Friday, December 1, 2023

Venetian Bird (1952)

A grimy and Noir-ish crime drama set in glamorous Venice's seedy under belly.

Private detective Mercer (Richard Todd) has come to Vice to locate a former resistance fighter on behalf of an insurance company. However, locating this man is proving difficult especially as his informant is soon found dead! Mercer thinks the man is linked to a gallery where Adriana (Eva Bartok) works and lives. Despite news that the man he is seeking died in the war, Mercer is sure he is still alive though this puts him at odds with a tough gang who have a dark plan of their own...

An enjoyable film is fairly static at times but the portrayal of the grimy life of Mercer (which the limited budget probably helped with) works really well, the final chase on the roof tops is thrilling though. Look out for Sid James giving possibly the worst impression of an Italian hardman ever!

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Secret of the Blue Room (1933)

A fascinating and ingenious Locked Room mystery.

Twenty years ago three murders took place in a country house's guest room which was, of course, locked. Now the daughter of the house owner (Lionel Atwill), Irene (Gloria Stuart), has three potential suitors but cannot choose between them. Thomas (William Janney) has the idea that the three of them must spend the night in the cursed guest room. Thomas goes first and goes missing. 

Then on the next night Frank (Onslow Stevens) takes his turn and is shot. There is also a mysterious stranger entering the house and suspicious actions by the staff. Finally, the police (Edward Arnold) is called in by Captain Brink (Paul Lucas)...

This is a remake of 1932 German film Geheimnis des blauen Zimmers and is an excellent crime drama. Although it has many of the familiar tropes of Locked Room and Dark House mysteries, this is very well done and has a superb twist.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Willa (1979)

She had a dream, and that dream was to drive a truck!

Willa (Deborah Raffin) has a mundane job as a waitress, is raising two kids without the father being around and has an alcoholic mother (Diane Ladd). For some reason she wants a little more in life! She dreams of driving a truck and works hard, loading cargo at night after her day job to earn the right to take driving lessons. I'm not sure what she uses to get all the energy to do all this but i certainly would like some.

Things do not go smoothly for Willa though as the authorities threaten to take her kids away. However, she gets help from another female trucker (Cloris Leachman) and even has time to flirt with Joe (Clu Gulager)...

Well it is a fine enough melodrama. Although a trucking movie, it doesn't have the usual cliches such as high speed chases and bad men stealing loads that you usually get with this genre. The story is a bit basic though, determined to hammer home it's message any way it can.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Falcon in Hollywood (1944)

Another in the long-running Falcon series, this time taking a behind the scenes look at the magic of Hollywood.

The Falcon (Tom Conway) goes after a young woman who has accidentally taken the purse of his friend. He trails her to a movie studio and discovers she is the actress Peggy Callaghan (Barbara Hale). While at the studio backlot, The Falcon hears a gunshot, but this isn't part of a movie script! A real murder has taken place and somehow involves the pretentious producer Dwyer (John Abbott), Peggy and a gangster.

The Falcon is helped (or hindered) by taxi driver Billie (Veda Ann Borg) and definitely hindered by the law in this typically fast paced and light crime romp. A fine film, the behind the scenes look at the movie making business is always interesting and avoids being too self-indulgent.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Battle for the Lost Planet (1986)

A zero-budget sci-fi mish-mash of a number of different films... and it somehow works, despite being very very weird.

Harry Trent (Matt Mitler) is a thief on the run, and decides to steal a space shuttle to escape some security guards. Once in space, he finds the shuttle is damaged and can't return to Earth for five years, which is handy as an alien fleet has just arrived to conquer Earth!

Finally back home, Harry finds the world is now like the one in Mad Max, only with grass and trees. After a fight with inept barbarians in ragged clothes, he meets up with Dana (Denise Coward) and discovers that a secret tape he has (indeed, the reason he was on the run in the first place was because he stole it) contains the secret which will allow scientists to develop a weapon to defeat the aliens. To get the tape to the Professor (Bill MacGlaughlin), Harry and Dana must cross the bad lands (which look quite nice really), battle a warlord called Mad Dog (Joe Gentissi) and fight lots of pig faced aliens...

This is a very strange film that rips off a number of different science fiction films but has plenty of ambition despite the laughably poor sfx. It also has plenty of cheese and weirdness, such as showing how Harry - trapped in space - resorts to drawing a woman's face on a pillow and then humping it! I don't know how they managed it but this film is great!

Friday, November 24, 2023

Rogue Lion (1972)

An amiable tale on a South African nature reserve, plenty of wild animals and some minor adventure if not that many thrills.

Dudley (Brian O'Shaughnessey) operates a nature reserve and is very set in his ways. He doesn't really want any help (though with various wild animals running rampant and a gang of poachers led by Dudley's nemesis Kimber (Victor Melleney) on the reserve he surely needs some). 

He grudgingly accepts Larry (Bruce Millar), a ranger transferred to help him. Larry manages to get on Dudley's good side despite their different methods and outlooks on life causing some conflict early on but then Larry gets involved with Sally (Tessa Ziegler) who just happens to be Kimber's daughter...

Despite the title we don't get to see much in the way of rogue lions in this film, we do see troublesome hippos, wildebeests and crocodiles. The nature footage is the best part of the film but the rest is a perfectly reasonable film if not overly exciting.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Please Murder Me! (1956)

A superbly tense and dark tale of murder and betrayal.

Lawyer Craig Carlson (Raymond Burr) tells his friend Joe (Dick Foran) that Joe's wife Myra (Angela Lansbury) wants to leave him and shack up with Craig instead! Joe gets enraged and apparently goes him to kill Myra but she kills him in self-defence. Despite a lack of evidence supporting her side of the story, Craig helps her escape the murder rap. 

However, Craig discovers that Myra was faking her love for him, really she is in love with a struggling artist (Lamont Johnson). She had set the whole thing up to murder Joe and get Craig to help her...

The story is told in flashback by Craig while he waits for his death, everything he has wanted in his life has gone, all he has left is to bring Myra to justice. You can probably guess who he is waiting for but it is still a tense conclusion. A well constructed crime film with Noir touches.