Archive for July, 2017

Mystery Collection Disc 48

Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

With four movies to a disc, how does Mill Creek get 50 movies on 12 discs—or, in this case, 250 on 60? By having the occasional disc with more, usually shorter, movies. Like this one, with six relatively short mysteries.

 

Rogue’s Gallery, 1944, b&w. Albert Herman (dir.), Robin Raymond, Frank Jenks, H.B. Warner, Ray Walker, Bob Homans. 1:00 [0:58]

The title makes no sense at all, but this is a wacky little story of the wisecracking woman reporter (the smartest one in the flick) and her slightly dim photographer sidekick as they encounter a wonderful (and wonderfully dangerous) invention and a couple of murders.

The plot moves quickly and maybe isn’t worth recounting. (The invention allows you to listen to anybody, anywhere, if you know the “unique frequency” their location has. It has one very prominent vacuum tube. Hey, it was 1944.) There’s also a corpse that keeps getting moved and a couple of car chases. That the cameraman had the bad guy’s picture all along and didn’t realize it may not be too important, since all the action seems to take place in one night. Fast-moving and pretty enjoyable. That Frank Jenks (the sidekick) gets first billing over Robin Raymond is typical Hollywood sexism: she’s the star player. Given its length, I’ll say $1.25.

The Black Raven, 1943, b&w. Sam Newfield (dir.), George Zucco, Wanta McKay, Noel Madison, Robert Livingston, Glenn Strange, Byron Foulger. 1:01 [0:59]

It was a dark and stormy night…

That’s the weather and the mood of this movie, which is so dark that the action’s invisible much of the time (the print doesn’t help). The action takes place in The Black Raven, a hotel near the Canadian border whose host (Amos Bradford, also known as the Black Raven) makes a few extra bucks by smuggling criminals across the border—and probably through other means. As the picture begins, his old partner in crime (busted out of prison with ten years left to serve) shows up and, in the usual manner of Movie Bad Guys With Scores To Settle, stands there talking at him instead of using that gun—so that when his tall, oafish assistant Andy, the comic relief of the movie, walks in, Bradford can wrestle the gun away and tie the guy up in his office. He gets out at some point.

I’m probably missing some of the plot, but basically the bridge across the border is washed out, as are other ways across, so the guy turning people back directs them to the Black Raven. Thus, in addition to a wanted criminal mastermind awaiting the cross-border smuggle, we have a bank clerk who’s embezzled $50,000; a young couple planning to get married in Canada because her father, a crooked politician, opposes the marriage; the father in question; and eventually a sheriff. (I may have missed someone.) The politician winds up dead; the bumbling sheriff immediately assumes that the young man must have done it; and, as time goes on, we get [I think] three more deaths.

Between the dark print and the muddled plot, I can’t see much to recommend this. Charitably, $0.50.

Seven Doors to Death, 1944, b&w. Elmer Clifton (dir.), Chick Chandler, June Clyde, George Meeker. 1:04 [1:00]

While this flick also suffers from goings-on-in-the-dark print problems, the main problem is that it’s 100 minutes of plot in a 60-minute film. It starts out with a sequence that never quite makes sense, and I’m not sure I ever did figure out the full cast of characters and who did what to whom when why…

The title’s easy enough. Most of the film takes place in an odd community of seven shops (and apartments for the shopkeepers?) arranged around a courtyard. There’s a photographer, a milliner (the heroine, who also may or may not be heir to the whole operation), a furrier/taxidermist (primary villain) and…well, others. There’s a jewelry heist, two murders, a disappearing corpse, and an interesting gimmick. Oh, and the wisecracking…architect, apparently, with a jalopy named Genevieve. He winds up with the beautiful milliner. Cops are also involved. There’s even a dance number.

It’s not terrible, but it’s not all that great either. Maybe $0.75.

Five Minutes to Live, 1961, b&w. Bill Karn (dir.), Johnny Cash, Donald Woods, Cay Forester, Vic Tayback, Ron (Ronnie) Howard, Merle Travis. 1:20 [1:14]

An unusual cast and an improbable bank-robbery plot, adding up to an OK movie. The cast features Johnny Cash as a gun-happy thief with a sadistic streak (he’s only too happy to shoot his girlfriend, but he’d rather not shoot kids) and Ronnie Howard (later Ron, but this is at Opie age), along with Vic Tayback as the hardbitten criminal mastermind whose plot really doesn’t work out very well. (At least he’s alive at the end, albeit in the hands of the cops: Cash doesn’t fare as well.) Merle Travis has a brief role as a bowling alley owner (and plays a guitar solo on the theme song and guitar through much of the soundtrack).

A lot hangs on a banker who was about ready to run off with his girlfriend and divorce his wife, but in the end turns out to love his wife after all. Maybe. I’d spell out the rest of the plot, but why bother? (The title, which is also a Johnny Cash song over the titles, alludes to a key plot point: if Cash, holding a gun on the wife, doesn’t get called every five minutes she gets it—except that it doesn’t quite work out that way.) Clearly a low-budget flick, so-so print, but some interesting acting (esp. Cay Forester, the wife and hostage, a little over the top—and why not, since she also wrote the screenplay?). All in all, not memorable, but not bad. $1.25.

Lady Gangster, 1942, b&w. Robert Florey (dir.), Faye Emerson, Julie Bishop, Frank Wilcox. 1:02.

The basic plot is that a would-be actress, in the same rooming house as three would-be bank robbers, facilitates the robbery…and is sent to prison. She’s also an old friend of a sort-of crusading radio station owner. After lots of scenes in a women’s prison (which seems to let inmates wear the clothes they arrived with), she escapes to help apprehend the others (although she’d actually hidden the $40K loot anyway). Somehow, despite multiple killings and her unquestionable involvement, it has a Cute Ending with Probable Nuptials. Apparently, a young Jackie Gleason was one of the robbers.

Even charitably, and mostly for Faye Emerson fans, make it $0.75.

The Sphinx, 1933, b&w. Phil Rosen (dir.), Lionel Atwill, Sheila Terry, Theodore Newton, Paul Hurst. 1:04 [1:02]

This time, it’s a wisecracking male reporter—with a society/features writer girlfriend who he wants to marry. He works the crime beat, and the crime’s a stockbroker strangled in his office, as were three other stockbrokers previously. There’s a witness of sorts, a janitor who sees a guy come out of the office, ask him for a light and ask him the time.

The murderer, obviously—except that he’s a deaf-mute, as tests by both defendant’s and state’s doctors attest. The woman thinks he’s also a Great Man, a benefactor to charities, and starts going to his mansion to interview hum (sometimes with the help of an assistant/interpreter, sometimes with the use of a notepad.

I won’t go through the rest of the plot, but it has to do with identical twins and secret chambers and piano playing. Oh, and the old suicide-through-poison-ring bit.

A bit low on plausibility—the killer’s excuse is that the other stockbrokers disagreed with him on a deal, but he’s been doing the deaf/dumb routine for years and obviously expected to be caught eventually (otherwise why the poison ring?). Still, not bad. $1.00.

Cites & Insights 17:6 (July 2017) available

Saturday, July 1st, 2017

The July 2017 Cites & Insights (17:6) is now available for downloading at https://citesandinsights.info/civ17i6.pdf

This 60-page (6″ x 9″) issue consists of one essay:

Intersections: Economics and Access 2017  pp. 1-60

A roundup of various items relating to the cost, price, fees and other aspects of scholarly journals, with an emphasis on open access.