Archive for July, 2018

50 Classic Movie Warriors, Disc 4

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

50 Movie Warriors, Disc 4

 

 

Colossus and the Amazon Queen (orig. La regina delle Amazzoni), color, 1960. Vittorio Sala (dir.), Dorian Gray, Rod Taylor, Gianni Maria Canale, Ed Fury. 1:30 [1:24]

There’s no Colossus, but there is Glauco (Ed Fury), strongest man in Greece as judged by an all-out battle royale that begins this mostly-humorous outing. Rod Taylor plays Pirro, conniving friend of Glauco who helps get them into and back out of trouble through a series of…well, escapades…involving the Queendom of the Amazons, where some men who arrive are married for one night then enslaved in bear-guarded mines while others seem to carry on as marketeers. Dorian Gray as Antiope is a continuing “Egyptian” inventor. There are holes in the plot, and some sequences seem to be missing endings, but this is mostly just peculiar good fun.

I guess the plot doesn’t much matter. A lot of sight gags, good scenery, slapstick, and mostly just fun. Music distinctly unlike a typical movie of this genre. If you treat this as a Serious Sword & Sorcery film it’s atrocious—but it’s really hard to do that. Not great, but $1.25.

Duel of Champions (orig. Orazi e Curiazi), 1961, color. Ferdinando Baldi & Terence Young (dirs..), Alan Ladd, Franca Bettoia, Franco Fabrizi, Robert Keith. 1:45 [1:29].

Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but I found this one richer and more subtle than I expected—specifically, more of a family-conflict plot and less pure action. It’s not a gladiatorial epic; it’s something quite different.

The setting: Rome and Alba have been fighting an exhausting war, as shown in the clumsy battle royale at the start and the successful ambushing of the 4th Legion, on its way to beef up the Romans. “Exhausting” in this case means that the resources of both city-states are pretty much exhausted—and, after some significant plot (the would-be future king has supposedly fled during the ambush; his wife, daughter of the king, is then immediately wed to the next future king—but the original future king was captured, escaped, and has been recuperating), both kings agree to see what their joint gods would have them do.

The sibyl proclaims that the war should be decided by three brothers from each city fighting a duel in one month’s time: to the winner goes the war. But the only plausible set of Roman brothers includes the recuperated one, who’s been denounced by his father for (supposedly) fleeing the battle and decides to go live peaceably outside the war zone. Lots of discussion ensues; at the last minute, he shows up to the fight. (The original title refers to the families: the Roman Orazis and the Alban Curiazis.) Without giving away plot turns, it’s fair to say that Our Hero not only triumphs (by himself) but takes steps to see that the two cities live in peace.

To my taste, this was a good family-conflict drama with some action thrown in. The sound track’s poor at times, but the print’s pretty decent. You’re only seeing part of the widescreen picture, but the pan-and-scan was competently done. [I see why many IMDB reviews are negative: as a traditional sword-and-sandals movie, it’s not great.] I could see watching it again (unlikely though that is), so by the relaxed standards of these flicks, I’ll give it $1.75.

Hero of Rome (orig. Il colosso di Roma), 1964, color. Giorgio Ferroni (dir.), Gordon Scott, Gabriella Pallotta, Massimo Serato. 1:30 [1:27]

The Romans have ousted and exiled evil king Tarquin, becoming a republic—and, of course, the king wants Rome back, allying with Etruscans to do battle. Enter a strongman hero (Mucius), following which all sorts of betrayal and battles ensue. There’s a happy ending.

I don’t think the plot deserves more. There are elements that aren’t followed up, but mostly there are strong men, treacherous men, beautiful women, lots of scenery, and battles galore. I should note one thing about Mucius’ typical one-huge-man-defeats-ten-warriors bouts: he does a lot of tossing people over his shoulder, and sometimes it’s just a leetle too obvious that the other person has set up the stunt, unless appropriate fighting style was to place your foot on top of your opponent’s outstretched hand. Decent pan & scan. Not great, not terrible: $1.00.

Thor and the Amazon Women (orig. Le gladiatrici), 1963, color. Antonio Leonviola (dir. & screenplay), Susy Andersen, Joe Robinson, Harry Baird, Janine Hendy. 1:35 [1:26]

On one hand, there’s some interesting scenery. On the other…

Really vicious misogyny, not just saying that a violent female dictatorship is bad but—explicitly, several times—that women should never lead a government. Of the two blacks in the movie, one is the vicious Amazon queen; the other, who seems to be more muscular than Thor, is mostly a comic figure. All men are slaves…except for the men who are guards. The gladiatrices (that’s how they say it) don’t so much engage in battles as in bloodbaths, and despite the fact that they are also essentially slaves, they’re loyal to the queen (until they aren’t)..

Oh, and it’s a terrible pan&scan: at times, both actors in a scene are off to the sides and either invisible or barely visible. For that matter, the big “fight” between 100 trained gladiatrices and Thor turns out to be a tug-of-war, “settled” because the flames between the two sides burn through the rope.

If I didn’t look at what’s being said in the flick, it might be worth $0.75; as it is, at best $0.25.

 

An update: Why I’m still less engaged, and likely to be

Monday, July 9th, 2018

A few folks may have read this May 2018 post explaining why I wouldn’t be around much in late June/early July–to wit, prostate cancer and a robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (just call it RALRP)–and why that might delay pieces of this year’s GOAJ project.

The latter didn’t happen: thanks to increasing comfort with what I’ll call “template spreadsheets”–workbooks with multiple sheets, using pivot tables in a manner that means replacing the rows on the first sheet means a whole new set of graphs and tables with essentially no additional work–the country view and subject supplements were both done well before June 26, date of the surgery.

The surgery itself went very well (my wife thinks it took about five hours; I was, of course, Not There during that time–my first experience with general anesthesia, and thanks to anti-nausea drugs nausea was never a problem). The ten days following, stage one of the long recovery process, were annoying because of catheter-related stuff and lack of energy, but my wife helped see to it that I didn’t veg out entirely, was off opioids within four days, was walking inside every day and outside three days later, and was up to mile-plus outside walks by July 6, Removal Day.

Now I’m engaged in in stage two, which will last weeks, months, possibly years to some extent. Energy is still a mild problem, but I’m getting back to normal by stages. July 7 brought exceedingly good news: the pathology report, showing negative results for adjacent matter and (removed) lymph nodes. This makes the long-term prognosis MUCH more positive, according to Dr. Thong, and is a much better outcome than expected.

A note that may be irrelevant if you’re not in Stanford HealthCare’s service area or are female: Dr. Alan Eih Chih Thong. MD, gets a 5* rating in my book. He *listened* to not only our concerns but to my family history, and indeed changed his recommended course of treatment based on my family history and health. Since he also did the surgery, and apparently did a great job, I have nothing but good things to say about Thong and his teem, including Jessica Rose Kee, PA-C, and others.

I should note that Dr. Hilary Petersmeyer Bagshaw, MD, did a fine job of explaining the initially-preferred course, radiation + hormone therapy, which would have been under her supervision. I’m sure she would have done a fine job, but if you have a likelihood of 20 more years’ survival, that course is best kept as Plan B if surgery doesn’t eliminate the problem. As I told her at the time, I hope not to need her services, even as I’m sure they’d be first-rate.

Other than energy and doing lots of Kegels in the hope that they’ll eventually help matters, what will slow done some writing stuff is focus and motivation. I don’t want to write about OA or at least another month; I’m not sure most other topics offer enough focus; and, frankly, sitting sipping coffee while the country is in self-inflicted flames isn’t just fine.

But I’ll be back: I’m not really going anywhere. Even if, as I read Twitter and Facebook, there are more and more occasions when I wish I could resign as a Straight White Man. But that’s another story…

Mystery Collection Disc 50

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018

Where’s Disc 49? (I have readers with memories going back that far?) The box got out of order…

The St. Louis Bank Robbery, 1959, b&w. Charles Guggenheim and John Stix (dirs.), Steve McQueen. 1:29.

The sleeve calls this “The Great St. Louis Bank Robbery” and has it in color, filmed in 1959, 84 minutes long. The movie, however, is “The St. Louis Bank Robbery,” black and white, 89 minutes long. It’s a pan-and-scan version of a widescreen movie. (Apparently it was also released with “Great” in the title.)

One thing it surely is not is Great. In fact, if not for double-speeding, I’m not sure I could have made it through this dark, dismal and deeply boring flick. I suppose you could call it a psychological thriller, and I suppose it’s interesting that, in the seven minutes or so of actual action, the police actually involved in the robbery played themselves.

Otherwise…it seems like most of it takes place in a bar that always has the same odd music or a diner always, always playing a single stupid song. Dull, boring, annoying, and the only semi-likable character gets killed for absolutely no good reason. I feel as though I’m generous in giving this turkey $0.50.

Jail Bait, 1954, b&w. Edward J. Wood,Jr. (dir., prod. & writer), Lyle Talbot, Dolores Fuller, Herbert Rawlinson, Steve Reeves. 1:11.

Time to pick up the old flicks after a mere 15-week interruption…

Mea culpa: If I’d paid more attention to the opening credits, I would have realized what I was in for. And if I hadn’t been tired and distracted by Absolutely Not Worrying about an upcoming biopsy, I would have stopped watching this after ten minutes of incompetent dialogue, acting and direction and a thoroughly offensive (and unfunny) blackface routine. But I didn’t…

The poster at IMDB.com has a flag “Danger! These girls are hot!—but it’s not that kind of jailbait. Nope. This sorry little picture features a sorry young man (in an era when all the men, including the police, wore snappy suits and all the women wore gowns), son of an internationally famous plastic surgeon, who’s involved with a murderous low-life criminal and Pays the Price.

Despite the partly-good cast, there’s nothing positive to say about the acting or the dialogue. As usual, cop handguns have infinite numbers of bullets—all wasted firing at a car, and of course nobody thinks about writing down the license plate. The police mostly just sit around waiting for the solution to a police killing to fall into their laps. There’s a plot twist toward the end that you should see coming a mile away—and that only works because nobody dealt with fingerprints in 1954, apparently (or wrote down license plate numbers in hot pursuit).

IMDB’s rating is 3.3 out of 10. I think that’s generous. But looking at the IMDB listing, I see something that explains a lot about the picture: Written, produced and directed by Edward J. Wood, Jr., and the production, directing and writing are all below par even for Wood’s course. Three police departments cooperated in making this flick; I can’t imagine why. Plan 9 from Outer Space is entertainingly bad; this is just bad.

My review price is only for completist fans of Lyle Talbot, Edward J. Wood, Jr., Dolores Fuller or Steve Reeves—and even then, I’m being generous at $0.25.

Dangerous Passage, 1944, b&w. William Berke (dir.), Robert Lowery, Phyllis Brooks, Charles Arnt, Jack La Rue. 1:00.

This one’s better than it needed to be, as a low-budget hour-long “B” flick. A young American oil man stuck in South America learns that he’s inherited $200,000 (at the time, a small fortune). He gets the necessary credentials to claim the money in Galveston from a seedy, strange and thoroughly rotten local attorney, who tells him to sail north on one good ship—and, of course, immediately sends a henchman to bump him off.

That fails, and the guy goes north on an awful old steamer with one beautiful woman as the other passenger. Lots of murder attempts, questions as to who’s aligned with whom, and of course the two seems to fall in love immediately. Turns out there’s insurance fraud involved, with this tramp steamer intentionally wrecked as the latest act. Of course thins turn out OK. Interesting plot. Not great, but not terrible: $0.75.

Bulldog Courage, 1935, b&w. Sam Newfield (dir.), Tim McCoy, Joan Woodbury, Paul Fix. 1:00 [1:01]

It’s a Western, not a mystery, and it’s not too bad—if you don’t mind that it ends at least five or ten minutes before it should. Briefly, Slim Braddock as “the Phantom” has been robbing stagecoaches because the local banker robbed him of his mining claim. (“The Phantom” never wears a mask or shoots people…) He gets shot…and we jump to years later when Tim Braddock seeks revenge.

From there, we have robbers robbing robbers, interconnected gold mines, a potential love interest and a wiseacre detonation expert, apparently from Brooklyn, in a really bad suit. A great scene where Braddock imitates Bailey—very well.

Not a very good print (some missing syllables and words), but it’s clever enough that, if they’d finished the film, it might even have been worth $1. As it is, no more than $0.75.

Tarzan and the Green Goddess, 1938, b&w. Edward Kull (dir.), Bruce Bennett (credited as “Herman Brix”) as Tarzan, Ula Holt, Frank Baker. 1:12 [1:01]

At the full length cited on the sleeve, this mess might have been a mediocre, badly-acted, poorly-written pseudo-Tarzan flick—but as it is, it’s an incoherent set of excerpts from such a flick.

The estimable Lord Greystoke is having a gypsy-themed party at his ancestral estate, and folks are asking what happened to the Green Goddess. So an old hag (this flick is just full of stereotypes, among them that Guatemala is entirely removed from “civilization”) consults her crystal ball and tells the flashback (so guaranteed Happy Ending). It involves that super-powerful ancient Mayan explosive formula, many times as powerful as anything known today, which explains why the Mayan Empire rules the Americas. It’s hidden in a statue dedicated to salad dressing (we always see the statue wrapped, which presumably saved a buck or two of modeling), and is in the Lost City, and Tarzan/Greystoke and friends go after it, and so do villains and… Then there’s that Special Yell, which he does only after killing a lion or something; it’s up to the rest of the flick, which is to say awful.

This is a special Guatemala, with African animals. Never mind…

Sigh. I guess the impeccably dressed Greystoke spins around to achieve his preferred loin-cloth attire. When he’s not fondling simians, he’s doing that vine-and-tree thing, then jumping down into a large group of people—which generally means he gets captured. But, of course, it all works out—although we never see how.

Now that I’ve written this, I go to IMDB.com—and, oh look, it’s an edited version of a 1935 serial, “The New Adventures of Tarzan.” For that matter, it’s the second edited version, so maybe you had to see both to have it make any sense at all. Supposedly Edgar Rice Burroughs produced the serial and chose the star.

Culturally offensive, but that hardly matters since it doesn’t even make much sense, with huge continuity gaps and all. If you like Guatemalan scenery and steamboats in black-and-white, maybe $0.25; otherwise, I’ll give it a big $0.