Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Nancy Drew... Reporter (1939)

Schoolgirl Nancy Drew (Bonita Granville) is at a newspaper on some sort of work experience gig when she gets onto a real case instead of reporting on a squirrel stuck up a tree. The case involves poisoning but Nancy doesn't think the suspect Betty (Eula Denning) did it. She wants her lawyer father (John Litel) to take the case but he won't do it until there is solid proof she is innocent...

Nancy is helped (usually reluctantly) by her neighbour Ted (Frankie Thomas Jr) to find evidence to clear Betty but stumbles upon a real mystery, just who is a man with a strange ear (Jack Perry) who is involved in the case?

It is light hearted fluff on the whole but features some nice detective work and an amusing set piece in a boxing gym. It also includes a rather strange but endearing musical interlude by a teenage Mary Lee.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Sewers of Gold (1979)

Also known as "The Great Riviera Bank Robbery" this film is based on the true story of a bank robbery in France in the 1970s. It stars Ian McShane as a right-wing terrorist who has the great idea of breaking into a bank safe deposit vault in Nice to raise funds for his fascist uprising. His friend Jean (Warren Clarke) is a bit sceptical of messing with the criminal underworld but soon is persuaded to go ahead with the plan... which consists of getting into the sewers below Nice and then digging through metres of rock.

Although the film has little in way of spark (and we must remember our "heroes" are rather unpleasant thugs who have a liking for swastika wall coverings) it is fascinating to see the mechanics of a bank raid covered in detail. At times it is more like a long version of The Sweeney or Professionals but that is not a bad thing...

Although all the characters are French luckily the British actors use their own accents and not some weird kind of Franglais.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Marked One (1963)

An enjoyably low-budget British crime film. Don Mason (William Lucas) is an ex-jail bird who did time for money forgery. His former gang members think he is still in possession of the plates to print money and give him a going over and when that doesn't work they threaten the daughter he has with his estranged wife Kay (Zena Walker).

Police Inspector Mayne (Patrick Jordan) is also after those plates and keeping Don under surveillance. Don is desperately trying to find the plates, and the identity of who is after them before his daughter is snatched. When Don's photographer friend Chas (Brian Nissen) is found murdered then Don also has to deal with being hunted as the prime suspect...

Kay also has to deal with his slimy landlord boss Benson (Arthur Lovegrove). Its a bit cheap but that adds to the grittiness of early 1960s London. Not a fantastic film but perfectly serviceable.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Extravagance (1930)

Alice (June Collyer) is spoilt, her mother flogs herself to the bone to give Alice everything she wants. When she marries Fred (Lloyd Hughes) she expects things will continue as they have been but Fred's business is struggling and he can't afford to buy her the sable coat she desires. While he is slogging his guts out she is partying all night and leaving him with a pile of bills...

Alice finds a way to raise some money, she meets a sleazy stockbroker called Morrell (Jameson Thomas) who'll help her get money though there is a price to pay. You know what that is.

It is an early talkie and suffers from some awkward dialogue. The overt adultery and greed in this pre-code film is fascinating though ultimately the film is a bit too silly especially the melodramatic ending. Morrell is a great bad guy though.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Girl Gang (1954)

Low-rent exploitative sleaze which seems to have been made on the budget of two joints. Joe (Timothy Farrell) is a "regular guy" - in that he gets kids hooked on drugs and then gets the girls to earn money for him via prostitution and robbery. The latter is shown in the film's first scene where a group of girls ambush and knock a guy out and steal his car for Joe!

Meanwhile June (Joanna Arnold) is Joe's new favourite squeeze (not that he restricts himself to one). In a lengthy segment he shows her how to shoot up heroine and in return she has to bring in a supply of fresh meat for Joe. Wanda (Mary Lou O'Connor) is some of that fresh meat, to join the gang she has to sleep with five guys in the gang and if there are any complications... well there is the drunk ex-doctor (Harry Keaton) handy to sort things out...

Well don't expect much in the way of acting but do expect plenty of leg (by coincidence it is where it is best to give the girls injections). It is a remarkably shameless film. Drug taking, robbery, prostitution, black mail the works!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Money Means Nothing (1934)

Rich girl meets poor guy, they fall in love and then the rich girl tries to adapt to her new, less affluent, life.

So that is the basic premise of this film, Julie (Gloria Shea) is a rich and spoilt Manhattan girl who is obviously looking for a bit of rough trade. She meets Kenny (Wallace Ford) in a run-down but trendy dive after some escapes with criminals. Kenny and Julie finally fall in love and Julie decides to marry him despite opposition from her family.

Julie settles into her new life of poverty in Brooklyn believing that love will solve everything and that money means nothing. Tyre salesman Kenny is not so sure and some dark events threaten to break their lives apart...

So the plot isn't any special but this is a well meaning little film with a decent supporting cast including Edgar Kennedy and Maidel Turner though some of the attempts at comedy don't always hit the mark.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Gigolo and Whore 2 (1992)

So the sequel to this then, silly semi-erotic sexploitation HK fare really.

Rosamund Kwan plays a tough rich girl who buys Alex Fong's business and shunts him from his swanky office. To persuade her to sell Alex back the shares he hires the top gigolo in HK Simon Yam to seduce her (obviously).

The uber stud does his job (so well in fact she forgets she is a lesbian) and she sells the shares... but there is one problem : Simon has fallen in love with her for real. That would be fine except Alex is in love with her too. And to make matters worse the gigolo bar's madam (Veronica Yip) is in love with Simon. But its all sorted out in the end of course amid much mess and hilarity. 

The film is not a cinematic classic though has plenty of silly humour and a fair bit of rumpy pumpy, though at times the film a little boring and rather weird. The picture quality didn't help, for some reason the colours were a bit wrong especially in low-lit scenes.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Carry on Abroad (1972)

The Carry on team descend on the Costa del Cheapo and mayhem ensues. It is not subtle but this is one of the best Carry on films.

The film features every stereotype about British holidaymakers abroad under the (Spanish) sun: the hotel is unfinished, some of the blokes are just there to get drunk and laid, nobody likes the food and everyone ends up in trouble with the local law... Not much has changed to be fair.

Most of the gang are here, Kenneth Williams is the tour leader and portrays in the usual bossy manner. Sid James is there for the sights though not of Spanish ruins but rather of Barbara Windsor. A more unusual aspect to the holiday party is a group of monks which includes Bernard Bresslaw. The best part is Peter Butterworth as the hotel manager (and much else) with Hattie Jacques playing his furious wife.

It is pretty much standard Carry on fare, sexual innuendo and ridiculous names. Most of the jokes can be seen coming a kilometre off but the film wins as it flows so well. Like sangria.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Terror of the Plains (1934)

Tom (Tom Tyler) learns that his Dad (Ralph Lewis) has been framed for a crime he didn't commit. The real culprit is Cramer (William Gould) who has a ghost town as a hideout which he rules with an iron fist. Tom infiltrates the town posing as an outlaw. Very quickly he gets into a number of fights including with Cramer in which he wins Cramer's reluctant woman (Roberta Gale) in marriage!

Things gets complicated when Tom's sidekick Banty (Frank Rice) gets captured by the gang and faces a court martial...

Not a bad little western with some good fights. Tom Tyler looks suitably butch as the tough hero (which wasn't always the case with the heroes in westerns). The rather interesting premise of a secret town used as a hide out could have been made more of.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Grunt! The Wrestling Movie (1985)

A rather interesting mock documentary on the crazy world of early 1980s wrestling.

A few years before top wrestler Mad Dog (Magic Schwarz) decapitated his opponent in the ring and then apparently committed suicide... but now documentary maker Jeff Dial is trying to find out if a hot new name in the ring, and with a very similar style to Mad Dog, called The Mask actually really is Mad Dog...

All the craziness of the pre-WWF style of American wrestling in the early 1980s is on show here including midget matches, battle royals and deranged TV hosts. A number of real wrestlers including Adrian Street and Dick Murdoch feature in the film as themselves.

The problem is the film is a bit unstructured and a little too interested in novelty. To be honest it is hard to send up something like pro wrestling which is quite so strange in the first place. It is undeniably fun though and the glimpse of early 80s wrestlers is great.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Uptown New York (1932)

The old love triangle. Max (Leon Ames) and Pat (Shirley Grey) are a young couple in love, but Max's parents have other ideas for him and marry him off to a rich woman and send him off to Europe to study. While he is away Pat meets Eddie (Jack Oakie) a boisterous vending machine operator. The manner of their meeting is unusual though as Pat is stuck in a restaurant toilet and Eddie has to get her out through the window!

They begin an edgy relationship but when Max returns to New York things get complicated in Pat's life. Max wants her as his mistress though Pat stays with Eddie despite it not being the smoothest of rides...

Its a charming film and enjoyable with some snappy dialogue especially from Oakie. The first half of the film is probably the best, things do turn a bit melodramatic later on. Its quite a familiar story: the girl turn between two lovers, one rich and one poor. Good performances, especially from Oakie who switches from brash wise guy to sensitive soul, help elevate the film.

Monday, July 8, 2019

A True Mob Story (1998)

Andy Lau plays a somewhat unusual character in HK triad films: the loser triad member. As a minor boss he's more like the whipping boy for the smug elder bosses who basically treat him like a gopher and ration his pay. His wife was killed several years before by a vile thug Andy half blinded but his son is looked after by mamasan Suki Kwan.

As Andy gets dragged further and further into trouble he meets barrister Gigi Leung... who just happens to be the girlfriend of Alex Fong, the cop who's out to bust Andy! (HK movies are always full of such amazing coincidences). Gigi falls in love with the lovable Triad boss putting her career at risk, naturally, but is it two-way?

The thug who killed Andy's wife makes a comeback and puts Andy in peril, but the bosses won't help and he finds himself the fall guy for a drugs operation. Now what...

Its a Wong Jing film so you know what to expect: violence, lots of it, especially against women. Blood, gore, death, sexual violence and torture. He delivers though with this film, one of his best films. All in all this is an excellent HK triad film, very well played by Andy Lau.

Friday, July 5, 2019

The Trap (1922)

Also known as "Heart of a Wolf", this film stars Lon Chaney as Gaspard, a happy go lucky if rather simple minded miner in Quebec with an idyllic family life with his girl Thalie (Dagmar Godowsky). However things soon go wrong when Benson (Alan Hale) arrives on the scene. He ends up stealing Gaspard's mine and his woman!

Gaspard, his life crushed, spends several years in a dark depression. In that time karma seems to have bit back at Benson and Thalie hard who are both on the downward curve. The mine is struggling and her health is failing fast. Lon, meanwhile, now has a heart set on revenge instead of happiness...

Its rather formulaic and melodramatic and Chaney overplays Gaspard's character somewhat with his famous facial expressions but this is a decent enough film. Somewhat improbable but undeniably compelling.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Road to Ruin (1934)

A rather unsubtle but engaging morality play. Ann (Helen Foster) is a good college girl devoted to her studies and parents. However she is befriended by Eve (Nell O'Day) who has a rather looser attitude to life. Ann starts to drink, smoke and has awkward sex with Tommy (Glen Boles)...

Well its a slippery slope of course. Its not long before Ann and Eve are drunks, drug addicts and Ann is sleeping around with a bad older man (Paul Page). There is worse to come for poor Ann...

Luckily this film is more sincere than an exploitation film though does take time to get going. There is a sad inevitability about innocent Ann's downfall. Its a story as old as the hills: it always ends up being the girl's fault.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Castle in the Desert (1942)

Unstable historian Paul Manderley (Douglas Dumbrille) lives in a castle deep in the desert cut off from the outside world. A visitor dies of poison one night and the death is covered up by Manderley due to Mrs Manderley (Lenita Lane) being a Borgia and having a past linked to poison. Then Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) is mysteriously invited to the castle...

For an isolated country house... er... castle there certainly seems to be a motley collection of guests including a doctor, a sculptor and a private detective. Number 2 son (Victor Sen Yung) is also there to help with an eccentric mystic (Ethel Griffies) tagging along to "help".

It is all a glorious muddle and a shameless romp reusing every "Middles Ages" prop the studio had in it's store including two suits of armour! A great, if unoriginal, example of a dark house mystery.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Thunder in the Desert (1938)

An average B-movie western though improved by some decent comedy lines. Bob Radford (Bob Steele) arrives in town via a box car train with roaming bum Rusty (Don Barclay) tagging along. The plot is fairly familiar: Bob seeks to avenge his uncle who has been killed by a gang of outlaws. Bob pretends to be on the wrong side of the law himself so he can infiltrate the gang...

The Sheriff (Horace Murphy) is hot on Bob's trail, though not assisted a great deal by his deputy (Budd Buster) who isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. Bob meanwhile is looking for the mastermind behind the gang (Charles King). Louis Stanley provides the love interest.

This is a case of a film that's more than the sum of it's (meagre) parts. Although not a brilliant film by any means it passes the time enjoyably enough. The action is understated, and good when needed, and some comedic touches by Barclay and Buster elevate proceedings.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Up the Junction (1968)

Bored rich girl Polly (Suzy Kendall) heads into the poorer areas of London to look for some rough trade. Grim reality and great rock and roll from Manfred Mann ensue.

Really this is a way of exploring social issues prevalent in late 1960s Britain. The real story grittier stories behind Swinging London. That included industrial unrest, domestic violence, politicial protests and back street abortions. Suzy tries to recreate the working class realism she craves with Dennis Waterman though it's only a facade she can build. A fake working class life. She can leave it if things get too tough, something her new friends cannot do...

It is a wonderful period piece. At times it can be quite a dreary film but that's because it doesn't try and sanitise the 1960s as some films have tried.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Trail of the Silver Spurs (1941)

The Range Busters (Ray Corrigan, John King and Max Terhune - with Elmer the dummy of course) are on a secret mission for the US government on the trail of gold robbers. They arrive at a ghost town which isn't quite as empty as it at first seems. Gold mine owner Dan Nordick (Milburn Morante) and his daughter Nancy (Dorothy Short) are still living there despite being menaced by "ghosts" trying to scare them off...

It isn't a ghost though but the more substantial menace of notorious killer The Jingler (I. Stanford Jolley) who is hiding out in the hotel and wants to get the Nordicks out of there. Things hot up with Max and Elmer concoct a plan to fake a gold rush...

Rather confusing but decent enough "wild west" fun - though when the film is supposed to be set is a mystery considering at one stage they refer to the Civil War then suddenly the film features automobiles! The Range Busters are in "disguise" which means they have switched their normal horses for nags but the rest of their fancy outfits are unchanged!