Archive for the 'Movies and TV' Category

50 Movie Gunslinger Classics Disc 4

Posted in Movies and TV on July 2nd, 2013

The Hanged Man, 1974, color (TV movie). Michael Caffey (dir.), Steve Forrest, Dean Jagger, Will Geer, Sharon Acker, Brendan Boone, Rafael Campos, BarBara Luna, Cameron Mitchell. 1:13.

Although I knew I’d seen this earlier (seven years earlier), I also knew I gave it an unusually high $2.00 rating and decided it might be worth seeing again.

Which it was. The hanged man (Steve Forrest) is a gunslinger, probably wrongly convicted of murder; he’s a cool customer during preparations for the hanging. Then he’s hanged, and declared dead. But he’s not quite dead (maybe because the doctor gave him loads of laudanum?). In a parallel plot (joined because of a common lawyer, Dean Jagger), a woman (Sharon Acker) is in town with her son to bury her husband, who “accidentally” died at the mine she doesn’t want to sell to the local silver baron (Cameron Mitchell). The silver baron will stop at nothing to force her to sell him the mine—and the hanged man winds up in the middle..

The movie moves at a natural pace. It develops toward an appropriate climax (although at the end we’re left wondering what might come next; it was apparently a series pilot)—and it’s even reasonably believable. I found it thoroughly enjoyable, for the scenery, the acting, the cast, the cinematography, the script. The print is about as perfect as you’ll find on these sets. It’s an unusual, moody Western, and I think it’s worth the full $2.00.

Trinity and Sartana…Those Dirty Sons of Bitches, (orig. Trinità e Sartana figli di… or “Trinity and Sartana children…“), 1972, color. Mario Siciliano (dir.), Alberto Dell’Acqua (as “Robert Widmark”), Harry Baird, Beatrice Pella, Stelio Candelli, Dante Maggio (as “Dan May”), Ezio Marano (as “Alan Abbott”). 1:42.

In this case, I’d seen the flick three years ago—and it was not worth watching again.

The One-Eyed Soldiers, 1966, color. John Ainsworth (dir.), Dale Robertson, Luciana Paluzzi, Guy Degby, Andrew Faulds, Mile Avramovic, Mirko Boman. 1:23 (1:14).

A doctor with the UN Relief Medical Organization is being chased by bad guys and falls off a tower in a Central European nation. With his last breaths, he says something like “18 July one-eyed soldiers.” And with that, we’re off and running in a caper that takes place during one evening, one night and the next morning and afternoon. There’s a beautiful young woman (the doctor’s daughter), a journalist and a fat man—all on a train, all about to cross a border, but then the border’s closed. The plot involves a little person with bad teeth who’s a Syndicate head looking for the key to $15 million in a Swiss lockbox (I guess); the doctor was acting as a courier but took off with the key. The fat man is after it. I’m not quite sure how the daughter and journalist are involved—but before the film is halfway over, they certainly are involved.

A fair amount of gunplay, nonstop chases and the like, and about as happy an ending as you might expect. It’s not exactly a classic (and I’m not even sure I have the plot right), but it moves right along, the print’s decent and it’s not a bad way to spend 75 minutes. It’s a Yugoslavian film. What it’s doing in a “Gunslinger” collection is anybody’s guess. $1.25.

Mad Dog Morgan, 1976, color. Philippe Mora (dir.), Dennis Hopper, Jack Thomson, David Gulphil. 1:42 [1:38]

I suppose this Dennis Hopper showcase (if he’s not in every frame, it’s close) is a legitimate “gunslinger” item—he’s holding guns a lot of the time and it’s set in the Old VERY West—1850s-60s in Victoria and New South Wales, Australia (filmed in Australia). He plays Daniel Morgan, an Irishman who voluntarily moves to Australia to “seek his fortune” and, after not having much luck with goldmining, decides that highway robbery is the way to go. He gets caught and sentenced to 12 years at hard labor in a horrifying island prison; he’s paroled after six years. (Before turning robber, he takes delight in smoking opium in the mining camp’s Chinatown section. He gets his hand branded at the prison, and he’s treated brutally…)

Post-prison, our upstanding hero becomes a “bushranger,” a kind of semi-lovable robber who only robs from those who have money (which makes sense). Supposedly, he’s “vowed revenge,” but it’s not clear what that means. He does kill people, but hey, none of us are perfect. He’s clearly a bit around the bend—more than a bit as time goes on. Eventually, he’s hunted down and killed. End of story. It’s apparently based on a true story.

I kept waiting for this film to develop a heart or some plot beyond “lovable desperado eventually gets shot,” or for that matter some reason we’d love this “rogue.” Maybe I’m not sufficiently enamored of Hopper’s acting? Maybe Australians will find this more interesting? Good scenery, but at most I found it mediocre and maybe worth $1.00.

Mystery Collection Disc 37

Posted in Movies and TV on June 23rd, 2013

Cry of the Innocent, 1980, color (made for TV). Michael O’Herlihy (dir.), Rod Taylor, Joanna Pettet, Nigel Davenport, Cyril Cusack, Walter Gotell. 1:33.

Based on a Frederick Forsyth story and with a first-rate cast, this movie is set in Ireland, where a former Green Beret (Taylor), now an insurance executive in Dublin, is on vacation with his wife and two kids in his second house in Kerry. He goes off with his son to fish—but sends his son back to get the carrier for the catch. At which point, just as the son gets back to the house, an airplane falls out of the sky, crashes into the house and explodes.

As the movie progresses, he learn what we already knew—the crash was no accident, as there was a bomb in the plane (but hitting the house was bad timing: it was supposed to explode over water), and industrial espionage appears to be at play. He runs into a young woman, a journalist, who has an uncanny resemblance to his dead wife (and who he falls for in time)—Pettet, quite good in both roles. There’s a lot more plot, including retired spies and agents in an old folks’ home on Corsica and their connected friends, leading up to a fairly remarkable final ten minutes as he takes his revenge while keeping the constabulary happy. (Cyril Cusack as the Irish police inspector is particularly good throughout.)

But right about the middle of those last ten minutes, it began to seem a little familiar. There’s a reason for that: I’d already seen the movie—more than seven years ago, in another megapack. Still, it was worth watching again. Not great, but quite good: I’ll stick with $1.50.

Paper Man, 1971, color. Walter Grauman (dir.), Dean Stockwell, Stefanie Powers, James Stacy, Tina Chen, Elliott Street, James Olson. 1:29.

A college student picks up his mail and finds in it a credit card in someone else’s name, sent by a local bank (this was before Visa and Mastercard, I think). His ethics are not wonderful, so next thing we know he’s gathered three friends—two women, one man—all of whom have learned to fake the signature he adds to the card. Then they corral a shy computer nerd (Dean Stockwell with Big Hair) who always seems to wear a suit, to add records to “Big Ugly,” the campus computer, that will give some credence to the existence of the “paper man.” (For some reason, all four of these students also spend loads of time in this computer room—and in at least one case it’s not at all clear why.) Then they each go out and charge things on the card (ah, the old imprinters in action!), figuring they’ll eventually pay them back, and it’s really OK because students can’t get credit cards…

That’s the setup. A “technician” who’s actually in charge of this computer room (the old, huge, lots-of-blinking-lights computer naturally operates everything in the building including a pretty sophisticated dummy medical patient) learns about this and agrees to keep it secret. And then…people in the group start dying. In various odd ways. And when the computer nerd decides to remove the records from the computer, he finds that it doesn’t work, and also that there’s now more real-world paperwork for the “paper man,” stuff he didn’t add.

You can probably see what’s coming: Identity theft added to identity creation in order to give a hunted man a new identity. And you can probably guess who the hunted man is. Or, if you prefer, maybe the computer’s the killer! (They sure try to make it look like that along the way…) If you guessed that the survivors are Stockwell and the ever-lovely (and talented) Stefanie Powers, that’s not a stretch either.

Classic early-’70s computer: Loads of blinking lights with huge waves of light when it actually does anything, teletype for input, all caps output (DEATH DEATH DEATH…when one of the four is trying to teach it “Breath” in a speech recognition exercise), incredibly powerful and linked up to all the other computers in the world by telephone lines. (Note: IMDB says “made for TV” but in fact this was briefly released in theaters—and what’s here is the 89-minute theatrical version, not the 75-minute TV version.)

Especially for its time, pretty good. On balance, I’ll give it $1.50.

The Cold Room, 1984, color (TV). James Dearden (dir. & screenplay), George Segal, Amanda Pays, Renée Soutendijk, Warren Clarke, Elizabeth Spriggs. 1:35.

In the first half of this film, a young woman’s leaving school to meet her father in Berlin; one of her teachers (a nun) hands her a Berlin guidebook from 1936, while a friend hands her a bag of weed. She meets her father; they drive to East Berlin (this was before The Wall fell); the relationship is clearly strained (the father has a girlfriend in East Berlin, the daughter worries about the border guards finding her pot). It doesn’t help when they check into a hotel that’s not one of the tourist hotels, instead being…I guess quaint is the best word.

She almost immediately starts having vivid dreams of Nazi Germany, seeing a butcher in the shop opposite the hotel…which has apparently been boarded up for some years, hearing things in the wall and eventually managing to tear down the wall behind the cupboard and find a man there. Who’s a dissident and wants her to contact a person on a specific street. Except that the street was renamed after WWII and the person’s long gone.

There’s probably more, but I gave up after the first half. This seems to be more a psychological thriller than a mystery, and I just plain didn’t like it well enough to keep going. George Segal as the father was OK; Amanda Pays (in her first role, the daughter—but also apparently somebody else, presumably in the second half of the movie) was mostly annoying; and I gave up. One IMDB review says “Incredibly bleak and almost unwatchable.” Sounds about right. No rating.

Millions (orig. Miliardi), 1991, color. Carlo Vanzina (dir.), Billy Zane, Lauren Hutton, Carol Alt, Jean Sorel, Alexandra Paul, Roberto Bisacco, Catherine Hickland, John Stockwell. 1:50.

The bad news: This flick was filmed in Panavision but what you get here is pan&scan. Oh, and it’s a little trashy. The good news: It’s stylish EuroTrashy with good production values, loads of casual nudity, almost wholly amoral characters (except the two women who don’t get naked and have sex with whoever’s handy, one of whom is Lauren Hutton), and a plot that—while sometimes a little over the top—is fun.

The opening sets the scene for the ethics at play. A drunk gets kicked out of an Italian tavern. As he’s walking home, he sees a helicopter explode not too far away. He walks over to it…and removes the wallets and watches from the pilot and passenger, along with a briefcase in the passenger compartment. (As he later say: “Why call for help? They were dead anyway.”) As it turns out, the passenger wasn’t quite dead…

He’s an industrial magnate, who has secret plans (guess where they are!) to take his company public and make it one of the ten largest international conglomerates. Now he’s in a coma, with his (ex?)wife (Hutton) by his side and his family gathering to look after the company. Or in the case of Maurizio (Billy Zane, who makes a great villain), a nephew, find some way to take over the company by hook or by crook. Preferably by crook.

Zane beds or attempts to bed his sister-in-law, his cousin, the second-in-command of the company’s American operations (headed by his father, who she’s also sleeping with), hookers sent his way by various people…I lost count. He’s a good enough bluffer to be able to determine that his father’s been cooking the books, which lets him blackmail his father into making him the acting president of the overall company and…well, it gets too complicated.

As far as I could tell, the only two characters who had ethics worth a damn are Hutton’s character (the reason she’s separated from her husband is because she can’t conceive and she thinks he should have an heir with somebody else) and her sister-in-law (I guess: it got a little fuzzy) who doesn’t really have much of a part. Otherwise—well, even after the more-or-less happy ending, there seem to be at least two more double-crosses waiting to happen.

And, although “millions” really should have been billions for one of the ten largest international companies, even in 1985 (really? you could take that large a company public and, when the stock crashes, buy it back for $200 million?), the print’s good and the plot just keeps on moving. Certainly not a classic, but not bad as an Italian sex-and-wealth-and-intrigue comedy with several American actors, and at 10 minutes shy of two hours it didn’t seem long. (The sleeve says 1985 and 105 minutes; in fact, it’s 1991 and 110 minutes.) I’ll give it $1.50.

50 Movie Gunslinger Classics Disc 3

Posted in Movies and TV on June 9th, 2013

Yuma, 1971, color (TV movie). Ted Post (dir.), Clint Walker, Barry Sullivan, Kathryn Hays, Edgar Buchanan, Morgan Woodward, Peter Mark Richman, John Kerr, Bing Russewll, Bruce Glover. 1:14

Given a perfect print and the Aaron Spelling Production credit—and the fades to black at convenient plot points roughly once every fifteen minutes—it was fairly obvious this was a TV movie before looking it up. But it’s a good’un, with Clint Walker as a U.S. Marshal sent to Yuma after the last three law enforcement types have either died or left within a week of arriving. Even before he can check into a hotel or visit his office, he must deal with an out-of-control stage coach driven by two out-of-control cowboys, who start shooting in the air, go into a saloon to get even more drunk and keep on shooting. In the process (it’s clear that they hijacked a stage coach just for drunken laughs), he winds up shooting one of the King brothers—admittedly after the brother shot at him three times.

Just the start of a moderately complex plot that is as much mystery as western. I won’t bother recounting more of the plot, which involves corruption, the army, bidding procedures, a local tribe that’s being cheated and more. It actually hangs together fairly well. It’s particularly interesting that after you believe you know who the villains are, there’s more to it…and none of it’s trickery. Most of the performances are pretty good, and the whole thing was thoroughly enjoyable. (One little problem: The credits say the film was partly made in “Old Tuscon,” and I strongly suspect that was really Old Tucson.) A flick I may watch again. $1.50.

The Belle Starr Story (orig. Il mio corpo per un poker), 1968, color. Piero Cristofani and Lina Wertmüller (dirs..), Elsa Martinelli, Robert Woods, George Eastman, Francesca Righini. 1:43 [1:40]

This story is roughly half flashbacks, half contemporary—as Belle Starr, that pants-wearing fast-shooting poker-playing outlaw, falls suddenly in lust with Larry Blackie, a local criminal, and tells him her background. The contemporary part: He wants to hire her for an audacious robbery; she refuses and sets out to do it herself (with a hired gang). Things do not go well.

This version of Belle Starr is young, beautiful, heavily freckled and a fool for lust (I keep writing “love” but…), with a back story having almost nothing in common with the actual Belle Starr. The print’s fairly good (the credits are widescreen, but, sigh, the rest of the flick is pan-and-scan), and other than an extended torture scene (involving Starr’s lustmate), it’s not too bad on the violence part. It’s a Eurowestern, but an unusual one—one of few with a woman in the primary role (and nearly every frame) and almost certainly the only Eurowestern directed by Lina Wertmüller. A little baroque but not bad. (If you’re one who watches spaghetti westerns for lots of violence and gunplay, you’ll be disappointed.) $1.50.

Joshua, 1976, color. Larry G. Spangler (dir.), Fred Williamson, Cal Bartlett, Brenda Venus, Isela Vega, Bud Stout.

Or “oshu” according to the on-screen credits, I think. I almost gave up on this one because, while the print is OK as far as it goes, it doesn’t go very far: not so much pan-and-scan as stare-and-discard, the center portion of what appears to be a very wide-screen movie, such that you get people half off screen, none of the credits are readable, and the sense of scenic grandeur that might have made this sad enterprise more tolerable isn’t there. (IMDB says it was very wide-screen: 2.35:1, so I was saying the center 57% of the picture.

It’s a Fred Williamson movie all the way: He wrote the story and screenplay and he’s in almost every scene, as the son returning from the Civil War to the Old West and a cabin where his widowed mother’s cooking for a farmer, there with his much younger mail-order bride. But before he gets there, five riders appear at the house, say they need water and food, get invited in for supper…and, to show their gratitude, run off with the bride, shoot the guy when he protests (but don’t actually kill him), and shoot the cook because she reaches for her late husband’s rifle.

Enter the son, Joshua. He hears about the situation (from the bandaged farmer), sees a group of lawmen arrive saying they lost the five in the hills, hears the note that there are five of them, says he killed twice that many in the war…and he’s off.

The rest of the movie is riding. Lots of riding. More riding. Some stalking. Some really poor music, repeated endlessly. More riding. And, once in a while, Joshua offing one of the five men—or anybody else who happens to be in the way or is a nuisance of any sort. I lost count, but I think he avenges his mother’s death by killing at least 20 people—including the kidnapped bride. (Who, after being raped a few times, somehow turns willing cohort of the kidnappers—Stockholm syndrome, I suppose.) He arranges several of the deaths in various nasty ways. Oh, and even though he apparently took after these outlaws with just a saddlebag (holding supplies enough for several days), the saddlebag apparently includes the bundle of dynamite sticks that I assume were standard issue for Civil War veterans. (Oh yes: And there’s one big fistfight where each punch sounds like a kettledrum. I never knew flesh was that resonant.)

Pretty bad. For Fred Williamson fans and lovers of scenery, maybe, charitably, $0.75.

Any Gun Can Play, 1967, color. Enzo G. Castellari (dir.), Edd Byrnes, George Hilton, Gilbert Roland, Stefania Careddu, Jose Torres. 1:45 [1:37]

This is more like it. The flick was filmed very wide screen…and that’s how it appears here (once you use zoom setting). It’s a good enough digitization that zooming in doesn’t make the image unwatchable or less than VHS-quality. And the flick itself plays with Western tropes while being a pretty good (and moderately complex) spaghetti-style Western—part parody, part tribute, sometimes straightforward, with some nice touches along the way (e.g., spilling wine on the table to serve as a crude mirror for what’s happening behind you).

The opening is classic Western: three men riding slowly into the deserted streets of a town, sometimes filmed through a swinging wooden gate, with shots of townsfolk peering fearfully out their windows and the whole shebang. The Good, the Bad and the..well, no, these three gunmen aren’t important to the picture, as we quicky learn from a plot twist involving three coffins and the role of The Stranger, a bounty hunter (George Hilton). Then we move to a short train carrying $300,000 to a bank and occupied by armed troops to protect the shipment, a bank employee (Edd Byrns), and—oddly—one other passenger (guess who!). There’s an unusual robbery, and the plot’s in motion. I can’t even begin to describe all of the plot; it’s fair to say that the somewhat-happy ending isn’t at all what I expected. Some extended fistfights (with exaggerated sound effects), some gymnastics (really), lots of deaths but nearly all in the standard Spaghetti Western style (the person’s shot, makes one sound, jumps up and keels over—with maybe a bit of ketchup on his or her shirt). Some humor, some playing with clichés, and generally just enjoyable. Great scenery. (The IMDB synopsis is dead wrong, by the way.) Not quite a classic, but certainly worth $1.75.

 

Delayed recognition

Posted in Movies and TV on June 6th, 2013

Just a fun little post.

Last weekend, we finally watched Topsy-Turvy, since we’re now seeing every Lamplighters production of Gilbert & Sullivan that shows up at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore and so begin to qualify as G&S fans.

It was excellent, if long (2 hours and 40 minutes!).

When the opening credits–all the stars–went by, the only one either of us recognized was Jim Broadbent (and neither of us recognized him in the film itself). That was fine: The movie wasn’t an all-star extravaganza, especially not for us heathen Americans.

But there was one actor who we thought we recognized–and then we were sure, although only when he wasn’t in his character for The Mikado.

“That’s Dr. Hunt!” (Dr. Owen Hunt, Grey’s Anatomy).

His name sure didn’t appear in the opening credits. But, between the first half and the second half (we split the flick across two nights), we’d both checked IMDB, and sure enough: Kevin McKidd was in both the movie and the TV series.

The reason we didn’t see his name in the opening credits? Simple enough: The movie was made in 1999, and McKidd (who was only 26 at the time, but looked a lot older) wasn’t a major star at the time. (His most prominent role before that was probably Trainspotting, and he wasn’t one of the primary stars in that 1996 film–which we have not seen–either.)

No deeper significance. Oh, and if you like G&S at all, I do recommend Topsy-Turvy–but then, you’ve probably already seen it.

Service, part 2

Posted in Movies and TV on May 28th, 2013

I need to catch up on some open-ended posts/topics–and, for various reasons, I’m doing an unusually crappy job of it. Even by my low standards. This is a start…

On May 22, 2013, I posted “Service, part 1“–an upbeat (at least in how it turned out and in the generally good attitude of all involved) service story about the Social Security Administration. Here’s the thing: SSA doesn’t precisely have to treat customers well so it can attract them. SSA doesn’t go out looking for customers. But I’m generally impressed with how things were handled.

A less positive story

I’ve already told this story, in a January 27, 2013 post: “Panasonic Case #29866973: A sad unfinished story.”

It’s now a little more than four months later.

Nothing has happened.

I consider this unsatisfactory customer service.

Yes, we eventually got the set repaired. (It’s still working. It’s still the best picture I’ve ever seen–in THX mode–on a reasonably-priced HDTV, when it’s working. We hope it keeps working for years to come.)

Did Panasonic owe us anything? That’s hard to say. When you have what’s usually rated as the brand with the best reliability, you don’t expect circuit board failures just 25 months after purchase of an $1,800 set, especially when that set’s only used about an hour or two a day.

You also don’t expect to be referred to an Authorized Panasonic Service Agency that misdiagnoses the failure (while talking to Panasonic reps), charges a VERY high price for the diagnosis, and quotes an outrageous price for the repair–and wants to take the set away to do that repair.

Oh, and you probably don’t expect that the same circuit board will fail not too long after it’s replaced.

I believe Panasonic should at least pay for the overpriced mis-diagnosis. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

Do we love the set? Yep.

Would we buy another Panasonic if/when this one needs replacing? Almost certainly not.

Nothing more to say here. Soon (hah!), I’ll wrap up another unfinished post or two.

Mystery Collection Disc 36

Posted in Movies and TV on May 20th, 2013

A typical “sixth disc” with six short movies—except that this time around two of them aren’t all that short. (At least according to the sleeve—which turned out to be wrong in both cases.)

Night Life in Reno, 1931, b&w. Raymond Cannon (dir.), Virginia Valli, Jameson Thomas, Dorothy Christy, Arthur Housman, Dixie Lee, Clarence Wilson, Carmelita Geraghty, Pat O’Malley. 0:58

Here’s what the sleeve says: “A woman finds her husband in a compromising position and decides to seek a divorce from him. Heading to Reno to secure a divorce, the woman learns it will take six weeks for her divorce to be granted. Finding she has to wait in Reno for the six weeks, the woman ends up living the wild life and taking up with a married man.”

Here’s what I saw: The first two sentences are accurate enough, with the divorce attorney being somewhat of a comic character. But then we get a long, slow, languid…sequence where the husband (who’s followed her, finds the attorney, and pays him to attempt a reconciliation) is drunk in a casino (where only the swells play and all they play is roulette), hangs out with another stiff, attempts the world’s worst pickup and, somehow, winds up drinking with the other stiff’s friend and with, well, his wife (under an assumed name). The wild life appears to consist entirely of playing roulette and drinking way too much.

In any event, the last ten minutes have all the action—almost enough action for a five-minute short. The wife goes off with the other man, he makes a pass, she deflects it and phones her soon-to-be-ex, she leaves the apartment, the other guy’s ex (or soon-to-be-ex?) shows up and plugs the guy. Next morning, the maid arrives, sees the corpse, the cops show up and, given obvious evidence, arrest the heroine. At which point her husband shows up and confesses (falsely). Fortunately (?) as she’s released and back in her hotel room, the other woman shows up to kill her as well, and since she was about to call someone through a switchboard, cops show up to save the day. The woman and husband reunite and leave Reno, with the attorney doing an odd sort of bit.

Damned if I can tell what this was supposed to be. Badly paced, incredibly slow, with acting seeming mostly to consist of looking one way and then the other…and if that was Reno in 1931, its reputation as a hot town was exaggerated. Maybe the missing 14 minutes make a big difference, but this one already made 57 minutes seem an eternity. As a period piece, very generously $0.75.

Convicts at Large, 1938, b&w. Scott E. Beal & David Friedman (dirs..), Ralph Forbes, Paula Stone, William Royle, John Kelly, George Travell, Charles Brokaw. 0:57.

Two setup plot lines: A prison break on one hand, an architectural office where one architect is clearly moonlighting—when he should be drawing up a basement design for a building, he’s busy with plans for his own Happy Home LLC company to build homes that are “scientifically designed” to maximize the happiness of residents—a concept he just can’t shut up about (including selling an idea as though it was a going concern). He’s also hung up on a local singer, to the dismay of his housemates.

He goes for a walk to escape his housemates’ incessant chatter. One escapee grabs him, knocks him out, and takes his clothes. As he wakes up—third plotline—two thugs (one a typical comic thug) from the nightclub where the singer works drive by and toss a bundle of clothing out to what they assume to be the escapee (the nightclub owner paid for the escape). Oh, and in the pocket of the clothes is some money, but the comic thug used badly-made counterfeit money instead of real money.

You can almost see how things come together. The architect, wearing the clothes in the bundle, finds himself in front of the nightclub and goes in to get something to eat. He strikes up a conversation with the singer (who, for unclear reasons, is almost immediately taken with him). The thugs and owner—who have no idea what the escapee (a jewel thief who’s supposed to split a $200,000 haul with them) looks like—decide this guy must be the thief and bring him and the singer back to the Back Room.

Anyway: Lots more action, the assumption that—when the actual thief shows up—the couple (which is apparently what they are now, an hour after they met) will be killed, and a Happy Ending. Yep: As they’re being held in adjacent cells until the architect’s sister shows up to clear them, he proposes to her—and she accepts even before he finishes the proposal. All of this within, what, 12 hours of them first meeting?

What it is, is a combination of romantic comedy and farce with some crime thrown in for good measure. (Definitely some farce: When the architect, pretending to be the thief, is drawing a map of where the heist is supposedly hidden, he makes a mistake and asks for an eraser—at which point the dumber thug hands him his pistol. You know: His eraser.) You even get one song on the radio and another song-and-dance number (Paula Stone has a good voice and did a fine dance routine). Another indication as to its plausibility: When the thugs, the club owner and the actual thief—all of them obviously armed—are digging up the jewels, the other three apparently have no idea at all that the thief could possibly double-cross them. But hey, it’s a romp—and not a bad one. Given the length, I’ll say $1.00.

Tough to Handle, 1937, b&w. S. Roy Luby (dir.), Frankie Darro, Kane Richmond, Phyllis Fraser, Harry Worth, Betty Burgess, Johnstone White, Burr Caruth, Stanley Price. 1:00 [0:58]

For some of you, “a Frankie Darro flick” may be all that needs to be said, for good or for bad. He’s not the East End Kids, but he’d never be my favorite actor either. That said, this wasn’t a bad little B/second-feature flick, especially using one trick (more on that later), although it was an odd mix of thriller (not really much mystery), romantic comedy and musical, a lot to pack into 58 frequently slow-moving minutes.

The basic plot (the sleeve copy gets it entirely wrong): a nightclub owner is running an Irish Sweepstakes racket—or, rather, he’s sort of running it. The racket: Print up phony tickets, sell them, PROFIT. Except that one set of plates accidentally had real sweepstakes numbers instead of impossible ones—and one of them wins. Darro enters (right at the start) as the winner’s grandson and a newspaper peddler, who sells his grandfather the “Sweepstakes Extra” that prints all the winning numbers and names—and is surprised as his grandfather (a) says he has a winning ticket (for $16,000) and (b) says the newspaper prints the winner’s name as some woman in another state. Naturally, Darro also sells his paper to the nightclub owner/crook—oh, and Darro’s sister is a singer dating an investigative reporter. Can you see where this is heading?

I guess there actually is a mystery (in addition to the absurdly bad “drunk” play by a club patron who turns out to be, supposedly, an undercover agent—and who’s clearly acting in cahoots with the bartenders who feed him no-alcohol drinks all day, which makes no sense at all): who’s actually in charge of the racket? By now, you’ve probably figured that one out.

Did you know that most modern DVD players can play a DVD at exactly double speed without chipmunk noises? You hear the dialog (or singing) at its original frequency, just twice as fast. That’s how I made it through this movie, especially once the musical numbers started. (It also made the absurd fistfights more tolerable.) Given that I watched the 58-minute movie in 45 minutes, it was appropriately paced. For Frankie Darro fans, maybe $0.75.

The President’s Mystery, 1936, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Henry Wilcoxon, Betty Furness, Sidney Blackmer, Evelyn Brent, Barnett Parker. 1:20 (0:53).

The setup (accounting for the title) is unusual: Supposedly, Franklin Delano Roosevelt loved mystery stories and wondered how a millionaire could disappear (and start a new life)—with his money. Six writers put together a story; this movie is based on that story (and the story is referenced in the film); the lead titles say the proceeds from the story and the screenplay both went to FDR’s Warm Springs Foundation.

That said, it’s very much a movie of its time, in the heart of the depression—when, at least according to this flick, predatory businessmen were shutting down competition and refusing to grow and employ people because it might cut profits. They were also sending hotshot lawyers to Washington to assure that bills to ease credit and reopen factories wouldn’t pass. The hotshot lawyer in this case also loves fishing and has a loveless marriage, and goes fishing in a town that’s essentially shutting down because the local cannery went under. The owner of the bankrupt cannery is a beautiful young woman (Betty Furness) who feeds the town using illegal fishing methods (actually, her father owned the cannery and committed suicide when it went under).

You can probably guess where this all leads. A combination of Message film, love story and good old American (cooperative) save-yourself knowhow, it’s a pretty good story for a one-hour flick. I do wonder about the missing 27 minutes (actually, the first IMDB review suggests that it’s all exposition, setting up the lawyer’s method for “losing” his money without losing it). I’ll give it $1.25.

Racing Blood, 1936, b&w. Victor Halperin (dir.), Frankie Darro, Kane Richmond, Gladys Blake, Arthur Housman, James Eagles, Matthew Betz, Si Wills, Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toones. 1:01 [0:55]

What? Another Frankie Darro B flick? Yes—but this one’s not too bad. Darro’s the kid brother (named Frankie) of a jockey and the proprietress of a horse-themed diner (parents never in evidence); he begs $4.85 from his sister to buy an injured colt about to be shot. (The seller gives him back the $4.85 to go towards hay.) After lots and lots of calendar-pages flying by, the colt’s healthy, fast, and will only let the kid ride him. Which he does in a $1,000 race, after scrounging the $100 entry fee from various friends. And, of course, wins—racing against his brother, the favorite, who was deliberately fouled by riders in the employ of a ruthless gambler. Oh, and after that, the kid’s naïveté leads to his brother’s being barred from racing (don’t ask).

One thing leads to another, and we have—in short order—the brother seriously ill and lacking the will to live, the colt being poisoned by the gambler’s henchmen (except that they actually poison another horse), the kid being kidnapped and, in a truly bizarre last 10 minutes, the kid conquering all odds (he’s shot, he’s loaded into an ambulance, he steals the ambulance and drives off, he can barely stand as he goes to get weighed in…) and winning the Derby. Your suspension of disbelief has to be really firmly in place (e.g., since the gambler had already decided to kill the kid so there are no witnesses, why doesn’t he just do that?). But, hey, for what it is, it isn’t bad. Mostly for Darro fans, maybe $1.00

The Shadow: Invisible Avenger (aka The Invisible Avenger), 1958, b&w. James Wong How & Ben Parker (dir.), Richard Derr, Mark Daniels, Helen Westcott, Jack Doner, Jeanne Neher, Steve Dano, Dan Mullin. 1:10 [0:57]

I think this is the first of several “The Shadow” flicks I’ve seen in which The Shadow’s mystical powers actually come into play. To wit, with the counsel of his compatriot Jogendra (who seems to be telepathic or at least able to project thoughts), he’s able to fade out in the minds of beholders, leaving only a shadow. Jogendra can apparently instantly hypnotize anybody by staring at them, even from across the room, and get them to do anything he chooses, so “disappearing” is no big deal.

The plot? Set in New Orleans, where the deposed president of Santa Cruz (your basic Caribbean nation) is in exile after being overthrown by a dictator—a dictator with lots of hired hands and guns working for him, who fears (correctly) that the president’s supporters may overthrow the dictatorship. The hired hands do in a jazz trumpeter who’s trying to help the president and who has contacted Lamont Cranston to see whether he can contact The Shadow. And the race is on…

Jogendra on more than one occasion points out that if somebody fires (accurately) at the shadow, Cranston will be just as dead as if he hadn’t overused his power—but the only time this comes into play, it’s somehow the person behind the shadow who dies. Never mind. We have a present in which executions are actually shown on TV—and, of course, all the Hispanics in Santa Cruz speak English. There’s a little low-key sort-of romance, a lot of music (some pseudo-jazz, one fairly bizarre misogynistic semi-reggae piece under the opening credits, a little Nawlins stuff), and all turns out well. Except that, given the way things turn out, I don’t see that Cranston’s/The Shadow’s activities really made much difference at all. The flick has the feel of being a clumsily-assembled set of serial episodes, with total blackouts between segments. (It was originally intended as a TV pilot.) Oh, and The Shadow’s tagline (“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Only The Shadow knows. Bwahahahah…”) ends with a laugh that would have you think The Shadow is a villain, not a hero. The missing 13 minutes might have helped. But it’s not bad: $1.00.

 

50 Movie Gunslinger Classics Disc 2

Posted in Movies and TV on May 3rd, 2013

Cry Blood, Apache, 1970, color. Jack Starrett (dir.), Jody McCrea, Marie Gahva, Dan Kemp, Robert Tessier, Jack Starrett, Don Henley, Rick Nervick, Joel McCrea (briefly). 1:22.

Despite the common words, this is not Apache Blood, and nowhere near as bad—although it fails one of my tests for a movie I can actually enjoy, which is that there has to be at least one sympathetic character. Actually, now that I think of it, with two of the three words in the other flick, it’s about two-thirds as bad.

The closest one here is the oldish Westerner who begins and ends the film, riding out with an old shotgun to look over a scene…which becomes the flashback that makes up the rest of the movie. His younger self is the least awful of five savages who first party among a group of Apache, then slaughter them—leaving one young woman, who they bring along with them to lead them to gold (one of the group had some gold nuggets). She speaks Spanish, and the younger version of the oldish Westerner also speaks Spanish and manages not to actually kill anybody in the massacre himself, although he doesn’t prevent any of the savagery or refrain from accompanying the rest of them. (Let’s be clear: The five savages in this case are all Anglos.)

As they’re riding slowly toward the Arizona desert and the promise of gold, we’re split between dealings within this odd, nasty group and seeing the Apache who’s returned to the camp, seen all the death—and set out stalking the five. (Well, six, but he doesn’t know his sister’s still alive and with the others.) The five include, in addition to the bilingual less-vicious-than-the-rest “hero,” one fat sociopath who relies on glasses, his brother (I guess), a top-hatted cardplayer named Two-Card, and a “Deacon” who’s pretty clearly a little off his nut. Along the way, we get one big fight in a running stream and a number of other incidents.

Eventually, the Apache catches up with them, releases their horses and does most of them in—with some viciously slow deaths that take away any chance for him to be the sympathetic character, even if was the most wronged. In the end…well, never mind. Good points: Good print, good color, great scenery (Arizona and Sequoia National Forest). Bad points: Except for possibly the young woman, who’s not a major character, there’s nobody likable in this lot. Most of the acting is pretty bad (including the not-very-graceful Apache); notably, the director and assistant director were also in the cast (and McCrea produced it). It got an R rating, probably because there’s one scene with some distant partial nudity, involving another Indian woman—and we never do find out what happened to her. On balance, and concentrating on the scenery rather than the acting or plot, I’ll give it $0.75.

Deadwood ’76, 1965, color. James Landis (dir.), Arch Hall Sr. (screenplay and producer), Arch Hall Jr., Jack Lester, La Donna Cottier, Arch Hall Sr., Liz Renay, Robert Dix, Richard Cowl, David Reed. 1:37.

Set in the near future in Deadwood, South Dakota, this movie eerily foretells a future TV series…. Nah, this one’s set in 1876 when it was still The Dakotas and a territory, but the timing’s right in other respects: The Black Hills gold rush is beginning and this illegal settlement—the Black Hills belonged to the Lakotas by treaty—was the heart of it. The movie’s set in Deadwood (and has lots of great Black Hills scenery), but it’s mostly about Billy May (Arch Hall, Jr.), a young man who’s fast with a gun and out to make his fortune, after drifting away from Georgia at the end of the Civil War (he enlisted at age 12). Things start as he comes along an old coot in a wagon full of cats (I’m not making this up) who’s been accosted by a group from the local tribe—who, in fact, don’t shoot the old coot but seem to find the cats awfully amusing. Billy May gets the drop on them, takes away their rifles—but doesn’t shoot them, to the old coot’s dismay. (The old coot’s from Tennessee, on his way to Deadwood to sell the cats to raise a stake to mine for gold and make his fortune.)

That’s just the start of lots’o’plot, involving the local madame, the too-sleek gamblin’ man, some locals who think they’re mighty fast with a gun, the belief after Billy outdraws them that he’s Billy the Kid (and Wild Bill Hickock’s on his way for a showdown), some gold mining, a remarkably civilized and peaceful tribe who’s now sheltering Billy’s long-lost father, who has a harebrained scheme by which the Confederacy shall rise again, a young Indian woman who falls for Billy and, well, that’s just some of it.

It does not end happily for all concerned. I’ve already included some spoilers. There is at least one interesting cliché reversal at the end of the film, but I’ll leave that for those who watch it.

I have mixed feelings about this one. The intertwined plots are interesting if overdone, the scenery’s good, the print’s pretty good, it moves right along and there are remarkably few deaths (and very little blood) for the kind of movie it is, and the tribe is treated as civilized, not savages. Unfortunately, as with the two other Arch Hall-backed movies starring Arch Hall, Jr., that I’ve seen, I find Jr. irritating—this time he doesn’t sing, but the smirk on his face gets real old real fast and he is just a bit shy of being a profound actor. All things considered, I’ll give it $1.25.

Jesse James’ Women, 1954, color. Don ‘Red’ Barry (dir., writer, producer, star), Peggie Castle, Jack Bustel, Lita Baron, Joyce Barrett, Betty Brueck. 1:24.

The story is that Jesse James and his gang (eight men including one Robert Ford, one deaf woman who manages their hideaway) have moved to Mississippi, where he’s triple-timing various women in a small town along with the world’s easiest bank holdup. Various subplots, such as they are, lead up to James double-crossing pretty much everybody except his two closest cohorts and somehow making up for it by giving a bunch of loot to the local preacher, as they ride off into the sunset.

I knew I was in trouble from the opening credits. Starring Don Barry. Screenplay by Don Barry. Story by Don Barry (and others). Directed and produced by Don Barry. He’s got a nice smile, very obvious makeup (many of the actors are so made up they look artificial), no apparent acting skills, not a clue as to how this clown could be Jesse James.

The only similarity between Don Barry and the real Jesse James is that he managed to rob me of an hour and twenty-four minutes. Being very generous, and factoring in the lack of serious bloodshed (and one epic catfight among two of the women James is busy wronging), this might be worth $0.75.

God’s Gun, (orig. Diamante Lobo), 1976, color. Gianfranco Parolini (dir.), Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance, Richard Boone, Sybil Danning, Leif Garrett, Robert Lipton. 1:34 [1:37].

Originally reviewed as part of the small set of spaghetti westerns (C&I 10.7). I didn’t watch it again; you can read the full review where it first appeared. Despite an impressive cast, this was an awful, awful film—not as bad as Apache Blood, but remarkably crappy. I said that, although I thought it was worthless, dedicated Lee Van Cleef fans might give it $0.50. Or not.

Kudos for great customer service

Posted in Movies and TV on April 9th, 2013

A few words about Amazon customer service going above and beyond…

We watch Grey’s Anatomy a season late, on DVD (‘cuz we started in late). We space things out, as we do with other TV-on-DVD series.

So Sunday night, we were at Episode 19 of Season 8. Ten minutes in, the dread digital breakup happens, followed by the dread freeze. I could skip 7 minutes and go on, but…nah.

Looked at data side of disc. Whoops: Two long scratches of exactly the kind that can disrupt playback–that is, more-or-less along the playing path (somewhat radial) rather than across it. In case of possible dirt, rinsed the disc. Nope: Still there, still wouldn’t play.

[I normally do a visual check and spot playback check for each disc of a new season or collection when it arrives. In this case, GA's been reliable enough for seven seasons that I either didn't bother or didn't do a sufficiently careful visual check.]

Here’s the thing: We purchased the season in November 2012 from Amazon. WAY past the return window.

Well, I thought, we can hope that either Amazon or Buena Vista Home Entertainment will be kind enough to replace the disc. Otherwise, we can finish up the current Stargate SG-1 disc (watching that from Netflix on disc) and get the GA disc from Netflix…but, really, we want a clean copy, since eventually we’ll rewatch this. After all, we own it.

So…

Yesterday (Monday) morning at 7:30 a.m. I wrote two emails. One to Amazon, noting that this really wasn’t their problem (after all, 5 months…) but wondering whether there was anything they could do (and noting the original order #, readily available on my account page). One, with some difficulty, to an email address that seemed to be attached to BVHE.COM, the only Buena Vista site I could locate that has anything to do with DVDs. (The ABC site lacks any DVD info and just does autoresponses if you do send email.) It seemed that I needed to register, a process clearly not intended for consumers.

Then here’s what happened:

1. Within two hours–TWO HOURS–I got a response from Amazon saying they’d send a replacement (the full season: that seems to be the only way they can do it) by two-day shipping (I’m not a Prime member).

2. Later that day, I got a response from BVHE.com asking for details for registration–who at Disney referred me, what stores do I buy for–that made it clear the site wasn’t for me. So I responded appropriately.

3. But very late that day (or early today, Tuesday), I also got a response to the email saying the person would forward it to Buena Vista’s customer support–which I still don’t see how to reach directly.

4. This afternoon, I got email from Buena Vista customer support asking me to call to discuss the problem. BUT…

5. By that time, our mail had arrived. With a package from Amazon. Via good old USPS–one day after I’d asked about the problem.

So: I’ve checked the replacement Disc 5, which is absolutely clean; put it in our existing set and put the bad disc in the new set (with a sticky note on the outside wrapper noting the defect); printed out the return label; and prepared the package for return. Which I’ll do tomorrow.

Based on the eventual response from Buena Vista Home Entertainment, my guess is that they would have replaced the defective disc. The main problem there is that I still can’t figure out how you’d send them notice of a defective disc.

But Amazon…came through rapidly, politely, and way beyond what they needed to do.

Count me impressed.

[Amazon was similarly impressive and rapid in replacing, sigh, the entire monster West Wing Complete Series because the set was missing one disc entirely--but that was during the 30-day period, actually a day after it arrived.]

50 Movie Comedy Kings Disc 12

Posted in Movies and TV on April 3rd, 2013

Meet the Mayor (aka A Fool’s Advice), 1932, b&w. Ralph Ceter (dir.), Frank Fay, Nat Pendleton, Edward J. Nugent, Ruth Hall, Berton Churchill, George Meeker, Hale Hamilton, Esther Howard, Franklin Pangborn. 1:03.

I’m guessing this is another case where if you know and love the main character, Frank Fay, you’ll find it hilarious. I don’t and don’t, and I found it mostly sad. Fay plays a schlemiel—a sad little man whose only job has been elevator operator in the (apparently city-owned?) hotel in a seedy little town, who lives in the hotel, owns a bicycle and apparently not much more, but is sort of a Mr. Fix-It for all and sundry. Including helping out his best friend, who’s inventing a new & better cylinder recording/playback device. And who has the same girlfriend Fay’s character thinks he has.

The title refers to a mayoral election—where the 20-year-in-office mayor, again one who’s only had the one job—is up against a wealthy person who actually wants to sell out the town to the railroad. Through a series of plot points, the new recorder winds up recording the bigshot talking about his plans with the three thugs he’s brought in (thugs who don’t actually do much of anything). Fay’s character blackmails him into quitting the race, and at about that time finds out that his “girlfriend” is engaged to his best friend.

All pretty sad, actually, unless you think the character is a hoot. Unfortunately, I just found him sad and a little depressing. Franklin Pangborn’s always good, but he only has about three minutes on screen. The other (original) title is one of Fay’s catchlines. Being generous, $0.75.

When the Girls Take Over, 1962, color? (b&w). Russell Hayden (dir.), Robert Lowery, Marvin Miller, Jackie Coogan, James Ellison, Ingeborg Kjeldsen. 1:20.

A revolutionary comedy! Of sorts… Set in Hondo-Rica, a Caribbean nation trying to gain investors to produce all sorts of things out of sugar cane (since the sugar itself is a glut on the market, but with a threatened Cuban-style revolution. Of sorts… The revolutionary forces consist of Maximo Toro, the Big Bull, a mustachioed-and-bearded young revolutionary; his American writer/thinker/sidekick (who misses his girlfriend); maybe half a dozen reasonable well-trained and armed sidekicks; and perhaps four dozen lazy soldiers armed with wooden sticks (for the moment) and missing women.

This revolutionary force turns out to be no match for a Texan oilman (young and handsome) who’s already been nationalized out of a bunch of countries and who doesn’t want it to happen this time. He somehow manages to gather a bunch of women, buy a whole fleet of jeeps on the spot, and let loose these women—armed primarily with bottles of rum—on the revolutionaries. That’s just part of the plot in what’s mostly a helter-skelter madcap comedy. Not terrible, but far from great.

IMDB says color, and given that it was filmed in “Virgin Isle” and Puerto Rico and has loads of scenery, it would be a whole lot better that way—but the sleeve says B&W and that’s what the picture actually is. (Since the uniformly-negative reviews on IMDB also all say they saw it in B&W, I’m guessing any actual color prints are long gone.) I’ll give it $1.00.

Too Many Women, 1942, b&w. Bernard B. Ray (dir.), Neil Hamilton, June Lang, Joyce Compton, Barbara Reed, Fred Sherman. 1:07.

A madcap comedy involving a young man, the woman he’s engaged to (but too poor to marry yet) and two former or would-be girlfriends. There’s also a probably-crooked land promoter who wants him to sell land; to get rid of the pest, he claims to have just inherited a fortune. As that news spreads around town, he somehow winds up engaged to three people, on a drunken spree—and totally broke, except for a $1,000 bet on a longshot horse. His grandmother, supposedly at death’s door, is part of this. There’s even a butler. The last 20 minutes is pure traditional farce.

I guess it was mildly amusing, if maybe a little incoherent. For fans of this genre, maybe $1.00.

Flying Wild, 1941, b&w. William West (dir.), Leo Gorcey, Bobby Jordan et al. 1:04.

No. Sorry, but I couldn’t. I gave it 25 minutes, which is about 20 more minutes of Leo Gorcey and the East End Kids than I can normally stand. This time, there’s domestic espionage, “un-American activities” and a flying ambulance service involved, and the rest of the East End Kids are working (but Muggs don’t work, it ain’t his thing, he’s an overage JD and proud of it). And…I just couldn’t. No rating. What a sad way to finish up a 50-movie set.

Summing Up

Three movies I gave a full $2 for: Never Wave at a WAC, Nothing Sacred and The Perils of Pauline. Two almost-classic $1.75 flicks: The Milky Way and Three Husbands. Three pretty good ($1.50), three decent ($1.25) and six mediocre ($1) add up to $23.75 for this half—and that doesn’t include two movies I’d already seen on other sets. If you’re really generous, you could count the three almost mediocre $0.75 flicks and the single barely-watchable $0.50—and, of course, if you like the East End Thugs, that would add a bit. Since the 50-pack currently goes for $14.75 at Amazon, that’s not bad. Oh, and, of course, there’s the first half, where the total of mediocre-or-better flicks came out to $26, for a 50-pack total of $49.75. Not bad.

Too clever by half

Posted in Movies and TV, Technology and software on March 20th, 2013

Sometimes companies seem to use technological improvements in a way that may be snazzy…but is also counterintuitive and even baffling.

We encountered one of those a couple of days ago. This isn’t a Serious Story, but it is a little bit of too clever by half.

Background

Most evenings, we either watch a current TV show (if there’s one we’re watching–currently that means two nights out of seven) or an episode of a series we’re watching via Netflix (discs, not streaming). (Saturdays are movies.)

Currently, one of the two series we’re watching via disc, which we’d never seen when it was on, is Smallville.

We pay the Blu-ray premium for Netflix, ‘cuz we do see the difference, which means that anything that Netflix has in Blu-ray will be sent to us in Blu-ray. (If, for some bizarre reason, we wanted the DVD version of a movie, easy-peasy: there’s a pull-down menu on the disc line in the queue. That doesn’t work for series, because Blu-ray versions sometimes/frequently come on fewer discs than DVD versions.)

We finished Season 5 (with some gratitude for being done with it) and started Season 6 last Sunday. Season 6 is available in Blu-ray. So that’s what we got.

Foreground

Put the disc in. No previews: Nice. Also no opening theme and episode menu…it just started in with the first episode.

Well, OK, that’s fine for the first episode. But we’re not marathon viewers: we watch episodes individually, the way they were intended. (Pounds cane on floor; yells at kids to get off our lawn…)

So, I figured, surely Top Menu will get us to an episode menu, as it does in Chuck (which we own in Blu-ray but won’t rewatch for a couple years yet, probably, and which does the same right-into-episode-one trick).

Nope. Top Menu brings up the extras menu.

Maybe Pop-up Menu. Nope: That doesn’t do anything at all.

Yes, sure, I can turn on the chapter display and skip chapters until we get to Title 2 (the second episode); fine for the first four-episode disc, not so great for five-episode or six-episode discs. And stupid.

I look at online fora. This question has arisen. The snarky response was “Use the pop-up menu.” Which did nothing.

The Big Finish

Last night, after skipping chapters to get to and watch the second episode, I thought I’d try something else.

I was aware that one of the Big Vaunted Advantages of Blu-ray is that you can make menu selections while the disc is playing. I guess that’s a big deal; normally, personally, I’d rather pause the picture, make the changes, and then go on. But hey, it’s a nice feature.

So what if I hit Pop-Up Menu while the episode was playing and not paused?

Oh look: There’s what I would think of as a Top Menu along the bottom of the screen. Episode list and special features. Click on the third episode, and shazam: the third episode.

But surely I must have screwed up on Sunday: Surely Pop-Up Menu would do this if you, sensibly, paused to make a selection.

Not so! In Pause, Pop-Up does nothing at all on this disc.

Gee, thanks, Warner: In your infinite wisdom, you’ve hidden what should logically be the top-level menu where a submenu should be–and made it available only while episodes are actually playing and not paused.  Meanwhile, the submenu of special features is available as the top menu. That’s really clever.

Too clever by half.


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