Mystery Collection Disc 50

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.

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