Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Lost World (1925)

The Lost World is based in Arthur Conan Doyle's famous novel about a "lost world" with surviving dinosaurs and other amazing beasts on a plateau in South America. Paula White (Bessie Love) brings the journal of her father Maple to London, in the journal are descriptions and drawings of beasts thought long extinct. The scientific community are sceptical naturally but Paula launches an expedition to the plateau with Professor Challenger (Wallace Beery) and a motley crew of other explorers.

When they reach the plateau they find Maple White was right, there is a lost world of dinosaurs and giant apes. Naturally there are plenty of dangers for our humans to survive including a giant apeman and a volcanic eruption. Plus a bit of a love triangle with Paula, Ed Malone (Lloyd Hughes) and Sir John Roxton (Lewis Stone) - probably better places for that kind of thing to be honest when there are Allosauruses feasting on Pteranodons in the background. An entertaining film with good stop-motion special effects, especially for the day.

On a historical note, this was the very first film to be shown on an airliner during a flight (Imperial Airways).

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Captured in Chinatown (1935)

What a wonderfully weird film! Two Chinese clans seemingly endless blood feud is finally ended by a couple (Joy Ling and Wing Foo) who cross the divide. To cement the union a highly valuable jade necklace is to be presented at the wedding but some (American) crooks led by Zamboni (Paul Ellis) plot to steal it.

Amid this mayhem a young reporter couple Bob and Ann (played by Charles Delaney and Marion Shilling) in a love-hate relationship who get wrapped up in the theft and save the day and avert a full on bloody Triad war.

The real star of the show is Tarzan the dog who performs tricks like turning on the gas to boil the kettle for his owner's coffee and delivering notes. Tarzan is also probably the best actor in the film too (and got top billing).

Tarzan's tricks are mostly to pad the film out as there isn't a lot of storyline to fill the time otherwise. It is all pretty awful but happily it's in the "so bad it's good" category mostly because the dated stereotypes are just so ridiculous.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Ellery Queen and the Murder Ring (1941)

A murder mystery set in a hospital with a high degree of farce, maybe a bit too much but it is undeniably entertaining. Ralph Bellamy plays the famous mystery writer/amateur sleuth Ellery Queen this time with Charley Grapewin his old man on the force and Margaret Lindsey as Nikki, Ellery's assistant.

The rather unpleasant Augusta Stack (Blanche Yurka), benefactor of a local hospital, calls in the police as she suspects one of her surgeons is a murderer. Ellery Queen gets drawn into the case but when Augusta is bought in after an auto accident and mysteriously dies during an operation he begins to investigate the strange goings on in the hospital.

Unfortunately for the Queens possible suspects start get bumped off too. Quite a lot of the film is a bit of a romp in the hospital as an injured hoodlum tries to escape the police. If you can get past the farce it is quite an interesting murder mystery.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Exile Express (1939)

Anna Sten is Nadine, the Ukrainian assistant to a scientist (Harry Davenport) and preparing to become an American citizen. On the eve of the ceremony Soviet spies led by her "boyfriend" Paul Brandt (Jerome Cowan) - not that she knows his real intentions towards her - kill the scientist to get their hands on a potential chemical weapon. However they need Nadine to translate the notes, but she is on a train heading across the country to be deported having being suspected of involvement in the scientist's death.

Reporter Steve (Alan Marshall) is also on the train covering another story. He becomes interested in Nadine and gets involved when she makes a getaway. He even ends up becoming married to her! However not only are the police after them, Brandt and his gang are too...

Although often ridiculous, and with a bit too much lightness thrown in at times - some of the "comedy" characters are simply bizarre and tedious apart from the raving lunatic Bolshevik. The film is an enjoyable romp with some chase scenes but quite a lot of filler, luckily Anna Sten and Alan Marshall do a good enough job to keep you interested.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

The Last Alarm (1940)

Jim Hadley (J. Farrell MacDonald) is a respected old soak firefighter who has retired but is finding himself at a loose end. Meanwhile a deranged pyromaniac called Wendell (George Pembroke) has caused a series of fires and it is putting the insurance company which Jim's daughter Joan (Polly Ann Young) works at and her insurance investigator beau Frank (Warren Hull) under pressure.

When Jim's old buddy is killed in the latest fire he is bought in to help the investigation. Wendell knows the net is closing in but he turns his attention to bringing down the Hadleys.

Although the plot is pretty basic the film is an entertaining crime film with a difference. Apart from Wendell's over the top maniac act most of the acting is very natural, especially by MacDonald. Although a low budget film it looks good, in particular making good use of stock footage.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Sunset Murder Case (1938)

An enjoyable murder mystery but most notable for it's female nudity which in 1938 was quite something. As you can imagine the film was banned left right and centre.

It starred Sally Rand as Kathy O'Connor a dancer whose policeman father is killed, with the help of reporter Lou (Dennis Moore) she hatches a plot to infiltrate the nightclub she thinks was responsible for her father's death as a stripper.

It sounds rather ridiculous and exploitative, and it definitely is the former. Luckily it largely manages to avoid the latter. However the film doesn't really make any sense at all. Why does Sally suspect the nightclub for example, and why are people being bumped off? Something to do with blackmail but it is all rather murky but the balloon dance is nice.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Cover Girl Killer (1959)

Someone is killing cover girls from a popular soft-core girlie mag, the murderer (Harry H Corbett) kills the girls and then reenacts the cover photo. Inspector Brunner (Victor Brooks) is on the case in a methodical plodding manner. He is assisted by John Mason (Spencer Teakle) who is the owner of the girlie mag - which he apparently inherited from his uncle. Otherwise he is an archaeologist!

To lure the serial killer into a trap Felicity (June Rawson) is put on the cover of the magazine and thus becomes the next target for Corbett's sinister murderer.

Corbett's character is really interesting with a deep level of psychosis. The sleazy setting of the film adds an enjoyable layer of dirt but as a crime drama it is rather lacking. The police seem particularly dopey but the amateur saves the day in Golden Age fashion. Not the best film but Corbett's performance is worth checking out, this is way beyond Steptoe.