was killed in the line of duty. So she doesn't want to get into a relationship with any cops, lest the man she falls in love with should suffer the same fate.

Between Midnight and Dawn is an effective enough little programmer, although it was apparently toned down quite a bit from what the producers originally wanted; thank the Production Code office for that. The two leads cops of course have to be virtuous with the bad guy getting it in the end, and that does admittedly remove a bit of the tension from the movie as opposed to having an antihero. So while Between Midnight and Dawn is watchable, there's also a reason it's not a particularly well remembered film.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

The Day of the Triffids

I've stated quite a few times that I don't do the Blind Spot series, mostly because I don't know that far in advance what movies I'm going to be watching over the course of a year and as such don't want to commit myself to watching certain movies. But one of those movies with a bit of a cult following that I'd never seen before was The Day of the Triffids. I recently found that it's airing on one of the streaming TV services (I think I watched it on Tubi), so I decided to watch it in order to finally be able to do a review here.

Howard Keel is the nominal star, playing Bill Masen, an American merchant marine in London. He's had some sort of accident that required having surgery on his eyes, so as the movie opens he's in hospital with his eyes bandaged, waiting for his bandages to be removed the next morning. Meanwhile, the radio is reporting that there's a spectacular meteor shower that can be seen all around the world, so Bill wants to take his bandages off early to see the meteors, but the doctor says no.

It's a good thing that the doctor says no, because the next morning Bill wakes up to find that the medical staff that was supposed to remove the bandages is not there, which of course doesn't make sense to Bill. The surgeon shows up, informing Bill that he (the surgion) has suddenly gone quite blind, and Bill, actually being able to see once the bandages are removed, is going to have to help the doctors for a bit. But what's worse for Bill is how the doctor went blind.

Apparently, everyone who watched the meteor shower went blind, which is a pretty darn big plot hole, because the movie expects us to believe that something on the order of 99% of the population is now blind. You'd think that either a lot more people would have been in a position not to see the meteor shower or slept through it. Alternatively, you'd think that reports of blindness would have come in from one time zone first, much like if the Y2K bug had been a real thing. But no; somehow almost everybody went blind.

And if that's not bad enough, these meteors were not really meteors, but some sort of extraterrestrial thing that also sent spores to earth. These spores very quickly grow into something called triffids, a plant-like organism that has the power to move (since it's extraterrestrial, I don't think a motile plant should be considered another plot hole) and is poisonous. Bill has to escape the poisonous plants while trying to find other people who for whatever reason didn't get blinded by the meteors.

Meanwhile, in a completely unrelated plot, Tom and Karen Goodwin (Kieron Moore and Janette Scott respectively) are a pair of scientists doing research at an isolated lighthouse, presumably there to save their marriage since Tom has a passion for the bottle and being at a lighthouse is a way to keep more booze from being brought in. They were so busy with their research that they didn't watch the meteors and didn't go blind. But they're more or less alone, and somehow even their tiny little island got some triffid spores, which seems like a plot hole too once the ending is revealed.

The idea behind The Day of the Triffids is interesting, although apparently this movie is changed quite a bit from the original early 1950s novel on which it's based. Having read a synopsis of the novel, a lot of what's going on makes more sense. The movie is entertaining enough, and not terribly frightening, but it is a bit of a mess. (Apparently, money problems resulted in the two completely disjoint plot lines. It's also why the movie has two directors.) If you haven't seen it before, you should probably watch it once just to see what it's all about.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Straight Time

This month, TCM has been doing a different salute than the normal Star of the Month programming feature, instead honoring stars of the 1970s with more or less one film each. On this final Friday of the month, we have a movie that was in my YouTube TV "library" (the equivalent of the DVR for those who don't do YouTube TV), so I made a point of watching it in order to be able to do a post here. That movie is Straight Time, which kicks the night off at 8:00 PM.

The star being honored here is Dustin Hoffman. He plays Max Dembo, a man who at the start of the movie is just getting out of prison, having been in and out of prison his entire adult life. He meets his parole officer, Earl Frank (M. Emmet Walsh), who informs Max that among the other rules of his parole is that he get a stable job, which sends him to the employment office. There, he meets social worker Jenny (Theresa Russell), new to the job, and he's clearly taken with her. The feeling is apparently mutual, as she's willing to go on a date with him, which seems like it would be a violation of the rules, but then that's just the first violation.

Max gets a job as a cannery, a job that's fairly mind-numbing and doesn't seem suitable to somebody like Max. He also gets a room in one of those "hotels" that's really closer to a rooming house, and it's there that his old buddy Willy (Gary Busey) visits him, shooting up in the hotel room, which is a major no-no for max. Needless to say, Earl visits and finds evidence of the drug use, sending Max back to jail until he's able to have a clean drug test. But it's already cost him his job, and Max realizes he's not going to be able to stay straight, at least not with the friends he has. (One could say with friends like that, who needs enemies?)

But Max, now having nowhere to go and no knowledge of how to stay straight, decides he's going to go back to crime, as long as he can keep from getting caught. He meets fellow robber Jerry (Harry Dean Stanton), and the two of them set about on a series of robberies at least until something goes wrong to screw one of them up. Meanwhile, Jenny is putting her own life and career on the line by continuing to be a romantic partner of Max....

Straight Time is one of those 1970s movies that I think will sharply divide opinion. Some people are going to love that it's daring and willing to challenge the stereotypes of old Hollywood, while others are probably going to feel as though it's a bit aimless, with a lot of gaps left for the viewer to fill and really demanding the viewer's attention. I found myself a bit split on this one. It's not my favorite by any means, but at the same time I didn't exactly dislike it. At the same time, I can easily see why some people would really like it, especially those who see 1970s Hollywood as a breath of fresh air after the strictures of the old Production Code.

So I'd give Straight Time a qualified recommendation. If you know what you're getting into and that's your thing, I think you'll definitely like it. But it's not a film for everybody by any means.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Thursday Movie Picks, July 27, 2023: Con artists (TV edition)

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This being the last Thursday of the month, it's time for another TV-themed edition, and this month, that theme is "Con Artists". I have to admit that I stretched the theme slightly to come up with three shows to talk about:

It Takes a Thief (1968-1970). Robert Wagner plays the titular thief, who is in prison when he gets an offer from the federal government: we'll give you your freedom if you do some stealing for us. Late in the series' run, Fred Astaire showed up for a few episodes as Wagner's father to take an easy paycheck.

Frank Abagnale on To Tell the Truth (1977). If you recall the movie Catch Me If You Can, this episode was used in the movie, with Leonardo DiCaprio digitally edited into the show in place of Frank Abagnale. This is more or less the original episode, including the other game in the second half of the show. I suppose one could also say the two imposters in each segment are also engaging in a con of a sort....

Fight Back! With David Horowitz (early 1980s). Consumer reporter David Horowitz hosted this show about how not to be scammed by the scammers and how to fight back if you did get scammed, as well as some Consumer Reports-sytle "news you can use" (in this episode, testing various brands of popcorn against each other).

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

A Bullet for Joey

I've always mentioned how seeing a movie with an interesting synopsis is something that will generally get me to watch it, especially if it has classic Hollywood stars in it. I think I may have vaguely heard of A Bullet for Joey when I saw it show up on one of the streaming services recently, so I decided to sit down and watch it considering the cast and the plot.

The movie opens up in Montreal, where an organ grinder is plying the streets. Of course, this isn't a real organ grinder, but a man hired to spy on a certain person and get that man's daily routine down. Unfortunately for him, an officer of the RCMP figures out that something isn't quite right and questions the guy, who shoots the officer in the process. That brings in RCMP detective Raoul Leduc (Edward G. Robinson).

Meanwhile, in a development that we know is related only because this is a movie and we wouldn't have such unrelated stuff otherwise, the action briefly shifts to Lisbon, Portugal. There we find Joe Victor (George Raft), an immigrant to America who was deported because of his criminal activities. He'd like to get back to America, and this combined with those criminal activities, make him an ideal tool to be used by someone else....

That someone is Eric Hartman (Peter van Eyck). Hartman is a Communist, and this being the era of the Cold War, he's got some people in the West that he has a decided interest in. One of those is Carl Macklin (George Dolenz), a Canadian researcher into nuclear physics and advanced weapons systems. It's obvious why the Communists would have an interest in Macklin, and they'd like to kidnap him so that they can learn his secrets, or at least the scientific secrets. It's not as if Macklin has an exciting personal life.

Joe is hired to come up with the plan to kidnap Macklin, and that requires figuring out his personal routine as that organ-grinder was doing. Macklin just isn't very exciting, but Joe thinks any man will be excited when presented with a honey pot. Joe has just the woman for it, too, in the form of Joyce Geary (Audrey Totter). Joyce is Joe's on-again, off-again girlfriend, and she's not all that thrilled with the job she's being asked to do. Meanwhile, another associate of Joe's pulls the short-straw duty of trying to romance Macklin's homely spinster secretary. Said secretary lives with her older sister, who rather cruelly suspects something is going on because, really, who would want to date this woman?

Meanwhile, Leduc has been tracking down every organ-grinder in town, and all of them have good alibis. But other murders start happening, and they all seem to be linked to Macklin in some way, which eventually brings Leduc closer to the Joe Victor mob, although Leduc still doesn't get just who Joe is working for. It all leads up to a climax on a cargo ship going down the St. Lawrence River....

A Bullet for Joey is one of those movies that's serviceable, but nothing great. It feels like the sort of thing that was written with the express purpose of keeping a couple of older actors working, with the plot not always coming together. Additionally, it feels like another movie that's suffering from budget problems. It was produced independently, and that might have something to do with it. (The movie was not filmed in Canada; just establishing shots were.) Ultimately, A Bullet for Joey isn't a bad movie, but it's certainly not a great or memorable film either.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Zinc coffins for gold boys

There was an app on Roku called Movieland that got removed because, as I understand it, it didn't really have the rights to show the things it had on. That's a shame, because there was some interesting-looking foreign stuff on there that I haven't seen anywhere else. One of the movies I got to watch before the app was removed was a West German "gangster" movie called Battle of the Godfathers.

Henry Silva, the only recognizable name if you don't know German cinema (and even though I speak German, I don't know German cinema well enough to recognize the rest of the cast), plays Luca Messina, an American mobster who has decided that he's going to expand by going from the US to... Hamburg. Needless to say, he doesn't really know the West German market, but he just knows that he can use overwhelming force to take over the underworld there. So he packs up his American cars and his mom, and also brings over his sheltered adult daughter Sylvia who doesn't really seem to know how her father has made his money.

As for the Germans, they're led by Otto Westerman, who has two adult sons. One is into boxing; the other one, Erik, knows fully well what his father is doing and knows that he's being groomed to go into the family business, which is something he doesn't particularly want to do. This explains why he's sent south to one of the industrial cities in the Ruhr valley and is able to avoid a good deal of the violence.

While Luca and Otto are using their mobs against each other, there's a plot twist that's not much of a plot twist at all, which is that Erik and Sylvia meet and fall in love, not realizing until much later who each other's father is the danger it poses for the two of them. Indeed, Otto even tries to kill Sylvia at her birthday party, which Erik had been invited to. And when they try to break free from their respective fathers' influences, they're still in danger even as Otto and Luca are still going after each other in the climactic chase.

Battle of the Godfathers is a movie that I'm probably being a bit harsh on, largely because of the production values. The movie itself looks like it was made on the cheap, but it definitely wasn't helped by the fact that the print Movieland had was badly dubbed, with some places leaving in the German dialog for several seconds at a stretch. (No wonder Movieland got removed from Roku.) It's fun enough if you like the low-budget European stuff that's not what Criterion thinks you should be watching in the world of foreign-language movies. And as I was watching, I coudln't help but think of an old American movie called The Guilty Generation that has much the same idea of the children of two gangsters falling in love with each other, not realizing who the other's father is.

If you could find a good copy of Battle of the Godfathers, I'd suggest giving it a watch, but the trouble is going to be in finding that good copy.

Monday, July 24, 2023

Ladybug Ladybug

Back when I was at my old place and had a physical DVR, I recorded a TCM showing of a movie that at the time was new to me, Ladybug Ladybug. I didn't do a post on it since I thought it hadn't been released on DVD, but am wrong since Kino Lorber put it out on Blu-ray back in 2020. Anyhow, I recently noticed that it was also on one of the streaming services, so I decided to watch it.

The movie is supposedly based on a real incident that occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, and was released a little over a year later, at the very end of 1963. A school in a semi-rural area has a civil defense alarm that theoretically warns them of pending disasters, like a version of the present-day Emergency Alert System. (If you've ever come across 1950s radios with little triangles at 640 and 1240 AM, those were for the old system.) As we know, there was never a real-life national alert, and this old system wasn't designed for local alerts like tornado warnings or other severe weather that the current system is used for, so it mostly got used for preparedness alerts, making the teachers and students practice on a regular basis.

Anyhow, one day one of the teachers hears a buzzer and sees a light go on and stay on, which is different from the normal routine. The teacher asks the principal, Calkins (William Daniels) what to do, and he determines that this would be the signal that would be sent if there was an imminent nuclear strike. Is it a real nuclear war, or is this a false alarm. Calkins tries to call around, but gets a busy signal from the rest of the school district and the people who would or should know.

So Calkins starts a "go-home" drill, in which the teachers group students by where they live, and walk the students home. Nobody knows what's really going on, so of course everybody begins to fear the worst, with teachers trying to keep students calm and students trying to figure out what they'll do if a bomb actually comes.

Now, this is where I felt the movie had a substantial plot hole. I mentioned those radios above, and you'd think that one of the staff members at the school would have think to use the car radio or else have a transistor radio in the principal's office or somesuch. Even if the "official" civil defense frequencies weren't being used, in the case of a real emergency all of the other radio stations would be broadcasting important information. Indeed, this plot hole is sort of addressed when one of the students gets home. Her mom (a young Estelle Parsons) is a housewife who is doing the ironing and listens to the radio, informing the girl that there's no news on the radio, and would they be playing such peppy music in a real emergency?

Having said that, the movie is pretty good even in spite of the serious plot hole. The rest of the character motivations seem mostly realistic, and some of the responses are mildly uncomfortable. And with a cast that has a lot of children, none of them are obnoxious beyond how far any of them panic over the threat of nuclear war.

Ladybug Ladybug is a little movie that doesn't have a whole lot going on, and is in some ways pretty dated, but it's still absolutely worth a watch.

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Man With the Gun

I didn't expect to do a pair of Robert Mitchum westerns in fairly close succession, but I had to change a bit of blogging about movies in the order I watch them when The Good Guys and the Bad Guys showed up on TCM earlier this month. The other Mitchum western I had watched was an earlier one, Man With the Gun.

As you might guess, Mitchum does in fact play the man with the gun, a man named Clint Tollinger, although he's actually more or less a good guy. He's what's known as a "town tamer", a fairly itinerant person who goes from one town to the next, wherever the town is having trouble keeping law and order. This time, Clint shows up to Sheridan City, where a rancher named Dade Holman who lives just outside of town uses his surrogates to keep his sort of order, which means everybody else lives in fear of him. Well, maybe not Jeff Castle (John Lupton), who's just dumb enough to try to farm the plot of land he has his eye on even though Holman doesn't want that.

Nobody in town really wants Clint here, and he doesn't really want any interference from them, as he's a sort of necessary evil in that their crime problems won't be solved any other way. Among the people who really doesn't want Clint around is Nelly Bain (Jan Sterling). Nelly runs the local "dance hall", which is still a euphemism since the Production Code was still pretty strong when the movie was made, but, more importantly, Nelly has a past with Clint. She didn't want to be around him any longer because his profession is a dangerous one and she was afraid of losing him to violence. So she up and left him to make a clean break of it, but here he is again.

One of Clint's techniques is to have everybody who comes to town check their guns at the door. As you might guess, this doesn't make Holman's men very happy, and a group of them comes to town trying to get rid of him. Needless to say, that doesn't go well and Holman is only going to try harder to rid "his" town of Tollinger. Clint's personal life is also about to get more complicated, as Castle's girlfriend Stella (Karen Sharpe) finds that she's developing feelings for Clint, who is much more masculine than Jeff. Nelly, for her part, also feels those old feelings stirring up, and making her jealous.

Man With the Gun is a well-made programmer western from the era, the sort of thing you could imagine Randolph Scott having done if only he were 20 years younger. Although the movie is in black and white, the production values are pretty good, and the plot is serviceable, with professional performances from the cast. Since it's only a programmer, there's nothing extra special about it, but there's really nothing wrong with it either. It's the sort of nice 90 minutes of entertainment that fans of westerns will really like.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Another Time, Another Place

I've commented in the past about how British studios, or the British production arms of American studios, in the 1950s would make movies with one Hollywood star in the cast so as to try to make it something that would appeal to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and to make it easier to get distribution in the US. Lana Turner did one of those movies, and it's one I hadn't heard of it until I noticed it on one of the streaming services: Another Time, Another Place.

The setting is London, in early 1945. So World War II is still going on, but it's clear that the Nazis are going to be defeated even though they're still trying to fire V-rockets at England. Lana plays Sara Scott, an American newspaper columnist working for the London branch of a syndicate under boss Carter Reynolds (Barry Sullivan), who is also trying to romance Sara. For the British, the war is hitting closer to home, as we see when British reporter Mark Trevor (Sean Connery) goes to do a radio report on British bomb disposal experts trying to defuse one of the V-rockets the Nazis have sent London's way.

Of course, the real reason we see Mark is because he's been carrying on an affair with Sara, which is a bit of a problem for both of them. I already mentioned that Sara's nominal boss has been trying to get her to marry him. But Mark also has a wife and kid back home in Cornwall, and Mark has finally come to the difficult decision that he's going to go back to them which means having to break off the relationship with Sara. Thankfully, Sara learns this before she breaks off the relationship with Carter, which would be embarrassing if she had broken off that relationship first.

In any case, Sara and Mark's relationship was about to be broken off anyway. Mark has been called to go down to Rome to cover the final capitulation of Italy, with a stopover in Paris first. But in Paris, his plane crashes, killing all the passengers and leaving his wife a widow. Sara more or less has a nervous breakdown over it, forcing Carter to put her in a British sanatarium for several weeks before she can take the ship back to the US.

And then Sara gets out, and decides she's going to do something fairly idiotic: she wants to see Mark's home town in Cornwall before getting on the boat, just to get Mark out of her system. With the war in Europe having come to an end and travel being a bit more common, all the lodgings in Mark's small town are taken, until a nice young boy stops her. It's not difficult to guess that that young boy is Mark's son Brian, who takes her to meet his widowed mom Kay (Glynis Johns). Kay would like to put together a bunch of Mark's scripts for a book in his memory, but hasn't had the emotional energy to do so, especially because she felt like something was wrong for the last month of Mark's life as his letters didn't have as much passion as they had before he met Sara. Not that Kay knows anything about Sara's true identity....

I can see why the producers would think a story like this is a great idea. Unfortunately, the execution is off just enough that there are too many times where instead of serious drama we get unintentionally funny. I can't really imagine Lana Turner's character acting like this in real life, or the Glynis Johns character being that pure. There has to be a reason Mark thought about straying in the first place.

Still, it's interesting to see Sean Connery this early in his career, and playing someone all the way on the opposite side of Britain from his native Scotland. So give it a go and see what you think.

Friday, July 21, 2023

No Hunter Biden jokes, please

Another of the movies I came across when I was browsing through the various streaming channels and that looked like it might be interesting was a mid-1960s disaster movie called Crack in the World. It certainly was interesting, but was it good?

The movie opens up in Tanganyika, which is not the part of Tanzania on the actual continent of Africa; the "zan" in the country name coming from the island of Zanzibar after the two entities merged in 1964. A bunch of scientists, led by Stephen Sorensen (Dana Andrews) are working on the issue of how to unlock the geothermal heat deep in the earth's mantle and core so as to get a nearly limitless source of clean energy. They've been trying to drill all the way through the crust, which various scientific teams have tried to do in real life, but everybody's been stymied by the heat. Further, in the case of this scientific consortium, the scientists have reached a layer of material too dense to drill through.

Dr. Sorenson comes up a brilliant idea: explode your way through the obstacle. The only explosive powerful enough to do it, however, is a hydrogen bomb. Needless to say, the idea sounds at least slightly risky, and Sorensen's fellow scientist, geologist Dr. Rampion (Kieron Moore), doesn't like the idea because it won't work and could have dire consequences. You might guess from the title of the movie that Rampion is more likely to be right in this scientific debate, but you'd also be getting ahead of yourself.

Before that we need to have a back story involving the main characters. Dr. Sorensen is married to Maggie (Janette Scott), but apparently she had a romance with Rampion before getting married to Stephen; now, there's some strain in the relationship. Making matters much worse, however, is that Stephen has some sort of terminal illness which may be part of why he wants to finish this project before he dies. In any case, his dying would allow Maggie and Rampion to get back together.

Rampion tries to get the British government, through liaison Sir Eggleston (Alexander Knox) to shut down the project, but it's too late, because Sorensen has already set off the nuclear explosion. Sure enough, your guess from two paragraphs ago was right, and there are dire consequences. Those consequences involve a change in the plate tectonics, with a new fault line being opened, causing massive earthquakes and tsunamis in its path. Those threaten the entire existence of mankind unless something can be done to stop it.

The scientists come up with an idea, but as in movies like this, the first idea only works temporarily, and they have to go back to the drawing board in a race against time, leading up to the dramatic climax.

Crack in the World is fairly predictable, even if it came about several years before the all-star disaster film craze of the 1970s. Is it good? Well, it's certainly not bad, and the effects aren't bad for the mid-1960s. It's a darn sight better than At the Earth's Core. But it's still a fairly pedestrian movie. It entertains, but it's not something anyone would call great. I'm glad I watched it, but I won't be searching it out on DVD.

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Pride and Prejudice (1940)

One of the prestige movies that I had not actually seen before is MGM's 1940 adaption of the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice. So the last time that it showed up on TCM a few months back, I made a point of recording it so that I could finally get around to watching it and doing a full-length post on it.

The first thing to note is that the movie is based on a stage adaptation of the novel and that other changes were made to the novel in part to get it to run in a reasonable amount of time and in part because the Production Code would have had problems in a few places. I haven't read the original book, so I can't judge how much the changes affect what Jane Austen was trying to achieve with her work. But from what I've read, the main basic plot is still there.

Mr. Bennet (Edmund Gwenn) is the father in a family that doesn't quite have the means or the social standing to be truly members of the British upper classes of the Regency era. Not that the family is poor, mind you; it's more that their situation is best described as modest. Worse is that Bennet and his wife (Mary Boland) produced five daughters, and this is an era when property couldn't really be bequeathed to unmarried women like the daughters. So the parents are desperate to find suitably men to marry their daughters off to, starting with eldest daughter Elizabeth (Gree Garson). Otherwise, a cousin they don't like, Collins (Melville Cooper) will inherit the house.

Meanwhile, even without having read the novel I know that it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. Into the small town where the Bennets live comes Mr. Bingley, a wealthy bachelor renting one of the manor houses in the area, along with his good friend Mr. Darcy (Laurence Olivier). Mrs. Bennett immediately gets the idea of introducing her daughters to these two in the hopes that one or both of them will decide to marry a Bennet daughter.

But there are a bunch of catches along the way. One is Mr. Collins, who wants to marry Elizabeth. There's also the fact that Darcy is not really of the same social stratum as the Bennets. And then there's Lady Catherine (Edna May Oliver), who has been helping out Darcy. She's set up an allowance for Darcy, and can remove it if he marries someone she disapproves of. There are further complications involving the other sisters, one of whom is being pursued by a man named Wickham who has a bit of a past that's all kept mysterious.

It's fairly obvious, however, that Darcy and Elizabeth are going to meet and fall in love, and eventually get married at the end of the story so that audiences can have their happy ending, which was particularly important with war clouds on the horizon.

Will fans of the original novel, especially if they've seen later adaptations that are more faithful to the source material, enjoy this 1940 version? I don't know. But I can say that for people who enjoy the sort of literary adaptation that Hollywood studios made in the pre-war era, they'll probably enjoy it quite a bit. MGM, as I've said, was probably the prestige studio in Hollywood, and their production values are the kind that work exceedingly well for a period piece like this even if it's not quite the same period as in the book. They've also got a lot of stars and character actors; Ann Rutherford and Maureen O'Sullivan play two of Elizabeth's sisters, for example.

So I'd say there's a lot worth recommending in this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Not quite as obnoxious as Athena

Many years back, one of the local TV aired a movie that I only got to see the beginning of; for whatever reason, I never got around to watching the whole thing and TCM hasn't run it often enough for me to be able to catch it there (and indeed, hasn't run it since I upgrated to a service with a DVR). That movie is Barefoot in the Park, and having found it on one of the streaming services (I think PlutoTV), I decided to watch it even with the commercial interruptions.

The movie starts off with the honeymoon of Paul (Robert Redford) and Connie (Jane Fonda) Bratter, a young couple who are so madly in love that they can't be bothered to leave their hotel room. But of course the honeymoon is going to have to end, and in this case it's because Paul has to start his new job as the young lawyer at one of those Manhattan law firms. Connie is apparently still from the era when a wife stops working when she gets married even if she doesn't yet have any children to look after. But it's her job to go find an apartment for the couple to live in, something you think they would have done before getting married and moving to the city. Or maybe she did before they got married and the movie doesn't explicitly mention that.

In any case, Connie probably didn't do enough due diligence in picking a place to live, or else the couple just couldn't afford anything better. One of the reasons she's been able to get something so cheap is because it's on the fifth floor of a walk-up apartment building. No wonder it's so cheap; who the heck would want to keep walking up and down that many flights of stairs. There's also the issue of a hole in the skylight and the fact that the apartment seems ridiculously small, with the bedroom being little more than a closet. Connie is so in love that she can live with it until the couple can get settled in. And she's always been a free spirit, so she likes the sense of adventure.

Paul, on the other hand, is more strait-laced. Having said that, neither of them is a bad person; they're just the sort of people with some personality differences but of the sort that in the real world they'd figure out a way to solve the problems maturely. And Paul would probably move up in the firm quickly enough that it wouldn't be too awfully long before he could afford a better place for the couple. But then we wouldn't have a movie

Somewhat on Paul's side is his mother-in-law, Ethel (Mildred Natwick). Now that Connie's gotten married, Ethel is on her own, and Connie does worry about that, sincerely wanting what's best for her, even if Connie has the same conflict with Mom that she does with her husband. But Connie is about to get an ally in the form of Victor (Charles Boyer). He's a professional adventurer, and keeps the garret apartment above the Bratters' place because it's cheap and he's away a lot. Indeed, he needs to go through the Bratter place to get to his apartment, or so he claims. Seems highly illegal to me. Like Connie, however, he's a decided free spirit, and it's obvious that he's going to be interested in Ethel.

Barefoot in the Park is based on a stage play by Neil Simon, and it's one that's filled with contrived situations written solely for laughs. Fans of Neil Simon will enjoy this stuff, although I have to say that for me it's not quite as good as some of his later work, notably The Odd Couple and Plaza Suite. You know you're going to get a happy ending out of all of it, although the climax leading up to that ending is utterly unnatural and didn't work for me. Even with its flaws, however, Barefoot in the Park is definitely worth a watch.

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The Shot of Size

Another admission I ought to make is that as much TCM as I've watched over the course of the blog, there are still quite a few programmers and B movies that would be part of the old "Turner Library" of MGM, Warner Bros., and RKO movies that I've never heard of much less seen. Another example of this is a movie from the end of the time when Humphrey Bogart was still just a contract player and not the star of the lot: The Big Shot.

Bogart plays "Duke" Berne, and as the movie opens it looks as though he's dying on a hospital bed, and not terribly happy with the presence of a woman there. But this is a prison hospital, and the woman is Ruth (Susan Peters), girlfriend of George (Richard Travis), whom Duke does want there, for reasons that will become clear at the end of the movie. Because with an opening like this, the film just has to go into flashback, doesn't it.

Sure enough, we get a flashback to Duke recalling just how he ultimately wound up dying in that prison hospital. Duke at the start of the flashback is a career criminal, a three-time loser who knows that if he goes up again, it's going to be a life sentence. So he tries to go straight, but as in movies like Straight Is the Way or Invisible Stripes, he finds that it's tough to go straight because who wants to hire a repeat offender, and what other skills does he have anyway. So several members of a gang get Duke to see Martin Fleming (Stanley Ridges), a high-class lawyer on the outside who just happens to be the money man behind the gang. They all want Duke in on their next job.

So Duke goes to see Manning and is surprised by what he finds. Manning is married, which isn't a surprise, but it happens to be to Lorna (Irene Manning), a woman who just happened to be Duke's girlfriend from before the last time he went to prison. Lorna, having seen Duke again, immediately realizes that she really loves Duke, but is married to Manning because he's got money, which is something a woman like her wants.

Duke still kinda sorta wants to go straight, but can't make a living any other way. However, on the night of the planned robbery, Lorna shows up at Duke's apartment. If the movie had been made in the 1970s, there probably would have been a shot of the two of them together in bed implying they had sex, but a movie released in 1942 sure couldn't do that. But Lorna is able to convince Duke not to go in on the robbery. Unfortunately, another member of the gang happens to see a fur coat in Duke's apartment and realizes Duke was with a woman.

Duke is able to use his leverage to get Fleming to defend him at trial, with the aforementioned George being the made-up alibi. But the defense goes sour, both Duke and George end up in prison, and everybody wants to break out of prison, leading to the predictable ending....

The Big Shot is a programmer through and through, which means that while being predictable it's not exactly bad. It's a bit surprising that Warner Bros. would cast Bogart in a little project like this after the success of High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon in 1941, but they had their stars under contract. It's also interesting that the movie started filming after December 7, 1941. With the US now at war you'd think the tastes of the American viewing public would change and they'd want Humphrey Bogart in something other than another gangster movie.

Still, everybody here is professional, and if the movie had been made five years earlier, before Bogart really became a star, it's the sort of thing that would probably be more fondly remembered as a stepping stone in Bogart's career. So it's the sort of movie that's definitely worth a watch, but also the sort of movie that would have been better served being part of a box set as opposed to a MOD Warner Archive standalone.

Monday, July 17, 2023

If I Had a Million

I had a post on a different movie scheduled to go up today, when I noticed that the anthology movie If I Had a Million was on the TCM schedule overnight tonight, or the early hours of Tuesday (July 18) at 2:15 AM. Note that this is still late Monday evening on the west coast. A search of the blog, however, claims that while I used the movie once for a Thursday Movie Picks, I've never actually done a full-length post on it. So, since the movie is definitely worth a watch, today's the day to do a more-or-less full-length review.

I say "more or less" because, this being an anthology, the most natural thing to do is to have a one- or two-sentence synopsis of each segment. The framing story involves a wealthy man, John Glidden (Richard Bennett), who is on his deathbed. He's worth at least eight figures, which is a lot today but a huge sum back in 1932, and he's got a lot of grasping relatives he doesn't like. So he decides to give away a million bucks to several random strangers before he dies, by picking names out of the phone book. This leads to eight segments:

  • Henry Peabody (Charlie Ruggles) works in a china shop and has a boss he doesn't like, so you can probably guess what he does with his million.
  • Violet (Wynne Gibson) is a prostitute working at a bar on the docks. When she gets her million, she makes her way uptown, and....
  • Eddie Jackson (George Raft) is a notorious forger who, having gotten a check from Glidden, realizes that no bank will accept it because they'll naturally believe it's a forgery.
  • Emily La Rue (Alison Skipworth) is continuously vexed by bad drivers, so her husband Rollo (W.C. Fields) uses the money to buy cars and....
  • Gene Raymond plays John Wallace, who is on death row and thinks the million dollars can buy him a new defense so he can be exonerated and go back to his wife Mary (Frances Dee).
  • In what is probably the weakest segment, and surprising considering the star, Charles Laughton plays an office clerk who sees the million as what we would today call "fuck you" money.
  • Steve Gallagher (Gary Cooper) is a marine in the stockade. He thinks the check is an April Fools joke, which has consequences when he gets out of the stockade.
  • Finally, Mary Walker (May Robson) is a resident of an old folks' home where the administrators basically want to warehouse the residents until they die. Mary, however, wants the residents to be able to live, and now that she's got a million, she may be able to make it happen.

As with any anthology movie, different people are going to have different segments that they think are the best, and others which they think are weak. For me, the Wynne Gibson segment is surprisingly profound. Fields and Skipworth unsurprisingly do well with what is little more than zany comedy, but of the sort that was tailor-made for them. Laughton gets a shocking weak script to work with, although it's realistic because in real life all of us have people we'd like to be able to tell off, and having $1 million in 1932 dollars would certainly give one the money to do it.

If you haven't seen If I Had a Million before, by all means make it a point to watch or record this TCM airing. It doesn't show up all that often.

Sunday, July 16, 2023

The Freed Unit wasn't always right

I'll admit that I'm not the greatest fan of musicals, but I think sometimes my not particularly caring for a certain musical is because the movie isn't all that good. I'm sorry to say that's the case with the musical Athena.

The movie starts off with a performance from an alleged TV star, Johnny Nyle (Vic Damone). Nyle sings in the sort of way that the part of Hollywood that still had one foot stuck in the past would like, and has a legion of adoring female fans who wear conservative long skirts. He's also got some sort of legal issue that has a process server going after him. With that in mind, Johnny goes to see his old war buddy Adam Shaw (Edmund Purdom) to see if Adam can fix his legal problems.

Adam, for his part, is trying to run for Congress, being the third generation of his family to go into politics and having the old solons from the party on his side. Regardless of the political considerations of helping someone like Nyle, Adam may simply not have the time to do it. He's also got his own personal problems, as he had bought some fruit trees from a tree nursery that didn't turn out the way he had hoped.

Adam is about to have much bigger problems when he goes to the nursery and runs into Athena Mulvain (Jane Powell). She's the sort of person who, when she's in public like this, would get the reputation for being "free-spirited", although that's putting it mildly. And Athena has decided that she loves Adam and is going to get him to marry her just by constantly being in his life. Never mind that he's got a fiancée already.

So Adam tries to find out who this Athena Mulvain is and where she lives so that he can go visit he and ask her if she would kindly break off the relationship. Instead, he finds that not only is she not going to take no for an answer, but she's got a really kooky family. She and all of her sisters are named after mythological figures, altough not all Greek as Athena's sister Minerva (Debbie Reynolds) is named after Athena's Roman equivalent. Minerva is also going to become a romantic interest for Johnny. This is determined by Athena's grandmather Salome (Evelyn Varden), who is into numerology.

Obviously, getting involved with Athena would cause all sorts of political problems for Adam, but he can't help himself. A further subplot involves Grandpa Mulvain's (Louis Calhern) views on diet and fitness, leading him to emcee a Mr. Universe-like contest which also serves as the dramatic climax of the movie.

For me, the movie Athena had a whole bunch of problems. One is that although it's a musical, it's one of those where the songs aren't particularly memorable and bring the proceedings to a screeching halt. Fans of musicals, however, probably won't have that problem. The bigger problem is that on multiple occasions, the main characters' motivations suddenly turn on a dime in ways that aren't realistic at all. And Athena isn't a charming free spirit, but an obnoxious blankety-blank since she can't take no for an answer.

Still, there are probably going to be some people who like a musical like this, so as always, watch and judge for yourself.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

There's a reason I didn't wait another two months to post this

Gina Lollobrigida died earlier this year, and TCM was eventually able to do a programming tribute to her after 31 Days of Oscar and the centenary salute to Warner Bros. I recorded several of the movies, with the first one I watched being Come September.

Rock Hudson plays Robert Talbot, a wealthy American businessman. At the start of the movie he's in Milan, one of the big industrial centers of the country, finalizing a deal with an Italian company. It's July, which is significant for the plot because what Talbot is about to do is a break from his usual habit. Talbot was able to buy a villa on the Italian Riviera after the war, and he's had a tradition of spending every September at the villa. However, since he's in Italy on business, he's decided to start his vacation a bit early after finishing up his business.

Talbot isn't spending that month at the villa alone. He's got a sort of Italian girlfriend, Lisa Fellini (Gina Lollobrigida). It's the sort of relationship where, if they spent more than a month out of the year in the same country, they would have already progressed to being engaged if not married. But because Talbot always goes back to the States, Lisa isn't certain whether he's ready for a long-term commitment, so she's accepted a proposal from a British man who's brought his two sisters down from the UK to meet Lisa. So when Lisa finds out that Talbot is back two months early, she isn't certain what to do.

Of course, since we know who the two stars of the movie are, we know Lisa is going to go to Talbot's villa. But she's not going to be the only one. Since Talbot is normally only there one month out of the year, he has a property manager, Maurice Clavell (Walter Slezak) look after the place. And Maurice has been a bit dishonest. Maurice knows that Talbot isn't going to show up until September 1, so he's been running the villa as a seasonal hotel, La Dolce Vista, until mid-August or so in order that he can make a little extra money. And with Talbot on the other side of the ocean, who's going to find out? It's not as if they had AirBnb or Vrbo in 1961, or even any internet for Talbot to find out about Maurice's deception.

But now Talbot is showing up. And Maurice has a group of young women, chaperoned by Margaret Allison (Brenda De Banzie) staying at the place. Talbot is bound to find out, and boy is he going to be ticked. Not only that, but those young women aren't the only ones about to be guests at La Dolce Vista. During his travel down the Italian coast, Talbot kept running into a group of American college men on vacation for the summer and led by Tony (Bobby Darin). Wouldn't you know it, but they have reservations at La Dolce Vista. And Tony is going to meet one of the young women there, Sandy Stevens (Sandra Dee), and fall in love.

Come September is the sort of movie that has an obvious formula to it, and you know exactly where the movie is going to end up in the final reel. But that's what audiences in 1961 wanted. Hudson shows himself once again to be adept at romantic comedy, and Lollobrigida is a suitable (and beautiful) romantic partner for him. Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee would go on to get married in real life. And the movie was shot on location, giving American audiences another thing they would have wanted in the era when traveling to Europe was a lot less common than it is these days.

Sixty years on, the plot of Come September may have worn around the edges, but to criticize a movie for that is a bit unfair. It entertains when a romantic comedy is the sort of movie you're looking for, and it's lovely to look at on multiple levels.

Friday, July 14, 2023

That time a woman tried to direct a Woody Allen movie

Er, not quite

Another of those movies that seems to be popping up a bit more frequently on TCM that I had never seen is Girlfriends. (It was distributed by Warner Bros., and ticks off demographic check boxes, which would probably this.) I decided to record the most recent airing so that I could watch it and do a review here.

Melanie Mayron plays Susan, a struggling photographer in New York living with her best friend, equally struggling writer Anne (Anita Skinner). Now, you could be forgiven for thinking this is going to turn into a lesbian relationship like The Fox, but both women are going to wind up getting boyfriends later in the story. Susan does the wedding thing; also, being Jewish, she gets hired for a lot of bar mitzvahs among the secular lefty Jewish community of Manhattan. It's through this that she meets Rabbi Gold (Eli Wallach), and eventually tries to have a relationship with him, although he's got a wife and kid.

Anne, meanwhile, already has a boyfriend in Martin (Bob Balaban), who eventually asks Anne to marry him. This she does, moving to the suburbs and eventually getting pregnant. Susan is jealous not so much because she wants a husband and kid, but because she seems to want Anne all for herself. But in addition to the rabbi, she's going to get another boyfriend in Eric (Christopher Guest), along with picking up an obnoxious houseguest who doesn't seem to want to leave in the form of Ceil, a would-be dancer Susan picks up as a hitch-hiker when Susan is driving back to New York.

Finally, there's also the subplot of Susan wanting to get a gallery show rather than having to do the commercial photography that pays the bills. She finagles her way into the office of a prominent gallery owner, claiming she's been sent by someone whom she's never actually met before. But it still works out for her.

If it all sounds a bit scattershot, that's because in many ways it is. Director Claudia Weill didn't have much money to make this movie; in addition, it started out as a short. So she filmed when she could get the money, which would help explain why it jumps from one plot line to another and feels episodic. Girlfriends certainly isn't a bad movie, although I do have to admit that there were times when I found it difficulty to have sympathy with the characters. Watching Susan felt like watching the more neurotic Woody Allen characters of the Annie Hall and Manhattan era. On the plus side, the movie does a good job of documenting a certain time and cultural milieu, even if it's one that's not what I'm most interested in when I want to see something new to me.

If, however, you like Woody Allen's New York, then I think you'll enjoy Girlfriends.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Thursday Movie Picks, July 13, 2023: Book Adaptations

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This month, the movie theme is "Book Adaptations", which is unsurprisingly a fairly broad theme. I decided to go with a theme within a theme, and pick three movies, and pick three movies based on books about doctors. Two of the authors were in fact doctors, although the third was a minister:

The Citadel (1938). A.J. Cronin wrote this book about a British doctor (Robert Donat) who starts off working as the staff doctor for a bunch of coal miners, only to find that they want him to let them be malingerers. He moves to London where an old friend (Rex Harrison) gets him to work with rich clients, but his wife (Rosalind Russell) eventually convinces him to go back to working with the poor.

Magnificent Obsession (1954). Minister Lloyd C. Douglas wrote a bunch of heavy-handed books, starting with this one back in the late 1920s. It was made into a movie in the mid-1930s, but the material is ripe for the equally heavy-handed Douglas Sirk to make it into a melodrama. Rock Hudson plays a playboy who gets blamed for the killing of a beloved doctor because he needs the medical equipment at the same time it could have saved the doctor's life. The doctor's widow (Jane Wyman) hates Hudson for it, and things get worse when Hudson inadvertently causes an accident that blinds Wyman. Hudson decides he's going to become a doctor so he can do medical research that will restore Wyman's eyesight.

Coma (1978). Robin Cook wrote the book turned into this movie, in which a doctor (Geneviève Bujold) suffers the loss of a friend in an operation when the friend doesn't come out of anesthesia. Bujold investigates and gets the distinct impression that there's a lot more going on than meets the eye. Her boyfriend (Michael Douglas) wants to help her but can't be too up front about it, while her ultimate boss (Richard Widmark) is clearly trying to stop her.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

The Young and the Brave

Another of the movies that TCM ran over the Memorial Day war movie marathon was another new-to-me movie, The Young and the Brave. After watching it, I think there's a pretty good reason that I'd never heard of it before.

Sgt. Kane (William Bendix) and Master Sgt. Brent (Rory Calhoun) are a pair of US soldiers in the Korean War who were captured by the North Koreans. They escaped however, and are now trying to make their way south to the town where they think they can find safety. Along the way, they try to get information from a couple of farmers, but it's costly. Not for the soldiers, of course, but for the farmer couple who get shot by the commies for their trouble.

Worse for them, they had a son named Han (Manuel Padilla, a Mexican-American kid who looks oh so obviously Korean) who is now an orphan and tries to make his way to safety. Han winds up at an abandoned Army goods dump where somehow a dog got abandoned as well. This being a low-budget Hollywood movie, it's fairly obvious that the kid is going to be able to befriend the dog, and that the dog, a German shepherd now christened Lobo, is going to have quite a bit a skill and be able to help out the kid.

It's also clear that the two American POWs are going to run into Han again and have to bring him along as they try to make their way south, and that two extra mouths to feed are going to be an issue at some point along the way. And then rations get even tighter when the two POWs find a third escaped POW, Pvt. Wilson (Robert Ivers).

This brings in another hoary plot device, that of the POW who gave in to the Communist propaganda and brainwashing attempts, or at least did in the eyes of the two Americans who didn't. The problem for them is that Pvt. Wilson is the only one who knows how to get the radio working again, and without a radio, getting back to safety is going to be that much more difficult, especially with the North Koreans following the Americans not so far behind.

So it's easy to see why a movie like The Young and the Brave isn't that highly regarded. It's cheap, full of tropes, and fairly predictable. And then to top it all off it has the tacked-on plot line of an obnoxious boy and his dog. The only good thing I can say about the movie is tht it at least gave me something to blog about for one more day.

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Buckaroo Banzai

One of those cult movies that I thought I had seen along the way but as it turns out I never had is The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I noticed recently that it was available on one or another of the streaming services (I think Pluto TV, but I'd have to look it up), so I sat down to watch it in order to be able to do a review on it here.

Peter Weller plays Buckaroo Banzai, a polymath who is among other things a surgeon and an inventor. He also leads a music combo, the Hong Kong Cavaliers. As the movie starts, he's working on a device that would allow people to move through solid material, although why the solid material wouldn't harm them by going through them is a question not quite answered. The experiment is more or less a success, albeit with side effects.

Meanwhile, in a prison/insane asylum is Emilio Lizardo (John Lithgow). He had been working on the same sort of invention back in 1938, but suffered the same side effect as Banzai, which was to wind up traveling through a place called the 8th Dimension. It turns out as well that there's a Planet X beyond the solar system, and aliens from there have been using the 8th Dimension as well. Lizardo was attacked by the aliens and turned violently insane, while Buckaroo only brings one back to earth.

It's a big mistake, as the other aliens, now understanding that at least one earthling has the same technology as them, decide they need to keep the rest of earth away from that technology. So they kidnap Buckaroo, although not after he was able to find his murdered wife's long-lost twin sister Penny (Ellen Barkin). The aliens have in fact already reached earth, where they set up a shell company called Yoyodyne in New Jersey -- the same location Orson Welles used in his radio version of The War of the Worlds, a fact that is actually a plot point in the movie -- and have set about disguising themselves as humans, in an attempt to get back to the 8th Dimension and their home planet.

The rest of the Cavaliers, including a very young Jeff Goldblum as "New Jersey", set out to find Buckaroo and keep a hold of that interdimensional mechanism so that the aliens can't get it and take over the earth.

It's easy to see why Buckaroo Banzai has a cult following, and why it's the sort of movie that was not a box office hit when it was first released in 1984. It's clearly not going to appeal to everybody, and even for the sort of people that might be naturally predisposed to like a movie like this, the plot is a bit of a mess. It feels as though the writers had a whole bunch of ideas, but no idea how to put them all together in a coherent matter, so they just threw everything against a wall to see what stuck. Sometimes, the silliness works, but not always.

Still, Buckaroo Banzai is the sort of movie that should probably be seen once if only to understand why it has such a cult following.

Monday, July 10, 2023

The Good Guys and the Bad Guys

I'd been writing up posts in advance and scheduling them as soon as I copy them over to Blogger, but then I noticed that one of the movies I've got in my queue is one that just so happens to be coming up on TCM again soon, so if anything looks like it's not quite accurate in terms of dates or if two posts come up in rapid succession, that would be the reason why. Anyhow, the movie that I notice was on the TCM schedule again is The Good Guys and the Bad Guys, which has its next TCM showing on July 11 at 12:30 PM.

Robert Mitchum plays the good guy, a man named Flagg who is marshal in the small town of Progress NM around the time of New Mexico statehood. The area is changing rapidly, and quite a few people even have automobiles. Flagg is beginning to get up there in years much like Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott's characters in Ride the High Country, but he knows that there are still some bad guys out there who haven't aged out and might still commit the sort of crime that was done when Flagg was a younger man.

One such man is McKay (George Kennedy), who was the leader of a big gang 20 years ago but who seems to have been laying low, even though he's still wanted. There's a rumor that McKay and his gang are heading for Progress, as the town is about to get a new bank which means a large transfer of cash by train; either the train or the new bank would be prime targets for the old-style western gangs. Flagg tries to tell Mayor Wilker (Martin Balsam) about the danger, but Wilker seems more concerned with his political future and doesn't seem to believe there's any danger from the old-time gangs. Besides, isn't McKay dead? Nobody's heard from him in 20 years.

Of course, McKay isn't dead, and Flagg is able to find him and bring him into town for the reward money. McKay is no longer really the leader of the gang, as it's a wholly new gang led by Waco (David Carradine) who has new ideas, ideas that are fankly too violent for McKay's changing tastes as he too is growing too old for the crime game. Waco's plan is to rob the train when it stops at the station in town, before the money can be transferred to the bank, but without having to board a moving train as folks in the old days might have done. McKay decides to help Flagg defeat Waco's gang.

This means that Flagg and McKay are going to have to board the moving train themselves, and either get it to stop before getting to town (not very likely), or get it to go through town without stopping, which is doable but also difficult. It doesn't help that Flagg is no longer marshal and so the train crew doesn't believe him that he and McKay are the good guys here.

The Good Guys and the Bad Guys is one of those movies from just after the end of the old Production Code regime where westerns tried to blend seriousness with some lighter comedy. It doesn't always work here, but I would also say that it's not a failure by any means. Instead, The Good Guys and the Bad Guys winds up being one of those movies that entertains for the 90 or so minutes that it's on the screen, but by the end it's not anything groundbreaking or terribly memorable. So it's definitely worth a watch if you want something unknown enough that it's more likely new to you, and if you just want to sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

The Garden Murder Case

TCM's Saturday matinee programming block was running a bunch of Philo Vance mysteries in the 10:00 AM section, although I believe the last one they have aired on July 8, to be followed by the Dr. Kildare films. I mentioned some years back that the Philo Vance mysteries were notable for having a bunch of different actors play the part of the detective, as well as jumping from one studio to another. Anyhow, recently, I watched one of the movies in the series, The Garden Murder Case.

This time, the movie was made at MGM and starred Edmund Lowe in the title role. Philo shows up at some sort of society steeplechase, where a well-to-do doctor, Dr. Garden (Henry B. Walthall) has a son who's going to be one of the jockeys. On the way to the race, the son can be heard saying something like "must kill self" in the sort of toneless voice that sounds like Hollywood's stereotype of stage hypnosis, and I don't think I'm giving anything away by saying that since it's so obvious. Sure enough, the jockey falls off his horse, gets trampled to death, and then later Dad collapses in horror.

Meanwhile, all of the other smart set have gone back to the mansion owned by Edgar Lowe-Hammle (Gene Lockhart) to deal with the shock in their own way. And one of those ways is going to be murder! Edgar is in his study on the phone, when we hear a gunshot followed by a woman screaming. Edgar is dead, and everybody wonders which woman screamed. At first, the death is also thought to be suicide, including by investigating detective Heath (Nat Pendelton) and the district attorney (Grant Mitchell), but Philo Vance notices that Edgar doesn't have any powder burns, which he would have had if he had shot himself. So it's obviously murder.

And then, one of the women, Mrs. Fenwicke-Ralston (Frieda Inescort) lets slip that she's got some information on who might have shot Edgar. But as she gets on the bus to go to the police station, followed by Zalia (Virginia Bruce), we hear her doing the same sort of "must kill self" crap that the jockey did. She falls to her death from the top of the double-decker bus, and Zalia is unsurprisingly implicated. It's up to Philo to figure out what really happened.

What really happened is partly easy and partly difficult to figure out, the latter part because in many ways the point of some of these mystery movie series isn't so much the mystery but the star playing the lead role as well as the interactions of the rest of the cast. Lowe does a good enough job here, and there is as always a nice cast of character actors in the supporting roles. Much like the British movie Death Goes to School that I blogged about a few months back, the material feels like it would have been perfect for an episode of Columbo.

If you're looking for an engrossing mystery, you're not going to find it here. But if you just want to sit back and be entertained for an hour or so, I think you'll get that.

Saturday, July 8, 2023

Don't Go Near the Water

One of the movies that shows up a lot on TCM when they need marathons of military movies for Memorial Day or some other reason is Don't Go Near the Water. It's a change of pace from the action/epics, and an MGM movie that would have been part of the old Turner Library, so presumably cheap for the channel to program. It aired again this past Memorial Day weekend, which gave me the opportunity to finally watch it.

I don't want to say that there's no plot to the movie, but it's definitely more of an episodic movie than one with an overarching plot. The establishing story, as it were, involves Lt. Max Siegel (Glenn Ford), who's stationed on an island in the Pacific that's a ways away from the front lines, to the chagrin of at least some people who want to actually fight. The reason they're stuck in the rear is because their job is to be liaisons with the domestic press and the bigwigs like Congressmen who want to come closer to the front. Head of the PR corps, and happy not to have to fight, is Lt. Cmdr. Clinton Nash (Fred Clark). Indeed, one of the subplots involves him trying to make things easier for the other officers under his command and to avoid dealing with the admiral.

As I said, it's more episodic, or perhaps you could consider it as having a bunch of subplots. The first of these involves Siegel, who has been doing the goodwill thing at a local school, trying to get material for teacher Melora (Gia Scala). You could see the two of them falling in love, but Siegel is American and looking to get home after the war ends, while Melora doesn't want to leave the island because the islanders need teachers like her.

Under the officers are enlisted men like Ens. Garrett (Earl Holliman). He's one of those people who really wants to get into action, but at the same time, he also falls in love with one of the nurses, Lt. Tomlen (Anne Francis). She loves him too, but there's a catch, which is that officers and enlisted men aren't supposed to have that sort of relation. It's one of the biggest no-nos, but there you are. Siegel has to run interference, but it's going to wind up with him developing romantic feelings for Tomlen.

There's PR work to be done, and one of the pieces of PR work involves trying to put a regular enlisted man on a tour of the homefront much like one of those heroes getting time off from the front to do a war bond tour stateside. Unfortunately for Nash and his subordinates, they pick Farragut Jones (Mickey Shaughnessy), who is the most foul-mouthed sailor you can think of, making even the other sailors blush.

The other PR work involves a lady reporter from the states coming out to visit, Deborah Aldrich (Eva Gabor). She wants to get closer to the front so she can do some real reporting, but there's a reason why the navy brass don't want to put women aboard the ships sailing around the ocean, never mind the ones steaming toward the front lines. Deborah, however, gets aboard one of the ships surreptitiously and isn't discovered until it's too late for the commander to do anything about it.

All of the various portions of Don't Go Near the Water are competently handled, and it's not really as though there's a lot wrong with the picture. At the same time however, it also feels like there's not much noteworthy going on, along with a serious sense of being studio-bound. Glenn Ford shows he's adept at this sort of comedy, and everybody else acquits themselves well, so I can't not recommend it. It's just that it probably could have been a lot better, too.

Friday, July 7, 2023

TCM's "Star" of the Month, July 2023, and other comments about TCM

We've been in a new month for a while now, but in part thanks to the holiday and in part thanks to a quirk in the scheduling we didn't get to a new "Star" of the Month on TCM until the 7th, which is today, and a bit out of the ordinary for the feature to be on a Friday. But then, that's because instead of one star like normal, TCM is doing a look at "Stars of the 70s", with a total of 14 movies, I'm assuming one for each of 14 different stars, which doesn't seem like too many.

I was looking for more information about it on the TCM website, and I have to admit it was a bit difficult at first. I'm presuming that with the recent layoffs at the channel, whoever was responsible for keeping the website updated is no longer doing that. The front page has a lot of links to old stuff, specifically the Warner Bros. 100th anniversary salute from April. However, the This Month link at the page does work, and took me to a page about the various spotlights in July.

Also not getting updated is the Watch TCM app. The most recent movie added is Cleopatra Jones and the Casino of Gold, which aired in the wee hours at the end of last Friday's schedule. I have no idea what's going to happen when all of the movies currently on the Watch TCM app expire, or if anybody even notices the app isn't getting updated. I don't normally use the app to watch TCM live.

Alias a Gentleman

Even though I've been blogging for 15 years, it's surprising how many films that were part of the old Turner library that make up the backbone of TCM's lineup I still haven't heard of. Another one of those movies was Alias a Gentleman, which showed up some weeks back and which I recorded.

Wallace Beery, nearing the end of his life and career, is the titular would-be gentleman, and since it's Beery you know he's not really a gentleman. Beery plays Jim Breedin, who got sent to prison for a long stretch but has been well-enough behaved as a prisoner that he's been reassigned to the prison honor farm; also, his sentence is going to be up soon. Before he went to prison, he and his wife and daughter lived on a farm in Oklahoma, but his wife died and the daughter abandoned the farm, not knowing that her father was in prison.

However, the warden receives news from an oil company that oil has been discovered in the area where Jim's old farm was, and they'd like to buy the property for a cool $250,000, which would have been more than enough to set him up for life in the late 1940s. So Jim takes the offer, hoping to become more high-class and hoping to re-connect with his daughter when he gets out of prison. Meanwhile, another prisoner, Johnny Lorgen (Tom Drake) saves Jim in a fight with a third prisoner, so Jim invites Johnny to come see him when Johnny gets out of prison.

Jim, having gotten out of prison, has his money in a bank an rents a fancy apartment. This comes to the notice of Matt Enley (Leon Ames), a gangster who knows Jim and figures that Jim must have had money stashed somewhere that was the fruit of a previous crime, perhaps one with which Matt was also involved. Matt, thinking he's been fleeced, decides to come up with a plan to get that money. Jim never heard the news of his daughter's death in a car crash a year or so before Jim was released from prison. Also, not having seen the daughter, he'd have no idea what she'd look like if she were still alive. So Matt is able to find a struggling actress, Elaine Carter (Dorothy Patrick), who could use some money, and convinces Elaine to play the part of Jim's daughter in an attempt to determine how Jim got his money.

Jim obviously likes Elaine, thinking she's his daughter, and she grows to like Jim because she finds he came about the money honestly, and has a conscience. However, Matt shows up looking for the money, and Johnny shows up like Jim invited him. Except that Johnny falls in love with lovely Elaine, and Jim doesn't want that, because no daughter of his is going to marry a criminal. Of course, with the Production Code still in effect, you can guess that this movie is going to have a relatively happy ending for the right people.

Alias a Gentleman was released about a year before Beery's death; by this time, the sort of screen persona that Beery's characters had was becoming decidedly out of date. It also doesn't help that this is an MGM movie, with all the gloss MGM can give a programmer, when it really needs to be something closer to a noir. So I'm sorry to say that I can't give Alias a Gentleman a very high recommendation.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

Judy Holliday's dud

I've argued before that pretty much any star who was around long enough will have made enough movies to have at least one serious dud in their filmography. Recently, I watched a film that I think would qualify as a dud for Judy Holliday: Full of Life.

Holliday plays Emily Rocco, married to writer Nick (Richard Conte) and pregnant with the couple's first child. Of course, the couple is married; the Production Code would never allow for them to be unmarried. But the marriage was only a civil ceremoney, which is going to be a serious plot point later in the movie. For now, suffice it to say that Emily wasn't born Catholic and isn't particularly into any religious tradition.

Being a writer isn't hugely remunerative, but Nick was able to save enough money to buy a house for the couple. It's just that it's an older house, which means that it's reaching the point where repairs are needed. That becomes much more obvious one day when Emily falls through the kitchen floor! She and Nick bring in a couple of construction guys for estimates, but all of them tell the couple that it's going to cost more money than the couple can really afford.

However, Nick's father Vittorio (Salvatore Baccaloni, who I presume was being groomed for being an older character actor by Columbia), was a stonemason who has since retired to northern California to do a bit of farming together with Mama Rocco (Esther Minciotti). In theory, Dad could do the work for just the cost of materials as well as putting Dad up in the house for a while, but there's a serious catch. Nick and Vittorio have serious differences of opinion on a whole bunch of subjects, including Nick's only having gotten a civil wedding. But it's not as if the young couple has much choice, so they invite him down to southern California to do the work.

As you might guess, Vittorio proceeds to turn the place upside-down. Some of those ways are the tropes that seem like good ways, with a bohemian outlook on life that serves to make people around him a little less strait-laced. But there are other things, like completely coming up with a different plan for the home renovation than what Nick and Emily want, or can even afford in terms of materials. And then there's Vittorio trying to get Emily to consider converting to Catholicism....

Full of Life is one of those movies that on the surface sounds like it has a really good premise, but under the surface it rather fails thanks to a bad handling of the premise. In this case, it's part that I found the tone to be really uneven. The movie isn't certain whether it wants to be a broad comedy or a serious drama. Part of the comedy is supposed to come from Vittorio being the stereotypical Italian-American immigrant, but it comes across as a lot closer to insulting than charming. The whole religious conversion aspect feels heavy-handed. And then there's a subplot about Mama getting up there in years to the point that everybody worries about her health. And then everybody just leaves her alone up at that farm while Dad goes south, effectively writing her out of the movie.

Full of Life is a giant mess that doesn't serve anybody well, least of all the usually quite good Judy Holliday.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Lily Was Here

This time, it actually is the song that goes with the movie I'm blogging about

If you're of a certain age, you may remember how, after leaving the Eurythmics, David A. Stewart had a hit with Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer called Lily Was Here. You may have heard as well that it was the title song from a Dutch movie. Well, actually, the original Dutch version of the movie was called De Kassière, which translates as The Cashier. But the movie was released in English-speaking countries with the title Lily Was Here. Recently, I discoverd that the movie is available in an English-language dub on one of the streaming channels, so I decided to watch it.

Lily, played by non-professional actress Marion van Thijn, is a young woman in the Netherlands still living with her parents since she's not yet of legal age, but she has a part-time job as a supermarket cashier. However, as the movie opens, she has to take a sudden break from work because she's got a severe case of nausea. The reason for the nausea, as you can probably figure out, is that she's pregnant. That's bad enough, but worse for her is that she's gotten knocked up courtesy of an American soldier stationed in the Netherlands. Not only that, but it's a black soldier. Lily's parents have been extremely disapproving of her relationship with the soldier, and when they finally learn that she's pregnant, they want her to get an abortion.

Lily doesn't want that. In fact, the soldier has been making plans to bring Lily over to the US with him to meet her family, even if he doesn't know that Lily is pregnant with his child. However, shortly before he's to go back to America, he's out in his car stopped at a railroad crossing. A couple of motorcycle-riding punks approach, like his American car, and start harassing him. When he decidedly doesn't want to be harassed, they beat him to death.

Poor Lily. Now with child and without a father for the child, she decides to run away. She winds up at a commuter rail station with no place to go, something that's noticed by someone else waiting on the platform, a man named Ted (Coen van Vrijberghe, who was apparently a fairly successful actor in the Netherlands before his untimely death). He offers to take her to an unused apartment he owns and let her stay the night, and even gives her some money.

It should be obvious that he wants something in return, and in fact he's a pimp. Working for him is taxi driver Arend (Thom Hoffman), who takes a liking to Lily and wants to help her escape Ted. She, meanwhile, is in need of an obstetrician since she's pregnant, and also needs money. For the first, there are apparently black-market doctors in the Netherlands who will do medical exams off the books of the regular Dutch medical system. For the latter, Lily is able to get a gun and starts doing hold-ups. But what will happen when the baby comes to term and it's time for Lily to give birth?

The one big problem I had with Lily Was Here is that it felt like it had all the production values of a cheap TV Movie of the Week. The plot isn't bad if nothing groundbreaking, but things like the lighting seemed way off to me. The fact that this print was dubbed also caused a few awkward moments when Lily was able to read signs and other things in Dutch that, in a subtitled movie, would simply be explained with more subtitles. Having to do it through dialogue made things a bit unnatural at times. The music is unsurprisingly quite good although whether it fits the movie would be a matter for debate.

If you can find Lily Was Here still available on one of the streaming services, by all means give it a chance. If you can't, don't feel like you're missing anything special.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

The Second Time Around

Not quite, but it's a damn good song

One of the few movies currently in the FXM rotation that I haven't blogged about before is The Second Time Around. With that in mind, I made a point of recording one of the recent showings so that when it came up again I could watch it and do a post on it here. Well, that next showing is finally here, as FXM will be showing it tomorrow (July 5) at 7:55 AM.

Debbie Reynolds plays Lu Rogers, a widowed mother of two living with her mother-in-law in New York circa 1911. An establishing scene at the opening shows her going into a shop, and that evening she tells her mother-in-law that she pawned her ring in order to get the money to... go west, young girl, and grow up with the country. Or, more specifially, her husband had a friend who went west to Arizona and opened up a store in one of those little towns that pop up in western movies like this. Said friend is offering Lu a job at the store, and one can guess that the friend might be willing to marry Lu and help take care of the children. But Lu only got the money for one ticket, so the children will have to stay behind until she can get enough money to wire back train fare.

Lu goes west, and arrives at a pretty bad time. It turns out that her husband's friend has literally just been killed in a hold-up, which means that that job Lu was hoping to get has just evaporated. The least the sheriff (Ken Scott) can do is figure out who killed the guy and bring the killer to justice.

It's not as if the sheriff has a job for Lu. The only person who has one is a rancher who happens to be a widow herself, Aggie Gates (Thelma Ritter). And that job is only on a trial basis since Aggie doesn't know if she can make a going concern of her ranch, let alone pay the salary of a mother with two children. And never mind that Lu at first doesn't know the first thing about ranching. But she's a fairly quick learner, and Aggie is willing to keep her on after the month is up.

The real reason, however, is that Aggie wants to find Lu a husband, and she knows just the man, neighboring rancher Pat Collins (Andy Griffith). Meanwhile, the man who really wants Lu's hand is Dan Jones (Steve Forrest), a gambler back in town. Unfortunately for him, he's done enough to keep ticking Lu off and generally making life difficult for her.

Not only that, but he may be in cahoots with the sheriff, who seems curiously unable to solve that shopkeeper's murder. It gets bad enough that Lu decides to start a recall campaign against the sheriff. That gets the real bad guys in a tizzy, since the sheriff has more or less been protecting them.

The Second Time Around isn't the world's greatest movie, but it's amiable enough thanks to Debbie Reynolds still being appealing and some nice supporting work from most of the rest of the cast. The plot, however, is a bit of a mess because much of the story has Pat unwilling to marry Lu for no good reason. And the finale is a bit too slapstick and strains credulity. Despite its flaws, however, The Second Time Around is definitely worth a watch.

Monday, July 3, 2023


Another of those movies that came out when I was quite young and always recognized the title of, even though I never got to see it because obviously I was too young for it was Coma. It doesn't show up as much as some other movies, but the last time it was on TCM and then the Watch TCM app, I made a point of watching it so I could finally do a review of it here.

Dr. Susan Wheeler (Geneviève Bujold) is a resident at Boston Memorial Hospital, who's in a romantic relationship with another doctor, Mark Bellows (Michael Douglas). Dr. Bellows is up for a chief of staff type position at the hospital, although he'll still be under the chief of surgery, Dr. Harris (Richard Widmark). Meanwhile, a friend from an exercise/yoga class, Nancy, has gotten herself pregnant and has decided on getting an abortion, which now that abortion is legal in Massachusetts is supposed to be a routine procedure.

Boston Memorial is also a teaching hospital, so some of the young residents are in on the operation on Nancy, which seems to go without a hitch... until it comes time to bring her out of anesthesia, at which point Nancy still has dilated pupils and all those other symptoms that seem consistent with a persistent vegetative state.

Susan can't believe it, and thinks that there must have been some sort of mistake on the part of the anesthesiologist. So she begins to do some snooping around, in ways that would clearly have violated patient privacy even then, although they still didn't have HIPAA in the 1970s. Needless to say she gets the head of the anesthesiology department riled up, along with Dr. Harris. Mark tries to keep believing in her and offering her what support he can, but it's not always easy since he's got his own career to worry about. (She should have called up Quincy.)

Soon enough, another patient (Tom Selleck who gets a credit in the end credits but not, if memory serves, the opening, but is instantly recognizable thanks to that mustache) dies during what is supposed to be a routine operation, and all the symptoms seem the same. So Susan keeps doing her investigation, and asks around a bit more, finding out that if you really wanted to kill somebody and make it look like there were no obvious causes of death, one good way to do it would be through the use of carbon monoxide.

At the same time, she's learned about the mysterious Jefferson Institute, where people with long-term medical needs are taken. They've pioneered a new way of caring for patients with such vegetative issues that will, they hope, make it cost less and save both society and the patients' families money. But with no cars in the parking lot and the ominous score, it's obvious that this is a bunch of BS, and Susan tries to break away from the tour of the facility and into the staff only section, which is highly dangerous.

I won't give away any more of the plot here. I will, however, say, that Coma requires a fair bit of suspension of disbelief. I've stated several times over the past few years since the start of the coronavirus stuff that it's become increasingly clear that conspiracy theories are more likely to be out in the open and predicated on getting people not to want to admit that they might have been wrong. So the sort of shadowy stuff portrayed here is, well, not likely. Just threaten to withhold care from people who haven't followed doctor's orders in the right way and you can get what you want.

It's also highly unlikely that Susan would be able to get around the hospital surreptitiously to do all the things she did and discover the nefarious plans of the antagonists, while the whole climax strains credulity too. Even with all that, however, Coma is still a fairly entertaining movie, especially if you can suspend your disbelief better than I can.