As the title says, a merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all, and thanks for reading! I hope your holidays are all fantastic!
Mine were pretty good, with many super neat presents received, including a lot of classic horror (mainly Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee material), the complete series of Bewitched (YES!), Watchmen (which is great, because it's always something I've been keen enough on to consider reading, but not enough to ever actually bother buying it, so it was a perfect thing to receive as an Xmas gift), and the coffin box-set for Elvira's Movie Macabre (which is a lot smaller than expected, and has a pretty crappy idea of disc storage, but is otherwise great!), among other things.
I'll leave with the note that Laverne and Shirley and Grease 2 are important things to have on one's mind on Christmas Day, or any day for that matter! I'm sure you'll agree...
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Park ranger Don Bradley has just been promoted after an act of selfless bravery during a wildfire, and is prepared to propose to his old ladyfriend Kay. However, it turns out that he's too late, and she's already married. Whoops! Don seems positively square-riffic when compared with Steve, but it soon becomes apparent that Kay's husband is hiding a dark secret-He's really a murderous smuggler. Kay finds this out just before a deal goes sour, and Steve kills several people, then going into hiding, dragging Kay along with him. She breaks away and goes to Don for help, as the authorities believe her to be complicit in Steve's crimes, so he sets her up in an isolated cabin up in the mountains. Steve finds her though, and it's up to Don to rescue Kay in time, if he can...
Dark Mountain is simply ok. It's an unremarkable film that does nothing but kill an hour. The story is just there.
Making the movie worse is the the leads are a couple of dopes. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the scene where Don visits Kay at the cabin after Steve has found her. While the ranger is over, Steve is hidden in the bedroom, and at no point does Kay wink, or signal to her beau 'My psycho murderer husband is in the next room! SEND HELP!'. Later on, after a few days have passed, she still hasn't told Don, and he still hasn't caught on. "You're eating enough for two people!" He says in a befuddled tone, the possibility that there is a second person in the cabin completely eluding his 'keen senses'. Following that, Don notices a shoeprint, but figures that since it's a man's shoe, it must be his, and happily goes on with his day. Later on, when Don's talking with his pal Willie, he's saying he's beginning to suspect that Steve is at the cabin-A conclusion he's arrived to due to several little things coming together. He then proceeds to list off half a dozen HUGE red flags! Little things my ass!
The acting is all ok. The two leads are decent, while Regis Toomey is quite good as the dastardly antagonist! Quite a different role for Reeg, as he's playing a villain, as opposed to a cop or G-Man. Despite not being the main character, he probably gets more screentime than Robert Lowery. Yep, the people behind this movie definitely knew who the audience really wanted to see more of!
There's also a surprisingly young Elisha Cook Jr. here, but the movie kills him just over 20 minutes in! NO, movie! BAD, movie!
Also present is Eddie Quillan, who I mistook for Joey Forman at first, before I realized the age discrepancy. I didn't much care for Quillan's performance in parts, and neither does his adorable pet dog!* Besides annoying moments like that though, he's decent. He also gets the worst/best line of the movie, in "Ain't it the cats?", used to describe something great.
*The dog understands the rules of checkers, by the way. He is amazing.
One last thing. May I say that I LOVE this font? I've seen it in countless movies, including a good chunk of what I've been looking at for this marathon. I wish movies nowadays had as much personality as older ones, rather than just have a dull wall of white text over black nothing, for around 10 minutes. There's something so much better about end credits that actually have an end, and look more interesting than just boring black.
Dark Mountain wasn't a very entertaining watch. The script as it is doesn't really have enough story to justify being a feature length film. With that in mind, it's actually really good that it's only 56 minutes long, but it's still lacking in some respects, and is ultimately just ok...
It sure took a while, but we're finally out of the 1930's and into the 40's, with Bullet Scars! Though not for long, as only this and the following review are of films from this decade...
A gang of hardened criminals robs a bank, but one of them is shot, badly injured. After one failed attempt at forcing a doctor to save their friend Joe (ending in the innocent man's death after he tried to call the police), the gang hide out in the country while a manhunt ensues, and they enlist the help of Dr. Steven. They tell him that their friend was simply injured in a hunting accident, and they get him to help with offers of extravagant pay. With the help of Joe's nurse sister Nora, Dr. Steven tries his best to save the man's life, and while he seems to be starting to recover, that's short lived. Meanwhile, as things g on, Steven realizes the truth of what's happening. As Joe's health begins to fail, the two unwilling surgeon's have to work out what they're going to do to get out of this terrible situation...
Not much to discuss with Bullet Scars. It's just a simple little crime flick, under an hour, and over and done with before you can blink.
While everything preceding it is akin to dishwater, the ending is absolutely redonkulous! There's a huge amount of cops, and the bare handful of crooks manage to put up quite a fight, lasting well into the night, and withstanding tear gas (which the writer took too literally)! All without ever reloading, or running out of ammo, too! Then, after several minutes worth of movie of this, the cops decide to flush the gang out by lighting a truck on fire and driving it into the farm, where it explodes! Didn't know the police were allowed to do that! Jeez, Detective Carter in Rush Hour would be surprised at how crazy these guys are acting! Following that, when that attempt at 'flushing the gang out' SOMEHOW killed them all, Steven and Nora grin, have a laugh with the police commissioner, then abruptly leave, saying "Come on, let's get out of here", in a chipper tone. Don't try and act too shocked, you two! Also, I'm pretty sure the police will want a few words with you! As will a psychiatrist!
The dialogue is all pretty meh, though one line had me laughing,-"Stay away from dames, and you stay away from trouble.". Don't worry, it's said by one of the villains.
The characters aren't much to speak of. Dr. Steven loses points when right after finding out that there are wanted bank robbers in the area, who fit the bill perfectly with the incredibly suspicious people hanging around who refuse to let him leave their hideout alone, Nora tries to warn him away, saying there's danger, and he glibly ignores her! The chump is all "Now you've got me so curious, I couldn't leave if I wanted to.". Once he finally does figure out what's going on, and after things start going wrong, he gets disturbingly trigger-happy in the climax for a doctor!
The gangsters all blend together, and I'm still not sure if there are 4 of them, or 8, or 6, or 9, or what! I wasn't a fan of the annoying comic relief gangster who won't shut up about vitamins, though I did like how that played into the conclusion, even if in a marginally stupider way than I was expecting*.
*I assumed Steven would be manipulating the crooks into getting a prescription of sleeping pills, which he'd then use on them. Instead, however, he writes a secret message on the scrip, hoping the the pharmacist can read fluent Latin!
The acting here is all decent, with Regis Toomey delivering a fine performance. The acting just before the climax is really rushed though, as if there was only a certain amount of film or time left, and the director had the actors hurry through their dialogue. One final thing to note is the appearance by the interesting Hobart Bosworth.
One last thing: Jesus, were men in the 30's and 40's born with fedoras attached to their heads?!
Bullet Scars is mostly a dull film, but damn all if the insane ending didn't give me plenty to talk about! I still don't much recommend it, but it's not too bad...
It's sad that the term 'The Orient' isn't much in use anymore, because it's one cool name! It's sadder still that people assume that just because the word isn't used anymore (as some words simply fall out of vogue now and again, as happens with language), that it must be a racist word, therefore anyone who says 'The Orient' is a fucking racist scumbag, to which I say "HEY!". Assholes...
Young heiress Viola Avery is almost caught in a Chinese gambling den during a raid, and meets an art collector who takes her home. Meanwhile, the police are hot on the trail of a smuggling operation, illegally transporting Chinese citizens to America. Investigating officer Bob Baxter, knowing of Viola's presence due to her dropped purse at the gambling den, calls on her for help. He suspects the art dealer she met as being involved with the criminal operation, and that hunch turns out to be accurate...
Shadows of the Orient is a really fun movie! It's not great, but after the movies I've been watching lately for this marathon, it's a welcome change of pace. It has thrilling action, chase scenes, an interesting smuggling story, as well as a fun aerial conclusion, if a little too quick.
Inspector Bob Baxter is a pretty decent lead, despite this supposed new blood to revitalize the force instantly falling head over heels for the attractive suspect. He makes up for it later on though when he literally punches a lightbulb out!
While she seems like a bit of a spoiled brat at first, Viola is a fun character, and she's a crack pilot too! Neat seeing a woman having a skill like that in an old film like this, and during the Hays Code too, when the censor board would likely have been of the unanimous decision of "This uppity creature can't presume to fly! What about bears?! Her periods will attract sky bears! They are a serious threat, people!", followed by declarations of "Silly girl. Only angels have wings!".
The villains are an ok bunch, and sometimes hilariously unobservant.
Regis Toomey's acting in Shadows of the Orient is really good! It's great seeing how far his acting has improved over just a few short years. The rest of the film's cast is fine, with Esther Ralston making for a nice sidekick/co-lead. There are also actual Chinese actors playing Chinese characters! Phew!
Thankfully this movie isn't racist at all! Sure, the word 'chinaman' is used a bit, but there are never any negative remarks made about 'subhuman chungs', or any other garbage like that on display here at all. It is a little annoying that there are no onscreen Chinese protagonists, nor is there any explanation for why these criminals are smuggling their countrymen to America. Unfortunately the main villain is just another white guy. That's something that could go either way. Obviously having Chinese villains in a movie would be fine-You can have the heroes and villains in your stories be whoever you want. In a movie from the 1930's though, I bet some people may have breathed a sigh of relief that the lead baddie was white, so there'd be no potential for negative stereotypes against an Asian lead villain, as well as the movie not showing the main villains as Chinese too.
Shadows of the Orient is definitely well-made, and looks like it had quite the budget. It's possibly the best looking movie I've reviewed so far for this marathon!
One last thing to mention is that there are SO MANY fedoras in this movie! Look guys, I like fedoras as much as anyone else, but this was just too much!*
*Note: This is a lie. There can never be too many fedoras.
While it does take a little while to get going, Shadows of the Orient is a fun little movie, and I totally recommend it! Definitely a pleasant surprise. I also love that title!...
Here we are again with another old dark house movie for the Regis Toomey Marathon! I wonder how One Frightened Night stacks up to the last one...
Elderly millionaire Jasper Whyte has called for a reading of his will, and given the lack of direct descendants, he''s seen fit to give his vast riches to distant relations/staff members, pleasing them to no end. He mentions though that if his long estranged (thanks to the actions of her parents) granddaughter Doris Waverly comes to the reading, she'll receive everything. Sure enough, Doris arrives, wanting to make up for lost time with her uncle. But is it the real Doris? Things get complicated when a second Doris Waverly shows up, and the first is murdered...
One Frightened Night is ok. It shares quite a few similarities with Wayne Murder Case, but it's a tad better. Whereas WMC was very by-the-numbers, this has a more interesting story. Unfortunately once the murder happens, things take a bit of a downturn into dullsville for a little while. Funnily enough, as the movie progresses, it ends up resembling WMC more and more!
For the record, this isn't a comedy. The opening minutes, as well as the title, had me under the impression that it was, but nope! There are murdernanigans afoot! The movie does have some levity and comic relief though, so it's not all grim tidings.
Part of what bugs me with One Frightened Night's story is that there's very little suspense as to which granddaughter is the real one, as the first one is murdered offscreen soon after she appears, and we don't even see so much as a body either, besides a brief flash of her hand. Quite a shame, as that angle of 'Which is which?' is what I found so interesting about the movie!
The ending disappointed me. It seems like it's going with an interesting route regarding the killer's identity, but the film soon ditches that idea and goes with a more traditional route.
The characters all start off pretty likeable in the surprisingly positive will-reading scene, but once the 'granddaughter' arrive, they take a tun for the worse, and the cockheads all take out their frustration on the granddaughter rather than the guy who wrote the will!
There's a great little moment after the attempted murder of Lavelle, when one character once again just derisively calls him by his surname, and Jasper surprisingly chimes in with the magician saying 'The Great Lavelle', and the two characters share a happy little bow.
Doris (the real one, that is), is likeable, but only screams, and isn't very proactive, while Regis Toomey's character, almost the defacto hero, is nothing special. The fake Doris seems quite prominent at first, but is very quickly dispatched, as mentioned above. Jasper is an entertaining old rich guy, and thankfully actually survives the movie (not a spoiler), while the Great Lavelle is a fun dude, and it's a shame he doesn't get the happiest of endings, what with being embarrassed, made a fool of, and not even getting the girl in the end!
One Frightened Night has a super neat intro! Wayne Murder Case had a similar one, introducing all of the cast with visuals from the movie, and captions, but they were just regular scenes from the movie, and ones that came very quickly thanks to the short runtime. Here though, the intros are specially filmed for the opening credits! By the way, the one for Regis Toomey makes him look like Gwynplaine!
The acting in this movie is all serviceable, with a few decent performances. Regis Toomey is decent, even if his character isn't. I especially liked Mary Carlisle. Here's the interesting bit-She's still alive! Yep, Mary Carlisle is a regular Lupita Tovar, and is currently relaxing at the ripe old age of 102/104 (apparently sources differ). Go, Miss Carlisle!
One Frightened Night is no The Old Dark House, but it's not a bad film either, and old dark house movies are usually pretty watchable fun. It is a really good setting/premise for a story, after all...
A tale of tropical lust! Does Picture Bride live up to that tagline? Well, it is Pre-Code, so it just might...It doesn't...
A group of mail-order brides arrive in a small town in Brazil, ready to be married to several mine workers. One of the brides, the young and meek Mary, is to be married to the brutish Von Luden, who co-owns the mine, but the friendly understanding bride Mame switches their tags. This leads Mary to end up with the mine's other owner Dave Hart, and Mame with Von Luden, who has no interest in marrying her (lucky girl!). Mary takes a liking to Dave, but he doesn't feel the same about her at first, not wanting to get married. Things soon change, however, and the two fall for each-other. Soon, things come to a head between Dave and Von Luden's increasingly violent behaviour, but the fiend has some serious dirt on Dave, who it turns out is wanted back in the States for embezzlement...
Picture Bride's plot is extremely lacking, with poorly written, as well as paced, conflict. Then takes a turn for the incredibly depressing in the final 6 minutes. This abrupt eleventh hour tragedy has no point, and leads to a minor character resolving the movie for the leads, without them having to lift their fingers! The ending is rushed like you wouldn't believe! It also doesn't understand how crime and punishment work. Say, have you embezzled several hundred thousand dollars, then gone on the run for several years, but feel a yearning to go back home, to the US of good ol' A? Just pay the equivalent of what you stole back to who you stole it from, and everything will be hunky dory! No problem at all! *facepalms*
Funnily enough, the characters were all such horrible people at first, so when Von Luden first shows up, I joked 'Given this movie's track record, he's probably a serial killer!', and wouldn't you know it, much to my surprise the dude immediately shoots someone, right in public, too! I was worried the film was going to portray this murderous, racist monster as a protagonist, given the time period, but thankfully it doesn't in the slightest, and he's definitely the villain. Quite a relief, as he also smugly talks in the third person. He just has to be held accountable for such actions! As I got further into the movie, I didn't mind the other characters, and they were ok, though very underdeveloped. There's not much to them, sadly, but they at least become tolerable. The British bride was definitely my favourite!
The romance element left me cold for the most part. Toomey's character is just so humourless and boring, and has no chemistry with Mary. He barely likes her all that much for most of the movie, nor is at all receptive to the idea of a marriage. Just look at their wedding picture!
One amusing moment is when Mary entreats to him "Why don't you go back to the States and take your medicine?". As if the goofy dialogue wasn't weird enough, after a pause, he grins for the first time, then kisses Mary passionately.
The dialogue in this movie is certainly something! "My word, how ripping!", "Ha, can you beat it?"*, "Sufferin' cats!", "Aw, get back in line, you filthy slug!" as well as even quoting El Brendel! That is a very good thing in my book!
*That line comes off better spoken rather than written, as the latter makes it sound a lot more mundane than it actually is.
Dorothy Libaire (or Dorothy Mackaill. I'm a little confused which of the two main actresses here are which, partly due to to their same first names, the name switcheroo their characters perform, as well as the movie's irritating lack of actor credits) is an ok lead. Regis Toomey doesn't really get up to much of anything in this movie, which is a mean feat considering he has the most screentime behind the Dorothy! He's ok, but his character is just too dull for me to care much. I'd say his drunk acting is amusingly bad, but people in real life act all sorta ways when smashed, including some that'd seem fake if not for the fact that they aren't, so I'll give Toomey a pass.
While only four years after Framed, Toomey looks a bit older already! That's of course because the dude was already 32 in 1930, and he looked more like 22 in that movie. Understandable then that he'd look more in his 30's come only a few years later.
This film was a pretty crummy watch. If you want to see an exotic 1930's B-Movie, you could do much better with Queen of the Amazons, and the fact that that movie actually came out in 1947 should not deter you. At the very least, Picture Bride is a more romantic mail-order bride flick than The Naked Jungle!...
Bob Palmer has just been released from prison after a two-year stint, and returns home to his loving mother, who thought he was in Australia the whole time, as did Bob's ladyfriend Margie, who's keen to pick up their romance where it left off. Things go well for the reformed Bob, but a villainous coworker who uncovers Bob's secret and wants to have Margie all for himself seeks to ruin everything...
The Penal Code isn't a very good film at all! It's pretty poorly paced for a start. It takes 25 minutes before Bob even reaches home. This is a particular problem if the film in question happens to be under a friggin' hour! Then there's the relationship between Bob and Margie. It feels like we miss their entire romance, and before you know it, Bob's already proposing! There's also a plot point that's seemingly forgotten, only to be brought up again in the final two minutes, and was a little [confusing], precisely because of how little attention it got. The ending is quite confusing. Also, when it comes to the villain exposing Bob's secret and trying to frame him for a crime he didn't commit (which you just know is gonna happen, even if summaries for the movie didn't already spell it out), we aren't kept in suspense long, because at that point, there's only a few minutes of the movie left! I don't mind that so much though, as it means less awkwardness. Most annoying is the ending, wherein the movie just stops. Bob's fiancee and mother never find out about the real reason he was gone for two years, and we never even see any final words from the two lovers. It just cuts to them after the climax, they smile and kiss, The End. Oh well, at the least, I was worried it'd have a downer ending, but nope, it all wraps up quite happily, which I liked.
The print I saw (on Youtube) was cropped, which was a little irksome. I didn't feel particularly bad about not seeking out the DVD, because apparently that's cropped too! Public domain releases sure can be dicey sometimes.
Speaking of that, I couldn't cell certain characters apart, thanks to both the crappy quality of the print I watched, alongside the identical suits and hats almost every male character wears. Jeez, did everyone back then wear a suit and tie?
I guess so!...
There's a really bizarre and unexplained moment when the film suddenly turns into The Testament of Dr. Mabuse. This movie also shows that even as far back as 1932, Americans still couldn't pronounce Brisbane correctly! Briz-bain? Briz-bin, with a soft I!*
*Well, at least I think that's what you call a soft I? It's not pronounced like a rubbish bin is what I'm getting at.
The acting is ok, but not that great in some scenes. Regis Toomey is decent, though I wish he'd gotten a better script, to better flesh out his character. Also, of note is that he performs an entire scene with a cat perched on his shoulders! Awwww!
The direction is standard, but sometimes awkward, and holds too long on some shots. I also could've done without the scene where we see Bob close down a bank in real time!
One glaring omission this movie has is a score, and that wouldn't necessarily be a problem. Music is an integral part of a movie, but if it's an indie film and it doesn't have the budget to hire a composer, I understand, just as long as the lack of score isn't a problem/hindrance (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and I Spit on Your Grave/Day of the Woman are both great examples of movies with minimal soundtracks). The problem with Penal Code though is how the lack of music doesn't do anything to heighten the mood, but rather just makes a pretty dull movie a little duller.
The Penal Code definitely does not get a recommendation from me. It's good for a bit of a laugh sometimes, but not worth watching, except for Regis Toomey...
Elderly multimillionaire Silas Wayne has invited his family and 'friends' over to his house for a reading of his will, but is none too happy about it. The man is openly resentful of everyone, from his children, to grandchildren, and even his staff. During the reading, Silas collapses from what's seemingly an ongoing illness, but when he's lifted up from his desk, there's a knife in his chest. With a murderer in the house somewhere, Detective Sergeant Mitchell of the police is in the case, while a plucky girl reporter sneaks her way in in hope of finding a great story to print...
Wayne Murder Case is a decent little sitting-room mystery. The film is also known as A Strange Adventure. The version I saw was called Wayne Murder Case (complete with an annoying lack of a 'The' at the start), which is a title I frankly prefer, as it's more fitting. The events of this movie are neither strange, nor an adventure, really.
The short length had me worried at first, because the movie takes its time setting things up I was watching the clock, worried that Regis Toomey wouldn't show up until, say, the half-hour mark! Well, it's not that bad, but still not all that good. He doesn't first appear until a full third in. Thankfully he's at least in almost every scene following that.
The mystery is handled pretty decently, even if it's not the kind where the viewer gets all the facts as the story goes along. Really, the minimal runtime is what hampers that, as a longer movie, or particularly a book would have more time to develop the mystery, and plant clues for the viewer/reader. Now, I won't say who the murderer is, but it's Dwight Frye!...Just kidding (or am I?). If he was, that'd sure make the movie pretty predictable, though it wouldn't matter in the long run, with Frye playing the villain! Unfortunately he doesn't really get much of anything to do, which is a shame.
There are a few dumb aspects to Wayne Murder Case, such as how Mitchell just gives everyone free rein in the house, resulting in several attempts at tampering with/destroying evidence, and further killings!
Speaking of, this film has quite a useless murderer, but that's ok in a way, as it means there isn't a house full of corpses before the movie's end. That's my issue with the kinds of mysteries where most of the cast end up dead before the killer is apprehended. It kinda takes away from the detective(s)! I don't appreciate the comic relief nature the spooky killer takes on whenever running into the butler, but it soon becomes apparent that this dude is nothing but a joke.
What I definitely appreciated though was the ending! Certainly not something you see in this kind of movie, or any movie for that matter!
Pictured above: A female reporter in the 1930's among colleagues!
There are a few awkward pauses and moments of silence from time to time, but for the most part, the movie is directed well.
Something I'm curious about is if Wayne Murder Case was an inspiration for the Laura Bow video games. They share some elements, such as the general time period-ish, a plucky female journalist, an inheritance murder-mystery where the characters are picked off one by one (as in The Colonel's Bequest), and a killer dressed in menacing black robes (as in The Dagger of Amon Ra). Certainly interesting!
The writing is mostly pretty ok, with some good stuff every now and then. There's some choice dialogue here and there. Toomey's character says at one point to the reporter "Getting soft, eh? Just like a woman." GASP! Reeg! Thankfully she later gets a comeback to his nightime goodbye of "Bad dreams." with "Ooh, I never dream of you!". You go, girl!
The acting in Wayne Murder Case is all fine. Regis Toomey is decent in the lead role, while June Clyde is adroitly plucky. Jason Robards is ok, too. Oh, and before you say 'Jesus, I didn't know he was that old!', this is the famous one's father. Jason Robards Sr. was a famed actor in his own right in the silent era, but apparently declined in popularity relatively quickly when talkies rolled around. It was quite interesting seeing him in a film. He looks pretty young and fresh-faced, unlike the often gruff and grizzled looking Jr.. Like I said above, Dwight Frye is pretty wasted in the movie, and that's perhaps its biggest sin! Lucile La Verne is in the movie, and she's ok.
Finally, the direction of the butler character Jeff, as played by Fred 'Snowflake' Toones (credited only as Snowflake) is potentially a tad cringeworthy. I say potentially just in-case it wasn't a direction, and the guy actually spoke like that, but I doubt it. Oh well, at least they actually hired a black actor. This is still 1931, after all!
Wayne Murder Case is worth a watch if you're in the mood for a somewhat entertaining old dark house movie. I guess I recommend it...