Saturday, September 30, 2023

Condemned (1929)

Ronald Colman was honored in Summer Under the Stars this year, and one of his movies that I hadn't seen was the early talkie Condemned!. So, I recorded it and watched it so that I could do a post on it here.

Colman plays Michel, a French thief who has been exiled to Devil's Island because, well, that's what they did with thieves in those days. On the transport with Michel is murderer Jacques (Louis Wolheim), and the two become friends along the way, because you have to have friends in a place like Devil's Island, or else you're not going to survive.

One person who doesn't have friends is Mme. Vidal (Ann Harding). Of course, she's not a prisoner; she's the wife of the prison colony's warden, M. Vidal (Dudley Digges). He's a fairly tough warden who thinks the only way to keep the prisoners in line is with threats and force. As for his wife, she doesn't really like Devil's Island, because who would if you're a woman who dreams of being at least middle-class. Even if there is a colonial "high" society there I can't imagine being exciting or anything like what life in Paris would be like for the wife of a prison warden.

But since being a prison warden should put you in the higher levels of a society run by colonists, the Vidals need the trappings of that good life, which means the servants. Perhaps there's a prisoner who could be rehabilitated enough to work as the hired help for the Vidals. Since one of the few non-violent prisoners is Michel, who being played by Ronald Colman is clearly much too upper-crust for Devil's Island, he gets the plum job of being servant to Mme. Vidal.

Of course, you can guess what happens next. Bored Mme. Vidal finds herself falling in love with Michel, and the feeling is definitely mutual. This puts M. Vidal into a jealous rage, and he responds in two ways: one is to put Michel into solitary confinement, while the other is to threaten to send his wife back to metropolitan France so she can no longer have the one thing she really wants.

Each of the two plan to escape so that they can meet up with each other in Paramaribo, capital of the neighboring colony of Suriname, which is not a French colony. But for Michel, this means having to go through dangerous swamps in an overland journey, all the while having to stay ahead of M. Vidal's men chasing him. And M. Vidal is bound to learn about his wife's perfidy....

Condemned! isn't a bad little early talkie. Supposedly the filmmakers wanted to do some of the filming on location, although I can't imagine any way that would have happened even if there weren't the technical and financial issues in trying to do it back in 1929. As a result, the jungle scenes seem a bit silly and something that would be technically much superior in a latter-day version. But Ann Harding and Ronald Colman both do well in the new medium of talking pictures, giving good performances. The story is a bit old-hat, probably even for 1929, but it's not old-hat in a bad way.

People who prefer their "old" movies to be from the 1970s may not go in for Condemned!, but for anybody who does like movies of early sound era, it's not a bad choice.

Friday, September 29, 2023

Six of my convicts

A movie that I had never seen, although I think I had recognized the title from a showing on TCM ages back, is My Six Convicts. I noticed that it was available to watch on Tubi, so I finally got around to watching it. I also saw that it's one of the movies that's leaving Tubi soon, specifically at the end of September, so I'm moving up when I'm doing a post on it to give everybody a day or two to catch it before it leaves, since I don't know that it's on any of the other services.

Stanly Kramer's company produced this one early in his career, so you can expect that he's got some social issues he wants to explore, and with the title My Six Convicts you can guess that it has to do with the inside of a prison. Specifically, John Beal plays Doc, one of those reformer type pyschologists who wants to come up with better conditions for the prisoners and hopefully be able to rehabilitate them, at least in part. There's a new political administration, and they think prison reform is a good idea, so Doc gets sent into one of the prisons.

The first thing wants to do is come up with mental assessments of all the convicts, but that's going to be difficult since there's only one of him and a thousand or more prisoners. The prison physician suggests Doc get a staff from among some of the prisoners, but that's going to be dificult, since nobody realy wants to trust in any of the staff lest the prisoners get thought of as stoolies. And indeed, the first time Doc tries to administer one of the standardized tests, there's nearly a riot.

But Doc keeps working and eventually finds a convict in Connie (Millard Mitchell) who is willing to help. Connie is a safecracker, and one who has a pretty darn high level of intelligence. Two others, embezzler Kopac (Jay Adler), who can't stay out of prison in part becaue he doesn't know anything else in life any longer; and Punch Pinero (Gilbert Roland), a gangster who expects to be deported after his sentence; soon follow. After that, another three (Harry Morgan as a psychopathic killer, Alf Kjellin, and Marshall Thompson) join in to complete the titular six convicts.

In some ways, I found myself thinking of Gideon's Day/Gideon of Scotland Yard as it seems like there's not a lot going on or it's an episodic movie. But at the same time, My Six Convicts is a surprisingly effective little ensemble movie. I do wonder how realistic it is although it is autobiographical.

Take the chance to watch My Six Convicts now; I don't know when it's going to show up again.

Thursday, September 28, 2023

National Silent Movie Day

Harold Lloyd hanging from the clock in Safety Last! (Sept. 29, 3:00 PM)

Who knew that some organization tried to get something called "National Silent Movie Day" going? I didn't but apparently that day is tomorrow. As such, TCM is running a day full of silent movies, at least a morning and afternoon but not prime time. This is going to give me the opportunity to record several things I haven't seen before.

In fact, the lineup is almost entirely films from 1923 celebrating their centenary this year. The only thing I'm not certain about is the first two sets of silent shorts. The day kicks off with Century of Animation Showcase: 1923 at 6:00 AM, so that should be films from 1923. The second set, Walt's Early Wonderlands at 7:00 AM, may or may not be entirely 1923 films.

The day concludes with the silent version of The Ten Commandments at 5:30 PM. Since TCM isn't going to be able to get the rights to the Charlton Heston version any time soon, this is the one we're going to have to live with, and I have to admit it's one I've never seen before.

Thursday Movie Picks, Sept. 28, 2023: Based on a book (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 final Thursday of the month, it's time for another TV edition, and this time the theme is one I think we've done before: book adaptations. I thought about what to pick such that it wouldn't be something I'd already done before, and then came up with the idea to do three miniseries. Well, technically since one is British I think it's more of a limited-run TV series, but the point is that I haven't used it before.

I, Claudius (1976). 12-part BBC adaptation of Robert Graves' 1934 novel focusing on Roman emperor Claudius, played by Derek Jacobi. This is one of those BBC productions that, like Upstairs, Downstairs before it, came to prominence in the US thanks to its being shown on Masterpiece Theatre.

North and South (1985). Actually, there were three miniseries based on the novels by John Jakes, set before, during, and after the US Civil War. Patrick Swayze played the main character in the first two, with Lesley-Anne Down his love interest. I didn't remember this until looking it up, but there were a whole bunch of small parts deliberately written for famous names, from Elizabeth Taylor to Wayne Newton and a lot in between. Jonathan Frakes (Will Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation) met his wife while making the first two miniseries, and they've been married for 35 years.

The Tommyknockers (1993). Adaptation of a Stephen King novel that I haven't read, since I'm not that into Stephen King. I just remembered the title, and checked to make certain that it was actually based on a novel and not an original story that hadn't been novelized.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

House on Haunted Hill

While looking through my YouTube TV library's list of scheduled recordings (their cloud DVR will save all airings of the same movie until you explicitly tell it not to), I noticed that TCM has another airing of the William Castle classic House on Haunted Hill for tomorrow (Sept. 28) at 10:00 AM. With that in mind, I made a point of watching the copy that's already in my library so that I could do a review here.

The movie starts off with a voiceover and disembodied head shot of Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.), who owns the titular house. He informs us that it's a haunted house with ghosts roaming around and where several murders were committed in previous generations. He also informs us that the wealthy, eccentric, and little-seen Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) has rented the house and that he and his fourth wife Annabelle (Carol Ohmart) will be holding a party there.

Now, as you can guess, with an opening like that, there's a catch. Well, multiple catches. The guests haven't seen Frederick before, but have been lured to the property with the carrot of $10,000 -- a reasonably nice sum in 1959 -- on the condition that they spend the entire night in the allegedly haunted house. Those guests are Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), a test pilot; Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), who works in one of the subsidiary businesses owned by Mr. Loren; newspaper columnist Ruth Bridges (Julie Mitchum), there for the story; and Dr. Trent (Alan Marshall), who specializes in cases of hysteria. To make sure that everybody spends the night, Loren has the caretakers bar the doors shut. There's also no electric, only gaslight, and no telephone or radio.

Watson believes more than anybody else that the place really is haunted; after all, he's been in the house long before Loren ever came around. The other guests have various levels of belief in whether the house is in fact haunted, while Mr. and Mrs. Loren are at the point of their marriage where it may be about to break up, a bit of important foreshadowing there.

As you can guess, the guests begin to get more reason to believe the place really is haunted, not being helped by the fact that Watson never bothered to have the pool of acid in the basement drained. Because really, who doesn't keep a pool of acid in their basement without anything to prevent people from falling into it accidentally, or perhaps be pushed. Lance and Nora are the pair who get the obligatory subplot of possibly being future romantic partners; they stay to investigate the basement and find this may be dangerous. Lance also looks for secret passages because once again, a house like this is bound to have one or more. And, of course, we're going to get at least one dead body along the way.

House on Haunted Hill having been directed by William Castle, you know that there's going to be more gimmick here than real frights. Indeed, I found myself laughing at the idea that any of the guests would actually be taken in by the frights here, excepting the vat of acid, which I'd stay the hell away from. And you also have to wonder how the villian thinks he'll get away with it before the meddling kids pull off his rubber mask. But damn if the movie isn't entertaining. I can only imagine it was even more entertaining in a dark theater with the Castle gimmicks like a skeleton flying over the audience. (The end credits humorously list "Skeleton as Skeleton".)

So if you haven't seen it before, get a bunch of your friends, turn down the lights, and enjoy the fun that is House on Haunted Hill.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The man who shot Charles Bronson

There's a classic line from the western The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend." I couldn't help but think that Charles Bronson might have had that line in mind when he was making the movie From Noon Till Three.

Bronson plays Graham Dorsey, a member of Buck Bowers' gang robbing banks in the old west. Graham has a premonition, however, that the next robbery isn't going to go well. Indeed, on the way to the next town Dorsey's horse breaks a leg forcing him to shoot it and forcing the gang to look for a new horse. They stop at the ranch of the wido Starbuck (Jill Ireland, who of course was Charles Bronson's wife in real life) who, amazingly enough, claims not to have a horse.

Dorsey decides to believe this, if only to get the other members of the gang off of him. This is both so that he doesn't have to go in on that robbery and so that he can have some time with Starbuck. Plus, he can claim to the other members of the gang to be holding her hostage so that she doesn't run off to the authorities. She's rather chaste now that her husband has died, and she's not so forthcoming about her past. Dorsey goes along with the ruse, eventually having a brief but passionate affair with the widow Starbuck while he's waiting for the rest of the gang to return.

Of course, they're never going to return, since the robbery goes bad and they get caught, with vigilante justice scheduling them to be hanged that very afternoon. Dorsey is actually OK with this, but Starbuck has romantic notions about Dorsey being loyal to his gang and trying to save them and she might just not love them if he doesn't go into town to free them. Dorsey eventually agrees, but this is another ruse: he intends to go off to the middle of nowhere and wait for the hanging to pass, with the plan to tell Starbuck that he was unsuccessful in freeing the rest of his gang. What a convenient solution.

Except things don't go that way. Dorsey comes across a posse, who must have been told about him by Bowers, so now he's going to have to try to escape. He's fortunate enough to run into one of those itinerant quack dentists, and forces the dentist at gunpoint to switch outfits with him. The posse then shoots the dentist, leaving Dorsey to ride free in the dentist's wagon and return to Starbuck.

However, when Dorsey asks for directions, the people recognize the wagon and bad suit, so have Dorsey arrested and ultimately sentenced to a year in prison for medical malpractice. Starbuck, meanwhile, has had to confront the townsfolk. She tells them such a fantastic story about those three hours that everybody is overcome with emotion and Starbuck becomes a national celebrity, telling her tragic story that's utterly made up in an early version of an "as told to" book that becomes a bestseller.

Dorsey gets out of prison and has the bright idea of returning to Starbuck, who will be thrilled to find that Dorsey is in fact still alive. Except that she's not thrilled. She's made money off that legend, and she's got ideas about what she wants Dorsey to be, not what Dorsey actually is. She's gone and printed the legend, and now she actually believes the legend. What's a man like Dorsey to do?

I really liked the second act of From Noon Till Three, as it took the basic idea behind The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and twisted it inside out, taking it in all sorts of odd directions that mostly work. It certainly helps that Bronson and Ireland, being married in real life, play off each other very well. The one problem with the movie, however, is how long it takes for the story to get to the fun, quirky second act. The payoff is quite good, but you certainly have to wait a while to get to the payoff. Liberty Valance solved the problem by having the story told in flashback, while that probably wouldn't work so well here because of the changes wrought in Bronson's character by becoming a legend.

Still, I would say that the payoff is worth the wait. And people who like 1970s westerns are probably going to have a lot less of a problem with the first half than I did. So From Noon Till Three is absolutely worth watching.

Monday, September 25, 2023

The Password Is Courage

I mentioned at the beginning of the month that the Dirk Bogarde film The Password Is Courage was getting two airings in September: one as part of the Bogarde tribute, and a second as part of a night of World War II prison break movies. That second airing is overnight tonight at 3:15 AM (or early tomorrow in all of the continental US).

Loosely based on a real-life person, that person is Sgt. Maj. Charles Coward (obviously, played by Bogarde). Coward had been captured by the Germans while the British were trying to get their troops out of France before Dunkirk in the spring of 1940, and with a bunch of other soldiers sent to one or another of the POW camps that the Nazis had set up. Of course, like all good officers, Coward has a duty to try to escape, and his first escape is in France, where, at least in the movie, he's mistaken for a German officer and awarded the Iron Cross!

For this, Coward gets sent to Stalag VIII-B, a POW camp in what is now southern Poland, although at the time it was the very eastern portions of Germany. Coward continues his escape attempts, bribing Nazi guards for the materials necessary to build a giant tunnel out of the camp and on to the Czech protectorate, and hopefully to freedom somewhere. The POWs are used to do work details, and this along with more bribes enables Coward to get out and go to the nearby village, where he meets up with optometrist Irena (Maria Perschy), who is a member of the Underground. In the movie, Coward and Irena fall in love, although this is one of the many things in the movie that did not happen in real life.

Eventually, it comes time for the escape, although one of the things making it more difficult is the fact that most of the prisoners speak no German. At least some of them speak languages of one or another Nazi-occupied country, especially French, which enables them to fake work permits claiming these folks are from France. But not being able to speak German is still a real problem, especially for Coward. And not that any of the men in the POW camp could have known it, but their escape was planned for a date only a few months before the camps were liberated.

To be honest, there's not all that much to the plot of The Password is Courage; it could easily be summed up as "soldiers get captured and constantly try to break out of POW camp". That having been said, for the genre it's pretty well done. If it's not well known today, that I think is down to the fact that it was made by MGM's British unit with Dirk Bogarde being the only really well known name, and even he wasn't that big a star here in the States. And with a looming trend toward bigger war movies with action and color photography, it's no wonder The Password Is Courage fell by the wayside.

It also doesn't help to look up Charles Coward, as doing so turns the movie from a well-made example of a genre into something formulaic that ignore's a much more interesting true story. The work camp where Coward was sent was not far from Auschwitz, and the real-life Coward spoke German, which made him useful as a liaison between the German authorities and the soldiers and Red Cross. Coward got himself smuggled into Auschwitz, and used the papers and effects of dead soldiers and laborers to smuggle Jews out of Auschwitz. That, rather than a straightforward attempted escape story, seems like it would be for more worthy of a movie, although I suppose in the early 1960s that wouldn't have been considered commercial enough.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Warren Oates does comedy!

Another of the movies that I hadn't even heard of before until TCM played it a few months back is The Thief Who Came to Dinner. Once again, it was another of those movies that sounded interesting, so I decided to record it and watch it to do a review on here.

Ryan O'Neal is the star, playing Webster McGee. He's a college graduate, working with computers at a company in Houston in the early mainframe era when everything had banks and banks of reel-to-reel tape drives. However, it's not a very fulfilling life and has led to him getting divorced by his wife Jackie (a young Jill Clayburgh who shows up briefly later in the movie). Webster quits his job to look for something more fulfilling, picking...

Upscale jewel heists. He goes and cases a joint posing as somebody from the water company when only the servants are home, and when he returns late at night he robs the safe. However, he doesn't get all that much in the way of traditional value; instead, he finds a bunch of documents. He's no dummy, and realizes that these documents hold valuable information that would get the guy he stole them from, Henderling (Charles Cioffi) into serious legal trouble. Selling them back to Henderling could give Webster a ton of money.

But that's not quite what he wants, having gotten the jewel heist bug. Henderling being rich knows all the other rich people in Houston's high society, and Webster wants to meet them so that he can case their joints as well and steal their jewels. It's through this that Webster meets Laura Keaton (Jacqueline Bisset). Laura had parents who were house-rich but cash-poor; they've died and left her the house. Instead of selling it, however, she lives there in more or less one room presumably wanting to keep being a part of the higher society. She likes Webster's idea of stealing the rich people's jewels, so she's willing to be an accomplice.

Meanwhile, Webster has made his shtick of a calling card be to write down chess moves, as one of the early robberies was in a room with an ornate chess set. The authorities think he might be a good chess player, and enlist the help of the local newspaper's chess columnist, Zukovsky (Austin Pendleton), to try to figure out Webster's next move. Zukovsky challenges Webster to a correspondence match and Webster, not exactly being good at chess, hacks into a computer to get it to give him good moves (even though it would be close to 20 years before computers would finally be able to take on people of Zukovsky's caliber).

As for Warren Oates, he plays Dave Reilly, an insurance adjuster for Texas Mutual, which insures the jewels of several of the people who were robbed by Webster. They don't want to pay out, of course, so they have an incentive to find Webster and possibly not even press charges in exchange for buying back the jewels at a major discount. He even more than Zukovsky winds up as Webster's comic foil since Dave is smart enough to recognize it's Webster doing the heists.

As I was watching the opening credits, I noticed that The Thief Who Came to Dinner was another Bud Yorkin-Norman Lear production. As with all of the other of their movies that I've seen, there's a lot of potential in the plot, but it unfortunately winds up a bit short of reaching that potential. In this case, I think a lot of that has to do with the chess subplot, as Austin Pendleton seems like he's trying just too hard to be funny (and Eastern European immigrant). It doesn't quite work. Oates, on the other hand, shows he's surprisingly good in the role of something other than a western heavy. Oates died much too young. O'Neal and Bisset also make an appealing enough couple, although both of them later suggested this wasn't their best work.

Despite the flaws, The Thief Who Came to Dinner is an eminently watchable movie.

Saturday, September 23, 2023


In the early days of the movies, it was really expensive to go to exotic locations to film stories, even if the movie-going audiences wanted the escapism of stories in faraway places. So we get a few establishing shots and a lot of either backlot stuff or California locations being asked to double for someplace else in the world. Such is the case with the pre-Code movie Mandalay.

Mandalay is the second-largest city in Burma, which at the time the movie was made was under British colonial rule. It was also the former royal capital, while the British moved the capital to Rangoon (now Yangon) much closer to the coast along the Irawaddy River that flows between the two cities. So almost all of the action in the movie takes place in either Rangoon or on the river. Tony Evans (Ricardo Cortez) has been plying his trade along the river, returning to Rangoon where he has a girlfriend in Tanya (Kay Francis) who fled the Russian Revolution.

But Tony is more or less persona non grata with the British authorities, so he has to beat a hasty escape, leaving Tanya alone in Rangoon and having to work at a nightclub run by Nick (Warner Oland) that seems to serve everybody in much the same way that Rick's café did in Casablanca. The authorities have their eye on the place and even more so on Tanya, eventually deciding that she should be deported because she's a cause for trouble and not British.

Tanya beats the authorities to the punch, getting a fake identity and getting on a boat going upstream to Mandalay. On that boat, she meets Dr. Burton (Lyle Talbot), who's got problems of his own, committing some sort of medical malpractice that he feels compelled to punish himself for, in this case by going upstream into the hinterlands of Burma where there's a disease outbreak and as with The Painted Veil. The two of them eventually begin to fall in love.

But of course Tony is going to show up again, and wouldn't you know that he wants Tanya back. The authorities are still after him, so he comes up with a devious scheme. Tanya has some medicine that's for external use only, and Tony decides to make it look like he's taken some of it internally which would kill him; then he goes and hides in the hold of the ship. Of course, this also makes it look like Tanya may have killed him, leaving her open to a murder rap.

As I said at the beginning, I think that viewers 90 years ago liked exotic locations since the world was much less accessible then. But the story in Mandalay isn't that much, and could have been set pretty much anywhere. It's not bad, but it feels like the sort of thing that's not overly original and that one's seen before if one watches a lot of 1930s films.

Having said that, Francis and Cortez put the slight material over and make Mandalay a movie that's worth watching even if it's not great. Worth a watch if you can find it.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Nicholas Ray's dud

A lot of professional movie critic and film historian types like to praise a director like Nicholas Ray for being a bit of a maverick and doing things that challenged Hollywood and American middle-class society, as in movies like Rebel Without a Cause and Bigger than Life. But even directors like Ray weren't immune from making absolute duds, as you can see if you watch a movie like Hot Blood.

Luther Adler plays Marco Torino, the head of a branch of Roma or Gypsies (the word used since in the 1950s mainstream society would never have used the word "Roma") that emigrated to the US a couple of generations ago but is still trying to keep the cultural norms they had back in Europe. Marco is getting old and has the feeling that he may be dying, so it's time to find a new chief, meaning his kid brother Stephano (Cornel Wilde). And with a new king there's a need for a new king. Stephano kind of likes Velma (Helen Westcott), but there are political implications of the same sort that would have faced the traditional royalty of Europe in centuries past.

In steps the Caldash family, Dad Theodore (Joseph Calleia) has a daughter of marriageable age, Annie (Jane Russell). But what Marco doesn't know is that Theodore is a bit of a con artist. He's been going around the US offering his daughter's hand in marriage, only to faint during the ceremony at some point after the dowry has been paid but before the marriage is official, allowing him to flee the jurisdiction with the money and take the shtick to another city. Their plan is to trick Marco out of a couple thousand dollars, which was a fairly tidy sum in the mid-1950s.

What Theodore doesn't know is that Annie has plans of her own. She tells Stephano about the ruse, figuring this will make him go along with the wedding since he doesn't really want to marry her. But she decides to go through with the wedding for real, never fainting during the ceremony. Stephano is none too happy about having been tricked.

Annie, however, is willing to be married for real and wants Stephano to reciprocate, and when he still doesn't, there's a whole lot of bickering between the two that results in Annie threatening to divorce Stephano in front of the entire Gypsy council. Will the two live happily ever after? Is Marco dying at all?

Hot Blood feels like the sort of movie that could have come from a novel that was really set in the old country and had the action moved to modern-day America for no good reason, resulting in a script that seems utterly unrealistic, even more than something like The Rose Tattoo. It also doesn't help that Russell and Wilde are both badly miscast as Gypsies. Beyond that, I can't figure out what everybody was thinking making this movie.

Hot Blood is currently available on TubiTV and, since it was released on Columbia, may show up on The Roku Channel's Cinevault Classics that seems to be the service with all the old Columbia movies. But The Roku Channel doesn't release schedules in advance, so you'd have to stumble onto this one through pure dumb luck (or dumb bad luck).

Thursday, September 21, 2023


A couple weeks back, I mentioned a movie that TCM ran during Anthony Perkins' day in Summer Under the Stars. Another movie they ran is one in which he had a rather smaller part, Winter Kills.

The star here is Jeff Bridges, who plays Nick Kegan. Nick is doing some sort of work on a ship someplace not too far from Southeast Asia, in oil exploration or some other sort of research. He came from powerful stock, however; his half-brother was president of the United States, at least until he was killed by a sniper close to 20 years ago. Dad (John Huston) is the patriarch of the family, having created the family business.

One of Dad's business associates, Keifetz (Richard Boone), helicopters on board the ship to tell Nick that he's got a guest, a seriously injured man claiming to know something about the brother's assassination. Unfortunately, this man can only get part of what he knows out before he dies. But it's enough to send Nick on a possible wild goose chase back to the States to try to prove that there's more going on. Specifically, that involves a second gun which has allegedly been hidden in the same location for the 20 years since the shooting, in a building, which seems to me like utter bullshit. If it had been buried on somebody's land, especially in a rural area, that might be one thing. But between floors of a highly-trafficked commercial building? And wouldn't they dismantle the murder weapon for parts?

I suppose you could say that the conspirators wanted Nick to find this weapon that wasn't really involved in the shooting, leading him to go on a wild goose chase. But Nick and friends do find the weapon, only to have it stolen right from under their noses and Nick's two friends killed. Nick wants to go to his father for help, not suspecting that perhaps Dad might be involved in everything that's going on.

If any of this sounds familiar to you, it's because it doesn't take much of a leap to compare this to all the conspiracy theory nonsense surrounding the shooting of John F. Kennedy. But while the movie starts off as though it's going to be a political thriller (it's based on a book by Richard Condon, who also gave us The Manchurian Candidate), it eventually morphs into an extremely dark comedy with a plethora of stars. Anothony Perkins plays the executive behind the Kagan family empire. Dorothy Malone is Nick's mom, while Sterling Hayden is one of Pa Kagen's political and business rivals. Eli Wallach gets the Jack Ruby role, and so on.

My first thought was that whether you like Winter Kills or not is likely to depend on your view of the Kennedy era. If you're one of those boomer types who was around for the Kennedy assassination, as the critics who wrote the original reviews on first release were, you're probably going to love this movie.

I, on the other hand, have never bought into the Camelot bullshit, and instead see the Kennedys as little more than the Kardashians of the 1960s who gained political power. So I found the material here too obvious by half, and turgidly unfunny. Maybe when the last of the boomers die off we can finally stop comparing stuff to the 60s.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Trieste Express

One of the movies that kept showing up on the list of recommendations Tubi was giving me is a British film I hadn't heard of but that sounded interesting enough: Sleeping Car to Trieste. It turns out there's a reason it sounded interesting.

The movie starts off in Paris, at the embassy of an unnamed country. A mysterious figure breaks into a safe there during an official function, but that man, Zurta (Albert Lieven), is spotted, and has to kill the servant who spots him. Zurta and his partner Valya (Jean Kent) flee with the diary they've taken, and hand it off to another man, Poole; the three are apparently supposed to meet again someplace else to return the diary, which we can guess contains some sort of secrets like the ones Albert Basserman held in his head in Foreign Correspondent.

But Poole decides that holding on to the diary is worth more than the payoff he's supposed to get from Zurta and Valya, and that he could play various countries off one another. To that end, he boards what would have been the Orient Express in the days before World War II, although after the war it was rather less glamorous. The route the train took in those days went through Trieste, a city that's now part of Italy but for several years after World War II was part of a nominally independent city-state region called Istria. Indeed, I've mentioned this before in conjunction with the movie Diplomatic Courier which is set in Trieste. As a city-state and with its location, it was more or less open to people from every side of the international intrigue game and thus a natural location to fence that diary.

Zurta and Valya figure out that Poole has taken the Orient Express, where Poole is looking for a place to avoid being detected by either Zurta and Valya on the one hand, and the authorities on the other. The train has a plethora of passengers, although they're mostly not quite as glamorous or full of intrigue as other deptictions of the Orient Express. There's MacBain (Finlay Currie), a Scottish writer going to deliver a lecture who is extremely overbearing and treats his assistant like dirt; a couple on a romantic tryst who are married to other people; a friend of the man in that tryst; a bird-watcher who won't shut up; and so on. Murders happen in an attempt to find that diary, and it's up to the French police to find the murderer.

The reason all of this seems vaguely familiar is that Sleping Car to Trieste is a remake of an earlier and also relatively unknown British movie that I blogged about a few years back, Rome Express. Both of them are entertaining enough but also of a type where it's easy to forget the details of exactly what happened such that watching it again is worthwhile. I'd have to watch Rome Express again to decide which of the two versions I like more, but in any case both of them are worth a watch or three.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The Steel Fist

Another completely new-to-me movie that showed up on TCM not too long ago was The Steel Fist. It was another movie with an interesting-sounding plot, so I recorded it in order to be able to watch it.

Roddy McDowall is the star here, and frankly the closest thing to a big name in the cast. He plays Eric Kardin, a university student in an unnamed Eastern European country in the early days of Communism not too long after the Soviet Union installed all those Communist governments following the war. In order to keep agricultural production up, collectivization having been a massive disaster, the authorities more or less "voluntold" groups of people like university students to go help with the harvest. Eric is having none of this, and leads a protest. The protest turns violent, and the authorities vow to catch whoever started it.

Eric has gone running home to his uncle, who is appalled to hear about how his nephew started the protest. Not because uncle is a communist who doesn't want anybody to protest, but because Eric was so impetuous in his protest that it's going to bring trouble on the uncle as well as the nephew, and the uncle is prominent enough in the underground resistance that he's got to be careful about what he does. So Eric is going to have to get himself out of the country, and as soon as possible.

Fortunately, Uncle knows people who know people, and knows how the underground smuggles people out of the country. Eric is instructed to engage in a parody of a bad spy movie by going down to the train station, buying a particular magazine, and dropping it, all at precise times, whereupon he'll get his next set of equally wacky instructions, and so on.

Eventually, Eric winds up getting off the train just at the last stop. On the way, he met Georg (Rand Brooks), a captain in the border patrol, and his girlfriend Marlina (Kristine Miller), nobody knowing until later in the movie that Marlina is actually one of the underground who shows people the way over the mountains that look suspiciously like southern California instead of central Europe. Marlina lives with her brother where the two of them play at being peasants. Unfortunately, word of the student protest has reached the border areas, so the border patrol is increasing its patrols, making escape that much more difficult.

The Steel Fist isn't exactly a great movie, but it's also not a terrible movie. It was made at Monogram, which gives it a look of a cheaply-made production that would probably have been more suitable for some made-for-TV production if it weren't for the fact that this sort of material wasn't quite yet being done straight for TV. It's a lot closer to TV movie of the week material, and I think most of that was being done live and with more highbrow scripts.

But, The Steel Fist runs only a little over an hour, so if you don't like it it's not as if you've wasted a bunch of your time.

Monday, September 18, 2023

I've Got Your Number

In the latest installment of movies I've got in my Youtube TV library that happen to be coming up again soon on TCM, I noticed a breezy little movie called I've Got Your Number. It's going to be on again tomorrow (Sept. 19) at 11:30 AM, so I made a point of watching it to be able to do a review here to give you all a chance to watch it too.

Joan Blondell is nominally the star here as she gets top billing, but the real star of the proceedings is Pat O'Brien. He plays Terry, a linemen for the phone company. He's good at what he does, as we see when he goes up on the roof of a building to cut some wires in order to prevent more serious problems in the building next door that's on fire. In that incident, Terry saves the life of Schulyer (Henry O'Neill), a wealthy broker in stocks and bonds. But Terry also grates on his boss Mr. Flood (Eugene Pallette) by doing things that bring in customer complaints, especially from the female customers.

Joan Blondell plays Marie, who is a switchboard operator at an apartment hotel. Nicky (Gordon Westcott) shows an interest in her, and gets her to play what she thinks is a practical joke by switching a call intended for someone else to him. That call is in fact the result of a horse race that earns Nicky a ton of money instead of the legitimate target of the call. The hotel manager calls the phone company to check whether the lines could have been tapped, and Flood sends Terry and his partner John (Allen Jenkins).

Terry wastes no time in putting the moves on Marie, basically harassing her until she gives in and agrees to go on a date with him. In some ways, it's a bit fortuitous, since Terry has connections with the phone company that could get her a job as an operator for them, or, if that falls through, calling in a favor from Schuyler. So at least Marie will have a job working for Schuyler. Except that she spills the beans about some bonds to Nicky, who is able to come up with a scheme to get those bonds off of Schulyer. Marie is arrested, and it's up to Terry to try to exonerate Marie, with a little help from his lineman skills.

I've Got Your Number is exactly the sort of programmer-length rapid-fire film that was perfect for the lower half of a bill back in the early 1930s. The plot goes from one point to the next extremely quickly and doesn't always quite make sense, although it never stops entertaining. Warner Bros. also threw in several of its supporting stars, notably a scene with Glenda Farrell as a phony psychic and Louise Beavers as her assistant phoning things in from another room. Ninety years on, of course, people will look at Pat O'Brien's character and be a bit horrified, because he really is nasty in the way he goes after women. As an example, he knocks over Marie's dining table, destroying her dinner and a good portion of her dishes, just so she'll go out for dinner with him.

Still, I've Got Your Number is a fun enough ride for fans of movies from the early 1930s.

Sunday, September 17, 2023

The Apple

Back in December 2021 I reviewed the highly entertaining documentary Electric Boogaloo, about Israeli director-producer Menahem Golan, his cousin Yoran Globus, and their attempt to break into Hollywood that eventually saw them running Cannon Films in the 1980s. One of the things said about Golan in that movie is that he probably sincerely wanted to make good movies, but his lack of Americans' cultural tastes meant that almost everything he did wound up being slightly off. I couldn't help but think about that comment as I was watching one the earliest films he was involved in (this time as director), The Apple.

The movie was released in 1980, but set in the future of... 1994, which is already a sign that there's a good chance the movie is going to be a spectacular mess. The movie opens up at something called the Worldvision Song Contest, an obvious rip-off of Eurovision that sees some formulaic rock band performing a forgettable number that has the audience in a tizzy. That's because the group is managed by BIM, or Boogalow International Music, run by Mr. Boogalow (Vladek Sheybal) and his assistant Shake (Ray Shell in a bizarrely campy portrayal). Next up is a Canadian duo doing something that's totally out of place for a world in which rock and disco merged and remained popular: a love balled. The audience loves it at first, but Boogalow rigs the contest so that the duo, Alphie (George Gilmour) and Bibi (Catherine Mary Stewart), lose the contest.

Boogalow is no dummy however, since he's been successful enough that BIM pretty much runs the rest of the world, this being one of those dystopias in which we're all governed by corporation. (To be fair, Pfizer and Moderna nearly got their way in trying to subject us to a world with mandatory vaccinations designed solely to boost their bottom lines, and half the population was actively rooting for this.) So Boogalow offers Alphie and Bibi a contract! The thinking is that then he'll be able to control Alphie and Bibi and turn their talents toward BIM's propagandistic ends.

Alphie realizes this probably isn't a good thing, particularly considering the amount of pressure BIM is putting on them to sign the contract right now. Alphie has thoughts (or perhaps hallucinations) of this being like a Brodway musical verion of selling one's soul to the devil, complete with a Busby Berkeley-like musical number. Bibi only sees dollar signs, and signs the contract, separating the two.

Bibi becomes a cookie-cutter star in much the same way Korean entertainment companies have churned out one overproduced K-crap group after another like BTS, while Alphie is forced to roam the wilderness like Moses (apparently, a deleted production number made the biblical genesis of the story more explicit), while trying to stay out of trouble with the authorities, who by now have started to do things like mandatory BIM aerobics and forcing everyone to wear the mark of BIM. Alphie has to go back to the BIM underworld to try to rescue Bibi, with the two winding up in a hippie colony that's persecuted even more than anyone thinks 1960s hippies might have been. Along the way, there's a series of spectacularly overdone musical numbers.

Pretty much everybody who writes non-professional reviews of The Apple talks about how unbelievably bad it is, but at the same time how entertaining it is because of how every bit of the movie goes so totally wrong in a way Menahem Golan had no idea was going to happen. The musical numbers are an energetic hoot even if the songs are terrible. The acting is mostly bad or at best over the top, and the plot is a mess even if you can see the way this is a basic good versus evil story. Worst, they didn't know how to end the movie so just have a literal deus ex machina to end things!

And yet, I would highly recommend finding a copy of The Apple and watching it. Like everybody else, I agree that the fact it's such a spectacular disaster is what makes it so incredibly entertaining.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Gideon of Scotland Yard

I movie that I saw on TCM ages ago, quite possibly before I started blogging, is one called Gideon's Day (when first released in the US, it got the title Gideon of Scotland Yard). Recently, I noticed that one of the streaming services had it, and since a search of the site claims I haven't done a full-length review of it here before, I decided to sit down and watch it to do a review here.

Both titles are descriptive, and in some ways, there's not a whole lot of plot to describe. George Gideon (Jack Hawkins) is a Chief Inspector at Scotland Yard. He lives in one of the leafy boroughs of London with his wife Kate (Anna Lee) and adult daughter Sally (Anna Massey), who is studying at the Royal College of Music. One of the many subplots involves Sally, who is supposed to take part in a recital that evening. Kate wants George to return home early so they can dine before the concert, and more importantly to bring home some salmon since some other relatives are going to be over for dinner. George's not having the salmon and the possibility of missing that concert are the running comic-relief plot, although the rest of the movie isn't exactly heavy.

Since it's a running subplot, you can guess that things happen to break up Gideon's day and that he keeps getting called off to different duties. One short example is that he's expected to testify in court as a witness for a criminal trial, and it turns out the barristers only need him for one question to the point that you wonder why he had to break up his day for that. The two darkest parts of the movie involve a detective who has been on the take; Gideon has to approach the man's wife about it and she doesn't want to believe it. There's also an escaped murderer/mental patient who has returned to London from Manchester, and the police desperately want to catch him before he kills again.

These plots are not so much episodic like an anthology movie, although some are resolved fairly early. Instead, it's more like one of those old all-star movies in that the plots mix in and out and at least one character is involved in multiple subplots. On the way to taking his daughter to school, Gideon runs a red light because there's no oncoming traffic. A constable on the beat, PC Barnaby-Green (Andrew Ray) sees this, and pulls Gideon over, showing him no mercy because after all everybody is supposed to obey the law, especially a chief inspector like Gideon. Gideon just somehow has the great good (or bad) luck to keep running into Barnaby-Green throughout his day.

One other crime involves a gang who engage in a comic kidnapping of an executive who has the payroll for a company, then taking the payroll. They then try to break into a bank vault after hours, and their crime breaks up Gideon's adventures at various points. Meanwhile, there's still that salmon Kate wants for dinner....

Gideon's Day is an excellent slice-of-life movie with just the right mix of comedy and drama. I think I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of Jack Hawkins, an actor who isn't so well remembered on this side of the Atlantic mostly because he didn't do much in the way of Hollywood movies. Hawkins handles both the serious stuff and the light relief with aplomb, while the various crime stories are all done well, with the possible minor quibble that everything has to get wrapped up way to quickly since it's a movie.

Supposedly when the movie was first released in the US, it was edited down and only released in black and white, but both times I've seen it, it's been a color print with the "full" running time of a shade over 90 minutes. It's a winner of a movie, and 90 minutes of fine entertainment.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Framed (1930)

I'm usually up for an early talkie, especially if it's in the crime genre. So I was interested to find one that was new to me, a 1930 film called Framed.

Evelyn Brent is the star here, and at the beginning of the movie we see her in a scene where the director is clearly trying to use the new technology of talking pictures to the benefit of the movie. Brent plays Rose Manning, whose father is a low-level gangster during the prohibition era who gets killed in a robbery. The movie opens just after that robbery, with the police interrogating Rose and trying to get more information about her; it's the sort of scene that really wouldn't have worked in a silent with all those police around her badgering her. Rose thinks the police might have been responsible for killing Dad, particularly Inspector McArthur (the original William Holden; not the one from Sunset Blvd. and a bunch of other classic films.

Fast forward several years. Rose is now working at a nightclub that's run by gangsters, with booze supplied by Chuck Gaines (Ralf Harolde). Who should walk into that bar but young Jimmy (Regis Toomey)? That in theory would be no big deal -- except that Jimmy is one Jimmy McArthur, son of the police inspector. It's a very bad look for the son of a policeman to be seen around this sort of joint, but Jimmy doesn't seem to care. Rose, however, realizes that she's now got an in to get back at the elder McArthur, so she starts putting the moves on Jimmy.

But a couple of things complicate Rose's plan. One is that she finds herself falling in love for real with young Jimmy, making her question whether she really wants to destroy him to get back at his father. And then there's Chuck, who thinks Rose should be his girl. He's got an in with Bing, who runs the joint, so he tries to get Bing to help him deal with Jimmy so that, with Jimmy out of the way, Chuck would be free to be with Rose.

Will Framed have the traditional happy ending, and if so, how will it jump through the hoops necessary to get to that happy ending? Or will it be something rather more ambiguous or even downbeat? To get that answer, you going to have to watch Framed for yourself.

Framed is an interesting little early talkie. It's not as good as the sort of gangster movie Warner Bros. was putting out, but then this was RKO, which never had much in the way of a budget. It's also relatively forgotten, which is a bit of a shame. Still, it's absolutely worth a watch, especially for people who are into early sound films.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Thursday Movie Picks, Septebmer 14, 2023: Non-English movies

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. Once again, we get the annual theme of movies not in English. I thought a bit about what movies to use. I've recently watched a couple of movies fitting the theme that I haven't yet blogged about, so I decided to hold off on using them. But then, what foreign movies have I watched that haven't been dubbed into English? I wouldn't have minded using a film like De Lift if I had seen a subtitled version instead of a dubbed version. But in the end I came up with three movies that fit the theme:

Arsenal (1929). OK, this is a silent movie, but it was made in Russian by the Soviet film director of Ukrainian descent Aleksandr Dovzhenko. During the early days of the Civil War that followed the October 1917 revolution, a committed communist stops the anti-communist Whites from taking control of the arsenal in Kiev. Dovzhenko's visuals here are almost as good as in his later Earth, although both are used for propaganda effect.

Walpurgis Night (1935). An early role for Ingrid Bergman in her native Sweden before coming to Hollywood, this movie deals with the falling birth rate in the country at the time. Bergman plays the secretary to a banker trapped in a loveless marriage in which the wife seeks out an illicit abortion. Bergman's character is also the daughter of a newspaper editor (Victor Sjöström) who writes editorials about the need for Sweden to have a higher birth rate. The two stories come together when the clinic where the abortions are performed is raided.

The Shop on Main Street (1965). This movie, filmed in a small village in what is now eastern Slovakia, deals with the World War II years when Slovakia was a nominally independent puppet state aligned with the Nazis, who had of course turned the Czech lands into a protectorate under Reinhard Heydrich. A lowly carpenter whose brother-in-law is trying to get in with the government is given orders to run a dry-goods store which had previously been run by an elderly Jewish woman who is probably going to die soon anyway, and doesn't seem to have any clue of the danger Jews are in.

TCM's William Friedkin tribute, Part 1

Roy Scheider (l.) and Gene Hackman in The French Connection (8:00 PM today).

Director William Friedkin died back in August. It's fairly common for TCM to do programming tributes not only to stars, but to directors and other behind the camera people. What is somewhat uncommon, however, is the sort of tribute TCM is going to have for Friedkin. That's because they've divided it into two parts, airing two months apart. The first part is tonight (Sept. 14), and has three of Friedkin's movies:

The French Connection (8:00 PM). I'd presume that the print TCM will get is what Disney infamously edited because the characters used period-appropriate (and the movie was contemporary anyway) language that some people who engage in presentism think should never be heard today.
To Live and Die in LA (10:00 PM). I had this 1980s crime movie on my old DVR but never got around to watching it before moving and having to get rid of that DVR since I was changing cable providers. At the time I couldn't find it on DVD, but that may have been my lack of search skills and the movie only being out-of-print on DVD.
The Boys in the Band (12:15 AM, so still late this evening in more westerly time zones). I also had this movie, well-known for its groundbreaking gay themes, on my old DVR, but once again hadn't gotten around to watching it. So I've got two movies to record.

As I said earlier, the second half of the tribute is in November, and I'll do another brief post on it then.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023


Rhonda Fleming got a day in TCM's Summer Under the Stars back in August, and it gave me the opportunity to watch a movie I had never heard of: Odongo. Needless to say, it's another of those movies where it's with good reason that I'd never heard of it.

Odongo is another of those movies set in Africa in that short era when Cinemascope was around but before decolonialization, so that you could have white people living in exotic locations that viewers would never see otherwise, at least in the establishing shots. The white guy living here is Steve Stratton (MacDonald Carey), who deals in exotic animals and has a sort of game reserve that presumably brings in money by showing wealthy westerners exotic animals on safaris. Stratton has a couple of Africans working for him, including the juvenile titular Odongo (a Zanzibar-born child actor named Juma). Odongo seems to have a way with animals, although not quite to the level that Audrey Hepburn does in Green Mansions.

Rhonda Fleming plays Pamela, who gets a job at Steve's reserve as the veterinarian, something that ticks Steve off to no end since he was expecing, well, a man. He doesn't think women are fit for work like this. It doesn't help that Pamela thinks Steve treats the animals badly and doesn't much care for Steve's treatment of both her or the African workers either. But she hasn't yet learned how to survive in this part of Africa well away from civilization.

Another of the locals working for Steve commits the sort of offense that really does merit getting sacked, but when Steve fires him, the guy isn't very happy about it, and decides to take it out on Odongo for no good reason. He also decides he's going to get revenge on Steve, doing it by opening up all the pens where the animals are being kept, and then taking Odongo hostage and threatening Odongo's life! Steve and Pamela are going to have to save poor innocent Odongo.

Odongo is one of those films that plays to all the tropes and stereotypes westerners had about Africans in those days, with the result that it's not very good. It's fairly predictable too, and to top it off, it includes a subplot about some of those wealthy whites who come and visit, something that really doesn't have much to do with the rest of the movie.

I'm not certain if Odongo is available anywhere, but even if it were, I sure wouldn't seek it out again.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

The Secret of the Red Dress

When I was looking for The Assassination Bureau on Tubi, one of the movies that showed up in the search terms and that I had never heard of before was Assassination in Rome. I was mildly surprised not to have heard of it considering Cyd Charisse leads the cast, but having seen the movie, I understand why.

The opening credits on the print that Tubi ran were both letterboxed and pillarboxed, which wasn't a good sign, since I had a premontion that the rest of the movie would be panned and scanned, which was in fact the case. Two seemingly unrelated things open the movie. One is Shelley North (that's Cyd Charisse), in a well-appointed apartment in Rome, calling the police to tell them that her husband has gone missing. At the same time, we see two petty thieves robbing and unfortunately killing a man at one of the fountains of Rome that may or may not be the Trevi.

In robbing the man, they take his shoes and discover that the shoes have a heel that opens up. In the fashion of Pickup on South Street they determine that this is some sort of microfilm which must mean something big, but something that they don't know about although they're going to try to figure out who the microfilm was intended for and blackmail that person. But they're the sub-plot to the main story, which is Shelley's attempt to find out what happened to her husband.

The police don't seem to be much help, so she approaches the international newspapers in Rome, which brings her in contact with Dick Sherman (Hugh O'Brian), with whom she apparently shared a past. He does some research, and discovers that Shelly's husband Bill had gotten deeply in debt, to the point that he had to engage in some sort of criminal activity to try to pay off that debt. Of course, we know that the guy killed in the beginning isn't Shelley's husband, since she'd be able to identify him if it had been and the murder victim hadn't had any ID on him. Further investigation takes Shelley to Rome, which seems convenient in that it gives the filmmakers a chance to film a second exotic location for the benefit of the American audience.

Some of the synopses of Assassination in Rome call it a giallo film, and I have to admit that giallo is one of the genres with which I'm not terribly well acquainted. Apparently, the earliest giallo novels which gave birth to the film genre were closer to pulp murder mysteries, but as the film genre became more prominent in the late 1960s and early 1970s the murders became grislier. What killing there is here isn't particularly grisly, and the resolution of the mystery seems perfunctory. It's hard to tell at times how much this was intended for domestic consumption, and how much it was intended for the US audience having secured the participation of Cyd Charisse.

I suppose I'd be able to praise the movie's cinematography if I hadn't seen a panned and scanned print, but as things stand, everything here seems pedestrian and decidedly sub par. Perhaps it's worth watching if you're a Cyd Charisse completist or into giallo, but otherwise, there's a lot of other stuff I'd recommend first.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Technically it should be called Asteroid

I've got a brother-in-law who's a James Bond fan, so for the past several years I've been getting him DVDs of various non-Bond Sean Connery (mostly) movies as Christmas gifts. Recently, I saw another new-to-me Connery film on one of the streaming services, I think Pluto TV: Meteor.

Connery plays Paul Bradley, who at the start of the movie is participating in a boat race. But the Coast Guard approaches his boat, basically forcing them to bow out of the regatta because Bradley is needed elsewhere. Indeed, the federal government already has a special plane laid out for him to take him to Houston, and from there to Washington DC.

Houston means the headquarters of NASA, which has learned something shocking and disastrous. They had a crew on the way to Mars for the first manned mission, but sent that crew out to the asteroid belt when space events intervened. Two celestial bodies collided, sending one of the asteroids out of its asteroid belt orbit and somehow resulting in the space crew's death. But scientists on earth have calculated the asteroid's new orbit and have found that it's going to collide with earth! And that collision is going to happen in six days!

Yeah right; never mind that comets don't make it that distance in six days or that even today are generally only able to calculate probabilistic chances for an asteroid to hit the earth. This asteroid is five miles in diameter, and something that big hitting the earth is going to cause cataclysmic damage. Consider that the Tunguska event is generally believed to have been caused by something maybe 200 feet in diameter, which is less than 1% of the diameter of this asteroid.

So what is Dr. Bradley supposed to do? NASA head Harry Sherwood (Karl Malden) knows that Dr. Bradley was one of the lead scientists working on a top-secret project called Hercules. Bradley's conception for Hercules was to send a space station-sized satellite armed with a dozen or so nuclear missiles, even though this would have violated the Outer Space Treaty (I think that's the appropriate treaty), which banned putting nuclear weapons in outer space. Bradley's idea was that the nuclear missiles could be used to intercept any incoming celestial bodies, pushing them off the orbit that would have them hit earth. After all, if you can hit an object far enough away, it doesn't take much to deflect it into missing the earth.

Unsurprisingly, however, military types like Gen. Adlon (Martin Landau) took over the project since they saw the military usefulness of being able to have nuclear weapons in space pointed at the Soviet Union. He got Hercules' mission changed to one targeting the Soviets, and he'd be pissed if the Soviets found out that the US had violated this treaty. Thankfully, the President (Henry Fonda) has the intelligence that the Soviets have a similar system, and that if the two countries combined their systems, they could deflect the asteroid enough to save Earth.

Of course, this means making Hercules public and getting the Soviets to admit to their system. The Soviets send to America their chief scientist, Dubov (Brian Keith), and his interpreter, Tatiana (Natalie Wood) to assist the Americans before the asteroid can hit Earth. But since this is a disaster movie, we know that at least pieces of the asteroid are going to hit and give the producers opportunites for special effects.

The problem with Meteor is that neither half of the movie -- either the Cold War story or the disaster climax -- is given enough focus to make it work well. As a result, we get something that's talky without the payoff at the end that in theory is what the audience wants to see. It also doesn't help that a lot of the cast seem to have taken on their roles simply for the paycheck. Some criticize the special effects, but I think this is unfair, since they're not notably bad for the era. Sure, filmmakers can do things better today, but that misses the point.

Still, Meteor is moderately entertaining, and the sort of movie that's probably worth one viewing since you can stream it.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

The Voice of the Turtle

TCM must have had an Eleanor Parker day, which would explain why I recorded a couple of her movies in close proximity. In addition of Many Rivers to Cross which I recently blogged about, my DVR also had One for the Book, which was based on a play titled The Voice of the Turtle and originally released to theaters under that title. (The print TCM showed in fact had a title card reading The Voice of the Turtle, but in the listings and in my YoutubeTV library it was listed as One for the Book.)

Parker plays Sally, a struggling actress in New York City in the later stages of World War II. (The play premiered in 1943 and was a big hit; the movie premiered just as the stage play was ending its run in 1947 and "updates" the action to late 1944.) Sally has been in a relationship with Kenneth (Kent Smith). But he's unwilling to make the sort of committment that Sally wants, so he basically breaks off the relationship and exits the movie.

Sally commiserates with her best friend and fellow actress Olive (Eve Arden, clearly here to provide the comic relief once again). She's got a thing for military men, this being the height of World War II, and is currently seeing naval Commander Ned Burling (Wayne Morris). But Ned isn't the first military guy she's been with during the war. Another of them, Sgt. Bill Page (Ronald Reagan), has gotten leave, and he's in town looking up Olive.

Olive doesn't want to be mean to Bill, so she decides to set him up on a dinner with Sally since both of them are looking for someone to go out on the town with. The two of them spend a pleasant enough evening together, but then Bill finds there's a mix-up with his hotel reservation and he no longer seems to have a place to stay for the night, something that was again a common theme during World War II. And as you can guess, the two start developing feelings for each other.

This causes problems for any number of reasons. Of course, society isn't necessarily going to look so highly on the idea of an unmarried woman having a man in her apartment overnight. And then there's Olive, who finds that perhaps she still has feelings for Bill. She's apparently not a one-woman man, and when the traditional rom-com trope of the two leads possibly breaking up before getting back together in the final reel comes, Olive is there waiting to pounce.

One for the Book is a pleasant enough romantic comedy, although it's also one that's pretty tightly bound to the era the play was created. When the movie was released in 1947, there was still enough respect for soldiers to make something like this work, but trends like the move to the suburbs and then less virtuous wars like Korea would change America enough to make something like this a museum piece. Sgt. Page is the sort of light and affable role that's perfect for Ronald Reagan, while Parker charms as well. Eve Arden is typically great as the comic relief. So although the movie is dated, it's still worth a watch to see an America that's never going to exist again.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

The Manly Art in Six Acts

One of those movies that I had never heard of until it finally showed up on TCM a few months back is a boxing movie called The All-American Boy. It sounded like it could be interesting, so I decided to give it a chance. Having watched it, I can see why I'd never heard of it before.

Jon Voight plays the titular "All-American boy", a young man named Vic Bealer who at the start of the movie is walking down a road in the middle of nowhere. It turns out that he's heading back to his home town for a funeral, and that he left town because he wanted to make it in a bigger city, possibly as a boxer because that's the one thing he's really got ability in.

After the funeral, he goes to the local gym, but nobody at the boxing gym in town remembers him for whatever reason. But Arty Bale (Ned Glass) sees Vic and gives him a chance, even giving him a place to sleep at his house. There's talk that perhaps Vic could train for the Olympics, but this doesn't fit for me since IOC and USOC head Avery Brundage would have had a conniption fit over anything at all resembling non-amateurism and everything here looks more like professional boxing than the amateur game.

Along the way, Vic gets two girlfriends, although he's unable to hold on to either, largely because he's one of those erly 1970s characters who simply can't figure out a way to fit in with the broader society. The first is Janelle, and after Vic knocks her up she heads off to the big city to try to make a name for herself. Later, Vic starts a relaionship with young Drenna (Anne Archer, who was impossibly young at the time), although that one doesn't succeed either.

After struggling a lot and burning a lot of bridges, Vic finally gets another chance, this time with the whole town preparing for one of those big small-town sendoffs reminiscent of an earlier era in moviemaking. Will Vic be able to make it?

As I said, there's a reason I'd never heard of this movie. Well, maybe a bunch of reasons. Part of the problem is that it's more of a character study than a movie with a fully fleshed-out plot, and Jon Voight isn't given enough of a character to work with here. The movie was also recognized as a mess by the studio. Supposedly it was filmed in the wake of Voight's star-making turn in Midnight Cowboy, but shelved for two years because the director couldn't make anything coherent out of it. Then, with the success of Deliverance, the studio gave the movie another chance, but it was a box-office and critical failure.

Like Jon Voight's character, The All-American Boy doesn't quite fit in to any place or time, with an oddly dated soundtrack but no real references to the exact time period. Jon Voight may be lovely to look at if that's your thing, but that does not a movie make.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Sealed Cargo

Another movie that sounded interesting enough to record the last time TCM had it on, which I think was during the Memorial Daywar movie marathon, was Sealed Cargo. Recently, I finally watched it off my DVR.

Although this is a World War II movie, it's got a different focus than a lot of the war movies. In this case, the main focus is on a fishing boat that gets mixed up with the war in a pretty big way. Now, the men who captained fishing boats were, I'm assuming, exempted from the draft because they were producing food for both the home front and even more importantly the fighting men. The ship here is the Daniel Webster, an old fishing vessel sailing out of Gloucester MA and plying the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland, which was a big fishing area until the fishery collapsed a generation or so ago. The Daniel Webster is captained by Capt. Banyon (Dana Andrews).

Andrews has a bit of a rag-tag crew, including a couple of Danish refugee seamen, Konrad and Holger. He also gets approached by a woman, Margaret McLean (Carla Balenda) who is asking for transport to Newfoundland where her family supposedly lives. This ought to set off alarm bells for Capt. Banyon as it's totally against protocal, and with a war on who the hell is taking on strange passengers. But Banyon must be thinking with his little head or something, and takes Margaret aboard.

Sure enough, the radio goes kaput, and there are enough people on board to suspect of sabotage. But the Daniel Webster is about to have bigger problems when it runs across a Danish fishing vessel that's adrift and seemingly damaged. Banyon boards that ship and surmises something might be wrong because the gun damage is not below the waterline, and that's where you'd shoot if you were trying to sink a boat. Further, it's only drifting, but it seems to be abandoned. Well, they do find the captain, Skalder (Claude Rains), and one dead body.

Capt. Banyon is suspicious, but tows the ship to Newfoundland anyway. At least here he finds out that Margaret does have a father living here and working with the Canadian navy. (Technically, Newfoundland was still a separate dominion and wouldn't join Canada until 1949, but I'd have to do some research to see how Newfoundland's defense was handled during World War II.) But as he's still suspicious, he takes the opportunity to board the Danish surreptitiously. Somehow, he happens to find the hidden latch that opens the cargo hold to reveal a second cargo hold, which holds... a bunch of torpedoes! This boat is supplying all those German U-boats that have been plying the North Atlantic!

So Skalder is really German, and you know that he's going to try to figure out a way to overcome Capt. Banyon and get his boat back out on the North Atlantic to resupply those U-boats. Fortunately for Skalder, his crew that "abandoned" ship wound up in the same port, setting up the movie's climax....

Sealed Cargo is a decided B movie, despite the presence of two reasonably big stars in Andrews and Rains. It was also made at RKO, which means that it doesn't quite have the production values that some of the other studios had. Despite this, the story is still effective enough that the movie ultimately works. It's not the greatest movie you'll ever see by any stretch of the imagination, but it's an entertaining enough diversion.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Remember My Name

I mentioned a couple weeks back that Geraldine Chaplin was honored in Summer Under the Stars with a day of her movies. But there was another movie that I had on the DVR from an earlier day in Summer Under the Stars in which she was also in the cast. That movie was Remember My Name, which TCM ran on Anthony Perkins' day.

Chaplin plays Emily, who at the start of the movie is being released from southern California prison for a crime we're not told about until much later in the movie. Apparently, whatever work she did inside prison was quite remunerative, or else she had a fair bit of money from somewhere, since she's able to go to a nice boutique and buy some pretty nice clothes for herself. She's able to get a room in a rooming house run by Pike (Moses Gunn), and is eventually able to get a job at a department store run by Mr. Nudd (a very young Jeff Goldblum) since his mom is in prison too and met Emily there.

Anthony Perkins plays Neil Curry, a construction worker building new tract housing, which is a reasonably good job since this is the era when there were still a lof of Americans moving west to the Los Angeles area. He's got a wife Barbara (Perkins' real-life wife Berry Berenson), but you get the impression there's a bit of tension between the two. Needless to say, there's about to be a lot more tension between the two.

That's because Emily shows up in the neighborhood, looking like she's casing the Curry place, even though there's not much to case since they're decidedly lower-middle-class at best. More likely Emily has another reason for being there, and that she'll reveal it soon enough. That does happen in rather more dramatic fashion when Emily breaks into the Curry plays and Barbara is the one to find her since Neil is still at work.

Barbara rather logically wants to press charges, and Emily is taken to the police station for booking, but Emily clearly has something that she can use to blackmail Neil with. This is something that Neil has been less than forthcoming with Barbara about, and when Emily uses it to get Neil to decide not to press charges, he realizes that he's going to have to tell Barbara the truth.

Remember My Name is a faily slow-moving picture where there's not a whole lot going on on the surface, but there's clearly a lot more going on underneath. This allows tension to build up while building an unsettling atmosphere. The three main characters make the material work, although it's also easy to see how Remember My Name is a movie that isn't going to appeal to everybody.

The other thing that may make it off-putting for some is the way in which it feels like there's a fair bit that never really gets answered. In addition to the way this happens with the main plot, there's a recurring theme throught the movie that seems totally unrelated to the rest of the film in which we hear TV news reports about a catastrophic earthquake in Budapest. (As far as I can tell, there's never been a serious earthquake in Hungary; there was one in Bucharest Romania a year or two before the movie was released.)

Remember My Name is a different sort of movie that those who like 1970s movies should definitely enjoy.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

The Assassination Bureau

I mentioned a week or two ago that a group blog I frequent has one member who posts "interesting" (read: usually schlocky fun) movies available on Tubi in a series of weekly posts so everybody can at least in theory watch the movies together in more or less real time. Althought the movies are mostly low-budget or so-bad-it's-good stuff, every now and then something that tickles his fancy for a different reason is the selection. This latter category certainly fit when he recommended The Assassination Bureau. Because of my work schedule, I usually don't watch the movies live with everyone else but later, if I watch them at all, so it was only recently that I finally got around to watching The Assassination Bureau.

An opening sequence that reminded me of everybody but John Mills and Ralph Richardson in the tontine at the beginning of The Wrong Box getting killed off in amusing ways shows us the actual bureau. It's operating in the first decade of the 20th century, and as its targets selects bad people who needed killing, although the selections are also nominated by people willing to pay a high enough price to have these targets killed.

Not quite fitting that model is Sonya Winter (Diana Rigg). She's an emancipated woman who can take on the world more or less on her own, and who has dreams of becoming a jorurnalist, and she has just the story. She approaches newspaper publisher Lord Bostwick (Telly Savalas) with her story idea, which is to infiltrate the Assassination Bureau and write a shocking exposé about it. But she needs the money to nominate someone for killing. Bostwick actually agrees to the idea, although as we're going to find out later he's got his own reasons for liking the idea.

Sonya goes through the sort of spy stuff necessary to meet with somebody from the Bureau, and eventually meets the head of the Bureau and son of the founder, Ivan Dragomiloff (Oliver Reed). Sonya's proposal is a shocking one: the person she wants killed is none other than Ivan himself! Ivan accepts the proposal, mostly because he's got an idea of his own, which is to dare the rest of his colleagues to either try to kill him or else be killed themselves. And we learn that Lord Bostwick is the second-in-command at the Bureau. If Dragomiloff gets killed, then it's Bostwick who becomes the new head of the Bureau.

Of course, all of this is also dangerous for Sonya, as they'd like to kill her lest the story about the Bureau be published in the newspapers. So it winds up being Dragomiloff and Sonya on one side, and the rest of the Bureau on the other side. Dragomiloff and Sonya have to make a run for it, eventually working together as they make their way across Europe to Paris, Switzerland, and Venice among others.

Meanwhile, when Dragomiloff was in Vienna, yet another assassination attempt went wrong. While previous assassination attempts might have backfired and killed the member of the Bureau trying to kill Dragomiloff, this one kills a Franz Ferdinand-like archduke, which means that it's a killing that threatens to plunge Europe into a World War, which they haven't yet had at the time the movie is set. European heads of state, many related to one another anyway, decide to hold a secret peace conference to try to stave off war. But Bostwick and company learn about the conference, and attempt to bom the conference from a zeppelin, beheading Europe's leaders in one fell swoop and starting that war! Dragomiloff and Sonya have to stop it.

The Assassination Bureau is another of those movies where it's easy to see why people would really get a kick out of it. It's stylish, and it's pretty much non-stop entertainment. But I have to be honest that it wasn't just the beginning of the movie that reminded me of The Wrong Box. Both of them are period pieces clearly influenced by the late 1960s era in which they were made, and both of them have something about them that just feels slightly off to me. It's not that I didn't like the movies; it's more that I can see why other people will love The Assassination Bureau while I only liked it. Still, it's definitely worth a watch.

TCM Star of the Month September 2023: Dirk Bogarde

Dirk Bogarde in Modesty Blaise, not on the TCM schedule this month

Now that we've finished up with Summer Under the Stars, it's time for a new Star of the Month on TCM. This time, that star is Dirk Bogarde, who appeared disproportionately in British and continental productions. Bogarde's films will be airing every Wednesday in prime time, and TCM says there will be 17 films. A search on the name Bogarde in the month's schedule did in fact give me 17 matches, although there was one all-star movie: A Bridge Too Far (10:15 PM, Sept. 13) where he's far enough down the cast not to get mentioned in the top three that TCM puts in the synopses. There was also one Bogarde movie airing twice, The Password is Courage (8:00 PM, Sept. 13 and not as part of the tribute at 3:15 AM on Tuesday, Sept. 26).

The movies include what I think is the TCM premiere of The Damned (3:15 AM, Sept. 21), an Italian movie based on the Krupp family in Nazi Germany. It's a movie that I frankly don't care for, but I know there are people into this sort of movie. The ones I'd recommend are the last three on the final night: Our Mother's House (10:00 PM, Sept. 27); Victim (midnight between Sept. 27 and 28, or still on the 27th in more westerly time zones); and Cast a Dark Shadow (2:00 AM, Sept. 28).

Among those I haven't seen, I'll probably record the first showing of The Password is Courage in the hopes of doing a post on it before the second showing; and Song Without End (midnight tonight), which is about Franz Liszt and can't possibly be weirder than Lisztomania. It's a shame that TCM couldn't get the rights to Modesty Blaise from Disney or Fox or whoever holds the rights now; it's not my favorite but it's certainly stylish.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023


I briefly mentioned the John Wayne movie McQ a couple of times in the past, mostly to talk about the interesting (mis)casting of Wayne in the title role. I had never done a full-length review of the movie here, however, mostly because when I tried recording it some years back, I lost the DirecTV signal for several minutes that just happened to coincide with the end of the movie. TCM ran McQ again a few months back, so I made certain to record it in order to be able to watch it and finally do a review of it here.

As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, John Wayne plays McQ, which is really short for a full name of Lon McHugh, hence the nickname. But we don't see him for several minutes. The film starts off with a sequence where a man drives into Seattle in the pre-dawn hours and shoots dead two police officers. Then a man in a police uniform has a rendezvous with another car, delivering a satchel of some sort. For his troubles this other man gets shot as well.

It's here that McQ shows up, as the third guy was Sgt. Boyle, who was McQ's partner on the force as well as a fairly close friend. McQ is another in the long line of unorthodox police officers, living on a boat like Quincy, M.E. and engaging in a lot more violence than police in those days were purported to have used. Now, in some ways this is understandable such as when we see a hitman show up to the marina trying to kill McQ, who has to fight back, shooting in self-defense. But other times, it's the sort of violence that really makes life difficult for his boss, Capt. Kosterman (Eddie Albert).

Sgt. Boyle eventually dies, leaving behind a widow Lois (Diana Muldaur), and it's up to McQ to try to console her. That, and he has to investigate since he wants justice for his deceased partner. It seems fairly clear to him that a man called Santiago (Al Lettieri) is using his shipping business as a front to bring drugs into Seattle, and McQ is determined to bring down Santiago. Unfortunately, he's too zealous, comming violence against Santiago that he shouldn't have, forcing McQ to either resign or face desk duty.

McQ picks the former so that he can go work with an old colleague who's now a private investigator, and as he investigates he gets the sinking feeling that perhaps the police are more involved than just Sgt. Boyle possibly being a dirty cop. It also goes without saying that as McQ gets closer to the truth, he finds his life is in more and more danger. He is of course right that Santiago is involved, but it's not just the two men; that leads to the final shootout on a beach.

A lot of people, not just me, comment on the casting of John Wayne here, and I think the main reason for it is how dark the movie is. Despite the fact that there was a fair amount of violence in the westerns Wayne made in the final years of his career, most of those westerns have a somewhat lighter tone. McQ, however, is unrelentingly dark and perhaps even more violent than the westerns. Wayne would go on to make a second contemporary cop movie after this one, Brannigan, and that one despite its violence has the lighter tone that fits Wayne perfectly.

This isn't to say that McQ is a bad movie by any means. While some of the other cop movies of the 1970s are better, including I think Brannigan, Wayne does a fine job here while Al Lettieri makes a great villain again. Lettieri died much too young. The location shooting is nice, and there are some good supporting performances too.

McQ is a movie that should be seen for more reasons than just the seemingly curious casting of John Wayne as a latter-day cop. It's pretty good in its own right.

Monday, September 4, 2023

The Secret 6

Another of the movies that's been sitting on my DVR that I didn't get around to watching is The Secret 6. Then I noticed that there was an upcoming recording of it scheduled, thanks to Youtube TV's recording every instance of a movie you add to your library until you remove it from the library. That second airing comes on tomorrow (September 5) at 4:30 PM, so with that in mind I made it a point to watch the copy that's already in the library in order to be able to do a review here.

The first thing I noticed that was interesting was the convention that studios had in those days of having one full screen listing a goodly portion of the cast. Johnny Mack Brown was near the top of that screen, several spots ahead of both Clark Gable and Ralph Bellamy. In fact this was Bellamy's first film. Gable's A Free Soul had not yet been released, which was really the movie that made Gable a star, hence his low billing.

In any case, the two men who get the real top billings are Wallace Beery and Lewis Stone. Stone plays Richard Newton, lawyer to a small-city group of bootleggers led by Johnny Franks (that's Bellamy, who looked familiar, although I was wondering whether I was missing something as why would the gang leader be billed so low). The gang brings in a new member, Louis Scorpio (Wallace Beery), who's amoral enough that you can see he's going to rise through the ranks.

However, Scorpio is also stupidly impulsive, which is a cause for alarm for Newton. Newton understands that you should remain relatively understated so that you can fly under the radar and not attract police attention. Scorpio expects to rise to the top in the small town, and then take on the big city, where the mob is led by Colimo (John Miljan, one of those early 30s actors who probably should have had a better career than he did). Eventually Johnny Franks gets killed in a shootout which enables Scorpio to take over the gang.

But the violence brings the attention not just of the police, but of some reports, including Hank Rogers (Johnny Mack Brown) and Carl Luckner (Clark Gable). Not only them, but a shadowy group of businessmen calling themselves the titular "Secret Six" who work with the police to try to bring Scorpio down.

Scorpio, being as blunt and uncouth as he is, something Wallace Beery could play well, tries to bribe people, either with a cigarette case filled with money or by using love in the form of having his cashier Anne (a young Jean Harlow) trying to seduce Hank. Anne eventually has second thoughts about it when she really falls in love with Hank and realizes how much danger he's in.

One of the many slightly odd things about The Secret 6 is that it's not really about the titular six businessmen. Having a movie be about a shadowy cabal that's on the side of "justice", or at least what the normies' perception of justice is, would have been a really interesting idea. And for some reason I distinctly recall seeing another early talkie with just such a theme, although I can't remember the title. Instead, we get another early crime picture, MGM obviously following in the footsteps of Warner Bros.' Little Caesar. Warner Bros. was better at making crime pictures than MGM, but thanks to the performances of Beery and Stone, the latter being cast against type, The Secret 6 isn't a bad little picture. Sure, it may be a bit creaky, but for anyone who likes early talkies, they'll like The Secret 6 too.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

Many Rivers to Cross

I have to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of Robert Taylor. But since he was under contract to MGM for 20-plus years, they put him in everything. For those who like the sort of movie that MGM made, they'll probably enjoy Taylor's comic turn in Many Rivers to Cross.

The setting is Kentucky around the time that it became a state in the late 1790s. Kentucky was still a relatively wild place, and it was the women on the frontier just as much as the men who helped make it a place where the white man could live. Among the men are Bushrod Genty (Robert Taylor), a trapper when a man could still make a living trapping in Kentucky. He's a concerned bachelor, which kind of ticks off some of the frontier women who would love to have him as a husband.

One such woman isn't about to let go when she meets Bushrod. That's Mary Cherne (Eleanor Parker), who is a tough woman of her own. She knows how to shoot a gun, mostly out of necessity since there are still Shawnee raiding those parts of Kentucky not near a fortified city. She saves Bushrod one day when he's attacked by the Shawnee, and brings him back to her place, which is really the family farm run by her father Cadmus (Victor McLaglan). Bushrod injured his arm in the attack, so he has to stay for a while to heal up, which gives Mary ample time to fall in love with him, much to the chagrin of Luke Radford (Alan Hale, Jr.), who has been pursuing Mary.

The rest of the movie deals with Mary's attempts to tame Bushrod and get her to marry her, which he actually does, although he also assaults the justice of the peace which gives him a short stint in jail. This gives him another chance to escape married life, but you know that in a movie like this, circumstances are going to intervene to give Mary and Bushrod another chance to meet up and fall back in love, this time against the backdrop of another Shawnee attack....

Many Rivers to Cross is the sort of movie that's imbued with all the gloss and charm MGM could give a picture. Even into the mid-1950s they still had high production values, which mostly show here. Once again, however, for some people, and I'd certainly include myself in this group, it's the sort of production values that aren't necessarily quite right for a movie set on the frontier.

Taylor and Parker both show themselves to be reasonably adept at the sort of light drama interspersed with comedy that the movie calls for, and it's easy to see why it would appeal to a certain segment of the movie-going public, both in the 1950s and even today amongst those who like classic movies. So once you know what you're getting into, if Robert Taylor is your sort of thing, then definitely give Many Rivers to Cross a try.