Rupert Pupkin Speaks: February 2016 ""

Monday, February 29, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - John Knight

John Knight does not host a blog,but he is a regular contributor to The Hannibal-8, Laura's Miscellaneous Musings and Riding The High Country.
As far as my attitude to cinema goes I would best describe myself as a dedicated
B Movie Junkie!
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THE DEFENSE RESTS (1934; Lambert Hillyer)
A legal drama/thriller with dark and disturbing elements. It's the sort of film that you watch and think..."just where is this going" Jean Arthur plays a newcomer to the legal profession who is thrilled to get a job working with her mentor (Jack Holt) Problem is,Holt who has never lost a case is a lawyer hired by The Mob to get various unsavory characters off the hook. It's unusual to see the usually stalwart Holt play such a morally dubious character. Things come to a head when The Mob ask Holt,against his better judgement to defend a creepy child kidnapper/murderer. This is the final straw for Arthur who then turns against her "hero" Although the ending is rushed and conventional this is an intriguing little film. As far as i know it is only available as part of a TCM Jean Arthur collection.



THE INVISIBLE MANS REVENGE (1944; Ford Beebe)
I love Universal's Invisible Man films. For some reason this entry has always eluded me.
I was finally able to catch up with it on Turbine Media's (Germany) Invisible Man Collection. What I liked about this entry is that The Invisible Man is a total rotter from the word go. Jon Hall in the title role is very good and low budget expert Ford Beebe does a very good job working with a decent budget for a change.


SECRET OF THE WHISTLER (1946; George Sherman)
One of 2015's highlights was Sony releasing seven of the eight "Whistler" movies.in lovely remastered versions. All eight films are worthwhile and as good as B Movies get. This entry is more straightforward than usual,but is still a very strong addition to a great series. Richard Dix plays a devious artist who wishes to hasten the demise of his ailing wife so he can pursue gorgeous model Leslie Brooks.


CANON CITY (1948; Crane Wilbur)
Canon City is a tension filled prison break/hostage thriller. John Alton's photography is sensational. Film starts as a semi documentary where we get to know the warden and what makes several of the inmates tick. We also witness more progressive elements of the prison system;the gymnasium,the cinema and classes where prisoners can learn creative skills like embroidery. By contrast the solitary confinement section is chilling and claustrophobic.Eventually a dozen inmates escape-split up and take several families hostage.The decency and courage of some of the hostages is both moving and harrowing. Scott Brady is the only escapee who shows humanity and compassion. The final scenes where the man-hunt closes in on Brady are incredibly moving.At times the tension is intense in the extreme. Producer Bryan Foy and director Crane Wilbur several years later made another prison film INSIDE THE WALLS OF FOLSOM PRISON (1951) This hard hitting film is set in the bad old days of the 1920's where sadistic monster Ted De Corsia is the warden. There is a prison break in that film too but the main focus of the film is prison reform.


THE BEAT GENERATION (1959; Charles Haas)
No producer in Hollywood made more contrasting films than Albert Zugsmith. At one end of the quality scale we get true classics like TOUCH OF EVIL and THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN. At the other end we get SEX KITTENS GO TO COLLEGE and THE PRIVATE LIVES OF ADAM & EVE. The Beat Generation attempts to address serious issues like rape and abortion. This regrettably,is contrasted with typical Zugsmith zaniness which reaches a high point when the incomparable Vampira reads poetry to a group of beatniks adorned with a pet rat! The film does have very good performances from Fay Spain and Maggie Hayes who never really had the movie career that they both deserved. The males are represented by Ray Danton a pathetic woman hating psycho and Steve Cochran,the cop on his case who has a very questionable attitude towards women. The antics of "The Beatniks" seem to be a preview of American International's Beach Party Movies. Had the film-makers played it more or less straight we could have ended up with a minor classic. The Beat Generation is available on DVD and Blu Ray from Olive Films.


THE BIG GUNDOWN (1966; Sergio Solima)
I love Lee Van Cleef but this film has always eluded me. It is arguably the best non-Leone Spaghetti Western. Co star Tomas Milian never considered Van Cleef much of an actor but admitted that his screen presence was formidable. It's a shame that Van Cleef was not able to carry on making films of this quality.- he is aces as bounty hunter Jonathan Corbett. Explosive Media in Germany have released the full length version on Blu Ray. There are brief moments in the film where the actors speak Italian-English sub titles are provided.There is no existing English soundtrack for several short scenes. This is an epic Spaghetti Western,occasionally haunting,always involving.The picture quality on the Explosive Blu Ray is superb. The Explosive package also includes a 50 minute Lee Van Cleef Spaghetti Western trailer reel. There we really do get The Good...The Bad..and....The Ugly.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Mark Hurne

Mark Hurne is one half of the podcasting duo behind Criterion Close-Up - a Criterion-centric show that is part of the Criterion Cast feed. He is also a regular podcast guest on First Time Watchers and In Session Film. Follow him on Twitter @MarkHurne and follow the Criterion Close-Up goings on @CriterionCU. Also here:
http://criterionblues.com/podcast/
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1. THE APU TRILOGY – From watching the Sony DVD’s from my local library and listening to Filmspotting review them as part of their Satyajit Ray Marathon to seeing the new PATHER PANCHALi restoration distributed by Janus Films, 2015 was the year of Apu. Now THE APU TRILOGY is a permanent part of my film library thanks to the Criterion Collection. More than any other films these simultaneously deeply dismantled and fulfilled me. Honorable mention: Satyajit Ray’s THE MUSIC ROOM and its music and dance gave me a new appreciation for Indian classical music.
2. SECRETS & LIES - Mike Leigh’s NAKED was my entry-point into his work and a great place to start. This year SECRETS & LIES was another Mike Leigh revelation into his prowess in directing actors. NAKED featured a brilliant performance from David Thewlis and Brenda Blethyn in SECRETS & LIES may be equally as brilliant. Other than THE APU TRILOGY of films this may be the best film I saw in 2015.
3. DAY FOR NIGHT – Francois Truffaut’s DAY FOR NIGHT seemed tailor-made for a Criterion Collection release, and in 2015 they delivered. Self-reflexive starring the director as…a director, Truffaut’s friend Jean-Luc Godard famously called the film a lie which led to a rift between the two directors. Criterion’s release is a supplement-stacked release and, oh yeah, Aaron West and I reviewed it on the Criterion Close-Up podcast.
4. MY DARLING CLEMENTINE – 2015 was time to finally see a film about the gunfight at the O.K. Corralin Tombstone, Arizona, and I have a hard time believing there could be a better one out there than MY DARLING CLEMENTINE. In 2016 we should have another version of the O.K Corral events told from various viewpoints from the Indiegogo campaign to fund Alex Cox’s TOMBSTONE RASHOMON. MY DARLING CLEMENTINE opens with one of my favorite title sequences, the title character does not show up for almost forty minutes, and Henry Fonda is perfect as Wyatt Earp. Featuring most gorgeous black & white cinematography I saw this year, a reminder that the western is a genre that deserves more of my time, and what better director to spend more time with than John Ford?
5. Nuri Bilge Ceylan and CLOUDS OF MAY – My local film society was showing the Cannes Palme d’Or winning WINTER SLEEP so I decided to engage with most of Turkish writer/director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s other films before the screening as I had previously only seen ONCE UPON A TIME IN ANATOLIA. CLOUDS OF MAY was Ceylan’s second full-length feature and is like a mix of Kieslowski’s CAMERA BUFF with a movie within the movie and maybe Altman’s NASHVILLE with each character’s story told in longer separate scenes. Ceylan is a modern art-house auteur whom I would love to see the Criterion Collection give some attention.

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Anthony Strand

Anthony Strand is a librarian and writer who lives in Fulton, Missouri. His blog can be found at zeppomarxist.blogspot.com, and he has contributed to thiswastv.com and toughpigs.com. You can follow him on Twitter @zeppomarxist.
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I Don’t Want to Be a Man (1918)
Directed by Ernst Lubitsch

Lubitsch is my favorite director of all time, so I was excited when Netflix added several of his early silent films a few years ago. I haven’t made it through all of them yet, but this is the best one I’ve seen so far. A young woman decides to go out on the town in disguise as a man, and she finds it freeing because no one tries to control her life or tell her what to do. The ending is kind of a copout, but it’s still a fascinating look at how gender politics have changed and how they’ve stayed the same in the past century. More importantly, it’s hilarious.

The Good Fairy (1935)
Directed by William Wyler

The Good Fairy wasn’t directed by Lubitsch, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was. It stars Margaret Sullavan and Frank Morgan (who would later be reunited in Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner, also set in Budapest), along with Herbert Marshall (who had starred in Trouble in Paradise). Sullavan plays an optimistic teenage orphan who escapes the advances of a rich businessman (Morgan) by telling her she’s married, so he decides to do a good deed by hiring her husband, a random down-on-his-luck lawyer (Marshall) she picks out of the phone. The script is by a young Preston Sturges, and it moves like lightning. Every single minute has at least one laugh-out-loud joke.

Holiday (1938)/Born Yesterday (1950)
Directed by George Cukor

Two delightful screwball comedies directed by one of the masters of the genre. Of the two, I’d probably give a slight edge to Born Yesterday, which finds real emotional depth in the story of a crooked businessman’s “stupid” girlfriend (Judy Holliday) and her tutor (William Holden). Holiday - a movie where Cary Grant gets engaged to a girl only to find out that her sister is Katharine Hepburn, so obviously he’s picked the wrong sister - is lighter, but it’s just as funny, especially whenever Edward Everett Horton shows up.

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t (1966)
Directed by Rossano Brazzi

The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t seems like something that should have been featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 or RiffTrax at some point, but it somehow never has been. In any case, it’s a delightful so-bad-it’s good movie all of its own. It seems that Santa Claus has been living at the North Pole rent-free all the years, but now the Eskimos sold the property to an evil, Christmas-hating man named Phineas Prune who plans to evict Santa if he can’t pay his rent. Naturally, Santa hires a lawyer to defend him and tries to find a part-time job to make money. It also features some of the oddest, most memorably terrible songs in a movie ever. An extra layer of weirdness is added by the odd dubbing - the all-Italian cast phonetically pronounced the English dialogue, and then American actors dubbed all of the voices. It’s not what I’d call a good movie, but it’s always an entertaining one.


A New Leaf (1971)
Directed by Elaine May

A New Leaf takes a moldy old premise - a bachelor needs to get married in order to inherit a fortune - and gives it two dark, brilliant twists. First, Henry (Walter Matthau) has no interest in sex or women at all. Secondly, when he meets a woman willing to marry him (Elaine May), he can’t stand her and decides to kill her - not for more money, just because he can’t stand not being single. It’s a marvel of keeping a perfect tone - if it was just a bit darker, we’d hate Henry. It was just just a bit softer, there would be no movie. As it is, it’s one of the funniest comedies of the 70s.

Being There (1979)
Directed by Hal Ashby

I’ve been burned twice in the past by “classic” Hal Ashby movies that I disliked (Harold & Maude and Shampoo). Here, he and I are finally on the same page. I knew this movie for its famous final shot, but that’s one of the least exciting things about it. Peter Sellers is subdued, lowkey and tremendous as Chance, a simple gardener who becomes a key confidant to an old businessman who’s a key confidant to the President (Jack Warden). It uses a stream of TV and radio clips to comment on the action in a way I’ve never quite seen before, and it even makes great use of Melvyn Douglas - a very boring actor in his youth - as the grumpy, dying old man.



Only Yesterday (1991)
Directed by Isao Takahata

While I’m a big Hayao Miyazaki fan, until this year I’d never seen anything directed by his Studio Ghibli co-founder Takahata. I picked the perfect place to start. When a 20-something woman goes back to the farm where she spent a summer, she thinks back to those younger days. The movie jumps between childhood and adulthood, showing how each informs the other. It’s one of the most realistic portrayals of childhood nostalgia I’ve ever seen, offering an adult who fondly remembers being a kid while also acting consistently like an adulthood. The movie has never been released in the United States, because the rights are owned by Disney and they have no idea what do with an animated film this subtle. But if you happen to come across it, it’s well worth your two hours.


Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
Directed by Mike Newell

I went into to Four Weddings expecting it to be kind of dull. I’ve never much cared for either Hugh Grant or Andie MacDowell, and I’m not generally a big fan of 1990s romantic comedies (preferring ones from decades earlier). But I was surprised and delighted to find that the movie is full of sharply drawn, fully-realized characters who aren’t the two stars (Grant is actually terrific, but MacDowell is as boring as I expected). Don’t watch it for the central relationship, which is almost beside the point. Watch it for all of their friends.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Reece Goddard

Reece Goddard is a film obsessive and pop culture junkie.
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My Name is Julia Ross (1945)
This was last seen on British TV when BBC2 screened a season of B Movies on a Friday nights back in the days when UK television regularly produced film seasons and, after tracking this down over the intervening years, this (re)discovery did not disappoint. With a running time of, around, less than 70mins, this terrific little thriller from RKO moves at a brisk pace, barely wasting a moment, with one exciting scene after another. The title character takes a job as a private secretary in a secluded house by the beach only to discover that her soon-to-be-murdered body will be used to cover up a previous murder that took place in the house so it will look like an 'accident'. This has everything you would want from a thrilling, melodramatic psychological-horror B-movie noir of the period.
I Never Sang for My father (1970)
Easily a contender for Hackman's greatest screen performance, this critically loved film garnered award nominations for both Hackman and Melvyn Douglas, was discovered randomly on cable film channel. After the death of his mother Hackman returns home to his father, whom he's never liked or respected, completely unsure if he wants to leave him alone, place him in a home or travel back with him to live with him and his new wife. You can see Hackman's character desperately try to reach out to his father yet struggling to even stay civil with him while wanting to break free and do the right thing. His father is stubborn, cold, unable to listen or forgive and hasn't spoken to his daughter (played by Hackman's Bonnie & Clyde co-star Estelle Parsons) since she married a jew and struggles to connect with anyone.
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du commercee … (1975) and The Lacemaker (1977)
Though been aware of the work of Chantel Akerman for some time it was Mark Cousins' The Story of Film which highlighted the greatness of Jeanne Dielmann which I watched just weeks before the director's death this year. More of a memorable film experience rather than a 'favourite' film I wonder whether I look forward to a re-watch or should it just remain an unforgettable cinematic journey. I would also recommend Claude Goretta's The Lacemaker (1977 aka La dentelliere ), which, at the moment, still hasn't received the wide-release it deserves. Like Jeanne Dielman it focuses on one woman's detachment from the world and day to day existence.
Long Weekend (1978)
Discovered, like most ozploitation, via the Not Quite Hollywood documentary, this tense little thriller focuses solely on one bickering couple who take a vacation near the beach and find themselves trapped, as nature, and their lack of communication, won't allow them to leave. Consisting, mostly, of small events, growing unease and increasing tension and paranoia (with only one gimmicky looking 'when animals attack' moment) this excels due to lack of explanation of awareness of the outside world – is this happening across the country or are they being punished or just paranoid?
Multi- Handicapped (1986) and the work of Frederick Wiseman.
After tracking down a copy of Titicut Follies some time ago, being primarily intrigued by it's notorious 'banned' reputation, and then watching High School, it was only in the past year that the I became aware of the vast amount of work produced by Wiseman and managed to obtain copies of Multi-Handicapped, Welfare (1975), Juvenile Court (1973), Blind (1987) and Deaf (1986). It is difficult to determine what makes the Wiseman style so unique, hypnotic and, almost addictive, seemingly just turning the camera on and recording everyday events as they happen.

Film Discoveries of 2015 - John S. Berry

Attempted positive guy on Twitter @JohnSBerry1 (I am not high on quantity of followers but overflowing with quality), occasional wise cracker on Gonzo Guys podcast and guy that saw Alien on HBO at way to young of an age. I still actively hunts down VHS tapes and am constantly taking notes to seek out films. It is near impossible to describe how happy I am after watching a gem of a film, often I have to go walk it off in the cool night air. Viva la cinema! 
I wanted to write this piece as an exercise in a well edited concise manner and not my usual diatribe stream of consciousness. Well, after two hour commutes, mandatory work overtime and old man aches and pains I find myself in a hazy Argento like world so go with what you know!
Website:
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American Hollow (1999): 
An early HBO documentary I found at the end of a blank tape bought at a Goodwill (the home movie at the start of the tape is an amazing find in itself). American Hollow follows the Bowling family in Virginia through moss and root collecting, chicken neck snapping, jail time and teenage hillbilly heartbreak. 
It is a fascinating and at times charming look at a family truly living off the grid. This is way before The Wonderful World of the Whites and does not have that for the cameras feel that some recent docs or CMT/MTV shows regarding this culture have. You never feel like the filmmakers are exploiting this family.
Watching this doc you start to think about how maybe the Bowling family has it more figured out than the rest of us. They are living a life that works for them and they do seem close. You feel the genuine love and support among them for one another. The scenes of teenage heartbreak can resonate with any of us regardless of background or social stature, especially when the mom is trying to calm her son down. 
On days of three hour commutes my mind often wonders back to this movie and how maybe I need to simplify my life, walking in the woods moss collecting sounds pretty nice some days.

Silent Night Deadly Night 3: You Better Watch Out (1989): Sure Silent Night Deadly night 1 is a mean spirited classic and SNDN2 is hovering high in cult status due to brilliant/insane eyebrows of Eric Freeman but I have to say I enjoyed part 3 You Better Watch Out in all its fever like glory even though it really did not have too much Christmas feel to it. 
Bill Moseley as Ricky (huh?) slipper shuffles down the highway after a blind psychic connection with a battery packed fish bowl exposed brain. Meanwhile Robert Culp hauls ass down the 101 and gives an infomercial from the future about cell phones and somehow the shuffling hitch hiker got there first. 
The highlight for me was the odd muscle man casting (hmm a SNDN theme?) of Eric DaRe. With his shoe horned 80’s pop culture quotes, flowing fields of chest hair to match his Winger lion’s mane I may have found one of my new favorite what the hell performances. 
This film fit perfectly into my Christmas Eve I cannot sleep 5AM haze viewing and I found myself scratching my head into Christmas day about all the random oddness I saw in SNDN 3. 

Hi, Mom! (1970): 
I heard a discussion recently when the question came up if DeNiro was going to be able to have one more classic role before his time was up. Maybe he should go back to a strange art house type film to change things up a bit. 
I bought this on VHS on a whim for $2 from the great Captain Video store. I was shocked to see it was a Brian DePalma early film. It is truly interesting but not totally enjoyable and it stuck with me for some time. 
The first act feels like a silly comedy and DeNiro as a Peeping Tom trying to make a buck but is not great at his hustle and I enjoyed this section. The film then takes a dramatic shift in tone to black and white film and features a long performance art Black Panther play where the white audience is humiliated as part of the show. 
The film also has some amazingly catchy tunes which is not something I can say for a lot of films that unsettle you. There are a lot of different tones in the film and De Niro goes from nervous bumbling guy to activist to manipulator very easily, wonder if he still could? 

The Cannibal Man (1973)
Just by the title you would imagine this being a savage gross film and while it does have a few rough scenes it is more in the character slowly digging a hole further and further down into madness. 
The opening is super rough showing the inner workings of a slaughter house and you get a glimpse of Marcos simply eating his sandwich the same as if he was by a beautiful fountain at an office park. Marcos is a regular guy content to work his slaughter house factory job and is not looking to set the world on fire, he seems content with his life. 
What makes the film so compelling is how one incident in just a regular night gets escalated and leads to a chain of events, Vicente Parra plays Marcos as a sympathetic character who isn’t a villain or bad guy, but a man slowly unravelling. You also never know how much Marcos’ neighbor knows about what is truly going on and to add to the tension you also are unsure of the neighbor’s motives.
The dusty and dry setting of Marcos’ shack and surrounding also adds the feeling of oppressive heat and odor similar to how in Martin the small abandoned steel town of Pennsylvania almost acted as a character. This film is a subtle but intense one that created a very unnerving atmosphere. 

Pancho El Sancho (1988): 
Picking up this multi disc collection may be the best .99 I spent in recent years. In the 80s it seems Mexico movies also had the idea of making screwball comedies but amped it up by offering full blown nudity rather than the US bikini clad counter parts. 
My friend picked one up on VHS at the Flea Market in San Jose and that first film (translated to The Three Boatmen) got the ball rolling. If you would look at my DVD collection you would think I spoke Spanish, well you would be muy muy wrongo! Not knowing the spoken language of a film gives any film no matter how silly an art house quality added with a sense of choose your own adventure. 
With this in mind scenes in Pancho El Sancho seem non-linear and you wonder why is a guy wearing a bright green oversized cowboy hat in full body bandages, why is there a poster of Sylvester Stallone movie Cobra on a living room wall and why did the maid strip down naked for the portly man in a pants suit on a roof top? The answer that comes to mind is WHY NOT? 
You can piece some of the plot together and it involves a Love Potion #9 theme where a magic locket makes you appear to women as their biggest fantasy. Alberto Rojas is a charming bug eyed goof ball who in this roll is similar to Patrick Dempsey in Loverboy, albeit an older one with thinner hair. While not a great film it does have a fun sense to it and watching it makes for a fun experiment in a hour and half dose. 

Grave of the Vampire (1972):
On Black Friday I pulled out my bible of Nightmare USA and searched thru the Roku to watch some films from this amazing book. As with most of the movies featured in the book the description sounded intriguing and the art of a bloody mouthed Michael Pataki sold me to fire this up. 
The print on streaming was scratchy but it added to the overall feel (although I would love to see this released on Blu Ray). The opening is truly a masterpiece of dread. At this point I was pretty sure I knew which direction the movie was going but was total wrong which is one of my favorite things in life! But when I looked up information about the film I found that David Chase of Sopranos fame wrote this so that explains the unexpected turns. 
Reviews I have read often say that William Smith was a bad choice for the lead mail as he is stiff and way to muscle bound to be a sympathetic character. I found him endearing as kind of a big shy, awkward galoot tracking down his evil father. The love interest angle takes an interesting twist as well and Michael Pataki as Caleb Croft (may be the best villain name ever) is masterful as the charming vampire professor. 

Crimes of Stephen Hawke (1936): 
The night I watched this I tweeted that I was pretty sure that I may be the first person in history to watch a Tod Slaughter film on a treadmill. This film may also be the first to ever have a meta moment as it opens with a radio broadcast and an interview with the charming Tod Slaughter about the film and we head into the lean efficient hour film (I felt proud to have watched a whole film while doing cardio).
Slaughter does an amazing job of playing basically two different roles. He transforms himself very slyly from Stephen Hawke a frail old money lender who dotes on his daughter Julia to the sinister and ultimately wicked Spinebreaker who has no qualms about snapping the spines regardless of age or who they are related to. 
The movie is a great example of a man getting deeper and deeper into trouble. As the film progresses Hawke becomes more reckless in his actions all the while still having a sweet sentimental side about his daughter the one thing that matters even while he is committing acts of brutality. The style and acting is definitely a product of its time and feels similar to a play but it was a great pallet cleanser for me as I often watch too many shot on video and or 67 horror movies for $3.99 variety. 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Film Discoveries of 2015 - Ivan Infante

Ivan Infante is the former manager of Laser Blazer and a longtime failed screenwriter. Recently, he is the author of two pulp novels (FALSE RANSOM & FIXED FIGHT) about grifters in the Los Angeles of 1938. Follow him on Twitter @EddieMarsAttack.

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THE UNFAITHFUL (1947)
I came to this film because of Vincent Sherman. His WHAT PRICE HOLLYWOOD? ranks as one of my all-time favorites. This one doesn’t quite match it, but comes close. The story is based on a play called THE LETTER by W. Somerset Maugham. It was already filmed under that title by William WylerThis version is more subtle.
In THE UNFAITHFUL, Ann Sheridan kills an intruder that attacks her in her home. When the police arrive, she claims not to know the dead man. In fact, she does. She had an affair with him. Soon her lawyer, Lew Ayres, figures it out. As the police close in, she tells her husband played by Zachary Scott.
Vincent Sherman directs with his usual craftsmanship, using some great old L.A. locations. Places like Angel’s flight, MacArthur Park, and the Ambassador Hotel are showcased. Sherman takes great advantage of these setting.The transitions between these scenes are also quite clever. The only hindrance is the bombastic score by Max Steiner.
Another highlight for me was the cast. The three leads do great work and are supported by Eve Arden, Jerome Cowan, and Steven Gerry (who I almost didn’t recognize from GILDA which I had watched the night before.) A lot of small scenes with the secondary characters stand out and allow the story to get deep into some complex social issues.
For starters, Ann took a step down when she got married. There’s reference to her being a successful fashion editor before her marriage and how she left that behind.She’s not enjoying sitting at home waiting for Zachary Scott. As for Zachary, Eve Arden lays into him for how he married Ann after only two weeks because he didn’t want to go to war and not have a wife at home. Also how he took off as soon as the war ended to work on distant building projects in a drive to get rich. He never took any time to get to know his wife after he came home from the war.
This case for Ann is casually discarded by Lew Ayresa few scenes later. He plays a divorce attorney and family friend who complains about “cheating conniving women” and tells Ann at one point that he “only wants to know what else you’re guilty of.” The movie really lays out what people thought in this era and is fairly self-critical. Of course, the best part comes at the end. Ann gets what few actresses get in the pictures from this era. She gets away with it.


THE CROOKED WAY (1949)
I picked this film to watch because of John Alton. I was not disappointed. Even the briefest shots are beautifully lit. Scenes set in hallways. Shots looking out from darkness into light. Close ups on shadowed faces. Spectacular.
The story is basic. A soldier played by John Payne hasamnesia from a piece of shrapnel in his brain. Army doctors try to find his family, but there’s no information about him from before he enlisted. All they know is that he enlisted in Los Angeles. So, in a last ditch attempt to revive his memory, he returns to that city.
He’s greeted by the cops when he gets to Union station. Turns out he’s a gangster that betrayed his partners and skipped town. He made a big mistake by coming home. The head gangster, played by wooden actor and Johnny Carson punch-line Sonny Tufts, hears about the traitor’s return and sets out for revenge. Another performance worth mentioning comes from Percy Helton. He’s a great character actor and delivers the goods in a small role.
Payne stumbles along on a mission of self-discovery. Irritating everyone and getting frustrated at every turn. He plays it well. He starts out as an amnesiac in a fog, then gets even more confused as he learns more about his past. Ellen Drew plays the woman that he loved when he left. They fall in love again. There’s a great scene where he first confronts her in the gambling joint where she works for Sonny Tufts.
This is a surprisingly dark film from Robert Florey, director of THE COCOANUTS. In fact, the NY Times review contains the following quote: “The human family may not be perfect, buy why subject it to so-called entertainment that is only fit for savage beasts.” I must be a savage beast. I loved it.


FIGURES IN A LANDSCAPE (1970)
I had wanted to see this for a long time because of Robert Shaw. I didn’t realize at the time that he wrote this picture too. He did a fine job. The real credit here goes to the director Joseph Losey. The music and visuals create incredible menace as a helicopter flies over a barren landscape searching for fugitives played by Malcolm McDowell and Robert Shaw.
The movie does a masterful job with ambiguity as well. Although the film was shot in Southern Spain (where I’m from, so awesome to see it), it is never made clear where they are. Only that they are prisoners on the run from this helicopter. The movie opens with them running with hands tied. They don’t get their hands loose for a good third of the film. I found this excruciating to watch and very effective.
The helicopter is one of the stars and highlights of the film. The long helicopter takes over the sweeping barren landscape go on and on and add to the tension and fear.This combined with a dynamite score by Richard Rodney Bennett elevate the film above the norm for me. I definitely will check some other scores he did in the near future.
McDowell and Shaw are great to watch togetherMcDowell was not quite yet a huge star and seems very young next to the road weary Shaw. They play out a standard generation confrontation. The old man is violent and pragmatic and full of real experiences. The young man is idealistic and naïve and over-educated. In the end, it’s Shaw that bears the ultimate burden. McDowell might be a stupid kid but he can escape his destiny. Shaw is too wrapped up in it.


BEAST OF THE CITY (1932)
The great Jean Harlow came up in a conversation the other day when I was discussing tragic deaths of great actors. She died so young. Four years after this movie was released. It’s tragic knowing that while watching the film. She’s so dynamic and alive. She makes the movie great.
The movie was basically a propaganda piece cooked up by Hoover and Mayer in a reaction to the popular gangster pictures coming out of Warner Bros. This one was meant to highlight the police and demonize the gangsters. For starters, the opening scene is a gang killing where four bodies hang from the ceiling. Despite these efforts at propaganda, I’m not sure they succeedEven Mayer didn’t really want to release it in the end and it ran as the second picture on double bills.
This is a pre code film with sparkling dialogue and some pretty startling actions by the characters, especially the police. One stand out scene is Harlow’s seduction of Wallace Ford and her implication that she likes it rough.The finale is also pretty shocking and downbeat. It surprised me.
Another great performance come from a young Mickey Rooney who shows up as Walter Huston’s kid and steals every scene he’s in. Crazy to see him work. I know he started as a toddler in vaudeville, but he’s such a consummate pro at the age of ten it’s kind of hard to believe.
The director, Charles Brabin, had a long career in Silents. He does amazing work here. There’s a very sophisticated tracking shot through the police precinct that flows in and out of conversations and some deft handling of courtroom scenes. I will definitely look into his other films. This one is fantastic.

THE CAPTIVE CITY (1952)
I watched this because it was directed by Robert Wise. Not that I love Wise, in fact, I am not a huge fan. Still I am a completist, so I rented THE CAPTIVE CITY. This is another propaganda picture disguised as a film noir and itwears the disguise well. It was one of many exposé pictures inspired by the Kefauver hearings on organized crime. Kefauver himself makes an appearance in this one to lecture the audience.
The story is straight forward. John Forsythe plays a newspaper man struggling to expose a corrupt gambling syndicate in his town. He gets on the case when a Private Investigator that had been discussing it with the paper gets murdered. This is the opening scene of the film and a great one. The editing of how the car chases the guy down and crushes him against the wall is quite well put together.
As I watched, became intrigued by a parallel between the way the communities react in CAPTIVE CITY and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS. The blindness and denial of the evil in their midst. The paranoia of the alien other somehow controlling behind the scenes.
Another standout feature of this film is the depth of focus shots. The movie was filmed entirely on location in Reno and they took advantage. I particularly liked the newsroom production line stuff, but most of the cool stuff was outside. For one thing, a new camera lens had recently been developed by Ralph Hoge and they used the hell out of it. Hoge had worked with Wise on CITIZEN KANE and he worked on THE CAPTIVE CITY as well. The lens adds deep realistic visuals that heighten the documentary feel. Shout out to Eleanor Quinn who wrote up a review of CAPTIVE CITY for TCM for that tidbit.
Interestingly, the film never gives you a real ending. When Forsythe shows up to report the gangsters to the Committee, the door is shut in the audiences face and the assassins disappear into the crowd.

CAPTAIN APACHE (1971)
This acid Western also goes by the title DEATHWORK which intrigued me and led me to it. I loved the movie. It is one of those movies that might not be great, but is definitely great to watch.
It gets started with one of the best opening songs ever as Lee Van Cleef pensively raps about his character and the situation he finds himself in. He plays an Apache captain on the hunt of his commanding officer’s killer. His commanding officer’s last words were ‘April Morning.’Van Cleef spends the rest of the movie looking for the meaning of those words while wearing a hilarious wig.
A series of overplayed murders follows as Van Cleefcloses in on the meaning of his those last words. This journey is often derailed. For one, there’s an awesome trip out scene where Van Cleef drinks a psychedelic and things get weird. Later it gets even weirder. Van Cleef strips down to a loincloth to prove he’s a real Indian with red skin. Then he spends an uncomfortable amount of time oiled-up and half-naked, sucking in his gut. It’s an astounding moment for the Cinema.
The cast is rounded out with quality: Stuart Whitman, Carroll Baker, Percy Herbert, and Elisa Montes. All of whom have some good screen time in a movie that can’t havmade much sense to anyone involved.
Still, the plot meanders along beautifully with cool music and strange atmosphere. My mind wandered a little bit to the Kennedy assassination. There’s lots of strange correlations between the stories, because the words April Morning play a part in an assassination plot. Watch the film to see exactly how.