Friday, November 30, 2018

The Mystery of the 13th Guest (1943)

Marie Morgan (Helen Parrish) turns up at her late grandfather's home which has lain empty for thirteen years. She sits at the same table she sat at thirteen years ago with her grandfather (Lloyd Ingraham) and eleven other family members. Her grandfather tells them he is soon to die but his will won't be opened until Marie opens it in thirteen years time...

Marie opens the will but is bumped off soon after. The police in the form of Lieutenant Burke (Tim Ryan) and private investigator Johnny Smith (Dick Purcell) begin to investigate the murder which isn't the first. Someone is bumping off the guests from thirteen years ago. However things take a strange turn when Marie turns up again at the house very much un-dead...

A very enjoyable murder mystery. Slightly jarred by a little too much "humour" (the usual dumb police deputy trick) and the way PI Smith can boss the police around is a little unrealistic. However the murderer's fiendish plot and elaborate set-up makes for an exciting film.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Keystone Hotel (1935)

Cross-eyed Count Drewa Blanc (Ben Turpin) arrives at the Keystone Hotel to judge a beauty contest. Everyone (the law, the authorities and gangsters) seem to have wives in the contest who try and lean on the Count to influence his decision...

Meanwhile various slapstick nonsense takes place elsewhere in the hotel. Including a number of gags involving a vibrating exercise machine...

It is corny but highly enjoyable. It celebrated Keystone silent comedies and included many of the stars of those films such as Chester Conklin and Hank Mann. It all ends in an epic custard pie fight and the Keystone cops turn up, what more could anyone want?!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Murder at 3am (1953)

A cheap but interesting crime drama involving the search for a serial attacker of society women returning from night clubs. Dennis Price is Inspector Lawson who is on the baffling case which has little in the way of any clues.

The problem for Lawson is that he begins to suspect his sister Joan's (Peggy Evans) new fiance Teddy (Philip Saville) is the murderer. He is a writer of detective novels who seems to be very interested and knowledgeable in the case and also has been acting a bit suspicious. Of course there is a twist... though not one you could easily guess.

Although the film is not too exciting, apart from the river chase, it has an interesting investigation involving tides and patterns. The grime and austerity of early Post War Britain is the highlight (in a manner of speaking) of the film.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Danger Ahead (1935)

A rather ridiculous crime caper. An old sea captain (John Elliott) is swindled out of his money by a crooked cafe owner (Bryant Washburn). Luckily a tough reporter called Jerry (Lawrence Gray) witnesses the crime and gets the money back.

However the gang are on his case and for some reason he can't just tell the police what has happened...

It is all just a farce with some of the most inept bad guys imaginable. The police, when they finally do show up, prove to be almost as stupid as the bad guys!

Although nonsense the film is enjoyable because it is so silly. There is a love interest with the captain's daughter Lorraine (Sheila Bromley) but mostly the film is a series of pointless action set pieces and sometimes poorly judged humour. The fight scenes are particularly amusing - they last for ages and have no dialogue apart from gasps and grunts. The film should be treated as a live action cartoon, then it somewhat makes sense.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Anoop and the Elephant (1972)

A rather charming children's film about an elephant and the circus. Anoop (Anoop Singh) is on a school camping trip with his class (which includes a very young Linda Robson). At a circus next to the campsite Anoop finds a rather forlorn looking elephant Ranne (Bella from Chessington Zoo in fact).

Unfortunately a nasty rival circus owner Skinner (George Roderick) wants to take Ranne away to Belgium. Penny (Rachel Brennock) who has trained Ranne gets Anoop's and the other children's help in saving Ranne from Skinner's clutches. Many hijinks follow.

Its all rather corny but sweet in an early 1970s way. Simpler fun in simpler times. Much nostalgia for school trips will be generated if you are of a certain age, even if they didn't involve an elephant.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Before Midnight (1933)

Police Inspector Trent (Ralph Bellamy) is called in by Edward Arnold (William Jeffrey) who lives in a lonely mansion, he is convinced he is going to be murdered and wants Trent to protect him. Unfortunately Arnold is killed mere minutes after recruiting Trent, the detective moves to find out what or who killed Arnold...

So basically this is an Golden Age type dark house murder mystery, a complicated murder case with a number of potential suspects including his secretary (Claude Gillingwater) and his ward (June Collyer). Arnold was killed by an injection, was it the Doctor (Arthur Pierson)?

Well there is nothing really that original in this film but it's nicely done, Bellamy plays a good and energetic role as the detective trying to unravel the crime. Who killed Arnold and why? A couple of interesting twists elevate the film.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Dick Tracy (1945)

Superb pulpy noir detective thrills. Dick Tracy was originally a comic strip of course and has been translated into a fast paced romp here. Morgan Conway plays Tracy as he should be: bold, intelligent and tough. Anne Jeffreys plays Tess Trueheart his long suffering girlfriend.

In this case a maniac known as Splitface (Mike Mazurki) is killing random victims who don't pay his extortion demands. It's a difficult case with multiple suspects though Tracy's detection skills usually involving chasing people around.

The film is made with a good deal of camp, swagger and humour, including when Tracy supposedly goes to a club incognito but everyone knows who he is anyway!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Monster Walks (1932)

A creepy but rather awful horror film. Ruth (Vera Reynolds) and her fiance Ted (Rex Lease) arrive at her father's mansion after the old man's death. Already very upset but the large ape in the basement who's shrieks echo through the house really finishes her off.

The will is read and the housekeeper Mrs Krug (Martha Mattox) and her son Hanns (Mischa Auer) (who both speak in a ridiculously slow and monotone manner) are put out by the small inheritance they get. That night a hairy hand attempts to strangle Ruth, just the start of some terrible and mysterious happenings that stormy night...

So its a film with mysterious and strange servants, a wild ape and hidden passages. It could have been a lot better film than it is, the pace is incredibly slow and some of the acting hideous.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Home to Danger (1951)

An enjoyable crime noir which also is an interesting look at post-war Britain at the end of empire. Barbara (Rola Anderson) has just returned from years in the Far East to attend the will reading of her recently deceased and estranged father. To everyone's surprise he leaves most of his estate to her... which causes a problem to the father's ex-business partner Wainwright (Francis Lister) who needed the money for dark reasons of his own.

As Barbara finds herself the target of attempted murder (saved a number of times by the local simpleton (Stanley Baker)) she suspects her father's death was suspicious and begins to investigate with her friend Robert (Guy Rolfe). A tale of drug dealing, blackmail and murder unfolds...

Although quite a lot of the film (which is fairly) low budget takes place in the dark this is an engaging if unsurprising film. This is a snapshot of Britain before the great changes later in the 1950s.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Charlie Chan at the Race Track (1936)

When Major Kent (George Irving) owner of a race horse is found dead in the stall on board an ocean liner at first it is assumed it is a terrible accident but famed detective Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) is convinced it is murder and joins the cruise to conduct an investigation - helped/hindered by his number one son (Keye Luke).

Chan discovers a brutal gambling ring is out to rip off punters in the US by switching horses but who is behind it? There is no shortage of suspects among the other owners. Maybe the new owner of the horse Chester (Alan Dinehart)? Or rivals Bagley (Gavin Muir) or Fenton (Jonathan Hale)?

It is a complicated mystery and Charlie Chan is his usual self: relaxed (apart from when he is being shot at) and thoughtful investigation interspersed by pseudo and often bizarre "Chinese" proverbs.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Giant Gila Monster (1959)

Very low budget monster and rock & roll thrills. Deep in Texas a giant monster (which just happens to look like a normal lizard - but scaled up) has gone on a rampage. Killing kids who just want to make out in their souped up hotrods and drink coke.

Local mechanic Chase (Don Sullivan) and his French girlfriend Lisa (Lisa Simone) know that something is amiss but the authorities don't realise what is going on until the monster attacks a train. The monster then heads to town where the youth have gathered for some rock & roll, can Chase save the day with a car load of nitroglycerin?

Although a cult classic, this is a pretty awful film all in all. The "monster" is just a lizard attacking models and with the camera zoomed in close to make it look large (and not always succeeding). It is great fun though, largely because it is such nonsense.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Death Kiss (1932)

The Death Kiss includes three leading actors from 1931's Dracula (Bela Lugosi, Edward Van Sloan and David Manners) but is a very different kind of film being a decent though sometimes a bit muddled crime drama.

During the filming of a crime drama the lead actor is shot... for real. Studio manager Steiner (Lugosi) tries to pass it off as an unfortunate accident but the police led by Lt. Sheehan (John Wray) discover it was no accident and a murder investigation begins.

The victim's ex-wife and leading actress Marsha (Adrienne Ames) is found to have a motive, but she isn't the only one. Studio writer Drew (Manners) seems to have plenty of theories about what is going on and conducts a parallel investigation with the police but someone is trying to cover their tracks.

The Death Kiss isn't a bad film but is a little awkward at times but has some decent wit which carries you along. It has some good satire of the inner workings of the film production business and a complicated and engaging plot.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

A Hero Never Dies (1998)

Leon Lai and Lau Ching-wan play rival Triad gang leaders, always trying to outdo each other with bloodshed and violence and then settling down for a glass of wine after a hard day's killing.

Both men end up being betrayed by their bosses, Leon hides out in Thailand while Lau Ching-wan is paralysed from the waist down and is nursed back to health by his girlfriend Fiona Leung (and who has to do anything to earn the money needed). Lau Ching-wan makes it back to HK to face his boss and take vengeance but requires the help of Leon to finish the job...

It is nonsense of course, endless bloodshed and ridiculous gun play where the bad guys get killed with one bullet but the good guys can survive several hundred. It's not a subtle film but I've always enjoyed it. It was the first HK film i actually saw in a cinema in HK on release and i've always had a soft spot for it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sinister Hands (1932)

Ah the mysteries of the Orient and the occult, a common Golden Age trope. In this film a millionaire is murdered at a seance held by the Swami (Mischa Auer). The police are called in but Detective Devlin (Jack Mulhall) finds that everyone seems to have a motive.

Mrs Lang (Lillian West) is obsessed with her Swami, whom she hopes will tell her who troubles her (for the right amount of cash of course). Her husband Richard Lang (Phillips Smalley) rails at his house full of gigolos and other low-lives including her daughter's (Gertrude Messinger) hoodlum boyfriend (Louis Natheaux). Meanwhile Richard Lang's friend John Frazer (Lloyd Ingraham) is getting increasingly jealous of how his young wife (Phyllis Barrington) hangs around Lang...

Although a bit slow at times and frequently ridiculous overall it is a decent murder mystery film that plods along. The addition of the occult adds that little something to raise it above the mundane.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The Inner Circle (1946)

The Inner Circle is a crime drama starring Warren Douglas as happy go lucky private investigator Johnny Strange (no really). He hires (or is rather forced to hire) a new secretary Geraldine (Adele Mara) who promptly lures him into a trap where he is found with a dead body! He is then knocked out by Geraldine disguised as a widow.

Detective Webb (William Frawley) finds Strange and the corpse (who turns out to be a gossip columnist). Strange is arrested, then Geraldine turns up and says he killed the man in self-defence. Not knowing Geraldine's involvement Strange tries to find out what is really going on...

A fast moving drama with some good performances. The plot is a bit far fetched though nicely complicated, unfortunately it does get a bit absurd. For a supposedly smart PI Strange is rather naive. If you suspend disbelief a bit the film is very enjoyable.