Friday, August 31, 2018

Young and Dangerous (1996)

There is a theory that you shouldn't glorify violence and criminals. Luckily Young & Dangerous completely ignores that. It is a film about a bunch of swaggering gangsters getting into criminal scrapes. Its brilliant of course as well as being total tosh, but tosh thats so well made.

You can see why so many people, especially in HK, loved this film. The heroes are cool bad guys, criminals for sure but also with a code of honour. That's unlike the other criminals who are just pretty evil and uncool. There are a lots of fast cars, faster chicks and violence, lots and lots of violence.

The swagger is what makes this, and makes the main characters played by Ekin Cheng and Jordan Chan so likeable. They might be the bad guys, but you want to be in their gang. This was a hit in HK which spawned a number of decent sequels and even a prequel that was pretty good. But the original is the best.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Murder at Glen Athol (1936)

A decent but unsurprising crime drama. Formulaic for sure but a good formula.

John Miljan stars as Bill Holt, a detective on vacation. He reluctantly attends a party by his neighbours by the vivacious and trouble making Muriel (Iris Adrian). Muriel seems to have a habit of making enemies and collecting ex-s. She is also mixed up with the local hoodlum (Noel Madison).

That night a string of murders take place including Muriel. Holt, who is enamoured with one of Muriel's many enemies (Irene Ware), gets on the case...

It isn't very original but is an entertaining film with a reasonably complicated plot with plenty of red herrings. Holt's partner Jeff (James P. Burtis) is rather annoying but plays the required comedy role in the film.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Trollenberg Terror (1958)

Also known as The Crawling Eye this is a creepy sci-fi horror film with plenty of suspense and dark shadows.

Up in the mountains, on Mount Trollenberg to be precise, a strange radioactive cloud is wandering out and men are dying in mysterious and horrific circumstances.

Alan (Forrest Tucker) and the Professor (Warren Mitchell) are investigating the deaths and other weirdness such as the dead acting under alien control. Meanwhile a young psychic (Janet Munro) has a strange psychic link to the events happening...

So its a typical 1950s film of the genre, scary aliens who spend much of the film unseen though when we do see them the special effects are rather lacking. It's a giant eye with tentacles!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Big Chance (1933)

Young boxer Frankie (John Darrow) is moving up the ranks... however his fights are being fixed by a hoodlum called Flash (Matthew Betz). Flash's plan is for Frankie to get a title fight when he will take a dive and he and his backers will get a big pay off.

A complication arrives when Frankie falls in love with pious church going Mary (Merna Kennedy) and he starts to have second thoughts about Flash's plan. Flash tries to break up Frankie and Mary including using Natalie Moorhead to try and seduce him...

It isn't a bad film just a bit obvious, the fight scenes use a mixture of rather blurry stock footage and close-ups where the boxers have a chat in the middle of the ring! There is some decent humour though especially from Mary's strait laced religious father (Frank La Rue) and plenty of decent one-liners which makes the film worth seeing. Mary's little brother is played by Mickey Rooney in an enjoyable supporting role.

Monday, August 27, 2018

X Marks the Spot (1942)

Although not very original, and with events proceeding at such a breakneck pace you hardly have time to breathe, this is a very entertaining crime drama. Damien O'Flynn plays Eddie, a private detective about to join the Army. When his policeman father (Robert Homans) is gunned down he is drawn into a racket involving rival gangs (led by Jack La Rue and Neil Hamilton) and bootleg tyres.

Rubber rationing was obviously big news in 1942, the subject was also covered in Rubber Racketeers.

Eddie is helped by a fascinating plot device, a telephone linked jukebox where operators play records on request. Linda (Helen Parrish) is the operator whom Eddie has the hots for and who ends helping him with his investigation... one made more difficult when Eddie is accused of killing one of the gangsters. Someone else is involved... there isn't a great deal of investigation though. Various suspects get gunned down with regularity until the real culprit is basically revealed through being the last person standing.

But what a great film, cheap but definitely cheerful.

Friday, August 24, 2018

House of Mystery (1934)

House of Mystery is at times terribly corny and dated but at others hilarious. It is a horror-murder mystery involving ancient curses and killer apes.

Many years before a drunken archaeologist Mr Prendergast (Clay Clement) accidentally kills a monkey in a Hindu temple in India and is cursed by the fakir. Twenty years later his investors are after their share in the loot from his expedition but he tells them a tale of woe and death as the curse has followed him and is slowly killing him.

He challenges his investors including Ed Lowry and George Hayes to spend a week in the house. As they do so the killings begin...

To be honest the film is completely ridiculous and full of dated oriental stereotypes and the occult: seances, incense and mysterious drums. It also has a man in a rather unconvincing ape suit and the mysterious Chanda (Joyzelle Joyner). It is all terrific fun.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

My Breakfast with Blassie (1983)

Comedian Andy Kaufman and legendary wrestler / manager "Classy" Freddie Blassie sit down for breakfast and... well that's pretty much it! They talk for an hour about various topics including personal hygiene and their respective careers over the poached eggs and toast and whatever else they had.

A rather strange little film, itself a skit on the also a bit strange My Dinner with Andre (1981). Why was Kaufman hanging around with an old wrestler? The film was made just after Kaufman had entered the wrestling scene himself and had a legendary feud with Jerry Lawler which broke wrestling into the mainstream for awhile a couple of years before Hulk Hogan...

The film makes for pleasant if unsubstantial viewing. Freddie Blassie just oozes charisma as the seasoned flamboyant old hack. Andy Kaufman is somewhat edgy and awkward. They played to their characters very well.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Fog Island (1945)

Fog Island is an interesting film. Ex-con Leo (George Zucco) who was convicted of stealing a fortune invites the people who shopped him to his foggy island, one of his guests also being the one who killed his dear wife. The guests who include Lionel Atwill and Sharon Douglas are each given a random object. After a weird dinner party they begin their search for the fortune their host once stole and which they think is still around.

Fog Island is an ex-pirate lair with secret passages, hidden compartments, underground vaults and booby traps. Manipulated by Leo most of the guests end up in a locked room which begins to fill with water...

Interesting and enjoyable film with noir touches though it doesn't make a lot of sense. Everyone is backstabbing everyone else (sometimes literally), even lovely step-daughter Sylvia (Veda Ann Borg) isn't wholly above reproach.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Law of the Underworld (1938)

Law of the Underworld is a bizarre little crime film with people acting so strangely sometimes you wonder if it's supposed to be a comedy. Tommy (Richard Bond) and Annabelle (Anne Shirley) are a naive young couple who are robbed by the local hoodlums led by Rocky (Eduardo Ciannelli) in the park. When they try to get their money back (by robbing the gangsters!) they naturally get caught.

Gangland boss Gene (Chester Morris) has plans for them and an obsession with trying to become respectable and avoid violence. Hot-headed Rocky meanwhile is growing resentful about his boss' business direction... and is knocking off Gene's moll (Lee Patrick).

Although an enjoyable film the naivety of Tommy and Annabelle is a little too much to believe as they get dragged more and more into the crime underworld. Rocky and Gene give good performances though but Gene's nice-guy gangster character is also a bit hard to believe.

Monday, August 20, 2018

High Voltage (1929)

An entertaining early talkie. A bus carrying passengers across a snow bound Sierra Nevada is stuck in one snow drift too many. The passengers hole up in in a remote church, which has an inhabitant already...

The bus has an interesting mix of passengers including Carole Lombard as a prisoner being taken back East by a deputy sheriff Owen Moore and a pompous banker played by Phillips Smalley. Their survival may depend on a hobo in the church (William Boyd) but does he have a darker secret?

The film has decent dialogue including plenty of good one-liners. Despite being an early talkie the acting has a natural feel to it at times though the film can drag a bit as the snow storm continues. Overall this a good film but what exactly does High Voltage have to do with the storyline?

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Leopard Fist Ninja (1982)

The funny thing about Leopard Fist Ninja is that it doesn't actually include any ninjas...

Much of the film is a reasonable but unexceptional kung fu film set in the mysterious Chinese past... apart from the random appearance of the occasional black and white fighter.

The plot is (as you might expect) a bit hard to follow and not exactly original. The Japanese (who are evil of course) had invaded our heroes' land when they were children and killed their parents. Then they are sent to learn martial arts so they can avenge them. Et cetera...

Of course these films are generally not viewed for the story (which is just as well) but for the fighting so luckily there is a lot of fighting in the film and it isn't bad action at all.

As a film Leopard Fist Ninja is OK though adding "ninja" to the title was obviously a cash-in on the 80s ninja craze and seems a bit silly. The film was directed by Godfrey Ho (which explains the ninjas) though he didn't do his infamous trick where he spliced the film with footage from another completely different one. Which in this case is probably a shame.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Corpse Vanishes (1942)

The Corpse Vanishes is a fantastically cheap and macabre horror starring Bela Lugosi as Dr Lorenz, a mad doctor who drugs and steals young women (for some reason doing so during their weddings as that obviously is the least suspicious time). He does this in order to create drugs to treat his degenerating and rather unstable wife the Countess (Elizabeth Russell).

Perky young reporter Patricia (Luana Walters) thinks Dr Lorenz is behind a string of stolen corpses of young women and head to his home - which is full of every horror  film cliche imaginable including dwarves, thunder and lightning outside, a deformed hunchback and of course Dr Lorenz plays the organ at night.

Obviously Patricia should be running away as fast as she can but instead elects to stay a night in the house. She finds the Countess prefers to sleep in a coffin...

So you get the idea. The film is complete nonsense of course but is so much fun. The film is cheap and at times so obvious it hurts but... it is wonderful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Life Returns (1935)

A rather strange film that is hard to categorise. Onslow Stevens is Dr Kendrick who is convinced he can conquer death, though his experiments do not come cheap.

The research lab he works at want him to concentrate on much more mundane matters like hair brushes and his patients drive him mad with their everyday issues. He faces ridicule from his peers and despair from his wife (Valerie Hobson). He falls into a depression when his wife dies. His son Danny (George Breakston) goes off the rails when the authorities want to take him away.

So things are all looking a bit bleak. However two fellow scientists Dr Stone (Lois Wilson) and Dr Cornish (playing himself) believe in him and his dream. Finally he is able to bring his son's dog back to life and prove the technique works. As for Dr Cornish, his real experiment in bringing a dog back to life is included in this film.

So there you go a very strange film. Sometimes it's billed as horror but is really a disjointed medical and family drama with a roughly sliced bit of real film footage.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Shampoo (1975)

Shampoo is a romantic comedy starring Warren Beatty as George, a hairdresser in Beverley Hills who spends his time, when he is not cutting hair, having sex with lots of women including the likes of Goldie Hawn and Carrie Fisher in her first film role.

The film is set in the late 1960s around the election of Nixon. In changing times George is unhappy with his life, although he is the star in the salon, he hates being there and wants to start out on his own. However unable to get working capital from the banks he turns to a rich woman (Julie Christie) instead...

It's a fun film with plenty of satire and style. George's life is totally chaotic but he comes across sympathetically despite his serial promiscuility. It is a comedy but not one you laugh at loud at (apart from a few notable times). Maybe it is more a tale of how you can't always get what you want... especially if you want it all.

The blaxploitation film Black Shampoo is based on this, though only very loosely...

Monday, August 13, 2018

Klondike (1932)

Lyle Talbot plays Dr Cromwell, who is acquitted of murder after a brain operation he performs results in the death of his patient.

However he cannot stay where he is so instead accompanies his friend on a flight to Japan... only bad weather means they end up crash landing in Alaska. There Dr Cromwell is rescued by a remote community and finds one of them Jim (Jason Robards Sr) has the same brain tumour as his previous patient. What are the chances of that?!

Dr Cromwell is finally persuaded to perform the operation again, of course there is a complication. Jim's girl Klondike (Thelma Todd) has also caught the doctor's eye...

An interesting film. Jim is a great character, menacing and sinister as he plots revenge even against the man who saved his life to keep his girl. It also includes silent movie star Priscilla Dean in her final movie role.