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Shamrock Hill (1949)
A Film With Heart
Peggy Ryan plays Eileen, a young lady from the Rogan clan. The family is as Irish as a four leaf clover. She is a lass with lots of heart and spends her days entertaining the younger children with songs and tall tales. The children play on abandoned property that they call Shamrock Hill. The Hill is coveted by a local businessman, Judson (John Litel), who wants to build a TV station on the property. Judson assigns his attorney, Matthews (Rick Vallin) to deal with Eileen and the children.
Eileen's open heart charms Matthews and instead of scaring her off Shamrock Hill, he ends up helping her. Yes, it's all a bit of blarney. The story is simple, yet pleasing. The opening sequence made me smile, when me meet Grandma Rogan (Mary Gordon), and we learn she paints landscapes using only the color green.
When I was a youngster there were plenty of shows and movies where the theme was, "a good heart is better than a fat wallet." That theme holds true for this film.
Meet Beau Dick (2017)
A truly lovely, inspiring story.
This is a Canadian documentary on native artist Beau Dick. I have a background in fine arts, so I was interested when I was asked to go see this film. I studied the fine arts in the early 1990's at college and frankly there was little studying of native artists. I had never heard of Dick and after viewing this I wonder how that was possible.
The documentary starts out with Dick at his studio. We see many of his pieces of art and it is undeniable that Dick is prolific and a master of his craft. Little by little, we are shown his native roots. We see that he is an important leader in his community.
Then we see Dick the humanist. I found the strength of the doc to be found in this middle section. We see amazing native ceremonies. Then Dick and other humanists take a massive walk to the British Columbia legislature for the breaking of the copper. Which is a symbolic shaming of the government. They care about the earth, all the animals, all the people, and are concerned about the government gutting environmental protections, and how corrupt corporate concerns are placed above those of the people, the animals, and the land.
The pinnacle of the film for me was an interview with Dick's daughter. The group stand on the legislature's steps and she talks about finding strength in meeting other people who think like her and her father. I was moved to tears because I feel many of us have felt the same way. We watch a society around us that hunts for status through material gain. It appears an unstoppable monster that will ultimately destroy the earth. How can my voice be heard?
My only criticism (and it's a minor one) was the final third of the film where we meet collectors and gallery directors who value Dick's work. I suppose this is to legitimatize his work in the main stream art world. Frankly, I didn't care if some wealthy collector from Vancouver loved Dick's work. Because Dick's importance as a man goes far beyond his art.
The capitalists will point out that Dick is nothing because he had no material wealth. Yet how could you watch this and not see the depth of his character. He has such a rich, fulfilling life. For me he is a wise man, a visionary. The best values that humanity has to offer and we could use many more just like him.
Strange little art film
I studied art and painted much of my life. I tracked down every art film I could get my hands on for many years. The copy I saw, I rented from a Blockbuster store on VHS, under the title, Wolf at the Door. The other reviews are correct in that this is visually beautiful. The music is a little heavy handed in places. Sutherland is very believable in the title role. The women are very young and with slender bodies. There is not much to Gauguin to like. He has zero emotional ties to anyone in his life. His return to Paris creates little interest from the art community. And soon he longs to return to a life of ease in Tahiti.
I have read very little on Gauguin and I'm not foolish enough to believe film biographies. So I have nothing to compare this to. This is a very unflattering portrait of Gauguin. One of the girls in the film is very young. A teenager perhaps 16. Gauguin has his deepest relationship with her. She is infatuated with him and wants to be his lover. Gauguin delivers many artsy, lovely speeches in a husky whisper. These imply a sophisticated complex personality. But just what is the film trying to say? I never knew who Gauguin was, other than a man who wanted to return to Tahiti. Strange little film. Certainly worth a look if you don't mind 1980's art house films.
The Gentleman from Nowhere (1948)
Excellent Noirish Crime Drama
Warner Baxter plays a security guard who was shot during a heist. The police believe he may be involved in the robbery, prompting the insurance company to investigate him. The insurance man, Luis Van Rooten, notices Baxter resembles Robert Ashton, a chemist who stole $100,000 from his company and went into hiding. Van Rooten contacts the chemical company and explains to the management he has found Ashton. Soon a lawyer (Charles Lane) contacts Van Rooten with a plan to keep a certain chemical company executive out of the story. It seems that Ashton may have had a co-conspirator working at the firm.
Things get interesting when Van Rooten learns that Baxter is in fact a man named Donovan and not Ashton. But this doesn't stop Van Rooten, who concocts an elaborate scheme where, for $165,000, he will deliver Baxter to the police. Baxter agrees to help fulfill Van Rooten's plan for $25,000. He turns himself over to the police and takes on Ashton's identity while awaiting trial. Ashton's wife is in on the scam, but she tells Baxter her husband was framed. Was Ashton's wife faithful or was she having an affair with one of Ashton's associates. And how does racketeer Vincent Sawyer (Noel Madison) fit into the story?
All the characters seem self serving and are holding back the truth. They all treat Baxter as a sap. But Baxter is wise to the ways of men and has a secret of his own. He plays along and tries to unveil the company executive who is responsible for all the dirty deals. It's pulled off in typical Columbia Pictures fashion. There are no expressionistic camera angles or under lit scenes. But there is plenty of double dealing and lies to keep noir film fans interested.
The Devil's Henchman (1949)
B Crime Drama
Warner Baxter is one of my personal favourites. I grew up watching his Crime Doctor films on late night TV. Here, Baxter plays a waterfront derelict who survives by scrounging and stealing. He sells his goods to Banning (Regis Toomey), who owns a second hand shop on the docks. Baxter meets the simple but frightening Rhino (Mike Mazurki) shortly after stumbling upon a murdered sailor.
It is revealed that Baxter is not a derelict but a detective investigating theft from cargo ships. Baxter proves that a shipment of furs were tampered with. He believes he knows how the thefts were accomplished but he wants to infiltrate the gang and catch the crooks in the act. Sure enough, Toomey and Mazurki are gang members, but who is the brain behind the robberies?
Mary Beth Hughes is billed second but has little to do as one of Toomey's partners. Peggy Converse has a meaty role as the owner of a waterfront bar. She seems to be very bright and she's very aware of all of the waterfront activities. One of the neat little angles of the movie has Baxter pass information on to his partner via a organ grinder's monkey. The film is of the standard of Baxter's Crime Doctor films, pleasing but not spectacular.
Danger Ahead (1935)
Odd B Action Adventure
A sea Captain (John Elliott) brings in a cargo of silk for a nightclub owner (Bryant Washburn). Washburn pays the Captain the $40.000 he owes him but then instructs his henchmen to rob the Captain. A newspaper reporter (Lawrence Gray) witnesses the robbery and intervenes. Gray steals the money back for Elliott but must flee the nightclub without returning the cash. Now Washburn sends his men after Gray, who in turn wishes to return the cash to the Captain.
The first thing I noticed about this poverty row adventure film was the number of recognizable actors. The acting itself is a notch above average poverty row. However there are some issues with the film. I'm not sure if it's editing or the screenplay but there are moments when the film's scenes take a very long time to develop. I'll give you an example. A pivotal scene has Gray become aware of the robbery of the Captain. The reporter watches as crooks lock the Captain into a phone booth. Gray does nothing. Then a sliding door opens and a gunman orders the Captain into the room. Gray does nothing. Finally, after an eternity, Gray jumps up and starts to pound on the phone booth.
The other problem is the long disappearance of Elliott. He is intricate to the plot, yet after the Captain is robbed and beaten and lays dazed we do not see him in the story for a long long time. The film is fact plays much like a serial. There is action and stunts but it seems the no one was really worried about the scenario, which is too bad because the cast is quite good.
Sinister Hands (1932)
Excellent Poverty Row Mystery
I have always been interested in Poverty Row films since I read the book Forgotten Horrors many years ago. While other reviewers say this is a standard mystery, I argue it is not the case. The standard is that usually a much hated man with many enemies is murdered. The twist here is that Richard Lang (Phillips Smalley) is successful and well liked. His problem are the women in his life. His wife has fallen for a phony mystic (Mischa Auer), while his daughter is enamored with a two bit gangster (Louis Natheaux). In fact every bum and crook in town seems to hang out at his estate because his wife and daughter are attracted to these types of men.
One evening Smalley announces at his home that the days of these parasites living off him has ended. Smalley is found murdered shortly thereafter. Police Detective Devlin (Jack Mulhall) arrives on the scene and quickly uncovers a couple more suspects. One curious aspect is that casting of Louis Natheaux as the gangster. He is suppose to be tough and handsome. The ladies can't resist him, yet he looks 40 years old, he is balding and very thin. Worst of all is his nasal, whiny voice. During a showdown with Smalley, Natheaux is suppose to be intimidating, but I suspect a fifth grader would find nothing to be afraid of.
There are some spooky, atmospheric parts during the swami's seances. The dialogue is quiet good and believable. I recommend this film to mystery lovers and poverty row aficionados like myself. This films isn't of the quality of the films at the major studios at the time, but by poverty row standards, a cut above average.
The Brute Man (1946)
Good little B horror
This film was made by Universal Pictures as a part of their horror library. Universal refused to release it and then sold it to PRC. When I first started collecting movies in the 1980's this was a very difficult movie to find. I was always interested in the Universal horror catalogue and I desperately wanted to locate it. It certainly never aired on TV here and the video traders I was associated with had never seen it. Then Admit One, a small Canadian Company, issued it on VHS. I purchased it and it is still the copy I own today.
The Creeper (Rondo Hatton) is a horribly disfigured man who is being hunted by the police. He lives in the shadows away from all curious eyes. His tale is then told in flashback that the Creeper was once a successful college student. During a science experiment, an explosion caused his disfigurement. Now he wishes to gain revenge against those he feels are responsible for his sorry state. His misery is abraded away by a chance meeting with a blind musician (Jane Adams). He allows himself this brief friendship, while at the same time, his inevitable demise is close at hand.
The current IMDb rating (in the 3's) is very harsh. I suspect because this has played on MST3K and those films tend to get rated lower by their viewers. I remind MST3K viewers not to rate the actual movie. BECAUSE YOU HAVEN'T VIEWED THE ACTUAL MOVIE. There is a place on IMDb where MST3K episodes can be rated. PLEASE GO THERE.
A Dark Dark Voyage with Bela
This is a wonderful little thriller with Bela in top form. We have a very strange tale here, set in late 1800's. If you don't wish to probe the darkness of humanity you may not find this tale interesting. A sea captain (Margetson) wants to marry and take his bride (Shirley Grey) on his next voyage. A strange wish to say the least. Another sailor, Anton Lorenzen (Lugosi) has just returned from sea a shattered man, a victim of being shanghaied.
Lugosi learns the Mary Celeste is set to sail so he joins the crew, intent upon righting a wrong. Margetson is ruthless, but less so than many of the other men aboard the ship. There is a strange tension aboard the ship. Margetson stole Grey from an old friend, so even the romance seems doomed. First mate Bilson (Edmund Willard) is a ferocious thug and he is responsible for much of the dread and mayhem aboard the Celeste. The ship is portrayed as a hell hole. The men who sail her are soulless monsters capable of any crime. Grey witnesses many of the cruelties and she (and the viewer) wonders why he asked her to sail with him.
Lugosi is a quiet and gentle man as shown by his kindness to the cat. Willard sees the cat on the ship and tries to throw it overboard, but with one arm, Lugosi thwarts Willard and saves the cats life. Yet Lugosi will show no kindness to the devils responsible for his current state. During a vicious storm, sailors begin to disappear one by one.
Frankly I'm flabbergasted that the film is rated so lowly. It is unfortunate that the complete film is presumed lost. The missing 20 minutes would be very welcomed. But the guts of the tale remain and it's not a shining one for humanity. Dark, brooding and at the center, gentle Bela enacting revenge one murder after another. This film is close to a masterpiece.
The Caribbean Mystery (1945)
Variation on Murder in Trinidad & Mr Moto in Danger Island
The setting is a remote Caribbean island. Governor McCracken (Roy Gordon) hires a famous American detective to find out why a number of an oil company explorers have gone missing. The head of policing, Colonel Lane (William Forrest), believes there is an uninhabitable area and the missing men were merely lost in the quick sand. The detective, Smith (James Dunn), arrives and he suggests the bullet hole in his hat means there is a real mystery here.
Smith's partner is murdered and now even Colonel Lane is willing to believe they have a mystery on their hands. Smith believes that someone in power on the island is behind it all. So he places his trust in McCracken's son (Edward Ryan), and the two probe the inner uninhabitable area of the island. They uncover a vast production company, that is searching the swamps for gold doubloons buried by pirates many years ago. They also come across a scattering of corpses which suggests the men excavating the swamp with do anything to keep the production secret.
Smith and McCracken's son are captured. Can the wily detective outwit his captors? Can Smith learn the mastermind behind it all? It's all pulled off in a very pleasing way. The sets are rather weak but the actors and the plot are pleasing. The film really benefits from Dunn's performance as the seemingly dopey but ultimate wise Brooklyn sleuth. A minor disappointment was the finale, where the mastermind is revealed. Ultimately a fun hour at the movies.
The Mad Monster (1942)
What has happened to movie lovers?
What is wrong with you people? The rating is in the 3's. One idiot says Glenn Strange rips off Lon Chaney Jr. and he can't even spell Chaney. OK we have a kids monster movie from the 1940's. A kids movie, no adult would be caught dead in a theatre watching this in 1942. Today we analyze the plot to infinity about whether this scene was believable etc.... It's a kids monster movie, not Citizen Kane. Suspend your current political correct state of mind and enter a 1940's kids movie. It's fun, trust me.
What do we have? We have George Zucco, one of the best raving mad scientists of all time, playing a mad scientist. We have a werewolf unlike any other (that is a good thing). We have rural bumpkins getting torn to pieces. Great. We have Universal's scream queen Anne Nagel making a much appreciated appearance.
The idiots who watch MST3K have ridiculed this movie so it must be bad, right? Wrong. Our current society watches endless superhero movies today and praises them as masterpieces. While old movies made for kids are ridiculed. Hmmm... a psychologist could have a field day with that.
The Crime Patrol (1936)
Average Poverty Row Crime Drama
Ray Walker is cast in the lead as boxer Bob Neal. Neal is an amiable mug, with no direction, other than being the best boxer he can be. His pals are all bums and crooks. He likes a pretty nurse (Geneva Mitchell) but she's not interested because of his lifestyle and associates. Bob's father was a policeman who died while fighting crime. His mother hopes he will follow in his father's footsteps someday and become a policeman.
Eventually Bob joins the police force because of the expert training he'll receive. His selfish attitude begins to soften when he starts to realize his old gang are ruthless criminals. The final showdown comes after the gang steal a shipment of furs. Bob pretends to be on the take in order to save two other policemen. He double crosses the gang and wins the gratitude of the force and the affection of the nurse.
This is no lost gem. The story is rather weak, the fight scenes are not convincing. Yet it plays out fast and is never boring. The two leads, Walker and Mitchell, are particularly good. Although neither would be considered attractive both can really act, which is not always the case in poverty row.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 (1988)
This is currently rated 8.7 up there with the greatest TV series of all time. Really? Really? I get the premise. Some of the movies are so boring the only way to watch them is by making fun of them. However there are also older Saturday matinée movies aimed at kids in the day. They weren't really meant to be taken seriously. They were just time passers for 10 year old kids. To flog these movies just hits a bad note with me. But the biggest problem I have with this is that I don't find their comments funny.
I don't like to ridicule the past. Modern audiences might allow themselves to think they are enlightened but to me if feels too much like making fun of the weakest kid in the class at recess. And that 8.7 out of 10 rating, that is ridiculous. The bar is just so low these days...
This Movie Sucks! (2010)
Seriously? 8.2 out of 10???
You have to be kidding me. This is the old racket where you air an old movie then have inserts that make fun of the show. It started with horror shows in the 1950's with Zacharley and the like. Back in the 80's Lorraine Newman did the Canned Film Festival. Then the MST3K garbage. This is suppose to be funny I think. But Ed the Sock is not funny. I remember first seeing him on late night TV. His audience is young drunk males. But he isn't funny, he's rude. The movies are all public domain and available in the discount bin or on youtube for free. So why watch this mess? I stood in for about 30 minutes because I was interested in the movie. Evidently, some people think Ed is funny. Fair enough. But this is rated at 8.2 currently. That means it is TV gold! Up there with the best shows of all time. Really.... I guess if you're drunk or smoking of weed this rates a 9 or 10, I wasn't drunk and give it a lofty 3, only because of the movie.
Oklahoma Annie (1952)
Don't be embarrassed for me.
This is a classic comedy western. Judy owns the town's general store. Central to the plot is her deceased grandmother, Oklahoma Annie, who was the best female Sheriff Oklahoma ever had. The story starts hopping when outlaws rob the town's bank by blowing up the safe. The crooks are identified and this leads to the Sheriff quitting because, as he puts it, "I don't what to be the bravest man in the cemetery".
In steps the new, handsome Sheriff, played by John Russell. Prompting our Judy to become a little more interested in crime fighting. The truth of it is, Judy is also full of spunk and wants to follow in grandmother's footsteps. Early on the viewer realizes that someone within the town helped the outlaws rob the bank. Frank Ferguson plays the town's supervisor and he has a knack of getting in the way of the investigation.
Meanwhile, Judy has become the Sheriff's deputy because she helped capture one of the outlaws (Roy Barcroft). Still, one question remains, who is the brains behind the robbery? Can you doubt that Judy will find out everything?
One reviewer of this film states they would be embarrassed if one of their relatives liked Oklahoma Annie. This film was a aimed at the Saturday Matinée kids back in the day. A few of us have never lost our inner kid, thankfully. So please don't be embarrassed for me and in return I won't roll my eyes when the politically correct come along and tell us the movies of long ago are embarrassing.
Singin' in the Corn (1946)
Judy in Nevada
Judy plays a fortune teller who owns a magic whisky jug which foretells the future. Allen Jenkins plays her partner and it's his job to keep her out of trouble. A telegram arrives stating Judy's grandfather has died. His lawyer (Charles Halton) requests her presence in McCoys Gulch, a ghost town near Reno, Nevada. Halton informs Judy she has inherited $250,000 but there is one stipulation. She must return McCoy's Gulch to the natives who originally owned the land.
Judy's quest to acquire her inheritance will not be easy. Halton is in cahoots with a gambler (Alan Bridge), who wants to turn the ghost town into a casino. Bridge plans to foil Judy's quest by making the natives believe McCoy's Gulch is haunted so they'll want nothing to do with the land.
There are some interesting little side plots. The native elders are portrayed as the traditional Hollywood character, but the youngsters speak and act like any American and play in a swing band. Guinn Williams plays Bridge's henchman, but he finds Judy irresistible and switches allegiances. Robert Dudley plays Judy's grandfather, who is beckoned from Heaven on many occasions to help Judy out of jams.
It's all pleasant nonsense. The plot is fairly slim and there are not enough laughs during the 65 minutes. But as one would expect the cast is very good. My favorite bit has Jenkins disguised as a Mexican tycoon wanting to invest in the casino.
Carolina Cannonball (1955)
Friday Night With Judy
My most recent inexplicable quest is to track down and view the rarest of the Judy Canova film library. The story starts with the US Military launching a remote controlled atomic missile. German spies intercept the signal and try to control the missile, but their interference causes the missile to crash in the middle of a Nevada ghost town. The spies, led by Sig Rumann, and the US government set out to locate the missing missile.
The only inhabitants of the Nevada ghost town are Judy and her grandpa, played by Andy Clyde. Clyde's grandpa is not too far from his California Carlson role which graced many Hopalong Cassidy features. Judy and Andy run a small train shuttle that connects to the big city. The missile lands right on their train's line causing their sleepy existence to be disturbed by US agents and foreign spies.
One of the delights of the film for me was the teaming of Canova and Clyde which worked very well together. Their scenes are where the film really glides. It slows down during the romantic parts when a US agent (Ross Elliott) shows up to locate the missile and the German spies. The spy story is really much nonsense but leave it to old professionals Canova, Clyde and Rumann to pull it off.
Untamed Heiress (1954)
Another evening with Judy
I've been on a Judy Canova ride here for the last month. Watching some of her rarest films. The story starts with a old miner who approaches two theatrical agents looking for Effie Canova. Effie staked the miner's dig many years ago and he struck gold and wants to split the fortune with her. The agents learn that Effie is dead but she had a daughter (our Judy). The agents find Judy as a middle age woman still living at the orphanage she grew up in. The three then travel to Nugget City to find the miner and claim half the fortune.
There are complications of course. The theatrical agents are on the shady side and they owe a gangster (Don Barry) some big money. Barry gets wind of the story and decides to follow the gang to Nugget City. Once there we meet a big crook (Hugh Sanders) who claims to be a guardian to the miner. It's all a ruse to steal the miner's stash of gold, but the gold is hidden and the miner isn't saying where it is.
The movie has much slapstick and plays for the comedy sequences. Judy plays her usual role her but with less emphasis on her rural bumpkin persona and more on the comedic aspects. She sings a couple of songs but not the usual hillbilly music. Barry and the agents prove that they are rogues with hearts of gold and they come to Judy's aid once in Nugget City. Quite an enjoyable little programmer that pleased kids at the time and TV viewers throughout the 50's and 60's.
Four Days (1951)
I was expecting the usual British B' crime drama but was pleasantly surprised. A businessman (Hugh McDermott) returns home from a trip and begins to suspect that his wife (Kathleen Byron) is having an affair with his business partner's son (Peter Reynolds). Eventually Byron and Reynolds confess to the affair. McDermott refuses to give his wife a divorce and during the ensuing hysterics Byron tries to poison her husband. Reynolds realizes what is happening and prevents the murder.
During the next few days Byron comes to realize she loves her husband. Unfortunately, McDermott, believing his wife is about to leave, attempts suicide. He survives a great fall but loses his memory. Now an amnesiac, McDermott is blissfully in love with his devoted wife. Yet Byron fears their bliss is temporary, because if her husband's memory returns, he will surely hate her.
Reynolds then returns to the plot to blackmail Byron and threatens to reveal all to the unknowing McDermott. The cast is exceptional, the dialogue and direction is very good. The plots sounds too much like Coronation Street, yet it is all pulled off in a pleasing manner by a very good team of professionals.
The Feathered Serpent (1948)
Charlie Chan searches for an Aztec treasure
Here, Charlie and crew (Mantan Moreland; Keye Luke & Sen Yung), are on vacation in Mexico. They stumble upon a man, who is in terrible condition, walking in a nearby field. Charlie takes him into his auto and heads quickly to the nearest city for help. The man is delirious so Chan can get little information out of him other than the fact he was held prisoner and he was on an expedition hunting for a lost Aztec treasure.
Chan arrives in a nearby city and soon meets members of an expedition who are also hunting for this lost treasure. In fact the sick man is a member of their group. The ailing man and another archaeologist went missing during their search. Before the ill man can explain what happened he is murdered.
Charlie and company join the expedition with the purpose of finding the missing archaeologist and perhaps the lost treasure. Much is made out of the fact that this film features the return of Charlie's son Lee (Keye Luke) and the only teaming of Charlie's Number One and Number Two sons. It's interesting but the screenwriters don't pull off the union effectively. Lee is much more domineering here than he ever was in the Fox films. So it is a bit of a miss, but still of interest to a long time Chan fan.
Lastly, I'll comment on the other reviews who need to call the Monogram Winter's films garbage. Yes, they don't have the skilled writers of the Fox series. Yes, the production values don't match Fox, and the plots can be a little oddball. But these are solid little mysteries and quite good compared with other independent studios.
Million Dollar Legs (1939)
Good B Campus Comedy
This is a good B' campus sports romance comedy. Betty Grable is top billed here but she has a minor role as a girlfriend of one of the athletes. The real star is Peter Lind Hayes, Middleton College's student president. Hayes is cast as annoying character (Freddie Fry) who is always on the make for a dollar. Every event is a chance to exploit his friends and the student body. This is all played out in a rather playful way, with everyone just shrugging off Fry's selfish attitude.
The plot centres on the school's athletics program which is on the skids due to the Dean's lack of interest in athletics. The Dean is played by Thurston Hall who delivers who usual solid performance. John Hartley stars as the Dean's son who just happens to be a star rower. Much of the film follows the students as they try and get the rowing program back in the water.
Donald O'Connor is also billed but has a minor role as young jockey. He provides a key tip that allows the student to back his horse and raise some money for the rowing team. Jackie Coogan, also billed, only has a couple lines, is 25 years old and looks 35, which strains credibility as his is suppose to be a student. This marks an interesting point in the movie itself. That being that the older kids are quite horrible to the freshmen, which causes a couple of cringes because some of the "kids" look 35.
The finale has Middleton College up against a rival in a big rowing challenge. Middleton wins; the Dean sees the error of his academics only attitude; and Fry comes through by giving a little back to the student body. A very competent well made Paramount B'.
Great British TV series
A few years ago I acquired 20 episodes of the series from an online seller. I was mildly impressed at first. I though the series was well done. Karloff's character, Colonel March, was well defined, and the stories were generally pleasing. However, over the years I have come to really love this modest little series.
The many reviews I've read on the series usually fluff it off as a low budget British TV series. That is most unkind. The productions values are very standard for the time. The mystery elements are not the draw of the series. Rather, it is Karloff's wonderful performance, mixed with the quirky elements of the stories. Karloff's Colonel March is an intelligent, slightly egoistical maverick. He works for Scotland Yard in the aptly named Department of Queer Complaints. Yet March is basically an acknowledged genius who works on his own and he has no supervisor. The toughest, most bizarre and whimsical cases are all thrown in March's lap.
My favourite episodes include; 1. The Abominable Snowman, where the snowy legend threatens members of March's own mountain climbing group. 2. Death and the Other Monkey, where March probes the murder of a scientist on the verge of a breakthrough. 3. The Sorcerer, March investigates the murder of a psychologist.
If you watch an episode and it doesn't impress you, try another. The series might grow on you, like it did with me.
Violent Moment (1959)
Unusual little picture
Right from the opening minutes the viewer realizes he's watching an odd motion picture. A man (Lyndon Brook) is an army deserter who has been living in squalor. A bit of good luck finds his way and he lands a good job. He returns home to celebrate with his girlfriend (Jane Hylton), who promptly tells him that she gave up their child for adoption. He strangles her in a fit of rage and slinks off to start a new life.
Five years later, Brook is a successful businessman and he's engaged to a lovely woman (Jill Browne). His successful life unravels very quickly after Browne's apartment is robbed and the detective sent to investigate also worked on the murder five years before. The actors give fine performances, the tale is well written, the film has a nice pace. A well made British crime drama from the late 1950's.
Man with a Gun (1958)
Average British Crime Drama
Lee Patterson plays an insurance investigator probing a fire at a nightclub owned by a London businessman (John Le Mesurier). Le Mesurier owns another nightclub, the Stardust Club, and that is where Patterson starts his investigation. The insurance company believes Le Mesurier may have burned down his other nightclub for the insurance money. However that theory is soon abandoned when it is learnt that a Southampton gang is trying to take over Le Mesurier's London club. The gang is led by mystery man, named Ferlarno. This gang is violent and soon resort to beatings and destruction to get their hands on the Stardust Club. The suspense comes from the police (and the viewer) trying to uncover who Ferlarno really is.
The film has it's moments but plays out a little flat. The cast tries hard, Le Mesurier is good as the nightclub owner, Patterson tries his best Bogart impersonation and doesn't quite pull it off. The script is just a little too predictable. It's a good little film, but it never manages to make you forget it's low budget origin.
The Claydon Treasure Mystery (1938)
Vintage British Mystery
Kerrigan (John Stuart) is an engineer who dabbles in mystery writing. His attention is turned to Marsh Manor where resides the fabulously wealthy Claydon family. A librarian who works at the Manor is found murdered. Can the death have anything to do with the famous Claydon treasure? A treasure supposedly hidden on the estate a hundred years before but never found. Lady Caroline Marsh (Annie Esmond) invites Kerrigan to the estate to solve the mystery.
There, Kerrigan encounters a vast array of suspects, including Lord Claydon (Aubrey Mallalieu), the Lord's friend Sir George (Garry Marsh), and Sir George's lovely niece, Rosemary (Evelyn Ankers). A guest in the house, Rubin (Finlay Currie), is found murdered in the library. The police are on the lookout for a mystery man known by his alias, The Duke. While Kerrigan begins to suspect that rival gangs have infiltrated the house with everyone after the famous missing treasure.
It's all played out in a pleasing fashion in the tradition of old murder mysteries. My only complaint is the transfer I saw is from an old 16mm print and there is a noticeable hiss in the soundtrack. One has to pay close attention at all times to hear the dialogue and understand what is happening.