Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Fool There Was (1915)

A happily married lawyer John (Edward Jose) heads over to England to take up a new diplomatic job though without his beloved wife and child.

On the ocean liner he meets a "vampire" (Theda Bara) who is apparently notorious for seducing men with near hypnotic powers then sucking them dry of cash and driving them mad before moving onto the next victim. John shacks up with the "vampire", is he doomed?

So it's a bit daft though worth seeing as little of Theda Bara's work has survived, the original "vamp" girl had it all.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Cowboy and the Bandit (1935)

Although not that original this is a decent Western B-movie. Bill (Rex Lease) starts off the film facing a lynching for buying a stolen horse, he is saved by local outlaw Scarface (Richard Alexander) and heads off for another state. There he bumps into a farm, the Bar X ranch, in trouble with the Larkin gang.

He takes a job with the farm but finds Larkin has the local law in his pocket, soon Bill finds himself with another lynch mob after him...

Bill is so straight forward and heroic he is almost a parody but he does a good role in this film, it's not a film with much in the way of shades of grey just good solid cowboy action. Blanche Mehaffey plays the sassy love interest at the saloon. Bobby Nelson plays the spirited kid who helps out Bill.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bless This House (1972)

One of the many big screen spin-offs of British sitcoms, Bless This House was a family sitcom starring Sid James and Diana Coupland.

In this feature length story a new family (its Terry (Scott) and June (Whitfield)!) moves in next door and much hilarity ensues amid the 70s domestic suburban bliss...

Truthfully it's all rather corny and low in ambition, there arn't any big ideas or diversions which often happen in these sitcom spin-offs. There isn't really even much plot, its more like they took three sitcom plots and merged them together. Thankfully it is very funny and Sid gives his famous laugh with regularity.

The film mixes the TV Bless This House series with Terry & June and the result is Carry On Suburbia. Somehow it's brilliant!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Escape by Night (1937)

Nick Allen (William Hall) is a rather naive ex-miner who ends up getting drawn into a gangster war when he stops crime boss Capper Regan (Dean Jagger)'s gangster moll Jo Elliott (Steffi Duna) being kidnapped by a rival gang. Capper's gang end up on the run from the police and holed up in an empty house.

Nick discovers a neighbouring house owned by a blind man Pops (Charles Waldon) and his daughter Linda (Anne Nagel). They end up moving into that house and slowly learn the error of their ways amid the rural idyll and the purity of country life. Nick and Linda also fall in love. However when Capper returns for his gang things get heated...

It's all rather sentimental and naive (though not as naive as Nick is). The film is fairly enjoyable though meanders like a country stream once the gang hit the sticks. Duna has the best role as the cynical moll who wants to change her life but feels it's too late.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Sabaka (1954)

Adventures in Raj era India though this is the Hollywood idea of life back then so don't expect much historical accuracy...

Gunga Ram (Nino Marcel) is an Indian boy (with a very American accent) who works for the Maharaja (Lou Krugman) looking after elephants. A new fire cult dedicated to Sabaka led by a High Priestess (June Foray), who can also control cobras, is causing havoc in his province, burning villagers to force people to worship their new cult. Even Gunga's only sister dies in the flames...

General Pollegar (Boris Karloff) is sceptical about the fire cult and seems to have a problem with Gunga...

This is a pretty basic story mostly involving Gunga Ram seeking to avenge his sister though has plenty of well-known actors parachuted in to perform small roles (painted up to look "Indian" of course). It certainly looks splendid, the Hollywood store of "Exotic India" was extensively plundered for sets, costumes and props. Ample use of stock footage too, usually animals eating other animals. Ultimately though it is a bit of a bore, but frequently so ridiculous as to keep you interested.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936)

A decent "mad scientist" film. Boris Karloff is Dr Laurience who has found a way to transfer the thoughts of a living brain into another. Dr Wyatt (Anna Lee) has been summoned to Laurience's remote home which he shares with a crippled assistant Clayton (Donald Calthorp). He demonstrates his ability to transfer brain content from one brain to another.

Laurience impresses a rich patron Lord Haslewood (Frank Cellier) and moves to a state-of-the-art laboratory. Naturally Laurience begins to use his science for nefarious purposes. Firstly he swaps the brains of Haslewood and Clayton. Then he transfers his brain to the body of Lord Haslewood's son Dick (John Loder) to try and get Dr Wyatt into the sack...

Not a bad film though at times it seems to not be sure what kind of film it is supposed to be. Sometimes it is an enjoyable and sinister science-fiction horror but at others it is rather marred by average humour though the scene where Clayton (now as Lord Haslewood) wings it in a board meeting is great.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Trap (1946)

A show troupe of jolly girls arrives at a Malibu villa, trouble flares the first night when Marcia (Anne Nagel) gets Lois (Jan Bryant) to look for letters which she can use in her rivalry with Adelaide (Tanis Chandler). Lois is later found dead, apparently strangled with a cord, and Marcia missing.

Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) is called in to investigate. He deduces that Lois knew her killer. Marcia is found dead on the beach, also strangled...

This was Toler's twenty-second and final Charlie Chan film. He was seriously ill when making the film and it does show a bit but he was still able to bring his magic to the Chan role. It isn't a vintage Chan film though, the ensemble of showgirls is frequently very annoying.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Blake of Scotland Yard (1937)

An edited film version of a film serial.

Sir James Blake (Herbert Rawlinson) has retired from Scotland Yard to help his niece Hope (Joan Barclay) and her friend Jerry (Ralph Byrd) develop a death ray machine that can render armies and navies obsolete and bring about world peace. Unfortunately the criminal mastermind The Scorpion has stolen it...

The film plot, such that there is, is simple enough. Blake and his friend begin to hunt down the gang, retrieve the invention and unmask the mysterious Scorpion.

It is enjoyable enough but like all converted serials it suffers from being rather disjointed and also a bit low budget. Supposedly it is set in England but apart from the occasional bit of stock footage (Big Ben et cetera) it could be set anywhere, plus everyone has an American accent even the RAF for some reason. There is plenty of action throughout though most of the time you are wondering what exactly is going on.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Bruce Lee Against Supermen (1975)

James Ho starred in a number of cash-ins (sometimes known as "Bruceploitations") on Bruce Lee's name and the worldwide phenomenon of kung fu movies in the 1970s, billed as Bruce Li. In this film he even appears as Kato, the character Bruce Lee appeared as in the Green Hornet!

Dr Ting has developed a formula which could revolutionise food production. Naturally the Mob want that formula for themselves so try to kidnap Dr Ting and his daughter Alice (who is Kato's girlfriend). To fight the Mob (who have "Superman" (Lung Fei) in their ranks and a group of mimes) and Kato enlists his friends who are apparently superheroes... or wear masks and capes anyway.

The film has plenty of decent (but not exceptional) martial arts fighting but the plot leaves a lot to be desired. In fact the film makes no sense whatsoever. Now of course coherent and multi-layered plotting is not the point of films like this but it could have done with a little more direction to be honest. Dr Ting gets kidnapped then rescued then kidnapped again he must not know if he is coming or going by the end. The soundtrack includes prog rock and Kraftwerk, but that's not the weirdest thing about this movie.

Friday, February 15, 2019

The President's Mystery (1936)

This film was apparently inspired by an idea of President Roosevelt about whether a rich man could disappear and start a new life. James Blake (Henry Wilcoxon) is that man, a millionaire attorney who has helped his big corporation crush a bill which would helped the little man and instead maintain their cartel. On vacation he finds a small town crushed by depression and a closed factory owned by Charlotte Brown (Betty Furness) and has a bit of an epiphany.

James leaves his old life and his cold unloving wife Ilka (Evelyn Brent) to help Charlotte restart her factory. This puts him into conflict with the cartel and big business. One complication is that his old colleague George Sartos (Sidney Blackmer), when James left his old life, accidentally had Ilka killed and James ends up accused of her murder...

The link to the President is rather loose (though the film makes the most of it) but the story would definitely have struck a chord during the Great Depression with the little man resisting big business and fighting to survive. It is all a bit corny but is different.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

O.K. Connery (1967)

Don't mention 007 but this is an Italian spoof that flies very close to copyright violation. As James Bond is busy saving the world elsewhere his brother is recruited to stop an evil crime syndicate from seizing all of the world's gold. The brother is played by Neil Connery... yes the real brother of Sean!

It also stars Bond stars Bernard Lee and Lois Maxwell in roles incredibly similar to their roles in 007... Another Bond star Adolfo Celi is the bad guy. There are a few other Bond actors too.

So a very thinly veiled spoof and complete nonsense. It includes Bond-esque action set pieces, Bond-like music, Bond-like gadgets, plenty of 60s Bond-esque girls and glamour too.

Unfortunately it rips off Bond so much there isn't much space for a plot which is basic and largely something to hang a series of Bond-esque set pieces on. It does involve a mad plot to take over the world with secret rays (of course). Quite frankly it is a bizarre film and terrible in so many ways but so strange it is genuinely compelling and undeniably entertaining.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Juggernaut (1936)

Dr Sartorius (Boris Karloff) is a dying doctor obsessed with his research but he is short of cash. On the French Riviera Lady Clifford (Mona Goya) is married to millionaire Sir Clifford (Morton Selten) but wants to get rid of him so she can carry on with her fancy man Arthur (Anthony Ireland). She hires Sartorius to poison Sir Clifford in return for funds to complete his research...

Sartorius' new nurse Eve (Joan Wyndham) is suspicious and sends the syringe off for analysis. Things get more serious when it is discovered Clifford's son Roger (Arthur Margetson) has been given power of attorney over Clifford's money and thus Sartorius won't get anything unless he gets rid of Roger too...

An odd little film with wall to wall bad/over acting but Karloff is terrific as the sinister scientist. Goya is ridiculously over the top (even biting Roger at one stage) but so entertaining with it. The pace is uneven - either slow or breakneck - and the film is a bit clunky with no real atmosphere. It is all a little weird.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

The Devil-Ship Pirates (1964)

A pirate ship, the Diablo, commanded by Robeles (Christopher Lee) takes part in the Spanish Armada but is badly damaged during the battle. Robeles takes his ship into the English marshes for repairs.

They then run into trouble when they find a small remote village. As the villagers don't know the Armada was defeated the pirates try to bluff their way to make the villagers think Spain now rules England.

It's all rollicking and swashbuckling good fun. Christopher Lee is excellent as the brutal pirate captain, Ernest Clark also plays a good role as the oily local aristocrat who is overly keen to ingratiate himself with the Spanish. John Cairney is the hero who refuses to bow down to the invaders.

The most impressive thing about the film though is the Diablo itself, a full-size galleon built for the film. Unfortunately it was not built very well and capsized leaving most of the cast and crew in the water!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Confidential (1935)

FBI Agent Dave Elliott (Donald Cook) is after gangsters. When his partner Arnold (Reed Howes) is killed in an operation he goes undercover in a numbers racket, via the rather dopey Regan (Warren Hymer), in order to find out who is the brains behind the outfit.

Once inside the gang Dave falls in love (of course) with the boss' secretary Maxine (Evalyn Knapp). He gains the confidence of the gang though one of them - Lefty Tate (J. Carrol Naish) - seems to find him rather familiar. Another complication comes when he bumps into an old college friend whose father turns out to be the big boss of organised crime JW (Herbert Rawlinson)...

Although nothing that original this is an entertaining fast moving (especially the last few minutes) crime movie. Snappy dialogue, some genuine charisma between Dave and Maxine and some decent action scenes elevate this film above the ordinary.