Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '45 - Steve Q ""

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Underrated '45 - Steve Q

If not for Ira Brooker, Steve Q would be the best-known bearded reviewer of obscure trash films living in St. Paul. Nine hundred of his capsule reviews of terrible films can be found at http://zerostarcinema.blogspot.com He's active on Twitter as @amy_surplice and less active on Letterboxd.
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First Yank into Tokyo (1945; Gordon Douglas)
1945's "Detour" is often called the best B-movie ever made. Tom Neal, the star of that film, also starred in this bizarre propaganda film the same year. A few years earlier, "Black Dragons" was a Bela Lugosi film about making Japanese spies look American; this film turns that story around, as Neal gets plastic surgery so he can infiltrate Japan. It's complete trash, but it's fun.

Zombies on Broadway (1945; Gordon Douglas)
How can you resist a film with that title? Val Lewton's "I Walked with a Zombie" was a surprise success, so RKO brought back Darby Jones, the impossible-to-forget tall bug-eyed zombie from that film and added Bela Lugosi as a mad doctor. Then they added gangsters, the Abbott and Costello wannabees Brown and Carney and some musical numbers. None of it works particularly well, but it keeps throwing things at the screen and some of it sticks.

The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945; Raoul Walsh)
A rare starring vehicle for Jack Benny, he made fun of this film for decades until people believed it must be the worst film ever made. It's actually quite enjoyable. It's a comedy about the Biblical end-of-days (an angel is sent to Earth to signal the end by blowing his trumpet), which is probably why it failed on initial release. Franklin Pangborn and Margaret Dumont just add to the interest.

White Pongo (1945; Sam Newfield)
The 1940's were filled with killer gorilla films. This is the better of the two from 1945 that feature Ray "Crash" Corrigan as a white gorilla. This was directed by Sam Newfield, who also made the all-little people western "The Terror of Tiny Town," and is about a missing link that wants to mate with lovely screaming Maris Wrixon. If you see only one normal-sized killer gorilla movie - and that's within one of the correct number - make it this one.

Mom and Dad (1945; William Beaudine)
William Beaudine, a B-western director who got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and then ended up making trash like "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla," also directed this oft-banned roadshow film. Masquerading as an educational film, this exists solely to show footage of live births. It also has a break for the sale of pamphlets and a "Star-Spangled Banner" sing-along! The plot follows a girl who has unprotected sex once, with fateful consequences (though not as dire as in 1938's "Sex Madness.")

Honorable Mention: If you want to see neglected good films from 1945, I suggest "A Bell for Adano" and "A Medal for Benny."

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