Dana Synter Invasion of the Body Snatchers Janet Leigh and Jimmy Stewart - Naked Spur

Boy on a Dolphin - 1957

Sophia Loren at Sea

Probably the first "big Hollywood film" of Loren's career, Boy on a Dolphin has been roaming around television for many decades as a washed-out color movie with the question hanging in the air of whether decent film elements still existed for what had been a major production effort from 20th Century Fox back in 1957. Apparently the answer is yes, with a blu-ray restored version now coming Fall of 2016.

Boy on a Dolphin - Sophia Loren - 1957 - Blu-ray

Vivien Leigh, 1937

Vivien Leigh 1937

More Vivien Leigh

Elvis Presley, 1955

Elvis Presley 1955

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn MOnroe

Danny Thomas and Elvis

Danny Thomas and Elvis

Buster Keaton - The Goat, 1921

Buster KeatonBuster Keaton the Goat Telephone Call to a horse

The Goat - Released May 15, 1921. Directed by Buster Keaton and Malcolm St. Clair

The story line to this brief (23 minute) Keaton film is almost non-existent, except for the travails of Keaton trying to make it through the day as unexpected events and circumstances has him on the run from the police (he's mistaken for an escaped murderer which causes bystanders to suddenly flee from his presence, much to Keaton's bewilderment) and there's his rather complicated relationship with a girl (Virginia Fox) whose father happens to be the chief of police. These comedy routines are elaborated upon and expanded in his later short film Cops (1922). This rendition of the character that acts like a magnet for police enforcement is just as calamitous, though, as the 1922 version. Mal St. Clair figures in The Goat as the tall and dark policeman who relentlessly pursues him.

Buster Keaton - the Goat 1921Buster Keaton - the Goat 1921Buster Keaton - the Goat 1921

White Zombie - 1932

White Zombie 1932Madge Bellamy - White Zombie 1932White Zombie 1932White Zombie 1932

White Zombie - Rleased August 4, 1932. Directed by Victor Halperin

Influential and imaginative (though primitive) zombie film which impacted everything that came after* which has "zombie" in the title. Made on a $50,000 production budget that used rented sets from various Universal films, Bela Lugosi is the main draw here along with silent movie star Madge Bellamy.

Lugosi's character (named Murdere Legendre) runs a local Haitian grain mill staffed with zombie workers, and his main coterie of mind-controlled slaves are formerly politically powerful men on the island who through one way or another have been brought under Legendre's control (they walk about stiffly with a look of vacancy in their eyes, following commands like robots).

Robert Frazer (as plantation owner Charles Beaumont) is in love (or at least what he calls 'love') with Madge Bellamy's character of Madeline Short Parker, an engaged young woman, with fiancee' in tow, who shows up on the island to take advantage of Beaumont's offer of a spectacular wedding on his estate. This was all a lure to get the woman within Beaumont's reach, as he is soon pleading with her to turn her affections from Neil Parker (John Harron) to him. She won't cooperate, so Beaumont goes to Legendre to supply a means to bring the girl under his command. Legendre is delighted to be of assistance, creating zombies seems to be his chief hobby, and he provides a liquid vial which when consumed by Madeline will make her more pliable. To Beaumont's distress, though, this renders the girl an emotionless slave. To even further confuse his original plan, Legendre is able to feed Beaumont some of this mysterious drug, too, and Beaumont is soon fighting a crippling battle to keep himself from becoming another member of Legendre's zombie corps.

Halperin's direction makes the most of the movie sets (he also moves the camera around in creative ways) and while the story isn't exactly detailed, Lugosi and Madge Bellamy perform their duties as occultic menace and languid slave perfectly well, with an almost faery tale sense of drama as the story shuffles along to the climax on a cliff above the sea. Frazer plays Beaumont as a love-slave to the woman of his affections (not that she wanted the power) and his threatening efforts are completely eclipsed by Legendre's pure evil intent, the resulting contrast (and Beaumont's remorse) making him a sympathetic character.

Halperin's film doesn't really develop the accidental metaphors of slavery, zombies and addiction getting all jammed up next to each other, but it is there on screen all the same, and with a certain pathos if one remembers how Lugosi battled a morphine addiction rather famously in his later career. Here, though, Lugosi is a monster 'drug pusher' who must be stopped (a local priest named Dr. Bruner played by Joseph Cawthorn is the key to his defeat).

Overtones of Lugosi's Dracula show up in White Zombie (Dracula was released in Feb of 1931) but as masterful as Legendre's power over his zombie army is, Lugosi doesn't play Legendre as an aristocratic monster ala' Dracula, but as an occasionally hunching, scheming and gleeful maniac, despite the fact the Halperin Brothers have Lugosi in a tux in some scenes and he employs his elegant hand gestures as additional weapons in his arsenal.

Madge Bellamy - White Zombie 1932Madge Bellamy - White Zombie 1932White Zombie 1932White Zombie 1932White Zombie 1932White Zombie 1932

*Val Lewton and Jacques Tourneur must have screened this film a few times before commencing on that other seminal zombie film from classic Hollywood I Walked with a Zombie of 1943.

House on Telegraph Hill

Valentina Cortese in House on Telegraph Hill

House on Telegraph Hill - Released May 12, 1951. Directed by Robert Wise

Though the bulk of this film is a noir thriller set in San Francisco (on Telegraph Hill), it starts off with the unusual locale of the inside of Belsen Concentration Camp. Two female prisoners share a secret dream of going to America (the first woman is a Polish-American citizen), but by the arrival of the liberating Allied army, she dies from malnutrition and the second woman (Valentina Cortese) is left with nothing but the intimate knowledge of the other woman's life in the United States.

To make sure she isn't sent back to devastated Poland, she uses her dead friends identity to pull off a flawless impersonation, and she soon finds herself not only in America, but the heir of a deceased wealthy aunt and the object of affection of the Aunt's nephew, Alan Spender (Richard Basehart).

Robert Wise's movie (screenplay by Elick Moll and Frank Partos, based on novel The Frightened Child by Dana Lyon) is packed with post-World War II anxiety: displacement (the dead camp prisoner left behind a small child in America, cared for by a devoted and now angry San Francisco nurse played by Fay Baker who resents the real "mothers' return); guilt (Basehart's character of the nephew laments that he never measured up to the dead Aunt's expectations and was thus left out of the old woman's will); more guilt (Cortese's character of the impersonating camp survivor not only left a dead husband and child in Europe but now has to carry on an endless falsification of her own identity).

William Lundigan plays a returned American soldier who adds to this pile of dread as a useless member of a local law firm that was given his old job back after exiting the army, but the rest of his firm would just as soon he stayed out of everyone's way. He, incidentally, briefly knew Victoria (Valentina Cortese) in Europe, and he is the one she turns to when she is becoming nervous about the behaviour of the Aunt's nephew - - Basehart plays the man as cheerfully and politely going insane.

Director Robert Wise tightens the tension as the tale increasingly concentrates on the guilt, the greed, and the double-identities pervading the tale.

There is also the threatening presence of a huge hole in the back of a shed on the mansion property. The gaping opening (put there supposedly by the explosion from a toy chemical set belonging to the young boy the nurse and the 'mother' are now dueling over) looks down the slope of Telegraph Hill like a straight drop into an abyss, a view Wise returns to several times, and it hypnotically draws several of the other characters to stand and stare, too.

Richard Basehart - House of Telegraph Hill 1951House of Telegraph Hill 1951 Valentina CorteseHouse of Telegraph Hill 1951 Valentina CorteseHouse of Telegraph Hill 1951 Fay BakerHouse of Telegraph Hill 1951 Valentina CorteseHouse of Telegraph Hill 1951

Ann Margaret

Ann MargaretAnn Margaret

Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen

Richard Burton - 1964

Richard Burton 1964

Libeled Lady - 1936

Libeled Lady

Libeled Lady - Released Ocotber 9, 1936. Directed by Jack Conway

One of the best made screwball comedies of the 1930s, with glossy M-G-M packaging and four big stars all in their prime: Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Jean Harlow and William Powell.

The star billing is split four ways, and each actor is balanced against the other as far as importance to the plot and screentime, but it is Powell and Harlow's ridiculous back-biting at one another that steals all of the focus. Like a championship tennis match, Harlow's comedic charm and William Powell's self-deprecating humor and sarcasm gets batted back and forth with each one scoring off the other. These two characters may not be meant for each other (the two get thrown together as part of a trick to end a libel suit against a newspaper), but the pair play off one another in perfect synch which is silly and full of animosity while they pretend to be in love (as part of their scam) but when no is watching, they loath, insult and look to be on the edge of throwing things at one another.

Love will triumph in the end and each character will go home happy, but Jean Harlow is the one who ultimately steals the show, and the one at the end for whom it is most important that she is happy.... and after Powell's character punches Spencer Tracy's character in the nose, she is.

Libeled Lady - Jean Harlow - Spencer Tracy and William Powell

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