Getting over disappointment regarding the sadistically misleading title of the 1943 WWII propaganda film "The Gorilla Man" allows thoroughly enjoying the recent Warner Archive DVD release of this B movie. The titular primate is wounded warrior Capt. Craig Killian, who earns that nickname for climbing skills that he demonstrates in our story.
The textbook fun begins with Nazi agent Dr. Dorn, who uses his private sanitarium on the English coast as a cover, learning through his literal spy network that the ship carrying Killian's Heroes back to Mother England from a commando raid was sunk. The rest of the story is that that band of brothers is expected to come ashore near the aforementioned medical facility.
A series of seemingly fortunate events leads to an oblivious Killian becoming a guest of Dorn and the even madder Dr. Ferris. A subsequent reveal that Dorn has a stranglehold on his associate turns out to be very apt. The coercion of Nurse Kruger is more despicable.
The plot thickens on Dorn learning that Killian is desperate to give British General Devon important information about a Nazi incursion. This leads to a collateral damage scheme to discredit Killian so that his superiors literally will not take him at his word.
The insidious Nazi manipulation leads to Killian having his credibility increasingly impaired, trying to stay one step ahead of the London police, and racing to try to keep the body count low. His inadvertently repeatedly acting as his puppetmaster desires does not help things.
Director of 101 projects D. Ross Lederman and writer of 154 scripts Anthony Coldeway earn their filler feature an A with a perfect climax. The usual suspects all convene at the scene of the crime where Ferris does his thing for his fun and for the profit of Dorn. Meanwhile, Killian is on site thanks to his aforementioned talent. The general and his senior staff meeting to discuss the now-imminent threat from the Jerrys provide the final piece of the puzzle.
The real fun come when Dorn overplays his hand and the general's daughter shows that she is capable of far more than lying back and thinking of England; the final shot does strongly indicates that she will be doing that later that evening.; one can only hope that she gets a chocolate bar and a pair of stockings for her trouble.,
The joint first and lasting impressions while watching Warner Archive's Blu-ray release of the 1962 Doris Day musical "Billy Rose's Jumbo" are that they do not make 'em like that anymore and that it is amazing that Blu-ray can make a metrocolor film from an era in which that technology was cutting edge look so sharp. The second first impression is that including the auteur's name in the title does not follow the same tendency of those films being not-so-good ala "Stephen King's ..." or "Tyler Perry's ..."
The all-star leading cast of "Jumbo" consists of multi-talented Day as Kitty Wonder, the multi-talented daughter of circus owner Anthony "Pop" Wonder. The true show business legend Jimmy Durante plays Pop, and the back cover art on the Blu-ray set reports that he is in the cast of the 1935 original Broadway production of "Jumbo." Pop is one of the then-69 year-old Durante's final film roles.
Well-known funny lady Martha "The Big Mouth" Raye, who is best known to gen Xers as Benita Bizarre on "The Bugaloos" and Mel's mother on the sitcom "Alice," plays Durante's most loyal performer/fiancee of 14 years Lulu. She is also known for suing David Letterman over an off-color joke at her expense.
Pop's gambling addiction and an ongoing campaign by rival circus owner John Noble to either acquire the film's titular character, who is a widely talented performing elephant, or drive the roughly turn-of-the-century Wonder Circus out of business keep Kitty very busy regarding ensuring that the three-ring show goes on. Textbook definition character actor Dean Jagger, whose credits include the awesome storyteller in the very special "The Partridge Family" Christmas episode, plays the not-so-noble Noble.
The fact that true jack-of-all-trades and master-of-several Sam Rawlins, played by Stephen Boyd, arrives at a particularly tough time for the Wonder Circus seems to be too good to be true turns out to be the case. The audience learns half-way through the film that Sam has the daddy of all ulterior motives for helping the Wonders.
The award for most fun cameo goes to a pre "The Addams Family" John Astin as an eccentric bi-plane pilot.
Day et al do a great job with the Rodgers and Hart score; our Archive friends have located and restored the original Overture, and the toe-tapping starts with "The Circus on Parade." A traditional circus parade aptly accompanies this one.
It is also fun to discover that the classic "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," which is reprised several times, is from this show. The even-more catchy, and equally reprised, tune "Sawdust, Spangles, and Dreams" is equally memorable.
As Archive shares, beyond legendary showman Busby Berkeley stages the dazzling circus performances. These feature genuine circus performers. Of course, Jumbo steals the show.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of "Jumbo's" trailer (which the Blu-ray set includes) provides a good sense of the film's fun with only minor spoilers. It also demonstrates the sharp contrast between the standard definition version of the film and the spectacular Blu-ray enhancement.
The award for best special feature goes to an incredibly adorable Tom and Jerry cartoon "Jerry and Jumbo" in which the titular mouse teams up with a very cute baby elephant to give the titular cat a well-deserved difficult time. A 1933 Vitaphone musical short "Yours Sincerely" is also fun.
On a more general note regarding this release, "Jumbo" evokes strong memories of the circus museum in Sarasota, Florida and prompts a strong desire to return.
The grande finale of this review is that it is fun for kids of all ages, with the exception of surly adolescents who dislike everything, and is guaranteed to evoke at least a few smiles.The award for best special feature goes to an incredibly adorable Tom and Jerry cartoon "Jerry and Jumbo" in which the titular mouse teams up with a very cute baby elephant to give the titular cat a well-deserved difficult time. A 1933 Vitaphone musical short "Yours Sincerely" is also fun.
On a more general note regarding this release, "Jumbo" evokes strong memories of the circus museum in Sarasota, Florida and prompts a strong desire to return.
The grande finale of this review is that it is fun for kids of all ages, with the exception of surly adolescents who dislike everything, and is guaranteed to evoke at least a few smiles.The award for best special feature goes to an incredibly adorable Tom and Jerry cartoon "Jerry and Jumbo" in which the titular mouse teams up with a very cute baby elephant to give the titular cat a well-deserved difficult time. A 1933 Vitaphone musical short "Yours Sincerely" is also fun.
On a more general note regarding this release, "Jumbo" evokes strong memories of the circus museum in Sarasota, Florida and prompts a strong desire to return.
The grande finale of this review is that it is fun for kids of all ages, with the exception of surly adolescents who dislike everything, and is guaranteed to evoke at least a few smiles.
The Warner Archive March 26, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1966 Doris Day romcom "The Glass Bottom Boat" offers a threefer in terms of combining a typical Doris Day comedy, a beach movie of the era, and an equally era-apt Cold War comedy.
The following YouTube clip of Day and co-star Arthur Godfrey singing the catchy theme from "Boat" provides a good sense of the fun of the film.
Day plays premature widow Jennifer Nelson, who is an entry-level public-relations worker at an aerospace research lab that roguish Elon Musk of the '60s Bruce Templeton (Rod Taylor) owns and operates. The film title refers to the tourist vessel that the father (Godfrey) of Nelson owns and operates on Catalina Island. An element of "com" enters in the form of Nelson supporting the family business by swimming below the boat while dressed as a mermaid.
Nelson and Templeton meeting under embarrassing circumstances while engaged in their typical weekend activities introduces the "rom" element. Later meeting at their day jobs enhances this element. More '60slicious fun come in the form of Dick Martin of "Laugh-In" fame portraying the playboy business partner of Templeton.
The Cold War aspect relates to the degree to which Nelson and Templeton develop their "rom" coinciding with the increased espionage activity related to a government contract. This provides the context for Paul Lynde to play a comically overzealous security officer who ultimately finds his job to be a drag.
The real fun begins when Nelson gets wind of Mr. Right and his colleagues suspecting her of treason. This girl subsequently seeking to turn the tables on her bosses finds her embroiled in genuine life-threatening intrigue.
The beach movie vibe relates to the catchy theme that Day sings, Templeton almost literally learning about the quantity of fish in the sea, and a couple of scenes in which a boat runs amok in a busy harbor.
All of this makes "Boat" a perfect example of an escapist '60s comedy. Day sticks to the independent woman whom Mother would love for you to bring home if being scorned is not causing her to "Hulk" out. There also is ample good clean slapstick and holding up the military-industrial complex to gentle but well-deserved ridicule.
Archive does equally well regarding the DVD extras; we get three entertaining featurettes related to the film, the highly stylized Chuck Jones Oscar-winning cartoon "The Dot and the Line," and the theatrical trailer for "Boat."
The Warner Archive April 9, 2019 pristine Blu-ray release of the black-and-white 1958 CinemaScope cult classic "Frankenstein 1970" evokes strong thoughts of the similarly off-beat 1994 film "Ed Wood." This quirky tale also will bring the 1974 Mel Brooks film "Young Frankenstein" to mind.
This meta film opens with the titular monster pursuing the lady in the lake; we soon learn that this merely is a scene in a Golden Age of Television production of the classic tale. This commentary on the small-screen taking over the silver screen is contrary to "1970" using the relatively new CinemaScope film format for the production.
The Scooby gang that is making the movie-of-the-week consists of all the stock characters. Brave and bold director "Fred" is doing his best to maintain order; young blonde starlet "Daphne" is dreaming of stardom; more down-to-earth and brainier secretary "Velma" is trying to do her job while fighting off not entirely unwelcome advances. Goofy cameraman "Shaggy" rounds out the group. The overlapping personal and professional histories of the group members add a particularly Hollywood touch to the story.
The original "Frankenstein" story more fully enters the picture regarding the same-old story of house-rich and cash-poor Baron Victor von Frankenstein (Karloff) temporarily sharing the infamous castle where it all went down with "those meddling kids." An awesome 50s B-movie element enters in the form of Frankenstein using his Air B-n-B money to buy a nuclear reactor for use in his quest to restart the family business. The rest of this aspect of the story is that forced research for the Nazis has negatively impacted the mind of our mad scientist.
Another amusing aspect of this is that the baron has aspirations of obtaining a trophy bride of Frankenstein. This tie-in with "Dracula" extends to the baron being a skilled hypnotist whose lack of an uncle may be why he has never learned that with great power comes great responsibility.
A combination of classic farce and traditional horror film combine to amp up the body count as the Baron seeks to put his new chums to use. A scene in which an oblivious "Daphne" repeatedly narrowly avoids being grabbed by the major-domo turned robotic stooge. This fully bandaged shuffling creature still managing to capture prey evokes good thoughts of "The Mummy."
Of course, the law eventually begins closing in on the baron. This equally predictably leads to a grand confrontation that shows both that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it and that every family business suffers from each generation lacking the same level of mad skills as the one that precedes it.
Archive keeps the fun going with a DVD extra in the form of a '50s-era TV spot.
The Warner Archive April 16, 2019 DVD release of the well-remastered 1936 screwball comedy "Three Men on a Horse" is a good reminder that funny never stops being funny and that comedy does not require shock value.
The cred. of "Horse" begins with drector Mevyn LeRoy, whose other credits include "The Wizard of Oz" and "Mister Roberts." In front of the camera, Oscar nominated wise-cracking vaudeville veteran Joan Blondell plays stock floozy with a heart-of-gold Mabel. Fellow vaudeville vet Frank McHugh plays henpecked greeting-card writer Erwin Trowbridge.
The following YouTube clip of the fun-filled "Horse" trailer shows that they don't make those promos like they used to.
Our story begins with a wonderful look at 30s-era suburbia. Erwin and his wife Audrey live in a poorly constructed tract house in the development of her brother Clarence. Erwin is getting ready for his job, and Audrey is yelling for him to throw down his suit so that she can send it to the cleaner.
The Lucy and Ricky vibe continues with Audrey finding a little black book in a suit pocket. Being convinced that the entries are names and telephone numbers of loose women prompts Audrey to call Clarence to come over. The stereotypes continue with Clarence quickly going into a tirade about Erwin being a louse and Clarence having warned Audrey not to marry him.
The plot initially thickens on Audrey and Clarence learning that the notes are horse-race winners that Clarence successfully picks on his daily commute. The suspicious minds are additionally schooled regarding Erwin not actually placing any bets.
The added insult to the injury additionally is the straw that breaks the back of the camel. A COD package containing $48 worth of dresses requires that Erwin defend his male pride in front of Clarence by using money saved for other small luxuries to pay for the couture.
This bad morning drives normally sober Erwin to drink; his bar crawl brings him to the watering hole from which professional gambler Patsy (Sam Levene of "The Thin Man" series) and his two stooges operate. Mabel is the wannabe starlet who is the dame of Patsy and helps keep the boys in gambling money.
Learning that easily duped Erwin is the boy with something extra prompts Patsy and the boys essentially to kidnap their new acquaintance. Much of the ensuing comedy relates to providing a conducive setting for picking the ponies.
For her part, Mabel finds both a kindred spirit and a receptive audience in Erwin. This start of a beautiful friendship does not sit well with Patsy.
Meanwhile a distraught Audrey is lamenting over the disappearance of her husband, and his stereotypical fuming boss is irate over the absence of his employee. An oblivious Erwin merely is trying to please everyone.
Of course, all worlds ultimately hilariously collide. The happy endings this time show that justice prevails in Golden Age comedies.
The Warner Archive April 23, 2019 DVD release of the 1936 drama "Jailbreak" reminds us of the good old days when men talked tough and dolls stood by their guys. This is not to mention a smart mouth likely earning you a sock on the jaw or a kick in the pants.
The plot thickens from the opening scenes in which made man Ed Slayden bursts his way into the successful night club of former associate/current truly legitimate businessman Mike Eagen. Slayden is on the lam from a heist gone bad and demands help from a sheepish Eagen. Although he is no longer a baad man, Eagen slugs a copper with the idea that that the anticipated resulting 30 days in stir will keep him out of circulation long enough protect him from Slayden until the heat dies down.
The rub comes in the form of the adage related to the best-laid plans of mice and mobsters. Eagen runs afoul of a two-strikes mandatory-minimum law that results in a two-year sentence, On top of that, prison guard Dan Stone has it out for the new fish based on their prior dealings.
Things go from bad to worse when Slayden and his gang get collared, resulting in becoming fellow guests of the state with Eagen.
The better news is that loyal Girl Friday Jane Rogers and crusading reporter Ken Williams are on Team Eagen. Rogers is diligently keeping the club doors open and doing everything else that she can to help her boss; Williams is using the power-of-the-press to sway public opinion.
A combination of a prison killing and a treasure hunt further rock the institution and transform "Break" into a traditional whodunit. The latter includes adding to the body count and assaulting Williams in the course of his investigation.. This is not to mention Williams proving during a close approximation of a drawing room confrontation that he is much more than a pretty face.
The titular event barely even is a "B" story as a group of cons decide that they want a variation of an early release. They soon learn that successfully going over the wall is not always a good thing.
"Break" being a Hollywood movie from the era in which the Hays Code is enforced ensures that crime does not pay and that at least some good guys get a happy ending. Everyone else simply gets another day older and deeper in debt.
The Warner Archive complete-series DVD release of the 1962-63 NBC legal drama "Sam Benedict" shows the value of good source material. Although the cases are fictional, the titular celebrity San Francisco attorney is based on real-life legal eagle/series consultant Jacob W. Ehrlich. The recommended companion release this time is the (reviewed) Archive complete-series DVD set of the 1963-65 drama "Mr. Novak." That fellow quasi-anthology series revolves around the titular rookie teacher typically trying to have a positive impact on a different student in each episode.
A particularly special aspect of this series is an early episode being in color. The best speculation is that this is part of an NBC promotion to encourage viewers to purchase color sets.
That guy who was in that thing Edmond O'Brien stars as essentially sole practitioner Benedict. Secretary extraordinaire Trudy Wagner is his Della Street. Rookie attorney Hank Tambor is more of a tenant than an associate.
The "Benedict" pilot perfectly reflects the spirit of the series. The first challenge facing Benedict is defending a client in a murder trial in which 12 angry men are a hung jury. This provides context for the presiding judge to lecture the "peers" and the audience about the nature of jury deliberations.
On a personal note, the sudden death of a friend presents our hero with a moral predicament. The spendthrift brother of the deceased wants his payoff before the dearly departed is put to rest. On top of that, this sibling is fighting the legal right of the adopted daughter of the dead man to get a piece of the estate. The well-know lesson regarding this is that death brings out the worst in people; the rest of the story is that procrastinating about keeping a will up-to-date can haunt your heirs.
Another early episode is especially Hitchcockian. Benedict is defending the daughter of a long-time family friend in a trial for the murder of her husband. The debate between client and attorney regarding whether to present an insanity defense provides context for discussing when a mental incapacity is a mitigating factor in a legal proceeding. The dramatic climax shows the consequences of repression.
Mental capacity also is an issue when a young widowed Japanese immigrant battles the parents of her late husband for custody of her unborn child. A primary issue here is the extent to which an apparent mental incapacity is attributable to limited English skills. Getting to the root of the problem is one of many instances of social commentary in this cerebral series that equally entertains and provokes thought.
We additionally get a case of a cop killing the college-age son of a one-percenter. The issue extends beyond the validity of lethal force to a more basic dilemma. This career cop must decide whether invoking his Fifth Amendment right to keep his doughnut hole shut is worth the price of definitely losing his job. We also get a taste of the perfect storm that can result when a hair-trigger cop on the verge of burnout conflicts with an arrogant young punk.
This opening statement on the merits of "Benedict" shows that the presented issues remain just as relevant and compelling more than 55 years later. The bigger lesson is that morons who do not learn from history are doomed to shell out big bucks to relive it in court.
The Warner Archive DVD release of the 1977 neo-noir with comic touches film "The Late Show" provides another chance to see that Art Carney of "The Honeymooners" is more than just another pretty face. This movie makes a great companion to the (reviewed) Archive DVD release of the 1979 Carney comedy with serious overtones "Going in Style" and his Oscar-winning performance in the 1974 film "Harry and Tonto."
The behind-the-camera cred. of "Show" includes the work of Oscar winner writer/director Robert Benton. His better known films include "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Bonnie and Clyde," and "Places in the Heart."
This change of pace for Carney and co-star Lily Tomlin gets off on the right note with the perfect balance between exposition and starting the action. Elderly private eye Ira Wells (Carney) is enjoying a quiet evening in his small shabby bachelor pad when an old friend stops by and drops dead within a minute of arriving,
The noirness of this film that showcases the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles continues with Wells reuniting with another old friend at the funeral for the dearly departed. Charlie Hatter (Bill Macy of "Maude") is an increasingly failing talent agent who introduces Wells to former client Margo Sterling (Tomlin).
The deceptively simple case this time is that Sterling wants Wells to rescue her cat Winston, whom a catnapper is holding for ransom in the amount of a debt that Sterling owes that scoundrel.
The plot thickens on Sterling literally bringing her troubles to the front door of Chez Wells by arranging a meeting with the not-so-smooth criminal; this results in gun play that fully sets the game afoot for Wells.
Discovering postage stamps on the body of the recently deceased leads to Wells investigating the theft of that loot in a robbery in which the lady of the house is killed. This investigation brings Wells to the home of fence Ron Birdwell (Eugene Roche). The "muscle" of Ron not hesitating to rough up Wells within a minute of his arrival can be considered nice commentary on a lack of age discrimination.
Wells brings Sterling along on a visit to a usual suspect with hopes of that discussion having the least possible trauma and drama. This pair discovering that someone literally and figuratively beat them to the punch draws our low-rent Remington Steele and Laura Holt deeper into the case.
More fun relates to discovering that Laura Birdwell (Joanna Cassidy) is involved in all the action to an even larger degree then her husband is pure Chandler or Spade.
Wells ultimately shows that snow on the roof does not freeze the brain when he connects the pieces in classic noir fashion. It seems that only pulp fiction can tie together a dead gumshoe, a ditzy damsel in distress, a murder-robbery that involves much more than meets the eye. an extra-marital affair, and a friend who dupes a good buddy into having to figure out all of it.
Benton shows genius in remaining true to gritty noir drama decades after the golden era of that genre, successfully showing new sides of Tomlin and Carney and getting that May-December team to click, and crafting a plot that keeps the twists coming until the end, It is hard to imagine that they can make 'em like that anymore.
Archive keeps the fun coming with a special feature that shows Tomlin bringing Ernestine the telephone operator to the party when she discusses "Show" on "Dinah" with Dinah Shore.
Warner Archive provides animation god Tex Avery an apt homage in releasing the complete series of "The Kwicky Koala Show" on DVD. Avery passed away while working on this swan song, which aired in the 1981-82 CBS Saturday morning lineup. The artistic success of this show relates both to it reflecting an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" attitude and by showing that the best of this genre is much more than anthropomorphic animated animal antics for cheap laughs.
The continuation of a proud heritage begins with the titular Australia native having the wimpy old-man voice that belies the beast within ala Avery creation Droopy Dog. The bigger picture is "Kwicky" following a variation of the format of the early '60s "talking animals" series of "Kwicky" producers Hanna-Barbera.
Our star is featured in the first cartoon of his show. We get additional shorts that include quasi-"Yogi Bear" homage/quasi-educational cartoon "Crazy Claws" and the "Top Cat" homage "Dirty Dawg." Fillers that consist of the Of Mice and Men style "two stupid dogs" duo George and Joey. Bungle. Their concept is constantly trying failed circus and vaudeville acts. (This site has a review of the Archive CS DVD set of "Dogs.")
"Scooby-Doo" legend Frank Welker brings the strongest VO star power to "Kwicky." Welker plays Dirty Dawg, whose partner-in-crime on the mean streets of their city being actual rodent Ratso adds a "Midnight Cowboy" aspect to this "Top Cat" style series about a couple of low-level hustlers constantly scheming while trying to evade hard-ass beat-cop Officer Bullhorn. All this arguably warrants a comparison to "Les Miserable."
The first outing for Dirty and Ratso essentially is a drag plot. Dirty convinces Ratso to masquerade as a small canine to compete in dog show that has a large cash prize. A "sit" that provides some of the "com" revolves around Dirty using classic cartoon tactics to eliminate the competition. Suffice it to say that that the other contenders for "Best in Show" do not react kindly to that sabotage.
We similarly see a scheme backfire on our pair when they succeed in obtaining entry into what seems to be a posh country club for dogs; they discover that karma can be the mother of all bitches. The same is true regarding a plot to chow down on hospital food.
The next best well-known name in the animation world is better known for his role on the classic sitcom "The Brady Bunch." Allan Melvin (a.k.a. Sam the Butcher) plays dim-witted Joey Bungle. His contributions to the continued failure of his act includes responding to George confessing mid-high-dive that he is afraid of water by moving the tub in which his brother is attempting to land.
John Stephenson is the Rodney Dangerfield of the animation world; this relates to his 254 IMDb credits including many classic cartoon series but most people at best knowing him as that guy that was in that thing. Stephenson channels the snarky effeminate persona that Paul Lynde uses for his predatory canine characters in other HB series to play Kwicky foe Wilford Wolf. The success of this sincerest form of flattery succeeds to the extent of untrained ears likely thinking that Lynde voices Wilford.
A "Kwicky" cartoon that appears in an early episode likely is the intended pilot. Our lead breaks the third wall by directly addressing the audience on coming out of his cute little house. He explains that most people incorrectly believe that koalas are slow. We soon learn that they are very fast.
The conflict this time is that Wilford wants to capture Kwicky to collect a large bounty that a hunter is offering for a koala. Wilford uses his cunning, rather than his Acme-style devices and his physical attributes, in his effort to capture his prey.
Last but not least is "Crazy Claws." The most notable aspect of this series about the titular wildcat with almost adamantium-caliber claws is the aforementioned educational element. Park Service employee Ranger Rangerfield works in botany lessons while trying to keep the peace as dastardly Yosemite Sam clone Rawhide Clyde and his snickering floppy-eared hound attempt to stop that feline. Examples of that schooling include how wild flowers grow and why leaves change colors each autumn.
All of this adds up to great nostalgia for those of us old enough to remember eating junk cereal and staying in our pajamas until noon every Saturday so as not to miss a minute of the joy courtesy of Hanna-Barbera and the Krofft Brothers. Thanks to Warner, Millenmials and Gen Zers can experience some of that magic.
Warner Archive pulls a twofer regarding the DVD release of the 1979 original version of "Going in Style." We get a quality comedy that does not resort to sex or cheap laughs for entertainment. We also get a golden boys cast in the form of senior actors in both senses of that word. This dream ensemble is George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg. This film also makes a great companion to the Archive DVD of the Carney/Lily Tomlin 1977 noir movie "The Late Show."
The entertainment value of "Style" alone warrants adding this well-remastered DVD to your collection, The clip of Burns and Carney plugging the film on an episode of the Dinah Shore talk show "Dinah and Friends" should seal the deal. This seven minutes in Heaven has Shore being her usual good sport when Carney does a classic Ed Norton bit. Burns perfectly setting up a story about Carney playing pocket pool in a "Style" scene should seal the deal.
Burns is semi-fresh off the success of the 1975 film "The Sunshine Boys" and more fresh off his bigger hit "Oh God." Carney also is basking in the glow of this Oscar-winning performance in "Harry and Tonto" (1974) and his "Show" fame.
Joe (Burns), Al (Carney), and Willie (Strasberg) are fixed-income roommates in a shabby Astoria apartment. They stereotypically spend part of their day feeding pigeons in the park.
Joe watching money wheeled into the bank as he cashes his meager Social Security check has him put two and two together in a manner reminiscent of the real housewives who pull a heist to make ends meet in the 1980 comedy "How to Beat the High Cost of Living."
Joe concludes that a bank robbery is no-lose situation in that the trio enjoys a better standard of living if they succeed and do not experience much of a reversal of fortune if they get caught. Al is a more eager accomplice than Willie, who largely is along for the ride. Willie also checks out soon after the caper.
The main event goes off without a hitch. This venture nets them both fun and profit. Watching Carney especially channel Norton as he grooves out to the tunes of a street steel-drum band is a highlight. Al and Joe subsequently hit Vegas to enjoy their new-found wealth.
Our boys experience reversals of fortune on their return home. Both the law and time are closing in on these senior versions of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton with much less yelling and despair than the originals. The better news is that the past-primetime players have fun and adventure before facing their new normal.
The delight of this "Style" extends beyond seeing Burns and Carney do their bit during their golden years. As mentioned above, this movie entertainingly tells a tale almost as old as time without sacrificing art for commerce. How sweet it is.
The DVD release of "Shazam!: The Complete Live Action Series" provides lovers of good cheesy '70s shows another reason to thank the elders for Warner Archive. This release is nearly as exciting as getting the '70s Hanna-Barbera "Scooby-Doo" clone "Goober and the Ghost Chasers" from Archive a few years ago.
From a more objective perspective, "Shazam!" is similar to the late-80s low-budget syndicated series "The Adventures of Superboy," which has the college boy of steel and his buds battle a buffonish Lex Luther and other baddies. That series also is in the Archive catalog.
The concept behind "Shazam!" is that mid-20s newscaster Billy Batson, played by dreamy teen idol Michael Gray, is the alter-ego of Captain Marvel. Dreamy Jackson Bostwick plays Marvel until being replaced due to an injury late in the second of the series' three seasons.
Billy and his sidekick/advisor Mentor spend their days traveling around in a motor home helping teens and post-adolescents out of jams largely of the younguns' own making. Each story is wrapped up with a moral, delivered by Bostwick through most of the series and by Gray in the final episodes.
Billy is granted his powers, and is guided by, six animated elders who deliver a cryptic message near the beginning of each episode.
The dual significance of "Shazam" is that it is the magic word that Billy, and at least one young and stupid boy in the greater Boston area, shout to transform from an average Joe into the super-powered Captain Marvel and also is the acronym of the names of the elders'. That group consists of Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles, and Mercury.
The two restrictions on the great power that goes along with the great responsibility of being Captain Marvel are that only Mentor can witness the transformation and Billy can only undergo it when it is absolutely necessary.
Plots included a young blind teen and his slightly older brother recognizing the accommodations that the blindness requires and the capabilities that the blind boy retains after losing his sight. Another episode has Captain Marvel setting a good example for a young boy with a history of trespassing to ride a neighbor's horse by volunteering to go to jail for a crime of which he is innocent.
One of the more inadvertently entertaining episodes is a special two-parter in which Billy helps a girl who is trying to help her brother break ties with a middle-aged drug dealer for whom the brother is working. Seeing Billy deny being a "pusher" himself and watching the girl run around with a bag of what is clearly baking soda is very funny 40 years later.
Aside from the underlying message of "drugs are bad; ok," Billy teaches the girl that she should act responsibly by narcing on her bro. merely than by taking his stash.
The third season, which is presented as part of the "Shazam!/Isis Hour," is also fun by having Isis appear in a few "Shazam" episodes to help out Captain Marvel. This is similar to Scooby-Doo and the meddling kids helping the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt when they have a joint show. This wonderfully nostalgic show is also out on DVD.
The bottom line is that "Shazam!" is an awesome example of the fun type of show that broadcast networks used to air on Saturday mornings. This genre has plenty of action and wonderfully low-budget effects.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Shazam!" is encouraged to email me. I am especially eager to hear if anyone transformed into a super hero after yelling "Shazam!"
Warner Archive further shows ts range and the related seemingly bottomless nature of its catalog regarding two March 19, 2019 DVD releases of the 2001-02 Kids' WB anthology series "The Nightmare Room." "The Nightmare Room: Scareful What You Wish For" is our current topic; "The Nightmare Room: Camp Nowhere" is the companion DVD.
The valued review-writing shortcut this time cones courtesy of the mouth of the horse, The DVD bonus feature "The Nightmare Files" is an interview with Stephen King of the Clearasil set R.L. Stine, whose horror stories provide much of the fodder for "Room" episodes. The numerous insights that Stine shares includes describing the series as "The Twilight Zone" for kids.
"Room" also evokes thoughts of the 1991-93 kid comedy "Eerie, Indiana." This one has two tween boys investigating the regular weird occurrences in the titular town that they call home. Of course, "Supernatural" is the epitome of this type of series.
The titular tale stars former Disney Channel star/current highly damaged man Shia LaBeouf as excitable boy Dylan in a tale that can be considered a perverse version of "Toy Story." The growing pains of this lad who is graduating middle-school include having a life-size Buddy doll (fellow Disney Channel star Dylan "Zack" Sprouse) who is a real-live boy stalk him and demand fulfillment of a childhood pledge that the two be best friends forever.
Much of the fun of this one is the increasingly erratic behavior of Dylan not helping his efforts to convince friends and family that his new friend is not imaginary. This tale and the others not having a fairy-tale ending is very refreshing regarding children's fare.
The more amusing "Tangled Web" stars Justin Berfield of "Malcolm in the Middle" as a chronically lying teen. This notable one is a true fable.
Truth-impaired Josh has a strong track record of making up stories to avoid facing the consequences of his negligence. "Kung Fu" star David Carradine plays to type as a substitute teacher who schools Josh. This comes via making everything that Josh says come true.
Our prevaricator soon finds himself confronted by a psychotic version of juvenile delinquent Francis of "Malcolm," ninjas, escaped prisoners who are real Bozos, and other foes that his adolescent mind conjures. These include a very special guest star from a teen-boy perspective,
A personal fave in the set is "early" episode "My Name Is Evil." This story of teen angst has good-natured Morgan spending his birthday being the victim of a mean girl and having a carnival gypsy declare him to be a bad seed, The morning after finds a good friend of Morgan violating the bros before hos rule and said bitch convincing the entire school that Morgan is a much bigger jinx than Cousin Oliver.
This an episode in which you come for the teen drama and stay for the wonderful climatic twists.
The numerous extras extend beyond the Stine interview; a key to winning the interactive "The Nightmare Is Yours: Haunted Cave" game is to realize that Mike is a fucking idiot.
The appeal of "Room" to the target audience is that it makes them feel cool and does not talk down to them. The appeal to those of us who have not needed zit cream for years is that the stories are entertaining and feature child stars from our more youthful days.
The Warner Archive March 12, 2019 DVD release of the ninth and final season of the 1976-85 sitcom "Alice" is the latest example of Archive both adopting TV Land shows that Warner Prime abandons after DVD releases of the first few seasons and seeing these series to the (usually not bitter) end. Of course Archive similarly is in the homestretch regarding sets of the (reviewed) 1986-93 sitcom "Perfect Strangers," don't be ridiculous.
"Alice" is loosely based on the much more serious film "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." Our kids-of-all-ages friendly version centers around New Jersey native/widow/aspiring singer Alice Hyatt and her son Tommy taking a seemingly permanent detour in Phoenix when their station wagon breaks down there on the way to Los Angeles in her an attempt to become the next American Idol.
Our titular chanteuse takes a job at greasy-spoon Mel's Diner to put snickerdoodles on the table. A "Three's Company" style revolving door regarding the third waitress working for gruff and cheap but inherently good-natured Mel finds southern-friend former trucker/tomboy Joleme hanging around to sling hash with mother-figure Alice and ditzy cinephile Vera.
The ninth season includes many staples of "Alice." A series of comically unfortunate circumstances results in the diner sustaining severe damage in one episode only to look in the next episode as if nothing had happened. We also get the annual self-imposed crisis of college-boy Tommy. In this case, our golden-haired boy succumbs to the temptations associated with attending top-ranked party-school ASU. This leads to the standard "Tommy, I'm very worried about you" hand-wringing by Alice.
We additionally get a threefer in a "very special" episode. This one begins with Mel once again facing crippling competition from another low-cost restaurant. A related development has the waitresses having to decide which of them gets a treat that cannot accommodate all three of them. Those two factors converge to Mel being resigned to losing the diner only to have a last-minute miracle save the day.
Another episode indulges the apparent fetish of series-star Linda Lavin to portray an alternative character. In this case she makes her final appearance as Debbie Walden, who is the stereotypical Jewish-mother former landlord of Vera. The "sit" that provides the "com" this time is that Debbie becomes the tenant of highly reluctant landlady Vera.
Finally, we get a storyline that gives Alice a reasonable basis for believing that she is getting her big singing break. In this case, a series of highly improbable circumstances leads to this show-tune lover appearing with essentially a country-bear jamboree.
The first conspicuous absence this season its the lack of an episode in which a present or former A-lister almost always appears as him or herself. This Hall of Fame includes George Burns, Art Carney, Robert Goulet, Dinah Shore, Joel Gray, Art Carney, Jerry Reed, Desi Arnaz, and Florence Henderson.
A parade of past and future B (and C) listers partially fills in the guest-star gap. Fred "Rerun" Berry plays a member of a break-dancing group that is scheduled to perform at the diner. We also get Jonathan Prince of the 1986-88 syndicated sitcom "Throb" (which also stars Jane Leeves and Paul Walker) as a new diner regular.
We additionally see Rue McClanahan of "Maude" and "Golden Girls" fame playing the sweet and wholesome owner of a daycare center next to the diner. "Girls" fans know that Blanche would have wonderful fun with the Bo Peep outfit and shepherd's crook of Mother Goose,
"Alice" S9 has has two treats for Trekkers. Robert Picardo of "Voyager" has a recurring role as cop who often stops by; Armin Shimerman of "DS9" makes a one-shot appearance as an unnamed man attending an auction at the diner.
Another obvious absence is that lack of an appearance by Hollywood royalty Martha Raye in her oft-recurring role as Mel's mother Carrie Sharples.
The series finale wraps things up in the traditional '70s to present-day sitcom model of having every major character simultaneously undergo a game-changing life experience. This prompts an essentially Paley Center style panel as Mel, the girls, and Tommy form a semi-circle facing the camera as they reminisce about many of the "sits" that provide the "com" of the series. We additionally get to see Tommy portrayor Philip McKeon go through puberty and move onto young adulthood in roughly 30 seconds.
"Alice" shows class in including clips of fan-favorite departed waitress Flo; many of these include her uttering her catchphrase "Kiss my grits." More love is shown in an earlier episode that makes a reference to the role of Flo portayor Polly Holliday in "Gremlins."
A slight occurs regarding the lack of any clips of interim waitress Belle, who can be considered the Cindy Snow of Alice. This likely is due to Diane Lad, who also portrays Flo in "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore," not working or playing well with Lavin during the relatively brief tenure of Ladd on the sitcom
This reasonably comprehensive review of "Alice" demonstrates that it is a fairly traditional workplace sitcom in which everyone generally gets along and rarely if ever even jokes about dipping their pen in the company ink. It is nice if this time capsule inspires similar fare of equivalent quality.
The recent well-remastered Warner Archive DVD release of the 1932 Kafkaesque crime melodrama "Night Court" once again shows that Archive rules regarding shining a spotlight on films that remain highly relevant more than 80 years after their premieres. The same is true regarding the Archive releases of the similar (reviewed) "The Star Witness" and the more campy but good (also reviewed) "Unashamed." These and numerous other Archive titles demonstrate that it is a crying shame that they don't male 'em like that anymore.
The prevalent social commentary in "Witness" and "Unashamed" is even more copious in "Court," which should not be confused with the "Must See" sitcom of the same name. This one based on a play co-written by syndicated columnist and film-producer Mark Hellinger has judicial corruption, a loose woman, and class warfare.
The pedigree of "Court" extends beyond Hellinger to include Oscar-nominated W.S. Van Dyke, whose 91 directing credits include the "Thin Man" films. The equally good cast includes Walter Huston as corrupt night-court judge Andrew J. Moffett and Lewis Stone as crusading member of the judiciary Judge William Osgood.
Our story begins with Moffett essentially having his pre-Code-enforcement kept floozy Lil Baker examining his briefs in his office before his version of a kangaroo court begins its session. A wonderful skeleton in the closet metaphor is a "Court" highlight.
These opening scenes establish both the blatant nature in which Moffett can be bought and the degree to which Osgood is targeting this man. Good humor from the swift administration of "justice" in the titular judicial venue stems from women being arrested for loitering on street corners. Poetic justice would result in fining them two bits.
Osgood closing in on Moffett prompts the latter to sentence Baker to hard-time in an apartment in a working-class neighborhood as part of a plan to hinder the investigation. Her role includes keeping a bank book for a secret account from falling into the right hands.
Both the melodrama and Kafkaesque portion of the film begin on Baker meeting her new neighbors. Mike Thomas is a blue-collar everyman who drives his hack all night while his loving wife Mary stays home with their bouncing baby boy.
Junior innocently taking a "smoking gun" from Lil and Mary inadvertently seeing that evidence puts a target on her back. Moffett initially sets her up for an unfair fall and seals the deal by having her appear in his courtroom. A proceeding that greatly exceeds the constitutional requirement for a speedy trial results in Mary becoming a guest of the state on the same day of her arrest. All of this occurs while Mike is driving his cab.
After approaching a grief-fueled approach to rock bottom, Mike learns the truth and begins to fight back. His lesson regarding the reach of the long arm of the law leads to him taking the law in his own hands.
This excessive trauma and drama culminates in the courtroom climax that particularly is a staple of Golden Age films. An unusual amount of dramatics result in proof that truth, justice, and the American way ultimately prevail. The reality helps explain why Hollywood is known as La La Land.
Warner Archive greatly fulfills its mission to keep the great films of the past in present consciousness with the March 26, 2019 well-restored DVD release of the highly political 1929 sci-fi silent-talkie hybrid "The Mysterious Island." The melange of intertitles, limited dialogue, and rousing music in this film made two years after "The Jazz Singer" alone makes it a missing link that every cinephile should add to his or her collection.
The strong pedigree of this one begin with "Island" being based on a novel by sci-fi pioneer Jules Vernes. The cred. continues with Hollywood royalty Lionel Barrymore starring as island-owner/dedicated scientist Count Dakkar.
Writer-director Lucien Hubbard (whose credits include the recently reviewed Archive release "The Star Witness") goes beyond doing both his source material and his star proud. The wonderfully surreal story, elaborate sets, and creative effects evoke strong vibes of movie-magician George Melies, who arguably is best known for the camptastic 1902 silent "A Journey to the Moon."
The political commentary in "Island" begins with opening scenes of the very Russian-looking peasants of the kingdom of Hetvia fleeing vicious soldiers riding on their mighty steeds. The action soon shifts to the underground facility on the titular landmass.
Dakkar is giving then-ally Baron Falon (Montagu Love) both a tour and a narrative of the vision of Dakkar. This dream includes using a almost-completed submarine to take a (perhaps 20,000 leagues) voyage to the bottom of the sea. The primary objective of the trip is peaceful first contact with the evolved sea-monkey type creatures that Dakkar theorizes live under the sea. Another way of looking at this is that Dakkar wants to see if it truly is better down where it is wetter.
Conflict commences when Falon shares his aspiration to become the new leader of Hetvia; his desire to make the submarine a primary aspect of his today Hetvia, tomorrow the world plan fully puts him at odds with Dakkar.
More social commentary enters the picture in the form of the guy who kisses the girl. Nicolai Roget (Llyod Hughes) is a project engineer and the love interest of Dakkar sibling Countess Sonia. The problem is that not everyone approves of a romance between a royal and a commoner.
The plot thickens on Falon leading an attack on the workshop and using not-so-friendly persuasion to get his former friend to be his ally. Fully engaging Sonia in this effort and ultimately forcing her to join her in a joy ride proves that he truly is neither noble nor a gentleman.
The fun truly begins when Nicolai and Dakkar take off in pursuit of their foe. This leads to dire straits for all concerned in a truly magical undersea world. Highlights of this extended climax include a baby alligator with wonderfully campy prosthetics. Of course, this could be a croc.
The broad appeal of all this is the aforementioned blend of perfect elements. We get to see the result of people putting their hearts and souls into a dream project long before the advent of CGI.
The recent Warner Archive DVD release of the 1951 comedy "Soldiers' Three," which is based on a Rudyard Kipling story, nicely proves that a classic story never gets old. The theme this time is that man can never permanently change the course of a river.
The following YouTube clip of the "Soldiers" trailer shows how the combination of literary and screen star power makes for an exciting and amusing action-adventure film. It also shows the basis for calling the titular British GIs the Queen's Hard Bargain.
Our story begins in the present of the film; a group of young Turks is listening to an old war horse of a general cynically discuss how he achieves that high rank. The action then shits to 19th-century Indai, where we meet our central rogues.
Privates Ackroyd ( Stewart Granger), Sykes (Robert Newton), and Malloy (Cyril Cusack) are up to their usual exploits. These escapades continue in a manner that shows that these three actors make the Three Stooges look like Adam Sandler or James Franco and their respective posses.
Our excitable boys soon take things too far. They not only make an unauthorized trip into a not-so-nearby town but make a grand return in a manner and at a time that maximizes embarrassment to commanding officer Colonel Brunswick (Walter Pidgeon).
The real fun begins with Brunswick trying a tactic that it is believed also is used in an episode of the '60s militarycom "Gomer Pyle," Brunswick calls the guys in to announce that he is using a divide-and-conquer approach in the form of promoting one of them to sergeant regardless of whether that private wants that rank. The rest of that story is that the group is ordered to select the unlucky man among themselves. The manner in which this is worked out is a prime example of the aforementioned wonderful comedic chemistry among the actors.
Things take a expected turn as the reluctantly assumed responsibilities that are thrust on Ackroyd due to his enhanced rank causes the predicted dissension among the ranks. This largely is in the form of resentment by those left behind.
The game-changer comes in the form of Ackroyd being the odd man out when the rest of his comrades find themselves in a very sticky wicket. This situation also reflects some of the tensions related to the British presence in India.
The manner in which thing work out nicely reflect modern military thinking.
The bigger picture is that "Soldiers" shows the potential for an Army buddy comedy.
Warner Archive continues to prove that they don't make 'em like that anymore regarding the recent expertly remastered DVD of the 1935 noircom "Woman Wanted" starring Maureen O' Sullivan and Joel McCrea, This tale of wrongly convicted "innocent" Ann Gray on the lam hooking up with playboy attorney Tony Baxter (McCrea) has strong shades of the more comedic 1931 classic "The Front Page." That one has a newshound hiding a convicted murderer on the afternoon of the scheduled execution of the latter.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Woman" demonstrates the "Thin Man" style melange of crime drama and humor. This is not to mention the hysterically crude special effects.
"Woman" opens in a very "Page" centric manner. Gray is in a conference room waiting for the verdict in her trial for a murder that she did not commit. Baxter merely seeing her from a room on the other side of the building prompts making a mimed move without knowing her purpose for being in the courthouse.
The opening scenes also introduce the audience to the gangsters with a horse in the race. We only get a portion of the story in learning that Gray frying in Old Sparky will cost the crime boss a cool $250G.
This fiscal motivation prompts the aforementioned respectable businessman to arrange a "Fugitive" style crash on the way to the prison where Gray will be a dead woman walking. This plan goes awry when Gray takes a powder after the collision.
Amusement ensues when Baxter discovers the current object of his affection on the running board of his car while he is driving. Her quickly suggesting that they go to his place provides him even more reason to believe that he is being rewarded.
This couple that can state when they met it was murder soon arrive at the swanky bachelor pad of Baxter. This amenities of this abode include loyal but quirky gentleman's gentleman Peedles.
Baxter still is in the dark when Gray requests an opportunity to freshen up; the arrival of designing woman Betty Randolph complicates things.
Our central couple soon heads out to a farmhouse in the country in support of the cause of Gray; things not going as well as expected prompts a backwoods chase that leads to hilarity as Baxter takews a book from both Bugs Bunny and Shaggy and Scooby in donning a hasty disguise to avoid a fate equal to death.
Of course, both the coppers and the gangsters close in on Gray. This leads to a well-executed (no pun intended) 11th-hour showdown as Baxter must rescue his damsel in distress.
In true classic Hollywood style, all end up where they need to be in a manner that restores faith in the American judicial system.
The bigger picture regarding all this is that "Woman" shows that a film can do a good job providing something for everyone when all concerned play their roles.
The recent pristinely remastered Warner Archive DVD release of the 1932 crime melodrama "Unashamed" allows folks who think that Golden Age films lack any real salacious edge to see how terribly wrong they are regarding that belief. This pre-Code shouldabeen a classic has plenty of illicit sex, bloodshed, and reprehensible behavior to satisfy the most prurient interest.
The slightly bigger picture this time is that this release roughly coincides with Archive bringing the similar (reviewed) 1931 William Wellman crime melodrama "The Star Witness" out on March 12, 2019. That tale of a typical American family having their lives turned upside down on witnessing a blatant murder has even more social commentary than "Unashamed."
"Unashamed" opens with titular heiress Joan Ogden having a joyous reunion with polo playing playboy beau Harry Swift, who unbeknownst to that loose woman is born Harry Schmidt. The first of many creepy moments involving Joan sibling Dick Ogden (Robert Young of "Father Knows Best" and "Marcus Welby") has the lovebirds joke about the brother and the sister relationship being a source of jealousy.
The audience soon is let on the scheme of Swift; he is after a $3 million inheritance that Joan will receive on whatever comes first regarding her father releasing that money or her having an impending milestone birthday. This lad conning his (apparently very successful) old-world style grocer father out of the seed money reinforces that he deserves the fate that he experiences.
Swift steps up his game by (apparently easily) seducing Joan into spending the night at a hotel with him; the idea is that Mr. Ogden will release the inheritance to facilitate avoiding a scandal by having Joan marry Harry. This is not the premise of the '50s sitcom "I Married Joan."
The existing melodrama amps on the morning after the walk of little if any shame; excitable boy Dick defends his own honor and that of his sister by killing Harry.
This transitions "Unashamed" to a wonderfully Depression-era courtroom drama. A highlight is having Lewis Stone of the "Andy Hardy" film series play defense attorney/family friend Henry Trask. The loyalty of Joan to her dead boyfriend is behind her failure to cooperate regarding the plan of Trask to present an "unwritten law" defense on behalf of Dick.
An uneasy truce results in Joan moving from the family home to a hotel; she agrees to attend the trial of Dick, but not to actively advocate on his behalf, Meanwhile, the prosecutor is asserting that there is not such thing as unwritten law. He further mercilessly grills Dick on the stand.
Things looking dire for Dick leads to arguably the best scene in the film. Joan is seated in an armchair with her hands firmly clasped against the arms of the chair and her legs pressed against the legs of the chair as Trask graphically describes the process of being fried in Old Sparky.
This wake-up call presents a dilemma for Joan in a manner that shows that chops of actress Helen Twelvetrees. Our lady effectively of at least one evening must resolve how to credibly change her story from asserting that Harry did not nothing to provoke the killing and to maintain what she considers her integrity while avoiding becoming an only child.
The 11th-hour solution is a good believable twist that somewhat reflects that the court system delivers justice, It also reflects the impending Hays Code by showing that no sin goes unpunished,
The Warner Archive March 12, 2019 DVD release of the Oscar-nominated 1931 crime melodrama film "The Star Witness" is part of an awesome recent series of Archive releases of this niche genre. Upcoming posts on "Unashamed" and "Woman Wanted" reinforces the star power and the entertainment value of movies with this theme.
"Witness" has the best pedigree and the related most depth of the three films. William Wellman of "The Public Enemy" and the 1937 version of "A Star is Born" directs. The cast includes Walter Huston and vaudeville legend Charles "Chic" Sale.
Written narration at the beginning of "Witness" sets the stage for the story and the theme of the morals by stating that the action occurs in every American city.
The plot thickens a few minutes into the film as the Leeds family settles down to dinner. Father George is a middle-aged middle-management bean counter; spouse Abby is a typical housewife who tries to keep everyone well-fed and clean and also tries to maintain domestic tranquility.
Eldest son Jackie is a cautionary tale; he is an unemployed high-school dropout who spends his days at the pool hall and has unrealistically grand expectations. He also has very little respect for George despite that man providing him a comfortable standard of living in those very rough economic times. Daughter Sue is a modern woman with a job and a boyfriend with whom she openly gets affectionate in his car while parked outside the Leeds family home.
Little Rascal Donny is a tough-talking little-league loving everyboy; he deals with his low position on the family totem by bullying baby of the family Ned. This does not prevent Ned from idolizing his slightly older brother.
The "Grandpa Simpson" of the family is feisty Battle of Bull Run veteran "Private Summerhill." This feisty old codger barges in uninvited playing his fife as the family is eating dinner. The added insult to the injury is his announcement that he staying for a couple of days.
Relative calm has descended when the clan hears a ruckus in the street below; this prompts the group to rush to the window in time to see a wild chase complete with gunfire; this culminates in an essentially front-row seat for a man fatally shooting two others.
The plot further thickens on the gunman rushing into the Leeds home and terrorizing the family before taking a powder.
The cops soon show up and conduct what may be the most laughably suggestive identification process in film history; this leads to arresting gangster Maxey Campo.
The resolve of the Leeds family is tested as Team Campo puts on the heat to get them to change their story; this includes an entertaining beatdown of a gullible George, Meanwhile District Attorney Whitlock (Huston) is trying to get the titular smoking gun to not waiver from fingering the perp. at his trial.
Eleventh hour pressure creates drama as both sides strive for a favorable outcome. A sign of the times that represents a generation gap has Jackie balking at sticking his neck out for the greater good and his grandfather advocating fulfilling a patriotic duty.
The moral of this tribute to truth, justice, and the American way is not let bullies prevent you from doing the right thing despite the cost of standing up to tyranny.
The Warner Archive February 26, 2019 Blu-ray release of the 1971 Blake Edwards comedy-western "Wild Rovers" coinciding with the (reviewed) Archive release of the innovative 1947 audience-participation noir film "The Lady in the Lake" once again shows that Archive is the best friend of lovers of non-cookie-cutter films.
One note regarding both films is that Archive also does its usual expert remastering decades old films.
This early '70s-style western (complete with the ubiquitous old-timey font of the era) centers around Montana cowboy Frank Post (Ryan O'Neal) having a quarter-life crisis at the the same time that 50 year-old co-worker/partner-in-crime Ross Bodine (William Holden) experiences a mid-life crisis. One spoiler is that a scene in an old-style bathhouse gives the audience a look at the paper-white moon of O'Neal.
The unwritten rule that almost anything goes in the saloon conditioned on paying for your fun also reflects the era.
Post and Bodine are living quiet lives of moderate desperation working round-ups and doing related tasks at the cattle ranch of Walter Buckman (Karl Malden) when a workplace accident triggers concurrent existential crises in our leads. Bodine fully realizes that he is too old for this stuff, and Post concludes that he wants a lifestyle change before he reaches that point. The underlying theme is the capitalist model that is based on the guy with the gold obtaining and keeping it by exploiting the guys who do the heavy lifting.
The era-apt get-rich-quick scheme of Post and Bodine is to rob the local bank. The many inter-related aspects of that crime of the 19th century reflect the off-beat comic genius of writer-director Blake Edwards.
Elements that establish our leads as good guys include Bodine playing Robin Hood with a portion of the ill-gotten goods and Post strongly bonding with a newly born puppy. That dog playing a significant role in much of the film contributes strong charm and humor,
Buckman already is dealing the arrival of a new whore at the local house of ill-repute greatly exciting the horny son of the cattle baron. An unrelated cause for consternation is the neighboring sheep herder allowing his flock to graze on the land of Buckman. At the same time, a two-birds-one-stone solution would save the son a trip into town and a few dollars.
Buckman believing that his payroll is headed to Mexico with his ex-employees prompts him to send his randy son and the brother of that excitable boy in lukewarm pursuit,
The wonderful interaction between Bodine and Post that begins with the genesis of their conspiracy gets even better as they bicker, bargain, and bond their way to Mexico. Highlights that are reminiscent of an old married couple include the eternal horse v. donkey debate and Bodine planning to leave Post behind when he goes off for an evening in town.
A precursor to "The Gambler" occurs when Post joins a high-stakes poker game with some bad hombres who are sore losers.
All of this climaxes with a mixed Silver Age message regarding whether crime pays. This also reflects the waning days of the Hays Code in which a felon does not necessarily end up either in the graveyard or the local jail.
The expertly remastered Warner Archive February 26, 2109 DVD release of the innovative 1947 noir film "Lady in the Lake" provides a chance to watch a well-produced film that is unlike anything that you previously seen. This version provides the sharp visual contrasts between dark and light that enhance the enjoyment of this genre.
The general concept of this film version of the titular novel by pulp-fiction god Raymond Chandler is boilerplate (pun intended); the execution sets it apart from the better-known fare that particularly showcases the talents of Humphrey Bogart.
The following YouTube clip of a trailer for "Lady" both explains and illustrates the aforementioned innovation. This predecessor to the 1996-2007 children's program "Blue's Clues" has Marlowe (Robert Montgomery) lead the viewer through the investigation around which the film is centered. Additionally, the POV entirely shifts to the perspective of Marlowe after he clues (pun intended) us in on the concept of the film.
The manner in which Marlowe gets embroiled in the latest adventure that proves that dames ain't nothin' but trouble and that no one can be trusted also deviates from the norm. Rather than reading a newspaper article about a nefarious act or having a damsel in distress or other asserted innocent come to his office, Marlowe proves to be his own worst enemy from the outset.
Setting the film in the days leading up to Christmas and having it conclude on that special day adds a wonderful touch of cynicism; we learn that death, deceit. and betrayal do not take holidays.
Our adventure begins with the private dick expressing his creativity by writing a short story; this prose catching the eye of pulp-fiction magazine editor A (for Adrienne) Fromsett brings him to her office, On arriving, he learns that the lady doth prevaricate too much.
Fromsett uses the story as a pretense to sell Marlowe on locating the wife/object of monetary-based affection Derace Kinmgsby. The rest of the known story is that Mrs. Kingsby is a runaway spouse purported to run for the border to get a quickie divorce.
The trail stops at the same place that the plot thickens. Fromsett steers Marlowe to a vacation cabin of the Kingsburys. A report of the drowning of the wife of the caretaker validly triggers the spidey sense of Marlowe.
An interview with a local playboy putting Marlowe on the radar of the police, and a cop that Andy Sipowicz of "N.Y.P.D. Blue" would describe as having a hard-on for Marlowe in a not-good way having an interest in the aforementioned death well outside his jurisdiction further prompts potentially fatal curiosity of that cool cat Marlowe.
Marlowe discovering a body and finding himself both repeatedly knocked out and set up for falls keeps things traditional for the noir genre. This climaxes in two gunpoint confrontations that reflect the Bond villain flaw of boasting about your success merely when you have the upper-hand over your pursuer.
The bigger picture is that the experimental nature of "Lake" exceeds the interactive and "through-the-eyes" of perspective, Montgomery is a relatively mild-mannered and light-drinking Marlowe, His quips and Chandleresque imagery is much more subdued than recalled in the novels and definitely in pure classic and neo-noir. All this makes "Lady" more of a traditional murder mystery than a detective novel; thus, it is not your grandfather's Marlowe film.
The Warner Archive January 28, 2019 DVD release of the 1986 Wes Craven film "Deadly Friend" literally has everything (and more) for which you could hope from a teen movie. The treats include a scene straight out of the Craven "Nightmare on Elm Street" franchise. '80stastic campy gore, and strong intentional and unintentional humor. The homoerotic undertones are a bonus.
Matthew Labyorteaux ("Little House on the Prairie") plays whiz kid Paul Conway, who uses weird science to transform very recently deceased girl next door Samantha "Sam" Pringle (a pre-"Mannequin" sequel Kristy Swanson) into a not-so-small wonder (a.k.a. Bride of Frankenteen). One spoiler is that this dream sexbot turns into the worst nightmare of her creator.
The "special relationship" between Paul and a friend with whom he seemingly would like to enjoy benefits adds an amusing but enlightened element to "Friend." (Not that there is anything wrong with that.)
Paul meets fellow mid-teens dude Tom soon after the new boy in town begins his university studies on the working of the human brain. Tom quickly awkwardly asking Paul if he is in the 10th grade and seeming disappointed on being told no is that first sign that Tom likes other boys "in that way."
Paul soon asking Tom what he likes to do and if he has a girlfriend is an early indication that the interest is mutual. Tom replying that he does not have a girlfriend and that all the local girls are stuck up provides further evidence of interest in doing more than grabbing some Micky Dees with Paul.
Several scenes throughout "Friend" further show that Tom wants to be the "buddy" of Paul, The many references to keeping their mutual secret is one example.
Non-Craven creepiness enters the picture in a couple of scenes with the single mother of Paul. The first one has our mad scientist Cosby Mom so that she will sleep through his sneaking to the hospital to steal the corpse of Sam in order to reanimate her. Paul and Tom exchanging broad grins as Paul spikes the coffee of his mother is very Menendez brothers.
Another eeewww moment has Paul tightly hug his mother in the middle of the night in an effort to conceal that he has a dead girl in the house. Mom responding "that's worth waking up for" is cringe-worthy.
On a lighter note, well-known '80s psychotically grumpy old woman Anne Ramsey ("Throw Momma From the Train") plays a stereotypical nasty old bitch neighbor. Her confiscating the rock that the teens use to play hoops allows her to have three balls.
The Craven terror begins with the BB (sans 8) prototype robot that is the creation of Paul becoming an increasing threat as it develops a great degree of independent thought.
History repeats itself with extreme prejudice when Sam 2.0 goes on a killing spree that is directed against those who dun her wrong during her life. Her scene with Ramsey is priceless. Of course, this prompts Paul to urge Tom to not reveal their secret,
All of this climaxes when Sam goes completely off the rails in a manner that arguably includes a jealous rage. We learn that Hell hath no fury like a Cylon scorned.
The bigger picture is that Labytorteaux and Swanson both play their parts well and avoid camping it up with the possible exception of Swanson doing the robot. The Paul and Tom spark explains the limited on-screen chemistry between the leads.
The recent Warner Archive DVD of the Oscar-winning 1943 Bette Davis anti-fascist drama "Watch on the Rhine" provides a good chance to watch a film with a still highly relevant message, This story beginning life as a play helps explain the live-stage vibe. The thoroughly delightful "Warner Night at the Movies," which includes a newsreel and a HILARIOUS Daffy Duck cartoon, greatly enhances the WWII-era experience of watching "Rhine."
The screen cred. this time extends well beyond Davis; Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman collaborate on the screenplay, We also get Davis co-star Paul Lukas winning a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar. The supporting cast including Geraldine Fitzgerald, Beulah Bondi, and Lucille Watcon reinforces that this is one to add to your home-video library.
Watson and Hammett only being nominated for Oscars shows that "Rhine" don't get nearly the deserved respect. The New York Film Critics awarding "Rhine" Best Picture honors in 1943 and the USA National Board of Review similarly lauding the movie and Lukas is solid compensation.
The following YouTube clip of a "Rhine" trailer highlights all of the elements touched on above; it also shows why the peepers of Bette Davis warrant an '80s pop song.
Our story begins with expat heiress Sara Mueller (nee Farrelly), her German born-and-raised husband Kurt Mueller (Lukas), and their three children heading El Norte across a wall-free border from Mexico to the United States in 1940. They are going to the Virginia family estate of Sara. Widowed Fanny Farrelly (Wilson) still rules the roost with an white-glove-clad iron fist,
One can easily imagine the reactions of the Von Trapp children on landing in Vermont being akin (pun intended) to that of the Mueller kinder on arriving at the home of their grandmother. This would be especially so if the Von Trapps had lived an impoverished nomadic existence for the prior several years.
The action soon shifts to breakfast time at Chez Farrelly. Ala Southfork, the adult kids and extended houseguests call the showplace home. Son David has a respectable job befitting the offspring of a former U.S. Supreme Court justice. However, his personal life is not quite as above reproach, His misdeeds include borderline inappropriate behavior with long-time family friend/houseguest Marthe de Brancovis (Fitzgerald).
The loathsome Count Teck de Brancovis is enjoying a life of luxurious leisure SOLELY courtesy of his marriage. His numerous sins include amassing debt that he has no prayer of repaying and gambling the cash that he acquires. His lenient attitude toward the Nazis displays another of his many characters flaws.
Worlds collide when anti-fascist Kurt moves into the same house as Teck; the political views of the former and suspicions that he raises prompt the latter to develop thoughts of profiting from his poker-playing Aryan brothers at the German Embassy.
The aforementioned suspicions include Sara and Kurt being cagey regarding their life during much of the '30s. They clearly have something to hide, particularly from Teck.
Much of the mastery of "Rhine" relates to the manner in which it depicts the rapidly increasing turmoil in Europe proportionately affecting American families. Our central household goes from daily life and Fanny excitedly preparing for the arrival of her daughter and her grandchildren to the tension that must be seen to be understood,
Things fully come to a head when overseas news equally emboldens Teck and causes Kurt justifiable angst. Anyone familiar with Golden and Silver Age Hollywood fare know that both men react in manners that are very true to their characters. At the same time, the resolution is shocking.
Hammett and Hellman additionally deliver regarding penning a conclusion that is far from a "happily ever after" Hollywood ending. We fully see that war is Hell.
Warner Archive misses it by that much regarding releasing the beautifully remastered Blu-ray of the 1985 crime drama "Year of the Dragon' on February 19 2019, which is a few weeks after Chinese New Year. Although it is is unknown if traditional Chinese culture considers the number 21919 lucky, it is certain that that sequence of digits is lucky for fans of quality neo-noir.
The street creed. of "Dragon" begins with Mickey Rourke doing his unhinged outsider bit very well as crusading police captain/Vietnam vet Stanley White, who changes his name to conceal his Polish ancestry. The pedigree continues with director Michael Cimino, whose credits include "The Deer Hunter;" we do not discuss "Heaven;s Gate." Cimino also provides audio commentary for this release.
The man who needs no introduction Oliver Stone co-writes the sceenplayer. Super-producer Dino De Laurentis oversees the entire project.
The overall theme of "Dragon" is that there is big trouble in Little China (a.k.a. the Manhattan Chinatown). Gangs of young punks are moving in on the territory of the established crime bosses; this largely takes the form of muscling in on the protection rackets and enforcing the "or else" aspect of this with extreme prejudice, For their part, the caught-in-the-middle respectable Italian businessmen are upset with the old bosses for not keeping the kids in line.
Stereotypical son-in-law Joey Tai (John Lone of "The Last Emperor)) also is a man in the middle. His impatience regarding waiting for his father-in-law to retire prompts Joey to commit his own act of extreme prejudice. The consequences of this include the seemingly age-old pattern of a family business suffering each time that the next generation assumes leadership of the enterprise,
The civilian with a horse in the race is Asian television reporter Tracy Tzu, who is investigating the increased violence in Chinatown. The good news is Tzu represents a positive image of a well-educated Asian woman with a success story that begins with a great-grandfather whose life in America consists of difficult menial work under very difficult circumstances.
The bad news is that many folks who are familiar with the long-running crude animated sitcom "Family Guy" will think of the character whose on-air reports always begin with "this is Asian reporter Tricia Takanawa" when they see Tzu on the job. The better news is that such a reprehensible connection prompts deep feelings of shame.
Our oft-transferred White knight, who does not work or play well with others, enters the picture in the midst of all this, Irony appears in the form of the same police officials who look the other way in exchange for the Old Guard keeping the peace in Chinatown calling in White knowing that he does not play that way.
On the homefront, Mrs. Connie White is fully frustrated regarding the prices that she pays regarding the efforts of her husband to protect and serve the general population with doing either her. His teaming up with Tzu does not help matters.
The rest of the story is that a hilarious noir version of divine intervention is helping White with his effort to disrupt a massive drug deal with which Tai is involved. Other humor enters the picture in the form of a rookie being the only reliable option regarding using an undercover cop.
Our team of experts in-front-of and behind-the-camera particularly deliver as events build to the inevitable showdown between White and Tai. The collateral damage is high and more violent than expected, and White learns that no good deed goes unpunished. The lack of a sequel is the real crime.
As the disclaimers (and the reference to Takanawa) regarding the depiction of Chinese culture reflect, "Dragon" sadly is a film that likely would not be made in 2019. The backlash against the stereotypes despite the sympathy expressed toward the treatment of Asian immigrants would be the tip of the iceberg. The violence against women and the lack of female police officials would seal the deal regarding "Dragon" not even seeing the light-of-day as a direct-to-video release in the Wal-Mart bargain bin.
The same right-thinking people who do not judge people based on stereotypes and who find abuse of anyone abhorrent should realize that fictional depictions of those ills are PURELY for entertainment purposes and do not necessarily reflect the views of those associated with the production. It does not seem that depicting a female who ultimately must obey her man and allow him to imprison her in a bottle for merely asserting her views stops anyone from loving "I Dream of Jeannie,"
Context, people. Context.
The readily-available vintage Warner Archive DVD of the 1955 action-adventure period-piece "Moonfleet" (1955) is a wonderful Band-aid for what ails most of us during our winter of extreme discontent. The bright and wide CinemaScope format greatly enhances this atmospheric piece set in the titular community on the moors of Dorsetshire.
Fritz Lang ("Metropolis") utilizes his off-beat style very well in this Dickens/Stevenson tale of orphaned boy John Mohune going to Moonfleet to start a beautiful friendship with Jeremy Fox (Stewart Granger), who has a history with the mother of the boy. Although not explicitly stated in this '50s film, there is little doubt that the fox made his way into the hen house and that John is the product of that welcome incursion.
The opening scenes have John walking the moors in search of his new life; a fright for both him and the audience leads to his waking up in a tavern surrounded by a motley crew. The dashing upper-class Fox soon arrives on the scene and takes control.
We soon see that the road that is Hell on which to ride on is paved with good intentions as Fox has the lad shoved into a carriage and shipped back to civilization, The manner in which Fox describes the intended schooling of John is hilarious. Our excitable boy will have none of that and escapes.
The journey continues as John arrives at his ancestral house that Fox now owns. The debauchery that the once heir to the manor witnesses furthers his education. Suffice it to say, Fox is not pleased to see this minor inconvenience.
The Robert Louis Stevenson vibe is particularly strong as an eerie night-time wandering by John leads to his literally stumbling into the lair of a group of smugglers. Learning the extent to which this activity hits home is the first shock for our boy; finding himself without an immediate exit strategy is the next.
Additional harrowing events lead to a father-figure and son treasure hunt that they hope will go well. This involves bonding that extends beyond the divorced dad staple of a round of mini-golf. Nothing strengthens family ties more than fleeing from Redcoats.
Fox subsequently taking a powder is slightly surprising; his return is not, but does lead to another surprise. The two lessons are that a leopard cannot change his spots and that you sometimes must be cruel to be kind in the right measure.