Friday, September 22, 2017

Young Bess (1953)

Director: George Sidney

Writers: Margaret Irwin, Jan Lustig, Arthur Wimperis

Composer: Miklos Rozsa

Starring: Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Charles Laughton, Kay Walsh, Guy Rolfe, Kathleen Byron, Cecil Kellaway, Rex Thompson, Robert Arthur, Leo G. Carroll, Norma Varden, Alan Napier

More info: IMDb

Tagline: A Great and Spectacular Drama!

Plot: The early life of Elizabeth I, from her childhood until her accession to the throne of England in 1558.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

You can guess by the title that this is all about Bess (Simmons).  But that doesn't mean you can't have fun.  There are some great bits of dialogue that come from her mouth.  She's got a sharp tongue, that young Bess.  There's also the dashing and equally well-spoken Thomas Seymour (Granger).  He's great, too.  And don't forget the great Charles Laughton as King Henry VIII.  Ooh, it gets nasty when Guy Rolfe shows up as Thomas' brother, Ned.  Boo!  Hiss!  Miklos Rozsa once again pulls a great score out of the ether and elevates the majesty of the film's subject.  It's by no means a happy and cheerful film (although I did chuckle a few times at some very choice dialogue and dark humor) but it is interesting.  Between the cast, music, set design, costumes, dialogue, etc., I found it a very nice distraction for a couple of hours.

Maniac (1934)

AKA: Sex Maniac

Director: Dwain Esper

Writer: Hildegarde Stadie

Starring: Bill Woods, Horace B. Carpenter, Ted Edwards, Phyllis Diller, Thea Ramsey, Jenny Dark, Marvelle Andre, Celia McCann, John P. Wade, Marian Constance Blackton, Satan the Cat

More info: IMDb

Tagline:  He menaced women with weird desires!

Plot: A former vaudevillian gifted at impersonation assists a mad scientist in reanimating corpses and soon goes mad himself.

My rating: 6.5/10

Will I watch it again?  YES!

This isn't your ordinary B-picture from the thirties.  No siree Bob.  In the span of 50 minutes you get schooled in psychology...

artistic flares like seeing two cats fight in the basement early on only to have two grown women fight it out to the death in that same spot near the end, a mad scientist pop a cat's eye out of its socket (don't worry, the cat had a glass eye but it will freak your shit out when you see it) and then eat the eyeball, and then there's tha sax!

Holy SHIT!  The sex angle doesn't come into play until the last fifteen minutes and being how I didn't know a single thing about this picture going in, I was very pleasantly surprised.  It's such a rare thing.  This is great 1930s exploitation.  Is the acting bad?  Not really.  It's goofy at times but it's not bad.  I really don't understand some of the comments in IMDb saying this is the worst (or one of the worst) movies ever made.  It's far from it unless you've only ever watched Jean Luc Goddard flicks.  This one is short and fun.  It's worth watching for any of the scenes already mentioned but you've got to watch it for the two broads duking it out at the end.  It gets brutal.   It's true that there's no accounting for taste.  I've seen some horrible pictures and this ain't one of them, sister!  Not by a maniacal mile. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Daniel Boone: The Warrior's Path (1960)

Director: Lewis R. Foster

Writer: David Victor

Composers: Buddy Baker, Oliver Wallace, Frank Worth

Starring: Dewey Martin, Mala Powers, Richard Banke, Eddy Waller, Kevin Corcoran, Brian Corcoran, Diane Jergens, William Herrin, Dean Fredericks, Anthony Caruso, Don Dorrell, Alex Gerry, Eddie Little Sky, Charles Stevens, Walt Disney

More info: IMDb

Plot:  Long before the West was explored to it's fullest, the frontiersman Daniel Boone had a powerful need to expand westward and to see Kentucky Territory. This was an unexplored wilderness on the westward side of the Cumberland mountains and a secret Indian hunting grounds. A traveling peddler tells Mr. Boone of a hidden way to enter that area through a secret Indian trail called the 'Warrior's Path'. So Boone sets out with the peddler and friends to find the path and runs into a Shawnee hunting parting, but finally discovers the unexplored garden-like valley for the eventual westward movement of 18th century Eastern seaboard settlers.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

This feels like an attempt to recapture the success of what Disney did with Fess Parker and Davy Crockett from five years earlier.  If that's the case they failed.  This isn't even close.  Dewey Martin could just have easily been at home playing a soda jerk at your local drug store in Anytown, USA.  He's a good looking kid that looks and sounds out of place.  In the first 8 minutes of the movie, and that includes the Wonderful World of Disney opening with Walt himself, 4 minutes are spent at this tree...

Nice color I guess.  Normally I like a lot of the 50s/60s Disney stuff that was made for TV (and movies for that matter) but this one is so run of the mill.  I liked the outdoor scenes the most.  The sets standing in for outdoors are more than obvious.  I reckon if I were six years old and saw this on TV in 1960 (which was aired in B&W) I probably would've dug it but then I'd be wearin' my coonskin hat and ready for some Davy Crockett which would've left me disappointed sitting cross-legged on the floor at the foot of the TV, munching on some sugared cereal straight from the box.  This might've been great TV entertainment in 1960 but watching it now it's just average.  I'll pass on the other three short movies they made that year and the next starring Martin.

The Waiters (1969)

Director: Jan Darnley-Smith

Writer: Benny Hill

Composer: Cyril Ornadel

Starring: Benny Hill, David Battley, Arthur Hewlett, Pamela Cundell, James Ottaway, Jan Butlin, Nancy MacKeith, George Fenton

More info: IMDb

Plot: Benny Hill scripts and stars in a dialogue-free rendition of a posh dinner party ruined by two boorish waiters.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  Maybe.

I love Benny Hill to no end and it's a delight to see anything he did for the first time.  I have no context behind this 30 minute film.  There's no dialogue but that's not something that slows Hill down.  This feels like an extended skit from his 70s TV show.  There's lots of head slapping and slapping of other things.  What sells it for me is Hill's expressions.  He tickles the piss out of me.

He's especially funny when he's a man on the make for some action.  Soundtrack fans might get a kick out of knowing that the young future film composer George Fenton is one of the party guests.  He was only two years away from his first film scoring gig when this was made.  

Nowhere to Go (1958)

Director: Seth Holt

Writers: Donald MacKenzie, Seth Holt, Kenneth Tynan

Composer: Dizzy Reece

Starring: George Nader, Maggie Smith, Bernard Lee, Geoffrey Keen, Bessie Love, Harry H. Corbett, Andree Melly

More info: IMDb

Tagline: ...except into a woman's arms!

Plot: Paul Gregory is sprung from jail in London by his accomplice after getting a stretch as expected for robbing a woman who falls for his charms. Only he knows how to get to the money, but his partner is getting greedy and as things turn sour Gregory finds that home in Canada is a long way away.

My rating: 8/10

Will I watch it again?  Yes.

We've all seen a lot of crime films where the protagonist makes mistakes and sometimes those mistakes are unrealistic and have the viewer yelling at the screen in disgust, right?  Well this picture is different.  Paul (played beautifully by Nader) makes nothing but right decisions and he keeps his cool yet once the ball gets rolling, it doesn't stop.  He fights it every step of the way and he's grounded and rational all along.  I loved it!  The cast is superb.  I think this might be the first time I've seen Bernard Lee ('M' from the Connery and Moore Bond pictures) as a villain.  It's not much of a stretch acting-wise but it's different and I liked it.  And with what little I've seen of Nader's work, this is my favorite film of his so far.  This picture marks Maggie Smith's movie debut (not including a previous uncredited role).  The ending is great.  Paul stayed true to himself to the last.  The print I watched was a widescreen one I recorded off of TCM years ago but it was in bad VHS quality shape.  It's not on DVD here in the States but when it does, I'll own it and give it another look.  This is a great little crime flick that needs to be seen.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell (1955)

Director: Otto Preminger

Writers: Milton Sperling, Emmet Lavery, Ben Hecht, Dalton Trumbo, Michael Wilson

Composer: Dimitri Tiomkin

Starring: Gary Cooper, Charles Bickford, Ralph Bellamy, Rod Steiger, Elizabeth Montgomery, Fred Clark, James Daly, Jack Lord, Peter Graves, Darren McGavin, Robert F. Simon, Charles Dingle, Dayton Lummis

More info: IMDb

Tagline: He defied the army and navy . . . and they gave him a Court Martial!

Plot: A dramatization of the American general and his court martial for publically complaining about High Command's dismissal and neglect of the aerial fighting forces.

My rating: 7/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

If you like your war dramas heavy on the drama and you love sitting in a courtroom for over an hour then this picture might be for you.  None of these things deter from this being a good picture.  It's technically well made.  The performances are good and it's neat seeing so many famous actors before they were famous.  I read that the family of Mitchell was disappointed in the casting of Cooper and they preferred Cagney because Mitchell was much shorter than Cooper and he had a hot headed temper.  Cooper doesn't play animated roles.  He's always very stoic and grounded much like Gregory Peck.  I'd like to see Cooper lose his shit one time and go on one hell of a mean streak tear.  He does fine in the role but I agree and thing Cagney would've been better suited.  Most of the film is the trial so knowing that helps prepare one for what's to come.  The title gives that away.  It's not so compelling that it warrants another watch but it is worth seeing once.

Magical Mystery Tour (1967)

Directors: George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Bernard Knowles

Writers: George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr,Mal Evans

Composers: George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr

Starring: George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr,Victor Spinetti, Jessie Robins, Miranda Forbes, Maggie Wright, Ivor Cutler

More info: IMDb

Plot: The Beatles charter a special bus for a surreal mystery tour.

My rating: 6/10

Will I watch it again?  No.

I love The Beatles and I've been wanting to see this one for thirty years and all this time I've only heard that it's bad.  If it weren't for the great music it would be.  Also seeing The Beatles helps a lot.  The funny isn't funny and it looks like an excuse to get out of the house and make some kind of a movie.  They succeeded on that front but there's not much to see.  The songs are amazing and it is neat seeing some of them made as individual music videos.  Geez, I forgot about Victor Spinetti who pays the double speaking Army Sergeant.  He's fantastic.  I'd never heard anyone do English doublespeak before and he was great at it.