Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947)

Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome is a fun comic book adaptation. Gruesome (Boris Karloff) has just got out of prison and of course is looking for his next blag. He happens upon a crooked scientist (Edward Ashley) who has stolen a secret gas which can render people like stone for a short period. Such an amazing invention could benefit mankind in so many ways but of course it's used to rob a bank.

Enter our hero Dick Tracy (Ralph Byrd) to investigate whats going on and solve the crime amid a rather worrying amount of corpses. This is a fun film with plenty of corny comic book humour (names like Dr A.Tomic and a taxidermist called Y.Stuffem for example) and fast paced action. Not a huge amount of depth and a bit one-dimensional perhaps but highly enjoyable all the same. Boris Karloff is great in this film as a brutal and sinister criminal.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hook, Line & Sinker (1930)

Hook, Line & Sinker is a hilarious comedy starring the Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey comedy duo. Wheeler and Woolsey are dodgy insurance salesmen who bump into Mary (Dorothy Lee) who has just inherited a run-down hotel and they invite themselves to help her out.

Not only is the hotel in need of some renovation but two rival gangs of criminals (one gang including Natalie Moorhead as a fake duchess) are trying to break into the hotel safe. Wheeler and Woolsey also fall in love with Mary and her mother (Jobyna Howland).

What follows is a complicated farce packed full of corny (but funny) wisecracks. Hotel situations have often been a rich source for humour and this film is no exception.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Sin of Nora Moran (1933)

The Sin of Nora Moran is an extraordinary movie, a Noir drama told in non-linear manner with numerous flashbacks, the film is said to have been an influence on Orson Welles for Citizen Kane.

Nora Moran (Zita Johann) is a tragic young lady, her life hard and often brutal until she meets rising political star Dick Crawford (Paul Cavanagh) and finally she lives a happy life as his mistress. But then the darkness of her earlier life returns in the shape of her abusive ex Paulino (John Miljan). Later Paulino is found dead. Nora accepts the blame and goes to the electric chair. She didn't do it, but she has kept silent to protect the man she loved...

The film is truly avant garde, the story told through flashbacks, hallucinations, narrations. Of it's time it was truly ground breaking cinema. All the more impressive considering this was a low-budget B-movie.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Haunted Castle (1921)

Despite the title this German silent movie is not really a horror or ghost story, instead it is more a detective story. A hunting party has assembled at the castle and waiting for the arrival of the Baroness (Olga Tschechowa), but there is an extra surprise guest. Count Oetsch (Lothar Mehnurt) who is suspected of killing the Baroness' first husband.

Needless to say the arrival of the Count is rather unwelcome. The Count protests his innocence. The film then establishes the truth through a series of flashbacks and dream sequences and a lot of talking (though via frequent intertitles). It is a rather static film though the story is interesting, it just takes an age to get going. One of F.W. Murnau's earlier works, and maybe he was still learning his trade. The likes of Nosferatu and Faust were to come.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Copper Beeches (1912)

The only survivor of a series of short Sherlock Holmes films made in the 1910s which were supervised by Arthur Conan Doyle himself! The film stars Georges Treville as Holmes though there is no Dr Watson.

Holmes is bought in by a suspicious governess to investigate why the daughter of her employer has gone missing (she has been locked up in a shed) and why he wants her to look just like his daughter. A plot to deceive and kill the daughter's fiance is revealed.

The film is charming as a period piece though has some serious shortcomings. It is not really a movie but a pantomime performed in front of a camera. Scenes consist of a single shot with no apparent editing. The actors frequently speak (though we can't hear them of course as it is a silent movie) to the camera. Intertitles are also fairly rare and just punctuate major plot points. The film is a real curiosity, worth watching for itself though not a very good Sherlock Holmes film.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Britannia Hospital (1982)

A dark comedy and satirical look at Britain, especially the National Health Service which is seen at being in thrall to money (so still quite topical then!)

Strange things are going on in Britannia Hospital and Malcolm McDowell is investigating them. The hospital is in trouble, an African dictator is a patient (sparking protests outside) and half the staff are on strike due to the extravagant demands of private patients, while elderly NHS patients are left to die. The mad Professor (Graham Crowden) seems only interested in his bizarre medical experiments including putting a brain in a blender and tricking people to drink it!

It all starts getting a bit weird and the medical experiments become quite frankly grotesque. We end up with a cyborg, which then starts to break down.

As a dark comedy it works, as a satire I'm not so sure. It is maybe a bit too much. The cast is great though, including appearances by Mark Hamill and Leonard Rossiter.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Terror in the Crypt (1964)

An atmospheric Gothic horror film about a cursed family. The film, an Italian/Spanish co-production is also known as La Cripta e I'incubo.

Christopher Lee is a count whose daughter Laura (Adriana Ambesi) is having visions of strange deaths in the family. An investigator in the historical occult is bought in to research a legend. We learn that in the distant past the count's ancestor had a witch put to death and a curse was laid on the family... which now seems to be coming true.

So it has all the ingredients of a fine horror film: a creepy castle, men in pointy hoods, black magic et cetera. While it is an enjoyable film there are issues. The acting is often a bit indifferent (though the dubbing doesn't really help), the story is also rather unoriginal and sometimes a bit confusing.

Well never mind that, the atmosphere in this film is wonderful. It is also has it's fair share of Euro beauties with heaving bosoms.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)

Naturally the success of Star Wars invigorated the space-opera genre in the late 1970s and a number of similar type films were released, Battle Beyond The Stars was among the better of these.

Very heavy based on the Magnificent Seven plot: a planet is threatened by a crazed space warlord (John Saxon). Young Shad (Richard Thomas) then sets out to recruit warriors to help defend his otherwise defenseless world.

The warriors are a crazy bunch ranging from the scarred old veteran (Robert Vaughn), happy-go-lucky space trucker (George Peppard) to a number of strange aliens. The film is quite different in some ways to Star Wars, rather more campy and exotic and adult though at the end of the day its space ships firing laser beams at each other.

The story is basic, the budget was fairly low but a decent cast and plenty of cheese helps win the day, and indeed save the galaxy from evil!

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Shadow Strikes (1937)

Lamont Granston (Rod La Rocque) is The Shadow, hero of pulp fiction and radio serials. This film assumes you already know all about The Shadow as there is very little introduction.

Indeed we're straight into the action. The Shadow interrupts a couple of burglars trying to rob the office of a lawyer. The Shadow then impersonates the lawyer when the police turn up and gets involved in a murder mystery. The murder being of his "client" who was bumped off while a new will was being written up.

It is all rather ridiculous and often quite baffling at times. The Shadow isn't really much of a super hero, rather a keen amateur detective who wears a hat. Supposedly a master of disguise he relies mostly on the naivety and stupidity of all around him, especially the police, to maintain his pretense. The film is fast paced but nonsense. It's a lot of fun though. The Shadow and his loyal servant Henry (Norman Ainsley) make a great team.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It Happened in Soho (1948)

A murder takes place in Soho, a reporter Bill Scott (Richard Murdoch) and his new found friend from the country Susan (Patricia Raine) investigate the cosmopolitan streets of London in what at times is a rather strange but undeniably charming travelogue of Soho in the early post-war period.

Nowadays it comes across as rather quaint though in 1948 it probably seemed exotic with it's racial mixing, illegal dancing and cool coffee shop society to the average Briton still recovering from the war.

Inspector Carp (Henry Oscar) is investigating the murder, his sardonic manner is quite entertaining. When mutual friend Julie (Eunice Gayson) is the next murder victim the film takes a much darker turn. A very low budget film, most of the film takes place in just a couple of locations including the cafe but an enjoyable little film.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Discarded Lovers (1932)

Discarded Lovers is an enjoyable little murder mystery involving the murder of a Hollywood star. Actress Irma Gladden (Natalie Moorehead) is what used to be known as a "loose woman", with various men on the go. She is found dead after finishing a film and suspicion falls on... well quite a few people.

Apart from a rather annoying and silly policeman (Fred Kelsey) the story is solid if rather cliched and has some decent performances including Irma's secretary Valerie (Barbara Weeks) and Jason Robards as Rex, one of Irma's lovers.

Naturally being a Golden Age period murder mystery the police are happy for a civilian, in this case a reporter (Russell Hopton), to be involved in the case. As a police investigation it isn't exactly text book but the sheer glamour of the occasion and the exuberance of some of the acting makes up for everything.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Strangers of the Evening (1932)

A very confusing crime drama involving missing corpses at a morgue, a murder, mistaken identities and amnesia. It is a complete mess of a film which doesn't make a great deal of sense and has all manner of weirdness going on.

Despite all of that the film is quite entertaining even if some of the attempts at humour seem to fall pretty flat. The fight scenes are so poor they are hilarious.

Eugene Pallette plays the detective given the hapless task of trying to work out what is going on, he gives a good phlegmatic performance. Zasu Pitts is given star billing though doesn't do a great deal in the film.

What does any of it mean? Well helpfully it is all explained at the end, though is still as clear as mud.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Wayne Murder Case (1932)

A silly and sometimes painful murder mystery, the Wayne Murder Case does have some interesting ideas though, but they arn't executed particularly well.

Silas Wayne is a cantankerous dying old rich man (William Mong). He gathers his relatives together (who hate him as much as he hates them) to reveal their inheritances.

However he suspects someone is already ripping him off and calls in the police. While a couple of police officers are on hand he is murdered right in front of everyone.

In comes the detective (Regis Toomey), helped/hindered by an annoying reporter (June Clyde) whom he fancies and so is willing to break police procedure to have around. While the investigation takes place a strange hooded figure starts bumping off the relatives.

It sounds like it could be a decent set-up but it is executed rather poorly. Scenes drag terribly with some indifferent/bizarre acting. The murders are pretty gruesome but the hooded figure is a bit too ridiculous to take seriously. The twist at the end is good though and makes up for a lot of what happened before.