Archive for the 'Movies and TV' Category

Box Office Gold Disc 10

Posted in Movies and TV on June 20th, 2012

Portrait of a Showgirl, 1982, color (made for TV). Steven Hilliard Stern (dir.), Lesley Ann Warren, Rita Moreno, Dianne Kay, Tony Curtis, Barry Primus, Hamilton Camp, Kip Gilman. 1:34 [1:36].

A first-rate cast, a good print (VHS quality), an OK story. It’s slice-of-life time for three dancers in Las Vegas: A newly arrived hard-edged former Fosse dancer, just in from New York in her Mercedes; a naïve young thing in from St. Louis; and an Italian stalwart who lives in town with her husband, a hotel concierge who dreams of making it big. The stalwart wonders if she has one more good show left in her—but at whatever age, it’s hard to think of Rita Moreno (Italian, right? and married to Tony Curtis) as being less than superb as a dancer. Lesley Ann Warren does hard-edged superbly, and a combination of bad at making romantic choices and good at telling the truth even better. The rest of the cast includes some notably good talent as well.

The foreground story? Not much, really, Caesar’s Palace (where it was filmed) has decided to go back to a showgirl revue, and the troupe is getting ready. It all revolves around that. Nothing terribly deep, and the St. Louis newbie is a little too naïve to believe—but it all works fairly well. It’s made for TV, but it’s a good job. All in all, it gets $1.50.

Casablanca Express, 1989, color. Sergio Martino (dir.), Jason Connery, Francesco Quinn, Jinny Steffan, Jean Sorel, Donald Pleasence, Glenn Ford. 1:25.

Set in French Africa (Algeria) and Morocco in 1942, based on the plan of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin to meet in Casablanca and plan their war efforts. Churchill’s now in Algiers, and the idea is to get him to Casablanca alive—despite the clear presence of collaborators (Vichy French and Arabs who regard the Third Reich as liberators).

After the setup, it’s mostly set on a train, the Casablanca Express, and it’s a bloody ride as the Germans try to kidnap Churchill. What else can I say about the plot? There’s a modest twist at the end, and we all know that Churchill wasn’t captured by Hitler. In any case, it’s a fairly good cast, the acting is OK, and all in all it’s not a bad ride (although, reading the poisonous IMDB reviews, it’s apparently wildly inauthentic). Filmed where it’s set, by an Italian company. (It’s a “sons” picture—Connery and Francesco are the sons of Sean and Anthony.) $1.25.

Cold War Killers, 1986, color (made for TV). William Barnes (dir.), Terence Stamp, Robin Sachs, Carmen Du Sautoy. 1:26.

The title’s a little misleading. Yes, the plot does involve several deaths—but only one during the film itself, and that one’s off-screen. This movie is a moderately complex espionage flick involving the KGB, the Mossad and at least two different (I think) branches of British intelligence, all somehow trying to solve a 30-year-old mystery when a crashed plane emerges as a large pond is being drained.

What you need to know (and what may explain why this rather good movie is in this set—well, that and its TV provenance): No explosions. No high-speed car chases. No gun battles. Indeed, the most violent action is a window being broken (twice during the film—and we’re expected to believe that a high-level British operative breaks into a store by, wait for it, taking a tire iron to the window instead of using lock picks).

And it’s really quite good. I’m not sure why I liked it, but Terence Stamp is clearly part of the reason. I found this compelling and entertaining. Not a great movie, but pretty good, and exceptional as a TV movie: $1.75.

Delta Force Commando, 1988, color. Perluigi Ciricai (dir.), Brett Baxter Clark, Fred Williamson, Mark Gregory, Bo Svenson. 1:36.

The only way I can plausibly review this flick is as a modern Spaghetti Western, only with grenade launchers, helicopters and an atomic weapon that’s readily carried by one person instead of horses, saloons and acrobatic shooting—although it still has a prostitute (sort of) if less nudity than usual. It’s Italian, it’s got pretty decent production values, it stars a wronged handsome fellow and his unwilling sidekick who seem immune to bullets and leave an enormous body count. I mean enormous. I didn’t even try to count. (The guns all seem to have limitless firepower—even though people are changing clips once in a while. Verisimilitude is not, shall we say, this film’s strong point.)

The “plot”: Some Latin American revolutionaries swipe this backpack bomb from “U.S.Base” in Puerto Rico (I think that was the name), thanks to a lecherous Sergeant who takes a really sleazy hooker to his upscale barracks and…well, never mind. Just know that on the way out, the trigger-happy bomb thieves manage to shoot the pregnant wife of Our Hero.

Somehow, the 50-person Marine Delta Force can’t leave the carrier where they’re staked out waiting to find this bomb—and there’s even a BBC reporter (who reads words very slowly and wouldn’t last a day on the actual BBC), invited there by a State Department idiot who seems to be in control, and… well, never mind. The hero hijacks a helicopter and we’re off and running, er, gunning.

I won’t spoil the plot twist, but it makes no sense in any case. Let’s just say this is mano-a-mano with a few dozen other dead manos (and women) thrown in for good measure. (The plot summary on the sleeve and at IMDB is just wrong.) Viewed strictly as over-the-top Italian action flick making, it’s maybe worth $1.00.

Box Office Gold Disc 9

Posted in Movies and TV on May 13th, 2012

Death Scream (orig. La maison sous les arbres or The Deadly Trap), 1971, color. Rene Clement (dir.), Faye Dunaway, Frank Langella, Barbara Parkins, Karen Blanguernon. 1:36 [1:32]

We have Frank Langella as a mathematical genius, working for a publisher, who’s contacted by someone who really, truly wants him to do something for them…something clearly not on the up and up. He’s in Paris, where he moved two years previously with his wife (Faye Dunaway), their 8-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son. Dunaway seems to be having memory problems, the marriage isn’t as good as it should be, and he bonds with the daughter while she spoils the (slightly rotten) son. The real estate agent who found them the apartment lives downstairs with her husband and spends a lot of time with them. Dunaway’s character is seeing a psychiatrist and seems to be getting more anxious by the day, especially when she buys a party dress and her daughter points out that she already owns the exact same dress.

And then, she’s with the kids at a puppet show, buys a hoop for the son, and as they’re going home, she loses them. After clues suggesting that they might have drowned (or that she might have drowned them), it turns out they’ve been kidnapped. The rest of the film deals with that (and gaslighting, but not by her husband). The title’s a cheat; there are deaths (two of them), but that’s not really the theme. I guess it’s a psychological thriller; I just didn’t find it particularly compelling. Widescreen (but not anamorphic, and zooming this VHS-quality print up to fill a big screen was occasionally unpleasant). Not terrible, not great, $1.25.

Powderkeg, 1971, color (TV: pilot for Bearcats!). Douglas Heyes (dir.), Rod Taylor, Dennis Cole, Fernando Lamas, John McIntire, Michael Ansara, Tisha Sterling. 1:33.

The plot’s all seriousness: A band of Mexican bandits hijack a train and its 73 passengers (shooting the troops that are on the train) in order to free the brother of the head bandit, who’s going to be hanged in New Mexico after the gang had raided the town. If the brother isn’t freed, the head promises to shoot all the passengers—and keeps running the train back and forth on 40 miles of track in the open Mexican country, so he can spot any attempts to rescue them.

Well, sir…the note demanding the exchange (pinned to the body of a railroad official, thrown off at the station the train doesn’t stop at) was written under duress by a young Mexican lawyer, instructed to address it to the president of the railroad and any high-ranking names he can think of. The two names he adds turn out to be a couple of guys who’ve done border-town cleanup in the past. And thus the romp begins.

And romp it is: High adventure with low plausibility, carried off with style by a good cast. After learning that this was actually the movie-length pilot for a one-season TV series starring Rod Taylor and Dennis Cole (Bearcats!)—well, it’s still a good flick. It’s not even worth recounting the rest of the plot. I found it well done, enjoyable, a fairly good print; easily worth $1.50.

Slipsteream, 1989, color. Steven Lisberger (dir.), Bob Peck, Mark Hammill, Kitty Aldridge, Bill Paxton, Susan Leong, Abigail David, Robbie Coltrane. (Brief parts by Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham.) 1:42.

There’s a deep mystery to this picture. We’ll get to that in a minute.

Oh, the mystery’s not the nature of the killer who’s central to the plot. He (Bob Peck) starts out being captured by two cops, one of whom (Mark Hammill) delights in blowing people away at the slightest provocation; is taken from them by a no-account bounty hunter (Bill Paxton) who wants to turn him in for the reward; and winds up the most heroic character in the film. If you haven’t figured out what he is long before it’s revealed—about halfway through the film—you’re not trying.

It’s not even the erratic nature of the slipstream—the supposed worldwide band of constant howling winds that’s the chief result of “the Convergence,” a near-future environmental disaster that’s resulted in the death of most people and ruination of most others. The slipstream is terribly ferocious when it suits the plot; nonexistent when it doesn’t.

It’s not even just how long in the future this could be set, given that one semi-decadent “downstream” group, living in an old museum/library setting with a variety of artifacts seems to have an unlimited supply of Dom Perignon.

Variable acting (Mark Hammill makes a great villain), pretty good print, loads of scenery, good stereo sound (unusual for these pictures) with an Elmer Bernstein score. Not a great scifi flick, but not a bad one.

The mystery is this: How on earth does a British 1989 color science fiction flick with good production values and scenery (if not great special effects), produced by Gary Kurtz, filmed in Turkey with a quality score and a good cast wind up in a Mill Creek Entertainment megapack? In any case, I’ll give it $1.50.

Somewhere, Tomorrow, 1983, color. Robert Wiemer (dir. & screenplay), Sarah Jessica Parker, Nancy Addison, Tom Shea, Rick Weber, Paul Bates. 1:31.

At first blush, this appears to be a movie told as flashbacks, starting with a teenager (an 18-year-old Sarah Jessica Parker) in ICU after a minor concussion—because, the doctor says, she seems to want to die. And, in the end, she doesn’t—but there’s also a little twist on the twist.

Basic plot: The girl’s father was killed in a plane crash—it’s never said how much earlier. She mourns him. She and her mother live on a horse ranch, but really can’t afford to keep it up. Her mother’s dating a local cop, and the girl’s not too wild about that.

And then…and then. Lots of plot. Cut to a teenage boy and his friend, taking off in a single-engine Cessna (I guess the kid’s old enough for a pilot’s license) to go visit the kid’s horse, who is on a stud appointment at the girl’s ranch. There’s some sputtering just before they take off (as the kid’s teaching his friend to fly), but they ignore it. Which, of course, eventually leads to them crashing in the firebreak near the ranch, just as she’s taking the kid’s horse out for some exercise.

We wind up with the boy showing up as an all-too-physical ghost only she can see (and, oh look, she was watching Topper just before going out for the exercise ride), a lot of blather about the need for her mother to move on, her mother marrying the police officer…and back we go to the hospital. It all ends happily and truly peculiarly.

The good parts: Very good print (full VHS quality). Some good scenery. The bad parts: The very young Parker (in her first movie, although she’d done earlier TV) isn’t all that great, and neither are the other actors—but maybe that’s the script. Oh, and Parker sings two songs, which turns out not be a win either. I found the whole thing sort of dreary; there may have been a Deep Religious Message that I missed, and there’s definitely a “life must go on!” message*, but mostly it was not very good. Generously, $1.

Box Office Gold, Disc 8

Posted in Movies and TV on April 10th, 2012

Eliza’s Horoscope, 1975, color. Gordon Sheppard (dir.), Elizabeth Moorman, Tommy Lee Jones, Rose Quang. 2:00.

An 18-year-old country girl north of Montreal shows up in a not-so-great part of the city, somehow at an odd apartment building, meeting an ancient Asian astrologer and… OK, the sleeve says she’s “looking for a new life,” moves into this boarding house where Tommy (Tommy Lee Jones) also lives and has a “checked past,” and that the astrologer tells her (the sleeve says an Astrologer who tell here: the person must have actually watched this just before writing it) she’ll meet the love of her life and she starts a hunt for the man.

What I saw: random characters and worse than random filmmaking, with lots of visual hiccups—you see the first second of a shot, then the same first second followed by more—and occasional random inserts of scenes for no apparent reason. Maybe it’s supposed to be trippy, but it felt like stone incompetent direction and editing. Maybe that’s the point. Maybe there is no point.

Even with a young Tommy Lee Jones, I could barely last for half an hour before giving up on it. After reading the odd set of IMDB reviews, I conclude either that the movie’s simply too deep and artistic for my cloddish soul—or that it’s a badly-made piece of pseudo-mystical crap. I note that the director was also the producer, writer and editor—and never directed, produced, wrote or edited another feature film. The star apparently never acted in another movie either (but did stunts in one) Tommy Lee Jones (“Tom Lee Jones” at the time) does not save the picture; not by a long shot. Decent print, I guess. Even in “headier” days I would have walked out on this; it’s possible that if you’re sufficiently stoned, it would be wonderful. Or not. No rating.

It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time, 1975, color. John Trent (dir.), Anthony Newley, Stefanie Powers, Isaac Hayes, Lloyd Bochner, Yvonne De Carlo, Henry Ramer, Lawrence Dane, John Candy. 1:30.

There’s a lot right with this farce—a great cast, good photography, a good print, and some genuinely amusing moments. Stefanie Powers is a beautiful woman with somewhat questionable morals: She divorced her first husband (a starving playwright, played by Anthony Newley) to marry a wealthy construction magnate—but she sleeps with her ex once a week, and when she gets involved with a politician’s campaign she’s clearly ready to sleep with him as well. She also wants to save her feisty mom’s house from being torn down, by her husband’s company, by getting it declared a landmark, and gets the politician involved in that (but he’s double-crossing her). That’s just the start of a fast, frequently funny flick that never stops moving.

So what’s the problem? It tries a little too hard, from the opening cartoon credits to the use of cuckoo-clock sound effects each time the armed mom is about to do something nefarious. (It’s also a panned-and-scanned version of a widescreen flick, but that’s par for the course.) Still, it is a remarkable cast (with Isaac Hayes as a drunken sculptor, a young (and slim) John Candy as a hapless junior-grade cop and more) and while I don’t grant “hysterical” it is amusing in a frenetic way. (It is not a “John Candy film” by any means: his role is relatively minor.) $1.25.

Mooch Goes to Hollywood, 1971, color, made for TV. Richard Erdman (dir.), Vincent Price, James Darren, Jill St. John, Jim Backus and, mostly in cameos, Marty Allen, Richard Burton (voice), Phyllis Diller, Jay C. Flippen, Zsa Zsa Gabor (voice), Sam Jaffe, Rose Marie, Dick Martin, Darren McGavin, Edward G. Robinson, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney. 0:51.

Sometimes a picture is so astonishing that it raises fundamental questions. Such as, in this case, how did this thing ever get made—and, better yet, why? The plot, if you want to call it that, is that a mutt jumps off a freight car (hobo’s bag & stick in mouth) and wanders around Hollywood, instantly charming a number of movie actors—specifically, the first four listed above—and twice getting taken to the same sinister vet’s (I say “sinister” only because I’ve never seen a real vet who’s so bad with animals).

Oh, and Zsa Zsa Gabor narrates the whole thing.

A remarkable cast, although some of them are barely in the picture at all (I think Mickey Rooney’s on screen for ten seconds or less, with no lines, and Phyllis Diller’s part isn’t much bigger). I know I remarked on it: “Don’t all these big names have anything better to do?” Followed by “Did Jim Backus—who co-wrote and co-produced this—really have that many favors owed him?” One repeated sequence (repeated with each of the four main players) is dumb the first time and a little creepy by the fourth. (Apparently the dog playing Mooch was the original Benji, for what that’s worth.) Decent print, good color, wholly pointless, and even as a bizarre little flick it’s not worth more than $0.75.

The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go, 1970, color. Burgess Meredith (dir. & writer), James Mason, Jack MacGowran, Irene Tsu, Jeff Bridges, Peter Lind Hayes, Clarissa Kaye-Mason, Burgess Meredith, Broderick Crawford. 1:29.

I’m not quite sure how to describe this movie, set in Hong Kong while it was still British-controlled. We have James Mason as a half-Mexican, half-Chinese evil power broker (who turns good halfway through the movie); Burgess Meredith as a grumpy old Chinese acupuncturist/herbal medicine purveyor (Meredith also wrote and directed the movie); Jeff Bridges as a deserting soldier who’s also a James Joyce scholar/writer (I guess) and, on the side, blackmailer; Irene Tsu as his Chinese wife/girlfriend/companion; and narration by Buddha (who apparently can, once every 50 years, cause a transmutation in one person when the world needs changing). Oh, and a crass CIA agent who’s also a Joyce scholar and who has trouble dying (he’s as ineffectual at that as at everything else). Some really annoying pop-style songs. As one review says, fight scenes “right out of Batman”—that is, the series in which Meredith was the Joker, certainly not the movies. Jeff Bridges’ first feature film (he was 21), although he’d done TV before that.

That’s just the beginning. There’s lots of plot. Tsu has wardrobe problems throughout, as do a number of lesser-known Chinese actresses. It’s a truly odd flick. The print’s soft but watchable; the flick’s weird but watchable, even if I did sort of go “Huh?” when it was all over. As a not very good curiosity, I’ll give it $1.00.

 

Mystery Collection Disc 30

Posted in Movies and TV on March 16th, 2012

The Bridge of Sighs, 1936, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Onslow Stevens, Dorothy Tree, Jack La Rue, Mary Doran, Walter Byron, Oscar Apdel, John Kelly, Paul Fix. 1:06.

We open on an astonishing trial scene, set high in a courtroom building—a courtroom that apparently emulates Venice, being connected by a bridge to the jail—thus, the Bridge of Sighs. “Commit perjury and it takes 10 seconds to walk over…and 10 years to walk back!” This as the prosecutor hectors the poor young woman mercilessly…except that it’s all an act, as she’s his girlfriend (who keeps rejecting his marriage proposal).

They go off to dinner. She sees someone she recognizes, but who has no time for her. The other man starts to sit down with three others (two men and a woman)—but they’re about to leave, and he goes with them. The next thing we know, there’s a shot, one of the group that just left is dead, the man she’d attempted to talk to runs away—and is captured by a cop responding to the gunfire.

With four eyewitnesses offering the same story, it’s a fairly cut-and-dried murder case—during which the prosecutor (the boyfriend) conceals evidence from the defense, which I guess was considered fair practice in 1936. The jury brings back a guilty plea and the man’s sentenced to death, albeit at the expense of the woman among the foursome going to jail as an accessory (she hid the gun, claiming it was thrust at her).

The first woman’s convinced he’s innocent and sets about proving it—by getting herself convicted on phony check-kiting charges and being sent to the same women’s prison, where she gets the second woman as a roommate. They wind up escaping thanks to the actual killer. Add lots of suspense, an “electric ear” used to bug a hideout, a three-way car chase and a just-in-time happy ending. Lots of action, pretty good dialogue, and a fairly satisfactory early procedural/mystery. Some implausible points—such as a prosecuting attorney immediately taking over a crime scene because he happens to be nearby, and the road from sentencing to actual execution being no more than a couple of months—but never mind. Unfortunately, the sound and picture are both wavery at times, reducing the score to $1.25.

Circumstantial Evidence, 1935, b&w. Charles Lamont (dir.), Chick Chandler, Shirley Grey, Arthur Vinton, Claude King, Dorothy Revier, Lee Moran, Carl Stockdale. 1:07.

A newspaper reporter covering a murder trial along with his girlfriend, the newspaper’s sketch artist, is outraged because the defendant can be put to death based solely on circumstantial evidence. So, after proposing to the woman (which she accepts, then tells him that the newspaper’s gossip columnist had proposed the night before and been turned down), he decides to prove his point…by staging a mock murder with lots of circumstantial evidence pointing to him, getting arrested, tried and convicted, then showing how absurd the situation is.

Right off the bat, that’s more than a little hard to take. A whole lot harder: He chooses the rejected suitor—who is an “old friend” but also has some fairly odd tastes—as the “victim.” Sure, because the other guy couldn’t possibly double-cross him or anything… At this point, I’m convinced that the reporter needs a long vacation and some therapy. But he does his thing, with various staged stuff culminating in the “friend” setting an old skeleton he has lying around into the room of his newly-purchased country home and covering it with lots of furniture. At this point, the agreement is that the friend will add kerosene-soaked rags and burn the place down, then go off to San Francisco under an assumed name until recalled to show up the situation. Except, except: The friend has a passport under another name and a ticket on a cruise ship to France. Except, except: As he starts the fire (and shoots the reporter’s gun into the skeleton to improve the frame), somebody shoots him. Dead.

The rest of the movie runs on from there. We have an over-the-top DA denouncing a signed document admitting the situation as being a probable forgery since the handwriting expert was paid by the defense. We have various shenanigans and, of course, a sort-of happy ending. And I found the whole thing so implausible that it was hard to take seriously as a mystery. There’s also an issue with the sound: For about 15 minutes in the second half of the film, it’s as though it was being recorded from an LP with a bad scratch and loads of surface noise. Still, the acting’s amusing; if you don’t mind the implausibility, this one might be worth $1.

Convicted, 1931, b&w. Christy Cabanne (dir.), Aileen Pringle, Jameson Thomas, Dorothy Christy, Richard Tucker, Harry Myers, Nike Welch. 1:03 [0:57]

There’s something special about mysteries that involve transport—all those great train-based mysteries, some airplane-based mysteries, and a few cruise ship mysteries. Like this one—except that the mystery only seems to occupy about half of an already-short movie and then moves too fast and erratically to be satisfying.

As far as I can figure out, we have a slick type in First Class on a cruise ship (the kind where everybody’s formally dressed all day and all night, which I suppose could have been true in 1931) who makes a point of greeting a young woman who wants nothing to do with him. He’s then approached by another young woman who he wants nothing to do with—but who clearly has some unfinished business with him. We also meet an investigative reporter, a drunk and his cabin mate and a few others. As things progress, the reporter encounters the man refusing to let the first woman go and Has Stern Words. There’s dancing. The man, the drunk and cabin-mate, some other random passenger and a ship’s officer wind up playing poker (the first man losing badly to one person and refusing to pay his losses to another, who he knows was at one point convicted as a cardsharp)—and a couple of hours later, the man’s dead: Hit over the head with a blunt instrument but killed by stabbing.

Somehow, the investigative reporter winds up heading up the case and interviewing all those who might have been involved. Suspicion falls on the first young woman—and she later admits to coshing him over the head (but that wasn’t what killed him). The captain finds out that the ship had been wired (a wire that never reached its destination) that the man had embezzled $100,000 from his company and was to be arrested—and, oh look, there’s some money in the young woman’s closet. Oh, by the way, there’s another murder, one the woman could not plausibly have been involved in. In any case, the way it plays out means nobody could plausibly have guessed what’s going on. And after the mystery’s solved, there’s another five or ten minutes as the ship docks and we learn that the reporter and the young woman are, he believes, engaged.

All bizarrely staged: They keep reminding us that it’s a cruise by having wholly irrelevant scenes on the bridge, about positioning via sextant and calling out headings. There’s very little background to understand why or how either woman is or would be involved with the man; in fact, no motivation appears for any character in the movie. Additionally, there’s so much background noise on the print that the sound is unpleasant through much of the movie. The movie’s title doesn’t seem to have anything to do with anything. Maybe the missing six minutes explain everything—but as it is, there’s so much idle footage in this flick, that’s a little hard to believe. (Looking at the IMDB reviews, I rather like the one that assumes this is actually a documentary on cruise ship life, interrupted annoyingly with a silly murder plot. I might be more charitably inclined if that was true.) All in all, and most of the rating only for the early shipboard scenes, I can’t go above $0.75.

The Devil Diamond, 1937, b&w. Lesslie Goodwins (dir.), Frankie Darro, Kane Richmond, June Gale, Rosita Butler, Robert Fiske. 1:01 [1:00]

I’m not sure whether I could take another Frankie Darro, All-American Kid, but in any case this movie—about a cursed diamond that a bunch of jewelers want a retired cutter to split into smaller, presumably uncursed stones, and one or two groups planning to steal the jewels—had so many missing syllables and words that I gave up partway through: The quality of the print made it tiresome to try to follow the dialog. I wonder about the IMDB timing—I’d say there was at least a minute’s worth of missing footage during the 15 minutes I watched. Unrated.

The rare truly clever review

Posted in Movies and TV on March 15th, 2012

Background

When I watch old movies from the Mill Creek Entertainment megapacks–what used to appear in Cites & Insights as Offtopic Perspectives (and will continue to appear there, but with a Media label)–I deliberately write my own informal comments (a mini-review, if you will) before looking at any other comments on the film. Then I go to IMDB to check credits and original running length–and usually read some of the reviews of the movie (all of them unless there are more than 20 or so).

IMDB reviews include lots of ax-grinders and lots of purists–people who detest any John Wayne movie that’s not a Western or any Hitchcock movie that’s not a thriller, for example–and lots of people who appear to love any movie that involves light and movement, especially the cheaply-made ones with lousy acting and poor writing. (Purists also include those who treat any “noir” movie as pure magic and lump nearly all old black-and-white B-grade mysteries as noir.)

But sometimes…

Middle Ground

So yesterday I watched Convicted. The title makes no sense at all (especially following, as it does, two movies on the disc both about murder convictions and last-minute salvation), and that’s only the start of stuff that doesn’t make much sense in this movie that manages to combine short running length with what feels like enormous amounts of padding.

I went into this one predisposed to like it, because it’s set on a cruise ship (in 1931), and transportation mysteries–those set on trains, planes or ships–are usually fun and frequently interesting. This flick may have actually been filmed on a cruise ship, and certainly has lots and lots and lots of footage establishing cruise-ship aspects (including a number of short scenes on the ship’s bridge that do nothing whatsoever to forward the plot). Unfortunately, the mystery (other than the never-explained issues of why Mr. X and Ms. Y and Ms. Z and others feel the way about each other that they appear to–what the backstories are) doesn’t take up much of the picture and is wildly slapdash. Even after it’s “solved,” there’s another seven minutes of the ship coming into dock and a wholly absurd romantic plot point–this out of a flick that runs an hour or so.

Unusually, this movie had few (if any) defenders on IMDB. The overall average is 3.8 out of 10, and I think a reel of blank film would get at least a 3. But…

Foreground

“robinakaaly” from the United Kingdom was remarkably creative in his/her August 23, 2011 review. It begins:

This was an interesting documentary about life on an ocean liner in passage from New York to Los Angeles. There was footage of the scary looking passenger gangplanks, freight being loaded, and the side of the ship as she left harbour, with passengers on the ship and crowds on the quayside waving at each other. We see the funnel belching out smoke as if there were no Clean Air Acts (there weren’t then, of course).

and deals with the so-called mystery at the end:

We also get to meet several fictional passengers from the world of entertainment, and a criminal journalist. These characters, their lives, loves, criminal activities and gambling tended to get in the way of the examination of shipboard life.

I can’t link directly to this review; the set of reviews is here.

What I can say is this: Well played, robinakaaly, well played!

50 Movie Comedy Kings Disc 8

Posted in Movies and TV on March 3rd, 2012

The Milky Way, 1936, b&w. Leo McCarey (dir.), Harold Lloyd, Adolphe Menjou, Verree Teasdale, Helen Mack, William Gargan, George Barbier, Dorothy Wilson, Lionel Stander, Charles Lane, Marjorie Gateson. 1:29 [1:27]

Burleigh Sullivan (Harold Lloyd) is a milkman with glasses, a timid sort who gets practical jokes played on him during dairy meetings and isn’t much liked by his boss, the dairy owner. His sister is a hatcheck girl. When he comes to pick her up at the club, she’s being harassed by two sizable and drunk buffoons, one of them far more buffoonish than the other. He comes to her defense and, in the ensuing melee, seems to have knocked out one of the buffoons—who turns out to be the middleweight boxing champion.

That’s the setup. From there, it’s a fast-moving joyride with Adolphe Menjou doing a great job as a boxing manager/promoter with the ethics you’d expect, just enough physical comedy, some great ways to duck-and-dance, love interest, the meek becoming the arrogant—and redeeming himself, and lots more. I found it thoroughly entertaining in an ageless way, well played by everyone concerned, well written and just flat-out funny to boot. A key plot point involves a thuggish boxing assistant who’s literacy is minimal at best and the fact that “some ammonia” and “insomnia” have some similarities. Pretty good print, but it seems to be missing a minute or two (though there’s no obvious gap). Supposedly, this movie almost disappeared because Samuel Goldwyn purchased both the rights (for a Danny Kaye remake) and the negative, and destroyed that—but Lloyd had retained a quality print. I’ll give it $1.75.

Money Means Nothing, 1934, b&w. Christy Cabanne (dir.), Wallace Ford, Gloria Shea, Edgar Kennedy, Vivien Oakland, Maidel Turner, Betty Blythe, Eddie Tamblyn. 1:10 [1:04]

This is a Depression romantic comedy in the worst way: I found the whole thing pretty depressing, and it being filmed in 1934 was part of that. The plot’s also a little strange, possibly due to a few missing minutes in this print. To wit: A young socialite’s at a sleazy roadhouse with her drunk-to-the-point-of-unconsciousness date. She spots four men conferring at a nearby table and thinks they look interesting/suspicious. A waiter tells her she should mind her own business. But of course, she trails them outside and, stuffing her comatose date in her fancy roadster, follows their car…which is on its way to hijack two trucks full of tires, an effort she aids by stalling her car in a manner that blocks the trucks.

In the ensuing brouhaha, one driver gets shot and the handsome young man who was in the same truck admonishes her. They wind up at her father’s (or sister’s?) mansion, with the driver bleeding all over the expensive sofa, cops, doctors, bemused father, angry sister… Anyway: She (the socialite) essentially stalks the young man (who’s a manager at an auto accessories store), loading the roadster down with a dozen or more horns in the process, until she finally gets him to marry her. (The incongruity: He never seems to show more than the most casual interest in her.) Naturally, her sister sees to it that she’s cut off without a cent—and shortly thereafter, he loses his job (which apparently has something to do with the gossipy, loud woman in an apartment near the one they move to, whose husband is a higher-up at the parts place). He’s looking for work. She’s pawning stuff to keep them going—and at one point, a pawnbroker’s wife informs her that she’s pregnant (based on her near-fainting spell?). Anyway, somehow, the husband winds up being part of a tire hijacking ring but heroically saving the day and getting his old job back. Or something like that.

Occasionally amusing, but mostly not, and really pretty depressing as well as being wildly illogical even by romantic comedy standards. (Full confession: I love good romantic comedies.) At best, I’d give this $0.75.

Never Wave at a WAC, 1953, b&w. Norman Z. McLeod (dir.), Rosalind Russell, Paul Douglas, Marie Wilson, William Ching, Arleen Whelan, Leif Erickson, Hillary Brooke, Charles Dingle, Lurene Tuttle, Regis Toomey, Gen. Omar Bradley (playing himself). 1:27.

This one’s also a romantic comedy, as well as a comedy about growing up and the military—and it’s an absolute charmer. Russell plays a Washington, DC socialite, daughter of a senator and divorced from a fabric manufacturer and researcher (who works with the Pentagon on specialized uniform needs)—and whose boyfriend, a Colonel, is suddenly on his way to Paris to work with NATO.

While she first makes a flight reservation for Paris, a discussion with her father leads to a belief that she can get the government to pay for her flight—by joining the WACs with an assured officer commission and billeting in Paris. So off she drives to Fort Lee, where she’ll deal with the formalities before rejoining her boyfriend. Basic training? Surely she doesn’t have to…

Things don’t go quite as planned—and in the process, we get a movie that’s enjoyable on several levels. There’s some pure physical comedy, a lot of relationship comedy (among women as well as between women and men), a lot of heart and an odd but presumably happy ending. Even though there are a few missing syllables (but apparently less than a minute overall missing) due to print issues, it’s still worth $2.

Nothing Sacred, 1937, color. William A. Wellman (dir.), Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger, Walter Connolly, Sig Ruman. 1:17 [1:14]

The plot’s not all that unusual, but this 1937 romantic comedy is in well-preserved Technicolor and stars Carole Lombard, and it’s a flat-out winner. A newspaper reporter who’s done very well for his New York paper gets taken in by a fake Asian potentate (actually a shoe-shine artiste) and relegated to the world’s worst obituary desk. Pleading his case with the editor, he spots an underplayed story about a young woman in a Vermont town who’s dying of radium poisoning.

He goes off to interview her and to show her New York as a great story and publicity stunt. The interactions with small-town Yup/Nope Vermont, specifically a factory town wholly owned by a watch company, and the lush doctor who (mistakenly) diagnosed radium poisoning (a mistake that the patient and doctor, ahem, choose not to reveal when the reporter offers the New York trip) starts out a fast-moving, charming tale. Yes, it’s a bit cynical, but it’s also funny and entertaining. Fairly big-budget for its time, well-made, a good print, and easily worth $2.

They’re Just Movies

Posted in Movies and TV on February 28th, 2012

After seeing some long, heated stuff about certain movies (and, indeed, about how any good movie should “change your life”), I find that I either want to join TJM or found it.

TJM: They’re Just Movies

Case in point:

I went to high school in the same school and class as a moderately short guy who’s now a billionaire in the movie industry, has kept his operations in Northern California, and has in some ways transformed quite a few aspects of the field (and some associated fields–certification of one display setup on our new HDTV is a great idea, and choosing that option yields a fine, natural picture).

A caveat: I didn’t know this person during high school–it was a full-size high school, with 530 people in our graduating class, and we ran in different circles. I don’t know him know. At one high school reunion, the only one I’ve attended (he gets to all of them, I believe), we were at adjacent tables, but since he was being thronged and I never knew him, I neither introduced myself nor talked to him. There were two stretch limos at that reunion. Neither was his. That told me something…

This person made a true starmaking movie, about our graduating class, Thomas Downey High School, 1962–and that’s certainly where I was in ’62 (although he couldn’t film it in Modesto because Modesto didn’t look like that any more).

He also made several tributes to the scifi-tinged serials from his youth–but this time with a lot bigger budget and vastly superior special effects. Just to make things interesting, he made the (programmatically) fourth of six related tributes first.

He’s also kept tinkering with those movies as they’ve been released on DVD and on Blu-ray.

People take these movies awfully damn seriously. But, y’know,

They’re Just Movies.

I’m not putting them down. I loved the movie about our high school. We loved the first (that is, second in terms of story line) trilogy of movies. We enjoyed the other trilogy, mostly. We own the DVD (not Blu-ray: since we already purchased the DVDs, we’ll probably stick with those) set of the first trilogy with his tinkerings–and with a great fourth disc documentary.

But they’re just movies. I can’t get that excited about whether what I saw originally is more canonical than what the creator wants to show me now.

In a related item, I saw earnest discussion from people disappointed by the Academy Award winner–not because it wasn’t a fine picture but because it didn’t change their lives.

Really? A movie should change your life?

They’re just movies.

But, hey, starting an organization would be too much like work, especially since, by denying the importance of movies, the organization would be indirectly endorsing the importance of movies. And, after all, they’re just movies.

Mystery Collection Disc 29

Posted in Movies and TV on February 16th, 2012

The Hoodlum, 1951, b&w. Max Nosseck (dir.), Lawrence Tierney, Allene Roberts, Marjorie Riordan, Lisa Golm. 1:02.

The term “film noir” and the vaguer “noir” have been applied by various amateur reviewers to many of the flicks in this massive set, and I suspect this one’s no different. (As I discovered checking IMDB: Yep—”a very underrated B film noir.” You can get away with almost any crap as long as it appears to be noir.) Unfortunately, “noir” has become a lazy way to glamorize cheap, nasty flicks—ones that revel in the dark side of humanity without the skill to suggest deeper meanings. I suspect much of what’s celebrated as noir is actually a browner color that gives off a certain stench: film crap. This one doesn’t even have the excuse of being filmed during the Depression.

This sad little B movie gives it away in the title. It’s about a hoodlum—a piece of work who’s arrested pretty much every year from age 15 onward for increasingly serious acts of casual thuggery. This time, he’s in for 5 to 25—and although the warden sees a lifetime criminal for what he is, the aging mother somehow convinces the parole board to free him.

Which, of course, does not go well. Need I recount the plot? He betrays his brother, seduces his brother’s girlfriend (who later commits suicide), sets up a really dumb armored car robbery that yields two dead in his little gang and two dead armored car employees…and eventually even his mother tells him what a piece of work he is, then dies. As does he, shortly thereafter. He never grows as a character; he’s scum, and seemingly proud of it.

I see no redeeming qualities in this other than its brief length. If you’re a believer that all noir has its worth (as, apparently, most of those who deigned to review this on IMDB do) and that badly-done cheap flicks with no redeeming virtues are all noir, I suppose this could get $0.50.

Dick Tracy’s Dilemma, 1947, b&w. John Rawlins (dir.), Ralph Byrd, Lyle Latell, Kay Christopher, Jack Lambert, Ian Keith, Bernadene Hayes, Jimmy Conlin. 1:00.

It’s a Dick Tracy B programmer, and that means slightly over-acted fun with silly character names, oddly-named villains, and good clean fun. This time, the villain is The Claw, a criminal whose right hand was replaced with a hook in the same accident that messed up one of his legs. We also have Honesty Insurance (with Peter Premium as a VP), Vitamin Flintheart, Tess Trueheart, Sightless the ‘Blind’ Beggar (whose sign is honest: “I am Sightless”), Longshot Lillie and more.

The setup: A furrier’s fortune in furs is stolen from his vault—by somebody who clearly knew the combination, changed just a couple days ago when the furrier changed insurance companies. In the process, the night watchman was slain. Who did it and why? We find out in a spirited hour. Great fun, but also a one-hour flick (and exactly the right length); I give it $1.00.

Black Gold, 1936, b&w. Russell Hopton (dir.), Frankie Darro, LeRoy Mason, Gloria Shea, Berton Churchill, Stanley Fields, Frank Shannon, George Cleveland, Fred ‘Snowflake’ Toones, Dewey Robinson. 0:57 [0:54].

What we have here is a musical, with original songs. Or it’s a romantic dramedy, with a young couple meeting cute and immediately falling for each other. Or it’s a tale of industrial sabotage and ruthless oilmen. Or it’s a tale of rebellious youth. It’s really all of those, with easily enough plot for a three-hour extravaganza…and the whole thing runs 54 minutes. Of which the first 2+ minutes are essentially waste footage showing various oil-rig scenes and showing off the cinematographer’s love of fancy dissolves, and another couple of minutes are apparently stock footage with the star overlaid, also showing off both fancy dissolves and fancy picture overlays.

What it isn’t is a mystery. The villain’s obvious from the first time we meet him, the ending has to be a happy one (although there’s a twist to it that makes no sense at all to me, but to explain it would be a spoiler), and very little is mysterious along the way. I think the movie relies primarily on fans of Frankie Darro, and it’s one of those movies that starts out by showing each major character with the actor’s name. It’s certainly fast-moving, and enjoyable enough in its odd way. I’ll give it $1.00.

Blonde Ice, 1948, b&w. Jack Bernhard (dir.), Robert Paige, Leslie Brooks, Russ Vincent, Michael Whalen, James Griffith, Emory Parnell, Walter Sands, John Holland, Mildred Coles. 1:13.

This flick, which is a noir film of sorts (of the femme fatale variety) starts out fast and never stops moving. We’re at a wedding, where various men are bemoaning the fact that their onetime girlfriend is marrying a wealthy man—and some of them have engraved cigarette cases from her. One throws the case away from a verandah (the wedding’s at the wealthy groom’s home), shortly before the new bride comes out and assures him that she loves him (not the groom) and will write to him from the honeymoon…

Now the couple are on the honeymoon. She’s writing a love letter to the spurned man; when her husband enters the room, she covers it with a brief letter to somebody else. Unfortunately, when he’s reading the innocent letter, he drops it, reveals the other letter, and walks out on her, flying back from the LA hotel to his home in San Francisco.

Without revealing too much of the plot, let’s just say that the next day the new widow goes after her old flame again…and then gets engaged to an up-and-coming Congressman, shedding some more blood along the way. Oh, and pretty convincingly framing the old flame who she still professes to love.

It all works out in the end, and it’s quite an amalgam of newspaper life (the old flame’s a newspaper columnist, she was a society writer and has become the society editor) and sheer coldblooded ambition mixed with sociopathy. The only problem I had is that this woman strikes me as so absurdly cold that, stunning as she may be, I couldn’t see how she got so many men falling for her so rapidly. But I’m sure it happens. Despite that, this is a good one, worth $1.50.

It’s not film noir, they’re Mist Filme

Posted in Movies and TV on February 9th, 2012

As I’ve been going through the 250-movie Mystery Collection, I’ve seen quite a few flicks that some cineastes would label as cinema noir or film noir–most of them low-budget black-and-white movies, usually badly filmed and seeming to celebrate the darker side of humanity.

Some of them probably are film noir. Some of them I’ve even enjoyed (as I have some of the classics of the supposed genre). All of them, as far as I can tell, have been labeled as noir classics or at least interesting noir by IMDB’s merry band of amateur reviewers, for some of whom almost any movie has not only redeeming but praiseworthy characteristics. [I just checked: Yep, some of the IMDB reviews for Apache Blood, almost certainly the worst Western ever filmed and a strong contender for worst movie of all time, manage to find some merit in it.]

Mist Filme

But some of them aren’t. They’re not subtle or existential inquiries into the darker side of humanity. They’re not … oh, you can supply your own set of noirish comments.

They’re mist filme. I would have called them cinema merde, but that phrase has been taken (both in that form and as cinema de merde), and seems to be used for the “so bad they’re entertaining” stuff like, well, Plan 9 from Outer Space.

Mist filme is German for “shit films” or “crappy films” according to Google Translate–at least it’s the version that doesn’t require special characters. I plan to use it in the future as shorthand for movies that are just plain crappy–not “if only they had more talent” bad, not “worth satirizing” bad, just bad.

I don’t remember how many movies from the first 28 discs of the 60-disc set fall into this category. I certainly don’t plan to go back and find out. My most recent run-in with mist filme came yesterday, when I began viewing Disc 29 with The Hoodlum, the first of four movies (three of them around one hour long, all presumably B “programmers” filmed to fill out double bills) on the disc.

The movie has no redeeming virtues that I could find. I watched the whole thing partly because it was short, partly because I kept hoping there would be something to redeem it. Nope. But look at the IMDB page: an average rating of 6.2, which would make it a pretty good flick. Maybe so, if mist filme is your thing.

I’ve been down to one old flick a week, but this time I moved on to the next movie just a day later, if only to balance out the crappy movie. The next one: Dick Tracy’s Dilemma, By comparison, it’s a masterpiece. (I’ll post the review after I watch the other two flicks on this disc, as usual.)

Mist filme. A genre to be avoided at all costs.


Update: On further reflection and the advice of sensible folk, I realize that there’s no way I’ll make a neologism like this work. So it’s back to either “film merde” or just “crap” as a descriptor.

Box Office Gold, Disc 7

Posted in Movies and TV on February 2nd, 2012

In all the old movie sets I’ve reviewed, I’ve only failed to complete a few movies—one because it was too gruesome, at least one because my tolerance for a gang of juvenile delinquents had run out, a couple for other reasons. But I’ve also sat through some movies that were really, truly uninteresting even after half an hour.

No more. Nobody should be reading these “reviews” for anything other than casual amusement. So I’m adopting a flick version of the Nancy Pearl Rule (you know: If after 100 pages minus your age a book doesn’t hold your attention, give up), which itself is a codification of Life is Too Short. From now on, if I just don’t give a damn about a movie after half an hour, I’m inclined to give up. Life really is too short. I’ll include a short note as to why I didn’t watch it, but no $rating. The situation arises right away with this larger half of the set.

Choices, 1981, color. Silvio Narizzano (dir.), Paul Carafotes, Victor French, Lelia Goldoni, Val Avery, Demi Moore, William R. Moses. 1:30.

The plot from the sleeve—and I got pretty well into it within the first 30-40 minutes: A high school student is a great football player and a virtuoso violinist (in the school orchestra that’s taught by his grandfather), and of course good-looking and popular. But he’s also deaf: Completely deaf in one ear, half-deaf (well, a lot more than half-deaf without his hearing aid: he can’t hear somebody speaking behind him at all) in the other, as the result of a swimming accident when he was eight.

The new school doctor says he can’t play football because he’s deaf. As his father and the coach are trying to appeal this situation, he starts withdrawing and hanging out with a punk acquaintance just back from Juvie. Oh, he also tries to get it on with a girl he’s known for something like 15 minutes…and this is before he gets knocked off the team.

This rates as “Box Office Gold” because of a very young Demi Moore in a small role, I guess (she was 18 and it’s her film debut, but it’s a tiny part). The problem is that I really didn’t find the kid sympathetic or believable, I found the movie listless and boring, and I didn’t feel like watching the rest of what felt like an Afterschool Special flick. Life is too short. (I thought of “Afterschool Special” before I saw just that description in the first IMDB review). No rating.

Crossbar, 1979, color, made for Canadian TV. John Trent (dir.), Brent Carver, Kim Cattrall, John Ireland, Kate Reid. 1:18.

Another movie about a young sports star with a disability problem—but this one’s quite different. The hero is a Canadian Olympic-class high jumper (the sleeve says “pole vaulter” but he doesn’t use a pole), winner of a bronze medal, who goes back to his farm and winds up missing a leg because of a combine accident. He’s not a virtuoso in some other field, he’s not an amoral asshat, and while he certainly goes through some issues, the film is largely about bravery and relationships (family and otherwise) and it winds up being decent. A young Kim Cattrall (22 at the time) plays his ex-girlfriend/coach and does it well.

The plot, basically: His sometime girlfriend, an Olympic-class runner, comes out to visit—but she’s actually planning to move to her new boyfriend’s place with superior training facilities as she prepares for the next Olympics. He doesn’t know this. He’s more than a little down and sneaks off one day to canoe a river with rapids, with no safety vest, apparently thinking he might just die. He doesn’t—and decides he wants to get back into jumping. Which he does, despite his father’s “freak show” comment, with the help of the ex-girlfriend, now coach, and—eventually—all the other Canadian jumpers.

Far-fetched? (A one-legged man hopping up to the bar and clearing a 7′ crossbar height?) I dunno. Nicely done, with some realistic family portrayals? Yes. Of course it’s schmaltzy and includes some of the typical stuff you’d expect, but it also has some fairly good acting (including John Ireland and Kate Reid as the guy’s parents). Not great, but not terrible, and a very good print: $1.25.

Lovers and Liars (orig. Viaggio con Anita), 1979, color. Mario Monicelli (dir.), Goldie Hawn, Giancarlo Giannini, Claudine Auger, Aurore Clement, Laura Betti, Andrea Ferreol; score (and conducted) by Enrico Morricone. 2:00 [1:35]

I suppose you could call this odd little Italian movie a romantic comedy, if your definition of “romantic” is based on Elvis Presley’s classic “Hounddog”—or, in this case, horndog, the apparently sole motivation of the male protagonist. It’s most definitely European, even if it does feel like a TV movie: Casual full frontal nudity (no, not Goldie), extremely casual sex (yes, Goldie), not terribly sophisticated writing.

The plot: Guido, our “hero,” gets a call while he’s at home with his attractive wife and rebellious teen: His father’s doing badly and he needs to go to the family home up north. So he packs…and goes over to where his girlfriend from the last summer lives, so he can pick her up and take her with him. She’s moved on (as is demonstrated when she resists his charming attempt to have sex with her while she’s still asleep), but her temporary roommate—Here’s Goldie!—would be happy to have him drive her north. (She works at the U. of Chicago, met an Italian there, fell for him…and bought a 14-day excursion air fare so she could visit him. He, of course, is no longer interested. So she’s trying to see Italy on no money.)

After various misadventures including a multicar crash and his attempt to have sex with her while she’s asleep—in the car—which she responds to as sort of “I’m not interested, but if that’s what you want…” they wind up on a tourist island, but it’s off-season. Then we get various other bits of nonsense as he’s trying to keep her available (“interested” doesn’t seem to be an issue: she has no apparent qualms about whatever partner’s handy) while he deals with his family. The trouble is, he doesn’t appear to have any personality other than being a horndog—he’s mostly tiresome.

It all climaxes in a long set of scenes where we learn that his father—now dead—had had a mistress for 18 years; his brothers knew; so, for that matter, did the mother (but didn’t say); and, well…the movie ends. I kept hoping for it all to mean something. That was clearly a forlorn hope. Maybe the missing 25 minutes explains why this “screwball comedy” just seemed sort of blah. Goldie Hawn is very Goldie Hawnish. The Enrico Morricone score? Meh. A very soft print. Charitably, $1.

Twisted Nerve, 1968, color. Roy Boulting (dir.), Hayley Mills, Hywel Bennett, Billie Whitelaw, Phyllis Calvert, Frank Finlay, GBarry Foster, Salmaan Peerzada. 1:58 [1:52]

In the opening scene, a young man is playing ball with a person with Down syndrome. This turns out to be at an institution, the young man is the other’s brother, the doctor says not to disturb their mother by bringing her around. Did I mention that the filmmakers found it necessary to have a voice-over before the movie emphasizing that people with “mongolism” (and their siblings) aren’t necessarily psychotic or criminals…and, yes, used the term “mongolism” repeatedly in a 1968 film.

Next: The young man’s in a toy store. He goes up to the counter looking at a duck. While an attractive young woman is discussing the price of something with the clerk (and smiles at him at one point) and then buying something, he pockets the duck. Two store detectives follow both of them out of the store, interrogate them on the assumption that the young woman is his confederate in shoplifting, and eventually free them when she pays for the toy after convincing them that she has no idea who the young man is. The young man, calling himself Georgie (his name’s Martin) and frequently referring to himself in the third person, says he loves ducks…

With a start like that…OK, I probably should have given up on it early, but Hayley Mills (the young woman—home from college from the summer and working in a public library while studying for her exams) and some of the other characters in her mother’s boarding house kept me watching. The young man is, as we gradually learn, some sort of schizophrenic and definitely a murdering psychopath. But he’s so cute… Along the way, we get exposed to a fair amount of casual racism among all British classes, including the other doctors who refer to an Indian doctor (one of the boarders) with various “amusing” epithets. This doctor, who winds up saving the day, is perhaps the only likable character other than Mills’ character, but that’s two better than some movies.

It’s not a particularly good picture, and the suggested genetic link between Down syndrome and sociopathic behavior (explored at some length in a hospital lecture) is truly offensive—but it’s an excellent print and both Hayley Mills and Billie Whitelaw (as her mother, who’s been having it on with one boarder and develops a fatal attraction for the strange young man) offer good performances. I wouldn’t watch it again, but I’ll give it $1.25.


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