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The Man Who Wouldn't Die (1942)
Shouldn't they stay dead?
Marjorie Weaver who is Paul Harvey's wild child comes home and announces she
has a husband. Her dad has troubles enough with a Senate Investigating Committee looking at him for God knows what. Harvey and a few others have
just buried a body, but a second look reveals an empty grave.
Weaver hires Michael Shayne, but in order to have him at the house she says Lloyd Nolan is her husband. Nolan's crackling wit does not near and endear to the rest, but he gets the job done.
All I'll say is that it wasn't quite what I expected.
The cast gives a good account of themselves and Nolan is as breezy as ever.
Sea Hunt (1958)
The craze for SCUBA diving
My cousin who was a great swimmer and like all kinds of water sports was a great
fan of Sea Hunt. He was 9 when Sea Hunt made its debut.
If this show and its star Lloyd Bridges did anything else it surely awakened a lot of people's interest in marine biology and life beneath ocean surface. The invention of the Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus allowed for better exploring of the seas. The navy used in World War 2 and the 50s saw an explosion in civilian popularity and use.
Bridges was former navy frogman Mike Nelson who still worked for our government on occasion, but also hired out to individual citizens if they needed questions answered from ocean depths. He worked alone, no wisecracking sidekicks. Bridges did have his sons Beau and Jeff on the show as child actors.
Ivan Tors produced this syndicated series and it was his first big success.
Lots of kids grew up with the adventures Mike Nelson had, kids just like my cousin.
The King's Messengers (2017)
Will they be rescued
This is an 8 part mini-series with half hour segments that looks like it was shot with my father's old Bell&Howell home movie camera. A revolt has taken place
in some unnamed Balkan country and it is a real anti-clerical government that
has taken over.
Two young men, armed with only a laptop are broadcasting religious messages to the outside world and the outside world wants to get them out. But they have to keep on the move.
The two men are Christopher Veldhuizen a native of the country and Daniel Knudsen who is the son of the former British ambassador who was killed along with his wife and rest of the family.
It's a sincere effort, but not likely to be seen other than on TCT and church basements.
Ulee's Gold (1997)
A modern Ulysses
Peter Fonda received his only Oscar nomination for Best Actor in this film which
got no other recognition from the Academy. As Ulysses Jackson he's the troubled
patriarch of his family. Right now widower Fonda is raising his two granddaughters
Jessica Biel and Vanessa Zima because their father is in jail and their mother.
off and is on narcotics. Fonda works as a beekeeper in the Florida Everglades
Visiting son Tom Wood in jail, Wood asks Fonda to fetch his wife who is now running around with his two low life running buddies who pulled a bank job, but it was Wood who was arrested and doing a stretch. They think that wife Christina Dunford knows where the loot is, but she's too strung out to help them.
They let Dunford go with Fonda, but they want his help in getting the stolen loot. The running buddies are a pair with Dewey Weber threatening to go psycho any minute and Steven Flynn cooler, but maybe more deadly.
The climax is with Fonda taking these two to where the loot is with the rest of the family tied up at home.
This was the beauty of this film. Fonda is no hero, he's a good man, tends to be self righteous, but still a decent soul. He's not used to dealing with criminals though his son is one. Can he outwit these two is what Ulee's Gold boils down to.
Fonda gives a wonderful performance and one can see why he got the Oscar nomination. He lost to Jack Nicholson for As Good As It Gets. Also in the cast are Patricia Richardson as Fonda's neighbor and a nurse and J.Kenneth Campbell as a very wise sheriff.
The cinematography of the Florida swamps is good as well. Ulee's Gold is a crowning achievement in the career of Peter Fonda.
The Happy Hottentots (1930)
Vaudeville comedian Joe Frisco stars in this short subject that stretches a gag out
of all proportion.
Frisco and friend Bob Callahan decide to form an act and they get a booking in a movie theater. This was when vaudeville was dying and acts took what work they could find. Movie theater manage Billy Gilbert hires them to fill in between features and be ready at a moment's notice to go on stage.
Gilbert wasn't kidding as Frisco and Callahan keep going on and on, never getting a chance to eat or sleep. Must have been a 24 movie show.
The gag wasn't funny enough to carry the whole short subject. Still this is a good place to see Joe Frisco who was one of the best in vaudeville.
Trading Places (1983)
The Dukes like to toy
Movie old timers Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche are a pair of filthy rich brothers
named Duke who like to toy with people's lives. They arrange an experiment
where one of their employees Dan Aykroyd is framed for drug dealing and loses
all the perks and privileges of being a rich WASP in America. At the same time
they elevate street hustler Eddie Murphy into their circle. Will both Aykroyd and
Murphy adjust to their new situations?
They do, kinda sorta, but when the two realize they're being manipulated they hatch a scheme to take down the arrogant Duke brothers. Murphy and Aykroyd do it with style and at their own game.
Aykroyd and Murphy work beautifully together and as for the Duke brothers these two are like the sons of Mr. Potter from It's A Wonderful Life. Manipulation didn't work any better for Lionel Barrymore than it does for Bellamy and Ameche.
Others of note in this comedy classic are Jamie Lee Curtis as your standard heart of gold hooker, Denholm Elliott as Aykroyd/Murphy's resourceful butler and Paul Gleason as the Duke brothers hatchet man. What happens to Gleason will stick with you.
Don't miss Trading Places, it's a classic and a laugh riot.
Sgt. Bilko (1996)
The eternal Bilko
Nat Hiken's Sergeant Ernie Bilko is one of those characters who no matter what
age, what time, and what army he'll find a way to game the system. I'm sure
there's a Bilko somewhere in North Korea's army, he just has to act with quite a
bit more discretion.
From the 50s of Eisenhower to the 90s of Clinton, Bilko and his denizens of the motor pool at Fort Baxter are still operating their schemes. Steve Martin steps right into Phil Silvers's shoes if not his glasses.
The party could be over though because Fort Baxter might just be closed because they haven't come through with the development of a new type of tank. In addition Phil Hartman who is a major with some history with Martin is making it a personal crusade to get Martin bounced from the army.
Most of the characters from the TV show are still here if in a different guise on occasion to reflect the diversity of the army in the 90s. I particularly liked Eric Edwards as Private Doberman. Then as now I can't believe that a Doberman could get in the army in the first place.
And in fact it is mentioned that Bilko and girlfriend Gleanne Headly have the longest running engagement since Nathan Detroit and Adelaide. Headly becomes a front on Hartman's war against Bilko.
Dan Aykroyd is Colonel Hall taking Paul Ford's place. Aykroyd doesn't have Ford's eternal Irascibility. He's more resigned to go with the flow with Bilko. But he also doesn't want to see his command shut down.
Newer fans should see this movie as well as the old TV series. They'll like both.
Rawhide: The Blue Spy (1961)
Old war wounds don't heal so fast
In this Rawhide story the Gil Favor herd comes across a woman in the desert barely alive. It's the famous actress and Union spy Pauline Cushman played by
As these drovers are mostly Confederate veterans her arrival is not greeted with applause. But especially not from Lyle Bettger who got cashiered out of the Confederate army when he revealed some information that caused his troops to be decimated in an ambush.
Bettger wants her dead, but Eric Fleming doesn't sanction coldblooded murder. But Bettger has some mutinous allies among the drovers.
Nice guest star turns by Bettger and Thaxter in this story.
Bonanza: Credit for a Kill (1966)
Motives are questioned
Michael Landon with a little time off from duties at the Ponderosa is visiting old
friend Dean Harens when they spot a horse thief riding one of Harens's horses out of the barn. Both shoot and kill him and find there's a price on his head.
But only Little Joe claims the reward. Reason being is that there are three other brothers and they're looking for trouble. Harens has one bad arm and wouldn't stand a chance. But as Little Joe's not divulging anything his motives are questioned.
There are some nice guest star turns here from Luana Patten as a saloon entertainer and Don Collier as the sheriff. Best of all is Ed Faulkner, member in good standing of the John Wayne unofficial stock company. He plays a town tough and Faulkner and Landon have a real memorable standoff in a saloon.
Worth watching for that alone.
A Thrill for Thelma (1935)
The criminal lifestyle
This 'Crime Does Not Pay' short subject from MGM examines the case of a woman
who got caught up in criminality because of who she married and because she
found herself enjoying the thrill.
Irene Hervey is our protagonist and she's looking like she's on the straight and narrow even marrying a good looking chap Robert Livingston. But when Livingston has her along on a robbery, she really likes the thrill.
As in all the MGM 'Crime Does Not Pay' shorts, they slip up as criminals do in real life too.
I'm agreeing with the other reviewer, a bit heavy handed but effective.
Dapper Detective of the Disco Age
Though Joe Mannix might not have had the money that Amos Burke did from
Burke's Law, he kept himself well dressed. I guess the Intertec paid well, so well
he went out on his own.
When Mannix first premiered in 1967 Mike Connors worked for a company called Intertec. When he went into business for himself he took with him Peggy Fair as his secretary played by Gail Fisher. She was the widow of a policeman killed in the line of duty. She was quite protective of him as I recall.
Lots of action in Mannix, because when he got the scent of his target Mannix definitely believed in a hands on approach to crime and corruption.
Mannix as PI was as incorruptible as Theo Kojak, he just had a lot less rules to go by. This was a good show and reflective of its time.
Hi, Gaucho! (1935)
Zorro of the Southern Hemisphere
Hi Gaucho tells the story of a pair of feuding Argentine families back when Argentina was still part of the Spanish Empire. The Zorro of our piece is unmasked, but he's as dashing as Tyrone Power and sings like Nelson Eddy.
John Carroll is our hero and he wants to win the love of Steffi Duna. But she's betrothed to a man in his 70s and it's all part of a scheme to bilk her family's fortune. Carroll won't let that happen.
Some forgettable songs and some cheesy accents highlight Hi Gaucho. At least the very British Montague Love doesn't try for one of those accents.
This RKO film is all right, maybe a dubbed Tyrone Power could have put it over better. Dubbed because Ty couldn't sing a lick.
The Big Game (1936)
Kidnapped star player
Some familiar character players plus a number of All Americans from that era of
the 30s are in the cast of The Big Game. Phillip Huston because he's not one of
THE Hustons is our lead and I'm sure most have never heard of him.
Huston is kidnapped before The Big Game and I'm I need go no further. You've seen that a dozen times over.
The film bears a slight resemblance to the John Wayne film Trouble Along The Way in that it raises issues about how college athletes are recruited. The issue was better raised in the Duke's film.
Some real football footage nicely integrated into the film. Huston is a most colorless hero though.
Over the Goal (1937)
The big rivalry
This college football story has injured quarterback William Hopper promising girl
friend June Travis that he wouldn't wreck himself any more. He has an injured
knee from the last game.
But Hopper's Carlton College is facing the hated rivals at State in the last game of the season. There's a lot riding on this game. Carlton gets a generous alumnus endowment if they beat State.
The nefarious forces at State will do anything by hook or crook to keep Hopper out of the big game and do.
Over The Goal is a light and easy to take college film with lots of comedy provided by Johnnie Davis as Hopper's roommate. Eddie Anderson brings his Rochester character to his part as a groundskeeper with Hattie McDaniel as his overbearing wife.
Hard to recognize William Hopper who was in his salad days back then. He had a head of dark hair unlike the premature gray he had as Paul Drake on the Perry Mason Show. Only the voice gives him away.
Nothing special, but nice entertainment.
Luck of Roaring Camp (1937)
Bret Harte classic
I always feel kind of sad that a classic short story from an author like Bret Harte
didn't rate one of the major studios filming it. Monogram did this adaption of
Luck Of Roaring Camp and it shows in lack of production values.
There is one advantage though, they'll be no identification with any name stars so Bret Harte's characters stand or fall on what this group of unknowns make of them.
They didn't do a bad job. A pregnant woman Sheila Bromley whose husband escaped the hangman's noose arrives in Roaring Camp dying. She gives birth to a baby boy, commends his care to the men of the camp and dies. When a big strike happens afterward he earns the name Luck that the miners bestowed on him.
After a while the only one who cares about the kid and his care is young Own Davis, Jr. and traveling showgirl Joan Woodbury. Then a mysterious Hatfield like gambler Charles Brokaw shows up and he in one of those 'the Lord moves in mysterious ways' methods settles it all for the future of Luck.
For Monogram they didn't do bad in creating a realistic looking mining camp and Bret Harte's story is faithfully followed. It's one of the better products coming out of poverty row.
This ain't no gag
Reporter Edward Norris and studio publicist Sheila Ryan are dating, her current
client is crooner Kenneth Farrell who sounds an awful lot like Dick Haymes. Somebody has been sending him some threatening notes and at first they look
like some cheap publicity gag. But the bodies start dropping and Farrell himself
is nearly killed when a prop gun has real bullets in it.
The song Heartaches is here of course and some other forgettable ditties as well for Farrell. He's carrying a deep dark secret.
Nice to see Chill Wills in something other than a rustic or a western role. Sadly this is a typical cheap PRC film.
And it's obvious from the gitgo who wants to do Morton in.
The Wrong Teacher (2018)
Frisky English teacher
Jessica Morris who has to start teaching the next day high school English as the
fall semester starts had a spat with boyfriend artist Jason Shane Scott. So she's
feeling frisky and picks up Tom Cruise lookalike Philip McElroy. I mean the Tom
Cruise we knew back in Risky Business.
The next day she discovers he's in her class and that starts all kinds of trouble. Of course McElroy has some issues, in his case issues of abandonment as you'll see in the film.
I hope Tom Cruise sees how much McElroy resembles and they're cast as father and son.
Otherwise put this one in the exploitive trash column.
Personal and Institutional Racism
Athol Fugard wrote a brilliant play about the institutional and personal racism that was South African society. It made its debut at the Yale Repertory Theater
back in 1950 and it took over 30 years to get to Broadway.
This is a public television broadcast of said play and it stars African players Zakes Mokae and John Kani as the help in a luncheon establishment in Port Elizabeth. South Africa. The teenage son of the owner is the third character in this 3 person drama and our title character Master Harold played here by Matthew Broderick.
Young Harold is home from school and he's got some father issues. The old man is a drunk and a bully and he's crippled besides. He's a burden on Harold and his mom and the business they have that supports them is her's.
The two servants have been with the family for years. But Mokae makes the mistake of getting too familiar with the kid and he pays.
You can only imagine the shame and humiliation Broderick feels from his peers. But South African society with racism codified into their law tells Broderick there's a whole group that he's superior too who have darker skins. And if that's not enough there's the personal racism in which he was probably built into his own upbringing.
This is an autobiographical work from Fugard and this televised play is perfectly cast and performed. The incessant rain in the background both explains why there are no customers and adds to a gloomy tension that the work has.
Don't miss this if broadcast.
The inscrutable east
Guest stars take over this particular Virginian story as Judge Garth is faced with a
dilemma as a landslide traps a herd of his cattle in a valley with one way in or out.
Lee J. Cobb goes to his neighbor Tom Tully and asks to drive the herd across his
land to Shiloh and to market.
Tully hates Cobb with an unbridled passion and always finds a way to justify his actions with some scripture quotation. It's a big no and Tully has foreman Robert J. Wilkie who has been a villain in many a western on the big screen and the small to back him up.
Cobb hires a crew of Chinese railroad workers with their foreman Leo Gordon to dig a tunnel. That's when this episode gets lively.
Tully who is blind with hatred and Gordon complete with Irish brogue as the genial come what may foreman really steal this one from the regulars. I'd watch this for them.
WW1 and the flu
The thing I admire most about this film is how the town of Waxahachie, Texas was
used as the location setting for 1918. The whole town practically, you really do
think you're in the year of World War 1 in America. The panorama of the place
reminds me of Picnic.
Horton Foote's play really does show what it was like back in the day. Texas itself was one of the areas strongest in support of our entry into the European War and of President Woodrow Wilson. It was really like that in 1918. Dissent was easily the equivalent of treason.
But the crisis of man in creating the first World War where the attitude is just fall in line or scorn or worse those that don't is superseded by a second crisis of health. The great influenza epidemic which started Over There came back with our returning doughboys. It ran wild through this country 1918-1919 and what you see here all the deaths and families affected was quite real.
William Converse-Roberts and Hallie Foote are the married leads and the parents of our author. He's got a draft exemption for flat feet, but no exemption from the flu. He survives it and he was weeks in delirium. When Converse-Roberts comes out of it. there are a lot of changes, some subtle some not.
Matthew Broderick is in 1918 as Foote's wastrel brother. A truly shallow character when we meet him. He shows signs of character growth by the end of the play.
The ensemble cast is impeccably cast and performs thusly. 1918 is great look back at that year.
In this episode widow Vera Miles and Roberta Shore come home from a trip to
Chicago where they meet John Gavin a portrait painter with a nasty gambling
habit who owes Michael Forest some big bucks. They invite him to Medicine
Bow to paint Miles's picture.
As it turns out Lee J. Cobb is executor of the estate of Miles's husband and doesn't want to see her taken.
As it also turns out in her estate is a Tintoretto which could be big bucks and the answer to Gavin's financial predicament. But he's also falling for Miles.
The whole point of this episode is whether Gavin has any character. For that you watch the story.
Nice performance by Ann Doran as Vera's housekeeper and confidante. The kind of role Thelma Ritter might play.
The law and order standard
Jack Webb set the standard for law and order police with the creation of Dragnet
a show which impacted for better or worse every television police show down to
this day. Webb who was a respected character player in the day vaulted to stardom first with the Dragnet radio series and then when it moved to television.
The show started in radio in 1949 and moved to television in 1951 where it ran for 8 seasons. Every story followed a rigid pattern where Jack Webb as Sgt. Joe Friday and Ben Alexander as Detective Frank Smith start the day out working in one aspect of police work. They could be at a specific precinct or at a special command, narcotics, juveniles,homicide, etc. An incident would happen and for the next half hour these two followed the leads and made the arrest.
Webb's interrogation technique became legendary. One can still hear his staccato questioning and when someone got off point, he'd respond with the familiar catchphrase, 'just the facts'.
About the middle point of the show Webb and Alexander would be in their police car and this was where these two got humanized. Alexander and later Harry Morgan would talk about home and family. Webb would listen and smile and occasionally mentioned he had a date coming up. No relationsips though. The phrase 'married to the job' applied to Joe Friday like no other. What a spartan existence he led.
Dragnet was beautifully satirized in an 80s movie that starred Dan Aykroyd as Joe Friday and Tom Hanks as a young and hip partner. It was brought back by Webb for another run from 1968-1971 this time in color.
Webb did the same thing for uniform police with a show he produced Adam-12 which had a respectable run. And the show Emergency. his also, had some solid stories about EMS technicians done in Dragnet style.
Few shows for better or worse had the impact Dragnet has.
Mother and daughter see a murder
Kimberly Williams-Paisley and her mother Wendy Malick are leaving a meeting
when while getting into their vehicle they see someone from a car firing a weapon
at the other attorney they were meeting with. The other attorney is wounded
and his paralegal/chauffeur is killed.
A woman the Darrows know is the chief , but they don't believe it for a second and they become her defense lawyers. Complicating things further is that prosecutor Tom Cavanaugh and Williams-Paisley are starting to date. A little reference to the classic Tracy/Hepburn comedy Adam's Rib.
I have to tell you I had this one figured almost immediately and I think any decent mystery buff will figure it faster than I did.
Still good entertainment value though.
In Our Love Nest
The timeless comedy of George Burns and Gracie Allen moved to television in 1950 when Gracie brought her own unique perspective to all kinds of situations.
The fourth wall was broken as George replete with cigar in hand gave a commentary to what Gracie was doing.
Gracie certainly marched to her own beat. The dialog between her and George was great, but we knew that George from years of living with her took her zany nonsequiters as they came. Not so their neighbors the Mortons who were played by Bea Benedaret and Fred Clark later replaced by Larry Keating.
But if strangers came Gracie's way they left questioning their sanity, she was so sure always. And George always amused at the people two steps behind his wife.
Gracie Allen was the funniest woman that ever walked the planet. Nobody else even close. The show came to an end because she wanted to retire. She died in 1964 and as we know George hit the century mark before being called home. George could never see himself not in show business, Gracie who had a heart condition needed the retirement.
But their legacy to comedy is unchallenged.
Adult themes eliminated for Disney
From the same woman who wrote The Outsiders, S.E. Hinton comes this story
Tex concerning a pair of brothers Jim Metzler and Matt Dillon. They have a
widower father Bill McKinney who was a rodeo clown and still follows the rodeo
circuit. The two kids are on their own a lot and Metzler becomes the designated
adult . Metzler is a star basketball player who wants to go to that Mecca of
basketball Indiana state. Dillon is immature and does a lot of foolish pranks
with his rich friend Emilio Estevez.
S.E. Hinton has a few adult themes in her work and note that this is a Disney production. Looking at the novel synopsis I see quite a few more adult themed situations have been eliminated to give Tex a PG rating.
Dillon was good and Tex was a step up in his career. But I think you'll be most impressed with Metzler who I thought was best in the film.
Tex is a great coming of age film that is timeless.