Greer Garson - 1939
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Famed Mexican actress with roles in 124 films and TV Programs and TV Movies, and still active with credits on productions into 2018. Possibly most famous in the USA as the vampire queen from the 1962 film El Santo contra las mujeres vampiros (USA title Samson vs. The Vampire Women).
Scream of Fear - 1961
Scream of Fear - Released August 22, 1961. Directed by Seth Holt
A Man Called Ove
A Man Called Ove - Released Sept 30, 2016 (USA). Directed by Hannes Holm
This Swedish language film which adapts from the novel of the same name seems like it picks up from where Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939) left off. Both feature a man who has a difficult relationship to a world that moves faster and in a dramatically different way than they're able to emotionally understand, and both men are dramatically able to make connections because of bright, smiling women who come into their lives
Those basic similarities aside, A Man Called Ove is not about a school teacher (like the famous Donat film) though a schoolteacher is a major element of this film from 2016. Ove (Rolf Lassgard) deals with the irritation and disasters of modern living in his small suburban Swedish community by trying to correct people who break the residential rules (such as driving cars on pedestrian paths) and also trying repeatedly to commit suicide by hanging in his living room when he is otherwise not occupied with other tasks (director Holm gives these episodes some real tension but eventually this always becomes a comic moment). The suicide is an effort to reunite himself with his dead wife, but other responsibilities keep barging into his existence and he is a stickler for getting the job done right (he eventually switches to suicide by shotgun blast, this too goes awry when a young gay man of his acquaintance comes to his door seeking help because his family have kicked him out).
When Ove is unwillingly recruited to be an erstwhile grandfather for a Persian/Swedish couple with young daughters, he goes at it with efficiency but irritation, which the young girls delight in, and Ove doesn't realize how much he is being dragged into a full life he thought he was ready to exit.
Daredevils of the Red CircleKino has released a 4K Blu Ray of the famous 12 chapter cliffhanger serial from1939 starring Bruce Bennett, Carole Landis and Charles Quigley.
Rossellini War Trilogy on Blu Ray
Criterion has put out a 3-film Blu Ray set of Roberto Rossellini's "war" trilogy from WW2: Rome Open City, Paisan, and Germany Year Zero.
Louise Allbritton - 1943
Son of Dracula - Released November 5, 1943. Directed by Robert Siodmak
Louise Allbritton plays Katherine Caldwell, heiress to a Louisiana plantation, as a dedicated Dracula groupie, or at least it seems that way when we first meet her in Director Robert Siodmak's film Son of Dracula.
The truth about Katherine Caldwells' obsession with Dracula (or, as Dracula tells people, "Count Alucard" which is rather revealing when spelled in reverse) is a bit more complicated than just goth-girl fan-mania (Allbritton has the requisite black bangs of doom, just like Carol Borland in Mark of the Vampire, 1935; and Jean Brooks in the The Seventh Victim, 1943). Sure, she has a morbid personality disorder according to family Doctor Brewster (Frank Craven) and a severe case of Thanatophobia (i.e., fear of death) according to visiting vampire expert Prof. Lazlo (J. Edward Bromberg). But it's not just undead-love that drives her to import Alucard from Europe and to then marriage with the soft-talking but brutishly sinister and occasionally violent foreigner; rather, she has a wild plan to achieve immortality and then to swap out Alucard, who is only a means to an end and apparently unaware of her real plan, and to insert her true heart-throb, local man Frank Stanley (Robert Paige), and then the two childhood sweethearts can live forever on her creepy plantation.
Frank, not aware of the details of her mad plan to circumvent eternity by becoming vampires, learns she has married Count Alucard and so shows up at the plantation with a revolver and a case of jealous rage. He proceeds to get into an altercation with Alucard, who easily knocks him through a door and down on the floor. Frank attempts to shoot Alucard, but the bullets fly right through him and accidentally strike down Katherine.
Certain he has murdered his beloved, he flees. He confesses what has happened to Doctor Brewster, who leaves Frank knocked out on a couch in his office, and the Doctor then travels alone out to the plantation to investigate and discovers Katherine upstairs, sitting upright in bed. She seems well enough and just as creepy as ever. She then dismisses the Doctor with the request that everyone leave her and her new husband (who claims he is pursuing "scientific research" and needs to not be disturbed) alone, and if they absolutely need to come by, to do so only at night because the two newlyweds will be "busy" during the day.
When Frank, who has since moved into a jail cell by way of confessing the murder to the local Sheriff, hears that Katherine is fine, he's not sure if he has gone mad or if something more sinister has taken place, but either way he is determined to get to the bottom of the matter (which is the same determination Doctor Brewster and Prof Lazlo have determined upon. By that point, Alucard is outnumbered, besides being played for a dummy by his new wife. Coming to America looking for "young and virile" blood has turned out to be a terrible decision.)
When Kay visits Frank in his jail cell by entering as a mist and then escaping the same way, Frank knows he will have to resort to more than cooperation with the local police to deal with the problem.
The film is titled Son of Dracula because "Count Alucard" is speculated to be a descendent of the original Count Dracula by Professor Lazlo, who happens to be originally from the Carpathian mountains, as is the legendary Count. But we know better about who the man in the black cape is.
These further adventures of Dracula (played by Creighton Tull Chaney, aka Lon Chaney Jr.) take place in a swampy landscape with first-rate art direction. The trees are heavily infested with Spanish Moss and the town has tastefully decorated small homes for the living people and elsewhere crumbling buildings for the not-so-living people. Siodmak's film direction visually takes the movie into noir territory with attention given to atmospherics and the mental state of Frank Stanley. Robert Paige starts off the film portraying Frank as a prim and arrogant young suitor who is certain about everything, but after dealing with Alucard (and killing/not-killing Kay) he's no longer sure about anything. Paige keeps Frank in a disheveled state of near mental collapse and physical exhaustion who keeps moving and plays the avenging hero in a way I've not seen in any other monster movie. And Frank's solution for getting rid of Alucard is also a bit more ingenious than the usual showdown with stakes and crucifixes (though crucifixes play an important part early on in Son of Dracula, something which Prof Lazlo tells us has a power over vampires that would simply take too long to explain. Well, this is only a 80 minute movie, after all.)
Chaney's restrained acting style in the film helps a lot toward make Alucard seem like a unpredictable agent of violence, and he is matched by the same monotone acting of Louise Allbritton, his double-dealing would-be soul mate. The ending doesn't exactly deliver a happy ending, but it does end with the children's play room at the plantation on fire, where we learned Kay had originally long ago set out on her mission to beat death.
Sabrina - 1995
Sabrina - Released December 15, 1995. Directed by Sydney Pollack
The Sabrina (Julia Ormond) of Sydney Pollack's remake of the 1954 Billy Wilder film is still a lost innocent, the Larrabee family are still blindingly wealthy and dwell in a kind of Kingdom by the sea, and the problem of managing wealth and the lives attached to it continues to vex the eldest son of the family, Linus (Harrison Ford in this tale, Humphrey Bogart in the older one).
Pollack's film gently updates Wilder's era into one more modern, and some of the caustic bite is toned down, but the same problems rule the story - Sabrina starts off with a radically over-the-top infatuation for the younger Larrabee brother David, and this keeps her in an emotional stasis that a trip to Paris is meant to overcome: it doesn't exactly do the job.
Pollack's film emphasizes what was more shaded in Wilder's movie, which is that Sabrina becomes a bridge to real life for the always-responsible Linus Larrabee, and a glittering and beautiful distraction for the younger brother who is engaged to someone else.
Jay Adler and Anne Whitfield - 1964
The Case of the Ugly Duckling - Perry Mason - Broadcast May 21, 1964
Orphaned rich girl, toy factory heiress Alice Trilling (Anne Whitfield) is in the process of self-destructing over a host of personality and psychiatric issues when she notices a particular napkin-artist at a bar she frequents who is always drawing her when she comes to the place at night. Confronting him angrily, a small argument moves to the artists studio where he commences on a formal portrait, accompanied by the two's continued on-and-off verbal fighting.
Director Arthur Marks doesn't have a lot of run-time (50 minutes) to make a complex story fit, but Adam Lazarre (as the artist Anthony Usher) provides a nice performance as the bar-room artist who gets framed as a gigolo and proceeds to adopt the part as circumstances require, Whitfield as the struggling girl trying to get in control of her own life, and Raymond Burr as the gravitas-heavy lawyer Mason who has to untangle the mess of not just the usual murder, but (by 1964 a near constant in the series) the messy personal lives of the people involved.
Sunset Boulevard, 1950. Directed by Billy Wilder
William Holden and Gloria Swanson at the pool from where a floating Bill Holden will narrate Wilder's (sometimes comical) gothic-horror story of classic Hollywood and the rigors of stardom.
Movie-internet pioneer Ken Yousten called this movie the classic "biting the hand that feeds you story" from Billy Wilder. Wilder's script (with Charles Bracket and D M Marshmann also writing) seems to suggest that Hollywood stardom can give you everything but a usable future.
Frightened Doll - 1961
"Frightened Doll" - The Barbara Stanwyck Show, broadcast April 24, 1961 on NBC
Directed by Jacques Tourneur, written by A. I. Bezzerides
Stanwyck is an aging quasi-prostitute named Hazel Wexley haunting the bar where Wallace Ford (as bartender Harry) works. She gets picked up by visiting Chicago mobster bagman Jake Lytell (Harold J. Stone) and they travel back to his hotel room (he complains he is feeling quite ill and would she help him make the walk?). They start talking about Hazel's past, and the whole story of how badly she wishes she could go home comes out, how long she's been barely surviving in the city, and how she's too poor and too embarrassed. What would it take to finance her trip back home? Asks the genial mobster with the constant stomach pain: about a thousand dollars, she says, then she could do it in style.
He's willing to give her the funds for this fantasy trip that she's been nursing in her head for years, but when he gets up to move to a locked room where presumably his money is stashed, he dies of an apparent heart attack and slumps up against the wall. Hazel tries to help him and then finds the dead man's black bag, which is stuffed with cash. She takes it and smoothly glides out of the hotel back to her little rented room and starts dreaming of going home. But then...
This isn't exactly The Trip to Bountiful but it comes from the same source, the wish of an aging woman to be able to return home (Stanwyck played a similar but much darker role in Frtiz Lang's 1952 semi-noir Clash by Night), the twist here is that when the mobster owners of the money come looking for what happened to Jake's black bag, the need to go home takes on a practical dimension that has nothing to do with nostalgia and emotional satisfaction.
Wallace Ford's bartender is a guardian angel and general nice-guy who can see where everything is leading if Hazel doesn't get out of town, and though he temporarily stalls the pair of mob scouts searching for the cash ("I just mix the drinks" he claims, blowing them off) it's this fast thinking bartender who provides an ironic (and comical) solution that caps off the story in an unexpected way.
Director Tourneur puts Stanwyck through the paces, going from a black-mane of hair as a worn femme-fatale in a shiny sheath-dress and then (through a shampoo rinse) into the familiar silver-haired and smiling Ruby Stevens.
Double Wedding - 1937
Double Wedding - Released October 15, 1937. Directed by Richard Thorpe
Charles Lodge (William Powell) is a "vagrant" artist and would-be amateur film director living out of an auto-trailer and Margit Agnew (Myrna Loy) is a high-powered director of "Margit's," a ladies apparel company. Her niece is Irene (Forence Rice) who Margit has meticulously raised and arranged to marry the pleasant young Waldo (John Beal). The pair make a perfectly lovely couple except Waldo has no "umphh" and is so complacent about everything that he becomes carpet whenever he encounters any opposition, and pretty soon that's all he's got because the screwball comedy plot (by Jo Swerling and Forenc Moinar) has Irene becoming infatuated with the 'vagrant' and Margit tries to sabotage this before it gets out of hand, but instead causes Irene and Lodge to become engaged, to every ones chagrin (including their own, Irene just wants Waldo to grow as much spine as Lodge has).
Another problem on top of this dicey engagement is that the 'vagrant' is much more interested in Margit herself. For her part, she continuously insults him and calls Lodge names, such as a "paperhanger" (this being 1937, that's an insult. Hitler was called such not much later by the Allies during WW2).
Meanwhile, Waldo is practicing (with a little help from Powell on the side) how to stand on his own two feet and to "yowll like primitive man for his mate" - - but time is running out and with Waldo still blowing his chances to prove to Irene that he's a man, both irene and the 'Vagrant' are starting to get nervous that they're going to end up together at the alter (which happens to be inside his auto-trailor, where a great deal of the film takes place.)
Loy and Powell had a perfectly synchronized comedy style by 1937, and they make it look as effortless as a Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello routine. Altogether they would make 14 films together.
Day of Anger - 1967
Day of Anger - Released 21, 1967.Directed by Tonino Valerii
"Don't get your hopes up too high. It's a dirty life... "
That's what professional gunslinger Tarby (Lee Van Cleef) says to younger man Scott Mary (Giuliano Gemma) who becomes his junior gunslinger-in-training in director Tonino Valerii's frequently thoughtful Italian Western Day of Anger. The tale features crosses, double-crosses and triple-crosses as men who use violence to solve their problems in the corrupt town of Clifton in America's Olde West (actually filmed in Spain and Italy) finally reach an apex of conflict that we see coming almost from the first ten minutes of the film, but how they get there is more important than the fact that they will. Not that the characters see this coming, except for one, retired Sheriff Murph Allan Scott (played by Walter Rilla) who runs the local stable where he boards horses. He predicts where everything is leading and tells this to Scott Mary who has developed an inability to see the obvious or to listen to advice in direct proportion to his growing power as a gun-fighter.
The script by Ernesto Gastaldi, Renzo Genta and director Valerii* contains plenty of Cowboy movie elements that have showed up in many other films, and Day of Anger only halfheartedly delivers on some of this (such as the relationship of Scott Mary to the ladies in the bordello where he was apparently born, or the activities of the gambling houses in Clifton, most of this is portrayed the exact way it is portrayed in so many previous western films).
Where Day of Anger excels is Lee Van Cleef's intelligent gunfighter who is aging-out and losing his edge as the years pile on, and so he adopts Scott Mary to be a shadow gunslinger-partner to help even the odds, though wrapped up in this self-serving maneuver is Cleef's characters tough-love sympathy for Scott Mary who was previously serving as the town's all-purpose scapegoat and victim for bullying when the story starts. Once Scott Mary has started using a real gun (previously the retired sheriff had been teaching him how to draw using a carved pistol made only of wood) Scott begins letting out an anger and willingness to exact revenge that was nowhere to be seen previously when he was a very-humble garbage man.
Frank Talby (Cleef) amasses wealth and property as he step-by-step takes over Clifton, and he eventually builds a gambling house that looks like a temple with large golden pistols acting as pillars and as advertisement out in front of the operation. Throughout the film Tarby has taught Scott Mary the ways of gunslinging and has issued the instructions like commandments given by a demonic-god to an acolyte, numbering each missive:
- Never trust anyone
- Never beg another man
- Never get between a gun and it's target
- If you wound a man, you better kill him, or he'll later kill you
- The right bullet at the right time
- Accept all challenges, no matter what the cost
- Punches are like bullets, always make the first ones count
- When you start killing, you can't stop
Eventually Tarby's disciple will learn to his horror how this set of teachings naturally work out, finally looking down at Tarby himself laid out in the gravel and begging Scott not to pull the trigger.
* Based on the German novel Der tod Ritt Dienstaggs (Death rode on Tuesdays) by Rolf Becker [aka Ron Barker.]
Starring Miss Barbara Stanwyck [Illustrated with 310 Photographs] - amazon.com
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- Central Park - 1932 - Joan Blondell has trouble on her hands when she gets suckered into helping a gangster to rob a charity event. Though this film stars Joan and Wallace Ford, it also features the American Great Depression which is the background for the hunger and desperation that flavors the film.
- Robert Osborne - 1932 - 2017 - The "Movie Man" who worked as a film historian and host for The Movie Channel and Turner Classic Movies.
- Classic Cinema releases to DVD, Blu Ray and Streaming - March 2017 List
- Torchy (Glenda Farrell) Gets Her Manand solves crimes faster than her boyfriend (a policeman) and the whole police force.
- Get Smart - 2008 - Maxwell Smart is back in action with Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) on a mission into Russia which turns into a hunt for a traitor within CONTROL's ranks - - and everyone is starting to think it might be Agent 86.
- Ernest Saves Christmas - 1988 - Florida seems like the wrong place to find a missing Santa Clause, but taxi driver Ernest locates him there all the same.
- Jeopardy 1953 - - A Mexican vacation goes off the rails when escaped American convict (Ralph Meeker) hijacks Barbara Stanwyck.
- Zorba The Greek 1964 - Alan Bates and Anthony Quinn are on Crete, with Irene Papas
- Frankenstein Island - 1981 - The plot moves slowly and often doesn't seem to make sense in this legendary bad film featuring a projected image of John Carradine that rattles off incoherant dialogue.
- The Lady Vanishes - 1938 - Hitchcock's famous film about a disappearing lady aboard a trans-continental train. Except for one stubborn young female passenger [who is consequently accused of mental instability] no one aboard can remember the vanished elderly Miss Froy.
- White Zombie - 1932 - Bela Lugosi likes making zombies, and this comes in handy when a local plantation owner on Haiti decides if he can't woo a certain girl to be his wife, he'll have Lugosi turn her into a mindless slave that he can command.