Friday, December 14, 2018

The Hangman Waits (1947)

This is a strange little film about a murder hunt but in a docu-drama style centred around the News of the World newsroom (well this was a long time ago!)

The film is very low budget but also at times quite artistic and innovative. A cinema usherette (Beatrice Campbell) is murdered and we follow the case from the point of view of the police (who investigate the case rather ineptly) and the newspaper men trying to find out what is going on...

Well it sounds like it could be a decent film... but is executed rather poorly overall. Much of the acting is rather wooden, you wonder if they used actors or just dragged people off the streets and handed them the script. One actor definitely in the film is John Le Mesurier, apparently his first role. Much better was to come.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Yellowstone (1936)

Perky young tourist Ruth Foster (Judith Barrett) turns up at Yellowstone National Park for a holiday, young ranger Dick Sherwood (Henry Hunter) chats her up but Ruth is really here to see her father James (Ralph Morgan). She hasn't seen him for eighteen years and is under the impression that he has been in Australia... but really he has been in San Quentin.

Eighteen years ago he stole a stack of money which he has hidden in the park. Now released he is after his money but so are others. When James Foster is found dead the truth about his past comes out and a hunt for the murderer is on.

Though as a murder mystery its no more than basic with a little too much silliness. Of course the ranger gets accused of murdered Ruth's old man (which puts a bit of a cloud on their budding romance for some reason). The film really scores with the scenery.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Man on the Run (1948)

Derek Farr plays Brown, an Army deserter, who is hiding out in a seaside pub but when one of his old Army comrades (Kenneth More) recognises him and tries to blackmail him he flees to London.

Penniless and in danger of being thrown out on the street he mistakenly gets involved in an armed robbery and accused of murdering a policeman. While on the (literal) run from the law he barges into the home of Jean (Joan Hopkins). Jean believes him but the police are hot on his trail. His only course of action is to find the real villains and clear his name...

A nicely tight and gripping noir. Post-war bitterness is very evident, Farr gives his reasons about why he deserted and how badly the Army treated him. Tension between soldiers and civilians they think didn't pull their weight in the war is also portrayed.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

City in Darkness (1939)

Europe is on the brink of war and Paris is in a frenzy, Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) is in town for a reunion. Chan gets involved with a case including enemy spies and smuggled weapons.

Petroff (Douglas Dumbrille) is a business man and enemy spy. His former secretary Madero (Richard Clarke) is meanwhile trying to flee the country with the help of Marie (Lynn Bari). When Petroff is found murdered Chan and the dopey god son Marcel (Harold Huber) of the chief of police investigate the crime. Marcel plays the role of Chan's sometimes foolish sometimes helpful "son" in this film.

Marcel also dominates the film with his tomfoolery, not always in a good way. It is all rather stereotypically French with terrible accents not too far from the likes of Allo Allo. However amid the mayhem, and a dose of propaganda, there is still a typical Charlie Chan mystery here, a measured and thoughtful investigation interspersed with "Chinese" proverbs.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Replacement Killers (1998)

After dominating HK cinema for many years Chow Yun-Fat tried to break into Hollywood, The Replacement Killers was his first attempt and it is familiar fare as he played a Triad assassin. The problem with the film is, it's not that good.

A tale of the ruthless and brutal life of the Triads and how it is very hard (if not impossible) to walk away. Chow Yun-Fat plays John Lee who fails in his last assignment (to kill a child) and wants to get out. Obviously his Triad bosses are not keen on his plans. Lee enlists the help of a forger (Mira Sorvino) who gets dragged into John's fight with the Triad, his efforts to protect his family, and to evade the replacement killer sent to kill him...

It isn't very original, though lets face it that's generally not a problem with gangster movies. The action is fine and the film is stylish but it just could have been so much more. It's worth watching for Chow Yun-Fat but not much else.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Headline Woman (1935)

Who runs the city? The police or the press? When the newspapers rip into new police commissioner Frank Desmond (Conway Tearle) he cuts off the supply of information. At first the plucky reporters led by Bob Grayson (Roger Pryor) pump a rather dumb flatfoot Hugo Meyer (Ford Sterling) who they help climb the ladder in return for tips.

The gambling kingpin Clarkey (Morgan Wallace) is involved with various bumpings off and illegal gambling. When Myrna Van Buran, the daughter of Bob's boss, (Heather Angel) is accused of murdering Clarkey Bob helps her out to get the story... or is he in love?

A very entertaining if haphazard film with a number of plot tangents to help fill the time. The ensemble of reporters is full of wise-cracks, 30s slang and some sharp dialogue. It is rather breakneck, at times frenetic but seldom boring. Pryor and Angel make a good, though unlikely, double act.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Stop-Over Forever (1964)

Flight attendant Susan Chambers books into her hotel in Sicily after a flight, but is gunned down by an unknown assailant. A few hours later Susan Chambers then turns up again, only this is the real one (Ann Bell), the other being a colleague (Brita van Krogh) who had swapped rooms with her.

While the Italian police chief Captain Mordente (Julian Sherrier) investigates the crime he is naturally suspicious of why the switch. Susan realises that her colleague was mistaken for her and she is in danger... And there are plenty of suspects, could it be her lover (Anthony Bate) who won't divorce his wife? A pilot (Conrad Phillips) with a dark secret? The drunk friend who wants more than she'll offer him (Bruce Boa)? Or even Mordente who resents her for some earlier incident which resulted in the death of his wife?

The film is set in such beautiful surroundings though is at times a bit dull, the pace being a bit slow. The characters are also somewhat annoying especially Susan, who in fine movie tradition, doesn't do anything logical while in fear of her life and instead runs around like a headless chicken. She does do a good job of portraying paranoia and fear well though. The twist at the end is excellent.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Doped Youth (1936)

Intended as an anti-drug propaganda film, Doped Youth (also known as Reefer Madness) ended up becoming a bit of an exploitation film. It deals with a group of young people whose lives are torn apart by marijuana. The film is also utterly awful.

Mae (Thelma White) and Jack (Carleton Young) are a couple (unmarried, tut tut) who get High School kids to smoke some pot. This does not end well, in fact it ends up with a number of deaths.

All the ingredients are here for 1930s moral panic in America: drugs, jazz music and dancing too close. The effects of pot are somewhat exaggerated. According to this film it leads to violence, death and insanity. After watching this low-budget nonsense it might drive anyone to substance abuse to be honest.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Baby Face Morgan (1942)

The mob is in trouble and need a new tough guy to take over and lead them back to glory, the son of the old boss (Richard Cromwell) a rather sensitive and easily taken advantage of soul somehow ends up the new boss of crime.

Doc Rogers (Robert Armstrong) uses the kid's name to build up the image of a tough mysterious figure behind the scenes. The scam depends on the mobsters not really knowing a naive kid in charge, and the kid not really knowing where the money is coming from. Things get even more complicated when the owner of a trucking company (Mary Carlisle) refuses to pay for protection...

But this is a comedy, and a rather good one too. The film sends up the B-movie gangster genre very well with the right degree of farce and corny one-liners.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Gang Bullets (1938)

Big Bill Anderson (presumably he is just "Bill" on his birth certificate) is running crime in a small city and the DA Wayne (Charles Trowbridge) and his assistant Carter (Robert Kent) seem unable to get the better of Anderson (Morgan Wallace) who has a perfect handle on the law.

The DA comes under increasing pressure as Big Bill remains free, a mysterious writer called "Junius" causing extra trouble by accusing the DA as being in Big Bill's pocket. Carter is especially desperate about the affair as he can't marry the DA's daughter (Anne Nagel) while Big Bill remains free. Is it time for desperate measures?

Although a bit slow at times this is an interesting crime drama with an involving and intelligent plot especially showing how criminals could use loopholes in the law to run rings around the police and courts.