Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Warriors (1979)

For this blog's three hundredth review another of all our time favourite films...

The Warriors is a bonafide cult classic. A fairly simple tale of a bunch of kids trying to get home with all manner of obstacles thrown up in their path. It is simple but so so cool.

Cyrus (Roger Hill), the head of the biggest gang in NY the Gramercy Riffs, wants to bring all the gangs together to take over the streets. He brings representatives of all the top gangs in the city to a big meeting in the Bronx but in his moment of triumph he is gunned down by the deranged leader of the Rogues, Luther (David Patrick Kelly). In the ensuing chaos the Warriors from Coney Island get the blame. Now Cyrus' gang put the call out, the Warriors are to be found - alive if possible if not... wasted.

The Warriors are a mixed bunch led by Swan (Michael Beck) and with the violence and sex crazed Ajax (James Remar) always in competition. As the Warriors make their way home, dodging various gangs (which include gangs of roller skaters, lesbians and ghost like baseball players), Swan hooks up with Mercy (Deborah Van Valkenburg) who wants something more, she wants something now...

The Warriors finally make their way back to Coney Island, stalked by the Rogues and the Gramercy Riffs. What happens when there is a final showdown?

So it is indeed a very strange film in many ways. The gangs all have their identities and colours, the Warriors themselves wearing rather cute pleather vests, some of the other gangs are completely ridiculous looking. However that adds to the appeal, it is strange and unrealistic.

Backed by an excellent sound track of late 1970s rock and soul this is one of the best films ever made. It is not for the acting which ranges from vague to poor or the story which is pretty much by the numbers but it is the period of time and the style, the sheer craziness of the film and the characters. Some of the Warriors are a little undefined but the main characters certainly are well drawn and you do care about them. The film has a magic that maybe is a little undefinable but is there. Dig it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Cafe Hostess (1939)

A nicely sleazy noir about hostesses and various crimes in a club. Jo (Ann Dvorak) is a "B girl" (aka a prostitute) in seedy Club 46 which is owned by Eddie Morgan (Douglas Fowley). Jo is a welcoming hostess to guys out of town, keeping them entertained and then picking their pockets. Detective Steve Mason (Arthur Loft) is after Morgan but can't get the evidence he needs...

Sailor Dan Walters (Preston Foster) arrives at the club and falls for Jo (of course). He wants to take her away but Jo knows that escaping her past won't be easy. Dan seems to find out all about Morgan's criminal activities in one night which indicates that Detective Mason is rather poor at his job.

Cafe Hostess is not very original and isn't a bad movie though is a little pedestrian at times. It also falls into melodrama but it does end in an entertaining huge brawl. The most interesting part of the film though was how it fell foul of the censors as it violated the moral codes of the late 1930s.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Dark Alibi (1946)

A bank is robbed and a guard killed, the fingerprints of ex-con Thomas Harley (Edward Earle) are found on the scene and he is arrested and later convicted.

With his execution just days away his desperate daughter June (Teala Loring) calls on Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) for help. He finds that Harley was living in a boarding house full of potential suspects. Everyone seems rather suspicious and somehow involved. When Chan is shot at he knows he has made the real perpetrator worried.

But surely the fingerprints make it an open and shut case? It seems perfect but Charlie Chan thinks its too perfect...

Charlie Chan is on great form in this film, which is sprinkled with humour especially with his lazy son (Benson Fong) and his chauffeur (Mantan Morland) who make a great double act. There are also many pseudo-Chinese proverbs and philosophy throughout.

Monday, January 28, 2019

White Zombie (1932)

Probably the first full-length zombie film, White Zombie is maybe low on budget but high on weirdness and atmosphere. Neil Parker (John Harron) and Madeleine Short (Madge Bellamy) are an engaged couple due to get married at the home of plantation owner Charles Beaumont (Robert W Frazier) in Haiti. On the way to Beaumont's home they encounter strange men which they are told are zombies...

Beaumont wants Madeleine for himself and resorts to dark magic from Murder the voodoo master (Bela Lugosi) to gain control of her. Yet he finds that Murder's price for the dark arts is very high indeed...

A wonderfully creepy film, the zombie scene in Murder's sugar cane mill is just one of a number of standout scenes. As the zombie slaves carry sugar cane one topples into the mill to be grinded up too, of course the zombies don't even blink! The film was rather cheaply made though with most of the actors being fading silent movie stars, the acting is therefore rather over the top at times however it really adds to the drama in the final act. Lugosi is amazing of course.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Concorde Affair (1979)

Clearly a cheap rip-off of Airport 79: The Concorde, again a shadowy elite want to stop the Concorde being a success. Obviously in real life they succeeded...

After a Concorde crashes in mysterious circumstances in the Caribbean hot shot reporter Moses Brody (James Franciscus) is called in by his wife (Fianna Maglione) who lives in the area. By the time he gets there though she is dead and he almost joins her but for an intervention by her friend George (Francisco Charles). As they begin to investigate the strange goings on they discover the crashed Concorde on the sea bed... and a flight attendant survivor (Mimsy Farmer) who is a prisoner of some desperate looking men...

Well it is all rather low budget, Concorde in the film is a mixture of stock footage and rather laughable models. However it isn't a bad film, it is a reasonable action film that would probably have been better if it hadn't been such a blatant cash-in.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Telephone Operator (1937)

An unusual but interesting drama of a small town telephone company when the local dam fails and threatens the town. Red (Grant Withers) and Shorty (Warren Hymer) are new telephone linesmen in town to help extend the network. They are cocky and fresh and soon get into a fight at a dance... unfortunately it's with their boss Tom Summers (Pat Flaherty) and he isn't too pleased to get a shiner from them.

Helen Molly (Judith Allen) is a telephone operator whom Red has the hots for, he think she's a swell gal though unfortunately for him she considers him a bit annoying... but you know how it'll end up! Helen is up fired when she leaves her post to save Tom from finding out about his cheating wife.

So far the film is OK, a bit slow and meandering and a bit complicated. Then the dam breaks and the film shifts from second gear to about seventh in a snap. The final act of the film is frenetic as Helen mans the switchboard and Red and Shorty perform emergency repairs to the telephone lines as flood waters engulf the valley. They save the day but quite where everyone else is (especially Tom) is a mystery that's never explained.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Shadows on the Stairs (1941)

A sometimes-strange sometimes-sweet murder mystery set in a London boarding house. The house run by Stella Armitage (Frieda Inescort) is full of interesting characters including spiv Joseph Reynolds (Paul Cavanagh), Indian student/rebel Ram Singh (Turhan Bey), playwright Hugh Bromilow (Bruce Lester) and the sullen maid Lucy (Phyllis Barry).

Stella is having an affair with Joseph behind the back of her husband Tom (Miles Mander). Though Joseph is also knocking off Lucy. If that's not enough he is also involved in mysterious schemes with Ram Singh (who also gets attacked by another Indian in his room and stabs him). Then Joseph is found dead, the Inspector (Lumsden Hare) begins his investigation, though other bodies then turn up. There are plenty of suspects but the actual culprit is a surprise. But the real ending is an even bigger surprise.

So it's sometimes-sweet, (though if I explained why i wrote that if would spoil the ending). It is a fairly light mystery but rocks along at a good rate of knots. It is pretty strange, but in a good way.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Charlie Chan's Secret (1936)

Estranged son Allen Colby (Jerry Miley) is returning to his family after several years and being presumed dead. Not good news to some of his family members who have been spending his inheritance... including on psychic research. Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) discovers Colby survived a shipwreck but at a seance Colby turns up dead, recently stabbed.

So who killed Allen Colby, well there are plenty of suspects of course including his aunt Henrietta (Henrietta Crosman) who wants to continue the psychic research, Fred (Edward Trevor) and Janice (Astrid Allwyn) who have been living off the inheritance and the strange caretaker Ulrich (Egon Brecher) who had a grudge against Allen. Or is it the psychic research Professor (Arthur Edmund Carewe) who is anxious to continue the funding? Charlie begins his investigation in a creepy old house full of hidden passages, moving panels and various oddities.

A highly entertaining Golden Age type movie, Charlie Chan is without any of his sons in this film so the humour and buffoonery is lower than usual but the mystery is good. Plenty of pseudo-Chinese "proverbs" too.

Monday, January 21, 2019

British Intelligence (1940)

A spy is betraying British military secrets to the Germans during the First World War. The top British agent Frank Bennett (Bruce Lester) is sent to capture the German spy Strendler but is betrayed and ends up hospitalised. He is nursed back to health by a pretty nurse Helene (Margaret Lindsay)... who is in fact another top German spy!

Now using the identity of a refugee known as "Frances Hautry" she is sent to London to infiltrate the home of Bennett's father Arthur (Holmes Herbert), a cabinet minister. The butler Valdar (Boris Karloff) turns out to be another German spy!

The head of British intelligence Yeats (Leonard Mudie) already suspects Helene... and Valdar turns out to be a double agent. But Frank Bennett turns up at his family home and recognises his ex-nurse things get even more complicated... especially when Valdar tells Helene that he is Strendler!

Although sometimes thinly veiled propaganda this is an exciting war and espionage film. The plot is sometimes confusing when you wonder exactly which side some of the characters are on. The film ends with a zeppelin raid, any film with zeppelins is great!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Before Morning (1933)

So Elsie (Lora Baxter) is in a relationship with Jim (Russell Hicks) but when she tells him she is engaged to Horace from Detroit (Blaine Cordner) he falls ill and dies (amusingly while Elsie is singing down the telephone). Horace agrees to help Elsie dispose of Jim's body and keep the police out of it.

They decide to use a sanitarium run by a Dr Gruelle (Leo Carrillo) and make it look like Jim died there. However Dr Gruelle turns out to be a bit of a cad who tells Elsie that Jim was murdered by poison and tried to blackmail her as the poisoner...

The film was based on a Broadway play (not quite the success as stated in the credits) and most of the actors were from the stage. It's probably why most of the acting is a bit off and somewhat over the top. It is a bit of a strange film but not without some good points and i'm not talking about the wardrobe malfunctions...

Some of the acting is so odd it is compelling. If treated as an over the top melodrama this film kind of works. The twist and conclusion are worth the slog early on.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Murder on Flight 502 (1975)

A rather low-budget rip-off of the Airport type of movie, an ensemble of stereotypes (retired couple, man with a secret (Fernando Lamas), alcoholic writer (Polly Bergen), fading rock star (Sonny Bono) et cetera) are stuck on a plane where bad things happen...

The plane is a flight from New York to London piloted by Captain Larkin (Robert Stack). When the plane is already en route NY airport security chief Robert Davenport (George Maharis) received a letter warning him that murders will take place on Flight 502...

Luckily there is a police officer Detective Myerson (Hugh O'Brian) is aboard and begins to look for the possible murderer with the help of the captain and Davenport. There are a number of suspects but the captain and the chief flight attendant (Farrah Fawcett) try and keep everything under control but when the murders finally begin things quickly unravel...

Nothing about this film is that original at all but the cast ensemble is good and they make the most of what is a fairly low budget film. The film has some good twists and certainly is entertaining enough though might be a bit of a struggle on the long-haul.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Mr. Moto's Last Warning (1939)

Japanese detective Mr Moto (Peter Lorre) of the international police is drawn into a plot to try and draw Britain and France into a war. A French fleet is en route to join a Royal Navy fleet on joint maneuvers but is delayed at Port Said because of warnings of sabotage from the British secret service. Plotters led by Fabian (Ricardo Cortez), who is posing as a ventriloquist in a rather mediocre music hall act, try to get rid of Mr Moto though he manages to escape.

Fabian and his men discover a British secret agent (John Carradine) and kill him. Fabian's girlfriend Connie (Virginia Field) helps him track Moto, unaware her man is a brutal agent, but she soon finds out the truth...

It is all nonsense of course and pretty corny but the strangeness carries you through. A brutal agent who talks of blowing up warships one minute and then makes cute lines through his ventriloquist's dummy the next. As for Mr Moto, he is as "oriental" as Mr Wong or Charlie Chan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Energetic 21 (1982)

Leslie Cheung is a street racer who drives a Porsche 911. In the first part of the film you see how he and his buddies hang out and basically do very little. There are a couple of strange tangents (well it is a HK film after all) including a faked demonic possession that ends up in a fat girl getting pregnant. No really. I'm not making that up.

Rowena Cortes, who plays the sister of one of Leslie's friends, also gets into some scrapes including fighting girls over a dress and accidentally getting her boyfriend beaten up on his driving test. Leslie's mum brings a Westerner home but Leslie doesn't like it as its filthy apparently...

Then in the second half of the film things really get going. Another Westerner is accidentally killed in a fight and the guys suddenly start acting incredibly stupidly (or more than they were already). They begin running around like headless chickens and even turn on each other as the Police close in. In the end they are holed up in a supermarket, the Police have them surrounded. So how did it all go wrong? It is a HK film about young people, it always goes wrong.

So what is this film really about? It's an entertaining romp with some good car stunts thrown in, especially a cool stunt-a-rama with some go-karts. The main problem with the film is that the guys' characters seem to change utterly after they kill the guy. They turn from being some layabout losers into psychotic madman...

So it doesn't really make any sense but it's a decent slab of early 80s HK idol cinema if you like that sort of thing. It has it all all : young beautiful people, hot 80s sports cars, cheesy nightclubs and HK 80s cool. Fantastic basically. Just don't expect much coherence.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Red Haired Alibi (1932)

Lynn Monith (Merna Kennedy) is a naive young girl with red hair (which is mentioned every few minutes in the film). She meets the suave Trent Travers (Theodore von Eitz) who offers her a job in New York. She accepts and finds herself having to pose as Travers' "wife" in some unusual situations. Travers is a gangster you see... soon Lynn realises there is a reason she keeps having to lie to the police.

Finally Lynn leaves Travers and relocates to White Plains. In typical movie coincidence manner Lynn bumps into Bob Shelton (Grant Withers) again (whom she met briefly in NY) and gets hired to nurse his daughter (Shirley Temple in one of her earliest roles). She and Bob gets married but when she bumps into Travers again (who by now is on the run) in New York things reach a (red) head...

An enjoyable film, the story is nothing too unusual and the plot a bit by the numbers but the film moves along at a decent pace. Lynn's red hair has a starring role. As do the Art Deco interiors of the various hotels and restaurants, simply gorgeous.