Friday, February 15, 2019

The President's Mystery (1936)

This film was apparently inspired by an idea of President Roosevelt about whether a rich man could disappear and start a new life. James Blake (Henry Wilcoxon) is that man, a millionaire attorney who has helped his big corporation crush a bill which would helped the little man and instead maintain their cartel. On vacation he finds a small town crushed by depression and a closed factory owned by Charlotte Brown (Betty Furness) and has a bit of an epiphany.

James leaves his old life and his cold unloving wife Ilka (Evelyn Brent) to help Charlotte restart her factory. This puts him into conflict with the cartel and big business. One complication is that his old colleague George Sartos (Sidney Blackmer), when James left his old life, accidentally had Ilka killed and James ends up accused of her murder...

The link to the President is rather loose (though the film makes the most of it) but the story would definitely have struck a chord during the Great Depression with the little man resisting big business and fighting to survive. It is all a bit corny but is different.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

O.K. Connery (1967)

Don't mention 007 but this is an Italian spoof that flies very close to copyright violation. As James Bond is busy saving the world elsewhere his brother is recruited to stop an evil crime syndicate from seizing all of the world's gold. The brother is played by Neil Connery... yes the real brother of Sean!

It also stars Bond stars Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell in roles incredibly similar to their roles in 007... Another Bond star Adolfo Celi is the bad guy. There are a few other Bond actors too.

So a very thinly veiled spoof and complete nonsense. It includes Bond-esque action set pieces, Bond-like music, Bond-like gadgets, plenty of 60s Bond-esque girls and glamour too.

Unfortunately it rips off Bond so much there isn't much space for a plot which is basic and largely something to hang a series of Bond-esque set pieces on. It does involve a mad plot to take over the world with secret rays (of course). Quite frankly it is a bizarre film and terrible in so many ways but so strange it is genuinely compelling and undeniably entertaining.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Juggernaut (1936)

Dr Sartorius (Boris Karloff) is a dying doctor obsessed with his research but he is short of cash. On the French Riviera Lady Clifford (Mona Goya) is married to millionaire Sir Clifford (Morton Selten) but wants to get rid of him so she can carry on with her fancy man Arthur (Anthony Ireland). She hires Sartorius to poison Sir Clifford in return for funds to complete his research...

Sartorius' new nurse Eve (Joan Wyndham) is suspicious and sends the syringe off for analysis. Things get more serious when it is discovered Clifford's son Roger (Arthur Margetson) has been given power of attorney over Clifford's money and thus Sartorius won't get anything unless he gets rid of Roger too...

An odd little film with wall to wall bad/over acting but Karloff is terrific as the sinister scientist. Goya is ridiculously over the top (even biting Roger at one stage) but so entertaining with it. The pace is uneven - either slow or breakneck - and the film is a bit clunky with no real atmosphere. It is all a little weird.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)

A pirate ship, the Diablo, commanded by Robeles (Christopher Lee) takes part in the Spanish Armada but is badly damaged during the battle. Robeles takes his ship into the English marshes for repairs.

They then run into trouble when they find a small remote village. As the villagers don't know the Armada was defeated the pirates try to bluff their way to make the villagers think Spain now rules England.

It's all rollicking and swashbuckling good fun. Christopher Lee is excellent as the brutal pirate captain, Ernest Clark also plays a good role as the oily local aristocrat who is overly keen to ingratiate himself with the Spanish. John Cairney is the hero who refuses to bow down to the invaders.

The most impressive thing about the film though is the Diablo itself, a full-size galleon built for the film. Unfortunately it was not built very well and capsized leaving most of the cast and crew in the water!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Confidential (1935)

FBI Agent Dave Elliott (Donald Cook) is after gangsters. When his partner Arnold (Reed Howes) is killed in an operation he goes undercover in a numbers racket, via the rather dopey Regan (Warren Hymer), in order to find out who is the brains behind the outfit.

Once inside the gang Dave falls in love (of course) with the boss' secretary Maxine (Evalyn Knapp). He gains the confidence of the gang though one of them - Lefty Tate (J. Carrol Naish) - seems to find him rather familiar. Another complication comes when he bumps into an old college friend whose father turns out to be the big boss of organised crime JW (Herbert Rawlinson)...

Although nothing that original this is an entertaining fast moving (especially the last few minutes) crime movie. Snappy dialogue, some genuine charisma between Dave and Maxine and some decent action scenes elevate this film above the ordinary.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Tequila (1993)

Andy Hui plays a cop investigating a series of murders, helped(?) by his somewhat annoying partner Cheung Kwok Keung. The victims seem to all be cheating husbands and linked to a club called Table For Two which caters for those who wish to fool around...

The two cops go undercover and... well you can guess the rest. Yes they both fall for two girls who work there. Andy falls in love with Chan Hui Ying... unfortunately she has a beefy ex-husband who wants to beat up anyone who touches his ex.

As guys who have been with Ying have ended up dead and Andy gets threatened with a knife by the ex he becomes the suspect for the murders. But then the ex is gunned down too. So who is it? The jealous barman who is secretly in love with Ying? Though you know Sarah Lee seems very close to her too...

The film is entertaining low-budget HK fun, the plot is fairly coherent (no weird tangents which is a rarity in HK movies of the period) and keeps you guessing for a time although an experienced HK movie watcher should be able to guess who the murderer is before the unveiling because the other suspects are just too obvious. There is even a showdown with explosions! It isn't that original but worth it.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

The Ghost Walks (1934)

It's a dark stormy night and theatrical producer Herman Wood (Richard Carle) is stuck with playwright Prescott Ames (John Miljan) in a lonely house. At dinner mysterious ghostly goings on scare Wood half to death and he wants to leave...

However it turns out Ames was testing out his play and it was all an act, all the other house guests being actors. But then Beatrice (Eve Southern) is found dead for real, there is a real mystery in the house...

So it starts off a rather standard, though well done, "dark house mystery" - the cast is a good ensemble with some good one liners but then quickly morphs into something a lot more. The twists and turns in the plot help elevate it to something pretty good indeed though don't expect a gruesome horror mystery, this is more a farce. Johnny Arthur plays a good comic role as Wood's secretary.