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The Devil's Disciple (1959)
You Will Want to Slap Her
Having seen The Devil's Disciple on a venue that runs films which have fallen into the public domain, I wonder how anyone could have let copyright lapse on such an intriguing, yet quirky, film as this. With it's triumvirate of strong leading men, and an interesting script, this movie should be much more well known. And with it's rather oddball presentation it's surprising that it does not have cult status.
The live action segments are excellent, and there is no slack in the acting or direction. However, some poor soul made the bizarre decision to interject little Rankin-Bass type puppet animation segments at nearly random moments, thoroughly negating - each time - all the dramatic momentum that has been accumulated up to that point. The animated segments are well done, and moderately amusing in and of themselves, yet completely incongruous to the tone of the surrounding film.
These segments are, however, a minor flaw when compared with the greatest drawback of this movie. I am referring to the character of Judith Anderson, our hero's wife. She is, without a doubt, the most annoyingly fickle and foolish female character that I can recall having ever witnessed in any film; and very nearly the most hysterical as well. Not too far into the story I began to get the feeling that I would very much like to slap her. Halfway through the film I was consciously rooting for each of the male leads to take a turn slapping her. By the end of the film I was convinced that everyone in the film should have slapped her, and probably the crew as well! The only thing that made this character bearable was the calm, good-natured presence of Lancaster, Douglas, and Olivier.
Now, this is not intended to denigrate Miss Janette Scott, who portrayed Mrs. Anderson. On the contrary, she did a remarkable job of making this over-the-top hysterical woman seem real. A lesser actress might have easily come off as overly melodramatic and phony in such an extreme performance. Her skill in the performance is the reason that we want to slap her. Kudos to Janette Scott. It is my opinion that almost everyone who watches this film will, in fact, want to slap her. Be prepared.
The Catman of Paris (1946)
Is he or isn't he?
This review is short and so is this movie. SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER! Here is my synopsis: "You're the Catman!" "No, I'm not." (Insert gratuitous cat scene here.) "You're the Catman!" "No! I'm not!" "Meow" "I'm the Catman!" "No, you're not." "Yes, I am!" "No, You're not!" "Meow!" "Let's have dinner." "He's the Catman! Get him!" (Insert gratuitous Roy Rogers fight scene here.) "I'm hiding the Catman in my bedroom." "I'm Catman." "Are you? Is he?" "He is not. Is he?" (Insert gratuitous Gene Autry chase scene here.) "I'm the Catman!" "Surely you're not! Maybe he is!" "Meow" "No! Getaway!" "He was the Catman!" "Was not." THE END. A REPUBLIC PICTURE.
The Green Hornet (2011)
A Healthy Spoof.
I was prepared to REALLY not like this movie, but I was wrong. Is this my idea of what the Green Hornet should be? No Way! but it was very entertaining, and caught me off guard a couple times with a real belly laugh! The Green Hornet concept is probably the most plausible of any super hero ever, and a serious treatment of the under-cover crime boss/enforcer aspect definitely needs to be done. I anxiously await just such a film. That being said, very few subjects are above healthy spoofing, and any super hero is fair game. I feel that, being a life-long comic book guy, I can make that statement without recriminations. This Green Hornet is a healthy spoof and lots of fun!
My Head Hurts
This is one of those movies that is so bad it's good, except that it's intentionally bad, which means that it's intentionally good - I mean - it's an intentionally bad, good movie - I think.
It's sometimes boring, except when it's not. None of the humor is the laugh out loud kind, it's very low key. Some of the gags are pure genius, but some are, well - not. The acting is mostly of the "these are the best people we could get to participate in this" type, except you get the feeling that maybe it's done on purpose. If this had been produced and directed by Jim Abrahams and David Zucker (Airplane!) it would have been much funnier, but a little more forgettable. On the other hand it's much more amusing than pretty much everything that Leslie Neilsen has been in, other than the Airplane! and Naked Gun movies.
I can't decide if the people who made this were completely inept or absolutely brilliant. I'll try brilliantly inept. Maybe.
I don't know. My head hurts.
Bride of the Monster (1955)
Bela, Tor, Nash, and Studebaker!
Having heard for years how bad this movie was I was prepared for the worst. I was very pleasantly surprised. While I wouldn't label this a good movie, I will say that it is entertaining - never boring. As others have commented, Bela does a fine job - perhaps overacting a bit, but in a good way. We are treated to a masterful performance as he makes the most of every bit of insipid dialog.
The story moves along well and the production, while cheap, is never ridiculous. I will disagree with other reviewers who pan the rest of the cast. I feel that the acting was mostly competent and fairly natural. I have certainly seen worse, often in much more highly regarded films. Even Tor manages to be believable within the context.
An added bonus that I think has not been mentioned: If you are a car buff you have the rare privilege of seeing a Nash and a Studebaker share a scene! That in itself is worth a look!
The Dark Eyes of London (1939)
Watch this for Bela!
Human Monster/Dark Eyes of London has some fine moments mingled with the tedious and the ridiculous. The cinematography is excellent in places and competent all the time. The characters are capably acted, even the monstrous Jake whose makeup, if you can call it that, is so corny it's embarrassing. The viewer must deal with the fact that the detectives in the film are agonizingly slow to see what any ten-year old could see right from Bela Lugosi's first scene; namely, that he is up to no good and that there is definitely something not quite right about this guy. In fact, one wonders why his victims don't catch on because Bela really hams it up at times. Now don't be angry at me, I'm a great fan of Lugosi, but he overplays his evil moments as Dr Orloff in the early going, tipping the audience much too soon.
WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILER!!
We are, however, treated to one of Bela's more delicate characterizations in the form of Professor Dearborn. The change in mannerisms is astounding because if you are not very familiar with Bela Lugosi you might not even realize it is he playing the part. I know this is true because it is what happened to my wife. She did not catch that Bela was Dearborn! The illusion is aided greatly by the nearly perfect dubbing of another actor's voice for Dearborn. This was accomplished brilliantly and it is a shame that the voice actor gets no credit. Bela completes the illusion with gentle mannerisms that are both subtle and natural. He is completely believable in the part of Dearborn. He is also convincing as Orloff in the latter part of the film, especially in the climax when it becomes apparent how little value he places on the men he uses. It is at this point that even the ridiculous appearance of Jake is overcome by the acting and the action.
Dark Eyes of London suffers from some slow moving moments and poor pacing, but overall it is entertaining and if nothing else is a fine example of what Bela Lugosi was capable of accomplishing given the opportunity.
Mr. Bean's Holiday (2007)
Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, and Bean
Having never before seen Mr Bean on TV or film I was prepared for the worst, my whole impression of the character coming from the obnoxious antics portrayed in advertisements. Wow, was I pleasantly surprised! The character of Mr Bean is much less annoying than I had believed, and the story was very interesting and entertaining. In fact, I found myself in the familiar world of silent comedy.
Now this is not a silent film. There is music, sound effects, and dialogue, but it functions in the same way that the great silent films do, requiring the separation of the viewer from everyday reality and subsequent acceptance of the lead character's premise.
Rowan Atkinson has created a character in the tradition of the great silent comedians; that is, a character that is only believable in the context of the imagined world of the film itself. In most of the great silent films of Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, etc, the characters were manifest exaggerations of certain select human characteristics. Hence Chaplin's magnification of the perpetual underdog, Lloyd's personification of the boy-next-door, and Keaton's understated depiction of the second-string accidental hero. None of these persons could exist in the real world to the degree that they exist in the film world. The Character of Mr Bean is even more extreme.
Mr Bean, it seems, is not just socially inept, he is actually a social cripple; so much so that he is only just barely able to even speak. At first glance the character and his mannerisms are so outlandish that he is stridently irritating. His behavior is actually grotesque in such a way that it is both repulsive and compelling at the same time. As one continues to watch, however, it becomes subtly apparent that Mr Bean reacts to every situation in much the same way as any average person would, with the exception that his reactions are absurdly exaggerated. Therefore, when he wins a trip he is not just excited and pleased, he is overcome with rapturous glee; and when confronted with an unpleasant meal his attempt to deal with the situation politely results in bizarre and surrealistic antics. In fact, that is the very essence of the character. He is a SURREAL individual coping with a REAL world.
The situation that Mr Bean finds himself dealing with, helping a boy who has become separated from his father, is very much like something that Keaton or Chaplin might have dealt with, and the story proceeds along similar lines. The main difference is in how the character handles the situation. Mr Bean is the opposite of the "Great Stone-face". While Keaton could handle anything thrown at him in a resignedly calm way, Mr Bean's actions are draped with extravagant emotion. Once the viewer becomes accustomed to the parameters it is quite engrossing.
The other major difference between Bean and the great silent comedians is that all of the other characters in the story are realistic. In the silents most secondary characters tended to to be one dimensional caricatures. In Bean's world even the girl is sensible and competent. She actually assists Mr Bean in a real way, a favor which he will return in his own inept way. In Keaton's world she would have surely added to his burden and only his own actions would have saved the day.
Whether Keaton, Chaplin, Lloyd, or Bean(Atkinson) the logic remains the same; only the stylistic reaction is changed. Anyone who enjoys the old silent clowns will surely "get" this movie. Anyone who expects a typical cheap comedy may be left scratching their head. In my own opinion Rowan Atkinson has created a minor work of art!
A Quiet Classic
Watching this for the first time in nearly forty years I was prepared for a nice little animal show the likes of which Disney studios were well known for. I expected a pleasant, well made, but mostly average little movie. Instead I found an artfully rendered film; calm but powerful, subtle and deep. The look of the film is surprisingly gritty and realistic, with the only complaint that anyone could raise being that the children were perhaps a tad too clean. The characterizations are top notch, even the children! There's not a faker in the bunch! They are wholly believable. The pace of the film is steady, never rushed, never slow, and lends a sense of real time passing. Even though most adults will easily predict the ultimate outcome, they will not be bored or disappointed as it unfolds. This is the kind of film that should be required watching in elementary schools instead of some that are. There is much to learn here: of how people in a particular place and time lived, of human nature and interpersonal relationships, of responsibility and initiative. Parents be confident showing this to your children. Adults be amazed at how good a G-rated family film can be. My comment upon viewing the conclusion in my own living room, "Remarkable!"
The Gorilla (1939)
Better than expected.
This Ritz Brothers vehicle is better than I expected, having often read how bad it is supposed to be. The production is of good quality and the cast does a fine job of keeping an otherwise weak script entertaining.
Patsy Kelly is the standout performer here. Most people will recognize her face but be unable to identify her. It is interesting to see her so early in her long career. She has most of the funny lines and is certainly more entertaining than the Ritz Brothers themselves. The Ritz Brothers, however, are better than I had often heard. While they did occasionally become annoying, for the most part they were fairly amusing. Their main problem seems to be that they have no screen identity of their own. They can't seem to decide if they want to be Abbott and Costello or the Three Stooges. To make matters worse they look nearly identical and have to resort to wearing different color hats and coats so that we can tell them apart. Being primarily stage performers they were probably unaware of how confusing this would be in a movie. Someone in the production should have corrected this for them. They were probably quite good as a rapid-fire wisecracking stand-up act.
WARNING! The following paragraph contains a small SPOILER!
Bela Lugosi does a fine job in his role as the butler, managing to appear both innocent and guilty at the same time. He maintains his composure no matter what is going on around him as if he has no idea what is taking place in the house. His whole concern is simply doing the job that he is there to do. It is gratifying to a Bela fan to see him actually save the day in the end.
The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956)
Better than it's reputation.
This cowboy and dinosaur movie is better than it's reputation. Though moving slowly in places, it is capably acted and has enough action and plot development to keep both me and my 7 year old son interested. (It did lose the 4 year old periodically)
My only addition to other's previous comments are that I do feel the film holds up fairly well considering it's age. The female lead is surprisingly liberated, being no-one's useless sex object. She manages to make independent decisions, shows that she is quite capable of taking care of herself, and does not panic in the face of danger. When the beast of the title appears she does not scream and panic or fall helplessly to the ground as so many 50's heroines would do, instead her reaction is one of realistic shock and brief fear, followed by quick and decisive action. She even manages to evade the monster for an extended period without tripping or twisting her ankle. during this whole movie she does not do anything stupid or anything contrived to serve as a plot device.
The hero is also fairly realistic. He is neither a chauvinist nor a stereotype. We see that while he is determined to fight for his own rights, he will concede and consider a course of action that will benefit those people he cares for. He is strong and confident without being overly macho, and he is intelligent and thoughtful.
I found the other characters were treated with respect, also. There is no odious comedy relief. Even the drunken father is handled with care and not a caricature. The little boy is likeable, not annoying as is often the case in this sort of vehicle.
I found the wedding festival, which annoyed one reviewer, to be colorful and entertaining. A welcome surprise in a movie of this type.
Finally, although we are forced to wait a long time for the appearance of our monster, and the first appearance is much too abrupt, once it appears it is almost never off the screen and is certainly entertaining. Nit pickers will of course have a field day with the effects. They are, after all, none too realistic. However, the effects do have a unique sort of charm.
The true nature of all of these effect sequences is clouded in rumour and innuendo. It is my understanding from various interviews and articles that when the producers bought the story outline from Willis O'Brien that they also purchased some test sequences which he had created. The rest of the scenes were then produced by the method described in other reviews whereas static sculptures in various positions were substituted frame by frame. If you watch closely it does seem that there may be more than one dinosaur which do not quite match each other, and a few scenes stand out in their fluidity. The running sequences mentioned by another reviewer are obviously much smoother of motion than most of the jerkier scenes. Of course the big rubber-boot feet are obvious.
As for the tongue. Both of my kids loved it! Kids know fun when they see it!
The Black Hole (1979)
Not for the little ones.
I first saw the Black Hole when I was in college and I remembered just enough to know that I liked it. Others here have commented on the movie in great enough detail, I can only say,"Lighten Up!" Sure the effects are not perfect but they really are pretty good. The acting is acceptable, not oscar level but then neither is the script that they were given to work with. Many of the events depicted are not plausible, but how many movies really are? (Even non SF ones) The Black Hole is in some ways Captain Nemo in space. The Elizabethan structure of the ship in particular. Also Reinhart and Nemo are similar characters. However, Nemo is not truly a villain. His crew is composed of volunteers and they are very loyal to him whereas Reinhart must lobotomize his crew to retain their services. Reinhart cares for no one but himself, but Nemo was concerned, though grudgingly, for the welfare of even his prisoners. In short, Nemo is a sympathetic character, Reinhart is not. This brings me to the point of my review. The mood of this movie is what really makes or breaks it. I must credit my sister for defining it for me because I could not find the right word. The word is CREEPY! There is a feeling of forboding that builds untill the action sequences are finished and our heroes enter the black hole. After that it is just intensely weird and CREEPY. Having not seen this movie for twenty years and remembering only the cool effects and robots I allowed my 5 year old to watch it. Big mistake! He was afraid to go to sleep, and it bothered him for about a week. This kid has handled action and SF movies OK before, although I do not let him watch the more violent or intense stuff. This movie is intense! Star wars did not bother him at all, but the Black Hole . . . Parents of small children beware! The Black Hole is CREEPY!
Song of the South (1946)
Risin' above your raisins'
It is sad that any movie which depicts slaves as happy with their life and respectful of their masters cannot receive a fair accounting in today's politically correct environment. Certainly it is true that many slaves were mistreated and abused. However it must be recognized that some slaves were well cared for and well thought of. Surely the full range of possible human reactions would have resulted from such varying conditions. While some slaves would have indeed been angry and rebellious (as is the current socially accepted way to depict them), some would have been quite content with their circumstances, and would have even been fond of their owners!
This is what Song of the South depicts. There is a great amount of respect shown between the slaves (or servants actually) and their masters (employers?). When Remus is chastised by the Mistress of the plantation she seems to be regretful of her words even as she says them. She is only doing what her social position at the time demanded.
We must realize that Remus is the hero of this story. And a wonderful hero he is, too. He is wise, diplomatic, caring, outgoing, and full of wit and good humour. Qualities often missing from today's movie heroes. James Baskett is the heart and soul of this film and to not allow it's release is to do him a great disservice. A wonderful performance by a great African-American artist is denied to the world by the voices of some misguided activists. Of course, they are only doing what their social position at this time demands. If only they could rise above their raisins'.
The Thirteenth Chair (1929)
You have to be a fan...
You have to be a fan of Bela Lugosi to really enjoy this film. The pacing is slow, the direction is wooden, and many of the supporting cast is just so-so.
Being a filmed stage play in the very early talky era, The Thirteenth Chair doesn't have much action. What it does have is Bela Lugosi who becomes the focus of the film as Inspector Delzante as soon as he makes an appearance. There are few surprises to anyone who has seen very many mysteries, but a few genuinely spooky scenes occur in the darkened room as the sound takes over and your imagination is allowed to supply the imagery. On the prints that I have seen the sound is of a poor quality with a high level of hiss as in so many older films. It takes some dedication to sit through, and listening carefully to understand all the dialogue. It is fascinating to see Lugosi as a key supporting character before he was typecast.
House of the Long Shadows (1983)
Dezi Arnaz Jr. can act!
Who knew that Dezi Arnaz Jr. could act?! Well, sortof. Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, John Carradine, Sheila Keith and Julie Peasgood do most of the acting for him and make him look fairly acceptable as the straight man/hero. There's lots of fun here, with all the long time Kings of horror who were living at the time this was made. Enough plot twists to keep you guessing. Lots of secret passages and mysterious happenings. Scooby Doo would be right at home. Production values are pretty good. Some genuine scares that might be too much for the little ones in your family, not enough gore for the hard-core slasher fans. Contains my favorite Vincent Price line of all time: "Please, don't interrupt me whilst I am soliloquizing!"
Tom Sawyer (1973)
Mark Twain would have liked this one.
This film captures the essence of Tom Sawyer. The wonder and freedom of childhood, and the struggles of growing up. Johnny Whitaker gives the best performance of his career, portraying Tom as mischievous and clever, yet lovable and innocent. This is not the Tom so often portrayed in films, who is a conniving brat. This is the Tom of the book who gets in trouble because he is curious and adventurous, whose mind wanders in church and school, and who stretches the truth or even fibs without malicious intent.
The rest of the cast is excellent, The production appears to be on location and is very authentic, and the music is well done. This is a true musical in that the lyrics serve to move the story along. If you like musicals, this is for you. If you don't, then concentrate on the lyrics and what they are telling you about the central character.
The book is timeless because of it's universal theme, the glory days of childhood. The Movie captures that. It will bring a tear to your eye as you hear the theme song "...a boy is gonna grow to be a man, be a man. Only once in his life is he free. Only one golden time in his life is he free."
Hang Your Hat on the Wind (1969)
Good family/ children's film.
Even though it has been more than thirty years since I have seen this film my memories of it are quite vivid. I do not remember many plot details but the images of this little indian boy and his pony are very strong. It made such an impression that having seen it only once I never forgot how much enjoyment it gave me. I remembered the title and searched for it by name. This movie would be an excellent change of pace for children reared on a constant diet of magic and super powers. Show this to your kids and you will show them that normal people can have adventures too!