Saturday, June 23, 2018

Bombay Waterfront (1952)

The Marquis is a serial killer terrorising London. While the police have no leads the amateur detective Paul Temple (John Bentley) is on the case - this is the last in a short series of Paul Temple films - indeed it's alternative title is Paul Temple Returns. In fact Temple is warned off by The Marquis even before he is on the case which is a bit of an odd move to be honest.

Temple and his wife Steve (Patricia Dainton) obviously arn't put off by these warnings and begin investigating the case even though the police led by Ross (Ronald Leigh-Hunt) are not keen for the help...

Everyone is frightfully posh (apart from a rather dated stereotype Burmese servant) and the film proceeds at a decent tempo with an interesting view of early 1950s London. Paul Temple is a bit bland as a detective and somewhat smug but the film has a good supporting cast including Christopher Lee as a rather creepy Egyptologist and Robert Urquhart.

Friday, June 22, 2018

The Mystery Train (1931)

This drama is book-ended by train perils. It stars Hedda Hopper as Miriam, a near-bankrupt businesswoman who needs to marry a daughter off to a rich young man to get her hands on his inheritance. Unfortunately she doesn't have one...

Then after a train crash she comes across a young girl called Joan (Marceline Day) who has been wrongly convicted of a crime and now on the run. Miriam makes Joan her "niece" and targets the young man for marriage.

Luckily Joan and the rich young man Ronald (Nick Stuart) fall in love without any more schemes by Miriam. However Joan doesn't want to go through with the plan but Miriam threatens her...

It is an interesting and charming little film which ends with another railway adventure. Some of the dialogue and acting is a little stilted but the film flows nicely. The railway scenes are very well done.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Charlie Shanghaied (1915)

Another Charlie Chaplin comedy short. An unscrupulous ship captain (Wesley Ruggles) wants to scuttle his ship so he can get the insurance money. However he needs a crew for a final fatal voyage...

It just so happens the captain's daughter (Edna Purviance - of course, she often played the leading lady in Charlie Chaplin films of this era) is in love with a tramp (Charlie - of course). The captain gets Charlie to shanghai him some crew... and then shanghais Charlie too.

So its a Charlie Chaplin slapstick farce at sea - causing various mayhem and eventually foiling the plan to blow up the ship. An enjoyable film, especially as there is some actual story to hang the action on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Phantom in the House (1929)

An early talkie, and a bit rough around the edges but an interesting story. A woman (Nancy Welford) kills a man trying to take advantage of her. Her husband (Henry B. Walthall) takes the fall and ends up in prison for fifteen years.

When he finally is released he finds his wife has moved on into high society - and it's overjoyed to have him back - and his baby daughter is now a fully grown woman (Grace Valentine) being pursued by a titled womaniser while in love with Paul (Ricardo Cortez).

Many talkies suffered from rather stilted and unnatural dialogue and static camerawork due to the limited nature of the technology at the time and The Phantom in the House is no exception (though not the worst). Some of the acting is also awkward, actors were still getting used to talking on film though Walthall does really well. However it is an interesting film, with a good if sometimes pretty dark story. Plus it had some truly great set design.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Seven Doors to Death (1944)

Jimmy (Chick Chandler) gets mixed up in a murder case when one of the suspects Mary (June Clyde) jumps on his car - and he promptly crashes it.

Jimmy doesn't think Mary has committed the murder though (maybe because he fancies her - though still wants to charge her for repairs to his car), instead it appears to be someone who lives behind one of the doors in a small shopping precinct which includes her shop. While the police (Michael Raffetto) begin their investigation Jimmy and Mary also look for the killer... before he gets them.

A pleasing B-movie though lacks much in the way of suspense. The chemistry between Jimmy and Mary is good and the film had sufficient humour and energy to make it worthwhile if not particularly Earth shattering.

Monday, June 18, 2018

I'll Name the Murderer (1936)

A neat little murder mystery about the killing of a black mailer and singer (Agnes Anderson) at Luigi's Cafe.

Being a Golden Age type story there is of course an amateur detective who leads the police a merry dance. This time it's newspaper gossip column writer Tommy Tilton (Ralph Forbes).

There are a number of possible suspects including the victim's ex (and target of her blackmailing) Ted (Malcolm McGregor), love rivals and also cafe owner Luigi (Harry Semels) himself who is in financial trouble. Tommy boasts he will reveal the murderer in his column. The problem with his boast is that he doesn't really have much to back up his bravado but the investigation is on.

An enjoyable little film, a bit creaky and low budget but the story proceeds at apace. Tommy is played with plenty of cheek. Whether a playboy is credible as an amateur detective is another question.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Silent Night Deadly Night 2 (1987)

Silent Night Deadly Night 2 is a sequel which includes so much of the first movie it means you are quite safe to start with this one. A weird kind of Christmas movie though not very festive in theme being a rather bizarre horror film / black comedy.

Ricky (Eric Freeman) is the brother of the murderer in the first movie, and is in a psychiatric hospital following murders he has committed. He recounts his brother's murders to a psychologist using recycled footage from the first movie...

Then we see Ricky's own murder spree, killing people he thinks are "naughty". Ricky then escapes from hospital, kills a Santa and steals the outfit (thus making the film festive I guess)...

It doesn't sound very funny from the description but is executed so ridiculously you can't help but laugh. The budget was so low they needed to re-use so much old footage and the new footage is pretty ropey and badly acted. Random scenes and dialogue also add to the weirdness. A deserved cult classic, the film has become quite (in)famous for the following scene (which quite frankly is the best thing about the entire film):

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Death at Broadcasting House (1934)

A radio play at the BBC is being broadcast, one of the actors is "murdered" in the play and puts on a terrific performance, you'd almost think he was being murdered for real... oh he is!

The victim has a number of enemies including some of his fellow actors including Dryden (Austin Trevor) who suspiciously left the studio during the performance. And who exactly was the foolish toff (Peter Haddon) wandering Broadcasting House?

The police investigation by the Inspector (Ian Hunter) proceeds well including a rather curious watch listening scene. The acting is at times rather melodramatic (and everyone is frightfully posh - actors in broadcasts back in those days performed in top hats and evening gowns) but rather suits such a setting. A lovely film with a good cast including Henry Kendall and Jack Hawkins. It also includes a couple of songs by popular singers of the day (Elizabeth Welch and Eve Becke) and the mystery of why a tap dance routine is broadcast on the radio.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Last Woman on Earth (1960)

Last Woman on Earth has a rather interesting premise, some mysterious catastrophe has wiped out the world population apart from three people. How do they survive especially when the three people consists of two men in love with the same woman?

The action takes place in Puerto Rico. Anthony Carbone is a crooked businessman hiding out from the law with his wife Evelyn (Betsy Jones-Moreland) and his lawyer Martin (Robert Towne). They are underwater when disaster strikes, something wiping out the world's oxygen. When they return to the surface they find everyone asphyxiated, luckily plants begin restoring the world's oxygen supply before their scuba tanks run out of air.

The film then becomes a love triangle with the two men fighting to assert their superiority. Well it can't end well as you expect. The film is pretty low-budget (helped greatly by killing off everyone else apart from the three main actors of course) and sometimes a bit slow but has some great ideas and the suddenly de-populated world is rather creepy. It is just a shame the new world was not explored more, there must have been other survivors somewhere for example? One silly thing is Evelyn somehow managed to keep her perfect hairdo and supply of lovely dresses even though the two men get reduced to rags.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Tomorrow at Seven (1933)

Tomorrow At Seven is a sometimes silly but other times quite interesting murder mystery. The Black Ace is a serial killer who always kills his victims after first sending them an Ace of Spades card. Chester Morris is Neil Broderick, a novelist and amateur detective who is investigating the Black Ace. He goes to Chicago to see businessman Thornton Drake (Henry Stephenson) who is also after the serial killer.

While he is there the Black Ace sends another of his warning cards. While on a plane to Louisiana the Black Ace strikes and kills Drake's secretary Winters (Grant Mitchell). Now on the ground the investigation begins... and becomes a typical murder mystery with a cast of different characters in an old dark mansion.

Unfortunately two rather inept policemen are also around who pretty much stink out every scene they are in with some corny and misplaced humour. Apart from that the film isn't bad with a good plot though at times proceeds at a strangely glacial pace. The ending is very good though and worth the wait.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Dead Men Tell (1941)

A Charlie Chan (played by the rather non-Asian Sidney Toler) murder mystery set on a ship - though one that stays in port.

An eccentric old lady (Ethel Griffies) has found a map by her pirate ancestor but is literally scared to death by someone pretending to be a pirate ghost. Charlie Chan is luckily on hand looking for his wayward No. 2 son (Sen Yung) and investigates the case.

The murderer must be one of a motley cast of fellow passengers who is after the map (and so the treasure). It is an enjoyable little film and a neat little mystery full of red herrings though of course completely ridiculous. Chan is portrayed a most bizarrely stereotypical way in manner and speech. However his sage and calm philosophy contrasts amusingly well with his disaster prone son.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Dark Star (1974)

Dark Star is basically Hippies in space. Unstable planets need to be blown up before they get in the way of colonists so the crew aboard the space ship Dark Star are disposing of them with their talking bombs. Yes it is a rather strange film...

It is also rather good. A pretty low budget affair but very watchable. The ship is falling apart and a cosmic storm causes one of the bombs to malfunction. The crew, led by Brian Narelle, have to try and persuade it to return to the hanger and not blow them to atoms. If that is not enough there is also a rather bizarre alien which looks like an inflatable ball with claws that is running amok. The commander of the mission is dead but still able to communicate while kept in cryogenic stasis.

It certainly is one crazy film, and sometimes quite funny. It does drag at other times, just like being stuck on a space ship in deep space I guess. Unlike most science fiction films the crew of this ship are not supermen or highly trained personnel, they look like they were told to accept the job at the job centre or else. Despite it's flaws I've always liked this film, it was the very first film I ever saw on VHS...

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Moonstone (1934)

The Moonstone is an adaptation of the 1868 novel of the same name by Wikie Collins which is regarded as the first detective novel.

Now this is a pure Golden Age mystery: a country house with a motley collection of stereotypes, a mysterious crime is committed during a storm and it even has a touch of the Orient with a supposedly cursed jewel from India.

Ann (Phyllis Barry) is the owner of the stone, highly valuable and various people at the house including the money lender Von Lucker (Gustav von Seyffertitz) and the failed businessman Godfrey (Jameson Thomas) have various motives for stealing the stone which goes missing one night. Luckily a Scotland Yard detective (Charles Irwin) is on hand to try and unravel what is going on.

A lovely whodunit set in a gloomy country house in Yorkshire. The crime method is rather odd and the film chops about a bit but has plenty of atmosphere.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Shadow (1933)

The Shadow is a strange film, it starts off very promisingly with a tale of a vicious blackmailer (The Shadow) and then suddenly is thrown into a middling Golden Age type country house murder mystery with The Shadow bumping off a motley crew of upper class twits.

The Shadow blackmails rich people which usually ends up in the poor victim committing suicide. Police chief Sir Richard (Felix Aylmer) has taken time out from the investigation in his country house and assorted guests including rather annoying toff novelist Reggie (Henry Kendall) and his reluctant love target Sonja (Elizabeth Allan). Unfortunately it turns out one of Sir Richard's guests is The Shadow...

The film is full of every country house mystery cliche going, including a good deal of over acting. Its a highly enjoyable romp with plenty of dashing around the country house, maybe a little too much humour though to match the potential for suspense from the sinister villain. The twist at the end is superb though.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Gorgo (1961)

A huge monster is released by a volcano and proceeds to destroy a major city. No this isn't a Godzilla film but something very like it...

Gorgo actually isn't the monster who unleashes mega mayhem, although a dinosaur like beast twenty metres tall he is driven off by Irish villagers and eventually captured by Bill Travers and put in a circus in London.

Unfortunately for London Gorgo's much bigger mum comes looking for her son, shrugs off the best efforts of the Royal Navy and British Army and destroys half of London while looking for Gorgo. Never get between a mother and her child, especially when the mother is a sixty metre tall armour plated killing machine.

If you like seeing someone in a rubber suit destroy a model city then this isn't bad at all. A pretty decent example of the monster genre. The human actors are rather forgettable but Gorgo and his mum are terrific.