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Although I am no longer in the theatrical exhibition business, my interest in film continues. I maintain a growing home library of films, numbering several thousands of titles.
Mystery House (1938)
Nicely crafted Eberhart mystery
I was pleased to see that more than a few folks here on IMDb knew who Mignon G. Eberhart was. "Mystery House" was based on one of Eberhart's 'Nurse Keate' stories. In a nutshell, these stories are all murder mysteries, all use a medical pretext as a plot springboard, and all feature a hospital nurse, Miss Keate, plus a detective named Lance O'Leary (Dick Purcell, in this outing).
Ann Sheridan was the only actress to portray Nurse Keate more than once; --her other showing was in "The Patient in Room 18" --a weaker entry, which starred Patric Knowles as Detective O'Leary. The weakest Keate has to be Marguerite Churchill, who was called 'Nurse Keating' in "Murder by an Aristocrat."
As good as Ann Sheridan was as Nurse Keate, she was easily bested by Aline McMahon's turn as the sleuthing nurse in the Warners' Eberhart story, "While the Patient Slept." Even though Eberhart's characters appeared in several films, it would probably be inaccurate to describe these films as a "series."
In "While the Patient Slept," Guy Kibbee played the oldest O'Leary of them all, --however, he filled the part with character and gusto, --traits that both Dick Purcell and Patric Knowles lacked.
Most of those who commented here, appreciated the film's supporting cast, but largely didn't know who any of them were. I also liked the supporting cast, and think it's worth mentioning some of those actors here.---
1)-William Hopper, who would later become known for his 9-year stint as Paul Drake, in the Perry Mason TV series on CBS.
2)-Anne Nagel, a beautiful actress who never rose above B-movie roles (such as this one). She appeared in films such as "The Mad Doctor of Market Street" and "Murder in the Music Hall.". Nagel also had a Perry Mason connection, although not to the TV series. She appeared as Janice Alma Bromley (the "fake Janice") in the Mason film, "The Case of the Stuttering Bishop."
3)-Ben Welden: A "tough guy" in hundreds of films and early TV shows, Welden specialized in playing hoods, --often as comic relief. In "Mystery House," it's Welden's toupee that figures in the plot. A steady worker, Welden had parts in at least 18 films in 1938 alone, the year of "Mystery House." Some of his 1938 output included: "Smashing the Rackets" "Crime Ring" "The Saint in New York" and "Time Out for Murder." In early television, Welden racked up multiple appearances in programs such as "Space Patrol" "The Lone Ranger" and "The Adventures of Superman."
4)-Dennie Moore, --a marvelous supporting actress, who's Jersey accent kept her typecast in films. She was often cast as a maid, or a shop-girl, or as a 'comic sidekick' to the heroine. Moore is best remembered for her brief (though, pivotal) role as Olga the manicurist, who "spills the beans" to Norma Shearer's character in the 1939 blockbuster film, "The Women."
5)-Elspeth Dudgeon, the elderly actress who played the wheelchair-bound aunt in "Mystery House" was a true wonder to behold. Though often seen in very small parts, where folks cannot remember her name, many viewers marveled at her role as Ernest Thesiger's father, the bedridden Sir Roderick Femm (yes-- she played a MAN - with whiskers!) in "The Old Dark House." In that film's closing credits she was billed as "John" Dudgeon! Personally, my fave screen appearance by Ms. Dudgeon was in Warner Brothers 1936 B-mystery-comedy, "Sh! The Octopus." If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it for you. I will, however, say that Dudgeon simply steals the movie, near it's climax.
Other supporting-actors who appeared in "Mystery House" include Sheila Bromley, Eric Stanley, and Trevor Bardette (another veteran who has hundreds of screen appearances to his credit).
Any discussion of the Nurse Keate films would be incomplete without mentioning "The Great Hospital Mystery" --produced by 20th-Century/Fox, and starring Jane Darwell. While most of the Eberhart/Keate yarns were filmed by Warners, this lone 20th/Fox effort stands out for many reasons. It features a superior cast of supporting actors. In addition to Oscar-winner Jane Darwell, the cast includes Sig Ruman, Sally Blane, William Demarest, Joan Davis, and Thomas Beck.
If you're an Eberhart/Keate fan, "The Great Hospital Mystery" is the film you must not miss. It's an atmospheric little mystery, best seen late at night....when you're all alone.
The Diane Linkletter Story (1970)
Made 4 decades ago, this Waters short film is still controversial...
I hear more people talking about this short film now, than when it was made, or at any time since it's production.
I first saw it when I purchased a VHS tape of Divine's live stage show, "THE NEON WOMAN."
That show was taped on 1960's B+W videotape (NOT the same kind of tape on VHS cassettes) in 1967.
When home video first became available to the public, "THE NEON WOMAN" was published on VHS by the New York Film Annex. To fill out the tape, the NYFA included Waters' short film, "The Diane Linkletter Story." That was more than 20 years ago.
Whether or not you like Art Linkletter, the unvarnished truth of the matter is that he conspired with the Nixon administration (in the latter's "anti-drug" campaign) to allow the public to think that Diane jumped out of that upper-story window to her death, while on LSD. The truth is, she had not taken LSD for over a year before she died, and the drug had absolutely nothing to do with her death. Furthermore, an autopsy showed that she had no drugs, whatsoever, in her body at the time of her death. Stretching the truth (to put it mildly) was a common practice by Nixon and his followers (of which, Art Linkletter was one).
When I first purchased it, I knew that this NYFA-published VHS tape was a special treasure. I don't foresee any possible DVD release of this film coming any time soon, although I would love to see the film made available on disc, so others can see it, and own it.
Perhaps, some day, Waters will be able to get it published on DVD, with an explanation of Art Linkletter's shameful "use" of his daughter's suicide to further right-wing anti-drug propaganda.
2 Minutes Later (2007)
Shades of "Blow-Up".......
I saw this film last week, on a trip to Florida to attend the 18th annual Tampa Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, which I must admit, has grown into a fairly large stop on the gay festival circuit.
The more mundane shows (IMHO) anywhere on the circuit are those films which merely try to be gay versions of straight stories. Why such a large number of gay filmmakers still try to be 'mainstream' is beyond me.
"2 Minutes Later" is a crime-fighting/comedy film with some flesh and sex (not excessive, but certainly more than necessary). It tried to equal the sex & violence quotient seen in similar straight films. This film's director, who was present the night I attended, got on stage before the film screened, and said that his film was meant just as fun entertainment; nothing more, nothing less. -- and to the person who accompanied me to this screening, that's what it was. To me it was just a gay reworking of many straight suspense films, with a major plot element (spoiler) borrowed from "Blow-Up." It had a fair amount of tepid comedy added into the mix, justifying the director's statement that it could be called 'light entertainment.'
Much to my dismay, --and very likely to the chagrin of the filmmaker present (and to the management of the fabulous Tampa Theatre, a splendidly renovated 'atmostpheric,' built in 1926) the film was shown through the wrong lens! What I mean is, it appears to have been a film that may have been produced with an aspect ratio of 1:1.85, but it was shown through a 1:1.33 lens. Everyone was just a bit too thin, too tall, --and all the cars were a foot, or so, more compact. I tried to ignore this technical problem (which wasn't easy) and see the film the way it's producer intended me to. It had it's fun moments, but I was glad when it ended. Almost glad, that is, because "The End" credit, itself, brought it's own "oh, no" moment. It came on-screen with a question mark (?) added after a few seconds, a la "The Blob."
The leading lady, who was also present in the theater that night -and who accompanied the filmmaker on stage before the curtain went up, was the best actor in this film. As improbable as her character was, her lines were better than those of the leading man, --who was likely chosen for his shy boy-next-door 'look' rather than for any acting ability. I'm not knocking him, nor the filmmaker, nor anyone else associated with this production. It was obvious that the budget wasn't big, but neither was the thought put into this. Better films have been made on smaller budgets.
It seemed to me that it borrowed an awful lot of bits and pieces from many other films, --besides the obvious big 'bit' borrowed from "Blow-Up."
Overall, a mediocre effort. I rated it 5.
...a vivid documentary--- which I just saw myself in---
This wonderful hour-long documentary is about events leading up to, during, and after the Compton's Cafeteria riot, which took place in San Francisco.
The film clips from mid-to-late-1960's San Francisco struck home with me--- Although I was living in NYC at the time, I endured arrests, hundreds of police raids, --and of course riots-- from the 5-day Stonewall mêlée to the bloody, albeit less well-know, 'Snake Pit' riots that followed Stonewall by less than a year, yet were in the same vicinity (on Christopher Street, plus outside the 6th precinct on Charles Street, and even extending down West 8th Street).
As I watched this documentary about San Francisco, I saw several pieces of very familiar stock footage pieced in,-- including a few shots from the first annual GLF-sponsored gay march in NYC (June 1970).
It was in one of those film clips, there, up on the screen, that I suddenly saw my roommate from 1970, Billy Weaver, AND ME, carrying the biggest and most political banner in that march.-- We painted it on a large bed sheet on our living room floor (and the paint went right through the cloth, forever marking our hardwood floor with: "SMASH SEXISM" in large letters, and underneath that slogan, "GAYS UNITE NOW" in only slightly smaller letters.
Because it was the boldest statement during the march (and, by far, the biggest banner-), it was a magnet for everyone with a camera that day-- including all members of the media.
This is not the first documentary film I've seen in which I suddenly appear with Billy, the two of us marching and holding up that enormous banner (which we had stapled to tall cardboard tubes which each of us held-- the police would NOT allow us to use wooden poles for our banner....)
FYI: That first march was not called a 'Gay Pride March' or anything even close;-- It was called "The Christopher Street Liberation Day March," being named after the 6-man committee (-I was one of the six-) called 'The Christopher Street Liberation Day Committee.'
Our 6-man group was a cell within GLF (the Gay Liberation Front-- of which I was an original member), and we formed that cell within GLF for the express purpose of lobbying the city to allow us to hold a march to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, AND to make sure it was observed every June thereafter.
After seeing this film, I had to wonder a bit about why a documentary telling of an event from the 1960s contained news-footage from June of 1970. It was, of course to illustrate that what happened at Compton was, indirectly, linked to later events.... .....something that is still true today.
It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)
Unless you saw this in Cinerama in 1963....
The 'Greatest comedy of all time'? Hardly.
A time capsule of mid-20th-Century comic talent? Almost.
Worth buying the DVD to see? NO.
This is simply one of those wonderful, yet rare, 'easy' to understand examples of what is meant by the phrase "the medium is the message." There are some hilarious scenes, and some great lines, but not enough to sustain such a long film-- not on TV, anyway, nor on VHS (and certainly not on the currently available DVD version).
I am one of apparently not too many folks here who saw this film in it's original release. In 1963 I was a junior high school student in New York City. I was old enough to know who all the film's stars were, and young enough to be stunned by the theatrical experience of Cinerama in midtown Manhattan.
Before 'Mad World' was made I had only seen "Windjammer" in Cinerama-- a film that did not appeal to me, content-wise, but as it was shown in a medium that boggled my young mind, I attended as many screenings of "Windjammer" on as many Saturday afternoons as was possible.
When 'Mad World' was released I was well aware of the fact that films made in Cinerama were so few in number that they could be counted on one hand.....and that that small quantity was not likely to climb into the double digits.
Its hard to rate this film on a 1-to-10 scale today, not because of lame reasons like "it does (or doesn't) hold up today" or "the humor does (or doesn't) play well to 21st century audiences." -- Such "then-and-now" comparisons are both tedious and moot. The reason it's a hard-to-rate film is because we are not (all of us here, posting to IMDb) seeing it in Cinerama in it's original release.
But for that one long-ago experience for me, at least, I rated it 9.
I can't expect similar feelings from everyone here (except those of you who were in one of the nation's very few Cinerama theaters in 1963.....staring wide-eyed at that jaw-dropping triple-wide screen....and wondering, as only a 13-year-old can, if such marvels would ever come again.....
Animal Crackers (1930)
I attended the 1974 "re-opening" of this film
When "Animal Crackers" was re-released after decades in hiding (due to copyright problems), the ticket-buyer & ticket-holder lines at New York's Sutton Theatre stretched down 57th Street for every showing. I was dazzled when I first sat through this film-- it seemed as if there was a kind of magic in the theatre that night. I can remember having goosebumps when Lillian Roth sang "Why Am I So Romantic?".
I was working as manager of the Paris Theatre on 58th Street when "Animal Crackers" opened at the Sutton, and because both houses were part of the Cinema-5 circuit, I was always able to get passes. -- In this case, because I had also worked as 'relief manager' at The Sutton on many occasions, I was well known to the staff and had entry to that theatre whenever I wanted. --During the 'opening' run of "Animal Crackers," I often walked over to The Sutton when my day's shift was complete at The Paris.
I can tell you that every screening of "Animal Crackers" that I attended was packed. And every time I was present for the film's end, I witnessed a standing ovation-- something that many film producers can only dream of.
I often tried to imagine myself attending a 'live' performance of this show. --As many have mentioned here, "Animal Crackers" was a hit Broadway show, starring the Marx Brothers, long before it was filmed by Paramount.
Rather than complaining that this film is "stagey", many who comment here would do well to remember that a film like this is as close to a Broadway show as millions of people will ever get. The annoying penchant some viewers have for wondering why the film version of a Broadway hit show (especially a musical-comedy) isn't more "opened-up" is both tiresome and moot.
Also, the constant comparison of "Animal Crackers" to other Marx Brothers films (especially the later MGM films) is an 'apples-to-oranges' kind of thing. It would make far more sense to compare it to other early filmed-versions of it's Broadway contemporaries, such as "Rio Rita" or "Flying High" or "Girl Crazy"....
Although the stage show of "Animal Crackers" was on Broadway long before I was born, (and the film's initial premier pre-dates me by almost as long), I am forever gratified to have been able to attend the 1974 "re-opening" of the film in New York, and to see, feel, and participate in, the audiences' jubilant reactions.
I rated this film 10/10. It's a perfect comedy, with (theatre-goers will recognize this-) honest-to-goodness Broadway music-- and with Lillian Roth, too. "Animal Crackers" is a great show in every respect.
The Pups' Christmas (1936)
Beautifully Animated by the pro's at MGM
A very traditional cartoon for it's time, and in that context it no doubt delighted the theater patrons who saw it on the big screen during the 1936 Christmas season.
I can understand how people who are into "The Simpson's", and/or other contemporary animation, might be easily bored, but the tiresome habit of constantly trying to measure the art and entertainment of a bygone era to today's commonplace output is specious and moot.
True, in it's own day, "The Pups' Christmas" does not have the type of high humor one might see in the great Porky Pig cartoons turned out by Warners, nor does it have the multi-faceted cleverness of Max Fleischer's 1930's Popeye & Betty Boop cartoons. However, it IS a beautifully animated piece, and it captures the mood of Christmas quite nicely.
Time Expired (1992)
Leguizamo doing what he does best.
John Leguizamo does drag comedy better than most other men. He has a spectacular history of different characterizations in his wide ranging body of work. This is just one of the many, and though not his best, its damn good and it's what carries this short film.
This 30 minute film, "TIME EXPIRED", is a simple story-- Man goes to jail, man meets drag-queen in jail, man has jail-house-affair with drag-queen, man is released from jail and finds the previously released drag-queen waiting for him.
Much to the dismay of the released prisoner's wife, the man finds himself involved in a not too common love "triangle": man, wife, & drag-queen.
It's predictable, it's not Leguizamo's best, but it's very funny and a great chance to see this genius of wide characterizations at work.
The Shoes (1961)
Buddy Hackett does pathos
A plain, ordinary, and somewhat dumpy little man lives alone with his little mutt dog in a shabby apartment in an urban section of Brooklyn. One day, while walking the streets and looking into store windows, he sees a pair of shoes that he feels will change his appearance and hence, his social life. -
After purchasing the shoes, he goes home, gets cleaned up, dressed up, and goes out with his new shoes on. He goes to a depressing, almost empty diner/luncheonette and meets an equally unattractive and dumpy-looking female.
Emboldened by his new shoes, he strikes up a conversation with her and even dances with her to a tune on the juke box. While seated in a booth, we can see under the table that she is skuffing his new shoes with the soles of her shoes. -
After this encounter, he returns home and polishes his new shoes before going to bed. In the morning, when a garbage truck comes to pick up the building's trash, the man's little dog grabs the shoes in his teeth and takes them downstairs and places them by the garbage pail. The garbageman picks them up, throws them in the pail, then empties the garbage pail into the truck. The truck drives away. The shoes are gone.
When the man wakes and realizes that the dog took his shoes, he runs downstairs and looks both ways on the street for the garbage truck, but it's long gone. He slowly walks back upstairs where his little mutt is waiting for him.
This 25 minute film is mostly without dialog, except for the meeting in the diner. All through the film we see how much the dog loves this lonely man. We have to wonder if this devoted little dog, seeing how the new shoes got the man out of their home to meet another person, actually got rid of the shoes to keep the man home with him.
I saw this film on TCM recently. It was screened on a week-end evening, following TCM's premier showing of Powell & Pressburger's famous 1948 classic "The Red Shoes". I looked for "The Shoes" on the IMDb to find out more, but could not find it listed under it's title, nor was it listed under the name of it's star, Buddy Hackett.
I then looked in an old 2-volume set of books I own, titled "Forty Years of Screen Credits". It lists all the film titles for every actor who appeared in anything on the screen between 1929 and 1969 (I bought this 2-volume set in 1970). Well, low & behold, "The Shoes" was listed under Buddy Hackett's name, with a release date of 1961. - I then wrote to IMDb to try to get it listed, and after several months wait, it has finally made it here!
Fortunately I taped BOTH "The Red Shoes" plus this short film, "The Shoes", on the night TCM showed them, so I was able to get this short film's production credits to send to IMDb simply by looking at my own tape recording of it.
Shadows on the Stairs (1941)
delightful B-Movies Mystery
With a cast like this, a B-movie mystery just can't miss. But first you must skip over the juvenile leads, both male and female, and look beyond them to the talented, polished and very-experienced supporting cast.
Frieda Inescort, past her girlish good-looks stage, gives an outstanding performance as the duplicitous, cheating landlady of the boarding house where the murder takes place. Turhan Bey, then a young actor of considerable skill with an already notable acting history, plays another ethnic role-- the sort in which he was most typecast- that of the mysterious "easterner" --turban and all.
Veteran actors Paul Cavanagh and Miles Mander round out this superb cast. You may recognize both from many 1940's supporting roles; Mander was also a director of early silents.
Beware of nay-sayers who are always trying to compare films of this era with today's output-- Phrases like "it does (or doesn't) show it's age" or "it does (or doesn't) hold up today" are meaningless when viewing films of this genre. In fact, such comparisons are boring and tedious.
This is a fun low budget effort, with an able cast, a crazy plot-line (why not?), and a few hysterical scenes (like the boarder who won't talk to the police because she's lost her false teeth).
Recommended. Don't miss it.
Jack the Giant Killer (1962)
The story line is familiar and, yes, it does seem to be a hodge-podge of a variety of legends and myths, but what's to complain about? Many films borrow from a host of differing source material, often with surprisingly good results.
One very important comment about the animation-- If you're the type that poo-poo's anything less than 21st century computer generated effects, then stick to films made after 2000 and stop knocking 40-year old films because their special effects aren't the same as you saw in "Independence Day". That's like knocking a '63 Corvette because it won't take you to the Moon.
Frankly, I thought the fiery and colorful animation sequences were sort of pre-psychedelic-era psychedelia (if I may coin a phrase). I was pleasantly surprised by the almost bizarre look of it all, and felt a keen sense of having 'discovered' a lost treasure. As an avid film buff, with thousands of titles in my film library (both VHS & DVD), I'm quite aware that there are always new (to me) films to be discovered, regardless of how long ago they were made.
And-- yes, after seeing this film on cable a few months ago, I purchased the DVD for my collection. I rated this film 9- almost entirely for it's visual impact.
Highly recommended viewing.
The Inner Circle (1946)
zippy low-budget mystery
Warren Douglas, with his B-movie leading-man good looks, appeared in a string of low budget murder yarns. Although regular commercial TV was still a few years away, this film seems to have a 'look' similar to television's detective shows of the 1950's. In fact, a number of this film's supporting cast members would be commonly seen in supporting roles on television, less than ten years hence.
In this particular outing Warren Douglas plays a private eye named 'Johnny Strange' (no kidding), who runs a detective agency called (get ready--) "Action Incorporated".
The story line is somewhat commonplace, starting with the murder of a well known radio personality, and involving a strange "Spanish woman" (that's how the other characters refer to her), some skulking house servants, a missing diamond, a duplicate beautiful blonde, and--of course-- a blustery, mis-guided police detective (William Frawley, who could play these roles in his sleep).
This poverty row feature might turn up on TV, but more likely than not, you'll have to rent or buy a copy of this film from a dealer of video obscurities. Although typical of it's genre, it's an enjoyable watch, nonetheless.
I'm from the City (1938)
Joe Penner never made an un-funny film.
This may just be another low-budget comedy from RKO, but Joe Penner had a way of getting laughs regardless of the script, the cast, or any other factor.
Other than Penner, only the Three Stooges could have carried off that "yanking the rattle snake out of the ground and making it stretch like a rubber band" routine. That's not to say that Penner's work resembles the Stooges' work (which is masterful, by the way) but Penner could do it for the length of a feature film.
When you combine Penner's trademark-gaffaws with his seemingly idiotic, yet shrewd comments (like his reply to Richard Lane's backtracking: "Well, I'm glad you finally see it your way...") you can't help but appreciate the subtle way he weaves his outlandishness with rich sly humor.
This may not be the best Penner film, but for a man who only lived 38 years, evidence of his remarkably quick rise to top billing in radio, vaudeville, shorts, and feature films is very evident in this quickie-comedy.
Weekend for Three (1941)
Compact, well-written and breezy comedy
Much better than it's low budget and short running time would infer, "Weekend For Three" is a fast moving and tight little comedy written by some great talents-- namely Budd Schulberg and Dorothy Parker.
Although both writers are better known for their many other achievements, this comedy has been staged and filmed a number of times, and under a variety of titles... an 'homage' to both Schulberg and Parker.
The "three" of the title are a young married couple and a surprise weekend guest.
The husband (Dennis O'Keefe) is a young advertising professional, and the wife, an ex-New-Yorker and former deb, is now a housewife.
They are living in suburban Ohio and are enjoying their 3-year-long connubial bliss, when unexpectedly, there enters a loud-mouthed and overbearing houseguest who happens to be a pre-marital acquaintance of the Mrs. (briskly played by Jane Wyatt who, in the 1950's, would get bogged down portraying Mrs.-Father-Knows-Best on television).
The story revolves around the disruption caused by the houseguest, and the oh-too-polite couple's efforts to dislodge him.
Zasu Pitts, as their maid, plays her usual flustered and tongue-tied persona, although not to full advantage for this domestic story. Speaking of flustered, and as fey as always, Edward Everett Horton delivers a flawless and funny performance as the young husband's 5-times-married boss.
And speaking of fey (which I realize is a passe term used in the era when this film was made), the cast includes Franklin Pangborn and Hans Conreid. They are both just fabulous here, but like Pitts, their talents are unexplainably under-used.
Philip Reed, in one of the very few times I can recall, gives a standout performance as the boisterous loudmouth who overstays his welcome.
This is a nicely done and not-to-be-missed little film.
It's well written by the best in the business, well acted by a more-than-able cast, and is simply a delightful watch.
Absolute Beginners (1986)
Much Better than Expected....
With the great era of musicals long past, it was interesting to see how stylized & clever this little "musical" film really was.
The story line was nil, but then great musicals don't need one, anyway. --Not to say that this was a "great musical", but the music WAS pretty good, and the film's use of thoughtful & colorful sets was stunning.
The camera movement, the scene changes, the hypnotic (almost psychedelic) fades, and the simply dazzling use of color, more than made up for the silly dialog and tripey sub-plots.
All in all, a good looking, well-mounted, and (except for the ending) enjoyable experience. The fast pace of the dream-like musical sequences made this a much better film than I had anticipated seeing.
I rated it 9, -mostly for sets, color, music, costumes, & photography.
Gallant Sons (1940)
Great Juvenile Cast Solves Murder.
For fans of mystery films, this is not the stuff of great whodunits, but if you like Saturday Matinee fare with an "A-Film" look (though not budget), then don't pass this up.
It stars some of the cream of the period's juvenile actors, in their teenage prime. The only one who is older than his "star-kid" days is Jackie Cooper. (but he went on to a successful adult acting career, anyway-- mostly on TV).
Bonita Granville, who received 2nd billing to Cooper, did her best (which is not much different than her 'Nancy Drew' roles at Warners). I've always been fond of Granville in supporting roles (or B-film leads), but a little bit of Bonita can go a long way. She wisely gave up acting before outgrowing her youthful charms.
Gene Reynolds, who was billed 3rd, was easily the best of all of this film's young actors. As the central character, who's innocent father is imprisoned for a murder that all the teens set out to solve, he pretty much steals the show.
Reynolds, a good-looking and accomplished young actor, made many films as a teenager but none as an adult. He did, however, go on to become an extremely successful (and extremely rich) TV producer-director. Reynolds would become best known for winning numerous Emmys for his long-running hit television series, "M.A.S.H.".
Leo Gorcey, fresh out of the 'Dead End Kids', but before starting in Monogram's 'East Side Kids' series, isn't given much to say in this film, and is actually relegated to a role as one of the 'background' kids!
He probably never forgot this experience. -- When Gorcey was adult enough to have a hand in producing the 'Bowery Boys' films, he made sure that he had ALL the lines, and that the other guys (except Huntz Hall) had only enough lines to discern them from the backdrops.
Gail Patrick, the leading female adult in "Gallant Sons", has a pivotal role in this story playing Bonita Granville's mother. A much under-rated actress, Gail Patrick gives a lot to this supporting part. She received 4th billing, after Cooper, Granville and Reynolds.
The film has the usual MGM polish, though none of the excesses of the Rooney-Garland juvenile extravaganzas produced in the same period. (And, thank goodness, no singing & dancing...)
I thoroughly enjoyed "Gallant Sons", and I especially liked seeing Gene Reynolds handle the most complex role of any of the young characters. Certainly more endearing than Cooper or Gorcey, I can't help wondering why Reynolds didn't pursue acting as an adult. Could he have seen the coming bonanza that television producing would bring his way?
Death from a Distance (1935)
Murder in a planetarium!
The film's title implies that death strikes from afar, and in a clever way, it does...
This low-budget little whodunit will NEVER be aired on TV, so you will have to find a rental, or more likely, buy a copy to see how this ingenious little murder is worked out.
I won't spoil it for anyone by telling you that the victim is in the audience of a planetarium, and naturally-- so is the murderer! The police are called in, and the entire story is acted out pretty much on that one set.
Filmed on one of the lowest budgets possible, "Death From A Distance" will still keep you watching, and guessing, right to the surprise ending.
Not bad, to say the least. To B-movie mystery buffs, I say: Buy it, if you can find it, and enjoy.
A Yank in Australia (1942)
A hodge-podge of one-liners & puns amidst wartime plotting.
I'm not surprised to see that this film has yet to get 5 votes-- What an oddity this is!
The story in short: Two teams of American newspaper reporters (one team: male, the other: female) set out on a Pacific ocean liner when the Japanese suddenly bomb Pearl Harbor. The ocean liner is torpedoed, and through a string of immprobable events, both teams wind up in the Australian Outback!
Despite the stock footage of Australian aboriginal tribes, there seems to be plenty of room in this under-an-hour quickie for wartime plotting and a stream of off-color puns that are occasionally quite hilarious.
Despite the American actors, you can tell this was made in another country, (Australia) if only because some of the one-liners and puns would NEVER have made it past American censors.
Although it drags in spots, this low-budget shortie is not a bad little flick.
Crime Ring (1938)
Fortune-Tellers and the Underworld...
This is a predictable, yet very enjoyable, crime drama about a "protection" racket for fortune-tellers. It's a fast moving little programmer with a wonderful cast of veteran supporting actors.
Allan Lane, playing a newspaper reporter, is the leading man. The leading lady was a nobody with a pretty face. In fact, you might as well say that the 'leading-lady' was Clara Blandick. She was cast as a crusty old multi-millionaire who, as the reporter's friend, ultimately helps him break up the 'crime-ring' of the film's title.
The story in a nut-shell: A newspaper reporter goes after a "crime ring" that 'protects' the city's bogus fortune tellers in return for 10% of their take.
But that's not the crime-ring's main source of income. They use the fortune tellers to 'steer' gullible victims to the crime-ring's spurious mining-stock salesmen, as well as other rip-offs.
This "Crime-Ring" indulges in fraud, extortion, abduction, murder--- well, you get the idea....
The background and supporting roles are played with great skill by a cast which is largely (and amazingly) uncredited!
B-Movie devotees will spot some of the genre's 'greats' in fairly meaty supporting roles, yet their names failed to appear anywhere in the credits. For example- the great 'comedy-relief' supporting actor, Tom Kennedy, appears throughout this film (AS the film's comedy-relief, natch), but is no where in the credits!
Also uncredited were B-movie & short-film vets Jack Rice & Byron Foulger.
This is a short, zippy, well-acted little film with a great cast. It follows a standard 'formula', so there are no surprises, but it's great fun to watch and I highly recommend it.
Brave Warrior (1952)
Jay Silverheels vs. Michael Ansara in 1812
At least one Native American had a starring role in this typical western programmer. Michael Ansara (who has played American Indians many times) is very capable as Silverheel's contentious one-eyed brother.
There's some manipulation of the historical facts (the story takes place as the War of 1812 is about to start), but I've seen much greater historical distortions in many, many films (like in "Gone With the Wind"...).
Overall, this was pretty enjoyable, but not a film I would bother viewing more than once. The dialog was dull. The scenery was nice. The Technicolor was fantastic.
I rated it "4", just for the chance to see Jay Silverheels in something other than "The Lone Ranger".
The Devil's Joint (1969)
Enjoyable mixture of trailers & film clips
Nothing like "Reefer Madness" (which had a story-line), but scenes from that film are widely used here, as well as clips from many other low-budget "smokers" (and by "smokers", I don't mean blue-movies).
Some of the clips used are from silent films, and I must admit that they whetted my appetite for those obscure movies. Unfortunately, the titles these clips are from are not revealed to us.
I recognized some of the scenes from "sound" films, as I have the "source" films in my own film library.
Not only is "Reefer Madness" heavily drawn upon (no pun intended), but so is the 1930's film "Marijuana".
All in all, "The Devil's Joint" is a compact compilation of earlier exploitation films, and an enjoyable one at that.
The 1930's "jazzy" reefer music is the best part of this package. It's not the same music that originally accompanied the films the clips are from. The score was added to the completed compilation in 1969 (as was the narration).
I found myself rewinding, and then replaying scenes, just for some of the great piano and "blues-y" musical numbers.
Enjoy! - I rated this 9-- mostly for the music!
The Cat Creeps (1946)
Silly, but swift-moving and atmospheric!
This is probably one of the lowest budgeted films on that old "Low-budget-list" that film-buffs mentally keep track of.
It's a spooky-house murder mystery, with some sturdy studio character actors.
The victim dies early in the film, (twice, no less). A strange woman appears to tell the group that's spending the night in this house, that the dead woman's spirit lives on in her cat --a black cat, of course. The strange woman hints that the cat, or rather the spirit in the cat, will reveal the killer.
The story is ludicrous, with dialog to match, but everyone chases one another around the place, and there's enough shootin' and spookin' going on to make this film delightful late-night fare.
Like "The Cat and the Canary", this story takes place in a gloomy old home that can only be reached by boat. Also like "Canary", all the action takes place during the course of one night, with the killer revealed by sunrise. However, the similarity between the two films ends there.
This film is short and it's fast. It's dumb and it's fun.
I enjoy this sort of nonsense, and have watched my copy of "The Cat Creeps" several times over the years.-- Because I love ALL spooky-house B-movie murder-mysteries, anyway, I couldn't bring myself to rate this film any lower than 7.
well done, fast paced "who-dunit"
Of all the "Perry Mason" films of the 1930's (there were six films, produced from 1934 to 1937), this one has to be the best. -- At least, it's MY favorite.
Warren William, who played Mason in more of these films than anyone else, elevates this short murder mystery from programmer to an 'almost-A' feature.
Claire Dodd, as Della Street, is little more than window dressing, as were all of the "Della's" in these early Warners' Perry Mason films. Allen Jenkins gives one of his standard (but good) blustery performances as Mason's side-kick, Paul Drake (called "Spuds" Drake in this film, and a complete opposite of TV's dapper Paul Drake, played by William Hopper). The best supporting role was that of Olin Howard as the coroner, who is also Perry's good buddy, and frequent dining partner. The veteran character actress, Margaret Lindsay is the "Curious Bride" of the title.
The real surprise (the first time I saw this) was seeing Errol Flynn doing a "bit" part in a flashback sequence at the end of the film. Flynn has a non-speaking part as Margaret Lindsay's first husband. This flashback scene is narrated by the Curious Bride's current husband, played by Donald Woods (who would later play Perry Mason in another of these Warner Brothers efforts, though not anywhere as entertainingly as Warren William).
The use of soft-focus fades for every scene change, at first seems to help move the story, but can also be a bit irritating.-- Overall though, this is a well photographed film, --both the nicely composed interiors, and the outdoor urban location shots of 1935 San Francisco (although the Mason stories are mostly based in L.A.).
Directed by Michael Curtiz, this swift-moving murder mystery has the feel of many of Curtiz's bigger-budgeted Warner films, and is easily the best of the Mason series. At the same time, it is not too unlike the other 5 Mason films that Warners produced.
Unfortunately, Warren William could not play Mason in all of these films, but overlooking that fact, all six of the Warners "Perry Mason" films, including "The Case of the Stuttering Bishop", "The Case of the Velvet Claws," and "The Case of the Lucky Legs" are very faithful to the source material, and all are entertainingly done.
By the way-- because all of these films were adapted from original Earl Stanley Gardner stories, all of these titles showed up in the 1950's, produced as episodes in Raymond Burr's "Perry Mason" TV series. It's very interesting to see the different treatment these stories were given on TV.
Young Bride (1932)
Eric Linden Struts His Stuff...
A better than average soaper, complete with a full roster of marital melodramatics, "Young Bride" was meant to be something of a star vehicle for Helen Twelvetrees (her married name, believe it or not), but young and handsome Eric Linden steals the show with his bad-boy good-looks and his bratty attitude.
Capable of better things (as he proved a few years later in the classic filmed play, "Ah Wilderness"), Linden's talent shines through the stiff dialog in "Young Bride" and triumphs over it's tired, and not-unexpected, ending.
Linden's later performance in "Ah Wilderness" seems to be the role he was born to play.
He made a few films of note afterwards, but his roles grew smaller in later years, eventually down to just "bit" parts.
Twelvetrees proves to be a poor leading lady for the dynamic Linden. If you didn't know that she was a bigger name than he was in 1932, and you were seeing this film for the first time, many years after it's release, you would have to wonder why she received top billing.
The supporting cast was sturdy;-- I'm especially fond of the always-stammering Roscoe Ates. He seems to be enjoyable regardless of what film he's in, or how he's cast.
I'm sure David O. Selznick was responsible for the film's polished look. He gave many early RKO films a touch of class-- And not too many people could effectively polish up those city tenements in films like this. (the best example of the "well-staged-slums-for-the-stage" film, in my humble opinion, was Sam Goldwyn's 1937 production of the Broadway hit, "Dead End").
But it's Eric Linden who really makes this film worth a watch.--
Without Linden's "bursting with energy" presence, this would be one tired old soaper. He could even make you believe that poor-boy pool-hall slackers wore suits every day, although not too many could fill out a suit the way Eric Linden did...
The Devil Bat (1940)
It may be tripe, but it's GOOD Tripe!
I've seen this many times since my childhood. Probably a few dozen times... Yet, every once in a while, I'll take out my best video copy of it, and play it again. When it was screened on TCM last Halloween I was pleased as punch.
-- By the way, on that Halloween, TCM screened several other Lugosi low-budget films--- all considered bad by critics, but for some unexplainable reason, All very entertaining, and (dare I say it?) ALL were GREAT FUN to watch! (some of them were: "Scared to Death", "The Mysterious Mr. Wong", and "White Zombie").
-- Yes, I enjoyed "The Devil Bat". Another commenter on this film said it was so awful that it should be counted among the "100 worst films". That same commenter said he thought Lugosi only did "bad" films for Ed Wood.
I have news for him, and everyone else: Lugosi NEVER made any bad films!
"The Devil Bat" may be low-budget nonsense (as were Ed Wood's efforts), but it is still being discovered by new generations of film buffs. It's still "In-Print" in both VHS and DVD format (and still selling), and it's still being shown on both local and cable-network TV.
That commenter may be interested to know that Bela Lugosi made NINE low-budget films for Monogram (far more than he made for Ed Wood) as well as films for PRC and other poverty-row studios.
"The Devil Bat" may be tripe, but it's GOOD tripe, and it makes for fun viewing. Kind of like "Spooks Run Wild" (which Lugosi made with The East Side Kids), and "The Gorilla" (which he made at 20th/Fox, with Patsy Kelly and Lionel Atwill). --By the way-- The Ritz Brothers, who were billed as the 'stars' of "The Gorilla," turned in totally forgettable performances.
-- Let's not leave out "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla", or "Vampire Over London" which Lugosi made in England, with Arthur Lucan in drag as Mother Riley (also known as: "Mother Riley Meets the Vampire").
-- In fact, Arthur Lucan's entire late-1940's-to-early-1950's series of "Mother Riley" films (all of which starred Lucan in "old-lady" drag) could have taught Ed Wood a few things about low-budget film-making.
Ed Wood may have a well deserved reputation for having made "bad, but fun to watch" films, but he sure wasn't the first one to do it.
I've always liked "The Devil Bat". I rated it 6.