My Review of ‘Destination Murder’ (1950)

 

This picture starts off with a guy catching a movie with his date. The kid man, Jackie Wales, leaves to get popcorn during the intermission. (Remember those?) But he actually leaves the theater, goes to someone’s house (a guy named Mansfield), rings the doorbell, and does not make a parcel delivery. When Mansfield opens the door, Jackie delivers lead bullets to his body. For reasons that are completely unknown to anyone unclear to say the least.

Too bad Mansfield didn’t have a peephole to look through. Was this in the days before peepholes? I should Google that. (I did. They were around in 1950.)

The man’s daughter, Laura, sees Jackie leave in a rather distinctive way—by jumping over the front gate. Smooth move, stupid. She later picks him, among others, out of a line-up, so did she identify him? Unclear, but possibly.

Image via Shadowplay.

Then Jackie shows up beside her car, and Laura offers him a ride. And takes him to her house. Nothing weird about that. But she tricks him using a strategy a three-year-old could see through that clearly demonstrates he’s an idiot. Laura parks next door to her house, watches Jackie get confused, then admits what she did, walks with him to the front door, and watches him jump the gate again. Too bad Smartphones hadn’t been invented.

Image via Rare Film.

But the police don’t think this constitutes anything they should follow up on. Makes you wonder who the real dummy is. So Laura pursues her own investigation.

Since Jackie is obviously too stupid not in charge of arranging the hit on Laura’s dad, her goal is to find the one who is. And to cut a long 72-minute story even shorter, her snooping leads to a nightclub called The Vogue, run by a guy named Armitage. Great big guy, at that. Armitage likes music. He even owns a player piano that helps drown out the torture sessions hides more than a few dust-ups.

Image via Letterboxd.

Laura infiltrates the club, taking a job as a cigarette girl. And she gets involved romantically with Armitage’s second-in-command, Stretch (that’s the kind of name characters in films like this had back then). Of course, there are complications with this scenario, which I won’t reveal, because … spoilers! Not to mention that it’s odd for her to fall for a guy involved with her dad’s demise. You could even say it’s, well, kind of a stretch.

Image via Cinéphile.

And here’s one for you: Armitage adores this blonde chick whose name doesn’t matter, but who does not adore Armitage back, while she flirts with Stretch, because … don’t worry about it. She gets Armitage to sign a written confession to murder. I can’t even recall how now, but clearly she intended to blackmail him or set him up nothing charitable.

This is a movie truly riddled with implausibilities. Yet it’s watchable enough. It’s short and kind of fun. Joyce MacKenzie as Laura does her best adult Nancy Drew impression. It’s a taut little crime picture, economically filmed. I’ll give it that. But they never explain why Laura’s dad was killed in the first place.

 

This isn’t a bad movie, just not extraordinary. It’s the kind of movie you might land on while flipping through channels, without much else to do.  Is that still a thing? 🙂

* * *

Directed by Edward L. Cahn
Produced by Edward L. Cahn and Maurie M. Suess
Screenplay by Don Martin

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Part Two of ‘The Old Dark House’ (1963)

Are you ready for Part Two of this uniquely weird old movie review?

Here it is, ready or not. Part Two of The Old Dark House (1963 version)!

So along with Daddy Roderick, there’s a doddering old woman who knits up a storm. This would be Casper’s mother, who’s like Madame Defarge with a British accent minus the guillotine.

Image via French Films.

Plus there’s Uncle Potiphar, who’s building an ark. As in Noah’s Ark. Animals and all. There’s even a cell for Tom. For some reason, this does not reassure Tom.

Image via Pinterest

Tom spends the night at the Old Dark House as the storm continues, not sleeping wink. Between come-ons from Morgana, acid in Tom’s wash bowl that mysteriously becomes water when he tries to tell the others, and trips from house to ark and back in the driving rain, Tom has a rather rough time of it. My apologies if I’m a bit hazy on the plot details. At some point, I began to drift off was distracted by a piece of lint.

Did I mention that this is a comedy? You can tell by the goofy music that says, “How about these crazy antics, folks?”

So … one crazy thing happens after another. And more dead bodies pop up around the house. All killed in really weird, yet quite appropriate, ways. Until the movie turns into The Addams Family crossed with Ten Little Indians (or maybe Murder by Death).

Image via Moria

Finally, we’re down to three people—Tom, Morgana, and Blondie. Although, come to think of it, Uncle Potiphar might still be alive on the ark. Honestly, that piece of lint was so fascinating I can’t remember off-hand. And there’s this other guy (maybe Potiphar, maybe not), who locks Morgana behind the world’s flimsiest closet door. Even so, Tom can’t get it open without a key. Even though it’s built like a little jail with wooden bars, it never occurs to him to grab an ax, even though a house that creepy must have one somewhere.

Then, in a twist that I’m sure left 1960s audience gasping in shock, it turns out that Blondie is our homicidal psycho. How could someone who looks so much like Barbie do such a thing? This amounts to the only piece of real subtext in this turkey.

Also, Blondie’s planted explosives on every clock in the house. Turns out the house is as full of clocks as it is of weirdos. Blondie tells Tom he has five minutes to clear out and everyone else can go to blazes. She cackles maniacally and disappears in a puff of smoke. (The previous sentence isn’t true, but it would have been so cool if it were.)

At this point, Tom interrogates Morgana about the location of all the clocks in the house, for they are present in abundance. Morgana manages to spit out the information, in between Tom’s sprints to various parts of the manse, where he discovers each clock and yanks the wiring connecting them to enough dynamite to blow England to kingdom come. Tom manages to get all but one disarmed in what has to be the longest five minutes ever. He tosses the one clock he can’t disarm out a handy window and it lands at the feet of a smirking Blondie, where it goes boom. And we all get to laugh about it.

This marks the end of the movie, which is the point where the sun comes out, the swamp around the house dries miraculously, and Tom orders an Uber calls a cab beats it out of there. He mutters something like, “There’s no place like home,” before making tracks. Okay, I made that part up, too. This is supposed to be a comedy.

The movie’s the odd result of American film gimmick meister, William Castle, jointly producing with British horror film studio Hammer Film Productions. The combined effort seems to have brought out the worst most incomprehensible aspects of storytelling from both. But still good for a laugh, intended or not.

And that’s that.

The End! 🙂

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Part One of ‘The Old Dark House’ (1963)

This week, we have another really bizarre interesting old movie to review.

Get ready for Part One of The Old Dark House (1963 version)!

This movie is like The Addams Family, and not just because of the Charles Addams graphic illustrations during the opening credits. Actually, it’s kind of like a cross between The Addams Family and an Agatha Christie novel that’s set in an old mansion. Except it’s a comedy. A horror comedy, which unfortunately isn’t nearly as funny as The Addams Family or Agatha Christie’s novels.

What is this flick about? Well may you ask! It starts in London where an American car salesman named Tom (played by Tom Poston) is trying to deliver an automobile to the man with whom he shares an apartment a flat. That man, Casper Femm, begs him to drive the car to this old, dark house in the middle of nowhere. And even though he claims he wants Tom to be there (at the Old Dark House) because he’s scared, when Tom offers him a ride, Casper’s like, “No way, dude. I’m flying a plane there. You’re moving the car.”

Must I? 🙂

Oh, dear …

Thinking that this is a bit odd, Tom nonetheless makes the trip. Despite pouring rain, he manages to slither the vehicle through a near-swamp created by the rain (which, interestingly, is later revealed to be an actual swamp—and what a delightful story there is behind the decision to build a house there—but I digress). After sufficiently sinking into the muddy bog that serves as a front yard to the Big Old Dark House, Tom hoofs it to the entrance, only to fall down a trap door. At this point, the hapless American car salesman slides down a chute on his butt like James Bond right before he met Tanaka (whose friends call him Tiger) in You Only Live Twice and has serious second thoughts about his career choices.

Oh, and the people in the house? How can I say this nicely? They’re nutters eccentric and then some. Casper’s family, the Femms, are an odd bunch indeed. Is it because the family name sounds like an all-female band? (The Femms! Live! Appearing at the Hollywood Bowl Wembley Stadium!) Or is it because (as we eventually learn after a few, really weird scenes, including one in which Tom discovers his flatmate/customer Casper is now dead, and some chick named Morgana practically throws herself at Tom, while the pretty blonde girl slyly shyly befriends him), Tom might actually be related to these weirdos.

There’s also this. Tom learns that no one can leave the house for reasons that pertain to (what else?) a will. Roderick Femm, the ostensible patriarch of this pack of loonies unique clan, says whosoever survives the night returns to the manor before midnight that night shall inherit the place. Since the house is clearly a money pit, Tom is like, “Great! I’m outta here.” But the Femm fam won’t let him go. In fact, Roderick is convinced that Tom’s related through a branch of the family tree that committed treason went colonial.

*****

This is only Part One of Two. More to come! 🙂

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the whole movie if you want to see it! 🙂

Posted in Saturday B-Movie Review, Trailers | 4 Comments

My Review of ‘The Last Black Man in San Francisco’ (2019)

This movie starts with a black man shouting like an activist street performer. We are in San Francisco, by the bay, but it’s not the touristy part. Two guys are watching the shouting man, while waiting for a bus. This is our hero, Jimmy Fails, with his mentor/ally, Mont. They whip out the occasional pointed remark or two.

LBMISF_00426_RC
Jimmie Fails stars as Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors as Montgomery Allen in THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO, an A24 release.
Credit: David Moir / A24

Eventually, they tire of waiting, and they skate. On a skateboard. Both of them. It’s awesome. Trust me.

Next thing you know, Jimmy’s puttering around, painting the trim on an old Victorian home in a much whiter nicer part of the City by the Bay. As the actual very white and likely ex-hippie owners look on in dismay. And when the wife starts throwing produce at Jimmy to get him to back off, Jimmy offers gardening advice and says the windows need caulking. You see, Jimmy is convinced this house is his. Or should be. Jimmy says his grandfather built the house all by himself with his own two hands.

Photo by Peter Prato/A24

That’s just a summary, and it doesn’t begin to convey the extraordinary complexity and power of this film.

It’s worth noting that the story is based, in part, on the real Jimmy Fails’ life and that Fails plays himself. His performance comes straight from the heart.

Jimmie Fails and Jonathan Majors appear in The Last Black Man In San Francisco by Joe Talbot, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Peter Prato / A24.
All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or ‘Courtesy of Sundance Institute.’ Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Everything about the movie—writing, music, cinematography—conveys so much at so many levels, watching it is an amazing sensory experience.

As one would expect in this city, there are soundtrack references to the Sixties and Flower Power. But the songs aren’t the original versions. The effect is one of feeling slightly off-kilter, as if to suggest that things have changed since the Summer of Love. One of those big changes, of course, would be real estate prices. And that awesome Victorian Jimmy wants ain’t cheap, folks.

Photo via Uncrate

However, apart from the socio-economic themes, there are even deeper issues explored in this film. Matters like friendship, dreams, realities. The inevitability of change. And hope.

Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, and Danny Glover in an embrace. A24

There are so many interesting characters and relationships in this film, I could probably write a thesis or dissertation about them. Or maybe not. Someone else.

But I’ll say this. Jimmy’s best friend, Mont (played by Jonathan Majors) uses a highly-Shakespearean device to fulfill his role as Jimmy’s mentor and guide.

Think about that.

This film is an obvious labor of love, in so many ways.

And it has the most amazing shots of a man skateboarding down a twisting San Francisco hill. Right up there with Bullitt.

* * *

Directed by Joe Talbot
Produced by Khaliah Neal, Joe Talbot, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Christina Oh
Screenplay by Joe Talbot and Rob Richert (story by Jimmy Fails and Joe Talbot)

Posted in 2010s Films, Drama, Movie Reviews | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Part Five of ‘House on Haunted Hill’ (1959)

Without undue delay further ado, let’s finish with this thing watch the rest of the show! 🙂

It’s Part Five of House on Haunted Hill! Woo-woo! 🙂

Check us out on Patreon! 🙂

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Part Four of ‘House on Haunted Hill’ (1959)

And now, for your continued bafflement entertainment, we have Part Four of the famously campy William Castle production, House on Haunted Hill, starring Vincent Price, being especially weird and creepy.

 

Enjoy! 🙂

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My Review of ‘Gun Crazy’ (1950)

When I think of film noir classics, Gun Crazy doesn’t immediately spring to mind, in the way that higher-profile examples like Double Indemnity or Out of the Past do. Nonetheless, the movie has achieved a certain status as, according to the US National Film Registry, a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” movie.

The screenplay, written by blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo and credited to Millard Kaufman, back in the bad old days, depicts a young boy named Bart Tare, who has a real obsession with guns. At age 14, he’s caught robbing a gun from a hardware store. And let’s not dwell on the weirdness of a hardware store selling guns, okay?

But even though he’s enamored with firearms, Bart isn’t a killer at heart. His friends attest to his basic goodness, having witnessed his refusal to kill animals during a hunt.

As a result of his juvenile thieving, Bart does a stint in reform school, followed by the army. Afterward, he returns to civilian life, as obsessed with guns as ever.

Bart is played as an adult by John Dall, portraying him as a pretty decent person, which almost wiped my memory of his acting like a psycho in Rope. (No pun intended there! Okay, maybe a small one. 🙂 ) He ends up watching a sharpshooter show with some friends. It’s at the moment when the Wild West show’s Big Attraction, markswoman extraordinaire Annie Laurie Starr, enters the picture that you know trouble of some sort will be brewing soon.

Image via YouTube.

Not only is her character skilled and flamboyant, but her first appearance in the film shows her advancing straight at the camera, a look of challenge in her expression. This may be one of the most aggressive entrances a woman ever made in a film noir back then.

And then she invites an audience member to go up against her in a shooting contest. Naturally, good old Bart takes the bait. And matches her, skill-wise.

It’s not hard to see what’s in the cards for these two. First, love, then marriage, then … a couples crime spree, many years before films like Bonnie and Clyde or Fun with Dick and Jane were considered palatable for audiences.

Image via AV Club.

Yes, despite the fact that Laurie warns Bart that she’s basically bad to the bone, they end up marrying. And when money is tight, Laurie gives Bart an ultimatum: commit crimes or split up.

Needless to say, this does not lead anywhere good.

Image via CMH Blog.

What raises this example of film noir up a cut above many is its examination of the combined themes of greed, power, and domestic relations.

As femme fatales go, Laurie relies to some degree on her looks and standard “feminine wiles” to get what she wants, but not nearly as much as she does on her sheer determination to avoid poverty, as well as her formidable sharpshooting skills.

Peggy Cummins delivers a dynamite performance, and John Dall, a touching one. The scene at the end with Bart’s family provides a poignant segue into the movie’s inevitable tragic end.

If you’re a film noir enthusiast, don’t miss this one.

Directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Produced by Frank and Maurice King
Screenplay by Dalton Trumbo and MacKinley Kantor (based on “Gun Crazy” a 1940 story in The Saturday Evening Post by MacKinley Kantor)

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Part Three of ‘House on Haunted Hill’ (1959)

Okay, everyone. We’re up to Part Three of this very weird intriguing movie about a bizarre endurance test party thrown by Vincent Price.

The moral of that story is never go to a party hosted by Vincent Price. Or maybe his wife. Whatever.

Anyhoo, here’s Part Three! 🙂

Please consider supporting my efforts here on Patreon. 🙂

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Part Two of ‘House on Haunted Hill’ (1959)

And now for Part Two of this movie about a very bizarre, but dull party. Except when a ghost finally shows up!

Get ready for Part Two of House on Haunted Hill! Even though it’s more like Dull Party in a Big House with Occasional Ghosts, Blood, and a Vat of Acid.

Plus an original short film I made for Vimeo‘s Weekend Challenge, ages and ages a few years ago.

Enjoy! 🙂

Posted in Horror, Saturday Matinee, Short Film | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Review of ‘Yesterday’ (2019)

This movie provides a nice break from the usual noirish fare I tend to write about.

Image via Movie Nation.

The story revolves around a guy named Jack, a struggling musician who’s thinking of packing the whole music thing in, but is urged to keep at it by his childhood friend/manager, Ellie. Then, after a completely unexplained global blackout, Jack is hit by a bus. And he doesn’t die (I guess), but he does regain consciousness in an alternate universe (created magically or somehow) in which The Beatles were never discovered. But, Jack (also magically) still knows their songs.

Image via Showbiz 411.

So, he sings the song “Yesterday” for his friends, because … just because. And they think he’s brilliant, because they’ve never heard of The Beatles like everyone else in the alternate universe. Or dream. Or afterlife. Or so it would seem.

I, too, can sing from a rooftop!

Naturally, Jack starts taking the time to write down all that Beatle music no one else knows about. And he performs it and goes from struggling artist to “overnight success”. Which, of course, attracts the attention of a typical American greedhead a smug an ambitious American manager. (Did I mention that Jack is British? Well, now you know.) But there’s always a price to pay for going that route.

Image via ScreenRant.

I’ll say no more, because I would hate to spoil the film. But I will say that this is a great movie for anyone who’s at all fatigued with the state of the world these days.

It has a cute romance, great music (which cost them a pretty penny to the tune of $10 million (est.), according to this article), and makes for an intriguing (if slightly sketchy) fantasy.

Image via MovieWeb.

Himesh Patel plays Jack with a suitably awkward air. He also reportedly sang and played the instruments himself. Very cool. The relationships with his girlfriend/manager and family make for fun viewing, as they all react in various ways to Jack’s oddly-inspired musicianship.

The movie also has a rather bittersweet moment or two. An appearance by … nope! No spoilers!

As musical rom-coms go, I’d say 4 and a half stars is about right.

It’s also a must-see for Beatles fans. Or anyone who really loves rock n’ roll.

And, whatever you do, don’t miss the very unique and entertaining end credits!

flexoffers

Posted in 2010s Films, Comedy, Movie Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments