Friday, March 30, 2018

The Riverside Murder (1935)

The Riverside Murder is a fast paced crime drama involving a group of businessmen who have a pact where if one of them dies the others get his money, and someone is killing off these businessmen one by one.

It falls on Inspector Winton (Basil Sydney) to investigate the crimes supported by his sergeant (Alistair Sim). Also investigating is eager and slightly annoying reporter Judy Gunn.

It all has the air of a Golden Age crime novel, especially as most of the action takes place in the same house. With just an hour to play with and a fair amount of story to fit in the film can be a bit frantic at times. It also at times stretches credibility a bit with the police actions but it is all jolly good fun with an exciting ending. Everyone ends up happily ever after... well except the corpses of course and the murderer.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

A Society Sensation (1918)

A Society Sensation has a rather familiar story: poor girl meets rich boy and wins his heart, everything goes a bit wrong but it all ends up happy ever afters. It is done well though, and this short comedy has so much charm.

It stars Carmel Myers and Rudolph Valentino as the couple though ZaSu Pitts often steals the show with her comedy turns and expressions (Myers also does very well on that score).

The original film was fifty minutes long but is now lost, a heavily edited twenty four minute version survives. It was edited in 1924 to put much more emphasis on Valentino who had become a huge star since the original release (which had Myers as the original main star). The pruning is a little crude at times and the film chops about a bit but the essence of a fine film remains.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Castle Sinister (1948)

Castle Sinister is an obscure (and short) British horror film set in a remote Scottish castle starring Mara Russell-Tavernan (me neither). The story involves murder, Nazis spies and ghosts. Well it sounds really promising doesn't it? Unfortunately it falls far short of that promise.

The film meanders, the acting is awkward (probably more painful than the murders) and the budget seems like it was two bob.

It's not all bad, it does have some period charm and the story is quite "Golden Age" in feel. The "Phantom" is cool, and unintentionally funny. The Nazi spy is also sufficiently sinister.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Stoney (1969)

Stoney is a cheesy and sleazy heist drama set in the Philippines and Indonesia and involving gun running, a hoard of WW2 loot and a lot of violence and female nudity.

Stoney is a beautiful woman (played by Barbara Bouchet) who has travelled to Surabaya (the film's alternative title is Surabaya Conspiracy by the way) from Manila to secure transport of a load of looted gold back home, however she has rivals (including Michael Preston) for the loot and much mayhem, murder and double crossing ensues.

Not that it makes much sense, at times the film seems a sequence of random incidents and baffling twists interspersed with a few random gunfights. It is really not that good a film at all which takes a long time to get going though does have the odd nugget to enjoy and the cheese factor is often high which is always welcome. The ending is also impressively bleak.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Ghost Camera (1933)

The Ghost Camera is an example of a Quota quickie, a British film made to help support the film industry in the 1930s. The films were usually low budget and quickly made and not that successful. The Ghost Camera though was one of the most successful of these films and is rather good.

It is a quirky mystery film starring Henry Kendall, Ida Lupino and a young John Mills in one of his first films, involving the discovery of a camera and the film when developed seems to show a murder. The finder of the camera thus goes on a quest to try and find out what has happened.

Some of the characters are a little too quirky perhaps and the film is a bit too rough and ready, basically driven by Henry Kendall's commentary of what he is doing (and he is often hilarious) but it is undeniably enjoyable. It also has a pretty good plot.

Friday, March 23, 2018

East L.A. Warriors (1989)

Apparently gangs in Eastern L.A. are fighting to the death in some kind of reenactment of ancient Roman gladiatorial games. Yes this film is rather silly, and trashy and quite poor.

So i should love this film then, but I'm just not sure about it. It is executed so poorly and so weirdly it is like the awkward filler stuff in mid-80s pop videos stretched into a feature film.

That is not to say I did not enjoy a lot of it, it is cheesy and unintentionally hilarious throughout. The acting is also epically poor. So many strange pauses as if they were waiting to be told what to do next by the director... maybe they were. So it has all the ingredients of a trash classic but just lacks a certain something...

The action in the final act, the actual games, is often laughably poor, like bad pro-wrestling more than tough gang bangers fighting for supremacy. The gangs have cute matching outfits though, a bit like the legendary (and one of the best films ever) The Warriors - though only very slightly.

Tony Bravo is cool as the experienced but reluctant hero, well as cool as going around in a white vest can be.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Death Occurred Last Night (La morte risale a ieri sera) (1970)

Catch a cool and sleazy slice of early 1970s Italy in this engaging crime drama involving the disappearance of a beautiful but mentally disabled young woman (Gillian Bray). She has apparently been dragged into the world of Milanese vice and policemen Frank Wolff and Gabriele Tinti have no choice but to trawl the city's brothels...

It is a dark film ultimately, a story with no happy ending. Poignant in depicting a father's (Raf Vallone) loss though without being gratuitous (well not too much anyway). It is unstinting in it's depiction of prostitution as a true dead end and a brutal sadistic life.

The film meanders at times but any flaws in the film are easily forgivable. Despite the often grim nature of the story the film is just so effortlessly cool. If you like late 60s / early 70s style and groovy music then you'll love this film. I did.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

No Way Back (1949)

Based on a short story written by Thomas Burke as part of his Limehouse Nights collection No Way Back is the story of a washed up ex-boxer played by Terence de Marney who hits hard times and eventually ends up just another thug in a spiv's gang.

But the spiv's girl (Eleanor Summerfield) is his one of his ex-s and still has the hots for him - and soon romance is rekindled which doesn't go down too well with the spiv boss obviously...

At times this is a decent noir drama, though at others (especially with the police chase and siege at the end) it can be a bit silly. The scenes of post-war London are fascinating though with bombed out buildings still yet to be rebuilt. The film also has some odd charm at times.

Monday, March 19, 2018

The Square Ring (1953)

An interesting British film about boxing, set on one night at a boxing card in London, and following five different boxers - who fulfil various British/boxing stereotypes: plucky, washed up, wide eyed naive et cetera.

The film has plenty of star power and is an enjoyable watch (Jack Warner, Joan Collins, Robert Beatty, Sid James and Bill Owen among others) but it is all a bit too cliched and the "boxing is fixed" game is laid on a bit too thick.

The actual boxing scenes, especially the final title fight, are very well done and there is an undeniable sense of drama about the film despite it's shortcomings.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Up With The Lark (1943)

This is a musical comedy starring Ethel Revnell and Gracie West (who made their name as radio comedians) as inept detectives who accidentally begin investigating a gang of black marketeers. Their investigation switches to the countryside where they pose as a pair of Land Army girls and much hilarity ensues (well quite a bit anyway though it does become rather corny at times).

What kind of film is this? It's the kind of film where a gangster dresses as a skeleton to scare people away from a ruined church (used as the black marketers' base) - a lot funnier than it sounds.

Don't expect a proper investigation, the detective pair bumble their way along and succeed in the end despite their best efforts.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Hard Ticket To Hawaii (1987)

An Andy Sidaris film that includes lots of breasts, guns, more breasts, a snake and even more breasts. It is unashamedly low-brow but also high-fun but mostly because it is so ridiculous.

The film stars a couple of obscure actors with all female roles played by Playboy Playmates. To be fair to some of the latter their acting is not as bad as it could have been (though it is bad). The plot is bad too, involving diamond smuggling and a contaminated snake, but forget the plot - it is not that important in a film like this! The film is really a sequence of often bizarre scenes and lots of violence and gratuitous nudity. And boy is there a lot of the latter. The female cast strip off with great regularity and for little apparently reason.

It is a film where a blow-up doll is blown up with a bazooka, a snake explodes out of a toilet and secret orders are hidden in a sandwich (which is then set on fire). The film is a cult classic and deservedly so.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Killer Shrews (1959)

A typical 1950s US monster movie complete with mad scientists and terrible special effects. James Best (who later played Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane in the Dukes of Hazzard) plays a ship captain who gets marooned on an island during a hurricane. There he discovers a small scientific community besieged by giant killer shrews...

The shrews (the result of an experiment gone wrong of course) have run out of other food and now are after human flesh. It's all very B-movie and low budget. The killer shrews are kept obscure for much of the movie probably because when they are finally shown they are completely ridiculous: basically barely disguised dogs.

All pretty formulaic and total nonsense but quite a lot of fun and at times quite scary. The human tank is genuinely innovative.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Free to Love (1925)

Clara Bow stars as a girl wrongly punished for a crime who then adopted and given a new life by the regretful judge who had once condemned her, assisted (and romanced) by minister Donald Keith. However she finds it hard to escape the rough life she has tried to leave behind.

A charming film as always with Clara though the plot is somewhat far fetched (the judge adopts Clara mere minutes after she pulled a gun on him!) The contrast between life at both ends of the social spectrum is quite illuminating. A rather compelling crime / melodrama. You know it will all end up happily for tea though... but how?

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Kill (1971)

Quite simply the weirdest James Mason film I've ever seen. He plays an Interpol agent in this European co-production hunting down a rogue assassin who is killing heroin pushers. Well that sounds straight forward enough.

The thing is the film is rather eccentric, and suggests that copious amounts of recreational stimulants may have been involved in it's production...

The scenes in Pakistan especially involving Jean Seberg and Stephen Boyd score highly on the strange-o-meter. Especially as the latter wanders through Pakistani villages dressed head to toe in leather and no one bats an eyelid.

The film is odd and pretty surreal, and also very violent. Some of the action scenes are pretty good, especially the car-bike chase. But ultimately the film makes little sense and has rather a stereotyped view of life in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Definitely a film of it's time.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Crosstrap (1962)

Crosstrap is an interesting example of a 1960s British B-movie with a rather dark if ultimately a bit confusing storyline.

The film stars Gary Cockrell and Jill Adams as a couple who rent an isolated country cottage only to find there is a dead body in it!

Such things can usually ruin a holiday to be honest, especially when they find the cottage is being used as a hideout by a bunch of gangsters led by Lawrence Payne. Things turn even worse when a rival gang arrive and start shooting! Payne also plans for a different kind of "hit" on Adams.

The storyline is interesting and the film is a reasonable watch but is let down a bit by being somewhat confusing at times and also a bit silly at others. For curiosity and obscurity value it can't be beat though. The film was thought lost for a number of decades though a print was finally tracked down a few years ago.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Block-Heads (1938)

One of the later classic Laurel & Hardy films. They were the masters of comedy for sure. Few have ever approached their level of genius but their stars began to decline after this film which is maybe one of their last "great" films.

In "Block-Heads" they play a pair of World War One veterans, though Ollie has apparently not been told the war ended in 1918 and twenty years later was still at his guard post!

Finally relieved of duty he heads back over to the US and is reunited with his old comrade Stan, now in a rather fractious marriage, and then much mayhem ensues mostly in an apartment block with various gags and explosive antics (some literally).

Interestingly the film included quite a bit of recycling. Parts of the story were adapted from two 1920s Laurel & Hardy films and the WW1 battle scenes were taken from a number of earlier films including The Big Parade and Wings.

Monday, March 5, 2018

They Paid With Bullets: Chicago 1929 (1969)

This is a Spanish-Italian film on the 1920s gangster scene in Chicago, and quite possibly one of the oddest films I've ever seen (and I've seen a lot).

Country boy Frank (Guglielmo Spoletini) gets drawn into the gangster war taking place in Chicago by accident and joins the gang of slick (and quite mad) Erik (Peter Lee Lawrence) rising through the ranks and eventually challenging Erik for his gang and his gal.

It is all glorious madness, the story is quite flimsy and held together by very frequent gunfights with tommy guns (all very badly choreographed but undeniably exciting). The acting is curious, ranging between vague and terrible (not helped by the bad dubbing - the version I saw switched between English and German dubs a few times for some reason). The film is brilliant obviously.

Gangster moll Ingrid Schoeller steals the show with her mysterious cabaret routines, epic sexiness... and randomly playing around with a voodoo doll.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Jigsaw (1962)

Based on a true story Jigsaw is a good solid and atmospheric police procedural following a murder investigation. Jack Warner leads the investigation which takes place mostly in Brighton.

The police investigation is quite complicated with a lot of good old fashioned thorough investigation. This is easy to portray in a multi-episode TV series but more challenging in a single film with limited time, however this film pulls it off with fast pacing and many short scenes.

The film lacks much in what you would call "action", its a realistic police investigation that is being shown - expect checking ledgers not high speed car chases and what a refreshing film is it for all that.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Mongkok Story (1996)

Mongkok Story is decent if unspectacular HK Triad film, definitely from the Young & Dangerous slash-tastic stable rather than the more cerebral side of the genre like Election. Not that that is a bad thing of course.

However when you see Mongkok Story you will probably get a feeling of deja vu as it re-treads familiar ground covered so often in HK cinema. Edmond Leung plays a young waiter who is seduced by the glamour of being a Triad, especially the local small-time hoodlums who frequent his cafe and their Dailo Roy Cheung. He joins this group but finds the Triad life is not so wonderful after all...

So when his Dailo is killed by the rival gang Edmond thirsts for revenge. So begin the slashing! Overall the film is pretty good stuff though nothing you haven't seen before. Good action and a slightly surprising ending.