Friday, July 20, 2018

Double Cross (1941)

Double Cross is a middling crime drama, solid but unspectacular. Kane Richmond plays Jim Murray, a policeman whose friend Steve (Richard Beach) is killed during a raid on a nightclub owned by Nick Taggart (John Miljan) and Fay Saunders (Wynne Gibson) who double crosses Steve resulting in his death.

Jim vows to bring down the gangsters and engineers a dishonourable discharge from the police so he can join the gang and bring them down from within. The gangsters are tough though and have the mayor in their pocket...

Not a bad film but pretty shoddy and slapdash at times. Some of it doesn't make a lot of sense, such as when Jim tries to get a clandestine photograph of Nick and the mayor and uses a camera with a flash! Continuing on a photography theme look out for an early example of photo bombing!

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Mystery of Mr Wong (1939)

Collector Brandon Edwards (Morgan Wallace) has returned home with a sapphire stolen from China, the gem is said to bring doom upon the holder. Edwards indeed is killed during a game of charades, Detective Wong (Boris Karloff) is present at the party and witnesses the death, and begins the investigation.

The sapphire meanwhile has also gone missing, or rather stolen. The maid (Lotus Long) seems involved in the theft, but in the murder too? It seems she knows who the murderer was and gets bumped off herself...

Karloff was always a good turn, and his Mr Wong character was very enjoyable. A complicated murder mystery with typical Golden Age touches (large house, motley crew of suspects). Edwards' wife Valerie (Dorothy Tree) overacts to a hilarious degree.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Johnny One-Eye (1950)

Years ago NY gangsters Martin (Pat O'Brien) and Dane (Wayne Morris) got away with killing a rival and now have legitimate businesses. However an ambitious DA has new evidence and has persuaded Dane to shop his old mate Martin in return for immunity. Martin confronts Dane and ends up injured and on the run after a shoot-out.

Hiding from the law Martin finds and befriends a one-eyed dog which he names Johnny. By coincidence the dog is the pet of Elsie (Gayle Reed) the daughter of Lily (Dolores Moran) who is Dane's current squeeze...

The film starts off very Noir indeed though when Elsie is introduced we nearly drown in sentimentality and little girl cuteness. Lose the Elsie sub-plot and the film would have been much better and a tough gangster tale, as it is it's rather uneven but worth persevering with.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Monte Carlo Nights (1934)

High society jockey/playboy Larry Sturgis (John Darrow) is preparing to marry Mary Vernon (Mary Brian) but then is wrongly convicted of murder on the eve of the wedding.

He manages to escape and sets off in pursuit of the real murderer... to Monte Carlo (of course!) There he befriends a French woman (Yola d'Avril) and seeks the murderer who he knows is a gambler who plays certain numbers on the roulette table...

Quite a lot of story to fit into a fairly short film them and it is rather break-neck at times, maybe a bit too fast at points of the film as it can become a bit confusing. Such as why exactly does the police inspector (George Hayes) think Larry is innocent and how does an escaped con manage to get to Monte Carlo with the police on high alert? Once the film gets going though its a winner, unlike Larry who fell off his horse at the start!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Piccadilly (1929)

Piccadilly is a silent movie classic, set in the stylish world of London night clubs in the late Jazz Age. Wilmot (Jameson Thomas) has a successful restaurant and night club at Piccadilly Circus with a star attraction of dance partners Vic (Cyril Ritchard) and Mable (Gilda Grey).

When Vic quits after disagreements with Wilmot and Mable the club hits trouble, then Wilmot finds in the kitchen the Chinese dishwasher Shosho (Anna May Wong) and falls for her exotic (though quite frankly a bit ridiculous) "oriental" dancing. Shosho becomes the club's new hit dance act but trouble comes when Wilmot falls in love with her, which is a problem for Shosho's lover Jim (King Ho Chang)...

It is stylish nonsense, Wong's "oriental style" dancing is ridiculously stereotyped but her charisma conquers the screen. The film has gorgeous cinematography. A late silent movie, soon talkies would take over but this film really showed what could be done.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Curtain at Eight (1933)

An average murder mystery, average in acting for sure though a chimpanzee and Natalie Moorhead in a brief role do quite well. Paul Cavanagh plays a theatre idol with as many enemies and debts as mistresses (and there seem to be a lot of those). Thus when he killed there are many possible suspects.

Especially as he was killed during a party when the lights were taken out. The investigation is handled by two detectives who have amusingly opposite characters: Aubury Smith plays an elderly laid back and thoughtful role and Sam Hardy is brash and frequently foolhardy.

It isn't a bad film once it gets started but it takes the first half of the film to get started. As a setting for a murder mystery a theatre with all its nooks and crannies is a good one. An interesting point in the film is where one of the characters calls another one "Hitler" as a mild/jokey insult. Of course this was 1933...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ghost Ship (1952)

A young couple (Dermot Walsh and Hazel Court) buy an old steam yacht even despite the yard owner (Joss Ambler)'s best attempt to put them off. He tells them about the ship's dark past.

The yacht been found drifting at sea with the crew all missing, later found dead washed ashore. He also warns them that the ship is haunted though they laugh this off. Then the couple and the rest of the crew begin to experience ghostly happenings...

A paranormal expert (Hugh Burden) is called in to discover exactly what happened. He spends his time giving a rather dry demonstration of tuning forks (no really) and then calls a medium in for a seance.

A modest but enjoyable film. It is probably the least scary ghost film ever though has an interesting story. Things pick up when we see what actually happened aboard the ship to give it it's reputation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Battle Beneath the Earth (1967)

Rogue Chinese communists under the control of a mad general (the rather non-Chinese Martin Benson) are using advanced laser burrowing machines to dig tunnels under the Pacific and then under US cities and military bases so they can detonate nuclear weapons.

As far as plot is concerned this film is a winner, completely ridiculous but a winner. However it has a rather cheap and 60s spy film cheesy feel about everything.

It is a British film but set in the US, some of the accents and sets are somewhat suspect. The "Chinese" are also generally played by White actors in the tradition of Fu Manchu. Our heroes led by Kerwin Matthews and Ed Bishop go into the tunnels to stop the Chinese before they can detonate the warheads. Thus this film has a gunfight around nuclear warheads deep underground. It is total nonsense but... so much pulp action fun!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

International Crime (1938)

A loose sequel to The Shadow Strikes, again starring Rod La Rocque as the charismatic crime fighter/radio show host/journalist The Shadow. The Shadow has a new assistant Phoebe (Astrid Allwyn) who ends up getting The Shadow arrested after the murder of an international banker.

The Shadow is released but his relationship with the Police Commissioner (Thomas Jackson) remains tense and he ends up cutting the The Shadow off from police news especially after The Shadow broadcasts a wanted criminal live on air.

In a tight spot The Shadow investigates the killing of the banker helped/hindered by Pheobe. He ends up posing as a "Central European aristocrat" (in a rather "Allo Allo" way) to make friends with two foreign suspects who he thinks are investigated with the murder.

It is an enjoyable film with it's sinister foreign criminals, The Shadow is an entertaining character though rather unrealistic but the breezy way he carries out his investigation makes the film fly. As with the earlier film The Shadow as portrayed was quite different to the radio drama / pulp fiction character people knew pretty well.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Big News (1929)

Steve Banks (Robert Armstrong) is that most realistic of characters: an alcoholic journalist. After another boozy night while he is on the trail of a big story on drug dealers he ends up separated from his wife, and fellow journalist, Margaret (Carole Lombard) and sacked by his editor (Charles Sellon).

Banks continues to pursue his story and bar owner Reno (Sam Hardy) who is involved in drugs. Reno has the editor killed while trying to find evidence that links him to narcotics. Banks gets the blame but is sure he can clear his name...

An early talkie and has some great dialogue, the banter in the newspaper office and in Reno's bar is fun. The final scenes in the newspaper office are frenetic and exciting. Overall it is a pretty decent film. The alcoholism (Banks isn't the only pissed journalist) gets a bit wearsome after awhile though.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Special Agent K-7 (1937)

Special Agent K-7 is Vince Landers (Walter McGrail) of the FBI who is ready to retire after a long career fighting crime (we won't make any cereal jokes). He is persuaded to investigate why the trial of a gangster has collapsed. He ends up investigating a series of murders including some of the jurors and some characters in a club.

A complication in his investigation is that one of Landers ex-s Olive (Queenie Smith) is involved in the case. Her new husband Bill (Donald Reed) ends up being one of the suspects.

The film has a decent plot and the low budget doesn't detract from it. It is a serviceable B-movie. At times a bit murky but the club setting is enjoyable. The film also has some interesting forensic science.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Officer 13 (1932)

Police motorcyclist Sandy Malone (Charles Delaney) is killed during a chase with a gangster (Robert Ellis). Because a judge's daughter (Lila Lee) was also in the car, and due to the mob's connections in the city, the gangster gets off...

The dead policeman's partner Tom Burke (Monte Blue) quits the force in disgust and sets out to get justice.

The film has an interesting (if unoriginal) story but is unfortunately a bit slow at times though the chase scenes are reasonably well done and the cast is great. An interesting thing about the film is that Sandy's son is played by Mickey Rooney is one of his earliest roles. It's not bad at all though could have been great.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Capone (1975)

Well as you can imagine a biopic of Al Capone and the Chicago gangster scene in the 1920s is not for the faint hearted, indeed this film can best be described as violence and more violence. Capone is played by Ben Gazzara and we don't see much at all of his early life but rather how he gets involved with Johnny Torrio (Harry Guardino) then a trusted lieutenant of the Italian mafia boss in Chicago.

Capone helped Johnny take over the mob and then assists Johnny in making it big during the Prohibition years. Eventually amid open warfare with rival gangs Al Capone has Johnny (nearly) killed and takes over the mob himself. The story of the film is never trust your lieutenant as he will take over from you in the end, as happens to Capone himself when he is betrayed by Frank Nitti (Sylvester Stallone) and he ends up in Alcatraz...

Well the film is pretty low-budget and it shows at times but it is undeniably thrilling. If only we could see a bit more about Capone's early life and his motivations. That might mean cutting out some of action scenes of course. It is a biopic though not very accurate, a true depiction of Capone's life would probably require a series of films to be honest but this can give you a taste.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Her Private Affair (1929)

This is one of the transitional films from silent to talkies, and shares the flaws of many early talkies... in that there is a little too much talking. The actors still performed in the way they were used to in silent movies (i.e. a little too energetically) yet scenes are static as they had to stay close to the microphone. The dialogue is also a bit stilted and frequently awkward. Still for all that it is an interesting film even if at times it is more like a stage play.

Ann Harding plays the wife of a respected judge (Harry Bannister) who is being blackmailed by a gigolo (Lawford Davidson) who seems to have made a career out of seducing rich women and sucking them dry of cash. She accidentally kills the blackmailer when he forces himself on her...

It really isn't very good, the gigolo and his crazy friend/butler are especially strange roles ansd the story is a bit cliched. However talkies had to start somewhere. The film still has value but mostly for historical reasons.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Corruption (1933)

Preston Foster plays Tim Butler, elected to mayor on a promise of cleaning up the city. The party led by Regan (Warner Richmond) get a bit put out when they discover that Butler was true to his word about exposing graft especially as some of the party supporters are in the firing line.

Butler is first framed with a prostitute and then apparently is guilty of killing Regan, though no bullet is found. A corrupt judge puts him away anyway. Butler is exonerated with the help of his secretary Ellen (Evelyn Knapp) after more corrupt figures are gunned down by a scientist called Volkov (Mischa Auer) with ice bullets.

Low budget and breezy but an entertaining film. There isn't a huge amount of depth, the corruption and the reaction to it being painted rather too broadly but Foster and Knapp make a nice pairing.