Rupert Pupkin Speaks: May 2014 ""

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Kino Classics - The Max Linder Collection

It's a wonderful thing to be reminded from time to time why I love movies as much as I do. To continually be able to discover new films and filmmakers is truly one of my great pleasures in this life. I'll be the first to admit that though silent cinema is far from my strongest area if expertise, I am nonetheless fascinated by it , especially the comedies. The universality of comedy transcends time in such a remarkable way and I have always marveled at that. A clever joke is a clever joke, especially when it appears to be a simple one. Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd (who I've only really started to get into in the last few years) are undeniably remarkable in their cinematic achievements. I can hardly believe that I consider a film like SHERLOCK JR. (from 1924) to be as technically groundbreaking as it is funny even to this very day, but I do. Before the announcement of this set, Max Linder was a name I'd nary heard mentioned on any occasion. Once I began to talk about watching these movies, it started to become clear to me that he absolutely has his fans out there (and I can certainly see why). You really have to respect the physicality and guts of silent film performers like Max Linder. Whether he's dodging cars in traffic, hanging off the undercarriage of a moving train, or putting himself in a cage with a lion there's an almost brazen courageousness on display there. No special effects or stunt people, just the man himself putting it all on the line. There's something about the way he looks as well that makes his comedies interesting. Were his mustache a longer "twirling length" he would absolutely resemble Snidely Whiplash. So you have this nearly villainous face and yet he is very doggedly charming in these films. Also, he has some very large, almost buggy eyes that make him more of a human cartoon character when he really opens them wide. He plays an oaf well, but moreover he's less nebbish-y than say Keaton and that makes for a different comic feeling. And like Keaton, Chaplin and Lloyd, Linder was the writer and director of many of his movies (including all on this disc).
This collection includes three Linder films of about an hour in length each and one short:
SEVEN YEARS BAD LUCK (1921) - Easily the standout gem from this set. This film has a pretty amazing mirror gag that feels like maybe it influenced the classic sequence the Marx Brothers made famous in DUCK SOUP. It also has lots of great chases and sequences involving Linder disguising himself and hiding from various authority figures. All very clever and quite well done. An unheralded classic. BE MY WIFE (1921) Delightful courting comedy wherein Linder has to great lengths to win over the rather prudish aunt of the girl he loves. Lots of great gags here including a "disguise as a scarecrow" bit and a simulated fight (with himself) In another room to show his bravery. THE THREE MUST-GET-THERES (1922) - Linder's take on Alexandre Dumas, complete with 'Linder-ized' versions of all the character's names (D'Artagnan becomes 'Dart-In-Again' and so forth). The weakest of the movies in the collection but not without its charms and some fun visual gags. Also, it feels like it must be one of the earliest "parody" films  and it pre-dates ROBIN HOOD: MEN IN TIGHTS by about 70 years. Lastly, the short MAX WANTS A DIVORCE (1917) is also included on this DVD as well.



Friday, May 30, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Clayton Walter

Clayton Walter is a polygot polymath hillbilly, living in a micro-town on the far-away prairies of North Dakota.  He's a Banjo player and collector of Canadian Mountie swag, as well as a bad chess player and wearer of various kinds of un-stylish facial hair.  His repository film/book/OTR reviews and all things Clayton-like is at Phantom Empires.

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THE FRIGHTENED LADY (1940):   Edgar Wallace had such an incredible mind for a mystery plot.  Of all of the films made from his many novels,  this one is my favourite.  A dogged inspector, Lords, Ladies,  and amusing servants; everything a is here/  A British mystery actually made by an English company,  that classic Brit detective feel is deep and delightfully fun.  The variety of accents alone is worth the price of admission!
HOME SWEET HOMICIDE (1946):  This one is a 1946 private detective gem starring Randolph Scott, though it has a strangely 1950's feel.  Scott plays a handsome private detective on a murder case, who runs into an attractive mystery writer and her three precocious children.  The kids turn detective, and eventually try to solve the case of how to get their mother and the detective together.  Great fun!
AN INSPECTOR CALLS (1954):  To the wrong person, this could be pretty stuffy stuff.  Originally a stage play,  most of the action happens in a series of rooms, and by 'action', I mean lots of talking.  Oh, but what wonderful talking it is!  Written by the legendary J. B. Priestly,  this 1954 version has Alistair Sim as the hypnotic Inspector Poole...and how incredible he is in this one.  As the thing goes on,  he seems more like a necromancer than a run-of-the-mill detective.

ARSENE LUPIN (1932):  I recently reviewed the 1932 film Rasputin & the Empress, starring John and Lionel,  the amazing Barrymore brothers;  this movie,  about the dashing French jewel thief, Arsene Lupin (based on the novels by Maurice LeBlanc), has them in the same electric form.  In the "jewel thief vs detective" tradition, this one stands as one of the best.

RAFFLES (1930):  Speaking of jewel thieves,  here's another masterful movie,  this time 1930 version of Raffles, about an English gentleman thief (as opposed to a French one played by an Englishman).  Ronald Colman is his typically dapper self, portraying E. W. Hornung's Cricket-champ burglar, with incredible style.  Bramwell Fletcher plays Raffles' bumbling sidekick Bunny Manders, and together they gleefully thwart the nearly useless Inspector MacKenzie, amusingly well-played by David Torrence.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - KC

KC runs aclassicmovieblog.com and can be found on social media in these places:

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1. Miss Pinkerton (1932)
Joan Blondell is a nurse in search of excitement when she is recruited to go undercover to help solve a mysterious death witha detective, played by George Brent. It's a modestly entertaining mystery, but Blondell lights up every corner of the old dark mansion where she sneaks around looking for clues. She's got this sassy walk she uses as a front whenever she's scared, but those big eyes start rolling back and forth like crazy when she realizes something isn't right. It's almost like she's animated. It would have been great to see her in more detective flicks, she was perfect for them. This is also the first time I saw Brent as having a purpose beyond putting on Bette Davis' coat. He's very sexy and lively with Blondell, they're a good team, but he also holds his own.

2. Guilty Hands (1931)
I love how Kay Francis managed to wring so much variety out of her wealthy clotheshorse screen persona. She may have oftenlooked the same, but her characters were widely varied, from decent society girls to wicked temptresses, and a lot of interesting territory in between. Here she plays good Kay, a guest at a house party where her estranged lover apparently commits suicide. She doesn't buy it, and fellow guest Lionel Barrymore arouses her suspicion. There are a couple of great, silent scenes where Francis digs around looking for clues. The clever methods she uses to find answers, and her delight when she finds them, are mesmerizing. You marvel at her brilliance.

3. I Love Trouble (1948)
This is the most I have ever liked Franchot Tone. It's the only time he's ever seemed truly relaxed to me onscreen. As detective Stuart Bailey, he meets increasingly bizarre characters, and he seems to find it all incredibly amusing. This is not your typical beat-up gumshoe. He's good at his job because he doesn't let it, or the nuts around him, get him down.

4. Lady on a Train (1945)
I don't know that this Deanna Durbin mystery/musical/romance/noir/comedy is underrated, but it seems to fall between the cracks sometimes because it touches on so many genres. It's an interesting oddity, because the peril and menace fit so well with Durbin's songs and comedy bits. The movie runs along smoothly, never seeming as though it is shifting gears. A perfect example of its nutty juxtapositions is in the scene where Durbin sings Silent Night to her father on the phone, while a man who has broken into her suite to rob her hovers outside the door listening. There's danger, but you feel like her purity will flush out the corruption that surrounds her, and that's more exciting than you might think.

5. Keeper of the Flame (1942)
There's an undercurrent of evil to this Hepburn and Tracy drama that keeps me on edge every time I see it. Tracy plays a journalist, a sort of unofficial detective, who senses something dark in the past of a politician who has recently died in an accident. As the man's widow, Hepburn struggles to hide the truth and maintain her husband's legacy. This has got to be the darkest it's ever gotten between Hepburn and Tracy on the screen. He doesn't miss a detail and she is terrified by his determination, but also drawn to him. The tension between them is deliciously electric

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Mike Perry

Mike Perry of Mikestakeonthemovies.com has been an avid film and movie memorabilia collector since his first allowance and has well over 7500 titles in a collection that continues to grow.
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St. Ives (1976)
Charles Bronson Light. Charlie joins forces with the amazingly beautiful Jacqueline Bisset for this blackmail murder mystery with an outstanding cast consisting of Maximilian Schell and John Houseman. Houseman is a wealthy man with a past he would like to keep hidden. Enter crime writer Mr. Bronson who is hired to retrieve some stolen journals that are essentially a diary of Houseman’s criminal exploits. With bodies piling up all around, Bronson seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself in a film that allowed him to sit back and let other characters hold the weapons. What’s not to like when Miss Bissett is constantly flirting with you. Between murder scenes and becoming a suspect himself Bronson is constantly fencing with local detectives Harry Guardino and Harris Yulin on his way to solving the misdeeds played out for our benefit.

My Favorite Brunette (1947)
Bob Hope subs here for private eye Alan Ladd who is seen briefly at the start to set up the confusion. Bob soon gets more than he bargained for when sultry Dorothy Lamour walks in to hire a private eye. Before Bob knows it he’s being led by the ski nose as frequent co-star Lamour finds herself in and out of danger while bringing Bob along for the ride. With plenty of Hope one liners we get the murderous Peter Lorre and the gregarious Lon Chaney Jr. in full Lenny mode who are out to terrorize Bob at every twist and turn of the sinister plot being told by our would be hero from Death Row. Under no circumstances tune out before the final gag. It’s a classic.

The Black Cat  (1941)
Familiar territory here of the old dark house variety. But with a cast including Basil Rathbone, Alan Ladd, Gale Sondergaard and Bela Lugosi what’s not to like. Called in to investigate some shady shenanigans we have our detective played by Broderick Crawford trying to figure out just who is bumping off all the remaining relatives of patriarch Henrietta Winslow. With a large inheritance at stake it could be any one of our perfectly cast red herrings. Billed as a horror film in its day the film plays more like a fun murder mystery with plenty of pratfalls along the way to keep bumbling Crawford guessing as to who is behind the criminal activity going on. Basil and Bela make for perfect guests in a tale of this nature whereas Alan Ladd was still one year away from staking his claim at the box office.

The Mob  (1951)
Director Robert Parrish has undercover cop Broderick Crawford finding himself down on the docks trying to locate a cop killer and at the same time attempting to bring down the  syndicate responsible for ordering his death. Working alongside the likes of bit players John Marley and Charles Buchinski loading crates, Crawford quickly moves up the ladder taking on local muscle Neville Brand and Ernest Borgnine in order to solve the mystery of who is the kingpin of the operation. Brand and Borgnine play it rough in this fairly violent effort for its’ day and Crawford has that Joe Don Baker appeal working for him as he bulls his way to justice.

Home at Seven  (1952) aka Murder on Monday
Ralph Richardson not only starred in this nifty little black and white mystery but for the only time in his career he directed a motion picture as well. Starring here as a mild mannered banker he finds himself arriving home a day later than usual. He has no idea where the previous 24 hours have disappeared to. But we do know we have a body and missing funds that he had access to from the company safe. Paging Jack Hawkins to step in as a local police detective who along with Richardson’s wife Margaret Leighton attempts to piece together his whereabouts since leaving for work the previous morning.  This is one of those little gems with 3 of Britain’s finest at work. It’s too bad Sir Ralph never tried his hand at directing again.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Christy Putnam

College instructor and TCM Film Festival writer and author Christy Putnam writes the popular "Sue Sue Applegate" columns on the TCM Message Boards, is an administrator/moderator of The Silver Screen Oasis, tweets @suesueapplegate, and writes for The Examiner
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Frenzy (1972). 1972's  Frenzy was one of Hitchcock's last, and I am still young enough to remember him pitching it  on different programs on television, and I remember watching the trailer at the movies. He chose to highlight the scene on talk shows where the Detective husband(Alex McCown as Detective Inspector Oxford) had to relish the goofy gourmet dishes his wife(the hysterical Viven Merchant as Mrs. Oxford) concocted for her cooking class, and that scene always reminded me of the story Hitch would tell about inviting all these folks to his home for dinner, and everything was dyed blue. Shades of blue liquid from Aunt Perue's table in the two-mooned home Luke Skywalker shared before his adoptive parents were incinerated by storm troopers! What I think is so nice about Frenzy, is that beautiful Jon Finch was in this film, playing his "frustrated, innocent man" while pilfering " a few bob" from his ex-wife, played by the excellent Barbara Leigh-Hunt, later known as one of the most popular Lady Catherine Debourgs in film history, 1995's Pride and Prejudice, with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. To envision what happens to her at the end of the film when she has been "done in" by Barry Foster's characterization of serial killer Robert Rusk, has to be HItch's homage to Stanley Kubrick's violent societal essay, "A Clockwork Orange."  Hitch went farther than ever before with graphic violence and detailed descriptions of horrendous finales of Rusk's victims. All the while, Chief Inspector Oxford, who knows many of the lurid details of the horrors of the murder sits ladling bouillabase chock full of fish heads while his wife goes on about the laundry, all the while, she actually gives him ideas to solve the killings.

The Donovan Affair (1929). This was a presentation at the Turner Classic Film Festival in 2013 of an early Frank Capra vehicle whose soundtrack had been destroyed and lost, and it was presented in an unusual way. To revitalize and restore this early Capra film, Bruce Goldstein, director of Repertory Programming for the New York Film Forum, organized live actors and sound effects at last year's festival to accompany the now silent film, and it was a very popular, exciting event for pass holders. 

Harper(1966). Robert Wagner as a sleaze in love with addict Betty Fraley, played by Julie Harris. Lauren Bacall and Pamela Tiffin in a tiff wider than the Mississippi? Paul Newman, whose Anthony Judson Lawrence character from The Young Philadelphians is all grown up as a detective who never went to an Ivy-league school,  but learns to pull the same kind of punches with the real tough guys. Arthur Hill, Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law, is in love with the perky, spoiled Pamela Tiffin. Shelley Winters married to Robert Webber! And who can ever resist a film with Strother Martin as a bad guy, mis amigos? I feel this film has always been underrated as a classic detective story.

The Night Stalker (1972). Darren "A Christmas Story" McGavin. Hunting a vampire killer with Carol Lynley, Charles McGraw, Ralph Meeker, Claude Akins, Kent Smith, and Elisha Cook, Jr., from The Maltese Falcon. You know something bad is going to happen to somebody somewhere sometime whenever Elisha Cook, Jr. arrives on the scene. 

The List of Adrian Messenger (1963). The all-star cast wearing masks to hide their celebrity are unveiled at the finale. The haunting harpsichord music also makes this a fun romp through the English countryside for me. The hunt! To the hunt! The hunt for the killer!

The Saint in Palm Springs (1941). Screenwriter Peter Stone had to have seen this film before he wrote the script for Charade, often called the best Hitchcock film that Hitch never made. It's the stamps!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Warner Archive Grab Bag: Richard Dix


ACE OF ACES (1933; J. Walter Ruben)
"It's a new deal, but the ace is wild."
I was first made aware of this film by my friend Cliff Aliperti (@iephemera on twitter) via a wonderful guest list of "VHS Gems" he did for this site:
I had never much heard of Richard Dix at all prior to this and began to start digging into his filmography. Thankfully, Warner Archive was there to provide some gateways (via their DVDs). I began by watching things like ROAR OF THE DRAGON and SEVEN KEYS TO BALDPATE. It was a good way to start. I've heard it said before, but Richard Dix's acting can be seen as a bit stuff by today's standards, but I got used to it very easily. I was very pleased to see ACE OF ACES get a long awaited release on DVD, especially after it showed up on that list. In ACE, Dix plays an artist/sculptor about to wed his beloved when the United States enters WWI. Dix initially scoffs at the war and the soldiers going off that way, but eventually enlists after a brutal shaming by his lady. He is assigned to a squadron headed up by Ralph Bellamy. The pilots have mascots in their barracks (a goat, a monkey, a pig) and Dix brings his own (a lion cub). Somewhat like a film I saw earlier this year, THE BLUE MAX, ACE OF ACES is basically the tale of one man's journey to end up a war-hardened soldier of the air. He goes from pacifist to a man who thirsts for kills. It's an ugly transformation, but certainly shows the kinds of things wars can do to men. It can take an artistic type and turn him downright cold-blooded. This gruff version of Dix is very reminiscent of the more boorish characters I feel like I've seen Albert Finney play. Also, Dix resembles Finney a bit so it's an easy parallel for me to draw. 


PUBLIC DEFENDER (1931; J. Walter Ruben)
Richard Dix is Batman, err wait, I mean "The Reckoner". In this quick-paced thriller, Dix portrays a wealthy playboy named Pike Winslow who moonlights as a mysterious avenger. Pike 
is aided by his associates, "the Professor" (Boris Karloff) and "Doc" (Paul Hurst). The Reckoner is perceived as one man, but he is actually three. When Pike's lady friend's father is framed for embezzlement, The Reckoner must attempt to clear his name. The Reckoner is actually more along the lines of The Shadow than Batman. He truly does strike fear into the hearts of men by leaving notes under their sandwiches. Instead of a bat, The Reckoner's symbol is that of the scales of justice (which he always fixes to tip against his foes). This movie could use a bit more Karloff, but what movie couldn't honestly.


RENO (1939; John Farrow)
I believe I've mentioned my fandom for John Farrow here before, but if you missed it, I like his films quite a bit. HIS KIND OF WOMAN is literally one of my favorite films ever and I'm a more recent convert to HONDO and ALIAS NICK BEAL. He also did the excellent noir THE BIG CLOCK and another hopefully soon-to-be-released Warner Archive title, FIVE CAME BACK (which he later remade as BACK FROM ETERNITY, which is also good). So needless to say, when I see his name in the credits, the film in question immediately gets a little bit of a boost in my mind. This film needed a boost as it's not quite up to the level of some of Farrow's better work. It's well put together and all, but a might on the dull side. It's the story of a lawyer who came to Reno in the early days with the best intentions, but ended up specializing in divorce and finding the legal loopholes in Reno law that made it the place we know it to be (in regards to marital distress). It is a somewhat interesting story, given a grounded, personal treatment via Richard Dix, but overall I found it to be a bit of a letdown.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Marlee Walters

Marlee Walters is an aspiring archivist at Pratt Institute in New York. When not in a library or an archive with old things, you can find her live-tweeting all nine seasons of The X Files. Follow her in library school and her scholarly efforts at marleewalters.com. For casually comprehensive discussions of classic films, follow picturespoilers.wordpress.com. And for the aforementioned X Files and other tweets, @MarleeWalters.
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Brick (2005)
I know, I know it isn’t a classic, but it is still underrated! Not enough people have seen this movie! But those who have, we’re kind of a cult we love it so much. It’s  neo-noir set in high school and stars Emilie de Ravin (Lost) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (everything, general awesome). The seriousness of the world of these high schoolers is reminiscent of an even more sinisterHeathers. Plus I love JGL’s informant, known as “The Brain.”

Green for Danger (1946)
An English detective mystery set in a rural hospital. After a mysterious patient death, an inspector from Scotland Yard arrives and everyone is a suspect. The doctors and nurses play out their own dramas, as more people die.

Cape Fear (1962)
The only film where I think Robert Mitchum played a role he was born to play. (He always looks sort of creepy, you know?) Mitchum plays a convicted rapist who stalks the family of the man who sent him to jail (Gregory Peck). Remade in 1991 by Martin Scorsese with Nick Nolte, Robert De Niro, and Jessica Lange.

Above Suspicion (1943)
Joan Crawford is an espionage thriller! Yes, it happened. Fred MacMurray plays her newly minted husband, and their honeymoon turns into a dangerous spying mission behind enemy lines.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Twilight Time - TWO RODE TOGETHER & FATE IS THE HUNTER

TWO RODE TOGETHER (1961; John Ford)
For some reason this John Ford western had eluded me until last year when it finally became a blip on my film radar. Looking at the cover, my initial thought was that maybe this movie is Ford's RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY. That's just me eyeballing it though you see and thinking it's got two slightly aging actors in it (a la Joel McCrae and Randolph Scott) and maybe they find themselves on one last adventure or something. There is a little of that here, in that Widmark (an army Lt) comes to his small town marshall pal (James Stewart) with mysterious mission to drag him into. One other interesting cast note is that this movie has a direct connection to one of my favorite films of the 1980s - CLOAK & DAGGER. 
The film is actually more along the lines of THE SEARCHERS, but it delves into some even darker territory. Jimmy Stewart and Richard Widmark's characters find themselves with the less than enviable task of making their way into a Commanche camp and asking for the return of all the white folks that have been captured (kidnapped) in the past 15 years. A group of settlers has gathered near this army outpost waiting for someone to help retrieve their missing family members. Some have been waiting a very long time to get their kin back with the help of the army. Only James Stewart's somewhat scoundrel-y (see: money grubbing) lawman is brave enough to go in after these folks and only for as much money as each family could afford. More than once, Stewart 'a character rather cruelly lays out to the settlers that their children most likely don't resemble their firmer selves at all anymore. They have been overtaken by the Comanche look and way of life. It really is one of the darker characters I've ever seen Stewart play. 
I've always liked Richard Widmark and this role is no exception. He and Stewart make a nice antagonistic pair and it makes me wish they'd worked together more often. There's nothing quite like seeing two of the great actors of their time at the top of their game. It's truly amazing how a couple great actors (often in tandem with a great director) can bring any film up to a whole other level. 
In addition to Widmark and Stewart being excellent, Shirley Jones is possibly never cuter than she is here with her blonde braids. She reminds me slightly of Olivia de Havilland a bit in this film. She's another actor who rarely seems to ever turn in a bad performance. One other interesting casting note is that this film has a direct connection to one of my favorite films of that 1980s - CLOAK & DAGGER. Jeanette Nolan and John McIntire play the evil old couple in that film and both have prominent roles here as well.
Though it's pretty bare bones, this Blu-ray transfer looks very nice and will hopefully go a ways towards helping western fans rediscover this John Ford classic. 


FATE IS THE HUNTER (1964; Ralph Nelson)
In my currently running "Underrated Detective/Mystery Films" series, I somehow forgot to mention FATE IS THE HUNTER when I wrote up my list. This is a neat little thriller about a fatal airline crash wherein it is assumed that the pilot of the plane was drunk on duty and is thus responsible for the incident and the passenger deaths. Glenn Ford plays an airline exec who refuses to believe that his old war buddy could have been so negligent and begins a thorough investigation to disprove that theory. Director Ralph Nelson has done some other lesser-talked about films like SOLDIER BLUE and WRATH OF GOD which I enjoy quite a bit. He also did the Cary Grant classic FATHER GOOSE, for which he may be best known. Nelson deftly handles the investigative portion of this movie whilst interspersing flashbacks of Ford and his friend to help establish their relationship. Not sure exactly why, but it feels like Robert Zemeckis may have looked at this film perhaps in preparation for FLIGHT. I could be wrong, the fact that each movie focuses on a plane crash and the surrounding investigation and potential alcohol abuse is what makes me think they might be connected, but who knows. It always fascinates me to watch older, often more obscure films only to see potential similarities to present day stuff. Not to suggest that EVERYTHING has been done before, but we are talking about a medium that's 100 plus years old at this point so there's been plenty of time to tell plenty of stories. Fans of FLIGHT will certainly take issue with the pacing of FATE OF THE HUNTER, but I find it a charming little mystery even with that said. There is something about airlines and air travel during the 50s, 60s and 70s that fascinates me. It obviously feels quite antiquated in comparison to today in a lot of ways, but I think that since the process itself and the planes haven't changed all THAT much during the past 50 years, the antiquated things have more to do with production design and lifestyle bits. The film is loosely based on the best-selling novel by author Ernest K. Gann who was a pilot himself and wrote several other aviation based books that were also made into movies (THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY andISLAND IN THE SKY being two prime examples). Though this film spends the majority of its running time on the ground, the two flying sequences are infused with Gann's own sense of aviation and they feel quite realistic. 

This is one of those great-looking Black & White Blu-ray transfers with a good amount of detail. Anyone whoever said Blu-ray is only for color films never saw any transfers like this. Just lovely.
Included on this disc is the full-length documentary TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN - KA SHEN'S JOURNEY (2010). This doc's topic is film actress Nancy Kwan (one of the co-stars of FATE IS THE HUNTER). It covers her youth, upbringing and eventual acting career. The documtentary was directed by Twilight Time co-founder Brian Jamieson and narrated by the other TT co-founder Nick Redman and Kwan herself. The film documents her being cast in THE WORLD OF SUZY WONG and includes several vintage screen tests that Paramount had Nancy do during the casting process for the film. 
Also included here is an isolated score track with commentary by Nancy Kwan and Nick Redman. This commentary is included as part of the isolated score track which highlights Jerry Goldsmith's wonderful music for the film. As it often is, having an actor that was around for the production of a film that was made 50 years ago offers some enjoyable and unique personal insights and anectdotal material. Though I prefer filmmaker commentaries, Redman is a good moderator so he keeps things moving with this track. One thing Kwan had to say about Glenn Ford was that he apparently preferred to be photographed from the left side of his face. This was interesting to notice throughout this movie and now I'll have to watch for it in other Glenn Ford movies.

Both Blu-rays can be purchased from Twilight Time via the Screen Archives website:
http://www.screenarchives.com/display_results.cfm/category/546/TWILIGHT-TIME/

Friday, May 23, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Emily Rauber

Emily Rauber started The Vintage Cameo (http://www.thevintagecameo.com) as a place to catalog and discuss classic film, with a particular focus on MGM musicals and, by extension, Gene Kelly’s butt. She’s also on Twitter as @vintagecameos and Letterboxd as muggles.
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My Favorite Brunette (Elliott Nugent, 1947)
I’m a huge fan of the Hope/Crosby/Lamour Road pictures, and my affection is strong enough to carry over to this goofy detective spoof. Bob Hope plays a baby photographer mistaken for a private detective, becoming entangled in a murder mystery that, luckily, doesn’t seem to slow down his speed in generating trademark quips. It’s a mile-a-minute zing-off between Hope and Dorothy Lamour, with Crosby—and many other faces familiar to detective film fans—appearing in cameo roles.

The Gazebo (George Marshall, 1959)
The Gazebo is an ultra-ultra-black comedy about a TV writer (Glenn Ford) attempting to appease a blackmailer who has nude photos of his wife (Debbie Reynolds). He concludes that his only way out is to kill this guy, so he establishes and follows a very sensible murder checklist (“Step one: Put on gloves”), burying the corpse in the fresh cement of his wife’s prized new gazebo installation. This is an odd, funny little flick that somehow successfully harnesses a normal guy’s attempt at homicide for hearty laughs.

Tony Rome (Gordon Douglas, 1967)
Frank Sinatra stars as the eponymous detective, in this, the first of three detective pictures he made with director Gordon Douglas. Tony Rome is a hard-drinking playboy of an ex-cop, something of a caricature of Sinatra’s own public persona. He gets caught up in a mystery involving a family with, of course, several generations of gorgeous women. Set in late-1960s Miami, Tony Rome is a hip, swinging spin on the traditional detective story that also indulges in many of its most comforting twists and clich├ęs, to a fun extent.

Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (Carl Reiner, 1982)
I first learned of this movie when I bought the foreign poster as a travel souvenir, mistakenly thinking it was an older film due to the presence of names like Humphrey Bogart and Joan Crawford. When I found out it was a 1980s comedy starring Steve Martin, I was initially dismayed—but once I actually watched it, I was floored by the creativity involved in meshing 20-odd 1940s noirs into a single joint. The editorial effect can admittedly be jarring at times (and lead to middling scores on certain film community-based review sites), but overall I enjoy the effect of being asked to consider these classic films in a new light.

Devil in a Blue Dress (Carl Franklin, 1995)
A sticky, steamy modern noir, Devil in a Blue Dress got a bit lost in the shuffle of mainstream Denzel Washington thrillers and the decade-specific obsession with 1940s culture. It’s a wholly Hollywood production to be sure, but it also uses the period setting as a way to make a subversive commentary on contemporary race relations and politics. There’s an intoxicating aura to this film, largely due to Washington’s star performance as Easy Rawlins. I love that we see that Easy not only has to unravel the case, as other movie detectives routinely do, but more uniquely, he also has to factor in his race as an element of his crime-solving—sometimes beneficial, often a hindrance. It’s like that old saying about Ginger Rogers… here, Easy’s doing everything Sam Spade is, just, you know, as a black man in 1948.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Underrated Detective/Mysteries - Kristen Lopez

Kristen Lopez is the Owner and Editor of Journeys in Classic Film, Women in Cinema/Historical Circuit writer for Awards Circuit, Writer for The Playlist.
@Journeys_Film on twitter.
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There are various definitions of what constitutes a detective and a mystery.  Not everyone has to be a private dick in order to close a caper and the five films I assembled were a mix of the classic Sherlock Holmes-esque detective and then some.  All five have compelling mysteries to engage you and inspire you to become your own Agatha Christie or Hercule Poirot.  

1.  Call Northside 777 (1948) - Our leading man, played by Jimmy Stewart, isn't a detective per se.  Instead, he's a reporter, a profession oft-considered the true detectives of America if 1940s movies have anything to say about it.  Stewart's character investigates an ad wherein the mother of a murderer wants to save her son from a crime he didn't commit.  Jimmy Stewart's P.J. McNeal is a cynical film noir male whose heard "I'm innocent" so often that phrase is meaningless, and yet he's drawn in to seeing this case through to the end.  This is often overshadowed by grander court procedurals starring Stewart like Anatomy of a Murder, but the script is brisk with enough social commentary to rattle you more than Otto Preminger's film.

2.  The Great Mouse Detective (1986) - It pains me that Disney decided to stop at just one adventure with Basil of Baker Street.  The titular mouse that lived beneath the famed Sherlock Holmes is spunky, snooty, and darling.  On top of that you have a fantastic villain, appropriately voiced by Vincent Price!  Many remember the Disney Renaissance which started after this, but I maintain without The Great Mouse Detective we might not have the fantastic Disney movies of the 1990s.

3.  Crossfire (1947) - Robert Young plays a detective tasked with solving the murder of a Jewish man, and his suspects include Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan.  Do you need more to entice you to watch this?  Crossfire is a blistering detective story where the ending only emphasizes America's continued history of racism.  This is the second movie of Ryan's where he played a racist (I desperately wanted to include Bad Day at Black Rock), and he excelled at charming you while simultaneously terrifying you.  The original movie focused on homosexuals, but for obvious reasons this was changed to a character of Jewish persuasion.  It's a taste preachy in the end, but spectacular.

4.  The Singing Detective (2003) - This is the only post-2000s movie I included because I can't recall anyone seeing it when it hit theaters.  Based on a BBC movie of the same name, Robert Downey Jr. proved adept at playing a character on par with the hard-boiled Mike Hammer.  Add in a group of thugs, various dames, and a healthy dose of song and you have a murder mystery where you'll be tapping your toes as you sift through evidence.  

5.  The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936) - Coming hot on the heels of The Thin Man, and starring that film's leading man William Powell, many would consider The Ex-Mrs. Bradford a discount version of that iconic mystery.  You're right to a point, but The EX-Mrs. Bradford is akin to Agatha Christie working on a mystery and bugging Nick Charles throughout.  The story of a divorced couple bonding over murder conjures up images of The Awful Truth, with a dose of murder.  Elegant, engaging, and hilarious, there's more to this movie than just another version of The Thin Man.


Biography: Im a college student finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel leading to my Masters in English.  In my free time I write so much my fingers bleed.  Im the owner/editor of Journeys in Classic Film, a blog devoted to classic movies.  I also write the Historical Circuit posts for AwardsCircuit.com and occasionally I watch contemporary movies.